News You Can Use Digest - August 28, 2020 - State and Federal Communications

August 28, 2020  •  

News You Can Use Digest – August 28, 2020

National/Federal

After Online Warnings, Armed Civilians Bring Threat of Violence to Protests in Kenosha and Elsewhere
Washington Post – Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Mark Guarino | Published: 8/26/2020

Civilians carrying assault rifles and handguns were visible on the streets in Kenosha throughout the chaotic events that left two people dead and another wounded. This included the alleged shooter, who was captured on video running with an assault rifle near a gas station at the center of the unrest. Militia-style groups and their sympathizers have become a regular fixture in the United States this summer, appearing at dozens of events and confronting racial justice protesters. Experts who track militia activity have been warning that the proliferation of powerful weapons in untrained hands during tense protests is a recipe for bloodshed.

Appeals Court Backs Greater Disclosure of ‘Dark Money’ Donors
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/21/2020

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that found the FEC’s donor-disclosure regulations regarding groups that spend money on independent expenditures – ads that expressly support or oppose political candidates – were too weak to comply with federal law. While donors to super PACs are disclosed, even politically active nonprofits typically do not disclose their donors, creating the opportunity for some wealthy individuals to secretly spend tens of millions of dollars on political races. The appeals court decision appears to wipe out at least some of the methods groups and individuals have utilized to keep donations secret.

Black, Latino Lobbyists Bristle at Progressives Pushing Corporate K Street Ban on Biden
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 8/25/2020

A battle is brewing on K Street over an effort by progressives to ensure a Biden administration is devoid of any former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists. Black and Latino lobbyists say a ban of that sort would end up shutting out minorities and could make the administration less diverse if Democrats win back the White House. The tensions date back to April, when eight progressive groups wrote a letter calling on Joe Biden to vow not to appoint any “current or former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists, or people affiliated with the fossil fuel, health insurance or private prison corporations” to his transition team, Cabinet, or as top aides. That demand did not sit well with some minority lobbyists, who argue corporate lobbyists should not be denied a spot in the administration.

Consultant Charged in Covert Lobbying of Trump Officials
Courthouse News Service – Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2020

Prominent Hawaii political fundraiser Nickie Lum Davis and several others are being accused of using their clout to thwart an investigation into a Malaysian state investment fund. Court documents show that among other activities, Davis and two fundraisers helped arrange a meeting between President Trump and Malaysian Prime Minster Najib Razak. Federal prosecutors say Davis failed to disclose to the lobbying effort was done on behalf of a fugitive Malaysian financier who has been charged in the U.S. with conspiring to launder billions of dollars. Davis was charged with one count of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Democrats Push to Revamp Political Money System That’s Boosting Their Campaigns
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/19/2020

Democrats adopted a platform at their convention that calls for an overhaul of campaign finance laws, including forcing the disclosure of covert sources of political spending, money that right now is helping to boost the party’s candidates for the House, Senate, and White House.  Big donors, super PACs, and nonprofit groups that may shield their donors’ identities are going all in for the 2020 campaigns, funding ads and other efforts for candidates in both parties. Yet if Democrats hold the House and win control of the Senate and White House, activists say they plan to step up the pressure on the party to revamp the system, even though it would be that system that helped put them in charge.

Focus on Trump’s Official White House Actions as Part of Republican Convention Programming Raises Hatch Act Concerns
Philadelphia Inquirer – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2020

The decision by the Republican National Convention to feature President Trump conducting official business inside the White House underscores how he is leveraging the powers of his office for political gain, raising questions about whether an event violated federal law. The most widely known civil provisions of the Hatch Act do not apply to the president and the vice president. But the law applies to executive branch employees who are involved in planning or executing any political events staged at the White House, including video segments filmed there, experts said. While the president and vice president are exempt from the civil provisions of the law, they are subject to two criminal provisions derived from the Hatch Act, said Kathleen Clark, a legal and government ethics professor at Washington University.

Inside the Democratic Party’s Plan to Prevent Vote-by-Mail Disaster
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Elena Schneider | Published: 8/25/2020

The Democratic Party is kicking off the most complicated get-out-the-vote campaign in history. The party’s virtual convention marked the unofficial start of a massive public education, voter contact, and legal strategy to make voting by mail a success in the fall. Record high numbers of people plan to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that group skews heavily Democratic, according to polling. But voting by mail is also more complicated than voting in person, and the party’s campaign machinery has rapidly transformed itself into a system for helping voters navigate those obstacles.

Kellyanne Conway to Leave the White House at the End of the Month, Citing the Need to Focus on Her Family
Washington Post – Ashley Parker | Published: 8/23/2020

Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Trump and one of his longest-serving aides, is leaving the White House at the end of August. Conway, whose title is counselor to the president, was Trump’s third campaign manager in 2016 and the first woman to successfully manage a presidential bid to victory. She and her husband became an object of fascination as George Conway ramped up his criticism of the president in 2018 while Kellyanne Conway remained a top adviser to Trump.

More Than 500,000 Mail Ballots Were Rejected in the Primaries. That Could Make the Difference in Battleground States This Fall.
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2020

More than 534,000 mail ballots were rejected during primaries across 23 states this year, nearly a quarter in key battlegrounds for the fall, illustrating how missed delivery deadlines, inadvertent mistakes, and uneven enforcement of the rules could disenfranchise voters and affect the outcome of the presidential election. The stakes are high as the most chaotic presidential election in memory collides with a once-in-a-century pandemic, which has led 20 states to expand or ease access to voting by mail as a public health measure. The rates of rejection could make a difference in the fall if the White House contest is decided by a close margin.

New Bill Seeks to Bring Lobbying Out of the Shadows
Sludge – Donald Shaw | Published: 8/20/2020

U.S. Reps. Dean Phillips and Ben Cline introduced the Lobbying Disclosure Reform Act of 2020, which would require companies, trade groups, and other entities that employ lobbyists to begin disclosing information about the “strategic lobbying services” they employ in support of their lobbyists. The bill would require reporting of individuals employed in strategic planning, polling, production of public communications, and encouraging people to take action to support or oppose a legislative or regulatory action through the formation of formal or informal coalitions. Requiring disclosure of strategic services will partially address “shadow lobbying” by former members of Congress who join lobbying firms without technically registering as lobbyists to comply with ethics laws.

The Pandemic Is Creating a New Crop of Political Candidates: Unemployed workers
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 8/24/2020

Thousands of people are running for office this year, and while most made the decision well before the pandemic struck, a small crop of candidates have more recently jumped into political races after losing their jobs or dealing with other work-related fallout from the pandemic. These candidates have little political experience but have survived through the devastating economic fallout that caused more than 20 million workers to lose their jobs. There are no numbers on these candidates nor any guarantee of their chances to win, but they show how, increasingly, pandemic unemployment is becoming a major influence on politics.

Top U.S. Officials Told C.D.C. to Soften Coronavirus Testing Guidelines
MSN – Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) | Published: 8/26/2020

Trump administration officials defended a new recommendation that people without Covid-19 symptoms abstain from testing, even as scientists warned the policy could hobble an already weak federal response as schools reopen and a potential autumn wave looms. The day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the revised guidance, there were conflicting reports on who was responsible. Two federal health officials said the shift came as a directive to the CDC from higher-ups in Washington at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Trump Praises Baseless QAnon Conspiracy Theory, Says He Appreciates Support of Its Followers
Washington Post – Colby Itkowitz, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lori Rozsa, and Rachael Bade | Published: 8/19/2020

President Trump gave a boost to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, saying he appreciated the support of its followers. At a briefing about the online movement, which the FBI has identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat, he claimed not to know anything about it other than the affection its adherents have for him. But when a reporter outlined the claims underlying the theory – “that you are secretly saving the world from this Satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals” – Trump seemed to embrace that role for himself. Though its followers have been heralding Trump for years, there is concern the philosophy is seeping into the mainstream as candidates who espouse its ideas are now competing in, and winning, congressional races.

Trump’s Suggestion of Deploying Law Enforcement Officials to Monitor Polls Raises Specter of Voting intimidation
Washington Post – Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 8/21/2020

More than 30 years ago, a Republican Party program that dispatched off-duty police officers to patrol polling places in heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods in New Jersey triggered accusations of voter intimidation, resulting in a federal agreement that restricted for decades how the national GOP could observe voting. Now, two years after those limits were lifted, President Trump has revived the idea of using law enforcement officers to patrol polling places, invoking tactics historically used to scare voters of color.

Wife of Ex-California Congressman Duncan Hunter Sentenced for Corruption
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Julie Watson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2020

Margaret Hunter, the wife of former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to eight months of home confinement after pleading guilty to misusing more than $150,000 in campaign funds in a corruption case that ended her husband’s career. Prosecutors noted Margaret Hunter’s cooperation with the prosecution of her husband in arguing against putting her behind bars and for allowing her to serve the sentence at home. Duncan Hunter was sentenced in March to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty.

Canada

Canada Conservatives Claim ‘Coverup’ After Trudeau Shuts Down Parliament
CBC – Kathleen Harris | Published: 8/19/2020

Conservative lawmakers are accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of a “coverup” by shutting down Parliament to dodge scrutiny of his government’s role in the WE Charity controversy. Trudeau announced Gov. Gen. Julie Payette granted his request to prorogue Parliament until September 23. He said the move will allow his government to present a long-term economic recovery plan for Canada after the Coronavirus pandemic and an opportunity for the House of Commons to vote on whether it has confidence in the government to move forward on that plan. WE Charity was awarded a $43.5 million contract to manage the $900 million student volunteer grant program. Trudeau and then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau did not recuse themselves from talks on the deal, despite both having family ties to the organization.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Maricopa County Won’t Pursue Charges Over Explicit Photos of Arizona Lawmaker Sent to Lobbyist
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 8/25/2020

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will not file charges after investigating allegations the husband of a state legislator sent explicit photographs of the lawmaker to a lobbyist, who believed the couple was trying to solicit her for sex. Records show state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and her now husband, former gubernatorial aide Brian Townsend, refused to speak with investigators about the photos. The records also show the lobbyist told investigators the images she received were unsolicited and unwanted and she believed the two were taking advantage of their positions of power. Rep. Anthony Kern raised questions about whether the incident involved violations of Arizona’s law against what is known as revenge pornography.

California Elections Watchdog OK’s Settlement Over LA County’s Measure H Advocacy
Los Angeles Daily News – Chris Haire | Published: 8/20/2020

Los Angeles County will pay a $1.35 million settlement under an agreement approved by the California Fair Political Practices Commission to resolve claims that its board of supervisors misused taxpayer money when it hired a communication firm to promote a proposed sales tax hike. Supervisors hired TBWB Strategies to execute a public education campaign and advertising surrounding the ballot measure. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association argued the county spent money on what should be considered campaign-related activities. If that were the case, under state law, the county would have had to make various public disclosures, including having its name and “paid for by” on any advertisements.

California FBI L.A. Chief Reassigned Amid Flap Over Agents’ Meeting at Dodgers Playoff Game
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/25/2020

The top FBI agent in Los Angeles departed in the wake of a U.S. Justice Department inspector general’s report that found he was responsible for violations of federal ethics requirements and FBI policies by holding a meeting with his management team in an exclusive club at Dodger Stadium during the playoffs two years ago and allowing them to indulge in the free buffet. Seven of those present dined at the buffet and one top intelligence chief drank a beer, the report said, but no one from the bureau paid for the luxury seats and food. Paul Delacourt was reassigned from his post overseeing the regional office. Delacourt disputed the report’s findings.

California Lobbyist Agrees to Plea Deal in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and Joel Rubin | Published: 8/25/2020

Lobbyist and former :Los Angeles City Hall official Morrie Goldman agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, the latest person to strike such a deal in an ongoing “pay-to-play” probe. Federal prosecutors say Goldman was part of a bribery scheme in which one of his clients, a real estate developer, agreed to give tens of thousands of dollars to a PAC in exchange for city Councilperson Jose Huizar taking steps to help a project. Prosecutors alleged Goldman pressured real estate developers to give to a committee that was set up to benefit a relative of Jose Huizar planning to run for his seat.

Connecticut Top Lamont Aide Had a $100K Job in 2017 with Eversource, the Utility That the Governor Says He’ll Hold Accountable
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 8/22/2020

At Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s request, state utility regulators are investigating Eversource and United Illuminating over their failures in responding to Tropical Storm Isaias, to determine, among other things, whether civil penalties should be imposed on them. Yet at the same moment Lamont says he wants to hold the two big utility companies accountable, his chief of staff is Paul Mounds Jr., who three years ago had a $100,000 researcher’s job with Eversource, for which he registered as a company lobbyist in 2017 with the Office of State Ethics.

Florida Ethics Referendum Passes with 62% Support from Voters in City of Naples
Naples Daily News – Brittany Carolini | Published: 8/18/2020

The referendum amends the city’s charter to establish an independent ethics commission and an ethics office and to set minimum requirements for Naples’ ethics code. Once formed, the commission will be provided the authority to receive and investigate complaints and impose penalties. The ethics office will be responsible for items such as keeping records, filing complaints, and offering training programs. The referendum results are the outcome of years of debate and a court case regarding the city’s ethics rules and the legality of the proposed referendum.

Illinois Feds Charge a Former Cook County Commissioner with Corruption
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 8/21/2020

In the latest in a series of public-corruption cases filed in the Chicago area, federal prosecutors leveled two felony counts against Jeff Tobolski, a former Democratic Cook County commissioner and mayor of the village of McCook. The charges of extortion and lying on his income taxes came nearly a year after investigators raided the village’s Town Hall on the same day they searched a variety of sites across the state, including a state lawmaker’s office at the Illinois Capitol and the municipal offices of other Chicago suburbs.

Kansas With Teen Staying in Kansas House Race, Democrats Weigh Bad Behavior Against Voter Will
Kansas City Star – Jonathan Shorman and Steve Vockrodt | Published: 8/25/2020

Aaron Coleman acknowledged sordid behavior in middle school, when he threatened to share a girl’s nude photograph if she did not send other pictures to him. He posted caustic messages to social media earlier this year, saying he would “giggle” when a former Republican lawmaker died of the coronavirus. Then he upended the established political order, defeating a longtime Wyandotte County lawmaker in the Democratic primary election. Coleman, a 19-year-old college student and dishwasher, vowed to campaign on to November. Coleman’s candidacy is forcing Democrats to confront uncomfortable questions about what should happen when voters choose someone whose past behavior has been universally condemned.

Maryland MES Board Members Say McGrath Assured Them Governor Was on Board with Payout; Hogan Says He Wasn’t Involved in Decisions
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 8/25/2020

Members of the Maryland Environmental Service board of directors told a legislative committee the agency’s director, as he left to become Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff, assured them the governor was on board with a proposal to give him a year’s salary as severance. Three members of the board told legislators they feel misled by Roy McGrath about his severance. They testified at an oversight hearing that McGrath assured them Hogan supported the plan to pay McGrath about $238,000. The governor said he had no role in the board’s decisions involving McGrath as he prepared to join his team.

Missouri GOP Lawmakers Appeal Rebuke of ‘Unfair’ Cleaner Missouri Ballot Language They Wrote
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 8/19/2020

Republican lawmakers asking voters to repeal changes they made to the state’s redistricting process on the 2020 ballot are not giving up on framing the question their way. The day after a Cole County judge called the way they summarized a proposal they put on for the November ballot as “misleading” and “unfair”
and wrote a new summary, the state attorney general’s office filed notice that lawmakers plan to appeal. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce tore into Republican legislators in a ruling, saying they failed “to even allude to” the main point of their plan in the language meant to describe it to voters on the ballot.

Missouri Plenty of Blame: Audit slams Page, council and county auditor for failures that enabled Stenger schemes
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 8/20/2020

Weak oversight by the St. Louis County Council under then-Chairperson Sam Page and by County Auditor Mark Tucker contributed to the abuses of former County Executive Steve Stenger, according to a report by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office. The audit also found several instances, before and after Page succeeded Stenger as county executive, in which he and the council had shored up vulnerabilities Stenger had exploited. The audit said Stenger and his close advisers manipulated the county’s procurement process or meddled with contracts issued by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and St. Louis County Port Authority.

Montana Supreme Court Rejects Republican Effort to Restore Green Party Candidates on Montana Ballot
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 8/25/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to place Green Party candidates back on state ballots this November, a move some argued would benefit Republicans by drawing votes away from Democrats. The decision follows a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court upholding a state District Court judge’s decision to strike Green Party candidates from the ballot due to a signature-gathering scandal. More than 560 people asked for their names to be removed from ballot petitions after they learned the Republican Party funded the $100,000 signature-gathering effort and failed to disclose the spending in violation of campaign finance laws.

New Jersey N.J. Man Indicted on Corruption Charges for Paying City Employee to Help Secure $350K Contract
Newark Star Ledger – Joe Atmonavage (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/19/2020

Jeanmarie Zahore was indicted on public corruption charges after he allegedly made numerous cash payments to a city of Orange employee who helped the man’s company get a $350,000 contract with the city. According to authorities, Zahore allegedly “engaged in a scheme” starting in August 2015 to offer and give “corrupt cash payments” to an unnamed Orange public official in exchange for the city employee using their influence to reward Zahore’s computer consulting business, JZ Nettech, with a lucrative city contract to install a computer networking system at the municipal complex that houses the Orange Municipal Court and the Orange Police Department.

New York N.Y. Attorney General Asks Judge to Order Eric Trump’s Testimony
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Danny Hakim | Published: 8/24/2020

The New York attorney general’s office has asked a judge to order Eric Trump to provide testimony under oath and the Trump Organization to hand over documents about four Trump properties it is investigating, asserting the company has stalled the inquiry for months. The filings come as President Trump faces legal actions on several fronts. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has suggested it is investigating possible bank and insurance fraud by the president and the Trump Organization. State Attorney General Letitia James started the civil inquiry after President Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress the president had inflated his assets in financial statements to banks when he was seeking loans and had understated them to reduce his real estate taxes.

New York Sheldon Silver Begins Prison Sentence in Corruption Case
Associated Press News – Tom Hayes and Michael Balsamo | Published: 8/26/2020

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, once one of the most powerful politicians in the state, started his prison sentence after years of fending off going behind bars. He was sentenced earlier this year to six-and-one-half years in a corruption case. Silver was ousted as speaker in 2015 and convicted later that year, but appeals had kept him out of prison. “His time has come,” District Court Judge Valerie Caproni said. “He needs to go to jail.”

North Carolina N.C. Political Donor Gets 7 Years in Prison, Hayes Probation
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 8/19/2020

A federal judge sentenced North Carolina’s largest political donor to more than seven years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme unearthed by an FBI sting. Businessperson Greg Lindberg was sentenced after the judge gave probation to former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes for lying to FBI agents during the government’s investigation. Hayes and Lindberg were among four people indicted in 2019, accused of trying to give over $1.5 million to help state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey’s 2020 campaign, in exchange for Causey removing an official in his department. The third person convicted in the case, John Gray, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

North Carolina Powerful NC Lawmaker Took Donors’ Money for His Own Use, Prosecutors Say
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 8/20/2020

One of the most powerful Republicans in the North Carolina Legislature was charged with federal financial crimes in what prosecutors say was a scheme to take money from his political donors for personal use. State Rep. David Lewis for the last several years has been chairperson of the influential House Rules Committee. The charges outline $65,000 he allegedly took for personal use in August 2018. Lewis had filed to run for re-election this year, but then in July surprised the political world with an announcement he would retire at the end of his term this year.

North Dakota North Dakota Supreme Court Orders Measure 3 Removed from Ballot
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 8/25/2020

The North Dakota Supreme Court sided with opponents who sued to keep off the November ballot a measure that would write many new election processes in the state constitution. The measure is a constitutional initiative that would enact new processes for military-overseas voting, election audits, open primaries, instant runoffs, subdivided state House districts, and new legislative districts drawn by the state’s Ethics Commission, which voters approved in 2018. Opponents disputed the petition’s title and cited the omission of the full text of a statute mentioned in the measure’s petition.

Ohio How Mid-Level Ohio Political Operative Jeff Longstreth Found Himself at Heart of Householder Scandal
Akron Beacon Journal – Jesse Balmert (Concinnati Equirer) | Published: 8/24/2020

The man behind the scenes of Ohio’s largest bribery scheme might be the state’s most powerful political operative no one has ever heard of. Jeff Longstreth is called former Speaker Larry Householder’s “implementer” and “political guy” by federal investigators laying out detailed allegations of a nearly $61 million “pay-to-play” scheme. Longstreth was not a key player in Ohio politics until Householder needed someone to help him stage a political comeback. Together, they took control of the Ohio House, passed a $1.3 billion bailout for nuclear plants, and defended that law against a ballot initiative to block it, according to a complaint used to arrest the duo and three others.

Ohio Ohio Elections Commission to Consider Sanctioning Failed Campaign to Repeal Nuclear Bailout Bill
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/25/2020

The failed 2019 campaign to repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law now at the center of a federal corruption investigation, is facing possible sanctions from the Ohio Elections Commission for not disclosing who funded the campaign. Commission members will consider a complaint against Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the well-financed political group that attempted to repeal the law through a citizen’s referendum. The group disbanded last year, shortly after it missed a deadline to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot. Commission staffers recommend the group be fined $5,225, or $25 for each day that has passed since January 31, the deadline to report for campaign groups that performed political work during 2019.

Ohio Ohio State Rep. Nino Vitale Subject of Campaign-Finance Complaint from Secretary of State Frank LaRose
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/26/2020

Secretary of State Frank LaRose accused an outspoken state lawmaker of a series of campaign finance violations via a complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission. LaRose said the review began after Rep. Nino Vitale submitted a blank page on June 5, when the most recent campaign finance report was due. LaRose accuses Vitale of improperly using his campaign resources, including his website and social media account, to promote his personal concealed-carry firearms training business, and also alleges Vitale failed to properly report fundraising activity in his most recent report he filed in June.

Pennsylvania A Dark Money Mystery
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis, Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch | Published: 8/20/2020

Launched by Ray Zaborney, a political strategist who doubles as a lobbyist, the Growth and Opportunity Fund has been operating in Pennsylvania for six years. For those seeking to influence the agenda in Harrisburg without public scrutiny, such groups are particularly useful tools. They do not have to who bankrolls them and must only make public limited information on spending. Political operatives can move seamlessly and simultaneously between campaigns, dark money groups, and lobbying, capitalizing on a system with weak rules and little oversight.

South Dakota Asked by City Council to Clarify Report, Board of Ethics Says ‘Read It Again’
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 8/6/2020

Asked by the city council to clarify their report on a complaint against a councilor, a clearly frustrated Sioux Falls Board of Ethics added nothing to a report except a note saying the council should read it again. The complaint centers on a trip taken by Councilor Greg Neitzert to Dallas in October 2019 with Mayor Paul TenHaken. The two attended a conference of Republican municipal and county officials, hosted by the group Community Leaders of America. In a complaint against Neitzert, says he violated the city’s ethics policies when the group paid for his travel expenses.

Tennessee Tennessee Gov Signs Bill Upping Penalties on Some Protests
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise | Published: 8/21/2020

A new Tennessee law makes it a felony for protesters to camp out overnight on state property. If convicted, they could lose their voting rights and face up to six years in prison. Although some states are moving towards restoring voting rights for felons, it remains illegal for felons to vote in Tennessee. Lawmakers advanced the bill amid nearly two months of frequent protests outside the Capitol. The mostly young Black activists who spearheaded the demonstration had been calling for racial justice reforms and for a meeting with Gov. Bill Lee. The governor and some lawmakers have defended the protest bill by pointing to a demonstration that resulted with some participants setting fires inside and outside a courthouse.

Wisconsin Milwaukee Ethics Board Votes to Subpoena Former Fire and Police Commission Chairman’s Income Tax Records
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Alison Dirr | Published: 8/24/2020

Milwaukee’s Ethics Board voted to subpoena tax records from former Fire and Police Commission (FPC) Chairperson Steven DeVougas. He is still a member of the FPC but was replaced as chair. An ethics complaint brought by the Milwaukee Police Association raises concerns about DeVougas’ presence in the police interview of a powerful real estate developer accused of sexual assault. The complaint charges DeVougas’ presence with the developer, who was also his client, violated the public’s trust and was a misuse and abuse of his position at the FPC. The other counts allege DeVougas did not list his ties to the developer’s company on documents known as statements of economic interest.

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