August 30, 2019 •
News You Can Use Digest – August 30, 2019
Barr Books Trump’s Hotel for $30,000 Holiday Party
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2019
Attorney General William Barr will hold a family holiday party for 200 people at Trump International Hotel in December that is likely to cost $30,000. Barr is paying for the event himself and chose the venue only after other hotels were booked, according to a Department of Justice official. The official said the purpose of Barr’s party was not to curry favor with the president. Barr holds the bash annually, and it combines holiday festivities and a cèilidh, a party featuring Irish or Scottish music. Barr’s decision to book his boss’s hotel marks the latest collision between Trump’s administration and his business, which the president no longer operates but from which he still benefits financially.
Could Take FEC a While to Regain a Quorum, But Don’t Expect a ‘Wild West’
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/28/2019
FEC Vice Chairperson Matthew Petersen announced he will be stepping down by the end of August. The departure leaves the FEC with only three out of six commissioners, which means the agency is one vote short of the minimum of four votes needed to initiate audits, engage in rulemaking, vote on enforcement matters, issue an advisory opinion, or hold meetings. Still, those who advise campaigns and donors, or focus on campaign finance law, say the 2020 campaigns will not be entirely without legal checks or public relations concerns. In 2008, the FEC lacked a quorum for a few months. A senior Senate GOP aide said despite an apparent lack of movement on the matter, there is an ongoing effort to fill all six FEC seats.
David Koch Leaves Behind Legacy of Dark Money Political Network
Roll Call – Kete Ackley | Published: 8/23/2019
David Koch, who helped pioneer a network of often surreptitious organizations aimed at influencing elections and public policy, leaves behind a legacy of “dark-money” groups and a volatile political landscape. Koch, one half of the Koch Brothers along with his older brother Charles, has died at age 79. Congressional and K Street insiders, whether they agreed with the Kochs’ libertarian-conservative ideology or fought it, agreed that David Koch left a lasting imprint on the nation’s politics. The Koch network, which includes such groups as Americans for Prosperity, helped to resuscitate the Republican Party after its losses in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections and helped give rise to the tea party movement.
Ethics Outcry as Trump Touts ‘Magnificent’ Doral for Next G7
AP News – Bernard Condon and Adriana Gomez Licon | Published: 8/26/2019
Watchdogs have long railed against the perils of Donald Trump earning money off the presidency and hosting foreign leaders at his properties. But they say Trump’s proposal to bring world leaders to his Miami-area resort for the next Group of 7 meeting takes the conflict-of-interest to a whole new level because, unlike stays at his Washington, D.C., they would have no choice but to spend money at his property. Trump’s pitch comes as several lawsuits accusing the president of violating the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bans gifts from foreign governments, wind their way through the courts. It also comes as Doral, by far the biggest revenue generator among the Trump Organization’s 17 golf properties, appears to have taken a hit from Trump’s move into politics.
Facebook Tightens Political Ad Rules, But Leaves Loopholes
AP News – Barbara Ortutay | Published: 8/27/2019
Facebook said it would tighten some of its rules around political advertising ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The changes include a tightened verification process that will require anyone wanting to run ads pertaining to elections, politics, or big social issues like guns and immigration to confirm their identity and prove they are in the U.S. Beginning in mid-September, such advertisers confirm their group’s identity using their organization’s tax identification number or other government ID. A loophole that will allow small grassroots groups and local politicians to run political ads could continue to allow bad actors to take advantage of the process.
Joe Walsh Says Trump Is ‘Unfit’ to Be President. Some Say the Same About Him.
ENM News – Matt Stevens and Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 8/27/2019
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, now a conservative radio show host, is challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination on the basis that he represents an alternative to a president who is morally unfit to hold his office. But in the days since Walsh announced his bid, he has been forced to confront his own highly questionable behavior. As Walsh introduces himself to voters, his long trail of racist and anti-Muslim statements, voiced for years on his conservative radio show and on Twitter, have revealed more similarities with Trump than stark differences in views and temperament.
Kirsten Gillibrand Exits Presidential Race
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 8/28/2019
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ended her bid for the presidency. Gillibrand, who ran a distinctly feminist campaign, failed to meet the Democratic National Committee’s criteria for the September presidential debate. A statement released by her campaign cited her lack of “access to the debate” stage as a reason she decided to end her run. Gillibrand struggled to stand out of the sprawling, diverse Democratic primary field, which included five other women. Like other candidates languishing at single or near zero digits in national polling, Gillibrand was not able to pull off a breakthrough moment.
Obama Announces New Push in Fight Against Gerrymandering
HuffPost – Sam Levine | Published: 8/27/2019
A group backed by President Obama will send experts to train people across the country on the basics of redistricting as part an effort to fight excessive partisan gerrymandering. The new effort, called Redistricting U, comes as states are gearing up for the next round of map drawing, which will take place in 2021. The redistricting process, which takes just once per decade, is expected to be a brutal brawl for partisan advantage. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that there were no constitutional limits on how severely states could manipulate district lines to benefit political parties.
Sen. Johnny Isakson to Resign at End of the Year
Politico – Burgess Everett | Published: 8/28/2019
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson is resigning at the end of 2019 in the face of mounting health problems, adding another competitive seat as Republicans look to defend their narrow majority in 2020. Isakson’s term runs through 2022, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, under state law, is allowed to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat. A special election will be held to fill the remaining two years of Isakson’s term during the next regularly scheduled election, meaning Georgia voters will cast ballots for both of the state’s Senate seats in 2020. The state has typically been safe conservative territory in recent years, but Democrats are increasingly optimistic about their ability to compete there. Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost to Kemp in the gubernatorial election in 2018.
The Boss Can Tell You to Show Up for a Trump Rally
The Atlantic – Charlotte Garden | Published: 8/28/2019
When President Trump arrived in Pennsylvania to give a speech about energy policy at a Royal Dutch Shell plant, he had a ready-made audience comprised of workers who, it turns out, were paid to be there. The company suggested this event was simply a “training day” featuring a prominent guest speaker and offered that workers could take a day of paid time off instead of attending, which would mean they would lose overtime pay. That alternative may have been realistic for some workers, but others must have felt the only option was to attend the rally. Employers have a largely unconstrained ability to try to influence their workers’ political choices. Sometimes, employers and their lobbyists hope to benefit from workers’ legitimacy on issues that affect them by leveraging their voices in lobbying campaigns.
Trial of High-Powered Lawyer Gregory Craig Exposes Seamy Side of Washington’s Elite
ENM News – Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) | Published: 8/26/2019
The most riveting aspect of the case against Gregory Craig, one of Washington, D.C.’s most prominent lawyers, is not his innocence or guilt. Rather, it is the depiction of the seamy world of power brokers like Craig that prosecutors have painted during testimony and in an array of court filings. Craig is charged with lying to investigators about the role of his law firm – Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom – in a public relations effort surrounding a report it created for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The details of the case include a $4 million payment shunted through a secret offshore account to Skadden and a bungled wiretap by a suspected Russian intelligence asset nicknamed “the angry midget.” They illustrate how lawyers, lobbyists, and public relations specialists leapt to cash in on a foreign government’s hopes of papering over its sordid reputation.
Trump’s Bank Has Tax Records Congress Is Seeking in Subpoenas Targeting the President’s Finances
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2019
President Trump’s biggest lender has in its possession tax records Congress is seeking in targeting the president’s financial dealings, the bank told a federal appeals court. The disclosure from Deutsche Bank came in response to a court order as part of a legal battle between Congress and the president over access to Trump’s business records. The revelation provides new details about the pool of possible documents Congress could eventually obtain. The House Financial Services and Intelligence committees have subpoenaed the banks for years of financial documents from the president, his three eldest children, and the president’s companies.
Trump’s ‘Chopper Talk’ Puts Media on the Defensive
Politico – Michael Calderone and Daniel Lippman | Published: 8/22/2019
As reporters shouted questions above the din of a helicopter’s churning engines, President Trump picked the ones he wanted and brushed past those he did not. The impromptu news conference near Marine One may have looked bizarre to veteran observers of the White House, but there is a method to the seeming madness. The “Chopper Talk” sessions, as comedian Stephen Colbert has dubbed them, serve multiple goals for Trump, insiders say. They allow Trump to speak more often in front of the cameras than his predecessors, yet on his own terms. He makes headline-ready pronouncements and airs grievances for anywhere from a few minutes to a half-hour, and then walks away when he has had enough. Trump’s freewheeling sessions have essentially replaced the formal White House press briefing.
Watchdog: Comey violated FBI policies in handling of memos
AP News – Eric Tucker | Published: 8/29/2019
James Comey violated FBI policies in his handling of memos documenting private conversations with President Trump in the weeks before he was fired as director of the bureau, the Justice Department’s inspector general said. The watchdog’s office said Comey broke FBI rules by giving one memo containing unclassified information to a friend with instructions to share the contents with a reporter. Comey also failed to notify the FBI after he was dismissed in May 2017 that he had retained some of the memos in a safe at home, the report said. But the inspector general also concluded none of the information shared with the reporter was classified.
Canada – ‘Show Up and Do Something’: Critics call on lobbying commissioner to act on Dion report
Hill Times – Samantha Wright Allen and Beatrice Paez | Published: 8/26/2019
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s damning report on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau documented previously undisclosed interactions between SNC-Lavalin and the government during the embattled company’s pursuit of a deferred prosecution agreement, raising questions from critics about whether it was operating in full compliance with federal lobbying regulations or whether disclosure rules should change. Dion reported then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould faced political pressure to override a decision not to offer the company a remediation agreement that would spare SNC from a criminal trial, which could have barred the company from competing for federal contracts for 10 years. Dion ruled Trudeau improperly pressured Wilson-Raybould in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act, which bars high-level officials from furthering another person’s or entity’s private interests.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Limestone County’s 10-Term Sheriff Arrested on Ethics, Theft Charges
AL.com – Ashley Remkus | Published: 8/22/2019
Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely was arrested on theft and ethics charges that include accusations of taking money from campaign and law enforcement accounts. Blakely was the subject of an investigation by the Alabama Ethics Commission, which last year found probable cause the sheriff violated state ethics law. The commission sent the case to the attorney general’s office for investigation. In 2018, Blakely amended a 2016 ethics disclosure form to show he received more than $250,000 from Tennessee lottery and gaming establishments.
Arkansas – State Bureau OK’d to Hire Legal Counsel; in Corruption Probe, It’s to Go with Firm It Used Before
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Hunter Field | Published: 8/23/2019
The Arkansas legislative staff intends to rehire a law firm to represent it in the face of increasing requests from federal investigators. The probe into public corruption involving Arkansas lawmakers started at least six years ago with reports of legislators directing state General Improvement Fund grants to two nonprofits, a small college, and a substance abuse treatment center in exchange for kickbacks. The probe expanded to include lobbyists and former executives of a Missouri nonprofit, Preferred Family Healthcare, accused of paying bribes to Arkansas legislators in exchange for laws or state regulations favorable to their businesses. Also caught up was a former administrator of a youth lockup, accused of hiring a state legislator who was an attorney to perform political favors.
California – Will Letting Bars Stay Open Late Help Gavin Newsom? He’ll Soon Act on Bills Affecting His Company
Sacramento Bee – Sophia Bollag | Published: 8/27/2019
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose investments in the hospitality industry made him a millionaire, put his holdings in a blind trust after winning last year’s governor’s race. As a new officeholder, he issued an executive order forbidding state executive branch agencies from doing business with PlumpJack Group, the company he founded. Ethics experts say Newsom has done all he can short of selling his holdings to insulate himself from potential conflicts-of-interest. But as the state Legislature enters its final weeks for the year, Newsom will find himself faced with decisions about bills that could affect his bars, restaurants, and hotels. Experts say he will still face potential conflicts as long as he owns them.
Florida – In Campaign Shaded by #MeToo Claims, Former Commissioner Faces Man She Accused
Miami Herald – Martin Vassolo | Published: 8/22/2019
If all politics is personal, what is happening in Miami Beach appears to have gone beyond the pale. Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Rafael Velasquez are running against each other this year for a seat on the Miami Beach City Commission, offering a unique glimpse at the dynamics of a post-#MeToo political campaign. Rosen Gonzalez had been helping Velasquez campaign for the commission in 2017 when she went public with her accusations that Velasquez exposed himself to her. Prosecutors declined to charge Velasquez and found evidence that conflicted with Rosen Gonzalez’s account, but did not pursue a counterclaim that she had fabricated the allegations.
Florida – State Senate Resolves Complaint Against NRA’s Top Lobbyist in Florida
Miami Herald – Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) | Published: 8/23/2019
The Florida Senate closed an investigation into NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, instructing her to amend disclosure reports but not issuing any sanctions. She was accused of failing to divulge hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments she received from the NRA as required by the law. Hammer received $979,000 from the NRA from 2014 to 2018. As the director of the pro-gun group Unified Sportsmen of Florida, Hammer earns an annual salary of $110,000. That organization has been receiving $216,000 a year in funding from the NRA. Legislative officials said Unified Sportsmen’s lobbying reports should be amended to reflect its relationship with the NRA and the funding it has received. Hammer was directed to amend lobbyist registrations to reflect she was employed by Unified Sportsmen of Florida to represent the NRA.
Kentucky – Lexington Real Estate Executive Charged with 16 Campaign Finance Violations
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 8/27/2019
A Lexington business executive was indicted by a Fayette County grand jury for 16 violations of Kentucky’s campaign finance law. Timothy Wayne Wellman was charged for allegedly giving campaign contributions to straw donors and then reimbursing those contributors after the donations were made. State law prohibits individuals from giving more than $2,000 per election cycle. He was indicted in June on nine federal counts of allegedly lying and instructing others to lie about campaign contributions to Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council candidates during the May 2018 primary.
Maine – Inside Susan Collins’ Reelection Fight in the Age of Trump
Politico – Burgess Everett | Published: 8/26/2019
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is facing the race of her life despite her universal name recognition and bipartisan reputation. President Trump is targeting Maine as a battleground while his divisive politics has cleaved the state in two, and Collins shares the ticket with him. National Democrats, meanwhile, are backing Sara Gideon as her likely opponent, a battle-tested statehouse speaker who raised more than $1 million in the week after her launch. Projected to be the most expensive in Maine’s history, the race is of imperative importance for party leaders and the Senate institution itself. With scarce opportunities elsewhere, Senate Democrats essentially need Gideon to win to gain a minimum of three seats and the majority. In the Senate, a Collins loss would be a potentially fatal blow to the reeling center of the chamber.
Maryland – Maryland Horse Racing Commission Dominated by Industry Players. They Manage Cash Awards – and Win Them.
Baltimore Sun – Doug Donovan | Published: 8/22/2019
State law for three decades has allowed no more than four members of the nine-seat Maryland Racing Commission to “have a financial interest” in horse racing. But today, six commissioners have a financial stake in the sport and five of them own or breed racehorses that are eligible to receive cash bonuses from an incentive program established to bolster Maryland’s equine industry, The Baltimore Sun found. All five have participated in decisions determining the size of the awards despite a state ethics opinion that some believe prohibits regulators from voting on matters that could benefit their interests.
Massachusetts – Lobbyist Caught Up in State Police Case Is Known for Her Edge on Beacon Hill
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 8/22/2019
To federal authorities, Anne Lynch was a willing partner in a complex bribery scheme allegedly intended to benefit herself and the head of a State Police union. To the Massachusetts Movers Association, however, she was organized and thorough, and in the nearly 10 years she managed the trade group, she showed she would not be taken lightly. Her blunt approach made her a longtime, if not high-profile, player in various industry circles on Beacon Hill, where she evolved from managing the day-to-day business of trade associations to running a lobbying firm paid hundreds of thousands to push the interests of dozens of organizations. That included the powerful state troopers union, with whose president, authorities alleged, the work veered into something criminal.
Michigan – Candidate Who Wanted City as White ‘as Possible’ Withdraws from Council Race in Michigan
USA Today – Jackie Smith (Port Huron Times Herald) | Published: 8/26/2019
A city council candidate in Michigan whose racist comments have garnered nationwide attention has formally withdrawn from the race. Marysville Mayor Dan Damman said Jean Cramer submitted a letter withdrawing three days after he called for her to do so. During a city election forum, Cramer had been the first to respond to a question about attracting foreign-born residents to the community when she responded: “Keep Marysville a white community as much as possible. In a follow-up question from a reporter after the event, Cramer confirmed her beliefs. Her name will still appear on the November 5 ballot.
Michigan – Former State Rep. Todd Courser Pleads No Contest to Willful Neglect of Duty
MLive.com – Julie Mack | Published: 8/28/2019
Former Michigan Rep. Todd Courser pleaded no contest to willful neglect of duty by a public officer, a misdemeanor related to the 2015 scandal that forced him out of office. The misconduct involves soliciting a state employee to send out a false email. Soon after he was elected in 2014, Courser became the focus of a sex scandal involving his affair with then state Rep. Cindy Gamrat. To cover up the affair, he asked an aide to share an email containing outlandish allegations against him so rumors of his affair with Gamrat would pale in comparison and not be believed. A House investigation found the lawmakers “abused their offices” by directing staff to facilitate their affair, and they also blurred lines between official and political work.
Michigan – ‘There’s a Gray Area’: Campaign finance experts weigh in on Inman bribery case
Michigan Advance – Nick Manes | Published: 8/21/2019
To campaign finance watchdogs, the word “corruption” may be getting more difficult to legally define, but the case against indicted Michigan Rep. Larry Inman appears to be a near-textbook example. Richard Hall, a professor of public policy and political science at the University of Michigan, was blunt in his assessment of the text messages allegedly sent by Inman to union officials seeking campaign contributions in exchange for a vote against prevailing wage repeal. “As a student of campaign finance law, I don’t know how this case doesn’t meet the standard of causing the appearance of corruption,” Hall said. But Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said the case against Inman gets into murky territory regarding the difference between campaign donations and bribes.
Montana – Group Files Challenge to Bullock’s Executive Order on ‘Dark Money’ and State Contracts
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 8/28/2019
The Illinois Opportunity Project asked a federal judge to strike down Montana’s nearly year-old policy that requires certain businesses seeking contracts with the state to disclose donors and spending on elections. Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order saying that to receive a state contract, an organization must report its political contributions. The order extends to so-called social welfare nonprofit organizations that, under campaign finance laws, do not have to disclose their donors. It applies to groups that have spent more than $2,500 over the past two-year cycle and is for contracts of more than $50,000 for goods or $25,000 for services.
New Hampshire – Trump’s Revival of Claim of Voting Fraud in New Hampshire Alarms Some State Republicans
Savannah Morning News – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/29/2019
It was one of the first claims President-elect Donald Trump made about voter fraud in the wake of his 2016 victory: that his close loss in New Hampshire was propelled by thousands of illegal ballots cast by out-of-state voters. Trump’s revival of that false assertion as he ramps up his reelection campaign is now alarming some New Hampshire Republicans, who fear the president’s allegations could undermine confidence in next year’s election. Shortly after his inauguration, the president announced plans for a commission to investigate alleged voter fraud, which ended up disbanding barely a year later with no findings. With his reelection campaign now underway, Trump has returned to the topic.
New Jersey – Booker’s Mayoral Campaign Profited from Corrupt Newark Agency, Jailed Official Told
Newark Star Ledger – Karen Yi (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/28/2019
The former director of the agency that once managed Newark’s water told federal investigators in 2015 that she pressured vendors to make campaign contributions to then-Mayor Cory Booker and his political friends, new court records show. Linda Watkins-Brashear, who is currently serving an eight-year sentence for soliciting bribes in exchange for no-show contracts, said a Booker ally at the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. set a donation goal for vendors who usually bought $500 fundraising tickets without question. The records raise new questions about Booker’s record as mayor of Newark, a tenure that was a springboard to his successful U.S. Senate campaign and his current bid to win the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency. Booker has said he was unaware of the corruption that eventually led to the agency’s downfall.
New Jersey – Phil Murphy Says Fired Worker’s Social Media Posts Offensive, Declines Hiring Questions
Bergen Record – Dustin Racioppi | Published: 8/22/2019
After two days of silence since his administration fired an employee for his ant-Semitic social media posts, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy refused to say who hired Jeffrey Dye and whether he personally knew of Dye’s criminal history. Murphy may continue to face questions about Dye, just as he has about other people with questionable backgrounds who were hired by his administration. The governor and his top-ranking officials were unable to answer who had hired Al Alverez at the Schools Development Authority last year even though Alvarez had been accused of sexual assault, an allegation he denies and for which he was never charged. Murphy has also refused to say whether he knew about a top aide’s connection to a campaign finance scandal in Bermuda.
New York – A Lobbyist Gave $900,000 in Donations. Whose Money Is It?
EMN News – J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 8/26/2019
Since 2014, David Rich has doled out more than 200 campaign contributions totaling over $900,000. Rich is not a billionaire; he is the in-house lobbyist for the Greater New York Hospital Association, the state’s most powerful hospital and health system trade association. His contributions go to Democratic and Republican candidates alike, and the donations have one thing in common: they seem to line up with the interests of his employer. Although the nonprofit hospital association is free to make political contributions without an annual cap, it gives nothing to individual candidates, essentially allowing Rich’s personal donations to speak for the organization. That setup seems structured to enhance the profile and influence of Rich, who is responsible for the association’s federal, state, and local advocacy.
North Carolina – ‘Horrific Abuse of Office’: Wanda Greene gets 7 years for wide-ranging corruption
Ashville Citizen Times – Jennifer Bowman, John Boyle, and Mackenzie Wicker | Published: 8/28/2019
Calling her the “architect” of a culture of corruption in Buncombe County, a federal judge sentenced former top administrator Wanda Greene to seven years in prison for wide-ranging corrupt activity that she committed while heading one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing counties. She was ordered to also pay a $100,000 fine. Greene admitted to using county-issued credit cards to make thousands of dollars of personal purchases. She also admitted to fraudulently claiming Buncombe County as her own business on tax forms and used money set aside for settling a civil rights lawsuit to instead buy valuable life insurance policies for herself and other employees. Prosecutors say their investigation into Buncombe County corruption is ongoing.
North Carolina – Two Candidates for Governor Can Take Unlimited Donations. One Can’t.
Durham Herald-Sun – Colin Campbell | Published: 8/27/2019
A provision in a North Carolina law is allowing wealthy donors to make unlimited contributions that are being funneled into the two leading campaigns for governor, finance records show. Gov. Roy Cooper and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest have benefited from Council of State affiliated party committees, which allows them to solicit and accept donations of any size in collaboration with other statewide elected office holders from their party. The money is then used to purchase core services such as advertising and consultants for the contenders’ main campaign organizations. It is an advantage that the third candidate in the race, Rep. Holly Grange, does not have because all of her supporters are limited to the $5,400 maximum contribution.
Oklahoma – A Senator’s Lake House vs. a Town Fighting Flooding
MSN – Sarah Mervosh (New York Times) | Published: 8/27/2019
For years, the town of Miami, Oklahoma, has fought a losing battle against a wealthy neighboring community near Grand Lake, a popular vacation spot, where high water makes for better boating but leaves little room for overflow when it rains. With heavy rains this year, the city of Miami and local Native American tribes say they were again left to pay the price when floodwater clogged upstream, damaging their homes, businesses, and ceremonial grounds. Now, the battle has escalated to the halls of Congress, after one of the lake’s residents, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, got involved. After decades of debate, local leaders had pinned their hopes on a rare chance to ask a federal agency to help stop the flooding. But Inhofe, who is known to swim and fly planes around the lake, introduced legislation that would hamstring that agency.
Pennsylvania – Woman Who Accused Ex-Pa. Lawmaker of Rape ‘Credible,’ But No Charges Will Be Brought, DA Says
Philadelphia Inquirer – Angela Couloumbis and Brad Bumsted | Published: 8/26/2019
Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo said he believed a woman who accused a onetime Pennsylvania legislator of rape was “credible,” but it was not in the public interest to prosecute. Chardo, who investigated the sexual assault allegations against former state Rep. Brian Ellis, said a grand jury recommended no criminal charges but suggested ways to strengthen the Legislature’s policies on investigating sexual misconduct. He said there were complications to the case, including the woman’s inability to recall what happened the night of the alleged assault – she has said she believes she was drugged, which resulted in memory loss – as well as Ellis’ decision to invoke his right not to testify before the grand jury. “This whole experience has changed me fundamentally as a human being,” the accuser said in an interview. “It’s not just what happened to me, it’s the whole process.”
Texas – Local City Councilman’s One-Finger Salute Stirs Controversy
KWTX – Chelsea Edwards | Published: 8/22/2019
Copperas Cove Councilmember Charlie Youngs was caught on camera sticking his middle finger up while colleague Kirby Lack was talking during a meeting. Youngs said he should not have made the obscene gesture, and said he was actually flipping off someone in the audience who threatened to hurt him last December. Lack said if Youngs does not resign by the next council meeting, he is taking the issue up with the Texas Ethics Commission.
Texas – Michael Quinn Sullivan’s Secret Audio of Texas House Speaker Blurs Line Between Journalism, Activism
Dallas News – Rebekah Allen | Published: 8/22/2019
For the past month, Michael Quinn Sullivan has been the narrator of this year’s most explosive Texas political firestorm. On his website the Texas Scorecard, Sullivan broke the news of a scandal involving state House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, which forced the lawmaker to publicly apologize for trashing his colleagues in a secret meeting. Sullivan boats that he is a watchdog, shedding light on politicians behaving badly. At the same time, he refuses to release his exclusive recording of his meeting with Bonnen. For years, Sullivan has been fighting to operate on this knife’s edge, one where he can freely continue his work influencing lawmakers and donating money to candidates, while labeling himself a member of the media.
Washington DC – The Little Firm That Got a Big Chunk of D.C.’s Lottery and Sports Gambling Contract Has No Employees
Washington Post – Steve Thompson | Published: 8/28/2019
The Greek company Intralot, which received a $215 million contract to bring sports gambling to the District of Columbia and to continue running its lottery, says more than half the work will go to a small local firm, a condition that helped the gaming giant win the no-bid contract. The firm, Veterans Services Corp., will “perform the ENTIRE subcontract with its own organization and resources,” according to a document signed by an Intralot executive. City law requires companies with large public contracts to subcontract some work to small local businesses to grow the local economy. But Veterans Services appears to have no employees, according to interviews and records. Until recently, the company’s website touted executives who did not work there.
West Virginia – Is It Unconstitutional to Sleep in Your Home? For a Governor, Perhaps
New York Times – Campbell Robertson | Published: 8/22/2019
For over a year in West Virginia courtrooms, and longer than that among lawmakers and pundits, a debate has been bubbling about where the state’s governor spends his nights. Not that the facts are in much dispute: Most everyone concurs that Gov. Jim Justice does not spend them in Charleston, the capital. The question is whether that arrangement is allowed. The debate returned to court for a hearing in a lawsuit brought by a Democratic lawmaker. The suit, which seeks a court order requiring the Republican governor to reside in Charleston, is based on a clause in the West Virginia Constitution, which declares that all state executive officials except for the attorney general shall “reside at the seat of government during their terms of office.” The argument about the governor’s residence is the tip of a much larger and broader debate over his tenure.
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