December 13, 2019 •
News You Can Use Digest – December 13, 2019
Critics Say Facebook’s Powerful Ad Tools May Imperil Democracy. But Politicians Love Them.
Washington Post – Craig Timberg | Published: 12/9/2019
As Facebook sought to recover from its disastrous 2016 election season, company officials debated ways to curb distortions and disinformation on the platform. One of the most potentially powerful – limiting advertisers’ ability to target narrow slices of voters with political messages – struggled to find support and was abandoned. But today, as disinformation begins to spread ahead of the 2020 presidential vote, Facebook again is discussing “microtargeting” and weighing whether to restrict a set of advertising tools so powerful that, critics say, it may threaten democracy itself.
‘Dark Money’ Ties Raise Questions for GOP Sen. Ernst of Iowa
AP News – Brian Slodysko | Published: 12/6/2019
An outside group founded by top political aides to U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst has worked closely with her to raise money and boost her reelection prospects, a degree of overlap that potentially violates the law Iowa Values, a political nonprofit that is supposed to be run independently, was co-founded by Ernst’s longtime consultant, Jon Kohan. It shares a fundraiser, Claire Holloway Avella, with the Ernst campaign. And a condominium owned by a former aide, who was recently hired to lead the group, was used as Iowa Values’ address at a time when he worked for her. Documents not only make clear the group’s aim is securing an Ernst win in 2020, but they also show Ernst and her campaign worked in close concert with Iowa Values.
Donald Trump Jr. Went to Mongolia, Got Special Treatment from the Government and Killed an Endangered Sheep
ProPublica – Jake Pearson and Anand Tumurtogoo | Published: 12/11/2019
Donald Trump Jr.’s hunting trip to Mongolia in August was supported by government resources from both the U.S. and Mongolia, which each sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the trip. Trump Jr. shot and killed an argali, an endangered species of sheep. It thrust Trump Jr. directly into the controversial world of Mongolian trophy hunting, a polarizing practice in a country that views the big-horned rams as a national treasure. The right to kill an argali is controlled by a permitting system that experts say is mostly based on money, connections, and politics. The Mongolian government granted Trump Jr. a rare permit to slay the animal retroactively after he had left the region following his trip. It is unusual for permits to be issued after a hunter’s stay.
How the Mueller Investigation Changed K Street
Washingtonian Magazine – Luke Mullins | Published: 12/8/2019
Washington, D.C. has not been this terrified of foreign tampering with elections since World War II. All the same, another story about foreign interference is unfolding much more quietly. Instead of voting booths or electioneering, it features a corner of a local industry that has long catered to overseas actors: that swath of the influence business where foreigners go to hire their K Street problem-solver. Before Robert Mueller’s probe, few were even aware of this insider economy of lawyers, lobbyists, and consultants representing foreign officials, corporations, and political parties. The business was so poorly regulated that lobbyists routinely agreed to conduct the work in secret, directly violating the law. Then the special counsel dusted off an obscure law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act and K Street found itself ensnared in the biggest criminal sweep since the Jack Abramoff scandal in the early 2000s.
Inspector General Report Says FBI Had ‘Authorized Purpose’ to Investigate Trump Campaign’s Russia Ties but Finds Some Wrongdoing
Anchorage Daily News – Karoun Demirjian, Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima, and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019
A long-awaited Justice Department inspector general’s report examining the FBI’s investigation into possible coordination between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia rebuts some of conservatives’ most sensational allegations about the case, including that top FBI officials were motivated by political bias and illegally spied on Trump advisers, but finds faults in other areas. The report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI had an “authorized purpose” when it initiated its investigation into the Trump campaign and rejected the assertion the case was opened out of political animus or that informants were used in violation of FBI rules. It asserted, though, that as the probe went on, FBI officials repeatedly decided to emphasize damaging information they heard about Trump associates and play down exculpatory evidence they found.
Pete Buttigieg Agrees to More Transparency on Campaign Money
San Francisco Chronicle – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019
Presidential contender Pete Buttigieg announced he would open his fundraisers to journalists and disclose the names of people raising money for his campaign, the latest step in an ongoing skirmish over transparency with Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren. Reporters will be allowed into Buttigieg’s large-dollar fundraising events, and the South Bend mayor will release a list of his “bundlers” – those who funnel large sums of money to campaigns – within a week. The campaign also announced that McKinsey and Co., the consulting firm where Buttigieg used to work, would now allow him to disclose the identity of his clients from his stint there.
The Accidental Celebrities of the Impeachment Inquiry
MSN – Katherine Rosman (New York Times) | Published: 10/6/2019
No matter the job title, the job of most every aide to a member of Congress is essentially the same: to help make it appear that the elected representative is shouldering the work alone. This is especially true, and especially tricky, amid the scrutinized pageantry of news conferences and high-stakes public hearings like those by the House Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. In hearings, congressional aides often sit behind their bosses, close enough to discreetly provide on-the-spot guidance and information. But, for some, the tougher gig might be operating in front of a scrum of cameras while trying to remain invisible to the public. “There is whirlwind of activity behind the scenes and it is your job to keep that off-camera and to fade into the wallpaper,” said Jeremy Bash, who attended or staffed about 100 hearings while serving in various roles.
Trump Asks Supreme Court to Review Decision Granting Congress Access to His Financial Records
Danbury News Times – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2019
A lower-court ruling giving a congressional committee access to President Trump’s financial records would usher in a new wave of political warfare in times of divided government, the president’s lawyers said in a brief. Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time to review rulings from lower courts that have said Congress and state prosecutors have a right to review his personal and business records. The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a related case at its private conference December 13. If the high court decides to order full briefing and argument in both cases, it could lead to landmark decisions this term on the ability of prosecutors and Congress to investigate the president.
Trump Business Dealings Argued at Federal Appeals Court in Emoluments Case
Greenwich Times – Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019
Appeals court judges expressed skepticism that members of Congress as individuals have a legal right to sue President Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments without lawmakers’ consent. Even as the judges seemed troubled that Congress may have no other viable way to enforce the Constitution’s “emoluments” provision, they did not seem prepared to allow the lawsuit from more than 200 Democratic lawmakers to move forward, and suggested the U.S. Supreme Court would have the final word. The lawsuit is one of three similar cases pending in appeals courts and has the potential to reveal details about the president’s closely held business interests.
‘Trump Changed Everything’: Big cities break hard left in Dem primary
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 12/8/2019
From New York City to Los Angeles, many of the nation’s biggest cities have turned even harder to the left under President Trump, putting pressure on local officials to embrace the leading progressive presidential candidates, or withhold their endorsements entirely for fear of antagonizing newly energized activists. It is a drastic political shift in some places, where for decades entrenched party bosses crushed any signs of life on the left or tended to put the weight of big-city institutional support behind Democratic establishment-oriented candidates. Part of the leftward turn is the result of a surge of progressive candidates taking office in recent years. But not all of the shift can be explained by newly elected Democrats.
Trump ‘Ignored and Injured’ the National Interest, Democrats Charge in Impeachment Articles
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 12/10/2019
House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Trump, declaring he “abused the powers of the Presidency” and sought to cover up his misdeeds by obstructing a congressional investigation into his dealings with Ukraine. The two narrowly drawn articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress represented the most significant step in Democrats’ impeachment effort. Trump is just the fourth president in U.S. history to face the prospect of such a sanction for misconduct in office. Asserting that the president would “remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” the articles accuse Trump of engaging in a corrupt scheme to solicit foreign interference to help his 2020 reelection bid.
Watchdog: Interior official’s meetings broke ethics rule
AP News – Ellen Nickmeyer | Published: 12/10/2019
An assistant Interior secretary broke federal ethics rules by twice meeting with his old employer, a conservative Texas-based policy group, to discuss legal tussles between the group and the agency. Douglas Domenech, the agency’s assistant secretary for insular and international affairs, convened the first of the two meetings in April 2017, three months after leaving his old job and beginning at the agency, the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office found. That violated federal ethics rules that restricted Domenech in dealing with his former employer for two years after taking the government job, the inspector general’s office concluded.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Former L.A. City Hall Aide Fined $37,500 for Failing to Report Lobbying
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/10/2019
Gary Benjamin, a former planning deputy to Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell, formed his own consulting company after he left his city job and worked with Elizabeth Peterson Group, which is registered with the city as a lobbying firm. His firm, Alchemy, was paid more than $209,000 over a period of two years. Benjamin said he was surprised to hear his work was seen as lobbying, describing most of his duties as “research oriented and administrative.” Under city rules, “lobbying activities” can include research and providing advice to clients if that work is part of a paid effort to contact city officials and influence a decision. Now, Benjamin must pay a $37,500 fine after failing to report he was lobbying.
California – Glendale City Council Candidate Ordered to Return $10K in Donations
Los Angeles Times – Lila Seidman | Published: 12/11/2019
A Glendale City Council candidate was ordered to return more than $10,000 in campaign donations after reportedly receiving incorrect information about the appropriate fundraising period from the city clerk’s office. Dan Brotman returned the online contributions he received and began cutting refund checks to donors, hours after he received an email from the Glendale city attorney’s office alerting him that the law prohibited him from accepting campaign donations before September 1. Brotman, a first-time candidate, said the email surprised him because the city clerk’s office had assured him it was acceptable to raise funds when he reached out to discuss the matter in July.
California – Taxpayers Should Foot the Bill for ‘Clean Money’ Campaigns, L.A. Council Members Say
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/6/2019
Los Angeles City Council members Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz, and David Ryu called for full taxpayer financing of city election campaigns, resurrecting an idea that was proposed nearly three years ago but went nowhere. They want the city’s analysts to determine how much a “clean money” system would cost and where the money would come from. Under the proposal, candidates for 18 city offices would receive taxpayer funding for their campaigns as long as they collect a significant number of low-dollar donations from their constituents, refuse to collect “special interest” contributions, and decline to spend a significant amount of their own funds. The proposal was revived two days after the council voted to prohibit real estate developers who have projects pending before City Hall from giving to the campaigns of city candidates.
Colorado – Bruce Rau Is One of the Most Elected Men in Colorado but Doesn’t Live in Any of the Metro Districts He Represents
Denver Post – David Migoya | Published: 12/12/2019
Bruce Rau sits on at least three dozen metropolitan district boards. Unlike any other public official in the state, however, Rau does not actually live in any of the districts he represents. He wields some of the most broad-reaching taxing authority that impacts tens of thousands of people he has never met and has been elected by fewer than a dozen voters at a time, sometimes by none at all. All of that because Colorado’s Special District Act lets him. Rau, an executive with Oakwood Homes, is also one of the most conflicted men in Colorado, having registered more conflicts-of-interest in his elected capacity than any other official in the state.
Florida – Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper to Be Reinstated After Acquittal in Corruption Case
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 12/11/2019
Almost two years after she was arrested on corruption charges and removed from her post as Hallandale Beach mayor, Joy Cooper will be reinstated by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Then-Gov. Rick Scott removed Cooper from office one day after her arrest in January 2018. She was accused of taking part in an illegal scheme to accept campaign money in excess of the legal limit from a lobbyist and undercover FBI agents posing as developers. A jury acquitted Cooper on all six counts against her following trial. Because Cooper was last elected in 2016 and her term was not slated to end until November 2020, she can now return to office at least until next November’s election.
Florida – Local Lobbyist Database Could Increase Ethics Board’s Workload
Florida Politics – Renzo Downey | Published: 12/6/2019
A possible local government lobbyist database would significantly increase the state ethics panel’s responsibilities, said Chris Anderson, executive director of the Florida Commission on Ethics. Currently, the commission compiles publicly available lists of lobbyists at the federal and state levels. Streamlining local government lobbyist database would increase transparency and accountability, Rep. Anthony Sabatini said. Most jurisdictions keep their own record, but there is no state requirement that it be kept and made public. The package of bills would also consolidate registration fees by requiring local government lobbyists to register with the state and one annual fee instead of with each city or county.
Florida – Tampa City Council Member Went to Chicago on Nonprofit’s Dime, Later Paid for It
Tampa Bay Times – Charlie Frago | Published: 12/9/2019
In October, Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes took a four-day trip to Chicago for a community development conference hosted by Neighborworks America, a national nonprofit. That trip, also attended by the volunteer head of a city board, sparked cries of a conflict-of- interest. He went because the leader of a local nonprofit, CDC of Tampa, Inc., asked him. Gudes’ travel, lodging, and transportation would be covered. CDC of Tampa, Inc. was one of 10 bidders vying to redevelop 26 vacant lots in Gudes’ district. As a voting member of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, Gudes would have a say in the outcome.
Florida – ‘This Is Big’: City of Tallahassee ethics package passes amid challenging year, FBI probe
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 12/6/2019
City commissioners approved changes to Tallahassee’s ethics code, including expanding the Independent Ethics Board’s jurisdiction. The move came after more than two years of scandal at City Hall, including state ethics findings against former Mayor Andrew Gillum and former City Manager Rick Fernandez for accepting gifts from lobbyists and guilty pleas from former city Commissioner Scott Maddox in an ongoing corruption case. Under the new ordinance, a gift ban would apply to more people, including commissioner aides, employees who file financial disclosures, and those who work in procurement. The revised ordinance also includes fines up to $5,000 for lobbyists who repeatedly fail to register, among other provisions.
Hawaii – Honolulu City Council Voted on Company’s Project Then Let It Buy Lunch
Honolulu Civil Beat – Cristina Jedra | Published: 12/10/2019
Right after Honolulu City Council members voted to advance a controversial rezoning measure, they broke for lunch paid for by a company representing the landowner in the case. That is despite guidance from the Honolulu Ethics Commission that government agencies should not accept gifts – defined as anything the government did not pay full value for – from companies with business before them. Ethics Commission guidelines address this very scenario, and city agencies received a reminder of how to handle these matters in the past week.
Kentucky – Bevin Pardons Include Convicted Killer Whose Brother Hosted Campaign Fundraiser for Him
Louisville Courier-Journal – Andrew Wolfson and Joe Sonka | Published: 12/11/2019
The family of a man pardoned by then-Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin for a homicide and other crimes raised $21,500 at a political fundraiser last year to retire debt from Bevin’s 2015 gubernatorial campaign. The brother and sister-in-law of offender Patrick Baker also gave $4,000 to Bevin’s campaign on the day of the fundraiser. Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele, who prosecuted Baker, noted Baker served only two years of a 19-year sentence on his conviction for reckless homicide, robbery, impersonating a peace officer, and tampering with evidence. Steele also cited the fact that two of Baker’s co-defendants are still in prison. “What makes Mr. Baker any different than the other two?” Steele asked.
Kentucky – Kentucky House Changes Course on Ex-Speaker Investigation
Seattle Times – Bruce Schreiner (Associated Press) | Published: 12/10/2019
The Kentucky House changed course in the probe of former Speaker Jeff Hoover, voting to disband a special committee that was formed to investigate a sexual harassment settlement he secretly signed. The committee later voted itself out of existence. The sudden reversal means the inquiry shifts fully to the state’s Legislative Ethics Commission. Hoover was already under investigation by the commission, even before the House’s action. That inquiry focuses on whether Hoover violated state ethics laws, primarily if he used money from political donors or registered lobbyists to make the settlement payment.
Louisiana – Former LSU Employee Fined $111K Over Money Missing from School of Theatre, Invoices to His Company
New Orleans Advocate – Jacqueline DeRobertis and Andrea Gallo | Published: 12/5/2019
The Ethics Adjudicatory Board imposed a $111,000 fine on a former administrative coordinator at Louisiana State University’s College of Music and Dramatic Arts after finding he violated multiple state ethics rules, including misappropriating funds. The board determined David Rodriguez misappropriated more than $60,000 over three years. A three-judge panel also found he broke three additional ethics rules when his side business assisted in catered events at the college. Prosecutors dropped criminal charges in 2017. The attorney who represented Rodriguez in the criminal case, Margaret Lagattuta, said the university’s lax oversight of the money involved in the case meant several people could have stolen it.
Maryland – Baltimore Approves More Than $13 Million Financed by Pugh Donor’s Firm Amid Call for Probe of His Deals
Baltimore Sun – Kevin Rector and Talia Richman | Published: 12/11/2019
A political donor who has drawn heat for his role in the “Healthy Holly” book scandal that took down former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is still making money from the city, despite concerns about his contracts from some officials in light of allegations by federal prosecutors that he made inappropriate contributions to Pugh. Baltimore’s spending panel approved an expenditure of more than $13 million for Motorola radio equipment under the city’s master lease, a long-standing financing agreement with Grant Capital Management, the firm of financier and big campaign donor J.P. Grant. The contract was not competitively bid, as is often allowed under the master lease. City Council President Brandon Scott abstained from the vote. He said the situation highlighted the need to reform the structure of the Board of Estimates, in which the mayor controls a majority of the votes.
Maryland – Federal Appeals Court Rejects Maryland Online Political Ad Law That Sought Information from Digital Publishers
Baltimore Sun – Jeff Barker | Published: 12/9/2019
A three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the enactment of key provisions of Maryland’s Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act. The law’s disclosure requirements would apply to any online platform with 100,000 unique monthly visitors that receives money for political ads. The platforms would be required to display, within 48 hours of an ad being purchased, information such as the identity of the buyer and the amount paid. The outlets would need to retain the information for state inspection. “… While Maryland’s law tries to serve important aims, the state has gone about this task in too circuitous and burdensome a manner to satisfy constitutional scrutiny,” wrote Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson.
Michigan – Before Losing Election, Clawson Mayor Sought Secret Deal to Hurt Opponent
Detroit Free Press – Bill Laitner | Published: 12/10/2019
With an election looming, then-Clawson, Michigan Mayor Deborah Wooley ordered the city manager to secretly hire a digital-detective firm, with an open purchase order for up to $5,000, and threatened to fire him if word got out. According to the city manager, Wooley’s goal was to dig up digital dirt on her political opponent, Reese Scripture, who had been a plague to Wooley throughout her two-year term, first filing an Open Meetings Act lawsuit, then running against Wooley for mayor. Wooley wanted to see whether Scripture had leaked embarrassing city emails. But the probe turned up nothing improper about Scripture’s email contacts with the city. Ultimately, they became part of a city council packet of public documents, for a meeting that exposed the scheme after the election.
Michigan – County Official Who Displayed, Wore Trump Hat During Meetings Focus of Complaint
MLive.com – Ben Solis | Published: 12/9/2019
Muskegon County Commissioner Zach Lahring’s “Trump 2020” hat is at the center of a complaint filed with the state. The complaint alleges Lahring made contributions to the re-election campaign of President Trump using public resources by displaying and then wearing the hat during public meetings. The formal complaint is among several informal ones lodged against Lahring for his decorum at public meetings and his behavior on social media. The complaint argues Lahring violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by using a public resource, in this case the Muskegon County building, to promote and endorse a federal candidate. It also says the law prohibits Lahring from campaigning while doing the public’s work.
Michigan – Inman Not Guilty of Lying to FBI; Hung Jury on Bribery and Extortion
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 12/10/2019
A Michigan lawmaker was found not guilty of lying to the FBI in connection with a bribery and extortion investigation. A federal jury could not reach a verdict on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe against state Rep. Larry Inman. The judge declared a mistrial on those counts. A grand jury indicted Inman in May, alleging he sought campaign donations from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and other unions in return for “no” votes on a measure to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law. Inman was expelled from the Republican caucus and lost his House office and staff after his indictment and after he admitted he sent the text messages to the unions. It is improper for a state representative to mix how he will vote with campaign finance issues, House Speaker Lee Chatfield said.
New York – $100K in Campaign Cash to Gov, Mayor, County Exec Is Routine Business Expense, Cor Says
Syracuse Post-Standard – Tim Knauss | Published: 12/4/2019
Along with paying for engineering, an asbestos survey, and legal fees, Cor Development listed $114,825 for campaign donations to two governors, a mayor, and a county executive among their expenses in a Syracuse development project. Cor officials wrote in a letter that their partner on the joint venture project was expected to share the costs, including the campaign money. It was an unusual acknowledgement – because it was in writing – that business executives viewed political contributions as a cost of doing business. Critics of New York’s campaign finance laws say businesses sometimes seem to approach campaign contributions as a “corruption tax” they have to pay to get things done.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Commission Plans Rule-Making Process
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 12/11/2019
North Dakota’s Ethics Commission will begin its administrative rulemaking in the new year after mapping out an early process recently. Chairperson Ron Goodman distributed 18 pages of what he called “very rough” rules, modified from other states. He said he will draft a code of ethics for the commission based on other North Dakota agencies’ similar policies, for discussion at the board’s January meeting. North Dakota voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment that created the Ethics Commission to oversee conduct of state officials, lawmakers, lobbyists, and candidates.
Oklahoma – Public Campaigns Being Conducted with Donations Kept Private
The Oklahoman – Chris Casteel | Published: 12/7/2019
Public campaigns being waged in Oklahoma City on local, state, and federal issues are being financed by donors who, so far, have remained anonymous. The campaigns for MAPS 4 and Medicaid expansion and against President Trump’s impeachment have all been conducted through mechanisms that do not require public disclosure of contributors, at least for now. Ashley Kemp, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, said the commission in 2014 requested some changes to the campaign reporting laws for local governments to make standards and enforcement more uniform. “There was not a request by the commission to eliminate public disclosure for local ballot measures,” Kemp said.
Oklahoma – Tag Agency Standoff with Gov. Stitt Over Lobbying Is Settled – for Now
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 12/12/2019
An attempt to force privately owned tag agencies to stop their lobbying activities in Oklahoma has been dropped. The proposed ban on tag agency lobbying would extend executive orders signed earlier this year by Gov. Kevin Stitt to state government contractors – specifically, in this case, tag agents. It is not clear whether such a ban could include other state contractors or even state employees. Privately, some have questioned whether such a ban would survive a legal challenge. For now, tag agencies employing lobbyist Clayton Taylor may continue to do so for at least another year.
Pennsylvania – Councilwoman Darlene Harris Sues City to Nix Campaign Rules
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Staff | Published: 12/11/2019
Councilperson Darlene Harris sued the city, the mayor, and the ethics board, alleging Pittsburgh’s campaign finance rules violate the Pennsylvania Constitution, and a fine levied against her should be set aside. The case stems from an effort by the city’s Ethics Hearing Board to collect a $4,150 fine from Harris, in relation to her refusal to file campaign filings with that body. The city ordinance charges the Ethics Hearing board with receiving candidates’ campaign finance reports and posting the data online. Those filings are also filed with Allegheny County, under state law.
Pennsylvania – He’s the FBI Agent Who Took Down Allentown’s Mayor. Now He’s Talking Publicly About the Case.
LehighValleyLive.com – Steve Novak | Published: 12/11/2019
As Scott Curtis tells it, he was sitting alone at a bar in Pittsburgh, buried in his phone. He could not leave yet. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was meeting people in the back of the restaurant, along with an FBI informant. Curtis was the special agent heading the corruption investigation into Palowski and other public officials. He had to observe the meeting and make sure that his wired-up witness, Mike Fleck, did not try anything. Curtis would go on to close the book on one of the Lehigh Valley’s most explosive corruption cases, one that led to a number of convictions. Among them was Pawlowski, who in 2018 was found guilty of 47 charges for rigging city contracts in favor of campaign donors. He was sentenced up to 15 years in prison.
Pennsylvania – She’s the Force Behind Pa.’s Efforts to Treat Drug Addiction. Critics Say ‘There Is More to the Story.’
Philadelphia Inqirer – Aneri Pattani | Published: 12/12/2019
Deb Beck is a formidable power player in Harrisburg, influencing Pennsylvania’s response to a drug addiction epidemic that has led to thousands of deaths and spawned a multimillion-dollar treatment industry. She has been in the field since 1971, and whenever lawmakers want to draft addiction-related laws, or need to get a loved one into treatment, they go to her. Now, with the state spending huge sums of taxpayer money for treatment for opioid addiction and paying greater attention to how best to reverse the deadly trend, some are questioning if Beck is using her sway to help patients or the businesses providing care. Her advocacy for long-term residential care for those suffering from opioid addiction has prompted concerns she is pushing an outdated treatment model over approaches that medical professionals say are far more effective.
South Carolina – This Judge Is Married to the Sheriff. Ethics Complaints Have Piled Up.
Pro Publica – Joseph Cranney (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 12/5/2019
The Chester County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina accused a pair of lower court judges of unfairly blocking the sheriff’s requests for criminal warrants. A top deputy planned to file a complaint with the chief magistrate and the local state senator, who controls the county’s judicial appointments. But before doing so, the deputy turned to an unlikely ally to help craft his appeal: Magistrate Angel Underwood. The arrangement was unusual. Underwood was a sitting judge, sworn to remain impartial from those who brought matters before her. She was also the wife of the sheriff, Alex Underwood. Intermingling those two roles had recently brought her a yearlong suspension from the bench; the state’s judicial watchdog found she failed to disqualify herself in more than 100 cases brought by her husband’s department.
Texas – Dannenbaum Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations
Houston Chronicle – Stephanie Lamm and Gabrielle Banks | Published: 12/6/2019
James Dannenbaum, the former head of a prominent Texas engineering firm and a major political donor, pleaded guilty to circumventing federal election laws by helping employees funnel illegal campaign contributions to congressional and U.S. Senate candidates. The company that he once led, Dannenbaum Engineering, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in November that hinged upon its former chief executive officer owning up to his role in the fraud scheme. The company agreed to a fine of $1.6 million after admitting being part in a broader scheme.
Virginia – A Congressman Could Go to Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds. What He Did Is Totally Legal in Virginia.
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 12/5/2019
After federal prosecutors gathered evidence showing U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his family members had taken $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal golf outings, vacations, meals, video games, and gas, Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. Though federal campaign finance laws prohibit using political funds to cover unrelated expenses, Virginia has no such rule for candidates running for state and local offices. That means Virginia campaigns do not have to be meticulous about making sure candidates do not use their political account, often filled by business interests and wealthy donors, as a personal piggy bank. In another contrast with federal law, Virginia’s rules place no limits on contribution size.
Washington – How Much Money Did Tim Eyman Make Last Year: Depends what form you check
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 12/9/2019
How much money did Tim Eyman make in the last year? Eyman, the candidate for governor, says his income was less than $48,000 over the last 12 months. Eyman, the serial initiative promoter and conservative activist, says he made more than $297,000 over the last 12 months. Eyman’s newly filed statement with the state Public Disclosure Commission, now that he is announced a run for governor, appears to be in sharp contrast with his monthly reports in federal court, where he filed for bankruptcy one year ago. Eyman says there is a perfectly good explanation, but for almost his entire two-decade history as an anti-tax evangelist, his financial transparency has been called into question.
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