December 6, 2019 •
News You Can Use Digest – December 6, 2019
A Mysterious ‘-1’ and Other Call Records Show How Giuliani Pressured Ukraine
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Julian Barnes (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019
In the two days before President Trump forced out the American ambassador to Ukraine in April, his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani was on the phone with the White House more than a dozen times. Phone records cited in the impeachment report released by the House Intelligence Committee illustrate the sprawling reach of Giuliani’s campaign first to remove the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, then to force Ukraine’s new government to announce criminal investigations for Trump’s political gain. He reached out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; the national security adviser at the time, John Bolton; U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee; Fox News host Sean Hannity; a conservative columnist; and the owner of a mysterious number, “-1.”
Appeals Court Refuses to Block House Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records
MSN – Ann Marimow and Renae Merle (Washington Post) | Published: 12/3/2019
House Democrats can access President Trump’s private financial records from two banks, a federal appeals court ruled, finding a “public interest” in refusing to block congressional subpoenas. The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit came in the ongoing legal battle Trump has waged to shield his private business records from disclosure, including in two cases that have already reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeals court upheld Congress’s broad investigative authority and ordered Deutsche Bank and Capital One to comply with the House subpoenas for the president’s financial information.
Democrats Take in Lobbying Industry Cash Despite Pledges
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 12/1/2019
The lobbying industry has contributed $545,173 to 2020 presidential campaigns with nearly 80 percent going to Democratic candidates, even as many of those hopefuls vow not to take donations from lobbyists. The numbers paint a complicated picture. Democratic candidates and their progressive allies in the current cycle have put new scrutiny on lobbyists as well as on taking money from other special interest or corporate groups. But that has not completely stopped the flow of money to candidates and campaigns. K Street’s top ranks are filled with former Democrats, many with ties to the candidates. And watchdog groups say that while the focus is on federally registered lobbyists, donations from others tied to the industry, such as state- and local-level lobbyists, often trickle through.
Facebook Has Floated Limiting Political Ads and Labeling That They Aren’t Fact-Checked, Riling 2020 Campaigns
Connecticut Post – Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 12/4/2019
Facebook has weighed whether to label political ads to indicate they have not been fact-checked, rather than vetting what candidates say, one of a series of proposals the company has floated to Democratic and Republican operatives as it seeks to head off controversies in the 2020 election campaign. Some of the ideas have left campaign strategists in both parties uneasy, fearful that Facebook’s reforms might hamstring their ability to persuade and mobilize voters in a year when the White House is at stake. For Democrats, the possible changes also have done little to assuage concerns about ads they say contain falsehoods. Facebook has maintained it should not serve as the arbiter of truth, determining what elected officials can say to potential voters.
Ilhan Omar’s Opponent Barred by Twitter After Suggesting Congresswoman Should Be Hanged
Seattle Times – Marissa lati (Washington Post) | Published: 11/30/2019
Twitter shut down the accounts of Danielle Stella, a Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, after Stella twice tweeted about hanging Omar. The campaign account for Stella, a candidate in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, posted “If it is proven @IlhanMN passed sensitive info to Iran, she should be tried for #treason and hanged.” The account later tweeted a link to a blog post about her comment and added an image of a stick-figure being hanged. The suspensions come as Twitter and other social media platform fight back against criticism that they have been too lackadaisical in policing themselves for hate speech, violence, extremism, and abuse on their platforms.
Impeachment Report Alleges Trump Solicited Foreign Election Interference
MSN – Michael Shear and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019
House Democrats asserted that President Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to help him in the 2020 presidential election, releasing an impeachment report that found the president “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.” The report by the Intelligence Committee was a sweeping indictment of the president’s behavior, concluding he sought to undermine American democracy and endangered national security, then worked to conceal his actions from Congress. Democrats left it to the Judiciary Committee to decide whether to recommend Trump’s impeachment, but their report presented what are all but certain to be the grounds on which the House votes to formally charge him.
Judge Denies DOJ Request for Stay on Don McGahn Testimony
Politico – Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/2/2019
House Democrats notched another legal victory in their pursuit of critical testimony tied to their impeachment efforts, though the ruling may be short-lived because the case is already on temporary hold while it works its way toward an appeal. U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson rejected the Justice Department’s request to put a long-term stay on her earlier opinion requiring Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, to appear before the Judiciary Committee. Jackson also decided to lift an earlier administrative stay she had issued that had put her decision briefly on ice while the case moved up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Mueller Witness and Donor to Clinton and Trump Are Charged with Funneling $3.5 Million in Illegal Contributions in 2016 Election
Philadelphia Inquirer – Spencer Hsu and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/4/2019
A key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election was indicted with seven others on charges of conspiring to funnel more than $3 million in illegal campaign contributions. George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates who acted as an intermediary for members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign seeking to forge contacts in the Middle East, was charged with conspiring to make conduit campaign contributions and related offenses. Prosecutors also charged Ahmad Khawaja, a Lebanese American businessperson, with 35 counts related to allegations he conspired with Nader to conceal the source of more than $3.5 million in campaign contributions directed to political committees associated with presidential candidates.
‘One of the Hardest Decisions of My Life’: Kamala Harris ends once-promising campaign
Politico – Christopher Cadelago and Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 12/3/2019
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is ending her presidential campaign after months of failing to lift her candidacy from the bottom of the field, a premature departure for someone once heralded as a top-tier contender for the nomination. While Harris had qualified for the December debate, she was running dangerously low on cash – lacking the resources to air television ads in Iowa – and her staff was gripped by long-running internal turmoil. Voters complained they were unable to pin Harris down on a host of issues. What could have been one of her greatest strengths, her time spent as the top prosecutor in California, became a liability with a Democratic base that has turned left on issues of criminal justice.
Rep. Hunter Enters Plea in Federal Campaign Finance Case, Telling Judge, ‘Guilty’
San Diego Union-Tribune – Morgan Cook, Kristina Davis, and Jeff McDonald | Published: 12/3/2019
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to a charge of misusing campaign money. Hunter and his wife were charged with 60 counts related to their use of $200,000 in contributions for family expenses. Margaret Hunter has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge. The couple relied for years on campaign donations to pay for things like dental bills, private school tuition, and plane tickets for Margaret Hunter’s mother to travel to and from Poland. Their joint bank account was overdrawn more than 1,100 times over six years and they incurred about $36,000 in penalties – fees they paid using campaign contributions. As the case progressed, it became clear that Duncan Hunter had extramarital affairs with five different women and used campaign money to facilitate meetings.
Staking a Presidential Bid on Battling Big Money in Politics Fails for Bullock
The Fulcrum – Sarah Swann | Published: 12/2/2019
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the only Democratic presidential candidate focused mainly on achieving a top goal of democracy reformers, ended his campaign. When Bullock entered the already crowded field in May, he vowed to make his bid for the White House about ending the influence of big money in politics as a prerequisite for addressing the nation’s other big problems, from health care coverage to climate change. Six months later, his fundraising and statistically insignificant standing in the polls remained lackluster enough that he had only been invited to one debate and had little prospect of being asked to another.
State Lawmakers Acknowledge Lobbyists Helped Craft Their Op-Eds Attacking Medicare-for-All
MSN – Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 12/2/2019
Lobbyists either helped draft or made extensive revisions to opinion columns published by three state lawmakers in a way that warned against the dangers of Medicare-for-all and other government involvement in health care. Montana Rep. Kathy Kelker and Sen. Jen Gross acknowledged editorials they published separately about the single-payer health proposal included language provided by John MacDonald, a lobbyist and consultant. Gross said MacDonald contacted her on behalf of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a group funded by hospitals, private insurers, drug companies, and other private health-care firms. An aide to Ohio Sen. Steve Huffman confirmed the lawmaker’s op-ed criticizing Medicare-for-all was written with the help of Kathleen DeLand, an Ohio-based lobbyist. None of the lawmakers’ columns disclose that they were written with the help of a lobbyist.
Trump Campaign Denies Press Credentials to Bloomberg News, Claiming ‘Bias’ Against the President
San Francisco Chronicle – Kayla Epstein (Washington Post) | Published: 11/2/2019
The Trump campaign said it would no longer credential journalists with Bloomberg News for campaign events, accusing the news organization of “bias” against the president. Bloomberg News faced a journalistic quandary when its owner, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, decided to jump into the 2020 Democratic primary. In a widely criticized decision, editor-and-chief John Micklethwait announced the newsroom would continue its tradition of not investigating the personal life and finances of Bloomberg and would extend the same policy to his Democratic opponents. But Micklethwait noted Bloomberg News would continue to investigate the Trump administration. The news outlet’s decision was intended to avoid conflicts-of-interest in the Democratic primary.
Canada – Sask. Changing Lobbyist, Conflict of Interest Rules
CBC – Staff | Published: 11/25/2019
The Saskatchewan government introduced legislation to “promote transparency and enhance accountability among provincially-elected officials,” via amendments to the Lobbyists Act and the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act. The Lobbyists Act changes include a new provision prohibiting in-house lobbyists or consultant lobbyists from providing gifts, favors, or other benefits to public office holders, and reducing the threshold for registration as an in-house lobbyist from 100 hours to 30 hours per year. The Members Conflict of Interest Act changes include adding a definition of “gift or personal benefit.”
From the States and Municipalities
California – California Campaign Watchdog Suspends Donation Rules After a Member Gives to Sanders
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 12/4/2019
The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) suspended a longstanding policy banning its members from contributing to federal candidates after one commissioner donated to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. The decision by the FPPC, which is responsible for policing campaign finance in California, is drawing criticism from some reform advocates and former state officials who say the policy was put in place to avoid an appearance of bias in favor of candidates whose campaigns are scrutinized by the state agency. The FPPC also asked the state attorney general for an opinion on the legality and scope of the rules, which some members say violates their First Amendment rights.
California – DA Files Criminal Charges Against Former Oakland Coliseum Authority Chief in Naming Rights Conflict
San Francisco Chronicle – Sarah Ravani | Published: 12/3/2019
The Alameda County district attorney filed criminal charges against the former head of the special agency that oversees the Oakland Coliseum complex for allegedly violating state conflict-of-interest laws while negotiating the naming rights of the stadium. Scott McKibben was charged with a felony and misdemeanor count of violating conflict-of-interest laws by seeking a $50,000 payment for helping negotiate a settlement for the Coliseum naming rights with RingCentral, according to charging documents.
California – L.A. Limits Campaign Donations from Real Estate Developers. Critics Say It Falls Short
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 12/4/2019
The Los Angeles City Council voted to prevent developers who have project applications pending at City Hall from making campaign donations to elected officials or candidates for municipal office, although some members expressed concern over the effectiveness of the ordinance. The idea, first proposed nearly three years ago, had languished until an FBI raid at City Hall cast a fresh spotlight on concerns about developer contributions. The law does not prohibit developers from hosting fundraisers or raising money from other donors and it does not apply to major subcontractors on a development project. The law will not take effect for more than two years, a delay officials said was needed to first set up a database tracking who is prohibited from contributing.
California – New LADWP Commissioner Works for a Company That Markets Water and Power
Los Angeles Times – Sammy Roth and Dakota Smith | Published: 11/27/2019
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s latest appointee to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) board of commissioners is a top executive at a company that markets water and power and has a history of trying to make deals with government agencies in Southern California, including LADWP. Nicole Neeman Brady serves as chief operating officer at Renewable Resources Group, which develops solar energy facilities and has bought and sold lands with valuable water rights. The board of commissioners oversees the country’s largest municipal utility, helping guide purchases of energy and water for Los Angeles. Renewable Resources Group is in the business of developing energy and water projects, raising the potential for conflicts-of-interest if the company seeks to do business with LADWP while Neeman Brady serves on the board.
Connecticut – Jon Lender: It’s audit time after $33M in influence efforts so far in 2019 by lobbyists who cram Capitol, form ‘gauntlet’ by restrooms
Hartford Courant – Jon Lester | Published: 12/2/2019
The Connecticut Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board randomly drew the names of 10 companies and groups that have used lobbyists to audit during the coming year for compliance with state law. Those chosen ranged from corporate giants such as Apple to an individually owned insurance consulting outfit in Branford. These examinations will determine if Capitol lobbyists, and the interest groups that hire them, are obeying state restrictions and filing financial disclosure reports aimed at combating the potential corrupting power of tens of millions of dollars spent each year on influencing state government.
Florida – Former Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper Cleared of Corruption Charges
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 11/26/2019
A jury acquitted former Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper on all six counts related to allegations she took 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. During closing arguments, Catherine Maus, the state’s lead prosecutor on the case, leaned on a series of audio and video recordings taken by the undercover agents to support the argument that Cooper knew exactly how the scheme would play out in 2012. But Cooper’s attorney, Larry Davis, said Maus was jumping to conclusions that the evidence did not support.
Georgia – Georgia Campaign Ethics Panel Fines Lawmakers, Investigates Abrams
Georgia Recorder – Stanley Dunlap | Published: 12/5/2019
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission handed out fines to state legislators, made public an investigation into the finances for the 2017 campaign for Atlanta mayor, and advanced an investigation into a voting rights nonprofit connected to former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Commission Executive Secretary David Emadi told commissioners of new allegations that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former mayoral candidate Mary Norwood accepted excessive contributions during their 2017 campaigns. The ethics panel is continuing an investigation into a voting rights group and a political committee connected to Abrams, who was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.
Georgia – Georgia Gov. Kemp Taps Business Executive Kelly Loeffler for Senate Seat, with An Emphasis on Boosting Trump
Washington Post – Robert Costa and Max Blau | Published: 12/4/2019
Republican business executive Kelly Loeffler was named to a soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat in Georgia by Gov. Brian Kemp following days of debate among some leading conservatives about the political novice’s expected selection, her values, and her loyalty to President Trump. In a nod toward those concerns, both Kemp and Loeffler sought to underscore her support for Trump, illustrating how most Republicans remain wary of upsetting the president or his core voters even as Trump faces a House impeachment inquiry and a possible Senate trial. She will replace U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is retiring at the end of the year for health reasons.
Illinois – Gov. J.B. Pritzker Signs Law Requiring Additional Disclosure from Lobbyists
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 12/4/2019
Lobbyists will have to disclose additional information to the public under a measure Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law. When the General Assembly approved the measure, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle described it as a small step toward fixing state government ethics laws amid an ongoing federal corruption probe that has ensnared Democratic politicians from Chicago City Hall to the Capitol in Springfield. The law, effective immediately, also requires the secretary of state to create a combined online database for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and public officials’ annual statements of economic interest.
Illinois – Plan to Bar Chicago Alderman from Lobbying, Other New Limits Advances in City Council
Chicago Tribune – John Bryne | Published: 12/4/2019
With federal investigators probing lobbying activities at the state level, the Chicago City Council moved a step closer to banning aldermen from acting as lobbyists and stopping other elected officials from lobbying them. Under the proposed rules, aldermen would not be allowed to lobby the city council, the county, the state, or any other local government unit, nor would any other elected officials in the state be able to lobby the council or other units of city government. A handful of aldermen voiced concerns about the ordinance, citing examples of registered lobbyists who might serve on low-paid suburban bodies like library boards and would need to give up those posts to keep lobbying Chicago government.
Iowa – Former Iowa Senate Secretary Named Ethics Board Executive
AP News – Staff | Published: 11/26/2019
The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board named Mike Marshall as its new executive director. The board said Marshall will provide leadership and serve as legal counsel succeeding Megan Tooker, who is leaving the job after nine years. Marshal previously served as secretary of the state Senate.
Louisiana – Ex-Louisiana Racing Commissioner Fined $50,000 for Ethical Conflict from Bobby Jindal Era
New Orleans Advocate – John Simerman | Published: 11/29/2019
A state administrative court leveled $50,000 in penalties against a Louisiana horseman who served for nearly three years on the State Racing Commission at the same time he was leasing stall space to racehorse owners and trainers regulated by the commission. The fines against Neal Cormier and his NBC Stables came more than 11 years after former Gov. Bobby Jindal named Cormier among a new crop of appointees to the commission. Jindal’s appointments to the Racing Commission included Cormier and two other men who would later be called out for possible conflicts in a May 2011 report from state Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office. The state Board of Ethics followed with charges against all three men in 2012.
Maryland – ‘Healthy Holly’ Fallout: City Council president seeks review of Baltimore contracts with financier J.P. Grant
Baltimore Sun – Kevin Rector and Luke Broadwater | Published: 12/4/2019
City Council President Brandon Scott asked Baltimore’s inspector general to review the last five years of city contracts with financier and “Healthy Holly” book purchaser J.P. Grant. The request comes in response to federal prosecutors’ contention that Grant knew he was improperly funding former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s political campaign by writing checks for her self-published children’s books. Pugh pleaded guilty to corruption charges related to a scheme in which she sold her “Healthy Holly” books to organizations and individuals with business before the state and the city when she was, respectively, state senator and then mayor.
Massachusetts – State, House, Mayoral Candidates Will Switch to New Campaign Finance System
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 11/27/2019
House, Senate, and mayoral candidates will transition to a more accurate method of tracking their campaign finances under a law signed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. The new law will require all state and mayoral candidates to use the “depository system” for banking their campaign accounts. Under this system, banks automatically submit reports to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) each month itemizing all expenditures from a campaign account and summarizing all receipts. OCPF then reconciles the reports and posts the data online. If there are discrepancies between the information filed by the bank and the candidate, OCPF auditors can quickly identify them and work with the candidate to fix the problem.
Michigan – Quid Pro Quo? Larry Inman Trial to Test Limits of Campaign Cash Solicitations
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 12/2/2019
Michigan Rep. Larry Inman is set to stand trial on federal corruption charges for doing what many incumbent lawmakers do: asking a special-interest group to donate for re-election. But federal prosecutors contend Inman broke the law with his solicitations to union officials by offering to sell his vote on a controversial measure to oppose the state’s prevailing wage repeal law for construction workers. For jurors, the case could come down to a question that has become familiar in politics: was there a quid pro quo? Courts have spent decades wrestling over how to distinguish illegal bribes from legal campaign contributions by groups seeking to influence political decisions.
New Jersey – Sue Altman, George Norcross, and the ‘Whodunit’ Roiling New Jersey Politics
Phialdelphia Inquirer – Pranshu Verma | Published: 12/5/2019
Progressive activist Sue Altman was forcibly ejected from a Capitol hearing room for an unknown reason. The incident started when George Norcross III, an influential New Jersey powerbroker, testified about a controversial tax incentive program he has been accused of manipulating. After the hearing started, a chorus of boos rang out, and the committee chairperson ordered state police to “clear the back row.” They instead went straight to Altman, who was standing in a different part of the room. Altman said she was not making noise before she was dragged out. The confrontation quickly hit social media, with many calling it an abuse of power. It also became a defining moment for Altman and her campaign to remake state politics. Activists have used the images to bolster their position that unelected people like Norcross, an insurance executive, hold outsized control in the state.
New Jersey – Top Democrat Wants to Unmask Who Is Being Paid to Sway Lawmakers
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson and Matt Arco (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/5/2019
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeny is set to introduce a proposal to publicly reveal politically connected consultants that lobbyists hire to help sway legislators and top officials who craft laws and decide how to spend taxpayer money. Sweeny’s bill takes aim at “shadow lobbying,” a controversial but common practice in politics across the country in which consultants are paid to help influence policy but are not required by law to be identified. State law requires lobbyists to register, obtain a license, and disclose how much they spend, who they are lobbying, and what subject they are lobbying. But lobbyists and government-regulated entities do not have to reveal if they hire outside consultants that help them with advising, legal work, public relations, advertising, research, and more.
New Mexico – Regulators Late on Campaign Finance Checks
Albuquerque Journal – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 11/26/2019
New Mexico election regulators have not completed required spot checks for campaign finance compliance amid escalating private spending on political campaigns and a shifting enforcement landscape. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver attributed some of the delay to scarce resources at the agency she oversees. Discrepancies or apparent violations that cannot be resolved readily are eventually forwarded to the state attorney general for possible investigation. Starting in 2020, some referrals will be made to the newly created state Ethics Commission. State Elections Director Mandy Vigil said Toulouse Oliver’s office is trying to hire additional staff to assist with the reviews.
New York – Advocates Concerned as State Board of Elections Gains New Oversight Powers
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/2/2019
The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption slammed the state Board of Elections for its allegedly non-existent enforcement of election laws. The commission’s preliminary report resulted in the creation of a new, independent election law enforcement office that since its creation has been overseen by attorney Risa Sugarman. Over the past five years, Sugarman’s office has seemed to change the board’s formerly lackluster dynamic by pursuing high-profile cases. But as a result of a report issued by a newer commission to implement a publicly funded campaign system in New York, a significant amount of the enforcement work appears headed away from the independent enforcement counsel’s office and back to the state Board of Elections. That has some government reform advocates concerned.
New York – Ethics Agency Drops Case Against Kat Sullivan
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/4/2019
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) dropped its investigation of a rape survivor who advocated for a law protecting victims of child sex abuse. Kat Sullivan spent a portion of a settlement to push for the passage of the Child Victims Act. That effort included posting advertisements – on billboards and a banner towed behind a small plane that flew over the Capitol – that urged lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the legislation. In a letter to Sullivan laying out what the agency says is substantial evidence that Sullivan exceeded the $5,000 spending threshold requiring registration as a lobbyist in New York, JCOPE General Counsel Monica Stamm wrote that the panel would not take further action.
New York – Heastie Contacted JCOPE Commissioner Following January Meeting
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/4/2019
New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie contacted Jim Yeats, a member of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), last January after the speaker had a heated conversation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that included discussion of the ethics panel. Both the governor and Heastie have declined to say what they talked about. Heastie’s response to questions about his contact with Yates came after he confirmed he had asked the Assembly majority counsel’s office to “review” why his own executive counsel, Howard Vargas, had called JCOPE Commissioner Julie Garcia that same afternoon. Vargas allegedly told her the governor had told Heastie he was upset with how some of the commissioners had voted on a matter that day. State laws make it a crime to leak details of JCOPE’s closed-door deliberations, including whether a vote was taken.
New York – L+M to Pay $25,000 Penalty for Unregistered Lobbying
The Real Deal – Georgia Kromrei | Published: 12/4/2019
L+M Development Partners settled with the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which had accused the housing developer of unregistered lobbying. L+M agreed to pay $25,000 as punishment for meeting with elected officials to influence government decisions on real estate and land use matters, activity that was not reported as required. According to JCOPE, L+M sought to procure amendments to zoning laws and tax credits as well as government actions on other land-use matters. L+M will file retroactive disclosure reports for 2018 as part of the settlement.
North Carolina – Judges: New North Carolina Congress map will be used in 2020
AP News – Gary Robertson | Published: 12/2/2019
North Carolina judges ordered a new U.S. House district map that Republican state legislators drew in November be used in the 2020 elections, deciding there was not time to scrutinize the boundaries further for any left-over extreme partisan bias. The three-judge panel agreed it was too late in the election cycle to receive evidence and testimony that would be necessary to consider detailed redistricting arguments from the lawmakers and from Democratic and independent voters who challenged the latest congressional maps. While 10 of the 13 current U.S. House members are Republicans in a state considered a presidential battleground, the new map would appear to give Democrats a good chance of picking up two more seats in 2020.
Pennsylvania – A Pennsylvania County’s Election Day Nightmare Underscores Voting Machine Concerns
MSN – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 11/30/2019
It was a few minutes after the polls closed in Easton, Pennsylvania on Election Day when panic began to spread through the county election offices. Vote totals in a Northampton County judge’s race showed one candidate, Democrat Abe Kassis, had just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots across more than 100 precincts. Some machines reported zero votes for him. In a county with the ability to vote for a straight-party ticket, one candidate’s zero votes was a near statistical impossibility. Officials began counting the paper backup ballots generated by the same machines. The paper ballots showed Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137. The snafu did not just expose flaws in both the election machine testing and procurement process. It also highlighted the fears, frustrations, and mistrust over election security that many voters are feeling ahead of the 2020 presidential contest.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Charged with Stealing More Than $500,000 from Her Own Charity and Will Resign, AG Says
Philadelphia Inquirer – Justine McDaniel and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 12/4/2019
Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell was charged with perjury, theft, tampering with public records, and related crimes. Johnson-Harrell used her nonprofit to enrich herself, stealing more than $500,000 from the organization to spend on real estate, vacations, luxury clothing, and her bid for the Legislature, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said, adding that Johnson-Harrell agreed to resign her seat and plead guilty. Prosecutors say Johnson-Harrell used Motivations Education & Consultation Associates, which she established more than a decade ago to assist poor people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness, for extravagant spending and personal gain. Over several years, she tried to cover up her crimes through an elaborate scheme involving several properties and false financial statements.
Washington – Seattle Lobbyists Should Disclose Their Work for Political Campaigns, Ethics Commission Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 12/3/2019
The city council should update Seattle’s lobbying laws to better spotlight how special interests try to exert influence at City Hall, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has recommended. The commission voted to send the council a set of proposed changes, including a new requirement that lobbyists report their work for political campaigns. Commissioners stopped short of suggesting Seattle ban lobbying by campaign consultants and chose not to extend the city’s definition of lobbying from communications about legislation to advocacy on regulations. But the commissioners did recommend a new law requiring registration and reporting by “grassroots lobbying campaigns.” In addition, lobbyists would for the first time be required to disclose the names of the people they lobby and the dates of their lobbying.
Washington DC – D.C. Council Votes to Recommend Expelling Jack Evans Over Ethics Violations
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 12/3/2019
The District of Columbia Council unanimously voted to recommend Jack Evans be expelled for ethical violations. It the first time that lawmakers ever moved to eject one of their own. The vote was the first step in a lengthy process for expulsion. Officials say the council needs to meet twice more and hold a hearing before casting a formal vote to remove Evans, which could stretch out the timeline until January. The Washington Post reported Evans repeatedly used his government email to solicit business from law firms that had lobbied city government, offering to use the influence and connections he amassed as the city’s longest-serving council member and as chairperson of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority to help their clients.
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