February 28, 2020 •
News You Can Use Digest – February 28, 2020
‘All Traitors Must Die’: Feds charge man for threatening whistleblower attorney
Politico – Natasha Bertrand | Published: 2/20/2020
Federal prosecutors in Michigan charged a man with making a death threat against one of the attorneys for a whistleblower who initiated the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. The man, Brittan Atkinson, allegedly emailed the attorney in November, calling him a “traitor” who “must die a miserable death.” The attorney, Mark Zaid, confirmed he received the email the day after Trump held up Zaid’s photo and read some of Zaid’s tweets during a rally. The indictment follows months of rhetorical salvos by the president and his allies against the whistleblower, whose purported identity has been posted on social media and even read aloud in the U.S. Senate despite federal laws that allow whistleblowers to remain anonymous.
Dressing for the Campaign Trail Can Be Tough for Female Candidates. M.M. LaFleur Is Lending Free Clothes to Ease the Burden.
Washington Post – Taylor Telford | Published: 2/19/2020
Research shows physical appearance remains a point of scrutiny for female candidates, while the looks or dress of their male peers are scarcely factored into their potential. Women running for office say they often feel pressure to look the part lest they not be taken seriously. But the expense and upkeep of a professional wardrobe can be a barrier for many. That is why workwear retailer M.M. LaFleur is offering to lend clothing to female candidates this election season. The company has received more than 550 responses from women in state, local, and federal races and an outpouring of support from customers. M.M. LaFleur is leaving the onus on candidates in local or state races to ensure the donation of clothing is acceptable under their jurisdiction’s campaign finance laws.
Environment Regulator’s Husband Listed as Lobbying Her Agency
Bloomberg Environment – Stephen Lee | Published: 2/27/2020
A disclosure form lists the husband of the general counsel of the White House Council on Environmental Quality as lobbying his wife’s employer on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the council’s top issue. Both the council and lobbying group deny any such lobbying happened. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a proposal to speed environmental permitting for major projects recently. The proposed changes have also prompted scrutiny of the work of the council. Viktoria Seale is the agency’s general counsel. Her husband, John Seale, is director of federal affairs at the American Chemistry Council. On its lobbying disclosure form for the last quarter of 2019, the group lists NEPA among its many lobbying issues. It also lists CEQ among the agencies the group has approached, and John Seale among the individuals “who acted as a lobbyist in this issue area.”
Group Asks Congress to Investigate How Devin Nunes Is Paying for His Lawsuits
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 2/26/2020
A watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, calling for a congressional investigation into how the California Republican is paying for his lawsuits against media companies and critics. Nunes filed six lawsuits and sent two letters implying possible legal action in 2019. He has not disclosed how he is paying for the legal work, and the kind of lawsuits he is filing – alleging defamation and conspiracies against him – can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The complaint argues he would only be able to pay if he received legal services for free, at a discounted rate, or based on a contingency fee. In all those cases, the complaint says, Nunes must disclose the legal help he is receiving by filing a legal expense fund, otherwise it would represent an illegal gift given to Nunes under congressional ethics rules.
How Conservatives Learned to Wield Power Inside Facebook
MSN – Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2020
The debate over Facebook’s “Project P,” which resulted in a few of the worst disinformation pages being removed while most others remained on the platform, exemplified the political dynamics that have reigned within the company since Donald Trump emerged as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee in 2016. A company led mainly by Democrats repeatedly has tilted rightward to deliver policies, hiring decisions, and public gestures sought by Republicans, according to employees. These sensitivities have affected Facebook’s responses to a range of major issues, from how to address fake news and Russian manipulation of American voters to the advertising policies that have set the political ground rules for the 2020 election.
In a Historically Old Presidential Field, Candidates Refuse to Release Health Records
MSN – Matt Viser and Lenny Bernstein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/24/2020
Donald Trump became the oldest person to win the presidency in 2016 after a campaign in which he released only a letter from his doctor attesting to his “astonishingly excellent” health. Now, the contenders for the Democratic nomination are following his lead. Four of the six major Democratic candidates are 70 or older, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders suffered a heart attack about five months ago, an episode he at first failed to disclose. But the candidates, for the most part, have declined to release full dossiers on their health, relying instead on a physician testimonial. No law requires presidents to divulge intimate medical details, and previous occupants of the White House have not always done so. But in general, presidential candidates have felt an obligation to assure voters they are physically up to the job.
Once Cold War Heroes, ‘Miracle on Ice’ Team Struggles with Backlash from Donning ‘Keep America Great’ Hats at Trump Rally
MSN – David Nakamura (Washington Post) | Published: 2/25/2020
Mike Eruzione and his teammates from the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team had not meant to make a political statement when they appeared onstage as President Trump’s surprise guests at a recent campaign rally in Las Vegas. They happened to be in town to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice” when they got a call from Trump’s campaign inviting them to a private photo line with the president. The next thing they knew, Eruzione said, Trump was introducing them at the rally and a campaign aide was handing them “Keep America Great” hats as they took the stage. Four of the former players chose not to wear them, but 10 others did, prompting a backlash on social media from Trump’s critics, who view the distinctive red hats as politicized symbols of hate, racism, and xenophobia.
Reliability of Pricey New Voting Machines Questioned
AP News – Frank Bajak | Published: 2/23/2020
In the rush to replace insecure, unreliable electronic voting machines after Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race, state and local officials have scrambled to acquire more trustworthy equipment for this year’s election, when U.S. intelligence agencies fear even worse problems. But instead of choosing simple, hand-marked paper ballots that are most resistant to tampering because paper cannot be hacked, many are opting for pricier technology that computer security experts consider almost as risky as earlier discredited electronic systems. Nearly one in five U.S. voters will be using ballot-marking machines this year, compared with less than two percent in 2018, according to Verified Voting.
Republican Lobbying Firms Riding High Despite Uncertainty of 2020 Race
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/26/2020
Republican lobbying firms are riding high after three years of President Trump and a GOP-controlled Senate. But those firms also face a tumultuous presidential election, a heated fight for the Senate, and a wave of Republican retirements from both chambers. That is sparking questions about whether they can keep that stretch going. K Street as a whole has been booming in recent years, but the gains for Republican lobbyists in particular have been notable, as firms have beefed up their Washington teams and seen revenue surge. Some question whether GOP firms should brace themselves for the uncertainty ahead and the prospect their party could lose the White House. Many lobbyists from Republican firms who spoke to The Hill, however, said they expect the boom to continue no matter how 2020 shakes out.
Richard Grenell’s Paid Consulting Included Work for U.S. Nonprofit Funded Mostly by Hungary
MSN – Emma Brown, Beth Reinhard, and Dalton Bennett (Washington Post) | Published: 2/24/2020
Richard Grenell’s public relations consulting and foreign policy commentary are part of an unusual résumé for a leader of the U.S. intelligence community, a job Grenell assumed when President Trump named him acting director of national intelligence. That promotion is drawing scrutiny of Grenell’s past, including his foreign affairs commentary and consulting work after he served as U.S. spokesperson at the United Nations. His work for a Hungarian-funded nonprofit is the type of activity that has drawn the attention of Justice Department investigators tasked with enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The law requires people who advocate in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign power to register and disclose their activities, but Grenell did not register.
‘Scam PAC’ Treasurer Sentenced to Federal Prison
Center for Public Integrity – Sarah Kleiner | Published: 2/21/2020
A federal judge sentenced political operative Scott Mackenzie to 12 months and one day in prison for making false statements to the FEC. He also must pay $172,200 in restitution. Mackenzie, one of Washington’s most prolific and controversial political fundraisers, has served as treasurer of more than 50 federal PACs. At least a dozen of these purported to raise money for political and social causes, but they spent most of the money they raise from unsuspecting donors on fundraising, salaries, and overhead. Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer, said the decision is “a historic campaign finance prosecution” – the first time he is aware a professional PAC accountant has been sentenced to prison for filing false reports with the FEC.
Senior Intelligence Official Told Lawmakers That Russia Wants to See Trump Reelected
Philadelphia Inquirer – Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey, and Anne Gearan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/21/2020
A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests. After learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump grew angry at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, seeing Maguire and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference. Trump replaced Maguire with a vocal defender, Richard Grenell. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest move in a post-impeachment purge. Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who are not defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists.
Steve Bannon’s Use of Private Jet Linked to Chinese Businessman Could Violate Campaign Finance Law
ProPublica – Justin Elliott | Published: 2/25/2020
President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, used a private jet apparently owned by a wealthy Chinese businessperson to fly to events to promote Republican congressional candidates in 2018. The previously unreported flights could run afoul of a campaign finance law that bars foreign money from U.S. elections, according to campaign finance experts, though it depends on several factors that are not known. One of the unknowns is whether Bannon paid Guo Wengui, who is a vocal critic of the Chinese regime, and with whom he has other reported financial ties, for the use of the jet.
Trump Campaign Says It Is Suing New York Times Over Russia Opinion Piece
Reuters – Steve Holland | Published: 2/26/2020
President Trump’s re-election campaign said it was filing a libel suit accusing The New York Times of intentionally publishing a false opinion article that suggested Russia and the campaign had an overarching deal in the 2016 U.S. election. In an escalation of the Republican president’s long-running battle with the news media, campaign officials said the lawsuit was being filed in state court in New York. Trump’s criticism of what he calls liberal bias in the American news media plays well with his conservative political base and generates applause at his political rallies, where his supporters often jeer journalists. Trump regularly refers to various media outlets as “fake news” and has called elements of the U.S. media “the enemy of the American people.”
Watchdog ‘Disappointed’ with Review of State’s Lobbying Act
Irish Times – Jack Horgan-Jones | Published: 2/25/2020
Ireland’s lobbying watchdog criticized the government for failing to give it extra powers to police the “revolving door” between the private and public sectors. Sherry Perrault, who is in charge of ethics and lobbying at the Standards in Public Office Commission, said it was “disappointed none of its recommendations were adopted” during a review of lobbying laws. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform found there was no convincing case for updating the laws introduced in 2014.
Where Does All the Swag Go After Campaigns Fail? Everywhere
Chicago Tribune – Mihir Zaveri and Alan Yuhas (New York Times) | Published: 2/25/2020
For decades, American presidential campaigns have churned out enormous quantities of swag – buttons, mugs, guacamole bowls – to promote candidates, fill campaign coffers, and gather data about supporters. Less attention has been paid to what happens to all those things after most of those campaigns end, sometimes abruptly. Surplus items often end up in storage or in the homes of staff members and volunteers. Some are given a second life with a new campaign. Most are thought to be recycled or thrown away. Lori Ferber Collectibles has been gathering campaign ephemera for over 40 years, said Steve Ferber, the company’s vice president. He said the company had sold everything from Reagan yo-yos to a Nixon pizza box. “It can get pretty strange, but everything sells eventually,” Ferber said.
Canada – Facing Senate Suspension, Sen. Lynn Beyak Apologizes ‘Unreservedly’ for Posting Racist Letters Online
National Post – Canadian Press | Published: 2/25/2020
Sen. Lynn Beyak sought to stave off suspension from the upper chamber, pledging to do more to make amends for the harm she caused by posting offensive letters online. The letters were sent to Beyak, a senator from Ontario, in support of her defense of the residential school system. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded the system caused horrific abuse and alienation for generations of First Nations, Metis and Inuit children, Beyak has suggested there were benefits to the program that have been overshadowed. The letters she received and published online echoed her views, but some also went further, including suggestions that Indigenous Peoples and their cultures were inferior.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Marijuana Industry Works to Curry Favor with Local Politicians
Anchorage Daily News – Aubrey Wieber | Published: 2/23/2020
Since recreational marijuana became legal in Alaska, local businesses have joined other industries in the state like oil, fishing, and tourism in working to influence how their trade is regulated. By holding fundraisers and interacting with local and state leaders, Alaska’s marijuana industry is building its political capital, aiming to shape everything from rules restricting signage to how the industry is taxed. In Anchorage, the marijuana industry uses its growing political influence to suggest local regulation changes.
Arizona – A Veteran Running for Congress Is Suspending His Campaign After a Heroin Overdose
Washington Post – Meryl Kornfield | Published: 2/26/2020
An Arizona Republican running for the U.S. House suspended his campaign to go into treatment after a heroin overdose. Chris Taylor, a 33-year-old Army veteran and city council member in Safford, said he was sober for “many solid years” before the relapse. He was found unresponsive in his home, where paramedics revived him with naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioids. As the opioid crisis has continued to make headlines, only a few politicians, especially at the federal level, have come forward with their own stories of addiction.
Arkansas – Ex-Nonprofit Chief Sentenced to 2 Years in Corruption Case
Texarkana Gazette – Eric Besson (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) | Published: 2/27/2020
The founder and executive director of South Arkansas Youth Services received a two-and-one-half year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty as part of a public corruption investigation spanning Arkansas and Missouri. Jerry Walsh pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge and was convicted in July 2018 of funneling more than $380,000 of the nonprofit’s money to former Arkansas lobbyist Milton Cranford, one of Cranford’s relatives, and an unnamed former Arkansas senator. Walsh spent the money, without his board’s approval, as part of an effort to preserve the agency’s state contracts to run youth detention facilities in Arkansas and to otherwise secure favorable treatment from officials, he said in his plea.
California – A New Voting System in L.A. Raises the Stakes for California’s Primary
Los Angeles Times – John Myers and Matt Stiles | Published: 2/24/2020
When Los Angeles County set out to build a new voting system from scratch more than a decade ago, election officials knew the challenges in serving an electorate larger than those found in any of 39 states. But what they did not know was that their efforts were on a collision course with a series of statewide election changes and the most consequential presidential primary in modern California history. Should Angelenos not understand what to do or where to go, the effects could be felt both statewide and – in terms of the Democratic presidential race – across the country.
California – Steak Dinners, Secret Donors: How the Tech Caucus is courting Silicon Valley with charity
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 2/20/2020
As the number of nonprofits run by California lawmakers or staff has grown in the last decade, most have publicly reported donors to the Fair Political Practices Commission. But the Foundation for California’s Technology and Innovation Economy, overseen by three board members with close ties to Assemblyperson Evan Low, last year stopped disclosing where its money comes from. The choice highlights the potential for secrecy in the growing niche of nonprofits run by government officials. “Legally they’re not required to give a lot of detail, which is one reason these groups can be so opaque and remain in the shadows; It just depends on what a group chooses to disclose,” said Anna Massoglia of the Center for Responsive Politics.
Colorado – Denver Auditor Finds Serious Deficiencies in Ethics Board, Gift Reporting
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlik | Published: 2/24/2020
City Auditor Timothy O’Brien found in a new report that Denver’s volunteer ethics board suffers from lack of enforcement powers and inability to take complaints anonymously. In a survey question that 1,237 city employees responded to, 41 percent said they had observed unethical behavior and did not report it to the board. They cited fear of retaliation and the expectation of no corrective action taken as the most common justifications for non-reports. The report also discovered noncompliance with deadlines among elected officials and their appointees for disclosure of gifts worth $50 or more.
Florida – A Side Parking Business at PortMiami Ends for Firefighters After County Ethics Probe
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 2/21/2020
Parking for a week at the Port of Miami costs about $175 unless your girlfriend happened to use a travel agent who went to high school with a local firefighter who could rent you a parking spot at the county rescue station there for a fraction of that price. That is the scenario Chad Burg outlined to a county ethics investigator last fall, explaining how he wound up parking his truck at Miami-Dade Fire Station No. 39 for just $20 during a week-long cruise in September out of the county-owned port. That kind of parking deal at the world’s busiest cruise port has come to an end on the heels of an ethics investigation into a longstanding perk for county firefighters that evolved into a funding source for the station’s kitchen and recreational options.
Kentucky – Lexington Businessman Found Guilty of Lying About Alleged Illegal Campaign Donations
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 2/25/2020
A federal jury convicted a real estate executive on 11 charges relating to obstructing a federal investigation into alleged illegal contributions to Lexington council members in the May 2018 election. Timothy Wellman could face decades in prison if given the maximum sentence on all 11 counts. Prosecutors alleged Wellman circumvented state campaign finance limits that prohibit individuals from donating more than $2,000 to a candidate by giving money to more than a dozen straw contributors and then reimbursing them. Wellman told his co-workers at CRM Companies to lie to FBI agents and a federal grand jury and created false documents to cover up where money for those campaign contributions came from, prosecutors said.
Louisiana – Ending of 10- Year-Old Ethics Case Sets ‘a New Low Standard’ for Louisiana Public Officials
New Orleans Advocate – Andrea Gallo | Published: 2/21/2020
Former state Sen. Robert Marionneaux Jr. has come to an agreement with the Louisiana Board of Ethics to resolve charges from 10 years ago that he failed to disclose he was paid to represent a company in a lawsuit against Louisiana State University. State public servants are required to disclose when their financial interests overlap or conflict with the state’s, yet Marionneaux was able to delay doing so for years without penalty. Former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s “gold standard” ethics reforms in 2008 required new financial disclosures from public officials. But the other ways in which Jindal rejiggered the state’s ethics system have led to a falloff in enforcement, particularly for legislators, The New Orleans Advocate reported last year.
Maryland – Ex-Lawmaker’s Campaign Treasurer Gets Probation for Fraud
AP News – Staff | Published: 2/26/2020
The campaign treasurer and daughter of a former Maryland lawmaker has been sentenced to probation for misusing her mother’s campaign funds. Anitra Edmond pleaded guilty to converting more than $35,000 in campaign funds for her personal use and failing to disclose contributions on state campaign finance reports. In a plea agreement, Edmond says she used the money for fast food, hair styling, personal phone bills, and rent for a separate business. Former Del. Tawanna Gaines pleaded guilty to a related charge of wire fraud and was sentenced to six months in prison followed by two months of home detention.
Maryland – Former Baltimore Mayor Sentenced to 3 Years in Book Scheme
AP News – Regina Garcia Cano | Published: 2/27/2020
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was sentenced to three years in federal prison for a fraud scheme involving her children’s book series. She also must serve three years of supervised release after getting out of prison and pay more than $411,000 in restitution. Pugh resigned under pressure as authorities investigated bulk sales of her “Healthy Holly” paperbacks, which netted her hundreds of thousands of dollars. Federal authorities accused her of double selling the books, keeping many for self-promotion purposes, and failing to deliver them to institutions they were purchased for, including the Baltimore City Public Schools. Pugh had a deal with the University of Maryland Medical System, where she sat on the board of directors, to buy 100,000 copies of her books for $500,000.
Maryland – The NAACP Paid $100,000 To A Woman Who Accused Him of Sexual Harassment. Now He’s Likely Headed to Congress.
BuzzFeed News – Addy Baird | Published: 2/25/2020
It has been nearly three years since the #MeToo movement began, ushering in the downfall of dozens of powerful men. But slowly, in recent months, those who faced serious allegations of misconduct have begun to reenter the mainstream. How to handle their reinventions remains an open question, and it is one U.S. House Democrats will have to answer given the near certainty that Kweisi Mfume, a former member of Congress and NAACP president who was accused of sexual harassment and admitted to dating a subordinate more than a decade ago, will join their ranks in late April. The NAACP paid the subordinate $100,000 in 2004 to avoid a lawsuit. Mfume recently won the special election primary to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Massachusetts – Following Bribery Scandal, Walsh Revamps Zoning Board Policies
Boston Globe – Tim Logan and Milton Valencia | Published: 2/24/2020
Six months after a bribery scandal rocked the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh detailed changes he hopes will prevent such an incident from happening again. Walsh signed an executive order designed to strengthen conflict-of-interest and financial disclosure rules for the seven-member board, which governs small and midsize development projects across the city. More substantial changes, such as adding seats to the board, would require state legislation and probably take months, if not years, to win approval. But Walsh and key city council members said such measures are crucial to restoring faith in a board that wields enormous influence on the look and feel of Boston’s neighborhoods.
Nevada – Bernie Sanders Decisively Wins Nevada Caucuses
MSN – Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2020
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses, providing another boost to an insurgent campaign that is challenging the Democratic establishment and stifling the plans of rivals who still hold out hope of stopping him. Sanders’ advantage in Nevada was overwhelming, with substantial leads in nearly every demographic group, allowing him to set down a marker in the first state with a significant share of nonwhite voters.
New Hampshire – Lawmakers Reprimanded for Skipping Anti-Harassment Training
AP News – Holly Ramer | Published: 2/20/2020
Seven Republican members of the New Hampshire House were publicly reprimanded for failing to attend mandatory training on sexual harassment prevention in a contentious session that lasted far longer than the two-hour course. Over the course of four hours, each lawmaker was given the opportunity to explain why they did not attend the training sessions. Some said they believed the mandate was unconstitutional, others said they did not need the training. Throughout the afternoon, Republicans made their displeasure known through a variety of unsuccessful procedural stunts that delayed the votes.
New Jersey – Court Ruling Bolsters Convicted Former Jersey City Council President’s Bid for His Pension Benefits
Newark Star Ledger – Ron Zeitlinger (Jersey Journal) | Published: 2/20/2020
A former Jersey City politician caught in a federal corruption sting more than 10 years ago may be entitled to pension benefits, a state appellate panel ruled. The panel reversed the state pension board’s 2018 decision that denied benefits to former City Council President Mariano Vega because of his guilty plea to corruption charges in 2010. The court did not grant Vega benefits earned from his 22 years as a Hudson County employee, but instead sent the question of benefits back to the pension board with instructions to weigh all the factors before deciding if Vega should receive all, some, or none of his pension.
New Jersey – N.J.’s Oddest Political Tradition to Roll Along with Less Booze, Fewer People After #MeToo Allegations
Newark Star-Ledger – Susan Livio and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 2/26/2020
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual train trip has long been a political tradition. Politicians, lobbyists, business leaders – and anyone who wants to get close to power – can buy $700 tickets to shake hands, drink, and schmooze as they walk through a series of packed train cars on their way to Washington, D.C. This year, the Chamber is debuting new rules designed to make the trip less raucous in response to a report on sexual harassment in New Jersey politics. The report included comments from women who said they were groped and subjected to sexual comments from often-drunk men on the crowded train. Though the trip is considered a must-attend event for many, some women said they no longer attend or take other transportation to the receptions because they felt uncomfortable on the packed train.
New Mexico – Ethics Panel Wants Charges Against Padilla Refiled
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 2/25/2020
In its first court filing, the State Ethics Commission says the New Mexico Court of Appeals should reverse the dismissal of criminal charges against former Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla. The Ethics Commission took no position on Padilla’s guilt or innocence. But it said the state Governmental Conduct Act established specific, mandatory duties prohibiting abuse of office that can be enforced through criminal charges. Padilla had fair warning, the agency said, that she could face criminal enforcement if she were to abuse her office. The filing comes after Padilla’s attorney won dismissal of five ethics charges last year, arguing Padilla had been charged under parts of the law that are too vague to be enforced and were never meant to be used in criminal cases.
New Mexico – NM Lobbyists Spend $151,000 on Legislators
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 2/26/2020
New Mexico lobbyists and their clients reported about $151,000 in spending this session. That is just part of the expenditures. More-detailed reports are due in May. But what is not reported might be more interesting. Lobbyists are not required to report which specific bills they are supporting or opposing, and they often do not reveal which legislators they met or shared a meal with. Sen. Jeff Steinborn said he will push again next session to expand the disclosure requirements for lobbyists. One priority, Steinborn said, is for lobbyists to reveal which bills they are working on.
New York – Even Defunct, de Blasio Campaign Draws Financial Ethics Concerns
Politico – Joe Anuta | Published: 2/24/2020
As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign coffers ran dry, he paid consultants and staff from a pair of PACs ostensibly created to help other Democrats, a questionable fundraising setup that helped boost the mayor’s profile even as he positioned himself as a reformer looking to get big money out of politics. Politico has reported that de Blasio’s campaign accepted the maximum from a small group of wealthy benefactors and then took additional contributions from the same people through his PACs. The PACs then spent money to help his White House bid in what one watchdog group called a shell game, but which the de Blasio camp has defended as a legal setup.
New York – New Bill Would Close Loophole for Reporting on Independent Expenditures to Influence Ballot Referenda
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 2/26/2020
New York City Councilperson Brad Lander introduced legislation that would close a loophole in city campaign finance law that currently allows groups to hide their donors when they try to influence voting on a ballot referendum. The law now requires independent expenditure committees to disclose their contributors only when they spend money to favorably or negatively affect a candidate’s campaign for elected office. The law does not require that for ballot measures, such as the five that were approved by voters in November of last year.
Ohio – Tamaya Dennard: Councilwoman facing charges of bribery and extortion, court documents show
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Cooledge | Published: 2/25/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard was arrested on federal charges of wire fraud, bribery, and attempted extortion. According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, between August and December 2019, Dennard engaged in acts and attempted acts of bribery and extortion, attempting to exchange her votes for money. Dennard is accused of requesting between $10,000 and $15,000 from an individual to pay for her personal expenses. An individual working with the FBI and Dennard exchanged a total of $15,000, in increments of $10,000 and $5,000, for upcoming votes on a matter scheduled to be heard by council. Dennard deposited $10,000 in a personal bank account the same day she received it.
South Carolina – SC School District Officials Hit with Ethics Fines for Votes Tied to Spouses
Charleston Post and Courier – Joseph Cranney and Avery Wilkes | Published: 2/26/2020
South Carolina’s Ethics Commission sanctioned a pair of Columbia school district commissioners who each voted for contracts that netted hundreds of thousands in public dollars for nonprofits partly controlled by their spouses. Jamie Devine, board chair for Richland County School District One, said in a statement that a commission’s ruling against him went contrary to legal advice he received regarding his spouse’s board position with the EngenuitySC, which has partnered with the district on science education programs. Fellow Commissioner Beatrice King, who once warned Jamie Devine about his potential conflict, was fined for her own failure to recuse herself on votes for district contracts that went to Prisma Health. Her husband sits on that group’s board.
Washington – Tim Eyman Violated Campaign Finance Law, Concealed Payments, Judge Rules
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 2/21/2020
Tim Eyman has been in violation of Washington’s campaign finance laws for at least the last seven years, concealing more than $766,000 in political contributions, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled. Eyman raised the money to compensate himself for the political work he does – serially running anti-tax ballot initiatives. But he did not report any of that money to the state Public Disclosure Commission, as is required. The judge said Eyman is at least 2,706 days late in registering as a political committee. He is also a combined 173,862 days late in filing 110 monthly campaign finance reports. The penalty for filing a late report is $10 a day, and that could be bumped to $30 a day if the judge rules the violations were intentional, which could potentially leave Eyman vulnerable to a fine of more than $5 million.
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