News You Can Use Digest - February 9, 2018 - State and Federal Communications

February 9, 2018  •  

News You Can Use Digest – February 9, 2018





Hero or Hired Gun? How a British Former Spy Became a Flash Point in the Russia Investigation.
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 2/6/2018

Former British spy Christopher Steele wrote memos that came to be known as the dossier and has become the central point of contention in the political brawl raging around the Russia inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller. Some consider Steele to be a hero, a latter-day Paul Revere who, at personal risk, tried to provide an early warning about the Kremlin’s unprecedented meddling in a U.S. campaign. Those who distrust him say he is merely a hired gun leading a political attack on President Trump.  Steele himself struggled to navigate dual obligations – to his private clients, who were paying him to help Clinton win, and to a sense of public duty born of his previous life.

Trump Picks New Federal Ethics Chief
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 2/7/2018

President Trump nominated a new director for the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), several months after the previous director, Walter Shaub, resigned over frustration with the administration. Trump nominated Emory Rounds, a current associate counsel at the OGE, to head the independent agency. Rounds previously served as an ethics attorney at the Commerce Department and in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Navy.

White House Officials Knew About Porter’s Abuse Allegations and Scrambled to Protect Him
CNN – Kaitlin Collins, Kevin Liptak, and Dan Merica | Published: 2/8/2018

President Trump’s staff secretary, Rob Porter, resigned after his two ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse, with one presenting pictures of her blackened eye. Porter was the gatekeeper to the Oval Office, determining which policy proposals reached the president’s hands and screening the briefing materials his visitors shared with him. Sources said the allegations against Porter had contributed to a delay in granting him a permanent security clearance. Aides had been aware generally of accusations against Porter since late last year, White House advisers said.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Arizona House Expels Yuma Rep. Don Shooter After Sexual-Harassment Findings
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/1/2018

The Arizona House voted to expel a Republican lawmaker after a report ordered by legislative leaders of his own party showed he engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment toward women. Rep. Don Shooter is believed to be the first state lawmaker in the U.S. to be voted out of his seat since the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct began in the fall. Shooter was facing censure, House Speaker changed his mind after Shooter sent a letter to his colleagues asking that they delay the vote to consider whether there also are credible charges against Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who was the first to level harassment charges against Shooter.

California – Oakland Asks District Attorney to Investigate Alleged Bribes by Cannabis Lobbyist
East Bay Times – Darwin BondGraham | Published: 2/2/2018

A man who Oakland City Council President Larry Reid says tried to bribe him to help obtain a cannabis dispensary permit also allegedly offered two businessmen assistance in getting a dispensary license in exchange for bags of cash. Developer Dorian Gray tried in January to give Reid an envelope he said had $10,000 in it, Reid said. Gray then approached the city official who oversees Oakland’s cannabis permit office and offered him a free trip to Spain to tour cannabis lounges there. The matter has been referred to the to the Alameda County district attorney’s office. The city’s Public Ethics Commission has opened its own investigation.

District of Columbia – D.C. Council Approves Fair Elections Act
Washington Times – Julia Airey | Published: 2/6/2018

The District of Columbia Council gave final approval to legislation authorizing publicly financed campaigns, clashing with Mayor Muriel Bowser, who vowed she would not fund the program. The voluntary system would allow qualified candidates to receive a base sum that varies by office, with a maximum of $160,000 for the mayoral contest as well as a five-to-one match on small donations. Supporters say the program will open local politics to new candidates, increase the power of small donors, and reduce the influence of wealthy campaign contributors. But critics including Bowser say the program, estimated to cost city taxpayers $5?million a year, will waste precious funds.

Florida – FBI Lays Out Case for Bribery, Mail Fraud in Search Warrant
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 2/5/2018

An FBI search warrant lays out a “pay-to-play” scheme where Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars in payments from clients seeking to do business with the city through his friend and business associate Paige Carter-Smith, owner of the lobbying firm Governance Services. Among the firm’s clients were Uber and FBI undercover agents posing as developers and a medical marijuana entrepreneur. The warrant says Maddox sold Governance Services to Carter-Smith between 2010 and 2012. After the sale, Maddox denied keeping an interest in the company, but continued his control of the firm and profited from its work.

Florida – Tallahassee Commission Adopts Broad New Ethics Rules
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 2/3/2018

The Tallahassee City Commission adopted an ethics reform ordinance that includes a ban on elected or appointed officials soliciting gifts from vendors, lobbyists, or tenants of city property, prohibits elected or appointed officials from accepting any gifts totaling over $100 in any calendar year, and a requires elected officials to file their financial disclosure forms and quarterly gift forms with the city treasurer-clerk. An ethics complaint filed at the same time with any law enforcement agency or the Florida Commission on Ethics will be put on hold until the other agency concludes its investigation.

North Carolina – Lobbyist Charged with Felonies After Investigation of Bail Bonds Advocacy
Raleigh News and Observer – Colin Campbell | Published: 2/7/2018

Raleigh attorney and lobbyist Mark Bibbs was indicted on 10 charges, including obstruction of justice, perjury, and lobbying without registering. Prosecutors said Bibbs lobbied legislators on behalf of a bail bonds company without properly registering and then lied under oath about his actions to the North Carolina secretary of state’s lobbying compliance investigators. Investigators spent months looking into Bibbs’ work in 2016 on behalf of NC Bail Academy, Rockford-Cohen Group, All American Bail Bonds, and Cannon Surety. A complaint about Bibbs’ activities was filed by Robert Brawley, a former state lawmaker who was a partner in the Cannon Surety business.

North Carolina – Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Stanford Professor’s Election Districts for Wake and Mecklenburg
Raleigh News and Observer – Anne Blythe | Published: 2/6/2018

The U.S. Supreme Court partly granted a request from North Carolina Republicans to block a voting map drawn by a federal court. That court had interceded after finding a map drawn by state lawmakers for the General Assembly had relied too heavily on race and had violated state laws. The Supreme Court’s order, which was brief and gave no reasons, partly blocked that decision while the justices consider whether to hear an appeal in the case.

South Carolina – SC Special Prosecutor Wants to Toss Out Quinn’s Guilty Plea If He Won’t Admit Crime
The State – John Monk | Published: 2/5/2018

Special prosecutor David Pascoe said when former South Carolina Rep. Rick Quinn pleaded guilty to misconduct in office in December, he did so without actually admitting to any crime. Therefore, Pascoe in said in court filings, Quinn should revise his guilty plea. Pascoe wants him to make it clear he intended to commit a crime when he failed to report that a business he was associated with received nearly $30,000 from the University of South Carolina. Quinn’s crime was failure to disclose that payment, Pascoe says, adding it was legal for the business to take the university’s money.

Tennessee – Mayor Barry Recommended City Job for Daughter of Officer with Whom She Had Affair
The Tennessean – Anita Wadhwani | Published: 2/6/2018

Within months of taking office, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry recommended the adult daughter of the head of her security detail – the man with whom she later admitted to having an affair – be hired for a job in the city’s legal department. The daughter got the job. The position as an entry-level city attorney was the first newly created job in Nashville’s legal department in two years. It was not part of the existing budget. Barry approved the new job opening and no other candidate was considered. Ethics experts say that whether the mayor made the recommendation to hire the woman during her romantic relationship, or in its prelude, her involvement in a hiring decision may constitute a misuse of her office.

Virginia – Dozens of Virginia Churches Have Been Donating Cash to Campaigns for Years, Despite Law
The Virginian-Pilot – Bill Bartell | Published: 2/1/2018

For years, national Christian conservative activists have argued churches and other houses of worship should be allowed to endorse or donate money to candidates. Such support is prohibited if a religious organization wants to keep its tax-exempt status. But in Virginia, dozens of churches have been donating cash to campaigns for several years. Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr. received almost two-thirds of the $31,500 that churches have given to Virginia candidates in the past two decades. Spruill argues the checks were not campaign contributions – the churches were buying tickets for their members at a reduced price to his annual campaign fundraising dinner.

Washington – Seattle Says Facebook Is Violating City Campaign Finance Law
Reuters – David Ingram | Published: 2/6/2018

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission said Facebook has violated the city’s election advertising laws. It is the first attempt at regulatory action on internet companies over political ads on their platforms. The company could pay as much as $5,000 per ad in fines if it does not disclose information about campaign spending on its platform during last year’s city elections. The company has provided partial spending numbers, but not copies of ads or data about whom they targeted. The commission’s executive director, Wayne Barnett, said Facebook’s response “doesn’t come close to meeting their public obligation.”

West Virginia – Ethics Commission OKs Tourism Contract with Justice’s Greenbrier Resort
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Phil Kabler | Published: 2/1/2018

West Virginia Division of Tourism officials can partner with The Greenbrier resort in an advertising campaign after the state Ethics Commission granted the division a contract exemption. Tourism officials argued it would be an undue hardship if the state could not enter into an agreement with The Greenbrier as part of their new centralized advertising campaign. The contract exemption was needed to avoid potential conflicts-of-interest, since Gov. Jim Justice is primary owner of the resort, and as governor, has authority to hire or fire the state Secretary of Commerce and the Tourism commissioner. That effectively gives Justice direct authority over the proposed state contract with The Greenbrier, in violation of the ethics law.


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