News You Can Use Digest - January 24, 2020 - State and Federal Communications

January 24, 2020  •  

News You Can Use Digest – January 24, 2020


A Campaign Finance Rule Makes Life Much Harder for Working-Class Challengers
The Intercept – Rachel Cohen | Published: 1/16/2020

Though some organizations have been started over the last few years to help working-class candidates more effectively compete, the path to victory can still be difficult for those who cannot afford to dedicate all their time to campaigning. Under federal guidelines, candidates running in a general election are permitted to use some of their campaign contributions to pay themselves salaries. But FEC members worried candidates would just game the system. A compromise was reached whereby candidates can pay themselves at a per-diem rate equal to the salary of the job they had before entering the race, or the salary of the office they are seeking, whichever is less. Another FEC restriction on candidates who draw salaries makes campaigning particularly tough for primary challengers.

Bloomberg’s Billions Stay Veiled While Funding 2020 Campaign
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/22/2020

Michael Bloomberg has bought his way into the 2020 presidential race with hundreds of millions of dollars from his personal fortune. But he may not provide any details about where that money comes from until more than half of the Democratic primary is over. While his rivals have disclosed years of financial details on everything from book deals to vacation homes, Bloomberg has not released any financial information since launching a late campaign fueled entirely by his $60 billion in wealth. The former New York City mayor was granted an extension on filing mandatory financial disclosure forms until March 20, more than halfway through the delegate race and after Super Tuesday, when Bloomberg hopes to make his first splash in delegate-rich states like California and Texas.

Bloomberg’s Massive Ad Campaign Hikes TV Prices for Other Candidates
Politico – Maya King | Published: 1/21/2020

Michael Bloomberg’s big television ad campaign has made politicking more expensive for everyone from his 2020 rivals to Senate, House, and state legislative candidates around the country. Eight weeks into his presidential campaign, Bloomberg has already spent more money on advertising, $248 million, than most candidates could spend in years. That amount has squeezed TV ad inventory in nearly every state, lowering supply and causing stations to raise ad prices at a time of high demand, as candidates around the country gear up for their primaries. On average in markets around the country, prices for political TV ads have risen by 20 percent since Bloomberg began his campaign. Meanwhile, some local politicians have already found difficulty trying to reach their own constituencies.

Courts Urged to Enforce Campaign Finance Law as Regulator Idles
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 1/17/2020

Hoping to bypass the paralyzed FEC, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit after the agency lost a quorum of at least four commissioners needed to vote on enforcement matters. It targets the FEC’s failure to act on alleged disclosure violations by two federal super PACs that funneled almost $6.4 million to aid the 2016 election of Eric Greitens as Missouri governor. If successful, the legal strategy could help CREW and other groups press for more transparency and enforcement of other rules in an election year expected to see record campaign spending, even if the FEC continues to be hobbled.

Dem Debates Are Magnet for Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/20/2020

Many of those flocking to the Democratic presidential debates are lobbyists with campaign experience, allowing them the chance to relieve their glory days on the trail and catch up with old friends. But it is also an opportunity to make connections and learn from the insiders working with each campaign. Clients want information about the primary including the inside scoop on who is gaining or losing steam, one Democratic consultant noted. “Clients care about how political the atmosphere is going to affect their business or their issue sets,” the consultant said. But attending the debates can also be a complicated decision for lobbyists as the industry face attacks from Democrats and progressive groups. With lobbyists and donations from special interest groups under scrutiny, campaigns also are careful to not appear too cozy with lobbyists.

Democrats Plan $50M Campaign to Flip State Legislatures Before Redistricting
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/15/2020

Unprepared Democrats got bulldozed in 2010 by a $30 million Republican campaign to win state Legislatures, and the right to draw political maps that would help them hold power for the next decade. Now, Democrats are readying a massive $50 million effort of their own to shape the next 10 years of elections by flipping state legislative chambers in places as red as Texas and West Virginia. The plan represents a sea change for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a former backwater in Democratic politics that has transformed as the party grappled with the importance of redistricting. In 2020, the last election before states redraw their political boundaries using new Census data, the winners of many state Legislatures get the power to draw congressional lines that will last an entire decade.

Ethics Expert: GOP ‘crosses the line’ with House hallway ambushes
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/17/2020

Having video trackers shadow candidates to get campaign dirt has become a common tactic, but the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) went too far if it directed aides to ambush Democrats in House office buildings, experts on congressional ethics said. The experts said there was merit to a complaint filed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee against the chairperson of the NRCC, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer. It could lead to Emmer facing an investigation by the House ethics committee. A complaint sent to the Office of Congressional Ethics alleges Emmer violated House rules when the NRCC repeatedly filmed Democrats in the halls of Congress, which are considered official resources, for campaign or political purposes and in violation of chamber rules and federal law.

Former Rep. Chris Collins Sentenced to Just Over Two Years in Federal Prison
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/17/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison for insider trading crimes he committed, ending a legal process that evolved from the New York Republican calling the charges “meritless” shortly after he was indicted to him pleading guilty and proclaiming embarrassment for his actions. Collins pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to commit insider trading and lying to the FBI to conceal his illegal activity. He resigned from Congress the day before his guilty plea. The former lawmaker also must pay a $200,000 fine and will be under one year of supervised release.

High Court to Rule on ‘Faithless Electors’ in Presidential Vote
Yahoo News – Greg Stohr (Bloomberg) | Published: 1/17/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether presidential electors are bound to support the popular vote winner in their states or can opt for someone else. Advocates for the court’s intervention say the issue needs urgent resolution in an era of intense political polarization and the prospect of a close margin in a presidential election, although so-called faithless electors have been a footnote so far in American history. About 30 states require presidential electors to vote for the popular vote winner, and electors almost always do so anyway. The Supreme Court accepted cases from Washington and Colorado in time to hold oral arguments this spring and decide the outcome by June.

K Street Firms Post Big Earnings Gains for 2019
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/21/2020

K Street’s top-tier firms posted sizable gains last year, fueled by technology, pharmaceutical, and big-business interests concerned with such policy matters as trade, health care, taxation, and government spending. Lobbyists say impeachment proceedings and the 2020 campaigns have not yet derailed the influence industry’s agenda this year.

Lev Is Talking. So Where Is Igor?
Washington Post – Paul Sonne, Rosalind Helderman, and Natalie Gryvnyak | Published: 1/21/2020

Lev Parnas, Rudolph Giuliani’s fixer in the Ukraine saga, has dominated the airwaves on the eve of President Trump’s impeachment trial, turning over text messages to House lawmakers and pointing the finger at the president in prime-time cable interviews. Meanwhile, his onetime sidekick and fellow Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, is nowhere to be seen. Under house arrest in Miami and facing federal campaign finance charges, Fruman has split with Parnas, retained counsel from Trump’s world, and stayed true to his reputation as the quiet partner in the duo who stumbled into a presidential impeachment scandal. Behind Fruman’s silence are many of the answers to how the two business executives cracked elite GOP donor circles, and possessed the right connections in Ukraine to connect Giuliani with high-level officials who offered to aid Trump and damage Democrats.

Park Strategies Execs Draw Ire of OFAC in Settlement
Compliance Week – Kyle Brassuer | Published: 1/22/2020

The lobbying firm Park Strategies paid $12,150 to settle its potential civil liability for apparent violations of the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations. While the settlement amount is relatively minor compared to most enforcement actions, the penalty could have been much larger given the way in which the alleged violations were carried out. According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Park Strategies entered a contract with Al-Barakaat Group of Companies Somalia in August 2017. Al-Barakaat was added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List in 2001 and characterized as a global terrorist organization.

Political Fundraiser Gets 3-Year Prison Sentence for Fraud
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/17/2020

A PAC operator whose company raised more than $20 million in recent years but spent almost no money on political activity was sentenced to three years in prison. Kelley Rogers, former president of the consulting firm Strategic Campaign Group, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in one of the first cases of its kind, a sign federal authorities are beginning to crack down on “scam PACs” that raise money from donors in the name of political causes but keep most of those funds for profit. Often, Rogers and others at Strategic Campaign Group reinvested the money they raised into finding more donors, with the help of a circle of preferred vendors that received large sums for their services.

Sanders, a Critic of Secret Money in Politics, Declines to Call on a Group Supporting Him to Disclose Its Donors
MSN – Sean Sullivan and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 1/20/2020

Our Revolution is a nonprofit founded by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders that has caused some awkwardness for him in his second run for president. While the group is supporting Sanders’ candidacy, it accepts large donations without fully disclosing who made them, a practice at odds with his calls for greater transparency and stated desire to curtail the power of the wealthy in elections. Sanders said he would “have no problem” with the group opting to provide more information about its donors. But he suggested he would not call on its leaders to do so while his opponents continue to rely on similar organizations. Though barred by federal laws from coordinating with his campaign, the group has emerged as a potent part of Sanders’ grassroots army, with hundreds of thousands of members and activists working across the country to promote his presidential bid.

Tech Giants Led by Amazon, Facebook and Google Spent Nearly $500 Million on Lobbying in 10 Years, Data Show
San Francisco Chronicle – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 1/22/2020

Ten years ago, Google executives rarely spoke to Congress, Amazon employed just two of its own registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and Facebook had only recently graduated to a real office after running its Washington operation out of an employee’s living room. Since then, these companies have evolved into some of the most potent political forces in the nation’s capital, with just seven technology giants accounting for nearly $500 million in lobbying over the past decade. The data tell the story of a sector that increasingly has tapped its wealth to beat back regulatory threats and boost its bottom line. Despite scandals that exposed users’ personal information and left democratic elections in digital disarray, Congress has failed to adopt new laws to limit the industry, a reality some critics attribute in part to the Silicon Valley’s evolving lobbying prowess.

Trump Hotel’s Mix of GOP Insiders and Hangers-on Helped Give Rise to Impeachment Episodes
Anchorage Daily News – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/16/2020

For three years, President Trump’s hotel near the White House has been a relaxed hangout for Republicans. Candidates raise money in the ballrooms and members of Congress and lobbyists dine in the steakhouse. Hangers-on wait at the bar, taking selfies in “#americaslivingroom.” That arrangement worked for Republicans because it compressed a city’s worth of networking into one room. It worked for Trump because he converted political allies into private customers. But the hotel’s atmosphere of blurred lines – mixing the public interest with Trump’s private interests and mixing the GOP’s leaders and its wannabe fringes – helped give rise to a scandal that threatens to overshadow Trump’s presidency.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Agriculture Group Puts Arizona Lobbyist on Leave as Lawmaker Denies Romantic Relationship
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez | Published: 1/22/2020

A lobbyist was put on leave from her job with the Western Growers Association after questions were raised about a possible romantic relationship with an Arizona lawmaker. State Rep. David Cook and lobbyist AnnaMarie Knorr said in separate interviews that they are friends and their relationship did not cross ethical lines. The Arizona Republic received a batch of handwritten letters that portray a close relationship between Cook, a married rancher representing a rural Pinal County district, and Knorr, who works on legislation backed by the agricultural industry and is the daughter of an influential lobbyist.

Colorado Hickenlooper Faces Renewed Pressure and Questions About His Administration’s Spending in Final Months
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 1/17/2020

A little-noticed government account that is paying ongoing legal bills related to an ethics complaint against U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper is facing renewed scrutiny even as his allies continue to block requests for an audit of the spending. In its final months, the former Colorado governor’s administration used federal funds from a 2003 account to cover a prominent attorney $525-an-hour fee and spent $13,385 for a legacy website designed to tell the story of how Hickenlooper and his team “paved the way for Colorado’s journey and growth.” Hickenlooper’s top rival in the Democratic primary is joining the call for the audit. And now a state lawmaker is pursuing legislation to get better answers about the off-budget spending by the executive branch.

Florida Florida Lawmakers Want Same Privacy as Cops and Judges, But Why?
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 1/22/2020

Senate Bill 832 would give Florida lawmakers and Cabinet members the same level of secrecy granted to police officers and judges, making their home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth private. But while threats made against police and judges are an occupational hazard, lawmakers supporting the bill offered no evidence they needed the same protections. Regardless, a Senate committee approved the bill along party lines that would make secret the most basic details about state lawmakers. Under the bill, the personal information and places of employment of their spouses and children would be exempt. So, too, would be information that lawmakers do not disclose when they run for office, such as the names and locations of the schools their children attend.

Florida Florida Supreme Court Issues Setback for Amendment 4 Supporters
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 1/16/2020

The Florida Supreme Court sided with Republican lawmakers who have argued that felons must pay back all court-ordered fees, fines, and restitution before registering to vote. In a narrow opinion requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis, justices gave their answer on one of the questions at the heart of the historic ballot measure voters passed in 2018. Celebrated as one of the greatest expansions of voting rights in decades, it restored the right to vote to most non-violent felons who completed “all terms of sentence.”  But the phrase “all terms of sentence” became a flash point in the GOP-controlled Legislature. Lawmakers lined up behind Senate Bill 7066, which defined “all terms” to include all financial obligations.

Florida Hillsborough’s Lobbying Rules Get Tweaked
Tampa Bay Times – Anastasia Dawson | Published: 1/19/2020

Hillsborough County was one of the first local governments in the nation to create its own lobbying ordinance, a measure meant to protect the public’s right to know when elected officials interact with people paid to influence them. But county officials say a loophole in the ordinance afforded prominent operative Ed Turanchik access to county commissioners that fell outside rules requiring public oversight – and later, got him an official warning from the county attorney’s office. Going forward, parties that contract with the county will be required to provide written justification for why retaining the services of a lobbyist is essential to the project. And lobbyists looking to work as consultants with the county will be scrutinized for possible or perceived conflicts of interest, Lobbyist Registration Manager Dave Couvertier said.

Florida What’s a ‘Lobbyist’? Tallahassee Ethics Board May Recommend Broader Definition
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/22/2020

The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board is likely to make recommendations to ensure public officials are being transparent about who they are meeting with and what effect those meetings have on official action. Although the board does not have the power to regulate lobbyists, it could ask city officials to expand who falls under the definition. The board could also make recommendations on the calendars that elected officials keep and expand who needs to register to include developers, and public relations and communications firms. City commissioners ultimately would have to approve any changes to the ethics ordinance.

Iowa Chaos Feared Despite Iowa Democrats’ Caucus Fixes
Fairfield Citizen – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2020

With at least four Democratic candidates seemingly in contention to win Iowa’s presidential caucus, some in the party fear reforms put in place to prevent the disarray of 2016 may create an entirely new set of problems in 2020. It has been the tradition that voting plays out in school gyms and church basements, with multiple vote tabulations as supporters of candidates who do not reach a threshold on the initial vote scramble to make a second choice among the remaining contenders. This year, for the first time, the state party will release the initial raw vote totals as well as the final delegate allocation. The change will mean more transparency, but it also raises the possibility that multiple campaigns could claim a victory of sorts, with supporters of one candidate seeing another’s triumph as illegitimate.

Maryland Former Baltimore Delegate Cheryl Glenn Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges. Then She Hugs FBI Agents.
Baltimore Sun – Justin Fenton | Published: 1/22/2020

Seven months after reaching a secret deal with federal prosecutors, and a month after suddenly resigning from the Maryland Legislature, former Del. Cheryl Glenn admitted taking bribes in exchange for political favors in court. In her plea, Glenn admitted she solicited and accepted $33,750 in cash payments through an associate to help an out-of-state marijuana dispensing company. She later accepted money from a local business owner in exchange for introducing legislation that would give local businesses priority for medical marijuana licenses, and later to introduce a bill to get that businessperson a liquor license.

Michigan Ballot Plan Bans Lobbyists from Buying Food for Michigan Lawmakers
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 1/23/2020

Lobbyists in Michigan would no longer be able to buy meals or provide anything of value for state lawmakers under a ballot proposal by Progress Michigan. The initiative, which aims to amend the state constitution, would also create a two-year waiting period before former elected officials could become lobbyists and would require lobbyists to publicly log what topics they are discussing with lawmakers. In addition to buying food for lawmakers, lobbyists can now provide them with gifts as long as the gifts do not cost more than $63 and fund trips for them.

Missouri Proposed Measures Tackle Initiative Petitions
Jefferson City News Tribune – Brendan Crowley | Published: 1/23/2020

Two years after Missouri voters approved two constitutional amendments that began as initiative petitions, some state lawmakers are trying to make it harder to pass more in the future. Sen. David Sater proposed a constitutional amendment that would make it harder to pass constitutional amendments by petition, and a bill that would change several parts of the initiative process, including adding a $500 fee to file a petition, among other provisions. Missouri is one of 16 states that allow voters to put proposed constitutional amendments directly on the ballot by initiative petition. Sater said he wants to keep that process intact but wants to make it harder to change the state constitution.

New Jersey He Raised $21K But Never Ran for Office. Nobody Knows Where the Money Went.
Newark Star Ledger – Karen Yi | Published: 1/20/2020

A former member of the New Jersey Assembly named in two federal search warrants related to a corruption investigation in Orange, once collected more than $21,000 in campaign funds for a race he never ran for, and what happened with the money is unclear, records show. An NJ Advance Media review of campaign finance records show Willis Edwards III created an election fund more than 10 years ago in a bid for East Orange mayor. But Edwards never ran in the June 2009 primary or any other East Orange race. It is unknown what happened to the thousands of dollars in his campaign coffers. No expenditure reports were filed, as is required by law.

New Mexico Report Flags ‘Outsized Influence’ of Lobbyists
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 1/17/2020

A report by New Mexico Ethics Watch describes a culture in which the lobbying ranks in the state are filled with relatives of legislators and even former lawmakers themselves. In the report, Ethics Watch recommended many measures to increase transparency and limit the influence of lobbyists. “Personal relationships and family ties between legislators and lobbyists are an important part of NM’s legislative culture,” the report says. “They are backed up by a formidable arsenal of campaign contributions, meals at fancy restaurants, and special events in Santa Fe and out-of-state cities where legislators gather for national conferences.”

New York After Court Rulings, Unclear Future for Push to Restrict State Legislators’ Outside Income
Gotham Gazette – Ethan Geringer-Sameth | Published: 1/21/2020

After two years of legislative negotiations, commission reports, and lawsuits, parts of a planned salary increase for state officials in New York remain up in the air, and the fate of long-sought restrictions on legislators’ outside income sits entirely with lawmakers themselves. With rulings in the second half of 2019 striking down the outside income limits before they could go into effect, and other pending court decisions throwing the pay hikes into uncertainty, good government advocates and others are calling on the Legislature to take up the restrictions through statute in the 2020 legislative session.

New York Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Conviction Largely Upheld
Newsday – Yancey Roy | Published: 1/21/2020

A federal court dismissed some corruption counts against former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but upheld most of his 2018 conviction, meaning one of the most powerful New York lawmakers of the last generation is likely to serve prison time. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of Silver on four counts of seven counts associated with allegations he pocketed money for doing political favors for people who had interests in Albany. The appeals court sent the case back to a lower court for resentencing, giving Silver a chance to reduce the seven-year prison sentence a judge ordered two years ago. But the court’s affirmation of four charges means Silver would have to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the rest of the charges for him to go free altogether.

North Carolina State Lawmaker’s Failure to Disclose Business Ties Highlights Broader Ethics Enforcement Problem
NC Policy Watch – Joe Killian | Published: 1/15/2020

State Rep. Holly Grange failed to disclose a business owned and operated by her husband on Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) forms for several years. In North Carolina, public officials are required to disclose connections to all non-publicly owned companies by which they or their immediate family members are employed or in which they have an interest. Kathleen Edwards, interim director of the State Ethics Commission, said cases like Grange’s and others point to a larger problem. “We only have eight employees now, the entire commission,” said Edwards. She said the SEI unit will investigate complaints of non-disclosure, Edwards said. But beyond executive branch officials, which it is statutorily required to evaluate, it does not perform audits.

North Dakota New Director Aims to Help North Dakota Ethics Commission Make Rules
Fargo Forum – Jason Turley | Published: 1/22/2020

The North Dakota Ethics Commission has a new executive director who says he will try to help navigate the board through the choppy waters ahead. David Thiele once worked as a judge advocate for the U.S. Army before returning to his home state and joining the North Dakota National Guard, where he served as a lawyer and top administrator. Thiel said he will use his background as an attorney and ethics counselor for the National Guard to help the commission create rules and procedures for handling complaints of ethical misconduct. The rules could also establish if certain topics, like campaign finance disclosures, fall under the commission’s jurisdiction. The commission does not yet have a detailed process for handling complaints or punishing those deemed guilty of violations.

Oklahoma Oklahoma Senators Want MAGA License Plates, Which Might Violate Campaign Finance Rules
Seattle Times – Katie Mettler (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2020

Oklahoma Sens. Nathan Dahm and Marty Quinn proposed specialty license plates that, if approved by the Legislature, would display two of President Trump’s campaign slogans, “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great.” The plates would be added to a list of 98 other specialty designs that Oklahoma drivers can choose to purchase for $35. Of that amount, $20 goes to the designated organization that matches the theme of the vanity plate. Although the money collected from purchases of the plates would go to veteran groups and not Trump’s reelection campaign, the proposal could still violate campaign finance laws if the state uses taxpayer dollars or resources to make the plates.

Oregon Big Out-Of-State Donations Have Oregon Lawmakers Mulling ‘Pay-To-Play’ Law
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 1/22/2020

State lawmakers looking into campaign finance regulations say Oregon should consider limiting how much public officials can accept from people or firms seeking state contracts. Such “pay-to-play” laws are designed to limit influence companies or individuals seeking work with a public agency can wield over officials with a say on who gets that work. Oregon is one of a handful of states that currently have no campaign finance limits whatsoever. That has created a situation in which out-of-state law firms are pouring cash into campaigns of incumbent of incumbent state treasurers and attorneys general, the two officials whose departments choose which firms receive potentially lucrative contracts representing the state in class-action suits.

Oregon Campaign Donation Limits? Not This Year, Oregon Governor Says
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/20/2020

State lawmakers should not pass campaign contribution limits this year, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said during a briefing on the upcoming short legislative session. As a result, voters will likely have to decide in November on a state constitutional amendment that would allow donation limits without knowing what those caps might be. Last year, the Oregon House passed a bill that would have capped contributions to legislative candidates at $1,000 and $1,500, and statewide candidates at $2,800. It died in the Senate and there was talk that lawmakers might pass a similar plan this year, to give voters a clear idea of the impact they could have if they pass a constitutional amendment to allow the limits.

Oregon Complaints from Portland Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Dismissed
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 1/21/2020

Portland’s elections office will not be penalizing candidates in upcoming races for defying local campaign finance limits, which remain in legal limbo until the Oregon Supreme Court weighs in. The decision closes the first chapter on a push by Honest Elections, a local campaign finance reform group, to force candidates to cap the individual contributions they receive at $500. The group had filed three complaints with the city auditor accusing Mayor Ted Wheeler, city council candidate Jack Kerfoot, and mayoral candidate Ozzie Gonzalez of flouting the contribution limits passed by voters last year.

Texas Texas Lobbyists and Politicians Dodged $800k in Fines, Thanks to Weak Campaign Finance Laws
Houston Chronicle – Taylor Goldenstein and Allie Morris | Published: 1/23/2020

There are about a hundred candidates, lobbyists, and PAC treasurers in Texas each year who fail to file mandatory disclosures of their donors and expenses, racking up thousands of dollars in fines as a result. Candidates with unpaid fines can continue to run for office and the committees can go on operating, thanks to a weak enforcement system that allows them to dodge their responsibility to the state. The state attorney general’s office, which handles collections for the Texas Ethics Commission, since 2005 has won the right in court to collect $1.1 million from late filers, but the office has then written off $800,000 as uncollectible, effectively ending attempts to financially penalize candidates and political committees.

Utah Special Interests Provided 93.5% of Donations to Utah Legislators Last Year
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 1/20/2020

Utah lawmakers did not need to raise much campaign money in 2019, since it was not an election year for them. They still amassed plenty, and special interest groups supplied 93.5% of it. Academics say that is unusual because in most states, studies say lawmakers raise about half of their money from individual voters and half from special interests. Utah’s big disparity raises questions about what those special interests receive for their money. Some academics and donors say it purchases better access to the political process. Meanwhile, legislative leaders and other donors say it buys nothing and merely shows how some donors support politicians who tend to vote in ways they like.

Vermont Vermont’s ‘Fishin’ Politician’ Faults the Ethics Panel That Let Him Off the Hook
Seven Days – Kevin McCallum | Published: 1/22/2020

Vermont’s House Ethics Panel had to wrestle with some unusual questions last year as it considered a wide-ranging complaint against state Rep. Chris Bates. Is it unethical for a Vermont lawmaker to have an outstanding felony arrest warrant from another state, or to misstate one’s criminal background during a radio call-in show? Critics of the first-term lawmaker and outdoor enthusiast, aka “The Fishin’ Politician,” paint Bates as a felon who won election in 2018 only after eluding justice and concealing his criminal past from voters. Bates admits he has made mistakes but says he started a new life in Vermont only to find himself the victim of a smear campaign by some of the same online trolls who harassed former Rep. Kiah Morris out of office.

Washington DC D.C. Attorney General Sues Trump Inaugural Committee Over $1 Million Booking at President’s Hotel
Anchorage Daily News – Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/22/2020

The District of Columbia is suing President Trump’s inaugural committee and two companies that control the Trump International Hotel in the nation’s capital, accusing them of throwing parties for the Trump family with nonprofit funds, and overpaying for event space at the hotel. The committee has maintained its finances were independently audited and all money was spent in accordance with the law. It is the latest allegation that Trump and his family have used public and nonprofit funds spent at Trump-owned properties to enrich themselves, part of the peril of Trump not fully withdrawing from his businesses while he is president. District of Columbia law requires that nonprofit organizations not operate for the purpose of generating profits for private individuals.

Wisconsin After Rejection, Conservatives Try Again to Get Voter Purge Case to Supreme Court
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 1/20/2020

Conservatives suing over Wisconsin’s voter rolls tried to get their case before the state Supreme Court, even though the justices told them recently they would not take it. Those bringing the lawsuit effectively asked the justices to change their minds after they declined the case because of a deadlock. To gain footing, they would need at least one of the three justices who opposed taking up the matter to take a new view. That puts renewed attention on Justice Brian Hagedorn, a conservative who sided with two liberal justices in saying the court should not consider the case. At issue is whether more than 200,000 people should be taken off the voter rolls because they have been identified as having likely moved. Both sides see the case as important because Wisconsin was so closely decided in the 2016 election.

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