News You Can Use Digest - January 3, 2020 - State and Federal Communications

January 3, 2020  •  

News You Can Use Digest – January 3, 2020


2020 Democrats Are Naming Their Fundraising ‘Bundlers’ Amid a Fight Over Big Money in Politics
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jonathan Lai and Julia Terruso | Published: 12/26/2019

When it comes to political fundraising, rich people are great. People who know a lot of rich people are even better. Individual donors may write the checks, but a lot of influence and power accrues to the intermediaries who collect the money. Known as “bundlers,” they are the financial backbone of many modern campaigns. “These are essentially fundraisers who aren’t on the payroll,” said Sarah Bryner, research director for the Center for Responsive Politics. There is no requirement that campaigns identify their bundlers, despite their importance and influence.

As More Women Run for Office, Child Care Remains a Hurdle
AP News – Lindsay Whitehurst and Christina Cassidy | Published: 1/1/2020

Experts predict a large number of women will again run for office in 2020 like they did in 2018, and childcare remains a hurdle for many of them. A congressional candidate in New York successfully petitioned the FEC in 2018 to allow campaign money to help cover childcare costs. But it applies only to those running for federal office. That leaves women in many states who are running for the Legislature, statewide positions like attorney general, or local offices to find another way to pay for childcare as they campaign, which often requires night and weekend work. Only six states have laws specifically allowing campaign money to be used for childcare.

Behind the Ukraine Aid Freeze: 84 days of conflict and confusion
MSN – Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman, and Mark Mazzetti (New York Times) | Published: 12/29/2019

The Democratic-led inquiry into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine established the president was actively involved in parallel efforts, both secretive and highly unusual, to bring pressure on a country he viewed with suspicion, if not disdain. One campaign, spearheaded by Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, aimed to force Ukraine to conduct investigations that could help Trump politically. The other was the president’s demand to withhold the security assistance. By late summer, the two efforts merged as American diplomats used the withheld aid as leverage in the effort to win a public commitment from the new Ukrainian president to carry out the investigations Trump sought. Interviews and impeachment testimony provide the most complete account yet of the 84 days from when Trump first inquired about the money to his decision in September to relent.

Bloomberg’s Business in China Has Grown. That Could Create Unprecedented Entanglements If He Is Elected President.
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 1/1/2020

If President Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his global real estate business has tested the limits of America’s ethics laws and traditions, sparking lawsuits and allegations of influence by foreign interests, a Michael Bloomberg presidency could present a whole new level of overseas entanglements, with China as a prime example. Tensions have grown between Washington and Beijing in recent years amid trade disputes, clashes over democracy and human rights, and disagreements over China’s efforts to expand its influence around the world. Yet Bloomberg, who is spending tens of millions of dollars of his own money to compete for the Democratic presidential nomination, has deepened his entanglements with that key U.S. adversary, forging close financial ties there while showering praise on the Communist Party leaders whose goodwill is required to play a role in that fast-growing market.

Julián Castro Ends Presidential Campaign
MSN – Jennifer Medina and Matt Stevens (New York Times) | Published: 1/2/2020

Julián Castro, the former housing secretary and San Antonio mayor who was the only Latino candidate in the Democratic primary, said he would end his bid for the presidency, capping a yearlong campaign where despite struggling in polls, he remained an enduring contender and policy pacesetter on immigration and fighting poverty. Throughout his campaign, Castro portrayed himself as a liberal who was shaped by his humble beginnings and had been overlooked by the press. Though he created some memorable moments as he championed progressive policy and challenged his rivals on the campaign trail, Castro was unable to break into the upper tier of a crowded primary field. His exit is the latest departure of a candidate of color from a field that began as the most racially diverse ever in a Democratic primary.

Rick Gates Gets 45 Days of Weekend Jail, 3 Years of Probation
Politico – Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/17/2019

Rick Gates’ cooperation with prosecutors investigating President Trump and his 2016 campaign paid off when a federal judge sentenced the Republican operative to 45 days of weekend jail time and three years of probation. The relatively light punishment for Gates, a former Trump campaign deputy, was still slightly more than expected going into the hearing. Federal prosecutors had recommended just one year of probation for Gates in exchange for his role as a critical high-profile government witness whose testimony helped net convictions against two of Trump’s ex-campaign aides, former chairperson Paul Manafort and longtime political adviser Roger Stone.

Trump Campaign Plagued by Groups Raising Tens of Millions in His Name
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 12/23/2019

As President Trump raises money for his reelection campaign, he is competing for cash with a growing mass of pro-Trump PACs, dark money groups, and off-brand Facebook advertisers neither affiliated with nor endorsed by the campaign. And they have pulled in over $46 million so far. The groups mimic Trump’s brand in the way they look and feel. They borrow the president’s Twitter avatar on Facebook pages, use clips of Trump’s voice in robocalls asking for “an emergency contribution to the campaign” and, in some cases, have been affiliated with former Trump aides, such as onetime deputy campaign manager David Bossie. But most are spending little money to help the president win in 2020.

Warren Embraced the High-Dollar Fundraiser Circuit for Years – Until Just Before Her Presidential Campaign
MSN – Annie Linskey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 12/28/2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren embraced a high-dollar fundraising program her entire political career, from her first Senate run in 2011 through her reelection last year. Warren was so successful at it she was able to transfer $10 million of her Senate cash to help launch her presidential bid. But in the past year Warren has undergone a transformation, moving from one of the Democratic Party’s biggest draws at high-dollar fundraisers to a presidential candidate who has sworn them off as sinister attempts to sell access. Warren’s new position is part of an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist of the party’s left wing, where activists and voters believe wealthy individuals and companies have far too much influence in American life. But party strategists say Warren’s approach could be damaging for her, as well as her opponents.

From the States and Municipalities

California New Ethics Rule Would Allow State Judges to Speak Out About Rulings in Campaigns
San Diego Union Tribune – Greg Moran | Published: 1/1/2020

Spurred by the successful recall of Santa Clara County judge who sentenced a Stanford University student to six months in jail for a sexual assault, the California Supreme Court is weighing changes to the code of ethics that would allow judges to break a longstanding taboo and speak out about pending cases – if a judge is being criticized for rulings in that case during a recall or election. Historically, judges do not comment on pending cases out of concern it could show a bias to one side or the other, impair the rights to a fair trial, or influence how a case develops. The current ethics rules ban judges, and their staff, from making any comment on pending cases.

Colorado Colorado Governors Have Been Tapping Federal Fund for ‘Essential Services’ for Years
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 1/2/2020

A pool of federal money meant to boost Colorado’s economy in the early 2000s still exists 16 years after its creation and was used by at least two governors for a hodgepodge of expenses, including the creation of a $13,000 website touting former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s legacy. The fund, which came to public attention in November when it was found to be covering the cost of Hickenlooper’s ethics defense, was created in 2003 by the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, to help states recover from the 2001 recession.  Budget officials for the past two governors say there were few, if any, limits on what dollars in the federal fund could be spent on, augmenting governor’s office spending that is otherwise controlled by the Legislature.

Florida A Place for Progressives: People’s Advocacy Center in Tallahassee is made for citizen-lobbyists
Tallahassee Democrat – James Call | Published: 12/27/2019

Three years ago, Karen Woodall, a longtime lobbyist for progressive causes, serendipitously found a 12,000-square-foot building that now is called the Florida People’s Advocacy Center. It is a place that out-of-town activists can use as a home-away-from-home and office to organize their lobbying of state government. There are 33 dorm-style rooms and a common space outfitted much like a family room with sofas, chairs, board games in a bookcase, and a television. Granted, it is not a colonnaded association palace or gleaming office tower occupied by platoons of well-heeled lobbyists and influence peddlers that dot the Tallahassee landscape. But for these progressive warriors on a shoestring, it is home away from home.

Florida ‘Wild West:’ Florida legislators’ PACs amass hundreds of millions of dollars
Tallahassee Democrat – Mark Harper and Abigail Brashear (Daytona Beach News-Journal) | Published: 12/30/2019

Direct donations to campaigns for the Florida Legislature are limited to $1,000. But lawmakers have a way around that: their own political action committees. These PACs allow for big-dollar contributions, lavish spending, and curious exchanges of funds between lawmakers. There are limits on the amount of money corporations and individuals can give directly to political candidates’ campaigns. But thanks to Republican-led legislation in 2013, many lawmakers now control their own political committees. The amount of money a company or individual can donate to a legislator’s PAC is limitless.

Georgia Federal Judge Will Not Reverse Georgia’s Decision to Purge 100,000 Voters
Seattle Times – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 12/29/2019

A federal judge backed Georgia’s removal of nearly 100,000 names from the state’s voter rolls. The decision comes as state officials face accusations of voter suppression, particularly against black and low-income voters. Scrutiny of voting rights in Georgia has been heightened since the governor’s race in 2018 brought long lines at polling sites and criticism of outdated voting machines. In the ruling, the judge, Steve Jones, said the lead plaintiff, Fair Fight Action, a voting rights advocacy organization, did not prove the Georgia secretary of state’s decision to cancel the voter registration status of inactive voters violated the Constitution.

Hawaii Free Lunch from a Contractor Is Annual Tradition at Honolulu Hale
Hololulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 12/27/2019

Honolulu’s ethics guidelines say city departments should not accept any gifts from those doing business with their agencies. That includes contractors. But for at least five years, a major city contractor, the RM Towill Corp., has gifted lunches to city agencies. Among them is the Honolulu City Council, whose chair recently pledged to reimburse the company for a 100-person luncheon amid ethics concerns. The city and Towill said the food was just a “token of aloha” that can be considered an exception to the regular ethics rules. That conflicts with Ethics Commission guidelines that advise city agencies they are generally prohibited from accepting anything from city contractors regardless of the value of the gift. While offering a token of aloha like a lei valued at less than $50 is generally acceptable, Ethics Commission Director Jan Yamane said larger gestures can be problematic.

Illinois City Council Approves Ban on Aldermen Lobbying State, Local Governments
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 12/18/2019

The Chicago City Council approved an ordinance that would prohibit aldermen from lobbying state and local government and prevent their counterparts at those other levels from doing the same at City Hall. Chicago Board of Ethics Chairperson William Conlon said the bill was driven by the scandal surrounding now-former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, who resigned one week after his arrest on a federal bribery charge. Arroyo was accused of paying a bribe to a state senator, identified by The Chicago Sun-Times as state Sen. Terry Link, in exchange for support of a gambling bill that would have benefitted one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients. Link has denied the charge.

Illinois Nonprofits Get a Break from City Lobbying Rules
Crain’s Chicago Business – A.D. Quig | Published: 12/20/2019

After some nonprofit groups raised concerns about a chilling effect on grassroots efforts and the cost of compliance, Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked of the Chicago Board of Ethics chairperson not to crack down on unregistered nonprofit lobbyists for another three months. Bryan Zarou, director of public policy and advocacy at Forefront, an umbrella group for foundations, grant makers, and nonprofits, said his 1,200 members interact multiple times a day with city agencies. Logging all those calls accurately and facing $1,000 a day in penalties would be “pretty insane.” While he would have liked a six-month window to remove what he said was ambiguity in the ordinance, he says it is better than workers being scared to pick up the phone.

Illinois State Senator Who Wore Wire on Fellow Lawmaker Failed to Report $50,000 Condo Sale Profit, Records Show
Chicago Tribune – David Heinzman and Jason Meisner | Published: 12/20/2019

A state senator embroiled in a federal corruption investigation failed to report a $50,000 profit from the sale of a Florida condominium as required on his state ethics form. The 2016 real estate transaction involved Sen. Terry Link, identified by a source as the unnamed senator who wore a wire on a fellow lawmaker. The recording, made in August, captured what authorities said was a bribery offer that led to criminal charges against then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo. Link, who has denied being the unnamed senator, ended up cooperating with the FBI after authorities discovered evidence that showed he had cheated on his taxes. State law requires elected officials to disclose when they make more than $5,000 from selling any asset. Link offered the same response to that question as he did to the form’s other questions: “N/A,” short for “not applicable.”

Maine State Ethics Board Fines Mills’ Inaugural Committee for Late Fundraising
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 12/18/2019

Maine’s ethics commission fined the inaugural committee of Gov. Janet Mills $2,000 under a new law requiring disclosure of inaugural committee finances. Mills’ committee was fined for continuing to collect donations 10 months past the legal deadline for doing so. But commissioners also criticized the new law, passed by a ballot initiative, for its tight deadline. The law on inaugural committee fundraising requires committees to finish their work by January 31 and file final finance reports no later than February 15. A bill to change those requirements is expected to be heard during the upcoming session of the Legislature. The inaugural committee continued to collect donations because it was unable to cover its expenses for the January celebration.

Maryland Cheryl Glenn, Recently Resigned Democratic State Delegate from Baltimore, Is Charged with Bribery, Wire Fraud
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood and Kevin Rector | Published: 12/23/2019

Former Maryland Del. Cheryl Glenn, who abruptly resigned her long-held seat recently, was charged with bribery and wire fraud. U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said Glenn accepted $33,750 in bribes in exchange for several actions: voting for a bill last year that increased the number of state medical cannabis licenses, introducing legislation to ease the experience requirement to be medical director of an opioid treatment clinic, and introducing legislation to create a new liquor license in her district. Prosecutors said she accepted packets of cash in Baltimore restaurants after frankly negotiating what legislative actions she would take in exchange.

Massachusetts A Career Spent Helping People ‘Do Things Right’: State’s campaign finance chief is retiring
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 12/24/2019

Mike Sullivan is set to retire as director of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, where he has led a transformation from a paper-inundated office in the mid-1990s to today’s nearly all-electronic enterprise policing the state’s campaign finance landscape. For Sullivan, it has been a natural fit. The state’s campaign finance “referee” by day, he has spent his weekends for 34 years officiating football and umpiring baseball games, a second career whose mementos litter his office, alongside those from his public life. One is a sign Sullivan pinned up soon after he was appointed in 1994: “Oops doesn’t cut it when man’s reputation is ruined.”

Massachusetts Correctional Officers PAC Pays $45,000 for Campaign Finance Violations Related to Buying Signs for Gov. Charlie Baker Campaign – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 12/20/2019

A correctional officers’ PAC will pay $45,000 to address campaign finance violations related to buying signs for campaigns including Gov. Charlie Baker’s. The Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union PAC was required by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) to pay $22,500 to the state’s general fund and $22,500 to a charity of the PAC’s choice. OCPF said the PAC donated more than the allowed political contributions to multiple candidates. The issue was not about direct donations, but in-kind contributions like political signs. Under state law, a PAC cannot contribute more than $500 in cash or anything else of value to a campaign each year. A PAC can spend an unlimited amount of money independently, as long as it does not coordinate with the candidate’s campaign.

Massachusetts Ex-Speaker Sal DiMasi’s Latest Bid to Be a Lobbyist Is Denied
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 12/26/2019

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s appeal to register as a state lobbyist was denied by a hearing officer, a move that is expected to push his months-long bid to lobby on Beacon Hill to Superior Court. DiMasi had challenged Secretary of State William Galvin’s decision to reject his application to register, when he said the former speaker’s 2011 federal conviction on public corruption charges includes “conduct in violation” of state lobbying and ethics laws and should automatically prohibit him from lobbying for 10 years, or until June 2021.DiMasi argued that when state lawmakers overhauled the lobbying law in 2009, they did not include any of the federal statutes on which he was convicted among those that would disqualify him.

Michigan Audit Pings State Bureau of Elections on Voter File, Training, Campaign Finance Oversight
Detroit Free Press – Beth LeBlanc and Craig Maurer | Published: 12/27/2019

Michigan’s Bureau of Elections failed to properly safeguard the state’s file of 7.5 million qualified voters, a discrepancy that allowed an unauthorized user to access the file and increased the risk of an ineligible elector voting in Michigan, according to a report from the Office of Auditor General. Elections officials lack proper training in more than 14 percent of counties, cities, and townships, the audit also found. And the bureau did not make timely reviews for campaign statements, lobby reports, and campaign finance complaints.

Michigan Michigan Supreme Court Revives Recall Petitions against Rep. Larry Inman – Julie Mack | Published: 12/30/2019

The Michigan Supreme Court revived a recall campaign against state Rep. Larry Inman, reversing a decision by the Court of Appeals to disqualify petition signatures because of typographical errors. Inman was accused earlier this year of soliciting a bribe, extortion, and lying to police stemming from a request for campaign contributions in the lead-up to a close vote last legislative session. A jury found Inman not guilty of making a false statement to an FBI agent, but could not decide on whether to find him guilty for the bribery and extortion charges, resulting in a mistrial.

Minnesota DFL Legislator’s Post at the U Did Not Violate Ethics Laws, Review Concludes
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Torey Van Oot | Published: 12/30/2019

A lawmaker did not violate state ethics rules when he accepted a paid job with a University of Minnesota think tank, despite evidence of preferential treatment in the hiring process, an investigation concluded. The hiring of Rep. Jamie Long for a $50,000 temporary post at the Institute on the Environment’s Energy Transition Lab attracted scrutiny after internal documents showed he and the hiring manager, a former Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party senator, discussed the role for months before the opening was posted publicly. House Republicans also raised questions about whether the job itself included lobbying, which is prohibited by legislative rules, and presented a conflict-of-interest for Long.

New Jersey #MeToo Was Supposed to Fix Things. But Women in N.J. Politics Say They’ve Been Groped, Harassed – and Worse.
Newark Star Ledger – Susan Livio and Kelley Heboyer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/29/2019

Twenty female campaign staffers, lobbyists, political operatives, and lawmakers shared stories of being groped, sexually propositioned, harassed, or marginalized while trying to build careers in state and local politics in New Jersey. They painted a portrait of a casually misogynistic system of politics and government where it is nearly impossible for women to remain in the business without having to navigate everything from sexist insults to assaults on their bodies. Almost all said the two marquee political gatherings – the annual Chamber of Commerce “Walk to Washington” train trip and the League of Municipalities convention – remain minefields despite a perception that conditions have improved in recent years. None of the women reported the alleged groping, sexual misconduct, or assaults. They said they feared speaking out would hurt their careers.

New Jersey Who Are the 5 N.J. Officials Facing Public Corruption Charges?
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/19/2019

The school board president of New Jersey’s second-largest city. A former state lawmaker. An ex-county freeholder. A one-time local councilperson. A former freeholder candidate who is also the wife of Morristown’s mayor. In New Jersey’s latest big corruption sting, five current and former public officials and political candidates have been charged with taking thousands of dollars in bribes disguised as campaign contributions from an unnamed tax attorney who was cooperating as a witness, the state attorney general announced. In exchange, they promised to hire the attorney for lucrative legal work, according to the complaint. The defendants from Hudson and Morris counties accepted money stuffed in envelopes, paper bags, and, in one case, a coffee cup, authorities said.

New York New York Ethics Agency Votes Down ‘Self-Assessment’ of Its Operations
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg and Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/17/2019

The members of New York’s embattled ethics commission voted down a “self-assessment” proposal to examine their internal operations, and also that of the state inspector general’s office. In a rare public deliberation on a controversial matter, members of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) voted against a proposal to authorize an assessment of two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s so-called watchdog agencies. Their unusual call for an assessment of the inspector general’s office comes after that office recently conducted an investigation into, but did not substantiate, allegations that confidential JCOPE matters were leaked to the governor.

New York New York’s New Public Campaign Funding System on the Books
AP News – Maria Villeneuve | Published: 12/23/2019

A plan to root out corruption by using public money to fund campaigns in New York is moving forward. A commission hashed out a system to spend up to $100 million in public funds on elections, and lawmakers had until December 22 to return for a rare special session to outright reject the plan, which they did not do. The plan has drawn scrutiny from Republicans and Democrats alike who are expected to fine-tune the plan’s details next year. And lawmakers will have time to make changes: commissioners delayed the program four years for state legislative races and six years for statewide races. The commission, meanwhile, is facing lawsuits filed by Republicans, minor political parties, and good government groups who claim the commission is overstepping its authority and hurting third parties.

Oregon Ethics Commission Finds Multiple Ethics Law Violations by Former PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi
Portland Oregonian – Jeff Manning | Published: 1/1/2020

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission determined Rahmat Shoureshi, former president of Portland State University, violated state ethics laws three times in his short stint leading the school. Shoureshi agreed to resign as the university’s top executive last May after he had come under fire for his treatment of employees and several ethically dubious deals. Highly touted as a “change agent” who would bring private-sector ambition and discipline to Oregon’s largest university, Shoureshi lasted less than two years on the job.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s New Board of Parole Pick Is Suing the House Finance Chair for Slander
The Tennessean – Natalie Allison | Published: 12/30/2019

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s new appointee to the state Board of Parole says she will continue to pursue a slander lawsuit against the chairperson of the House Finance committee, a longtime political rival from whom she is seeking $100,000. Mae Beavers, a former state lawmaker, was appointed by Lee to a seat on the board, a six-year position paying $102,000 a year. Beavers is suing Rep. Susan Lynn, alleging the fellow Wilson County politician spread rumors about Beavers breaking into Lynn’s home and trying to have Lynn killed. Beavers also says a former county election commissioner defamed her character.

Virginia On Va. Democrats’ 2020 To-Do List, Voting Rights Seem to Top Campaign Finance Reform
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 1/2/2020

It is not unusual for statehouse leaders in Virginia to take in one last post-election fundraising haul before turning their attention to legislative business that, in some cases, has a direct impact on donors’ financial interests. What will be different in 2020, after a record-breaking election cycle that saw the two parties raise a combined $121 million, is that Democrats will have the power to change the largely open-ended campaign finance system many of them have criticized in the past. But as new Democratic majorities prepare to reshape state law in a wide variety of policy areas, campaign finance reform does not appear to be a major piece of the first-year agenda.

Virginia Va. House Speaker-Designee Filler-Corn Leaves Job at Lobbying Firm
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Mel Leonor and Patrick Wilson | Published: 12/31/2019

Virginia House Speaker-elect Eileen Filler-Corn is stepping down from her job at a lobbying and consulting firm, helping to alleviate the potential for conflicts-of-interest as she prepares for the leadership role. Filler-Corn was the government relations director at Albers & Company, which lobbies the Virginia Legislature and governor’s office on health care and energy issues. Filler-Corn was not a lobbyist, but some of her clients had interests or dealings before state government.

Washington Washington Rep. Matt Shea Engaged in Domestic Terrorism Against U.S., Says State House Report
Seattle Times – David Gutman, Jim Brunner, and Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 12/19/2019

A state lawmaker took part in “domestic terrorism” against the U.S. during a 2016 standoff at a wildlife refuge in Oregon and traveled throughout the West meeting with far-right extremist groups, according to a report prepared for the Washington Legislature. The investigation also found Rep. Matt Shea trained young people to fight a “holy war,” condoned intimidating opponents, and promoted militia training by the Patriot Movement for possible armed conflict with law enforcement. Incoming House Speake Laurie Jinkins said the report had been forwarded to federal prosecutors and the FBI. Shea has also pursued creation of a 51st state in eastern Washington that would be called Liberty.

Wisconsin To Recognize Black History Month, GOP Lawmaker Proposes a List of Mostly White People
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 12/31/2019

In Wisconsin, one state lawmaker wants to mark Black History Month by celebrating 10 Americans – including a Civil War colonel, a newspaper editor, and a church deacon. All are heralded for their bravery; but most on the list are white. The resolution identifies a group of people integral to the state’s Underground Railroad system, both slaves who traveled it and abolitionists who sheltered them. The author, state Rep. Scott Allen, says it is a sincere effort to salute important historical figures. But several black legislators have called the effort disingenuous and said it undermines the purpose of Black History Month: to highlight the accomplishments of African Americans so often overlooked in classrooms and history books.

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