News You Can Use Digest - July 20, 2018 - State and Federal Communications

July 20, 2018  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 20, 2018





Alleged Russian Agent Ordered to Remain in Custody After Prosecutors Argue She Has Ties to Intel Agency
MSN – Tom Jackman and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2018

A Russian national arrested on charges of acting as an illegal foreign agent was in contact with Russian intelligence services, federal prosecutors argued, offering details about what they say was a wide-ranging influence campaign in the U.S. The court filings add to the portrait of Maria Butina, who the Justice Department says worked covertly to establish back-channel lines of communication to the Kremlin and infiltrate American political organizations, including the National Rifle Association, and gather intelligence for a senior Russian official. Prosecutors also alleged she had a personal relationship with an American political operative and offered sex to another person in exchange for a position with a special interest organization.

From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin interfered
MSN – David Sanger and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 7/18/2018

Before his inauguration, Donald Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally ordered cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election. The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Putin, who had described to the CIA how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the briefing. But ever since, Trump has tried to cloud the clear findings he received on January 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

IRS Will No Longer Require Certain Nonprofits to Disclose Large Donors
WRAL – Patricia Cohen, Kenneth Vogel, and Jim Tankersley (New York Times) | Published: 7/17/2018

The U.S. Treasury Department will no longer force some tax-exempt organizations to identify their donors. The new rule will affect labor unions, social clubs, trade organizations, and politically active advocacy groups. The names of donors to these nonprofit groups have not been publicly available, but the organizations were required to disclose the information to the IRS. These groups generally do not operate as charities, however, and their donors do not receive tax deductions in exchange for their contributions. As a result, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the IRS does not need their donor information to police tax laws.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona: Arizona Rep. Paul Mosley Accused of Inappropriate Comments Involving Women, Religion
Arizona Republic – Rachel Leingang and Yvonne Winget Sanchez | Published: 7/16/2018

Arizona Rep. Paul Mosley made inappropriate comments about marital status, working mothers, and religion to several people at the Capitol while they were working, lawmakers and lobbyists said. Mosley, who has come under fire after reports of excessive speeding, has asked whether people are married, why they do not have children, and why working mothers are not, instead, home with their children. The recollections of encounters with Mosley come as the statehouse continues to grapple with a culture that some have deemed sexist and demeaning toward women. And some lawmakers have said they are uncomfortable with Mosley’s aggressive manner in pushing for legislation, some of which could personally benefit him.

Arizona: Mistrial Declared in Bribery Case Involving Arizona Corporation Commission
Arizona Republic – Michael Kiefer and Ryan Randazzo | Published: 7/17/2018

The influence-peddling trial of former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked on charges he accepted bribes from a water company owner in exchange for favorable regulatory decisions. A mistrial also was declared for Pierce’s wife, Sherry, water company owner George Johnson, and lobbyist Jim Norton. Prosecutors alleged Gary Pierce helped pass a rate increase and a beneficial tax policy for Johnson Utilities in exchange for $31,500 paid to his wife. The payments were made under the guise of consulting work and were funneled through the office of Norton’s wife. The indictment also alleged Johnson was going to fund the purchase of real estate worth $350,000 for Gary Pierce. Norton, who lobbied on Johnson’s behalf, was accused of facilitating the bribery scheme.

California: State Supreme Court Removes Measure to Split California into Three States from November Ballot
Los Angeles Times – Maura Dolan | Published: 7/18/2018

The California Supreme Court blocked a proposal to split California into three states from appearing as a ballot measure in November. The proposal, championed by venture capitalist Tim Draper, had gathered at least 600,000 signatures which was enough to earn a spot on the ballot. “We conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election,” the court wrote. The justices also agreed to rule eventually on the measure’s constitutionality, a ruling that is likely to go against the initiative.

Florida: ‘Look Right into My Soul,’ Michael Grieco Said. But He Was Lying, Ethics Board Alleges
Miami Herald – Nicholas Nehamas | Published: 7/18/2018

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found probable cause to charge Michael Grieco with two counts of violating a county charter provision that prohibits municipal officials from “knowingly furnish[ing] false information on any public matter.” The commission also said Grieco broke a Miami Beach ordinance against soliciting city vendors for campaign funds. The ethics panel claims Grieco, a former Miami Beach commissioner, was lying to the public when he denied involvement in a campaign fundraising operation last year and asked Miami Herald reporters to “look right into [his] soul” for the truth, which is a violation of the charter’s “truth in government” provision.

Maryland: As Governor, Larry Hogan’s Real Estate Business Continues to Thrive – Prompting Questions
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 7/12/2018

While Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan stepped aside from his firm, Hogan Companies, and turned his assets over to be managed by a trust when he took office, the governor has continued to profit. Hogan released tax returns that show he has made about $2.4 million in corporate earnings while governor. According to a review of financial disclosure forms, his corporate holdings include stakes in commercial real estate deals as well as residential and retail developments around Maryland. As Hogan seeks a second term, this arrangement has drawn criticism from Democrats, and renewed a debate about the lengths to which businesspeople-turned-politicians should wall themselves off from their private enterprises.

Massachusetts: Walsh Vetoes City Lobbying Rules, Calling Proposal ‘Inadequate’
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 7/12/2018

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh vetoed an ordinance that would have amended the city’s lobbying law. The mayor said the reforms failed to properly define and regulate lobbying, as well as create a proper enforcement mechanism. He sent back his own versions of both the local ordinance, with revised enforcement provisions, and a home rule petition, with what he called clearer definitions of lobbying. In his veto, Walsh scrapped the council’s attempts to provide exemptions for lawyers representing residents on routine matters before a city board. The mayor called for having anyone who does any lobbying work to register, which has already caused pause among council members.

Montana: Report: Rosendale uses accounting to skirt contribution limits
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 7/12/2018

U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale used excess donations from wealthy Republican donors to pay himself back for personal loans from a previous congressional run, then he turned around and loaned that money right back to his Senate campaign, according to campaign records. That accounting shuffle has given Rosendale a way to fund his campaign against incumbent U.S. Sen. Jon Tester with money given by donors above the individual campaign contribution limits. Campaign finance watchdogs said Thursday that what Rosendale is doing is unusual but legal, and effectively raises contribution limits from $5,400 to $8,000 for some donors.

New York: Architect of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion Project Is Convicted in Bid-Rigging Scheme
WRAL – Benjamin Weiser and Jesse McKinley (New York Times) | Published: 7/12/2018

A federal jury convicted key players on charges related to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” economic redevelopment program. The trial put a spotlight on how lucrative contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars were awarded for redevelopment projects aimed at revitalizing upstate New York. Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute, and his co-defendants were accused of working together to rig the open-bidding process for lucrative contracts to make sure they went to LPCiminelli and COR Development. The convictions were the latest in a string of guilty verdicts in federal corruption trials focused on state officials.

New York: Guilty, Again: Dean Skelos, former Senate leader, is convicted of corruption in retrial
WRAL – Vivian Wang (New York Times) | Published: 7/17/2018

Former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was found guilty of using his influence to get his son jobs and payments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Skelos and his son, Adam, were convicted on eight counts of corruption. Dean Skelos was accused of using his influence to steer hundreds of thousands of dollars to his son through payments and low-show jobs from AbTech Industries and another company. The elder Skelos later leaned on Nassau County officials to award AbTech a $12 million contract. Dean and Adam Skelos were convicted in 2015, but those verdicts were overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court limited the definition of public corruption. Prosecutors were allowed to retry the pair under the narrowed definition.

North Carolina: Top State Leaders Fined for Illegal Campaign Contributions from Drug Company
Raleigh News and Observer – Colin Campbell | Published: 7/13/2018

Thirty-seven candidates in North Carolina were fined for accepting illegal campaign contributions from Pfizer’s PAC. The donations totaled $53,500 and were dated during the legislative session, when PACs are prohibited from giving to state office holders or candidates seeking those offices. Most of the illegal Pfizer contributions occurred in June 2016 and October 2017, when the Legislature held a special session. Each campaign must forfeit the amount of the donation, and Pfizer must pay a $53,500 fine. House Speaker Tim Moore’s treasurer wrote in a letter to the state elections board that the campaign was unaware the Pfizer checks were dated during the session because they were received after it ended.

Virginia: New Virginia Business Aims to Be Kickstarter for Political Influence
The Virginian-Pilot – Katherine Hafner | Published: 7/12/2018

A startup aims to be a sort of Kickstarter for political influence. Crowdlobby, the brainchild of University of Richmond law school graduates, recently raised $35,000 and plans to launch within the next few months. Citizens will be able to log on and contribute to an issue they care about. It has to be a specific legislative fix, not an overarching topic like education reform. Once a minimum is reached – $50,000 at the state level, $200,000 in Washington, D.C. – Crowdlobby hires a lobbyist on the donors’ behalf. Heidi Drauschak got the idea after working at a prominent Richmond lobbying firm. “I was incredibly impressed with the tool that lobbying was … but because of the price tag, the average person never considers it as an option,” Drauschak said.

Wisconsin: Questions Raised About Payment Made by Lawyer to Randy Bryce’s Ex-Girlfriend
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Mary Spicuzza | Published: 7/16/2018

Congressional candidate Randy Bryce owed money to his ex-girlfriend for more than a decade. That debt, which totaled about $4,200 by late last year, has since been paid. What is unclear is exactly who paid it. Bryce’s former girlfriend said last November that she was surprised when she received the check for $4,245.73. But it turns out the check was not from Bryce – it came from the law firm Halling & Cayo. The donation limit for congressional candidates is $2,700 per election, and candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for personal use. Corporations are prohibited from making contributions to federal candidates.

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