July 5, 2019 •
News You Can Use Digest – July 5, 2019
2020 Census Will Not Include Citizenship Question, DOJ Confirms
Philadelphia Inquirer – Ann Marimow, Matt Zapotosky, and Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2019
In a defeat for President Trump, his administration ended its effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census, saying it will begin printing forms that do not include the contentious query. The move comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court the rationale for the question as “contrived.” Officials determined there would not be enough time to continue the legal battle and meet the printing deadlines for the census questionnaire. Critics of the question, including some at the Census Bureau, said it could cause an undercount of millions of people in immigrant communities who would be afraid to return the form, leading to an inaccurate number that could skew representation and apportionment in favor of Republican areas.
Ethics Panel Launches Gaetz Investigation Over Cohen Tweet
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/29/2019
The House Committee on Ethics announced it is investigating U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz for a February tweet in which he threatened to release embarrassing personal information about President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. The committee said it has opened a formal inquiry into Gaetz’s comment based on a complaint from a fellow lawmaker, who is not identified. According to the ethics panel, Gaetz disregarded an initial review of the complaint, an extraordinary rebuke to his colleagues. Gaetz’s initial attack on Cohen came a day before the former Trump confidant was slated to testify to the House Oversight Committee, a high-profile hearing in which Cohen ultimately slammed the president as dishonest and provided evidence he paid hush money to women ahead of the 2016 election.
Gregory Craig Preps for Trial Tightrope in Foreign Agent Case
Law.com – Andrew Strickler | Published: 7/1/2019
Attorney Gregory Craig was charged with misleading Department of Justice officials six years ago about a Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom report commissioned by Paul Manafort and public-relations activities that would have triggered a duty for Skadden to publicly register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Craig has vehemently denied lying to FARA officials or helping spin the report to influence a U.S. audience. He has also argued that neither of the government’s charged statutes imposed a clear obligation on him to reveal to FARA officials all the information they might have wanted to know.
House Democrats Sue for Trump’s Tax Returns
Politico – Brian Faler | Published: 7/2/2019
House Democrats sued for President Trump’s tax returns, marking the beginning of a high-stakes legal fight over his efforts to keep them secret. Democrats are seeking six years’ worth of returns under a 1924 law allowing the leaders of Congress’ tax committees to examine anyone’s confidential tax information. Democrats hope the documents will answer a host of questions about Trump’s finances. The president has defied a decades-old tradition of presidents voluntarily releasing their returns, and his administration is fighting the effort to force his hand, arguing Democrats do not have a legitimate reason for seeking the information. While the fight over Trump’s taxes could be lengthy, with the administration likely to try to drag out the proceedings beyond next year’s elections, some see signs the courts are trying to move quickly on the oversight challenges.
It’s a Question No One Says They Want to Ask. But the Women Running for President Keep Hearing It.
New York Times – Lisa Lerer | Published: 7/2/2019
Three years after nominating the first woman in history to head a presidential ticket, nearly six months after a wave of energized women swept Democrats into power in the U.S. House, and as a record number of women run for president, the party finds itself grappling with the strangely enduring question of the electability of women, and with the challenge for the candidates of refuting it before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Privately, Democratic strategists, candidates, and officials say they have been alarmed by how deeply doubts about female electability have taken hold. A portion of the party’s voters suggest they are eager to see a woman on the ticket but fear that putting her in the top slot could cost them the White House again.
Journalists, Pundits and Retired Politicians Put on a Show for Lobbyists
MAPLight.org – Andrew Perez, Abigail Luke, and Tom Zelina | Published: 7/2/2019
The practice of paying high-profile Washington, D.C. insiders to speak at industry trade shows and conferences, known as “buckraking,” is not a recent development. But as the rules on political participation by nonprofits and trade associations have been loosened, it has become common for lobbying groups to pay large sums to influential insiders who drive news coverage and public opinion. Guidelines on paid speeches vary widely across the industry, although the Society of Professional Journalists calls for reporters and editors to “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”
NRA Meltdown Has Trump Campaign Sweating
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/3/2019
The National Rifle Association (NRA) aired an avalanche of television ads and pushed its five million-plus members to the polls for Donald Trump in 2016, propelling him in the Rust Belt states that delivered him the presidency. Now, the gun rights group is in total meltdown and senior Republicans and Trump campaign officials are alarmed. The turmoil is fueling fears that the NRA will be diminished heading into the election, leaving the Republican Party with a gaping hole in its political machinery. With the Chamber of Commerce and Koch political network withdrawing from their once-dominant roles in electing conservatives, Republicans worry that three groups that have long formed the core of their electoral infrastructure will be effectively on the sidelines.
Rep. Duncan Hunter’s Affairs with Congressional Staff Raise Sexual Harassment Concerns
Roll Call – Emily Kopp | Published: 6/28/2019
Republican Party leaders have demurred on whether U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter should resign over revelations he pursued relationships with two congressional staffers, including one of his own aides. But that does not mean allegations that Hunter had “intimate relationships,” as U.S. attorneys described them in a recent court filing, with two staffers will not trigger consequences on Capitol Hill. The relationships were revealed in a motion filed in connection with Hunter’s upcoming trial on charges alleging he misused campaign funds for personal expenses. Hunter dipped into campaign coffers to pay for drinks out, couples’ trips, and Uber rides from the women’s homes to his congressional office, prosecutors say. The relationships predate a law that amended the House’s code of conduct to prohibit members of Congress from dating subordinates. But Hunter’s behavior still raises ethical concerns, experts say.
‘The Enigma of the Entire Mueller Probe’: Focus on origins of Russian investigation puts spotlight on Maltese professor
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Shane Harris, and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2019
A conversation between Maltese-born academic Joseph Mifsud and Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, eventually relayed by an Australian diplomat to U.S. government officials, was cited by special counsel Robert Mueller as the event that set in motion the FBI probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. With Attorney General William Barr’s review of the counterintelligence investigation underway, the origins of the inquiry itself are now in the spotlight and with them, the role of Mifsud. Some of President Trump’s allies and advisers have been floating a provocative theory: that Mifsud was a Western intelligence plant, citing exaggerated and at times distorted details about his life. Such a notion runs counter to the description of Mifsud in the Mueller report, which states he “had connections to Russia” and “maintained various Russian contacts.”
The Nationwide Battle Over Gerrymandering Is Far from Over
Politico – Steven Shepard and Scott Bland | Published: 6/27/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that federal courts have no business deciding how much partisan gerrymandering is too much did not end the fight over how politicians draw political lines, it just moved the battlefield. The justices accelerated the race between the two parties to tilt the system to their advantage by electing as many governors and legislators as possible or, in some states, getting voters to support ballot measures to take the redistricting process out of politicians’ hands by 2021. While the justices closed off filing legal challenges to gerrymandering in federal courts, they explicitly said those lawsuits are still fair game in state courts. It was there that Democratic-aligned plaintiffs successfully demolished Pennsylvania’s Republican-drawn congressional map before the 2018 elections.
Trump Advisers Pursue Democratic Drug-Price Ideas as Campaign Looms
Washington Post – Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Laurie McGinley | Published: 7/2/2019
As President Trump presses to make health care a central plank of his 2020 reelection bid, he is frustrated with those he thinks are thwarting his ability to deliver on a major campaign promise: lowering drug prices. That has included Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former drug executive who until very recently pushed back on proposals to import lower-cost drugs from Canada and negotiate drug prices in Medicare. Now, though, under pressure to deliver campaign talking points, Azar has reversed his long-standing opposition to ideas traditionally espoused by Democrats and reviled by most Republicans and the drug industry.
Trump Facebook Ads Use Models to Portray Actual Supporters
AP News – Robert Condon | Published: 7/2/2019
A series of Facebook video ads for President Trump’s re-election campaign shows what appears to be a young woman strolling on a beach in Florida, a Hispanic man on a city street in Texas, and a bearded hipster in a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., all making glowing, voice-over endorsements of the president. But the people in the videos that ran in the past few months are all actually models in stock video footage produced far from the U.S. in France, Brazil, and Turkey, and available to anyone online for a fee. Though the 20-second videos include tiny disclaimers that say, “actual testimonial, actor portrayal,” they raise the question why a campaign that can fill arenas with supporters would have to buy stock footage of models.
Twitter Adds Labels for Tweets That Break Its Rules – a Move with Potentially Stark Implications for Trump’s Account
Boston Globe – Elizabeth Gwoskin and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2019
Political figures who use Twitter to threaten or abuse others could find their tweets slapped with warning labels. The new policy comes amid complaints that President Trump has gotten a free pass from Twitter to post hateful messages and attack his enemies in ways they say could lead to violence. From now on, a tweet that Twitter deems to involve matters of public interest, but which violates the service’s rules, will be obscured by a warning explaining the violation. Users will have to tap through the warning to see the underlying message, but the tweet will not be removed. Twitter said the policy applies to all government officials, candidates and similar public figures with more than 100,000 followers. In addition to applying the label, Twitter won’t use its algorithms to “elevate” or otherwise promote such tweets.
Ukraine Role Focuses New Attention on Giuliani’s Foreign Work
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/30/2019
Pavel Fuks, a wealthy Ukrainian-Russian developer looking for ways to attract more investment from the U.S. to his hometown of Kharkiv, Ukraine, enlisted an especially well-connected American to help him: Rudolph Giuliani. Fuks hired Giuliani, who in 2018 would become the president’s personal lawyer, under a one-year deal to help improve Kharkiv’s emergency services and bolster its image as a destination for investment. Fuks’s description of Giuliani as a lobbyist further highlighted a controversy over what some say is a pattern by Giuliani of providing influence with the Trump administration. Democrats have asked whether Giuliani’s role working in a number of foreign countries fits the legal definition of lobbying and requires him to register as a foreign agent, something Giuliani has not done.
Welcome to 2020, the Era of Crowdfunded Presidential Debates
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 7/2/2019
Democrats this year are giving not only to help their preferred candidates, but also to offer a small token of appreciation for a clever policy idea for someone else, or to keep an underdog in the game. Welcome to the 2020 primaries, an era of crowdfunded presidential debates. Campaign donations and debates have become intermingled this year, with the Democratic National Committee for the first time requiring that candidates reach a certain number of donors to qualify for primary debates. That has created an intense focus on fundraising, with candidates asking supporters for money specifically to help them qualify for the widely watched forums. More than 100 debate viewers from across the country responded to a call-out by The Washington Post on Instagram, asking them about the moments that resonated with them and drove them to give money.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – A GOP Governor Wants to Cancel a Nike Contract after Flag-Shoe Flap, but the City It’s Headed for Isn’t Backing Down
Greenwich Time – Eli Rosenberg and Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 7/3/2019
Nike stopped production of shoes that featured the image of an American flag after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly lodged a complaint. Kaepernick, who is a face of the company, said he found the Betsy Ross flag designed in 1777 offensive because of its connection to the era of slavery. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he ordered state authorities to revoke an incentive package it offered Nike to open a factory in the state. But Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord said the city would honor the agreement. Boycotts by companies and independent contractors over governmental policies that cross what some see as lines on race or gender have become a common. Ducey’s decision inverted the calculation – in this case, a state would monetarily punish a private company for a political decision it made.
Connecticut – They Love Public Financing. The Oversight, Not as Much.
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 7/3/2019
Watchdogs are concerned the Connecticut General Assembly’s relationship with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) could undermine campaign finance reforms adopted in 2005. Near the end of the 2019 session, a deal by legislative leaders sped an elections bill that contained a calculated slap at the SEEC through the Senate in little more than a minute. It would have set term limits on the agency’s director, treating elections enforcement differently than the state’s other watchdogs. The measure marked the fifth time since 2011 the Legislature has at least attempted to curb the powers of the SEEC or loosen campaign finance rules, reflecting a longstanding antipathy towards the agency that not only enforce the laws, but bankrolls campaigns.
Missouri – Meet the Consultant Who Got Stenger Elected, and Why He’s Still ‘Proud’ He Won
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 6/30/2019
Two days after Steve Stenger pleaded guilty to federal “pay-to-play” charges, Democratic consultant Michael Kelley was on television, sounding as though he barely knew the former St. Louis County executive. “… An absolutely ridiculous thing for Steve Stenger to have been involved in,” Kelly said. Left unsaid was the fact that Stenger’s campaign had paid Kelley’s Show Me Victories – the political communications arm of the Kelley Group – $550,000 during his two successful election campaigns. Nor did Kelley mention that Stenger, as county executive, had been a regular at the Kelley Group’s offices, visiting almost weekly for meetings in 2018. In addition to the Stenger campaign, Show Me Victories has worked on nearly every major local ballot proposition in the last few years.
New Jersey – U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Bridgegate Appeal. Stunning Move Keeps Alive Case That Dogged Christie.
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/28/2019
Bridget Anne Kelly, the one-time aide to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie whose “time for some traffic problems” email became a key focal point of the Bridgegate corruption scandal, will get a final chance to argue she was wrongfully convicted. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Kelly’s appeal – weeks before she is due to report to federal prison – reviving a case that many had thought was finally over. The decision to review her conviction could raise new questions about the ability of the government to take on major political prosecutions, by a court that has taken aim at a number of high-profile corruption cases in recent years. Lawyers for Kelly had argued that federal prosecutors used criminal fraud statutes typically used in cases of personal gain, such as bribery, to instead criminalize routine political behavior.
North Dakota – Legislator as Landlord: Financial disclosures don’t highlight state agency leases with North Dakota elected officials
Jamestown Sun – John Hageman | Published: 6/30/2019
Several current or former elected state officials in North Dakota have an interest in property rented by state agencies, but those financial relationships were not readily apparent on campaign disclosure forms. The officials defended the leases, which are not awarded through a formal competitive bidding process, as a byproduct of North Dakota’s citizen-run Legislature and said they do not affect their decision-making. Dina Butcher, who led the effort to pass last year’s ballot measure etching new ethics rules into the state constitution, did not directly criticize the state officials because the arrangements are not illegal, and she was not aware of any leases being unfairly awarded. But she said the ethics commission created by Measure 1 may take up the issue once it is formed.
Oregon – Campaign Finance Limits on Track to Oregon Ballot
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 7/1/2019
Voters in Oregon will decide next November whether the state constitution should allow limits on campaign donations. Legislative approval of the historic campaign finance measure comes three months after The Portland Oregonian revealed how the outsize influence of corporate campaign money helped limit environmental protections in a state that once aimed to be an environmental pioneer. Per capita, corporate interests have given more money to the average Oregon lawmaker than in any state in the country, the investigation found. Lawmakers also passed House Bill 2716, under which some large funders will need to be disclosed in some advertisements.
Texas – How a Longtime Aide to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Became a Top Lobbyist
Austin American-Statesman – Asher Price | Published: 6/27/2019
Daniel Hodge, a former aide to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott who is now a lobbyist, earned as much as $3.7 million this year representing more than two dozen clients at the state Legislature. It illuminates how someone like Hodge can, within a couple of years of hanging a shingle, become one of the highest-paid lobbyists in the state. Longtime lobbyists say the transition is a natural one, using knowledge learned and relationships built in the public sector for effective advocacy outside it. But watchdogs have pointed to the close link between the Legislature and those who peddle access to government funds as an erosion of public trust. In recent years, lawmakers have tried, with limited success, to expand restrictions on the path from state government to lobbying.
Wyoming – Wyoming Tribe Funded Effort to Kill Gambling Regulations; Sides Dispute Who Created the Group
Casper Star-Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 7/1/2019
A casino managed by the Northern Arapaho tribe gave thousands of dollars to a secretive organization trying to defeat regulated gambling in Wyoming, records show, but tribal officials say they were duped by their lobbyist who set up the group. The tribe fired the lobbyist, Mark Howell recently. Howell, and a minority of tribal leadership, denied the officials’ version of events, saying they ordered the group’s creation. The Wind River Hotel and Casino put more than $80,000 into the Wyoming Public Policy Center, which formed prior to the 2019 legislative session. The group has spent more than $60,000 in lobbying expenses and engaged in a sophisticated advertising campaign. Little had been known about the group’s activities prior to the filing. Hidden behind a wall of anonymous filings in multiple jurisdictions, the group had been afforded a level of secrecy unavailable in states with stricter corporate filing laws.
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