June 2, 2017 •
News You Can Use Digest – June 2, 2017
The GOP Inherits What Trump Has Wrought
Washington Post – Karen Tumulty and Robert Costa | Published: 5/26/2017
President Trump – and specifically, his character and conduct – now dominate the national political conversation. The dynamic is shaping the contours of this year’s special congressional elections and contests for governor, as well as the jockeying ahead the 2018 midterm elections. When U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte assaulted a reporter who had attempted to ask him a question, many saw not an isolated outburst by an individual, but the obvious, violent result of Trump’s charge that journalists are “the enemy of the people.” Nonetheless, Gianforte won Montana’s special election to fill a safe Republican seat.
A Vocal Defender of Ethics Has Fans – and Foes
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos | Published: 5/30/2017
Ethics have been thrust to the forefront in President Trump’s Washington, where his own vast holdings and those of his asset-rich cabinet and advisers from businesses and lobbying firms have raised accusations of conflicts-of-interest. Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub has emerged as one of the few voices from within the government willing to second-guess the president and his advisers. The confrontations have given Shaub, a self-effacing career bureaucrat, the reputation of a fighter. Admiring fans have put his face on T-shirts. He even has a Facebook fan group, with more than 1,000 likes.
Jared Kushner Now a Focus in Russia Investigation
New York Times – Matthew Rosenberg, Mark Mazzetti, and Maggie Haberman | Published: 5/29/2017
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was looking for a direct line to Vladimir Putin, a search that in mid-December found him in a room with a Russian banker whose financial institution was deeply intertwined with Russian intelligence, and remains under sanction by the U.S. Federal and congressional investigators are now examining what exactly Kushner and the Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, wanted from each other. The banker is a close associate of Putin, but he has not been known to play a diplomatic role for the Russian leader. That has raised questions about why he was meeting with Kushner at a crucial moment in the presidential transition.
White House Details Ethics Waivers for Ex-Lobbyists and Corporate Lawyers
New York Times – Eric Lipton and Steve Eder | Published: 5/31/2017
The White House disclosed the ethics waivers given to appointees who work for President Trump and Vice President Pence, including four former lobbyists. The waivers exempt the appointees from certain portions of ethics rules aimed at barring potential conflicts-of-interest. Among the high-profile figures who received waivers: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, who were both permitted to engage with their former employers or clients. The details were made public after a dispute between the White House and the Office of Government Ethics, which had been pushing the Trump administration to stop granting such waivers in secret.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona – Arizona Attorney General Investigating Phoenix Law Firm’s Falsified Lobbying Documents
Arizona Republic – Dustin Gardiner and Rob O’Dell | Published: 5/31/2017
The Arizona attorney general’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into a law firm that filed falsified documents with the city of Phoenix. Burch & Cracchiolo violated the city’s lobbying ordinance and filed falsified documents to make it appear it had complied, The Arizona Republic reported in January. The firm later withdrew those documents and said they were prepared by a non-attorney staffer. Although Phoenix did not prosecute anyone at Burch & Cracchiolo for not complying with lobbyist regulations, the issue of falsified documents is a separate legal matter. Filing false documents with a government agency can be a felony offense.
Arizona – Ex-Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce, Lobbyist Jim Norton Indicted
Arizona Republic – Ryan Randazzo | Published: 5/25/2017
Former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce and Johnson Utilities owner George Johnson were indicted in federal court on bribery, conspiracy, and other charges. The indictment alleges Johnson and Pierce developed an elaborate scheme that paid Pierce over $30,000 and provided employment for his wife, who was also charged. In return, Pierce pushed through a rate increase for Johnson Utilities to pay for a personal tax debt that Johnson owed. Johnson allegedly used a lobbying firm to funnel money to Pierce. He also reportedly offered Pierce and the lobbyist, Jim Norton, “the opportunity to purchase land valued at approximately $350,000.”
Arizona – Phoenix: Tougher rules for paid lobbyists to take effect July 1
Arizona Republic – Dustin Gardiner | Published: 5/31/2017
The Phoenix City Council gave approval to an overhaul of the lobbying ordinance so it can prosecute paid lobbyists who flout rules requiring them to register, list their clients, and disclose gifts to officials. The existing law was adopted more than two decades ago but lacked language that explicitly said the city could prosecute those who do not comply. Under the new rules, which take effect July 1, lobbyists who do not file the required registration or expense-disclosure forms can face sanctions, including fines of up to $2,500, suspension from lobbying, and possible jail time for repeated offenses.
Kentucky – Bevin, Facing Ethics Complaint, Blasts Journalist Over Reporting About His Mansion
Lexington Herald-Leader – Allison Ross (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 5/28/2017
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, facing an ethics complaint about the unusually low purchase price of the mansion he Is living in, took to Twitter to personally attack a journalist who has been reporting about the controversy. Bevin called Louisville Courier-Journal reporter Tom Loftus a “sick man” for allegedly being “caught sneaking” around Bevin’s home and property. The Courier-Journal rejected the claim that Loftus was “caught sneaking” around or that he was removed from the property. At the time Loftus visited the home, Bevin would not say whether he and his family lived there, nor had he responded to requests for details about the $1.6 million sale of the home to Anchorage Place, a limited-liability corporation whose ownership is unknown.
Massachusetts – Former Top Mass. Lawmaker Often Helped His Business, Family
Boston Globe – Andrea Estes | Published: 5/30/2017
Massachusetts Rep. Garrett Bradley has shown a pattern in his 16-year legislative career of taking actions in his official capacity that advanced his business interests, state records and interviews with other officials show. E-mails to and from Bradley show he helped his law firm get millions of dollars in legal work from the state retirement system in 2004, something Bradley’s own legal advisers later warned him against. Bradley also tapped his connections to help his sister and father-in-law get jobs, and two members of the Governor’s Council accused him of using political donations to help his wife get a judgeship. Ethics experts said Bradley’s conduct, at a minimum, looks bad, and some of it raises thorny legal questions.
Missouri – Missouri Pay-to-Play Allegations Heat Up Over New Links Between Lawmaker, Megadonor
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 5/25/2017
The relationship between the Missouri Senate President Ron Richard and an emissary for one of the state’s most prolific political donors is raising eyebrows in the statehouse. Richard has been dogged by “pay-to-play” allegations over a bill he sponsored that would benefit a company owned by Republican donor David Humphreys. Now, new details about Richard’s association with Paul Mouton, widely considered to be Humphreys’ eyes and ears in the Capitol, are rekindling the long-simmering accusations.
New York – Ex-Sterne Agee Executive Admits to N.Y. Pension Fund Bribes
Bloomberg.com – Christian Berthelson | Published: 5/30/2017
A former managing director at broker-dealer Sterne Agee & Leach pleaded guilty to bribing a former portfolio manager at New York state’s retirement fund in exchange for tens of millions of dollars’ worth of business. Deborah Kelley admitted that between 2014 and 2016, she paid bribes including entertainment, travel, and lavish meals to Navnoor Kang, former director of fixed income and head of portfolio strategy at the New York State Common Retirement Fund. She expensed the costs to Sterne Agee, while omitting that the money was spent entertaining Kang.
Pennsylvania – Lack of Gift Ban for Pa.’s Legislators Continues to Miff Critics
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Angela Couloumbis (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Karen Langley | Published: 5/28/2017
Critics often cite Pennsylvania as having the weakest gift regulations in the nation. Former legislators say lawmakers resist changes because they enjoy the perks of the job, including being entertained by lobbyists and others with an interest in state government. The gift-ban issue gained traction and urgency after a 2014 scandal that revealed some House members had accepted envelopes stuffed with cash from an undercover informant posing as a lobbyist for law enforcement. Both chambers clamored to change their rules to prohibit cash gifts, but the fervor to pass stronger bans dulled, and the issue got pushed to the legislative back-burner.
Texas – Ethics Reform Not Swept Under Rug, But Not Sweeping Either
Texas Tribune – Jay Root | Published: 6/1/2017
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott praised lawmakers for enacting a “very meaningful” ethics package that broadens transparency on public officials’ outside business dealings, and strips convicted legislators of their offices and retirement benefits. A compromise bill passed by the House and Senate gave Abbott legislative approval on three of the six major ethics bills he championed at the outset of the session. Three other Abbott-backed bills, as well as other ethics measures outside the governor’s reform agenda, died as the Legislature ended its regular session.
Texas – Texas Lawmaker Threatens to Shoot Colleague After Reporting Protesters to ICE
New York Times – Matthew Haag | Published: 5/29/2017
A chaotic scene erupted. on the last day of the legislative session in Texas when demonstrators in the House gallery began chanting in opposition to a new law that bans sanctuary cities. On the floor, Rep. Matt Rinaldi turned to several Democratic lawmakers and told them he had reported the protesters to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Rep. César Blanco said Rinaldi told him and others, “We are going to have them deported,” and then used an obscenity. The exchange led to a confrontation among lawmakers, with some pushing and pointing at one another. Rinaldi got into a face-to-face argument with Rep. Poncho Nevárez and threatened to shoot him. Legislators with licenses may carry concealed firearms in the Capitol, but it was not clear if Rinaldi was armed.
Washington – Citizen Watchdog Peppers Washington State with Campaign-Finance Complaints Against Dems
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 5/30/2017
From his home office in Tenino, a small town about 15 miles south of Olympia – and the occasional coffee shop – Glen Morgan has launched a volley of campaign finance complaints against Democratic candidates and groups. As of May 23, the attorney general’s office has recorded 79 complaints for this year; Morgan filed 75 of those. Morgan argues his efforts keep government honest and highlight quirks in Washington’s disclosure laws he believes need changing.
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