News You Can Use Digest - June 21, 2019 - State and Federal Communications

June 21, 2019  •  

News You Can Use Digest – June 21, 2019


A Foreigner Paid $200,000 for Tickets to Trump’s Inaugural. Now He Says He Was Duped.
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 6/18/2019

Pavel Fuks, a Ukrainian-Russian developer, said he paid $200,000 for VIP tickets to Donald Trump’s inauguration at the direction of Yuri Vanetik, a Republican fundraiser and sometime lobbyist. Fuks now alleges in a lawsuit that his money did not buy the promised access to Trump and other influential politicians. He never received the tickets he said he was promised to an official inaugural ball, to a dinner with incoming cabinet members, or to other exclusive events. Fuks is seeking a refund from Vanetik, plus damages. The lawsuit sheds new light on efforts to accommodate foreign politicians and business executives who sought to attend Trump’s inauguration to press their agendas, curry favor, or make influential connections with the incoming administration.

DC Circuit Rejects NY State GOP-Led Challenge to Anti-‘Pay-to-Play’ Rule – Tom McPartland | Published: 6/18/2019

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a “pay-to-play” rule that bars brokers from soliciting government contracts for two years after making campaign donations to public officials. The judges said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had acted within its authority. The ruling rejected a challenge by state Republican Party organizations in New York and Tennessee, who had claimed the rule was “arbitrary and capricious” and had hurt their ability to raise funds. Judge Cornelia Pillard said the SEC had provided sufficient evidence that the law was needed to combat corruption, following specific instances of quid-pro-quo arrangements between elected officials and donors who had been awarded contracts to advise public pension funds.

Democrats and Some Republicans Question Trump’s Vetting Process after Shanahan Withdrawal
Washington Post – Karoun Demirjian | Published: 6/18/2019

Senators from both parties are asking why they did not have advance notice of the domestic violence incidents in Patrick Shanahan’s family that ended his bid to become President Trump’s permanent defense secretary, calling his nomination’s collapse the latest example of shoddy White House vetting. With his withdrawal and resignation, Shanahan joins several other former candidates for prominent Cabinet and military leadership positions in the Trump administration who bowed out after compromising details came to light. There was particular consternation among some senators that Congress was not apprised of the incidents by the administration, the FBI, or Shanahan himself. As some noted, a background check would have accompanied Shanahan’s nomination in 2017 to become the deputy defense secretary.

Drugmakers’ Lawsuit Ramps Up Fight with Trump
The Hill – Nathaniel Weixel | Published: 6/18/2019

The pharmaceutical and advertising industries are taking their fight with the Trump administration over drug price disclosures to court. Three drug companies – Amgen, Merck, and Eli Lilly – and the nation’s largest advertising group announced they were suing the administration over its new policy of requiring prescription drug manufacturers to disclose list prices in television ads. The plaintiffs argue the rule violates their First Amendment rights, and the lawsuit seeks to overturn the administration’s latest effort to bring transparency to the medication pricing system. The rule is set to take effect July 9, and the industry groups are asking for it to be put on hold before that time.

Ex-Hassan Aide Sentenced to 4 Years for Doxing Senators
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/19/2019

A former aide to U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan was sentenced to four years in prison for hacking Senate computers and releasing personal information online about five Republican senators out of anger spurred by their roles in the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan said the sentence for Jackson Cosko was needed to send a signal that criminal harassment driven by political motives would be punished severely in an era marked by extreme political polarization. Cosko said he had been struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. Hogan said he was puzzled at how Cosko kept up work in congressional offices given the cocaine, psychedelics, and alcohol he was consuming daily.

FEC Chair Makes Another Go at Regulating Online Political Ads
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 6/17/2019

FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub is proposing rules that would require some online political ads to attach a disclaimer describing who is paying for them.  The proposed guideline, similar to measures introduced by the FEC last year, would subject paid online ads to similar disclaimer rules as print, television, and radio ads. Increasingly popular social media ads, including those engaging in electioneering communications that mention a candidate shortly before an election, are currently exempt from including disclaimers under federal law. Amid ideological deadlock, the FEC has struggled to agree on how to regulate online ads since it was revealed that Russian actors purchased Facebook ads under fake accounts to influence the 2016 election.

Federal Judge Says Census Citizenship Question Merits More Consideration in Light of New Evidence
MSN – Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 6/19/2019

U.S. District Court Judge George Hazel ruled that new evidence in the case of a census citizenship question merits more consideration, opening the possibility the question could come before the Supreme Court again even after it rules as expected this month. Civil rights groups who had sued the government over its addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census had asked Hazel to reconsider his ruling on whether the government was guilty of conspiracy and intent to discriminate after new evidence in the case emerged in May. Files discovered on hard drives belonging to a deceased Republican redistricting strategist suggested he had communicated with the Trump administration about how to get the citizenship question onto the survey and the strategist had determined that adding the question would create an electoral advantage for Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

Federal Watchdog Agency Recommends Removal of Kellyanne Conway from Federal Office for Violating the Hatch Act
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Lisa Rein, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 6/13/2019

The Office of Special Counsel recommended the removal of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway from federal office for violating the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from found Conway violated the law on numerous occasions by “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.” The agency described her as a “repeat offender.” A senior White House official said the president is unlikely to punish Conway and instead will defend her. In an interview, Special Counsel Henry Kerner called his recommendation that a political appointee of Conway’s stature be fired “unprecedented.”

‘I Hate David and I Hate This Job’: Ex-Schweikert staffers describe unrest in ethics report
Arizona Republic – Ronald Hanson | Published: 6/12/2019

U.S. Rep. David Schweikert presided over a slipshod office operation with financial oversight so weak that his former chief of staff managed to take home improper, extra pay that violated House ethics rules for years, an investigation found. Oliver Schwab may have collected $60,000 in outside pay over three years above what House rules permitted and attended the 2015 Super Bowl with Schweikert as part of a taxpayer-paid trip that was reported as official business, the report said. There were other possible sources of income Schwab had that investigators could not examine. Apart from the alleged wrongful spending, the 424-page report paints the image of a congressional office simmering with discontent as Schweikert pondered a Senate run and as Schwab took out his frustrations with Schweikert on other staffers.

Legal Fight Tougher for Congressman as Wife Pleads Guilty
AP News – Julie Watson | Published: 6/13/2019

Indicted U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter has held steadfast to his contention that a corruption case against him is the result of a political witch hunt. But that argument got tougher after his wife, who worked as his campaign manager, pleaded guilty to a single corruption count and acknowledged being a co-conspirator with her husband in spending more than $200,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. Margaret Hunter accepted a plea deal that calls for 59 charges to be dismissed in exchange for her testimony, full cooperation with prosecutors, and other concessions. The conspiracy charge to which she pleaded includes all the allegations contained in the 60-count indictment.

Supreme Court Rules in Case Watched for Impact on Trump Pardons
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Natasha Bertrand | Published: 6/17/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a closely watched “double jeopardy” case, issuing a decision that preserves states’ power to limit the impact of future pardons by President Trump or his successors. The justices declined to disturb a longstanding legal principle known as dual sovereignty, which allows state governments to bring their own charges against defendants already tried or convicted in federal court, or vice versa. Democrats and others bracing for potential pardons by Trump of individuals convicted in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were tracking the case because a decision overturning the dual sovereigns rule could have complicated efforts by state prosecutors to blunt the impact of any attempt Trump may make to grant clemency to those targeted by Mueller’s team.

The Political Donor Class Is Mostly White and Male. Some Women of Color Are Trying to Change That.
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 6/19/2019

No longer content to simply be the Democratic Party’s most loyal voters, some women of color are seeking to break into the influential but overwhelmingly white and male world of political donors. The efforts are part of a broader campaign to elevate the voices of this group within the Democratic Party, which has had some success. But the efforts also reflect a worry that, without robust giving by minority women, the party will move on in the general election to focus on white Midwestern Trump voters at the expense of communities of color. The absence of women of color is particularly acute among the super-rich givers, billionaires and multimillionaires who give seven figures or more per election. The power of these donors has grown in recent years as courts have opened the floodgates to unlimited spending to try to sway elections.

‘Who’s Taking Care of the Kids?’ Is Finally a Question for Dads on the Trail, Too
MSN – Lisa Lerer (New York Times) | Published: 6/12/2019

For decades, mothers running for office have faced skepticism: “Who’s taking care of the kids?” wondered voters. As American families evolve, a number of fathers of young children are slowly being forced to grapple with the same politically loaded question. That has left them making a calculation that women have made for decades – how to pursue public life and parenthood at the same time. And at least a few of the 15 fathers who are running for president in 2020 are eager to talk about it, including the day-to-day caregiving tasks that most politician moms generally consider just business as usual. While research and surveys show female candidates still confront a steeper double standard when it comes to their family life, male politicians with young children suddenly find themselves facing something totally new – a standard.

Why the Trump Campaign Won’t Pay Police Bills
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 6/13/2019

At least 10 city governments – from Mesa, Arizona, to Erie, Pennsylvania – are still waiting for Trump to pay public safety-related invoices they have sent his presidential campaign committee in connection with his political rallies. Some invoices are three years old. In all, city governments say Trump’s campaign owes them at least $841,219. The cities are adamant Trump should pay up. But in many of these cases, there are no signed contracts between the municipal governments and the Trump campaign. The cities dispatched police officers to secure Trump’s events because they believe public safety required it, and the U.S. Secret Service asked for it. Presidential candidates should consider paying cities’ police bills even if they do not believe they are legally required to do so, some police advocates said.

From the States and Municipalities

Arkansas Judge Blocks Law on Timing of Donations
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Linda Satter | Published: 6/18/2019

An Arkansas law that bars candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election was blocked by a federal judge, prompting an immediate appeal from the state. Peggy Jones sued over the law, contending it infringes on her right of political expression by preventing her from donating money now to people she wants to support as candidates in the 2022 election cycle. U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. had enjoined the state from enforcing the law as his ruling is appealed, but later reversed that part of the ruling.

Colorado Outside Groups Spent More Than $1 Million to Influence Denver’s Election, and It Took a Lot of Work to Figure That Out
Denver Post – Andrew Kenney | Published: 6/17/2019

Outside spending is mutating faster than the city can keep pace, and it threatens to undermine the campaign finance reforms that were recently approved by Denver voters. In 2011, independent groups spent more than $700,000 on Denver’s elections, but much of that earlier spending came through PACs, which must report their finances through the city’s standard forms. In 2019, more than $1 million was spent through a different outlet. The biggest donors embraced nonprofit groups that disclose less information about their supporters during the election. It is part of a national trend that accelerated with the Citizens United case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.

Massachusetts After Being Rejected by the State, DiMasi Is Now a Registered Lobbyist at City Hall
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 6/20/2019

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi registered to lobby in Boston a day after he appealed the secretary of state’s rejection of his attempt to register as a lobbyist at the state level. Boston’s process, which operates separately from the state, was launched amid concerns the city had no effective way to regulate who was lobbying at City Hall. DiMasi’s registration could cast a spotlight on the fledgling rules, which proponents say are still a work in progress. The city ordinance includes a mechanism to automatically disqualify anyone from lobbying for 10 years if they have been convicted of a felony that violates certain state lobbying and ethics laws. The language closely mirrors the statute under which the secretary of state’s office rejected DiMasi from registering with the state.

Montana Montana Lobbyist Spending Reports Now Harder to Access
Montana Public Radio – Corin Cates-Carney | Published: 6/18/2019

At least $6.5 million was spent on lobbying during Montana’s 2019 legislative session. In the past, commissioners of political practices have devoted staff time to translating the paper forms lobbyists are required to file into a single electronic document, which the public or the press could then search and sort. But this year, Political Practices Commissioner Jeff Mangan, who was appointed in 2017, chose to not require his staff to do that. “It’s not their jobs to input, or data input, information for the lobbyists,” Mangan said. Both lobbyists and watchdog groups say Montana’s lobbying disclosure laws are better than most other states. But Denise Roth Barber, managing director at the National Institute on Money in State Politics, says the lack of consistent electronic filing is a weakness.

New Jersey Gov Signs Dark-Money Bill, Expects Lawmakers to Roll Back Problem Parts
NJ Spotlight – Colleen O’Dea | Published: 6/18/2019

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that requires, at least for the moment, politically active nonprofits or 501(c)(4) groups to disclose their high-dollar contributors – those giving at least $10,000 – when these groups spend at least $3,000 to influence an election, legislation, or regulations. The law also increases the maximum amounts of all campaign contributions. It raises the amount that an individual candidate can receive from $2,600 to $3,000 per election and increases the amounts that political committees and party committees can receive, as well. Assemblyperson Andrew Zwicker said he introduced a “cleanup” bill to address Murphy’s concerns over the impact the new law would have on some nonprofit advocacy groups.

Oklahoma Ethics Commission Says Money Is Tight
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 6/15/2019

A year after the state’s watchdog panel sued unsuccessfully for more funding, its financial situation remains dire, officials say. “It will be a very tight year,” Oklahoma Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said at the agency’s regular monthly meeting. Legislators budgeted the commission $716,621 for the 2020 fiscal year, an increase of about $6,000 from its current appropriations. That “doesn’t even cover the personnel costs,” Kemp said. Lawmakers also voted to remove $550,000 from the commission’s revolving fund and to cap how much it can spend in the future from that fund at $150,000 a year.

Oregon Limits on Oregon Campaign Money Are Dead. But Voters May Still Get to Weigh In.
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 6/14/2019

Limits on campaign donations will have to wait for another legislative session in Oregon. A bill that cleared the House with several loopholes intact is not advancing in the state Senate. Meanwhile, lawmakers are moving ahead with a measure asking voters to amend Oregon’s constitution by authorizing the creation of campaign finance restrictions. The death of House Bill 2714, which would set specific dollar caps in anticipation of the constitutional measure’s passage, gives lawmakers more time to find agreement before Senate Joint Resolution 18 would go to voters in November 2020.

Virginia Supreme Court Dismisses Challenge to Findings of Racial Gerrymandering in Virginia Districts
Philadelphia Inquirer – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 6/17/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the challenge to a lower court’s findings that some of Virginia’s legislative districts were racially gerrymandered, saying House Republicans did not have legal standing to challenge the decision. The decision could give an advantage to the state’s Democrats. All 140 seats in the Legislature are on the ballot this fall, and the GOP holds two-seat majorities in both the House and the Senate. The case concerned 11 voting districts drawn after the 2010 census, each with at least a 55 percent population of black residents of voting age. Democratic voters in those districts sued, saying lawmakers had run afoul of the Constitution by packing too many black voters into the districts, diminishing their voting power.

Washington These Voters Are Using Democracy Vouchers to Influence Seattle’s City Council Races
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 6/12/2019

Across Seattle, the taxpayer-funded democracy vouchers mailed in February to registered voters and other eligible residents are changing how races are run: 42 of 55 candidates for the council’s seven district seats have signed up and together have collected nearly $1.6 million in vouchers. The program, unlike any other in the country, is meant to involve more people in the electoral process, help grassroots candidates compete, and encourage them to interact with regular voters rather than dialing for dollars from wealthy donors. Participating candidates must abide by special spending and contribution limits. More than 30 candidates have already gathered at least $20,000 in vouchers, and they are interacting with voters in various ways.

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