June 26, 2020 •
News You Can Use Digest – June 26, 2020
A Winner on Election Day in November? Don’t Count on It
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 6/24/2020
The cliffhanger elections in Kentucky and New York did not just leave the candidates and voters in a state of suspended animation wondering who had won. Election officials, lawyers, and political strategists in both parties said the lack of results was a bracing preview of what could come after the polls close in November: no clear and immediate winner in the presidential race. With the coronavirus pandemic swelling the number of mailed-in ballots to historic highs across the nation, the process of vote-counting has become more unwieldy, and election administrators are straining to keep up and deliver timely results. The jumble of election rules and deadlines by state, including in presidential battlegrounds, all but ensure the victor in a close race will not be known on November 3.
Amid Threats and Political Pushback, Public Health Officials Are Leaving Their Posts
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Ariana Eungjun Cha (Washington Post) | Published: 6/22/2020
Public health workers are confronting waves of protest at their homes and offices in addition to pressure from politicians who favor a faster reopening. Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said more than 20 health officials have been fired, resigned, or have retired in recent weeks “due to conditions related to having to enforce and stand up for strong public health tactics during this pandemic.” Although shutdown measures are broadly popular, a vocal minority opposes them vociferously. There have been attacks on officials’ race, gender, sexual orientation, and appearance. Freeman said some of the criticisms “seem to be harsher for women.”
Appeals Court Panel Orders End to Michael Flynn Case
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 6/24/2020
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit directed a federal judge to drop a criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The panel ruled in favor of Flynn and the Trump administration in preventing U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan from exercising his discretion on whether to grant the Justice Department’s motion to clear Flynn. The order was rare and came as a surprise, taking its place as yet another twist in the legal and political drama surrounding the prosecution of Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in the Russia investigation about his conversations in December 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Ex-Sens. Lott, Breaux Announce Move to Crossroads Strategies
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/15/2020
A week after exiting Squire Patton Boggs, former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott and his longtime K Street colleague, ex-Sen. John Breaux, said they were joining the lobbying shop Crossroads Strategies. Both Lott and Breaux had been at Squire Patton Boggs for the past decade. Lott’s reported ousting from the firm, amid a national reckoning on racism, led some on K Street to speculate it was tied to comments he made that drove him from Senate GOP leadership in 2002. Lott, however, said the split was based on business.
Facebook Removes Trump Ads with Symbol Once Used by Nazis to Designate Political Prisoners
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 6/18/2020
In its online salvo against antifa and “far-left mobs,” President Trump’s reelection campaign displayed a marking the Nazis once used to designate political prisoners in concentration camps. A red inverted triangle was first used in the 1930s to identify Communists, and was applied as well to Social Democrats, liberals, and other members of opposition parties. In response to queries from The Washington Post, Facebook deactivated ads that included the inverted red triangle. The symbol appeared in paid posts sponsored by Trump and Vice President Pence, as well as by the “Team Trump” campaign page.
FEC to Take Public Comments on Petition to Close ‘Bloomberg Loophole’
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 6/18/2020
The FEC agreed to take public comments on a petition to close a loophole that allowed former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg to transfer millions of dollars to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Bloomberg transferred $18 million from his self-funded campaign to the DNC in March, abusing a rule that allows candidates to funnel unlimited amounts of leftover campaign cash to party committees. Citizens United is seeking to limit the amount of money federal candidates can transfer to a party committee but noted the loophole could be closed in other way.
Judge: Bolton can publish book despite efforts to block
AP News – Eric Tucker | Published: 6/21/2020
A federal judge said former national security adviser John Bolton can move forward in publishing his tell-all book despite efforts by the Trump administration to block the release because of concerns that classified information could be exposed. The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth is a victory for Bolton in a court case that involved core First Amendment and national security issues, even as the White House pledged to keep pursuing the onetime top aide. Lamberth also made clear his concerns that Bolton had taken it upon himself to publish his memoir without formal clearance from a White House that says it was still reviewing it for classified information.
Justice Dept. Officials Testify on Politicization Under Barr
MSN – Katie Benner, Nichokas Fandos, and Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 6/24/2020
Two U.S. Justice Department officials delivered stinging congressional testimony, accusing political appointees of intervening in criminal and antitrust cases to serve the personal interests of President Trump and Attorney General William Barr. Aaron Zelinsky, a career prosecutor who worked on the Russia investigation, told the House Judiciary Committee that senior law enforcement officials intervened to seek a more lenient prison sentence for Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone for political reasons. John Elias, a senior career official in the antitrust division, charged that supervisors improperly used their powers to investigate the marijuana industry and a deal between California and four major automakers. Democrats say the hearing is part of a broader investigation into Barr’s leadership of the department.
K Street May Mostly Skip Political Conventions This Year
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/24/2020
Typically, this close to the political conventions, lobbyists would have booked hotel rooms, arranged for event spaces to host receptions, and scored passes to attend high-profile speeches, including those of the party nominees. But that has not happened this year as the influence industry faces fear of the coronavirus and fallout from location and date changes for the events. K Street’s biggest shops are among those with undetermined plans. The virus is not the only thing weighing on corporate lobbying interests. Even before COVID-19 upended Americans’ lives, many corporations, worried about associating their brands overtly in politics, had been assessing whether the large investments would be worth it.
Russia. Ukraine. China. Bolton Account Highlights Pattern of Trump Welcoming Foreign Political Help.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/18/2020
John Bolton’s book highlights Trump’s pattern of welcoming foreign political help and a casual comfort with what was once unthinkable in American politics – foreign intervention in U.S. elections. Experts fear Trump’s behavior may embolden nations to try to sway American voters in the 2020 campaign, particularly if foreign leaders conclude that helping lift Trump to a second term would be an effective way to curry favor with the White House. While Trump’s past outreach to foreign powers for political assistance triggered widespread condemnation, he has not suffered serious consequences. Bolton’s new allegations come as experts warn Russia, China, Iran, and other countries have been stepping up their efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.
Sign of the Times: The return of campaign door knockers
Politico – Christopher Cadelago | Published: 6/20/2020
When the pandemic forced a national quarantine, campaigns were confronted with the daunting prospect of permanently sidelining the most reliable method to reach voters: knocking on their doors. But recent days have marked a shift in that thinking as states reopen for business and more Americans venture out in public. President Trump and Republican allies have resumed some level of in-person field operations in every state where they are campaigning. GOP-paid door knockers are now back in nearly every November battleground, party officials said. While Joe Biden’s campaign is not expecting an immediate return to the field, aides are in touch with local health officials and state parties to weigh their comfort level and are making assessments on a weekly basis about when it is safe to resume in-person campaigning.
Trade Groups Make Lobbying Push to Be Included in Small Business Loan Program
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 6/19/2020
The group that represents trade associations lobbied for professional and advocacy organizations struggling through the coronavirus to be eligible to receive small business loans. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) hosted a virtual fly-in to call for changes to the Paycheck Protection Program so 501(c)(6) organizations can receive loans. The groups, which include trade associations, professional societies, and local chambers of commerce, were left out of the program when Congress passed its $2.2 trillion relief bill in March. “As the unemployment rate has skyrocketed, other revenue sources for associations are down as well, including membership dues, and things like advertising, and sponsorships,” said Chris Vest, ASAE director of public policy.
Treasury, SBA Cave to Demands for Bailout Transparency
Politico – Victoria Guida | Published: 6/19/2020
The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration bowed to congressional pressure and said they will disclose information on companies that received loans under the government’s small business rescue program. The names of companies and nonprofits that got loans larger than $150,000 under the Paycheck Protection Program will be released, along with other identifying information. Loan amounts will only be given within a certain range. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the move represents an agreement with the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Small Business Committee. Those lawmakers had asked for all borrowers to be identified; the deal will cover nearly 75 percent of the more than $500 billion that has been lent out, though only a minority of the 4.5 million total beneficiaries.
Trump Crony’s Gas Deal Reignites Conflict-of-Interest Concerns
Courthouse News Service – Adam Klasfeld | Published: 6/19/2020
On the campaign trail a year before his election, Donald Trump boasted in a radio interview that his real estate holdings in Istanbul could influence U.S.-Turkish foreign policy as president. “I have a little conflict-of-interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul, and it’s a tremendously successful job,” Trump disclosed. As a second election cycle looms, Trump’s Turkish business partner on that Istanbul property is homing in on a liquefied natural gas deal that can dramatically boost the U.S.-Turkey energy trade for more than a decade. The man at the center of the gas deal is Mehmet Ali Yalçindag, chairperson of Turkey’s oldest state-sponsored trade group, who brought Trump’s real estate empire into Istanbul in 2012. He is the son-in-law of Aydin Dogan, who owns Trump Towers Istanbul.
Trump Ousts Manhattan U.S. Attorney Who Investigated President’s Associates
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Ellen Nakashima, Matt Zapotosky, and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2020
Attorney General William Barr said President Trump fired the top federal prosecutor in New York, ending an unprecedented standoff between Barr and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who had resisted being removed from his post. Barr informed Berman of the president’s move in a sharply worded letter, explaining that Berman’s deputy, Audrey Strauss, will serve as the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan until the Senate can confirm a permanent replacement. Under Berman, the office managed a number of sensitive investigations involving people close to Trump. The fight between Barr and the nation’s most powerful U.S. attorney deepened alarm among Democrats over Barr’s management of the Justice Department, generating fresh accusations the attorney general is placing the president’s interests above those of the public.
Twitter Labels Trump Video Tweet as Manipulated Media, Continuing Its Crackdown on Misinformation
MSN – Kat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 6/18/2020
Twitter took the rare step of appending a warning label to one of President Trump’s tweets after the company determined it violated its policies on manipulated media. The president tweeted a doctored version of a popular video that went viral in 2019, which showed two toddlers, one black and one white, hugging. In the version Trump shared, the video has been edited with ominous music and a fake CNN headline that says, “Terrified toddler runs from racist baby.” The label is the latest flash point in an increasingly contentious debate over tech companies’ responsibility to police falsehoods and hoaxes spread by politicians on their platforms.
Why Obsessive K-Pop Fans Are Turning Toward Political Activism
MSN – Joe Coscarelli (New York Times) | Published: 6/22/2020
Amid a pandemic, a forthcoming presidential election, and inescapable conversations about race, K-pop fans – the typically young and diverse international enthusiasts of Korean pop music who congregate daily on social media – is trying to exert its influence in a new realm: the American political arena. Spurred at first by the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, K-pop stans made themselves known outside of music circles hen some took credit for helping to inflate expectations for President Trump’s rally in Tulsa by reserving tickets they had no plans to use. But while the Trump campaign denied he prank affected attendance, the call to action in K-pop circles revealed a growing realization that fans’ efficient social-media tactics for fundraising or making a song go viral can also be used for political activism.
Canada – Conservative Senator Victor Oh Faces Censure for Free Trip to China
The Globe and Mail – Robert Fife and Steven Chase | Published: 6/18/2020
The Senate Ethics and Conflict of Interest Committee is recommending Senator Victor Oh be censured for violating the chamber’s conflict-of-interest and ethics code by accepting an all-expenses paid trip to China for himself and two of his colleagues. Senate Ethics Officer Pierre Legault criticized Oh for providing incomplete testimony and withholding information, saying his conduct “raises questions about his integrity.” Censure in Parliament is a form of severe disapproval for the ethical actions of a parliamentarian. The committee did not recommend further sanctions but urged Oh to formally apologize.
Canada – Senate Ethics Committee Recommends Rescinding Suspension of Senator Lynn
The Globe and Mail – Kristy Kirkup | Published: 6/22/2020
The Senate should rescind the suspension of Lynn Beyak ordered in February, the standing committee on ethics and conflict-of-interest for senators. The recommendation is the latest development in a drawn-out controversy for the Ontario senator who posted letters to her website the committee found contained racist content. In February, the Senate voted to suspend Beyak for a second time after it approved a previous ethics committee report on her conduct. The report recommended she be suspended without pay for the duration of the parliamentary session, apologize, and participate in educational programs.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona House Ethics Chair Weighs Holding Hearings into Claims Against Lawmaker
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/22/2020
The House Ethics Committee chairperson is weighing whether to hold hearings into its investigation of Arizona Rep. David Cook, Rep. John Allen said he is still reviewing the evidence presented by outside investigators as well as the response submitted by Cook’s attorneys. That response demanded a full hearing to be “given the right to the fundamental protections every citizen of our country would reasonably expect to have.” Allen said there are issues to be resolved about how to handle the two basic complaints against Cook, one involving allegations of an affair with a lobbyist and the other about efforts to intervene on the lobbyist’s behalf to halt the tax sale of property.
Arizona – Scottsdale Rejects Ban on Anonymous Donations, Including GoFundMe Campaigns, to Council Members
Arizona Republic – Lorraine Lonhi | Published: 6/22/2020
What began as an effort to tweak Scottsdale’s gift policy grew complicated as some residents and council members saw an opportunity to push for campaign finance reform. A growing chorus of residents in recent years have raised concerns about developers and others who do business with the city donating to council members election campaigns. When the city proposed amending its ethics policy pertaining to gifts that might be offered to elected officials of a non-campaign nature, many advocated to extend the rules to campaign donations.
California – After Court-Ordered Recount, Controversial San Jose Ballot Measure Falls Short
San Jose Mercury News – Maggie Angst | Published: 6/22/2020
Following a court-ordered recount, a controversial ballot measure to shift the San Jose’s mayoral race to presidential election years and limit campaign contributions failed to garner the required number of signatures to qualify for the November election. The Fair Elections Initiative called for aligning mayoral elections with presidential years to boost voter turnout, particularly among people of color, and placing a cap on certain political donations, including those from any person or entity that has received city contracts of at least $250,000.
California – Former East Bay Elections Chief Charged with 34 Felony Counts Related to Illegal Campaign Spending
San Jose Mercury News – Annie Sciacca | Published: 6/17/2020
Joe Canciamilla, the former Contra Costa County elections chief, was charged with 34 felony crimes for illegally spending campaign funds for several years. He was charged with perjury involving campaign disclosure statements and grand theft of campaign funds spent on a vacation in Asia, airfare, restaurants, and other personal expenses. The charges stem from conduct starting in 2010, when Canciamilla failed to report investment gains in a campaign bank account. Though the gains were legal, using the proceeds for personal use is prohibited, said Deputy District Attorney Steve Bolen, adding that Canciamilla covered up the gains and losses from the investment account.
California – L.A. County Has Found the Cause of Its Hourslong Poll Lines. It Wasn’t the New Voting Machines.
Politico – Kim Zetter | Published: 6/17/2020
The long wait times that snarled the March 3 primary in Los Angeles County stemmed from malfunctions in the electronic tablets used to check in voters at the polls, according to an county report that adds to questions about the nation’s readiness for November. The report concludes these devices, known as electronic poll books, and not the county’s new $300 million voting machines were the source of those delays. Although the voting machines also had problems, the report faults inadequate planning, testing, and programming of the poll books that workers used to check in voters and verify they are registered, technology that has also been implicated in the recent Georgia primary.
California – LA Councilman Jose Huizar Arrested in Pay-to-Play Scheme
Los Angeles Daily News – Elizabeth Chou | Published: 6/23/2020
Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar was arrested in an investigation into corruption at City Hall. Federal prosecutors have been probing allegations that real estate developers were shaken down for cash bribes and campaign donations in exchange for Huizar’s help getting high-rise development projects through the city’s approval process. Huizar and his associates are accused of enjoying free plane travel, lavish meals, poker chips, and other perks offered by developers. In plea deals struck with the government, a former aide to the council member, one of his political fundraisers, and a real estate consultant agreed to cooperate with the investigation into Huizar and others in City Hall.
Colorado – Campaign Contribution Not a Reason to Disqualify Judge from Case, Court of Appeals Rules
Colorado Politics – Michael Kralick | Published: 6/18/2020
A prominent attorney donated more than $200,000 against an Adams County judge’s retention election. But that did not mean the judge should have recused himself from a case involving the firm’s lawyers, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled. At trial, Lyubov Bocian attempted to disqualify Adams County District Court Judge Edward Moss from her case, alleging he was biased against her attorneys at Franklin D. Azar and Associates. The Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure require a judicial substitution if there is a reasonable inference of a judge’s partiality toward either of the litigants or opposing counsel. The appellate court did not find Moss exhibited any hostility or prejudice toward the Azar firm based on his actions, nor did the panel determine Moss harbored ill will because Azar himself made a $224,000 campaign contribution against Moss’s retention election in 2018.
Florida – FBI Investigating Mayor Milissa Holland, Palm Coast Ex-Officials Say
Daytona Beach News-Journal – Matt Bruce and Erica Von Braun | Published: 6/22/2020
Two former city employees say FBI agents have interviewed them regarding Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland’s connection to Coastal Guard. The company has a unique arrangement with the city to provide some digital services. It is also Holland’s daytime employer. Michael Schottey, the city’s former communications director and now a candidate for mayor, read emails during a virtual press conference that he said show Holland used her position as mayor to solicit business for Coastal Cloud with the city of Orlando.
Florida – ‘Suspicious’ Car Rental, Other Payments by Mayor’s Campaign Not Criminal, Probe Finds
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 6/22/2020
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office investigated payments related to the 2016 mayoral campaign of Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, finding a “suspicious” car rental and some “haphazard” accounting but insufficient evidence to prove any criminal activity. The investigation delved into whether Gilbert’s rental of an Infiniti QX80 constituted an unreported campaign expenditure; whether he instructed the Miami Gardens city clerk to falsify the date on an amended campaign treasurer’s report; and whether Gilbert directed his campaign to make improper payments to a for-profit company and to incorrectly label those payments as donations to a nonprofit.
Georgia – Ethics Commission Fines Group That Backed Stacey Abrams $50,000
WAGA – Dale Russell | Published: 6/19/2020
A group backing Stacey Abrams’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign was fined $50,000 by Georgia’s ethics commission for failing to report the money it raised and spent to help her get elected. The independent committee, Gente4Abrams (People for Abrams), was set up out of state and raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the campaign without ever registering with the commission or disclosing how much it raised.
Georgia – House Republican Leaders Condemn GOP Candidate Who Made Racist Videos
Politico – Ally Mutnick ans Stephanie Zanona | Published: 6/17/2020
The House’s highest-ranking Republicans are racing to distance themselves from a leading GOP congressional candidate in Georgia after Facebook videos were uncovered in which she expresses racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic views. The candidate, Marjorie Taylor Greene, suggested Muslims do not belong in government; thinks black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party”; called George Soros, a Jewish Democratic donor, a Nazi; and said she would feel “proud” to see a Confederate monument if she were black because it symbolizes progress made since the Civil War. Greene is entering an August runoff as the favorite to secure the Republican nomination for a district where that is tantamount to winning the general election in November.
Illinois – Rules Requiring Nonprofits to Register as Lobbyists Delayed Until 2021
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 6/18/2020
Rules requiring nonprofit organizations to register as lobbyists in Chicago were set to go into effect on January 1, 2020 but were initially delayed until April after dozens of nonprofit groups objected, saying the regulations would force them to pay costly registration fees or risk $1,000 fines. The Board of Ethics attempted to clarify the new rules, issuing three advisory opinions that exempted grassroots groups or residents who press city officials on issues they are concerned about. But that effort was still underway when the coronavirus pandemic forced City Hall to shut down, and the delay was extended until July, and will now last through the end of 2020.
Maryland – Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Pleads Guilty in State Court to Perjury in ‘Healthy Holly’ Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 6/19/2020
A judge sentenced former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh to six months in prison for deliberately lying on financial disclosures forms to hide her lucrative “Healthy Holly” children’s book business. Under terms of Pugh’s plea deal, her time will be served concurrent with a separate, pending three-year prison sentence. Pugh pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of perjury, admitting she withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars from the disclosure forms she filed during her years as a state senator.
Missouri – Missouri Attorney General Candidate Files Ethics Complaint Against Former Governor Greitens
KDSK – PJ Randhawa and Erin Richey | Published: 6/20/2020
Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens filed paperwork to run for an unspecified statewide office in 2024. Elad Gross, a candidate for state attorney general, is asking the Missouri Ethics Commission to decide if Greitens should be able to do that even though he has not publicly announced any interest in running for office again. Experts say it is part of a trend of campaign committees avoiding the state law that requires them to close their accounts and distribute the leftover money as refunds or donations if they will not be running for office again.
Missouri – Missouri Politicians Get Around Contribution Limits by Using PACs
Columbia Missourian – Jordan Meier, Mawa Iqbal, and Spencer Norris | Published: 6/23/2020
In Missouri, contributions for state elections have been in place off and on since 1994, when voters approved a ballot measure. The limits withstood several court tests, but the Legislature repealed them twice. State voters reinstated them in 2016 and approved slightly lower caps in 2018, through passage of Clean Missouri. Even with limits in place, candidates have found creative ways to receive large donations. PACs have no restraints on the amount they can receive in donations, which makes them an ideal way to collect large checks from millionaires and special interests such as casinos, labor unions, and tobacco companies.
New Jersey – N.J. Corruption Scheme Involving Pay-to-Play Contracts Leads to Charges Against Law Firm Partner
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/19/2020
Attorney Elizabeth Valandingham was charged with lying about alleged “pay-to-play” violations in New Jersey. Valandingham, was accused of falsely claiming her law firm had not made any reportable political contributions to candidates in two towns where the firm had been vying for contracts to provide legal services, when in fact it had. While the charges against Valandingham arose from a corruption investigation in which five New Jersey political figures are accused of accepting a total of $74,900 in bribes in the form of campaign donations, they are not directly related to the bribery allegations.
New York – JCOPE Commissioners Mull Filing Criminal Complaint Over Alleged Leak
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 6/22/2020
Members of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) are contemplating whether a criminal complaint should be filed in connection with a leak investigation last year by the state inspector general’s office that failed to confirm allegations Gov. Andrew Cuomo received details of JCOPE’s confidential vote on a matter involving a former top aide to the governor. The apparent leak, which would be a criminal offense, surfaced when Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s top counsel, Howard Vargas, called Commissioner Julie Garcia and told her that Cuomo had complained to the speaker about how his appointees to the commission had voted on the matter.
Pennsylvania – Top Pa. GOP Lawmaker Fast-Tracking a Lucrative Gambling Expansion That Would Benefit a Major Campaign Donor
Philadelphia Inquirer – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Brad Bumsted (The Caucus), and Sam Jenesh (The Caucus) | Published: 6/19/2020
The top lobbyist for a gaming company seeking a lucrative gambling expansion in Pennsylvania helped host a fundraiser in Las Vegas for the leading Republican in the state Senate, Joe Scarnati. Several months later, executives from the gaming company, Golden Entertainment, poured thousands of dollars into a campaign committee controlled by Scarnati and close associates. Now, Scarnati and other top Republicans are working to secure votes for a bill that would help Golden and others like it cash in on the next frontier of expanded gambling, potentially worth millions of dollars: video-gaming terminals, known better as VGTs.
South Carolina – Conflict of interest? Councilman with Ties to Richland Mega Church Pushed Road Project
The State – Andrew Kaplan | Published: 6/18/2020
Richland County Council member Chip Jackson voted nine times for improvements to Atlas Road in the county during the last three years, even though he worked for a church and its nonprofit arm that would benefit from the work. The popularity of the megachurch, Bible Way Church of Atlas Road, and its plans to sell surrounding property to developers, were part of the reason the road was originally slated for $17 million in improvements, according to the county’s transportation director. The money was to come from the county’s sales-tax program that voters approved. Jackson’s dual roles as a council member and consultant for the church is a potential ethics violation, according to experts.
Utah – Utah Gave Group $400,000 to Sue the Feds on Public Lands Issues. It Never Did. What Happened?
Salt Lake Tribune – Brian Maffley | Published: 6/23/2020
In 2016, the Utah Legislature opened up its wallet to a nonprofit called the Foundation for Integrated Resource Management (FIRM), one of several groups that have received millions of dollars in recent years to push greater local and state control over Utah’s large expanses of federal land and imperiled wildlife. But FIRM’s taxpayer-supported charge was specific: file lawsuits against the federal government on behalf of Utah counties. The goal was to reverse restrictive land-use policies to promote “integrated” use of natural resources. Four years and $400,000 later, FIRM has yet to pursue a single legal action, according to ethics complaints filed with the IRS, the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, and state auditor.
Vermont – Candidate Incomes Outpace Average Vermonter; Advocates Seek More Disclosure
VTDigger.org – Jasper Goodman and Kit Norton | Published: 6/22/2020
Most of the top candidates seeking statewide office reported substantially higher incomes than the average Vermonter. There is no tax return requirement for individuals seeking seats in the state Legislature. Those candidates only need to fill out a brief financial disclosure form which requires reporting any source of income of $5,000 or more. But the statute requiring candidates to file the forms includes no enforcement mechanism for non-compliance. Larry Novins, executive director of the Vermont Ethics Commission, said the agency has “no ability to do anything about” candidates who do not file the forms because it has “no authority” over them. The commission can review ethics complaints but has no investigative or enforcement power.
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