News You Can Use Digest - June 28, 2019 - State and Federal Communications

June 28, 2019  •  

News You Can Use Digest – June 28, 2019


Beltway ‘Inundated’ with Fundraisers as Deadline Nears
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/25/2019

The subject line of a recent email solicitation from U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s campaign captures the upcoming fundraising scene in Washington perfectly: “You’re about to be inundated. Sorry in advance.” With the second quarter fundraising deadline looming, lawmakers are sounding the alarms for their donors – making pleas to far-flung, small-dollar givers online and reliable contributors from K Street’s lobbying community to help them boost their numbers. Even though lawmakers and their challengers still have 17 months before the 2020 elections, the second quarter of this year can be pivotal for incumbents looking to scare away potential opponents in primaries or even the general election with impressive cash-in-hand totals.

Biden’s Ties to Segregationist Senator Spark Campaign Tension
Boston Globe – Matt Viser and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2019

When Joe Biden was a freshman in the U.S. Senate, he reached out to an older colleague for help on one of his early legislative proposals: the courts were ordering racially segregated school districts to bus children to create more integrated classrooms, a practice Biden opposed and wanted to change. The recipient of Biden’s entreaty was Sen. James Eastland, at the time a well-known segregationist who had called blacks “an inferior race” and once vowed to prevent blacks and whites from eating together in Washington. The exchange, revealed in a series of letters, offers a new glimpse into an old relationship that erupted as a major controversy for Biden’s presidential campaign.

Candidates Hunt Desperately for Viral Moments
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 6/24/2019

As the crowded field of Democratic candidates jostle for the presidential nomination, the hunt for elusive breakout opportunities is increasingly urgent. But while viral moments are presented as spontaneous – and uniquely revealing about the candidates — the process can be anything but random, and the campaigns are devoting significant resources to spotting, cultivating, and publicizing them. Or in some cases, creating them outright. A good viral moment can help a candidate stand out in the sprawling field. A great one can telegraph positive qualities – humor, intelligence, compassion – in ways that reverberate far beyond the reach of a coffee shop in New Hampshire. In the best-case scenario, a single episode pushes interested voters over the fence to become full-fledged supporters.

Claiming to Be Cherokee, Contractors with White Ancestry Got $300 Million
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek and Paul Pringle | Published: 6/26/2019

An investigation by The Los Angeles Times demonstrates a failure in the efforts to help disadvantaged Americans by steering municipal, state, and federal contracts to qualified minority-owned companies. Since 2000, the federal government and authorities in 18 states have awarded more than $300 million under minority contracting programs to companies whose owners made unsubstantiated claims of being Native American. The vetting process for Native American applicants appears weak in many cases, government records show, and officials often accept flimsy documentation or unverified claims of discrimination based on ethnicity. The process is often opaque, with little independent oversight.

Duncan Hunter Had Affairs with Women He Worked With, Including His Own Aide
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 6/25/2019

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter illegally used campaign donations to finance extramarital romantic relationships with women he worked alongside, including one of his own aides, according to federal prosecutors. Hunter pursued five “intimate relationships” in total, and tapped donor funds to finance his liaisons, including ski trips, nights out in Washington, D.C., and Uber rides between his office to their homes. Government attorneys argued information about the relationships should be heard during the trial because they are central to his case, not “prurient.” Hunter’s infidelities have been alluded to in public court documents before, but the affairs were only described as “personal relationships.” Hunter faces trial in September for allegedly using his campaign committee as a personal bank account.

EPA’s Top Air Policy Official Steps Down Amid Scrutiny Over Possible Ethics Violations
Brainard Dispatch – Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis (Washington Post) | Published: 6/26/2019

Bill Wehrum spent only a year and a half as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top air official before announcing plans to resign amid scrutiny over possible violations of federal ethics rules. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler did not cite a specific reason for the departure of Wehrum, who as an attorney represented power companies seeking to scale back air pollution rules. But Wehrum has privately expressed concern about how an ongoing House Energy and Commerce Committee probe was affecting his former law firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth. The committee launched an inquiry of Wehrum after it was reported that questions had been raised about his compliance with President Trump’s ethics pledge, which requires political appointees to recuse themselves from specific matters involving their former employers and clients for two years.

FEC Fines Florida-Based Company for Illegal Contribution to Support Rick Scott’s 2018 Campaign
Roll Call – Stephanie Aiken | Published: 6/25/2019

The FEC fined a Florida company for making an illegal campaign contribution to support Rick Scott’s 2018 campaign for the U.S, Senate. The $9,500 fine levied against Ring Power Corp., which sells and leases industrial machinery, represents a rare penalty for a company found to have violated a 75-year-old ban on campaign contributions from federal contractors. Ring Power has received federal contracts and grants since 2007. The New Republican PAC, a Super PAC supporting Scott’s campaign, returned the $50,000 contribution in August, shortly after the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint.

GOP to Launch New Fundraising Site as Dems Crush the Online Money Game
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 6/23/2019

Republicans are set to launch a long-awaited, much-delayed online fundraising platform, a move aimed at closing Democrats’ small-donor money advantage ahead of the 2020 election.  WinRed is being billed as the GOP’s answer to the Democratic Party’s ActBlue, which has already amassed over &174 million this year. The new tool is intended to reshape the GOP’s fundraising apparatus by creating a centralized, one-stop shop for online Republican giving, which the party has lacked to this point. Republicans until now have had a factionalized ecosystem of vendors that stymied efforts to unify behind a single fundraising vehicle.

Judge: Democrats’ emoluments case against Trump can proceed
San Jose Mercury News – Ann Marimow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/25/2019

Rejecting a request from President Trump, a federal judge cleared the way for nearly 200 Democrats in Congress to continue their lawsuit against him alleging his private business violates an anti-corruption provision of the Constitution. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan declined to put the case on hold and said lawmakers could begin seeking financial information, interviews, and other records from the Trump Organization. The administration still can try to delay or block Democrats in Congress from issuing subpoenas for the president’s closely held business information by appealing directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to intervene.

Mueller to Testify to Congress, Setting Up a Political Spectacle
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos | Published: 6/25/2019

Former special counsel Robert Mueller will testify to Congress in open session on July 17 after being subpoenaed by two committees. Coming nearly three months after the release of his report on Russia’s election interference and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, Mueller’s testimony has the power to potentially reshape the political landscape around Trump’s re-election campaign and a possible impeachment inquiry by the House. The question is what Mueller will be willing to say. He conducted his work in absolute private, despite incessant attacks by Trump in public and from within the White House, and ultimately issued a lengthy report that raised as many questions as it answered.

Supreme Court Leaves Census Question on Citizenship in Doubt
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 6/27/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court sent back to a lower court a case on whether the census should contain a citizenship question, leaving in doubt whether the question would be on the 2020 census. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the explanation offered by the Trump administration for adding the question – asking whether a person is a citizen – was inadequate. But he left open the possibility that it could provide an adequate answer. Government experts predicted that asking the question would cause many immigrants to refuse to participate in the census, leading to an undercount of about 6.5 million people. That could reduce Democratic representation when congressional districts are allocated in 2021 and affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending are distributed.

Supreme Court Says Federal Courts Don’t Have a Role in Deciding Partisan Gerrymandering Claims
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled federal courts have no role to play in the dispute over the practice known as partisan gerrymandering, dealing a blow to efforts to combat the drawing of electoral districts for partisan gain. The court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland. Voters and elected officials should be the arbiters of what is essentially a political dispute, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court. The ruling puts a stop to recent decisions by federal courts across the country that have found extreme partisan gerrymandering went so far as to violate the constitutional rights of voters.

Walmart to Pay $282 Million Over Foreign Corruption Charges
AP News – Matthew Barakat | Published: 6/20/2019

Walmart agreed to pay $282 million to settle federal allegations of overseas corruption, including funneling more than $500,000 to an intermediary in Brazil who was known as a “sorceress” for her uncanny ability to make construction permit problems disappear. U.S. authorities went after Walmart under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies operating abroad from using bribery and other illegal methods. The company settled both civil charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission and a criminal case by federal prosecutors in Virginia. It said the two settlements close the books on federal investigations that sand have collectively cost the company more than $900 million.

When Trump Visits His Clubs, Government Agencies and Republicans Pay to Be Where He Is
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2019

Since taking office, President Trump has faced pushback about his official visits to his properties from some of his aides, including inside the White House counsel’s office. They worried about the appearance that he was using the power of the presidency to direct taxpayer money into his own pockets, but Trump has rebuffed such warnings. In all, his scores of trips have brought his private businesses at least $1.6 million in revenue, from federal officials and Republican campaigns who pay to go where Trump goes. Campaign finance records show several GOP groups paying to hold events where Trump spoke. Republican fundraisers say they do that, in part, to increase the chances Trump will attend. It has also reshaped the spending habits of the federal government, turning the president into a vendor.


Canada Lobbying Watchdog Says Glitch in System Skewed Volume of Registrations
Hill Times – Beatrice Paez | Published: 6/26/2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tenure in office has undoubtedly brought a surge in lobbying activity, but a glitch in the registry’s system resulted in an overrepresentation of the number of lobbyists actively registered, Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said. “During the past year, we realized that the numbers recorded in last year’s [report] included lobbyists whose registrations were no longer active,” Bélanger said. Still, the office has seen a steady uptick in the volume of communication reports posted since Trudeau took office in 2015.

From the States and Municipalities

Arkansas Former Arkansas Lawmaker Pleads Guilty in Corruption Cases
AP News – Andrew DeMillo | Published: 6/25/2019

A former Arkansas lawmaker who is Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s nephew pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and filing a false tax return. Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson also agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy in a separate federal case in Missouri where he has been charged with accepting bribes to help Preferred Family Healthcare. Hutchinson admitted he took more than $10,000 in campaign funds for his personal use and did not report $20,000-per-month payments he received from one law firm and other sources of income he knowingly concealed from his taxes. Hutchinson also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and admitted to accepting more than $150,000 from the co-owner of orthodontic clinics in exchange for efforts to change a dental practices law.

Connecticut Connecticut’s Search for a New Ethics Watchdog
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 6/20/2019

The Citizens’ Ethics Advisory Board is seeking a successor to Carol Carson as executive director of the Office of State Ethics, an agency that was new and struggling to find its way when she was hired. Carson, who is retiring on August 1, is credited with returning stability and credibility to the role of ethics watchdog, enforcing the ethics code for state officials, and overseeing the lobbying industry at the Capitol. “Let’s be clear about something: there is no replacing Carol Carson,” said Dena Castricone, the board’s chairperson.

Florida When It Comes to Holding NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Accountable, Florida Senate Ignores Own Rules
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 6/20/2019

The Florida Senate is apparently not going to ask longtime National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer why she has not reported income from the group for more than a decade. Sen. Perry Thurston and Rep. Anna Eskamani filed complaints demanding the Legislature investigate Hammer for failing to disclose annual lobbying payments since 2007 as required by Florida law. It has been reported that records show the NRA paid Hammer more than a $750,000 between 2014 and 2018, yet none of it appears on quarterly compensation reports. But Senate Rules Committee Chairperson Lizbeth Benacquisto sent the complaint back to the Office of Legislative Services, which operates within the Senate president’s office, for “review” and “appropriate action.”

Indiana Council Lawyer: Mayor unlikely to appeal campaign contribution ordinance
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 6/25/2019

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry’s administration is unlikely to appeal a court ruling that struck down a controversial ordinance limiting campaign contributions from city contractors, city council attorney Joe Bonahoom wrote in a memorandum to the council president. Allen Superior Court Judge Jennifer DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance recently after Kyle and Kimberly Witwer of Witwer Construction challenged the ordinance in a lawsuit. The ordinance forbade any company from bidding on a city contract if any owner, partner, or principal who owns more than 10% of that company gave more than $2,000 to the political campaign of a person with responsibility for awarding contracts.

Maryland Baltimore’s Budget for Ethics Enforcement: $0
Baltimore Sun – Ian Duncan | Published: 6/25/2019

In the midst of multiple investigations into former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s financial dealings, the city did not budget any money for ethics oversight. No city staff are dedicated to enforcing ethics rules and the word “ethics” appears nowhere in the city’s 1,035-page budget proposal for the coming year. Instead, the six-member staff of the Department of Legislative Reference must spend part of their time assisting the city’s volunteer ethics board, processing disclosure forms, answering questions from city employees, and investigating complaints.

New Jersey NJ ‘Dark Money’ Law Faces First Lawsuit Challenging Requirement to Name Secret Donors
Bergen Record; Staff –   | Published: 6/26/2019

A libertarian advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s newly signed “dark money” law that requires political groups to reveal their big-spending funders, legislation Gov. Phil Murphy signed despite earlier vetoing the bill and calling it “unconstitutional.” Americans for Prosperity asked a federal judge to prevent New Jersey officials from enforcing the law until the suit is decided and to declare the law unconstitutional. The law requires 501(c)(4) political nonprofits and 527 political organizations to report all funders that give more than $10,000 or spend more than $3,000. Americans for Prosperity says the law goes beyond typical campaign finance rules that cover only election-related ads. New Jersey will now also make groups report funders for ads on ballot measures, legislation, and policymaking, which grassroots groups say will prevent people from donating to them.

Oregon Oregon Republicans Not Making Clear Whether They’ll Return to Salem, What They Want to Get Them Back
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud and Mike Rogoway | Published: 6/26/2019

As the Oregon Senate Republicans’ walkout continues, there are no signs at the Capitol or elsewhere that members of the minority caucus will return soon. And publicly, they seem to be sending mixed messages about what they want if they agree to do so. Senate Republicans have drawn national attention since they fled the state to deny Democrats quorum for a vote on a bill to cap emissions. It turns out, however, that Democrats were one vote short of the 16 senators needed to pass the bill, so it would have been stopped from passage anyway.

Wyoming A Mystery Group Has Been Pushing to Stop Gambling Regulation in Wyoming
Casper Star-Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 6/25/2019

Over the past several months, a grassroots organization of obscure origin called the Wyoming Public Policy Center has been fighting to defeat gambling regulations proposed in the state Legislature, employing experienced lobbyists and anonymously authored policy papers in efforts to influence decision making. But the group was not registered with the state until after The Casper Star-Tribune began asking questions. In Wyoming, lobbyists and lobbying groups are required to register with the state. Despite that, there is little anyone can do about it: a combination of weak state laws and few mechanisms for law enforcement make it difficult to hold such groups accountable.

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