March 6, 2020 •
News You Can Use Digest – March 6, 2020
Biden Claims 9 Super Tuesday Victories, Including Texas
AP News – Steve Peoples and Will Weissert | Published: 3/4/2020
A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on the edge of disaster just days earlier. But his rival Bernie Sanders seized the biggest prize with a win in California that ensured he would drive the Democrats’ nomination fight for the foreseeable future. And suddenly, the Democratic Party’s presidential field, which featured more than a half-dozen candidates, transformed into a two-man contest.
Bloomberg Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Biden
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne and Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 3/4/2020
Michael Bloomberg ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. It was a surprising collapse for the former New York City mayor, who pumped more than $500 million of his own fortune into the campaign. Bloomberg announced his departure from the race after a disappointing finish on Super Tuesday in the slate of states that account for almost one-third of the total delegates available in the Democratic nominating contest. He won only the territory of American Samoa and picked up several dozen delegates elsewhere.
Cashing in On Justice
Roll Call – Joshua Eaton, Ilana Marcus, and Ed Timms | Published: 3/3/2020
Before they put on their robes, dozens of federal judges appointed during the Trump and Obama administrations made significant campaign contributions to Senate Judiciary Committee members and their home-state senators, the very people who could make or break their nominations. Three Republican senators – Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – got more money than the rest of the Judiciary Committee combined. Virtually all those contributions came from judicial nominees they ultimately backed. Home-state senators who have not served on the panel also wield considerable influence on who becomes a federal judge. They have received significant contributions from donors who ended up on the bench.
Inspector General to Probe Whether VA Chief Robert Wilkie Tried to Discredit Woman Who Reported Sex Assault
Fayetteville Observer – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/28/2020
The Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into allegations that Secretary Robert Wilkie tried to dig up dirt on an aide to a top Democrat in Congress after she said she was sexually assaulted at the agency’s Washington, D.C. hospital. Inspector General Michael Missal, after a preliminary review of Wilkie’s conduct following the woman’s report last fall, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill he has decided to move forward with a full-blown inquiry. Wilkie, who previously ran the Pentagon’s personnel and readiness operation, has denied making inquiries about the woman, Andrea Goldstein.
Judge Says Ken Cuccinelli Was Appointed Unlawfully to Top Immigration Post
National Public Radio – James Doubek | Published: 3/1/2020
A federal judge ruled Ken Cuccinelli’s appointment to a top immigration position in the Trump administration was unlawful, saying several directives issued by Cuccinelli to tighten asylum rules must now be “set aside.” U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss said the administration violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when it tapped Cuccinelli in June 2019 to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that oversees legal immigration into the country. The ruling invalidated a pair of directives issued by Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner and the former attorney general of Virginia, that introduced new restrictions on the asylum process.
Klobuchar Is Ending Her Presidential Bid, Will Endorse Biden
AP News – Sara Burnett | Published: 3/2/2020
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar ended her Democratic presidential campaign and endorsed Joe Biden in an effort to unify moderate voters behind the former vice president’s White House bid. Klobuchar outlasted several better-known and better-funded Democrats, thanks to a better-than-expected third-place finish in in New Hampshire. But she could not turn that into success elsewhere, as she struggled to build out a campaign that could compete across the country and had poor showings in the next contests. Klobuchar could not match her top competitors in fundraising. The lack of finances early on in the campaign meant she was not able to expand her operation on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire until months after her rivals.
Pete Buttigieg Is Ending His Presidential Bid
MSN – Chelsea Janes and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 3/1/2020
Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who rose from virtual unknown to top-tier Democratic contender and became the first openly gay candidate to make a high-profile presidential run, ended his campaign as he confronted the reality that his prospects of victory had all but collapsed. Buttigieg struggled to win support from black voters, a key pillar of the Democratic coalition and a vulnerability that was emphasized in South Carolina, where he finished fourth in the primary. Buttigieg’s departure may help add some clarity to a Democratic presidential field that at one point included more than two dozen candidates but has dwindled to just a handful.
Rep. Matt Gaetz Wore Gas Mask While House Voted on Coronavirus Response Bill
USA Today – Savannah Behrmann | Published: 3/4/2020
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz wore a gas mask on the House floor while the chamber voted on a coronavirus funding bill. It was not clear whether Gaetz was wearing the gas mask to troll those panicking over the outbreak, as multiple health organizations have repeatedly stated not to wear face masks. But Gaetz, one of President Trump’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill, reportedly told journalists that he believes “members of Congress are human petri dishes.”
Sanders’s Rise Unnerves K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/28/2020
The rise of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary is unnerving K Street lobbyists and their clients. The self-described democratic socialist, who has touted an ambitious agenda to rein in special interests and corporations, has been gaining in the polls and is the Democratic frontrunner after wins in two primary states. While there is a long road ahead in the 2020 election, the senator’s new status is provoking sharp reactions on K Street, where lobbyists say clients are already asking about the fallout of a Sanders nomination, and maybe even presidency. Sanders has vowed to shake up how the influence world does business, with proposals to ban donations from federal lobbyists and corporations and to prohibit the corporate funding of party conventions.
Senate Breaks Tradition by Advancing Only GOP FEC Nominee
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 3/4/2020
Senate Republicans are set to advance a Republican nominee to the FEC, which would restore a working quorum to the agency but break with a tradition of confirming nominees in bipartisan pairs. The Rules and Administration Committee announced it will hold a confirmation hearing March 10 on President Trump’s nomination of James Trainor, an election lawyer from Austin, Texas, who advised Trump’s 2016 campaign. If the committee approves him, Trainor could be confirmed by a simple majority vote in the Senate. Senate Democrats have recommended Shana Broussard, an FEC staff attorney, for a Democratic commission vacancy, but Trump has not nominated her.
Trump Signs Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Ethics Requirements
Government Executive – Courtney Buble | Published: 3/4/2020
President Trump signed into law a bill to clarify the General Services Administration’s (GSA) responsibilities during changes in presidential administrations as well as require presidential candidates to publicly release ethics plans for their transitions before elections. The GSA, presidential transition teams, and federal agencies will now have new obligations in the lead-up to Election Day and during the ensuing change in administrations. The law requires presidential candidates to create and release an ethics plan for their transition team prior to the election. The plans must indicate if there are any current or former lobbyists on the teams, disclose conflicts-of-interest for the candidate and team members, and include a code of ethics that all members must sign.
Trump Wins Bid to Block McGahn Testimony Sought by House Democrats
Reuters – Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley | Published: 2/29/2020
A divided three-judge panel handed President Trump a victory by dismissing a congressional panel’s lawsuit seeking to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit endorsed the Trump administration’s argument that the court had no place in settling the dispute between the executive and legislative branches. In doing so, it appeared to endorse an expansive view of presidential powers and prerogatives. The panel overturned a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson that the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena to McGahn was lawful. In that ruling, Jackson declared “no one is above the law.”
Union Lobbying Question Confounds at 1st Circuit
Courthouse News Service – Thomas Harrison | Published: 3/4/2020
The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals appeared conflicted as to whether private-sector unions can ever force members to subsidize lobbying. Appearing skeptical of the National Labor Relations Board’s holding that lobbying is not germane to a union’s legal duty to represent workers, Judge Bruce Selya emphasized in oral arguments that “lobbying activity is not monolithic.” But when the court then tried to come up with a rule as to what specific types of lobbying were germane, it struggled.
Warren Ends 2020 Presidential Bid after Super Tuesday Rout
AP News – Will Weissert | Published: 3/5/2020
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who electrified progressives with her “plan for everything” and strong message of economic populism, dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. The exit came days after the onetime front-runner could not win a single Super Tuesday state, not even Massachusetts. For much of the past year, Warren’s campaign had all the markers of success, robust poll numbers, impressive fundraising, and a political infrastructure that featured staffers on the ground across the country. She was squeezed out, though, by Bernie Sanders, who had an immovable base of voters she needed to advance. Warren never finished higher than third in the first four states and was routed on Super Tuesday.
Canada – Senate Votes to Suspend Lynn Beyak Again Despite Her Apology for Posting Offensive Letters on Website
Edmonton Journal – Canadian Press | Published: 2/27/2020
The Senate has voted to suspend Lynn Beyak a second time over derogatory letters about Indigenous Peoples posted on her website. Senators approved a report from the upper house’s ethics committee, which recommended Beyak be suspended without pay for the duration of the current parliamentary session. Beyak, a senator from Ontario appointed in 2013, was kicked out of the Conservative caucus and eventually suspended without pay last May after refusing to remove the offensive letters from her website. She apologized recently, after which some of her Conservative colleagues tried unsuccessfully to refer the matter back to the ethics committee. But Independent senators took the position that Beyak needed to be suspended again while undergoing anti-racism training and that the matter could be revisited after that.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska House’s Minority Republicans Put Controversial Wasilla Representative on Probation
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 3/4/2020
The Republican minority in the Alaska House will temporarily remove Rep. David Eastman from legislative committees for disrupting the work of fellow members and delaying legislative action in order to draw public attention. House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt said the action is a one-month “pause” that is a step short of ejecting Eastman from the caucus. While Eastman has a reputation as an iconoclast willing to challenge established norms, members of the GOP said two recent actions stood out and prompted the action.
Arizona – Agriculture Industry Lobbyist Out of Job Amid Ethics Investigation into Arizona Lawmaker
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 3/5/2020
An agricultural trade association said it no longer employs a lobbyist at the center of an ethics investigation into alleged conflicts-of-interest at the Arizona Legislature. The House is looking into two complaints regarding state Rep. David Cook. The first involves an allegation he carried on a romantic relationship with the lobbyist, AnnaMarie Knorr. Another complaint alleges Cook intervened to stop the local sheriff from seizing property from her family’s farming business to pay for back taxes. Knorr worked for the Western Growers Association. When intimate letters from Cook to Knorr emerged in January, the group said it had placed her on administrative leave and was probing allegations of professional misconduct. The association recently said Knorr is no longer its lobbyist.
Arizona – Lobbyists Navigate Lawmakers’ Bad Behavior, Professional Relationships
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway and Andrew Nicla | Published: 2/28/2020
At the Arizona Capitol, where relationships are everything and the caprice of a single lawmaker can derail months of policy work, lobbyists must balance representing clients and fighting for policy positions with the costs of not calling out bad behavior. And as women at the Capitol and across the country grow more empowered to speak out about behavior that would have been ignored in years past, some male lawmakers have responded by doubling down on a boys’ club mentality, granting greater access to male lobbyists than their female counterparts out of a stated wish to avoid even a whiff of impropriety. In some instances, lobbyist Tory Roberg said, lobbying for issues she cares about means putting up with a lot in the hopes that it will someday get a bill across the finish line.
Arkansas – Election Funding Law’s Hold to Resume
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Linda Satter | Published: 3/4/2020
In June, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr. issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of a law that prohibits campaign contributions more than two years before an election, in response to a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Moody then agreed to stay the injunction, keeping the law in effect, while the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered the appeal. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the injunction in January, leading the plaintiffs’ attorney to ask Moody to lift the stay and make the law unenforceable again. Moody lifted the stay on March 3, again enjoining the state from enforcing the law while the lawsuit is pending.
California – Legislators’ Charity Use Has Prompted Calls for Reform – But Not from the Assembly Speaker
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 3/2/2020
As CalMatters reported in its series of articles, nonprofits created by individual California lawmakers or special caucuses of lawmakers are an increasingly common way to raise and spend money outside the limits of campaign finance law. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said these affiliated nonprofits “can provide valuable resources” and he has no problem with them “if people are going about their activities ethically and with full transparency.” But even as he called for transparency, Rendon did not endorse changing any laws or rules of the Assembly, nor did he call on his members to change their conduct.
California – Sacramento Mayor Steinberg Recruiting Ownership Group in Effort to Buy Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee – Ryan Lillis | Published: 3/4/2020
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is working to form a local ownership group that could purchase The Sacramento Bee, separating the 163-year-old publication from its parent company and more than two-dozen sister newspapers across the U.S. The Bee’s current owner, McClatchy Co., is moving through Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure its debt. If the restructuring plan is approved by a judge, the likely owner of The Bee and 29 other publications would be Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey-based hedge fund. “Are we better off in any way if we lose one of the most important voices for independent journalism? The answer is obviously no, and so it’s my job to rally and to organize and to help bring forward some real ideas that might … save the day,” Steinberg said.
California – SF Corruption Investigation Yields 14 New Subpoenas Served as Nuru Probe Widens
San Francisco Chronicle – Dominick Fracassa | Published: 2/27/2020
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a flurry of subpoenas in a widening public corruption investigation started after former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru’s recent arrest on fraud charges. Herrera’s office issued 14 subpoenas to firms with ties to either Walter Wong, a San Francisco building permit consultant, or Zhang Li, a billionaire real estate developer from China. FBI agents raided Wong’s offices on the same day that Nuru and restaurateur Nick Bovis were arrested. Federal officials have alleged Nuru accepted a trip to China and gifts, including a $2,070 bottle of wine, from a billionaire Chinese developer in exchange for help with a development deal. The San Francisco Chronicle has previously reported Zhang was the billionaire developer referenced anonymously in the federal complaint against Nuru and Bovis.
Florida – Florida Sues Nonprofit and Its Former CEO Who Was Paid $7.5M
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas and Samantha Gross | Published: 3/4/2020
The Department of Children and Families filed a lawsuit against the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) as ongoing investigations reveal millions of dollars were funneled into bonuses for the nonprofit’s staff. Since 2003, the coalition has managed about $52 million annually as the single state clearinghouse for 42 domestic violence centers. The suit accuses the FCADV of misrepresenting how state and federal funds were used to pay its former chief executive officer, Tiffany Carr, more than $7.5 million over three years. The investigations show a small group of members of the coalition’s board, as appointed by Carr, operated as the compensation committee and allowed Carr to claim she had a brain tumor while she padded her compensation and produced no evidence of a medical condition.
Florida – Florida’s CFO Called Lobbyist Before Suspending State Banking Regulator, Records Show
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 2/28/2020
Records show Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis made multiple phone calls to a Tallahassee lobbyist on the day he illegally released a woman’s sexual harassment complaint, raising fresh questions about last year’s ouster of the state’s banking regulator. Patronis faces a criminal investigation by the Leon County State Attorney’s Office for disclosing the sexual harassment complaint against the regulator, Ronald Rubin. An ethics complaint has also been filed against Patronis for disclosing another complaint. Rubin sued Patronis last year, accusing him and lobbyist Paul Mitchell, who represents financial companies that work with Patronis’ office, of fabricating the woman’s complaint against him. Phone records show Mitchell and Patronis were in close contact before the complaint against Rubin was made public.
Florida – Former Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Lands Job with Firm Handling Her Lawsuit Against City
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 3/2/2020
Tallahassee’s former independent ethics officer, who exited her post amid acrimony, has been hired by the same firm representing her in her lawsuit against City Hall. Meadows-Keefe, who served more than five years as the city’s first ethics officer, recently announced on social media she has accepted a position as an attorney with the Mattox Law Firm. Last year, Meadows-Keefe said she would step down following controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed official. She later sued the city, saying she was forced out, and the Ethics Board, which she said did nothing to stop it.
Florida – Parks Chief Sold Jerseys from His Company to City Football Team. Now He’s on Leave
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 3/4/2020
North Miami’s parks and recreation director was not disciplined last year after a police investigation found he had committed ethics violations by selling jerseys from his personal company to a city-funded football team. But now, after the details were exposed at a city council meeting, Derrick Corker has been placed on paid administrative leave. Parents and officials involved in the North Miami Jaguars football and cheer program complained that Corker inserted himself in a bid process for new uniforms after the team was asked to change its name from the Redskins, which is a slur for Native Americans, to the Jaguars.
Illinois – 3 Illinois Racing Board Members Forced Out Over Campaign Contributions They Made in Violation of 2019 Gaming Law
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 2/28/2020
Three members of the state board that oversees the Illinois horse racing industry were forced out after making campaign contributions that are prohibited under the major gambling expansion legislation Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last summer. Illinois Racing Board Chairperson Jeffrey Brincat and commissioners Greg Sronce and Edgar Ramirez resigned at the governor’s request. The resignations come after the previous chair of the Illinois Gaming Board, which oversees the casino and video gambling industries, resigned over political contributions. Gaming board members have long been prohibited from engaging in political activity.
Illinois – Joe Berrios Must Pay $168,000 in Fines after Cook County Judge Dismisses His Complaint Against Ethics Board
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 2/27/2020
Former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and his political committees must pay $168,000 in fines after a judge dismissed his complaints challenging the county Ethics Board’s findings and ability to sanction him. The board previously fined Berrios, the Committee to Elect Joseph Berrios Cook County Assessor, and his 31st Ward Democratic Organization for accepting campaign contributions in excess of legal limits. At the center of the ethics board’s rulings was a 2016 county ordinance stating that donors who seek “official action” with the county may contribute no more than $750 in nonelection years. Attorneys for Berrios sought to overturn the rulings, arguing the county limits are unconstitutional and higher limits set by state law should apply, among other objections.
Iowa – State of Iowa Signs $50 Million Computing Contract Without Typical Competitive Bidding
Cedar Rapids Gazette – Erin Jordan | Published: 2/28/2020
In signing a $50 million contract for a new cloud-based computer system, Iowa sidestepped traditional competitive bidding procedures and chose Workday, a company with little state government experience whose lobbyist is Gov. Kim Reynolds’ former chief of staff. What concerns some lawmakers is the way the state chose Workday. Instead of seeking proposals from multiple companies to see which best met Iowa’s needs and was most affordable, state officials chose a generic contract that Workday had signed in 2015 with a for-profit procurement organization in Texas. A company spokesperson said Jake Ketzner, Reynolds’ chief of staff for more than a year, had no role in Workday’s contracts, but there have been further questions.
Maryland – ‘Any Means Necessary to Win’: How prosecutors say Pugh used ‘Healthy Holly’ scam in 2016 Baltimore mayor’s race
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 2/28/2020
As federal prosecutors laid out what they described as a “shocking” corruption case against former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, they ticked off a list of victims: buyers who paid for her self-published children’s books that were never printed; schoolchildren who never received copies; and the federal government, which Pugh shorted of thousands of tax dollars. But there was another victim in the background: the voters of Baltimore. That is because the “Healthy Holly scam,” as prosecutors called it, was not just a years-long self-enrichment scheme. It also was a way for Pugh to try to illegally influence an election and achieve her dream of becoming mayor, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Michigan – Detroit Official Wooed Investment Dollars from Billionaire – Now He’s Going to Work for Him
Detroit Free Press – Joe Guillen | Published: 3/4/2020
Ryan Friedrichs, Detroit’s chief development officer who is tied to an ongoing criminal investigation into deleted government emails, is quitting his city job. Friedrichs will work for real estate mogul Stephen Ross in development of a new innovation center on the site of the aborted Wayne County jail project. Friedrichs is a central figure in the ongoing criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office concerning deleted city emails related to conflict-of-interest and preferential treatment allegations against Mayor Mike Duggan. Friedrichs was one of two officials identified who carried out orders from Duggan’s chief of staff to delete the emails, which were later recovered. Friedrichs said that his decision to leave his city job was unrelated to the controversy involving the deleted emails.
New Hampshire – Proposal Advances to Strengthen N.H. Legislature’s Conflict of Interest Rules
New Hampshire Public Radio – Josh Rogers | Published: 3/4/2020
A committee in the New Hampshire House approved a bill to require lawmakers to recuse themselves when they have a “special interest” in a bill’s outcome. The legislation spells out that lawmakers should recuse themselves when they or a member of their household have anything more at stake in the bill’s outcome than a member of the general public would. In November, the Legislative Ethics Committee found House Majority Leader Doug Ley violated ethics guidelines because of his involvement in legislation that affected the teachers union that employs him.
New York – Ethics Commissioner: Cuomo leak probe was a ‘sham’
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 3/1/2020
A longtime member of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) said the state inspector general’s investigation last year into the alleged unlawful disclosure of confidential information to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was a “sham” that led him to refuse to sign a sworn statement affirming he was not responsible for the leak. Commissioner Gary Levine confirmed his decision to decline to sign the affidavit after The Albany Times Union, following a months-long Freedom of Information struggle with the inspector general’s office, was provided copies of the affidavits that had been signed by other commissioners and employees of JCOPE, affirming they were not responsible for the leak. The inspector general’s office had previously declined to identify any individuals who had declined to sign the affirmations.
New York – Ethics Office Lacks Some LIPA Lobbying Records
Huntington Now – Donna Deedy | Published: 3/4/2020
Taxpayers could save money under a New York Senate bill that prevents the Log Island Power Authority (LIPA) from collecting back taxes should the utility win its challenge to a power plant’s tax assessment. The Senate easily passed the bill during each of the last two legislative sessions. The Assembly’s companion bill has faced a different fate. Industry lobbyists have waged fierce opposition to the bill, including LIPA itself. Not all of it, though, appears to be as fully and publicly documented as state ethics laws that govern lobbying require. LIPA retained Millennial Strategies in 2019 specifically to fight the Assembly bill. But the state has no record of that activity.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard Resigns ‘with Great Sadness’
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn | Published: 3/2/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard resigned her office, less than a week after being arrested on federal charges that accuse her of trading votes on a development deal for cash. Dennard did not have to resign under the city’s charter, which has no provisions spelling out what happens when a council member is accused of a crime in office. Dennard is facing federal charges of bribery, wire fraud, and attempted extortion for what federal prosecutors say was an attempt to trade her votes for cash payments totaling $15,000. The votes were related to a complicated land swap and construction of a music venue at The Banks on Cincinnati’s riverfront.
Ohio – Ginther Returns State of the City Donations After Ethics Warning
Columbus Dispatch – Bill Bush | Published: 2/28/2020
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther will return $66,000 in donations, including from city vendors, that funded his State of the City address. The decision came after the Ohio Ethics Commission contacted the city attorney’s office to warn the practice could potentially violate state law. “There was a potential for a conflict-of-interest and that was an ongoing practice,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said. “It was a practice that we were not aware of, [and] no one had sought advice.” The city will work with the commission to clarify the process of how and under what circumstances the city solicits vendors, something that is happening in municipalities across Ohio, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said.
Rhode Island – Why A RI Supreme Court Justice Has Been Fighting a $200 Ethics Fine for Over A Year
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 3/4/2020
The Rhode Island Ethics Commission in 2019 fined state Supreme Court Justice Francis Flaherty $200 for failing to disclose he was the president of a Catholic legal group while he was ruling on a priest’s sexual abuse case. Flaherty has contested the fine, claiming the violation stemmed from an unknowing mistake that resulted in a decision denying him due process. Flaherty also argues former commission Chairperson Ross Cheit should have recused himself because Cheit, a professor who specializes in repressed memory and child abuse, has written extensively on the topic, including some cases involving sexual abuse of minors and the Catholic Church. The commission noted its members do not participate in the investigation or prosecution of ethics complaints. It also refuted the implication that Cheit is biased.
South Carolina – Joe Biden Wins South Carolina Primary, Potentially Reshaping the Democratic Race
MSN – Cleve Wootson Jr. and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/29/2020
Former Vice President Joe Biden decisively won the South Carolina primary, as the first Southern contest reshaped the race and dealt a blow to the candidacy of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. The win pumped new life into Biden’s struggling campaign, as he became the first candidate to score a clear-cut victory against Sanders this year. What is not clear is whether Biden’s triumph in a state supporters have long called his “firewall,” where African American voters had a significant say for the first time, will provide only a momentary lift, result in a two-person race between Biden and Sanders, or result in a long slog to the convention.
Vermont – In Bernie Sanders Country, It’s Super Tuesday. It’s Also ‘Town Meeting Day.’
New York Times – Sarah Lyall | Published: 3/4/2020
It can seem like neighbors cannot speak to neighbors of differing political persuasions without rancor and recrimination. Though Super Tuesday should theoretically offer some relief to voters eager to have their voices heard, politics itself seems suffused by alarm and dread. And so, Vermont’s annual town meetings, traditionally held on the first Tuesday in March, provide a welcome corrective. They are a chance for voters in the state’s municipalities to discuss taxes, budgets, roads, schools, the environment, and whatever else might be on their minds.
Washington – Washington Agency Rejects Facebook Settlement, Refers Campaign Ad Violation Charge to AG’s Office
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 2/27/2020
The Public Disclosure Commission rejected a settlement to allow Facebook to walk away from charges of violating campaign finance law with a $75,000 fine, no admission of guilt, and no written promise to fully comply with Washington’s political ad disclosure law going forward. Commisssioners voted to refer the matter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for further investigation and possible prosecution. The case has its roots in requests for local Facebook political ad data made by The Stranger and, separately, a private citizen. Facebook has refused to respond to those requests even though state law requires the company to disclose significant information on the financing and reach of election ads sold to influence this state’s local races and ballot measures.
Wisconsin – Day After Milwaukee Rampage, Dan Kelly Campaign Holds Fundraiser at Shooting Range
Madison.com – Riley Vetterkind | Published: 3/3/2020
A day after a gunman shot and killed five co-workers and himself at Milwaukee’s Molson Coors facility, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly’s campaign hosted a fundraiser at a shooting range. The fundraiser invited people to contribute by amounts tied to gun calibers: the “10mm” level of $1,000, the “0.25 ACP” level of $2,500, or the “50 Cal M2HB” level of $5,000. Donors had the opportunity to shoot and were advised to visit the range before the fundraiser to complete a background check.
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