March 9, 2018 •
News You Can Use Digest – March 9, 2018
It’s a Steep Hill to Climb for Women Running for State Office
Center for Public Integrity – Kristian Hernandez | Published: 3/6/2018
Nearly 500 women have shown interest in running for Congress in this year’s midterm elections, twice as many as compared with the same time in 2016. More women have raised their hand to run for governor in 2018 than in the past seven years combined, and scores of women plan to run for attorneys general, legislative seats, and more. Women still have a long way to go before political offices reflect the U.S. population. But women’s success in politics might not be all about winning this year, said Kim Olson, the Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner. She said the elections might be as much about planting seeds that will one day grow and fill the gender gaps in the halls of Congress, governors’ mansions, and statehouses across the country.
Companies Court Lawmakers with Charitable Giving, but Don’t Always Disclose the Funds
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 3/5/2018
By law, corporations and organizations that lobby the federal government must disclose certain charitable contributions to nonprofits, including ones such as the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation that are intimately tied to lawmakers. They also must disclose spending to “honor” lawmakers and high-level executive branch officials if the spending meets certain criteria. But an analysis found more than 20 companies and trade associations that have failed to disclose payments made to nonprofit groups aligned with government officials or aimed at honoring lawmakers they may want to influence. In every instance, other companies disclosed payments linked to the same events, though varying circumstances and exceptions to federal rules allow some omissions.
Companies, Nonprofits Put Brakes on Foreign Lobbying Bills
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 3/2/2018
A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to strengthen enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The new bill indicates that momentum to revamp foreign lobbying disclosures persists as the Russia probe has kept concerns about international influences in the spotlight. But opposition remains. Representatives of foreign-owned businesses and multinational nonprofit organizations say they do not want the stigma of being defined as foreign agents. They are pushing for changes to separate legislation that passed the House Judiciary Committee but has not yet been scheduled for floor action.
Trump Spoke to Witnesses About Matters They Discussed with Special Counsel
MSN – Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 3/7/2018
The New York Times reported the special counsel in the Russian election meddling probe has learned of two conversations in which President Trump asked witnesses about matters discussed with investigators. Trump told an aide that White House counsel Donald McGahn should issue a statement denying a report in January that said McGahn told investigators the president had once asked him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump also asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how his interview with the special counsel investigators had gone and whether they had been “nice.” The episodes demonstrate that even as the inquiry appears to be intensifying, the president has ignored his lawyers’ advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.
What Swamp? Lobbyists Get Ethics Waivers to Work for Trump
CNBC – Associated Press | Published: 3/7/2018
President Trump and his appointees have stocked federal agencies with former lobbyists and corporate lawyers who now help regulate the industries from which they previously collected paychecks, despite promising as a candidate to drain the swamp in Washington. A week after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order that bars former lobbyists, lawyers, and others from participating in any matter they lobbied or otherwise worked on for private clients within two years before going to work for the government. But records show White House counsel Don McGahn has issued at least 24 ethics waivers to key administration officials at the White House and executive branch agencies.
From the States and Municipalities:
Colorado: Colorado Rep. Steve Lebsock Is Expelled Following Harassment Complaints from Five Women
Denver Post – Brian Eason and Jesse Paul | Published: 3/2/2018
The Colorado House voted to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock after hours of emotional debate in which several members broke down in tears. Lebsock had been accused of harassing five women, including a fellow state legislator, a lobbyist, and a former staffer, in 11 separate complaints. Lebsock has denied the charges, even distributing a dossier that detailed personal information about his accusers. He is the second lawmaker in the nation to be removed from office over harassment allegations since the rise of the #MeToo movement.
District of Columbia: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Says She Won’t Testify About Schools Chief’s Resignation
Washington Post – Peter Jamison | Published: 3/7/2018
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said she will refuse to testify under oath to the city council about the circumstances of the resignation of the former chancellor of the public school system, setting up a showdown with lawmakers, the outcome of which could weigh on her re-election campaign. She said she would instead cooperate with a parallel investigation by the city inspector general’s office that is underway. Bowser demanded the resignations of Chancellor Antwan Wilson and the deputy mayor for education, saying she had just been notified the pair had transferred Wilson’s daughter to one of the city’s most desirable high schools, skipping a waiting list of more than 600 students, in violation of city policy. But Wilson said Bowser knew about the transfer four months ago and raised no objections.
Massachusetts: SJC May Be Option in ‘Union Loophole’ Case
Lowell Sun – Andy Metzger (State House News Service) | Published: 3/7/2018
The Supreme Judicial Court is considering whether Massachusetts can constitutionally bar corporations from making political contributions, while allowing labor unions and nonprofits to do so. James Manley, an attorney representing two Massachusetts businesses, said his clients simply want corporations to be on equal footing with other entities, and that federal law requires it. The plaintiffs would be somewhat satisfied if the court decided to rein in unions’ abilities to contribute politically, Manley told reporters.
New Mexico: Steve Pearce, State Move to Settle Lawsuit Over Gubernatorial Campaign Funds
Las Cruces Sun News – Andrew Oxford (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 3/6/2018
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce are moving to settle a dispute about access to campaign money that Pearce raised while in Congress and sought to use in his run for governor. Under the proposed agreement, the state would allow candidates to use donations collected while in federal office for state office campaigns. The contributions cannot be larger than what it is allowable under New Mexico law, and they must have been reported to the FEC. “Those conditions were included to prevent future federal-to-state transfers from becoming a loophole around New Mexico’s campaign finance laws,” said Joey Keefe, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office.
New York: As Jurors Decide Fate of Key Cuomo Ally, Political Verdict May Be In
New York Times – Jesse McKinley and Shane Goldmacher | Published: 3/6/2018
Federal prosecutors in the corruption trial of a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented unflattering tales of how Cuomo conducts himself and how his administration has conducted the people’s business in Albany. The governor has not been accused of illegal acts, but the trial may well tarnish the well-groomed reputation of Cuomo, who is facing re-election in the fall. It may also complicate or undercut any national ambitions of Cuomo, which would need to take flight in places like Iowa and New Hampshire next year.
North Carolina: GOP’s 8-Member Elections-Ethics Board Struck Down. Is a Third Lawsuit on the Horizon?
Raleigh News and Observer – Anne Blythe | Published: 3/5/2018
A panel of state judges decided a recent North Carolina Supreme Court ruling favoring Gov. Roy Cooper means only a portion of a 2017 law combining the state ethics and elections boards is now struck down. Republicans at the General Assembly passed small changes related to the combined board’s membership and Cooper’s powers after the Supreme Court decision. Cooper’s lawyers had argued the Supreme Court ruling meant the judges should void the entire law. That would have opened the door to Cooper’s wishes. He wanted the law to revert to what it was before December 2016 – separate elections and ethics boards, and Democrats getting a majority of elections board seats.
Oregon: Multnomah County Political Spending Limits Unconstitutional, Judge Finds
Portland Oregonian – Gordon Friedman | Published: 3/6/2018
Multnomah County’s voter-approved limits on campaign contributions are an unconstitutional infringement on free speech, a county judge ruled. Judge Eric Bloch said the county and its voters cannot cap donations to candidates for county office at $500 per donor, force disclosure of the largest contributors to political mailers, or limit other types of spending. The limits are “impermissible” under the free speech guarantees within the Oregon Constitution, Bloch wrote, citing a related state Supreme Court opinion.
Pennsylvania: Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski Guilty on Most Charges in Pay-to-Play Trial; Must Leave Office
Allentown Morning Call – Peter Hall, Emily Opilo, and Daniel Patrick Sheehan | Published: 3/1/2018
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was convicted of selling his office to campaign donors in a scheme meant to fuel his political ambitions. Jurors convicted him of 47 of the 54 charges he faced, a verdict that will force Pawlowski from office and end his tenure as leader of Pennsylvania’s third-largest city. Prosecutors said Pawlowski masterminded a plan to rig city contracts for legal, engineering, technology, and construction work, all in a bid to raise money for his statewide campaigns. Pawlowski ran for governor in 2014 and U.S. Senate in 2015, suspending the latter campaign days after the FBI raided City Hall.
Tennessee: Nashville Mayor Megan Barry Resigns from Office; ‘I love you, Nashville,’ she says
The Tennessean – Joey Garrison and Nate Rau | Published: 3/6/2018
Megan Barry resigned as Nashville’s mayor, weeks after admitting an affair with the police officer who ran her security detail. She announced her resignation shortly after she pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge related to the affair. Barry agreed to reimburse the city $11,000 and serve three years’ probation. The scandal drew attention to the overtime Sgt. Rob Forrest accrued while managing her detail. An affidavit detailed nude photos the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said appeared to be Barry taken on the phone of Forrest during city trips. Forrest pleaded guilty to property theft and was sentenced to three years of probation. He will reimburse the city $45,000 that was paid to him as salary and/or overtime during times when he was not performing his duties as head of the mayor’s security detail.
Texas: Talk About Big Bucks: Deer semen donations are fueling South Texas campaign
Dallas News – Jackie Wang | Published: 3/1/2018
A candidate in the race for a Texas House seat has received $87,500 in campaign donations, more than half of which is made up of deer semen. Ana Lisa Garza has received $51,000 in in-kind donations to her campaign, listed as individual donations of frozen deer semen straws. The containers are reportedly a common way for deer breeders in the state to donate to political campaigns. Garza’s campaign has valued the straws at $1,000 each. The group does not give the semen directly to the campaign, but accepts the straw donations and sells them at auction. Attorney Buck Wood said the donations technically were not “in-kind” since the money, not the semen, was given to the campaign.
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