November 22, 2019 •
News You Can Use Digest – November 22, 2019
Court to Bar Release of His Tax Returns
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019
President Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to bar his accounting firm from turning over eight years of his tax returns to prosecutors in New York City. The case, the first concerning Trump’s personal conduct and business dealings to reach the court, could yield a major ruling on the scope of presidential immunity from criminal investigations. In their petition urging the high court to hear their appeal, Trump’s lawyers argued he was immune from all criminal proceedings and investigations so long as he remained in office. But even if some federal investigations may be proper, the petition said, the Supreme Court should rule state and local prosecutors may not seek information about a sitting president’s conduct.
Giuliani Faces U.S. Probe on Campaign Finance, Lobbying Breaches
Yahoo News – Chris Strohm and Jordan Fabian (Bloomberg) | Published: 11/15/2019
Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, is being investigated by federal prosecutors for possible campaign finance violations and a failure to register as a foreign agent as part of an active investigation into his financial dealings, according to three U.S. officials. The probe could also include possible charges on violating laws against bribing foreign officials or conspiracy. Giuliani is a central figure in the impeachment inquiry, which focuses on an effort led by the former New York City mayor to pressure Ukraine’s government to investigate the president’s political rivals. If Giuliani is charged or indicted, he could expose Trump to a new level of legal and political jeopardy, especially if he is accused of committing a crime on the president’s behalf.
Google Announces New Political-Ads Policies That Limit Targeting but Not All Lies
Seattle Times – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 11/20/2019
Google announced new restrictions on political advertisers around the world, among them rules that bar candidates, including President Trump, from targeting narrow categories of Web users based on their political affiliation. The updates come as Google and its tech industry peers continue to face criticism for allowing politicians to lie in ads, a practice Google did not entirely outlaw as it pledged that “trust in electoral processes” outweighed the “cost or impact to spending” on political ads. Under the new rules, political advertisers now may target their ads in search and on Google-owned YouTube only down to the postal code level. These campaigns may also target people on the basis of gender or age, but they cannot do so based on voters’ political affiliations or public voter records, Google said, breaking with past policies.
How a CIA Analyst, Alarmed by Trump’s Shadow Foreign Policy, Triggered an Impeachment Inquiry
MSN – Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Paul Sonne (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2019
The outlines of the impeachment case have been established: President Trump, his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, and two diplomats are alleged to have collaborated to pressure Ukraine to pursue investigations to bolster Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and damage the prospects of Joe Biden. To advance this hidden agenda, Trump and his allies orchestrated the ouster of a U.S. ambassador, the withholding of an Oval Office meeting from Ukraine’s new president, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid. It is not clear whether any of this would have come to light were it not for the actions of a relatively junior CIA employee, who is now the target of almost daily attacks by Trump and efforts to make his identity public.
Multiple Lawmakers Under Investigation Over Ethical Misconduct
MSN – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019
The House ethics committee announced it was investigating whether U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings violated the chamber’s rules by having a personal relationship with a member of his staff or accepting inappropriate gifts. Hastings has made no secret of his relationship with an employee in his congressional office. The announcement came on the same day the committee disclosed the Justice Department was investigating U.S. Rep. Ross Spano over accusations of campaign finance violations. The ethics panel also said it would continue investigations into allegations against U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Bill Huizenga.
New Study Shows Decline in Legislative Civility
Idaho Press – Betsy Russell | Published: 11/19/2019
Civility has declined at the Idaho Legislature, but not as much as in other states or in Washington, D.C., according to a new study. Researchers surveyed more than 1,300 lobbyists who work in state Legislatures in all 50 states and followed up on a survey three years earlier of lawmakers themselves. The study explored whether the gridlock that is emerged in Congress is beginning to infect state Legislatures. The lobbyists who were surveyed represent a wide array of interests, from contract lobbyists for private business interests to those representing agencies, non-profits, and public interest groups. The survey showed Idaho is not immune to a national trend toward less civility, less compromise, and more polarization in civic discourse, accompanied by declining trust in U.S. government institutions.
‘No One Believes Anything’: Voters worn out by a fog of political news
New York Times – Sabrina Tavernise and Aiden Gardiner | Published: 11/18/2019
In this volatile political moment, information, it would seem, has never been more crucial. The country is in the midst of impeachment proceedings against a president for the third time in modern history. A high-stakes election is less than a year away. But just when information is needed most, to many Americans it feels most elusive. The rise of social media; the proliferation of information online, including news designed to deceive; and a flood of partisan news are leading to a general exhaustion with news itself. Add to that a president with a documented record of regularly making false statements and the result is a strange new normal: Many people are struggling to discern what is real in a sea of slant, fake, and fact.
Once Mulvaney’s Chief of Staff, Payday Lobbyist Enjoys Frequent Access to His Old Boss
Connecticut Post – Renae Marks (Washington Post) | Published: 11/20/2019
Mick Mulvaney’s former chief of staff has been a key lobbyist for one of the country’s largest payday lenders, giving the industry access to the White House at a time it is fighting to roll back industry regulations. Al Simpson has met repeatedly with Mulvaney, whom he worked for on Capitol Hill until 2017. They have had dinner several times, and Simpson has been a frequent visitor to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The visits to the OMB overlap with the period Mulvaney was acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has oversight of the payday lending industry. While Mulvaney has served as Office of Management and Budget director, the White House has proposed cutting the bureau’s budget and curbing its enforcement powers.
Possible Pay-to-Play Scheme for Ambassador Role in Trump Administration Uncovered by CBS News
CBS News – Staff | Published: 11/18/2019
An investigation has uncovered a possible “pay-for-play” scheme involving the Republican National Committee (RNC) and President Trump’s nominee for ambassador to the Bahamas. Emails obtained by CBS News show the nominee, billionaire Doug Manchester, was asked by the RNC to donate $500,000 as his confirmation in the U.S. Senate hung in the balance. Manchester contributed $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund. A relief trip to the Bahamas by Manchester caught the attention of the president, who tweeted his praise. Three days after the tweet, RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel hit up Manchester for a donation. It was no small sum. In an email, she asked Manchester, “Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?”
RNC to Hold Winter Meetings at Trump Resort That Was Considered for G-7 Summit
MSN – David Fahrenthold and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 11/18/2019
The Republican National Committee will hold its winter meetings at President Trump’s Doral golf course in’Florida next year, awarding another of the party’s most lucrative events to the president’s private business. Trump briefly chose Doral to host a much larger event: next year’s Group of Seven summit of world leaders, effectively awarding a massive federal contract to himself. After bipartisan criticism, Trump canceled the event a few days later. No new site has yet been chosen for the summit. Still, this will be the second time in two years that the GOP will hold a major meeting at the resort, a key property for Trump that has suffered financial decline since he entered politics.
Roger Stone Is Found Guilty in Trial That Revived Trump-Russia Saga
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Zach Montague (New York Times) | Published: 11/15/2019
Roger Stone, a former aide and longtime friend of President Trump, was found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election in what prosecutors said was an effort to protect Trump. Stone was charged with lying to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, trying to block the testimony of another potential witness and concealing reams of evidence from investigators. Prosecutors claimed he tried to thwart the committee’s work because the truth would have “looked terrible” for both the president and his campaign. Stone was found guilty of all seven counts he was charged with.
SEC Chairman Cites Fishy Letters to Support Policy Change
Pensions and Investments – Bloomberg | Published: 11/19/2019
When Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairperson Jay Clayton handed a policy win to corporate executives recently, he pointed to a source of support: a mailbag full of encouragement from ordinary Americans. But a close look at the seven letters that Clayton highlighted, and about two dozen others submitted to the SEC by supposedly regular people, shows they are the product of a misleading, and clumsy, public relations campaign by corporate interests. At issue is the proxy process, the rules for how corporations conduct shareholder votes, such as when directors stand for re-election at annual meetings. Last year, the National Association of Manufacturers helped form the Main Street Investors Coalition to oppose what it calls the “politicization” of the investment process and to argue fund managers and boards should focus on maximizing profits. One of its priorities is changing shareholder voting rules.
Sondland Acknowledges Ukraine Quid Pro Quo, Implicates Trump, Pence, Pompeo and Others
Washington Post – Rachael Bade, Aaron Davis, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 11/21/2019
An ambassador at the center of the House impeachment inquiry testified he was following President’s Trump’s orders, with the full knowledge of other top administration officials, when he pressured the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Trump’s political rivals in what he called a clear “quid pro quo.” The testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is the most damaging yet for Trump in the intensifying inquiry. Sondland declared the Trump administration would not give Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a chance to visit the White House unless Zelensky agreed to announce investigations that could help the president politically.
Trump Appointee Accused of Inflating Résumé, Faking a Time Cover Pushes Back in Resignation Letter
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 11/18/2019
Mina Chang, the State Department official whose inflated resume and faked Timed magazine cover raised further questions about the Trump administration’s vetting process, has resigned. Chang defended herself and criticized the “toxic environment” at the agency, where she had served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, the erstwhile nominee for director of national intelligence, withdrew from consideration after reporting on his false claims about arresting undocumented immigrants. After Trump announced Ratcliffe would not be his nominee, the president defended the White House’s failure to scrutinize their pick’s background. “I give out a name to the press, and they vet for me,” Trump said. “We save a lot of money that way.”
Twitter Rolls Out Total Ban on Ads from Political Figures
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 11/15/2019
Twitter unveiled the details of a previously announced far-reaching global policy that bans campaign advertising as well as ads of any type from political figures and groups, and puts strict limits around other types of paid messaging that have a political dimension. The move comes as social platforms in the U.S. are under scrutiny over their handling of political ads, set against the 2020 presidential contest. Twitter is banning all ads that mention specific candidates, elections, or legislation. The prohibition on any advertising applies to campaigns, government officials, PACs, and 501(c)(4) groups. The total ban on political ads, however, does not extend to so-called issue ads. While those issue ads will be allowed from any advertisers not otherwise prohibited from buying ads, there are significant new restrictions on their messaging and reach.
Uncertain Times Could Bring New Lobbying Strategies
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/21/2019
The presidential election year will hit lobbyists with potential risks all around. Candidates up and down the ballot will press proposals to remake the influence industry and to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. More candidates will reject K Street and business donations. Still, lobbyists say they have no plans to zip up their campaign checkbooks, hide under their desks, or decamp from the capital. Instead, they are brewing alternative strategies, workarounds that include deeper outreach to think tanks, academia, and other institutions that can lend policy gravitas to shape major discussions over health care, immigration, trade, taxes, and other matters that will feature prominently on the campaign trail and beyond.
Canada – Alberta Government Firing Election Commissioner Who Was Investigating Leadership
Global News – Dean Bennett (Canadian Press) | Published: 11/18/2019
Alberta’s United Conservative government is firing the province’s election commissioner, but says it is not because he is investigating the party and has fined it more than $200,000. Finance Minister Travis Toews said the decision to end Lorne Gibson’s contract is strictly about saving money. Chief electoral officer Glen Resler is in overall charge of running Alberta’s elections, but in early 2018 the former New Democratic Party government created a separate arm’s-length election commissioner to specifically investigate violations in fundraising and advertising. The New Democrats then hired Gibson, whose highest profile investigation has been into the 2017 United Conservative leadership race won by Jason Kenney.
From the States and Municipalities
Connecticut – No Tolls CT: Crucial role or just another anti-tolls force?
Middletown Press – Kaitlyn Krasselt | Published: 11/16/2019
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s transportation infrastructure plan included 14 tolls on highway bridges and interchanges throughout the state, raising $320 million a year. But less than a week after he unveiled the proposal it was effectively dead as Senate Democrats expressed their reluctance to bring it to a vote. The fast result marks a win for the for No Tolls CT. Now, as the state searches for answers on how to fund transportation, the question remains as to how much influence the group ultimately had. Some have begun to question whether No Tolls CT is truly the small grassroots troupe of passionate volunteers they claim to be, or if there are larger, more organized and experienced political powers with deep pockets behind it.
Georgia – Stacey Abrams Campaign Says Georgia Ethics Watchdog’s Lawsuit Is Partisan
The Guardian – Khushbu Shah | Published: 11/20/2019
Georgia’s ethics commission filed a lawsuit against former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ 2018 campaign, insisting it had not received all relevant communications requested in April. Abrams’s former campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, now the leader of Abrams’ national campaign against voter suppression, called the demand for the documents a “politically motivated investigation.” Months after Abrams lost the race, the commission launched the investigation around “unlawful coordination” between her gubernatorial campaign and several groups. For that reason, the lawsuit alleges, the commission needs to review not only financial records, but communications between the various organizations, including the New Georgia Voter Project and Fair Count, both launched by Abrams.
Illinois – Lawmakers Address Ethics Issues
State Journal-Register – Doug Finke | Published: 11/14/2019
The Illinois Legislature approved what lawmakers on both sides of the aisle described as a small step toward fixing the state’s ethics laws amid an ongoing federal public corruption probe that has ensnared politicians from Chicago City Hall to the Capitol in Springfield. Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1693 that would require state lobbyists to disclose more information to the public and create a combined online database for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and public officials’ annual statements of economic interest. A companion measure, House Joint Resolution 93, that lawmakers also approved would create a 16-member commission to recommend additional changes to ethics laws.
Indiana – A ‘Tradition’ of Public Corruption: Mayors being arrested isn’t unusual for Indiana
Indianapolis Star – Crystal Hill | Published: 11/20/2019
Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler was arrested after being indicted for allegedly taking a $5,000 bribe in exchange for a public contract. History shows Tyler’s arrest is hardly unusual. The allegations against Tyler are tame compared to what some previous Hoosier mayors have been accused, and convicted, of. Throughout the last century, The Indianapolis Star found at least a dozen mayors who were charged and/or convicted in local or federal cases, including now four mayors from Muncie alone. Tyler also is the fourth Indiana mayor arrested in the last five years. While many of the earlier charges point to a specific period in history, the offenses are not dissimilar from public corruption accusations that still make headlines today, according to a historian.
Indiana – McDermott Admits Family Is Repaying $50,000 Campaign Contribution from Wife’s Judicial Fund
Northwest Indiana Times – Dan Carden | Published: 11/16/2019
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and his wife, Lake Circuit Court Judge Marissa McDermott, are preparing to repay $50,000 in campaign contributions originally paid to her judicial campaign fund from his mayoral account after state officials deemed the amount excessive. There also are no legal limits on campaign donations or loans between a husband and wife in Indiana so long as they are reported. But Mayor McDermott said the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications viewed the loan as a potential violation of code of judicial conduct, which directs judicial candidates “to solicit and accept only such campaign contributions as are reasonable.”
Kansas – Cerner Must Guard Against Conflicts of Interest as Exec Runs for Congress, Experts Say
Kansas City Star – Bryan Lowry and Jason Hancock | Published: 11/17/2019
When Cerner executive Amanda Adkins launched her congressional campaign in September, her website featured a photograph of her standing next to the corporate logo on the company’s Kansas City campus. The photo was cropped to remove the Cerner name shortly after the site went online. The change illustrates the ethical and optical challenges both the company and Adkins face as she seeks the Republican nomination in Kansas’ Third Congressional District, while continuing to work for the health care IT giant that holds billions of dollars in federal contracts. Federal law restricts government contractors from giving money to congressional candidates. Cerner will also have to protect against providing services to Adkins, which could be seen as in-kind contributions under FEC rules, said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.
Louisiana – Walter Dumas, Ex-Southern Board Member, Owes $138K for Unpaid Stadium Suite Rental, Appeals Court Says
New Orleans Advocate – Joe Guyan Jr. | Published: 11/18/2019
Former Southern University Board of Supervisors member Walter Dumas and his now-defunct law firm must pay the Louisiana Board of Ethics $138,000 for using an A.W. Mumford Stadium suite for three years without paying the rental fee, an appeals court has ruled for the second time. The latest ruling came when the state First Circuit Court of Appeal rejected Dumas’ argument that the Ethics Adjudicatory Board lacked subject matter jurisdiction when it ordered Dumas and his firm to pay the money. The sum represents yearly rental payments of $13,800 for the 2006, 2007, and 2008 football seasons, plus a $96,600 donation to the Southern University System Foundation that was payable over three years.
Maryland – Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh Charged with 11 Counts of Fraud, Tax Evasion in ‘Healthy Holly’ Book Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector | Published: 11/20/2019
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud and tax evasion over lucrative deals for her self-published children’s series of books. Prosecutors allege Pugh defrauded area businesses and nonprofit organizations with nearly $800,000 in sales of her “Healthy Holly” books to unlawfully enrich herself, promote her political career, and illegally fund her campaign for mayor. Though her customers ordered more than 100,000 copies of her books, the indictment says Pugh failed to print thousands of copies, double-sold others, and took some to use for self-promotion. She used the profits to buy a house and make illegal straw donations to her campaign, prosecutors allege. At the same time, prosecutors said, she was evading taxes.
Michigan – Former Lawmakers Sue to Undo Michigan’s Term Limits
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 11/20/2019
Eight former Republican and Democratic lawmakers are suing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson over Michigan’s shortest-in-the-nation term limits, which they say are an “unconstitutional bar to their ballot access.” State lawmakers are limited to serving a total of 14 years across the two legislative chambers – three, two-year terms in the House and two, four-year terms in the Senate. Five of the lawmakers are now registered lobbyists. The 501(c)4 or social welfare group funding the lawsuit lists Rusty Merchant, a lobbyist, as its resident agent and the press conference announcing the lawsuit was held in a conference room belonging to lobbying firm McAlvey Merchant & Associates.
Montana – Montana Candidates Failed to Properly Disclose Facebook Ad Spending
Montana Public Radio – Corin Cates-Carney | Published: 11/20/2019
Political ads for Montana’s 2020 gubernatorial race have appeared on Facebook at least 760,000 times since the start of the year. Montana Public Radio (MTPR) found nearly all the candidates running for office did not follow state rules for disclosing details about those ads to the public. After MTPR reached out to Jeff Mangan, the commissioner of political practices, about the discrepancy in Facebook ad spending, he sent a memo to all candidates in Montana. Mangan reminded them “they have the responsibility and obligation to understand and comply with all Montana campaign finance laws.” It also requests candidates send amended disclosure forms that include all social media advertising expenditures.
Nevada – Nevada Licensing Boards Sometimes Lobby Against State’s Interests
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Bill Dentzer | Published: 11/15/2019
To the administrative and regulatory maze that is Nevada’s occupational licensing system, add this twist: more than half the state-appointed licensing boards employ lawyers or lobbyists at state expense, and occasionally they work against the state’s interests. For 2017 through 2021, the state is footing more than $2.6 million in legal and lobbying expenses for 21 licensing boards, according to a review requested by the state Board of Examiners. The board meets monthly to review and approve state spending. The boards are technically funded by fees from professional licensing, not from the state’s general fund. But the boards are state-created entities, their members are appointed by the governor, and their contractual expenses still come before the Board of Examiners for approval.
New York – De Blasio Donor Sues JCOPE, Arguing Inquiries Are Illegal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/17/2019
While the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has reached a series of settlements with donors to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s lobbying charity, a target of the inquiry is fighting back, arguing the investigations are based on an illegal premise. Under state law, public officials are not allowed to accept gifts of more than “nominal” value from lobbyists or their clients. The types of gifts targeted by regulators have included items such as free plane trips for elected officials or tickets to sporting events. JCOPE in 2014 passed a regulation that also barred a lobbyist or their client from donating to a “charitable organization, on behalf of or at the direction of, a public official.” The lawsuit filed by Broadway Stages argues the regulation is illegal, since state lawmakers never passed a law empowering JCOPE to expand the definition of “gift.”
New York – Heastie’s Counsel Contacted Ethics Commissioner After Percoco Vote
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 11/20/2019
Howard Vargas, the executive counsel to New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, is the person who contacted a commissioner with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) in January and allegedly pressed her about a meeting earlier that day in which the panel voted whether to investigate Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The unusual call by Vargas took place not long after Cuomo had spoken with Heastie at the Capitol, and allegedly expressed concerns about the voting that day by the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE. The closed-door deliberations of the commission are not public, and any disclosure of that information may violate state law.
North Carolina – Cooper ‘Improperly’ Used Influence on Pipeline, Investigation Started by GOP Concludes
Raleigh News and Observer – Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan and Dan Kane | Published: 11/20/2019
An independent investigation started by Republican legislative leaders into North Carolina’s approvals for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline found Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper “improperly used the authority and influence of his office” but did not personally benefit from those decisions. The report was released almost two years after GOP leaders first questioned the governor’s office about the appearance of a “pay-to-play” or “pay-for-permit” after the Cooper administration approved a permit for the pipeline. Cooper’s administration at that time also announced the pipeline companies would provide $57.8 million to a fund under the governor’s control to be used for environmental mitigation, economic development, and renewable energy in areas affected by the pipeline.
North Carolina – North Carolina Lawmakers OK New 2020 Congressional Maps. Now It’s Up to the Courts
Raleigh News and Observer – Brian Murphy | Published: 11/15/2019
The Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature approved a new congressional district map to be used in 2020 that is likely to shrink the GOP’s edge in the state’s congressional delegation. But Democrats plan to challenge the map in court again. Lawmakers drew the new map after a three-judge panel indicated it was likely to toss the previous map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. If a new map is not in place by December 2, the congressional primaries scheduled for March could be postponed. The maps will only be used in 2020 as they will have to be redrawn for the 2022 election using new Census data. That process should start in March 2021.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Hear New Proposal for Capping Campaign Contributions
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 11/19/2019
At a meeting of the Oregon Senate Campaign Finance Committee he chairs, Sen. Jeff Golden unveiled a proposal for new campaign finance regulations that contains elements he believes are “ideal.” Those elements could become a key starting point as the Legislature prepares to grapple with the issue early next year. Golden’s proposal would place ceilings on the amount of money individuals and various types of political committees could give to candidates, campaigns, and one another. Oregon is currently one of a handful of states with no limits on campaign contributions.
Oregon – Oregon Supreme Court Considers Whether to Overturn Landmark Campaign Finance Ruling
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 11/15/2019
The Oregon Supreme Court held a hearing to determine whether it will overturn one of its more notable rulings, the two-decade-old decision that struck down the state’s voter-approved campaign finance limits. After 90 minutes of spirited debate with the attorneys in the case, it seems clear the justices were animated by the issue of whether they should do exactly that. The court is considering the constitutionality of an ordinance passed by Multnomah County voters that places a $500-per-person limit on campaign donations. But the stakes are larger than that. If the justices revisit their 1997 ruling, it could also open the door to the imposition of strict limits at the state level.
Pennsylvania – Bill Limiting Gifts to Public Officials Moves in Pa. Legislature
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 11/19/2019
The House State Government Committee vote to advance new limits on gifts to Pennsylvania public officials, including an outright prohibition on taking cash, although the proposal includes numerous exceptions. The vote came after Republicans pushed through a party-line vote to add an exception to let lobbyists give birthday or wedding presents. Gifts generally would not be allowed if they total more than $50 from one person in a calendar year, or hospitality, transportation, or lodging worth $500 a year. Lobbyist gifts would not be covered if the lobbyist and public official have “a personal romantic relationship.”
Texas – The Inauguration of Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick Cost Millions. But Much of It Went to Fundraising and Staff.
Texas Tribune – Shannon Najmabadi and Jay Root | Published: 11/18/2019
The inauguration of the Texas governor and lieutenant governor – traditionally two days of parties, picnics, and parades – has been transformed into a giant payday for campaign staff and fundraisers. The money spent on personnel, including payroll and fundraising, has skyrocketed during Gov. Greg Abbott’s two swearing-in celebrations, dwarfing spending in those categories during the Rick Perry era, which spanned more than a decade. Gubernatorial spokesperson John Wittman has said no state dollars were spent on the festivities and that none of the $800,000 donated by the inaugural committee to charities, which he would not name which, benefited entities tied to Abbott or the government.
Virginia – Salacious Facebook Posts About a Former Virginia Beach City Council Candidate Lead to Defamation Lawsuit
The Viginian-Pilot – Jane Harper | Published: 11/14/2019
Dee Oliver was a favorite to win an at-large seat on the Virginia Beach City Council in the November election. But days before voters headed to the polls, a post published on a Facebook discussion group with thousands of members portrayed the candidate as a “woman of ill repute,” according to a lawsuit Oliver filed. The post suggested she had sex with a physical fitness trainer in a hospital bathroom while the man was there for heart surgery, the complaint says, and while his family was in the next room. Oliver ended up losing the election by just 347 votes after a recount. The case highlights the potential legal danger of posting on social media, especially if the information is false or is published with reckless disregard for the truth.
Washington – In Olympia, an Idea to Help Voters Easily Track Campaign Ad Money and Zero in on Who’s Being Targeted
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 11/20/2019
Election spending in Washington continues to break records. Meanwhile, micro-targeted online advertising, such as through Facebook and Google, has made it possible for campaigns to reach small slices of voters without the broader public being aware. So, state campaign finance officials discussed the idea of giving Washington’s disclosure system a boost: building a searchable digital archive that collects campaign ads and information related to them. Officials for the Public Disclosure Commission said a digital archive could shine sunlight on political ads bought through social-media companies. A searchable database could also help voters make sense of a dizzying amount of election messaging and the sources behind it.
Washington DC – D.C. Council Members Aim to Tighten Loopholes in Subcontracting Law
Washington Post – Steve Thompson and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 11/19/2019
A group of District of Columbia Council members introduced a bill designed to improve compliance with a law that requires companies with large public contracts to subcontract some work to small local businesses. The subcontracting law has been revised in prior years as lawmakers attempted to stop contractors from abusing it. The bill would prohibit contractors from subcontracting work to companies in which they have an ownership stake to fulfill the law’s requirements. It would also require more evidence from businesses that they are local, create a tip line for reporting violations, and increase the frequency of site inspections.
Washington DC – D.C. Lawmaker Jack Evans Sought Stock in Sign Company After Acknowledging Potential Conflict of Interest, Report Says
Washington Post – Steve Thompson | Published: 11/14/2019
The investigation into ethics allegations against District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans provided fresh details about his dealings with a digital sign company at the heart of several probes into whether Evans used his office to benefit his private clients and employers. Digi Outdoor Media and Evans negotiated a private consulting contract in 2016 while the sign company was clashing with the city over its regulation of outdoor advertising. Investigators hired by the city council concluded Evans and his staff took official actions to benefit the company against a “backdrop of benefits and intermittent financial entanglements.”
Wisconsin – ‘Much Too Divided’: Lobbyists, Capitol observers adjust to slower pace under split government
Madison.com – Briana Reilly | Published: 11/18/2019
Nearly a year into divided government in Wisconsin, many lobbyists and Capitol observers say they have adjusted to the new reality: things are moving slower and less is getting done. After a decade of one-party control of the state Legislature and governor’s office, a new Democratic face in the East Wing, coupled with Republicans holding onto their legislative majorities, has brought a change of pace to the legislative process. As Republicans and Democrats work to navigate the situation, lobbyists are also learning what they can expect to accomplish under the new order, which some described as a balancing act between the Republican Assembly speaker, GOP Senate majority leader, and Democratic governor.
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