November 8, 2019 •
News You Can Use Digest – November 8, 2019
A Conspiracy of Hunches: Roger Stone trial set to start this week
San Francisco Chronicle – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Manuel Roig-Franzia (Washington Post) | Published: 11/4/2019
Roger Stone is on trial in federal court, where prosecutors plan to dive back into an episode of political chicanery, alleged lies, and conspiratorial texts that parallels the nascent impeachment inquiry into his longtime friend President Trump. Stone has long cultivated a public image as a dirty trickster on the edges of mainstream politics. He has been charged with lying to Congress and trying to tamper with a witness during a congressional investigation into interference in the 2016 election. His trial offers the possibility of fresh insights into the strange quest by some in Trump’s orbit for a kind of political kryptonite to use against Hillary Clinton – secret emails that would, they hoped, destroy her candidacy.
Advocacy Groups Fear Impact of Twitter Political Ad Ban
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 11/1/2019
Advocacy groups and trade associations are worried that Twitter’s decision to ban all political advertisements could hurt their efforts to use digital marketing to promote their issues. One source told The Hill the Twitter announcement sent “shock waves” through public affairs professionals in Washington, D.C. While Twitter is still working to finalize its rules, the changes are likely to force those groups to rework how they speak to elected officials, stakeholders, and the public through social media. There are still many questions about the scope of Twitter’s ban. Some asked how Twitter will deal with companies who are politically active.
As Trump Moves to Bully Witnesses and Derail Impeachment, Democrats See Obstruction
Anchorage Daily News – Phillip Rucker, Rachael Bade, and Roisalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/1/2019
The centerpiece of House Democrats’ eventual impeachment charges is widely expected to be President Trump’s alleged abuse of power over Ukraine. But obstruction of Congress is now all but certain to be introduced as well, just as it was five decades ago when the House Judiciary Committee voted for articles of impeachment against then-President Richard Nixon. Democrats argue the Trump administration’s stonewalling –including trying to stop subpoenaed witnesses from testifying and blocking the executive branch from turning over documents – creates a strong case the president has infringed on the separation of powers and undercut lawmakers’ oversight duties as laid out in the Constitution.
Giuliani: I never lobbied or represented foreigners
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/31/2019
Rudolph Giuliani, who spent more than a dozen years with two well-known K Street firms, has deep ties to the influence industry. The former New York mayor logged a decade with the law and lobbying firm then known as Bracewell & Giuliani and a two-year stint after that with Greenberg Traurig. Giuliani never registered to lobby and has never disclosed work as a foreign agent, though it is his international portfolio that has generated attention from federal prosecutors. Though Bracewell appears not to have registered to do foreign influence work, Giuliani’s name appears in Foreign Agent Registration Act filings during his time there.
Higher Earning ‘Elite’ Political Lobbyists Overstate Their Own Achievements, Study Shows
Phys.org – University of Exeter | Published: 11/6/2019
Research from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom shows high-earning lobbyists living in Washington, D.C. with congressional experience, and who engage in a broader range of activities, were more likely than other lobbyists to inflate their success. Lobbyists who have a smaller salary and work in specialist areas or for public interest groups are less overconfident, or even underestimate their success. Researchers said this suggests overconfidence can help lobbyists make connections with important people but does not necessarily lead to them being able to influence policies. The research examined whether a lobbyist’s perception of their own success was accurate, compared to legislative outcomes, and if their measure of their own success was in line with other lobbyists who worked on the same issues.
Inside Adam Schiff’s Impeachment Game Plan
MSN – Adam Zengerle (New York Times) | Published: 11/5/2019
After Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House was moving forward with an “official impeachment inquiry,” she said U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff would be leading the investigation. Schiff’s initial reluctance to pursue impeachment, paradoxically, has made him a particularly effective advocate for it in the past month. In his interviews and news conferences, he strikes a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone, in keeping with Pelosi’s interest in presenting impeachment as a “prayerful, solemn, difficult” process. Schiff has come to occupy a unique and privileged place in the Democratic firmament. His Ukraine investigation has now been invested with all the hopes and dreams that Democrats once placed in the special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. In Schiff, Democrats believe they have found a more reliable vessel than Mueller and an opportunity for a do-over of sorts.
K Street’s Newest Star Built Business on Dubious Claims of Trump Ties
Laredo Morning Times – Beth Reinhard and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 11/1/2019
Since President Trump took office, the lobbyist Michael Esposito has been wildly successful, turning a family business that once focused on municipal transportation issues into one of the fastest-growing lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. Fueling that rise, at least in part, are Esposito’s claims that he is uniquely positioned: a former Capitol Hill staffer who is close to centers of power in the Trump administration. Some of those very people, however, said Esposito’s claims are greatly embellished, or simply not true. Esposito, whose firm says it employs a half-dozen other lobbyists, some of whom have White House and congressional experience, said his clients had scrutinized his record and would have detected any falsehoods.
Lobbyists’ Revolving Door Leads Back to Capitol Hill Jobs
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson | Published: 11/5/2019
More than 100 staff members traded in jobs with high-paying K Street firms, corporations, trade associations, or nonprofits for long hours on Capitol Hill beset by partisan brawls and legislative gridlock. Nearly 60 percent of the 110 people who have moved to the Hill from the influence industry since the midterm election went to work for House Democrats, a likely result of the flurry of new jobs available after the party regained control of the chamber. Republican offices in both the House and Senate hired 31 ex-lobbyists, or 28 percent of the total number who moved over. Some say they are doing it out of a desire to be in public service or because they have a longtime loyalty to their congressional bosses. Congress has made no conflict-of-interest rules limiting the interactions of lobbyists returning to Capitol Hill.
Sondland Updates Impeachment Testimony, Describing Ukraine Quid Pro Quo
MSN – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 11/5/2019
A critical witness in the impeachment inquiry offered Congress substantial new testimony, revealing he told a top Ukrainian official that the country likely would not receive American military aid unless it publicly committed to investigations President Trump wanted. The disclosure from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, in four new pages of sworn testimony, confirmed his involvement in laying out a quid pro quo to Ukraine that he had previously not acknowledged. The issue is at the heart of the impeachment investigation into Trump, which turns on the allegation the president abused his power to extract political favors from a foreign power. Trump has consistently maintained that he did nothing wrong and that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine.
The Hottest Stop for Candidates on the 2020 Campaign Trail? The Picket Line.
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 11/2/2019
The road to the presidential nomination next year is sure to be full of unforeseen twists and potholes as a crowded field of Democratic contenders dukes it out in a volatile political climate. But about a year into their race, one thing is clear: It leads through a thicket of striking workers, in a number of states, whether they are in front of a grocery store, an automotive factory, or an elementary school. This push comes as they try to dislodge some of the support President Trump has found in states that have lost tens of thousands of union jobs in recent years, including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Political observers said the rush by 2020 hopefuls to embrace striking workers marks a new chapter, although unions have been nominally aligned with Democratic politicians on and off for years.
The Messy Politics of Voter Purges
Pew Charitable Trusts – Matt Vasilogambros (Stateline) | Published: 10/25/2019
With a year until the 2020 presidential election, many states are still crafting ballot access policies that will shape their electorate. Decisions about voter list maintenance, one of the most essential bureaucratic duties of state election officials, received intense scrutiny in several states this year. While federal law mandates a certain level of voter roll maintenance, states differ on how they manage their registration databases. Most state officials are just trying to keep voter lists clean, said David Becker, executive director and founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research. Inevitably, however, dropping voters from the rolls inspires forceful political pushback, as many voting rights activists fear it is a form of voter suppression.
Trump Lures GOP Senators on Impeachment with Cold Cash
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 10/31/2019
President Trump is rewarding senators who have his back on impeachment and sending a message to those who do not to get on board. Trump is tapping his vast fundraising network for a handful of loyal senators facing tough reelection bids in 2020. Each of them has signed onto a Republican-backed resolution condemning the inquiry as “unprecedented and undemocratic.” Republican senators on the ballot next year are lagging in fundraising, stoking uncertainty about the GOP’s hold on the chamber, and could use the fundraising might of the president. Trump’s political operation has raked in over $300 million this year.
Trump Wanted Barr to Hold News Conference Saying the President Broke No Laws in Call with Ukrainian Leader
MSN – Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 11/6/2019
President Trump wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference declaring that the president had broken no laws during a phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate a political rival, though Barr ultimately declined to do so, people familiar with the matter said. The request from Trump traveled from him to other White House officials and eventually to the Justice Department. The president has mentioned Barr’s demurral to associates in recent weeks, saying he wished Barr would have held the news conference, Trump advisers say. Those close to the administration concede the department has made several recent maneuvers putting it at odds with the White House at a particularly precarious time for Trump.
Canada – Alberta Businessman, Company Fined $25,000 Over Donations to Jeff Callaway Campaign
Globe and Mail – James Keller | Published: 11/4/2019
Alberta’s election commissioner fined a Calgary businessperson and a company he controls over allegations they illegally gave $60,000 to a failed contender for the leadership of the provincial United Conservative Party (UCP), who then used that money to reimburse straw donors to his campaign. Robyn Lore and Agropyron Enterprises were fined a combined total of $25,000 for their involvement in Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership campaign in 2017. The elections commissioner has issued more than $200,000 in fines, including to many of Callaway’s donors and several members of his staff as part of an investigation into how the campaign was financed.
Canada – ‘Deep State’ Lobbying a Growing Tactic of Fossil Fuel Industry, Report Finds
The Narwhal – Sharon Riley | Published: 11/5/2019
Since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s took office in 2015, lobbyists in Ottawa have focused more attention on the nation’s bureaucrats, rather than elected office holders, representing what one researcher is calling a troubling “fusion of private interest and public bodies.” A new report from the Corporate Mapping Project documents the reach of the fossil fuel industry when it comes to lobbying the federal government, raising red flags about what it calls a “troubling shift in lobbying patterns.” The report’s findings suggest industry lobbyists are increasingly focusing on developing closer, long-term relationships with federal bureaucrats rather than elected officials.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Anchorage Judge Orders Alaska Campaign Contribution Limit to Be Reinstated
KTUU – Sean Maguire | Published: 11/6/2019
A Superior Court judge in Anchorage issued a ruling that may hobble the independent expenditure groups that have come to dominate elections in Alaska. Judge William Morse said the Alaska Public Office Commission (APOC) should reinstate the $500 annual per-person contribution limit to PACs that is in state law. APOC stopped enforcing it following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Harrow says APOC went too far in its interpretation.
Arkansas – Indictment Says Couple Bought Legislation Tweaks
Arkansas Democrat Gazette – Eric Besson | Published: 11/7/2019
Former executives of the nonprofit at the heart of a sweeping federal political corruption probe in Arkansas face new wire-fraud charges after a federal grand jury produced a fresh allegation involving former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson. He pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in connection to payments made by a nonprofit run by the married couple, Bontiea and Tom Goss. The new indictment says Hutchinson added language, at Bontiea Goss’ request, to a Senate bill he sponsored. The language, which remained when the bill became law, helped the Gosses’ nonprofit “because it provided an advantage to the charity when competing for valuable [Arkansas] contracts,” the indictment says. The aim was to help the firm win approval to create a “pay-for-success program.”
California – Donations to Anderson’s 2020 County Supervisor Campaign Draw Questions
San Diego Union-Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 11/4/2019
Ten years ago, when he was a California Assembly member, Joel Anderson was the subject of an investigation into questionable campaign contributions that ended with election regulators fining him $20,000 and the legislator admitting he made a mistake. Now running for a seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Anderson is under a new investigation involving more recent contributions by some of the same donors from a decade ago. Anderson set up two different campaign committees for the 2020 race, the first nearly five years ago and the second in April 2016. Campaign records show the two committees accepted contributions from at least 11 people who, when their donations are combined, exceeded the county limit of $850 per individual contribution for primary and general elections.
California – SF Voters Pass Prop. F, the ‘Sunlight on Dark Money’ Measure
San Francisco Chronicle – Trisha Thandani | Published: 11/5/2019
A San Francisco ballot measure intended to increase the transparency of who pays for campaign ads won easily on November 5. The passage of Proposition F, called “Sunlight on Dark Money,” means campaigns will be forced to more prominently disclose who donates money to a cause. Proposition F is targeted at independent PACs, which can raise an unlimited amount of money from corporations, unions, and individuals. Those committees can then donate to individual candidate committees, which makes it less obvious who is behind the contributions.
California – Travel, Furniture, ‘Lavish’ Meals: Nonprofit head misspent $1.7 million, filing alleges
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser | Published: 11/6/2019
The former head of the Los Angeles-based anti-poverty nonprofit Youth Policy Institute improperly used the organization’s funds to pay the property taxes on his house, buy furniture for his home office, and make national political donations, the group alleged in court documents. Dixon Slingerland, who was fired as the group’s chief executive in September, spent the nonprofit’s money on an array of unauthorized and personal expenses, including private tutoring for his children, contributions to his wife’s pension, and “lavish” dining, travel, and entertainment, according to a bankruptcy filing lodged by the nonprofit.
Florida – A Library Wanted a New York Times Subscription. Officials Refused, Citing Trump and ‘Fake News.’
MSN – Antonia Noori Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 11/5/2019
The board of commissioners in Citrus County, Florida, said it will no longer pay for the county library’s digital subscription to The New York Times, with one commissioner citing President Trump’s claim that the newspaper’s reporting was “fake news” as justifying the decision. On the same day the commissioners met, the White House said it was planning to order that federal agencies end their subscriptions to The Times and the Washington Post, two news outlets often criticized by Trump. “Someone’s personal political view does not have a place in deciding what library resources are available for the entire county,” said Sandy Price, chairperson of the library’s board. “Libraries have to ensure all points of view are represented.”
Georgia – DeKalb County Voters Reject Ballot Referendum to Restructure Ethics Board
Emory Wheel – Ninad Kulkarni | Published: 11/6/2019
A ballot referendum to restructure the DeKalb County Ethics Board failed to pass. The referendum proposed the establishment of a new ethics board for the county and replaced the position of ethics officer with an “ethics administrator.” DeKalb County legislators can vote on a new bill in the 2020 legislative session to address the ethics board. County residents in 2015 voted to make the ethics board more independent and to allow outside groups to appoint a majority of the board members, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The ethics board had not been functional since a 2018 Georgia Supreme Court ruling mandated that a majority of the members must be appointed by public officials.
Illinois – Pritzker Promises Lobbying Reforms as ‘Small Start’ to End Corrupt ‘Old Way of Doing Politics’
Chicago Sun-Times – Staff | Published: 11/6/2019
Vowing to help lift the cloud of “pay-to-play” politics over Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker told Cook County Democrats he plans to help craft legislation that would shed more light on lobbyists as the first in “a series of ethics reforms that are frankly long overdue.” Expressing his anger over corruption has become a recurring theme for the governor as a sprawling federal investigation ensnares state legislators, Chicago aldermen, and county officials. After general vows to help “root” out illegal activity, Pritzker pledged to take the first step in the upcoming fall veto session.
Illinois – Rep. Luis Arroyo Resigns After Being Charged with Bribery
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella and Jamie Munks | Published: 11/1/2019
State Rep. Luis Arroyo resigned from the Illinois House, one week after being arrested on a federal bribery charge. His resignation came hours before a legislative committee was set to meet to consider his ouster. Arroyo is accused of paying a bribe to a state senator in exchange for support of a gambling bill that would have benefited a lobbying client of Arroyo’s. His arrest followed a federal raid on the Capitol office of Sen. Martin Sandoval in September and the indictment of Sen. Thomas Cullerton in August on embezzlement charges in connection with an alleged union ghost payrolling scheme.
Kansas – Fight Over $70M Kansas Prison Health Care Contract Turns Bitter Amid Ethics Concerns
Wichita Eagle – Jonathan Shorman | Published: 11/5/2019
The Tennessee company criticized for providing substandard medical care to Kansas’s 10,000 prison inmates now finds itself at the center of fresh controversy over the future of its $70 million-plus annual contract. Corizon Health alleges the Kansas Department of Corrections put the massive prison health care contract up for bid in a way that eases the path for a competitor who employs the former head of the corrections system. At the same time, a top official in Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration said a Corizon executive made political threats against the current leader of the Department of Corrections over the contract.
Kentucky – Kentucky Outcome Embarrasses Trump and Worries Many Republicans Ahead of 2020
MSN – Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 11/6/2019
Democrats’ claim of victory in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, as well as the Democratic takeover of the Virginia Legislature, left Republicans stumbling and increasingly uncertain about their own political fates next year tied to an embattled and unpopular president. Many allies of President Trump rushed to explain away the poor performance of incumbent Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin as an anomaly, while other GOP veterans expressed alarm about the party’s failure in a state where Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016. Bevin’s attempt to nationalize his cause by stoking conservative grievances about the impeachment process was not enough to overcome his problems nor was Trump’s raucous rally for the governor, raising questions about Trump’s political strength as he faces a barrage of challenges and a difficult path to reelection.
Maine – Vacancy on State Ethics Panel Poses Election-Year Risks
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 11/3/2019
Leaders of the Maine Legislature have yet to fill a seat that opened on the state ethics board 19 months ago, leaving the public’s only watchdog for campaign finance accountability in a weakened state as candidates begin collecting cash for the next election. Only five people serve on the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, and by law no more than two members can belong to the same political party. As a result, one of the seats is usually held by an independent. The last independent commissioner stepped down in March 2018, leaving decisions in the hands of four commissioners who must set aside party loyalties – and who face no prohibition on making political donations themselves.
Missouri – Federal Appeals Court Says Missouri Lobbying Rules Don’t Apply to Activist
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Erin Heffernan | Published: 11/3/2019
The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that requiring Ron Calzone to sign up as a lobbyist in Missouri unjustly limits his First Amendment rights because he is not paid to press his views with members of the state Legislature and offers them nothing of value. The ruling overturned a decision by a three-judge panel of the same court. That panel had declared the Missouri Ethics Commission could require Calzone to register in the name of transparency and preventing corruption. Calzone, the president and sole officer of the nonprofit Missouri First organization, frequently speaks to lawmakers at the Capitol, often at public hearings. But he says he does not buy food or gifts for legislators.
Nevada – Group Seeks to End Gerrymandering with Independent Commission
Las Vega Review-Journal – Colton Lochhead | Published: 11/4/2019
A group looking to end partisan gerrymandering in Nevada is taking the issue to the voters in hopes of creating a bipartisan independent commission to draw political boundaries in the state instead of lawmakers. The League of Women Voters Nevada is expected to file a constitutional amendment with the secretary of state that, if approved by voters in 2020 and again in 2022, would create a commission that would have the sole authority to draw state legislative and congressional boundaries. According to the description of the proposal, the commission would ensure that districts have roughly equal populations, are “geographically compact and contiguous,” provide equal opportunities for minorities to participate in the process, and do not give an unwarranted advantage to one political party.
New York – Council Approves Fine, Suspension and Monitor for Andy King
Politico – Joe Anuta | Published: 10/28/2019
The New York City Council voted to level the most severe punishment in the panel’s history against Andy King, who was found by investigators to have misused council resources and then retaliated against staff members who he thought were cooperating with the ensuing probe. King’s colleagues voted to suspend him for 30 days, install a monitor for the remainder of his term, fine him $15,000, and strip him of his committee assignments. In addition, staffers who were pressured by King to leave would be allowed to return to work, employees would not be required to chauffeur King around in their personal vehicles without compensation, and King’s wife, an employee of the Service Employees International Union, would be prohibited from conducting council business.
New York – Trump Taxes: Appeals court rules president must turn over 8 years of tax returns
MSN – Benjamin Weiser (New York Times) | Published: 11/4/2019
A federal appeals court ruled President Trump cannot block the Manhattan district attorney’s office from subpoenaing his accounting firm for tax returns and financial records, delivering a blow to the president’s claim that he is immune to criminal investigations. But the court noted they were not ruling on all of the sweeping assertions of immunity the president’s lawyers have claimed. During a hearing before the panel, Trump’s personal lawyer had argued that a sitting president enjoys blanket immunity from criminal prosecution and even investigations while in office. The president’s legal team has already made clear that they intend to bring their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
North Carolina – Is Dan Forest Owed $80,000 in Damages Over a 2012 Political Ad?
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 11/4/2019
A group that lobbies for state employees could have to pay North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest nearly $80,000 because of a campaign finance violation from 2012. The North Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments on both sides of that debate recently, years after Forest’s political committee first sued the political arm of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, which is known as EMPAC, The dispute involves political ads and a since-repealed state law that said political ads had to include a large photograph of either the treasurer or chief executive of the group paying for it. Forest claims he is owed $78,000 in damages, even though he won the 2012 election and went on to serve two terms as lieutenant governor. EMPAC says even if there were technical violations in the ads, it should not have to pay Forest any money because he cannot prove he was harmed.
North Carolina – Senate Leader Using Campaign Cash to Buy Raleigh Home
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 11/6/2019
Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger’s campaign is buying him a home in Raleigh, and the State Board of Elections told him that is allowed under North Carolina’s campaign finance law. Berger’s campaign has paid at least $55,000 to a company he created called YPD Properties LLC. YPD is a property management company, and it appears to be a pass-through entity for campaign rent payments that ultimately pay the mortgage for a townhome that Berger and his wife bought in May of 2016. Watchdog Bob Hall filed a formal complaint with the elections board, which enforces campaign finance rules. While others use campaign money to rent apartments or pay hotel bills, Hall said this is different because Berger’s buying an appreciating asset.
Tennessee – Judge Orders State Officials to Reduce Jeremy Durham’s Record-Setting Campaign Finance Penalty to $110,000
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 11/4/2019
Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell said former state Rep. Jeremy Durham’s fine of $465,000 for violating Tennessee’s campaign finance law should be reduced to $110,000. The initial fine was the single-largest civil penalty ever assessed by the Registry of Election Finance. Darnell wrote that the Legislature did not “give the registry an unbridled right to dole out civil penalties.” The judge pointed to legal precedent while saying prohibitions on excess civil penalties are covered by the U.S. Constitution. The ruling could further undermine the statute, giving lawmakers, many of whom spend donors’ money in in questionable ways, even more latitude.
Tennessee – State Sen. Brian Kelsey Faces Federal Probe Over Complicated Trail of Campaign Donations, Current and Former Lawmakers Say
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert and Adam Tamburin | Published: 11/5/2019
Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey is the subject of a grand jury probe into a complicated money trail related to his failed congressional bid in 2016. The investigation comes more than two years after The Tennessean reported unusual interactions between Kelsey’s state campaign account, a private Nashville club with a PAC, a federal advocacy organization, and the senator’s congressional bid. In a Campaign Legal Center complaint, the group accused Kelsey of violating straw donor prohibitions by purportedly orchestrating the money trail from his state campaign account to the American Conservative Union. He may have also violated straw donor laws when he gave campaign contributions to lawmakers who provided donations to his federal campaign.
Texas – Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Won’t Face Criminal Prosecution, Brazoria County DA Says
Texas Tribune – Cassandra Pollock | Published: 10/24/2019
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen will not be criminally prosecuted for the things he said during a secretly recorded meeting with a hardline conservative activist, the district attorney in his hometown announced. Bonnen has said he will not seek reelection after activist Michael Quinn Sullivan secretly recorded a meeting with Bonnen in June. In the meeting, Bonnen and a top lieutenant asked Sullivan’s group, Empower Texans, to target a list of 10 House Republicans in the upcoming primary elections, and said he could get Empower Texans media access to the House floor. Bonnen also made a handful of disparaging comments about House Democrats and local leaders.
Virginia – Democrats Flip Virginia Senate and House, Taking Control of State Government for the First Time in a Generation
Washington Post – Gregory Schneider and Laura Vozzella | Published: 11/6/2019
Democrats gained control of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, tapping strength in the suburbs to consolidate power for the first time in a generation and deliver a rebuke to President Trump. Officials reported unusually high turnout in an election that served as an opening salvo in next year’s presidential showdown, a test of Democratic defiance and Republican resolve in the era of Trump. The sweep completed a dramatic political conversion, from red to blue, of a Southern state on Washington, D.C.’s doorstep.
Virginia – Virginia Cyclist Who Flipped Off Trump Wins Loudoun County Seat Representing His Golf Club
Danbury News Times – Paul Schwartzman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/5/2019
Juli Briskman, the cyclist who was photographed giving President Donald Trump the finger two years ago and found herself without a job and at the center of a national uproar, got a new job on November 5, winning a seat on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, ousting a Republican in the process. Briskman raised her middle finger as she rode a bicycle alongside the presidential motorcade as Trump departed his golf club in Sterling, Virginia. Briskman said she was intent on basing her campaign on issues and not the incident involving her finger. But she acknowledged her notoriety helped her raise $150,000 for the race.
Washington – Washington High Court Probes Food Industry’s Speech Rights
Capital Press – Don Jenkins | Published: 10/22/2019
A Washington Supreme Court hearing on a record $18 million fine against the food industry touched on boycotts, death threats, and whether companies have the same free-speech protection as civil rights workers. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) faces the penalty for failing to timely report the names of the companies that contributed $11 million in 2013 to defeat a GMO-labeling initiative. An appeals court upheld the conviction, but found the violations were not intentional and slashed the penalty to $6 million, still by far the largest fine ever in the U.S. for a campaign violation. At the heart of GMA’s case to overturn the fine is whether companies and executives faced retaliation by engaging in political speech. After a tough initiative battle in California in 2012, the GMA set up a separate account to take in money from members. The group then contributed $11 million under its name to the “no” campaign.
Washington DC – D.C. Lawmaker Jack Evans Used Office to Benefit Private Clients, Probe Finds
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 11/4/2019
District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans repeatedly used his office on behalf of private clients who paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars, failing to recognize the conflicts and never properly disclosing the payments, according to an investigation by a law firm hired by the council. The confidential report identified 11 instances since 2014 in which Evans violated the council’s rules governing ethics. It marks the first time the council has detailed ethical lapses by Evans, the city’s longest-serving lawmaker. His business interests and his public actions have been the target of a federal investigation, as well as a probe by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
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