News You Can Use Digest - October 18, 2019 - State and Federal Communications

October 18, 2019  •  

News You Can Use Digest – October 18, 2019


After Arrest of Giuliani Associates, FEC Chair Says Commission Struggling to Enforce Rules
The Hill – Justin Wise | Published: 10/14/2019

FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub lamented the agency’s inability to enforce campaign finance law, saying in an interview there “may well be a lot of money that is slipping into our system that we just don’t know about.” Her remarks came in the wake of the campaign finance violation charges leveled against two associates of Rudolph Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney. Florida businesspeople Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested and accused of orchestrating a straw donor scheme that funneled money to numerous Republican committees, including a $325,000 contribution to a pro-Trump super PAC.

Appeals Court Rules Against Trump Over His Financial Data
Anchorage Daily News – Ann Marimow, Spencer Hsu, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2019

Congress can seek eight years of President Trump’s business records from his accounting firm, a federal appeals court ruled in one of several legal battles over access to the president’s financial data. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld Congress’s broad investigative powers and rejected the president’s bid to block lawmakers from subpoenaing the documents. The case is one of several clashes between the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican president over Trump’s data that is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, the judges ruled Trump’s arguments, that the subpoenas were invalid because Congress lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose” for its subpoenas, were incorrect.

Biden’s New Ethics Plan Includes Constitutional Amendment to Publicly Finance Elections
NBC News – Mike Mernoli | Published: 10/14/2019

Seeking to turn the page from what he called the most corrupt administration in American history, former Vice President Joe Biden rolled out a new comprehensive ethics plan that includes a constitutional amendment to publicly finance elections. It also calls for a ban on lobbying by foreign governments and stricter protocols to ensure a firewall between the White House and prosecutorial decisions at the Justice Department. The proposal comes as Biden is under assault from President Trump and his allies over unsubstantiated allegations that he acted as vice president to shield his son from an investigation of a Ukrainian energy company whose board he served on.

Democratic Lobbyists Bristle at Party’s Attack on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 10/16/2019

With presidential candidates like U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders calling for tougher rules on how the lobbying world works, Democratic lobbyists find themselves walking a difficult tightrope. The lobbying industry has pushed back on those proposals as unconstitutional, arguing they would be a restriction on First Amendment rights. Democratic lobbyists said while those proposals may be intended to target K Street'[s biggest spenders, they could also silence voices for progressive causes. A persistent argument against tougher restrictions on lobbying is they would lead to more so-called shadow lobbyists, those who do lobbying work but do not register.

Department of Justice’s Lobbyist Registry Available, but with Technical Issues
The Weekly – Giovanna Garofalo | Published: 10/16/2019

Puerto Rico’s lobbyist registry is now available for the general public to use. The registry is essentially a table that will list lobbyists under their name, number of registrations, clients who they represent, and authorized staff. When visitors access the page now, they will realize that it does not feature a single lobbyist. The Department of Justice and the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Service are still ironing out technical issues with the registry.

FEC Chairwoman Says She ‘Will Not Be Silenced’ after Republican Lawmaker Requests Ethics Investigation
CNN – Kaatina Iyer | Published: 10/10/2019

FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub said she “will not be silenced” after a Republican member of Congress requested that she be investigated for ethics violations for her public statements. Rep. Rodney Davis, who was named an honorary state chairperson for President Trump’s reelection campaign, sent a letter to FEC Inspector General Christopher Skinner, asking him to investigate Weintraub’s “refusal … to recuse herself” from any matters involving the president. He argued that Weintraub’s public statements regarding Trump on Twitter undermines her nonpartisan position.

Fourth Defendant in Giuliani Associates’ Case Arrested at New York Airport
Stamford Advocate – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2019

David Correia, the fourth defendant in a campaign finance case involving business associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, was arrested at a New York City airport. Correia has been charged with participating in a scheme to use foreign money to build political support for a fledgling recreational marijuana business in Nevada and other states, according to an indictment that also charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman with conspiracy and making false statements to campaign finance regulators. The third defendant in the case, a California man named Andrey Kukushkin, was arrested recently, according to authorities.

Giuliani Is Said to Be Under Investigation for Ukraine Work
MSN – Michael Schmidt, Ben Protess, Kenneth Vogel, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2019

An investigation by federal prosecutors into President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani is tied to the case against two of Giuliani’s associates who were arrested recently on campaign finance related charges. The associates were charged with funneling illegal contributions to a member of Congress whose help they sought in removing the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing, but he acknowledged he and the associates worked with Ukrainian prosecutors to collect potentially damaging information about Yovanovitch. Federal law requires American citizens to disclose any contacts with the government or media in the U.S. at the direction or request of foreign politicians or government officials.

Giuliani Pressed for Turkish Prisoner Swap in Oval Office Meeting
MSN – Jo Becker, Maggie Haberman, and Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2019

During an Oval Office meeting with President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017, Rudolph Giuliani pressed for help in securing the release of a jailed client, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, as part of a potential prisoner swap with Turkey. Giuliani’s request provoked an immediate objection from Tillerson, who argued it would be highly inappropriate to interfere in an open criminal case. In the end, no such prisoner swap took place. But the episode has opened a new chapter in Giuliani’s efforts to interject himself into the Trump administration’s diplomacy while at times representing clients with a direct interest in the outcome.

House Readies Bill Aimed at Stopping Foreign Election Interference
Courthouse News Service – Brandi Buchman | Published: 10/16/2019

House lawmakers are pushing for the passage of a third bill to protect the integrity of U.S. elections, with the latest piece of legislation aimed at closing loopholes that allow foreign nationals to spend money on American campaigns. The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy Act proposes increasing transparency for campaigns, parties, and PACs by requiring them to report any attempt by a foreign government or individual to influence an election to the FEC and the FBI. The bill also requires U.S. campaigns to establish standards for compliance.

How Moved into the Business of U.S. Elections
Reuters – Nandita Bose | Published: 10/15/2019

The expansion by Amazon Web Services (AWS) into state and local elections has gathered steam since the 2016 U.S. presidential vote. More than 40 states now use one or more of Amazon’s election offering. So do the two main political parties, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the FEC. While it does not handle voting on election day, AWS, along with a network of partners, now runs state and county election websites, stores voter registration rolls and ballot data, facilitates overseas voting by military personnel, and helps provide live election-night results. The company’s efforts are welcomed by election administrators, who in interviews said they often struggle with keeping outdated systems up to date at the local level.

Never-Before-Seen Trump Tax Documents Show Major Inconsistencies
ProPublica – Heather Vogell | Published: 10/16/2019

Documents obtained by ProPublica show stark differences in how Donald Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits, and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender, and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax. The discrepancies are “versions of fraud,” said Nancy Wallace, a professor of finance and real estate at the University of California-Berkeley. “This kind of stuff is not OK.” Two former Trump associates, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, are serving prison time for offenses that include falsifying tax and bank records, some of them related to real estate.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Democratic Leader and Regular Trump Target, Dies at 68
MSN – Jenna Portnoy and Antonia Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 10/17/2019

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who gained national attention for his principled stands on politically charged issues in the House, his calming effect on anti-police riots in Baltimore, and his forceful opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump, died on October 17. He was 68 years old. Cummings served as chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus and then ranking member chair of what became the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He became a leading voice against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. He was also a forceful opponent of an immigration policy that separated thousands of children from their parents after they illegally crossed the southern U.S. border. Cummings spearheaded probes into security clearances issued by the White House and payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

Those Foreign Business Ties? The Trump Sons Have Plenty Too
ENM News – Eric Lipton, Steve Eder, and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2019

For the children of the politically powerful, personal business and public dealings can often be indistinguishable, especially when private projects depend on foreign governments that are looking to bolster ties with Washington. As the president has become embroiled in a scandal involving his interactions with Ukraine, Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric have taken to attacking Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, for his business dealings in Ukraine and China. The brothers have accused him of leveraging his family name for personal gain while his father served in the Obama administration. But the high-profile attack roles being played by President Trump’s eldest sons have now thrust their own business dealings into the spotlight too. Both sons have operated and promoted the Trump family business overseas during their father’s presidency, even as he retains ownership.

Trump Emoluments Case Over His D.C. Hotel Gets Second Chance in Legal Challenge
Connecticut Post – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2019

A federal appeals court order revived a lawsuit claiming President Trump is illegally profiting from foreign and state government visitors at his hotel in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed to rehear the lawsuit, brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, which was dismissed over the summer by a three-judge panel of the court. The brief order set oral arguments before a full panel of judges for December 12 and essentially gives the novel lawsuit, which tests the anti-corruption emoluments provisions of the Constitution, a second chance.

Trump Has Awarded Next Year’s G-7 Summit of World Leaders to His Miami-Area Resort, the White House Said
Washington Post – Toluse Olorunnipa, David Fahrenthold, and Jonathan O’Connell | Published: 10/17/2019

Next year’s G-7 gathering of the leaders of the world’s biggest economies will take place at President Trump’s Doral golf resort outside of Miami. The decision is without precedent in modern American history – the president used his public office to direct a massive contract to himself. Doral provides more revenue to Trump than any other hotel or golf club. But, in recent years, this keystone property has fallen into steep decline, with profits falling 69 percent in three years. Trump is already facing lawsuits for allegedly violating the Constitution’s ban on receiving “emoluments” from foreign governments. By doing this, he could be inviting a huge increase in the very line of business that these lawsuits are scrutinizing.

Ukraine Scandal Snags Pete Sessions’s Congressional Comeback Bid
MSN – Catie Edmondson (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2019

Former U.S. Pete Sessions, who is seeking a return to Congress, was caught in the fallout of the Ukraine scandal when he was referred to in the indictment of two presidential allies accused of campaign finance allegations. Sessions is described as “Congressman-1” in the indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were charged with illegally funneling foreign money to American candidates and campaigns. “Congressman-1” is described as having received large campaign contributions from Parnas and Fruman, and whom Parnas asked for help in removing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Violent Spoof Video of Trump Killing His Critics Shows How Memes Have Reshaped Politics
Denver Post – Drew Harwell and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 10/14/2019

A meme video, a spoof derived from a bloody action film, shown at President Trump’s Miami-area golf resort drew outrage from some for its depiction of Trump shooting journalists and attacking political figures who have been critical of him, both Democrats and Republicans. Some warned the clip and others like it could incite real-world violence. But that outrage also helped ensure the video would be circulated more widely. Becca Lewis, who researches online subcultures and media manipulation for Stanford University, said the video’s sharing showed how such memes have become a potent force for political expression and propaganda. The meme creators, she said, routinely sought mainstream attention for the memes in a way that would make the shocking content seem more and more acceptable.

Warren Dares Facebook With Intentionally False Political Ad
ENM News – Cecilia Kang and Thomas Kaplan (New York Times) | Published: 10/12/2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is playing a game of dare with Facebook. The Democratic presidential candidate bought an ad on the social network that purposefully includes false claims about Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and President Trump to goad the social network to remove misinformation in political ads ahead of the 2020 presidential election. “We decided to see just how far it goes,” Warren wrote, calling Facebook a “disinformation-for-profit machine.” Warren’s actions follow a brouhaha over Facebook and political ads in recent weeks. Mr. Trump’s campaign recently bought ads across social media that falsely said Joe Biden offered $1 billion to Ukrainian officials to remove a prosecutor who was overseeing an investigation of a company associated with Biden’s son Hunter.

Warren Targets ‘Big Money’ in Campaigns, Rules Out Donations from Tech and Bank Executives
The Hill – Tal Axelrod | Published: 10/15/2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren White House unveiled a sweeping new proposal to eliminate “big money” in politics, taking aim at donations from PACs and urging her fellow presidential contenders to be transparent in their fundraising. Warren said her plan would end the practice of federal candidates taking corporate PAC money and ban foreign corporate influence in American elections. She would also seek to require presidential campaigns to disclose their major donors, bundlers, and finance events and update campaign finance laws to address online political advertising.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Group Trying to Escape Fine for Violating Arizona Campaign Finance Laws
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 10/16/2019

A group that spent $260,000 attacking a 2014 foe of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in his first gubernatorial race is trying again to escape paying a fine for violating state campaign finance laws. Attorneys for the Legacy Foundation Action Fund contend the Citizens Clean Elections Commission lacked the power to impose a $96,000 fine for the commercials targeting former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. They say there was no proof the ad was done to advance the political fortunes of anyone else in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Beyond that, the lawyers contend the commission lacks the authority to enforce the campaign finance laws.

Arkansas Speaking as Taxpayer in TV Ad, Griffin Says; His Appearance Raises Campaign Questions
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Alyson Hoge | Published: 10/6/2019

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin appears in a television advertisement financed by a nonprofit issue advocacy group called Arkansas Competes. The ad will air about two months after Griffin said he will be a candidate for governor in the 2022 election to succeed Asa Hutchinson. Griffin said he is appearing in the ad “as an Arkansas taxpayer deeply concerned about issues facing our state.” Arkansas Competes Director Carl Vogelpohl said the ad would not run afoul of state law. He noted a state Ethics Commission advisory opinion that said if a non-candidate committee organized as a 501 (c) (4) runs issue ads in Arkansas not asking for votes for or against a specific candidate, the committee’s activity would not constitute a contribution or non-monetary contribution under state law.

California FBI Investigating Whether Sacramento Pot Businesses Paid Bribes to Public Officials
Sacramento Bee – Sam Stanton and Ryan Sabalow | Published: 10/14/2019

The FBI has been investigating whether Sacramento-area marijuana businesses have made payoffs to public officials in the region in exchange for favorable treatment and license approvals. The investigation comes two months after the FBI announced in a podcast that it was “seeing a public corruption threat emerge in the expanding cannabis industry” and asked for any tips involving public corruption and the industry, which generates millions of dollars in revenue and involves licenses that can go for as much as $500,000.

Connecticut Government for Sale? Lobbyists Spent $32M This Year to Influence Legislative Session
Manchester Journal Inquirer – Eric Bedner and Will Healy | Published: 10/12/2019

More than $32.3 million was spent this year by nearly 1,000 lobbying organizations to push their agendas and try to persuade Connecticut lawmakers into siding with them on key pieces of legislation. Most of that money was spent during the legislative session that ran from January to June. During the 2019 session, the two most lobbied areas of policy involved health care and hospitals and general government, which includes taxes and contracts Peter Lewandowski, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said the “overwhelming majority” of lobbyists comply with the regulations as the business is mostly “reputation-based.”

Florida $500 Ethics Fine Against Dennis McDonald Now Upped to $10,000, with Governor’s Reprimand and Censure; Staff –   | Published: 10/10/2019

A three-year-old ethics case against former Flagler County Commission candidate Dennis McDonald could have ended last June with a $500 fine to which he had agreed. Instead, and for lack of answering a few questions and correcting the record, McDonald now faces a $10,000 fine and a public censure and reprimand by the governor. The Florida Ethics Commission meets on October 25 to vote on the case. The commission voted unanimously at its June meeting to reject a settlement with McDonald because he had not corrected the mistakes on his financial disclosure forms, however minor, that had led to the case against him.

Illinois Caught on Tape: Ex-Ald. Danny Solis sought money from Jerry Reinsdorf group
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak | Published: 10/11/2019

With FBI agents secretly listening in, then-Chicago Ald. Danny Solis was caught on a wiretap four years ago discussing plans to solicit campaign money from a development group whose owners include sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf, chairperson of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, that needed his help at City Hall. Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group needed Solis’ approval for a $40 million apartment complex they later built in his ward. During a call, Solis explained, over the worries of an unidentified aide that the developers were still awaiting the alderman’s approval for the project, how he planned to solicit Reinsdorf’s business partner Thomas Meador, for campaign money. Solis wore a wire for nearly two years, secretly recording conversations at City Hall.

Maryland ‘Maryland Is Very Corrupt’: Charges against former Del. Tawanna Gaines add to state’s corruption history
Baltimore Sun – Elliott Davis (Capital News Service) | Published: 10/17/2019

Former Maryland Del. Tawanna Gaines is scheduled to be arraigned on a federal wire fraud charge. She is charged with using an undisclosed PayPal account to accept donations to her campaign finance committee. Gaines is not alone. The arraignment adds her to the growing list of politicians in the state who have either committed crimes or ethical violations. Gaines is the third Democratic delegate from Prince George’s County alone to be charged or convicted since 2018.

Michigan Lights Turn Green for Traffic Signal Company That Hired MDOT Director
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 10/14/2019

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) made a major shift in who supplies its traffic signal control equipment, just as its former director has taken an executive position with the company that benefits from the change. MDOT used to buy all its traffic signal control equipment and software from Siemens Mobility. But that changed last October, the same month Kirk Steudle, who, for the previous 12 years headed up the department, was named senior vice president of Econolite Systems, a Siemens competitor based in California. In October 2018, the state agency changed its specifications to allow the purchase of traffic signal controllers supplied by Econolite in addition to those made by Siemens.

New York Big Questions Remain for NY’s Public Campaign Finance Plan
AP News – Marina Villeneuve | Published: 10/14/2019

A New York commission began crafting a small-donor public campaign financing system but has yet to tackle big issues such as when the program would launch and how it would be implemented. The system will provide up to $100 million in public financing to candidates for offices such as governor and Legislature who get enough small private donations. The Public Campaign Financing Commission has until December 1 to announce rules that will become law unless lawmakers hold a rare end-of-year special session to reject them.

New York Loophole Allows People with City Business to Shower Thousands on Candidates Despite Contribution Limits
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 10/14/2019

Contributions from people doing business with New York City were restricted in 2007 and a database was created to ensure candidates and donors complied with the law. Lobbyists pushing city policies and seeking municipal contracts for their clients are included. So are top executives and owners of companies who already have contracts and those lobbying the city.  But the law allows them to act as bundlers for other donors without the same contribution limits. Critics say the arrangement leaves the door wide open for powerful and well-connected New Yorkers to influence elections and sway politicians in their favor.

New York New York Can Now Bring Charges Against Presidential Pardon Recipients
Politico – Bill Mahoney | Published: 10/16/2019

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will let New York prosecutors bring charges against individuals who have received presidential pardons for related crimes. The bill was explicitly written to address fears that President Trump might use his pardon power to interfere with criminal investigations. The U.S. Supreme Court has found the constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy does not apply to the states. It does not bar state prosecutors from bringing charges against individuals who have already been tried on similar federal crimes. But New York’s existing law included additional safeguards that prohibited these second trials.

North Carolina Solar Group Solicits Campaign Cash for Top Lawmaker, Tied Directly to Legislative Action
WBTV – Nick Ochsner | Published: 10/16/2019

A solar industry group solicited campaign contributions for a North Carolina legislator in an email to its members and tied the request for funds directly to action he had taken days earlier on a bill opposed by the group. The request came from the North Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance on behalf of state Rep. John Szoka, chairperson of the House Committee on Energy and Public Utilities. Chris Carmody, the executive director of alliance, asked the organization’s members to donate to Szoka up to $5,200, the maximum contribution allowed under the law. The email noted Szoka and a second lawmaker for their opposition to Senate Bill 559, which would authorize Duke Energy to set energy rates for a multi-year period with relaxed oversight from state regulators.

North Dakota North Dakota Ethics Commission Receives First Complaint
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 10/10/2019

North Dakota’s new Ethics Commission has received its first complaint, but its details are not immediately available. The commission, which has met only twice, does not yet have investigative procedures for handling complaints. The panel’s next meeting agenda includes items such as establishing a website and office space and writing job descriptions for hiring staff. The commission may write and adopt rules related to transparency, elections, lobbying, and corruption, but it has yet to begin or even broach a rule-making process.

Ohio The Right Way for a State to Purge Voters Might Be to Show How Wrong It Is
ENM News – Nicholas Casey (New York Times) | Published: 10/14/2019

Ohio is a battleground state and the site of some of the country’s strictest voting laws, from voter ID requirements to a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision that lets officials drop voters seen as inactive. That has led critics to contend parts of the state are regularly disenfranchised, largely in purges aimed at those who have died or moved away, but which also hit real voters who do not learn they cannot vote until Election Day. Rather than purge the voter rolls behind closed doors as had been done in the past, the state released the full list and gave it to advocacy groups to check. The groups said they found the list was riddled with errors. Around 40,000 people should not have been on it, the state determined. One of the names to be purged as an inactive voter was Jen Miller, director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

Rhode Island Facing Penalties, IGT Discloses $776K More Was Spent in Push for New Contract
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 10/16/2019

Facing potential penalties of up to $5,000 and revocation of its right to lobby in Rhode Island, lottery giant IGT and an affiliate have now publicly disclosed a total of $1.2 million in spending in July, August, and September on the company’s campaign for a no-bid, 20-year contract extension to provide the technology and machines for the Rhode Island Lottery, a state-run entity that produced $397 million in revenue last year. While the company disclosed the $129,000 it paid a dozen lobbyists between July 1 and September 30, it had not disclosed how much it paid its public-relations consultants, advertisers, and affiliates to try to win public and legislative support for the contract extension.

South Carolina SC Supreme Court Justices Grill Special Prosecutor in Quinn Public Corruption Case
The State – John Monk | Published: 10/15/2019

South Carolina’s five Supreme Court justices fired question after question at special prosecutor David Pascoe about why he wanted to undo the conviction and no-prison sentence of ex-state Rep. Rick Quinn Jr. in a high-profile public corruption case. At the heart of Pascoe’s argument was his claim that the judge who sentenced Quinn erred in allowing Quinn to plead guilty to what Pascoe asserted was a non-crime. The Supreme Court overturning the conviction could allow either a new trial or a guilty plea to a lawful charge, Pascoe has said in briefs on the case.

Texas Dallas Council Member Violated City Code with VisitDallas Tickets, Ethics Commission Says
Dallas News – Hayat Norimine | Published: 10/15/2019

Dallas City Councilperson Casey Thomas violated the ethics code by failing to disclose over $1,600 worth of event tickets he received from VisitDallas, the city Ethics Advisory Commission said. Ahead of the commission’s vote, Thomas promised to recuse himself from any votes related to VisitDallas, the city’s tourism bureau, for the remainder of his term. He also said he fixed procedures with his staff to ensure the mistake would not happen again. The code of ethics on gifts states that city officials should not accept an item that “is intended to influence or reward” decisions and must file financial disclosure forms for any gift that exceeds $250 within a month of accepting it.

Texas Texas GOP Speaker Tape: Lawmaker ‘vile,’ Trump ‘killing us’
AP News – Paul Weber and Clarice Silber | Published: 10/15/2019

A secretly recorded audio tape of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen seeking help to oust members of his own Republican Party and profanely disparaging a Democratic House member, along with and other political scheming, has thrown the GOP-controlled Legislature into disarray at a fragile moment when their majority is at stake. The tape has uncorked the biggest political scandal in the state in years. Democrats filed a lawsuit accusing Bonnen of breaking campaign finance laws during the meeting with the head of a conservative group called Empower Texans, which has spent lavishly in pursuit of pulling the Legislature far to the right on issues such as abortion and guns. State investigators responsible for looking into allegations of corruption by public officials have also opened a case.

Virginia A Virginia Beach Republican Says Democrats Gave His Campaign $44,000. Here’s What’s Going On.
The Virginian-Pilot – Marie Albiges | Published: 10/16/2019

A Republican delegate trying to hold onto his Virginia House seat says his Democratic opponent’s attack mailers have actually benefited his campaign, so much so that he is reporting them as a $44,000 in-kind contribution in official records submitted to the state. Davis said he feels a “legal obligation” to report the donation. The stunt in reality is a creative way to frame what is shaping up to be a close race as Democrats try to flip enough seats to seize control of the General Assembly, said Robin Cooperman, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. “It’s political theater, to be sure,” Cooperman said.

Wyoming Wyoming Utility Regulator Copied, Sent Coal Lobby Letter – Andrew Graham | Published: 10/15/2019

The Wyoming Public Service Commission (PSC), in concert with five equivalent bodies from other states, recently asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to accelerate an inquiry that could subsidize coal plants in the name of electrical grid reliability. The letter of request appears to have been drafted, in part, by a coal industry lobbying group and passed through by the PSC. Emails obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute through a public records request show three paragraphs of PSC Chairperson Karen Forstrom’s letter match a model letter a representative of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity provided to West Virginia public service commissioners on July 30.

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