News You Can Use Digest - October 2, 2020 - State and Federal Communications

October 2, 2020  •  

News You Can Use Digest – October 2, 2020

National/Federal

Amy Coney Barrett, a Disciple of Justice Scalia, Is Poised to Push the Supreme Court Further Right
Washington Post – Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg, and Ann Marimow | Published: 9/26/2020

The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grassroots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds, and Senate inboxes. If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending, and potentially much more, and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign.

Courts View GOP Fraud Claims Skeptically as Democrats Score Key Legal Victories Over Mail Voting
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2020

A review by The Washington Post of nearly 90 state and federal voting lawsuits found judges have been broadly skeptical as Republicans use claims of voter fraud to argue against ensuring votes cast by mail are counted and protecting the wide distribution of mail ballots in some states. In no case did a judge back President Trump’s view, refuted by experts, that fraud is a problem significant enough to sway a presidential election. Some of the wins have been preliminary. In many cases, judges issued split decisions, granting some of the changes sought by liberal plaintiffs and otherwise maintaining the status quo as favored by Republicans. But The Post found judges appointed by Republicans and Democrats alike have been dubious of GOP arguments that lowering barriers to mail voting could lead to widespread fraud.

Ethics Watchdog Seeks Stronger Powers to Police Rules Covering Public Officials
Irish Times – Jack Horgan-Jones | Published: 9/30/2020

Ireland’s ethics watchdog said she hopes the government will strengthen its powers to police “revolving-door” rules in a review announced in the wake of controversy regarding former minister Michael D’Arcy’s move to the private sector. The new powers would include the right to seize documents and compel testimony from people suspected of breaching the rules, which stipulate a 12-month waiting period before former ministers or senior officials join the private sector. Sherry Perrault, head of ethics and regulation at the Standards in Public Office Commission, said she welcomed the announcement of a review of the post-employment provisions of the Regulation of Lobbying Act.

False G.O.P. Ad Prompts QAnon Death Threats Against a Democratic Congressman
New York Times – Catie Edmonson | Published: 9/30/2020

U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski is facing down death threats from QAnon supporters after the House Republicans’ campaign arm falsely accused him of lobbying to protect sexual predators. QAnon supporters began targeting Malinowski after he led a bipartisan resolution condemning the movement, which spreads a baseless conspiracy theory that President Trump is battling a cabal of Democratic pedophiles. QAnon believers seized on an advertisement released by the campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, that falsely claimed Malinowski, then a lobbyist for Human Rights Watch, worked to block a provision in a 2006 crime bill that would have expanded registration requirements for sex offenders.

Florida Republican Cooperating with Campaign Finance Probe
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 9/24/2020

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is accused of spending at least $50,000 in campaign money on vacations and restaurant and luxury hotel bills. The department’s Public Integrity Section is looking into the expenditures, which includes a 2017 trip to Walt Disney World with her children and grandchildren, rooms at a Ritz-Carlton resort, and a New Year’s Eve meal at a high-end seafood restaurant.

Judges Propose Making Disclosure of Their Personal Details a Crime
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/24/2020

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, has drawn widespread attention for her reported membership in People of Praise, a largely Catholic, charismatic religious group. Judge Barbara Lagoa is a longtime member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Those details, easily found in numerous news stories about the potential Supreme Court nominees, could become illegal for media outlets or anyone else to publish on the internet under a proposal federal judges sent to Congress. Under the suggested legislation, lawmakers would grant judges extraordinary latitude to decide what personal information to exclude from the public eye.

Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance
New York Times – Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire | Published: 9/27/2020

Donald Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750. He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, largely because he reported losing much more money than he made. As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the IRS over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund he claimed and received after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million. The tax returns Trump has fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public.

Michael Flynn Judge Emphasizes He Is Not a ‘Rubber Stamp’ in Justice Dept. Bid to Drop Prosecution
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow | Published: 9/29/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Emmitt Sullivan began scrutinizing the Justice Department’s bid to dismiss the criminal case against Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators. Sullivan emphasized his role is not to serve as a “rubber stamp” when it comes to reviewing Attorney General William Barr’s questionable request to toss the prosecution of the highest-ranking Trump adviser charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The climactic confrontation could help define the limits of executive- and judicial-branch powers and promises to provide legal and political drama before an election in which Flynn’s contentious prosecution has electrified Trump’s supporters and opponents.

Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Maggie Haberman, and Jeremy Peters | Published: 9/27/2020

The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grassroots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds, and Senate inboxes. If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending, and potentially much more, and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign.

Ransomware Attacks Take on New Urgency Ahead of Vote
MSN – Nicole Perloth and David Sanger (New York Times) | Published: 9/27/2020

A company that sells software cities and states use to display results on election night was hit by ransomware, the latest of nearly a thousand such attacks over the past year against small towns, big cities, and the contractors who run their voting systems. Many of the attacks are conducted by Russian criminal groups, some with shady ties to President Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services. While Tyler Technologies does not tally votes, it is used by election officials to aggregate and report them in at least 20 places around the country, making it exactly the kind of soft target the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and United States Cyber Command worry could be struck by anyone trying to sow chaos and uncertainty on election night.

Some Democrats Worry Millions Flowing from Super PACs Prioritize White Swing Voters Over Minorities
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 9/25/2020

Some Democratic strategists are raising the alarm about the millions of dollars being spent by super PACs in support of Joe Biden, saying too much is being spent on White swing voters while not enough is being devoted to driving up turnout among voters of color. The complaints are perennial, but they carry new resonance this year, as Biden has struggled to inspire enthusiasm among young Black voters and Latinos. The Democratic concerns come a more than $150 million has already been spent by the main super PACs supporting Biden, some of which have made it part of their strategy to win back supporters of former President Barack Obama who pivoted in 2016 to Trump.

Trump Incessantly Interrupts and Insults Biden as They Spar in Acrimonious First Debate
Washington Post – Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Annie Linskey | Published: 9/30/2020

The presidential campaign devolved into chaos and acrimony as President Trump incessantly interrupted and insulted Democratic nominee Joe Biden while the two sparred over the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court, and race relations in their first debate. The most anticipated event on the fall campaign calendar was an uncontrollable spectacle of badgering and browbeating, of raised voices and hot tempers. Trump;s interjections and jeers, some of them false and made in an apparent effort to fluster Biden, landed with such ferocity that moderator Chris Wallace pleaded multiple times with the president to follow the agreed-upon debate rules.

Trump’s Debts and Foreign Deals Pose Security Risks, Former Intelligence Officials Say
MSN – Greg Miller and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2020

Former intelligence officials and security experts said revelations about President Trump’s tax records raise profound questions about whether he should be trusted to safeguard U.S. secrets and interests. The records show Trump has continued to make money off foreign investments and projects while in office; foreign officials have spent lavishly at his Washington, D.C. hotel and other properties; and despite this revenue he is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt with massive payments coming due. Trump faces the need for a substantial infusion of cash in the coming years to avert potential financial crisis. As a result, officials and experts said Trump has made himself vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments aware of his predicament and put himself in a position in which his financial interests and the nation’s priorities could be in conflict.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Abruptly Ousts Top Political Consultant Scott Reed, Alleging Leaks
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger | Published: 9/29/2020

Scott Reed, the veteran Republican political consultant, was fired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the organization’s political director amid allegations he leaked confidential information. Reed helped pilot the chamber’s well-funded congressional election strategy for more than a decade. The chamber’s spending on congressional races has for years eclipsed those of other business trade associations. In addition to donations to candidates, the chamber has a national grassroots organizing effort engaging local business leaders.

When Your Job Is to Make Sure Nov. 3 Isn’t a Disaster
New York Times – Dionne Searcey | Published: 9/30/2020

Secretaries of state, who serve as the top elections officials in most states in what is usually a partisan elected position, are in charge of managing a chaotic, disinformation-prone, pandemic-plagued presidential vote that none of them envisioned when they took office. That a sitting president has become  the chief sower of distrust in the election process has added new levels of exasperation for the officials whose days have already been spent rushing from top-secret briefings on thwarting Russian and Chinese disinformation campaigns to making sure enough hand sanitizer is available at hundreds of polling places.

Women Rise on K Street – Slowly
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 9/28/2020

Lobbying firms and corporate government relations offices with strong female representation have existed over time, though they are rare. Today, more women are rising in the ranks or opening their own shops to slowly balance the playing field. Lobbying is a typical next step for lawmakers after leaving Congress. But men dominate the pool of former members who have moved to K Street. Of The Hill’s top lobbyists of 2019 list, about one-third of the corporate lobbyists recognized are women.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska Mining Executive Resigns a Day After Being Caught on Tape Boasting of His Ties to GOP Politicians
Washington Post – Juliet Eilperin | Published: 9/25/2020

Mining executive Tom Collier, who boasted in secretly taped conversations he had leveraged his ties to Republican officials to advance a controversial project in Alaska, resigned. Collier, chief executive officer of the Pebble Limited Partnership, offered his resignation a day after the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released recordings of Zoom calls in which he talked of currying favor with the White House and Alaska lawmakers to win federal approval for a massive gold and copper mine. Speaking to EIA investigators, who were posing as possible investors in the project, he touted his effort to funnel money to Republican politicians in Alaska and defeat those who sided with Democrats against the mine.

Arizona Court Reopens Door to ‘Dark Money’ in Arizona Political Races
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 9/29/2020

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled the state Legislature was within its rights to decide that any group the IRS has classified as non-profit does not have to disclose its donors, even if it uses the money to finance independent expenditures to elect or defeat candidates. That change overturned the ability of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to determine whether the group was really a charity or only a thinly disguised PAC, which disclose donors. The ruling also allows political parties to spend unlimited amounts on behalf of their candidates without disclosure, among other provisions.

California California NAACP President Aids Corporate Prop Campaigns – Collects $1.2 Million and Counting
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 9/25/2020

As leader of the California NAACP, Alice Huffman has weighed in with positions in the ballot handbook critics say run counter to the historic  organization’s mission to advance racial equality. What the guide does not tell voters is Huffman’s political consulting firm has been paid more than $1.2 million so far this year by ballot measure campaigns she or the group has endorsed. Huffman’s dual roles as both a paid campaign consultant and leader of a civil rights group amount to an unusual, but legal, arrangement. Huffman’s approach – making money from the campaigns that also wind up with an NAACP seal of approval – is stirring controversy in some Black communities. Critics say it appears the endorsement of the renowned organization is essentially up for sale.

California Porter Ranch Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in LA City Hall Bribery Scheme
Los Angeles Daily News – City News Service | Published: 9/30/2020

Lobbyist and former Los Angeles City Hall official Morrie Goldman pleaded guilty to conspiring with now-suspended Councilperson Jose Huizar in a bribery scheme. Goldman was a lobbyist for a company which had a pending development project in the city’s Arts District. He and others established two PACs, one of which purportedly supported a variety of causes but actually was created to primarily benefit the city council campaign of a relative of Huizar’s who was planning to run for his council seat. Goldman admitted he agreed with Huizar and an executive at the company that the developer would contribute $50,000 to a PAC established to support the relative’s campaign. In exchange, Huizar would vote against a union appeal of the company’s project in the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which he chaired at the time.

Florida Felon Voting: Forcing fees to be paid not an issue for some wealthy felons
Palm Beach Post – John Pacenti | Published: 9/29/2020

Republicans have called for a criminal investigation into vote-buying after a $16 million contribution from New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to pay legal financial obligations of felons. The state indicated it does not have the wherewithal to verify felons who register have actually paid their obligations by the general election on November 3. While a federal judge in Tallahassee found Gov. Ron DeSantis’ financial requirement for felons was unconstitutional, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the governor, saying they were part of completing any prison sentence. “This disproportionately impacts the poor and keeps them disenfranchised, but if you are wealthy, you re-enfranchised,” said Michael Barfield, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

Florida JEA Bidder Florida Power and Light Discussed Donating to Charities Led by City Council Members
Florida Times Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 9/29/2020

A month after JEA announced last July it would soon be for sale, Florida Power and Light (FPL) executives held a meeting with the lobbyists helping with the politics of the company’s effort to buy the city-owned utility. Among the assignments the lobbyists received at the meeting: find charities with close ties to Jacksonville City Council members, who would have to vote on any deal to sell JEA. FPL’s game plan included a “charitable giving” component, according to documents obtained by a council committee investigating the failed sale. The documents provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how FPL planned to use its financial muscle to strengthen its bid to buy JEA and win community support by financially supporting high-profile events, educational institutions, and nonprofits tied to public officials.

Georgia Choudhary Sentenced to Jail for Bribing Atlanta Official to Win Airport Contract
Rome News-Tribune – Everett Catts | Published: 9/29/2020

As part of the federal government’s corruption investigation of Atlanta, a businessperson was sentenced to nearly two years in prison for bribing a city official to secure a contract at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Hayat Choudhary, chief executive officer of Atlanta Airport Shuttle Services, paid $20,000 in cash to a Department of Procurement official to secure a contract at the airport.

Illinois 3 Ethics Board Exits Later, Cook County Commissioners Unveil First Draft of Ethics Code Reforms
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 9/24/2020

After a nine-month lag in the Cook County ethics board’s plan to revise the ethics ordinance, as well as three member exits, the Board of Commissioners unveiled a bundle of proposed reforms that mostly won the approval of two ousted ethics board chairpersons. The changes are based on revisions the ethics board voted in favor of in January despite objection from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office that more time was needed to examine the language. Since then, two members reluctantly left after Preckwinkle opted not to reappoint them, and a third resigned in protest.

Illinois Former ComEd VP Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Feds in Bribery Case Orbiting House Speaker Michael Madigan
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/29/2020

Fidel Marquez, the former senior vice president of governmental affairs at Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), pleaded guilty to one count of bribery conspiracy, the first criminal conviction in an ongoing corruption investigation in Illinois. ComEd has been charged with bribery and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. It will pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with investigators in exchange for the charges being dropped in three years. The plea agreement says Marquez conspired with others to solicit jobs, contracts, and monetary payments for House Speaker Michael Madigan and his associates to influence legislation beneficial to ComEd.

Illinois Legislative Hearings into Madigan Reveal New Details About the ComEd Bribery Scheme
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold | Published: 9/29/2020

Lawyers representing Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) told a legislative panel how the utility repeatedly engaged in bribery to influence Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. The committee weighing potential misconduct charges against the speaker heard the most public airing so far about the lengths ComEd went to curry favor with Madigan, including revelations the scheme was wider than previously disclosed. The company has admitted to showering no-work contracts on members of Madigan’s political team and even putting one ally on the company’s board to illegally bolster its standing with the speaker.

Illinois Top Lightfoot Adviser on Intergovernmental Affairs to Marry Chicag Alderman, Raising Ethical Concerns from City Staff
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt and John Byrne | Published: 9/26/2020

A top legislative adviser to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is marrying Ald. Jim Gardiner, raising concerns from some of the mayor’s staff about the ethical implications of the relationship. Lightfoot’s senior adviser for legislative counsel and government affairs, Samantha Fields, has been dating Gardiner for months and they plan to get married in October. Chicago Board of Ethics Executive Director Steve Berlin said city employees and officials are only prohibited from supervising a spouse.

Indiana Indiana Casino Executive Charged in Illegal Campaign Scheme
Associated Press News – John Davies | Published: 9/29/2020

A top executive of an Indiana casino company that is building a $400 million casino in Gary was indicted on federal charges of illegally funneling campaign contributions to a former state lawmaker’s unsuccessful congressional campaign. The indictment charges Spectacle Entertainment vice president John Keeler and former Indiana Sen. Brent Waltz with taking part in a scheme to direct more than $25,000 in illegal corporate contributions through straw donors to Waltz’s 2016 campaign.

Maryland HUD Inspectors Find Ben Carson’s Actions Didn’t Benefit Son in Baltimore Deals, but Had the ‘Appearance’ of Ethical Issues
Baltimore Sun – Meredith Cohen | Published: 9/29/2020

The inspector general’s office for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs ((HUD) released an investigative report that found no evidence HUD Secretary Ben Carson used his position to benefit his son’s business interests in Baltimore, but he “could have done more to avoid the appearance that he was not complying with federal ethics regulations.” The investigation stems largely from a 2017 “listening tour” in the city by Carson, a former neurosurgeon at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The report said the inspector general’s office received “multiple complaints” the HUD secretary allowed his son to invite companies and individuals to participate in the tour to advance his own financial interests.

Massachusetts Former Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg Returns to Beacon Hill as Lobbyist
MSN – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 9/24/2020

When Stanley Rosenberg left Beacon Hill in the spring of 2018 under less than desirable circumstances, no one could say for sure if or when he might resurface after a career spent in public service. But Rosenberg, who once ascended the political platform in Massachusetts to become the first openly gay and Jewish president of the Senate, is back, and in a position that he never imagined for himself. He is a lobbyist. He resigned more than two years ago after an investigation into the activities of his husband, Bryon Hefner, including allegations he sexually assaulted four men. While the Ethics Committee did not find Rosenberg violated any Senate rules or allowed Hefner to influence Senate business, the committee recommended barring Rosenberg from any leadership positions or committee chairs for one term.

Missouri Voters See ‘Unfair’ Ballot Language on Cleaner Missouri in Two Counties
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 9/24/2020

Voters in at least two Missouri counties got absentee ballots recently with a key error. Clerks in Buchanan and Vernon counties had ballots with the wrong language describing Amendment 3, which asks voters to reverse changes they made to the state’s redistricting process two years ago. Two courts threw out language written by the Legislature as unfair and rewrote it in August. But Buchanan County Clerk Mary Baack-Garvey and Vernon County Clerk Mike Buehler said their ballots were mistakenly printed with the old language, prompting them to request reprinting with the correct language.

New York Appeals Court Judges Skeptical of Trump Effort to Block Release of Financial Info
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 9/25/2020

President Trump’s drive to block Manhattan prosecutors from accessing a large swath of his tax and financial records got a chilly reception from a federal appeals court. Three judges on the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals repeatedly questioned Trump attorney William Consovoy’s claim that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s grand jury subpoena for Trump’s records was “overbroad” and issued in retaliation for the Trump organization’s resistance to an earlier demand for Trump’s tax returns. Rather, they said, it was Consovoy who seemed to be misconstruing long-settled understandings about how grand jury subpoenas and investigations work.

New York City Council Ethics Committee Moves to Expel Bronx Councilmember Andy King
Gothamist – David Cruz | Published: 9/29/2020

The New York City Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics took the rare step of recommending expelling Councilperson Andy King following another lengthy investigation into allegations of inappropriate comments, taking bribes, and skirting a $15,000 fine from another prior investigation. The committee determined King asked for a $2,000 kickback from a staffer, and ignored a previously issued $15,000 penalty for a 2019 inquiry that resulted in a 30-day suspension and an office monitor. He has yet to pay for the fine despite being offered a payment plan. The committee also substantiated a harassment claim against King, which alleged he made inappropriate comments to a female staffer in September 2017.

Ohio Ohio Republican Party Pulls Attack Ad After Realizing It Attacked the Wrong Person
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/28/2020

The Ohio Republican Party pulled an ad that falsely attacked state Rep. Phil Robinson for being sued over an unpaid debt from 1999. Along with a picture of Robinson, the ad read, “Phil Robinson can’t manage his own finances …. Can we trust him with ours?” It included a link to a website that has since been taken down. But the site showed information about a 1999 case filed in Cleveland Municipal Court against someone named Phil Robinson. It was a different Phil Robinson.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Republicans Ask Supreme Court to Stop Voting Accommodations
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 9/28/2020

Pennsylvania’s Republican legislative leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a decision by the state’s high court to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in Democrats’ favor on a number of mail-voting rules: permitting voters to turn in ballots via drop box in addition to using the U.S. Postal Service; allowing ballots to be returned up to three days after Election Day; and blocking a Republican effort to allow partisan poll watchers to be stationed in counties where they do not live.

Rhode Island Judge Upholds R.I. Campaign Finance Law; Conservative Groups Appeal
Providence Journal – Patrick Anderson | Published: 9/29/2020

A federal judge rejected a bid to invalidate a portion of Rhode Island’s campaign finance laws, but conservative groups seeking to launch anonymous political campaigns have filed an appeal. U.S. District Court Judge Mary McElroy dismissed a lawsuit that argued the state’s disclosure laws for independent campaign expenditures are unconstitutional. Under Rhode Island law, any person or organization spending $1,000 or more to benefit a candidate or an outcome in a ballot referendum must disclose it to the Board of Elections, even if they are not coordinated with a campaign. The plaintiffs argued that donors, businesses, and organizations should be afforded a “safe space” to engage in political speech without fear their actions will face pushback, as long as it is not coordinated with individual candidates.

Tennessee Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Violated Open Meetings Act with Secret Vote
The Tennessean – Mariah Timms | Published: 9/25/2020

A judge ruled the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance violated open meetings law when it voted by email to reduce a state lawmaker’s fines in April. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle rejected the state’s argument the vote was inconsequential and therefore unnecessary to be taken in public. The secret vote involved a settlement of penalties that could have kept Rep. Joe Towns from being eligible to run for office on the eve of the eligibility deadline. Towns faced more than $66,000 in penalties owed to the registry and the state Ethics Commission for failing to file certain documents.

Washington Freed Agrees to Civil Penalty to Resolve Campaign Finance, Reporting Violations
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 9/25/2020

A former Republican gubernatorial candidate and current write-in candidate for lieutenant governor agreed to a civil penalty with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Joshua Freed’s 2020 gubernatorial campaign repaid him at least $450,000 of a $500,000 loan he made to the campaign, which violated a $6,000 repayment limit. He agreed to a $50,000 penalty, with half of it suspended as long as he does not have further violations.

West Virginia Legislators Raise Concerns Over Lack of Oversight on Governor’s Grant Awards
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Phil Kabler | Published: 9/30/2020

Legislative leadership is abdicating its appropriations powers by allowing West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to award more than $20 million to date in CARES Act Small Business Grants without oversight, said Mick Bates, minority chairperson of the House Finance Committee. Since July, Justice has handed out more than 4,000 grants, most for $5,000, but some $2,000 grants to sole proprietors, out of $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act pandemic relief funds the state received. Some of those grants have drawn scrutiny, including $5,000 grants Justice awarded to VIP Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club in Martinsburg, and to legislative lobbyist Larry Puccio, who clientele includes Justice’s Greenbrier resort.

Wisconsin Appellate Court Halts Wisconsin Ballot-Counting Extension
Associated Press News – Todd Richmond | Published: 9/27/2020

A federal appeals court temporarily halted a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin’s presidential election, a momentary victory for Republicans and President Trump in the key battleground state. As it stands, ballots will now be due by eight p.m. on Election Day. A lower court judge had sided with Democrats and their allies to extend the deadline until November 9. Democrats sought more time to help deal with an expected historic high number of absentee ballots.

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