News You Can Use Digest - October 4, 2019 - State and Federal Communications

October 4, 2019  •  

News You Can Use Digest – October 4, 2019


A Trump Hotel Mystery: Giant reservations followed by empty rooms
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 10/2/2019

House investigators are looking into an allegation that groups, including at least one foreign government, tried to ingratiate themselves to President Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never staying in them. It is a previously unreported part of a broader examination by the House Oversight Committee, included in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, into whether Trump broke the law by accepting money from U.S. or foreign governments at his properties. The so-called emoluments clause of the Constitution forbids Trump from profiting from foreign governments, or from receiving any money from the U.S. government aside from his annual salary.

Barr Personally Asked Foreign Officials to Aid Inquiry into CIA, FBI Activities in 2016
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Shane Harris, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 9/30/2019

Attorney General William Barr held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Barr’s personal involvement is likely to stoke further criticism from Democrats pursuing impeachment that he is helping the Trump administration use executive branch powers to augment investigations aimed primarily at the president’s adversaries. Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials expressed frustration and alarm that the head of the Justice Department was taking such a direct role in reexamining what they view as conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of misconduct.

Chris Collins Enters Guilty Plea in Insider Trading Case
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 10/1/2019

Former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins pleaded guilty to insider trading charges, ending a congressional career that pushed the House to craft rules prohibiting members from serving on public company boards. Collins pleaded guilty to two of eight counts he was charged with: conspiracy to commit securities fraud and false statements to the FBI. Collins sat on the board of directors for biotechnology company Innate Immunotherapuetics and was also one of its largest shareholders. Collins did not trade himself and his Innate stock declined by millions of dollars when the company’s failed drug trial results were publicly revealed. But he provided the insider trading information to his son, who then relayed it to others.

Dems Seek Lobbyist Cash to Fund Milwaukee Convention
Politico – Maggie Severns and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 9/29/2019

Two top operatives planning the Democratic Party’s 2020 convention in Milwaukee went to K Street to pitch lobbyists on their plans for the $70 million event. Against the backdrop of the Democratic primary, it was an awkward pairing – representatives for special interests meeting with top Democrats while the party’s leading presidential candidates reject corporate PAC and lobbyist money. But Democratic National Committee officials explained during the meeting how corporations can help foot the bill for the convention, regardless of who the nominee is, addressing some lobbyists’ worries that a crusading left-wing nominee like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could try to reject corporate money, embarrassing convention sponsors.

Elections Chief Says a GOP Colleague Blocked Wide Release of Her Foreign Activity
MSN – Alex Horton (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2019

The FEC posts the latest in election regulatory activity in a weekly digest. That was until the last week, after what FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub said was Republican Commissioner Caroline Hunter’s effort to block a draft memo on prohibited foreign national electoral activity from being included in the digest, which led to the digest being withheld from the public. But Weintraub found a way to get the information out. She published the digest piecemeal, with 57 tweets in all, including the foreign national prohibitions memo – all while calling out the commissioner who Weintraub said sought to block it from being widely publicized online. Hunter said she merely asked Weintraub for time to evaluate the document before it was included in the digest.

Ericsson Sets Aside $1 Billion to Pay for Ethics Breaches in Six Countries
Dallas News – Dave McCombs and Niklas Magnusson (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/26/2019

Swedish telecommunications equipment giant Ericsson said it expects to pay more than $1 billion to resolve investigations by U.S. authorities into business ethics breaches in six countries in one of the costliest corruption cases on record. Ericsson has said the probe related to a payment system used to win contracts in the 1990s. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits American companies and overseas firms with stocks trading on U.S. exchanges from paying bribes to foreign officials.

Impeachment Inquiry Puts New Focus on Giuliani’s Work for Prominent Figures in Ukraine
Laredo Morning Times – Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Paul Sonne, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2019

The hunt by President Trump’s attorney Rudolph Giuliani for material in Ukraine damaging to Democrats has put a spotlight on business ties he has had in the former Soviet republic for at least a decade, work that has introduced him to high-level Ukrainian financial and political circles. Giuliani has said he has been working for free solely to benefit his client, Trump, as he has sought information from Ukrainian officials. House investigators are now seeking  records about Giuliani’s past clientele in Ukraine, including Pavel Fuks, a wealthy developer who financed consulting work Giuliani did for the city of Kharkiv. House committees have also requested documents from two of Giuliani’s current clients, Florida-based businesspeople who have been pursuing opportunities in Ukraine for a new liquefied natural gas venture.

Millions on Lobbying Will Cost Policy Influencers Under Warren
Courthouse News Service – Amanda Ottaway | Published: 10/2/2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced a plan to “end lobbying as we know it” with a proposed tax on any corporation or organization that spends more than $500,000 annually in lobbying the federal government. Her plan calls for a 35 percent tax rate on corporations and trade organizations spending between $500,000 and $1 million on lobbying, 60 percent for those spending between $1 million and $5 million, and 75 percent on all spending over $5 million. “Corporate lobbyists are experts at killing widely popular policies behind closed doors,” Warren wrote in announcing the proposal.

Odd Markings, Ellipses Fuel Doubts About the ‘Rough Transcript’ of Trump’s Ukraine Call
MSN – Carol Leonnig, Craig Timberg, and Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2019

President Trump said his controversial July call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was transcribed “word-for-word, comma-for-comma,” an assertion that fueled growing questions about the nature and completeness of an official memorandum about the call released by the White House. Administration officials previously had portrayed the document as not a verbatim transcription but rather a summary that closely tracked the words Trump used in his July 25 call with Zelensky. The whistleblower complaint that spurred an impeachment investigation described an “official word-for-word transcript” of the call, words closely matching the ones used by Trump recently, creating uncertainty about what was included in the document the White House released previously and what may have been left out.

Pompeo Acknowledges He Listened in On Trump’s Ukraine Call
AP News – Matthew Lee | Published: 10/2/2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly acknowledged for the first time he was on the July 25 phone call in which President Trump pressed Ukraine’s president to investigate political rival Joe Biden. The disclosure puts a spotlight on his previous attempts to distance himself from the call at the center of the impeachment inquiry, in which the State Department prominently figures. In a September 22 interview with ABC News, Pompeo deflected questions about his involvement. Asked then “what do you know” about the conversations between Trump and the president of Ukraine, Pompeo said he had not seen the whistleblower complaint and went on to talk about how the U.S. has provided military support to the government of Ukraine in its fight with Russia-backed separatists.

RNC Solicited Money for Trump’s Reelection with Forms That Look a Lot Like the Official Census
MSN – Kim Bellware and Brittany Shammas (Washington Post) | Published: 10/1/2019

Officials in Montana are warning residents for the second time this year about surveys sent by the Republican National Committee that mimic the look of federal census forms, with the goal of soliciting money for President Trump’s reelection campaign. The mailers are labeled “2019 Congressional District Census” and inform recipients they have been “selected to represent Voters” in Bozeman, Montana. The accompanying literature makes repeated requests for donations, urging recipients to send at least $15 to “help pay for the costs of processing [the] Census Document” if they are unable to afford an amount in the requested range of $25 to $1,000. The potentially misleading mailings come as the U.S. Census Bureau is preparing for what is expected to be one of the most challenging federal counts in decades.

The Catholic Church and Boy Scouts Are Lobbying Against Child Abuse Statutes. This Is Their Playbook
USA Today – Marisa Kwiatkowski and John Kelley | Published: 10/2/2019

Since 2009, state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have tried at least 200 times to extend the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. The bills have borrowed from and built on each other, sharing common phrases and ideas. Many special interests, including the insurance industry, oppose efforts to give survivors more time to sue. But two organizations are uniquely positioned to wield influence because of their deep ties to local communities: The Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America. Where legislation has been introduced, equally coordinated opposition has followed from the groups that stand to lose the most.

The Interior Secretary Wants to Enlarge a Dam. An Old Lobbying Client Would Benefit.
MSN – Coral Davenport (New York Times) | Published: 9/28/2019

For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise the height of its Shasta Dam in Northern California. The department’s scientists and researchers concluded that doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area and devastate the West Coast’s salmon industry downstream. But the project is going forward now, in a win for a powerful consortium of California farmers, the Westlands Water District, that stands to profit by gaining access to more irrigation water from a higher dam and has been trying to get the project approved for more than a decade. For much of that time, the chief lobbyist for Westlands was David Bernhardt. Today, Bernhardt is the Interior secretary. The department said Bernhardt’s ethics pledge when he joined the Trump administration did not prohibit him from decisions about the dam in most instances.

Trump Involved Pence in Efforts to Pressure Ukraine’s Leader, Though Officials Say Vice President Was Unaware of Allegations in Whistleblower Complaint
MSN – Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2019

President Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine at a time when the president was using other channels to solicit information he hoped would be damaging to Joe Biden, current and former U.S. officials said. Officials close to Pence insist he was unaware of Trump’s efforts to press Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for damaging information about Biden and his son, who had served on the board of an obscure Ukrainian gas company, when his father was overseeing U.S. policy on Ukraine. Trump’s deployment of Pence is part of a broader pattern of using both executive authority and high-ranking officials in his administration to advance his personal or political interests, even in cases when those subordinates appear not to know that another agenda is in play.

Watchdog Allowed to Sue on Donor Disclosure After FEC Won’t Act
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 10/1/2019

A judge eased the way for watchdog groups to bypass the gridlocked FEC in a decision allowing a lawsuit seeking to unmask secret donors to a major Republican campaign spending organization. U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper said Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) can pursue an unusual “citizen suit” against the American Action Network (AAN). The AAN has spent tens of millions of dollars aiding Republican congressional candidates but never has revealed any of its donors. The Federal Election Campaign Act allows court challenges when the evenly divided FEC splits along party lines and dismisses an enforcement complaint. This can be an effective way to enforce the law if the FEC will not act, the judge said, denying a motion to dismiss CREW’s lawsuit.

Whistleblower Painstakingly Gathered Material and Almost Single-Handedly Set Impeachment in Motion
Anchorage Daily News – Greg Miller (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2019

From the moment he learned about President Trump’s attempts to extract political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden from the newly elected leader of Ukraine on July 25, the CIA officer behind the whistleblower report moved swiftly behind the scenes to assemble material from at least a half-dozen highly placed, and equally dismayed, U.S. officials. He wove their accounts with other material on everything from the intervention of Rudolph Giuliani in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship to alleged efforts by attorneys in the Office of the White House Counsel to contain or suppress the accruing damage. The document he delivered to the intelligence community’s inspector general is so concerning and factually sound that it has almost single-handedly set in motion the gears of impeachment.

From the States and Municipalities

Arkansas Arkansas Asks Panel to Toss Challenge to Campaign-Finance Law
Courthouse News Service – Joe Harris | Published: 9/26/2019

An attorney for the state of Arkansas argued before an appeals court that a woman challenging the constitutionality of a state campaign donation law lacks standing to do so because her preferred candidate has not made an official campaign announcement. Peggy Jones filed a federal lawsuit over the law prohibiting campaign donations for statewide offices more than two years before the election. Jones claims the law infringes on her First Amendment rights by preventing her to donate now to politicians she wants to support in the 2022 election cycle. In June, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr. issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the law until its constitutionality could be decided.

California L.A. Gave Him a $54,750 Consulting Gig. But Did He Do Any Work?
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 10/1/2019

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said his office approved a consulting contract in 2016 for Michael LoGrande, the departing head of the city planning department, so LoGrande could finish up work before a new planning director arrived. But when asked by reporters for evidence of the work performed by LoGrande, officials in mayor’s office and the planning department said they had nothing to turn over. LoGrande agreed in July to pay a penalty of more than $281,000 for illegally lobbying the city just months after he left his position. Three of the four violations occurred while he was being paid by the city as a consultant. One City Hall critic said it sounded as though LoGrande had secured a “no show, no work” contract, one that essentially functioned as a severance package.

California Monterey Slaps Limits on Escalating Campaign Contributions
Monterey Herald – Dennis Taylor | Published: 10/2/2019

The Monterey City Council advanced an ordinance limiting campaign contributions by any person to $500. It defines a “person” as any individual and any number of organizations, such as companies, corporations, committees, and labor unions. The ordinance will come back in two weeks for a second reading and if passed again would become law four weeks after that, said Monterey City Manager Hans Uslar.

California These California Politicians Once Helped Regulate Legal Marijuana. Now They’re Working for the Industry
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 9/30/2019

A growing number of former government leaders, bureaucrats, and regulators have joined or established financial ties with the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry in the last few years. More than two dozen government officials have made the leap. Most jumped in after voters in 2016 approved Proposition 64, which legalized growing, distributing, and selling cannabis for recreational use. Cannabis firms that need help navigating bureaucracy stand to gain valuable knowledge from enlisting government veterans, said former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who is a founder of C4 Distro, a state-licensed distribution firm.

Colorado Recall Polis Group Gives $11,000 in Gifts to Staffers
Denver Post – Anna Staver | Published: 9/26/2019

The Official Recall of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis group, which did not participate in the recent failed recall attempt by two other group has given $11,000 of the money it raised for the effort as gifts to staffers. According to disclosre records, Shane Donnelley got $5,000 as a “thank you for caring about Colorado” gift, and Lisa Pascoe and Rene McGill both received $3,000. It’s not the first time the group has come under scrutiny for its spending. The group’s chairperson, Juli-Andra Fuentes, was questioned about a nearly $30,000 donation to an independent expenditure committee she founded called Colorado for Trump. The Trump campaign said Fuentes’ group was not affiliated with the campaign, and it might take action over the misleading name.

Delaware Former Wilmington City Council President Indicted
Wilmington News Journal – Jeanne Kuang and Esteban Parra | Published: 9/30/2019

Former Wilmington City Council President Theo Gregory was indicted on charges of profiteering and official misconduct. The Delaware Department of Justice said Gregory used his position on the council to secure a city grant that would enrich both himself and a nonprofit he founded. In April, Gregory settled a case with the Wilmington Ethics Commission, admitting his actions violated one section of the city code, which prohibits elected officials from using their position for personal monetary gain or to influence others’ behavior. He received a public reprimand. The commission agreed to drop a charge alleging he violated a different part of code, which prohibits officials from using “public office to secure unwarranted privileges, private advancement or gain.”

Florida After Five Years and an ‘Ugly’ Process, Miami-Dade Is Still Trying to Buy Helicopters
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 10/3/2019

Miami-Dade County has been trying to buy new rescue helicopters for five years, and the purchasing process may be the messiest ever for a county famous for extended procurement fights. It sparked a brief criminal investigation, though no charges were filed. Ethics investigators were far more productive, issuing reports accusing bidder Agusta and administrators in the county’s fire department of flouting rules governing how local governments are supposed to select vendors. The report detailed an “alarming” amount of texts and phone calls between an Agusta sales executive and administrators at the county’s fire department at a time when purchasing rules barred private communication. The report also said it “strains credibility” to believe the communications had nothing to do with Agusta’s bid.

Florida Mayor Dailey Tears into Independent Ethics Board, Balks at Proposed Ethics Code Overhaul
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 9/26/2019

A proposal by the Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board to strengthen a voter-approved ethics code long seen as ineffectual came under fire at City Hall, with Mayor John Dailey blasting both the recommended ordinance and the board itself. Dailey grilled Independent Ethics Officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, and the ethics board chairperson, Richard Herring, over their practices and procedures since the panel’s creation nearly five years ago. Treating them at times almost like hostile witnesses, he asked leading questions, answered his own queries, and apologized several times after cutting the speaker off. Dailey tore away at some of the most significant revisions to the ethics code, a document a year in the making that has sat on the shelf since the board delivered it to commissioners in April.

Iowa Judge Upholds Voter ID, Strikes Parts of 2017 Voting Law
AP News – David Pitt | Published: 10/1/2019

A judge upheld voter ID as allowable under the Iowa Constitution but struck down as unconstitutional portions of a 2017 voting reform law challenged by a Hispanic civil rights group and an Iowa State University student. The law signed by former Gov. Terry Branstad requires voters to show certain forms of identification when voting at the polls, provide an identification number on absentee ballot applications, and allows county auditors to reject ballots if they believe signatures do not appear to match a voter signature on record.

Kentucky Hospital Group Cancels Beshear Fundraiser After Saying Donation Would ‘Assure Access’
Lexington Herald-Leader – Daniel Desrochers | Published: 10/1/2019

The Kentucky Hospital Association canceled a fundraiser for the gubernatorial campaign of state Attorney General Andy Beshear a day after it was reported the association was urging members to donate in an effort to “assure access” to whoever wins the race for governor in November. “We cannot predict the outcome of the election but we can assure access to the winner with a strong show of support for each candidate,” Bud Warman, the group’s vice president in charge of member engagement, wrote in an email to members.

Montana ‘Excessive Lobbying’ by Nonprofit Federal Land Critic Prompts Complaint to IRS
Missoulia Current – Laura Lindquist | Published: 9/30/2019

A Montana nonprofit led by a federal land critic should give up its tax-exempt status because of lobbying activities, according to watchdog groups. The Campaign for Accountability sent a complaint to the IRS claiming Citizens for Balanced Use has repeatedly violated laws that limit the amount of lobbying that tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are allowed to carry out. The IRS does allow lobbying, as long as it is not a “substantial part” of a nonprofit’s activities. But the agency has not defined what qualifies as “substantial.”

Nebraska Nebraska Lags Behind Neighbors in Campaign Finance Regulation
Hastings Tribune – Tony Herrman | Published: 9/27/2019

Kate High, treasurer of the Nebraska League of Women Voters, delineated how Nebraska lags behind neighboring states in regulating campaign finance. High said she began researching campaign finance rules in her retirement. She said most states as well as the federal government have criminalized what Nebraska has legalized and normalized. High offered a 10-part plan to make elections about voters, not big money interests.

New Jersey Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam Took $87K from Basketball Club, Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud
Newark Star Ledger – Joe Atmonavage (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 10/3/2019

A year after an FBI raid on his home, Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Gilliam defrauded a basketball club of more than $87,000, prosecutors said. More than $41,000 was recovered when his house was raided in December 2018. Gilliam said he created AC Starz Basketball Club and opened a bank account for the club. From 2013 to 2018, he admitted soliciting $87,215 in donations on behalf of the club and using them for his personal expenses.

New Jersey Judge Blocks Implementation of New ‘Dark Money’ Disclosure Law
Burlington County Times – David Levinsky | Published: 10/2/2019

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Martinotti granted a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of New Jersey’s new disclosure law requiring so-called dark money groups and other nonprofits that engage in political activities and lobbying to reveal their donors. A lawsuit by Americans for Prosperity challenged the law on constitutional grounds, arguing its requirement that 501(c)4 groups must reveal contributors who give more than $10,000 if the group engages in any political activities, lobbying, or campaigning infringes on First Amendment rights and could have a chilling effect on its ability to raise funds. In addition to the donor disclosure, the law also mandates the disclosure of expenses of more than $3,000 and boosted the contribution limits to state and county political committees, which are already subject to strict reporting requirements.

New York Assemblyman Introduced Bill Pushed by Firm That Paid Him
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/29/2019

In the month prior to the introduction of state Assemblyperson Michael Blake’s bill that would have benefitted Airbnb, the short-term rental platform paid $189,000 to a prominent political consulting firm, Hilltop Public Solutions, to assist in its lobbying in New York. Hilltop’s efforts included helping organize grassroots support for the legislation Blake introduced. Publicly unknown at the time was that Blake was being paid by Hilltop as a political consultant. In other words: In 2015, Blake was being paid by Hilltop; Airbnb was paying Hilltop; and Blake introduced legislation Airbnb had been pushing. Blake’s financial disclosure form for 2015 reveals that Hilltop paid Blake between $5,000 and $20,000 to work for “out of state” clients. But Blake insists he never worked for Airbnb.

New York Cuomo-Backed Lobbying Disclosure Law Struck Down
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/1/2019

A New York law that compels tax-exempt organizations involved in issue advocacy campaigns to disclose their financial supporters was struck down by a federal judge. The law required 501(c)(3) charities to disclose all their donors of more than $2,500 over six months if they gave more than $2,500 to substantial lobbying campaigns run out of issue-oriented nonprofits. Another provision required a 501(c)(4) to disclose donors who contribute $1,000 or more when the organization spends more than $10,000 in a calendar year on communications made to at least 500 members of the public concerning political or legislative issues.

North Carolina Former NC GOP Chairman Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI
WRAL – Adam Owens | Published: 10/2/2019

Former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during an investigation of bribery allegations into a major political donor. As part of the plea deal, conspiracy and bribery charges and two other counts of lying to authorities were dismissed. Hayes, businessperson Greg Lindberg, and two Lindberg associates, John Gray and John Palermo, were accused of trying to bribe North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey with up to $2 million in promised campaign donations if Causey would hire Palermo to regulate Lindberg’s insurance businesses. The department was asking a series of financial questions about Lindberg’s insurance businesses at the time. Prosecutors allege some money was funneled through the North Carolina Republican Party to get around state campaign finance laws.

Ohio Ohio Purge Ends with Most Culled Because They Haven’t Voted
The Fulcrom; Staff –   | Published: 10/2/2019

The controversial culling of Ohio’s voter rolls ended after the deletion of another 182,000 registrations, or two percent of the statewide total, in one of the nation’s biggest electoral bellwethers. Most were purged only because they have not voted in six years. Under a state law, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, non-voter purges are automatic unless individuals ask to stay on the rolls when the state informs them that they are about to be dropped.

Oregon Oregon Campaign Finance Watchdog Will Seek to Beef Up Enforcement
Portland Oregonian – Mike Rogoway and Rob Davis | Published: 9/24/2019

The secretary of state’s office said it will seek to beef up enforcement of Oregon’s campaign finance laws after a report by The Portland Oregonian that showed minimal investigation into alleged violations. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Vial said the office has settled on a series of steps to review the elections division’s practices and step up enforcement, there was no immediate decision on whether to apply the new practices to past cases. Vial also said there are practical considerations that may continue to limit future investigations.

Oregon Oregon Legislature Will Consider Bill to Make Public Records Advocate Independent in 2020
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 10/1/2019

Oregon’s public records advocate would no longer be appointed by the governor and would have his or her independence clearly spelled out in state law under a proposal that legislators will take up next year. The plan by the Public Records Advisory Council is a response to news in that Gov. Kate Brown’s top lawyer, Misha Isaak, told Public Records Advocate Ginger McCall that she reported to him and should vet any public records legislation, policy proposal, and report with the governor’s office before releasing them. McCall resigned in September. She cited irreconcilable differences with the governor’s staff over role of the public records advocate, including that she felt pressured by the governor’s administration to advance Brown’s public records policy goals without disclosing who was directing that work.

Rhode Island R.I. Ethics Commission Head Suggests Lightening Rules for Public Officials
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 9/26/2019

Rhode Island Ethics Commission Executive Director Jason Gramitt has suggested reforming the state’s financial disclosure law for public officials, such as a less punitive procedure for dealing with public officials who fail to disclose all of their family’s sources of income, financial holdings, expense-paid trips, and executive positions on boards. “We agree with the Ethics Commission that the current mix of statute and regulations has created a somewhat confusing situation,” said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “… [But] any changes to financial disclosure should start with the principle of first doing no harm. The public should not lose any information that it already has access to under the current law.”

Washington Firm Ordered to Pay More Than $1 Million After Illegally Funneling Money to Initiative Activist Tim Eyman
Seattle Times – Christine Clarridge | Published: 10/1/2019

A judge ordered a signature-gathering firm and its principal to pay $1 million for funneling campaign donations to anti-tax activist Tim Eyman. The ruling is the latest development in a lawsuit that Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed against Eyman, Citizen Solutions LLC, and one of its owners, William Agazarm, accusing the firm and Agazarm of unlawfully concealing a $308,185 payment to Eyman. The attorney general’s office said Eyman created “gift schemes” for Citizen Solutions and its owners to “funnel money” to him. Records also document several $13,000 payments to Eyman and his family members from the owners of Citizen Solutions Inc., a predecessor to the limited liability company.

Washington DC Metro Board Adopts Revised Ethics Policy in Wake of Evans Scandal
Washington Post – Justin George | Published: 9/26/2019

The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) adopted a revised ethics policy that will make alleged violations and future internal investigations of board members public. The move comes after the panel was widely criticized for its handling of the probe into the conduct of former Metro Chairperson Jack Evans. The new policy removes much of the secrecy that surrounded the Evans investigation and its outcome. An investigation by the board’s ethics committee found Evans had failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest arising from his private consulting work for Colonial Parking, which was paying Evans’ consulting firm $50,000 a year.

Washington DC There Goes the Neighborhood … to Lobbyists and Fundraisers
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/2/2019

As more K Street shops and political operations buy real estate on Capitol Hill for the proximity to lawmakers, residents say they fear their neighborhoods are morphing into a commercial district, in some cases in violation of zoning regulations and allowing the lobbyist homeowners possibly to pay less in taxes than the business rate. Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, and his neighbors, some of whom are also professional lobbyists themselves, have raised their concerns with local officials, who are urging the District of Columbia to investigate potential zoning violations and to clarify the rules. “Every residential house that gets turned into a lobbying headquarters or a fundraising house, it’s one less house that a family can live in,” said city council member Charles Allen.

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