News You Can Use Digest - September 11, 2020 - State and Federal Communications

September 11, 2020  •  

News You Can Use Digest – September 11, 2020

National/Federal

$2,933 for ‘Girl’s Night’: Medicaid chief’s consulting expenses revealed
Politico – Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn | Published: 9/10/2020

A House investigation showed how Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s top Medicaid official, spent more than $3.5 million on a range of GOP-connected consultants, who polished her public profile, wrote her speeches and Twitter posts, brokered meetings with high-profile individuals, and even billed taxpayers for connecting Verma with fellow Republicans in Congress. Verma, who advised then-Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana on health policy before joining the Trump administration, has rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing in her consulting practices.

COVID-19 Tests Unions’ Ability to Deliver Votes, Manpower, Money to Democrats
Roll Call – Jim Saska | Published: 9/10/2020

Unions’ strength amid the epidemic will be tested this fall. Democrats rely heavily on labor’s political support every November. That is no different this year, but the coronavirus is. Laid-off workers do not pay union dues, meaning the pandemic may cut into organized labor’s electoral spending. More worrisome for Democrats, COVID-19 could kneecap unions’ most potent campaign contribution: legions of door-knocking volunteers. Unions influence elections in three main ways: members’ votes, manpower, and money.

Democrats Fear Partisan Slant at Postal Service as Trump Allies Dominate Board
MSN – Luke Broadwater, Hailey Fuchs, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 9/8/2020

A powerful but little-known group of Republican donors installed by President Trump to oversee the U.S. Postal Service has helped raise more than $3 million to support him and hundreds of millions more for his party over the past decade, prompting concerns about partisan bias at the agency before the November election. The largest amount of fundraising has been by groups with connections to Robert Duncan, who continues to sit on the boards of two super PACs pushing for Republicans to win in 2020. But he is only one of five Republican members that Trump has named to the board, most of whom have given generously to the party, who have taken a hands-on role in trying to defend the embattled agency against accusations that it is trying to help the president win a second term by sabotaging voting by mail.

Family Business in Decline? Fewer Get to Congress Through Heredity
Roll Call – Paul Fontelo | Published: 9/9/2020

Political dynasties were on the decline in Congress even before the recent Massachusetts Senate primary, in which Rep. Joseph Kennedy III became the first Kennedy to lose a congressional race ever in the Bay State. Other members set to retire after this year do not have children running to replace them. Only six current members can say they directly followed their fathers into Congress by replacing them in their seats. That number is taking a hit in 2020, with a pair of lawmakers felled by primary defeats, and one having resigned after an ethics scandal.

GOP Candidate Poses with Rifle, Says She’s Targeting ‘Socialist’ Congresswomen
Washington Post – Rachael Bade abd John Wagner | Published: 9/4/2020

A House candidate whom President Trump recently called “a future Republican Star” posted an image of herself holding a rifle with photos of three liberal congresswomen of color and the vow to “go on the offense” against members of the “Squad,” an unprecedented threat against lawmakers from a probable future colleague. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the GOP candidate for a Georgia congressional seat in a heavily Republican district and a professed QAnon conspiracy believer, posted the photoshopped image on Facebook. Before it was removed, the caption under the gun-toting Greene read: “Squad’s worst nightmare.”

GOP Congressman Spent $70K in Campaign Cash on Meals
Politico – Ally Mutnick | Published: 9/8/2020

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner has used campaign funds for hundreds of trips to restaurants, and occasionally to stay at lavish hotels. He has spent over $70,000 from his campaign account since 2017 to fund meals at some 370 meetings. The individual receipts are fairly modest in most cases, typically ranging from $12 to a few hundred dollars. But together, watchdogs say, they suggest a consistent pattern: Turner uses his donors to subsidize his personal dining costs, expensing an average of two meals a week. Members can expense meals that are incidental to their role as a candidate or an officeholder, such as food for campaign events, fundraisers, or strategy sessions. But the frequency and total of his expenditures raised alarms from good-government groups that he could be misusing his election funds.

How Trump Draws on Campaign Funds to Pay Legal Bills
MSN – Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 9/5/2020

President Trump was proudly litigious before his victory in 2016 and has remained so in the White House. But one big factor has changed: he has drawn on campaign donations as a piggy bank for his legal expenses to a degree far greater than any of his predecessors. Trump’s tendency to turn to the courts, and the legal issues that have stemmed from norm-breaking characteristics of his presidency, helps explain how he and his affiliated political entities have spent at least $58.4 million in donations on legal and compliance work since 2015. The spending includes also cases in which he has a personal stake, including attempts to enforce nondisclosure agreements and protect his business interests.

How Trump’s Billion Dollar Campaign Lost Its Cash Advantage
MSN – Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 9/7/2020

Money was supposed to have been one of the great advantages of incumbency for President Trump, much as it was for President Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004. After getting outspent in 2016, Trump filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration betting the head start would deliver him a decisive financial advantage this year. It seemed to have worked. Trump and the Republican National Committee had a nearly $200 million cash advantage. Five months later, Trump’s financial supremacy has evaporated. Of the $1.1 billon his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than $800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable: a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election.

Judge Won’t Force Disclosure of Key Parts of Mueller Interviews
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/3/2020

A federal judge approved the Justice Department’s decision to deny the public access to large swaths of the thousands of pages of FBI reports on witness interviews from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged ties between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton ruled officials had the right to white out the information from public releases because the exchanges with witnesses reflected the thought processes of Mueller’s prosecutors and of FBI personnel working at their direction.

Justice Dept. Intervenes on Behalf of Trump in Defamation Case Brought by Woman Who Accused Him of Rape
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2020

The Justice Department moved to replace President Trump’s private legal team with government lawyers to defend him against a defamation lawsuit by the author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. In a highly unusual legal move, lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers that Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied ever knowing Carroll and thus could be defended by government lawyers, in effect underwritten by taxpayer money. Though the law gives employees of the federal government immunity from most defamation lawsuits, legal experts said it has rarely, if ever, been used before to protect a president, especially for actions taken before he entered office.

Louis DeJoy’s Rise as GOP Fundraiser Was Powered by Contributions from Company Workers Who Were Later Reimbursed, Former Employees Say
MSN – Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner, and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2020

Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor, pressured employees at his former North Carolina-based business to make contributions to GOP candidates, expenses that DeJoy reportedly reimbursed through bonuses. Five people who worked for New Breed Logistics say they were urged by DeJoy’s aides or by the chief executive himself to write checks and attend fundraisers at his mansion in Greensboro. There, events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more apiece. Two other employees familiar with New Breed’s financial and payroll systems said DeJoy would instruct that bonus payments to staffers be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions, an arrangement that would be unlawful.

Network of News Sites Must Register as a Political Committee Due to Democratic Links, Complaint Alleges
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 9/3/2020

A complaint filed with the FEC alleges a national network of local media websites must register as a political committee because of its ties to a Democratic-aligned group. Courier Newsroom, which includes seven news sites concentrated in presidential swing states, is backed by ACRONYM, a politically active nonprofit run by Democratic strategist Tara McGowan. Federal election laws and regulations do not apply to media outlets unless they are “owned or controlled by” a political party, committee, or candidate and are acting as a media outlet rather than a political one. But the complaint alleges Courier Newsroom is not eligible for that exemption and the media group failed to register as a political organization and report its donors and expenses as is required of political groups under federal law.

Political Groups’ ‘Dark Money’ Spending Set to Exceed $1 Billion Since Citizens United Decision
Washington Times – Ryan Lovelace | Published: 9/9/2020

“Dark money” spending soon will exceed $1 billion reported to the FEC since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 that ensured political spending was protected speech. The billion-dollar threshold, set to be eclipsed this month, is a major milestone for the industry of donors and activists who want to keep their political activity hidden from public scrutiny and contribute to groups that do not disclose their donors. The $1 billion contribution threshold, which includes tens of millions of dollars in the 2020 cycle, does not capture the full picture of undisclosed money shaping U.S. politics. Anna Massoglia, researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, said much of the cash being spent is not recorded by the FEC.

Senior DHS Official Alleges in Whistleblower Complaint That He Was Told to Stop Providing Intelligence Analysis on Threat of Russian Interference
MSN – Shane Harris, Nick Miroff, and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2020

A senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official alleges he was told to stop providing intelligence reports on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election, in part because it “made the President look bad,” an instruction he believed would jeopardize national security. The official, Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of intelligence and analysis at DHS, said in a whistleblower complaint that on two occasions he was told to stand down on reporting about the Russian threat and alleged that senior officials told him to modify other intelligence reports, including about white supremacists, to bring them in line with President Trump’s public comments, directions he said he refused.

Voting Is a Challenge for the Homeless. Advocates Are Trying to Make It Easier.
Washington Post – William Moyer | Published: 9/9/2020

While advocates are registering people to vote in a polarizing election held during a pandemic, they are also registering a population traumatized by, in some cases, years on the streets. It is these barriers to voting that Pathways to Housing DC, is trying to overcome. Some are battling mental illness and addiction. Others are illiterate, or simply might not have a pair of reading glasses they need to fill out a form. Megan Hustings, managing director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said her organization has worked to register homeless people to vote since the 1990s. The obstacles are immense not just for its clients, but for anyone living in poverty, she said.

Canada

Canada WE Charity, at the Center of Trudeau’s Latest Scandal, Shuts Down in Canada
Washington Post – Amanda Coletta | Published: 9/9/2020

The charity at the center of an ethics scandal that has ensnared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his former finance minister said it would be shutting down its Canadian operations. WE Charity blamed the coronavirus pandemic and the political turmoil over the federal government’s decision to tap it to run a $690 million grant program for student volunteers for the decision. Trudeau announced his government had picked the charity to administer a program that would offer grants to postsecondary students unable to find a job during the coronavirus outbreak if they volunteered in their communities. The arrangement, under which WE Charity stood to earn up to $33 million, raised eyebrows. Trudeau has spoken at several WE Days, his wife is an ambassador for the charity, and there was no public bid.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alaska Group Backing Independent Candidate Appears Linked to Democrats
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 9/9/2020

A new outside group formed to support an independent candidate running against U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan in Alaska appears linked to prominent Democratic super PACs in Washington, as Democrats grow increasingly interested in what could be a low-budget play at a dark-horse Senate contest. Independent Alaska, an independent expenditure committee formed September 3, appears set to purchase advertising on behalf of Al Gross, a surgeon and commercial fisherman running as an independent against Sullivan. The arrangement is similar to an outside group that sprang up to run ads promoting an arch-conservative candidate in Kansas, former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Alabama Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Arrested for Campaign Finance Violation
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 9/3/2020

Former state Sen. David Burkette was arrested for a misdemeanor violation of Alabama’s campaign finance law. Burkette resigned days before. He is accused of intentionally depositing $3,625 in campaign contributions in his personal bank account instead of a campaign account in 2015 and 2016, when he was running for the Montgomery City Council. Last year, the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause Burkette violated the law, forwarding the case to prosecutors.

Alaska Alaska Gov. Dunleavy Will Pay $2,800 to Settle Ethics Complaints Over Publicly Funded Political Ads
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 9/7/2020

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy agreed to reimburse the state $2,800 his office spent on mailers that may have violated state ethics laws barring partisan political activity. The complaints targeted a social media and mailer campaign launched by the governor’s office that attacked some of his opponents in the Legislature and boosted some of his allies. State ethics law bars the spending of state money on “partisan political purposes,” and Dunleavy’s opponents said the advertising campaign did just that.

California CalPERS May Force Next CIO to Unload Personal Holdings
Los Angeles Times – Bloomberg | Published: 9/4/2020

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) may force its next chief investment officer to sell securities that could pose conflicts-of-interest, as the pension giant considers new rules in the wake of the recent departure of Chief Information Officer Ben Meng. Under another proposal, trustees may require that all board members be told whenever the system opens a probe into one of its top executives. Meng’s surprise resignation raised questions about oversight at the $400-billion pension system, the largest in the United States.

California What Are Lobbyists Doing at San Jose City Hall? That’s a Good Question
San Jose Spotlight – Carly Wipf | Published: 9/4/2020

Two prominent business groups – the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the San Jose Downtown Association – have filled out weekly lobbying disclosures, which require them to divulge who at San Jose City Hall they are meeting with, how the communication happened and, most importantly, the topic being discussed. But instead of revealing why they met, as required by city law, both groups simply posted a generic mission statement. ordinances. San Jose’s lobbying rules were created in 2007 to increase transparency and allow the public to understand how lobbyists are influencing politicians. The sunshine ordinance requires the city clerk to post weekly reports which require lobbyists to disclose the “topic of lobbyist action” for every meeting.

Colorado ‘LLCs Are Not Constituents’: Fort Collins council puts new caps on election
Fort Collins Coloradoan – Jacy Marmaduke | Published: 9/2/2020

Fort Collins approved several campaign finance changes that will take effect in time for the April 2021 city election, including limits to how much individuals can contribute to limited liability corporations and political committees to support or oppose city races. The change will prevent people from surpassing individual donation limits by contributing to campaigns through LLCs they are part of. There will be a $100 cap on donations to political committees. There is currently no limit on contributions to political committees, which consist of two or more people who join together to accept contributions or make expenditures to support or oppose one or more candidate.

Florida Secretive Group Pushing Florida Constitutional Amendment Raised Money Linked to Big Businesses
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 9/9/2020

A nonprofit financing a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder to amend the Florida Constitution in the future has raised money from a group linked to a lobbying organization for Florida Power & Light, U.S. Sugar Corp., and other big businesses. Keep Our Constitution Clean has spent more than $9 million on a campaign to pass Amendment Four on the 2020 ballot – which, if approved by voters, would require all future amendments to go through two statewide referendums. Keep Our Constitution Clean is a “dark money” group because it is organized under a section of federal law that allows it to hide the identities of its donors even though it is spending money to influence an election. Federal tax records reveal one donor: another “dark-money” nonprofit, A Better Miami Dade, which transferred $150,000 to Keep Our Constitution Clean in 2018.

Georgia Georgia Secretary of State Says as Many as 1,000 Potential Cases of Double Voting Detected
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 9/8/2020

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the state identified as many as 1,000 instances of double voting in this summer’s primary and runoff elections, which saw an influx of votes cast by mail and were also marred by equipment failures and other breakdowns of voting machinery. Raffensperger pledged to investigate each of the potential cases of double voting, which he called “unacceptable,” and said his office would look to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. It is possible, however, that some of those cases could be attributed to data errors on behalf of election officials, noted Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor who runs the United States Election Project. McDonald urged that Raffensperger’s announcement be treated with caution.

Hawaii Hawaii Health Inspector Fined $25,000 For Ethics Violation
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 8/28/2020

A Hawaii Health Department employee is being ordered to pay the state $25,000 after he used inspections of adult care homes to find real estate clients. Roel Salanga was a nurse consultant for the Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Assurance and was responsible for performing on-site inspections of adult residential care homes. During one inspection in 2018, Salanga offered his real estate services to the operator. Over the next year, he sent her emails on state time on over 20 occasions. He ultimately earned a $22,750 commission for his real estate brokerage firm, out of which he received $9,947.50. Meanwhile and afterward, Salanga was still the inspector of the woman’s care home.

Illinois Former ComEd VP Charged with Bribery Conspiracy in Scheme to Sway House Speaker Michael Madigan
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/4/2020

A former vice president for Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) was charged with bribery conspiracy, alleging he helped orchestrate a scheme to pay political allies of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to influence legislation in Springfield that would benefit the utility. Fidel Marquez, a longtime lobbyist and former senior vice president of governmental affairs at ComEd, was charged in a one-count criminal information. Marquez was the first person to be charged in the ongoing investigation of an elaborate bribery scheme aimed at influencing legislation by making payments to Madigan associates and approved lobbyists, some of whom did little or no actual work for the company.

Illinois Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s Office Subpoenaed by Feds Who Wanted Information on Land Parcel in Chinatown
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick and Jamie Munks | Published: 9/4/2020

Add Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s office to the long list of organizations, politicians, lobbyists, and others subpoenaed in a wide-ranging federal probe that has already led to a series of corruption charges and convictions. The U.S. attorney’s office demanded that Harmon’s office turn over all documents and communications related to a state-owned parking lot long coveted by developers. The possibility of the state transferring the property to developer See Y. Wong was discussed in a meeting among House Speaker Michael Madigan and former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis. Madigan has been subpoenaed in the probe, Solis wore a wire for federal investigators and Wong has been charged with fraud.

Kansas Kan. Audit Peels Away Thin Layers of Publicly Financed Lobbying
Salina Post – Tim Carpenter | Published: 9/8/2020

School districts, cities, and counties in Kansas each invested about $250,000 last year in public tax dollars for deployment of registered lobbyists to influence the state’s political process. Sixty-three of the state’s 550 registered lobbyists reported receiving public funding from state agencies, local governments, or associations tied to government activities. This cadre of lobbyists disclosed this universe of clients bankrolled by taxpayers paid them nearly $1.3 million in tax dollars during 2019. The Legislature’s division of post audit says the assessment of lobbying with publicly funding was “incomplete” due to limitations of state lobbying law and of requirements to disclose information.

Maine PAC Spending on Tires, Clothing Spurs Complaint Against State Republican Leader
centralmaine.com – Kevin Miller | Published: 9/4/2020

An ethics complaint against House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Trey Stewart alleges he improperly spent PAC money on personal items. But it is unclear how the state ethics commission will come down on the complaint because rules governing PACs are far less stringent than those imposed on candidates participating in Maine’s public campaign financing system. While Stewart is currently running for office as a Clean Elections candidate, the expenditures in question were made by his Star City PAC and date back to 2018 or 2019.

Massachusetts Demo Contractor Fined $75,000 for Illegal Donations
Worcester Telegram – Chris Lisinski (State House News Service) | Published: 9/8/2020

A New Hampshire contracting company will pay a $75,000 fine after the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance determined it illegally provided corporate funds to employees for donations to the campaigns of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and a city councilor. In violation of campaign finance law, employees of Select Demo Services donated a total of $21,000 from their personal accounts for which they had been paid by the company. Donations made by personal check were dated on or about December 4, 2019. Select Demo had issued $1,000 checks to each of those workers on or about December 3, 2019, according to the investigation.

Michigan Feds: Ex-Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith to plead guilty to federal criminal charge
Detroit Free Press – M.L. Elrick | Published: 9/9/2020

Former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith agreed to plead guilty to a federal obstruction of justice charge for encouraging two of his assistant prosecutors to help cover up his theft of $70,000 from a campaign fund. U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said Smith stole the money from his reelection account to use on “his own personal whims.” Schneider said he believes Smith should serve at least 15 months in federal prison for betraying the public’s trust. Schneider described Smith’s attempts to cover up $70,000 his campaign said it spent on rent and political consulting that, in reality, was kicked back to Smith.

Michigan Pandemic Takes Bite Out of Lawmakers’ Free Food from Lobbyists
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 9/4/2020

Restaurant closures and restrictions on gatherings are crimping one of the perks of serving in the Michigan Legislature: lobbyist funded meals. Over the first seven months of the year, lobbyists reported spending $221,429 on food and drink purchases for state officials, the lowest total disclosed over that period in 19 years. The figure represents a 62 percent drop in reported spending over the first seven months of 2019. The drop in food purchases reflects another trend during the pandemic: a decline in campaign giving to House candidates by interest groups’ PACs, said Simon Schuster, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Missouri After Two Court Losses, State Doesn’t Ask High Court to Weigh in on ‘Clean Missouri’ Question
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 9/2/2020

A Missouri appeals court order tossing the ballot summary for a Republican-backed constitutional amendment on redistricting could be the final word on the topic before voters weigh in on November 3. The state has opted not to ask for the Missouri Supreme Court to weigh in after unsuccessfully defending the ballot summary twice, once in Cole County Circuit Court and again before the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District. Even though the state had opted not to appeal the order, haggling over what language is to appear on the ballot is not over just yet.

Montana Appeals Court Denies Green Party Candidates Ballot Access
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 9/8/2020

A federal appeals court denied a request for an emergency injunction to allow Montana Green Party candidates to appear on the November ballot, a decision that one of the plaintiffs says puts an end to the issue. Several weeks after the Green Party was declared to have qualified for the primary ballot it was learned the state Republican Party bankrolled the $100,000 signature gathering effort, violating campaign finance laws in the process. The Green Party has said they were not behind the effort.

New Jersey How ‘Illegal’ Donations Helped One NJ Law Firm Make Millions Off Taxpayer Dollars
New Jersey Herald – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 9/2/2020

Friends and family members of a partner at O’Donnell McCord donated over $200,000 on behalf of the law firm to politicians in towns all over New Jersey, authorities say, while it nabbed lucrative contracts with many of those towns. Public records show the firm earned more than $16 million from 20 public entities since 2010. The allegations illustrate again how monied interests take advantage of lax oversight to nab public contracts. Indeed, when the investigation led to bribery charges against five politicians in December, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says one of them was recorded telling a cooperating witness, “Nobody questions anything.”

New York Robert Freeman, NY Open-Government Expert, to Pay $15K Fine for Inappropriate Conduct
The Journal News – Jon Campbell | Published: 9/9/2020

Robert Freeman, former director of the state Committee on Open Government, will pay a $15,000 fine to settle claims he systematically sexually harassed women while on the job, including several reporters who sought his advice on public transparency disputes. The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics finalized a settlement agreement with Freeman, a nationally renowned public-records expert who was abruptly fired from his state job in April 2019 after holding his post for more than 40 years. Freeman admitted his conduct toward women, as well as using his state-issued computer to view sexual images, violated state Public Officers Law.

Oregon Reporting on Timber Lobbying Prompts Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to Call for Audit of State Institute
OPB – Tony Schick and Rob Davis | Published: 9/2/2020

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown requested an audit of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) after a media investigation revealed the tax-funded agency worked to discredit academic research and acted as a lobbying and public relations arm for the timber industry. OFRI was created in 1991 to educate the public about forestry and to teach landowners about logging laws and sound environmental practices. Lawmakers established a tax on logging to pay for the institute while cutting taxes paid by the timber industry that helped fund schools and local governments. By law, OFRI is prohibited from attempting to influence policy.

Tennessee State Registry Fines Rep. Staples $26K for Expense Irregularities; He Says He’ll Appeal
MSN – John North (WBIR) | Published: 9/9/2020

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance assessed a $26,640 civil penalty against state Rep. Rick Staples for campaign spending irregularities. Separately, Staples has pledged to pay back his campaign fund about $11,000 in questioned expenses. Questions arose early this year about some of the ways Staples was spending campaign donations – on meals, hotels, trips to Florida, landscaping, and about $1,900 spent on a warranty for his vehicle.

Virginia Third Former Staffer for Virginia Republican Scott Taylor Charged with Election Fraud
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 9/9/2020

A third former campaign staffer for Scott Taylor, the Republican former member of Congress who is seeking to reclaim his seat in Virginia’s Second District, has been indicted on a charge of election fraud tied to a 2018 scandal. Heather Guillot, a campaign consultant for Taylor during his failed bid for reelection, was charged with making a false statement in connection with a fraudulent petition scheme. Guillot and others were accused of forging signatures on petitions to get a potential spoiler third-party candidate on the ballot two years ago, ostensibly to siphon votes from Taylor’s opponent, Elaine Luria. She narrowly defeated Taylor, helping Democrats form a majority in the House. Taylor is challenging her in November.

Wisconsin Watchdog: Outside group omitted campaign spending on GOP from tax return
Wisconsin Examiner – Erik Gunn | Published: 9/8/2020

A lobbying group with close ties to the Republican Party spent nearly $1 million to help elect 13 GOP lawmakers in the 2016 and 2018 election cycles in Wisconsin without filing required reports, according to a complaint. The Jobs First Coalition (JFC), exempt from taxes under Section 501(c)(4) of the IRS, transferred $920,000 in the tax years of 2016 through 2018 to a separate political fund it operates, according to the complaint by the Campaign for Accountability. The complaint states, “JFC reported to the IRS – under penalty of perjury – that it spent nothing on political campaign activities between 2016 and 2018.”

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