September 20, 2019 •
News You Can Use Digest – September 20, 2019
Amazon to Start Voice-Controlled Donations to 2020 Presidential Campaigns
Houston Chronicle – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 9/18/2019
Starting in October, customers will be able to donate to presidential campaigns through Amazon’s Alexa. The latest evolution in campaign technology raises new questions about how such contributions will be screened to make sure they are legal. It also points to challenges federal regulators face in keeping up with such innovations without a functioning FEC, which lost its voting quorum recently. Amazon will not report directly to the FEC or make donor information public, said company spokesperson Kerry Hall. Instead, it will provide to campaigns the donors’ name, email address, and physical address. Federal regulations allow commercial vendors to process contributions for campaigns as long as they meet certain requirements.
Andrew Yang Said He Would Give 10 People $1,000 Each Month. Is That Legal?
MSN – Matt Stevens (New York Times) | Published: 9/13/2019
Unlike earlier, when Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang paid what he calls “freedom dividends” out of his own pocket to three families, his advisers said the money to provide every American adult with $1,000 a month would be funded by campaign donations, raising questions about whether such a giveaway violates election law. To differentiate campaign expenses from personal ones, regulators must determine whether the expense would exist if the candidate were not running for office. Yang’s campaign said the planned payments would pass legal muster because they would not exist if not for the campaign. But FEC rules specify the personal use of campaign funds by “any person” is prohibited. And the families that would receive $12,000 over the course of a year from Yang would almost certainly spend the extra money on such expenses, which experts said could be problematic.
Appeals Court Revives Foreign Corruption Suit Against Trump
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/13/2019
A federal appeals court resurrected the first lawsuit Trump faced over claims his business dealings violated the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, which bars federal officials receiving payments from foreign governments. A panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a District Court judge erred in 2017 when he dismissed a lawsuit challenging profits Trump has received from foreign officials doing business with his Washington, D.C. luxury hotel and other Trump-branded properties. The suit also took issue with Trump Organization licensing arrangements approved by foreign governments. The judge who originally dismissed the suit said the plaintiffs’ claims of harm were too speculative and remote to let it go forward. The appeals court said the case was a viable one on the grounds of so-called competitor standing.
Bid to Unmask Dark Money Donor Lands in DC Circuit
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 9/13/2019
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in a lengthy legal battle entangling federal courts over the issue of so-called dark money campaign contributions. For the second time, a three-judge panel in Washington took up a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court last year allowed a lower court decision forcing Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies to disclose donors to take effect. The original complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) claimed Crossroads GPS sidestepped campaign finance laws by not disclosing the name of an anonymous donor who contributed millions of dollars at a fundraising event to then-Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. After the FEC denied CREW’s complaint, the group sued the agency, arguing it had ignored Congress’ mandate with the regulation that allowed Crossroads GPS to maintain donor secrecy.
Elaine Chao Investigated by House Panel for Possible Conflicts
ENM News – Eric Lipton and Michael Forsythe (New York Times) | Published: 9/16/2019
The House Oversight and Reform Committee asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to turn over documents related to communication with her family’s shipping company. The request relates to actions Chao has taken that potentially benefited Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping company owned by her family. Foremost has received hundreds of millions of dollars in loan commitments from a bank run by the Chinese government to help build ships that Foremost has purchased from government-owned shipyards there. The actions by Chao, including joint public appearances since she became transportation secretary with her father, who founded the company, and a planned trip to China to meet with government officials there, have led House investigators to question if she is using her office to try to benefit her family’s financial interests.
Elizabeth Warren’s K Street Overhaul
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/17/2019
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced a new set of proposals aimed at curbing the “revolving door” between business and government. She would prohibit members of Congress and other top officials from ever becoming lobbyists and would expand waiting periods to at least two years for lower-level officials. Warren would also prohibit lobbyists from donating to political campaigns or from fundraising on their behalf and would abolish the current threshold for when someone must register to lobby. Her plan also would prohibit lobbying activities on behalf of foreign governments, something that is now standard practice on K Street.
Inaction on Kavanaugh Allegations Reignites Political Rancor
Laredo Morning Times – Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 9/16/2019
Days before Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, U.S. Sen. Christopher Coons sent a letter to the FBI, urging “appropriate follow up” on new information he believed was relevant to sexual misconduct allegations made against the nominee. Then, apparently, not much happened. Not at the FBI, which did not interview the person whom the senator referred to the bureau. Not in the office of then-Judiciary Committee Chairperson Charles Grassley, which was copied on the letter. And not among Democrats, several of whom had been unaware of the information until a New York Times report detailed a new alleged incident involving Kavanaugh. That inaction has renewed a debate about how his confirmation was handled, angering Democrats about a process they felt was rushed and animating Republicans who decried what they viewed as attempts to assassinate Kavanaugh’s character.
Lobbyist Registry May Become Available This Week
Weekly Journal – Giovanna Garolfalo | Published: 9/18/2019
The Puerto Rico Department of Justice is expected to launch its digital platform to register lobbyists soon. The move would come more than two months after then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed an executive order to create a lobbyist registry and establish the “code of total transparency” for all agency heads within the executive branch. The executive order states that any individual who is carrying out lobbying activities must register and submit an affidavit that includes information about their clients in any government agency; the business or businesses in which they participate; and the list of people for which they are performing lobbying activities, among other provisions.
Trump Outpaces Obama, Bush in Naming Ex-Lobbyists to Cabinet
AP News – Richard Lardner | Published: 9/17/2019
In less than three years, President Trump has named more former lobbyists to Cabinet-level posts than his most recent predecessors did in eight, putting a substantial amount of oversight in the hands of people with ties to the industries they are regulating. Instead of staring down “the unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests” as Trump recently declared, the influence industry has flourished during his administration. The review was limited to the Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush administrations because prior to 1995 there was no central database of federal lobbying registrations and the law was hazy about who was supposed to register.
Canada – Third Incident of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau in Racist Makeup Emerges
Grand Forks Herald – Amanda Coletta, Hannah Knowles, and Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 9/19/2019
A third incident of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appearing in racist makeup emerged hours after he apologized for wearing brownface at an Arabian Nights-themed party and blackface at a high school performance. The succession of revelations rocked Trudeau’s campaign as he faces a tough battle for a second term. Trudeau apologized after Time magazine published a yearbook photograph taken in 2001, when he was a teacher at West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver. It depicts the then-29-year-old smiling while wearing a feathered turban, his face darkened. Trudeau also admitted to wearing blackface in high school while singing the song “Day-O” at a talent show.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Insurance-Focused Political Group Fined $5,500 After Decade of Failed Disclosure
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 9/18/2019
The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) voted to fine an insurance-focused PAC $5,500 to settle a complaint it failed to register with the commission for more than a decade and for two years accepted contributions that violated state law. According to the settlement agreement, INSURPAC of Alaska failed to file campaign disclosure reports between 2005 and 2017. In 2015 and 2018, it received contributions that violated the $500 per-person annual cap. The violations were discovered after INSURPAC voluntarily disclosed them to APOC.
Arizona – Ballot Proposal Seeks to Block Lawmakers from Voting on Issues They Benefit From
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 9/17/2019
A new initiative proposal in Arizona seeks to block state lawmakers from proposing and voting on measures that could benefit themselves and family members. Paperwork filed with the secretary of state’s office would make it illegal for legislators to take any action on measure in which they or a relative have a “direct and substantial financial interest.” That is defined to mean any financial benefit that is not shared by at least a significant portion of the general public. There are conflict-of-interest restrictions on lawmakers currently. But that has generally been defined as a “rule of 10,” meaning there is no legal conflict if the legislation affects at least 10 people.
California – Politics Is a Swamp, but California and Washington Get High Marks for Their Ethics Enforcers
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 9/12/2019
California’s state ethics agency is among the most transparent in the nation, while Washington’s agencies have mixed reviews. The Coalition for Integrity released its annual S.W.A.M.P. index, this year rating states by the transparency of their ethics agencies. It is a follow up to the 2018 report, which ranked states by the scope and independence of their ethics agencies, including enforcement power. In the 2019 report, California ranked third in the nation. Washington state earned mixed marks, putting it tied for sixth in the nation overall.
Delaware – Supreme Court Says Judges Are Above Politics. It May Hear a Case Testing That View.
ENM News – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 9/16/2019
U.S. Supreme Court justices insist politics plays no role in their decision making. But their voting patterns and the partisan confirmation battles for seats on the high court tell a different story. The debate over the role politics plays in judging is mostly theoretical. But a petition filed by Delaware Gov. John Carney Jr. makes it concrete. It asks the justices to consider whether states may take account of the political affiliations of judges to try to achieve something like ideological balance on their courts. The Delaware Constitution says judges affiliated with any one political party can make up no more than a “bare majority” on the state’s highest courts, with the remaining seats reserved for judges affiliated with the “other major political party.” James Adams, a retired lawyer and registered independent, challenged the balancing provision, saying it violated the First Amendment.
Florida – Ron DeSantis’ Political Team Planned $25K Golf Games, $250K ‘Intimate Gatherings,’ Memos Say
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Contorno | Published: 9/12/2019
Paying for access to powerful politicians is hardly new. President Clinton famously allowed top donors to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House during the 1990s. President Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney once bragged, “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” But internal documents from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign committee provide a rare peek into the inner workings of the main political operation behind Florida’s top elected official. The memos lay out how DeSantis’ political and gubernatorial staff could work together to meet a personal goal of their boss: Make DeSantis a nationally known political entity.
Illinois – Ethics Board Levels $25K Fine on Political Consultant Recorded Allegedly Arranging Viagra, Sexual Services for Ex-Chicago Alderman
Chicago Tribune – Juan Perez Jr. and Jason Meisner | Published: 9/16/2019
The Chicago Board of Ethics fined political consultant Roberto Caldero $25,000, concluding there was probable cause to believe he “engaged in several acts of unregistered lobbying.” The board cited media reports on a court filing that showed the FBI investigated alleged corruption by former Ald. Daniel Solis. The council member sought Viagra at a massage parlor from Caldero while the consultant was lobbying Solis on a variety of issues. There was no evidence Solis ever paid Caldero for the pills. An affidavit suggested Caldero also offered prostitution services to Solis on several occasions. Officials suggested more fines could be on the way. “We continue to look at this, and as in the past, we have also looked to the employer of unregistered lobbyists and taken action with regard to them,” board Chairperson William Conlon said.
Illinois – Illinois Gaming Board Chair Who Resigned in June Engaged in Prohibited Political Activity While in Charge of Body That Regulates Gambling, Watchdog Finds
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 9/18/2019
Don Tracy, who resigned as chairperson of the Illinois Gaming Board shortly before his term was up this summer, engaged in prohibited political activity while head of the body that regulates gambling, according a report from a state watchdog. Tracy made “loans and contributions either directly, or through his wife, to political committees” in violation of state law, the Office of Executive Inspector General said in a May 31 report that was not released until a few days ago. Tracy, whose term was set to expire July 1, resigned in mid-June, just before Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a gambling expansion to be overseen by the Gaming Board. The inspector general’s office recommended Pritzker “take whatever action he deems appropriate,” but Tracy said the governor’s office never requested or demanded his resignation.
Kentucky – Jury Finds Jerry Lundergan and Dale Emmons Guilty of Campaign Finance Crimes
Louisville Courier-Journal – Joe Sonka | Published: 9/12/2019
A jury found Jerry Lundergan guilty on all 10 felony counts in the federal case accusing him of conspiring to conceal illegal corporate donations from his company to the U.S. Senate campaign of his daughter, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. The jury also found co-defendant Dale Emmons, a consultant paid by Lundergan’s company to provide services for Grimes’ campaign, guilty on all six felony counts. Defense attorneys for Lundergan and Emmons argued the two made innocent mistakes during that campaign and did not knowingly violate campaign finance laws, which would need to be proven in order for there to be a conspiracy.
Maryland – PAC Operator Pleads Guilty to Fraud
Politico – Maggie Severns and Derek Willis | Published: 9/18/2019
In one of the first Justice Department cases of its kind, Maryland political consultant Kelley Rogers pled guilty to wire fraud for operating multiple fraudulent PACs that raised money from donors for conservative causes but kept much of the funds for Rogers and his associates. A Politico and ProPublica story detailed how one of Rogers’ PACs, Conservative Majority Fund, took information it had collected about donors for the American Conservative Union, the operators of the annual CPAC conference, and used that information to build a PAC that preyed on those donors’ fears. While promising to fight Barack Obama and illegal immigration, internal emails and documents showed Rogers and his associates instead funneled the money back to themselves.
Massachusetts – Former State Police Union President, Lobbyist Indicted on Federal Charges
Boston Globe – Andrea Estes, Matt Rocheleau, and Danny McDonald | Published: 9/13/2019
Dana Pullman, the embattled former president of the Massachusetts State Police union, was indicted on a host of federal charges, including racketeering and conspiracy. Pullman was arrested in August and accused of taking kickbacks from the union’s former lobbyist and using union money for personal expenses including meals, travel, flowers, and gifts for a girlfriend. The lobbyist, Anne Lynch, was also arrested, accused of paying Pullman thousands of dollars in kickbacks for steering business to her firm. A federal grand jury broadened the charges, adding new tax fraud counts and a third alleged kickback scheme. Lynch allegedly paid two checks for a total of $11,250 to Pullman’s wife, allegedly for his help connecting a union lawyer with Lynch. The lawyer was seeking a marijuana dispensary license.
Michigan – Former State Rep. Todd Courser Gets Probation in Case Related to 2015 Sex Scandal
MLive.com – Julie Mack | Published: 9/16/2019
Former Michigan Rep. Todd Courser was sentenced to 12 months of probation in a criminal case stemming from a 2015 sex scandal involving his extramarital affair with then-state Rep. Cindy Gamrat. Courser agreed to a deal in which he pleaded no contest to willful neglect of duty by a public officer. The misconduct involves soliciting a state employee to send out a false email. To cover up the affair, Courser asked an aide to share an email containing outlandish allegations against him so that rumors of his affair with Gamrat would pale in comparison and not be believed.
Mississippi – Mississippi AG Investigates His Rival in Governor’s Race
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 9/18/2019
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, one of the last remaining Democrats holding statewide office in the Deep South, faces Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves in the battle to replace Gov. Phil Bryant. The campaign has been acrimonious since the beginning. But Hood added a new wrinkle when he released the results of a yearlong investigation into Reeves’s role in building a state-funded road connecting Reeves’s neighborhood with a nearby shopping center. The report is heavy on inference and light on conclusions. It suggests Reeves violated a provision of the state constitution meant to prevent conflicts-of-interest but in a separate report, former state Supreme Court Justice David Chandler said he did not see any evidence of wrongdoing. Reeves’s campaign and watchdogs cried foul over Hood’s report, which landed seven weeks before voters head to the polls.
Missouri – Page Signs Orders to Boost Ethical Standards of St. Louis County Executive Office
St. Louis Public Radio – Jason Rosenbaum | Published: 9/18/2019
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page signed executive orders aimed at beefing up ethics regulations. It is part of Page’s continued response to his predecessor Steve Stenger’s resignation and impending incarceration on corruption charges. The executive orders encourage disclosing public documents that are subject to open records requests and institute a code of ethics for county executive appointees. Page says appointees who do not report instances of corruption could face termination. He also wants the county council to pass a bill stopping bidders from contacting county officials while the contracting process is underway. He has dubbed that idea the “cone of silence” legislation.
Montana – Republican Lawmaker from Missoula Settles Lawsuit over Bullock Ethics Complaint
The Missoulian – David Erickson | Published: 9/18/2019
The Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices agreed to pay Montana House Majority Leader Brad Tschida almost $75,000 for attorney’s fees related to a lawsuit he filed to strike down a law keeping ethics complaints confidential. Matthew Monforton, Tschida’s attorney, said his client purposely waited until just a few months before the election to file a complaint involving Gov. Steve Bullock over an incident that happened two years prior. But then-Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said the complaint must be kept confidential until his office ruled on its merit. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law that required any ethics complaints made against a state official to be kept confidential, ruling it violated free-speech rights.
New Jersey – Murphy-Linked ‘Dark Money’ Group Reveals Donors
Burlington County Times – David Levinsky | Published: 9/16/2019
A so-called dark money group that has actively sought to build public support for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s agenda listed its donors ahead of the implementation of a new law that aims to require disclosure by all nonprofit groups engaged in political activities or lobbying. New Direction New Jersey revealed a list of 25 donors who contributed close to $6.8 million to the nonprofit 501(c)4 since its inception in 2017. Most of the money came from unions, including a $4.5 million contribution from Garden State Forward, a super PAC affiliated with the New Jersey Education Association. New Direction was formed by several members of Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign team and the nonprofit has paid for advertising and other media promoting the governor’s agenda.
New Mexico – New State Ethics Panel Selects First Executive Director
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 9/13/2019
Jeremy Farris, chief legal counsel for the state Department of Finance and Administration, was chosen to be the first executive director of New Mexico’s new ethics agency. he will play a key role in shaping the establishment of the commission, which will handle allegations of wrongdoing against legislators, lobbyists, and others. Farris He and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg were in the same Rhodes scholarship class and were roommates their second year at Oxford. The salary range for the new executive director is $125,000 to $146,000 a year.
New York – 8 Years of Trump Tax Returns Are Subpoenaed by Manhattan D.A.
MSN – William Rashbaum and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 9/16/2019
State prosecutors in Manhattan subpoenaed President Trump’s accounting firm to demand eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns. The subpoena opens a new front in a wide-ranging effort to obtain copies of the president’s tax returns, which Trump initially said he would make public during the 2016 campaign but has since refused to disclose. The subpoena was issued soon after the Manhattan district attorney’s office opened a criminal investigation into the role the president and his family business played in hush-money payments made in the run-up to the election. Both Trump and his company reimbursed Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and fixer, for money Cohen paid to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress who said she had an affair with Trump.
New York – After Criticism, JCOPE Ramps Up Probe of Alleged Rape Survivor
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/12/2019
In the wake of protests at a meeting of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), the panel escalated its probe of alleged rape victim Kat Sullivan for potential lobbying violations. Since the meeting, JCOPE staff told two vendors who aided Sullivan’s effort to pass the Child Victims Act (CVA) they could face subpoenas. JCOPE staff believes Sullivan’s advocacy for the CVA exceeded the spending threshold requiring registration as a lobbyist. Sullivan denies the charge, refuses to register, and faces fines of up to $25,000 per violation. Sullivan’s attorney, David Grandeau, contends JCOPE’s actions since the protests are retribution for embarrassing commissioners. He noted that as far as Sullivan can tell, the panel has taken little action on her case in the preceding three months.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Commission Members Bring Broad Backgrounds to Board
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 9/16/2019
The Ethics Commission born by voters’ approval of a 2018 initiated constitutional measure held its first, mostly organizational meetings recently in Bismarck. It is scheduled to meet monthly into spring. Its five members live in different parts of the state and have backgrounds that include legal, judicial, and governmental experience. The commission is tasked with investigating complaints against lawmakers, state elected officials, lobbyists, and candidates. It is expected to write its own rules related to lobbying, elections, transparency, and corruption. Leading the panel is Chairperson Ron Goodman, a retired judge who will serve a four-year term.
Ohio – Appearance of Conflict-of-Interest at Issue in Criminal Cases Involving Mayor Frank Jackson’s Grandson, Experts Say
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Adam Ferrise | Published: 9/13/2019
The appearance of conflicts-of-interest exist in the issues surrounding the two criminal cases involving Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s grandson, according to four criminal justice experts. Those experts said there is guidance and general practices for dealing with cases where the appearance of a conflict could erode public trust in the criminal justice system. They said the mere possibility of an appearance of impropriety or special treatment in a case should automatically trigger officials to ask for a special prosecutor or an outside police agency to take over a case. Anomalies surfaced in two recent criminal investigations and how the city law department and police, both ultimately under Jackson’s direction, handled the cases.
Oklahoma – ‘If We Lie to a Legislator, We Are Dead’: Oklahoma lobbyists form association
NonDoc – Tres Savage | Published: 9/18/2019
A veteran of the contract lobbying world, former state Sen. Jim Dunlap is a driving force behind the creation of a new trade group for his profession launched this summer: The Oklahoma Society of Professional Advocates. Dunlap has invited all 400-plus registered lobbyists in Oklahoma to join, but he said the association is hoping to feature about 100 total members. One goal of the group will be to formalize a code of conduct. Dunlap also said the association will attempt to help lobbyists get to know one another better to avoid personal turmoil during the legislative session. Dunlap said a lobbyist’s main job is to “educate” people about complicated subjects, dozens of which are placed before each legislator every year.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Sen. Folmer Resigns Day After Being Charged with Possession of Child Pornography
PennLive – Jan Murphy | Published: 9/18/2019
Facing charges of possession of child pornography, Pennsylvania Sen. Mike Folmer resigned the seat he has held for 12 years. The investigation began in February after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a report from Tumblr that suspected child pornography had been uploaded onto Folmer’s account. Folmer, according to charging documents, told law enforcement officers he had been dealing with personal problems and had received child pornography through his Tumblr blog.
Rhode Island – Lottery No-Bid Contract Roils Rhode Island Politics
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 9/15/2019
A proposal to extend the Rhode Island Lottery’s contract with one of the state’s most significant employers is opening rifts between Democratic Party leaders as industry and watchdog groups cry foul. The state Legislature will hold a series of hearings that will likely shed light on the relationship between the state government and International Gaming Technology (IGT), one of the world’s largest gaming and lottery businesses, and the long process that led to a proposed no-bid contract that would mean hundreds of millions of dollars for the company. The contract has also bled into the political realm because IGT’s former chairperson, Donald Sweitzer, is the treasurer of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), and a longtime political advisor to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, who is chair of the DGA.
Texas – Texas Court Weighs Whether a 5-Year Sentence for Illegal Voting Is Legitimate or a ‘Threat to Democracy’
MSN – Deanna Paul (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2019
Crystal Mason was sentenced to five years in prison last year for voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election, a case that garnered national attention both for the severity of the sentence and as an illustration of Texas’s purported crackdown on voter fraud. An appeals court in the state recently weighed whether to overturn her conviction. Mason’s attorneys are arguing she cast a provisional ballot, which federal law permits, and if the state starts to criminalize this, it will undercut the entire system. They called Mason’s prosecution “a threat to democracy.”
Texas – To Rein in Cities, Texas Tries to Ban Their Lobbying
Pew Charitable Trusts – David Montgomery (Stateline) | Published: 9/17/2019
For weeks, local officials and lobbyists watched anxiously as a bill that would have severely restricted lobbying by cities, counties, and other local government entities advanced through the Texas Legislature. The bill died in the House days before the session ended. The legislation would not have affected salaried in-house government affairs employees who advocate for cities and counties. But it would have barred cities and counties from spending money on outside lobbyists. The measure is likely to return when the Legislature reconvenes in 2021, a stark illustration of the widening chasm between conservative state lawmakers and liberal city officials in Texas and many other states.
Texas – VisitDallas: Suite passes don’t have to be reported
Texas Monitor – Steve Miller | Published: 9/17/2019
Dallas’ beleaguered convention and visitors bureau now says the passes to its American Airlines Center suite the agency has given to two city council members since 2016 should not be considered gifts that need to be reported on financial disclosure forms. City Councilperson Casey Thomas, who failed to report six visits to the suite, has acknowledged he should have reported them and filed amended gift disclosures. A panel of the city’s ethics commission ruled a citizen complaint over Thomas’ failure to report the tickets will move forward to be heard by the full panel. A city ordinance requires elected officials to disclose all gifts worth more than $50 they receive from any entity that has a contract with the city. VisitDallas has no role in defining what constitutes a gift in that situation. After accepting the tickets, Thomas participated in council briefings over the future of VisitDallas.
Vermont – In Vermont, ‘Toothless Ethics Agency Serves No Purpose,’ Says New Report
VTDigger.org – Xander Landen | Published: 9/16/2019
Vermont is one of only three states with an independent ethics agency that has “limited or no power” to investigate state officials or impose sanctions, a new report said. The Coalition for Integrity, a nonprofit that promotes government transparency, found Massachusetts, Florida, and Minnesota have the strongest ethics commissions, while Vermont, Virginia, and Utah have the weakest. Vermont’s ethics commission, established in 2017, can review complaints, but does not have the power to investigate or impose sanctions. Commissions in other states can probe unethical behavior, impose fines, and in some cases, take legal action. The coalition said a “toothless ethics agency serves no purpose.”
Washington – Tim Eyman Hit with New Sanctions, Ordered to Disclose Source of Nearly $800K in Donations
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 9/13/2019
After spending more than 18 months refusing to disclose information about his finances and his business in the long-running campaign finance lawsuit against him, anti-tax activist Tim Eyman was hit with further sanctions as a Thurston County judge ruled he must disclose the source of nearly $800,000 in contributions he has collected since 2012. It is the latest in a series of setbacks for Eyman in an investigation that alleges his two-decade career as a serial initiative filer has coincided with a scheme to launder political donations through a complex web of political committees, businesses, and kickbacks to flout campaign finance laws and enrich himself.
Washington DC – Metro Inspector General to Investigate Jack Evans Ethics Probe at Congress’s Request
Washington Post – Robert McCartney | Published: 9/13/2019
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (Metro) inspector general will investigate the agency’s ethics probe of former board Chairperson Jack Evans at the request of the U.S. House Oversight Committee. The inquiry is expected to look at evidence that Evans and former Metro board member Corbett Price sought to impede the investigation of Evans in the spring by the Metro board’s ethics committee. The probe by Metro Inspector General Geoffrey Cherrington adds yet another investigation to ones already underway into Evans. It appears to ensure that Price’s conduct also will get a closer look. The inquiries focus in part on whether Evans used official positions to help his personal legal and consulting business.
Wyoming – 307 Politics: Debating the merits of a Wyoming ethics commission, Cheney at war and other news
Casper Star Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 9/16/2019
The Coalition for Integrity releases an annual “S.W.A.M.P. Index,” a comprehensive review of which state governments are most susceptible to foul play. The index analyzes how state ethics agencies implement their enforcement and sanctioning powers through enforcement statistics and a comparative scorecard, which ranks states and their ethics agencies “on the transparency and availability of information regarding their enforcement actions.” Wyoming does not make an appearance on the report, with the state standing as one of only five in the country lacking a proper ethics agency. Coalition for Integrity President Shruti Shah warns that patchwork methods of enforcement as in Wyoming can oftentimes be ineffective.
Wyoming – Unannounced Meeting with Lobbying Group Did Not Violate Open Meetings Law, Expert Says
Casper Star Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 9/18/2019
An unannounced meeting between Wyoming lawmakers and a local special interest group held during the recess of a recent committee meeting did not violate any open meetings laws, an expert public records law said. Many who stumbled into the lunch recess of a meeting of the Joint Committee on Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions were caught by surprise to see a quorum assembled and meeting with a special interest group that advocates for a private-sector approach to the housing market and the preservation of private property rights. However bad the optics were, the meeting was appropriate because members of the Wyoming Legislature are exempt from many facets of the law.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.