April 15, 2019 •
February 15, 2019 •
Federal: Ex-Lawmakers Face New Scrutiny Over Lobbying The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/12/2019 Critics say former federal lawmakers have been the biggest offenders when it comes to working as lobbyists without formally registering. Forty-eight former senators and 295 […]
Ex-Lawmakers Face New Scrutiny Over Lobbying
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/12/2019
Critics say former federal lawmakers have been the biggest offenders when it comes to working as lobbyists without formally registering. Forty-eight former senators and 295 former representatives were registered lobbyists in the last Congress, and that number is growing as the latest exiting class of lawmakers join firms. Some note the law has loopholes for determining when someone must register. The Lobbying Disclosure Act states that a person must register to lobby if lobbying activities constitute at least 20 percent of their time working for a client. That allows many former members who work for lobbying shops and big firms to handle policy issues but avoid crossing the line to require registering as a lobbyist.
FEC Raises Contribution Limits for 2020
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 2/7/2019
The FEC announced new higher campaign contribution limits. Donors would be able to give up to $2,800 per election, including both the primary and the general election contests, in the new cycle, a $100 increase over the 2018 cycle. Individuals will be allowed to contribute up to $35,500 to party accounts like the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee every year. The commission raises the cap every two years under a provision in the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
National Enquirer’s Parent Firm Asked U.S. If It Should Register as Foreign Agent for Saudis
NBC News – Josh Lederman | Published: 2/11/2019
The company that publishes the National Enquirer was concerned enough that it may have acted as an agent of Saudi Arabia that it asked the Department of Justice last year whether it needed to register as a foreign lobbyist. Communications between the Justice Department and American Media Inc. offer the fullest picture to date of interactions between the tabloid publisher and the Saudis ahead of AMI’s release last year of flattering magazine about Saudi Arabia’s young leader. Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, people or entities that work to advance a foreign country’s political interests in the U.S. must disclose their specific activities and register as foreign lobbyists.
Ocasio-Cortez Learned Lobbyists Pay People to Avoid Waiting in Lines in D.C. She’s Not Pleased.
MSN – Eli Rosenberg (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2019
Paying people to wait in line to get prime seats at Capitol Hill hearings is a once-controversial maneuver that has now become accepted practice. Critics say line-standing or line-waiting is a small but visible example of how money affects politics in Washington – how people with resources buy access to lawmakers as they deliberate legislation. The practice, which is expensive but not illegal, has long been a popular one for lobbyists. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is experiencing life as a legislator in Washington for the first time, tweeted her reaction to seeing a line of people waiting for a committee hearing: “Shock doesn’t begin to cover it. Apparently this is a normal practice, and people don’t bat an eye.”
From the States and Municipalities:
California: To Do Business with L.A., City Contractors Now Must Disclose Ties with the NRA
Los Angeles Times – Dakota Smith | Published: 2/12/2019
The Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance that requires companies seeking contracts with the city to disclose any ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Prospective contractors now must disclose under affidavit any contracts or sponsorships they or their subsidiaries have with the NRA. The city has similar policies about companies involved in the construction of President Trump’s proposed border wall. The NRA disclosure law contains more than a dozen exemptions, including contracts involving the city’s pension funds and other investment agreements. Still, attorneys for the NRA said they would file a lawsuit if the ordinance passed, according to a letter sent to the city.
Colorado: High Cost of Influence: $33 million spent last year lobbying Colorado lawmakers
Denver Post – Nic Garcia | Published: 2/7/2019
More than $33 million was spent lobbying Colorado lawmakers in 2018. Lawmakers sometimes rely on lobbyists for expertise and resources the politicians do not have. They fill a knowledge gap for state lawmakers, who have slim staffs to help research and write legislation. Also, because lawmakers can only serve eight years in each chamber, they are limited in the institutional knowledge they can build. Critics say that gives lobbyists access and influence the general public does not always have. “They obviously provide information that is favorable to their clients and not the whole picture,” said Paul Teske, dean of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado at Denver.
Florida: The Lawmaker Who Dressed in Blackface Is Pushing an Ethics Bill Today. Does It Matter?
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 2/12/2019
Florida Rep. Anthony Sabatini has been making national headlines for wearing blackface in a high school prank 14 years ago. It has not stopped him from pushing numerous bills in Tallahassee, including a sweeping bill that would strengthen the state’s ethics laws. It includes provisions that would ban officials from getting investment advice from lobbyists, require lobbyists who influence the executive branch to register online, and make it illegal for officials to seek jobs that conflict with their lawmaking duties. Sabatini he initially felt terrible for anyone who saw the photograph and did not understand the context. But as the story grew, he felt some news reports were using the incident to be sensational, and he has since refused to apologize.
Georgia: State Ethics Commissioners Move to Fill Executive Secretary’s Post After Resignation
Yahoo Finance – R. Robin McDonald (ALM Media) | Published: 2/11/2019
Stefan Ritter resigned as executive secretary of the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission after being placed on paid leave amid accusations he misused his state-issued computer. Three formal complaints revealed Ritter’s departure stemmed from the discovery by commission staff of “hundreds of pornographic images” on his computer that at least one staff member observed Ritter viewing in the office. The complaints accused him of instructing staff not to open inquiries of multiple candidates in the 2017 Atlanta mayoral race who staffers believed may have violated state campaign finance laws. Ritter also was accused of making a similar call regarding possible campaign violations by Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign.
Indiana: Veteran Agency’s Secretive Deal with Former State Senator Possibly Violated Lobbying Laws
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook and Chris Sikich | Published: 2/14/2019
After a state lawmaker pushed to expand the reach of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA), the agency awarded him a secretive, and possibly illegal, lobbying contract that has paid him more than $150,000. The deal, signed nine months after former state Sen. Allen Paul left office, appears to run afoul of Indiana’s “revolving door” law meant to curb politicians from cashing in on government service. Paul also failed to register as a lobbyist. While the contract was in effect, Paul rarely showed up at the office, interacted little with key lawmakers, and did not maintain an account of the hours he worked. Paul continued to be paid even after the IDVA hired a full-time employee to do essentially the same job.
Michigan: Benson: Pro-Whitmer group broke campaign finance law, will pay fine
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 2/8/2019
A group that ran television ads last year featuring Gov. Gretchen Whitmer violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and has agreed to pay a $37,500 settlement, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. Build a Better Michigan spent more than $2.4 million in 2018 and ran a series of pro-Whitmer ads it described as a form of “issue advocacy” traditionally exempt from the law. But some of those ads violated the statute by identifying Whitmer as a “candidate for governor,” Benson said. Benson also ruled the group’s spending could not be considered an “independent expenditure” because of apparent coordination between the group and Whitmer’s campaign.
New York: Claiming Attempt to Silence Them, Advocacy Groups Oppose Cuomo Lobbying Proposal
Gotham Gazette – Lysette Voytko | Published: 2/10/2019
One provision of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reform agenda would require any individual or organization spending over $500 in a year on lobbying to be required to register as a lobbyist, lowering the threshold from $5,000. The proposal is sparking outcry from nonprofit leaders and others, who say the proposal would harm smaller organizations and activist groups that do little formal lobbying and cannot afford the labor or time to navigate the state’s complex lobbying regulations. “Perversely, while this might increase the number of filings, it will effectively silence small groups while increasing the influence of big money in government,” states a letter from 15 nonprofits.
Texas: In Texas, More Than a Million Dollars in Ethics Fines Have Gone Unpaid
Texas Monitor – Johnny Kampis | Published: 2/7/2019
Data from the Texas Ethics Commission shows state Rep. Ron Reynolds owes $52,500 in fines for failing to file timely personal finance statements required for all candidates. Reynolds is one of the worst offenders in terms of unpaid ethics fines, but he is far from alone in thumbing his nose at the commission. As of the most recent updating on February 4, the ethics agency’s delinquent filer list shows that Texas officeholders and candidates owe more than $1.3 million in fines for being lax on those financial statements.
Virginia: Virginia Democrats Looking for a Clear Path Forward from Scandals
San Francisco Chronicle – Amy Gardner and Jenna Portnoy (Washington Post) | Published: 2/10/2019
Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring are staying, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is fighting, and Virginia Democrats are grappling with how to proceed in a situation with no precedent and no one leading the way out of one of the party’s most disastrous periods in history. More than a week has passed since images emerged of Northam’s medical school yearbook page depicting a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Since then, two women have accused Fairfax of sexual assault and Herring has admitted he wore blackface as a young man. As a group, Democrats in the state publicly embraced their party’s zero tolerance for racism and sexual violence. But privately, Democrats are divided, particularly about whether ousting Northam is best for their party.
Washington: Seattle Ethics Commission May Shine Light on Political Work, City Hall Lobbying
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 2/12/2019
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission may require lobbyists to report the work they do for political campaigns. The debate follows a Seattle Times story about partners at Sound View Strategies who helped elect Mayor Jenny Durkan and have given her informal political advice. They have also been paid by corporate clients to lobby Durkan’s administration on legislation and advocate at City Hall on regulatory matters. Though Seattle already requires candidates to disclose their payments to consultants and mandates lobbyists list their payments from clients, those activities are reported separately and differently, so it can be hard to connect the dots.
February 1, 2019 •
National: All Red or All Blue, State Legislatures Run to Partisan Sides MSN – Timothy Williams (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2019 Republicans continue to hold majorities in most of the nation’s state capitals, as they have in recent years, but Democrats […]
All Red or All Blue, State Legislatures Run to Partisan Sides
MSN – Timothy Williams (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2019
Republicans continue to hold majorities in most of the nation’s state capitals, as they have in recent years, but Democrats now control six new legislative chambers. Along the way, though, Minnesota became the only remaining state in the nation where control of a Legislature is divided. Even in an era of single-party dominance in state Legislatures, it is the first time in more than a century that only one state has split control of its legislative chambers and is one more indication of the depth of the nation’s divided political sensibilities.
K Street Women Seek Closer Ties to Female Lawmakers
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/30/2019
A collection of female lobbyists and organizations is launching a new effort, called 131 & Counting, to welcome the unprecedented number of women now serving in the U.S. House and Senate, build connections with them, and encourage more women to run for office. Miranda Franco, a senior policy adviser with Holland & Knight who came up with the idea, envisions future events that might include panels and roundtables about women in business, the gender wage gap, and other policy matters. Though 131 & Counting is not a fundraising effort, it will connect the female lawmakers with a likely collection of potential campaign donors. Not only did a record number of women run for office last cycle but more women than ever before donated to congressional candidates.
Lawmakers Push Crackdown on Foreign Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/29/2019
Foreign lobbying has been in the national spotlight since special counsel Robert Mueller obtained guilty pleas under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) from two of Donald Trump’s campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, over their lobbying work in Ukraine. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle find FARA outdated, weak, and filled with loopholes. They have tried to change the law in the past, but those efforts have fallen short. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced the Disclosing Foreign Influence Act in 2017 and he said recently that he wants to try again to pass the bill, which will be reintroduced this Congress.
From the States and Municipalities:
Florida: Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel Resigns After Halloween Blackface Photos Emerge
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 1/24/2019
Newly appointed Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel resigned from office after photographs of him posing as a female Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface were obtained by The Tallahassee Democrat. The newspaper reported that the photos were taken in 2005, shortly after Ertel had become supervisor of elections in Seminole County, and depict him in blackface, wearing a New Orleans Saints bandanna around his head and a shirt with the words “Katrina Victim” written on it. Ertel would not comment on the record about the circumstances surrounding the photo. “There’s nothing I can say,” Ertel said.
Illinois: FBI Secretly Recorded Mike Madigan at His Law Office Pitching Firm’s Services
Chicago Sun-Times – John Seidel, Tina Sfondeles, and Fran Spielman | Published: 1/29/2019
The FBI secretly recorded Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan trying to get business for his private law firm from a developer brought to him by Chicago Ald. Danny Solis, who was weighing the developer’s request to build a hotel in Chicago, according to a federal court affidavit. It makes clear for the first time that the federal investigation that has snared Ald. Edward Burke extends beyond City Hall and into the statehouse, examining politicians’ longstanding practice of merging personal and political business. It has been reported that Solis secretly recorded conversations he had with Burke, who recently was charged with attempted extortion.
Kentucky: A Onetime Rising Democratic Star Faces Questions About Voter Privacy
ProPublica – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald-Leader) and Jessica Huseman | Published: 1/28/2019
In an appearance on MSNBC in July 2017, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes expressed her opposition to giving voter data to President Trump’s voter fraud commission, which had requested it from election officials in all 50 states. The privacy risks were simply too high, she said. But beginning months before she made that statement, Grimes’ own staff had been looking up hundreds of voters in the very same registration system. An investigation shows the searches were extensive and targeted prominent state politicians, including gubernatorial candidate Rocky Adkins, who could have been Grimes’ opponent in the Democratic primary.
Missouri: St. Louis County’s Campaign Contribution Limit Is in Effect. Probably. Maybe. Who Knows.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 1/24/2019
St. Louis County voters in November overwhelmingly passed a charter amendment that limits campaign contributions to $2,600 per individual per election. But on December 2, Prosecuting Attorney-elect Wesley Bell accepted a contribution for $3,500; the next day he accepted one for $10,000. It remains unclear whether Bell’s campaign ran afoul of the amendment. The Missouri Constitution says county charter amendments become a part of the charter “at the time and under the conditions fixed in the amendment.” The county’s charter amendment did not have an effective date, and no one in the county government can say when, or even if, it did take effect.
New Mexico: Lobbyist Loophole Fix Heads to Gov. as Lobbyists Spend Nearly $90K
New Mexixo In Depth – Marjorie Childress | Published: 1/30/2019
New Mexico lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would close a loophole that allowed lobbyists to buy politicians meals and drinks of up to $100 without reporting it to state regulators. Senate Bill 191 fixes a mistake made by legislators in 2016 when they inadvertently got rid of a. If Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs Senate Bill 191, which she has indicated she will, all expenditures will have to be reported in the future, including the total of individual expenses under $100. Current law requires lobbyists to report expenses above $100 individually.
Oklahoma: Groups on Right, Left Oppose Proposed Grassroots Lobbying Rules
Oklahoma Watch – Paul Monies | Published: 1/24/2019
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission had been considering disclosure requirements for advocates who buy ads supporting or opposing legislation. But commissioners let the proposed indirect lobbying rule die without a vote after an outcry against it. Most of those against the proposal called it an infringement on free speech. Leaders of nonprofits involved in politics complained the disclosure requirements would drive away donors who want to remain anonymous. More than 3,200 people signed a petition against the proposal.
Oregon: Oregon Supreme Court Could Beat Gov. Brown to Campaign Finance Change
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk Vanderhart | Published: 1/24/2019
Gov. Kate Brown says changes to Oregon’s campaign finance system are a priority in this year’s legislative session, but it is possible some of those changes will occur before she gets her chance. In a rare move, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed to fast-track a case that proponents hope will let the state limit campaign contributions. The move means the matter will skip over the Oregon Court of Appeals, where cases can languish for years and will be heard by the justices later this year. At issue is a set of campaign finance changes enacted by Multnomah County voters three years ago. The new rules placed a $500 ceiling on the checks that individual donors or PACs could give to candidates for county office, and they required disclosures of top donors for political advertisements, among other provisions.
Pennsylvania: Feds Indict Powerful Philly Union Boss, City Councilman, Others
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Maryclaire Dale (Associated Press) | Published: 1/30/2019
A powerful union boss with a tight grip on construction jobs in the Philadelphia region and outsized influence in city and state politics has been indicted in alleged schemes to embezzle more than $600,000 and have a councilperson on the union payroll do his bidding at City Hall. Johnny “Doc” Dougherty has steered tens of millions of dollars to political candidates in Pennsylvania during his tenure running the electricians union. According to the 116-count indictment, Dougherty pressed Comcast to steer $2 million worth of electrical work to a friend as the company negotiated the renewal of the city’s 15-year cable lease and had city Councilperson Bobby Henon investigate a towing company that seized Dougherty’s car., among other charges.
South Dakota: Lobbyist Can Return House Floor After Judge Issues Restraining Order
Rapid City Journal – Chris Huber | Published: 1/27/2019
The lobbyist who was banned from the South Dakota House floor can once again conduct business there after a federal judge granted her a temporary restraining order. Yvonne Taylor, executive director of the South Dakota Municipal League, alleged in a lawsuit that Speaker Steve Haugaard barred her from the House floor after she wrote a magazine column saying the number of “wackies” in the Legislature was increasing. U.S. District Court Judge Roberto Lange said both sides are working toward a settlement, but he granted to the temporary order to “avert immediate or irreparable injury” to Taylor while those discussions occur.
Texas: Dallas Lawyer’s Young Children Are Listed as Big Donors for 3 City Council Members
Dallas News – Corbett Smith | Published: 1/30/2019
Four young children are among Dallas’s biggest political donors. Over the past two years, the children of James Stanton, a former judge in Dallas County, donated a total of $11,000 to three city council members. Those contributions appear to skirt the city’s campaign finance rules, which set a $1,000 individual limit per election cycle for city council races. Charles Sartain, an attorney who specializes in election law, said Stanton’s donations are similar to when a boss distributes money he or she wants doled out for political contributions.
Texas: In the Texas House, They’re Seen as Lobbyists. In the Senate, They Sit at the Press Table.
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 1/28/2019
Empower Texans has worked to replace moderate Republicans with hardline conservatives. The organization and its PAC – which blur the lines between newsroom, lobbying firm, and PAC – have aimed to upend the political scene, with primary challenges and by-the-minute scorecards of lawmakers’ votes. This year, two employees of the Empower Texans’ reporting arm, Texas Scorecard, sit for the first time at the press table on the Senate floor. Aside from lawmakers, staff, and special guests, only journalists are allowed on the floor of the chamber. The media credentials are an opportunity for a group that tries to influence the process. And Empower Texans’ influence is notable. Last election cycle, the group’s PAC spent millions of dollars, a hefty amount going to the Senate and to its leader, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Utah: Who Funds Utah Legislators’ Campaigns? Special Interests Provide 82% of Money, While Voters in Lawmakers’ Own Districts Gave Only 6%.
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 1/27/2019
Incoming Utah legislators collected only six percent of their campaign donations during the 2018 election year from voters who live in their districts. The lion’s share of contributions, 82 percent, came from special-interest groups or out-of-state donors, according to an analysis by The Salt Lake Tribune. As the Legislature convenes, the statistics again raise questions about how much influence wealthy donors and organized interests wield compared with run-of-the-mill Utah voters. Chase Thomas, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Utah, says he doubts big-donor groups buy any votes, but their money may improve their access to lawmakers to make their case for or against legislation.
January 28, 2019 •
Campaign Finance Missouri: “St. Louis County’s Campaign Contribution Limit Is in Effect. Probably. Maybe. Who Knows.” by Jeremy Kohler for St. Louis Post-Dispatch Oregon: “Oregon Supreme Court Could Beat Gov. Brown to Campaign Finance Change” by Dirk Vanderhart for Oregon […]
Missouri: “St. Louis County’s Campaign Contribution Limit Is in Effect. Probably. Maybe. Who Knows.” by Jeremy Kohler for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Oregon: “Oregon Supreme Court Could Beat Gov. Brown to Campaign Finance Change” by Dirk Vanderhart for Oregon Public Broadcasting
National: “Longtime Trump Adviser Roger Stone Indicted by Special Counsel in Russia Investigation” by Devlin Barrett, Rosalind Helderman, John Wagner, and Manuel Roig-Franzia (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
California: “State Controller Betty Yee Disputes Claim That City of Industry Audit Was ‘Politically Motivated’” by Melody Gutierrez and Adam Elmahrek for Los Angeles Times
Florida: “Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel Resigns After Halloween Blackface Photos Emerge” by Jeffrey Schweers for Tallahassee Democrat
Florida: “Andrew Gillum’s Ethics Case Continues after Florida Commission Finds Cause” by Elizabeth Koh for Tampa Bay Times
Indiana: “Indiana Lawmakers Must Now Aide by Sexual Harassment Policy. Expert Calls It ‘Very 1980s.’” by Kaitlin Lange for Indianapolis Star
Tennessee: “Lee Signs 3 Executive Orders on Ethics, Transparency” by Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise for apnews.com
January 18, 2019 •
Federal: At Trump’s Inauguration, $10,000 for Makeup and Lots of Room Service MSN – Maggie Haberman, Sharon LaFraniere, and Benn Protess (New York Times) | Published: 1/14/2019 President Trump’s inaugural committee spent roughly $100 million for an abundance of expenses, […]
At Trump’s Inauguration, $10,000 for Makeup and Lots of Room Service
MSN – Maggie Haberman, Sharon LaFraniere, and Benn Protess (New York Times) | Published: 1/14/2019
President Trump’s inaugural committee spent roughly $100 million for an abundance of expenses, including more than $1.5 million at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The expansive spending reflected Trump’s desire to make a grand entrance, with roughly 20 events around Washington. Disclosure of the spending details comes at a time when the inaugural committee is facing legal scrutiny over the donations that funded it. There is no indication of any investigation into the inaugural committee’s spending. For the most part, inaugural committees are free to spend the money they raise from private donations as they wish. But millions of dollars for Trump’s inauguration were written off in lost revenue.
New Members, Meet the ‘Slush Fund’
Roll Call – Stephanie Aikin | Published: 1/14/2019
More than two dozen new members of the U.S. House and Senate, many of whom campaigned against corruption and corporate money in politics, have established so-called leadership PACs. They are fundraising committees that allow lawmakers to collect money for their colleagues and candidates. The vast majority of members have one, and many say they can be helpful tools to support other politicians and the issues they care about. But the PACs are not subject to the same restrictions on personal spending as individual campaign committees, leading to numerous examples of alleged misuse. Critics say they also allow politicians to evade campaign contribution limits and obscure donations from corporations and other powerful groups.
T-Mobile Execs Seeking Trump Approval for Deal Stayed Repeatedly at His D.C. Hotel
Chicago Tribune – Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 1/16/2019
Top executives from T-Mobile booked reservations at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. one day after it was announced that T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint would require the administration’s approval. T-Mobile executives stayed at the hotel for at least 38 nights during 2018. The Washington Post obtained about a dozen 2018 VIP Arrivals lists which are provided to hotel staff when foreign officials, executives, and Trump family friends are customers at the hotel. Countries, interest groups, and companies like T-Mobile – whose future will be shaped by the administration’s choices – are free to stop at both and pay the president’s company while also meeting with officials in his government. Such visits raise questions about whether patronizing Trump’s private business is viewed as a way to influence public policy.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: Downtown L.A. Development Is a Focus of FBI Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 1/14/2019
The rapid transformation of downtown Los Angeles’ skyline is being fueled in good measure by huge investments from Chinese companies eager to burnish their global brands and capitalize on the city’s real estate boom. Now, some of those projects have become a focus of federal agents seeking evidence of possible bribery, extortion, money laundering, and other crimes as part of a corruption investigation at City Hall. Federal investigators have cast a wide net for information about foreign investment in Los Angeles real estate development, according to a search warrant that names an array of political and business figures. The investigation became public in November, when FBI agents raided the home and offices and offices of city Councilperson Jose Huizar.
Colorado: Judge: State ethics panel has no jurisdiction over many Colorado cities
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 1/10/2019
A judge said the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) no longer has jurisdiction over the ethics rules of home-rule cities such as Denver and Colorado Springs. Part of Amendment 41, the voter-approved ethics law, deals with ethics codes set up by home-rule cities and counties. It says Amendment 41 does not apply to “home rule cities or counties that have adopted charters, ordinance or resolutions that address the matters covered” under the amendment. Shortly after the passage of Amendment 41, the city of Glendale adopted its own code of ethics. But the IEC, in deciding it had jurisdiction over Glendale, decided the city’s code did not contain every provision laid out in Amendment 41.
Kentucky: How Much Is Spent Lobbying Kentucky’s Executive Branch? This Bill Demands an Answer.
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 1/15/2019
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers introduced legislation to give the public more information about those lobbying the state’s executive branch. Businesses often spend more than $20 million-a-year lobbying Kentucky lawmakers, but no similar number is counted for executive branch lobbyists, who are far more numerous. Under Senate Bill 6, executive branch lobbyists would have to file with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission their payment and could not work for any type of contingency fee.
Montana: U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Take Up Montana Campaign Finance Case
Montana Standard; Associated Press – | Published: 1/14/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging Montana’s campaign contribution limits, likely ending a legal challenge that has lasted more than seven years. Opponents of the caps, which are among the lowest in the country, said they are unconstitutional under the First Amendment and prevent candidates from waging effective campaigns. In declining to take up the case, the high court upheld the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that the limits are a reasonable way to prevent corruption and still allow candidates to raise enough money. Since the lawsuit was filed, a federal judge has ruled twice that those limits are unconstitutional, only to be reversed upon appeal.
New York: Legislature Passes Sweeping Electoral Reforms
Albany Times Union – Rachel Silberstein | Published: 1/14/2019
New York lawmakers passed several bills that would allow early voting, preregistration of minors, voting by mail, and limits on the influence of money in elections. The reforms make state primary elections the same day as federal primary elections. One bill amends the law to hold limited liability companies (LLCs) to the same aggregate contribution limit of $5,000 that applies to corporations. The legislation includes a constitutional amendment that requires the disclosure of the identity and proportion of ownership of all direct and indirect owners of the membership interests in the LLC and may go into effect as soon as 2021.
Ohio: Columbus Council Appoints Shayla Favor, Approves Campaign Finance Reforms
WOSU – Gabe Rosenberg | Published: 1/15/2019
The Columbus City Council approved the city’s first ever campaign finance reforms. The measures set requirements for disclosing the sources of campaign advertisements and include a tax credit for small donations. But the most-discussed part of the reforms are the campaign contribution limits: $12,707.79 per year. The limit is higher than any other city in Ohio. Because the provision applies annually rather than by campaign period, city officials could raise more money than state officeholders serving for the same amount of time. It applies to all municipal candidates including mayor, council member, auditor, and city attorney. The contribution limits will take effect in time for this year’s elections.
Oklahoma: Stitt Inauguration Donors May Not Be Revealed Until Summer
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 1/10/2019
Hundreds of donors and supporters will welcome Kevin Stitt as Oklahoma’s new governor during four days of events. The pre-inaugural events are a lavish and at times controversial tradition shared by newly elected presidents and governors across the country. The events will be entirely funded by private money from Stitt’s backers or those looking to gain good will with the administration. If past inaugurations are a guide, Stitt will likely raise more than $1 million from wealthy individuals, companies, and special-interest groups that are allowed to contribute without limits. But those donors can be kept secret for up to six months, until well after this year’s legislative session is over.
South Carolina: SC Ethics Advocate Creates Ethics Dilemma by Gifting Corruption Book to Lawmakers
The State – Avery Wilkes | Published: 1/10/2019
Lobbyist John Crangle, a longtime ethics reform advocate, gave the South Carolina House and Senate more than 180 copies of his book on a corruption scandal to remind legislators of “Operation Lost Trust,” the 1990 investigation that found widespread vote-selling in the General Assembly and led to criminal charges against 18 lawmakers. The books were delivered to individual lawmakers as they returned to Columbia to begin the legislative session. House Ethics Committee Chairperson Murrell Smith said staffers contacted Crangle and the publisher to verify the book was worth less than the $25 and, thus, would not need to be reported as a gift. State Rep. Kirkman Finlay said Crangle’s gift highlights the awkward spot that legislators regularly find themselves in when a gift reaches their door.
Texas: Texas Republicans Rally Behind Muslim Official as Some Try to Oust Him Over Religion
MSN – Adeel Hassan (New York Times) | Published: 1/10/2019
Shahid Shafi will retain his role as vice-chairperson of the Tarrant County Republican Party despite a push to remove him from his post because he is Muslim. Those who were in favor of Shafi’s removal said he is unequipped to be vice-chair because he does not represent all Tarrant County Republicans due to his religion. They have also said Islamic ideologies run counter to the U.S. Constitution, an assertion many Texas GOP officials have called bigoted.
Vermont: A White Nationalist’s Harassment Helped Force a Black Female Lawmaker to Resign. He Won’t Face Charges.
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/15/2019
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said he will not file charges in the reported racial harassment of former state Rep. Kiah Morris, though he believes Morris and her family were victims. Donovan said he would not pursue a criminal case because the First Amendment protects free speech. Morris was the only black female lawmaker in the Legislature and she won the Democratic nomination this summer but withdrew, citing racially motivated threats and online harassment. The messages Max Misch, a self-described white nationalist, sent to Morris over a two-year period disrupted her life to the point that she sought, and was granted, a protective order against him. To Misch, the incidents were little more than a joke. “I like trolling people – it’s fun,” Misch said.
Washington: Split Court: Local initiatives subject to disclosure rule
KOMO – Gene Johnson (Associated Press) | Published: 1/10/2019
The Washington Supreme Court ruled the state attorney general’s office can pursue a campaign finance disclosure case against the conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation. The majority rejected the group’s assertion that the disclosure requirements did not apply to local initiatives before they are placed on the ballot. State law explicitly says that after a measure has been submitted to an elections official, donations to that campaign must be reported. That applies to statewide initiative measures, which must be reviewed by the secretary of state’s office before proponents can gather signatures. But for some local initiatives, supporters do not turn them in until after they have collected signatures.
January 11, 2019 •
Federal: Feds’ GoFundMe Campaigns Open a ‘Minefield’ of Ethical Questions During Shutdown Federal News Network – Nicole Ogrysko | Published: 1/8/2019 The Office of Government Ethics said employees on unpaid furlough due to the government shutdown remain covered by federal […]
Feds’ GoFundMe Campaigns Open a ‘Minefield’ of Ethical Questions During Shutdown
Federal News Network – Nicole Ogrysko | Published: 1/8/2019
The Office of Government Ethics said employees on unpaid furlough due to the government shutdown remain covered by federal ethics policies. Many of those on furlough are exploring taking outside jobs or applying for unemployment benefits. Some are soliciting donations on “GoFundMe” pages to ease the financial uncertainty of likely missed paychecks. But existing rules open a “minefield” of questions about how the employees can ask for contributions during shutdown furloughs, if at all, said Virginia Canter, an attorney for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Typically, federal employees cannot accept gifts from “prohibited sources,” or organizations that do business with the employee’s agency. With that in mind, federal employees soliciting shutdown donations would need to ensure the source of every contribution.
How a Little-Known Democratic Firm Cashed in On the Wave of Midterm Money
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy | Published: 1/8/2019
Mothership Strategies, a little-known and relatively new digital consulting firm, collected tens of millions of dollars from a tide of small donations that flowed to Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections. The firm’s rapid ascendancy as one of the highest-paid vendors of the election since its launch speaks to how lucrative the explosion of small-dollar contributions has been for a group of political consultants who saw the wave of cash coming and built a business model to capitalize. But Mothership Strategies’ rise also has sparked consternation in Democratic circles because of its aggressive and sometimes misleading tactics. Some call its approach unethical, saying the company profits off stoking fear of Donald Trump and making the sort of exaggerated claims they associate with the president.
Manafort Intended for Polling Data to Go to 2 Ukrainian Oligarchs, a Source Says
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez (CNN) | Published: 1/9/2019
Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, two Ukrainian oligarchs who had paid Paul Manafort for years for his political work in their country, were the intended recipients of American polling data that Manafort shared with Konstantin Kilimnik during the 2016 presidential campaign, a person familiar with the matter said. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has been circling Lyovochkin and Akhmetov’s dealings with Manafort, as they were both generous backers of Manafort’s Ukrainian lobbying work. Manafort spokesperson Jason Maloni confirmed Manafort expected to receive the $2.4 million in income from his Ukrainian political backers, including Lyovochkin and Akhmetov. But the money was meant to reimburse old debts that predated the Trump campaign, spokesman Maloni added, and it was not a quid pro quo for the polling data.
Supreme Court to Hear Cases on Partisan Gerrymandering in Maryland, N. Carolina
Salt Lake Tribune – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 1/4/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court once again will take up unresolved constitutional questions about partisan gerrymandering, agreeing to consider rulings from two lower courts that found congressional maps in North Carolina and Maryland so extreme they violated the rights of voters. The North Carolina map was drawn by Republicans, the Maryland districts by the state’s dominant Democrats. The Supreme Court has never found a state’s redistricting map so infected with politics that it violates the Constitution. It passed up the chance last term to settle the issue of whether courts have a role in policing partisan gerrymandering, sending back on technical rulings challenges to a Republican-drawn plan in Wisconsin, and the challenged Maryland map. But there will be a new set of justices considering the issue.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama: Secret Campaign to Use Russian-Inspired Tactics in 2017 Ala. Election Stirs Anxiety for Democrats
Denver Post – Craig Timberg, Tony Romm, Aaron Davis, and Elizabeth Dwoskin (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2019
A secret effort to influence the 2017 U.S. Senate election in Alabama used tactics inspired by Russian disinformation teams, including the creation of fake accounts to deliver misleading messages on Facebook to help elect Democrat Doug Jones in the deeply red state. But unlike the 2016 presidential campaign when Russians worked to help elect Donald Trump, the people behind the Alabama effort, dubbed Project Birmingham, were Americans. Now Democratic operatives and a research firm known to have had roles in Project Birmingham are distancing themselves from its most controversial tactics. Jones’s upset victory over Roy Moore in all likelihood resulted from other factors, political analysts say. But news of the effort has underscored the warnings of disinformation experts who have said threats to transparent political discourse in the age of social media are as likely to be domestic as foreign.
California: As Fires Ravaged California, Utilities Lobbied Lawmakers for Protection
MSN – Ivan Penn (New York Times) | Published: 1/5/2019
As more wildfires are traced to equipment owned by California’s investor-owned utilities, the largest, Pacific Gas and Electric, could ultimately have to pay homeowners and others an estimated $30 billion for causing fires over the last two years. Realizing their potential fire liability is large enough to bankrupt them, the utility companies are spending tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions. Their goal is a law that would allow them to pass on the cost of wildfires to their customers in the form of higher electricity rates. After an earlier lobbying push, legislators have already voted to protect the companies from having to bear the cost of fires in 2017, and utilities are seeking the same for 2018.
California: Irvine City Council Strengthens Lobbyist Policy
Voice of OC – Spencer Custodio | Published: 1/10/2019
The Irvine City Council strengthened its conflict-of-interest policy by adding a provision to its contracts which says if a council member or employee lobbied on behalf of a city contractor, the contract can be voided with cause and the city will get reimbursed. While there was a similar contract provision preventing employment of a city official by a city contractor, it did not address lobbying services – paid or unpaid.
Connecticut: Under the Influence: Marijuana industry seeks ruling on legality of political contributions in Connecticut
Hartford Courant – Neil Vigdor | Published: 1/8/2019
The pioneers of Connecticut’s growing medical marijuana industry say they should be allowed to donate to lawmakers who could make the state the next lucrative frontier for recreational cannabis. State election regulators came to the opposite conclusion on an informal basis early last year, finding medical marijuana growers and dispensaries are subject to the same ban on campaign contributions by state contractors under state law. But those business owners are disputing that “licensing arrangements” between the state and 18 dispensaries are contracts. They petitioned the State Elections Enforcement Commission for a formal ruling on their status.
Georgia: State Ethics Director Put on Paid Leave Over Porn, Misconduct Allegations
WSB – Richard Belcher | Published: 1/8/2019
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission voted to put Executive Director Stefan Ritter on paid leave and conduct an investigation after allegations he had pornography on his work computer. There also were complaints about his job performance, including irregular work hours. Ritter, who worked for over a decade as an assistant attorney general before taking over the commission, has been credited with cleaning up the troubled agency, reducing backlogs, and helping get raises for staff.
Maryland: Federal Judge Stops Enforcement of Maryland Election Law
Courthouse News Service – Edward Ericson Jr. | Published: 1/4/2019
A federal judge enjoined Maryland from enforcing a law aimed at preventing foreign interference in state elections while a challenge by a group of newspapers plays out in court. The Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act requires platforms with more than 100,000 monthly visitors to publish the names and contact information for any purchaser of a “qualifying paid digital communication,” along with the price paid, among other provisions. Some of the information the law demands is proprietary, such as how many people the ads reached. Much of the rest, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Grimm found, is duplicative.
Michigan: Whitmer Choice Raises Questions About State’s Conflicts of Interest Laws
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 1/7/2019
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer named Orlene Hawks as director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), an agency with responsibilities that include oversight of Michigan’s new marijuana industry, liquor licensing, the regulation of utilities, and licensing of doctors and hospitals. Hawks is married to Michael Hawks, an owner and principal of Government Consultant Services Inc., which represents many clients affected by the policies and rulings of LARA and its sub-agencies. An ethics expert said the potential issues raised by the situation underline a need for stronger financial disclosure and conflict-of-interest laws in Michigan.
Montana: Montana’s Dark Money Detective
Pacific Standard – Jimmy Tobias | Published: 1/9/2019
With a history of ant-corporate populism and intimate electoral campaigns, Montana is the sort of place where someone can run for office without a lot of money and still stand a chance. It is a state with just a million people and little tolerance for big money meddling in elections. As the former commissioner of political practices, Jonathan Motl set an example for other states that are also contending with the influence of unaccountable election spending. A ruling by the state Supreme Court upholding a conviction against former Sen. Art Wittich for corruption and violating campaign finance laws was a vindication and a climactic moment in Montana’s anti-corruption efforts.
Oklahoma: Stitt Unveils Plan to Address Potential Business Conflicts
Oklahoma Watch – Paul Monies | Published: 1/7/2019
Incoming Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is asking the state attorney general to review his plan to step away from his mortgage company as it becomes a bank and to approve a conflict-of-interest policy for his family investments. Stitt is facing potential conflicts-of-interest related to Gateway Mortgage Group, which he founded, and possibly some real estate and other personal investments. The first step in this shift from private businessperson to public official has to do with the state banking commission. Stitt pledged to have no contact with the state banking commissioner on Gateway-related matters, as it is converting to a bank. The governor appoints the banking commissioner and members of the state banking board.
Oregon: BOLI Finds ‘Substantial Evidence’ of Sexual Harassment at Oregon Capitol
Portland Oregonian – Ted Sickinger and Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/3/2019
Oregon labor regulators found “substantial evidence” of sexual harassment at the Capitol, concluding that lawmakers and administrators have known about it for years and did little to stop it. The Bureau of Labor and Industries released its findings after a five-month investigation, as well as a laundry list of allegations gleaned from witness interviews conducted by agency investigators, legislative analysts, and an attorney hired by the Legislature to investigate the harassment claims. The report concludes the most powerful lawmakers and administrators in the Capitol mishandled, downplayed and ignored allegations of sexual harassment, including inappropriate touching, sexually suggestive language, and the lopsided power dynamics that enabled the behavior.
Washington: From Campaign Consultant to Lobbyist and Adviser: The firm that has Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s ear
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman and Lewis Kamb | Published: 1/6/2019
Political operatives Sandeep Kaushik and Kelly Evans helped Jenny Durkan win Seattle’s mayoral race in 2017. As Durkin embarks on her second year, they and their company, Sound View Strategies, have emerged as key players at City Hall. They successfully ran the mayor’s campaign for a $600 million education levy. Durkan’s major-initiatives director, office administrator, and chief of staff all are former Sound View employees. Kaushik describes himself and Evans as members of Durkan’s informal “kitchen cabinet,” even as they lobby her administration and advocate for corporate clients such as Comcast and Airnub. The mayor downplayed Sound View’s clout. Her ties to the company are known, and the city’s requirements are adequate to protect against real and perceived conflicts, Durkin said.
January 3, 2019 •
Campaign Finance National: “Congress Unlikely to Stop Super PACs from Hiding Donors” by Maggie Severns for Politico National: “Potential 2020 Candidates Confront the Need for Campaign Cash, and Fewer Sources of It” by Matt Viser for Washington Post National: “Trump […]
National: “Congress Unlikely to Stop Super PACs from Hiding Donors” by Maggie Severns for Politico
National: “Potential 2020 Candidates Confront the Need for Campaign Cash, and Fewer Sources of It” by Matt Viser for Washington Post
National: “Trump Effect: How out-of-state money fueled Democratic House wins in 2018” by Maureen Groppe and Christopher Schnarrs for USA Today
South Dakota: “Undisclosed Donors Gave $95K in SD Governor Race” by Seth Tupper for Rapid City Journal
Connecticut: “Former Access Health CEO, State Contractor Pay to Settle Ethics Violation” by Clarice Silber for Connecticut Mirror
Delaware: “Former Delaware Lawmaker Melanie George Smith’s New Career Draws Complaints of Self-Dealing” by Scott Goss for Wilmington News Journal
Missouri: “Committee Investigating Eric Greitens Releases 2,100 Pages of Documents on New Year’s Eve” by Jack Suntrup and Kurt Erickson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Florida: “Lauren Book Proposes ‘Swearing In’ Legislative Speakers” by Jim Rosica for Florida Politics
New Jersey: “New Jersey Is the Latest Battleground in National Redistricting Fight” by Matt Freidman for Politico
September 11, 2018 •
Campaign Finance National: “Dem Super PACs Keep Getting Bigger as Candidates Turn on PAC Money” by Maggie Severns for Politico California: “How Eight Elite San Francisco Families Funded Gavin Newsom’s Political Ascent” by Seema Mehta, Ryan Menenzes, and Maloy Moore […]
National: “Dem Super PACs Keep Getting Bigger as Candidates Turn on PAC Money” by Maggie Severns for Politico
California: “How Eight Elite San Francisco Families Funded Gavin Newsom’s Political Ascent” by Seema Mehta, Ryan Menenzes, and Maloy Moore for Los Angeles Times
Florida: “Bank Closes Candidate’s Campaign Account Because of Medical Marijuana Ties – Again” by Samantha Gross for Miami Herald
Missouri: “Court Affirms Major Blow to Missouri Amendment Restricting Campaign Donations” by Jason Rosenbaum for St. Louis Public Radio
National: “Republicans Running for Governor Look for Success in Unlikely Places: Blue states” by Tim Craig for Washington Post
National: Democrats Embrace Liberal Insurgents, Demanding New Face for Party” by Alexander Burns (New York Times) for MSN
Nevada: “LVCVA Gift Card Scandal Attracts Nevada Ethics Scrutiny” by Jeff German for Las Vegas Review-Journal
New York: “Cuomo Often Takes Taxpayer-Funded Planes and Helicopters, Far More Than Other Big State Governors” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times
August 31, 2018 •
National: Democratic Embrace of Diverse Candidates Collides with Barbed Politics of Trump Era WRAL – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 8/29/2018 The diverse cast of Democratic candidates this year is setting up a striking contrast for voters at […]
Democratic Embrace of Diverse Candidates Collides with Barbed Politics of Trump Era
WRAL – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 8/29/2018
The diverse cast of Democratic candidates this year is setting up a striking contrast for voters at a time when some in the Republican Party, taking their cues from President Trump, are embracing messages with explicit appeals to racial anxieties and resentment. The result is making racial and ethnic issues and conflicts central in the November elections in a way that is far more explicit than the recent past. Racial discord has never been far from the surface of American politics. But any effort by Republicans in recent years to tread lightly around racially sensitive issues has been tossed aside by Trump, who has created a permission structure for other politicians to mimic his behavior, political strategists said.
Women in Politics Often Must Run a Gantlet of Vile Intimidation
WRAL – Maggie Astor (New York Times) | Published: 8/23/2018
A record number of women ran or are running in 2018 for the Senate, House, and governorships. Many more are running for state Legislatures and local offices. In the process, they are finding that harassment and threats, already common for women, can be amplified in political races – especially if the candidate is a member of a minority group. No independent organization appears to formally track incidents of harassment, and the Democratic and Republican National Committees did not respond to inquiries asking whether they did. But several groups that work with candidates said they routinely provided personal safety training.
Candidates Say ‘I Approve This Message’ Because of John McCain
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/25/2018
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act survived a well-funded legal challenge in 2003 only to suffer subsequent and major rollbacks in court and at the FEC. While the long effort to enact the law made U.S. Sen. John McCain a pariah in some GOP circles, it remains a significant legacy of the self-declared maverick lawmaker and 2008 Republican presidential nominee. In addition to banning large corporate donations to the party committees, the law also required candidates to say they approved their campaign ads.
Microsoft Hopes to Protect Candidates Without Violating Campaign Contribution Law
Seattle Times – Tim O’Brien (Associated Press) | Published: 8/23/2018
Microsoft requested an FEC advisory opinion to make sure the company’s new free package of online security protections for “election-sensitive” customers does not count as an in-kind campaign contribution. Corporations are typically barred from donating to federal candidates and political committees under federal law. Microsoft said it is offering its AccountGuard service on a nonpartisan basis to federal, state, and local candidates, party committees, and certain nonprofit groups. The company told the commission it might also work with other tech firms on coordinated election security efforts, though no agreements have been made.
When Is an Offense Impeachable? Look to the Framers for the Answer
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 8/22/2018
The campaign finance violation President Trump’s former lawyer accused him of – arranging to pay hush money to influence an election – may be the sort of offense the drafters of the Constitution meant to cover in granting Congress the power to impeach and remove a president. Misconduct before assuming office is not typically a fit subject for impeachment, legal scholars said. But there is one important exception. “The main and possibly only form of pre-Inauguration Day conduct that would properly qualify as an impeachable offense is conduct relating directly to the acquisition of the presidential office,” said Joshua Matz, an author of “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.”
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama: Ethics Law Changes Mulled by Revision Commission
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 8/28/2018
The ruling that upheld former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s conviction on 11 of 12 corruption charges underscored the need to tighten the language in Alabama’s ethics law, state Attorney General Steve Marshall said. The Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission met to discuss the outlines of changes to the law, including the definition of a principal, which is defined as a company or person that hires a lobbyist; what lobbyists and elected officials can and cannot give; and the punishments for violating the law. Seven of the counts against Hubbard were for receiving money or favors from principals. The appeals court did not find fault with his convictions but said there could be “a serious constitutional issue” in other cases without more clarity in the law.
California: Booze Fuels Business – and Bad Behavior – at California Capitol
Sacramento Bee – Alexei Koseff and Taryn Luna | Published: 8/29/2018
Mixing work with alcohol has been a fundamental part of the culture in Sacramento for decades. But the blurred lines between business hours and playtime have given way to bouts of excess, from drunk driving to sexual misconduct to addiction. Fundraisers are a daily occurrence at the downtown bars and restaurants around the Capitol; there were 19 evening functions over the course of three days recently, according to the Capitol Morning Report, including a “margarita mixer” and a “tequila tasting.” Lawmakers note they are largely stuck away from home for three or four nights a week with not much else to do. Many lobbyists believe these receptions are where the real work gets done.
Colorado: Campaign Financing in Denver Could Look Different Come 2020 – It’s Up to Voters Now
Denverite – Estaben Hernandez | Published: 8/27/2018
The Denver City Council approved a campaign finance reform measure for the November ballot. The proposal would establish a public financing system, with eligible candidates receiving a nine-to-one match of donations up to $50. It would lower donation limits for individuals to candidates seeking city offices, and prohibit direct campaign contributions from corporations, limited liability companies, and labor groups.
Georgia: Georgia County Rejects Plan to Close 7 Polling Places in Majority-Black Area
New York Times – Richard Fausset | Published: 8/23/2018
Election officials in a majority black Georgia county voted to scrap a widely condemned proposal to eliminate most of their polling places in the runup to the November election. An independent consultant recommended the consolidation said the seven polling places in question do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The polling places in question had all been used for the primary election in May and the primary runoff election in July, and critics said officials should have been aware of the compliance issues. Civil Rights and Voting groups applauded the decision but said the episode demonstrates the need to restore Voting Rights Act protections that were tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.
Maine: Ethics Commission Says Slashing Casino Campaign Fine Was in State’s Best Interests
Lewiston Sun Journal – Scott Thistle (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 8/30/2018
Maine’s ethics commission voted to settle penalties for campaign finance violations with two backers of a failed 2017 casino referendum, making them pay $100,000 of the $500,000 in fines the state assessed last year. The referendum would have given rights to the casino to a company run by developer Shawn Scott, but the commission levied penalties for late financial filings against four committees run by his sister, Lisa Scott of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The commission said her offshore residence would make it hard to recoup the full $500,000. Under the agreement, Lisa Scott’s committees will have to pay $50,000, and Cheryl Timberlake, a lobbyist who served as treasurer for one of the committees, will have to pay the rest.
Missouri: Buying Influence: Do dark money, lobbyist gifts affect Missouri legislators’ policy?
Kansas City Star – Alison Kite and Jason Hancock | Published: 8/27/2018
Whether lobbyists should be able to provide Missouri lawmakers with expensive gifts and meals is being debated in Jefferson City. Asked what they wanted to know about political corruption and transparency in Missouri, Kansas City Star readers wanted to know whether gifts and campaign contributions, including those made by “dark-money” organizations, could influence legislators to the detriment of the state. The newspaper’s panel of dozens of leaders from across Missouri expressed concern about the potential for lobbyist gifts to influence legislators, but some argued they were not significant enough to affect policy solutions.
North Carolina: CEOs Gave Heavily During Legislative Session, Exposing Loophole in NC’s Fundraising Ban
WRAL – Travis Fain and Tyler Dukes | Published: 8/29/2018
North Carolina law lets top corporate executives donate to campaigns during General Assembly sessions even as it bans contributions from the companies themselves year-round and forbids anyone who contracts directly with a lobbyist from giving during a session. During this year’s six-week regular session, more than $1.1 million flowed into state legislators’ campaign accounts. The total increases if the week before the session is counted, which is traditionally a time for fundraisers, as PACs with lobbyists deliver checks just under the wire. Marshall Hurley, a former general counsel for the state Republican Party, said even the concept of an in-session ban is problematic. “All it’s really done is change the date of the check – does that really alter behavior?” Hurley said.
North Carolina: Judges’ Ruling on Election Map Plunges North Carolina Politics into Disarray
WRAL – David Zucchino and Richard Fausset (New York Times) | Published: 8/28/2018
A three-judge panel struck down North Carolina’s congressional redistricting map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Among the court’s proposed remedies are redrawing the districts before November and holding a general election without a primary election, or redrawing the districts, holding a primary election in November and holding a general election sometime before Congress is seated in January 2019. The court also said it might allow the General Assembly another chance at redrawing the districts. The state’s political experts and power brokers had already been expecting a political brawl this year. With the rule book now in tatters, they essentially threw up their hands. “We’re wandering in the political pines, searching for directions,” said Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College.
Ohio: FBI Investigation: Ex-Ohio Speaker Cliff Rosenberger suspected of bribery, extortion
Cincinnati Enquirer – Jessie Balmert and James Pitcher | Published: 8/27/2018
Documents show former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger is under federal investigation for possible extortion and bribery. While it was known since he resigned in April that the FBI was investigating Rosenberger’s overseas trips with lobbyists for the payday-lending industry, the release of search warrants and other documents painted a clearer picture of what investigators are targeting. Officials were looking for “communications or information concerning: payday lending legislation; evidence of payments, kickbacks, bribes, or other benefits (such as payment of travel-related expenses),” according to the records provided by the Ohio House. A federal grand jury has been meeting in Cincinnati to review the matter.
Texas: Ethics Commission Finds Lobbyist Innocent
El Paso Inc. – David Crowder | Published: 8/27/2018
When he received a letter from a lobbyist containing an apology and offer of five baseball tickets, El Paso Rep. Henry Rivera said the first thing that came to his mind was: “He is trying to bribe me.” Rivera filed a police report and ethics complaint accusing Jeremy Jordan of violating the city’s ethics code, lobbyist regulations, and possibly state law against attempted bribery over the letter. The El Paso Ethics Review Commission chastised Jordan but found him innocent of the ethics code violation that Rivera lodged against him in May.
August 29, 2018 •
Campaign Finance California: “California Lawmakers Shelve Controversial Bill That Would Have Raised Campaign Contribution Limits” by Staff for Los Angeles Times Missouri: “Group Wants Transparency in Missouri Government. And It’s Taking Dark Money Donations” by Kurt Erickson for St. Louis […]
California: “California Lawmakers Shelve Controversial Bill That Would Have Raised Campaign Contribution Limits” by Staff for Los Angeles Times
Missouri: “Group Wants Transparency in Missouri Government. And It’s Taking Dark Money Donations” by Kurt Erickson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
National: “Senate Finalizes New Amendments Language” by Travis Fain for WRAL
Alabama: “Appeals Court Upholds Most Mike Hubbard Felony Ethics Convictions” by Brian Lyman for Montgomery Advertiser
Georgia: “Ga. Supreme Court Rules DeKalb Ethics Board Makeup Unconstitutional” by Dyana Bigby for Reporter Newspapers
Ohio: “FBI Investigation: Ex-Ohio Speaker Cliff Rosenberger suspected of bribery, extortion” by Jessie Balmert and James Pitcher for Cincinnati Enquirer
North Carolina: “Federal Court Throws Out North Carolina’s Congressional Districts, Again” by Michael Wines aqnd Richard Fausset (New York Times) for WRAL
August 17, 2018 •
National: Independents Uneasy About Taking Cash, Even from Indie Group St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Marina Villeneuve (Associated Press) | Published: 8/9/2018 Hoping to capitalize on voter frustration over growing polarization in politics, a group fueled partly by what critics call […]
Independents Uneasy About Taking Cash, Even from Indie Group
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Marina Villeneuve (Associated Press) | Published: 8/9/2018
Hoping to capitalize on voter frustration over growing polarization in politics, a group fueled partly by what critics call “dark money” plans to spend $3 million this year to support and elect independents. But some lawmakers are declining their help. Unite America is endorsing and providing polling for independent gubernatorial and legislative candidates across the country. Some independents, however, are reluctant to accept the support because they distrust influence by any outside, special interest group. They are also wary of any link to so-called dark money, contributions from groups such as nonprofits that do not have to disclose their donors under federal law.
Lax State Ethics Rules Leave Health Agencies Vulnerable to Conflicts
Politico – Brianna Ehley, Sarah Karlin-Smith, Rachana Pradhan, and Jennifer Haberkorn | Published: 8/12/2018
A lack of transparency in state ethics laws prevents the public from having visibility into conflicts by officials who may oversee millions of dollars in spending and make decisions that affect thousands of people. A review of ethics rules found that in one out of five states, top public health officials are not subject to any disclosure for financial holdings. Even when states do have rules on the books, they vary widely, and loopholes abound. Watchdogs and ethics experts say the uneven rules, and ill-defined consequences if problems are identified, make it virtually impossible to know whether officials might have conflicts that skew their decision-making, or to hold them accountable if lapses do occur.
Charges Against Rep. Chris Collins Highlight Lack of Trading Limits for Congress
Chicago Tribune – Bill Allison and Erik Wasson (Bloomberg) | Published: 8/9/2018
The indictment of U.S. Rep. Christopher Collins on insider trading charges, along with his colleagues’ holdings in the biotechnology company at the center of the case, highlight how members of Congress face few restrictions on their investments and service on corporate boards, creating the potential for conflicts-of-interest. Unlike executive branch officials, who must resign from outside positions and divest assets that could pose conflicts, Congress relies on public disclosure as the main mechanism for keeping lawmakers honest. In the past, that has led to a number of scandals involving investment decisions that resulted in charges of self-enrichment and insider trading.
Trump Offers White House Staffers a Special Perk at His Golf Club
Politico – Annie Karni and Eliana Johnson | Published: 8/13/2018
White House staffers who displayed proof of their administration job are getting discounted merchandise from the pro shop at President Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. The administration officials get discounts ranging from 15 percent on regular merchandise to 70 percent off clearance items. The discount amounts to the same perk given to Bedminster members who pay a reported $350,000 annually. Watchdogs raised concerns about the practice, noting it amounts to a conflict-of-interest and is considered a gift if the discount is not available to all government employees.
Voting Rights Advocates Used to Have an Ally in the Government. That’s Changing.
MSN – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 8/12/2018
During the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department would often go to court to stop states from taking steps to suppress voter rights. But 18 months into President Trump’s term, there are signs of change: the department has launched no new efforts to roll back state restrictions on the ability to vote, and instead often sides with them. In the national battle over voting rights, the fighting is done in court, state by state, over rules that can seem arcane but have the potential to sway the outcome of elections. The Justice Department’s recent actions point to a decided shift in policy at the federal level toward an agenda embraced by conservatives who say they want to prevent voter fraud.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – Ex-Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, Under Legislative Investigation on Sexual Misconduct Allegations, Sues Lobbyist for Defamation
Los Angeles Times – Melanie Mason | Published: 8/14/2018
Former California Assemblyperson Matt Dababneh, who resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault, is suing the lobbyist who accused him of pushing her into a hotel bathroom and masturbating in front of her. Dababneh sued Pamela Lopez for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is seeking unspecified damages. A letter from the Assembly Rules Committee said an investigator determined Lopez’s allegation was “substantiated” and in violation of Assembly policy.
California – It’s an Election Year, and California’s Campaign Watchdogs Are Busy Fighting Among Themselves
Sacramento Bee – Taryn Luna | Published: 8/13/2018
After years of limiting commissioners to $200 per month, members of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) moved in February to pay themselves on an hourly basis. They have debated whether to loosen campaign finance restrictions on lawmakers and argued over how much power to give their chairperson. As the FPPC focuses on internal issues, they are missing an opportunity to become one of the leading campaign finance agencies in the country, said Jessica Levinson, a political ethics expert at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “They are not only missing that opportunity, they watched it go by, they waved at it and they kept arguing about how much they were going to charge per diem,” Levinson said.
Colorado – Backers of Denver Campaign Finance Ballot Measure Agree to Deal That Would Delay Public Financing, Lower Limits
Denver Post – Jon Murray | Published: 8/14/2018
Backers of a Denver campaign finance initiative have agreed to a deal with city officials that would replace the measure on the November ballot with a revised version that delays the changes until after next year’s municipal election. Voter approval for the new proposal this fall would bring about drastically lower contribution limits for candidates seeking city offices and would ban direct corporate and union contributions. It also would institute a voluntary public financing system. While the gist of those elements is unchanged, the city council is set to begin the process of referring a replacement measure to the ballot that would make several changes to dates and details such as how quickly the city must issue public funds.
Georgia – Atlanta City Council Seeks to Require Lobbyists to Register with the City
Staff, Atlanta Daily World – | Published: 8/13/2018
A pair of ordinances were introduced in the Atlanta City Council that would require individuals and principles to register as lobbyists if they seek to influence legislative or administrative actions and encourage council members to report any violations of Georgia’s lobbying law. Atlanta currently doe not have any rules on lobbying in the city.
Illinois – Mayoral Hopeful Who Gave Thousands in Cash, Checks: ‘I’m just tired of white people telling me what to do.’
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 8/9/2018
Responding to what his Chicago mayoral campaign called an investigation by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a defiant Willie Wilson defended his recent cash giveaways and said there is “nothing wrong” with his charitable foundation’s paperwork. The controversy stems from a church event in July, where Wilson handed out more than $200,000 in cash and checks. Gov. Bruce Rauner was at the event and later criticized the giveaway, but the state election board said Wilson apparently did not violate any election laws. Noting he was raised in the Jim Crow South, Wilson, who is black, said, “I’m just tired of white people telling me what to do.”
Maine – Maine Ethics Regulators Vote to Re-Open Taxpayer Campaign Funding for 2018
Bangor Daily News – Michael Shepherd | Published: 8/16/2018
Maine’s ethics commission said it will release about $3 million in public campaign funds for one gubernatorial candidate and over 200 legislative candidates. The commission voted to release the money held up by a typo in a budget law. Gov. Paul LePage’s administration recently agreed to comply with a judge’s order to release over $1 million in public campaign funding that LePage held up by refusing to sign routine financial orders. Several commissioners said that same logic should apply to more money held up because lawmakers did not fix the error.
Michigan – Michigan Senate Winner Still Shrouded in Mystery Following Primary Shocker
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 8/10/2018
Betty Jean Alexander of Detroit remains shrouded in mystery after scoring a shocking win over state Sen. David Knezek in a Democratic primary race that few thought would be competitive. Alexander, whom several local party leaders say they had never heard of, did not report spending any money on her campaign and has not granted any media interviews since her surprise victory. Lamar Lemmons III, a former state lawmaker and current Detroit school board member, is under scrutiny for his role in electing Alexander, whom he describes as a 53-year-old single mother with two children who works in an administrative job.
Pennsylvania – Could Abuse Report Lead to Laws Extending Rights to Sue the Church?
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Liz Navratil and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 8/15/2018
In its report detailing a coverup of child sex abuse by Catholic bishops across Pennsylvania, a grand jury recommended giving older adults the right to file lawsuits for abuse they suffered as children. Political disagreements and lobbying have repeatedly stalled bills that would have retroactively loosened the statute of limitations for claims against the Catholic Church, leading to questions of whether the new findings would lead to change. While victims say the ability to sue could help them access services to cope with the trauma, lobbyists for the church and the insurance industry have opposed such legislation, saying a flood of lawsuits would deliver a crushing financial blow.
Vermont – Christine Hallquist Wins Vermont Primary, Becoming First Openly Transgender Major Party Nominee for Governor
Washington Post – Samantha Schmidt and Kayla Epstein | Published: 8/15/2018
Christine Hallquist won the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Vermont, becoming the first openly transgender candidate to be nominated for governor by a major party in the U.S. Hallquist, a first-time candidate, won in a crowded field of four Democrats. She is part of a progressive wave of political novices, women, and LGBTQ candidates running in this year’s midterm elections, many of them galvanized by the election and behavior of President Trump. But from here, her path to the governor’s office could be a narrow one, even though she is a Democrat running in a progressive state.
West Virginia – Lawmakers Impeach All 4 W.Va. Court Justices Over Spending
MSN, Associated Press – | Published: 8/14/2018
The West Virginia House voted to impeach all the justices on the state Supreme Court, a decision prompted by reports of extravagant spending on office renovations. If the justices are convicted in the Senate and removed, replacements will be named by Gov. Jim Justice. Most of the articles involved Chief Justice Allen Loughry, who has been suspended since June and is facing a federal indictment on charges of fraud and false statements. The court as a whole was impeached for not creating policies to rein in the wasteful spending. Two justices were charged with overpaying retired judges who fill in to hear cases, and Justice Robin Davis was charged with wasteful spending on her office remodeling. A fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, resigned in July before pleading guilty to fraud, having taken a state car for personal use.
August 10, 2018 •
August 10, 2018 •
National: Accused of Harassment, and Seeking Redemption at the Ballot Box MSN – Julie Turkewitz and Alan Blinder (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2018 Almost a year into an anti-harassment movement that has prompted a coast-to-coast cultural reckoning, more than […]
Accused of Harassment, and Seeking Redemption at the Ballot Box
MSN – Julie Turkewitz and Alan Blinder (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2018
Almost a year into an anti-harassment movement that has prompted a coast-to-coast cultural reckoning, more than a dozen politicians who have been accused of misconduct and are running for state legislative seats again anyway. Some candidates hope voters will accept their apologies. Others believe constituents will dismiss the allegations as untrue or deem them unimportant at a time when state Legislatures could play crucial roles either in advancing the Trump administration’s agenda or forming bulwarks against it. Apologies alone do not satisfy some of those who are working to ensure candidates accused of harassment do not retain political power.
GOP Rep. Chris Collins Charged with Securities Fraud
Politico – Kyle Cheney, Jimmy Vielkind, and Laura Nahmias | Published: 8/8/2018
U.S. Rep. Christopher Collins was indicted on charges he used inside information about a biotechnology company to make illicit stock trades. The indictment charges Collins and his son, Cameron, and Stephen Zarsky, who is the father of Cameron Collins’ fiancée, with conspiracy, wire fraud, and other counts. Rep. Collins was Innate Immunotherapeutics’ largest shareholder and served on its board. He received an email from Innate’s chief executive alerting him the company’s highly touted drug had failed in clinical trials. Rep. Collins is alleged to have passed that information to his son, who notified Zarsky. Prosecutors say the three avoided about $768,000 in losses because of the information.
Judge’s Ruling Invalidates FEC Regulation Allowing Anonymous Donations to ‘Dark Money’ Groups
Politico – Brent Griffiths | Published: 8/4/2018
U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell struck down an FEC rule that allowed for anonymous donations to “dark money” groups. Howell ruled the FEC regulation allowing for those donors to remain anonymous fell below the standard that Congress meant to set when it passed laws on disclosing the sources of political donations. The ruling, which is likely to be appealed, means nonprofits could be required to reveal the identities of donors who give $200 or more toward affecting federal elections. The FEC has 45 days to issue temporary regulations that would require the so-called dark money groups to reveal more about their donors.
On Appeals Court, Kavanaugh Helped to Loosen Political Money Laws
National Public Radio – Peter Overby | Published: 8/8/2018
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been on the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, a frequent destination for cases involving the FEC. His decisions have effectively pulled the campaign finance system rightward, letting in more money with less regulation. He is been roughly in sync with Anthony Kennedy, the justice he once clerked for and now might succeed. “I think his record on money and politics should be right up there alongside the likelihood that he’ll overturn Roe or strike down the [Affordable Care Act],” said Chiraag Bains, director of legal strategies for the progressive advocacy group Demos.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona: Prosecutors Drop Bribery, Fraud Charges Against Former Utility Regulator, Others
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 8/7/2018
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona filed a motion to dismiss the indictment of a former utility regulator and others who were charged in a bribery case that ended in a mistrial. Jurors could not agree whether former utility regulator Gary Pierce, his wife, Sherry, lobbyist Jim Norton, and water company owner George Johnson had participated in a bribery scheme, as prosecutors alleged. Taryn Jeffries served as the jury foreperson. She said she was not surprised the government decided not to retry the case, which she considered “weak.” Jeffries said the jurors deadlocked at seven-to-five with those believing the defendants were guilty in the minority.
Florida: Panel Finds ‘Probable Cause’ That Five Municipal Officials, Five Lobbyists Violated State Ethics Laws
Florida Watchdog – John Haughey | Published: 8/3/2018
The Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause that five lobbying firms filed inaccurate financial disclosure reports for 2016. The evidence turned up in random audits of executive branch lobbying firms. Among the commission’s notable actions was finding probable cause that former Madeira Beach City Manager Shane Crawford “accepted prohibited gifts from lobbyists, or alternatively, failed to report discounts valued at more than $100 as gifts.”
Kansas: ‘That Is a Conflict’: Kobach should recuse himself from a recount, experts say
Kansas City Star – Bryan Lowry, Steve Vockrodt, Jonathan Shorman, and Hunter Woodall | Published: 8/8/2018
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he does not plan to recuse himself from a potential recount effort in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary, despite being a candidate in the race. He said while his office oversees recounts, it does not directly participate in vote-counting, which is done at the county level. Kobach is leading Gov. Jeff Colyer by fewer than 200 votes in the closely watched race. If Colyer requests a hand recount after all provisional and mail-in ballots are counted, the secretary of state’s office will decide how much the governor’s campaign would have to pay for a recount. Kobach is not required by law to recuse himself, but legal and political experts said it would be in his best interest to do so.
Maine: After Court Battle, Maine’s Clean Elections Candidates to Get $1 Million In Campaign Funds
New England Public Radio – Steve Mistler | Published: 8/8/2018
Maine Gov. Paul LePage has complied with a court order that he release about $1.4 million in public campaign funding he had held up by refusing to sign routine financial orders. The move means about 120 candidates for the Legislature and one for governor will be getting money soon to help run their campaigns under the Maine Clean Election Act. Seven candidates and the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections sued LePage because he refused to release the funds, which would come from unspent money from the 2016 election cycle.
Missouri: Lawsuit Seeks to Knock Gerrymandering Issue Off Missouri’s November Ballot
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 8/6/2018
An attorney who helped draw the boundaries of Missouri’s current legislative districts is trying to knock a question off the November ballot designed to end partisan gerrymandering. Eddie Greim said the proposed referendum violates a provision in the Missouri Constitution that prevents multiple subjects from being combined into one ballot proposal. The referendum asks whether voters want to tighten campaign contribution limits, ban lobbyist gifts, institute a two-year waiting period for lawmakers-turned-lobbyists, start a new redistricting system in 2020, and require lawmakers to adhere to the Sunshine Law.
Missouri: Slay’s Role as Lobbyist Raises Questions Over Conflict of Interest in Quest to Privatize Airport
St. Louis Public Radio – Melody Walker | Published: 8/6/2018
Francis Slay, just weeks before leaving office as mayor in April of last year, initiated the process that could lead to the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. In June of this year, Slay was hired by Ferrovial Airports, a company with experience in managing airports in Europe, and considered one of three top contenders in the bidding process for Lambert. Slay registered as a lobbyist in June “to lobby local elected officials.” His role as a lobbyist for a company seeking to lease the city’s largest asset through a process he initiated while mayor has raised some eyebrows, and some serious questions about a conflict-of-interest.
New York: BOE Approves Regulations That Could Hinder Independent Investigations
Albany Times Union – David Lombardo | Published: 8/8/2018
The New York State Board of Elections is moving to weaken the powers of an independent watchdog. The board voted to require the state’s independent enforcement counsel to justify in writing each subpoena they want to issue when investigating alleged campaign finance and election law cases. The board already had control over whether subpoenas could be issued in specific cases, but the new rule means the counsel must get approval on a subpoena-by-subpoena basis. Good-government groups criticized the move, which state Attorney General Barbara Underwood said will “gut” the counsel’s independence and lead to more corruption.
Texas: Dwaine Caraway Resigns from Dallas City Council, Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges
Dallas News – Robert Wilonsky, Holly Hacker, and Miles Moffeit | Published: 8/9/2018
Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway pleaded guilty to federal charges of receiving $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks and resigned from the city council. Caraway admitted taking the payments exchange for votes in favor of a camera company, Force Multiplier Solutions (FXS), which sought contract work with Dallas County Schools. At times, Robert Leonard, the owner of FXS, would pay Caraway in checks that he would cash at liquor stores and pawn shops. Leonard also admitted to paying Rick Sorrells, a former Dallas County school superintendent, more than $3 million in bribes and kickbacks. Their actions, prosecutors said, helped FXS secure more than $70 million in contracts and agreements with Dallas County Schools.
Texas: Texas Court Revives Lawsuit to Strip Ethics Regulators of Campaign, Elections Oversight
Dallas News – Lauren McGaughey | Published: 8/3/2018
A conservative advocacy group’s legal challenge to the Texas Ethics Commission took a leap forward after the lawsuit, dismissed in 2016 by a District Court judge, was revived by an appeals court. The decision by the Third Court of Appeals is the latest in an ongoing series of blows between Empower Texans, an influential group led by Michael Quinn Sullivan, and the commission, which years ago investigated the organization for alleged campaign law violations. The lawsuit asks whether the ethics panel has the legal authority to carry out many of its core functions, including enforcement and oversight of campaign finance rules.
Vermont: This 14-Year-Old Is Running for Governor Before He Can Even Vote
Washington Post – Kayla Epstein | Published: 8/8/2018
Unlike most states, Vermont has no age requirement for gubernatorial candidates, only a residency requirement. So, Ethan Sonneborn, who has lived in Bristol for 14 years – his entire life – makes the cut. Sonneborn declared his candidacy for governor back in August 2017, and then told his parents about it. After the secretary of state consulted with the attorney general, it was decided he would be allowed to run, but his parents would have to sign a form acknowledging they knew he was running and did not oppose him doing so.
July 20, 2018 •
Check it out! Elizabeth Bartz is introducing NYCU Video Digest! Get this weeks news including lobbying reforms, state medicaid expansion, and campaign finance reforms in less than 2 & 1/2 minutes!
Check it out! Elizabeth Bartz is introducing NYCU Video Digest! Get this weeks news including lobbying reforms, state medicaid expansion, and campaign finance reforms in less than 2 & 1/2 minutes!
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