May 3, 2019 •
National/Federal Acting Defense Secretary Cleared of Wrongdoing in Probe of His Ties to Boeing Washington Post – Dan Lamothe and Heather Ryan | Published: 4/24/2019 The Pentagon’s watchdog cleared Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan of wrongdoing in an investigation examining whether he […]
Acting Defense Secretary Cleared of Wrongdoing in Probe of His Ties to Boeing
Washington Post – Dan Lamothe and Heather Ryan | Published: 4/24/2019
The Pentagon’s watchdog cleared Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan of wrongdoing in an investigation examining whether he used his influence at the Defense Department to favor Boeing, his former employer. The results seemingly clear the way for President Trump to nominate Shanahan to take over as Pentagon chief. The probe was launched after the department’s inspector general received reports saying Shanahan had boosted Boeing in meetings, disparaged Boeing’s competitors, pressured Pentagon officials to buy Boeing products, and sought to influence the Air Force’s decision on accepting a Boeing aircraft after technical problems delayed its delivery.
As Buttigieg Builds His Campaign, Gay Donors Provide the Foundation
New York Times – Jeremy Peters and Shane Goldmacher | Published: 4/30/2019
After vaulting into the top tier of presidential candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is building a nationwide network of donors that is anchored by many wealthy and well-connected figures in LGBT political circles. Buttigieg’s candidacy has struck a powerful chord with many top LGBT donors. Though many said they believed they would see a gay man or lesbian become a serious contender for the White House, most of them had never considered it beyond the abstract. But the LGBT community is no monolith, and Buttigieg’s candidacy is exposing tensions that have been papered over during the period of relative unity and common purpose that has taken hold since President Trump took office.
Biden Faces Conflict of Interest Questions That Are Being Promoted by Trump and Allies
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and Iuliia Mendel (New York Times) | Published: 5/1/2019
Then-Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Kiev in March 2016 and threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in the country. The prosecutor general was soon voted out by Parliament. Among those who had a stake in the outcome was Hunter Biden, the younger son of the former vice president, who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general. The broad outlines of how the roles of the father and son intersected have been known for some time. New details about Hunter Biden’s involvement have pushed the issue back into the spotlight just as the elder Biden is beginning his campaign for president.
Congressional Democrats’ Emoluments Lawsuit Targeting President Trump’s Private Business Can Proceed, Judge Says
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell, Ann Marimow, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2019
A federal judge ruled Democrats in Congress can move ahead with their lawsuit against President Trump alleging his private business violates the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan adopted a broad definition of the anti-corruption law and could set the stage for Democratic lawmakers to begin seeking information from the Trump Organization. The Justice Department can try to delay or block the process by asking an appeals court to intervene. Sullivan refused the request of the president’s legal team to dismiss the case and rejected Trump’s narrow definition of emoluments, finding it “unpersuasive and inconsistent.”
In Its Fight to Keep Drug Prices High, Big Pharma Leans on Charities
Los Angeles Times – Ben Elgin (Bloomberg) | Published: 4/29/2019
Many self-styled patient-advocacy groups with murky origins or hidden funders have cropped up since 2017. With names like the Doctor-Patient Rights Project or the Defenders Coalition, such groups pursue various policy aims that include effectively aiding pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to defeat drug-price proposals. The nonprofits take public positions in newspaper op-eds and letters to Congress while drug makers, beset by years of negative publicity over price hikes, tend to remain in the background. The groups say they are independent. That is not true for all of them, said Marc Boutin, chief executive of the National Health Council, which has more than 50 patient groups and dozens of drug makers as members. “There are a number of groups created by pharma companies that look and act like patient organizations, but they’re 100 percent funded by industry,” said Boutin, who did not name any specific examples.
Maria Butina, Russian Who Conspired to Infiltrate Conservative U.S. Political Groups, Sentenced to 18 Months
Boston Globe – Spencer Hsu and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2019
A federal judge sentenced Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina to 18 months in prison Friday after calling her plot to penetrate conservative U.S. political circles without disclosing she was working as a foreign agent for the Kremlin “dangerous” and “a threat to our democracy.” Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to access the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other groups without registering with the U.S. Justice Department from 2015 until she was arrested and detained in July. Butina admitted she worked under the direction of Alexander Torshin, a former Russian government official, and with an American political operative on a multiyear scheme to establish unofficial lines of communications with Americans who could influence U.S. politics.
‘No Corporate PAC’ Pledges Aren’t Always So Pure
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 4/29/2019
Many incumbents in the club of Democratic lawmakers who refuse corporate PAC dollars still accept donations from colleagues and party committees that take the funds. Numerous freshman Democrats who ran on a no-corporate-PAC-money mantra opened their re-election coffers to donations this year from party leaders and committees, such as the New Democrat Coalition Action Fund, that are full of funding from some of the nation’s best-known companies. Taking donations from party leaders and committees allows pledge-takers to stick to their vows while cleansing some of the “dirty” dollars and diluting the influence of the companies, but not banishing such money entirely.
Pete Buttigieg Swears Off the Lobbyist Money He Once Accepted
New York Times – Jeremy Peters and Shane Goldmacher | Published: 4/26/2019
Pete Buttigieg, whose upstart presidential campaign has benefited from an early surge of donations and national attention, will no longer accept contributions from federal lobbyists, bowing to pressure from fellow Democrats who want to reform the way campaigns raise money. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was somewhat isolated among his rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination because he initially accepted lobbyist money, putting him at odds with the more progressive wing of his party. He will return the contributions he had already accepted from lobbyists, which his campaign said totaled $30,250 from 39 individuals.
Trump Views the Supreme Court as an Ally, Sowing Doubt About Its Independence Among His Critics
MSN – Robert Barnes and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2019
President Trump’s tweets demonstrate he views the U.S. Supreme Court as an ally, and safeguard against lower court defeats and congressional opponents. His administration’s lawyers have tried to leapfrog the legal process to seek the high court’s quick review of adverse rulings and nationwide injunctions by lower courts. They are also ready to go to court as the president resists demands from congressional Democrats investigating his conduct, business dealings, and personal finances. Critics of the president say his rhetoric seeds doubts about the Supreme Court’s independence, complicates the role of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., and could taint the victories Trump achieves there.
When the Mueller Investigation Ended, the Battle Over Its Conclusions Began
MSN – Mark Mazzetti and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 5/1/2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller wrote a letter in March complaining to Attorney General William Barr that a four-page memo to Congress describing the principal conclusions of the investigation into President Trump “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work. What followed was a dayslong, behind-the-scenes tussle over the first public presentation of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. A richer picture of that battle has emerged, one of testy letters (Barr described one as “snitty”) and at least one tense telephone call between the special counsel Mueller and Barr. The two were longtime friends who found themselves on opposite sides of an embattled president. The growing evidence of a split between them also brought fresh scrutiny on Barr.
From the States and Municipalities
California – State Officials Keep Hiring Their Relatives. Will Newsom Crack Down on Nepotism?
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 5/1/2019
California agencies have a long history of nepotism, along with pledges to end such favoritism, but the practice continues. Workers in at least seven state agencies have alleged favoritism shown to family members and friends of administrators in the last decade. Getting a desirable job in state government too often depends on who you know, say watchdogs and employees who have raised red flags. A 2017 investigation found 835 employees of the Board of Equalization, or 17.5 percent of its workforce at the time, were related by blood, adoption, marriage, or cohabitation.
Florida – Former David Straz Staffers Say Nashville Consultant Played Big Role in Campaign’s Failure
Tampa Bay Times – Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell | Published: 4/30/2019
A few days before voters went to the polls in the first round of Tampa’s mayoral election, the David Straz campaign was in an uproar over a missing $225,000. Straz said he was freezing campaign spending until the missing money could be accounted for, members of his team said, but no one could come up with an answer. The reason, they said: political consultant Bill Fletcher was the only one who knew how campaign money was being spent. The Nashville-based consultant had the purse strings while also directing millions of dollars to his own company to buy television, radio, and digital advertising. He answered only to Straz, a political novice. Near-total power wielded by a single consultant is highly unusual and potentially dangerous, said veteran political consultant Adam Goodman.
Kansas – Former Salina Senator Pads State Salary with Travel, Food Vouchers
Topeka Capital Journal – Tim Carpenter | Published: 4/30/2019
The former state senator hired as Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer’s regulatory fixer billed taxpayers thousands of dollars for driving to and from the job in Topeka after his official work station was quietly switched from a state office building near the Capitol to his residence in Salina. Tom Arpke, who burnished a political reputation in the Senate and House as a fiscal conservative eager to expose spending he considered superfluous, was chosen by Colyer to serve as the executive branch’s regulatory ombudsman. The decision to designate Arpke’s office as his personal residence 112 miles away from the Curtis State Office Building adjacent to the Capitol was necessary to justify Arpke’s monthly claims that taxpayers should pay him extra every time he drove to Topeka for work.
Massachusetts – For Sale in the Pot Industry: Political influence
Boston Globe – Andrew Ryan, Beth Healy, Dam Adams, Nicole Dungca, Todd Wallach, and Patricia Wen | Published: 5/1/2019
The law that legalized recreational marijuana in Massachusetts tried to make room for the little guy by limiting the number of cannabis shops a company could own or control. It also directly encourages proposals from black and Latino entrepreneurs whose community members were often unfairly targeted for arrest when pot was illegal. But so far, winning a license to sell marijuana in Massachusetts often seems to be determined by whom you know, or if you can afford to pay a lobbyist or consultant who knows people. Frank Perullo, the owner of Novus Group – which claims to be “one of the nation’s leading cannabis consulting firms” – estimates he has deployed his political connections and expertise to help push 40 to 50 proposed pot shops in Massachusetts.
Michigan – Federal Court: Michigan political maps illegally rigged to ‘historical proportions’
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 4/25/2019
A federal court in Michigan became the latest in the country to strike down its state’s legislative and congressional district maps, ruling they were examples of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. A panel of three judges in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan cited evidence that showed Republicans loaded some districts with Democratic voters and divided Democratic communities between other Republican-held seats, practices known as packing and cracking. The panel is giving the Republican-led House and Senate until August 1 to redraw the maps and get them signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. If state officials do not finalize new maps by then, the court would draw new boundaries itself and could appoint a special master to do so.
Missouri – ‘Pay to Play’ Case Sinks St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler, Jacob Barker, and Robert Patrick | Published: 4/30/2019
A federal grand jury indicted St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger on charges of bribery, mail fraud, and the theft of honest services for trading political favors for campaign contributions. Stenger is accused of ensuring that donor John Rallo and his companies obtained contracts with the county and received other favors. Stenger also is accused of ensuring that an unnamed company obtained a state lobbying contract from the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and taking actions to conceal the illegal conduct. Recent investigations by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch have raised concerns about county contracts going to Stenger’s political donors, and the county council began an ethics investigation into the matter.
New Hampshire – Sununu Inaugural Team Releases Conflict of Interest Policy, Months After Declining to Do So
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 4/25/2019
When faced with questions earlier this year about the thousands of dollars paid out from his inaugural committee to his sister and top political advisor, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s team said those payments followed state and federal regulations, and “the organization’s bylaws and conflict of interest policy.” New Hampshire lacks comprehensive disclosure and compliance rules around gubernatorial inaugural committees, and Sununu is the first sitting governor required to detail how his committee raises and spends money in reports filed with the secretary of state’s office.
New Jersey – The Tax Break Was $260 Million. Benefit to the State Was Tiny: $155,520.
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti and Matthew Haag | Published: 5/1/2019
The Economic Opportunity Act, a measure intended to kick-start the sputtering post-recession economy in New Jersey, particularly in its struggling cities. The state would award lucrative tax breaks to businesses if they moved to New Jersey or remained in the state, creating and retaining jobs. But before the bill was approved by the Legislature, a series of changes were made to its language that were intended to grant specific companies hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax breaks. Many of the last-minute changes to drafts of the bill were made by a real estate lawyer, Kevin Sheehan, whose influential law firm has close ties to Democratic politicians and legislative leaders in New Jersey. Sheehan was allowed to edit drafts of the bill in ways that opened up sizable tax breaks to his firm’s clients.
New York – Mayor de Blasio and City Hall Staff Cozied Up to Lobbyists and Special Interests in Hundreds of Meetings, News Analysis Shows
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 5/2/2019
“I don’t sit down with lobbyists, I don’t talk to lobbyists, and I haven’t for years,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said recently. But a New York Daily News analysis of public records shows otherwise. De Blasio’s deputy mayors, commissioners, and high-ranking aides had at least 358 meetings and talks with both contract and in-house lobbyists in just 11 months, records show. They spoke with 332 different lobbyists during that time, between March 1, 2018, and January 31 of this year. Six of the contract lobbyists are with Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, a law firm that represented de Blasio during a probe into his fundraising. City taxpayers paid the firm $2.6 million for representing the mayor.
New York – Some Top Albany Lobbyists Aren’t Following Sweeping Disclosure Rule
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/27/2019
New requirements imposed by the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) say lobbyists must disclose the names of lawmakers, agency employees, or local elected officials they directly lobby concerning legislation, regulations, and other matters. A review of the first filings covered by the requirement, reflecting lobbying performed in the first two months of the year, shows many top firms are trying to comply – some in extreme detail – but several prominent firms are not. Bolton St. Johns has not disclosed lobbying any lawmakers or agency officials this year despite employing a lengthy roster of lobbyists and having dozens of clients with legislative business. Whether JCOPE would penalize powerful lobbyists for not following the rule remains to be seen. Critics said it is also far from clear that the new disclosure rule would survive a court challenge.
North Dakota – Legislature Approves Republican-Written Ethics Measure
Dickinson Press – John Hageman (Forum News Service) | Published: 4/25/2019
North Dakota lawmakers approved a bill that sets rules to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment aimed at ethics reform. The ballot initiative bans lobbyist gifts to public officials, requires the disclosure of the “ultimate and true source of funds” spent to influence elections and state government action, and creates a new state ethics commission that could investigate malfeasance. Greg Stites, an attorney hired by Measure 1 supporters to lobby lawmakers, said the implementation bill falls short by narrowing the definition of lobbyist and leaving holes in reporting requirements.
Ohio – Ex-Dayton Commissioner, State Lawmaker Arrested; More Arrests Coming, Feds Say
Dayton Daily News – Laura Bischoff, Josh Sweigart, Thomas Gnau, Cornelius Frolick, and Mark Govaki | Published: 4/30/2019
An investigation by federal agents into suspected public corruption in the Dayton area led to charges against Joey Williams, a local bank executive and former city commissioner; former state Rep. Clayton Luckie; city employee RoShawn Winburn; and Brian Higgins, a local man who once owned a dead body hauling business. Four separate federal indictments detail allegations of bribes, fraud, and contract steering. The charges involve allegations of wrong-doing starting in 2014. The separate schemes arose out of the same investigation, authorities said. FBI Assistant Special Agent Joseph Deters said the lengthy investigation used sophisticated methods to “uncover what appears to be a culture of corruption in Dayton-area politics.”
Tennessee – Why This Republican Lawmaker Hired His Own Personal Lobbyist to Work the Capitol Halls
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 5/2/2019
Tennessee Rep. Martin Daniel officially hired a lobbyist recently, making him the first lawmaker in recent memory to have such an employee at his disposal. Nashville resident Drew Lonergan filed his lobbyist registration with the Tennessee Ethics Commission on March 25. Lonergan said he had been “consulting” for Daniel since January but registered as a lobbyist after consulting ethics officials. Lonergan’s sole employer listed on his lobbyist registration is Daniel, who is the only current lawmaker to have a personal lobbyist. Daniel said he pays Lonergan out of his own pocket and does not use campaign money to cover the expense.
April 25, 2019 •
Campaign Finance Pennsylvania: “Ex-Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison in Case Tied to Allentown Corruption” by Peter Hall for Allentown Morning Call Ethics National: “Trump Says He Is Opposed to White House Aides Testifying to Congress, […]
Pennsylvania: “Ex-Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison in Case Tied to Allentown Corruption” by Peter Hall for Allentown Morning Call
National: “Trump Says He Is Opposed to White House Aides Testifying to Congress, Deepening Power Struggle with Hill” by Robert Costa, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Six Trump Interior Appointees Are Being Investigated for Possible Ethical Misconduct” by Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Divided on Impeachment, Democrats Wrestle with Duty and Politics” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos for New York Times
Alabama: “How a Lawyer, a Lobbyist and a Legislator Waged War on a Birmingham Superfund Site” by Steven Mufson (Washington Post) for AL.com
Alaska: “Lawmakers Strike Compromise on Scaling Back Conflict of Interest Restrictions” by Andrew Kitchenman for KTOO
Florida: “Andrew Gillum Agrees to Pay $5,000 Ethics Fine” by News Service of Florida for Tampa Bay Times
Pennsylvania: “Ex-Sheriff John Green Admits Taking Bribes: ‘I have betrayed the confidence’ of Philly citizens” by Jeremy Roebuck for Philadelphia Inquirer
Washington: “A State Senator Said Nurses ‘Probably Play Cards’ at Work. Facing Mass Outrage, She’s Apologized.” by Allyson Chiu (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
Alaska: “As Capitol Reporters Dwindle, Alaska Lawmakers Grapple with Rise of Political Blogs” by Nat Herz for KTOO
South Dakota: “S.D. House Speaker Paid $12,000 for Lobbyist’s Legal Fees” by Bob Mercer for KELOLAND
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.
October 26, 2018 •
National: How a Billionaire from Another State Could Influence Your Elections Center for Public Integrity – Liz Essley Whyte | Published: 10/18/2018 Twenty-five American billionaires have invested more than $70.7 million for initiative campaigns this year in 19 states where […]
How a Billionaire from Another State Could Influence Your Elections
Center for Public Integrity – Liz Essley Whyte | Published: 10/18/2018
Twenty-five American billionaires have invested more than $70.7 million for initiative campaigns this year in 19 states where they do not reside. Meanwhile, as little as $7.2 million has gone from their wallets and those of other billionaires to campaigns in their home states. In total, the $78 million tally from all 34 billionaires may be pocket change to them, but it is more than 10 percent of the $648 million disclosed so far this year for statewide ballot measure campaigns. The contributions from the wealthy to campaigns across state lines rankle some local opponents, even though no one questions their legality. Just who should decide issues in their states, they ask – the people who live there or some rich folks from out-of-state?
Three Secretaries of State Are Refereeing the Election While Running in the Field
McClatchy DC – Tim Johnson | Published: 10/18/2018
In three states, the referee for the midterm elections is also on the field as a player. Elected secretaries of state in Georgia and Kansas, who in their official capacities oversee the elections in their states, are running for governor. Ohio’s secretary of state is running for lieutenant governor. They have faced scattered calls to resign but have refused to do so. Election reformers say the situation underscores the conflict-of-interest when an official has responsibilities for an election while also running as a candidate. While the three secretaries of state are Republican, concerns about inappropriate actions by partisans who hold the office transcend parties.
Inside the Saudis’ Washington Influence Machine: How the kingdom gained power through fierce lobbying and charm offensives
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Justin Reinhard, and Justin Moyer (Washington Post) | Published: 10/21/2018
A sophisticated influence machine has shaped policy and perceptions of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. for decades, batting back critiques of the kingdom by doling out millions of dollars to lobbyists, law firms, prominent think tanks, and large defense contractors. In 2017, Saudi payments to lobbyists and consultants in Washington more than tripled over the previous year. Beyond their spending, the Saudis have enjoyed a priceless advantage: a warm relationship with President Trump, who has done business its wealthy citizens, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who developed a close bond with the crown prince as he crafted the administration’s Middle East policy.
U.S. Begins First Cyberoperation Against Russia Aimed at Protecting Elections
MSN – Julian Barnes (New York Times) | Published: 10/23/2018
The United States Cyber Command is targeting individual Russian operatives to try to deter them from spreading disinformation to interfere in elections, telling them that American operatives have identified them and are tracking their work. The campaign, which includes missions undertaken in recent days, is the first known overseas cyberoperation to protect U.S. elections, including the November midterms. The operations come as the Justice Department recently outlined a campaign of “information warfare” by Russians aimed at influencing the midterm elections, highlighting the broad threat the American government sees from Moscow’s influence campaign.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alaska: State Regulators to Alaska Lobbyist: Stop helping candidates raise money
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Hertz | Published: 10/18/2018
Alaska lobbyists have been breaking an anti-corruption law by promoting fundraising events on behalf of candidates, according to a preliminary opinion from the state’s campaign finance watchdog. Lobbyist Ashley Reed asked for the formal opinion from the Alaska Public Offices Commission. He wanted to know whether state law allows for lobbyists to email copies of invitations to fundraisers for political candidates. The Legislature banned lobbyists from engaging in fundraising activity more than two decades ago. But despite the ban, Reed and lobbyist Jerry Mackie have been sending copies of fundraiser invitations to their clients and friends.
Florida: Text Messages Raise New Questions Over Andrew Gillum’s Lobbyist Connections
WRAL – Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) | Published: 10/23/2018
Undercover FBI agents paid for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s hotel room and his ticket to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” during a 2016 trip to New York City, according to newly released documents that raise questions just before Florida’s gubernatorial election, in which Gillum is locked in a close race with former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Text messages between Gillum and former lobbyist Adam Corey, who set up meetings with the agents, show Gillum knew the tickets came from men he believed to be businesspeople looking to develop property in Tallahassee, but were undercover FBI agents investigating public corruption in the city. The records contradicted Gillum’s past statements on the state ethics probe.
Indiana: No Charges Against Hill, But Investigation Reveals Searing New Details
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook, Ryan Martin, and Kaitlin Lange | Published: 10/23/2018
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill will not be charged over allegations he groped a state lawmaker and several staffers at a party celebrating the end of the legislative session. He also was cleared of any ethical breaches by the inspector general’s office. Special Prosecutor Daniel Sigler, who said he believed the women’s stories to be “true and credible,” announced that bringing charges would be difficult due to the time that elapsed between the alleged incident in March and the filing of the claims against Hill. But the fallout from Hill’s alleged behavior that night is likely to continue as his accusers prepare a civil lawsuit and Republican leaders continue to call for his resignation.
Kentucky: Kentucky AG Defends Campaign Finance Reform in Sixth Circuit
Courthouse News Service – Kevin Koeninger | Published: 10/18/2018
The constitutionality of several Kentucky ethics laws was debated before a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, with the state’s attorney general arguing they are necessary to maintain citizens’ confidence in the government. Plaintiffs alleged numerous restrictions on campaign financing and lobbying were unconstitutional, including contribution limits and a prohibition on gifts to legislators and their spouses. Kentucky made sweeping changes to its campaign finance laws in 2017, which mooted several of the plaintiffs’ claims. But U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman sided with the plaintiffs on several issues last year. Bertelsman struck down the law that prevents legislators and their spouses from receiving “anything of value,” ruling the statute was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.
Maine: Crowdfunding of Collins Opponent in 2020 Likely Faces Legal Challenge
Lewiston Sun Journal – Kevin Collins (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 10/22/2018
In an effort to pressure U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, organizers pledged to collect contributions nationwide and give them to a hypothetical Democratic challenger in 2020 if Collins voted to confirm the nominee. If she opposed Kavanaugh, whose nomination nearly collapsed amid allegations of sexual misconduct, no money would be collected. The unprecedented campaign, which Collins has labeled a bribe, is a testament to the power of small-dollar “crowdfunding” at a time when corporations, interest groups, and wealthy donors can dump unlimited money into elections. Yet the tactics used by the three organizations behind the campaign to pressure Collins are raising sticky legal questions that could end up in court, with national implications.
Missouri: Clean Missouri Proposition Puts Redistricting Front and Center, Limits Lobbyist Influence
St. Louis Public Radio – Jason Rosenbaum | Published: 10/23/2018
Amendment 1 on the November ballot in Missouri would limit the meals, entertainment, and travel a lobbyist can give a lawmaker, and place a two-year waiting period on lawmakers and their staff to become lobbyists. It would also lower contributions limits for state House and Senate candidates, as well as alter how state legislative districts are drawn. Supporters believe the measure will make lawmakers more responsive to people instead of special interest groups or lobbyists. Detractors believe the initiative is not about improving ethics, and instead is about giving Democrats a leg up on the state legislative redistricting process.
New Hampshire: N.H. Legislators Look to Lobbyists for Reliable Source of Re-Election Cash
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 10/19/2018
A review of fundraising reports in New Hampshire over the most recent legislative session shows donations from lobbying interests with a direct stake in the decisions made by state senators accounted for roughly half of all the money raised by those same senators’ re-election campaigns. The rate of reliance on lobbying money varied from as little as 16 percent to 75 percent or more. In many cases, senators’ fundraising reports reflected the intersection of money and influence inherent to statehouse lobbying. Candidates can, and often do, accept separate contributions from lobbying firms, the lobbyists they employ, and the clients they represent, magnifying their impact in legislative races.
New York: Dean Skelos, Ex-New York Senate Leader, Gets 4 Years and 3 Months in Prison
WRAL – Benjamin Weiser and Vivian Wang (New York Times) | Published: 10/24/2018
Former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was sentenced to four years and three months in prison on federal corruption charges, including soliciting bribes and defrauding the public. The sentence was lighter than the five years that the same judge imposed in 2016 when he was convicted on the same charges. That conviction was overturned. Skelos’ son, Adam, who was convicted along with his father, was sentenced to four years in prison. Prosecutors accused Dean Skelos of using his position to pressure three companies to provide his son with consulting work, a “no-show” job, and a $20,000 payment.
North Dakota: All of the Above? The Ancient Voting Method One City Might Adopt
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 10/19/2018
In November, voters in Fargo, North Dakota, will decide whether to adopt a ballot measure that would create a system known as “approval voting” for local elections. Under the system, everybody can vote for as many candidates as they would like. If there are four candidates for the city commission, for example, you could choose to vote for one of them, or for two, or for the whole lot. Unlike the other multiple-choice method known as ranked-choice voting, which is gaining favor in some places, each vote would count the same. The person with the highest total would win. Supporters say voters would not have to worry about wasting votes on spoilers with little chance of winning since they can also select candidates expected to be more popular. In theory, however, candidates with extreme viewpoints would have a harder time since the winner would have to be broadly acceptable to most voters.
Pennsylvania: Ex-Allentown Mayor Gets 15 Years in Prison on Corruption Charges
Philadelphia Inquirer – Associated Press | Published: 10/23/2018
Former Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was sentenced to 15 years in prison on corruption charges. He was convicted of trading city contracts for campaign donations to fund his bids for mayor, governor, and U.S. Senate. Jurors found him guilty on 47 counts in connection to eight schemes, including those involving contracts for a city pool, tax collection service, cybersecurity, and streetlight installation. Pawlowski must also pay more than $93,000 in restitution in restitution to the city and to vendors that prosecutors say were cheated out of a fair and open bidding process.
South Carolina: Should SC Roads Be Named After Lawmakers Who Have Pleaded Guilty to Corruption?
The State – Avery Wilks | Published: 10/22/2018
A few days after he resigned from the South Carolina Senate and pleaded guilty to misconduct in office, John Courson asked the Department of Transportation to remove the signs bearing his name from a state road. But another former state senator, Robert Ford, who pleaded guilty to corruption in 2015, says he earned the right to have a Charleston road named after him and would not give up the honor. Unseemly exits from the South Carolina General Assembly can create a host of awkward circumstances. Among them: what to do with the state roads or buildings named after politicians who have admitted to corruption?
September 21, 2018 •
National: These State Lawmakers Are Running Unopposed, but Still Rake in Campaign Cash Center for Public Integrity – Sanya Mansoor, Liz Essley Whyte, and Joe Yerardi | Published: 9/19/2018 There are at least 26 legislative leaders in statehouses across America […]
These State Lawmakers Are Running Unopposed, but Still Rake in Campaign Cash
Center for Public Integrity – Sanya Mansoor, Liz Essley Whyte, and Joe Yerardi | Published: 9/19/2018
There are at least 26 legislative leaders in statehouses across America who are collecting campaign donations despite running unopposed this year. The safe lawmakers represent an attractive prospect for lobbyists and power-seekers: the sure bet. Contributions to these influential politicians can buy face time and favor with those who set state legislative agendas, experts say. The money also compounds their power. Legislative leaders use their accounts to buy presents to thank supporters, for example, or give to fellow lawmakers’ campaigns to reward them for voting with their party.
Foreign Lobbying Overhaul Loses Steam in Congress
Politico – Marianne Levine and Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/17/2018
Amid partisan clashes and pushback from foreign-owned companies, the push to strengthen the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) appears to be going nowhere as multiple bills have stalled. Foreign companies with American subsidiaries feared the changes would force their lobbyists to register as foreign agents, which would require them to disclose every meeting and phone call they made on behalf of overseas clients rather than under the less-restrictive disclosure rules for domestic lobbyists. “There’s these very fierce efforts to maintain the status quo,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, one of the lawmakers pushing to overhaul FARA.
Manafort Plea Deal Casts New Scrutiny on Lobbyists He Recruited
WRAL – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 9/14/2018
Paul Manafort recruited the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs to aide a pro-Russian nonprofit in Ukraine, an arrangement intended to obscure the identity of the ultimate beneficiary of the lobbying, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Relying on the word of the Ukrainian group, the firms initially registered their representation under congressional lobbying disclosure rules. Now, that work, and the decision not to disclose it under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, has turned the Podesta Group and Mercury, along with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, into subjects of interest in a series of probes. The new evidence was included in updated charges filed against Manafort in connection with his guilty plea. The evidence Robert Mueller’s team unveiled could help prosecutors in New York build cases against the firms.
Political Nonprofits Must Now Name Many of Their Donors Under Federal Court Ruling after Supreme Court Declines to Intervene
Chicago Tribune – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 9/18/2018
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from a conservative political group to temporarily block a lower court ruling which would force it to disclose its donors. The request for a stay had initially been entered by Chief Justice John Roberts after Crossroads GPS disputed an earlier ruling that invalidated an FEC regulation allowing donors to remain anonymous. In the order from the full court, the justices refused to further delay the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s decision to invalidate the regulation. The original decision required “dark-money” groups that spend at least $250 in independent expenditures to report every donor who gave at least $200 in the past year.
Senate Candidates to Start Electronically Filing Campaign Finance Reports, Pending President Approval
Center for Responsive Politics – Kaitlin Washburn | Published: 9/19/2018
Federal lawmakers passed a bill that would require U.S. Senate candidates to file their campaign finance disclosures directly to the FEC, rather than on paper with the secretary of the Senate. The provision is part of a larger appropriations bill that now awaits President Trump’s signature. House of Representatives and presidential candidates have been electronically filing their disclosure reports since 2001. The Center for Public Integrity found numerous mistakes produced by the Senate’s archaic system. The investigation found errors in more than 5,900 candidate disclosures and were all traced back to the conversion of paper filings to electronic data.
Ted Cruz’s Campaign Marked a Fund-Raising Letter an Official ‘Summons.’ It Wasn’t Against the Rules.
WRAL – Liam Stack (New York Times) | Published: 9/17/2018
The FEC said U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s re-election campaign did not violate any regulations when it sent out a fundraising letter designed to look like a legal summons. “SUMMONS ENCLOSED –OPEN IMMEDIATELY,” is written across the front in capital letters. The envelope does state the letter is from a campaign and includes a return address for the Cruz campaign’s Houston post office box. FEC spokesperson Myles Martin said the relevant question was whether a mailing contains a disclaimer saying it came from a political campaign. Aside from that, Martin said, “the FEC’s regulations don’t speak to how candidates may choose to word particular solicitations to potential contributors.” Cruz is locked in an unexpectedly tight race against U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
From the States and Municipalities:
Georgia: Court Declines to End Paperless Voting in Georgia Before Midterms
Politico – Eric Geller | Published: 9/18/2018
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg ruled Georgia need not replace paperless voting machines before the midterm elections, dealing a blow to security activists even as the judge acknowledged the machines are not secure and continuing to use them may infringe on voters’ constitutional right to a free and fair election. Switching to paper at this late date, state and county officials argued, would throw the election into chaos and cause voter confusion. The case will now proceed and deal with the plaintiffs’ constitutional arguments, and Totenberg warned Secretary of State Brian Kemp that his concerns about a chaotic election s will “hold much less sway in the future.”
Illinois: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Illinois Campaign Finance Limits
State Journal-Register (Associated Press) | Published: 9/13/2018
A federal appeals court upheld Illinois’ campaign contribution limits. The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the caps set in a 2009 law do not violate First Amendment free-speech rights. Illinois Liberty PAC had argued limits on individuals’ contributions should not be lower than those for corporations or unions.
Missouri: In Latest Legal Twist, Ethics Reform Question Back on Missouri Ballot
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 9/18/2018
A state appeals court put an ethics reform package back on the November ballot. The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals ruled that Amendment 1 can stay on the ballot pending future court decisions. 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.
Nevada: Las Vegas Judge Nullifies Results of Republican Election
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Ramona Giwargis | Published: 9/18/2018
Jason Burke defeated Mack Miller by 122 votes in the June 12 primary for a seat in the Nevada Assembly, but Clark County District Judge Jim Crockett signed an order that nullified the election, saying Burke did not file campaign finance reports on time. State law states an election may be contested if the winner was not eligible for office, illegal votes were cast, or valid votes were not counted. The secretary of state’s office said the failure to file campaign finance reports is not an automatic disqualifier.
New York: Watchdog’s Bark Silent for Cuomo
WRAL – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 9/18/2018
When a sworn complaint is filed with New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), the law requires the agency to send any subject of such an ethics complaint a letter outlining possible legal violations and giving them 15 days to respond. Sworn complaints have been submitted requesting that JCOPE launch investigations Joseph Percoco’s possible use of government resources while he was managing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 campaign, as well as the governor’s potential knowledge of those activities. But the Cuomo administration and campaign have not received a 15-day letter from JCOPE. David Grandeau, the state’s former top lobbying official, said that means there is “now no doubt that JCOPE is not following the law.”
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania’s Ban on Gambling Contributions Struck Down
PennLive.com – Marc Levy (Associated Press) | Published: 9/19/2018
U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo overturned Pennsylvania’s ban on political contributions from people involved in the gaming industry, ruling the law aimed at curbing the influence of casino interests was too broad. But the judge did not close the door on lawmakers reviving a similar prohibition that is narrower in scope and tailored to the purpose of fighting corruption. The U.S. Supreme Court, Rambo wrote, has ruled that preventing corruption, or the appearance of corruption, is the only appropriate reason to justify restrictions on political donations. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the ban in 2009, which initially outlawed large campaign contributions from key parties in the gaming industry. Lawmakers responded by banning all donations.
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.
July 16, 2018 •
Campaign Finance National: “Investment Firm EnCap to Pay $500,000 to Settle Pay-to-Play Claims” by Liz Hampton for Reuters National: “Exclusive: Secret money funds more than 40% of outside congressional ads” by Frereka Schouten for USA Today Elections National: “Mueller Indicts […]
National: “Investment Firm EnCap to Pay $500,000 to Settle Pay-to-Play Claims” by Liz Hampton for Reuters
National: “Exclusive: Secret money funds more than 40% of outside congressional ads” by Frereka Schouten for USA Today
National: “Mueller Indicts 12 Russians for DNC Hacking Days Before Trump-Putin Summit” by Darren Samuelsohn, Cory Bennet, and Josh Gerstein for Politico
National: “The Quest to Get a Pardon in the Trump Era: ‘It’s who you know’” by Campbell Robertson (New York Times) for MSN
Alabama: “Ivey Takes Small Step on Sheriff Jail Food Funds but Can’t End the Practice on Her Own” by Connor Sheets for AL.com
New Jersey: “How Ex-Horizon Exec Kept Ties to Company” by Brent Johnson and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger
New York: “Architect of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion Project Is Convicted in Bid-Rigging Scheme” by Benjamin Weiser and Jesse McKinley (New York Times) for WRAL
Massachusetts: “Walsh Vetoes City Lobbying Rules, Calling Proposal ‘Inadequate’” by Milton Valencia for Boston Globe
Missouri: “KC Council Members Slam Gift Ethics Plan as Jason Kander Drops Casual Campaign Video” by Bill Turque for Kansas City Star
Virginia: “New Virginia Business Aims to Be Kickstarter for Political Influence” by Katherine Hafner for The Virginian-Pilot
July 6, 2018 •
National: Ethics Charges Could Hurt Fight Against Legionnaires’ Disease Detroit Free Press – John Wisley | Published: 7/5/2018 Conflict-of-interest charges could derail a nationwide effort to curb outbreaks of deadly Legionnaires’ disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, […]
Ethics Charges Could Hurt Fight Against Legionnaires’ Disease
Detroit Free Press – John Wisley | Published: 7/5/2018
Conflict-of-interest charges could derail a nationwide effort to curb outbreaks of deadly Legionnaires’ disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Veterans Affairs, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and representatives of the Mayo Clinic have withdrawn from a scientific committee that has been working on the topic for years. At issue is NSF International, a nonprofit research company that has been coordinating an effort to develop new plumbing standards to reduce the growth of legionella bacteria inside buildings. NSF has said one of its for-profit ventures was partnering with Homeyer Consulting Services to help companies meet the new standard once it is approved.
Is This the Year Women Break the Rules and Win?
New York Times – Kate Zernike | Published: 6/29/2018
This year’s midterm elections have produced a surge of women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, across the country: progressive candidates running outsider campaigns powered by strong personal narratives and women’s activism that began with massive marches the day after President Trump’s inauguration and has grown through protests against gun violence and immigration policies that divide families. Whether other women become overnight stars like Ocasio-Cortez –or Stacey Abrams, whose win in the Democratic primary for Georgia governor – in Georgia sparked similar excitement – depends on the dynamics of each state or district.
EPA Leader Scott Pruitt Out After Numerous Scandals
CNBC – Tom DiChristopher | Published: 7/5/2018
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned after months of controversies over his lavish spending, ethical lapses, and contentious management decisions eroded President Trump’s confidence in one of his most ardent Cabinet members. Pruitt’s litany of ethics scandals included questions about taxpayer-funded first-class travel, a discounted condominium rental from a lobbyist, the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office, and asking staff to help search for a six-figure job for his wife. In recent weeks, an exodus of trusted staffers left Pruitt increasingly isolated, and some once-loyal Republican lawmakers wearied of defending him. There are more than a dozen federal inquiries into Pruitt’s spending and management of the agency.
News Media Paid Melania Trump Thousands for Use of Photos in ‘Positive Stories Only’
NBC News – Andrew Lehren, Emily Siegel, and Merritt Enright | Published: 7/2/2018
First lady Melania Trump reportedly earned between $100,000 and $1 million in royalties from Getty Images in 2017 for the use of photographs that under a licensing could only be used in “positive coverage.” At least 12 news organizations last year used some of the photos. Several said they were not aware the images were part of a licensing deal that profited the first lady. While it is not unusual for celebrities to sign deals governing the use of their images, it is unusual for the first lady to be party to such an agreement. Getty’s licensing agreement does not offer any hint that money is also paid to the Trumps, and the arrangement did not appear to have become public until the income was listed in President Trump’s May financial filing.
Supreme Court Defeat for Unions Upends a Liberal Money Base
Seattle Times – Noam Schreiber (New York Times) | Published: 7/1/2018
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that requiring nonmembers to make union payments violated their First Amendment rights, since much of what unions do could be considered political activity at odds with their beliefs. In addition to unions, the decision will impact a network of groups dedicated to advancing liberal policies and candidates. Together, they have benefited from tens of millions of dollars a year from public-sector unions, funding now in jeopardy because of the prospective decline in union revenue. Liberal activists argue that closing that pipeline was a crucial goal of the conservative groups that helped bring the case. “If the progressive movement is a navy, they’re trying to take out our aircraft carriers,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org.
Trump Docket: New justice could sway court on president’s personal cases
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 7/5/2018
Lawsuits pending over Donald Trump’s personal and business conduct could put his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court in an awkward position: deciding whether to cast potentially pivotal votes on legal matters of keen importance to the president. Virtually all justices wind up ruling on policy issues affecting the president who appointed them. But Trump is enmeshed in more than half a dozen significant court cases involving everything from his alleged sexual behavior before taking office to claims his businesses are profiting from his presidency and allegations he misused funds through his charitable foundation. The justices also could be asked to rule on whether Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election was legally authorized or whether Trump has the authority to dismiss the special prosecutor.
From the States and Municipalities:
Florida: Where Does She Live? A Miami Lawmaker’s Bizarre Attempt to Reside in Her District
Miami Herald – Sarah Blaskey and David Smiley | Published: 7/3/2018
State Sen. Daphne Campbell, longtime owner of a home inconveniently located outside the community she has represented as a member of the Florida House and Senate, has been difficult to find at home over the last 30 months. More accurately, her home has been difficult to find. That is until late June, when she switched her voter registration to a house in North Miami Beach. It is one of at least four addresses she has listed over the last six years after a statewide redrawing of House districts placed her own home outside the boundaries and forced her into a series of temporary residences. The extent to which she has actually lived at any of them is questionable.
Georgia: Campaign Contributions to Top Candidates Raise Questions
Washington Times; Associated Press – | Published: 6/29/2018
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found donations of more than $325,000 to Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s campaign from people tied to licensees and companies regulated by his office. The newspaper found contributions of more than $240,000 to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s campaign before the beginning of the 2018 legislative session from lobbyists, members of their family, or their firms, as well as another $40,000 donated after the session ended. Kemp and Cagle are locked in a runoff for the Republican nomination for governor. Critics say donations to Kemp by people with ties to businesses under the oversight of his licensing or securities divisions could undermine the credibility of one of the state’s top regulators.
Illinois: ‘I Snookered Them’: Illinois Nazi candidate creates GOP dumpster fire
Politico – Natasha Korecki | Published: 6/29/2018
Illinois Republicans botched four opportunities to stop an avowed Nazi from representing their party in a Chicago-area congressional district. Now they are paying the price. Arthur Jones, a Holocaust denier who will appear on the November ballot as the GOP candidate against U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, has become campaign fodder for Democrats as they seek to defeat Gov. Bruce Rauner. And some Republicans even fear the taint from Jones‘s extremist views poses a threat to the party up and down the ticket.
Indiana: New Pay-to-Play Ban Approved
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Rosa Salter Rodriguez | Published: 6/28/2018
The Fort Wayne City Council overrode a veto to approve a bill that aims to prevent the appearance of “pay-to-play” practices in the awarding of certain city contracts. The ordinance prohibits “business entities” from bidding on city contracts if any officer, partner, or principal with more than a 10 percent ownership share in the entity and subsidiaries controlled by it contributes more than $2,000 a year to a political campaign of someone with ultimate responsibility for awarding city contracts.
Kentucky: Kentucky Broke Law by Blocking Poor People’s Campaign from Capitol, Beshear Says
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 7/2/2018
Anti-poverty demonstrators were illegally restricted from entering the Capitol in June under a policy that is not an official state regulation, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said. The opinion deferred constitutional questions raised by the policy, suggesting those could be addressed if Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration completes the process for establishing regulations on access to the Capitol. The Kentucky Poor People’s Campaign staged a series of seven demonstrations. During each standoff at the Capitol’s front door, scores of demonstrators asked if they could enter as a group. But they were blocked by a large state police presence and told of a new policy that allowed two members of the group to be in the building at a time.
New Jersey: New Jersey to Spend $5 Million on Reviving Local Journalism
WPG Talk Radio – Michael Symons | Published: 7/3/2018
New Jersey’s new state budget includes $5 million for a first-of-its-kind nonprofit effort to help finance local journalism in cities and towns where it has been decimated. Some of the money could be used to strengthen traditional media sources, such as newspapers and radio stations, and existing local websites. Funds might be used for seed investments in startups in areas without local news, or even media literacy programs. “Studies have shown what happens when local news coverage dries up or disappears. Fewer people vote. Fewer people volunteer. Fewer people run for public office. Corruption increases,” said Mike Rispoli of the media reform advocacy group Free Press.
New York: Upcoming SCOTUS Case Could Complicate NY Effort to Close Double Jeopardy ‘Loophole’
New York Law Journal – Colby Hamilton and Dan Clark | Published: 7/2/2018
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case a case challenging the legal principle that the federal government and those of the states represent “separate sovereigns,” a long-held doctrine that has provided a work-around for state and federal prosecutors faced with constitutional double jeopardy concerns. It comes at a critical moment for supporters of changes to New York’s double jeopardy protections. Under certain circumstances, individuals close to President Trump, facing federal prosecution, could see a pardon absolve them of not only federal charges, but bar state prosecutors from bringing a similar case under New York law.
Oregon: Black Oregon Legislator Says Campaigning in Own District Triggered 911 Call
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 7/3/2018
A black state representative in Oregon said one of her constituents called the police on her while she was canvassing a neighborhood in her district. Rep. Janelle Bynum said someone called the police on her to report that she “was going door to door and spending a lot of time typing on my cell phone after each house.” Bynum is up for re-election in November and said she was taking notes on her phone from conversations with constituents. A number of incidents in which police were called on people of color doing normal activities have gained widespread attention in recent months.
Virginia: Lobbying Firm to Va. Lawmakers: If you refuse Apco money, you won’t get any from us
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Patrick Wilson | Published: 6/25/2018
The law and lobbying firm Hunton Andrews Kurth said it would no longer make campaign contributions to Virginia lawmakers unless they also accept donations from one of the firm’s clients, Appalachian Power Co. The move affects legislators who signed a pledge saying they will not accept political money from the state’s regulated energy companies – Dominion Energy and Appalachian – to avoid the appearance of the companies’ undue influence on lawmakers. Whitt Clement, who heads the state government relations practice group at Hunton Andrews Kurth, said the lawmakers who do not accept contributions from Appalachian are being shortsighted because the company is an important corporate citizen in Virginia.
May 20, 2014 •
State and Federal Communications is proud to be a sponsor of the Women in Government Relations PACs, Politics & Grassroots Conference in Washington, D.C.! WGR says this about the gathering: The PACs, Politics & Grassroots Conference brings together the government […]
State and Federal Communications is proud to be a sponsor of the Women in Government Relations PACs, Politics & Grassroots Conference in Washington, D.C.!
WGR says this about the gathering: The PACs, Politics & Grassroots Conference brings together the government relations, PAC and advocacy communities for a day of learning. This one-of-a-kind DC based conference includes fantastic speakers, engaging panel sessions and interactive conversations with leaders in the field of politics.
If you see State and Federal Communications Federal Compliance Associate Rebecca South at the conference, be sure to say hello!
October 6, 2011 •
YouTube Politics Has Just Been Launched
I saw this item on Eric Brown’s Political Activity Law blog.
YouTube is now the place to watch the latest political videos with its new YouTube Politics Channel. According to YouTube’s blog, “The new YouTube Politics site will feature the latest campaign ads, parodies, gotchas, and speeches, offering you a 360-view of the election.”
YouTube Politics follows in the footsteps of other Google projects that touch upon politics and elections, such as YouTube News and YouTube Town Hall. Of course since it is YouTube, you will be able to follow each candidate to see how they are doing by seeing their stats – how many video views they have had, how many subscribers, and the quality of the comments they receive.
YouTube’s blog offers this announcement in honor of the event: “YouTube.com/Politics: Tracking the 2012 election campaign through online video” and here is Politico’s coverage of the launch: “Google to Launch YouTube Politics” by Jennifer Martinez.
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