RECENT LOBBYING, ETHICS & CAMPAIGN FINANCE UPDATES
We read the news, cut through the noise and provide you the notes.
Welcome to Compliance Notes from Nossaman’s Government Relations & Regulation Group – a periodic digest of the headlines, statutory and regulatory changes, and court cases involving campaign finance, lobbying compliance, election law, and government ethics issues at the federal, state, and local level.
Campaign Finance & Lobbying Compliance
FEC Reminder: The electioneering communications period for the general election begins on Friday, September 4 and runs through Tuesday, November 3. Any person who makes electioneering communications that aggregate more than $10,000 during this time period must file disclosure statements with the Commission within 24 hours of the date the electioneering communication is publicly distributed.
California: Margaret Hunter, the wife of former California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, was sentenced to eight months of home confinement after pleading guilty to misusing more than $150,000 in campaign funds in a corruption case that ended her husband’s career. (Julie Watson, Associated Press)
Colorado: Fort Collins City Council has adopted several election code changes, including tightening restrictions on campaign contributions from limited liability corporations (LLCs), putting a cap on contributions to political committees and raising individual contribution limits for city elections. (Jacy Marmaduke, Fort Collins Coloradoan; City Council Voting Results)
Connecticut: A Connecticut judge ruled that candidates for elected office can use public campaign funds to pay for child care while they’re campaigning. (Emilie Munson, CT Post)
Indiana: According to federal prosecutors, Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura illegally spent $255,000 in campaign money to fuel his and his wife’s gambling habits, pay down debts and support his adult daughter. Diane Stahura, his wife, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement; Mayor Stahura also accepted a plea agreement, which will result in his resignation “in the coming days.” (Lauren Cross, NWI Times)
As part of a resolution to resume playoff games, the NBA and its players’ union announced a plan to allow the teams’ arenas to be used as polling places in the upcoming November election. (Samantha Raphelson, NPR)
Arkansas: A 6-1 majority of the Arkansas Supreme Court disqualified two ballot measures on technical grounds, finding fault with the groups’ certifications that they had “acquired” background checks for paid canvassers, when the statute required certification that they “passed” the check. The decision halted attempts to enact ranked-choice voting and a new method for drawing legislative and congressional districts. Immediately after the ruling, the secretary of state's office informed county election officials that the proposals – previously certified as Issues 4 and 5 for the November ballot -- had been invalidated and do not need to appear on the ballots that they have printed for their areas. (John Moritz, Arkansas Democrat Gazette)
Iowa: A judge ordered Linn County to invalidate 50,000 requests for absentee ballots, agreeing with President Donald Trump's campaign that its elections commissioner overstepped his authority by pre-filling the forms with voters' personal information. (Ryan J. Foley, Yahoo News)
Montana: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan denied a request by Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to place Green Party candidates back on state ballots this November. The decision follows an August 19 ruling by the Montana Supreme Court upholding a state district court judge’s decision to strike Green Party candidates from the ballot due to a signature-gathering scandal. Kagan’s decision makes it even more likely that Green Party candidates will stay off the ballot. (Nicholas Iovino, Courthouse News Service)
Texas: U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio found that Texas continues to violate the federal National Voter Registration Act by not allowing residents to register to vote when they update their driver’s license information online. (Alexa Ura, The Texas Tribune)
Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)
Nickie Lum Davis, an American consultant, has been charged under FARA for an illicit lobbying effort to convince the Trump administration to drop an investigation into the multibillion-dollar looting of a Malaysian state investment fund and to arrange for the return of a Chinese dissident living in the U.S. Federal prosecutors say Davis failed to disclose to the federal government that the lobbying effort was done on behalf of a fugitive Malaysian financier who has been charged in the U.S. with conspiring to launder billions of dollars from the fund, as required. (Associated Press)
Alabama: The Alabama Supreme Court denied former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s request for a rehearing after he was convicted on six felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain. Hubbard now has 15 days to report to jail. (Josh Moon, Alabama Political Reporter)
California: Lobbyist and former Los Angeles City Hall official Morrie Goldman agreed to plead guilty to a charge that he conspired with Councilman Jose Huizar in a bribery scheme. Federal prosecutors say that Goldman was part of a ploy in which one of his clients, a real estate developer seeking city approval for an Arts District complex, agreed to give tens of thousands of dollars to a political action committee in exchange for Huizar taking steps to help the project. The felony charge could lead to a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. (Emily Alpert Reyes and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times)
The Urban Revitalization Coalition, Inc., a nonprofit organization started by the leaders of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, had its tax exempt status auto-revoked after failing to provide a Form 990-series return or notice to the Internal Revenue Service for three consecutive years. (Chandelis Duster and Maegan Vazquez, CNN)
Political Speech & Campaign Advertisements
A coalition of voting rights and watchdog groups is suing the Trump administration over its recent executive order, which aims to curb liability protections for tech platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. They argue that the order was retaliatory, violates the First Amendment rights of tech platforms and infringes on the First Amendment rights of everyone else who might receive information from those platforms. (Issie Lapowsky, Protocol)
Lawyers on behalf of Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) sent a letter to television stations in Western Massachusetts urging them to stop airing an ad that criticizes the congressman for taking large sums of money from corporate PACs. The letter claims that the ad accuses Neal of criminally violating campaign finance laws that prohibit candidates from taking direct corporate donations. The letter also appears to threaten legal action against stations that choose to continue running the ad. “Because you need not run this ad, you enjoy no immunity from liability for its false claims, and are fully responsible for the defamation and any other torts that might result from their dissemination,” the letter says. (Donald Shaw, Sludge)