Compliance Notes – Vol. 1, Issue 25

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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.

Contribution Limits

Oregon: Portland mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone’s campaign asked a court to make the city auditor enforce a strict cap on the money that candidates can lend themselves to fund their election efforts. The request comes less than a week after Mayor Ted Wheeler loaned his own campaign $150,000. In 2018, voters approved strict campaign finance limits, including a $5,000 cap on how much candidates can loan themselves. In May, the city auditor announced she would begin enforcing most of the campaign finance changes — except for the limits on self-funding. (Rebecca Ellis, OPB) Also in Oregon, Measure 107 appears poised to quash the state's reputation as one of the most permissive in the nation with respect to political campaign financing. It would amend the Oregon constitution to allow the state government and local governments to enact laws that (1) limit campaign contributions and expenditures, (2) require their disclosure and (3) require political campaign advertisements to identify who paid for them. (Capi Lynn, Salem Statesman Journal)

Elections

Alaska: An Alaska court judge ruled that enforcement of witness requirements for absentee ballots during a pandemic “impermissibly burdens the right to vote,” but did not immediately put into effect an order eliminating the requirement for the general election. (Becky Bohrer, Associated Press)

California: About 2,100 Los Angeles County voters received “faulty” mail-in ballots with no way to vote for president of the United States. (Andrew Campa, Los Angeles Times)

Florida: Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker rejected calls by several voting rights groups who argued that Florida should further extend its voter registration deadline following repeated outages to the state’s online portal. Judge Walker said that “Florida’s interest in preventing chaos in its already precarious — and perennially chaotic — election” outweighed the concern of potentially thousands of Floridians being unable to cast ballots in the general election. (Allison Ross, Tampa Bay Times)

Iowa: A judge blocked Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate from enforcing an order that barred counties from sending absentee ballot applications to voters with their personal information already filled in, contending that Pate exceeded his authority when he told counties that absentee ballot request forms must be blank when mailed. (Ryan Foley, Associated Press)

Montana: A three-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request for an emergency injunction to block most Montana counties from mailing ballots to active voters. The appeal will still be heard and briefs are due in January. (Associated Press)

New Jersey: Federal authorities arrested Nicholas Beauchene, a postal carrier from Kearny, who allegedly dumped 1,875 pieces of mail -- including 99 general election ballots and 276 campaign flyers – instead of delivering them to residents in West Orange. (Jerry DeMarco, Daily Voice)

Ohio: Nearly 50,000 voters in Franklin County received the wrong ballot in the mail (e.g., some voters in Worthington received ballots for elections in Whitehall; others received ballots with the wrong congressional race; ballots for one precinct went to voters in another). New ballots will be mailed to affected voters "in the coming days." Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office directed the board to provide replacement ballots along with a letter explaining the error to all voters affected by the problem. (Rick Rouan, The Columbus Dispatch; Gabe Rosenberg, NPR) Also in Ohio, a federal judge struck down LaRose’s order barring county boards of election from setting up multiple ballot drop box sites, saying the order unfairly burdens large counties. LaRose appealed within hours of the ruling. (Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland.com)

Pennsylvania: A federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign, dismissing its challenges to the battleground state’s poll-watching law and its efforts to limit how mail-in ballots can be collected and which of them can be counted. Trump’s campaign said it would appeal at least one element of the decision. (Marc Levy, AP News)

South Carolina: The Supreme Court temporarily reinstated South Carolina's requirement that absentee ballots include witness signatures, but any ballots received within two days of the order without the signature must be counted and “may not be rejected for failing to comply with the witness requirement.” (Jessica Gresko, AP News; Richard Wolf, USA TODAY)

Texas: A federal judge barred enforcement of Gov. Greg Abbott’s October 1 proclamation that limited counties to one mail-in ballot drop-off location. The next day, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the ruling. (Chuck Lindell, Statesman)

Wisconsin: Federal judges have blocked a lower court’s order that extended the deadline for returning mail ballots in Wisconsin, requiring that absentee ballots be in the hands of election officials by the time the polls close on Election Day. (Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein, Politico)

Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

Longtime GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy has been charged in a criminal information (a type of charging document typically reserved for those who have agreed to plead guilty in a case) with conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent after he lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese government interests. Prosecutors unsealed the 31-page information against Broidy, outlining how they believe he took millions in undisclosed money to end a U.S. investigation into a billion-dollar embezzlement of a Malaysian state investment fund and, separately, to return outspoken Chinese exile Guo Wengui to his home country. Prosecutors said that Broidy and others orchestrated “back-channel, unregistered campaigns” to influence the administration, though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. During the 2016 campaign, Broidy, a Los Angeles-based investor, helped corral big donors to support Trump’s campaign. After the election, he was appointed to serve as a national deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee. (Matt Zapotosky, The Washington Post)

Government Ethics

California: A Chinese company’s Arcadia subsidiary has agreed to pay more than $1 million to resolve allegations that it bribed city officials, including former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, with campaign contributions, foreign travel and Katy Perry concert tickets to ensure support for its downtown building projects. (Los Angeles Daily News)

Political Speech & Campaign Advertisements

Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the Trump campaign should take down the political advertisement in which he's featured. The 30-second ad, which is airing in Michigan, says "President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America. Together we rose to meet the challenge, protecting our seniors, getting them life-saving drugs in record time, sparing no expense." The ad then flashes to an interview with Fauci in which he says, "I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more." Fauci told CNN he did not consent to being featured in the new advertisement and that his words were taken out of context. Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said, "These are Dr. Fauci's own words. The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr. Fauci was praising the work of the Trump Administration. The words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr. Fauci's mouth." (Paul LeBlanc, CNN)

Michigan: Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office has referred a Michigan GOP press release about an unlocked ballot drop box to Attorney General Dana Nessel for investigation "as election misinformation." (Craig Mauger, The Detroit News)

Washington: Twitter agreed to pay $100,000 to settle charges that it violated Washington state campaign finance laws requiring digital political advertisers to maintain and provide, upon public request, the names and addresses of the people sponsoring and paying for a political ad campaign; the total cost of the campaign; method of payment; and other information. Twitter’s settlement with the state follows similar deals two years ago in which Google and Facebook agreed to pay $217,000 and $238,000, respectively. (Todd Bishop, GeekWire)

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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