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.
Here, we are expanding upon our eAlerts (where we provide substantive analysis on key issues), to deliver 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. Our goal is to provide relevant, timely updates in an easily skimmable format so you can identify the content that is important to you, click through to the article, and reach out to your attorney, policy advisor, or compliance consultant with any questions or to discuss exactly how an issue may impact your business.
Please enjoy our third installment of Compliance Notes.
Campaign Finance & Lobbying Compliance
The United States Senate Rules Committee voted along party lines to advance President Trump's nominee to the Federal Election Commission, Trey Trainor, to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. If the Senate confirms Trainor, who was an adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, the FEC will have a quorum, allowing it to resume business. The agency has lacked the required four commissioners needed to vote on proposals ever since former Commissioner Matthew Petersen resigned last year, leaving the agency largely powerless during the run-up to a presidential election. (Maggie Miller, The Hill)
Former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was sentenced to 11 months in prison for violating personal use provisions of federal campaign finance law, could wait to serve a prison term until 2021 as COVID-19 upends the corrections system. (Jeremy B. White, Politico)
Idaho: A complaint was filed with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office alleging that a County GOP Chairman who is running to be a county commissioner breached a number of lobbying disclosure laws, including failure to timely register or report lobbying-related expenses. The complaint calls for an investigation into all political organizations with ties to the Chairman. (Thomas Plank, KPVI)
Maryland: “Progressive Maryland” filed a complaint with Maryland’s Board of Elections accusing “The Cities for Ethical Progressive Leadership” of violating state election laws by making purchases before the PAC was registered with the state. State law strictly prohibits candidates from making payments or the promise of payments before establishing a campaign finance committee. However, it does allow early spending for candidates who are exploring whether to run for public office. (Jeff Abell, Fox News Baltimore)
Oregon: Two lawyers with “Honest Elections Portland” filed a complaint with the City Elections Office alleging an independent expenditure committee backing former Mayor Sam Adams in the May 19 primary may have violated the city's new election rules by failing to disclose who paid for a recent mailer. City election rules allow for a civil fine "which is not less than two nor more than 20 times the amount of the unlawful contribution or expenditure or independent expenditure at issue." (Nigel Jaquiss, Willamette Week)
For a complete list of COVID-related State and Federal regulatory agency updates, please click here.
Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown is using her political action committee to back a November ballot measure that would amend the state Constitution to allow limits on money in politics. Although voters passed strict limits on political money in 2006, and the state Supreme Court ruled on April 23, 2020 that campaign contribution limits do not violate free speech protections in the Oregon Constitution, Secretary of State Bev Clarno’s administration announced Oregon political candidates could continue to accept unlimited contributions. (Hillary Borrud, The Oregonian/OregonLive)
California: All registered voters in California will receive a mail-in ballot for the upcoming November election. With Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order, California is the first state to make voting by mail in November an option due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state is not moving to mail-only, however, and in-person voting will remain an option. (John Myers, Los Angeles Times)
California: The Alhambra City Council held a special meeting last week to consider how to respond to complaints alleging that the city’s at-large election process is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act because the “at-large system dilutes the ability of Latinos…to elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome of the City’s council elections.” (Jon Thurber, Alhambra Source)
Colorado: The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, in conjunction with county clerks, enacted a series of temporary emergency rules outlining procedures for conducting elections during the pandemic. They include procedures for receiving and processing ballots, enforcing social distancing guidelines, and cleaning voting equipment and voting booths after each use. The rules will go into effect immediately and will be applied to the June 30 State Primary. (CO Secretary of State, Notice of Temporary Adoption)
Delaware: Delaware's presidential primary election has been postponed, for a second time, to July 7. Along with the date change, all registered Democrats and Republicans who didn't already request an absentee ballot will now get an absentee ballot application in the mail so they can vote from home. (Sarah Gamard, Delaware News Journal)
Florida: A federal judge signaled that he would find part of a Florida law restricting the voting rights of former felons unconstitutional. The outcome of the litigation could clear the way for hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions to vote in a state where elections are won and lost by razor-thin margins. It is likely that the legal battle could go to the U.S. Supreme Court before it is finally resolved. (Gary Fineout, Politico)
Oklahoma: Three days after it was struck down by the state’s high court, the Oklahoma Senate voted along party lines to reinstate a requirement that absentee ballots must be notarized with the voter’s signature witnessed by two other people. The bill carves out a narrow exception for COVID-19, allowing absentee voters to mail in a photocopy of identification instead of a notarized signature during the pandemic. (David Lee, Courthouse News Service)
The Trump campaign has not yet disgorged an illegal $2,800 donation it received from a foreign national in 2019, according to records maintained by the Federal Election Commission. (Roger Sollenberger, Salon)
Tennessee: In an effort to uphold the Open Meetings Act, the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government joined news media organizations, journalists, and press associations in filing an open meetings lawsuit against the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance. (Deborah Fisher, Murfreesboro Post)
District of Columbia: The DC Council passed a measure as part of a COVID-19 response that would allow citizens to receive and return ballot measure signatures electronically. However, under the bill a physical signature will still be required on the scanned and returned document. (Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment)
Michigan: Michigan will allow candidates running for certain elected positions in 2020 to electronically turn in 50% fewer petition signatures than a normal year due to strains resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible candidates are those running for U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, Wayne County Community College Trustee, judicial candidates who aren’t the incumbent, and any city office where the city charter does not allow the option to file with a fee during the 2020 election cycle. (Justin P. Hicks, MLive)
Montana: A group seeking to put marijuana legalization on the November ballot in Montana says it will move forward with a traditional, in-person signature-gathering drive with some adjustments. Circulators will wear masks and stay six feet away from members of the public. They will provide anyone signing the petitions with disposable gloves and a wrapped, single-use pen. (Jonathon Ambarian, KVTH)
Nevada: The group seeking to create an independent redistricting commission in the state filed a federal lawsuit against Nevada election officials seeking the ability to collect needed signatures electronically and to extend collection deadlines by at least six weeks. (Riley Snyder, The Nevada Independent)
North Dakota: Proponents of the North Dakota Top-Four Ranked-Choice Voting, Redistricting, and Election Process Changes Initiative filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota Eastern Division arguing that North Dakota’s requirement that petitioners physically witness each signature and that a notary sign each petition is unrealistic, difficult, and dangerous amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is seeking a ruling that would allow signatures to be gathered electronically. (Jackie Mitchell, Ballotpedia News)
New York: Students and advocates are calling on New York State officials to expand online voter registration in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Currently, New York residents can register to vote online only with a DMV-issued ID. However, the city’s Campaign Finance Board estimates around 700,000 city residents don’t have the required documentation. The state’s Board of Elections is already working on an online system that will allow potential voters to register without DMV documents, but the website may not go online until January 2021. (Michael Elsen-Rooney, New York Daily News)