Compliance Notes – Vol. 1, Issue 20
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.
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Campaign Finance & Lobbying Compliance
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is facing allegations that he coerced and possibly reimbursed employees’ federal and state political contributions when he was CEO of New Breed Logistics. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee has announced it will investigate these allegations and their impact on his recent testimony to the U.S. House. (Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner, and Jon Swaine, Washington Post; Merrit Kennedy, NPR)
Alabama: Sen. David Burkette, a former member of Montgomery City Council who now faces a misdemeanor charge of depositing money intended for a re-election campaign in 2015 and 2016 into a personal bank account, resigned on Tuesday. Gov. Kay Ivey announced a special election to replace him. (Brian Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser)
Georgia: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has refused to cooperate with an investigation into her campaign finances, according to the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission. Bottoms’ campaign disputes the allegation. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for September 24. (Stephen Deere, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Maine: Maine House Minority Leader Trey Stewart allegedly violated campaign finance law by using a political action committee to reimburse himself $210 for clothes and $1,800 for vehicle maintenance, according to a complaint filed against him. (Steve Mistler, Maine Public)
Michigan: The Michigan Republican Party nominated Diane Dunaskiss, a former member of the Wayne State board, for one of two board positions up for election on November 3. However, Dunaskiss has been disqualified from running because of an outstanding fee to the Michigan Secretary of State's Office from her unsuccessful campaign for the board in 2018. (Craig Mauger, The Detroit News)
Montana: A federal judge upheld a 2018 executive order by Gov. Steve Bullock requiring companies to report political spending, including contributions to so-called dark money groups, if they want to bid on large state contracts. (Amy Beth Hanson, AP News)
Kanye West is barred from the presidential ballot in Arizona and Virginia. So far, West has met the requirements for his name to appear on the ballot in Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont, but failed to meet the requirements in Illinois, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Virginia, and Wyoming. He is currently suing to appear on the ballot in Wisconsin and West Virginia. (Ashley King, Digital Music News; Leah Willingham, AP News)
New York: A federal judge has upheld stricter ballot standards for political parties. The new law, which had been paired with the creation of a system of publicly financed campaigns in the state, requires parties to receive at least 130,000 votes at the top of its ticket or 2% of all votes cast. The previous threshold was 50,000 votes for gubernatorial candidates. The provision is expected to make it harder for smaller ballot lines, like the Working Families Party and the SAM Party, to maintain its ballot status in subsequent election cycles. (Nick Reisman, Spectrum News)
Political Speech & Campaign Advertisements
A new complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission alleges that “Courier Newsroom,” a national network of local media websites, must register as a political committee because of its ties to ACRONYM, a politically active nonprofit. Federal election laws and regulations do not apply to media outlets unless they are “owned or controlled by” a political party, committee or candidate and are acting as a media outlet rather than a political one. The complaint alleges that Courier Newsroom is not eligible for that exemption. (Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Washington Post)
Arizona: Disallowing online signatures for ballot measures mid-pandemic does not limit free speech, according to the Arizona Supreme Court. The Arizona Constitution requires that signatures for ballot initiatives must be collected on physical sheets of paper. According to the majority, social distancing in response to the pandemic does not bar a "reasonably diligent" proponent from gaining ballot access. They concluded that any limitations on the in-person requirement are caused by the virus, not the State Constitution, and even if the requirement imposed a severe burden on free speech, it would survive strict scrutiny because it advances the state's compelling interest in protecting elections' integrity. (Daniel Tay, Law 360)
State & Local Ballot Measures
Missouri: A Missouri appeals court order tossing the ballot summary for a constitutional amendment on redistricting could be the final word on the topic before voters weigh in on November 3. The state has opted not to ask for the Missouri Supreme Court to weigh in after unsuccessfully defending the ballot summary twice this month. (Jack Suntrup, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)