RECENT UPDATES ON LOBBYING, ETHICS AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE
We read the news, cut the noise and provide you with the notes.
Welcome to Nossaman’s Compliance Notices Government Relations and Regulatory Group – A periodic summary of securities, statutory and regulatory changes, and court cases involving campaign finance, lobbying compliance, election law, and government ethics issues at the federal, state, and local levels.
Please enjoy this installment of Compliance notes.
Compliance with campaign finance and lobbying activities
Jessie Benton was sentenced to 18 months in prison for helping funnel the illegal foreign campaign contributions of a Russian citizen into former President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Benton, a former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), was convicted in November of conspiring to solicit and cause an unlawful campaign contribution from a foreign national by a pipeline contribution and causing false documents to be filed with the Federal Election Commission. According to the Justice Department, neither Trump nor his campaign knew of the Russian person’s nationality. (Sareen Habeshian, Axios)
Georgia: A conservative legal foundation is challenging DeKalb County, Georgia’s accounting procedure that allowed officials to receive a private donation to election administration despite a state ban on so-called “Zucker Bucks.” In its complaint filed with the State Board of Elections, Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections alleges that it was illegal for the DeKalb County Department of Finance to request a $2 million private grant and then transfer the funds to election officials who are barred from receiving the grant directly. The grant money came from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a group that provided grants primarily to large cities and counties to cover the costs of election administration. Ahead of the 2020 election, the group received more than $300 million in donations from Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. (Alex Ebert, Bloomberg Government)
Maryland: A former Baltimore County official was accused of stealing more than $140,000 from two political campaign accounts while serving as their treasurer. Prosecution documents say William Christopher McCollum, the former head of the Baltimore County Ag Center, stole $111,014.89 from former Council member Cathy Bevins (D)’s campaign account and $31,269.63 from a controlled list by a former county executive. McCollum allegedly withdrew money from accounts through direct payments to her personal credit card bills, funding trips to Puerto Rico and Florida, and wrote checks to alleged vendors, but deposited them in his bank account. The expenses were not listed in campaign reports filed with the state Board of Elections, signed by McCollum under penalty of perjury. (William F. Zorzi, Maryland Issues)
Government ethics and transparency
Kansas: The House Election Committee is considering a bill that would overhaul the Kansas government ethics committee and limit its ability to conduct future investigations. House Bill 2391 would end the agency’s subpoena power unless it has already established probable cause, a standard the agency says would be nearly impossible to meet without access to key documents. Under the proposed bill, candidates would be able to donate money to a third party and order the funds to be directed to another entity. The bill would also make it legal for an individual to contribute on behalf of another person or entity, even if it is an attempt to circumvent donation limits. Proponents of the bill say the agency’s investigative activities have had a “chilling effect” on free speech. (Andrew Bahl, Topeka Capital Journal)
Montana: The Senate voted to confirm Chris Gallus to lead the office of the Montana Political Practices Commissioner, which enforces the state’s campaign finance law, investigates campaign and lobbying complaints, and oversees state ethical standards. Gallus, a longtime attorney and lobbyist for the Montana Chamber of Commerce and conservative-aligned causes, will serve a six-year term. Gallus replaces Jeff Mangan, who resigned last year. (Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press)