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Ethics office criticizes Trump administration, and more news from 3/10/17

March 10, 2017 | Adam Smith

White House officials aren’t exempt from ethics rules, Office of Government Ethics chief Walter Shaub wrote in a letter to House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings yesterday. That Kellyanne Conway wasn’t punished for a clear violation of the rules is one thing, he wrote, but “Of greater concern, the White House’s response includes assertions challenging the applicability of ethics rules and OGE’s authority to oversee the ethics program for the entire executive branch.” NPR, CNN.

Campaign Finance/Election Law

In his meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuch this week, Sen. Bill Nelson “expressed his concerns about the suppression of voting rights and the amount of undisclosed, unlimited money in campaigns.”

Politico: Civil rights leaders ask Sessions to scuttle Trump voter fraud probe
“Civil rights leaders who met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday asked him to urge President Donald Trump not to proceed with his plans for a blue-ribbon panel to investigate Trump’s own claims that millions of people voted illegally for his opponent in last year’s presidential race.”

Inforum: Heitkamp joins Montana senator on bill for campaign finance transparency
“U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has signed onto a bill introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., which promotes transparency in campaign financing.” She says, “When people ask me why Washington’s so broken, I will tell you there’s too much undisclosed money, and we need to get into the sunshine here.”

Self-styled First Amendment advocate Brad Smith is mad that people are talking about Don McGahn’s blatant unwillingness to uphold the law during his time at the FEC.

Congress/Administration

Washington Post: Wine bar owners sue President Trump, saying D.C. hotel unfairly takes away business
To watch: “With support from a legal team headlined by the co-founder of Ralph Nader’s advocacy group, Gross and Pitts sued Trump and his D.C. hotel company Wednesday in Superior Court, alleging that the president’s continued ownership of the hotel constitutes unfair competition that damages their business.” NYT. Politico on the unchartered waters of these legal issues. Sean Spicer says there’s nothing to see here.

Huffington Post: Michael Flynn Concealed Foreign Lobbying Work From Justice Department
What a world we live in: “The new documents reveal that Flynn was collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a month to run an information campaign against Gülen while he was campaigning for Donald Trump by attacking his Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton as a corrupt stooge of foreign governments. ”

Bloomberg: Tillerson Recuses Himself From Keystone XL Pipeline Review
Good: “U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has recused himself from State Department deliberations on granting a permit to TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline, heading off conflict-of-interest concerns over a project he praised when he was chief of Exxon Mobil Corp.”

Reuters: Trump’s disputes with local governments could create fresh conflicts of interest
Fortunately, the even-tempered Trump has no history of retribution against people: “Ethics experts said disagreements between Trump businesses and local governments create unavoidable conflicts of interest, since the federal government is a key source of funding and other benefits for municipalities and counties.”

American Prospect: Will the Koch Brothers Save Obamacare?
“Still, the bizarre convergence of left- and right-leaning activists who share the same goal—blocking the GOP health-care bill—underscores the unpredictable nature of health-care lobbying in 2017.”

New York Times: With Trump in White House, His Golf Properties Prosper
Those trips to Mar-a-Lago are costing taxpayers plenty of money, but they’re good for Trump’s bank account. Public Citizen’s Rob Weissman: “It is yet another effort by the family business to cash in on the presidency.” Eric Trump’s comparison of this to Bush’s Crawford ranch is.

CNN: GOP Congressional candidate’s ‘Women Vote Trump’ PAC came up $29,973,187 short of fundraising goal
Even with the star power of Stacey Dash, a super PAC aimed at raising $30M to help Trump “raised only $26,813 during the entire campaign.” Wait, who’s Stacey Dash?

OpenSecrets: Women (candidates) under attack (really!) by outside groups. (Men, not so much.)
Interesting look at outside spending in Congressional races: “But women, on average, faced more unfavorable spending than men. Of Senate candidates, female Dems faced $3.4 million more on average in negative messaging than males did, while female Republicans faced $2.1 million more in adverse ads compared to their male counterparts.”

Buzzfeed: Democratic Super PAC Launches Anti-“Trumpcare” Campaign In Key States
“On Thursday, the party’s leading super PAC, Priorities USA, will test one approach with a six-figure digital ad campaign depicting the bill as a betrayal of working Americans and a boon to the 1%, according to an official with the group.” American Action Network is out with ads in 30 districts pushing fellow Republicans to support Trumpcare.

WSJ: SEC Chair Nominee Clayton’s Ethics Report Reveals Range of Possible Conflicts
“President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission faces a range of possible conflicts of interest due to the long list of banks and public companies he has represented as one of Wall Street’s top lawyers.”

States/Other

Washington Post: Watchdog calls for review of D.C. mayor’s campaign contributions
“A division of the nonprofit organization Public Citizen, which aims to limit the influence of money in politics, filed a complaint this week with the District’s Office of Campaign Finance, saying it found more than 20 instances in which individuals or businesses appeared to have given Bowser (D) more than the legal limit of $2,000 apiece.”

IPR: Why Lansing lobbyists just broke another spending record
“The Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) dug into the numbers and discovered spending on lobbying was higher in 2016 than any other year: lobbyists spent $39.99 million last year, which broke 2015’s record of $38.7 million.”

QZ: The Dutch far right’s election donors are almost exclusively American
Who knew? “Wealthy American conservatives have poured large sums into the electoral campaign of far-right leader Geert Wilders of the Netherlands’ Dutch Freedom Party, in support of his anti-Islam, anti-EU views.” Australia is set to ban foreign donations.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.