RECENT LOBBYING, ETHICS & CAMPAIGN FINANCE UPDATES
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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
A former U.S. ambassador was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $93,350 fine for improperly helping a wealthy Persian Gulf country influence U.S. policy and for not disclosing gifts he received from a political fundraiser. In 2022, Richard G. Olson, the State Department's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the end of the Obama administration, pled guilty to illegally providing aid and advice while working for Imaad Zuberi to Qatar while subject to federal ethics rules' post-employment restrictions. Zuberi, who used to be a prolific political donor, is serving a 12-year prison sentence for tax evasion, campaign finance violations and failing to register as a foreign agent. Olson is one of the most high-profile former government officials to face prosecution amid the Justice Department's push in recent years to crack down on unreported or illegal influence campaigns funded by foreign governments seeking to alter U.S. policy. (Alan Suderman & Jim Mustian, AP News)
Pennsylvania: A judge dismissed the
Philadelphia Board of Ethics case against a super PAC affiliated
with former mayoral candidate Jeff Brown. The Board accused For a
Better Philadelphia of illegally coordinating with Brown and
exceeding campaign finance limits. The judge ruled that Brown had
not illegally coordinated with the super PAC in the months before
November 2022 because he was not a candidate yet. (Kristin Hunt, PhillyVoice)
Government Ethics & Transparency
Florida: Miami Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla was arrested on charges including money laundering, bribery and official misconduct. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Díaz de la Portilla and a local attorney accepted more than $15,000 in payments from the Miami-Dade County judicial campaign of Díaz de la Portilla's brother without reporting them. The FDLE also accused Díaz de la Portilla of using two political committees for his brother's campaign to fund personal expenditures. After Díaz de la Portilla's arrest, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order suspending him. (Deirdra Funcheon & Martin Vassolo, Axios and Jamie Guirola & Brian Hamacher, NBC6)
North Carolina: Republican Mark Harris announced he is running to represent North Carolina's 8th District in Congress, five years after Harris' campaign was the subject of election fraud allegations. After ballots were counted during the 2018 race, Harris initially led his opponent by 905 votes. However, amid accusations that McCrae Dowless, an operative hired by Harris' campaign consultants, organized an illegal scheme to collect and mark absentee ballots, the election board declined to certify the results and ordered a do-over election the following year. Before his death last year, Dowless was indicted and faced three felony counts of obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and two counts of possession of absentee ballots. Harris was not criminally charged in the matter and did not run in the do-over election. (Kierra Frazier, POLITICO)
Wisconsin: The State Senate voted along party lines to remove Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe and introduced a resolution for an interim administrator to replace her. Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit against state GOP leaders, arguing Republicans "blatantly ignored Wisconsin law" because Wolfe's appointment was not properly before the chamber. The lawsuit seeks declaratory judgment affirming that Wolfe remains the Commission's administrator and the case could reach the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which last month shifted to a liberal majority for the first time in more than a decade. (Mitchell Schmidt, Wisconsin State Journal)
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