ProPublica: Trump’s Company Is Suing Towns Across the Country to Get Breaks on Taxes — “Trump, Inc.” PodcastApr 11, 2018
No president in modern times has owned a business involved in legal battles with local governments. “The idea that the president would have these interests and then those companies would sue localities is really a dangerous precedent,” says Larry Noble, of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. The dynamic between local and federal governments is impossible to ignore in these cases, says Noble. Municipalities “rely on resources from the federal government and the federal government can make your life easier or much more difficult.” The concern arises because the president did not fully separate from his businesses, he says.
- Apr 11, 2018
Former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub concurs. “Federal managers are prohibited from considering party affiliation when making personnel decisions for career employees,” he tells me. “This safeguard dates back 135 years and is based on the ethical principle that most of the work of government should be carried out by officials who are loyal to the Constitution, the laws and the American people instead of partisan political patrons.” He continues, “Targeting career officials based on party affiliation would jeopardize the integrity of the government’s operations and, in a case like this, open us up to corrupt political influence on the law enforcement apparatus of the state.” He observes, “The depressing irony is that, in pressing their groundless claims of political bias in the investigation, these members of Congress are literally advocating for political bias by demanding the Justice Department ensure that the president is investigated only by ardent supporters — a view they definitely have not held for his political rival.”
- Apr 10, 2018
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress this week about his global social media platform and security of the user data it collects, after bipartisan calls in the House and Senate for him to do so. This is a meaningful first step in the direction of transparency, but it does not address the issue of foreign interference in our elections.
Business Insider: Trump Organization lawyers say they didn't seek to 'pressure' Panama president in hotel controversyApr 10, 2018
Any US decision affecting Panama will be under the microscope, said Larry Noble, the senior director and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center. "It could be a trade deal, it could be aid of some sort, it could be a rule involving the Panama Canal," Noble said. He added: "This is a good example of what a presidential conflict of interest looks like."
- Apr 10, 2018
Pruitt leased a room last year from the wife of a lobbyist whose firm represents clients with business before the EPA. Pruitt paid $50 a night, but only for days he used the condo, and was permitted to let members of his family use the condo too. The agency’s ethics chief says the rent was fair, while leaving open the possibility that Pruitt violated rules requiring him to remain impartial.
"I do think there is an illegal gift issue here," said Larry Noble, former president of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws and now general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington advocacy group.
Noble said that if an EPA employee were involved in a matter affecting the same person who was subsidizing that employee’s rent, that employee "should be subject to discipline." What type of discipline, Noble added, "would depend on the facts."
- Apr 10, 2018
The Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C.-based voting group, claimed in a lawsuit it filed in 2016 that Alabama’s felon disenfranchisement law, which blocks roughly 15 percent of Alabama’s black population from voting, is racially discriminatory and unconstitutional. In a motion to dismiss last month, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) argued that the law is neither punitive nor criminal.
- Apr 9, 2018
“What are Facebook’s plans for self-regulation?,” asked Brendan Fischer, director for federal and FEC reform at the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center. It is still unclear what the platforms considers to be a political ad, he said, or how the company will verify the identity of advertisers and page administrators.
Will they verify that the group is real, or that the person who started it is a real person, Fischer asked, and what is the platform going to show users? The company said earlier it will confirm advertisers’ location, but how are they going to be able to determine where an ad’s financing actually comes from, Fischer asks.
- Apr 9, 2018
Campaign Legal Center attorney Brendan Fischer said he expects this petition to result in action because Republican and Democratic FEC commissioners generally have taken a strict view of permissible uses of campaign money, especially for retiring lawmakers.
- Apr 8, 2018
Walter Shaub, who until last year ran the federal Office of Government Ethics, said it is a potential ethics violation for Pruitt to accept the airline tickets, even if Wagner didn't pay cash for them. Federal officials are barred from accepting gifts from employees that have a market value of more than $10.
"It would be a very serious ethics problem, indeed, if Pruitt accepted airline tickets from a subordinate," Shaub said.
- Apr 6, 2018
These changes will put Facebook ad disclosures on par with the types of disclosures currently required of political ads on radio and TV, says Brendan Fischer, director of Federal Election Commission reform at the Campaign Legal Center. “Because there’s really no transparency requirements for digital ads at all right now, anything that would bring more transparency to digital ads would be a step forward,” Fischer said.