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The State of Reform
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Government Ethics
Big Picture
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Total bipartisan rejection of Trump’s idea the election be postponed

President Trump took his crusade against voting by mail to a whole new level Thursday, suggesting for the first time that "delay" of the election is the best way to prevent his re-election from being stolen from him.

The idea was either castigated, dismissed as impossible or disregarded as a silly trial balloon diversion by senior members of Congress from both parties as well as legal scholars.

But it nonetheless intensified the president's efforts to sow doubt about the reliability of the November result — which, if he ends up contesting and refusing to concede defeat, could produce a constitutional crisis posing an unprecedented challenge to democracy.

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A watchdog group alleges an effort to hide payments to presidential daughter-in-law Lara Trump and former campaign manager Brad Parscale, among others.

Sweeping complaint about Trump campaign spending heads to FEC black hole

The Trump campaign is vowing to fight a complaint from a watchdog group alleging an unusually bold and broad violation of campaign finance law. But it might not have to fight too hard, because the matter is now before an essentially shuttered Federal Election Commission.

The allegation formally lodged Tuesday by the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for tighter money-in-politics rules, is that President Trump's reelection operation paid almost $170 million to companies affiliated with one-time campaign manager Brad Parscale and other campaign operatives — but did not disclose the intended recipients of the money, as the law requires.

While efforts to obfuscate campaign spending details are not uncommon, as candidates from both parties clamor for every tactical advantage, what the CLC described in its complaint as "laundering the funds" by Trump's team seems unprecedented in size and scope.

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Balance of Power
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Democracy reform advocates sent a letter to those assembling former Vice President Joe Biden's platform, asking them to put reform proposals front and center.

Democracy reform groups to Biden: Don't you forget about us

Democracy reform advocates have gone public with a concern they've been harboring privately for months: Joe Biden and the Democrats are not making fix-the-system proposals a big enough part of their campaign.

A coalition of 29 groups pressed the party's platform committee on Monday "to adopt a sweeping pro-democracy set of reforms, and make their passage and implementation a top priority in 2021."

Although Biden is viewed as a reliable supporter of items on the group's agenda — expanding voting rights, curbing money's sway over campaigns, bolstering government ethics and calibrating the balance of power — the former vice president is seen by advocacy groups as giving such desires insufficient notice. With the campaign now galvanized by the coronavirus pandemic and its crippling of the economy, the ability of other issues to break through could prove extremely difficult.

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Government Ethics

Claim: Ivanka Trump violated an ethics rule by promoting Goya products. Fact check: True.

White House adviser and presidential daughter Ivanka Trump posted a photo of herself holding a can of Goya black beans on Twitter last week, including the caption in both English and Spanish: "If it's Goya, it has to be good." The post came after intense criticism of the brand from consumers and Hispanic leaders after CEO Robert Unanue praised President Trump in a Rose Garden event. Unanue said the country is "truly blessed" to have a leader like Trump.

Trump later posted a similar image of him with an array of Goya products sitting on the Resolute Desk. Both of these posts were in direct response to the blowback from Unanue's statements.

Ivanka Trump likely violated a misuse of position ethics guideline that prohibits executive branch employees from using their status to endorse commercial products: "An employee's position or title should not be used to coerce; to endorse any product, service or enterprise; or to give the appearance of governmental sanction." The president is generally exempt from such rules.

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Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, asserted that because Ivanka has her official title in her Twitter bio, the endorsement and her executive branch position are strongly linked and make the violation more probable.

The advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) filed an ethics complaint against Ivanka on Friday. "This is not just about beans; it's another example of a disturbing pattern of this administration acting to benefit the businesses of the president's supporters," CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.