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Paul Manafort

Manafort campaign finance allegations scuttled by FEC deadlock

Allegations that Paul Manafort orchestrated a scheme to funnel money to several Republican members of Congress from Ukrainians aligned with Russia have been dismissed by the Federal Election Commission.

It was the first FEC foreign money inquiry originating from the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, and it was an outgrowth of last year's conviction of Manafort in a case that centered on his illegal lobbying enterprises before he was Donald Trump's presidential campaign manager.

The two Republican commissioners voted to follow a staff recommendation to drop the case, Bloomberg Government reported. The two commissioners in seats reserved for Democrats voted to proceed.

One of them, Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, said in a statement posted by the agency Friday that there was ample evidence to support a full-fledged inquiry into whether a Manafort client, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Party of Regions, provided money to lobbyists that was then donated to several GOP lawmakers (without their knowledge of its source). Foreign contributions, and donations funneled through a third party, are against the law.

The FEC staff said the lobbyists working for Manafort should be taken at their word that they used their own money to make the donations.

"If Manafort and his foreign clients obeyed campaign finance law here, it was just about the only law they did obey," Weintraub said. "The commission should not have given a convicted criminal and fraudster the benefit of the doubt."

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of democracy reform bills this week.

California governor signs three political reform bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Tuesday three democracy reform bills focused on local redistricting, voting access and campaign contributions.

The first piece of legislation prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level by establishing criteria for cities and counties to use when adjusting district boundaries. While California is the largest state to use an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional and state district maps, local districts did not have the same regulations.

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Gov. Ralph Northam used his executive authority to restore voting rights for felons, noting that Virginia is among the states that permanently strips such rights after a felony conviction.

Virginia governor restores voting rights to over 22,000 felons

More than 22,000 Virginians with felony convictions have regained the right to vote thanks to executive actions taken by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam since he took office in January 2018, his office announced this week.

In a statement, Northam's office said he has so far restored the civil rights of 22,205 people who had been convicted of felonies and have since completed their sentences. Those civil rights include the right to vote as well as the right to serve on juries, run for public office and become a notary public.

Northam previously announced in February that nearly 11,000 convicted felons had their voting rights restored under his watch.

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