September 17, 2021 •
National/Federal Delta Variant Postpones K Street’s Full Return MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 9/14/2021 On the cusp of Memorial Day back in May, most lobbyists were gearing up for a more normal return to their in-person work life, […]
Delta Variant Postpones K Street’s Full Return
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 9/14/2021
On the cusp of Memorial Day back in May, most lobbyists were gearing up for a more normal return to their in-person work life, as they began to reemerge for meetings on Capitol Hill and sessions with clients and colleagues. The rise of the delta variant, however, has prompted most firms to postpone requirements for employees to return to the office, and many K Street denizens said most of their advocacy activities and team meetings remain virtual.
Election Fraud Cases Sow Doubts About Legal Profession’s Future
Bloomberg Law – Melissa Heelan | Published: 9/14/2021
Attorneys behind dismissed cases over alleged fraud in the 2020 presidential election have been cited for violating professional standards requiring candor in the courtroom and barring the filing of lawsuits not backed up by fact or law. Charles Geyh, a legal ethics professor at Indiana University, said courts rose to the occasion, but the discipline might not be enough to stop lawyers from being involved in similar challenges in the future. No one’s been disbarred yet despite calls from some for severe discipline. Sanctions range from a temporary license suspension for Rudy Giuliani to judicial dressing downs and orders to pay court costs.
FEC Finds Twitter Didn’t Break Law by Blocking Spread of Hunter Biden Story
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher and Kate Conger | Published: 9/13/2021
The FEC ruled Twitter did not break election laws when it blocked users from sharing links to a New York Post story about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. The FEC said Twitter’s actions in blocking the spread of the article were made with valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, making them legal, a decision that is likely to set a precedent for future cases involving social media sites and federal campaigns. The FEC used the same reasoning to side with Snapchat and reject a complaint from the Trump campaign. The campaign argued the company provided an improper gift to Biden by rejecting Trump from its Discover platform.
Fed’s Kaplan, Rosengren to Sell All Stocks Amid Ethics Concerns
MSN – Catarina Saraiva and Craig Torres (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/10/2021
The presidents of the Federal Reserve banks of Boston and Dallas said they are selling their individual stock holdings by September 30, in moves aimed at appeasing ethical concerns over their trading activity last year. Boston Fed chief Eric Rosengren and the Dallas Fed’s Robert Kaplan released near-identical statements after their most recent financial disclosure documents showed active trading in a range of investments during a year in which the central bank took sweeping policy actions to protect the U.S. economy from Covid-19. They both said they would invest the proceeds of their sales in diversified index funds or hold them in cash.
Former Chancellor Philip Hammond Cleared of Breaking Rules After His Lobbying of Treasury Was Ruled Only ‘Incidental’
Yahoo News – Henry Dyer (Business Insider) | Published: 9/10/2021
Lord Philip Hammond, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, was cleared of breaking lobbying rules when he contacted a senior Treasury official on behalf of a bank he was working for. Former ministers are generally barred from trying to influence the government on behalf of clients. But Hammond’s activity was deemed acceptable by an independent regulator on the grounds it was “incidental.” Critics said the ruling highlights flaws in the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act, passed in 2014.
Giuliani Associate Igor Fruman Pleads Guilty in Campaign-Finance Case
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2021
A Soviet-born businessperson who assisted Rudolph Giuliani in his Ukrainian political efforts on behalf of former President Trump pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, as others charged in the case prepare to stand trial. Igor Fruman, who was arrested with co-defendant Lev Parnas at Dulles International Airport in 2019, entered a guilty plea to one count of soliciting foreign campaign contributions.
GOP Online Donation Platform Tweaks Fees, Sending Millions More to Midterm Campaigns
Yahoo News – Isaac Isenstadt (Politico) | Published: 9/16/2021
Republicans are making a small change to their online fundraising program that could have a big impact on the party’s finances heading into the 2022 midterm election. WinRed, the GOP’s principal small-dollar donation processor, is lowering the fees it charges candidates and committees for each contribution they receive through the platform. The shift, which follows months of behind-the-scenes deliberations involving the party’s senior officials, could result in millions of dollars more being funneled into campaign coffers next year.
GOP Senate Candidates Backed Legal Challenges to the 2020 Election
MSN – Bridget Bowman (Roll Call) | Published: 9/15/2021
At least nine Republican U.S. Senate candidates have a political résumé with a contentious item: filing or actively supporting one of the failed lawsuits that furthered former President Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rife with fraud. Since many GOP candidates support Trump’s claims, participating in lawsuits could help some stand out in crowded Republican primaries, where they need to win over Trump supporters who say voter fraud played a role in President Biden’s win. Some Democrats think focusing on the 2020 election could be a liability for Republicans in the midterms with voters who rejected Trump’s divisive rhetoric or his unfounded concerns about the validity of the last election.
McCarthy Asks Supreme Court to Overturn House Proxy Voting Rules Adopted as Pandemic Precaution and Used by Nearly 100 Republicans
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 9/10/2021
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review and overturn the House’s proxy voting rules, which were adopted last year to allow lawmakers to cast votes remotely as a pandemic precaution. McCarthy criticized proxy voting as a “power grab” and “a raw abuse of power” by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who along with many Democrats pushed for the historic rule change at the beginning of the pandemic.
Revised Democratic Voting Bill Drops Controversial Provisions, Tweaks Others as Pressure for Action Mounts
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 9/14/2021
A group of Democratic senators, including key centrist Joe Manchin III, introduced a pared-down voting rights, campaign finance, and government ethics bill in hopes of building momentum for its passage through a closely divided Senate. The new Freedom to Vote Act retains significant portions of the For the People Act, Democrats’ marquee voting legislation that passed the House this year but was blocked by a Senate filibuster. Tt also discards significant pieces and tweaks others, largely to placate Manchin and indulge his hopes of building enough Republican support to pass the bill.
Struggle for Control of Afghanistan Comes to K Street
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 9/15/2021
A leading figure in the Afghan resistance has retained a lobbyist to seek military and financial support in the U.S. for a fight against the Taliban. Ahmad Massoud, the leader of one of the most prominent groups of fighters seeking to oust the Taliban from power, signed the contract with Robert Stryk, who built a lobbying practice during the Trump administration working with clients that others on K Street were wary of representing. The contract, which indicates the work will be pro bono, comes as an array of Afghan constituencies are seeking lobbying help as they jockey for recognition in Washington and the international community.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – GOP Lawmaker Who Refused to Follow Mask Mandate While Flying Says She Can’t Get to the Alaskan Capital
MSN – Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2021
An Alaska lawmaker requested an excusal from the state Senate until mid-January, citing the challenges of traveling to Juneau from Anchorage after she was suspended from flying on Alaska Airlines earlier this year. Sen. Lora Reinbold requested the excusal through January 15. She said she was unaware of any other airline flying to the state capital during that period. The airline banned her indefinitely in the spring after she clashed with staffers over the airline mask mandate issued by federal transportation officials.
Arkansas – Dentist Guilty of Conspiring to Bribe Former Arkansas Lawmaker Hutchinson
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Ron Wood | Published: 9/14/2021
Benjamin Burris, an orthodontist who operated clinics across Arkansas, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of bribing former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson to pass laws to benefit Burris’s businesses. Burris paid Hutchinson $157,500 between February 2014 and November 2016. Hutchinson, then a practicing lawyer, was paid monthly retainers that nominally were for legal services. But he was also expected to introduce and lobby for laws or regulatory changes Burris wanted, the indictment said.
California – Newsom Soundly Defeats California Recall Attempt
MSN – Phil Willon, Taryn Luna, and Julia Wick (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/14/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom survived a historic recall election, winning a major vote of confidence during a COVID-19 pandemic that has tested his ability to lead the state through the largest worldwide health crisis in modern times. The recall offered Republicans their best chance in more than a decade to take the helm of the largest state. But the effort was undercut when Newsom and the nation’s leading Democrats, aided by visits to California by President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, portrayed the campaign to oust the governor as a “life and death” battle against “Trumpism” and far-right anti-vaccine activists.
California – Recology Agrees to Pay $36 Million for Role in Bribes to City Official
MSN – Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 9/10/2021
Three waste management companies that are part of Recology Inc. agreed to pay $36 million for their role in a corruption scheme that included kickbacks to former San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. The resolution comes as federal prosecutors announced a charge of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud against the three subsidiaries, which officials said conspired to bribe Nuru for favorable treatment with the trash company’s city contracts. In his former role, Nuru had considerable sway in the rate-setting process with Recology.
Colorado – Unregistered Redistricting Lobbying Complaint to Receive Full Investigation After Colorado Secretary of State Approves Probe
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 9/15/2021
An investigation into whether a secretly funded nonprofit organization has been illegally lobbying Colorado’s redistricting commissioners will move forward after the secretary of state found enough evidence to warrant a full probe. The decision to further investigate Colorado Neighborhood Coalition, the 501c4 nonprofit organization run by longtime Republican operatives at the center of the complaint, could have broad implications for the transparency now required around the redistricting process, and comes after several efforts to influence the redistricting commissions without full transparency have emerged.
Florida – Florida Official Sentence to 5 Years in Corruption Case
MSN – Brendan Farrington (Associated Press) | Published: 9/9/2021
A federal judge sentenced former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges related to public corruption. Maddox’s business associate, Paige Carte-Smith, was sentenced to two years for her role. Prosecutors said Maddox would send clients to Carter-Smith’s lobbying firm after he returned to the city commission in 2012, and she would then pay Maddox for his influence. Maddox was first elected to the commission in 1990 and later served as the Tallahassee mayor until 2003.
Florida – Tallahassee City Commissioner Calls for Ethics Reforms Following Maddox Trial
WFSU – Valerie Crowder | Published: 9/10/2021
A former Tallahassee commissioner’s public corruption trial has sparked calls for ethics reform. Former Commissioner Scott Maddox was sentenced to five years in federal prison for orchestrating a bribery scheme through his lobbying firm. City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow is proposing six policy recommendations aimed at making it harder for public officials to abuse their power. They include requiring all city officials to detail any meetings related to city business they have with paid lobbyists and report contact logs with anyone paid to influence policy.
Hawaii – What Civil Beat’s Salary Database Tells Us About the Embattled Auditor’s Office
Honolulu Civil Beat – Richard Wiens | Published: 9/12/2021
When the Honolulu Civil Beat published the salaries and job titles of more than 48,000 state workers, they included the payrolls of two agencies whose directors have made a lot of headlines lately: the state auditor’s office and the Hawaii Ethics Commission. Auditor Les Kondo has been under fire from a working group that found his office was producing inadequate performance audits. Ethics Commission Director Dan Gluck generated controversy after he was nominated to become a judge on the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals. The salary database shows how the offices led by Kondo and Gluck have evolved over the last decade.
Idaho – Former Idaho Legislator Faces Arrest Warrant on Two Felony Charges – Including Rape
Idaho Statesman – Hayat Norimine | Published: 9/10/2021
The former Idaho legislator who resigned earlier this year after a House ethics committee hearing now faces two felony charges, including one for rape. An arrest warrant has been issued for former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, who stepped down after a 19-year-old legislative intern’s accusation of sexual assault. Von Ehlinger has denied any wrongdoing, saying his actions with the intern were consensual. He resigned just hours after the ethics panel recommended expelling him from his seat, following a finding he engaged in “conduct unbecoming.”
Illinois – Chicago Sky Owner Michael Alter Fined by City Ethics Board for Seeking Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Help on Gambling License Without Registering as a Lobbyist
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/15/2021
Michael Alter, owner of the Chicago Sky basketball team in the WNBA, was fined $5,000 for lobbying Mayor Lori Lightfoot without registering. Alter emailed first lady Amy Eshleman in December to ask for the mayor’s help obtaining a gambling license for his team. In the email, Alter noted he previously discussed the issue with Lightfoot. Lobbyists are required to register with the city and report contact with city departments. Alter has not registered as a lobbyist in Chicago dating back to 2013.
Illinois – Ethics Bill Clears Illinois House on Second Try, Will Head Back to Governor
Journal Gazette and Times-Courier – Peter Hancock (Capitol News Illinois) | Published: 9/9/2021
The Illinois House voted to accept changes to an ethics bill that Gov. J.B. Pritzker requested, paving the way for it to become law once the governor signs it. Senate Bill 539 cleared both chambers during the spring session. It contained enough reforms, such as increased financial disclosure requirements and limits on the ability of elected officials to lobby other units of government, so many lawmakers believed it was the best they could get at the time. But a few weeks after it passed, Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope submitted her intent to resign, saying the bill would weaken her office by limiting the types of investigations she could conduct.
Illinois – Ethics Board Finds Probable Cause Ald. Gardiner Violated Ethics Ordinance Twice
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 9/15/2021
The Chicago Board of Ethics found there is probable cause to believe Ald. Jim Gardiner violated the city’s ethics ordinance by using his office to retaliate against his political foes. Gardiner will have a chance to challenge the board’s determination, which could result in fines ranging between $200 to $5,000 per violation. The finding adds to the beleaguered alderman’s woes. It was reported that Gardiner is under federal investigation for allegedly accepting bribes and demanding payments before taking official actions.
Kentucky – Woman Pleads Guilty to Lying About Boss’s Lexington Council Campaign Donation Scheme
MSN – Jeremy Chisenhall (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 9/15/2021
Elizabeth Stormbringer pleaded guilty to perjury and lying to the FBI in a scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws in a Lexington City Council race. Officials at the time were investigating potential campaign finance crimes committed by her boss at a real estate development company. She also admitted to lying under oath while she testified before the grand jury. Investigators discovered she made a $1,000 donation to a council candidate in 2018 and then received a $1,000 check from her boss, Timothy Wellman. He was an executive at CRM Companies who had a development project the council considered.
Louisiana – Former State Parks Employee Fined for Violating Ethics Laws
KATC – Staff | Published: 9/13/2021
The Louisiana Board of Ethics fined a former parks employee $26,000 after finding he accepted payments from production companies filming in his park in violation of state law. Arthur Schick worked for an agency within the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. The board found he received a total of $13,000 in compensation from various film production companies between 2015 and 2017. When a production company signs an agreement to use a park, they pay a damage fee to cover any costs incurred by their work. The board said Schick was adding on a “site rep” fee, and he was depositing that in his own bank account.
Maryland – Maryland Elections Officials Ask Michael Steele to Prove He’s Following Campaign Law
MSN – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/14/2021
Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor who is contemplating a run for governor, must disclose information about his exploratory campaign to show he is not violating campaign finance laws. The Maryland State Board of Elections sent a letter to Steele requesting the details by October 11. It came in response to a complaint that Steele was improperly using a federal account to raise and spend money for a future state campaign in Maryland.
Massachusetts – Campaign Finance Reform Pitched as Way to Diversify Candidate Pool
WWLP – Chris Lisinski (State House News Service) | Published: 9/15/2021
Lawmakers are again pushing to add childcare to the list of allowable campaign finance expenses in Massachusetts, buoyed by a legislative commission’s endorsement of the change last year, a growing list of more than a dozen states that have already deployed similar reforms, and the possibility that a new top campaign finance regulator will embrace the proposal. A bill before the Election Laws Committee would explicitly allow candidates to use their campaign accounts to cover childcare costs while the parent is occupied with running for office.
Massachusetts – Former Top House Democrat Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Fraud
WWLP – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 9/15/2021
A federal judge sentenced former Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle to 15 months after Nangle pleaded guilty earlier this year to illegally using campaign funds to fund a lifestyle that included golf club memberships and casino trips to Connecticut and lying to banks about his debt to obtain mortgages and other loans. Prosecutors said during the period covered by their investigation, Nangle was heavily in debt and gambling at various casinos, using campaign funds to rent cars to travel to casinos and even paying someone at Mohegan Sun to collect his winnings so he did not have to pay income taxes.
Massachusetts – Wu and Essaibi George Will Advance as Top Candidates in Historic Race for Boston Mayor
MSN – Emma Platoff (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/15/2021
Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George, two daughters of immigrants and longtime Boston City Council members who have struck dramatically different tones on the campaign trail to become the city’s next mayor, are advancing to November’s general election. Either would be the first woman of color Boston has ever elected mayor, a historic shift. But the contest between them will nonetheless test the city’s appetite for change.
Michigan – FBI Seized Towing Docs, Electronics and Records for Benson Aide During Detroit City Hall Raid
Detroit News – Robert Snell and Sarah Rahal | Published: 9/14/2021
FBI agents investigating Detroit City Hall corruption seized electronics, towing paperwork, shredded documents, and payroll records for Emberly Vick, an aide of Detroit City Councilperson Scott Benson, during a recent raid. The document confirms media reports that said the corruption investigation was focused on Detroit towing operations in what amounts to the broadest public corruption probe in the eight years since former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of racketeering conspiracy. Vick has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
New Jersey – Activist Assails ELEC for Deleting Dismissed Campaign Finance Complaints from Its Website
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 9/14/2021
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) has for years quietly been disposing complaints against politicians it dismissed by deleting them from its website. Now, after an activist whose tips to the commission led to multicount complaints against two Democrats noticed those complaints were dismissed with no public justification and little public disclosure, ELEC said it is taking that policy “under advisement.”
New Mexico – Gonzales Shifts Course, Turns to Private Donors
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 9/14/2021
Hours after losing another round in his prolonged legal fight for public campaign financing, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said he will try a new tack in the 2021 mayor’s race in Albuquerque. Gonzales said he would turn to private donors for support, forgoing his quest to get taxpayer money for his campaign. The decision concludes his monthslong battle over $600,000 in public campaign cash. Gonzales’ battle sustained a blow when a state judge ruled City Clerk Ethan Watson had taken the appropriate actions necessary to deny Gonzales the taxpayer money and rejected Gonzales’ claims that Watson was biased.
New York – Hochul Leaves Door Open to Probe of Cuomo Campaign Spending
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 9/9/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is leaving the door open for a potential investigation into how former Gov. Andrew Cuomo is spending roughly $18 million of campaign cash after he resigned from office in the wake of an investigation that found he sexually harassed multiple women. The response comes as watchdogs are calling for the state Board of Election chief enforcement officer Michael Johnson to investigate Cuomo’s spending from his campaign account. Common Cause filed a formal complaint with the Board of Elections.
New York – James Says JCOPE Leak Referral Was Improper
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg and Joshua Solomon | Published: 9/14/2021
New York Attorney General Letitia James informed the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) that her office will not presently be able to investigate the leak of confidential information to then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019. JCOPE had passed a motion seeking to make a criminal referral to James’ office, which asked for an investigation into the apparent leak. In her letter, James cited the state law creating JCOPE, which created much-criticized special voting rules that can serve to protect politicians from scrutiny.
North Carolina – NC Lawmakers Turn to Funding Once Ruled Unethical. Are Their $14,000 Salaries the Cause?
MSN – Lucille Sherman (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 9/13/2021
Last fall, North Carolina lawmakers repealed a rule that barred lawmakers from collecting state money to cover food, lodging, and travel while working at the General Assembly and simultaneously using campaign accounts to pay for the same housing, meals, and travel in Raleigh, a practice that a campaign watchdog has described as “double dipping.” The move protected at least two lawmakers who had continued to use campaign funds for housing while collecting the state per diem stipends for food and lodging, between May and October last year. This year, about a dozen lawmakers have used both sources of funding.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania GOP Lawmakers Approve Wide-Ranging Subpoenas for Personal Information of 2020 Voters
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2021
Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania authorized a series of broad subpoenas for personal information on voters as part of an expanding effort to review the results of the 2020 election. The move drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats, who described the effort as insecure and unwarranted, said they would consider mounting a court fight. Among other requests, Republicans are seeking the names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses, and methods of voting for millions of people who cast ballots in the May primary and the November general election.
Tennessee – Tennessee Valley Authority Accused of Funding ‘Dirty Energy Lobbyists’
Courthouse News Service – Rosana Hughes | Published: 9/9/2021
In a federal lawsuit, a coalition of environmental conservation groups are seeking to force the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to address a petition to regulate the agency’s spending, alleging the public utility funds “dirty energy lobbyists” with customer money. The coalition sifted through the TVA’s financial and other public records and counted hundreds of third-party organizations, such as the Edison Electric Institute, that receive TVA dollars. Those organizations, the conservationists say, “routinely make political donations, engage in legislative lobbying, … and pursue other forms of political advocacy that promote fossil fuel interests ….”
Texas – Austin ISD Stands by Hire of Ex-State Official Who Resigned Amid Ethics Allegations
MSN – Nicole Foy (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 9/10/2021
Austin Independent School District leaders say they are standing behind the decision to hire as general counsel a former state government official who resigned in 2017 amid allegations of ethics violations. The district hired Stuart Bowen, a lawyer and former Texas Health and Human Services inspector general, as its general counsel in August. Bowen in 2017 was forced to resign his position as the state’s top insurance fraud investigator after allegations arose that he was also working for a lobbying firm that represents the Iraqi government.
Texas – Texas Governor Signs Bill Prohibiting Social Media Giants from Blocking Users Based on Viewpoint
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2021
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that would prohibit large technology companies from blocking or restricting people or their posts based on their viewpoint, setting the stage for a legal battle with the tech industry. The law applies to social media companies with more than 50 million monthly active users in the U.S., including Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube, and requires them to create reports on any illegal or potentially policy-violating content, as well as build a complaint system, where people could challenge companies’ decisions to remove content or flag illegal activity.
Virginia – Campaign Funds Can Be Used for Child Care, Virginia AG Says
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 9/10/2021
Attorney General Mark Herring said candidates in Virginia can use campaign funds to pay campaign-related child-care expenses, an opinion that puts the state in alignment with federal election rules but has little immediate impact due to Virginia’s anything-goes campaign finance system. Proponents of the child-care exemption say it gives parents of young children, particularly women, more freedom to run for office without worrying about a hit to their family budget.
Wisconsin – How Wisconsin Is Ruled by a Shadow Governor
Yahoo News – Daniel Vock (Politico) | Published: 9/15/2021
For nearly three years, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has used his GOP majority, and the support of the Republicans who control the state Senate, to block, thwart, or resist almost every significant move made by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Governors asserted unprecedented powers in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and lawmakers in many states chafed at the broad executive reach. But few have done more to constrain gubernatorial power than Vos, the president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
September 16, 2021 •
Campaign Finance New Jersey: “Activist Assails ELEC for Deleting Dismissed Campaign Finance Complaints from Its Website” by Matt Friedman for Politico New Mexico: “Gonzales Shifts Course, Turns to Private Donors” by Jessica Dyer for Albuquerque Journal Elections Massachusetts: “Wu and […]
New Jersey: “Activist Assails ELEC for Deleting Dismissed Campaign Finance Complaints from Its Website” by Matt Friedman for Politico
New Mexico: “Gonzales Shifts Course, Turns to Private Donors” by Jessica Dyer for Albuquerque Journal
Massachusetts: “Wu and Essaibi George Will Advance as Top Candidates in Historic Race for Boston Mayor” by Emma Platoff (Boston Globe) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania GOP Lawmakers Approve Wide-Ranging Subpoenas for Personal Information of 2020 Voters” by Elise Viebeck and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Fed’s Kaplan, Rosengren to Sell All Stocks Amid Ethics Concerns” by Catarina Saraiva and Craig Torres (Bloomberg) for MSN
Illinois: “Ethics Board Finds Probable Cause Ald. Gardiner Violated Ethics Ordinance Twice” by Heather Cherone for WTTW
Louisiana: “Former State Parks Employee Fined for Violating Ethics Laws” by Staff for KATC
Wisconsin: “How Wisconsin Is Ruled by a Shadow Governor” by Daniel Vock (Politico) for Yahoo News
Colorado: “Unregistered Redistricting Lobbying Complaint to Receive Full Investigation After Colorado Secretary of State Approves Probe” by Evan Wyloge for Colorado Springs Gazette
Illinois: “Chicago Sky Owner Michael Alter Fined by City Ethics Board for Seeking Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Help on Gambling License Without Registering as a Lobbyist” by Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
September 15, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Maryland: “Maryland Elections Officials Ask Michael Steele to Prove He’s Following Campaign Law” by Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) for MSN Elections National: “Election Fraud Cases Sow Doubts About Legal Profession’s Future” by Melissa Heelan for Bloomberg Law National: […]
Maryland: “Maryland Elections Officials Ask Michael Steele to Prove He’s Following Campaign Law” by Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) for MSN
National: “Election Fraud Cases Sow Doubts About Legal Profession’s Future” by Melissa Heelan for Bloomberg Law
National: “Revised Democratic Voting Bill Drops Controversial Provisions, Tweaks Others as Pressure for Action Mounts” by Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Newsom Soundly Defeats California Recall Attempt” by Phil Willon, Taryn Luna, and Julia Wick (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Arkansas: “Dentist Guilty of Conspiring to Bribe Former Arkansas Lawmaker Hutchinson” by Ron Wood for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
New York: “James Says JCOPE Leak Referral Was Improper” by Chris Bragg and Joshua Solomon for Albany Times Union
Texas: “Texas Governor Signs Bill Prohibiting Social Media Giants from Blocking Users Based on Viewpoint” by Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Delta Variant Postpones K Street’s Full Return” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
September 14, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “FEC Finds Twitter Didn’t Break Law by Blocking Spread of Hunter Biden Story” by Mychael Schnell (The Hill) for MSN New York: “Hochul Leaves Door Open to Probe of Cuomo Campaign Spending” by Joshua Solomon for Albany […]
National: “FEC Finds Twitter Didn’t Break Law by Blocking Spread of Hunter Biden Story” by Mychael Schnell (The Hill) for MSN
New York: “Hochul Leaves Door Open to Probe of Cuomo Campaign Spending” by Joshua Solomon for Albany Times Union
Virginia: “Campaign Funds Can Be Used for Child Care, Virginia AG Says” by Graham Moomaw for Virginia Mercury
California: “Recology Agrees to Pay $36 Million for Role in Bribes to City Official” by Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
Florida: “Tallahassee City Commissioner Calls for Ethics Reforms Following Maddox Trial” by Valerie Crowder for WFSU
North Carolina: “NC Lawmakers Turn to Funding Once Ruled Unethical. Are Their $14,000 Salaries the Cause?” by Lucille Sherman (Raleigh News and Observer) for MSN
Europe: “Former Chancellor Philip Hammond Cleared of Breaking Rules After His Lobbying of Treasury Was Ruled Only ‘Incidental’” by Henry Dyer (Business Insider) for Yahoo News
Texas: “Austin ISD Stands by Hire of Ex-State Official Who Resigned Amid Ethics Allegations” by Nicole Foy (Austin American-Statesman) for MSN
September 13, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Giuliani Associate Igor Fruman Pleads Guilty in Campaign-Finance Case” by Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) for MSN Florida: “Dems Gave $700K to Dark-Money Group That Helped Republicans Win Races in ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scandal” by Jason Garcia and Annie […]
National: “Giuliani Associate Igor Fruman Pleads Guilty in Campaign-Finance Case” by Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Dems Gave $700K to Dark-Money Group That Helped Republicans Win Races in ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scandal” by Jason Garcia and Annie Martin for Orlando Sentinel
Florida: “Florida Official Sentence to 5 Years in Corruption Case” by Brendan Farrington (Associated Press) for MSN
Hawaii: “What Civil Beat’s Salary Database Tells Us About the Embattled Auditor’s Office” by Richard Wiens for Honolulu Civil Beat
Idaho: “Former Idaho Legislator Faces Arrest Warrant on Two Felony Charges – Including Rape” by Hayat Norimine for Idaho Statesman
Illinois: “Ethics Bill Clears Illinois House on Second Try, Will Head Back to Governor” by Peter Hancock (Capitol News Illinois) for Journal Gazette and Times-Courier
Alaska: “GOP Lawmaker Who Refused to Follow Mask Mandate While Flying Says She Can’t Get to the Alaskan Capital” by Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) for MSN
Tennessee: “Tennessee Valley Authority Accused of Funding ‘Dirty Energy Lobbyists’” by Rosana Hughes for Courthouse News Service
September 10, 2021 •
National/Federal A Pro-Trump Group Organizing a DC Rally for Jan. 6 Defendants Lost Its Tax-Exempt Status – but Is Still Claiming Donations Are Tax-Deductible Yahoo News – Charles Davis (Business Insider) | Published: 9/8/2021 A group founded by a former Trump […]
A Pro-Trump Group Organizing a DC Rally for Jan. 6 Defendants Lost Its Tax-Exempt Status – but Is Still Claiming Donations Are Tax-Deductible
Yahoo News – Charles Davis (Business Insider) | Published: 9/8/2021
A group founded by a former Trump campaign staffer that is organizing a rally on behalf of January 6 defendants is soliciting “tax-deductible” contributions despite losing its tax-exempt status last year. According to its website, Look Ahead America is a “non-profit organization” founded by Matt Braynard, a former data analyst on the 2016 Trump campaign. Although ostensibly non-partisan, it has clear and avowed sympathies, On September 18, it is organizing what it calls a “#JusticeForJ6” rally at the U.S. Capitol, conflating those arrested for taking part in the pro-Trump January 6 riot with “political prisoners.”
Corporate Boards, Consulting, Speaking Fees: How U.S. generals thrived after Afghanistan
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/4/2021
The failure of the American mission in Afghanistan became deadly apparent when the Afghan army collapsed as the Taliban took control. But the generals who led the mission – including McChrystal, who sought and supervised the 2009 American troop surge – have thrived in the private sector since leaving the war. They have amassed influence within businesses, at universities, and in think tanks, in some cases selling their experience in a conflict that killed an estimated 176,000 people, cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion, and concluded with the restoration of Taliban rule.
Encryption Poised to Hamper Jan. 6 Investigators’ Phone Records Push
Yahoo News – Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 9/8/2021
The congressional panel investigating the January 6 insurrection escalated its inquiry, sending dozens of requests to social media and telecommunications companies asking them to hold onto individuals’ communications data related to attempts to overturn the 2020 election and the Capitol siege. Several of the companies that received preservation requests said they would comply to the best of their ability. But the encryption used on many of those services will limit the amount of data the select committee is able to gather if it does make a formal request or issue a subpoena for the actual messages, experts say.
Ethics Panel Announces Four Investigations
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 9/7/2021
The U.S. House ethics committee announced it is investigating four members: Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.), and Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.). The cases were investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which concluded that in each case there was a substantial reason to believe a violation occurred. The OCE is a fact-finding office and, unlike the ethics committee, cannot discipline members or issue subpoenas.
Fears of Critical Race Theory Unleash Army of School Board Candidates
Yahoo News – Daniel Payne (Politico) | Published: 9/8/2021
Tapping into the trickle-up anger over teaching about systemic racism is now a unifying force in campaigns for Congress, governor, and among Republicans with presidential ambitions. But it is the local school board races – outside the spotlight, in elections that attract just a few hundred voters – that may define what students learn for years to come. The movement has the potential to build a stronger GOP as once-uninvolved conservative candidates flood local government and party races, seeking a platform to fight critical race theory and other culture war issues. While such elections are often nonpartisan, the Republican Party sees an opportunity to build a pipeline of new candidates.
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Fined $2,500 for Failing to Wear Mask on House Floor
MSN – Chelsey Cox (USA Today) | Published: 9/9/2021
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was fined for flouting a mask mandate on the floor of the House. The fine is part of an ongoing battle over COVID-19 restrictions as the delta variant surges, with many conservatives, including members of Congress, stridently resisting masks and other measures. Notice of the fine was posted by the House ethics committee when Greene did not submit an appeal within an approved time frame. Greene was fined for the same offense on May 20 and her initial appeal was not approved by the committee.
Human Rights Campaign President Fired After Helping to Advise Cuomo
MSN – Brian Pietsch and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 9/7/2021
The president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group, was fired over his involvement advising former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s response to sexual assault allegations. State Attorney General Letitia James found David, a onetime lawyer in the governor’s office, had been consulted by Cuomo’s staff on a letter the governor helped draft to undermine the harassment allegations of Lindsey Boylan, Cuomo’s first accuser. While leading the HRC, David suggested changes to the never-released Boylan letter, which was later leaked to reporters.
New Texas Voting Bill Deepens Growing Disparities in How Americans Can Cast Their Ballots
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2021
Red and blue states are increasingly moving in opposite directions on how millions of Americans can cast their ballots, exacerbating a growing divide as Republicans in states across the country, most recently Texas, impose new voting restrictions, while Democrats in others expand access. The conflicting trends are widening the disparities in election policy in the wake of the 2020 election, with Republicans heeding former President Trump’s calls to tighten rules and Democrats moving to make permanent many voting policies that helped turnout soar during the pandemic.
Proponents of Post-Trump Curbs on Executive Power Prepare New Push
Yahoo News – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 9/9/2021
As Donald Trump’s norm-busting presidency careened through two impeachments, his departure set the stage for lawmakers to impose new limits on executive power like the period after Watergate and the Vietnam War. But nearly nine months after Trump left the White House, the legal rules that govern the presidency have yet to be tightened. Would-be reformers, sensing the window for change might close soon, are preparing a major push, one the Biden White House is eyeing warily.
Trump-Appointed Ambassador Directed Government Business to His Hotel, Emails Show
MSN – Amy Wang and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 9/3/2021
Kelly Craft, who was appointed to two ambassadorships under former President Trump, directed government business to Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C. while in office, emails show. It was not the first time Craft showed an affinity for the hotel owned by Trump’s company. According to the emails, Craft stayed at the Trump International Hotel multiple times while in Washington.
White House Asks Several Trump Appointees to Resign from Military Service Academy Boards
MSN – Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2021
The White House said it asked a number of Trump administration appointees to resign their positions on the advisory boards at military service academies, arguing the move was about qualifications, not politics. Among the 11 officials are former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and former White House Press Secretary Sean Spice. Asked whether the White House was concerned the move might risk politicizing positions that have traditionally been nonpartisan roles spanning administrations, Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that the president’s primary concern was an appointee’s qualifications and values.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Supreme Court Confirms an End to 2 Limits on Cash in Political Campaigns
Yahoo News – James Brooks (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 9/3/2021
In a pair of rulings, the Alaska Supreme Court confirmed that two state limits on spending during political campaigns are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The justices said the state cannot limit political contributions to third-party groups because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. The other ruling confirms a summary order issued that overturned a one dollar-per-signature limit on payments to those who gather signatures for ballot measures.
Arizona – Trump Helped Bankroll Senate Audit, Texts Suggest
Arizona Capitol Times – Dillon Rosenblatt and Kyra Haas | Published: 8/31/2021
Former President Trump may have offered to help pay for Arizona election audit that supporters hope will reverse his election loss, according to records. In an April text exchange with audit spokesperson Randy Pullen, Trump campaign official and former Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit offered to send $175,000 to the Guardian Defense Fund, a “dark-money” group run by Rep. Mark Finchem, where Pullen serves as treasurer. It is unclear if Trump’s money eventually made it to the audit. The Senate’s contractor, Cyber Ninjas, announced it raised more than $5.6 million from five different nonprofit organizations, but did not share the original donors.
California – Bell City Manager, Ex-State Senator, Developer Charged in Corruption Case
Yahoo News – Richard Winston (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/3/2021
Prosecutors said four men have been charged in connection with the embezzlement and misappropriation of millions of dollars in public funds that were supposed to be used to study whether a solar farm was suitable on land to be purchased by the City of Industry. Paul Philips, the former manager of the City of Industry, former state Sen. Frank Hill, attorney Anthony Bouza, and William Barkett, the developer of the solar project, were charged. The City of Industry advanced $20 million to Barkett’s company to build a 450-megawatt solar project. But it never broke ground, and the money was never paid back. Though some of the allocated money was paid to other vendors, Barkett is accused of spending about $8.3 million on personal items.
California – Favors Aren’t Bribes, Say Ex-LA Councilman’s Attorneys
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – Fred Shuster (City News Service) | Published: 9/8/2021
Attorneys for Jose Huizar filed papers arguing the bribery case against the ex-Los Angeles City Councill member should be tossed because the alleged conduct does not violate laws cited in the 41-count federal racketeering indictment. Huizar, the central figure in a six-year probe of suspected corruption at City Hall, and his associates were allegedly involved in a $1.5 million “pay-to-play” scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for cash and campaign donations in exchange for help getting building projects through the city’s approval process.
California – Fears Rise Over Disinformation in California’s Recall Election
MSN – Reid Wilson (The Hill) | Published: 9/8/2021
Conspiracy theorists who once spread baseless allegations and disinformation about the results of the 2020 elections have turned their attention to the recall election targeting California Gov. Gavin Newsome in an effort that watchdogs say is meant to further undermine faith in the nation’s electoral system. But less than a year after technology giants came under pressure to monitor and squelch disinformation related to last year’s elections, groups dedicated to fighting conspiracy theories say the companies are letting bad actors run free.
Illinois – Republicans Upend Democratic Efforts to Show They’re Serious About Ethics Reform in Springfield
MSN – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/3/2021
In a move that appeared to catch majority Democrats by surprise, Illinois House Republicans rejected an ethics proposal tweaked by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and are using the resignation of the General Assembly’s top watchdog to push for what they argue are more meaningful anti-corruption measures. The ethics package, crafted in response to an ongoing federal corruption probe that has swept from Chicago City Hall to Springfield, now faces long odds of becoming law and Democrats who control state government risk losing a chance to show they are taking steps to root out corruption.
Maine – Portland Councilor, a Plaintiff in Lawsuit Against the City, Won’t Recuse Herself from Dispute
Portland Press Herald – Randy Billings | Published: 9/3/2021
Portland City Councilor April Fournier said she will not recuse herself from discussions about a lawsuit that clean-elections advocates filed against the city, even though she is named as a plaintiff in the case. The issue emerged as the council considered how to respond to a court’s request for formal “findings of fact” to explain why it rejected a petition to place a public campaign financing proposal on the ballot in 2019. The council decided such a change to the city’s charter would require a lengthy review process before it could go to voters. Fournier, who was not a councilor at the time, was one of 13 residents to sign on with Fair Elections Portland as plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging that decision.
Massachusetts – Former Mayor Jasiel Correia Could Owe Over $566,000 in His Fraud and Extortion Case
Herald News – Dan Medeiros | Published: 9/8/2021
The federal government has finished totaling up his tab, and they want former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia to repay $566,740 he illegally obtained from investors in his smartphone app and extorted from people looking to open marijuana businesses in Fall River. In May, Correia was found guilty of 21 counts of wire fraud, tax fraud, extortion, and conspiracy conducted both before and during his tenure as mayor.
Michigan – FBI Contacted Wayne County Campaign Finance Office Amid Raids on Detroit City Hall
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/8/2021
The FBI contacted the Wayne County clerk’s campaign finance office around the time federal agents searched Detroit City Hall in August as part of an ongoing public corruption investigation. While the exact timing and nature of the FBI’s contact is unclear, investigators’ interest in the county clerk’s office could be a new wrinkle in the corruption investigation of several sitting city council members.
Michigan – Pro-Trump Lawyers Face $200,000 Legal Bill for ‘Frivolous’ Election Case
Yahoo News – Jan Wolfe (Reuters) | Published: 9/8/2021
Michigan officials demanded that lawyers who unsuccessfully sued to overturn former President Trump’s election defeat in the state pay about $200,000 to reimburse for legal fees and related costs. U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker has ruled state and local election officials in Michigan were entitled to reimbursement of their legal fees but has not yet determined the exact amount. The judge will now review the request to determine if it is reasonable.
Michigan – Time’s Up in Ex-Romulus Mayor Probe Despite New Evidence
PressReader.com – George Hunter (Detroit News) | Published: 9/4/2021
Michigan State Police recently received new evidence in connection with an 11-year-old corruption investigation that, according to public records, focused on former Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert, but the probe was not reopened because the statute of limitations on possible criminal charges expired. Lambert, who served as mayor from 2001 to 2013 and is seeking to regain the position in November, has never been charged with a crime. The probe focused on allegations Lambert forced business owners to pay for political favors and purchase tickets to fundraisers, as well as questions about a money trail involving a Florida real estate transaction.
Montana – How a Small Town Silenced a Neo-Nazi Hate Campaign
Yahoo News – Elizabeth Williamson (New York Times) | Published: 9/5/2021
Richard Spencer once boasted he stood at the vanguard of a white nationalist movement emboldened by Donald Trump. But leaders in Whitefish, Montana, say Spencer, who once ran his National Policy Institute from his mother’s summer house in the town, is now an outcast. His organization has dissolved, and he is facing trial in over his role in the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville. Residents of Whitefish, who joined with state officials, human rights groups, and synagogues, say their bipartisan counteroffensive could hold lessons for others in an era of disinformation and intimidation, and in the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot.
Montana – Native Transgender Lobbyist Sues Conservative News Website for Libel
Missoula Current – Darrell Ehrlick (Montana Standard) | Published: 9/7/2021
Adrian Jawort, a transgender lobbyist for Montana Native Voice, is suing the Montana Daily Gazette for claiming she cornered a state senator and Montana Family Foundation President Jeff Laszloffy, who escorted the senator to the sergeant-at-arms for his protection. Jawort denied the allegations and asked the newspaper to remove the written account of the alleged incident and correct the reporting. The Daily Gazette refused to do so. Jawort filed a lawsuit, claiming the publication damaged her ability to do her job and asked for $250,000 in damages.
New Mexico – Gonzales Denied Public Campaign Funding for the Second Time
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 9/2/2021
For the second time in about two months, the Albuquerque city clerk rejected Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ application for about $600,000 in public money to run his mayoral campaign. Ethan Watson – whose initial denial on July 9 sparked a series of appeals, hearings, and court filings, wrote he would not certify Gonzales for the money because Gonzales violated city code and related regulations while trying to qualify for the funds. The sheriff’s campaign manager said Watson is biased.
New York – A Deputy Mayor in New York Had a Stash of Weapons and Fake FBI Badges with His Name and Photo on Them, Feds Say
MSN – Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2021
When authorities executing a search warrant descended into the basement of Brian Downey’s home, they discovered more than a dozen firearms displayed on a black wall, federal agents said. As officers continued searching the home of the deputy mayor of Airmont, New York, they found a sawed-off shotgun in a closet and an illegally modified short-barrel rifle. They also discovered fake badges that bore Downey’s name from various agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, and the FBI.
New York – After Cuomo Scandals, NY Lawmakers Tout Need for Recall Option
Press-Republican – Joe Mahoney (CNHI News Service) | Published: 9/8/2021
Up until a month ago, New York and California were both states with governors in deep political hot water. But with Andrew Cuomo having resigned on his own as New York’s chief executive, a major difference in how the two states can deal with issues relating to competency in public office is now in focus: Californians have the power to recall leaders at the ballot box, while New Yorkers do not. Some New York lawmakers are desirous of changing the status quo, proposing what could be a heavy lift at the statehouse.
New York – Ethics Agency Subpoenaed in Investigation of Cuomo’s Book
Alton Telegraph – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 9/8/2021
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office issued a subpoena to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics for its records on former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book chronicling his administration’s early response to the coronavirus pandemic. The subpoena was issued in connection with a criminal investigation that the attorney general is conducting into whether Cuomo’s use of government workers to assist him in writing the book violated any laws. It signals the investigation into Cuomo’s and his staff’s potential misuse of government resources for private gain is entering a phase beyond interviews and gathering publicly available records.
New York – Ex-Cuomo Aide, Founding SUNY Poly President See Convictions Upheld in Appeals Court
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Larry Neumeister (Associated Press) | Published: 9/8/2021
The conviction of one of ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aides, Joseph Percoco, for fraud and accepting bribes was affirmed by a federal appeals court, as was the separate conviction of founding SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros. The appeals court also upheld the conviction of Steven Aiello, a real estate executive who was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in funneling bribes to Percoco to gain his influence in an ambitious Buffalo Billion development project aimed at encouraging economic development upstate.
New York – Facebook Mum on Staffer Who May Have Broken Law Advising Cuomo on Sex Harass Claims
New York Post – Theo Wayt | Published: 9/8/2021
Facebook communications manager Dani Lever was part of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “inner circle” of confidantes who helped plan the then-governor’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct. She joined Facebook in August 2020 after having worked in the governor’s press office since 2014. Legal experts say Lever’s role advising Cuomo likely put Facebook in violation of New York state’s lobbying law. The law bans registered lobbyists from giving gifts worth more than $15 to public officials and Facebook has been a registered lobbyist in New York state since at least 2019.
New York – Trump Tower’s Key Tenants Have Fallen Behind on Rent and Moved out. But Trump Has One Reliable Customer: His own PAC.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/3/2021
As Trump Tower dealt with imploding tenants, political backlash, and a broader, pandemic-related slump in Manhattan office leasing since last year, it has been able to count on one reliable, high-paying tenant: former President Trump’s own political operation. Starting in March, one of his committees, Make America Great Again PSC, paid $37,541.67 per month to rent office space on the 15th floor of Trump Tower, a space previously rented by his campaign. A person familiar with Trump’s PAC said its staffers do not regularly use the office space. Also, for several months, Trump’s PAC paid the Trump Organization $3,000 per month to rent a retail kiosk in the tower’s lobby, even though the lobby was closed.
North Carolina – Cooper Vetoes Restrictions on NC Nonprofit Donor Disclosure
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 9/4/2021
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed legislation that would prohibit the public disclosure of donors to North Carolina-based nonprofits, calling the measure unneeded. Republicans who sent the bill to his desk said the restrictions would protect the free-speech and free-association rights of donors. Other bill supporters say the identifying information could be used by those who wish to harass donors for their viewpoints on social issues.
North Carolina – NC Elections Board Fines Political Campaigns Combined $330K for Late or Missing Finance Reports
WCNC – Nate Morabido | Published: 9/7/2021
Some of the most recognizable campaigns in North Carolina failed to meet deadlines to disclose who donated to their cause and how they spent that money. Hundreds of those campaigns now owe hefty fines as a result. Records show the State Board of Elections already assessed a combined $330,000 in penalties to campaigns this year alone for filing their 2020 routine campaign finance paperwork late or failing to file those reports altogether.
Ohio – FBI Suspected Dayton Mayor Whaley of Bribery in 2014, Court Documents Show
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 9/8/2021
The FBI suspected Dayton Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley in 2014 of accepting cash bribes from a city contractor, according to search warrant applications. Whaley was not charged with any crime. The warrants detail sworn statements from FBI agents to a federal judge outlining their suspicion of impropriety. In both instances, federal magistrates found probable cause to grant the warrants. In the documents, agents told the judge a controller for demolition company Steve Rauch Inc., which pleaded guilty last year to a charge of conspiracy to engage in mail fraud regarding subcontracting work, said in recorded phone calls with another company official that Whaley accepted cash bribes from Rauch on multiple occasions.
Ohio – Most Cleveland Mayoral Candidates Won’t Disavow ‘Dark Money’ Spending
MSN – Seth Richardson (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/8/2021
Outside money has taken hold in the Cleveland mayoral race. Its prevalence has intensified as early voting continues for the September 14 primary with what appears to be a competitive race between seven candidates to succeed retiring Mayor Frank Jackson. Many of the groups are independent expenditure committees, meaning they can raise and spend an unlimited amount of money. The committees will eventually have to disclose their donors, though there are ways of complicating those disclosures to shield donors’ identities. Only two candidate said they outright disavowed any outside spending.
Pennsylvania – ‘Unfortunate but Necessary’: Anthony Hamlet to resign as Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Andrew Goldstein | Published: 9/8/2021
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, who has faced increasing criticism in recent weeks, said he will resign effective in October. Hamlet has come under fire after the state Ethics Commission found he improperly received travel reimbursements, accepted payments for appearances related to his job, and incorrectly filed financial documents. He has defended his actions, arguing the report showed he was negligent but had no willful intent of wrongdoing. Robert Caruso, executive director of the Ethics Commission, noted Hamlet’s conduct over several years was “an egregious violation of the public trust.”
Rhode Island – Governor’s Former Chief of Staff Faces Fine Over Unregistered Construction Company
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/3/2021
Days after resigning as chief of staff to Gov. Dan McKee, Anthony Silva has been slapped with a $1,000 fine by the state’s Department of Business Regulation (DBR) for building a home on land in Cumberland without the required contractor registration. The DBR’s investigation was one of three into Silva’s activities during the time he was chief of staff, first in the lieutenant governor’s office ant then in the governor’s office.
South Carolina – SC Ethics Whistleblowers Are Bound by Gag Orders. A Lawsuit Will Challenge That.
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks | Published: 8/31/2021
In South Carolina, whistleblowers who want to file an ethics complaint against a public official are first sworn to secrecy. They cannot talk about their allegations until the State Ethics Commission has investigated the complaint and decided what to do. Breaking the seal of secrecy is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in prison. Observers have long suspected the rules violate free-speech protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. But now, a Columbia attorney is mounting a legal challenge to strike down the. gag orders for good.
Washington – Employees Who Blew Whistle on Seattle Mayor’s Missing Texts File Lawsuit Against the City
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb and Daniel Beekman | Published: 9/3/2021
The city employees who blew the whistle about Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s missing text messages sued the city, alleging they were “constructively discharged” from their jobs in retaliation for their refusal to break the public records law. In May, a Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission investigation report revealed Durkan’s texts from late August 2019 to late June 2020 had not been retained. Several high-profile lawsuits that have been filed against the city focus on decisions the mayor and other officials made in June 2020, during racial-justice protests and unrest on Capitol Hill.
Wisconsin – US Senate Candidate from Wisconsin Charged with Campaign Finance Violations
Courthouse News Service – Joe Kelly | Published: 9/7/2021
Milwaukee Ald. Chantia Lewis, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat, was charged with felony campaign finance violations and other financial misconduct. A criminal complaint alleges Lewis filed false campaign finance reports with inaccurate information on her campaign account balances, contributions. and disbursements, deposited campaign donations to her personal bank accounts, structured a campaign contribution as to avoid limit requirements, and used campaign funds for personal expenses. An embezzlement charge carries the highest penalty, which includes up to a $25,000 fine and a maximum of 10 years in prison, or both.
September 9, 2021 •
Campaign Finance North Carolina: “NC Elections Board Fines Political Campaigns Combined $330K for Late or Missing Finance Reports” by Nate Morabido for WCNC Wisconsin: “US Senate Candidate from Wisconsin Charged with Campaign Finance Violations” by Joe Kelly for Courthouse News […]
North Carolina: “NC Elections Board Fines Political Campaigns Combined $330K for Late or Missing Finance Reports” by Nate Morabido for WCNC
Wisconsin: “US Senate Candidate from Wisconsin Charged with Campaign Finance Violations” by Joe Kelly for Courthouse News Service
National: “Fears of Critical Race Theory Unleash Army of School Board Candidates” by Daniel Payne (Politico) for Yahoo News
California: “Fears Rise Over Disinformation in California’s Recall Election” by Reid Wilson (The Hill) for MSN
National: “Encryption Poised to Hamper Jan. 6 Investigators’ Phone Records Push” by Nicholas Wu (Politico) for Yahoo News
National: “Ethics Panel Announces Four Investigations” by Chris Marquette (Roll Call) for MSN
New York: “Ethics Agency Subpoenaed in Investigation of Cuomo’s Book” by Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) for Alton Telegraph
Ohio: “FBI Suspected Dayton Mayor Whaley of Bribery in 2014, Court Documents Show” by Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) for MSN
Montana: “Native Transgender Lobbyist Sues Conservative News Website for Libel” by Darrell Ehrlick (Montana Standard) for Missoula Current
New York: “Facebook Mum on Staffer Who May Have Broken Law Advising Cuomo on Sex Harass Claims” by Theo Wayt for New York Post
September 8, 2021 •
Campaign Finance New Mexico: “Gonzales Denied Public Campaign Funding for the Second Time” by Jessica Dyer for Albuquerque Journal Elections National: “New Texas Voting Bill Deepens Growing Disparities in How Americans Can Cast Their Ballots” by Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) […]
New Mexico: “Gonzales Denied Public Campaign Funding for the Second Time” by Jessica Dyer for Albuquerque Journal
National: “New Texas Voting Bill Deepens Growing Disparities in How Americans Can Cast Their Ballots” by Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Human Rights Campaign President Fired After Helping to Advise Cuomo” by Brian Pietsch and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Bell City Manager, Ex-State Senator, Developer Charged in Corruption Case” by Richard Winston (Los Angeles Times) for Yahoo News
Maine: “Portland Councilor, a Plaintiff in Lawsuit Against the City, Won’t Recuse Herself from Dispute” by Randy Billings for Portland Press Herald
Montana: “How a Small Town Silenced a Neo-Nazi Hate Campaign” by Elizabeth Williamson (New York Times) for Yahoo News
New York: “Trump Tower’s Key Tenants Have Fallen Behind on Rent and Moved out. But Trump Has One Reliable Customer: His own PAC.” by Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
South Carolina: “SC Ethics Whistleblowers Are Bound by Gag Orders. A Lawsuit Will Challenge That.” by Avery Wilks for Charleston Post and Courier
September 7, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Alaska: “Alaska Supreme Court Confirms an End to 2 Limits on Cash in Political Campaigns” by James Brooks (Anchorage Daily News) for Yahoo News Arizona: “Trump Helped Bankroll Senate Audit, Texts Suggest” by Dillon Rosenblatt and Kyra Haas […]
Alaska: “Alaska Supreme Court Confirms an End to 2 Limits on Cash in Political Campaigns” by James Brooks (Anchorage Daily News) for Yahoo News
Arizona: “Trump Helped Bankroll Senate Audit, Texts Suggest” by Dillon Rosenblatt and Kyra Haas for Arizona Capitol Times
North Carolina: “Cooper Vetoes Restrictions on NC Nonprofit Donor Disclosure” by Associated Press for MSN
National: “Corporate Boards, Consulting, Speaking Fees: How U.S. Generals Thrived After Afghanistan” by Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump-Appointed Ambassador Directed Government Business to His Hotel, Emails Show” by Amy Wang and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Republicans Upend Democratic Efforts to Show They’re Serious About Ethics Reform in Springfield” by Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
Rhode Island: “Governor’s Former Chief of Staff Faces Fine Over Unregistered Construction Company” by Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) for MSN
Washington: “Employees Who Blew Whistle on Seattle Mayor’s Missing Texts File Lawsuit Against the City” by Lewis Kamb and Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times
September 3, 2021 •
National/Federal Are Censures of Politicians a Form of Free Speech or a Threat to It? New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 8/30/2021 Censures, which are formal reprimands and a kind of punishment, seem to be on the rise in […]
Are Censures of Politicians a Form of Free Speech or a Threat to It?
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 8/30/2021
Censures, which are formal reprimands and a kind of punishment, seem to be on the rise in these divisive times. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments this fall on whether the First Amendment has anything to say about when elected bodies can impose them on their members. The justices will have to decide whether censures condemning politicians’ statements are a threat to free speech that chills expression or a form of free speech responding to one set of views with another.
As Washington Stews, State Legislatures Increasingly Shape American Politics
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 8/29/2021
With the release of the 2020 census, the drawing of legislative districts that could in large part determine control of Congress for the next decade heads to the nation’s state Legislatures, the heart of Republican political power. Increasingly, state Legislatures, especially in 30 GOP-controlled states, have seized an outsize role for themselves, pressing conservative agendas on voting, Covid-19, and the culture wars that are amplifying partisan splits and shaping policy well beyond their own borders.
Capitol Riot Defendants’ Lawyer Apparently Hospitalized with Covid Leaves Clients Without Counsel, Prosecutors Say
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2021
An attorney who represents the largest number of defendants charged in the January 6 Capitol riots has dropped out of sight amid conflicting statements by associates over whether he has been hospitalized with covid-19, U.S. prosecutors told judges. Prosecutors said John Pierce has been incommunicado for the past seven days, leaving 17 clients effectively without defense counsel. The filings put a spotlight on Pierce, whose rhetoric has attracted Trump supporters facing criminal charges and whose business and legal tactics have drawn questions over whether his political or financial interests are affecting his representation of clients.
Corporate America Launches Massive Lobbying Blitz to Kill Key Parts of Democrats’ $3.5 Trillion Economic Plan
MSN – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2021
A torrent of political groups representing some of the country’s most influential corporations is laying the groundwork for a massive lobbying campaign to stop Congress from enacting significant swaths of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic agenda. The emerging opposition appears to be vast, spanning drug manufacturers, big banks, tech titans, major retailers, and oil-and-gas giants. In recent weeks, top Washington organizations representing these and other industries have started strategizing behind the scenes, seeking to battle back key elements in Democrats proposed overhaul to federal health care, education, and safety net programs.
DOJ Issues Warning to States Ahead of Redistricting
MSN – Rebecca Beitsch (Roll Call) | Published: 9/1/2021
The Department of Justice issued a warning to states ahead of a year of congressional mapmaking that it will pursue cases against jurisdictions seeking to dilute the voting power of various minorities. The latest guidance signals an administration prepared to take a more aggressive approach in battling gerrymandering. The department said it would be ready to go after any jurisdiction that does not meet the “one person, one vote” principle.
Ex-UK Chancellor Philip Hammond Rapped by Lobbying Watchdog
Politico.eu – Matei Rosca and Matt Honeycombe-Foster | Published: 9/1/2021
Former British Chancellor Philip Hammond was scolded by Westminster’s lobbying watchdog for contacting high-ranking Treasury civil servants on behalf of his new employer, OakNorth, a London-based lender. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) said Hammond’s attempt to pitch OakNorth services to officials, even on a non-profit basis as far as the bank was concerned, was inappropriate. Hammond accused ACOBA of trying to prove its own relevance and challenged it to point to a specific breach of the rules governing jobs for ex-ministers.
G.O.P. Election Reviews Create a New Kind of Security Threat
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 9/1/2021
As Republican state and county officials and their allies mount efforts to discredit the result of the 2020 contest, there has been a wave of GOP-driven reviews of the vote count conducted by uncredentialed and partisan companies or people. These reviews have given rise to their own new set of threats to the integrity of the voting machines, software, and other equipment that make up the nation’s election infrastructure. Election officials and security experts say previously unknown technical vulnerabilities could be discovered by partisan malefactors and exploited in future elections.
Jan. 6 Investigators Demand Records from Social Media Companies
Yahoo News – Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 8/27/2021
The select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection is seeking records from social media companies, on whose platforms many defendants charged in the Capitol attack planned and coordinated their actions. The panel is asking all the companies to explain whether their algorithms helped spread misinformation and account for what they did to address or remove content or posts that might have spread falsehoods about the riot. It also requests information on the companies’ communications with law enforcement regarding January 6 and the election, as well as on their reporting practices.
January 6 Committee to Ask Telecommunications Companies to Preserve Phone Records of Members of Congress Who Participated in ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally
CNN – Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen, Annie Grayer, and Whitney Wild | Published: 8/30/2021
The House select committee investigating the January 6 riot is set to request that a group of telecommunications companies preserve the phone records of a group of Republican members of Congress and former President Trump, as well as members of the Trump family, who played some role in the “Stop the Steal” rally that served as the prelude to the insurrection at the Capitol. According to the sources, this group was targeted because the committee concluded each of these lawmakers played some role in the rally. They either attended, spoke, actively planned, or encouraged people to attend.
Lauren Boebert Removes Name from Business Filings Tied to Oil and Gas Consulting Firm Run by Her Husband
Colorado Sun – Thy Vo | Published: 9/1/2021
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert removed her name from business paperwork linked to the oil and gas consulting firm run by her husband after drawing scrutiny for nearly $1 million in payments it received from Terra Energy, a drilling company operating in her district. The changes, made after media reports of her ties to Boebert Consulting, distance Rep. Boebert from the two companies, which are registered to the couple’s home. But it is not clear what ownership or stake, if any, Lauren Boebert has in either company.
Seven Capitol Police Officers Sue Trump, Right-Wing Groups Over Injuries from Jan. 6 Riot
MSN – Paul Duggan and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2021
Seven U.S. Capitol Police officers sued former President Trump and more than a dozen alleged participants in the January 6 riot at the Capitol, saying the defendants are responsible for the officers being “violently assaulted, spat on, tear-gassed, bear-sprayed, subjected to racial slurs and epithets, and put in fear for their lives.” The lawsuit alleges Trump, by falsely claiming the presidential election was rigged, incited a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol to stop Congress from confirming President Biden’s victory.
Tommy Tuberville’s Stock Trades During Infrastructure Talks Raise Questions About Conflicts of Interest
Center for Responsive Politics – Isaiah Poritz | Published: 9/1/2021
In July, while the Senate was in the final weeks of negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure bill, U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville bought and sold between $170,000 and $475,000 in stock and options of a mining and steel manufacturing company that said it could benefit greatly from the infrastructure plan. While Tuberville ultimately voted against the bill and his spokesperson said he was not involved in negotiations, the optics of trading stock in a company that could benefit from pending legislation can be harmful, ethics experts say.
Canada – How Interested Outsiders Use ‘Third Party’ Status to Promote Causes, Influence Election
CBC – Christian Pass-Lang | Published: 8/30/2021
With an election underway, parties are officially on the hunt for the votes of Canadians, crisscrossing the country and campaigning right up to the September 20 election. To fund all that travel, advertising, and election gear, parties will be spending a lot of money. But political parties and candidates will not be the only groups spending big in the election campaign. “Third parties: are also in the mix and will be hoping to shape the political conversation and get their issue prioritized.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ASU and UA Offer Lawmakers Free Tickets to Football Games; the Public Can’t Know Who Accepts Them
Infoshri.com – Alison Steinbach (Arizona Republic) | Published: 8/27/2021
The return of college football carries a perk for all members of the Legislature: free admission to every game at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. It is part of the universities’ efforts to engage with lawmakers, build relationships, and set issues for the upcoming legislative session, university officials say. But those who monitor money and politics say the public deserves more information about the practice. Under state lobbying laws, the free tickets qualify as “special events,” not gifts. That means as long as all 90 members of the Legislature are invited, the schools do not have to report who accepted their offer.
Arizona – FBI Examining $100M Tax Refund Push by Gov. Ducey Staffers after Arizona Republic Investigation
MSN – Craig Harris (Arizona Republic) | Published: 9/1/2021
An investigation by the Arizona Republic uncovered how Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration pushed the Department of Revenue to agree to refund sales taxes on fuel for mining companies, even though that tax had been in place for decades. The companies that stood to benefit were represented by the tax firm Ryan LLC, founded by Ducey supporter G. Brint Ryan. The top three deputies in Ducey’s administration left their government jobs to work for Ryan to push for the tax refund. The FBI’s Public Corruption unit is now investigating the matter.
Colorado – Conservative Dark-Money Group Battles to Keep Its Donors Secret
Durango Herald – Sandra Fish (Colorado Sun) | Published: 8/25/2021
An administrative law judge recommended a $40,000 fine for Unite for Colorado after it spent $4 million to support or oppose three 2020 ballot initiatives, finding the group should have revealed its donors. The ruling also requires the nonprofit to file as an issue committee and reveal its donors from August 2020 through January. Unite for Colorado plans to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, progressive activists filed a new complaint against Unite for Colorado centered on the $3.7 million it has donated to two ballot initiatives likely to be considered by voters in November.
Colorado – Redistricting Lobbying Laws Violated, New Complaint Alleges
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 8/24/2021
A complaint filed with the Colorado secretary of state accuses a group of secretly funded political operatives of illegally lobbying the state’s redistricting commissioners. The complaint accuses former House Speaker Frank McNulty and former lawmaker Greg Brophy of lobbying the state’s independent redistricting commissioners without formally registering as lobbyists. It also accuses political consultant Alan Philp, along with McNulty and Brophy, of failing to report payments for lobbying activity.
Florida – FEC Slaps U.S. Rep. Salazar’s Campaign for Accepting Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Illegal Contributions
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 9/2/2021
U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar’s re-election committee has amassed $147,400 in excessive campaign contributions for her primary, according to warning letters from the FEC. The over-the-legal-limit donations include $5,700 from Abelardo de la Espriella, a Colombian lawyer and U.S. permanent resident who up until two years ago was the criminal defense attorney for a fellow countryman targeted in a Colombian money-laundering probe involving ill-gotten government contracts in Venezuela.
Florida – VancoreJones, Paid to ‘Influence Local Government,’ Failed to Register as Lobbyists
Tallahassee Reports – Steve Stewart | Published: 8/30/2021
An exhibit in the recently concluded public corruption trial in Tallahassee indicates J.T. Burnette executed a contract on November 12, 2013, with VancoreJones Communications to “influence local government agencies” related to real estate projects on behalf of TM Street, LLC. But records show no one from VancoreJones has ever registered to lobby for TM Street with the Leon County Commission, or the city of Tallahassee.
Georgia – New Georgia Campaign Finance Law Is ‘Carving a Loophole’ for Unlimited Fundraising
MSN – Elliot Davis (U.S. News and World Report) | Published: 9/1/2021
Eleven states allow candidates to raise unlimited contributions. States with unlimited financing often cite strict laws mandating disclosure and transparency to defend the embrace of money in politics. They also note their systems ensure a level playing field. But that is not the case in Georgia, critics note. Not only could the new law, described by analysts as an “incumbent protection scheme,” offer the current governor a massive advantage in a crucial race next year, but it has the possibility of being exported to other states where it could reshape the way elections are run.
Illinois – Illinois Legislators Pass Redrawn Legislative Map, Kill Ethics Bill; Energy Policy Overhaul Clears Senate
MSN – Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/31/2021
Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly used their supermajority to push through revised boundaries for the state’s legislative districts aimed at ensuring their control in Springfield through the end of the decade. The House voted down proposed change made by Gov. JB Pritzker to an ethics package, killing the legislation. Pritzker and sponsoring lawmakers have hailed the package as an important step toward addressing pervasive public corruption in Illinois, but good-government groups and even some supporters have argued that does not go far enough.
Indiana – Lawsuit Claims Indiana Treasurer Granted Illegal Contracts
MSN – Tom Davies (Associated Press) | Published: 8/31/2021
A whistleblower is suing Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, alleging her office failed to get required approvals on contracts and made improper payments totaling more than $6.5 million, often to top contributors to her campaigns. The lawsuit filed by a former top Treasury Department staffer claims Mitchell bypassed required approvals from other state agencies in giving the contracts for lobbying and financial services without seeking competitive bids.
Michigan – Michigan GOP Cannot Use Party Fund to Back Petition Drive to Overhaul Voting
MSN – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 8/31/2021
The Michigan Republican Party cannot use its administrative fund to back a petition proposing major changes to voting in the state, according to a preliminary review by the Bureau of Elections. Former general counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Bob LaBrant, raised concerns about the possibility the GOP might use its administrative fund to funnel undisclosed contributions to a petition drive that would circumvent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s expected veto of election bills.
Michigan – Michigan Utilities Spent Millions Electing Lawmakers Who Could Probe Outages
Energy Central – Craig Mauer (Detroit News) | Published: 8/30/2021
Michigan officeholders who are poised to investigate a wave of recent outages that spurred 1 million customers to lose power have benefited from $55 million in “political” and “civic” spending over the last five years by the state’s top utilities. Critics said the close financial connections between CMS Energy and DTE Energy and lawmakers raise doubts about state government’s ability to prevent future outages, prepare the electric system for weather that is becoming increasingly severe, and advocate on behalf of residents.
Minnesota – MN Lawmaker Cuts Off 3 Fingers in Saw Mishap; Lobbyists’ Donations Create Awkwardness
Yahoo News – Dave Orrick (St. Paul Pioneer Press) | Published: 8/31/2021
In August, Minnesota Rep. Erin Koegel lost control of a power saw and cut off three fingers on her left hand. A GoFundMe page was established to help her with child-care and other expenses while she recovers. A number of lobbyists’ names were on the donor list. That would appear to violate a state law that prohibits lawmakers from accepting most gifts worth more than five dollars from lobbyists. There are exceptions, but none appear to apply for Koegel’s situation. Speaker Melissa Hortman asked a House staffer to seek a formal opinion from the Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board.
New Mexico – Judge Reverses Decision to Deny Gonzales Funds
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 8/27/2021
A state District Court judge reversed the Albuquerque city clerk’s decision to deny Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales over $600,000 in public financing for his mayoral campaign, citing a lack of due process. Judge Bryan Biedscheid said Watson could still ultimately deny Gonzales the money. To do so, however, he would need to either determine that Gonzales has been found to have violated regulations or make the finding himself after a new process he must establish that grants Gonzales due process.
New York – At JCOPE, Two More Cuomo Appointees Resign
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/1/2021
The number of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointees on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) are dwindling. In the short term, that could render JCOPE unable to take action against Cuomo; in the longer term, the departures could provide the ex-governor far less protection from possible sanction. Since Cuomo announced his own resignation on August 10, three of his six appointees to the panel have resigned or stated the intention to exit the commission.
New York – Cuomo’s Legal Woes Continue, Could Cost Public at Least $9.5M
NBC News – Associated Press | Published: 8/31/2021
Resigning from office probably did not end former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legal problems, and no matter what happens next, taxpayers are likely to wind up with a hefty bill. The state has agreed to pay up to $9.5 million to lawyers representing and investigating Cuomo and his administration over sexual harassment allegations and other matters. That figure does not include the legal fees of Cuomo’s private attorney, whose bills are being paid by his campaign committee. Gov. Kathy Hochul can decide whether the state will continue to pay lawyers to defend the former governor and his administration going forward.
New York – Hochul’s First Bill Suspends State’s Open Meetings Law
Politico – Bill Mahoney | Published: 9/1/2021
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s bill extending New York’s eviction moratorium includes language that suspends the state’s Open Meetings Law. The legislation, the first of Hochul’s tenure, was due to pass a week after the governor pledged that “transparency will be the hallmark of [her] administration.” But the measure, and the rushed way in which it was logrolled through the Legislature, did not win over many transparency advocates.
New York – JCOPE Votes to Ask AG to Conduct Criminal Probe of Alleged Leak to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/26/2021
In a startling reversal, the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) passed a motion asking state Attorney General Letitia James to investigate whether confidential information was illegally leaked to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019. JCOPE also authorized James to conduct a criminal probe into whether the state inspector general’s office, which investigated the alleged leak to Cuomo, intentionally failed to find out the identity of the leaker and instead “covered up” the matter.
New York – NY Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Top Aide Is Married to a Lobbyist for Verizon, Google and Airbnb
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 8/26/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top aide is married to a lobbyist who represent clients such as Verizon, Google, and Airbnb. Hochul named Karen Persichilli Keogh, a veteran of Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate office and the wife of longtime lobbyist Mike Keogh, as secretary to the governor. Prior to taking her new job with Hochul, Karen Keogh was an executive at J.P. Morgan Chase, where she once held a state lobbying position. Mike Keogh has several marquee clients that have recently been trying to influence New York lawmakers and officials.
North Carolina – North Carolina General Assembly Passes Bill Limiting Nonprofit Donor Disclosure
Ballotpedia – Jerrick Adams | Published: 9/1/2021
The North Carolina Senate gave final approval to a bill that would make donations to nonprofit corporations confidential. The bill now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper. The bill’s supporters say it will protect donors from harassment or discrimination based on the organizations they choose to support. Opponents say it would decrease transparency around campaign contributions and allow politically active nonprofits to hide their donors.
North Carolina – Trump’s Pick in a Key Senate Race Touts His Agriculture Ties. He Doesn’t Mention His Role in a Bankruptcy That Cost Farmers Millions.
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2021
As U.S. Rep. Ted Budd launched his campaign for a pivotal U.S. Senate seat earlier this year, the North Carolina Republican pitched himself as a staunch ally of farmers. Budd’s story helped him win the support of former President Trump and the Club for Growth, a conservative political committee, has vowed to spend a record $10 million on his campaign. But as Budd has told his narrative in a state where agriculture is the largest business, he made no mention of his role in his family’s calamitous involvement in a company called AgriBioTech, which ended in a bankruptcy case that cost farmers millions of dollars in losses.
Ohio – John Raphael Avoids Prison in Greater Columbus Convention Center Bribery Scheme Sentence
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/26/2021
Deviating from federal sentencing guidelines, a judge gave two-time convicted public corruption figure John Raphael, once an influential Columbus City Hall lobbyist, no prison time in a bribery case. Raphael could have faced up to 20 years in prison for taking bribes to help a national food services company win a public food-service contract from the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, on whose board he served at the time. But U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson, who acknowledged he grew up in the same neighborhood as the defendant and knew members of his family, sentenced Raphael to one day of prison, waived in advance, and placed him on three years of probation.
Oregon – Multnomah County Judge Rules Campaign Contribution Limits Constitutional
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Sam Stites | Published: 8/26/2021
Campaign contribution limits passed by Multnomah County voters are now able to be enforced in local elections. Circuit Court Judge Eric Bloch County ruled political donations caps do not violate free speech protected by the First Amendment. The ruling is sure to put Multnomah County back in the spotlight in terms of discussions around statewide limits on campaign donations. Oregon is one of only five states with no limits at all on contributions, despite decades of effort by campaign finance activists.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Ordered to Pay More Than $7,000, Forfeit Vacation Days for Ethics Violations
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Andrew Goldstein | Published: 8/26/2021
The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission found Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet violated the law by improperly receiving travel reimbursements, getting payments for appearances related to his job, and incorrectly filing financial documents. The commission ordered Hamlet to pay close to $8,000 and forfeit 14 vacation days, valued at more than $12,000. At least some of the violations occurred during a trip Hamlet and several other district administrators took to Cuba in April 2019.
Rhode Island – Anthony Silva, McKee’s Chief of Staff, Resigns Amid Wetlands Controversy
MSN – Antonia Noori Farzan (Providence Journal) | Published: 8/30/2021
Anthony Silva, the embattled chief of staff to Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee, resigned from his position amid an investigation into whether he used his political influence to get permission to develop a controversial wetlands property. Silva had been facing both a state Ethics Commission complaint brought forward by Republicans and an independent investigation by the attorney general’s office that was initiated at McKee’s request, amid mounting political pressure.
Rhode Island – Former RI Lottery Director Changes Mind After Registering as IGT Lobbyist
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 9/1/2021
Days after former Rhode Island Lottery Director Gerald Aubin registered as a lobbyist for IGT, the state’s longtime gambling said he will not be working for the company after all. Aubin, who served as director of the state Lottery beginning in 1996, retired in 2020. He formed a new company called GSA and was listed on the secretary of state’s website as a lobbyist for IGT, a company he regulated for two decades. “… As a former gaming regulator and law enforcement official, I couldn’t get comfortable with it,” Aubin said.
Texas – GOP Legislators in Texas Give Final Approval to New Voting Restrictions, Overcoming Democratic Opposition
MSN – Eva Ruth Moravec and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2021
The Texas Legislature passed the final version of a Republican bill that will implement strict new voting rules, sending it to the governor’s desk after months of intense partisan battling over how elections should be conducted in the state. The votes were a win for Gov. Greg Abbott. He had called two special legislative sessions as part of a long-running effort to pass the elections measure, which will take effect in three months. After the Senate voted, Abbott said he looks forward to signing the bill into law.
Wisconsin – Emails Show Prehn Coordinated with Republican Officials, Lobbyists as He Clings to Expired Seat
Wisconsin Examiner – Henry Redmon | Published: 8/26/2021
Fred Prehn, the chairperson of the Natural Resources Board who has generated controversy and complaints for refusing to vacate his seat after his term expired in May, coordinated and communicated with high-profile Republican officials and lobbyists as he planned to maintain the GOP’s grip on Wisconsin’s conservation policy, emails show. State Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit against Prehn seeking to boot him from the post. Legislative leaders hired taxpayer-funded attorneys to defend Prehn.
September 2, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Georgia: “New Georgia Campaign Finance Law Is ‘Carving a Loophole’ for Unlimited Fundraising” by Elliot Davis (U.S. News and World Report) for MSN Michigan: “Michigan GOP Cannot Use Party Fund to Back Petition Drive to Overhaul Voting” by […]
Georgia: “New Georgia Campaign Finance Law Is ‘Carving a Loophole’ for Unlimited Fundraising” by Elliot Davis (U.S. News and World Report) for MSN
Michigan: “Michigan GOP Cannot Use Party Fund to Back Petition Drive to Overhaul Voting” by Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) for MSN
National: “G.O.P. Election Reviews Create a New Kind of Security Threat” by Nick Corasaniti for New York Times
Texas: “GOP Legislators in Texas Give Final Approval to New Voting Restrictions, Overcoming Democratic Opposition” by Eva Ruth Moravec and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Illinois Legislators Pass Redrawn Legislative Map, Kill Ethics Bill; Energy Policy Overhaul Clears Senate” by Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
New York: “At JCOPE, Two More Cuomo Appointees Resign” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Minnesota: “MN Lawmaker Cuts Off 3 Fingers in Saw Mishap; Lobbyists’ Donations Create Awkwardness” by Dave Orrick (St. Paul Pioneer Press) for Yahoo News
Rhode Island: “Former RI Lottery Director Changes Mind After Registering as IGT Lobbyist” by Eli Sherman for WPRI
National: “DOJ Issues Warning to States Ahead of Redistricting” by Rebecca Bietsch (Roll Call) for MSN
September 1, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Colorado: “Conservative Dark-Money Group Battles to Keep Its Donors Secret” by Sandra Fish (Colorado Sun) for Durango Herald Michigan: “Michigan Utilities Spent Millions Electing Lawmakers Who Could Probe Outages” by Craig Mauger (Detroit News) for Energy Central Ethics […]
Colorado: “Conservative Dark-Money Group Battles to Keep Its Donors Secret” by Sandra Fish (Colorado Sun) for Durango Herald
Michigan: “Michigan Utilities Spent Millions Electing Lawmakers Who Could Probe Outages” by Craig Mauger (Detroit News) for Energy Central
National: “Go-to Lawyer for Capitol Riot Defendants Disappears” by Alan Feuer for New York Times
Indiana: “Lawsuit Claims Indiana Treasurer Granted Illegal Contracts” by Tom Davies (Associated Press) for MSN
New York: “Cuomo’s Legal Woes Continue, Could Cost Public at Least $9.5M” by Associated Press for NBC News
Wisconsin: “Emails Show Prehn Coordinated with Republican Officials, Lobbyists as He Clings to Expired Seat” by Henry Redmon for Wisconsin Examiner
National: “Corporate America Launches Massive Lobbying Blitz to Kill Key Parts of Democrats’ $3.5 Trillion Economic Plan” by Tony Romm (Washington Post) for MSN
Arizona: “ASU and UA Offer Lawmakers Free Tickets to Football Games; the Public Can’t Know Who Accepts Them” by Alison Steinbach (Arizona Republic) for Infoshri.com
August 31, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Canada: “How Interested Outsiders Use ‘Third Party’ Status to Promote Causes, Influence Election” by Christian Pass-Lang for CBC New Mexico: “Judge Reverses Decision to Deny Gonzales Funds” by Jessica Dyer for Albuquerque Journal Elections Texas: “Texas House Passes […]
Canada: “How Interested Outsiders Use ‘Third Party’ Status to Promote Causes, Influence Election” by Christian Pass-Lang for CBC
New Mexico: “Judge Reverses Decision to Deny Gonzales Funds” by Jessica Dyer for Albuquerque Journal
Texas: “Texas House Passes New Voting Restrictions as Democratic Hopes of Killing the Legislation Wane” by Alexa Ura for Texas Tribune
National: “Are Censures of Politicians a Form of Free Speech or a Threat to It?” by Adam Liptak for New York Times
National: “January 6 Committee to Ask Telecommunications Companies to Preserve Phone Records of Members of Congress Who Participated in ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally” by Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen, Annie Grayer, and Whitney Wild for CNN
Rhode Island: “Anthony Silva, McKee’s Chief of Staff, Resigns Amid Wetlands Controversy” by Antonia Noori Farzan (Providence Journal) for MSN
National: “As Washington Stews, State Legislatures Increasingly Shape American Politics” by Michael Wines for New York Times
Florida: “VancoreJones, Paid to ‘Influence Local Government,’ Failed to Register as Lobbyists” by Steve Stewart for Tallahassee Reports
August 27, 2021 •
National/Federal A Capitol Riot Suspect Was Hours Away from Sentencing. Then Prosecutors Received Video of an Assault on Police. MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/19/2021 Even after Robert Reeder pleaded guilty to illegally picketing inside the U.S. Capitol […]
A Capitol Riot Suspect Was Hours Away from Sentencing. Then Prosecutors Received Video of an Assault on Police.
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/19/2021
Even after Robert Reeder pleaded guilty to illegally picketing inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, he remained adamant he was innocent of the worst allegations leveled against him. Prosecutors argued Reeder actively participated in chants with rioters and egged on the aggressive crowd, though they could not show he participated in any violence. They asked a federal judge to sentence him with a fine and prison time. But new video from the riot that surfaced just before his sentencing hearing appeared to show Reeder allegedly physically grappling with a police officer.
California Republican Is Debt Free for First Time in Office. What Happened to His Creditors?
Fresno Bee – Gillian Brassil (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 8/23/2021
U.S. Rep. David Valadao claimed no liabilities for 2020 – a far cry from 2019, when he said he owed at least $16 million to various creditors, some of whom he did not disclose the identities of, in connection to one of his family’s dairy farms. The farm declared bankruptcy after Valadao and his family’s farms were sued by Rabobank, a financial services company, over unpaid loans. Maria Martinez who lives in Valadao’s district, filed an ethics complaint seeking more information about the unidentified creditors from Valadao’s previous disclosure forms. The complaint says it is unlikely the unnamed creditors were each owed less than $10,000 given the limited number of people listed in the farm’s bankruptcy filings.
DOJ Investigating One-Time Trump Campaign Adviser Over Alleged Ties to Qatar: Report
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 8/24/2021
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether one-time Trump campaign adviser and lobbyist Barry Bennett set up an advocacy group without disclosing its ties to Qatar. Bennett reportedly launched a group called Yemen Crisis to embarrass Qatar’s rivals – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – amid their military campaign in Yemen. Bennett did not disclose his ties to Yemen Crisis Watch, or register the group under lobbying laws, despite receiving $250,000 from the Embassy of Qatar “for use in supporting the relief of humanitarian suffering in Yemen,” according to a Justice Department filing.
Ethics Office: Rep. Mooney tapped campaign funds for family vacations, fast food
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 8/25/2021
U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney spent thousands of campaign dollars on personal expenses, including numerous fast-food meals and family excursions to West Virginia resorts, while failing to properly report more than $40,000 in expenditures, the Office of Congressional Ethics found. Mooney’s deficient reporting to the FEC concealed additional instances of converting campaign funds for personal use, according to an OCE report. After the OCE launched the inquiry, Mooney paid his campaign back more than $12,000.
FCC Proposes Record $5 Million Fine Against Jacob Wohl, Jack Burkman for Election Robocalls
MSN – Rachel Lerman (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a $5.1 million fine against two right-wing operatives known for perpetuating conspiracy theories, in one of its largest penalties to date. Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman improperly made 1,141 election-related robocalls to cellphones without getting people’s consent first, which the law requires. The pair were charged with four felonies in Michigan last year for allegedly intimidating voters with robocalls that spread inaccurate messages about voting by mail.
Foreign Lobbyists Gave Millions to Influence 2020 Elections Amid Foreign Influence Concerns
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 8/19/2021
Individuals registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act made at least $8.5 million in political contributions during the 2020 election cycle. Another $25 million came from lobbyists representing foreign clients registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to political groups or campaigns to influence U.S. elections. But they can hire foreign agents or lobbyists to advocate for their interests and lobbyists who are American citizens are able to donate, even to the same lawmakers they may be lobbying on behalf of foreign clients.
House Passes Bill to Strengthen Voting Rights Act in Face of New Restrictions in GOP-Led States
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
The U.S. House passed legislation that supporters said would restore key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court struck down in 2013. In Shelby County v. Holder, the high court’s conservative majority ruled the law’s provision for determining voter discrimination was outdated, a decision that greatly curtailed the ability of the federal government to monitor the election processes of states with a history of racism.
Internal Probe Clears Capitol Police Officer in Shooting of Ashli Babbitt
MSN – Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2021
An internal investigation has cleared a U.S. Capitol Police officer of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt during the siege of the Capitol on January 6. The Justice Department previously announced the officer would not face criminal charges in the killing of the 35-year-old California woman, who was shot as she tried to force her way through a set of doors deep inside the Capitol.
Jan. 6 Select Committee Probe Expands to Trump and Top Officials in a Wave of Demands
National Public Radio – Claudia Grisales | Published: 8/25/2021
The House select committee charged with investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has issued a wave of record requests targeting communications by former President Trump and his top officials in the lead-up to the riot. It marks the most widespread list of demands since the siege, directing letters to eight federal entities, including the National Archives and Records Administration, which is charged with maintaining records for past White House administrations. The demands could be followed by subpoenas.
From the States and Municipalities
Colorado – Ethics Commission Dismissed Complaint Against Delta County Official but Decision Is on Appeal
Denver Gazette – Marianne Goodland | Published: 8/23/2021
The Colorado Independent Ethics commission, on a tie vote, dismissed a complaint against Delta County Administrator Robbie LeValley. The complaint alleged LeValley violated the public trust by using her position to benefit her family’s business, a beef ranch. LeValley charged several purchases from Homestead Meats in 2019, which she co-owns with several other partners, for county events on her county credit card. The events in question, both tied to the county fair, required the beef being served to come from a Delta County ranch, and for that, Homestead was the only supplier.
Colorado – Incumbent Colorado Lawmaker Coached Public Testimony for Redistricting Hearings
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 8/19/2021
A state lawmaker looking to protect the fortunes of his Republican caucus as Colorado’s political maps are redrawn this year held a video training earlier this summer to coach people on how to provide testimony intended to keep the incumbent legislators in power after the redistricting cycle. On the video training, Rep. Matt Soper lamented that the independent redistricting commission system is designed to elicit input from non-political, everyday people talking about their communities, and not from incumbent lawmakers who want to keep a safe seat for themselves.
Florida – Florida Elections Commission Gearing Up for Looming Challenges
Yahoo News – John Haughey (The Center Square) | Published: 8/24/2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed three members to the Florida Elections Commission (FEC), including a chairperson, meaning the watchdog now has the required quorum and can meet for the first time since May. The FEC is managing the defense of state election laws, including Florida’s decision not to appeal an injunction preventing Senate Bill 1890 from being enacted. It is also dealing with the challenge to Florida’s 2019 felon voting law now before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Florida – No-Party Candidate in Miami Election Fraud Case Takes Plea Deal, Apologizes to Voters
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/24/2021
An auto parts salesperson and acquaintance of a former state lawmaker accused of running a vote-siphoning scheme in a 2020 Florida Senate race pleaded guilty to charges he accepted illegal donations and lied on sworn campaign documents, among other things. Alexis Rodriguez was recruited to run as a no-party candidate in the key Senate race by former state Sen. Frank Artiles. The point of Rodriguez’s candidacy, investigators said, was to “confuse voters and siphon votes from the incumbent.” Sen. Ileana Garcia won the election by 32 votes. Rodriguez, who shares a surname with the incumbent Democrat, received more than 6,000 votes.
Georgia – Former NFL Player Herschel Walker, Supported by Trump, Jumps into the Georgia Senate Race
Santa Fe New Mexican – Maryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Former football star Herschel Walker filed paperwork to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, challenging Raphael Warnock with the backing of former President Trump. After former U.S. Sen. David Perdue said he would not run again, Walker would be the most recognized candidate in the Republican field.
Georgia – How the Apple Lobbying Machine Took on Georgia, and Won
MSN – Emily Birnbaum (Politico) | Published: 8/20/2021
Apple’s aggressive lobbying efforts in Georgia highlight a pattern that has played out with little national attention across the country this year: state lawmakers introduce bills that would force Apple and Google to give up some control over their mobile phone app stores. Then Apple exerts pressure on lawmakers with promises of economic investment or threats to pull its money, and the legislation stalls. Local lawmakers have struggled to brush aside Apple’s lobbying firepower as the company hires key state lobbyists and focuses on defeating legislation that threatens the company’s bottom line.
Idaho – Idaho Supreme Court Overturns Tougher Ballot Initiative Law
MSN – Rebecca Boone (Associated Press) | Published: 8/23/2021
The Idaho Supreme Court struck down a new law designed to make it harder for voters to get initiatives on the ballot, saying the legislation was so restrictive it violated a fundamental right under the state’s constitution. Opponents of the law said it made Idaho’s initiative process the toughest in the nation, rendering such efforts virtually impossible to achieve. But supporters said the law would protect people with less popular political opinions from being overrun by the majority.
Illinois – ComEd Scheme to Influence Madigan Was Not Legal Lobbying – It Was Bribery, Prosecutors Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/24/2021
An alleged scheme to lavish benefits on longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in exchange for his influence on Commonwealth Edison legislation in Springfield clearly meets the criteria of the bribery statute even if there was no explicit agreement between the parties, federal prosecutors argued in a motion. Lawyers for Michael McClain, Anne Pramaggiore, John Hooker, and Jay Doherty asked a District Court judge to dismiss several of the key elements of the case against them, arguing there was no quid pro quo agreement and jobs, contracts, and other payments to chosen Madigan political operatives constituted legal lobbying.
Illinois – Cryptocurrency Expands into Illinois Politics as Candidate Accepts Bitcoin Donations
Bloomington Pantagraph – John Kielman (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/25/2021
Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim, who is running for reelection next year, became the first candidate in Illinois to accept digital currency when a supporter gave her a three-dollar donation in Litecoin, with the promise of more to come later. It is a new and potentially lucrative fundraising technique – Dogecoin, one form of crypto Kim accepts, has seen its value increase 100-fold over the past year – and Kim said it is a way to connect with tech-savvy people who might be new to political donations.
Maine – PAC Opposing Powerline Corridor is Fined $2,500 for Late Filing
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 8/23/2021
A PAC bankrolled by two Texas energy companies was fined $2,500 by the Maine ethics commission for violating state campaign finance law. The commission voted unanimously to impose the penalty against Mainers for Local Power after it failed to notify one of its major contributors, the energy company Calpine, that it had donated more than $100,000 to the PAC and was required to file a major donor report with the ethics panel.
Maryland – Error-Riddled Ethics Reports on School Board Create Political Firestorm in Prince George’s County
MSN – Rachel Chason and Donna St. George (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Ethics reports accuse a majority of the elected school board members in Prince George’s County of a variety of offenses, including steering contracts, doing political favors, and engaging in a quid pro quo with a labor union. The allegations are being levied against a more progressive bloc that has frequently clashed with the county’s political establishment, setting off a political battle in the suburb of Washington, D.C. The back-and-forth is the latest, and most contentious, episode in months of chaos that began in February.
Michigan – FBI Raids Detroit’s City Hall, Council Members’ Homes as It Focuses on Towing Operations
Detroit News – Robert Snell, Sarah Rahal, and George Hunter | Published: 8/25/2021
A widening public corruption investigation emerged as FBI agents raided Detroit City Hall and the homes of city council members Janeé Ayers and Scott Benson, the latest development in a scandal that has led to charges against Councilperson André Spivey. The full scope of the investigation was unclear, but FBI agents were focused on municipal towing operations and accusations city officials received bribes, according to sources. Agents also searched the homes of several council employees, including Ricardo Silva and Carol Banks, chiefs of staff for Ayers and Benson, respectively.
Michigan – Federal Judge in Michigan Orders Pro-Trump Lawyers Disciplined Over Lawsuit Seeking to Overturn 2020 Election
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2021
A judge sanctioned Sidney Powell and other lawyers who sued in Michigan to overturn President Biden’s election victory. U.S. District Court Judge Parker said the lawyers made assertions in court that were not backed by evidence and failed to perform the due diligence required by legal rules before alleging mass fraud in the state’s vote. She referred the group to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, as well as disciplinary committees in the states where each attorney is licensed, which could initiate proceedings that could result in the lawyers being disbarred.
Michigan – Michigan Attorney General Nessel Won’t Charge State GOP Chair Ron Weiser
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 8/23/2021
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel declined to pursue criminal action against state Republican Party Chairperson Ron Weiser related to payments Weiser allegedly made to a former GOP secretary of state candidate to drop out of the race in 2018. Nessel said a conciliation agreement between the secretary of state’s office and the Michigan GOP barred further criminal litigation under the state’s campaign finance law and Weiser, as chairperson, is not a public officer as defined by the law, so other criminal statutes “simply do not apply.”
Minnesota – Minnesota GOP ‘in Ruins’ After Shocking Scandal
Yahoo News – David Siders and Paul Zemko (Politico) | Published: 8/21/2021
The resignation of the Minnesota Republican Party’s embattled chairperson, Jennifer Carnahan, marked a new low for a state party in decline. The proximate cause of Carnahan’s departure was a firestorm that engulfed the party in recent days, after a GOP donor she was close to was indicted on federal sex-trafficking charges. Carnahan, the wife of U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, was accused by party officials and former staffers of running a toxic, retaliatory workplace, mismanaging party finances, and, through the use of non-disclosure agreements, squashing transparency.
New York – As JCOPE Eyes Cuomo, Will His Appointees Remain?
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/30/2021
Though Andrew Cuomo has left the governor’s office, his legal troubles are far from over. He faces criminal investigations into possible inappropriate touching of women, a state attorney general probe into his $5.1 million book deal, a federal probe into the suppression of nursing home death data, and a forthcoming Assembly report on those matters and more. An entity that has been generally pliant to Cuomo since its creation in 2011, the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics, may be more prone to taking action now, especially since the commission itself now faces greater threat of being eliminated by critics, who say it has been ineffectual.
New York – Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Daughter-in-Law Is Top Lobbyist at Pharma Firm That Has Sought to Influence NY Lawmakers
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 8/24/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s daughter-in-law is a top lobbyist at a pharmaceutical firm that has been trying to influence state and federal lawmakers. Christina Hochul is director of federal policy at Biogen. A Biogen spokesperson said Christina Hochul does not lobby at the New York state level and will not do so. Biogen did not rule out the company itself engaging with New York lawmakers while Kathy Hochul is governor.
New York – JCOPE’s Opaque New Transparency Policy
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/24/2021
Gov. Kathy Hochul has called for a complete overhaul of New York’s ethics oversight system. And as the state’s much-maligned current ethics watchdog faces the possibility of dissolution, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) recently announced a reform: a new policy that in principle could make its work less secretive. But in practice, the policy so far has been aimed at bolstering the reputation of the JCOPE itself, with information released or withheld based on that as opposed to overall transparency.
New York – Leaders of the ‘Time’s Up’ Anti-Harassment Group Worked Closely with Cuomo Aide After First Accusation Against Him Surfaced
MSN – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2021
The leaders of Time’s Up, the advocacy group founded by political insiders in Washington and Hollywood to fight workplace sexual misconduct, decided against issuing a statement in support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first harassment accuser in December after consulting with the governor’s top aide, according to interviews and records. Text messages between five senior Time’s Up advisers revealed a far more extensive behind-the-scenes effort to work with Cuomo’s office amid the sexual harassment charges than the group has previously acknowledged.
North Carolina – Cooper Signs Bill Allowing Officials to Benefit More from Public Contracts
Yahoo News – Nyamekye Daniel (The Center Square) | Published: 8/24/2021
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill that allows public officials to benefit more from public contracts. House Bill 366 raises the limit on the conflict-of-interest exemption for government officials and government employees in certain instances and changes regulations related to agriculture, energy, environment, natural resources, construction, and insurance.
North Carolina – Court Rules North Carolina Must Allow Former Felons to Vote
MSN – Paulina Villegas (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
A panel of the state Superior Court ordered the restoration of voting rights for thousands of people with a felony conviction in what advocates call the largest expansion of voting rights in decades in North Carolina. The ruling could make North Carolina the only state in the South to automatically restore voting rights to people after they leave prison. Last year, the same judges had ruled the law’s requirement that felons must first pay monetary obligation such as fines was unenforceable because voting would be bound to financial ability.
North Carolina – Restrictions on NC Nonprofit Donor Disclosures OK’d by House
WRAL – Associated Press | Published: 8/19/2021
A bill described by supporters as one that prevents snooping into citizens’ contributions to North Carolina charities neared final legislative approval following an affirmative state House vote. A version cleared the Senate three months ago. The bill says the names of donors to North Carolina-based nonprofits cannot be disclosed publicly by the group without a donor’s written permission. It also states a donor’s identifying information is not a public record when held by a state or local government agency. A government worker who uses or discloses it could be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Discloses 2021 Dark Money Spending; Deal Doesn’t Require Posting Past Donations
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 8/20/2021
The utility at the center of a $60 million bribery scheme in Ohio dramatically decreased the funds it provides to “dark money” groups to influence public policy, according to a filing required by a deal with federal prosecutors that allowed FirstEnergy to avoid a criminal case. FirstEnergy paid $2.2 million to nonprofits and groups benefitting public officials during the first half of 2021. That is considerably below the approximately $60 million the company paid between 2017 and 2020 to “dark money” groups to fund a bailout of two nuclear power plants.
Oregon – Portland Police Stand by as Proud Boys and Far-Right Militias Flash Guns and Brawl with Antifa Counterprotesters
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2021
A large crowd of more than 100 far-right activists, including Proud Boys and armed militia members, descended on Portland, Oregon, staging a “Back the Blue” rally in front of the Justice Center that houses the downtown police precinct. Hundreds of Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters gathered to oppose the far-right crowd. The two groups sparred for more than two hours, as people exchanged blows, fired paintballs at each other, and blasted chemicals indiscriminately into the crowd. People lobbed fireworks back and forth.
Pennsylvania – In Latest Bow to Trump, GOP Lawmakers in Pennsylvania Plan to Launch Hearings on 2020 Vote
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania plan to formally launch hearings as part of an investigation into the 2020 vote in the state, the latest GOP-backed effort to revisit an election that former President Trump has falsely claimed was fraudulent. State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman said lawmakers are pursuing a “full forensic investigation” of the election that will aim to examine ballots and voter rolls. It is the latest sign of how Republican leaders in key battleground states are bowing to pressure from Trump and his acolytes to investigate baseless allegations that voting irregularities tainted the November election.
Texas – Dallas Council Member Violated Ethics Code for Saying Woman Sounded ‘Foolish’ on Facebook
Dallas Morning News – Lauren Girgis | Published: 8/20/2021
The Ethics Advisory Commission found Dallas City Councilperson Adam Bazaldua in violation of the ethics code for Facebook comments where he wrote that a constituent sounded “foolish.” The commission found Bazaldua violated a section of the code stating that city officials shall not make comments or take actions that are “abusive,” “derogatory,” “rude,” or make “personal attacks upon the character, integrity, or motives of others.”
Texas – Texas Republicans Renew Effort to Advance Voting Bill as Democrats Regroup
MSN – Jane Timm (NBC News) | Published: 8/23/2021
The Texas House could pass voting restrictions soon after Democrats’ efforts to stave off the Republican-backed changes were stymied by three Democrats who broke ranks with much of the rest of their caucus and returned to work at the Capitol. Their return restored a quorum for the first time since more than 50 House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C. The coordinated escape from Austin left Texas Republicans furious, creating wanted posters and threatening to have missing members arrested.
Virginia – Ex-Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe Found Guilty on All Public Corruption Charges
WAVY – Brian Reese, Jason Marks, and Sarah Fearing | Published: 8/24/2021
Former Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe was found guilty on all 11 counts in a federal bribery trial. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count. McCabe was accused of taking bribes from two Norfolk jail vendors and the companies’ chief executive officers. McCabe had argued the gifts and campaign donations, which happened from 1994 to 2016, were just gestures between good friends.
Virginia – Virginia, an ‘Outlier’ on Campaign Finance Reform, Considers New Restrictions
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Andrew Cain (Richmond Times-Dispatch) | Published: 8/24/2021
The Virginia Legislature has tasked the Joint Subcommittee to Study Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform with examining the costs of campaigning in the state, the effectiveness of the present disclosure laws and their enforcement, the constitutional options available to regulate campaign finances, and “the desirability” of revisions such as implementing contribution limits. In submitting a report by November 1, the panel could recommend proposed changes for the new governor and Legislature to review during the 60-day session that begins in January.
Washington – Mayor’s Office Knew for Months Durkan’s Phone Setting Caused Texts to Vanish, Emails Show
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb, Daniel Beekman, and Jim Brunner | Published: 8/20/2021
When the public learned in May that 10 months of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s text messages were missing, her office initially attributed the loss to an “unknown technology issue” with one of three phones she used during the period in question. But officials already had known for months why the texts were gone and when they disappeared, internal emails appear to show. City Attorney Pete Holmes says the initial explanation from Durkan’s office was misleading.
Wisconsin – Two More Redistricting Lawsuits Have Been Filed in Wisconsin as Conservatives and Liberals Mount a Legal Battle Over Election Maps
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 8/23/2021
Voters filed two redistricting lawsuits as conservatives and liberals fight over whether state or federal judges should be the ones to decide how to draw Wisconsin’s congressional and legislative districts. Voters represented by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed one of the lawsuits before the state Supreme Court. Hours later, three voting rights groups brought their own case in federal court in Madison. Republicans who control the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are not expected to reach a deal on the maps, which will leave it to the courts to decide where to put the lines.
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