January 5, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Colorado: “Aurora’s Adoption of Strict Limits on Campaign Contributions Means Most of Colorado’s Largest Cities Have Controls in Place” by John Aguilar for Denver Post Ohio: “Despite Bribery Scandal, Influence of Dark Money in Ohio Remains Unchecked” by […]
Colorado: “Aurora’s Adoption of Strict Limits on Campaign Contributions Means Most of Colorado’s Largest Cities Have Controls in Place” by John Aguilar for Denver Post
Ohio: “Despite Bribery Scandal, Influence of Dark Money in Ohio Remains Unchecked” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
National: “In Viral Ad, New Member of Congress Appears to Walk Capitol Hill Streets with a Glock” by Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for MSN
Connecticut: “Ritter Family of Hartford Extends Its Influence in Connecticut Legislature, Courts” by Christopher Keating for Hartford Courant
Virginia: “Richmond Judge Recuses Himself from Case Involving State Senator Who Has Power Over Reappointing Him to the Bench” by Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) for MSN
Washington: “Olympia Lawmaking Is About to Go Virtual. Participants See Both Minefields and Silver Linings” by Sarah Genzler for Tri-City Herald
National: “Lobbyist Brother of Biden Advisor Has Reputation for Deep Connections and Looking to Avoid Possible Conflicts” by Brian Schwartz for CNBC
California: “Newsom’s Friendship with Lobbyist Who Threw French Laundry Party Brings Questions” by Taryn Luna and Phil Willon for Los Angeles Times
Missouri: “Lobbyist Steve Tilley Worked to Steer Marijuana Money to Jason Kander Tiny Home Project” by Kurt Erickson and Jack Suntrup for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 4, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Indiana: “Some Donors to Pete Buttigieg’s Presidential Campaign Scored Contracts from South Bend When He Was Mayor” by Brian Schwartz for CNBC Ohio: “Groups Backing Gov. DeWine and His Daughter Received FirstEnergy Cash Funneled Through Dark Money Outfits” […]
Indiana: “Some Donors to Pete Buttigieg’s Presidential Campaign Scored Contracts from South Bend When He Was Mayor” by Brian Schwartz for CNBC
Ohio: “Groups Backing Gov. DeWine and His Daughter Received FirstEnergy Cash Funneled Through Dark Money Outfits” by Jackie Borchardt (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSM
National: “No Emails Have Leaked from the 2020 Election Campaigns Yet – Tiny USB Sticks May Be One Reason Why” by Jordan Novet for CNBC
Georgia: “‘I Just Want to Find 11,780 Votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Appeals Court Backs Subpoena-Like Power for Minority in House” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico
Louisiana: “5 Years Before Ethics Charges Were Filed, Groundwater Commission Was Told of Potential Conflicts” by David Mitchell for The Advocate
National: “Lobbyists with Ties to House GOP See Fortunes Rising” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
California: “Grand Jury Accuses San Jose Unified of Misleading Public and Its Own Board About Lobbying Efforts” by Lloyd Alaban for San Jose Spotlight
South Carolina: “SC Senators Turn Spotlight on NextEra, Energy Giant Seeking to Buy Santee Cooper” by John Monk for The State
December 25, 2020 •
National/Federal A Frustrated Trump Redoubles Efforts to Challenge Election Result MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020 President Trump has intensified efforts to overturn the election, raising a series of radical measures […]
A Frustrated Trump Redoubles Efforts to Challenge Election Result
MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020
President Trump has intensified efforts to overturn the election, raising a series of radical measures in recent days, including military intervention, seizing voting machines, and a 13th-hour appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump said he had spoken with Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville about challenging the electoral vote count when the House and Senate convene on January 6 to formally affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump’s conversation with Tuberville is part of a much broader effort by the defeated president to invalidate the election. He is increasingly reaching out to allies like Giuliani and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for ideas and searching his Twitter feed for information to promote.
Bennet Introduces Bill to Eliminate ‘Zombie’ Campaign Accounts
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlick | Published: 12/18/2020
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced the Zeroing Out Money for Buying Influence after Elections (ZOMBIE) Act to address what happens with campaign money for federal candidates when they leave office. The ZOMBIE Act requires candidates to close campaign accounts within six months of not filing to run for reelection or another federal office. People would also need to close their personal or leadership committees before registering as a lobbyist or foreign agent. Candidates may divest their unspent money to donors, the U.S. Treasury, or a charity. The candidate or their family may not have personal ties to the recipient charity, however.
Despite Trump’s Intense Hunt for Voter Fraud, Officials in Key States Have So Far Identified Just a Small Number of Possible Cases
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Jon Swaine, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 12/23/2020
After an intense hunt by President Trump’s allies to surface voting irregularities in this year’s election, law enforcement agencies in six key swing states targeted by the president have found just a modest number of complaints that have merited investigation. So far, only a handful of cases have resulted in actual criminal charges alleging wrongdoing – some of them against Republican voters aiming to help Trump. The tiny number of incidents further undercut Trump’s barrage of false allegations that there was widespread manipulation of the vote. The alleged voter fraud cases, mostly spotted by local election officials, were identified due to the kinds of safeguards in place in states and counties specifically designed to catch problems.
FBI Links Iran to Online Hit List Targeting Top Officials Who’ve Refuted Trump’s Election Fraud Claims
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) | Published: 12/22/2020
The FBI has concluded Iran was behind online efforts to incite lethal violence against the bureau’s director, a former top U.S. cyber expert, and multiple state elections officials who have refuted claims of widespread voter fraud promoted by President Trump and his allies. FBI Director Christopher Wray and ousted Homeland Security Department official Christopher Krebs were among more than a dozen people whose images, home addresses, and other personal information were posted on a website titled “Enemies of the People.” Crosshairs were superimposed over the photos. In August, intelligence officials said Iran was seeking to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and divide the country in advance of the election.
High Court Rules Challenge to Trump Census Plan Is Premature
Associated Press News – Mark Sherman | Published: 12/18/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed as premature a challenge to President Trump’s plan to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count used to allot states seats in the House of Representatives. But the court’s decision is not a final ruling on the matter, and it is not clear whether Trump will receive final numbers from the Census Bureau before he leaves office. The high court said it was too soon to rule on the legality of Trump’s plan because it is not yet clear how many people he would seek to exclude and whether the division of House seats would be affected.
House Intends to Reissue Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records Next Year
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/21/2020
The House Oversight Committee intends to reissue a subpoena for President Trump’s financial records next year. The House has been pursuing Trump’s financial documents form his accounting firm, Mazars USA, since Democrats took power in early 2019 but the effort has been tied up in the courts. The case landed before the U.S. Supreme Court this year, and the justices determined the lower courts had failed to scrutinize the subpoena closely enough, kicking it back to them for further review. Now, as the congressional session winds down, the House is signaling it intends to continue pursuing Trump’s financial documents even as he prepares to leave office.
Kushner Helped Launch Shell Company That Paid Campaign Funds to Trump Family: Report
MSN – Mary Papenfuss (HuffPost) | Published: 12/19/2020
A campaign shell company created in part by Jared Kushner spent half of President Trump’s massive campaign fund and secretly paid Trump family members and associates, according to Business Insider. Lara Trump, the wife of the president’s son Eric, was head of the company, and a nephew of Vice President Mike Pence served as its vice president, Business Insider reported. The company was incorporated in Delaware as American Made Media Consultants Corporation and American Made Media Consultants. Records reveal the president’s campaign and its affiliated Trump Make America Great Again Committee with the Republican National Committee spent more than $617 million through the company, which purchased ads but also funded the more amorphous tasks of “digital consulting” and “research consulting.”
Major U.S. Companies Are Lobbying in a Scrum for Early Vaccine
MSN – Christopher Rowland, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jacob Bogage, Abha Bhattarai, and Laura Reiley (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020
Companies are lobbying states and the federal government to prioritize their workers for early immunization against the coronavirus amid limited supplies of the vaccine. After front-line health-care workers and elderly people in nursing homes and assisted-living centers are immunized, the government is expected to begin shipping vaccine to communities for those it has designated as essential workers. The task of setting the sequence of vaccinations within that disparate population, verifying who is essential and setting up equitable systems for access is triggering competition. The government’s list is so broad it includes everyone from weather forecasters to the operators of shooting ranges. Some policy experts fear the competition for vaccines will favor the wealthiest companies with the strongest lobbying teams in state capitals.
New Round of Trump Clemency Benefits Manafort, Other Allies
Associated Press News – Eric Tucker | Published: 12/24/2020
President Trump pardoned more than two dozen people, including former campaign chairperson Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, in the latest wave of clemency to benefit longtime associates and supporters. The actions, in Trump’s waning time at the White House, bring to nearly 50 the number of people whom the president has granted clemency in the last week. The list from the last two days includes not only multiple people convicted in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia but also allies from Congress and other felons whose causes were championed by friends.
Trump Pardons 15, Commutes 5 Sentences, Including GOP Allies
Associated Press News – Colleen Long, Kevin Freking, and Eric Tucker | Published: 12/23/2020
President Trump granted clemency to 20 people, including three former Republican members of Congress and two people who were convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Recipients of Trump’s newest pardons included his first two congressional endorsers, former Rep. Chris Collins, convicted on charges related to insider trading, and former Rep. Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance abuses, including some to support extramarital affairs. Some of Trump’s actions seemed intended to send clear messages, such as grants of clemency for George Papadopoulos, the former campaign operative whose 2016 activities triggered the FBI probe that led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Trump Will Face Different Twitter Rules When He Leaves Office
MSN – Emily Glazer (Wall Street Journal) | Published: 12/22/2020
President Trump has used his Twitter account as a megaphone during his administration. When he leaves office, he will need to abide by a different set of rules. Trump is currently able to tweet with less risk, compared with private citizens, of having tweets taken down or his account suspended. His Twitter account, which has more than 88 million followers, will no longer receive special privileges when he becomes a private citizen, Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio said. The loss of privileges reserved for world leaders and public officials would mean that if Trump violates the site’s rules, those tweets would be taken down rather than labeled in the future, Pacilio said.
Watchdog: Amy McGrath Campaign Illegally Coordinated with Democratic Party Super PACs in Bid to Unseat Mitch McConnell
MSN – Colin Kalmbacher (Law & Crime) | Published: 12/17/2020
The U.S. Senate campaign of failed candidate Amy McGrath illegally coordinated with a Democratic Party super PAC in violation of federal campaign finance law, according to a complaint filed with the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said McGrath’s campaign, along with the Senate campaign of Mike Espy, violated the law during the 2020 election. The CLC said McGrath’s campaign and the Ditch Fund illegally coordinated on up to $8 million worth of spending during her unsuccessful bid to unseat Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Espy’s failed effort at replacing Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith allegedly violated federal law by coordinating with the March on PAC to the tune of some $50,000, according to the CLC.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – AG Says Pima County Ban on Political Contributions Unconstitutional
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 12/18/2020
Pima County’s prohibition on its employees contributing money to candidates for county office violates both the U.S. and Arizona constitutions, according to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. In a nonbinding opinion, Brnovich said the policy impermissibly infringes on the free speech rights of Pima County employees. The 1992 policy bars county employees from contributing money or soliciting contributions for county candidates. County supervisors passed the rule as an ethics reform to prevent elected officials from pressuring employees to contribute to their campaigns.
Arizona – Candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission Faces Investigation into Campaign Spending
MSN – Ryan Randazzo (Arizona Republic) | Published: 12/17/2020
The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission agreed that Eric Sloan, who lost a bid to become one of the state’s utility regulators, appears to have violated laws regarding how candidates can spend public campaign money. The vote will initiate an investigation that could include subpoenas for Sloan’s finance records and depositions of witnesses. It ultimately could result in a fine. Sloan’s former campaign company accused Sloan of failing to pay him for a variety of services that helped get Slone on the ballot and then spending all his public money from the Clean Elections Commission elsewhere, which put him over the spending limit.
California – Newsom Appoints Alex Padilla to Fill Harris’ Senate Seat
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 12/22/2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom is appointing California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to the U.S. Senate, giving the state its first Latino senator. From the moment President-elect Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, California politicians began positioning themselves for the possible opening. The lobbying around Newsom has intensified since Biden’s victory, with various groups representing different constituencies urging the governor to appoint a Latino, a Black woman, or another representative of California’s diversity. The governor chose the presumed frontrunner in Padilla, who has supported Newsom’s political ambitions and offered the historic opportunity in a state where Latinos are a plurality at 40 percent of the population.
California – Newsom Lobbying Ban Won’t Immediately Affect French Laundry Dining Partner
MSN – Alexei Kosoff (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 12/17/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom committed to not hiring any registered lobbyist as a paid consultant and barred his paid campaign or political consultants from directly lobbying the governor, his staff, or state agencies under his control. The new policy bans a dozen people serving as paid consultants to his campaign or the California Democratic Party from lobbying, but Jason Kinney is not among them. Kinney, the lobbyist and longtime adviser to Newsom, whose attendance at a 50th birthday dinner for Kinney sparked criticism over his close ties to consultants who also work for corporate clients and other influential interests at the Capitol.
Colorado – Denver Clerk Lopez Contracts with Outside Group to Run City’s Campaign Finance System
North Denver Tribune – Staff | Published: 12/14/2020
Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul López today announced his office has contracted with MapLight a nonprofit technology firm, to build a replacement for the city’s outdated campaign finance reporting application. MapLight’s new application will be uniquely designed to administer Denver’s campaign finance regulations, provide in-depth search functions for the public, and implement the Fair Elections Fund. The new campaign finance system will launch in the second half of 2021 and will include a litany of needed upgrades for campaign users, employees, and Denver residents.
Colorado – How Colorado’s New Redistricting Commissions Will Navigate a Political Swamp in 2021
Bloomfield Enterprise – Jon Murray (Denver Post) | Published: 12/22/2020
A redistricting commission will take the helm in Colorado in 2021, steering the process of redrawing congressional and legislative districts, a process that in the past has often been dominated by whichever party held more sway. A lot will hinge on who gets picked as commissioners, how well they work together, and how they juggle competing interests, including jockeying for an eighth congressional seat that is expected to be granted to Colorado. But advocates say commissions are set up to keep decision-making out of back rooms. Each is required to be divided evenly between Democratic, Republican, and unaffiliated members. Many political insiders and lobbyists are barred from being members, and extensive rules require consensus to approve the new maps.
Florida – Antonacci Gets a New Job and an Old Problem: The appearance of a conflict of interest with his wife
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 12/16/2020
Outgoing Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci was named by Florida’s Cabinet to be the next Chief Judge/Executive Director of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. He must now be confirmed by the state Senate. For the second time in five years, however, Antonacci’s new job creates an immediate appearance of a conflict-of-interest involving his wife, Anne Longman, a lawyer who often represents clients before the division her husband would now lead.
Florida – ‘Could Really Use the Support’: Witness says Beach politician drove donors to mystery PAC
Miami Herald – Christina Saint Louis | Published: 12/17/2020
Before Petter Hagland became a key figure in the ethics scandal that wrecked Michael Grieco’s mayoral aspirations, he received multiple emails from the then-Miami Beach commissioner badgering him for one thing: money. “I am asking for your support in my endeavors to seek higher office,” Grieco wrote to Hagland, part of a wealthy Norwegian shipping and oil family, in an email. The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust questioned Hagland about those exchanges as part of its investigation into Grieco’s involvement with People for Better Leaders, the murky PAC that raised over $200,000, much of it from special interests doing business with the city, in the run-up to the 2017 municipal election. The $25,000 from Hagland was the largest contribution to the mystery PAC.
Florida – Michael Grieco’s Fundraising Falsehoods Violated Ethics Rules, Panel Finds
Miami Herald – Christina Saint Louis | Published: 12/17/2020
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found state Rep. Michael Grieco violated the Citizens’ Bill of Rights twice during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner by falsely portraying his involvement with the PAC People for Better Leaders. The first falsehood was when he told the Miami Herald, “I do not have a political committee. I didn’t set one up. I haven’t solicited one,” and again when he told the Herald, “It is absolutely untrue. … You can look right into my soul.” Evidence and testimony elicited in a hearing, including sworn statements from donors and the chairperson of the PAC, indicated Grieco was actively involved in creating, operating, coordinating, and funding the PAC.
Georgia – GOP Launches Legal War on Absentee Voting Ahead of Georgia Runoffs
Politico – Zach Montellaro and James Arkin | Published: 12/17/2020
Federal judges in Georgia rejected a pair of Republican-led lawsuits to restrict absentee voting ahead of January’s U.S. Senate runoffs, the first salvos in a GOP effort to change voting rules for future elections following President Trump’s loss in 2020. Republicans filed three lawsuits – two in federal court, one in state court – in Georgia ahead of the runoffs, in which hundreds of thousands of people have already voted by mail or in person for races that will decide control of the Senate. The suits are an attempt to make successfully voting by mail harder in Georgia, which Republicans say is necessary to protect the security of the elections and others claim is an attempt to suppress votes for Democratic candidates.
Illinois – Rules Requiring Nonprofits to Register as Lobbyists Delayed Again
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 12/21/2020
Rules requiring nonprofit organizations to register as lobbyists in Chicago were set to go into effect January 1, 2020, but were delayed after dozens of nonprofit groups objected, saying the regulations would force them to pay costly registration fees or risk $1,000 fines. The effort to amend the guidelines was still underway when the coronavirus pandemic forced City Hall to shut down, and the delay was extended. It will now last until spring 2021. The ethics ordinance will need to be revised by the city council to clarify the rules, officials with the Chicago Board of Ethics have said.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin to Resign Amid Investigation, Controversy
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 12/22/2020
Under investigation for potential abuse of CARES Act funds and facing ouster proceedings for participating in a political scandal during the 2019 mayoral race, Wichita City Councilperson James Clendenin plans to resign by the end of the year. Clendenin faced the possibility of being the first council member ousted in the city’s 150-year history. Clendenin is one of three city officeholders behind the “Protect Wichita Girls” video, a political advertisement that falsely accused Mayor Brandon Whipple of sexual harassment, and a plot to blame former Sedgwick County GOP Chairperson Dalton Glasscock for the bogus ad.
Maine – Maine Regulator Can Get Financial Records from Anti-CMP Corridor Group, Judge Rules
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 12/17/2020
Maine’s ethics commission can request financial records from a “dark-money” group opposing Central Maine Power’s proposed $1 billion corridor project as part of a broader investigation. Stop the Corridor sued the ethics commission, aiming to shield its donors from public view after the commission voted to require the group to disclose financial information as part of an investigation into whether Stop the Corridor had to register as a political committee after it gave $85,000 to another ant-corridor organization. But a judge disagreed with the anti-corridor group’s argument that the ethics agency had no jurisdiction to do so, denying a delay of the commission’s order by finding the group was unlikely to succeed and the information requested was relevant to the probe.
Maryland – With New Members in Place, Baltimore Spending Board Beefs Up Transparency on Conflicts of Interest
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 12/16/2020
Baltimore’s spending board voted to make its abstention process more transparent following a controversy in which the city’s then-comptroller repeatedly voted to approve spending for organizations with which she was connected. While members of the Board of Estimates were previously required to maintain a list of groups with which they had ties that could create a conflict and disclose any abstentions during meetings, the new rules require members to state the reason for abstaining in a memo that will be posted online with the board’s agenda.
Massachusetts – House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo Discloses He’s in Talks for Job at Northeastern, Setting Off Succession Campaign
MSN – Matt Stout and Andrea Estes (Boston Globe) | Published: 12/18/2020
House Speaker Robert DeLeo filed a much-anticipated ethics disclosure notifying officials he is in talks for a job with Northeastern University, potentially marking the beginning of the end of his tenure as the longest-serving House leader in Massachusetts history. According to his letter, DeLeo said he asked his personal attorney to contact the state’s Ethics Commission to “discuss my status and to ensure compliance” with the conflict-of-interest law. DeLeo wrote he is currently not required to file a disclosure but chose to “out of an abundance of caution.” DeLeo would be the first speaker since 1990 to step down on his own timetable and without the specter of either a criminal investigation or indictment.
Missouri – Ethics Panel Rebukes St. Louis Lawmaker Accused of Having Sex with Intern
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 12/17/2020
Missouri Rep. Wiley Price IV faces censure after an investigation into whether he had sex with his legislative intern earlier this year. Price did not admit to having sex with the intern but was found to have attempted to cover up the incident and interfered in the House Ethics Committee probe into his behavior. The committee recommended the full House strongly admonish Price. That could include stripping him of his committee assignments and not allowing him to meet with the Democratic caucus. He also will be barred from having an intern in the future, and the report calls for Price to repay $22,494 to cover the cost of the investigation.
New Mexico – Nonprofit Groups Test New Independent Expenditure Law to the Test
New Mexico Political Report – Brian Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 12/16/2020
New Mexico lawmakers passed campaign reporting requirements in 2019 to force nonprofit groups, which can spend money on campaigns without registering as political committees, to disclose their spending as well as the names, addresses, and contribution amounts of their donors who fund such independent expenditures. In 2020, two nonprofit groups immediately put the new law to the test by refusing to disclose donors despite enforcement efforts by both the secretary of state and the State Ethics Commission. The challenges by the nonprofit groups represent a key test for both the law itself and for the enforcing power of the ethics panel, which was also established in 2019.
New York – Ex-Sen. Jeff Klein Seeks to Block Ethics Hearing on Sexual Harassment Allegations
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/21/2020
Former New York Sen. Jeffrey Klein has filed a petition in state Supreme Court seeking to block the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) from holding a hearing on whether he violated Public Officers Law when he allegedly forcibly kissed a female staff member outside an Albany bar five years ago. The petition alleges JCOPE exceeded its authority and abused its discretion when it rejected a hearing officer’s recommendation the case should be dismissed.
North Dakota – Attorney General: North Dakota Ethics Commission can write lobbying definitions
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 12/23/2020
The North Dakota Ethics Commission can write rules defining “lobby” and “lobbyist” pertaining to gift restrictions, according to state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. He issued an opinion in response to the board’s request for clarification on its authority to expand on the definitions relating to gifts. Commissioners have encountered conflicting language in state law and the North Dakota Constitution as they have established the board and its rules.
Ohio – Elections Commission Dings Rep. Nino Vitale Over Late Report, Delays More Serious Charges
MSN – Rick Rouan (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/17/2020
A state lawmaker who has backed an effort to impeach Gov. Mike DeWine, urged Ohioans not to get tested for the coronavirus, and was accused of using anti-Semitic language against former Health Director Dr. Amy Acton is now answering for alleged campaign finance violations. The Ohio Elections Commission found Rep. Nino Vitale violated the law by filing one of his reports after the deadline. The commission did not level any penalty or fine against Vitale for the late filing. The case included several other allegations, including that Vitale improperly used a campaign account to accept payment for a concealed carry class he taught. The remaining five counts in the case were set for a separate hearing to be scheduled later. Vitale appeared to suggest the complaint was tied to his support of articles of impeachment against DeWine.
Ohio – Leader of Columbus Green-Energy Ballot Measure Indicted for False Campaign Finance Reports
MSN – Mark Ferenchick (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/16/2020
John Clark Jr., who led the initiative petition drive that would have diverted tens of millions of dollars of city of Columbus money toward vague green-energy initiatives, was indicted on felony charges of filing false campaign finance reports. The charges relate to false information provided on campaign finance reports filed with the city in 2019. The Franklin County prosecutor’s office said the false statements are related to the source and amount of contributions made to the ballot initiative. The 2019 initiative would have redirected $57 million dollars in city money to proposed green-energy initiatives by ProEnergy Ohio LLC, a limited partnership group Clark led.
Ohio – Ohio Lawmakers Do Nothing on Scandal-Tainted House Bill
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/22/2020
After a federal bribery investigation ousted a former House leader, Ohio lawmakers did nothing to repeal or delay the $1 billion nuclear plant bailout at the heart of the alleged “pay-to-play” scheme. Caught between lawmakers who wanted to do more to curb the nuclear subsidies and those who wanted to bail out the plants, the Republican-controlled House could not cobble together the votes needed for a change. A judge relieved some of the pressure on lawmakers to act by blocking the fees from appearing on Ohioans’ electric bills in January. The fees subsidize two nuclear plants owned by Energy Harbor. Lawmakers will continue to work to find a definitive legislative solution next year, Speaker Bob Cupp said.
Oregon – Staffers for Oregon Lawmakers Have Filed to Form a Union
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 12/16/2020
Legislative aides in Oregon want to be the first group of such employees in the country to form their own union. While unions often have a partisan tinge in the statehouse, staffers of lawmakers in both parties note changes in recent years they felt highlighted a need for better representation. One is a lengthy process that has sought to modify pay within the Capitol. One facet of that process, adopted earlier this year, was focused on ensuring staffers are paid equitably if they serve in similar roles. Another change is the Legislature’s ongoing revisions of Capitol policies for harassment and retaliation. The employees said a union would ensure their voices are present when lawmakers make such decisions.
South Carolina – Richland Councilwoman Accused of Corruption as Prosecutor Criticizes County Spending
MSN – David Travis Bland, Bristow Marchant, and Sarah Ellis (The State) | Published: 12/18/2020
Richland County Council member Dalhi Myers used taxpayer money for personal travel to Greece and other places, a resort hotel stay in Nashville, and “premium chocolates” and other personal items, according to an indictment. The grand jury indicted Myers on 24 charges that include misconduct in office, use of official position for personal gain, embezzlement, writing a fraudulent check, and use of campaign funds for personal expenses. Most of the indictments allege she used county taxpayer money for personal use. If convicted on all charges, she could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.
Tennessee – In Earlier Meetings, Ford, Jr. Cast Votes in Favor of $450K Award Entangled in His Business
Memphis Commercial Appeal – Sarah Macaraeg | Published: 12/17/2020
Records show Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford, Jr. twice introduced and voted in favor of a $450,000 budget allocation to Junior Achievement, a nonprofit he later said he sold computers through his business, E&J Computer Services and Repair. The committee votes moved Ford’s grant resolution in front of the full Board of Commissioners with a favorable recommendation. Ford left the room of the final vote without making a disclosure, video shows, though he acknowledged he had had conflicts-of-interest in mind. The records of the earlier meetings show that Ford did not recuse himself at any stage.
Texas – $1.7M for George Strait, Six-Figure Bonuses: Months later, a lawsuit forced Texas to release details on inaugural spending
Texas Tribune – Jay Root (Houston Chronicle) and Shannon Najmabadi | Published: 12/17/2020
Gov. Greg Abbott and the 2019 Texas Inaugural Committee spent months fighting the disclosure of documents detailing how they spent a record-setting $5.3 million that event organizers raised mostly from corporations and wealthy donors. But The Texas Tribune sued the committee and successfully obtained the bank statements and spending ledger in an out-of-court settlement. The result is the most detailed and complete account of inaugural spending in decades. Attorney Bill Aleshire, who represented The Tribune, said the legal fight he had to wage to get the records highlights the need for better transparency in state inaugurations, which accept corporate money but face little regulation over how it gets spent.
Texas – Developer Sherman Roberts Indicted on Charges of Bribing Dwaine Caraway and Carolyn Davis
D Magazine – Matt Goodman | Published: 12/17/2020
Sherman Roberts, chief executive officer of City Wide Community Development Corporation, was indicted on bribery charges for his dealings with two former Dallas City Council members who, prosecutors claim, supported his tax-credit housing projects in exchange for money and promises of future payments. The indictment does not name the council members, but one appears to be the late Carolyn Davis, who was chair of the city’s Housing Committee at the time of one of the alleged bribes. The other alleged bribe recipient appears to be former Councilperson Dwaine Caraway, who is serving a 56-month sentence for accepting bribes for his vote on another contract.
Virginia – In Richmond, the Case of the State Senator and the Judge Draws Attention to Lax Ethics Rules
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 12/18/2020
Virginia is one of two states where judges are selected by the Legislature, a practice that dates to the Colonial era. When Richmond General District Judge David Hicks appeared before a General Assembly committee seeking reappointment to the bench, he had an unusual connection to one of the lawmakers conducting the review. State Sen. Joseph Morrissey had just appeared in Hicks’s courtroom the week before as a defendant in a misdemeanor criminal case. With Hicks still presiding over Morrissey’s case, the interaction raised eyebrows. It casts a light on the way business is conducted around the Capitol and draws attention to Virginia conflict-of-interest rules that largely leave it up to public officials to self-police.
Washington DC – While Incarcerated in the D.C. Jail, a Candidate Fights for an ANC Seat
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer | Published: 12/17/2020
Joel Caston has filled many roles during his 26 years of incarceration, from youth mentor to published author to financial literacy instructor for his fellow inmates. Now he is seeking a new job: elected official. Caston ran in November for a long-vacant seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, The District of Columbia’s most granular level of local government, with the goal of representing inmates at the city jail as the first person to hold the office while incarcerated. But his pursuit has been hampered by a paperwork error, and the Board of Elections says he would not be allowed to take office. Caston and his advocates outside the jail say they are not giving up on finding a solution.
December 24, 2020 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Michael Grieco’s Fundraising Falsehoods Violated Ethics Rules, Panel Finds” by Christina Saint Louis for Miami Herald Ohio: “Leader of Columbus Green-Energy Ballot Measure Indicted for False Campaign Finance Reports” by Mark Ferenchick (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN Elections […]
Florida: “Michael Grieco’s Fundraising Falsehoods Violated Ethics Rules, Panel Finds” by Christina Saint Louis for Miami Herald
Ohio: “Leader of Columbus Green-Energy Ballot Measure Indicted for False Campaign Finance Reports” by Mark Ferenchick (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN
National: “FBI Links Iran to Online Hit List Targeting Top Officials Who’ve Refuted Trump’s Election Fraud Claims” by Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Despite Trump’s Intense Hunt for Voter Fraud, Officials in Key States Have So Far Identified Just a Small Number of Possible Cases” by Rosalind Helderman, Jon Swaine, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for MSN
Washington DC: “While Incarcerated in the D.C. Jail, a Candidate Fights for an ANC Seat” by Julie Zauzmer for Washington Post
National: “Trump Pardons 15, Commutes 5 Sentences, Including GOP Allies” by Colleen Long, Kevin Freking, and Eric Tucker for Associated Press News
National: “New Round of Trump Clemency Benefits Manafort, Other Allies” by Eric Tucker for Associated Press News
Ohio: “Ohio Lawmakers Do Nothing on Scandal-Tainted House Bill” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
South Carolina: “Richland Councilwoman Accused of Corruption as Prosecutor Criticizes County Spending” by David Travis Bland, Bristow Marchant, and Sarah Ellis (The State) for MSN
Texas: “Developer Sherman Roberts Indicted on Charges of Bribing Dwaine Caraway and Carolyn Davis” by Matt Goodman for D Magazine
North Dakota: “Attorney General: North Dakota Ethics Commission can write lobbying definitions” by Jack Dura for Bismarck Tribune
Colorado: “How Colorado’s New Redistricting Commissions Will Navigate a Political Swamp in 2021” by Jon Murray (Denver Post) for Bloomfield Enterprise
December 23, 2020 •
Campaign Finance Arizona: “AG Says Pima County Ban on Political Contributions Unconstitutional” by Jeremy Duda for Arizona Mirror Colorado: “Denver Clerk Lopez Contracts with Outside Group to Run City’s Campaign Finance System” by Staff for North Denver Tribune Maine: “Maine […]
Arizona: “AG Says Pima County Ban on Political Contributions Unconstitutional” by Jeremy Duda for Arizona Mirror
Colorado: “Denver Clerk Lopez Contracts with Outside Group to Run City’s Campaign Finance System” by Staff for North Denver Tribune
Maine: “Maine Regulator Can Get Financial Records from Anti-CMP Corridor Group, Judge Rules” by Caitlin Andrews for Bangor Daily News
National: “Undercutting Trump, Barr Says There’s No Basis for Seizing Voting Machines, Using Special Counsels for Election Fraud, Hunter Biden” by Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump Will Face Different Twitter Rules When He Leaves Office” by Emily Glazer (Wall Street Journal) for MSN
National: “House Intends to Reissue Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records Next Year” by Kyle Cheney for Politico
Kansas: “Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin to Resign Amid Investigation, Controversy” by Chance Swaim for Wichita Eagle
Virginia: “In Richmond, the Case of the State Senator and the Judge Draws Attention to Lax Ethics Rules” by Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Newsom Appoints Alex Padilla to Fill Harris’ Senate Seat” by Jeremy White for Politico
Massachusetts: “House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo Discloses He’s in Talks for Job at Northeastern, Setting Off Succession Campaign” by Matt Stout and Andrea Estes (Boston Globe) for MSN
Illinois: “Rules Requiring Nonprofits to Register as Lobbyists Delayed Again” by Heather Cherone for WTTW
December 22, 2020 •
Campaign Finance National: “Kushner Helped Launch Shell Company That Paid Campaign Funds to Trump Family: Report” by Mary Papenfuss (HuffPost) for MSN Arizona: “Candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission Faces Investigation into Campaign Spending” by Ryan Randazzo (Arizona Republic) for MSN […]
National: “Kushner Helped Launch Shell Company That Paid Campaign Funds to Trump Family: Report” by Mary Papenfuss (HuffPost) for MSN
Arizona: “Candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission Faces Investigation into Campaign Spending” by Ryan Randazzo (Arizona Republic) for MSN
Texas: “$1.7M for George Strait, Six-Figure Bonuses: Months later, a lawsuit forced Texas to release details on inaugural spending” by Jay Root (Houston Chronicle) and Shannon Najmabadi for Texas Tribune
National: “A Frustrated Trump Redoubles Efforts to Challenge Election Result” by Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Antonacci Gets a New Job and an Old Problem: The appearance of a conflict of interest with his wife” by Dan Christensen for Florida Bulldog
Maryland: “With New Members in Place, Baltimore Spending Board Beefs Up Transparency on Conflicts of Interest” by Emily Opilo for Baltimore Sun
Missouri: “Ethics Panel Rebukes St. Louis Lawmaker Accused of Having Sex with Intern” by Kurt Erickson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
National: “Major U.S. Companies Are Lobbying in a Scrum for Early Vaccine” by Christopher Rowland, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jacob Bogage, Abha Bhattarai, and Laura Reiley (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Newsom Lobbying Ban Won’t Immediately Affect French Laundry Dining Partner” by Alexei Kosoff (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
December 21, 2020 •
Campaign Finance National: “Watchdog: Amy McGrath Campaign Illegally Coordinated with Democratic Party Super PACs in Bid to Unseat Mitch McConnell” by Colin Kalmbacher (Law & Crime) for MSN National: “Bennet Introduces Bill to Eliminate ‘Zombie’ Campaign Accounts” by Michael Karlick […]
National: “Watchdog: Amy McGrath Campaign Illegally Coordinated with Democratic Party Super PACs in Bid to Unseat Mitch McConnell” by Colin Kalmbacher (Law & Crime) for MSN
National: “Bennet Introduces Bill to Eliminate ‘Zombie’ Campaign Accounts” by Michael Karlick for Colorado Politics
Florida: “‘Could Really Use the Support’: Witness says Beach politician drove donors to mystery PAC” by Christina Saint Louis for Miami Herald
New Mexico: “Nonprofit Groups Test New Independent Expenditure Law to the Test” by Brian Metzger for New Mexico In Depth
Ohio: “Elections Commission Dings Rep. Nino Vitale Over Late Report, Delays More Serious Charges” by Rick Rouan (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN
National: “High Court Rules Challenge to Trump Census Plan Is Premature” by Mark Sherman for Associated Press News
Georgia: “GOP Launches Legal War on Absentee Voting Ahead of Georgia Runoffs” by Zach Montellaro and James Arkin for Politico
Tennessee: “In Earlier Meetings, Ford, Jr. Cast Votes in Favor of $450K Award Entangled in His Business” by Sarah Macaraeg for Memphis Commercial Appeal
Oregon: “Staffers for Oregon Lawmakers Have Filed to Form a Union” by Dirk VanderHart for OPB
December 18, 2020 •
National/Federal Attorney General William Barr to Step Down Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/14/2020 Attorney General William Barr is leaving his position, a decision that follows months of complaints from President Trump about the administration’s top lawyer. […]
Attorney General William Barr to Step Down
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/14/2020
Attorney General William Barr is leaving his position, a decision that follows months of complaints from President Trump about the administration’s top lawyer. The cordial tone of Trump’s tweet announcing Barr’s exit was in marked contrast to the president’s public scolding of the attorney general in recent weeks. In Trump’s telling, Barr had failed to make public a financial crimes investigation into Joe Biden’s son that was ongoing before the election and failed to muster the Justice Department in support of Trump’s legal campaign to upend the election results. Barr’s letter confirming his departure opened with an allusion to Trump’s insistent but baseless claims the election was stolen. The letter did not repeat or disavow Barr’s statement that he had seen no indication of “widespread” fraud.
Biden’s Inaugural Will Be Mostly Virtual, but Money from Donors Will Be Real
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Eric Lipton | Published: 12/16/2020
President-elect Joe Biden’s allies have begun an ambitious campaign to raise millions of dollars from corporations and individuals by offering special “V.I.P. participation” in reimagined inaugural festivities that will be largely virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. The contrast between the constraints of putting on inaugural festivities during a public health crisis and fundraising as usual underscores how donations to an inaugural are not just about getting good seats for the swearing-in or tickets to black-tie balls. They are also a way for corporations and well-heeled individuals to curry favor with a new administration, a reality that prompted liberal groups to ask Biden’s inaugural committee to forgo corporate donations.
Electoral College Affirms Biden’s Victory on a Relatively Calm Day of a Chaotic Election
MSN – Elise Viebeck, Dan Simmons, Amy Worden, and Omar Sofradzija (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2020
President-elect Joe Biden achieved formal victory over President Trump, winning his 306 votes in the electoral college and advancing one more step toward inauguration even as die-hard Trump supporters redoubled their efforts to stop the normal transfer of power. Electors gathered in every state and the District of Columbia for a day-long series of votes that delivered no surprises for either Trump or Biden. The proceedings harked back to more typical presidential elections and stood in contrast with the unprecedented, though fruitless, six weeks of legal and procedural chaos triggered by Trump’s refusal to accept his loss.
EPA Can’t Claw Back Names of ‘Happy Hour’ Oil Lobbyists
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 12/9/2020
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot claw back documents it disclosed by mistake revealing the names of oil lobbyists who planned a “happy hour” outing with EPA officials, a federal judge ruled. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero found the EPA failed to show unveiling names and email addresses of lobbyists posed the kind of privacy or safety risk that would justify ordering the documents be returned. The EPA argued that disclosing those details could make the lobbyists targets of harassment by the media or “individual actors.” Spero found no evidence that unmasking other lobbyists’ names in Freedom of Information Act-requested documents led to the kind of harassment the EPA feared.
Forced to Take Networking Virtual by Pandemic, K Street May Never Go Back
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 12/10/2020
K Street lobbyists have embraced the virtual world for networking events, policy panels, and client conferences, in many cases nabbing big-name speakers, including members of Congress, government officials, and business executives. Though Zoom interactions may never fully replace in-person hobnobbing, most lobbyists expect virtual sessions to endure long after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. Such events are free but ingratiate lobbyists with clients, potential clients, and Washington’s policymakers on whom they may rely for future decisions amid the political tumult of a new Congress and a new administration.
Judges May Reinstate Foreign Agent Case Against Flynn Partner
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/12/2020
A federal appeals court panel is signaling it may reinstate criminal charges against a business partner of Michael Flynn over a consulting project Flynn’s firm did for Turkish interests, despite Flynn’s receipt of a pardon from President Trump that absolves the former national security adviser of criminal liability in the matter. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the government’s bid to revive a pair of guilty verdicts a federal court jury returned last year against Bijan Rafiekian, co-founder of Flynn’s short-lived firm, Flynn Intel Group.
Legislatures Across Country Plan Sweeping Election Reform Push
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 12/10/2020
State Legislatures across the country are contemplating sweeping changes to the way elections are administered after a tumultuous presidential contest, one that ended with both the highest voter turnout in American history and the outgoing president baselessly calling its integrity into question. In its wake, election rules have become the hottest topic for Legislatures, especially in presidential battleground states. In some states, lawmakers plan to make permanent access to absentee and mail-in voting that were temporarily expanded by the coronavirus pandemic, while others are looking to enact new restrictions on how people can vote.
Potential Family Conflicts Arise for Joe Biden and Aides as His Administration Drafts New Ethics Rules
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2020
Joe Biden is preparing to step back into the Oval Office with different expectations from his time as vice present about how to handle the relationship between his official power and his family’s private interests. After President Trump”s years of mixing family with governing and an election that highlighted the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter, the president-elect has promised to keep his family from being hired into his administration, and to prohibit family entanglements with “any foreign operation.” Lawyers for the presidential transition are drafting new rules for the Biden White House that are likely to be more restrictive than the rules that governed the Obama administration. Biden has made clear he wants a clean break from Trump, who employed his family and spent public funds at family businesses.
Sen. David Perdue Sold His Home to a Finance Industry Official Whose Organization Was Lobbying the Senate
ProPublica – Robert Faterechi | Published: 12/10/2020
U.S. Sen. Dave Perdue sold his Washington, D.C., home last year to a brokerage industry official whose organization is under the purview of a committee Perdue sits on. The deal was made off market, without the home being listed for sale publicly. Though an appraisal by the buyer found Perdue sold for slightly under market value, four local real estate experts disagreed, saying the almost $1.8 million sale price Perdue garnered seemed high. A fifth expert said the price was squarely fair market value. Ultimately, congressional ethics experts said, their concern was Perdue sold privately and to someone whose organization that he oversaw as a senator.
Trump and His GOP Allies Vow to ‘Fight On’ after Supreme Court Rejects Legal Challenge to Overturn Election Results
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 12/12/2020
President Trump amplified his unfounded claims and falsehoods about President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, lashed out at his attorney general and Republican governors he deemed unfaithful to him, and vowed to continue challenging the election results, despite the U.S. Supreme Court dealing a final blow to his brazen legal efforts to overturn the vote. Many of Trump’s GOP allies in Congress were not swayed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the challenge brought by the Texas attorney general that asked the justices to invalidate millions of ballots cast in four battleground states – Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Georgia – and toss out Biden’s win.
U.S. SEC Relaxes Rules on Company ‘Resource Extraction’ Disclosures
Reuters – Katanga Johnson | Published: 12/16/2020
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relaxed requirements on oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments, completing a rule created by Congress. The agency voting to adopt industry-friendly changes to its “resources extraction” disclosure rule follows a 10-year industry fight to water down the measure, mandated by the 2010 Dodd Frank law passed to battle corporate corruption. It was the third version of the rule. SEC member Allison Lee said the rule does not demand the “detail” that would enable regulators to spot potential corruption. It also applies to fewer companies and raises the value threshold for disclosure, among other weaknesses, Lee said.
VA Watchdog Told Prosecutors His Probe of Secretary Wilkie’s Effort to Discredit House Staffer Turned Up Possible Criminal Conduct
MSN – Lisa Rein ansd Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2020
Confronted with a sexual assault allegation at a veterans hospital, Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie repeatedly sought to discredit the congressional aide who made the complaint and his staff worked to spread negative information about her while ignoring known problems of harassment at the facility, according to a report. The VA’s internal watchdog paints a portrait of a department led by senior officials who were indifferent, if not hostile, to the issues at the department’s flagship medical center in the nation’s capital. It found Wilkie acted unprofessionally if not unethically, in the case of the Navy veteran who is a policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, chairperson of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Gavin Newsom Bans His Paid Consultants from Lobbying in New ‘Ethics Memo’
MSN – Linda Korte (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 12/11/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is barring any paid campaign or political consultant from directly communicating on behalf of a client with the governor, members of his staff, or the agencies under his control for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action. He is barring any registered lobbyists from serving as paid campaign or political consultants. Newsom also directed his legal affairs secretary to appoint a chief ethics advisor to advise him and his team on all ethics matters. It is unclear whether the new ban applies to lobbyists who advise the governor but are not currently on his payroll.
California – With ‘a Lot to Lose,’ Dialysis Firms Spend Big, Become California Power Players
Yahoo News – Samantha Young (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 12/9/2020
The nation’s dialysis industry has poured $233 million into California campaigns over the past four years, establishing its leading companies as a formidable political force eager to protect their bottom line and influence state policy. Most of the money the industry spent funded the defeat of two union-backed ballot measures that would have regulated dialysis clinics and cut into their profits. But the companies and their trade association also stepped up their offense, dedicating about $16.4 million to lobbying and political contributions during the same period, an analysis shows.
Florida – DeSantis Wants ‘Normal’ Government Meetings. This Village Is Meeting at a Dog Park
Yahoo News – Aaron Leibowitz (Miami Herald) | Published: 12/9/2020
As temperatures dipped into the low 50s, a frigid night by Florida standards, officials in North Bay Village gathered under a small open tent on a waterfront grassy knoll behind a local dog park for a meeting. A handful of residents stood or sat on lawn chairs outside the tent, gravitating toward heat lamps for warmth. The strange scene reflected one local effort to protect against the spread of COVID-19, at a time when the tools to do so in Florida are limited. North Bay Village has now held two meetings next to the dog park to comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ demand that local governments return to in-person meetings.
Florida – Ethics Board Lobbying Ordinances Taking Shape Aim to Close Loopholes at Tallahassee City Hall
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 12/16/2020
Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board is continuing its work to develop additions to the city’s lobbying ordinances, floating three proposals that would strengthen its oversight over those trying to influence government. For the new measures, the board is looking to expand its purview to include oversight over lobbying, clearly defining who is a lobbyist and who would be subject to registering with the city, and requiring detailed logs of all lobbyist contacts with government officials. The proposed definition would include all who seek to influence any decision or recommendation “that foreseeably will be heard or reviewed by the City Commission or decision-making body.”
Florida – GOP Lawyer Appointed by Florida Governor Resigns State Panel in Protest Over Raid on Ousted Data Scientist’s Home
MSN – Teo Armus and Marisa Iati (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2020
A Republican lawyer resigned from a Florida judicial panel to object to police raiding the home of a data scientist who has alleged the state health department ousted her for resisting unethical pandemic-related requests. Ron Filipkowski, who served on a nominating commission for the state’s 12th Circuit, wrote in a resignation letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s general counsel that he considered the search warrant executed on Rebekah Jones’s home “unconscionable.” He also said it was indicative of the state’s “reckless and irresponsible” handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida – Mar-a-Lago Neighbors to Trump: Spend your post-presidency elsewhere
MSN – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 12/16/2020
Next-door neighbors of Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach he has called his Winter White House, do not want Trump as a resident when he leaves the presidency. They assert Trump lost his legal right to live at Mar-a-Lago because of an agreement he signed in the early 1990s when he converted the estate from his private residence to a private club. The legal maneuver could force Palm Beach to publicly address whether Trump can make Mar-a-Lago his legal residence and home, as he has been expected to do, when he becomes an ex-president. For years, various neighbors have raised concerns about disruptions, such as clogged traffic and blocked streets, caused by the president’s frequent trips to the club. Even before he was president, Trump created ill will in the town.
Florida – Secret Donor Name in Florida Senate Races Wiped from Records, Replaced
Tampa Bay Times – Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos | Published: 12/14/2020
The name of the mystery donor behind a $550,000 effort that helped promote no-party candidates in three key Florida Senate races, including one that is under investigation, was changed in campaign finance reports. While making changes to fix errors in campaign finance reports is common, election attorneys say it is unusual to see political committees change the name of their sole donor two months after the fact. If it is determined the committees intentionally changed the name to conceal the donor, or to make the contribution in the name of another, fines or criminal penalties could be involved, said Natalie Kato, an elections and campaign finance attorney.
Georgia – Georgia Runoffs Become High-Stakes GOP Fundraising Experiment
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 12/14/2020
Top Republicans are using the expensive U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia to sell their party on a deeper investment in digital fundraising, pointing to the surge in donations for the contests as an example of what GOP candidates could reap in 2022 and beyond, if they put the right infrastructure in place early. The effort is introducing some senators to online fundraising tactics that have been popular among Democrats for years but are not nearly as prevalent among Republicans. Thirty-one Republicans, including 17 who are up for reelection in 2022, are tapping into their donor lists in “tandem” email efforts benefiting themselves and the Georgia candidates, raising nearly $10 million online.
Illinois – Ethics Board Fines Ald. Brookins $5,000 For Violating Ethics Ordinance
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 12/14/2020
The Chicago Board of Ethics voted to fine Ald. Howard Brookins $5,000 for violating a city ordinance by defending clients, including former Ald. Proco Joe Moreno, in criminal cases involving the Chicago Police Department. The fine levied by the board is the maximum allowed. The Ethics Board ruled in September 2019 that aldermen face “diverging interests” when they represent a client charged with a crime based on evidence developed by Chicago police officers.
Illinois – Illinois House Panel Ends Probe of Powerful Speaker Madigan
Associated Press News – John O’Connor | Published: 12/15/2020
An Illinois House committee ended its consideration of a breach of trust claim against Speaker Michael Madigan, voting down further proceedings that could have led to discipline against the powerful Democrat. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin last summer filed documents seeking a charge of conduct unbecoming a legislator against Madigan after federal prosecutors implicated the longtime leader in a bribery scheme involving Commonwealth Edison. Madigan has been speaker for all but two of the past 37 years and is the longest-serving leader of any legislative body in American history.
Kansas – Supreme Court Won’t Revive Kansas Voter Registration ID Law
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 12/14/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Kansas that sought to revive a law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. A federal appeals court had declared the law unconstitutional. Kansas had been the only state to require people to show a physical document such as a birth certificate or passport when applying to register to vote. The issue is distinct from state laws that call for people to produce driver licenses or other photo IDs to cast a vote in person. The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was a leading source for Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally may have voted in the 2016 election.
Kentucky – Executive Gets One Year in State Prison for Campaign Case Linked to Lexington Council
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 12/14/2020
A former real estate executive was sentenced to a year in state prison after pleading guilty to 16 counts of campaign finance violations related to the May 2018 Lexington council primary. Timothy Wellman, a former CRM Companies executive, pleaded guilty in October. Federal prosecutors say Wellman circumvented Kentucky campaign finance limits prohibiting individuals from donating more than $2,000 to a candidate by using more than a dozen straw contributors and then reimbursing them. During the federal trial, Wellman was accused of asking those straw contributors to lie to the FBI or a federal grand jury about those campaign donations.
Maine – A Maine Legislature Changed by the Pandemic Could Challenge Lobbyists in 2021
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 12/10/2020
Lobbyists in Maine always try to get to know lawmakers when a new legislative session starts, but the coronavirus pandemic may alter how relationships are built and negotiations handled as the 2021 session set to begin in earnest this January looks like it will take place more on Zoom and less in the statehouse. Details are still being worked out, but the Augusta Civic Center is likely to serve as the main site of business. The statehouse has been closed to anyone who is not a lawmaker, staffer, delivery or contract worker, or reporter since the pandemic hit. Lawmakers approved an order allowing committees to cast votes and the public to participate in meetings electronically, giving them more flexibility.
Michigan – Michigan AG Reviewing Whether Lawmakers Can Lobby Out of State
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 12/9/2020
The Michigan attorney general’s office is reviewing whether legislators serving in the state can legally be registered lobbyists outside its borders. It was reported in November that Rep. Rebekah Warren had been hired by the interest group National Popular Vote and filed a lobbying disclosure on behalf of the organization in Pennsylvania. She is also registered to lobby in North Carolina. State law bans lawmakers and other state officials from accepting pay for “personally engaging in lobbying.” But it is unclear whether that prohibition refers specifically to only lobbying in Michigan, which is what the rest of the law is focused on.
New Mexico – Ethics Panel Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure of Group’s Donors
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 12/11/2020
The New Mexico Ethics Commission filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing a group that spent more than $130,000 on political advertisements in Democratic legislative primary election races to disclose its donors. The lawsuit, the first of its kind filed by the commission since its creation this year, could be a test case for a law amended in 2019 that requires more “dark money” disclosure for election-related expenditures. The Council for a Competitive New Mexico has argued its donors do not have to be disclosed since their donations do not meet the state’s definition of a contribution.
New York – First Ruling Goes Against Ranked-Choice Voting Opponents
City and State – Rebecca Lewis | Published: 12/16/2020
A lawsuit to delay ranked-choice voting in New York City hit its first roadblock: the state judge in the case has denied a request for a temporary restraining order. The ruling could be a death knell for the lawsuit, which would result in ranked-choice voting proceeding unimpeded next year, even as the plaintiffs continue to fight. Judge Carol Edmead denied a request from a half-dozen city council members and several community groups seeking a temporary restraining order to stop ranked-choice voting from being used in the upcoming special election to replace former council Member Rory Lancman. Scheduled for February 2, it would be the first election in the city to use the new system approved by voters in 2019.
New York – Judge Orders Trump Organization to Give More Records to N.Y. Attorney General
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 12/15/2020
A state judge dealt a loss to the Trump Organization, ordering the president’s company to turn over records related to a controversial property that is the subject of a civil investigation by the New York attorney general’s office. The documents and communications at issue could help investigators answer questions about a conservation easement that was granted several years ago at the Seven Springs estate in New York’s Westchester Country, a move that netted President Trump’s company a $21 million tax deduction. The materials, which Trump’s lawyers had sought to shield, include messages exchanged between an engineer and a land-use lawyer who worked on Trump’s behalf.
New York – Many New York Judges Spend Their Way Toward Seats on the Bench. And It’s Perfectly Legal
The City – Sam Mellins (New York Focus) | Published: 12/10/2020
Of the 24 judges elected to the New York Supreme Court this year, 20 have donated to the county party organizations that nominated them or to the politicians who lead those organizations. The contributions reflect a political climate in which party leaders, far more than voters, determine who obtains Supreme Court seats, a nominally elected position. By the time voters select Supreme Court judges in November, the real decisions have usually already been made the previous summer, when county Democratic Party organizations select the nominees.
New York – ‘Simply No Truth to These Claims’: Gov. Cuomo’s office denies former aide’s sexual harassment allegation
USA Today – Matthew Brown | Published: 12/13/2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by a former development aide who is now running for office in New York City. Lindsey Boylan wrote on Twitter that Cuomo “sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched.” Boylan is currently running to be Manhattan borough president. Personnel memos written in 2018 indicate Boylan resigned from Cuomo’s administration after she was confronted about complaints about her own office behavior.
Ohio – Councilwoman Sundermann Proposes Charter Amendment, Says ‘We Must Rebuild Trust in Our City Government.’
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/15/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson Betsy Sundermann put forward a charter amendment that would allow the city to suspend a council member if that person is indicted and to remove them if convicted. The current charter does not address what should happen in the event a council member gets in trouble, as happened this year with the arrest of three members on federal bribery charges. It was Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost who sought and won temporary suspensions of Jeff Pastor and P.G. Sittenfeld. Both accepted suspensions and are fighting charges brought against them.
Ohio – Governor Was Warned of Would-Be Regulator’s Ties to Utility
Associated Press News – Mark Gillespie and Julie Carr Smyth | Published: 12/9/2020
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine disregarded cries of alarm in 2019 from consumer and environmental advocates, concerns echoed in a previously undisclosed last-minute plea from GOP insiders, when he was selecting the state’s top utility regulator, a man now under scrutiny as a wide-ranging bribery and corruption investigation roils the state. Nearly two years later, the Republican governor continues to defend his choice of Samuel Randazzo as the powerful chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and many of those early critics insist it was a mistake to dismiss their concerns.
Rhode Island – R.I. Political Operative Jeff Britt Cleared of Charges in Money Laundering Trial
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick and Dan McGowan (Boston Globe) | Published: 12/16/2020
Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini found Jeffrey Britt not guilty of money laundering or violating campaign finance laws. The decision capped off the high-profile trial tied to outgoing Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s 2016 re-election campaign, which he won by 85 votes over Steve Frias. Britt worked for Mattiello as a political adviser. Britt was accused of illegally paying for a pro-Mattiello campaign mailer from Frias’s one-time Republican opponent Shawna Lawton by funneling money through two other people. Procaccini called Rhode Island’s money laundering law “constitutionally deficient,” and questioned the credibility of the witnesses who testified against Britt.
Tennessee – Knox County Won’t Kill Ethics Committee, But Could Change Its Rules to Prevent Smears
Knoxville News Sentinel – Tyler Whetstone | Published: 12/14/2020
The Knox County Ethics Committee will not be eliminated, though some of its bylaws could be changed. A group of commissioners had discussed the possibility of doing away with the ethics committee. Any chance of that happening, however, was dismissed during a meeting of the newly formed committee on committees, which was created to determine whether the county commission needs each of its committees. Instead, the committee asked the ethics panel, which is made up of appointed volunteers and a single commissioner, to discuss whether to require statute of limitations of 90 to 180 days on infractions, and whether to shield people running for office from complaints during the election.
Texas – Limited Capacity at Texas Capitol During 2021 Session Raises Transparency Concerns
KTAB – Maggie Glynn | Published: 12/15/2020
Texas still does not have an official plan for how the upcoming legislative session will operate during the pandemic. But the House of Representatives has outlined a framework for the opening ceremony, offering the first glimpse of how lawmakers will balance transparency with COVID-19 precautions. The House Administrative Committee’s plan will limit media and some guests to the galley, which sparked some concern about transparency if that process should continue through the session.
Washington – On the Legal Hot Seat, Tim Eyman Admits He Fibbed to Donors
Everett Herald – Jerry Cornfield | Published: 12/17/2020
Washington’s ubiquitous initiative promoter Tim Eyman got his chance to tell his version of events that are threatening his political career. Then, the state’s attorney set about taking apart his story and elicited a confession from Eyman that he does not always tell the truth when asking supporters for money. Eyman stands accused of using his initiative campaigns to enrich himself and violating state campaign finance laws. The civil trial stems from a 2017 lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleging Eyman failed to report shifting money donated for Initiative 1185, a tax-limiting measure, into the campaign for Initiative 517, which sought to modify the initiative and referendum process. Eyman served as an officer of committees for both initiatives.
Washington – Seattle City Council Votes to Require Registration, Disclosure by Public Lobbying Groups
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 12/14/2020
The Seattle City Council voted to require certain groups that spend money to build public pressure on politicians to register and disclose their finances. Recommended by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, the new rules approved would apply to groups that spend at least $750 in a month (or $1,500 in three months) on “presenting a program to the public” to affect legislation. The individuals behind a group would need to identify themselves and their contractors, and the group would be required to identify its donors (for contributions of $25 or more). The organization also would be required to describe its purpose and would need to record its spending in monthly reports.
Washington DC – In First D.C. Election with Public Financing, Candidates and Donors Bumped Up Against Rules
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer and Michael Brice-Saddler | Published: 12/15/2020
In the first year of public campaign financing in the District of Columbia, Washingtonians made enough small-dollar donations to generate $3.4?million in taxpayer funding, fueling campaigns for several well-known politicians and many newcomers. The candidates, in turn, spent that money on everything from takeout food to branded masks and more. To participate in the Fair Elections Program, candidates had to follow more-stringent rules on donations and expenditures than their competitors who opted out of public financing. One requirement is candidates not pay themselves or any family members, except for reimbursing themselves for out-of-pocket campaign expenditures.
Wisconsin – Path from Legislature to Lobbyist Well Traveled
Beloit Daily News – Steven Walters (WisconsinEye) | Published: 12/15/2020
Of the 708 registered lobbyists in Wisconsin, about 100 are former state legislators or Capitol aides. Why does the Legislature-to-lobbying door swing so often? Lawmakers, especially those who had leadership positions, sell the personal relationships they built up in the Capitol to prospective clients or statewide trade and industry organizations. Legislators, now paid $52,000 a year, can make many times that as lobbyists or corporate executives.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Tosses Trump Election Lawsuit
Associated Press News – Scott Bauer | Published: 12/14/2020
A narrowly divided Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his election loss in the battleground state about an hour before the Electoral College cast Wisconsin’s 10 votes for Joe Biden. In the ruling, the court’s three liberal justices were joined by conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn who said three of Trump’s four claims were filed too late and the other was without merit. The ruling ends Trump’s legal challenges in state court. The president sought to have more than 221,000 ballots disqualified in Dane and Milwaukee counties, the state’s two most heavily Democratic counties. Those were the only counties where Trump sought a recount, even though he lost statewide by about 21,000 votes.
December 17, 2020 •
Campaign Finance Rhode Island: “R.I. Political Operative Jeff Britt Cleared of Charges in Money Laundering Trial” by Edward Fitzpatrick and Dan McGowan (Boston Globe) for MSN Washington DC: “In First D.C. Election with Public Financing, Candidates and Donors Bumped Up […]
Rhode Island: “R.I. Political Operative Jeff Britt Cleared of Charges in Money Laundering Trial” by Edward Fitzpatrick and Dan McGowan (Boston Globe) for MSN
Washington DC: “In First D.C. Election with Public Financing, Candidates and Donors Bumped Up Against Rules” by Julie Zauzmer and Michael Brice-Saddler for Washington Post
Florida: “Mar-a-Lago Neighbors to Trump: Spend your post-presidency elsewhere” by Manuel Roig-Franzia and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “U.S. SEC Relaxes Rules on Company ‘Resource Extraction’ Disclosures” by Katanga Johnson for Reuters
Illinois: “Ethics Board Fines Ald. Brookins $5,000 For Violating Ethics Ordinance” by Heather Cherone for WTTW
New York: “Judge Orders Trump Organization to Give More Records to N.Y. Attorney General” by Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) for MSN
Ohio: “Councilwoman Sundermann Proposes Charter Amendment, Says ‘We Must Rebuild Trust in Our City Government.’” by Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Texas: “Limited Capacity at Texas Capitol During 2021 Session Raises Transparency Concerns” by Maggie Glynn for KTAB
National: “Judges May Reinstate Foreign Agent Case Against Flynn Partner” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
Florida: “Ethics Board Lobbying Ordinances Taking Shape Aim to Close Loopholes at Tallahassee City Hall” by Karl Etters for Tallahassee Democrat
Wisconsin: “Path from Legislature to Lobbyist Well Traveled” by Steven Walters (WisconsinEye) for Beloit Daily News
December 16, 2020 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Secret Donor Name in Florida Senate Races Wiped from Records, Replaced” by Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos for Tampa Bay Times Kentucky: “Executive Gets One Year in State Prison for Campaign Case Linked to Lexington Council” by […]
Florida: “Secret Donor Name in Florida Senate Races Wiped from Records, Replaced” by Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos for Tampa Bay Times
Kentucky: “Executive Gets One Year in State Prison for Campaign Case Linked to Lexington Council” by Beth Musgrave for Lexington Herald-Leader
National: “Legislatures Across Country Plan Sweeping Election Reform Push” by Reid Wilson for The Hill
Kansas: “Supreme Court Won’t Revive Kansas Voter Registration ID Law” by Staff for Associated Press News
National: “VA Watchdog Told Prosecutors His Probe of Secretary Wilkie’s Effort to Discredit House Staffer Turned Up Possible Criminal Conduct” by Lisa Rein ansd Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Attorney General William Barr to Step Down” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico
Illinois: “Illinois House Panel Ends Probe of Powerful Speaker Madigan” by John O’Connor for Associated Press News
Tennessee: “Knox County Won’t Kill Ethics Committee, But Could Change Its Rules to Prevent Smears” by Tyler Whetstone for Knoxville News Sentinel
Washington: “Seattle City Council Votes to Require Registration, Disclosure by Public Lobbying Groups” by Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times
December 15, 2020 •
Campaign Finance Georgia: “Georgia Runoffs Become High-Stakes GOP Fundraising Experiment” by Elena Schneider for Politico New Mexico: “Ethics Panel Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure of Group’s Donors” by Dan Boyd for Albuquerque Journal Elections National: “Electoral College Affirms Biden’s Victory on […]
Georgia: “Georgia Runoffs Become High-Stakes GOP Fundraising Experiment” by Elena Schneider for Politico
New Mexico: “Ethics Panel Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure of Group’s Donors” by Dan Boyd for Albuquerque Journal
National: “Electoral College Affirms Biden’s Victory on a Relatively Calm Day of a Chaotic Election” by Elise Viebeck, Dan Simmons, Amy Worden, and Omar Sofradzija (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Potential Family Conflicts Arise for Joe Biden and Aides as His Administration Drafts New Ethics Rules” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “GOP Lawyer Appointed by Florida Governor Resigns State Panel in Protest Over Raid on Ousted Data Scientist’s Home” by Teo Armus and Marisa Iati (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “‘Simply No Truth to These Claims’: Gov. Cuomo’s office denies former aide’s sexual harassment allegation” by Matthew Brown for USA Today
Europe: “Big Tech Turns Its Lobbyists Loose on Europe, Alarming Regulators” by Adam Satariano and Matina Stevis-Gridneff for New York Times
National: “EPA Can’t Claw Back Names of ‘Happy Hour’ Oil Lobbyists” by Nicholas Iovino for Courthouse News Service
California: “Gavin Newsom Bans His Paid Consultants from Lobbying in New ‘Ethics Memo’” by Linda Korte (Sacramento Bee) for MSN
December 14, 2020 •
Campaign Finance New York: “Many New York Judges Spend Their Way Toward Seats on the Bench. And It’s Perfectly Legal” by Sam Mellins (New York Focus) for The City Elections National: “Trump and His GOP Allies Vow to ‘Fight On’ […]
New York: “Many New York Judges Spend Their Way Toward Seats on the Bench. And It’s Perfectly Legal” by Sam Mellins (New York Focus) for The City
National: “Trump and His GOP Allies Vow to ‘Fight On’ after Supreme Court Rejects Legal Challenge to Overturn Election Results” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Sen. David Perdue Sold His Home to a Finance Industry Official Whose Organization Was Lobbying the Senate” by Robert Faterechi for ProPublica
Florida: “DeSantis Wants ‘Normal’ Government Meetings. This Village Is Meeting at a Dog Park” by Aaron Leibowitz (Miami Herald) for Yahoo News
Ohio: “Governor Was Warned of Would-Be Regulator’s Ties to Utility” by Mark Gillespie and Julie Carr Smyth for Associated Press News
National: “Forced to Take Networking Virtual by Pandemic, K Street May Never Go Back” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
California: “With ‘a Lot to Lose,’ Dialysis Firms Spend Big, Become California Power Players” by Samantha Young (Los Angeles Times) for Yahoo News
Maine: “A Maine Legislature Changed by the Pandemic Could Challenge Lobbyists in 2021” by Caitlin Andrews for Bangor Daily News
Michigan: “Michigan AG Reviewing Whether Lawmakers Can Lobby Out of State” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News
December 11, 2020 •
National/Federal Barr Taps Durham as Special Counsel, Pushing Probe into Biden Era Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/1/2020 Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. attorney John Durham as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the […]
Barr Taps Durham as Special Counsel, Pushing Probe into Biden Era
Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/1/2020
Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. attorney John Durham as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The appointment formalizes Durham’s ongoing probe but more significantly, would give Durham latitude to continue the politically explosive investigation after President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. Democrats have long viewed Durham’s efforts as political payback by President Trump and his allies, seeking to deflect from evidence the Trump campaign capitalized on the Kremlin’s efforts.
Biden’s Choice for Pentagon Faces Questions on Ties to Contractors
New York Times – Eric Lipton, Kenneth Vogel, and Michael LaForgia | Published: 12/8/2020
Raytheon Technologies makes fighter jet engines, weapons, high-tech sensors, and dozens of other military products. Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin III of the Army, a member of Raytheon’s board, has been named by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next secretary of defense. Raytheon is not Austin’s only link to military contractors. He has also been a partner in an investment firm that has been buying small defense firms. The decision to nominate Austin has drawn a new wave of questions about the corporate ties of people Biden is choosing for his administration. Those ties are especially relevant when it comes to the Pentagon, which spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year on weapons and other supplies.
Conservative Nonprofit Group Challenging Election Results Around the Country Has Tie to Trump Legal Adviser Jenna Ellis
MSN – John Swain, Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
A conservative legal organization that has filed lawsuits challenging the election results in five states has a tie to President Trump’s legal team, raising questions about the independence of what has appeared to be an endeavor separate from the president’s last-gasp legal maneuvering. Senior Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis serves as special counsel to the Thomas More Society, which has filed lawsuits through the newly formed Amistad Project alleging problems with the vote in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Her affiliation with the organization, as well as other links between Trump’s team and the conservative group, suggest a coordinated effort to flood the nation’s courts with repetitive litigation that allows the president to claim the election results remain contested.
Could Trump Pardon Family Members and Other Close Associates? His Prior Pardons May Set the Stage for More
USA Today – David Jackson, John Fritze, and Kevin Johnson | Published: 12/4/2020
As President Trump weighs granting pardons to close associates – and perhaps family members and even himself – experts said he may not pay much of a political price, no matter whom the recipients are. The number of pardons with a political sheen that Trump has signed, along with the unorthodox way he has wielded the power, may have desensitized the public to the issue. The reaction to former national security advisor Michael Flynn’s pardon, though muted, underscored the president’s broad clemency powers are increasingly viewed, like much else, along partisan lines: Democrats express outrage, and supporters of Trump cheer. That division, several experts said, may partly explain why some Americans shrug their shoulders.
EU Lobby Register Falls Short of Transparency Demands
Politico – Cristina Gonzalez | Published: 12/8/2020
It was hailed as a victory when negotiators from the European Parliament, Commission, and the Council found compromise on establishing a joint mandatory lobby register, but the definition of “mandatory” remains to be seen. The provisional agreement, which must still be approved by the respective institutions, sets out to make it compulsory for lobbyists to be registered in the European Union’s Transparency Register to carry out certain activities like meeting with top officials. But there is nothing explicitly mandatory in the compromise text. Instead, it gives each institution the license to individually interpret what it means, “and to define the activities that they decide to make conditional upon registration in the register,” the compromise reads. Now, each institution must outline its view in a forthcoming joint political statement.
GOP Women’s Record-Breaking Success Reflects Party’s Major Shift on Recruiting and Supporting Female Candidates
Washington Post – Rachael Bade | Published: 12/7/2020
There are 17 newly elected Republican women who will give the party a record number of female lawmakers in Congress, the results of a successful strategy of recruiting and supporting women running for office. Of the 13 Democratic incumbents who lost their seats on election night, Republican women were responsible for defeating 10. In January, Republicans will welcome their most ethnically diverse and gender-diverse freshman class in history as women and lawmakers of color join their predominantly White and male ranks. The recruitment effort behind their success reflects a major shift.
Justice Department’s Interest in Hunter Biden Covered More than Taxes
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 12/9/2020
The federal investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son has been more extensive than a statement from Hunter Biden indicates, according to a person with firsthand knowledge of the probe. Hunter Biden said he had been contacted about a tax investigation out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware. The securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York also scrutinized Hunter Biden’s finances, according to the source. The person said as of early last year, investigators in Delaware and Washington, D.C. were probing potential money laundering and Hunter Biden’s foreign ties. In addition to the probe into Hunter Biden, federal authorities in Pennsylvania are conducting a criminal investigation of a hospital business in which Joe Biden’s brother James was involved.
Murdoch’s Son and Daughter-in-Law Spent Millions on Progressive Causes in 2020 Cycle
Center for Responsive Politics – Ollie Gratzinger | Published: 12/4/2020
The Murdoch name has come to be associated largely with right-leaning politics, as Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who owns Fox News and other outlets spanning three continents, has built a family dynasty based largely on conservatism. But Kathryn and James Murdoch, daughter-in-law and youngest son of the news tycoon, are forging a new reputation for the Murdoch name, contributing heavily this cycle to progressive political groups, including super PACs supporting President-elect Joe Biden. James Murdoch resigned from his position at Fox last July over “disagreements over certain editorial content.”
Neera Tanden, Biden’s Pick for Budget Chief, Runs a Think Tank Backed by Corporate and Foreign Interests
MSN – Yeganeh Torbati and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2020
Now that President-elect Joe Biden picked Neera Tanden to run the Office of Management and Budget, her ties to some of the most powerful players in the U.S. economy are drawing scrutiny from advocates for accountability in government. Tanden would have a hand in policies that touch every part of the economy after years spent courting corporate and foreign donors at the think tank Center for American Progress. Between 2014 and 2019, the center received at least $33 million in donations from firms in the financial sector, private foundations primarily funded by wealth earned on Wall Street. Critics also argued the hundreds of hours of relationship-building that goes into securing large donations from corporations and wealthy people give private interests the opportunity to influence the views of Tanden and others in her position.
Senate Restores FEC as Agency Confronts Massive Backlog of Cases
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 12/9/2020
The U.S. Senate confirmed three new members of the FEC, giving the campaign finance regulator a full slate of six commissioners for the first time since February 2017. Senators confirmed Sean Cooksey, Allen Dickerson, and Shana Broussard, who will be the agency’s first Black commissioner in its 45-year history. The FEC faces a backlog of 388 enforcement cases. Broussard said during a Senate Rules Committee meeting that she would prioritize addressing important cases set to expire due to the agency’s statute of limitations. Commissioners are also tasked with changing outdated rules.
Steakhouses, Hill Bars and Ski Trips: GOP carries on amid the pandemic
Politico – Sarah Ferris, Melanie Zanona, and Daniel Lippman | Published: 12/7/2020
It is not just the White House flouting pandemic rules to mark Washington, D.C.’s schmooziest season. Some corners of the GOP, including members of Congress, are refusing to let the coronavirus intrude on their holiday gatherings and in-person fundraisers, whether it is on the slopes of Utah or in the steakhouses of Washington. Meanwhile, discussions are underway about holding the Conservative Political Action Conference in person early next year. The event planning comes as the nation is battered by another surge in coronavirus cases, prompting a fresh round of warnings from public health experts to avoid group settings, particularly indoors. And it underscores the resistance by many in the GOP, led by President Trump, to adjust to the new normal of the pandemic.
Supreme Court Denies Trump Allies’ Bid to Overturn Pennsylvania Election Results
MSN – Robert Barnes and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 12/8/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute attempt by President Trump’s allies to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, a blow to the president’s continuing efforts to reverse his loss to Joe Biden. The court’s brief order denying a requested injunction provided no reasoning, nor did it note any dissenting votes. It was the first request to delay or overturn the results of the presidential election to reach the court. The lawsuit was part of a blizzard of litigation and personal interventions Trump and his lawyers have waged to overturn victories by Biden in a handful of key states. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a sweeping complaint that asked the court to overturn Biden’s wins in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia.
Women Make Record-Breaking Gains Across State Legislatures
The Hill – Julia Manchester | Published: 12/8/2020
Women broke barriers in state Legislature races across the country in November, with a record number of women from both parties winning their races at the state level. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women will hold more than 30 percent of seats in state Legislatures for the first time in American history. The gains women made at the state level this cycle appeared to have reflected the record gains women made at the federal level as well. For Republicans, this marks an improvement for a party that has struggled to recruit women to its ranks.
Canada – ‘Loophole’ in Civic Election Act Breeds Unfairness and Financial Secrecy, Experts Say
CBC – Angela King | Published: 12/5/2020
A section of Ontario’s Municipal Elections Act creates an unequal playing field, undermines transparency, and should be changed, election experts say. Concerns have been raised about a part of the legislation that allows a corporation to pay an employee while volunteering for a political campaign after a Toronto man revealed he was paid by a lobbying firm to help campaign for candidates in the 2018 civic election. Kevin Haynes said he felt like an “election hitman” when he was paid $20 per hour in cash by a major lobbying group to knock on doors for nine candidates, seven of whom won.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – FBI Questions Alaska Lawmakers on Topics Including Permanent Fund Dividend Votes
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 12/8/2020
The FBI has interviewed or sought to question at least 11 Alaska legislators this year, asking in at least some of the interviews whether any lawmakers received a financial benefit in exchange for their vote on the Permanent Fund dividend. Not all interviewed lawmakers would say what they were asked about, and it is not clear what the FBI is searching for. An interview may not mean a legislator is under investigation – several lawmakers said the FBI told them during the interviews that they were not personally under investigation. Uncertainty over the motive for the interviews is roiling lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, where Republicans are attempting to form a majority government.
Arizona – Arizona Legislature Shuts Down after Rudy Giuliani Possibly Exposed Lawmakers to COVID-19
MSN – Maria Polletta (Arizona Republic) | Published: 12/6/2020
The Arizona Legislature closed for a week “out of an abundance of caution” after Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, possibly exposed several Republican lawmakers to COVID-19. Giuliani tested positive for the virus on December 6, less than a week after he visited Arizona as part of a multistate tour aimed at contesting 2020 election results. Giuliani had spent more than 10 hours discussing election concerns with Arizona Republicans, including two members of Congress and at least 13 current and future state lawmakers. He led the meeting maskless, flouting social distancing guidelines, and posing for photos.
Arizona – Judge Dismisses Dem Lawsuit Challenging Independent Redistricting Candidates
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 12/7/2020
Democratic legislative leaders’ lawsuit to disqualify two of the five finalists for independent chair of the state’s next redistricting commission fell flat after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Janice Crawford ruled the disputed applicants did not violate the criteria set out in the Arizona Constitution. Crawford ruled Thomas Loquvam, an attorney for the utility company EPCOR, does not violate the constitution’s prohibition on lobbyists serving on the Independent Redistricting Commission, and gun store owner Robert Wilson meets the qualifications to serve as an independent.
California – L.A. Fines Former City Official, Company $45,000 for Lobbying Violations
MyNewsLA.com – Staff | Published: 12/8/2020
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission imposed a fine of $45,000 on Daniel Ahadian and nur Corporation for violating city lobbying laws. Ahadian is a former city official who worked with the Planning Department, and the sole owner of nur, a planning and land use consulting firm. Ahadian and nur admitted failing to register as lobbying entities and file quarterly disclosure reports from the first quarter of 2018 through the fourth quarter of 2019. Lobbying entities are required to register with the Ethics Commission and report their activities on a quarterly basis to help the public identify who is attempting to influence city action.
California – L.A.’s Ethics Commission Gets a New Boss: A 29-year employee of the watchdog agency
Yahoo News – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 12/8/2020
David Tristan, deputy executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, was named as the new executive director of the commission, replacing Heather Holt, who faces term limits. Commissioner Jeff Daar cited Tristan’s decades of experience at the agency. “Obviously, he has a passion for the mission of the Ethics Commission,” Daar said. Rob Quan, an organizer with Unrig LA, a good-government advocacy group, described Tristan as extremely responsive. He described how advocates have called Tristan over the years to discuss a variety of topics, including campaign filings and broken links on the commission website.
California – Real Estate Developer Pleads Guilty in Sprawling L.A. Campaign Money Laundering Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/3/2020
Businessperson Samuel Leung pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit campaign money laundering, admitting he took part in a scheme to reimburse campaign donors between January 2009 and February 2015 – just as his apartment project was being reviewed and approved at Los Angeles City Hall. State law prohibits donors from making political contributions in the name of another person. The guilty plea came more than four years after a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed a sprawling network of more than 100 people and companies with direct or indirect ties to Leung made political donations totaling more than $600,000 while Leung’s project was under review. The project was approved in 2015.
Connecticut – Audit Finds Lax Oversight of Public Campaign Financing
CT Examiner – Emilia Otte | Published: 12/3/2020
For the last nine years, the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) has failed to report the use of grant money financing candidates running for the Connecticut General Assembly, according to a recent audit. The SEEC is responsible for the Citizen’s Election Program, which gives grant money to campaigns for state Senate or House through the Citizen’s Election Fund, a pool of money that comes from the sale of abandoned property. By law, the SEEC must report annually on the amount of money in the fund and the number of people who have contributed to it. The commission is also required to present an analysis each cycle to the General Assembly of the amount of grant money issued, how campaigns have spent the money, and how much leftover money was returned to the fund.
Florida – Disgraced Republican Lawmaker Planted No-Party Candidate in Key Senate Race, Sources Say
Miami Herald – Ana Ceballos and Samantha Gross | Published: 12/3/2020
As the results for a key Florida Senate race appeared on television screens in an Irish pub, former Sen. Frank Artiles boasted he planted a no-party candidate in the race, which Republican Ileana Garcia won by 32 votes over incumbent Jose Javier Rodriguez. “That is me, that was all me,” Artiles boasted to a crowd at Liam Fitzpatrick’s restaurant, according to a person who was there. Artiles recruited Alexis (Alex) Rodriguez, a longtime acquaintance. The no-party candidate with the same surname as the incumbent Democrat had been a registered Republican until just before his qualifying papers were filed to make him a Senate candidate. Sources have indicated Artiles’ involvement in launching Rodriguez’s bid was extensive.
Florida – Florida Police Raid House of Fired Data Scientist Who Alleged State Manipulated Covid-19 Stats
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
Florida police with guns drawn raided the home of an ousted health department data scientist, searching Rebekah Jones’ computer, phone, and other hardware that supports the coronavirus website she set up after accusing the state of manipulating its official numbers. Law enforcement officials allege Jones may have also used the devices to hack into a health department website to send an unauthorized message to Florida emergency personnel, urging them to speak out against the state’s pandemic response. After her dismissal, Jones launched her own data portal, advertising it as independent alternative to the state dashboard. Now, Jones says, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s raid is an attempt to silence her work.
Florida – Florida Voters Barred Ex-Lawmakers from Lobbying for 6 Years, but Revolving Door Still Swings
MSN – Gary Roher (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 12/7/2020
The “revolving door” between government and lobbying firms in Florida was supposed to end after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 banning elected officials and agency heads from lobbying for six years after leaving their posts. But that amendment does not take effect until the end of 2022, meaning the movement will continue for another two years. Since the November election, three Florida lawmakers have taken jobs as lobbyists, and one state agency director left her position in October to lead a trade group for an industry she used to regulate.
Georgia – Savannah Council Accepts Apology Kesha Gibson-Carter Says She Didn’t Make
Savannah Morning News – DeAnn Komanecky | Published: 12/9/2020
Savannah City Council members who filed ethics complaints against fellow Alderperson Kesha Gibson-Carter said they were ready to forgive the alderwoman. An ethics board found Gibson-Carter had violated the city’s ethics code. The three said they were ready to move forward instead of pushing for the only remedy available, a reprimand or censure, since Gibson-Carter had apologized privately to City Manager Michael Brown. Gibson-Carter is adamant she had not apologized to anyone, including the city manager, and had no intentions to do so.
Illinois – Ex-State Sen. Martin Sandoval, Snared in Political Corruption Investigation, Dies of Coronavirus: Attorney
Chicago Sun-Times – Jon Seidel, Mark Brown, and Mitchell Armentrout | Published: 12/5/2020
Former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval, who became a crucial figure in a series of ongoing public corruption investigations early this year when he admitted taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, has died from COVID-19. The Senate’s former Transportation Committee chair also agreed to “cooperate in any matter in which he is called upon” by federal prosecutors. In November, prosecutors told a judge that Sandoval had “provided valuable cooperation that is expected to last at least several more months.” Now, legal experts say Sandoval’s death has the potential to complicate the aggressive probe of Illinois politics.
Iowa – Iowa’s Contact-Tracing Firm Helped Trump, Reynolds Campaigns
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 12/4/2020
After facing a workforce shortage for months, Iowa awarded an emergency $2.3 million contact-tracing contract to a company that has worked for the campaigns of President Trump and Gov. Kim Reynolds and is owned by a Republican insider. The Iowa Department of Public Health selected MCI for the two-month contract out of 14 applicants, saying it submitted the best proposal and its political connections were not considered. MCI is owned by GOP donor Anthony Marlowe, who has boasted it played a key role in Trump’s 2016 victory and was among the state’s top backers of Trump’s reelection bid.
Kentucky – Woman Faces 3 Counts of Lying to FBI, Jury in Bribery Case Tied to Lexington Council
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 12/4/2020
A Kentucky woman was indicted by a federal grand jury for lying to the FBI and making false statements about campaign contributions to Lexington council members during the investigation trial of a former real estate executive. Elizabeth Stormbringer was charged with three counts related to lying about whether she was reimbursed by former CRM Executive Timothy Wellman for campaign contributions she made to Lexington council members in 2018. Wellman had a project the council would consider. He was found guilty on 11 charges relating to obstructing a federal investigation into illegal contributions.
Michigan – ‘Unambiguous, Loud and Threatening’: Trump supporters protest at home of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
USA Today – Miriam Marini (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 12/6/2020
Dozens of protesters gathered in front of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s home recently, shouting through megaphones against the certification of the election and demanding a forensic audit. A portion of the demonstration was broadcast live on Facebook. The protesters are seen walking up to Benson’s home, some wearing President Donald Trump paraphernalia and carrying American flags. Throughout the election, Trump circulated false conspiracies about election fraud in Michigan. Benson said the protesters gathered in front of her home as she and her four-year-old son were finishing putting up Christmas decorations, just when the two were preparing to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Missouri – Medical Marijuana Subpoena May Have Been Connected to Independence FBI Probe
Columbia News Tribune – Jason Hancock (Missouri Independence) | Published: 12/7/2020
Lyndall Fraker, director of medical marijuana regulation at the Missouri Department of Health and Seniors Services, testified a grand jury subpoena his agency received was likely connected to an FBI investigation in Independence. The revelation is the first indication of the target of the federal subpoena. The FBI questioned officials in Independence about a pair of contracts issued by the city council. One called for the city to pay a company $9.75 million to tear down a power plant. The bid was more than twice that of the other bidder. The other contract called for the city to pay nearly $1 million to purchase a golf club to build a solar farm with Gardner Capital. Days before the vote, PACs funded by Gardner made four $2,500 donations to Independence Mayor Eileen Weir, who has denied the donations were connected to her vote to endorse the project.
Nevada – Nevada Supreme Court Rejects Trump Campaign’s Appeal to Overturn Biden’s Win
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2020
The Nevada Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal from President Trump’s campaign to overturn the state’s election results, the latest loss in the president’s ongoing legal efforts to have states he did not win declare him victorious. The decision from the court came after a lower court gave a full-scale ruling against the Trump campaign’s efforts in the state. Nevada District Court Judge James Russell ruled there was no evidence supporting the claims of fraud and wrongdoing made by the campaign in a state that President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 33,000 votes.
New York – Election Reformers Love Ranked-Choice Voting, but NYC Immigrants See Doom
Courthouse News Service – Nina Pullano | Published: 12/9/2020
Some of New York City’s multinational communities say they are being left behind in the Board of Elections’ plans to implement ranked-choice voting, a system that lets voters choose multiple candidates in order of preference. These groups teamed up with local politicians in a complaint that asks a court to block the change. The complaint accuses the elections board of violating city charter requirements to implement ranked-choice voting in a timely manner, while also contending that the city’s software is not up to snuff and changes of this nature should not be contemplated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Paired with a failure to educate people on ranked-choice voting, the BLA Caucus says New Yorkers of color, seniors, and those who speak limited English are among 5 million voters in danger of disenfranchisement.
Ohio – Householder Dark Money Group Reputedly Broke Deal with AEP-Backed Nonprofit to Fund
MSN – Randy Ludlow and Marc Kovac (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/5/2020
A board member of an American Electric Power-funded nonprofit said a separate group central in the nuclear plant bailout scandal appears to have used grants, including $550,000 newly disclosed in tax filings, for political purposes in violation of its agreement. J.B. Hadden, an attorney who serves on the board of Empowering Ohio’s Economy Inc., said the nonprofit’s grant agreement with Generation Now required the funding be used in compliance with IRS laws and for social welfare purposes only. Part of the agreement with Generation Now stated the money was not to be used “in furtherance of any political or campaign intervention activities.
Ohio – P.G. Sittenfeld Accepts Suspension from Cincinnati City Council After Arrest on Bribery Charges
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/7/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld accepted a suspension from his seat, a process initiated by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost after Sittenfeld was arrested on federal bribery charges. Sittenfeld is one of three council members arrested and accused of “pay-to-play” schemes this year and the second member of council to accept a state suspension, which bars them from working, but allows them to collect their salary. The city charter does not address what happens in the event an elected official is arrested or convicted on charges of corruption, something that would directly affect their ability to do their job. But state law allows for the suspension of an elected official in the event of an arrest.
Ohio – Should an Ex-FirstEnergy Lobbyist Lead the Hunt for Ohio’s Next Utility Regulator? Consumer Advocate Asks
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/3/2020
Consumer advocates question whether a former FirstEnergy lobbyist should lead the effort to replace ex-Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairperson Sam Randazzo, who resigned after the FBI searched his property and a filing implied he received $4 million to terminate “a purported consulting agreement” with FirstEnergy. A nominating council is led by Michael Koren, a former FirstEnergy lobbyist. Koren lobbied for the company when House Bill 6 to subsidize FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants in Ohio was introduced. The bill is at the heart of a corruption scandal allegedly involving FirstEnergy.
Pennsylvania – Firm Ran Pa. Senator’s Campaign and Worked with Super PAC to Attack Opponent, but Denies Coordination
Spotlight PA – Sam Janesch (The Caucus) and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 12/8/2020
In the closing days of this year’s election, an ad attacking Democrat George Scott appeared in his race for the Pennsylvania Senate against incumbent John DiSanto, which was paid for by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). Direct coordination between groups like the RSLC, which run super PACs, and campaigns is forbidden. To create the ad, the group turned to a middleman, the same firm running DiSanto’s campaign: Red Maverick Media, headed by strategist Ray Zaborney. No one has accused Zaborney’s firm or RSLC of wrongdoing. But watchdogs and campaign finance experts said the arrangement is another example of how weak state and federal campaign finance rules, combined with meager oversight, create gray areas and loopholes.
Pennsylvania – Trump Asks Pennsylvania House Speaker for Help Overturning Election Results, Personally Intervening in a Third State
MSN – Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
President Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House twice to make an extraordinary request for help reversing his loss in the state, reflecting a broadening pressure campaign by the president and his allies to try to subvert the 2020 election result. The president’s outreach to Pennsylvania’s Republican House leader came after his campaign and its allies decisively lost numerous legal challenges in the state in both state and federal court. Trump has continued to press his baseless claims of widespread voting irregularities both publicly and privately.
Tennessee – Rutherford Mayor Bill Ketron Faces Audit Hearings on Campaign Finance Violation Accusations
MSN – Scott Broden (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal) | Published: 12/7/2020
Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron will face audit hearings in 2021 on campaign finance accusations. The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance approved staff audits of Ketron’s state senate and Quest PAC accounts between January 2018 and July 2019. Another pending audit of Ketron’s mayoral campaign finance account is expected to be done by February. The registry issued subpoenas in 2019 while the mayor’s daughter, Kelsey Ketron, faced insurance fraud charges as part of an indictment pertaining to her job with the family-owned insurance company. Kelly Ketron served as treasurer during his campaigns, and indictments accused her of pocketing over $65,000 from her father’s political funds.
Texas – California-Based Independent Voter Project Hosts Trip to Hawaii for State Legislators, Raising Ethics Filing Probe
The Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 12/9/2020
A California-based organization paid for roughly 100 legislators from four states, including Texas, to attend a four-day fundraising event in Hawaii. The Independent Voter Project (IVP) is a 501(c)3 organization created to “re-engage nonpartisan voters and promote nonpartisan election reforms through initiatives, litigation, and voter education.” Despite Hawaii’s stringent lockdown, IVP received special permission to hold a conference with more than the 12-person limit. The Dallas Morning News found that over the last three years of IVP hosting this trip, potential financial disclosure violations exist for Texas lawmakers who attended.
Texas – Texas Senate Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying
The Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 12/9/2020
Each year, local governments in Texas spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on lobbyists whose job it is to persuade state lawmakers to allow for bigger government. It is a practice some legislators say must end. The Senate Affairs Committee held a hearing on the issue of taxpayer-funded lobbying at the Capitol. State Sen. Bob Hall filed legislation to end the practice after a companion bill was filed in the House. Hall said at the meeting that taxpayer-funded lobbying has been used to work against taxpayers. Tom Forbes, president of the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas, said if the Legislature were to ban the practice next year, taxpayer-funded lobbying would continue, it just would not be as visible and would operate in the shadows.
Washington DC – Ivanka Trump Confirms She Was Questioned by the D.C. Attorney General’s Office Over Inaugural Committee Spending
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 12/2/2020
Ivanka Trump said she was questioned for more than five hours by investigators from the District of Columbia attorney general’s office, which has accused President Trump’s Inaugural Committee of wasting donating money on an overpriced ballroom at the president’s hotel in the city. In early 2017, when the Inaugural Committee booked ballrooms at the hotel, that meant the president was effectively on both sides of the transaction: his committee paid his hotel, using donors’ money. Attorney General Karl Racine said the committee and the hotel took advantage of that arrangement.
December 10, 2020 •
Campaign Finance National: “Senate Restores FEC as Agency Confronts Massive Backlog of Cases” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom for Center for Responsive Politics Pennsylvania: “Firm Ran Pa. Senator’s Campaign and Worked with Super PAC to Attack Opponent, but Denies Coordination” by Sam […]
National: “Senate Restores FEC as Agency Confronts Massive Backlog of Cases” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom for Center for Responsive Politics
Pennsylvania: “Firm Ran Pa. Senator’s Campaign and Worked with Super PAC to Attack Opponent, but Denies Coordination” by Sam Janesch (The Caucus) and Angela Couloumbis for Spotlight PA
Tennessee: “Rutherford Mayor Bill Ketron Faces Audit Hearings on Campaign Finance Violation Accusations” by Scott Broden (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal) for MSN
National: “Supreme Court Denies Trump Allies’ Bid to Overturn Pennsylvania Election Results” by Robert Barnes and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Debut of Ranked-Choice Voting in New York” by Dana Rubinstein and Jeffrey Mays for New York Times
National: “Biden’s Choice for Pentagon Faces Questions on Ties to Contractors” by Eric Lipton, Kenneth Vogel, and Michael LaForgia for New York Times
Alaska: “FBI Questions Alaska Lawmakers on Topics Including Permanent Fund Dividend Votes” by James Brooks for Anchorage Daily News
California: “L.A.’s Ethics Commission Gets a New Boss: A 29-year employee of the watchdog agency” by Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) for Yahoo News
Texas: “California-Based Independent Voter Project Hosts Trip to Hawaii for State Legislators, Raising Ethics Filing Probe” by Bethany Blankley for The Center Square
Europe: “EU Lobby Register Falls Short of Transparency Demands” by Cristina Gonzalez for Politico
California: “L.A. Fines Former City Official, Company $45,000 for Lobbying Violations” by Staff for MyNewsLA.com
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com