April 12, 2022 •
Campaign Finance New York: “Emails Reveal How Major Hochul Campaign Donors Seek Sway” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union Elections Georgia: “With Biden’s Voting Rights Push Stalled, Georgia Activists Regroup” by Matthew Brown (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics National: […]
New York: “Emails Reveal How Major Hochul Campaign Donors Seek Sway” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Georgia: “With Biden’s Voting Rights Push Stalled, Georgia Activists Regroup” by Matthew Brown (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Jan. 6 Panel Has Evidence for Criminal Referral of Trump, but Splits on Sending” by Michael Schmidt and Luke Broadwater (New York Times) for Yahoo News
California: “S.F.’s Environmental Official Resigns Over Alleged $25,000 Donation” by Adam Shanks and Jessica Wolfrom for San Francisco Examiner
National: “Partisan ‘Doom Loop’? The Answer Is More Parties, This Group Says” by Jim Saska (Roll Call) for MSN
National: “Crypto Industry Helps Write, and Pass, Its Own Agenda in State Capitols” by Eric Lipton and David Yaffee-Bellany (New York Times) for Seattle Times
Illinois: “Emails Show Valencia Promoted Smart City Development While Her Lobbyist Husband Profited from It” by Mark Maxwell for WCIA
Pennsylvania: “Draft Bills and Late-Night Emails Reveal Cozy Ties Between Pa. State Lawmaker, Casino Lobbyists” by Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) for PennLive.com
April 11, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Campaign Finance Watchdog Issues Massive Fine for Foreign National’s Trump Super PAC Donation” by Zach Montellaro and Myah Ward (Politico) for MSN Alaska: “Lawsuit Challenges Alaska Campaign Disclosure Rules” by Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) for Alaska Public […]
National: “Campaign Finance Watchdog Issues Massive Fine for Foreign National’s Trump Super PAC Donation” by Zach Montellaro and Myah Ward (Politico) for MSN
Alaska: “Lawsuit Challenges Alaska Campaign Disclosure Rules” by Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) for Alaska Public Media
Wisconsin: “Elections Commission Fines Election Denier $2,400 for Frivolous Voter Fraud Allegations” by Mitchell Schmidt (Wisconsin State Journal) for Madison.com
National: “DOJ Plans to Investigate Boxes of Records Taken to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago” by Matt Zapotosky and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “Jury Acquits Two in Michigan Governor Kidnap Plot; Deadlocks on Two Others” by Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for MSN
New Jersey: “With Revelation of Racist Recordings, Prosecutors Face Scrutiny Over Their Handling of Investigation” by Riley Yates and S.P. Sullivan (NJ Advance Media) for MSN
New York: “Read: The plan to replace JCOPE” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Minnesota: “Elephants in the Room? Bill Language Would Ban Private Clubs for Lawmakers, Lobbyists Proposed by GOP Campaign Committee” by Peter Callaghan for MinnPost
April 8, 2022 •
National/Federal Democrats Unveil Bill to Impose Ethics, Recusal Standards on Supreme Court Yahoo News – Harper Neidig (The Hill) | Published: 4/6/2022 A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation that would force the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt various ethics standards. […]
Democrats Unveil Bill to Impose Ethics, Recusal Standards on Supreme Court
Yahoo News – Harper Neidig (The Hill) | Published: 4/6/2022
A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation that would force the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt various ethics standards. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said the bill is aimed at addressing a lack of clear, enforceable standards for when justices should recuse themselves. The legislation largely mirrors previous bills aimed at reforming judicial ethics at the Supreme Court, but Democrats said there is a new urgency behind the effort amid outcry over revelations involving Ginni Thomas, a Republican activist and the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.
Dissatisfied with Their Party, Wealthy Republican Donors Form Secret Coalitions
Yahoo News – Kenneth Vogel, Shane Goldmacher, and Ryan Mac (New York Times) | Published: 4/7/2022
A new coalition of wealthy conservative benefactors that says it aims to “disrupt but advance the Republican agenda” gathered for a private summit recently at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The coalition, called the Rockbridge Network, includes some of Trump’s biggest donors, such as Peter Thiel and Rebekah Mercer, and has laid out an ambitious goal – to reshape the American right by spending more than $30 million on conservative media, legal, policy, and voter registration projects, among other initiatives.
Flurry of New Laws Move Blue and Red States Further Apart
Yahoo News – Shawn Hubler and Jill Cowan (New York Times) | Published: 4/3/2022
Spurred by a U.S. Supreme Court that is expected to soon upend an array of longstanding rights, including the constitutional right to abortion, left-leaning lawmakers from Washington to Vermont have begun to expand access to abortion, bolster voting rights and denounce laws in conservative states targeting LGBTQ. minors. The flurry of action, particularly in the West, is intensifying already marked differences between life in liberal- and conservative-led parts of the country. It is a sign of the consequences when state governments are controlled increasingly by single parties. Control of legislative chambers is split between parties now in two states – Minnesota and Virginia – compared with 15 states 30 years ago.
Former GOP Lawmaker Pardoned by Trump Hit with Campaign Finance Fines
NBC News – Zoë Richards | Published: 4/1/2022
Former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was pardoned by former President Trump in 2020, agreed to pay an FEC fine over misuse of campaign funds. Hunter and his wife Margaret Hunter, his former campaign manager, said they would pay $12,000 “solely for the purpose of settling this matter only and without admitting liability.” Hunter’s campaign committee agreed to pay a separate $4,000 fine. The FEC said due to his campaign’s “lack of financial resources,” the agency sought a smaller than usual fine, noting it would typically seek a “substantially higher civil penalty” of $133,000 based on the violations.
GAO: Most lobbyists follow disclosure rules, but some leave out details
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 4/5/2022
More than 90 percent of lobbyists provided documentation to back up their publicly reported income and expenses, the Government Accountability Office concluded after conducting routine audits of registered lobbyists to assess compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Still, the audit found some 35 percent of reports may have omitted previous government employment, which lobbyists are required to list. About seven percent missed some campaign contributions that lobbyists are required to report.
Garland Faces Growing Pressure as Jan. 6 Investigation Widens
Seattle Times – Michael Schmidt, Katie Rogers, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 4/2/2022
Attorney General Merrick Garland’s deliberative approach to investigating the riot at the Capitol has come to frustrate Democratic allies of the White House and, at times, President Biden himself. As recently as late last year, Biden confided to his inner circle that he believed former President Trump was a threat to democracy and should be prosecuted. While Biden has never communicated his frustrations directly to Garland, he has said privately he wanted Garland to act less like a ponderous judge and more like a prosecutor who is willing to take decisive action over the events of January 6, 2021.
House Judiciary Delves into FARA in First Dedicated Hearing in 30 Years
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 4/5/2022
Lawmakers, a legal scholar, government watchdogs, and a nonprofit advocate debated whether the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) should be expanded or reined in during a recent hearing, the first such session dedicated to FARA held by the House Judiciary Committee since 1991. The hearing held by the panel’s subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights, and civil liberties, largely revolved around how to balance the transparency objectives of FARA and target the law without infringing upon or having a chilling effect on the constitutionally protected activities that the statute regulates.
House Votes to Hold Ex-Trump Aides Navarro, Scavino in Contempt of Congress
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Matt Zapotosky, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/6/2022
The House voted to hold two former aides to ex-President Trump in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas related to the investigation into the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. The vote results in criminal referrals to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to charge former trade and manufacturing director Peter Navarro and former White House communications chief Daniel Scavino Jr. with misdemeanors that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
How Trump Allies Are Pushing to Hand-Count Ballots Around the U.S.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Amy Gardner, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2022
Allies of former President Trump are traveling the country to press for hand-counted paper ballots in elections. In recent weeks, officials have discussed the idea in public meetings in Colorado, Louisiana, Kansas, Nevada, and New Hampshire, and bills to require hand-counting have been proposed in at least six states. None of the statewide bills have passed, nor have the proposals gotten traction in large jurisdictions. But there has been increasing pressure placed on Republicans to endorse the idea, and some smaller towns and counties are now seriously considering it. Top backers of Trump’s election fraud claims are investing heavily in the effort to promote hand-counting and using the pitch to raise money from supporters.
Inside the Consulting Firm Run by Ginni Thomas, Wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
MSN – Brian Schwartz (CNBC) | Published: 4/5/2022
Ginni Thomas runs a little-known consulting company that some campaign watchdog groups say could create yet another conflict-of-interest for her husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Text messages show Ginni Thomas prodded former President Trump’s then chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in late 2020 to try to overturn the presidential election results. It has led to calls by lawmakers to create a formal Supreme Court code of ethics. Very little is known about her company, Liberty Consulting, which is listed as an asset on her husband’s Supreme Court disclosures.
Nonprofits Help Fill the Gap in Statehouse News Coverage
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 4/6/2022
Nationwide, the number of statehouse reporters employed at nonprofit news outlets has grown from 92 in 2014 to 353 today. That means they represent 20 percent of the total statehouse press corps, up from just six percent in 2014, according to a new study. Journalism in general is in decline but it appears statehouse reporting will not vanish, thanks in large part to nonprofit newsrooms. But fewer than half of the state-level journalists are full-time reporters, according to the research. The rest are only covering Legislatures or other parts of state government part time, or they are interns or support staff.
U.S. Judge Acquits Jan. 6 Defendant Who Said He Was Waved in by Police
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/6/2022
A federal judge found a former U.S. Energy Department contract engineer not guilty of trespassing and disorderly conduct in the attack on the Capitol, saying the defendant plausibly argued that police officers allowed him into the building. U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden, a Donald Trump appointee, acquitted Matthew Martin of four misdemeanor counts of trespassing and disorderly conduct in a bench trial, handing the Justice Department its first defeat in a Capitol breach prosecution.
Canada – Foreign-Lobbyist Registry Finds Support Among Canadian Critics of Russia, Iran and China
The Globe and Mail – Steven Chase | Published: 4/7/2022
A bill that would set up a public registry to track those seeking to influence government on behalf of foreign countries is gaining support among Canadians concerned about the efforts by Russia, Iran, and China to lobby policymakers. The legislation would require those acting on behalf of a foreign government or entities related to that government to register. This obligation would be triggered if they seek to influence public policy, legislation, regulations, and government programs or if they want to set up meetings with public officeholders.
From the States and Municipalities
Arkansas – Firm Paying $8M to Arkansas, Feds Over Corruption Probe
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 3/31/2022
The nonprofit that was at the center of a corruption probe that involved several legislators is paying more than $6.9 million to the federal government and more than $1.1 million in restitution to Arkansas. Federal prosecutors announced the non-prosecution agreement with Preferred Family Healthcare. Several former executives from the charity, former Arkansas legislators, and others have pleaded guilty as part of the corruption probe.
Colorado – Former Colorado Elections Official Tina Peters May Have Breached a State Ethics Law by Accepting a Private Plane Ride from Mike Lindell
Yahoo News – Cheryl Teh (Business Insider) | Published: 4/5/2022
Former Colorado elections official Tina Peters may have flouted a state ethics law by accepting a private plane ride from MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. He said he gave Peters a lift on his private jet in August when he flew her to his cyber-symposium in South Dakota. Peters’ acceptance of the place ride may have violated Amendment 41, which prohibits public officials like Peters from receiving gifts, including travel, that cost more than $65.
Florida – Federal Judge Overturns Parts of Florida Election Law, Citing ‘Horrendous History’ of Racism
Yahoo News – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/31/2022
A federal judge struck down key provisions of a 2021 Florida election law championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and ruled the state must get court approval for the next 10 years before it enacts further changes in three areas. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker said the law placed restrictions on voters that were unconstitutional and discriminated against minority citizens. Those included limits on drop boxes used for mail-in voting, on giving items to voters waiting in line, and new requirements placed on voter registration groups. Walker framed Florida’s law as another in a long line of changes that were aimed at Democrats but wound up placing an illegal burden on minorities.
Florida – Inside the Scott Maddox Messages: A Tallahassee Democrat investigation into back-door dealings
Yahoo News – Jeff Burlew, Jeffrey Schweers, and Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 4/5/2022
Before federal prosecutors unveiled their case in the public corruption trial of John Burnette, a treasure trove of sealed government evidence found its way online because of a mix-up by someone on the defense team. The evidence consisted of hundreds of text messages to and from former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox, the central figure in the FBI’s “Operation Capital Currency” investigation and one of Burnette’s co-defendants. The messages between Maddox and numerous political movers and shakers laid bare the way he conducted business behind the scenes during his last years in office. Maddox is set to be sentenced in the case.
Florida – Legislature Delivers Gov. DeSantis Second Pass at Limiting Big Dollar Influence in Ballot Initiatives
Florida Politics – Renzo Downey | Published: 4/5/2022
Legislative leaders officially sent Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis their second attempt to limit spending in the ballot initiative process after last year’s proposal met legal hurdles. House Bill 921 would limit non-Floridians from donating more than $3,000, and out-of-state political committees from receiving donations worth more than $3,000, when it comes to ballot initiatives in the petition-gathering process. Critics say it still runs afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision protecting political contributions as free speech.
Georgia – State Worker Accused of Using Fake Belly to Pretend She’s Pregnant Skirts Prison in GA
MSN – Hayley Fowler (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 4/4/2022
A former state employee in Georgia accused of concocting an elaborate sham pregnancy that included a made-up father and pretend baby bump will not go to prison after she pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Robin Folsom pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and making false statements. A judge sentenced her to five years of probation and 40 hours of community service as a result. She was also ordered to pay $12,307 in restitution. Folsom is accused of lying about her pregnancies to receive 265 hours of paid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Georgia – Would Longer Session Help Georgia Legislature?
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Craig Nelson | Published: 3/31/2022
Critics wonder if the traditional flurry of last-minute activity at the end of the 40-day legislative session is compatible with Georgia’s oft-stated ambition to be a major economic and political player in the nation and lawmakers’ duty to oversee a fiscal year budget now exceeding $30 billion. They say even more problematic is the lack of ethnic, gender, and economic diversity that the so-called citizen legislator model engenders.
Kansas – Kansas Statehouse Subpoenas, Pay-to-Play Allegations, Consultants’ Feud Disrupt End of Session
Kansas Reflector – Tim Carpenter | Published: 4/3/2022
Before adjourning the legislative session, Republican lawmakers attempted to write into law a requirement that the executive director of the Governmental Ethics Commission hold a Kansas license to practice law. The target of their ire was Executive Director Mark Skoglund, the top regulator of legislators’ campaign finance activities who fell out of favor among some Republicans. The final hours also featured the disclosure that the ethics commission issued subpoenas to GOP legislators and political operatives as part of an investigation into PACs tied to conservative causes and lawmakers.
Louisiana – Jeff Landry Spent $420,000+ from Campaign Donors on His Own Staffing Company
Corporation Crime Commission – Andrea Gallo (The Advocate) | Published: 3/31/2022
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has directed more than $420,000 in campaign money to a staffing company he owns. His practice of cutting campaign checks to companies he owns stretches back to at least 2007 but has accelerated in recent years. A spokesperson for Landry says the payments are perfectly legal, and the attorney general only runs his campaign staff payroll through UST Staffing because it is efficient. Landry is the only statewide official in using such a system, and the net effect is that his campaign reports do not show how many people work for his campaign, or who they are.
Maryland – Hogan Signs New Md. Congressional Map into Law, Ending Legal Battles
MSN – Meagan Flynn and Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2022
Gov. Larry Hogan signed a new Maryland congressional map into law, ending legal battles over the congressional maps that had left the state’s campaigns in limbo. Hogan agreed to enact the new map after the Maryland attorney general’s office said it would abandon its appeal of a judge’s ruling that found the previous map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Republican also plaintiffs agreed to abandon challenges to the new map. The agreement means that, after months of legal wrangling, Maryland’s congressional map is set for the upcoming midterm elections and for the next decade.
Maryland – Latinos Find Little Room in Majority African American County
MSN – Rachel Chason (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2022
As they watched their communities devastated by hunger and sickness, a group of Latino leaders in Prince George’s County said their struggle for resources during the coronavirus pandemic was exacerbated by the near-total lack of Latino officials in the government. A cohort of Latino leaders who issued a statement six months ago highlighting the lack of representation say their requests for an audit have been dismissed and their calls for the administration to change its recruitment practices have gone unanswered. It’s an old friction in Prince George’s that was felt anew as the pandemic underscored inequities faced by Black and Latino communities nationwide, with both historically marginalized groups struggling for resources.
Michigan – Michigan AG Hopeful Tom Leonard’s Fundraising Draws Fairness Concerns
Bridge Michigan – Yue Stella Yu | Published: 4/1/2022
John Kennedy was sure who he wanted elected as Michigan’s next attorney general, and money was not a problem. But Kennedy did not know how much money his desired candidate, former House Speaker Tom Leonard, needed to win. “We asked him what the maximum we could give to the campaign was,” said Kennedy. The maximum an individual can give to someone running for statewide office in Michigan is $7,150. But Kennedy and his wife wrote multiple checks totaling $39,300 to support Leonard’s bid. The Kennedys each contributed their individual maximum to Leonard’s campaign. But John Kennedy then wrote a second check for $25,000 to one of Leonard’s leadership PACs, the Michigan Values Leadership Fund.
Mississippi – Phil Bryant Had His Sights on a Payout as Welfare Funds Flowed to Brett Favre
MSN – Anna Wolfe (Mississippi Today) | Published: 4/5/2022
Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant used the authority of his office, the weight of his political influence, and the power of his connections to help his friend and retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre boost a pharmaceutical venture. Then Bryant tried to cash in on the project when he left office, text messages show. Favre met with Bryant’s welfare officials to strike a deal for a $1.7 million investment in the biomedical startup Prevacus, which promised it had found a treatment for concussions. Prosecutors now say that money was stolen from a federal program intended to serve the state’s poorest residents, a pot of money that had virtually no oversight.
Nevada – Former Democratic Assemblyman Indicted for Campaign Fund Theft, Falsifying Documents
Nevada Independent – Sean Golonka | Published: 3/31/2022
A grand jury indicted former Nevada Assembly member Alexander Assefa on 14 charges, finding probable cause Assefa stole tens of thousands of dollars from his campaign account and lied about his residency on candidacy forms. During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers updated the penalty thresholds for crimes of theft, but because Assefa committed the crimes before implementation of the change, he was charged under the previous law.
New Hampshire – Trump Aide Seeking NH House Seat Voted in 2 States in 2016
MSN – Brian Slodysko and Holly Ramer (Associated Press) | Published: 4/5/2022
A former Trump administration official now running for Congress in New Hampshire voted twice during the 2016 primary election season, potentially violating federal voting law. Matt Mowers, a leading GOP primary candidate looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, cast an absentee ballot in New Hampshire’s 2016 presidential primary. At the time, Mowers served as the director of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign. After Christie’s bid fizzled, Mowers cast another ballot in New Jersey’s Republican presidential primary, using his parents’ address to re-register in his home state.
New Jersey – A Bribe Is a Bribe, Court Says, Ruling That a Mayoral Candidate Is Subject to N.J. Corruption Laws
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/4/2022
An appeals court reinstated the bribery indictment against former Bayonne mayoral candidate Jason O’Donnell. The ruling reverses a controversial trial court’s decision to throw out the case last year because O’Donnell was not an elected public official when he reportedly took $10,000 in a paper bag in a corruption sting set up by the New Jersey attorney general’s office. In that earlier decision, a Superior Court judge concluded that as a candidate for public office, O’Donnell had no power to make any promises in return for the cash payment prosecutors say he accepted. He later lost the election.
New Jersey – Emails Reveal Prominent Law Firms Were Among Donors to Caddle’s Dark Money Groups
Yahoo News – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 4/6/2022
An attorney for one of the biggest school districts in New Jersey raised money from law firms that funded a “dark money” group run by political operative Sean Caddle, who has admitted hiring two men to kill an associate. The group, in turn, indirectly paid for ads and canvassing to boost the political faction that had hired the lawyer, Jonathan Williams. Emails reveal some of the donors to a network of “dark money” organizations Caddle and Gianni Donates formed in what appeared to be an effort to hide the source of the money spent on municipal elections around the state, a network that has drawn interest from state and federal investigators.
New York – Cuomo Files Lawsuit and Complaint Targeting Ethics Commission
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 4/2/2022
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is waging a legal counter assault on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). His attorney, Rita Glavin, filed a complaint asking the state inspector general’s office to investigate their claim that members of the commission or its staff leaked confidential information about Cuomo’s dealings with the ethics panel. Glavin also filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court challenging JCOPE’s efforts to make him return more than $5 million in proceeds from a book he wrote about his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
New York – New York Judge Strikes Down Democratic-Drawn Maps
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2022
A New York judge struck down the state’s new congressional and legislative maps as defying a voter-backed constitutional amendment that aimed to end partisan gerrymandering. State Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister ordered state lawmakers to draw bipartisan maps by April 11 or the court will appoint an independent map drawer to do it. The state will appeal the decision, triggering an automatic stay until the state appeals court takes it up.
Ohio – Former DeWine Aide Warned Governor About Utility Regulator Before the FBI Raided His Home
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 4/4/2022
More than two years before FirstEnergy admitted paying Ohio’s top utility regulator a $4.3 million bribe, Mike DeWine’s former campaign treasurer warned senior aides to the new governor about the eventual nominee’s “opaque and undisclosed” financial ties to the company. The warning came in a 198-page dossier alleging Sam Randazzo, a lawyer and lobbyist who represented gas companies and industrial scale electricity buyers, uses businesses registered in his name to “funnel” money from FirstEnergy to buy real estate.
Ohio – New Whistleblower Policy Would Require Cuyahoga County Employees to Report County Ethics – but Not State, Federal – Violations
MSN – Kaitlin Durbin (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/6/2022
In what is expected to be the final revision, the Cuyahoga County Council members compromised on a whistleblower policy that limits mandatory reporting only to elected officials, employees, and board members with “actual knowledge” of county ethics violations. It also takes them off the hook for having to speak up if they know the violation has already been reported by someone else.
South Carolina – SC GOP Lawmaker Hit with 133 SC Ethics Charges Alleging Spending, Reporting Violations
MSN – Maayan Schechter (The State) | Published: 4/5/2022
South Carolina Rep. Jonathan Hill faces 133 ethics-related charges for allegedly violating the state’s campaign spending and disclosure laws that includes an allegation he spent campaign cash on a personal mortgage. Hill has long been at odds with his own party. He is the only Republican who is not a member of the House Republican Caucus after he was indefinitely suspended after publicly criticizing leadership, sharing private caucus conversations, and posting lawmakers’ cellphone numbers online.
South Dakota – South Dakota Lawmaker Gave Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg Legal Advice After Fatal Crash
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 4/6/2022
A lawmaker who will cast a vote on whether to impeach South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg says he gave him legal advice following Ravnsborg’s involvement in a fatal car crash. Rep. Scott Odenbach, who at the time was running for the seat he eventually won, said Ravnsborg reached out to him for input on a public statement that was released two days after the attorney general struck and killed Joe Boever, a pedestrian who was walking along a rural highway.
Tennessee – Ethics Reform Bill to Tamp Down on Corruption Clears First Hurdle in Tennessee Senate
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 4/5/2022
Legislation designed to make ethics laws more transparent passed its first committee. Senate Bill 1005 now goes to the Senate floor. The bill would require increased reporting for lawmakers, PACs, some key staff members, and groups with 501c4 tax designations. Lawmakers, for instance, would be required to report all contributions and expenses. The Legislature has been embroiled in an FBI investigation for more than three years, part of which focuses on the formation of shady political committees and vendors that did business with the House Republican Caucus and GOP members.
Tennessee – Nashville Council Censures Member Jonathan Hall for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Cassandra Stephenson (Tennessean) | Published: 4/6/2022
Nashville’s Metro Council voted to censure Jonathan Hall for campaign finance-related ethics violations, an uncommon move for the 40-member body. The Board of Ethical Conduct recommended censure after concluding Hall violated the ethics code by failing to file required financial disclosures in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance voted in January to impose a $360,000 penalty on Hall for 36 violations. Registry board members delayed their reconsideration of the penalty pending updates from local authorities.
Texas – Texas Is Quietly Using Redistricting Lawsuits to Launch a Broader War Against Federal Voting Rights Law
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 4/4/2022
Over the years, Texas lawmakers have repeatedly been ordered to correct gerrymandering that suppressed the political power of Black and Hispanic voters. The pathway to federal court has been through the Voting Rights Act. Key portions of the law have been weakened in the last decade, but Texans of color still find a way to file lawsuits under its Section 2, which prohibits discriminatory voting procedures and practices that deny voters of color an equal opportunity to participate in elections. Tucked into the legal briefs the state has filed this year with a three-judge panel considering redistricting lawsuits are two arguments that reach far beyond the validity of the specific maps being challenged.
Wisconsin – Robin Vos Found in Contempt of Court for Failing to Turn Over Records About the Republican Election Review
Yahoo News – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 3/30/2022
A judge found Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in contempt of court for failing to release documents related to a Republican-run review of the 2020 election. Dane County Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ordered Vos and the Assembly to turn over records within 14 days and to each pay $1,000 per day if they fail to do that. Vos has approved spending up to $676,000 in taxpayer funds on the election review, but the review and its related legal expenses could exceed that amount.
April 7, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Legislature Delivers Gov. DeSantis Second Pass at Limiting Big Dollar Influence in Ballot Initiatives” by Renzo Downey for Florida Politics New Jersey: “Emails Reveal Prominent Law Firms Were Among Donors to Caddle’s Dark Money Groups” by Matt […]
Florida: “Legislature Delivers Gov. DeSantis Second Pass at Limiting Big Dollar Influence in Ballot Initiatives” by Renzo Downey for Florida Politics
New Jersey: “Emails Reveal Prominent Law Firms Were Among Donors to Caddle’s Dark Money Groups” by Matt Friedman (Politico) for Yahoo News
South Carolina: “SC GOP Lawmaker Hit with 133 SC Ethics Charges Alleging Spending, Reporting Violations” by Maayan Schechter (The State) for MSN
Tennessee: “Nashville Council Censures Member Jonathan Hall for Campaign Finance Violations” by Cassandra Stephenson (Tennessean) for Yahoo News
National: “Nonprofits Help Fill the Gap in Statehouse News Coverage” by Alan Greenblatt for Governing
National: “Democrats Unveil Bill to Impose Ethics, Recusal Standards on Supreme Court” by Harper Neidig (The Hill) for Yahoo News
Colorado: “Former Colorado Elections Official Tina Peters May Have Breached a State Ethics Law by Accepting a Private Plane Ride from Mike Lindell” by Cheryl Teh (Business Insider) for Yahoo News
Tennessee: “Ethics Reform Bill to Tamp Down on Corruption Clears First Hurdle in Tennessee Senate” by Sam Stockard for Tennessee Lookout
National: “House Judiciary Delves into FARA in First Dedicated Hearing in 30 Years” by Caitlin Oprysko for Politico
Maryland: “Hogan Signs New Md. Congressional Map into Law, Ending Legal Battles” by Meagan Flynn and Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) for MSN
April 6, 2022 •
Elections National: “How Trump Allies Are Pushing to Hand-Count Ballots Around the U.S.” by Rosalind Helderman, Amy Gardner, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) for MSN New Hampshire: “Trump Aide Seeking NH House Seat Voted in 2 States in 2016” by […]
National: “How Trump Allies Are Pushing to Hand-Count Ballots Around the U.S.” by Rosalind Helderman, Amy Gardner, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) for MSN
New Hampshire: “Trump Aide Seeking NH House Seat Voted in 2 States in 2016” by Brian Slodysko and Holly Ramer (Associated Press) for MSN
National: “Inside the Consulting Firm Run by Ginni Thomas, Wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas” by Brian Schwartz (CNBC) for MSN
Florida: “Inside the Scott Maddox Messages: A Tallahassee Democrat investigation into back-door dealings” by Jeff Burlew, Jeffrey Schweers, and Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) for Yahoo News
Georgia: “State Worker Accused of Using Fake Belly to Pretend She’s Pregnant Skirts Prison in GA” by Hayley Fowler (Charlotte Observer) for MSN
Mississippi: “Phil Bryant Had His Sights on a Payout as Welfare Funds Flowed to Brett Favre” by Anna Wolfe (Mississippi Today) for MSN
New Jersey: “A Bribe Is a Bribe, Court Says, Ruling That a Mayoral Candidate Is Subject to N.J. Corruption Laws” by Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger
National: “GAO: Most lobbyists follow disclosure rules, but some leave out details” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
April 5, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Former GOP Lawmaker Pardoned by Trump Hit with Campaign Finance Fines” by Zoë Richards for NBC News Michigan: “Michigan AG Hopeful Tom Leonard’s Fundraising Draws Fairness Concerns” by Yue Stella Yu for Bridge Michigan Elections Texas: “Texas […]
National: “Former GOP Lawmaker Pardoned by Trump Hit with Campaign Finance Fines” by Zoë Richards for NBC News
Michigan: “Michigan AG Hopeful Tom Leonard’s Fundraising Draws Fairness Concerns” by Yue Stella Yu for Bridge Michigan
Texas: “Texas Is Quietly Using Redistricting Lawsuits to Launch a Broader War Against Federal Voting Rights Law” by Alexa Ura for Texas Tribune
National: “Garland Faces Growing Pressure as Jan. 6 Investigation Widens” by Michael Schmidt, Katie Rogers, and Katie Benner (New York Times) for Seattle Times
Maryland: “Latinos Find Little Room in Majority African American County” by Rachel Chason (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Cuomo Files Lawsuit and Complaint Targeting Ethics Commission” by Brendan Lyons for Albany Times Union
Ohio: “Former DeWine Aide Warned Governor About Utility Regulator Before the FBI Raided His Home” by Jake Zuckerman for Ohio Capital Journal
National: “Flurry of New Laws Move Blue and Red States Further Apart” by Shawn Hubler and Jill Cowan (New York Times) for Yahoo News
April 4, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Nevada: “Former Democratic Assemblyman Indicted for Campaign Fund Theft, Falsifying Documents” by Sean Golonka for Nevada Independent Elections Florida: “Federal Judge Overturns Parts of Florida Election Law, Citing ‘Horrendous History’ of Racism” by Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo […]
Nevada: “Former Democratic Assemblyman Indicted for Campaign Fund Theft, Falsifying Documents” by Sean Golonka for Nevada Independent
Florida: “Federal Judge Overturns Parts of Florida Election Law, Citing ‘Horrendous History’ of Racism” by Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo News
Wisconsin: “Robin Vos Found in Contempt of Court for Failing to Turn Over Records About the Republican Election Review” by Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) for Yahoo News
Arkansas: “Firm Paying $8M to Arkansas, Feds Over Corruption Probe” by Associated Press for MSN
Kansas: “Kansas Republican Lawmakers Move to Dump the Ethics Boss Leading a Campaign Finance Probe” by Jim McLean (Kansas News Service) for KCUR
Georgia: “Would Longer Session Help Georgia Legislature?” by Craig Nelson for Georgia Public Broadcasting
Maryland: “Md. Dems Pass New Congressional Map – as AG Appeals Gerrymandering Ruling” by Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “New York Judge Strikes Down Democratic-Drawn Maps” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
April 1, 2022 •
National/Federal Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington MSN – Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022 SKDK, a public relations and political strategy firm, is a unique force in Washington, straddling the […]
Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington
MSN – Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022
SKDK, a public relations and political strategy firm, is a unique force in Washington, straddling the line between the private sector and the Biden administration to quietly affect change. The firm has served a roster of high-powered clients, including Fortune 500 companies, occasionally foreign governments, and candidates. Neither SKDK nor Anita Dunn, the firm’s co-founder who was an architect of President Biden’s 2020 victory and served in the administration, lobby or represent any clients on matters before the federal government. Still, Dunn’s role is questioned by some ethics experts, who say she has, avoided rules meant to promote transparency.
Did Trump Asking Putin for Dirt on Hunter Biden Violate Election Law?
Newsweek – Ewan Palmer | Published: 3/31/2022
Questions have been raised about whether Donald Trump asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to find information on Hunter Biden’s alleged business dealings was a violation of federal law. Trump once again publicly sought a foreign power’s assistance in unearthing political dirt on one of his political opponents after he repeated dubious claims regarding President Joe Biden’s son. While he has not formally announced his intention to run for president in 2024, some have accused Trump of breaking the law that prohibits any person from soliciting, accepting, or receiving anything of value from a foreign national in connection with an election.
FEC Fines DNC, Clinton for Violating Rules in Funding Steele Dossier
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
The FEC fined the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for violating rules with the funding of the dossier at the center of accusations of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. The FEC said the fine for the Clinton campaign was $8,000 and the fine for the DNC was $105,000.
Flynn Partner Wins New Trial in Foreign-Agent Case
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 3/25/2022
A onetime business partner of former President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn scored a legal victory as a federal judge ordered a new trial for the Iranian-born businessperson on charges he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey as Trump ran for president in 2016. The ruling was the latest lurch in a legal roller coaster ride for Bijan Rafiekian, who was found guilty by a jury, then then had his two felony convictions thrown out only to see the guilty verdicts reinstated by an appeals court.
How Google and Amazon Bankrolled a ‘Grassroots’ Activist Group of Small Business Owners to Lobby Against Big Tech Oversight
CNBC – Eamon Javers and Meghan Maharishi | Published: 3/30/2022
The Connected Commerce Council (3C), which pitches itself as a grassroots movement representing small business owners, is really a well-financed advocacy group funded by Google and Amazon. The companies are currently the council’s sole financial support. Lobbying watchdog group the Campaign for Accountability called 3C an “Astroturf” lobbying organization, thanks to the tech giants’ financial support. The group does have some active small business members, several of whom said they value 3C’s offerings and agree with its issue advocacy in Washington, D.C.
Jan. 6 Committee Backs Contempt Charges for Two Former Trump Aides
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022
Internal White House records from the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that were turned over to a House select committee show a gap in former President Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the building was being violently assaulted. The seven-hour gap stands in stark contrast to the extensive public reporting about phone conversations Trump had with allies during the attack. One lawmaker on the panel said the committee is investigating a “possible coverup” of the official White House record from that day.
Jan. 6 White House Logs Given to House Show 7-hour Gap in Trump Calls
MSN – Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 3/29/2022
Internal White House records from the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that were turned over to the House select committee show a gap in former President Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the building was being violently assaulted. The seven-hour gap stands in stark contrast to the extensive public reporting about phone conversations Trump had with allies during the attack. One lawmaker on the panel said the committee is investigating a “possible coverup” of the official White House record from that day.
Justice Dept. Expands Jan. 6 Probe to Look at Rally Prep, Financing
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
The criminal investigation into the attack on the Capitol has expanded to examine the preparations for the rally that preceded the riot, as the Justice Department aims to determine the full extent of any conspiracy to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. A federal grand jury has issued subpoena requests to some officials in former President Trump’s orbit who assisted in planning, funding, and executing the January 6 rally.
Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Transparency in the Lucrative – and Murky – Federal Contracting Process
ABC News – Lucien Bruggeman and Soo Rin Kim | Published: 3/28/2022
A bipartisan coalition of senators introduced legislation meant to improve transparency in the competitive and murky federal contracting process, taking aim at companies that accept lucrative work from government agencies without having to disclose potential conflicts-of-interest. The Preventing Organizational Conflicts of interest in Federal Acquisition Act would force contractors to “disclose other parts of their business that conflict with the work they are bidding to perform for the government,” according to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI
MSN – Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2022
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry resigned from Congress after he was convicted on three felony counts for lying to federal investigators about illegal campaign contributions from a foreign billionaire. Foreign nationals are prohibited from donating to candidates running for federal office in the U.S. It is also illegal to disguise a donor’s identity through third-party contributions. Fortenberry was convicted of one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. Each of the counts carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
Trump Likely Committed Felony Obstruction, Federal Judge Rules
Politico – Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein, and Nicholas Wu | Published: 3/28/2022
A federal judge ruled former President Trump “more likely than not” attempted to illegally obstruct Congress as part of a criminal conspiracy when he tried to subvert the 2020 election on January 6, 2021. U.S. District Court Judge David Carter’s ruling came as he ordered the release to a House select committee of 101 emails from Trump ally John Eastman, rejecting Eastman’s effort to shield them via attorney-client privilege. Eastman used the email account of his former employer to discuss political and legal strategy related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election and had sued the committee to prevent them from obtaining the emails.
Trump NLRB Member’s Conflicts Broke Law, Inspector General Alleges
Bloomberg Law – Ian Kullgren | Published: 3/28/2022
Former National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) member William Emanuel allegedly broke federal ethics law by failing to monitor investments that created disqualifying conflicts-of-interest in five cases, according to board documents. The U.S. Department of Justice last year declined to press charges against Emanuel, which ethics experts attributed to the high burden of proof in criminal cases. Documents show his conduct despite repeated warnings created at least the possibility of self-enrichment. The case highlights a gap in ethics enforcement that could be exploited by future appointees at the NLRB and other agencies.
Turmoil at CBS News Over Trump Aide Mick Mulvaney’s Punditry Gig
MSN – Jeremy Barr (Wshington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
CBS News’s decision to hire former Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney as a paid on-air contributor is drawing backlash within the company because of his history of bashing the press and promoting the former president’s fact-free claims. Many journalists and political commentators suggested the network was jeopardizing its long history of journalistic excellence. One person said the frustration among staff was less about Mulvaney’s high-ranking role in the Trump administration and more about the inaccuracy of some of his past comments.
Virginia Thomas Urged White House Chief to Pursue Unrelenting Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Election, Texts Show
MSN – Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2022
Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist married to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in a series of urgent text exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote. The 29 messages reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Virginia Thomas and then-President Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court to negate the election results.
Why Redistricting Has Stalled in 4 Unfinished States
Yahoo News – Ally Mutnick and Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/28/2022
The final stage of the redistricting cycle has arrived: gridlock. Spats between governors and state legislators, and between different Republican factions, have brought map-making to a standstill in the final four states still without new congressional lines for the 2022 elections. With filing deadlines looming, 44 House seats are still outstanding in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Missouri and, most importantly, Florida, which has 28 districts all by itself.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Republicans Enact a Controversial New Proof-of-Citizenship Voting Law
KJZZ – Ben Giles | Published: 3/30/2022
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation to expand U.S. citizenship voting requirements in the state, a measure that critics warn will jeopardize the voter registrations of thousands of residents. In signing House Bill 2492, Ducey disputed testimony from local officials and voting rights advocates who say an unknown number of voters – predominantly older, longtime Arizona residents – will be purged from the voter rolls because the last time they registered to vote, there was no requirement to provide proof of citizenship. Critics say those voters would then need to register again.
Arizona – Panel Strikes Down Plan to Give Arizona Lawmakers Big Raises
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 3/28/2022
Arizona lawmakers will still have to depend on voters’ goodwill, or lack thereof, to get more pay. The House Appropriations Committee quashed a proposal to create a system that would peg lawmakers’ salary at 60 percent of what the governor is paid. That would move legislative pay next year from $24,000 to $57,000. The measure would have replaced the current system of having a special commission study the issue and make recommendations that go on the ballot. The death of the package also means some proffered changes on lobbyist reporting also will not take effect.
California – Airbnb Routinely Deploys Its ‘Astroturf Army’ to Combat California Short-Term Rental Regulations, Critics Say
MSN – Silas Valentino (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 3/28/2022
In 2020, one week before the San Diego Planning Commission met to discuss capping the number of short-term rentals in the city, Airbnb emailed its hosts asking for help. “The Planning Commission needs to hear from hosts like you,” read the email, signed by The Airbnb Team. At the bottom there were two links: one to a short form that generated an email to city council members and another to RSVP for the meeting’s public comment session. Airbnb is not the only tech company to generate seemingly grassroots campaigns. In fact, they are so common that BuzzFeed reporter Caroline O’Donovan gave this “click-to-lobby” tactic a name: “Brobilizing.”
Colorado – Judge Says Republican Consultants Didn’t Violate Redistricting Lobbying Rules
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 3/25/2022
An administrative law judge ruled former state Sen. Greg Brophy, former House Speaker Frank McNulty, and political strategist Alan Philp did not violate Colorado’s lobbying rules with their work on redistricting last year. A complaint alleged they either failed to register as lobbyists while conducting meetings related to redistricting and proposing ideas for maps, or they did not properly disclose income related to their work. Judge Matthew Norwood concluded their activities did not meet the definition of lobbying.
Connecticut – CT Contracting Watchdog Clears Key Hurdle to Add Investigative Staff
CTMirror.org – Keith Phaneuf | Published: 3/29/2022
Connecticut’s contracting watchdog panel moved one step closer to getting the investigative staff it has sought since its inception 13 years ago. The Government Administration and Elections Committee approved a bill mandating the five investigative posts sought by the State Contracting Standards Board be filled before the first quarter of the next fiscal year ends, in late September. Pressure from legislators to strengthen the watchdog intensified this year following reports the FBI is investigating school construction work and other projects once overseen by Gov. Ned Lamont’s former deputy budget director.
Florida – Ex-Congressman David Rivera Loses ‘Last-Ditch’ Move to Avoid $456,000 Campaign Fine
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 3/28/2022
A federal judge rejected former U.S. Rep. David Rivera’s “last-ditch effort” to dodge a $456,000 judgment against him tied to his decade-old campaign violations. Roughly a year after ruling in favor of the FEC, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke denied Rivera’s motion to dismiss the agency’s lawsuit against him on the grounds he never received mail notices he was going to be sued, and that a five-year statute of limitations had expired when the complaint was filed in 2017. The FEC case is now administratively closed, and Rivera is on the hook for the six-figure judgment.
Florida – Florida’s Redistricting Mess Heads to Special Session after DeSantis Vetoes ‘Defective’ Map
MSN – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/29/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a new congressional map while calling for a mid-April special legislative session so state lawmakers can craft new maps that satisfy him. DeSantis contended the Legislature-approved congressional map was “defective” and violated federal law. He made clear he would be opposed to any proposal designed to keep intact districts that had a sizable minority population, but where minority voters do not constitute an overall majority.
Georgia – Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown
MSN – Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 3/29/2022
A Georgia Senate committee eviscerated a controversial elections overhaul a day after local election officials from both parties blasted it as complicating their work in an election year. The fate of the massive bill, which sped through the GOP-led House in March, is now uncertain and could result in a showdown in the final days of the legislative session.
Georgia – Guilty Verdict in Atlanta City Hall Corruption Trial
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 3/23/2022
A jury found a political operative and former Atlanta employee guilty on charges including money laundering, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit bribery that resulted from a long-running federal investigation into corruption at City Hall. Mitzi Bickers was the first person to go to trial over the corruption probe during former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration. Bickers was accused of using her influence to funnel business to city contractors. Prosecutors said she directed roughly $17 million in city work to the two men and their companies in exchange for about $2 million in bribes.
Idaho – Ammon Bundy Pays Himself Thousands in Campaign Cash
Boise State Public Radio – James Dawson | Published: 3/25/2022
Ammon Bundy, the anti-government activist running as an independent candidate to be Idaho’s next governor, has paid thousands of dollars in campaign donations to a company he owns. Bundy’s campaign has paid $13,500 in $1,500 monthly installments since June 1, 2021, to Abish-Husbondi Inc, a company incorporated in Wyoming. Bundy is listed as the company’s president and sole officer in an annual report. Idaho law states that, in general, “A contribution shall lot be converted by any person to personal use.” But the law appears silent on whether candidates can contract with their own businesses.
Illinois – Michael Madigan’s Indictment: How he pushed for allies to get ComEd jobs and his own daughter’s legislation was killed.
MSN – Jeremy Gorner, Dan Petrella, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/27/2022
Nearly four years ago, legislation that aimed to help low-income electricity customers was making its way to the floor of an Illinois House chamber tightly controlled by its longtime speaker, Michael Madigan. The bill’s main advocate was Madigan’s daughter, then-state Attorney General Lisa Madigan. One of its primary opponents was Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), the state’s largest electric utility. ComEd won because, according to federal prosecutors, Michael Madigan paved the way. Prosecutors allege he greenlighted efforts to defeat his own daughter’s bill as he pressed ComEd to give jobs to two political allies.
Illinois – State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense
Capitol News Illinois – Peter Hancock | Published: 3/24/2022
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled elected public officials and their campaign committees may, in limited circumstances, use campaign funds to pay criminal defense fees. The case involved a former Chicago City Council member, Danny Solis, who reportedly avoided federal prosecution by agreeing to cooperate with the FBI and Department of Justice in their investigation of another alderman, Ed Burke, who was indicted on federal corruption charges.
Kansas – Kansas Governmental Ethics Leader Under Fire Amid Law License Questions. Legislature Eyes Response.
MSN – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital Journal) | Published: 3/31/2022
The director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission is under fire over the status of his law license, a conflict that could result in the Legislature pursuing a policy change to target the group and its leader, Mark Skoglund. The issue stems from a broader case regarding whether a group should be considered a political committee. Two motions filed with the ethics panel would push to dismiss or reconsider the case, arguing Skoglund misrepresented his status as an active attorney. Currently, Skoglund’s law license is suspended.
Maryland – FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group
E&E News – Jeffrey Tomich | Published: 3/28/2022
Records from FirstEnergy’s Maryland utility show some of its customers’ monthly payments in 2017 were secretly flowing to a “dark money” group formed to help further former President Trump’s agenda. The records show Potomac Edison paid $163,000 that year to America First Policies, which was founded by some of Trump’s top administration and campaign officials. The America First payment, made around the time FirstEnergy was pressing the Trump administration for help to rescue coal and nuclear plants, was revealed as part of an ongoing Maryland Public Service Commission investigation. It is among millions of dollars in payments by FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries to groups that are not required to list their donors.
Maryland – Judge Throws Out Maryland Congressional Map Over ‘Extreme’ Gerrymandering
MSN – Meagan Flynn, Ovetta Wiggins, and Erin Cox (Washington Post) | Published: 3/25/2022
A Maryland judge threw out the state’s congressional map, calling it an “extreme partisan gerrymander” in what is a victory for Republicans. The ruling by Anne Arundel County Senior Judge Lynne Battaglia marks the first time in Maryland history a judge has found a congressional map violated the state constitution. Battaglia ruled the map ran afoul of rules laid out in the law traditionally applied to legislative districts, requiring them to be compact and to give regard to political subdivisions. She also ruled the map violated the state constitution’s equal protection, free speech, and free elections clauses.
Maryland – Legal Spending from Mosby Campaign Accounts Did Not Violate Maryland Law, Election Board Finds
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 3/29/2022
The use of campaign funds for the legal defense of both Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, did not violate state election law, according to a decision from the Maryland State Board of Elections. The board launched an inquiry into the couple’s spending after both filed reports claiming legal costs paid out to multiple law firms as campaign expenses. State law prohibits any candidate or political committee from using campaign funds for legal expenses related to investigations or court proceedings that “do not have a direct connection with the candidacy.”
Missouri – Dueker Says She Has ‘Good Shot’ at Defeating Page Despite Lack of Campaign Account
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 3/30/2022
A Democrat running in the August primary against incumbent St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says she has no current plans to open a campaign account for her bid. Jane Dueker, a local police union attorney and registered lobbyist, would have to do so under Missouri law if she raises more than $1,000. But because she is a registered lobbyist, she is not allowed to operate a campaign account.
New York – Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin
New York Daily News – Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland | Published: 3/25/2022
Federal investigators issued subpoenas and are seeking information about grants related to New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin’s time as a state senator. Investigators with the Southern District of New York have subpoenaed state officials and Senate employees as they probe money Benjamin steered toward projects in his former district. The inquiry is related to funds doled out through the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a lump sum appropriation in the state budget administered through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
Ohio – Ohio’s High Court Suggests No Ruling Before Primary on Redistricting Map
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 3/29/2022
The Ohio Supreme Court suggested it will not rule on whether a Republican-drawn congressional map is legal until after the May 3 primary. In January, justices stuck down Republicans’ first redrawing of its congressional districts on grounds it violated a constitutional amendment passed by voters to ban partisan gerrymandering. Republicans submitted a new, minimally altered map in March that Democrats and voting rights groups complained was no better. But a legal technicality restarted the clock on the case, and the court’s schedule indicated it would not have a decision until weeks after Ohioans have cast ballots in the primary.
Oregon – Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Ask Oregon Supreme Court for a New Hearing
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 3/24/2022
A coalition of good government groups is asking the Oregon Supreme Court to reconsider a decision that would keep voters from deciding in November whether the state should limit money in politics. The court rejected a request from the proponents of three proposed ballot initiatives to overturn a decision by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan that would prevent the initiatives from appearing on the November ballot. Petitioner Jason Kafoury described a new legal filing asking the court to reconsider their case as a “Hail Mary.”
South Carolina – SC Ethics Commission Stops Silencing Whistleblowers After Free-Speech Lawsuit
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks | Published: 3/24/2022
The South Carolina Ethics Commission reversed a three decades-old policy preventing anyone who files a complaint against a public official from talking about it unless the complaint is found valid. The decision came after a whistleblower whose complaint was dismissed by the commission sued and said the secrecy violated free speech rights and unfairly silenced people who wanted to report wrongdoing. Leaders in the state Legislature filed documents in the lawsuit saying they never intended for the state’s ethics laws to silence whistleblowers.
South Dakota – SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear
Yahoo News – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 3/29/2022
Republicans on a South Dakota House committee want to clear the state’s attorney general of impeachment charges for his actions surrounding a 2020 fatal car crash, arguing that anything wrong he did was not part of his work “in office.” But those pushing to remove Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg from office are not giving up before the full House convenes in two weeks. The House committee concluded its monthslong inquiry by voting along party lines late to recommend that Ravnsborg, a Republican, face no impeachment charges.
Vermont – Corporations Can’t Donate to Molly Gray’s Campaign. But Their Lobbyists Host Fundraisers
VTDigger.org – Lola Duffort | Published: 3/30/2022
The four Democratic candidates vying to represent Vermont in the U.S. House have all taken the same pledge: no money from corporate PACs. But while the candidates say they would not take money from PACs representing big business, at least one is receiving significant support from some of the lobbyists who represent their interests in Washington, D.C. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray attended Capitol Hill events hosted by Luke Albee and Ed Pagano, two former chiefs of staff to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy who have both spent years as corporate lobbyists.
Virginia – Key Youngkin Adviser Is Paid by Political Firms
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2022
Matthew Moran works as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s director of policy and legislative affairs, but the only paycheck he collects is from two political consulting firms. He is on a paid leave from Creative Direct, where he is a vice president, and an affiliate in which he has an ownership interest, Link Public Affairs. Neither firm employs registered lobbyists, but Link runs public affairs campaigns designed to influence legislators. Critics say the arrangement presents a conflict-of-interest and creates a loophole around “revolving-door” laws, which prohibit certain paid state employees from lobbying for a year after leaving their jobs.
West Virginia – How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions
Yahoo News – Julie Tate, Christopher Flavelle, and Erin Schaff (New York Times) | Published: 3/27/2022
A power plant near Grant Town, West Virginia, is the link between the coal industry and the personal finances of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. Although the fact that Manchin owns a coal business is well known, an examination by The New York Times offers a more detailed portrait of the degree to which Manchin’s business has been interwoven with his official actions. He created his business while a state lawmaker. Manchin supplied a type of low-grade coal mixed with rock and clay known as “gob” that is typically cast aside as junk by mining companies but can be burned to produce electricity. The Grant Town plant has been the sole customer for his gob for the past 20 years.
March 31, 2022 •
Elections Georgia: “Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown” by Fredreka Schouten (CNN) for MSN Ethics South Dakota: “SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear” by Stephen Groves (Associated Press) for Yahoo […]
Georgia: “Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown” by Fredreka Schouten (CNN) for MSN
South Dakota: “SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear” by Stephen Groves (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
National: “Flynn Partner Wins New Trial in Foreign-Agent Case” by Josh Gerstein (Politico) for Yahoo News
National: “How Google and Amazon Bankrolled a ‘Grassroots’ Activist Group of Small Business Owners to Lobby Against Big Tech Oversight” by Eamon Javers and Meghan Maharishi for CNBC
Vermont: “Corporations Can’t Donate to Molly Gray’s Campaign. But Their Lobbyists Host Fundraisers” by Lola Duffort for VTDigger.org
National: “Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Transparency in the Lucrative – and Murky – Federal Contracting Process” by Lucien Bruggeman and Soo Rin Kim for ABC News
Florida: “Florida’s Redistricting Mess Heads to Special Session after DeSantis Vetoes ‘Defective’ Map” by Gary Fineout (Politico) for MSN
Ohio: “Ohio’s High Court Suggests No Ruling Before Primary on Redistricting Map” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
March 30, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Ex-Congressman David Rivera Loses ‘Last-Ditch’ Move to Avoid $456,000 Campaign Fine” by Francisco Alvarado for Florida Bulldog Idaho: “Ammon Bundy Pays Himself Thousands in Campaign Cash” by James Dawson for Boise State Public Radio Maryland: “Legal Spending […]
Florida: “Ex-Congressman David Rivera Loses ‘Last-Ditch’ Move to Avoid $456,000 Campaign Fine” by Francisco Alvarado for Florida Bulldog
Idaho: “Ammon Bundy Pays Himself Thousands in Campaign Cash” by James Dawson for Boise State Public Radio
Maryland: “Legal Spending from Mosby Campaign Accounts Did Not Violate Maryland Law, Election Board Finds” by Emily Opilo for Baltimore Sun
National: “Jan. 6 White House Logs Given to House Show 7-hour Gap in Trump Calls” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Jan. 6 Committee Backs Contempt Charges for Two Former Trump Aides” by Jacqueline Alemany and Amy Wang (Washington Post) for MSN
Arizona: “Panel Strikes Down Plan to Give Arizona Lawmakers Big Raises” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star
National: “Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington” by Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
Connecticut: “CT Contracting Watchdog Clears Key Hurdle to Add Investigative Staff” by Keith Phaneuf for CTMirror.org
March 29, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Maryland: “FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group” by Jeffrey Tomich for E&E News New York: “Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin” by Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland […]
Maryland: “FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group” by Jeffrey Tomich for E&E News
New York: “Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin” by Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland for New York Daily News
National: “Trump Likely Committed Felony Obstruction, Federal Judge Rules” by Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein, and Nicholas Wu for Politico
Illinois: “Michael Madigan’s Indictment: How he pushed for allies to get ComEd jobs and his own daughter’s legislation was killed.” by Jeremy Gorner, Dan Petrella, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
West Virginia: “How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions” by Julie Tate, Christopher Flavelle, and Erin Schaff (New York Times) for Yahoo News
California: “Airbnb Routinely Deploys Its ‘Astroturf Army’ to Combat California Short-Term Rental Regulations, Critics Say” by Silas Valentino (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
Virginia: “Key Youngkin Adviser Is Paid by Political Firms” by Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Why Redistricting Has Stalled in 4 Unfinished States” by Ally Mutnick and Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo News
March 28, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI” by Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) for MSN Illinois: “State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense” by Peter […]
National: “Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI” by Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense” by Peter Hancock for Capitol News Illinois
Oregon: “Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Ask Oregon Supreme Court for a New Hearing” by Julia Shumway for Oregon Capital Chronicle
National: “Virginia Thomas Urged White House Chief to Pursue Unrelenting Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Election, Texts Show” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN
Georgia: “Guilty Verdict in Atlanta City Hall Corruption Trial” by Associated Press for Yahoo News
South Carolina: “SC Ethics Commission Stops Silencing Whistleblowers After Free-Speech Lawsuit” by Avery Wilks for Charleston Post and Courier
Colorado: “Judge Says Republican Consultants Didn’t Violate Redistricting Lobbying Rules” by Bente Birkeland for Colorado Public Radio
Maryland: “Judge Throws Out Maryland Congressional Map Over ‘Extreme’ Gerrymandering” by Meagan Flynn, Ovetta Wiggins, and Erin Cox (Washington Post) for MSN
March 25, 2022 •
National/Federal As GOP Lawmakers Push for More Election Fraud Charges, Prosecutors Find Few Cases MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022 Demands for criminal cases tied to the 2020 election continue to stress the political system […]
As GOP Lawmakers Push for More Election Fraud Charges, Prosecutors Find Few Cases
MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
Demands for criminal cases tied to the 2020 election continue to stress the political system and put pressure on prosecutors, particularly elected Republicans. Supporters of former President Trump also are pushing GOP lawmakers, who have already enacted numerous laws tightening voting rules, to stiffen penalties for fraud and create investigative teams aimed at rooting out election malfeasance, efforts that critics say will further suppress voting. But a Washington Post survey of attorneys general and large district attorney offices in the six swing states turned up just 39 cases of people charged with illegal activity related to the November 2020 election.
Capitol Riot Suspect Who Fled to Belarus Granted Asylum, State Media Says
MSN – Rachel Pennett (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
A man on the FBI’s wanted list for his alleged role in the Capitol riot has been granted asylum in Belarus. Evan Neumann fled to Europe after the insurrection. He lived in Ukraine for four months before crossing into Belarus on foot late last year. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his close ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, have referenced the Capitol riot, calling the prosecution of those involved an example of “double standards” by the U.S. because it frequently criticizes crackdowns on anti-government protests abroad.
Could Proxy Voting Make the House More Inclusive? Some Lawmakers Hope So
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 3/9/2022
Democrats argued to extend and reimagine two things that have helped the U.S. House weather the coronavirus pandemic ––proxy voting and remote hearings. Those practices are set to expire March 30. Republicans pushed back during the “members’ day” hearing, which gave a broad range of lawmakers the chance to sound off on how the House should operate as the pandemic wanes. Things should return to normal, Republicans said. Some said remote work is ripe for abuse, blamed it for contributing to a toxic culture in Congress, and raised questions of constitutionality.
Ethics Advocates Say Senate Staffers Could Be Breaking Rules on Stock Ownership
NPR – Deirdre Walsh | Published: 3/21/2022
The Senate and the House are considering legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks. But there is already a narrow ban in place for some Senate staff members that was enacted in the 1970s, and an outside legal group believes some aides appear to be violating that ban. Senate committee staffers are required to divest stock in industries related to the jurisdiction of the panel they work for. The Campaign Legal Center said its review of financial disclosure forms found five senior Senate committee aides with stock holdings that could run afoul of the rule.
Russian Entities Kept Much of Their D.C. Influence Peddling Outside Public View
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 3/22/2022
For years, Russian entities registered to lobby under the Lobbying Disclosure Act rather than the Foreign Agents Registration Act. They were able to do that so long as a foreign government or political party was not the “principal beneficiary” of the lobbying effort. Those Russian entities, some of whom have been sanctioned by the Biden administration, are able to influence U.S. policy without disclosing details about the scope of their outreach, such as information about the dates of their activities, names of contacts, speeches or internet postings, and specific expenses on behalf of the client, among other activities.
Ted Cruz’s Latest Troll? Turning His Campaign into a Super PAC
Daily Beast – Roger Sollenberger | Published: 3/22/2022
Federal law says candidates can only give other candidates $2,000 per election. But U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz may have found a loophole. In February, Cruz poured $137,183 into the House campaign for Cassy Garcia, his former staffer turned congressional candidate. Cruz, who is currently challenging the FEC in the Supreme Court, broke new ground, assuming unlimited spending powers and raising campaign finance red flags. None of Garcia’s campaign finance reports show a dime spent on promotion – no advertising, digital marketing, signs, mailings, or get-out-the-vote efforts, just a $600 website.
The Federal Election Commission Slapped Marathon Petroleum Corporation with a $85,000 Fine After It Illegally Contributed $1 Million to 2 Republican PACs
Yahoo News – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 3/18/2022
The FEC levied a $85,000 fine against Marathon Petroleum Company after it illegally contributed $1 million to a pair of PACs supporting House and Senate Republicans’ re-election campaigns. Marathon has contracts with the federal government, and campaign finance laws prohibit federal contractors from making any political contributions while negotiating or performing federal contracts.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska House Passes Campaign Contribution Limits Bill
Alaska Public Media – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Alaska House narrowly passed legislation that would set a limit on individual contributions to candidates after prior limits were struck down by a court and the state agency overseeing campaign finance rules urged the Legislature to revisit the issue. The bill would set a $2,000 limit on what an individual could give to a candidate each election cycle. It has a $5,000 a year limit on what an individual can give a group, such as a non-party organization.
California – Alvarez Work for SDG&E Could Have Violated City Ethics Law
Voice of San Diego – Andrew Keatts | Published: 3/21/2022
When former city council member David Alvarez helped San Diego Gas & Electric push an energy infrastructure project, he may have violated San Diego’s prohibition on elected officials influencing city decisions after leaving office. Alvarez says he was working as part of a contract to do community engagement, not lobbying, and therefore is not in violation of ethics law. After leaving office, elected officials face a two-year waiting period during which they cannot influence officials over city decisions.
California – SJ City Council Passes Draft Proposal to Bar Political Donations by Foreign-Owned Corps
California Globe – Evan Symon | Published: 3/23/2022
The city council approved a piece of draft legislation to prohibit foreign-influenced corporations from making political contributions to any city elections in San Jose. The new campaign finance law would not allow corporations with one percent or more ownership by a single foreign national or five percent or more ownership by multiple foreign nationals from making political expenditures in city elections. While the proposal was only a policy memorandum on final draft ordinance language, its passage was seen as an indication the council would pass the ordinance in the coming weeks.
Connecticut – Connecticut Lobbyists Back at Capitol After Two Years to Influence Legislation
Yahoo News – Christopher Keating (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/20/2022
For the past two years, lobbyists in Connecticut disappeared from the state Capitol as the building was closed to the public for fear of spreading the coronavirus. Now, mask-wearing lobbyists say they are happy to be back after having little personal access to lawmakers during the entire pandemic. While it is impossible to roll back the clock, both lawmakers and lobbyists say some legislation might have been changed over the past two years if the advocates could have lobbied more aggressively and in person as they always did in the past.
Georgia – Augusta Mayor Faces State Law Charges, $800,000 Fines in Ethics Commission Decision
MSN – Susan McCord (Augusta Chronicle) | Published: 3/22/2022
Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis faces charges he broke state laws and fines of more than $800,000 after the Georgia ethics commission found probable cause to move forward with two complaints against him. The investigations stemmed from the origin of billboards encouraging voters to support replacing the James Brown Arena. The billboards appeared a few weeks before a non-binding ballot poll on where to build a new facility. The billboards were attributed to Concerned Citizens of Richmond County. The complaint said unlike a corporation, a ballot committee is required to register with election officials when it raises or spends more than $500.
Georgia – Stacey Abrams Seeks Access Now to Unlimited Fundraising
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 3/20/2022
Georgia’s Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams, is asserting she should be allowed to immediately begin using a fundraising vehicle that would allow her to raise unlimited contributions because she is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Abrams could sue to gain access to a leadership committee, a type of fundraising committee approved by lawmakers last year. The committees can raise unlimited funds, while top individual donors to Abrams’ direct committee would be limited to giving $7,600 for the May 24 primary election and another $7,600 for the November general election.
Illinois – After the Madigan Charges, Democrats Lack an Appetite for New Ethics Reform This Spring
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 3/22/2022
The chances of Democrats pushing through a new round of ethics reforms in the wake of former Speaker Michael Madigan appear bleak at the moment, with time running out on the Illinois Legislature’s spring calendar. A top government reform group and a former state legislative watchdog say what lawmakers did last year on ethics is not nearly enough and more stringent safeguards are needed to confront legislative conflicts-of-interest and other misconduct that have been adding to the federal prison population.
Illinois – Chicago City Council Debates Measure to Ban Spouses of Aldermen from Lobbying Elected Officials
MSN – Mary Ann Ahern (WMAQ) | Published: 3/23/2022
A proposed ordinance before the Chicago City Council would prohibit spouses or partners of elected officials from lobbying their fellow aldermen, with the measure following reports that City Clerk and Illinois secretary of state candidate Anna Valencia failed to disclose her husband’s lobbying contracts. Valencia did not disclose her husband Reyahd Kazmi’s lobbying, which is required under state law.
Illinois – Ex-Ald. Ricardo Muñoz Sentenced to 13 Months in Prison for Spending Thousands of Dollars in Political Funds on Tuition, Trips and Sports Tickets
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/17/2022
Former Chicago Ald. Ricardo Muñoz was sentenced to 13 months in prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a political campaign fund he controlled and spending it on personal items ranging from iPhones to skydiving excursions. Muñoz had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering, becoming the latest in a long line of city council members to be caught using their elected positions to line their own pockets.
Illinois – Former State Rep. Edward Acevedo Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison for Tax Case Stemming from ComEd Probe
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/23/2022
A federal judge sentenced former state Rep. Edward Acevedo on to six months in prison for cheating on his taxes in a prosecution that resulted from the same investigation that led to the indictment of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Acevedo is now the first person to be sentenced in the sweeping probe that has so far led to charges against Madigan, two of his closest advisers, and a slew of former Commonwealth Edison executives and contract lobbyists, many with ties to the former speaker.
Maryland – Giving from the Grave? Marilyn Mosby’s Dead Grandfather Contributed to Her and Her Husband’s Campaigns
Baltimore Brew – Mark Reutter | Published: 3/23/2022
The grandfather of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby died in 2015 but apparently lives on as a source of campaign money for her and her husband, city council President Nick Mosby. Prescott Thompson is listed as contributing $500 to Marilyn Mosby last year. The report was filed on January 19, 2022, six days after she was indicted on federal charges linked to her purchase of two Florida vacation homes. Marilyn Mosby has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Maryland – Maryland’s High Court Takes Up Gerrymandering Case That Delayed State’s Elections
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
Maryland’s highest court heard arguments in the gerrymandering case that has shaken up the state’s elections calendar, with Republicans arguing that about a dozen recently redrawn legislative districts are politically, demographically, or racially unfair. The map, approved by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, dictates the boundaries for state Senate and House districts. Under the state constitution, each legislative district is supposed to consist of adjoining land, be compact, and have a substantially equal number of residents. The map must give “due regard” to natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions.
Maryland – Md. Legislator Says Corporate Funding of ‘Astroturf’ Ad Campaigns Must Be Disclosed
WTOP – Bruce DePuyt | Published: 3/21/2022
An influential Maryland legislator is taking aim at what he considers “astroturf” lobbying by large government contractors. Under a measure sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke and 14 others, companies with million-dollar state government contracts would be required to disclose contributions they make to advocacy organizations. Luedtke said the broadcast and internet advertising campaigns these groups sponsor “create the appearance of a grassroots movement when, in truth, support comes from a narrow group of special interests that have a financial interest in a project.”
Michigan – Michigan Republicans Delay Absentee Ballot Signature Rules
MSN – David Eggert (Associated Press) | Published: 3/22/2022
Republican lawmakers delayed until after the November election rules that will tell Michigan election clerks how to match the signatures of people applying for and submitting absentee ballots. The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules’ maneuver to propose bills keeps the regulations from taking effect for nine months. The rules drafted by the state elections bureau eventually will go into effect because Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would likely veto Republicans’ alternative legislation.
Mississippi – Speaker Philip Gunn Uses Secret Capitol Meetings to Pass His Bills and Restrict Public Debate. Is It Legal?
Mississippi Today – Adam Ganucheau | Published: 3/21/2022
Mississippi Speaker Philip Gunn called a House Republican Caucus to a closed-door meeting on March 14. Gunn told the Republicans that he, his chief of staff, and Rep. Trey Lamar had reworked a tax reform proposal that, if passed, could change the way government funds public services for generations. Few House Republicans knew the details of Gunn’s updated proposal until that meeting. A few minutes after the bill passed committee, the entire House passed it on the floor. The caucus meetings are just one tool Gunn regularly employs to strong-arm House Republicans into passing the bills he authors or supports and to restrict public debate among his fellow party mates, critics say.
New Jersey – Bill to Expand New Jersey Bribery Law to Include Candidates for Office Gains Momentum
MSN – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 3/17/2022
After a decade in legislative limbo, a bill that would allow politicians to be convicted of bribery even if they do not hold public office has begun moving in the New Jersey General Assembly. Over the last decade, courts have dismissed charges or overturned convictions against several politicians based on the loophole, despite evidence they took bribes with the intention of granting official favors if elected. The bill that expands the definition of “public servant” in the state’s bribery statute.
New Mexico – Cowboys for Trump Co-Founder Charged with Campaign Violation
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 3/18/2022
A New Mexico elected official was charged with a misdemeanor campaign finance violation for refusing to register his political group Cowboys for Trump, the state’s attorney general announced. Couy Griffin, a county commissioner, has been facing off with state election regulators for more than a year over whether he needs to register the group as a political committee. Griffin expressed concern that registering may lead to other disclosure requirements about contributions and spending.
New Mexico – New Harassment Allegations Against Lawmaker Prompt Call for State Ethics Commission to Handle Future Complaints
New Mexico In Depth – Marjorie Childress and Trip Jennings | Published: 3/21/2022
Representatives of eight organizations called for New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto to resign or for his legislative colleagues to remove him from office if he did not leave, in an open letter containing new allegations of sexual harassment and bullying. The accusations against Ivey-Soto come a month after lobbyist Marianna Anay accused him of sexually harassing her. After receiving Anaya’s complaint in February, legislative leaders opened an investigation into Ivey-Soto, adhering to a system where complaints against state lawmakers are kept confidential in a procedure overseen by other lawmakers.
New York – Ethics Commission Orders Cuomo to Repay $5.1M from Book Deal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/18/2022
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) passed a motion again ordering former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repay $5.1 million in book royalties. Cuomo is already stating he will contest the order and will not comply. This time, JCOPE is taking a near-certain legal battle with Cuomo into its own hands.
New York – Hochul’s Ethics Overhaul Plan Wilts but New Plan Is Pushed
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/23/2022
Although lawmakers have not shut the door on reforming the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to have law school leaders appoint members of a new ethics panel appears dead. In its wake, a coalition good-government groups sent a new proposal to the governor’s office, the Assembly, and the state Senate, all controlled by Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said there is still a potential for an ethics overhaul as part of the budget process.
New York – Prosecutor Who Resigned Over Stalled Trump Probe Says Ex-President Committed Felonies
MSN – Shayna Jacobs, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
A veteran prosecutor who resigned from a special appointment to the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into Donald Trump’s finances and business practices said the former president personally committed felonies and should be charged promptly. The comments were made in Mark Pomerantz’s resignation letter as he and Carey Dunne, another top investigator on the team probing Trump and the family-run Trump Organization, abruptly left the office after people familiar with the matter said District Attorney Alvin Bragg appeared uninterested in pursuing a case.
North Carolina – N.C. Investigates Mark Meadows After Reports That He Never Lived Where He Registered to Vote
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 3/17/2022
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are probing Mark Meadows over his voter registration after news organizations reported the former White House chief of staff registered to vote in 2020 using the address of a mobile home that he has never lived in. WRAL reported the State Board of Elections is also investigating Meadows. It is illegal to provide false information on a voter registration, and while Americans can have multiple residences, they can have only one official domicile, which is tied to their voter registration.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Panel to Split Proposed Conflict of Interest Rules
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 3/23/2022
The North Dakota Ethics Commission decided to split draft conflict-of-interest rules into two categories for further review. The panel is writing the rules for state government officials and members of certain boards to disclose conflicts and some campaign contributions when handling “quasi-judicial” proceedings. Commissioner Paul Richard recommended the consolidated rules for general conflicts-of-interest and for “quasi-judicial” proceedings be split. The board’s attorney also walked its members through revisions to the proposed rules.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Shareholders’ Attorneys Identify Charles Jones, Michael Dowling for Devising House Bill 6 Payments
Cleveland Plain Dealer – John Caniglia | Published: 3/23/2022
Charles Jones, the former chief executive officer of FirstEnergy, and Michael Dowling, who led the company’s lobbying efforts, “devised and orchestrated” a $64 million bribery scheme to pay a top Ohio legislative leader and utility regulator in exchange for official action, according to a sworn declaration in court. While Jones and Dowling were both suspected central characters in the operation – both were fired after initial FBI arrests in the case – the new filing marks the first time the two were personally identified. FirstEnergy said it paid the bribes to help pass House Bill 6, an energy policy overhaul worth an estimated $1.3 billion to the utility.
Ohio – Ohio GOP Governor Candidate Joe Blystone Ordered to Return More Than $100,000 in Campaign Donations
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 3/23/2022
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office says Republican Joe Blystone’s campaign for governor must refund a total of more than $100,000 in contributions that violate the state’s limit on cash donations or ban on corporate contributions. The flagged contributions include more than $101,000 in donations that exceed the state’s limit of $100 for each contribution made in cash, according to Brian Katz, campaign finance director for LaRose’s office. Katz also said it is necessary for Blystone to refund $1,100 in in-kind contributions from corporations, which are not allowed to give to Ohio candidates.
Oklahoma – Lawmakers Again Stifle Debate on Applying Open Records Law to Themselves
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 3/17/2022
Lawmakers’ emails to lobbyists, calendars, call logs, and other records that could give the public insight into the bills they craft are set to remain secret for at least another year. A bill that would have ended Oklahoma’s status as one of a handful of states that allows the Legislature to exempt itself from open records and meeting laws failed to clear a key legislative deadline. The proposal would have ended a decades-old exemption that allowed the Legislature to ignore the open records and meeting laws that city councils, county commissioners, school boards, and other state governing bodies must follow.
Oregon – Oregon Supreme Court Ruling Likely Dooms Campaign Finance Limits This Year
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 3/18/2022
In a setback for election reformers, the Oregon Supreme Court declined to direct Secretary of State Shemia Fagan to reverse a decision to disqualify ballot measures aimed at limiting campaign contributions. Proponents of the measures asked the Supreme Court to step in and rule Fagan’s interpretation of the state constitution was incorrect. If justices had agreed, it might have given the group enough time to collect signatures and put one of their proposals before voters. But the court ruled that intervening in the case would not be appropriate.
Pennsylvania – Kenyatta Johnson Corruption Case Heads to Trial After Pandemic Delays
WHYY – Aaron Moselle | Published: 3/18/2022
Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson and his wife, political consultant Dawn Chavous, are headed to court more than two years after they were charged in a federal fraud and racketeering case. The couple will be joined by Abdur Rahim Islam and Shahied Dawan, two former executives at Universal Companies, a nonprofit real estate developer and charter-school operator headquartered in Johnson’s legislative district. Federal prosecutors say the co-defendants participated in a tangled quid pro quo that saw Johnson use his council seat to help Universal in exchange for a series of bribes concealed as payments to Chavous’ consulting firm, which the nonprofit had hired.
Tennessee – Campaign Finance Probes of Ex-Speaker, Ex-Staffer Head to DA
Yahoo News – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance’s voted to give prosecutors their investigations surrounding a former House speaker and his then-chief of staff, who have been implicated in an alleged political consulting kickback scheme. Another former lawmaker recently plead guilty to helping carry out the scheme. The vote refers the probes about former House Speaker Glen Casada, his former chief of staff Cade Cothren, and the Faith Family Freedom Fund PAC to the Williamson County district attorney’s office.
Vermont – Vermont Code of Ethics Bill Unanimously Passes State Senate
MSN – Lisa Rathke (Associated Press) | Published: 3/23/2022
A bill to create a state code of ethics for elected and appointed officials, legislators, and all state employees was passed unanimously by Vermont Senate. A majority of other states already have similar codes. The bill, which now goes to the House, also would apply to individuals appointed to state boards and commissions or who are authorized to act or speak on behalf of the state. Anyone who violates the code of ethics can be investigated by the Vermont State Ethics Commission.
Wisconsin – Supreme Court Rejects GOP Bid to Block Wisconsin Congressional Map but Sides with Republicans in State Legislative Map Dispute
MSN – Tierney Sneed (CNN) | Published: 3/23/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Republican Party request that it upend a congressional map adopted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that was preferred by Democrats. That redistricting plan had a Republican lean but was still favored by Democrats because of the potential it could give them at least one additional seat in the U.S. House. The justices, however, also on issued an order in a separate Wisconsin redistricting case that blocked a state legislative map adopted by the state Supreme Court that was backed by Democrats.
Wyoming – Alleged Threats by Wyoming Legislators Lead to Calls for Civility
Pinedale Roundup – Jonathan Make (Wyoming Tribune Eagle) | Published: 3/17/2022
Amid new allegations of a state legislator making verbal threats, some who do business in the Wyoming Capitol here are seeking a return to greater civility. News emerged that state Rep. John Romero-Martinez allegedly threatened, in speaking with others, the lives of Rep. Andi LeBeau and former Rep. Sara Burlingame. In recent days, legislative leaders had separately asked a Senate panel to consider whether to launch a formal investigation into allegations recently brought against Sen. Anthony Bouchard. The full Senate has stripped Bouchard of his committee assignments.
Wyoming – Bill Signed into Law Attempts to Close Dark Money Loopholes
Wyoming News Tribune – Jasmine Hall | Published: 3/19/2022
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed into law a bill that attempts to close “dark money” loopholes through additional campaign finance reporting fees. The new law requires all campaigns, PACs, and organizations to file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures. If there is a failure to file the reports with the secretary of state, there can be a final order imposing a civil penalty. The penalty can be up to $500 a day beginning on the date of the final order and ending when the final report is filed. Previously, it was a one-time fee of $500.
Wyoming – Federal Judge Sides with Wyoming Gun Owners in Campaign Ad Lawsuit
Cowboy State Daily – Jim Angell and Ellen Fike | Published: 3/21/2022
A federal judge said Wyoming cannot force a Second Amendment advocacy group to share the names of its donors. U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled in favor of Wyoming Gun Owners (WyGo), finding the state law requiring the group to share a list of people who helped pay for a campaign ad is unconstitutional. The secretary of state’s office said WyGO was required to file campaign finance reports, including a list of contributions and expenditures, because it had spent more than $500 on “political activity.”
March 24, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Ted Cruz’s Latest Troll? Turning His Campaign into a Super PAC” by Roger Sollenberger for Daily Beast Alaska: “Alaska House Passes Campaign Contribution Limits Bill” by Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) for Alaska Public Media California: “SJ City […]
National: “Ted Cruz’s Latest Troll? Turning His Campaign into a Super PAC” by Roger Sollenberger for Daily Beast
Alaska: “Alaska House Passes Campaign Contribution Limits Bill” by Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) for Alaska Public Media
California: “SJ City Council Passes Draft Proposal to Bar Political Donations by Foreign-Owned Corps” by Evan Symon for California Globe
Maryland: “Giving from the Grave? Marilyn Mosby’s Dead Grandfather Contributed to Her and Her Husband’s Campaigns” by Mark Reutter for Baltimore Brew
National: “As GOP Lawmakers Push for More Election Fraud Charges, Prosecutors Find Few Cases” by Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “Michigan Republicans Delay Absentee Ballot Signature Rules” by David Eggert (Associated Press) for MSN
Wisconsin: “Supreme Court Rejects GOP Bid to Block Wisconsin Congressional Map but Sides with Republicans in State Legislative Map Dispute” by Tierney Sneed (CNN) for MSN
National: “Capitol Riot Suspect Who Fled to Belarus Granted Asylum, State Media Says” by Rachel Pennett (Washington Post) for MSN
Ohio: “Former FirstEnergy CEO Jones, Vice President Dowling Paid Bribes in Scheme, Affidavit Says” by Jim Mackinnon (Akron Beacon Journal) for Yahoo News
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