June 21, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Capitol Rioter Used Charity to Promote Violence, Feds Say” by Michael Kunzelman (Associated Press) for MSN National: “Republican House Campaign Arm Says It Will Begin Soliciting Cryptocurrency Donations” by Max Greenwood (The Hill) for MSN Pennsylvania: “The […]
National: “Capitol Rioter Used Charity to Promote Violence, Feds Say” by Michael Kunzelman (Associated Press) for MSN
National: “Republican House Campaign Arm Says It Will Begin Soliciting Cryptocurrency Donations” by Max Greenwood (The Hill) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “The Philly Ethics Board Fines PAC Formed by Retired Cops That Spent Big Against Krasner” by Ryan Briggs for WHYY
California: “Elections Officials Alarmed by Democrats’ Plans to Change Newsom Recall Rules” by John Myers (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Florida: “In Secret Recording, Florida Republican Threatens to Send Russian-Ukrainian ‘Hit Squad’ After Rival” by Marc Caputo (Politico) for MSN
National: “A Family Affair: Children and other relatives of Biden aides get administration jobs” by Sean Sullivan and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
Missouri: “St. Louis Gun-Waving Couple Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanors” by Associated Press for Politico
New Jersey: “N.J. Wants to Protect Women on the Campaign Trail, but Sexual Harassment Bill Is Mired in Politics, Critics Say” by Susan Livio and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) for MSN
June 18, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden’s Vow to Limit Ethics Conflicts Finds a Test Case: The Ricchetti brothers MSN – Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021 President Biden vowed to ban his own family from involvement in government, disclose records of […]
Biden’s Vow to Limit Ethics Conflicts Finds a Test Case: The Ricchetti brothers
MSN – Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021
President Biden vowed to ban his own family from involvement in government, disclose records of White House visitors, and support new legislation that would expand the definition of lobbying and mandate more detailed disclosure of contacts with White House officials. The White House has chastised Biden’s brother for evoking his relationship to the president in an ad for his law firm. But when it comes to dealing with the family and former employer relationships of senior staff, some of whom have close relatives or former bosses who work in the private sector on public policy issues, the White House has largely reverted to existing precedent.
Earmark Return Boosts Lobbyists Hired to Give Localities an Edge
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson and Jack Fitzpatrick | Published: 6/17/2021
Van Scoyoc Associates, the lobbying firm that once reigned as a leader in nabbing local earmarks, was eager to get back into the game this year when Congress revived the practice of designating funding for lawmaker projects. When the House released its latest round of spending requests, the firm was among the leaders on K Street in clinching projects. Lobbying firms such as Van Scoyoc are pitching their expertise in securing money for municipalities and nonprofit groups around the country that seek help navigating the time-consuming appropriations process on Capitol Hill.
Emails Show Trump Pressured Justice Dept. Over 2020 Election
MSN – Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long (Associated Press) | Published: 6/15/2021
During the last weeks of his presidency, Donald Trump and his allies pressured the Justice Department to investigate unsubstantiated claims of widespread 2020 election fraud that even his former attorney general declared without evidence, emails show. The emails reveal in new detail how Trump, his White House chief of staff, and other allies pressured members of the U.S. government to challenge the 2020 election over false claims. They also show the extent to which Trump worked to enlist then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in his campaign’s failing legal efforts to challenge the election result.
Exodus of Election Officials Raises Concerns of Partisanship
MSN – Anthony Izaguirre (Associated Press) | Published: 6/13/2021
After facing threats and intimidation during the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath, and now the potential of new punishments in certain states, county officials who run elections are quitting or retiring early. The once quiet job of election administration has become a political minefield thanks to the baseless claims of widespread fraud that continue to be pushed by many in the Republican Party. The exits raise the question of who will take these jobs.
F.E.C. Dismisses Case Against Democrats Over Outreach to Ukraine
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/16/2021
The FEC dismissed a complaint by an ally of former President Trump accusing the Democratic Party and one of its former consultants of violating campaign finance laws by working with Ukraine to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign by damaging Trump’s. An unusual bipartisan combination of members of the commission voted against pursuing the complaint. It claimed the Democratic National Committee and a consultant who had worked for it violated a prohibition on foreign donations by soliciting damaging information and statements from Ukrainian government officials about Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairperson at the time.
G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We don’t have a voice anymore’
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 6/14/2021
A series of Republican bills to restrict voting access across the country would disproportionately affect people with disabilities. For years, advocates have worked to mobilize Americans with disabilities, more than 38 million of whom are eligible to vote, into a voting bloc powerful enough to demand politicians address their needs. Now, after an election in which mail-in voting helped them turn out in large numbers, the restrictive proposals are simultaneously threatening their rights and testing their nascent political influence.
Garland Announces Expansion of Justice Department’s Voting Rights Unit, Vowing to Scrutinize GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions and Ballot Reviews
MSN – Amy Gardner and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/11/2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged to double the size of the Justice Department’s voting rights enforcement staff to combat efforts to restrict ballot access and prosecute those who threaten or harm election workers. Garland said the additional trial attorneys will scrutinize new laws and existing practices across the nation for potential discrimination against Americans of color, including in new measures Republican state lawmakers are pushing. The expanded unit will also monitor the growing number of post-election ballot reviews being called for by supporters of former President Trump.
‘It Was Exhaustion, It Was Sadness, It Was Fatigue’: America’s mayors call it quits
Politico – Lisa Kashinsky | Published: 6/16/2021
Mayors across the country are calling it quits after an exhausting year navigating the front lines of an unprecedented confluence of crises that touched nearly every aspect of human life. Mayors in cities big and small, urban and rural, are giving up for now on their political careers. In the process, they’ are shaking up the municipal landscape, creating a brain drain in City Halls and upsetting the political pipeline all over America. Covid-19 changed the calculus for mayors mulling reelection, but the public health crisis was only a fraction of a larger equation.
Justice Dept. Drops John Bolton Book Lawsuit, Won’t Charge the Ex-Security Aide Who Became Trump’s Scathing Critic
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
The Justice Department abandoned its effort to claw back profits of a book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton and closed a grand jury investigation into whether he criminally mishandled classified information without charging him. Bolton’s attorney called the dismissal a complete vindication for the diplomat, repudiating what Bolton said was the Trump White House’s politically motivated attempt to stifle the pre-election publication of his critical memoir before the 2020 presidential election, using security as a pretext.
Manchin Outlines Demands on Voting Legislation, Creating an Opening for Potential Democratic Compromise
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
Joe Manchin, the lone Senate Democrat who is not sponsoring a sweeping voting rights and campaign finance bill, outlined for the first time a list of policy demands on election legislation – opening the door to a possible compromise that could counter a bevy of Republican-passed laws that have rolled back ballot access in numerous states. Manchin is willing to support key provisions of the For the People Act, including mandating at least two weeks of early voting and measures meant to eliminate partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. But he also supported several provisions that have historically been opposed by most Democrats.
McGahn Elaborates on Mueller Testimony, but Stops Short of Condemning Trump in Interview with Congress
MSN – Karoun Demirjian, Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2021
Former White House counsel Donald McGahn told lawmakers he was seeking to avoid “a chain reaction that would be not in anyone’s interest” when he ignored then-President Trump’s direction to fire the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a transcript of his closed-door testimony. The exchange came after a two-year court battle for McGahn’s testimony. His appearance on Capitol Hill was the product of a deal between lawmakers and the Biden administration that ended any further appeals.
Trump’s FDA Commissioner Takes Job at Moderna Backer
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021
Former FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn is joining the venture capital firm that launched Moderna and remains closely tied to the coronavirus vaccine maker. Hahn headed the FDA when it authorized Moderna’s vaccine last year before stepping down at the end of the Trump administration. The move is the latest by a federal official to a company that is regulated by the government or that might profit from firms regulated by the government, what critics call a “revolving door” they say undermines trust in federal decisions.
Trump’s Justice Department Secretly Sought Data from Apple on Former White House Counsel McGahn
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/13/2021
The tech company Apple recently notified former White House counsel Donald McGahn and his wife that the Justice Department had secretly requested their information in 2018. Seizing a White House counsel’s data is striking. The latest development comes amid criticism of the Trump-era leak investigations involving members of Congress and journalists at several news organizations. Meanwhile, Republicans have questioned the seizure of records of Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, and another lawyer, Victoria Toensing.
Canada – Ethics Committee Calls for Sweeping Reforms in Wake of WE Charity Scandal
CBC – Elizabeth Thompson | Published: 6/10/2021
A House of Commons committee is proposing a sweeping series of reforms to the way the federal government in Canada makes decisions on contracts after releasing a report on the WE Charity scandal. Among the nearly two dozen recommendations, the committee recommends the government no longer award contracts to shell companies that lack assets to avoid liability. The committee said it also wants to see changes in rules put in place to prevent conflicts-of-interest on the part of cabinet ministers. It also says that public office holders should be accompanied by staff to take notes when they meet lobbyists.
Canada – Lobbyists Slipping Through Cracks of Lobbying Act: Commissioner
iPolitics – Aiden Chamandy | Published: 6/15/2021
The latest high-profile investigation to reveal shortcomings in Canada’s lobbying demonstrates the legislation still needs a parliamentary review, Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said. Rob Silver, husband of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, has had contact with officials handling the federal wage subsidy and rent-relief programs. Bélanger said she suspects lobbying occurred that does not meet the threshold to register in Silver’s case, but she has no data to support the claim, because it is not collected in the federal lobbying registry.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Records Show Little Email Contact Between Gov. Dunleavy’s Former Aide and Oil Company That Hired Him
KTOO – Nathaniel Herz (Alaska Public Media) | Published: 6/14/2021
Ben Stevens, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s former chief of staff, had minimal email contact with officials from ConocoPhillips before he left his state post to take an executive job at the and gas company, according to his correspondence. Interest groups and some lawmakers have been scrutinizing Stevens’ move from state service to the private sector, saying the quick transition raises questions about whether Stevens is complying with state ethics laws.
California – San Diego Website Meltdown Preceded by Vendor Spat, Email Shows
San Diego Reader – Matt Potter | Published: 6/14/2021
The intrigue surrounding the city of San Diego’s abrupt switch to a new campaign finance disclosure website has deepened with the partial rejection by city officials of a request for public records that might shed further light on the controversial matter. The bumpy changeover of the site’s operator, from the veteran contractor Netfile to a new vendor calling itself Pasadena Consulting, was undertaken two months ago by the city clerk’s office without public announcement or official word to the site’s operator or official word to the media.
Colorado – Colorado Supreme Court Beats Back State Politicians’ Redistricting Efforts
Denver Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 6/1/2021
Colorado’s independent redistricting commissions are independent from the state’s political class and their desires, the state Supreme Court ruled in rebuffing lawmakers, the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. The Colorado Supreme Court said legislation that would change this year’s redistricting process amounts to an unconstitutional infringement on the redistricting commissions’ authority to determine how to go about their once-in-a-decade work of redrawing the state’s political maps.
Connecticut – Lawyer Says ‘No Quid Pro Quo’ in Provision Struck from Connecticut Marijuana Bill That Favored One Producer
Hartford Courant – Mark Pazniokas (Connecticut Mirror) | Published: 6/14/2021
Investor J.D. DeMatteo’s interest in getting one of the first licenses to produce marijuana for Connecticut’s recreational market coincided with state Sen. Doug McCrory’s desire to open the industry to “social equity” applicants from poor and urban neighborhoods. McCrory insisted on a provision in the cannabis legalization bill that was intended to allow DeMatteo to jump to the head of the line for a cultivation license if he took on a social equity partner. Whether the provision was the result of altruism, opportunism, or a bit of both, it became an example of the ad hoc nature of legislative negotiations over how to dole out access to a lucrative new market.
Florida – Miami Beach Rep. Michael Grieco Ordered to Pay $1,000 After Probe of Ethics Lapses
MSN – Christina Sant Louis (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/12/2021
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust issued a “letter of instruction” rebuking state Rep. Michael Grieco for twice violating the Citizens’ Bill of Rights during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner. The commission found Grieco falsely portrayed his involvement with the People for Better Leaders PAC. It ordered him to pay $1,000 to cover costs. A third allegation that Grieco indirectly solicited a contribution from a city vendor was dismissed.
Hawaii – Emails Show HART Leaders Always Wanted to Hire Hanabusa as Consultant
Honolulu Civil Beat – Marcel Honore and Nick Grube | Published: 6/15/2021
Before a lucrative rail consulting gig went out for public bid, top officials at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) were determined to award that contract to the board’s former chairperson, Colleen Hanabusa, internal records show. HART Board Chairman Toby Martyn declared in December he wanted to hire Hanabusa as a lobbyist who could help with its budget problems and would report directly to the board she used to lead. Martyn also discussed the contract with Hanabusa 10 days before the solicitation was released publicly. HART leaders say there were no procurement violations, but they are still checking whether the process violated city ethics policies.
Maine – Maine Ethics Panel Votes to Pursue Records from Power Line Opponents
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 6/11/2021
Maine’s campaign finance watchdog agency voted to continue efforts to determine whether a limited liability corporation working to block a controversial transmission line project should have registered as a PAC or a ballot question committee. The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices also agreed to pursue a subpoena for financial information from an unidentified political consultant who has worked with Stop the Corridor to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect project. The project will be the subject of a statewide ballot question in November.
Massachusetts – Judge Rejects Plea Deal in Corruption Case of Former Correia Chief of Staff
WPRI – Shaun Towne and Steph Machado | Published: 6/10/2021
A federal judge rejected a plea deal Genoveva Andrade made with prosecutors in a public corruption case that would have spared her jail time. The unusual decision means Andrade, who was chief of staff to former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, remains charged with six crimes. She could potentially go to trial or plead guilty again under a new agreement with the prosecution. Andrade pleaded guilty to helping Correia in his scheme to shake down marijuana vendors for bribes in exchange for his approval of their proposed cannabis shops.
Massachusetts – Mass. Republican Party Explored Whether It Can Use Its Own Money to Pay for a Candidate’s Legal Fees
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 6/13/2021
The Massachusetts Republican Party, which has struggled to raise money in recent years, asked state campaign finance regulators if it could tap its own legal defense fund to pay costs for a candidate who is facing “legal actions initiated by a state administrative or law enforcement agency.” GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, state Sen. Ryan Fattman, and Stephanie Fattman, the Worcester County Register of Probate and Ryan Fattman’s wife, were each referred to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office in April by the state campaign finance office, which said it had evidence they and others may have violated various campaign finance laws last year.
Mississippi – Lt. Gov. Hosemann’s Inaugural Nonprofit Got $368k in Secret Donations, Filings Show
Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 6/10/2021
A nonprofit created to fund Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann’s inauguration raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret donations, with some gifts as large as $20,000, recent tax filings show. The organization, Advance Mississippi 2020, raised the money to pay for inauguration events early last year including a gala and prayer breakfast. The group was dissolved later in 2020 with the leftover money given to several charities. The documents are the latest example of how Mississippi politicians can use nonprofits to sidestep the usual restrictions and transparency required by campaign finance laws.
Nebraska – Donor to Nebraska Anti-Gambling Campaign Will Pay Record-Breaking Late Filing Fee
Omaha World-Herald – Martha Stoddard | Published: 6/11/2021
An Ohio-based group that spent more than $2.3 million to fight Nebraska’s casino gambling measures last fall will pay a record-breaking fine for missing a campaign finance report deadline. The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission voted to grant a request for relief from Collective Prosperity. They reduced the fee to $23,130, down from the original $231,300 that was determined by a formula in state law. The law requires corporations, unions, trade groups, or professional associations based outside of Nebraska to file contribution reports if they give more than $10,000 a year to a Nebraska campaign.
New York – Cuomo’s Inner Circle Raised Money for Aide Who Was Convicted of Bribery
New York Times – Brian Rosenthal and J. David Goodman | Published: 6/15/2021
After one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most trusted aides and closest friends, Joseph Percoco, was convicted of accepting more than $300,000 in bribes from executives with business before the state, the governor quickly distanced himself. Privately, however, members of Cuomo’s inner circle, including one of his sisters, have for years been raising money for Percoco. As recently as last year, the group was helping to fund Percoco’s appeal of his conviction, after some of its members also helped finance a trust fund for his children.
New York – Longtime Assembly Aide Approved as New York’s Election Watchdog
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 6/14/2021
Michael Johnson a former New York Assembly aide, was chosen as the state Board of Elections chief enforcement counsel, replacing Risa Sugarman. When the enforcement counsel position was created in March 2014, it was touted as a major reform. During her six-year tenure, Sugarman angered a wide swath of the Legislature with investigations and lawsuits. She fined major labor unions that were allies of Assembly Democrats. In the Senate, the list of targets included all three factions of the chamber: Democrats, Republicans, and the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference.
North Dakota – North Dakota Paid Its Top Investment Management Firm Millions Without Competitive Bidding Process
The Forum – Patrick Springer | Published: 6/15/2021
The state of North Dakota has paid its top investment consultant $12.9 million over the past 20 years without subjecting the firm to a competitive bidding process, an arrangement allowed by state law. The North Dakota State Investment Board has relied on investment consultant Callan for more than three decades to help select investment managers to steer the state’s $19.4 billion investment portfolio. Callan has a unique role in recommending other investment firms and working with the state on its overall investment strategies.
Ohio – Ally of Suspended Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charges
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/10/2021
A second ally of suspended Cleveland City Councilperson Kenneth Johnson admitted to charges involving the federal corruption investigation of Johnson. John Hopkins, the former executive director of the Buckeye-Shaker Square Development Corp., pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft from a federal program. Johnson’s friend, Robert Fitzpatrick, pleaded to conspiracy involving fraudulent expense reports the council member filed with the city. A federal grand jury indicted Johnson, Hopkins, and Johnson’s longtime aide, Garnell Jamison. Prosecutors said Johnson stole more than $127,000 from city coffers by submitting false monthly expense reports.
Ohio – Larry Householder Out: Ohio House votes to remove former speaker
MSN – Jessie Balmert, Laura Bischoff, and Anna Staver (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 6/16/2021
State Rep. Larry Householder, a former two-time House speaker, was expelled from the Ohio Legislature nearly 11 months after his arrest on a federal corruption charge. House members utilized a little-used provision in the Ohio Constitution that allows lawmakers to police their own for “disorderly conduct.” Householder was arrested last year in connection with the state’s largest bribery scheme. He is accused of orchestrating a nearly $61 million operation to win control of the Ohio House, pass a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants, and defend that law against a ballot initiative to block it.
Oregon – ‘Only Reasonable Course of Action’: Oregon GOP legislator ousted over state Capitol breach
USA Today – Connor Radnovich (Salem Statesman Journal) | Published: 6/11/2021
The Oregon House expelled Rep. Mike Nearman, who let violent, far-right protesters into the state Capitol on December 21. The vote marked the first time a member has been expelled by the House in its 160-year history. The only vote against the resolution was Nearman’s own. He said he let the protesters in because he believes the Capitol, which has been closed to the public to protect against spread of the coronavirus, should have been open. Nearman also faces two misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Poised for History-Making Election of Its First Black Mayor This Fall
MSN – Nick Keppler (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
More than five decades after Cleveland became the first, followed by virtually every other major city in the Midwest and Northeast, Pittsburgh is finally poised to join their ranks and make history this fall by electing a Black mayor. The all-but-certain victory of state Rep. Ed Gainey comes as the former steel town, these days dubbed one of America’s most livable cities, looks hard at the racial inequities that have meant different experiences and opportunities for African American residents. Gainey is the first candidate to defeat a sitting mayor in nearly 90 years.
Rhode Island – Former RI State Rep-Elect Pleads Guilty to Embezzling from Nonprofit
MSN – Providence Journal Staff | Published: 6/16/2021
A man who won a seat in the Rhode Island House but resigned before being sworn pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement and campaign finance charges. The court gave Laufton Ascencao a five-year suspended sentence with probation, imposed a $1,000 fine, and ordered restitution of $13,387.70 to the Rhode Island Chapter of the Sierra Club. Allegations of financial impropriety surfaced shortly after his election, including the charge that he used money from the Rhode Island Sierra Club to help finance his campaign.
South Carolina – SC House Reveals New List of $90M in Taxpayer Funds for Lawmakers’ Pet Projects
MSN – Andrew Caplan (The State) | Published: 6/13/2021
The South Carolina House released its list of nearly $90 million in earmarks members want in the upcoming budget that takes effect July 1. But the list falls short of the level of transparency and accountability that most lawmakers said they favored when polled by reporters. The new list also reveals some lawmakers are sponsoring earmarks that, in previous years, other legislators took heat for sponsoring because of potential conflicts-of-interest. Some watchdogs wonder if these lawmakers are trying to head off additional criticism by convincing their colleagues to sponsor the questionable earmarks on their behalf.
Tennessee – Closed Cold Case Murder Tied to Ousted Tennessee Governor
ABC News – Kimberly Kruesi (Associated Press) | Published: 6/9/2021
Investigators have been chipping away at the 42-year-old cold case of Samuel Pettyjohn’s murder since they renewed their investigation in 2015. At the time of his death, prosecutors said he was an informant in a federal probe of then-Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton, who was accused of taking bribes in exchange for state prisoners receiving early parole. Investigators have now linked Pettyjohn’s killing to the Blanton inquiry. Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston said Pettyjohn was killed in a murder-for-hire plot paid for in-part by a third party on behalf of Blanton’s administration.
Texas – Dallas City Corruption Trial Begins for a Local Developer Accused of Bribing Former Councilors
MSN – Kevin Krause (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 6/14/2021
It is a transaction that happens routinely in politics: the payment of money by a business owner to a public official with the expectation of some future favorable action. But when is that payment an illegal bribe and when does it fall into the category of a routine campaign contribution? A federal jury will soon decide the matter, at least in the trial of developer Ruel Hamilton, who is accused of bribing two former Dallas City Council members. Prosecutors say Hamilton made payments to Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway in exchange for their help on the council with his real estate properties.
Texas – State Bar Investigating Texas Attorney General
MSN – Jake Bleiberg (Associated Press) | Published: 6/10/2021
The State Bar of Texas is investigating whether state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on bogus claims of fraud amounted to professional misconduct. The bar association initially declined to take up a complaint that Paxton’s petitioning of the U.S. Supreme Court to block Joe Biden’s victory was frivolous and unethical. But a tribunal that oversees grievances against lawyers overturned that decision and ordered the bar to look into the accusations against the Republican official.
Virginia – Black Virginians Took Ralph Northam Back. Neither Has Forgotten.
New York Times – Astead Herndon | Published: 6/14/2021
On a national level, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam may forever be enshrined as the Democrat who defied calls to resign in the face of unquestionable racism – a photograph on his yearbook page that showed one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume. But among Black political leaders and elected officials in Virginia, he is set to leave office with another legacy: becoming the most racially progressive governor in the state’s history, whose focus on uplifting Black communities since the 2019 scandal will have a tangible and lasting effect.
Washington – Google to Pay Washington State $400,000 to Settle Campaign Finance Lawsuit
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 6/17/2021
Google agreed to pay $400,000 to settle charges it has not complied with Washington’s campaign finance laws, which require businesses to retain records of political ads they sell in the state. It is the second time in three years that the company has settled a campaign finance lawsuit in Washington. Google paid $200,000, plus attorneys’ fees, to settle a similar lawsuit, but admitted no wrongdoing. This time, Google agreed it did not comply with state law, but still disputes whether the law applies the company.
June 17, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Nebraska: “Donor to Nebraska Anti-Gambling Campaign Will Pay Record-Breaking Late Filing Fee” by Martha Stoddard for Omaha World-Herald Washington: “Google to Pay Washington State $400,000 to Settle Campaign Finance Lawsuit” by David Gutman for Seattle Times Elections National: […]
Nebraska: “Donor to Nebraska Anti-Gambling Campaign Will Pay Record-Breaking Late Filing Fee” by Martha Stoddard for Omaha World-Herald
Washington: “Google to Pay Washington State $400,000 to Settle Campaign Finance Lawsuit” by David Gutman for Seattle Times
National: “‘It Was Exhaustion, It Was Sadness, It Was Fatigue’: America’s mayors call it quits” by Lisa Kashinsky for Politico
National: “Manchin Outlines Demands on Voting Legislation, Creating an Opening for Potential Democratic Compromise” by Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Pittsburgh Poised for History-Making Election of Its First Black Mayor This Fall” by Nick Keppler (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Cuomo’s Inner Circle Raised Money for Aide Who Was Convicted of Bribery” by Brian Rosenthal and J. David Goodman for New York Times
Ohio: “Larry Householder Out: Ohio House votes to remove former speaker” by Jessie Balmert, Laura Bischoff, and Anna Staver (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Canada: “Lobbyists Slipping Through Cracks of Lobbying Act: Commissioner” by Aiden Chamandy for iPolitics
North Dakota: “North Dakota Paid Its Top Investment Management Firm Millions Without Competitive Bidding Process” by Patrick Springer for The Forum
Colorado: “Colorado Supreme Court Beats Back State Politicians’ Redistricting Efforts” by Evan Wyloge for Denver Gazette
June 16, 2021 •
Campaign Finance California: “San Diego Website Meltdown Preceded by Vendor Spat, Email Shows” by Matt Potter for San Diego Reader Elections National: “G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We don’t have a voice anymore’” by Maggie Astor for New York Times […]
California: “San Diego Website Meltdown Preceded by Vendor Spat, Email Shows” by Matt Potter for San Diego Reader
National: “G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We don’t have a voice anymore’” by Maggie Astor for New York Times
National: “Emails Show Trump Pressured Justice Dept. Over 2020 Election” by Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long for Associated Press News
National: “Trump’s FDA Commissioner Takes Job at Moderna Backer” by Dan Diamond (Washington Post) for MSN
Alaska: “Records Show Little Email Contact Between Gov. Dunleavy’s Former Aide and Oil Company That Hired Him” by Nathaniel Herz (Alaska Public Media) for KTOO
Connecticut: “Lawyer Says ‘No Quid Pro Quo’ in Provision Struck from Connecticut Marijuana Bill That Favored One Producer” by Mark Pazniokas (Connecticut Mirror) for Hartford Courant
Texas: “Dallas City Corruption Trial Begins for a Local Developer Accused of Bribing Former Councilors” by Kevin Krause (Dallas Morning News) for MSN
Hawaii: “Emails Show HART Leaders Always Wanted to Hire Hanabusa as Consultant” by Marcel Honore and Nick Grube for Honolulu Civil Bea
June 15, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Miami Beach Rep. Michael Grieco Ordered to Pay $1,000 After Probe of Ethics Lapses” by Christina Sant Louis (Miami Herald) for MSN Massachusetts: “Mass. Republican Party Explored Whether It Can Use Its Own Money to Pay for […]
Florida: “Miami Beach Rep. Michael Grieco Ordered to Pay $1,000 After Probe of Ethics Lapses” by Christina Sant Louis (Miami Herald) for MSN
Massachusetts: “Mass. Republican Party Explored Whether It Can Use Its Own Money to Pay for a Candidate’s Legal Fees” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for MSN
New York: “Longtime Assembly Aide Approved as New York’s Election Watchdog” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
National: “Exodus of Election Officials Raises Concerns of Partisanship” by Anthony Izaguirre for Associated Press News
Massachusetts: “Judge Rejects Plea Deal in Corruption Case of Former Correia Chief of Staff” by Shaun Towne and Steph Machado for WPRI
Ohio: “Ally of Suspended Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charges” by John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
South Carolina: “SC House Reveals New List of $90M in Taxpayer Funds for Lawmakers’ Pet Projects” by Andrew Caplan (The State) for MSN
Virginia: “Black Virginians Took Ralph Northam Back. Neither Has Forgotten.” by Astead Herndon for New York Times
National: “Biden’s Vow to Limit Ethics Conflicts Finds a Test Case: The Ricchetti brothers” by Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) for MSN
June 14, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Maine: “Maine Ethics Panel Votes to Pursue Records from Power Line Opponents” by Scott Thistle for Portland Press Herald Mississippi: “Lt. Gov. Hosemann’s Inaugural Nonprofit Got $368k in Secret Donations, Filings Show” by Luke Ramseth for Mississippi Daily […]
Maine: “Maine Ethics Panel Votes to Pursue Records from Power Line Opponents” by Scott Thistle for Portland Press Herald
Mississippi: “Lt. Gov. Hosemann’s Inaugural Nonprofit Got $368k in Secret Donations, Filings Show” by Luke Ramseth for Mississippi Daily Journal
National: “Garland Announces Expansion of Justice Department’s Voting Rights Unit, Vowing to Scrutinize GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions and Ballot Reviews” by Amy Gardner and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “McGahn Elaborates on Mueller Testimony, but Stops Short of Condemning Trump in Interview with Congress” by Karoun Demirjian, Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Hunting Leaks, Trump Officials Focused on Democrats in Congress” by Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, Michael Schmidt, and Adam Goldman (New York Times) for MSN
Canada: “Ethics Committee Calls for Sweeping Reforms in Wake of WE Charity Scandal” by Elizabeth Thompson for CBC
Tennessee: “Closed Cold Case Murder Tied to Ousted Tennessee Governor” by Kimberly Kruesi for Associated Press News
Texas: “State Bar Investigating Texas Attorney General” by Jake Bleiberg for Associated Press News
Oregon: “Oregon Legislator Is 1st-Ever Ousted After Statehouse Breach” by Andrew Selsky for Associated Press News
June 11, 2021 •
National/Federal Abbe Lowell Is the Go-To Lawyer for Embattled Politicians. Now He Faces a Controversy of His Own. Mother Jones – Dan Friedman | Published: 6/8/2021 Abbe Lowell, one of Washington’s top attorneys, has spent decades helping high-profile clients engulfed in […]
Abbe Lowell Is the Go-To Lawyer for Embattled Politicians. Now He Faces a Controversy of His Own.
Mother Jones – Dan Friedman | Published: 6/8/2021
Abbe Lowell, one of Washington’s top attorneys, has spent decades helping high-profile clients engulfed in political scandals. But now Lowell – known for representing Jared Kushner, Jack Abramoff, and others – is himself the subject of a controversy. Lowell negotiated a plea bargain for Nickie Lum Davis, a Republican fundraiser who had engaged in illegal lobbying. Davis later fired Lowell. A new lawyer representing her said Lowell failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest to Davis prior to her guilty plea. At the heart of this dispute is the allegation that an influential attorney with a slew of prominent political clients failed to tell one of those clients about what could be perceived as a personal interest in her case.
After Hitting Pause, PACs Begin to Press Play Again
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 6/7/2021
Business PACs, many of which paused donations earlier this year amid fallout from the violent Capitol attack, have begun to send more money to lawmakers, including to the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the presidential election results of some states. PACs from defense, agriculture, and other sectors have led in donations to such lawmakers. Still, PAC money is down. Contributions to both parties’ House and Senate campaign arms dropped significantly in the first four months of this year when compared with the same period in the previous two election cycles.
Democrats Grapple with Way Forward on Biden Agenda After Manchin Throws Up Roadblocks
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
Democrats grappled with the seeming decimation of their sweeping legislative ambitions at the hands of one of their own lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who quashed prospects for the party’s marquee voting rights bill and cast a pall over other planks of President Biden’s agenda. Manchin declared his opposition to the For the People Act, a sweeping measure meant in part to override new voting restrictions passed by Republican Legislatures and reiterated his vow never to repeal or modify the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule known as the filibuster.
Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More deadlock than ever
Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 6/8/2021
Democrats seeking more robust enforcement of election laws and transparency measures have been routinely routed at the FEC. They have complained Republicans have weaponized the commission’s bipartisan structure to turn it into a toothless agency. Now, the Democratic commissioners have begun to strike back by leveraging some of the same arcane rules that have stymied enforcement efforts for years to make the agency do even less. The goal appears to be to take a panel seen as dysfunctional and create further deadlock, compelling federal courts to fill the breach when it comes to policing federal election law.
Facebook Gives Trump Path to Return – but Not Until at Least 2023
Politico – Cristiano Lima | Published: 6/4/2021
Facebook announced that former President Trump’s accounts will be suspended for two years, extending the suspension that began in January following a finding Trump stoked violence ahead of the insurrection at the Capitol. The company said after that period it would evaluate whether “the risk to public safety has receded,” and then make a call on his possible reinstatement. Facebook also said it will stiffen penalties for public figures during times of civil unrest and violence. Politicians’ posts will no longer be automatically treated as newsworthy, and thus protected from the platform’s rules against harassment, hate speech, and more. But their rule-breaking remarks may still be exempt under Facebook’s newsworthiness exemption.
FBI Investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in Connection with His Political Fundraising
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 6/3/2021
The FBI is investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in connection with campaign fundraising activity involving his former business. The Washington Post published an examination of how employees at DeJoy’s former company, New Breed Logistics, alleged they were pressured by DeJoy or his aides to attend political fundraisers or donate to Republican candidates, and then were paid back through bonuses. Such reimbursements could run afoul of state or federal laws, which prohibit “straw-donor” schemes meant to allow wealthy donors to evade individual contribution limits and obscure the source of a candidate’s money.
GOP Governors Are Cutting Unemployment Aid. Some Have Ties to Businesses That May Benefit.
MSN – Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
Republican governors in 25 states are conducting a giant economic experiment, ceasing enhanced jobless aid for an estimated 4 million people, arguing the generous benefits are dissuading people from going back to work. But a number of these governors have personal connections to businesses that are trying to find workers and could benefit from the policy change. The Biden administration and its allies in Congress argue any reluctance by Americans to return to work is due more to a lack of childcare, lingering concerns over safety during the pandemic, and low wages.
Justice Dept. Continues Appeal on Behalf of Trump in Defamation Case Brought by Sexual Assault Accuser
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
The Justice Department’s Civil Division under President Biden is continuing the Trump-era push to represent the former president in a defamation lawsuit brought by author E. Jean Carroll. The lawsuit brought by Carroll, who accused Donald Trump two years ago of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s, has been stalled in litigation over whether the Justice Department had standing to represent him on the grounds that his denials in response to her claim were made while performing his presidential duties. The legal maneuver would have required a judge to find a tort law that protects government employees from civil liability applies to a sitting president.
Justice Dept. Vows to End Court Orders Seeking Journalists’ Data in Leak Probes
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/5/2021
The U.S. Justice Department pledged to stop using court orders to get journalists’ information in leak investigations following disclosures about a flurry of such efforts at the end of the Trump administration. The marked shift in approaches between the Trump and Biden administrations comes after it was revealed the department fought a legal battle to obtain information about the email activities of four New York Times reporters as part of a leak investigation. As The Times made the showdown public, it complained the aggressive investigative effort represented a significant intrusion on First Amendment rights and journalists’ ability to gather the news.
Lack of Data on Diverse Electorate Tests Pollsters, Politicians
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 6/4/2021
The most diverse electorate in the country’s history headed to the polls in 2020, but pollsters and party officials are not sure how to tap that potential source of political support. They lack good data about these increasingly diverse communities, and cultural understanding to go with them, leading politicians to make naive mistakes. An industry of firms that provide voter data to pollsters, campaigns, and others has been trying to find the best way to parse specific parts of voters’ identities like religion, race, and ethnicity.
New Bill Aims to Shut the FARA Revolving Door
Center for Responsive Politics – Alyce McFadden | Published: 6/3/2021
Former federal government officials would be prohibited from representing foreign corporations and governments as lobbyists under new bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher and Jared Golden. The Congressional and Executive Foreign Lobbying Ban Act seeks to prohibit federally elected lawmakers, senior-level government appointees, and high-ranking military officers from registering as lobbyists for foreign agents after they leave the government.
Sen. Ted Cruz Prevails in Campaign Finance Lawsuit
Roll Call – Todd Ruger and Kate Ackley | Published: 6/3/2021
A federal court sided with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to strike down a “somewhat obscure” section of a 2002 campaign finance law, which is expected to give a boost to wealthier candidates who self-fund their campaigns. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found Section 304 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act unconstitutionally infringes on candidates’ free speech rights. That section prohibits federal candidates who made personal campaign loans before the election from using more than $250,000 in post-election contributions to repay them.
Trump’s Election Fraud Claims Propelled Them to the Capitol on Jan. 6. His Ongoing Comments Are Keeping Them in Jail.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2021
Although former President Trump has been blocked from major social media platforms and recently shut down his own blog, he is still monitoring and promoting false claims of election fraud. Citing Trump’s ongoing comments, federal judges have shared fears that the defendants accused of the worst violence or threats of violence at the January 6 Capitol insurrection remain a danger to public safety and should remain in custody while they await trial. “Unfortunately, the political dynamics that gave way to January 6th have not faded,” U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said in detaining a man accused of throwing a hatchet and a desk during the riot.
Canada – Judge Rules Against Ontario Third Party Campaign Finance Rules Declaring It Unconstitutional
Global News – Holly McKenzie-Sutter (Canadian Press) | Published: 6/9/2021
A judge struck down a limit on third-party ad spending introduced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government, declaring recent changes to the law unconstitutional. A group of education unions argued the changes to the Election Finances Act would have a chilling effect on their rights to free expression in the year leading up to a provincial election. The government recently doubled the restricted pre-election spending period to 12 months but kept the $600,000 limit on third-party political advertisement spending. The attorney general argued the changes were necessary to protect democratic elections from outside influence.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Companies Lobbying Gavin Newsom Helped Pay His Wife’s Salary, Report Finds
MSN – Evie Fordham (Fox News) | Published: 6/3/2021
Companies with a history of lobbying the state California, including PG&E, Kaiser Permanente. and Comcast, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit of Gov. Gavin Newsome’s wife. Jennifer Siebel Newsom received $2.3 million in total salary from her nonprofit, The Representation Project, between 2011 and 2018, according to tax returns. Siebel Newsom’s foundation billed itself as a gender watchdog organization releasing films to “challenge limiting gender stereotypes and shift norms.” Newsom has appeared in two of The Representation Project’s films.
California – Judge and Attorney in Pivotal Newsom Recall Lawsuit Were Former Law Partners
MSN – Phil Willon (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/7/2021
The judge whose ruling was pivotal to the recall campaign against California Gov. Gavin Newsom, providing supporters extra time to gather the necessary petition signatures to trigger a special election, was once a law partner with the attorney hired by the effort’s proponents to plead their case. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James Arguelles and Bradley Benbrook were attorneys at Stevens, O’Connell & Jacobs before 2010 and the two served as co-counsel on at least two cases. Howard Herships, who opposes the campaign to recall Newsom, said he raised the issue in a complaint against the judge filed with the Commission on Judicial Performance.
Connecticut – Jon Lender: The wife of the lone GOP senator who voted for Connecticut’s recreational marijuana has a job at medical cannabis grower Curaleaf
MSN – Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) | Published: 6/8/2021
Esther Witkos, the wife of state Sen. Kevin Witkos – who was the lone Republican to vote yes when the Senate voted to approve a controversial bill to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Connecticut – has a job with Curaleaf, a medical marijuana grower/producer. Sen. Witkos said his wife has been an hourly worker at a Curaleaf production facility for more than a year. He said he had nothing to do with her getting a job there, and her employment there had no bearing on his vote.
Connecticut – ‘There Are Certain People That Drink Heavily.’ CT Lawmakers Talk About Alcohol Use in Session
MSN – Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) | Published: 6/4/2021
Connecticut House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, fearing extracurricular partying could distract lawmakers from the public’s business, ordered his caucus to move their offices back to the Capitol to avoid distractions. Speaker Matt Ritter chastised his caucus after lawmakers began tailgating on the roof of the Legislative Office Building garage. One House member admitted wine at dinner and the stress of the session contributed to her failure to speak complete sentences during a floor debate. While the drinking might not be good public relations for the Legislature, people with institutional memories say it is no worse than it ever has been.
Florida – As Artiles Criminal Case Unfolds, Sham NPA Candidate Agrees to Ethics Violations, Fine
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/7/2021
As a corruption case involving former Florida Sen. Frank Artiles continues to play out in court, the no-party candidate accused of being paid and recruited to run in the Senate District 37 election was fined for his involvement. Artiles’ defense team continues to debate with the state attorney’s office over how much potential evidence should be made public related to an alleged scheme to recruit and pay Alexis Pedro Rodriguez to run as a no-party candidate in the race. Rodriguez will pay a $6,500 fine for accepting money with the understanding he would change his party affiliation, qualify to run, and file a false disclosure form.
Florida – Ethics Commission: No evidence of improper lobbying on Coral Gables Wawa project
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/9/2021
Miami-Dade County’s ethics commission determined there was no probable cause to pursue a complaint filed on behalf of the Gables Accountability Project, a group of Coral Gables residents who sued the city in opposition to a planned Wawa gas station and convenience store. The complaint alleged lobbyist and former state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and lobbyist Laura Russo failed to properly register to lobby on the project before they sent letters to the city attorney and other officials regarding the removal of trees at the site of the future gas station.
Florida – Judge Asked to Block New Law That Limits Contributions to Florida Amendment Initiatives
South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 6/8/2021
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and other supporters of three proposed constitutional amendments designed to expand voting want a federal judge to block a new state law that places a $3,000 limit on contributions to ballot-initiative drives. They filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, arguing the limit is unconstitutional and would prevent them from collecting enough petition signatures to put the proposed amendments on the November 2022 ballot.
Florida – Mystery Donor Gives $100K-Plus to DeSantis
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 6/3/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has received more than $100,000 from a mystery donor, Tread Standard, that federal regulators previously said was possibly set up illegally to mask the likely source of the money. But it remains unclear who is behind the Delaware-based entity or its political largesse. Tread Standard was the subject of an FEC complaint during the 2016 election cycle that it gave $150,000 to a super PAC supporting former Gov. Jeb Bush’s failed presidential bid. Red flags were raised because the six-figure contribution to the super PAC supporting Bush was given less than two months after Tread Standard was incorporated, and there was no sign the entity did anything that generated its own revenue.
Idaho – Idaho State Legislator Doxxed a Sexual Assault Survivor, Drawing Ethics Complaints
The Intercept – Sara Sirota | Published: 6/3/2021
Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings is facing several ethics complaints after circulating articles revealing the identity of a 19-year-old woman who reported to authorities that another lawmaker, former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, had sexually assaulted her. Giddings is a reservist in the U.S. military, an institution confronting issues of abuse and underreporting, and is seeking greater power in Idaho politics as a candidate for lieutenant governor. Sexual assault survivors often fear others will not believe them or will retaliate against them, inducing further trauma and convincing them more often than not against informing authorities.
Illinois – Chicago’s Ethics Ordinance Infinitely Stronger Than State Version, Top Ethics Officials Say
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 6/4/2021
The city’s ethics ordinance is infinitely stronger than the Illinois General Assembly’s version, the Chicago Board of Ethics said, and it is “gratified” that home-rule will prevail. It is another slap at the widely ridiculed six-month lobbying ban for lawmakers approved by the Legislature in response to the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal. “We are gratified that the General Assembly heeded our urging that Chicago’s lobbying laws not be superseded by the ethics and lobbying reform bill recently passed by the General Assembly,” Ethics Board Chairperson William Conlon and Executive Director Steve Berlin wrote in a statement.
Illinois – Exelon Lobbyist Leads an Effort to Win a Big Payday for Illinois Lawmakers
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 6/7/2021
Eric Madiar, a contract lobbyist for Exelon, is representing former Illinois Rep. Michael Fortner in a class-action lawsuit to win back cost-of-living pay raises legislators, including Fortner, previously voted to block. The cost of the forgone raises for lawmakers was estimated at $14.4 million. The suit was filed as Exelon seeks legislative approval to hike rates to prop up its struggling nuclear plants.
Illinois – Former Chicago Alderman Aiding Corruption Probe Made Audio and Video Recordings of Then-Speaker Michael Madigan on Multiple Topics, Sources Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/9/2021
Former Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis recorded Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on numerous occasions as the speaker allegedly sought business for his private law firm, sources said. He also recorded colleagues at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where Madigan led the Illinois delegation. Solis wearing a wire on Madigan, a famously cautious and shrewd political boss, could help explain why federal prosecutors apparently have cut Solis an unprecedented deal in a federal corruption probe. The potential conflict between Madigan’s dual careers a public official and private lawyer has come under scrutiny numerous times over the years.
Louisiana – Advocates Decry ‘Double Standard’ in Louisiana’s Legislature, Citing Groundwater Ethics Bill
New Orleans Advocate – Blake Paterson | Published: 6/8/2021
Black lawmakers joined social justice advocates to decry what they say is a “double standard” at the Louisiana Capitol where wealthy corporate interests win big while everyday citizens get left behind. They highlighted a bill that would exonerate several members of the Baton Rouge-area groundwater commission from ethics charges they face for working for the companies they are tasked with regulating. Gray Sexton, an attorney representing three members employed by ExxonMobil, Georgia-Pacific, and Entergy who were charged by the ethics board, said the bill simply acknowledges the fact that industry for decades has had a seat at the table.
Maine – Maine House Backs Limiting Foreign Election Spending in Challenge to CMP Corridor
Bangor Daily News – Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews | Published: 6/9/2021
The Maine House passed a bill to bar foreign government-owned companies from spending on state ballot questions after a Canadian energy company dumped millions of dollars into the Central Maine Power corridor referendum fight last year. The proposed ban gained momentum following the spending by Hydro Quebec, a Canadian energy company, to influence potential ballot questions about the corridor. After a first referendum on the corridor was declared unconstitutional last year, corridor opponents mounted a second petition this year aiming to halt the transmission line’s construction.
Maryland – Baltimore Spending Board Approves New Travel Expense Rules for Elected Officials
Baltimore Sun – Phil Davis | Published: 6/9/2021
Baltimore’s spending board approved a new expense policy for elected officials, adopting rules recommended by a city work group after an investigation into State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s travel costs. Elected officials must now seek the Board of Estimates’ approval for travel expenses of $100 or more if a third party is paying the costs. Officials also have to disclose details, including the purpose of a trip and who is paying.
Michigan – Gabe Leland Gets 2.5 Years of Probation on Misconduct in Office Charge
Detroit News – Sarah Rahal | Published: 6/7/2021
Former Detroit City Councilperson Gabe Leland was sentenced to two-and-a-half years of probation after pleading guilty to a state misconduct in office charge. He was accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 in cash and free car repairs from a businessperson in exchange for his vote on a land deal. The allegations resulted in an indictment on federal bribery charges in addition to the felony misconduct in office charge, but the federal charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Michigan – House OKs Ethics Reform with Financial Disclosure, Lobby Limits
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 6/9/2021
Amid debate over whether the legislation went far enough, the Michigan House passed 13 bills and one joint resolution that proponents hope will boost transparency and ethics among lawmakers. The bills seek to create an ethics committee in each chamber, require confidential financial disclosures from members, and prevent legislators and senior administration officials from lobbying for two years after leaving office. The package moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has expressed concerns that financial disclosure requirements could discourage people from running for office.
New Jersey – Stunning Development in Big N.J. Corruption Case as Judge Tosses Charges Against Former Candidate
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/3/2021
In a major setback for prosecutors, the bribery and corruption case against Jason O’Donnell, a former New Jersey Assembly member who was running for Bayonne mayor, was thrown out of court as a judge found O’Donnell committed no crime. The judge said O’Donnell had no power to make any promises in return for a $10,000 cash payment he allegedly accepted from an informant during an undercover sting operation. O’Donnell and four other candidates and officials were accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and cash payoffs from an attorney seeking promises of lucrative tax and real estate work.
New Mexico – Citizen Lawmakers Find Work in New Cannabis Industry
New Mexico Political Report – Andy Lyman | Published: 6/6/2021
Even prior to the passage of the Cannabis Regulation Act in New Mexico, a handful of consulting and legal firms specializing in cannabis regulations and law existed. But since the law was approved, there are at least three elected officials who are currently, or plan to, sell their knowledge to those interested in getting in at the ground floor of what is expected to become a booming new industry. That raises questions about the ethics of state and local lawmakers selling their services in an industry they sometimes have a hand at creating.
New York – She’s Running for New York City Council. But Newspapers Won’t Publish Her Photo.
Politico – Hannah Dreyfus | Published: 6/9/2021
Amber Adler is the first Orthodox Jewish woman to run for city council in her Brooklyn district, which includes ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. As she heads toward the June 22 primary, Adler is a victim of a recent trend among Jewish media outlets in Orthodox neighborhoods in the U.S. – a refusal to publish photographs of women and girls for religious reasons. Which means if Adler wants campaign ads printed in the Jewish news, she cannot be in most of them. Adler is butting up against expectations that Orthodox women do not assume positions of communal authority.
North Carolina – Raleigh Mayor Sits Out Development Hearings to Avoid Conflict of Interest
Yahoo News – Anna Johnson (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 6/4/2021
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin recused herself twice from a recent city council meeting due to potential conflicts-of-interest involving her employer. The mayor did not participate in a public hearing on a proposed development because her employer, Barnhill Contracting, began working on the project in 2019. Baldwin was hired as the director of business development for Barnhill’s Triangle and Streamline Divisions in May 2020. She faced criticism for accepting the job soon after the construction company received a $6.3 million city contract.
North Dakota – Above Board or ‘Pay to Play’? Firm That Guides North Dakota’s $19.4B Portfolio Comes Under Fire
Grand Forks Herald – Patrick Springer | Published: 5/31/2021
Questions have been raised about potential conflicts-of-interest involving a financial adviser that recommends fund managers for North Dakota’s $19.4 billion investment portfolio. A firm called Callan, whose advisory role has been described as a “manager of managers,” received payments from 12 of the 14 companies that manage the investments for the Legacy Fund, the state’s oil tax savings account. As the North Dakota State Investment Board’s leading financial adviser, Callan plays an influential role in advising the board on selecting fund management firms for the Legacy Fund, public employee pension funds, and state insurance funds.
Ohio – Ohio Public Corruption Cases Could Be Tried in Defendants’ Home Counties, Under GOP Proposal
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/9/2021
A state lawmaker is seeking to remove the Franklin County prosecutor’s exclusive authority to try Ohio public corruption cases, just months after a Democrat was elected to the position for the first time in nearly 60 years. An amendment to a bill would allow lawmakers, candidates, and political groups accused of violating state law to choose to be tried in their home counties, rather than in Franklin County as current law requires. The proposal comes amid the House Bill 6 scandal, in which ex-Speaker Larry Householder and allies are facing federal charges they received $60 million in bribe money to pass a bailout of two nuclear power plants.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Faces Expulsion in Assault on State Capitol
Associated Press News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 6/8/2021
A state lawmaker faces being expelled from office after a video emerged apparently showing him choreographing how he would let far-right protesters into the closed Oregon Capitol days before he did so in December. The crowd entered the building during an emergency legislative session, and some sprayed chemical irritants at police. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek recently introduced a resolution that would have the House expel Rep. Mike Nearman if two-thirds of its members vote in favor. She appointed a committee to consider the matter.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Vote to Defund Forest Research Institute over Lobbying Scandal
Yahoo News – Tim Gruver (The Center Square) | Published: 6/9/2021
Oregon House members voted to pull the plug on a public agency accused of playing fast and loose with its ethical standards in its business with the timber industry. The bill redirects millions of dollars from the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) to the Oregon Department of Forestry. A recent media investigation found the taxpayer-funded OFRI attempted to discredit state-sponsored climate research without merit. In 2018, investigators found the OFRI organized a campaign to tarnish an Oregon State University study that concluded the state could cut its carbon footprint if it felled trees on private land less often.
Pennsylvania – How the National Push by Trump Allies to Audit 2020 Ballots Started Quietly in Pennsylvania
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2021
A push to conduct unofficial election audits in Pennsylvania served as a last-ditch effort by allies of former President Trump to undercut Joe Biden’s win after failing in the courts and Legislature. The lobbying foreshadowed a playbook now in use in Arizona and increasingly being sought in other communities as Trump supporters clamor for reviews of the ballots cast last fall, citing false claims the vote was corrupted by fraud. Trump’s backers argue any evidence of problems they uncover will prove the election system is vulnerable and could have been manipulated to help Biden. The audits are being pushed by an affiliation of GOP lawmakers, lawyers, and self-described election experts, backed by private fundraising campaigns whose donors are unknown.
Washington – Seattle Times Sues City of Seattle over Durkan’s Missing Text Messages During Protests
Seattle Times – Asia Fields | Published: 6/4/2021
The Seattle Times filed a lawsuit alleging the city of Seattle mishandled requests from reporters for officials’ text messages during a tumultuous period last summer when police abandoned the a precinct and used tear gas on protesters. The complaint follows a whistleblower investigation that found Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office violated state public records laws in its handling of requests after discovering the mayor’s texts were missing for a 10-month period. The newspaper claims the city violated the Public Records Act by withholding or destroying the mayor’s records after they were requested.
Wyoming – Inside the Campaign-Finance ‘End Run’ That Earned GOP an FEC Fine
WyoFile.com – Nick Reynolds | Published: 6/4/2021
The Wyoming Republican Party secretly supported a 2016 Trump campaign “end run” around donation limitations without securing requisite authorization, according to a former official. The violation, which resulted in a $52,000 fine, cited the party’s failure to meet reporting deadlines for a series of unusual transfers between the Republican National Committee, the state GOP, and the Trump Victory Fund PAC, according to the party’s then-treasure, Doug Chamberlain. But Chamberlain, who was responsible for signing off on all the state GOP’s financial activities and FEC compliance, said he was unaware of the arrangement.
June 10, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Canada: “Judge Rules Against Ontario Third Party Campaign Finance Rules Declaring It Unconstitutional” by Holly McKenzie-Sutter (Canadian Press) for Global News Elections New York: “She’s Running for New York City Council. But Newspapers Won’t Publish Her Photo.” by […]
Canada: “Judge Rules Against Ontario Third Party Campaign Finance Rules Declaring It Unconstitutional” by Holly McKenzie-Sutter (Canadian Press) for Global News
New York: “She’s Running for New York City Council. But Newspapers Won’t Publish Her Photo.” by Hannah Dreyfus for Politico
National: “Justice Dept. Continues Appeal on Behalf of Trump in Defamation Case Brought by Sexual Assault Accuser” by Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump’s Election Fraud Claims Propelled Them to the Capitol on Jan. 6. His Ongoing Comments Are Keeping Them in Jail.” by Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Abbe Lowell Is the Go-To Lawyer for Embattled Politicians. Now He Faces a Controversy of His Own.” by Dan Friedman for Mother Jones
Connecticut: “Jon Lender: The wife of the lone GOP senator who voted for Connecticut’s recreational marijuana has a job at medical cannabis grower Curaleaf” by Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) for MSN
Illinois: “Former Chicago Alderman Aiding Corruption Probe Made Audio and Video Recordings of Then-Speaker Michael Madigan on Multiple Topics, Sources Say” by Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
Louisiana: “Advocates Decry ‘Double Standard’ in Louisiana’s Legislature, Citing Groundwater Ethics Bill” by Blake Paterson for New Orleans Advocate
Maryland: “Baltimore Spending Board Approves New Travel Expense Rules for Elected Officials” by Phil Davis for Baltimore Sun
Ohio: “Ohio Public Corruption Cases Could Be Tried in Defendants’ Home Counties, Under GOP Proposal” by Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
June 9, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More deadlock than ever” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times Florida: “As Artiles Criminal Case Unfolds, Sham NPA Candidate Agrees to Ethics Violations, Fine” by Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) for MSN […]
National: “Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More deadlock than ever” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times
Florida: “As Artiles Criminal Case Unfolds, Sham NPA Candidate Agrees to Ethics Violations, Fine” by Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) for MSN
National: “GOP Governors Are Cutting Unemployment Aid. Some Have Ties to Businesses That May Benefit.” by Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “Gabe Leland Gets 2.5 Years of Probation on Misconduct in Office Charge” by Sarah Rahal for Detroit News
New Mexico: “Citizen Lawmakers Find Work in New Cannabis Industry” by Andy Lyman for New Mexico Political Report
North Dakota: “Above Board or ‘Pay to Play’? Firm That Guides North Dakota’s $19.4B Portfolio Comes Under Fire” by Patrick Springer for Grand Forks Herald
National: “Democrats Grapple with Way Forward on Biden Agenda After Manchin Throws Up Roadblocks” by Mike DeBonis and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) for MSN
Oregon: “Oregon Lawmaker Faces Expulsion in Assault on State Capitol” by Andrew Selsky for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Chicago’s Ethics Ordinance Infinitely Stronger Than State Version, Top Ethics Officials Say” by Fran Spielman for Chicago Sun-Times
June 8, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “After Hitting Pause, PACs Begin to Press Play Again” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN Wyoming: “Inside the Campaign-Finance ‘End Run’ That Earned GOP an FEC Fine” by Nick Reynolds for WyoFile.com Elections National: “Lack of […]
National: “After Hitting Pause, PACs Begin to Press Play Again” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
Wyoming: “Inside the Campaign-Finance ‘End Run’ That Earned GOP an FEC Fine” by Nick Reynolds for WyoFile.com
National: “Lack of Data on Diverse Electorate Tests Pollsters, Politicians” by Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “How the National Push by Trump Allies to Audit 2020 Ballots Started Quietly in Pennsylvania” by Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Justice Dept. Vows to End Court Orders Seeking Journalists’ Data in Leak Probes” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
California: “Judge and Attorney in Pivotal Newsom Recall Lawsuit Were Former Law Partners” by Phil Willon (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
North Carolina: “Raleigh Mayor Sits Out Development Hearings to Avoid Conflict of Interest” by Anna Johnson (Raleigh News and Observer) for Yahoo News
Connecticut: “‘There Are Certain People That Drink Heavily.’ CT Lawmakers Talk About Alcohol Use in Session” by Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Exelon Lobbyist Leads an Effort to Win a Big Payday for Illinois Lawmakers” by Dave McKinney for WBEZ
June 7, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Sen. Ted Cruz Prevails in Campaign Finance Lawsuit” by Todd Ruger and Kate Ackley for Roll Call National: “FBI Investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in Connection with His Political Fundraising” by Matt Zapotosky and Jacob Bogage (Washington […]
National: “Sen. Ted Cruz Prevails in Campaign Finance Lawsuit” by Todd Ruger and Kate Ackley for Roll Call
National: “FBI Investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in Connection with His Political Fundraising” by Matt Zapotosky and Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Mystery Donor Gives $100K-Plus to DeSantis” by Matt Dixon for Politico
New Jersey: “Stunning Development in Big N.J. Corruption Case as Judge Tosses Charges Against Former Candidate” by Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) for MSN
National: “Facebook Suspends Trump for 2 Years in Response to Oversight Board Ruling” by Elizabeth Dwoskin for Washington Post
California: “Companies Lobbying Gavin Newsom Helped Pay His Wife’s Salary, Report Finds” by Evie Fordham (Fox News) for MSN
Idaho: “Idaho State Legislator Doxxed a Sexual Assault Survivor, Drawing Ethics Complaints” by Sara Sirota for The Intercept
Washington: “Seattle Times Sues City of Seattle over Durkan’s Missing Text Messages During Protests” by Asia Fields for Seattle Times
National: “New Bill Aims to Shut the FARA Revolving Door” by Alyce McFadden for Center for Responsive Politics
June 4, 2021 •
National/Federal 2 Nonprofits That Track Money in Politics Are Merging Maryland Matters – Josh Kurtz | Published: 6/3/2021 Watchdogs, journalists, opposition researchers, and the civic minded have relied on data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute […]
2 Nonprofits That Track Money in Politics Are Merging
Maryland Matters – Josh Kurtz | Published: 6/3/2021
Watchdogs, journalists, opposition researchers, and the civic minded have relied on data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in Politics to help them keep elected officials and the special interests that seek to influence them accountable. Now, the nation’s two leading money-in-politics data organizations, are joining forces. They announced they are merging into a combined entity called OpenSecrets. The merger will create a new one-stop shop for integrated federal, state, and local data on campaign finance, lobbying, and more.
Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Must File as Foreign Agent, U.S. Says
MSN – Ilya Banares (Bloomberg) | Published: 5/26/2021
The Justice Department told former casino magnate Steve Wynn to register as a foreign lobbyist for China and is ready to go to court if he does not comply. The order stems from allegations Wynn tried to persuade American officials to send Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessperson with ties to former President Trump, back to his home country. Guo was charged there with corruption, bribery, and fraud and is considered a fugitive by Chinese authorities. Under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, any person representing the interest of foreign entities in the U.S. must disclose their relationship. They also need to make public all the activities they’ have done on their behalf and, if applicable, how much they were paid.
Court to Name Special Master to Examine Materials Seized from Giuliani
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/28/2021
A federal judge denied a request from former President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani for the return of a trove of digital information the FBI seized in a raid on his Manhattan home and office as part of an investigation into potential violations of laws on lobbying for foreign entities. But U.S. District Court Judge Paul Oetken said he will appoint an outside lawyer as a so-called special master to oversee the process of making sure investigators do not get access to attorney-client privileged materials they are not entitled to.
Democrats Grapple with the Enemy Within: What to do about the filibuster rule that could kill their agenda
MSN – Michael Kranish, Mike DeBonis, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 5/29/2021
As Senate Democrats work to solidify support within their conference to move on gun violence, climate change, voting rights, and an investigation into the Capitol riots, they are running up against the same stubborn reality: they need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster and put their agenda into law. This requirement is not in the U.S. Constitution, nor is it in a law. It is a rule imposed by senators and could be eliminated by a united rank of Democrats. Yet Democrats are unable to repeal the filibuster and are feuding among themselves about whether they should make a more determined effort to do so before the midterm elections.
FEC Spares Trump but Fines Tabloid Publisher for Hush-Money Payment to Ex-Playboy Model Who Claimed Affair with Him
MSN – Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2021
The FEC fined the National Enquirer’s parent company $187,500 for “knowingly and willfully” violating election law by making a payment in 2016 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with former President Trump years before he was elected. Common Cause alleged the company’s $150,000 payment to McDougal months before the 2016 election was effectively an illegal in-kind corporate contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign. The payment allegedly benefited the campaign by suppressing McDougal’s story of an alleged relationship with Trump before voters went to the polls.
Federal Prosecutors Looking into Whether Gaetz Obstructed Justice
Politico – Marc Caputo | Published: 6/2/2021
Federal prosecutors are examining whether U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz obstructed justice during a phone call he had with a witness in the sex-crimes investigation of Gaetz. The witness was one of a handful of women who entered Gaetz’s orbit via former local tax collector Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to a host of crimes, including sex-trafficking a 17-year-old. The obstruction inquiry stems from a phone call the witness had with Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend. The ex-girlfriend patched Gaetz into the call. While it is unknown exactly what was said, the discussion is central to whether prosecutors can charge Gaetz with obstructing justice, which makes it illegal to suggest a witness in a criminal case lie or give misleading testimony.
GOP Bill Would Codify IRS Rule Hiding ‘Dark Money’ Donors
Center for Responsive Politics – Alyce McFadden | Published: 5/27/2021
The Don’t Weaponize the IRS Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, would prevent the IRS from mandating that 501(c)(4) nonprofits identify their top donors in filings to the agency, turning IRS guidance issued under former President Trump into law. Republican senators who signed on as co-sponsors say the measure would protect outside groups from discrimination by the IRS. The agency previously apologized for slow-walking conservative groups’ applications for nonprofit status and leaking nonprofit donors.
Sources: Dem lobbying firm under federal investigation for Burisma work
Politico – Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman | Published: 6/3/2021
The Justice Department is investigating the work of a consulting firm linked to President Biden’s son for potential illegal lobbying, four people familiar with the probe said. The firm, Blue Star Strategies, took on as a client the Ukrainian energy company Burisma while Hunter Biden served on its board. Republican operatives’ efforts to investigate Burisma and the alleged corruption that surrounded the firm were at the heart of the first Trump impeachment. The probe comes as the Justice Department ramps up its scrutiny of foreign governments’ efforts to influence U.S. politics through covert lobbying operations.
Steve Chabot’s Ex-Campaign Manager Facing More Than 2 Years in Prison After Guilty Plea
MSN – Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/28/2021
Prosecutors say they will seek a prison sentence that is no longer than 32 months for U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s former campaign manager, who admitted he stole more than $1.4 million from the campaign. Jamie Schwartz signed a plea agreement admitting he embezzled the money between 2011 and 2019. Schwartz will pay $1,420,475 in restitution to the campaign. It is a conservative estimate of how much he obtained through the embezzlement, prosecutors said.
Trump Administration Secretly Seized Phone Records of Times Reporters
New York Times – Charlie Savage and Katie Benner | Published: 6/2/2021
The Trump Justice Department seized the phone records of four New York Times reporters in 2017 as part of a leak investigation. It was the latest in a series of revelations about the Trump administration secretly obtaining reporters’ communications records to uncover their sources. It also seized the phone logs of reporters who work for The Washington Post and the phone and email logs for a CNN reporter. After the disclosures, President Biden said he would not allow the department to take such a step during his administration, calling it ‘simply, simply wrong.”
Canada – Pierre Fitzgibbon Steps Down as Minister in Wake of Ethics Report
Montreal Gazette – Philip Authier | Published: 6/2/2021
Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon stepped down as a cabinet minister in the wake of an ethics commission report saying he has a conflict-of-interest. The ethics commissioner, Ariane Mignolet, had said Fitzgibbon should be barred from sitting in the in the provincial Legislature until he sells the stake that he holds in two firms doing business with the government.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Observers of Arizona’s GOP-Led Election Audit Document Security Breaches, Prohibited Items on Counting Floor
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2021
Observers of the Republican-led recount have found security gates left open, confidential manuals left unattended, and quality-control measures disregarded, according to the Arizona secretary of state’s office. A software update caused so many errors the company handling the recount abandoned the update and went back to the old software. In other instances, prohibited items including cellphones and pens with black or blue ink were allowed onto the counting floor. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and election security experts have criticized the audit as error riddled. Now, Hobbs’s office is documenting the alleged infractions online.
California – California Lawmakers Approve District Attorney Recusal Law
Courthouse News Service – Tim Cahill | Published: 6/2/2021
District attorneys in California whose campaigns were funded by police unions would have to recuse themselves from investigations of law enforcement officers under legislation approved by lawmakers. Supporters say the bill will prevent conflicts-of-interest and restore public faith that bad officers will be brought to justice. In the event both the district attorney and state Attorney General accepted banned law enforcement donations, a special prosecutor would then take over.
California – Ex-San Francisco Official Arrested for Attempted Robbery
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 6/3/2021
San Francisco’s former public works director, who resigned after being charged in a City Hall corruption case, was arrested after allegedly trying to rob someone at knifepoint, authorities said. Mohammed Nuru was booked on suspicion of attempted robbery after someone reported being approached by a man who pulled a knife and demanded the man’s property, according to a police statement. Nuru resigned his post last year after being charged with fraud and lying to the FBI. Prosecutors allege he took thousands of dollars in gifts and cash from contractors.
California – Multimillionaire Recall Candidate John Cox Owes Consultants from Failed Gubernatorial Bid
MSN – Seema Mehta (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/27/2021
Recall candidate John Cox’s prior gubernatorial campaign has been ordered by a judge to pay about $100,000 to a political consulting firm that produced television ads for his unsuccessful 2018 race, one of a string of unpaid bills detailed in a lawsuit and campaign filings. Cox’s campaign has refused to pay, leading to a “debtor’s examination” hearing over the financial status of that campaign committee. A spokesperson for Cox’s current gubernatorial campaign said the invoices were submitted late and Cox contests the amount owed.
Colorado – Court Blocks Portion of Aurora Campaign Finance Measure in Case Brought by Mayor Mike Coffman
Denver Post – Sam Tabachnik | Published: 6/1/2021
An Arapahoe County District Court judge blocked portions of an Aurora campaign finance reform measure from going into effect in a case that featured the mayor accusing his own city of targeting him through law. Judge Peter Michaelson agreed with the First Amendment arguments in Mayor Mike Coffman’s filing that the ordinance’s prohibition on a political candidate campaigning for other candidates or ballot initiatives is unconstitutional.
Florida – Florida Sued Over Law to Ban Social Media Content Blocking
Associated Press News – Brendan Farrington | Published: 5/27/2021
Two groups representing online companies sued Florida over a new law that seeks to punish large social media businesses like Facebook and Twitter if they remove content or ban politicians. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will allow the state to fine large social media sites if they inactivate a statewide politician’s account and will let any Floridian sue those companies if they feel like they have been treated unfairly.
Florida – Nikki Fried Amended Past Financial Disclosures Before Jumping into Florida Governor’s Race
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 6/2/2021
Shortly before jumping into the race for Florida governor, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried amended two separate financial disclosure forms, including one showing previously unreported earnings of $351,480. In both instances, Fried reported earning substantially more money from her lobbying business than she initially disclosed, money that in part came from work she did on behalf of a nursery that was eventually acquired by a medical marijuana company. Fried, a former lobbyist for the cannabis industry, is engaged to the former chief executive of one of the nation’s largest medical marijuana companies.
Idaho – Idaho Lieutenant Governor Banned Mask Mandates While the Governor Was Out of town. It Didn’t Last.
MSN – Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) | Published: 5/28/2021
Idaho Gov. Brad Little rescinded an executive order canceling mask mandates that his second-in-command issued while he was away at a conference, calling it an “abuse of power.” It was the latest clash in a pandemic-long feud between Little and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin over public-health measures designed to protect Idahoans from the coronavirus. McGeachin, who recently announced she is running for governor, has spent months criticizing Little’s response to the crisis as too heavy-handed.
Illinois – Lawyers for 4 Charged in ComEd Bribery Case Say No Quid Pro Quo with Madigan, Ask for Charges to Be Dismissed
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/1/2021
Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan had no arrangement with anyone to help Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) win key legislation in Springfield in exchange for bribes, lawyers for four people charged in the corruption case argued. The court filing on behalf of Michael McClain, Anne Pramaggiore, John Hooker, and Jay Doherty asked U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber to toss several of the key elements of the case, including allegations of bribery conspiracy involving jobs doled out by ComEd to associates of the then-powerful speaker.
Illinois – Package of Government Ethics Reforms Passed by Illinois Legislature, Sent to Pritzker
Bloomington Pantagraph – Dean Olsen (State Journal-Register) | Published: 6/1/2021
Illinois lawmakers approved ethics reforms following numerous indictments, convictions, and investigations in recent years involving legislators and powerful interests. The bills would bar elected officials from lobbying other units of government and would give the legislative inspector general the power to initiate investigations of lawmakers without first receiving approval from a bipartisan commission. It prevents lawmakers from holding campaign fundraisers across the state on any day the General Assembly is in session, or on a day immediately preceding a session.
Iowa – State Auditor Says Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Illegally Promoted Herself with Mask Ads; She Denies It
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 6/2/2021
State Auditor Rob Sand is alleging Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds violated the state’s self-promotion law by appearing in a video last year to promote mask wearing during the pandemic, but Reynolds says the public awareness campaign falls under the law’s exemption for disaster emergencies. In the video, Reynolds appears in the governor’s formal office with her name and title onscreen and tells Iowans about steps to take to avoid the virus, like mask wearing, social distancing, and isolating from others. The video also featured health care officials.
Kansas – Ethics Panel Fines Anti-Abortion Activist $5,000 for Campaign Report Failures
Kansas Reflector – Tim Carpenter | Published: 5/27/2021
Conservative activist Mark Gietzen received a $5,000 fine from the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission for failure to submit timely campaign finance reports in the wake of an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Wichita. Gietzen, founder of the Kansas Coalition for Life, missed deadlines for submitting reports in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Those documents have now been completed, but the case was not dismissed because Gietzen had a track record of noncompliance after racking up $2,860 in civil penalties for violations of campaign law.
Louisiana – Lawmakers Back Removal of PAC Limits for Louisiana Campaigns
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 5/28/2021
Louisiana lawmakers agreed to let candidates for office take unlimited sums directly from PACs, in a significant change to campaign finance limits governing donations that come largely from special interest groups. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ed Price, described his measure as a transparency effort.
Maine – Maine Lawmaker Will Sit Out House Work After Disobeying Mask Mandate
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 6/2/2021
Maine’s only Libertarian lawmaker agreed to sit out work in the House for a few days after delaying proceedings as the lone member to disobey a statehouse mask mandate. State Rep. John Andrews was one of seven members who initially defied the mask mandate after Gov. Janet Mills lifted the requirement for vaccinated people in indoor settings. While those other members indicated they may continue the protest after House Speaker Ryan Fecteau removed them from their committee, they wore masks in the chamber.
Michigan – There Are a Lot of Proposals to Increase Michigan Government Transparency. We Break Them Down.
Michigan Advance – Allison Donahue | Published: 6/2/2021
Bills aimed at boosting ethics, transparency, and financial disclosure laws have been introduced in the Michigan Legislature this year from both parties. Michigan received a grade of “F” in the last State Integrity Investigation from the Center for Public Integrity and ranked worst in the country for accountability and transparency. But it can be challenging to navigate all the proposals reforming conflicts-of-interest, the Freedom of Information Act, and lobbying. Some open government advocates say not all these bills pass the smell test because they lack accountability measures or are monitored by in-house committees rather than giving the public full access.
Michigan – Whitmer’s Campaign Will Pay for Controversial Florida Flight
MSN – Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 5/27/2021
A Michigan chemical company that arranged for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to fly to Florida in its private jet is under scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Administration, prompting a change in how the flight will be paid for, Whitmer’s campaign disclosed. The governor’s re-election campaign will pay PVS Chemicals for the $27,521 cost of the flight to visit Whitmer’s father, not a nonprofit corporation she controls, as announced earlier, Whitmer campaign attorney Christopher Trebilcock said.
Montana – Lawsuit Takes Aim at Bill Affecting Montana Campuses, Judicial Campaigns
Missoula Current – Mike Dennison | Published: 6/1/2021
Another lawsuit was filed to strike down a law passed by Montana Republicans, this time taking aim at language the suit says was unconstitutionally inserted into a bill in the closing hours of the session. The suit from a county prosecutor, attorneys, and a political organization says Senate Bill 319 was improperly “hijacked” to ban voter-registration and other political activity on parts of Montana college campuses and require judges to step down from certain cases. The changes violate a constitutional requirement that bills include only one subject, the suit said.
Nevada – Nevada OKs Bill in Try for 1st Presidential Nominating State
Associated Press News – Michelle Price and Sam Metz | Published: 5/31/2021
Nevada lawmakers passed a bill that aims to make the state the first to weigh in on the 2024 presidential primary contests. The move upends decades of political tradition and is likely to prompt pushback from other early states that want to retain their places in the calendar. The push for Nevada to jump past Iowa’s caucuses and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary follows a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign. Proponents argued Nevada is a diverse state with a population that mirrors the demographics of the nation, and therefore is a better choice for testing presidential hopefuls than Iowa and New Hampshire.
Nevada – To Build a Crowd for a Pro-Trump Rally, Nevada GOP Consultant Sought Help from Proud Boys
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2021
Two days after the 2020 election, as then-President Trump railed that his victory had been stolen, a small group of men dressed in yellow-and-black Proud Boys shirts appeared with dozens of other Trump supporters to protest the counting of ballots at Nevada’s biggest voting center. The rally looked like an organic response to a president then trailing in early returns and threatening anew to contest his defeat. But private messages from Facebook and interviews show the extent of the efforts, in at least one battleground state, to demonstrate the appearance of grassroots energy to spread Trump’s falsehoods about the election. His claims would only grow over the coming months, culminating in a violent attack on the Capitol.
New Jersey – Phil Murphy Took on New Jersey’s Democratic Machine. Now He Needs It to Win.
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 5/31/2021
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, seeking reelection to a second term, has broken with his progressive base as they have turned their attention to an institutional foe: that same boss-dominated power structure Murphy had shunned. The governor has made peace with George Norcross, New Jersey’s most feared political power broker, and is embracing the state’s unusual primary ballot system, which gives prominent placement to party-endorsed candidates awarded the party’s “line” on the ballot, moving independent challengers to far-flung positions.
New York – Eric Adams Pays for Mayoral Campaign Advice from Lawyers Who Lobby Him
The City – Greg Smith and Reuven Blau | Published: 5/31/2021
In July 2018, Eric Adams’ campaign hired a law firm called Pitta LLP as a political and legal consultant. By then, talk had started that the Brooklyn borough president was planning a run for City Hall. The same lawyers who run Pitta also operate one of the city’s biggest lobbying outfits, Pitta Bishop Del Giorno, and had for years lobbied Adams personally on behalf of multiple clients, including vendors seeking city contracts and several unions. They continued to do so, even after Adams hired the Pitta law firm for his campaign. In the gaggle of major mayoral candidates, Adams is unique in this regard.
New York – Feds Subpoena Powerful Lobbyist with Close Ties to Carl Heastie
New York Post – Ben Fuerherd | Published: 5/28/2021
Federal prosecutors subpoenaed an influential lobbyist and Democratic fundraiser who is a friend and former college roommate of New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie as part of a public corruption probe. The New York Timers reported investigators from the Southern District of New York have also sought records from two clients of the lobbyist, Patrick Jenkins, as well as an unnamed state agency,. The clients who were subpoenaed include Draftkings, an online fantasy sports betting platform, and del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County.
Ohio – City Council Votes Not to Suspend Wendell Young after April Indictment
WCPO – Staff | Published: 5/26/2021
Cincinnati City Council voted not to suspend Councilperson Wendell Young following his indictment on a tampering with evidence charge related to the “Gang of Five” scandal. Councilperson Betsy Sundermann brought the motion to suspend Young after the passage of Issue 2, which allows council to vote on the suspension of another member if that member is indicted. “How could people not vote for this when they all wanted it on the ballot and the voters passed it by 78 percent?” Sundermann said after the council’s vote.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Appear Unlikely to Limit Campaign Contributions, as Key Proponent Moves to Drop Effort
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 6/1/2021
Despite voters’ overwhelming support for campaign contribution limits, Oregon lawmakers appear close to giving up on efforts to pass such limits this legislative session. A central proponent proposed the Legislature scrap donation caps and instead focus on creating a state program to match small donations with public funds. “We just felt this was the one thing we could get agreement about,” said Rep. Dan Rayfield, a chief sponsor of the proposal that received the most consideration this session, House Bill 2680.
Pennsylvania – Allentown Buys More Time on Proposed Campaign Finance Regulations
Allentown Morning Call – Andrew Wagaman | Published: 6/2/2021
Allentown City Council postponed proposed campaign finance regulations, seeking more time to determine how to enforce reporting requirements and contribution limits. While three council members on the Rules Committee liked the idea, they felt the bill did not adequately empower the city clerk and board of ethics to give the regulations teeth. Councilperson Joshua Siegel has been calling for campaign finance reform since 2017, arguing “electoral guardrails” might have prevented the “pay-to-play” corruption scandal that ensnared former Mayor Ed Pawlowski and members of his administration.
Texas – A False Date Rape Drugging Accusation Against a Lobbyist Exposed Claims of His role in the Texas Capitol’s Culture of Sexual Harassment
Texas Tribune – Cassandra Pollock | Published: 5/26/2021
A Texas Department of Public Safety investigation concluded Rick Dennis, a lobbyist with one of Austin’s most prominent firms, was not guilty of using a date rape drug on two female legislative staff members. Rumors that Dennis had been accused of doing so rocked the Capitol in April, prompting outraged reactions from state lawmakers. The report said the false allegation was fueled by two female staffers, one of whom was trying to cover up behavior of her own that had nothing to do with Dennis. Still, the incident laid bare larger questions about a Capitol culture that many female staffers say often leads to allegations of misconduct and harassment being brushed under the rug by those with the power to act.
Texas – After Defeating Restrictive Voting Bill, Texas Democrats Send Loud Message: ‘We need Congress to do their part’
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/31/2021
Texas Democrats who defeated a Republican effort to pass a suite of new voting restrictions with a dramatic late-night walkout from the state House chamber have a message for President Biden and his allies in Congress: If we can protect voting rights, you can, too. The surprise move by roughly 60 Democratic lawmakers headed off the expected passage of Senate Bill 7, a voting measure that would have been one of the most stringent in the nation, by denying Republicans a required quorum and forcing them to abruptly adjourn without taking a vote.
Virginia – Stoney Campaign Donors Among ONE Casino Investors; Illustrates Cross Between Politics and Public Projects
WRIC – Ben Dennis | Published: 6/2/2021
Several of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s campaign donors are among the named investors in the Urban ONE casino project and the organization says some of them committed support for the development before Stoney recommended it to city council. Virginia does not restrict who or how much someone can donate to a candidate or cause, though the connection between the city’s casino race and key players does illustrate the role of transparency between politics and public projects.
Wisconsin – Top Wisconsin Republican Robin Vos Hires Former Cops to Investigate November Election
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) | Published: 5/26/2021
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is hiring retired police officers to investigate aspects of the November election, joining with Republicans from around the country who have questioned President Biden’s victory. Vos said he hopes the investigators can get to the bottom of issues Republicans have raised unsuccessfully in court. Ann Jacobs, who leads the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said she was worried the investigation would undermine confidence in an election that was conducted properly.
June 3, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “FEC Spares Trump but Fines Tabloid Publisher for Hush-Money Payment to Ex-Playboy Model Who Claimed Affair with Him” by Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) for MSN Colorado: “Court Blocks Portion of Aurora Campaign Finance Measure in Case Brought […]
National: “FEC Spares Trump but Fines Tabloid Publisher for Hush-Money Payment to Ex-Playboy Model Who Claimed Affair with Him” by Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) for MSN
Colorado: “Court Blocks Portion of Aurora Campaign Finance Measure in Case Brought by Mayor Mike Coffman” by Sam Tabachnik for Denver Post
Kansas: “Ethics Panel Fines Anti-Abortion Activist $5,000 for Campaign Report Failures” by Tim Carpenter for Kansas Reflector
Montana: “Lawsuit Takes Aim at Bill Affecting Montana Campuses, Judicial Campaigns” by Mike Dennison for Missoula Current
Oregon: “Oregon Lawmakers Appear Unlikely to Limit Campaign Contributions, as Key Proponent Moves to Drop Effort” by Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
Arizona: “Observers of Arizona’s GOP-Led Election Audit Document Security Breaches, Prohibited Items on Counting Floor” by Felicia Sonmez and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
Canada: “Pierre Fitzgibbon Steps Down as Minister in Wake of Ethics Report” by Philip Authier for Montreal Gazette
Illinois: “Lawyers for 4 Charged in ComEd Bribery Case Say No Quid Pro Quo with Madigan, Ask for Charges to Be Dismissed” by Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
Michigan: “There Are a Lot of Proposals to Increase Michigan Government Transparency. We Break Them Down.” by Allison Donahue for Michigan Advance
June 2, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Steve Chabot’s Ex-Campaign Manager Facing More Than 2 Years in Prison After Guilty Plea” by Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN California: “Multimillionaire Recall Candidate John Cox Owes Consultants from Failed Gubernatorial Bid” by Seema Mehta (Los […]
National: “Steve Chabot’s Ex-Campaign Manager Facing More Than 2 Years in Prison After Guilty Plea” by Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
California: “Multimillionaire Recall Candidate John Cox Owes Consultants from Failed Gubernatorial Bid” by Seema Mehta (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Nevada: “Nevada OKs Bill in Try for 1st Presidential Nominating State” by Michelle Price and Sam Metz for Associated Press News
National: “Court to Name Special Master to Examine Materials Seized from Giuliani” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
Florida: “Florida Sued Over Law to Ban Social Media Content Blocking” by Brendan Farrington for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Package of Government Ethics Reforms Passed by Illinois Legislature, Sent to Pritzker” by Dean Olsen for State Journal-Register
National: “Democrats Grapple with the Enemy Within: What to do about the filibuster rule that could kill their agenda” by Michael Kranish, Mike DeBonis, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Eric Adams Pays for Mayoral Campaign Advice from Lawyers Who Lobby Him” by Greg Smith and Reuven Blau for The City
Texas: “A False Date Rape Drugging Accusation Against a Lobbyist Exposed Claims of His role in the Texas Capitol’s Culture of Sexual Harassment” by Cassandra Pollock for Texas Tribune
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