News You Can Use Digest - December 25, 2020 - State and Federal Communications

December 25, 2020  •  

News You Can Use Digest – December 25, 2020


A Frustrated Trump Redoubles Efforts to Challenge Election Result
MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020

President Trump has intensified efforts to overturn the election, raising a series of radical measures in recent days, including military intervention, seizing voting machines, and a 13th-hour appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump said he had spoken with Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville about challenging the electoral vote count when the House and Senate convene on January 6 to formally affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump’s conversation with Tuberville is part of a much broader effort by the defeated president to invalidate the election. He is increasingly reaching out to allies like Giuliani and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for ideas and searching his Twitter feed for information to promote.

Bennet Introduces Bill to Eliminate ‘Zombie’ Campaign Accounts
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlick | Published: 12/18/2020

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced the Zeroing Out Money for Buying Influence after Elections (ZOMBIE) Act to address what happens with campaign money for federal candidates when they leave office. The ZOMBIE Act requires candidates to close campaign accounts within six months of not filing to run for reelection or another federal office. People would also need to close their personal or leadership committees before registering as a lobbyist or foreign agent. Candidates may divest their unspent money to donors, the U.S. Treasury, or a charity. The candidate or their family may not have personal ties to the recipient charity, however.

Despite Trump’s Intense Hunt for Voter Fraud, Officials in Key States Have So Far Identified Just a Small Number of Possible Cases
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Jon Swaine, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 12/23/2020

After an intense hunt by President Trump’s allies to surface voting irregularities in this year’s election, law enforcement agencies in six key swing states targeted by the president have found just a modest number of complaints that have merited investigation. So far, only a handful of cases have resulted in actual criminal charges alleging wrongdoing – some of them against Republican voters aiming to help Trump. The tiny number of incidents further undercut Trump’s barrage of false allegations that there was widespread manipulation of the vote. The alleged voter fraud cases, mostly spotted by local election officials, were identified due to the kinds of safeguards in place in states and counties specifically designed to catch problems.

FBI Links Iran to Online Hit List Targeting Top Officials Who’ve Refuted Trump’s Election Fraud Claims
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) | Published: 12/22/2020

The FBI has concluded Iran was behind online efforts to incite lethal violence against the bureau’s director, a former top U.S. cyber expert, and multiple state elections officials who have refuted claims of widespread voter fraud promoted by President Trump and his allies. FBI Director Christopher Wray and ousted Homeland Security Department official Christopher Krebs were among more than a dozen people whose images, home addresses, and other personal information were posted on a website titled “Enemies of the People.” Crosshairs were superimposed over the photos. In August, intelligence officials said Iran was seeking to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and divide the country in advance of the election.

High Court Rules Challenge to Trump Census Plan Is Premature
Associated Press News – Mark Sherman | Published: 12/18/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed as premature a challenge to President Trump’s plan to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count used to allot states seats in the House of Representatives. But the court’s decision is not a final ruling on the matter, and it is not clear whether Trump will receive final numbers from the Census Bureau before he leaves office. The high court said it was too soon to rule on the legality of Trump’s plan because it is not yet clear how many people he would seek to exclude and whether the division of House seats would be affected.

House Intends to Reissue Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records Next Year
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/21/2020

The House Oversight Committee intends to reissue a subpoena for President Trump’s financial records next year. The House has been pursuing Trump’s financial documents form his accounting firm, Mazars USA, since Democrats took power in early 2019 but the effort has been tied up in the courts. The case landed before the U.S. Supreme Court this year, and the justices determined the lower courts had failed to scrutinize the subpoena closely enough, kicking it back to them for further review. Now, as the congressional session winds down, the House is signaling it intends to continue pursuing Trump’s financial documents even as he prepares to leave office.

Kushner Helped Launch Shell Company That Paid Campaign Funds to Trump Family: Report
MSN – Mary Papenfuss (HuffPost) | Published: 12/19/2020

A campaign shell company created in part by Jared Kushner spent half of President Trump’s massive campaign fund and secretly paid Trump family members and associates, according to Business Insider. Lara Trump, the wife of the president’s son Eric, was head of the company, and a nephew of Vice President Mike Pence served as its vice president, Business Insider reported. The company was incorporated in Delaware as American Made Media Consultants Corporation and American Made Media Consultants. Records reveal the president’s campaign and its affiliated Trump Make America Great Again Committee with the Republican National Committee spent more than $617 million through the company, which purchased ads but also funded the more amorphous tasks of “digital consulting” and “research consulting.”

Major U.S. Companies Are Lobbying in a Scrum for Early Vaccine
MSN – Christopher Rowland, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jacob Bogage, Abha Bhattarai, and Laura Reiley (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020

Companies are lobbying states and the federal government to prioritize their workers for early immunization against the coronavirus amid limited supplies of the vaccine. After front-line health-care workers and elderly people in nursing homes and assisted-living centers are immunized, the government is expected to begin shipping vaccine to communities for those it has designated as essential workers. The task of setting the sequence of vaccinations within that disparate population, verifying who is essential and setting up equitable systems for access is triggering competition. The government’s list is so broad it includes everyone from weather forecasters to the operators of shooting ranges. Some policy experts fear the competition for vaccines will favor the wealthiest companies with the strongest lobbying teams in state capitals.

New Round of Trump Clemency Benefits Manafort, Other Allies
Associated Press News – Eric Tucker | Published: 12/24/2020

President Trump pardoned more than two dozen people, including former campaign chairperson Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, in the latest wave of clemency to benefit longtime associates and supporters. The actions, in Trump’s waning time at the White House, bring to nearly 50 the number of people whom the president has granted clemency in the last week. The list from the last two days includes not only multiple people convicted in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia but also allies from Congress and other felons whose causes were championed by friends.

Trump Pardons 15, Commutes 5 Sentences, Including GOP Allies
Associated Press News – Colleen Long, Kevin Freking, and Eric Tucker | Published: 12/23/2020

President Trump granted clemency to 20 people, including three former Republican members of Congress and two people who were convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Recipients of Trump’s newest pardons included his first two congressional endorsers, former Rep. Chris Collins, convicted on charges related to insider trading, and former Rep. Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance abuses, including some to support extramarital affairs. Some of Trump’s actions seemed intended to send clear messages, such as grants of clemency for George Papadopoulos, the former campaign operative whose 2016 activities triggered the FBI probe that led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Trump Will Face Different Twitter Rules When He Leaves Office
MSN – Emily Glazer (Wall Street Journal) | Published: 12/22/2020

President Trump has used his Twitter account as a megaphone during his administration. When he leaves office, he will need to abide by a different set of rules. Trump is currently able to tweet with less risk, compared with private citizens, of having tweets taken down or his account suspended. His Twitter account, which has more than 88 million followers, will no longer receive special privileges when he becomes a private citizen, Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio said. The loss of privileges reserved for world leaders and public officials would mean that if Trump violates the site’s rules, those tweets would be taken down rather than labeled in the future, Pacilio said.

Watchdog: Amy McGrath Campaign Illegally Coordinated with Democratic Party Super PACs in Bid to Unseat Mitch McConnell
MSN – Colin Kalmbacher (Law & Crime) | Published: 12/17/2020

The U.S. Senate campaign of failed candidate Amy McGrath illegally coordinated with a Democratic Party super PAC in violation of federal campaign finance law, according to a complaint filed with the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said McGrath’s campaign, along with the Senate campaign of Mike Espy, violated the law during the 2020 election. The CLC said McGrath’s campaign and the Ditch Fund illegally coordinated on up to $8 million worth of spending during her unsuccessful bid to unseat Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Espy’s failed effort at replacing Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith allegedly violated federal law by coordinating with the March on PAC to the tune of some $50,000, according to the CLC.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona AG Says Pima County Ban on Political Contributions Unconstitutional
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 12/18/2020

Pima County’s prohibition on its employees contributing money to candidates for county office violates both the U.S. and Arizona constitutions, according to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. In a nonbinding opinion, Brnovich said the policy impermissibly infringes on the free speech rights of Pima County employees. The 1992 policy bars county employees from contributing money or soliciting contributions for county candidates. County supervisors passed the rule as an ethics reform to prevent elected officials from pressuring employees to contribute to their campaigns.

Arizona Candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission Faces Investigation into Campaign Spending
MSN – Ryan Randazzo (Arizona Republic) | Published: 12/17/2020

The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission agreed that Eric Sloan, who lost a bid to become one of the state’s utility regulators, appears to have violated laws regarding how candidates can spend public campaign money. The vote will initiate an investigation that could include subpoenas for Sloan’s finance records and depositions of witnesses. It ultimately could result in a fine. Sloan’s former campaign company accused Sloan of failing to pay him for a variety of services that helped get Slone on the ballot and then spending all his public money from the Clean Elections Commission elsewhere, which put him over the spending limit.

California Newsom Appoints Alex Padilla to Fill Harris’ Senate Seat
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 12/22/2020

Gov. Gavin Newsom is appointing California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to the U.S. Senate, giving the state its first Latino senator. From the moment President-elect Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, California politicians began positioning themselves for the possible opening. The lobbying around Newsom has intensified since Biden’s victory, with various groups representing different constituencies urging the governor to appoint a Latino, a Black woman, or another representative of California’s diversity. The governor chose the presumed frontrunner in Padilla, who has supported Newsom’s political ambitions and offered the historic opportunity in a state where Latinos are a plurality at 40 percent of the population.

California Newsom Lobbying Ban Won’t Immediately Affect French Laundry Dining Partner
MSN – Alexei Kosoff (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 12/17/2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom committed to not hiring any registered lobbyist as a paid consultant and barred his paid campaign or political consultants from directly lobbying the governor, his staff, or state agencies under his control. The new policy bans a dozen people serving as paid consultants to his campaign or the California Democratic Party from lobbying, but Jason Kinney is not among them. Kinney, the lobbyist and longtime adviser to Newsom, whose attendance at a 50th birthday dinner for Kinney sparked criticism over his close ties to consultants who also work for corporate clients and other influential interests at the Capitol.

Colorado Denver Clerk Lopez Contracts with Outside Group to Run City’s Campaign Finance System
North Denver Tribune – Staff | Published: 12/14/2020

Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul López today announced his office has contracted with MapLight a nonprofit technology firm, to build a replacement for the city’s outdated campaign finance reporting application. MapLight’s new application will be uniquely designed to administer Denver’s campaign finance regulations, provide in-depth search functions for the public, and implement the Fair Elections Fund. The new campaign finance system will launch in the second half of 2021 and will include a litany of needed upgrades for campaign users, employees, and Denver residents.

Colorado How Colorado’s New Redistricting Commissions Will Navigate a Political Swamp in 2021
Bloomfield Enterprise – Jon Murray (Denver Post) | Published: 12/22/2020

A redistricting commission will take the helm in Colorado in 2021, steering the process of redrawing congressional and legislative districts, a process that in the past has often been dominated by whichever party held more sway. A lot will hinge on who gets picked as commissioners, how well they work together, and how they juggle competing interests, including jockeying for an eighth congressional seat that is expected to be granted to Colorado. But advocates say commissions are set up to keep decision-making out of back rooms. Each is required to be divided evenly between Democratic, Republican, and unaffiliated members. Many political insiders and lobbyists are barred from being members, and extensive rules require consensus to approve the new maps.

Florida Antonacci Gets a New Job and an Old Problem: The appearance of a conflict of interest with his wife
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 12/16/2020

Outgoing Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci was named by Florida’s Cabinet to be the next Chief Judge/Executive Director of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. He must now be confirmed by the state Senate. For the second time in five years, however, Antonacci’s new job creates an immediate appearance of a conflict-of-interest involving his wife, Anne Longman, a lawyer who often represents clients before the division her husband would now lead.

Florida ‘Could Really Use the Support’: Witness says Beach politician drove donors to mystery PAC
Miami Herald – Christina Saint Louis | Published: 12/17/2020

Before Petter Hagland became a key figure in the ethics scandal that wrecked Michael Grieco’s mayoral aspirations, he received multiple emails from the then-Miami Beach commissioner badgering him for one thing: money. “I am asking for your support in my endeavors to seek higher office,” Grieco wrote to Hagland, part of a wealthy Norwegian shipping and oil family, in an email. The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust questioned Hagland about those exchanges as part of its investigation into Grieco’s involvement with People for Better Leaders, the murky PAC that raised over $200,000, much of it from special interests doing business with the city, in the run-up to the 2017 municipal election. The $25,000 from Hagland was the largest contribution to the mystery PAC.

Florida Michael Grieco’s Fundraising Falsehoods Violated Ethics Rules, Panel Finds
Miami Herald – Christina Saint Louis | Published: 12/17/2020

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found state Rep. Michael Grieco violated the Citizens’ Bill of Rights twice during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner by falsely portraying his involvement with the PAC People for Better Leaders. The first falsehood was when he told the Miami Herald, “I do not have a political committee. I didn’t set one up. I haven’t solicited one,” and again when he told the Herald, “It is absolutely untrue. … You can look right into my soul.” Evidence and testimony elicited in a hearing, including sworn statements from donors and the chairperson of the PAC, indicated Grieco was actively involved in creating, operating, coordinating, and funding the PAC.

Georgia GOP Launches Legal War on Absentee Voting Ahead of Georgia Runoffs
Politico – Zach Montellaro and James Arkin | Published: 12/17/2020

Federal judges in Georgia rejected a pair of Republican-led lawsuits to restrict absentee voting ahead of January’s U.S. Senate runoffs, the first salvos in a GOP effort to change voting rules for future elections following President Trump’s loss in 2020. Republicans filed three lawsuits – two in federal court, one in state court – in Georgia ahead of the runoffs, in which hundreds of thousands of people have already voted by mail or in person for races that will decide control of the Senate. The suits are an attempt to make successfully voting by mail harder in Georgia, which Republicans say is necessary to protect the security of the elections and others claim is an attempt to suppress votes for Democratic candidates.

Illinois Rules Requiring Nonprofits to Register as Lobbyists Delayed Again
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 12/21/2020

Rules requiring nonprofit organizations to register as lobbyists in Chicago were set to go into effect January 1, 2020, but were delayed after dozens of nonprofit groups objected, saying the regulations would force them to pay costly registration fees or risk $1,000 fines. The effort to amend the guidelines was still underway when the coronavirus pandemic forced City Hall to shut down, and the delay was extended. It will now last until spring 2021. The ethics ordinance will need to be revised by the city council to clarify the rules, officials with the Chicago Board of Ethics have said.

Kansas Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin to Resign Amid Investigation, Controversy
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 12/22/2020

Under investigation for potential abuse of CARES Act funds and facing ouster proceedings for participating in a political scandal during the 2019 mayoral race, Wichita City Councilperson James Clendenin plans to resign by the end of the year. Clendenin faced the possibility of being the first council member ousted in the city’s 150-year history. Clendenin is one of three city officeholders behind the “Protect Wichita Girls” video, a political advertisement that falsely accused Mayor Brandon Whipple of sexual harassment, and a plot to blame former Sedgwick County GOP Chairperson Dalton Glasscock for the bogus ad.

Maine Maine Regulator Can Get Financial Records from Anti-CMP Corridor Group, Judge Rules
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 12/17/2020

Maine’s ethics commission can request financial records from a “dark-money” group opposing Central Maine Power’s proposed $1 billion corridor project as part of a broader investigation. Stop the Corridor sued the ethics commission, aiming to shield its donors from public view after the commission voted to require the group to disclose financial information as part of an investigation into whether Stop the Corridor had to register as a political committee after it gave $85,000 to another ant-corridor organization. But a judge disagreed with the anti-corridor group’s argument that the ethics agency had no jurisdiction to do so, denying a delay of the commission’s order by finding the group was unlikely to succeed and the information requested was relevant to the probe.

Maryland With New Members in Place, Baltimore Spending Board Beefs Up Transparency on Conflicts of Interest
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 12/16/2020

Baltimore’s spending board voted to make its abstention process more transparent following a controversy in which the city’s then-comptroller repeatedly voted to approve spending for organizations with which she was connected. While members of the Board of Estimates were previously required to maintain a list of groups with which they had ties that could create a conflict and disclose any abstentions during meetings, the new rules require members to state the reason for abstaining in a memo that will be posted online with the board’s agenda.

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo Discloses He’s in Talks for Job at Northeastern, Setting Off Succession Campaign
MSN – Matt Stout and Andrea Estes (Boston Globe) | Published: 12/18/2020

House Speaker Robert DeLeo filed a much-anticipated ethics disclosure notifying officials he is in talks for a job with Northeastern University, potentially marking the beginning of the end of his tenure as the longest-serving House leader in Massachusetts history. According to his letter, DeLeo said he asked his personal attorney to contact the state’s Ethics Commission to “discuss my status and to ensure compliance” with the conflict-of-interest law. DeLeo wrote he is currently not required to file a disclosure but chose to “out of an abundance of caution.” DeLeo would be the first speaker since 1990 to step down on his own timetable and without the specter of either a criminal investigation or indictment.

Missouri Ethics Panel Rebukes St. Louis Lawmaker Accused of Having Sex with Intern
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 12/17/2020

Missouri Rep. Wiley Price IV faces censure after an investigation into whether he had sex with his legislative intern earlier this year. Price did not admit to having sex with the intern but was found to have attempted to cover up the incident and interfered in the House Ethics Committee probe into his behavior. The committee recommended the full House strongly admonish Price. That could include stripping him of his committee assignments and not allowing him to meet with the Democratic caucus. He also will be barred from having an intern in the future, and the report calls for Price to repay $22,494 to cover the cost of the investigation.

New Mexico Nonprofit Groups Test New Independent Expenditure Law to the Test
New Mexico Political Report – Brian Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 12/16/2020

New Mexico lawmakers passed campaign reporting requirements in 2019 to force nonprofit groups, which can spend money on campaigns without registering as political committees, to disclose their spending as well as the names, addresses, and contribution amounts of their donors who fund such independent expenditures. In 2020, two nonprofit groups immediately put the new law to the test by refusing to disclose donors despite enforcement efforts by both the secretary of state and the State Ethics Commission. The challenges by the nonprofit groups represent a key test for both the law itself and for the enforcing power of the ethics panel, which was also established in 2019.

New York Ex-Sen. Jeff Klein Seeks to Block Ethics Hearing on Sexual Harassment Allegations
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/21/2020

Former New York Sen. Jeffrey Klein has filed a petition in state Supreme Court seeking to block the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) from holding a hearing on whether he violated Public Officers Law when he allegedly forcibly kissed a female staff member outside an Albany bar five years ago. The petition alleges JCOPE exceeded its authority and abused its discretion when it rejected a hearing officer’s recommendation the case should be dismissed.

North Dakota Attorney General: North Dakota Ethics Commission can write lobbying definitions
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 12/23/2020

The North Dakota Ethics Commission can write rules defining “lobby” and “lobbyist” pertaining to gift restrictions, according to state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. He issued an opinion in response to the board’s request for clarification on its authority to expand on the definitions relating to gifts. Commissioners have encountered conflicting language in state law and the North Dakota Constitution as they have established the board and its rules.

Ohio Elections Commission Dings Rep. Nino Vitale Over Late Report, Delays More Serious Charges
MSN – Rick Rouan (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/17/2020

A state lawmaker who has backed an effort to impeach Gov. Mike DeWine, urged Ohioans not to get tested for the coronavirus, and was accused of using anti-Semitic language against former Health Director Dr. Amy Acton is now answering for alleged campaign finance violations. The Ohio Elections Commission found Rep. Nino Vitale violated the law by filing one of his reports after the deadline. The commission did not level any penalty or fine against Vitale for the late filing. The case included several other allegations, including that Vitale improperly used a campaign account to accept payment for a concealed carry class he taught. The remaining five counts in the case were set for a separate hearing to be scheduled later. Vitale appeared to suggest the complaint was tied to his support of articles of impeachment against DeWine.

Ohio Leader of Columbus Green-Energy Ballot Measure Indicted for False Campaign Finance Reports
MSN – Mark Ferenchick (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/16/2020

John Clark Jr., who led the initiative petition drive that would have diverted tens of millions of dollars of city of Columbus money toward vague green-energy initiatives, was indicted on felony charges of filing false campaign finance reports. The charges relate to false information provided on campaign finance reports filed with the city in 2019. The Franklin County prosecutor’s office said the false statements are related to the source and amount of contributions made to the ballot initiative. The 2019 initiative would have redirected $57 million dollars in city money to proposed green-energy initiatives by ProEnergy Ohio LLC, a limited partnership group Clark led.

Ohio Ohio Lawmakers Do Nothing on Scandal-Tainted House Bill
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/22/2020

After a federal bribery investigation ousted a former House leader, Ohio lawmakers did nothing to repeal or delay the $1 billion nuclear plant bailout at the heart of the alleged “pay-to-play” scheme. Caught between lawmakers who wanted to do more to curb the nuclear subsidies and those who wanted to bail out the plants, the Republican-controlled House could not cobble together the votes needed for a change. A judge relieved some of the pressure on lawmakers to act by blocking the fees from appearing on Ohioans’ electric bills in January. The fees subsidize two nuclear plants owned by Energy Harbor. Lawmakers will continue to work to find a definitive legislative solution next year, Speaker Bob Cupp said.

Oregon Staffers for Oregon Lawmakers Have Filed to Form a Union
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 12/16/2020

Legislative aides in Oregon want to be the first group of such employees in the country to form their own union. While unions often have a partisan tinge in the statehouse, staffers of lawmakers in both parties note changes in recent years they felt highlighted a need for better representation. One is a lengthy process that has sought to modify pay within the Capitol. One facet of that process, adopted earlier this year, was focused on ensuring staffers are paid equitably if they serve in similar roles. Another change is the Legislature’s ongoing revisions of Capitol policies for harassment and retaliation. The employees said a union would ensure their voices are present when lawmakers make such decisions.

South Carolina Richland Councilwoman Accused of Corruption as Prosecutor Criticizes County Spending
MSN – David Travis Bland, Bristow Marchant, and Sarah Ellis (The State) | Published: 12/18/2020

Richland County Council member Dalhi Myers used taxpayer money for personal travel to Greece and other places, a resort hotel stay in Nashville, and “premium chocolates” and other personal items, according to an indictment. The grand jury indicted Myers on 24 charges that include misconduct in office, use of official position for personal gain, embezzlement, writing a fraudulent check, and use of campaign funds for personal expenses. Most of the indictments allege she used county taxpayer money for personal use. If convicted on all charges, she could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

Tennessee In Earlier Meetings, Ford, Jr. Cast Votes in Favor of $450K Award Entangled in His Business
Memphis Commercial Appeal – Sarah Macaraeg | Published: 12/17/2020

Records show Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford, Jr. twice introduced and voted in favor of a $450,000 budget allocation to Junior Achievement, a nonprofit he later said he sold computers through his business, E&J Computer Services and Repair. The committee votes moved Ford’s grant resolution in front of the full Board of Commissioners with a favorable recommendation. Ford left the room of the final vote without making a disclosure, video shows, though he acknowledged he had had conflicts-of-interest in mind. The records of the earlier meetings show that Ford did not recuse himself at any stage.

Texas $1.7M for George Strait, Six-Figure Bonuses: Months later, a lawsuit forced Texas to release details on inaugural spending
Texas Tribune – Jay Root (Houston Chronicle) and Shannon Najmabadi | Published: 12/17/2020

Gov. Greg Abbott and the 2019 Texas Inaugural Committee spent months fighting the disclosure of documents detailing how they spent a record-setting $5.3 million that event organizers raised mostly from corporations and wealthy donors. But The Texas Tribune sued the committee and successfully obtained the bank statements and spending ledger in an out-of-court settlement. The result is the most detailed and complete account of inaugural spending in decades. Attorney Bill Aleshire, who represented The Tribune, said the legal fight he had to wage to get the records highlights the need for better transparency in state inaugurations, which accept corporate money but face little regulation over how it gets spent.

Texas Developer Sherman Roberts Indicted on Charges of Bribing Dwaine Caraway and Carolyn Davis
D Magazine – Matt Goodman | Published: 12/17/2020

Sherman Roberts, chief executive officer of City Wide Community Development Corporation, was indicted on bribery charges for his dealings with two former Dallas City Council members who, prosecutors claim, supported his tax-credit housing projects in exchange for money and promises of future payments. The indictment does not name the council members, but one appears to be the late Carolyn Davis, who was chair of the city’s Housing Committee at the time of one of the alleged bribes. The other alleged bribe recipient appears to be former Councilperson Dwaine Caraway, who is serving a 56-month sentence for accepting bribes for his vote on another contract.

Virginia In Richmond, the Case of the State Senator and the Judge Draws Attention to Lax Ethics Rules
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 12/18/2020

Virginia is one of two states where judges are selected by the Legislature, a practice that dates to the Colonial era. When Richmond General District Judge David Hicks appeared before a General Assembly committee seeking reappointment to the bench, he had an unusual connection to one of the lawmakers conducting the review. State Sen. Joseph Morrissey had just appeared in Hicks’s courtroom the week before as a defendant in a misdemeanor criminal case. With Hicks still presiding over Morrissey’s case, the interaction raised eyebrows. It casts a light on the way business is conducted around the Capitol and draws attention to Virginia conflict-of-interest rules that largely leave it up to public officials to self-police.

Washington DC While Incarcerated in the D.C. Jail, a Candidate Fights for an ANC Seat
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer | Published: 12/17/2020

Joel Caston has filled many roles during his 26 years of incarceration, from youth mentor to published author to financial literacy instructor for his fellow inmates. Now he is seeking a new job: elected official. Caston ran in November for a long-vacant seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, The District of Columbia’s most granular level of local government, with the goal of representing inmates at the city jail as the first person to hold the office while incarcerated. But his pursuit has been hampered by a paperwork error, and the Board of Elections says he would not be allowed to take office. Caston and his advocates outside the jail say they are not giving up on finding a solution.

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