News You Can Use Digest - February 19, 2021 - State and Federal Communications

February 19, 2021  •  

News You Can Use Digest – February 19, 2021

National/Federal

A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back.
MSN – Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021

Conservative political donor Fred Eshelman gave $2 million to a nonprofit group in Texas that was seeking to expose voter fraud. Over the next two weeks, Eshelman came to regret his contribution and to doubt conspiracy theories of rampant illegal voting. Now, he wants his money back. The story behind the Eshelman contribution provides new insights into the frenetic days after the election, when baseless claims led donors to give hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse President Biden’s victory. Documents in Eshelman’s litigation, along with interviews, show how True the Vote’s private assurances it was on the cusp of revealing illegal election schemes repeatedly fizzled as the group’s focus shifted from one allegation to the next.

Adam Kinzinger’s Lonely Mission
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 2/15/2021

As the Republican Party censures, condemns, and seeks to purge leaders who are not in lock step with Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger stands as enemy number one – unwelcome not just in his party but also in his own family, some of whom recently disowned him. Kinzinger is at the forefront of the effort to navigate post-Trump politics. He is betting his political career, professional relationships, and kinship with a wing of his sprawling family that his party’s future lies in disavowing Trump and the conspiracy theories the former president stoked.

Biden’s New VA Chief Inherits Oversight Office from Trump Viewed as Abetting Corruption
MSN – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/17/2021

The Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) was created by former President Trump to root out waste and corruption in Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) top ranks. But to many in the department, the veterans community, and both parties in Congress, the unusual program created to stop corruption has only carried out more of it. Trump appointees cycled in and out of leadership roles, hiring unqualified friends, and producing substandard inquiries of senior leaders’ misconduct, the VA’s inspector general found. Two of three directors in four years had no investigative background. Instead of acknowledgment, whistleblowers faced reprisal.

Census Delays Could Squeeze Courts’ Review of House Maps
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 2/12/2021

States will not get the key data to draw new congressional and legislative maps until September, the Census Bureau said, setting up a race to draw new maps and fight over them in court before the 2022 midterms. The latest delay could make it difficult for states to redraw congressional district lines before next year’s elections and leave little time for the expected court fights to play out, experts said. The Census Bureau has run into problems with finalizing census data after the coronavirus pandemic and decisions by the Trump administration hampered last year’s count.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Resigns Amid Fallout from Contentious Phone Call with Reporter
MSN – Ashley Parker and Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2021

Deputy White House press secretary TJ Ducklo resigned amid fallout from a contentious phone call in which he berated and threatened a female reporter who was working on a story about a potential conflict-of-interest stemming from his personal life. After details from the phone call emerged in news reports, the White House found itself grappling with its first major test of President Biden’s promise to take seriously claims of abusive language and behavior, as well as to drastically shift the tone and culture of government after former President Trump.

Eroding Trust, Spreading Fear: The historical ties between pandemics and extremism
MSN – Marc Fisher (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021

Since ancient times, pandemics have spurred sharp turns in political beliefs, spawning extremist movements, waves of mistrust, and wholesale rejection of authorities. Nearly a year into the coronavirus crisis, Americans are falling prey to the same phenomenon, historians, theologians, and other experts say. New insecurities and fears loosed by the pandemic fed into an existing erosion of trust in leaders and institutions, according to those who have studied how people react to rampant, uncontrolled disease. Some of these insecurities predated the pandemic: many of those arrested in the Capitol riot owned businesses or worked white-collar jobs. But many got involved in politics only after virus-related shutdowns hit their personal finances.

House Homeland Security Chairman Sues Trump and Giuliani, Accusing Them of Inciting Capitol Riot
MSN – Spener Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2021

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairperson of the House Homeland Security Committee filed a federal lawsuit accusing former President Trump, attorney Rudolph Giuliani, and two extremist groups whose members have been charged in the January 6 storming of the Capitol with illegally conspiring to intimidate and block Congress’s certification of the 2020 election. Thompson alleged Trump and Giuliani’s false claims the election was stolen fomented a raid that violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 law enacted after the Civil War to bar violent interference in Congress’s constitutional duties.

Lincoln Project Co-Founder Reed Galen Ran Little Known Dark Money Group as Super PAC’s Dealings Face Scrutiny
CNBC – Brian Scwartz | Published: 2/16/2021

As co-founders of the Lincoln Project were making millions of dollars from a super PAC they ran, one of them, Reed Galen, launched a “dark money” organization that may have enriched him and his allies even further. The group, Project Yellowstone, says it is a 501(c)(4) that was created to educate voters on how to vote in person or by mail in the 2020 presidential election campaign. Documents show the Lincoln Project and Project Yellowstone were directly linked. Although this partnership is not illegal, the arrangement could have allowed behind the scenes payments to firms with ties to the super PAC’s leadership or other vendors that often did work with the Lincoln Project.

Loneliest Class in Congress Wonders How to Make Friends
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 2/10/2021

An axiom that rings true on Capitol Hill is that it is all about who you know, even right now. This might just be the loneliest Congress in memory, but Congress is still about relationships. As roughly five dozen new lawmakers enter their second month in office and try to settle into the House, they are asking what it means for the future. Untangling the mess of their early months in Congress will be an ongoing task for freshman lawmakers, as they figure out what is new because of the pandemic, what is new because of the insurrection, and what is not new at all but just part of the same old partisan in Washington.

Now Out of Office, Trump May Have to Face Tax Questions
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell, David Fahrenthold, and Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2021

When former President Trump returns to his business, he will face some challenges, such as declining real estate income and investigations from New York authorities. But he may also have to finally face two tax issues that have been simmering in the background, either of which experts say could carry significant consequences should they materialize now that he is out of office. Experts say legal and administrative authorities are more likely to address Trump’s tax issues now that he is a private citizen, even as Biden administration officials debate how much to hold Trump accountable for past actions while also trying to move the country forward.

Trump Acquitted on Impeachment Charge of Inciting Deadly Attack on the Capitol
MSN – Amy Gardner, Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2021

Former President Trump was acquitted of inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol, becoming the first president in U.S. history to face a second impeachment trial, and surviving it in part because of his continuing hold on the Republican Party despite his electoral defeat in November. That grip appeared to loosen slightly during the vote, when seven Republicans crossed party lines to vote for conviction – a sign of the rift the Capitol siege has caused within GOP ranks and the desire by some in the party to move on from Trump. Still, the vote, in which all Democrats and two independents voted against Trump, fell far short of the two-thirds required to convict.

Trump Left Behind a Clemency Mess. The Clock’s Ticking for Biden to Solve It.
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 2/11/2021

When Joe Biden took office, he inherited the largest backlog of unresolved clemency cases in U.S. history: 14,000 people waiting to find out if their convictions would be erased or sentences reduced, or if they would get any answer at all. Many of those have languished in the system for years after former President Trump largely bypassed the century-old process for reviewing cases and instead granted pardons based on advice from politically connected friends, lobbyists, and television celebrities. Biden’s White House counsel’s office has started to reach out to attorneys and advocates for suggestions on reforms, what could be done about the backlog, and mistakes they believe were made in previous administrations.

Canada

Canada Democracy Watch Asks Ontario Court to Stop ‘Biased’ Watchdog from Letting PC Insiders Lobby
HuffPost – Emma Paling | Published: 2/10/2021

Advocacy group Democracy Watch is asking a court to overturn three decisions by Ontario Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, arguing he allows unethical lobbying by connections to Premier Doug Ford and his ministers. The commissioner’s annual reports, which describe his decisions, do not name the lobbyists or politicians he has investigated for breaking the rules. But the decisions being challenged were all issued in 2019 and 2020, meaning they apply to members of the Provincial Parliament elected when Ford’s Progressive Conservatives took power in 2018.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Panel Votes to Boost Unlawful Protest Penalties
Associated Press News – Jonathan Cooper | Published: 2/16/2021

Arizona lawmakers are considering boosting penalties for people arrested at protests, drawing opposition from civil rights groups worried that officers will target Black Lives Matter demonstrators or others with messages police find distasteful. A measure approved by a House committee is among several bills advancing in the Republican-controlled Legislature in the wake of demonstrations against police brutality last year. Critics say the measures would be selectively enforced by overzealous police and prosecutors and would discourage people from exercising their First Amendment right to protest.

Arizona Ethics Chair Dismisses 82 Complaints vs. Finchem, Won’t Investigate His Capitol Rally Role
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/12/2021

The head of the House Ethics Committee is dismissing all 82 complaints against Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem. Rep. Becky Nutt said none of the allegations against Finchem back up the contention he “supported the violent overthrow of our government” or he directly participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Finchem was at the rally, and he posted a photo on Twitter taken once the mob had reached the Capitol, Rep. César Chávez said in his complaint. But there is no evidence he entered the building and that became a crucial point in the decision to dismiss the case without demanding a response from Finchem and without investigating further, Nutt said.

California L.A. Ethics Commission Issues Five Fines for Failure to Register as Lobbyists
MyNewsLA.com – Staff | Published: 2/16/2021

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission issued five fines totaling $162,500 to companies and people who failed to register as lobbyists. Velada Consulting and its owner David Vela were fined $7,500 after admitting they failed to register as lobbying entities in 2020 and failed to file a disclosure report for 2020’s second quarter. The four other fines were issued for Craig Fry & Associates and three of its employees.

California San Francisco Contractor Gets 1 Year in Prison for Bribery
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 2/11/2021

Businessperson Florence Kong was sentenced to one year in prison for bribing a San Francisco official, marking the first criminal penalty handed down in a City Hall corruption probe. Kong pleaded guilty to giving $95,000 and a gold Rolex watch to former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru in exchange for help obtaining lucrative business from the city. Prosecutors said that in addition to the watch, Kong plied Nuru with expensive meals, an envelope of cash for his daughter at her graduation party, and work on his vacation home.

Colorado The Colorado Capitol’s Hallways Are Where Dealmaking Happens. Coronavirus Has Emptied Them.
Colorado Sun – Jessie Paul and Thy Vo | Published: 2/17/2021

Lawmakers, legislative staff, and journalists in Colorado were granted access to COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the resumption of the legislative session. Lobbyists were not. As a result, many of them are trying to limit their time in the once-bustling statehouse, even if there is nothing stopping them from being in the building. That means informal conversations and meetings, where a lot of important policies get ironed out, will likely happen infrequently this year. State lawmakers are aware of the access problems lobbyists and members of the public will have, but they are mostly brushing off the concerns and chalking them up to the myriad of changes people have had to endure during the pandemic.

Florida State Finds No Sunshine Law Violations in Orlando Airport Probe but Details Behind-the-Scenes Maneuvering
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia and Kevin Spear | Published: 2/12/2021

A 16-month probe into a failed attempt to hand out no-bid contracts at Orlando International Airport found no laws were broken but revealed how a lobbyist and airport leaders worked behind the scenes to back a deal that ultimately erupted in controversy. Investigators found three of the seven members on the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s governing board met separately with lobbyist Chris Dorworth in the days leading up to an August 2019 board meeting to discuss an unadvertised plan to steer important legal contracts to a pair of local attorneys. But investigators said there was no evidence any those board members communicated directly with each other or instructed Dorworth to do so on their behalf.

Florida Voting by Mail in Florida Was a Success, So Why Do Legislators Want to Make It Harder?
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/16/2021

Senate Republicans agreed Florida’s vote-by-mail process worked smoothly in the last election cycle but still needed a change. After a record 4.8 million Floridians voted by mail in November, the Ethics and Elections Committee approved Senate Bill 90 along party lines to limit vote-by-mail applications to one election cycle and require everyone who signed up for mail ballots in 2020 to reapply to get them in 2022. Current law allows voters who ask for a mail-in ballot to have their request remain current for two general election cycles unless they opt out.

Georgia Graham’s Post-Election Call with Raffensperger Will Be Scrutinized in Georgia Probe, Person Familiar with Inquiry Says
MSN – Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/12/2021

An Atlanta-area prosecutor plans to scrutinize a post-Election Day phone call between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as part of a criminal investigation into whether former President Trump or his allies broke the law while trying to reverse his defeat in the state, according to a person familiar with the probe. During their conversation, Graham asked the secretary of state whether he had the power to toss out all mail ballots in certain counties, Raffensperger said. He said Graham appeared to be asking him to improperly find a way to set aside legally cast ballots. Graham denied that, saying he was seeking information to better understand how the state verified mail ballots.

Indiana More Vinyl Villages? Lawmaker Who Builds Homes Pushes Bill to Eliminate Housing Standards
South Bend Tribune – Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 2/11/2021

An Indiana lawmaker who builds homes is the sole author on a bill to ban community architecture design requirements, a proposal that could save him and others in his profession thousands of dollars. Ethics experts say Rep. Doug Miller’s involvement in the bill is inappropriate because of his ownership of development company Tailor Made Homes and his role on the board of directors for the National Association of Homebuilders. He also chairs the House committee that passed the legislation, giving him control of that process.

Maryland Former State Investigator Questions Payment from Marilyn Mosby Election Committee to Her Private Lawyers
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 2/16/2021

The former political-corruption investigator for Maryland asked the state prosecutor to investigate a $3,250 payment made by the election campaign of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to her personal lawyers. In an email to the state prosecutor, James Cabezas wrote that the payment is not allowed under the law. The payment went to the law firm of Kramon & Graham. Andrew Graham is one of the top attorneys in Maryland for lawyers and judges facing ethical or legal issues. Mosby hired the firm as her personal lawyers to represent her during a seven-month investigation by the city inspector general into her travel, gifts, and businesses.

Montana Gianforte Repeals Directives Made by Former Governor
Associated Press News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 2/12/2021

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte repealed two executive orders issued by former Gov. Steve Bullock. One required companies to report political spending if they wanted to bid on large state contracts and the second allowed counties to decide if they wanted to hold the November 2020 general election mostly by mail. Bullock’s political spending order required companies bidding for certain state contracts to disclose political donations made within 60 days of an election. Opponents argued it violated companies’ First Amendment rights and raised the possibility that a company’s donations could lead to retaliation.

Nevada Group of Conservative Activists Sue State, Legislature Over Closure of Legislative Building to Lobbyists
Nevada Independent – Riley Snyder and Michelle Rindells | Published: 2/17/2021

Four lobbyists in Nevada are suing the governor, a top lawmaker, and legislative staff, arguing they are suffering irreparable harm from coronavirus-prevention rules that have kept the legislative session largely virtual and bar lobbyists from entering the Legislative Building. The lawsuit seeks a court-ordered injunction to “immediately allow plaintiffs access to the State Capital to engage in lobbying activities,” saying emergency orders limiting public access to the Legislature violate their constitutional rights to petition the government and free speech. They also argue Nevada is no longer experiencing a bona fide emergency to justify the restrictions.

New Jersey Cash in a Paper Bag: North Jersey pols indicted in ‘old-school political corruption’ case
MSN – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 2/16/2021

Four New Jersey politicians hit with bribery charges in 2019 have been indicted by a state grand jury as part of alleged schemes to take tens of thousands of dollars in bribes masked as campaign contributions – in one case a paper bag filled with cash. The defendants are accused of promising a tax attorney they would vote to award his firm public contracts in exchange for the illegal contributions. The tax attorney was a cooperating witness working for state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office. “The conduct alleged in these indictments is old-school political corruption at its worst, the kind that erodes public faith in government …,” Grewal said.

New Jersey Former Middlesex Mayor Sentenced for Stealing, Laundering $275K in Campaign, Charity Funds
MSN – Suzanne Russell (MyCentralJersey.com) | Published: 2/16/2021

Former Middlesex Borough Mayor Ronald DiMura was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing more than $275,000 from local political campaigns, investors, and a charity. DiMura, who resigned after his indictment, is permanently barred from public office and public employment in New Jersey. He also must pay $83,372 in restitution and must forfeit $163,582, the remainder of the funds he stole.

New Mexico Dark Money Group Pushing PRC Reform Tied to Major Oil Company
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 2/12/2021

Exxon Mobil contributed to a “dark-money” group that supported a successful November referendum reforming New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission, according to a campaign finance report filed by one of its lobbyists. One of the state’s largest energy producers, the multinational gave at least $10,000 to the Committee to Protect New Mexico Consumers, a nonprofit that spent $250,000 touting the merits of a constitutional amendment, which eventually passed handily. The contribution can be found in an October 7 report filed by lobbyist Deanna Archuleta. The “dark money” campaign and lobbyist involvement illustrate the challenges faced by the public in knowing what special interests stand to gain from elections or their role in creating public policy or ballot measures.

New Mexico Settlement Reveals New Mexico Utility Funded Political Group
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/13/2021

The parent firm of the largest utility in New Mexico funded a group that spent more than $130,000 on political advertisements in highly contested Democratic legislative primary election races last year. PNM Resources, the parent firm of Public Service Company of New Mexico, financed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico. The disclosure was made public as part of a settlement agreement that involved the New Mexico Ethics Commission agreeing to drop a lawsuit. The commission also agreed to waive any civil penalties against the group and will not require it to register as a political committee.

New York Coverup Claims Engulf Cuomo as Scandal Over Nursing Home Deaths Grows
Politico – Shannon Young and Anna Gronewold | Published: 2/12/2021

When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide told Democratic lawmakers why the administration slow-walked information on nursing home deaths in the state, she appeared to be trying to dispel smoldering rumors of a cover-up. Instead, Melissa DeRosa, threw gasoline on a fire that had enveloped Cuomo’s legacy of effective leadership during the Covid-19 crisis. DeRosa told legislators the administration “froze” after the U.S. Justice Department made an inquiry into Cuomo’s management of nursing homes. She said state officials refrained from releasing the data because of worry then-President Trump was trying to turn the tragedy “into a giant political football.”

New York New York Ethics Panel Chair Steps Down, Replaced by Ex-Cuomo Aide
New York Post – Bernadette Hogan | Published: 2/10/2021

Michael Rosen, chairperson of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) stepped down and is slated to be replaced by attorney Camille Joseph Varlack, another former staffer to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. JCOPE itself has come under fire in recent years, accused of a lack of transparency. The panel was set up in 2011 as an independent check on state officials and lobbying activities. Appointees are made by the governor and the Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, but committee discussions are bound by state ethics law to remain private.

North Dakota Once Again, N.D. Lawmakers Ponder the Benefits, Costs of Annual Sessions
MSN – Brayden Zencker (Devil’s Lake Journal) | Published: 2/11/2021

North Dakota Sen. Brad Bekkedahl is lead sponsor of Senate Bill 2218, which would allow for annual legislative sessions. It would not change how sessions are conducted now during odd-numbered years, but Bekkedahl proposes adding a short session in even-numbered years. Legislative Management, a bipartisan committee, would decide the timing and duration of sessions during even-numbered years. North Dakota is one of just four states that still conduct legislative sessions every two years.

Ohio Cincinnati City Hall Corruption: Voters will get a say on two charter amendments this May
MSN – Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 2/10/2021

After three Cincinnati City Council members were indicted on federal bribery charges this past year, one thing became clear: there was no provision in the city charter to remove a council member charged with a felony. Cincinnati voters will get a chance to change that on May 4. The council voted to put two charter amendments on the ballot that would offer different avenues for suspending or removing council members who are indicted for crimes.

Ohio Federal Judge Ignores Prison Recommendations in Convention Center Bribery Scandal Sentence
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 2/16/2021

A man who participated in a bribery scheme with former Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority board member John Raphael over a multi-million-dollar food vendor contract was sentenced to six months home confinement, community service, and probation for the next four years. Rodney Myers, who had pleaded guilty to federal programs bribery in November 2019, was facing federal sentencing guidelines that called for up to two years in prison for his role in steering the food service contract at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Raphael is facing 20 years for his part in the same bribery scheme after pleading guilty.

South Carolina Accountability Suffers as Newspaper Closures Grow in SC, Nation
Times and Democrat – Glenn Smith and Tony Bartelme (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 2/15/2021

Seven newspapers in South Carolina closed their doors in the past year, joining more than 60 that shuttered across the nation as the coronavirus hit an industry already battered by shrinking revenue and job cuts. This exacerbated a trend that has created so-called news deserts in hundreds of communities, depriving them of vital government watchdogs. Without that scrutiny, corruption can blossom. The Charleston Post and Courier examined 100 South Carolina misconduct cases in which criminal charges were filed since 2015. Roughly 75 percent involved public officials and employees accused of betraying the rural community in which they worked.

South Carolina NextEra Didn’t Share Santee Cooper Lobbying Efforts. SC Senators Look to Require It
The State – Joseph Bestos | Published: 2/11/2021

A group of South Carolina senators want to force Florida-based utility NextEra to provide information about its lobbying efforts to buy Santee Cooper. The Senate Judiciary Committee pushed forward a resolution to require NextEra to disclose communications it had with lawmakers and officials since July 31, 2017, when state-owned Santee Cooper and SCE&G abandoned efforts to build two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina. The failure of the project led the state to debate whether to sell or reform Santee Cooper.

South Carolina Prosecutor Pascoe’s Saga of Exposing Public Corruption in Legislature Comes to End
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 2/16/2021

After more than six years of winning convictions against South Carolina politicians on public corruption charges, special prosecutor David Pascoe is turning his three remaining unfinished cases over to state Attorney General Alan Wilson. “Procedural confusion” created by a recent state Supreme Court decision that overturned one of his convictions was a major reason for halting what has been an ongoing house-cleaning of corrupt General Assembly lawmakers, according to a letter sent by Pascoe to the attorney general. But the high court also ruled Pascoe’s winning a conviction on perjury charges of former Rep. Jim Harrison was lawful. Harrison will be the first state lawmaker in decades to serve a prison sentence on corruption-related charges.

South Dakota South Dakota Gov. Noem Defends ‘Dark Money’ Push as Privacy Protection
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 2/12/2021

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defended her push to shield donor information of nonprofit organizations that influence public policy, including one group that was connected to her campaign. The governor said the legislation was intended to protect the privacy rights of donors who wish to anonymously contribute to charities. Although she insisted it “does absolutely nothing on campaign finance,” critics said it would further the use of so-called dark money. One bill would bar state officials from requiring nonprofit groups, including those that work to influence policy, to disclose information on donors. A second bill would further protect donor privacy, allowing them to sue if their information were made public.

Tennessee New Audit Raises More Questions About Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Spending
WTVF – Jennifer Kraus | Published: 2/10/2021

A new audit raises even more questions about how Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron spent his campaign money. The latest audit ordered by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance looked at Ketron’s spending in 2018 and early 2019 from his campaign account during his successful run for mayor. This comes after state auditors found nearly $250,000 missing from two other campaign accounts belonging to Ketron. One was his senate campaign account and the other was for the PAC he ran while in the state Senate. Like the latest audit, the two previous investigations found reported payments that never actually happened as well as overstated expenses and dozens of expenditures with no receipts or invoices.

Virginia Special Prosecutor Looking into Virginia Beach’s Former Lobbyist Who Lined Up a Job to Work for City Contractor
MSN – Alyssa Skelton (The Virginian-Pilot) | Published: 2/11/2021

Bob Matthias retired from the city of Virginia Beach on January 1 after serving as assistant to the city manager. In that role, Matthias oversaw the awarding of a lobbying contract to Principle Advantage Government Relations Group while also negotiating a potential job with the company. An ordinance requires departing city employees wait one year before working for a company that receives city contracts associated with the employees’ previous job duties. State law prohibits employees involved in the procurement process from negotiating or securing prospective employment with the contractor.

Washington Eyman Fined $2.6 Million, Barred from Campaign Control
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 2/10/2021

A Thurston County judge found longtime anti-tax activist Tim Eyman violated campaign finance laws and fined him $2.6 million. The judge also ruled Eyman, who has led initiative campaigns across Washington for decades, will no longer be allowed to have any financial control over political committees. Eyman was charged with laundering political contributions to enrich himself; accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm; secretly shuttling money between initiative campaigns; and concealing the source of other campaign donations. “Mr. Eyman’s violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act are numerous and particularly egregious and were ‘intentional’ as that term is defined by law,” wrote Judge James Dixon.

Wisconsin Steven DeVougas Resignation Brings End to Milwaukee Ethics Board Investigation of Him
MSN – Alison Dirr (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/17/2021

The recent resignation of Steven DeVougas from the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission also ended the ongoing city Ethics Board investigation into allegations over his ties to a prominent real estate developer.  DeVougas resigned from the powerful civilian oversight panel following more than a year of controversy since it was reported he accompanied the developer, his corporate client, to an August 2019 police interview of the developer regarding a sexual assault allegation against him. The case remains open and under review at the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office.

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