February 24, 2023 •
News You Can Use Digest – February 24, 2023
DNyuz – Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 2/21/2023
Former President Trump spent roughly $10 million from his PAC, Save America, on his own legal fees last year. The money that went to Trump’s legal bills was part of more than $16 million that Save America spent for legal-related payments in 2021 and 2022. Some campaign finance experts are raising questions about whether, as an announced candidate for president, Trump can continue to use the PAC to pay for his personal legal bills.
DNyuz – Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 2/22/2023
Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have been subpoenaed by the special counsel to testify before a federal grand jury about Trump’s efforts to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election and his role in a pro-Trump mob’s attack on the Capitol. The decision by the special counsel, Jack Smith, to subpoena Ivanka Trump and Kushner underscores how deeply into the former president’s inner circle that Smith is reaching and is the latest sign no potential high-level witness is off limits.
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 2/19/2023
Former U.S. Rep. Rivera was ordered to pay a $456,000 civil penalty to the FEC after the agency showed he secretly financed the primary campaign of another candidate to “weaken” his likely 2012 general election opponent. Rivera has a motion pending before U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon asking her to declare the penalty enhancement provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act as unconstitutional. Cannon’s ruling in the case of missing classified documents found at Donald Trump’s residence was vacated on appeal and questions are likely to arise about her ability to impartially handle another politically charged case.
MSN – Meryl Kornfield and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 2/21/2023
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy provided exclusive access to a trove of U.S. Capitol surveillance footage from the insurrection to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has played down the deadly violence that occurred and claimed it was a “false flag” operation. The decision by McCarthy to provide the video to Carlson raised serious questions about whether the release of the footage would force U.S. Capitol Police to change the location of security cameras and why the speaker would give the material to a Fox News host who has peddled conspiracy theories about the attack and not share it with other news organizations.
MSN – Jonathan Edwards and Praveena Somasundaram (Washington Post) | Published: 2/17/2023
When it was revealed that U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton, a vice-presidential nominee in 1972, had been hospitalized three times for depression and undergone electroshock therapy, it derailed his chance to be on the Democratic ticket that year. Fifty years later, when U.S. Sen. John Fetterman’s office announced he had voluntarily sought treatment for clinical depression, the reaction was far different, signaling a shift in the way those holding public office talk about mental health.
MSN – Jonathan Shorman, Kevin Hardy, and Katie Bernard (Kansas City Star) | Published: 2/17/2023
Public officials in Missouri and Kansas have accepted more than $30,000 in football tickets from special interests to Kansas City Chiefs games and related gifts, like parking, since 2017 when the Patrick Mahomes era began, a period capped by the team’s Super Bowl victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Missouri voters in 2018 voted to ban most gifts to state lawmakers. But other public officials like mayors and city council members were not included, leaving lobbyists free to continue giving them tickets, meals, and other items.
MSN – Ian Duncan, Luz Lazo, and Michael Laris (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2023
Three months before one of his railroad’s trains derailed and burned in Ohio, Norfolk Southern chief executive Alan Shaw shared a picture of him and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg smiling together after a meeting in Washington. It was an opportunity for Norfolk Southern to raise concerns about a proposed federal rule that would require trains, in most cases, to have two crew members. Federal regulators have argued that two workers could better respond to derailments and other emergencies. Labor leaders say Norfolk Southern resists proposed regulation, opposing new safety standards while searching for loopholes through existing rules.
MSN – Jeremy Barr and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2023
Yahoo News – Jessica Piper (Politico) | Published: 2/22/2023
One of George Santos’s first acts as a candidate for Congress in 2019, according to his campaign finance filings, was making a series of four-figure contributions from his campaign to a pair of local Republican groups and former President Trump’s reelection committee. But according to those groups’ own filings, the contributions were never received and may not have been donated. The purported donations included $2,800 to Trump’s campaign that is not reflected in his campaign finance disclosures and would have exceeded contribution limits if it did happen as Santos’s campaign reported it.
MSN – Darren Major (CBC) | Published: 2/19/2023
Canada’s lobbying commissioner is proposing a new set of guidelines on how lobbyists should conduct themselves when engaging with public officials. Some critics say the changes would eviscerate the guidelines, while others say they go too far. The proposed changes would set monetary limits on what lobbyists should offer officials in the way of gifts and food. They would also reduce the period of time after a person leaves a politician’s employ when they are not supposed to lobby that politician.
From the States and Municipalities
KTOO – James Brooks (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 2/22/2023
The Alaska House voted to reprimand state Rep. David Eastman for speculating the state could financially benefit if child abuse victims died of their abuse. Eastman’s remarks, which he said were intended to criticize some arguments in favor of abortion rights, spread on social media, contributing to the public outcry. A censure has no consequences other than putting a formal statement of disapproval or reprimand on the record. But some lawmakers said their vote should be considered an action, not mere words.
MSN – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2023
An investigation found virtually all claims of error and malfeasance in Maricopa County, Arizona, in the 2020 election were unfounded, according to documents. Then-state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican who launched the probe, kept the findings private. He released an “Interim Report” claiming his office had discovered “serious vulnerabilities.” He left out edits from his own investigators refuting his assertions. The innuendo and inaccuracies, circulated not just in the far reaches of the internet but with the imprimatur of the state’s attorney general, helped make Arizona an epicenter of distrust in the democratic process.
Sierra Vista Herald Review – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/15/2023
The group that convinced voters last year to outlaw “dark money” in Arizona is asking a judge to block a bid by two special interest groups to keep the law from taking effect. In new legal filings, attorney Chanele Reyes told a Superior Court judge there is nothing unconstitutional about ensuring that voters know who is trying to influence elections. Approved by voters in November by a wide margin, Proposition 211 says any organization that spends more than $50,000 on a statewide race – half that for other contests – must publicly disclose anyone who has given at least $5,000.
CalMatters – Ben Christopher | Published: 2/8/2023
Of the 120 state lawmakers in California, twelve have current or former members in their immediate family. At least 10 percent of the Legislature has been related to at least one current or former state lawmaker since 2001. The ubiquity of political families can shape the culture at the Capitol. At best, it provides a way for institutional knowledge to pass from one generation to the next despite term limits. At worst, it can provide fodder for cynics who believe that political power is only available to those who know the right people.
Long Beach Post – Jason Ruiz | Published: 2/19/2023
The Long Beach Ethics Commission could propose dramatic changes to the city’s lobbying rules that would redefine who has to register their activities with the city, lower the threshold for when activity needs to be reported, and require politicians and other officials to self-report contacts with people advocating for policies or projects. The commissioners could formally refer them to the city council for approval at its March 8 meeting.
Los Angeles Daily News – Fred Shuster (City News Service) | Published: 2/21/2023
A former Los Angeles deputy mayor played a key role in a complex City Hall-based bribery scheme run by ex-city council member José Huizar designed to “get money, keep power, and avoid the feds,” a prosecutor told jurors in Raymond Chan’s trial on corruption charges. Chan is accused of being a member of what prosecutors dubbed the Council District 14 “enterprise,” a conspiracy which operated as a “pay-to-play” scheme in which Huizar, assisted by others, unlawfully used his office to give favorable treatment to real estate developers who financed and facilitated bribes and other illicit benefits.
San Jose Spotlight – Jane Kadah | Published: 2/17/2023
While working in the top offices of city government, Jim Reed helped raise six figures to elect San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan. Then he went to work for him. Many say that could be considered a conflict-of-interest. Some in are considering a call to demand Reed step down as Mahan’s chief of staff or at least be investigated by the city’s ethics commission. Government employees such as Reed cannot intermingle official resources with political campaigns, or use public resources including their time or city offices for lobbying or political activities.
Denver Gazette – Alex Andrews | Published: 2/15/2023
A Denver City Council member who relies on a wheelchair says he was humiliated after being forced to crawl onto a stage to take part in an election debate because the venue did not have a ramp. Hinds participates in the city’s Fair Election Fund program, in which candidates who agree to raise money in lower amounts get a matching disbursement from the city. The program requires candidates to participate in debates or forfeit the funding. Hind’s campaign said he stands to lose $125,000. “People often think that the [Americans with Disabilities Act] solved accessibility problems, but here is a stark reminder that serious issues still persist,” Hinds said.
MSN – Charlie Frago and Sue Carlton (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 2/22/2023
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s partner, lobbyist Ana Cruz, has helped run Florida campaigns for Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. On Twitter, she goes by Tampa’s 1st Lady. When Castor announced she would run for mayor, questions were raised about her connection to Cruz, who is a managing partner at Ballard Partners. The firm, which specializes in governmental and public affairs, has represented clients to the city of Tampa.
MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2023
An special grand jury investigating efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia concluded some witnesses may have lied under oath during their testimony and recommended charges be filed. But those witnesses were not identified in the excerpt of the grand jury report that was made public. The unsealed document offered no major clues about the grand jury’s other findings, although the panel noted it unanimously agreed that Georgia’s 2020 presidential vote had not been marred by “widespread fraud,” contrary to what Trump and many of his allies have claimed.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 2/21/2023
When Sen. Stanley Chang was elected to the Hawaii Senate in 2016 after serving for four years on the Honolulu City Council, he was surprised by the pace of the legislative session. The council’s schedule of weekly committee hearings and twice-monthly council meetings throughout the year “permitted time for deliberation, consultation with stakeholders and accessibility for the public,” Chang said. On the other hand, “[the Legislature is] just four months of chaos …,” he said. Chang introduced a bill that would eliminate the current 60-day limit on legislative sessions and require lawmakers to meet at least once monthly instead.
WBEZ – Nader Issa (Chicago Sun-Times), Sarah Karp, Tessa Weinberg, and Mariah Woelfel | Published: 2/21/2023
When news broke in January that Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reelection campaign had solicited help from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and City Colleges of Chicago educators to recruit student volunteers, the incumbent candidate apologized, calling the effort a “bad mistake” by one young staffer. But the campaign had for months been sending CPS and City Colleges staff thousands of other emails unrelated to the student volunteer solicitation, some from multiple campaign staffers. The emails ranged from generic fundraising appeals to invitations to private town halls and requests for help gathering petitions.
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 2/16/2023
A media investigation found nearly $2 million in state retirement checks sent to a mix of federally charged, convicted, and self-admitted felons who once served at the Illinois Legislature. In some cases, loved ones were the beneficiaries. All these cases won sign-off from an obscure state panel, often on the advice of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. His office found the criminal wrongdoing did not disqualify them from their pensions because it was not linked to their work as public officials. That is a legal standard Illinois pension boards rely on to decide who gets a pension.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 2/20/2023
The Chicago Board of Ethics determined there is probable cause to believe a candidate running in the February 28 election violated the ethics ordinance by using city property in their campaign advertisements. The candidate, who was not named, will have a chance to challenge the board’s determination in March. The board voted to give eight other candidates for city offices 10 days to refute allegations they also violated the city’s ethics law by using city property in their campaign ads.
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner and Joe Mahr (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/17/2023
An unsealed court document reveals for the first time that two top officials at a red-light camera company were caught on undercover FBI recordings talking about giving a suburban Chicago mayor campaign contributions and other perks at the same time their firm was pressuring the mayor to increase ticket revenue. The search warrant was part of an investigation into corruption surrounding cameras operated by SafeSpeed LLC, a probe that has netted charges against more than half a dozen public officials, businesspeople, and political operatives.
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 2/16/2023
New Indiana Secretary of State Diego Morales has hired his brother-in-law for a top position paying a six-figure salary, in a move that has drawn criticism as crossing an ethical line. Shawn Grady is now the co-director of the office’s Auto Dealer Services Division. Grady previously worked as a sales consultant at a car dealership and is married to Morales’ sister. While critics raised questions of nepotism, state law does not prohibit state employees from hiring brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law.
MSN – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 2/17/2023
Amid a Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission probe into activities of prominent legislators and state Republican Party officials, lawmakers are considering a massive overhaul of the agency that could limit its ability to conduct future investigations. The agency’s leader said the bill would make Kansas’ ethics laws among the weakest in the nation. House Bill 2391, which was debated in committee would end the agency’s subpoena power unless it has already established probable cause. Its consideration comes after revelations that subpoenas had been issued to prominent interest groups, Republican Party officials and lawmakers.
Yahoo News – Edward Murphy (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 2/16/2023
Maine Rep. Clinton Collamore Sr., who pleaded not guilty to charges he defrauded the state’s clean elections program, announced he is resigning from his seat. His attorney said Collamore filled in the signatures of donors to qualify for matching campaign funds from the state after he neglected to get them to sign, but he did not intend to defraud the program. Collamore also said he will return to the state the salary he has collected since being sworn into office and would reimburse the more than $14,000 in public campaign funding he received.
Maryland Matters – William Zorzi | Published: 2/16/2023
A former Baltimore County official was charged with stealing more than $140,000 from two campaign accounts, one for a former county councilmember and the other a slate controlled by a former county executive, while he served as their treasurer. William McCollum was charged with felony theft, embezzlement, and perjury. McCollum allegedly took money to pay his personal credit card bill and to travel with a “romantic partner” in Puerto Rico and for flights to Palm Beach.
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 2/22/2023
The Massachusetts Republican Party misreported hundreds of thousands of dollars to state campaign finance officials, and may owe vendors more than $600,000, a sum that would far eclipse what party officials had previously disclosed, according to a memo its new leader, Amy Carnevale, sent to party officials. Carnevale, who was recently elected to replace Jim Lyons as party chair, described a party that had fallen in fiscal disarray under her predecessor, telling Republican State Committee members in a letter she and others are trying “get our financial house in order.”
GNT News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 2/17/2023
A Michigan lobbyist rented a house across the street from the Capitol to six lawmakers, according to amended disclosures the lobbyist filed weeks after The Detroit News revealed a separate interest group had been former House Speaker Lee Chatfield’s landlord. In less than three months, two different rental arrangements involving lobbyists and seven lawmakers have come to light in Lansing, raising questions about the enforcement of the state’s lobbying requirements and the possibility of other deals between advocates and policymakers remaining hidden.
MSN – Emmanuel Felton (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2023
The Washington Post found Jackson, Mississippi, had the highest murder rate in the country. About a quarter of its residents live in poverty, among the highest rates for American cities with more than 100,000 residents. Local officials recently warned the periodic water outages residents have been suffering through for years could continue for another decade. Republicans are now pushing legislation they say is designed to provide needed resources by giving the state more control of an affluent part of the city. But leaders of this majority-Black city are calling it a power grab, rather than a helping hand.
Yahoo News – Kyle Morel (New Jersey Herald) | Published: 2/20/2023
The wife of Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty has been banned from practicing real estate for at least a year after accepting illegal campaign funds during her 2018 run for county office. Mary Dougherty, who eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of falsifying campaign records, will be subject to a two-year probationary period if she obtains another license, and her employer must notify the commission within 72 hours if there is reason to believe she violated the law again.
DNyuz – Jay Root (New York Times) | Published: 2/19/2023
Kiryas Joel, a village near New York City, is populated almost entirely by Hasidic Jews. The village’s unique public school system immediately drew concerns that a school district created for members of a single faith could never separate itself from their religious institutions. In 2009, state auditors found two of the school district’s board members voted to use tens of millions of tax dollars to lease a building from a private religious school organization they also helped run. Since then, the conflicts have grown, with millions in public education dollars continuing to flow into the same religious school organization and its affiliates.
Grand Forks Herald – Jeremy Turley (Forum News Service) | Published: 2/21/2023
The North Dakota House passed legislation that would require multicandidate committees to disclose how they spend their money. House Bill 1441 now moves to the Senate. Multicandidate committees must report their donor list, but they are not legally required to reveal which candidates they support or oppose. The majority of the groups registered under the designation are affiliated with a political party or a series of candidates, but the Dakota Leadership PAC, which derives nearly all of its funding from Gov. Doug Burgum, is a notable exception.
Yahoo News – Ben Felder (The Oklahoman) | Published: 2/22/2023
A pro-cockfighting organization has donated more than $70,000 to Oklahoma lawmakers in a push to decrease penalties for participating in the illegal sport, although the group does not report the source of its funds. The Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission, a PAC, has donated to dozens of state lawmakers. But because some individuals associated with the organization have been accused of fighting and breeding roosters for cockfighting, which is illegal, opponents of the sport say lawmakers should be skeptical about where the money is coming from.
OPB – Jonathan Levinson | Published: 2/17/2023
The city auditor in Portland has opened an investigation into ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection technology company, for possibly violating lobbying laws. Portland requires private companies to register as a lobbyist once they have spent a minimum of either $1,000 or eight hours on lobbying within a quarter. The law defines lobbying as “attempting to influence the official action of City Officials.” There are a number of exceptions, including the time it takes to submit a bid, respond to information requests, and negotiate the terms of a contract. Much of ShotSpotter’s activity over the past 15 months appears to fall outside those carveouts.
WHTM – George Stockburger | Published: 2/21/2023
State Rep. Joe Webster is proposing a new ethics package in the Pennsylvania House focused on campaign and lobbying reform. Webster said current state laws allow for unlimited donations for state and local candidates, the ability for lawmakers to accept gifts, and just a one year prohibition on former lawmakers becoming lobbyists. “Current ethics laws are riddled with loopholes, which leads to corruptive influences controlling our state government,” said Webster.
Yahoo News – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) | Published: 2/16/2023
Lobbyists for Parx Casino met privately with top officials at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board about unregulated slots-like machines called skill games that were a major competitor. Within weeks, the board shed its neutral stance and aligned with Parx and others in a court fight to declare skill games illegal. Emails and other documents provide a glimpse into the lobbying of public officials in Pennsylvania that the public rarely sees. State law requires lobbyists to disclose only a bare minimum of information about their activities. The emails raise questions about whether the Gaming Control Board should have disclosed the meeting to the public.
Texas Tribune – Patrick Svitek | Published: 2/16/2023
Former Texas Rep. Chris Paddie said he will stop lobbying after the state Ethics Commission cracked down on a “revolving-door” loophole in the lobbying law he was using, potentially exposing him to fines. The law says a former lawmaker cannot register to lobby until two years after they last used campaign funds to donate to another politician. Paddie sought to get around that earlier this year by reimbursing his campaign account with personal money to cover political donations that were implicated by the law.
DNyuz – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 2/22/2023
The Wisconsin Supreme Court primary election was a triumph for the state’s liberals. Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal Circuit Court judge in Milwaukee County, will face off against Daniel Kelly, a conservative former State Supreme Court justice who lost a 2020 election for his seat by nearly 11 percentage points. With an opportunity to retake a majority on the state Supreme Court that could undo Wisconsin’s ban on nearly all abortions and throw out the state’s gerrymandered legislative maps, Democrats have the general election matchup they wanted.
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