February 26, 2021 •
News You Can Use Digest – February 26, 2021
Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack
Washington Post – Tory Newmyer | Published: 2/23/2021
The insurrection at the Capitol continues to reverberate for major corporations that make campaign contributions. Dozens of companies have frozen their giving – either across the board or limited to the 147 Republican lawmakers who opposed certifying President Biden’s electoral victory – and pledged to rethink how they participate in the process. But some left-leaning investors and clients are concerned corporate interests are simply waiting for the dust to settle before resuming contributions to Republicans, despite those lawmakers also championing positions on environmental and social matters the companies say they oppose. So, they are leveraging their commercial relationships with the companies to try to force them to act. JPMorgan’s resistance to the activist push typifies the corporate response so far.
Bloomberg’s 2020 Aides Got an Unwelcome Surprise in Their Tax Forms
Politico – Christopher Cadelago | Published: 2/23/2021
Nearly a year after Michael Bloomberg’s $1 billion presidential campaign ended, his staff members are still dealing with the aftershocks. Aides to the former Democratic candidate started receiving tax forms recently that in some cases list incomes that are tens of thousands of dollars more than they were compensated in salary. The added amounts account for paid housing and other benefits they received last year, but the price tag is coming to many as a surprise. Bloomberg representatives have assured some aides the additional taxes they now owe the government were taken care of by the campaign. A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said the aides were paid more during the campaign to account for the higher tax burden, though not all the ex-aides said they were aware of the arrangement at the time.
Cruz Returns from Cancun Amid Texas Crisis
Politico – Andrew Desiderio and Marianne Levine | Published: 2/18/2021
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was already treading on rough political terrain but then boarded a flight to Cancun during a natural disaster. The Texas Republican, condemned by opponents for objecting to November’s presidential election results even after rioters besieged the Capitol, fled his frozen home state for the Mexican resort city while Texans reeled from winter storms that have left millions without electricity and running water. Cruz took hours to acknowledge his trip as critics accused him of political malpractice at best and all-out negligence at worst.
Dominion Files Defamation Lawsuit Against MyPillow CEO Over False Claims Voting Machines Were Rigged Against Trump
Anchorage Daily News – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2021
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against MyPillow Chief Executive Officer Mike Lindell, accusing him of seeking to boost pillow sales by promoting false claims that Dominion’s voting machines were manipulated to rig the 2020 election against then-President Trump. In interviews and other public appearances, the lawsuit says, Lindell repeatedly spread those claims while viewers were urged to buy his products. His company has offered discounts to customers who use the promo codes “QAnon” and “FightforTrump,” according to the lawsuit.
Election Officials Defended the 2020 Vote. In 2022, They’ll Have to Defend Themselves.
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 2/23/2021
Campaigns for secretary of state are becoming the next major arena of nationwide political combat. Sitting secretaries and political groups are preparing for a flood of candidates, money, and attention into campaigns for the newly prominent positions in 2022. Voting rules have become a bigger cause for both political parties, while coronavirus-fueled election changes combined with Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories to turn secretaries of state into pivotal characters in last year’s presidential election. Twenty-six states will have secretary of state elections next year, including five of the 10 closest states in the 2020 presidential election.
Former Congressman Rivera Fined $456,000 for Propping Up a Ringer Candidate
Yahoo News – Alex Daugherty (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/23/2021
Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera was ordered to pay $456,000 to the FEC, which had sued him for secretly providing funds to a primary challenger of his eventual Democratic opponent in the 2012 election. The FEC accused Rivera of initiating the scheme when he directed an associate, Ana Sol Alliegro, to offer Justin Sternad, one of Garcia’s three primary challengers, financial support for his campaign. Sternad accepted the offer, and Alliegro spent the next few months transmitting funds to Sternad. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke described Rivera’s actions as “egregious,” adding that there was a chance his conduct would continue, noting he continued to run for office after the scheme.
Impeachment Is Over. But Other Efforts to Reckon with Trump’s Post-Election Chaos Have Just Begun.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 2/21/2021
Although Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on a charge his rhetoric incited the Capitol siege, public officials and private companies are pursuing a multi-front legal effort to hold him and his allies accountable in other ways. The actions target the former president and numerous others who indulged and echoed his falsehoods that President Biden did not win the election. The goal, according to those supportive of such efforts, is to mete out some form of punishment for those who helped undermine confidence in the election results and fueled the attack on the Capitol. They also hope to discourage other public officials from rerunning Trump’s strategy of attempting to overturn an election result by sowing doubt about the legitimacy of the vote.
Judges Order 2-Month Delay in Case to Compel McGahn Testimony to House
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 2/18/2021
The House’s effort to compel testimony from former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn will be delayed two months, a federal appeals court ordered, adopting a proposal by the Biden administration. The order makes it increasingly likely that a full two years will elapse without enforcement of the House’s April 2019 subpoena of McGahn to obtain his testimony about alleged efforts by former President Trump to obstruct special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The case has become a poster child of sorts for the courts’ inability to resolve congressional subpoena fights on a timeline that allows Congress to make practical use of the information.
K Street Eyes a Return of Earmarks to Boost Business
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 2/23/2021
Congressional earmarks practically built the modern lobbying business. And though the influence sector has endured a decade without them, the likely return of member-directed federal spending has sent cautious jubilation down K Street. With earmarks poised for a likely comeback during this Congress, lobbyists are eyeing new business opportunities. But they are not expecting it to be a return to K Street’s high-flying days, when lobbyists built empires out of the business of securing earmarks for clients. Lawmakers, if they do bring back the practice, are likely only to allow the federal dollars to go to nonprofit organizations and local governments. Still, lobbyists say even limited earmarks for nonprofits could spur new public-private partnerships, with businesses queuing up to collaborate on future projects.
Lauren Boebert’s Campaign Amends Reimbursement Report That Raised Red Flags
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 2/23/2021
U.S. Rep. Laura Boebert’s campaign acknowledged a prior campaign finance report, which raised ethical red flags and led to requests for an investigation, was inaccurate. Still, the campaign defended a large payment to Boebert. Media reports showed Boebert was paid more than $22,000 in mileage reimbursements from her campaign account, an unusually large amount that several ethics experts said raised questions. The amended report reiterating that Boebert received $21,200, but claiming it was a reimbursement for mileage, travel expenses, and hotel stays. Mileage accounted for $17,280 of the reimbursements, the campaign says.
‘Mercenary’ Donor Gets 12 Years in Campaign Finance Scheme
Associated Press News – Brian Melley, Alan Suderman, and Jim Mustain | Published: 2/18/2021
A once high-flying political fundraiser who prosecutors said gave illegal campaign contributions to Joe Biden, Lindsey Graham, and a host of other U.S. politicians was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Imaad Zuberi, who was accused of ingratiating himself with politicians in both major parties and peddling the resulting influence to foreign governments, pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and failing to register as a foreign agent. He also was ordered to pay nearly $16 million in restitution and a nearly $2 million fine. Federal prosecutors described Zuberi as a “mercenary” political donor who gave to anyone he thought could help him. Pay to play, he explained to clients, was just “how America works.”
State GOP Lawmakers Propose Flurry of Voting Restrictions to Placate Trump Supporters, Spurring Fears of a Backlash
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/19/2021
Republican state lawmakers across the country have proposed a flurry of voting restrictions they say are needed to restore confidence in U.S. elections, an effort intended to placate supporters of former President Trump who believe his false claims the 2020 outcome was rigged. But the effort is dividing Republicans, some of whom are warning it will tar the GOP as the party of voter suppression and give Democrats ammunition to mobilize their supporters ahead of the 2022 midterms.
Supreme Court Ends Trump’s Bid to Shield His Tax Returns and Effort to Challenge Election Losses
Seattle Times – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2021
Former President Trump received a dual defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court, a body he transformed with his appointments and one he had long hoped would be a last line of defense in his battles with Congress and Democrats. The court refused Trump’s last-chance efforts to shield his private financial records from Manhattan’s district attorney in one case and tossed out a slew of challenges to the presidential election and his loss to Joe Biden. Now, Trump faces unprecedented legal peril for a former president. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s criminal investigation of his business dealings in New York will accelerate and broaden and Trump faces scrutiny in Georgia for his efforts to subvert the election results there.
This Congress Is the Most Diverse Ever. But Hill Staffers Remain Overwhelmingly White.
Politico – Maya King | Published: 2/23/2021
The 117th Congress is the most diverse ever, with the largest representation of racial and ethnic groups in history, a 97 percent increase over the last 10 Congresses. But among Capitol Hill staff, the people who really run Congress on a working level. There is a dearth of diversity. Despite efforts to diversify over the last several years, the racial makeup of House and Senate staffs do not align with their districts and voting bases. Among top-level staffers, the lack of diversity is most striking: there is only one Black chief of staff in the Senate and only four Latinos. If staffers do not represent the communities they are meant to serve, advocates say, it undermines lawmakers’ attempts to solve the issues unique to those communities.
U.S. Investigating Possible Ties Between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol Rioters
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2021
The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating whether high-profile right-wing figures, including Roger Stone and Alex Jones, may have played a role in the Capitol breach as part of a broader look into the mind-set of those who committed violence and their apparent paths to radicalization, according to people familiar with the investigation. Officials at this stage said they are principally seeking to understand what the rioters were thinking, and who may have influenced beliefs, which could be critical to showing their intentions at trial. Investigators also want to determine whether anyone who influenced them bears enough responsibility to justify potential criminal charges.
Why State Legislatures Are Still Very White – and Very Male
Politico – Renuka Rayasam, Nolan McCaskill, Beatrice Jin, and Allan James Vestal | Published: 2/22/2021
State Legislatures around the country have made little progress in diversifying their ranks during the last decade, with many states losing ground in boosting the representation of people of color and white women. Even as the share of nonwhite Americans has grown, an analysis finds most state Legislatures are lacking in diversity, with nearly every state failing to achieve racial and gender parity with their own population data. Despite efforts to diversify politics, progress in statehouses remains slow and halting. That is in contrast to the U.S. House, where historically underrepresented groups, including women and people of color, are serving in record numbers.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Former Birmingham Water Works Contractors Plead Guilty to Felony Ethics Charges
AL.com – Carol Robinson | Published: 2/19/2021
Two former contractors with the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) pleaded guilty to felony ethics charges. Jerry DeWayne Jones and Terry Lee Williams are now convicted of offering or giving anything to a public official for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action. Jones, Williams, and former BWWB Chairperson Sherry Lewis were indicted on the state charges. Lewis was charged with using her position for personal gain, or for the gain of a family member, and voting on matters in which she or her family members had financial interest. Jones and Williams were charged with of aiding and abetting Lewis in committing those crimes, with offering her money and other items for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action.
Alaska – Alaskans Were Left in the Dark as Money Poured into Elections Last Year. Now, That’s Changing.
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 2/17/2021
Groups on both sides of last year’s battle for control of the Alaska Legislature spent substantial amounts of money from entities that do not disclose their donors before the election — or at all. But starting this year, that practice will be banned. An initiative approved in November requires groups trying to influence the election of candidates to disclose the “true source” of all their donations greater than $2,000.
Florida – Florida County Rejects Governor’s Order to Lower Flags in Memory of Rush Limbaugh
Anchorage Daily News – Terry Spencer and Bobby Caina Calvan (Associated Press) | Published: 2/24/2021
Palm Beach County defied Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by refusing to lower its courthouse flags to half-staff in honor of the late conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. The governor also ordered the town of Palm Beach and the Capitol in Tallahassee to fly their flags at half-staff. Those flags were lowered. “… Although Rush Limbaugh was a significant public figure, he was also an incredibly divisive one who hurt many people with his words and actions,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said on Twitter.
Florida – Local Players Retain Influence Under St. Petersburg’s Campaign Finance Rules
MSN – Josh Solomon (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 2/24/2021
The St. Petersburg City Council passed a campaign finance ordinance to guard against attempted corporate takeover of local affairs. Although the ordinance sets disclosure requirements and spending limits to thwart the multi-million-dollar campaigns bankrolled by deep-pocketed companies, it did nothing to prohibit the long-running practice of local players, some who do regular business before the city, asserting outsized influence in city elections. Now, what the 2017 ordinance did and did not do is taking center stage in the mayoral race.
Illinois – Embattled Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Steps Down as State Democratic Party Chair
Yahoo News – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/22/2021
Former longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan resigned as chairperson of the state Democratic Party. Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, previously the Democratic vice chair, will take over on an interim basis. Madigan’s resignation as the head of the state party, a post he has held since 1998, completes the swift downfall that began when fellow House Democrats deposed him as speaker after he held the gavel for nearly four decades. He resigned his seat as state representative.
Illinois – Ex-Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios Pays $100,000 to Settle Ethics Case
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 2/18/2021
Former Cook County Democratic boss Joe Berrios agreed to pay $100,000 to end two ethics cases against him that he had been fighting since he was the county’s assessor. But the six-figure settlement represents a discount for Berrios from the $168,000 in fines the county’s Board of Ethics levelled against him three years ago for violations of rules intended to encourage honest government in the notoriously corrupt county. The deal avoids additional expenses that could have been incurred in trying to pry the full judgment from Berrios, ethics board Chairperson Thomas Szromba said.
Illinois – Michael Madigan Resigns from Illinois House After Being Ousted as Speaker
MSN – Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/18/2021
Michael Madigan, who set much of Illinois’ political agenda for four decades, resigned his seat in the Legislature a little more than a month after he was deposed by fellow Democrats as the nation’s longest-serving statehouse speaker. Madigan saw his power ebb in recent years when sexual harassment issues came to light in his political and governmental operation. His hold on power took another hit when Commonwealth Edison agreed to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with federal prosecutors in acknowledging its part in a near decade-long bribery scheme, seeking to win Madigan’s favor on legislation by giving jobs and contracts to his allies.
Indiana – Indiana Attorney General Keeps Job with Health Benefits Firm
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/17/2021
Indiana’s newly elected attorney general says state ethics officials have cleared his ongoing role with a health benefits consulting firm in which he has an ownership stake, but he has declined to release that opinion. Todd Rokita began his term as state government’s top lawyer in early January while still working for Apex Benefits, a company he joined as an executive in 2019. Attorney general’s office spokesperson Lauren Houck said Rokita is working with Apex “in a limited capacity” as a strategic policy adviser and remains a director or executive board member with other businesses.
Indiana – Mowery Drops Out of Marion County GOP Race Following IndyStar Report
MSN – Amelia Pak-Harvey (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 2/24/2021
Cindy Mowery, a candidate for the Marion County Republican chair position, dropped out of the race a day after The Indianapolis Star reported state lawmakers were trying to overturn an ethics ordinance that currently bars her from holding the job. A bill would void an Indianapolis ethics ordinance that would forbid a county chair from doing business with the city. Mowery serves as the Republican appointee of the Voter Registration Board, one of several appointments made by the county party chair and the only one that carries a salary.
Massachusetts – Ex-Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Illegal Use of Campaign Funds
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/24/2021
Former Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle pleaded guilty in federal court to a series of charges including illegally using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses. He also pleaded guilty to defrauding a bank to obtain loans to purchase his home and repay personal debts and to collecting income he failed to report to the IRS. Nangle was heavily in debt and gambled extensively at casinos and online and used thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for expenses like dues at a local golf club, rental cars to travel to casinos, and flowers for his girlfriend. Nangle had served as a member of the House Committee on Ethics.
Michigan – Elected Officials in Michigan Would Disclose Financial Records in New House Bill
MLive.com – Samuel Dodge | Published: 2/23/2021
Michigan lawmakers are reengaging on an effort to mandate elected officials to fill out financial disclosure forms. Michigan is one of two states, and the only one with a full-time Legislature, with no requirement for state public officials to disclose basic financial information, including income sources, business investments, gifts, and travel compensation. Michigan ranked last in the Center for Public Integrity’s 2015 State Integrity Investigation, which documented several facets of each state’s transparency laws.
New York – Former Aide Says Cuomo Kissed Her, Suggested Strip Poker
Associated Press News – Marina Villeneuve | Published: 2/24/2021
A former member of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration who previously accused him of sexual harassment offered new details, saying he once kissed her on the lips without consent after a private meeting. Lindsey Boylan said during her more than three years working as an economic adviser in the administration, Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” compared her to one of his rumored ex-girlfriends and once joked they should play strip poker. Cuomo spokesperson Caitlin Girouard said all of Boylan’s “claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.”
New York – Jimmy Van Bramer Swore Off Special Interest Cash While Money Flowed to Husband’s Film
New York Post – Jon Levine | Published: 2/20/2021
While New York City Councilperson Jimmy Van Bramer may have sworn off special interest cash, the same has not been true for his husband, author and documentary filmmaker Dan Hendrick. His 2017 documentary “Saving Jamaica Bay” was largely financed with money from lobbyists and big real estate interests the council member swore to avoid. Van Bramer vowed in 2009 he would never accept campaign donations from lobbyists.
North Carolina – NC Lieutenant Governor Staff Calls Campaign Finance Report Errors ‘Clerical’
MSN – Danielle Battaglia (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 2/22/2021
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s campaign report does not explain why $186 worth of medical bills were campaign-related, or why he bought “campaign clothes and accessories” for $2,840 with the majority being spent at a sporting goods store. It also does not explain why his wife needed to be reimbursed $4,500 for campaign clothing or how and where she spent the money. A complaint asks the State Board of Elections to investigate Robinson’s spending. Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said it is unclear why Robinson needed clothing for his campaign from Lake Gaston Outfitters, a store that specializes in hiking, canoeing, and cycling gear.
Ohio – Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson Indicted on Federal Conspiracy Charges Involving Reimbursements from City
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 2/23/2021
Cleveland City Councilperson Kenneth Johnson was arrested, accused of fleecing the city out of more than $127,000 by submitting false monthly expense reports over the course of several years. A federal grand jury indicted Johnson on 15 charges, including conspiracy to commit theft from a federal program, aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, tampering with a witness, and falsification of records during a federal investigation. Johnson’s longtime aide, Garnell Jamison, was indicted on the same charges. The indictment alleges many of the charges stem from Johnson requesting the maximum amount of monthly reimbursement, $1,200, from council for services that were never performed.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Halts Political Contributions, Limits Lobbying as Part of Householder Investigation, Utility Says
MSN – Jim Mackinnon (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 2/18/2021
FirstEnergy has stopped making political contributions and will no longer donate to 501(c)(4) organizations, said Steven Strah, president and acting chief executive officer of the company. He said lobbying will be “much more limited” compared to past practice and the utility will provide more disclosure on its lobbying activities. FirstEnergy is caught up in federal and state bribery and racketeering investigations involving former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others over the passage and support of House Bill 6. The bill, now law, provided more than $1 billion in subsidies to nuclear plants now owned and operated by Energy Harbor, a former FirstEnergy subsidiary.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Facing Harassment Allegations, Risk of Expulsion, Resigns
Center Square – Tim Gruver | Published: 2/22/2021
State Rep. Diego Hernandez resigned his Oregon House seat days before his peers were set to hold a historic vote on his expulsion over a string of harassment allegations after a nine-month investigation into his past conduct with five women who worked with and around him at the Capitol. A report commissioned by the Legislative Equity Office substantiated that Hernandez harassed, intimidated, and threatened four of the five women interviewed by investigators. The House Conduct Committee concluded Hernandez’s behavior with three of the women violated the Legislature’s rule related to maintaining a safe workplace.
Pennsylvania – Voters May Never Again Get to Choose Pa.’s Lieutenant Governor Candidates
MSN – Cynthia Fernandez (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 2/23/2021
The Pennsylvania Senate is advancing a measure that would give the state’s political parties final say over candidates for lieutenant governor, taking power away from voters. It is a necessary change to a process that has not always resulted in the best partnerships, Democratic and Republican lawmakers say. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow a gubernatorial candidate to choose a running mate after the spring primary, subject to approval from their party’s state committee. Now, voters choose candidates for lieutenant governor during closed, statewide primaries. The winner appears with the pick for governor on the general election ballot as a packaged deal.
South Carolina – Can SC School Board Member Still Have Say in $23M Project? What Ethics Commission Says
MSN – Bristow Marchant (The State) | Published: 2/24/2021
A Midlands-area school board member will not be allowed to visit a school construction site while he is recused himself from being involved with the project. An advisory opinion issued by the South Carolina Ethics Commission says Ken Loveless is prohibited from visiting the Piney Woods Elementary School site or reviewing work related to the project. Loveless agreed to recuse himself because of a business tie with Contract Construction, the main contractor on the $23 million project. Loveless’ company is a subcontractor with Contract Construction on a separate project, a new lab for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
South Dakota – South Dakota’s AG Charged with 3 Misdemeanors in Fatal Crash
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 2/18/2021
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors for striking and killing a man with his car last summer, avoiding more serious felony charges in a case that raised questions about how the state’s top law enforcement official first reported the crash. Ravnsborg could face up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine on each charge: careless driving, driving out of his lane, and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone. Ravnsborg initially told authorities he thought he had struck a deer or another large animal as he drove home from a Republican fundraiser.
Tennessee – Registry of Election Finance Changes Unlikely Amid FBI Probe
Patch – Sam Stockard (Tennessee Lookout) | Published: 2/17/2021
With an FBI investigation hanging over the state Legislature, changes are improbable in the makeup of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. An idea to merge the Registry of Election Finance and Ethics Commission into one eight-member body is being floated in the Legislature. But it will meet resistance from key lawmakers and members of those panels. Tom Lawless, who chaired the Registry board for the past year, said instead of structural changes, the Registry needs more money to hire outside auditors to check into legislators’ campaign finances when they violate the rules. A modern reporting system is needed, as well, to simplify the process for candidates, Lawless said.
Texas – Texas Governor’s Biggest Donors: Energy industry that failed
Associated Press News – Paul Weber and Nomaan Merchant | Published: 2/19/2021
As frozen Texas reels under one of the worst electricity outages in U.S. history, Gov. Greg Abbott has blamed grid operators and iced-over wind turbines but gone easier on another culprit: an oil and gas industry that is the state’s dominant business and his biggest political contributor. Oil and gas built and enriched Texas, and with that its politicians, including those who became president. But none has reaped campaign contributions on the scale of Abbott, who has raised more than $150 million from donors.
Utah – Utah House Lawmakers Kill Campaign Finance Disclosure Bill
MSN – Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 2/24/2021
A campaign finance reform bill died in the Utah House by a narrow vote, though few lawmakers spoke up during debate to voice concerns with the measure. Senate Bill 92 would have called on candidates to sort their campaign expenses into predetermined categories as a way of increasing transparency in political spending. While state law already requires candidates to list the reason for their expenditures, Rep. Norm Thurston told the House, “there’s incredible variety in how people report that, a lot of creative reporting.”
Virginia – Senate Spikes Bill to Rein in Personal Use of Campaign Cash
Associated Press News – Sarah Rankin | Published: 2/23/2021
The Virginia Senate effectively killed a measure that would have prevented politicians from putting campaign funds toward personal uses, with an exception for childcare-related expenses. Virginia has one of the least restrictive and policed campaign finance systems in the country and is an outlier in the nation for not already having such a ban. But state lawmakers, who insist they want to work on the issue, have repeatedly balked in recent years at making a change.
Washington – WA Supreme Court Throws Out Think Tank’s Attack on Union Political Activity
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 2/23/2021
The Freedom Foundation failed to meet a deadline in several campaign finance lawsuits it brought against unions, the Washington Supreme Court ruled. The conservative think tank alleged the unions had violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act by not reporting money spent on political activity. After the government did not take enforcement action, the Freedom Foundation filed so-called citizen actions, in Superior Court, but not within a deadline required by state law at the time, a majority of the state’s high court ruled.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Wildlife Officials Ate $20,000 of Illegal Caviar, Prosecutors Say. Now the ‘Sturgeon General’ Faces Charges.
MSN – Antonia Noori Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2021
Some Wisconsin wildlife officials allegedly dined like oligarchs, feasting on tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of caviar and passing around jars of the prized delicacy at team meetings. Meanwhile, some of their colleagues were working undercover to expose the scheme. The investigation resulted in the arrest of the state’s top sturgeon expert, Ryan Koenigs, nicknamed the “sturgeon general” by local television stations, allegedly obtained at least $20,000 worth of caviar in a single year while holding down a post as a biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He faces charges of misdemeanor theft for illegally trading sturgeon eggs, as well as obstructing an investigation by a conservation warden.
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