July 9, 2021 •
News You Can Use Digest – July 9, 2021
6 Months After Capitol Assault, Corporate Pledges Fall Flat
ABC News – David Klepper (Associated Press) | Published: 7/4/2021
After the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, corporate America took a stand against the lies that powered the mob. Dozens of big companies, citing their commitment to democracy, pledged to avoid donating money to the 147 lawmakers who objected to the certification of Joe Biden’s victory on the false grounds that voting fraud stole the election from Donald Trump. Six months later, many of those companies have resumed funneling cash to PACs that benefit the election efforts of lawmakers whether they objected to the election certification or not. When it comes to seeking political influence through corporate giving, business as usual is back, if it ever left.
Deal of the Art: White House grapples with ethics of Hunter Biden’s pricey paintings
MSN – Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2021
Under an agreement with the White House, a gallery owner is planning to set prices for Hunter Biden’s artwork and will withhold all records, including potential bidders and final buyers. The owner also agreed to reject any offer he deems suspicious or that comes in over the asking price. It is an attempt to avoid ethical issues that could arise as President Biden’s son tries to sell a product with a highly subjective value. Not only has Hunter Biden previously been accused of trading in on his name, but his latest vocation is in a field where works do not have a fixed value and where concerns have arisen about secretive buyers and undisclosed sums.
Hunt for Capitol Attackers Still on 6 Months After Jan. 6
MSN – Alanna Durkin Richer and Michael Kunzleman (Associated Press) | Published: 7/6/2021
The first waves of arrests in the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol focused on the easy targets. Dozens in the pro-Trump mob openly bragged about their actions on January 6 on social media and were captured in shocking footage broadcast live by national news outlets. But six months after the insurrection, the Justice Department is still hunting for scores of rioters, even as the first of more than 500 people already arrested have pleaded guilty. The struggle reflects the massive scale of the investigation and the grueling work still ahead for authorities in the face of an increasing effort by some Republican lawmakers to rewrite what happened that day.
Interns ‘Literally Couch Surf’ in DC. But More Pay Could Be on the Way
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 6/30/2021
A Washington, D.C. internship can open doors for career paths in Congress, the federal government, and the government-industrial complex of think tanks, law firms, and lobbying shops, if you can afford it. That “if” – a massive one for kids whose parents cannot cover the cost of a few months of the city’s sky-high rents and overpriced eateries – may get a bit smaller next year, as the House Appropriations Committee advanced a pair of spending bills bumping allocations for paying interns. The reception he gets could help answer some questions about life in Washington after Trump.
Political Spending Proposals Gain Traction in Proxy Season
MSN – Keith Lewis (Roll Call) | Published: 7/1/2021
Shareholder proposals seeking to increase transparency on publicly traded companies’ political activities won in record numbers this proxy season. Investors gave strong support to measures asking corporate boards to disclose more about company campaign contributions and lobbying. Consistent upward trends in the number and success of political activity disclosure efforts over the past few proxy seasons demonstrate the Securities and Exchange Commission needs to establish a framework for environment, social, and governance disclosure, according to Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability.
Rudy Giuliani Is Being Scrutinized for Foreign Lobbying. He May Have Been One of Many in the Trump White House.
Center for Responsive Politics – Maggie Hicks | Published: 7/7/2021
Foreign agents reported being paid more than $30.5 million to influence U.S. policy or public opinion on behalf of Turkish interests during the Trump administration. The Justice Department has reportedly launched an inquiry into Rudolph Giuliana that may reveal even more undisclosed lobbying. In 2017, the Turkish government signed a contract with Greenberg Traurig, where Giuliani was a partner from 2016 to 2018. Turkey also hired Ballard Partners. The firm’s president, Brian Ballard, was vice chair of Trump’s inaugural committee and was a member of his transition team.
Sober Inquiry or Slash-and-Burn? McCarthy at a Jan. 6 Crossroads
Yahoo News – Olivia Beavers (Politico) | Published: 7/7/2021
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has a choice when it comes to the investigation of the Capitol riot: get serious or sabotage the process. His options are not necessarily binary, but the path he takes could shape his political future as he eyes the speaker’s gavel. Among Republican members who have lived through two impeachments, some want McCarthy to pick fighters skilled enough to withstand a months-long bombardment from Democrats. But the Republicans most eager to serve on the panel are the party’s firebrands, more practiced at crafting viral clips than they are at making a sustained, credible case against top Democratic oversight practitioners.
Supreme Court Ruling Opens Door to More Campaign Finance Challenges
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 7/5/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law requiring charities to reveal their donors to state officials. The ruling does not apply to publicly disclosed donors or political groups. But in the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that disclosure laws must be “narrowly tailored” to important government interests. Experts say the opinion effectively toughens the standard of review for all laws that compel disclosure, including election rules. Rick Hasen, an expert in campaign finance law, said the ruling “calls into question a number of campaign finance disclosure laws” and limits on the amount of money donors can give to candidates.
The Russia Inquiry Ended a Democratic Lobbyist’s Career. He Wants It Back.
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/8/2021
The collapse of Tony Podesta’s $42-million-a-year lobbying and public relations firm in 2017 amid a federal investigation shook K Street and rendered him toxic, a rare Democratic victim of the Trump-era scandals. But an indictment never came. The Justice Department dropped its investigation, Donald Trump was defeated, and Podesta’s longtime allies took control in Washington. Now Podesta is exploring a return to a landscape he once dominated.
Trump Files Class Action Lawsuits Targeting Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube Over ‘Censorship’ of Conservatives
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski and Rachel Lerman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2021
Former President Trump filed class-action lawsuits targeting Facebook, Google, and Twitter, escalating his long-running battle with the companies following their suspensions of his accounts. Legal experts and business associations immediately criticized the claims, predicting they had little chance of succeeding in court. But the lawsuits raised a series of legal claims that will find favor among Trump’s most fervent supporters who have long argued the social media companies treat conservative voices unfairly.
Trump, Fighting to Toss Out Subpoena, Offered to Give House Democrats Peek at Financial Statements
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2021
Former President Trump has offered to give U.S. House Democrats a peek at financial statements related to his complex business empire from before his 2016 presidential bid and eight years of contracts with his accounting firm but refused to divulge more sensitive source data or internal communications, his lawyers told a federal judge. The disclosure of the offer, made in June in unsuccessful court-ordered mediation, came as Trump urged a federal judge to end a stalemate and toss out a House subpoena for eight years of his financial records, calling the congressional demand unconstitutional and unenforceable.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Court: Mesnard lost immunity with press release
Arizona Capitol Times – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/30/2021
State lawmakers have absolute immunity from being sued by those who are the targets of legislative investigative reports, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled. In a unanimous decision, the justices said ousted Rep. Don Shooter has no legal right to pursue a defamation lawsuit against then-House Speaker J.D. Mesnard for publishing a report by an outside legal team that concluded Shooter was guilty of violating a “zero tolerance” policy against sexual harassment. But the court said lawmakers lose that immunity when they start publishing press releases about what they do. that includes writing about and explaining the official report.
Arizona – Judge Questions Claim the Public Has No Right to Know Who’s Paying for Ariz. Election Audit
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Servies) | Published: 7/7/2021
A judge questioned a state Senate attorney’s claim that the public has no right to know who is paying for the 2020 election audit in Arizona, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp pointed out that Senate President Karen Fann has said the Senate, in hiring an outside firm to conduct the audit, was performing “this important constitutional duty.” Fann’s attorney, Kory Langhofer, claims the Arizona Constitution pretty much forbids judicial second-guessing of how the Senate conducts its business, and whether it is complying with the law.
California – Former S.F. Leaders Tied to Corruption Scandal Are Collecting Pensions
MSN – Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 7/3/2021
Three former San Francisco officials who resigned in the wake of corruption allegations still receive city pensions. With few exceptions, city workers cannot lose their pensions unless they are convicted of and sentenced for a crime of “moral turpitude,” according to city law. In recent decades, such instances have been extremely rare in San Francisco, and it could be years before the three respective cases are adjudicated.
California – Gavin Newsom Recall Election Date Officially Set: California voters to cast ballots in September
MSN – Lara Kote (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 7/2/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will face a recall election on September 14, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis announced. Her declaration follows more than a year of petition-gathering and campaigning fueled, in part, by outrage over the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Newsom is enjoying the fruits of an overflowing state bank account and the reopening of California after the pandemic.
California – Lobbyist Seeks $2M Fee for Work on Behalf of Insurer That Donated to State’s Insurance Regulator
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 7/4/2021
A contract dispute being waged in a courtroom is complicating the re-election plans for California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who two years ago suspended all fundraising amid a campaign finance scandal. The lawsuit involves Lara’s one-time boss and political mentor, former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. It also includes Rusty Areias, another former state lawmaker who now works as a Sacramento lobbyist. Mercury Public Affairs, where Nunez is a partner, and Areias are plaintiffs in a case demanding $2 million in lobbying and consulting fees from Applied Underwriters.
California – She Was a Watchdog over L.A. Politicians. But They Had Power Over Her Raise
MSN – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/6/2021
The duties of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission kept growing during Heather Holt’s tenure as executive director, and she believed the salary for her position should go up as well. But to get that increase, she needed approval from the city’s elected officials. Holt never received that raise, which became a casualty of the economic crisis that followed the outbreak of COVID-19. But her behind-the-scenes campaign highlights an uncomfortable fact about the city’s ethics agency – it operates at the mercy of officials it is charged with policing.
Georgia – Atlanta City Clerk to Halt Removal of Candidates’ Info from Documents After Legal Questions
SaportaReport.com – John Ruch | Published: 6/30/2021
The Atlanta municipal clerk’s office for years has redacted the contact information of candidates from campaign finance documents in an online database, a practice one open-records expert called unlawful and defeating the purpose of transparency. In response to questions about the practice, Municipal Clerk Foris Webb III said the redactions will be halted and existing ones undone. Some municipal candidates also file reports in a state system that does not redact information, and there may be other ways to locate candidates online.
Georgia – Federal Judge Declines to Block Portions of Georgia Election Law
MSN – Rebecca Beitsch (The Hill) | Published: 7/7/2021
A federal judge in Georgia declined to strike down portions of the state’s controversial voter law ahead of run-off elections. The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Jean-Paul Boulee did not weigh in on some of the most controversial aspects of the law, nor did it strike down a portion of the statute that changes the deadline for requesting absentee ballots. It also did not a provision on election observation. Boulee said because the plaintiffs are seeking to challenge the voting law ahead of a run-off election, doing so would “change the election administration rules for elections that are already underway.”
Idaho – Idaho Freedom Foundation Official Fined for Breaking Lobbyist Registration Law
Idaho Education News – Audrey Dutton (Idaho Capital Sun) | Published: 7/2/2021
Dustin Hurst, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, was fined $250 for lobbying on the state’s higher education budget without first registering. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that advocates for limited government. It created an organization in recent years called Idaho Freedom Action, with the same staff and offices. Hurst is the registered agent for both organizations, according to Secretary of State records.
Illinois – Ald. Carrie Austin and Chief of Staff Indicted on Bribery Charges for Allegedly Accepting Home Improvements from Developer
Yahoo News – Gregory Pratt and Megan Crepeau (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/1/2021
Under a cloud for two years since her ward office was raided by federal agents, Chicago Ald. Carrie Austin was indicted on federal bribery charges along with her chief of staff. Austin and her top aide, Chester Wilson, shepherded a new real-estate development through City Hall bureaucracy and were given home-improvement perks from a developer seeking to influence them, the indictment alleges. Between them, they allegedly got new kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, bathroom tiling, sump pumps, and an HVAC system for free or at a discount.
Indiana – Judge Letting Indiana’s Governor Sue to Block Emergency Law
MSN – Tom Davies (Associated Press) | Published: 7/6/2021
A judge sided with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in a dispute between top state Republicans over whether he can proceed with a lawsuit challenging the increased power state legislators gave themselves to intervene during public health emergencies. Holcomb argues the law passed by is unconstitutional because it gives lawmakers a new power to call themselves into a special legislative “emergency session” during statewide emergencies declared by the governor. Holcomb and some legal experts maintain the state constitution only allows the governor to call the Legislature into special session after its annual session ends.
Louisiana – Ex-Charter School Board Member Faces $16K Ethics Fine Over Loan; He Says He Was Just Trying to Help
New Orleans Advocate – Charles Lussier | Published: 7/7/2021
A former board member of the defunct Laurel Oaks Charter School in Baton Rouge has been ordered to pay a total of $16,000 for making a $15,000 loan to the school in fall 2018 and then pocketing $4,000 in interest. Joseph Wicker said he was just trying to help the struggling school make payroll and retain staff. The Louisiana Board of Ethics in June resolved a separate case from the same school, which state officials closed in 2019 after just three years in operation over concerns about the safety of students and questionable financial practices.
Michigan – Michigan GOP, Weiser Agree to Pay $200,000 to Resolve Campaign Finance Probe
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 7/2/2021
The Michigan Republican Party agreed to pay $200,000 to resolve a campaign finance complaint that claimed Chairperson Ron Weiser used party funds to lure a secretary of state candidate out of a race in 2018. The allegations surfaced in February when-then Chairperson Laura Cox accused Weiser of orchestrating a “secret deal” with Stan Grot to get Grot to drop out of the GOP’ race for secretary of state. The deal involved $200,000 in payments from the party’s undisclosed administrative account to Grot, said Cox, who lost to Weiser in her reelection bid days after she made the claims against him.
Minnesota – Sitting Lawmakers Will No Longer Be Able to Work as Lobbyists as New Law Takes Aim at GOP Leader
Minnesota Reformer – Ricardo Lopez | Published: 7/1/2021
Sitting state lawmakers will no longer be able to work as lobbyists, after a Republican amendment taking aim at Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt was adopted as part of a broader tax bill. The measure will outlaw such work arrangements and comes more than a year after Daudt raised eyebrows by announcing his job with Stateside Associates, a Virginia-based lobbying firm. Daudt has defended his job, saying he would not lobby the Minnesota Legislature. The job announcement as director of public affairs said he would not be involved in lobbying at all.
Mississippi – Mississippi Elected Officials, Candidates Owe Thousands in Unpaid Campaign Finance Fines
Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth and Taylor Vance | Published: 7/1/2021
Mississippi politicians and candidates are required by law to file campaign finance reports, which reveal who is giving them money and how they are spending it, but many are not doing so. In hundreds of cases since 2018, state-level candidates and elected officials ignored or overlooked this basic transparency requirement. The vast majority of the time, they did not pay their fines, which ranged from $50 to $500. Since 2018, unpaid campaign finance fines outnumber paid ones nearly three-to-one. Officeholders and candidates have stiffed the state out of nearly $150,000 by either refusing to pay their fine or not realizing one had been levied.
Montana – How G.O.P. Laws in Montana Could Complicate Voting for Native Americans
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 7/6/2021
It has been less than a century since Native Americans in the U.S. gained the right to vote by law, and they never attained the ability to do so easily in practice. New restrictions – ballot collection bans, earlier registration deadlines, stricter voter ID laws, and more – are likely to make it harder, and the starkest consequences may be seen in places like Montana: sprawling, sparsely populated Western and Great Plains states where Native Americans have a history of playing decisive roles in close elections.
New York – Eric Adams Wins Democratic Primary in NYC’s Mayoral Race
MSN – Karen Matthews (Associated Press) | Published: 7/6/2021
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams won the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City after appealing to the political center and promising to strike the right balance between fighting crime and ending racial injustice in policing. A former police captain, Adams would be the city’s second Black mayor if elected. He triumphed over a large field in New York’s first major race to use ranked choice voting. Adams will be the prohibitive favorite in the general election against Curtis Sliwa, the Republican founder of the Guardian Angels. Democrats outnumber Republicans seven-to-one in New York City.
New York – Ethics Commissioners Seek Reopening of Cuomo Leak Probe
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/7/2021
Three members of the New York Joint Commission on Ethics (JCOPE) want an investigation reopened into who illegally leaked confidential information to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie acknowledged receiving a berating from Cuomo shortly after a JCOPE meeting in January 2019. The governor was apparently irate about how Heastie’s appointees voted in a confidential proceeding that day on whether to investigate the possible misuse of government resources of a former top Cuomo aide, Joseph Percoco. It is a misdemeanor to leak information about JCOPE’s confidential deliberations.
New York – Prosecutors Say Spreadsheets from Trump Organization Offer a Road Map for Its Indictment. Where the Investigation Goes Now Is the Question.
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Shayna Jacobs, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/4/2021
Prosecutors said the Trump Organization provided a road map for its own indictment. They claimed the company spent 15 years paying its chief financial officer “off the books,” giving him cars, an apartment, tuition payments, and cash that were hidden from income tax authorities. But at the same time, according to an indictment, the company was keeping spreadsheets that tallied the payments being hidden. Prosecutors treated the spreadsheets as the accounting equivalent of a confession. Yet the indictment left many questions unanswered. Still, legal experts say, the spreadsheets could cast a shadow over the former president and his company.
New York – Trump Organization Prosecutors Confront Accusations of Political Bias
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2021
The Trump Organization wasted little time before denouncing the indictment of its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and condemning state authorities in New York for their “scorched earth attempt to harm” the corporation’s figurehead, former President Trump. Former prosecutors and legal experts who have watched the investigation, a joint pursuit by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James, rejected Trump’s assertion his company and close adviser are being pursued as part of a political vendetta. Still, the investigation’s political overtones are inescapable.
Ohio – Cincinnati’s Anti-Corruption Task Force Reveals Recommendations. Now It Wants to Hear from You.
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 7/7/2021
Cincinnati’s anti-corruption task force unveiled its initial recommendations. Among them: forbidding campaign contributions from developers while their proposals are before city council and disclosing any PAC accounts under a candidates’ control. Those recommendations are at the heart of the corruption cases brought against three council members in 2020.
Oregon – Nearman Loses Bid for Oregon House Seat to Former Aide Ahead of Court Date
The Center Square – Tim Gruver | Published: 7/7/2021
Former Rep. Mike Nearman will see his Oregon House seat go to his onetime aide, Anna Scharf, after being handily refused reappointment. Nearman had campaigned to reclaim the seat he was expelled from in June for helping a violent right-wing mob into the Oregon Capitol in December. But Nearman found himself on the outs with the county commissioners who chose Scharf to represent House District 23. Answering questions from commissioners, Scharf cited homelessness and government overreach as chief concerns for the district.
Pennsylvania – Ethics Panel Closes Investigation into Former Pa. Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 7/6/2021
After a year-long investigation, the state Ethics Commission found Jennifer Storm, Pennsylvania’s former chief advocate for crime victims, did not trade on her high-profile public position to benefit her personal business ventures. Storm agreed to technical violations of the ethics law, closing out an inquiry she believes was instigated by political enemies as payback for her outspoken advocacy in prominent cases. Storm must amend her annual statements of financial interest and pay a $3,000 fine for failing to disclose airfare, lodging, or income associated with two conferences she attended, as well as rental income.
South Carolina – Richard Quinn, Once a Powerful SC GOP Consultant, Faces New Charges in Corruption Probe
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks | Published: 7/2/2021
A state grand jury hit longtime political consultant Richard Quinn Sr. with a new round of criminal charges, signaling South Carolina’s years-long investigation into statehouse corruption is ongoing. The new indictment charges Quinn with 12 counts of perjury and two counts of obstruction of justice. Most of the charges accuse the longtime power broker of lying to the state grand jury in order to cover up potential wrongdoing by his political operation.
South Carolina – SC Judges Remain on the Bench for Years Despite Alleged Crimes, Ethical Lapses
Charleston Post and Courier – Joseph Cranney and Avery Wilks | Published: 7/1/2021
South Carolina’s secretive, slow-moving system for policing its judges allows the accused to remain on the bench for years despite serious questions about their character and impartiality, a media investigation found. The Disciplinary Counsel’s office, an investigative arm of the state Supreme Court, receives more than 200 complaints against the state’s judges each year. But those investigations almost never lead to a judge being removed or publicly reprimanded. It is one of myriad ways that South Carolina allows government officials to police themselves and escape public scrutiny.
Texas – Texas Special Session Brings Election Law Back into Spotlight
CBS News – Adam Brewster and Ed O’Keefe | Published: 7/7/2021
Texas lawmakers returned to Austin for a special session that is expected to put the state’s battle over voting rights back in the national spotlight. The special session comes several weeks after House Democrats staged a walkout to defeat a bill that would have overhauled election laws. The final version of Senate Bill 7 provides an indication of what lawmakers are going to focus on. That bill would have set limits on the hours that early voting can be conducted, banned drive-through voting, added new requirements for mail voting, and made it a felony for public officials to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications.
Utah – 11 Anti-Mask Protesters Charged with Disrupting Granite School Board Meeting
MSN – Courtney Taylor (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 7/6/2021
Anti-mask protesters who forced an early end to a school board meeting in May after they stormed the room and shouted obscenities at board members are now facing criminal charges. Granite School District confirmed that 11 people have been charged with disrupting a public meeting, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Police are still searching for a 12th person who was allegedly involved in the confrontation with individuals aggressively pushing for the district to not require face masks in schools.
Washington DC – Jack Evans Agrees to Payment Plan for Ethics Fines
Washington City Paper – Mitch Ryals | Published: 7/1/2021
Former District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans will pay the city $2,000 per month for the next 26 months, according to a settlement with the city attorney general. The settlement comes after Evans failed to pay the $55,000 that he owes for violating ethics rules while in office. The agreement is the third such document Evans has signed promising to pay up.
Washington DC – Rudy Giuliani Suspended from Practicing Law in Washington, DC
CNN – Katelyn Polantz | Published: 7/7/2021
Rudolph Giuliani’s law license has been suspended in Washington, D.C., after he temporarily lost his license in New York for pushing election lies and that state court system looks further into his case. The appeals court in the District of Columbia said Giuliani would be suspended from working as an attorney in the city “pending outcome” of his situation in New York. Giuliani does not regularly practice law in Washington, but the suspension is still a major blow to the former U.S. attorney and New York City mayor, once considered an accomplished and formidable force in legal circles.
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