March 12, 2021 •
News You Can Use Digest – March 12, 2021
Another Oath Keeper with Links to Roger Stone Charged in Capitol Riot
Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/9/2021
A second member of the Oath Keepers militia who provided security to longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone has been charged with storming and breaching the Capitol. Joshua James, who has been seen in photos flanking Stone ahead of the riot, was later seen on camera inside the building amid a crush of rioters who overran police. The arrest, made public a day after prosecutors revealed they charged fellow Oath Keeper and Stone security guard Roberto Minuta for entering the Capitol, is the latest evidence that prosecutors are homing in on the extremist group with key ties to organizers of pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” events.
Biden Signs Executive Order Promoting Voting Rights on 56th Anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’
Seattle Times – Felicia Sonmez and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/7/2021
President Biden signed an executive order aimed at promoting voting rights amid a push by Republican-led state Legislatures to roll back voting access in the wake of former President Trump’s 2020 loss and his baseless effort to cast doubt on the integrity of U.S. elections. The order comes on the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day that state troopers violently beat hundreds of marchers, including John Lewis, the late civil rights icon who served as a Democratic member of Congress from Georgia, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
Digging in as an All-GOP Firm in a Democratic Town
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/4/2021
Many of K Street’s power players have gone in search of Democratic talent now that the party controls official Washington, D.C., but one shop went in a totally different direction, recruiting its newest partner from the Trump administration. The CGCN Group, an all-Republican lobbying and communications outfit, plans to remain a single-party firm, and unapologetically so, even though Democrats hold the Senate, House, and White House. The firm’s lobbyists and employees previously worked with lawmakers and officials who span the GOP’s ideological spectrum.
Feds Investigating Hagedorn Appearances on Minnesota Talk Radio Station
SouthernMinn.com – Daniel Newhauser (Minnesota Reformer) | Published: 3/5/2021
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is probing a news radio station’s financial relationship with U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, questioning whether the station broke the law by allowing a man paid by Hagedorn’s campaign to interview the congressman on air. The investigation began after media reports on business dealings between Hagedorn and Al Travis Thielfoldt. Neither revealed during interviews on Thiefoldt’s show that Hagedorn had entrusted Thielfoldt with more than $1.4 million to place ads on local stations. The FCC is investigating whether Hagedorn’s campaign paid Thielfoldt or KTOE for the interviews, and whether the station violated the law by failing to publicly disclose the financial relationship between the men.
House Democrats End Controversial Consultant Ban
Politico – Ally Mutnick | Published: 3/9/2021
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is officially ending its controversial ban on political consultants who work with candidates challenging sitting Democratic incumbents, clinching a victory for progressives. Though it was in place for fewer than two years, it still stymied some liberal primary challengers. The policy forbade the committee from contracting with or recommending to any House campaign a consultant or firm who worked to primary a sitting Democratic incumbent. It spurred a strong backlash but was popular with members who are more prone to primary challenges and do not want their party apparatus, to which they pay dues, to enable their opponents.
House Restarts Push to Enforce Subpoena for Trump Financial Records
MSN – Todd Ruger (Roll Call) | Published: 3/4/2021
The federal courts have spent so long deciding whether House Democrats could subpoena Donald Trump’s personal financial records from his accounting firm that the ongoing legal saga has a new wrinkle: what changes now that he is a former president? The House Oversight and Reform Committee reissued the subpoena to Mazars USA in February, and it is identical to the one from 2019 that ultimately led the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a new test for when Congress could obtain those records.
Inside the Lincoln Project’s Secrets, Side Deals and Scandals
New York Times – Danny Hakim, Maggie Astor, and Jo Becker | Published: 3/8/2021
The Lincoln Project collected more than $87 million in donations and produced scores of viral videos that were intended to drive then-President Trump to distraction. The men who founded the Lincoln Project – Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, Reed Galen, and Rick Wilson – moved to set themselves up in the new enterprise, creating TLP Media last fall. Its aim was to transform the original project, a super PAC, into a far more lucrative venture. The behind-the-scenes moves by the founders showed that whatever their political goals, they were also privately taking steps to make money from the earliest stages and wanted to limit the number of people who would share in the spoils.
Oil Refiner Valero to Disclose Climate Lobbying After Criticism
MSN – Gerson Freitas Jr. and Saijel Kishan (Bloomberg) | Published: 3/3/2021
Valero Energy, one of the largest U.S. oil refiners, is planning to publish details of its climate lobbying activities after an investor pressed for more disclosure. Valero will release a report later this year. The decision follows discussions with Mercy Investment Services, which had filed a proposed shareholder resolution demanding to know how Valero’s lobbying aligns with global efforts to fight climate change. That resolution has now been withdrawn, Valero said.
Rep. Eric Swalwell Sues Trump Over Jan. 6 Riot, Alleging He Poses Risk of ‘Inciting Future Political Violence’
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/4/2021
A House impeachment manager and intelligence subcommittee chairperson filed a federal lawsuit against former President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudolph Giuliani, and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, claiming they should be held liable for injuries and destruction caused by their incitement of the January 6 mob assault on the Capitol. U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell alleged Trump and his fellow speakers at a rally near the White House that day were directly responsible for mobilizing a crowd of tens of thousands of pro-Trump supporters to march on the Capitol and priming them for violence.
State Department Aide Appointed by Trump Stormed the Capitol, Beat Police with a Riot Shield, FBI Says
San Diego Union Tribune – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 3/5/2021
The FBI arrested Federico Klein, a political appointee of former President Trump, on charges he stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, marking the first member of the administration arrested in connection with the insurrection. Klein was still employed at the State Department as a staff assistant when he joined a mob in a tunnel leading into the Capitol, the FBI said. Then he allegedly “physically and verbally engaged with the officers holding the line” at the building’s entrance, according to the complaint. After ignoring officers’ orders to move back, he assaulted officers with a riot shield that had been stolen from police, the complaint said, and then used the shield to wedge open a door into the Capitol.
Trump’s Fundraising Whiplash Highlights GOP’s Small-Donor Issue
MSN – Bridget Bowman (Roll Call) | Published: 3/10/2021
Donald Trump’s conflicting statements about whether Republican campaign committees can use his likeness to fundraise has underscored a broader problem facing the GOP: tapping into the grassroots donors who fueled the former president’s record-breaking campaign hauls. While GOP candidates have tried to tap into grassroots fundraising, Trump has energized small-dollar donors for his own campaign. In recent days, he has threatened to cut Republican campaign committees off from using his name to fundraise.
U.S. House Republicans May Follow Democrats in Rebooting Shamed ‘Earmarks’
Reuters – Jarret Renshaw | Published: 3/9/2021
U.S. House Republicans are weighing whether to join Democrats in getting back into earmarks, the practice of loading spending bills with legislators’ pet projects. Sources said sentiment is growing in the GOP toward embracing earmarks roughly a decade after the party decided to scrap the long-standing practice amid a raft of high-profile controversies. Democrats who control the House agreed to bring back earmarks this year.
From the States and Municipalities
California – As Newsom Pushes to Extend Emergency Spending Authority During Pandemic, Lobbyist Influence Remains Opaque
Capital Public Radio – Scott Rodd | Published: 3/4/2021
While lobbyists in California must disclose efforts to influence policy and legislation, they are not required to disclose lobbying activities when vying for lucrative contracts. Government ethics experts say that is an area that demands greater transparency for Californians to understand how their government awards contracts and opportunities, especially as Gov. Gavin Newsom pushes to extend his emergency spending authority for another year. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office warns that under the extension, “there would be no reasonable checks and balances on the Governor’s COVID-19 spending authority.”
California – City Hall Corruption Probe: Former S.F. official and girlfriend to Mohammed Nuru agrees to plead guilty, cooperate with feds
MSN – Michael Williams (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 3/9/2021
Sandra Zuniga, the former director of San Francisco’s Office of Neighborhood Services, agreed to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and will cooperate with the federal investigation into City Hall corruption. Prosecutors alleged she conspired for years with former city Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru to launder the proceeds of his alleged fraud. Prosecutors said Zuniga, at one point a romantic partner to Nuru, deposited the proceeds from alleged bribes into her own bank account. Those funds, federal officials said, were later used to make mortgage payments on a vacation home Nuru owned.
California – New Escondido Council Erases Campaign Finance Reforms Enacted by Predecessors
San Diego Union Tribune – Joe Tash | Published: 3/4/2021
Five months after adopting new campaign finance rules for city elections, the Escondido City Council reversed course and voted to strip away two of the changes enacted by the previous council. In October, the council reduced the contribution limits for city offices such as mayor, city council, and city treasurer, and established a prohibition on candidates carrying over surplus campaign funds from one election to the next. The council also voted to impose its new contribution limits on all persons and organizations, including political parties, businesses, and labor unions. The council voted to do away with the prohibition on rolling over campaign funds and exempted political parties from the contribution limits.
California – S.F. City Hall Corruption: Recology to repay customers $94.5 million for rates Mohammed Nuru helped set
MSN – Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 3/4/2021
San Franciscans will recoup nearly $100 million in overpaid trash-collection fees after a probe by the city attorney’s office detailed how the waste management company Recology improperly hiked its prices over the last four years. The settlement with Recology represents the latest twist in the sprawling City Hall corruption saga centered around former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, other city officials, contractors, and nonprofit groups. Nuru played a key role in the rate-setting process for Recology. Multiple investigations alleged Nuru accepted bribes from Recology in exchange for allowing the company to inflate its rates. A former Recology executive was fired and arrested in November in light of those allegations.
California – San Jose School District Denies Improper Lobbying Charges
San Jose Spotlight – Lloyd Alaban | Published: 3/10/2021
Officials with San Jose’s biggest school district denied charges they improperly hired lobbying firms to push a teacher housing proposal, saying at least one of the firms never lobbied for them at all, despite meeting with officials who would approve the plans. The allegations stem from a grand jury report. It found that San Jose Unified School District failed to disclose conflicts-of-interest and lobbying contracts related to a proposal to build affordable housing for teachers and staff. The school district’s board rejected concerns that the contracts with two different firms working on the housing project had been inappropriate. But it agreed to provide more transparency around such agreements in the future.
Georgia – Georgia Republicans Want to Reshape Voting Laws, Burdening Voters of Color
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Carrie Levine, Kimberly Cataudella, and Stephen Fowler | Published: 3/5/2021
Election experts say the 2020 election was fair, and courts have tossed out dozens of lawsuits filed by former President Trump’s campaign and allied groups after finding no evidence of fraud. Nonetheless, Republicans around the country are sponsoring measures to constrain voter access, arguing they are responding to the perception that elections need to be more secure. Georgia, with a Republican-controlled Legislature, is at the epicenter of that fight. Record participation from voters of color in the 2020 election and subsequent runoff helped Democrats flip the state’s electoral votes and both U.S. Senate seats.
Illinois – How Michael Madigan’s Departure Accelerates a Shift in Chicago Politics from Old-School Machine to New-Era Progressives
Yahoo News – Bill Ruthhart and John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/4/2021
The last two Cook County Democratic Party bosses suffered embarrassing losses to political newcomers for county assessor and mayor. A congressional seat held for decades by a powerful establishment family now belongs to a progressive outsider. Several longtime white machine politicians in Chicago have been defeated by first-time candidates of color. The change is being driven by generational, ideological, and demographic shifts, with federal law enforcement and organized labor providing major assists. The result is a move away from old-style bosses toward a more diffuse leadership structure that is more diverse and practices an increasingly progressive style of politics centered on economic and racial equity.
Illinois – State’s Ex-Pot Regulators, Pols Are Cashing In On the Exploding Industry. A Proposed Crackdown Won’t Stop All of Them.
Chicago Sun-Times – Tom Schuba | Published: 3/10/2021
A year after recreational cannabis sales kicked off in Illinois, legalization has been a boon for the few multimillion-dollar companies granted permission to grow and sell marijuana and a windfall for local and state governments strapped for cash. It has also been a jackpot for a host of former cannabis regulators. On top of that, two sponsors of the law that legalized recreational cannabis are also benefiting from the pot industry, albeit through connections to firms operating in other states. State Rep. Marty Moylan introduced legislation that would strengthen conflict-of-interest provisions in the law that aim to prevent lawmakers, regulators, and their families from profiting off the industry.
Iowa – Journalist Acquitted in Iowa Case Seen as Attack on Press
MSN – Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 3/10/2021
An Iowa jury acquitted a journalist who was pepper-sprayed and arrested by police while covering a protest, in a case that critics have derided as an attack on press freedoms and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. The jury found Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri and her ex-boyfriend Spenser Robnett not guilty on misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse and interference with official acts. More than 100 groups called for the dismissal of charges last summer, but prosecutors aggressively pursued them, arguing tSahouri and Robnett did not comply with police orders to leave the chaotic scene and interfered with the officer who arrested Sahouri.
Maine – Maine Ethics Commission Says Senate District 14 Candidate Violated Election Law, but Assesses No Penalty
Portland Press Herald – Jessica Lowell (Kennebec Jouirnal) | Published: 3/8/2021
A state Senate candidate violated Maine’s election sign law but will not be assessed a penalty, the Commission on Governmental and Ethics Practices ruled. The commission said in failing to initially add a disclosure statement to those signs, William Guerrette violated state campaign laws. In a separate action, it voted to assess no penalty against Guerrette. The complaint said the four electronic signs urging people to vote for Guerrette failed to include a disclaimer explaining who paid for the signs and who authorized them. Initially, Guerrette was told the signs were fine, but when his campaign was directed to add disclosure statements, the statements were added.
Massachusetts – Body Armor and Pepper Spray: Politicians can buy safety gear with campaign funds after Capitol attack
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 3/7/2021
An advisory opinion from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance allows the state’s elected officials to use campaign funds to buy bulletproof vests, gas masks, and other gear to protect themselves and their staffs following the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Michael Sullivan, the campaign office’s director, noted the agency previously allowed candidates to use campaign money to pay for a security detail or a home security system. Sullivan citied the “recent events in our nation’s capital” and that officials or their staffs could reasonably be concerned about their safety at the statehouse or elsewhere.
Michigan – Auditor-Recommended Election Reforms Approved in Michigan House
MLive.com – Samuel Dodge | Published: 3/9/2021
The Michigan House approved a series of election reform bills, including a package addressing recommended changes by the state auditor general. A report from the auditor general recommended ways to improve the process, including cleaning up the qualified voter file’s list of names, ensuring better training of local clerks, and improving campaign finance reporting. In addition, House Bill 4130 moves back the date for lobbyists to submit their reports by one month. House Bill 4131 extends the deadline to correct errors and omissions in campaign finance statements.
Michigan – Feds Probe MDOT Corruption Case with Alleged Ghost Contractors, Bonuses for Wives
Yahoo News – Robert Snell (Detroit News) | Published: 3/6/2021
Five Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) contractors are targets of an FBI investigation over whether they defrauded taxpayers out of more than $7.3 million by overbilling, submitting phony expenses, and giving no-show, six-figure jobs to their wives. Search warrant filings reveal a years-long, ongoing wire fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering investigation targeting at least five executives at Surveying Solutions. The company is one of the state’s preeminent surveying firms and has worked on more than 150 MDOT projects in recent years’ worth $29.3 million.
Michigan – Lobbyist Advanced Client’s Plan as Appointee on Michigan Pot Panel
Yahoo News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 3/5/2021
The Marijuana Regulatory Agency created the Racial Equity Advisory Work Group to develop policy recommendations and make Michigan a “leader on diversity, equity, and inclusion” in the marijuana industry. When the workgroup’s ideas were unveiled, the top recommendation was to create a new license type, allowing for “marijuana microbusinesses.” An Ann Arbor-based business, Tranquility Fields, wants to franchise small marijuana operations across the state. Among the group’s lobbyists is Berton Brown, one of the 21 workgroup members. Critics argue having a lobbyist on an official state workgroup advancing recommendations that could boost his employer is a conflict-of-interest.
Missouri – After Judges Rewrite GOP Lawmakers’ Ballot Language, Missouri House Votes to Strip Their Power
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup and Maria Benevento | Published: 3/10/2021
After Missouri courts last year threw out and rewrote the Legislature’s ballot language for a proposed change to the state constitution, Republican lawmakers moved to strip judges’ power to rewrite ballot language. The effort follows rulings from two courts in the run-up to the November election that tossed the Legislature’s wording for a question that changed the way Missouri was to draw state legislative districts after the 2020 Census. In addition to the redistricting changes, the measure banned lobbyist gifts. But Cole Circuit County Judge Patricia Joyce rewrote the summary.
New Mexico – Political Spending Transparency Bill Clears Senate
New Mexico In Depth – Bryan Metzger | Published: 3/10/2021
The New Mexico Senate approved a bill that would close a loophole in the state’s transparency laws and require lawmakers running for federal office to disclose their contributions every 10 days during the legislative session. The loophole allows nonprofit organizations to avoid disclosing donors behind political spending if those giving the money requested in writing that their donations not be spent for political purposes, even if the group decides to use the money for politics anyway.
New York – Cuomo’s Behavior Created ‘Hostile, Toxic’ Workplace Culture for Decades, Former Aides Say
MSN – Amy Brittain, Josh Dawsey, Hannah Knowles, and Tracy Jan (Washington Post) | Published: 3/6/2021
Fresh accounts of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s workplace behavior by former aides come after several women have publicly accused him of inappropriate personal comments or unwelcome physical contact. The allegations have engulfed one of the country’s top Democratic officials in crisis and put a focus on the workplace culture he has fostered during his three decades in public office. Many former aides and advisers described a toxic environment in which the governor unleashes verbal attacks on subordinates. Some said he seemed to delight in humiliating his employees, particularly in group meetings.
New York – Is NYC’s Expensive Campaign Finance Program Worth the Cost?
Gothamist – Cindy Rodriguez | Published: 3/3/2021
New York City’s Campaign Finance Board recently doled out $37 million in matching funds to candidates running for public office, the highest in its history. Their eight-to-one matching program is supposed to level the playing field and encourage campaigns to rely on small donors instead of big money and special interests. But in two different special elections in Queens, several candidates received tens of thousands of dollars in public financing and only a few hundred votes, leaving some to question whether, during a financial crisis, city taxpayer money should be spent differently. “‘’m concerned that we are wasting a tremendous amount of public funds for people to have vanity projects,” said Patrick Jenkins, a district leader in Queens.
New York – NY Officials Removed Fuller Tally of Nursing Home Deaths
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 3/5/2021
The state Health Department confirmed that members of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force altered a report to omit the full number of nursing home patients killed by the coronavirus, but insisted the changes were made because of concerns about the data’s accuracy. It has been reported that gubernatorial aides pushed state health officials to edit the July report so it counted only residents who died inside long-term care facilities, and not those who became ill there and later died at a hospital. It is the latest blow for Cuomo, who has been besieged by scandals involving his handling of nursing home deaths and accusations he sexually harassed two former aides and a woman he met at a wedding he officiated.
New York – Top NYC Lobbyist Settles Ethics Case in de Blasio Fundraising Probe
New York Post – Carl Campanile | Published: 3/9/2021
Suri Kasirer, New York City’s top lobbyist, agreed to a $5,000 settlement with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) over her firm’s dealings with the non-profit group created to promote Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda. The settlement noted Kasirer assisted in raising money for the since defunct Campaign for One New York after the mayor personally asked her for assistance in raising funds for the group. The Lobbying Act prohibits lobbyists and their clients from giving gifts to a public official, which includes gifts to third parties on behalf of or at the behest of a public official. JCOPE investigated whether donations by individuals with business before the city were a gift to the mayor.
North Dakota – North Dakota House Expels Lawmaker Accused of Misconduct
Associated Press News – James MacPherson | Published: 3/5/2021
The North Dakota House voted to expel Rep. Luke Simons, who was accused of threatening and sexually harassing women at the Capitol, the first time in state history a lawmaker has been expelled. Simons is accused of a pattern of sexually aggressive, lewd, and threatening behavior. Rep. Emily O’Brien said his harassment was so pervasive that she switched desks to get away from him.
Ohio – 5 More Householder Campaign Finance Claims Referred in Ohio
Associated Press News – Julie Carr Smyth | Published: 3/5/2021
Ohio’s elections chief said he has amended his massive list of campaign finance violations against suspects in an alleged $60 million bribery scheme to include five additional allegations against former House Speaker Larry Householder. Secretary of State Frank LaRose said a routine examination of state filings by Householder showed five individuals exceeded legal giving limits between March 11, 2019, and January 15, 2020. Householder, who has been ousted as speaker but remains a state representative, and four others were arrested and indicted on federal racketeering charges for what has been called the biggest corruption scandal in state history.
Ohio – Bankruptcy Judge Questioned FirstEnergy Solutions’ Law Firm on a Draft Political Contributions Motion That Was Never Filed
Energy and Policy Institute – Dave Anderson | Published: 3/10/2021
Bankruptcy court records show lawyers for FirstEnergy Solutions (FES) drafted, but never filed, a motion seeking a judge’s approval to make political contributions shortly before the company gave $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association during the closing weeks of the 2018 elections. The $500,000 contribution represents nearly half of the over $1 million FirstEnergy has spent in support of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine since 2017. FirstEnergy’s financial support is one of several factors that has drawn DeWine into the scandal surrounding House Bill 6, which was set to deliver a $1 billion ratepayer bailout to two nuclear power plants then owned by FES before courts halted the payments.
Ohio – In Filing, FirstEnergy Said State Regulator Acted for the Company’s Benefit as a Result of $4.3 Million Payment
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/4/2021
A previously unnoticed disclosure by FirstEnergy Corp. sheds additional light on company’s view of the $4.3 million it paid to an unnamed state official shortly before that person took a job as a top utility regulator in Ohio. In legal disclosures, the utility said the payment to a consulting firm tied to that person led to “conduct corresponding to such payment,” and to that person “acting at the request or for the benefit of FirstEnergy as a consequence of receiving such payment.” The company said the payment led it to update its terms with its lenders on November 17. The day before, the FBI raided then-Public Utilities Commission Chairperson Sam Randazzo’s home. Randazzo quit on the day after FirstEnergy disclosed the payment.
Oregon – A Timber Lobbyist Called Our Investigation ‘Completely Bogus.’ We Have the Receipts to Show It’s Not
ProPublica – Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) and Tony Schick (Oregon Public Broadcasting) | Published: 3/8/2021
With the Oregon Legislature taking up bills to overhaul or eliminate the Oregon Forest Resources Institute after a media investigation, lobbyists have repeatedly attacked the reporting as incorrect. The institute is a quasi-governmental agency meant to promote forestry education. The investigation found the institute had acted as a de facto lobbying arm of the timber industry, in some cases skirting legal constraints that forbid it from doing so.
Oregon – Lobbyists Try for Influence, Without as Much Access to Oregon Lawmakers
Portland Oregonian – Jake Thomas (Salem Reporter) | Published: 3/3/2021
An impromptu five-minute conversation can be politically effective in the halls of the Oregon Capitol. Such encounters have long been crucial for the army of lobbyists hoping to get a moment with a state legislator. But that personal style of lobbying has been checked by the coronavirus pandemic. The Capitol has been closed since last March to the public and to lobbyists. Now, those representing everyone from acupuncturists to veterinarians must make do with text messages, emails, and video conferences. Now, lobbyists must book virtual meetings weeks in advance for conversations that would normally take five to 10 minutes.
South Carolina – SC Government Waste and Corruption Revelations Confront Culture Resistant to Change
Charleston Post and Courier – Tony Bartelme and Glenn Smith | Published: 3/7/2021
Media reports on gas authorities, fire districts, and other special-purpose districts in South Carolina that operate with little outside scrutiny led one agency to reconsider its spending practices. Gov. Henry McMaster and some lawmakers called for more scrutiny of special-purpose districts and a bill was filed to ratchet up ethics reporting requirements for these entities. Other agencies remain unmoved. Their leaders defend traveling with spouses to five-star resorts for “work retreats” – trips that involved just a handful of meetings but plenty of time for golf, and, in one case, glass-blowing lessons. Truly changing a public service culture that has operated for decades with loose restrictions will take time and effort, watchdogs caution.
Texas – Twitter Sues Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Asks Court to Halt His Investigation of the Social Media Company
Texas Tribune – Marissa Martinez | Published: 3/8/2021
Twitter filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in federal court and asked a judge to halt the state’s top lawyer from investigating the company. Twitter’s court filings include a request for a temporary restraining order that would keep Paxton and his office from enforcing a demand that seeks documents revealing the company’s internal decision-making processes for banning users, among other things. Paxton, a fervent supporter of former President Trump, sent the company a civil investigative demand after it banned Trump from its platform following January’s siege at the U.S. Capitol.
West Virginia – Ethics Commission Breaks Up County Prosecutor’s Hiring of Her Boyfriend
Charleston Gazette and Mail – Phil Kabler | Published: 3/4/2021
A county prosecutor violated the law by hiring her boyfriend as an assistant prosecutor, and must terminate his employment within 30 days, the West Virginia Ethics commission ruled. A key point in the decision was the prosecutor had failed to advertise the job opening but had reached out to local lawyers about the vacancy. The commission also concluded that an organization that lobbies the Legislature may recognize a lawmaker by making a charitable contribution in the legislator’s name to a local homeless shelter in excess of the $25 limit on gifts in the Ethics Act.
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