News You Can Use Digest - March 26, 2021 - State and Federal Communications

March 26, 2021  •  

News You Can Use Digest – March 26, 2021

National/Federal

Congressional Fundraisers Lobby Corporations That Suspended Political Donations Following Capitol Riot
MSN – Brian Schwartz (CNBC) | Published: 3/19/2021

Fundraisers for congressional candidates and party campaign arms have been lobbying corporations to resume donating after many suspended their political contributions. Dozens of corporations at least temporarily paused donations from their PACs after the January 6 Capitol Hill riot that led to at least five deaths. That day, more than 145 Republican lawmakers, encouraged by then-President Trump, voted to dispute the results of the Electoral College certifying Joe Biden as the next president.  Most companies have since said they are reviewing their PACs’ policies on who they give to in the future.

Court Reinstates Guilty Verdicts Against Flynn Partner Over Turkey Lobbying
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/17/2021

A federal appeals court reinstated a jury’s guilty verdicts on the business partner of former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn over the pair’s lobbying for Turkish interests during the 2016 presidential campaign. A three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a judge’s ruling last year tossing out the guilty verdicts against Bijan Rafiekian, a businessperson who worked with Flynn on a lobbying and public relations campaign targeting a longtime opponent of the Turkish government, Fethullah Gulen. Judge James Wynn acknowledged the evidence against Rafiekian was far from overwhelming, but said jurors were free to convict the defendant based on circumstantial evidence and inferences.

David Cameron to Be Investigated by Lobbying Body
BBC – Staff | Published: 3/24/2021

Former United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron is being investigated by a lobbying watchdog after reports he contacted government officials on behalf of financial services company Greensill Capital. The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists said it was looking into whether he had done unregistered consultant lobbying. A source close to Cameron said he was exempt from the register as he had been an in-house employee. The contact is said to have taken place after Cameron was prime minister.

HUD Secretary May Have Violated Ethics Law by Championing Democrats in Ohio Senate Race at White House
MSN – Tyler Pager (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2021

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, a former member of Congress from Cleveland, may have violated the Hatch Act at the White House when discussing the 2022 U.S, Senate race in Ohio and promoting Democrats’ chances to win the seat, experts said. Fudge answered a question about the race for the seat of retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “… I think we’re going to put a good person in that race no matter who we choose …,” Fudge said. “I think we have a good shot at it. I know people have written off Ohio. I haven’’ written off Ohio. I believe we can win the Senate race.” The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch officials from engaging in political campaigns and related activities in an official capacity.

Intern Pay Was Supposed to Boost Diversity in Congress. Most of the Money Went to White Students
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 3/22/2021

Pay Our Interns pushed lawmakers until they agreed to allocate $20,000 to each House office and about $50,000 to each Senate office annually for intern pay, starting in 2019. It would go a long way toward closing the intern diversity gap, hoped Carlos Mark Vera, founder of the group. Instead, the people getting paid internships were overwhelmingly white, 76 percent white, compared to just 52 percent of the national undergraduate population. Black and Latino students were underrepresented, comprising 15 percent and 20 percent of undergraduates nationally but roughly seven percent and eight percent of paid Capitol Hill interns. While interns rarely have much impact on lawmaking, they often go on to more important positions that can affect legislation.

Lobbyists See Biden’s Infrastructure Package as Windfall
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/23/2021

A massive White House spending proposal on infrastructure and other domestic priorities is setting the stage for a potential lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill, particularly as more lawmakers embrace a return to earmarks. Lobbying shops on K Street are eager to take on clients who would be competing for new government funding in the legislation expected to hit $3 trillion, and lobbyists on both sides of the aisle are excited about earmarks opening up new avenues of advocacy. Watchdog groups are excited about the legislation to deal with infrastructure, climate change, and global vaccine gaps, among other areas. But they are concerned corporate lobbyists could influence it beyond its intended scope.

Many House Members Averse to Cooperating with OCE, Study Shows
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 3/17/2021

More than a third of U.S. House members investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) refused to fully cooperate with the probes since the office started investigating lawmakers in 2009. The Campaign Legal Center’s report shows that except for the 113th Congress, member cooperation has steadily declined. Unlike the House Committee on Ethics, the OCE lacks subpoena power and cannot issue sanctions. When members choose not to sit for OCE interviews or produce certain documents, the office is forced to complete its fact-gathering process without that information.

Rep. Tom Reed Apologizes for Sexual Misconduct Detailed in Post Report, Won’t Challenge Cuomo in 2022
MSN – Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 3/21/2021

Days after a former lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed publicly apologized, vowed not to seek reelection, and abandoned a possible run against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Reed said in a statement that he was “struggling” in early 2017, when the incident occurred, and entered treatment for alcohol abuse that year. Reed recently has been weighing a bid to unseat Cuomo and had called for the governor to be impeached amid allegations he sexually harassed multiple women, mostly state employees. Since he was elected to Congress in 2010, Reed has cast himself as a champion of women’s rights.

Senators Turn to Democrats’ Overhaul of Elections and Ethics
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/24/2021

As outside groups ramped up multimillion-dollar campaigns for and against it, U.S. senators took their first formal look at Democrats’ symbolic top-priority bill, a nearly 800-page overhaul of election, campaign finance, and government ethics laws. The bill’s fate may come down to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’ He is the lone Democrat in the 50-50 chamber who has not yet embraced the legislation, dubbed S1 and HR1, even though he signed on as a co-sponsor when the Senate was in GOP control in the last Congress and the bill had no chance of passing. Manchin told reporters the legislation “might divide us even further on a partisan basis” but indicated he supported some provisions.

Several of Biden’s Top White House Aides Aren’t Required to Disclose Personal Finances
Yahoo News – Soo Rin Kim and Libby Cathy (ABC News) | Published: 3/23/2021

Some of President Joe Biden’s top aides in the White House, including advisers overseeing the administration’s coronavirus response and vaccine operation, have not publicly disclosed their personal finances. Senior White House adviser Anita Dunn, deputy coronavirus response coordinator Andy Slavitt, and coronavirus vaccine coordinator Bechara Choucair are not required to file public financial disclosure reports that would reveal their past employment, source of income, personal assets and liabilities, due to the temporary nature of their positions or because they are paid below the reporting threshold, a White House official said.

Trump Faces an Onslaught of Legal Problems, as Investigations and Dozens of Lawsuits Trail Him from Washington to Florida
MSN – David Fahenthold, Amy Gardner, Shayna Jacobs, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/18/2021

A district attorney is sifting through millions of pages of former President Trump’s tax records. The state attorney general has subpoenaed his lawyers, his bankers, his chief financial officer, and even one of his sons. That is just in New York. Trump is also facing criminal investigations in Georgia and the District of Columbia related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He must defend himself against a growing raft of lawsuits, including some seeking damages from Trump’s actions on January 6, when he encouraged a march to the Capitol that ended in a mob storming the building. The volume of these legal problems indicates that after a moment of maximum invincibility in the White House, Trump has fallen to a point of historic vulnerability before the law.

Trump Officials Hindered at Least Nine Key Oversight Probes, Watchdogs Said. Some May Finally Be Released in Coming Months.
MSN – Lisa Rein, Tom Hamburger, Michael Laris, and John Hudson (Washington Post) | Published: 3/22/2021

Politically sensitive work by government watchdogs, mandated by Congress to monitor federal agencies for waste, fraud, and misconduct, faced roadblocks or otherwise were dragged out during the Trump era. Across the government, at least nine key oversight investigations were impeded by clashes with the White House or political appointees. Tensions between federal watchdogs and the administration they monitor are not uncommon. But 11 inspectors general or their senior aides who served under Trump said hostility to oversight reached unprecedented levels during his time in office.

Widows Describe What It’s Like Running for Congress
MSN – Paul Fontello (Roll Call) | Published: 3/19/2021

Julia Letlow’s husband, U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, died of COVID-19 complications five days before he could be sworn in for the start of the new Congress. Now, Julia Letlow could join a small group of lawmakers in congressional history who succeeded their deceased spouses. According to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, 47 women have been appointed or elected to fill vacancies in Congress created when their husbands died. A century ago, that was a key path for women entering politics, according to Debbie Walsh, the center’s director. Widows were seen as dutiful rather than threatening, which helped them break the gender barrier.

Canada

Canada Former Ambassador MacNaughton Did Not Violate Lobbying Act: Commissioner
Yahoo News – Canadian Press | Published: 3/23/2021

Canada’s former ambassador to the United States has been cleared of illegally lobbying federal government officials. Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said David MacNaughton did not violate the Lobbying Act last year when he had dozens of communications with senior officials about government policy and its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bélanger said MacNaughton had 49 communications with federal officials and offered the pro bono services of his current employer, Palantir Technologies Canada, in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Because those communications were short and did not constitute a “significant part” of his work for Palantir, Bélanger said they did not violate the law.

From the States and Municipalities

California L.A. to Pay Out $150,000 Over Lawsuit by Former Aide to Jose Huizar
MSN – Emily Alpert Reyes (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/24/2021

Los Angeles will pay up to $150,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former aide who alleged he was fired after speaking up about possible crimes committed by then-city Councilperson Jose Huizar. The decision marks the third payout made by the city to settle retaliation suits filed by former staffers for Huizar, who is now facing federal charges that include bribery, racketeering, and money laundering. The settlement involving former staffer Jesse Leon brings the city’s total tab for such lawsuits to $350,000.

Colorado Aurora Lawmakers Sold on Lobbyist Reform, Delivery Fee Caps and Tax-Free Menstrual Products
Sentinel Colorado – Grant Stringer | Published: 3/22/2021

Aurora lawmakers finalized tighter rules on lobbying disclosures. Lobbyists will have to frequently disclose their activities in public reports. The law will create a public record of lobbyists attempting to sway the city’s decision-making targets. City council members, city staff, commission members and zoning officials who speak with them will also have to disclose activities with lobbyists.

Colorado In Record Year for Colorado Campaign Finance Complaints, Republicans Cry Foul Over Enforcement
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 3/24/2021

Republicans are crying foul over campaign finance decisions by a deputy secretary of state who rejected recommendations by the Campaign Finance Enforcement team organized a year ago by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat. A record number of complaints were filed in 2020 along with the second highest fine issued in recent years. But it is possible the system created in 2019 could be tested, as some Republicans challenge the claims filed against them. In at least two instances, the office’s Campaign Finance Enforcement team recommended dismissing complaints, but the deputy secretary of state reversed the recommendations.

Connecticut Ex-GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Obsitnik Fined $90,000 by Election Enforcement Agency for 2018 Campaign Financing Irregularities
MSN – Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/18/2021

Connecticut election regulators on fined former gubernatorial candidate Steve Obsitnik $90,000 over allegations he illegally coordinated with an independent expenditure committee created to help his failed 2018 campaign. The State Elections Enforcement Commission also alleged he failed to register his candidate committee within 10 days of declaring a run for governor. State Rep. Jason Perillo was fined $10,000 over allegations he made a “disallowed” contribution to Obsitnik’s campaign and helped coordinate with the independent expenditure committee.

Florida ‘A Cloud of Corruption’: Democrats want DOJ probe of Florida state Senate races
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty and Samantha Gross | Published: 3/25/2021

A week after former state Sen. Frank Artiles was arrested on felony charges of offering no-party candidate Alexis Rodriguez $50,000 to run as an independent in a South Florida state Senate race, Florida’s Democrats in Congress are asking U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland for a corruption investigation. The lawmakers argued the potential illicit transfer of campaign funds across state lines warrants scrutiny from the federal government. Political committees used money from a “dark money” group to pay for the ads that touted independent candidates, which included language that mimicked Democrats’ platforms and seemed designed to confuse voters, the members of Congress wrote to Garland.

Georgia Female Lawmakers in Georgia File Sexual Harassment Complaint After Lewd Comments
Courthouse News Service – Aimee Sachs | Published: 3/17/2021

Female lawmakers in the Georgia House filed a sexual harassment complaint to the ethics committee after a male colleague made an inappropriate comment. During a debate on legislation about outgoing surgery sedation, Rep. Kasey Carpenter made what he later said was intended to be a joke about rapper Cardi B’s buttocks. For at least a dozen of the House women, Carpenter’s comment was not only inappropriate and offensive but a reflection of a culture of toxic masculinity in the Capitol they are fed up with.

Georgia Georgia Bill for New Leadership Money Heads to Governor
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 3/18/2021

Georgia lawmakers passed a bill that would allow for the creation of new “leadership committees” that could raise campaign funds without limits and coordinate directly with individual candidates, including during a legislative session. It would allow for committees controlled by the governor, lieutenant governor, a political party’s nominee for governor or lieutenant governor, and by the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the state House and Senate. Democrats argued the bill will lead to more money interests being injected into state politics, while Republicans said the bill gives both parties equal opportunity to generate campaign funds.

Hawaii The Hawaii Capitol Is Closed to The Public, But Some Lobbyists Still Have Entrée
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 3/24/2021

The public has been barred from entering the Capitol since March 2020, when Hawaii Sen. Clarence Nishihara tested positive for COVID-19 after a trip to Las Vegas. At the start of the 2021 legislative session, constituents were again banned from entering the Capitol and visiting offices and committee rooms. Instead, they testified remotely to legislative committees. But some individuals, including registered lobbyists, have been able to gain an audience with lawmakers in their offices after scheduling appointments.

Illinois Executive Resigns from Hospital That Offered Early Vaccines to Employees at Trump’s Chicago Hotel
MSN – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2021

The chief operating officer of a small Chicago hospital resigned after reports he used coronavirus vaccines meant for low-income residents to vaccinate employees at his luxury wristwatch dealer, his regular steakhouse, and his condominium building, which is former President Trump’s Chicago tower. Anosh Ahmed’s actions had raised concerns that Loretto Hospital executives were putting their friends ahead of their patients. The city of Chicago had already cut off Loretto’s supply of new vaccines while it investigated.

Kentucky Second Person Charged with Lying to Jury, FBI in Case Connected to Lexington Council
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 3/19/2021

Jeffrey Collins was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly lying to federal investigators and a jury about campaign contributions to Lexington City Council members. Collins, a then-employee of CRM Companies, faces two counts related to a $1,000 contribution he gave during the May 2018 council primaries. The lies allegedly occurred during the investigation and trial of former real estate executive Timothy Wellman, who worked for CRM Companies. No allegations of wrongdoing were made against council members.

Maryland Complaints Filed About Maryland Lawmaker Who Tuned into Legislative Meetings from the Operating Room
MSN – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 3/23/2021

A Maryland lawmaker who is also a surgeon twice tuned into General Assembly committee meetings from an operating room during a legislative session in which many hearings and votes have been held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. When Del. Terri Hill’s Zoom account was logged into a meeting of the Health and Government Operations Committee for about an hour, it showed multiple gowned and masked figures moving about, with sets of operating room lights visible on the screen. Hill defended the practice as not much different from listening to music or a recorded book while in the operating room. Complaints have been filed against Hill with the state Board of Physicians and the General Assembly’s ethics committee.

Maryland Following Monthly Exposé, Maryland House Passes Bill Targeting Hogan’s Business Dealings
Washington Monthly – Eric Cortellessa | Published: 3/18/2021

The Maryland House passed a bill to reform state ethics law, following a news story about Gov. Larry Hogan’s advancing road and highway projects near properties his company owns, which can boost the value of those properties. Hogan dismissed he report as a “blog thing,” but the story was cited by proponents of the new bill. The legislation would tighten disclosure laws by requiring the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, and any agency head to notify state ethics officials and members of the General Assembly whenever they face a decision in which they or a relative have a monetary interest. It would also require all elected officials to reveal more information about businesses in which they have a stake.

Missouri St. Charles County Lawmaker Wants to Impose Tough Ethics Rules – on St. Louis City Elected Officials
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 3/22/2021

A ranking member of the Missouri House wants to impose tougher ethics rules on officials in St. Louis. Rep. John Wiemann, the speaker pro tem, says just as state officials are barred from receiving gifts and must wait two years to begin lobbying their former colleagues, city officials also should face limits. Under changes in the state constitution approved by voters, lobbyists are banned from giving out gifts or meals to state lawmakers worth more than five dollars. But that prohibition did not include mayors, city council members, and other local officials.

Montana Montana’s Governor Broke Rules to Kill a Yellowstone Wolf. A State Agency Gave Him a Warning.
Yahoo News – Erin Snodgrass (Business Insider) | Published: 3/23/2021

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte was let off with a warning for defying a state regulation before trapping and killing a Yellowstone wolf near the national park in February. Though wolves inside Yellowstone are protected from hunters, Montana law does allow for the trapping and hunting of wolves in other parts of the state, including those that wander out of the park’s boundaries. But Gianforte harvested the wolf without having completed a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course.

Nevada Ex-Lawmaker Charged with Misusing Funds, False Records
Associated Press News – Michele Price | Published: 3/19/2021

The Nevada attorney general’s office charged former state Rep. Alex Assefa of misusing campaign funds and filing false voter registration and campaign finance records. Prosecutors filed 14 charges against Assefa, who before resigning in January in the wake of reports he was under investigation related to his finances and whether he lived in the legislative district he represented. Prosecutors alleged Assefa lied about his residence on voter registration forms, filed false campaign finance reports, and misappropriated at least $11,150 in campaign funds.

Nevada Lobbyists Must Register, Report; Still Can’t Enter Legislature
This Is Reno – Jerri Davis | Published: 3/19/2021

Assembly Bill 110, which addresses lobbying the Capitol during the pandemic, was signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak. Lobbyists have not been allowed inside the legislative building.at all this session, which began February 1. Nevada law previously required lobbyists to register only if they were conducting business in-person. Under the bill, lobbyists can now register online. They will need to file reports on their activity since the start of the session.

New Jersey Former Candidate Tied to N.J. Corruption Case Gets Probation Over $10K Campaign Contribution
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/18/2021

A former Morris County freeholder candidate tied to an ongoing New Jersey “pay-to-play” investigation was sentenced to probation over campaign contribution she took from a tax attorney who allegedly had been looking to lock-down lucrative municipal contracts. Mary Dougherty, the wife of the current mayor of Morristown, originally was charged with bribery, but pleaded guilty to reduced charges in February of falsifying a campaign finance report. The plea means she will not face prison. She was also required to forfeit the $10,000 contribution.

New Mexico Lobbyist Caught Swearing During Virtual Senate Finance Committee Meeting
KRQE – Brady Wakayama | Published: 3/21/2021

Virtual meetings are now common during the pandemic and there are stories of people forgetting to mute themselves at the wrong time. That is exactly what happened recently at the New Mexico Legislature. The hot mic incident happened as lawmakers were discussing a tax reform package. It would expand a tax credit for low-income workers and expands the low-income comprehensive tax rebate. “I got legislative sessions going and these b****es are trying to throw taxes on us,” said one business lobbyist attending a virtual Senate Finance Committee meeting.

New York Andrew Cuomo’s Family Members Were Given Special Access to Covid Testing, According to People Familiar with the Arrangement
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Amy Brittain, and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2021

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration arranged special access to government-run coronavirus testing for members of his family and other well-connected people as the pandemic hit New York last year, according to three people with direct knowledge of the effort. As part of the program, a state lab immediately processed the results of those who were tested, the people said, even as average New Yorkers were struggling to get tested in the early days of the pandemic because of a scarcity of resources. New York law prohibits state officials from using their positions to secure privileges for themselves or others.

New York Cuomo Ethics Commissioners Block Subpoena to Governor’s Office
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/23/2021

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointees to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) blocked a subpoena seeking information about the unpaid volunteers playing an outsized role in the COVID-19 response. If issued, the proposed subpoena would have sought information about which volunteers aiding Cuomo have been exempted from normal ethics rules under executive orders issued by the governor. The subpoena also would have sought information about whether those volunteers ever recused themselves from governmental matters that posed potential conflicts-of-interest with their day jobs.

Ohio Florida Authorities Say Columbus Lobbyist’s Death an Apparent Suicide
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 3/17/2021

Police believe a longtime Ohio lobbyist charged in connection with the House Bill 6 probe took his own life. Michelle Batten, a spokesperson for the Collier County sheriff’s office in Florida, said investigators do not suspect foul play was involved in Neil Clark’s death. Prosecutors say Clark played a role in a $61 million bribery scheme, funded by FirstEnergy and its affiliates, to pass the bill that bailed out two power plants owned by a former FirstEnergy subsidiary.

Ohio Nursing Home Association Gave $135,000 to Dark Money Group Indicted in Ohio Bribery Case
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 3/22/2021

An entity representing Ohio’s nursing home industry contributed at least $135,000 to a “dark money” group that has pleaded guilty to its role in an alleged racketeering scheme involving former House Speaker Larry Householder. The nonprofit 501(c)(4) entity, 55 Green Meadows, is affiliated with the Ohio Health Care Association. In 2017 and 2018, 55 Green Meadows, donated the money to Generation Now, group that prosecutors say Householder secretly controlled. Both these nonprofit entities, known as “social welfare” organizations under federal tax law, can legally spend unlimited sums influencing politics so long as this is not the organization’s “primary activity.”

South Carolina An SC Councilman’s Company Did Work for His City for Years. No One Asked Questions.
Charleston Post and Courier – Stephen Hobbs and Thad Moore | Published: 3/20/2021

Every year, elected officials in South Carolina flood the State Ethics Commission with paperwork intended to reveal potential conflicts-of-interest. But for more than a decade, a medical practice owned by Dillon’s current acting mayor, Dr. Phil Wallace, made money from the city and he never disclosed it. The relationship was hardly a secret. Wallace’s medical practice had a list of clients on its website and “Historic City of Dillon, S.C.” was at the top of the list. The case shows how in South Carolina, clear entanglements can fall through the cracks.

South Carolina SC AG Alan Wilson’s Office Gives Public Corruption Cases to Upstate Prosecutor
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 3/18/2021

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office will give four high-profile cases involving alleged public corruption by three former state lawmakers and a political consultant to a state prosecutor. The charges against Richard Quinn Sr. and the lawmakers that will now be handled by Seventh Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette stem from special prosecutor David Pascoe’s investigation into statehouse corruption. In January, after state Supreme Court decision in one of Pascoe’s corruption cases placed limits on Pascoe’s authority, he turned over his pending cases in his investigation to Wilson for disposal.

Texas Texas’s Chief Energy Regulator Fiercely Defended Fossil Fuels After Historic Blackouts. She Also Profits from Oil and Gas.
MSN – Neena Santija and Aaron Gregg (Washington Post) | Published: 3/19/2021

Christi Craddick, who chairs a commission overseeing the oil and gas industry in Texas, defended said natural gas producers were not responsible for the widespread powers outages the state suffered in the wake of a recent winter storm. Craddick and her father, a well-known state representative who sits on two committees overseeing oil and gas, have direct financial ties to that industry, including with some of the same gas-producing companies that have admitted to shutdowns of their own facilities during the storm. Critics say the ownership stakes reflect a conflict of interest for the Craddicks and exemplify a major ethics loophole in Texas, where regulators can have financial interests in the companies they oversee.

Vermont Zoom Boom: Will Statehouse livestreaming continue when lawmakers return?
VTDigger.org – Kit Norton | Published: 3/22/2021

Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the statehouse last year in Vermont, legislative committee meetings were relatively difficult for the public to access. They were taped for posterity, but recordings were hard to come by. Only House and Senate floor proceedings were available via livestream, courtesy of Vermont Public Radio. In the year since, lawmakers have grown accustomed to conducting business and members of the public, the press, and lobbyists have grown accustomed to accessing video of those proceedings on YouTube. Now, the Senate is considering legislation that could make Statehouse business available to the public even after the pandemic is over.

Washington DC ‘It’s Not a Local Issue Anymore’: D.C. statehood moves from political fringe to the center of the national Democratic agenda
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2021

With Joe Biden as president, a Democratic majority in Congress behind him, and a fast-evolving political landscape has propelled District of Columbia statehood up the Democratic priority list after it passed the U.S. House for the first time last year. The jolt of momentum stems in part from an increasingly urgent desire among Democrats to act while they have power to erode what they see as Republican structural advantages in the nation’s democracy, including the Senate. Statehood would probably result in two additional Democratic senators, shifting the dynamic in a chamber where members from conservative, rural states can wield disproportionate influence over legislation, federal courts, and presidential nominations.

Wisconsin Bill Would Require Legislators and Their Staff to Stop Deleting Public Records
Wisconsin Examiner – Melanie Conklin | Published: 3/18/2021

The Wisconsin Legislature is required to respond to open records request, just as any other government entity in the state. But in its own statutes, the body gives itself a major pass that allows its records such as emails and correspondence, and therefore its actions, to be shielded from the public. Legislators and staff may simply delete or throw out the records. Unlike other governmental entities, there is no requirement that they save records, prior to those documents being requested via an open-records request.

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