September 20, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Arizona: “Arizona Senator Plans Probe into Gov. Katie Hobbs’ Payments to Campaign Security Guard” by Stacey Barchenger (Arizona Republic) for MSN North Carolina: “NC Speaker’s Campaign Has Paid His Law Firm Almost $70k for Rent, Watchdog Group Says” by Travis Fain (WRAL) […]
September 19, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Hawaii: “This Hawaii Super PAC Says It’s Raising Money for Wildfire Victims – And Political Candidates Too” by Allan Kew for Honolulu Civil Beat Ethics National: “Lawmakers Are Spending Way More to Keep Themselves Safe. Is It Enough?” by Greg Morton, Marianna […]
Hawaii: “This Hawaii Super PAC Says It’s Raising Money for Wildfire Victims – And Political Candidates Too” by Allan Kew for Honolulu Civil Beat
National: “Lawmakers Are Spending Way More to Keep Themselves Safe. Is It Enough?” by Greg Morton, Marianna Sotomayor, and Camila DeChalus (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Prosecutors in D.C. Election Case Are Seeking a Partial Gag Order for Trump” by Associated Press for NPR
National: “Alito Pauses Order Banning Biden Officials from Contacting Tech Platforms” by Josh Gerstein and Rebecca Kern for Politico
Texas: “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Acquitted on All 16 Articles of Impeachment” by Zach Despart (Texas Tribune) for MSN
Arizona: “Arizona Gov. Hobbs Leans on Lobbyists in New Administration: How does she prevent conflicts?” by Stacey Barchenger (Arizona Republic) for Yahoo News
Canada: “Changes to Lobbying Rules Could Spell End to 50 Years of Free Trips to Israel for Canadian MPs, Senators” by Steven Chase for Globe and Mail
Ohio: “Nearly 150 Now Say They Didn’t Agree to Use Their Names on Pro-Fracking Form Letters” by Jake Zuckerman, Sean McDonnell, and Gretchen Cuda Kroen (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
September 15, 2023 •
National/Federal Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions in Illegal Campaign Contributions Associated Press News – Jake Offenhartz | Published: 9/7/2023 A former top executive at the failed FTX cryptocurrency exchange pleaded guilty to making tens of millions of dollars […]
Associated Press News – Jake Offenhartz | Published: 9/7/2023
A former top executive at the failed FTX cryptocurrency exchange pleaded guilty to making tens of millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and engaging in a criminal conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transfer business. Ryan Salame, the former co-chief executive of FTX Digital Markets, is the fourth high-ranking official at the company or its affiliates to plead guilty to criminal charges.
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2023
After he was charged with mishandling national security papers, former President Trump asked to be allowed to discuss classified evidence in the case right where he allegedly had kept the documents: at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home and private club. The federal judge overseeing the case appeared to tell him no recently. U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon issued protective order granting prosecutors’ request for a set of rules about how classified information and documents should be handled in the case, rules that conform to the general practice of federal courts.
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2023
A federal appeals court barred special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation from recovering cellphone texts and other communications between U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and other lawmakers and staff about overturning the 2020 election on January 6, 2021, and ruled a judge must individually review roughly 2,000 documents to decide which, if any, fall outside lawmakers’ constitutional immunity from criminal investigation. The opinion, which the Justice Department could appeal, prolongs a secret dispute that has tied up the search of the conservative lawmaker’s phone data for more than a year.
MSN – Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
When Richard Olson Jr. retired from the State Department in 2016, he was lauded by colleagues for an illustrious career that included high-profile postings as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. But previously undisclosed court records reveal the State Department’s inspector general investigated Olson for failing to report a $60,000 gift of diamond jewelry to his mother-in-law from the emir of Dubai. As part of a broader investigation, the FBI also questioned him about his extramarital affair with a journalist working in Pakistan while he was serving as the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad.
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski and Joseph Menn (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the Biden White House, top government health officials, and the FBI likely violated the First Amendment by improperly influencing tech companies’ decisions to remove or suppress posts on the coronavirus and elections. The decision was likely to be seen as victory for conservatives who have long argued social media platforms’ content moderation efforts restrict their free speech rights. But some advocates also said the ruling was an improvement over a temporary injunction U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty issued in July.
MSN – Paul Duggan (Washington Post) | Published: 9/7/2023
Peter Navarro, a senior Trump White House aide and vocal election denier who has said he helped hatch a legislative scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential race, was found guilty of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. With right-wing provocateur Stephen Bannon, who was found guilty of contempt of Congress, Navarro is the second high-ranking Trump official to be convicted in a criminal case related to efforts to undo President Biden’s victory at the polls.
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
Probing investigators’ methods and scruples is a strategy that has been utilized by both political parties during tumultuous moments and is a well-worn tool for lawmakers seeking to give the appearance of oversight. The strategy has been effective in shaping public opinion of the investigations of Donald Trump after years of broadsides against the judicial system by Trump and his allies. But in the wake of 91 criminal charges against Trump, the party’s attacks on prosecutors threatens to degrade an important precedent that protects prosecutorial independence and the ability to fairly root out wrongdoing without partisan influence or gain.
MSN – Heidi Przybyla (Politico) | Published: 9/10/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 Citizens United case transformed the world of politics. It loosened restrictions on campaign spending and unleashed a flow of anonymous donor money to nonprofit groups run by political activists. The conservative legal movement seized the moment with greater success than any other group, and the consequences have shaped American jurisprudence and politics in dramatic ways.
NBC News – Rebecca Kaplan, Summer Concepcion, and Sahil Kapur | Published: 9/12/2023
Speaker Kevin McCarthy directed three House committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden to seek bank records and other documents from the president and his son Hunter Biden. McCarthy’s decision represents a major reversal for the speaker after he had he would not open an impeachment inquiry without a vote of the full House. McCarthy faces criticism from across the GOP spectrum due to the lack of evidence implicating the president in Hunter Biden’s transgressions.
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 9/6/2023
The idea of barring Donald Trump from seeking the presidency on grounds that it would violate the 14th Amendment may be an increasingly popular constitutional argument pushed by a segment of legal scholars and activists. But it turns out election officials have been discussing how to handle it for months. The legal theory argues Trump is constitutionally disqualified from running for president under the amendment’s “insurrection clause,” which states that anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” after taking an oath of office to defend the Constitution is forbidden from holding public office.
From the States and Municipalities
CTV – Katherine DeClerq | Published: 9/6/2023
Ontario Premier Doug Ford instructed the province’s attorney general to review legislation governing lobbyists and add increased penalties, including jail time, if they break rules. The request comes amid an integrity commissioner report that highlighted how certain developers with access to staff within the housing ministry were given an unfair advantage when it came to a development deal in Clarington. The government has committed to reviewing legislation governing lobbyists in the coming weeks.
Yahoo News – Kim Chandler (Associated Press) | Published: 9/12/2203
Alabama asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let it keep Republican-drawn congressional lines in place as the state continues to fight a court order to create a second district where Black voters constitute a majority or close to it. Despite losing at the Supreme Court earlier this year in the redistricting case, the state is pursuing another appeal, hoping for a different result with the most recent Republican version of the map. Alabama asked the justices to stay a ruling issued by a three-judge panel that blocked the use of the latest districts in upcoming elections and directed a court-appointed special master to propose new lines for the state.
Associated Press News – Becky Bohrer | Published: 9/13/2023
Backers of an effort to repeal ranked voting in Alaska violated state campaign finance rules, including by channeling money through a church-affiliated organization in a way that initially concealed the source of the contributions, a new report alleges. The report from the staff for the Alaska Public Offices Commission recommends penalties of $22,500 for Art Mathias, a leader of the repeal effort, and approximately $20,000 for the church-affiliated Ranked Choice Education Association among its findings.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 9/14/2023
After the corruption scandal kicked off in Anaheim last year, residents and activists throughout Orange County began asking questions about the impacts of lobbyists and if they wield outsized influence. It is a scandal that also touched on Irvine City Hall, where Mayor Farrah Khan’s former consultant Melahat Rafiei admitted to attempted bribery in 2018, forcing officials there to rethink their relationship with lobbyists. Now, new restrictions on lobbyists could be coming to after city council members voted to have city staff come back with proposals to strengthen the city’s disclosure rules.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 9/13/2023
The Anaheim City Council is considering beefing up the city’s lobbyist rules in the wake of the corruption scandal and may require government relations employees to register as lobbyists. It marked the first in a series of reform discussions set to take place over the next few months. An investigation detailed a loose network of lobbyists, with little enforcement of the city’s current rules and alleged multiple high-profile lobbyists violated the law by failing to report a host of meetings with officials. Currently, only contracted lobbyists are required to register with the city.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 9/7/2023
Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu has been wrestling with public corruption allegations from the U.S. Department of Justice over the past year, which ended when he signed a plea agreement admitting to the charges. But he did not pay for his own legal defense, his campaign donors did, a total of $300,000 according to campaign finance disclosures. California Fair Political Practices Commission rules make no mention of elected officials being able to use the funds to defend themselves from criminal prosecution.
CT News Junkie – Hugh McQuaid | Published: 9/13/2023
The publicly funded campaigns of former Sen. Joe Markley and then-Rep. Rob Sampson jointly criticized Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2014, including one shared mailer, each paying half the cost. That campaign expenditure and similar ones ignited a free-speech fight that reached the state Supreme Court over whether restrictions on using public campaign funds conflicts with the First Amendment. At issue was whether Markley and Sampson’s criticism of Malloy, who was seeking reelection in 2014, was furthering their own campaigns or boosting the governor’s Republican challenger, Tom Foley.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/14/2023
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took at least six undisclosed trips on private jets and accepted lodging and dining in late 2018, according to documents that reflect his proclivity for luxury travel and leisure time with wealthy donors. The trips came during the period between DeSantis’s election and inauguration as governor. DeSantis did not report the flights or accommodations as gifts or campaign contributions, and it is unclear whether he used a separate legal option to personally reimburse for the flights at the cost of coach airfare.
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/8/2023
Latvala, who resigned in 2018 after allegations he had sexually harassed a legislative aide and a former lobbyist. Both women continue to stand by their allegations that Latvala, one of the most powerful men in state government, had used his positional power over them to grope them, make inappropriate sexual comments, and make sexual advances. But neither wanted to continue with an ethics trial and said they were exhausted by the emotional turmoil and five-year wait for the state to mete out justice.
Associated Press News – Kate Brumback | Published: 9/14/2023
A judge ruled former President Trump and 16 others will be tried separately from two defendants who are set to go to trial in October in the case accusing them of participating in an illegal scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. Lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro had filed demands for a speedy trial. Trump and other defendants asked to be tried separately from Powell and Chesebro, with some saying they could not be ready by the October 23 trial date.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2023
A federal judge denied a request from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to move the Georgia election-interference case against him from state to federal court, a shift he had sought on the grounds he was a federal officer at the time of the actions that led to his indictment. Meadows had hoped a move to federal court could lead to a dismissal of the case because h as a federal officer, he is immune from prosecution for acts taken in the course of his normal work.
MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2023
An Atlanta-area special grand jury that investigated alleged 2020 election interference in Georgia by Donald Trump and his allies recommended charging one of Trump’s closest associates, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, and 37 other people, a far larger group than a prosecutor ultimately charged. The final report by the special grand jury largely echoed Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s theory of the case, alleging a sweeping criminal conspiracy to subvert Joe Biden’s legitimate election win in Georgia.
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/11/2023
Less than a week after the release of a 2020 letter alleging city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin abused her office, the head of the Chicago Board of Ethics said the board handles all such complaints properly by referring them to the city’s inspector general’s office, but it cannot do more unless it receives detailed findings from the inspector general. Under questioning for days about why the board has not acted on the letter even though it and the city Law Department received a copy in December 2020, Ethics Board Chairperson William Conlon defended the board’s actions while also declining to discuss any case specifically.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 9/12/2023
One of the leaders of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s transition team will pay a $10,000 fine to resolve charges brought by the Chicago Board of Ethics that he violated the city’s lobbying regulations. Djavan Conway, who owns Conway Consulting Group, acknowledged he failed to terminate his registration as a City Hall lobbyist in January 2021. Conway’s failure to notify officials he was not lobbying in 2022 triggered daily fines of $1,000.
Indiana Capital Chronicle – Whitney Downard | Published: 9/7/2023
The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that would determine whether the state’s election code prohibits or limits corporate contributions to PACs that engage in independent campaign-related expenditures. Attorney James Bopp said while his client, the Indiana Right to Life Victory Fund, has not been limited by the state’s campaign finance laws or restricted from making contributions, a “plain language” reading of statute could potentially harm PAC activities in the future.
MSN – Emily Opilo (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/7/2023
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott requested guidance from the Board of Ethics on how to keep his campaign separate from city business as the race for mayor begins to heat up. Scott asked for written guidance and an in-person meeting between city ethics officials and Scott’s senior staff. Scott has made moves recently that have intermingled campaign and official duties.
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/8/2023
State General Andrea Campbell’s office is negotiating a potential settlement with the Massachusetts Republican Party, its former leader, and a state senator, among others, over alleged campaign finance violations, signaling the years-long probe could be nearing a close. Campaign finance regulators first referred evidence to prosecutors in 2021 that then-state GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, as well as state Sen. Ryan Fattman and Worcester County register of probate Stephanie Fattman, may have violated various campaign finance laws during the 2020 election, including those barring people from disguising the true source of donations.
Axios – Samuel Robinson | Published: 9/8/2023
Michigan Republicans are calling on House Democrats to move on legislation to bring financial disclosure requirements to lawmakers following a media investigation of state Rep. Angela Witwer. She has maintained a close relationship with the consulting firm she founded, The Detroit News found. The firm, Edge Partnerships, has worked with trade associations and agencies like the Michigan Department of Education, whose funding is set by lawmakers, including Witwer in her influential role as House Appropriations Committee chairperson.
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 9/7/2023
A rarely used state ethics panel ruled an appointee to the Michigan Arts and Culture Council violated ethics policy by failing to recuse herself from several votes on grants for organizations she leads. The State Board of Ethics ruled Deborah Mikula violated two sections of the state ethics law related to conflicts-of-interest but did not violate two other provisions when she voted in favor of grants for the Michigan Library Association, where she serves as executive director, and the Cultural Advocacy Network of Michigan, where she once served as president.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 9/11/2023
A state Supreme Court justice ruled that a commission created last year to enforce ethics rules for New York’s employees and elected officials violates the state’s constitution because it is too independent. The ruling was issued in a court battle in which former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has fought against the ethics commission’s efforts to investigate a $5 million deal he received for writing a book about his administration’s handling of the pandemic. The decision is expected to be reviewed by the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.
MSN – Joe Anuta, Jeff Coltin, and Emily Ngo (Politico) | Published: 9/13/2023
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg released a multi-count indictment of former city Department of Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich, accusing him of abusing his position and in his role as a former adviser to Mayor Eric Adams. Ulrich was among seven people charged in the wide-ranging indictment. “We allege that Eric Ulrich accepted or solicited more than $150,000 worth of bribes in less than two years by monetizing each elected and appointed role he held in New York City government,” Bragg said.
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/7/2023
Ohio will use the same congressional districts in 2024 that it used last year, as the state Supreme Court granted the dismissal of two legal challenges to the map the court previously deemed to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits had sought the dismissal of their own cases, saying they do not want voters to be in limbo ahead of the election. They also fear that if the current map is thrown out, Republicans would draw an even more GOP-friendly map than the current one, under which Republicans hold 10 seats and Democrats hold five.
Yahoo News – Haley BeMiller (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 9/8/2023
State Rep. Bob Young announced his resignation from the Ohio House as he faces allegations of domestic violence and violating a restraining order. Young was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and assault in July. He is accused of slapping his wife during a private party at his home following a fundraiser.
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 9/11/2023
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has six employees and a budget of about $820,000 a year, making it one of the smallest and least-funded state agencies. Its executive director is leaving at the end of the year and its online database will go dark during the middle of next year’s campaign season if something is not done soon. Commissioner Jarred Brejcha is confident the panel can handle the flood of money, much of it untraceable, pouring into races at every level. Others, including the exiting executive and a former commissioner, are not nearly as convinced.
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 9/12/2023
Court of Common Pleas Judge Joshua Roberts dismissed a lawsuit filed by the city Board of Ethics that alleged mayoral candidate Jeff Brown illegally coordinated with For a Better Philadelphia, a super PAC. Roberts’ ruling neither rejected any of the facts laid out by the board nor challenged the board’s authority to regulate super PACs, which are allowed to accept unlimited donations but are prohibited from coordinating with campaigns. Instead, the judge focused on a debate over definitions that had been central to the case.
Yahoo News – Bristow Marchant (The State) | Published: 9/8/2023
After years of failure to disclose her financial interests and campaign spending to the state, a former member of Richland County Council has been hit with a nearly $300,000 penalty by the South Carolina Ethics Commission. But commissioners gave former Councilperson Gwendolyn Kennedy a window to avoid paying most of her fine. The commission found Kennedy committed 134 separate violations of state ethics law and campaign disclosure requirements dating to her time on county council from 2016 to 2020. The commission reached its decision after an August 17 hearing, at which the commission order notes Kennedy did not appear.
Yahoo News – Allie Feinberg (Knoxville News Sentinel) | Published: 9/13/2023
The Knox County Ethics Committee is considering a complaint filed against a county commissioner and a well-known developer over whether a property sale violated the ethics code ethics code. Scott Davis of Mesana Investments transferred ownership of a plot of land to Commissioner Kyle Ward, who paid $10 for the land, which the county appraised for more than $50,000 earlier this year. The complaint alleges Ward accepted a gift of over $50,000, which violates the ethics code.
MSN – Robert Garrett and Lauren McGaughey (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 9/13/2023
No matter how his impeachment trial turns out, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s state pension is not in jeopardy. Paxton is among an elite set of elected officials. Even if they are impeached, convicted, and booted from office, state legislators and statewide officeholders such as Paxton retain their pensions. Only judges, who are enrolled in a separate pension fund, lose these retirement benefits if they are impeached and removed.
MSN – Sarah Rankin and Denise Lavoie (Associated Press) | Published: 9/11/2023
A candidate in a high-stakes legislative contest in Virginia had sex with her husband in live videos posted on a pornographic website and asked viewers to pay them money in return for carrying out specific sex acts. Susanna Gibson, who is running for a seat in the House of Delegates in a district just outside Richmond, issued a statement in which it denounced the sharing of the videos as a violation of the law and her privacy. The contest will carry significant weight in determining the balance of power in the Virginia General Assembly.
Virginia Public Media – Ben Paviour | Published: 9/11/2023
Gov. Glenn Youngkin flew on Altria’s private jet to and from an undisclosed location at an unknown time, according to campaign finance records. Neither his campaign committee nor Altria will say who else was on board or give any other details about the trip. It is one of a handful of times Youngkin has benefited from donors who have given him at least $365,000 worth of unspecified “flight services” as part of his political work. Altria is a major player in Virginia politics and the General Assembly.
September 14, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Connecticut: “Supreme Court Hears Free Speech Arguments in Public Campaign Finance Case” by Hugh McQuaid for CT News Junkie Pennsylvania: “A Judge Ruled Against the Philly Ethics Board in Its Case Against Super PAC That Supported Mayoral Candidate Jeff Brown” by […]
September 13, 2023 •
Campaign Finance National: “Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions in Illegal Campaign Contributions” by Jake Offenhartz for Associated Press News Massachusetts: “Attorney General in Settlement Negotiations with State GOP, Senator Over Alleged Campaign Finance Violations” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for […]
National: “Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions in Illegal Campaign Contributions” by Jake Offenhartz for Associated Press News
Massachusetts: “Attorney General in Settlement Negotiations with State GOP, Senator Over Alleged Campaign Finance Violations” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for MSN
Virginia: “Youngkin Borrowed Altria’s Jet. No One Will Say Where He Went.” by Ben Paviour for Virginia Public Media
National: “Constitutional Debate Over Trump’s Eligibility to Run More Extensive Than Realized” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
National: “Kevin McCarthy Announces House Will Begin an Impeachment Inquiry into Biden” by Rebecca Kaplan, Summer Concepcion, and Sahil Kapur for NBC News
New York: “Judge Rules N.Y.’s Ethics Commission Is Unconstitutional in Cuomo Case” by Brendan Lyons for Albany Times Union
Ohio: “Rep. Bob Young Resigns from Ohio House as He Faces Domestic Violence Charges” by Haley BeMiller (Akron Beacon Journal) for Yahoo News
Alabama: “Alabama Asks US Supreme Court Again to Intervene in Redistricting Case” by Kim Chandler (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
September 12, 2023 •
Campaign Finance National: “What Ginni Thomas and Leonard Leo Wrought: How a justice’s wife and a key activist started a movement” by Heidi Przybyla (Politico) for MSN Elections Georgia: “Georgia Special Grand Jury Recommended Charging Lindsey Graham in Trump Case” by Holly Bailey (Washington […]
September 11, 2023 •
Campaign Finance California: “Former Anaheim Mayor, Who Admitted to Corruption, Funds Legal Defense with Campaign Money” by Noah Biesiada for Voice of OC Indiana: “Campaign Finance Contributions on the Indiana Supreme Court Docket” by Whitney Downard for Indiana Capital Chronicle Elections Georgia: “Judge Denies Mark […]
September 8, 2023 •
National/Federal AI Deepfakes in Campaigns May Be Detectable, But Will It Matter? MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 9/5/2023 Deepfake audio, authentic sounding but false recordings built from short snippets of a subject talking, have become extremely realistic, presenting the […]
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 9/5/2023
Deepfake audio, authentic sounding but false recordings built from short snippets of a subject talking, have become extremely realistic, presenting the potential for underhanded political tactics. Artificial intelligence (AI) developers warn that the technology’s rapid development and widespread deployment risks undermining the foundations of representative democracy. Campaign attack ads have long used the most unflattering pictures of their opponents. But AI will supercharge the ability of campaigns, and their rogue supporters, to produce believable fakes.
MSN – Brad Dress (The Hill) | Published: 8/29/2023
Rep. Andy Kim announced he reintroduced legislation that would limit the ability of major defense contractors and foreign governments to hire former Defense Department officials and influence the Pentagon as lobbyists. The Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act would impose a four-year ban on defense contractors hiring senior Pentagon officials and enact a similar ban on former Defense Department employees who managed their contracts.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 9/5/2023
A federal appellate court blocked Justice Department access to the phone records of a Republican lawmaker as part of the investigation charging former President Trump with trying to undo the 2020 election results. The ruling stymies investigators who have been fighting to review thousands of documents from Rep. Scott Perry. U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell granted the special counsel access to most of the records nine months ago. Perry had argued the search would violate constitutional protection from criminal investigation for lawmakers engaged in “speech or debate.”
MSN – Will Sommer (Washington Post) | Published: 9/5/2023
An audit showed Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe covered personal expenses with funds from the donor-supported nonprofit whose self-described mission is investigative journalism. The Westchester County, New York, district attorney’s office is investigating O’Keefe. Before he left Project Veritas in February, under pressure from its board of directors, O’Keefe was surrounded by a “cult of personality” that enabled him to behave as if he were “untouchable,” the audit concluded.
MSN – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/5/2023
Republicans on Capitol Hill have hired far more former lobbyists to work in their offices than Democrats in the last year, according to a new analysis. Legistorm found that 61 of the 91 former lobbyists who took jobs in partisan offices on Capitol Hill in the last year were hired by Republicans. But the problem of the “revolving door” is one that besets both political parties.
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 9/5/2023
Enrique Tarrio, the national leader of the Proud Boys on January 6, 2021, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for masterminding a seditious conspiracy aimed at derailing the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The sentence, the lengthiest among hundreds arising from the attack on the Capitol, is a reflection of prosecutors’ evidence that the Proud Boys, helmed by Tarrio, played the most pivotal role in stoking the violent breach of police lines and the Capitol itself.
Yahoo News – Davey Alba (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/6/2023
Google will make it mandatory for all election advertisers to add a clear and conspicuous disclosure starting in mid-November when their ads contain Artificial Intelligence generated content. Advertisers must include prominent language like, “This audio was computer generated,” on altered election ads across Google’s platforms. The policy does not apply to minor fixes, such as image resizing or brightening. The update will improve Google’s transparency measures for election ads, the company said.
From the States and Municipalities
Globe and Mail – Ian Bailey | Published: 9/1/2203
Konrad Winrich von Finckenstein, a former chairperson of Canada’s broadcasting regulator, has been named interim federal conflict-of-interest and ethics commissioner, after the government’s previous pick for the role resigned amid concern about the appropriateness of the appointment. Mario Dion, who stepped down as commissioner in February, said the vacancy has put investigations on hold. During Dion’s term, he found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several cabinet ministers had broken ethics rules.
Yahoo News – Ethan Cohen and Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 9/5/2023
A federal court blocked a newly drawn Alabama congressional map because it did not create a second majority-Black district, as the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered earlier this year. The three-judge panel ordered a special master to submit three proposed maps that would create a second Black-majority district by September 25. The judges wrote they were “not aware of any other case,” where a state Legislature had responded to being ordered to a draw map with a second majority-minority district, by creating which the state itself admitted did not create the required district.
Alaska Public Media – James Brooks (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 9/6/2023
Alaska Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom approved two ballot measures and disqualified a third from advancing into the signature-gathering phase. One of the two measures approved by Dahlstrom would reimpose limits on political contributions. The state has been without donation caps limits since 2021, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Alaska’s prior limits after a lawsuit by Republican activists.
DNyuz – Jill Cowan, Serge Kovaleski, and Leanne Abraham (New York Times) | Published: 9/4/2023
The redistricting battle in Los Angeles underscores how some big city leaders – often Democrats – have used gerrymandering for their political advantage, much the way Republican lawmakers have redrawn legislative lines to secure or expand their control over some statehouses. Similar fights have been waged in Boston, Miami, and Chicago. The conflict in Los Angeles became a national controversy after audio was leaked that revealed the racist language that politicians used behind closed doors to discuss where to draw district boundaries.
San Francisco Standard – Noah Baustin | Published: 8/31/2023
An ex-parole agent and local pop singer pleaded guilty to bribery charges in federal court, marking the latest development in a Justice Department investigation uncovering corruption in San Francisco City Hall. Prosecutors accused Ken Hong Wong of paying former San Francisco Public Works head Mohammed Nuru $20,000 to get someone an engineering job in his department. An investigation revealed the job recipient was Xulu Liu, a recent college graduate and Chinese national. Public Works hired Liu as an assistant engineer earning $46 an hour in September 2019, public records show. She left the job after two weeks.
California – San Jose Council Eases Transparency Rule
San Jose Spotlight – Jana Kadash | Published: 9/5/2023
The San Jose City Council changed three ethics rules that could affect how money is used to influence policy. Officials revised the city’s “revolving door” protocol for former employees, removed fees for late lobbying disclosures, and uncapped reimbursement amounts for personal loans candidates made to their campaigns. City Clerk Toni Taber said the city did not collect fines for late weekly filings before the council nixed the fees. A media review found lobbyists often do not fill out the forms properly even if submitted on time.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 9/6/2023
Anaheim residents and local community groups are charting their own path for reforms in the wake of a corruption scandal that has entangled City Hall. Residents and activists decided to take matters into their own hands after seeing Anaheim City Council members largely ignored calls for reforms until their most recent meeting on the heels of the former mayor agreeing to plead guilty to public corruption charges.
MSN – Andrew Atterbury (Politico) | Published: 9/6/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Tina Descovich, a co-founder of the conservative parental rights group Moms for Liberty, to the Florida Commission on Ethics. The move gives the governor a staunch ally on the panel responsible for weighing complaints against public officials in the state, which recently saw one remember resign after a conflict-of-interest violation. Aside from organizing the parental advocacy group, Descovich is a former school board member and runs a political committee that helped some conservatives win local education elections in 2022.
Yahoo News – David Kihara and Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 9/2/2023
A judge ruled Gov. Ron DeSantis’s redrawn congressional districts in North Florida violate the state’s constitution and ordered the Republican-led Legislature to create a new map. The ruling is a rebuke to DeSantis, who previously vetoed the Legislature’s attempts to redraw Florida’s congressional maps and pushed lawmakers to approve his map that dismantled a seat formerly held by Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat. The section violated is commonly referred to as the Fair Districts Amendment, which states that lawmakers cannot redraw congressional districts that “diminish” minority voters’ ability to elect someone of their choice.
MSN – Jeff Amy (Associated Press) | Published: 8/30/2023
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp offered his strongest denunciation to date of efforts by his fellow Republicans to go after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, dismissing the moves as “political theater that only inflames the emotions of the moment.” Some Republicans in Washington and Georgia have been attacking Willis since even before she announced the indictment of Donald Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. Kemp said any calls for a special session to impeach Willis or defund her office were wrong and she had done nothing to merit removal.
The Hill – Zach Schonfeld | Published: 9/6/2023
A state judge denied Kenneth Chesebro’s attempt to sever his charges in the Georgia election interference case from fellow Trump-aligned attorney Sidney Powell, saying he did not deem it necessary to do so to achieve a fair trial. But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee did signal he has doubts about District Attorney Fani Willis’s broader desire to try all 19 co-defendants, including former President Trump, together.
Yahoo News – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/5/2023
Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin used government workers to plan her daughter’s birthday party and be her personal bodyguard while she also pressured public employees to hold events benefiting political allies and repeatedly misused taxpayer resources, two former top aides alleged in a recently released letter the city fought for years to keep confidential. After Conyears-Ervin in 2020 dismissed employees Ashley Evans and Tiffany Harper, they shared a $100,000 settlement from the city. That settlement came after the letter was sent to the city’s top attorney and the Board of Ethics.
MSN – Josh Ward (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 9/5/2023
The spouses of presidents and governors often have formal positions, as well as aides and offices. That is not common at the municipal level. But the Louisville mayor’s office bucks that trend, and it may run afoul of the city’s anti-nepotism rules. Sources said Mayor Craig Greenberg’s wife has an office in Metro Hall, a city-issued email, and gives orders to staffers. The Louisville ethics code says, “a family member of the Mayor” or other elected official “shall not be employed by or appointed to a position with such elected official’s office.”
MSN – Ian Auzenne (WWL) | Published: 9/2/2023
A 2021 plane flight taken by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is the leading Republican candidate for governor, is landing him in trouble with the state Board of Ethics. The board voted to charge Landry and Stanton Aviation with one count each of ethics violations. Landry is charged with accepting a gift in relation to his position as attorney general. Stanton Aviation is charged with providing a gift to Landry.
MSN – Emily Opilo (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/6/2023
The Baltimore Board of Ethics must release the list of donors to a legal-defense fund formed to benefit city council President Nick Mosby and former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Maryland’s Public Information Act Compliance Board ordered. The compliance board found the ethics panel violated the Public Information Act by redacting the names of more than 130 donors to the fund when it released the list in March. The ethics board argued the names constituted financial information.
Nevada Independent – Jacob Solis | Published: 9/1/2023
Nevada Assemblyperson Michelle Gorelow will not run for re-election in 2024, a surprise move that comes after Gorelow had come under increasing pressure to justify taking a new position at a nonprofit that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in legislatively approved funding earlier this year. Separately, Assemblyperson C.H. Miller has come under fire for failing to disclose his employment by the Urban Chamber in a regular financial disclosure form ahead of a vote to give the nonprofit $100,000.
Albany Times Union – Emilie Munson | Published: 9/1/2023
Over the course of about a year, New York Gaming Commissioner Marissa Shorenstein voted on multiple regulations with implications for a client of her employer, but the commission said her actions avoided any conflict-of-interest. Shorenstein worked as a principal at SKDK, a prominent public relations and lobbying firm that did work for the New York Racing Association, a not-for-profit corporation that operates three thoroughbred tracks in New York and is regulated by the Gaming Commission.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2023
E. Jean Carroll, the advice columnist who was awarded $5 million in damages at a civil sexual assault trial against former President Trump in May, won the majority of a related defamation case in a summary judgment decision. U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled the May verdict clearly proved disparaging comments Trump made about Carroll in 2019 were false. Those comments do not need to be aired again to prove liability to jurors in s civil defamation trial scheduled for January, Kaplan said.
MSN – Camila DeChalus (Washington Post) | Published: 9/2/2023
Democrat Sherrod Brown has won three U.S. Senate terms in Ohio, once a key swing state that has shifted solidly to Republicans over the past two presidential elections with a personal appeal to working-class families and particularly union trades. Now facing a tough reelection challenge in 2024, Brown is wagering that by casting himself as a pro-labor, progressive populist, he can retain support from White working-class voters whose embrace of Donald Trump has propelled Ohio’s move to the right.
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/3/2023
The Catholic Church in Ohio is gearing up for this November’s election in a manner that in some ways resembles a PAC. It is preparing to distribute literature to parishioners, deploy church leaders to political fundraisers, make direct campaign contributions, and have its priests preach from the pulpit in opposition to a ballot measure that would add legal protections for abortion to the state constitution. Brian Hickey, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, said he has heard from people who believe that churches and other religious organizations are not allowed to wade into politics under federal tax law. But that is not the case, Hickey said.
MSN – Maxine Bernstein (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 9/1/2023
The St. Helens Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 321 failed to properly report the source of a $6,000 contribution for the May election of three new Columbia River Fire & Rescue board members, according to a complaint to the state secretary of state’s office. The three union-backed candidates also never reported any contributions from the union, which paid for posters, mailers, and signs promoting their candidacy for a board seat, according to state records.
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 9/1/2023
A clause in Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law says that correspondence between a state lawmaker and a person seeking their help is off-limits to the public – unless that person is a lobbyist. But for years, the Legislature has summarily rejecting all requests for its emails, letters, or other forms of communications regardless of who was on the sending or receiving end. Spotlight PA put the lobbyist clause to the test by requesting from both the state House and Senate copies of communications between legislators and a narrow group of well-known lobbyists.
MSN – Mackenzie Huber (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 9/5/2023
Former South Dakota Sen. Jessica Castleberry was found to have accepted over $500,000 in allegedly illegal indirect benefits from state government while serving as a legislator. The state constitution prohibits lawmakers from being interested “directly or indirectly” in contracts with the state or counties. In the handful of state Supreme Court cases and opinions dealing with the matter over the last 135 years, none has explicitly defined “indirect,” said Michael Card of the University of South Dakota.
Austin Monitor – Jo Clifton | Published: 9/1/2023
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman declared an Austin regulation on campaign fundraising unconstitutional. The regulation prohibits candidates for city council seats from seeking or accepting campaign contributions more than a year before an election. The rule was enacted after another judge struck down a city regulation prohibiting candidates from raising money more than six months before an election.
Yahoo News – J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 9/4/2023
With television ads, text messages, direct mail, and billboards, supporters of the embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have embarked on an escalating campaign of political pressure, backed by hard-right billionaires, aimed at trying to sway the outcome of Paxton’s impeachment trial. The targets of their efforts are narrow: the 19 Republican members of the state Senate who will act as jurors in the trial and decide whether allegations of corruption and abuse of power are serious enough to warrant permanently removing and barring Paxton from office.
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Mike Tony | Published: 9/5/2023
The West Virginia Public Service Commission chose Van Reen Accounting to audit Mon Power and Potomac Edison lobbying expenses in a review that will cover costs charged to the FirstEnergy subsidiaries related to the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history. The scope of the audit is to include lobbying and other costs of all FirstEnergy companies related to Ohio House Bill 6. That legislation was a billion-dollar bailout of FirstEnergy nuclear plants in Ohio.
September 5, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Oregon: “Campaign Finance Complaint Filed Against Fire Union Stemming from Contributions for Columbia River Board Candidatesw” by Maxine Bernstein (Portland Oregonian) for MSN Texas: “Judge Declares City Campaign Contribution Blackout Period Unconstitutional” by Jo Clifton for Austin Monitor Elections Ohio: “The Catholic Church […]
Oregon: “Campaign Finance Complaint Filed Against Fire Union Stemming from Contributions for Columbia River Board Candidatesw” by Maxine Bernstein (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
Texas: “Judge Declares City Campaign Contribution Blackout Period Unconstitutional” by Jo Clifton for Austin Monitor
Ohio: “The Catholic Church Will Campaign Against Ohio’s Abortion-Rights Amendment. What About the Separation of Church and State?” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Georgia: “Efforts to Punish Fani Willis Over Trump Prosecution Are ‘Political Theater,’ Georgia Gov. Kemp Says” by Jeff Amy (Associated Press) for MSN
Nevada: “Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow Won’t Run for Re-election Amid Scrutiny Over Nonprofit Ties” by Jacob Solis for Nevada Independent
Pennsylvania: “Inside Spotlight PA’s Fight to Unseal Lobbyist Communications with the Legislature” by Angela Couloumbis for Spotlight PA
California: “How a New City Council Map of L.A. Turned into a Political Brawl” by Jill Cowan, Serge Kovaleski, and Leanne Abraham (New York Times) for DNyuz
Florida: “Judge Says DeSantis’ Congressional Map Is Unconstitutional, Orders Lawmakers to Draw New One” by David Kihara and Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo News
September 1, 2023 •
National/Federal A Lawmaker Hid One Key Fact as He Fought Checks on Gun Shops DNyuz – Glen Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 8/25/2023 Rep. Andrew Clyde has been in Congress only since 2021, but he has quickly emerged as a vocal […]
DNyuz – Glen Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 8/25/2023
Rep. Andrew Clyde has been in Congress only since 2021, but he has quickly emerged as a vocal opponent of gun control, handing out dozens of AR-15 pins to exemplify his wide-ranging push to roll back federal firearms regulation. At a subcommittee hearing, Clyde grilled the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives about a little-known program to monitor gun dealers found selling large numbers of weapons later traced to crimes. Clyde did not disclose one of two gun stores he owns in Georgia was placed in the monitoring program in 2020 and 2021.
MSN – Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/28/2023
Donald Trump will face trial on March 4, 2024, for four felony charges related to his alleged efforts to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan said her decision could not take into consideration the former president’s other responsibilities. Trump is again seeking the Republican nomination in 2024. The ruling means jury selection would begin a day before Super Tuesday, when California, Texas, and a dozen other states hold their presidential primaries.
MSN – Naomi Nix and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2023
Social media companies are receding from their role as watchdogs against political misinformation, abandoning their most aggressive efforts to police online falsehoods in a trend expected to affect the 2024 presidential election. Mass layoffs at Meta and other major tech companies have gutted teams dedicated to promoting accurate information online. An aggressive legal battle over claims the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to silence certain speech has blocked a key path to detecting election interference. Elon Musk has reset industry standards, rolling back strict rules against misinformation on X.
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2023
Not long after Donald Trump was booked on felony charges alleging that he participated in a conspiracy to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia, his 2024 presidential campaign was selling merchandise featuring the first mug shot of a former American president. Other Republicans are also raising money off the mug shot. A committee for Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who is running for reelection in 2024, urged supporters to donate to WinRed, a small-donor fundraising platform for Republicans. “Today, ALL defense pledges will be flagged SPECIFICALLY for President Trump’s campaign,” the ad reads.
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 8/28/2023
OpenAI initially banned campaigns from using ChatGPT, its artificial intelligence-powered chatbot. But OpenAI then updated its website with a new set of rules limiting only what the company considers the riskiest applications. These rules ban campaigns from using ChatGPT to create materials targeting specific voting demographics, a capability that could be abused and spread disinformation. Yet ChatGPT can still be used to generate tailored political messages, an enforcement gap that comes ahead of the Republican primaries and amid a critical year for global elections.
MSN – Marisa lati and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2023
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze for more than 20 seconds while taking questions from journalists in an incident that mirrored another occasion when he abruptly stopped speaking in late July. A reporter asked him about running for reelection in 2026. After about seven seconds, an aide approached and asked the senator if he had heard the question. McConnell stared straight ahead, and the aide asked reporters to give them a minute.
MSN – Paul Duggan (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2023
A judge ruled Peter Navarro, a Trump White House adviser charged with criminal contempt of Congress, cannot argue to a jury that he was barred by executive privilege from providing testimony and documents to the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Navarro has continually asserted, without proof, that he defied the subpoena because Trump, in conversations with him, invoked executive privilege and instructed Navarro not to reveal any privileged information related to topics the committee was investigating.
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2023
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reported three 2022 trips on the private jet of a Texas billionaire in a newly released financial disclosure form, and for the first-time detailed Harlan Crow’s purchase of three properties from the justice’s family years. Thomas said he opted to fly on Crow’s private plane for one of the trips on the advice of his security detail. The justices faced heightened security risks, Thomas noted, after the leak of the court’s majority opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Yahoo News – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 8/30/2023
Vulnerable U.S. House Republicans, especially those in politically competitive districts, are trying to reconcile their party’s hardline anti-abortion policies with the views of voters in their districts, particularly independents and women. While many of these GOP lawmakers have cast votes this year to limit abortion access – maintaining a stance that some Republicans concede hurt their party in last year’s midterm elections – others spent part of the congressional recess talking up their support for birth control access, which is broadly popular across the country and across party lines.
Yahoo News – Rebecca Klar (The Hill) | Published: 8/29/2023
X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, will allow political ads heading into the 2024 election cycle for the first time since 2019. The update is the latest change since Elon Musk bought the platform in October. While allowing paid political ads back, the platform will enforce policies that aim to combat the spread of false information.
Yahoo News – Ally Mutnick and Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 8/29/2023
Republicans are growing increasingly optimistic about their prospects in a little-noticed lawsuit that would allow official party committees and candidates to coordinate freely by removing current spending restrictions. If successful, it would represent a seismic shift in how tens of millions of campaign dollars are spent and upend a well-established political ecosystem for television advertising.
From the States and Municipalities
Yahoo News – James Brooks (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 8/26/2023
Staff for the Alaska Public Offices Commission recommended a $16,450 fine against Preserve Democracy, a group led by former U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka. Staffers concluded Preserve Democracy failed to register with the commission before campaigning in favor of a proposed ballot measure that would repeal Alaska’s ranked choice voting system.
Center Square – Kim Jarrett | Published: 8/30/2023
The Arkansas Ethics Commission will look at an email from some Central Arkansas Water Company employees and donations made by the company’s chief executive officer regarding whether they were lobbying. The Joint Performance Review Committee agreed to turn the matters over to the ethics panel after Sen. Dan Sullivan brought the committee an email from employees of the water company known as the Justice, Equity or Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Courthouse News Service – Hillel Aron | Published: 8/28/2023
A federal judge sentenced longtime Los Angeles politician Mark Ridley-Thomas to three-and one-half years in prison. A jury found Ridley-Thomas guilty of bribery for soliciting favors for his son from the dean of the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work, in exchange for helping secure county contracts for the school. The dean, Marilyn Flynn, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and was sentenced to three years of probation. But Ridley-Thomas maintained his innocence and the case proceeded to trial.
San Francisco Standard – Josh Koehn | Published: 8/29/2023
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins filed multiple felony charges against a former City Hall staffer, Lanita Henriquez, and Rudolph Dwayne Jones, the director of a community grant program for the city, alleging the two conspired to funnel public money into private contracts to enrich themselves. Henriquez allegedly approved 23 contracts in her official capacity with entities controlled by Jones in which she had financial interests.
San Francisco Standard – Liz Lindqwister | Published: 8/25/2023
San Francisco ethics watchdogs have long urged the city to adopt tighter restrictions on gift-giving practices that have in the past opened the door for corruption. Now, the city will take the issue to voters. The Ethics Commission voted to place a package of anti-corruption measures on the March 5, 2024, ballot. The measures introduce more explicit prohibitions on gift-giving and bribery and add more required ethics training for city officials.
Voice of OC – Brandon Pho and Hosam Elattar | Published: 8/30/2023
After promising to reform a Disneyland resort-friendly City Hall, Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken sent her resort-backed colleagues the warning shot that some frustrated residents have waited nine months to hear. “My biggest fear is that we were going to hear from … people in the community that we should just … forget about … the problems that were outlined in (a city-commissioned corruption) report,” said Aiken. “I want you to know that I am absolutely not willing to do that.”
Voice of OC – Brandon Pho | Published: 8/29/2023
Anaheim has one of Orange County’s most robust online disclosures of registered lobbyists who are paid to sway elected officials on policy making. Yet even with those rules, an FBI corruption probe – and an independent investigation the city commissioned in response – found outsized influence by lobbyists who failed to properly register. Now, some are questioning what that means for other Orange County cities without such policies in place to help members of the public discover the activities of their community’s most influential interest groups.
MSN – Lawrence Mower (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/28/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis reinstated Florida’s affordable housing director a month after he was suspended pending the outcome of an inspector general investigation. Mike DiNapoli was DeSantis’s pick to lead the corporation after its previous leader abruptly resigned in January, following the governor’s re-election. DiNapoli was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations he created a hostile work environment.
MSN – Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/28/2023
Mark Meadows, Donald Trump’s final White House chief of staff, testified he helped question the 2020 presidential election results out of a federal interest in “free and fair elections” intended to build national trust in the outcome and bring on a peaceful transfer of power. Meadows, who along with Trump and 17 others was indicted in Atlanta, is seeking to move his case from state to federal court, claiming he was acting as a federal officer.
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2023
A federal judge ruled Rudy Giuliani is legally liable for defaming two Georgia election workers who became the subject of conspiracy theories related to the 2020 election that were amplified by Donald Trump in the final weeks of his presidency. Giuliani will still go to trial on the monetary damages he owes to Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea ArShaye Moss. But U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell has already ordered Giuliani to pay roughly $132,000 in sanctions between his personal and business assets for his failures to hand over relevant information in the case.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Kim Gamel | Published: 8/28/2023
Former Hawaii Rep. Kaniela Ing pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of missing a deadline for filing a campaign spending report. Ing was charged in February after the Campaign Spending Commission took the rare step of referring the case to prosecutors.
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/24/2023
A jury convicted a former chief of staff to longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan of lying under oath to a grand jury to protect his once-powerful boss who is scheduled to go on trial on multiple corruption charges next year. Tim Mapes, who served as Madigan’s chief of staff, was convicted of one count of perjury and one of attempted obstruction of justice. The verdict marked the conclusion of a criminal case that centered on relatively straightforward charges yet delved deeply into the behind-the-scenes political intrigue of the scandals that rocked Madigan’s office and ended his decades-long grip on power.
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell. Paul Farhi, and Sofia Andrade (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2023
Marion County Police Chief Gideon Cody led officers on a raid of the Marion County Record’s offices and the home of its editor and publisher, seizing computers, servers, cellphones, and other files. The raid was so unusual, and so alarming in its implications for the news media, that it became an international story. Press-advocacy organizations condemned the raid as a breach of state and federal laws that protect the media from government intrusion. The response to the raid was heightened by the sudden death of the editor’s 98-year-old mother, who had railed at the officers sorting through her belongings at their home and collapsed a day later.
Bolts – Alex Burness | Published: 8/24/2023
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2020 donated some $350 million to a previously obscure nonprofit organization called the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which helps maintain and improve local election procedures and ballot access around the country. The money was used for a variety of purposes, including ballot processing equipment and improved pay for election workers. In the October 14 election, Louisianans will see a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban private or foreign money from being used for the purpose of conducting elections.
Yahoo News – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 8/29/2023
The Michigan Republican Party is starving for cash. A group of prominent activists was hit with felony charges connected to a bizarre plot to hijack election machines. In the face of these troubles, suspicion and infighting have been running high. A recent state committee meeting led to a fistfight. The turmoil is one measure of the way Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election have rippled through his party.
New Jersey Globe – David Wildstein | Published: 8/29/2023
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission formally accepted Jeff Brindle’s retirement as executive director and will meet to discuss their search for his replacement. Brindle notified commissioners of his plans four weeks ago after heading the campaign finance agency since 2009. His decision came more than five months after Gov. Phil Murphy had sought to oust Brindle from his post over an email sent to a staffer last fall that mocked National Coming Out Day.
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 8/28/2023
Spending on lobbying in New York surged last year as the coronavirus pandemic subsided with a record $332 million spent to influence elected officials. The overwhelming majority of the money was spread across 60-plus firms and organizations that were paid at least $1 million in 2022 to lobby on state government matters.
DNyuz – William Rashbaum and Jonah Bromwich (New York Times) | Published: 8/28/2023
A few months before he was elected mayor of New York City, Eric Adams was feted at a $1,000-a-head fundraiser. Among the hosts was city Councilperson Eric Ulrich, whom Adams would eventually appoint as buildings commissioner. Now, at least four hosts of the event, including Ulrich, are under scrutiny, with several expected to face charges stemming from a bribery and organized crime investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, according to several people familiar with elements of the inquiry. It is unclear whether the fundraiser is connected to the pending charges.
DNyuz – Jonah Bromwich, Ben Protess, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 8/30/2023
Before Donald Trump was indicted four times over, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued him, alleging his business and members of his family had fraudulently overvalued their assets. James will seek to bar him and three of his children from leading their family business to require him to pay a fine of around $250 million. James is arguing a trial is not necessary to find Trump inflated the value of his assets, fraudulently obtaining favorable loans and insurance arrangements. She said the fraud was so pervasive that Trump falsely boosted his net worth by between $812 million and $2.2 billion each year over the course of a decade.
MSN – Chris Sommerfeldt (New York Daily News) | Published: 8/25/2023
Two top executives at a philanthropic organization that bankrolled New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ recent trip to Israel have significant business and lobbying interests before his administration. The matter involves Marc Rowan and Eric Goldstein of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York. A spokesperson for the group said it spent $4,857 on Adams’ airfare, lodging, food, and other expenses related to his Israel visit.
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/29/2023
A Democratic justice on North Carolina’s Republican-majority Supreme Court sued an ethics panel to block it from investigating her public comments about state courts and colleagues, saying the probe and other recent scrutiny violate her free speech rights. Associate Justice Anita Earls filed the federal lawsuit against the state Judicial Standards Commission. She wants a judge to declare the panel can no longer investigate her speech “on matters of public concern.”
Yahoo News – Danielle Battaglia (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 8/31/2023
Many North Carolina firms involved in lobbying and politics landed Paycheck Protection (PPP) loans, then had them forgiven, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Small Business Administration has excluded those primarily engaged in lobbying or political activities from applying for agency loans. It was believed federal tax money should not be invested into those activities. When Congress authorized the PPP loans to help companies harmed by shutdowns as COVID-19 spread, those rules still applied. The rules allowed some firms in those industries to apply, but only if lobbying or political activity were not their “primary” lines of work.
Yahoo News – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 8/28/2023
The group pushing to enshrine abortion access in the Ohio Constitution filed a lawsuit challenging ballot language written by Republicans that reproductive rights advocates say is inaccurate and will confuse voters this fall. Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights asked the state Supreme Court to use the same ballot language they used to circulate petitions and collect signatures. If the court disagrees with that approach, advocates want “blatant inaccuracies” in the language fixed.
MSN – Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) | Published: 8/28/2023
State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters was ordered to pay $7,800 to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission for filing campaign reports late 14 times during his run for office last year. Only one of the orders has become final, though it has not been paid. Walters is contesting the others. Dozens of other candidates have had trouble meeting filing deadlines but few to the same extent, records show. Most are fined less than $1,000.
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 8/25/2023
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission voted unanimously to investigate former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s travel while in office and whether she bilked the state out of thousands of dollars by bringing her family with her on state-funded trips and double-dipping with campaign funds. She is also facing scrutiny from state and federal prosecutors and the state ethics commission, which began a separate probe into her conduct in office, including her $10,000-per-month consulting job with cannabis entrepreneurs involved in an audit conducted by her office.
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 8/29/2023
Five Republican senators and attorneys representing the state are seeking a quick resolution from the Oregon Supreme Court on the senators’ challenge to a voter-approved law intended to block them from running for reelection after they ground the legislative session to a halt for six weeks. Voters frustrated with GOP lawmakers’ increasing reliance on quorum-blocking walkouts passed a constitutional amendment to bar any senator with more than 10 unexcused absences from serving another term. Ten conservative senators passed that point in May, and they stayed away for another month as they protested bills on abortion, transgender health care, and guns.
Texas Tribune – Joshua Fechter | Published: 8/30/2023
A new Texas law aimed at undermining the ability of the state’s bluer urban areas to enact progressive policies is unconstitutional, a Travis County judge. State District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble made the ruling just days before the law, which opponents nicknamed the “Death Star” bill, is slated to take effect. The Republican-backed law aims to stop local governments from enacting a wide range of policies by barring cities and counties from passing local ordinances that go further than what is allowed under broad areas of state law.
WFAA – Tanya Eiserer | Published: 8/29/2023
At the Texas Attorney General’s Office, they are some of Ken Paxton’s staunchest defenders: Solicitor General Judd Stone and general litigation chief Chris Hilton. Both played roles in fighting a lawsuit that alleged Paxton used his office to systemically benefit a friend and campaign donor. Once the House impeached Paxton, Hilton and Stone left the office to join the defense team for their former boss. Normally, it would be against internal ethics rules for a lawyer employed by the attorney general’s office to represent someone other than the state. But Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster waived those rules.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2023
Liberal groups, long accustomed to seeing the Wisconsin Supreme Court as hostile terrain, quickly maneuvered for potential victories on a string of major issues after voters elected a liberal majority to the court. They filed lawsuits to try to redraw the state’s legislative districts, which heavily favor Republicans. The Democratic attorney general sought to speed up a case challenging a 19th-century law that has kept doctors from providing abortions in Wisconsin. The turnaround is the result of an April election that became the most expensive judicial race in U.S. history, with campaigns and interest groups spending more than $50 million.
Casper Star Tribune – Maya Shimizu Harris | Published: 8/29/2023
Wyoming’s next legislative session will likely see a slate of bills that aim to improve transparency around campaign spending and tighten voter residency requirements. The proposed legislation attempts to address concerns ranging from the influence of private money in campaigns and elections to the question of how long someone should be required to live in Wyoming before they can vote in the state’s elections.
August 30, 2023 •
Campaign Finance National: “GOP Salivates at the Biggest Campaign Finance Win Since Citizens United” by Ally Mutnick and Zach Montellaro (Politico) for Yahoo News Hawaii: “Ex-Maui Rep Pleads No Contest to Campaign Spending Violation” by Kim Gamel for Honolulu Civil Beat Elections Louisiana: “Louisiana First […]
National: “GOP Salivates at the Biggest Campaign Finance Win Since Citizens United” by Ally Mutnick and Zach Montellaro (Politico) for Yahoo News
Hawaii: “Ex-Maui Rep Pleads No Contest to Campaign Spending Violation” by Kim Gamel for Honolulu Civil Beat
Louisiana: “Louisiana First in the Nation to Vote on Banning Private Elections Funding” by Alex Burness for Bolts
Michigan: “How Trump’s Election Lies Left the Michigan G.O.P. Broken and Battered” by Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) for Yahoo News
National: “ChatGPT Breaks Its Own Rules on Political Messages” by Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) for MSN
Ohio: “Ohio Abortion Rights Advocates Sue Over Ballot Language” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for Yahoo News
California: “Is Anaheim a Cue for More Cities to Start Registering Lobbyists?” by Brandon Pho for Voice of OC
New York: “Lobbying Topped $300 Million in N.Y. for First Time in 2022” by Joshua Solomon for Albany Times Union
August 29, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Oklahoma: “Ryan Walters Ordered to Pay Oklahoma Ethics Commission Over Campaign Report Violations” by Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) for MSN Ethics California: “Longtime LA Politician Mark Ridley-Thomas Sentenced to 3 1/2 Years for Bribery” by Hillel Aron for Courthouse News Service National: “A Lawmaker […]
Oklahoma: “Ryan Walters Ordered to Pay Oklahoma Ethics Commission Over Campaign Report Violations” by Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) for MSN
California: “Longtime LA Politician Mark Ridley-Thomas Sentenced to 3 1/2 Years for Bribery” by Hillel Aron for Courthouse News Service
National: “A Lawmaker Hid One Key Fact as He Fought Checks on Gun Shops” by Glen Thrush (New York Times) for DNyuz
National: “Trump Gets March 4 Trial Date in Federal Case Over Efforts to Overturn 2020 Election” by Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Florida: “Florida’s Affordable Housing Board Suspended Its Director. DeSantis Reinstated Him” by Lawrence Mower (Miami Herald) for MSN
Georgia: “Trump’s Top Aide Meadows Testifies at Hearing on Bid to Move Georgia Election Case to Federal Court” by Kate Brumback for Associated Press News
Kansas: “How a Small-Town Feud in Kansas Sent a Shock Through American Journalism” by Jonathan O’Connell, Paul Farhi, and Sofia Andrade (Washington Post) for MSN
Tennessee: “Free Speech or Orderly Business: Judge hears arguments on Tennessee House sign rules” by Angele Latham and Vivian Jones (Tennessean) for MSN
August 28, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Alaska: “Report from Alaska Campaign Regulator Says Tshibaka-Linked Group Violated State Law” by James Brooks (Alaska Beacon) for Yahoo News National: “Trump Is Selling His Mug Shot on Shirts, Koozies and Bumper Stickers” by Timothy Bella (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics California: “San […]
August 25, 2023 •
National/Federal Democratic Group Plans $10 Million Push to Protect Election Officials DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 8/17/2023 A group that works to elect Democrats as the top election officials in states around the country is planning a $10 […]
DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 8/17/2023
A group that works to elect Democrats as the top election officials in states around the country is planning a $10 million venture to pay for private security for election officials of both parties, register new voters, and try to combat disinformation. The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State is starting a tax-exempt organization called Value the Vote that will initially focus on five battleground states: Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 8/22/2023
The federal grand jury in the District of Columbia that helped investigate Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents has ended, special counsel Jack Smith said in a court filing, which laid out new details about how the probe quietly expanded to look at alleged coverup efforts. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are sparring over the use of two grand juries to investigate Trump’s alleged hoarding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his home and private club. Trump is charged with illegally retaining national defense information after leaving the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve the material.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer, and Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2023
Republican presidential contenders targeted each other as much as they did the absent front-runner, Donald Trump, in a combative first debate with a series of clashes reflecting the fierce competition to emerge as the main alternative to the former president. Trump’s decision to skip the event, a choice that highlighted his commanding polling lead, left him without a defense over two hours that marked the official start of the nomination battle. His biggest consolation came when all but one of the candidates onstage raised their hands to signal they would support Trump if he won the nomination and was convicted of a crime in a court of law.
MSN – Kimberly Kindy (Washington Post) | Published: 8/21/2023
In Washington, D.C., the White House and federal lawmakers are pursuing ways to constrain Chinese-owned businesses like TikTok amid a bipartisan push to limit China’s reach. Now state legislators have embraced a novel, locally focused tactic aimed at China’s domestic investments: restrictions on Chinese land ownership. Lawmakers in 33 states have introduced bills this year that would prohibit the Chinese government, some China-based businesses, and many Chinese citizens from buying agricultural land or property near military bases.
OpenSecrets – Maia Cook | Published: 8/18/2023
Super PACs, now a staple in modern presidential campaigns, are already gearing up to spend unlimited sums to support and oppose candidates for the 2024 election and many of those groups have a cozy relationship with the candidates they support. This might raise eyebrows to people that remember Citizens United, which stated any coordination between a campaign committee and an outside group backing their campaign – including PACs, corporations, nonprofits, and unions – is illegal.
Stateline – Matt Vasilogambros | Published: 8/21/2023
Over the past decade, ranked choice voting has become increasingly popular. From conservative Utah to liberal New York City, 13 million American voters in 51 jurisdictions now use the system, under which voters rank candidates based on preference, leading to an instant runoff in a crowded race. This year, Democrats and Republicans in power pushed back. Arguing that ranked choice voting is too complicated for voters to understand, Democrats in the District of Columbia and Republicans in states such as Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota took steps to prevent adoption of the voting system.
Yahoo News – Jonathan Swan, Alan Feuer, Luke Broadwater, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 8/22/2023
After receiving a subpoena from a grand jury investigating former President Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, Mark Meadows started a delicate dance with federal prosecutors. He had no choice but to testify eventually. Yet Meadows –Trump’s final White House chief of staff – initially declined to answer certain questions, sticking to his former boss’s position they were shielded by executive privilege. But when prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith challenged Trump’s executive privilege claims before a judge, Meadows pivoted.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama Daily News – Mary Sell | Published: 8/20/2023
The Alabama House Ethics Committee will begin discussing possible changes to the state’s multiple ethics laws that apply to elected officials, government employees, and lobbyists. The committee will first review a 2019 report from the Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission, a group created by the Legislature to propose changes to existing ethics laws.
CalMatters – Sameea Kamal | Published: 8/23/2023
State boards are backing a bill to continue the exemptions from California’s open meetings law. An unusual coalition of good government, press, taxpayer, and industry groups is fighting back. Senate Bill 544 seeks to remove requirements to post all teleconference locations, post agendas at each location, and make those locations accessible to the public. The bill’s opponents – a rare coalition of good government, press, taxpayer. and industry groups – say Californians should be able to address their government officials in person.
MSN – Dakota Smith and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/23/2023
When the city council voted down a proposed appointment to the city Ethics Commission, it all happened quickly and quietly. No one on the council offered a reason for the swift, and some say brutal, unanimous vote rejecting Jamie York. But after days of complaints from York’s allies and neighborhood council leaders, the explanations have come tumbling out.
MSN – Adam Elmahrek, Nathan Fenno, and Gabriel San Román (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/16/2023
Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu agreed to plead guilty to four criminal charges, capping a years-long investigation into alleged corruption that led to his resignation and scuttled the city’s $320 million sale of Angel Stadium. The charges against Sidhu include lying to FBI agents about not expecting to receive anything from the Angels when the transaction closed – secret recordings captured him saying he hoped to secure a $1-million campaign contribution – and destroying an email in which he provided confidential information about the city’s negotiations to a team consultant.
MSN – Alfred Ng (Politico) | Published: 8/18/2023
One of the world’s largest advertising firms is crafting a campaign to thwart a California bill intended to enhance people’s control over the data that companies collect on them. Records show Interpublic Group emails reveal how an advertising company could use that same personal data and targeting capabilities to undermine a public policy proposal that threatens its bottom line.
Yahoo News – Stephanie Zappelli (San Louis Obispo Tribune) | Published: 8/19/2023
California Assemblyperson Dawn Addis was fined for accepting a campaign contribution from a lobbyist. When Addis ran for the Assembly in 2019, her campaign accepted a $250 donation from lobbyist Steve Black. The Political Reform Act bans lobbyists from donating to candidates running for office, and candidates from accepting such contributions. Both Addis and Black said they were unaware of the ban.
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlik | Published: 8/23/2023
A trial judge threw out a lawsuit from the Colorado Union of Taxpayers over the state’s rules for advocating on ballot initiatives after finding the conservative advocacy group had not shown the government was likely to take enforcement action against it for failing to comply with the transparency regulations. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled the group had a reasonable fear of drawing a complaint about its spending without registering, and, therefore, had the ability to sue over the campaign finance law.
District of Columbia – D.C. Attorney General Is Probing Leonard Leo’s Network
MSN – Heidi Przybyla (Politico) | Published: 8/22/2023
District of Columbia Attorney General Brian Schwalb is investigating judicial activist Leonard Leo and his network of nonprofit groups. The scope of the probe+ is unclear. But it comes after it was reported that one of Leo’s nonprofits paid his for-profit company tens of millions of dollars in the two years since he joined the company. A complaint was filed with the attorney general and the IRS requesting a probe into what services were provided and whether Leo was in violation of laws against using charities for personal enrichment.
MSN – Skyler Swisher (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 8/22/2023
Glen Gilzean resigned as chairperson of the Florida Commission on Ethics so he can keep his $400,000-a-year job leading Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Disney World oversight district. In his resignation letter, Gilzean wrote he was unaware of a potential conflict-of-interest under state law until media reports flagged it.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/20/2023
Fundraisers for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hoped some lobbyists in the state would raise at least $1 million each for his PAC, the state, and the Republican Governors Association, according to a document from his primary fundraiser. The document suggested lobbyists be allowed to offer their clients perks, such as meals and rounds of golf with DeSantis. While it is common for politicians to seek donations from lobbyists, the efforts by DeSantis to effectively auction off his leisure time to those seeking to influence state policy created a special pathway of access for donors that is striking in the way it was documented in writing, ethics experts said.
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/15/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to dismantle a congressional district formerly held by a Black Democrat could be reversed according to a surprise agreement between lawyers for the state and civil rights groups challenging Florida’s map. Under the agreement the plaintiffs will drop their legal challenges to congressional districts in Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area, and focus arguments on the North Florida district they say violates state and federal voting rights protections for Black voters.
Yahoo News – Sarah Blaskey and Joey Flechas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/22/2023
The Florida Commission on Ethics is reviewing a complaint over Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s attendance at exclusive, high-priced sporting events since the start of 2022. The complaint asks ethics officials to investigate Suarez’s VIP access to various events, including the Miami Formula One race in May 2023, and whether somebody else paid. Suarez, who was invited along with his wife to this year’s race by a billionaire with business before the city, says he reimbursed the businessperson. He did not provide proof. If he did repay in full, the tickets would not be a gift and he would not have to disclose them.
MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/21/2023
A judge approved a $200,000 bond for former President Trump, who is expected to surrender on charges he and 18 allies illegally conspired to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia. The consent bond order sets strict rules for Trump’s release. He is not allowed to communicate with witnesses or co-defendants about the case, except through his lawyers, and he is barred from intimidating witnesses or co-defendants.
WBEZ – Tessa Weinberg | Published: 8/16/2023
As the Chicago City Council enters its 100th year under its modern form, some aldermen, good government advocates, and political science experts say despite incremental progress, the council still has institutional inertia to overcome before it can operate independently from the historical grip the mayor’s office has held. Proposals include altering the council’s structure, more robustly staffing fiscal and legislative agencies, and a wholesale reset on Chicago’s municipal governance by codifying reforms in a city charter.
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 4/19/2023
Newly unsealed court records provide insight into how law enforcement justified an unusual raid of the office of a Marion, Kansas, newspaper, a decision that has drawn widespread condemnation from news organizations and press freedom advocates. The Marion County Sheriff’s office said it was investigating “identity theft” and “unlawful acts concerning computers” when it searched the offices of the Marion County Record, the home of the paper’s publisher Eric Meyer, and the home of a local city council member – seizing computers, cell phones, and other materials, according to search warrant affidavits.
Louisville Public Media – Roberto Roldan | Published: 8/20/2023
Metro Councilperson Anthony Piagentini was an early supporter of a plan by the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council to train hundreds of entry-level workers and build an “innovation corridor” in the city. But when the $40 million project came up for a final vote in December, Piagentini abstained and removed himself as a co-sponsor without explanation. It was later found he took a job with the Healthcare CEO Council one day after the metro council approved funding. Piagentini faces an ethics board hearing in the case.
Baltimore Brew – Mark Reutter | Published: 8/23/2023
Baltimore Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy issued an unusual memorandum recently. Titled “Attempted Bribes,” it informed her staff that “City of Baltimore employees are not permitted to accept bribes.” Kennedy listed the processing of permits, performing building inspections, issuing housing code violations, and acquiring and disposing of property as potential interactions where bribes could take place. Her memo came on the heels of an alert by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming, which found building inspectors were not sure what to do when they were offered cash or gift cards.
MSN – Lia Russell (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 8/16/2023
In the three years since its inception, Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan’s office has gone from three people toiling in a small windowless room to doubling its staff size and budget. That was the main message of its annual report, summarizing what Madigan’s office has accomplished during the previous fiscal year. The office is charged with rooting out fraud, misconduct, and waste within county government.
WXYZ – Staff | Published: 8/22/2023
The former mayor of Taylor, Michigan, is facing years in prison after entering into a plea agreement in a federal corruption case. Sollars admitted to bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds by accepting things of value to influence and reward business transactions related to the city’s Right of Refusal program. The indictment said Sollars accepted over $30,000 in renovations to his home, more than $12,000 worth of household appliances and cabinets, cash, and other items to give a company city business.
Omaha World-Herald – Lauren Wagner and Molly Ashford | Published: 8/23/2023
A federal judge rejected a third attempt by former Omaha City Councilperson Vincent Palermo to be released from custody. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart said there was no reason to allow Palermo to be released after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge recently. She also had concerns about Palermo obstructing justice if released. Palermo admitted to conspiring with his co-defendants to deprive the citizens of Omaha of honest representation by their city council member.
MSN – Matt Arco, Brent Johnson, and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/21/2023
Two longtime advisers to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, including one who is poised to run for the state Assembly in the fall, were once the subject of a federal subpoena seeking records related to them and their consulting and lobbying firms. In the subpoena, federal prosecutors requested the recipient to present emails and documents to or from Brendan Gill, his public affairs consulting firm, The BGill Group, and the lobbying firm he is affiliated with, Public Strategies Impact. The subpoena, issued in February 2020, also sought similar documents and emails to and from Adam Alonso, Murphy’s former deputy chief of staff.
New Jersey – Democrat Challenging Testa Is Ghosting the Campaign
Press of Atlantic City – Bill Barlow | Published: 8/23/2023
Charles Laspata filed petitions in the spring to challenge incumbent New Jersey Sen. Michael Testa, It does not appear that Laspata has done much about the campaign since then. Democratic leaders in Cape May and Cumberland counties say they have not heard from Laspata, and attempts to contact him through email, social media, and by phone have been unsuccessful. The website of the Election Law Enforcement Commission does not show any of Lasopata’s required campaign finance forms have been filed for the primary election.
Yahoo News – Colleen Heild (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 8/17/2023
Some provisions of a New Mexico campaign finance law limiting the amount of money state political parties can give are unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled. The court enjoined the state from enforcing its $11,000 limit on contributions from state political parties to gubernatorial candidates or candidate committees; its $5,500 limit per election cycle for all other candidates; and the state’s $5,500 cap from state political parties to county parties. The judge upheld a $27,500 cutoff on donations from individuals and entities to state political parties.
North Carolina – N.C. Republican Bill Limits Mail Voting, Private Election Funding
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 8/17/2023
Republicans in North Carolina passed election administration legislation that curtails absentee voting, empowers partisan poll watchers, and restricts private funding for elections. Voting rights advocates and Democrats have warned the measure, which passed both chambers in the Legislature along party lines, erodes access to the ballot in the battleground state. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to veto the legislation, but Republicans can overturn his decision because they have veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers.
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 8/23/2023
With funding of critical concern, trouble appears to be on the horizon for Oklahoma’s electronic campaign filing system. In a letter to lawmakers and Gov. Kevin Stitt, outgoing state Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said the system needs an upgrade or replacement. She suggested that going back to paper filings would be an option.
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 8/21/2023
A nonprofit led by Orego’s public employee unions filed two ballot measure proposals that contain an end-run strategy aimed at defeating a proposal that campaign finance reformers have been working to qualify for the ballot to cap contributions and shed light on “dark money.” The two measures that Our Oregon filed to get on the ballot in 2024 would similarly limit the size of donations, but they would allow unions, business associations, and other membership organizations to continue sending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to candidates.
WTAJ – Rebecca Parsons | Published: 8/23/2023
A new bill in Pennsylvania aims to increase transparency in elections by requiring campaigns and campaign organizations to itemize reimbursements on campaign finance reports. “… Donors give to campaigns with the expectation that their funds are going to be used for legitimate campaign expenditures and they deserve to know specifically how that money is being spent …,” said Rep. Jamie Barton, the bill’s sponsor.
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 8/23/2023
Rhode Island’s First Congressional District race has delved into matters of climate change, defense spending, and education, but a less familiar issue is emerging as the campaign enters its final two weeks: “red-boxing.” Lt .Gov. Sabina Matos, one of 12 Democrats in the race, has accused rival Aaron Regunberg of lying about publishing information on his campaign website that she claims was aimed at helping a super PAC boost his candidacy. Regunberg in turn has accused Matos and other candidates of posting information intended for super PACs backing their campaigns.
Charleston Post and Courier – Skylar Laird | Published: 8/17/2023
Former Richland County Councilperson Gwen Kennedy used her county taxpayer money to buy groceries, as well as “double dip” on travel expenses, and buy gas multiple times on the same day, a South Carolina Ethics Commission attorney said. Kennedy also misused campaign funds while running for county council, failed to file a number of required disclosures, and violated several other state ethics laws, commission General Counsel Courtney Laster said.
MSN – Annie Todd (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 8/17/2023
State Sen. Jessica Castleberry announced her resignation after an investigation found she violated the South Dakota State Constitution by accepting federal funds for her small business. Castleberry will be required to repay the state $499,129 with interest after she accepted COVID-19 stimulus funds for her daycare. Attorney General Marty Jackley said none of the money was spent inappropriately and went toward Department of Social Services-approved expenditures. He did not say why it took three years for someone to notice the expenditures.
MSN – Lauren McGaughy (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 8/18/2023
Thousands of pages of newly released documents purport to reveal the depth of the relationship between Ken Paxton and Nate Paul, the real estate developer at the center of the Texas attorney general’s impeachment case. The evidence goes to the heart of the impeachment allegations, that Paxton used his power to help Paul thwart a federal investigation into his business, which had been raided by the FBI in 2019, and Paul bribed Paxton by funding a home remodel and giving a job to a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair.
Seatte Times – Bob Brunner | Published: 8/19/2023
After months of resistance, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson disclosed the donors behind more than $1.2 million in surplus campaign funds from past years he shifted to his 2024 gubernatorial bid. Ferguson pumped the cash into his campaign in April and May, getting ahead of a state Public Disclosure Commission vote that aimed to close the loophole allowing such anonymous transfers, which critics said violate the spirit of campaign finance laws.
MSN – Scott Bauer (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 8/23/2023
Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature asked that the newest Democratic-backed justice on the state Supreme Court recuse herself from lawsuits seeking to overturn GOP-drawn electoral maps, arguing she has prejudged the cases. Republicans argue in motions filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court that Justice Janet Protasiewicz cannot fairly hear the cases because during her campaign for the seat she called the Republican-drawn maps “unfair” and “rigged” and said there needs to be “a fresh look at the gerrymandering question.”
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