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.”
August 24, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Colorado: “10th Circuit Reinstates Challenge to Colorado’s Regulations on Ballot Issue Advocacy Groups” by Michael Karlik for Colorado Politics Rhode Island: “What Is ‘Red-Boxing’ and Why Is it an Issue in R.I.’s Congressional Race?” by Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) for MSN Elections […]
Colorado: “10th Circuit Reinstates Challenge to Colorado’s Regulations on Ballot Issue Advocacy Groups” by Michael Karlik for Colorado Politics
Rhode Island: “What Is ‘Red-Boxing’ and Why Is it an Issue in R.I.’s Congressional Race?” by Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) for MSN
National: “As Ranked Choice Voting Gains Momentum, Parties in Power Push Back” by Matt Vasilogambros for Stateline
National: “Republican Rivals Clash Sharply in Combative Debate with No Trump” by Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer, and Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Amid Outcry, L.A. City Council Defends Rejection of Ethics Nominee” by Dakota Smith and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
National: “Special Counsel Says D.C. Grand Jury on Trump Documents Case Has Ended” by Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “DeSantis’ Disney Chief Glen Gilzean Resigns from Ethics Commission” by Skyler Swisher (Orlando Sentinel) for MSN
Michigan: “Former Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars Enters Plea Agreement in Federal Corruption Case” by Staff for WXYZ
California: “California Boards Want to Keep Pandemic Rules for Public Meetings. Critics Call It Bad for Democracy” by Sameea Kamal for CalMatters
August 23, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Labor Group Launches End Run Around Effort to Curb Political Donations, Shed Light on Dark Money” by Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) for MSN Ethics Alabama: “House Committee to Consider Ethics Reform” by Mary Sell for Alabama Daily News Florida: “Suarez’s VIP […]
Oregon: “Oregon Labor Group Launches End Run Around Effort to Curb Political Donations, Shed Light on Dark Money” by Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
Alabama: “House Committee to Consider Ethics Reform” by Mary Sell for Alabama Daily News
Florida: “Suarez’s VIP Appearances at F1, World Cup Spark Complaint to State Ethics Commission” by Sarah Blaskey and Joey Flechas (Miami Herald) for Yahoo News
Florida: “DeSantis Ally Has Conflict-of-Interest by Serving on Disney District, Legal Opinion States” by Kimberly Leonard (Politico) for MSN
Georgia: “Judge Approves $200,000 Bond for Trump in Georgia Election Case” by Holly Bailey (Washington Post) for MSN
Maryland: “Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan Issues Annual Report Following Commission Recommendations” by Lia Russell (Baltimore Sun) for MSN
National: “How Mark Meadows Pursued a High-Wire Legal Strategy in Trump Inquiries” by Jonathan Swan, Alan Feuer, Luke Broadwater, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) for Yahoo News
New Jersey: “Feds Once Subpoenaed Records for 2 Murphy Advisers – Including One Now Running for N.J. Assembly” by Matt Arco, Brent Johnson, and Susan Livio, (NJ Advance Media) for MSN
August 22, 2023 •
Campaign Finance California: “SLO County Legislator Fined for Accepting Campaign Donation from a Lobbyist” by Stephanie Zappelli (San Luis Obispo Tribune) for Yahoo News National: “Super PACs Raise Millions as Concerns About Illegal Campaign Coordination Raise Questions” by Maia Cook for OpenSecrets Florida: “‘I […]
August 21, 2023 •
Campaign Finance New Mexico: “Judge Tosses Parts of NM Campaign Finance Law” by Colleen Heild for Albuquerque Journal Elections National: “Democratic Group Plans $10 Million Push to Protect Election Officials” by Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) for DNyuz North Carolina: “N.C. Republican Bill Limits Mail […]
August 18, 2023 •
National/Federal ‘Biased.’ ‘Corrupt.’ ‘Deranged.’ Trump’s Taunts Test Limits of Release. Buffalo News – Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan, and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 8/16/2023 After eight years of pushing back at a number of institutions in the U.S., Donald Trump […]
Buffalo News – Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan, and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 8/16/2023
After eight years of pushing back at a number of institutions in the U.S., Donald Trump is now probing the limits of what the criminal justice system will tolerate and the lines that District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan sought to lay out about what he can say about the election interference case she is overseeing. He has waged a similarly defiant campaign against others involved in criminal cases against him. Some lawyers have said if Trump were an ordinary citizen issuing these attacks, he would be in jail by now. The question is whether Trump will face consequences for this kind of behavior ahead of a trial.
Business Insider – Peter Syme | Published: 8/15/2023
New evidence that prosecutors want to use against Sam Bankman-Fried details how one high-ranking FTX executive knew his boss’s political donations were designed to gain favorable influence in Washington D.C. The FTX founder gave nearly $40 million to Democrats and PACs during last year’s midterm elections. Although prosecutors have put that number as high as $100 million because they say Bankman-Fried funneled millions of dollars more through FTX executives. Prosecutors say the donations were funded by money taken from FTX customers.
MSN – Ryan Tarinelli (Roll Call) | Published: 8/10/2023
An appellate court panel heard arguments about a lower court ruling that would restrict the Biden administration’s ability to interact with social media companies on content moderation. An injunction, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has paused for now, would block various federal government entities from contacting in any form social media companies to remove content with “protected free speech.” The panel, which reserved its most probing questions for the Justice Department, did not indicate when it might rule.
MSN – Tierny Sneed (CNN) | Published: 8/13/2023
It is undeniable that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s friendships with billionaires willing to foot his bill on their vacations together have given the conservative jurist a lifestyle most Americans could only dream of. But determining whether Thomas violated ethics rules and laws by failing to disclose that hospitality is tricky. The law in question is the Ethics in Government Act, and how it should be applied to the extravagant travel that Thomas and other justices have been treated to has been a subject of debate.
The Hill – Zach Schonfeld and Mychael Schnell | Published: 8/16/2023
Samuel Miele, a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. George Santos, was indicted on allegations he had impersonated a top aide to a member of House leadership while soliciting donations for Santos’s campaign. Miele is charged with four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. While court documents do not identify the impersonated aide’s name or the lawmaker they work for, a complaint filed with the FEC accused Miele of impersonating Dan Meyer, who previously served as chief of staff to Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The Hill – Rebecca Beitsch | Published: 8/16/2023
Special counsel Jack Smith sought to review former President Trump’s direct messages, draft tweets, and location information as his office battled for information related to his account on X, formerly known as Twitter. Newly unsealed court records offer more detail about what prosecutors were looking for when they subpoenaed records related to the Twitter account in January, a request granted by the court.
Yahoo News – J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 8/12/2023
There is an expanding campaign by conservatives across the country to limit the power of Democratic prosecutors who have promised to reform the criminal justice system, or else to oust the prosecutors altogether. More than two dozen bills have been introduced in 16 states to limit prosecutors’ power, mostly in Republican-controlled states. Several of those bills have become law. Despite attacks on their policies and attempts to blame them for rising crime, progressive prosecutors have continued to win many elections.
Yahoo News – Ali Swenson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/10/2023
The FEC began a process to potentially regulate AI-generated deepfakes in political ads ahead of the 2024 election, a move advocates say would safeguard voters against a particularly insidious form of election disinformation. The FEC’s unanimous procedural vote advances a petition asking it to regulate ads that use artificial intelligence to misrepresent political opponents as saying or doing something they did not, a stark issue that is already being highlighted in the current Republican presidential primary.
Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 8/11/2023
Donald Trump’s legal problems are not just piling up – his legal bills are, too. New financial reports show the former president’s various political committees and the super PAC backing him have used roughly 30 cents of every dollar spent so far this year on legal-related costs. The total amounts to more than $27 million in legal fees and other investigation-related bills in the first six months of 2023. The new disclosures revealed the remarkable degree to which Trump’s political and legal cash are intermingled, much like his own political and legal fate.
From the States and Municipalities
MSN – Canadian Press | Published: 8/15/2023
The federal government has remained without a conflict-of-interest and ethics watchdog for more than six months, a vacancy that the most recent commissioner says is putting investigations on hold and could allow violations to go unnoticed. Mario Dion retired in February after serving as the last permanent commissioner. Martine Richard took on an interim role in April. But she resigned within weeks because of controversy over the fact she is the sister-in-law of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 8/14/2023
Alabama Republicans were ordered by a federal court to redraw their congressional maps to ensure there were two majority-Black districts. They did not. Instead, they are going back to the same federal court after the Supreme Court weighed in, this time to argue their attempts at coming up with a new map are good enough. Plaintiffs argued the new districts plainly do not meet the court’s standards, and Republicans were engaging in political gamesmanship by ignoring the court and drawing lines that would still only present Black voters the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choosing in one district.
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 8/7/2023
With efforts by one set of foes already rebuffed, Arizona’s top Republican lawmakers are making their own bid to quash a new state law designed to shine a light on “dark money.” In a new court filing, Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma contend Proposition 211 infringes on the constitutional right of the Legislature to make laws. They want Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Frank Moskowitz to override what voters approved just last year.
Mission Local – Joe Eskenazi | Published: 8/15/2023
Former San Francisco Planning Commission member Frank Fung admits he contracted with a city entity while serving as a city officer and faces a five-digit fine. Fung, a 20-year city appointee who served on the Planning Commission until June 2022, agreed to a settlement in which he will pay $24,200.
MSN – Michael Slaten and Tony Saavedra (Orange County Register) | Published: 8/10/2023
Investigators in Anaheim found deep levels of coordination between PACs and former Mayor Harry Sidhu’s campaign in 2018, a possible violation of state election laws. Investigators from JL Group said former Core Strategic Group Chief Executive Officer Jeff Flint and former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Todd Ament ran many campaign meetings for Sidhu while also coordinating spending through independent expenditures.
California – Oakland Lobbyists Must Pay to Play, Officials Say
Oaklandside – Eli Wolfe | Published: 8/10/2023
Oakland requires lobbyists to register and disclose basic information about who is employing them, how much they are paid, and who in the city they contacted. The Public Ethics Commission agreed to send the city council several recommendations to change to the lobbying law. The commission wants to carve out some exceptions to lobbyist registration fees. They want to grant a fee waiver to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations with less than $750,000 in annual revenue, and a reduction for small businesses with less than $200,000 in annual revenue.
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 8/14/2023
Industry groups and wealthy activists have figured out how to use California;s direct democracy system in ways that are changing how policy is made, prompting pushback from unions and others. Like never before, the business of lawmaking in Sacramento is intertwined with a ballot initiative industry that churns through hundreds of millions of dollars each cycle, and policy battles loop from the Legislature to the streets back to the Legislature again.
San Francisco Standard – Eddie Sun | Published: 8/15/2023
Bay Area Rapid Transit Board President Janice Li agreed to a $5,275 fine for failing to register as a lobbyist for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The coalition’s former executive director, Brian Wiedenmeier, was also named in the complaint. Li served as the nonprofit’s advocacy director from 2015 to 2022. The two qualified as “contact lobbyists” under local law because they reached out to city officials about coalition business at least five times a month.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 8/9/2023
Anaheim leaders give out hundreds of free tickets every year to events at Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, but a new investigation into alleged corruption found the city has failed to stop those tickets from going into the hands of special interests for years. While the city has a policy that requires city leaders to state a reason for giving out tickets, investigators from the JL Group noted there is no penalty for violating that policy, and it is easy to circumvent.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 8/16/2023
Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken’s proposed reforms to safeguard against corruption fell apart as her city council colleagues criticized an independent investigation and significantly softened every one of the mayor’s reform recommendations. Independent investigators put together a scathing report that alleges “pay-to-play” conspiracies, misconduct, a misuse of federal COVID dollars, and outsized influence by Disneyland resort interests on City Hall.
Florida – State Appeals Lobbying Decision
Citrus County Chronicle – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 8/14/2023
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody appealed a federal judge’s ruling that blocked part of a state constitutional amendment imposing new lobbying restrictions. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom issued a permanent injunction against a restriction on state and local officials lobbying other government bodies while in office. Bloom said the restriction violated First Amendment rights. The state separately requested a stay that would lead to the injunction only applying to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rene Garcia while the appeal moves forward.
WFSU – Margie Menzel | Published: 8/15/2023
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board agreed to continue discussions on why the number of lobbyists registered with the city has plummeted. Critics say there is a loophole to evade that registration, which would require reporting one’s clients and fees.
Yahoo News – Romy Ellenbogen (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/14/2023
The head of Florida’s ethics commission may have violated one of the commission’s own rules. Glen Gilzean, the chairperson of the Florida Commission on Ethics, was appointed in 2019 by Gov. Ron DeSantis. But Gilzean in May also took on another role, as the new administrator of the DeSantis-controlled Central Florida Tourism Oversight district, a special district formerly that governs Walt Disney World and two surrounding cities. State law says members appointed to the state ethics commission may not “hold any public employment.”
Yahoo News – Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 8/15/2023
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is using the state’s version of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to go after former President Trump, who along with 18 of his allies was indicted on charges of participating in a wide-ranging conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. One power of RICO is that it often allows a prosecutor to tell a sweeping story, not only laying out a set of criminal acts but identifying a group of people working toward a common goal, as part of an “enterprise,” to engage in patterns of illegal activities.
Yahoo News – Ryan Suppe (Idaho Statesman) | Published: 8/11/2023
A judge ruled Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador had a “notable conflict of interest” when his office began investigating officials with the state Department of Health and Welfare over how it distributed federal child-care grants. The health officials were the attorney general’s clients, and a lawyer under Labrador had advised them the grants in question were legally distributed.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 8/15/2023
Former Ald. Howard Brookins will not have to pay a $5,000 fine for violating the city’s ethics law by defending clients in criminal cases involving the Chicago Police Department. Brookins sued the Board of Ethics after it unanimously levied the fine against him, saying it had no authority to stop him from serving as a criminal defense attorney in Chicago.
Seattle Times – Steven Lee Myers and Benjamin Mullins (New York Times) | Published: 8/13/2023
A small Kansas police department is facing criticism for raiding a local newspaper’s office and the home of its owner and publisher, seizing computers and cellphones, and, in the publisher’s view, stressing his 98-year-old mother enough to cause her death. The searches appeared to be linked to an investigation into how a document containing information about a local restaurateur found its way to the local newspaper — and whether the restaurant owner’s privacy was violated in the process. The editor of the newspaper said the raids may have had more to do with tensions between the paper and officials in the town of Marion over prior coverage.
Yahoo News – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 8/10/2023
Tim Sheehy, who is rung for the U.S. Senate in Montana, plans to steer a portion of the revenue from his forthcoming memoir to an industry group that lobbies federal lawmakers, adding to existing conflict-of-interest questions surrounding the wealthy first-time candidate. Candidates for office occasionally release books to help burnish their image and tell their story, and sitting lawmakers sometimes draw hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside income from book deals. But Sheehy’s book release poses unique conflict-of-interest questions, given his apparent plans for the revenue.
MSN – Abby Turner and Andrew Kaczynski (CNN) | Published: 8/12/2023
Sam Brown, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Nevada, created a PAC to “help elect Republicans” but most of its funds were spent paying down debt from his failed previous campaign. The group donated less than seven percent of its funds to the candidates it was set up to support, a move one campaign finance expert likened to using the PAC as a “slush fund.”
This Is Reno – Kristin Hackbarth | Published: 8/15/2023
The Washoe County Board of Commissioners heard the first reading of a new ordinance that would require compensated lobbyists to register with the county. The policy, which some said was overdue, was modeled after Reno’s lobbying policy and is similar to others in Clark County, Las Vegas, and Henderson. It would require anyone who receives anything of value to communicate with county commissioners on behalf of someone else on any issue to register with the county.
New Mexico – New Ethics Complaint Targets Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 8/16/2023
A new ethics complaint accuses New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of violating state law by leveraging his power as a legislator for financial gain and to seek sexual favors. Much of the complaint centers on Ivey-Soto’s employment by an organization that serves county clerks throughout New Mexico, an arrangement it says is a conflict-of-interest, given his dual role as a legislator who crafts election laws the clerks must carry out.
Santa Fe New Mexican – Daniel Chacón | Published: 8/10/2023
In a defeat for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who unilaterally stopped the Human Services Department from awarding Medicaid contracts worth billions of dollars to providers who had followed the state’s procurement process and scored the highest bids, the department will move forward with the winning bidders after all. The decision is part of a settlement agreement the state Ethics Commission reached with the governor and the department.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 8/14/2023
A New York appellate court dismissed a lawsuit filed last year by Gary Levine, a former commissioner for the state’s now-dismantled Joint Commission on Public Ethics, accusing Andrew Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, of defamation for suggesting he had leaked confidential information to the press about Cuomo’s dealings with the ethics panel. The appellate court found Glavin’s letter constituted a “statement of opinion” when she urged the inspector general’s office to launch an investigation of Lavine.
MSN – Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 8/14/2023
The judge in Donald Trump’s Manhattan hush-money criminal case rejected the former president’s demand to step aside, denying defense claims that he is biased against Trump because he has given money to Democrats and his daughter is a party consultant. Judge Juan Manuel Merchan acknowledged he made several small donations to Democratic causes during the 2020 campaign, including $15 to Joe Biden, but said he is certain of his “ability to be fair and impartial.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 8/8/2023
Ten Republican and Independent senators who participated in a six-week walkout during the 2023 legislation session spring will not be allowed to run for reelection, Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced. Oregonians overwhelmingly voted last year to create consequences for legislative walkouts via Measure 113. But the decision drew a promise of a court challenge from GOP lawmakers, who have said the measure was so sloppily worded they are technically allowed to serve another term before consequences for a walkout begin.
Willamette Weekly – Nigel Jaquiss | Published: 8/14/2023
Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced that her office will now publish a searchable list of campaign finance violations monthly. Other states have long made such data public, informing voters which candidates posted contributions and expenditures late or incorrectly. The former elections director, Deborah Scroggin, pushed for Oregon to publish such violations throughout 2022, but then-Secretary of State Shemia Fagan and her top managers delayed the launch.
Yahoo News – Annie Todd (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 8/15/2023
Gov. Kristi Noem issued an executive order that contracts issued by the state include a clause to guard against conflict-of-interest if a state lawmaker is about to enter into a contract that could violate the South Dakota Constitution. According to the state constitution, lawmakers are prohibited from being either directly or indirectly interested in any contract with the state or county during their term in office and one year after.
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 8/11/2023
Former Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey was sentenced to 21 months in prison for directing a scheme to funnel state campaign funds to his failed 2016 congressional race. His co-defendant in the scheme, Josh Smith, owner of The Standard Club, a Nashville restaurant frequented by Republican lawmakers, netted five years of probation, a $250,000 fine, and 720 hours of public service. Smith reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors last November and was prepared to testify against Kelsey.
MSN – Juan Lozano (Associated Press) | Published: 8/15/2023
A judge called a new law unconstitutional that passed in the Republican-led Texas Legislature and will dictate how elections are run in the state’s most populous county, which is a Democratic stronghold and home to Houston. The law, which would abolish a position that oversees elections in Harris County, was temporarily blocked by state District Court Judge Karin Crump after county officials filed a lawsuit. But the judge’s order was put on hold after the state attorney general’s office filed a notice it will appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.
MSN – Stacy Parker (Virginian-Pilot) | Published: 8/15/2023
A vacant lot near Naval Air Station Oceana that is owned by a state senator could soon become a temporary laydown area for Dominion Energy’s $10 billion wind farm project. The Virginia Beach Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval. Sen. Bill DeSteph owns more than $250,000 of stock in Dominion Energy and has voted on legislation that affects electric and other utilities.
Yahoo News – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 8/15/2023
The county board meeting in Wausau, Wisconsin, on August 12, 2021, got contentious fast. What happened about 12 minutes in, as members of the community squabbled over a resolution intended to promote diversity and inclusion, has become the subject of a bitter legal fight that threatens to bankrupt one of the few remaining sources of local news in the area. First Amendment experts say the case highlights a troubling trend of wealthy and powerful people using defamation law as retribution.
August 16, 2023 •
Campaign Finance National: “Sam Bankman-Fried Donated Millions to ‘Weed Out Anti-Crypto’ Politicians, New Evidence Says” by Peter Syme for Business Insider Oregon: “With New Secretary of State, Oregonians Will Get Greater Transparency on Campaign Finance Violations” by Nigel Jaquiss for Willamette Weekly Elections California: “Big […]
August 15, 2023 •
The Oregon Elections Division announced a new multi-year initiative to promote the state’s campaign finance laws. The compliance program has been named CLEAR and will be implemented in three phases. Oregon is currently working on a website overhaul of Oregonvotes.com […]
The Oregon Elections Division announced a new multi-year initiative to promote the state’s campaign finance laws.
The compliance program has been named CLEAR and will be implemented in three phases.
Oregon is currently working on a website overhaul of Oregonvotes.com to make it easier for the public to locate campaign finance information and gain access to the online filing system ORESTAR.
The Election Division is working on publishing an online database of campaign finance violations and penalties expected to launch in late August.
New training videos and compliance documentation will be available to assist campaigns in staying complaint with the law.
August 15, 2023 •
Campaign Finance California: “Report: Anaheim PACs, campaigns coordinated in 2018 mayor race, possibly violating law” by Michael Slaten and Tony Saavedra (Orange County Register) for MSN Nevada: “Nevada GOP Senate Candidate Raised Money to Help Other Candidates – the Funds Mostly Paid […]
California: “Report: Anaheim PACs, campaigns coordinated in 2018 mayor race, possibly violating law” by Michael Slaten and Tony Saavedra (Orange County Register) for MSN
Nevada: “Nevada GOP Senate Candidate Raised Money to Help Other Candidates – the Funds Mostly Paid Down His Old Campaign’s Debt Instead” by Abby Turner and Andrew Kaczynski (CNN) for MSN
National: “Appeals Court Weighs Order on Social Media Content Moderation” by Ryan Tarinelli (Roll Call) for MSN
Georgia: “Trump Charged in Georgia 2020 Election Probe, His Fourth Indictment” by Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
Idaho: “‘Conflict of Interest’: Idaho AG gave officials legal advice, then investigated them” by Ryan Suppe (Idaho Statesman) for Yahoo News
Kansas: “Raid of Small Kansas Newspaper Raises Free Press Concerns” by Steven Lee Myers and Benjamin Mullins (New York Times) for Seattle Times
New York: “Team Cuomo Notches Legal Win as Court Dismisses Defamation Claim” by Brendan Lyons for Albany Times Union
Alabama: “Alabama Republicans Defend Not Creating a Second Majority Black District in Court” by Zach Montellaro (Politico) for Yahoo News
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