March 10, 2021 •
Campaign Finance California: “New Escondido Council Erases Campaign Finance Reforms Enacted by Predecessors” by Joe Tash for San Diego Union Tribune Maine: “Maine Ethics Commission Says Senate District 14 Candidate Violated Election Law, but Assesses No Penalty” by Jessica Lowell […]
California: “New Escondido Council Erases Campaign Finance Reforms Enacted by Predecessors” by Joe Tash for San Diego Union Tribune
Maine: “Maine Ethics Commission Says Senate District 14 Candidate Violated Election Law, but Assesses No Penalty” by Jessica Lowell (Kennebec Journal) for Portland Press Herald
National: “House Democrats End Controversial Consultant Ban” by Ally Mutnick for Politico
National: “Inside the Lincoln Project’s Secrets, Side Deals and Scandals” by Danny Hakim, Maggie Astor, and Jo Becker for New York Times
Michigan: “Feds Probe MDOT Corruption Case with Alleged Ghost Contractors, Bonuses for Wives” by Robert Snell (Detroit News) for Yahoo News
New York: “Cuomo’s Behavior Created ‘Hostile, Toxic’ Workplace Culture for Decades, Former Aides Say” by Amy Brittain, Josh Dawsey, Hannah Knowles, and Tracy Jan (Washington Post) for MSN
South Carolina: “SC Government Waste and Corruption Revelations Confront Culture Resistant to Change” by Tony Bartelme and Glenn Smith for Charleston Post and Courier
National: “Oil Refiner Valero to Disclose Climate Lobbying After Criticism” by Gerson Freitas Jr. and Saijel Kishan (Bloomberg) for MSN
Oregon: “A Timber Lobbyist Called Our Investigation ‘Completely Bogus.’ We Have the Receipts to Show It’s Not” by Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) and Tony Schick (Oregon Public Broadcasting) for ProPublica
March 9, 2021 •
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has announced another special election to be held in 2021. This election will be for Alabama House District 78, which became vacant when Rep. Kirk Hatcher won the special election to fill the vacant Senate District […]
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has announced another special election to be held in 2021.
This election will be for Alabama House District 78, which became vacant when Rep. Kirk Hatcher won the special election to fill the vacant Senate District 26 on March 2.
The primary election for the House seat will be held on May 25 with a runoff election on June 22, if necessary.
The general election will be held on September 7.
March 9, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “Body Armor and Pepper Spray: Politicians can buy safety gear with campaign funds after Capitol attack” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for MSN Elections National: “Biden Signs Executive Order Promoting Voting Rights on 56th Anniversary of ‘Bloody […]
Massachusetts: “Body Armor and Pepper Spray: Politicians can buy safety gear with campaign funds after Capitol attack” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for MSN
National: “Biden Signs Executive Order Promoting Voting Rights on 56th Anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’” by Felicia Sonmez and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
Illinois: “How Michael Madigan’s Departure Accelerates a Shift in Chicago Politics from Old-School Machine to New-Era Progressives” by Bill Ruthhart and John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News
National: “Rep. Eric Swalwell Sues Trump Over Jan. 6 Riot, Alleging He Poses Risk of ‘Inciting Future Political Violence’” by Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “S.F. City Hall Corruption: Recology to repay customers $94.5 million for rates Mohammed Nuru helped set” by Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
New York: “NY Officials Removed Fuller Tally of Nursing Home Deaths” by Staff for Associated Press News
North Dakota: “North Dakota House Expels Lawmaker Accused of Misconduct” by James MacPherson for Associated Press News
National: “Digging in as an All-GOP Firm in a Democratic Town” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
West Virginia: “Ethics Commission Breaks Up County Prosecutor’s Hiring of Her Boyfriend” by Phil Kabler for Charleston Gazette and Mail
March 8, 2021 •
Campaign Finance New York: “Is NYC’s Expensive Campaign Finance Program Worth the Cost?” by Cindy Rodriguez for Gothamist Elections Georgia: “Georgia Republicans Want to Reshape Voting Laws, Burdening Voters of Color” by Carrie Levine, Kimberly Cataudella, and Stephen Fowler for […]
New York: “Is NYC’s Expensive Campaign Finance Program Worth the Cost?” by Cindy Rodriguez for Gothamist
Georgia: “Georgia Republicans Want to Reshape Voting Laws, Burdening Voters of Color” by Carrie Levine, Kimberly Cataudella, and Stephen Fowler for Georgia Public Broadcasting
National: “State Department Aide Appointed by Trump Stormed the Capitol, Beat Police with a Riot Shield, FBI Says” by Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) for San Diego Union Tribune
National: “House Restarts Push to Enforce Subpoena for Trump Financial Records” by Todd Ruger (Roll Call) for MSN
National: “Feds Investigating Hagedorn Appearances on Minnesota Talk Radio Station” by Daniel Newhauser (Minnesota Reformer) for SouthernMinn.com
Ohio: “In Filing, FirstEnergy Said State Regulator Acted for the Company’s Benefit as a Result of $4.3 Million Payment” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
California: “As Newsom Pushes to Extend Emergency Spending Authority During Pandemic, Lobbyist Influence Remains Opaque” by Scott Rodd for Capital Public Radio
Michigan: “Lobbyist Advanced Client’s Plan as Appointee on Michigan Pot Panel” by Craig Mauger (Detroit News) for Yahoo News
Oregon: “Lobbyists Try for Influence, Without as Much Access to Oregon Lawmakers” by Jake Thomas (Salem Reporter) for Portland Oregonian
March 5, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 3/1/2021 President Biden and is under pressure to do more to restore confidence in the federal government following Donald Trump’s term in the White House. But […]
Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 3/1/2021
President Biden and is under pressure to do more to restore confidence in the federal government following Donald Trump’s term in the White House. But the schedules for the president and vice president are not posted online, the White House comment line is shut down, and there are no citizen petitions on the White House’s website. The administration has committed to releasing visitor logs. But it does not plan to divulge the names of attendees of virtual meetings, which are the primary mode of interaction until the pandemic eases. While Biden has received praise for keeping the American public informed, primarily by resuming the daily White House press briefings, he has yet to hold a news conference of his own.
Budget Nominee Tanden Withdraws Nomination Amid Opposition
Associated Press News – Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 3/2/2021
President Biden’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, has withdrawn her nomination after she faced opposition from key Democratic and Republican senators for her controversial tweets. Her withdrawal marks the first high-profile defeat of one of Biden’s nominees. The White House stuck with Tanden even after some centrist Republicans made their opposition known. Tanden faced pointed questions over her past comments about members from both parties during her confirmation hearing. Sen. Bernie Sanders accused her of issuing “vicious attacks” against progressives and had not said whether he’d support her nomination.
Capitol Riot Defendants Facing Jail Have Regrets. Judges Aren’t Buying It.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2021
As defendants charged in the Capitol siege have been coming through court, some have been shifting blame onto former President Trump, downplaying their actions, or expressing remorse. But federal judges, particularly those who work a few blocks from the Capitol, are not buying it. One judge called a defendant’s claim of civil disobedience “detached from reality.” Another verbally smacked down an attorney who tried to use the QAnon conspiracy theory to explain his client shouting “kill them all.” Other judges have been giving defendants civics lessons on how democracy works.
Elaine Chao Used DOT Staff to Aid Personal Errands, Father’s Business, Inspector Finds
Politico – Sam Mintz and Tanya Snyder | Published: 3/3/2021
Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao repeatedly used her staff and her position of power to boost the reputation of her shipping magnate father and otherwise aid her family, the Department of Transportation’s inspector concluded. The internal watchdog faulted Chao for four kinds of ethics violations, including planning to bring relatives on an official trip to China and requiring the department’s public affairs staff to help market a book written by her father. It found she also had employees handle personal errands such as shipping Christmas ornaments. Investigators referred their findings to the Justice Department for prosecution in December but it declined.
Ethics Watchdog: ‘Substantial’ evidence GOP lawmaker improperly spent funds, misused position to help brother
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 3/1/2021
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) concluded there is “substantial” evidence that U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo misused campaign as well as official funds and used his office to help his brother in violation of House rules. The OCE said it found evidence indicating Palazzo asked his House office staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands; and used his position as a member of Congress to contact the assistant secretary of the Navy to help his brother reenlist. The report said Palazzo charged his campaign committee rent for ostensibly using a riverfront home he owned as a headquarters, equal to the amount of his monthly mortgage, insurance, and tax payments “during a time of personal financial stress.”
Facebook Lifts Political Ad Ban
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 3/3/2021
Facebook lifted its ban on political ads, ending a self-imposed prohibition that began immediately after the 2020 general election and remained active for months. Facebook’s platform is one of the largest and most cost-effective ways for campaigns to reach voters and potential supporters. Digital strategists in both parties were critical of Facebook’s decision to cut off access to voters for the last several months, upending off-year campaign strategies.
HR 1 Overhaul Would Set New Holiday and New Rules for Lobbyists, Elections and Justices
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/3/2021
The U.S. House approved a sweeping political money, elections, influence, and ethics measure, but the bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. A hallmark of the package would set out an optional system to finance congressional campaigns with public money. It would provide a six-to-one match of small-dollar campaign donations. Under the legislation, all states would be required to send voters an application to cast their ballots by mail. Now, anyone who keeps their lobbying activities under 20 percent of their time for a client can remain under the public radar. HR 1 would take that threshold down to 10 percent.
‘It’s Donald Trump’s Party’: How the former president is building a political operation to cement his hold on the GOP
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2021
Any doubts about Donald Trump’s primacy in the Republican Party have been settled in recent weeks by the parade of petitioners he has welcomed to his Florida club. The party chairperson, the top two House Republicans, U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, and a coterie of other former aides and advisers have all made appearances at Mar-a-Lago, offering their counsel and seeking the favor of a former president who many believe controls the short-term fortunes of GOP candidates up and down the ballot and has made it clear he plans to use that power. Trump has started building his post-White House political operation and cementing his role as the party’s de facto leader.
Jim Jordan Under Scrutiny for Nearly $3 Million in Unreported Campaign Funds
Yahoo News – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 3/3/2021
The campaign committee for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan received ten notices from the FEC flagging discrepancies on its books totaling nearly $3 million dollars and dating back over two years. The campaign claims the errors slipped through the cracks amid a record fundraising surge, and it has more money on the books now, but experts say the dollar amount – errors totaling some $2.87 million – may trigger an FEC investigation. The errors also appear connected to newly developed, largely hidden payment systems in the murky world of Republican digital advertising, where vendors not only receive direct spending, but take cuts from fundraising as well.
Rep. Ronny Jackson Made Sexual Comments, Drank Alcohol and Took Ambien While Working as White House Physician, Pentagon Watchdog Finds
CNN – Manu Raju, Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen, and Oren Lieberman | Published: 3/3/2021
The Department of Defense inspector general’s office found U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip, and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted concerns from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care during his time serving as the top White House physician. The report notes the investigation into Jackson “was limited in scope and unproductive” as White House counsel under Donald Trump insisted on being present at all interviews of current White House Medical Unit employees, which had a “potential chilling effect” on the probe.
Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to Minorities
Anchorage Daily News – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court seemed inclined to make it more difficult to challenge widely used voting laws that in practice might be more of a burden to minority voters. The justices reviewed the protections provided by the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to forbid laws that result in discrimination based on race. The cases involve two voting regulations that are in common use across the country. One throws out the ballots of those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other restricts who may collect ballots cast early for delivery to polling places, a practice then-President Trump denounced as “ballot harvesting.” The greater impact will be the test the court develops for proving violations of the VRA, as new laws are proposed and state Legislatures begin redrawing congressional and legislative districts.
Canada – Ontario Law Would Restrict Election Spending by Third-Party Groups, Double Donation Limits for Individuals
Toronto Star – Robert Benzie | Published: 2/25/2021
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’ Progressive Conservatives have unveiled proposed campaign finance changes, doubling annual donation caps to $3,300, extending per-vote subsidies for political parties, and limiting PAC spending. Under legislation, advance polling days would also be increased from five to 10 to allow for safer voting in the COVID-19 era. Conservatives want to clamp down on PACs, such as the pro-Tory Ontario Proud and Working Families, which boosted the Liberals in past election campaigns. Such third-party advertising groups spent more than $5 million in the six months leading up to the June 2018 election.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Dark Money’ Is Still Trying to Influence Phoenix Elections Despite New Law. Here’s How.
MSN – Jen Fifield (Arizona Republic) | Published: 2/24/2021
Some Phoenix voters got the first deceitful political mailer from Americans for Progress nearly two weeks ago, and they just keep coming. The ads are seemingly attempting to trick voters in the progressive district into thinking Yassamin Ansari, a Democratic candidate for Phoenix City Council, is a Republican. But voters do not have a way of knowing who is sending them. Americans for Progress has yet to file a disclosure with the city. A new law was intended to stop these “dark money” ads from influencing city elections, but the group sending the ads remains shrouded in secrecy, even as voting for city council races is underway.
California – 5 Charged in SF Corruption Probe, Temporarily Barred from Receiving City Contracts
KPIX – Staff | Published: 3/2/2021
Five business executives linked to widespread corruption in San Francisco have been temporarily barred from doing business with the city. All five have been implicated in a federal investigation that began more than a year ago and centers around high-ranking city officials like former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and former Public Utilities Commission General Manger Harlan Kelly accepting gifts in exchange for help obtaining city contracts. The suspension orders are the first of their kind. A 2020 city law allows for city contractors who have been charged criminally, civilly, or administratively to be suspended from receiving public funds while the case against them is ongoing.
California – Ethics Commission Staff Were Told to Soften Their Advice on Gifts, Whistleblower Says
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 2/25/2021
Heather Holt, who was executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, told staffers at a 2018 meeting that a member of the city council had “threatened to cut the Ethics Commission’s budget if they did not give more permissive advice” on certain gift rules, according to an email written by Alexandria Latragna, the agency’s ethics program manager at the time. Latragna wrote Holt told commission staff that to maintain a good relationship with the council, they would need to be more “middle of the road” with the advice they gave on rules involving private events sponsored by lobbyists. David Tristan, who replaced Holt as executive director, issued a denial of the incident on her behalf.
California – Prosecutors Extract Pleas, $215 Million in Charter School Fraud Case
Voice of San Diego – Will Huntsberry | Published: 2/26/2021
The two ringleaders of an online charter school scam that raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Sean McManus and Jason Schrock, as well as nine other defendants, were charged in 2019 as part of a complicated scheme that involved enrolling fake students into their online charter schools and collecting public money for each student. As part of McManus and Schrock’s plea deal, they agreed to turn over all remaining cash and assets owned by A3 and its subsidiary companies. So far, that includes at least $215 million that will eventually make its way back into state coffers.
Colorado – Aurora Moves Forward Bills on Lobbying Disclosures, Sales Tax Exemptions on Menstrual Products
Aurora Sentinel – Grant Stringer | Published: 3/1/2021
The Aurora City Council gave first approval to a bill implementing strict lobbying disclosure requirements. The rules would require lobbyists to register their clients and income with the city, which would be made public to boost public trust in government, Councilperson Angela Lawson said. They would have to submit quarterly, detailed reports on their activities and financial motivations or face up to $2,500 fines per each charge.
Connecticut – Ex-State Employee Faces $5K Penalty for Using Work Computer, Email for Private Businesses
MSN – Russell Blair (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/2/2021
A former employee of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty after an investigation determined he used his state-issued computer, phone, and email address to run private businesses unrelated to his state job. Sean Condon used the state equipment to operate a retail men’s hair and skin care product business and an internet marketing business while on state time, according to a consent order he signed with the Office of State Ethics.
Florida – Legislating in the Time of COVID-19 Means Putting Protections Over Public Access
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas and Kirby Wilson (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/2/2021
Florida legislators opened their 60-day session this year trying to navigate a global pandemic and stay healthy enough to avoid disrupting their activities, access to elected government is limited. Gov. Ron DeSantis has not allowed the Capitol to be open to visitors and the public, even as he ordered all businesses to be open in Florida. Citizens are kept out of the buildings and at a distance, and the pandemic protocols set up by legislative leaders to allow the public to testify in person before committee hearings have proven cumbersome and technology challenged.
Florida – Wealthy Keys Enclave Received COVID Vaccines in January Before Much of the State
MSN – David Goodhue and Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/3/2021
As Florida’s eldest residents struggled to sign up to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, nearly all those aged 65 years and older in a wealthy gated enclave in the Florida Keys had been vaccinated by mid-January. The Ocean Reef Club is home to many wealthy donors to the Florida Republican Party and GOP candidates, including Gov. Ron DeSantis. In fact, the only people from Key Largo who gave to DeSantis’ political committee live in Ocean Reef. On February 25, one resident of Ocean Reef, Bruce Rauner, the former Republican governor of Illinois, donated $250,00 to DeSantis.
Illinois – Ex-Lawmaker’s Indictment Stems Partly from Secret ComEd Payments, Source Says
WBEZ – Dave McKinney, Tony Arnold, and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 2/25/2021
A newly filed federal tax-evasion indictment against a former member of ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s leadership team stems at least in part from secret payments for “government relations” work from Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). A source familiar with the probe said a six-count indictment against former state Rep. Edward Acevedo is a byproduct from the ongoing bribery investigation into ComEd’s Springfield lobbying practices. Federal charging documents against Acevedo and separate tax-evasion charges against his two sons do not make that connection clear. But the source said the case relates, in part, to unreported income originating from ComEd that Acevedo received from a company called Apex Strategy.
Illinois – Illinois Democrats Tap U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson to Succeed Michael Madigan as State Party Chair
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/3/2021
Illinois Democratic leaders selected U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly as their new state party chairperson and the successor to embattled former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who held the post for 23 years. The race was not without controversy. Outside attorneys for the state Democratic Party warned that Kelly, as a federal officeholder, would be prohibited from raising state money because Illinois fundraising rules are less strict than the federal rules that bind the member of Congress.
Illinois – Madigan Picks Another House Successor After Quickly Forcing Out His First Choice Over ‘Alleged Questionable Conduct’
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/25/2021
Angie Guerrero-Cuellar became the second replacement in four days for the Illinois House seat held by former Speaker Michael Madigan following a meeting of local ward and township committee members. Guerrero-Cuellar succeeds Madigan’s original hand-picked successor, Edward Guerra Kodatt, who resigned after the former speaker and Chicago Ald. Marty Quinn called on him to step down for unspecified “alleged questionable conduct.” The abrupt moves over the vacancy created by Madigan’s resignation were a sharp contrast to the hands-on, detail-oriented style the ex-speaker has displayed in running his ward and district office.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts Republican Nominated for Top Campaign Finance Job
Boston Herald – State House News Service | Published: 2/26/2021
The panel that has been searching for a new director for the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) was unanimous in its selection of Woburn City Clerk William Campbell to lead the agency. Secretary of State William Galvin mentioned talking with Campbell about the changing nature of campaigns and how the OCPF fits in. Campbell, if he accepts the job, would be the first new director since the retiring Michael Sullivan took charge of the agency about 27 years ago.
Michigan – Coronavirus Created ‘Perfect Storm’ That Rained Private Money on Michigan Election Administration
MSN – Gus Burns (MLive.com) | Published: 2/28/2021
The 474 local clerks’ offices in Michigan received millions of dollars from private nonprofits to administer the 2020 elections. Most spent grant funds on additional personnel needed to sort, verify, and count the influx of ballots that tripled for some offices due to relaxed absentee voting restrictions and a statewide push to promote remote voting. Some used their money for things like get-out-the-vote campaigns, ballot drop boxes, and in one case, a trailer that allowed city employees to travel to neighborhoods and deliver absentee ballots in person. Private money, usually reserved for politically motivated campaign efforts and ballot initiatives, has never entered Michigan elections this way, at the ground floor of democracy to pay for the mechanics.
Mississippi – Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 3/3/2021
Lawmakers defeated legislation that would have provided transparency around how Gov. Tate Reeves and future Mississippi governors raise and spend money on inauguration festivities. House Bill 109 said Reeves and future governor-elects would be required to reveal their inauguration financial information to the secretary of state’s office, similar to how politicians must publicly disclose information about their campaign funds. Governors and other top Mississippi politicians have long used 501(c)4 nonprofits to fund their inauguration ceremonies, parties, and transition expenses. Donors to those nonprofits can be kept secret.
Montana – Lawmaker Revives Proposal to Eliminate State’s Top Political Cop
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 2/25/2021
Rep. Derek Skees is reviving a proposal he brought four years earlier to eliminate Montana’s commissioner of political practices, the state’s enforcer of campaign finance and lobbying laws. Similar to legislation that passed the House in the 2017 session before stalling out in the Senate, House Bill 535 proposes shifting much of the office’s duties to the secretary of state, including receiving campaign statements and reports for candidates and political committees. Under the new bill, the secretary of state would also be responsible for receiving and investigating campaign finance and election complaints.
New Jersey – Firm Cited in Pay-to-Play Lawsuit Quits Job with N.J. Town
Newark Star Ledger – Bill Duhart (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/1/2021
A firm cited in a “pay-to-play” lawsuit resigned an appointment to a township government post days after it had been appointed for an additional year. Capehart Scatchard resigned its position as conflict counsel with Washington Township in Gloucester County after a pair of citizen watchdogs accused it of making campaign contributions to several elected township officials, including the mayor. The firms were then paid more than $17,500 for annual no-bid contracts, which is a violation of state “pay-to-play” laws, according to the suit.
New Mexico – Compromise Redistricting Bill Advances Unanimously from Senate Committee
New Mexico Political Report – Robert Nott (Santa Fe News Mexican) | Published: 3/2/2021
Lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee came to a quick compromise on a measure they hope will set New Mexico’s sometimes controversial redistricting process on a smooth path via an independent, bipartisan panel to redraw voting district boundaries. The bill calls for a seven-member panel and prohibits a majority of Democrats or Republicans and only requires the commission to come up with three plans for the Legislature to consider. There is no language in that would force the Legislature to accept any of the submitted plans.
New Mexico – Lobbyists Still Picking Up the Tab
Yahoo News – Dan McKay (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 2/28/2021
New Mexico lawmakers are conducting much of this year’s session online to limit the spread of COVID-19. Committee hearings have moved entirely to Zoom, and full meetings of the House and Senate are a mix of in-person and remote participation. The Capitol is closed, with only legislators, staff, and some media members allowed inside. But lobbyists are still finding ways to feed hungry lawmakers, sometimes in person.
New York – ‘Embarrassed’ Cuomo Apologizes but Won’t Resign Over Sexual Harassment Allegations
National Public Radio – Rachel Triesman | Published: 3/3/2021
In his first press briefing since three women came forward with claims of sexual harassment, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” but denied touching anyone inappropriately and said he would not resign. New York’s attorney general is investigating the allegations, which were raised by two former aides and a woman who met Cuomo at a wedding. Cuomo, who is facing mounting calls to resign, reiterated he will cooperate with that investigation, and asked New Yorkers to wait for the full report before forming an opinion.
New York – Trump’s Tax Returns Have Been Turned Over to Manhattan District Attorney
Seattle Times – Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/25/2021
The Manhattan district attorney’s office possesses former President Trump’s tax returns and a wealth of other financial data, records deemed central to prosecutors’ criminal investigation into Trump’s business activities. The transfer, involving millions of pages of documents spanning eight years, occurred within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court order rejecting Trump’s last-ditch bid to shield the information. Investigators are examining whether the values of certain properties in the Trump Organization’s portfolio were manipulated to gain tax advantages or favorable loans and insurance rates under false pretenses. They have asked specifically about the company’s methods of valuing its Manhattan assets for purposes of seeking loans.
North Carolina – Charlotte City Council Escapes Sanctions After Flurry of Ethics Complaints Ends Quietly
MSN – Alison Kuznitz (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 3/3/2021
Charlotte City Council members were cleared of any wrongdoing after a flurry of ethics complaints were filed against them in 2020. Although the findings clear any councilperson of direct violations of the city’s ethics guidelines, the review made several recommendations. In whole, the report appears to validate the council’s assertion that the frenzy of complaints –spurred on by an ethics policy that became “weaponized,” as council member Ed Driggs phrased it, by the public – were politically fueled and frivolous.
Oregon – A Decade After Oregon Cracked Down on Lobbyist Wining and Dining, Lawmakers Consider Loosening Limits
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 3/2/2021
Oregon lawmakers are considering whether to allow lobbyists to “wine and dine” them without limits, more than a decade after they clamped down on the practice with a broad ethics law. The Legislature passed the bill after members were embarrassed by media reports on how beer and wine distributors paid for lawmakers to travel to Hawaii. Oregon law now bars legislators and other public officials from accepting more than $50 per year from any entity that wants to influence a government decision. Sen. Fred Girod, chief sponsor of Senate Bill 463, said scrapping the limit would help nurture the types of relationships lawmakers need in the Capitol because people are better able to connect when they are sharing a meal or drinks.
Oregon – Oregon Voters Want to Limit Money in Politics, but Lawmakers Might Not Get There This Session
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/28/2021
Among the thousands of proposals Oregon lawmakers are considering this year, few have as clear-cut a mandate as capping campaign contributions. Voters overwhelmingly signaled their desire to clamp down on the state’s no-limits political money system in November, when they passed a constitutional amendment to allow donation limits. More than 1.7 million people voted for it, the most ever to support a ballot measure according to the secretary of state’s office. Yet it is far from clear that lawmakers will pass a law to cap donations during the five-month session that runs through June.
Pennsylvania – Good Government or ‘Gag’ Order? In Chesco, New Ethics Policy Muzzles County Workers
MSN – William Bender (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 3/1/2021
Included in Chester County’s new ethics policy is a strict confidentiality clause for many county employees that would essentially turn almost everything learned on the job into the equivalent of classified information, a clampdown that labor-law experts say could infringe on First Amendment rights and whistleblower protections. Employees are required to sign the policy by March 6. Those who violate it can face disciplinary action, including termination. County commissioners passed the ethics policy unanimously two months after a media report, which relied partially on leaked information, revealed major problems with the county’s COVID-19 antibody testing program, contradicting county officials who had publicly insisted it ran smoothly.
South Carolina – Ex-Candidate for SC Legislature Sues Opponent, Pollster and Journalist for Defamation
The State – David Weisman (Myrtle Beach Sun News) | Published: 2/25/2021
South Carolina Sen. Luke Rankin won a contentious reelection campaign during last year’s Republican primary, but that clash has been renewed in the court system after his former opponent filed a defamation suit. John Gallman filed the complaint against Rankin and a host of other entities and people, including an Horry County Council member, local reporter, and national pollster, alleging a coordinated conspiracy to spread defamatory accusations and confidential health records, along with violating campaign finance laws.
South Carolina – Some SC Lawmakers Think It’s Time to Allow More Money in State Campaigns, Not Less
Charleston Post and Courier – Schuyler Knopf | Published: 2/27/2021
At a time when the public mood says there is too much money in politics, some South Carolina lawmakers think it is time to push the donation ceiling higher. Three House Republicans are behind an effort to double the contribution limit an individual can give to their favorite politician for any office. State Rep. B. Newton said the issue comes down to inflation and the fact that South Carolina’s legislative districts, particularly the suburbs, have seen a population explosion in recent years.
Tennessee – Tennessee Regulators Revisit Complaints About Shadowy Campaign Group
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 3/2/2021
Tennessee regulators decided to revisit complaints regarding shadowy campaign activities surrounding a legislative race. The Registry of Election Finance plans to reconsider its decision last year to take no action on complaints filed against state Rep. Todd Warner and a group that called itself the Faith Family Freedom Fund. That same day, the Faith Family Freedom Fund filed paperwork to close out its PAC, raising questions about whether it might be trying to sidestep further scrutiny. All of this comes as an FBI investigation focuses on a number of individuals connected with those campaigns.
Washington – Washington State Accuses Google of Campaign Finance Violations
Courthouse News Service – Karina Brown | Published: 2/24/2021
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson again sued Google, alleging it has continued to flout state campaign finance law. The law requires publishers to keep records of who bought the political ads they run, and to make that information available within 24 hours of publishing to anyone requesting it. Ferguson sued Google in 2018, claiming the company did not maintain or make available the data. Google agreed to pay $217,000 to settle those claims and announced it would no longer run ads for state or local elections in Washington. But since then, 57 candidates and political committees have filed reports detailing 188 payments totaling over $460,000 to Google’s advertising networks, according to the latest lawsuit.
Washington DC – In Faraway State Houses, a Battle Brews Over Making D.C. the 51st State
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2021
Lawmakers in at least eight states have taken formal steps to support or oppose the District of Columbia becoming the 51st state, an unprecedented nationwide response to a once-fledgling movement now surging with momentum in Washington. The statehood bill sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton will be the subject of a House Oversight Committee on March 11. The bill has enough support to pass the House, but it is likely to face roadblocks in the narrowly divided Senate. In her three decades leading the cause, Norton said, she has never seen such a flurry of action from so many states at once. She was even pleased to see the anti-statehood resolutions.
March 3, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Mississippi: “Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate” by Luke Ramseth for Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Elections National: “Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to […]
Mississippi: “Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate” by Luke Ramseth for Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
National: “Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to Minorities” by Robert Barnes (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
National: “Ethics Watchdog: ‘Substantial’ evidence GOP lawmaker improperly spent funds, misused position to help brother” by Cristina Marcos for The Hill
National: “Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs” by Anita Kumar for Politico
Connecticut: “Ex-State Employee Faces $5K Penalty for Using Work Computer, Email for Private Businesses” by Russell Blair (Hartford Courant) for MSN
Florida: “Legislating in the Time of COVID-19 Means Putting Protections Over Public Access” by Mary Ellen Klas and Kirby Wilson (Miami Herald) for Yahoo News
Colorado: “Aurora Moves Forward Bills on Lobbying Disclosures, Sales Tax Exemptions on Menstrual Products” by Grant Stringer for Aurora Sentinel
Oregon: “A Decade After Oregon Cracked Down on Lobbyist Wining and Dining, Lawmakers Consider Loosening Limits” by Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
California: “5 Charged in SF Corruption Probe, Temporarily Barred from Receiving City Contracts” by Staff for KPIX
March 2, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “Massachusetts Republican Nominated for Top Campaign Finance Job” by State House News Service for Boston Herald Oregon: “Oregon Voters Want to Limit Money in Politics, but Lawmakers Might Not Get There This Session” by Hillary Borrud (Portland […]
Massachusetts: “Massachusetts Republican Nominated for Top Campaign Finance Job” by State House News Service for Boston Herald
Oregon: “Oregon Voters Want to Limit Money in Politics, but Lawmakers Might Not Get There This Session” by Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
National: “‘It’s Donald Trump’s Party’: How the former president is building a political operation to cement his hold on the GOP” by Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “Coronavirus Created ‘Perfect Storm’ That Rained Private Money on Michigan Election Administration” by Gus Burns (MLive.com) for MSN
California: “Prosecutors Extract Pleas, $215 Million in Charter School Fraud Case” by Will Huntsberry for Voice of San Diego
New York: “Cuomo Accused of Unwanted Advance at a Wedding: ‘Can I kiss you?’” by Matt Flegenheimer and Jesse McKinley for New York Times
Pennsylvania: “Good Government or ‘Gag’ Order? In Chesco, New Ethics Policy Muzzles County Workers” by William Bender (Philadelphia Inquirer) for MSN
Illinois: “Madigan Picks Another House Successor After Quickly Forcing Out His First Choice Over ‘Alleged Questionable Conduct’” by Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
Washington DC: “In Faraway State Houses, a Battle Brews Over Making D.C. the 51st State” by Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for MSN
March 1, 2021 •
Governor Ned Lamont today announced a special election for Assembly District 112 on Tuesday, April 13. The district consists of the entirety of the Town of Monroe and portions of Newtown. The seat became vacant on February 17 following the […]
Governor Ned Lamont today announced a special election for Assembly District 112 on Tuesday, April 13.
The district consists of the entirety of the Town of Monroe and portions of Newtown.
The seat became vacant on February 17 following the resignation of J.P. Sredzinski.
The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Sredzinski’s two-year term through 2022.
February 26, 2021 •
National/Federal Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack Washington Post – Tory Newmyer | Published: 2/23/2021 The insurrection at the Capitol continues to reverberate for major corporations that make campaign contributions. Dozens of companies […]
Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack
Washington Post – Tory Newmyer | Published: 2/23/2021
The insurrection at the Capitol continues to reverberate for major corporations that make campaign contributions. Dozens of companies have frozen their giving – either across the board or limited to the 147 Republican lawmakers who opposed certifying President Biden’s electoral victory – and pledged to rethink how they participate in the process. But some left-leaning investors and clients are concerned corporate interests are simply waiting for the dust to settle before resuming contributions to Republicans, despite those lawmakers also championing positions on environmental and social matters the companies say they oppose. So, they are leveraging their commercial relationships with the companies to try to force them to act. JPMorgan’s resistance to the activist push typifies the corporate response so far.
Bloomberg’s 2020 Aides Got an Unwelcome Surprise in Their Tax Forms
Politico – Christopher Cadelago | Published: 2/23/2021
Nearly a year after Michael Bloomberg’s $1 billion presidential campaign ended, his staff members are still dealing with the aftershocks. Aides to the former Democratic candidate started receiving tax forms recently that in some cases list incomes that are tens of thousands of dollars more than they were compensated in salary. The added amounts account for paid housing and other benefits they received last year, but the price tag is coming to many as a surprise. Bloomberg representatives have assured some aides the additional taxes they now owe the government were taken care of by the campaign. A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said the aides were paid more during the campaign to account for the higher tax burden, though not all the ex-aides said they were aware of the arrangement at the time.
Cruz Returns from Cancun Amid Texas Crisis
Politico – Andrew Desiderio and Marianne Levine | Published: 2/18/2021
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was already treading on rough political terrain but then boarded a flight to Cancun during a natural disaster. The Texas Republican, condemned by opponents for objecting to November’s presidential election results even after rioters besieged the Capitol, fled his frozen home state for the Mexican resort city while Texans reeled from winter storms that have left millions without electricity and running water. Cruz took hours to acknowledge his trip as critics accused him of political malpractice at best and all-out negligence at worst.
Dominion Files Defamation Lawsuit Against MyPillow CEO Over False Claims Voting Machines Were Rigged Against Trump
Anchorage Daily News – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2021
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against MyPillow Chief Executive Officer Mike Lindell, accusing him of seeking to boost pillow sales by promoting false claims that Dominion’s voting machines were manipulated to rig the 2020 election against then-President Trump. In interviews and other public appearances, the lawsuit says, Lindell repeatedly spread those claims while viewers were urged to buy his products. His company has offered discounts to customers who use the promo codes “QAnon” and “FightforTrump,” according to the lawsuit.
Election Officials Defended the 2020 Vote. In 2022, They’ll Have to Defend Themselves.
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 2/23/2021
Campaigns for secretary of state are becoming the next major arena of nationwide political combat. Sitting secretaries and political groups are preparing for a flood of candidates, money, and attention into campaigns for the newly prominent positions in 2022. Voting rules have become a bigger cause for both political parties, while coronavirus-fueled election changes combined with Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories to turn secretaries of state into pivotal characters in last year’s presidential election. Twenty-six states will have secretary of state elections next year, including five of the 10 closest states in the 2020 presidential election.
Former Congressman Rivera Fined $456,000 for Propping Up a Ringer Candidate
Yahoo News – Alex Daugherty (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/23/2021
Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera was ordered to pay $456,000 to the FEC, which had sued him for secretly providing funds to a primary challenger of his eventual Democratic opponent in the 2012 election. The FEC accused Rivera of initiating the scheme when he directed an associate, Ana Sol Alliegro, to offer Justin Sternad, one of Garcia’s three primary challengers, financial support for his campaign. Sternad accepted the offer, and Alliegro spent the next few months transmitting funds to Sternad. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke described Rivera’s actions as “egregious,” adding that there was a chance his conduct would continue, noting he continued to run for office after the scheme.
Impeachment Is Over. But Other Efforts to Reckon with Trump’s Post-Election Chaos Have Just Begun.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 2/21/2021
Although Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on a charge his rhetoric incited the Capitol siege, public officials and private companies are pursuing a multi-front legal effort to hold him and his allies accountable in other ways. The actions target the former president and numerous others who indulged and echoed his falsehoods that President Biden did not win the election. The goal, according to those supportive of such efforts, is to mete out some form of punishment for those who helped undermine confidence in the election results and fueled the attack on the Capitol. They also hope to discourage other public officials from rerunning Trump’s strategy of attempting to overturn an election result by sowing doubt about the legitimacy of the vote.
Judges Order 2-Month Delay in Case to Compel McGahn Testimony to House
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 2/18/2021
The House’s effort to compel testimony from former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn will be delayed two months, a federal appeals court ordered, adopting a proposal by the Biden administration. The order makes it increasingly likely that a full two years will elapse without enforcement of the House’s April 2019 subpoena of McGahn to obtain his testimony about alleged efforts by former President Trump to obstruct special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The case has become a poster child of sorts for the courts’ inability to resolve congressional subpoena fights on a timeline that allows Congress to make practical use of the information.
K Street Eyes a Return of Earmarks to Boost Business
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 2/23/2021
Congressional earmarks practically built the modern lobbying business. And though the influence sector has endured a decade without them, the likely return of member-directed federal spending has sent cautious jubilation down K Street. With earmarks poised for a likely comeback during this Congress, lobbyists are eyeing new business opportunities. But they are not expecting it to be a return to K Street’s high-flying days, when lobbyists built empires out of the business of securing earmarks for clients. Lawmakers, if they do bring back the practice, are likely only to allow the federal dollars to go to nonprofit organizations and local governments. Still, lobbyists say even limited earmarks for nonprofits could spur new public-private partnerships, with businesses queuing up to collaborate on future projects.
Lauren Boebert’s Campaign Amends Reimbursement Report That Raised Red Flags
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 2/23/2021
U.S. Rep. Laura Boebert’s campaign acknowledged a prior campaign finance report, which raised ethical red flags and led to requests for an investigation, was inaccurate. Still, the campaign defended a large payment to Boebert. Media reports showed Boebert was paid more than $22,000 in mileage reimbursements from her campaign account, an unusually large amount that several ethics experts said raised questions. The amended report reiterating that Boebert received $21,200, but claiming it was a reimbursement for mileage, travel expenses, and hotel stays. Mileage accounted for $17,280 of the reimbursements, the campaign says.
‘Mercenary’ Donor Gets 12 Years in Campaign Finance Scheme
Associated Press News – Brian Melley, Alan Suderman, and Jim Mustain | Published: 2/18/2021
A once high-flying political fundraiser who prosecutors said gave illegal campaign contributions to Joe Biden, Lindsey Graham, and a host of other U.S. politicians was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Imaad Zuberi, who was accused of ingratiating himself with politicians in both major parties and peddling the resulting influence to foreign governments, pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and failing to register as a foreign agent. He also was ordered to pay nearly $16 million in restitution and a nearly $2 million fine. Federal prosecutors described Zuberi as a “mercenary” political donor who gave to anyone he thought could help him. Pay to play, he explained to clients, was just “how America works.”
State GOP Lawmakers Propose Flurry of Voting Restrictions to Placate Trump Supporters, Spurring Fears of a Backlash
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/19/2021
Republican state lawmakers across the country have proposed a flurry of voting restrictions they say are needed to restore confidence in U.S. elections, an effort intended to placate supporters of former President Trump who believe his false claims the 2020 outcome was rigged. But the effort is dividing Republicans, some of whom are warning it will tar the GOP as the party of voter suppression and give Democrats ammunition to mobilize their supporters ahead of the 2022 midterms.
Supreme Court Ends Trump’s Bid to Shield His Tax Returns and Effort to Challenge Election Losses
Seattle Times – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2021
Former President Trump received a dual defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court, a body he transformed with his appointments and one he had long hoped would be a last line of defense in his battles with Congress and Democrats. The court refused Trump’s last-chance efforts to shield his private financial records from Manhattan’s district attorney in one case and tossed out a slew of challenges to the presidential election and his loss to Joe Biden. Now, Trump faces unprecedented legal peril for a former president. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s criminal investigation of his business dealings in New York will accelerate and broaden and Trump faces scrutiny in Georgia for his efforts to subvert the election results there.
This Congress Is the Most Diverse Ever. But Hill Staffers Remain Overwhelmingly White.
Politico – Maya King | Published: 2/23/2021
The 117th Congress is the most diverse ever, with the largest representation of racial and ethnic groups in history, a 97 percent increase over the last 10 Congresses. But among Capitol Hill staff, the people who really run Congress on a working level. There is a dearth of diversity. Despite efforts to diversify over the last several years, the racial makeup of House and Senate staffs do not align with their districts and voting bases. Among top-level staffers, the lack of diversity is most striking: there is only one Black chief of staff in the Senate and only four Latinos. If staffers do not represent the communities they are meant to serve, advocates say, it undermines lawmakers’ attempts to solve the issues unique to those communities.
U.S. Investigating Possible Ties Between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol Rioters
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2021
The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating whether high-profile right-wing figures, including Roger Stone and Alex Jones, may have played a role in the Capitol breach as part of a broader look into the mind-set of those who committed violence and their apparent paths to radicalization, according to people familiar with the investigation. Officials at this stage said they are principally seeking to understand what the rioters were thinking, and who may have influenced beliefs, which could be critical to showing their intentions at trial. Investigators also want to determine whether anyone who influenced them bears enough responsibility to justify potential criminal charges.
Why State Legislatures Are Still Very White – and Very Male
Politico – Renuka Rayasam, Nolan McCaskill, Beatrice Jin, and Allan James Vestal | Published: 2/22/2021
State Legislatures around the country have made little progress in diversifying their ranks during the last decade, with many states losing ground in boosting the representation of people of color and white women. Even as the share of nonwhite Americans has grown, an analysis finds most state Legislatures are lacking in diversity, with nearly every state failing to achieve racial and gender parity with their own population data. Despite efforts to diversify politics, progress in statehouses remains slow and halting. That is in contrast to the U.S. House, where historically underrepresented groups, including women and people of color, are serving in record numbers.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Former Birmingham Water Works Contractors Plead Guilty to Felony Ethics Charges
AL.com – Carol Robinson | Published: 2/19/2021
Two former contractors with the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) pleaded guilty to felony ethics charges. Jerry DeWayne Jones and Terry Lee Williams are now convicted of offering or giving anything to a public official for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action. Jones, Williams, and former BWWB Chairperson Sherry Lewis were indicted on the state charges. Lewis was charged with using her position for personal gain, or for the gain of a family member, and voting on matters in which she or her family members had financial interest. Jones and Williams were charged with of aiding and abetting Lewis in committing those crimes, with offering her money and other items for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action.
Alaska – Alaskans Were Left in the Dark as Money Poured into Elections Last Year. Now, That’s Changing.
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 2/17/2021
Groups on both sides of last year’s battle for control of the Alaska Legislature spent substantial amounts of money from entities that do not disclose their donors before the election — or at all. But starting this year, that practice will be banned. An initiative approved in November requires groups trying to influence the election of candidates to disclose the “true source” of all their donations greater than $2,000.
Florida – Florida County Rejects Governor’s Order to Lower Flags in Memory of Rush Limbaugh
Anchorage Daily News – Terry Spencer and Bobby Caina Calvan (Associated Press) | Published: 2/24/2021
Palm Beach County defied Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by refusing to lower its courthouse flags to half-staff in honor of the late conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. The governor also ordered the town of Palm Beach and the Capitol in Tallahassee to fly their flags at half-staff. Those flags were lowered. “… Although Rush Limbaugh was a significant public figure, he was also an incredibly divisive one who hurt many people with his words and actions,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said on Twitter.
Florida – Local Players Retain Influence Under St. Petersburg’s Campaign Finance Rules
MSN – Josh Solomon (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 2/24/2021
The St. Petersburg City Council passed a campaign finance ordinance to guard against attempted corporate takeover of local affairs. Although the ordinance sets disclosure requirements and spending limits to thwart the multi-million-dollar campaigns bankrolled by deep-pocketed companies, it did nothing to prohibit the long-running practice of local players, some who do regular business before the city, asserting outsized influence in city elections. Now, what the 2017 ordinance did and did not do is taking center stage in the mayoral race.
Illinois – Embattled Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Steps Down as State Democratic Party Chair
Yahoo News – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/22/2021
Former longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan resigned as chairperson of the state Democratic Party. Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, previously the Democratic vice chair, will take over on an interim basis. Madigan’s resignation as the head of the state party, a post he has held since 1998, completes the swift downfall that began when fellow House Democrats deposed him as speaker after he held the gavel for nearly four decades. He resigned his seat as state representative.
Illinois – Ex-Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios Pays $100,000 to Settle Ethics Case
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 2/18/2021
Former Cook County Democratic boss Joe Berrios agreed to pay $100,000 to end two ethics cases against him that he had been fighting since he was the county’s assessor. But the six-figure settlement represents a discount for Berrios from the $168,000 in fines the county’s Board of Ethics levelled against him three years ago for violations of rules intended to encourage honest government in the notoriously corrupt county. The deal avoids additional expenses that could have been incurred in trying to pry the full judgment from Berrios, ethics board Chairperson Thomas Szromba said.
Illinois – Michael Madigan Resigns from Illinois House After Being Ousted as Speaker
MSN – Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/18/2021
Michael Madigan, who set much of Illinois’ political agenda for four decades, resigned his seat in the Legislature a little more than a month after he was deposed by fellow Democrats as the nation’s longest-serving statehouse speaker. Madigan saw his power ebb in recent years when sexual harassment issues came to light in his political and governmental operation. His hold on power took another hit when Commonwealth Edison agreed to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with federal prosecutors in acknowledging its part in a near decade-long bribery scheme, seeking to win Madigan’s favor on legislation by giving jobs and contracts to his allies.
Indiana – Indiana Attorney General Keeps Job with Health Benefits Firm
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/17/2021
Indiana’s newly elected attorney general says state ethics officials have cleared his ongoing role with a health benefits consulting firm in which he has an ownership stake, but he has declined to release that opinion. Todd Rokita began his term as state government’s top lawyer in early January while still working for Apex Benefits, a company he joined as an executive in 2019. Attorney general’s office spokesperson Lauren Houck said Rokita is working with Apex “in a limited capacity” as a strategic policy adviser and remains a director or executive board member with other businesses.
Indiana – Mowery Drops Out of Marion County GOP Race Following IndyStar Report
MSN – Amelia Pak-Harvey (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 2/24/2021
Cindy Mowery, a candidate for the Marion County Republican chair position, dropped out of the race a day after The Indianapolis Star reported state lawmakers were trying to overturn an ethics ordinance that currently bars her from holding the job. A bill would void an Indianapolis ethics ordinance that would forbid a county chair from doing business with the city. Mowery serves as the Republican appointee of the Voter Registration Board, one of several appointments made by the county party chair and the only one that carries a salary.
Massachusetts – Ex-Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Illegal Use of Campaign Funds
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/24/2021
Former Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle pleaded guilty in federal court to a series of charges including illegally using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses. He also pleaded guilty to defrauding a bank to obtain loans to purchase his home and repay personal debts and to collecting income he failed to report to the IRS. Nangle was heavily in debt and gambled extensively at casinos and online and used thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for expenses like dues at a local golf club, rental cars to travel to casinos, and flowers for his girlfriend. Nangle had served as a member of the House Committee on Ethics.
Michigan – Elected Officials in Michigan Would Disclose Financial Records in New House Bill
MLive.com – Samuel Dodge | Published: 2/23/2021
Michigan lawmakers are reengaging on an effort to mandate elected officials to fill out financial disclosure forms. Michigan is one of two states, and the only one with a full-time Legislature, with no requirement for state public officials to disclose basic financial information, including income sources, business investments, gifts, and travel compensation. Michigan ranked last in the Center for Public Integrity’s 2015 State Integrity Investigation, which documented several facets of each state’s transparency laws.
New York – Former Aide Says Cuomo Kissed Her, Suggested Strip Poker
Associated Press News – Marina Villeneuve | Published: 2/24/2021
A former member of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration who previously accused him of sexual harassment offered new details, saying he once kissed her on the lips without consent after a private meeting. Lindsey Boylan said during her more than three years working as an economic adviser in the administration, Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” compared her to one of his rumored ex-girlfriends and once joked they should play strip poker. Cuomo spokesperson Caitlin Girouard said all of Boylan’s “claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.”
New York – Jimmy Van Bramer Swore Off Special Interest Cash While Money Flowed to Husband’s Film
New York Post – Jon Levine | Published: 2/20/2021
While New York City Councilperson Jimmy Van Bramer may have sworn off special interest cash, the same has not been true for his husband, author and documentary filmmaker Dan Hendrick. His 2017 documentary “Saving Jamaica Bay” was largely financed with money from lobbyists and big real estate interests the council member swore to avoid. Van Bramer vowed in 2009 he would never accept campaign donations from lobbyists.
North Carolina – NC Lieutenant Governor Staff Calls Campaign Finance Report Errors ‘Clerical’
MSN – Danielle Battaglia (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 2/22/2021
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s campaign report does not explain why $186 worth of medical bills were campaign-related, or why he bought “campaign clothes and accessories” for $2,840 with the majority being spent at a sporting goods store. It also does not explain why his wife needed to be reimbursed $4,500 for campaign clothing or how and where she spent the money. A complaint asks the State Board of Elections to investigate Robinson’s spending. Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said it is unclear why Robinson needed clothing for his campaign from Lake Gaston Outfitters, a store that specializes in hiking, canoeing, and cycling gear.
Ohio – Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson Indicted on Federal Conspiracy Charges Involving Reimbursements from City
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 2/23/2021
Cleveland City Councilperson Kenneth Johnson was arrested, accused of fleecing the city out of more than $127,000 by submitting false monthly expense reports over the course of several years. A federal grand jury indicted Johnson on 15 charges, including conspiracy to commit theft from a federal program, aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, tampering with a witness, and falsification of records during a federal investigation. Johnson’s longtime aide, Garnell Jamison, was indicted on the same charges. The indictment alleges many of the charges stem from Johnson requesting the maximum amount of monthly reimbursement, $1,200, from council for services that were never performed.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Halts Political Contributions, Limits Lobbying as Part of Householder Investigation, Utility Says
MSN – Jim Mackinnon (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 2/18/2021
FirstEnergy has stopped making political contributions and will no longer donate to 501(c)(4) organizations, said Steven Strah, president and acting chief executive officer of the company. He said lobbying will be “much more limited” compared to past practice and the utility will provide more disclosure on its lobbying activities. FirstEnergy is caught up in federal and state bribery and racketeering investigations involving former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others over the passage and support of House Bill 6. The bill, now law, provided more than $1 billion in subsidies to nuclear plants now owned and operated by Energy Harbor, a former FirstEnergy subsidiary.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Facing Harassment Allegations, Risk of Expulsion, Resigns
Center Square – Tim Gruver | Published: 2/22/2021
State Rep. Diego Hernandez resigned his Oregon House seat days before his peers were set to hold a historic vote on his expulsion over a string of harassment allegations after a nine-month investigation into his past conduct with five women who worked with and around him at the Capitol. A report commissioned by the Legislative Equity Office substantiated that Hernandez harassed, intimidated, and threatened four of the five women interviewed by investigators. The House Conduct Committee concluded Hernandez’s behavior with three of the women violated the Legislature’s rule related to maintaining a safe workplace.
Pennsylvania – Voters May Never Again Get to Choose Pa.’s Lieutenant Governor Candidates
MSN – Cynthia Fernandez (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 2/23/2021
The Pennsylvania Senate is advancing a measure that would give the state’s political parties final say over candidates for lieutenant governor, taking power away from voters. It is a necessary change to a process that has not always resulted in the best partnerships, Democratic and Republican lawmakers say. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow a gubernatorial candidate to choose a running mate after the spring primary, subject to approval from their party’s state committee. Now, voters choose candidates for lieutenant governor during closed, statewide primaries. The winner appears with the pick for governor on the general election ballot as a packaged deal.
South Carolina – Can SC School Board Member Still Have Say in $23M Project? What Ethics Commission Says
MSN – Bristow Marchant (The State) | Published: 2/24/2021
A Midlands-area school board member will not be allowed to visit a school construction site while he is recused himself from being involved with the project. An advisory opinion issued by the South Carolina Ethics Commission says Ken Loveless is prohibited from visiting the Piney Woods Elementary School site or reviewing work related to the project. Loveless agreed to recuse himself because of a business tie with Contract Construction, the main contractor on the $23 million project. Loveless’ company is a subcontractor with Contract Construction on a separate project, a new lab for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
South Dakota – South Dakota’s AG Charged with 3 Misdemeanors in Fatal Crash
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 2/18/2021
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors for striking and killing a man with his car last summer, avoiding more serious felony charges in a case that raised questions about how the state’s top law enforcement official first reported the crash. Ravnsborg could face up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine on each charge: careless driving, driving out of his lane, and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone. Ravnsborg initially told authorities he thought he had struck a deer or another large animal as he drove home from a Republican fundraiser.
Tennessee – Registry of Election Finance Changes Unlikely Amid FBI Probe
Patch – Sam Stockard (Tennessee Lookout) | Published: 2/17/2021
With an FBI investigation hanging over the state Legislature, changes are improbable in the makeup of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. An idea to merge the Registry of Election Finance and Ethics Commission into one eight-member body is being floated in the Legislature. But it will meet resistance from key lawmakers and members of those panels. Tom Lawless, who chaired the Registry board for the past year, said instead of structural changes, the Registry needs more money to hire outside auditors to check into legislators’ campaign finances when they violate the rules. A modern reporting system is needed, as well, to simplify the process for candidates, Lawless said.
Texas – Texas Governor’s Biggest Donors: Energy industry that failed
Associated Press News – Paul Weber and Nomaan Merchant | Published: 2/19/2021
As frozen Texas reels under one of the worst electricity outages in U.S. history, Gov. Greg Abbott has blamed grid operators and iced-over wind turbines but gone easier on another culprit: an oil and gas industry that is the state’s dominant business and his biggest political contributor. Oil and gas built and enriched Texas, and with that its politicians, including those who became president. But none has reaped campaign contributions on the scale of Abbott, who has raised more than $150 million from donors.
Utah – Utah House Lawmakers Kill Campaign Finance Disclosure Bill
MSN – Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 2/24/2021
A campaign finance reform bill died in the Utah House by a narrow vote, though few lawmakers spoke up during debate to voice concerns with the measure. Senate Bill 92 would have called on candidates to sort their campaign expenses into predetermined categories as a way of increasing transparency in political spending. While state law already requires candidates to list the reason for their expenditures, Rep. Norm Thurston told the House, “there’s incredible variety in how people report that, a lot of creative reporting.”
Virginia – Senate Spikes Bill to Rein in Personal Use of Campaign Cash
Associated Press News – Sarah Rankin | Published: 2/23/2021
The Virginia Senate effectively killed a measure that would have prevented politicians from putting campaign funds toward personal uses, with an exception for childcare-related expenses. Virginia has one of the least restrictive and policed campaign finance systems in the country and is an outlier in the nation for not already having such a ban. But state lawmakers, who insist they want to work on the issue, have repeatedly balked in recent years at making a change.
Washington – WA Supreme Court Throws Out Think Tank’s Attack on Union Political Activity
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 2/23/2021
The Freedom Foundation failed to meet a deadline in several campaign finance lawsuits it brought against unions, the Washington Supreme Court ruled. The conservative think tank alleged the unions had violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act by not reporting money spent on political activity. After the government did not take enforcement action, the Freedom Foundation filed so-called citizen actions, in Superior Court, but not within a deadline required by state law at the time, a majority of the state’s high court ruled.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Wildlife Officials Ate $20,000 of Illegal Caviar, Prosecutors Say. Now the ‘Sturgeon General’ Faces Charges.
MSN – Antonia Noori Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2021
Some Wisconsin wildlife officials allegedly dined like oligarchs, feasting on tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of caviar and passing around jars of the prized delicacy at team meetings. Meanwhile, some of their colleagues were working undercover to expose the scheme. The investigation resulted in the arrest of the state’s top sturgeon expert, Ryan Koenigs, nicknamed the “sturgeon general” by local television stations, allegedly obtained at least $20,000 worth of caviar in a single year while holding down a post as a biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He faces charges of misdemeanor theft for illegally trading sturgeon eggs, as well as obstructing an investigation by a conservation warden.
February 25, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack” by Tory Newmyer for Washington Post National: “Former Congressman Rivera Fined $456,000 for Propping Up a Ringer Candidate” by Alex Daugherty (Miami Herald) […]
National: “Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack” by Tory Newmyer for Washington Post
National: “Former Congressman Rivera Fined $456,000 for Propping Up a Ringer Candidate” by Alex Daugherty (Miami Herald) for McClatchy
Florida: “Local Players Retain Influence Under St. Petersburg’s Campaign Finance Rules” by Josh Solomon (Tampa Bay Times) for MSN
Massachusetts: “Ex-Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Illegal Use of Campaign Funds” by Staff for Associated Press News
Virginia: “Senate Spikes Bill to Rein in Personal Use of Campaign Cash” by Sarah Rankin for Associated Press News
National: “Election Officials Defended the 2020 Vote. In 2022, They’ll Have to Defend Themselves.” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
Pennsylvania: “Voters May Never Again Get to Choose Pa.’s Lieutenant Governor Candidates” by Cynthia Fernandez (Philadelphia Inquirer) for MSN
Michigan: “Elected Officials in Michigan Would Disclose Financial Records in New House Bill” by Samuel Dodge for MLive.com
New York: “Former Aide Says Cuomo Kissed Her, Suggested Strip Poker” by Marina Villeneuve for Associated Press News
South Carolina: “Can SC School Board Member Still Have Say in $23M Project? What Ethics Commission Says” by Bristow Marchant (The State) for MSN
National: “Why State Legislatures Are Still Very White – and Very Male” by Renuka Rayasam, Nolan McCaskill, Beatrice Jin, and Allan James Vestal for Politico
February 24, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Washington: “WA Supreme Court Throws Out Think Tank’s Attack on Union Political Activity” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune Elections National: “Bloomberg’s 2020 Aides Got an Unwelcome Surprise in Their Tax Forms” by Christopher Cadelago for Politico […]
Washington: “WA Supreme Court Throws Out Think Tank’s Attack on Union Political Activity” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune
National: “Bloomberg’s 2020 Aides Got an Unwelcome Surprise in Their Tax Forms” by Christopher Cadelago for Politico
Florida: “Plan to Lower Flags for Rush Limbaugh Causing Controversy, Consternation in Florida” by James Call (Tallahassee Democrat) for MSN
Illinois: “Embattled Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Steps Down as State Democratic Party Chair” by Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News
Ohio: “Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson Indicted on Federal Conspiracy Charges Involving Reimbursements from City” by John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Oregon: “Oregon Lawmaker Facing Harassment Allegations, Risk of Expulsion, Resigns” by Tim Gruver for Center Square
National: “This Congress Is the Most Diverse Ever. But Hill Staffers Remain Overwhelmingly White.” by Maya King for Politico
National: “K Street Eyes a Return of Earmarks to Boost Business” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
New York: “Jimmy Van Bramer Swore Off Special Interest Cash While Money Flowed to Husband’s Film” by Jon Levine for New York Post
February 23, 2021 •
Campaign Finance North Carolina: “NC Lieutenant Governor Staff Calls Campaign Finance Report Errors ‘Clerical’” by Danielle Battaglia (Raleigh News and Observer) for MSN Texas: “Texas Governor’s Biggest Donors: Energy industry that failed” by Paul Weber and Nomaan Merchant for Associated […]
North Carolina: “NC Lieutenant Governor Staff Calls Campaign Finance Report Errors ‘Clerical’” by Danielle Battaglia (Raleigh News and Observer) for MSN
Texas: “Texas Governor’s Biggest Donors: Energy industry that failed” by Paul Weber and Nomaan Merchant for Associated Press News
National: “State GOP Lawmakers Propose Flurry of Voting Restrictions to Placate Trump Supporters, Spurring Fears of a Backlash” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “MyPillow C.E.O. Mike Lindell Sued by Dominion Over Election Fraud Claims” by Sapna Maheshwari and Lauren Hirsch for New York Times
National: “Impeachment Is Over. But Other Efforts to Reckon with Trump’s Post-Election Chaos Have Just Begun.” by Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
Alabama: “Former Birmingham Water Works Contractors Plead Guilty to Felony Ethics Charges” by Carol Robinson for AL.com
New York: “Supreme Court Again Rejects Trump’s Bid to Shield Tax Returns, Other Financial Records from Manhattan Prosecutor” by Robert Barnes (Washington Post) for MSN
Ohio: “FirstEnergy Halts Political Contributions, Limits Lobbying as Part of Householder Investigation, Utility Says” by Jim Mackinnon (Akron Beacon Journal) for MSN
South Dakota: “South Dakota’s AG Charged with 3 Misdemeanors in Fatal Crash” by Stephen Groves for Associated Press News
February 19, 2021 •
National/Federal A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back. MSN – Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021 Conservative political donor Fred Eshelman gave $2 million to a nonprofit […]
A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back.
MSN – Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021
Conservative political donor Fred Eshelman gave $2 million to a nonprofit group in Texas that was seeking to expose voter fraud. Over the next two weeks, Eshelman came to regret his contribution and to doubt conspiracy theories of rampant illegal voting. Now, he wants his money back. The story behind the Eshelman contribution provides new insights into the frenetic days after the election, when baseless claims led donors to give hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse President Biden’s victory. Documents in Eshelman’s litigation, along with interviews, show how True the Vote’s private assurances it was on the cusp of revealing illegal election schemes repeatedly fizzled as the group’s focus shifted from one allegation to the next.
Adam Kinzinger’s Lonely Mission
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 2/15/2021
As the Republican Party censures, condemns, and seeks to purge leaders who are not in lock step with Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger stands as enemy number one – unwelcome not just in his party but also in his own family, some of whom recently disowned him. Kinzinger is at the forefront of the effort to navigate post-Trump politics. He is betting his political career, professional relationships, and kinship with a wing of his sprawling family that his party’s future lies in disavowing Trump and the conspiracy theories the former president stoked.
Biden’s New VA Chief Inherits Oversight Office from Trump Viewed as Abetting Corruption
MSN – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/17/2021
The Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) was created by former President Trump to root out waste and corruption in Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) top ranks. But to many in the department, the veterans community, and both parties in Congress, the unusual program created to stop corruption has only carried out more of it. Trump appointees cycled in and out of leadership roles, hiring unqualified friends, and producing substandard inquiries of senior leaders’ misconduct, the VA’s inspector general found. Two of three directors in four years had no investigative background. Instead of acknowledgment, whistleblowers faced reprisal.
Census Delays Could Squeeze Courts’ Review of House Maps
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 2/12/2021
States will not get the key data to draw new congressional and legislative maps until September, the Census Bureau said, setting up a race to draw new maps and fight over them in court before the 2022 midterms. The latest delay could make it difficult for states to redraw congressional district lines before next year’s elections and leave little time for the expected court fights to play out, experts said. The Census Bureau has run into problems with finalizing census data after the coronavirus pandemic and decisions by the Trump administration hampered last year’s count.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Resigns Amid Fallout from Contentious Phone Call with Reporter
MSN – Ashley Parker and Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2021
Deputy White House press secretary TJ Ducklo resigned amid fallout from a contentious phone call in which he berated and threatened a female reporter who was working on a story about a potential conflict-of-interest stemming from his personal life. After details from the phone call emerged in news reports, the White House found itself grappling with its first major test of President Biden’s promise to take seriously claims of abusive language and behavior, as well as to drastically shift the tone and culture of government after former President Trump.
Eroding Trust, Spreading Fear: The historical ties between pandemics and extremism
MSN – Marc Fisher (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021
Since ancient times, pandemics have spurred sharp turns in political beliefs, spawning extremist movements, waves of mistrust, and wholesale rejection of authorities. Nearly a year into the coronavirus crisis, Americans are falling prey to the same phenomenon, historians, theologians, and other experts say. New insecurities and fears loosed by the pandemic fed into an existing erosion of trust in leaders and institutions, according to those who have studied how people react to rampant, uncontrolled disease. Some of these insecurities predated the pandemic: many of those arrested in the Capitol riot owned businesses or worked white-collar jobs. But many got involved in politics only after virus-related shutdowns hit their personal finances.
House Homeland Security Chairman Sues Trump and Giuliani, Accusing Them of Inciting Capitol Riot
MSN – Spener Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2021
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairperson of the House Homeland Security Committee filed a federal lawsuit accusing former President Trump, attorney Rudolph Giuliani, and two extremist groups whose members have been charged in the January 6 storming of the Capitol with illegally conspiring to intimidate and block Congress’s certification of the 2020 election. Thompson alleged Trump and Giuliani’s false claims the election was stolen fomented a raid that violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 law enacted after the Civil War to bar violent interference in Congress’s constitutional duties.
Lincoln Project Co-Founder Reed Galen Ran Little Known Dark Money Group as Super PAC’s Dealings Face Scrutiny
CNBC – Brian Scwartz | Published: 2/16/2021
As co-founders of the Lincoln Project were making millions of dollars from a super PAC they ran, one of them, Reed Galen, launched a “dark money” organization that may have enriched him and his allies even further. The group, Project Yellowstone, says it is a 501(c)(4) that was created to educate voters on how to vote in person or by mail in the 2020 presidential election campaign. Documents show the Lincoln Project and Project Yellowstone were directly linked. Although this partnership is not illegal, the arrangement could have allowed behind the scenes payments to firms with ties to the super PAC’s leadership or other vendors that often did work with the Lincoln Project.
Loneliest Class in Congress Wonders How to Make Friends
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 2/10/2021
An axiom that rings true on Capitol Hill is that it is all about who you know, even right now. This might just be the loneliest Congress in memory, but Congress is still about relationships. As roughly five dozen new lawmakers enter their second month in office and try to settle into the House, they are asking what it means for the future. Untangling the mess of their early months in Congress will be an ongoing task for freshman lawmakers, as they figure out what is new because of the pandemic, what is new because of the insurrection, and what is not new at all but just part of the same old partisan in Washington.
Now Out of Office, Trump May Have to Face Tax Questions
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell, David Fahrenthold, and Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2021
When former President Trump returns to his business, he will face some challenges, such as declining real estate income and investigations from New York authorities. But he may also have to finally face two tax issues that have been simmering in the background, either of which experts say could carry significant consequences should they materialize now that he is out of office. Experts say legal and administrative authorities are more likely to address Trump’s tax issues now that he is a private citizen, even as Biden administration officials debate how much to hold Trump accountable for past actions while also trying to move the country forward.
Trump Acquitted on Impeachment Charge of Inciting Deadly Attack on the Capitol
MSN – Amy Gardner, Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2021
Former President Trump was acquitted of inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol, becoming the first president in U.S. history to face a second impeachment trial, and surviving it in part because of his continuing hold on the Republican Party despite his electoral defeat in November. That grip appeared to loosen slightly during the vote, when seven Republicans crossed party lines to vote for conviction – a sign of the rift the Capitol siege has caused within GOP ranks and the desire by some in the party to move on from Trump. Still, the vote, in which all Democrats and two independents voted against Trump, fell far short of the two-thirds required to convict.
Trump Left Behind a Clemency Mess. The Clock’s Ticking for Biden to Solve It.
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 2/11/2021
When Joe Biden took office, he inherited the largest backlog of unresolved clemency cases in U.S. history: 14,000 people waiting to find out if their convictions would be erased or sentences reduced, or if they would get any answer at all. Many of those have languished in the system for years after former President Trump largely bypassed the century-old process for reviewing cases and instead granted pardons based on advice from politically connected friends, lobbyists, and television celebrities. Biden’s White House counsel’s office has started to reach out to attorneys and advocates for suggestions on reforms, what could be done about the backlog, and mistakes they believe were made in previous administrations.
Canada – Democracy Watch Asks Ontario Court to Stop ‘Biased’ Watchdog from Letting PC Insiders Lobby
HuffPost – Emma Paling | Published: 2/10/2021
Advocacy group Democracy Watch is asking a court to overturn three decisions by Ontario Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, arguing he allows unethical lobbying by connections to Premier Doug Ford and his ministers. The commissioner’s annual reports, which describe his decisions, do not name the lobbyists or politicians he has investigated for breaking the rules. But the decisions being challenged were all issued in 2019 and 2020, meaning they apply to members of the Provincial Parliament elected when Ford’s Progressive Conservatives took power in 2018.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Panel Votes to Boost Unlawful Protest Penalties
Associated Press News – Jonathan Cooper | Published: 2/16/2021
Arizona lawmakers are considering boosting penalties for people arrested at protests, drawing opposition from civil rights groups worried that officers will target Black Lives Matter demonstrators or others with messages police find distasteful. A measure approved by a House committee is among several bills advancing in the Republican-controlled Legislature in the wake of demonstrations against police brutality last year. Critics say the measures would be selectively enforced by overzealous police and prosecutors and would discourage people from exercising their First Amendment right to protest.
Arizona – Ethics Chair Dismisses 82 Complaints vs. Finchem, Won’t Investigate His Capitol Rally Role
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/12/2021
The head of the House Ethics Committee is dismissing all 82 complaints against Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem. Rep. Becky Nutt said none of the allegations against Finchem back up the contention he “supported the violent overthrow of our government” or he directly participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Finchem was at the rally, and he posted a photo on Twitter taken once the mob had reached the Capitol, Rep. César Chávez said in his complaint. But there is no evidence he entered the building and that became a crucial point in the decision to dismiss the case without demanding a response from Finchem and without investigating further, Nutt said.
California – L.A. Ethics Commission Issues Five Fines for Failure to Register as Lobbyists
MyNewsLA.com – Staff | Published: 2/16/2021
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission issued five fines totaling $162,500 to companies and people who failed to register as lobbyists. Velada Consulting and its owner David Vela were fined $7,500 after admitting they failed to register as lobbying entities in 2020 and failed to file a disclosure report for 2020’s second quarter. The four other fines were issued for Craig Fry & Associates and three of its employees.
California – San Francisco Contractor Gets 1 Year in Prison for Bribery
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 2/11/2021
Businessperson Florence Kong was sentenced to one year in prison for bribing a San Francisco official, marking the first criminal penalty handed down in a City Hall corruption probe. Kong pleaded guilty to giving $95,000 and a gold Rolex watch to former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru in exchange for help obtaining lucrative business from the city. Prosecutors said that in addition to the watch, Kong plied Nuru with expensive meals, an envelope of cash for his daughter at her graduation party, and work on his vacation home.
Colorado – The Colorado Capitol’s Hallways Are Where Dealmaking Happens. Coronavirus Has Emptied Them.
Colorado Sun – Jessie Paul and Thy Vo | Published: 2/17/2021
Lawmakers, legislative staff, and journalists in Colorado were granted access to COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the resumption of the legislative session. Lobbyists were not. As a result, many of them are trying to limit their time in the once-bustling statehouse, even if there is nothing stopping them from being in the building. That means informal conversations and meetings, where a lot of important policies get ironed out, will likely happen infrequently this year. State lawmakers are aware of the access problems lobbyists and members of the public will have, but they are mostly brushing off the concerns and chalking them up to the myriad of changes people have had to endure during the pandemic.
Florida – State Finds No Sunshine Law Violations in Orlando Airport Probe but Details Behind-the-Scenes Maneuvering
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia and Kevin Spear | Published: 2/12/2021
A 16-month probe into a failed attempt to hand out no-bid contracts at Orlando International Airport found no laws were broken but revealed how a lobbyist and airport leaders worked behind the scenes to back a deal that ultimately erupted in controversy. Investigators found three of the seven members on the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s governing board met separately with lobbyist Chris Dorworth in the days leading up to an August 2019 board meeting to discuss an unadvertised plan to steer important legal contracts to a pair of local attorneys. But investigators said there was no evidence any those board members communicated directly with each other or instructed Dorworth to do so on their behalf.
Florida – Voting by Mail in Florida Was a Success, So Why Do Legislators Want to Make It Harder?
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/16/2021
Senate Republicans agreed Florida’s vote-by-mail process worked smoothly in the last election cycle but still needed a change. After a record 4.8 million Floridians voted by mail in November, the Ethics and Elections Committee approved Senate Bill 90 along party lines to limit vote-by-mail applications to one election cycle and require everyone who signed up for mail ballots in 2020 to reapply to get them in 2022. Current law allows voters who ask for a mail-in ballot to have their request remain current for two general election cycles unless they opt out.
Georgia – Graham’s Post-Election Call with Raffensperger Will Be Scrutinized in Georgia Probe, Person Familiar with Inquiry Says
MSN – Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/12/2021
An Atlanta-area prosecutor plans to scrutinize a post-Election Day phone call between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as part of a criminal investigation into whether former President Trump or his allies broke the law while trying to reverse his defeat in the state, according to a person familiar with the probe. During their conversation, Graham asked the secretary of state whether he had the power to toss out all mail ballots in certain counties, Raffensperger said. He said Graham appeared to be asking him to improperly find a way to set aside legally cast ballots. Graham denied that, saying he was seeking information to better understand how the state verified mail ballots.
Indiana – More Vinyl Villages? Lawmaker Who Builds Homes Pushes Bill to Eliminate Housing Standards
South Bend Tribune – Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 2/11/2021
An Indiana lawmaker who builds homes is the sole author on a bill to ban community architecture design requirements, a proposal that could save him and others in his profession thousands of dollars. Ethics experts say Rep. Doug Miller’s involvement in the bill is inappropriate because of his ownership of development company Tailor Made Homes and his role on the board of directors for the National Association of Homebuilders. He also chairs the House committee that passed the legislation, giving him control of that process.
Maryland – Former State Investigator Questions Payment from Marilyn Mosby Election Committee to Her Private Lawyers
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 2/16/2021
The former political-corruption investigator for Maryland asked the state prosecutor to investigate a $3,250 payment made by the election campaign of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to her personal lawyers. In an email to the state prosecutor, James Cabezas wrote that the payment is not allowed under the law. The payment went to the law firm of Kramon & Graham. Andrew Graham is one of the top attorneys in Maryland for lawyers and judges facing ethical or legal issues. Mosby hired the firm as her personal lawyers to represent her during a seven-month investigation by the city inspector general into her travel, gifts, and businesses.
Montana – Gianforte Repeals Directives Made by Former Governor
Associated Press News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 2/12/2021
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte repealed two executive orders issued by former Gov. Steve Bullock. One required companies to report political spending if they wanted to bid on large state contracts and the second allowed counties to decide if they wanted to hold the November 2020 general election mostly by mail. Bullock’s political spending order required companies bidding for certain state contracts to disclose political donations made within 60 days of an election. Opponents argued it violated companies’ First Amendment rights and raised the possibility that a company’s donations could lead to retaliation.
Nevada – Group of Conservative Activists Sue State, Legislature Over Closure of Legislative Building to Lobbyists
Nevada Independent – Riley Snyder and Michelle Rindells | Published: 2/17/2021
Four lobbyists in Nevada are suing the governor, a top lawmaker, and legislative staff, arguing they are suffering irreparable harm from coronavirus-prevention rules that have kept the legislative session largely virtual and bar lobbyists from entering the Legislative Building. The lawsuit seeks a court-ordered injunction to “immediately allow plaintiffs access to the State Capital to engage in lobbying activities,” saying emergency orders limiting public access to the Legislature violate their constitutional rights to petition the government and free speech. They also argue Nevada is no longer experiencing a bona fide emergency to justify the restrictions.
New Jersey – Cash in a Paper Bag: North Jersey pols indicted in ‘old-school political corruption’ case
MSN – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 2/16/2021
Four New Jersey politicians hit with bribery charges in 2019 have been indicted by a state grand jury as part of alleged schemes to take tens of thousands of dollars in bribes masked as campaign contributions – in one case a paper bag filled with cash. The defendants are accused of promising a tax attorney they would vote to award his firm public contracts in exchange for the illegal contributions. The tax attorney was a cooperating witness working for state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office. “The conduct alleged in these indictments is old-school political corruption at its worst, the kind that erodes public faith in government …,” Grewal said.
New Jersey – Former Middlesex Mayor Sentenced for Stealing, Laundering $275K in Campaign, Charity Funds
MSN – Suzanne Russell (MyCentralJersey.com) | Published: 2/16/2021
Former Middlesex Borough Mayor Ronald DiMura was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing more than $275,000 from local political campaigns, investors, and a charity. DiMura, who resigned after his indictment, is permanently barred from public office and public employment in New Jersey. He also must pay $83,372 in restitution and must forfeit $163,582, the remainder of the funds he stole.
New Mexico – Dark Money Group Pushing PRC Reform Tied to Major Oil Company
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 2/12/2021
Exxon Mobil contributed to a “dark-money” group that supported a successful November referendum reforming New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission, according to a campaign finance report filed by one of its lobbyists. One of the state’s largest energy producers, the multinational gave at least $10,000 to the Committee to Protect New Mexico Consumers, a nonprofit that spent $250,000 touting the merits of a constitutional amendment, which eventually passed handily. The contribution can be found in an October 7 report filed by lobbyist Deanna Archuleta. The “dark money” campaign and lobbyist involvement illustrate the challenges faced by the public in knowing what special interests stand to gain from elections or their role in creating public policy or ballot measures.
New Mexico – Settlement Reveals New Mexico Utility Funded Political Group
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/13/2021
The parent firm of the largest utility in New Mexico funded a group that spent more than $130,000 on political advertisements in highly contested Democratic legislative primary election races last year. PNM Resources, the parent firm of Public Service Company of New Mexico, financed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico. The disclosure was made public as part of a settlement agreement that involved the New Mexico Ethics Commission agreeing to drop a lawsuit. The commission also agreed to waive any civil penalties against the group and will not require it to register as a political committee.
New York – Coverup Claims Engulf Cuomo as Scandal Over Nursing Home Deaths Grows
Politico – Shannon Young and Anna Gronewold | Published: 2/12/2021
When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide told Democratic lawmakers why the administration slow-walked information on nursing home deaths in the state, she appeared to be trying to dispel smoldering rumors of a cover-up. Instead, Melissa DeRosa, threw gasoline on a fire that had enveloped Cuomo’s legacy of effective leadership during the Covid-19 crisis. DeRosa told legislators the administration “froze” after the U.S. Justice Department made an inquiry into Cuomo’s management of nursing homes. She said state officials refrained from releasing the data because of worry then-President Trump was trying to turn the tragedy “into a giant political football.”
New York – New York Ethics Panel Chair Steps Down, Replaced by Ex-Cuomo Aide
New York Post – Bernadette Hogan | Published: 2/10/2021
Michael Rosen, chairperson of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) stepped down and is slated to be replaced by attorney Camille Joseph Varlack, another former staffer to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. JCOPE itself has come under fire in recent years, accused of a lack of transparency. The panel was set up in 2011 as an independent check on state officials and lobbying activities. Appointees are made by the governor and the Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, but committee discussions are bound by state ethics law to remain private.
North Dakota – Once Again, N.D. Lawmakers Ponder the Benefits, Costs of Annual Sessions
MSN – Brayden Zencker (Devil’s Lake Journal) | Published: 2/11/2021
North Dakota Sen. Brad Bekkedahl is lead sponsor of Senate Bill 2218, which would allow for annual legislative sessions. It would not change how sessions are conducted now during odd-numbered years, but Bekkedahl proposes adding a short session in even-numbered years. Legislative Management, a bipartisan committee, would decide the timing and duration of sessions during even-numbered years. North Dakota is one of just four states that still conduct legislative sessions every two years.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Hall Corruption: Voters will get a say on two charter amendments this May
MSN – Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 2/10/2021
After three Cincinnati City Council members were indicted on federal bribery charges this past year, one thing became clear: there was no provision in the city charter to remove a council member charged with a felony. Cincinnati voters will get a chance to change that on May 4. The council voted to put two charter amendments on the ballot that would offer different avenues for suspending or removing council members who are indicted for crimes.
Ohio – Federal Judge Ignores Prison Recommendations in Convention Center Bribery Scandal Sentence
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 2/16/2021
A man who participated in a bribery scheme with former Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority board member John Raphael over a multi-million-dollar food vendor contract was sentenced to six months home confinement, community service, and probation for the next four years. Rodney Myers, who had pleaded guilty to federal programs bribery in November 2019, was facing federal sentencing guidelines that called for up to two years in prison for his role in steering the food service contract at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Raphael is facing 20 years for his part in the same bribery scheme after pleading guilty.
South Carolina – Accountability Suffers as Newspaper Closures Grow in SC, Nation
Times and Democrat – Glenn Smith and Tony Bartelme (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 2/15/2021
Seven newspapers in South Carolina closed their doors in the past year, joining more than 60 that shuttered across the nation as the coronavirus hit an industry already battered by shrinking revenue and job cuts. This exacerbated a trend that has created so-called news deserts in hundreds of communities, depriving them of vital government watchdogs. Without that scrutiny, corruption can blossom. The Charleston Post and Courier examined 100 South Carolina misconduct cases in which criminal charges were filed since 2015. Roughly 75 percent involved public officials and employees accused of betraying the rural community in which they worked.
South Carolina – NextEra Didn’t Share Santee Cooper Lobbying Efforts. SC Senators Look to Require It
The State – Joseph Bestos | Published: 2/11/2021
A group of South Carolina senators want to force Florida-based utility NextEra to provide information about its lobbying efforts to buy Santee Cooper. The Senate Judiciary Committee pushed forward a resolution to require NextEra to disclose communications it had with lawmakers and officials since July 31, 2017, when state-owned Santee Cooper and SCE&G abandoned efforts to build two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina. The failure of the project led the state to debate whether to sell or reform Santee Cooper.
South Carolina – Prosecutor Pascoe’s Saga of Exposing Public Corruption in Legislature Comes to End
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 2/16/2021
After more than six years of winning convictions against South Carolina politicians on public corruption charges, special prosecutor David Pascoe is turning his three remaining unfinished cases over to state Attorney General Alan Wilson. “Procedural confusion” created by a recent state Supreme Court decision that overturned one of his convictions was a major reason for halting what has been an ongoing house-cleaning of corrupt General Assembly lawmakers, according to a letter sent by Pascoe to the attorney general. But the high court also ruled Pascoe’s winning a conviction on perjury charges of former Rep. Jim Harrison was lawful. Harrison will be the first state lawmaker in decades to serve a prison sentence on corruption-related charges.
South Dakota – South Dakota Gov. Noem Defends ‘Dark Money’ Push as Privacy Protection
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 2/12/2021
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defended her push to shield donor information of nonprofit organizations that influence public policy, including one group that was connected to her campaign. The governor said the legislation was intended to protect the privacy rights of donors who wish to anonymously contribute to charities. Although she insisted it “does absolutely nothing on campaign finance,” critics said it would further the use of so-called dark money. One bill would bar state officials from requiring nonprofit groups, including those that work to influence policy, to disclose information on donors. A second bill would further protect donor privacy, allowing them to sue if their information were made public.
Tennessee – New Audit Raises More Questions About Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Spending
WTVF – Jennifer Kraus | Published: 2/10/2021
A new audit raises even more questions about how Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron spent his campaign money. The latest audit ordered by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance looked at Ketron’s spending in 2018 and early 2019 from his campaign account during his successful run for mayor. This comes after state auditors found nearly $250,000 missing from two other campaign accounts belonging to Ketron. One was his senate campaign account and the other was for the PAC he ran while in the state Senate. Like the latest audit, the two previous investigations found reported payments that never actually happened as well as overstated expenses and dozens of expenditures with no receipts or invoices.
Virginia – Special Prosecutor Looking into Virginia Beach’s Former Lobbyist Who Lined Up a Job to Work for City Contractor
MSN – Alyssa Skelton (The Virginian-Pilot) | Published: 2/11/2021
Bob Matthias retired from the city of Virginia Beach on January 1 after serving as assistant to the city manager. In that role, Matthias oversaw the awarding of a lobbying contract to Principle Advantage Government Relations Group while also negotiating a potential job with the company. An ordinance requires departing city employees wait one year before working for a company that receives city contracts associated with the employees’ previous job duties. State law prohibits employees involved in the procurement process from negotiating or securing prospective employment with the contractor.
Washington – Eyman Fined $2.6 Million, Barred from Campaign Control
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 2/10/2021
A Thurston County judge found longtime anti-tax activist Tim Eyman violated campaign finance laws and fined him $2.6 million. The judge also ruled Eyman, who has led initiative campaigns across Washington for decades, will no longer be allowed to have any financial control over political committees. Eyman was charged with laundering political contributions to enrich himself; accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm; secretly shuttling money between initiative campaigns; and concealing the source of other campaign donations. “Mr. Eyman’s violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act are numerous and particularly egregious and were ‘intentional’ as that term is defined by law,” wrote Judge James Dixon.
Wisconsin – Steven DeVougas Resignation Brings End to Milwaukee Ethics Board Investigation of Him
MSN – Alison Dirr (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/17/2021
The recent resignation of Steven DeVougas from the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission also ended the ongoing city Ethics Board investigation into allegations over his ties to a prominent real estate developer. DeVougas resigned from the powerful civilian oversight panel following more than a year of controversy since it was reported he accompanied the developer, his corporate client, to an August 2019 police interview of the developer regarding a sexual assault allegation against him. The case remains open and under review at the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office.
February 18, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Lincoln Project Co-Founder Reed Galen Ran Little Known Dark Money Group as Super PAC’s Dealings Face Scrutiny” by Brian Scwartz for CNBC Maryland: “Former State Investigator Questions Payment from Marilyn Mosby Election Committee to Her Private Lawyers” […]
National: “Lincoln Project Co-Founder Reed Galen Ran Little Known Dark Money Group as Super PAC’s Dealings Face Scrutiny” by Brian Scwartz for CNBC
Maryland: “Former State Investigator Questions Payment from Marilyn Mosby Election Committee to Her Private Lawyers” by Tim Prudente for Baltimore Sun
New Mexico: “Settlement Reveals New Mexico Utility Funded Political Group” by Staff for Associated Press News
Florida: “Voting by Mail in Florida Was a Success, So Why Do Legislators Want to Make It Harder?” by Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) for MSN
National: “Biden’s New VA Chief Inherits Oversight Office from Trump Viewed as Abetting Corruption” by Lisa Rein (Washington Post) for MSN
Arizona: “Arizona Panel Votes to Boost Unlawful Protest Penalties” by Jonathan Cooper for Associated Press News
New Jersey: “Cash in a Paper Bag: North Jersey pols indicted in ‘old-school political corruption’ case” by Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) for MSN
Ohio: “Federal Judge Ignores Prison Recommendations in Convention Center Bribery Scandal Sentence” by Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN
California: “L.A. Ethics Commission Issues Five Fines for Failure to Register as Lobbyists” by Staff for MyNewsLA.com
Colorado: “The Colorado Capitol’s Hallways Are Where Dealmaking Happens. Coronavirus Has Emptied Them.” by Jessie Paul and Thy Vo for Colorado Sun
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