June 14, 2021 •
Montana’s Supreme Court has held Senate Bill 140 is constitutional. SB 140 allows the governor to appoint judges directly, abolishing the judicial nomination commission.
Montana’s Supreme Court has held Senate Bill 140 is constitutional.
SB 140 allows the governor to appoint judges directly, abolishing the judicial nomination commission.
June 14, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Maine: “Maine Ethics Panel Votes to Pursue Records from Power Line Opponents” by Scott Thistle for Portland Press Herald Mississippi: “Lt. Gov. Hosemann’s Inaugural Nonprofit Got $368k in Secret Donations, Filings Show” by Luke Ramseth for Mississippi Daily […]
Maine: “Maine Ethics Panel Votes to Pursue Records from Power Line Opponents” by Scott Thistle for Portland Press Herald
Mississippi: “Lt. Gov. Hosemann’s Inaugural Nonprofit Got $368k in Secret Donations, Filings Show” by Luke Ramseth for Mississippi Daily Journal
National: “Garland Announces Expansion of Justice Department’s Voting Rights Unit, Vowing to Scrutinize GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions and Ballot Reviews” by Amy Gardner and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “McGahn Elaborates on Mueller Testimony, but Stops Short of Condemning Trump in Interview with Congress” by Karoun Demirjian, Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Hunting Leaks, Trump Officials Focused on Democrats in Congress” by Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, Michael Schmidt, and Adam Goldman (New York Times) for MSN
Canada: “Ethics Committee Calls for Sweeping Reforms in Wake of WE Charity Scandal” by Elizabeth Thompson for CBC
Tennessee: “Closed Cold Case Murder Tied to Ousted Tennessee Governor” by Kimberly Kruesi for Associated Press News
Texas: “State Bar Investigating Texas Attorney General” by Jake Bleiberg for Associated Press News
Oregon: “Oregon Legislator Is 1st-Ever Ousted After Statehouse Breach” by Andrew Selsky for Associated Press News
June 11, 2021 •
The Oregon House voted to expel Rep. Mike Nearman after he allowed demonstrators, some who were armed, into the Capitol on December 21, 2020, while the House was in a special session. The District 23 seat will most likely remain […]
The Oregon House voted to expel Rep. Mike Nearman after he allowed demonstrators, some who were armed, into the Capitol on December 21, 2020, while the House was in a special session.
The District 23 seat will most likely remain vacant for the remainder of the legislative session.
June 11, 2021 •
National/Federal Abbe Lowell Is the Go-To Lawyer for Embattled Politicians. Now He Faces a Controversy of His Own. Mother Jones – Dan Friedman | Published: 6/8/2021 Abbe Lowell, one of Washington’s top attorneys, has spent decades helping high-profile clients engulfed in […]
Abbe Lowell Is the Go-To Lawyer for Embattled Politicians. Now He Faces a Controversy of His Own.
Mother Jones – Dan Friedman | Published: 6/8/2021
Abbe Lowell, one of Washington’s top attorneys, has spent decades helping high-profile clients engulfed in political scandals. But now Lowell – known for representing Jared Kushner, Jack Abramoff, and others – is himself the subject of a controversy. Lowell negotiated a plea bargain for Nickie Lum Davis, a Republican fundraiser who had engaged in illegal lobbying. Davis later fired Lowell. A new lawyer representing her said Lowell failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest to Davis prior to her guilty plea. At the heart of this dispute is the allegation that an influential attorney with a slew of prominent political clients failed to tell one of those clients about what could be perceived as a personal interest in her case.
After Hitting Pause, PACs Begin to Press Play Again
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 6/7/2021
Business PACs, many of which paused donations earlier this year amid fallout from the violent Capitol attack, have begun to send more money to lawmakers, including to the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the presidential election results of some states. PACs from defense, agriculture, and other sectors have led in donations to such lawmakers. Still, PAC money is down. Contributions to both parties’ House and Senate campaign arms dropped significantly in the first four months of this year when compared with the same period in the previous two election cycles.
Democrats Grapple with Way Forward on Biden Agenda After Manchin Throws Up Roadblocks
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
Democrats grappled with the seeming decimation of their sweeping legislative ambitions at the hands of one of their own lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who quashed prospects for the party’s marquee voting rights bill and cast a pall over other planks of President Biden’s agenda. Manchin declared his opposition to the For the People Act, a sweeping measure meant in part to override new voting restrictions passed by Republican Legislatures and reiterated his vow never to repeal or modify the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule known as the filibuster.
Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More deadlock than ever
Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 6/8/2021
Democrats seeking more robust enforcement of election laws and transparency measures have been routinely routed at the FEC. They have complained Republicans have weaponized the commission’s bipartisan structure to turn it into a toothless agency. Now, the Democratic commissioners have begun to strike back by leveraging some of the same arcane rules that have stymied enforcement efforts for years to make the agency do even less. The goal appears to be to take a panel seen as dysfunctional and create further deadlock, compelling federal courts to fill the breach when it comes to policing federal election law.
Facebook Gives Trump Path to Return – but Not Until at Least 2023
Politico – Cristiano Lima | Published: 6/4/2021
Facebook announced that former President Trump’s accounts will be suspended for two years, extending the suspension that began in January following a finding Trump stoked violence ahead of the insurrection at the Capitol. The company said after that period it would evaluate whether “the risk to public safety has receded,” and then make a call on his possible reinstatement. Facebook also said it will stiffen penalties for public figures during times of civil unrest and violence. Politicians’ posts will no longer be automatically treated as newsworthy, and thus protected from the platform’s rules against harassment, hate speech, and more. But their rule-breaking remarks may still be exempt under Facebook’s newsworthiness exemption.
FBI Investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in Connection with His Political Fundraising
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 6/3/2021
The FBI is investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in connection with campaign fundraising activity involving his former business. The Washington Post published an examination of how employees at DeJoy’s former company, New Breed Logistics, alleged they were pressured by DeJoy or his aides to attend political fundraisers or donate to Republican candidates, and then were paid back through bonuses. Such reimbursements could run afoul of state or federal laws, which prohibit “straw-donor” schemes meant to allow wealthy donors to evade individual contribution limits and obscure the source of a candidate’s money.
GOP Governors Are Cutting Unemployment Aid. Some Have Ties to Businesses That May Benefit.
MSN – Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
Republican governors in 25 states are conducting a giant economic experiment, ceasing enhanced jobless aid for an estimated 4 million people, arguing the generous benefits are dissuading people from going back to work. But a number of these governors have personal connections to businesses that are trying to find workers and could benefit from the policy change. The Biden administration and its allies in Congress argue any reluctance by Americans to return to work is due more to a lack of childcare, lingering concerns over safety during the pandemic, and low wages.
Justice Dept. Continues Appeal on Behalf of Trump in Defamation Case Brought by Sexual Assault Accuser
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
The Justice Department’s Civil Division under President Biden is continuing the Trump-era push to represent the former president in a defamation lawsuit brought by author E. Jean Carroll. The lawsuit brought by Carroll, who accused Donald Trump two years ago of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s, has been stalled in litigation over whether the Justice Department had standing to represent him on the grounds that his denials in response to her claim were made while performing his presidential duties. The legal maneuver would have required a judge to find a tort law that protects government employees from civil liability applies to a sitting president.
Justice Dept. Vows to End Court Orders Seeking Journalists’ Data in Leak Probes
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/5/2021
The U.S. Justice Department pledged to stop using court orders to get journalists’ information in leak investigations following disclosures about a flurry of such efforts at the end of the Trump administration. The marked shift in approaches between the Trump and Biden administrations comes after it was revealed the department fought a legal battle to obtain information about the email activities of four New York Times reporters as part of a leak investigation. As The Times made the showdown public, it complained the aggressive investigative effort represented a significant intrusion on First Amendment rights and journalists’ ability to gather the news.
Lack of Data on Diverse Electorate Tests Pollsters, Politicians
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 6/4/2021
The most diverse electorate in the country’s history headed to the polls in 2020, but pollsters and party officials are not sure how to tap that potential source of political support. They lack good data about these increasingly diverse communities, and cultural understanding to go with them, leading politicians to make naive mistakes. An industry of firms that provide voter data to pollsters, campaigns, and others has been trying to find the best way to parse specific parts of voters’ identities like religion, race, and ethnicity.
New Bill Aims to Shut the FARA Revolving Door
Center for Responsive Politics – Alyce McFadden | Published: 6/3/2021
Former federal government officials would be prohibited from representing foreign corporations and governments as lobbyists under new bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher and Jared Golden. The Congressional and Executive Foreign Lobbying Ban Act seeks to prohibit federally elected lawmakers, senior-level government appointees, and high-ranking military officers from registering as lobbyists for foreign agents after they leave the government.
Sen. Ted Cruz Prevails in Campaign Finance Lawsuit
Roll Call – Todd Ruger and Kate Ackley | Published: 6/3/2021
A federal court sided with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to strike down a “somewhat obscure” section of a 2002 campaign finance law, which is expected to give a boost to wealthier candidates who self-fund their campaigns. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found Section 304 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act unconstitutionally infringes on candidates’ free speech rights. That section prohibits federal candidates who made personal campaign loans before the election from using more than $250,000 in post-election contributions to repay them.
Trump’s Election Fraud Claims Propelled Them to the Capitol on Jan. 6. His Ongoing Comments Are Keeping Them in Jail.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2021
Although former President Trump has been blocked from major social media platforms and recently shut down his own blog, he is still monitoring and promoting false claims of election fraud. Citing Trump’s ongoing comments, federal judges have shared fears that the defendants accused of the worst violence or threats of violence at the January 6 Capitol insurrection remain a danger to public safety and should remain in custody while they await trial. “Unfortunately, the political dynamics that gave way to January 6th have not faded,” U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said in detaining a man accused of throwing a hatchet and a desk during the riot.
Canada – Judge Rules Against Ontario Third Party Campaign Finance Rules Declaring It Unconstitutional
Global News – Holly McKenzie-Sutter (Canadian Press) | Published: 6/9/2021
A judge struck down a limit on third-party ad spending introduced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government, declaring recent changes to the law unconstitutional. A group of education unions argued the changes to the Election Finances Act would have a chilling effect on their rights to free expression in the year leading up to a provincial election. The government recently doubled the restricted pre-election spending period to 12 months but kept the $600,000 limit on third-party political advertisement spending. The attorney general argued the changes were necessary to protect democratic elections from outside influence.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Companies Lobbying Gavin Newsom Helped Pay His Wife’s Salary, Report Finds
MSN – Evie Fordham (Fox News) | Published: 6/3/2021
Companies with a history of lobbying the state California, including PG&E, Kaiser Permanente. and Comcast, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit of Gov. Gavin Newsome’s wife. Jennifer Siebel Newsom received $2.3 million in total salary from her nonprofit, The Representation Project, between 2011 and 2018, according to tax returns. Siebel Newsom’s foundation billed itself as a gender watchdog organization releasing films to “challenge limiting gender stereotypes and shift norms.” Newsom has appeared in two of The Representation Project’s films.
California – Judge and Attorney in Pivotal Newsom Recall Lawsuit Were Former Law Partners
MSN – Phil Willon (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/7/2021
The judge whose ruling was pivotal to the recall campaign against California Gov. Gavin Newsom, providing supporters extra time to gather the necessary petition signatures to trigger a special election, was once a law partner with the attorney hired by the effort’s proponents to plead their case. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James Arguelles and Bradley Benbrook were attorneys at Stevens, O’Connell & Jacobs before 2010 and the two served as co-counsel on at least two cases. Howard Herships, who opposes the campaign to recall Newsom, said he raised the issue in a complaint against the judge filed with the Commission on Judicial Performance.
Connecticut – Jon Lender: The wife of the lone GOP senator who voted for Connecticut’s recreational marijuana has a job at medical cannabis grower Curaleaf
MSN – Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) | Published: 6/8/2021
Esther Witkos, the wife of state Sen. Kevin Witkos – who was the lone Republican to vote yes when the Senate voted to approve a controversial bill to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Connecticut – has a job with Curaleaf, a medical marijuana grower/producer. Sen. Witkos said his wife has been an hourly worker at a Curaleaf production facility for more than a year. He said he had nothing to do with her getting a job there, and her employment there had no bearing on his vote.
Connecticut – ‘There Are Certain People That Drink Heavily.’ CT Lawmakers Talk About Alcohol Use in Session
MSN – Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) | Published: 6/4/2021
Connecticut House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, fearing extracurricular partying could distract lawmakers from the public’s business, ordered his caucus to move their offices back to the Capitol to avoid distractions. Speaker Matt Ritter chastised his caucus after lawmakers began tailgating on the roof of the Legislative Office Building garage. One House member admitted wine at dinner and the stress of the session contributed to her failure to speak complete sentences during a floor debate. While the drinking might not be good public relations for the Legislature, people with institutional memories say it is no worse than it ever has been.
Florida – As Artiles Criminal Case Unfolds, Sham NPA Candidate Agrees to Ethics Violations, Fine
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/7/2021
As a corruption case involving former Florida Sen. Frank Artiles continues to play out in court, the no-party candidate accused of being paid and recruited to run in the Senate District 37 election was fined for his involvement. Artiles’ defense team continues to debate with the state attorney’s office over how much potential evidence should be made public related to an alleged scheme to recruit and pay Alexis Pedro Rodriguez to run as a no-party candidate in the race. Rodriguez will pay a $6,500 fine for accepting money with the understanding he would change his party affiliation, qualify to run, and file a false disclosure form.
Florida – Ethics Commission: No evidence of improper lobbying on Coral Gables Wawa project
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/9/2021
Miami-Dade County’s ethics commission determined there was no probable cause to pursue a complaint filed on behalf of the Gables Accountability Project, a group of Coral Gables residents who sued the city in opposition to a planned Wawa gas station and convenience store. The complaint alleged lobbyist and former state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and lobbyist Laura Russo failed to properly register to lobby on the project before they sent letters to the city attorney and other officials regarding the removal of trees at the site of the future gas station.
Florida – Judge Asked to Block New Law That Limits Contributions to Florida Amendment Initiatives
South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 6/8/2021
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and other supporters of three proposed constitutional amendments designed to expand voting want a federal judge to block a new state law that places a $3,000 limit on contributions to ballot-initiative drives. They filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, arguing the limit is unconstitutional and would prevent them from collecting enough petition signatures to put the proposed amendments on the November 2022 ballot.
Florida – Mystery Donor Gives $100K-Plus to DeSantis
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 6/3/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has received more than $100,000 from a mystery donor, Tread Standard, that federal regulators previously said was possibly set up illegally to mask the likely source of the money. But it remains unclear who is behind the Delaware-based entity or its political largesse. Tread Standard was the subject of an FEC complaint during the 2016 election cycle that it gave $150,000 to a super PAC supporting former Gov. Jeb Bush’s failed presidential bid. Red flags were raised because the six-figure contribution to the super PAC supporting Bush was given less than two months after Tread Standard was incorporated, and there was no sign the entity did anything that generated its own revenue.
Idaho – Idaho State Legislator Doxxed a Sexual Assault Survivor, Drawing Ethics Complaints
The Intercept – Sara Sirota | Published: 6/3/2021
Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings is facing several ethics complaints after circulating articles revealing the identity of a 19-year-old woman who reported to authorities that another lawmaker, former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, had sexually assaulted her. Giddings is a reservist in the U.S. military, an institution confronting issues of abuse and underreporting, and is seeking greater power in Idaho politics as a candidate for lieutenant governor. Sexual assault survivors often fear others will not believe them or will retaliate against them, inducing further trauma and convincing them more often than not against informing authorities.
Illinois – Chicago’s Ethics Ordinance Infinitely Stronger Than State Version, Top Ethics Officials Say
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 6/4/2021
The city’s ethics ordinance is infinitely stronger than the Illinois General Assembly’s version, the Chicago Board of Ethics said, and it is “gratified” that home-rule will prevail. It is another slap at the widely ridiculed six-month lobbying ban for lawmakers approved by the Legislature in response to the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal. “We are gratified that the General Assembly heeded our urging that Chicago’s lobbying laws not be superseded by the ethics and lobbying reform bill recently passed by the General Assembly,” Ethics Board Chairperson William Conlon and Executive Director Steve Berlin wrote in a statement.
Illinois – Exelon Lobbyist Leads an Effort to Win a Big Payday for Illinois Lawmakers
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 6/7/2021
Eric Madiar, a contract lobbyist for Exelon, is representing former Illinois Rep. Michael Fortner in a class-action lawsuit to win back cost-of-living pay raises legislators, including Fortner, previously voted to block. The cost of the forgone raises for lawmakers was estimated at $14.4 million. The suit was filed as Exelon seeks legislative approval to hike rates to prop up its struggling nuclear plants.
Illinois – Former Chicago Alderman Aiding Corruption Probe Made Audio and Video Recordings of Then-Speaker Michael Madigan on Multiple Topics, Sources Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/9/2021
Former Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis recorded Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on numerous occasions as the speaker allegedly sought business for his private law firm, sources said. He also recorded colleagues at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where Madigan led the Illinois delegation. Solis wearing a wire on Madigan, a famously cautious and shrewd political boss, could help explain why federal prosecutors apparently have cut Solis an unprecedented deal in a federal corruption probe. The potential conflict between Madigan’s dual careers a public official and private lawyer has come under scrutiny numerous times over the years.
Louisiana – Advocates Decry ‘Double Standard’ in Louisiana’s Legislature, Citing Groundwater Ethics Bill
New Orleans Advocate – Blake Paterson | Published: 6/8/2021
Black lawmakers joined social justice advocates to decry what they say is a “double standard” at the Louisiana Capitol where wealthy corporate interests win big while everyday citizens get left behind. They highlighted a bill that would exonerate several members of the Baton Rouge-area groundwater commission from ethics charges they face for working for the companies they are tasked with regulating. Gray Sexton, an attorney representing three members employed by ExxonMobil, Georgia-Pacific, and Entergy who were charged by the ethics board, said the bill simply acknowledges the fact that industry for decades has had a seat at the table.
Maine – Maine House Backs Limiting Foreign Election Spending in Challenge to CMP Corridor
Bangor Daily News – Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews | Published: 6/9/2021
The Maine House passed a bill to bar foreign government-owned companies from spending on state ballot questions after a Canadian energy company dumped millions of dollars into the Central Maine Power corridor referendum fight last year. The proposed ban gained momentum following the spending by Hydro Quebec, a Canadian energy company, to influence potential ballot questions about the corridor. After a first referendum on the corridor was declared unconstitutional last year, corridor opponents mounted a second petition this year aiming to halt the transmission line’s construction.
Maryland – Baltimore Spending Board Approves New Travel Expense Rules for Elected Officials
Baltimore Sun – Phil Davis | Published: 6/9/2021
Baltimore’s spending board approved a new expense policy for elected officials, adopting rules recommended by a city work group after an investigation into State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s travel costs. Elected officials must now seek the Board of Estimates’ approval for travel expenses of $100 or more if a third party is paying the costs. Officials also have to disclose details, including the purpose of a trip and who is paying.
Michigan – Gabe Leland Gets 2.5 Years of Probation on Misconduct in Office Charge
Detroit News – Sarah Rahal | Published: 6/7/2021
Former Detroit City Councilperson Gabe Leland was sentenced to two-and-a-half years of probation after pleading guilty to a state misconduct in office charge. He was accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 in cash and free car repairs from a businessperson in exchange for his vote on a land deal. The allegations resulted in an indictment on federal bribery charges in addition to the felony misconduct in office charge, but the federal charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Michigan – House OKs Ethics Reform with Financial Disclosure, Lobby Limits
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 6/9/2021
Amid debate over whether the legislation went far enough, the Michigan House passed 13 bills and one joint resolution that proponents hope will boost transparency and ethics among lawmakers. The bills seek to create an ethics committee in each chamber, require confidential financial disclosures from members, and prevent legislators and senior administration officials from lobbying for two years after leaving office. The package moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has expressed concerns that financial disclosure requirements could discourage people from running for office.
New Jersey – Stunning Development in Big N.J. Corruption Case as Judge Tosses Charges Against Former Candidate
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/3/2021
In a major setback for prosecutors, the bribery and corruption case against Jason O’Donnell, a former New Jersey Assembly member who was running for Bayonne mayor, was thrown out of court as a judge found O’Donnell committed no crime. The judge said O’Donnell had no power to make any promises in return for a $10,000 cash payment he allegedly accepted from an informant during an undercover sting operation. O’Donnell and four other candidates and officials were accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and cash payoffs from an attorney seeking promises of lucrative tax and real estate work.
New Mexico – Citizen Lawmakers Find Work in New Cannabis Industry
New Mexico Political Report – Andy Lyman | Published: 6/6/2021
Even prior to the passage of the Cannabis Regulation Act in New Mexico, a handful of consulting and legal firms specializing in cannabis regulations and law existed. But since the law was approved, there are at least three elected officials who are currently, or plan to, sell their knowledge to those interested in getting in at the ground floor of what is expected to become a booming new industry. That raises questions about the ethics of state and local lawmakers selling their services in an industry they sometimes have a hand at creating.
New York – She’s Running for New York City Council. But Newspapers Won’t Publish Her Photo.
Politico – Hannah Dreyfus | Published: 6/9/2021
Amber Adler is the first Orthodox Jewish woman to run for city council in her Brooklyn district, which includes ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. As she heads toward the June 22 primary, Adler is a victim of a recent trend among Jewish media outlets in Orthodox neighborhoods in the U.S. – a refusal to publish photographs of women and girls for religious reasons. Which means if Adler wants campaign ads printed in the Jewish news, she cannot be in most of them. Adler is butting up against expectations that Orthodox women do not assume positions of communal authority.
North Carolina – Raleigh Mayor Sits Out Development Hearings to Avoid Conflict of Interest
Yahoo News – Anna Johnson (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 6/4/2021
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin recused herself twice from a recent city council meeting due to potential conflicts-of-interest involving her employer. The mayor did not participate in a public hearing on a proposed development because her employer, Barnhill Contracting, began working on the project in 2019. Baldwin was hired as the director of business development for Barnhill’s Triangle and Streamline Divisions in May 2020. She faced criticism for accepting the job soon after the construction company received a $6.3 million city contract.
North Dakota – Above Board or ‘Pay to Play’? Firm That Guides North Dakota’s $19.4B Portfolio Comes Under Fire
Grand Forks Herald – Patrick Springer | Published: 5/31/2021
Questions have been raised about potential conflicts-of-interest involving a financial adviser that recommends fund managers for North Dakota’s $19.4 billion investment portfolio. A firm called Callan, whose advisory role has been described as a “manager of managers,” received payments from 12 of the 14 companies that manage the investments for the Legacy Fund, the state’s oil tax savings account. As the North Dakota State Investment Board’s leading financial adviser, Callan plays an influential role in advising the board on selecting fund management firms for the Legacy Fund, public employee pension funds, and state insurance funds.
Ohio – Ohio Public Corruption Cases Could Be Tried in Defendants’ Home Counties, Under GOP Proposal
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/9/2021
A state lawmaker is seeking to remove the Franklin County prosecutor’s exclusive authority to try Ohio public corruption cases, just months after a Democrat was elected to the position for the first time in nearly 60 years. An amendment to a bill would allow lawmakers, candidates, and political groups accused of violating state law to choose to be tried in their home counties, rather than in Franklin County as current law requires. The proposal comes amid the House Bill 6 scandal, in which ex-Speaker Larry Householder and allies are facing federal charges they received $60 million in bribe money to pass a bailout of two nuclear power plants.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Faces Expulsion in Assault on State Capitol
Associated Press News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 6/8/2021
A state lawmaker faces being expelled from office after a video emerged apparently showing him choreographing how he would let far-right protesters into the closed Oregon Capitol days before he did so in December. The crowd entered the building during an emergency legislative session, and some sprayed chemical irritants at police. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek recently introduced a resolution that would have the House expel Rep. Mike Nearman if two-thirds of its members vote in favor. She appointed a committee to consider the matter.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Vote to Defund Forest Research Institute over Lobbying Scandal
Yahoo News – Tim Gruver (The Center Square) | Published: 6/9/2021
Oregon House members voted to pull the plug on a public agency accused of playing fast and loose with its ethical standards in its business with the timber industry. The bill redirects millions of dollars from the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) to the Oregon Department of Forestry. A recent media investigation found the taxpayer-funded OFRI attempted to discredit state-sponsored climate research without merit. In 2018, investigators found the OFRI organized a campaign to tarnish an Oregon State University study that concluded the state could cut its carbon footprint if it felled trees on private land less often.
Pennsylvania – How the National Push by Trump Allies to Audit 2020 Ballots Started Quietly in Pennsylvania
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2021
A push to conduct unofficial election audits in Pennsylvania served as a last-ditch effort by allies of former President Trump to undercut Joe Biden’s win after failing in the courts and Legislature. The lobbying foreshadowed a playbook now in use in Arizona and increasingly being sought in other communities as Trump supporters clamor for reviews of the ballots cast last fall, citing false claims the vote was corrupted by fraud. Trump’s backers argue any evidence of problems they uncover will prove the election system is vulnerable and could have been manipulated to help Biden. The audits are being pushed by an affiliation of GOP lawmakers, lawyers, and self-described election experts, backed by private fundraising campaigns whose donors are unknown.
Washington – Seattle Times Sues City of Seattle over Durkan’s Missing Text Messages During Protests
Seattle Times – Asia Fields | Published: 6/4/2021
The Seattle Times filed a lawsuit alleging the city of Seattle mishandled requests from reporters for officials’ text messages during a tumultuous period last summer when police abandoned the a precinct and used tear gas on protesters. The complaint follows a whistleblower investigation that found Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office violated state public records laws in its handling of requests after discovering the mayor’s texts were missing for a 10-month period. The newspaper claims the city violated the Public Records Act by withholding or destroying the mayor’s records after they were requested.
Wyoming – Inside the Campaign-Finance ‘End Run’ That Earned GOP an FEC Fine
WyoFile.com – Nick Reynolds | Published: 6/4/2021
The Wyoming Republican Party secretly supported a 2016 Trump campaign “end run” around donation limitations without securing requisite authorization, according to a former official. The violation, which resulted in a $52,000 fine, cited the party’s failure to meet reporting deadlines for a series of unusual transfers between the Republican National Committee, the state GOP, and the Trump Victory Fund PAC, according to the party’s then-treasure, Doug Chamberlain. But Chamberlain, who was responsible for signing off on all the state GOP’s financial activities and FEC compliance, said he was unaware of the arrangement.
June 9, 2021 •
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill to allow PACs to give state Senate candidates $25,400 over a four-year election period. Senate Bill 1120 requires the PAC limits for Senate candidates to reset every two years in the same manner […]
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill to allow PACs to give state Senate candidates $25,400 over a four-year election period.
Senate Bill 1120 requires the PAC limits for Senate candidates to reset every two years in the same manner as they do for House candidates.
This will double the previous PAC limit of $12,700 because Senate candidates may receive the entire $25,400 at one time.
The bill is effective immediately.
June 9, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More deadlock than ever” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times Florida: “As Artiles Criminal Case Unfolds, Sham NPA Candidate Agrees to Ethics Violations, Fine” by Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) for MSN […]
National: “Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More deadlock than ever” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times
Florida: “As Artiles Criminal Case Unfolds, Sham NPA Candidate Agrees to Ethics Violations, Fine” by Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) for MSN
National: “GOP Governors Are Cutting Unemployment Aid. Some Have Ties to Businesses That May Benefit.” by Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “Gabe Leland Gets 2.5 Years of Probation on Misconduct in Office Charge” by Sarah Rahal for Detroit News
New Mexico: “Citizen Lawmakers Find Work in New Cannabis Industry” by Andy Lyman for New Mexico Political Report
North Dakota: “Above Board or ‘Pay to Play’? Firm That Guides North Dakota’s $19.4B Portfolio Comes Under Fire” by Patrick Springer for Grand Forks Herald
National: “Democrats Grapple with Way Forward on Biden Agenda After Manchin Throws Up Roadblocks” by Mike DeBonis and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) for MSN
Oregon: “Oregon Lawmaker Faces Expulsion in Assault on State Capitol” by Andrew Selsky for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Chicago’s Ethics Ordinance Infinitely Stronger Than State Version, Top Ethics Officials Say” by Fran Spielman for Chicago Sun-Times
June 8, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “After Hitting Pause, PACs Begin to Press Play Again” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN Wyoming: “Inside the Campaign-Finance ‘End Run’ That Earned GOP an FEC Fine” by Nick Reynolds for WyoFile.com Elections National: “Lack of […]
National: “After Hitting Pause, PACs Begin to Press Play Again” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
Wyoming: “Inside the Campaign-Finance ‘End Run’ That Earned GOP an FEC Fine” by Nick Reynolds for WyoFile.com
National: “Lack of Data on Diverse Electorate Tests Pollsters, Politicians” by Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “How the National Push by Trump Allies to Audit 2020 Ballots Started Quietly in Pennsylvania” by Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Justice Dept. Vows to End Court Orders Seeking Journalists’ Data in Leak Probes” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
California: “Judge and Attorney in Pivotal Newsom Recall Lawsuit Were Former Law Partners” by Phil Willon (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
North Carolina: “Raleigh Mayor Sits Out Development Hearings to Avoid Conflict of Interest” by Anna Johnson (Raleigh News and Observer) for Yahoo News
Connecticut: “‘There Are Certain People That Drink Heavily.’ CT Lawmakers Talk About Alcohol Use in Session” by Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Exelon Lobbyist Leads an Effort to Win a Big Payday for Illinois Lawmakers” by Dave McKinney for WBEZ
June 2, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Steve Chabot’s Ex-Campaign Manager Facing More Than 2 Years in Prison After Guilty Plea” by Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN California: “Multimillionaire Recall Candidate John Cox Owes Consultants from Failed Gubernatorial Bid” by Seema Mehta (Los […]
National: “Steve Chabot’s Ex-Campaign Manager Facing More Than 2 Years in Prison After Guilty Plea” by Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
California: “Multimillionaire Recall Candidate John Cox Owes Consultants from Failed Gubernatorial Bid” by Seema Mehta (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Nevada: “Nevada OKs Bill in Try for 1st Presidential Nominating State” by Michelle Price and Sam Metz for Associated Press News
National: “Court to Name Special Master to Examine Materials Seized from Giuliani” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
Florida: “Florida Sued Over Law to Ban Social Media Content Blocking” by Brendan Farrington for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Package of Government Ethics Reforms Passed by Illinois Legislature, Sent to Pritzker” by Dean Olsen for State Journal-Register
National: “Democrats Grapple with the Enemy Within: What to do about the filibuster rule that could kill their agenda” by Michael Kranish, Mike DeBonis, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Eric Adams Pays for Mayoral Campaign Advice from Lawyers Who Lobby Him” by Greg Smith and Reuven Blau for The City
Texas: “A False Date Rape Drugging Accusation Against a Lobbyist Exposed Claims of His role in the Texas Capitol’s Culture of Sexual Harassment” by Cassandra Pollock for Texas Tribune
June 1, 2021 •
The Illinois Senate passed an ethics omnibus bill early this morning. The bill expands registration requirements under the Lobbyist Registration Act to include lobbying local officials and certain deputy state officials. Senate Bill 539 also prohibits all fundraising statewide during […]
The Illinois Senate passed an ethics omnibus bill early this morning.
The bill expands registration requirements under the Lobbyist Registration Act to include lobbying local officials and certain deputy state officials.
Senate Bill 539 also prohibits all fundraising statewide during legislative sessions and on the day before and after the session.
It is currently only prohibited in Sangamon County.
Expanded revolving door restrictions include a one-year waiting period for anyone who participated personally and substantially in the award or fiscal administration of state contracts and a six-month waiting period for members of the General Assembly and officers of the executive branch.
The bill also requires any consultant hired by a lobbyist or lobbying entity to register and report if they communicate with an official. If signed by the governor, this bill will be effective January 1, 2022.
May 26, 2021 •
On May 24, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate to prohibit political campaigns from using tactics that unwittingly enter donors into recurring contributions. The legislation, Senate Bill 1786, was created in response to a unanimous Federal Election Commission […]
On May 24, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate to prohibit political campaigns from using tactics that unwittingly enter donors into recurring contributions. The legislation, Senate Bill 1786, was created in response to a unanimous Federal Election Commission (FEC) legislative recommendation sent to Congress earlier this month.
Titled the “Rescuing Every Contributor from Unwanted Recurrences” (RECUR) Act, the bill amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to ban political campaigns from using pre-checked recurring donation boxes, to create a new opt-in requirement for contributors to affirmatively consent to recurring charges, and to require political committees or campaigns to inform contributors about how to cancel recurring contributions and to cancel recurring contributions immediately upon request.
May 21, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Administration’s Deep Ties to Uber, Lyft in Spotlight After Vaccine-Assistance Partnership Announced ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Lucien Bruggeman | Published: 5/17/2021 When the White House announced an agreement with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides […]
Biden Administration’s Deep Ties to Uber, Lyft in Spotlight After Vaccine-Assistance Partnership Announced
ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Lucien Bruggeman | Published: 5/17/2021
When the White House announced an agreement with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to vaccine sites as part of President Biden’s aim to inoculate 70 percent of Americans against the coronavirus by the Fourth of July, the partnership drew praise but also questions. The administration touted the arrangement as an answer to one of the vaccine effort’s toughest challenges: how to help people with limited transportation options get their shots. But it is also drawn attention to the role several senior administration officials once played in working and advocating for the rideshare companies, relationships already under scrutiny as the companies wade through government regulations and manage labor disputes.
Democrats Confront Reality on Voting Rights: Congress probably isn’t coming to the rescue
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2021
Asked about the path to enact new voting-rights laws, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer has offered a pat reply: “Failure is not an option.” Faced with a barrage of new state laws aiming to restrict voting outside Election Day, most Democrats agree with Schumer that the need for a federal backstop is essential. But failure is very much an option – it is, in fact, the most likely one. A Senate committee reached a partisan deadlock over Democrats’ overhaul of federal election, ethics, and campaign finance ethics, and campaign finance law, and there is no clear path to breaking it.
Dems Reach New Fundraising Deal, with Boost for GOP States
Associated Press News – Bill Barrow | Published: 5/14/2021
National and state Democratic officials have reached a joint fundraising deal to increase aid to state parties, with an extra boost for those in Republican-dominated states. The agreement is intended to allow the party’s wealthiest backers to contribute up to $875,000 annually to a combined fund that, under federal campaign finance rules, can be distributed to party accounts around the country. The deal is intended to run through 2024.
FBI Probing Possible Illegal Donations to Susan Collins PAC and Congressional Campaign, Search Warrant Indicates
MSN – Emily Davies (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2021
The FBI has launched a probe into possible illegal campaign contributions funded by a defense company that supported U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’s 2020 re-election campaign, according to a search warrant application. Nothing in the warrant indicates Collins or her staff were aware of the allegedly illegal donations. The application outlined reasons investigators believe the former chief executive of Navatek, now known as Martin Defense Group, funneled donations funded by the company to a PAC supporting Collins through a shell company and donations to the Collins for Senator campaign through his family members.
Gaetz Associate Admits to Sex Trafficking of a Minor, Agrees in Writing to Cooperate Fully with Prosecutors
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 5/14/2021
A Florida politician considered key to the investigation of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz agreed to cooperate fully with federal prosecutors as he admitted in a plea agreement that he paid a minor to engage in sex acts with him and others. The agreement Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector for Seminole County, is an ominous sign for Gaetz. Even before he had accepted a plea deal, Greenberg had been outlining to prosecutors how he and Gaetz would pay women for sex, in hopes of convincing them he could be a witness against Gaetz and earn a break for himself.
Government Watchdog Says Fudge Violated Hatch Act
Politico – Daniel Lippman | Published: 5/13/2021
The Office of Special Counsel concluded Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in political activities while on the job, earlier this year when she opined on the 2022 U.S. Senate election in Ohio. When a reporter asked her about the Senate race in her home state, she responded that she had two friends, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who were thinking of running. Both have since launched statewide campaigns, although Whaley is running for governor instead.
Greene Searched Capitol Office Building for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, 2019 Video Shows
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 5/14/2021
Less than two years before Marjorie Taylor Greene became a member of Congress, she walked the halls of a congressional office building with a few men searching for a new Democratic congresswoman from New York named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A deleted video from February 2019 shows Greene arriving at Ocasio-Cortez’s office door to find it locked. She, and the men with her, then taunt her staff through a mail slot and defile her guest book, all while mocking Ocasio-Cortez.
Inspired by Arizona Recount, Trump Loyalists Push to Revisit Election Results in Communities Around the Country
MSN – Amy Gardner and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/19/2021
The ramifications of former President Trump’s ceaseless attacks on the 2020 election are increasingly visible throughout the country. In emails, phone calls, and public meetings, his supporters are questioning how their elections are administered and pressing public officials to revisit the vote count, wrongly insisting Trump won the presidential race. Behind the scenes, a loose network of lawyers, self-styled election experts, and political groups is bolstering community efforts by demanding audits, filing lawsuits, and pushing unsubstantiated claims that residents are echoing in public meetings.
Manchester’s Political Contributions, Ambassador Nod Are Subject of Criminal Probe
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 5/14/2021
A federal grand jury issued subpoenas in a criminal investigation into the nomination of developer Douglas Manchester as ambassador to the Bahamas by former President Trump. The case appears to focus on the Republican National Committee (RNC) and its two senior leaders, and possibly members of Congress. Weeks after Manchester withdrew his nomination, emails surfaced indicating he was at the center of a possible “pay-to-play” arrangement with the RNC. CBS News disclosed exchanges between RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel and Manchester that implied he would make additional donations to the GOP after winning confirmation.
This Biden Pick Has Worked for Top Offshore Wind Firms. Now He’s Poised to Help Oversee the Industry.
Anchorage Daily News – Joshua Partlow and Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2021
Tommy Beaudreau spent the Trump years as a corporate lawyer working for energy companies of all stripes, including many of the developers that are key to the Biden administration’s goal of building thousands of offshore wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean. Beaudreau is now poised to be confirmed as the number-two official at the Interior Department, which will decide whether these projects should receive federal permits to start construction after evaluating their environmental impact. Although some environmental groups have criticized him for his corporate work for fossil fuel companies, it is his private practice work for a wide swath of the offshore wind industry that may force him to sit out key decisions.
Three GOP Lawmakers Fined $500 for Defying House Mask Rules Amid Republican Backlash: ‘Worth it.’
MSN – Andrea Salcedco (Washington Post) | Published: 5/19/2021
As the U.S. House finished voting recently, a group of Republicans gathered on the floor, smiled, and huddled for a selfie. None wore masks. They were among about a dozen Republican lawmakers who openly defied the decision by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to keep a mask mandate on the floor until all lawmakers and staff are vaccinated. Now three of those GOP lawmakers – Brian Mast, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a physician, and Beth Van Duyne – face $500 fines for breaking the rules. All three were fined because this was the second time that they defied the mask mandate.
White House Releases Biden’s Tax Returns in Restoration of Presidential Tradition
CNN – Jason Hoffman, Maegan Vazquez, and Allie Malloy | Published: 5/17/2021
The White House released the 2020 tax returns for both President Biden and Vice President Harris, restoring a presidential tradition that had been ignored under former President Trump. The White House also released the first and second families’ financial public financial disclosure reports. Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to give a veiled criticism of Biden’s predecessor, telling reporters that the White House expects to “continue to release the president’s tax returns as should be expected of all presidents.”
Canada – Trudeau Cleared in WE Charity Controversy, but Ethics Commissioner Finds Morneau Broke the Rules
Globe and Mail – Bill Curry and Marieke Walsh | Published: 5/13/2021
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was cleared in the ethics commissioner’s investigation into the WE Charity controversy, but former Finance Minister Bill Morneau was found in breach of the Conflict of Interest Act. Commissioner Mario Dion released the two reports almost a year after the scandal erupted, leading to multiple probes by House of Commons committees and officers of Parliament, the resignation of a finance minister and the downfall of one of Canada’s most prominent charities.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Our Democracy Is Imperiled’: Maricopa County officials decry 2020 recount as a sham and call on Arizona Republicans to end the process
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/17/2021
The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors denounced an ongoing audit of the 2020 election vote as a “sham” and a “con,” calling on the GOP-led state Senate to end the controversial recount that has been championed by former President Trump. Board members said the audit has been inept, promoted falsehoods, and defamed the public servants who ran the fall election. In a calculated show of unity, they were joined by Maricopa’s other elected officials: the sheriff, a Democrat; and the Republican county recorder, who leads the elections office.
California – After French Laundry Dinner, a Lobbying Boom for Newsom Adviser’s Firm
MSN – Alexei Koseff (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 5/19/2021
An uncomfortable spotlight shone on lobbyist Jason Kinney last year after he hosted an infamous birthday dinner attended by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The event violated California’s social distancing rules at the time and unleashed a political storm for Newsom. But the notoriety may have boosted Kinney’s fortunes in an industry where personal connections are the primary currency. Billings by lobbying firm Axiom Advisors, where Kinney is a partner, rose by more than 25 percent last quarter. Among more than 60 clients on the company’s roster during those three months, nine had newly hired Axiom Advisors to lobby on their behalf.
California – California Recall Candidates Use Auto-Donation Tactic Trump Made Famous
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 5/17/2021
California recall candidates are charging donors recurring campaign contributions through a tactic made famous by former President Trump and condemned by the FEC. Republican contenders Caitlyn Jenner and Doug Ose have preset their donation pages to charge repeat contributions every month as well as a “May Money Pledge” bonus contribution. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s re-election page at one point defaulted to a recurring donation as well, though it no longer does. Consumer advocates and campaign finance officials say the tactic misleads donors into giving more money than they intend because they must uncheck boxes to ensure they are not regularly charged. Automatic deductions can be difficult to stop once they begin.
California – How Donors Give Millions to Garcetti-Backed Nonprofit and Keep Their Identities Secret
Yahoo News – Dakota Smith and Melody Gutierrez (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/13/2021
An analysis of more than $60 million given to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s charity fund found at least $3.8 million came from those who donated through accounts that mask their identity. Open-government groups say charitable gifts made on behalf of elected officials may go to worthy causes, but it remains critical to identify where the gifts come from to ensure the public knows the donor’s background. In some cases, companies that donate at the request of elected officials have business before the state or local governments, such as contracts or regulatory decisions.
California – Nuru Scandal: Permit expediter Walter Wong to repay SF $1.7M
San Francisco Examiner – Joshua Sabatini | Published: 5/13/2021
Longtime permit expediter and city contractor Walter Wong agreed to repay San Francisco more than $1.7 million in money earned through public contracts plus penalties after he pleaded guilty to federal charges tied to the FBI City Hall corruption probe. Wong will repay The City $1.45 million for contracts and grants he and his companies were awarded without a competitive process through his relationships with former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru and former general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Harlan Kelly. Wong also agreed to pay $317,650 in penalties and late fees for ethics violations.
Florida – New Florida Law Strikes Down Tallahassee Contribution Limits in Local Races
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 5/14/2021
Leon County and Tallahassee’s $250 campaign contribution limit is no more after the Florida Legislature preempted local governments’ ability to put a cap on how much an individual can give to candidates. Senate Bill 1890 was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis but will not go into effect until July 1. It raises the campaign contribution for city and countywide offices, as well as local judicial seats to $1,000 per donor. It also increases statewide contribution limits to $3,000.
Idaho – Advocates: Giddings should be held accountable for doxxing Jane Doe
Idaho Press – Eric Sheridan | Published: 5/18/2021
A crowd gathered on the steps of the statehouse to call for Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings to be held accountable for sharing the personal details of the 19-year-old who accused former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger of raping her. Von Ehlinger resigned following a committee hearing, where he was found to have engaged in behavior “unbecoming” of a representative. Prior to the hearing, Giddings twice published a link to a blog that named the 19-year-old. Jane Doe’s photograph and other personal information have since circulated, causing local advocacy groups to call for the Legislature, U.S. Air Force, and Idaho Air National Guard to hold Giddings accountable and remove her from leadership roles.
Illinois – With Weeks of Session Left, Dueling Ethics Bills Stalling Despite Multiple Corruption Scandals
Bloomington Pantagraph – Ben Szalinski (State Journal Register) | Published: 5/17/2021
Since Illinois lawmakers last had a full spring session in 2019, four one-time state lawmakers have been arrested on corruption charges. Three resigned after being charged, and federal investigators pursued charges on other individuals with close connections to the statehouse and the former House speaker. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle stressed the need for ethics reform following the scandals, yet no legislation that directly addresses the actions of their former colleagues has reached floor debate.
Iowa – Iowa Democrats File Ethics Complaints Accusing Heritage Action of Illegal Lobbying
MSN – Stephanie Gruber-Miler (Des Moines Register) | Published: 5/18/2021
Iowa House Democrats filed ethics complaints accusing two Heritage Action representatives of violating state lobbying law. In a leaked video, the national conservative group claimed credit for writing parts of a recently approved election law in Iowa. The complaints accuse the Heritage Action staffers of violated the law by failing to register as lobbyists and failing to declare on a bill prior to advocating for its passage. The Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board also sent a letter to the group asking for information on its lobbying efforts.
Louisiana – Louisiana May Soon Lift Campaign Finance Limits on PACs
Associated Press News – Melinda Deslatte | Published: 5/19/2021
Candidates in Louisiana would be able to take unlimited sums directly from PACs under a bill that moved nearer to final passage. Sen. Ed Price said he sponsored the legislation to do away with restrictions on contributions that largely come from special interest groups as “more of a transparency bill than anything.” He said candidates trying to get around the limits have created multiple PACs of their own to accept the cash to help them with races. He said that makes it harder for the public to track the donations and see who is contributing to a candidate’s election effort.
Maryland – Legislation Will Extend State Rules on Gift-Giving to MACo and MML
Maryland Matters – Bennett Leckrone | Published: 5/17/2021
Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill that will ban state officials and employees from retaliating against someone who reports a violation of Maryland’s ethics law or participates in an ethics investigation. Senate Bill 4 will also close a loophole in the state’s rules on gifts to lawmakers by extending those rules to the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties. Senate President Bill Ferguson’s chief of staff, Yaakov Weissmann, said the amendment was introduced to ensure the state’s ethics law applies evenly to all organizations. He said the issue was first brought to Ferguson’s attention when lobbying firms raised questions about how to conduct virtual events due to the pandemic.
Massachusetts – An ‘Army of 16-Year-Olds’ Takes on the Democrats
New York Times – Ellen Barry | Published: 5/19/2021
Calla Walsh is a leader in the group of activists known in Boston as the Markeyverse. Walsh, a 16-year-old high school junior, is also representative of an influential new force in Democratic politics, activists who cut their teeth on the presidential campaigns of U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The full strength of these activists, many of whom are not old enough to vote, did not become clear until last fall, when they were key to one of the year’s most surprising upsets, helping U.S. Sen. Edward Markey defeat a primary challenge from Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, who had been heavily favored to win.
Massachusetts – Jury Convicts Ex-Fall River Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II of Extortion, Wire Fraud, Filing False Tax Returns
MSN – Shelley Murphy (Boston Globe) | Published: 5/14/2021
Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was convicted of stealing money from investors in his start-up to bankroll his lavish lifestyle and soliciting bribes from marijuana vendors who wanted to operate in the city. Before Correia became mayor, prosecutors say he lured investors to support his app called “SnoOwl” by falsely claiming he previously sold another business for a big profit. Prosecutors say he used nearly two-thirds of the almost $400,000 he took from investors on himself and spent it on things like fancy hotels, casinos, high-end restaurants, and expensive gifts for his girlfriend.
Michigan – Gov. Whitmer Discloses Cost of Trip to Visit Her Father and How It Was Paid For
MSN – Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 5/14/2021
A nonprofit corporation paid most of the $27,521 cost of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s contentious private plane trip to visit her father. Whitmer used her personal funds to pay the $855 cost of her seat. That was calculated as the comparable cost of a first-class ticket, said gubernatorial spokesperson Tiffany Brown. The disclosures followed weeks of criticism of Whitmer for refusing to say when she left the state to visit her father during the coronavirus pandemic, at a time that Michigan residents were being cautioned about travel.
Montana – MT Supreme Court Rejects AG Request to Disqualify Itself in Email Case
KTVH – Mike Dennison | Published: 5/12/2021
A unanimous Montana Supreme Court rejected a request by state Attorney General Austin Knudsen to disqualify all seven of its justices from the case involving its internal documents and alleged bias. Justice Laurie McKinnon, writing for the court, said the Republican-led Legislature “manufactured a conflict” by issuing subpoenas to the justices, seeking the documents, and attacking a court or judge is not sufficient grounds to force them to step down from the case. She said it is the court’s job to decide the legality of the legislative subpoenas and stepping aside would be shirking its constitutional duty.
New York – Investigation of Trump Organization Now Exploring Possible Criminal Conduct, N.Y. Attorney General’s Office Says
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2021
New York Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation into the Trump Organization is now considered a criminal matter, her office said, noting officials with the former president’s company were recently apprised of the development. The attorney general’s notification to the Trump Organization suggested a cooperative relationship has developed between investigators working for James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., whose office has been heading a criminal probe into the company and its officers since 2018.
New York – NYC Comptroller Candidate Dave Weprin’s Use of Campaign Cash to Pay Fine Is ‘Not Permissible’: Election lawyer
MSN – Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 5/18/2021
New York City comptroller candidate and state Assemblyperson David Weprin took seven years to fully pay off a six-figure debt to the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and when he finally did, he used money raised through his state political fund. CFB documents Weprin signed to qualify for matching funds require he and others affiliated with his city campaign acknowledge personal responsibility for any fines incurred. That, said election lawyer John Ciampoli, could pose a legal problem for Weprin because while state election law allows candidates to use state campaign finance cash to pay off fines in connection to an election, it does not permit them to do so to pay down personal liabilities.
New York – What’s a ‘Bundler,’ And How Are They Bringing Money to the Mayoral Race?
Gothamist – David Cruz | Published: 5/18/2021
Two dozen people who are limited from contributing to New York City mayoral candidates because of their business ties with the city are legally circumventing those restrictions by serving as so-called bundlers. So far, campaign records show the campaigns of Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, and Scott Stringer are among the candidates in this election cycle who have received thousands of dollars in donations on behalf of bundlers. Experts say that while permissible, such an arrangement, which has been criticized by the city Campaign Finance Board, allows bundlers to boost their chances of getting facetime with those primed to acquire power.
North Carolina – Powerful NC Politician Who Stole from GOP Donors Shouldn’t Go to Prison, Feds Say
MSN – Will Doran (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 5/19/2021
One of the most powerful lawmakers in North Carolina likely will not be spending any time behind bars for a campaign finance scheme that prosecutors say he ran to defraud conservative donors. Federal prosecutors recommended only probation for former state Rep. David Lewis, who could have faced up to 30 years in prison. Lewis pleaded guilty to multiple federal crimes last year and gave back the money he took, rather than trying to fight the case at trial, which prosecutors said contributed to their decision to go easy on him.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Attorneys: Political donations in federal bribery probe are protected by the First Amendment
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/19/2021
FirstEnergy wants to dismiss a lawsuit brought by shareholders alleging securities fraud, saying the company’s political donations were protected by the First Amendment. FirstEnergy has been under scrutiny since it was alleged former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others engaged in a $61 million bribery scheme to pass a bailout for two nuclear plants, then owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, and defend that law against a ballot initiative. A FirstEnergy subsidiary donated most of that money. “At most, the complaint alleges that Householder received contributions, but it is not bribery to support politicians who favor policies that align with one’s interests,” FirstEnergy attorneys wrote in a court motion.
Ohio – Ohio Democrats and Republicans Seek More Transparency for Dark Money Politics
MSN – Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 5/14/2021
In the wake of the largest public corruption case in Ohio history, lawmakers are pushing bills that call for more transparency for “dark money” in politics. State Reps. Diane Grendell and Mark Fraizer introduced House Bill 13, which they call the Light of Day Bill. The bill would require 501(c)4 nonprofit organizations to disclose political spending and donors.
Pennsylvania – At the Pa. Turnpike Commission, Layoffs and Other Big Business Largely Decided Behind Closed Doors
MSN – Jonathan Silver (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) | Published: 5/17/2021
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission meets mostly behind closed doors and fails to deliberate in public while making critical decisions that impact the lives of millions of people. Though some meetings are exempt from the public, the termination of a quarter of the agency’s workforce last year amounted to the type of decision that should have been carried out in the open, say legal experts. The five commissioners for years have approved major expenditures, from billion-dollar bond issues to large contracts, while following a similar pattern: closed-door meetings followed by brief public voting sessions with no debate and few dissenting opinions.
Pennsylvania – FBI Probe of Massive Pa. Pension Fund Seeks Evidence of Kickbacks or Bribery
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) and Joseph DiStefano and Craig McCoy (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 5/14/2021
Federal prosecutors investigating Pennsylvania’s $64 billion public school pension fund are looking for evidence of kickbacks or bribery as they explore why the plan exaggerated investment returns and spent heavily to amass real estate in Harrisburg. Subpoenas demand information from the fund itself, its executive director, and at least three other senior officials. The documents lay bare the scope of the probe and reveal prosecutors and the FBI are investigating possible “honest services” fraud and wire fraud.
Pennsylvania – Pa.’s Top Two Republicans Announce Plans for Lobbying Reform, But Is It Enough?
Pennsylvania Capital-Star – Marley Parish | Published: 5/17/2021
A new package of bills could tighten the guidelines for Pennsylvania lobbyists. Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and House Speaker Bryan Cutler unveiled plans to draft legislation and build on the state’s existing law by regulating lobbyists’ influence and establishing a code of conduct. Under the proposal, lobbyists would be required to disclose and register any client conflicts and potential assets and complete annual ethics training. Campaign consultants, who also would be required to register, would be prevented from registering as lobbyists and lobbying elected officials for two years.
Pennsylvania – The Hidden Tab
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis, Mike Wereschagin, Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch | Published: 5/12/2021
The Pennsylvania Legislature spent $203 million from 2017 through 2020 to feed, house, transport, and provide rental offices and other perks for lawmakers and their staffs. About $20 million in all over the four years went directly into lawmakers’ pockets in the form of reimbursements for meals, mileage subsidies, per diems, and other expenses. It is a difficult, time-consuming, and potentially costly process to figure out what lawmakers are buying with taxpayer money. Though spending records are public upon request, legislative officials do not provide the information in an easy-to-use format. Often, key details are redacted.
Tennessee – Registry Director Now Questions Whether State Law Allowed Ketron Payment Plan
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 5/20/2021
A month after the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance authorized its executive director to negotiate a payment plan with Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron on a $135,000 civil penalty, Bill Young, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, is raising doubts about whether such a move would have been legal. The question could be moot, at least for now, after Ketron’s attorney told Young the mayor is withdrawing his request to set up a payment plan and will pay the entire $135,000 in a lump sum.
Tennessee – Tennessee to Rebid $123M Contract Amid Rigging Accusations
Associated Press News – Travis Loller | Published: 5/10/2021
The Tennessee Department of Correction said it will rebid a $123 million contract for behavioral health services after a lawsuit accused a state official of rigging the bidding process. Tennessee-based prison contractor Corizon claims the Correction Department’s former chief financial officer, Wesley Landers sent internal emails related to the contract to a vice president at Centurion of Tennessee. In return, Landers got a “cushy” job with a Centurion affiliate in Georgia, the lawsuit claims.
Wisconsin – A ‘Community for All’? Not So Fast, This Wisconsin County Says
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 5/18/2021
There was a yearlong debate over whether Marathon County, Wisconsin, should declare itself “a community for all.” When George Floyd was killed, communities and businesses engaged in a reckoning over social justice, diversity, and inclusion. But while scores of other communities adopted new policies and issued proclamations vowing to make progress, the residents of Marathon County, which is 91 percent white, could not agree on what to say. About the only consensus that has emerged is the prolonged fight over the phrase has only made things worse, ripping at the communal fabric in this central Wisconsin county and amplifying the tensions that had been simmering before Floyd’s death.
May 20, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “FBI Probing Possible Illegal Donations to Susan Collins PAC and Congressional Campaign, Search Warrant Indicates” by Emily Davies (Washington Post) for MSN New York: “NYC Comptroller Candidate Dave Weprin’s Use of Campaign Cash to Pay Fine Is […]
National: “FBI Probing Possible Illegal Donations to Susan Collins PAC and Congressional Campaign, Search Warrant Indicates” by Emily Davies (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “NYC Comptroller Candidate Dave Weprin’s Use of Campaign Cash to Pay Fine Is ‘Not Permissible’: Election lawyer” by Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) for MSN
Ohio: “FirstEnergy Attorneys: Political donations in federal bribery probe are protected by the First Amendment” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Massachusetts: “An ‘Army of 16-Year-Olds’ Takes on the Democrats” by Ellen Barry for New York Times
National: “This Biden Pick Has Worked for Top Offshore Wind Firms. Now He’s Poised to Help Oversee the Industry.” by Joshua Partlow and Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
Idaho: “Advocates: Giddings should be held accountable for doxxing Jane Doe” by Eric Sheridan for Idaho Press
New York: “Investigation of Trump Organization Now Exploring Possible Criminal Conduct, N.Y. Attorney General’s Office Says” by Shayna Jacobs and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Three GOP Lawmakers Fined $500 for Defying House Mask Rules Amid Republican Backlash: ‘Worth it.’” by Andrea Salcedco (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “After French Laundry Dinner, a Lobbying Boom for Newsom Adviser’s Firm” by Alexei Koseff (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
May 18, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Manchester’s Political Contributions, Ambassador Nod Are Subject of Criminal Probe” by Jeff McDonald for San Diego Union Tribune New York: “How Eric Adams, Mayoral Candidate, Mixed Money and Political Ambition” by Michael Rothfeld for New York Times […]
National: “Manchester’s Political Contributions, Ambassador Nod Are Subject of Criminal Probe” by Jeff McDonald for San Diego Union Tribune
New York: “How Eric Adams, Mayoral Candidate, Mixed Money and Political Ambition” by Michael Rothfeld for New York Times
National: “Democrats Confront Reality on Voting Rights: Congress probably isn’t coming to the rescue” by Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Government Watchdog Says Fudge Violated Hatch Act” by Daniel Lippman for Politico
California: “Nuru Scandal: Permit expediter Walter Wong to repay SF $1.7M” by Joshua Sabatini for San Francisco Examiner
Michigan: “Gov. Whitmer Discloses Cost of Trip to Visit Her Father and How It Was Paid For” by Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “At the Pa. Turnpike Commission, Layoffs and Other Big Business Largely Decided Behind Closed Doors” by Jonathan Silver (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) for MSN
Tennessee: “Tennessee to Rebid $123M Contract Amid Rigging Accusations” by Travis Loller for Associated Press News
Montana: “MT Supreme Court Rejects AG Request to Disqualify Itself in Email Case” by Mike Dennison for KTVH
May 14, 2021 •
National/Federal ‘A Perpetual Motion Machine’: How disinformation drives voting laws New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 5/13/2021 Former President Trump’s months-long campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election did not overturn the results. But his unfounded claims shattered his supporters’ […]
‘A Perpetual Motion Machine’: How disinformation drives voting laws
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 5/13/2021
Former President Trump’s months-long campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election did not overturn the results. But his unfounded claims shattered his supporters’ trust in the electoral system, laying the foundation for numerous Republican-led bills pushing more restrictive voter rules. The bills demonstrate how disinformation can take on a life of its own, forming a feedback loop that shapes policy for years to come. When promoted with sufficient intensity, falsehoods, whether about election security or other topics, can shape voters’ attitudes toward policies, and lawmakers can cite those attitudes as the basis for major changes.
An Influential PAC Group Is Telling Businesses to Restart Political Donations, Including to GOP Lawmakers Who Voted to Overturn the Election Results
MSN – Grace Dean (Business Insider) | Published: 5/12/2021
Corporations that temporarily stopped political donations after the January 6 Capitol riot are being urged to restart contributions by a trade association that advises companies’ PACs, according to a report. The National Association of Business PACs (NABPAC) has encouraged its members to “move beyond” the siege by restarting donations. The group’s membership includes more than 250 corporate PACs. It was reported that NABPAC hosted a webinar in March with Republican strategist Michael DuHaime, who advised companies on how to restart donations, and how to communicate this with the public, given that there would be “fallout.”
Cheney Booted from Republican Leadership Spot
Politico – Melanie Zanona and Olivia Beavers | Published: 5/12/2021
House Republicans voted quickly to remove Liz Cheney as their third-ranking leader over her repeated criticism of former President Trump, a shakeup that ties the party tighter to Trump and threatens to create a new litmus test in the GOP. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his top deputies complained that Cheney’s constant readiness to call out Trump’s lies about the 2020 election was a distraction that prevented the party from unifying around a cohesive message to win back the House next year. U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a moderate turned Trump ally, is the only candidate running to replace Cheney.
FARA Filings Spotlight Giuliani’s Foreign Entanglements Amid Probe
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 5/7/2021
Federal investigators executed search warrants as part of a probe into Rudolph Giuliani and whether he may have acted as an unregistered foreign agent while serving as the personal lawyer to former President Trump. The search warrants suggest the investigation is concentrating on his dealings in Ukraine, including whether he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Giuliani has come under scrutiny for “shadow lobbying” for foreign clients but never registering. Anyone who engages in “quasi-political activities” covered by FARA on behalf of a foreign principal could be required to register. The broad range of activities that would trigger this requirement includes more than just direct lobbying.
FEC Quietly Finds Consensus Despite Hush-Money Dispute
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/7/2021
The FEC voted to close an investigation into whether former President Trump violated election law by making hush-money payments during the 2016 election. Watchdogs panned the decision, which went against the advice of the FEC’s top lawyer, saying it reaffirms the agency’s inability to enforce the law. Still, the FEC found consensus on key issues at its recent meeting. The agency unanimously approved a series of legislative recommendations, calling on Congress to crack down on deceptive default recurring donations and so-called scam PACs.
House Democrats and White House Reach Deal Over Testimony by Ex-Trump Aide
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 5/11/2021
The Biden administration and House Democrats have reached a tentative deal to allow Donald Trump’s former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to testify before Congress about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia inquiry. The deal appears likely to avert a definitive court precedent that would draw a clear line in ambiguous areas: the scope and limits of Congress’s constitutional power to compel testimony for its oversight responsibilities, and a president’s constitutional power to keep secret conversations with a White House lawyer.
Rep. Greene Aggressively Confronts Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Causing New York Congresswoman to Raise Security Concerns
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2021
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene aggressively confronted Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and falsely accused her of supporting “terrorists,” leading Ocasio-Cortez’s office to call on leadership to ensure Congress remains “a safe, civil place for all Members and staff.” Two reporters witnessed Ocasio-Cortez exit the House chamber ahead of Greene, who shouted “Hey Alexandria” twice to get her attention. When Ocasio-Cortez did not stop walking, Greene picked up her pace and began shouting at her and asking why she supports antifa and Black Lives Matter, falsely labeling them “terrorist” groups. Greene also shouted that Ocasio-Cortez was failing to defend her “radical socialist” beliefs by declining to publicly debate her.
Trump Justice Department Secretly Obtained Post Reporters’ Phone Records
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 5/7/2021
The Justice Department under former President Trump secretly seized the phone records of three Washington Post reporters who covered the federal investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The disclosure sets up a new clash between the federal government and news organizations and advocates for press freedom, who regard the seizures of reporters’ records as incursions into constitutionally protected newsgathering activity. Similar actions have occurred only rarely over the past decade. The action is presumably aimed at identifying the reporters’ sources as federal investigators scrutinized whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to sway the election.
White House Lifts Secrecy of Visitor Logs Cloaked by Trump
MSN – Jennifer Epstein (Bloomberg) | Published: 5/7/2021
President Biden’s White House released its first set of records detailing visits by official guests, returning to a practice set by the Obama administration and dismissed by the Trump team. The White House disclosed 400 visits during Biden’s first 12 days in office. While hundreds of visitors might have been to the White House complex on an ordinary pre-pandemic day, the sparse logs from the start of the Biden presidency show just how limited in-person activities have been.
Wide Splits Evident on Voting and Campaign Finance as Senate Panel Takes Up Overhaul
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 5/11/2021
Republicans and Democrats on an evenly divided U.S. Senate committee demonstrated how far apart they are on political spending, voting, campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws as they debated a sweeping 800-page bill. Charges of Democrats trying to grab power and allegations that Republicans in statehouses were seeking to disenfranchise minority voters mixed in with debates over how to mandate financial disclosure for political ads without imposing unconstitutional limits on free speech, and how to make voting easier without opening the door to bad actors who could game the system.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – 15 Years After VECO Scandal, Stevens’ New Oil Job Renews Old Ethics Questions
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 5/11/2021
In 2007, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin signed ethics reforms into law, in what she touted as a necessary response to a corruption scandal that ensnared several state lawmakers. Among the lawmakers investigated in that scandal was then-Senate President Ben Stevens. His Senate office was twice searched by the FBI, and two oil industry executives said they had paid him bribes. Stevens always denied wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime. Now, Stevens is now renewing questions about those same ethics laws in his new job as an executive at oil company ConocoPhillips, a position he started three days after leaving one of the most powerful jobs in state government: Chief of staff to Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Arizona – Arizona Makes It Easier to Purge Some from Early Voting List
Associated Press News – Jonathan Cooper | Published: 5/11/2021
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation purging infrequent voters from a list of those who automatically get a mail-in ballot each election, ignoring protests from Democrats and business leaders who said the measure would suppress the votes of people of color. The governor acted hours after a tense debate in the state Senate, during which Republicans tried to silence Democrats who said the bill would perpetuate systemic racism. Republicans have only a single-vote edge in the Arizona House and Senate, so legislation there has been tougher to pass than in other states.
Arizona – Arizona Republicans Push Back Against Justice Department Concerns, Setting Up Possible Clash over Maricopa County Recount
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2021
Arizona officials involved with a Republican-commissioned recount of the November presidential election in the state’s largest county brushed off concerns raised by the U.S. Justice Department, raising the possibility of a clash between state and federal authorities over the audit. Pamela Karlan, who heads the department’s civil rights division, wrote a letter to the president of the Arizona Senate suggesting the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County by a private contractor may not comply with federal law, which requires that ballots be securely maintained for 22 months following a federal election.
Florida – Ana Cruz Toured Tampa with Related CEO, but They Didn’t Talk Rome Yard Business, She Says
MSN – Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 5/11/2021
The month before the Related Group was named as the city’s choice for a lucrative contract to develop a prime property, Mayor Jane Castor’s partner, Ana Cruz, toured Tampa with the firm’s founder. Later, Cruz and Jorge Pérez traveled to the development site. Pérez, head of the Related Group, then got out for a tour organized by Castor’s nephew. Also on that tour was Joe Robinson, whose actions during the bid selection process led to a protest against the city’s preliminary award of the Rome Yard project.
Florida – Florida’s DeSantis Signs New Voting Restrictions into Law, Making the State the Latest to Add Hurdles to the Voting Process
MSN – Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed broad legislation that imposes new rules on voting and new penalties for those who do not follow them, hailing the measures as necessary to shore up public faith in elections even as critics accused him of trying to make it harder to vote, particularly for people of color. Like similar bills that Republicans are pushing in dozens of state Legislatures, the Florida measure adds hurdles to voting by mail, restricts the use of drop boxes, and prohibits any actions that could influence those standing in line to vote.
Georgia – Gov. Kemp Signs Bill Allowing More Money to Flow into Georgia Politics
Rome News-Tribune – Staff | Published: 5/10/2021
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law allowing state leaders to set up committees that could raise money during General Assembly sessions while lobbyists are trying to get legislation passed. Senate Bill 221 creates eight so-called leadership committees” that would collect campaign donations ahead of statewide and legislative elections. While those committees would have to disclose the names of donors, they would not be subject to the contribution limits that apply to individual candidates.
Idaho – Idaho Intern Reports Rape, Says Lawmakers ‘Destroyed Me’
Associated Press News – Rebecca Boone | Published: 5/4/2021
The harassment began soon after a report by a 19-year-old intern, who alleged an Idaho lawmaker raped her, became public. One state representative sought a copy of the police report and made inquiries into how the young woman could be referred for criminal charges for reporting the alleged rape. Another shared links to a far-right blog post that included the intern’s name, photo, and personal details about her life with thousands of people in a newsletter and on social media. And members of a anti-government activist group tried to follow and harass the young woman after she was called to testify in a public hearing.
Illinois – Even in Chicago’s Crowded History of FBI Cooperators, Daniel Solis’ Deal Stands Out
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 5/7/2021
Former Ald. Daniel Solis apparently has cut a deal with prosecutors that many in Chicago’s legal community say is unprecedented for an elected official, especially one allegedly caught betraying the public trust. In exchange for going undercover and helping prosecute Ald. Edward Burke, Solis was offered what is known as a deferred prosecution agreement. The deal means he will not serve jail time for taking campaign cash in exchange for official action and could keep his nearly $100,000 annual city pension.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Passes Ethics Policy, Promises Campaign Finance Reform
MSN – Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 5/11/2021
A new ethics law in Wichita sets gift limits for elected and appointed officials for the first time. The law creates an Ethics Advisory Board to investigate and rule on complaints. City officials could be censured or fined up to $1,000 for serious violations. Lesser offenses would require an official to undergo ethics training. It also offers whistleblower protection to city employees who report violations.
Maine – Maine Money-in-Politics Overhaul Targets Direct Donations from Businesses
Bangor Daily News – Jessica Piper | Published: 5/12/2021
A measure moving through the Maine Legislature to restrict business contributions to legislative campaigns would weaken one path to influence for lawmakers, though businesses and nonprofits would still have ways to affect races. The bill would ban direct contributions from businesses and other corporations to candidates. It would also take aim at donations to PACs controlled by legislators that are not subject to the same limits as candidate campaigns. Those so-called leadership PACs account for a relatively small portion of the money in politics every year, but they are notable because they are affiliated with prominent lawmakers.
Massachusetts – Petitioners Ask US Supreme Court to Declare Gov. Baker’s COVID Restrictions a Violation of the Constitution
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 5/10/2021
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is close to lifting remaining COVID-19 restrictions, but critics who believe he overstepped his authority are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare Baker’s actions to date a violation of the Constitution. The plaintiffs unsuccessfully attempted to overturn many of his executive orders that put business and other gathering restrictions in place but lost that case in in the state’s highest court. While it is unlikely the justices would act in time to disrupt Baker’s reopening plans, the lawyers and advocates involved say the case still has value in making sure future governors don’t similarly use public health to wield expansive executive authority.
Michigan – Gov. Whitmer: Flight to visit father was not ‘a gift’
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 5/12/2021
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said her flight to visit her father was not paid for by taxpayer dollars and was not “a gift,” but she declined to provide additional information about how the trip was funded. Her comments came at a press conference about two months after she traveled out of state to visit her father, who lives in Florida and her office says is battling a chronic illness. For the trip, Whitmer took a private plane that’s usually shared by three of Michigan’s most prominent political donors.
Michigan – Michigan House-Passed Bill Would Spell Out Conflict of Interest Policy for Lawmakers
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbons | Published: 5/6/2021
Michigan lawmakers would be explicitly barred from voting on issues they have a personal interest in under legislation that passed the House with bipartisan support. House Bill 4001 would prohibit state lawmakers from voting on bills or other measures that could personally benefit them, their families, or any entities in which they have a stake. Currently, conflict-of-interest policies are in place through state law and legislative rules, but there are few mechanisms to regulate or enforce violations.
New Jersey – Ex-Hopatcong Mayor Fined Maximum Possible by State Ethics Panel
New Jersey Herald – Eric Obenauer | Published: 5/10/2021
A state ethics panel fined former Hopatcong Mayor Cliff Lundin $22,500 for using government vehicles for personal business and government computers to view and store pornography during the time he headed the agency overseeing New Jersey’s soil control regulations. The state also accused Lundin of using his position to grant friends a waiver from the regulations he was responsible for enforcing and running a private law practice on state time.
New York – Federal Judge Denies NRA Attempt to Declare Bankruptcy in Win for New York State Attorney General
MSN – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 5/11/2021
A federal judge denied an effort by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to file for bankruptcy protection, ruling the gun rights group filed the case in a bad-faith attempt to fend off a lawsuit by the New York attorney general. The decision was a victory for Attorney General Letitia James, who filed a far-reaching civil suit against the group accusing top officials of fraud and self-dealing. NRA chief Wayne LaPierre and his legal team contended the lawsuit was a political act intended to destroy the organization.
Ohio – ‘A Terrible Idea’: Multitasking state senator drives while videoconferencing
MSN – Michael Laris (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2021
Like many pandemic-era workers, Ohio Sen. Andrew Brenner found himself relying on videoconferencing to make his busy schedule work. The problem for Brenner was he did so while driving, while his government meeting was being recorded, and while his legislative colleagues were pressing to tighten rules on using smartphones behind the wheel. That combination opened the Republican to online ridicule and swipes from political opponents as local and national media turned his drive into a parable on driver safety and political irony.
Ohio – Ohio Is No.1 State When It Comes to Public Corruption, Experts Say
USA Today – Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 5/11/2021
The public corruption case in Ohio involving $61 million in “dark money” spent to influence legislation is the biggest open investigation in any statehouse in America. Watchdogs said the House Bill 6 case, an open investigation against another previous House speaker, and several city-level cases, makes Ohio the leader among states for corruption. “The whole thing is amazing in scope …,” said Todd Wickerham, former FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Cincinnati office. The House Bill 6 case may be charting new ground in corruption prosecutions by alleging “dark money” was used as bribe money.
Ohio – Special Prosecutor Seeks Suspension of Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/12/2021
Special prosecutor Patrick Hanley said he is seeking to suspend Wendell Young from the Cincinnati City Council after Young was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with records. There are no provisions in the city charter that address what should happen if an elected official is charged with a crime. But under state rules. either the state attorney general or prosecutor can move to suspend an elected official who has been charged with a crime.
Oregon – Audit: Oregon should boost ethics officials; independence, anti-corruption measures
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/5/2021
An audit of the structure of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission (OGEC) and the state laws that govern its work found OGEC operations are generally aligned with other states and with leading practices. But the audit identified areas where the commission could be strengthened and given more independence. Auditors noted Oregon “is in the minority of states lacking an ethics organization that oversees campaign finance.” In general, they reported Oregon’s laws against public officials’ misuse of their offices, acceptance of expensive gifts, and conflicts-of-interest are in line with national standards.
Oregon – Portland Business Alliance Contests 23 of 25 Lobbying Violations Found by City Auditor
Portland Oregonian – Shane Dixon Cavanaugh | Published: 5/10/2021
The city auditor’s office found the Portland Business Alliance failed to disclose at least 25 times it had contacted city officials in 2020 to request access, funding, or action, primarily by email. The alliance contends 23 of the unreported emails and other interactions with officials did not need to be reported because they did not meet the city’s definition of lobbying. The business alliance’s president, Andrew Hoan, said his group would accept the auditor’s recommendation that its staff participate in additional lobbying training.
Oregon – Remote Testimony Could Be Here to Stay at the Oregon Capitol
MSN – Chris Lehman (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/11/2021
So far this session, with committee hearings held entirely on virtual platforms, people have signed up to address legislative committees more than 14,000 times in Oregon. That is already well over the number who sought to testify in person in 2019, with more than six weeks remaining in this year’s session. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would require both the state Legislature and local governments to offer remote testimony as an option, even when the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.
South Carolina – Columbia Mayor Benjamin Registered as Lobbyist for SC’s Largest Medical Provider Prisma
Charleston Post and Courier – Steven Fastenau | Published: 5/11/2021
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who is not seeking reelection, has become a registered lobbyist for South Carolina’s largest hospital system. Benjamin filed as a lobbyist for Prisma Health, which has large operations in Columbia and is among the area’s biggest employers. South Carolina law prohibits state lawmakers and statewide elected officials and department heads appointed by the governor from lobbying while in office and for a year after leaving their positions, but no such provision exists for local elected officials.
Tennessee – FBI Investigation at Tennessee Statehouse Continued Through Legislative Session
Yahoo News – Andy Sher (Chattanooga Times Free Press) | Published: 5/8/2021
Federal officials have been publicly silent in the four months following FBI raids on three sitting Tennessee House members, two of them political consultants performing work for several GOP colleagues. But federal agents have not been idle since their searches of the homes and legislative offices of Rep. Robin Smith and former Speaker Glen Casada, plus a freshman representative and a former top House staffer. FBI agents for months have visited the Cordell Hull State Office Building to interview lawmakers for whom Smith and Casada, both political consultants, did work in 2020. Smith and Casada provided campaign services, state government-funded constituent mail communications, and surveys to colleagues.
Texas – Texas House Approves Bill Mandating Sexual Harassment Training for Lobbyists and a Way to Report Complaints, with 2 No Votes
MSN – Madlin Mekelburg (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/11/2021
A bill to require sexual harassment training for lobbyists at the Texas Capitol passed easily in the House. The bill would prohibit sexual harassment by lobbyists and allow people who work around the Capitol to file complaints against people for violations. It would also require lobbyists to complete sexual harassment training as part of their licensing process.
Texas – Top Consultant for Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller Charged with Theft Over Hemp Licenses
MSN – Tony Plohetski (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/7/2021
Authorities charged one of the state’s most influential lobbyists and a top political consultant to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller with theft after investigators said he stole money from possible investors in the state’s hemp industry. According to an affidavit, the case against Smith has been ongoing for nearly two years and involves what alleged victims say was his promised assistance in securing licenses from Miller’s office to produce hemp. Lawmakers in 2019 legalized hemp with a new state-regulated program.
Texas – Unwanted Touching, Late-Night Texts: Women at Texas Capitol describe culture of harassment
USA Today – Nicole Cobler, Madlin Mekelburg, and John Moritz (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/3/2021
An investigation into an allegation that a lobbyist slipped a drug into the drink of a legislative staffer thrust workplace harassment at the Texas Capitol into the daylight, with legislative leaders working to improve avenues for women to report mistreatment and legislation filed to require sexual misconduct training for lobbyists. Multiple women described a work environment in which they are objectified and made to feel uncomfortable in their daily interactions with male counterparts. Women said they fear career-ending repercussions if they complain, instead turning to a whisper network to warn one another of the predators to avoid.
Virginia – Youngkin Wins Virginia GOP Nomination for Governor
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 5/10/2021
Businessperson Glenn Youngkin won the Republican nomination for governor in Virginia, emerging from a crowded field to claim the GOP mantle for one of the most closely watched races of 2021. November’s general election will be perhaps the most competitive statewide race of the year. Though Virginia voted for now-President Joe Biden, the state has often veered away from the party that occupies the White House in gubernatorial races.
Washington – Seattle Ethics Panel Requires Kshama Sawant to Pay $3,516 for Violating Law
Seattle Times – Nina Shapiro | Published: 5/10/2021
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commissioner ratified a settlement agreement with Councilperson Kshama Sawant in which she admitted improperly using city money and other resources to support a proposed ballot measure. The vote means Sawant must pay the city $3,516, twice the amount she spent to promote an earnings tax on big businesses like Amazon. The decision comes as a recall campaign is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative seeking Sawant’s ouster.
Washington – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan Had Phone Set to Keep Texts Only 30 Days, Her Office Says
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb and Daniel Beekman | Published: 5/12/2021
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose text messages are missing for a 10-month period that includes the peak of last year’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations, at some point had an iPhone set to automatically delete texts older than 30 days. The standard text-retention options on iPhones are generally inadequate for preserving public records of substance under state law, and elected officials should know that, according an open-government expert. “There’s nothing in state law that says you can automatically delete records after 30 days,” said Toby Nixon, president emeritus of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.
West Virginia – Audit: Association of smaller W.Va. colleges and universities received $132,000 in illegal payments
West Virginia Public Broadcasting – David Misitch | Published: 5/10/2021
Some regional colleges and universities made $132,000 in illegal payments to an association that was created to lobby on their behalf, according to an audit. In 2013, the West Virginia Association of Regional Colleges and Universities was created as a 501(c)6 organization and registered with the West Virginia secretary of state’s office. The organization was comprised of college and university presidents, who are state employees. The group was dissolved in 2015. Despite the dissolution, the audit found the schools made $132,000 in unauthorized payments to the association. At least $105,000 of those payments went toward lobbying.
Wyoming – Federal Elections Commission Fines Wyo GOP $52,000
WyoFile,com – Nick Reynolds | Published: 5/10/2021
The FEC fined the Wyoming Republican Party $52,000 for a campaign finance violation stemming from former President Trump’s 2016 campaign. State GOP Chairperson Matt Micheli said the violation occurred during the runup to the election. A miscommunication between the Wyoming GOP’s accountant and the Trump campaign, Micheli said, resulted in the party failing to report a significant monetary transfer between the campaign and the party until after the election.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.