April 2, 2021 •
National/Federal Business Groups Rethinking Value of In-Person Lobbying The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/31/2021 Before the pandemic, business groups held fly-ins that allowed for in-person meetings with members of Congress and agency officials. Trade associations are rethinking the need […]
Business Groups Rethinking Value of In-Person Lobbying
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/31/2021
Before the pandemic, business groups held fly-ins that allowed for in-person meetings with members of Congress and agency officials. Trade associations are rethinking the need for in-person lobbying and the travel costs that come with it. Many experts on K Street say engagement efforts are more likely to consist of a hybrid of meetings online and in Washington, D.C., along with fewer trips overall. Virtual fly-ins help lower the barrier of entry for advocacy because companies and groups are not spending as much as they otherwise would sending employees to Washington. In addition to reducing the cost of meeting with lawmakers, the pandemic has allowed for more meetings overall.
Cameron ‘Blocked Rule Change’ That Left ‘Open Door’ for Him to Lobby for Greensill
MSN – Kayleena Makortoff (Guardian) | Published: 3/29/2021
The Labour Party accused former British Prime Minister David Cameron of blocking rule changes that could have stopped him from personally lobbying government officials on behalf of collapsed lender Greensill Capital without publicly declaring his interests. The opposition party put forward amendments to the Lobbying Act that would have increased transparency and scrutiny of in-house lobbying. Rules only require third parties to log their efforts in the public register, while in-house lobbyists do not have to. The amendment, which would have required both groups to register, was defeated after Cameron, who was still prime minister, ordered Conservative peers to vote against the changes in January 2014, Labour said.
Corporations, Vocal About Racial Justice, Go Quiet on Voting Rights
New York Times – David Gelles | Published: 3/29/2021
As Black Lives Matter protesters filled the streets last summer, many of the country’s largest corporations expressed solidarity and pledged support for racial justice. But now, with lawmakers around the country advancing restrictive voting rights bills that would have a disproportionate impact on Black voters, corporate America has gone quiet. Its guarded approach stands in stark contrast to its engagement with other social and political issues in recent years. Many big companies spoke out against then-President Trump on issues including climate change, immigration, and white supremacy.
Court Voids Trump Campaign’s Non-Disclosure Agreement
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/30/2021
A federal judge ruled a broad non-disclosure agreement that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign required employees to sign is unenforceable. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe’s ruling generally steered clear of the constitutional issues presented by such agreements in the context of political campaigns. Instead, the judge said the sweeping, boilerplate language the campaign compelled employees to sign was so vague the agreement was invalid under New York contract law.
Dems Could Dethrone Iowa
Politico – Natasha Korecki and Holly Otterbein | Published: 3/31/2021
Democratic Party leaders are considering overhauling the 2024 presidential primary calendar, a transformation that would include ousting Iowa and New Hampshire from their perches as the first states to vote. Senior party leaders and Democratic National Committee members are privately exploring the idea of pushing South Carolina and Nevada to the front of the primary election schedule, as well as the possibility of multiple states holding the first nominating contest on the same day. Critics have long insisted that Iowa and New Hampshire have an outsized role in framing the presidential contest despite being unrepresentative of the rest of the country.
Dominion Voting Sues Fox for $1.6B Over 2020 Election Claims
Associated Press News – Colleen Long | Published: 3/25/2021
Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed to boost faltering ratings that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election. It is the first defamation suit filed against a media outlet by the voting company, which was a target of misleading, false, and bizarre claims spread by former President Trump and his allies in the aftermath of Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Dominion argues Fox News, which amplified inaccurate assertions that Dominion altered votes, “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process,” according to the lawsuit.
Ethics Upholds Gohmert’s $5,000 Metal Detector Fine
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 3/30/2021
The House Committee on Ethics Committee upheld the $5,000 fine levied against U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert for bypassing a security screening to enter the House chamber. Gohmert appealed days after House Democrats voted to enact the punitive measure to enforce compliance with the metal detector screenings established following the January 6 insurrection. Gohmert stated in his appeal that he had complied with the security screening upon first entering the chamber on February 4. He then left the House floor briefly to use the restroom and was unaware that he had to undergo another screening upon reentering the chamber.
FEC Greenlights Campaign Spending for Bodyguards
Politico – Daniel Payne | Published: 3/25/2021
Members of Congress will now be allowed to hire bodyguards with campaign funds, according to a new ruling from the FEC. The agency said members of the House and Senate may spend campaign dollars to hire security personnel when they are not being protected by law enforcement on Capitol Hill. The FEC will also give more guidance to lawmakers on using campaign money for personal security needs beyond the hiring of bodyguards. “I’ve never thought of us as a country where the leadership of the country had to be surrounded by armed guards and needed to keep the public at arm’s length at all times,” said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, who voted to approve the final ruling.
Gaetz Investigation Complicated by Overture to His Father About Ex-FBI Agent Who Went Missing
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2021
The Justice Department is investigating U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz over allegations he had sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel, though the probe has been complicated by Gaetz’s assertion his family is being extorted. The FBI separately is exploring the extortion claims that center around Robert Levinson, the longest-held American hostage in Iran. The investigation into Gaetz’s alleged relationship with the 17-year-old grew from a federal case against a different Florida Republican: Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector who was charged last summer with sex trafficking of a child and other offenses.
GOP Donors Are Hobnobbing in Person Again; Dems Are Sticking to Zoom
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Susannah Luthi | Published: 3/31/2021
A few Democrats have dipped their toes in the water with outdoor events, but the party has mostly stuck to virtual fundraisers. A list of more than 80 upcoming fundraisers for House Democrats sent out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently includes no in-person events, and a half-dozen Democratic lobbyists and consultants said they could not recall being invited to any such gatherings. Democrats’ caution poses a sharp contrast with a growing number of lawmakers on the Republican side of the aisle, who have been meeting in person with donors for weeks, if not months, and are showing no desire to slow down.
No ‘Dreamers’ Allowed: DACA recipients still can’t work for Congress
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 3/25/2021
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. as children, to apply for deportation relief if they meet certain criteria. It also allows them to file for a Social Security number, get a driver’s license, and apply for federal student financial aid. But an appropriations provision has prevented federal money from being used to pay noncitizens as federal employees, with few exceptions. Dreamers can get a job on Capitol Hill only if they are paid by third parties, as interns or fellows placed through groups like the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
NRA Faces Internal Woes as It Girds for New Gun Control Fight
MSN – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
In 2017, the National Rifle Association (NRA) celebrated its ascendant political power with a newly elected U.S. president, Donald Trump, who stood at the organization’s national convention lectern promising to deliver for the gun-rights group that had helped secure his election. Four years later, though, the NRA is confronting challenges that have undercut the power of the long-feared lobby organization, even as new gun control measures are proposed after two mass shootings. It has been plagued by allegations of self-dealing and is defending itself against a lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general that alleges the NRA violated its nonprofit status as its top leaders allegedly raided the group’s coffers for personal gain.
Trump Helped the GOP Raise $2 Billion. Now Former Aides and Allies Are Jockeying to Tap into His Fundraising Power.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2021
The number of independent money operations connected to former President Trump – some directly associated with him, others that have his tacit blessing – has been expanding since he left office. The groups, which include both nonprofits and super PACs, are seeking to capitalize on Trump’s fundraising firepower, which drove a record $2.2 billion into the three Republican Party campaign committees during his time in office. GOP officials are trying to keep that pipeline going, a prospect complicated by Trump’s ambivalence about letting the party continue to fundraise off his name and the separate fundraising efforts springing up around him, some of which could take aim at Republicans who have crossed the former president.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Mark Finchem Sought to Overturn the Presidential Race. Now He Wants to Run Arizona’s Elections
MSN – Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) | Published: 3/29/2021
One of the leaders of an effort to overturn the results of the presidential race in Arizona wants to oversee the next presidential election as secretary of state. Rep. Mark Finchem filed a statement of interest to run for the post, the first official step in a campaign to become Arizona’s top election official. Finchem previously hinted he might run for the office, having gained notoriety with his support for former President Trump and his claims of wrongdoing in the last election.
California – How California’s Recall Rules Could Spell Trouble for Gavin Newsom
San Jose Mercury News – Ben Christopher (CALmatters) | Published: 3/8/2021
If recalls followed the rules of a normal California election – the person who wins a majority of the votes wins – then Gov. Gavin Newsom, an incumbent Democrat in a thoroughly Democratic state, would have nothing to worry about. But unfortunately for him, a recall is not like an ordinary California election. One part standard-issue candidate race, one part free-spending ballot measure campaign, California recalls adhere to a unique and some critics say, less than fully democratic procedure that makes for a much more unpredictable outcome.
Florida – Carla Miller Retiring from City Ethics Office
Jacksonville Daily Record – Max Marbut | Published: 3/29/2021
Carla Miller is retiring as director of Jacksonville’s Office of Ethics, Compliance and Oversight, effective October 1. Miller said that after 24 years of service to the city she will be putting more time into the nonprofit she established to promote ethics development and education and will assume a part-time role in the city ethics agency during the transition. Miller helped write the first ethics code for local government. The city also established a confidential whistleblower hotline to give city employees and the public a means to report suspected unethical activity.
Georgia – Georgia State Democratic Lawmaker Arrested While Trying to Watch Gov. Kemp Sign Voting Bill
MSN – Amy Wang and Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
State Rep. Park Cannon was arrested after trying to watch Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sign a controversial new voting bill into law in a heated interaction that was caught on video. Facebook Live video shows Cannon knocking on the door to Kemp’s office as he was holding a news conference inside about Senate Bill 202, a sweeping set of restrictions on how ballots are cast and counted in Georgia. A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Safety confirmed Cannon was arrested for obstructing law enforcement and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members.
Hawaii – Five Honolulu Planning Department Employees Indicted for Bribery
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 3/30/2021
Five current and former Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting employees are facing federal charges for allegedly accepting bribes. A local architect has also been indicted in connection with the alleged scheme. Wayne Inouye, a former building plans examiner, allegedly solicited and accepted gifts, payments, and other things of value several times in the last decade. In exchange, he rewarded those paying the bribes with favorable treatment including expediting permit approvals, according to the indictment. Inouye took steps to hide his criminal activity including by using a sole proprietorship, the indictment states. The other indictments follow the same pattern.
Illinois – Chicago-Based Marijuana Giant Part of Federal Pay-to-Play Investigation
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/29/2021
A Chicago-based marijuana cultivator and dispenser that has rapidly grown into one of the nation’s biggest cannabis firms is under federal investigation for possible “pay-to-play” violations during its push for state licenses, sources said. Investigators have been scrutinizing campaign donations and other steps Green Thumb Industries (GTI) took as it sought to secure growing and distribution licenses in Illinois and several other states. Illinois records show GTI’s executives and affiliates have donated to politicians and a PAC that were instrumental in the marijuana legalization effort. The company also hired a succession of lobbyists and consultants with ties to then-House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Illinois – Former State Sen. Annazette Collins Indicted on Federal Tax Charges Stemming from Her Lobbying Income
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Illinois Sen. Annazette Collins was indicted on federal charges alleging she underreported income and failed to file federal income tax returns for her lobbying and consulting firm. The indictment was the latest brought in connection with the ongoing federal corruption probe into an alleged bribery scheme by Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) to influence then-House Speaker Michael Madigan. Collins was one of a number of ex-lawmakers hired by ComEd after retiring from public office, though the indictment does not specifically mention her work for the utility.
Illinois – Longtime Political Operative for Ald. Edward Burke, Former State Sen. Martin Sandoval Charged with Deceiving FBI
MSN – Jason Meisner | Published: 3/29/2021
A precinct captain for indicted Chicago Ald. Edward Burke and aide to former state Sen. Martin Sandoval was charged with misleading the FBI in its political corruption investigation in Illinois. According to the charge, Rudy Acosta Jr. failed to disclose in interviews with agents benefits both he and Sandoval received from another person including “free services, meals, and travel.” The information also stated that when Acosta was questioned by the FBI on six separate occasions, he hid the fact that he made “periodic cash payments” to Sandoval.
Kentucky – KY Legislature Passes Last-Minute Bill That Shields Information of Public Officials
MSN – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 3/30/2021
The Kentucky House quickly passed legislation that would allow any police officer, prosecutor, and some court employees – and anyone related to them – to shield a wide array of personal information from the public. At 11 p.m. on the second to last day of the session, a floor amendment was introduced to Senate Bill 48, which had been filed that day, ensuring the public could not read it before lawmakers voted. The amendment was later passed by the Senate. Because it passed in the final two days of the session, lawmakers will not have the ability to override any potential veto.
Maryland – U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI Investigating Marilyn and Nick Mosby
Baltimore Magazine – Ron Cassie | Published: 3/26/2021
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her husband, city council President Nick Mosby, are the subject of a federal investigation into her campaign finances and the couple’s business records and taxes. As part of the wide-ranging probe, the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI have served several subpoenas seeking financial records related to the couple’s tax returns from 2014-2020, loan documents, bank and investment statements, credit card files, information related to their consulting and travel businesses, as well as copies of all campaign finance records related to Mosby’s campaign organization, the Friends of Marilyn Mosby.
Massachusetts – Judge Denies Bid by Senator, Wife to Block Officials from Referring Probe into Them to State Prosecutors
MSN – Matt Stout | Published: 3/30/2021
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Christine Roach denied a request from a state senator that she temporarily block campaign finance regulators from referring an investigation into him, his wife, and other family members to prosecutors. Roach also declined a request by state Sen. Ryan Fattman and others that the Office of Campaign and Political Finance provide them with “all” the evidence that Director Michael Sullivan has compiled against them. The judge wrote the Fattmans have “no reasonable likelihood of success” proving Sullivan violated state law by not turning over all the evidence, or he violated their due process by not recusing himself from the probe, as they have demanded.
Missouri – For Sexual Assault Survivors, Greitens’ Return Can Mean Fresh Trauma, Experts Say
McClatchyDC.com – Bryan Lowry and Jeanne Kuang | Published: 3/28/2021
Dee Ogilvy was sexually assaulted 42 years ago at her place of work. The police never made an arrest in the case and a shoulder injury from the attack still gives her pain. Ogilvy said she is disgusted to see former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat less than three years after allegations of blackmail and sexual assault helped lead to his resignation. His return comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defies calls for his resignation after allegations of sexual misconduct from at least 10 women.
Missouri – Former Missouri House Representative Gets 21 Months in Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Robert Patrick | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Missouri Rep. Courtney Curtis was sentenced to 21 months in prison for misusing campaign funds for personal expenses and was ordered to repay $47,867. He filed false campaign finance reports to cover up his crimes. Before sentencing Curtis, the judge tallied up the 822 financial transactions representing misuse of campaign funds, including cash withdrawals in or near casinos.
Missouri – Missouri Curator Worried He’d Lose Seat If Didn’t ‘Play Ball’ with Controversial Lobbyist
Kansas City Star – Rudi Keller (Missouri Independent) | Published: 3/31/2021
University of Missouri Curator David Steelman raised objections that one of the system’s lobbyists, former House Speaker Steve Tilley, was using his connections to the university to seek business for other clients. Steelman called the arrangement “an obvious conflict,” and openly worried if he did not “play ball” he would lose his seat on the nine-member board that governs the university system. His term is expired, and he remains on the board until a replacement is confirmed by the Missouri Senate. Gov. Mike Parson nominated Keith Holloway for Steelman’s seat. Tilley, who both lobbies state government and provides campaign consulting services, has been paid $5,000 a month since February 2019 to lobby for the system.
New Mexico – New Mexico Lawmakers Snub Lobbying Transparency. In Other States, It’s Business as Usual.
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 3/26/2021
In a 2015 report, the Center for Public Integrity gave New Mexico a grade of “F” for lobbying disclosure, the 43rd worst in the country. It has not improved since then and lawmakers did not give the topic a full hearing during the 2021 legislative session. One argument made in opposition to increased disclosure is that it would be excessively burdensome for lobbyists. Another fear is greater disclosure will dampen public participation in the legislative process or harm a lobbyist’s effectiveness. But in the neighboring state of Colorado, the sort of transparency proposed for New Mexico is just business as usual.
New York – ‘Apprentice’ Contestant’s Lawsuit Against Trump Can Resume, N.Y. Court Says
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2021
The New York State Court of Appeals ruled a defamation case against former President Trump, brought by an “Apprentice” contestant who alleged he sexually assaulted her years ago, can go forward as the immunity claim he raised while in office no longer applies. The defense was raised in the lawsuit brought by Summer Zervos and in other long-running cases still facing Trump. Zervos alleges Trump, who hosted the popular reality show, smeared her when she came forward with the sexual assault allegation. In denying her claims, Trump said Zervos lied and suggested she was motivated by money.
New York – Bannon Criminal Probe in N.Y. Includes Embedded Investigators from State Attorney General’s Office
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
The New York attorney general’s office has partnered with Manhattan’s district attorney to investigate Stephen Bannon for the alleged fundraising scam that prompted his federal pardon in the waning hours of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to people familiar with the matter. The move adds prosecutorial firepower to a criminal case widely seen as an attempted end-run around the former president’s bid to protect a political ally. Attorney General Letitia James has built a reputation, in part, around her promises to hold Trump and his associates accountable for alleged misdeeds. Presidential pardons do not apply to state investigations.
New York – N.Y. State Sen. Brian Benjamin’s Campaign Expenses Raise Questions About Propriety
New York Daily News – Michael Gartland | Published: 3/28/2021
New York Sen. Brian Benjamin used money from his Senate campaign account to pay for “constituent services” at a Harlem jazz club at almost exactly the same time he and his wife held their wedding celebration there, raising questions about whether the lawmaker may have abused campaign finance rules. Benjamin is running for New York City comptroller. His campaign returned more than a dozen contributions after people listed as donors claimed they never gave to him.
New York – Seven Months Later, Cuomo Administration Divulges Details About His Covid-19 Book Deal
Buffalo News – Tom Precious | Published: 3/31/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was given permission by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) in July to write a book about his handling of state government during the first wave of Covid-19, as long as the subject matter of the book was “unrelated to the governor’s duties” in office, according to state documents. The New York Times reported Cuomo used top aides and junior staffers for help on his book project. JCOPE specifically told Cuomo he could not use state “personnel” or property “for activities associated with the book.”
North Dakota – Transparency Advocates Raise Concerns Over North Dakota Redistricting Plan
Grand Forks Herald – Jeremy Turley | Published: 3/26/2021
Later this year, a group of top North Dakota lawmakers will redraw the state’s political boundaries for the next decade. The exercise always attracts the attention of incumbent legislators and civically minded residents, but several transparency advocates worry the redistricting plan will be formed behind closed doors and without the public’s input. The Republican-backed bill to establish the legislative redistricting process states drafts of the redistricting plan are exempt from open records laws until they are presented to the full Legislature.
Ohio – Ohio Campaign-Finance Reform Bill Gets First Look Since Emergence of Dark Money Scandal
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/25/2021
The Ohio House is taking up a bill that would impose tougher disclosure requirements on corporate political donors, a move to increase campaign finance transparency in the aftermath of the House Bill 6 scandal. House Bill 13 would require political nonprofits and other corporate groups to disclose their donors and spending with the Ohio secretary of state’s office, similar to PACs or candidates. Among the groups it would affect are 5019(c)4s, nonprofits often used as vehicles for “dark money” spending.
Ohio – Top Columbus Zoo Officials Resign Following Dispatch Investigation
MSN – Jennifer Smola and Alissa Widman Neese (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 3/29/2021
Tom Stalf resigned as chief executive officer of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Greg Bell stepped down as chief financial officer after a media investigation found they misused the zoo’s resources. They allowed relatives to live in houses owned or controlled by the zoo for below-market rent in exchange for the residents making improvements to the property. Stalf and Bell sought the use of the zoo’s suites and tickets to local entertainment venues for themselves and their family members. Most of the tickets requested were available through the zoo’s marketing contracts with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State University and were intended for hosting financial supporters of the zoo.
South Carolina – Former SC Governor, Congressman Sanford Joins Lobbying Firm
Associated Press News – Meg Kinnard | Published: 3/30/2021
Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, member of Congress, and one-time presidential candidate, is going to work for a lobbying firm. Shumaker Advisors announced Sanford would be joining the firm as an executive vice president and principal. The government relations arm of a law firm, Shumaker Advisors operates seven offices in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and the Carolinas. Sanford has been working to find a foothold since end of the most recent iteration of his political career. Sanford was elected twice as governor before an extramarital affair marred the end of his second term.
Texas – GOP Candidate from New Jersey Accused of Pandering After He Transforms into Cowboy for Texas Run
MSN – Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2021
Dan Rodimer has led many lives, but his latest – a cowboy hat-wearing, Southern-drawling bull rider – might be the most extreme transformation to date. In his first ad as a candidate for Texas’s Sixth Congressional District, “Big Dan” Rodimer speaks in a gravelly, indistinct Southern accent, throws jabs at Democratic policies, and compares House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a bull he is supposedly riding in the ad. But the New Jersey native did not have the twang last year when he ran for Congress in Nevada. He has remade himself again on a road he hopes will lead to Congress, though his latest persona has earned him ridicule, even from fellow Republicans.
Texas – Lawsuit Challenges Austin’s Fundraising Rules for Political Candidates
MSN – Ryan Autullo (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 3/26/2021
A new federal lawsuit revives a challenge to city of Austin rules that prohibit candidates from accepting political contributions until one year before an election. Fundraising blackouts are designed to prevent corruption and the perception of wrongdoing by limiting the window individual donors and businesses are permitted to give money to elected officials. Unlike Texas lawmakers who are in session every other year, city council members meet year-round and regularly vote on matters that could be influenced by donors making financial promises.
Utah – Salt Lake County GOP Forms Ethics Committee in Response to Harassment Allegations
Salt Lake Tribune – Bryan Schott | Published: 3/30/2021
The Salt Lake County Republican Party is forming an ethics advisory committee in the wake of multiple women alleging leadership took no action to address their complaints of harassment and bullying. Former GOP Chairperson Scott Miller resigned in the wake of a Salt Lake Tribune story about complaints he did nothing to stop inappropriate behavior by his communications director, Dave Robinson, during his tenure at the helm of the party. Miller also sent out an email to Republican delegates denigrating the women who came forward with allegations, questioning their motives. Miller later apologized in the face of widespread condemnation.
Washington – Don Benton, Ex-Washington State Senator and Trump Ally, Behind Mystery Mailer
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Washington Sen. Don Benton, who served in the Trump administration, is responsible for a recent mailer that criticizes Democratic lawmakers for a proposed change to the state’s estate tax. State law requires a sponsor to be listed on campaign mailers. But that is not necessary for communications known as grassroots lobbying, which focus instead on the debate over legislative proposals. In that case, the citizen complaints alleging a lack of disclosure information might not apply.
March 29, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “FEC Greenlights Campaign Spending for Bodyguards” by Daniel Payne for Politico Ohio: “Ohio Campaign-Finance Reform Bill Gets First Look Since Emergence of Dark Money Scandal” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN Texas: “Lawsuit Challenges Austin’s […]
National: “FEC Greenlights Campaign Spending for Bodyguards” by Daniel Payne for Politico
Ohio: “Ohio Campaign-Finance Reform Bill Gets First Look Since Emergence of Dark Money Scandal” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Texas: “Lawsuit Challenges Austin’s Fundraising Rules for Political Candidates” by Ryan Autullo (Austin American-Statesman) for MSN
National: “Dominion Voting Sues Fox for $1.6B Over 2020 Election Claims” by Colleen Long for Associated Press News
Georgia: “Georgia State Democratic Lawmaker Arrested While Trying to Watch Gov. Kemp Sign Voting Bill” by Amy Wang and Teo Armus (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Bannon Criminal Probe in N.Y. Includes Embedded Investigators from State Attorney General’s Office” by Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “No ‘Dreamers’ Allowed: DACA recipients still can’t work for Congress” by Jim Saska (Roll Call) for MSN
New Mexico: “New Mexico Lawmakers Snub Lobbying Transparency. In Other States, It’s Business as Usual.” by Brian Metzger for New Mexico In Depth
March 26, 2021 •
National/Federal Congressional Fundraisers Lobby Corporations That Suspended Political Donations Following Capitol Riot MSN – Brian Schwartz (CNBC) | Published: 3/19/2021 Fundraisers for congressional candidates and party campaign arms have been lobbying corporations to resume donating after many suspended their political contributions. […]
Congressional Fundraisers Lobby Corporations That Suspended Political Donations Following Capitol Riot
MSN – Brian Schwartz (CNBC) | Published: 3/19/2021
Fundraisers for congressional candidates and party campaign arms have been lobbying corporations to resume donating after many suspended their political contributions. Dozens of corporations at least temporarily paused donations from their PACs after the January 6 Capitol Hill riot that led to at least five deaths. That day, more than 145 Republican lawmakers, encouraged by then-President Trump, voted to dispute the results of the Electoral College certifying Joe Biden as the next president. Most companies have since said they are reviewing their PACs’ policies on who they give to in the future.
Court Reinstates Guilty Verdicts Against Flynn Partner Over Turkey Lobbying
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/17/2021
A federal appeals court reinstated a jury’s guilty verdicts on the business partner of former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn over the pair’s lobbying for Turkish interests during the 2016 presidential campaign. A three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a judge’s ruling last year tossing out the guilty verdicts against Bijan Rafiekian, a businessperson who worked with Flynn on a lobbying and public relations campaign targeting a longtime opponent of the Turkish government, Fethullah Gulen. Judge James Wynn acknowledged the evidence against Rafiekian was far from overwhelming, but said jurors were free to convict the defendant based on circumstantial evidence and inferences.
David Cameron to Be Investigated by Lobbying Body
BBC – Staff | Published: 3/24/2021
Former United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron is being investigated by a lobbying watchdog after reports he contacted government officials on behalf of financial services company Greensill Capital. The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists said it was looking into whether he had done unregistered consultant lobbying. A source close to Cameron said he was exempt from the register as he had been an in-house employee. The contact is said to have taken place after Cameron was prime minister.
HUD Secretary May Have Violated Ethics Law by Championing Democrats in Ohio Senate Race at White House
MSN – Tyler Pager (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2021
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, a former member of Congress from Cleveland, may have violated the Hatch Act at the White House when discussing the 2022 U.S, Senate race in Ohio and promoting Democrats’ chances to win the seat, experts said. Fudge answered a question about the race for the seat of retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “… I think we’re going to put a good person in that race no matter who we choose …,” Fudge said. “I think we have a good shot at it. I know people have written off Ohio. I haven’’ written off Ohio. I believe we can win the Senate race.” The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch officials from engaging in political campaigns and related activities in an official capacity.
Intern Pay Was Supposed to Boost Diversity in Congress. Most of the Money Went to White Students
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 3/22/2021
Pay Our Interns pushed lawmakers until they agreed to allocate $20,000 to each House office and about $50,000 to each Senate office annually for intern pay, starting in 2019. It would go a long way toward closing the intern diversity gap, hoped Carlos Mark Vera, founder of the group. Instead, the people getting paid internships were overwhelmingly white, 76 percent white, compared to just 52 percent of the national undergraduate population. Black and Latino students were underrepresented, comprising 15 percent and 20 percent of undergraduates nationally but roughly seven percent and eight percent of paid Capitol Hill interns. While interns rarely have much impact on lawmaking, they often go on to more important positions that can affect legislation.
Lobbyists See Biden’s Infrastructure Package as Windfall
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/23/2021
A massive White House spending proposal on infrastructure and other domestic priorities is setting the stage for a potential lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill, particularly as more lawmakers embrace a return to earmarks. Lobbying shops on K Street are eager to take on clients who would be competing for new government funding in the legislation expected to hit $3 trillion, and lobbyists on both sides of the aisle are excited about earmarks opening up new avenues of advocacy. Watchdog groups are excited about the legislation to deal with infrastructure, climate change, and global vaccine gaps, among other areas. But they are concerned corporate lobbyists could influence it beyond its intended scope.
Many House Members Averse to Cooperating with OCE, Study Shows
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 3/17/2021
More than a third of U.S. House members investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) refused to fully cooperate with the probes since the office started investigating lawmakers in 2009. The Campaign Legal Center’s report shows that except for the 113th Congress, member cooperation has steadily declined. Unlike the House Committee on Ethics, the OCE lacks subpoena power and cannot issue sanctions. When members choose not to sit for OCE interviews or produce certain documents, the office is forced to complete its fact-gathering process without that information.
Rep. Tom Reed Apologizes for Sexual Misconduct Detailed in Post Report, Won’t Challenge Cuomo in 2022
MSN – Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 3/21/2021
Days after a former lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed publicly apologized, vowed not to seek reelection, and abandoned a possible run against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Reed said in a statement that he was “struggling” in early 2017, when the incident occurred, and entered treatment for alcohol abuse that year. Reed recently has been weighing a bid to unseat Cuomo and had called for the governor to be impeached amid allegations he sexually harassed multiple women, mostly state employees. Since he was elected to Congress in 2010, Reed has cast himself as a champion of women’s rights.
Senators Turn to Democrats’ Overhaul of Elections and Ethics
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/24/2021
As outside groups ramped up multimillion-dollar campaigns for and against it, U.S. senators took their first formal look at Democrats’ symbolic top-priority bill, a nearly 800-page overhaul of election, campaign finance, and government ethics laws. The bill’s fate may come down to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’ He is the lone Democrat in the 50-50 chamber who has not yet embraced the legislation, dubbed S1 and HR1, even though he signed on as a co-sponsor when the Senate was in GOP control in the last Congress and the bill had no chance of passing. Manchin told reporters the legislation “might divide us even further on a partisan basis” but indicated he supported some provisions.
Several of Biden’s Top White House Aides Aren’t Required to Disclose Personal Finances
Yahoo News – Soo Rin Kim and Libby Cathy (ABC News) | Published: 3/23/2021
Some of President Joe Biden’s top aides in the White House, including advisers overseeing the administration’s coronavirus response and vaccine operation, have not publicly disclosed their personal finances. Senior White House adviser Anita Dunn, deputy coronavirus response coordinator Andy Slavitt, and coronavirus vaccine coordinator Bechara Choucair are not required to file public financial disclosure reports that would reveal their past employment, source of income, personal assets and liabilities, due to the temporary nature of their positions or because they are paid below the reporting threshold, a White House official said.
Trump Faces an Onslaught of Legal Problems, as Investigations and Dozens of Lawsuits Trail Him from Washington to Florida
MSN – David Fahenthold, Amy Gardner, Shayna Jacobs, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/18/2021
A district attorney is sifting through millions of pages of former President Trump’s tax records. The state attorney general has subpoenaed his lawyers, his bankers, his chief financial officer, and even one of his sons. That is just in New York. Trump is also facing criminal investigations in Georgia and the District of Columbia related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He must defend himself against a growing raft of lawsuits, including some seeking damages from Trump’s actions on January 6, when he encouraged a march to the Capitol that ended in a mob storming the building. The volume of these legal problems indicates that after a moment of maximum invincibility in the White House, Trump has fallen to a point of historic vulnerability before the law.
Trump Officials Hindered at Least Nine Key Oversight Probes, Watchdogs Said. Some May Finally Be Released in Coming Months.
MSN – Lisa Rein, Tom Hamburger, Michael Laris, and John Hudson (Washington Post) | Published: 3/22/2021
Politically sensitive work by government watchdogs, mandated by Congress to monitor federal agencies for waste, fraud, and misconduct, faced roadblocks or otherwise were dragged out during the Trump era. Across the government, at least nine key oversight investigations were impeded by clashes with the White House or political appointees. Tensions between federal watchdogs and the administration they monitor are not uncommon. But 11 inspectors general or their senior aides who served under Trump said hostility to oversight reached unprecedented levels during his time in office.
Widows Describe What It’s Like Running for Congress
MSN – Paul Fontello (Roll Call) | Published: 3/19/2021
Julia Letlow’s husband, U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, died of COVID-19 complications five days before he could be sworn in for the start of the new Congress. Now, Julia Letlow could join a small group of lawmakers in congressional history who succeeded their deceased spouses. According to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, 47 women have been appointed or elected to fill vacancies in Congress created when their husbands died. A century ago, that was a key path for women entering politics, according to Debbie Walsh, the center’s director. Widows were seen as dutiful rather than threatening, which helped them break the gender barrier.
Canada – Former Ambassador MacNaughton Did Not Violate Lobbying Act: Commissioner
Yahoo News – Canadian Press | Published: 3/23/2021
Canada’s former ambassador to the United States has been cleared of illegally lobbying federal government officials. Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said David MacNaughton did not violate the Lobbying Act last year when he had dozens of communications with senior officials about government policy and its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bélanger said MacNaughton had 49 communications with federal officials and offered the pro bono services of his current employer, Palantir Technologies Canada, in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Because those communications were short and did not constitute a “significant part” of his work for Palantir, Bélanger said they did not violate the law.
From the States and Municipalities
California – L.A. to Pay Out $150,000 Over Lawsuit by Former Aide to Jose Huizar
MSN – Emily Alpert Reyes (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/24/2021
Los Angeles will pay up to $150,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former aide who alleged he was fired after speaking up about possible crimes committed by then-city Councilperson Jose Huizar. The decision marks the third payout made by the city to settle retaliation suits filed by former staffers for Huizar, who is now facing federal charges that include bribery, racketeering, and money laundering. The settlement involving former staffer Jesse Leon brings the city’s total tab for such lawsuits to $350,000.
Colorado – Aurora Lawmakers Sold on Lobbyist Reform, Delivery Fee Caps and Tax-Free Menstrual Products
Sentinel Colorado – Grant Stringer | Published: 3/22/2021
Aurora lawmakers finalized tighter rules on lobbying disclosures. Lobbyists will have to frequently disclose their activities in public reports. The law will create a public record of lobbyists attempting to sway the city’s decision-making targets. City council members, city staff, commission members and zoning officials who speak with them will also have to disclose activities with lobbyists.
Colorado – In Record Year for Colorado Campaign Finance Complaints, Republicans Cry Foul Over Enforcement
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 3/24/2021
Republicans are crying foul over campaign finance decisions by a deputy secretary of state who rejected recommendations by the Campaign Finance Enforcement team organized a year ago by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat. A record number of complaints were filed in 2020 along with the second highest fine issued in recent years. But it is possible the system created in 2019 could be tested, as some Republicans challenge the claims filed against them. In at least two instances, the office’s Campaign Finance Enforcement team recommended dismissing complaints, but the deputy secretary of state reversed the recommendations.
Connecticut – Ex-GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Obsitnik Fined $90,000 by Election Enforcement Agency for 2018 Campaign Financing Irregularities
MSN – Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/18/2021
Connecticut election regulators on fined former gubernatorial candidate Steve Obsitnik $90,000 over allegations he illegally coordinated with an independent expenditure committee created to help his failed 2018 campaign. The State Elections Enforcement Commission also alleged he failed to register his candidate committee within 10 days of declaring a run for governor. State Rep. Jason Perillo was fined $10,000 over allegations he made a “disallowed” contribution to Obsitnik’s campaign and helped coordinate with the independent expenditure committee.
Florida – ‘A Cloud of Corruption’: Democrats want DOJ probe of Florida state Senate races
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty and Samantha Gross | Published: 3/25/2021
A week after former state Sen. Frank Artiles was arrested on felony charges of offering no-party candidate Alexis Rodriguez $50,000 to run as an independent in a South Florida state Senate race, Florida’s Democrats in Congress are asking U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland for a corruption investigation. The lawmakers argued the potential illicit transfer of campaign funds across state lines warrants scrutiny from the federal government. Political committees used money from a “dark money” group to pay for the ads that touted independent candidates, which included language that mimicked Democrats’ platforms and seemed designed to confuse voters, the members of Congress wrote to Garland.
Georgia – Female Lawmakers in Georgia File Sexual Harassment Complaint After Lewd Comments
Courthouse News Service – Aimee Sachs | Published: 3/17/2021
Female lawmakers in the Georgia House filed a sexual harassment complaint to the ethics committee after a male colleague made an inappropriate comment. During a debate on legislation about outgoing surgery sedation, Rep. Kasey Carpenter made what he later said was intended to be a joke about rapper Cardi B’s buttocks. For at least a dozen of the House women, Carpenter’s comment was not only inappropriate and offensive but a reflection of a culture of toxic masculinity in the Capitol they are fed up with.
Georgia – Georgia Bill for New Leadership Money Heads to Governor
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 3/18/2021
Georgia lawmakers passed a bill that would allow for the creation of new “leadership committees” that could raise campaign funds without limits and coordinate directly with individual candidates, including during a legislative session. It would allow for committees controlled by the governor, lieutenant governor, a political party’s nominee for governor or lieutenant governor, and by the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the state House and Senate. Democrats argued the bill will lead to more money interests being injected into state politics, while Republicans said the bill gives both parties equal opportunity to generate campaign funds.
Hawaii – The Hawaii Capitol Is Closed to The Public, But Some Lobbyists Still Have Entrée
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 3/24/2021
The public has been barred from entering the Capitol since March 2020, when Hawaii Sen. Clarence Nishihara tested positive for COVID-19 after a trip to Las Vegas. At the start of the 2021 legislative session, constituents were again banned from entering the Capitol and visiting offices and committee rooms. Instead, they testified remotely to legislative committees. But some individuals, including registered lobbyists, have been able to gain an audience with lawmakers in their offices after scheduling appointments.
Illinois – Executive Resigns from Hospital That Offered Early Vaccines to Employees at Trump’s Chicago Hotel
MSN – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2021
The chief operating officer of a small Chicago hospital resigned after reports he used coronavirus vaccines meant for low-income residents to vaccinate employees at his luxury wristwatch dealer, his regular steakhouse, and his condominium building, which is former President Trump’s Chicago tower. Anosh Ahmed’s actions had raised concerns that Loretto Hospital executives were putting their friends ahead of their patients. The city of Chicago had already cut off Loretto’s supply of new vaccines while it investigated.
Kentucky – Second Person Charged with Lying to Jury, FBI in Case Connected to Lexington Council
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 3/19/2021
Jeffrey Collins was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly lying to federal investigators and a jury about campaign contributions to Lexington City Council members. Collins, a then-employee of CRM Companies, faces two counts related to a $1,000 contribution he gave during the May 2018 council primaries. The lies allegedly occurred during the investigation and trial of former real estate executive Timothy Wellman, who worked for CRM Companies. No allegations of wrongdoing were made against council members.
Maryland – Complaints Filed About Maryland Lawmaker Who Tuned into Legislative Meetings from the Operating Room
MSN – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 3/23/2021
A Maryland lawmaker who is also a surgeon twice tuned into General Assembly committee meetings from an operating room during a legislative session in which many hearings and votes have been held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. When Del. Terri Hill’s Zoom account was logged into a meeting of the Health and Government Operations Committee for about an hour, it showed multiple gowned and masked figures moving about, with sets of operating room lights visible on the screen. Hill defended the practice as not much different from listening to music or a recorded book while in the operating room. Complaints have been filed against Hill with the state Board of Physicians and the General Assembly’s ethics committee.
Maryland – Following Monthly Exposé, Maryland House Passes Bill Targeting Hogan’s Business Dealings
Washington Monthly – Eric Cortellessa | Published: 3/18/2021
The Maryland House passed a bill to reform state ethics law, following a news story about Gov. Larry Hogan’s advancing road and highway projects near properties his company owns, which can boost the value of those properties. Hogan dismissed he report as a “blog thing,” but the story was cited by proponents of the new bill. The legislation would tighten disclosure laws by requiring the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, and any agency head to notify state ethics officials and members of the General Assembly whenever they face a decision in which they or a relative have a monetary interest. It would also require all elected officials to reveal more information about businesses in which they have a stake.
Missouri – St. Charles County Lawmaker Wants to Impose Tough Ethics Rules – on St. Louis City Elected Officials
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 3/22/2021
A ranking member of the Missouri House wants to impose tougher ethics rules on officials in St. Louis. Rep. John Wiemann, the speaker pro tem, says just as state officials are barred from receiving gifts and must wait two years to begin lobbying their former colleagues, city officials also should face limits. Under changes in the state constitution approved by voters, lobbyists are banned from giving out gifts or meals to state lawmakers worth more than five dollars. But that prohibition did not include mayors, city council members, and other local officials.
Montana – Montana’s Governor Broke Rules to Kill a Yellowstone Wolf. A State Agency Gave Him a Warning.
Yahoo News – Erin Snodgrass (Business Insider) | Published: 3/23/2021
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte was let off with a warning for defying a state regulation before trapping and killing a Yellowstone wolf near the national park in February. Though wolves inside Yellowstone are protected from hunters, Montana law does allow for the trapping and hunting of wolves in other parts of the state, including those that wander out of the park’s boundaries. But Gianforte harvested the wolf without having completed a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course.
Nevada – Ex-Lawmaker Charged with Misusing Funds, False Records
Associated Press News – Michele Price | Published: 3/19/2021
The Nevada attorney general’s office charged former state Rep. Alex Assefa of misusing campaign funds and filing false voter registration and campaign finance records. Prosecutors filed 14 charges against Assefa, who before resigning in January in the wake of reports he was under investigation related to his finances and whether he lived in the legislative district he represented. Prosecutors alleged Assefa lied about his residence on voter registration forms, filed false campaign finance reports, and misappropriated at least $11,150 in campaign funds.
Nevada – Lobbyists Must Register, Report; Still Can’t Enter Legislature
This Is Reno – Jerri Davis | Published: 3/19/2021
Assembly Bill 110, which addresses lobbying the Capitol during the pandemic, was signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak. Lobbyists have not been allowed inside the legislative building.at all this session, which began February 1. Nevada law previously required lobbyists to register only if they were conducting business in-person. Under the bill, lobbyists can now register online. They will need to file reports on their activity since the start of the session.
New Jersey – Former Candidate Tied to N.J. Corruption Case Gets Probation Over $10K Campaign Contribution
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/18/2021
A former Morris County freeholder candidate tied to an ongoing New Jersey “pay-to-play” investigation was sentenced to probation over campaign contribution she took from a tax attorney who allegedly had been looking to lock-down lucrative municipal contracts. Mary Dougherty, the wife of the current mayor of Morristown, originally was charged with bribery, but pleaded guilty to reduced charges in February of falsifying a campaign finance report. The plea means she will not face prison. She was also required to forfeit the $10,000 contribution.
New Mexico – Lobbyist Caught Swearing During Virtual Senate Finance Committee Meeting
KRQE – Brady Wakayama | Published: 3/21/2021
Virtual meetings are now common during the pandemic and there are stories of people forgetting to mute themselves at the wrong time. That is exactly what happened recently at the New Mexico Legislature. The hot mic incident happened as lawmakers were discussing a tax reform package. It would expand a tax credit for low-income workers and expands the low-income comprehensive tax rebate. “I got legislative sessions going and these b****es are trying to throw taxes on us,” said one business lobbyist attending a virtual Senate Finance Committee meeting.
New York – Andrew Cuomo’s Family Members Were Given Special Access to Covid Testing, According to People Familiar with the Arrangement
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Amy Brittain, and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2021
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration arranged special access to government-run coronavirus testing for members of his family and other well-connected people as the pandemic hit New York last year, according to three people with direct knowledge of the effort. As part of the program, a state lab immediately processed the results of those who were tested, the people said, even as average New Yorkers were struggling to get tested in the early days of the pandemic because of a scarcity of resources. New York law prohibits state officials from using their positions to secure privileges for themselves or others.
New York – Cuomo Ethics Commissioners Block Subpoena to Governor’s Office
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/23/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointees to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) blocked a subpoena seeking information about the unpaid volunteers playing an outsized role in the COVID-19 response. If issued, the proposed subpoena would have sought information about which volunteers aiding Cuomo have been exempted from normal ethics rules under executive orders issued by the governor. The subpoena also would have sought information about whether those volunteers ever recused themselves from governmental matters that posed potential conflicts-of-interest with their day jobs.
Ohio – Florida Authorities Say Columbus Lobbyist’s Death an Apparent Suicide
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 3/17/2021
Police believe a longtime Ohio lobbyist charged in connection with the House Bill 6 probe took his own life. Michelle Batten, a spokesperson for the Collier County sheriff’s office in Florida, said investigators do not suspect foul play was involved in Neil Clark’s death. Prosecutors say Clark played a role in a $61 million bribery scheme, funded by FirstEnergy and its affiliates, to pass the bill that bailed out two power plants owned by a former FirstEnergy subsidiary.
Ohio – Nursing Home Association Gave $135,000 to Dark Money Group Indicted in Ohio Bribery Case
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 3/22/2021
An entity representing Ohio’s nursing home industry contributed at least $135,000 to a “dark money” group that has pleaded guilty to its role in an alleged racketeering scheme involving former House Speaker Larry Householder. The nonprofit 501(c)(4) entity, 55 Green Meadows, is affiliated with the Ohio Health Care Association. In 2017 and 2018, 55 Green Meadows, donated the money to Generation Now, group that prosecutors say Householder secretly controlled. Both these nonprofit entities, known as “social welfare” organizations under federal tax law, can legally spend unlimited sums influencing politics so long as this is not the organization’s “primary activity.”
South Carolina – An SC Councilman’s Company Did Work for His City for Years. No One Asked Questions.
Charleston Post and Courier – Stephen Hobbs and Thad Moore | Published: 3/20/2021
Every year, elected officials in South Carolina flood the State Ethics Commission with paperwork intended to reveal potential conflicts-of-interest. But for more than a decade, a medical practice owned by Dillon’s current acting mayor, Dr. Phil Wallace, made money from the city and he never disclosed it. The relationship was hardly a secret. Wallace’s medical practice had a list of clients on its website and “Historic City of Dillon, S.C.” was at the top of the list. The case shows how in South Carolina, clear entanglements can fall through the cracks.
South Carolina – SC AG Alan Wilson’s Office Gives Public Corruption Cases to Upstate Prosecutor
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 3/18/2021
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office will give four high-profile cases involving alleged public corruption by three former state lawmakers and a political consultant to a state prosecutor. The charges against Richard Quinn Sr. and the lawmakers that will now be handled by Seventh Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette stem from special prosecutor David Pascoe’s investigation into statehouse corruption. In January, after state Supreme Court decision in one of Pascoe’s corruption cases placed limits on Pascoe’s authority, he turned over his pending cases in his investigation to Wilson for disposal.
Texas – Texas’s Chief Energy Regulator Fiercely Defended Fossil Fuels After Historic Blackouts. She Also Profits from Oil and Gas.
MSN – Neena Santija and Aaron Gregg (Washington Post) | Published: 3/19/2021
Christi Craddick, who chairs a commission overseeing the oil and gas industry in Texas, defended said natural gas producers were not responsible for the widespread powers outages the state suffered in the wake of a recent winter storm. Craddick and her father, a well-known state representative who sits on two committees overseeing oil and gas, have direct financial ties to that industry, including with some of the same gas-producing companies that have admitted to shutdowns of their own facilities during the storm. Critics say the ownership stakes reflect a conflict of interest for the Craddicks and exemplify a major ethics loophole in Texas, where regulators can have financial interests in the companies they oversee.
Vermont – Zoom Boom: Will Statehouse livestreaming continue when lawmakers return?
VTDigger.org – Kit Norton | Published: 3/22/2021
Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the statehouse last year in Vermont, legislative committee meetings were relatively difficult for the public to access. They were taped for posterity, but recordings were hard to come by. Only House and Senate floor proceedings were available via livestream, courtesy of Vermont Public Radio. In the year since, lawmakers have grown accustomed to conducting business and members of the public, the press, and lobbyists have grown accustomed to accessing video of those proceedings on YouTube. Now, the Senate is considering legislation that could make Statehouse business available to the public even after the pandemic is over.
Washington DC – ‘It’s Not a Local Issue Anymore’: D.C. statehood moves from political fringe to the center of the national Democratic agenda
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2021
With Joe Biden as president, a Democratic majority in Congress behind him, and a fast-evolving political landscape has propelled District of Columbia statehood up the Democratic priority list after it passed the U.S. House for the first time last year. The jolt of momentum stems in part from an increasingly urgent desire among Democrats to act while they have power to erode what they see as Republican structural advantages in the nation’s democracy, including the Senate. Statehood would probably result in two additional Democratic senators, shifting the dynamic in a chamber where members from conservative, rural states can wield disproportionate influence over legislation, federal courts, and presidential nominations.
Wisconsin – Bill Would Require Legislators and Their Staff to Stop Deleting Public Records
Wisconsin Examiner – Melanie Conklin | Published: 3/18/2021
The Wisconsin Legislature is required to respond to open records request, just as any other government entity in the state. But in its own statutes, the body gives itself a major pass that allows its records such as emails and correspondence, and therefore its actions, to be shielded from the public. Legislators and staff may simply delete or throw out the records. Unlike other governmental entities, there is no requirement that they save records, prior to those documents being requested via an open-records request.
March 24, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Congressional Fundraisers Lobby Corporations That Suspended Political Donations Following Capitol Riot” by Brian Schwartz (CNBC) for MSN Nevada: “Ex-Lawmaker Charged with Misusing Funds, False Records” by Michelle Price for Associated Press News Ethics National: “Trump Officials Hindered […]
National: “Congressional Fundraisers Lobby Corporations That Suspended Political Donations Following Capitol Riot” by Brian Schwartz (CNBC) for MSN
Nevada: “Ex-Lawmaker Charged with Misusing Funds, False Records” by Michelle Price for Associated Press News
National: “Trump Officials Hindered at Least Nine Key Oversight Probes, Watchdogs Said. Some May Finally Be Released in Coming Months.” by Lisa Rein, Tom Hamburger, Michael Laris, and John Hudson (Washington Post) for MSN
Georgia: “Female Lawmakers in Georgia File Sexual Harassment Complaint After Lewd Comments” by Aimee Sachs for Courthouse News Service
National: “Intern Pay Was Supposed to Boost Diversity in Congress. Most of the Money Went to White Students” by Jim Saska (Roll Call) for MSN
Vermont: “Zoom Boom: Will Statehouse livestreaming continue when lawmakers return?” by Kit Norton for VTDigger.org
Colorado: “Aurora Lawmakers Sold on Lobbyist Reform, Delivery Fee Caps and Tax-Free Menstrual Products” by Grant Stringer for Sentinel Colorado
Missouri: “St. Charles County Lawmaker Wants to Impose Tough Ethics Rules – on St. Louis City Elected Officials” by Kurt Erickson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
New Mexico: “Lobbyist Caught Swearing During Virtual Senate Finance Committee Meeting” by Brady Wakayama for KRQE
March 23, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Kentucky: “Second Person Charged with Lying to Jury, FBI in Case Connected to Lexington Council” by Beth Musgrave for Lexington Herald-Leader Elections National: “Widows Describe What It’s Like Running for Congress” by Paul Fontello (Roll Call) for MSN […]
Kentucky: “Second Person Charged with Lying to Jury, FBI in Case Connected to Lexington Council” by Beth Musgrave for Lexington Herald-Leader
National: “Widows Describe What It’s Like Running for Congress” by Paul Fontello (Roll Call) for MSN
National: “Rep. Tom Reed Apologizes for Sexual Misconduct Detailed in Post Report, Won’t Challenge Cuomo in 2022” by Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Access, Influence and Pardons: How a Set of Allies Shaped Trump’s Choices” by Kenenth Vogel and Nicholas Confessore for New York Times
Maryland: “Following Monthly Exposé, Maryland House Passes Bill Targeting Hogan’s Business Dealings” by Eric Cortellessa for Washington Monthly
South Carolina: “An SC Councilman’s Company Did Work for His City for Years. No One Asked Questions.” by Stephen Hobbs and Thad Moore for Charleston Post and Courier
Wisconsin: “Bill Would Require Legislators and Their Staff to Stop Deleting Public Records” by Melanie Conklin for Wisconsin Examiner
Washington DC: “‘It’s Not a Local Issue Anymore’: D.C. statehood moves from political fringe to the center of the national Democratic agenda” by Mike DeBonis and Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for MSN
Nevada: “Lobbyists Must Register, Report; Still Can’t Enter Legislature” by Jerri Davis for This Is Reno
March 22, 2021 •
On March 17, a comprehensive bill aimed at reforming U.S. campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws, and improving voter rights and election integrity, was introduced in the U.S. Senate. The sweeping bill, Senate Bill 1, For the People Act of […]
On March 17, a comprehensive bill aimed at reforming U.S. campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws, and improving voter rights and election integrity, was introduced in the U.S. Senate. The sweeping bill, Senate Bill 1, For the People Act of 2021, is companion legislation to House Bill 1, which passed the House on March 3. That bill, also called the For the People Act of 2021, was received in the Senate on March 11.
The bill would require the registration as a federal lobbyist for those counseling in support of lobbying contacts; require super PACs, 501(c)4 groups and other organizations spending money in elections and on judicial nominations to disclose donors who contribute more than $10,000; and, under the definitions of the Federal Election Campaign Act, add “paid internet or paid digital communication” to the definition of public communication and add “qualified internet or digital communication” to the definition of electioneering communication.
The bill creates a reporting requirement under campaign finance laws for disclosing certain foreign contacts and creates an obligation for political committees to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Election Commission of those contacts. It also prohibits foreign nationals from participating in decision-making about contributions or expenditures by corporations and other entities; prohibits the establishment of a corporation to conceal election contributions and donations by foreign nationals; and requires foreign agents to disclose transactions involving things of financial value conferred on officeholders.
The bill defines the prohibited coordination between campaigns and super PACs, includes creating a “coordinated spender” category in the law to ensure single-candidate super PACs do not operate as arms of candidates, and defines the prohibited coordination between campaigns and super PACs. The bill would repeal existing prohibitions on the Securities and Exchange Commission from finalizing rules to afford shareholders the opportunity to know about the political spending of publicly traded companies and would require shareholder authorization before a public company may make certain political expenditures. It would also repeal existing prohibitions on the executive branch from promulgating rules to require government contractors to disclose all of their political spending.
The bill requires presidential inauguration committees to disclose their expenditures, limits aggregate contributions, and restricts funds being used for purposes unrelated to an inauguration. Additional measures in the bill include a publicly financed 6-1 matching system on small-dollar donations for Senate and presidential candidates, more ethics changes to the executive branch, and substantial changes to federal election law and voter rights.
March 19, 2021 •
National/Federal Army Initially Pushed to Deny District’s Request for National Guard Before Jan. 6 MSN – Paul Sonne, Peter Hermann, Ellen Nakashima, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2021 The Army pushed to reject the District of Columbia’s request for […]
Army Initially Pushed to Deny District’s Request for National Guard Before Jan. 6
MSN – Paul Sonne, Peter Hermann, Ellen Nakashima, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2021
The Army pushed to reject the District of Columbia’s request for a modest National Guard presence ahead of the January 6 rally that led to the Capitol riot, underscoring the reluctance of some at the Pentagon to involve the military in security arrangements that day. In an internal draft memo, the Army said the U.S. military should not be needed to help police with traffic and crowd management, as city officials had requested, unless more than 100,000 demonstrators were expected. The memo said the request should be denied because a federal agency had not been identified to run the preparations and on-the-day operations; the resources of other federal agencies had not been exhausted; and law enforcement was “far better suited” for the task.
Brussels Lobbying Business Picks Up Despite Pandemic
Politico – Lily Bayer | Published: 3/10/2021
Not even a pandemic can keep European Union (EU) lobbyists down for long. While some endured revenue falls and staff cuts after the coronavirus crisis first hit, consultancies and other lobbying outfits have become increasingly active since then. Some of the uptick is due to the crisis itself. Private sector clients and others are eager to influence the EU’s post-coronavirus recovery plans. Some of it is due to Brussels entering what are traditionally the busiest years of a legislative cycle, with the European Commission in its second year in office.
Corporate PAC Donations to Parties and Candidates Plummet after Capitol Riot
MSN – Kate Ackley and Herb Jackson (Roll Call) | Published: 3/16/2021
Campaign finance data show companies and organizations largely stuck to their public pledges to pause at least some of their political donations after a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol and 147 Republicans in the House and Senate voted to reject electoral votes from certain states that President Biden won. The coronavirus pandemic also put a dent in giving during the earliest weeks of this year. But PACs would normally use checks in January after an election year to introduce themselves to new office holders, help candidates build up funds to scare away potential challengers or to retire old campaign debt, and assist party committees gearing up for another campaign cycle. Disclosures from 2021 show this did not happen.
House Committee Seeks Financial Records for Trump’s Washington Hotel
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2021
A House committee asked the Biden administration to provide detailed financial records on former President Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel, which is in a federally owned building and must give the government financial data as part of its lease. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee first asked for records on the hotel in 2019. But for two years, while Trump’s administration was the Trump International Hotel’s landlord, the government refused to hand them over. Those records, if made public, would reveal the inner workings of a hotel that became a place where the sitting president’s company could be paid by foreign governments, Republican allies, and companies with business before the Trump administration.
House GOP Super PAC Launches Hard-Money Arm
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/17/2021
The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC with close ties to House Republican leadership, is launching a hard-money arm that will allow it to endorse and contribute directly to candidates and members of Congress. The effort, dubbed the CLF Trailblazers Fund, marks a new step for the high-spending super PAC that will allow it to have a more direct role in congressional races, potentially including GOP primaries.
How 535,000 Covid Deaths Spurred Political Awakenings Across America
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 3/17/2021
Many people who have lost loved ones, or whose lives have been upended by long-haul symptoms of COVID-19, have turned to political action, seeking answers and new policies from a government whose failures under the Trump administration allowed the U.S. to become one of the hardest hit countries by the pandemic. Dozens recently participated in an advocacy training session over Zoom, run by a group called Covid Survivors for Change. The group organized virtual meetings with the offices of 16 U.S. senators and more than 50 group members lobbied for the coronavirus relief package.
‘I Still Don’t Feel Safe’: House lawmakers adjust to metal detectors, new normal
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 3/12/2021
Since January, lawmakers have been queuing up at the chamber doors, rummaging through their pockets, and sliding bags and other belongings across a table before they walk through the metal detectors. It is a common sight at sports stadiums or concert venues, less so in the U.S. House. Two months later, the outrage has cooled somewhat, but a question remains: Is this the new normal? Republicans who once made a scene, shouting at Capitol Police or dodging the screenings, are now complying as quietly as they would at the airport. They may not be happy about it, but it is starting to feel routine.
‘Manels’ Flourished During Key Period in Congress, Research Finds
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 3/16/2021
When U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa convened a hearing on birth control with mostly male witnesses in 2012, some Democratic women staged a walkout. Less noticed is the lack of women in more mundane settings, where the effects of gender are not as obvious. Caroline Bruckner of American University wanted to see who got a voice at the witness table as Republicans pushed through an overhaul of the tax code. There were 12 hearings and just 19 percent of the witnesses were women. Five of the hearings featured only men. Bruckner is looking at past panels, working with a team of other researchers at American University to track gender representation at legislative hearings for 15 committees going back 10 years.
Putin Targeted People Close to Trump in Bid to Influence 2020 Election, U.S. Intelligence Says
Seattle Times – Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials in Moscow sought to influence the 2020 election by spreading misleading information about Joe Biden through prominent individuals, some of whom were close to former President Trump, the U.S. intelligence community said in a report. It does not identify those individuals by name, but it appears to reference Trump’s onetime personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, whose repeated meetings with a suspected Russian agent came under scrutiny by U.S. officials. While foreign disinformation and interference was a major concern heading into the 2020 campaign, domestic efforts to disrupt the race, including by Trump and his allies, turned out to be of greater significance.
Two Arrested in Assault on Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, Who Died After Jan. 6 Capitol Riot
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Peter Hermann (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2021
Federal authorities arrested and charged two men with assaulting U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray during the January 6 Capitol riot but have not determined whether the exposure caused his death. Julian Khater and George Tanios are charged with nine counts including assaulting three officers with a deadly weapon. They are also charged with civil disorder and obstruction of a congressional proceeding. The charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Lawmakers Move to Block Private Funds for Elections
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 3/15/2021
Raising the specter of Mark Zuckerberg influencing who holds office in Arizona, Republican lawmakers moved to block counties from taking money from any private source to help run future elections. The party-line vote by the Senate Government Committee follows the disclosure that nine Arizona counties got more than $6 million last year from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. The grants were to help defray some of the costs of running an election during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Jennifer Marson, executive director for the Arizona Association of Counties.
California – Bill to Increase Transparency of Lobbying Activities Passed in Senate Committee
California Globe – Evan Symon | Published: 3/16/2021
Legislation that would increase the transparency of lobbying activities in Sacramento was approved by the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee. Senate Bill 305 would allow electronic signatures on lobbyist registration forms and documents. Presently, a handwritten signature is required. The forms are also currently restricted to be handed in-person at the secretary of state’s office or sent through the mail. Sen. Brian Jones introduced the bill because of the delay current procedures have on keeping the public informed.
California – French Laundry Friend Now Banned from Lobbying California Gov. Gavin Newsom
MSN – Sophia Bollag (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 3/16/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom adopted an expanded lobbying ban for his political consultants, months after he drew criticism for dining with lobbyist Jason Kinney at an expensive restaurant in violation of his own pandemic restrictions. Under the new rules, appointees “with a high level of influence over the Administration’s policy decisions” are prohibited from accepting gifts from lobbyists. The rule applies to Newsom, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, senior officials at agencies and departments, policy advisers, and “any equivalent position.” The administration also asked the Fair Political Practices Commission to maintain a list on its website of everyone registered to lobby Newsom and executive branch agencies.
California – Get Ready for California Recall to Break the Bank in 2021
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 3/16/2021
Limitless money, a slew of candidates, and undivided national attention are about to converge in a battle for California’s future. An effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is highly likely to qualify after supporters submit their last signatures. The ensuing campaign will be a melee free from the constraints that inhibit other statewide contests in California. Donation caps do not apply. Hundreds of millions of dollars are likely to inundate the state as the full might of California’s Democratic establishment vies with a concerted Republican effort to oust a humbled blue state leader.
California – Oakland’s Transparency Problem: Thousands of public records requests are backlogged
Vallejo Times Herald – Annie Sciacca | Published: 3/15/2021
When people try to obtain public records from the city of Oakland, especially police reports, many probably feel their requests have been tossed into the abyss. In more than 6,300 cases, the police department and other city offices either have not responded to record requests or have not supplied all the sought-after documents, according to a review of Oakland’s NextRequest portal, which pulls all the requests into one place. Under the California Public Records Act, government agencies must let people who request documents know within 10 days whether they possess them, intend to withhold them and, if so, on what legal basis. Agencies can extend the 10-day period another 14 days.
Colorado – Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman Sues City Over Recent Campaign Finance Changes
Canon City Daily Recortd – John Aguilar (Denver Post) | Published: 3/17/2021
Aurora Mayor Michael Coffman sued his own city, claiming a campaign finance reform measure passed by the city council last year is “designed to silence” him by barring officeholders in Aurora from organizing campaigns on behalf of candidates or ballot issues. The mayor said he supports the bulk of the ordinance, which limits individual donations to a candidate or his or her political committee to $400 per election cycle in a ward race and $1,000 in an at-large or mayoral race.
Florida – Florida Property Rights Bill Was Written by a Development Company
Tampa Bay Times – Zachary Sampson | Published: 3/16/2021
A bill in the Florida Legislature that would bolster a state property rights law that critics say already scares local governments away from protecting the environment was written by representatives of a major development business that has donated to its state Senate sponsor. Sen. Ray Rodrigues said he worked with a lobbyist for the Barron Collier Companies and Collier Enterprises Management to draft the proposal. An email shows the lobbyist passed along draft language from an executive at Barron Collier Companies, one branch of a real estate and investment empire left by Collier County’s namesake.
Florida – Police Raid Home of Former GOP Lawmaker Who Bragged About Planting No-Party Candidate
Miami Herald – Ana Ceballos, Samantha Gross, and David Ovalle | Published: 3/17/2021
Authorities raided the house of former Florida Sen. Frank Artiles. He is believed to be tied to a state investigation involving a sham no-party candidate who likely swayed the outcome of a key 2020 Miami-Dade state Senate race. While details remain sealed, it was reported that Artiles got involved in the Senate District 37 race when he recruited and boasted about planting Alex Rodriguez, an auto-parts dealer, to run in the race. Rodriguez was on the ballot as a no-party candidate, shared the same surname as the incumbent Democrat, and his mysterious candidacy has been under investigation since November.
Hawaii – Hawaii Lawmakers Seek Exemption from Political Ad Disclosures
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 3/18/2021
The public could have less transparency in elections and less insight into what political advertisements candidates are paying for under a pair of measures moving through the Hawaii Legislature. House Bill 144 and House Bill 674 would exempt candidates from filing reports on ads with the state. That law was intended to shine a light on how much money candidates and political committees are spending on ads during election season to sway voters. Wording in the ad reporting law has confounded some campaigns and led to significant fines in recent years.
Illinois – At Trump’s Chicago Tower, Employees Got Vaccinated Early – Thanks to a Hospital Whose COO Lives in the Building
MSN – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 3/17/2021
Employees at former President Trump’s Chicago tower got early access to coronavirus vaccines, arranged by a hospital whose chief operating officer owns a $2.7 million condo in the building. Seventy-two employees of Trump’s hotel and condo tower were vaccinated on March 10 and 11, despite city guidelines saying hotel employees would not be eligible until March 29. The city asked for more details about the vaccination event from its organizer, Loretto Hospital. The small hospital is in a majority-Black neighborhood nine miles from Trump’s downtown tower and says its mission is to provide vaccines to the “minority communities hardest hit” by the pandemic.
Iowa – Iowa Extended Contact Tracing Contract with Company Owned by Republican Party Donor as Cases Plummeted
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 3/12/2021
As coronavirus virus cases plummeted, Iowa quietly extended a $3.9 million contact tracing contract with a company owned by a major Republican Party donor and supporter of Gov. Kim Reynolds. After a one-day emergency bidding process in November, the state Department of Public Health hired MCI, a telemarketing firm, to trace the contacts of residents infected with COVID-19. The award of the two-month, $2.3 million contract came during a surge in cases that filled up hospitals with patients and after months of complaints from counties about a shortage of contact tracing workers. MCI performed telemarketing and data work for Donald Trump’s two presidential campaigns and also provided services for Reynolds’ political campaign.
Kentucky – ‘Not a Knee-Jerk Reaction.’ Legislators Say Ethics Bills Not Just Aimed at Beshear.
Lexington Herald-Leader – John Cheves | Published: 3/12/2021
The Kentucky Legislature is moving two government ethics bills aimed at Gov. Andy Beshear – but also, lawmakers, say, at future governors from both parties who will follow him. The House appeared poised to give final passage to Senate Bill 6, which would create ethics rules for the people who work on transition teams for newly elected governors and other state constitutional officers, such as attorneys general and state auditors. The other measure is House Bill 454, which would reorganize the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, the panel that enforces a code of ethics on most of state government.
Maine – Legislation That Would Silence Foreign Companies During Maine Ballot Campaigns Gets First Look
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 3/15/2021
A trio of bills seeking to silence the influence of foreign companies on statewide ballot questions in Maine drew support and opposition during a public hearing before the Legislature. At stake is an ongoing, $1 billion powerline-expansion project spearheaded by Central Maine Power Co. and Hydro-Quebec, an energy company owned and operated by the Canadian province of Quebec. The legislation, offered by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, would prohibit Hydro-Quebec from spending in an attempt to influence the outcome of a ballot question in November that would require the Legislature approve the project. It has been approved by state and federal regulators.
Maryland – Baltimore Clarifies Rules to Govern Board of Estimates Votes, Abstentions
Yahoo News – Tim Prudente (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 3/13/2021
Baltimore’s Board of Ethics clarified the voting rules for the city spending panel, finding a member may in fact vote on matters pertaining to units of city government under his or her control. In a written opinion, the ethics panel concluded a 2013 change to city law limits instances in which members of the Board of Estimates must abstain from voting because of a conflict-of-interest. “… However, the BOE is free to adopt additional voting abstention policies to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the opinion states.
Maryland – Ex-Baltimore Mayor’s Associate, the Final Defendant in ‘Healthy Holly’ Case, Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison
Yahoo News – Justin Fenton (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 3/4/2021
The final defendant in the case against former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh ended when the former director of a nonprofit job training center was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison on tax fraud charges. Roslyn Wedington was director of the Maryland Center for Adult Training, where Pugh served on the board of directors. Pugh aide Gary Brown helped Wedington earn an off-the-books salary so she could for years avoid paying taxes and wage garnishment. Brown was sentenced to 27 months in prison for his role, as well as a fraud scheme related to Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s books. Pugh is serving a three-year sentence in federal prison.
Maryland – Unlike Many Other States, Maryland’s Legislature Is Moving to Make It Easier to Vote Early or by Mail
Yahoo News – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 3/12/2021
Inspired by – or perhaps infuriated by – the contentious 2020 presidential election, Maryland lawmakers are pushing dozens of bills to change the way the state’s voters cast their ballots. Maryland’s Democrat-led General Assembly is moving to make it easier to vote by mail and to vote early, partially driven by the pandemic election that saw record turnout in the state by those means. Republican lawmakers, who are significantly outnumbered in Annapolis, are pushing bills they say would cut down on voter fraud, such as requiring identification at the polls and checking signatures on mailed ballots.
Michigan – Michigan Officials Dodge Transparency Reforms Enacted Elsewhere, Reject Dozens of Bills
Yahoo – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 3/16/2021
The Michigan Legislature has rejected more than 130 bills aimed at boosting transparency and ethics in government since a national nonprofit organization rated the state last in the subjects six years ago. The statistic shows Michigan officeholders’ ongoing resistance to laws that would provide the public more information about their decisions, including disclosing their communications and revealing potential conflicts-of-interest. Similar measures have already been enacted in most other states. But proponents of the reforms hope the tides are changing in Michigan.
New Jersey – N.J. Mayor Weighs November Re-Election Bid – When He’ll Be 97
Newark Star Ledger – Steve Strunsky (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/15/2021
In the summer of 2017, when Vito Perillo was 92, he resolved to do something about Tinton Falls’ steadily increasing property taxes, a rise documented by saving every one of his tax bills since 1980, the year he retired as a civilian defense employee. He ran and won the mayor race in the Monmouth County borough. Four years later, with Perillo’s first term expiring at the end of the year, he must decide whether to seek a second term in November. Perillo, one of the oldest mayors in the state and the nation, if not the oldest, will be 97 years old at that point.
New York – A Father’s Gift to a Mayoral Candidate: A $1 Million Super PAC
New York Times – Dana Rubinstein | Published: 3/17/2021
With New York City’s mayoral primary a little more than three months away and a deadline to qualify for the city’s matching-funds program having just passed, pleas for donations have been in overdrive in recent days. But in the background, another spigot of money has opened for two Democratic candidates who are trailing in early polls. An independent expenditure committee for Raymond McGuire, a former Wall Street executive, has garnered more than $3 million, with more than 70 donations from business magnates. A new super PAC for Donovan, a former cabinet member in the Obama administration, has drawn $1.02 million from just two donors – the primary benefactor being his father, Michael Donovan, who donated $1 million.
New York – Cuomo Impeachment Probe Authorized by New York Assembly Speaker as Sexual Harassment Claims Grow
MSN – Dan Mangan (CNBC) | Published: 3/11/2021
The speaker of the New York Assembly authorized an impeachment investigation into allegations of misconduct by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been the subject of multiple sexual harassment claims in recent weeks. The probe was set in motion hours after more than 50 Democratic state lawmakers, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the National Organization for Women demanded Cuomo resign. The developments came a day after a newspaper reported a member of Cuomo’s staff had accused him of aggressively groping her in the governor’s mansion last year.
New York – New York’s Vaccine Czar Called County Officials to Gauge Their Loyalty to Cuomo Amid Sexual Harassment Investigation
MSN – Amy Brittain and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 3/14/2021
New York’s “vaccine czar,” an adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, phoned county officials recently in attempts to gauge their loyalty to the embattled governor amid an ongoing sexual harassment investigation, according to officials. One Democratic county executive was so unsettled by the outreach from Larry Schwartz, head of the state’s vaccine rollout, that the executive filed notice of an impending ethics complaint with the public integrity unit of the state attorney general’s office. The executive feared the county’s vaccine supply could suffer if Schwartz was not pleased with the executive’s response to his questions about support of the governor.
New York – Report: Rochester police, mayor ‘knowingly suppressed’ information in Prude case
National Public Radio – Vanessa Romo | Published: 3/12/2021
Rochester city officials, including the former police chief and the mayor, “knowingly suppressed” information from getting to the public, and some officials made “untrue statements” about the events leading to the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man experiencing a mental health episode who was asphyxiated by police while restrained and handcuffed. An independent report chronicles how ex-Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and Mayor Lovely Warren, over the course of more than five months, took deliberate steps to avoid disclosing the disturbing nature of the encounter between Prude and the officers.
Ohio – Advocates Call for Greater Transparency in Ohio Campaign Contributions Raised by Lobbyists
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 3/16/2021
Common Cause Ohio wants the state to require lobbyists to disclose fundraising they coordinate on behalf of politicians, saying the change would give voters a better idea which groups are trying to influence state policy through their campaign money. Ohio currently requires lobbyists to disclose the money they spend entertaining elected officials. State campaign finance laws require political donors to disclose their name, address, and employer. But those requirements do not reflect the lobbyists who may coordinate the donations.
Ohio – Cincinnati Elections Commission Reverses Decision, Tightens Contribution Rules. It Could Cost Aftab Pureval
MSN – Scott Wartman (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 3/11/2021
The Cincinnati Elections Commission reversed its January decision on the rules for use of previous campaign contributions for mayoral candidates. The board decided individual donors to mayoral and council candidates cannot exceed the $1,100 campaign contribution limits for any race going back four years to the previous mayoral race. The vote reverses a decision from that said candidates could use funds raised in non-city races before the previous general election.
Ohio – Federal Utility Regulator Investigates FirstEnergy’s Lobbying on House Bill 6
MSN – Jesse Balmart (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 3/17/2021
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is looking into how FirstEnergy lobbied for a $1 billion nuclear bailout in 2019. The FERC, which is tasked with regulating utilities like FirstEnergy, is investigating the company’s lobbying on House Bill 6, a bill that overhauled Ohio’s energy policies and included $1 billion in subsidies for two nuclear plants in the state, then-owned by FirstEnergy Solutions. FirstEnergy was directed to preserve documents and information related to lobbying. This investigation is in addition to an ongoing FERC audit of FirstEnergy.
Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court Will Hear Argument of ‘Political Retribution’ by LaRose Against Summit County GOP Chair
MSN – Doug Livingtston (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 3/15/2021
The Summit County Republican Party is accusing Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose of spinning “inaccurate and incomplete” facts to “exact political retribution” against its local leader. LaRose rejected the reappointment of Bryan Williams, who is vice president of the state central committee and chairperson of the Summit County GOP, to another four years on the Summit County Board of Elections. LaRose gave the party’s county executive committee a deadline to give him another name for the open seat. Local party leaders met and voted to sue LaRose instead.
South Dakota – South Dakota Legislature Adopts Bill Barring Public Agencies from Collecting, Releasing Information About Nonprofit Donors
Ballotpedia – Staff | Published: 3/16/2021
The South Dakota Legislature approved a bill that would bar public agencies from requiring individuals or groups to disclose identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors, clearing the way for Gov. Kristi Noem’s signature. Senate Bill 103 would bar any public agency, including state and municipal government units and courts, from requiring a current or prospective contractor to provide a public agency with a list of the nonprofits “to which it has provided financial or nonfinancial support,” among other provisions. The legislation does not bar public agencies from furnishing personal information about a nonprofit’s donors or supporters for campaign finance reporting requirements.
Utah – Secretive Out-of-State Group Pushes Bill That Makes It Harder to Get a Voter Initiative on the Ballot
MSN – Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 3/11/2021
This legislative session, supporters of a bill tightening the rules for ballot initiatives stressed that the measure would protect Utah from the influence of outside interests, which have previously dumped money into signature-gathering campaigns on medical cannabis and Medicaid expansion. What some state lawmakers might not have realized was this legislation was promoted by a shadowy, out-of-state group called the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA). While ballot initiative campaigns must disclose their donors, the public has no idea which wealthy benefactors might have helped the FGA advance its political agenda in Utah, said Spencer Stokes, a state lobbyist and the co-owner of a signature-gathering firm.
Virginia – Northam Restores Voting Rights for 69,000 with Felony Convictions
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2021
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam restored the voting rights of 69,000 people convicted of felonies under a policy change that speeds up the process, no longer requiring former prisoners to go through lengthy probations before qualifying to seek restoration. Virginia is one of a handful of states that permanently disenfranchise all those convicted of felonies unless they have their rights restored by the governor. This year, Virginia’s General Assembly gave preliminary approval to a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights for felons as soon as they complete their incarceration. In the meantime, Northam said he was taking a cue from that proposal and changing the timing of his process, reviewing rights as soon as someone is freed.
Washington – Washington AG Bob Ferguson Wants an Additional $2.8 Million in Legal Fees from Tim Eyman
Spokane Spokesman-Review – David Gutman (Seattle Times) | Published: 3/12/2021
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson wants an additional $2.8 million in legal fees and costs related to his lawsuit against anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman. The lawsuit dragged on because of what Ferguson called Eyman’s “cost-inflating, frivolous, obstructive and defiant litigation tactics.” Eyman was found liable recently of “numerous and particularly egregious” violations of campaign finance law for laundering political donations to enrich himself, accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm, secretly shuttling money between initiative campaigns, and concealing the source of other political contributions.
March 17, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Corporate PAC Donations to Parties and Candidates Plummet after Capitol Riot” by Kate Ackley and Herb Jackson (Roll Call) for MSN Elections Arizona: “Arizona Lawmakers Move to Block Private Funds for Elections” by Howard Fischer (Capitol News […]
National: “Corporate PAC Donations to Parties and Candidates Plummet after Capitol Riot” by Kate Ackley and Herb Jackson (Roll Call) for MSN
Arizona: “Arizona Lawmakers Move to Block Private Funds for Elections” by Howard Fischer (Capitol News Servies) for Arizona Daily Star
New Jersey: “N.J. Mayor Weighs November Re-Election Bid – When He’ll Be 97” by Steve Strunsky (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger
National: “Army Initially Pushed to Deny District’s Request for National Guard Before Jan. 6” by Paul Sonne, Peter Hermann, Ellen Nakashima, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “Michigan Officials Dodge Transparency Reforms Enacted Elsewhere, Reject Dozens of Bills” by Craig Mauger (Detroit News) for Yahoo
Ohio: “Ohio Supreme Court Will Hear Argument of ‘Political Retribution’ by LaRose Against Summit County GOP Chair” by Doug Livingtston (Akron Beacon Journal) for MSN
National: “‘Manels’ Flourished During Key Period in Congress, Research Finds” by Jim Saska (Roll Call) for MSN
Florida: “Florida Property Rights Bill Was Written by a Development Company” by Zachary Sampson for Tampa Bay Times
Ohio: “Advocates Call for Greater Transparency in Ohio Campaign Contributions Raised by Lobbyists” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer
March 15, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Ohio: “Cincinnati Elections Commission Reverses Decision, Tightens Contribution Rules. It Could Cost Aftab Pureval” by Scott Wartman (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN Utah: “Secretive Out-of-State Group Pushes Bill That Makes It Harder to Get a Voter Initiative on the […]
Ohio: “Cincinnati Elections Commission Reverses Decision, Tightens Contribution Rules. It Could Cost Aftab Pureval” by Scott Wartman (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Utah: “Secretive Out-of-State Group Pushes Bill That Makes It Harder to Get a Voter Initiative on the Ballot” by Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) for MSN
Washington: “Washington AG Bob Ferguson Wants an Additional $2.8 Million in Legal Fees from Tim Eyman” by David Gutman (Seattle Times) for Spokane Spokesman-Review
Maryland: “Unlike Many Other States, Maryland’s Legislature Is Moving to Make It Easier to Vote Early or by Mail” by Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) for Yahoo News
Kentucky: “‘Not a Knee-Jerk Reaction.’ Legislators Say Ethics Bills Not Just Aimed at Beshear.” by John Cheves for Lexington Herald-Leader
New York: “Cuomo Impeachment Probe Authorized by New York Assembly Speaker as Sexual Harassment Claims Grow” by Dan Mangan (CNBC) for MSN
National: “‘I Still Don’t Feel Safe’: House lawmakers adjust to metal detectors, new normal” by Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) for MSN
Europe: “Brussels Lobbying Business Picks Up Despite Pandemic” by Lily Bayer for Politico
March 9, 2021 •
Legislation aimed at reforming U.S. campaign finance, lobbying, and ethic laws has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 1, For the People Act 2021, is a sweeping 791-page bill. The proposed new law, which passed the House on […]
Legislation aimed at reforming U.S. campaign finance, lobbying, and ethic laws has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 1, For the People Act 2021, is a sweeping 791-page bill. The proposed new law, which passed the House on March 3, now heads to the U.S. Senate.
Among the changes in the bill, H.R. 1 restructures the Federal Election Commission and amends federal conflict of interest and lobbying laws. Introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, the bill requires enhanced disclosure of donors making political contributions, creates a multiple matching system for small donations for political campaigns, and amends rules governing super PACs.
If passed, the bill also requires presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns, prohibits partisan gerrymandering, increases oversight over election vendors, creates an automatic voter registration across the country, and changes registration requirements for lobbyists and foreign agents.
March 5, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 3/1/2021 President Biden and is under pressure to do more to restore confidence in the federal government following Donald Trump’s term in the White House. But […]
Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 3/1/2021
President Biden and is under pressure to do more to restore confidence in the federal government following Donald Trump’s term in the White House. But the schedules for the president and vice president are not posted online, the White House comment line is shut down, and there are no citizen petitions on the White House’s website. The administration has committed to releasing visitor logs. But it does not plan to divulge the names of attendees of virtual meetings, which are the primary mode of interaction until the pandemic eases. While Biden has received praise for keeping the American public informed, primarily by resuming the daily White House press briefings, he has yet to hold a news conference of his own.
Budget Nominee Tanden Withdraws Nomination Amid Opposition
Associated Press News – Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 3/2/2021
President Biden’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, has withdrawn her nomination after she faced opposition from key Democratic and Republican senators for her controversial tweets. Her withdrawal marks the first high-profile defeat of one of Biden’s nominees. The White House stuck with Tanden even after some centrist Republicans made their opposition known. Tanden faced pointed questions over her past comments about members from both parties during her confirmation hearing. Sen. Bernie Sanders accused her of issuing “vicious attacks” against progressives and had not said whether he’d support her nomination.
Capitol Riot Defendants Facing Jail Have Regrets. Judges Aren’t Buying It.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2021
As defendants charged in the Capitol siege have been coming through court, some have been shifting blame onto former President Trump, downplaying their actions, or expressing remorse. But federal judges, particularly those who work a few blocks from the Capitol, are not buying it. One judge called a defendant’s claim of civil disobedience “detached from reality.” Another verbally smacked down an attorney who tried to use the QAnon conspiracy theory to explain his client shouting “kill them all.” Other judges have been giving defendants civics lessons on how democracy works.
Elaine Chao Used DOT Staff to Aid Personal Errands, Father’s Business, Inspector Finds
Politico – Sam Mintz and Tanya Snyder | Published: 3/3/2021
Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao repeatedly used her staff and her position of power to boost the reputation of her shipping magnate father and otherwise aid her family, the Department of Transportation’s inspector concluded. The internal watchdog faulted Chao for four kinds of ethics violations, including planning to bring relatives on an official trip to China and requiring the department’s public affairs staff to help market a book written by her father. It found she also had employees handle personal errands such as shipping Christmas ornaments. Investigators referred their findings to the Justice Department for prosecution in December but it declined.
Ethics Watchdog: ‘Substantial’ evidence GOP lawmaker improperly spent funds, misused position to help brother
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 3/1/2021
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) concluded there is “substantial” evidence that U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo misused campaign as well as official funds and used his office to help his brother in violation of House rules. The OCE said it found evidence indicating Palazzo asked his House office staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands; and used his position as a member of Congress to contact the assistant secretary of the Navy to help his brother reenlist. The report said Palazzo charged his campaign committee rent for ostensibly using a riverfront home he owned as a headquarters, equal to the amount of his monthly mortgage, insurance, and tax payments “during a time of personal financial stress.”
Facebook Lifts Political Ad Ban
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 3/3/2021
Facebook lifted its ban on political ads, ending a self-imposed prohibition that began immediately after the 2020 general election and remained active for months. Facebook’s platform is one of the largest and most cost-effective ways for campaigns to reach voters and potential supporters. Digital strategists in both parties were critical of Facebook’s decision to cut off access to voters for the last several months, upending off-year campaign strategies.
HR 1 Overhaul Would Set New Holiday and New Rules for Lobbyists, Elections and Justices
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/3/2021
The U.S. House approved a sweeping political money, elections, influence, and ethics measure, but the bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. A hallmark of the package would set out an optional system to finance congressional campaigns with public money. It would provide a six-to-one match of small-dollar campaign donations. Under the legislation, all states would be required to send voters an application to cast their ballots by mail. Now, anyone who keeps their lobbying activities under 20 percent of their time for a client can remain under the public radar. HR 1 would take that threshold down to 10 percent.
‘It’s Donald Trump’s Party’: How the former president is building a political operation to cement his hold on the GOP
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2021
Any doubts about Donald Trump’s primacy in the Republican Party have been settled in recent weeks by the parade of petitioners he has welcomed to his Florida club. The party chairperson, the top two House Republicans, U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, and a coterie of other former aides and advisers have all made appearances at Mar-a-Lago, offering their counsel and seeking the favor of a former president who many believe controls the short-term fortunes of GOP candidates up and down the ballot and has made it clear he plans to use that power. Trump has started building his post-White House political operation and cementing his role as the party’s de facto leader.
Jim Jordan Under Scrutiny for Nearly $3 Million in Unreported Campaign Funds
Yahoo News – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 3/3/2021
The campaign committee for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan received ten notices from the FEC flagging discrepancies on its books totaling nearly $3 million dollars and dating back over two years. The campaign claims the errors slipped through the cracks amid a record fundraising surge, and it has more money on the books now, but experts say the dollar amount – errors totaling some $2.87 million – may trigger an FEC investigation. The errors also appear connected to newly developed, largely hidden payment systems in the murky world of Republican digital advertising, where vendors not only receive direct spending, but take cuts from fundraising as well.
Rep. Ronny Jackson Made Sexual Comments, Drank Alcohol and Took Ambien While Working as White House Physician, Pentagon Watchdog Finds
CNN – Manu Raju, Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen, and Oren Lieberman | Published: 3/3/2021
The Department of Defense inspector general’s office found U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip, and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted concerns from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care during his time serving as the top White House physician. The report notes the investigation into Jackson “was limited in scope and unproductive” as White House counsel under Donald Trump insisted on being present at all interviews of current White House Medical Unit employees, which had a “potential chilling effect” on the probe.
Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to Minorities
Anchorage Daily News – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court seemed inclined to make it more difficult to challenge widely used voting laws that in practice might be more of a burden to minority voters. The justices reviewed the protections provided by the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to forbid laws that result in discrimination based on race. The cases involve two voting regulations that are in common use across the country. One throws out the ballots of those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other restricts who may collect ballots cast early for delivery to polling places, a practice then-President Trump denounced as “ballot harvesting.” The greater impact will be the test the court develops for proving violations of the VRA, as new laws are proposed and state Legislatures begin redrawing congressional and legislative districts.
Canada – Ontario Law Would Restrict Election Spending by Third-Party Groups, Double Donation Limits for Individuals
Toronto Star – Robert Benzie | Published: 2/25/2021
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’ Progressive Conservatives have unveiled proposed campaign finance changes, doubling annual donation caps to $3,300, extending per-vote subsidies for political parties, and limiting PAC spending. Under legislation, advance polling days would also be increased from five to 10 to allow for safer voting in the COVID-19 era. Conservatives want to clamp down on PACs, such as the pro-Tory Ontario Proud and Working Families, which boosted the Liberals in past election campaigns. Such third-party advertising groups spent more than $5 million in the six months leading up to the June 2018 election.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Dark Money’ Is Still Trying to Influence Phoenix Elections Despite New Law. Here’s How.
MSN – Jen Fifield (Arizona Republic) | Published: 2/24/2021
Some Phoenix voters got the first deceitful political mailer from Americans for Progress nearly two weeks ago, and they just keep coming. The ads are seemingly attempting to trick voters in the progressive district into thinking Yassamin Ansari, a Democratic candidate for Phoenix City Council, is a Republican. But voters do not have a way of knowing who is sending them. Americans for Progress has yet to file a disclosure with the city. A new law was intended to stop these “dark money” ads from influencing city elections, but the group sending the ads remains shrouded in secrecy, even as voting for city council races is underway.
California – 5 Charged in SF Corruption Probe, Temporarily Barred from Receiving City Contracts
KPIX – Staff | Published: 3/2/2021
Five business executives linked to widespread corruption in San Francisco have been temporarily barred from doing business with the city. All five have been implicated in a federal investigation that began more than a year ago and centers around high-ranking city officials like former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and former Public Utilities Commission General Manger Harlan Kelly accepting gifts in exchange for help obtaining city contracts. The suspension orders are the first of their kind. A 2020 city law allows for city contractors who have been charged criminally, civilly, or administratively to be suspended from receiving public funds while the case against them is ongoing.
California – Ethics Commission Staff Were Told to Soften Their Advice on Gifts, Whistleblower Says
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 2/25/2021
Heather Holt, who was executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, told staffers at a 2018 meeting that a member of the city council had “threatened to cut the Ethics Commission’s budget if they did not give more permissive advice” on certain gift rules, according to an email written by Alexandria Latragna, the agency’s ethics program manager at the time. Latragna wrote Holt told commission staff that to maintain a good relationship with the council, they would need to be more “middle of the road” with the advice they gave on rules involving private events sponsored by lobbyists. David Tristan, who replaced Holt as executive director, issued a denial of the incident on her behalf.
California – Prosecutors Extract Pleas, $215 Million in Charter School Fraud Case
Voice of San Diego – Will Huntsberry | Published: 2/26/2021
The two ringleaders of an online charter school scam that raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Sean McManus and Jason Schrock, as well as nine other defendants, were charged in 2019 as part of a complicated scheme that involved enrolling fake students into their online charter schools and collecting public money for each student. As part of McManus and Schrock’s plea deal, they agreed to turn over all remaining cash and assets owned by A3 and its subsidiary companies. So far, that includes at least $215 million that will eventually make its way back into state coffers.
Colorado – Aurora Moves Forward Bills on Lobbying Disclosures, Sales Tax Exemptions on Menstrual Products
Aurora Sentinel – Grant Stringer | Published: 3/1/2021
The Aurora City Council gave first approval to a bill implementing strict lobbying disclosure requirements. The rules would require lobbyists to register their clients and income with the city, which would be made public to boost public trust in government, Councilperson Angela Lawson said. They would have to submit quarterly, detailed reports on their activities and financial motivations or face up to $2,500 fines per each charge.
Connecticut – Ex-State Employee Faces $5K Penalty for Using Work Computer, Email for Private Businesses
MSN – Russell Blair (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/2/2021
A former employee of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty after an investigation determined he used his state-issued computer, phone, and email address to run private businesses unrelated to his state job. Sean Condon used the state equipment to operate a retail men’s hair and skin care product business and an internet marketing business while on state time, according to a consent order he signed with the Office of State Ethics.
Florida – Legislating in the Time of COVID-19 Means Putting Protections Over Public Access
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas and Kirby Wilson (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/2/2021
Florida legislators opened their 60-day session this year trying to navigate a global pandemic and stay healthy enough to avoid disrupting their activities, access to elected government is limited. Gov. Ron DeSantis has not allowed the Capitol to be open to visitors and the public, even as he ordered all businesses to be open in Florida. Citizens are kept out of the buildings and at a distance, and the pandemic protocols set up by legislative leaders to allow the public to testify in person before committee hearings have proven cumbersome and technology challenged.
Florida – Wealthy Keys Enclave Received COVID Vaccines in January Before Much of the State
MSN – David Goodhue and Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/3/2021
As Florida’s eldest residents struggled to sign up to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, nearly all those aged 65 years and older in a wealthy gated enclave in the Florida Keys had been vaccinated by mid-January. The Ocean Reef Club is home to many wealthy donors to the Florida Republican Party and GOP candidates, including Gov. Ron DeSantis. In fact, the only people from Key Largo who gave to DeSantis’ political committee live in Ocean Reef. On February 25, one resident of Ocean Reef, Bruce Rauner, the former Republican governor of Illinois, donated $250,00 to DeSantis.
Illinois – Ex-Lawmaker’s Indictment Stems Partly from Secret ComEd Payments, Source Says
WBEZ – Dave McKinney, Tony Arnold, and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 2/25/2021
A newly filed federal tax-evasion indictment against a former member of ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s leadership team stems at least in part from secret payments for “government relations” work from Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). A source familiar with the probe said a six-count indictment against former state Rep. Edward Acevedo is a byproduct from the ongoing bribery investigation into ComEd’s Springfield lobbying practices. Federal charging documents against Acevedo and separate tax-evasion charges against his two sons do not make that connection clear. But the source said the case relates, in part, to unreported income originating from ComEd that Acevedo received from a company called Apex Strategy.
Illinois – Illinois Democrats Tap U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson to Succeed Michael Madigan as State Party Chair
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/3/2021
Illinois Democratic leaders selected U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly as their new state party chairperson and the successor to embattled former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who held the post for 23 years. The race was not without controversy. Outside attorneys for the state Democratic Party warned that Kelly, as a federal officeholder, would be prohibited from raising state money because Illinois fundraising rules are less strict than the federal rules that bind the member of Congress.
Illinois – Madigan Picks Another House Successor After Quickly Forcing Out His First Choice Over ‘Alleged Questionable Conduct’
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/25/2021
Angie Guerrero-Cuellar became the second replacement in four days for the Illinois House seat held by former Speaker Michael Madigan following a meeting of local ward and township committee members. Guerrero-Cuellar succeeds Madigan’s original hand-picked successor, Edward Guerra Kodatt, who resigned after the former speaker and Chicago Ald. Marty Quinn called on him to step down for unspecified “alleged questionable conduct.” The abrupt moves over the vacancy created by Madigan’s resignation were a sharp contrast to the hands-on, detail-oriented style the ex-speaker has displayed in running his ward and district office.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts Republican Nominated for Top Campaign Finance Job
Boston Herald – State House News Service | Published: 2/26/2021
The panel that has been searching for a new director for the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) was unanimous in its selection of Woburn City Clerk William Campbell to lead the agency. Secretary of State William Galvin mentioned talking with Campbell about the changing nature of campaigns and how the OCPF fits in. Campbell, if he accepts the job, would be the first new director since the retiring Michael Sullivan took charge of the agency about 27 years ago.
Michigan – Coronavirus Created ‘Perfect Storm’ That Rained Private Money on Michigan Election Administration
MSN – Gus Burns (MLive.com) | Published: 2/28/2021
The 474 local clerks’ offices in Michigan received millions of dollars from private nonprofits to administer the 2020 elections. Most spent grant funds on additional personnel needed to sort, verify, and count the influx of ballots that tripled for some offices due to relaxed absentee voting restrictions and a statewide push to promote remote voting. Some used their money for things like get-out-the-vote campaigns, ballot drop boxes, and in one case, a trailer that allowed city employees to travel to neighborhoods and deliver absentee ballots in person. Private money, usually reserved for politically motivated campaign efforts and ballot initiatives, has never entered Michigan elections this way, at the ground floor of democracy to pay for the mechanics.
Mississippi – Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 3/3/2021
Lawmakers defeated legislation that would have provided transparency around how Gov. Tate Reeves and future Mississippi governors raise and spend money on inauguration festivities. House Bill 109 said Reeves and future governor-elects would be required to reveal their inauguration financial information to the secretary of state’s office, similar to how politicians must publicly disclose information about their campaign funds. Governors and other top Mississippi politicians have long used 501(c)4 nonprofits to fund their inauguration ceremonies, parties, and transition expenses. Donors to those nonprofits can be kept secret.
Montana – Lawmaker Revives Proposal to Eliminate State’s Top Political Cop
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 2/25/2021
Rep. Derek Skees is reviving a proposal he brought four years earlier to eliminate Montana’s commissioner of political practices, the state’s enforcer of campaign finance and lobbying laws. Similar to legislation that passed the House in the 2017 session before stalling out in the Senate, House Bill 535 proposes shifting much of the office’s duties to the secretary of state, including receiving campaign statements and reports for candidates and political committees. Under the new bill, the secretary of state would also be responsible for receiving and investigating campaign finance and election complaints.
New Jersey – Firm Cited in Pay-to-Play Lawsuit Quits Job with N.J. Town
Newark Star Ledger – Bill Duhart (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/1/2021
A firm cited in a “pay-to-play” lawsuit resigned an appointment to a township government post days after it had been appointed for an additional year. Capehart Scatchard resigned its position as conflict counsel with Washington Township in Gloucester County after a pair of citizen watchdogs accused it of making campaign contributions to several elected township officials, including the mayor. The firms were then paid more than $17,500 for annual no-bid contracts, which is a violation of state “pay-to-play” laws, according to the suit.
New Mexico – Compromise Redistricting Bill Advances Unanimously from Senate Committee
New Mexico Political Report – Robert Nott (Santa Fe News Mexican) | Published: 3/2/2021
Lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee came to a quick compromise on a measure they hope will set New Mexico’s sometimes controversial redistricting process on a smooth path via an independent, bipartisan panel to redraw voting district boundaries. The bill calls for a seven-member panel and prohibits a majority of Democrats or Republicans and only requires the commission to come up with three plans for the Legislature to consider. There is no language in that would force the Legislature to accept any of the submitted plans.
New Mexico – Lobbyists Still Picking Up the Tab
Yahoo News – Dan McKay (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 2/28/2021
New Mexico lawmakers are conducting much of this year’s session online to limit the spread of COVID-19. Committee hearings have moved entirely to Zoom, and full meetings of the House and Senate are a mix of in-person and remote participation. The Capitol is closed, with only legislators, staff, and some media members allowed inside. But lobbyists are still finding ways to feed hungry lawmakers, sometimes in person.
New York – ‘Embarrassed’ Cuomo Apologizes but Won’t Resign Over Sexual Harassment Allegations
National Public Radio – Rachel Triesman | Published: 3/3/2021
In his first press briefing since three women came forward with claims of sexual harassment, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” but denied touching anyone inappropriately and said he would not resign. New York’s attorney general is investigating the allegations, which were raised by two former aides and a woman who met Cuomo at a wedding. Cuomo, who is facing mounting calls to resign, reiterated he will cooperate with that investigation, and asked New Yorkers to wait for the full report before forming an opinion.
New York – Trump’s Tax Returns Have Been Turned Over to Manhattan District Attorney
Seattle Times – Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/25/2021
The Manhattan district attorney’s office possesses former President Trump’s tax returns and a wealth of other financial data, records deemed central to prosecutors’ criminal investigation into Trump’s business activities. The transfer, involving millions of pages of documents spanning eight years, occurred within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court order rejecting Trump’s last-ditch bid to shield the information. Investigators are examining whether the values of certain properties in the Trump Organization’s portfolio were manipulated to gain tax advantages or favorable loans and insurance rates under false pretenses. They have asked specifically about the company’s methods of valuing its Manhattan assets for purposes of seeking loans.
North Carolina – Charlotte City Council Escapes Sanctions After Flurry of Ethics Complaints Ends Quietly
MSN – Alison Kuznitz (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 3/3/2021
Charlotte City Council members were cleared of any wrongdoing after a flurry of ethics complaints were filed against them in 2020. Although the findings clear any councilperson of direct violations of the city’s ethics guidelines, the review made several recommendations. In whole, the report appears to validate the council’s assertion that the frenzy of complaints –spurred on by an ethics policy that became “weaponized,” as council member Ed Driggs phrased it, by the public – were politically fueled and frivolous.
Oregon – A Decade After Oregon Cracked Down on Lobbyist Wining and Dining, Lawmakers Consider Loosening Limits
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 3/2/2021
Oregon lawmakers are considering whether to allow lobbyists to “wine and dine” them without limits, more than a decade after they clamped down on the practice with a broad ethics law. The Legislature passed the bill after members were embarrassed by media reports on how beer and wine distributors paid for lawmakers to travel to Hawaii. Oregon law now bars legislators and other public officials from accepting more than $50 per year from any entity that wants to influence a government decision. Sen. Fred Girod, chief sponsor of Senate Bill 463, said scrapping the limit would help nurture the types of relationships lawmakers need in the Capitol because people are better able to connect when they are sharing a meal or drinks.
Oregon – Oregon Voters Want to Limit Money in Politics, but Lawmakers Might Not Get There This Session
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/28/2021
Among the thousands of proposals Oregon lawmakers are considering this year, few have as clear-cut a mandate as capping campaign contributions. Voters overwhelmingly signaled their desire to clamp down on the state’s no-limits political money system in November, when they passed a constitutional amendment to allow donation limits. More than 1.7 million people voted for it, the most ever to support a ballot measure according to the secretary of state’s office. Yet it is far from clear that lawmakers will pass a law to cap donations during the five-month session that runs through June.
Pennsylvania – Good Government or ‘Gag’ Order? In Chesco, New Ethics Policy Muzzles County Workers
MSN – William Bender (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 3/1/2021
Included in Chester County’s new ethics policy is a strict confidentiality clause for many county employees that would essentially turn almost everything learned on the job into the equivalent of classified information, a clampdown that labor-law experts say could infringe on First Amendment rights and whistleblower protections. Employees are required to sign the policy by March 6. Those who violate it can face disciplinary action, including termination. County commissioners passed the ethics policy unanimously two months after a media report, which relied partially on leaked information, revealed major problems with the county’s COVID-19 antibody testing program, contradicting county officials who had publicly insisted it ran smoothly.
South Carolina – Ex-Candidate for SC Legislature Sues Opponent, Pollster and Journalist for Defamation
The State – David Weisman (Myrtle Beach Sun News) | Published: 2/25/2021
South Carolina Sen. Luke Rankin won a contentious reelection campaign during last year’s Republican primary, but that clash has been renewed in the court system after his former opponent filed a defamation suit. John Gallman filed the complaint against Rankin and a host of other entities and people, including an Horry County Council member, local reporter, and national pollster, alleging a coordinated conspiracy to spread defamatory accusations and confidential health records, along with violating campaign finance laws.
South Carolina – Some SC Lawmakers Think It’s Time to Allow More Money in State Campaigns, Not Less
Charleston Post and Courier – Schuyler Knopf | Published: 2/27/2021
At a time when the public mood says there is too much money in politics, some South Carolina lawmakers think it is time to push the donation ceiling higher. Three House Republicans are behind an effort to double the contribution limit an individual can give to their favorite politician for any office. State Rep. B. Newton said the issue comes down to inflation and the fact that South Carolina’s legislative districts, particularly the suburbs, have seen a population explosion in recent years.
Tennessee – Tennessee Regulators Revisit Complaints About Shadowy Campaign Group
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 3/2/2021
Tennessee regulators decided to revisit complaints regarding shadowy campaign activities surrounding a legislative race. The Registry of Election Finance plans to reconsider its decision last year to take no action on complaints filed against state Rep. Todd Warner and a group that called itself the Faith Family Freedom Fund. That same day, the Faith Family Freedom Fund filed paperwork to close out its PAC, raising questions about whether it might be trying to sidestep further scrutiny. All of this comes as an FBI investigation focuses on a number of individuals connected with those campaigns.
Washington – Washington State Accuses Google of Campaign Finance Violations
Courthouse News Service – Karina Brown | Published: 2/24/2021
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson again sued Google, alleging it has continued to flout state campaign finance law. The law requires publishers to keep records of who bought the political ads they run, and to make that information available within 24 hours of publishing to anyone requesting it. Ferguson sued Google in 2018, claiming the company did not maintain or make available the data. Google agreed to pay $217,000 to settle those claims and announced it would no longer run ads for state or local elections in Washington. But since then, 57 candidates and political committees have filed reports detailing 188 payments totaling over $460,000 to Google’s advertising networks, according to the latest lawsuit.
Washington DC – In Faraway State Houses, a Battle Brews Over Making D.C. the 51st State
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2021
Lawmakers in at least eight states have taken formal steps to support or oppose the District of Columbia becoming the 51st state, an unprecedented nationwide response to a once-fledgling movement now surging with momentum in Washington. The statehood bill sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton will be the subject of a House Oversight Committee on March 11. The bill has enough support to pass the House, but it is likely to face roadblocks in the narrowly divided Senate. In her three decades leading the cause, Norton said, she has never seen such a flurry of action from so many states at once. She was even pleased to see the anti-statehood resolutions.
March 3, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Mississippi: “Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate” by Luke Ramseth for Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Elections National: “Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to […]
Mississippi: “Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate” by Luke Ramseth for Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
National: “Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to Minorities” by Robert Barnes (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
National: “Ethics Watchdog: ‘Substantial’ evidence GOP lawmaker improperly spent funds, misused position to help brother” by Cristina Marcos for The Hill
National: “Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs” by Anita Kumar for Politico
Connecticut: “Ex-State Employee Faces $5K Penalty for Using Work Computer, Email for Private Businesses” by Russell Blair (Hartford Courant) for MSN
Florida: “Legislating in the Time of COVID-19 Means Putting Protections Over Public Access” by Mary Ellen Klas and Kirby Wilson (Miami Herald) for Yahoo News
Colorado: “Aurora Moves Forward Bills on Lobbying Disclosures, Sales Tax Exemptions on Menstrual Products” by Grant Stringer for Aurora Sentinel
Oregon: “A Decade After Oregon Cracked Down on Lobbyist Wining and Dining, Lawmakers Consider Loosening Limits” by Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
California: “5 Charged in SF Corruption Probe, Temporarily Barred from Receiving City Contracts” by Staff for KPIX
February 26, 2021 •
National/Federal Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack Washington Post – Tory Newmyer | Published: 2/23/2021 The insurrection at the Capitol continues to reverberate for major corporations that make campaign contributions. Dozens of companies […]
Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack
Washington Post – Tory Newmyer | Published: 2/23/2021
The insurrection at the Capitol continues to reverberate for major corporations that make campaign contributions. Dozens of companies have frozen their giving – either across the board or limited to the 147 Republican lawmakers who opposed certifying President Biden’s electoral victory – and pledged to rethink how they participate in the process. But some left-leaning investors and clients are concerned corporate interests are simply waiting for the dust to settle before resuming contributions to Republicans, despite those lawmakers also championing positions on environmental and social matters the companies say they oppose. So, they are leveraging their commercial relationships with the companies to try to force them to act. JPMorgan’s resistance to the activist push typifies the corporate response so far.
Bloomberg’s 2020 Aides Got an Unwelcome Surprise in Their Tax Forms
Politico – Christopher Cadelago | Published: 2/23/2021
Nearly a year after Michael Bloomberg’s $1 billion presidential campaign ended, his staff members are still dealing with the aftershocks. Aides to the former Democratic candidate started receiving tax forms recently that in some cases list incomes that are tens of thousands of dollars more than they were compensated in salary. The added amounts account for paid housing and other benefits they received last year, but the price tag is coming to many as a surprise. Bloomberg representatives have assured some aides the additional taxes they now owe the government were taken care of by the campaign. A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said the aides were paid more during the campaign to account for the higher tax burden, though not all the ex-aides said they were aware of the arrangement at the time.
Cruz Returns from Cancun Amid Texas Crisis
Politico – Andrew Desiderio and Marianne Levine | Published: 2/18/2021
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was already treading on rough political terrain but then boarded a flight to Cancun during a natural disaster. The Texas Republican, condemned by opponents for objecting to November’s presidential election results even after rioters besieged the Capitol, fled his frozen home state for the Mexican resort city while Texans reeled from winter storms that have left millions without electricity and running water. Cruz took hours to acknowledge his trip as critics accused him of political malpractice at best and all-out negligence at worst.
Dominion Files Defamation Lawsuit Against MyPillow CEO Over False Claims Voting Machines Were Rigged Against Trump
Anchorage Daily News – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2021
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against MyPillow Chief Executive Officer Mike Lindell, accusing him of seeking to boost pillow sales by promoting false claims that Dominion’s voting machines were manipulated to rig the 2020 election against then-President Trump. In interviews and other public appearances, the lawsuit says, Lindell repeatedly spread those claims while viewers were urged to buy his products. His company has offered discounts to customers who use the promo codes “QAnon” and “FightforTrump,” according to the lawsuit.
Election Officials Defended the 2020 Vote. In 2022, They’ll Have to Defend Themselves.
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 2/23/2021
Campaigns for secretary of state are becoming the next major arena of nationwide political combat. Sitting secretaries and political groups are preparing for a flood of candidates, money, and attention into campaigns for the newly prominent positions in 2022. Voting rules have become a bigger cause for both political parties, while coronavirus-fueled election changes combined with Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories to turn secretaries of state into pivotal characters in last year’s presidential election. Twenty-six states will have secretary of state elections next year, including five of the 10 closest states in the 2020 presidential election.
Former Congressman Rivera Fined $456,000 for Propping Up a Ringer Candidate
Yahoo News – Alex Daugherty (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/23/2021
Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera was ordered to pay $456,000 to the FEC, which had sued him for secretly providing funds to a primary challenger of his eventual Democratic opponent in the 2012 election. The FEC accused Rivera of initiating the scheme when he directed an associate, Ana Sol Alliegro, to offer Justin Sternad, one of Garcia’s three primary challengers, financial support for his campaign. Sternad accepted the offer, and Alliegro spent the next few months transmitting funds to Sternad. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke described Rivera’s actions as “egregious,” adding that there was a chance his conduct would continue, noting he continued to run for office after the scheme.
Impeachment Is Over. But Other Efforts to Reckon with Trump’s Post-Election Chaos Have Just Begun.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 2/21/2021
Although Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on a charge his rhetoric incited the Capitol siege, public officials and private companies are pursuing a multi-front legal effort to hold him and his allies accountable in other ways. The actions target the former president and numerous others who indulged and echoed his falsehoods that President Biden did not win the election. The goal, according to those supportive of such efforts, is to mete out some form of punishment for those who helped undermine confidence in the election results and fueled the attack on the Capitol. They also hope to discourage other public officials from rerunning Trump’s strategy of attempting to overturn an election result by sowing doubt about the legitimacy of the vote.
Judges Order 2-Month Delay in Case to Compel McGahn Testimony to House
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 2/18/2021
The House’s effort to compel testimony from former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn will be delayed two months, a federal appeals court ordered, adopting a proposal by the Biden administration. The order makes it increasingly likely that a full two years will elapse without enforcement of the House’s April 2019 subpoena of McGahn to obtain his testimony about alleged efforts by former President Trump to obstruct special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The case has become a poster child of sorts for the courts’ inability to resolve congressional subpoena fights on a timeline that allows Congress to make practical use of the information.
K Street Eyes a Return of Earmarks to Boost Business
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 2/23/2021
Congressional earmarks practically built the modern lobbying business. And though the influence sector has endured a decade without them, the likely return of member-directed federal spending has sent cautious jubilation down K Street. With earmarks poised for a likely comeback during this Congress, lobbyists are eyeing new business opportunities. But they are not expecting it to be a return to K Street’s high-flying days, when lobbyists built empires out of the business of securing earmarks for clients. Lawmakers, if they do bring back the practice, are likely only to allow the federal dollars to go to nonprofit organizations and local governments. Still, lobbyists say even limited earmarks for nonprofits could spur new public-private partnerships, with businesses queuing up to collaborate on future projects.
Lauren Boebert’s Campaign Amends Reimbursement Report That Raised Red Flags
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 2/23/2021
U.S. Rep. Laura Boebert’s campaign acknowledged a prior campaign finance report, which raised ethical red flags and led to requests for an investigation, was inaccurate. Still, the campaign defended a large payment to Boebert. Media reports showed Boebert was paid more than $22,000 in mileage reimbursements from her campaign account, an unusually large amount that several ethics experts said raised questions. The amended report reiterating that Boebert received $21,200, but claiming it was a reimbursement for mileage, travel expenses, and hotel stays. Mileage accounted for $17,280 of the reimbursements, the campaign says.
‘Mercenary’ Donor Gets 12 Years in Campaign Finance Scheme
Associated Press News – Brian Melley, Alan Suderman, and Jim Mustain | Published: 2/18/2021
A once high-flying political fundraiser who prosecutors said gave illegal campaign contributions to Joe Biden, Lindsey Graham, and a host of other U.S. politicians was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Imaad Zuberi, who was accused of ingratiating himself with politicians in both major parties and peddling the resulting influence to foreign governments, pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and failing to register as a foreign agent. He also was ordered to pay nearly $16 million in restitution and a nearly $2 million fine. Federal prosecutors described Zuberi as a “mercenary” political donor who gave to anyone he thought could help him. Pay to play, he explained to clients, was just “how America works.”
State GOP Lawmakers Propose Flurry of Voting Restrictions to Placate Trump Supporters, Spurring Fears of a Backlash
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/19/2021
Republican state lawmakers across the country have proposed a flurry of voting restrictions they say are needed to restore confidence in U.S. elections, an effort intended to placate supporters of former President Trump who believe his false claims the 2020 outcome was rigged. But the effort is dividing Republicans, some of whom are warning it will tar the GOP as the party of voter suppression and give Democrats ammunition to mobilize their supporters ahead of the 2022 midterms.
Supreme Court Ends Trump’s Bid to Shield His Tax Returns and Effort to Challenge Election Losses
Seattle Times – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2021
Former President Trump received a dual defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court, a body he transformed with his appointments and one he had long hoped would be a last line of defense in his battles with Congress and Democrats. The court refused Trump’s last-chance efforts to shield his private financial records from Manhattan’s district attorney in one case and tossed out a slew of challenges to the presidential election and his loss to Joe Biden. Now, Trump faces unprecedented legal peril for a former president. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s criminal investigation of his business dealings in New York will accelerate and broaden and Trump faces scrutiny in Georgia for his efforts to subvert the election results there.
This Congress Is the Most Diverse Ever. But Hill Staffers Remain Overwhelmingly White.
Politico – Maya King | Published: 2/23/2021
The 117th Congress is the most diverse ever, with the largest representation of racial and ethnic groups in history, a 97 percent increase over the last 10 Congresses. But among Capitol Hill staff, the people who really run Congress on a working level. There is a dearth of diversity. Despite efforts to diversify over the last several years, the racial makeup of House and Senate staffs do not align with their districts and voting bases. Among top-level staffers, the lack of diversity is most striking: there is only one Black chief of staff in the Senate and only four Latinos. If staffers do not represent the communities they are meant to serve, advocates say, it undermines lawmakers’ attempts to solve the issues unique to those communities.
U.S. Investigating Possible Ties Between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol Rioters
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2021
The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating whether high-profile right-wing figures, including Roger Stone and Alex Jones, may have played a role in the Capitol breach as part of a broader look into the mind-set of those who committed violence and their apparent paths to radicalization, according to people familiar with the investigation. Officials at this stage said they are principally seeking to understand what the rioters were thinking, and who may have influenced beliefs, which could be critical to showing their intentions at trial. Investigators also want to determine whether anyone who influenced them bears enough responsibility to justify potential criminal charges.
Why State Legislatures Are Still Very White – and Very Male
Politico – Renuka Rayasam, Nolan McCaskill, Beatrice Jin, and Allan James Vestal | Published: 2/22/2021
State Legislatures around the country have made little progress in diversifying their ranks during the last decade, with many states losing ground in boosting the representation of people of color and white women. Even as the share of nonwhite Americans has grown, an analysis finds most state Legislatures are lacking in diversity, with nearly every state failing to achieve racial and gender parity with their own population data. Despite efforts to diversify politics, progress in statehouses remains slow and halting. That is in contrast to the U.S. House, where historically underrepresented groups, including women and people of color, are serving in record numbers.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Former Birmingham Water Works Contractors Plead Guilty to Felony Ethics Charges
AL.com – Carol Robinson | Published: 2/19/2021
Two former contractors with the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) pleaded guilty to felony ethics charges. Jerry DeWayne Jones and Terry Lee Williams are now convicted of offering or giving anything to a public official for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action. Jones, Williams, and former BWWB Chairperson Sherry Lewis were indicted on the state charges. Lewis was charged with using her position for personal gain, or for the gain of a family member, and voting on matters in which she or her family members had financial interest. Jones and Williams were charged with of aiding and abetting Lewis in committing those crimes, with offering her money and other items for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action.
Alaska – Alaskans Were Left in the Dark as Money Poured into Elections Last Year. Now, That’s Changing.
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 2/17/2021
Groups on both sides of last year’s battle for control of the Alaska Legislature spent substantial amounts of money from entities that do not disclose their donors before the election — or at all. But starting this year, that practice will be banned. An initiative approved in November requires groups trying to influence the election of candidates to disclose the “true source” of all their donations greater than $2,000.
Florida – Florida County Rejects Governor’s Order to Lower Flags in Memory of Rush Limbaugh
Anchorage Daily News – Terry Spencer and Bobby Caina Calvan (Associated Press) | Published: 2/24/2021
Palm Beach County defied Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by refusing to lower its courthouse flags to half-staff in honor of the late conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. The governor also ordered the town of Palm Beach and the Capitol in Tallahassee to fly their flags at half-staff. Those flags were lowered. “… Although Rush Limbaugh was a significant public figure, he was also an incredibly divisive one who hurt many people with his words and actions,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said on Twitter.
Florida – Local Players Retain Influence Under St. Petersburg’s Campaign Finance Rules
MSN – Josh Solomon (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 2/24/2021
The St. Petersburg City Council passed a campaign finance ordinance to guard against attempted corporate takeover of local affairs. Although the ordinance sets disclosure requirements and spending limits to thwart the multi-million-dollar campaigns bankrolled by deep-pocketed companies, it did nothing to prohibit the long-running practice of local players, some who do regular business before the city, asserting outsized influence in city elections. Now, what the 2017 ordinance did and did not do is taking center stage in the mayoral race.
Illinois – Embattled Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Steps Down as State Democratic Party Chair
Yahoo News – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/22/2021
Former longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan resigned as chairperson of the state Democratic Party. Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, previously the Democratic vice chair, will take over on an interim basis. Madigan’s resignation as the head of the state party, a post he has held since 1998, completes the swift downfall that began when fellow House Democrats deposed him as speaker after he held the gavel for nearly four decades. He resigned his seat as state representative.
Illinois – Ex-Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios Pays $100,000 to Settle Ethics Case
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 2/18/2021
Former Cook County Democratic boss Joe Berrios agreed to pay $100,000 to end two ethics cases against him that he had been fighting since he was the county’s assessor. But the six-figure settlement represents a discount for Berrios from the $168,000 in fines the county’s Board of Ethics levelled against him three years ago for violations of rules intended to encourage honest government in the notoriously corrupt county. The deal avoids additional expenses that could have been incurred in trying to pry the full judgment from Berrios, ethics board Chairperson Thomas Szromba said.
Illinois – Michael Madigan Resigns from Illinois House After Being Ousted as Speaker
MSN – Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/18/2021
Michael Madigan, who set much of Illinois’ political agenda for four decades, resigned his seat in the Legislature a little more than a month after he was deposed by fellow Democrats as the nation’s longest-serving statehouse speaker. Madigan saw his power ebb in recent years when sexual harassment issues came to light in his political and governmental operation. His hold on power took another hit when Commonwealth Edison agreed to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with federal prosecutors in acknowledging its part in a near decade-long bribery scheme, seeking to win Madigan’s favor on legislation by giving jobs and contracts to his allies.
Indiana – Indiana Attorney General Keeps Job with Health Benefits Firm
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/17/2021
Indiana’s newly elected attorney general says state ethics officials have cleared his ongoing role with a health benefits consulting firm in which he has an ownership stake, but he has declined to release that opinion. Todd Rokita began his term as state government’s top lawyer in early January while still working for Apex Benefits, a company he joined as an executive in 2019. Attorney general’s office spokesperson Lauren Houck said Rokita is working with Apex “in a limited capacity” as a strategic policy adviser and remains a director or executive board member with other businesses.
Indiana – Mowery Drops Out of Marion County GOP Race Following IndyStar Report
MSN – Amelia Pak-Harvey (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 2/24/2021
Cindy Mowery, a candidate for the Marion County Republican chair position, dropped out of the race a day after The Indianapolis Star reported state lawmakers were trying to overturn an ethics ordinance that currently bars her from holding the job. A bill would void an Indianapolis ethics ordinance that would forbid a county chair from doing business with the city. Mowery serves as the Republican appointee of the Voter Registration Board, one of several appointments made by the county party chair and the only one that carries a salary.
Massachusetts – Ex-Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Illegal Use of Campaign Funds
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/24/2021
Former Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle pleaded guilty in federal court to a series of charges including illegally using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses. He also pleaded guilty to defrauding a bank to obtain loans to purchase his home and repay personal debts and to collecting income he failed to report to the IRS. Nangle was heavily in debt and gambled extensively at casinos and online and used thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for expenses like dues at a local golf club, rental cars to travel to casinos, and flowers for his girlfriend. Nangle had served as a member of the House Committee on Ethics.
Michigan – Elected Officials in Michigan Would Disclose Financial Records in New House Bill
MLive.com – Samuel Dodge | Published: 2/23/2021
Michigan lawmakers are reengaging on an effort to mandate elected officials to fill out financial disclosure forms. Michigan is one of two states, and the only one with a full-time Legislature, with no requirement for state public officials to disclose basic financial information, including income sources, business investments, gifts, and travel compensation. Michigan ranked last in the Center for Public Integrity’s 2015 State Integrity Investigation, which documented several facets of each state’s transparency laws.
New York – Former Aide Says Cuomo Kissed Her, Suggested Strip Poker
Associated Press News – Marina Villeneuve | Published: 2/24/2021
A former member of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration who previously accused him of sexual harassment offered new details, saying he once kissed her on the lips without consent after a private meeting. Lindsey Boylan said during her more than three years working as an economic adviser in the administration, Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” compared her to one of his rumored ex-girlfriends and once joked they should play strip poker. Cuomo spokesperson Caitlin Girouard said all of Boylan’s “claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.”
New York – Jimmy Van Bramer Swore Off Special Interest Cash While Money Flowed to Husband’s Film
New York Post – Jon Levine | Published: 2/20/2021
While New York City Councilperson Jimmy Van Bramer may have sworn off special interest cash, the same has not been true for his husband, author and documentary filmmaker Dan Hendrick. His 2017 documentary “Saving Jamaica Bay” was largely financed with money from lobbyists and big real estate interests the council member swore to avoid. Van Bramer vowed in 2009 he would never accept campaign donations from lobbyists.
North Carolina – NC Lieutenant Governor Staff Calls Campaign Finance Report Errors ‘Clerical’
MSN – Danielle Battaglia (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 2/22/2021
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s campaign report does not explain why $186 worth of medical bills were campaign-related, or why he bought “campaign clothes and accessories” for $2,840 with the majority being spent at a sporting goods store. It also does not explain why his wife needed to be reimbursed $4,500 for campaign clothing or how and where she spent the money. A complaint asks the State Board of Elections to investigate Robinson’s spending. Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said it is unclear why Robinson needed clothing for his campaign from Lake Gaston Outfitters, a store that specializes in hiking, canoeing, and cycling gear.
Ohio – Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson Indicted on Federal Conspiracy Charges Involving Reimbursements from City
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 2/23/2021
Cleveland City Councilperson Kenneth Johnson was arrested, accused of fleecing the city out of more than $127,000 by submitting false monthly expense reports over the course of several years. A federal grand jury indicted Johnson on 15 charges, including conspiracy to commit theft from a federal program, aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, tampering with a witness, and falsification of records during a federal investigation. Johnson’s longtime aide, Garnell Jamison, was indicted on the same charges. The indictment alleges many of the charges stem from Johnson requesting the maximum amount of monthly reimbursement, $1,200, from council for services that were never performed.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Halts Political Contributions, Limits Lobbying as Part of Householder Investigation, Utility Says
MSN – Jim Mackinnon (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 2/18/2021
FirstEnergy has stopped making political contributions and will no longer donate to 501(c)(4) organizations, said Steven Strah, president and acting chief executive officer of the company. He said lobbying will be “much more limited” compared to past practice and the utility will provide more disclosure on its lobbying activities. FirstEnergy is caught up in federal and state bribery and racketeering investigations involving former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others over the passage and support of House Bill 6. The bill, now law, provided more than $1 billion in subsidies to nuclear plants now owned and operated by Energy Harbor, a former FirstEnergy subsidiary.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Facing Harassment Allegations, Risk of Expulsion, Resigns
Center Square – Tim Gruver | Published: 2/22/2021
State Rep. Diego Hernandez resigned his Oregon House seat days before his peers were set to hold a historic vote on his expulsion over a string of harassment allegations after a nine-month investigation into his past conduct with five women who worked with and around him at the Capitol. A report commissioned by the Legislative Equity Office substantiated that Hernandez harassed, intimidated, and threatened four of the five women interviewed by investigators. The House Conduct Committee concluded Hernandez’s behavior with three of the women violated the Legislature’s rule related to maintaining a safe workplace.
Pennsylvania – Voters May Never Again Get to Choose Pa.’s Lieutenant Governor Candidates
MSN – Cynthia Fernandez (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 2/23/2021
The Pennsylvania Senate is advancing a measure that would give the state’s political parties final say over candidates for lieutenant governor, taking power away from voters. It is a necessary change to a process that has not always resulted in the best partnerships, Democratic and Republican lawmakers say. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow a gubernatorial candidate to choose a running mate after the spring primary, subject to approval from their party’s state committee. Now, voters choose candidates for lieutenant governor during closed, statewide primaries. The winner appears with the pick for governor on the general election ballot as a packaged deal.
South Carolina – Can SC School Board Member Still Have Say in $23M Project? What Ethics Commission Says
MSN – Bristow Marchant (The State) | Published: 2/24/2021
A Midlands-area school board member will not be allowed to visit a school construction site while he is recused himself from being involved with the project. An advisory opinion issued by the South Carolina Ethics Commission says Ken Loveless is prohibited from visiting the Piney Woods Elementary School site or reviewing work related to the project. Loveless agreed to recuse himself because of a business tie with Contract Construction, the main contractor on the $23 million project. Loveless’ company is a subcontractor with Contract Construction on a separate project, a new lab for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
South Dakota – South Dakota’s AG Charged with 3 Misdemeanors in Fatal Crash
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 2/18/2021
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors for striking and killing a man with his car last summer, avoiding more serious felony charges in a case that raised questions about how the state’s top law enforcement official first reported the crash. Ravnsborg could face up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine on each charge: careless driving, driving out of his lane, and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone. Ravnsborg initially told authorities he thought he had struck a deer or another large animal as he drove home from a Republican fundraiser.
Tennessee – Registry of Election Finance Changes Unlikely Amid FBI Probe
Patch – Sam Stockard (Tennessee Lookout) | Published: 2/17/2021
With an FBI investigation hanging over the state Legislature, changes are improbable in the makeup of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. An idea to merge the Registry of Election Finance and Ethics Commission into one eight-member body is being floated in the Legislature. But it will meet resistance from key lawmakers and members of those panels. Tom Lawless, who chaired the Registry board for the past year, said instead of structural changes, the Registry needs more money to hire outside auditors to check into legislators’ campaign finances when they violate the rules. A modern reporting system is needed, as well, to simplify the process for candidates, Lawless said.
Texas – Texas Governor’s Biggest Donors: Energy industry that failed
Associated Press News – Paul Weber and Nomaan Merchant | Published: 2/19/2021
As frozen Texas reels under one of the worst electricity outages in U.S. history, Gov. Greg Abbott has blamed grid operators and iced-over wind turbines but gone easier on another culprit: an oil and gas industry that is the state’s dominant business and his biggest political contributor. Oil and gas built and enriched Texas, and with that its politicians, including those who became president. But none has reaped campaign contributions on the scale of Abbott, who has raised more than $150 million from donors.
Utah – Utah House Lawmakers Kill Campaign Finance Disclosure Bill
MSN – Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 2/24/2021
A campaign finance reform bill died in the Utah House by a narrow vote, though few lawmakers spoke up during debate to voice concerns with the measure. Senate Bill 92 would have called on candidates to sort their campaign expenses into predetermined categories as a way of increasing transparency in political spending. While state law already requires candidates to list the reason for their expenditures, Rep. Norm Thurston told the House, “there’s incredible variety in how people report that, a lot of creative reporting.”
Virginia – Senate Spikes Bill to Rein in Personal Use of Campaign Cash
Associated Press News – Sarah Rankin | Published: 2/23/2021
The Virginia Senate effectively killed a measure that would have prevented politicians from putting campaign funds toward personal uses, with an exception for childcare-related expenses. Virginia has one of the least restrictive and policed campaign finance systems in the country and is an outlier in the nation for not already having such a ban. But state lawmakers, who insist they want to work on the issue, have repeatedly balked in recent years at making a change.
Washington – WA Supreme Court Throws Out Think Tank’s Attack on Union Political Activity
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 2/23/2021
The Freedom Foundation failed to meet a deadline in several campaign finance lawsuits it brought against unions, the Washington Supreme Court ruled. The conservative think tank alleged the unions had violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act by not reporting money spent on political activity. After the government did not take enforcement action, the Freedom Foundation filed so-called citizen actions, in Superior Court, but not within a deadline required by state law at the time, a majority of the state’s high court ruled.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Wildlife Officials Ate $20,000 of Illegal Caviar, Prosecutors Say. Now the ‘Sturgeon General’ Faces Charges.
MSN – Antonia Noori Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2021
Some Wisconsin wildlife officials allegedly dined like oligarchs, feasting on tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of caviar and passing around jars of the prized delicacy at team meetings. Meanwhile, some of their colleagues were working undercover to expose the scheme. The investigation resulted in the arrest of the state’s top sturgeon expert, Ryan Koenigs, nicknamed the “sturgeon general” by local television stations, allegedly obtained at least $20,000 worth of caviar in a single year while holding down a post as a biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He faces charges of misdemeanor theft for illegally trading sturgeon eggs, as well as obstructing an investigation by a conservation warden.
February 25, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack” by Tory Newmyer for Washington Post National: “Former Congressman Rivera Fined $456,000 for Propping Up a Ringer Candidate” by Alex Daugherty (Miami Herald) […]
National: “Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack” by Tory Newmyer for Washington Post
National: “Former Congressman Rivera Fined $456,000 for Propping Up a Ringer Candidate” by Alex Daugherty (Miami Herald) for McClatchy
Florida: “Local Players Retain Influence Under St. Petersburg’s Campaign Finance Rules” by Josh Solomon (Tampa Bay Times) for MSN
Massachusetts: “Ex-Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Illegal Use of Campaign Funds” by Staff for Associated Press News
Virginia: “Senate Spikes Bill to Rein in Personal Use of Campaign Cash” by Sarah Rankin for Associated Press News
National: “Election Officials Defended the 2020 Vote. In 2022, They’ll Have to Defend Themselves.” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
Pennsylvania: “Voters May Never Again Get to Choose Pa.’s Lieutenant Governor Candidates” by Cynthia Fernandez (Philadelphia Inquirer) for MSN
Michigan: “Elected Officials in Michigan Would Disclose Financial Records in New House Bill” by Samuel Dodge for MLive.com
New York: “Former Aide Says Cuomo Kissed Her, Suggested Strip Poker” by Marina Villeneuve for Associated Press News
South Carolina: “Can SC School Board Member Still Have Say in $23M Project? What Ethics Commission Says” by Bristow Marchant (The State) for MSN
National: “Why State Legislatures Are Still Very White – and Very Male” by Renuka Rayasam, Nolan McCaskill, Beatrice Jin, and Allan James Vestal for Politico
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