December 2, 2021 •
Elections National: “Prosecutors Demanded Records of Sidney Powell’s Fundraising Groups as Part of Criminal Probe” by Isaac Stanley-Becker, Emma Brown, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics National: “CNN Suspends Chris Cuomo ‘Indefinitely’ After Documents Detail Help He Gave […]
National: “Prosecutors Demanded Records of Sidney Powell’s Fundraising Groups as Part of Criminal Probe” by Isaac Stanley-Becker, Emma Brown, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “CNN Suspends Chris Cuomo ‘Indefinitely’ After Documents Detail Help He Gave His Brother” by Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Cooperating with Jan. 6 Committee” by Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) for MSN
Connecticut: “Gov. Lamont Says His Wife Will Pull Back on Investments in Connecticut and Blames Politics for Ethical Questions” by Christopher Keating and Stephen Singer (Hartford Courant) for Yahoo News
New York: “In the ‘New Albany,’ State Senate Regularly Outpaces Assembly on Reform” by Ethan Geringer-Sameth for Gotham Gazette
Virginia: “Roanoke Councilman’s Magazine Refunds Money to City After Questions” by Jeff Sturgeon for Roanoke Times
Wisconsin: “Panel Rules No Ethics Violation for Madison Assessor Who Gave Candy Bars to Review Body” by Logan Wroge for Wisconsin State Journal
Maine: “Maine Lawmaker Who Flouted Pandemic Rules Resigns After Wife’s COVID-19 Death” by Edward Murphy (Portland Press Herald) for Yahoo News
National: “Dark-Money Group Paid Former Trump AG to Ask for Pardons – and He Never Registered as a Lobbyist” by Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) for Yahoo News
November 19, 2021 •
National/Federal Appeals Court Temporarily Bars Release of Trump White House Records to House Jan. 6 Committee MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 11/11/2021 A federal appeals court blocked the imminent release of records of former President Trump’s White House […]
Appeals Court Temporarily Bars Release of Trump White House Records to House Jan. 6 Committee
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 11/11/2021
A federal appeals court blocked the imminent release of records of former President Trump’s White House calls and activities related to the January 6 Capitol attack after a lower court found President Biden can waive his predecessor’s claim to executive privilege. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted a temporary injunction while it considers Trump’s request to hold off any release pending appeal, and fast-tracked oral arguments for a hearing November 30.
House Censures Rep. Gosar for Violent Video in Rare Rebuke
Kansas City Star – Kevin Freking and Brian Slodysko (Associated Press) | Published: 11/17/2021
The U.S. House voted to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for posting of an animated video that depicted him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a sword, an extraordinary rebuke that highlighted the political strains testing Washington and the country. Calling the video a clear threat to a lawmaker’s life, Democrats argued Gosar’s conduct would not be tolerated in any other workplace and should not be in Congress. The vote to censure Gosar and strip him of his committee assignments was approved almost entirely along party lines.
How a Cure for Gerrymandering Left U.S. Politics Ailing in New Ways
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti and Reid Epstein | Published: 11/17/2021
Partisan gerrymandering is as old as the republic, but good-government experts thought they had hit on a solution with independent commissions, advisory groups, and outside panels. Taking the map-drawing process out of the hands of lawmakers under pressure to win elections, the thinking went, would make American democracy more fair. But in some states, commissions with poorly designed structures have fallen victim to political divisions, leading the process to be handed to courts. In others, the panels’ authority has been subverted by state lawmakers, who have either forced the commissioners to draft new maps or chosen to make their own.
Left-Wing Midwest Media Outlet Launching with Backing from Dem Donor
MSN – Elena Schneider (Politico) | Published: 11/17/2021
A major Democratic donor is funding a new media outlet aimed at covering state and local races in the Midwest as the latest entrant into the growing partisan-media landscape. It is part of a recent trend of explicitly Democratic-backed digital news projects that have popped up in the last several years, as candidates and movements across the political spectrum try to speak directly to supporters, drive viral attention, and shape the media ecosystem by creating their own content instead of working through legacy outlets.
Liberal ‘Dark-Money’ Behemoth Funneled More than $400M in 2020
MSN – Scott Bland (Politico) | Published: 11/17/2021
A liberal group spent $410 million in 2020, aiding Democratic efforts to unseat then-President Trump and win back control of the U.S. Senate. The Sixteen Thirty Fund financed attack ads and funded massive get-out-the-vote and issue advocacy campaigns amid the coronavirus pandemic. It exploded in size during the Trump administration, going from tens of millions of dollars per year to raising and spending hundreds of millions. Its 2020 fundraising and spending illustrates the extent to which the left embraced the use of “dark money” to fight for its causes in recent years.
‘QAnon Shaman’ Jacob Chansley Is Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 11/17/2021
Jacob Chansley, whose shirtless image on the U.S. Senate rostrum and menacing note to Vice President Mike Pence came to symbolize the January 6 assault on the Capitol, was sentenced to 41 months in prison, matching the harshest sentence handed down yet in the prosecution effort. U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth acknowledged Chansley had not engaged in physical violence but said his role as a leader among those who went into the Senate chamber and disrupted the electoral vote tally compelled a serious prison sentence.
Sen. Braun’s Campaign Accused by FEC of Breaking Campaign Finance Laws
MSN – Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 11/11/2021
U.S. Sen. Mike Braun’s 2018 campaign has been accused of accepting millions of dollars of potentially improper loans in an FEC memorandum and draft audit. Braun’s campaign argues in all the loans and contributions were legal. The FEC auditors were concerned because it appeared Braun accepted bank loans that did not require collateral. The auditors also found two checks worth $1.5 million from Meyer Distributing, a corporation Braun founded, that they say were incorrectly reported as a loan, according to the report.
Steve Bannon Indicted After Refusal to Comply with Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Jacqueline Alemany, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 11/12/2021
Former White House adviser Stephen Bannon was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress after refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He was indicted by a grand jury in Washington, D.C., a rare move by the Justice Department to escalate the consequences of a dispute involving Congress. Court records indicate only three such cases have been filed since 1990. The charges against Bannon each carry a maximum sentence of one year in jail and may serve as a warning to others seeking to avoid or defy the select committee.
The FEC Relies on Candidates’ ‘Good Faith’ When It Comes to Foreign Donations. But the Agency’s Inspector General Says That’s ‘Insufficient Oversight’ and Poses a ‘National Security Risk.’
Yahoo News – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 11/10/2021
A report by the FEC’s internal watchdog found the agency’s current system of handling potential foreign contributions by largely relying on candidates and political action committees to certify that they haven’t received foreign money “poses a national security risk and provides insufficient oversight of possible illegal foreign donations.” The report also lists the ongoing growth in campaign spending, remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, issues with senior leadership staffing, and cybersecurity to be among the biggest challenges the FEC faces.
This Was Supposed to Be a Big Year for Hill Pay. Staffers Aren’t Holding Their Breath
MSN – Chris Ciofi (Roll Call) | Published: 11/18/2021
For a while it seemed as if this would be the year that Congress tackled its long-standing staff retention issues, but aides say that hope is waning. The prospect of higher pay soared this summer after House leadership decoupled member and staffer salary caps, and as appropriators proposed a 20 percent increase in the money members can spend on their offices and payroll. But as fall turns to winter, the two parties remain far apart on how to fund the government for fiscal 2022 beyond a series of stopgaps.
UK Govt Vows to Toughen Rules for Lawmakers After Ethics Row
Yahoo News – Jill Lawless (Associated Press) | Published: 11/16/2021
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed a ban on lawmakers acting as “paid consultants” and promised to tighten ethics rules in response to scandals over lobbying and outside jobs that have tarnished politics in the United Kingdom. Johnson said lawmakers should be investigated if they were “neglecting their duties to their constituents and prioritizing outside interests,” and should be banned from acting as “paid political consultants or lobbyists.” He promised to seek cross-party support for changes to the House of Commons’ code of conduct.
Why Facebook Won’t Let You Control Your Own News Feed
Yahoo News – Will Oremus (Washington Post) | Published: 11/13/2021
In at least two experiments, Facebook explored what happens when it turns off its news feed ranking system, the software that decides for each user which posts they see and in what order. Both tests appear to have taught the researchers that users are better off with Facebook’s software calling the shots. In testimony to Congress, whistleblower Frances Haugen pointed to the algorithm as central to the social network’s problems, arguing it amplifies and rewards hateful, divisive, misleading, and sometimes false content by putting it at the top of users’ feeds.
Why GOP Leaders Can’t Keep Paul Gosar in Line
Mother Jones – Russ Choma | Published: 11/17/2021
While there were always party factions or caucuses pursuing their own interests, party leadership in Congress expected members to cooperate. Unnecessary controversy and self-serving provocations were not in the playbook. A key motivator was campaign finance. To secure reelection, members almost always needed help from party leaders who hold the purse strings in the House, those at the helm of the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The present scandal featuring Rep. Paul Gosar shows how the old methods of financial control no longer work.
Why Governors Keep Snubbing the Senate
Yahoo News – Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett (Politico) | Published: 11/15/2021
Republicans could not convince high-profile GOP governors Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Phil Scott of Vermont to run for the U.S. Senate and help them win back the majority in 2022. Two more GOP governors, Doug Ducey of Arizona and Larry Hogan of Maryland, have also resisted running in those states’ Senate races next year. It is the latest chapter in congressional leaders’ bipartisan struggle to lobby popular candidates to come to Washington. That is no shock to those who have made the leap from executive to legislator. Coming to Washington these days just does not hold much appeal.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – State: Former House speaker tried to influence prison legislation from prison
Alabama Political Reporter – Josh Moon | Published: 11/15/2021
Even from prison, former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who is serving time after being convicted of several felonies related to ethical violations, was attempting to use his remaining political power to coerce lawmakers to insert language into a recently passed prison bill that would have allowed him to go free. The filing from the state attorney general’s office, which is an objection to Hubbard’s request for an early release, cites more than 600 personal phone calls the state monitored between Hubbard and various associates, and dozens of emails.
California – Emails Show LA Commissioner Used Influence to Help Win $3 Million COVID-19 Contract, Union Alleges
Los Angeles Daily News – Scott Schwebke (Orange County Register) | Published: 11/14/2021
An embattled Los Angeles fire and police pensions commissioner accused of ethics violations by a law enforcement union over a $3 million contract to test unvaccinated city employees for COVID-19 began lobbying Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office nearly a year ago on behalf of his company, raising questions from critics about potential influence peddling, emails show. The Los Angeles Police Protective League is suing the city and demanding an investigation, alleging it failed to disclose that testing contractor PPS Health is partly owned by Dr. Pedram Salimpour, who was reappointed by Garcetti to the pension commission in 2017.
California – Lobbyists Weren’t Eligible for PPP Money, but California Firms Got Millions
San Diego Daily Tribune – Alexei Koseff (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 11/12/2021
Dozens of California lobbying firms received millions of dollars in emergency federal assistance meant for small businesses to ride out the coronavirus pandemic, though some were ineligible for the program. The low-interest Paycheck Protection Program loans were subject to long-standing eligibility requirements that included a prohibition on lending to firms “primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities,” meaning they derived more than half of their revenue from that business.
Colorado – FBI Raids Home of Lauren Boebert’s Ex-Campaign Manager in Colorado Election Tampering Probe
Salon – Igor Derysh | Published: 11/16/2021
The FBI raided the home of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and three others in an investigation into a voting system security breach. Peters was accused by state officials in August of helping to leak voting system passwords to a right-wing blog. The FBI also searched the home of Sherronna Bishop, who served as U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s campaign manager. Bishop has been one of Peters’ most prominent allies in stoking unfounded allegations of voting machine problems in the election and hinted at a rally she was privy to unreleased data from Mesa County.
Idaho – Rep. Priscilla Giddings Censured, Removed from Legislative Committee by Idaho House
Idaho Statesman – Hayat Norimine | Published: 11/15/2021
Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings will be removed from a legislative committee over her actions when a sexual assault allegation came forward against a former lawmaker. House members vote to censure Giddings after she shared a far-right outlet’s article that identified a 19-year-old legislative intern who accused former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger of rape. Giddings will be removed from the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee, which oversees laws around state employees.
Illinois – Businessman Pleads Guilty to Bribing Ex-State Sen. Martin Sandoval for Help with IDOT Land Sale
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/17/2021
Businessperson Vahooman Mirkhaef pleaded guilty to federal charges alleging he paid at least $15,000 in bribes to then-Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval to secure the purchase of state-owned property near his company. Mirkhaef admitted he also provided cash and other benefits over a three-year period to another elected official, identified only as “Public Official A,” in return for the official “using his position to attempt to benefit and not interfere with the operation” of Mirkhaef’s business.
Illinois – Director Fired After Improper Law Certificate Given to Donor
Yahoo News – John O’Connor (Associated Press) | Published: 11/17/2021
The director of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board was fired this fall after an investigation found he improperly issued a law enforcement certificate to an unqualified local philanthropist who is also the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. The Office of Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Governor determined Brent Fischer, executive director of the standards board since 2015, issued the certificate to Howard Buffett, who had served a 14-month appointment as Macon County sheriff and in 2016 donated land and $15 million for a law enforcement training academy.
Illinois – Ethics Board Says Aldermen Who Violate Code of Conduct Should Face Harsher Punishments as Gardiner Retaliation Claims Investigated
Book Club Chicago – Ariel Parrella-Aureli and Alex Nitkin (The Daily Line) | Published: 11/16/2021
The Chicago Board of Ethics is calling for harsher punishments for city council members who violate the council’s code of conduct after Ald. Jim Gardiner allegedly retaliated against constituents who criticized him. The board said it wants the city council to create an ordinance that would make the body’s code of conduct enforceable by law, not just “aspirational” as it is currently. This means officials caught flouting campaign finance rules or abusing their power in another way would be subject to sanctions such as fines, suspension, and termination.
Illinois – Pritzker Signs Law Banning Dark Money, Out-of-State Contributions in Judicial Campaigns
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel | Published: 11/15/2021
A new law in Illinois aims to ban out-of-state contributions and “dark money” in judicial campaigns by requiring all candidates to disclose the sources of their contributions. Gov. JB Pritzker signed Senate Bill 536, which makes other changes to the way elections are conducted. Under the bill, no judicial campaign committee is allowed to accept contributions from any out-of-state source or any person or entity that does not disclose the identity of those making the donation, except for contributions that are below the threshold for itemizing. It also raises the threshold for itemizing contributions to $1,000.
Illinois – State’s Top Fiscal Watchdog Cleared After Six-Year Battle Over Campaign Finance Violations Finally Resolved – for Now
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel | Published: 11/16/2021
The State Board of Elections voted unanimously to end years-long dispute over campaign finance violations committed by Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino’s campaign committee before he became the state’s top fiscal watchdog. The board ruled Mautino and his now-defunct campaign committee did not knowingly violate campaign finance law during his two-decade tenure in the Illinois House. “Knowingly” was the key word the Illinois Supreme Court asked the board to concentrate on as it once again considered the what is left in a complaint first filed with the board nearly six years ago.
Iowa – Audit: Governor improperly used COVID funds for salaries
Yahoo News – David Pitt (Washington Post) | Published: 11/15/2021
A state audit on government spending accused Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds of using nearly $450,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds to pay salaries for 21 staff members for three months last year and concealing the spending by passing it through the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Reynolds has said the federal coronavirus relief law allowed salaries to be paid for workers whose job requirements were significantly changed due to the pandemic.
Maryland – Baltimore County Executive Proposes Public Campaign Finance Legislation
MSN – Taylor DeVille (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 11/15/2021
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced a bill creating public financing that candidates for the county council and county executive could start using in 2026. The legislation would require candidates for council and county executive to meet different qualifying thresholds for eligibility. For qualifying candidates, the county would match every dollar on a sliding scale. The legislation would also establish a Fair Election Fund Commission.
Massachusetts – After 600 Days, the Massachusetts State House Remains Closed to the Public. It Appears to Be the Only State Capitol Still Shut on This Continent
Boston Globe – Matt Stoudt | Published: 11/14/2021
Steeped in history, the Massachusetts statehouse stands alone for many reasons among the country’s state Capitols: Its iconic dome was constructed with copper from Paul Revere’s foundry and Samuel Adams laid its cornerstone. The seat of the state’s executive and legislative branches now has another: The statehouse appears to be the only state Capitol on the continent where the public remains barred from entering. The pandemic-induced closure has now stretched past 600 days, and legislative leaders in charge of the building say they are juggling how to safely reopen a building that typically receives some 100,000 visitors each year.
Michigan – Retired Detroit Police Officer Involved in Vehicle Auctions Pleads Guilty to Taking Bribes
Yahoo News – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 11/17/2021
Alonzo Jones, a retired Detroit police officer who ran the department’s vehicle auctions for more than 10 years, pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting $3,200 in bribes. The bribe payments came from a confidential FBI source involving in the towing industry and an undercover agent. In exchange for the money, Jones falsified paperwork that transferred ownership of abandoned vehicles without a public auction as required by law to the confidential source and the undercover agent.
Minnesota – Senate GOP Gets OK to Create Private Club for Legislators, Lobbyists During Session
Minnesota Reformer – Ricardo Lopez | Published: 11/12/2021
State Senate Republicans received approval from the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board to create a private meeting space for legislators and lobbyists and other dues-paying members, raising concerns about transparency and undue influence and access. The Senate Victory Fund, the Senate GOP’s campaign committee, sought the opinion on its proposal to lease meeting space accessible to lawmakers and members who pay a fee.
Missouri – Parson PAC Hit with Second Fine from Missouri Ethics Regulators
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 11/17/2021
The campaign fund that raises money to push Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s agenda illegally accepted a significant contribution from an out-of-state group last year. The Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) said the Uniting Missouri PAC received a $150,000 contribution in October 2020 from a PAC associated with the Republican Attorney Generals Association. The contribution was deemed illegal because the attorney general association’s PAC was not registered with the MEC.
New York – AG Releases Interview Transcripts in Cuomo Harassment Probe
ABC News – Michael Hill, Jennifer Peltz, and Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 11/11/2021
Over an 11-hour interview with investigators last July, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defiantly denied allegations he sexually harassed women and sparred with the lawyers questioning him, accusing one of being out to get him, according to a transcript. State Attorney General Letitia James made public hundreds of pages of transcripts of interviews conducted by two independent lawyers, hired by her office, during their monthslong probe of sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo.
New York – Cuomo’s Book Approval Rescinded by Ethics Panel, Jeopardizing Millions
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/16/2021
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) voted to rescind approval of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book deal, paving the way for commissioners to potentially claw back millions of dollars in proceeds paid to the ex-governor. In July 2020, JCOPE Deputy Counsel Martin Levine approved Cuomo’s request to write the book about his early handling of the pandemic. But it has since emerged that Cuomo used government staff to help edit and produce the book, something his government attorney at the time, Judith Mogul, had explicitly stated would not occur as she sought the staff’s approval that summer.
New York – How Small-Dollar Public Financing Helped NYC Elect Its Most Diverse City Council Ever
The City – Ese Olumhense | Published: 11/16/2021
Ninety-seven percent of the record-breaking 39 women and Black, Latino, and Asian New Yorkers elected to the city council in November raised money through the public financing program, which enables participating candidates to have their small-dollar donations matched eight-to-one with public money, according to a new analysis by the Brennan Center. The “robust” public matching funds program is partially responsible for the dramatic shift in representation in the incoming council, the report’s authors said. The new council will be the most racially diverse it has ever been, and women are expected to increase their representation to at least 59 percent.
New York – State Ethics Panel Issues Fines to Lobbyists in Secret
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/15/2021
The secrecy surrounding the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) issuing fines to lobbyists for late reports makes it difficult to know whether the agency is enforcing the rules evenhandedly, a relevant question for an entity often accused of favoring the administration of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. JCOPE has assessed $250,000 in fees this year from lobbyists who have missed deadlines to disclose activities before state government. But officials will say little else about the program, including which lobbyists have faced penalties, why they have been fined, or why their staff chooses to forgive certain fines.
Ohio – Who Knew About Bribes Paid During FirstEnergy Solutions’ Bankruptcy and House Bill 6 Bailout Campaign?
Energy and Policy Institute – Dave Anderson | Published: 11/16/2021
FirstEnergy Solutions’ (FES) management, board, and some top consultants for the utility and its creditors knew about plans to spend over $40 million on political contributions during the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Federal prosecutors said the money was part of a nearly $60 million bribery scheme at the Ohio Capitol. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Alan Koschik recently granted final approval for the $68 million in fees and expenses that FES accumulated with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Akin Gump served as co-counsel to FES during the company’s restructuring and lobbied for bailout proposals on behalf of the utility.
Pennsylvania – John Dougherty and Bobby Henon Convicted of Conspiracy in Federal Corruption Trial
WHYY – Meir Rinde | Published: 11/15/2021
A powerful Philadelphia labor leader and a city council member were found guilty of conspiracy charges in a corruption trial. Prosecutors said John Dougherty kept Bobby Henon, a union electrician-turned-Philadelphia City Council member, on the payroll to help his union keep a tight grip on construction jobs. Dougherty still faces at least one more federal trial based on charges in the sweeping 2019 indictment. U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams called the verdict “a strong message to the political power players of this city … that the citizens of Philadelphia will not tolerate public corruption as business as usual.”
Pennsylvania – New Limits Would Curtail Lobbyist Perks for Pa. Lawmakers, but One Leader Could Stand in the Way
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) | Published: 11/11/2021
Pennsylvania lawmakers and other elected officials have been able to pocket almost anything sent their way by lobbyists, special interests, and others with a stake in government. Yet bills to end a system criticized as the “Wild West” for influence peddling have died with little or no debate. A coalition of Republican leaders has publicly backed placing limits on gifts to elected officials and public employees, though one key leader has so far refused to endorse the change, a potentially fatal roadblock.
South Dakota – South Dakota Legislature Moves for Subpoenas on Noem Meeting
MSN – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 11/15/2021
South Dakota lawmakers moved to subpoena a document and a former state employee at the center of questions about whether Gov. Kristi Noem used her influence to aid her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license. The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee is pressing for details about a meeting the governor called last year that included her daughter, Kassidy Peters, and key decision-makers in a government agency that had moved days earlier to deny Peters’ application for an upgrade to her appraiser certification.
Tennessee – Tennessee GOP Primary Fee Creates Ethical Dilemma for Judge Candidates
Yahoo News – Andy Sher (Chattanooga Times Free Press) | Published: 11/18/2021
The Tennessee Republican Party’s approval of a plan to require that candidates for federal, state, and county elected offices pay a fee to run in a GOP primary is generating a case of ethical, as well as political, heartburn for state judges and judicial candidates. The legal angst stems from a recent opinion from the state’s judicial ethics committee about the issue. The panel stated in an advisory opinion that Tennessee’s Rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct bar the practice of paying the fee.
Washington DC – Trayon White Files Paperwork for D.C. Mayoral Bid Amid Campaign Finance Inquiry
MSN – Micahel Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 11/12/2021
District of Columbia Council member Trayon White Sr. officially filed paperwork for his 2022 mayoral campaign about one month after he first announced via Instagram he was running. The delay is now the subject of an “internal inquiry” by the Office of Campaign Finance to determine whether White may have improperly engaged in campaign activities without having filed paperwork. City law states individuals must register as a candidate within five days of accepting a contribution or making any campaign-related expenditures.
November 18, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Liberal ‘Dark-Money’ Behemoth Funneled More than $400M in 2020” by Scott Bland (Politico) for MSN Illinois: “State’s Top Fiscal Watchdog Cleared After Six-Year Battle Over Campaign Finance Violations Finally Resolved – for Now” by Hannah Meisel for […]
National: “Liberal ‘Dark-Money’ Behemoth Funneled More than $400M in 2020” by Scott Bland (Politico) for MSN
Illinois: “State’s Top Fiscal Watchdog Cleared After Six-Year Battle Over Campaign Finance Violations Finally Resolved – for Now” by Hannah Meisel for NPR Illinois
New York: “How Small-Dollar Public Financing Helped NYC Elect Its Most Diverse City Council Ever” by Ese Olumhense for The City
Colorado: “FBI Raids Home of Lauren Boebert’s Ex-Campaign Manager in Colorado Election Tampering Probe” by Igor Derysh for Salon
California: “Former S.F. Building Inspector, Building Commissioner Indicted” by Lauren Hernández (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
Illinois: “Ethics Board Says Aldermen Who Violate Code of Conduct Should Face Harsher Punishments as Gardiner Retaliation Claims Investigated” by Ariel Parrella-Aureli and Alex Nitkin (The Daily Line) for Book Club Chicago
National: “House Censures Rep. Gosar for Violent Video in Rare Rebuke” by Kevin Freking and Brian Slodysko (Associated Press) for Kansas City Star
National: “How a Cure for Gerrymandering Left U.S. Politics Ailing in New Ways” by Nick Corasaniti and Reid Epstein for New York Times
November 16, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Sen. Braun’s Campaign Accused by FEC of Breaking Campaign Finance Laws” by Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) for MSN Washington DC: “Trayon White Files Paperwork for D.C. Mayoral Bid Amid Campaign Finance Inquiry” by Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) […]
National: “Sen. Braun’s Campaign Accused by FEC of Breaking Campaign Finance Laws” by Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) for MSN
Washington DC: “Trayon White Files Paperwork for D.C. Mayoral Bid Amid Campaign Finance Inquiry” by Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Why Facebook Won’t Let You Control Your Own News Feed” by Will Oremus (Washington Post) for Yahoo News
California: “Emails Show LA Commissioner Used Influence to Help Win $3 Million COVID-19 Contract, Union Alleges” by Scott Schwebke (Orange County Register) for Los Angeles Daily News
Idaho: “Rep. Priscilla Giddings Censured, Removed from Legislative Committee by Idaho House” by Hayat Norimine for Idaho Statesman
South Dakota: “South Dakota Legislature Moves for Subpoenas on Noem Meeting” by Stephen Groves (Associated Press) for MSN
Massachusetts: “After 600 Days, the Massachusetts State House Remains Closed to the Public. It Appears to Be the Only State Capitol Still Shut on This Continent” by Matt Stoudt for Boston Globe
New York: “State Ethics Panel Issues Fines to Lobbyists in Secret” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
November 5, 2021 •
National/Federal A Year Out, Political Groups Prepare for What Could Be the Most Expensive Midterms Ever MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 11/2/2021 Next year’s midterm elections, which will determine control of the House and Senate for the second […]
A Year Out, Political Groups Prepare for What Could Be the Most Expensive Midterms Ever
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 11/2/2021
Next year’s midterm elections, which will determine control of the House and Senate for the second half of President Biden’s first term, are on pace to shatter previous records, thanks largely to big money outside groups. Super PACs – more than a decade old, with an infrastructure and stream of donors to rival the political parties – and other outside organizations already have begun to invest heavily to influence the outcome of the 2022 elections. An infusion of millions of dollars into a race can upend the previous dynamics. Outside organizations will rely on polling and other cues for where to put their money.
At Least Seven Jan. 6 Rallygoers Won Public Office on Election Day
MSN – Amy Wang and Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2021
At least seven people who attended the pro-Trump rally on January 6 in Washington, D.C. that preceded the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol were elected to public office on November 2. None were charged with crimes, and all denied being part of the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of President Biden’s electoral college win. The attack resulted in five deaths and left some 140 members of law enforcement injured.
Burr’s Brother-in-Law Called Stock Broker, One Minute After Getting Off Phone with Senator
ProPublica – Robert Faturechi | Published: 10/28/2021
After U.S. Sen. Richard Burr dumped more than $1.6 million in stocks in February 2020, a week before the coronavirus market crash, he called his brother-in-law, according to a new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing. They talked for 50 seconds. Burr, according to the SEC, had material nonpublic information regarding the incoming economic impact of coronavirus. The very next minute, Burr’s brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, called his broker. It was previously unknown that Burr and Fauth spoke that day, and their contact came just before Fauth began the process of dumping stock himself.
Cases Show Foreign Donors Secretly Funnel Money Through Straw Donors, Shell Companies, ‘Dark Money’
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 10/28/2021
Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born former business associate of Rudolph Giuliani, was recently convicted for campaign finance crimes. His case exposed the ways secret donors, including foreign nationals, can hide their identities from the American public while currying influence with politicians through straw donors, shell companies, and other forms of “dark money.” While Parnas’ case ended with a conviction, other prosecutions in similar cases are just beginning.
Foreign Nationals Can Finance Ballot Initiatives, FEC Affirms
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2021
The FEC affirmed that foreign nationals can legally spend money on ballot measures in states that do not otherwise forbid the practice. Federal law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions in connection with federal, state, or local elections but is silent on spending related to ballot initiatives. The decision is consistent with established interpretations of federal election law, campaign finance experts said. But it does not address whether certain types of ballot initiatives that explicitly involve a candidate or bear directly on elections, such as redistricting measures, might trigger the federal ban on foreign money, said FEC member Ellen Weintraub.
Gun Control Group Alleges Campaign Finance Violations in Lawsuit Against NRA
MSN – Mychael Schnell (The Hill) | Published: 11/2/2021
The gun control group Giffords filed a lawsuit against the National Rifle Association, alleging the advocacy group violated campaign finance laws by illegally contributing tens of millions of dollars to Republican U.S. Senate and presidential candidates, including Donald Trump in 2016, through shell corporations. “Over the past seven years, the National Rifle Association has engaged in an ongoing scheme to evade campaign finance regulations by using a series of shell corporations to illegally but surreptitiously coordinate advertising with at least seven candidates for federal office,” the complaint states.
‘Last Stop’ House Committee Takes Its Turn in the Limelight
MSN – Lindsey McPherson (Roll Call) | Published: 11/3/2021
After 13 committees spent countless hours in September preparing a $3.5 trillion-plus partisan budget reconciliation package, the House Rules Committee – “the most powerful committee that people haven’t heard of,” according to its chairperson, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern – is going to cut the measure almost in half. It is the panel’s job to tweak bills so they ultimately have the votes to pass. The committee has no original legislative jurisdiction, but the policy areas it can influence are endless.
Lobbying Firms Connected to Biden White House Are Flourishing Under New Administration
Yahoo News – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 11/3/2021
Lobbying firms with ties to President Biden and his administration are thriving, with some doubling and quadrupling their lobbying revenues from last year, disclosure filings show, but overall lobbying revenues have not increased much over the last year. Three firms led by former Biden aides and others with close ties to key members of the administration have brought in far more in lobbying revenues in just the first three quarters of 2021 than the amount they brought in during the entire previous year.
Perfect Attendance: Susan Collins racks up 8,000th vote in the Senate
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 11/1/2021
Even a global pandemic could not stop Susan Collins from keeping up her perfect U.S. Senate attendance, a consecutive voting streak that has stretched nearly a quarter-century. She reached the 8,000-vote mark recently, voting to confirm Elizabeth Prelogar to be U.S. solicitor general. Since her arrival in the chamber in 1997, Collins has not missed a single vote. Collins is still a couple of thousand votes away from breaking the record for longest streak ever, held by William Proxmire.
Senate Republicans Block Debate on a Third Major Voting Rights Bill
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2021
Republican senators voted to block debate on the third major voting rights bill that congressional Democrats have sought to pass this year in response to the state-level GOP push to restrict ballot access following former President Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 election. Only one Republican, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, voted to advance it. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act seeks to empower the Justice Department and federal courts to review state election laws, restoring provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Stunning Survey Gives Grim View of Flourishing Anti-Democratic Opinions
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 11/1/2021
A recent poll from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute paints a troubling portrait of a growing segment of the public that is increasingly unmoored from reality as it embraces conspiracy theories about child abduction and stolen elections. It found a deep divide between those who trust right-wing media outlets and the rest of the nation, and even a divide between those who trust Fox News and those who trust outlets like One America Network and Newsmax. Eighteen percent say they agree with the statement that America has gotten so far off track that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
Trump Campaign Payments for ‘Command Centers’ at D.C. Hotels Could Undermine Executive Privilege Claim in Jan. 6 Investigation
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, Emma Brown, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 11/2/2021
More than $225,000 in Trump campaign payments went to firms owned by Bernard Kerik and Rudolph Giuliani, including more than $50,000 for rooms and suites at the Willard hotel in Washington, D.C. that served as a “command center” for efforts to deny Joe Biden the presidency in the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol on January 6. The fact that campaign funds were used to finance efforts to subvert Biden’s victory could complicate the Donald Trump’s ongoing attempt to use claims of executive privilege to shield documents and testimony from the congressional committee investigating the insurrection.
Trump Seeking to Block Hundreds of Pages of Documents from Jan. 6 Committee, Court Filing Shows
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 10/30/2021
Former President Trump is trying to withhold nearly 800 pages of documents from the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. The filing was in response to and shed more light on a lawsuit Trump filed seeking to block the disclosure of records related to his whereabouts, communications, and activities that day. Exerting additional pressure on Trump, 66 former members of Congress, including 44 Democrats and 22 Republicans filed a brief opposing Trump’s attempt to shield documents from the select committee.
Two Democratic Senators Take Aim at ‘Zombie’ Campaigns
Yahoo News – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 11/4/2021
U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation to prohibit former politicians from holding on to their campaign money forever. The bill would outlaw so-called zombie campaign accounts for any politician who does not file for the next election six months after they leave office and would require any former politician who wishes to register as a lobbyist to shut down their campaign account immediately.
UK Needs a Lobbying Regulator, Review Author Recommends
Financial Times – Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe | Published: 11/2/2021
The United Kingdom should create a regulator able to “impose severe sanctions” on individuals who break lobbying rules, the author of an independent review into the issue suggested. Nigel Boardman, who published a review into lobbying following a scandal involving former Prime Minister David Cameron, told the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee the lobbying industry needed to move away from “self-regulation.”
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – After Federal Court Ruling, Alaska Campaign Regulators Propose Higher Donation Limits
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 11/3/2021
The staff of the Alaska Public Offices Commission set the state’s campaign contribution limit at $1,500 from an individual to a candidate, now that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out the previous $500 cap. A group would be limited to $3,000 in donations per candidate or group per year. Campaigns and candidates are required to follow the new caps until the commission votes on the proposal and could be subject to an official complaint and investigation if they violate its limits.
California – City Report: SF officials got free tickets to pricey outside Lands Fest through ethically questionable loophole
KQED – Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez | Published: 10/29/2021
According to a recent San Francisco Ethics Commission report, city officials have been given at least $430,950 in free tickets to the Outside Lands festival through a loophole, that although technically legal, is ethically dubious. The Recreation and Parks Department, which is the agency accepting the tickets from Another Planet Entertainment, which puts on the festival, is also in charge of the contract for the event space. That makes them a “restricted source” for officials involved in the contract, which means accepting any gifts from entities they are doing business with poses a potential conflict-of-interest.
California – How Local Independent Commissions Are Changing California Redistricting
CalMatters – Sameea Kamal | Published: 10/26/2021
California has a dozen new local independent commissions in this round of redistricting, a process that will create districts for elections from 2022 to 2030. These new panels are coming up with districts that in some places have never been redrawn, or have not been altered significantly, despite changing populations. Taking redistricting power away from officeholders could mean changes in representation and city priorities.
California – Is It Too Easy to Hold a Recall in California? Lawmakers Raise Changes After Newsom Victory
MSN – Lara Korte (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 10/29/2021
Both Democrats and Republicans said they are open to tweaking California’s 108-year-old recall laws, but they are far from consensus on what those changes should look like. Lawmakers gathered for the first formal discussion of the state’s recall process following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s victory against a recall. Democrats are concerned it is too easy to qualify a recall in California. Republicans said they are open to changing the recall in a way that makes it more efficient or conducts it in a better manner, but they are cautious about diluting an avenue of direct democracy.
Connecticut – A $375,000 Kentucky Derby Trip, Personalized Golf Balls and Luxury Swag Bags. Federal Jury Set to Determine When High-Priced Corporate Retreats Are Illegal Junketeering
MSN – Edmund Mahoney (Hartford Courant) | Published: 10/31/2021
Five former Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC) officials are on trial over their involvement in multiple trips that cost more than $800,000 in total. The men planned or participated in trips that sent scores of friends, family, colleagues, and customers on utility-paid trips to the Kentucky Derby and golf outings at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. The defendants say the travel was legal under state law. “The evidence … will prove that the five defendants used hundreds of thousands of dollars of money belonging to CMEEC … for their personal benefit …,” prosecutors wrote in a pre-trial memorandum.
Delaware – Can Delaware Lawmakers Legally Oust an Indicted State Auditor? State Law Isn’t Clear
WHYY – Mark Eichman | Published: 11/2/2021
The Delaware General Assembly has never voted to have the governor oust another elected official. As a result, there is some confusion about how the process works. After a grand jury indicted state Auditor Kathy McGuiness on fraud charges, resolving that confusion has taken on increased urgency. The felony charges accuse McGuiness of hiring her daughter to a no-show job, giving her 2018 campaign consulting firm an illegal state contract, and intimidating employees who complained.
Florida – Candidates Fail to Turn in Mandatory Financial Reports
MSN – Corbin Bolies (Fresh Take Florida) | Published: 10/30/2021
Scores of challengers running for Congress across Florida have failed to successfully file financial reports in Washington that would publicly reveal key details about their personal wealth, debts, and jobs, as required by the U.S. House. The missing paperwork means voters have few clues so far about where these candidates have earned their money, where they invested, or to whom they owe personal debts. Candidates’ explanations included reports being lost in the mail, forgetting they were due, technical glitches, and confusion over what Congress required.
Florida – Florida Blocks Professors from Testifying Against Voting Law Pushed by DeSantis
Politico – Gary Fineout and Marc Caputo | Published: 10/30/2021
The University of Florida blocked three professors from testifying on behalf of plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s new restrictive voting law. University officials asserted it was a conflict-of-interest for professors to testify in the lawsuit because they are state employees. It is a turnaround in university policy, which for years allowed professors to testify in lawsuits against the state, including one that unsuccessfully challenged the state law that restricted voting rights for convicted felons. Critics contend the action imperils academic freedom and raises concerns about the First Amendment.
Illinois – Ex-State Rep. Luis Arroyo Pleads Guilty in Bribery Case Tied to Sweepstakes Machines
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/3/2021
Former Illinois Rep. Luis Arroyo pleaded guilty in a bribery scheme involving a shadowy lobbying effort to expand the use of sweepstakes gaming machines. He acknowledged offering a member of the state Senate monthly payments of $2,500 to back a bill supported by a sweepstakes firm that hired Arroyo as a lobbyist. Prosecutors said Arroyo accepted $7,500 in bribes from James Weiss, the owner of sweepstakes firm Collage LLC, with the understanding he would vote for the legislation supported by Weiss and lobby members of the executive branch and the Illinois Senate.
Massachusetts – Michelle Wu Makes History as First Person of Color and Woman to Be Elected Boston Mayor
MSN – Joanna Slater and Adela Suliman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2021
Democrat Michelle Wu is the first woman and person of color to be elected Boston mayor. The campaign largely focused on housing costs, education, and the city’s opioid crisis. But the race also highlighted Boston’s growing diversity, with all the leading candidates being women of color. It is the first time in nearly 200 years that the city’s next mayor will not be a White man.
Missouri – Many Redistricting Commissioners Have Close Ties to Lawmakers
Columbia Missourian – Rudi Keller (Missouri Independent) | Published: 11/4/2021
The 40 people chosen to draw new legislative districts for Missouri include political consultants, former candidates, and political party officers. They have until January to design 163 Missouri House and 34 state Senate districts that would be used next year. The commissions are billed as independent, and members are prohibited from running for a legislative seat for four years. Many commissioners, however, have close ties to the state legislators whose districts they will be redrawing.
Montana – Legislative Counsel Requests AG’s Documents in St. Peter’s Dispute
Missoula Current – Arren Kimbeil-Sannit (Daily Montanan) | Published: 11/1/2021
A special counsel tasked with probing allegations that state officials in the Montana attorney general’s office harassed doctors at St. Peter’s Health in Helena have formally requested documents related to the incident. Democratic legislative leadership requested their counterparts in the majority investigate the allegations on the heels of media reports in which St. Peter’s said unnamed state officials threatened doctors at the hospital for not prescribing a COVID-19 patient ivermectin, an unapproved treatment for the virus. The patient, an activist in the Lewis and Clark County Republican Party politics, has since passed away.
New Jersey – Former Owner of Morristown Law Firm Admits Directing Bold Straw Donor Scheme
MSN – Lori Comstock (Morristown Daily Record) | Published: 10/27/2021
Attorney Matthew O’Donnell pleaded guilty to “pay-to-play” charges in connection with a bribery scheme in New Jersey. O’Donnell admitted his firm submitted proposals for legal services to municipalities but failed to disclose the firm made campaign contributions to officials in those locations. Using straw donors allowed the firm to donate to campaigns and evade laws that would otherwise disqualify them from winning contracts. He faces a maximum three-year prison sentence and will be required to pay restitution to the victims of the scheme. The plea also calls for him to be banned from doing any business in the state for 10 years.
New Jersey – Murphy Reelected New Jersey Governor by Razor-Thin Margin
Yahoo News – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 11/3/2021
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has won reelection, defeating Republican Jack Ciattarelli in a closer-than-expected race. The contest eluded national coverage for most of the year, as both parties focused intensely on the close race for governor in Virginia. But Murphy’s small margin ultimately points to the same challenging political environment for Democrats, a year after winning the presidential election and with midterms looming.
New Jersey – N.J. Governor’s Race Fallout Could Claim Senate President Sweeney as Democrats Trail Key Legislative Races
MSN – Amanda Hoover and Brent Johnson (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 11/3/2021
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney seems set to lose his seat his seat to Edward Durr, a truck driver who spent only $153 over the course of his campaign. Durr has never held elective office. He ran on a platform of limiting government, reducing taxes, and fixing the state’s roads, but he did not garner much attention during the campaign. A Sweeney loss would significantly change the landscape of state politics, giving rise to a new Senate president and likely shifting the dynamic between the Legislature and the governor’s office.
New Jersey – Voters with Disabilities Gain Political Clout in NJ as Ballots Become More Accessible
MSN – Gene Myers (Bergen Record) | Published: 11/2/2021
New Jerseyans with disabilities are enjoying a new era of political relevance thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, both the voting reforms it spurred and the inequities it laid bare. People with disabilities showed “large gains” in 2020’s voter turnout, said Steve Flamisch of Rutgers University’s Program for Disability Research. It is a community that historically has splintered into smaller populations, each lobbying for specific needs in areas such as hearing or vision loss or developmental disabilities without coalescing into a larger political bloc. That has left such voters out of initial discussions about public policy, necessitating after-the-fact fixes such as those found in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
New York – Hochul Outsources Fundraising to Albany’s Top Lobbyists
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/1/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign is outsourcing a significant portion of its fundraising to Albany’s top lobbying firms, including a few featuring partners that were key witnesses caught up in past corruption cases. Hochul’s fundraising practice is legal. Yet at her swearing-in ceremony in August, she had said one of her priorities was “changing the culture of Albany.” But as she seeks to win a full term as governor next year, her campaign fundraising tactics have accelerated a longstanding practice in Albany’s political culture.
New York – Inspector General to Begin Releasing Its Secret ‘Letter’ Reports
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg | Published: 11/2/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s directive creating more “transparency” in state agencies will include having the state inspector general’s office begin posting the results of all its investigations online, including the letters the office has more frequently sent to many agencies in recent years to privately summarize its findings in controversial matters. It was reported that during the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the inspector general’s office had been increasingly sending letters to agencies, rather than posting full reports on its website, to quietly handle matters ranging from sexual harassment to the alleged leak of confidential information to the governor.
New York – Sheriff Defends Filing of Criminal Complaint Against Cuomo
Yahoo News – Bobby Caina and Michael Hill (Associated Press) | Published: 10/29/2021
A sheriff defended his decision to file a criminal complaint against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo without consulting prosecutors or the accuser, a woman who says the Cuomo groped her late last year. Sheriff Craig Apple said he was confident in the strength of the case, which he said was based on witness interviews and voluminous records. A court summons requires Cuomo to appear for an arraignment on November 17, though that date could change. The one-page complaint filed in Albany City Court accuses Cuomo of forcible touching by putting his hand under a woman’s shirt on December 7.
Ohio – Columbus Officials Looking to Prevent Another Issue 7-Type Measure from Getting on Ballot
MSN – Mark Ferenchik and Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 11/3/2021
The defeat of Issue 7 in Columbus, a murky initiative to divert $87 million in taxpayer money to fund vague “green energy” programs with no oversight, may be unprecedented in the history of city elections. Although voters were not buying the shadowy petition and those behind it, city officials are already looking at ways to restrict future ballot initiatives from being able to redirect millions of tax dollars to a private, unregulated group to spend how it sees fit.
Pennsylvania – How Do Staffs at PSERS and SERS Pension Plans Play the Market? The Public Can’t Find Out
MSN – Craig McCoy and John DiStefano (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 11/1/2021
In California, public investment officers with power over billions of dollars in pension funds must disclose the stocks they own, their approximate cash value, when they bought them, when they sold, and any profits they made. Ohio requires public investment staff to disclose all their personal stocks. So does Florida. But in Pennsylvania, lenient laws mean scores of highly paid investment staffers and top public pension plan executives are required to reveal little or nothing about their personal stock trading.
Pennsylvania – Pa. House Mulling Gift Ban Bill, but Gov. Tom Wolf Says It Needs Strengthening. Here’s Why
Lebanon Daily News – J.D. Prose (Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau) | Published: 11/1/2021
Gov. Tom Wolf is urging the Pennsylvania Legislature to close a “loophole” in a gift ban bill that is moving forward in the House. House Bill 1009 prohibits elected officials and state employees from accepting lodging or sleeping accommodations, food and drinks, transportation, recreation, and entertainment collectively valued at more than $250 from registered lobbyists during a year. Wolf said it does not go far enough and should be strengthened to include gifts from businesses or people not registered as lobbyists in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania – Want to See Who’s Funding Local Candidates in Pa.? It’s Harder Than You’d Think
WHYY – Ethan Edward Coston (Spotlight PA) | Published: 11/2/2021
Hundreds of local races across Pennsylvania were decided on November 2 but determining who is bankrolled the candidates and how they spent that money can be onerous and time-consuming, a review found. Local candidates were required to file final pre-election campaign finance reports with their county by October 22. To test how easily and quickly the public could access this information less than two weeks before the election, Spotlight PA requested reports for school board candidates in nine counties.
Virginia – Republican Winsome Sears Projected to Win Lieutenant Governor’s Race
MSN – Antonio Olivo (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2021
Republican Winsome Sears was projected to win Virginia’s race for lieutenant governor, a victory that would make her the first woman in the state’s second-highest office and could tilt the closely split state Senate in her party’s favor on divisive issues such as abortion restrictions. The victory also would make Sears the first woman of color to hold a statewide office in Virginia, a milestone that was also possible for her opponent, Del. Hala Ayala, and that both candidates used to rally supporters in their bid to win the position that traditionally has been a launchpad for a run for governor.
Virginia – Youngkin Wins Virginia Governor’s Race, Jolting Democrats
MSN – Will Weissert and Sarah Rankin (Associated Press) | Published: 11/3/2021
Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governor’s race, tapping into culture war fights over schools and race to unite former President Trump’s most fervent supporters with enough suburban voters to become the first Republican to win statewide office in 12 years. Youngkin’s defeat of Terry McAuliffe marked a sharp turnabout in a state that has shifted to the left over the past decade and was captured by Joe Biden last year by a 10-point margin. It is certain to add to the Democrats’ anxiety about their grip on political power heading into next year’s midterms.
November 4, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Gun Control Group Alleges Campaign Finance Violations in Lawsuit Against NRA” by Mychael Schnell (The Hill) for MSN National: “Trump Campaign Payments for ‘Command Centers’ at D.C. Hotels Could Undermine Executive Privilege Claim in Jan. 6 Investigation” […]
National: “Gun Control Group Alleges Campaign Finance Violations in Lawsuit Against NRA” by Mychael Schnell (The Hill) for MSN
National: “Trump Campaign Payments for ‘Command Centers’ at D.C. Hotels Could Undermine Executive Privilege Claim in Jan. 6 Investigation” by Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, Emma Brown, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN
Alaska: “After Federal Court Ruling, Alaska Campaign Regulators Propose Higher Donation Limits” by James Brooks for Anchorage Daily News
National: “At Least Seven Jan. 6 Rallygoers Won Public Office on Election Day” by Amy Wang and Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) for MSN
Massachusetts: “Michelle Wu Makes History as First Person of Color and Woman to Be Elected Boston Mayor” by Joanna Slater and Adela Suliman (Washington Post) for MSN
New Jersey: “N.J. Governor’s Race Fallout Could Claim Senate President Sweeney as Democrats Trail Key Legislative Races” by Amanda Hoover and Brent Johnson (NJ Advance Media) for MSN
Illinois: “Ex-State Rep. Luis Arroyo Pleads Guilty in Bribery Case Tied to Sweepstakes Machines” by Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
Delaware: “Can Delaware Lawmakers Legally Oust an Indicted State Auditor? State Law Isn’t Clear” by Mark Eichman for WHYY
National: “Lobbying Firms Connected to Biden White House Are Flourishing Under New Administration” by Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) for Yahoo News
California: “How Local Independent Commissions Are Changing California Redistricting” by Sameea Kamal for CalMatters
November 2, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “A Year Out, Political Groups Prepare for What Could Be the Most Expensive Midterms Ever” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN Florida: “Candidates Fail to Turn in Mandatory Financial Reports” by Corbin Bolies (Fresh Take Florida) […]
National: “A Year Out, Political Groups Prepare for What Could Be the Most Expensive Midterms Ever” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
Florida: “Candidates Fail to Turn in Mandatory Financial Reports” by Corbin Bolies (Fresh Take Florida) for MSN
California: “Is It Too Easy to Hold a Recall in California? Lawmakers Raise Changes After Newsom Victory” by Lara Korte (Sacramento Bee) for MSN
National: “Stunning Survey Gives Grim View of Flourishing Anti-Democratic Opinions” by Reid Wilson for The Hill
Pennsylvania: “How Do Staffs at PSERS and SERS Pension Plans Play the Market? The Public Can’t Find Out” by Craig McCoy and John DiStefano (Philadelphia Inquirer) for MSN
National: “Perfect Attendance: Susan Collins racks up 8,000th vote in the Senate” by Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) for MSN
New York: “Hochul Outsources Fundraising to Albany’s Top Lobbyists” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Pennsylvania: “Pa. House Mulling Gift Ban Bill, but Gov. Tom Wolf Says It Needs Strengthening. Here’s Why” by J.D. Prose (Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau) for Lebanon Daily News
October 22, 2021 •
National/Federal Advocates Worry Biden Is Letting U.S. Democracy Erode on His Watch MSN – Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2021 Voting rights advocates meet once every week or two with White House officials via video […]
Advocates Worry Biden Is Letting U.S. Democracy Erode on His Watch
MSN – Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2021
Voting rights advocates meet once every week or two with White House officials via video conference, and in almost every session, an advocate speaks up to say President Biden must do more, that American democracy is under threat and the president is not meeting the challenge. In the nine months since Biden took office, GOP officials throughout the country have baselessly challenged the 2020 results, conducting clumsy audits. States have restricted voting and have changed their procedures to allow political influence over elections. Many in Trump’s camp have taken to lauding the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol.
As Some Black Staff Members Leave Congress, Those Who Remain Call for Change
New York Times – Aishvarya Kavi | Published: 10/17/2021
Black staff members in Congress are sounding the alarm on a “painful” two years, including the coronavirus pandemic and the January 6 attack on the Capitol, they say have exacerbated the challenges they face in pursuing a career on Capitol Hill. Two congressional staff associations called for better pay and “a stronger college-to-Congress pipeline” to recruit Black graduates. They also urged voters to push lawmakers to diversify their staff. Published on behalf of more than 300 Black staffers, the letter offers a glimpse at the experiences of those who work behind the scenes drafting policy, interacting with constituents, and advancing agendas.
As Trump Thunders About Last Election, Republicans Worry About the Next One
Yahoo News – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 10/18/2021
The Republican Party’s ambitions of ending unified Democratic control in Washington in 2022 are colliding with a considerable force that can sway tens of millions of votes: former President Trump’s increasingly vocal demands that members of his party remain in a permanent state of obedience, endorsing his false claims of a stolen election or risking his wrath. “If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020, Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It’s the single most important thing for Republicans to do.,” Trump said in a recent statement.
David Cameron Cleared Over Unregistered Lobbying on Work for US Biotech Group
Financial Times – Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe | Published: 10/20/2021
Former United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron was cleared by the lobbying regulator over whether he should have registered as a consultant lobbyist while working with biotechnology group Illumina. OpenDemocracy reported that Cameron, who is a paid adviser for Illumina, met the then vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi just months after the company was granted £870,000 of contracts with Public Health England. The registrar assessed four pieces of communication by the former prime minister, which included text messages referencing Illumina that were sent in 2021 to Zahawi.
Drain the Swamp? This Guy’s Trying to Fill It.
Yahoo News – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 10/15/2021
Ivan Adler is a recruiter who specializes in plucking lawmakers and staffers off Capitol Hill or elsewhere in government and placing them into jobs on K Street in trade associations, corporations, law practices, and lobbying firms. There are other lobbyist recruiters in Washington, but few, if any, do it with as much bravado as Adler. His name is well-known among lawmakers who are leaving their posts for jobs in the private sector. Adler said he is so plugged in that he is sometimes among the first to know a member of Congress is contemplating whether to seek reelection.
FBI Searches D.C., NYC Homes Connected to Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 10/19/2021
FBI agents searched homes connected to sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, one in Washington, D.C. and one in New York City, as part of an unspecified criminal investigation into the activities of a man who has not set foot on U.S. soil in years. His name came up repeatedly in recent investigations involving Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Deripaska is a billionaire and has long been a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also did business for years with Paul Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign chairperson, although he and Deripaska eventually had a falling out.
Fed Ethics Office Warned Officials to Curb Unnecessary Trading During Rescue
New York Times – Jeanna Smialek | Published: 10/21/2021
As the Federal Reserve was taking steps to shore up financial markets at the onset of the pandemic last year, its ethics office sent out a warning. Officials might want to avoid unnecessary trading for a few months as the Fed dived deeper into markets, the Board of Governors’ ethics unit suggested in an email, a message that was passed along to regional bank presidents. But the recommendation did not go far enough to prevent a trading scandal that is now engulfing the Fed and being leveraged against its chair, Jerome Powell, as the White House mulls whether to reappoint him before his leadership term expires early next year.
House Jan. 6 Panel Votes to Hold Ex-Trump Advisor Stephen Bannon in Contempt
Yahoo News – Del Quentin Wilber (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/19/2021
A congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol voted to hold former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon in contempt for not cooperating with its inquiry, a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to get answers about the insurrection from the political operative. Former President Trump has told allies not to cooperate with the inquiry. Bannon helped run Trump’s 2016 campaign and served briefly in the White House but was a private citizen in the run-up to the insurrection. If the full House votes to endorse the resolution, Bannon will be referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.
K Street Revenues Boom
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 10/20/2021
The leading K Street firms continue to rake in record sums of cash as corporate clients push their chips in to influence President Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda. Companies and trade associations, fighting to stave off corporate tax hikes and other Democratic proposals to reshape sections of the economy, are leaning on lobbyists who have cultivated close relationships with congressional leaders and Biden administration officials. Nearly all the top lobbying firms increased their third-quarter revenue over the same period last year.
Lobbying Groups’ Effectiveness Hits New High This Year: Study
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 10/19/2021
Trade associations are finding unprecedented success in influencing policymakers this year. An APCO Worldwide study surveyed 322 congressional staffers, executive branch officials, and private sector executives, and reported trade groups are having their best year since APCO started tracking their effectiveness in 2013. That finding comes after trade groups launched extensive lobbying campaigns to influence Democrats’ coronavirus stimulus package, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the $3.5 trillion social spending plan. Their efforts are bolstered by Democrats’ thin majorities and divisions between the party’s moderates and progressives.
Nebraska GOP Rep. Fortenberry Indicted
MSN – Hailey Fuchs and Olivia Beavers (Politico) | Published: 10/19/2021
A federal grand jury indicted U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, alleging he concealed information and made false statements to authorities. The Justice Department said Fortenberry repeatedly lied to and misled authorities during an investigation into illegal contributions to his reelection campaign that were made by a Nigerian-born billionaire, Gilbert Chagoury. The charges against Fortenberry emerged from a case against Chagoury, who under federal law cannot contribute to U.S. elections but admitted to providing approximately $180,000 to make campaign donations.
Political Nonprofit Fundraising Off Breast Cancer Has Deep Ties to Scam PAC Networks
Center for Responsive Politics – Roger Sollengberger and Anna Massoglia | Published: 10/15/2021
Although it sounds like a noble charity, the American Breast Cancer Coalition (ABCC) is a political group and rather than trying to address breast cancer, it appears to be a scheme to extract millions of dollars in donations, mostly from small donors. In recent robocalls, a female voice claims the goal of the group’s fundraising is to “support legislators who will fight for the fast-track approval of life saving breast cancer health bills and breast cancer treatment drugs to the FDA.” But IRS records tell a different story, revealing payments to firms with ties to a multimillion-dollar “scam PAC” network.
Staffers Keep Clashing Over Masks in the Capitol Hallways
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 10/21/2021
One congressional staffer said he almost always wears a mask at work. His closest colleagues do too. But everywhere the Democrat looked recently, bare faces rushed by, ignoring the signs: “Use of face covering is required.” Some staffers say they feel trapped in a never-ending proxy war, squabbling over masks as larger partisan tensions rage in Congress. Nineteen months into the pandemic, masks are still much more than simple pieces of fabric and that is especially true when you work on Capitol Hill, in the heart of political Washington, D.C.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’: Arizona GOP goes full fringe
MSN – David Siders (Politico) | Published: 10/20/2021
As the Republican Party hardens around its fealty to former President Trump, the Arizona GOP is filling up its midterm ballot with a roster of conspiracy theorists and extremists that could threaten the party’s prospects in a state that has drifted leftward in recent elections. The latest of those candidates is Ron Watkins, a celebrity in the QAnon conspiracy world suspected of being Q, who announced his plans to run for Congress recently. It is not just that Watkins embraces the baseless claim the November election was stolen. It is that an entire ticket is running on that falsehood now.
California – California #MeToo Leaders Say Capitol’s Sexual Harassment Unit Is Too Close to the Legislature
MSN – Hannah Wiley (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 10/18/2021
A network of activists called We Said Enough launched in October 2017 with a Los Angeles Times op-ed that called out a “pervasive” culture of abusive behavior by men in California’s institutions of power. More than 140 women, including several lawmakers and party leaders, signed the letter. In the following months, three lawmakers resigned amid public sexual misconduct allegations and investigations. The Capitol responded to the movement by setting up an independent review panel it dubbed the Workplace Conduct Unit to field new complaints. Activists say problems still persist.
California – California Board Diversity Requirements Face Legal Challenge
MSN – Ellen Myers (Roll Call) | Published: 10/14/2021
California, one of the first states to require companies to include women on their boards of directors, may see its ability to enforce director diversity laws upended depending on the outcome of multiple lawsuits. One of those lawsuits is a complaint from three California taxpayers over enforcement of Senate Bill 826, which requires public companies with principal executive offices in the state to incrementally increase the number of women on their boards. It will head to trial on October 25.
California – Top California Labor Official and Husband Accused of Grand Theft, Embezzlement and Tax Evasion
MSN – Taryn Luna (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/13/2021
The top staff member at California’s largest labor union resigned after she and her husband were charged with felonies including tax fraud. Alma Hernandez served as executive director for SEIU California since 2016. Hernandez faces two charges of grand theft and one of perjury for her work as treasurer on a 2014 political committee supporting a state Senate candidate. The complaint alleges she directed nearly $12,000 in campaign money to her husband for campaign food services that he never provided. That political committee received numerous contributions from the SEIU California’s political arm.
Colorado – Colorado County Clerk Who Embraced Conspiracy Theories Is Barred from Overseeing Elections
MSN – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 10/13/2021
A Colorado judge prohibited Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from overseeing this November’s election. The effort by Peters to ferret out supposedly hidden evidence of fraud in the 2020 election amounted to an escalation in the attacks on the nation’s voting systems, according to experts. Secretary of State Jena Griswold filed a lawsuit seeking to strip Peters of her election duties after passwords for Mesa County’s voting machines were posted online and copies of the hard drives were presented at a symposium hosted by MyPillow executive Mike Lindell, who denies President Biden won the 2020 election.
Connecticut – Guilty Plea Entered in State Senate Election Fraud Case
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/20/2021
A former campaign worker for a state Senator in Connecticut pleaded guilty to federal charges she conspired to fraudulently obtain public funds for the senator’s 2018 legislative campaign. Tina Manus worked on the campaign of Sen. Dennis Bradley, who is awaiting trial on charges his campaign ran a scheme to make it look as though he qualified for funds to which he was not entitled. Manus pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to cooperate in the investigation.
Connecticut – State Rep. Michael DiMassa Arrested by FBI in Probe of Misuse of COVID Relief Funds, Accused of Stealing More Than $600,000
MSN – Edmund Mahoney (Hartford Courant) | Published: 10/20/2021
Connecticut Rep. Michael DiMassa was arrested, accused of stealing more than $600,000 in federal COVID relief money by billing the city of West Haven, where he also worked as an aide to the city council, for pandemic related consulting services that federal officials said he never performed. Federal prosecutors said a portion of the alleged thefts appear to correspond with DiMassa’s purchase of tens of thousands of dollars in gambling chip at the Mohegan Sun Casino.
Florida – ‘It Gets Complicated’: Inconsistencies emerge when commissioners declare conflicts of interest
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 10/20/2021
Citing actual or apparent conflicts-of-interest, Leon County and Tallahassee city commissioners refrained from voting on issues big and small, from COVID-19 relief efforts to legal fees and development minutia. An investigation based on voting conflict forms and other public records found commissioners were sometimes inconsistent as they navigated what remains a complicated and grey area of the law. They often relied on an exemption in state statutes allowing them to abstain for mere appearances of a possible conflict-of-interest, though that provision is supposed to be applied narrowly.
Illinois – Chicago Sky Owner Michael Alter Agrees to Pay Fine for Lobbying Mayor Lori Lightfoot
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/20/2021
Chicago Sky owner Michael Alter will pay a $5,000 fine to the city after the ethics board sanctioned him for unregistered lobbying of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Alter argued earlier this year that the board was wrong to fine him for unregistered lobbying after The Chicago Tribune obtained emails showing he asked Lightfoot for help gaining a gambling license. But he has since reversed course and agreed to pay the fine.
Illinois – Indicted Former City Club President Fined $75K by Ethics Board for Violating Lobbying Rules
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/19/2021
Jay Doherty, the former head of the City Club of Chicago, was fined $75,000 by the Chicago Board of Ethics for violating the lobbying law. An investigation concluded Doherty “violated the ordinance on three occasions by lobbying on behalf of entities for which the individual had not duly registered as a lobbyist, and on four occasions lobbied but failed to properly report that lobbying activity as required on the quarterly lobbying activity reports.” Doherty has pleaded not guilty to charges that accused him of being part of a scheme to reward those loyal to former House Speaker Michael Madigan with money and jobs in exchange for Madigan’s support.
Illinois – Three-Judge Panel Declares Illinois Legislative Redistricting Plan Unconstitutional
Courthouse News Service – Dave Byrnes | Published: 10/20/2021
A three-judge panel declared Illinois’ June 2021 state legislative redistricting unconstitutional, in a rebuke to the Legislature’s Democratic-controlled State Board of Elections. A lawsuit alleged that, as the redistricting plan was based on preliminary 2015-2019 state population estimates made by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and not the official 2020 Census results, it violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The judges said the redistricting plan apportions state legislative districts in such a way that some districts are severely under-populated, while others are severely over-populated.
Louisiana – Gary Smith Sr. Files Ethics Disclosure on Debris Deals, the First Such Disclosure in Years
New Orleans Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 10/18/2021
The father of state Sen. Gary Smith Jr. filed an ethics disclosure for debris-staging contracts worth more than $105,000, the first such disclosure anyone has made to the Louisiana Board of Ethics in six years. The Smith family owns a network of companies that has long made money off hurricane work. After Katrina in 2005, one of the companies won a controversial FEMA deal to provide trailers for more than $100 million. It is not clear why such disaster contract disclosures are so rare.
Maine – Maine Ethics Watchdog Turn Back CMP Allies’ Request to Investigate Corridor Foe
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 10/15/2021
The state’s ethics commission rejected a request from Central Maine Power Co. allies to investigate a top opponent of their $1 billion corridor project, Sandra Howard, who leads the nonprofit Say No to NECEC, over a large contribution from a political group she runs to a nonprofit she also runs. The vote means the commission will not investigate the anti-corridor side during the last weeks of a referendum campaign that has drawn more than $60 million in spending.
Massachusetts – Grand Jury Is Said to Have Heard Testimony About Potential Campaign Finance Violations by MassGOP Head, Republican State Senator
MSN – Emma Platoff (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/18/2021
A state grand jury has heard testimony about potential campaign finance violations by the head of the Massachusetts Republican Party and a state senator, according to a person who received a subpoena and spoke before the panel. Sources said the probe appears focused on GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, Sen. Ryan Fattman, and his wife, Worcester County’s register of probate, Stephanie Fattman. In April, campaign finance regulators told state prosecutors the Republicans might have violated campaign finance laws. The work of the grand jury would mark an escalation in the probe and suggests authorities are pursuing it as a criminal matter.
Massachusetts – High-Powered Lobbying Firm Arrives in Boston Touting Ties to Labor Secretary Martin Walsh
MSN – Neya Thanikachalam (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/15/2021
An influential national lobbying firm opened a Boston location touting a potentially valuable advantage – connections to former mayor and current U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh. Ballard Partners said its new location will be headed by Eugene O’Flaherty, the former city attorney under Walsh. O’Flaherty, who joined Ballard Partners days after Walsh was confirmed, has lobbied the Labor Department on behalf of at least eight clients. Virginia Canter, the chief ethics counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, suggested Walsh make his calendar public to show he was not prioritizing lobbyists’ agendas.
Michigan – Michigan SOS Must Release Documents on Deal with Pro-Whitmer Group, Court
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 10/18/2021
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office must release more internal records on how it handled campaign finance violations by a group that backed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s election in 2018. Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray ruled the secretary of state’s office had improperly withheld some documents in response to a public records request by the conservative group Michigan Rising Action. The ruling could shed light on the behind-the-scenes discussions that led to Build a Better Michigan agreeing to a $37,500 settlement.
Michigan – Whitmer’s Campaign Might Have to Return Excess Contributions Soon, Filing Says
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 10/15/2021
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reelection campaign could have to return or donate $3.4 million in excess contributions it collected outside the state’s normal donor limits as soon as January, according to a new court filing on behalf of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. The filing came in response to the Michigan Republican Party’s lawsuit in federal court, challenging the Democratic governor’s use of a decades-old state policy on recalls to garner large contributions, above the normal $7,150 limit on individual donors, to bolster her reelection campaign account.
Missouri – Missouri Governor Accuses Journalist Who Warned State About Cybersecurity Flaw of Criminal ‘Hacking’
MSN – Elahe Izade (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2021
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson lashed out at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the newspaper informed the state of a data risk that left 100,000 Social Security numbers vulnerable to public disclosure. Parson said the Cole County prosecutor and the Missouri Highway Patrol would investigate the matter. He said the news outlet that uncovered and reported the vulnerability would be held accountable. The governor said the “”ndividual” who alerted the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was attempting to “embarrass the state and sell headlines for their news outlet.”
Nevada – State Ethics Panel: Bonnie Weber didn’t break law over quarterly meetings with developers
MSN – James DeHaven (Reno Gazette-Journal) | Published: 10/20/2021
Reno City Councilperson Bonnie Weber did not break the law by hosting a series of “summits” with prominent developers. The Nevada Commission on Ethics dismissed a complaint that accused Weber of improperly using public funds to entertain city developers at the Bonanza Casino. The complaint also alleged at least one other city employee joined Weber for the quarterly meeting. Commissioners gave the city three months to come up with rules that “adequately address” situations where city staff are asked to work at closed-door events organized by an elected official.
New York – Top Brass Head for Exits as Chaos Engulfs NYC Consulting Firm
MSN – Sally Goldenberg (Politico) | Published: 10/14/2021
One of New York’s leading lobbying and consulting firms is in disarray, feuding with its corporate owner as top executives head for the exits. Mercury Public Affairs, a global company that has been embroiled in litigation against parent company Omnicom Medias Group in California, is now facing an exodus of key personnel in New York City as they prepare to battle Omnicom’s mandated noncompete requirements for departed staff. At issue in New York is Omnicom’s insistence on restrictive covenants that stipulate departed staffers cannot continue to represent the firm’s clients or work together for at least a year.
New York – Trump Organization, Already Under Indictment, Faces New Criminal Inquiry
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Ben Protess | Published: 10/20/2021
Former President Trump’s business, which is under indictment in Manhattan, is facing a criminal investigation by another prosecutor’s office that has begun to examine financial dealings at a golf course the company owns, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The district attorney’s office in Westchester County, New York, subpoenaed records from the course, Trump National Golf Club Westchester, and the town of Ossining, which sets property taxes on the course. The district attorney appears to be focused, at least in part, on whether the Trump Organization misled local officials about the property’s value to reduce its taxes.
Ohio – Stow Councilwoman Faces Ethics Charge Over Failure to File Financial Statement
MSN – Krista Kano (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 10/20/2021
The Ohio Ethics Commission is pursuing legal action against Stow City Councilperson Christina Shaw for failure to file a required financial disclosure statement in 2019. An arraignment is scheduled where Shaw is to be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Commission spokesperson Susan Willeke said the commission generally grants extensions and “going to court isn’t necessarily the first step.”
Pennsylvania – PA Lawmakers Spend Millions of Tax Dollars on Private Lawyers, but Often Don’t Reveal Why
MSN – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) and Sam Janesch (The Caucus) | Published: 10/12/2021
The Pennsylvania Legislature spent nearly $10 million during the past two years on private lawyers but routinely shielded the purpose of those expenses, hiding which lawmakers and their staff members required representation and why. A review of thousands of pages of legal invoices and engagement letters from 2019 and 2020 shows the cases ranged from public records fights to attempts to overturn last year’s presidential election. In many instances, Republicans and Democrats in both chambers blacked out the reason for hiring lawyers, flouting case law that requires them to make public those details. Other records were so vague it was impossible to identify the reason for the representation.
Virginia – New Political Ad Strategy in Virginia: Promoting news articles in Google search results
MSN – Karina Ellwood (Washington Post) | Published: 10/18/2021
Google ads purchased by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign feature links to news and opinion articles about his opponent, Glenn Youngkin. The ads show up at the top of search results for keywords such as “Glenn Youngkin,” and include a disclosure that they are advertisements, as well as an additional tag required for political advertisements indicating they are paid for by the McAuliffe campaign. But the ads include titles written by the campaign, which are subtly different from the original search engine headlines written by the publications and appear in the same format as a headline would appear in a search result.
Washington – Facebook Provided False Testimony in Campaign Transparency Lawsuit, Washington Attorney General Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Gutman | Published: 10/13/2021
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said a Facebook representative provided false testimony in a lawsuit that accuses the company of violating state campaign finance laws. Ferguson says both the company and its attorneys knew the testimony was false. Ferguson sued Facebook last year, alleging it has “repeatedly and openly” violated disclosure laws by selling political ads without providing required details of the spending. The company has argued Washington’s laws are unconstitutional and violate both free speech protections and the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.
Washington DC – D.C. Housing Authority Board Chair Steps Down Amid Questions Over Conflicts of Interest
MSN – Marissa Lang, Michael Brice-Saddler, and Steve Thompson (Washington Post) | Published: 10/20/2021
Neil Albert, who has for the last four years served as the chair of the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s board of commissioners, resigned amid questions over alleged conflicts-of-interest. Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to look further into allegations made in recent news reports that Albert did not properly disclose his romantic partnership with the chief executive of an architectural firm that has worked with authority.
Wisconsin – Calls Intensify to End Wisconsin’s Election Review Amid Blunders by Ex-Judge in Charge
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 10/14/2021
After a series of blatant errors, Michael Gableman, the former judge leading the Republican review of the state’s 2020 presidential election, admitted he does not have “a comprehensive understanding or even any understanding of how elections work.” The latest round of reversals and blunders is intensifying calls to end the probe, one of several recent efforts around the country to revisit Joe Biden’s win in states where former President Trump and his supporters have leveled baseless accusations of voter fraud.
October 19, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Political Nonprofit Fundraising Off Breast Cancer Has Deep Ties to Scam PAC Networks” by Roger Sollenberger and Anna Massoglia for Center for Responsive Politics California: “Top California Labor Official and Husband Accused of Grand Theft, Embezzlement and […]
National: “Political Nonprofit Fundraising Off Breast Cancer Has Deep Ties to Scam PAC Networks” by Roger Sollenberger and Anna Massoglia for Center for Responsive Politics
California: “Top California Labor Official and Husband Accused of Grand Theft, Embezzlement and Tax Evasion” by Taryn Luna (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Michigan: “Whitmer’s Campaign Might Have to Return Excess Contributions Soon, Filing Says” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News
National: “Advocates Worry Biden Is Letting U.S. Democracy Erode on His Watch” by Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “California #MeToo Leaders Say Capitol’s Sexual Harassment Unit Is Too Close to the Legislature” by Hannah Wiley for Sacramento Bee
Missouri: “Missouri Governor Accuses Journalist Who Warned State About Cybersecurity Flaw of Criminal ‘Hacking’” by Elahe Izade (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “As Some Black Staff Members Leave Congress, Those Who Remain Call for Change” by Aishvarya Kavi for New York Times
New York: “Top Brass Head for Exits as Chaos Engulfs NYC Consulting Firm” by Sally Goldenberg (Politico) for MSN
October 1, 2021 •
National/Federal As Districts Grow More Diverse, Congressional Outreach Does Too MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 9/30/2021 Over the past decade, U.S. Rep. Katie Porter’s 45th District in Southern California grew to the largest by population in the state […]
As Districts Grow More Diverse, Congressional Outreach Does Too
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 9/30/2021
Over the past decade, U.S. Rep. Katie Porter’s 45th District in Southern California grew to the largest by population in the state and was 45 percent non-Hispanic white in 2020, down from 55 percent in 2010. The district is more than one quarter Asian, which has shaped how Porter reaches out to her constituents. For example, she often contacts local community groups and ethnic churches in efforts to share more information about federal programs.
As Redistricting Begins, States Tackle the Issue of ‘Prison Gerrymandering’
MSN – Emmanuel Felton (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2021
As lawmakers begin drawing lines for congressional and state legislative districts based on the 2020 Census, there is a key question facing these drafters: how to count the 2.3 million people housed in the nation’s jails and prisons. While inmates are not allowed to vote in 48 states, they count for the purposes of representation. For most of American history, counting inmates where they were imprisoned did not have a huge impact on political power and representation. But that changed when states began adopting tough-on-crime laws in the 1980s, leading to an era of mass incarcerations.
Biden White House Leans Toward Releasing Information About Trump and Jan. 6 Attack, Setting Off Legal and Political Showdown
MSN – Tom Hamburger and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2021
The White House is leaning toward releasing information to Congress about what Donald Trump and his aides were doing during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol despite the former president’s objections, a decision that could have significant ramifications. Trump has said he will cite “executive privilege” to block information requests from the House select committee investigating the events of that day, banking on a legal theory that has successfully allowed presidents and their aides to avoid or delay congressional scrutiny for decades. But the Biden White House plans to err on the side of disclosure given the gravity of the events.
Covert Postal Service Unit Probed Jan. 6 Social Media
Yahoo News – Betsy Woodruff Swann (Politico) | Published: 9/27/2021
In the days after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, an obscure arm of the U.S. Postal Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service’s Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) sent bulletins to law enforcement agencies around the country on how to view social media posts that had been deleted. Few Americans are aware the same organization that delivers their mail also runs a surveillance operation rooted in an agency that dates back to the 18th century. And iCOP’s involvement raises questions about how broad the mandate of the Postal Service’s policing arm has grown from its stated mission of keeping mail deliverers safe.
DNC to Host First In-Person Fundraiser of the Covid Era
Yahoo News – Caitlin Oprysko (Politico) | Published: 9/25/2021
Eighteen months into the pandemic, the Democratic National Committee held its first in-person, indoor fundraising events, turning to K Street to haul in cash ahead of the midterm cycle. For lobbyists who have been starved of facetime with party leaders, they can give $36,500, the maximum amount an individual or non-multi-candidate PAC can contribute to a national party committee. That donation brings with it a more intimate “private clutch,” according to the invitation. The hosting of an in-person event marks a return for Democrats to the usual method of raising cash after meeting with donors became confined to Zoom calls.
Fallout Begins for Far-Right Trolls Who Trusted Epik to Keep Their Identities Secret
Seattle Times – Drew Harwell, Hannah Allam, Jeremy Merrill, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2021
In the real world, Joshua Alayon worked as a real estate agent in Pompano Beach, Florida. But online, data revealed by the massive hack of Epik, an Internet-services company popular with the far right, signaled a darker side. Alayon’s name and personal details were found on invoices suggesting he had once paid for websites with names such as racisminc.com and theholocaustisfake.com. The hacking group Anonymous exposed previously obscure details of far-right sites and launched a race among extremism researchers to identify the hidden promoters of online hate. After Alayon’s name appeared in the breached data, his brokerage firm dropped him as an agent.
FEC Debates Deadlocks and Dismissals
Investigative Reporting Workshop – Keith Newell | Published: 9/29/2021
Since its founding in 1974, the FEC has long been regarded as an ineffective agency, garnering criticism as a “toothless tiger” or a “tightly leashed watchdog.” The panel has a maximum of six members, with no more than three from one party. Since 2006, an increasingly high number of deadlocked votes result in dismissals of allegations of misconduct; deadlocks are effectively victories for the Republican commissioners. Party loyalty appears to be less important to commissioners than ideology.
House Jan. 6 Committee Issues Subpoenas for Pro-Trump Rally Organizers
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Tom Hamburger, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 9/29/2021
The U.S. House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas to 11 people associated with or involved in the planning of pro-Trump rallies that preceded the violent insurrection. The subpoenas come a week after it issued subpoenas targeting two top Trump White House officials, the chief of staff to the acting defense secretary, and longtime Trump adviser Stephen Bannon. The subpoenas may be able to shed light on the degree to which Donald Trump and his senior White House aides knew about their fears of chaos on January 6.
Ohio Men Sentenced to 45 Days Become First Jan. 6 Misdemeanor Defendants to Receive Jail Time
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/29/2021
A court sentenced two Ohio men to serve 45 days in jail after federal prosecutors for the first-time requested incarceration at sentencing hearings for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders in the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The punishment comes after judges for months have questioned whether no-prison plea deals offered by the government to low-level January 6 defendants are too lenient to deter future attackers from terrorizing members of Congress.
Supreme Court Observers See Trouble Ahead as Public Approval of Justices Erodes
MSN – Robert Barnes and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2021
On October 4, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin one of the most potentially divisive terms in years. Docketed cases concern gun control, separation of church and state, and the biggest showdown in decades on the constitutional right to an abortion. Meanwhile, a presidential commission studying the court is being bombarded with criticism from the left, and occasionally the right, that the justices are too political, too powerful, and serve for too long. “Not since Bush v. Gore has the public perception of the court’s legitimacy seemed so seriously threatened,” Georgetown Supreme Court Institute Executive Director Irv Gornstein said.
The FEC Unanimously Rejected a Trump Campaign Complaint Against Snapchat After the Social Media Site Removed the Former President’s Content from Its ‘Discover’ Feed
Yahoo News – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/23/2021
The FEC dismissed a complaint made by former President Trump’s campaign against Snapchat, which it said had violated election laws by removing the campaign’s content from its curated “Discover” page. Snapchat announced in June 2020 it would no longer promote Trump’s content on the page, though it did not remove Trump’s account from the platform. The Trump campaign alleged Snapchat made an illegal contribution to Joe Biden by doing so.
There Are Just 9 Women Governors. Both Parties Want Change.
Yahoo News – Liz Crampton (Politico) | Published: 9/28/2021
Women now account for a third of state lawmakers, more than a quarter of the U.S. House and nearly as much of the U.S. Senate, but in many states have yet to shatter the highest glass ceiling: governorships. Today, just nine women hold the title, with power split among six Democrats and three Republicans. Four of those women took over the role by succession. There is growing urgency among leaders in both major parties around bolstering the chances of women running in the 2022 gubernatorial elections, when voters in 36 states will pick their next chief executive.
Trump Loses Case to Enforce Omarosa Manigault Newman’s N.D.A.
MSN – Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 9/28/2021
Former President Trump lost an effort to enforce a nondisclosure agreement against Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide and a star on “The Apprentice” who wrote a tell-all book about serving in his administration. The decision from an arbiter calls for her to collect legal fees from the Trump campaign. The campaign filed the case shortly after Manigault Newman published her book. It claimed she violated a nondisclosure agreement she had signed during the 2016 campaign stipulating she would not reveal private or confidential information about Trump’s family, business, or personal life.
Two Fed Officials Announce Retirements Amid Controversy Over Ethics and Stocktrading
MSN – Rachel Siegel (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2021
Two top Federal Reserve officials are leaving their posts amid scrutiny over their stock-trading activities during the coronavirus crisis, behavior which spurred an unusual review by the Fed of trading rules for its officials. Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan both announced their retirements. Earlier, media outlets reported on the financial disclosures of the regional bank presidents, showing both actively traded in stocks and other investments while in their roles setting monetary policy and assisting the central bank through the covid crisis.
U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Senator Cruz’s Campaign Finance Challenge
Yahoo Finance – Andrew Chung (Reuters) | Published: 9/30/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the FEC’s bid to restore a campaign finance law that limits the amount of money candidates can accept from donors after an election as they try to recoup the money they personally lent to their formal campaign organizations. A lower court ruling found the cap violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech by unjustifiably burdening political expression. The law imposes a ceiling of $250,000 on payments from donations made after an election even if candidates made loans exceeding that sum.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Recount Results Raise Stakes for GOP-Backed Ballot Reviews in Other States
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2021
A GOP-commissioned report that did not find evidence fraud tainted Arizona’s 2020 election has intensified the fight over similar partisan ballot reviews in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, with former President Trump pressing for such examinations and Democrats stepping up their efforts to block them. The outcome of the recount in Maricopa County, which concluded President Biden won the state’s largest county by even more votes than the certified results, raises the stakes for the Republican leaders who have gone along with Trump’s demands for “forensic audits” in other states.
California – Between the Lines: Hidden partisans try to influence California’s independent redistricting
MSN – Ben Christopher and Sameea Kamal (CalMatters) | Published: 9/28/2021
California congressional districts are drawn by an independent citizens commission, but it is hearing from candidates and party officials who do not disclose their partisan affiliations. Though the commission is prohibited from considering the electoral interests of elected officials, candidates, or political parties, there is nothing that bars any of those players from trying to influence the decisions, nor any laws or rules requiring public commenters to list potential conflicts-of-interest. But not disclosing a personal stake may cross an ethical line, said Jessica Levinson, a former member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.
California – California Is Now Permanently a Vote-by-Mail State as Gavin Newsom Signs Bill
MSN – Lara Korte (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 9/27/2021
California will now mail ballots to voters in all elections, extending a practice temporarily adopted during the pandemic to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at polling locations. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 37, which requires county elections officials to mail a ballot to every active registered voter for all elections, whether they request it or not. Voters can still choose to vote at physical polling locations, if they prefer.
California – California Treasurer Sued for Harassment Often Shared Overnight Lodging with Staffers
MSN – Sophia Bollag (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 9/28/2021
Treasurer Fiona Ma has frequently shared hotel rooms with her chief of staff during her tenure as California’s top banking official, a practice she said she engaged in “to save money,” according to expense reports. A review of travel documents found that sharing lodging with staff was a common practice for Ma, who is facing a lawsuit filed by a different employee, who no longer works in the office. The worker accused her of sexual harassment when the two women shared hotel rooms.
California – L.A. County Sheriff’s Unit Accused of Targeting Political Enemies
MSN – Alene Tchekmedyian (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/23/2021
A group of deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department make up a little-known team of investigators formed by Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other top sheriff’s officials. Much of what they do, by design, is a mystery to the public and even to most within the department. But as some of the investigations handled by the team have come to light, a common thread has emerged: their targets are outspoken critics of Villanueva or the department. Concern over the Civil Rights and Public Integrity Deta has caused consternation both inside and outside the department.
California – Oakland Issues Its Largest Ethics Fine Ever, Against a Corrupt Former Building Inspector
Oaklandside – David DeBolt | Published: 9/28/2021
The Oakland Public Ethics Commission issued a fine of $309,600 against a former city building inspector accused of accepting bribes from property owners in exchange for greenlighting inspections or issuing permits. It is by far the largest fine ever issued by the commission. Thomas Espinosa, the former specialty combination inspector in the city’s Planning and Building Department’s Code Enforcement Division, also convinced some property owners whose buildings he inspected to hire him as a contractor, the investigation found.
Colorado – An Elections Supervisor Embraced Conspiracy Theories. Officials Say She Has Become an Insider Threat.
MSN – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2021
In a lawsuit filed by the Colorado secretary of state, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and her deputy have been accused of sneaking someone into the county elections offices to copy the hard drives of Dominion Voting Systems machines. Those copies later surfaced online and in the hands of election deniers. Local and state state prosecutors, and the FBI, are investigating whether criminal charges are warranted. The events represent an escalation in the attacks on the nation’s voting system, one in which officials who were responsible for election security allegedly took actions that undermined that security.
Colorado – Aurora City Council OKs Changes to Campaign Finance Law After Lawsuit from Mayor
Denver Gazette – Hannah Metzger | Published: 9/29/2021
The Aurora City Council approved changes to its campaign finance law after a court ruled in favor of Mayor Mike Coffman, who sued the city over provisions he claimed violated his freedom of speech. The lawsuit argued the measure, passed by the council in 2020, prohibited former and future candidates from pushing for ballot issues or helping other candidates with their campaigns, which Coffman said was intended to prevent his supporters from mobilizing in support of other candidates.
Colorado – Ex-Colorado GOP Chair Disbarred in Pro-Trump PAC Funds Case
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 9/23/2021
Former Colorado Republican Party Chairperson Ryan Call will be disbarred after acknowledging he took nearly $280,000 from a super PAC supporting former President Trump while Call served as the PAC’s treasurer. Call admitted to entering the Rebuilding America Now PAC into a secret contract to pay himself $5,000 a month for “political strategy and fundraising support” and he misled members of his former law firm about his activities with the committee.
Colorado – Newly Revealed Interactions Added to Redistricting Lobbying Complaint
Colorado Politics – Evan Wyloge | Published: 9/27/2021
A complaint filed against a group of Republican political consultants and lobbyists, accusing them of failing to file proper redistricting lobbying disclosure, grew larger when the complainant added new interactions between the complaint targets and Colorado’s redistricting commissioners. The complaint accused consultant Alan Philp of failing to file lobbying disclosure reports and accused former House speaker and now-lobbyist Frank McNulty and lobbyist Greg Brophy of failing to register and report their interactions with commissioners. All three work for Colorado Neighborhood Coalition, a nonprofit that does not disclose its donors.
Hawaii – Years Before Indictments, Honolulu Permitting Department Was Warned About Corrupt Culture
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 9/29/2021
The Honolulu Ethics Commission investigated the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) several times after it received numerous complaints about a “pay-to-play” culture at the department, records show. Taken as a whole, the records foreshadow the scandal that erupted earlier this year. In March, five current and former DPP employees, along with a local architect, were indicted for bribery schemes going back as far as 2012. The commission told DPP leadership about its concerns several times.
Illinois – Former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz Pleads Guilty to Spending Campaign Funds on Sports, Travel and Other Personal Items
MSN – Madeline Buckley (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/27/2021
Former Chicago Ald. Ricardo Muñoz pleaded guilty to spending cash from a political fund on personal items such as sports tickets, meals, and travel. Muñoz pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. Federal prosecutors alleged Muñoz stole from a PAC formed by the Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus (CPRC), where he served as chairperson and performed the duties of its treasurer. Prosecutors accused him of moving funds from the CPRC into another fund he controlled, Citizens for Muñoz, and then into his personal checking account.
Illinois – Obscenity Ruling? State’s Top Court to Hear Case Seeking to End Pols Using ‘Obscene Amounts’ of Campaign Cash to Pay Lawyers
Chicago Sun-Times – Rachel Hinton | Published: 9/29/2021
The state’s top court plans to rule on the question of whether politicians can dip into their campaign funds to pay for their criminal defense or other legal troubles, a decision that could directly affect the embattled husband of Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Burke. She recused herself from the decision to take the case and from hearing it once it comes before the justices. Her husband, Ald. Edward Burke (14th), has already spent nearly $2 million in campaign contributions on legal fees since federal agents raided his ward headquarters.
Maryland – Baltimore’s Revamped Ethics Board Says It’s Ready to Provide Guidance to City Employees
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 9/28/2021
Baltimore’s long underutilized Board of Ethics began issuing advisory opinions for the first time in three years in 2021 and has seen its web traffic triple, according to the panel’s annual report. The report, which is itself the first annual recap from the board since 2014, details a restructuring of the Board of Ethics since it was moved under the supervision of the Office of the Inspector General, a move that became effective last October. Since then, the board has been staffed by a full-time director and administrative assistant who established an ethics hotline and revamped the city’s ethics training process for city employees and elected officials.
Michigan – Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey Admits He Took Bribes for Help with Towing
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/28/2021
Andre Spivey became the second Detroit City Council member this year to plead guilty to a public corruption charge, admitting he took $35,900 in bribes from an undercover law enforcement agent and a confidential FBI source in exchange for wielding his political influence. Spivey accepted the bribes in exchange for his assistance with a pending vehicle towing ordinance before the council, he said in court. The bribes were paid over the course of eight separate meetings with the confidential FBI source, most of which were recorded.
New Hampshire – NH Supreme Court Asked to Define Governor’s Executive Privilege
MSN – Kevin Landrigan (Manchester Union Leader) | Published: 9/28/2021
Both sides in a legal dispute over open records asked the state’s highest court, for the first time, to spell out when New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu can claim executive privilege to keep documents secret. Activist Louise Spencer sued Sununu’s office over email contacts his staffers had with a national Republican PAC before and after Sununu vetoed a 2019 bill to create an independent redistricting commission. The suit maintained that the governor’s office should not be exempt from the state’s Right-to-Know Law.
New Mexico – Ethics Board Hands Gonzales a Reprimand and $2,000 Fine
Albuquerque Journal – Oliver Uyttebrouck | Published: 9/24/2021
The Albuquerque Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices imposed a $2,000 fine and a public reprimand on Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales, finding his mayoral campaign submitted 16 forged documents in his bid for public financing. The finding punctuates an unsuccessful monthslong quest by Gonzales to obtain more than $600,000 in public campaign financing. That effort foundered on a pair of complaints centered on the five-dollar qualifying contributions that candidates must collect from city voters to qualify for public money.
New York – MTA Bus Boss Covered License Plate to Avoid Tolls, Had $100k in Outstanding Fines: Watchdog
Yahoo News – Clayton Guse (New York Daily News) | Published: 9/27/2021
A New York City Transit superintendent used a plastic license plate cover to dodge tolls for years across New York, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) inspector general said. The superintendent, identified as Aditya Samaroo, bragged to his colleagues he avoided paying tolls on bridges and tunnels by obscuring his license plate. Samaroo also dodged more than $100,000 in outstanding tolls and late fees by regularly swapping out his car’s license plates.
Ohio – Ohio Governor Lobbyist Resigns; Was Linked to Bribery Probe
MSN – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 9/24/2021
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s top lobbyist, a man linked to an ongoing federal bribery probe but never charged, resigned after three years on the job. Legislative Director Dan McCarthy cited “the pace and grind” of the job. Federal prosecutors charged five individuals with orchestrating a $60 million bribery scheme to assure the 2019 passage of a bill bailing out two nuclear power plants. The power plants were operated at the time by a wholly owned subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. McCarthy is a former FirstEnergy lobbyist who was president of one of the “dark money” groups that has been implicated in the alleged bribery scheme.
Pennsylvania – A Leading Addiction Recovery Reformer in Philly Was on the Payroll of a Rehab Center Now Charged with Crimes
MSN – Jeremy Roebuck and Aubrey Wilson (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 9/27/2021
Fred Way has spent the last decade working to improve addiction recovery houses in Philadelphia. But for much of that time, he was on the payroll of a rehabilitation facility now accused of encouraging their worst abuses. He has advised lawmakers on state policy, and the recovery-house certification program created by his nonprofit, the Pennsylvania Alliance of Recovery Residences, serves as the only benchmark for judging the quality of housing in Philadelphia for people in early recovery, and for determining which of those homes will receive coveted city funds. In a state grand jury report this summer, Wray acknowledged taking money from a drug rehab facility under criminal investigation.
South Dakota – As Daughter Sought State License, Noem Summoned Agency Head
Yahoo News – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 9/27/2021
Days after a South Dakota agency moved to deny her daughter’s application to become a certified real estate appraiser, Gov. Kristi Noem summoned to her office the state employee who ran the agency, the woman’s direct supervisor, and the state labor secretary. Noem’s daughter also attended. Kassidy Peters ultimately obtained the certification in November 2020, four months after the meeting at her mother’s office. A week after that, the labor secretary called the agency head, Sherry Bren, to demand her retirement, according to an age discrimination complaint. Bren left her job after the state paid her $200,000 to withdraw the complaint.
Texas – Dallas Needs More Oversight and Stronger Ethics Rules, Review Finds
Dallas Morning News – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 9/27/2021
Dallas needs a department solely dedicated to investigating misconduct complaints to ensure they are properly handled, according to a report calling for ethics reforms. The city should create an Office of Inspector General and appoint a licensed attorney role who would find, investigate. and issue rulings on cases of alleged fraud, waste, abuse, campaign finance violations and other ethics misconduct, the report said. The move would replace the current process, where complaints are funneled through different channels and not independently investigated.
Texas – ”Home Cooking’ Concerns Revealed in Corruption Prosecutions Outside Texas Capital
KXAN – David Barer and Josh Hinkle | Published: 9/20/2021
The Public Integrity Unit housed in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office was dismantled in 2015, following allegations it was politicizing prosecutions. Texas lawmakers aimed to reform the system by moving state public corruption investigations to the Department of Public Safety’s Texas Rangers and prosecuting accused officials in their home counties rather than Travis County. Six years later, a media investigation found prosecutions of statewide public officials for corruption are nearly non-existent. Since 2015, the Rangers investigated a handful of state-level elected leaders, but few faced charges.
Texas – Texas Appears to Be Paying a Secretive Republican Political Operative $120,000 Annually to Work Behind the Scenes on Redistricting
MSN – Alexa Ura (Texas Tribune) | Published: 9/29/2021
A Republican redistricting operative whose clandestine work helped drag Wisconsin into a legal morass last decade appears to now be on the payroll of the Texas Legislature as lawmakers work to redraw maps that will determine the distribution of political power for years to come. The operative, Adam Foltz, was part of the team that helped craft Wisconsin’s legislative maps after Republicans took control of that state Legislature in 2010. Foltz played a key role in a tight-lipped and questionable redrawing process that shut out Democrats and drew the condemnation of federal judges who described it as “needlessly secret,” according to court records.
Washington – Weekly WA Newspaper Fined $15,000 for Selling Election Coverage
Crosscut – Melissa Santos | Published: 9/28/2021
The Tacoma Weekly agreed to pay a $15,000 fine for telling candidates last year they could buy a news story, and even the newspaper’s editorial endorsement, as part of a $2,500 advertising package. Accepting money in exchange for story placement or positive coverage goes against journalistic standards of ethics. But beyond that, it also violates Washington state law, which forbids news outlets from soliciting money in exchange for “an endorsement, article, or other communication in the news media promoting or opposing a candidate.”
September 29, 2021 •
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill extending automatic voting by mail and three bills increasing election transparency and integrity. The marquee bill signed Monday, Assembly Bill 31, requires county elections officials to mail a ballot to every active registered […]
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill extending automatic voting by mail and three bills increasing election transparency and integrity.
The marquee bill signed Monday, Assembly Bill 31, requires county elections officials to mail a ballot to every active registered voter for all elections.
The bill additionally extended the window for mail ballots to be sent to elections offices to seven days after the election.
California automatically sent ballots to voters the starting in early days of the pandemic.
During the 2020 presidential election, California saw a record-breaking 70% participation, the highest voter turnout since 1952.
Assembly Bill 319 forbids foreign governments or foreign principals from making a contribution, expenditure, or independent expenditure in connection with a state or local ballot measure or election.
Assembly Bill 1367 would make a person who uses campaign funds in a manner that violates the provisions of the Political Reform Act of 1974 and results in an egregious personal benefit liable in an administrative or civil action brought by the commission for an amount of up to 2 times the amount of the unlawful expenditure.
Senate Bill 686 requires a limited liability company that qualified as a committee or a sponsor of a committee under the act, as specified, to file a statement of members with the Secretary of State.
The bill requires the statement to include a list of all persons who have a membership interest in the LLC of at least 10% or who have made a capital contribution of at least $10,000 to the LLC after it qualified as a committee or sponsor of a committee, or within the 12 months before it qualified.
These bills become effective January 1, 2022.
September 17, 2021 •
National/Federal Delta Variant Postpones K Street’s Full Return MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 9/14/2021 On the cusp of Memorial Day back in May, most lobbyists were gearing up for a more normal return to their in-person work life, […]
Delta Variant Postpones K Street’s Full Return
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 9/14/2021
On the cusp of Memorial Day back in May, most lobbyists were gearing up for a more normal return to their in-person work life, as they began to reemerge for meetings on Capitol Hill and sessions with clients and colleagues. The rise of the delta variant, however, has prompted most firms to postpone requirements for employees to return to the office, and many K Street denizens said most of their advocacy activities and team meetings remain virtual.
Election Fraud Cases Sow Doubts About Legal Profession’s Future
Bloomberg Law – Melissa Heelan | Published: 9/14/2021
Attorneys behind dismissed cases over alleged fraud in the 2020 presidential election have been cited for violating professional standards requiring candor in the courtroom and barring the filing of lawsuits not backed up by fact or law. Charles Geyh, a legal ethics professor at Indiana University, said courts rose to the occasion, but the discipline might not be enough to stop lawyers from being involved in similar challenges in the future. No one’s been disbarred yet despite calls from some for severe discipline. Sanctions range from a temporary license suspension for Rudy Giuliani to judicial dressing downs and orders to pay court costs.
FEC Finds Twitter Didn’t Break Law by Blocking Spread of Hunter Biden Story
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher and Kate Conger | Published: 9/13/2021
The FEC ruled Twitter did not break election laws when it blocked users from sharing links to a New York Post story about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. The FEC said Twitter’s actions in blocking the spread of the article were made with valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, making them legal, a decision that is likely to set a precedent for future cases involving social media sites and federal campaigns. The FEC used the same reasoning to side with Snapchat and reject a complaint from the Trump campaign. The campaign argued the company provided an improper gift to Biden by rejecting Trump from its Discover platform.
Fed’s Kaplan, Rosengren to Sell All Stocks Amid Ethics Concerns
MSN – Catarina Saraiva and Craig Torres (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/10/2021
The presidents of the Federal Reserve banks of Boston and Dallas said they are selling their individual stock holdings by September 30, in moves aimed at appeasing ethical concerns over their trading activity last year. Boston Fed chief Eric Rosengren and the Dallas Fed’s Robert Kaplan released near-identical statements after their most recent financial disclosure documents showed active trading in a range of investments during a year in which the central bank took sweeping policy actions to protect the U.S. economy from Covid-19. They both said they would invest the proceeds of their sales in diversified index funds or hold them in cash.
Former Chancellor Philip Hammond Cleared of Breaking Rules After His Lobbying of Treasury Was Ruled Only ‘Incidental’
Yahoo News – Henry Dyer (Business Insider) | Published: 9/10/2021
Lord Philip Hammond, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, was cleared of breaking lobbying rules when he contacted a senior Treasury official on behalf of a bank he was working for. Former ministers are generally barred from trying to influence the government on behalf of clients. But Hammond’s activity was deemed acceptable by an independent regulator on the grounds it was “incidental.” Critics said the ruling highlights flaws in the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act, passed in 2014.
Giuliani Associate Igor Fruman Pleads Guilty in Campaign-Finance Case
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2021
A Soviet-born businessperson who assisted Rudolph Giuliani in his Ukrainian political efforts on behalf of former President Trump pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, as others charged in the case prepare to stand trial. Igor Fruman, who was arrested with co-defendant Lev Parnas at Dulles International Airport in 2019, entered a guilty plea to one count of soliciting foreign campaign contributions.
GOP Online Donation Platform Tweaks Fees, Sending Millions More to Midterm Campaigns
Yahoo News – Isaac Isenstadt (Politico) | Published: 9/16/2021
Republicans are making a small change to their online fundraising program that could have a big impact on the party’s finances heading into the 2022 midterm election. WinRed, the GOP’s principal small-dollar donation processor, is lowering the fees it charges candidates and committees for each contribution they receive through the platform. The shift, which follows months of behind-the-scenes deliberations involving the party’s senior officials, could result in millions of dollars more being funneled into campaign coffers next year.
GOP Senate Candidates Backed Legal Challenges to the 2020 Election
MSN – Bridget Bowman (Roll Call) | Published: 9/15/2021
At least nine Republican U.S. Senate candidates have a political résumé with a contentious item: filing or actively supporting one of the failed lawsuits that furthered former President Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rife with fraud. Since many GOP candidates support Trump’s claims, participating in lawsuits could help some stand out in crowded Republican primaries, where they need to win over Trump supporters who say voter fraud played a role in President Biden’s win. Some Democrats think focusing on the 2020 election could be a liability for Republicans in the midterms with voters who rejected Trump’s divisive rhetoric or his unfounded concerns about the validity of the last election.
McCarthy Asks Supreme Court to Overturn House Proxy Voting Rules Adopted as Pandemic Precaution and Used by Nearly 100 Republicans
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 9/10/2021
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review and overturn the House’s proxy voting rules, which were adopted last year to allow lawmakers to cast votes remotely as a pandemic precaution. McCarthy criticized proxy voting as a “power grab” and “a raw abuse of power” by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who along with many Democrats pushed for the historic rule change at the beginning of the pandemic.
Revised Democratic Voting Bill Drops Controversial Provisions, Tweaks Others as Pressure for Action Mounts
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 9/14/2021
A group of Democratic senators, including key centrist Joe Manchin III, introduced a pared-down voting rights, campaign finance, and government ethics bill in hopes of building momentum for its passage through a closely divided Senate. The new Freedom to Vote Act retains significant portions of the For the People Act, Democrats’ marquee voting legislation that passed the House this year but was blocked by a Senate filibuster. Tt also discards significant pieces and tweaks others, largely to placate Manchin and indulge his hopes of building enough Republican support to pass the bill.
Struggle for Control of Afghanistan Comes to K Street
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 9/15/2021
A leading figure in the Afghan resistance has retained a lobbyist to seek military and financial support in the U.S. for a fight against the Taliban. Ahmad Massoud, the leader of one of the most prominent groups of fighters seeking to oust the Taliban from power, signed the contract with Robert Stryk, who built a lobbying practice during the Trump administration working with clients that others on K Street were wary of representing. The contract, which indicates the work will be pro bono, comes as an array of Afghan constituencies are seeking lobbying help as they jockey for recognition in Washington and the international community.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – GOP Lawmaker Who Refused to Follow Mask Mandate While Flying Says She Can’t Get to the Alaskan Capital
MSN – Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2021
An Alaska lawmaker requested an excusal from the state Senate until mid-January, citing the challenges of traveling to Juneau from Anchorage after she was suspended from flying on Alaska Airlines earlier this year. Sen. Lora Reinbold requested the excusal through January 15. She said she was unaware of any other airline flying to the state capital during that period. The airline banned her indefinitely in the spring after she clashed with staffers over the airline mask mandate issued by federal transportation officials.
Arkansas – Dentist Guilty of Conspiring to Bribe Former Arkansas Lawmaker Hutchinson
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Ron Wood | Published: 9/14/2021
Benjamin Burris, an orthodontist who operated clinics across Arkansas, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of bribing former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson to pass laws to benefit Burris’s businesses. Burris paid Hutchinson $157,500 between February 2014 and November 2016. Hutchinson, then a practicing lawyer, was paid monthly retainers that nominally were for legal services. But he was also expected to introduce and lobby for laws or regulatory changes Burris wanted, the indictment said.
California – Newsom Soundly Defeats California Recall Attempt
MSN – Phil Willon, Taryn Luna, and Julia Wick (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/14/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom survived a historic recall election, winning a major vote of confidence during a COVID-19 pandemic that has tested his ability to lead the state through the largest worldwide health crisis in modern times. The recall offered Republicans their best chance in more than a decade to take the helm of the largest state. But the effort was undercut when Newsom and the nation’s leading Democrats, aided by visits to California by President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, portrayed the campaign to oust the governor as a “life and death” battle against “Trumpism” and far-right anti-vaccine activists.
California – Recology Agrees to Pay $36 Million for Role in Bribes to City Official
MSN – Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 9/10/2021
Three waste management companies that are part of Recology Inc. agreed to pay $36 million for their role in a corruption scheme that included kickbacks to former San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. The resolution comes as federal prosecutors announced a charge of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud against the three subsidiaries, which officials said conspired to bribe Nuru for favorable treatment with the trash company’s city contracts. In his former role, Nuru had considerable sway in the rate-setting process with Recology.
Colorado – Unregistered Redistricting Lobbying Complaint to Receive Full Investigation After Colorado Secretary of State Approves Probe
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 9/15/2021
An investigation into whether a secretly funded nonprofit organization has been illegally lobbying Colorado’s redistricting commissioners will move forward after the secretary of state found enough evidence to warrant a full probe. The decision to further investigate Colorado Neighborhood Coalition, the 501c4 nonprofit organization run by longtime Republican operatives at the center of the complaint, could have broad implications for the transparency now required around the redistricting process, and comes after several efforts to influence the redistricting commissions without full transparency have emerged.
Florida – Florida Official Sentence to 5 Years in Corruption Case
MSN – Brendan Farrington (Associated Press) | Published: 9/9/2021
A federal judge sentenced former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges related to public corruption. Maddox’s business associate, Paige Carte-Smith, was sentenced to two years for her role. Prosecutors said Maddox would send clients to Carter-Smith’s lobbying firm after he returned to the city commission in 2012, and she would then pay Maddox for his influence. Maddox was first elected to the commission in 1990 and later served as the Tallahassee mayor until 2003.
Florida – Tallahassee City Commissioner Calls for Ethics Reforms Following Maddox Trial
WFSU – Valerie Crowder | Published: 9/10/2021
A former Tallahassee commissioner’s public corruption trial has sparked calls for ethics reform. Former Commissioner Scott Maddox was sentenced to five years in federal prison for orchestrating a bribery scheme through his lobbying firm. City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow is proposing six policy recommendations aimed at making it harder for public officials to abuse their power. They include requiring all city officials to detail any meetings related to city business they have with paid lobbyists and report contact logs with anyone paid to influence policy.
Hawaii – What Civil Beat’s Salary Database Tells Us About the Embattled Auditor’s Office
Honolulu Civil Beat – Richard Wiens | Published: 9/12/2021
When the Honolulu Civil Beat published the salaries and job titles of more than 48,000 state workers, they included the payrolls of two agencies whose directors have made a lot of headlines lately: the state auditor’s office and the Hawaii Ethics Commission. Auditor Les Kondo has been under fire from a working group that found his office was producing inadequate performance audits. Ethics Commission Director Dan Gluck generated controversy after he was nominated to become a judge on the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals. The salary database shows how the offices led by Kondo and Gluck have evolved over the last decade.
Idaho – Former Idaho Legislator Faces Arrest Warrant on Two Felony Charges – Including Rape
Idaho Statesman – Hayat Norimine | Published: 9/10/2021
The former Idaho legislator who resigned earlier this year after a House ethics committee hearing now faces two felony charges, including one for rape. An arrest warrant has been issued for former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, who stepped down after a 19-year-old legislative intern’s accusation of sexual assault. Von Ehlinger has denied any wrongdoing, saying his actions with the intern were consensual. He resigned just hours after the ethics panel recommended expelling him from his seat, following a finding he engaged in “conduct unbecoming.”
Illinois – Chicago Sky Owner Michael Alter Fined by City Ethics Board for Seeking Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Help on Gambling License Without Registering as a Lobbyist
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/15/2021
Michael Alter, owner of the Chicago Sky basketball team in the WNBA, was fined $5,000 for lobbying Mayor Lori Lightfoot without registering. Alter emailed first lady Amy Eshleman in December to ask for the mayor’s help obtaining a gambling license for his team. In the email, Alter noted he previously discussed the issue with Lightfoot. Lobbyists are required to register with the city and report contact with city departments. Alter has not registered as a lobbyist in Chicago dating back to 2013.
Illinois – Ethics Bill Clears Illinois House on Second Try, Will Head Back to Governor
Journal Gazette and Times-Courier – Peter Hancock (Capitol News Illinois) | Published: 9/9/2021
The Illinois House voted to accept changes to an ethics bill that Gov. J.B. Pritzker requested, paving the way for it to become law once the governor signs it. Senate Bill 539 cleared both chambers during the spring session. It contained enough reforms, such as increased financial disclosure requirements and limits on the ability of elected officials to lobby other units of government, so many lawmakers believed it was the best they could get at the time. But a few weeks after it passed, Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope submitted her intent to resign, saying the bill would weaken her office by limiting the types of investigations she could conduct.
Illinois – Ethics Board Finds Probable Cause Ald. Gardiner Violated Ethics Ordinance Twice
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 9/15/2021
The Chicago Board of Ethics found there is probable cause to believe Ald. Jim Gardiner violated the city’s ethics ordinance by using his office to retaliate against his political foes. Gardiner will have a chance to challenge the board’s determination, which could result in fines ranging between $200 to $5,000 per violation. The finding adds to the beleaguered alderman’s woes. It was reported that Gardiner is under federal investigation for allegedly accepting bribes and demanding payments before taking official actions.
Kentucky – Woman Pleads Guilty to Lying About Boss’s Lexington Council Campaign Donation Scheme
MSN – Jeremy Chisenhall (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 9/15/2021
Elizabeth Stormbringer pleaded guilty to perjury and lying to the FBI in a scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws in a Lexington City Council race. Officials at the time were investigating potential campaign finance crimes committed by her boss at a real estate development company. She also admitted to lying under oath while she testified before the grand jury. Investigators discovered she made a $1,000 donation to a council candidate in 2018 and then received a $1,000 check from her boss, Timothy Wellman. He was an executive at CRM Companies who had a development project the council considered.
Louisiana – Former State Parks Employee Fined for Violating Ethics Laws
KATC – Staff | Published: 9/13/2021
The Louisiana Board of Ethics fined a former parks employee $26,000 after finding he accepted payments from production companies filming in his park in violation of state law. Arthur Schick worked for an agency within the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. The board found he received a total of $13,000 in compensation from various film production companies between 2015 and 2017. When a production company signs an agreement to use a park, they pay a damage fee to cover any costs incurred by their work. The board said Schick was adding on a “site rep” fee, and he was depositing that in his own bank account.
Maryland – Maryland Elections Officials Ask Michael Steele to Prove He’s Following Campaign Law
MSN – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/14/2021
Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor who is contemplating a run for governor, must disclose information about his exploratory campaign to show he is not violating campaign finance laws. The Maryland State Board of Elections sent a letter to Steele requesting the details by October 11. It came in response to a complaint that Steele was improperly using a federal account to raise and spend money for a future state campaign in Maryland.
Massachusetts – Campaign Finance Reform Pitched as Way to Diversify Candidate Pool
WWLP – Chris Lisinski (State House News Service) | Published: 9/15/2021
Lawmakers are again pushing to add childcare to the list of allowable campaign finance expenses in Massachusetts, buoyed by a legislative commission’s endorsement of the change last year, a growing list of more than a dozen states that have already deployed similar reforms, and the possibility that a new top campaign finance regulator will embrace the proposal. A bill before the Election Laws Committee would explicitly allow candidates to use their campaign accounts to cover childcare costs while the parent is occupied with running for office.
Massachusetts – Former Top House Democrat Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Fraud
WWLP – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 9/15/2021
A federal judge sentenced former Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle to 15 months after Nangle pleaded guilty earlier this year to illegally using campaign funds to fund a lifestyle that included golf club memberships and casino trips to Connecticut and lying to banks about his debt to obtain mortgages and other loans. Prosecutors said during the period covered by their investigation, Nangle was heavily in debt and gambling at various casinos, using campaign funds to rent cars to travel to casinos and even paying someone at Mohegan Sun to collect his winnings so he did not have to pay income taxes.
Massachusetts – Wu and Essaibi George Will Advance as Top Candidates in Historic Race for Boston Mayor
MSN – Emma Platoff (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/15/2021
Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George, two daughters of immigrants and longtime Boston City Council members who have struck dramatically different tones on the campaign trail to become the city’s next mayor, are advancing to November’s general election. Either would be the first woman of color Boston has ever elected mayor, a historic shift. But the contest between them will nonetheless test the city’s appetite for change.
Michigan – FBI Seized Towing Docs, Electronics and Records for Benson Aide During Detroit City Hall Raid
Detroit News – Robert Snell and Sarah Rahal | Published: 9/14/2021
FBI agents investigating Detroit City Hall corruption seized electronics, towing paperwork, shredded documents, and payroll records for Emberly Vick, an aide of Detroit City Councilperson Scott Benson, during a recent raid. The document confirms media reports that said the corruption investigation was focused on Detroit towing operations in what amounts to the broadest public corruption probe in the eight years since former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of racketeering conspiracy. Vick has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
New Jersey – Activist Assails ELEC for Deleting Dismissed Campaign Finance Complaints from Its Website
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 9/14/2021
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) has for years quietly been disposing complaints against politicians it dismissed by deleting them from its website. Now, after an activist whose tips to the commission led to multicount complaints against two Democrats noticed those complaints were dismissed with no public justification and little public disclosure, ELEC said it is taking that policy “under advisement.”
New Mexico – Gonzales Shifts Course, Turns to Private Donors
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 9/14/2021
Hours after losing another round in his prolonged legal fight for public campaign financing, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said he will try a new tack in the 2021 mayor’s race in Albuquerque. Gonzales said he would turn to private donors for support, forgoing his quest to get taxpayer money for his campaign. The decision concludes his monthslong battle over $600,000 in public campaign cash. Gonzales’ battle sustained a blow when a state judge ruled City Clerk Ethan Watson had taken the appropriate actions necessary to deny Gonzales the taxpayer money and rejected Gonzales’ claims that Watson was biased.
New York – Hochul Leaves Door Open to Probe of Cuomo Campaign Spending
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 9/9/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is leaving the door open for a potential investigation into how former Gov. Andrew Cuomo is spending roughly $18 million of campaign cash after he resigned from office in the wake of an investigation that found he sexually harassed multiple women. The response comes as watchdogs are calling for the state Board of Election chief enforcement officer Michael Johnson to investigate Cuomo’s spending from his campaign account. Common Cause filed a formal complaint with the Board of Elections.
New York – James Says JCOPE Leak Referral Was Improper
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg and Joshua Solomon | Published: 9/14/2021
New York Attorney General Letitia James informed the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) that her office will not presently be able to investigate the leak of confidential information to then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019. JCOPE had passed a motion seeking to make a criminal referral to James’ office, which asked for an investigation into the apparent leak. In her letter, James cited the state law creating JCOPE, which created much-criticized special voting rules that can serve to protect politicians from scrutiny.
North Carolina – NC Lawmakers Turn to Funding Once Ruled Unethical. Are Their $14,000 Salaries the Cause?
MSN – Lucille Sherman (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 9/13/2021
Last fall, North Carolina lawmakers repealed a rule that barred lawmakers from collecting state money to cover food, lodging, and travel while working at the General Assembly and simultaneously using campaign accounts to pay for the same housing, meals, and travel in Raleigh, a practice that a campaign watchdog has described as “double dipping.” The move protected at least two lawmakers who had continued to use campaign funds for housing while collecting the state per diem stipends for food and lodging, between May and October last year. This year, about a dozen lawmakers have used both sources of funding.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania GOP Lawmakers Approve Wide-Ranging Subpoenas for Personal Information of 2020 Voters
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2021
Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania authorized a series of broad subpoenas for personal information on voters as part of an expanding effort to review the results of the 2020 election. The move drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats, who described the effort as insecure and unwarranted, said they would consider mounting a court fight. Among other requests, Republicans are seeking the names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses, and methods of voting for millions of people who cast ballots in the May primary and the November general election.
Tennessee – Tennessee Valley Authority Accused of Funding ‘Dirty Energy Lobbyists’
Courthouse News Service – Rosana Hughes | Published: 9/9/2021
In a federal lawsuit, a coalition of environmental conservation groups are seeking to force the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to address a petition to regulate the agency’s spending, alleging the public utility funds “dirty energy lobbyists” with customer money. The coalition sifted through the TVA’s financial and other public records and counted hundreds of third-party organizations, such as the Edison Electric Institute, that receive TVA dollars. Those organizations, the conservationists say, “routinely make political donations, engage in legislative lobbying, … and pursue other forms of political advocacy that promote fossil fuel interests ….”
Texas – Austin ISD Stands by Hire of Ex-State Official Who Resigned Amid Ethics Allegations
MSN – Nicole Foy (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 9/10/2021
Austin Independent School District leaders say they are standing behind the decision to hire as general counsel a former state government official who resigned in 2017 amid allegations of ethics violations. The district hired Stuart Bowen, a lawyer and former Texas Health and Human Services inspector general, as its general counsel in August. Bowen in 2017 was forced to resign his position as the state’s top insurance fraud investigator after allegations arose that he was also working for a lobbying firm that represents the Iraqi government.
Texas – Texas Governor Signs Bill Prohibiting Social Media Giants from Blocking Users Based on Viewpoint
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2021
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that would prohibit large technology companies from blocking or restricting people or their posts based on their viewpoint, setting the stage for a legal battle with the tech industry. The law applies to social media companies with more than 50 million monthly active users in the U.S., including Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube, and requires them to create reports on any illegal or potentially policy-violating content, as well as build a complaint system, where people could challenge companies’ decisions to remove content or flag illegal activity.
Virginia – Campaign Funds Can Be Used for Child Care, Virginia AG Says
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 9/10/2021
Attorney General Mark Herring said candidates in Virginia can use campaign funds to pay campaign-related child-care expenses, an opinion that puts the state in alignment with federal election rules but has little immediate impact due to Virginia’s anything-goes campaign finance system. Proponents of the child-care exemption say it gives parents of young children, particularly women, more freedom to run for office without worrying about a hit to their family budget.
Wisconsin – How Wisconsin Is Ruled by a Shadow Governor
Yahoo News – Daniel Vock (Politico) | Published: 9/15/2021
For nearly three years, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has used his GOP majority, and the support of the Republicans who control the state Senate, to block, thwart, or resist almost every significant move made by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Governors asserted unprecedented powers in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and lawmakers in many states chafed at the broad executive reach. But few have done more to constrain gubernatorial power than Vos, the president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
September 16, 2021 •
Campaign Finance New Jersey: “Activist Assails ELEC for Deleting Dismissed Campaign Finance Complaints from Its Website” by Matt Friedman for Politico New Mexico: “Gonzales Shifts Course, Turns to Private Donors” by Jessica Dyer for Albuquerque Journal Elections Massachusetts: “Wu and […]
New Jersey: “Activist Assails ELEC for Deleting Dismissed Campaign Finance Complaints from Its Website” by Matt Friedman for Politico
New Mexico: “Gonzales Shifts Course, Turns to Private Donors” by Jessica Dyer for Albuquerque Journal
Massachusetts: “Wu and Essaibi George Will Advance as Top Candidates in Historic Race for Boston Mayor” by Emma Platoff (Boston Globe) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania GOP Lawmakers Approve Wide-Ranging Subpoenas for Personal Information of 2020 Voters” by Elise Viebeck and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Fed’s Kaplan, Rosengren to Sell All Stocks Amid Ethics Concerns” by Catarina Saraiva and Craig Torres (Bloomberg) for MSN
Illinois: “Ethics Board Finds Probable Cause Ald. Gardiner Violated Ethics Ordinance Twice” by Heather Cherone for WTTW
Louisiana: “Former State Parks Employee Fined for Violating Ethics Laws” by Staff for KATC
Wisconsin: “How Wisconsin Is Ruled by a Shadow Governor” by Daniel Vock (Politico) for Yahoo News
Colorado: “Unregistered Redistricting Lobbying Complaint to Receive Full Investigation After Colorado Secretary of State Approves Probe” by Evan Wyloge for Colorado Springs Gazette
Illinois: “Chicago Sky Owner Michael Alter Fined by City Ethics Board for Seeking Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Help on Gambling License Without Registering as a Lobbyist” by Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
September 13, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Giuliani Associate Igor Fruman Pleads Guilty in Campaign-Finance Case” by Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) for MSN Florida: “Dems Gave $700K to Dark-Money Group That Helped Republicans Win Races in ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scandal” by Jason Garcia and Annie […]
National: “Giuliani Associate Igor Fruman Pleads Guilty in Campaign-Finance Case” by Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Dems Gave $700K to Dark-Money Group That Helped Republicans Win Races in ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scandal” by Jason Garcia and Annie Martin for Orlando Sentinel
Florida: “Florida Official Sentence to 5 Years in Corruption Case” by Brendan Farrington (Associated Press) for MSN
Hawaii: “What Civil Beat’s Salary Database Tells Us About the Embattled Auditor’s Office” by Richard Wiens for Honolulu Civil Beat
Idaho: “Former Idaho Legislator Faces Arrest Warrant on Two Felony Charges – Including Rape” by Hayat Norimine for Idaho Statesman
Illinois: “Ethics Bill Clears Illinois House on Second Try, Will Head Back to Governor” by Peter Hancock (Capitol News Illinois) for Journal Gazette and Times-Courier
Alaska: “GOP Lawmaker Who Refused to Follow Mask Mandate While Flying Says She Can’t Get to the Alaskan Capital” by Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) for MSN
Tennessee: “Tennessee Valley Authority Accused of Funding ‘Dirty Energy Lobbyists’” by Rosana Hughes for Courthouse News Service
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