October 5, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Texas: “Eric Dick Fined $10K for Campaign Finance Violations During Failed Run for Harris County Treasurer” by Elizabeth Sander (Houston Chronicle) for MSN Elections Georgia: “Trump Won’t Be on Trial in Georgia Case This Fall, but His Presence Will Be Felt” by […]
October 4, 2023 •
Campaign Finance New York: “Adams Donor Who Twice Denied Making Campaign Donation Changes Story, Says She Gave $2,000 After All” by Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) for Yahoo News Ethics California: “L.A. Councilmember John Lee Accused of Violating Ethics Laws During 2017 […]
New York: “Adams Donor Who Twice Denied Making Campaign Donation Changes Story, Says She Gave $2,000 After All” by Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) for Yahoo News
California: “L.A. Councilmember John Lee Accused of Violating Ethics Laws During 2017 Vegas Trip” by Julia Wick, Dakota Smith, and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
California: “Disgraced SF Building Inspector Gets More Prison Time” by Marcus White for San Francisco Examiner
National: “Supreme Court Rejects Eastman’s Bid to Scrap Rulings That Sent His Emails to Jan. 6 Investigators” by Josh Gerstein and Kylie Cheney (Politico) for Yahoo News
Kansas: “Police Chief Resigns Weeks After Leading Raid on Kansas Newspaper Office” by Praveena Somasundaram (Washington Post) for MSN
Nevada: “Lombardo Files Lawsuit Challenging Ethics Commission Fine, Censure Over Use of Badge” by Tabitha Mueller for Nevada Independent
New York: “Judge in Fraud Trial Imposes Gag Order After Trump Attacks Judge’s Aide” by Erica Orden, Josh Gerstein, and Kyle Cheney (Politico) for Yahoo News
National: “Kevin McCarthy Removed as House Speaker in Unprecedented Vote” by Marianna Sotomayor, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Amy Wang, Paul Kane, and Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) for MSN
October 3, 2023 •
Campaign Finance California: “Judge Gives Bredefeld, Chavez Win in County Campaign Fund Lawsuit” by Edward Smith for GV Wire Elections Georgia: “First Trump Co-Defendant Pleads Guilty in the Georgia Election Interference Case” by Associated Press for NPR Ethics National: “For Supreme Court, Ethics Have Become […]
October 2, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “Massachusetts Republican Party Settles Campaign Finance Allegations with State, to Pay $15,000” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for MSN Elections Arizona: “Arizona Says No Labels Must Accept All Candidates Even If Third Parties Opposes Them” by Associated Press for Yahoo News […]
September 29, 2023 •
National/Federal Rupert Murdoch to Step Down as Chairman of Fox Corporation and Fox News Billings Gazette – David Bauder (Associated Press) | Published: 9/21/2023 Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old Australian media magnate whose creation of Fox News made him a force in American […]
Billings Gazette – David Bauder (Associated Press) | Published: 9/21/2023
Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old Australian media magnate whose creation of Fox News made him a force in American politics, is stepping down as leader of both Fox’s parent company and his News Corp. media holdings. His son, Lachlan, will become News Corp. chairperson and continue as chief executive officer of Fox Corp. Fox News Channel has profoundly influenced television and the nation’s politics, making Murdoch a hero to some and pariah to others. The 24-hour network converted the power and energy of political talk radio to television.
Business Insider – Brent Griffiths | Published: 9/21/2023
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert rents a Washington apartment from a top official for the right-wing advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, a key part of the conservative influence network originally funded by brothers Charles and David Koch. There are no ethics rules or laws that bar members of Congress from renting apartments from people affiliated with lobbying groups. But the arrangement is an indicator of how small Washington can be, and how closely entwined legislators can become with the people who are paid to influence them.
DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 9/25/2023
For decades, Republicans have outmaneuvered and outspent Democrats in state Legislatures, gerrymandering them into the minority in both red states and political battlegrounds. GOP lawmakers have used that advantage to pass countless conservative policies with a help along the way. Conservative think tanks and other policy groups drafted model legislation for Republican lawmakers to cut taxes, expand gun rights, and loosen environmental regulations. Now Democrats are trying to put themselves on even footing.
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/25/2023
Attorneys for former President Trump blasted federal prosecutors’ request for a narrow gag order that would bar him from attacking participants in the criminal case charging him with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election, claiming he must be free to campaign for the Republican nomination in 2024. The response joins a battle that promises to be a recurring feature of Trump’s multiple state and federal criminal cases and that highlights challenges facing prosecutors and judges in the historic attempts to prosecute a former president and active candidate.
MSN – Naomi Nix, Cat Zakrzewski, and Joseph Menn (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2023
Conservative politicians are accusing academics, universities, and government agencies of colluding with technology companies to censor right-wing views. Interviews with professors, government officials, physicians, nonprofits, and research funders describe an escalating campaign that has cast a pall over programs studying not just political falsehoods but also the quality of medical information online. Social media platforms have pulled back on moderating content even as evidence mounts that Russia and China have intensified covert influence campaigns.
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2023
The FBI’s former top spy hunter in New York, who had pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions and launder funds for a Russian billionaire he once investigated, pleaded guilty in a separate case charging him with hiding secret cash payments while overseeing highly sensitive cases. Charles McGonigal admitted he concealed his receipt of payments and meetings with foreign officials to avoid questions about a conflict-of-interest between his private post-retirement business plans and his official duties as one of the FBI’s top leaders.
MSN – Mariana Afaro (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2023
The U.S. Senate adopted a resolution requiring male senators to wear a coat, tie, and slacks or other long pants on the chamber’s floor following days of upheaval sparked by Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s decision to stop enforcing the requirement of business attire. Before Schumer’s initial move, the Senate had followed an unwritten and unevenly enforced policy that encouraged men to wear suits and ties and women to cover their arms.
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2023
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and his wife Nadine were indicted on bribery charges, Justice Department officials announced, detailing what officials said was a corrupt scheme involving gold bars, stacks of cash, and using the senator’s powerful position to secretly benefit the Egyptian government. Allegations of a secretive campaign to aid the government in Cairo stand out not just because of Menendez’s singular power in the Senate to shape U.S. foreign policy as the chairperson of the Foreign Relations Committee, but also because of the rebuttal he offered when asked about accusations of impropriety earlier this year.
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2023
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan denied Donald Trump’s demand that she recuse herself from his federal election obstruction case, saying attorneys for the former president had applied a “hypersensitive, cynical, and suspicious” reading of two of her statements in sentencing Capitol attack defendants to accuse her of bias. Trump’s defense can ask an appellate court to weigh in, but the standard for a federal appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling is very high.
ProPublica – Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 9/22/2023
Some of the richest people in the country attended the 2018 donor summit of the Koch network, the political organization founded by libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also attended. He has attended Koch donor events at least twice over the years. Thomas was brought in to speak, staffers said, in the hopes that such access would encourage donors to continue giving. That puts Thomas in the position of having served as a fundraising draw for a network that has brought cases before the Supreme Court. The justice never reported the flight to Palm Springs.
Yahoo News – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 9/21/2023
The Republican-led Legislatures of Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama find themselves backed against courtroom walls in similar circumstances, defending congressional maps that federal judges have said appear to discriminate against Black voters. Last year, the same judges said that, even before full trials were held, the same maps were so likely illegal that replacements should be used for the 2022 elections. But due to a once-obscure U.S. Supreme Court rule that outlaws election-law changes close to campaign season, the disputed maps were used anyway.
Yahoo News – John Fritze (USA Today) | Published: 9/25/2023
Americans were able to review financial disclosure reports for all nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, documents that revealed private jet flights, foreign travel, and even a bouquet of flowers that Oprah Winfrey had ordered for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. But those annual disclosures are far harder to find for hundreds of lower court judges that make up the bulk of the federal judiciary. At a time when the judicial branch is under heightened scrutiny over ethics, federal courts are struggling to honor a law intended to head off potential conflicts.
Yahoo News – Taylor Giorno (The Hill) | Published: 9/27/2023
Lobbying and government affairs shops are busy preparing for a possible shutdown of the federal government. Lobbyists cannot do much except keep clients informed about what to expect if the government does shut down as they navigate uncertainty around tax credits, infrastructure investments, and political stability. It is a “very uncertain time” for clients, said Ryan Carney, a government affairs advisor at K&L Gates. The firm set up a task force with professionals who have experience with government shutdowns to monitor developments.
Yahoo News – Ken Dilanian and Frank Thorp V (NBC News) | Published: 9/27/2023
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, who is charged with secretly aiding the Egyptian government in exchange for bribes, singlehandedly blocked passage of bipartisan legislation in 2020 that would have strengthened the law regulating foreign influence and lobbying in Washington, D.C. The proposed Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act grew out of widespread concerns that the current law regulating foreign lobbying had seldom been enforced, and foreign influence campaigns had successfully infiltrated American politics.
From the States and Municipalities
Global News – Allison Jones (Canadian Press) | Published: 9/21/2023
Ontario’s integrity commissioner said there are “insufficient grounds” to conduct a full investigation into a “stag-and-doe” event for Premier Doug Ford’s daughter, though he noted an “interesting” finding about ticket sales for the gathering. New Democratic Party Leader Matt Stiles had asked J. David Wake to issue an opinion on the pre-wedding event for Ford’s daughter, which was attended by some land developers who had business in the province.
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court refused Alabama’s request to hold 2024 elections under a new congressional map judged to be an unlawful attempt to diminish the power of the state’s Black voters. It was the second time in four months the court has sided with a three-judge panel that found Alabama’s Legislature probably violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to create a second congressional district where minority voters have a large enough share of the electorate to elect their candidate of choice.
MSN – Mike Cason (AL.com) | Published: 9/27/2023
The chairperson of the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee said he expects to propose changes to Alabama’s ethics law during the next legislative session. Rep. Matt Simpson is leading a series of meetings by the panel to examine issues identified by a study commission a few years ago and by Alabama’s appellate courts. Most of those are areas where the law is confusing, ambiguous, or unclear, Simpson said. One of the lingering issues is the precise definition and scope of the term principal, which refers to organizations and individuals that employ lobbyists.
KJZZ – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 9/22/2023
A new rule adopted by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission adds the requirement for political ads to disclose the three largest sources of funds that bought the commercial. The rule details exactly how big the disclosure must be. Commission Executive Director Tom Collins agreed it is not possible to put all the required disclosure, like the top three funders, into many social media posts. But the rule will mandate inclusion of a clickable link that would take the reader to a page where people could get the required information.
Los Angeles Daily News – Jason Henry (Pasadena Star News) | Published: 9/24/2023
Baldwin Park’s former city attorney assisted in a bribery and wire fraud scheme that funneled $70,000 in illicit payoffs to former Councilperson Ricardo Pacheco to secure his vote on a cannabis permit, according to federal authorities. The new allegations against Robert Tafoya became public following the grand jury indictment of Tafoya’s longtime friend and alleged co-conspirator, former Compton City Councilperson Isaac Galvin.
MSN – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/27/2023
The Los Angeles City Council approved a nominee for a spot on the Ethics Commission after several weeks of public scrutiny over the council’s handling of nominees for the panel. The council approved Alex Johnson, a vice president at Bryson Gillette, a consulting firm that also has done campaign work. The firm has handled more than $2 million worth of work for various campaigns since May 2020.
MSN – Jeff McDionald (San Diego Union Tribune) | Published: 9/27/2023
Three out of seven seats on the San Diego Ethics Commission are vacant, meaning the city’s only regulator for enforcing campaign finance and other rules is legally unable to issue fines or mete out other discipline. The commission has not fielded a full board in years. It has also failed to comply with city rules requiring that at least three members of the panel are attorneys. The commission operated with six members during the first half of this year, but three seats expired June 30.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 9/27/2023
Anaheim politicians are cracking down on using private cellphones and other electronic devices to conduct city business, a practice that independent investigators say city officials frequently used to circumvent the state’s public records law. City officials directed staff to require the use of government phones and devices for top officials and staff, forbid conducting city business on personal accounts, and requiring officials to forward city business emails to government accounts.
Yahoo News – Lauren Sforza (The Hill) | Published: 9/27/2023
A four-time candidate for Congress in California was charged with misusing campaign funds, including transferring the cash back to his personal accounts via his friends and family. The indictment accuses Omar Navarro of using campaign money for personal expenses, including trips to Las Vegas and two criminal defense attorneys, and falsely recording them as campaign expenses to the FEC.
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 9/25/2023
House Speaker Matt Ritter said the General Assembly will not vote in the special session on a proposal to allow publicly financed candidates in Connecticut to raise money online using ActBlue, the popular Democratic fundraising platform. Ritter said ActBlue’s platform is not compliant with state law, and lawyers have struggled to draft statutory language that would open Connecticut to ActBlue without conflicting with or undermining the Citizens’ Election Program, which finances most campaigns for the General Assembly.
MSN – Charles Rabin (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/20/2023
Now-suspended Miami Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla is facing criminal charges he sold his vote for $245,000 in campaign money. At the same time, the FBI is separately investigating whether Mayor Francis Suarez worked behind the scenes to help a developer who was paying him $10,000 a month. Local prosecutors have an open case into whether Commissioner Joe Carollo, a former mayor, held improper influence over the police force. With half of Miami’s six elected officials under a cloud, there are renewed calls to clean house.
MSN – Brittany Shammas (Washington Post) | Published: 9/24/2023
After months of controversy over new directives governing classroom instruction in Florida – changes critics said sanitized or even distorted the past – Black pastors across the state agreed their churches had no choice but to respond. They would teach Black history themselves. A nonprofit coalition of religious institutions, Faith in Florida, put together a tool kit to guide the churches and suggest books, articles, documentaries, and reports covering the Black experience. The churches’ involvement harks back to the pivotal role many played in the struggle to end segregation and advance voting rights.
Times of Northwest Indiana – Dan Carden | Published: 9/27/2023
Indiana election law’s silence on corporate contributions to super PACs means such donations are prohibited or otherwise limited, the state Supreme Court ruled in answering a question from the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Indiana enforcement authorities have said they do not intend to punish corporate donations to super PACs, even if prohibited by state law, because the contributions are authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. In the majority opinion, Justice Derek Molter said it is “no doubt time” for state lawmakers to update the law to reflect the Citizens United ruling.
Yahoo News – Emily Wagster Pettus (Associated Press) | Published: 9/26/2023
Mississippi announced financial incentives for a shipbuilder to expand in Gulfport in 2020, days after the president of the shipbuilder’s parent company made a $10,000 campaign contribution to Gov. Tate Reeves. The state economic development agency under Reeves’ supervision, the Mississippi Development Authority, announced Gulf Ship would receive state incentives to expand the site it opened in Gulfport in 2006.
Missouri Independent – Jason Hancock | Published: 9/22/2023
Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher is facing allegations he threatened to terminate the employment of a nonpartisan legislative staffer who resisted his monthslong push to hire a private company to manage constituent information. Plocher denies the accusations. But Dana Miller, chief clerk of the House since 2018 and a chamber staff member since 2001, wrote in an email to a GOP lawmaker about “threats made by Speaker Plocher concerning my future employment.” Miller was not the only legislative staffer expressing concerns.
MSN – Steven Porter (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/21/2023
State Rep. Troy Merner resigned his seat in the New Hampshire House after investigators for the state attorney general’s office concluded Merner no longer lives in the district he represents and has not lived there since August 2022. Merner has been renting an office in Lancaster, but he has been residing with his wife and stepson about 15 miles south, in Carroll, which is part of a different legislative district in Coos County.
DNyuz – Tracey Tully (New York Times) | Published: 9/22/2023
Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey quit politics in 2004 after announcing to his second wife and to the world that he was gay and had an affair with a man who worked for him. Now McGreevey, who once was thought to have the White House in his sights, is making plans to do what he had said he would not: re-enter politics. Over the past several months, McGreevey has begun cobbling together support for an expected run for mayor of Jersey City, the state’s second-largest city, where he has lived for eight years.
MSN – Chris Shelton (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 9/26/2023
Former Paterson Mayor Joey Torres was indicted after he was accused of launching a new bid to run the city in 2022 despite being barred from doing so six years ago. Torres pleaded guilty to using city employees to work at a liquor distributorship his family planned to open. As part of his plea deal, Torres was required to forfeit future public employment.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 9/27/2023
The state ethics commission conducted its first meeting following a New York Supreme Court justice’s decision that found the agency was created in violation of the state constitution and must suspend its work pending the outcome of any appeal. The appellate division of the state Supreme Court granted a temporary stay on the decision. A permanent stay has not been granted. Earlier this year, another state Supreme Court justice ruled the commission was created in line with the state constitution and it was not improper for the final appointments to be made by an “Independent Review Commission” made up of law school deans.
DNyuz – Grace Ashford (New York Times) | Published: 9/19/2023
More than half the Village of Sleepy Hollow, New York, is of Hispanic origin. But those demographics are rarely reflected on Election Day. The village is part of the Town of Mount Pleasant, which uses an at-large voting system that allows residents to cast ballots for all open positions. The Mount Pleasant town board has no Latino members, and no one could recall the last time it had one. That disconnect has led to a formal claim filed with the town, on behalf of five residents who say that they and other Latino voters are being disenfranchised.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2023
A judge overseeing a $250 million lawsuit against Donald Trump ruled the former president and his company committed fraud by inflating his net worth in business transactions, narrowing the scope of what the state’s attorney general must prove at an upcoming civil trial. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron also ordered the cancellation of Trump business certificates and imposed sanctions on attorneys representing him for repeating arguments that failed multiple times previously and were called “borderline frivolous.”
The City – George Joseph, Bianca Pallaro, and Tom Robbins | Published: 9/22/2023
Eric Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign repeatedly ignored city regulators’ requests to identify political supporters who they suspected of having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars without disclosing their role. The flagged donations totaled more than $300,000 from more than 500 donors. Thanks to the city program that provides matching funds of up to eight-to-one for eligible contributions, the donations secured an additional $522,000 in public funds for the Adams campaign.
North Carolina – In North Carolina, Republicans Seek More Control Over Elections
Yahoo News – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 9/24/2023
Shortly before North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper began his first term in 2017, his rivals in the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to strip the position of key powers, including the governor’s longstanding authority to appoint majorities to the state election board and local election boards in all 100 counties. After the state Supreme Court ruled the move was illegal, lawmakers put the idea on the ballot, but voters shot that down. Now, seven years after their first try, the legislators appear on the verge of getting what they have long sought.
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/22/2023
Ohio Republicans’ new state legislative map would make it easier for them to expand their supermajorities in both the House and Senate, as well as create fewer competitive districts overall, according to an analysis. Last year’s redistricting plan was repeatedly found by the state Supreme Court to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. The ruling means the Ohio Redistricting Commission must again pass new district lines ahead of the 2024 election.
MSN – Mike Rogoway (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 9/27/2023
Three former public officials in Morrow County could be hit with thousands of dollars in penalties for failing to acknowledge they stood to profit when they gave tax breaks to Amazon data centers and arranged land sales to make way for the huge installations. Staff with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission proposed settling ethics charges against the officials. Two would pay $5,000 penalties and another would pay $2,500. Their attorney is contesting the charges and wants the commission to waive all penalties and issue a “letter of education” instead.
MSN – Allie Feinberg (Knoxville News Sentinel) | Published: 9/27/2023
Knox County Ethics Committee Chairperson Michael Covington is trying to enlist the investigative powers of the state to get to the bottom of a complaint against county Commissioner Kyle Ward over a land deal he struck with a prominent developer. Covington filed a complaint with the state comptroller’s office, which investigates allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse by government officials. Ward is accused in a complaint of paying just $10 each to developer Scott Davis for two plots of land assessed at $50,000 apiece.
September 27, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Connecticut: “Ritter: No changes to campaign finance rules in special session” by Mark Pazniokas for Connecticut Mirror Indiana: “State Supreme Court Says Indiana Law Bans Corporate Contributions to Super PACs” by Brandon Smith for WVXU Elections New Jersey: “Governor Who Quit Politics Amid […]
September 22, 2023 •
National/Federal Lobbyists Flirt with AI While Remaining Cautious of Its Promises Bloomberg Government – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/8/2023 Lobbyists are scrambling to put their imprint on federal oversight of artificial intelligence (AI) and grappling with its influence on their own profession […]
Bloomberg Government – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/8/2023
Lobbyists are scrambling to put their imprint on federal oversight of artificial intelligence (AI) and grappling with its influence on their own profession even as they predict robot-lobbyists will likely remain in the realm of science fiction. Some lobbyists say they are willing to embrace AI. They have begun to experiment with it to ease tedious and time-consuming tasks, such as legislative analysis, background research, and drafting client memos. Others, eyeing it with trepidation, say they are holding off to see how it evolves.
DNyuz – Robert Jimison (New York Times) | Published: 9/19/2023
In the tradition-bound halls of the U.S. Senate, customs die hard and rules can be next to impossible to change. But for the first time in centuries, lawmakers are no longer expected to suit up to conduct business on the Senate floor. Majority Leader Charles Schumer established a new dress code allowing members to take a more business-casual approach to their workwear.
MSN – Joshua Goodman and Jim Mustian (Associated Press) | Published: 9/20/2023
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) recently departed second-in-command returned for a new stint with the consulting firm where he previously advised Purdue Pharma and a drug distributor fighting sanctions over suspicious painkiller shipments. Louis Milione retired from the DEA a second time this summer amid reporting on potential conflicts caused by his prior consulting for the pharmaceutical industry. Less than three months later, Milione again landed a plum job at Guidepost Solutions, a firm hired by some of the same companies he had been tasked with regulating when he returned to the DEA in 2021.
MSN – Daniela Altimari (Roll Call) | Published: 9/20/2023
A recent hearing by the House Oversight Committee marked the first time in 12 years that members of the FEC have come before a congressional oversight panel. Democrats on the committee want changes to the makeup of the commission. The six-member panel is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, a breakdown that critics say has led to partisan gridlock and hampered the FEC’s ability to enforce the rules. The are also calls to improve transparency and modernize technology.
MSN – Jonathan Dienst and Courtney Copenhagen (WNBC) | Published: 9/20/2023
Federal prosecutors are looking into whether an admitted felon helped arrange to give gold bars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez or his wife in exchange for help. Investigators want to know if Menendez offered to contact the Justice Department to try to help that man who was accused of banking crimes. Those questions are now before a federal grand jury that is considering whether to hand up corruption charges against Menendez.
MSN – Greg Morton, Marianna Sotomayor, and Camila DeChalus (Washington Post) | Published: 9/18/2023
Candidates running for U.S. House and Senate offices increased campaign spending on security by more than 500 percent between the 2020 election and the 2022 midterms, a measure of the extraordinary rise in threats against elected officials in recent years and the country’s increasingly volatile political climate. The steep increases came as changes in federal campaign finance rules made it easier to spend campaign dollars on security, a recognition of the nation’s changing threat outlook for elected officials. Lawmakers say more has to be done to help protect themselves and their staff from a dramatic rise in daily threats.
MSN – Hannah Natanson (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2023
The American Library Association is facing a partisan firefight unlike anything in its almost 150-year history. The once-uncontroversial organization, which says it is the world’s largest and oldest library association and which provides funding, training, and tools to most of the country’s 123,000 libraries, has become entangled in the education culture wars – the raging debates over what and how to teach about race, sex, and gender.
MSN – Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) | Published: 9/16/2023
Richard Olson Jr., a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, was sentenced to three years’ probation and a $93,350 fine for violating federal lobbying and ethics laws in a case that exposed a secret history of romantic liaisons and lavish gifts during his 34-year career as a diplomat. Olson, who pleaded guilty to two federal misdemeanors related to his consulting work in the Middle East, could have received up to six months behind bars under federal sentencing guidelines.
NPR – Associated Press | Published: 9/15/2023
Federal prosecutors are seeking an order that would prevent Donald Trump from making “inflammatory” and “intimidating” comments about witnesses, lawyers, and other people involved in the criminal case charging the former president with scheming to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Special counsel Jack Smith’s team said in a motion that such a “narrow, well-defined” order was necessary to preserve the integrity of the case and to avoid prejudicing potential jurors.
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Rebecca Kern | Published: 9/14/2023
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito temporarily paused a lower-court order limiting Biden administration officials from contacting social media firms. Alito’s action followed an emergency filing from the Justice Department that asked the court to block an earlier injunction that would make it difficult for officials at the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI to respond to online posts that pose a danger to public health or safety. The Justice Department claims allowing the lower court ruling to stay in effect would “impose grave and irreparable harms on the government and the public.”
From the States and Municipalities
Globe and Mail – Steven Chase | Published: 9/17/2023
Changes to lobbying rules in Canada could spell an end to 50 years of free trips to Israel for Members of Parliament and senators. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which funds the trips, says it is the group hardest hit by revisions to a code governing those who try to influence public officials. New rules for the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct went into effect on July 1 that restrict registered lobbyists in Ottawa from lobbying politicians who accept free trips from them.
MSN – Stacey Barchenger (Arizona Republic) | Published: 9/19/2023
State Sen. T.J. Shope says he will investigate how Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs was able to hire a private security guard while she was the state’s top election official and a gubernatorial candidate last year without telling the public who paid the bill. The Arizona Republic reported that Hobbs’ campaign did not disclose payments to the individual on campaign finance reports. Shope suggested the cost of security could have exposed a loophole or violated state campaign finance laws that limit donation amounts and restrictions on funding from certain sources.
Yahoo News – Stacey Barchenger (Arizona Republic) | Published: 9/18/2023
Aides to Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs include nine former lobbyists, whose work histories could raise concerns about conflicts-of-interest. Governors in recent years have faced scrutiny over their connections to lobbyists and the challenge of avoiding ethical lapses. Former Gov. Doug Ducey faced criticism that he and his team played favorites with business, often at taxpayer expense. Hobbs’ administration has been criticized for being opaque since its earliest days, when her campaign staff created a “dark money” fundraising group to pay for the inauguration.
DNyuz – Rick Rojas (New York Times) | Published: 9/14/2023
When Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders summoned Arkansas lawmakers to Little Rock for a special legislative session to cut taxes and ban the state from mandating Covid-19 vaccinations, she added one more request: overhaul the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Sanders called for changes that included limiting the release of records related to policymaking and discussions of legal strategy. But the pushback was swift, swelling beyond organizations representing news organizations and government transparency advocates to include conservatives and some of the governor’s own supporters.
Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Neal Earley | Published: 9/20/2023
The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office launched a new campaign finance disclosure and filing portal, billing it as a more user-friendly alternative. The office says the new reporting system will be easier to use for those searching its online campaign finance database and for candidates filing their reports.
East Bay Times – Grace Hase (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 9/18/2023
Three members of the Santa Clara City Council filed several ethics complaints against Stand Up For Santa Clara, a self-proclaimed “grass-roots watchdog organization” they claim is connected to Mayor Lisa Gillmor. Vice Mayor Kevin Park and council members Anthony Becker and Suds Jain filed complaints with the city and the California Fair Political Practices Commission claiming the group is a “political operation” and has failed to be transparent with its political spending or advertisements. The trio also filed a complaint with the IRS, questioning its non-profit status.
LAist – Brianna Lee and Frank Stoltze | Published: 9/15/2023
Large-scale changes are rare at Los Angeles City Hall. But now there is more momentum than there has been in decades for three major reforms to how the city is governed. The proposals are the result of calls for reform after a secret recording was released last year that captured three city council members and a labor official using racist, homophobic, and other derogatory language while discussing ways to amass power in the city’s redistricting process.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada and Spencer Custodio | Published: 9/19/2023
In Anaheim, Disney is the political kingmaker – and somewhat of a policymaker. Yet residents rarely see the company’s influence discussed in public by city leaders. A recent report on corruption laid out a web of influence by Disney and other resort interests on City Hall policy making. In sworn affidavits, FBI agents also detailed a city largely controlled by Disneyland resort interests. This fall, council members are taking up a host of items designed to curb special interest influence.
Yahoo News – Lindsey Holden (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 9/14/2023
During the final days of the legislative session in California, lobbyists pack the Capitol rotunda in hopes of snagging some last-minute face time with Assembly members and senators as they cast their final votes for the year. Lobbyists began using the rotunda last year, once in-person activity at the Capitol resumed. Lobbyists are not allowed on the Assembly and Senate floors. The Assembly does not permit lobbyists to text members on the floor, although they can do so in the Senate.
MSN – Joey Flechas, Tess Riski, Sarah Blaskey, Jay Weaver, Charles Rabin, and Raisa Habersham (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/14/2023
Miami City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla and William Riley Jr., an attorney and lobbyist, were arrested on corruption charges. They stand accused of laundering campaign money, failing to report political donations, and spending political funds on personal expenses. Díaz de la Portilla and Riley are accused of conspiring to launder $245,000 in political contributions in exchange for the commissioner’s support on a plan to build a sports complex in Miami.
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/20/2023
After a three-year investigation, state officials arrested Patricia Duarte, the former chief financial officer of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, for her role in padding the books at the defunct taxpayer-funded organization to compensate herself and Tiffany Carr, the former chief executive officer. Carr was paid $7.5 million in taxpayer funds over three years. A series of stories in The Miami Herald revealed how Carr used her tight control of the coalition to inflate her compensation while domestic violence victims across the state were denied services.
Orlando Sentinel – Skyler Swisher | Published: 9/19/2023
As Gov. Ron DeSantis vows to clean up Washington if elected president, dozens of ethics orders seeking to punish the misdeeds of Florida politicians have been languishing on his desk in Tallahassee. The governor has not signed an ethics order since January 28, 2021. Until he takes action, politicians and public employees will not have to pay thousands of dollars in fines, even if they settled their ethics cases and admitted wrongdoing.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Allan Kew | Published: 9/18/2023
A progressive political organization is taking advantage of the Maui wildfires to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars that may go to support candidates instead of direct help for victims of the August fires. Our Hawaii Action has raised at least $684,000 through the newly created Maui Community Power Recovery Fund. The group’s fundraising website starts with a familiar pitch, asking donors to “Support Maui Fires: Relief, Recovery and Rebuilding.” The page later notes that money will go to political organizing and campaign operations.
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/19/2023
Investigators with the Chicago inspector general’s office seized computers from the treasurer’s City Hall offices as part of an investigation into allegations of misconduct against Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin. The move comes after the release late last month of a 2020 letter that laid out a series of accusations by two aides Conyears-Ervin had fired who said the treasurer misused taxpayer resources and abused the powers of her office.
Indiana Capital Chronicle – Casey Smith | Published: 9/20/2023
Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Rust filed a lawsuit to get his name on the May 2024 primary ballot. He maintains that a current Indiana law blocking him from the ballot is unconstitutional. Because Rust does not qualify to run as a Republican based only on his primary voting history, he needs additional approval from his county party chairperson. Indiana Republican Party officials have said Jackson County Republican Party Chairperson Amanda Lowery had indicated she would not approve his candidacy.
Bridge Michigan – Lauren Gibbons | Published: 9/14/2023
Lobbyists offered a sex worker to Rick Johnson, Michigan’s former marijuana board chairperson and a onetime House speaker, as part of a bribe scheme to expedite approval of medical marijuana business licenses, prosecutors revealed. Using the code name “Batman” in reference to Johnson in messages, lobbyists provided the services of the sex worker, tickets to sporting events, and direct cash payments laundered through multiple limited liability companies in return for an edge during the application process, prosecutors said in a sentencing document.
This Is Reno – Kristin Hackbarth | Published: 9/19/2023
Washoe’s Board of County Commissioners voted to adopt an ordinance requiring paid lobbyists to identify themselves when providing public comment at commission meetings. Commissioners had directed county staff to draft an ordinance to regulate lobbyists interacting with county policymakers. The policy was modeled after the city of Reno’s. The final ordinance is a stripped-down version of what was presented to commissioners in August, and it removes the requirement for lobbyists to register with the county.
New Jersey Monitor – Dana DiFilippo | Published: 9/20/2023
The state Attorney General’s Office asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit New Jersey’s top election watchdog filed against Gov. Phil Murphy. Jeff Brindle accused the governor of orchestrating a legislative overhaul of the state’s campaign finance law last spring to oust him from his longtime job as executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
MSN – Kyle Ingram and Dan Kane (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 9/20/2023
A provision in the draft state budget may give North Carolina lawmakers full discretion to determine which of their records are public, a move open government advocates said is a drastic reinterpretation of years of precedent in public records law. Legislators are already considered to be custodians of their own records, but current law only allows them to withhold records if they claim an exemption to the law, said Brooks Fuller, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition.
MSN – Travis Fain (WRAL) | Published: 9/18/2023
A watchdog group is calling on the State Board of Election to clarify North Carolina’s campaign finance rules and crack down on candidates who make money renting office space to their own campaign. The Campaign for Accountability flagged about $70,000 in payments that House Speaker Tim Moore’s campaign has paid on a building he owns, which also houses his law office.
ABC News – Associated Press | Published: 9/19/2023
Three former Columbus Zoo and Aquarium executives engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity that cost the facility more than $2.2 million, according to an indictment. Tom Stalf, who was the zoo’s president and chief executive officer; ex-Chief Financial Officer Gregory Bell, and Peter Fingerhut, its former marketing director “extorted, conspired, bribed and stole” while colluding with each other for over 10 years, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in announcing the 90-count indictment.
MSN – Jake Zuckerman, Sean McDonnell, and Gretchen Cuda Kroen (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/16/2023
As a state board moves toward a decision on opening two state parks and two protected wildlife areas for fracking, its public comments are flush with nearly 150 letters under the names of people who say they did not authorize or send them. Those comments trace back to at least two different entities that wage advocacy and lobbying campaigns for the natural gas industry. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has vowed to investigate. The Consumer Energy Alliance has said it does not use names without permission and challenged the accuracy of the reporting.
Street Roots – Jeremiah Hayden | Published: 9/15/2023
The Portland City Auditor’s Office is investigating Zenith Energy for potential violations of the city lobbying code. Confirmation of the investigation comes after it was reported that Zenith Energy and its public relations firm, Pac/West Communications, spent months courting city officials, their staff, and bureau staff to approve a land use permit in 2022.
MSN – Marisa Iati (Washington Post) | Published: 9/19/2023
Pennsylvania implemented automatic voter registration to ease the process of casting a ballot, joining 23 other states and the District of Columbia. Residents who are eligible to vote and who obtain or renew a driver’s license or identification card at the Department of Motor Vehicles now will be guided through the voter registration process by default. If they do not want to be added to the voter rolls, they have to actively opt out.
Spotlight PA – Stephen Caruso | Published: 9/19/2023
Democrats have again secured a one-vote majority in the Pennsylvania House, prevailing in an Allegheny County special election the party was widely favored to win. Lindsay Powell’s win will end a two-month tie in the 203-member lower chamber that has existed since state Rep. Sara Innamorato resigned to focus on her run for Allegheny County executive.
Spotlight PA – Stephen Caruso | Published: 9/19/2023
A new bill aims to slow the speed of the “revolving door” between public service and private sector lobbying, a threshold that Pennsylvania lawmakers and workers often cross once they leave state government. Current state law bars such officials and employees from lobbying their previous workplaces for a year. The new bill backed by members of both major parties would extend that pause by another year.
MSN – Angele Latham (Tennessean) | Published: 9/15/2023
A lawsuit over the Tennessee House’s ban on signs the August special legislative session may be coming to a close. But the First Amendment issues surrounding when government can limit speech in the name of order and decorum are not likely going away. Speaker Cameron Sexton has hinted the House may again take up the issue when the Legislature returns in 2024, a move likely to spark renewed debate about the boundaries of free speech.
MSN – Zach Despart (Texas Tribune) | Published: 9/17/2023
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted by the state Senate on 16 charges of bribery, unfitness for office, and abuse of office. He was immediately reinstated, ending a suspension that began in May with his impeachment by the House. The votes sealed the failure of a risky gambit by House Republicans, who began in secret in the spring to investigate, and then purge, a leader of their own party. The results came after sustained pressure on senators from grassroots groups, conservative activists, and the leader of the state Republican Party, who vowed retribution at the ballot box if Paxton was convicted.
Yahoo News – Edgar Sandoval (New York Times) | Published: 9/19/2023
A trial is underway in Texas over the state’s sweeping election overhaul. Since it went into effect, critics have raised concerns the law would impede voters with disabilities, elderly voters, and voters who do not speak English. The federal trial provides an unusual opportunity to hear directly from voters who wanted to cast a vote but were not able to do so. Lawyers representing the state countered that the new rules prevent potential voter fraud and that voters seem to be adapting better with every passing election.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 9/14/2023
Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted to fire the state’s top nonpartisan elections official, whose allies responded by saying the lawmakers did not have the power to oust her. The Democratic governor’s administration plans to continue to pay Meagan Wolfe’s salary and make sure she maintains access to her office if she wants to continue as director of the state’s elections commission. The vote creates a dispute over who is in charge of overseeing elections in a state that is expected to play a critical role in next year’s presidential campaign and may have to redraw its legislative districts within months.
September 21, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Arkansas: “Arkansas Launches New, ‘More Friendly’ Campaign Finance Disclosure Filing Portal” by Neal Earley for Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Elections Pennsylvania: “Democrats Again Secure One-Vote Pa. House Majority After Special Election Win” by Stephen Caruso for Spotlight PA Ethics National: “Revolving Door Redux: […]
September 18, 2023 •
Elections Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Republicans Vote to Fire Elections Director, Who May Not Leave the Job.” by Patrick Marley (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics Arkansas: “Arkansas Governor Tried to Keep More Records Private. The Pushback Was Swift.” by Rick Rojas (New York Times) for DNyuz […]
Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Republicans Vote to Fire Elections Director, Who May Not Leave the Job.” by Patrick Marley (Washington Post) for MSN
Arkansas: “Arkansas Governor Tried to Keep More Records Private. The Pushback Was Swift.” by Rick Rojas (New York Times) for DNyuz
Florida: “Miami Commissioner Díaz de la Portilla Arrested on Bribery, Money Laundering Charges” by Joey Flechas, Tess Riski, Sarah Blaskey, Jay Weaver, Charles Rabin, and Raisa Habersham (Miami Herald) for MSN
National: “Red States Quit Nation’s Oldest Library Group Amid Culture War Over Books” by Hannah Natanson (Washington Post) for MSN
Tennessee: “A Lawsuit Over Controversial House Sign Rules Is Over. The First Amendment Debate Is Not.” by Angele Latham (Tennessean) for MSN
California: “How California Lobbyists Jam the Capitol for ‘High-Pressure’ Meetings to Sway Lawmaker Votes” by Lindsey Holden (Sacramento Bee) for Yahoo News
National: “Lobbyists Flirt with AI While Remaining Cautious of Its Promises” by Kate Ackley for Bloomberg Government
Michigan: “Michigan Marijuana Board Chair Bribed with Sex Worker, Prosecutors Say” by Lauren Gibbons for Bridge Michigan
September 15, 2023 •
National/Federal Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions in Illegal Campaign Contributions Associated Press News – Jake Offenhartz | Published: 9/7/2023 A former top executive at the failed FTX cryptocurrency exchange pleaded guilty to making tens of millions of dollars […]
Associated Press News – Jake Offenhartz | Published: 9/7/2023
A former top executive at the failed FTX cryptocurrency exchange pleaded guilty to making tens of millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and engaging in a criminal conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transfer business. Ryan Salame, the former co-chief executive of FTX Digital Markets, is the fourth high-ranking official at the company or its affiliates to plead guilty to criminal charges.
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2023
After he was charged with mishandling national security papers, former President Trump asked to be allowed to discuss classified evidence in the case right where he allegedly had kept the documents: at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home and private club. The federal judge overseeing the case appeared to tell him no recently. U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon issued protective order granting prosecutors’ request for a set of rules about how classified information and documents should be handled in the case, rules that conform to the general practice of federal courts.
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2023
A federal appeals court barred special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation from recovering cellphone texts and other communications between U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and other lawmakers and staff about overturning the 2020 election on January 6, 2021, and ruled a judge must individually review roughly 2,000 documents to decide which, if any, fall outside lawmakers’ constitutional immunity from criminal investigation. The opinion, which the Justice Department could appeal, prolongs a secret dispute that has tied up the search of the conservative lawmaker’s phone data for more than a year.
MSN – Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
When Richard Olson Jr. retired from the State Department in 2016, he was lauded by colleagues for an illustrious career that included high-profile postings as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. But previously undisclosed court records reveal the State Department’s inspector general investigated Olson for failing to report a $60,000 gift of diamond jewelry to his mother-in-law from the emir of Dubai. As part of a broader investigation, the FBI also questioned him about his extramarital affair with a journalist working in Pakistan while he was serving as the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad.
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski and Joseph Menn (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the Biden White House, top government health officials, and the FBI likely violated the First Amendment by improperly influencing tech companies’ decisions to remove or suppress posts on the coronavirus and elections. The decision was likely to be seen as victory for conservatives who have long argued social media platforms’ content moderation efforts restrict their free speech rights. But some advocates also said the ruling was an improvement over a temporary injunction U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty issued in July.
MSN – Paul Duggan (Washington Post) | Published: 9/7/2023
Peter Navarro, a senior Trump White House aide and vocal election denier who has said he helped hatch a legislative scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential race, was found guilty of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. With right-wing provocateur Stephen Bannon, who was found guilty of contempt of Congress, Navarro is the second high-ranking Trump official to be convicted in a criminal case related to efforts to undo President Biden’s victory at the polls.
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
Probing investigators’ methods and scruples is a strategy that has been utilized by both political parties during tumultuous moments and is a well-worn tool for lawmakers seeking to give the appearance of oversight. The strategy has been effective in shaping public opinion of the investigations of Donald Trump after years of broadsides against the judicial system by Trump and his allies. But in the wake of 91 criminal charges against Trump, the party’s attacks on prosecutors threatens to degrade an important precedent that protects prosecutorial independence and the ability to fairly root out wrongdoing without partisan influence or gain.
MSN – Heidi Przybyla (Politico) | Published: 9/10/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 Citizens United case transformed the world of politics. It loosened restrictions on campaign spending and unleashed a flow of anonymous donor money to nonprofit groups run by political activists. The conservative legal movement seized the moment with greater success than any other group, and the consequences have shaped American jurisprudence and politics in dramatic ways.
NBC News – Rebecca Kaplan, Summer Concepcion, and Sahil Kapur | Published: 9/12/2023
Speaker Kevin McCarthy directed three House committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden to seek bank records and other documents from the president and his son Hunter Biden. McCarthy’s decision represents a major reversal for the speaker after he had he would not open an impeachment inquiry without a vote of the full House. McCarthy faces criticism from across the GOP spectrum due to the lack of evidence implicating the president in Hunter Biden’s transgressions.
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 9/6/2023
The idea of barring Donald Trump from seeking the presidency on grounds that it would violate the 14th Amendment may be an increasingly popular constitutional argument pushed by a segment of legal scholars and activists. But it turns out election officials have been discussing how to handle it for months. The legal theory argues Trump is constitutionally disqualified from running for president under the amendment’s “insurrection clause,” which states that anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” after taking an oath of office to defend the Constitution is forbidden from holding public office.
From the States and Municipalities
CTV – Katherine DeClerq | Published: 9/6/2023
Ontario Premier Doug Ford instructed the province’s attorney general to review legislation governing lobbyists and add increased penalties, including jail time, if they break rules. The request comes amid an integrity commissioner report that highlighted how certain developers with access to staff within the housing ministry were given an unfair advantage when it came to a development deal in Clarington. The government has committed to reviewing legislation governing lobbyists in the coming weeks.
Yahoo News – Kim Chandler (Associated Press) | Published: 9/12/2203
Alabama asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let it keep Republican-drawn congressional lines in place as the state continues to fight a court order to create a second district where Black voters constitute a majority or close to it. Despite losing at the Supreme Court earlier this year in the redistricting case, the state is pursuing another appeal, hoping for a different result with the most recent Republican version of the map. Alabama asked the justices to stay a ruling issued by a three-judge panel that blocked the use of the latest districts in upcoming elections and directed a court-appointed special master to propose new lines for the state.
Associated Press News – Becky Bohrer | Published: 9/13/2023
Backers of an effort to repeal ranked voting in Alaska violated state campaign finance rules, including by channeling money through a church-affiliated organization in a way that initially concealed the source of the contributions, a new report alleges. The report from the staff for the Alaska Public Offices Commission recommends penalties of $22,500 for Art Mathias, a leader of the repeal effort, and approximately $20,000 for the church-affiliated Ranked Choice Education Association among its findings.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 9/14/2023
After the corruption scandal kicked off in Anaheim last year, residents and activists throughout Orange County began asking questions about the impacts of lobbyists and if they wield outsized influence. It is a scandal that also touched on Irvine City Hall, where Mayor Farrah Khan’s former consultant Melahat Rafiei admitted to attempted bribery in 2018, forcing officials there to rethink their relationship with lobbyists. Now, new restrictions on lobbyists could be coming to after city council members voted to have city staff come back with proposals to strengthen the city’s disclosure rules.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 9/13/2023
The Anaheim City Council is considering beefing up the city’s lobbyist rules in the wake of the corruption scandal and may require government relations employees to register as lobbyists. It marked the first in a series of reform discussions set to take place over the next few months. An investigation detailed a loose network of lobbyists, with little enforcement of the city’s current rules and alleged multiple high-profile lobbyists violated the law by failing to report a host of meetings with officials. Currently, only contracted lobbyists are required to register with the city.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 9/7/2023
Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu has been wrestling with public corruption allegations from the U.S. Department of Justice over the past year, which ended when he signed a plea agreement admitting to the charges. But he did not pay for his own legal defense, his campaign donors did, a total of $300,000 according to campaign finance disclosures. California Fair Political Practices Commission rules make no mention of elected officials being able to use the funds to defend themselves from criminal prosecution.
CT News Junkie – Hugh McQuaid | Published: 9/13/2023
The publicly funded campaigns of former Sen. Joe Markley and then-Rep. Rob Sampson jointly criticized Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2014, including one shared mailer, each paying half the cost. That campaign expenditure and similar ones ignited a free-speech fight that reached the state Supreme Court over whether restrictions on using public campaign funds conflicts with the First Amendment. At issue was whether Markley and Sampson’s criticism of Malloy, who was seeking reelection in 2014, was furthering their own campaigns or boosting the governor’s Republican challenger, Tom Foley.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/14/2023
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took at least six undisclosed trips on private jets and accepted lodging and dining in late 2018, according to documents that reflect his proclivity for luxury travel and leisure time with wealthy donors. The trips came during the period between DeSantis’s election and inauguration as governor. DeSantis did not report the flights or accommodations as gifts or campaign contributions, and it is unclear whether he used a separate legal option to personally reimburse for the flights at the cost of coach airfare.
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/8/2023
Latvala, who resigned in 2018 after allegations he had sexually harassed a legislative aide and a former lobbyist. Both women continue to stand by their allegations that Latvala, one of the most powerful men in state government, had used his positional power over them to grope them, make inappropriate sexual comments, and make sexual advances. But neither wanted to continue with an ethics trial and said they were exhausted by the emotional turmoil and five-year wait for the state to mete out justice.
Associated Press News – Kate Brumback | Published: 9/14/2023
A judge ruled former President Trump and 16 others will be tried separately from two defendants who are set to go to trial in October in the case accusing them of participating in an illegal scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. Lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro had filed demands for a speedy trial. Trump and other defendants asked to be tried separately from Powell and Chesebro, with some saying they could not be ready by the October 23 trial date.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2023
A federal judge denied a request from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to move the Georgia election-interference case against him from state to federal court, a shift he had sought on the grounds he was a federal officer at the time of the actions that led to his indictment. Meadows had hoped a move to federal court could lead to a dismissal of the case because h as a federal officer, he is immune from prosecution for acts taken in the course of his normal work.
MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2023
An Atlanta-area special grand jury that investigated alleged 2020 election interference in Georgia by Donald Trump and his allies recommended charging one of Trump’s closest associates, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, and 37 other people, a far larger group than a prosecutor ultimately charged. The final report by the special grand jury largely echoed Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s theory of the case, alleging a sweeping criminal conspiracy to subvert Joe Biden’s legitimate election win in Georgia.
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/11/2023
Less than a week after the release of a 2020 letter alleging city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin abused her office, the head of the Chicago Board of Ethics said the board handles all such complaints properly by referring them to the city’s inspector general’s office, but it cannot do more unless it receives detailed findings from the inspector general. Under questioning for days about why the board has not acted on the letter even though it and the city Law Department received a copy in December 2020, Ethics Board Chairperson William Conlon defended the board’s actions while also declining to discuss any case specifically.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 9/12/2023
One of the leaders of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s transition team will pay a $10,000 fine to resolve charges brought by the Chicago Board of Ethics that he violated the city’s lobbying regulations. Djavan Conway, who owns Conway Consulting Group, acknowledged he failed to terminate his registration as a City Hall lobbyist in January 2021. Conway’s failure to notify officials he was not lobbying in 2022 triggered daily fines of $1,000.
Indiana Capital Chronicle – Whitney Downard | Published: 9/7/2023
The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that would determine whether the state’s election code prohibits or limits corporate contributions to PACs that engage in independent campaign-related expenditures. Attorney James Bopp said while his client, the Indiana Right to Life Victory Fund, has not been limited by the state’s campaign finance laws or restricted from making contributions, a “plain language” reading of statute could potentially harm PAC activities in the future.
MSN – Emily Opilo (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/7/2023
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott requested guidance from the Board of Ethics on how to keep his campaign separate from city business as the race for mayor begins to heat up. Scott asked for written guidance and an in-person meeting between city ethics officials and Scott’s senior staff. Scott has made moves recently that have intermingled campaign and official duties.
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/8/2023
State General Andrea Campbell’s office is negotiating a potential settlement with the Massachusetts Republican Party, its former leader, and a state senator, among others, over alleged campaign finance violations, signaling the years-long probe could be nearing a close. Campaign finance regulators first referred evidence to prosecutors in 2021 that then-state GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, as well as state Sen. Ryan Fattman and Worcester County register of probate Stephanie Fattman, may have violated various campaign finance laws during the 2020 election, including those barring people from disguising the true source of donations.
Axios – Samuel Robinson | Published: 9/8/2023
Michigan Republicans are calling on House Democrats to move on legislation to bring financial disclosure requirements to lawmakers following a media investigation of state Rep. Angela Witwer. She has maintained a close relationship with the consulting firm she founded, The Detroit News found. The firm, Edge Partnerships, has worked with trade associations and agencies like the Michigan Department of Education, whose funding is set by lawmakers, including Witwer in her influential role as House Appropriations Committee chairperson.
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 9/7/2023
A rarely used state ethics panel ruled an appointee to the Michigan Arts and Culture Council violated ethics policy by failing to recuse herself from several votes on grants for organizations she leads. The State Board of Ethics ruled Deborah Mikula violated two sections of the state ethics law related to conflicts-of-interest but did not violate two other provisions when she voted in favor of grants for the Michigan Library Association, where she serves as executive director, and the Cultural Advocacy Network of Michigan, where she once served as president.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 9/11/2023
A state Supreme Court justice ruled that a commission created last year to enforce ethics rules for New York’s employees and elected officials violates the state’s constitution because it is too independent. The ruling was issued in a court battle in which former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has fought against the ethics commission’s efforts to investigate a $5 million deal he received for writing a book about his administration’s handling of the pandemic. The decision is expected to be reviewed by the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.
MSN – Joe Anuta, Jeff Coltin, and Emily Ngo (Politico) | Published: 9/13/2023
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg released a multi-count indictment of former city Department of Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich, accusing him of abusing his position and in his role as a former adviser to Mayor Eric Adams. Ulrich was among seven people charged in the wide-ranging indictment. “We allege that Eric Ulrich accepted or solicited more than $150,000 worth of bribes in less than two years by monetizing each elected and appointed role he held in New York City government,” Bragg said.
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/7/2023
Ohio will use the same congressional districts in 2024 that it used last year, as the state Supreme Court granted the dismissal of two legal challenges to the map the court previously deemed to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits had sought the dismissal of their own cases, saying they do not want voters to be in limbo ahead of the election. They also fear that if the current map is thrown out, Republicans would draw an even more GOP-friendly map than the current one, under which Republicans hold 10 seats and Democrats hold five.
Yahoo News – Haley BeMiller (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 9/8/2023
State Rep. Bob Young announced his resignation from the Ohio House as he faces allegations of domestic violence and violating a restraining order. Young was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and assault in July. He is accused of slapping his wife during a private party at his home following a fundraiser.
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 9/11/2023
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has six employees and a budget of about $820,000 a year, making it one of the smallest and least-funded state agencies. Its executive director is leaving at the end of the year and its online database will go dark during the middle of next year’s campaign season if something is not done soon. Commissioner Jarred Brejcha is confident the panel can handle the flood of money, much of it untraceable, pouring into races at every level. Others, including the exiting executive and a former commissioner, are not nearly as convinced.
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 9/12/2023
Court of Common Pleas Judge Joshua Roberts dismissed a lawsuit filed by the city Board of Ethics that alleged mayoral candidate Jeff Brown illegally coordinated with For a Better Philadelphia, a super PAC. Roberts’ ruling neither rejected any of the facts laid out by the board nor challenged the board’s authority to regulate super PACs, which are allowed to accept unlimited donations but are prohibited from coordinating with campaigns. Instead, the judge focused on a debate over definitions that had been central to the case.
Yahoo News – Bristow Marchant (The State) | Published: 9/8/2023
After years of failure to disclose her financial interests and campaign spending to the state, a former member of Richland County Council has been hit with a nearly $300,000 penalty by the South Carolina Ethics Commission. But commissioners gave former Councilperson Gwendolyn Kennedy a window to avoid paying most of her fine. The commission found Kennedy committed 134 separate violations of state ethics law and campaign disclosure requirements dating to her time on county council from 2016 to 2020. The commission reached its decision after an August 17 hearing, at which the commission order notes Kennedy did not appear.
Yahoo News – Allie Feinberg (Knoxville News Sentinel) | Published: 9/13/2023
The Knox County Ethics Committee is considering a complaint filed against a county commissioner and a well-known developer over whether a property sale violated the ethics code ethics code. Scott Davis of Mesana Investments transferred ownership of a plot of land to Commissioner Kyle Ward, who paid $10 for the land, which the county appraised for more than $50,000 earlier this year. The complaint alleges Ward accepted a gift of over $50,000, which violates the ethics code.
MSN – Robert Garrett and Lauren McGaughey (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 9/13/2023
No matter how his impeachment trial turns out, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s state pension is not in jeopardy. Paxton is among an elite set of elected officials. Even if they are impeached, convicted, and booted from office, state legislators and statewide officeholders such as Paxton retain their pensions. Only judges, who are enrolled in a separate pension fund, lose these retirement benefits if they are impeached and removed.
MSN – Sarah Rankin and Denise Lavoie (Associated Press) | Published: 9/11/2023
A candidate in a high-stakes legislative contest in Virginia had sex with her husband in live videos posted on a pornographic website and asked viewers to pay them money in return for carrying out specific sex acts. Susanna Gibson, who is running for a seat in the House of Delegates in a district just outside Richmond, issued a statement in which it denounced the sharing of the videos as a violation of the law and her privacy. The contest will carry significant weight in determining the balance of power in the Virginia General Assembly.
Virginia Public Media – Ben Paviour | Published: 9/11/2023
Gov. Glenn Youngkin flew on Altria’s private jet to and from an undisclosed location at an unknown time, according to campaign finance records. Neither his campaign committee nor Altria will say who else was on board or give any other details about the trip. It is one of a handful of times Youngkin has benefited from donors who have given him at least $365,000 worth of unspecified “flight services” as part of his political work. Altria is a major player in Virginia politics and the General Assembly.
September 13, 2023 •
Campaign Finance National: “Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions in Illegal Campaign Contributions” by Jake Offenhartz for Associated Press News Massachusetts: “Attorney General in Settlement Negotiations with State GOP, Senator Over Alleged Campaign Finance Violations” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for […]
National: “Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions in Illegal Campaign Contributions” by Jake Offenhartz for Associated Press News
Massachusetts: “Attorney General in Settlement Negotiations with State GOP, Senator Over Alleged Campaign Finance Violations” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for MSN
Virginia: “Youngkin Borrowed Altria’s Jet. No One Will Say Where He Went.” by Ben Paviour for Virginia Public Media
National: “Constitutional Debate Over Trump’s Eligibility to Run More Extensive Than Realized” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
National: “Kevin McCarthy Announces House Will Begin an Impeachment Inquiry into Biden” by Rebecca Kaplan, Summer Concepcion, and Sahil Kapur for NBC News
New York: “Judge Rules N.Y.’s Ethics Commission Is Unconstitutional in Cuomo Case” by Brendan Lyons for Albany Times Union
Ohio: “Rep. Bob Young Resigns from Ohio House as He Faces Domestic Violence Charges” by Haley BeMiller (Akron Beacon Journal) for Yahoo News
Alabama: “Alabama Asks US Supreme Court Again to Intervene in Redistricting Case” by Kim Chandler (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
August 29, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Oklahoma: “Ryan Walters Ordered to Pay Oklahoma Ethics Commission Over Campaign Report Violations” by Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) for MSN Ethics California: “Longtime LA Politician Mark Ridley-Thomas Sentenced to 3 1/2 Years for Bribery” by Hillel Aron for Courthouse News Service National: “A Lawmaker […]
Oklahoma: “Ryan Walters Ordered to Pay Oklahoma Ethics Commission Over Campaign Report Violations” by Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) for MSN
California: “Longtime LA Politician Mark Ridley-Thomas Sentenced to 3 1/2 Years for Bribery” by Hillel Aron for Courthouse News Service
National: “A Lawmaker Hid One Key Fact as He Fought Checks on Gun Shops” by Glen Thrush (New York Times) for DNyuz
National: “Trump Gets March 4 Trial Date in Federal Case Over Efforts to Overturn 2020 Election” by Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Florida: “Florida’s Affordable Housing Board Suspended Its Director. DeSantis Reinstated Him” by Lawrence Mower (Miami Herald) for MSN
Georgia: “Trump’s Top Aide Meadows Testifies at Hearing on Bid to Move Georgia Election Case to Federal Court” by Kate Brumback for Associated Press News
Kansas: “How a Small-Town Feud in Kansas Sent a Shock Through American Journalism” by Jonathan O’Connell, Paul Farhi, and Sofia Andrade (Washington Post) for MSN
Tennessee: “Free Speech or Orderly Business: Judge hears arguments on Tennessee House sign rules” by Angele Latham and Vivian Jones (Tennessean) for MSN
August 25, 2023 •
National/Federal Democratic Group Plans $10 Million Push to Protect Election Officials DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 8/17/2023 A group that works to elect Democrats as the top election officials in states around the country is planning a $10 […]
DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 8/17/2023
A group that works to elect Democrats as the top election officials in states around the country is planning a $10 million venture to pay for private security for election officials of both parties, register new voters, and try to combat disinformation. The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State is starting a tax-exempt organization called Value the Vote that will initially focus on five battleground states: Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 8/22/2023
The federal grand jury in the District of Columbia that helped investigate Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents has ended, special counsel Jack Smith said in a court filing, which laid out new details about how the probe quietly expanded to look at alleged coverup efforts. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are sparring over the use of two grand juries to investigate Trump’s alleged hoarding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his home and private club. Trump is charged with illegally retaining national defense information after leaving the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve the material.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer, and Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2023
Republican presidential contenders targeted each other as much as they did the absent front-runner, Donald Trump, in a combative first debate with a series of clashes reflecting the fierce competition to emerge as the main alternative to the former president. Trump’s decision to skip the event, a choice that highlighted his commanding polling lead, left him without a defense over two hours that marked the official start of the nomination battle. His biggest consolation came when all but one of the candidates onstage raised their hands to signal they would support Trump if he won the nomination and was convicted of a crime in a court of law.
MSN – Kimberly Kindy (Washington Post) | Published: 8/21/2023
In Washington, D.C., the White House and federal lawmakers are pursuing ways to constrain Chinese-owned businesses like TikTok amid a bipartisan push to limit China’s reach. Now state legislators have embraced a novel, locally focused tactic aimed at China’s domestic investments: restrictions on Chinese land ownership. Lawmakers in 33 states have introduced bills this year that would prohibit the Chinese government, some China-based businesses, and many Chinese citizens from buying agricultural land or property near military bases.
OpenSecrets – Maia Cook | Published: 8/18/2023
Super PACs, now a staple in modern presidential campaigns, are already gearing up to spend unlimited sums to support and oppose candidates for the 2024 election and many of those groups have a cozy relationship with the candidates they support. This might raise eyebrows to people that remember Citizens United, which stated any coordination between a campaign committee and an outside group backing their campaign – including PACs, corporations, nonprofits, and unions – is illegal.
Stateline – Matt Vasilogambros | Published: 8/21/2023
Over the past decade, ranked choice voting has become increasingly popular. From conservative Utah to liberal New York City, 13 million American voters in 51 jurisdictions now use the system, under which voters rank candidates based on preference, leading to an instant runoff in a crowded race. This year, Democrats and Republicans in power pushed back. Arguing that ranked choice voting is too complicated for voters to understand, Democrats in the District of Columbia and Republicans in states such as Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota took steps to prevent adoption of the voting system.
Yahoo News – Jonathan Swan, Alan Feuer, Luke Broadwater, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 8/22/2023
After receiving a subpoena from a grand jury investigating former President Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, Mark Meadows started a delicate dance with federal prosecutors. He had no choice but to testify eventually. Yet Meadows –Trump’s final White House chief of staff – initially declined to answer certain questions, sticking to his former boss’s position they were shielded by executive privilege. But when prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith challenged Trump’s executive privilege claims before a judge, Meadows pivoted.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama Daily News – Mary Sell | Published: 8/20/2023
The Alabama House Ethics Committee will begin discussing possible changes to the state’s multiple ethics laws that apply to elected officials, government employees, and lobbyists. The committee will first review a 2019 report from the Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission, a group created by the Legislature to propose changes to existing ethics laws.
CalMatters – Sameea Kamal | Published: 8/23/2023
State boards are backing a bill to continue the exemptions from California’s open meetings law. An unusual coalition of good government, press, taxpayer, and industry groups is fighting back. Senate Bill 544 seeks to remove requirements to post all teleconference locations, post agendas at each location, and make those locations accessible to the public. The bill’s opponents – a rare coalition of good government, press, taxpayer. and industry groups – say Californians should be able to address their government officials in person.
MSN – Dakota Smith and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/23/2023
When the city council voted down a proposed appointment to the city Ethics Commission, it all happened quickly and quietly. No one on the council offered a reason for the swift, and some say brutal, unanimous vote rejecting Jamie York. But after days of complaints from York’s allies and neighborhood council leaders, the explanations have come tumbling out.
MSN – Adam Elmahrek, Nathan Fenno, and Gabriel San Román (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/16/2023
Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu agreed to plead guilty to four criminal charges, capping a years-long investigation into alleged corruption that led to his resignation and scuttled the city’s $320 million sale of Angel Stadium. The charges against Sidhu include lying to FBI agents about not expecting to receive anything from the Angels when the transaction closed – secret recordings captured him saying he hoped to secure a $1-million campaign contribution – and destroying an email in which he provided confidential information about the city’s negotiations to a team consultant.
MSN – Alfred Ng (Politico) | Published: 8/18/2023
One of the world’s largest advertising firms is crafting a campaign to thwart a California bill intended to enhance people’s control over the data that companies collect on them. Records show Interpublic Group emails reveal how an advertising company could use that same personal data and targeting capabilities to undermine a public policy proposal that threatens its bottom line.
Yahoo News – Stephanie Zappelli (San Louis Obispo Tribune) | Published: 8/19/2023
California Assemblyperson Dawn Addis was fined for accepting a campaign contribution from a lobbyist. When Addis ran for the Assembly in 2019, her campaign accepted a $250 donation from lobbyist Steve Black. The Political Reform Act bans lobbyists from donating to candidates running for office, and candidates from accepting such contributions. Both Addis and Black said they were unaware of the ban.
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlik | Published: 8/23/2023
A trial judge threw out a lawsuit from the Colorado Union of Taxpayers over the state’s rules for advocating on ballot initiatives after finding the conservative advocacy group had not shown the government was likely to take enforcement action against it for failing to comply with the transparency regulations. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled the group had a reasonable fear of drawing a complaint about its spending without registering, and, therefore, had the ability to sue over the campaign finance law.
District of Columbia – D.C. Attorney General Is Probing Leonard Leo’s Network
MSN – Heidi Przybyla (Politico) | Published: 8/22/2023
District of Columbia Attorney General Brian Schwalb is investigating judicial activist Leonard Leo and his network of nonprofit groups. The scope of the probe+ is unclear. But it comes after it was reported that one of Leo’s nonprofits paid his for-profit company tens of millions of dollars in the two years since he joined the company. A complaint was filed with the attorney general and the IRS requesting a probe into what services were provided and whether Leo was in violation of laws against using charities for personal enrichment.
MSN – Skyler Swisher (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 8/22/2023
Glen Gilzean resigned as chairperson of the Florida Commission on Ethics so he can keep his $400,000-a-year job leading Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Disney World oversight district. In his resignation letter, Gilzean wrote he was unaware of a potential conflict-of-interest under state law until media reports flagged it.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/20/2023
Fundraisers for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hoped some lobbyists in the state would raise at least $1 million each for his PAC, the state, and the Republican Governors Association, according to a document from his primary fundraiser. The document suggested lobbyists be allowed to offer their clients perks, such as meals and rounds of golf with DeSantis. While it is common for politicians to seek donations from lobbyists, the efforts by DeSantis to effectively auction off his leisure time to those seeking to influence state policy created a special pathway of access for donors that is striking in the way it was documented in writing, ethics experts said.
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/15/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to dismantle a congressional district formerly held by a Black Democrat could be reversed according to a surprise agreement between lawyers for the state and civil rights groups challenging Florida’s map. Under the agreement the plaintiffs will drop their legal challenges to congressional districts in Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area, and focus arguments on the North Florida district they say violates state and federal voting rights protections for Black voters.
Yahoo News – Sarah Blaskey and Joey Flechas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/22/2023
The Florida Commission on Ethics is reviewing a complaint over Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s attendance at exclusive, high-priced sporting events since the start of 2022. The complaint asks ethics officials to investigate Suarez’s VIP access to various events, including the Miami Formula One race in May 2023, and whether somebody else paid. Suarez, who was invited along with his wife to this year’s race by a billionaire with business before the city, says he reimbursed the businessperson. He did not provide proof. If he did repay in full, the tickets would not be a gift and he would not have to disclose them.
MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/21/2023
A judge approved a $200,000 bond for former President Trump, who is expected to surrender on charges he and 18 allies illegally conspired to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia. The consent bond order sets strict rules for Trump’s release. He is not allowed to communicate with witnesses or co-defendants about the case, except through his lawyers, and he is barred from intimidating witnesses or co-defendants.
WBEZ – Tessa Weinberg | Published: 8/16/2023
As the Chicago City Council enters its 100th year under its modern form, some aldermen, good government advocates, and political science experts say despite incremental progress, the council still has institutional inertia to overcome before it can operate independently from the historical grip the mayor’s office has held. Proposals include altering the council’s structure, more robustly staffing fiscal and legislative agencies, and a wholesale reset on Chicago’s municipal governance by codifying reforms in a city charter.
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 4/19/2023
Newly unsealed court records provide insight into how law enforcement justified an unusual raid of the office of a Marion, Kansas, newspaper, a decision that has drawn widespread condemnation from news organizations and press freedom advocates. The Marion County Sheriff’s office said it was investigating “identity theft” and “unlawful acts concerning computers” when it searched the offices of the Marion County Record, the home of the paper’s publisher Eric Meyer, and the home of a local city council member – seizing computers, cell phones, and other materials, according to search warrant affidavits.
Louisville Public Media – Roberto Roldan | Published: 8/20/2023
Metro Councilperson Anthony Piagentini was an early supporter of a plan by the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council to train hundreds of entry-level workers and build an “innovation corridor” in the city. But when the $40 million project came up for a final vote in December, Piagentini abstained and removed himself as a co-sponsor without explanation. It was later found he took a job with the Healthcare CEO Council one day after the metro council approved funding. Piagentini faces an ethics board hearing in the case.
Baltimore Brew – Mark Reutter | Published: 8/23/2023
Baltimore Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy issued an unusual memorandum recently. Titled “Attempted Bribes,” it informed her staff that “City of Baltimore employees are not permitted to accept bribes.” Kennedy listed the processing of permits, performing building inspections, issuing housing code violations, and acquiring and disposing of property as potential interactions where bribes could take place. Her memo came on the heels of an alert by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming, which found building inspectors were not sure what to do when they were offered cash or gift cards.
MSN – Lia Russell (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 8/16/2023
In the three years since its inception, Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan’s office has gone from three people toiling in a small windowless room to doubling its staff size and budget. That was the main message of its annual report, summarizing what Madigan’s office has accomplished during the previous fiscal year. The office is charged with rooting out fraud, misconduct, and waste within county government.
WXYZ – Staff | Published: 8/22/2023
The former mayor of Taylor, Michigan, is facing years in prison after entering into a plea agreement in a federal corruption case. Sollars admitted to bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds by accepting things of value to influence and reward business transactions related to the city’s Right of Refusal program. The indictment said Sollars accepted over $30,000 in renovations to his home, more than $12,000 worth of household appliances and cabinets, cash, and other items to give a company city business.
Omaha World-Herald – Lauren Wagner and Molly Ashford | Published: 8/23/2023
A federal judge rejected a third attempt by former Omaha City Councilperson Vincent Palermo to be released from custody. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart said there was no reason to allow Palermo to be released after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge recently. She also had concerns about Palermo obstructing justice if released. Palermo admitted to conspiring with his co-defendants to deprive the citizens of Omaha of honest representation by their city council member.
MSN – Matt Arco, Brent Johnson, and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/21/2023
Two longtime advisers to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, including one who is poised to run for the state Assembly in the fall, were once the subject of a federal subpoena seeking records related to them and their consulting and lobbying firms. In the subpoena, federal prosecutors requested the recipient to present emails and documents to or from Brendan Gill, his public affairs consulting firm, The BGill Group, and the lobbying firm he is affiliated with, Public Strategies Impact. The subpoena, issued in February 2020, also sought similar documents and emails to and from Adam Alonso, Murphy’s former deputy chief of staff.
New Jersey – Democrat Challenging Testa Is Ghosting the Campaign
Press of Atlantic City – Bill Barlow | Published: 8/23/2023
Charles Laspata filed petitions in the spring to challenge incumbent New Jersey Sen. Michael Testa, It does not appear that Laspata has done much about the campaign since then. Democratic leaders in Cape May and Cumberland counties say they have not heard from Laspata, and attempts to contact him through email, social media, and by phone have been unsuccessful. The website of the Election Law Enforcement Commission does not show any of Lasopata’s required campaign finance forms have been filed for the primary election.
Yahoo News – Colleen Heild (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 8/17/2023
Some provisions of a New Mexico campaign finance law limiting the amount of money state political parties can give are unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled. The court enjoined the state from enforcing its $11,000 limit on contributions from state political parties to gubernatorial candidates or candidate committees; its $5,500 limit per election cycle for all other candidates; and the state’s $5,500 cap from state political parties to county parties. The judge upheld a $27,500 cutoff on donations from individuals and entities to state political parties.
North Carolina – N.C. Republican Bill Limits Mail Voting, Private Election Funding
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 8/17/2023
Republicans in North Carolina passed election administration legislation that curtails absentee voting, empowers partisan poll watchers, and restricts private funding for elections. Voting rights advocates and Democrats have warned the measure, which passed both chambers in the Legislature along party lines, erodes access to the ballot in the battleground state. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to veto the legislation, but Republicans can overturn his decision because they have veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers.
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 8/23/2023
With funding of critical concern, trouble appears to be on the horizon for Oklahoma’s electronic campaign filing system. In a letter to lawmakers and Gov. Kevin Stitt, outgoing state Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said the system needs an upgrade or replacement. She suggested that going back to paper filings would be an option.
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 8/21/2023
A nonprofit led by Orego’s public employee unions filed two ballot measure proposals that contain an end-run strategy aimed at defeating a proposal that campaign finance reformers have been working to qualify for the ballot to cap contributions and shed light on “dark money.” The two measures that Our Oregon filed to get on the ballot in 2024 would similarly limit the size of donations, but they would allow unions, business associations, and other membership organizations to continue sending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to candidates.
WTAJ – Rebecca Parsons | Published: 8/23/2023
A new bill in Pennsylvania aims to increase transparency in elections by requiring campaigns and campaign organizations to itemize reimbursements on campaign finance reports. “… Donors give to campaigns with the expectation that their funds are going to be used for legitimate campaign expenditures and they deserve to know specifically how that money is being spent …,” said Rep. Jamie Barton, the bill’s sponsor.
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 8/23/2023
Rhode Island’s First Congressional District race has delved into matters of climate change, defense spending, and education, but a less familiar issue is emerging as the campaign enters its final two weeks: “red-boxing.” Lt .Gov. Sabina Matos, one of 12 Democrats in the race, has accused rival Aaron Regunberg of lying about publishing information on his campaign website that she claims was aimed at helping a super PAC boost his candidacy. Regunberg in turn has accused Matos and other candidates of posting information intended for super PACs backing their campaigns.
Charleston Post and Courier – Skylar Laird | Published: 8/17/2023
Former Richland County Councilperson Gwen Kennedy used her county taxpayer money to buy groceries, as well as “double dip” on travel expenses, and buy gas multiple times on the same day, a South Carolina Ethics Commission attorney said. Kennedy also misused campaign funds while running for county council, failed to file a number of required disclosures, and violated several other state ethics laws, commission General Counsel Courtney Laster said.
MSN – Annie Todd (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 8/17/2023
State Sen. Jessica Castleberry announced her resignation after an investigation found she violated the South Dakota State Constitution by accepting federal funds for her small business. Castleberry will be required to repay the state $499,129 with interest after she accepted COVID-19 stimulus funds for her daycare. Attorney General Marty Jackley said none of the money was spent inappropriately and went toward Department of Social Services-approved expenditures. He did not say why it took three years for someone to notice the expenditures.
MSN – Lauren McGaughy (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 8/18/2023
Thousands of pages of newly released documents purport to reveal the depth of the relationship between Ken Paxton and Nate Paul, the real estate developer at the center of the Texas attorney general’s impeachment case. The evidence goes to the heart of the impeachment allegations, that Paxton used his power to help Paul thwart a federal investigation into his business, which had been raided by the FBI in 2019, and Paul bribed Paxton by funding a home remodel and giving a job to a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair.
Seatte Times – Bob Brunner | Published: 8/19/2023
After months of resistance, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson disclosed the donors behind more than $1.2 million in surplus campaign funds from past years he shifted to his 2024 gubernatorial bid. Ferguson pumped the cash into his campaign in April and May, getting ahead of a state Public Disclosure Commission vote that aimed to close the loophole allowing such anonymous transfers, which critics said violate the spirit of campaign finance laws.
MSN – Scott Bauer (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 8/23/2023
Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature asked that the newest Democratic-backed justice on the state Supreme Court recuse herself from lawsuits seeking to overturn GOP-drawn electoral maps, arguing she has prejudged the cases. Republicans argue in motions filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court that Justice Janet Protasiewicz cannot fairly hear the cases because during her campaign for the seat she called the Republican-drawn maps “unfair” and “rigged” and said there needs to be “a fresh look at the gerrymandering question.”
August 24, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Colorado: “10th Circuit Reinstates Challenge to Colorado’s Regulations on Ballot Issue Advocacy Groups” by Michael Karlik for Colorado Politics Rhode Island: “What Is ‘Red-Boxing’ and Why Is it an Issue in R.I.’s Congressional Race?” by Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) for MSN Elections […]
Colorado: “10th Circuit Reinstates Challenge to Colorado’s Regulations on Ballot Issue Advocacy Groups” by Michael Karlik for Colorado Politics
Rhode Island: “What Is ‘Red-Boxing’ and Why Is it an Issue in R.I.’s Congressional Race?” by Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) for MSN
National: “As Ranked Choice Voting Gains Momentum, Parties in Power Push Back” by Matt Vasilogambros for Stateline
National: “Republican Rivals Clash Sharply in Combative Debate with No Trump” by Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer, and Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Amid Outcry, L.A. City Council Defends Rejection of Ethics Nominee” by Dakota Smith and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
National: “Special Counsel Says D.C. Grand Jury on Trump Documents Case Has Ended” by Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “DeSantis’ Disney Chief Glen Gilzean Resigns from Ethics Commission” by Skyler Swisher (Orlando Sentinel) for MSN
Michigan: “Former Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars Enters Plea Agreement in Federal Corruption Case” by Staff for WXYZ
California: “California Boards Want to Keep Pandemic Rules for Public Meetings. Critics Call It Bad for Democracy” by Sameea Kamal for CalMatters
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