August 6, 2021 •
National/Federal $5,800 Bottle of Whiskey, a Gift from Japan to Pompeo, Is Missing, U.S. Says Seattle Times – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 8/4/2021 The State Department is investigating the whereabouts of a $5,800 bottle of whiskey the Japanese […]
$5,800 Bottle of Whiskey, a Gift from Japan to Pompeo, Is Missing, U.S. Says
Seattle Times – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 8/4/2021
The State Department is investigating the whereabouts of a $5,800 bottle of whiskey the Japanese government gave to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2019. It was unclear whether Pompeo ever received the gift, as he was traveling in Saudi Arabia on the day Japanese officials gave it to the State Department. American officials can keep gifts that are less than $390. But if the officials want to keep gifts that are over that price, they must purchase them.
CNN’s Cuomo Conundrum: A star anchor with a brother in trouble
Yahoo News – Michael Grynbaum (New York Times) | Published: 8/4/2021
Earlier this year, CNN executives told Chris Cuomo that if he wanted to formally advise his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on responding to the sexual harassment accusations, he could take a temporary leave from CNN and return to later. The idea was optional and intended as an acknowledgment of Chris Cuomo’s unique position as both a prime-time network anchor and the brother of a prominent politician facing a scandal. It underlines the conundrum for a network whose top-rated anchor belongs to one of the country’s most powerful families, and the lengths that CNN has gone to accommodate Chris Cuomo, even as he had to apologize for participating in strategy sessions with Gov. Cuomo’s aides.
Facebook Boots NYU Disinformation Researchers Off Its Platform and Critics Cry Foul
NPR – Shannon Bond | Published: 8/4/2021
Facebook blocked a team of New York University researchers studying political ads and COVID misinformation from accessing its site, a move critics say is meant to silence research that makes the company look bad. The researchers at the NYU Ad Observatory launched a tool last year to collect data about the political ads people see on Facebook. Around 16,000 people have installed the browser extension. It enables them to share data on which ads they are shown and why those ads were targeted at them with the researchers. Facebook says the browser extension violates its privacy rules because it collects information about advertisers.
Federal Election Commission Fines Sen. Rand Paul’s Presidential PAC Over Contributions
USA Today – Morgan Watkins (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 7/29/2021
The FEC fined U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign committee $21,000 for how it handled certain financial contributions. The investigation concerned a PAC called the Freedom for All Americans, which used to be known as Rand Paul for President Inc. and was his principal campaign committee during his presidential run in 2015 and 2016. The FEC said the committee failed to either refund $165,749 in contributions for the 2016 presidential election or redesignate them for use in a different election within 60 days after Donald Trump won the Republican nomination.
His Campaign Is Over. But Trump’s Political Groups Are Still Spending Donor Money at His Properties.
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2021
Save America, the leadership PAC where former President Trump is asking loyalists to direct their political contributions, paid for lodging about two dozen times in the first six months of 2021. Nine of those times, the payments went to properties owned by the former president. All told, the PAC sent at least $68,000 to the Trump Hotel Collection, showing how the real estate mogul, long after ending his presidential campaign and leaving office, continues to use donor money at his own properties.
Judge Sanctions Lawyers for Bringing 2020 Election Conspiracy Lawsuit
Yahoo News – Maeve Sheehey (Politico) | Published: 8/4/2021
A federal judge sanctioned lawyers who filed suit against Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook, and others, claiming conspiracy in the 2020 presidential election. Originally, plaintiffs sued on behalf of all registered American voters and said the 2020 election involved a conspiracy between governors, secretaries of state, election officials, Dominion, Facebook, and more. U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Colorado N. Reid Neureiter wrote, “The Complaint is one enormous conspiracy theory.”
Prospect of Massive Economic Packages Unleashes Lobbying Bonanza in Washington
MSN – Tony Romm and Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) | Published: 8/4/2021
Nearly 2,000 companies and organizations have lobbied Congress and the Biden administration this year to influence major new infrastructure spending, an effort that is sure to intensify now that the Senate is hoping to vote within days on their version of the $1 trillion public-works package. The proposal, along with a still-forming second economic package valued at $3.5 trillion, carries high stakes for corporations that have long pined for infrastructure improvements and other federal spending that would be beneficial to their bottom lines.
The Justice Department Puts States on Notice About Election Audits and Voting Changes
National Public Radio – Carrie Johnson | Published: 7/28/2021
The U.S. Justice Department is putting states on notice about their obligations under federal law as Republican-led efforts to conduct reviews of the 2020 election intensify. Federal authorities issued a pair of new guidance documents to states and voters to remind them of their responsibilities and their rights. The moves are part of the Biden administration’s push to demonstrate it is on guard amid new voting restrictions proposed and enacted by GOP-led states across the nation, and as Democratic-led federal voting legislation has stalled.
Trump to Acting AG, According to Aide’s Notes: ‘Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me’
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/30/2021
Then-President Trump pressed top Justice Department officials last year to declare the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud so he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to overturn the results. Former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue’s notes show the degree to which the president was personally involved in such efforts and the ways in which Justice Department officials walked a tightrope of listening to him while not taking any concrete actions they considered unethical or partisan. The notes also say Trump suggested to then-Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen that he might be replaced.
Trump’s Tax Returns Can Be Released to Congress, DOJ Tells IRS
MSN – David Yaffe-Bellamy and Laura Davison (Bloomberg) | Published: 7/30/2021
The Department of Justice directed the Treasury Department to hand over former President Trump’s tax returns to Congress, a move that means six years of Trump’s personal and business financial information could become public. The move marks the latest and perhaps one of the final salvos in the years-long political standoff between Trump and Democratic leaders in Washington and New York over access to the returns. The Ways and Means Committee, which is controlled by Democrats, can choose to publish a report about Trump’s income and tax information based on the IRS returns, effectively making his tax returns public.
What the Latest Numbers Show on Hill Staff Diversity
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 7/28/2021
A few recent reports on staff diversity highlight the enduring challenge of making the top tier of federal government employees look like the nation they serve. While some progress has been made, staffers on Capitol Hill continue to be whiter than the rest of America, despite ongoing pledges and programs from Democrats to diversify. Republicans have not made similar commitments. “The essence of democracy is representation, and race is connected to representation,” said Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies President Spencer Overton.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Court Nixes Some Caps for Alaska Campaign Contributions
MSN – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 7/31/2021
A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned three of Alaska’s main limits on campaign contributions. The ruling overturned a $500 per-year cap on the amount of money an Alaskan can contribute to a particular candidate; a $500 per-year limit on contributions to a particular political group; and a $3,000 cap on the amount a candidate can accept from all out-of-state donors combined in a year. The panel upheld a $5,000 limit on the amount a political party can give to a candidate.
Arizona – Arizona Lawmakers Invest More in Private Prisons After Record-High Campaign Contributions
MSN – Jimmy Jenkins (WJZZ), Joseph Darius Jaafari and Justin Price (Arizona Republic) | Published: 7/29/2021
Lobbyists often spend money to entertain lawmakers to get them to vote in their clients’ interests and politicians welcome the meetings. But the closure of Arizona’s states prison in Florence represented a unique opportunity for private prison groups, whose spending on campaign contributions and lobbying in the state reached record levels over the past two years. The direct access to legislators has some lawmakers and prison reformers arguing the state is getting a bad deal on private prison contracts, as a direct result of money flowing from private prison groups into lawmakers’ coffers.
Arizona – Republican-Led Arizona Ballot Review Grinds to Rocky Conclusion, with Results Expected Next Month
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/29/2021
The Arizona Senate returned nearly 2.1 million ballots to the control of the state’s largest county as the GOP-led recount of votes cast in the 2020 presidential election drew to a rocky close, marked by upheaval that is likely to further undermine public confidence in its conclusions, set to be announced in August. The tumult provided a capstone to a widely criticized review of the 2020 election that has been decried by election experts and Maricopa County officials and has deeply divided Arizona Republicans.
California – A Lobbyist’s Secret Gift to a Councilwoman Prompts El Monte to Consider New Ethics Rules
MSN – Adam Elmahrek (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/2/2021
Calling for reforms in government accountability, the El Monte City Council launched an effort to create an ethics commission that would sanction city officials who violate rules on accepting expensive gifts and other conflicts-of-interest. The action followed a Los Angeles Times article that detailed how Councilperson Victoria Martinez Muela accepted financial assistance from a lobbyist to help pay for her breast augmentation surgery. The lobbyist, Sigrid Lopez, said in a sworn declaration that she paid $1,100 to a cosmetic surgeon in 2016 to help cover the cost of the procedure.
California – Recall Money Wars: What do Newsom’s million-dollar donors want?
CalMatters – Ben Christopher | Published: 7/28/2021
The main committee tasked with defending California Gov. Gavin Newsom against the September 14 recall has raised some $39 million. Another allied committee and Newsom’s own 2022 campaign account, which state law allows him to draw upon this year, add another $4 million. That is more than double all the cash raised by the committees campaigning for his ouster and the 46 candidates vying to replace him, combined. It also represents the generosity, or perhaps the strategic expenditure, of a broad coalition of some unlikely allies.
California – San Francisco’s Mayor Agrees to $23K Fine for Ethics Breach
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 8/3/2021
San Francisco Mayor London Breed agreed to pay nearly $23,000 in a fine to the city for a series of ethics violations while in office, including asking a former governor to release her brother from prison and allowing a former head of public works embroiled in a corruption scandal to pay her car repair bill. The proposed agreement from the city’s Ethics Commission also fines Breed for failing to properly report a 2015 campaign contribution while running for reelection to the Board of Supervisors.
Colorado – Aurora Lobbyist Registration Law Takes Effect; No Penalties Until 2022
Sentinel Colorado – Kara Mason | Published: 8/2/2021
As of August 1, people or organizations that are lobbying in the city of Aurora must register with the clerk’s office. Lobbyists will have to disclose their activities in public reports and submit a quarterly financial report with the city clerk. The first reports are due October 15.
Connecticut – Connecticut Drawn into Fight Over Conservative ALEC’s Tax-Exempt Status
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 7/29/2021
Connecticut is one of 15 states where campaign finance complaints were filed against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), alleging the conservative nonprofit was illegally distributing software to Republican lawmakers. Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy allege ALEC made unreported in-kind contributions to its members in 2020 by giving away campaign software worth $3,000 a copy, violating state and federal campaign laws. The voter-management software compiles and collates voter history and information and helps the coordination of campaign efforts. Many campaigns use such software.
Florida – Key Figures in ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scandal Had Business Relationship, Records Show
MSN – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 7/30/2021
Frank Artiles, the former Republican lawmaker accused of bribing a spoiler candidate to run in an important state Senate election, had a business relationship with the political consultant behind an advertising campaign that boosted that candidate and similar ones in two other races. Records show Artiles was working as a $5,000-a-month contractor for Let’s Preserve the American Dream, a nonprofit with ties to the business-lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida. The records also show the person Artiles reported to at the nonprofit was Alex Alvarado, the strategist who ran two political committees that spent $550,000 last year promoting mysterious independent candidates who appeared on the ballot in three key races.
Florida – Miami Beach Candidate Asks Voters to Donate to Her Campaign. And Eat at Her Restaurant
MSN – Martin Vassolo (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/30/2021
It is standard practice for candidates to ask for votes or money in campaign emails. But Miami Beach Commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez raised a few eyebrows when she asked voters to donate to her campaign – and visit her new restaurant, too. It is the latest instance of Rosen Gonzalez skirting conventions in what has at times been a controversial political career.
Idaho – Idaho House Ethics Committee Denounces an Absent Rep. Giddings, Recommends Punishment
Yahoo News – Hayat Norimine (Idaho Statesman) | Published: 8/3/2021
An Idaho House ethics committee unanimously voted to censure state Rep. Priscilla Giddings and remove her from a committee that oversees state employees. A complaint alleged Giddings defamed a 19-year-old who accused a former House Republican of sexual assault by sharing an article from a far-right website that identified her. The complaint also said she misrepresented her actions to the ethics committee while under oath. Committee members said Giddings exhibited a pattern of dishonesty and disrespect to her colleagues in her testimony. But her actions didn’t rise to the level of expulsion, Republican committee members said.
Illinois – Ex-Illinois Governor Blagojevich, Granted Clemency by Trump, Sues for Right to Seek Elected Office Again
MSN – Andrew Jeong (Washington Post) | Published: 8/3/2021
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich sued the state, demanding that his right to run for state and local elected office, which was yanked by the Illinois Legislature in 2009, be restored. Blagojevich was convicted of 18 felony counts of corruption in 2011, although several were later dismissed by an appeals court. Federal prosecutors had accused Blagojevich of corruption and campaign finance violations, including seeking contributions in return for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama after his election to the White House in 2008.
Maine – State Ethics Panel Launches Probe into Company That Donated to Democrats
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 7/30/2021
The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices voted to launch an investigation into a now-defunct Portland company that donated $150,000 to the Maine Democratic Party in 2018. Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne said the creation of Alpine Initiatives LLC four days before it made the large donation was suspicious given there is no public evidence the company conducted any other business before it was dissolved just 14 months later in 2019.
Michigan – Donor Bernstein Funds Whitmer’s Recall Fight That Brother Could Rule On
Yahoo News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 7/30/2021
The family connection between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s top donor, lawyer Mark Bernstein, and his brother, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, is drawing new scrutiny amid a legal fight over recall efforts. Attorneys for the governor asked the state Supreme Court to consider their case against a series of recall petitions that have been approved by the Board of State Canvassers. Twelve days later, Mark Bernstein gave Whitmer’s campaign $250,000. Under the Whitmer campaign’s interpretation, because Mark Bernstein had already given her a maximum contribution of $7,150 for the 2022 election, all $250,000 would have to go toward fighting the recalls.
Missouri – Anti-Mask Protesters Swarmed a St. Louis County Council Meeting. Then, an Attendee Tested Positive for Covid.
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/2/2021
Because of the increasing number of hospitalizations and the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, officials in St. Louis instituted a policy requiring masks be worn inside public places and on public transit. But the return to mask-wearing stoked the ire of many people who opposed the restrictions, including at a raucous county council meeting. Now, public health officials announced at least one person has tested positive for the coronavirus and may have exposed others who attended the meeting.
Missouri – Just Before Parson Vetoed Missouri Emissions Bill, Staffer’s Spouse Hired by Testing Company
Yahoo News – Allison Kite (Missouri Independent) | Published: 8/3/2021
Three weeks before Missouri Gov. Mike Parson vetoed legislation that would have undermined a federally mandated vehicle emissions testing program, the spouse of his policy director registered as a lobbyist for the lone state contractor providing those tests. Parson cited as justification a threat from the Environmental Protection Agency to impose sanctions if Missouri removed three counties from the program. But the registration of Jay Hahn, a lobbyist married to Parson’s policy director, Kayla Hahn, has raised questions about the process and whether the arrangement ran afoul of conflict-of-interest laws.
Missouri – Missouri Governor Pardons Gun-Waving St. Louis Lawyer Couple
Yahoo News – Jim Salter (Associated Press) | Published: 8/3/2021
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced he made good on his promise to pardon a couple who gained notoriety for pointing guns at social justice demonstrators as they marched past the couple’s home in a luxury St. Louis enclave last year. Parson pardoned Mark McCloskey, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and was fined $750, and Patricia McCloskey, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was fined $2,000. Photos and cellphone video captured the confrontation, which drew widespread attention and made the couple heroes to some and villains to others.
Nebraska – Nebraska Legislative Races Keep Breaking Spending Records, and There’s No End in Sight
Lincoln Journal Star – Martha Stoddard (Omaha World-Herald) | Published: 7/30/2021
Running for state Legislature got a lot more expensive in Nebraska last year. Candidates in the 2020 general election shattered records set just two years earlier, with average spending 30 percent higher than in 2018 and the top-spending campaign nearing the $500,000 mark. Neither lawmakers nor campaign observers expect the trend to slow down anytime soon. Legislative campaign spending has been rising since 2012, when the Nebraska Supreme Court tossed out the state’s Campaign Finance Limitation Act, which had used incentives to encourage candidates to abide by voluntary spending limits.
New Mexico – Court Upholds Santa Fe Regulations on Campaign Disclosure
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 8/4/2021
A federal appeals court rejected efforts by a libertarian-leaning group in New Mexico to shield future financial contributions from public disclosure in defiance of requirement enacted by the city of Santa Fe. The 10th District Court of Appeals rejected a request by the Rio Grande Foundation to invalidate city campaign finance provisions as unconstitutional. The foundation complied with a city order and disclosed two relatively minor donations of $7,700. Later it sought to invalidate the regulations, citing a “chilling effect” on political contributions free speech.
New York – AG: Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, broke state and federal law
MSN – Anna Gromwold and Shannon Young (Washington Post) | Published: 8/3/2021
Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees, creating a hostile work environment for women in violation of state and federal law, New York Attorney General Letitia James said. In a new report, investigators laid out a devastating portrait of behavior by the governor, substantiating an allegation that Cuomo embraced an executive assistant and reached under her blouse to grab her breast. Witnesses also described an environment in the governor’s office that was abusive and vindictive, with one of the women who came forward targeted for retaliation through the release of her personnel file, investigators said.
New York – County Approves Bill to Let Police Sue Anyone Who Harasses Them. Activists Cry Foul.
MSN – Pauline Villegas (Washington Post) | Published: 8/2/2021
Nassau County lawmakers passed a bill that allows first responders to sue any person who harasses, attacks, or injures them while they are in uniform. Proponents argue the bill offers additional protections to officers in the face of “destructive riots and lawlessness” targeting law enforcement officials following George Floyd’s death in police custody. Its critics say the legislation comes as “retaliation” for Black Lives Matter protests against police abuses and warn it could suppress First Amendment rights.
Ohio – How Did Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson’s Corruption Schemes Go Unnoticed for So Long?
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/4/2021
Cleveland City Councilperson Kenneth Johnson was convicted recently on 15 corruption-related charges. He faces up to 10 years in prison for stealing from council coffers, underpaying his taxes, and steering government money to keep three relatives on the payroll of a community development corporation he helped fund as a council member. For nearly nine years, Johnson filled out monthly expense reports that earned him $127,200 without hearing a single request to look at where that money was going. From City Hall to state officials who audited the city’s books, Johnson went overlooked. U.S District Court Judge John Adams admitted during the trial the investigation into Johnson stemmed from stories in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Ohio – JobsOhio $21 Million PPE Contract Prompts Political Consultant’s Lawsuit Over Finder’s Fee
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/29/2021
A company’s $21 million contract to provide JobsOhio with masks and other personal protective equipment is the subject of an ongoing Cuyahoga County lawsuit filed by a local political consultant who says he is owed a cut of the deal. Bobby Ina says RB Sigma has failed to pay him a 15 percent fee on the contract, which the consultant said he helped arrange during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. But the company says it does not owe anything since state law bars anyone from getting paid a percentage of a state contract they lobbied on, so the contract is illegal.
Ohio – Mayoral Hopeful State Sen. Sandra Williams Identified by Pseudonym in FirstEnergy Deferred Prosecution Agreement
MSN – Seth Richardson (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/30/2021
The ongoing federal corruption investigation into House Bill 6 has found its way to the Cleveland mayoral race, with one hopeful, Ohio Sen. Sandra Williams, being referred to anonymously in the deferred prosecution agreement between FirstEnergy and the U.S. Justice Department. Williams, who was the lone Senate Democratic co-sponsor the bill when it passed in 2019, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. In an interview, Williams said all her actions on House Bill 6 were legal and within the scope of her job as a state legislator.
Ohio – Shontel Brown Tops Progressive Favorite Nina Turner in Ohio’s 11th District Primary
MSN – Stephanie Akin (Roll Call) | Published: 8/3/2021
Shontel Brown, chairperson of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party in Ohio, defeated progressive favorite Nina Turner for her party’s nomination in the special election for the state’s 11th Congressional District. The win makes Brown the favorite in November for the deep-blue seat that Marcia Fudge vacated to become Housing and Urban Development secretary. The primary split the party’s establishment and progressive wings. Along with attracting heavy spending by outside groups and significant grassroots funding, the race drew high-profile figures to the district in the days before the election.
Ohio – Trump-Backed Lobbyist Mike Carey Wins Primary in Ohio’s 15th District
MSN – Stephanie Akin (Roll Call) | Published: 8/3/2021
Mike Carey, a relatively unknown coal lobbyist endorsed by former President Trump, won a crowded Republican primary in the special election for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District, making him the heavy favorite to succeed former U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers in November. Carey’s win came as vindication for Trump after Republican Jake Ellzey defeated the candidate Trump backed in a Texas special election, raising questions about the former president’s ability to recognize winning candidates and the power of his endorsement in the 2022 midterms.
Texas – Energy Industry Showers Gov. Greg Abbott, Other Texas Politicians with Campaign Cash after They Passed Power Grid Bills
Texas Tribune – Mitchell Furman and Carla Astudillo | Published: 8/4/2021
Fixing Texas’ power grid was about the only thing Republicans and Democrats seemed to agree on earlier this year. Millions of Texans endured a week of subfreezing temperatures with no power demanded improvements to prevent another disaster. But by the end of the legislative session, if top power companies were aggrieved by any of the new laws targeting their industry, they did not show it. From June 21 to June 30, five of the largest and most prominent companies in the power grid supply chain or their top executives collectively donated about $497,000 to state elected officials and political groups. That is more than twice the $207,000 they gave during the same period when the legislative session ended in in 2019.
Washington DC – More People Ran for Office and Donated to Campaigns Because of D.C’s New Public Financing Program
DCist.com – Martin Austermuhle | Published: 8/2/2021
The number of people running for elected office and contributing to local District of Columbia campaigns increased in 2020, likely because of the city’s new program that offers public financing to candidates running for elected office. Those are among the conclusions of a new report from Auditor Kathy Patterson assessing the Fair Elections Program, which was passed into law in 2018 and first implemented during last year’s election cycle, when it distributed almost $4 million to dozens of candidates for seats on the city council and State Board of Education.
Wisconsin – Democrats Introduce Bills That Would Overhaul Wisconsin Campaign Finance System
Wisconsin State Journal – Riley Vetterkind | Published: 8/3/2021
Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin called for stricter campaign contribution limits and more mandatory transparency among donors, even as their party’s fundraising has been boosted by looser limits Republicans adopted in recent years. Several Democrats, as well as advocacy groups such as the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, introduced seven bills to address a system they say favors the wealthy and corporations and has relegated Wisconsinites to the role of spectators to the political process.
Wyoming – PAC Backing Cheney Challenger Gray Funded Solely by His Father
WyoFile.com – Nick Reynolds | Published: 8/2/2021
Wyoming Rep. Chuck Gray’s father is the sole funder of a secretive PAC that is boosting Gray’s bid to oust U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in next year’s Republican primary. Jan Charles Gray is the only contributor to Protect Wyoming Values PAC. The operation has orchestrated an extensive social media and phone text campaign promoting Gray as the best candidate to replace Cheney. Federal campaign finance laws that dictate how PACs can coordinate with candidates require groups affiliated with a candidate to register their contributions as in-kind donations to the candidate’s campaign. Coordinated expenditures are subject to different regulations, including contribution limits, than independent PAC activities without direct ties to a campaign.
August 5, 2021 •
A Senate bill in Hawaii passed affecting the reporting of electioneering communications. Senate Bill 404 provides persons, including corporations, making expenditures for electioneering communications in an aggregate amount of $1,000 instead of $2,000 during any calendar year must file reports […]
A Senate bill in Hawaii passed affecting the reporting of electioneering communications.
Senate Bill 404 provides persons, including corporations, making expenditures for electioneering communications in an aggregate amount of $1,000 instead of $2,000 during any calendar year must file reports within 24 hours of each disclosure date.
The bill also exempts communications that are actual expenditures of an organization from being considered electioneering communications and excludes candidate and candidate committees from the disclosure requirements.
The information is effective and applicable for the 2022 primary election.
August 4, 2021 •
A Texas House bill relating to restrictions on accepting political contributions has passed. House Bill 2283 provides the joint elections commission, county election commission, and county election board may not accept a contribution of $1,000 or more, including the value […]
A Texas House bill relating to restrictions on accepting political contributions has passed.
House Bill 2283 provides the joint elections commission, county election commission, and county election board may not accept a contribution of $1,000 or more, including the value of in-kind donations, offered by a private individual or a business entity, including a corporation, partnership, or trust, or another third party.
Under the bill, the joint elections commission, county election commission, and county election board may accept a contribution of less than $1,000 only with written consent from the relevant political subdivision.
The bill will take effect September 1.
August 2, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Arizona: “Arizona Lawmakers Invest More in Private Prisons After Record-High Campaign Contributions” by Jimmy Jenkins (WJZZ), Joseph Darius Jaafari and Justin Price (Arizona Republic) for MSN California: “Recall Money Wars: What do Newsom’s million-dollar donors want?” by Ben […]
Arizona: “Arizona Lawmakers Invest More in Private Prisons After Record-High Campaign Contributions” by Jimmy Jenkins (WJZZ), Joseph Darius Jaafari and Justin Price (Arizona Republic) for MSN
California: “Recall Money Wars: What do Newsom’s million-dollar donors want?” by Ben Christopher for CalMatters
Connecticut: “Connecticut Drawn into Fight Over Conservative ALEC’s Tax-Exempt Status” by Mark Pazniokas for Connecticut Mirror
National: “Trump Pressed Justice Dept. to Declare Election Results Corrupt, Notes Show” by Katie Benner (New York Times) for Yahoo News
Arizona: “Republican-Led Arizona Ballot Review Grinds to Rocky Conclusion, with Results Expected Next Month” by Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump’s Tax Returns Can Be Released to Congress, DOJ Tells IRS” by David Yaffe-Bellamy and Laura Davison (Bloomberg) for MSN
National: “What the Latest Numbers Show on Hill Staff Diversity” by Jim Saska (Roll Call) for MSN
Ohio: “JobsOhio $21 Million PPE Contract Prompts Political Consultant’s Lawsuit Over Finder’s Fee” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
July 30, 2021 •
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation creating an elected school board for Chicago Public Schools and increasing the size of the board. The first election will be held in November 2024 to elect 10 board members, with 11 members including […]
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation creating an elected school board for Chicago Public Schools and increasing the size of the board.
The first election will be held in November 2024 to elect 10 board members, with 11 members including the board president to be appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who currently appoints all of the existing board’s seven members.
Chicago voters will elect the full slate of 21 board members beginning in 2026.
House Bill 2908 also includes language to prevent individuals with conflicts of interest from serving on the board and will be effective June 1, 2022.
July 30, 2021 •
National/Federal As Coronavirus Surges, GOP Lawmakers Are Moving to Limit Public Health Powers MSN – Frances Stead Sellers and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021 Republican lawmakers are rallying around the cause of individual freedom to counter community-based disease mitigation […]
As Coronavirus Surges, GOP Lawmakers Are Moving to Limit Public Health Powers
MSN – Frances Stead Sellers and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021
Republican lawmakers are rallying around the cause of individual freedom to counter community-based disease mitigation methods, moves experts say leave the country ill-equipped to counter the resurgent coronavirus and a future outbreak. In some states, anger at perceived overreach by health officials has prompted legislative attempts to limit their authority, including new state laws that prevent the closure of businesses or allow lawmakers to rescind mask mandates. Some state courts have reined in the emergency and regulatory powers governors have wielded against the virus. In its recent rulings and analysis, the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled its willingness to limit disease mitigation in the name of religious freedom.
As Trump Pushed for Probes of 2020 Election, He Called Acting AG Rosen Almost Daily
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 7/28/2021
Then-President Trump called his acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, nearly every day at the end of last year to alert him to claims of voter fraud or alleged improper vote counts in the 2020 election and asked what the Justice Department was doing about the issue. There are notes of some of the calls that were written by a top aide to Rosen. The notes could be turned over to Congress in a matter of days if Trump does not file papers in court seeking to block such a handover. Both Rosen and Donoghue could be questioned about the conversations by congressional committees examining Trump’s actions in the days after the election.
China Critic Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama Violated Stock Disclosure Law, Sold Alibaba Option
CNBC – Dan Mangan | Published: 7/27/2021
U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville ran for office while arguing for the “rule of law” and criticizing China, but in less than eight months on the job, the Alabama Republican violated a federal financial transparency law, while also selling stock options of China’s leading e-commerce company. Tuberville failed as required by the STOCK Act to file disclosures of about 130 stock and stock options trades executed from January through May within a maximum 45-day window. The trades ranged in total value from $894,000 to more than $3.5 million.
Democrats Broaden Probe of Trump-Era Meddling at CDC
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2021
Congressional investigators expanded their inquiry of political interference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under former President Trump, citing newly obtained documents and additional reports of the administration’s meddling in government scientists’ work. The expanded investigation centers on efforts to blunt the CDC’’ Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, which offer public updates on scientists’ findings. The reports had been considered untouchable by political appointees in the past, but Trump appointees pushed to edit the findings, worried they undermined Trump’s more optimistic spin on the pandemic.
Democrats Look to Move Past Partisan Rancor and Set Serious Tone for Jan. 6 Investigation
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2021
Members of the House select committee have been preparing for weeks to move swiftly with an investigation examining key unanswered questions surrounding the breaching of the Capitol by a mob of former President Trump’s supporters who echoed his false claims about the 2020 election while seeking to stop Congress’s efforts to certify its results and declare Joe Biden the next president. Those questions include to what degree the attack was coordinated, what led to the security lapses, and how Trump and his administration responded as lawmakers scrambled to safety while the insurrectionists marched through the halls of Congress.
‘Good Trouble’: Black caucus embraces civil disobedience
MSN – Marty Johnson (The Hill) | Published: 7/28/2021
Civil disobedience was an integral part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and is playing a pivotal role again as Black lawmakers express discontent over inaction on voting rights. U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson were arrested after staging separate voting rights protests at the Hart Senate Office Building. Their actions stem from mounting frustration over the filibuster, which has thrown the passage of both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act into jeopardy.
Justice Department Declines to Defend Rep. Mo Brooks Against Jan. 6 Incitement Lawsuit
MSN – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/27/2021
The Justice Department and the House of Representatives declined on to represent U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks in a lawsuit that accuses him of helping to incite the deadly riot at the Capitol on January 6. The Alabama Republican is one of several defendants in the suit filed by U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, who says Brooks knowingly incited a mob of then-President Trump’s supporters to storm the Capitol, using incendiary rhetoric at a rally near the White House before the violent assault began. Trump himself, as well as Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Justice Department Issues Policy Limiting White House Contact
MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/21/2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a directive seeking to limit political influence on law enforcement matters by strictly limiting contacts between Justice Department personnel and the White House. The memo follows through on campaign pledges by Joe Biden to reestablish the department’s independence after a series of episodes where then-President Trump publicly and privately complained about prosecutors’ decisions, urging them to lay off his friends and target his political enemies.
K Street Clamors for Democratic Hill Aides, Who Don’t Want to Leave
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 7/29/2021
Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill are in high demand – on K Street, in the Biden administration, and in burgeoning political campaigns. But the level of clamoring for them, especially in the booming lobbying sector, has surprised even veteran observers of the “revolving door.” But Democratic aides are reluctant to leave, even for bigger paychecks, given that their party controls the House, Senate, and executive branch. They have that rare opportunity to help craft once-in-a-generation legislative packages and, potentially, to help shape public policy for decades to come.
One Third of States Have Passed Restrictive Voting Laws This Year
MSN – Reid Wilson (The Hill) | Published: 7/27/2021
One in every three states across the nation have passed new laws restricting voter access to the ballot in the wake of the 2020 elections, a pace that showcases the national battle over election reform. Voting rights experts and advocates say they have never seen such an explosion of election overhauls. Legislatures in 17 states have passed 29 bills that would in some way curtail a voter’s access, according to a tally maintained by the Brennan Center for Justice. The overhauls vary widely by state.
Trade Groups Wrestle with Supporting GOP Lawmakers Who Embrace Trump’s Election Lie
MSN – Allan Smith (NBC News) | Published: 7/26/2021
The January 6 Capitol riot forced the sprawling network of Washington, D.C. trade associations, which represent everything from hedge fund managers to construction contractors, to reconsider their political contributions. These groups donate liberally to members of both parties, typically with little scrutiny. Some of these organizations have since dialed down or stopped donating to the large number of Republican lawmakers who objected to the election results. Others, after a brief pause, have restarted their giving.
Trump’s PAC Collected $75 Million This Year, but So Far the Group Has Not Put Money Into Pushing for the 2020 Ballot Reviews He Touts
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2021
Former President Trump’s political PAC raised roughly $75 million in the first half of this year as he trumpeted the false notion the 2020 election was stolen from him, but the group has not devoted funds to help finance the ongoing ballot review in Arizona or to push for similar endeavors in other states, according to people familiar with the finances. Instead, the Save America leadership PAC, which has few limits on how it can spend its money, has paid for some of the former president’s travel, legal costs, and staff, along with other expenses. The PAC has held onto much of its cash.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Commission Staff Recommends $52,650 Fine Against Anchorage Mayor Bronson for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Emily Goodykoontz (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 7/24/2021
Staff of the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) recommended a $52,650 fine against the campaign of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson for what it says are multiple violations of state campaign finance law. The report found the campaign violated transparency rules when it did not disclose tens of thousands of dollars in debt for more than seven months after it was incurred – until after this year’s April 6 election and the May 11 runoff – among multiple other infractions, according to the report.
Arizona – Appeals Court Tosses Former Arizona Lawmaker’s Lawsuit Over Expulsion
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 7/22/2021
A federal appeals court tossed out the claims of former state Rep. Don Shooter that his rights were violated when he was expelled in 2018 from the Arizona House. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the claims against former House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and former gubernatorial aide Kirk Adams cannot survive the fact they have qualified immunity for their actions. Judge Daniel Collins pointed out the Arizona Constitution empowers the House to discipline its own members and even oust them with a two-thirds vote. He said that limits the ability of federal courts to second-guess the procedures used here.
California – Calif. Task Force Recommends Public Archive for Digital Campaign Ads
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 7/27/2021
A task force convened by the California Fair Political Practices Commission is recommending the creation of a digital archive to track online advertisements promoting candidates for state office. The task force members say a public database of digital ads would help voters, researchers, journalists, and others keep better track of campaign spending by state office seekers. The online archive would be the first of its kind among the 50 states, although similar programs already exist in cities like New York and Los Angeles, the report noted.
California – Hefty Contracts for Campaign Contributors in Huntington Park
KCET – Erick Cabrera and Julie Patel | Published: 7/26/2021
An examination of public records from 2018 through 2020 confirmed several companies contracted by Huntington Park gave gifts and campaign contributions to council members during that time. In all, $38,000, or over 30 percent of the roughly $125,000 in campaign donations to current Huntington Park council members, came from eight companies and their executives that were identified as city contractors at some point during that time. At least half of the roughly $4,300 in gifts provided to council members came from city contractors or subcontractors, according to economic interest forms.
California – In El Monte, a Close Friendship Shatters Over Cannabis Vote, Surgery Payment
Yahoo News – Adam Elmahrek (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/24/2021
One was a lobbyist and the other was an El Monte City Council member, but they also were best friends who thought they had a special bond. But the friendship shattered when Victoria Martinez Muela voted against allowing retail sales of cannabis in the city, a proposal that Sigrid Lopez had championed. Now, Lopez has signed a sworn declaration as part of a complaint submitted to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office alleging Martinez Muela may have accepted a $1,100 gift from her for a medical procedure and failed to disclose it on financial statements, in violation of California law.
California – Powerful Developers, Lobbyist Helped Hire San Jose Planning Director
San Jose Spotlight – Eli Wolfe | Published: 7/24/2021
San Jose’s new planning director was chosen by developers and lobbyists, many of whom have projects pending at City Hall. The planning director is one of the most powerful positions in San Jose’s government because they make initial decisions on major developments and land use projects. A city insider said it is not unusual to have developers and land use lobbyists on interview committees for high-level jobs. They said this is by design because San Jose’s government wants planning directors who will green light development projects, which have become an increasingly important part of the city’s economic growth strategy.
Florida – Dark Money Group Intervening in FPL Rate Case Asks PSC to Hide Members
The Capitolist – Brian Burgess | Published: 7/27/2021
A group seeking to intervene in a rate case filed by Florida Power and Light (FPL) is refusing to disclose its donors and took steps to shield its member list from public view. Floridians Against Increased Rates (FAIR) was founded by lobbyist and former Jacksonville Electric Authority board member Michael Hightower. As part of the process, FAIR initially submitted a list of over 500 members, many of which they claim are FPL customers who allegedly oppose any increase in rates. But FAIR blocked an attempt to verify their membership list by filing a motion to shield the names and other information about the group.
Florida – Ethics Panel Rejects Penalty for Sham No-Party Candidate as Not Tough Enough
MSN – Ana Ceballos (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/23/2021
The Florida Commission on Ethics rejected a $6,500 fine against a sham no-party candidate who ran in a 2020 Miami-Dade legislative race, a rare move that was triggered by calls for stiffer penalties in a case one commissioner called one of the “most egregious” in the state. The commission also found probable cause that Alexis Pedro Rodriguez filed inaccurate campaign documents and accepted money from former state Sen. Frank Artiles with the understanding he would change his party affiliation from Republican to no party to qualify to run in the Senate District 37 election.
Florida – Ex-Florida State Sen. Frank Artiles Worked Closely with Top GOP Consulting Firm During ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scheme, Documents Indicate
MSN – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 7/27/2021
On June 11 of last year, authorities say Frank Artiles met Alex Rodriguez in the parking lot of a Miami bank, where Artiles gave Rodriguez $2,000 in cash so his friend could open a campaign account and run as a sham candidate in an important state Senate election in South Florida. Then, they say, Artiles told Rodriguez he had to rush to the airport so he could fly to Tallahassee and hand-deliver Rodriguez’s elections paperwork. Records show Artiles billed Data Targeting, the political consulting firm that was at the same time being paid millions of dollars by state Republican leaders to run Senate campaigns, for the cost of a plane ticket. Artiles is now awaiting trial on charges related to the sham-candidate scheme.
Florida – Trust at Issue as Miami-Dade Ethics Commission Takes Big Step Away from Transparency
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 7/27/2021
In a blow to transparency, the Miami Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust is no longer posting its investigative reports online. And soon, the ethics commission will remove other public documents that have been available on its website for years. Usually less than 10 pages long, the reports provide brief summaries about closed cases, including descriptions of witness interviews and evidence collected during a probe. The reports also state whether a case became a formal complaint to the ethics commission, closed without taking any further action, or was forwarded to the state attorney’s office to conduct a possible criminal probe.
Georgia – Georgia Judge Dismisses Election Suit Against Fulton County but Allows Claim Against Individual Officials
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/27/2021
Superior Court Judge Brian Amero dismissed claims filed against Fulton County, the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections and the Fulton County Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Courts on the basis of Georgia’s sovereign immunity laws. Superior Court Judge Brian Amero granted a request by the plaintiffs to add the county’s election board members as individuals, not as a collective group, to the lawsuit as new respondents, effectively keeping alive a small group’s efforts to inspect all 147,000 absentee ballots cast in the state’s largest county last November.
Illinois – Cook Co. Official Defends Hiring Her Cousin as Chief of Staff
MSN – Alice Yin (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/24/2021
A complaint that a Cook County elected official hired her first cousin as her chief of staff triggered an ethics inquiry earlier this year, but the official in question shot down calls for the relative to resign. Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt hired her cousin Todd Thielmann as the top staffer in her office. Questions about the employment prompted an inquiry from the board’s ethics officer, who in a letter to Wendt noted the board’s ethics policy restricts the hiring of relatives of agency officials. During a June board meeting, Wendt did not answer questions about the hiring and then voted against an amended ethics policy that would have more clearly prohibited such a move.
Massachusetts – Essaibi George Is Running for Boston Mayor. Her Husband, a Housing Developer, Has Had a Lot of Problems with City Hall
MSN – Andrew Ryan and Danny McDonald (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/28/2021
After developer Douglas George built a luxury condominium building, he christened it “The Vista” for its “jaw dropping views” of Boston’s skyline. When another developer wanted to build next door at obstruct that view, in stepped George’s wife, city Councilor Annissa Essaibi George. Now a candidate for mayor, Essaibi George used her office to try to block the rival project. Her office’s involvement, which appears to violate state conflict-of-interest law, raises questions about the councilor’s actions, but also underscores the entanglements between a leading mayoral candidate and her husband, with whom the city has long battled over his real estate practices.
Massachusetts – Mass. State House Remains Closed, Even as Other Buildings Open
WBUR – Steve Brown | Published: 7/29/2021
While most cities and towns in Massachusetts have lifted the pandemic restrictions on their libraries and other buildings, the State House likely will not reopen to the public for at least another couple of months. Secretary of State Bill Galvin, whose office oversees tours of the building, is pushing lawmakers to end the 16-month closure more quickly, arguing the structure could reopen with little risk to public health. Lobbyist Arline Isaacson said the closure has made it harder to talk to politicians.
Michigan – Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey and Office Worker Allegedly Accepted $35,000 in Bribes
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 7/28/2021
Detroit City Councilperson Andre Spivey and an unnamed worker on his staff accepted more than $35,000 in bribery payments, federal prosecutors alleged. The payments were part of an alleged bribery conspiracy from 2016 to 2020 to influence city business, prosecutors said. Spivey was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.
Michigan – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Uses a State Policy to Raise Millions
Yahoo News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 7/27/2021
By using a state policy that allows officeholders facing recalls to collect unlimited contributions from donors, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s has taken in an extra $3.4 million from dozens of contributors who normally would have been capped at $7,150 each. Whitmer is facing multiple recall efforts, although it is unclear how serious they are, that have at least sought permission from the Board of State Canvassers. Former Secretary of State Richard Austin found it would be improper to allow committees seeking to recall officeholders to raise unlimited amounts while capping contributions to those officeholders who must defend themselves.
Missouri – Missouri Ethics Commission Seeks $191,550 from Former Ferguson Lawmaker in Federal Prison
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 7/28/2021
Former state Rep. Courtney Curtis’s legal troubles continue behind bars after he was sentenced in March to nearly two years in federal prison for misuse of campaign funds. The Missouri Ethics Commission said in a lawsuit that Curtis owes the state $191,550 after he did not comply with two orders in 2017 and 2019 which required him to file necessary campaign reports and to pay fines.
New Mexico – New Mexico State Rep. Williams Stapleton Under Criminal Investigation
MSN – Robert Knott (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 7/28/2021
State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton is under criminal investigation on allegations of racketeering, money laundering, and receiving illegal kickbacks. Investigators conducted searches at her business and home and had been looking into irregularities in her work as an administrator at Albuquerque Public Schools. The allegations involve Williams Stapleton’s connections to Robotics Management Learning Systems, which has provided web-based learning materials to Albuquerque. The affidavit outlined an elaborate scheme in which Williams Stapleton was able to be involved with the procurement of a contract with the company and approve invoices for payments.
New Mexico – Proposal Would Give Unpaid New Mexico Lawmakers a Salary
MSN – Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 7/26/2021
As members of the only Legislature in the country that serve in office for free, New Mexico lawmakers are once again broaching the politically thorny idea of giving themselves a salary. But they are hoping to avoid the predictable backlash by letting others decide what the amount should be. A proposed constitutional amendment would put the decision-making in the hands of the State Ethics Commission, which would review and establish salaries for legislators every two years. The commission also would set the salaries of all elected officers of the executive and judicial branches of state government.
New York – Cuomo Said AG Probe Would Clear Him. Now His Aides Say It’s Political.
Politico – Anna Gronewold | Published: 7/24/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing a cascade of misconduct claims earlier this year, wrote a letter in March directing state Attorney General Tish James to investigate the scandals that were threatening to end his career. When James is done with her work, Cuomo assured the public, everyone will see he had done nothing wrong. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion,” he said at the time, refusing calls to resign. Now, James and the outside attorneys she hired to conduct the work appear close to wrapping up the inquiry after interviewing the governor. But Cuomo’s top aides no longer seem convinced James will deliver the findings their boss had promised and staked his future on.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Commission OKs $10 Food/Drink Exception to Gift Rules
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 7/28/2021
The North Dakota Ethics Commission unanimously adopted a $10 food and drink exception to its gift rules for public officials. The panel also is looking into questions about conference expenses for public officials when the conference organization offers to pay for their attendance, and what levels of educating versus advocating are occurring at such events. Commission Executive Director Dave Thiele said the issue “seems to come up fairly routinely.”
Ohio – DeWine Says He Didn’t Know About Alleged $4.3m Bribe of Utility Regulator He Appointed
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 7/27/2021
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine distanced himself from a utility regulator he appointed who was accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from FirstEnergy Corp. FirstEnergy said in a court it paid Sam Randazzo $22 million in consulting fees in the decade leading up to his appointment as chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. This includes a $4.3 million payment, sent shortly before DeWine appointed Randazzo in early 2019, to hand down rulings favorable to the company. DeWine said while he did not know about the $4.3 million payment, “everybody” knew Randazzo worked for FirstEnergy during the appointment process.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Admitted Secretive Dark Money Made Bribery Scheme Possible. So What Happened to Ohio Legislation That Called for More Disclosure?
MSN – Laura Hancock (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/26/2021
In a deal with federal prosecutors, FirstEnergy had to admit it could not have bankrolled the massive House Bill 6 bribery scheme had it not been for “dark money.” The utility admitted its executives funneled more than $60 million in bribes through a secretive group controlled by now-indicted former House Speaker Larry Householder. When Householder was arrested, many members of the Ohio General Assembly seemed to agree “dark money” was a problem, introducing bills that would require entities known as 501(c)(4)s to disclose donors. Legislation was introduced by members of both parties during the current two-year session and the last. Yet no bill has made it past the finish line to become law.
Oregon – Mike Nearman Pleads Guilty to Official Misconduct, Receives 18 Months Probation
MSN – Connor Radnovich (Salem Statesman-Journal) | Published: 7/27/2021
Former state Rep. Mike Nearman pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree official misconduct for letting rioters into the closed Oregon Capitol during a special session in 2020. In exchange for dropping a charge of trespassing, Nearman accepted a sentence that includes probation, an 18-month ban from Capitol grounds, 80 hours of community service, and $2,900 in fines and restitution. Nearman allowed dozens of rioters, some armed, to gain access to the Capitol, which was closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. Six officers were injured.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Lawmaker Resigns Amid Theft Charges but Likely Will Keep Her Taxpayer-Funded Pension and Health Benefits
MSN – Jan Murphy (PennLive) | Published: 7/24/2021
State Rep. Margo Davidson, charged with misusing thousands of dollars from her campaign and legislative accounts, resigned from the Pennsylvania House. Her charges relate to misuse of campaign funds and legislative expenses between 2015 and 2019. During that time, investigators found she had sought taxpayer reimbursement for overnight stays in Harrisburg that she had already paid for out of her campaign accounts, as well as for some nights when she did not stay in Harrisburg. Davidson is also accused of soliciting a witness to lie to investigators regarding the criminal investigation into her campaign finances and per diem.
Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott Promised ‘Transparency and Accountability’ for Border Wall Donations. But Donors Don’t Have to Use Real Names
Texas Tribune – James Barragan | Published: 7/23/2021
Despite promises from Gov. Greg Abbott that transparency in the crowdfunding process for funding construction of the border wall in Texas would be paramount, donor information released to The Texas Tribune for the first week of collections was bereft of any way to verify the identities of the majority of the donors. Abbott’s office is not disclosing the locations of donors, nor is it requiring they identify themselves with their real names. The shortcomings in the disclosures have raised ethical concerns about the private fundraising effort for the governor’s major state initiative. Experts have warned that without clear disclosure rules, it could invite the perception of a “pay-to-play” system in which anonymous donors benefit from their contributions to one of Abbott’s priority projects.
Virginia – Anemic Start for Virginia’s Campaign Finance Study Could Delay Final Report
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 7/29/2021
As both political parties flood supporters with desperate-sounding pleas for money to win the 2021 elections, an effort to study campaign finance reform in Virginia is off to a less urgent start. A joint General Assembly subcommittee approved in February to study whether the state needs stricter laws on money in politics still has not held its first meeting. With less than 100 days left to finish its work by a November 1 deadline, some policymakers are now wondering if they have enough time to complete the study on time.
Virginia – Lobbyists Load Va. Lawmakers onto Private Jet to Kick Off Push to Loosen Slots Laws
Virginia Mercury – Ned Oliver | Published: 7/22/2021
A coalition of gambling companies hoping to get slot machines back into Virginia convenience stores and bars kicked off its legislative push with a private flight for four state lawmakers to Chicago. While the plush jet raised some eyebrows – Virginia politicians have generally eschewed gifts of private air travel after scandal consumed former Gov. Bob McDonnell – organizers said it was strictly an opportunity to learn from Illinois, which broadly legalized video gambling terminals in 2009.
Washington DC – D.C. Reforms Gave Inmates a Vote. Now an Elected Official Is Working from Jail.
MSN – Stephanie Lai (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021
Joel Castón gets ready for his day not as an inmate convicted of first-degree murder nearly three decades ago, but as newly elected city official with a few months left behind bars. He is Washington. D.C.’s first incarcerated person to win an election. Like most Advisory Neighborhood Commission members, who serve to connect and provide input from their community to the city council, the responsibilities are tacked on to other work. Castón’s public service is voluntary. But unlike his colleagues who attend meetings or visit constituents, Castón cannot leave his housing unit and constituents cannot visit him. Instead, they contact him through the jail’s mailing system. He works on a schedule set by the jail.
July 28, 2021 •
Campaign Finance California: “Hefty Contracts for Campaign Contributors in Huntington Park” by Erick Cabrera and Julie Patel for KCET Michigan: “Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Uses a State Policy to Raise Millions” by Craig Mauger (Detroit News) for Yahoo News Elections […]
California: “Hefty Contracts for Campaign Contributors in Huntington Park” by Erick Cabrera and Julie Patel for KCET
Michigan: “Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Uses a State Policy to Raise Millions” by Craig Mauger (Detroit News) for Yahoo News
National: “One Third of States Have Passed Restrictive Voting Laws This Year” by Reid Wilson (The Hill) for MSN
National: “Democrats Look to Move Past Partisan Rancor and Set Serious Tone for Jan. 6 Investigation” by Jacqueline Alemany and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Ethics Panel Taking No Action After Joyce Beatty’s Arrest at Protest” by Mychael Schnell (The Hill) for MSN
Ohio: “DeWine Says He Didn’t Know About Alleged $4.3m Bribe of Utility Regulator He Appointed” by Jake Zuckerman for Ohio Capital Journal
New Mexico: “Proposal Would Give Unpaid New Mexico Lawmakers a Salary” by Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) for MSN
Florida: “Dark Money Group Intervening in FPL Rate Case Asks PSC to Hide Members” by Brian Burgess for The Capitolist
July 27, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Trade Groups Wrestle with Supporting GOP Lawmakers Who Embrace Trump’s Election Lie” by Allan Smith (NBC News) for MSN Alaska: “Commission Staff Recommends $52,650 Fine Against Anchorage Mayor Bronson for Campaign Finance Violations” by Emily Goodykoontz (Anchorage […]
National: “Trade Groups Wrestle with Supporting GOP Lawmakers Who Embrace Trump’s Election Lie” by Allan Smith (NBC News) for MSN
Alaska: “Commission Staff Recommends $52,650 Fine Against Anchorage Mayor Bronson for Campaign Finance Violations” by Emily Goodykoontz (Anchorage Daily News) for Yahoo News
Ohio: “FirstEnergy Admitted Secretive Dark Money Made Bribery Scheme Possible. So What Happened to Ohio Legislation That Called for More Disclosure?” by Laura Hancock (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Texas: “Gov. Greg Abbott Promised ‘Transparency and Accountability’ for Border Wall Donations. But Donors Don’t Have to Use Real Names” by James Barragan for Texas Tribune
National: “As Coronavirus Surges, GOP Lawmakers Are Moving to Limit Public Health Powers” by Frances Stead Sellers and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Powerful Developers, Lobbyist Helped Hire San Jose Planning Director” by Eli Wolfe for San Jose Spotlight
Arizona: “Appeals Court Tosses Former Arizona Lawmaker’s Lawsuit Over Expulsion” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star
Virginia: “Lobbyists Load Va. Lawmakers onto Private Jet to Kick Off Push to Loosen Slots Laws” by Ned Oliver for Virginia Mercury
July 23, 2021 •
National/Federal 2020 Presidential Polls Suffered Worst Performance in Decades, Report Says MSN – Dan Balz (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2021 Public opinion polls in the 2020 presidential election suffered from errors of “unusual magnitude,” the highest in 40 years for surveys […]
2020 Presidential Polls Suffered Worst Performance in Decades, Report Says
MSN – Dan Balz (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2021
Public opinion polls in the 2020 presidential election suffered from errors of “unusual magnitude,” the highest in 40 years for surveys estimating the national popular vote and in at least 20 years for state-level polls, according to a study. Polls understated the support for then-President Trump in nearly every state and by an average of more the three percentage points overall. Polls in U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races suffered from the same problem. Task force members were not able to reach definitive conclusions on exactly what caused the problems in the most recent polls and therefore how to correct their methodology ahead of the next elections.
‘A Propaganda Tool’ for Trump: A second federal judge castigates attorneys who filed a lawsuit challenging the 2020 results
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/16/2021
Two Colorado lawyers filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 160 million American voters, alleging a vast conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election by the voting equipment manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla Chan, and elected officials in four states, and asking for $160 billion in damages. The case was dismissed in April, but a federal judge is considering disciplining the lawyers for filing a frivolous claim – sharply questioning the duo in a hearing about whether they had allowed themselves to be used as “a propaganda tool” of former President Trump.
Battle for Power in Haiti Extends to Lobbying in Washington
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Natalie Kitroeff | Published: 7/21/2021
The struggle for power in Haiti after the assassination of the country’s president has spilled onto K Street, where rival Haitian politicians, business leaders, and interest groups are turning to lobbyists to wage an expensive and escalating proxy battle for influence with the United States. Documents, interviews, and communications among Haitian politicians and officials show a scramble across a wide spectrum of Haitian interests to hire lobbyists and consultants in Washington and use those already on their payrolls in the hopes of winning American backing in a period of leadership turmoil in Haiti.
Bipartisan House Probe of Jan. 6 Insurrection Falls Apart after Pelosi Blocks Two GOP Members
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor, Jacqueline Alemany, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 7/21/2021
Plans for a bipartisan committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection fell apart after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved to block two controversial Republicans appointed by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy from sitting on the panel, paving the way for two separate and largely partisan investigations of the violent attack on the Capitol. Pelosi called on McCarthy to name two new Republicans to the committee after refusing to appoint conservative Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, a privilege she has as speaker. As staunch backers of former President Trump, both members voted against his impeachment and pushed to overturn the election results.
Democrats Leverage Legal Experience in Voting Rights Push
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 7/21/2021
There are a handful of House voting rights attorneys-turned-lawmakers helping to write the latest version of Democrats’ Voting Rights Act bill, which include provisions to push back on a swath of changes to election laws state Legislatures across the country have passed. Critics argue those changes will make it harder for many Democratic-leaning groups, including minority communities, to cast a ballot. About a dozen legislators on both sides of the aisle, although mostly Democrats, have formal experience with redistricting, as attorneys or state legislators.
Did Rick Scott Break Campaign Finance Law in 2018? Federal Regulators Tie, Case Closed.
Miami Herald – Steve Contorno | Published: 7/16/2021
A three-year probe into U.S. Sen. Rick Scott ended with the FEC deadlocked on whether he and a political committee he once led violated campaign laws during his 2018 bid for Senate. A split decision along party lines comes as the FEC’s general counsel concluded there was reason to believe Scott broke the law. At issue is Scott’s involvement with New Republican PAC, a committee first created in 2013 by a Republican operative.
It’s Not Just Voting Rights. Republicans Are Going After Ballot Campaigns.
Yahoo News – Liz Crampton and Mona Zhang (Politico) | Published: 7/20/2021
There is a wave of legislation moving through GOP-controlled state Legislatures that is intended to combat progressive policymaking at the ballot box. Successful referendums to expand Medicaid, legalize marijuana, and fund public education through taxes on the wealthy have all faced similar threats following consternation from conservative lawmakers. As Democrats have decried Republican efforts to restrict voting rights, lawmakers have also quietly chipped away at the citizen-driven referendum process in statehouses across the country. Lawmakers have also attempted to retroactively undo parts of initiatives approved by voters in some states.
Justice Department Curtails Seizure of Reporters’ Phone, Email Records in Leak Investigations
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland sharply limited how and when prosecutors can secretly obtain reporters’ phone and email records, formalizing a Biden administration decree that the government would stop using secret orders and subpoenas for journalists’ data to hunt for leakers. The previous Justice Department rules for using reporters’ data to pursue unauthorized disclosures of classified information were widely criticized by First Amendment advocates and members of Congress.
Lobbyists with Biden Ties Enjoy Surge in Revenue, Clients
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 7/21/2021
Lobbyists with ties to President Biden are flourishing as corporate clients seek to influence Biden’s ambitious agenda. Business is booming on K Street, with many of the leading lobbying firms enjoying record revenues in recent months. Lobbyists sporting connections to the White House are in high demand as Biden negotiates trillion-dollar spending plans and his administration attempts to aggressively regulate corporate giants.
‘Normal Is Not Good Enough’: After Trump, pressure’s on Biden to create new ethics rules
MSN – Anita Kumar (Politico) | Published: 7/16/2021
Six months into President Biden’s term, watchdog groups and some Democratic lawmakers are pushing the president to follow through on his campaign promise to press for an aggressive 25-point plan for ethics reform, fearful the window to do so may be closing and with it an opportunity to prevent the lapses of the Trump years from happening again. Biden established strong ethics rules for his own aides, but executive actions only last as long as the president in office is willing to live by them. The longer lasting reforms, reform groups say, come through legislative action.
Rep. Michelle Steel Reported $7,900 Donation from Woman Who’d Died Months Earlier
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 7/19/2021
A joint fundraising committee controlled by U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel disclosed a contribution of $7,900 earlier this year. But the reported donor had been dead for seven months. Steel’s campaign amended disclosure forms filed to show the money coming from the decedent’s husband, who was also a donor on the original disclosure. Dead people are not supposed to make political contributions unless they leave instructions for managers of their estates to do so. But one expert said other campaigns have run into trouble in the past when depositing checks from joint accounts, which appears to be what happened in Steel’s case.
Trump Adviser Tom Barrack Arrested on Foreign-Agent Charges
MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/20/2021
Tom Barrack, a longtime supporter of and adviser to former President Trump, was arrested on charges he secretly acted in the U.S. as an agent for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Barrack is accused of failing to register as a foreign agent, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and four counts of making false statements to the FBI. Prosecutors allege Barrack used his relationship with Trump to lobby on behalf of the UAE without registering as a lobbyist or telling administration officials he was working on the country’s behalf. They also say he lied to FBI agents during an interview about his dealings with the Persian Gulf nation.
Trump Foreign Business Dealings Attract Scrutiny as New York Probe Heats Up
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 7/20/2021
As the New York attorney general’s criminal investigation into the Trump Organization heats up, former President Trump’s business empire is facing further scrutiny in Scotland while scrubbing longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg’s name from corporate filings across the globe. Weisselberg is facing a 15-count indictment against him and the Trump Organization in New York. Scotland’s Court of Session has heard arguments in a judicial review of the Scottish government’s decision against investigating purported discrepancies in Trump’s financial reporting and two golf club purchases.
Trumpworld Lobbyists Find Life Just Isn’t the Same Under Joe
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 7/21/2021
When Donald Trump took office in 2017, the handful of K Street lobbyists who could boast ties to him were inundated with calls from potential clients. Six months into the Biden administration, several Trump-connected firms together are down millions of dollars in fees compared to a year earlier; one prominent firm with Trump ties has collapsed, and another has withdrawn from Washington entirely. K Street always experiences shake ups when power changes hands. But the dearth of lobbyists with connections to Trump when he assumed office in 2017 drew a clutch of operatives with ties to him to Washington.
What Were the Capitol Rioters Thinking on Jan. 6?
MSN – Dan Zak and Karen Heller (Washington Post) | Published: 7/20/2021
Were the people involved in the breach of the Capitol acting on their most deeply held convictions, or were they somehow not themselves on January 6? Months of evidence, court filings, and motion hearings have created a composite sketch of the people arrested and of the country many said they were fighting for. Some defendants seemed bent on bloodshed and were charged with felonies including conspiracy. Many defendants are charged with misdemeanors, such as disorderly conduct; their legal defense rests on the distinction between causing the chaos and merely being swept up in it.
Zombie Campaigns-to-Be Hold Millions in Cash with Murky Rules
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle and Nancy Ognanovich | Published: 7/19/2021
Federal law says campaign contributions must be used to run for office or pay for official expenses – “personal use” of the money is barred. But the line between personal and political is becoming blurred, with ex-lawmakers in recent years spending millions of dollars to help elect other candidates, including family members, or to fund nonprofit organizations they support. If a recent court decision holds up, former lawmakers may even be able to tap campaign funds to repay old personal loans they made to their accounts. Many of these so-called zombie committees last for years after the lawmakers who established them left electoral politics.
Canada – Several of Doug Ford’s Key Pandemic Decisions Were Swayed by Business Interests, Star Analysis Suggests
Toronto Star – Richard Warinca | Published: 7/15/2021
At crucial points large and small since Ontario first declared a state of emergency in March of 2020 the government has made decisions that align with the interests of lobbyists – many of whom have close ties to Premier Doug Ford, his party, or both – and the businesses they represent. Those decisions have often favored certain sectors over others and have, at key moments in the pandemic, gone against public health advice, delaying or fracturing lockdowns.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Judge: Arizona Senate must disclose who is funding its election review
Tucson Sentinel – Jim Small (Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting) | Published: 7/15/2021
A judge said the Arizona Senate’s reasoning for why it rejected a public records request for documents relating to the ongoing ballot review, including who is funding the effort, would lead to the “absurd result” of effectively gutting state public records law and “erode any sense of transparency” in government. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp sharply criticized the Senate’s defense in rejecting the chamber’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit brought by American Oversight.
California – San Diego City Attorney Withdraws Law Firm’s $250,000 Contract to Help Defend New Franchise Deal with SDG&E
San Diego Union Tribune – Rob Nikoleswki | Published: 7/20/2021
The San Diego city attorney withdrew a contract of up to $250,000 from an international law firm after a potential conflict-of-interest was pointed out by two opponents of the city’s recently signed agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). The city attorney originally sought to retain the services of Dentons to provide legal services for handling implementation and litigation dealing with the new franchise agreement. But two people said after each performed a Google search, they came across a presentation from Dentons that included a mention the firm had represented Sempra, the parent company of SDG&E, regarding projects Sempra had in Mexico.
California – Who’s In? California Recall Candidate List Draws Confusion
MSN – Michael Blood and Kathleen Ronayne (Associated Press) | Published: 7/18/2021
The official list of who is running in the recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom remained unsettled, with conservative talk radio host Larry Elder maintaining he should be included but state officials saying he submitted incomplete tax returns, a requirement to run. Among other candidates, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s campaign was in a dispute with state officials over whether he could be listed as the city’s “retired” mayor and YouTube creator Kevin Paffrath said he planned to sue to get his YouTube nickname on the ballot. Caitlyn Jenner was reportedly in Australia filming a reality show, though she tweeted she and her campaign team are “in full operation.”
Colorado – Disclosure, Questions Over Reporting Requirements
Colorado Springs Daily Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 7/18/2021
Colorado’s independent redistricting commissioners are in the middle of a statewide tour, listening as members of the public give their opinions on what they want the next decade’s congressional and legislative maps to look like. But that is not entirely what has been going on. In at least one example at a public input hearing, a woman who implied no political connection, gave specific map suggestions after being coached by a paid political consultant. After reporters began asking questions, it was reported as part of a paid lobbying effort. A constitutional amendment requires paid efforts to sway the commission be publicly reported.
Idaho – North Idaho Rep. Faces Ethics Hearing for Publicly Naming Alleged Sexual Assault Victim
MSN – Hayat Norimine (Idaho Statesman) | Published: 7/20/2021
After calls from sexual assault survivors and advocates, an Idaho House member now faces an ethics hearing over her behavior as a representative. Rep. Priscilla Giddings will face a hearing on August 2 over her conduct when a 19-year-old legislative intern alleged that another Republican lawmaker sexually assaulted her. Complaints alleged Giddings retaliated against the intern by disseminating “defamatory writings” that identified her. Complaints also said Giddings misrepresented her actions to the ethics committee.
Illinois – FEC Rules US Rep. Robin Kelly Cannot Raise Money for Nonfederal Candidates, Leaving Her Largely a Figurehead as Illinois Democratic Chair
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/15/2021
The FEC ruled U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly cannot be involved in raising or spending money for state and local office candidates in her new role as Illinois Democratic Party chairperson, relegating her largely to figurehead status within the party. Kelly is also prohibited from using her name and title on state fundraising solicitations because, as a federal officeholder, she is bound by federal laws on raising campaign cash that are stricter than those of the state. Under the ruling, the state Democratic Party must create a special committee to oversee state fundraising for nonfederal campaigns with no involvement by Kelly.
Illinois – On First Full Day as Official Candidate for Reelection, Gov. J.B. Pritzker Indicates He’ll Sign Controversial Ethics Bill, Pledges Return to ‘Kitchen Table’ Issues in Second Term
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/20/2021
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker indicated he will sign a controversial ethics bill he acknowledged “didn’t go far enough,” saying he believes it makes some progress toward restoring the public’s trust in state government. Controversy has surrounded many provisions and the state’s legislative inspector general, Carol Pope, contended lawmakers “demonstrated true ethics reform is not a priority” when she announced her resignation recently.
Illinois – Rep. Marie Newman Settles Lawsuit Alleging She Bribed Potential Opponent
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 7/20/2021
U.S. Rep. Marie Newman agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging she bribed a potential primary opponent not to run against her, putting to rest a bizarre episode in Illinois politics. Iymen Chehade alleged he and Newman entered into an employment contract in December 2018 that said if Newman won the race in Illinois’ Third Congressional District in 2020, Chehade would be hired in her office and paid between $135,000 and $140,000 annually.
Iowa – Iowa Group That Backed Ernst Fights to Block Donor Disclosure
Iowa Capital Dispatch – Clark Kauffman | Published: 7/21/2021
A group that supported U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s 2020 re-election bid is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit it says would give “the wolf the keys to the henhouse” and allow others to “rifle through” records pertaining to its donors. Iowa Values allegedly spent close to $1.5 million supporting Ernst’s successful re-election campaign and is now being sued by the Campaign Legal Center. The lawsuit marks the first known use of an obscure provision in federal campaign law that allows a private individual or group to take a claim of campaign finance violations directly to federal court.
Minnesota – Minn. State Rep. John Thompson Faces Calls to Resign Over Allegations of Domestic Violence, Indecent Exposure
MSN – Julian Mark (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2021
Minnesota Rep. John Thompson launched his political career after a police officer shot and killed his friend Philando Castile during a July 2016 traffic stop. Thompson pledged to reform policing in the state and was elected this past November. Now, state Republican and Democratic officials, including Gov. Tim Walz, are calling for Thompson’s ouster after his own recent traffic stop led to new revelations about his past. Since the stop, police reports surfaced showing that years ago, Thompson was accused of choking and hitting a girlfriend on multiple occasions and once exposing himself to two women while children were present.
Missouri – Is Columbia Mayor Brian Treece Violating Campaign Finance Law? Veto Renews Questions
Columbia Daily Tribune – Charles Dunlop | Published: 7/15/2021
Nearly two years ago, attorney Dan Viets filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission regarding Mayor Brian Treece and his candidate committee. Viets is still waiting on an answer to his inquiry. The delay could be related to House Bill 685, Viets said. This bill, which included changes to requirements to run for public office, was vetoed by Gov. Mike Parson. The law in question requires that any person who registers as a lobbyist must dissolve their candidate committee for any public office in Missouri and disburse the funds either by refunding money to donors, giving it to charity, or donating to a political party committee.
New Mexico – Powerful Ties: New Mexico attorney general accused of violating state ethics laws
MSN – Lindsay Fendt (Searchlight New Mexico) | Published: 7/16/2021
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas’ close relationship with a local law firm is under scrutiny amid allegations that attorney Marcus Rael Jr. used his influence with the attorney general to convince Balderas to sign off on a multi-billion-dollar utility merger. The merger between a global energy giant and New Mexico’s largest utility could drastically change electricity distribution in the state, with hundreds of millions of dollars for New Mexico utility customers hanging in the balance.
New York – Adams’ Top Aide Doubled Her Salary While Moonlighting on His Campaign
The City – Greg Smith | Published: 7/21/2021
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ top aide doubled her salary during the mayoral primary race by working both for his campaign and at her taxpayer-funded job. Ingrid Lewis-Martin earns $172,900 annually as Adams’ deputy borough president. Starting April 15, Adams’ mayoral campaign started paying her $6,500 on a biweekly basis for a total of $40,000 through June 30, records show. Even as she worked on Adams’ successful campaign, she proved a crucial contact for lobbyists seeking support from her boss in his role as borough president.
New York – Ethics Agency Probing Cuomo Aide’s Calls
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/20/2021
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is investigating a series of phone calls made by a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which some county executives felt improperly mixed politics with vaccine distribution efforts. A JCOPE investigator has been calling county executives to set up fact-finding interviews concerning their interactions with Larry Schwartz, who is one of Cuomo’s most trusted advisers and had served as New York’s “vaccine czar” during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York – Mayor Lovely Warren Pleads Not Guilty to Firearms, Child Endangerment Charges
MSN – Gary Craig and Will Cleveland (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) | Published: 7/21/2021
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren denied she illegally possessed firearms or took any actions that endangered the well-being of her young daughter. Warren, also facing allegations of campaign finance fraud, pleaded not guilty in court to firearms possession and child endangerment charges. Having lost the Democratic primary, Warren appears to be in her final months as mayor. Yet, while trying to navigate a surge in gun violence, as well as the usual day-to-day responsibilities of a mayor, she also is now confronting multiple criminal allegations.
Ohio – A House Race in Cleveland Captures the Democrats’ Generational Divide
New York Times – Jonathan Weisman | Published: 7/20/2021
On August 3, the voters of Ohio’s 11th Congressional District will provide some indication of the direction the Democratic Party is heading – toward the progressive approach Nina Turner embodies or the reserved mold of its leaders in Washington, D.C., shaped more by the establishment than the ferment stirring its grassroots. The party establishment is throwing time and money into an effort to stop Turner, a former state senator. The Congressional Black Caucus’s PAC endorsed Turner’s main rival, Shontel Brown, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chairperson.
Ohio – A Year Out, $60M Bribery Scandal Felt in Business, Politics
MSN – Mark Gillispie and Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 7/19/2021
The arrests one year ago of then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates in connection with an alleged $60 million bribery scheme have rocked business and politics across the state, and events over the last year suggest a federal probe’s tentacles only continue to grow. Householder pleaded not guilty. He was removed from the speakership last year, reelected to office in November despite felony racketeering charges, then expelled from the chamber. His political adviser Jeff Longstreth, lobbyist Juan Cespedes, and Generation Now, a dark money group accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes, pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
Ohio – Federal Prosecutors Portray Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson as a Swindler Who Fleeced Taxpayers
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/21/2021
A longtime Cleveland recreation worker testified he signed years of city timesheets for work he never did for Councilperson Kenneth Johnson. The council member used the timesheets to obtain $127,200 in reimbursements from January 2010 to October 2018 and deposited the money in his bank account, prosecutors said. Johnson is on trial, accused of 15 theft-related counts. Prosecutors also have accused Johnson of working with John Hopkins, the former executive of the Buckeye-Shaker Square Development Corp., to steer at least $100,000 in federal block grants.
Ohio – FirstEnergy to Pay $230M in Settlement in Ohio Bribery Case
MSN – Mark Gillispie (Associated Press) | Published: 7/22/2021
FirstEnergy agreed to a $230 million penalty for bribing former House Speaker Larry Householder and former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairperson Sam Randazzo. FirstEnergy is charged with conspiracy to commit honest services fraud involving what authorities called the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history. FirstEnergy Corp. and FirstEnergy Solutions, now called Energy Harbor, allegedly donated $59 million to Generation Now, a “dark money” group controlled by Householder, who is listed as Public Official A in the information. FirstEnergy is also accused of influencing Randazzo, identified as Public Official B, via a $4.3 million payment.
Ohio – From Donations to Lobbyists, Ohio’s 15th Congressional District Candidates Have Ties to House Bill 6
MSN – Haley BeMiller (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 7/21/2021
Every corner of Ohio politics has been touched in some way by former state Rep. Larry Householder and the House Bill 6 scandal. The special election in the 15th Congressional District is no exception. Multiple candidates in the crowded Republican field can be traced to the controversy through votes, donations, and ties to a coal lobbying group that benefited from its passage. The arrests of Householder and four operatives did not seem to affect statehouse races a few months later. But Democrats have signaled they plan to make the scandal and the legislation key issues in future campaigns, including for the 15th District.
Oregon – Audit Finds Tax Funded Forest Institute in Oregon Misled Public, May Have Broken State Law
MSN – Tony Schick (OPB) and Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 7/21/2021
The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI), established by state lawmakers in 1991 to provide credible public education based on facts and reliable science, operates with broad authority and almost no oversight, undermining its public benefit and credibility, according to a state audit. The report said the findings “reasonably raise the question” of whether OFRI broke the law, which bars the agency from attempting to influence the actions of any other state body. A media report found the agency sought to discredit climate scientists and operated as a de facto lobbying and public relations arm for the timber industry.
Pennsylvania – Indicted Philly Lawmakers Collect Legal Defense Cash Gifts from Parking Magnates, Strip Club Owners and Lobbyists
Billy Penn – Max Marin and Ryan Briggs | Published: 7/16/2021
Philadelphia City Councilmembers Bobby Henon and Kenyatta Johnson both accepted tens of thousands in cash donations to support legal defense costs related to their respective indictments on federal corruption charges, including some from prominent political donors, lobbyists, and even a strip club owner. Such legal aid contributions are considered “gifts” under city ethics laws, which generally prohibit gifts from entities seeking to influence government officials. But Henon accepted money from parking magnate Joseph Zuritsky and later co-sponsored a bill designed to cut parking taxes.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Decertifies Fulton County’s Voting System After Third-Party Audit Done for GOP
U.S. News and World Report – Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 7/21/2021
Pennsylvania’s top election official decertified the voting machines of a small county that disclosed it had agreed to requests by local Republican lawmakers and allowed a software firm to inspect the machines as part of an “audit” after the 2020 election. The action by Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid almost certainly means Fulton County will have to buy or lease new voting machines. The lawmakers’ request for the review came amid former President Trump’s baseless claims the 2020 election was rigged against him in Pennsylvania and other battleground states.
Washington DC – Conflict of Interest? Company Hired to Review Troubled DC Crime Lab Wins New Contract with Same Lab
WTOP – Jack Moore | Published: 7/19/2021
In May, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announced she was bringing a forensic consulting firm to perform an independent review of the city’s troubled crime lab, which had just seen its accreditation stripped and is the subject of a criminal investigation over its handling of errors in a murder case. In a letter to city council members, the mayor described SNA International as an “independent firm with extensive forensic sciences laboratories experience.” But the letter did not mention the company had previously done work for the lab, and had been preliminarily approved for what has been described as a “critical upgrade” to the lab’s case-tracking system.
July 22, 2021 •
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger approved petitions for term limits, changes to the constitutional amendment process, and to recall state House District 24 Rep. Dwight Kiefert. The term limits petition would limit the governor and legislators to eight […]
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger approved petitions for term limits, changes to the constitutional amendment process, and to recall state House District 24 Rep. Dwight Kiefert.
The term limits petition would limit the governor and legislators to eight years of service, though lawmakers could serve up to eight years each in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The measure also prohibits the Legislature from proposing a constitutional amendment to eliminate the term limits in the future.
The petition to change the process for constitutional amendments would raise voter approval from a simple majority to 60% and limit ballot measures to a single issue.
The petition by a group of lawmakers to recall Kiefert is in response to his vote to expel a colleague accused of sexual harassment earlier this year.
He is one of several representatives who were censured for the vote to expel Rep. Luke Simmons.
Each petition group has one year to gather the required number of signatures.
July 21, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Rep. Michelle Steel Reported $7,900 Donation from Woman Who’d Died Months Earlier” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN Elections Ohio: “A House Race in Cleveland Captures the Democrats’ Generational Divide” by Jonathan Weisman for New York […]
National: “Rep. Michelle Steel Reported $7,900 Donation from Woman Who’d Died Months Earlier” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
Ohio: “A House Race in Cleveland Captures the Democrats’ Generational Divide” by Jonathan Weisman for New York Times
National: “What Were the Capitol Rioters Thinking on Jan. 6?” by Dan Zak and Karen Heller (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Ethics Agency Probing Cuomo Aide’s Calls” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Washington DC: “Conflict of Interest? Company Hired to Review Troubled DC Crime Lab Wins New Contract with Same Lab” by Jack Moore for WTOP
National: “Jim Jordan, Four Other Republicans Chosen by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to Serve on Panel Investigating Jan. 6 Riot” by Marianna Sotomayor, Felice Sonmez, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) for MSN
Colorado: “Disclosure, Questions Over Reporting Requirements” by Evan Wyloge for Colorado Springs Daily Gazette
July 16, 2021 •
National/Federal An American Kingdom MSN – Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2021 There is growing Christian movement that is nondenominational, openly political, and has become an engine of former President Trump’s Republican Party. The ultimate mission is not just transforming […]
An American Kingdom
MSN – Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2021
There is growing Christian movement that is nondenominational, openly political, and has become an engine of former President Trump’s Republican Party. The ultimate mission is not just transforming individual lives but also reforming civilization itself, with a free-market economy, Bible-based education, church-based social programs, and laws curtailing LGBTQ rights. Strains of this thinking formed the basis of the Christian right and fueled the GOP for decades. What is new is the degree to which Trump elevated a network of leaders who in turn elevated him as God’s chosen president, a fusion that has secured the movement as a grassroots force within the GOP just as the old Christian right is waning.
As a High-Ranking Biden Aide Pushes Congress to Raise Inheritance Taxes, His Brother Lobbies Against It
MSN – Michael Scherer, Jeff Stein, and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2021
The brother and former business partner of a top White House adviser has been hired to lobby Democratic senators to oppose a central plank of President Biden’s legislative agenda that would raise taxes on the inheritors of large estates. Lobbyist Jeff Ricchetti is helping to lead an effort by a life insurance trade group to preserve current system. White House senior counselor Steve Ricchetti has at the same time been working against his brother’s efforts by championing Biden’s proposal on Capitol Hill.
Attorneys General in 4 States Looking into Online Fundraising Practices of Both Major Parties
MSN – Steve Thompson and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/8/2021
Attorneys general in four states are looking into the online fundraising practices of both major political parties. The practices being examined include the use of pre-checked boxes that lock in recurring donations from donors who may not intend to sign up for more than one contribution. WinRed, a fundraising platform for GOP committees and campaigns, asked a federal court to stop the investigations by the attorneys general of Minnesota, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York, arguing consumer protection statutes the attorneys general may try to enforce are preempted by federal law.
Exxon Lobbyists Paid the 6 Democrats Named in Sting Video Nearly $333,000
HuffPost – Alexander Kaufman | Published: 7/13/2021
Exxon Mobil lobbyist Keith McCoy listed six Democrats the company saw as key allies to push its legislative agenda in the U.S. Senate in a secretly recorded sting video from Greenpeace UK. New analysis of campaign disclosures found U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly, Maggie Hassan, Joe Manchin, Chris Coons, Kyrsten Sinema, and Jon Tester received a combined total of nearly $333,000 from lobbyists, PACs, and lobbying firms affiliated with Exxon over the past decade. A 2017 Ohio State University study indicates such donations have a measurable effect on lawmakers, particularly as they enter the five-figure range.
‘Get on the Team or Shut Up’: How Trump created an army of GOP enforcers
Politico – David Siders and Stephanie Murray | Published: 7/13/2021
From the earliest days of his presidency, Donald Trump and his political team worked to re-engineer the infrastructure of the Republican Party, installing allies in top leadership posts in key states. The effect has been dramatic and continues to reverberate after he left office. In red states, blue states, and swing states, these leaders – nearly all of whom were elected during Trump’s presidency or right after – are redefining the traditional role of the state party chair. They are emerging not just as guardians of the former president’s political legacy, but as chief enforcers of Trumpism within the GOP.
‘No Training’ Is a Common Staff Complaint. Meet the Congress Coaches
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 7/12/2021
When he first took the job as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon in 2018, Roddy Flynn looked around for places to get training and advice. He did not find many, and he remembers joining a text chain instead, crowdsourcing answers with his fellow freshman chiefs of staff. “To have people you can call, in a more formal way, would have been wonderful,” Flynn said. This time, he found a more official place to go, a new coaching program run by the House chief administrative officer, part of an effort to beef up support resources in the sprawling workplace that is Congress.
Toyota Stops Donations to Election Objectors After PAC Takes Ads Out Against Company
Detroit News – Riley Beggin | Published: 7/8/2021
Toyota will no longer donate to members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election in January, the company said after facing blowback over resuming those corporate contributions. The move follows an announcement that the Lincoln Project, a PAC founded by Republicans to help defeat former President Trump, would be releasing a series of advertisements directed at companies that donated to policymakers who opposed certifying the election, beginning with Toyota.
Trump Justice Dept. Effort to Learn Source of Leaks for Post Stories Came in Barr’s Final Days as AG, Court Documents Show
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 7/13/2021
Newly unsealed court documents show the Justice Department under Donald Trump sought a court order for the communications records of three Washington Post reporters in the final days of William Barr’s tenure as attorney general in 2020, as prosecutors sought to identify sources for three articles written in 2017. The documents indicate the extent to which federal investigators suspected the disclosures of classified information were coming from Congress. The new details about the investigation come as Justice Department officials are working on regulations to limit the ways in which they can pursue reporters’ data when hunting for the sources of classified information.
Why There’s Even More Pressure Now on Congress to Pass a Voting Rights Bill
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 7/9/2021
Congress faces growing pressure to pass new federal voting legislation in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that will make it more difficult to challenge a spate of new state-level voting restrictions. A package that would have set a new national baseline for election laws while overhauling campaign finance and government ethics provisions ran into a solid wall of Republican opposition in the Senate. Democrats are also working on a separate bill that would respond to a Supreme Court decision invalidating a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
Canada – Ethics Commissioner Reviewing Request to Investigate Trudeau Over Payments to Friend’s Firm
National Post – Stephanie Taylor (Canadian Press) | Published: 7/14/2021
The federal ethics watchdog is reviewing a request to investigate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over payments made to a company owned by his friend. Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Michael Barrett wrote to ethics commissioner Mario Dion asking he launch an inquiry into the prime minister’s possible involvement in awarding contracts to Data Sciences. The company was founded by Tom Pitfield, who served as the Liberal Party’s chief digital strategist during the 2015 and 2019 election campaigns. The Globe and Mail reported that MPs’ expenditure reports showed most of the Liberal caucus had paid money through their office budgets to the company, which has also been hired to provide digital services to the Liberal Party of Canada.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Fann Says Audit Team, Maricopa County Have Different Ballot Totals
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 7/13/2021
The number of ballots counted by the Arizona Senate’s self-styled audit did not match Maricopa County’s official total from the 2020 general election, which prompted the election review team to acquire machines for a new tally, Senate President Karen Fann said. Election administration experts have been harshly critical of the procedures used by Cyber Ninjas, the company Fann hired to lead the audit team, and its subcontractors used to count ballots, and have expressed concerns the contractors leading the review have exhibited a lack of basic knowledge about election procedures.
Arizona – Redistricting Will Always Be Contentious. Ask Arizona.
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 7/15/2021
Redistricting maps help determine which party will hold political power. That means intense battles even in states, such as Arizona, that have taken steps to reduce politicians’ control over the results. Arizona’s independent redistricting commission received an avalanche of comments during its recent meeting. A review found hundreds of them echoed calls to action boosted online by Republican political figures and conservative social media pages that also have promoted the state Senate’s controversial review of the 2020 election in Maricopa County. The nexus suggests that nationally, the forces sowing doubts about the 2020 vote could focus their attention on redistricting to sway future elections.
California – California Supreme Court Will Be Asked to Grant Extra Time for State’s Redistricting Panel
Yahoo News – John Myers (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/14/2021
California’s redistricting commission will ask the state Supreme Court to give the panel two extra weeks to draw political maps this fall and winter, saying a delay from the federal government in providing new census data will otherwise limit public participation in the once-a-decade process. The move sets the stage for the court to intervene for the second time in the past year to adjust the process of drawing new legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts. Last summer, the justices agreed to add four months to what would otherwise have been an August 15 deadline to finalize the state’s maps.
California – Charity and Politics: California elected officials would have to disclose their connections under proposed rule
CalMatters.org – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 7/13/2021
In the months before California lawmakers in June granted prison guards a $5,000 bonus and raises, the guards’ union made a few charitable donations, including to nonprofits run by the legislators who were preparing to vote on the pay hikes. Donations like this from groups that lobby the Legislature to nonprofits controlled by legislators, their staff, and family members have been under scrutiny by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) since it was reported they have become a common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits of the state’s campaign finance laws. The FPPC is scheduled to discuss new regulations to require elected officials to provide more information on special interest donations to their nonprofits.
California – Former County Clerk-Recorder, State Assemblyman Canciamilla Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Theft, Perjury Charges
DanvilleSanRamon.com – Bay City News Service | Published: 7/13/2021
Former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla pleaded guilty to nine counts of grand theft and perjury for using campaign accounts for personal reasons. He will serve one year in county jail as well as two years’ probation. After he resigned as clerk-recorder, Canciamilla agreed to pay $150,000 to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, admitting to spending campaign funds on travel to Asia, restaurant meals, airfare, repayment of a personal loan, and transfers to his personal bank accounts.
California – Former SF Public Works Manager Faces Perjury Counts in Corruption Scandal
KNTV – Jaxon Van Derbeken, Michael Batt, and Joe Rojas | Published: 7/8/2021
A former San Francisco Public Works manager is facing charges for allegedly hiding his role in a company that reaped more than $250,000 in no-bid contracts to provide T-shirts and other swag to the department’s employees. Gerald Sanguinetti faces perjury charges for concealing his ties to SDL Merchandising, a company he allegedly owned and was run by his wife, and charges of failing to disclose those ties to the city. SDL was paid through an off-the-books account managed by the non-profit San Francisco Parks Alliance on behalf of top public works officials. According to federal prosecutors, former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru used the Parks Alliance account to collect bribes.
California – How Sacramento Sheriff Used Inmate Welfare Fund for Cameras, Fencing – and a Tahoe Resort
MSN – Jason Pohl and Michael Fitch (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 7/14/2021
Since 2014, Sacramento County has collected roughly $5 million each year from the phone call and commissary fees at the county’s two jails. That money has been deposited into an inmate welfare fund, originally designed to pay for programs and services that benefit people locked inside such as education or job training. But records detail how the sheriff’s office has increasingly leaned on the inmate fund to backfill its budgets and buy expensive new equipment. Millions of dollars have been spent on employee salaries. In the past two years, the staff spent at least $12,000 for flights and lodging, apparently for conferences.
California – Newsom Can’t Label Himself a Democrat on Recall Ballot
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 7/12/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will appear on recall ballots without his Democratic Party label after losing a last-minute legal fight. Newsom’s team had scrambled to correct an error that will now deprive him of his party preference on ballots for the September 14 recall. Newsom sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber, arguing the law imposes a needlessly early deadline for recall targets to request their party designation and that voters deserve to see that information. Judge James Arguelles disagreed with an argument from Newsom’s attorney that party status was a vital piece of information for voters.
Florida – Naples Ethics Commission to Self-Start Investigations Based on Informal Complaints
MSN – Omar Rodriguez Ortiz (Naples Daily News) | Published: 7/12/2021
The Naples Commission on Ethics and Government Integrity voted to self-start investigations based on information it receives through informal complaints. The new rules allow the commission to begin investigations if it obtains ethical misconduct allegations about city employees, officers, board members, and contractors via unsworn statements such as anonymous sources, e-mails, and calls. To begin a preliminary inquiry, the commission’s executive director must first consider whether the source of the allegations can be vetted, whether the allegations can be independently corroborated with evidence, and whether similar allegations have been received from other sources, according to the rules.
Florida – None of the Cuba Protesters Who Closed Miami Highway Cited Under GOP-Backed Anti-Rioting Law
MSN – Brittany Shammas, Timothy Bella, Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2021
Scores of people crowded a major Miami-area highway recently, chanting in support of protests that erupted in Cuba against the country’s government. The rally caused an hours-long closure on part of the Palmetto Expressway. It was the sort of scene envisioned by a Florida law that Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed amid last year’s wave of racial justice demonstrations. The legislation calls for protesters to be cited if they block traffic. But no citations were given. Critics took issue with the lack of citations, saying the law is unclear or unevenly applied. DeSantis, who invoked the possibility of protesters shutting down a highway as he signed the bill into law, has been vocal in his support of rallies against the Cuban government.
Hawaii – Ethics Commission Quietly Drops Kealoha Investigation as Questions Swirl
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 7/9/2021
In February, the Honolulu Ethics Commission voted to drop its ongoing investigation into retired police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife Katherine, who is a former city prosecutor. It cited their federal convictions for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and other crimes. Commission Chairperson David Monk said any punishment the panel could have imposed would have paled in comparison to the years-long prison sentences the Kealohas are now serving. Despite the commission’s decision, there are still plenty of questions remaining about the agency’s role in one of the largest public corruption scandals in state history.
Idaho – Multiple Complaints Accuse Idaho Freedom Foundation of Breaking Nonprofit Rules
KPVI – Clark Corbin and Audrey Dutton (Idaho Capital Sun) | Published: 7/7/2021
Travis Oler, a Democratic legislative candidate, created the Hold Idaho Accountable nonprofit this year. One of his first actions was to file a complaint with the IRS alleging the Idaho Freedom Foundation violated its nonprofit status by engaging in excessive lobbying, becoming at least the third person to file a complaint against the foundation. But a former IRS regulator said the agency may not be equipped right now to devote investigative resources to complaints against tax-exempt organizations, and the question of whether a group like Idaho Freedom Foundation is engaged in “excessive lobbying” is a complicated one.
Illinois – ‘Paper Tiger’: Illinois’ legislative watchdog resigns citing lack of ethics reform
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel | Published: 7/14/2021
Illinois Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope resigned from her job after more than two years in the role she called a “paper tiger” for what she said was its relative powerlessness. Pope said her repeated suggestions for how to improve the office have been ignored by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, and by her own assessment, legislation passed by lawmakers this spring aimed at ethics reform have actually weakened her office. The measure was sent to Gov. JB Pritzker but he has not signed it yet.
Maryland – Baltimore County Wants to Reform Its Inspector General Office. Here’s How Other State and Local Watchdogs Stack Up.
MSN – Taylor DeVille (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 7/9/2021
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and some county council members want to create an oversight panel to monitor the county’s corruption watchdog and set limits on the way the office may conduct investigations. But facing resounding criticism, Olszewski decided to hold off on filing a bill to rein in the inspector general. The Association of Inspectors General, a national consortium that sets the standards for how those offices should function, said the changes would mute the county’s current (and first) inspector general, Kelly Madigan.
Massachusetts – Forget Lawn Signs. Kim Janey Jumps into the Campaign Swag Game
MSN – Meghan Irons (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/14/2021
Forget the lawn signs and window placards. Acting Mayor Kim Janey is adding new swag to this year’s race for mayor, as part of a messaging and fundraising effort making its debut in Boston. Her campaign webstore is selling “Mayor Janey Our Mayor” T-Shirts, “Madam Mayor Kim Janey” totes, and “Mayor Janey” hats – for $30 to $34. Stickers and buttons are five dollars. Campaign merchandise is standard fare in national elections, but it is a relatively new phenomenon in this old-time city, where candidates are used to giving away stickers, pins, and window placards.
Michigan – Mayor Defends Using Campaign Funds on Daughter’s Wedding, Argues It Doubled as Campaign Event
MSN – Natalie Colarossi (Newsweek) | Published: 7/10/2021
The mayor of Romulus, Michigan, defended using thousands of dollars in campaign funds to help pay for his daughter’s wedding by stating it doubled as a campaign event. Mayor LeRoy Burcroff acknowledged using $4,500 from the funds to cover the open bar at the wedding at a yacht club. Burcroff’s attorney, Daniel Wholihan, said the wedding was related to the campaign because many of those attending the wedding had also worked for Burcroff.
Michigan – Michigan Attorney General Nessel’s Office ‘Reviewing’ 2018 Weiser Deal
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 7/8/2021
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office is reviewing state GOP Chairperson Ron Weiser’s use of party funds in a 2018 deal that required a secretary of state candidate to abruptly end his campaign. The Michigan Republican Party revealed it agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty to resolve a campaign finance complaint focused on the situation. The question now turns to whether Nessel’s office would attempt to pursue its own investigation into elements of the incident that fall outside of campaign finance policy.
Michigan – ‘This Is Really Fantastical’: Federal judge in Michigan presses Trump-allied lawyers on 2020 election fraud claims in sanctions hearing
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/12/2021
The latest effort to hold former President Trump and his allies accountable for months of baseless claims about the 2020 election played out in a Michigan courtroom, where U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker asked skeptical questions of several lawyers she is considering imposing sanctions against for filing a suit seeking to overturn the results. During the hearing, Parker pressed the lawyers involved – including Trump allies Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood – to explain what steps they had taken to ensure their court filings in the case had been accurate. She appeared astonished by many of their answers.
Mississippi – They Wrote Campaign Checks to Tate Reeves. Then He Appointed Them to Powerful Ed Boards.
Mississippi Today – Molly Minta | Published: 7/7/2021
All but one of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ four appointees to the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) board are campaign donors. Similarly, all three of Reeves’ recent selections for the Mississippi Community College Board, announced the same day as the IHL picks, are contributors. Reeves is far from the first governor to award appointments to friends, campaign donors, and supporters. The practice is common and legal in Mississippi, though not free from criticism. The insider appointments not only raise ethical questions but are indicative of a system of favoritism that excludes the historically Black colleges and universities.
Montana – Montana Justices Say Lawmakers Overstepped in Seeking Emails
MSN – Mary Beth Hanson (Associated Press) | Published: 7/14/2021
The Montana Supreme Court ruled legislative leaders overstepped their authority in issuing a subpoena for months of emails belonging to the court’s administrator, saying the request was not related to a valid legislative interest. The email issue was raised while the court was considering a legal challenge to a new law that eliminated the Judicial Nomination Commission and allowed the governor to fill judicial vacancies between elections. The law is an element of a longer-term effort by Republican lawmakers to remake what they consider an activist judiciary and to appoint or elect more conservative judges.
Nevada – FBI Investigating Vegas Councilwoman for Trump-Related Campaign Fraud
Hill Reporter – Tara Dublin | Published: 7/14/2021
Federal authorities are investigating the campaign finances of a Las Vegas City Council member with ties to a local militia. FBI agents showed up at City Hall, where they openly questioned council members and others as part of an investigation into Michele Fiore, who was accused last year of using city resources to campaign for Donald Trump’s re-election. Agents also executed a search warrant at Fiore’s home. A complaint was filed in July 2020 about Fiore’s campaign activity for Trump, and she survived a recall effort but resigned as mayor pro tem over racist remarks she made at a Clark County Republican Party event.
New Mexico – How Big Oil Keeps a Grip on New Mexico – with the Help of a Major Lobbyist
MSN – Cody Nelson (Floodlight) and Adrian Hedden (Carlsbad Current-Argus) | Published: 7/11/2021
When President Biden paused oil and gas drilling leases on federal lands, the alarm bells rang in southeastern New Mexico. Officials in Eddy County, where the top employers are in the mining and oil and gas industries, appeared to be depending on their influential allies, including the lobbying firm FTI Consulting, to keep it that way. Emails, contracts, and other records show how FTI has used its footholds in the area for years to help push pro fossil-fuel messaging and policy. At the same time, FTI has been able to give its energy company clients easy access to local officials. But the firm and one of its spinoffs are not registered as lobbyists with the state.
New York – How Will Government Meetings Adjust to a Post-Zoom World?
Politico – Bill Mahoney | Published: 7/11/2021
A recent meeting of the New York Senate’s Ethics Committee was scheduled with participants attending both in-person and via videoconferencing. It is a new experiment that foreshadows a looming debate over how the “new normal” will look for public bodies. Traditional meetings became virtual last year, adding physical distance between people and their government and making it easier for elected officials to dodge interactions with protesters, the press, and the public. But that shift also made government more accessible for members the public who might not be able to participate in traditional meetings because of factors like physical disabilities.
New York – ‘We All Wait with Bated Breath’: Secretive Cuomo inquiry leaves New York politics in limbo
MSN – Anna Gronewold (Politico) | Published: 7/11/2021
Few New York governors in recent history have dominated the news cycle, and the levers of government, like Andrew Cuomo. But with an embattled Cuomo eyeing reelection next year, the future of state politics rests with another statewide official: Attorney General Tish James. The attorney general, who has been investigating allegations against the governor, has retained private attorneys who have interviewed several women who accused Cuomo of harassment, as well as top staff said to be aware of his alleged misconduct. But little more is known about the probe and the uncertainty has paralyzed much of New York’s political apparatus.
Ohio – Dem Star Nina Turner Blows Pledge Not to Take Lobbyist Money
MSN – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 7/12/2021
The Democratic frontrunner for an open congressional seat in Ohio, Nina Turner, pledged in January she would not accept campaign contributions from lobbyists or corporations. But weeks later, she appears to have done just that. FEC records show Turner campaign reported a donation of $1,000 from the director of Amare Public Affairs, a firm Turner founded last year as an offshoot of lobbying shop Mercury Public Affairs. Three days after her pledge, Turner accepted $250 from a partner at Mercury, which has gained public notoriety over the last few years, even drawing scrutiny during the investigation into Russian election interference.
Tennessee – Tennessee Abandons Vaccine Outreach to Minors – Not Just for COVID-19
MSN – Brett Kelman (The Tennessean) | Published: 7/13/2021
The Tennessee Department of Health is halting its outreach to minors to get vaccinated against all diseases, not just COVID-19. Normally, the health department regularly advocates for vaccinating kids against many diseases without controversy. Decisions to ratchet back outreach comes amid pressure from conservative lawmakers, who have embraced misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, said Dr. Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee’s former top vaccine official. Fiscus was fired without explanation recently. She said she was scapegoated to appease lawmakers, who had described routine vaccine outreach as “reprehensible.”
Texas – A Texas Man Was Arrested on Charges That He Voted in the 2020 Democratic Primary While on Parole. He Could Face as Much as 20 Years in Prison.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 7/10/2021
Hervis Rogers was so intent on casting a ballot in last year’s presidential primary that he waited six hours to vote, catching the attention of a CNN news crew when he became the last person tom do so at his Houston polling place. More than a year later, Rogers was arrested on charges he voted in last year’s Democratic primary while on parole. Under Texas law, it is illegal for a felon to “knowingly” vote while still serving a sentence, including parole. Doing so is a second-degree felony, punishable with a minimum of two years and a maximum of 20 years in prison. In at least 20 states, Rogers’s alleged vote would not be a crime.
Texas – Inside the Secret Plan for the Texas Democratic Exodus: A phone tree, a scramble to pack and a politically perilous trip
MSN – Amy Gardner, Eva Ruth Moravec, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, and Nicole Asbury (Washington Post) | Published: 7/13/2021
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session to complete the year’s unfinished business, including the passage of far-reaching legislation restricting voting access that had failed when House Democrats staged a walkout in May. They were ready to do the same this time around to block what they described as an assault on democracy meant to make it harder for people who tend to vote Democratic to cast their ballots. It was just a question of when. What followed over a matter of hours was an exodus from Texas as dozens of Democratic lawmakers made arrangements to leave their homes and their jobs, potentially for weeks, and drew sharp rebukes for walking away from their responsibilities in the Texas Legislature.
Washington – City Denies Wrongdoing Alleged in Public Records Lawsuit, Countersues The Seattle Times
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb | Published: 7/13/2021
Lawyers for the city of Seattle deny it broke Washington’s public records law and countersued The Seattle Times in response to a lawsuit alleging the city mishandled reporters’ requests for top officials’ text messages during a tumultuous period last summer. The city denied most legal contentions, including claims based on an ethics investigation into a whistleblower’s complaint that found Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office violated the public disclosure law after discovering the mayor’s texts for a 10-month period were missing. Although it concedes the mayor’s texts are lost, the city’s response includes a counterclaim against the newspaper.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers Vetoes Bill That Would’ve Kept Legislators’ Discipline Records for Sexual Harassment Confidential
MSN – Molly Beck (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 7/9/2021
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoed legislation that could have made it more difficult for the public to get records about lawmakers who are disciplined or accused of sexual harassment. The bill, which was passed unanimously, would have formally created a human resources office for the state Legislature and specified disciplinary records and complaints against lawmakers should be treated confidentially. The bill would have bolstered a standing legislative practice of withholding complaints against lawmakers. Evers said labeling such records as confidential in state law could prevent the public from knowing details about lawmakers’ misconduct.
July 15, 2021 •
Connecticut state contractors must now include certain representations in their contracts and bids. House Bill 6444, a modernization of state services and technology bill, requires ethics compliance, nondiscrimination, and consulting agreement representations to be included in the contract itself, instead […]
Connecticut state contractors must now include certain representations in their contracts and bids.
House Bill 6444, a modernization of state services and technology bill, requires ethics compliance, nondiscrimination, and consulting agreement representations to be included in the contract itself, instead of being submitted on a separate certification form.
House Bill 6444 also creates additional disclosure requirements for state contractors and prospective state contractors.
Now, contractors will need to disclose whether they, or any of their principals, made a prohibited donation or any permitted contribution within the past four years to a party committee, an exploratory committee, a candidate for statewide office or the General Assembly, or a political committee authorized to make contributions or expenditures for the benefit of such a candidate.
The bill became effective July 1.
July 15, 2021 •
Campaign Finance California: “Former County Clerk-Recorder, State Assemblyman Canciamilla Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Theft, Perjury Charges” by Bay City News Service for DanvilleSanRamon.com Elections Arizona: “Fann Says Audit Team, Maricopa County Have Different Ballot Totals” by Jeremy Duda for […]
California: “Former County Clerk-Recorder, State Assemblyman Canciamilla Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Theft, Perjury Charges” by Bay City News Service for DanvilleSanRamon.com
Arizona: “Fann Says Audit Team, Maricopa County Have Different Ballot Totals” by Jeremy Duda for Arizona Mirror
National: “Trump Justice Dept. Effort to Learn Source of Leaks for Post Stories Came in Barr’s Final Days as AG, Court Documents Show” by Devlin Barrett and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Naples Ethics Commission to Self-Start Investigations Based on Informal Complaints” by Omar Rodriguez Ortiz (Naples Daily News) for MSN
Illinois: “‘Paper Tiger’: Illinois’ legislative watchdog resigns citing lack of ethics reform” by Hannah Meisel for NPR Illinois
New York: “‘We All Wait with Bated Breath’: Secretive Cuomo inquiry leaves New York politics in limbo” by Anna Gronewold (Politico) for MSN
Washington: “City Denies Wrongdoing Alleged in Public Records Lawsuit, Countersues The Seattle Times” by Lewis Kamb for Seattle Times
Montana: “Montana Justices Say Lawmakers Overstepped in Seeking Emails” by Mary Beth Hanson (Associated Press) for MSN
National: “Exxon Lobbyists Paid the 6 Democrats Named in Sting Video Nearly $333,000” by Alexander Kaufman for HuffPost
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.