February 24, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Washington: “WA Supreme Court Throws Out Think Tank’s Attack on Union Political Activity” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune Elections National: “Bloomberg’s 2020 Aides Got an Unwelcome Surprise in Their Tax Forms” by Christopher Cadelago for Politico […]
Washington: “WA Supreme Court Throws Out Think Tank’s Attack on Union Political Activity” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune
National: “Bloomberg’s 2020 Aides Got an Unwelcome Surprise in Their Tax Forms” by Christopher Cadelago for Politico
Florida: “Plan to Lower Flags for Rush Limbaugh Causing Controversy, Consternation in Florida” by James Call (Tallahassee Democrat) for MSN
Illinois: “Embattled Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Steps Down as State Democratic Party Chair” by Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News
Ohio: “Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson Indicted on Federal Conspiracy Charges Involving Reimbursements from City” by John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Oregon: “Oregon Lawmaker Facing Harassment Allegations, Risk of Expulsion, Resigns” by Tim Gruver for Center Square
National: “This Congress Is the Most Diverse Ever. But Hill Staffers Remain Overwhelmingly White.” by Maya King for Politico
National: “K Street Eyes a Return of Earmarks to Boost Business” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
New York: “Jimmy Van Bramer Swore Off Special Interest Cash While Money Flowed to Husband’s Film” by Jon Levine for New York Post
February 23, 2021 •
The House of Representatives introduced a bill eliminating the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices. House Bill 535 establishes a Campaign Practices and Ethics Review Board appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the […]
The House of Representatives introduced a bill eliminating the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices.
House Bill 535 establishes a Campaign Practices and Ethics Review Board appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, and the minority leaders.
The bill also transfers investigative duties and duties related to the filing of ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance report, statements, forms, and other documents to the Office of the Secretary of State.
Enforcement duties for ethics, lobbying, and campaign practices complaints will be transferred to the Campaign Practices and Ethics Review Board, the Attorney General, and county attorneys.
If passed, House Bill 535 becomes effective July 1, 2021.
February 22, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “‘Mercenary’ Donor Gets 12 Years in Campaign Finance Scheme” by Brian Melley, Alan Suderman, and Jim Mustain for Associated Press News Alaska: “Alaskans Were Left in the Dark as Money Poured into Elections Last Year. Now, That’s […]
National: “‘Mercenary’ Donor Gets 12 Years in Campaign Finance Scheme” by Brian Melley, Alan Suderman, and Jim Mustain for Associated Press News
Alaska: “Alaskans Were Left in the Dark as Money Poured into Elections Last Year. Now, That’s Changing.” by Nathaniel Herz for Alaska Public Media
Illinois: “Ex-Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios Pays $100,000 to Settle Ethics Case” by Dan Mihalopoulos for WBEZ
Tennessee: “Registry of Election Finance Changes Unlikely Amid FBI Probe” by Sam Stockard (Tennessee Lookout) for Patch
National: “U.S. Investigating Possible Ties Between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol Rioters” by Spencer Hsu and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Cruz Returns from Cancun Amid Texas Crisis” by Andrew Desiderio and Marianne Levine for Politico
Indiana: “Indiana Attorney General Keeps Job with Health Benefits Firm” by Staff for Associated Press News
Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Wildlife Officials Ate $20,000 of Illegal Caviar, Prosecutors Say. Now the ‘Sturgeon General’ Faces Charges.” by Antonia Noori Farzan (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Resigns Seat” by John O’Connor (Associated Press) for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
February 19, 2021 •
National/Federal A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back. MSN – Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021 Conservative political donor Fred Eshelman gave $2 million to a nonprofit […]
A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back.
MSN – Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021
Conservative political donor Fred Eshelman gave $2 million to a nonprofit group in Texas that was seeking to expose voter fraud. Over the next two weeks, Eshelman came to regret his contribution and to doubt conspiracy theories of rampant illegal voting. Now, he wants his money back. The story behind the Eshelman contribution provides new insights into the frenetic days after the election, when baseless claims led donors to give hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse President Biden’s victory. Documents in Eshelman’s litigation, along with interviews, show how True the Vote’s private assurances it was on the cusp of revealing illegal election schemes repeatedly fizzled as the group’s focus shifted from one allegation to the next.
Adam Kinzinger’s Lonely Mission
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 2/15/2021
As the Republican Party censures, condemns, and seeks to purge leaders who are not in lock step with Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger stands as enemy number one – unwelcome not just in his party but also in his own family, some of whom recently disowned him. Kinzinger is at the forefront of the effort to navigate post-Trump politics. He is betting his political career, professional relationships, and kinship with a wing of his sprawling family that his party’s future lies in disavowing Trump and the conspiracy theories the former president stoked.
Biden’s New VA Chief Inherits Oversight Office from Trump Viewed as Abetting Corruption
MSN – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/17/2021
The Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) was created by former President Trump to root out waste and corruption in Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) top ranks. But to many in the department, the veterans community, and both parties in Congress, the unusual program created to stop corruption has only carried out more of it. Trump appointees cycled in and out of leadership roles, hiring unqualified friends, and producing substandard inquiries of senior leaders’ misconduct, the VA’s inspector general found. Two of three directors in four years had no investigative background. Instead of acknowledgment, whistleblowers faced reprisal.
Census Delays Could Squeeze Courts’ Review of House Maps
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 2/12/2021
States will not get the key data to draw new congressional and legislative maps until September, the Census Bureau said, setting up a race to draw new maps and fight over them in court before the 2022 midterms. The latest delay could make it difficult for states to redraw congressional district lines before next year’s elections and leave little time for the expected court fights to play out, experts said. The Census Bureau has run into problems with finalizing census data after the coronavirus pandemic and decisions by the Trump administration hampered last year’s count.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Resigns Amid Fallout from Contentious Phone Call with Reporter
MSN – Ashley Parker and Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2021
Deputy White House press secretary TJ Ducklo resigned amid fallout from a contentious phone call in which he berated and threatened a female reporter who was working on a story about a potential conflict-of-interest stemming from his personal life. After details from the phone call emerged in news reports, the White House found itself grappling with its first major test of President Biden’s promise to take seriously claims of abusive language and behavior, as well as to drastically shift the tone and culture of government after former President Trump.
Eroding Trust, Spreading Fear: The historical ties between pandemics and extremism
MSN – Marc Fisher (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021
Since ancient times, pandemics have spurred sharp turns in political beliefs, spawning extremist movements, waves of mistrust, and wholesale rejection of authorities. Nearly a year into the coronavirus crisis, Americans are falling prey to the same phenomenon, historians, theologians, and other experts say. New insecurities and fears loosed by the pandemic fed into an existing erosion of trust in leaders and institutions, according to those who have studied how people react to rampant, uncontrolled disease. Some of these insecurities predated the pandemic: many of those arrested in the Capitol riot owned businesses or worked white-collar jobs. But many got involved in politics only after virus-related shutdowns hit their personal finances.
House Homeland Security Chairman Sues Trump and Giuliani, Accusing Them of Inciting Capitol Riot
MSN – Spener Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2021
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairperson of the House Homeland Security Committee filed a federal lawsuit accusing former President Trump, attorney Rudolph Giuliani, and two extremist groups whose members have been charged in the January 6 storming of the Capitol with illegally conspiring to intimidate and block Congress’s certification of the 2020 election. Thompson alleged Trump and Giuliani’s false claims the election was stolen fomented a raid that violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 law enacted after the Civil War to bar violent interference in Congress’s constitutional duties.
Lincoln Project Co-Founder Reed Galen Ran Little Known Dark Money Group as Super PAC’s Dealings Face Scrutiny
CNBC – Brian Scwartz | Published: 2/16/2021
As co-founders of the Lincoln Project were making millions of dollars from a super PAC they ran, one of them, Reed Galen, launched a “dark money” organization that may have enriched him and his allies even further. The group, Project Yellowstone, says it is a 501(c)(4) that was created to educate voters on how to vote in person or by mail in the 2020 presidential election campaign. Documents show the Lincoln Project and Project Yellowstone were directly linked. Although this partnership is not illegal, the arrangement could have allowed behind the scenes payments to firms with ties to the super PAC’s leadership or other vendors that often did work with the Lincoln Project.
Loneliest Class in Congress Wonders How to Make Friends
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 2/10/2021
An axiom that rings true on Capitol Hill is that it is all about who you know, even right now. This might just be the loneliest Congress in memory, but Congress is still about relationships. As roughly five dozen new lawmakers enter their second month in office and try to settle into the House, they are asking what it means for the future. Untangling the mess of their early months in Congress will be an ongoing task for freshman lawmakers, as they figure out what is new because of the pandemic, what is new because of the insurrection, and what is not new at all but just part of the same old partisan in Washington.
Now Out of Office, Trump May Have to Face Tax Questions
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell, David Fahrenthold, and Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2021
When former President Trump returns to his business, he will face some challenges, such as declining real estate income and investigations from New York authorities. But he may also have to finally face two tax issues that have been simmering in the background, either of which experts say could carry significant consequences should they materialize now that he is out of office. Experts say legal and administrative authorities are more likely to address Trump’s tax issues now that he is a private citizen, even as Biden administration officials debate how much to hold Trump accountable for past actions while also trying to move the country forward.
Trump Acquitted on Impeachment Charge of Inciting Deadly Attack on the Capitol
MSN – Amy Gardner, Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2021
Former President Trump was acquitted of inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol, becoming the first president in U.S. history to face a second impeachment trial, and surviving it in part because of his continuing hold on the Republican Party despite his electoral defeat in November. That grip appeared to loosen slightly during the vote, when seven Republicans crossed party lines to vote for conviction – a sign of the rift the Capitol siege has caused within GOP ranks and the desire by some in the party to move on from Trump. Still, the vote, in which all Democrats and two independents voted against Trump, fell far short of the two-thirds required to convict.
Trump Left Behind a Clemency Mess. The Clock’s Ticking for Biden to Solve It.
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 2/11/2021
When Joe Biden took office, he inherited the largest backlog of unresolved clemency cases in U.S. history: 14,000 people waiting to find out if their convictions would be erased or sentences reduced, or if they would get any answer at all. Many of those have languished in the system for years after former President Trump largely bypassed the century-old process for reviewing cases and instead granted pardons based on advice from politically connected friends, lobbyists, and television celebrities. Biden’s White House counsel’s office has started to reach out to attorneys and advocates for suggestions on reforms, what could be done about the backlog, and mistakes they believe were made in previous administrations.
Canada – Democracy Watch Asks Ontario Court to Stop ‘Biased’ Watchdog from Letting PC Insiders Lobby
HuffPost – Emma Paling | Published: 2/10/2021
Advocacy group Democracy Watch is asking a court to overturn three decisions by Ontario Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, arguing he allows unethical lobbying by connections to Premier Doug Ford and his ministers. The commissioner’s annual reports, which describe his decisions, do not name the lobbyists or politicians he has investigated for breaking the rules. But the decisions being challenged were all issued in 2019 and 2020, meaning they apply to members of the Provincial Parliament elected when Ford’s Progressive Conservatives took power in 2018.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Panel Votes to Boost Unlawful Protest Penalties
Associated Press News – Jonathan Cooper | Published: 2/16/2021
Arizona lawmakers are considering boosting penalties for people arrested at protests, drawing opposition from civil rights groups worried that officers will target Black Lives Matter demonstrators or others with messages police find distasteful. A measure approved by a House committee is among several bills advancing in the Republican-controlled Legislature in the wake of demonstrations against police brutality last year. Critics say the measures would be selectively enforced by overzealous police and prosecutors and would discourage people from exercising their First Amendment right to protest.
Arizona – Ethics Chair Dismisses 82 Complaints vs. Finchem, Won’t Investigate His Capitol Rally Role
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/12/2021
The head of the House Ethics Committee is dismissing all 82 complaints against Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem. Rep. Becky Nutt said none of the allegations against Finchem back up the contention he “supported the violent overthrow of our government” or he directly participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Finchem was at the rally, and he posted a photo on Twitter taken once the mob had reached the Capitol, Rep. César Chávez said in his complaint. But there is no evidence he entered the building and that became a crucial point in the decision to dismiss the case without demanding a response from Finchem and without investigating further, Nutt said.
California – L.A. Ethics Commission Issues Five Fines for Failure to Register as Lobbyists
MyNewsLA.com – Staff | Published: 2/16/2021
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission issued five fines totaling $162,500 to companies and people who failed to register as lobbyists. Velada Consulting and its owner David Vela were fined $7,500 after admitting they failed to register as lobbying entities in 2020 and failed to file a disclosure report for 2020’s second quarter. The four other fines were issued for Craig Fry & Associates and three of its employees.
California – San Francisco Contractor Gets 1 Year in Prison for Bribery
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 2/11/2021
Businessperson Florence Kong was sentenced to one year in prison for bribing a San Francisco official, marking the first criminal penalty handed down in a City Hall corruption probe. Kong pleaded guilty to giving $95,000 and a gold Rolex watch to former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru in exchange for help obtaining lucrative business from the city. Prosecutors said that in addition to the watch, Kong plied Nuru with expensive meals, an envelope of cash for his daughter at her graduation party, and work on his vacation home.
Colorado – The Colorado Capitol’s Hallways Are Where Dealmaking Happens. Coronavirus Has Emptied Them.
Colorado Sun – Jessie Paul and Thy Vo | Published: 2/17/2021
Lawmakers, legislative staff, and journalists in Colorado were granted access to COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the resumption of the legislative session. Lobbyists were not. As a result, many of them are trying to limit their time in the once-bustling statehouse, even if there is nothing stopping them from being in the building. That means informal conversations and meetings, where a lot of important policies get ironed out, will likely happen infrequently this year. State lawmakers are aware of the access problems lobbyists and members of the public will have, but they are mostly brushing off the concerns and chalking them up to the myriad of changes people have had to endure during the pandemic.
Florida – State Finds No Sunshine Law Violations in Orlando Airport Probe but Details Behind-the-Scenes Maneuvering
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia and Kevin Spear | Published: 2/12/2021
A 16-month probe into a failed attempt to hand out no-bid contracts at Orlando International Airport found no laws were broken but revealed how a lobbyist and airport leaders worked behind the scenes to back a deal that ultimately erupted in controversy. Investigators found three of the seven members on the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s governing board met separately with lobbyist Chris Dorworth in the days leading up to an August 2019 board meeting to discuss an unadvertised plan to steer important legal contracts to a pair of local attorneys. But investigators said there was no evidence any those board members communicated directly with each other or instructed Dorworth to do so on their behalf.
Florida – Voting by Mail in Florida Was a Success, So Why Do Legislators Want to Make It Harder?
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/16/2021
Senate Republicans agreed Florida’s vote-by-mail process worked smoothly in the last election cycle but still needed a change. After a record 4.8 million Floridians voted by mail in November, the Ethics and Elections Committee approved Senate Bill 90 along party lines to limit vote-by-mail applications to one election cycle and require everyone who signed up for mail ballots in 2020 to reapply to get them in 2022. Current law allows voters who ask for a mail-in ballot to have their request remain current for two general election cycles unless they opt out.
Georgia – Graham’s Post-Election Call with Raffensperger Will Be Scrutinized in Georgia Probe, Person Familiar with Inquiry Says
MSN – Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/12/2021
An Atlanta-area prosecutor plans to scrutinize a post-Election Day phone call between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as part of a criminal investigation into whether former President Trump or his allies broke the law while trying to reverse his defeat in the state, according to a person familiar with the probe. During their conversation, Graham asked the secretary of state whether he had the power to toss out all mail ballots in certain counties, Raffensperger said. He said Graham appeared to be asking him to improperly find a way to set aside legally cast ballots. Graham denied that, saying he was seeking information to better understand how the state verified mail ballots.
Indiana – More Vinyl Villages? Lawmaker Who Builds Homes Pushes Bill to Eliminate Housing Standards
South Bend Tribune – Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 2/11/2021
An Indiana lawmaker who builds homes is the sole author on a bill to ban community architecture design requirements, a proposal that could save him and others in his profession thousands of dollars. Ethics experts say Rep. Doug Miller’s involvement in the bill is inappropriate because of his ownership of development company Tailor Made Homes and his role on the board of directors for the National Association of Homebuilders. He also chairs the House committee that passed the legislation, giving him control of that process.
Maryland – Former State Investigator Questions Payment from Marilyn Mosby Election Committee to Her Private Lawyers
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 2/16/2021
The former political-corruption investigator for Maryland asked the state prosecutor to investigate a $3,250 payment made by the election campaign of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to her personal lawyers. In an email to the state prosecutor, James Cabezas wrote that the payment is not allowed under the law. The payment went to the law firm of Kramon & Graham. Andrew Graham is one of the top attorneys in Maryland for lawyers and judges facing ethical or legal issues. Mosby hired the firm as her personal lawyers to represent her during a seven-month investigation by the city inspector general into her travel, gifts, and businesses.
Montana – Gianforte Repeals Directives Made by Former Governor
Associated Press News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 2/12/2021
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte repealed two executive orders issued by former Gov. Steve Bullock. One required companies to report political spending if they wanted to bid on large state contracts and the second allowed counties to decide if they wanted to hold the November 2020 general election mostly by mail. Bullock’s political spending order required companies bidding for certain state contracts to disclose political donations made within 60 days of an election. Opponents argued it violated companies’ First Amendment rights and raised the possibility that a company’s donations could lead to retaliation.
Nevada – Group of Conservative Activists Sue State, Legislature Over Closure of Legislative Building to Lobbyists
Nevada Independent – Riley Snyder and Michelle Rindells | Published: 2/17/2021
Four lobbyists in Nevada are suing the governor, a top lawmaker, and legislative staff, arguing they are suffering irreparable harm from coronavirus-prevention rules that have kept the legislative session largely virtual and bar lobbyists from entering the Legislative Building. The lawsuit seeks a court-ordered injunction to “immediately allow plaintiffs access to the State Capital to engage in lobbying activities,” saying emergency orders limiting public access to the Legislature violate their constitutional rights to petition the government and free speech. They also argue Nevada is no longer experiencing a bona fide emergency to justify the restrictions.
New Jersey – Cash in a Paper Bag: North Jersey pols indicted in ‘old-school political corruption’ case
MSN – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 2/16/2021
Four New Jersey politicians hit with bribery charges in 2019 have been indicted by a state grand jury as part of alleged schemes to take tens of thousands of dollars in bribes masked as campaign contributions – in one case a paper bag filled with cash. The defendants are accused of promising a tax attorney they would vote to award his firm public contracts in exchange for the illegal contributions. The tax attorney was a cooperating witness working for state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office. “The conduct alleged in these indictments is old-school political corruption at its worst, the kind that erodes public faith in government …,” Grewal said.
New Jersey – Former Middlesex Mayor Sentenced for Stealing, Laundering $275K in Campaign, Charity Funds
MSN – Suzanne Russell (MyCentralJersey.com) | Published: 2/16/2021
Former Middlesex Borough Mayor Ronald DiMura was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing more than $275,000 from local political campaigns, investors, and a charity. DiMura, who resigned after his indictment, is permanently barred from public office and public employment in New Jersey. He also must pay $83,372 in restitution and must forfeit $163,582, the remainder of the funds he stole.
New Mexico – Dark Money Group Pushing PRC Reform Tied to Major Oil Company
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 2/12/2021
Exxon Mobil contributed to a “dark-money” group that supported a successful November referendum reforming New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission, according to a campaign finance report filed by one of its lobbyists. One of the state’s largest energy producers, the multinational gave at least $10,000 to the Committee to Protect New Mexico Consumers, a nonprofit that spent $250,000 touting the merits of a constitutional amendment, which eventually passed handily. The contribution can be found in an October 7 report filed by lobbyist Deanna Archuleta. The “dark money” campaign and lobbyist involvement illustrate the challenges faced by the public in knowing what special interests stand to gain from elections or their role in creating public policy or ballot measures.
New Mexico – Settlement Reveals New Mexico Utility Funded Political Group
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/13/2021
The parent firm of the largest utility in New Mexico funded a group that spent more than $130,000 on political advertisements in highly contested Democratic legislative primary election races last year. PNM Resources, the parent firm of Public Service Company of New Mexico, financed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico. The disclosure was made public as part of a settlement agreement that involved the New Mexico Ethics Commission agreeing to drop a lawsuit. The commission also agreed to waive any civil penalties against the group and will not require it to register as a political committee.
New York – Coverup Claims Engulf Cuomo as Scandal Over Nursing Home Deaths Grows
Politico – Shannon Young and Anna Gronewold | Published: 2/12/2021
When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide told Democratic lawmakers why the administration slow-walked information on nursing home deaths in the state, she appeared to be trying to dispel smoldering rumors of a cover-up. Instead, Melissa DeRosa, threw gasoline on a fire that had enveloped Cuomo’s legacy of effective leadership during the Covid-19 crisis. DeRosa told legislators the administration “froze” after the U.S. Justice Department made an inquiry into Cuomo’s management of nursing homes. She said state officials refrained from releasing the data because of worry then-President Trump was trying to turn the tragedy “into a giant political football.”
New York – New York Ethics Panel Chair Steps Down, Replaced by Ex-Cuomo Aide
New York Post – Bernadette Hogan | Published: 2/10/2021
Michael Rosen, chairperson of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) stepped down and is slated to be replaced by attorney Camille Joseph Varlack, another former staffer to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. JCOPE itself has come under fire in recent years, accused of a lack of transparency. The panel was set up in 2011 as an independent check on state officials and lobbying activities. Appointees are made by the governor and the Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, but committee discussions are bound by state ethics law to remain private.
North Dakota – Once Again, N.D. Lawmakers Ponder the Benefits, Costs of Annual Sessions
MSN – Brayden Zencker (Devil’s Lake Journal) | Published: 2/11/2021
North Dakota Sen. Brad Bekkedahl is lead sponsor of Senate Bill 2218, which would allow for annual legislative sessions. It would not change how sessions are conducted now during odd-numbered years, but Bekkedahl proposes adding a short session in even-numbered years. Legislative Management, a bipartisan committee, would decide the timing and duration of sessions during even-numbered years. North Dakota is one of just four states that still conduct legislative sessions every two years.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Hall Corruption: Voters will get a say on two charter amendments this May
MSN – Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 2/10/2021
After three Cincinnati City Council members were indicted on federal bribery charges this past year, one thing became clear: there was no provision in the city charter to remove a council member charged with a felony. Cincinnati voters will get a chance to change that on May 4. The council voted to put two charter amendments on the ballot that would offer different avenues for suspending or removing council members who are indicted for crimes.
Ohio – Federal Judge Ignores Prison Recommendations in Convention Center Bribery Scandal Sentence
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 2/16/2021
A man who participated in a bribery scheme with former Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority board member John Raphael over a multi-million-dollar food vendor contract was sentenced to six months home confinement, community service, and probation for the next four years. Rodney Myers, who had pleaded guilty to federal programs bribery in November 2019, was facing federal sentencing guidelines that called for up to two years in prison for his role in steering the food service contract at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Raphael is facing 20 years for his part in the same bribery scheme after pleading guilty.
South Carolina – Accountability Suffers as Newspaper Closures Grow in SC, Nation
Times and Democrat – Glenn Smith and Tony Bartelme (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 2/15/2021
Seven newspapers in South Carolina closed their doors in the past year, joining more than 60 that shuttered across the nation as the coronavirus hit an industry already battered by shrinking revenue and job cuts. This exacerbated a trend that has created so-called news deserts in hundreds of communities, depriving them of vital government watchdogs. Without that scrutiny, corruption can blossom. The Charleston Post and Courier examined 100 South Carolina misconduct cases in which criminal charges were filed since 2015. Roughly 75 percent involved public officials and employees accused of betraying the rural community in which they worked.
South Carolina – NextEra Didn’t Share Santee Cooper Lobbying Efforts. SC Senators Look to Require It
The State – Joseph Bestos | Published: 2/11/2021
A group of South Carolina senators want to force Florida-based utility NextEra to provide information about its lobbying efforts to buy Santee Cooper. The Senate Judiciary Committee pushed forward a resolution to require NextEra to disclose communications it had with lawmakers and officials since July 31, 2017, when state-owned Santee Cooper and SCE&G abandoned efforts to build two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina. The failure of the project led the state to debate whether to sell or reform Santee Cooper.
South Carolina – Prosecutor Pascoe’s Saga of Exposing Public Corruption in Legislature Comes to End
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 2/16/2021
After more than six years of winning convictions against South Carolina politicians on public corruption charges, special prosecutor David Pascoe is turning his three remaining unfinished cases over to state Attorney General Alan Wilson. “Procedural confusion” created by a recent state Supreme Court decision that overturned one of his convictions was a major reason for halting what has been an ongoing house-cleaning of corrupt General Assembly lawmakers, according to a letter sent by Pascoe to the attorney general. But the high court also ruled Pascoe’s winning a conviction on perjury charges of former Rep. Jim Harrison was lawful. Harrison will be the first state lawmaker in decades to serve a prison sentence on corruption-related charges.
South Dakota – South Dakota Gov. Noem Defends ‘Dark Money’ Push as Privacy Protection
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 2/12/2021
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defended her push to shield donor information of nonprofit organizations that influence public policy, including one group that was connected to her campaign. The governor said the legislation was intended to protect the privacy rights of donors who wish to anonymously contribute to charities. Although she insisted it “does absolutely nothing on campaign finance,” critics said it would further the use of so-called dark money. One bill would bar state officials from requiring nonprofit groups, including those that work to influence policy, to disclose information on donors. A second bill would further protect donor privacy, allowing them to sue if their information were made public.
Tennessee – New Audit Raises More Questions About Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Spending
WTVF – Jennifer Kraus | Published: 2/10/2021
A new audit raises even more questions about how Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron spent his campaign money. The latest audit ordered by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance looked at Ketron’s spending in 2018 and early 2019 from his campaign account during his successful run for mayor. This comes after state auditors found nearly $250,000 missing from two other campaign accounts belonging to Ketron. One was his senate campaign account and the other was for the PAC he ran while in the state Senate. Like the latest audit, the two previous investigations found reported payments that never actually happened as well as overstated expenses and dozens of expenditures with no receipts or invoices.
Virginia – Special Prosecutor Looking into Virginia Beach’s Former Lobbyist Who Lined Up a Job to Work for City Contractor
MSN – Alyssa Skelton (The Virginian-Pilot) | Published: 2/11/2021
Bob Matthias retired from the city of Virginia Beach on January 1 after serving as assistant to the city manager. In that role, Matthias oversaw the awarding of a lobbying contract to Principle Advantage Government Relations Group while also negotiating a potential job with the company. An ordinance requires departing city employees wait one year before working for a company that receives city contracts associated with the employees’ previous job duties. State law prohibits employees involved in the procurement process from negotiating or securing prospective employment with the contractor.
Washington – Eyman Fined $2.6 Million, Barred from Campaign Control
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 2/10/2021
A Thurston County judge found longtime anti-tax activist Tim Eyman violated campaign finance laws and fined him $2.6 million. The judge also ruled Eyman, who has led initiative campaigns across Washington for decades, will no longer be allowed to have any financial control over political committees. Eyman was charged with laundering political contributions to enrich himself; accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm; secretly shuttling money between initiative campaigns; and concealing the source of other campaign donations. “Mr. Eyman’s violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act are numerous and particularly egregious and were ‘intentional’ as that term is defined by law,” wrote Judge James Dixon.
Wisconsin – Steven DeVougas Resignation Brings End to Milwaukee Ethics Board Investigation of Him
MSN – Alison Dirr (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/17/2021
The recent resignation of Steven DeVougas from the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission also ended the ongoing city Ethics Board investigation into allegations over his ties to a prominent real estate developer. DeVougas resigned from the powerful civilian oversight panel following more than a year of controversy since it was reported he accompanied the developer, his corporate client, to an August 2019 police interview of the developer regarding a sexual assault allegation against him. The case remains open and under review at the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office.
February 17, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back.” by Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) for MSN Montana: “Gianforte Repeals Directives Made by Former Governor” by Amy […]
National: “A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back.” by Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) for MSN
Montana: “Gianforte Repeals Directives Made by Former Governor” by Amy Beth Hanson for Associated Press News
National: “Adam Kinzinger’s Lonely Mission” by Reid Epstein for New York Times
National: “House Homeland Security Chairman Sues Trump and Giuliani, Accusing Them of Inciting Capitol Riot” by Spener Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “New York Ethics Panel Chair Steps Down, Replaced by Ex-Cuomo Aide” by Bernadette Hogan for New York Post
South Carolina: “Accountability Suffers as Newspaper Closures Grow in SC, Nation” by Glenn Smith and Tony Bartelme (Charleston Post and Courier) for Times and Democrat
North Dakota: “Once Again, N.D. Lawmakers Ponder the Benefits, Costs of Annual Sessions” by Brayden Zencker (Devil’s Lake Journal) for MSN
Canada: “Democracy Watch Asks Ontario Court to Stop ‘Biased’ Watchdog from Letting PC Insiders Lobby” by Emma Paling for HuffPost
Florida: “State Finds No Sunshine Law Violations in Orlando Airport Probe but Details Behind-the-Scenes Maneuvering” by Jason Garcia and Kevin Spear for Orlando Sentinel
February 15, 2021 •
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte repealed two executive orders issued by former Gov. Steve Bullock. Executive Order 15-2018 required companies to report political spending if they wanted to bid on large state contracts. The order also required companies bidding for certain […]
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte repealed two executive orders issued by former Gov. Steve Bullock.
Executive Order 15-2018 required companies to report political spending if they wanted to bid on large state contracts.
The order also required companies bidding for certain state contracts to disclose political donations made within 60 days of an election.
The second order allowed county election clerks to expand voting by mail for the November general election to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The order also required counties to offer in-person voting, but it did not require polling places to be open on election day.
February 15, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Tennessee: “New Audit Raises More Questions About Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Spending” by Jennifer Kraus for WTVF Washington: “Eyman Fined $2.6 Million, Barred from Campaign Control” by Gene Johnson for Associated Press News Ethics National: “Trump […]
Tennessee: “New Audit Raises More Questions About Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Spending” by Jennifer Kraus for WTVF
Washington: “Eyman Fined $2.6 Million, Barred from Campaign Control” by Gene Johnson for Associated Press News
National: “Trump Left Behind a Clemency Mess. The Clock’s Ticking for Biden to Solve It.” by Anita Kumar for Politico
National: “Trump Acquitted on Impeachment Charge of Inciting Deadly Attack on the Capitol” by Amy Gardner, Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “San Francisco Contractor Gets 1 Year in Prison for Bribery” by Nicholas Iovino for Courthouse News Service
Indiana: “More Vinyl Villages? Lawmaker Who Builds Homes Pushes Bill to Eliminate Housing Standards” by Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) for South Bend Tribune
Ohio: “Cincinnati City Hall Corruption: Voters will get a say on two charter amendments this May” by Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
National: “Loneliest Class in Congress Wonders How to Make Friends” by Jim Saska (Roll Call) for MSN
Virginia: “Special Prosecutor Looking into Virginia Beach’s Former Lobbyist Who Lined Up a Job to Work for City Contractor” by Alyssa Skelton (The Virginian-Pilot) for MSN
February 12, 2021 •
National/Federal After Capitol Riot, Desperate Families Turn to Groups That ‘Deprogram’ Extremists MSN – Paulina Villegas and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2021 There is a surge of desperate families and friends calling organizations that aim to deradicalize and “deprogram” […]
After Capitol Riot, Desperate Families Turn to Groups That ‘Deprogram’ Extremists
MSN – Paulina Villegas and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2021
There is a surge of desperate families and friends calling organizations that aim to deradicalize and “deprogram” extremists across the ideological spectrum. Such groups say demand for their free services has never been higher. Parents for Peace says calls to its national helpline have tripled since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with a growing number of younger people being groomed in white supremacist ideology. After supporters of then-President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, the intervention groups have experienced a deluge of calls related to the attack as well as to conspiracy theories and QAnon. The range of extremist ideas they encounter also has widened in the past year, driven by the 2020 election and the pandemic.
After Losing Committees, Marjorie Taylor Greene Says She Has Been ‘Freed’ to Push the GOP Further Right
Seattle Times – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2021
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene declared the House’s decision to remove her from her committee assignments has liberated her to build a political network aimed at supporting former President Trump and pushing the GOP further to the right. Greene’s comments demonstrated that far from being cowed by the uproar over the various extremist remarks she made in the years leading up to her election in November, she has only been emboldened in her social-media-fueled campaign against Democrats, cultural elites, and the media.
As Biden’s Son-in-Law Invests in COVID-19 Response, Questions of Family and Ethics Could Resurface
ABC News – Lucien Bruggeman | Published: 2/9/2021
During the 2020 presidential campaign, attention on Joe Biden’s family focused largely on his son, Hunter Biden. But experts say it is the president’s son-in-law, Howard Krein, who could present fresh ethical challenges for the new administration. Krein helps oversee StartUp Health investments in hundreds of companies, including some hoping to break through with the federal agencies battling the global coronavirus pandemic. Since 2011, when Krein co-founded the firm, Joe Biden has been an active supporter of the venture – headlining corporate conferences and inviting the company’s executives to the Oval Office to meet then-President Barack Obama.
First Circuit Rules Nonmember Workers Can’t Be Forced to Fund Union Lobbying
Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 2/4/2021
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected a request by a union in a case that has been ongoing on since 2009, handing a victory to a longtime non-union nurse who objected to being forced to pay for union lobbying expenses. For 11 years, United Nurses and Allied Professionals officials and lawyers have argued non-union nurses like the plaintiff, Jeanette Geary, and her fellow nurses who are not members of their workplace’s union, be required to pay union lobbying expenses. With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Geary filed a federal complaint arguing the union infringed on her constitutionally protected rights under the foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision.
Former Mueller Prosecutor Predicts Increased Pursuit of Unregistered Foreign Agents
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko and Josh Gerstein | Published: 2/4/2021
Brandon Van Grack, the Justice Department official who spearheaded the department’s crackdown on unregistered foreign agents praised the department’s tougher approach to enforcing the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) and predicted the department will continue the crackdown under the Biden administration. Van Grack was a lead prosecutor on Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller’s work spurred prosecutions that ensnared some of former President Trump’s top allies. The probe also revitalized FARA, the law requiring entities who represent a foreign government or political party to file disclosures detailing their work and sent chills down K Street.
How the Jan. 6 Riot Could Make It Tougher to Lobby
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 2/8/2021
The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the lobbying industry online. The deadly assault on the Capitol ignited a fresh fear among lobbyists and activists. What if, they worry, new security measures keep them at a distance from the lawmakers and staff they aim to influence, long after the pandemic ends? Access is currency on K Street, and the subtleties of in-person relationship-building can be at least as important as crafting a policy message. Big-money lobbyists are likely to regain such interactions through fundraising events when they return post-pandemic, but rank-and-file lobbyists and advocates for lower-dollar influence campaigns say they are troubled at the prospect of no longer having access to the Capitol complex.
It’s Not a Typical Trial. Lawyers in the Trump Impeachment Case Will Argue Big Constitutional Questions.
MSN – Ann Marimow and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/8/2021
The arguments by opposing lawyers in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump are expected to revolve largely around a pair of constitutional questions: a First Amendment defense of his fiery speech ahead of the violent January 6 attack on the Capitol and a challenge to the legality of putting a former president on trial. Trump is the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, and the only one to be tried in the Senate after leaving office. While an impeachment proceeding is distinct from a typical criminal trial, with a different set of rules, Trump’s case will feature broad legal questions about whether his actions violate the Constitution.
Tester Revives ‘Spotlight Act’ on Dark Money
Billings Gazette – Tom Lutey | Published: 2/4/2021
U.S. Sen Jon Tester reintroduced the Spotlight Act, which would require nonprofits to reveal their major donors to the IRS. At issue are nonprofit “social welfare” groups registered under the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code. Another group, trade associations, fall under section 501(c)(6). These groups avoid disclosing donors by not attacking candidates outright, but instead focusing on a particular issue and what side of the issue a candidate chooses. The ads often end by encouraging people to call a candidate to express disapproval about a specific issue.
The Big Business of Online Politics: Buying your email address
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 2/10/2021
Avalanche, an email acquisition service, will charge Democratic campaigns and progressive groups to send emails to its list of prized online donors, allowing those groups to solicit contributions and expand their own email programs. Companies and groups like Avalanche are popping up to fill the hole left by Facebook and Google’s prolonged political ad bans, which bar campaigns and political groups from running ads on their platforms to draw in small-dollar donors. By cutting off that pipeline to voters and potential supporters, the tech giants have set off a race to find new ways to reach those contributors. One old-school fundraising tactic is regaining fresh traction: buying, renting, and swapping email lists.
Trump Broke Them. Now the Pandemic Is Bringing Them Together.
Politico – Stephanie Murray | Published: 2/10/2021
When the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) came to Boston for its annual summit in 2007, its members did not have to work hard to find common ground. By the time the conference returned to Boston in 2017, just as Donald Trump was taking office, partisanship had taken hold of a bipartisan group. Now, groups like the NCSL, the National Governors Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are moving back to bipartisanship just as state and city leaders have been entrusted with more power than they have had in the nation’s history. If they continue to move toward unity, state and city leaders could once again turn the professional organizations into formidable lobbying groups capable of pressuring Congress, the president, and shaping the way American moves on from the pandemic.
Trump’s Political Operation Paid More Than $3.5 Million to Jan. 6 Organizers
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 2/10/2021
As former President Trump faces an impeachment trial on charges of inciting attacks on the U.S. Capitol, unanswered questions about the full extent of his ties to a nearby rally the same day highlight the need for more campaign finance transparency. Newly identified payments in recent FEC filings show people involved in organizing the protests on January 6 received even larger sums from Trump’s 2020 campaign than previously known. The Center for Responsive Politics unearthed more than $3.5 million in direct payments from Trump’s 2020 campaign, along with its joint fundraising committees, to people and firms involved in the Washington, D.C. demonstration before a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Two Republicans Fined for Bypassing Security Just Days After House Approved New Penalties
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) | Published: 2/6/2021
Two Republican House members were fined $5,000 for bypassing the security screening that was set up outside the House chamber in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. Reps. Louie Gohmert and Andrew Clyde appear to be the first members punished under the rule, which says lawmakers who bypass the metal detectors that have been installed outside some doors to the chamber will be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for each subsequent offense.
What of ‘Individual-1′? Feds’ Trump Campaign Case Is ‘Dead’
Associated Press News – Jim Mustian and Larry Neumeister | Published: 2/5/2021
The federal probe of hush money paid to cover up former President Trump’s alleged extramarital affairs has not been restarted, even though he no longer has the legal shield of the presidency. Trump’s exit from the White House prompted speculation that prosecutors might revive the investigation that sent his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to prison. An attorney for one key witness described the investigation as “dead,” adding prosecutors have even returned certain evidence they collected, a likely indication no one else will be charged.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Trump Campaign Paid Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem $6,000 During Effort to Overturn Election Results
MSN – Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) | Published: 2/6/2021
Former President Trump’s reelection campaign reported paying $6,037 to a business owned by state Rep. Mark Finchem while the lawmaker pushed for the Legislature to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona. The campaign reported in its latest financial disclosure it made a payment on December 18 to “Mrk Finchem PLLC” and the address provided for the company is the lawmaker’s home. The campaign labeled the expense as “recount: legal consulting.” Lawmakers are required to disclose each business in which they have a position or a fiduciary relationship. Finchem did not address why the company is not listed on his most recent financial disclosure, which covered all of 2020.
California – Ex-SoCal Mayor, 10 Others Charged in Corruption Probe
Courthouse News Service – Nathan Solis | Published: 2/4/2021
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged former Maywood Mayor Ramon Medina and 10 others for “widespread corruption” that involved bribes for city contracts, embezzlement, and an attempt to heavily discount city property to secure a bingo hall. Investigators raided Maywood City Hall, the homes and businesses of Medina, and other locations. The searches came after an audit called out the city’s poor practices and more than $15 million in debt. Medina is alleged to have sought and received bribes from individuals and companies seeking to do business in Maywood, one of the county’s smallest and most densely populated cities.
California – Lyft Could Pay About $3,000 for Failing to Disclose That It Paid for Some Ads in Its $48 Million Prop 22 Campaign
MSN – Katie Canales (Business Insider) | Published: 2/10/2021
Lyft faces a $3,371 fine for not disclosing it paid for some ads as part of its Proposition 22 campaign in California. The Fair Political Practices Commission is proposing the company be fined $1,499 for email ads that did not include a note indicating they were paid for by Lyft, $936 for robocalls and text ads that were also missing such a message, and $936 for robocalls and text ads that bore the wrong name. Instead of all workers having full-time employee status, Proposition 22 requires gig companies to provide an alternative set of benefits to cover expenses, including healthcare subsidies.
Georgia – Georgia Prosecutors Open Criminal Investigation into Trump’s Efforts to Subvert Election Results
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/10/2021
An Atlanta-area prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia in the wake of calls former President Trump placed to state officials, urging them to invalidate Joe Biden’s victory in the state. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis did not mention Trump by name but stated her office is examining a raft of potential criminal charges related to “attempts to influence” the administration of the 2020 election in the state. Prosecutors are scrutinizing all three of those calls, as well as the circumstances around the sudden resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta.
Hawaii – Hawaii Lawmakers Want Their ‘Gifts of Aloha’ Back
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 2/4/2021
The Hawaii Ethics Commission recently approved rules that prevent lawmakers from accepting so-called gifts of aloha, generally small food items, especially from lobbyists, who along with their clients have often gifted such items to lawmakers and their staffs. The new rules were meant to clarify several laws dealing with ethics in state government and to prevent officials in positions of authority from accepting gifts that might appear improper. But the ban has given rise to questions concerning the circumstances in which a legislator may or may not accept food items given to them out of courtesy. For example, what happens if a constituent who is not a lobbyist offers a bottle of water?
Iowa – Iowa Governor Auctioned off Access for Pork Barons’ Charity
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 2/8/2021
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds auctioned off an afternoon of her time to raise money for the namesake charity of a couple who own one of the nation’s largest pork producers and have contributed nearly $300,000 to her campaign. The 2019 auction to benefit the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation provides a striking example of the governor’s close relationship with the state’s pork industry and particularly Iowa Select Farms, owned by the couple. Company staff members run the Hansens’ foundation, which sponsors charitable programs including giveaways of pork products to needy families. The time with Reynolds was advertised as an “afternoon with Iowa’s leading lady.”
Louisiana – Former Top Gambling Regulator in Louisiana Taking Job as Advisor to British Gaming Company
The Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 2/8/2021
Ronnie Jones, the former top gambling regulator in Louisiana who was ousted from his post last year, is taking a new job as an advisor to the British gaming firm Entain, helping the company navigate the U.S. regulatory process as it expands a sports betting venture. The Louisiana Board of Ethics gave Jones the green light to do the work, after Jones asked for an advisory opinion about whether accepting the job would violate state ethics laws. Those laws bar former agency heads and board members from working for companies with business before their former agencies.
Maryland – Advance Registration Required for Testifying at Legislature
Associated Press News – Audrey Decker (Capital News Service) | Published: 2/9/2021
Signing up to speak at a bill hearing or file written testimony got harder and for some, maybe impossible, after the coronavirus pandemic shifted how the Maryland General Assembly accepts witness testimonies. In previous years, interested parties would trek to Annapolis the morning of a bill hearing and sign up to testify. If they needed assistance in the process, lobbyists could do it for them. While the online system makes it accessible for people who couldn’t previously go to Annapolis in person, it has its own set of challenges.
Maryland – Baltimore Officials Release Report on Prosecutor’s Travel
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/9/2021
The top state prosecutor in Baltimore, a prominent figure in the racial justice movement, attended two dozen events outside Maryland in 2018 and 2019 without getting approval for more than half of the trips, according to an inspector general’s report. It also found Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was physically absent from her job for 85 days during that time. While noting that almost $23,700 of the $27,015 total cost of the trips was paid by sponsoring organizations, the report found six of the 24 trips were paid for in full or in part by Mosby’s office or the city.
Mississippi – Mississippi Politicians Continue to Enrich Themselves with Campaign Funds, Documents Show
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 2/4/2021
Mississippi politicians continue to personally profit from their campaign funds, new state filings show, a practice that is illegal in many other states and at the federal level. Lawmakers passed campaign finance reforms in 2017 following embarrassing reports that showed how officials had spent donations on everything from children’s parties, to cars, to an $800 pair of cowboy boots. Yet a grandfather clause inserted into the legislation essentially let the unregulated spending continue as long as politicians used money raised before 2018.
Missouri – Missouri Republicans Want Veto Power on Citizen Petitions That Change the Constitution
MSN – Austin Huguelet (Springfield News-Leader) | Published: 2/10/2021
Missouri Republicans are taking another run at making it harder for citizen petitions to change the state constitution. Now, once proposed constitutional amendments are approved by voters, the state Legislature cannot change them without asking voters first. Progressive groups have taken advantage of that in recent years to go straight to voters on ethics reform and Medicaid expansion that could not pass in the GOP-dominated Legislature. But in a committee hearing, Republicans said it is time to push back.
Nevada – Lobbyists Alter Methods of Approach at Hushed Nevada Session
Las Vegas Sun – John Sadler | Published: 2/10/2021
The Nevada Legislature is closed to in-person lobbying because of COVID-19 protocols during the recently started legislative session, leaving lobbyists searching for new ways to connect with lawmakers. The halls of the statehouse are generally teeming with lobbyists hustling to make crucial connections, but that is far from the case in 2021. The hope among lobbyists is that restrictions could be eventually lifted to allow people into the statehouse before the end of the 120-day session in late May. In the interim they are connecting by telephone and videoconferencing apps like Zoom.
New Jersey – How a National Insurance Agency and Political Insiders Work New Jersey’s Money Game
Gothamist – Nancy Solomon (WNYC) | Published: 2/9/2021
Acrisure, a national insurance company, may have secured government contracts worth millions of dollars by exploiting a loophole in New Jersey’s “pay-to-play” rules through the acquisition of branch offices once owned by well-connected political insiders that remain on the payroll. Those insiders, and its company employees, subsequently contributed more than $100,000 to lawmakers dating back to 2015 and sometimes days before those lawmakers voted on awarding lucrative contracts to Acrisure. New Jersey has one of the strongest “pay-to-play” laws in the country aimed at limiting campaign contributions by people who profit from government contracts. But the regulations vary from one municipal government to another in the state.
New Mexico – New Mexico Legislature Advancing Bipartisan Redistricting Reform
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 2/11/2021
A bipartisan plan to reform the way New Mexico draws its political boundaries is advancing through the state Legislature. The measure would create an independent commission to draw district lines. Four members of the commission would be appointed by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, and another three – two independents or representatives of minor parties and one retired Court of Appeals judge – would be chosen by the state Ethics Commission. The commissioners cannot be public officials, candidates for office, or a registered lobbyist, and they cannot hold leadership positions in a political party at either the state or federal level.
New York – Cor Development Fights State Ethics Panel Over Lobbying Allegations from 2016
MSN – Tim Knauss (Syracuse Post-Standard) | Published: 2/8/2021
It has been two-and-a-half years since two Cor Development executives were convicted on federal corruption charges related to their state business dealings. Now the company is fighting the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ (JCOPE) slow-moving investigation into four-year-old allegations that grew out of the federal probe: that Cor failed to submit required lobbying disclosures. Cor seeks a court order barring JCOPE from investigating, arguing the agency waited too long to notify Cor of the probe and did not give the company a chance to promptly answer the allegations.
New York – New York’s High Court Ends State Case Against Paul Manafort
Yahoo News – Jennifer Peltz and Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 2/8/2021
Paul Manafort will not face mortgage fraud charges in New York after the state’s highest court declined to revisit lower court decisions that barred prosecuting former President Trump’s onetime campaign chairperson on double jeopardy grounds. The New York Court of Appeals decision closed the door on charges against Manafort in the matter and came less than two months after Trump pardoned him in a similar federal case that had put him behind bars.
Ohio – ‘Dark Money’ Group Admits Involvement in Householder Bribery Scandal
Columbus Dispatch – Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 2/5/2021
A nonprofit entered a guilty plea in a $60 million bribery and racketeering scheme involving Ohio’s taxpayer-funded energy company bailout and former House Speaker Larry Householder, Generation Now admitted it was used to funnel millions of dollars in bribes from a utility company to Householder in relation to the passage of House Bill 6. Generation Now allowed the government to take nearly $1.5 million from two bank accounts and received five years of probation. Householder and four co-conspirators were charged in what federal prosecutors called the largest political corruption case in state history. Householder has pleaded not guilty. He was removed as speaker but won reelection to the Ohio House in November.
Ohio – Democrats Seek a Reset Button in Ohio
Politico – James Arkin | Published: 2/8/2021
Democrats are searching for a winning strategy as they try to win an open U.S. Senate seat next year after Rob Portman’s retirement cracked open the door in a race that likely would have been an afterthought otherwise. But finding that formula has eluded the party. They are throwing out plenty of ideas, with varying degrees of difficulty: sever the local campaign from the “coastal” Democratic brand; focus on jobs and the economy to reclaim some lost ground with working-class whites; kindle greater excitement among Black voters to turn out in large numbers and grow the party base. But the trends are bleak: the GOP swept every statewide office except Sherrod Brown’s Senate seat over the last decade.
Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine’s Grandson Hired as Lobbyist for Electric Vehicle Manufacturer Lordstown Motors
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 2/4/2021
A prominent Ohio electric vehicle startup has hired Gov. Mike DeWine’s grandson as a lobbyist as it seeks state incentives, law changes, and other state government help to get its business off the ground. Matt DeWine is a lobbyist for Lordstown Motors. He started as an intern with last June, a month after he graduated from Miami University and was hired full-time in July. The same month his grandson was hired as an intern, Gov. DeWine visited the Lordstown plant after receiving a private tour.
Ohio – Uproar Over Dominion Voting Machines in One Ohio County Shows Trump’s Falsehoods Linger
MSN – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/8/2021
Late last year, officials in an Ohio county voted to buy Dominion voting machines. It was a good deal for the county, said Stark County Board of Elections Director Jeff Matthews. It was also a step into a firestorm as Donald Trump’s supporters were incorrectly accusing Dominion Voting Systems of helping to rig the 2020 results. Two months later, the county has yet to replace its aging voting equipment while May primaries loom. The all-Republican board of commissioners has fielded a deluge of upset callers and spent a recent meeting peppering election staff with doubts and questions. The situation is a testament to how viral accusations repeatedly debunked by courts and authorities have persisted, hanging over local decision-making and saddling officials with the task of somehow rebuilding public trust.
Oklahoma – Bill Reauthorizing Virtual Meetings Zooms Through Oklahoma House
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 2/8/2021
Oklahoma lawmakers sent to the governor a bill that allows public bodies such as school boards and city councils to convene virtually. In addition, state Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp told a House subcommittee the agency may not be able to function much longer if it does not get a larger appropriation and relief from a statute that caps the fines and fees collected annually at $150,000. Kemp is asking for an additional $350,000 for two staff members and to begin full oversight of political subdivisions such as towns and counties.
Oregon – Oregon Rep. Diego Hernandez Could Face Removal After Harassment Investigation
MSN – Claire Withycombe (Salem Statesman Journal) | Published: 2/5/2021
The House Committee on Conduct recommended the full chamber expel Rep. Diego Hernandez after finding he engaged in sexual and workplace harassment and created a hostile work environment. The committee found Hernandez violated standards of conduct for House members in his treatment of three women, all of whom had business at the Capitol. The panel concluded Hernandez pressured two women to restart romantic relationships and subjected a long-term partner to controlling and abusive treatment.
Pennsylvania – Sons of Top Two Pa. Senate Leaders Are Registered Lobbyists for Same Firm
Lancaster Online – Gillian McGoldrick | Published: 2/4/2021
The sons of the Pennsylvania Senate’s two top leaders are both registered lobbyists for the same firm that lobbies on behalf of some of the state’s largest corporations. Mike Ward, the son of Majority Leader Kim Ward, and Anthony Costa, the son of Minority Leader Jay Costa, are both Pittsburgh-based lobbyists for Cameron Companies. Given Ward’s and Costa’s direct relationships to the top Republican and Democrat in the Senate, the sons’ clients could get special treatment across the Legislature and a leg-up in getting their legislative priorities across the finish line, said Khalif Ali, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania.
Rhode Island – RI Ethics Commissioner Resigns Amid Controversy Over Role in Smiley Campaign
MSN – Katherine Gregg (Providence Journal) | Published: 2/5/2021
Rhode Island Ethics Commission member Emili Vaziri resigned from the panel following two campaign meetings that took place at her law office. State law bars commission members from participating in political campaigns. The meetings involved Department of Administration Director Brett Smiley, who is running for Providence mayor, and political operative Ed Cotugno. Vaziri was among the commissioners who voted in favor of an advisory opinion clearing the way for Smiley to start raising money for his campaign. The resignation comes in the wake of a series of controversies around Smiley’s fundraising and political activities while leading the agency that distributes and oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts.
South Carolina – SC Gov. McMaster Fires Agency Chief for Contract to Her Husband’s Employer
MSN – Maayan Schechter (The State) | Published: 2/8/2021
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster removed the director he appointed to the State Accident Fund over a recent contract worth upwards of $600,000 the governor said was awarded to a company that hired her husband to do the work. McMaster called for an investigation into whether ousted Director Amy Cofield played a role in guiding the state agency’s funding to her husband’s employer, and in effect to him, through the contract.
Tennessee – Tennessee: FBI raid no excuse for not filing campaign report
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi | Published: 2/10/2021
Campaign finance officials offered little sympathy to a lawmaker who said he was unable to complete a recent campaign finance report due the FBI confiscating all his campaign files. Rep. Todd Warner was one of several Tennessee lawmakers whose homes and offices were searched by federal agents earlier this year. Warner told the Registry of Election Finance he could not complete his most recent report because he did not have access to key documents. “‘The FBI took my paperwork’ is not excuse for not filing your report,” said Registry member Henry Fincher.
Utah – Utah Ethics Commission Received ‘Multiple’ Concerns in 2020, Didn’t Investigate Any Cases
KUTV – Jim Spiewak | Published: 2/4/2021
Investigating those in the highest levels of government has become tougher through the years in Utah. There are some lawmakers who want more options for legitimate complaints to be further reviewed. Anyone can file a complaint with Utah Executive Branch Ethics Commission, a group made up of five volunteers tasked with investigating claims of unethical or illegal behavior, and several were filed in 2020.None were investigated.
Washington DC – K Street, Political Parents Channel Advocacy into Reopening Schools
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 2/9/2021
The debate over pandemic schooling has ignited passion and protest across the nation. But in the District of Columbia area where some parents hail from K Street, Capitol Hill, and candidate campaigns, the volunteer advocates bring a level of polish to rival politically connected teachers’ unions as they seek to sway local and state officials. The parent advocacy campaigns across the region, which skews Democratic and racially diverse, span the political spectrum. Many parents lobbying for a return to schools say they are frustrated by the politics of the debate, especially last year when then-President Trump said he wanted buildings to welcome students back, ginning up opposition from liberals.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Health Official Won’t Handle Matters Affecting Former Clients
MSN – Patrick Marley and Mary Spicuzza (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/8/2021
Wisconsin’s new health secretary, Karen Timberlake, said she would recuse herself from matters affecting her former lobbying clients. That goes beyond what state law requires. As a lobbyist with Michael Best Strategies, Timberlake represented DentaQuest, an oral health company; MyPath, a company that serves people with disabilities; Rogers Behavioral Health, which lobbies to raise Medicaid payments for behavioral health providers; and the Network for Innovation in Senior Care, a consortium of long-term and rehabilitative care providers. When Timberlake leaves her government post, she will not be able to immediately return to lobbying on the same issues.
February 10, 2021 •
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has introduced a proposal to borrow $356.4 million for a variety of construction projects across the state. The proposal calls for a special election this coming spring or summer to allow voters to ratify or reject the […]
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has introduced a proposal to borrow $356.4 million for a variety of construction projects across the state.
The proposal calls for a special election this coming spring or summer to allow voters to ratify or reject the plan.
If a borrowing plan passes the Senate and House, it must also be approved by voters statewide.
The governor is also proposing a special election to speed the process.
The election would take place between 90 and 120 days after the Legislature adjourns its regular session.
February 9, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Tester Revives ‘Spotlight Act’ on Dark Money” by Tom Lutey for Billings Gazette National: “What of ‘Individual-1′? Feds’ Trump Campaign Case Is ‘Dead’” by Jim Mustian and Larry Neumeister for Associated Press News Elections Ohio: “Democrats Seek […]
National: “Tester Revives ‘Spotlight Act’ on Dark Money” by Tom Lutey for Billings Gazette
National: “What of ‘Individual-1′? Feds’ Trump Campaign Case Is ‘Dead’” by Jim Mustian and Larry Neumeister for Associated Press News
Ohio: “Democrats Seek a Reset Button in Ohio” by James Arkin for Politico
Arizona: “Trump Campaign Paid Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem $6,000 During Effort to Overturn Election Results” by Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) for MSN
Iowa: “Iowa Governor Auctioned off Access for Pork Barons’ Charity” by Ryan Foley for Associated Press News
New York: “Syracuse Firm Embroiled in Bid-Rigging, Bribery Case Fighting State Ethics Probe” by Brendon Lyons for Albany Times Union
Utah: “Utah Ethics Commission Received ‘Multiple’ Concerns in 2020, Didn’t Investigate Any Cases” by Jim Spiewak for KUTV
Oregon: “Oregon Rep. Diego Hernandez Could Face Removal After Harassment Investigation” by Claire Withycombe (Salem Statesman Journal) for MSN
National: “Former Mueller Prosecutor Predicts Increased Pursuit of Unregistered Foreign Agents” by Caitlin Oprysko and Josh Gerstein for Politico
February 8, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Mississippi: “Mississippi Politicians Continue to Enrich Themselves with Campaign Funds, Documents Show” by Luke Ramseth for Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Ohio: “‘Dark Money’ Group Admits Involvement in Householder Bribery Scandal” by Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn (Cincinnati Enquirer) […]
Mississippi: “Mississippi Politicians Continue to Enrich Themselves with Campaign Funds, Documents Show” by Luke Ramseth for Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
Ohio: “‘Dark Money’ Group Admits Involvement in Householder Bribery Scandal” by Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn (Cincinnati Enquirer) for Columbus Dispatch
National: “After Capitol Riot, Desperate Families Turn to Groups That ‘Deprogram’ Extremists” by Paulina Villegas and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Ex-SoCal Mayor, 10 Others Charged in Corruption Probe” by Nathan Solis for Courthouse News Service
Rhode Island: “RI Ethics Commissioner Resigns Amid Controversy Over Role in Smiley Campaign” by Katherine Gregg (Providence Journal) for MSN
National: “After Losing Committees, Marjorie Taylor Greene Says She Has Been ‘Freed’ to Push the GOP Further Right” by Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
National: “First Circuit Rules Nonmember Workers Can’t Be Forced to Fund Union Lobbying” by Bethany Blankley for Center Square
Hawaii: “Hawaii Lawmakers Want Their ‘Gifts of Aloha’ Back” by Blaze Lovell for Honolulu Civil Beat
Pennsylvania: “Sons of Top Two Pa. Senate Leaders Are Registered Lobbyists for Same Firm” by Gillian McGoldrick for Lancaster Online
February 5, 2021 •
National/Federal An Emboldened Extremist Wing Flexes Its Power in a Leaderless G.O.P. New York Times – Annie Karni and Sam Baker | Published: 2/1/2021 With no dominant leader other than a one-term president, a radical right movement that became emboldened under […]
An Emboldened Extremist Wing Flexes Its Power in a Leaderless G.O.P.
New York Times – Annie Karni and Sam Baker | Published: 2/1/2021
With no dominant leader other than a one-term president, a radical right movement that became emboldened under President Trump has been maneuvering for more power in the Republican Party and ascending in different states and congressional districts. More moderate Republicans feel increasingly under attack, but so far have made little progress in galvanizing voters, donors, or new recruits for office to push back against extremism. Nothing is defining and dividing the GOP more than loyalty to Trump and his false claims about the election.
Biden Brother’s Role in Florida Law Firm Complicates White House Ethics Message
MSN – Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/3/2021
President Biden’s younger brother promoted his relationship with the president in an advertisement for a law firm published on Inauguration Day. Frank Biden, listed as a senior advisor for Berman Law Group, was featured in the firm’s ad in the Daily Business Review along with quotes describing his relationship with the new president and their family name. President Biden has promised to lead a highly ethical administration, which he has pitched as a contrast to his predecessor, and adopted strict rules form those serving in his administration, although they do not necessarily apply to family members. A White House official said a process is in place, involving the counsel’s office and representatives of the family, to address potential conflicts-of-interest as they arise.
House Adopts Fines for Lawmakers Who Don’t Comply with Metal Detectors
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 2/3/2021
The U.S. House adopted new rules that will enact fines against lawmakers who refuse to comply with the security screenings now required for entry into the chamber in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. Fines of $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for the second are now in effect. The metal detectors outside the House chamber were installed days after the attack on the Capitol, but several House Republicans defiantly pushed past Capitol Police officers and sergeant-at-arms staff into the chamber without going through the metal detectors. Lawmakers will not be able to use campaign money or congressional office budget funds to pay the fines.
House Democrats Revive Bill to Ban Colleagues from Carrying Guns on Capitol Grounds
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/28/2021
U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman filed the No Congressional Gun Loophole Act, seeking to nullify regulations that exempt members of Congress from a federal law banning guns on Capitol grounds. The move is likely to rankle Republicans who, in some cases, have refused to cooperate with security screenings put in place in the wake of the siege of January 6. Huffman has pushed to prohibit his colleagues from toting guns since 2018 but he says the overheated political environment and the behavior by some House Republicans in recent weeks “have really helped underscore” the need to refile the bill at this moment.
House Opens Investigation of Pandemic Ventilator Purchases Overseen by White House
MSN – Reed Albergotti and Aaron Gregg (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
A House subcommittee is investigating a government deal to buy $70 million worth of ventilators for the coronavirus pandemic response that a Washington Post investigation found were inadequate for treating most covid-19 patients. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Logistics Agency purchased 11,200 AutoMedx SAVe II+ ventilators from Combat Medical Systems, which distributes the devices. Adrian Urias, AutoMedx’s co-founder and current shareholder, advised the Trump administration’s covid-19 task force on ventilator purchases. When the government posted the minimum specifications that ventilator manufacturers had to meet to sell devices for the pandemic response, those specifications were nearly identical to a spec sheet listed on AutoMedx’s website at the time.
Nonprofit Tied to Amalgamated Bank Looks to Capture Corporate Donors Through New Fund Following Capitol Hill Riot
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 2/2/2021
A nonprofit tied to Amalgamated Bank is launching a fund with the intent of capturing political donations from corporations that have stopped giving after the riot on Capitol Hill. The Amalgamated Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) that calls itself nonpartisan, is moving ahead with the Democracy Reinvestment Fund. It will take in corporate donations and use that money to help finance other nonprofit organizations. Though officials did not say which corporations the fund is going to target, a group of companies decided to halt contributions to House and Senate lawmakers who, even after the deadly riot, challenged the electoral results confirming Joe Bide as president.
Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Mileage Reimbursement ‘Raises Red Flags,’ Ethics Experts Say
MSN – Jason Wingerter (Denver Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert paid herself more than $22,000 in mileage reimbursements from her campaign account last year. Her campaign defends the reimbursements but three ethics experts who reviewed the money transfers say they raise questions. To justify those reimbursements, Boebert would have had to drive 38,712 miles while campaigning, despite having no publicly advertised campaign events in March, April, or July, and only one in May. Because the reimbursements came in two payments – a modest $1,060 at the end of March and $21,200 on November 11 – Boebert would have had to drive 36,870 miles in just over seven months between April 1 and Nov. 11 to justify the second payment.
Secretive Ethics Panel Will Judge Hawley and Cruz
Politico – Burgess Everett | Published: 1/31/2021
Former President Trump’s impeachment trial will be conducted on the Senate floor, live on television. The investigation into Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley will take place behind closed doors by one of the most secretive committees in Congress. After multiple leading Democrats called for the two Republicans to resign, Cruz and Hawley’s challenge to President Biden’s Electoral College win is now tied up in the opaque Senate Ethics Committee. While Trump’s impeachment trial will conclude quickly, the probe into whether the two senators played a role in inciting the violent Capitol attack will unwind over an interminable timetable with little hint of where it is going.
Small Donors Ruled 2020; Will That Change Post-Trump?
Center for Responsive Politics – Krystal Hur | Published: 2/2/2021
Small donors played a pivotal role in financing both Democratic and Republican campaigns in the 2020 election. With Donald Trump in Florida and President Biden taking his place in the White House, it remains unclear whether small donations will continue to pour in for either party. As the GOP’s reign in Washington, D.C. comes to an end, so have its relationships with some corporate power players who have historically been influential supporters of the party. The role of “dark money” in future elections could be complicated if the For the People Act; a campaign finance reform bill, is passed.
Trump Supporter Charged in 2016 Twitter Scheme to Undermine Hillary Clinton
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
A far-right social media influencer was arrested and accused of interfering in the 2016 election through an organized campaign to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy by conning supporters of Hillary Clinton into voting through illegitimate means such as text message or online. Prosecutors allege Douglass Mackey used an alias, reportedly derived from actor Charlie Sheen’s character Ricky Vaughn in the 1989 film “Major League,” to circulate messages on Twitter that encouraged Clinton’s supporters to “Avoid the line. Vote from home,” according to charging documents. Nearly 5,000 people fell for the ploy, according to the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, which announced the arrest.
Trump’s Actions Described as ‘a Betrayal of Historic Proportions’ in Trial Brief Filed by House Impeachment Managers
MSN – Amy Gardner, Karoun Demirjian, and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
House Democrats made their case to convict former President Trump of inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol in an impeachment brief, accusing Trump of jeopardizing the foundations of American democracy by whipping his supporters into a “frenzy” for the sole purpose of retaining his hold on the presidency. Impeachment managers made an impassioned case that Trump was “singularly responsible” for the mayhem. They argued he is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors because he used the powers of his office to advance his personal political interests at the expense of the nation. Trump’s defense attorneys filed a response to the article of impeachment, denying Trump incited the crowd at his rally to storm the Capitol and “engage in destructive behavior.” The brief also disputed that Trump’s claims of voter fraud were false.
Trump’s Legal Team Exited After He Insisted Impeachment Defense Focus on False Claims of Election Fraud
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/31/2021
The implosion of former President Trump’s legal team comes as Trump remains fixated on arguing at his second impeachment trial that the 2020 election was stolen from him, a defense that advisers warn is ill-conceived and Republican strategists fear will fuel the growing divide in the GOP. Karl Bowers Jr. and four other attorneys who recently signed on to represent the former president abruptly parted ways with him days before his Senate trial for his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump’s office announced two new lawyers were taking over his defense.
Trump-Tied Lobbyists’ Revenues Peaked in President’s Final Year
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 1/28/2021
Lobbyists selling their connections to former President Trump capped off a lucrative four-year run with their best year in 2020. After raking in millions of dollars from high-profile clients, these Washington influencers are already losing clients under President Biden but could still benefit from Trump’s continued influence over the GOP. Wealthy interests attempted to get their message across to Trump through groups that supported his run for president. Consultants asked Trump’s popular Twitter allies to push their clients’ message to the president on his favorite app. Lobbyists pushed to plant stories in conservative outlets that would make it into Trump’s daily news packet or air ads on his favorite TV shows.
US Score Falls in Economist’s Annual Democracy Index
The Hill – Celine Castronuevo | Published: 2/3/2021
The overall state of democracy in the U.S. declined last year, according to an annual ranking by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, which cited the continued erosion of trust in the country’s institutions. The U.S. retained its rank as the 25th most democratic nation, out of 167 countries analyzed, but remains in the “flawed democracy” category after being demoted from the “full democracy” group in 2016, the report said. The report measures five main categories –electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture –and assigns scores to each one.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Voter Protection Act Blocking Bipartisan Bill
Arizona Capitol Times – Greta Forslund | Published: 1/29/2021
A bill introduced by Arizona Rep. Leo Biasiucci’s proposes that judges could order people to do community service, valued at $12 an hour, as payment for their tickets rather than money. Lawmakers like the idea because it is criminal justice reform that both helps those in need and serves the community. Opponents said the Voter Protection Act applies to the bill because it could cut funding to the voter-approved Clean Elections Commission. Biasiucci said while he recognizes the Clean Elections Commission is funded by traffic tickets, there are 17 or 18 other agencies also funded by those tickets, and he did not want to pick just one agency to be exempt from the bill.
California – San Diego Unified School District’s Federal Lobbying Efforts Come Under Scrutiny by Parent Group
La Jolla Light – Kristen Taketa (San Diego Union Tribune) | Published: 1/30/2021
A watchdog group criticized the San Diego Unified School District for spending tens of thousands of dollars, including some coronavirus relief money, on a federal lobbying firm. The school board hired The Raben Group with a contract worth up to $150,000 to advocate for more school stimulus funding, advance the district’s interests among federal lawmakers, and raise the district’s “profile as a leader,” according to the contract. It is not uncommon for school districts to lobby, said Dan Auble, researcher for the Center for Responsible Politics. He said he does not know if lobbying is an allowable use of CARES Act funding; generally, federal contractors are prohibited from spending their contract money on lobbying.
Florida – Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter Activists Clashed in a Florida Suburb. Only One Side Was Charged.
MSN – Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
When local Black Lives Matter activists started marching through the small town of New Port Richey, Florida, last summer – shouting slogans through bullhorns demanding racial justice – it took only a few days for the Proud Boys and other counter-protesters to show up and confront them. Groups of mostly White men encircled the demonstrators. They revved motorcycles while yelling threats, obscenities, and support for the police and President Trump, at times using their own bullhorns. Amid fears that the confrontations could lead to violence, police started enforcing the town’s rarely used noise ordinance, which essentially forbids disturbances louder than a close conversation between two people. But only the Black Lives Matter protesters were cited.
Illinois – Former Gubernatorial Candidate McCann Indicted on Campaign Finance Charges
State Journal-Register – Ben Szalinski | Published: 2/3/2021
Former Illinois Sen. Sam McCann was indicted on multiple charges alleging he misused campaign funds for personal expenses. The indictment alleges McCann used campaign money for things like vehicles, personal debts, mortgages, and pay for himself. After losing the November 2018 governor’s race, the charges state McCann continued to pay himself with funds from the Conservative Party for a total of about $187,000.
Illinois – Worth Township Trustee Pleads Guilty to Tax Charge Stemming from Ongoing Political Corruption Probe
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/1/2021
A Worth Township trustee pleaded guilty to a federal tax charge and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their ongoing political corruption investigation in Illinois. Richard Lewandowski pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with one misdemeanor count of failing to file an income tax return in 2018. Lewandowski’s plea makes him the latest Democratic player to cooperate in a corruption investigation that has stretched from Chicago to Springfield. Lewandowski is a former state representative and ally of ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan who resigned as a supervisor last year amid the investigation involving red-light camera company SafeSpeed.
Indiana – As Indiana’s Legislature Considers Redistricting This Year, Experts Look Back on the Impact of Gerrymandering
Chicago Tribune – Alexandra Kukulka (Post Tribune) | Published: 1/28/2021
When states are given the opportunity to redraw district lines every 10 years following the census, it is common for the political party with the majority within the state to redraw districts in their favor, known as gerrymandering. Officials announced the Indiana Legislature will likely have to hold a special session over the summer because of a delay in the completion of data from the 2020 census. Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, said the organization was excited to hear that Indiana will review redistricting in a special session.
Iowa – Iowa Republicans Considering Giving Political Ideology the Same Protections as Race, Religion, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 1/27/2021
Political ideology would join race, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation as a protected class in the Iowa Civil Rights Act if a Republican proposal in the state Legislature were to become law. The bill’s supporters claim protecting political ideology is necessary to push back against “cancel culture,” which they said has resulted in supporters of former President Trump and others being targeted.
Iowa – Iowa’s House Speaker Said He Can’t Make Lawmakers Wear Masks – But He Did Enforce a Ban on Jeans
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 2/4/2021
State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell protested the lack of a mask mandate by violating the dress code of the Iowa House floor, where face coverings are not required during the legislative session. She wore jeans to the floor, which goes against the new rules for this year. When Wessel-Kroeschell tried to speak during a floor debate, Speaker Pat Grassley said he would not recognize her. Grassley has previously said he cannot mandate lawmakers to wear face coverings on the House floor. “Not wearing a mask can kill people. … They’re putting all of us in danger. So, if they can enforce a denim dress code, they can also enforce a mask mandate,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.
Kansas – Michael O’Donnell Hit with $25,000 Fine After Admitting to Campaign Law Violations
MSN – Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 1/27/2021
Former Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael ‘’Donnell was fined $25,000 after admitting to nine campaign finance violations. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined O’Donnell for violations that included using campaign money for personal use and fraudulent reporting. He was accused of funneling money to four friends, who he falsely claimed were campaign workers. O’Donnell’s fine is the second highest in the history of Kansas campaign finance laws. The violations are the latest round of legal proceedings tied to O’Donnell’s controversial political career.
Maryland – Lawmakers, Governor Push Reforms at Maryland Environmental Service After Director’s Payout
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 1/27/2021
State lawmakers are considering a long list of changes to the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), a low-profile independent agency thrust into the spotlight after its director received a six-figure payout when he left to work for Gov. Larry Hogan. The bill would restrict future payouts, restructure the board, and add new requirements, such as ethics training. The MES came under scrutiny after it was reported the ex-director, Roy McGrath, had been paid more than $238,000 when he departed to become Hogan’s chief of staff. McGrath called it “severance” pay, though he voluntarily left the agency to join the governor’s team at the same salary.
Massachusetts – Boston City Council Votes to Bypass Special Election for Mayor
WBTS – Staff | Published: 2/3/2021
The Boston City Council approved a petition that would bypass the otherwise required special election if Mayor Marty Walsh resigns before March 5. Councilor Ricardo Arroyo filed the petition after President Joe Biden nominated Walsh as labor secretary. Arroyo said that given the COVID-19 crisis, it would be irresponsible for the city to potentially hold four elections – a special, the regularly scheduled November contest, and preliminary elections preceding each – in a five-month span. The change needs approval from the state Legislature, Walsh, and Gov. Charlie Baker to take effect.
Massachusetts – Mariano Plans Look at Unregistered Advocacy Coalitions, House Rules Changes
Springfield Patriot-Ledger – Katie Lannan (State House News Service) | Published: 1/28/2021
Promising meaningful short-term reforms paired with an exploration of unregistered advocacy coalitions, Massachusetts House Speaker Ronald Mariano plans to seek a review of rules that govern House operations during a six-month extension of pandemic-era emergency rules. The move, which comes as activists are lobbying for changes that they say would make it easier to track the progress of legislation and force recorded votes on priority bills, would put off what is usually one of the first matters of legislative business at the outset of a new session.
Missouri – State Rep. Tricia Derges Indicted by Grand Jury, Accused of Faking Stem Cell Treatments
MSN – Austin Huguelet (Springfield News-Leader) | Published: 2/2/2021
A federal grand jury indicted Missouri Rep. Patricia Derges on fraud charges after she falsely promoted a treatment she was selling at medical clinics as containing stem cells that could treat various diseases, including COVID-19. The indictment also accuses Derges of illegally providing prescription drugs to clients and making false statements to federal agents investigating the case. Derges is not a physician but is licensed as an assistant physician, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. She operates three Ozark Valley Medical Clinic sites.
New York – Manhattan District Attorney Considering Prosecuting Stephen Bannon Following His Pardon by Trump in Federal Fraud Case
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
The Manhattan district attorney’s office is weighing whether to bring a state court case against Stephen Bannon, who was indicted on federal fraud charges for his role in a fundraising scheme to build a border wall but received a last-minute pardon from then-President Trump. Bannon, one of the architects of Trump’s 2016 election victory and briefly a White House adviser, was among 143 people who received pardons from Trump in his last 24 hours in office. Bannon left the White House early in Trump’s term after he fell out with the president, who wavered until the last minute on issuing his former strategist a pardon.
North Dakota – Bill Seeks More Transparency in Political Advertisements
Dickinson Press – Dylan Sherman (North Dakota Newspaper Association) | Published: 2/1/2021
While candidate campaigns, PACs, and ballot measure sponsors disclose their donors over $200 in North Dakota, independent expenditures do not have as much transparency. House Bill 1451 would impost the same disclosure requirements for independent expenditures. Rep. Jason Dockter chairs the Political Subdivisions Committee, which will consider the bill. He said more transparency in political spending would be beneficial to all in North Dakota.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Hall Hopes New Ethics Panel Will Shore Up Public Trust After Council Arrests
WCPO – Mariel Carbone | Published: 1/27/2021
After three high-profile arrests involving city council members accused of cutting crooked deals with local property developers, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has appointed an ethics panel to reevaluate the city’s official interactions with developers. The members of the nine-seat panel include former lawyers, judges, business leaders, political leaders, a pastor, and a real-estate developer. The three council members were accused of soliciting money in exchange for tipping City Hall’s scales in certain local developers’ favor.
Ohio – Ex-Columbus City Hall Lobbyist, Franklin County Authority Member John Raphael Agrees to Bribery Plea
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 2/3/2021
John Raphael, a former Columbus City Hall lobbyist, again agreed to plead guilty to corruption charges for billing clients “success fees” that were really intended as bribes in return for securing public contracts. For the second time since 2016, Raphael is facing prison for his role in a bribery and kickback scheme he caried out as a member of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, the entity that owns the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Raphael acknowledged that at the same time he was a member of the facilities authority, he was a paid consultant to a food services company whom he supplied with confidential information that helped it win a business contract with the authority to supply the convention center.
Ohio – P.G. Sittenfeld’s PAC at Center of Corruption Case: ‘Secret slush fund’ or legal account?
WCPO – Paula Christian | Published: 1/27/2021
The FBI arrested Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld in November and charged him with honest services wire fraud, bribery, and attempted extortion. Prosecutors call Sittenfeld’s PAC, where he deposited $40,000 from undercover FBI agents allegedly in exchange for his support on a development project, a slush fund. But experts say Sittenfeld’s case is different from two other council members charged in separate bribery cases, in part because he allegedly asked for contributions to his PAC, and not money for personal use. Experts also question whether prosecutors can prove he performed an official action to benefit the project that is tied to those donations.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers: Rep. Diego Hernandez created a hostile workplace
OPB – Lauren Drake | Published: 2/2/2021
Oregon lawmakers found Rep. Diego Hernandez created a hostile workplace at the state Capitol for at least one woman who worked in the building. His conduct violated legislative conduct rules, a committee decided. Lawmakers are holding a series of hearings into Hernandez’s alleged behavior. The inquiry delves into the allegations of five women, identified only as “subject one” through “subject five.” The investigators could not substantiate claims made by two women.
Tennessee – Tennessee Lawmaker in Email to State Officials: FBI took all campaign files in search
MSN – Jonathan Matisse (Associated Press) | Published: 1/27/2021
One of several Republican state lawmakers in Tennessee whose homes and legislative offices were searched by federal agents said the FBI confiscated all files and documents related to his campaign. Newly sworn-in Rep. Todd Warner provided the details to the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance to explain why he could not complete his most recent campaign finance report on time.
Texas – Should Cities’ Funds Be Used to Pay Lobbyists? Texas Bill Bids to Put a Stop to It
Austin American-Statesman – Philip Jankowski | Published: 2/2/2021
Proposed legislation would make it illegal for cities, counties, and other local government entities in Texas to hire lobbyists. Efforts to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying emerged in part from the annoyance of lawmakers who saw cities and counties push back in 2019 against their work to pass a property tax cap law. State Rep. Mayes Middleton said his bill removes the middleman between local governments and legislators, and local lawmakers elected to represent their cities or counties should be speaking to state lawmakers directly, instead of spending taxpayer dollars on lobbyists.
Utah – What Do Special Interests Get for Providing $9 of Every $10 in Utah Legislators’ Campaigns?
MSN – Lee Davidson (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/28/2021
Utah is one of only 10 states with no campaign contribution limits. Utah also allows direct donations from corporations, which is banned in 22 states. With laws so friendly to interest groups, nearly a third of Utah legislators who raised money last year received nothing from voters in their districts, largely because they did not need their money. The situation perpetually raises questions about how much access and influence special interests may be buying on Utah’s Capitol Hill, and whether legislators are beholden to them. Lawmakers and political scientists generally say it does not buy votes, but likely does improve access for donors to make their case to policymakers.
Vermont – Peddle Power: In a remote democracy, lobbyists adapt to remain relevant
Seven Days – Kevin McCallum | Published: 2/2/2021
Unable to buttonhole senators in the halls or grab lunch with committee chairpersons in the cafeteria, lobbyists in Vermont found their working lives disrupted. Yet even as their stock-in-trade – access to lawmakers – has been curtailed, demand for their influence has remained as strong as ever. Decisions made in Montpelier, from executive lockdown orders to legislative spats over who should receive relief funds, have taken on existential import, raising the stakes for lobbyists and their clients.
Virginia – Legislator Censured After Praising Capitol Rioters Files Suit against Virginia Senate
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 2/1/2021
Virginia Sen. Amanda Chase, who was censured after she praised those who stormed the U.S. Capitol as “patriots,” filed a federal lawsuit contending the rebuke from her Senate colleagues violated her constitutional rights. The Senate censured Chase, a Trump-style populist seeking the GOP nomination for governor, for what it described as a pattern of “unacceptable conduct.” The censure resolution criticized Chase for praising the insurrectionists, but also detailed incidents stretching back several years, including a 2019 episode in which she cursed at a state Capitol police officer over a parking spot.
Washington – With 1 in 5 Lobbyists Coming from State Service, Washington State Lawmakers Hear Bill to Restrict Revolving Door
The Columbian – Joseph O’Sullivan (Seattle Times) | Published: 1/28/2021
As a handful of state lawmakers filed a bill to create a one-year waiting period for public officials to become lobbyists, a “revolving-door” example emerged from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s office. Charles Knutson, a senior policy adviser for the governor on economic development, innovation, and global affairs, left that position on December 22. By January 6, Knutson had registered as a lobbyist with Amazon. In Olympia, Knutson’s two-week journey from government staffer to private policy work is far from unusual. Officials often move from state positions to lobbying in weeks or months, sometimes within days. Nearly one in five of the state’s approximately 800 registered lobbyists worked previously in elected office or state government.
Washington DC – The Capitol Fence Meant D.C. Couldn’t Enact Laws. Vice President Harris’s Office Stepped In.
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer | Published: 2/1/2021
The new security fencing around the U.S. Capitol led to an unusual scene – a District of Columbia employee and a staffer for Vice President Harris, meeting up in a hotel lobby to hand off boxes stuffed with legislative texts. It was the city government’s solution to an unusual problem: federal law requires the council to deliver, by hand, copies of each bill it passes to Congress. But after the breach of the Capitol by a mob trying to overturn former President Trump’s electoral defeat, strict new security measures were put in place. Staffers from the city government were not allowed through the seven-foot-tall fence to deliver bills.
West Virginia – Federal Judge Rules in Lobbyist Lawsuit Against State Education Officials
Weirton Daily Times – Steven Allen Adams | Published: 1/28/2021
A federal judge ruled, in part, that a former state superintendent of schools and Department of Education officials retaliated against a lobbyist for his critical social media posts. The judge granted a motion by lobbyist Jason Webb for two elements of one count he faces that accused former state superintendent of schools Steve Paine and Jan Barth, an assistant superintendent of schools at the Department of Education, of retaliation against Webb. The lobbyist accused Paine and Barth of using government power to intimidate him from exercising his free speech rights. Formerly under contract with college test-prep company ACT, Webb accused Paine and Barth of threatening ACT over Webb’s public comments, resulting in ACT dropping Webb as a lobbyist one month after Webb filed the lawsuit.
February 4, 2021 •
On February 3, U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Ron Wyden reintroduced a bill to reverse a U.S. Treasury Department’s decision limiting IRS disclosure requirement of certain tax-exempt organizations engaging in political activities. Senate Bill 215, the Spotlight Act, requires non-profit […]
On February 3, U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Ron Wyden reintroduced a bill to reverse a U.S. Treasury Department’s decision limiting IRS disclosure requirement of certain tax-exempt organizations engaging in political activities.
Senate Bill 215, the Spotlight Act, requires non-profit organizations engaging in political activity, such as donating to candidates and purchasing political ads, provide the IRS with the names and basic information of donors who contribute more than $5,000.
The bill repeals an IRS revenue procedure exempting certain tax-exempt organizations that are not 501(c)(3) organizations from the requirement to report the names and addresses of substantial contributors (persons who contribute more than $5,000 per year) on information returns that are filed with the IRS. The proposed legislation requires tax-exempt organizations falling under sections 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code (e.g., social welfare organizations, labor organizations, business leagues) to disclose the names and addresses of all substantial contributors on their returns. The bill also eliminates the authority of the IRS to provide exceptions to the disclosure requirements for tax-exempt organizations.
A version of the Spotlight Act was first introduced by the Senators in 2018
February 4, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Small Donors Ruled 2020; Will That Change Post-Trump?” by Krystal Hur for Center for Responsive Politics Elections Massachusetts: “Boston City Council Votes to Bypass Special Election for Mayor” by Staff for WBTS Ethics National: “Rep. Lauren Boebert’s […]
National: “Small Donors Ruled 2020; Will That Change Post-Trump?” by Krystal Hur for Center for Responsive Politics
Massachusetts: “Boston City Council Votes to Bypass Special Election for Mayor” by Staff for WBTS
National: “Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Mileage Reimbursement ‘Raises Red Flags,’ Ethics Experts Say” by Jason Wingerter (Denver Post) for MSN
Florida: “Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter Activists Clashed in a Florida Suburb. Only One Side Was Charged.” by Tim Craig (Washington Post) for MSN
Missouri: “State Rep. Tricia Derges Indicted by Grand Jury, Accused of Faking Stem Cell Treatments” by Austin Huguelet (Springfield News-Leader) for MSN
New York: “Manhattan District Attorney Considering Prosecuting Stephen Bannon Following His Pardon by Trump in Federal Fraud Case” by Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) for MSN
Ohio: “Ex-Columbus City Hall Lobbyist, Franklin County Authority Member John Raphael Agrees to Bribery Plea” by Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN
Oregon: “Oregon Lawmakers: Rep. Diego Hernandez created a hostile workplace” by Lauren Drake for OPB
National: “House Adopts Fines for Lawmakers Who Don’t Comply with Metal Detectors” by Cristina Marcos for The Hill
Vermont: “Peddle Power: In a remote democracy, lobbyists adapt to remain relevant” by Kevin McCallum for Seven Days
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