August 29, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Oklahoma: “Ryan Walters Ordered to Pay Oklahoma Ethics Commission Over Campaign Report Violations” by Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) for MSN Ethics California: “Longtime LA Politician Mark Ridley-Thomas Sentenced to 3 1/2 Years for Bribery” by Hillel Aron for Courthouse News Service National: “A Lawmaker […]
Oklahoma: “Ryan Walters Ordered to Pay Oklahoma Ethics Commission Over Campaign Report Violations” by Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) for MSN
California: “Longtime LA Politician Mark Ridley-Thomas Sentenced to 3 1/2 Years for Bribery” by Hillel Aron for Courthouse News Service
National: “A Lawmaker Hid One Key Fact as He Fought Checks on Gun Shops” by Glen Thrush (New York Times) for DNyuz
National: “Trump Gets March 4 Trial Date in Federal Case Over Efforts to Overturn 2020 Election” by Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Florida: “Florida’s Affordable Housing Board Suspended Its Director. DeSantis Reinstated Him” by Lawrence Mower (Miami Herald) for MSN
Georgia: “Trump’s Top Aide Meadows Testifies at Hearing on Bid to Move Georgia Election Case to Federal Court” by Kate Brumback for Associated Press News
Kansas: “How a Small-Town Feud in Kansas Sent a Shock Through American Journalism” by Jonathan O’Connell, Paul Farhi, and Sofia Andrade (Washington Post) for MSN
Tennessee: “Free Speech or Orderly Business: Judge hears arguments on Tennessee House sign rules” by Angele Latham and Vivian Jones (Tennessean) for MSN
August 25, 2023 •
National/Federal Democratic Group Plans $10 Million Push to Protect Election Officials DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 8/17/2023 A group that works to elect Democrats as the top election officials in states around the country is planning a $10 […]
DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 8/17/2023
A group that works to elect Democrats as the top election officials in states around the country is planning a $10 million venture to pay for private security for election officials of both parties, register new voters, and try to combat disinformation. The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State is starting a tax-exempt organization called Value the Vote that will initially focus on five battleground states: Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 8/22/2023
The federal grand jury in the District of Columbia that helped investigate Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents has ended, special counsel Jack Smith said in a court filing, which laid out new details about how the probe quietly expanded to look at alleged coverup efforts. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are sparring over the use of two grand juries to investigate Trump’s alleged hoarding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his home and private club. Trump is charged with illegally retaining national defense information after leaving the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve the material.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer, and Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2023
Republican presidential contenders targeted each other as much as they did the absent front-runner, Donald Trump, in a combative first debate with a series of clashes reflecting the fierce competition to emerge as the main alternative to the former president. Trump’s decision to skip the event, a choice that highlighted his commanding polling lead, left him without a defense over two hours that marked the official start of the nomination battle. His biggest consolation came when all but one of the candidates onstage raised their hands to signal they would support Trump if he won the nomination and was convicted of a crime in a court of law.
MSN – Kimberly Kindy (Washington Post) | Published: 8/21/2023
In Washington, D.C., the White House and federal lawmakers are pursuing ways to constrain Chinese-owned businesses like TikTok amid a bipartisan push to limit China’s reach. Now state legislators have embraced a novel, locally focused tactic aimed at China’s domestic investments: restrictions on Chinese land ownership. Lawmakers in 33 states have introduced bills this year that would prohibit the Chinese government, some China-based businesses, and many Chinese citizens from buying agricultural land or property near military bases.
OpenSecrets – Maia Cook | Published: 8/18/2023
Super PACs, now a staple in modern presidential campaigns, are already gearing up to spend unlimited sums to support and oppose candidates for the 2024 election and many of those groups have a cozy relationship with the candidates they support. This might raise eyebrows to people that remember Citizens United, which stated any coordination between a campaign committee and an outside group backing their campaign – including PACs, corporations, nonprofits, and unions – is illegal.
Stateline – Matt Vasilogambros | Published: 8/21/2023
Over the past decade, ranked choice voting has become increasingly popular. From conservative Utah to liberal New York City, 13 million American voters in 51 jurisdictions now use the system, under which voters rank candidates based on preference, leading to an instant runoff in a crowded race. This year, Democrats and Republicans in power pushed back. Arguing that ranked choice voting is too complicated for voters to understand, Democrats in the District of Columbia and Republicans in states such as Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota took steps to prevent adoption of the voting system.
Yahoo News – Jonathan Swan, Alan Feuer, Luke Broadwater, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 8/22/2023
After receiving a subpoena from a grand jury investigating former President Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, Mark Meadows started a delicate dance with federal prosecutors. He had no choice but to testify eventually. Yet Meadows –Trump’s final White House chief of staff – initially declined to answer certain questions, sticking to his former boss’s position they were shielded by executive privilege. But when prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith challenged Trump’s executive privilege claims before a judge, Meadows pivoted.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama Daily News – Mary Sell | Published: 8/20/2023
The Alabama House Ethics Committee will begin discussing possible changes to the state’s multiple ethics laws that apply to elected officials, government employees, and lobbyists. The committee will first review a 2019 report from the Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission, a group created by the Legislature to propose changes to existing ethics laws.
CalMatters – Sameea Kamal | Published: 8/23/2023
State boards are backing a bill to continue the exemptions from California’s open meetings law. An unusual coalition of good government, press, taxpayer, and industry groups is fighting back. Senate Bill 544 seeks to remove requirements to post all teleconference locations, post agendas at each location, and make those locations accessible to the public. The bill’s opponents – a rare coalition of good government, press, taxpayer. and industry groups – say Californians should be able to address their government officials in person.
MSN – Dakota Smith and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/23/2023
When the city council voted down a proposed appointment to the city Ethics Commission, it all happened quickly and quietly. No one on the council offered a reason for the swift, and some say brutal, unanimous vote rejecting Jamie York. But after days of complaints from York’s allies and neighborhood council leaders, the explanations have come tumbling out.
MSN – Adam Elmahrek, Nathan Fenno, and Gabriel San Román (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/16/2023
Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu agreed to plead guilty to four criminal charges, capping a years-long investigation into alleged corruption that led to his resignation and scuttled the city’s $320 million sale of Angel Stadium. The charges against Sidhu include lying to FBI agents about not expecting to receive anything from the Angels when the transaction closed – secret recordings captured him saying he hoped to secure a $1-million campaign contribution – and destroying an email in which he provided confidential information about the city’s negotiations to a team consultant.
MSN – Alfred Ng (Politico) | Published: 8/18/2023
One of the world’s largest advertising firms is crafting a campaign to thwart a California bill intended to enhance people’s control over the data that companies collect on them. Records show Interpublic Group emails reveal how an advertising company could use that same personal data and targeting capabilities to undermine a public policy proposal that threatens its bottom line.
Yahoo News – Stephanie Zappelli (San Louis Obispo Tribune) | Published: 8/19/2023
California Assemblyperson Dawn Addis was fined for accepting a campaign contribution from a lobbyist. When Addis ran for the Assembly in 2019, her campaign accepted a $250 donation from lobbyist Steve Black. The Political Reform Act bans lobbyists from donating to candidates running for office, and candidates from accepting such contributions. Both Addis and Black said they were unaware of the ban.
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlik | Published: 8/23/2023
A trial judge threw out a lawsuit from the Colorado Union of Taxpayers over the state’s rules for advocating on ballot initiatives after finding the conservative advocacy group had not shown the government was likely to take enforcement action against it for failing to comply with the transparency regulations. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled the group had a reasonable fear of drawing a complaint about its spending without registering, and, therefore, had the ability to sue over the campaign finance law.
District of Columbia – D.C. Attorney General Is Probing Leonard Leo’s Network
MSN – Heidi Przybyla (Politico) | Published: 8/22/2023
District of Columbia Attorney General Brian Schwalb is investigating judicial activist Leonard Leo and his network of nonprofit groups. The scope of the probe+ is unclear. But it comes after it was reported that one of Leo’s nonprofits paid his for-profit company tens of millions of dollars in the two years since he joined the company. A complaint was filed with the attorney general and the IRS requesting a probe into what services were provided and whether Leo was in violation of laws against using charities for personal enrichment.
MSN – Skyler Swisher (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 8/22/2023
Glen Gilzean resigned as chairperson of the Florida Commission on Ethics so he can keep his $400,000-a-year job leading Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Disney World oversight district. In his resignation letter, Gilzean wrote he was unaware of a potential conflict-of-interest under state law until media reports flagged it.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/20/2023
Fundraisers for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hoped some lobbyists in the state would raise at least $1 million each for his PAC, the state, and the Republican Governors Association, according to a document from his primary fundraiser. The document suggested lobbyists be allowed to offer their clients perks, such as meals and rounds of golf with DeSantis. While it is common for politicians to seek donations from lobbyists, the efforts by DeSantis to effectively auction off his leisure time to those seeking to influence state policy created a special pathway of access for donors that is striking in the way it was documented in writing, ethics experts said.
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/15/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to dismantle a congressional district formerly held by a Black Democrat could be reversed according to a surprise agreement between lawyers for the state and civil rights groups challenging Florida’s map. Under the agreement the plaintiffs will drop their legal challenges to congressional districts in Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area, and focus arguments on the North Florida district they say violates state and federal voting rights protections for Black voters.
Yahoo News – Sarah Blaskey and Joey Flechas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/22/2023
The Florida Commission on Ethics is reviewing a complaint over Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s attendance at exclusive, high-priced sporting events since the start of 2022. The complaint asks ethics officials to investigate Suarez’s VIP access to various events, including the Miami Formula One race in May 2023, and whether somebody else paid. Suarez, who was invited along with his wife to this year’s race by a billionaire with business before the city, says he reimbursed the businessperson. He did not provide proof. If he did repay in full, the tickets would not be a gift and he would not have to disclose them.
MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/21/2023
A judge approved a $200,000 bond for former President Trump, who is expected to surrender on charges he and 18 allies illegally conspired to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia. The consent bond order sets strict rules for Trump’s release. He is not allowed to communicate with witnesses or co-defendants about the case, except through his lawyers, and he is barred from intimidating witnesses or co-defendants.
WBEZ – Tessa Weinberg | Published: 8/16/2023
As the Chicago City Council enters its 100th year under its modern form, some aldermen, good government advocates, and political science experts say despite incremental progress, the council still has institutional inertia to overcome before it can operate independently from the historical grip the mayor’s office has held. Proposals include altering the council’s structure, more robustly staffing fiscal and legislative agencies, and a wholesale reset on Chicago’s municipal governance by codifying reforms in a city charter.
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 4/19/2023
Newly unsealed court records provide insight into how law enforcement justified an unusual raid of the office of a Marion, Kansas, newspaper, a decision that has drawn widespread condemnation from news organizations and press freedom advocates. The Marion County Sheriff’s office said it was investigating “identity theft” and “unlawful acts concerning computers” when it searched the offices of the Marion County Record, the home of the paper’s publisher Eric Meyer, and the home of a local city council member – seizing computers, cell phones, and other materials, according to search warrant affidavits.
Louisville Public Media – Roberto Roldan | Published: 8/20/2023
Metro Councilperson Anthony Piagentini was an early supporter of a plan by the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council to train hundreds of entry-level workers and build an “innovation corridor” in the city. But when the $40 million project came up for a final vote in December, Piagentini abstained and removed himself as a co-sponsor without explanation. It was later found he took a job with the Healthcare CEO Council one day after the metro council approved funding. Piagentini faces an ethics board hearing in the case.
Baltimore Brew – Mark Reutter | Published: 8/23/2023
Baltimore Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy issued an unusual memorandum recently. Titled “Attempted Bribes,” it informed her staff that “City of Baltimore employees are not permitted to accept bribes.” Kennedy listed the processing of permits, performing building inspections, issuing housing code violations, and acquiring and disposing of property as potential interactions where bribes could take place. Her memo came on the heels of an alert by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming, which found building inspectors were not sure what to do when they were offered cash or gift cards.
MSN – Lia Russell (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 8/16/2023
In the three years since its inception, Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan’s office has gone from three people toiling in a small windowless room to doubling its staff size and budget. That was the main message of its annual report, summarizing what Madigan’s office has accomplished during the previous fiscal year. The office is charged with rooting out fraud, misconduct, and waste within county government.
WXYZ – Staff | Published: 8/22/2023
The former mayor of Taylor, Michigan, is facing years in prison after entering into a plea agreement in a federal corruption case. Sollars admitted to bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds by accepting things of value to influence and reward business transactions related to the city’s Right of Refusal program. The indictment said Sollars accepted over $30,000 in renovations to his home, more than $12,000 worth of household appliances and cabinets, cash, and other items to give a company city business.
Omaha World-Herald – Lauren Wagner and Molly Ashford | Published: 8/23/2023
A federal judge rejected a third attempt by former Omaha City Councilperson Vincent Palermo to be released from custody. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart said there was no reason to allow Palermo to be released after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge recently. She also had concerns about Palermo obstructing justice if released. Palermo admitted to conspiring with his co-defendants to deprive the citizens of Omaha of honest representation by their city council member.
MSN – Matt Arco, Brent Johnson, and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/21/2023
Two longtime advisers to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, including one who is poised to run for the state Assembly in the fall, were once the subject of a federal subpoena seeking records related to them and their consulting and lobbying firms. In the subpoena, federal prosecutors requested the recipient to present emails and documents to or from Brendan Gill, his public affairs consulting firm, The BGill Group, and the lobbying firm he is affiliated with, Public Strategies Impact. The subpoena, issued in February 2020, also sought similar documents and emails to and from Adam Alonso, Murphy’s former deputy chief of staff.
New Jersey – Democrat Challenging Testa Is Ghosting the Campaign
Press of Atlantic City – Bill Barlow | Published: 8/23/2023
Charles Laspata filed petitions in the spring to challenge incumbent New Jersey Sen. Michael Testa, It does not appear that Laspata has done much about the campaign since then. Democratic leaders in Cape May and Cumberland counties say they have not heard from Laspata, and attempts to contact him through email, social media, and by phone have been unsuccessful. The website of the Election Law Enforcement Commission does not show any of Lasopata’s required campaign finance forms have been filed for the primary election.
Yahoo News – Colleen Heild (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 8/17/2023
Some provisions of a New Mexico campaign finance law limiting the amount of money state political parties can give are unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled. The court enjoined the state from enforcing its $11,000 limit on contributions from state political parties to gubernatorial candidates or candidate committees; its $5,500 limit per election cycle for all other candidates; and the state’s $5,500 cap from state political parties to county parties. The judge upheld a $27,500 cutoff on donations from individuals and entities to state political parties.
North Carolina – N.C. Republican Bill Limits Mail Voting, Private Election Funding
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 8/17/2023
Republicans in North Carolina passed election administration legislation that curtails absentee voting, empowers partisan poll watchers, and restricts private funding for elections. Voting rights advocates and Democrats have warned the measure, which passed both chambers in the Legislature along party lines, erodes access to the ballot in the battleground state. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to veto the legislation, but Republicans can overturn his decision because they have veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers.
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 8/23/2023
With funding of critical concern, trouble appears to be on the horizon for Oklahoma’s electronic campaign filing system. In a letter to lawmakers and Gov. Kevin Stitt, outgoing state Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said the system needs an upgrade or replacement. She suggested that going back to paper filings would be an option.
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 8/21/2023
A nonprofit led by Orego’s public employee unions filed two ballot measure proposals that contain an end-run strategy aimed at defeating a proposal that campaign finance reformers have been working to qualify for the ballot to cap contributions and shed light on “dark money.” The two measures that Our Oregon filed to get on the ballot in 2024 would similarly limit the size of donations, but they would allow unions, business associations, and other membership organizations to continue sending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to candidates.
WTAJ – Rebecca Parsons | Published: 8/23/2023
A new bill in Pennsylvania aims to increase transparency in elections by requiring campaigns and campaign organizations to itemize reimbursements on campaign finance reports. “… Donors give to campaigns with the expectation that their funds are going to be used for legitimate campaign expenditures and they deserve to know specifically how that money is being spent …,” said Rep. Jamie Barton, the bill’s sponsor.
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 8/23/2023
Rhode Island’s First Congressional District race has delved into matters of climate change, defense spending, and education, but a less familiar issue is emerging as the campaign enters its final two weeks: “red-boxing.” Lt .Gov. Sabina Matos, one of 12 Democrats in the race, has accused rival Aaron Regunberg of lying about publishing information on his campaign website that she claims was aimed at helping a super PAC boost his candidacy. Regunberg in turn has accused Matos and other candidates of posting information intended for super PACs backing their campaigns.
Charleston Post and Courier – Skylar Laird | Published: 8/17/2023
Former Richland County Councilperson Gwen Kennedy used her county taxpayer money to buy groceries, as well as “double dip” on travel expenses, and buy gas multiple times on the same day, a South Carolina Ethics Commission attorney said. Kennedy also misused campaign funds while running for county council, failed to file a number of required disclosures, and violated several other state ethics laws, commission General Counsel Courtney Laster said.
MSN – Annie Todd (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 8/17/2023
State Sen. Jessica Castleberry announced her resignation after an investigation found she violated the South Dakota State Constitution by accepting federal funds for her small business. Castleberry will be required to repay the state $499,129 with interest after she accepted COVID-19 stimulus funds for her daycare. Attorney General Marty Jackley said none of the money was spent inappropriately and went toward Department of Social Services-approved expenditures. He did not say why it took three years for someone to notice the expenditures.
MSN – Lauren McGaughy (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 8/18/2023
Thousands of pages of newly released documents purport to reveal the depth of the relationship between Ken Paxton and Nate Paul, the real estate developer at the center of the Texas attorney general’s impeachment case. The evidence goes to the heart of the impeachment allegations, that Paxton used his power to help Paul thwart a federal investigation into his business, which had been raided by the FBI in 2019, and Paul bribed Paxton by funding a home remodel and giving a job to a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair.
Seatte Times – Bob Brunner | Published: 8/19/2023
After months of resistance, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson disclosed the donors behind more than $1.2 million in surplus campaign funds from past years he shifted to his 2024 gubernatorial bid. Ferguson pumped the cash into his campaign in April and May, getting ahead of a state Public Disclosure Commission vote that aimed to close the loophole allowing such anonymous transfers, which critics said violate the spirit of campaign finance laws.
MSN – Scott Bauer (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 8/23/2023
Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature asked that the newest Democratic-backed justice on the state Supreme Court recuse herself from lawsuits seeking to overturn GOP-drawn electoral maps, arguing she has prejudged the cases. Republicans argue in motions filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court that Justice Janet Protasiewicz cannot fairly hear the cases because during her campaign for the seat she called the Republican-drawn maps “unfair” and “rigged” and said there needs to be “a fresh look at the gerrymandering question.”
August 24, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Colorado: “10th Circuit Reinstates Challenge to Colorado’s Regulations on Ballot Issue Advocacy Groups” by Michael Karlik for Colorado Politics Rhode Island: “What Is ‘Red-Boxing’ and Why Is it an Issue in R.I.’s Congressional Race?” by Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) for MSN Elections […]
Colorado: “10th Circuit Reinstates Challenge to Colorado’s Regulations on Ballot Issue Advocacy Groups” by Michael Karlik for Colorado Politics
Rhode Island: “What Is ‘Red-Boxing’ and Why Is it an Issue in R.I.’s Congressional Race?” by Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) for MSN
National: “As Ranked Choice Voting Gains Momentum, Parties in Power Push Back” by Matt Vasilogambros for Stateline
National: “Republican Rivals Clash Sharply in Combative Debate with No Trump” by Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer, and Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Amid Outcry, L.A. City Council Defends Rejection of Ethics Nominee” by Dakota Smith and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
National: “Special Counsel Says D.C. Grand Jury on Trump Documents Case Has Ended” by Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “DeSantis’ Disney Chief Glen Gilzean Resigns from Ethics Commission” by Skyler Swisher (Orlando Sentinel) for MSN
Michigan: “Former Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars Enters Plea Agreement in Federal Corruption Case” by Staff for WXYZ
California: “California Boards Want to Keep Pandemic Rules for Public Meetings. Critics Call It Bad for Democracy” by Sameea Kamal for CalMatters
August 22, 2023 •
Campaign Finance California: “SLO County Legislator Fined for Accepting Campaign Donation from a Lobbyist” by Stephanie Zappelli (San Luis Obispo Tribune) for Yahoo News National: “Super PACs Raise Millions as Concerns About Illegal Campaign Coordination Raise Questions” by Maia Cook for OpenSecrets Florida: “‘I […]
August 18, 2023 •
National/Federal ‘Biased.’ ‘Corrupt.’ ‘Deranged.’ Trump’s Taunts Test Limits of Release. Buffalo News – Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan, and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 8/16/2023 After eight years of pushing back at a number of institutions in the U.S., Donald Trump […]
Buffalo News – Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan, and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 8/16/2023
After eight years of pushing back at a number of institutions in the U.S., Donald Trump is now probing the limits of what the criminal justice system will tolerate and the lines that District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan sought to lay out about what he can say about the election interference case she is overseeing. He has waged a similarly defiant campaign against others involved in criminal cases against him. Some lawyers have said if Trump were an ordinary citizen issuing these attacks, he would be in jail by now. The question is whether Trump will face consequences for this kind of behavior ahead of a trial.
Business Insider – Peter Syme | Published: 8/15/2023
New evidence that prosecutors want to use against Sam Bankman-Fried details how one high-ranking FTX executive knew his boss’s political donations were designed to gain favorable influence in Washington D.C. The FTX founder gave nearly $40 million to Democrats and PACs during last year’s midterm elections. Although prosecutors have put that number as high as $100 million because they say Bankman-Fried funneled millions of dollars more through FTX executives. Prosecutors say the donations were funded by money taken from FTX customers.
MSN – Ryan Tarinelli (Roll Call) | Published: 8/10/2023
An appellate court panel heard arguments about a lower court ruling that would restrict the Biden administration’s ability to interact with social media companies on content moderation. An injunction, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has paused for now, would block various federal government entities from contacting in any form social media companies to remove content with “protected free speech.” The panel, which reserved its most probing questions for the Justice Department, did not indicate when it might rule.
MSN – Tierny Sneed (CNN) | Published: 8/13/2023
It is undeniable that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s friendships with billionaires willing to foot his bill on their vacations together have given the conservative jurist a lifestyle most Americans could only dream of. But determining whether Thomas violated ethics rules and laws by failing to disclose that hospitality is tricky. The law in question is the Ethics in Government Act, and how it should be applied to the extravagant travel that Thomas and other justices have been treated to has been a subject of debate.
The Hill – Zach Schonfeld and Mychael Schnell | Published: 8/16/2023
Samuel Miele, a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. George Santos, was indicted on allegations he had impersonated a top aide to a member of House leadership while soliciting donations for Santos’s campaign. Miele is charged with four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. While court documents do not identify the impersonated aide’s name or the lawmaker they work for, a complaint filed with the FEC accused Miele of impersonating Dan Meyer, who previously served as chief of staff to Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The Hill – Rebecca Beitsch | Published: 8/16/2023
Special counsel Jack Smith sought to review former President Trump’s direct messages, draft tweets, and location information as his office battled for information related to his account on X, formerly known as Twitter. Newly unsealed court records offer more detail about what prosecutors were looking for when they subpoenaed records related to the Twitter account in January, a request granted by the court.
Yahoo News – J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 8/12/2023
There is an expanding campaign by conservatives across the country to limit the power of Democratic prosecutors who have promised to reform the criminal justice system, or else to oust the prosecutors altogether. More than two dozen bills have been introduced in 16 states to limit prosecutors’ power, mostly in Republican-controlled states. Several of those bills have become law. Despite attacks on their policies and attempts to blame them for rising crime, progressive prosecutors have continued to win many elections.
Yahoo News – Ali Swenson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/10/2023
The FEC began a process to potentially regulate AI-generated deepfakes in political ads ahead of the 2024 election, a move advocates say would safeguard voters against a particularly insidious form of election disinformation. The FEC’s unanimous procedural vote advances a petition asking it to regulate ads that use artificial intelligence to misrepresent political opponents as saying or doing something they did not, a stark issue that is already being highlighted in the current Republican presidential primary.
Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 8/11/2023
Donald Trump’s legal problems are not just piling up – his legal bills are, too. New financial reports show the former president’s various political committees and the super PAC backing him have used roughly 30 cents of every dollar spent so far this year on legal-related costs. The total amounts to more than $27 million in legal fees and other investigation-related bills in the first six months of 2023. The new disclosures revealed the remarkable degree to which Trump’s political and legal cash are intermingled, much like his own political and legal fate.
From the States and Municipalities
MSN – Canadian Press | Published: 8/15/2023
The federal government has remained without a conflict-of-interest and ethics watchdog for more than six months, a vacancy that the most recent commissioner says is putting investigations on hold and could allow violations to go unnoticed. Mario Dion retired in February after serving as the last permanent commissioner. Martine Richard took on an interim role in April. But she resigned within weeks because of controversy over the fact she is the sister-in-law of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 8/14/2023
Alabama Republicans were ordered by a federal court to redraw their congressional maps to ensure there were two majority-Black districts. They did not. Instead, they are going back to the same federal court after the Supreme Court weighed in, this time to argue their attempts at coming up with a new map are good enough. Plaintiffs argued the new districts plainly do not meet the court’s standards, and Republicans were engaging in political gamesmanship by ignoring the court and drawing lines that would still only present Black voters the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choosing in one district.
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 8/7/2023
With efforts by one set of foes already rebuffed, Arizona’s top Republican lawmakers are making their own bid to quash a new state law designed to shine a light on “dark money.” In a new court filing, Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma contend Proposition 211 infringes on the constitutional right of the Legislature to make laws. They want Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Frank Moskowitz to override what voters approved just last year.
Mission Local – Joe Eskenazi | Published: 8/15/2023
Former San Francisco Planning Commission member Frank Fung admits he contracted with a city entity while serving as a city officer and faces a five-digit fine. Fung, a 20-year city appointee who served on the Planning Commission until June 2022, agreed to a settlement in which he will pay $24,200.
MSN – Michael Slaten and Tony Saavedra (Orange County Register) | Published: 8/10/2023
Investigators in Anaheim found deep levels of coordination between PACs and former Mayor Harry Sidhu’s campaign in 2018, a possible violation of state election laws. Investigators from JL Group said former Core Strategic Group Chief Executive Officer Jeff Flint and former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Todd Ament ran many campaign meetings for Sidhu while also coordinating spending through independent expenditures.
California – Oakland Lobbyists Must Pay to Play, Officials Say
Oaklandside – Eli Wolfe | Published: 8/10/2023
Oakland requires lobbyists to register and disclose basic information about who is employing them, how much they are paid, and who in the city they contacted. The Public Ethics Commission agreed to send the city council several recommendations to change to the lobbying law. The commission wants to carve out some exceptions to lobbyist registration fees. They want to grant a fee waiver to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations with less than $750,000 in annual revenue, and a reduction for small businesses with less than $200,000 in annual revenue.
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 8/14/2023
Industry groups and wealthy activists have figured out how to use California;s direct democracy system in ways that are changing how policy is made, prompting pushback from unions and others. Like never before, the business of lawmaking in Sacramento is intertwined with a ballot initiative industry that churns through hundreds of millions of dollars each cycle, and policy battles loop from the Legislature to the streets back to the Legislature again.
San Francisco Standard – Eddie Sun | Published: 8/15/2023
Bay Area Rapid Transit Board President Janice Li agreed to a $5,275 fine for failing to register as a lobbyist for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The coalition’s former executive director, Brian Wiedenmeier, was also named in the complaint. Li served as the nonprofit’s advocacy director from 2015 to 2022. The two qualified as “contact lobbyists” under local law because they reached out to city officials about coalition business at least five times a month.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 8/9/2023
Anaheim leaders give out hundreds of free tickets every year to events at Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, but a new investigation into alleged corruption found the city has failed to stop those tickets from going into the hands of special interests for years. While the city has a policy that requires city leaders to state a reason for giving out tickets, investigators from the JL Group noted there is no penalty for violating that policy, and it is easy to circumvent.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 8/16/2023
Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken’s proposed reforms to safeguard against corruption fell apart as her city council colleagues criticized an independent investigation and significantly softened every one of the mayor’s reform recommendations. Independent investigators put together a scathing report that alleges “pay-to-play” conspiracies, misconduct, a misuse of federal COVID dollars, and outsized influence by Disneyland resort interests on City Hall.
Florida – State Appeals Lobbying Decision
Citrus County Chronicle – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 8/14/2023
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody appealed a federal judge’s ruling that blocked part of a state constitutional amendment imposing new lobbying restrictions. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom issued a permanent injunction against a restriction on state and local officials lobbying other government bodies while in office. Bloom said the restriction violated First Amendment rights. The state separately requested a stay that would lead to the injunction only applying to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rene Garcia while the appeal moves forward.
WFSU – Margie Menzel | Published: 8/15/2023
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board agreed to continue discussions on why the number of lobbyists registered with the city has plummeted. Critics say there is a loophole to evade that registration, which would require reporting one’s clients and fees.
Yahoo News – Romy Ellenbogen (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/14/2023
The head of Florida’s ethics commission may have violated one of the commission’s own rules. Glen Gilzean, the chairperson of the Florida Commission on Ethics, was appointed in 2019 by Gov. Ron DeSantis. But Gilzean in May also took on another role, as the new administrator of the DeSantis-controlled Central Florida Tourism Oversight district, a special district formerly that governs Walt Disney World and two surrounding cities. State law says members appointed to the state ethics commission may not “hold any public employment.”
Yahoo News – Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 8/15/2023
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is using the state’s version of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to go after former President Trump, who along with 18 of his allies was indicted on charges of participating in a wide-ranging conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. One power of RICO is that it often allows a prosecutor to tell a sweeping story, not only laying out a set of criminal acts but identifying a group of people working toward a common goal, as part of an “enterprise,” to engage in patterns of illegal activities.
Yahoo News – Ryan Suppe (Idaho Statesman) | Published: 8/11/2023
A judge ruled Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador had a “notable conflict of interest” when his office began investigating officials with the state Department of Health and Welfare over how it distributed federal child-care grants. The health officials were the attorney general’s clients, and a lawyer under Labrador had advised them the grants in question were legally distributed.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 8/15/2023
Former Ald. Howard Brookins will not have to pay a $5,000 fine for violating the city’s ethics law by defending clients in criminal cases involving the Chicago Police Department. Brookins sued the Board of Ethics after it unanimously levied the fine against him, saying it had no authority to stop him from serving as a criminal defense attorney in Chicago.
Seattle Times – Steven Lee Myers and Benjamin Mullins (New York Times) | Published: 8/13/2023
A small Kansas police department is facing criticism for raiding a local newspaper’s office and the home of its owner and publisher, seizing computers and cellphones, and, in the publisher’s view, stressing his 98-year-old mother enough to cause her death. The searches appeared to be linked to an investigation into how a document containing information about a local restaurateur found its way to the local newspaper — and whether the restaurant owner’s privacy was violated in the process. The editor of the newspaper said the raids may have had more to do with tensions between the paper and officials in the town of Marion over prior coverage.
Yahoo News – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 8/10/2023
Tim Sheehy, who is rung for the U.S. Senate in Montana, plans to steer a portion of the revenue from his forthcoming memoir to an industry group that lobbies federal lawmakers, adding to existing conflict-of-interest questions surrounding the wealthy first-time candidate. Candidates for office occasionally release books to help burnish their image and tell their story, and sitting lawmakers sometimes draw hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside income from book deals. But Sheehy’s book release poses unique conflict-of-interest questions, given his apparent plans for the revenue.
MSN – Abby Turner and Andrew Kaczynski (CNN) | Published: 8/12/2023
Sam Brown, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Nevada, created a PAC to “help elect Republicans” but most of its funds were spent paying down debt from his failed previous campaign. The group donated less than seven percent of its funds to the candidates it was set up to support, a move one campaign finance expert likened to using the PAC as a “slush fund.”
This Is Reno – Kristin Hackbarth | Published: 8/15/2023
The Washoe County Board of Commissioners heard the first reading of a new ordinance that would require compensated lobbyists to register with the county. The policy, which some said was overdue, was modeled after Reno’s lobbying policy and is similar to others in Clark County, Las Vegas, and Henderson. It would require anyone who receives anything of value to communicate with county commissioners on behalf of someone else on any issue to register with the county.
New Mexico – New Ethics Complaint Targets Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 8/16/2023
A new ethics complaint accuses New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of violating state law by leveraging his power as a legislator for financial gain and to seek sexual favors. Much of the complaint centers on Ivey-Soto’s employment by an organization that serves county clerks throughout New Mexico, an arrangement it says is a conflict-of-interest, given his dual role as a legislator who crafts election laws the clerks must carry out.
Santa Fe New Mexican – Daniel Chacón | Published: 8/10/2023
In a defeat for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who unilaterally stopped the Human Services Department from awarding Medicaid contracts worth billions of dollars to providers who had followed the state’s procurement process and scored the highest bids, the department will move forward with the winning bidders after all. The decision is part of a settlement agreement the state Ethics Commission reached with the governor and the department.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 8/14/2023
A New York appellate court dismissed a lawsuit filed last year by Gary Levine, a former commissioner for the state’s now-dismantled Joint Commission on Public Ethics, accusing Andrew Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, of defamation for suggesting he had leaked confidential information to the press about Cuomo’s dealings with the ethics panel. The appellate court found Glavin’s letter constituted a “statement of opinion” when she urged the inspector general’s office to launch an investigation of Lavine.
MSN – Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 8/14/2023
The judge in Donald Trump’s Manhattan hush-money criminal case rejected the former president’s demand to step aside, denying defense claims that he is biased against Trump because he has given money to Democrats and his daughter is a party consultant. Judge Juan Manuel Merchan acknowledged he made several small donations to Democratic causes during the 2020 campaign, including $15 to Joe Biden, but said he is certain of his “ability to be fair and impartial.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 8/8/2023
Ten Republican and Independent senators who participated in a six-week walkout during the 2023 legislation session spring will not be allowed to run for reelection, Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced. Oregonians overwhelmingly voted last year to create consequences for legislative walkouts via Measure 113. But the decision drew a promise of a court challenge from GOP lawmakers, who have said the measure was so sloppily worded they are technically allowed to serve another term before consequences for a walkout begin.
Willamette Weekly – Nigel Jaquiss | Published: 8/14/2023
Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced that her office will now publish a searchable list of campaign finance violations monthly. Other states have long made such data public, informing voters which candidates posted contributions and expenditures late or incorrectly. The former elections director, Deborah Scroggin, pushed for Oregon to publish such violations throughout 2022, but then-Secretary of State Shemia Fagan and her top managers delayed the launch.
Yahoo News – Annie Todd (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 8/15/2023
Gov. Kristi Noem issued an executive order that contracts issued by the state include a clause to guard against conflict-of-interest if a state lawmaker is about to enter into a contract that could violate the South Dakota Constitution. According to the state constitution, lawmakers are prohibited from being either directly or indirectly interested in any contract with the state or county during their term in office and one year after.
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 8/11/2023
Former Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey was sentenced to 21 months in prison for directing a scheme to funnel state campaign funds to his failed 2016 congressional race. His co-defendant in the scheme, Josh Smith, owner of The Standard Club, a Nashville restaurant frequented by Republican lawmakers, netted five years of probation, a $250,000 fine, and 720 hours of public service. Smith reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors last November and was prepared to testify against Kelsey.
MSN – Juan Lozano (Associated Press) | Published: 8/15/2023
A judge called a new law unconstitutional that passed in the Republican-led Texas Legislature and will dictate how elections are run in the state’s most populous county, which is a Democratic stronghold and home to Houston. The law, which would abolish a position that oversees elections in Harris County, was temporarily blocked by state District Court Judge Karin Crump after county officials filed a lawsuit. But the judge’s order was put on hold after the state attorney general’s office filed a notice it will appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.
MSN – Stacy Parker (Virginian-Pilot) | Published: 8/15/2023
A vacant lot near Naval Air Station Oceana that is owned by a state senator could soon become a temporary laydown area for Dominion Energy’s $10 billion wind farm project. The Virginia Beach Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval. Sen. Bill DeSteph owns more than $250,000 of stock in Dominion Energy and has voted on legislation that affects electric and other utilities.
Yahoo News – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 8/15/2023
The county board meeting in Wausau, Wisconsin, on August 12, 2021, got contentious fast. What happened about 12 minutes in, as members of the community squabbled over a resolution intended to promote diversity and inclusion, has become the subject of a bitter legal fight that threatens to bankrupt one of the few remaining sources of local news in the area. First Amendment experts say the case highlights a troubling trend of wealthy and powerful people using defamation law as retribution.
August 11, 2023 •
National/Federal FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Still Slapped with Campaign Finance Charge, Prosecutors Say ABC News – Aaron Katersky and Max Zahn | Published: 8/8/2023 Federal prosecutors signaled their intention to hold cryptocurrency executive Sam Bankman-Fried accountable for alleged campaign finance violations despite […]
ABC News – Aaron Katersky and Max Zahn | Published: 8/8/2023
Federal prosecutors signaled their intention to hold cryptocurrency executive Sam Bankman-Fried accountable for alleged campaign finance violations despite dropping the charge on a technicality. Prosecutors accused Bankman-Fried of seeking influence in Washington and in state capitals by improperly using customer and investor money to make political donations.
Associated Press News – Alanna Durkin Richer | Published: 8/9/2023
Special counsel Jack Smith’s team obtained a search warrant in January for records related to Donald Trump’s Twitter account, and a judge levied a $350,000 fine on the company for missing the deadline to comply. Smith’s team repeatedly mentioned Trump’s tweets in an indictment that charges the former president with conspiring to subvert the will of voters and cling to power after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.
DNyuz – Shane Goldmacher, Maggie Astor, and Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 8/7/2023
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s transformation from Donald Trump’s most loyal lieutenant to an indispensable, if reluctant, witness for his prosecution became clear when he emerged as perhaps the central character in an indictment accusing the former president of a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. The indictment revealed Pence kept contemporaneous notes on the tumultuous period leading up to January 6, 2021. “You’re too honest,” Trump berated Pence as he refused to go along with the election plot, according to the indictment.
MSN – Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2023
U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon asked prosecutors to explain the use of grand juries in Florida and Washington in the classified documents case against Donald Trump even though charges were filed in South Florida. For many months, prosecutors questioned witnesses in the Florida case before a federal grand jury in Washington. The proceedings yielded much of the evidence at the crux of the case. But in May, the grand jury activity appeared to continue in Miami. Ultimately, prosecutors filed charges in a West Palm Beach courthouse in the same district as Miami and the area where Trump’s home is located.
MSN – Sabrina Rodriguez (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2023
A co-founder of March for Our Lives and the campaign manager who helped elect the first Gen Z member of Congress are teaming up to launch a new organization focused on getting more young progressives elected to office, primarily focusing on state lawmakers. Leaders We Deserve aims to help young people running for state Legislatures and Congress by providing candidates they endorse with the campaign knowledge – from fundraising to networking – and money to win.
MSN – Steve Contorno and Kit Maher (CNN) | Published: 8/8/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis replaced campaign manager Generra Peck, ending speculation about her future leading his struggling White House bid and continuing a shakeup of his presidential campaign. In her place, DeSantis chose James Uthmeier, the chief of staff for his gubernatorial office, a trusted adviser known in Florida as an enforcer of DeSantis’s agenda. The latest move reflects a campaign still grasping for solutions to build support and recapture momentum of when DeSantis was surging after a dominant performance in his gubernatorial reelection.
MSN – Madison Hall (Business Insider) | Published: 8/8/2023
The FEC’s inspector general found Commissioner Trey Trainor did not commit any ethics violations after he participated in an “election integrity” event where he was labeled as a member of the “Trump Elections Team.” The inspector general said while it may appear he acted improperly, his billing was written without his knowledge, undermining “any appearance of impropriety.” The report notes Trainor and his counsel refused to cooperate with the government’s investigation.
MSN – Michael Scherer and Isaac Arnsdorf (Washington Post) | Published: 8/5/2023
A super PAC funding much of Ron DeSantis’s presidential effort has become a joint investor with his campaign in a private transportation management company that provides lower-cost airplane leases for the Florida governor. The unusual agreement, which allows both the DeSantis campaign and the Never Back Down to lease planes in a larger volume at lower market rates, is another way DeSantis and his allies have found to use unlimited donations to help cover the cost of activities historically borne directly by official campaigns.
MSN – Amy Gardner, Patrick Marley, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2023
Donald Trump’s defenders have long insisted his false elector scheme was legal because the slates met as mere placeholders, to be activated only if the campaign won in court. Prosecutors now charge that Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and others intended all along to use the electors to falsely claim the outcome of the election was in doubt, facilitating an effort to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in Congress on January 6, 2021. Especially important may be the experience in Pennsylvania, where new interviews reveal the extent of discomfort with the plan by Trump electors.
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2023
A federal judge ordered a hearing over prosecutors’ demand that former President Trump keep government evidence turned over in his criminal election interference case secret until trial, as the two sides clashed anew over whether permitting Trump to discuss the case would taint potential jurors or intimidate witnesses. Prosecutors said they wanted to turn over evidence to speed the defense’s trial preparations but were concerned about Trump’s history of posting on social media about “witnesses, judges, attorneys and others” associated with cases against him.
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/3/2023
Justice Elena Kagan said the Supreme Court, which has faced criticism over lavish, undisclosed free travel by some of her colleagues, is struggling to devise an ethics policy despite continued discussion. The criticism stems from expensive trips taken years ago by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. underwritten by wealthy business executives and not disclosed in required annual financial reports. Kagan provided fresh insight into the struggle to craft a policy distinct from the ethics code that applies to other federal judges.
ProPublica – Brett Murphy and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 8/10/2023
During Clarence Thomas’s three decades on the Supreme Court, a cadre of industry titans and ultrawealthy executives have treated him to vacations aboard their yachts, ushered him into the premium suites at sporting events, and sent their private jets to fetch him – including, on more than one occasion, an entire 737. It is a stream of luxury that is both more extensive and from a wider circle than has been previously understood.
Seattle Times – Carl Hulse (New York Times) | Published: 8/8/2023
Proposals to censure lawmakers and impeach members of the Biden administration are piling up quickly in the U.S. House in an illustration of how once-solemn acts are becoming almost routine as the two parties seize on these procedures as part of their political combat. The proliferation of censures and cries for impeachment is troubling to some who see it as a threat to the standing of the institution as well as diminishing the weight such punishments are supposed to carry. Censure is the congressional penalty just below expulsion.
Yahoo News – Liz Champion (Politico) | Published: 8/9/2023
Ten state lawmakers nationwide switched parties in 2023. That includes six who jumped from one of the major parties to the other. In 2022, by contrast, just two state lawmakers changed affiliation between the Democrats and Republicans. The uptick in party transitions this year speaks to the growing polarization and party feuding inside state Capitols. In some states that saw allegiance flips, it had huge bearing on what legislation passed.
Yahoo News – Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 8/9/2023
When WinRed, the company that processes nearly all online Republican campaign contributions, recently released its trove of donor data for the first half of the year, contributions were conspicuously absent for one presidential candidate: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. It was no technical glitch. The DeSantis campaign worked with WinRed in a way that prevented the disclosure of donor information, ensuring the campaign’s small donors would remain anonymous.
Yahoo News – Jo Becker and Julie Tate (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2023
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s Prevost Marathon cost $267,230, according to title history records. Thomas, who has told friends how he scrimped and saved to afford the motor coach, did not buy it on his own. In fact, the purchase was underwritten, at least in part, by Anthony Welters, a close friend who made his fortune in the health care industry. He provided Thomas with financing that experts said a bank would have been unlikely to extend, not only because Thomas was already carrying a lot of debt, but because the Marathon brand’s high level of customization makes its used motor coaches difficult to value.
From the States and Municipalities
Anchorage Daily News – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 8/3/2023
The Alaska Department of Law is proposing rules that would allow the state to represent a governor, lieutenant governor, or attorney general in complaints against them alleging ethics violations. Currently, they must hire outside attorneys to represent them in such matters. Under the proposed rules, those officeholders could decline representation by the department and hire their own attorneys if they wished.
MSN – Mary Jo Pitzl (Arizona Republic) | Published: 8/7/2023
The interim director of the Maricopa County Democratic Party said he launched an investigation into the party’s handling of a $24,000 business deal that has led to accusations of cronyism, altered postal records, and cover-ups. The deal appeared to be intended to benefit the former executive director’s fiancé. The party spent $24,480 for a mass mailing before the November 2022 election. But the mailer never reached the mailboxes of the 118,000 Democrats for whom it was intended, and the money was only refunded months later, after the party’s attorneys demanded repayment.
MSN – Michael Slaton (Orange County Register) | Published: 8/8/2023
Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken announced her plans for the city council to start discussing several new reforms in the wake of the release of an independent investigation into corruption at City Hall, including several changes focused on transparency. “The release of last week’s independent report confirmed the wrongdoing that many suspected was going on for years,” Aitken said in a news release. “… Restoring transparency and public confidence will take time, and reforms will likely come in stages.”
MSN – Michael Slaton and Tony Saavedra (Orange County Register) | Published: 8/2/2023
Independent investigators hired by Anaheim said they found numerous potential violations of the city’s lobbying laws in the last decade, in what they described as a “pattern of behavior” by lobbyists. A report on corruption highlighted former Mayor Curt Pringle and Jeff Flint, the former chief executive of Core Strategic Group, saying they failed to report their lobbying activity to the city clerk, which investigators said was potentially a crime of perjury. To combat the issues described in their report, investigators recommended Anaheim create a city ombudsman/ethics officer, whose duties would include monitoring the lobbying reports submitted.
San Jose Spotlight – Jana Kadah | Published: 8/4/2023
In San Jose, when you leave a job working for the city you are barred from lobbying anyone at City Hall for at least two years. But a handful of ex-employees are exceptions to the rule. The latest example is Allie Hughes, a former staffer for San Jose Councilperson David Cohen. She recently left the city to work as a lobbyist for Canyon Snow Consulting. City Attorney Nora Frimann recommended the exemption, citing Hughes’ limited time with the city.
MSN – Laura Meckler (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2023
After days of confusion, the Florida education commissioner said high schools may teach Advanced Placement Psychology without running afoul of Florida law, including material on sexual orientation and gender identity. Commissioner Manny Díaz Jr. had told districts previously that the class could be offered, but only if material on those topics was excluded. Large school districts across Florida responded by dropping the course and began a stressful process of quickly preparing instructors to teach new curriculum.
Yahoo News – Charles Frazier (WFTV) | Published: 8/9/2023
A former Kissimmee city commissioner who was accused of entering a 2022 race for the Osceola County Commission as a “ghost candidate” was sentenced to jail for campaign finance violations. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, their investigation into Carlos Irizarry’s campaign began when they were notified of allegations that he was offered money to enter the race only to affect the outcome by taking votes from opposing candidate Jackie Espinosa.
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/9/2023
A federal judge struck down a Florida law that restricted state and local officials lobbying other government bodies while in office. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom sided with officials who argued the language in a 2018 ballot measure was too broad and poorly defined to comply with First Amendment protections on free speech. Bloom left intact another portion of the law that bans elected and appointed government officials from lobbying the agencies they represented for six years after leaving them.
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/6/2023
As the federal investigation into then-House Speaker Michael Madigan was heating up two years ago, prosecutors assured Tim Mapes, Madigan’s onetime chief of staff, would not be charged as long as he told the truth to a grand jury. But prosecutors allege Mapes lied repeatedly in his testimony in an ill-fated attempt to protect his longtime boss. Now, Mapes, a key member of Madigan’s inner circle, is on trial on perjury charges. His indictment marked an intriguing power play by the U.S. attorney’s office in what has become one of the biggest political corruption scandals in state history.
Yahoo News – Jason Alatidd (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 8/3/2023
A Kansas lawmaker wants to rewrite conflict-of-interest laws in response to a state employee bidding on and winning a consulting contract. Paul Hughes, the former Commerce Department deputy secretary, formed Catapult Kansas while still employed by the state. He then bid on a consulting contract – he was the only bidder – and was awarded the contract for $180,000 a year.
The Center Square – Christian Wade | Published: 8/3/2023
Maine voters will have a say in whether foreign corporations should be allowed to spend money to sway the outcome. Supporters say the ballot question is aimed at eliminating a loophole in state law that allows foreign governments to spend money on referendum campaigns. Foreign entities cannot contribute to political candidates under both federal and state election laws.
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 8/3/2023
Stefanie Lambert Junttila, a pro-Trump attorney who challenged 2020 election results across the country, was charged with four felonies stemming from an alleged plot to illegally access Michigan voting machines. Lambert Junttila is the third suspect indicted by a grand jury in special prosecutor D.J. Hilson’s probe of the alleged tampering scheme. Matthew DePerno, the 2020 Republican nominee for state attorney general, was charged along with former state Rep. Daire Rendon.
Yahoo News – Wicker Perlis (Jackson Clarion-Ledger) | Published: 8/4/2023
The treasurer for the lieutenant governor campaign of state Sen. Chris McDaniel is under investigation by the office of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. A press release did not mention the McDaniel campaign directly, naming Thomas Datwyler, a Wisconsin-based political consultant who serves as the campaign treasurer, and Invest in Mississippi, a PAC Datwyler created in July. It is against the law for campaigns and PACs to coordinate or communicate with each other.
MSN – Taylor Avery (Las Vegas Review-Journal) | Published: 8/9/2023
Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo plans to appeal a recent state ethics board decision that found he violated the law by using his sheriff’s badge and uniform during his campaign for governor. Ethics Commission members voted to fine Lombardo $20,000 and censure him for four violations of state law barring the use of government time, property, or equipment for personal use.
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/7/2023
The New Jersey Supreme Court said candidates who do not hold elected office can be charged under the state’s public official bribery laws. The court sided with state officials by ruling candidates do not need to win elections to be subject to the “plain words” of the bribery statute. The law was challenged by Jason O’Donnell, a former state lawmaker and candidate for mayor of Bayonne, who allegedly accepted $10,000 in cash from an individual in exchange for the promise to appoint them as tax counsel for the city.
New York – Hochul’s Husband Is Leaving Delaware North
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 8/4/2023
William Hochul Jr., New York’s first gentleman, is departing his position as senior vice president and general counsel at Delaware North, a job that had led to a number of thorny issues for the governor. Hiswork at the high-powered gaming company has led to Gov. Kathy Hochul to recuse herself from matters that veer too close to that sector, including recent negotiations with the Seneca Nation over a contentious gaming compact.
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 8/7/2023
We Decide New York, a small but devoted group of mostly older women, banded together online to defend then-Gov Andrew Cuomo from a cascade of sexual misconduct claims that led to his resignation in August 2021. But it turns out the group’s online activity had secretly been ordered by someone even closer to the former governor’s cause: Madeline Cuomo, his sister. Documents give unusual insight into how far members of one of America’s most storied political families were willing to go to rehabilitate a fallen scion and humiliate those they believed had wronged him.
MSN – Molly Crane-Newman, Graham Rayman, and Chris Sommerfeldt (New York Daily News) | Published: 8/9/2023
Howard Redmond, who as an New York City Police Department inspector who oversaw for Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family’s around-the-clock security, pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from his work for City Hall. Assistant District Attorney Samantha Dworken said Redmond admitted to ignoring investigators and then hiding and deleting evidence. The two-year probe found de Blasio’s bodyguards operated like glorified chauffeurs, flying in the face of city ethics laws barring public servants from using city resources for personal benefit.
MSN – Toluse Olorunnipa, Rachel Roubein, and Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2023
Ohio voters rejected a ballot measure that would have made it more difficult to amend the state constitution ahead of a November vote to ensure access to abortion. The issue of abortion has become a rare consistent source of electoral victories for Democrats over the past year. The result in Ohio, coming after voters in other Republican-leaning states like Kentucky and Kansas also rejected GOP efforts to restrict abortion, underscores how the issue has already reshaped the political landscape for 2024, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said.
Ohio Capital Journal – Marty Schladen | Published: 8/8/2023
In early 2019, news of financial ties between FirstEnergy and the man incoming-Gov. Mike DeWine named to lead the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio began to spread. As it did, FirstEnergy’s top executives feared they would not have a regulator they could control, according to court documents. As it happened, the nominee, Sam Randazzo, ended up being appointed to the commission after being paid $4.3 million by FirstEnergy. He proceeded to help draft a law providing the utility with a $1.3 billion bailout.
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 8/7/2023
Oregon lawmakers will ask voters to weigh in on big questions in 2024, including how voting will work, whether lawmakers should be able to impeach top officials, and whether elected officials should receive raises. Before the legislative session ended in June, lawmakers voted to send three proposed laws to voters on their November 2024 ballots. More referrals could be coming. A majority of Democratic legislators support an effort to change quorum requirements for the House and Senate to prevent future walkouts like the one that just stalled the Legislature for six weeks.
MSN – Andrew Jeong (Washington Post) | Published: 8/3/2023
Two Tennessee Democrats who were expelled from the state Legislature in April over their participation in a gun-control protest won back their seats. Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones easily defeated their Republican opponents in districts that lean Democratic. Pearson won more than 90 percent of the votes. Jones received more than 75 percent.
MSN – Meagan Vazquez (Washington Post) | Published: 8/10/2023
A coalition of civil rights organizations and Tennessee residents filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s recently enacted congressional and state Senate redistricting plans, asserting the state violated the U.S. Constitution by diluting the voting power of African Americans and other voters of color in the state. The plaintiffs argue the plan unfairly fractured the power of Black voters and other minority voters in the Nashville and Memphis areas.
MSN – Ella McCarthy (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 8/5/2023
A recent appointee to the Austin Ethics Review Commission is married to a current city council member. The commission conducts hearings and makes rulings on complaints alleging violations of the provisions within the commission’s jurisdiction, including complaint against city council members. Mayor Kirk Watson does not believe there are any legal or ethical concerns with the appointment, and Councilperson Paige Ellis and Espinoza feel their marriage will not affect Espinoza’s actions on the commission.
August 10, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Arizona: “‘It’s Underway’: Probe begins into $24K mailer deal at Maricopa County Democratic Party” by Mary Jo Pitzl (Arizona Republic) for MSN National: “FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Still Slapped with Campaign Finance Charge, Prosecutors Say” by Aaron Katersky and Max Zahn for […]
August 9, 2023 •
Voters rejected a Republican-backed measure that would have made it more difficult to change the state’s constitution with 57% voting no and just under 43% voting yes. Issue 1 would have required a 60% vote to approve any constitutional amendment […]
Voters rejected a Republican-backed measure that would have made it more difficult to change the state’s constitution with 57% voting no and just under 43% voting yes.
Issue 1 would have required a 60% vote to approve any constitutional amendment rather than the current simple majority.
The measure would have also changed the signature requirement for initiative petitions to require 5% signatures from each county of the state and it would have eliminated the cure period to obtain more signatures.
August 9, 2023 •
Elections National: “DeSantis Replaces 2024 Campaign Manager in Continued Shakeup” by Steve Contorno and Kit Maher (CNN) for MSN Ohio: “Ohio Voters Reject Higher Bar for Altering Constitution, a Win for Abortion Rights Supporters” by Patrick Marley and Rachel Roubein (Washington Post) for MSN […]
National: “DeSantis Replaces 2024 Campaign Manager in Continued Shakeup” by Steve Contorno and Kit Maher (CNN) for MSN
Ohio: “Ohio Voters Reject Higher Bar for Altering Constitution, a Win for Abortion Rights Supporters” by Patrick Marley and Rachel Roubein (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Mayor Aitken Announces Reforms Anaheim City Council Will Start Considering” by Michael Slaton (Orange County Register) for MSN
National: “Supreme Court Struggling to Agree on Ethics Policy, Justice Kagan Says” by Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “FEC Commissioner Trey Trainor Cleared of Ethics Violation After Insider Reporting Spurred Investigation” by Madison Hall (Business Insider) for MSN
New York: “The Secret Hand Behind the Women Who Stood by Cuomo? His Sister.” by Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Once Rare, Impeachments and Censures Have Become the Norm in Congress” by Carl Hulse (New York Times) for Seattle Times
Kansas: “Kansas Commerce Deputy’s Lucrative Contract May Trigger Stronger Conflict of Interest Laws” by Jason Alatidd (Topeka Capital-Journal) for Yahoo News
August 4, 2023 •
National/Federal Trump Aide Carlos De Oliveira’s Journey from Failed Witness to Defendant MSN – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/28/2023 Carlos De Oliveira was indicted along with Donald Trump and Walt Nauta, all three accused of […]
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/28/2023
Carlos De Oliveira was indicted along with Donald Trump and Walt Nauta, all three accused of seeking to delete security footage at Mar-a-Lago that the Justice Department was requesting as part of its classified documents investigation. De Oliveira’s actions at Mar-a-Lago, and later statements to federal investigators, shows how the longtime Trump employee has become a key figure in the investigation, one whose alleged actions could bolster the obstruction case against the former president.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 7/29/2023
Former President Trump’s political group spent more than $40 million on legal costs in the first half of 2023 to defend Trump, his advisers, and others, financing legal work that has drawn scrutiny from prosecutors about potential conflicts-of-interest between Trump and witnesses. While interviewing potential witnesses associated with Trump, prosecutors have raised pointed questions about who is paying for their lawyers and why.
MSN – Paul Farhi (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2023
Haunted by a sense that the news is relentlessly toxic, once-loyal readers and viewers have been gradually ebbing away, posing a persistent threat to the news business. Researchers say “news avoidance” could be a response to an age of hyper-information. Digital media has made news ubiquitous and instantly available from thousands of sources representing every ideology, geography, and language. Much of it, people say, drives feelings of depression, anger, anxiety, or helplessness.
MSN – Caroline Anders (Washington Post) | Published: 7/29/2023
A federal judge dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit against CNN, in which the former president said the network defamed him by associating him with Adolf Hitler. Trump argued by using the phrase the “big lie” in reference to his unfounded claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, the network created an unfair association between him and the Nazi regime. Hitler and Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels used the term as a propaganda tool that involved repeating a falsehood until the public started to believe it.
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, Perry Stein, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2023
A grand jury indicted former President Trump for a raft of alleged crimes in his brazen efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, the latest legal and political aftershock stemming from the riot at the U.S. Capitol. The charges represent the third indictment of the former president filed since March, setting the stage for one of the stranger presidential contests in history, in which a major-party front-runner may have to alternate between campaign stops and courtroom hearings over the next year.
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2023
When Donald Trump was indicted and accused of trying to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election, he found himself in the unenviable company of defendants charged under a criminal statute dating to the Reconstruction era. The statute, Section 241 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, was originally adopted as part of the Enforcement Act of 1870. It was the first in a series of measures known as the Ku Klux Klan Acts designed to protect rights guaranteed by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 8/2/2023
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. started a flurry of conversation among judicial and congressional experts when he expressed a self-proclaimed “controversial view” that Congress does not have “the authority to regulate the Supreme Court – period.” Those experts generally agree that such a broad comment on its face is not correct, since Congress does have authority to regulate the court’s docket, budget, and even how many justices there are. But the specifics get trickier when it comes to whether Congress has the authority to pass a code of ethics for the Supreme Court, which congressional Democrats have pushed for this year.
MSN – Mike McIntire (New York Times) | Published: 7/30/2023
Long before the National Rifle Association (NRA) tightened its grip on Congress and won over the Supreme Court, U.S. Rep. John Dingell Jr. had a plan. It would transform the NRA from an outdated club of sportsmen into a lobbying juggernaut that would enforce elected officials’ allegiance, derail legislation behind the scenes, and redefine the legal landscape. Dingell was one of at least nine senators and representatives who served as leaders of the NRA, often prodding it to action. At seemingly every hint of a legislative threat, they stepped up, documents show, helping erect a firewall that impedes gun control today.
Seattle Times – Rebecca Davis O’Brien, and Alexandra Berzon (New York Times) | Published: 7/28/2023
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott has more campaign money than most of his Republican presidential rivals, and he has not been shy about spending it. Where that money is ultimately going, however, is a mystery. Scott spent about $6.6 million from April through June but most of it cannot be traced to an actual vendor. Instead, roughly $5.3 million went to two shadowy entities: newly formed limited liability companies with no online presence and no record of other federal election work. Their business records show they were set up by the same person in the months before Scott entered the race.
Yahoo News – Tracey Tully (New York Times) | Published: 8/1/2023
U.S. Robert Menendez is under investigation by the Justice Department for the second time in less than a decade, and this time, his wife is also in prosecutors’ sights. The new inquiry appears to be focused at least in part on the possibility that either the senator or his wife received undisclosed gifts from a company run by a friend of Menendez, and those gifts might have been given in exchange for political favors. Unlike her husband, Nadine Menendez has lived a mainly private life.
From the States and Municipalities
CalMatters – Sameea Kamal and Jeremia Kimelman | Published: 8/3/2023
An analysis shows local governments, water districts, and transit agencies in California have spent nearly $24 million on lobbying the state this year, accounting for about 10 percent of the more than $233 million total. Not all local government agencies lobby the state, but those that do tend to want to influence policies. They also seek more money from the state budget. Some national research shows the advocacy pays off as cities that do lobby receive between seven percent and 9 percent more per person in state funding than those that do not.
California – By Several Measures, the FPPC Is Outnumbered
Capitol Weekly – Brian Joseph | Published: 8/1/2023
The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) finds violations of the Political Reform Act in a few different ways, through complaints filed with the agency by members of the public, referrals from other agencies, proactive cases agency staff see in the media, and through a limited number of audits of disclosures by staff. Ann Ravel, a former FPPC chairperson, said that in a “perfect world,” the agency would have the resources and staff to proactively review many more disclosures filed with the state.
MSN – Christopher Cadelago and Melanie Mason (Politico) | Published: 8/2/2023
A ballot initiative likely to come before California voters next year would overhaul the state’s open records law, forcing unprecedented scrutiny into lobbying activities at the Capitol, and ensuring sexual harassment allegations against lawmakers are public. Bob Stern, who co-authored the state’s political reform law in 1974, reviewed the proposed measure and pointed to support from the public in further scrutinizing lawmakers’ interactions with lobbyists as well as more information into legislative probes.
MSN – Nathan Fenno and Gabriel San Román (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/31/2023
An outside investigation into alleged corruption in Anaheim detailed Disneyland area resort interests improperly steering City Hall policymaking. The report noted numerous lobbyist meetings that were not reported as required and raised concerns about the close relationship between the city and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. It characterized former Mayor Harry Sidhu’s Anaheim First initiative as “nothing more than a fig leaf for potential future public corruption and the wrongful diversion of public funds.”
San Francisco Examiner – Adam Shanks | Published: 7/28/2023
San Francisco’s ethics watchdog was spared the significant reductions to its budget first proposed by Mayor London Breed. The budget agreement finalized by the board of supervisors and Breed restored $2.3 million to the commission’s funding. While the money is only a small portion of the city’s budget, supervisors and ethics panel leaders stressed the importance of its work, particularly given that 2024 is a major election year.
Broward.US – Anthony Man (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) | Published: 7/26/2023
The Fort Lauderdale commissioners who welcome Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi are reimbursing the soccer team. The Fort Lauderdale leaders, along with elected officials from Miami-Dade County, were hosted by the team in a VIP area at DRV PNK Stadium for the event. Some were able to talk with and get pictures with the new player and team co-owner David Beckham. City Attorney D’Wayne Spence said those who attended should pay. He also cited state law requiring commissioners to report gifts worth more than $100 and a prohibition on accepting gifts from lobbyists or vendors.
Seattle Times – Sarah Mervosh (New York Times) | Published: 7/28/2023
When Florida set out to revamp its standards for teaching Black history this spring, a natural place to turn would have been the state’s African American History Task Force. The volunteer task force – a group of Black educators, Democratic politicians, and community leaders, appointed by the commissioner of education – has helped shape African American history instruction in Florida for more than two decades. But in updating educational standards to comply with a new law that limits how racism and other aspects of history can be taught, state officials largely bypassed the task force.
Yahoo News – Jeffrey Schweers (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 7/28/2023
If it had not been for a fender bender on Interstate 75 near Chattanooga, Tennessee, most folks would not know Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was using state government vehicles for his 2024 run for president. The collision draws a curtain back on the campaign’s use of state resources. But finding out who is paying for it is nearly impossible thanks to a new law passed by the Legislature to protect the governor’s travel records from public view.
Yahoo News – Jeff Burlew (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 8/3/2023
Last year, 29 individuals registered to lobby city commissioners and staff in Tallahassee. They paid their annual $25 registration fees and disclosed their clients and interests. But so far this year, only six lobbyists have signed up, marking a 77 percent year-to-date drop and an all-time low in registration numbers since the city’s lobbying ordinance was enacted in 2011. The anemic registration numbers raise questions about the effectiveness of the city’s lobbying ordinance and point to the possibility of unregistered lobbyists skirting requirements.
DNyuz – Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 7/31/2023
A Georgia judge forcefully rejected an effort by former President Trump to throw out evidence collected by a special grand jury and to remove the current prosecutor from the investigation into Trump’s attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney seemed to have little patience for the arguments from Trump’ legal team and suggested Trump’ lawyers were gumming up the legal process with frivolous filings.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Chad Blair and Patti Epler | Published: 8/2/2023
Despite a new law banning fundraising during the legislative session in Hawaii, it did not halt the flow of campaign donations to many state senators and representatives. A review of the latest campaign finance disclosures illustrates major special interests continue to give generously to lawmakers, especially those who wield a lot of power.
Yahoo News – Jason Alatidd (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 7/30/2023
A top economic development employee at the Kansas Department of Commerce bid on and won a $180,000 a year contract to consult for the agency. State officials maintain there was no conflict-of-interest in awarding the consulting contract to Paul Hughes, whose contract went into effect two weeks before he left his government job. While Hughes was still employed by the state, he formed his own company, Catapult Kansas LLC. He then bid on and was awarded a contract to consult for the Commerce Department on megaprojects.
Yahoo News – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 7/28/2023
Often, if a person incurs a low-level violation of the state’s campaign finance or lobbying laws such as filing the required reports late, they will ask the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission to waive or lower the fine associated with that offense. While some factors, such as an illness or an inability to pay the fine, almost always result in a waived or reduced fee, other times relatively similar cases see disparate outcomes. Now, the agency is taking a look at its policies to ensure it remains fair.
Maryland Daily Record – Madeleine O’Neill | Published: 7/31/2023
The onetime treasurer for a Baltimore County political slate who admitted to embezzling tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds will serve six months in jail. William McCollum stole money from the Baltimore County Victory Slate and the finance committee of former Baltimore County Councilperson Cathy Bevins. He was accused of stealing funds through direct payments to pay his personal credit card bill and by depositing checks made out to the fund or to vendors into his personal bank account.
MSN – Patrick Marley and Aaron Schaffer (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2023
A former Michigan lawmaker and a losing candidate for state attorney general were charged with felonies as part of an investigation into the improper acquisition of voting machines. Special prosecutor D.J. Hilson has been looking into efforts by a group of conservatives to persuade election clerks to give them voting machines as they attempted to prove the 2020 presidential election had been wrongly called for Joe Biden. The group never turned up any proof, and courts in dozens of cases across the country ruled the election was properly decided.
MSN – Henry Gomez (NBC News) | Published: 8/3/2023
Tim Sheehy is running in one of the country’s most competitive U.S. Senate races while also running an aerial firefighting company that is heavily dependent on federal contracts. Bridger Aerospace has explicit rules about political contributions and activities. Employees are not permitted to engage in politics while on company time. There are also rules requiring legal reviews and approval before company funds can be spent on behalf of candidates or campaigns. Officials with Bridger and the Sheehy campaign did not directly address questions about how the candidate is complying with corporate accountability measures.
Nebraska Examiner – Paul Hammel | Published: 7/28/2023
The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission hired a long-time staffer as its new executive director. David Hunter, who has worked for the commission since 2000, will succeed Frank Daley, who is retiring in September.
Nevada Independent – Carly Sauvageau | Published: 7/30/2023
The Nevada Commission on Ethics was thrust into the spotlight when it decided Gov. Joe Lombardo violated state ethics laws by wearing a sheriff’s badge in campaign ads and was issued a $20,000 fine – the largest ever since the commission’s creation in 1975 – as well as a censure. City councils to county commissions, public officers, and employees in the executive branch are overseen and occasionally investigated by the commission.
New Jersey – Brindle Will Retire from Top ELEC Post
New Jersey Globe – David Wildstein | Published: 7/31/2023
Jeff Brindle, the executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, will retire. Brindle’s decision comes more than five months after Gov. Phil Murphy had sought to oust Brindle from his post earlier this year over an email sent to a staffer last fall that mocked National Coming Out Day. He will leave at the end of the year. Brindle is suing Murphy and some top aides over their bid to force him out.
Yahoo News – Dan McKay (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 8/1/2023
A PAC agreed to pay a $1,000 civil penalty and disclose its financial activity in a new report after New Mexico’s independent ethics agency accused it of violating campaign finance laws in a 2022 legislative race. The New Mexico Values PAC disclosed just $2,500 in contributions and spending. But the ethics panel said it is unlikely the PAC fully disclosed its activity.
Spectrum News – Nick Reisman | Published: 7/27/2023
Republicans in the New York General Assembly are challenging a pending limit on the amount of money state lawmakers can earn outside of their jobs as elected officials. The lawsuit seeks to strike down the $35,000 cap, set to take effect in early 2025. Lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul approved a legislative pay raise from $110,000 to $142,000 last year.
North Carolina – Inside the Party Switch that Blew Up North Carolina Politics
Seattle Times – Kate Kelly and David Perlmutt (New York Times) | Published: 7/30/2023
Rep. Tricia Cotham’s win in the November general election for the North Carolina House helped Democrats lock in enough seats to prevent, by a single vote, a Republican supermajority in the chamber. Three months after Cotham took office in January, she delivered a mortal shock to Democrats and abortion rights supporters. She switched parties and then cast a decisive vote to enact a 12-week limit on most abortions, the state’s most restrictive abortion policy in 50 years.
North Carolina – ‘Sophisticated Scam’ Nabs $50k from Stein’s Gubernatorial Campaign
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 7/31/2023
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s gubernatorial campaign was the victim of a “sophisticated scam” that cost the candidate’s operation about $50,000. A campaign finance filing, breaking down donations and expenses from the first six months of 2023, lists a $50,438.77 expense in January identified as a “fraudulent wire transfer payment.”
Yahoo News – Jazper Lu (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 7/30/2023
Some North Carolina lawmakers attended the 50th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The politically conservative organization regularly convenes state legislators from around the U.S., mostly Republicans, with private sector representatives to write and publish “model bills,” draft legislation that can then be used by anyone. Historically, some North Carolina policies have gone on to form the building blocks for ALEC model legislation. Several of the state’s lawmakers have served in top ALEC leadership positions.
Missouri Independent – Zachary Roth and Morgan Trau | Published: 8/2/2023
Ohioans over the last century have used the state’s ballot initiative process to pass constitutional amendments that raised the minimum wage, integrated the National Guard, and removed the phrase “white male” from the constitution’s list of voter eligibility requirements. Now, lawmakers want to make it much tougher for an initiative to be approved. Opponents of the effort, who are leading in the polls, say doing so would undermine democracy. Whoever prevails, the verdict could reverberate far beyond the Buckeye State, as other states eye limits on ballot initiatives.
Yahoo News – Zach Schonfeld (The Hill) | Published: 8/1/2023
A state judge in Pennsylvania ruled an election worker cannot sue former President Trump over statements he made sowing doubt in the 2020 election results while in office, finding the statements are protected by presidential immunity. Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Erdos said Trump was immune for a tweet he issued and comments he made remotely from the White House during a Pennsylvania Senate committee hearing. The statements, made without evidence, claimed fraud in Pennsylvania’s election count.
MSN – Dylan McGuinness (Houston Chronicle) | Published: 8/2/2023
A dozen candidates running for elected positions in Houston failed to file required campaign finance reports in July, continuing a sloppy reporting period for the slate of candidates hoping to lead the city. The omissions account for nearly one in five of candidates running in the November elections, after about 25 percent failed to file the mandatory reports in January as well. Top mayoral contenders also had to refund contributions from those who exceeded the city’s cap and from prohibited city contractors.
MSN – Dylan Baddour (Inside Climate News) | Published: 8/1/2023
When an oil company sought pollution permits in Texas to expand its export terminal beside Lavaca Bay, a coalition produced an analysis alleging the company, Max Midstream, underrepresented expected emissions to avoid a more rigorous permitting process and stricter pollution control requirements. In response, Max Midstream claimed the groups and citizens involved had no right to bring forth a challenge because they lived more than one mile from the Seahawk Oil Terminal. But the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says the one-mile test cited by the company’s lawyers does not exist.
MSN – Kai Uyehara (Kitsap Sun) | Published: 7/28/2023
Washington Rep. Tarra Simmons was cited by a state legislative ethics board for accepting pay for speaking at Vanderbilt University about her experience as an incarcerated woman, an inspiring personal history that has been widely documented but ran afoul of rules when it was entwined with Simmons’ role as an elected official. Simmons said she was unaware of the state rules before accepting $1,000 for a 2021 speech. She was ordered to return the money and fined $250, which was waived by the state ethics board.
ABC News – Scott Bauer (Associated Press) | Published: 8/2/2023
A lawsuit asks Wisconsin’s newly liberal-controlled state Supreme Court to throw out Republican-drawn legislative maps as unconstitutional, the latest legal challenge of many nationwide that could upset political boundary lines before the 2024 election. The lawsuit asks that all 132 state lawmakers be up for election that year in newly drawn districts. In Senate districts that are midway through a four-year term in 2024, there would be a special election with the winner serving two years. Then the regular four-year cycle would resume in 2026.
August 1, 2023 •
Campaign Finance National: “Trump PAC Has Spent More Than $40 Million on Legal Costs This Year for Himself, Others” by Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN Maryland: “Treasurer for Baltimore County Campaign Committees Sentenced for Stealing Funds” by Madeleine […]
National: “Trump PAC Has Spent More Than $40 Million on Legal Costs This Year for Himself, Others” by Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
Maryland: “Treasurer for Baltimore County Campaign Committees Sentenced for Stealing Funds” by Madeleine O’Neill for Maryland Daily Record
Georgia: “Judge Rejects Trump’s Effort to Short-Circuit Georgia Election Case” by Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim (New York Times) for DNyuz
Florida: “Fort Lauderdale Commissioners Will Pay After All, After Attending Lionel Messi’s Unveiling” by Anthony Man (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) for Broward.US
Nevada: “Indy Explains: How does the Nevada Commission on Ethics work?” by Carly Sauvageau for Nevada Independent
Washington: “State Ethics Board Cites Rep. Simmons for Speaking Engagement Compensation” by Kai Uyehara (Kitsap Sun) for MSN
North Carolina: “Inside the Party Switch that Blew Up North Carolina Politics” by Kate Kelly and David Perlmutt (New York Times) for Seattle Times
Kansas: “Kansas $180K Megaproject Consulting Job Went to Deputy Secretary’s LLC” by Jason Alatidd (Topeka Capital-Journal) for Yahoo News
July 28, 2023 •
National/Federal Senate GOP Leader McConnell Briefly Leaves News Conference After Freezing Up Midsentence Associated Press News – Mary Clare Jalonick | Published: 7/26/2023 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell briefly left his own press conference after stopping his remarks midsentence and staring off […]
Associated Press News – Mary Clare Jalonick | Published: 7/26/2023
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell briefly left his own press conference after stopping his remarks midsentence and staring off into space for several seconds. McConnell was out of the Senate for almost six weeks earlier this year after falling and hitting his head. He was hospitalized for several days, and suffered a concussion and fractured a rib. His speech has sounded more halting in recent weeks, prompting questions among some of his colleagues about his health.
DNyuz – David Yaffe-Bellany and Matthew Goldstein (New York Times) | Published: 7/27/2023
Federal prosecutors pursuing the criminal case against the cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried said they were dropping a charge that he violated campaign finance rules. Bankman-Fried was charged with fraud and campaign finance violations after the collapse of his company, FTX. He was extradited to the U.S. from the Bahamas, where FTX was based. But prosecutors said they had been informed by officials in the Bahamas the nation’s government had not intended to extradite Bankman-Fried on the campaign finance charge.
DNyuz – Steve Eder, Abbie Van Sickle, and Elizabeth Harris (New York Times) | Published: 7/27/2023
In recent months, media reports have highlighted a lack of transparency at the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the absence of a binding ethics code for the justices. The reports included Justice Clarence Thomas’s travels and relationships with wealthy benefactors. The justices’ book deals are not prohibited under the law, and income from the advances and royalties are reported on annual financial disclosure forms. But the deals have become lucrative for the justices, including for those who have used court staff members to help research and promote their books.
DNyuz – Grace Ashford (New York Times) | Published: 7/26/2023
In the years since U.S. Rep. George Santos first ran for the House in 2020, he has become adept at finding ways to extract money from politics. He founded a political consulting group that he marketed to other Republicans. He sought to profit from the Covid crisis, using campaign connections. He also solicited investments for and from political donors, raising ethical questions. A review of his political career found several previously unreported examples of how he sought to use the connections he made as a candidate for public office to enrich himself.
MSN – Jeremy Merrill and Hanna Kozlowska (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2023
While the legitimacy of the gold retirement investment industry is the subject of numerous lawsuits, including allegations of fraud by regulators, its advertising has become a mainstay of right-wing media. The industry spends millions of dollars a year to reach viewers of Fox, Newsmax, and other conservative outlets. For years, gold IRA industry advertising has echoed accusations against Democratic politicians commonly found in news segments on conservative outlets. The ads tout the coins as a safe haven from economic uncertainty and social upheaval.
MSN – Michael Macagnone and Mary Ellen McIntire (Roll Call) | Published: 7/25/2023
There is a series of courtroom redistricting battles playing out in about a dozen states. Some new maps could be drawn in time to change the electoral landscape in 2024, when Democrats need a net gain of five seats to take control of the House. But others may still be facing challenges as that election goes forward. One attorney said drawing new districts just once a decade after the census comes out is almost passé, and ongoing litigation is the new normal.
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 7/20/2023
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that would place new transparency rules on U.S. Supreme Court filings, place new recusal standards on the justices, and require the court to adopt a code of ethics. The party-line vote came as Democrats said Congress must act because reports about undisclosed gifts and travel received by justices had stained the institution. Republicans called the measure an attack on the legitimacy of a conservative-controlled court that has ruled in ways Democrats do not like.
MSN – Taylor Giorno (The Hill) | Published: 7/21/2023
K Street’s top lobbying firms reported strong earnings in a quarter marked by uncertainty. Lobbyists said they have been hard at work on some of the must-pass bills in the 118th Congress, including the National Defense Authorization Act, the Federal Aviation Authorization, and the Farm Bill reauthorization. Against the backdrop of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the narrowly avoided debt ceiling crisis, the Biden administration has pushed for new regulations. Lobbyists say Biden’s regulators push is driving a significant amount of their work.
MSN – Melissa Quinn (CBS News) | Published: 7/21/2023
The federal judge in Florida overseeing the Justice Department’s case against former President Trump over his alleged mishandling of sensitive government documents has set a date for his trial to begin in May 2024. The Justice Department had requested the trial start by mid-December of this year, but Trump’s legal team pushed back, arguing instead for the proceedings to begin after the 2024 presidential election. The May 20 date means the trial will take place toward the end of the Republican presidential primaries.
MSN – Sophia Nguyen (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2023
Less than a month before the Smithsonian’s Asian American Literature Festival was to begin, staffers prepared what they considered to be a routine memo discussing programs involving “potentially sensitive issues” they knew the host institution would want to be aware of in advance. Among the matters cited in the mem: a panel about book bans, and two events featuring queer, trans, and nonbinary writers. Hours later, the acting director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Pacific American Center, Yao-Fen You, informed organizers she decided to cancel the entire festival because of “unforeseen circumstances.”
MSN – David Ovalle (Washington Post) | Published: 7/24/2023
The political maelstrom swirling around coronavirus vaccines may be to blame for a higher rate of excess deaths among registered Republicans in Ohio and Florida during the coronavirus pandemic. The new study underscores the partisan divide over coronavirus vaccines that have saved lives but continued to roil American politics even as the pandemic has waned. Yale University researchers found registered Republicans had a higher rate of excess deaths than Democrats in the months following when vaccines became available for all adults in April 2021.
Yahoo News – Charlie Mahtesian and Madi Alexander (Politico) | Published: 7/21/2023
In state after state, fast-growing, traditionally liberal counties with colleges are flexing their electoral muscles, generating higher turnout and ever greater Democratic margins. They have already played a pivotal role in turning several red states blue and they could play an equally decisive role in key swing states next year. Name the flagship university and the story tends to be the same. If the surrounding county was a reliable source of Democratic votes in the past, it is a landslide county now.
Yahoo News – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 7/25/2023
Republican lobbyists on K Street are not rushing to back Donald Trump in his third run for the White House. But they are not rallying in full force behind an alternative either. While some lobbyists are doling out cash, others are fearful any type of public opposition to the former president could make them persona non grata in Washington should he get back to the White House.
From the States and Municipalities
MSN – Amanda Coletta (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2023
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is in a high-stakes showdown with Google and Meta, accusing them of unfairly profiting at the expense of Canadian news outlets and of using “bullying tactics” to intimidate officials. At issue Canada’s Online News Act, which aims to shore up a struggling media industry by requiring tech firms to compensate domestic news publishers for the content shared on their platforms.
National Public Radio – Jeff Amy and Kim Chandler (Associated Press) | Published: 7/21/2023
Alabama refused to create a second majority-Black congressional district, a move that could defy a recent order from the U.S. Supreme Court to give minority voters a greater voice and trigger a renewed battle over the state’s political map. State lawmakers faced a deadline to adopt new district lines after the Supreme Court in June upheld a three-judge panel’s finding that the current state map, with one majority-Black district out of seven in a state that is 27 percent Black, likely violates the Voting Rights Act.
Arizona Capitol Times – Howard Fischer (Arizona Capitol Services) | Published: 7/25/2023
Rebuffed in their bid to totally quash a voter-approved ban on “dark money,” two organizations involved in trying to influence Arizona politics are now trying to at least get themselves and their donors exempted from its provisions. In new legal filings, attorney Scott Freeman again argues Proposition 211 and its requirement for disclosure of the true source of campaign money violates state constitutional provisions guaranteeing free speech and privacy. Those claims, first filed last year, were rejected by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott McCoy.
MSN – Adam Elmahrek, Gabriel San Román, and Nathan Fenno (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/25/2023
The role of powerful business interests in Anaheim – home to Disneyland Resort and Angel Stadium – has come under renewed scrutiny amid an ongoing federal corruption investigation that became public last year. FBI affidavits detail strong alliances between city leaders and several unelected power brokers. Jordan Brandman provided an insider’s look at how Anaheim was run from when he became a city council member in 2012 to when he stepped down in disgrace two years ago. His account and records describe relationships that went deeper than the typical transactional ties that often bind lobbyists and government officials.
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/21/2023
A federal judge sentenced a Los Angeles real estate developer to six years in prison for providing cash bribes to former city council member Jose Huizar, then attempting to hide the transaction from investigators. Dae Yong Lee was found guilty of giving $500,000 in bribes in exchange for the approval of a 20-story residential tower. He was also convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.
California – Oakland’s Democracy Dollars Delayed, But Not Dead
Oaklandside – Eli Wolfe | Published: 7/26/2023
Oakland residents will not receive Democracy Dollars to spend in the 2024 general election due to the budget. But the program’s supporters are determined to see a successful launch in 2026. Democracy Dollar, an initiative to level the campaign finance playing field, was overwhelmingly approved by voters last November. The measure called for giving every registered voter $100 in vouchers they could use to support candidates for city council, mayor, and other city offices.
Yahoo News – Matt Hamilton (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/24/2023
Marilyn Flynn, the former dean of the University of Southern California’s (USC) social work program who admitted to bribing Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in exchange for his help securing the renewal of a county contract, was sentenced to 18 months of home confinement. Flynn admitted she agreed to send $100,000 from USC to the United Ways of California, which was sponsoring a new nonprofit led by Ridley-Thomas’ son. The money from USC coincided with the donation of $100,000 to USC’s social work program from a political campaign associated with Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 7/22/2023
In 2016, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission decided a complaint against Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon warranted an investigation. Seven years later, Dunafon said he still does not know what he is being charged with. In the meantime, the Colorado Court of Appeals decided the commission’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over the city government in the Dunafon case had no basis in law. While it is unclear when the case might be resolved, the battle between the commission and the city and its mayor has so far cost Glendale taxpayers more than $2 million.
MSN – Kevin Sullivan and Lori Rozsa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2023
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is intensifying his efforts to de-emphasize racism in his state’s public school curriculum by arguing some Black people benefited from being enslaved and defending the new African American history standards that civil rights leaders and scholars say misrepresents centuries of reality. “They’re probably going to show that some of the folks that eventually parlayed … being a blacksmith into doing things later in life,” DeSantis said while standing in front of a nearly all-White crowd of supporters.
MSN – Anthony Man (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) | Published: 7/18/2023
Among the thousands of fans who packed Fort Lauderdale’s professional soccer stadium recently were prominent elected officials, who were hosted in a secure VIP area, where some were able to talk with and get pictures with Inter Miami’s new superstar player, Lionel Messi, and team co-owner David Beckham. The presence of the elected officials raised questions about what they were doing at the event. One Fort Lauderdale commissioner said it was improper for his colleagues to attend.
Yahoo News – Grethel Aguila (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/26/2023
Sophia Lacayo, a failed Miami-Dade Commission candidate, spent more than a million dollars challenging one of the county’s longest-serving politicians last year. Now, prosecutors allege some of that money was mishandled. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said the violations were “deliberate steps” to sidestep campaign finance laws.
MSN – John Wagner and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2023
Rudy Giuliani, who served as a lawyer for former President Trump, is no longer contesting as a legal matter that he made false and defamatory statements about two former Georgia election workers – but argues in a new court filing what amounted to false claims about vote-rigging in the 2020 presidential election was constitutionally protected speech and did not damage the workers. The filing is the latest twist in a lawsuit brought by Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, who counted ballots in Fulton County during the November 2020 election.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 7/25/2023
Inspector General Deborah Witzburg said her office’s decision to declare two high-profile Chicago politicians violated the city’s ethics laws should put elected officials on notice that she plans to step up efforts to hold rule breakers accountable. Witzburg vowed to pursue enforcement of Chicago’s ethics rules with “greater frequency and rigor than ever before – paying down the deficit of legitimacy at which the city operates by ensuring that people who break the rules are held accountable, regardless of their positions.”
Louisiana Illuminator – Michael Isaac Stein (Verite) | Published: 7/23/2023
Investigators hired by the New Orleans City Council last year to look into the now-abandoned “smart cities” project found evidence of potential contract-rigging, ethics violations, and perjury by city officials. The final product concluded that the consortium of businesses that was selected for the proposed contract, Smart+Connected NOLA, had an unfair advantage in the public bidding process, and undisclosed financial relationships compromised the integrity of the process.
MSN – Sean Cotter (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/25/2023
Boston City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson admitted to an ethics violation and agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for hiring and then giving raises to her sister and son. Fernandes Anderson said both of her family members were “amazing” employees who she would happily hire again if it were allowed.
MLive – Ben Orner | Published: 7/20/2023
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission cleared Commissioner Anthony Eid of any ethics violations after he left a position as deputy director of Michigan Voices, a nonprofit that had lobbied the commission. With questions of a conflict-of-interest dogging Eid, Commissioner Rebecca Szetela asked for a ruling regarding his employment. But at a recent meeting, Szetela’s item was pulled from the agenda after commission Chairperson Doug Clark announced Eid and Michigan Voices had mutually parted ways and the matter should be deleted from the agenda because it “has been taken care of.”
MSN – Torey Van Oot (Axios) | Published: 7/27/2023
Cryptocurrency contributions to state campaign committees are now explicitly allowed under a law that took effect recently in Minnesota. Under the new rules, campaigns must convert donations made via virtual currency to U.S. dollars within five days. The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board asked legislators to address crypto to get ahead of any potential issues as digital currencies grow in popularity, Executive Director Jeff Sigurdson said.
Las Vegas Sun – Casey Harrison | Published: 7/25/2023
The Nevada Commission on Ethics voted to censure and fine Gov. Joe Lombardo $20,000 for using his Clark County Sheriff uniform and badge while running for governor in 2022 but declined to levy the proposed fine. Commission Executive Director Ross Armstrong said each of the 34 social media posts in question violated two provisions of state law, or 68 violations in total, which left Armstrong to recommend the commission order Lombardo to pay a record $1.67 million civil fine, be censured by the body, and be compelled to establish an ethics officer within the governor’s office.
New Jersey Monitor – Dana DiFilippo | Published: 7/26/2023
The state’s election watchdog dismissed almost half its active investigations into reported campaign finance violations after legislators passed a controversial new law critics warned would weaken enforcement. The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) held its first meeting since its former commissioners resigned in protest over the new law, which Gov. Murphy signed in April. With four new commissioners appointed by Murphy recently, ELEC tossed 107 cases.
Yahoo News – Ashley Balcerzak (Bergen Record) | Published: 7/24/2023
Tony Teixeira, former chief of staff to the New Jersey Senate president, was sentenced to eight months of house arrest and three years of probation after pleading guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud. Teixeira admitted he conspired with political operative Sean Caddle to overcharge campaigns, PACs, and nonprofits for work done by Caddle’s consulting firms and split the proceeds. Kickbacks to Teixeira were concealed through cash and checks made out to Teixeira’s relatives.
Source New Mexico – Megan Gleason | Published: 7/24/2023
Lawmakers are gathering all over New Mexico to discuss priorities for the next legislative session. Much like the 2023 Legislature, some lobbyists still feel unsafe at these meetings around the state’s public servants. Very little has changed since the last session, despite calls for more safety and accountability measures for lawmakers. After a senator who has had allegations against him in the past for sexual misconduct presented all day long at an interim committee meeting, lobbyists are raising their voices again for change in the Legislature.
DNyuz – Karen Zraick (New York Times) | Published: 7/26/2023
A restaurateur who was a key witness in a public corruption investigation was sentenced to four years in prison, ending an episode that churned up allegations of endemic wrongdoing that stretched across New York City and one of its most populous suburban areas. Harendra Singh pleaded guilty to charges he bribed a former Nassau County executive, Edward Mangano. Singh also admitted trying to bribe former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, to get favorable treatment for a restaurant in Queens.
MSN – Jazper Lu (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 7/24/2023
In a recent interview, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore defended his years-long relationship with a state official, noting the employee in question does not report to him. Moore also pointed out that rules allow legislators to date members of their own staff. This does not mean such conduct does not come under scrutiny, however.
Seattle Times – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 7/22/2023
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez was elected to Congress last year as a Democrat and became one of only a small number of lawmakers in her party who periodically crosses over to vote with Republicans. Now, Gluesenkamp Pérez is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress, and Dean’s Car Care – the family business named for her husband – has become the target of vicious online trolling from the left. Negative online reviews of the business excoriate her for siding with Republicans on a bill to repeal President Biden’s student loan relief initiative.
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 7/25/2023
The Rhode Island Ethics Commission opened an investigation into whether Gov. Dan McKee violated state law when a lobbyist treated him to lunch at a high-end restaurant. The state Republican Party called into question a meal where statehouse lobbyist Jeff Britt and his clients – executives of Scout Ltd. – met with McKee and his fundraising chairperson, Jerry Sahagian. Britt said the meal cost $228, and he picked up the tab after Sahagian told him he “did not have the campaign credit card.”
Associated Press News – Jonathan Matisse and Travis Loller | Published: 7/21/2023
Tennessee has begun requiring felons who want their voting rights back to first get their full citizenship rights restored by a judge or show they were pardoned. Election officials say the step is required after a recent court ruling. But attorneys representing the state’s disenfranchised felons accuse officials of searching for ways to suppress Black voters.
Tennessee Lookout – Adam Friedman | Published: 7/26/2023
Amy Adams Strunk and her family own the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League. The family is wealthy by almost every standard except one – among sports owners. When they were almost two billion dollars shy of the cash needed for a new stadium in Nashville, the family turned to a strategy common for Tennessee businesses wanting help with a project. They hired a deep roster of lobbyists to convince lawmakers to raise taxes and fund their proposal with public dollars that those opposed to the stadium say could have been spent elsewhere.
July 25, 2023 •
Elections National: “‘This Is a Really Big Deal’: How college towns are decimating the GOP” by Charlie Mahtesian and Madi Alexander (Politico) for Yahoo News Ethics California: “Real Estate Developer in Huizar Bribery Case Sentenced to Six Years in Prison” by David Zahniser (Los […]
July 21, 2023 •
National/Federal Supreme Court Justices and Donors Mingle at Campus Visits. These Documents Show the Ethical Dilemmas Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko and Eric Tucker | Published: 7/11/2023 Documents reveal the extent to which public colleges and universities have seen visits by […]
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko and Eric Tucker | Published: 7/11/2023
Documents reveal the extent to which public colleges and universities have seen visits by U.S. Supreme Court justices as opportunities to generate donations – regularly putting justices in the room with influential donors, including some whose industries have had interests before the court. The documents also reveal that justices have lent the prestige of their positions to partisan activity, headlining speaking events with prominent politicians, or advanced their own personal interests, such as sales of their books, through college visits. The conduct would likely be prohibited if done by lower court federal judges.
Government Executive – Eric Katz | Published: 7/18/2023
The federal agency responsible for enforcing ethics rules across government is without a confirmed leader for the first time in five years and President Biden has yet to appoint anyone to fill the role. The lack of a confirmed director should not hinder the Office of Government Ethics’ daily operations, but Biden would be smart to pick a new permanent leader soon to signal he is serious about ethics, former agency officials said. Shelley Finlayson, chief of staff and program counsel at the ethics agency, will fill in as director on an acting basis.
Las Vegas Sun – David McCabe and Steve Lohr (New York Times) | Published: 7/13/2023
A federal appeals court paused a judge’s order that had blocked much of the Biden administration from talking to social media sites about content. The case could have significant First Amendment implications and affect the conduct of social media companies and their cooperation with government agencies. The appeals court also called for expedited oral arguments in the case.
MSN – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/13/2023
With his foot on the front porch of a home in Charleston, South Carolina, a canvasser for a $100 million field effort supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vented on July 7 about a homeowner who he said had told him to get off his lawn. The outburst seen on a Ring doorbell video recording highlighted a potential risk of the unprecedented effort by DeSantis donors to flood early primary states with thousands of paid door knockers armed with high-tech tools to win support one conversation at a time.
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2023
Rep. Eli Crane said he “misspoke” when he referred to Black Americans as “colored people” on the U.S. House floor while arguing the military should not focus on diversity, a comment that sparked an immediate outcry in the chamber and was condemned by Democrats. Crane, who served in the Navy, suggested any focus on diversity would lead to a lowering of military standards.
MSN – Perry Stein, Josh Dawsey, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2023
Former President Trump received a letter from the Justice Department informing him that he is a target of the long-running investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The target letter and potential indictment further ensnare Trump in unprecedented legal peril while he is campaigning as the front-runner to be the 2024 Republican nominee for president. The letter also comes as state and federal prosecutors around the country appear to be preparing to lodge criminal charges related to efforts to overturn a presidential election.
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2023
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene showed what appeared to be sexually explicit images of Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, during a hearing of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, drawing immediate rebukes from Democratic members of the panel. The committee was hearing testimony from two IRS whistleblowers involved in an investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes when Greene, during her questioning, produced the graphic poster boards. While the faces of other people in the photographs were blocked with black boxes, what appeared to be Hunter Biden’s face was not censored.
MSN – Shawn Boberg, Emma Brown, and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 7/20/2023
The 25th anniversary of Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to the Supreme Court was approaching, in a moment that would draw attention to his accomplishments but also to the misconduct claims that had nearly derailed his rise. A coordinated and sophisticated public relations campaign to defend and celebrate Thomas began. The campaign would stretch on for years and include the creation and promotion of a laudatory film about Thomas. It was financed with at least $1.8 million from conservative nonprofit groups steered by the judicial activist Leonard Leo.
MSN – Lisa Kashinsky and Shia Kapos (Politico) | Published: 7/17/2023
The centrist group No Labels signaled it will present a candidate for a third-party presidential ticket by Super Tuesday if it is clear by then the choices will be Donald Trump and President Joe Biden and if the group sees public support for an alternative. The announcement underscored the group’s movement from a largely behind-the-scenes presence to a more visible force, one that has left Democrats increasingly alarmed about the prospect of a third-party candidate spoiling Biden’s reelection.
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 7/20/2023
A federal judge denied a bid from Jacob Chansley to withdraw his guilty plea to obstructing Congress and rebuked the so-called “QAnon Shaman” for going on a Tucker Carlson program that gave a distorted view of the Capitol riot. Chansley finished his sentence in March. But after leaving prison, he asked U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth to undo his conviction, saying security camera footage from inside the Capitol aired by Fox News host Tucker Carlson showed police allowed him to wander around the building on January 6. Lamberth expressed his concern with Carlson’s misleading depiction of the riot.
Yahoo News – Joshua Zitser (Business Insider) | Published: 7/18/2023
In 2019, Israel sent some of its national treasures to an event at the White House on the condition they would be returned within weeks. But almost four years later, the ancient artifacts are still at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and senior Israeli figures are scrambling to get them back. The artifacts include ancient ceramic candles that were sent to the U.S. from Israel for a Hanukkah event at the White House attended by Trump, Haaretz reported.
Yahoo News – Brooke Singman (Fox News) | Published: 7/11/2023
Rep. Mike Gallagher, chairperson of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, is rolling out legislation with bipartisan support that would require individuals to retroactively register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act if they failed to do so while they were working for a foreign interest. The bill comes after a federal court issued a ruling last year that said if someone stops acting as a foreign agent, they have no continuing obligation to register for their work as a foreign agent.
From the States and Municipalities
MSN – John Wagner and Maegan Vazquez (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2023
The Republican-led House and Senate in Alabama approved dueling congressional maps that would increase the percentage of Black voters in the state’s Second District but not by enough, Democrats argued, to comply with a federal court order to create two districts in the state with at least close to a majority-Black population. The legislature is in special session following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found lawmakers previously drew districts that unlawfully dilute the political power of its Black residents in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
MSN – Stacey Barchenger (Arizona Republic) | Published: 7/19/2023
Arizona law allows private companies, nonprofits, and other groups to contribute money for candidates’ legal fees without any reporting about who is donating how much. In 2016, lawmakers amended the state’s campaign finance laws amid a bitter debate over “dark money.” The standing practice of candidates not disclosing donations to cover legal costs was written into law. An exemption for accounting costs was included. Candidates and officeholders can voluntarily disclose their spending and fundraising as it relates to legal fees, but none contacted by The Arizona Republic chose to do so.
MSN – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 7/13/2023
Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes is ramping up a criminal investigation into alleged attempts by Republicans to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in the state by signing and transmitting paperwork falsely declaring Donald Trump the winner. Mayes assigned a team of prosecutors to the case in May, and investigators have contacted many of the pro-Trump electors and their lawyers. Investigators have requested records and other information from local officials who administered the 2020 election, and a prosecutor has inquired about evidence collected by the Justice Department and an Atlanta-area prosecutor for similar probes.
Courthouse News Service – Michael Gennaro | Published: 7/14/2023
Bernie Curran, a former senior building inspector for San Francisco, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison for accepting gratuity payments in exchange for approving building permits. He pleaded guilty and had requested to serve his sentence at home. prosecutors said Curran used his position for his benefit and disregarded safety when issuing building permits.
MSN – St. John Barned-Smith (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 7/14/2023
Former San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Harlan Kelly was found guilty of federal fraud charges. Kelly was accused of misconduct related to two fraud schemes: trying to sway a city streetlight contract to a local contractor in exchange for gifts, and separately lying to a lender, Quicken Loans, to get a hefty loan to pay off construction debt and other financial obligations. The verdict concludes the prosecution of one of the most powerful city officials swept up in a yearslong corruption investigation.
MSN – St. John Barned-Smith and J.K. Dineen (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 7/19/2023
Chinese billionaire Zhang Li admitted he bribed former San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru with food, drinks, and other amenities during a trip to China in 2018. Prosecutors agreed to drop the conspiracy to commit wire services charge after three years, as long as Zhang acknowledged the misconduct and paid a $50,000 fine. Prosecutors allege Zhang wanted to influence Nuru to win favorable treatment on decisions and city approvals needed during the construction and development of a property in the city.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 7/19/2023
California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the FBI are expected to see all 300 pages of an independent corruption probe into Anaheim City Hall. Federal agents alleged a shadowy group of resort interests and lobbyists controlled policy discussions in Anaheim in sworn affidavits that surfaced last year. In February, the city council was reluctant to increase the funding for the probe without limiting its scope, which the investigators successfully refused to do. In the end, elected officials doubled the budget for the probe to a total of $1.5 million.
WGCU – Rachel Heimann Mercader (Florida Center for Government Accountability) | Published: 7/17/2023
Collier County Deputy Manager Sean Callahan was fired in January 2022 after staff discovered he was secretly working as a lobbyist for a powerful Washington, D.C. lobbying firm, a moonlighting job that violated county policies, ethical guidelines, and anti-fraud measures. A new report by the county’s inspector general reveals one of Callahan’s undisclosed lobbyist clients, Jacobs Solutions, is a long-time vendor for Collier County.
Yahoo News – Joey Flechas (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/13/2023
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s presidential campaign is raffling off Inter Miami tickets as part of a blitz to secure enough donors to make the first Republican primary debate in August. Federal campaign laws generally permit raffles, but the campaign’s actions could raise questions about compliance with Florida’s gaming laws. A donation to Suarez for President, Inc. is not required to enter the drawing. The free-to-enter policy is required for nonprofits to legally hold raffles. But other public notices required by state law, including contest rules and the location and time of the drawing, were not shared in the tweet Suarez sent promoting the contest.
MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/17/2023
The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Donald Trump’s petition to block an Atlanta-area district attorney from investigating him over allegations of 2020 election interference and to throw out evidence gathered by a special purpose grand jury in the case. The court said the petition lacked proof Trump’s constitutional rights had been violated; that “the facts or the law necessary” to remove Willis from the case exist; or that other courts had rejected his claims.
MSN – Ray Long and Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/17/2023
Tim Mapes, former chief of staff to ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan, was captured on dozens of undercover FBI recordings talking about his family, political fundraising, and his ouster after a sexual harassment scandal. The conversations, described in a defense motion seeking to keep them out of Mapes’ perjury trial, shed new light on the behind-the-scenes maneuvering and relationships among key members of Madigan’s inner circle as a series of scandals began to threaten the speaker’s decades-long grip on power.
MSN – Alice Yin and Gregory Royal Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/14/2023
Ald. Jim Gardiner violated the city’s ethics code when he allegedly retaliated against a constituent and vocal critic by directing staffers to issue bogus citations against him, Chicago’s top watchdog found. The city’s watchdog also found probable cause that former Mayor Lori Lightfoot solicited campaign contributions from city workers in this year’s mayoral race.
MSN – Johnny Magdaleno (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 7/19/2023
Nondisclosure agreements that employees in Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita’s office are expected to sign would impose a $25,000 penalty for sharing personal information about Rokita. The contract gives Rokita and his staff the power to decide what information counts as confidential. It covers “personal or private information” about the attorney general, his employees, and their families. The contract does not prevent employees from reporting unlawful behavior. Experts said it raises concerns about constraints on free speech and the public’s right to know what goes on in the offices of elected officials.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2023
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged 16 Republicans who falsely claimed to be the state’s 2020 presidential electors with forgery and other felonies, bringing the first criminal prosecution against Donald Trump electors as investigations over attempts to overturn election results intensify across the country. Those charged submitted official-looking paperwork to the federal government asserting they were casting the state’s electoral votes for Trump. Joe Biden won Michigan, and courts swiftly threw out lawsuits claiming Trump was the true winner of the state.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 7/19/2023
The New York Assembly will not release its records regarding a childcare center that Speaker Carl Heastie allowed to be set up in a conference room of the Legislative Office Building this year. The large room had been converted to what Heastie called a drop-in center that was used by a handful of Democratic lawmakers who did not pay to have their children care for by staff aides, at times for hours. The space has been used for official purposes through the years ranging from legislative ethics meetings to employee training sessions.
Buffalo News – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/16/2023
The Commission on Ethics and Lobbying and Government began only three new investigations and did not bring any enforcement action during its first year. Watchdogs criticized the law creating the new commission, the result of a compromise with a Legislature reluctant to relinquish influence over the panel. While there were significant changes, reform groups argued that because commissioners would still be appointed by top state elected officials, the new body would continue to lack independence.
Gothamist – Brigid Bergin | Published: 7/17/2023
Following a media investigation, the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) acknowledged Executive Director Beth Rotman did not resign voluntarily as the agency publicly announced. Instead, she was asked to step aside following an inquiry by the CFB into concerns about her management. In the two months since announcing Rotman’s departure, internal documents and interviews show the agency, which prides itself on accountability and transparency, is facing an internal integrity issue of its own making related to Rotman’s exit.
MSN – Michael Hill (Associated Press) | Published: 7/13/2023
A mid-level state appeals court ordered new congressional lines be drawn for New York, a ruling that could benefit Democrats in the 2024 fight for control of the U.S. House. The Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court reversed a lower court and directed a state redistricting commission to start work on new proposed state congressional lines. Democrats are supporting the lawsuit, which seeks to scrap the 2022 lines under which Republicans flipped four congressional seats. Republicans pledged to appeal the case to New York’s highest court.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2023
Two federal judges handed legal losses to Donald Trump – one rejecting the former president’s bid to move from state to federal court his upcoming criminal trial on charges of falsifying business records, and the other denying a request for a retrial in a civil sexual assault case Trump lost in May. A judge said Trump did not sufficiently prove his alleged involvement in hush money payments to an adult film actress, which stretched into Trump’s presidency, was related to his official role. Another judge rejected Trump’s request for a new trial against E. Jean Carroll or an adjustment of damages a jury awarded in her case.
MSN – Ames Alexander and Luciana Perez Uribe Guinassi (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 7/17/2023
North Carolina’s elected district attorneys wield great influence with Republican leaders in the General Assembly. Working behind the scenes, prosecutors have lobbied to block criminal justice proposals that would eliminate life sentences for juveniles, take the death penalty off the table for those with severe mental illness, and more. A chief element of their success is the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, a state-funded association that vigorously lobbies the Legislature. Many familiar with the group say it has grown more powerful since Chuck Spahos began doing its lobbying work.
MSN – Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) | Published: 7/15/2023
The executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission is stepping down. Ashley Kemp plans to leave by the end of the year. In her resignation letter, Kemp repeated her longstanding complaint that the Legislature has refused to adequately fund the commission. Lawmakers only gave the agency $687,950 for the fiscal year that began July 1.
MSN – Mike Rogoway (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 7/14/2023
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission overruled its staff and dismissed a complaint against Gary Neal, the former director of the Port of Morrow, regarding his role in awarding tax breaks to an Amazon data center. Neal is one of four Morrow County officials who purchased a local company called Windwave Communications. Windwave provides fiber-optic service to Amazon’s data centers in the county. Commissioners were considering whether Neal had failed to disclose a potential conflict-of interest at a meeting about Amazon tax incentives.
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 7/17/2023
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission launched a full investigation into former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s conduct while in office, including her $10,000-per-month consulting job for marijuana entrepreneurs and whether she accurately reported her income and expenses to the state. Fagan resigned following revelations she took a side job for the owners of a troubled cannabis company while her office audited the state agency that regulates the marijuana industry.
WESA – Julia Zenkevich | Published: 7/12/2023
Allegheny County Council voted to limit coordinated campaign expenditures between PACs and candidates running for county office. The bill offers clearer definitions for coordinated expenditures, in-kind contributions, and other means outside groups use to support a candidate. It also outlines the kinds of communication campaigns can and cannot have with independent expenditure groups.
MSN – Alexa Gagosz (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/17/2023
Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee’s administration is terminating its contract with Scout Ltd., the Philadelphia-based developer that submitted plans to redevelop the Cranston Street Armory. The move comes after a consulting firm hired by the state determined the project would not be “in the financial interest of the state taxpayers” and just months after the developer accused two Rhode Island state officials of inappropriate conduct during a business trip to visit a Scout property in Philadelphia.
Courthouse News Service – Stephen Paulsen | Published: 7/14/2023
In more bad news for the scandal-plagued Texas attorney general’s office, a state appeals court ruled a top official at the office is not immune from discipline over his alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election. First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster previously dodged discipline by arguing that as a public official, he was immune from consequences sought by the Commission for Lawyer Discipline, a watchdog committee of the Texas state bar.
Richmond BizSense – Charlotte Matherly | Published: 7/19/2023
Inspired by years of working in hotel rooms and hallways, Angie Bezik and Cindy DiFranco are starting Capitol Caucus in Richmond, a coworking space exclusive to lobbyists, advocates, nonprofits, and others who engage with Virginia’s government. Bezik owns Principle Advantage, a government relations firm that she runs with DiFranco, who serves as its government affairs director. They want lobbyists to have a place just for themselves, where they can have private conversations and spend time with others in the industry.
Wyoming Tribune-Eagle – Jasmine Hall | Published: 7/13/2023
Wyoming lawmakers dipped their toes in the waters of ethics complaints as they began reviewing a portion of the joint rules of the Senate and House. Joint Rule 22-1 has provided means for any person to file a complaint against a lawmaker for misconduct involving legislative duties, such as a violation of the Ethics and Disclosure Act in state statute or “violence or disorderly conduct during legislative meetings, sessions or during the performance of the legislative duties.”
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.