March 15, 2022 •
The 2022 session of the Florida Legislature adjourned sine die on March 14. Originally set to adjourn on March 11, the session was extended to enable the passage of the state’s $112 billion budget, which passed with bipartisan support. However, […]
The 2022 session of the Florida Legislature adjourned sine die on March 14.
Originally set to adjourn on March 11, the session was extended to enable the passage of the state’s $112 billion budget, which passed with bipartisan support.
However, most of the notable bills passed were approved along party lines, including a 15-week abortion ban, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the “Stop WOKE Act” and the creation of an election police force.
March 14, 2022 •
The Wyoming State Legislature adjourned sine die March 11 after passing House Bills 49, 80, and 100. House Bill 49 requires organizations that receive contributions or expend funds in excess of $1,000 to file a statement of formation and increases […]
The Wyoming State Legislature adjourned sine die March 11 after passing House Bills 49, 80, and 100.
House Bill 49 requires organizations that receive contributions or expend funds in excess of $1,000 to file a statement of formation and increases penalties for failure to file an itemized statement of expenditures.
House Bill 100, a contentious redistricting bill, was finalized during the twilight hours of the 2022 session and provides a term limit for House members who were removed from the district because of legislative boundary changes.
House Bill 80, already signed by the governor, changed the reporting requirement for expenditure reports so all committees who contribute to another committee must file a report, not only if the receiving committee expended funds during a primary or general election.
March 14, 2022 •
The 2022 session of the West Virginia Legislature adjourned sine die on March 12. Key measures passed include the $4.65 billion state budget and Senate Bill 4, which repeals the state’s ban on nuclear power plants first established in 1994. […]
The 2022 session of the West Virginia Legislature adjourned sine die on March 12.
Key measures passed include the $4.65 billion state budget and Senate Bill 4, which repeals the state’s ban on nuclear power plants first established in 1994.
Additionally, a proposed amendment to the state constitution shifting the power of public education policy and rule decisions from the Board of Education to state lawmakers was passed.
This proposed amendment will be submitted for voter ratification on November 8.
March 14, 2022 •
The 2022 session of the Virginia General Assembly adjourned sine die on March 12, but failed to complete and pass the biennial budget. Gov. Glenn Youngkin is expected to call a special session to enact a budget once lawmakers have […]
The 2022 session of the Virginia General Assembly adjourned sine die on March 12, but failed to complete and pass the biennial budget.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin is expected to call a special session to enact a budget once lawmakers have reached an agreement.
Passed bills included Senate Bill 57 to provide an exception to gift restrictions for certain tickets and admission if performing official duties; and House Bill 125 to impose a $10,000 penalty for illegal negative campaign advertisements.
Both bills now await gubernatorial action by Youngkin.
This does affect lobbyist reporting.
The lobbyist gift notification to public officials is due on April 2.
March 11, 2022 •
The Washington Legislature adjourned sine die March 10 after passing a $64.1 billion state budget and a nearly $17 billion transportation package. During the session, both houses passed Senate Bill 5196 and Senate Bill 5855. Senate Bill 5196 allows the […]
The Washington Legislature adjourned sine die March 10 after passing a $64.1 billion state budget and a nearly $17 billion transportation package.
During the session, both houses passed Senate Bill 5196 and Senate Bill 5855.
Senate Bill 5196 allows the Legislature to call a special session through an affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of both chambers.
Senate Bill 5855 allows the use of campaign funds to reimburse a candidate for expenses incurred for childcare, care for a person with a disability, or the care for a person with a medical condition that occurred directly because of the candidate’s campaign activities.
Both bills have been sent to Gov. Jay Inslee and await his signature.
March 7, 2022 •
The Utah legislative session adjourned sine die March 4 after 45 days. During the session, lawmakers approved a $25 billion budget that included a notable increase for public education funding. The budget was the largest ever, driven by the economy […]
The Utah legislative session adjourned sine die March 4 after 45 days.
During the session, lawmakers approved a $25 billion budget that included a notable increase for public education funding.
The budget was the largest ever, driven by the economy and additional spending from Washington D.C.
Additionally, a nearly $200 million package cutting income taxes was approved.
Legislation that passed during the session will become effective 60 days following the date of adjournment sine die.
March 7, 2022 •
The Oregon Legislative Assembly adjourned sine die March 4, after voting on 60 bills on their last day in session. Highlights from the short session include access for low-income Oregonians to air conditioners, financial aid for low-income families, and mandated […]
The Oregon Legislative Assembly adjourned sine die March 4, after voting on 60 bills on their last day in session.
Highlights from the short session include access for low-income Oregonians to air conditioners, financial aid for low-income families, and mandated overtime payments to farmworkers.
The session was affected by the Great Resignation, with 20 lawmakers retiring or moving to different positions within the government.
March 4, 2022 •
National/Federal Backstage Drama at Jan. 6 Rally for Trump Draws Interest of House Committee MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2022 The White House was made aware of concerns among allies of Donald Trump […]
Backstage Drama at Jan. 6 Rally for Trump Draws Interest of House Committee
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2022
The White House was made aware of concerns among allies of Donald Trump that some people coming to Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, to potentially speak at the rally were too extreme, even for a president who had frequently pushed or crossed the boundaries of traditional political norms. The advance warnings to the White House and the friction between organizers have become a focus for the House select committee investigating the insurrection, as lawmakers try to understand the planning and financing behind the rally.
First Jan. 6 Defendant Pleads Guilty to Seditious Conspiracy in Capitol Attack
MSN – Tom Jackman and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2022
A member of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group became the first to admit to engaging in seditious conspiracy on January 6, 2021, to keep President Biden from taking office. Joshua James pleaded guilty to helping lead a group that prosecutors say sent two tactically equipped teams into the Capitol and organized a cache of weapons in a hotel just outside the city. He may face the stiffest sentence of any January 6 defendant so far, according to preliminary sentencing guidelines.
Four US Lawmakers or Their Spouses Personally Invested in Russian Companies: Documents
MSN – Dave Levinthal (Business Insider) | Published: 3/1/2022
Four members of Congress or their spouses have either currently or recently invested money in Russian companies, financial disclosures show. These investments come to light in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has prompted the U.S. government to hit Russia with heavy sanctions and triggered boycotts of Russian products and culture. Congress is debating whether to ban members from trading individual stocks amid violations of current financial disclosure laws and potential conflicts-of-interest.
Four Women on the Supreme Court Would Bring Historic, Near Gender Parity for Institution Long Dominated by White Men
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2022
If President Biden’s nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, it would mean four women would simultaneously serve for the first time in its 233-year history, as close to gender parity as possible on the nine-person bench. That will not change the court’s ideological direction, and law professors and political scientists continue to debate whether gender significantly affects legal interpretation. But those who welcome the change say it is important for representational reasons, and they assert it could bolster the public’s view of the court’s legitimacy.
Guns, Radicalization and a Father’s Alleged Threat: First Jan. 6 trial set to begin
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/28/2022
Guy Reffitt, a purported recruiter for the right-wing, anti-government Three Percenters movement is the first person to stand trial in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. For the first time, a defendant will get to confront in open court a portion of the mountain of video evidence, online communications data, and police testimony the government has amassed against roughly 750 federally charged individuals. A judge and jury in D.C. also will weigh prosecutors’ application of rarely used criminal statutes to prosecute the first violent incursion of the Capitol by U.S. citizens.
Jan. 6 Committee Alleges Trump, Allies Engaged in Potential ‘Criminal Conspiracy’ by Trying to Block Congress from Certifying Election
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, Jacqueline Alemany, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2022
The House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol said in a court filing it had evidence former President Trump and his allies engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” by trying to block Congress from certifying the election. The alleged criminal acts, which include conspiring to defraud the United States, were raised by the committee in a filing challenging conservative lawyer John Eastman’s refusal to turn over thousands of emails the panel requested related to his role in trying to persuade former Vice President Mike Pence to reject electors from states won by Joe Biden.
Lobbyists Ramp Up Fly-Ins Despite Capitol Covid-19 Restrictions
Bloomberg Government – Nancy Ognanovich | Published: 2/24/2022
Two years after the pandemic forced the closure of the U.S. Capitol, the lobbying community still faces challenges maintaining relationships and effective communications with House and Senate lawmakers and staff. But with Covid-19 cases waning and important legislative issues on the agenda, some lobbyists and industry associations are resuming their trek to Washington, D.C. and have devised ways to deal with continued restrictions on entering the Capitol complex. More than 50 different business groups plan trips, with industry fly-ins beginning March 2, according to Ed Mortimer, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president.
‘My Life Was a Constant Lie’: Chabot’s ex-campaign manager sentenced for $1.4 million theft
MSN – Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 3/1/2022
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s onetime campaign manager, Jamie Schwartz, was sentenced to two years in federal prison for stealing $1.42 million from the campaign. Schwartz’s embezzlement took place over at least eight years, prosecutors said. But the scheme began to unravel in the summer of 2019 when the FEC began an audit of the campaign. According to prosecutors, Schwartz falsified official records, forged bank records, and lied to the FEC.
Some Records Taken by Trump Are So Sensitive They May Not Be Described in Public
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2022
Some of the presidential records recovered from former President Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago are so sensitive they may not be able to be described in forthcoming inventory reports in an unclassified way. The revelation comes as U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney sent the National Archives and Records Administration a request for further information on 15 boxes of records recovered from Trump’s resort. There are records at the very highest levels of classification, including some that can be viewed by only a small number of government officials.
Trial Opens for Men Accused of Funneling Millions to Back Hillary Clinton in 2016 Presidential Race
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 2/24/2022
Businessperson Rani El-Saadi is on trial, accused of conspiring to illegally donate more than $3 million to back Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Prosecutors said digital payments magnate Andy Khawaja supplied the $150,000 that El-Saadi personally donated to attend a Clinton fundraiser in 2016. Khawaja has been in Lithuania fighting extradition to the U.S. for more than two years and was declared a fugitive. “Khawaja wanted very badly to gain power and influence in the U.S.,” prosecutor Michelle Parikh told the jury.
US Lobbying Firms Rush to Cut Ties with Russian Businesses Hit with Sanctions
CNN – Casey Tolan, Curt Devine, and Daniel Medina | Published: 2/26/2022
In the years leading up to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, U.S. lobbyists have raked in millions of dollars from Russian banks and financial firms paying to push their interests in Washington. Now, in the wake of the Russian invasion and new sanctions announced by President Biden, many of those lobbying firms are rushing to cut ties and drop their lucrative contracts. The exodus marks the rupture of a Moscow-to-K-Street conduit that has long employed former federal officials and members of Congress of both parties, experts said.
Canada – Ethics Commissioner Calls for Reform of Alberta Lobbyist Rules
CBC – Paige Parsons | Published: 3/3/2022
The province should create a communication registry for lobbyists to address what she says is a lack of transparency, Alberta’s ethics commissioner says. Marguerite Trussler’s office put forward a number of recommendations for changes to the Alberta Lobbyists Act as part of a review of the legislation currently underway. The law must be reviewed every five years, and a committee is expected to submit a report with its recommendations to the Legislature by September.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Mayor’s Top Aide Held Private Call with Ash Street Defendant, Lobbyist Before Tuesday Council Meeting
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 2/27/2022
One day before the San Diego City Council met to discuss the lawsuits over a controversial lease, Mayor Todd Gloria’s chief operating officer, Jay Goldstone, spoke privately with the principal owner of a development firm that is being by the city and his lobbyist. Jay Goldstone testified at his deposition he reached out to lobbyist Christopher Wahl days ahead of a city council meeting. Wahl set up the conference call between Goldstone, himself, and his client, Cisterra Development majority owner Steven Black. A mayoral spokesperson did not say why no lawyers participated in the meeting or why the other defendants were not involved.
Colorado – Envelope with Checks Found in Colorado Capitol Bathroom Creates Sticky Situation
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 2/24/2022
A Colorado House staffer went into the men’s public bathroom in the basement of the Capitol and found an envelope. Inside were checks, made out to the Senate Majority Fund, the independent expenditure committee that helps to finance Republican campaigns for the state Senate. How many checks were in the envelope and how much total are not known, although a source mentioned they are in the five figures.
Connecticut – Upstairs, Downstairs: In CT Capitol, Senate is off limits, House is open
CTMirror.org – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 3/2/2022
The House and Senate Democratic majorities in Connecticut diverged sharply and awkwardly on questions of COVID-19 and public access to a state Capitol that has been largely closed for nearly two years. The second floor of the Capitol, where the House resides, was open and its hallways lined by lobbyists, representatives of unions and non-profits, and one woman handing out flyers opposed to legalizing assisted suicide. The third-floor home of the Senate was closed.
Florida – Bill Banning Lobbying for Ex-Lawmakers Heads to Gov. DeSantis’ Desk
Florida Politics – Gary Rohrer | Published: 2/25/2022
Former lawmakers who lobby their ex-colleagues in the Florida Legislature or executive branch could face a fine and other sanctions starting next year, after the Senate unanimously passed House Bill 7001, sending it to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk. Under the bill, a lawmaker who receives compensation for lobbying at the state level within six years after leaving office could be subject to a public censure, a civil fine of up to $10,000, the forfeiture of any money received to lobby, or all three.
Florida – They Threw a $74,000 Goodbye Party for a County Official. Lobbyists Pitched In. How Did That Help the Public?
MSN – Lisa Huriash (South Florida Sun Sentinel) | Published: 2/25/2022
Broward County lobbyists, politicians, and county officials were on the guest list for a surprise celebration at the FLA Live Arena in February. Now the event, marking the retirement of Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, is facing scrutiny over whether it created the appearance of melding the county’s interests with those of lobbyists and private financial interests. Some of the funding for the event came from the Florida Panthers, the hockey team that has historically come before the county ask for public subsidies to stay afloat, and its top two people were on the guest list.
Illinois – Ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan, Long the State’s Most Powerful Pol, Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges
Yahoo – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/2/2022
Michael Madigan, the former speaker of the Illinois House and for decades one of the nation’s most powerful legislators, was charged in a racketeering and bribery scheme, becoming the most prominent politician swept up in a federal investigation of government corruption in the state. The 22-count indictment comes after a yearslong probe and alleges Madigan participated in an array of bribery and extortion schemes from aimed at using the power of his office for personal gain. He was dethroned as speaker in 2021 as the investigation swirled around him, and soon after resigned the House seat he had held since 1971.
Illinois – Investigation of AT&T Contracts in Probe Orbiting Michael Madigan Centers on Funds to Lobbyists and Former State Rep, Sources Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/2/2022
Consulting funds flowing from AT&T to a lobbyist with deep ties to then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and eventually to a former state representative are at the center of a federal investigation into the company’s lobbying practices in Springfield. AT&T disclosed that federal prosecutors notified it they were considering filing criminal charges against its Illinois subsidiary involving “a single, nine-month consulting contract in 2017? worth $22,500. Records show the company that year had hired a stable of Madigan-connected lobbyists working for the subsidiary as AT&T was fighting for a controversial bill to end landline service.
Kansas – Kansas Lawmakers Are Supposed to Vet Bills in Committees. But Are Their Hearings Fair?
MSN – Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard (Kansas City Star) | Published: 3/1/2022
Lawmakers and lobbyists in Kansas say some legislative committees either limit public comment or tip the scales in the favor of bills supported by the Republican majority. In theory, the Legislature’s 48 committees are supposed to serve as a first check on bills, allowing lawmakers to vet them before they are sent to the floor. But in practice, Republican chairs are able to determine what voices are heard, what bills move forward, and even push policy pieces without a public hearing. Some Democrats and lobbyists complain these practices allow Republicans to paint a false picture of public opinion and stifle debate when convenient.
Maine – Subpoenas Will Ramp Up Maine Investigation into National Conservative Group
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 2/28/2022
The Maine ethics commission voted to allow staff to subpoena the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to require them to turn over documents to determine if it violated state contribution laws by allowing lawmakers to use software that contains voter information and is used to track constituent interactions. ALEC has refused to participate in the probe, saying it believes it is illegitimate. The move is expected to lead to months of litigation over the subpoenas.
Massachusetts – Are Campaign Donations to MA Sheriffs Too Suggestive of Pay-to-Play? CT May Have Solution
Herald News – Kyle Stucker (USA Today) | Published: 2/25/2022
A report revealed Massachusetts sheriffs received $2.69 million in questionable donations during their campaigns, calling into question whether construction firms, medical companies, and other special interests are buying influence. Sheriffs deny being involved in “pay-to-play” schemes. Even if wealthy special interests are not buying policies that pad their coffers, the advocacy groups behind the report suggested such campaign donations do not pass the smell test even though they’re legal. The groups believe Massachusetts and other states should adopt Connecticut’s public financing model to improve confidence and fairness in their elections.
Michigan – Term Limits Were Supposed to Fix Lansing. Did They Make It Worse Instead?
MLive.com – Samuel Robinson | Published: 3/2/2022
Thirty years have passed since Michigan voters approved limits to the number of years politicians can serve to six (three terms) in the House and eight (two terms) in the Senate. While the change ushered out veteran lawmakers, many still wonder whether that was a good thing. Michigan’s strictest-in-the-nation term limits have drawn a backlash so strong a bipartisan group is now aiming to loosen rules by putting the question back on the ballot. Critics argue that setting strict limits on how long politicians can serve has splintered relationships at the Capitol and reduced bipartisanship to a point where it is hurting constituents.
Missouri – Independence Mayor Asked About Campaign Donations in Deposition, but Advised to Stay Mum
MSN – Kevin Hardy (Kansas City Star) | Published: 3/2/2022
Independence Mayor Eileen Weir was asked in a deposition last year about campaign contributions she received from a Missouri company looking to do business with the city. The donations have raised questions among other city council members and drew the interest of the FBI. But a transcript of that deposition shows she mostly avoided the topic after her personal attorney objected to the line of questioning and advised her not to answer questions about the contributions. The mayor was questioned under oath as part of a defamation lawsuit against the city and two council members.
Nevada – Social Video Shows ‘Racist’ Taunts of Nevada Governor, Wife
MSN – Ken Ritter (Associated Press) | Published: 2/28/2022
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, and his wife were accosted during the weekend by two men who followed them out of a Las Vegas restaurant shouting profanities, taunts, and anti-government statements in an incident posted on the Internet. Sisolak characterized the incident as “racist threats.” His wife is a former municipal finance specialist of Chinese heritage who was born in the Nevada town of Ely. The incident now is being investigated by state police.
New Jersey – 2 Counties Tried to Skirt N.J. Public Bidding Laws. Now the Legislature May Make It Legal.
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/2/2022
Efforts by two counties to evade New Jersey’s bidding laws on projects involving tens of millions of dollars in public funding are now the focus of a bill introduced in the state Senate that would make legal what the courts have so far declared to be illegal. The legislation would clear the way for county improvement authorities to essentially award no-bid deals to favored contractors. Under the measure, counties would be able to ignore the bidding requirements of New Jersey’s Local Public Contracts Law by declaring any major construction proposal a “redevelopment project.”
New York – Lt. Gov.’s Campaign Expenses Show Conflicts with Taxpayer Refunds
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/28/2022
The Albany Times Union found a dozen instances where Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin submitted vouchers claiming the full, taxpayer-funded reimbursement for traveling from New York City to Albany; during those same trips, a campaign-issued debit card was used to pay for gasoline. Each time he had sought full taxpayer reimbursement for the 12 trips, Benjamin stated he was the one bearing the costs. Albany politicians collecting taxpayer-funded reimbursement for costs already covered by their campaigns has at times proven controversial and was the subject of the 2006 trial of former Assemblyperson Clarence Norman.
New York – ‘Malicious Cyberattack’ Strikes New York Ethics Agency
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 2/25/2022
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) shut down its online filing system as authorities investigate a “deliberate malicious cyberattack.” JCOPE said the attack involved a web server that houses, among other systems, the agency’s lobbying application and financial disclosure filing systems.
Ohio – Ohio House Won’t Release Texts Between House Rep and Indicted Ex-Speaker
WEWS – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 3/2/2022
Lawyers with the Ohio House denied a public records requests for text messages between a sitting lawmaker and former Speaker Larry Householder, who was expelled by his peers while under a racketeering indictment related to alleged public corruption. State Rep. Jay Edwards and Householder regularly exchange text messages and talk on the phone. Edwards said they always avoid discussing the criminal case against Householder and usually, but not always, avoid public policy discussions as well. Edwards says the messages do not exist because “… I go through at night and erase text messages I don’t find useful.”
Ohio – Ohio Judge Helped Write a Bailout That Led to Arrests; Now He’s Blocking Outside Probes
WEWS – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 2/28/2022
A judge who oversees utility cases was involved in writing a coal and nuclear bailout now at the center of what prosecutors have described as the largest public corruption case in Ohio history, subpoenaed documents show. That same judge, Greg Price, is presiding over multiple regulatory cases in which a government watchdog agency is trying to investigate that same corruption. His orders, spanning 18 months, have blocked investigations into FirstEnergy, a utility at the center of the scandal.
Oklahoma – Claiming Out-of-State Influences, Oklahoma Looks to Clamp Down on State Question Laws
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 2/28/2022
Several Oklahoma lawmakers are looking to add hurdles for citizen-led groups to pass the type of state questions that legalized medical marijuana, expanded Medicaid, and won voter support despite Republican leaders’ opposition in recent years. More than a dozen bills up for consideration, all authored by GOP legislators, seek to either requirements for citizen-led voter initiatives to get on the ballot or increase the threshold for some of the proposals to pass on Election Day.
Oregon – Oregon Labor, Business Interest Groups File Challenges to Campaign Contribution Limit Proposals
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/25/2022
Oregon business and labor groups filed challenges to three proposed ballot measures that would set campaign contribution limits in the state. The challenges were anticipated by supporters but nonetheless increase the likelihood that voters will not get to weigh in on political donation limits. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan disqualified the proposed measures because she said they should have included the entire texts of laws they would amend, including sections that would be left unchanged. Fagan based her decision on a 2004 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling that previous secretaries of state generally did not follow.
Pennsylvania – Activists Disrupt House GOP Leader’s Speech Demanding Action on Gift Ban Legislation
PennLive.com – Jan Murphy | Published: 2/28/2022
Activists seeking passage of legislation to ban gifts to lawmakers disrupted the Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon to pressure House leadership to act on the bill. Reid Stever, a representative of MarchOnHarrisburg, interrupted House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff’s speech to press for a vote on House Bill 1945, which makes it illegal for lawmakers to accept a gift from a lobbyist. It won House State Government Committee approval last March but has yet to be brought up for a vote by the full chamber.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania GOP Urges Supreme Court to Toss Congressional Map
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 2/28/2022
Pennsylvania Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a state court-approved congressional map, arguing the Democrat-controlled court exceeded its authority by imposing the map without the Legislature’s approval. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court selected the map after the politically divided state government failed to approve one. The appeal argued the state court’s selection of one of the plaintiffs’ maps targeted Republicans and violated the Constitution by having congressional districts that deviated in population by two or more people.
Tennessee – Former Tennessee Speaker Casada Aide Cothren Refuses to Testify in State Campaign Finance Probe
Yahoo News – Andy Sher (Chattanooga Times Fress Press) | Published: 3/2/2022
Cade Cothren, the former chief of staff to then-Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and did not appear before the Registry of Election Finance regarding his alleged involvement as the head of a PAC that attacked a Casada critic. The registry voted to issue subpoenas for information related to the Faith Family Freedom Fund PAC to Cothren, Casada, and several others who may have had knowledge of the committee.
Texas – Dallas Hires Former Texas Health Inspector General to Investigate City Corruption Claims
Dallas Morning News – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 2/23/2022
Dallas hired a former state health inspector general to lead a new office in charge of investigating allegations of waste, abuse, and fraud. Bart Bevers was chosen as the city’s first inspector general, a position created in December when city officials made several changes to ethics rules to strengthen transparency and accountability. Several scandals involving Dallas officials have resulted in convictions on corruption-related charges.
Texas – Rejected Mail Ballots, Confused Voters: Texas’s restrictive new law casts shadow over primary
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/1/2022
Democrats and voting rights advocates predicted for months that new election rules in Texas, referred to as Senate Bill 1 in the state, would make it harder for some people to vote and for election officials to do their jobs. The March 1 primary made clear to critics that those predictions, so far, have come true, providing a glimpse of what voting could look like in more than a dozen states that enacted similarly restrictive laws in the aftermath of the 2020 contest.
Utah – Utah Lawmakers Pass New Media Restrictions for House Floor
MSN – Sam Metz (Associated Press) | Published: 3/1/2022
The Utah House approved new rules that limit where members of the press can film and interview lawmakers, following similar action taken by the state Senate. The rules extend pandemic-era restrictions on when journalists can report from the floors of the legislative chambers. Media organizations and journalists oppose the rules changes, arguing that restricting media movements would make it more difficult to cover fast-paced action and make it easier for lawmakers to dodge the press. They said the move reduced transparency.
Virginia – Virginia Lawmakers Still Can’t Bring Themselves to Ban Personal Use of Campaign Cash
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 3/2/2022
After years of debate and multiple studies, Virginia lawmakers still are not ready to pass a law preventing themselves from using campaign money on personal expenses that have nothing to do with running for office. The last remaining bill prohibiting personal use of campaign funds died in a House subcommittee, with several legislators framing the issue as too complex to tackle even though the practice is already outlawed at the federal level and in most states. Republicans on the panel defeated the version of the bill that had passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin GOP’s 2020 Report Embraces Fringe Election Decertification Theory
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 3/1/2022
A draft report for a Republican-run investigation of the 2020 election in Wisconsin, embraces the fringe theory that election results could be decertified after the fact – advancing former President Trump’s calls to overturn an election he lost over a year ago. Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman has been conducting a probe of the 2020 election, authorized by state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Gableman’s interim report attacks Wisconsin election administrators and argues for dismantling the state’s election board.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Regulator Bias Case Spawned by Power Line
Madison.com – Chris Hubbuch (Wisconsin State Journal) | Published: 2/28/2022
The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments in a case stemming from a power line dispute that could have sweeping implications for regulators, judges, and other public officials. The court is being asked to decide if a former utility regulator’s personal relationships could invalidate the permit for a controversial power line being built in the state. Opponents of the line sought to question former Public Service Commissioner Mike Huebsch about communications, some using an encrypted messaging app, with utility lobbyists and his eventual attempt to land a job with one of the utilities behind the project.
February 18, 2022 •
New Mexico’s 30-day legislative session adjourned sine die at noon February 17. During the session, a bill that would require post-session lobbying reports was introduced. Senate Bill 61 provides prior to the adjournment of a legislative session, a lobbyist or […]
New Mexico’s 30-day legislative session adjourned sine die at noon February 17.
During the session, a bill that would require post-session lobbying reports was introduced.
Senate Bill 61 provides prior to the adjournment of a legislative session, a lobbyist or lobbyist’s employer that is required to file an expenditure report or registration statement must file a report with the secretary of state disclosing the lobbyist’s or lobbyist’s employer’s lobbying activity on legislation and identifying the specific legislation lobbied, the support, opposition or other position taken on the legislation by the lobbyist or lobbyist’s employer and the name of the lobbyist’s employer that lobbied on the legislation, either directly or by the registered lobbyist.
The bill is currently in the Senate Rules and Health and Public Affairs Committees.
If passed, it would become effective May 18.
February 17, 2022 •
Gov. Tony Evers signed Executive Order 156 calling for a special session of the Wisconsin Legislature to begin Tuesday, March 8. Evers wants lawmakers to consider his plan to use a portion of the state’s $3.8 billion projected surplus to […]
Gov. Tony Evers signed Executive Order 156 calling for a special session of the Wisconsin Legislature to begin Tuesday, March 8.
Evers wants lawmakers to consider his plan to use a portion of the state’s $3.8 billion projected surplus to provide a $150 surplus refund to every Wisconsin resident, provide targeted relief for childcare and caregiver costs, and invest in education.
February 17, 2022 •
On February 18, a Special Legislative Meeting of the Council of the District of Columbia will be held. Chairman Phil Mendelson is calling the 13 councilmembers to come together under Council Rule 303(b) to consider legislation concerning COVID-19 vaccine mandates […]
On February 18, a Special Legislative Meeting of the Council of the District of Columbia will be held.
Chairman Phil Mendelson is calling the 13 councilmembers to come together under Council Rule 303(b) to consider legislation concerning COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the District, specifically the Public Health Protections Emergency Declaration Resolution of 2022 and the Public Health Protections Emergency Amendment Act of 2022. Nine votes are required to pass the emergency legislation. Additionally, the legislation cannot have costs associated with it.
This announcement came in part in reaction to Mayor Muriel Bowser lifting the requirement that District businesses check the vaccine status of patrons, according to WTOP News.
February 16, 2022 •
Gov. Greg Gianforte and Republican lawmakers announced they are looking into holding a special session to redraw Montana’s Public Service Commission districts. Gianforte asserted he will only call a special session if it is limited to the solitary topic of […]
Gov. Greg Gianforte and Republican lawmakers announced they are looking into holding a special session to redraw Montana’s Public Service Commission districts.
Gianforte asserted he will only call a special session if it is limited to the solitary topic of redrawing, but a few Republicans wish to expand the special session.
Rep. Derek Skees wishes to address “election integrity,” requesting $250,000 to create a committee to examine election security.
The schism over the scope of the special session might take the issue out of the Legislature’s hands entirely.
A lawsuit is already pending in federal court over the population imbalance within districts.
If a special session is not called to amend the deficiency, the task will be turned over to a panel of three federal judges.
If Skees can garner a majority of lawmakers for his cause, the special session can be called without the governor’s approval.
February 7, 2022 •
Montana District Court Judge Mike Menahan has issued a permanent injunction preventing the state from enforcing two provisions of Senate Bill 319. The two provisions in question were late additions to the bill, added during a conference committee a day […]
Montana District Court Judge Mike Menahan has issued a permanent injunction preventing the state from enforcing two provisions of Senate Bill 319.
The two provisions in question were late additions to the bill, added during a conference committee a day before the Legislature adjourned.
One amendment prohibited political committees from conducting voting activities inside residence halls, dining facilities, or athletic facilities on public college campuses.
The other amendment forced judges to recuse themselves if an attorney or party in a case before them made more than 50% of the maximum allowed donation to their campaign within the previous six years.
The Montana Constitution requires bills to contain a single subject and prevents the Legislature from amending bills to the point their original purpose is obfuscated.
Gov. Greg Gianforte is currently deciding whether to appeal the injunction.
The case is currently pending, with several other lawsuits challenging the bill awaiting a court decision.
January 28, 2022 •
National/Federal As Giuliani Coordinated Plan for Trump Electoral Votes in States Biden Won, Some Electors Balked MSN – Beth Reinhard, Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, Emma Brown, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 1/20/2022 On December 14, 2020, the day of […]
As Giuliani Coordinated Plan for Trump Electoral Votes in States Biden Won, Some Electors Balked
MSN – Beth Reinhard, Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, Emma Brown, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 1/20/2022
On December 14, 2020, the day of the electoral college vote, Republican electors convened in the capitals of five states that Joe Biden had won. They declared themselves “duly elected and qualified” and sent signed certificates to Washington, D.C. purporting to affirm Donald Trump as the victor. Understanding the origins of the rival slates has now become a focus of the House committee investigating the insurrection. Two Democratic attorneys general have asked federal prosecutors investigate whether crimes were committed in assembling or submitting the slates.
Biden Nominates Former Stacey Abrams Lawyer for Campaign Finance Watchdog
MSN – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 1/21/2022
President Joe Biden is nominating a new commissioner to the FEC. The White House announced Biden was putting forward Dara Lindenbaum, a campaign finance attorney, to join the six-member board governing the agency. Lindenbaum was general counsel to Stacey Abrams’ 2018 Georgia gubernatorial run and deputy general counsel for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 2016 presidential bid.
Black and Latino Voters Have Been Shortchanged in Redistricting, Advocates and Some Judges Say
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and Harry Stevens (Washington Post) | Published: 1/25/2022
Advocates for voting rights say redistricting map drawers have manipulated the process mostly at the expense of minorities. Across the country, the White population has shrunk over the past decade as minority communities have swelled, according to the 2020 Census. Yet, the rapid growth of Latinos and Blacks is not reflected in any of the new maps passed so far, except California’s, which added five seats where Latinos make up the majority of adults. Judges have intervened in two states where Republican state legislators were accused by voting rights advocates of disenfranchising Black voters.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Violated a Stock Disclosure Law Nine Times Last Year
CNBC – Christina Wilke | Published: 1/20/2022
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm violated the STOCK Act at least nine times last year by selling shares of stock worth up to $240,000 and failing to disclose those sales within the 45-day window the law requires. The dates of Granholm’s stock sales ranged from April to late October. But Granholm did not disclose any of them until mid-December, which was in some cases a full six months after the deadline to report the sale had passed.
Ex-Giuliani Associate Fruman Sentenced to One Year in Prison in Campaign Finance Case
Reuters – Luc Cohen | Published: 1/21/2022
Igor Fruman, who helped Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani collect damaging information about Joe Biden before he was elected president, was sentenced to one year in prison for violating campaign finance law. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Oetken said Fruman’s solicitation of money from a Russian businessperson to donate to U.S. political campaigns was serious because it “undermines democracy,” but Fruman was unlikely to commit a similar offense again.
Federal Prosecutors Examine Slates That Offered Trump Electoral Votes in States Biden Won in 2020
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 1/25/2022
Federal prosecutors are examining the decision by Republican electors in some states won by President Biden in 2020 to send in signed statements purporting to affirm Donald Trump as the victor of the election. Their actions were criticized at the time as a political stunt meant to bolster Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud. But they have drawn additional scrutiny in recent weeks, as the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol seeks to understand the origin of the Trump elector slates.
Feds Issue Subpoenas Seeking Records Related to Rep. Cuellar and His Wife, Associates
ABC News – Mike Levine | Published: 1/21/2022
A grand jury probe that led to the raid of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar’s home and office in Texas has begun issuing subpoenas, seeking records about a wide array of American companies and advocacy organizations, many of them with ties to the former Soviet nation of Azerbaijan. Among the information being sought are records related to Cuellar, his wife Imelda, and at least one of his campaign staffers. A subpoena seeks records “relating to anything of value” that Cuellar, his wife, and others close to them may have been offered by certain business leaders or foreign officials.
House Committee on Ethics Opening Reviews of Two Lawmakers
MSN – Morgan Rimmer and Annie Grayer (CNN) | Published: 1/24/2022
The House Committee on Ethics announced it is continuing two investigations based on reports from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OGE). The OGE claims it has “substantial reason to believe” U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn misused official resources and U.S. Rep. Marie Newman promised federal employment to a primary opponent to get political support. Current and former Lamborn staffers testified they were instructed to perform a host of activities including running personal errands, performing campaign work, moving furniture, and helping Lamborn’s son with a federal job application process.
Judge Says States Can Investigate WinRed’s Fund-Raising Tactics
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 1/26/2022
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by WinRed, a company that processes online donations for Republicans, that sought to block state attorneys general from investigating fundraising tactics that have triggered complaints of fraud. The attorneys general from four states first sent letters to WinRed, asking for documents after a New York Times investigation revealed the company’s use of prechecked boxes to automatically enroll donors in recurring contribution programs. WinRed declined to provide the documents and instead went to court to argue federal law should pre-empt any state-level consumer probes.
Justice Breyer to Retire, Giving Biden First Court Pick
Yahoo News – Mark Sherman and Michael Balsamo (Associated Press) | Published: 1/26/2022
Longtime liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring, giving President Biden his first high court opening, which he has pledged to fill with the historic naming of the court’s first Black woman. Breyer has been a pragmatic force on a court that has grown increasingly conservative, trying to forge majorities with more moderate justices. His retirement will give Biden the chance to name and win confirmation of a replacement before next fall’s election when Republicans could retake the Senate and block future nominees.
Palin v. New York Times Pushes New Boundaries on Libel Suits
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 1/23/2022
Sarah Palin is set to take on The New York Times in a libel suit she filed over a 2017 editorial that erroneously linked her political activities to the 2011 shooting attack that left six people dead and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords badly wounded. Within a day, the Times corrected the editorial and noted no connection was ever established between the rampage and a map that Palin’s PAC circulated with crosshairs superimposed on the districts of 20 Democrats, including Giffords. But Palin filed suit, accusing the newspaper of defaming her. Some media advocates say the fact that the case is going to trial is a sign that deference to the press in the courts is giving way to more challenging legal landscape.
Plea Deal for Man Involved in Gaetz Investigation, Whose Attorney Says He Witnessed ‘Sex, Drugs – a Whole Lot of It’
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 1/26/2022
Justice Department investigators have reached a cooperation agreement with a man whose attorney says he witnessed U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz attend parties involving “a whole lot” of sex and drug use, another potential boon to the sprawling and slow-moving sex trafficking investigation into Gaetz. Ellicott has been talking with investigators examining whether Gaetz committed sex trafficking of a minor. Ellicott’s plea agreement requires him to cooperate fully with the government as they explore other potential crimes.
Retired Lawyer Wrote the Book, Literally, on Corporations Entertaining Politicians
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/24/2022
When Ken Gross joined Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom’s Washington office, he envisioned a nonpartisan political law practice, catering mostly to corporate clients. He carried out his plans over the next 35 years, representing mostly companies and trade associations as they navigated the changing legal landscape for PACs, lobbying, ethics, and gift rules. “Ken is responsible for developing that practice group, leading it, growing it to the point where Skadden is the go-to firm for … corporate clients who want to engage in … political activity, and want to ensure their compliance,” said Jan Baran, a campaign finance lawyer.
The Jan. 6 Panel Wants to Talk to Ivanka Trump
National Public Radio – Caitlyn Kim | Published: 1/20/2022
The House select committee looking into the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is seeking Ivanka Trump’s voluntary cooperation with its investigation. The letter also detailed new evidence the panel has uncovered about her role the day of the siege, including multiple attempts to get her father to intervene in the attack and his efforts to undo President Biden’s election. The request comes a day after the committee requested phone from Eric Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is engaged to Donald Trump Jr.
Top Lobbying Firms Report Record-Breaking 2021 Earnings
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 1/20/2022
Most of the top lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. raked in record revenue last year as K Street worked overtime to influence President Biden’s ambitious agenda. Lobbying spending had already reached record highs in 2020 after Congress authorized trillions of dollars in new spending to fight the pandemic. But Democrats’ takeover of Congress and the White House helped further propel the influence industry to new heights.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Supreme Court Reverses Dismissal of Lawsuit Filed by Convicted Drummond Coal Lobbyist
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 1/22/2022
The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by former Drummond Company vice president and lobbyist David Roberson, who was convicted in 2018 of bribing a state lawmaker. Roberson sued Drummond Company, his former employer, and the Balch & Bingham law firm in 2019, alleging they concealed and misrepresented information that contributed to his conviction. A federal jury convicted Roberson and former Balch & Bingham lawyer Joel Gilbert on corruption charges, involving bribes paid to former state Rep. Oliver Robinson through a foundation Robinson operated.
Alabama – Federal Court Blocks Alabama’s New Congressional District Map, Saying It’s Not Fair to Blacks
Yahoo News – Brian Lyman (Montgomery Advertiser) | Published: 1/25/2022
A three-judge federal panel blocked Alabama’s new congressional district map from going into effect, ruling challengers were “substantially likely” to prevail in their arguments the plan violated the Voting Rights Act. the judges found Black Alabamians had “less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect the candidates of their choice to Congress.” The congressional map as approved preserves a nearly 30-year plan of having a single majority-minority congressional district in west Alabama.
Arizona – Arizona Appeals Court Rebuffs Group’s Bid to Skip Campaign Law Fine
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 1/23/2022
The state Court of Appeals rebuffed a bid by a group that spent $260,000 attacking a 2014 foe of Doug Ducey’s in his first gubernatorial campaign to escape a fine for violating Arizona campaign finance laws. The judges said the Legacy Foundation Action Fund waited too long before appealing a more than $95,000 fine imposed by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission over its commercials targeting former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. Attorneys for the conservative group then opened a new legal front with this lawsuit, arguing the commission did not have any legal authority to impose the fine in the first place.
Arizona – U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Shooter’s Claim
Arizona Capital Times – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 1/27/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court ended the hope of former Rep. Don Shooter to claim his rights were violated when he was expelled from the Arizona House. The justices refused to set aside a ruling by a lower court throwing out the lawsuit Shooter filed against former House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and Kirk Adams, a former top adviser for Gov. Doug Ducey. The court did not address the claims by Shooter that having him ousted for violating a policy against sexual harassment, one that did not exist at the time of the alleged incidents, was illegal. The action upholds the conclusion by the appellate court that Mesnard and Adams have qualified immunity for their actions.
California – After Guilty Plea in Federal Case, Englander Now Faces L.A. City Ethics Charges
MSN – Julia Wick (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 1/20/2022
The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission accused former Councilperson Mitchell Englander of violating city ethics laws by accepting thousands of dollars in gifts from a businessperson and a developer during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs and not adequately reporting them. The charges come more than a year after Englander pleaded guilty to lying to federal authorities investigating the corruption case and was sentenced to prison. The commission could levy a fine of up to $136,071.
California – Ex-DWP Executive Pleads Guilty in Corruption Case
Los Angeles Daily News – Staff | Published: 1/25/2022
A former top executive of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge stemming from a probe of the city’s handling of the botched launch of a DWP billing system. David Wright accepted bribes from a lawyer in exchange for supporting a $30 million, no-bid DWP contract. The lawyer named in the case, Paul Paradis, has also agreed to plead guilty to a federal bribery count. Riverside officials asked t local law enforcement to probe whether contracts may have been illegally steered toward certain companies when Wright was general manager of Riverside Public Utilities.
Colorado – A Second County Election Official in Colorado Is Suspected of Security Breach
Canon City Daily Record – Saja Hindi (Denver Post) | Published: 1/24/2022
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is investigating a second county clerk over a possible elections security breach and has ordered Elbert County Clerk and Recorder Dallas Schroeder to turn over information related to allegations he copied a voting system hard drive. The secretary of state ordered the Republican county clerk to appear at a deposition to explain how the copy of the 2021 Dominion Voting Systems hard drive was made after Griswold’s office said Schroeder did not respond to an email request and an election order requiring the disclosure of information about the “potential security protocol breach.”
Florida – Florida Opens Investigation into Dark-Money Group Key to ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scandal
MSN – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 1/20/2022
A state agency that regulates charities has opened an investigation into a “dark-money” nonprofit that played a key role in Florida’s “ghost” candidate scandal. Nikki Fried, commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, said her department is probing whether the organization, known as Let’s Preserve the American Dream, has fully complied with state laws governing nonprofits that solicit funding in Florida. The development comes as the nonprofit, which is closely associated with one of Florida’s biggest business-lobbying groups, also faces criminal investigation by prosecutors in Miami.
Florida – How Much Darker Can Political Money Get? New GOP Bill Tries to Further Shield Donors
MSN – Ana Ceballo and Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 1/20/2022
Florida Republicans are pushing legislation that would enact broad new layers of secrecy around nonprofit organizations’ corporate and individual donors, a move that would allow some political groups to shield sources of funding from local and state government scrutiny. Groups whose tax-exempt status allows them to engage in a restricted level of political activity and does not require them to disclose their donors often serve as vehicles for dark money spending because their sources are hidden. They have come under scrutiny recently due to a Miami-Dade County “ghost” candidate investigation marked by “dark money” spending.
Georgia – Ethics Panel Says It Will Pursue Ex-Insurance Commissioner
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 1/24/2022
Georgia ethics officials say they will pursue allegations of wrongdoing against former state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, overriding an administrative law judge’s ruling that they waited too long. Oxendine is accused of illegally using campaign funds from his failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign to buy a house and lease cars. Commissioners accepted the judge’s decision that the agency cannot pursue Oxendine for accepting $120,000 in bundled contributions, 10 times what was then the legal limit, from two insurance companies in 2008 when he was running for governor.
Georgia – Georgia Prosecutor Granted Special Grand Jury in Probe of Trump’s Efforts to Overturn State’s Election Results
MSN – Amy Wang and John Wagner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/24/2022
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is weighing whether former President Trump and others committed crimes by trying to pressure Georgia election officials, was granted a special purpose grand jury to aid in her investigation. Willis confirmed part of her investigation centers on the January 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state’s presidential election.
Hawaii – How a Honolulu Police Chief Facing a Corruption Probe Got a $250,000 Payout
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 1/23/2022
In the city council committee room in 2017, Honolulu Police Commission Chairperson Max Sword was being asked about a retirement deal being brokered with then-Police Chief Louis Kealoha, who was under federal investigation for using his position to frame an innocent man. Sword refused to tell the council members anything about the deal. That meeting is now part of a federal indictment in which Sword and two of the city’s most senior officials, former Corporation Counsel Donna Leong and former Managing Director Roy Amemiya, are accused of conspiring to illegally bypass the city council to pay Kealoha a $250,000 severance.
Idaho – Giddings Says She No Longer Has Documents Related to Public Records Lawsuit
Idaho Press – William Spence (Lewiston Tribune) | Published: 1/26/2022
Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings last year acknowledged having access to documents that are now at the center of a public records lawsuit. Giddings, who is running for lieutenant governor, now denies having the documents. The documents in question relate to rape allegations that were leveled against former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger by a House intern, and to a subsequent tort claim alleging Giddings and von Ehlinger engaged in a “conspiracy” to defame the young woman.
Illinois – In Chicago, a Public Radio Station Comes to the Rescue of the Sun-Times Newspaper
MSN – Elahe Izade and Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) | Published: 1/19/2022
In an unusual merger that some hope could serve as a national model to preserve local journalism, Chicago’s NPR station plans to acquire one of the city’s major daily newspapers. The board of directors for Chicago Public Media, the umbrella organization for WBEZ, approved moving forward with the acquisition of The Chicago Sun-Times. Public radio stations have acquired for-profit news competitors in the past but never at this scale. While the two organizations will come under the same ownership and share content, editorially they will operate independently.
Illinois – Supreme Court Considers Use of Political Campaign Funds to Mount Legal Defense in Public Corruption Cases
WCIA – Mark Maxwell | Published: 1/19/2022
The Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could determine whether elected officials can use their campaign funds to hire lawyers to defend themselves in public corruption cases. Federal prosecutors accused former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis of receiving sex acts, Viagra, and campaign cash in a corruption scheme. Solis later used that same campaign account to pay lawyers $220,000 to defend himself. Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections arguing Solis violated campaign finance laws.
Maryland – Baltimore County Inspector General: Former top official waived fees for developer, received favors
Yahoo News – Taylor DeVille (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 1/20/2022
Baltimore County improperly waived what is estimated to total millions of dollars in fees and security deposits over roughly a decade for a developer to build a multimillion-dollar, mixed-use site at Owings Mills, according to a report from county Inspector General Kelly Madigan. The report details how Arnold Jablon, who was director of the Department of Permits, Approvals, and Inspections between 2011 and 2018, waived securities and fees for developer David Brown Enterprises – possibly in return for access to basketball tickets and free parking – despite having no legal authority to do so.
Maryland – The Mosbys Claimed Legal Expenses on Their Campaign Filings. Here’s What We Know About What Maryland Law Requires.
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo and Alex Mann | Published: 1/21/2022
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her husband, city council President Nick Mosby, reported spending campaign funds on legal expenses last year. Legal bills can be considered acceptable campaign expenses, but only in certain circumstances. Marilyn Mosby was indicted recently, accused of lying to avoid penalties for withdrawing money from her city retirement account and using the funds to purchase two vacation homes. A state attorney general opinion found an elected official is allowed to use campaign funds to pay debts stemming from “the defense of a criminal prosecution directly related to alleged campaign improprieties.”
New Mexico – Ethics Watchdog Issues Report on Payday Loan Industry Lobbying
New Mexico Political Report – Robert Nott and Daniel Chacon (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 1/20/2022
For years, state lawmakers have unsuccessfully tried to introduce legislation capping the interest rate for so-called payday loans at 36 percent. Their efforts have failed repeatedly. New Mexico Ethics Watch released a new report on a study exploring the possible effects of the industry’s lobbying efforts on ensuring the cap is not lowered. What the study found, said Kathleen Sabo, executive director of Ethics Watch, is that lobbyists’ arguments in opposition to a drop in the interest rate cap have been even “more effective” than campaign donations when it comes to influencing lawmakers.
New Mexico – Proposal Calls for Ethics Agency to Set NM Elected Officials’ Pay
Yahoo News – Dan McKay (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 1/24/2022
A proposed constitutional amendment that would task the State Ethics Commission with setting the salaries for all state elected officials from the governor to lawmakers, who are now unpaid, cleared its first committee hearing. Senate Joint Resolution 8 also would change how commission members are chosen, allowing the New Mexico Supreme Court to make two of the seven appointments. The push to set a salary for lawmakers comes as the Legislature considers a separate proposal to increase the pay of New Mexico’s statewide elected officials by five figures. Lawmakers are not included in that bill.
New York – Former IG Letizia Tagliafierro Pushed Transfer of Trooper Cuomo Allegedly Harassed
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 1/20/2022
Letizia Tagliafierro, a former top aide to then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who later became his state inspector general, was the unnamed “high-level staff member” in the executive branch who four years ago directed the State Police to bend the rules so a young female trooper whom the governor met at an event could be appointed to his protective detail. Tagliafierro’s role was revealed when state Attorney General Letitia James’ office released transcripts from a probe into allegations Cuomo sexually harassed or acted inappropriately with multiple women, including the trooper who went on to become one of his drivers.
New York – Subpoena Probes Cuomo’s Pandemic ‘Volunteers’
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 1/26/2022
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics will investigate the activities of volunteers in assisting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 pandemic response. While unpaid by New York’s government, some of the volunteers, such as one-time top Cuomo aide Larry Schwartz, held crucial roles in Cuomo’s response to the crisis. Schwartz served as the state’s “vaccine czar,” leading efforts to distribute vaccines to the state’s population, while continuing in his day job as chief strategy officer at an airport concessions company that has extensive interests before state government.
Ohio – Former House Bill 6 Lobbyist Who Chaired PUCO Nominating Council Resigns
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 1/25/2022
Former FirstEnergy lobbyist Michael Koren resigned from leading the state’s efforts to pick utility regulators. Koren had served as chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Nominating Council despite his former ties to FirstEnergy. Koren lobbied for the company when House Bill 6 to subsidize nuclear plants was introduced in 2019. The commission has come under increasing scrutiny after FirstEnergy admitted bribing PUCO’s former chair, Sam Randazzo, who Gov. Mike DeWine appointed after his name was put forth by the nominating council.
Ohio – Ohio’s Pandemic Politics Cast Long Shadow Over Omicron Surge
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 1/21/2022
Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate overruled Gov. Mike DeWine’s gubernatorial veto to pass Senate Bill 22. The legislation gave lawmakers the ability to nix statewide health orders with a simple majority vote – previous law required a supermajority. It also blocked DeWine, his appointed director of the Ohio Department of Health, or local health departments from issuing blanket lockdown or masking orders. A May 2021 report from the Network for Public Health Law found Ohio was one of 15 states to pass or consider legislation to limit the authority of public health departments during the pandemic.
Tennessee – Ogles Wants Checks on Registry of Election Finance Subpoena Power
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 1/26/2022
State Rep. Brandon Ogles, after threatening a “deep dive” into the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, said he is drafting legislation that could change the agency’s subpoena power. Ogles said he would like to see requirements for a judge’s signature on subpoenas issued by the registry board in addition to invitations before subpoenas are issued. The registry voted recently to subpoena former House Speaker Glen Casada, his ex-chief of staff Cade Cothren, and several other people to gather information about the Faith Family Freedom Forum, a shadowy PAC that ran attack ads on Casada’s political enemy, former Rep. Rick Tillis.
Tennessee – Senate Ethics Committee Recommends Sen. Katrina Robinson’s Expulsion, Will Go Before Senate Vote
Yahoo News – Melissa Brown (Memphis Commercial Appeal) | Published: 1/20/2022
The Senate Ethics Committee determined Tennessee Sen. Katrina Robinson violated the chamber’s code of ethics and recommended her expulsion due to her conviction on federal fraud charges. Robinson will now face a full Senate vote based on the committee’s recommendation. She is awaiting a March sentencing date for charges related to the mismanagement of federal funds in connection to her leadership of a nursing school. Robinson’s criminal trial focused on events that occurred prior to her election to the state Senate.
Washington – WA Supreme Court Upholds $18M Campaign-Finance Fine Against Grocery Industry Group
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 1/20/2022
The Washington Supreme Court narrowly upheld an $18 million fine levied against an association of large food brands that funneled “dark money” into a state campaign. The ruling found the penalty against the Grocery Manufacturers Association, now known as the Consumer Brands Association, did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on excessive fines. The group spent more than $11 million to defeat Initiative 522, which would have required labeling of genetically modified food products. But it did not initially identify the corporations that wrote big checks to fund the campaign, including Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Nestle.
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