June 15, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Miami Beach Rep. Michael Grieco Ordered to Pay $1,000 After Probe of Ethics Lapses” by Christina Sant Louis (Miami Herald) for MSN Massachusetts: “Mass. Republican Party Explored Whether It Can Use Its Own Money to Pay for […]
Florida: “Miami Beach Rep. Michael Grieco Ordered to Pay $1,000 After Probe of Ethics Lapses” by Christina Sant Louis (Miami Herald) for MSN
Massachusetts: “Mass. Republican Party Explored Whether It Can Use Its Own Money to Pay for a Candidate’s Legal Fees” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for MSN
New York: “Longtime Assembly Aide Approved as New York’s Election Watchdog” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
National: “Exodus of Election Officials Raises Concerns of Partisanship” by Anthony Izaguirre for Associated Press News
Massachusetts: “Judge Rejects Plea Deal in Corruption Case of Former Correia Chief of Staff” by Shaun Towne and Steph Machado for WPRI
Ohio: “Ally of Suspended Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charges” by John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
South Carolina: “SC House Reveals New List of $90M in Taxpayer Funds for Lawmakers’ Pet Projects” by Andrew Caplan (The State) for MSN
Virginia: “Black Virginians Took Ralph Northam Back. Neither Has Forgotten.” by Astead Herndon for New York Times
National: “Biden’s Vow to Limit Ethics Conflicts Finds a Test Case: The Ricchetti brothers” by Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) for MSN
June 11, 2021 •
National/Federal Abbe Lowell Is the Go-To Lawyer for Embattled Politicians. Now He Faces a Controversy of His Own. Mother Jones – Dan Friedman | Published: 6/8/2021 Abbe Lowell, one of Washington’s top attorneys, has spent decades helping high-profile clients engulfed in […]
Abbe Lowell Is the Go-To Lawyer for Embattled Politicians. Now He Faces a Controversy of His Own.
Mother Jones – Dan Friedman | Published: 6/8/2021
Abbe Lowell, one of Washington’s top attorneys, has spent decades helping high-profile clients engulfed in political scandals. But now Lowell – known for representing Jared Kushner, Jack Abramoff, and others – is himself the subject of a controversy. Lowell negotiated a plea bargain for Nickie Lum Davis, a Republican fundraiser who had engaged in illegal lobbying. Davis later fired Lowell. A new lawyer representing her said Lowell failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest to Davis prior to her guilty plea. At the heart of this dispute is the allegation that an influential attorney with a slew of prominent political clients failed to tell one of those clients about what could be perceived as a personal interest in her case.
After Hitting Pause, PACs Begin to Press Play Again
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 6/7/2021
Business PACs, many of which paused donations earlier this year amid fallout from the violent Capitol attack, have begun to send more money to lawmakers, including to the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the presidential election results of some states. PACs from defense, agriculture, and other sectors have led in donations to such lawmakers. Still, PAC money is down. Contributions to both parties’ House and Senate campaign arms dropped significantly in the first four months of this year when compared with the same period in the previous two election cycles.
Democrats Grapple with Way Forward on Biden Agenda After Manchin Throws Up Roadblocks
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
Democrats grappled with the seeming decimation of their sweeping legislative ambitions at the hands of one of their own lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who quashed prospects for the party’s marquee voting rights bill and cast a pall over other planks of President Biden’s agenda. Manchin declared his opposition to the For the People Act, a sweeping measure meant in part to override new voting restrictions passed by Republican Legislatures and reiterated his vow never to repeal or modify the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule known as the filibuster.
Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More deadlock than ever
Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 6/8/2021
Democrats seeking more robust enforcement of election laws and transparency measures have been routinely routed at the FEC. They have complained Republicans have weaponized the commission’s bipartisan structure to turn it into a toothless agency. Now, the Democratic commissioners have begun to strike back by leveraging some of the same arcane rules that have stymied enforcement efforts for years to make the agency do even less. The goal appears to be to take a panel seen as dysfunctional and create further deadlock, compelling federal courts to fill the breach when it comes to policing federal election law.
Facebook Gives Trump Path to Return – but Not Until at Least 2023
Politico – Cristiano Lima | Published: 6/4/2021
Facebook announced that former President Trump’s accounts will be suspended for two years, extending the suspension that began in January following a finding Trump stoked violence ahead of the insurrection at the Capitol. The company said after that period it would evaluate whether “the risk to public safety has receded,” and then make a call on his possible reinstatement. Facebook also said it will stiffen penalties for public figures during times of civil unrest and violence. Politicians’ posts will no longer be automatically treated as newsworthy, and thus protected from the platform’s rules against harassment, hate speech, and more. But their rule-breaking remarks may still be exempt under Facebook’s newsworthiness exemption.
FBI Investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in Connection with His Political Fundraising
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 6/3/2021
The FBI is investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in connection with campaign fundraising activity involving his former business. The Washington Post published an examination of how employees at DeJoy’s former company, New Breed Logistics, alleged they were pressured by DeJoy or his aides to attend political fundraisers or donate to Republican candidates, and then were paid back through bonuses. Such reimbursements could run afoul of state or federal laws, which prohibit “straw-donor” schemes meant to allow wealthy donors to evade individual contribution limits and obscure the source of a candidate’s money.
GOP Governors Are Cutting Unemployment Aid. Some Have Ties to Businesses That May Benefit.
MSN – Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
Republican governors in 25 states are conducting a giant economic experiment, ceasing enhanced jobless aid for an estimated 4 million people, arguing the generous benefits are dissuading people from going back to work. But a number of these governors have personal connections to businesses that are trying to find workers and could benefit from the policy change. The Biden administration and its allies in Congress argue any reluctance by Americans to return to work is due more to a lack of childcare, lingering concerns over safety during the pandemic, and low wages.
Justice Dept. Continues Appeal on Behalf of Trump in Defamation Case Brought by Sexual Assault Accuser
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
The Justice Department’s Civil Division under President Biden is continuing the Trump-era push to represent the former president in a defamation lawsuit brought by author E. Jean Carroll. The lawsuit brought by Carroll, who accused Donald Trump two years ago of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s, has been stalled in litigation over whether the Justice Department had standing to represent him on the grounds that his denials in response to her claim were made while performing his presidential duties. The legal maneuver would have required a judge to find a tort law that protects government employees from civil liability applies to a sitting president.
Justice Dept. Vows to End Court Orders Seeking Journalists’ Data in Leak Probes
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/5/2021
The U.S. Justice Department pledged to stop using court orders to get journalists’ information in leak investigations following disclosures about a flurry of such efforts at the end of the Trump administration. The marked shift in approaches between the Trump and Biden administrations comes after it was revealed the department fought a legal battle to obtain information about the email activities of four New York Times reporters as part of a leak investigation. As The Times made the showdown public, it complained the aggressive investigative effort represented a significant intrusion on First Amendment rights and journalists’ ability to gather the news.
Lack of Data on Diverse Electorate Tests Pollsters, Politicians
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 6/4/2021
The most diverse electorate in the country’s history headed to the polls in 2020, but pollsters and party officials are not sure how to tap that potential source of political support. They lack good data about these increasingly diverse communities, and cultural understanding to go with them, leading politicians to make naive mistakes. An industry of firms that provide voter data to pollsters, campaigns, and others has been trying to find the best way to parse specific parts of voters’ identities like religion, race, and ethnicity.
New Bill Aims to Shut the FARA Revolving Door
Center for Responsive Politics – Alyce McFadden | Published: 6/3/2021
Former federal government officials would be prohibited from representing foreign corporations and governments as lobbyists under new bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher and Jared Golden. The Congressional and Executive Foreign Lobbying Ban Act seeks to prohibit federally elected lawmakers, senior-level government appointees, and high-ranking military officers from registering as lobbyists for foreign agents after they leave the government.
Sen. Ted Cruz Prevails in Campaign Finance Lawsuit
Roll Call – Todd Ruger and Kate Ackley | Published: 6/3/2021
A federal court sided with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to strike down a “somewhat obscure” section of a 2002 campaign finance law, which is expected to give a boost to wealthier candidates who self-fund their campaigns. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found Section 304 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act unconstitutionally infringes on candidates’ free speech rights. That section prohibits federal candidates who made personal campaign loans before the election from using more than $250,000 in post-election contributions to repay them.
Trump’s Election Fraud Claims Propelled Them to the Capitol on Jan. 6. His Ongoing Comments Are Keeping Them in Jail.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2021
Although former President Trump has been blocked from major social media platforms and recently shut down his own blog, he is still monitoring and promoting false claims of election fraud. Citing Trump’s ongoing comments, federal judges have shared fears that the defendants accused of the worst violence or threats of violence at the January 6 Capitol insurrection remain a danger to public safety and should remain in custody while they await trial. “Unfortunately, the political dynamics that gave way to January 6th have not faded,” U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said in detaining a man accused of throwing a hatchet and a desk during the riot.
Canada – Judge Rules Against Ontario Third Party Campaign Finance Rules Declaring It Unconstitutional
Global News – Holly McKenzie-Sutter (Canadian Press) | Published: 6/9/2021
A judge struck down a limit on third-party ad spending introduced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government, declaring recent changes to the law unconstitutional. A group of education unions argued the changes to the Election Finances Act would have a chilling effect on their rights to free expression in the year leading up to a provincial election. The government recently doubled the restricted pre-election spending period to 12 months but kept the $600,000 limit on third-party political advertisement spending. The attorney general argued the changes were necessary to protect democratic elections from outside influence.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Companies Lobbying Gavin Newsom Helped Pay His Wife’s Salary, Report Finds
MSN – Evie Fordham (Fox News) | Published: 6/3/2021
Companies with a history of lobbying the state California, including PG&E, Kaiser Permanente. and Comcast, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit of Gov. Gavin Newsome’s wife. Jennifer Siebel Newsom received $2.3 million in total salary from her nonprofit, The Representation Project, between 2011 and 2018, according to tax returns. Siebel Newsom’s foundation billed itself as a gender watchdog organization releasing films to “challenge limiting gender stereotypes and shift norms.” Newsom has appeared in two of The Representation Project’s films.
California – Judge and Attorney in Pivotal Newsom Recall Lawsuit Were Former Law Partners
MSN – Phil Willon (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/7/2021
The judge whose ruling was pivotal to the recall campaign against California Gov. Gavin Newsom, providing supporters extra time to gather the necessary petition signatures to trigger a special election, was once a law partner with the attorney hired by the effort’s proponents to plead their case. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James Arguelles and Bradley Benbrook were attorneys at Stevens, O’Connell & Jacobs before 2010 and the two served as co-counsel on at least two cases. Howard Herships, who opposes the campaign to recall Newsom, said he raised the issue in a complaint against the judge filed with the Commission on Judicial Performance.
Connecticut – Jon Lender: The wife of the lone GOP senator who voted for Connecticut’s recreational marijuana has a job at medical cannabis grower Curaleaf
MSN – Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) | Published: 6/8/2021
Esther Witkos, the wife of state Sen. Kevin Witkos – who was the lone Republican to vote yes when the Senate voted to approve a controversial bill to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Connecticut – has a job with Curaleaf, a medical marijuana grower/producer. Sen. Witkos said his wife has been an hourly worker at a Curaleaf production facility for more than a year. He said he had nothing to do with her getting a job there, and her employment there had no bearing on his vote.
Connecticut – ‘There Are Certain People That Drink Heavily.’ CT Lawmakers Talk About Alcohol Use in Session
MSN – Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) | Published: 6/4/2021
Connecticut House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, fearing extracurricular partying could distract lawmakers from the public’s business, ordered his caucus to move their offices back to the Capitol to avoid distractions. Speaker Matt Ritter chastised his caucus after lawmakers began tailgating on the roof of the Legislative Office Building garage. One House member admitted wine at dinner and the stress of the session contributed to her failure to speak complete sentences during a floor debate. While the drinking might not be good public relations for the Legislature, people with institutional memories say it is no worse than it ever has been.
Florida – As Artiles Criminal Case Unfolds, Sham NPA Candidate Agrees to Ethics Violations, Fine
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/7/2021
As a corruption case involving former Florida Sen. Frank Artiles continues to play out in court, the no-party candidate accused of being paid and recruited to run in the Senate District 37 election was fined for his involvement. Artiles’ defense team continues to debate with the state attorney’s office over how much potential evidence should be made public related to an alleged scheme to recruit and pay Alexis Pedro Rodriguez to run as a no-party candidate in the race. Rodriguez will pay a $6,500 fine for accepting money with the understanding he would change his party affiliation, qualify to run, and file a false disclosure form.
Florida – Ethics Commission: No evidence of improper lobbying on Coral Gables Wawa project
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/9/2021
Miami-Dade County’s ethics commission determined there was no probable cause to pursue a complaint filed on behalf of the Gables Accountability Project, a group of Coral Gables residents who sued the city in opposition to a planned Wawa gas station and convenience store. The complaint alleged lobbyist and former state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and lobbyist Laura Russo failed to properly register to lobby on the project before they sent letters to the city attorney and other officials regarding the removal of trees at the site of the future gas station.
Florida – Judge Asked to Block New Law That Limits Contributions to Florida Amendment Initiatives
South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 6/8/2021
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and other supporters of three proposed constitutional amendments designed to expand voting want a federal judge to block a new state law that places a $3,000 limit on contributions to ballot-initiative drives. They filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, arguing the limit is unconstitutional and would prevent them from collecting enough petition signatures to put the proposed amendments on the November 2022 ballot.
Florida – Mystery Donor Gives $100K-Plus to DeSantis
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 6/3/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has received more than $100,000 from a mystery donor, Tread Standard, that federal regulators previously said was possibly set up illegally to mask the likely source of the money. But it remains unclear who is behind the Delaware-based entity or its political largesse. Tread Standard was the subject of an FEC complaint during the 2016 election cycle that it gave $150,000 to a super PAC supporting former Gov. Jeb Bush’s failed presidential bid. Red flags were raised because the six-figure contribution to the super PAC supporting Bush was given less than two months after Tread Standard was incorporated, and there was no sign the entity did anything that generated its own revenue.
Idaho – Idaho State Legislator Doxxed a Sexual Assault Survivor, Drawing Ethics Complaints
The Intercept – Sara Sirota | Published: 6/3/2021
Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings is facing several ethics complaints after circulating articles revealing the identity of a 19-year-old woman who reported to authorities that another lawmaker, former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, had sexually assaulted her. Giddings is a reservist in the U.S. military, an institution confronting issues of abuse and underreporting, and is seeking greater power in Idaho politics as a candidate for lieutenant governor. Sexual assault survivors often fear others will not believe them or will retaliate against them, inducing further trauma and convincing them more often than not against informing authorities.
Illinois – Chicago’s Ethics Ordinance Infinitely Stronger Than State Version, Top Ethics Officials Say
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 6/4/2021
The city’s ethics ordinance is infinitely stronger than the Illinois General Assembly’s version, the Chicago Board of Ethics said, and it is “gratified” that home-rule will prevail. It is another slap at the widely ridiculed six-month lobbying ban for lawmakers approved by the Legislature in response to the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal. “We are gratified that the General Assembly heeded our urging that Chicago’s lobbying laws not be superseded by the ethics and lobbying reform bill recently passed by the General Assembly,” Ethics Board Chairperson William Conlon and Executive Director Steve Berlin wrote in a statement.
Illinois – Exelon Lobbyist Leads an Effort to Win a Big Payday for Illinois Lawmakers
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 6/7/2021
Eric Madiar, a contract lobbyist for Exelon, is representing former Illinois Rep. Michael Fortner in a class-action lawsuit to win back cost-of-living pay raises legislators, including Fortner, previously voted to block. The cost of the forgone raises for lawmakers was estimated at $14.4 million. The suit was filed as Exelon seeks legislative approval to hike rates to prop up its struggling nuclear plants.
Illinois – Former Chicago Alderman Aiding Corruption Probe Made Audio and Video Recordings of Then-Speaker Michael Madigan on Multiple Topics, Sources Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/9/2021
Former Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis recorded Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on numerous occasions as the speaker allegedly sought business for his private law firm, sources said. He also recorded colleagues at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where Madigan led the Illinois delegation. Solis wearing a wire on Madigan, a famously cautious and shrewd political boss, could help explain why federal prosecutors apparently have cut Solis an unprecedented deal in a federal corruption probe. The potential conflict between Madigan’s dual careers a public official and private lawyer has come under scrutiny numerous times over the years.
Louisiana – Advocates Decry ‘Double Standard’ in Louisiana’s Legislature, Citing Groundwater Ethics Bill
New Orleans Advocate – Blake Paterson | Published: 6/8/2021
Black lawmakers joined social justice advocates to decry what they say is a “double standard” at the Louisiana Capitol where wealthy corporate interests win big while everyday citizens get left behind. They highlighted a bill that would exonerate several members of the Baton Rouge-area groundwater commission from ethics charges they face for working for the companies they are tasked with regulating. Gray Sexton, an attorney representing three members employed by ExxonMobil, Georgia-Pacific, and Entergy who were charged by the ethics board, said the bill simply acknowledges the fact that industry for decades has had a seat at the table.
Maine – Maine House Backs Limiting Foreign Election Spending in Challenge to CMP Corridor
Bangor Daily News – Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews | Published: 6/9/2021
The Maine House passed a bill to bar foreign government-owned companies from spending on state ballot questions after a Canadian energy company dumped millions of dollars into the Central Maine Power corridor referendum fight last year. The proposed ban gained momentum following the spending by Hydro Quebec, a Canadian energy company, to influence potential ballot questions about the corridor. After a first referendum on the corridor was declared unconstitutional last year, corridor opponents mounted a second petition this year aiming to halt the transmission line’s construction.
Maryland – Baltimore Spending Board Approves New Travel Expense Rules for Elected Officials
Baltimore Sun – Phil Davis | Published: 6/9/2021
Baltimore’s spending board approved a new expense policy for elected officials, adopting rules recommended by a city work group after an investigation into State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s travel costs. Elected officials must now seek the Board of Estimates’ approval for travel expenses of $100 or more if a third party is paying the costs. Officials also have to disclose details, including the purpose of a trip and who is paying.
Michigan – Gabe Leland Gets 2.5 Years of Probation on Misconduct in Office Charge
Detroit News – Sarah Rahal | Published: 6/7/2021
Former Detroit City Councilperson Gabe Leland was sentenced to two-and-a-half years of probation after pleading guilty to a state misconduct in office charge. He was accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 in cash and free car repairs from a businessperson in exchange for his vote on a land deal. The allegations resulted in an indictment on federal bribery charges in addition to the felony misconduct in office charge, but the federal charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Michigan – House OKs Ethics Reform with Financial Disclosure, Lobby Limits
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 6/9/2021
Amid debate over whether the legislation went far enough, the Michigan House passed 13 bills and one joint resolution that proponents hope will boost transparency and ethics among lawmakers. The bills seek to create an ethics committee in each chamber, require confidential financial disclosures from members, and prevent legislators and senior administration officials from lobbying for two years after leaving office. The package moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has expressed concerns that financial disclosure requirements could discourage people from running for office.
New Jersey – Stunning Development in Big N.J. Corruption Case as Judge Tosses Charges Against Former Candidate
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/3/2021
In a major setback for prosecutors, the bribery and corruption case against Jason O’Donnell, a former New Jersey Assembly member who was running for Bayonne mayor, was thrown out of court as a judge found O’Donnell committed no crime. The judge said O’Donnell had no power to make any promises in return for a $10,000 cash payment he allegedly accepted from an informant during an undercover sting operation. O’Donnell and four other candidates and officials were accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and cash payoffs from an attorney seeking promises of lucrative tax and real estate work.
New Mexico – Citizen Lawmakers Find Work in New Cannabis Industry
New Mexico Political Report – Andy Lyman | Published: 6/6/2021
Even prior to the passage of the Cannabis Regulation Act in New Mexico, a handful of consulting and legal firms specializing in cannabis regulations and law existed. But since the law was approved, there are at least three elected officials who are currently, or plan to, sell their knowledge to those interested in getting in at the ground floor of what is expected to become a booming new industry. That raises questions about the ethics of state and local lawmakers selling their services in an industry they sometimes have a hand at creating.
New York – She’s Running for New York City Council. But Newspapers Won’t Publish Her Photo.
Politico – Hannah Dreyfus | Published: 6/9/2021
Amber Adler is the first Orthodox Jewish woman to run for city council in her Brooklyn district, which includes ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. As she heads toward the June 22 primary, Adler is a victim of a recent trend among Jewish media outlets in Orthodox neighborhoods in the U.S. – a refusal to publish photographs of women and girls for religious reasons. Which means if Adler wants campaign ads printed in the Jewish news, she cannot be in most of them. Adler is butting up against expectations that Orthodox women do not assume positions of communal authority.
North Carolina – Raleigh Mayor Sits Out Development Hearings to Avoid Conflict of Interest
Yahoo News – Anna Johnson (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 6/4/2021
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin recused herself twice from a recent city council meeting due to potential conflicts-of-interest involving her employer. The mayor did not participate in a public hearing on a proposed development because her employer, Barnhill Contracting, began working on the project in 2019. Baldwin was hired as the director of business development for Barnhill’s Triangle and Streamline Divisions in May 2020. She faced criticism for accepting the job soon after the construction company received a $6.3 million city contract.
North Dakota – Above Board or ‘Pay to Play’? Firm That Guides North Dakota’s $19.4B Portfolio Comes Under Fire
Grand Forks Herald – Patrick Springer | Published: 5/31/2021
Questions have been raised about potential conflicts-of-interest involving a financial adviser that recommends fund managers for North Dakota’s $19.4 billion investment portfolio. A firm called Callan, whose advisory role has been described as a “manager of managers,” received payments from 12 of the 14 companies that manage the investments for the Legacy Fund, the state’s oil tax savings account. As the North Dakota State Investment Board’s leading financial adviser, Callan plays an influential role in advising the board on selecting fund management firms for the Legacy Fund, public employee pension funds, and state insurance funds.
Ohio – Ohio Public Corruption Cases Could Be Tried in Defendants’ Home Counties, Under GOP Proposal
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/9/2021
A state lawmaker is seeking to remove the Franklin County prosecutor’s exclusive authority to try Ohio public corruption cases, just months after a Democrat was elected to the position for the first time in nearly 60 years. An amendment to a bill would allow lawmakers, candidates, and political groups accused of violating state law to choose to be tried in their home counties, rather than in Franklin County as current law requires. The proposal comes amid the House Bill 6 scandal, in which ex-Speaker Larry Householder and allies are facing federal charges they received $60 million in bribe money to pass a bailout of two nuclear power plants.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Faces Expulsion in Assault on State Capitol
Associated Press News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 6/8/2021
A state lawmaker faces being expelled from office after a video emerged apparently showing him choreographing how he would let far-right protesters into the closed Oregon Capitol days before he did so in December. The crowd entered the building during an emergency legislative session, and some sprayed chemical irritants at police. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek recently introduced a resolution that would have the House expel Rep. Mike Nearman if two-thirds of its members vote in favor. She appointed a committee to consider the matter.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Vote to Defund Forest Research Institute over Lobbying Scandal
Yahoo News – Tim Gruver (The Center Square) | Published: 6/9/2021
Oregon House members voted to pull the plug on a public agency accused of playing fast and loose with its ethical standards in its business with the timber industry. The bill redirects millions of dollars from the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) to the Oregon Department of Forestry. A recent media investigation found the taxpayer-funded OFRI attempted to discredit state-sponsored climate research without merit. In 2018, investigators found the OFRI organized a campaign to tarnish an Oregon State University study that concluded the state could cut its carbon footprint if it felled trees on private land less often.
Pennsylvania – How the National Push by Trump Allies to Audit 2020 Ballots Started Quietly in Pennsylvania
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2021
A push to conduct unofficial election audits in Pennsylvania served as a last-ditch effort by allies of former President Trump to undercut Joe Biden’s win after failing in the courts and Legislature. The lobbying foreshadowed a playbook now in use in Arizona and increasingly being sought in other communities as Trump supporters clamor for reviews of the ballots cast last fall, citing false claims the vote was corrupted by fraud. Trump’s backers argue any evidence of problems they uncover will prove the election system is vulnerable and could have been manipulated to help Biden. The audits are being pushed by an affiliation of GOP lawmakers, lawyers, and self-described election experts, backed by private fundraising campaigns whose donors are unknown.
Washington – Seattle Times Sues City of Seattle over Durkan’s Missing Text Messages During Protests
Seattle Times – Asia Fields | Published: 6/4/2021
The Seattle Times filed a lawsuit alleging the city of Seattle mishandled requests from reporters for officials’ text messages during a tumultuous period last summer when police abandoned the a precinct and used tear gas on protesters. The complaint follows a whistleblower investigation that found Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office violated state public records laws in its handling of requests after discovering the mayor’s texts were missing for a 10-month period. The newspaper claims the city violated the Public Records Act by withholding or destroying the mayor’s records after they were requested.
Wyoming – Inside the Campaign-Finance ‘End Run’ That Earned GOP an FEC Fine
WyoFile.com – Nick Reynolds | Published: 6/4/2021
The Wyoming Republican Party secretly supported a 2016 Trump campaign “end run” around donation limitations without securing requisite authorization, according to a former official. The violation, which resulted in a $52,000 fine, cited the party’s failure to meet reporting deadlines for a series of unusual transfers between the Republican National Committee, the state GOP, and the Trump Victory Fund PAC, according to the party’s then-treasure, Doug Chamberlain. But Chamberlain, who was responsible for signing off on all the state GOP’s financial activities and FEC compliance, said he was unaware of the arrangement.
June 10, 2021 •
On June 8, Gov. Janet Mills signed Legislative Document 670 to increase lobbyist registration fees and Legislative Document 1377 amending campaign finance definitions. Legislative Document 670 raises registration fees for lobbyists from $200 to $250 and lobbyist associates from $100 […]
On June 8, Gov. Janet Mills signed Legislative Document 670 to increase lobbyist registration fees and Legislative Document 1377 amending campaign finance definitions.
Legislative Document 670 raises registration fees for lobbyists from $200 to $250 and lobbyist associates from $100 to $125.
Additionally, Legislative Document 670 allows employers to apply for a fee waiver and the commission may waive the fees in whole or in part if the commission determines an economic hardship to the applicant.
The registration fee increases were proposed by the ethics commission to cover operation costs for the lobbyist regulatory program and to improve its e-filing and public access system.
Legislative Document 1377 amends the definition of independent expenditure and allows a person or committee to request a commission determination that an expenditure is not an independent expenditure within seven days of disseminating the communication.
The bills go into effect 90 days after the end of the Legislature’s first special session.
June 9, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More deadlock than ever” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times Florida: “As Artiles Criminal Case Unfolds, Sham NPA Candidate Agrees to Ethics Violations, Fine” by Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) for MSN […]
National: “Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More deadlock than ever” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times
Florida: “As Artiles Criminal Case Unfolds, Sham NPA Candidate Agrees to Ethics Violations, Fine” by Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) for MSN
National: “GOP Governors Are Cutting Unemployment Aid. Some Have Ties to Businesses That May Benefit.” by Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “Gabe Leland Gets 2.5 Years of Probation on Misconduct in Office Charge” by Sarah Rahal for Detroit News
New Mexico: “Citizen Lawmakers Find Work in New Cannabis Industry” by Andy Lyman for New Mexico Political Report
North Dakota: “Above Board or ‘Pay to Play’? Firm That Guides North Dakota’s $19.4B Portfolio Comes Under Fire” by Patrick Springer for Grand Forks Herald
National: “Democrats Grapple with Way Forward on Biden Agenda After Manchin Throws Up Roadblocks” by Mike DeBonis and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) for MSN
Oregon: “Oregon Lawmaker Faces Expulsion in Assault on State Capitol” by Andrew Selsky for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Chicago’s Ethics Ordinance Infinitely Stronger Than State Version, Top Ethics Officials Say” by Fran Spielman for Chicago Sun-Times
June 8, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “After Hitting Pause, PACs Begin to Press Play Again” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN Wyoming: “Inside the Campaign-Finance ‘End Run’ That Earned GOP an FEC Fine” by Nick Reynolds for WyoFile.com Elections National: “Lack of […]
National: “After Hitting Pause, PACs Begin to Press Play Again” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
Wyoming: “Inside the Campaign-Finance ‘End Run’ That Earned GOP an FEC Fine” by Nick Reynolds for WyoFile.com
National: “Lack of Data on Diverse Electorate Tests Pollsters, Politicians” by Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “How the National Push by Trump Allies to Audit 2020 Ballots Started Quietly in Pennsylvania” by Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Justice Dept. Vows to End Court Orders Seeking Journalists’ Data in Leak Probes” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
California: “Judge and Attorney in Pivotal Newsom Recall Lawsuit Were Former Law Partners” by Phil Willon (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
North Carolina: “Raleigh Mayor Sits Out Development Hearings to Avoid Conflict of Interest” by Anna Johnson (Raleigh News and Observer) for Yahoo News
Connecticut: “‘There Are Certain People That Drink Heavily.’ CT Lawmakers Talk About Alcohol Use in Session” by Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Exelon Lobbyist Leads an Effort to Win a Big Payday for Illinois Lawmakers” by Dave McKinney for WBEZ
June 7, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Sen. Ted Cruz Prevails in Campaign Finance Lawsuit” by Todd Ruger and Kate Ackley for Roll Call National: “FBI Investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in Connection with His Political Fundraising” by Matt Zapotosky and Jacob Bogage (Washington […]
National: “Sen. Ted Cruz Prevails in Campaign Finance Lawsuit” by Todd Ruger and Kate Ackley for Roll Call
National: “FBI Investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in Connection with His Political Fundraising” by Matt Zapotosky and Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Mystery Donor Gives $100K-Plus to DeSantis” by Matt Dixon for Politico
New Jersey: “Stunning Development in Big N.J. Corruption Case as Judge Tosses Charges Against Former Candidate” by Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) for MSN
National: “Facebook Suspends Trump for 2 Years in Response to Oversight Board Ruling” by Elizabeth Dwoskin for Washington Post
California: “Companies Lobbying Gavin Newsom Helped Pay His Wife’s Salary, Report Finds” by Evie Fordham (Fox News) for MSN
Idaho: “Idaho State Legislator Doxxed a Sexual Assault Survivor, Drawing Ethics Complaints” by Sara Sirota for The Intercept
Washington: “Seattle Times Sues City of Seattle over Durkan’s Missing Text Messages During Protests” by Asia Fields for Seattle Times
National: “New Bill Aims to Shut the FARA Revolving Door” by Alyce McFadden for Center for Responsive Politics
June 4, 2021 •
National/Federal 2 Nonprofits That Track Money in Politics Are Merging Maryland Matters – Josh Kurtz | Published: 6/3/2021 Watchdogs, journalists, opposition researchers, and the civic minded have relied on data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute […]
2 Nonprofits That Track Money in Politics Are Merging
Maryland Matters – Josh Kurtz | Published: 6/3/2021
Watchdogs, journalists, opposition researchers, and the civic minded have relied on data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in Politics to help them keep elected officials and the special interests that seek to influence them accountable. Now, the nation’s two leading money-in-politics data organizations, are joining forces. They announced they are merging into a combined entity called OpenSecrets. The merger will create a new one-stop shop for integrated federal, state, and local data on campaign finance, lobbying, and more.
Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Must File as Foreign Agent, U.S. Says
MSN – Ilya Banares (Bloomberg) | Published: 5/26/2021
The Justice Department told former casino magnate Steve Wynn to register as a foreign lobbyist for China and is ready to go to court if he does not comply. The order stems from allegations Wynn tried to persuade American officials to send Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessperson with ties to former President Trump, back to his home country. Guo was charged there with corruption, bribery, and fraud and is considered a fugitive by Chinese authorities. Under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, any person representing the interest of foreign entities in the U.S. must disclose their relationship. They also need to make public all the activities they’ have done on their behalf and, if applicable, how much they were paid.
Court to Name Special Master to Examine Materials Seized from Giuliani
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/28/2021
A federal judge denied a request from former President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani for the return of a trove of digital information the FBI seized in a raid on his Manhattan home and office as part of an investigation into potential violations of laws on lobbying for foreign entities. But U.S. District Court Judge Paul Oetken said he will appoint an outside lawyer as a so-called special master to oversee the process of making sure investigators do not get access to attorney-client privileged materials they are not entitled to.
Democrats Grapple with the Enemy Within: What to do about the filibuster rule that could kill their agenda
MSN – Michael Kranish, Mike DeBonis, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 5/29/2021
As Senate Democrats work to solidify support within their conference to move on gun violence, climate change, voting rights, and an investigation into the Capitol riots, they are running up against the same stubborn reality: they need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster and put their agenda into law. This requirement is not in the U.S. Constitution, nor is it in a law. It is a rule imposed by senators and could be eliminated by a united rank of Democrats. Yet Democrats are unable to repeal the filibuster and are feuding among themselves about whether they should make a more determined effort to do so before the midterm elections.
FEC Spares Trump but Fines Tabloid Publisher for Hush-Money Payment to Ex-Playboy Model Who Claimed Affair with Him
MSN – Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2021
The FEC fined the National Enquirer’s parent company $187,500 for “knowingly and willfully” violating election law by making a payment in 2016 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with former President Trump years before he was elected. Common Cause alleged the company’s $150,000 payment to McDougal months before the 2016 election was effectively an illegal in-kind corporate contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign. The payment allegedly benefited the campaign by suppressing McDougal’s story of an alleged relationship with Trump before voters went to the polls.
Federal Prosecutors Looking into Whether Gaetz Obstructed Justice
Politico – Marc Caputo | Published: 6/2/2021
Federal prosecutors are examining whether U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz obstructed justice during a phone call he had with a witness in the sex-crimes investigation of Gaetz. The witness was one of a handful of women who entered Gaetz’s orbit via former local tax collector Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to a host of crimes, including sex-trafficking a 17-year-old. The obstruction inquiry stems from a phone call the witness had with Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend. The ex-girlfriend patched Gaetz into the call. While it is unknown exactly what was said, the discussion is central to whether prosecutors can charge Gaetz with obstructing justice, which makes it illegal to suggest a witness in a criminal case lie or give misleading testimony.
GOP Bill Would Codify IRS Rule Hiding ‘Dark Money’ Donors
Center for Responsive Politics – Alyce McFadden | Published: 5/27/2021
The Don’t Weaponize the IRS Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, would prevent the IRS from mandating that 501(c)(4) nonprofits identify their top donors in filings to the agency, turning IRS guidance issued under former President Trump into law. Republican senators who signed on as co-sponsors say the measure would protect outside groups from discrimination by the IRS. The agency previously apologized for slow-walking conservative groups’ applications for nonprofit status and leaking nonprofit donors.
Sources: Dem lobbying firm under federal investigation for Burisma work
Politico – Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman | Published: 6/3/2021
The Justice Department is investigating the work of a consulting firm linked to President Biden’s son for potential illegal lobbying, four people familiar with the probe said. The firm, Blue Star Strategies, took on as a client the Ukrainian energy company Burisma while Hunter Biden served on its board. Republican operatives’ efforts to investigate Burisma and the alleged corruption that surrounded the firm were at the heart of the first Trump impeachment. The probe comes as the Justice Department ramps up its scrutiny of foreign governments’ efforts to influence U.S. politics through covert lobbying operations.
Steve Chabot’s Ex-Campaign Manager Facing More Than 2 Years in Prison After Guilty Plea
MSN – Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/28/2021
Prosecutors say they will seek a prison sentence that is no longer than 32 months for U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s former campaign manager, who admitted he stole more than $1.4 million from the campaign. Jamie Schwartz signed a plea agreement admitting he embezzled the money between 2011 and 2019. Schwartz will pay $1,420,475 in restitution to the campaign. It is a conservative estimate of how much he obtained through the embezzlement, prosecutors said.
Trump Administration Secretly Seized Phone Records of Times Reporters
New York Times – Charlie Savage and Katie Benner | Published: 6/2/2021
The Trump Justice Department seized the phone records of four New York Times reporters in 2017 as part of a leak investigation. It was the latest in a series of revelations about the Trump administration secretly obtaining reporters’ communications records to uncover their sources. It also seized the phone logs of reporters who work for The Washington Post and the phone and email logs for a CNN reporter. After the disclosures, President Biden said he would not allow the department to take such a step during his administration, calling it ‘simply, simply wrong.”
Canada – Pierre Fitzgibbon Steps Down as Minister in Wake of Ethics Report
Montreal Gazette – Philip Authier | Published: 6/2/2021
Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon stepped down as a cabinet minister in the wake of an ethics commission report saying he has a conflict-of-interest. The ethics commissioner, Ariane Mignolet, had said Fitzgibbon should be barred from sitting in the in the provincial Legislature until he sells the stake that he holds in two firms doing business with the government.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Observers of Arizona’s GOP-Led Election Audit Document Security Breaches, Prohibited Items on Counting Floor
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2021
Observers of the Republican-led recount have found security gates left open, confidential manuals left unattended, and quality-control measures disregarded, according to the Arizona secretary of state’s office. A software update caused so many errors the company handling the recount abandoned the update and went back to the old software. In other instances, prohibited items including cellphones and pens with black or blue ink were allowed onto the counting floor. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and election security experts have criticized the audit as error riddled. Now, Hobbs’s office is documenting the alleged infractions online.
California – California Lawmakers Approve District Attorney Recusal Law
Courthouse News Service – Tim Cahill | Published: 6/2/2021
District attorneys in California whose campaigns were funded by police unions would have to recuse themselves from investigations of law enforcement officers under legislation approved by lawmakers. Supporters say the bill will prevent conflicts-of-interest and restore public faith that bad officers will be brought to justice. In the event both the district attorney and state Attorney General accepted banned law enforcement donations, a special prosecutor would then take over.
California – Ex-San Francisco Official Arrested for Attempted Robbery
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 6/3/2021
San Francisco’s former public works director, who resigned after being charged in a City Hall corruption case, was arrested after allegedly trying to rob someone at knifepoint, authorities said. Mohammed Nuru was booked on suspicion of attempted robbery after someone reported being approached by a man who pulled a knife and demanded the man’s property, according to a police statement. Nuru resigned his post last year after being charged with fraud and lying to the FBI. Prosecutors allege he took thousands of dollars in gifts and cash from contractors.
California – Multimillionaire Recall Candidate John Cox Owes Consultants from Failed Gubernatorial Bid
MSN – Seema Mehta (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/27/2021
Recall candidate John Cox’s prior gubernatorial campaign has been ordered by a judge to pay about $100,000 to a political consulting firm that produced television ads for his unsuccessful 2018 race, one of a string of unpaid bills detailed in a lawsuit and campaign filings. Cox’s campaign has refused to pay, leading to a “debtor’s examination” hearing over the financial status of that campaign committee. A spokesperson for Cox’s current gubernatorial campaign said the invoices were submitted late and Cox contests the amount owed.
Colorado – Court Blocks Portion of Aurora Campaign Finance Measure in Case Brought by Mayor Mike Coffman
Denver Post – Sam Tabachnik | Published: 6/1/2021
An Arapahoe County District Court judge blocked portions of an Aurora campaign finance reform measure from going into effect in a case that featured the mayor accusing his own city of targeting him through law. Judge Peter Michaelson agreed with the First Amendment arguments in Mayor Mike Coffman’s filing that the ordinance’s prohibition on a political candidate campaigning for other candidates or ballot initiatives is unconstitutional.
Florida – Florida Sued Over Law to Ban Social Media Content Blocking
Associated Press News – Brendan Farrington | Published: 5/27/2021
Two groups representing online companies sued Florida over a new law that seeks to punish large social media businesses like Facebook and Twitter if they remove content or ban politicians. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will allow the state to fine large social media sites if they inactivate a statewide politician’s account and will let any Floridian sue those companies if they feel like they have been treated unfairly.
Florida – Nikki Fried Amended Past Financial Disclosures Before Jumping into Florida Governor’s Race
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 6/2/2021
Shortly before jumping into the race for Florida governor, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried amended two separate financial disclosure forms, including one showing previously unreported earnings of $351,480. In both instances, Fried reported earning substantially more money from her lobbying business than she initially disclosed, money that in part came from work she did on behalf of a nursery that was eventually acquired by a medical marijuana company. Fried, a former lobbyist for the cannabis industry, is engaged to the former chief executive of one of the nation’s largest medical marijuana companies.
Idaho – Idaho Lieutenant Governor Banned Mask Mandates While the Governor Was Out of town. It Didn’t Last.
MSN – Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) | Published: 5/28/2021
Idaho Gov. Brad Little rescinded an executive order canceling mask mandates that his second-in-command issued while he was away at a conference, calling it an “abuse of power.” It was the latest clash in a pandemic-long feud between Little and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin over public-health measures designed to protect Idahoans from the coronavirus. McGeachin, who recently announced she is running for governor, has spent months criticizing Little’s response to the crisis as too heavy-handed.
Illinois – Lawyers for 4 Charged in ComEd Bribery Case Say No Quid Pro Quo with Madigan, Ask for Charges to Be Dismissed
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/1/2021
Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan had no arrangement with anyone to help Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) win key legislation in Springfield in exchange for bribes, lawyers for four people charged in the corruption case argued. The court filing on behalf of Michael McClain, Anne Pramaggiore, John Hooker, and Jay Doherty asked U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber to toss several of the key elements of the case, including allegations of bribery conspiracy involving jobs doled out by ComEd to associates of the then-powerful speaker.
Illinois – Package of Government Ethics Reforms Passed by Illinois Legislature, Sent to Pritzker
Bloomington Pantagraph – Dean Olsen (State Journal-Register) | Published: 6/1/2021
Illinois lawmakers approved ethics reforms following numerous indictments, convictions, and investigations in recent years involving legislators and powerful interests. The bills would bar elected officials from lobbying other units of government and would give the legislative inspector general the power to initiate investigations of lawmakers without first receiving approval from a bipartisan commission. It prevents lawmakers from holding campaign fundraisers across the state on any day the General Assembly is in session, or on a day immediately preceding a session.
Iowa – State Auditor Says Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Illegally Promoted Herself with Mask Ads; She Denies It
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 6/2/2021
State Auditor Rob Sand is alleging Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds violated the state’s self-promotion law by appearing in a video last year to promote mask wearing during the pandemic, but Reynolds says the public awareness campaign falls under the law’s exemption for disaster emergencies. In the video, Reynolds appears in the governor’s formal office with her name and title onscreen and tells Iowans about steps to take to avoid the virus, like mask wearing, social distancing, and isolating from others. The video also featured health care officials.
Kansas – Ethics Panel Fines Anti-Abortion Activist $5,000 for Campaign Report Failures
Kansas Reflector – Tim Carpenter | Published: 5/27/2021
Conservative activist Mark Gietzen received a $5,000 fine from the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission for failure to submit timely campaign finance reports in the wake of an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Wichita. Gietzen, founder of the Kansas Coalition for Life, missed deadlines for submitting reports in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Those documents have now been completed, but the case was not dismissed because Gietzen had a track record of noncompliance after racking up $2,860 in civil penalties for violations of campaign law.
Louisiana – Lawmakers Back Removal of PAC Limits for Louisiana Campaigns
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 5/28/2021
Louisiana lawmakers agreed to let candidates for office take unlimited sums directly from PACs, in a significant change to campaign finance limits governing donations that come largely from special interest groups. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ed Price, described his measure as a transparency effort.
Maine – Maine Lawmaker Will Sit Out House Work After Disobeying Mask Mandate
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 6/2/2021
Maine’s only Libertarian lawmaker agreed to sit out work in the House for a few days after delaying proceedings as the lone member to disobey a statehouse mask mandate. State Rep. John Andrews was one of seven members who initially defied the mask mandate after Gov. Janet Mills lifted the requirement for vaccinated people in indoor settings. While those other members indicated they may continue the protest after House Speaker Ryan Fecteau removed them from their committee, they wore masks in the chamber.
Michigan – There Are a Lot of Proposals to Increase Michigan Government Transparency. We Break Them Down.
Michigan Advance – Allison Donahue | Published: 6/2/2021
Bills aimed at boosting ethics, transparency, and financial disclosure laws have been introduced in the Michigan Legislature this year from both parties. Michigan received a grade of “F” in the last State Integrity Investigation from the Center for Public Integrity and ranked worst in the country for accountability and transparency. But it can be challenging to navigate all the proposals reforming conflicts-of-interest, the Freedom of Information Act, and lobbying. Some open government advocates say not all these bills pass the smell test because they lack accountability measures or are monitored by in-house committees rather than giving the public full access.
Michigan – Whitmer’s Campaign Will Pay for Controversial Florida Flight
MSN – Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 5/27/2021
A Michigan chemical company that arranged for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to fly to Florida in its private jet is under scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Administration, prompting a change in how the flight will be paid for, Whitmer’s campaign disclosed. The governor’s re-election campaign will pay PVS Chemicals for the $27,521 cost of the flight to visit Whitmer’s father, not a nonprofit corporation she controls, as announced earlier, Whitmer campaign attorney Christopher Trebilcock said.
Montana – Lawsuit Takes Aim at Bill Affecting Montana Campuses, Judicial Campaigns
Missoula Current – Mike Dennison | Published: 6/1/2021
Another lawsuit was filed to strike down a law passed by Montana Republicans, this time taking aim at language the suit says was unconstitutionally inserted into a bill in the closing hours of the session. The suit from a county prosecutor, attorneys, and a political organization says Senate Bill 319 was improperly “hijacked” to ban voter-registration and other political activity on parts of Montana college campuses and require judges to step down from certain cases. The changes violate a constitutional requirement that bills include only one subject, the suit said.
Nevada – Nevada OKs Bill in Try for 1st Presidential Nominating State
Associated Press News – Michelle Price and Sam Metz | Published: 5/31/2021
Nevada lawmakers passed a bill that aims to make the state the first to weigh in on the 2024 presidential primary contests. The move upends decades of political tradition and is likely to prompt pushback from other early states that want to retain their places in the calendar. The push for Nevada to jump past Iowa’s caucuses and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary follows a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign. Proponents argued Nevada is a diverse state with a population that mirrors the demographics of the nation, and therefore is a better choice for testing presidential hopefuls than Iowa and New Hampshire.
Nevada – To Build a Crowd for a Pro-Trump Rally, Nevada GOP Consultant Sought Help from Proud Boys
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2021
Two days after the 2020 election, as then-President Trump railed that his victory had been stolen, a small group of men dressed in yellow-and-black Proud Boys shirts appeared with dozens of other Trump supporters to protest the counting of ballots at Nevada’s biggest voting center. The rally looked like an organic response to a president then trailing in early returns and threatening anew to contest his defeat. But private messages from Facebook and interviews show the extent of the efforts, in at least one battleground state, to demonstrate the appearance of grassroots energy to spread Trump’s falsehoods about the election. His claims would only grow over the coming months, culminating in a violent attack on the Capitol.
New Jersey – Phil Murphy Took on New Jersey’s Democratic Machine. Now He Needs It to Win.
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 5/31/2021
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, seeking reelection to a second term, has broken with his progressive base as they have turned their attention to an institutional foe: that same boss-dominated power structure Murphy had shunned. The governor has made peace with George Norcross, New Jersey’s most feared political power broker, and is embracing the state’s unusual primary ballot system, which gives prominent placement to party-endorsed candidates awarded the party’s “line” on the ballot, moving independent challengers to far-flung positions.
New York – Eric Adams Pays for Mayoral Campaign Advice from Lawyers Who Lobby Him
The City – Greg Smith and Reuven Blau | Published: 5/31/2021
In July 2018, Eric Adams’ campaign hired a law firm called Pitta LLP as a political and legal consultant. By then, talk had started that the Brooklyn borough president was planning a run for City Hall. The same lawyers who run Pitta also operate one of the city’s biggest lobbying outfits, Pitta Bishop Del Giorno, and had for years lobbied Adams personally on behalf of multiple clients, including vendors seeking city contracts and several unions. They continued to do so, even after Adams hired the Pitta law firm for his campaign. In the gaggle of major mayoral candidates, Adams is unique in this regard.
New York – Feds Subpoena Powerful Lobbyist with Close Ties to Carl Heastie
New York Post – Ben Fuerherd | Published: 5/28/2021
Federal prosecutors subpoenaed an influential lobbyist and Democratic fundraiser who is a friend and former college roommate of New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie as part of a public corruption probe. The New York Timers reported investigators from the Southern District of New York have also sought records from two clients of the lobbyist, Patrick Jenkins, as well as an unnamed state agency,. The clients who were subpoenaed include Draftkings, an online fantasy sports betting platform, and del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County.
Ohio – City Council Votes Not to Suspend Wendell Young after April Indictment
WCPO – Staff | Published: 5/26/2021
Cincinnati City Council voted not to suspend Councilperson Wendell Young following his indictment on a tampering with evidence charge related to the “Gang of Five” scandal. Councilperson Betsy Sundermann brought the motion to suspend Young after the passage of Issue 2, which allows council to vote on the suspension of another member if that member is indicted. “How could people not vote for this when they all wanted it on the ballot and the voters passed it by 78 percent?” Sundermann said after the council’s vote.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Appear Unlikely to Limit Campaign Contributions, as Key Proponent Moves to Drop Effort
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 6/1/2021
Despite voters’ overwhelming support for campaign contribution limits, Oregon lawmakers appear close to giving up on efforts to pass such limits this legislative session. A central proponent proposed the Legislature scrap donation caps and instead focus on creating a state program to match small donations with public funds. “We just felt this was the one thing we could get agreement about,” said Rep. Dan Rayfield, a chief sponsor of the proposal that received the most consideration this session, House Bill 2680.
Pennsylvania – Allentown Buys More Time on Proposed Campaign Finance Regulations
Allentown Morning Call – Andrew Wagaman | Published: 6/2/2021
Allentown City Council postponed proposed campaign finance regulations, seeking more time to determine how to enforce reporting requirements and contribution limits. While three council members on the Rules Committee liked the idea, they felt the bill did not adequately empower the city clerk and board of ethics to give the regulations teeth. Councilperson Joshua Siegel has been calling for campaign finance reform since 2017, arguing “electoral guardrails” might have prevented the “pay-to-play” corruption scandal that ensnared former Mayor Ed Pawlowski and members of his administration.
Texas – A False Date Rape Drugging Accusation Against a Lobbyist Exposed Claims of His role in the Texas Capitol’s Culture of Sexual Harassment
Texas Tribune – Cassandra Pollock | Published: 5/26/2021
A Texas Department of Public Safety investigation concluded Rick Dennis, a lobbyist with one of Austin’s most prominent firms, was not guilty of using a date rape drug on two female legislative staff members. Rumors that Dennis had been accused of doing so rocked the Capitol in April, prompting outraged reactions from state lawmakers. The report said the false allegation was fueled by two female staffers, one of whom was trying to cover up behavior of her own that had nothing to do with Dennis. Still, the incident laid bare larger questions about a Capitol culture that many female staffers say often leads to allegations of misconduct and harassment being brushed under the rug by those with the power to act.
Texas – After Defeating Restrictive Voting Bill, Texas Democrats Send Loud Message: ‘We need Congress to do their part’
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/31/2021
Texas Democrats who defeated a Republican effort to pass a suite of new voting restrictions with a dramatic late-night walkout from the state House chamber have a message for President Biden and his allies in Congress: If we can protect voting rights, you can, too. The surprise move by roughly 60 Democratic lawmakers headed off the expected passage of Senate Bill 7, a voting measure that would have been one of the most stringent in the nation, by denying Republicans a required quorum and forcing them to abruptly adjourn without taking a vote.
Virginia – Stoney Campaign Donors Among ONE Casino Investors; Illustrates Cross Between Politics and Public Projects
WRIC – Ben Dennis | Published: 6/2/2021
Several of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s campaign donors are among the named investors in the Urban ONE casino project and the organization says some of them committed support for the development before Stoney recommended it to city council. Virginia does not restrict who or how much someone can donate to a candidate or cause, though the connection between the city’s casino race and key players does illustrate the role of transparency between politics and public projects.
Wisconsin – Top Wisconsin Republican Robin Vos Hires Former Cops to Investigate November Election
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) | Published: 5/26/2021
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is hiring retired police officers to investigate aspects of the November election, joining with Republicans from around the country who have questioned President Biden’s victory. Vos said he hopes the investigators can get to the bottom of issues Republicans have raised unsuccessfully in court. Ann Jacobs, who leads the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said she was worried the investigation would undermine confidence in an election that was conducted properly.
June 2, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Steve Chabot’s Ex-Campaign Manager Facing More Than 2 Years in Prison After Guilty Plea” by Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN California: “Multimillionaire Recall Candidate John Cox Owes Consultants from Failed Gubernatorial Bid” by Seema Mehta (Los […]
National: “Steve Chabot’s Ex-Campaign Manager Facing More Than 2 Years in Prison After Guilty Plea” by Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
California: “Multimillionaire Recall Candidate John Cox Owes Consultants from Failed Gubernatorial Bid” by Seema Mehta (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Nevada: “Nevada OKs Bill in Try for 1st Presidential Nominating State” by Michelle Price and Sam Metz for Associated Press News
National: “Court to Name Special Master to Examine Materials Seized from Giuliani” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
Florida: “Florida Sued Over Law to Ban Social Media Content Blocking” by Brendan Farrington for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Package of Government Ethics Reforms Passed by Illinois Legislature, Sent to Pritzker” by Dean Olsen for State Journal-Register
National: “Democrats Grapple with the Enemy Within: What to do about the filibuster rule that could kill their agenda” by Michael Kranish, Mike DeBonis, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Eric Adams Pays for Mayoral Campaign Advice from Lawyers Who Lobby Him” by Greg Smith and Reuven Blau for The City
Texas: “A False Date Rape Drugging Accusation Against a Lobbyist Exposed Claims of His role in the Texas Capitol’s Culture of Sexual Harassment” by Cassandra Pollock for Texas Tribune
June 1, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “GOP Bill Would Codify IRS Rule Hiding ‘Dark Money’ Donors” by Alyce McFadden for Center for Responsive Politics Louisiana: “Lawmakers Back Removal of PAC Limits for Louisiana Campaigns” by Staff for Associated Press News Elections Texas: “After […]
National: “GOP Bill Would Codify IRS Rule Hiding ‘Dark Money’ Donors” by Alyce McFadden for Center for Responsive Politics
Louisiana: “Lawmakers Back Removal of PAC Limits for Louisiana Campaigns” by Staff for Associated Press News
Texas: “After Defeating Restrictive Voting Bill, Texas Democrats Send Loud Message: ‘We need Congress to do their part’” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
Wisconsin: “Top Wisconsin Republican Robin Vos Hires Former Cops to Investigate November Election” by Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) for MSN
Idaho: “Idaho Lieutenant Governor Banned Mask Mandates While the Governor Was Out of town. It Didn’t Last.” by Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “Whitmer’s Campaign Will Pay for Controversial Florida Flight” by Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) for MSN
Ohio: “City Council Votes Not to Suspend Wendell Young after April Indictment” by Staff for WCPO
National: “Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Must File as Foreign Agent, U.S. Says” by Ilya Banares (Bloomberg) for MSN
New York: “Lobbyist Closely Tied to N.Y. Assembly Speaker Draws Federal Scrutiny” by Danny Hakim. Luis Ferre-Sadurni, and William Rashbaum for New York Times
May 28, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Justice Department Fights Release of Legal Memo on Prosecuting Trump Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/24/2021 The Department of Justice released more of a key memorandum concluding former President Trump did not commit obstruction of justice through his […]
Biden Justice Department Fights Release of Legal Memo on Prosecuting Trump
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/24/2021
The Department of Justice released more of a key memorandum concluding former President Trump did not commit obstruction of justice through his alleged attempts to thwart federal investigations, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia. But top department officials filed an appeal to try to keep the majority of that legal opinion under wraps, despite a judge’s order requiring that the legal memo be released in its entirety. The Biden administration is in the curious position of seeking to maintain secrecy surrounding some of the most pivotal legal decisions of the Trump era.
Commerce Department Security Unit Evolved into Counterintelligence-Like Operation, Washington Post Examination Found
MSN – Shawn Boburg (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2021
An obscure security unit tasked with protecting the Commerce Department’s officials and facilities has evolved into something more akin to a counterintelligence operation that collected information on hundreds of people inside and outside the department. The Investigations and Threat Management Service covertly searched employees’ offices at night, ran broad keyword searches of their emails trying to surface signs of foreign influence, and scoured Americans’ social media for critical comments about the census. The unit’s tactics appear as if “someone watched too many ‘Mission Impossible’ movies,” said Bruce Ridlen, a former supervisor.
House Ethics Panel to Drop $5K Metal Detector Fines Against Clyburn, Rogers
MSN – Cristina Marcos (The Hill) | Published: 5/20/2021
The House Committee on Ethics agreed to drop $5,000 fines issued to both Majority Whip James Clyburn and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers for allegedly failing to complete security screenings before entering the House chamber. The move to drop the fines indicates the decisions regarding Clyburn and Rogers were bipartisan. It marks the first time that fines issued to House members for evading security screenings have been successfully appealed.
Jennifer Granholm Sells Holdings in Electric Bus Maker AfteRepublican Criticisms
Politico – Eric Wolff | Published: 5/26/2021
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm sold her holdings in electric bus maker Proterra following criticism from Republicans that she might be profiting from the administration’s push for electric vehicles. The move fulfills the last of her obligations under her ethics agreement three months before an August deadline. She had been a board member for the company but resigned before becoming secretary.
Marjorie Taylor Greene Appeared in a Super PAC Ad Asking for Money. That Might Break the Rules.
ProPublica – Isaac Arnsdorf | Published: 5/21/2021
Not long after her election to Congress, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene helped raise money for a super PAC by appearing in a video ad that tests the boundaries of rules limiting fundraising by elected officials. The ad explicitly asks for money for the Stop Socialism Now PAC, an entity that can accept unlimited donations. But candidates and elected officials are not allowed to solicit contributions greater than $5,000. Legal experts differed in their assessments of whether Greene’s appearance follows the law, depending on their views of how strictly campaign finance rules should be interpreted.
Michigans Top Election Official and Dominion Warn Counties About the Risks of Vote Audits by Outside Groups
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2021
Michigan’s top election official and the company whose voting equipment has been the subject of baseless claims of fraud are cautioning local governments in the state that outside audits of the 2020 election results like the one underway in Maricopa County, Arizona, would be illegal and would void the machines’ security warranties. The warnings come amid a growing campaign by former President Trump and his supporters to pressure county governments to launch audits reviewing ballots cast in the last presidential election, which they claim without evidence was tainted by large-scale fraud and votes manipulated on equipment purchased from Dominion Voting Systems.
Pardon-Probe Ruling Roils Legal Teams for Trump Ally Broidy, Associate
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/20/2021
Two targets of a Justice Department investigation into efforts to influence the U.S. government’s probe regarding the looting of Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund recently shook up their legal teams. The moves by Elliott Broidy and Nickie Lum Davis were prompted, at least in part, by a mysterious court ruling and by news reports that identified some of the key players. Broidy and Davis both pleaded guilty to charges they worked together to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act by failing to report they were taking millions of dollars from Jho Low for their efforts to get the Justice Department to drop an investigation. The probe took on a high profile due to Broidy’s close ties to former President Trump.
Republicans Move to Limit a Grass-Roots Tradition of Direct Democracy
New York Times – Reid Epstein and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 5/22/2021
Ballot initiatives, a century-old fixture of American democracy that allows voters to bypass their Legislatures to enact new laws, often with results that defy the desires of the state’s elected representatives. While they have been a tool of both parties in the past, Democrats have been particularly successful in recent years at using ballot initiatives to advance their agenda in conservative states where they have few other avenues. But this year, some Republican-led Legislatures have passed laws limiting the use of the practice, one piece of a broader GOP attempt to lock in political control for years to come.
Senate Democrats Introduce Legislation to Ban Political Committees from Using Prechecked Donation Boxes
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and Paul Farhi (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2021
A group of U.S. Senate Democrats introduced legislation that would ban political committees from automatically renewing campaign contributions without a donor’s explicit consent. The online fundraising tactic, which was embraced by former President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, has allowed federal candidates and political parties to shore up their coffers by prechecking a box online that sets up recurring donations – putting the onus on the donor to opt out. The practice has been criticized as deceptive and predatory.
Steve Bannon’s Fraud Case Dismissed After Months of Haggling over Trump
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2021
A federal judge formally dismissed the fraud case against Stephen Bannon, the conservative provocateur and ex-adviser to former President Trump, ending months of litigation over how the court system should handle his pardon while related criminal cases remain unresolved. U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres, citing examples of other cases being dismissed following a presidential reprieve, granted Bannon s application, ruling Trump’s pardon was valid and “dismissal of the Indictment is the proper course.”
Suited Up, K Street Returns
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 5/20/2021
After more than a year of virtual-only advocacy because of the pandemic, newly vaccinated K Street lobbyists are reemerging for meetings on Capitol Hill and in-person fundraisers, as well as meals and sit-downs to reconnect with clients and coworkers. Still, many say they expect the Zoom life to carry on as the industry wrestles with the future. Many lobbyists said Republicans were returning to in-real-life meetings more quickly. But new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the subsequent lifting of capacity limitations on restaurants and other gathering spots in the District of Columbia means lobbyists of both parties are filling up their calendars faster than they anticipated.
They Tried to Overturn the 2020 Election. Now They Want to Run the Next One.
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 5/24/2021
Some Republicans who challenged the legitimacy of President Biden’s victory are running for secretary of state in key battlegrounds that could decide control of Congress in 2022 and who wins the White House in 2024. Their candidacies come with former President Trump still fixated on spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election, insisting he won and lying about widespread and systemic fraud. Each of their states has swung between the two parties over the last decade. “Someone who is running for an election administration position whose focus is not the rule of law but instead ‘the end justifies the means,’ that’s very dangerous in a democracy,” said Bill Gates, the Republican vice chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Trump Justice Dept. Secretly Obtained CNN Correspondent’s Phone, Email Records
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 5/20/2021
The Justice Department under then-President Trump secretly obtained the phone and email records of CNN’s Pentagon correspondent, again illustrating how the previous administration was willing to seek journalists’ data to investigate disclosures of information it preferred to remain secret. The Justice Department had revealed that under Trump it had secretly obtained Washington Post journalists’ phone records and tried to obtain their email records. The seizure appears related to reporting during the early months of Trump’s presidency and focused on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Trump Tried to End Spygate Probe of New England Patriots by Offering Bribe, Late Senator’s Son Says
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2021
Donald Trump allegedly attempted to stop a congressional probe of the “Spygate” case involving the New England Patriots by offering a bribe to then-U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, the late senator’s son claimed. An ESPN report detailed how Trump, nearly a decade before he became president, allegedly acted on behalf of Patriots owner Robert Kraft when he met with Specter in 2008 to offer him “a lot of money in Palm Beach” if Spector dropped his investigation into the team. The Patriots were found to have violated league rules when they videotaped the defensive coaches for the New York Jets from an unauthorized location in 2007.
From the States and Municipalities
California – San Diego Crashes Its Own Campaign Disclosure Website
San Diego Reader – Matt Potter | Published: 5/21/2021
The city of San Diego’s online campaign disclosure system, at one time a stellar model of electronic reporting, now appears to have lost a key vendor and been down for weeks without any public announcement, except for a note on the site that filings would return soon. An early effort to use electronic filing via Netfile stalled out in 2005 after the city manager questioned its estimated annual cost but San Diego became one of the vendor’s first clients. What led city officials to dispense with Netfile in favor of what appears to be a home-grown filing and disclosure system remains a tightly held secret.
Connecticut – State Senator Dennis Bradley and Former Bridgeport School Board Chair Jessica Martinez Are Accused in a Federal Fraud Indictment of Stealing Public Campaign Funds
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney and Christopher Keating | Published: 5/25/2021
State Sen. Dennis Bradley Jr. and his campaign treasurer, Jessica Martinez, were charged with a conspiracy to cheat Connecticut’s public campaign financing system out of about $180,000. The indictment says Bradley secretly paid about $5,600 to cover drinks for 150 guests at a campaign event in violation of public campaign financing rules that limit candidates to spending $2,000 in personal funds on such events. He also is accused of using his or his law firm’s money to pay for invitations, a band, and other expenses.
Connecticut – The Supreme Court Orders a Constitutional Test of the State’s Campaign Finance Reforms After Two GOP Senators Are Punished for Criticizing a Democratic Governor
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney | Published: 5/20/2021
The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed decisions by the State Elections Enforcement Commission and a Superior Court, which fined former Republican state Senate candidates Joe Markley and Rob Sampson for breaking election law in 2014 by spending public campaign grants on literature criticizing then-Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy. the decision sends the case back to Superior Court with instructions to rule on a first amendment question: what candidates running for office with taxpayer campaign grants can say on the stump, or more specifically, who they can and cannot criticize.
Florida – Ethics Board Makes Recommendations to Bolster Tallahassee Lobbying Ordinance
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 5/20/2021
Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board approved a series of recommendations to strengthen the city’s lobbying ordinance, chiefly defining who is a lobbyist. Specifically citing reporting last year by the Tallahassee Democrat that detailed the intersection of lobbying, private business, political campaigns, and public policy, the board has worked to expand who would be considered a lobbyist and enact meaningful enforcement.
Florida – Florida Governor Signs Bill Barring Social Media Companies from Blocking Political Candidates
MSN – Kat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that aims to punish social media companies for their moderation decisions, a move Silicon Valley immediately criticized and likely sets the stage for potential legal challenges. The legislation would bar Internet companies from suspending political candidates in the run-up to elections. It also would also make it easier for the state attorney general and individuals to bring lawsuits when they think tech companies have acted unfairly. Legal experts and trade groups raised concerns about the constitutionality of the law and warned it gives the government too much power over online speech.
Florida – ‘Ghost’ Candidate in Key Florida State Senate Race Had Help from Controversial Political Consultant
MSN – Annie Martin and Jason Garcia (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 5/21/2021
About four months after political strategist Eric Foglesong pleaded guilty to stealing money from a campaign and was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution, he waded back into Orlando’s local elections, contributing nearly $900 to a pair of little-known independent candidates who filed to run in two legislative races. Foglesong also likely wrote the $1,187 check that paid the qualifying fee for one of those candidates. The candidacies of the two independents, Jestine Iannotti and Juan Rodriguez, were later promoted by Republican-linked groups with ads apparently meant to siphon support away from Democratic candidates.
Florida – New Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book Has Conflict of Interest as Republicans Quietly Shower Taxpayer Millions on Her Charity
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 5/20/2021
Lauren Book, the newly anointed leader of Florida’s Senate Democrats, has a financial conflict-of-interest that is raising questions about her loyalties as her party prepares for the challenge of redistricting in January. For the past two years, House and Senate Republicans showered the Book’s charity, Lauren’s Kids, with $4 million in taxpayer dollars. The appropriations, including $2 million awarded in the regular session that ended April 30, were camouflaged to make it difficult for the public to spot them.
Georgia – In Echo of Arizona, Georgia State judge Orders Fulton County to Allow Local Voters to Inspect Mailed Ballots Cast Last Fall
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2021
A state judge in Georgia ordered Fulton County to allow a group of local voters to inspect all 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in the 2020 election in response to a lawsuit alleging that officials accepted thousands of counterfeit ballots. The decision marks the latest instance of a local government being forced to undergo a third-party inspection of its election practices amid baseless accusations promoted by Donald Trump that fraud flipped the 2020 contest for President Biden.
Illinois – Former Chief of Staff to House Speaker Michael Madigan Charged with Lying to Federal Grand Jury in ComEd Probe
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 5/26/2021
Tim Mapes, who served for years under former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan as the clerk of the House and as his chief of staff, was indicted was charges of lying to a federal grand jury investigating allegations that Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) paid bribes in exchange for Madigan’s assistance pushing through legislation. The indictment alleged Mapes repeatedly lied during an appearance before the grand jury when asked about Madigan’s relationship with his confidant Michael McClain, who was charged with orchestrating the bribery scheme. ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate in the investigation.
Illinois – Multiple Charities Supported by ComEd Lobbied for Bills Favorable to the Utility Giant
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 5/26/2021
Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) gave nearly $9 million in the past year to nonprofit organizations. Critics say what some of those investments have yielded for ComEd is a de facto, ratepayer-underwritten lobbying force in Illinois that helped move some of the company’s legislative initiatives during the past decade. An analysis shows a pattern in which the same grant recipients that ratepayers subsidize are wearing dueling hats as utility company advocates before the General Assembly. The same is true for a long list of ComEd contractors who have advocated on behalf of the company. State law says utility companies like ComEd cannot make their customers pay for the cost of their lobbying expenses.
Illinois – State’s Top Fiscal Watchdog Misspent Nearly $250K In Campaign Funds, High Court Finds
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel | Published: 5/20/2021
State Auditor General Frank Mautino should not have spent nearly $250,000 in campaign funds for fuel and repairs to personal vehicles when he was a lawmaker, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled. But Mautino did not violate campaign finance law by spending campaign funds in round, whole numbers – what the local government accountability nonprofit whose investigation sparked the suit against Mautino called a common red flag in conducting audits. The high court found there was no evidence Mautino’s campaign committee paid more than fair market value for goods and services bought with campaign dollars.
Indiana – Watchdog Finds Ben Shoulders’ Campaign Money Moves ‘Odd,’ Lack of Answers ‘Troublesome’
MSN – Thomas Langhorne (Evansville Courier & Press) | Published: 5/24/2021
Vanderburgh County Commissioner Ben Shoulders reported two large transactions of campaign money in vague terms unchallenged by elections officials in his 2020 campaign finance report. Shoulders’ filing says the campaign paid him $10,592.72, calling it “personal expensea in error” (misspelling included). On another page it says Shoulders paid the campaign the same amount on the same date, calling that a “reimbursement for error.” There is no evidence Shoulders violated any laws. But there is also no explanation for how he could have mistakenly withdrawn such a sum from his campaign fund for personal use, how the money was spent, or even any documents supporting his contention both transactions happened on the same day.
Kentucky – Ex-State Employee Fined for Taking Bribes from Horse-Therapy Rehabilitation Center
MSN – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 5/20/2021
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission fined a former state employee $46,000 for accepting bribes while working for the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice. The commission found Shannon Anson accepted 23 payments worth $50,500 between August 2013 and July 2015 to refer kids in their care to the now-defunct Bluegrass Training and Therapy Center in Louisville. Anson was a social service specialist, which meant she was in charge of finding programs to place kids who went through the state agency.
Massachusetts – For Years, Investigators Have Sent Maura Healey Evidence of Illegal Campaign Finance Activity. She’s Never Prosecuted Any
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 5/24/2021
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has not acted in any of the cases alleging campaign finance violations sent to her office by a watchdog agency, declining at least nine times to pursue a lawsuit or a prosecution, including against candidates with a history of campaign infractions or fines. Officials have disclosed little about the 13 cases referred by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, four of which remain under review. That the state’s chief prosecutor decided none of the cases rose to the level of civil or criminal prosecution raises questions about how aggressively campaign finance laws are being enforced.
Nevada – Nevada GOP Thrown into Turmoil After Avowed Proud Boys Member Said He Participated in Censure Vote of State Official
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2021
The leaders of the Nevada Republican Party are facing an internal revolt after an avowed Proud Boys member said he was invited with friends to attend a state party meeting and cast the deciding votes in the censure of a state official who concluded the 2020 election in the state was not tainted by fraud. Members of the all-male far-right group have a history of violence. More than two dozen alleged members or supporters of the Proud Boys have been charged with committing crimes connected to the attack on the Capitol, and the Canadian government recently labeled the chapter there a terrorist entity.
New Hampshire – NH Senate Votes to End Voluntary Campaign Spending Limits, Increase Contribution, Reporting Thresholds
WMUR – John DiStaso | Published: 5/20/2021
Legislation to end the voluntary campaign spending limit program and change thresholds for contributions and reporting requirements was among several voting-related bill passed by the New Hampshire Senate. Donna Soucy, the Senate Democratic leader, opposed ending the voluntary spending limit program and increase in the reporting threshold. Soucy said she was concerned by ending the voluntary limit, “We are sending a message that we are not looking at campaign finance in a way where we would have the ability to limit ourselves in our activities.”
New Jersey – Assembly Campaign Donations to Union County Official Expose Pay-to-Play Loophole
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 5/19/2021
Several months after the Union County Improvement Authority awarded a no-bid contract to design a new $100 million county government complex in Elizabeth, top members of the architecture firm that received it donated to the nascent New Jersey Assembly campaign of a high-ranking authority official. The contributions do not appear to violate the state’s “pay-to-play” law, which bars contractors who receive no-bid contracts from giving to officials and political parties that can influence them. But they do expose one of many loopholes in the law.
New York – Chris Cuomo Took Part in Strategy Calls Advising His Brother, the New York Governor, on How to Respond to Sexual Harassment Allegations
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 5/20/2021
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and senior members of the governor’s staff on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations made earlier this year by women who had worked with the governor. The calls occurred earlier this year, when a growing number of claims that Andrew Cuomo made inappropriate comments or touched women without their permission had escalated into a political crisis for the governor. The behind-the-scenes strategy offered by Chris Cuomo cuts against the widely accepted norm in journalism that those reporting the news should not be involved in politics.
New York – Prosecutor in Trump Criminal Probe Convenes Grand Jury to Hear Evidence, Weigh Potential Charges
Seattle Times – Shayna Jacobs and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2021
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. convened the grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former President Trump, other executives at his company, or the business itself, should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges. The move indicates the investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. It also suggests Vance thinks he has found evidence of a crime — if not by Trump, by someone potentially close to him or by his company. Separately, New York Attorney General Letitia James began a civil investigation of the Trump Organization in 2019.
New York – Senate Democrats Shape Debate on Ethics Commission
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 5/25/2021
The state Senate passed legislation to reform the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). One bill removes partisan advantages built into the JCOPE appointment process, giving the legislative leaders of each conference two appointments. It would also remove the requirement that state officials can be investigated or found guilty of ethical violations only with the votes of at least two members of their own political party. They now would just need a vote of any eight members of JCOPE. Another bill would impose anti-sexual harassment training for lobbyists in Albany.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Commission Advances $10 Food/Drink Limit
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 5/26/2021
The North Dakota Ethics Commission is eyeing a limited food and drink exception in its gift rules for state government. The panel advanced the proposal for public comment through July 9. The rule is for a $10 limit on food and beverages purchased for public officials, who include state elected officials and lawmakers. A lobbyist gift ban took effect this year, prohibiting trinkets as nominal as cups and stress balls.
Ohio – Will the Ohio House Move on Resolutions to Expel Former Speaker Larry Householder?
MSN – Anna Staver and Jessie Balmert (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 5/26/2021
The big question circling the Ohio Capitol was whether the House would act on two resolutions to expel their former speaker, Larry Householder. Democratic and Republican lawmakers each introduced resolutions to vote Householder out of office for his alleged involvement in a $61 million bribery scheme to bail out two nuclear power plants. The House too away his speaker’s gavel a few weeks after his arrest, but the chamber has not voted on whether to expel him from office. Householder won re-election in November with more than 70 percent of the vote.
Pennsylvania – Lawmakers Report Receiving Fewer Gifts During Pandemic as Push for Ban Continues
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 5/21/2021
Every May, legislators and other public officials in Pennsylvania are required to file reports detailing, among other items, whether they received pricey gifts, transportation, or hospitality from lobbyists, businesses, or others with a stake in government. For many lawmakers, 2020 was a banner year for staying home and eschewing people bearing gifts, according to their disclosure forms. The few gifts of note came largely before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in March. Still, the push to ban elected officials from accepting gifts and other perks continues in the Legislature, despite past efforts that have largely been met with indifference.
Tennessee – Casada Linked to Phoenix Solutions Ownership
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 5/24/2021
The FBI is investigating whether former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada was owner of a shadowy vendor that did work for several Republicans and netted $231,000 from the House Republican Caucus, according to statements to a lawmaker. FBI agents searched the home of Cade Cothren, the former chief of staff for Casada who was fired two years ago in a texting scandal. Lawmakers who used Phoenix Solutions reportedly said they were told by Cothren or Rep. Robin Smith to make payments for work to Phoenix Solutions, a New Mexico-based company organized by Matthew Phoenix, who has disappeared since the FBI investigation took place and media started asking questions.
Texas – House Bill to Punish Lobbyists Accused of Harassment Gutted in Senate Committee
Dallas Morning News – Lauren McGaughy | Published: 5/20/2021
Texas senators amended a bill meant to punish lobbyists accused of sexual harassment, removing key enforcement and penalties the House wanted. But lawmakers hope to find a compromise in the waning days of the legislative session to ensure lobbyists will be included in anti-sexual harassment efforts going forward, after an alleged drugging incident roiled the Capitol earlier this session.
Washington – How Auto Dealers Lobbyist Wrote an Exemption into Washington’s New Capital Gains Tax Law
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 5/21/2021
Behind the scenes, the lobbyist for the Washington State Auto Dealers Association secured a special carve-out from the capital gains tax that many other Washington business owners may soon owe if they sell their companies. By the time the bill passed a key Senate committee, it included a provision exempting the “goodwill” portion of auto dealerships’ value, the amount attributed to brand and name recognition and community reputation. The exemption’s wording was virtually identical to language suggested by the auto dealers’ lobbyist, Scott Hazlegrove, in emails to the bill’s chief sponsor.
May 27, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Connecticut: “State Senator Dennis Bradley and Former Bridgeport School Board Chair Jessica Martinez Are Accused in a Federal Fraud Indictment of Stealing Public Campaign Funds” by Edmund Mahoney and Christopher Keating for Hartford Courant Indiana: “Watchdog Finds Ben […]
Connecticut: “State Senator Dennis Bradley and Former Bridgeport School Board Chair Jessica Martinez Are Accused in a Federal Fraud Indictment of Stealing Public Campaign Funds” by Edmund Mahoney and Christopher Keating for Hartford Courant
Indiana: “Watchdog Finds Ben Shoulders’ Campaign Money Moves ‘Odd,’ Lack of Answers ‘Troublesome’” by Thomas Langhorne (Evansville Courier & Press) for MSN
National: “They Tried to Overturn the 2020 Election. Now They Want to Run the Next One.” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
Florida: “‘Ghost’ Candidate in Key Florida State Senate Race Had Help from Controversial Political Consultant” by Annie Martin and Jason Garcia (Orlando Sentinel) for MSN
National: “Commerce Department Security Unit Evolved into Counterintelligence-Like Operation, Washington Post Examination Found” by Shawn Boburg (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Steve Bannon’s Fraud Case Dismissed After Months of Haggling over Trump” by Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) for MSN
Nevada: “Nevada GOP Thrown into Turmoil After Avowed Proud Boys Member Said He Participated in Censure Vote of State Official” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Senate Democrats Shape Debate on Ethics Commission” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Illinois: “Multiple Charities Supported by ComEd Lobbied for Bills Favorable to the Utility Giant” by Dave McKinney for WBEZ
North Dakota: “North Dakota Ethics Commission Advances $10 Food/Drink Limit” by Jack Dura for Bismarck Tribune
May 25, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Marjorie Taylor Greene Appeared in a Super PAC Ad Asking for Money. That Might Break the Rules.” by Isaac Arnsdorf for ProPublica Massachusetts: “For Years, Investigators Have Sent Maura Healey Evidence of Illegal Campaign Finance Activity. She’s […]
National: “Marjorie Taylor Greene Appeared in a Super PAC Ad Asking for Money. That Might Break the Rules.” by Isaac Arnsdorf for ProPublica
Massachusetts: “For Years, Investigators Have Sent Maura Healey Evidence of Illegal Campaign Finance Activity. She’s Never Prosecuted Any” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for MSN
New Jersey: “Assembly Campaign Donations to Union County Official Expose Pay-to-Play Loophole” by Matt Friedman for Politico
Georgia: “In Echo of Arizona, Georgia State judge Orders Fulton County to Allow Local Voters to Inspect Mailed Ballots Cast Last Fall” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “House Ethics Panel to Drop $5K Metal Detector Fines Against Clyburn, Rogers” by Cristina Marcos (The Hill) for MSN
Florida: “New Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book Has Conflict of Interest as Republicans Quietly Shower Taxpayer Millions on Her Charity” by Dan Christensen for Florida Bulldog
New York: “Chris Cuomo Took Part in Strategy Calls Advising His Brother, the New York Governor, on How to Respond to Sexual Harassment Allegations” by Josh Dawsey and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Suited Up, K Street Returns” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
Washington: “How Auto Dealers Lobbyist Wrote an Exemption into Washington’s New Capital Gains Tax Law” by Jim Brunner for Seattle Times
May 24, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Connecticut: “The Supreme Court Orders a Constitutional Test of the State’s Campaign Finance Reforms After Two GOP Senators Are Punished for Criticizing a Democratic Governor” by Edmund Mahoney for Hartford Courant New Hampshire: “NH Senate Votes to End […]
Connecticut: “The Supreme Court Orders a Constitutional Test of the State’s Campaign Finance Reforms After Two GOP Senators Are Punished for Criticizing a Democratic Governor” by Edmund Mahoney for Hartford Courant
New Hampshire: “NH Senate Votes to End Voluntary Campaign Spending Limits, Increase Contribution, Reporting Thresholds” by John DiStaso for WMUR
National: “Pardon-Probe Ruling Roils Legal Teams for Trump Ally Broidy, Associate” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
National: “Trump Justice Dept. Secretly Obtained CNN Correspondent’s Phone, Email Records” by Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) for MSN
Kentucky: “Ex-State Employee Fined for Taking Bribes from Horse-Therapy Rehabilitation Center” by Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald-Leader) for MSN
New York: “U.S. Inquiry into Cuomo Widens to Examine Virus Tests for ‘Specials’” by J.David Goodman for New York Times
Pennsylvania: “Lawmakers Report Receiving Fewer Gifts During Pandemic as Push for Ban Continues” by Angela Couloumbis for Spotlight PA
Florida: “Ethics Board Makes Recommendations to Bolster Tallahassee Lobbying Ordinance” by Karl Etters for Tallahassee Democrat
Texas: “House Bill to Punish Lobbyists Accused of Harassment Gutted in Senate Committee” by Lauren McGaughy for Dallas Morning News
May 21, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Administration’s Deep Ties to Uber, Lyft in Spotlight After Vaccine-Assistance Partnership Announced ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Lucien Bruggeman | Published: 5/17/2021 When the White House announced an agreement with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides […]
Biden Administration’s Deep Ties to Uber, Lyft in Spotlight After Vaccine-Assistance Partnership Announced
ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Lucien Bruggeman | Published: 5/17/2021
When the White House announced an agreement with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to vaccine sites as part of President Biden’s aim to inoculate 70 percent of Americans against the coronavirus by the Fourth of July, the partnership drew praise but also questions. The administration touted the arrangement as an answer to one of the vaccine effort’s toughest challenges: how to help people with limited transportation options get their shots. But it is also drawn attention to the role several senior administration officials once played in working and advocating for the rideshare companies, relationships already under scrutiny as the companies wade through government regulations and manage labor disputes.
Democrats Confront Reality on Voting Rights: Congress probably isn’t coming to the rescue
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2021
Asked about the path to enact new voting-rights laws, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer has offered a pat reply: “Failure is not an option.” Faced with a barrage of new state laws aiming to restrict voting outside Election Day, most Democrats agree with Schumer that the need for a federal backstop is essential. But failure is very much an option – it is, in fact, the most likely one. A Senate committee reached a partisan deadlock over Democrats’ overhaul of federal election, ethics, and campaign finance ethics, and campaign finance law, and there is no clear path to breaking it.
Dems Reach New Fundraising Deal, with Boost for GOP States
Associated Press News – Bill Barrow | Published: 5/14/2021
National and state Democratic officials have reached a joint fundraising deal to increase aid to state parties, with an extra boost for those in Republican-dominated states. The agreement is intended to allow the party’s wealthiest backers to contribute up to $875,000 annually to a combined fund that, under federal campaign finance rules, can be distributed to party accounts around the country. The deal is intended to run through 2024.
FBI Probing Possible Illegal Donations to Susan Collins PAC and Congressional Campaign, Search Warrant Indicates
MSN – Emily Davies (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2021
The FBI has launched a probe into possible illegal campaign contributions funded by a defense company that supported U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’s 2020 re-election campaign, according to a search warrant application. Nothing in the warrant indicates Collins or her staff were aware of the allegedly illegal donations. The application outlined reasons investigators believe the former chief executive of Navatek, now known as Martin Defense Group, funneled donations funded by the company to a PAC supporting Collins through a shell company and donations to the Collins for Senator campaign through his family members.
Gaetz Associate Admits to Sex Trafficking of a Minor, Agrees in Writing to Cooperate Fully with Prosecutors
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 5/14/2021
A Florida politician considered key to the investigation of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz agreed to cooperate fully with federal prosecutors as he admitted in a plea agreement that he paid a minor to engage in sex acts with him and others. The agreement Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector for Seminole County, is an ominous sign for Gaetz. Even before he had accepted a plea deal, Greenberg had been outlining to prosecutors how he and Gaetz would pay women for sex, in hopes of convincing them he could be a witness against Gaetz and earn a break for himself.
Government Watchdog Says Fudge Violated Hatch Act
Politico – Daniel Lippman | Published: 5/13/2021
The Office of Special Counsel concluded Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in political activities while on the job, earlier this year when she opined on the 2022 U.S. Senate election in Ohio. When a reporter asked her about the Senate race in her home state, she responded that she had two friends, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who were thinking of running. Both have since launched statewide campaigns, although Whaley is running for governor instead.
Greene Searched Capitol Office Building for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, 2019 Video Shows
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 5/14/2021
Less than two years before Marjorie Taylor Greene became a member of Congress, she walked the halls of a congressional office building with a few men searching for a new Democratic congresswoman from New York named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A deleted video from February 2019 shows Greene arriving at Ocasio-Cortez’s office door to find it locked. She, and the men with her, then taunt her staff through a mail slot and defile her guest book, all while mocking Ocasio-Cortez.
Inspired by Arizona Recount, Trump Loyalists Push to Revisit Election Results in Communities Around the Country
MSN – Amy Gardner and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/19/2021
The ramifications of former President Trump’s ceaseless attacks on the 2020 election are increasingly visible throughout the country. In emails, phone calls, and public meetings, his supporters are questioning how their elections are administered and pressing public officials to revisit the vote count, wrongly insisting Trump won the presidential race. Behind the scenes, a loose network of lawyers, self-styled election experts, and political groups is bolstering community efforts by demanding audits, filing lawsuits, and pushing unsubstantiated claims that residents are echoing in public meetings.
Manchester’s Political Contributions, Ambassador Nod Are Subject of Criminal Probe
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 5/14/2021
A federal grand jury issued subpoenas in a criminal investigation into the nomination of developer Douglas Manchester as ambassador to the Bahamas by former President Trump. The case appears to focus on the Republican National Committee (RNC) and its two senior leaders, and possibly members of Congress. Weeks after Manchester withdrew his nomination, emails surfaced indicating he was at the center of a possible “pay-to-play” arrangement with the RNC. CBS News disclosed exchanges between RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel and Manchester that implied he would make additional donations to the GOP after winning confirmation.
This Biden Pick Has Worked for Top Offshore Wind Firms. Now He’s Poised to Help Oversee the Industry.
Anchorage Daily News – Joshua Partlow and Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2021
Tommy Beaudreau spent the Trump years as a corporate lawyer working for energy companies of all stripes, including many of the developers that are key to the Biden administration’s goal of building thousands of offshore wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean. Beaudreau is now poised to be confirmed as the number-two official at the Interior Department, which will decide whether these projects should receive federal permits to start construction after evaluating their environmental impact. Although some environmental groups have criticized him for his corporate work for fossil fuel companies, it is his private practice work for a wide swath of the offshore wind industry that may force him to sit out key decisions.
Three GOP Lawmakers Fined $500 for Defying House Mask Rules Amid Republican Backlash: ‘Worth it.’
MSN – Andrea Salcedco (Washington Post) | Published: 5/19/2021
As the U.S. House finished voting recently, a group of Republicans gathered on the floor, smiled, and huddled for a selfie. None wore masks. They were among about a dozen Republican lawmakers who openly defied the decision by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to keep a mask mandate on the floor until all lawmakers and staff are vaccinated. Now three of those GOP lawmakers – Brian Mast, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a physician, and Beth Van Duyne – face $500 fines for breaking the rules. All three were fined because this was the second time that they defied the mask mandate.
White House Releases Biden’s Tax Returns in Restoration of Presidential Tradition
CNN – Jason Hoffman, Maegan Vazquez, and Allie Malloy | Published: 5/17/2021
The White House released the 2020 tax returns for both President Biden and Vice President Harris, restoring a presidential tradition that had been ignored under former President Trump. The White House also released the first and second families’ financial public financial disclosure reports. Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to give a veiled criticism of Biden’s predecessor, telling reporters that the White House expects to “continue to release the president’s tax returns as should be expected of all presidents.”
Canada – Trudeau Cleared in WE Charity Controversy, but Ethics Commissioner Finds Morneau Broke the Rules
Globe and Mail – Bill Curry and Marieke Walsh | Published: 5/13/2021
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was cleared in the ethics commissioner’s investigation into the WE Charity controversy, but former Finance Minister Bill Morneau was found in breach of the Conflict of Interest Act. Commissioner Mario Dion released the two reports almost a year after the scandal erupted, leading to multiple probes by House of Commons committees and officers of Parliament, the resignation of a finance minister and the downfall of one of Canada’s most prominent charities.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Our Democracy Is Imperiled’: Maricopa County officials decry 2020 recount as a sham and call on Arizona Republicans to end the process
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/17/2021
The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors denounced an ongoing audit of the 2020 election vote as a “sham” and a “con,” calling on the GOP-led state Senate to end the controversial recount that has been championed by former President Trump. Board members said the audit has been inept, promoted falsehoods, and defamed the public servants who ran the fall election. In a calculated show of unity, they were joined by Maricopa’s other elected officials: the sheriff, a Democrat; and the Republican county recorder, who leads the elections office.
California – After French Laundry Dinner, a Lobbying Boom for Newsom Adviser’s Firm
MSN – Alexei Koseff (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 5/19/2021
An uncomfortable spotlight shone on lobbyist Jason Kinney last year after he hosted an infamous birthday dinner attended by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The event violated California’s social distancing rules at the time and unleashed a political storm for Newsom. But the notoriety may have boosted Kinney’s fortunes in an industry where personal connections are the primary currency. Billings by lobbying firm Axiom Advisors, where Kinney is a partner, rose by more than 25 percent last quarter. Among more than 60 clients on the company’s roster during those three months, nine had newly hired Axiom Advisors to lobby on their behalf.
California – California Recall Candidates Use Auto-Donation Tactic Trump Made Famous
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 5/17/2021
California recall candidates are charging donors recurring campaign contributions through a tactic made famous by former President Trump and condemned by the FEC. Republican contenders Caitlyn Jenner and Doug Ose have preset their donation pages to charge repeat contributions every month as well as a “May Money Pledge” bonus contribution. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s re-election page at one point defaulted to a recurring donation as well, though it no longer does. Consumer advocates and campaign finance officials say the tactic misleads donors into giving more money than they intend because they must uncheck boxes to ensure they are not regularly charged. Automatic deductions can be difficult to stop once they begin.
California – How Donors Give Millions to Garcetti-Backed Nonprofit and Keep Their Identities Secret
Yahoo News – Dakota Smith and Melody Gutierrez (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/13/2021
An analysis of more than $60 million given to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s charity fund found at least $3.8 million came from those who donated through accounts that mask their identity. Open-government groups say charitable gifts made on behalf of elected officials may go to worthy causes, but it remains critical to identify where the gifts come from to ensure the public knows the donor’s background. In some cases, companies that donate at the request of elected officials have business before the state or local governments, such as contracts or regulatory decisions.
California – Nuru Scandal: Permit expediter Walter Wong to repay SF $1.7M
San Francisco Examiner – Joshua Sabatini | Published: 5/13/2021
Longtime permit expediter and city contractor Walter Wong agreed to repay San Francisco more than $1.7 million in money earned through public contracts plus penalties after he pleaded guilty to federal charges tied to the FBI City Hall corruption probe. Wong will repay The City $1.45 million for contracts and grants he and his companies were awarded without a competitive process through his relationships with former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru and former general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Harlan Kelly. Wong also agreed to pay $317,650 in penalties and late fees for ethics violations.
Florida – New Florida Law Strikes Down Tallahassee Contribution Limits in Local Races
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 5/14/2021
Leon County and Tallahassee’s $250 campaign contribution limit is no more after the Florida Legislature preempted local governments’ ability to put a cap on how much an individual can give to candidates. Senate Bill 1890 was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis but will not go into effect until July 1. It raises the campaign contribution for city and countywide offices, as well as local judicial seats to $1,000 per donor. It also increases statewide contribution limits to $3,000.
Idaho – Advocates: Giddings should be held accountable for doxxing Jane Doe
Idaho Press – Eric Sheridan | Published: 5/18/2021
A crowd gathered on the steps of the statehouse to call for Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings to be held accountable for sharing the personal details of the 19-year-old who accused former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger of raping her. Von Ehlinger resigned following a committee hearing, where he was found to have engaged in behavior “unbecoming” of a representative. Prior to the hearing, Giddings twice published a link to a blog that named the 19-year-old. Jane Doe’s photograph and other personal information have since circulated, causing local advocacy groups to call for the Legislature, U.S. Air Force, and Idaho Air National Guard to hold Giddings accountable and remove her from leadership roles.
Illinois – With Weeks of Session Left, Dueling Ethics Bills Stalling Despite Multiple Corruption Scandals
Bloomington Pantagraph – Ben Szalinski (State Journal Register) | Published: 5/17/2021
Since Illinois lawmakers last had a full spring session in 2019, four one-time state lawmakers have been arrested on corruption charges. Three resigned after being charged, and federal investigators pursued charges on other individuals with close connections to the statehouse and the former House speaker. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle stressed the need for ethics reform following the scandals, yet no legislation that directly addresses the actions of their former colleagues has reached floor debate.
Iowa – Iowa Democrats File Ethics Complaints Accusing Heritage Action of Illegal Lobbying
MSN – Stephanie Gruber-Miler (Des Moines Register) | Published: 5/18/2021
Iowa House Democrats filed ethics complaints accusing two Heritage Action representatives of violating state lobbying law. In a leaked video, the national conservative group claimed credit for writing parts of a recently approved election law in Iowa. The complaints accuse the Heritage Action staffers of violated the law by failing to register as lobbyists and failing to declare on a bill prior to advocating for its passage. The Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board also sent a letter to the group asking for information on its lobbying efforts.
Louisiana – Louisiana May Soon Lift Campaign Finance Limits on PACs
Associated Press News – Melinda Deslatte | Published: 5/19/2021
Candidates in Louisiana would be able to take unlimited sums directly from PACs under a bill that moved nearer to final passage. Sen. Ed Price said he sponsored the legislation to do away with restrictions on contributions that largely come from special interest groups as “more of a transparency bill than anything.” He said candidates trying to get around the limits have created multiple PACs of their own to accept the cash to help them with races. He said that makes it harder for the public to track the donations and see who is contributing to a candidate’s election effort.
Maryland – Legislation Will Extend State Rules on Gift-Giving to MACo and MML
Maryland Matters – Bennett Leckrone | Published: 5/17/2021
Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill that will ban state officials and employees from retaliating against someone who reports a violation of Maryland’s ethics law or participates in an ethics investigation. Senate Bill 4 will also close a loophole in the state’s rules on gifts to lawmakers by extending those rules to the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties. Senate President Bill Ferguson’s chief of staff, Yaakov Weissmann, said the amendment was introduced to ensure the state’s ethics law applies evenly to all organizations. He said the issue was first brought to Ferguson’s attention when lobbying firms raised questions about how to conduct virtual events due to the pandemic.
Massachusetts – An ‘Army of 16-Year-Olds’ Takes on the Democrats
New York Times – Ellen Barry | Published: 5/19/2021
Calla Walsh is a leader in the group of activists known in Boston as the Markeyverse. Walsh, a 16-year-old high school junior, is also representative of an influential new force in Democratic politics, activists who cut their teeth on the presidential campaigns of U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The full strength of these activists, many of whom are not old enough to vote, did not become clear until last fall, when they were key to one of the year’s most surprising upsets, helping U.S. Sen. Edward Markey defeat a primary challenge from Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, who had been heavily favored to win.
Massachusetts – Jury Convicts Ex-Fall River Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II of Extortion, Wire Fraud, Filing False Tax Returns
MSN – Shelley Murphy (Boston Globe) | Published: 5/14/2021
Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was convicted of stealing money from investors in his start-up to bankroll his lavish lifestyle and soliciting bribes from marijuana vendors who wanted to operate in the city. Before Correia became mayor, prosecutors say he lured investors to support his app called “SnoOwl” by falsely claiming he previously sold another business for a big profit. Prosecutors say he used nearly two-thirds of the almost $400,000 he took from investors on himself and spent it on things like fancy hotels, casinos, high-end restaurants, and expensive gifts for his girlfriend.
Michigan – Gov. Whitmer Discloses Cost of Trip to Visit Her Father and How It Was Paid For
MSN – Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 5/14/2021
A nonprofit corporation paid most of the $27,521 cost of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s contentious private plane trip to visit her father. Whitmer used her personal funds to pay the $855 cost of her seat. That was calculated as the comparable cost of a first-class ticket, said gubernatorial spokesperson Tiffany Brown. The disclosures followed weeks of criticism of Whitmer for refusing to say when she left the state to visit her father during the coronavirus pandemic, at a time that Michigan residents were being cautioned about travel.
Montana – MT Supreme Court Rejects AG Request to Disqualify Itself in Email Case
KTVH – Mike Dennison | Published: 5/12/2021
A unanimous Montana Supreme Court rejected a request by state Attorney General Austin Knudsen to disqualify all seven of its justices from the case involving its internal documents and alleged bias. Justice Laurie McKinnon, writing for the court, said the Republican-led Legislature “manufactured a conflict” by issuing subpoenas to the justices, seeking the documents, and attacking a court or judge is not sufficient grounds to force them to step down from the case. She said it is the court’s job to decide the legality of the legislative subpoenas and stepping aside would be shirking its constitutional duty.
New York – Investigation of Trump Organization Now Exploring Possible Criminal Conduct, N.Y. Attorney General’s Office Says
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2021
New York Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation into the Trump Organization is now considered a criminal matter, her office said, noting officials with the former president’s company were recently apprised of the development. The attorney general’s notification to the Trump Organization suggested a cooperative relationship has developed between investigators working for James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., whose office has been heading a criminal probe into the company and its officers since 2018.
New York – NYC Comptroller Candidate Dave Weprin’s Use of Campaign Cash to Pay Fine Is ‘Not Permissible’: Election lawyer
MSN – Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 5/18/2021
New York City comptroller candidate and state Assemblyperson David Weprin took seven years to fully pay off a six-figure debt to the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and when he finally did, he used money raised through his state political fund. CFB documents Weprin signed to qualify for matching funds require he and others affiliated with his city campaign acknowledge personal responsibility for any fines incurred. That, said election lawyer John Ciampoli, could pose a legal problem for Weprin because while state election law allows candidates to use state campaign finance cash to pay off fines in connection to an election, it does not permit them to do so to pay down personal liabilities.
New York – What’s a ‘Bundler,’ And How Are They Bringing Money to the Mayoral Race?
Gothamist – David Cruz | Published: 5/18/2021
Two dozen people who are limited from contributing to New York City mayoral candidates because of their business ties with the city are legally circumventing those restrictions by serving as so-called bundlers. So far, campaign records show the campaigns of Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, and Scott Stringer are among the candidates in this election cycle who have received thousands of dollars in donations on behalf of bundlers. Experts say that while permissible, such an arrangement, which has been criticized by the city Campaign Finance Board, allows bundlers to boost their chances of getting facetime with those primed to acquire power.
North Carolina – Powerful NC Politician Who Stole from GOP Donors Shouldn’t Go to Prison, Feds Say
MSN – Will Doran (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 5/19/2021
One of the most powerful lawmakers in North Carolina likely will not be spending any time behind bars for a campaign finance scheme that prosecutors say he ran to defraud conservative donors. Federal prosecutors recommended only probation for former state Rep. David Lewis, who could have faced up to 30 years in prison. Lewis pleaded guilty to multiple federal crimes last year and gave back the money he took, rather than trying to fight the case at trial, which prosecutors said contributed to their decision to go easy on him.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Attorneys: Political donations in federal bribery probe are protected by the First Amendment
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/19/2021
FirstEnergy wants to dismiss a lawsuit brought by shareholders alleging securities fraud, saying the company’s political donations were protected by the First Amendment. FirstEnergy has been under scrutiny since it was alleged former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others engaged in a $61 million bribery scheme to pass a bailout for two nuclear plants, then owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, and defend that law against a ballot initiative. A FirstEnergy subsidiary donated most of that money. “At most, the complaint alleges that Householder received contributions, but it is not bribery to support politicians who favor policies that align with one’s interests,” FirstEnergy attorneys wrote in a court motion.
Ohio – Ohio Democrats and Republicans Seek More Transparency for Dark Money Politics
MSN – Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 5/14/2021
In the wake of the largest public corruption case in Ohio history, lawmakers are pushing bills that call for more transparency for “dark money” in politics. State Reps. Diane Grendell and Mark Fraizer introduced House Bill 13, which they call the Light of Day Bill. The bill would require 501(c)4 nonprofit organizations to disclose political spending and donors.
Pennsylvania – At the Pa. Turnpike Commission, Layoffs and Other Big Business Largely Decided Behind Closed Doors
MSN – Jonathan Silver (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) | Published: 5/17/2021
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission meets mostly behind closed doors and fails to deliberate in public while making critical decisions that impact the lives of millions of people. Though some meetings are exempt from the public, the termination of a quarter of the agency’s workforce last year amounted to the type of decision that should have been carried out in the open, say legal experts. The five commissioners for years have approved major expenditures, from billion-dollar bond issues to large contracts, while following a similar pattern: closed-door meetings followed by brief public voting sessions with no debate and few dissenting opinions.
Pennsylvania – FBI Probe of Massive Pa. Pension Fund Seeks Evidence of Kickbacks or Bribery
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) and Joseph DiStefano and Craig McCoy (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 5/14/2021
Federal prosecutors investigating Pennsylvania’s $64 billion public school pension fund are looking for evidence of kickbacks or bribery as they explore why the plan exaggerated investment returns and spent heavily to amass real estate in Harrisburg. Subpoenas demand information from the fund itself, its executive director, and at least three other senior officials. The documents lay bare the scope of the probe and reveal prosecutors and the FBI are investigating possible “honest services” fraud and wire fraud.
Pennsylvania – Pa.’s Top Two Republicans Announce Plans for Lobbying Reform, But Is It Enough?
Pennsylvania Capital-Star – Marley Parish | Published: 5/17/2021
A new package of bills could tighten the guidelines for Pennsylvania lobbyists. Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and House Speaker Bryan Cutler unveiled plans to draft legislation and build on the state’s existing law by regulating lobbyists’ influence and establishing a code of conduct. Under the proposal, lobbyists would be required to disclose and register any client conflicts and potential assets and complete annual ethics training. Campaign consultants, who also would be required to register, would be prevented from registering as lobbyists and lobbying elected officials for two years.
Pennsylvania – The Hidden Tab
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis, Mike Wereschagin, Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch | Published: 5/12/2021
The Pennsylvania Legislature spent $203 million from 2017 through 2020 to feed, house, transport, and provide rental offices and other perks for lawmakers and their staffs. About $20 million in all over the four years went directly into lawmakers’ pockets in the form of reimbursements for meals, mileage subsidies, per diems, and other expenses. It is a difficult, time-consuming, and potentially costly process to figure out what lawmakers are buying with taxpayer money. Though spending records are public upon request, legislative officials do not provide the information in an easy-to-use format. Often, key details are redacted.
Tennessee – Registry Director Now Questions Whether State Law Allowed Ketron Payment Plan
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 5/20/2021
A month after the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance authorized its executive director to negotiate a payment plan with Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron on a $135,000 civil penalty, Bill Young, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, is raising doubts about whether such a move would have been legal. The question could be moot, at least for now, after Ketron’s attorney told Young the mayor is withdrawing his request to set up a payment plan and will pay the entire $135,000 in a lump sum.
Tennessee – Tennessee to Rebid $123M Contract Amid Rigging Accusations
Associated Press News – Travis Loller | Published: 5/10/2021
The Tennessee Department of Correction said it will rebid a $123 million contract for behavioral health services after a lawsuit accused a state official of rigging the bidding process. Tennessee-based prison contractor Corizon claims the Correction Department’s former chief financial officer, Wesley Landers sent internal emails related to the contract to a vice president at Centurion of Tennessee. In return, Landers got a “cushy” job with a Centurion affiliate in Georgia, the lawsuit claims.
Wisconsin – A ‘Community for All’? Not So Fast, This Wisconsin County Says
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 5/18/2021
There was a yearlong debate over whether Marathon County, Wisconsin, should declare itself “a community for all.” When George Floyd was killed, communities and businesses engaged in a reckoning over social justice, diversity, and inclusion. But while scores of other communities adopted new policies and issued proclamations vowing to make progress, the residents of Marathon County, which is 91 percent white, could not agree on what to say. About the only consensus that has emerged is the prolonged fight over the phrase has only made things worse, ripping at the communal fabric in this central Wisconsin county and amplifying the tensions that had been simmering before Floyd’s death.
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