January 26, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House” by Bill Allison (Bloomberg) for MSN New Jersey: “Hoboken City Council Tightens Pay-to-Play Laws Before Mayoral Election” by Marilyn Bear for Hudson Reporter Ethics National: “Supreme […]
National: “‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House” by Bill Allison (Bloomberg) for MSN
New Jersey: “Hoboken City Council Tightens Pay-to-Play Laws Before Mayoral Election” by Marilyn Bear for Hudson Reporter
National: “Supreme Court Ends Lawsuits Alleging That Trump Illegally Profited from Business Interests” by Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “As L.A. City Hall Corruption Probe Endures, Ethics-Reform Bids Launched – but Will Any Take Hold?” by Elizabeth Chou for Los Angeles Daily News
Michigan: “Corrupt UAW Boss Wore Wire While Playing Golf with Union Brothers” by Robert Snell for Detroit News
Mississippi: “Charter Schools Receive Taxpayer Dollars. Should Their Board Members Follow State Ethics Laws?” by Kate Royals for Mississippi Today
Connecticut: “Joe Aresimowicz Is Latest House Speaker to Go Through ‘Revolving Door’ Into Lobbying – As 6 of 7 Speakers Since 1989 Have Done” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant
New Mexico: “Lobbyists Adjust to New Reality of Virtual Session” by Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) for New Mexico Political Report
January 25, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Shell Companies and ‘Dark Money’ May Hide Details of Trump Ties to DC Protests” by Anna Massoglia for Center for Resposive Politics Mississippi: “Gov. Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Raised $1.6M from Unknown Donors, Paid Family Member’s Company” by […]
National: “Shell Companies and ‘Dark Money’ May Hide Details of Trump Ties to DC Protests” by Anna Massoglia for Center for Resposive Politics
Mississippi: “Gov. Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Raised $1.6M from Unknown Donors, Paid Family Member’s Company” by Luke Ramseth for Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
New Mexico: “Secretary of State to Pursue Fines, Enforcement in Cowboys for Trump Case” by Nicole Maxwell (Alamogordo News) for MSN
National: “Kroger Unknowingly Funneled Donations to a Militant Group. After the Capitol Riots, It’s Cutting It Off.” by Teo Armus (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “State Auditors Flag Land Purchase Between City and Former Mayor Kathy Meehan’s Relatives” by Rick Neale for MSN
Illinois: “Madigan No Longer ‘Mr. Speaker,’ but He’s Still ‘Public Official A’” by Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Virginia: “Censure Move Goes Forward Against GOP Contender for Va. Governor” by Laura Vozzella and Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) for MSN
Nevada: “Legislative Building Will Be Closed to Public at Start of Session, Is Expected to Open More After Vaccinations” by Michelle Rindell for Nevada Independent
National: “Beau Biden Foundation to Deny Lobbyist Donations, Make Major Donors Public” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
January 22, 2021 •
National/Federal As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign – and What It Says About American Democracy MSN – David Nakamura (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2021 President Trump’s four years in office ended after a reign defined […]
As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign – and What It Says About American Democracy
MSN – David Nakamura (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2021
President Trump’s four years in office ended after a reign defined by constant chaos, corruption, and scandal, a tenure that numerous scholars predict is destined to rank him among America’s worst presidents. Trump’s claims of policy victories, including a raft of conservative judges and steps toward Middle East peace, will be overshadowed by his mismanagement of the pandemic and his unprecedented assault on the U.S. election results, they said. Historians preparing to reckon with his legacy say it is not just Trump who will be examined in the harsh reflection of history’s mirror, but also American society and the nation’s commitment to democracy.
Biden Ethics Order Marks Departure from Trump Administration
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko | Published: 1/19/2021
Ethics rules implemented by President Biden are intended to minimize the ethics minefield posed by the “revolving door” of incoming former lobbyists and consultants who typically staff presidential administrations, as well as the future employment of departing officials who often find lucrative jobs in Washington, D.C.’s influence industry. Under the order, officials who leave the administration will be prohibited from lobbying the White House for Biden’s duration in office. Those who depart toward the end of his tenure will be prohibited from lobbying the White House for at least two years. One provision prohibits incoming administration officials from accepting “golden parachute” payments from their former employers for taking a government job.
Census Bureau Says Trump’s Push to Exclude Undocumented Is Dead
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 1/16/2021
President Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census totals used to apportion congressional seats is officially dead. The Census Bureau announced that data on apportionment and a related calculation of the number of undocumented immigrants Trump has specifically requested would not be released until after Joe Biden is sworn in. Biden has said he opposed Trump’s efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants, who have historically been included. The agreement arose from a suit from the National Urban League and other plaintiffs opposed to the plan over the accuracy of the census.
Democrats Seek Momentum for Voting, Political Money Overhaul
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/19/2021
Senate Democrats, with the slimmest possible majority in the chamber, signaled a symbolic first order of business: a major overhaul of the nation’s voting, campaign finance, and ethics laws. The measure, dubbed HR 1 in the House and now christened in the Senate as S 1 to signify that it is a top priority, died in the GOP-controlled Senate last Congress. Democrats, as well as outside groups pushing for passage, said the overhaul would help shore up voters’ confidence in a democracy damaged by a violent attempted insurrection at the Capitol and after four years of corruption scandals and flouting of ethics norms during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Democrats Seize on GOP Donor Fallout
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/16/2021
Democrats are seizing on the fallout from donors distancing themselves from Republicans, with lawmakers and advocacy groups saying it is a rare opportunity to change fundraising rules and the influence corporations have on campaigns. Progressives are ramping up calls to permanently eliminate corporate PAC contributions, while moderate Democrats see an opening to win over business groups and leaders who have traditionally thrown much of their support behind Republicans. Corporate donors are freezing their PACs and reassessing their giving strategies while others say they would not give any money to Republicans who voted to challenge the election results.
Energy Secretary Nominee Jennifer Granholm Has Millions in Energy Investments
MSN – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 1/20/2021
President Joe Biden’s energy secretary pick, Jennifer Granholm, disclosed millions of dollars of investments in corporate and private business interests, including millions in companies linked to the energy industry, as lawmakers prepare to consider her nomination. The former Michigan governor and her husband, Daniel Mulhern, reported owning from $4.4 million up to $16.8 million in corporate interests and private assets like residential real estate properties, according to her new financial disclosure report. Granholm joins a series of Biden nominees who have ties to corporate and private interests, which have raised concerns over potential conflict-of-interest.
Groups with Biden Ties Pose Ethics Quandary for His Administration
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 1/18/2021
The University of Delaware’s Biden Institute promises in its mission statement to embody the spirit of “honesty, integrity, compassion and courage” it says have defined President Biden’s career in politics. The research center he helped launch to promote scholarship on public policy has the potential to become an ethical headache for his administration. The institute does not disclose all its donors and has not committed to doing so once Biden is sworn in as president. The institute continues to engage in a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign, which could attract donations from those interested in currying favor with the administration. The institute is one of a network of charitable organizations and academic centers bearing Biden’s name.
How Twitter, on the Front Lines of History, Finally Decided to Ban Trump
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Nitasha Tiku (Wasjington Post) | Published: 1/16/2021
Twitter banned President Trump permanently. In an instant, the megaphone of the leader of the free world was wiped out, along with his following of 88 million he had built throughout his presidency, some of whom amplified his every word. It also ended an era of free speech online that Twitter, which a senior executive once referred to as “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” had itself helped create. A dozen current and former employees and close observers of the company reconstructed the critical decision, marked by tearful meetings, bitter internal arguments, and the culmination of years of debate within the company.
Justice Dept. Will Not Pursue Charges Against Sen. Richard Burr Over Stock Sales at Outset of Pandemic
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 1/19/2021
The Justice Department ended its investigation into U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and will not pursue charges against the North Carolina Republican, who was being probed for stock sales he made before the coronavirus pandemic crashed global markets. Burr was one of a number of senators to come under investigation last year for stock sales they made before the pandemic’s effect on the markets. As the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Burr had received frequent briefings and reports on the threat of the coronavirus. Burr said he relied on public information rather than information he was specifically privy to as a lawmaker. His case, though, was always considered more serious than those of the other lawmakers.
Lawmakers Who Conspired with Capitol Attackers in Legal Peril
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 1/14/2021
Lawmakers who interacted with the pro-Trump protesters who rioted at the Capitol on January 6 could face criminal charges and will almost certainly come under scrutiny in the burgeoning federal investigation into the assault, former prosecutors said. Unlike with the president, there is no Justice Department policy shielding members of Congress from legal accountability while in office. The role members of Congress may have played in facilitating the attack drew intense attention this week after Democratic lawmakers alleged some of their Republican colleagues facilitated tours of the Capitol one day before demonstrators engaged in the assault that terrorized lawmakers, ransacked congressional offices, and left as many as five people dead.
Rallies Ahead of Capitol Riot Were Planned by Established Washington Insiders
MSN – Robert O’Harrow Jr. (Washington Post) | Published: 1/17/2021
The fiery rallies that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol were organized and promoted by an array of established conservative insiders and activists, documents and videos show. The Republican Attorneys General Association was involved, as were the activist groups Turning Point Action and Tea Party Patriots. At least six current or former members of the Council for National Policy, an influential group that for decades has served as a hub for conservative and Christian activists, also played roles in promoting the rallies. The two days of rallies were staged not by white nationalists and other extremists, but by well-funded nonprofit groups and individuals that figure prominently in the machinery of conservative activism in Washington.
Trump Grants Clemency to 143 People in Late-Night Pardon Blast
MSN – Rosalind Heldrman, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 1/20/2021
President Trump granted clemency to 143 people, using a final act of presidential power to extend mercy to former White House strategist Stephen Bannon, well-connected celebrities, and nonviolent drug offenders but he did not preemptively pardon himself or his family. The last-minute clemency extended to Bannon underscores how Trump has used his presidential power to benefit allies and political backers. He had previously pardoned or commuted the sentences of his former campaign chairperson, former national security adviser, and a former campaign foreign policy adviser.
Trump Revokes Administration Ethics Rules on His Way Out the Door
National Public Radio – Tamara Keith | Published: 1/20/2021
In one of his final acts in office, President Trump revoked an executive order on ethics he signed when he first took office, freeing the way for people who have served in his administration to cash in with lobbying jobs. When Trump signed the order, he hailed it as a fulfillment of his campaign promise to “drain the swamp.” Among other things, it banned administration officials from lobbying the agencies where they worked for a full five years after the termination of their employment.
Canada – Two N.B. Reactor Developers Defend Use of Liberal-Connected Lobbyists
MSN – Jacques Poitras (CBC) | Published: 1/19/2021
The two companies developing small modular nuclear reactors in New Brunswick are defending their use of Liberal Party-connected lobbyists. ARC Nuclear has former Premier Shawn Graham working on their behalf, while Moltex Energy is using Jordan O’Brien, the one-time chief of staff to another Liberal premier, Brian Gallant. Consultants and in-house lobbyists dealing with the provincial government have been required to register publicly since 2017. Graham’s registration to lobby the federal government for ARC Nuclear lists him as “inactive.”
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Banned from the Capitol, Alaska Lobbyists Contend with Pandemic Predicament
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 1/20/2021
Lobbyists are paid for access to and intelligence on what is happening in the Alaska Capitol, but for now, they are banned from the building. They are also contending with a disorganized power structure. It has been more than two months since the election, but the Senate only recently formed a ruling majority and the House still has no one in charge. Lobbyists say the power vacuum and their loss of in-person access to the Capitol will be an undeniable obstacle as they seek to influence policy and provide lawmakers information from businesses, local governments, organized labor, and other interests.
Arkansas – New Lawmaker Fined Over Ethics Violation; Former Rival Off Hook
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 1/17/2021
State Rep. Ashley Hudson agreed to pay a $50 fine and receive a public letter of caution in a settlement of a complaint filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission. Former Rep. Jim Sorvillo corrected an unintentional campaign reporting error within 30 days of learning about the mistake, so the commission found Sorvillo did not violate state ethics law, commission Director Graham Sloan said.
California – After Anonymous Donation to Newsom Recall, Democrat Revives Campaign Finance Proposal
Sacramento Bee – Lara Korte | Published: 1/13/2021
California Assemblyperson Marc Berman is reviving his effort to force more large political contributors to disclose their identities after an investor kicked in $500,000 to a campaign seeking to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom and remained anonymous for weeks. Assembly Bill 236 would require limited liability companies (LLCs) to disclose their sources of funding in the event it contributes $50,000 or more to campaigns in the state in a given year, or a total of $100,000 in four consecutive years. The bill would effectively require companies to identify funders and investors who contributed more than $1,000 to the LLC in a year and whose monies were used in political donations, Berman said.
Connecticut – Weeks After Election, CT Stopped Monitoring Online Voter Fraud Talk
MSN – Kasturi Pananjady and Dave Altimari (Connecticut Mirror) | Published: 1/18/2021
In the aftermath of the November election, intelligence analyst Hannah Glidden was working for the secretary of the state’s office under a novel contract. Her job was to flag any social media talk of voter fraud or disinformation about the election in Connecticut. Glidden brought dozens of posts to the attention of officials who said the reports were valuable as they tried to tamp down misinformation. But Glidden’s contract ran out at the end of November, costing the agency a source of information that has not yet been restored at a time when officials in Connecticut and across the country are struggling to not only negate disinformation about the last election but prepare for violence in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Florida – Florida Police Were After a Covid-19 Data Scientist. She Turned Herself In – and Tested Positive.
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 1/19/2021
Florida health officials fired data scientist Rebekah Jones, accusing her of insubordination as she was putting together the state’s coronavirus dashboard. After she started her own website to publish pandemic data, armed police officers raided her home. A warrant was issued for her arrest for computer crimes. Jones, who claims officials tried to manipulate official numbers on the pandemic, turned herself in to authorities. After posting bail, Jones said she had tested positive for the coronavirus while in custody. Her arrest and diagnosis are the latest developments in a contentious public battle between Jones and state officials since she was fired from the Florida Department of Health in May.
Hawaii – No More ‘Gifts of Aloha’ for State Lawmakers
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 1/15/2021
The new ban on “gifts of aloha” from lobbyists to Hawaii lawmakers is just one of dozens of new rules passed by the state Ethics Commission as the Legislature opened the 2021 session. The rules, which took effect in November, give a clearer framework for how state employees and the commission should abide by the ethics code. New chapters on lobbying and gift giving seek to provide clearer guidance in both of those areas. in years past, lawmakers reported receiving numerous small gifts on the opening day of the session as constituents and lobbyists flocked to their open offices.
Illinois – Ald. Brookins Sues Ethics Board After It Fines Him $5,000 For Violating Ethics Ordinance
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 1/15/2021
Ald. Howard Brookins sued the Chicago Board of Ethics after it found he had violated the city’s ethics ordinance by defending clients, including former Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, in criminal cases involving the Chicago Police Department. The board fined Brookins $5,000 after he agreed to represent Moreno. Brookins has yet to pay that fine. The Ethics Board ruled in September 2019 that council members face “diverging interests” when they represent a client charged with a crime based on evidence developed by Chicago police officers.
Illinois – Ethics Advocates Happy Illinois Legislature’s Reform Attempt Failed
MSN – Cole Lauterbach (Center Square) | Published: 1/18/2021
In the rush of legislation passed in the 101st General Assembly’s final hours, an ethics reform effort was put on hold in Illinois. Surprisingly, some advocates are relieved it stalled. From its introduction, the reform bill was steeped in irony; 87 pages of unvetted legislation inserted into a shell bill via a floor amendment in the middle of the night amid a flurry of other bills to be considered by a lame-duck Legislature. Watchdog groups said in a joint statement the matter flew in the face of transparency and did little to improve Illinois’ reputation for corruption.
Massachusetts – Inspector General Raises New Questions About Hingham Housing Authority Payments
MSN – Todd Wallach (Boston Globe) | Published: 1/18/2021
The state inspector general’s office is raising new questions about a conflict-of-interest involving the retired director of a Hingham public housing agency. The Massachusetts Ethics Commission fined Hingham Housing Authority Executive Director Sharon Napier $2,500 in 2018 for failing to disclose her ties to a company that performed inspections of its apartment units and having a financial interest in a separate contract to sell one of the units. The inspector general found she received $2,496.94 in “special pay” the same week she paid the $2,500 fine.
Massachusetts – Search for Top Campaign Finance Regulator Resumes Friday
WWLP – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 1/20/2021
Almost a year since applicants first submitted their resumes to replace Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance Director Michael Sullivan, the search process that had been on hiatus since March is set to resume. Secretary of State William Galvin’s office said the search committee will meet to resume the process of hiring someone to take over for Sullivan as the state’s top campaign finance regulator. The hiring process was put on a long pause due to the pandemic after Galvin and members of the committee developed a list of finalists they hoped to interview.
Minnesota – In Minnesota, a GOP Lawmaker’s Death Brings Home the Reality of COVID
Yahoo News – Trip Gabriel (New York Times) | Published: 1/18/2021
More than 100 state senators, their spouses, and their staff members gathered for a celebratory dinner after the November election at a catering hall outside the Twin Cities. Masks were offered to guests on arrival, but there was little mask wearing over hours of dining and drinking, at a moment when a long-predicted surge in coronavirus infections was gripping the state. At least four senators in attendance tested positive for COVID-19 in the days that followed. Sen. Jerry Relph, struggling to breathe after testing positive for the coronavirus, was admitted to a hospital in mid-November. He died on December 18 at age 76.
Missouri – St. Louis Lawmaker Banished to Basement Office After Colleagues Censure Him
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/18/2021
Missouri Rep. Wiley Price has been forced to move his belongings from an office suite on the Capitol’s first floor to a windowless basement hearing room after his colleagues censured him. Price said the action by Republican leadership is part of an effort to force him to resign. The House Ethics Commission found Price was in frequent contact with an intern in January 2020, though the two have denied any sexual relationship. The committee found Price committed perjury by denying he contacted the intern. The panel also found Price threatened an assistant who reported Price told her of his relationship with the intern.
New Jersey – Auction for Chance to Implode Trump Plaza Casino Is Canceled
New York Times – Mihir Zavari | Published: 1/19/2021
The auction was promoting a “once in a lifetime” experience in Atlantic City that would raise money for a youth charity: the right to push a button to implode the vacant Trump Plaza hotel and casino. But the auction, which had drawn a high bid of $175,000, was canceled after objection from the building’s owner, a subsidiary controlled by a company run by Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor who has supported President Trump. The proceeds would have gone to the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City.
New Jersey – N.J. Politics Has a ‘Toxic Culture’ of Sexual Harassment. Here Are 5 Ways to Fix It, Landmark Report Says.
Newark Star Ledger – Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 1/14/2021
After spending a year listening to women’s stories about being sexually harassed, assaulted, and marginalized in New Jersey politics, a committee of top female politicians and lobbyists released a report calling for the creation of an independent investigative unit to handle complaints involving political campaigns and government The new investigative team would be overseen by the Election Law Enforcement Commission. The commission would allow victims to bypass campaign and party officials to file complaints about sexual harassment, bullying, or discrimination in state and local politics. The creation of the new investigative unit is one of five recommendations to help change the “toxic culture” in New Jersey politics and government.
New Jersey – Why Donations to NJ Political Campaigns from Public Contractors Nosedived in 10-Year Span
MSN – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 1/20/2021
Contributions from public contractors to New Jersey’s six biggest political fundraising committees sank by $22 million in the past decade compared with the prior 10 years, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). That is good news for advocates of “pay-to-play” laws, which restrict how much money vendors can donate to political campaigns. The 94 percent dip in contributions from contractors coincided with state laws restricting donations to Democratic and Republican fundraising committees, showing the laws worked on the state level, said ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle. But there is a downside, Brindle warns in the report.
New Mexico – Lawmaker, Advocates Pursue Greater Sunshine from Lobbyists
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 1/19/2021
Some argue the public would be better served if there was more transparency regarding the work of lobbyists to change, pass, or stop legislation in New Mexico. In 2021, some advocates think a new crop of freshman lawmakers plus fewer lobbyists in the Capitol due to the pandemic may help the prospects of new disclosure laws. Lobbyists are required to register under state law. But only a fraction are professionals who may represent multiple clients and are usually hired based on their experience and relationships with legislators and staff. Roughly 30 percent spend money to further their interests, whether through political contributions, expenditures on meals and other activities, or gifts.
New York – Trump Investigators Have Tax Records Even Before Court Order
MSN – Greg Farrell and Greg Stohr (Bloomberg) | Published: 1/20/2021
Investigators probing former President Trump’s finances have gotten hold of some of his tax records, allowing them to move ahead even without a U.S. Supreme Court order that would give them eight years of his returns. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA, is leading one of the most closely watched cases that could result in criminal charges. While Vance agreed to await a high-court decision on forcing the handover of tax records from 2011 to 2018, his office now has some of the information from other sources, according to people familiar with the matter.
North Dakota – Bipartisan Bill Proposes Taxpayers Pay for Lawmakers’ Meals
Associated Press News – James MacPherson | Published: 1/20/2021
A bill proposes that North Dakota taxpayers pick up the tab for lawmakers’ meals since dinners paid for by lobbyists and interest groups are now banned under new ethics rules. State Rep. Keith Kempenich is sponsoring the legislation that would allow lawmakers who live outside Bismarck to claim reimbursement for meals. Kempenich, who has been in the House since 1993, said dinners funded by lobbyists and other groups had gone from “steak and lobster to finger food” during that time. Lawmakers used to joke about the weight they packed on during a session, but this session, he said, the free food is nonexistent.
Ohio – Cleveland State Lets Cuyahoga County’s Former HR Chief Apply for Job 10 Months Late, Then Hires Him While on Probation for Corruption-Related Charges
MSN – Courtney Astolfi (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 1/19/2021
Cleveland State University (CSU) allowed Douglas Dykes to apply for a newly created human resources job 10 months after the deadline for applications had elapsed, then hired Dykes while he was on probation for corruption-related charges, passing over 37 other applicants. Dykes started work at CSU on December 14, 2020, as associate vice president of human resources. Five months earlier, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in a deal made with corruption investigators, who dropped felony theft-in-office charges. CSU spokesperson Alison Bibb-Carson has said the university believes in “providing talented people second chances.”
Ohio – FBI Investigation Revealed Vast FirstEnergy-Backed Political Network Hidden Through Lax State Disclosure Rules
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 1/19/2021
Legal filings and media reports over the past six months have peeled back the layers of a “dark-money” political network funded by FirstEnergy. But because state and federal law do not require political nonprofits to disclose their donors, the only reason the public knows about anything about the utility’s ties to the expansive constellation of Ohio political causes is the federal investigation into House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law which prosecutors say passed due to a $61 million bribery scheme, funded by FirstEnergy and its affiliates through secret or difficult to trace political donations. An FBI agent described a political non-profit seeded with $20 million from FirstEnergy, much of which went to a different nonprofit that was central to the bribery scheme. But the nonprofit also funneled money to other diverse causes.
Pennsylvania – Court Rules in Favor of City in Darlene Harris Campaign Finance Suit
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Mick Stinelli | Published: 1/19/2021
An Allegheny County Common Pleas judge ruled against former city Councilperson Darlene Harris in her attempt to throw out a fine for breaking Pittsburgh’s campaign finance rules. The suit alleged the city’s rules went against the Pennsylvania Constitution after she was fined $4,150 by the Ethics Hearing Board for refusing to file campaign documents during her unsuccessful re-election campaign for city council last year. “The City of Pittsburgh has broad powers of regulation pursuant to its Home Rule Charter which gives the City power to regulate campaign finances,” Judge Joseph James wrote in his opinion.
South Carolina – Divided SC Supreme Court Rebukes Statehouse Probe Prosecutor
Associated Press News – Jeffrey Collins | Published: 1/20/2021
A divided South Carolina Supreme Court ruled a prosecutor investigating statehouse corruption overstepped his authority, but also upheld an 18-month prison sentence for one of the lawmakers caught up in the probe. Rep. Jim Harrison appealed his convictions on misconduct in office and perjury charges. The justices threw out the misconduct in office conviction saying Solicitor David Pascoe overstepped his authority by continuing a state grand jury probe of corruption beyond specific lawmakers who state Attorney General Alan Wilson asked Pascoe’s office to prosecute. But the court upheld the perjury conviction. Harrison lied to the grand jury about what he did to get paid a salary from a political consultant while he was a lawmaker.
Tennessee – Tennessee Lawmaker Again Seeks to Restrict Public Record Requests Deemed as ‘Harassments’
MSN – Yue Stella Yu (Tennessean) | Published: 1/15/2021
A bill seeking to restrict public records access for people deemed “harassing” is back before Tennessee lawmakers after similar legislation died last year. Under Senate Bill 135, government entities would hold the power to launch a mediation process with those requesting public records and the ability to seek an injunction to block the request if the mediation fails as long as the staff deem the requests as “harassments.” Proponents of the bill argue the legislation helps filter out frivolous requests, but open records advocates cautioned the bill could erode public access to documents and allow government entities to sue over requests they dislike.
Utah – Latter-Day Saints Are Overrepresented in Utah’s Legislature, Holding 9 of Every 10 Seats
MSN – Lee Davidson (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/14/2021
Eighty-nine of the 103 state lawmakers in Utah are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church members also hold all the state’s congressional seats and statewide political offices, such as governor. “That Mormon dominance is the most important fact about Utah politics, and it determines political outcomes …,” said retired journalist Rod Decker, who wrote a book on the topic, “Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room.”
West Virginia – With Death of Judge, Governor Will Now Appoint Judge in Line to Hear Residency Case Against Him
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Joe Severino | Published: 1/19/2021
With the death of Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Charles King, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice will now appoint King’s replacement to the bench, and that person will be responsible for presiding over the pending residency case against the governor. The residency case, which claims the governor is violating the state constitution by not living in Charleston, has been pending in the courts for more than two years. State law does not require an appointed Circuit Court judge to recuse themselves from a case with a possible conflict-of-interest. If the appointee does recuse themselves, the case will go to one of the six remaining Kanawha circuit judges.
Wisconsin – New Health Official Isn’t Saying Whether She Will Avoid Conflicts with Former Lobbying Clients
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)) | Published: 1/20/2021
Wisconsin’s incoming top health official is not saying whether she will step away from decisions affecting the health care clients she represented as a lobbyist when she becomes interim health services secretary. Karen Timberlake served as Wisconsin’s health secretary from 2008 to 2011 and in recent years has focused on health care issues as a lobbyist with Michael Best Strategies. She shed those clients recently, but in her new job will be able to make decisions that have profound effects on how they operate and their bottom lines. State law does not require officials to recuse themselves from decisions affecting former clients. The state puts limits on government officials who go on to do lobbying work, but not on lobbyists who become government officials.
Wisconsin – Speaker Vos Puts Limits on Who Can Respond to Tweets Despite First Amendment Ruling Against Him
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 1/19/2021
Two years after a federal judge found Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had unconstitutionally blocked a liberal group from following him on Twitter, Vos is again restricting who can interact with him on the social media platform. The last time Vos and his colleagues tried to control who could respond to his tweets, it cost taxpayers $200,000 in legal bills.
January 20, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Ohio: “FBI Investigation Revealed Vast FirstEnergy-Backed Political Network Hidden Through Lax State Disclosure Rules” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN Ethics National: “As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign – and […]
Ohio: “FBI Investigation Revealed Vast FirstEnergy-Backed Political Network Hidden Through Lax State Disclosure Rules” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
National: “As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign – and What It Says About American Democracy” by David Nakamura (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump Grants Clemency to 143 People in Late-Night Pardon Blast” by Rosalind Heldrman, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Florida Police Were After a Covid-19 Data Scientist. She Turned Herself In – and Tested Positive.” by Teo Armus (Washington Post) for MSN
New Jersey: “Auction for Chance to Implode Trump Plaza Casino Is Canceled” by Mihir Zavari for New York Times
Wisconsin: “Speaker Vos Puts Limits on Who Can Respond to Tweets Despite First Amendment Ruling Against Him” by Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) for MSN
National: “Biden to Ban Special Bonuses for Appointees, Expand Lobbying Prohibitions in New Ethics Rules” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
Canada: “Two N.B. Reactor Developers Defend Use of Liberal-Connected Lobbyists” by Jacques Poitras (CBC) for MSN
New Mexico: “Lawmaker, Advocates Pursue Greater Sunshine from Lobbyists” by Brian Metzger for New Mexico In Depth
January 19, 2021 •
The Nashville Office of Metropolitan Clerk’s new online reporting portal will not be launched prior to the 2021 reporting due date. The clerk’s office has indicated those lobbying activity reports should instead be emailed to the clerk’s office on or […]
The Nashville Office of Metropolitan Clerk’s new online reporting portal will not be launched prior to the 2021 reporting due date.
The clerk’s office has indicated those lobbying activity reports should instead be emailed to the clerk’s office on or before the January 31 due date.
January 18, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Democrats Seize on GOP Donor Fallout” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill California: “After Anonymous Donation to Newsom Recall, Democrat Revives Campaign Finance Proposal” by Lara Korte for Sacramento Bee Ethics National: “Rallies Ahead of Capitol Riot […]
National: “Democrats Seize on GOP Donor Fallout” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
California: “After Anonymous Donation to Newsom Recall, Democrat Revives Campaign Finance Proposal” by Lara Korte for Sacramento Bee
National: “Rallies Ahead of Capitol Riot Were Planned by Established Washington Insiders” by Robert O’Harrow Jr. (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Groups with Biden Ties Pose Ethics Quandary for His Administration” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico
Illinois: “Ald. Brookins Sues Ethics Board After It Fines Him $5,000 For Violating Ethics Ordinance” by Heather Cherone for WTTW
New Jersey: “N.J. Politics Has a ‘Toxic Culture’ of Sexual Harassment. Here Are 5 Ways to Fix It, Landmark Report Says.” by Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger
Tennessee: “Tennessee Lawmaker Again Seeks to Restrict Public Record Requests Deemed as ‘Harassments’” by Yue Stella Yu (Tennessean) for MSN
Utah: “Latter-Day Saints Are Overrepresented in Utah’s Legislature, Holding 9 of Every 10 Seats” by Lee Davidson (Salt Lake Tribune) for MSN
Hawaii: “No More ‘Gifts of Aloha’ for State Lawmakers” by Blaze Lovell for Honolulu Civil Beat
January 15, 2021 •
A one-time grace period for lobbyists to register in the Canadian territory of Yukon ended on January 13. On October 15, the Canadian territory of Yukon’s new and first lobbying law came into force with the online Yukon Lobbyist Registry […]
A one-time grace period for lobbyists to register in the Canadian territory of Yukon ended on January 13.
On October 15, the Canadian territory of Yukon’s new and first lobbying law came into force with the online Yukon Lobbyist Registry becoming live. All lobbyists were given a one-time only grace period of 90 days to understand their requirements and to register. Both consultant lobbyists and in-house lobbyists are required to register under Yukon’s lobbying law. As of January 12, four consultants and five in-house lobbyists have registered, according to the Yukon News.
Registration is required for individuals communicating with a public office holder, directly or through grassroots communications, in attempts to lobby. Additionally, a consultant lobbyist is required to register when arranging a meeting between a public office holder and any other person for the purposes covered by the Act.
Now, in-house lobbyists must register no later than 60 days after meeting the law’s threshold for registration. Consultant lobbyists must register no later than 15 days after starting an undertaking on behalf of a client.
Penalties for violations of the Lobbyist Registration Act include fines up to $25,000 for the first violation and up to $100,000 for each subsequent violation.
January 15, 2021 •
National/Federal A Siege on the U.S. Capitol, a Strike Against Democracy Worldwide MSN – Anthony Faiola, Shibani Mahtani, and Isabelle Khurshudyan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021 The insurrection at the Capitol is threatening America’s historical role promoting democracy around the world. […]
A Siege on the U.S. Capitol, a Strike Against Democracy Worldwide
MSN – Anthony Faiola, Shibani Mahtani, and Isabelle Khurshudyan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021
The insurrection at the Capitol is threatening America’s historical role promoting democracy around the world. The spectacle of President Trump rallying supporters to march on the Capitol over baseless claims of election fraud as lawmakers certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory has provided a propaganda coup for Washington’s enemies, undermined pro-democracy movements worldwide, and offered a model for would-be autocrats. Four years of Trump had already dimmed America’s democratic bona fides. Now, the international implications of the events in Washington are expected to reverberate far beyond Biden’s inauguration.
As Biden Raises Money for His Virtual Inauguration, Lobbyists Prepare for a Scaled-Down Schmooze-Fest
MSN – Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 1/11/2021
With the coronavirus pandemic raging around the country, President-elect Joe Biden and congressional inauguration planners have closed much of the traditional avenues for access. Instead of receiving the typical 200,000 tickets to share with constituents eager to see Biden take the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress will receive tickets for themselves and one guest only. And K Street lobbyists are scrambling to adjust to the new reality. All around the nation’s capital, just as a new administration and a new Congress set up shop, corporate lobbyists, trade associations, and others in the influence industry have had to abandon the usual tools of their trade.
Backlash to Riot at Capitol Hobbles Trump’s Business as Banks, Partners Flee the Brand
MSN – Josh Dawsey, David Fahrenthold, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2021
The Trump Organization in the past week has lost a bank, an e-commerce platform, and the privilege of hosting the PGA Championship. In the future, the business also could lose its Washington, D.C. hotel. Properties. By refusing to acknowledge he would be returning to private life, President Trump appears to have sabotaged what could have been his best chance at success in that realm – a rebound of the battered Trump brand. Now, through his encouragement of rioters who ransacked the U.S. Capitol, Trump has made his company a pariah and driven away allies who could have brought it revenue and post-politics credibility.
Beyond Impeachment, a Push for Ethics Laws That Do Not Depend on Shame
New York Times – Elizabeth Williamson | Published: 1/11/2021
House Democrats are pressing ahead with an effort to try to ensure President Trump’s record of violating democratic and constitutional norms cannot be repeated. Trump’s term revealed gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. Trump ignored watchdog rulings and constitutional safeguards, pressed to overturn the outcome of an election, and pardoned those who covered for him, all while funneling taxpayer dollars to his family business. Among the changes embraced by House leaders are limits on the president’s pardon powers, mandated release of a president’s tax returns, new enforcement powers for independent agencies and Congress, and firmer prohibitions against financial conflicts-of-interest in the White House.
House Democrats Reintroduce Bill to Reduce Lobbyist Influence
MSN – Alex Gangitano (The Hill) | Published: 1/13/2021
A bill to reduce the influence of lobbyists and to close the so-called “revolving door” was reintroduced in Congress. The Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act was first introduced in 2019. The bill would ban companies from making “golden parachute” payments that reward former employees for joining the government and strengthen recusal requirements to stop senior government officials from acting in ways that benefit former employers or clients, among other provisions.
House Hands Trump a Second Impeachment, This Time with GOP Support
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021
The U.S. House made history by impeaching a president for a second time, indicting President Trump days before he leaves office for inciting a riot with false claims of a stolen election that led to the storming of the Capitol and five deaths. Unlike Trump’s first impeachment, which proceeded with almost no GOP support, this effort attracted 10 Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking party leader in the House. The Senate now appears likely to hold a trial after Trump’s departure, an unprecedented scenario that could end with lawmakers barring him from holding the presidency again.
K Street Adjusts for Democratic Senate
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/7/2021
Even as partisan vitriol grips Washington, D.C., lobbyists say they expect lawmakers to find common ground on additional legislation to mitigate the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures dealing with infrastructure projects as well as potentially on immigration and tax policy. With Democrats in charge of the Senate floor, they will be able to move more quickly on nominations for the incoming Biden administration, allowing potentially more time to consider legislation. Democrats will face pressure from their liberal flank to roll back the filibuster rules for legislation, which currently requires 60 votes to clear the chamber.
Trump Says He Won’t Attend Biden’s Inauguration
Politico – Quint Forgey | Published: 1/8/2021
President Trump announced he will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, shattering another norm of the American presidency on what will be his final day in office. With his decision, Trump is poised to become the first U.S. president in modern political history to not appear for his successor’s swearing-in ceremony, one of the nation’s most prominent public displays of its commitment to a peaceful transfer of power.
Trump’s Nonprofit Inaugural Committee Improperly Paid a $49,000 Bill Incurred by His Company, D.C. Attorney General Alleges
MSN – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2021
President Trump’s private business failed to pay a $49,000 hotel bill incurred during Trump’s 2017 inaugural and then, after the bill went to a collections agency, Trump’s nonprofit inaugural committee agreed to pay the charge instead, according to a new filing from District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, who had already sued Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee, alleging it had wasted donors’ money on an overpriced, barely used ballroom at Trump’s own hotel. Racine added an allegation to that suit. He said the president’s inaugural committee, a tax-exempt charity, improperly paid a bill it did not owe, using nonprofit funds to pay a bill owed by a for-profit business.
Twitter Bans Trump’s Account, Citing Risk of Further Violence
MSN – Nitasha Tiku, Tony Romm, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2021
Twitter banned President Trump from its site, a punishment for his role in inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol, robbing him of the megaphone he used to communicate directly with more than 88 million supporters and critics. Twitter has been Trump’s primary communication tool to push policies, drive news cycles, fire officials, spread falsehoods, savage opponents, and praise allies. Twitter had resisted taking action against Trump for years, arguing a world leader should be able to speak to his or her citizens unfettered. But Trump’s escalating tweets casting doubt on the 2020 election and the riot at the U.S. Capitol his comments helped inspire led the company to reverse course.
U.S. Campaign Finance System Rocked as Major Firms Pause or Halt Political Contributions After Election Results Challenged
Seattle Times – Todd Frankel, Jeff Stein, and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2021
The funding of campaigns is being rocked as some of the nation’s biggest firms such as Facebook, Google, BlackRock, Marriott, and Dow announced plans to halt some or all political contributions as a result of the insurrection at the Capitol, a sign of corporate America’s growing uneasiness with the election doubts and violent attacks inspired by President Trump. Major companies that collectively pour millions of dollars annually into campaigns through employee-funded PACs are registering their worry and anger about the chaos by pledging to reexamine their role in American politics.
Canada – Grace Period for New Lobbyist Registry Ends
Yukon News – Haley Ritchie | Published: 1/14/2021
The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. The new legislation, aimed at increasing government transparency, came into effect on October 15. Lobbyists were then given a 90-day grace period to “learn about the process and to adapt to the new reporting requirements.” That grace period ended January 13.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Downtown Developer Will Pay $1.2 Million in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 1/7/2021
A real estate company whose residential tower is a major part of the federal bribery case against former Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar agreed to pay $1.2 million to resolve its portion of the investigation. Carmel Partners will make the payment as part of a non-prosecution agreement that will spare the company from becoming a defendant in the corruption case. The agreement contained an allegation against Huizar that has not appeared in previous indictments. At one point in 2018, Huizar asked a Carmel executive if he would provide $250,000 in exchange for a reduction in the amount the company paid into a fund for affordable housing.
California – Gun Bribery Probe: Santa Clara County Sheriff acted to obscure use of donor’s Sharks suite, according to testimony
East Bay Times – Robert Salonga | Published: 1/12/2021
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith sought to hide her use of a penthouse suite at a San Jose Sharks game two years ago by having an employee buy cheaper seats in her name to avoid gift-reporting obligations for the suite now targeted by an indictment against her second-in-command. The circumvention was described by management analyst Lara McCabe in her testimony to a grand jury, which would later hand down bribery charges alleging favor-trading for concealed-gun permits involving Undersheriff Rick Sung, a top Apple security executive, a prominent supporter, and a sheriff’s captain who doubled as a close adviser.
California – U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Dispute Over California Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Requirement
Reuters – Lawrence Hurley | Published: 1/8/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge by two conservative groups to a California requirement that tax-exempt charities disclose to the state the identity of their top financial donors. The justices will take up the appeal of a lower court ruling that said California’s attorney general could require the two nonprofit organizations, Americans for Prosperity and the Thomas More Law Center, to furnish him with donor details. The groups argued the demand infringed upon their freedom of speech and association under the First Amendment.
Colorado – Denver Mayor Hancock’s Office Still Exposed to Conflicts of Interest, Auditor Says
Denver Post – Conrad Swanson | Published: 1/12/2021
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration is still at risk of allowing political favoritism and conflicts-of-interest to influence business deals, City Auditor Tim O’Brien said. That is despite warnings and calls for change as far back as 2019, when O’Brien audited Denver’s processes for entering into contracts and found weaknesses that were exacerbated by inadequate documentation to track how the city’s vendors are selected.
Florida – COVID-19 Keeps Lobbyists from Florida Capitol
Tampa Bay Times – Dara Kam | Published: 1/13/2021
As lawmakers gathered in Tallahassee, the scene in the Capitol was a stark departure from the typically convivial initial round of committee meetings in advance of the legislative session. The halls of the Capitol would typically be buzzing during the committee-meeting kickoff, as lobbyists rub elbows with legislators and aides while advocating for issues ranging from medical marijuana to budget items. But the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the 22-story edifice and adjacent buildings into an eerily desolate landscape as lawmakers and their staff, lobbyists, and reporters comply with new restrictions aimed at keeping as few people as possible from roaming inside the Capitol complex.
Florida – Former Broward Schools Administrator Arrested in Grand Jury Corruption Probe
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Scott Travis | Published: 1/13/2021
A former Broward schools administrator has been arrested as part of a statewide grand jury probe, accused of illegally steering a $17 million technology contract to a friend. Tony Hunter, formerly the chief information officer, was charged with bid tampering and unlawful compensation by a public official. The case is related to the district’s $17 million purchase of Recordex Simplicity flat screen devices. A combination big-screen TV and touch-screen computer, the devices are designed to make learning more interactive for students. The school district and the grand jury started reviewing Hunter’s actions after The South Florida Sun Sentinel questioned the deal and Hunter’s ties to the vendor.
Florida – Former Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Charged with Stalking
MSN – Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 1/12/2021
Tallahassee’s first independent ethics officer was arrested on charges of stalking the former city auditor. Julie Meadows-Keefe, who just weeks ago settled a retaliation lawsuit against the city, is accused of cyberstalking Bert Fletcher, with whom she had a romantic relationship. Her arrest comes after Meadows-Keefe threatened physical violence and sent hundreds of texts, phone calls, and emails during the final week of December, according to police. Fletcher and Meadows-Keefe’s offices were adjacent in City Hall and they began a romantic relationship while Fletcher was still married.
Georgia – Atlanta Mayor Fined $37,000 for Campaign Finance Violations During 2017 Mayor’s Race
WSB – Staff | Published: 1/7/2021
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms agreed during a state ethics commission meeting to pay a fine of $37,000 for irregularities in her campaign finances during the 2017 mayoral race. The settlement comes after a long investigation into both candidate’s campaign contributions during the race. In the agreement, Bottoms’ campaign admits to accepting $6,900 in campaign donations that exceeded state limits on the amount individuals can contribute. The campaign also acknowledges receiving another $110,797 in contributions that violated other state statutes.
Georgia – ‘Find the Fraud’: Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2021
President Trump urged Georgia’s lead elections investigator to “find the fraud” in a lengthy December phone call, saying the official would be a “national hero,” according to an individual familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversation. Trump placed the call to the investigations chief for the Georgia secretary of state’s office shortly before Christmas while the individual was leading an inquiry into allegations of ballot fraud in Cobb County, in the suburbs of Atlanta. The president’s attempts to intervene in an ongoing investigation could amount to obstruction of justice or other criminal violations, legal experts said, though they cautioned a case could be difficult to prove.
Illinois – Ethics Board Fines Ald. Austin $145,500 For Accepting Improper Campaign Contributions
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 1/12/2021
The Chicago Board of Ethics fined Ald. Carrie Austin $145,500 for accepting $48,500 in excessive contributions from a person doing business with the city. The fine is the first time the board levied the maximum fine allowed for violations of the city’s campaign finance law – three times the amount of the improper contributions. Companies and people doing business with the city are limited to contributing $1,600 to any one candidate per year. The law holds both the person and firm making the donation as well as the elected official who accepted the contribution responsible for the infraction.
Illinois – Illinois Elects First Black Speaker After Decades of Madigan Rule
Politico – Shia Kapos | Published: 1/13/2021
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch became the first Black speaker of the Illinois House as Democrats rejected Michael Madigan, who had been speaker for nearly four decades. What started last year as a simmering legal and political scandal, touched off by a corruption scandal around a local utility, turned into a rare opportunity to shed old leadership. Madigan’s supporters started pulling away after he was implicated in a federal “pay-to-play” scheme involving Commonwealth Edison. The public utility agreed to pay a $200 million fine and acknowledged it had tried to curry favor with Madigan by offering jobs and contracts to his allies in exchange for favorable legislation.
Iowa – Iowa Governor, Ades Appear in PR Video for No-Bid Vendor
MSN – Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 1/7/2021
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and four aides helped make a marketing video for a company that was awarded no-bid contracts for work on the coronavirus pandemic, a move that has raised allegations of favoritism and improper use of public resources. Domo’s video featured interviews with Reynolds, state epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati, and chief operations officer Paul Trombino portraying their COVID-19 management as a success for Iowa and the software vendor. The appearances go against long-standing guidance to avoid any hint of preferential treatment in relationships with contractors. The video put a positive spin on their response to the virus, which has caused more cases and deaths per capita in Iowa than most other states.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Plans to Tackle Ethics Reform Following Clendenin Resignation
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 1/10/2021
When Mayor Brandon Whipple was elected, he promised sweeping ethics reform at City Hall after a media investigation showed holes in Wichita’s city council ethics policy, including no limits on gifts and no penalties for violations. The call for change came after Whipple’s predecessor, Jeff Longwell, steered a $500 million contract for a new water treatment plant away from one of the top engineering firms in the country and to a local group that included his friends and political supporters. Former Councilperson James Clendenin stepped down amid ouster proceedings for his role in a smear campaign against Whipple. By the end of January, a new ethics policy proposal will go before the council for discussion.
Michigan – Former Michigan Gov. Snyder Charged in Flint Water Crisis
Politico – Associated Press | Published: 1/13/2021
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is facing two counts of willful neglect of duty related to the water crisis in Flint, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. In April 2014, a Snyder-appointed emergency manager who was running the struggling city carried out a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction. The corrosive water, however, was not treated properly and released lead from old plumbing into homes in one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in U.S. history.
Minnesota – State Board Proposals Would Change How Lobbying Activities Are Reported in Minnesota
Minnesota Post – Peter Callaghan | Published: 1/8/2021
The Minnesota board that oversees the lobbying of state and local governments is considering changes that would make reporting by lobbyists more useful and more transparent. Both the current rules and the proposed rules are complex. Lobbyists would no longer have to report overhead costs, but they would have to report the actual bill numbers and ordinances they pushed for, as well as which clients they worked for and what they did to influence the result. Legislation is required to make any changes to the rules that determine how much information residents of the state get about who spends how much to influence legislators, administrative agencies, and local councils and boards.
Missouri – Missouri House Censures St. Louis Lawmaker Accused of Having Sex with Intern
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/13/2021
The Missouri House voted to censure a St. Louis Democrat who refused to resign in response to allegations he had sex with an intern and tried to cover it up. Rep. Wiley Price faced the official discipline after his former legislative aide reported Price informed her of his relationship with the intern. The House Ethics Committee in December unanimously recommended censure for Price, but Rep. Jered Taylor moved to expel Price instead. Democrats argued the chamber should reject the move to expel Price because the Ethics Committee had already debated the issue and had recommended censure.
Nevada – Nevada Lawmaker Resigns Amid Campaign Finance Investigation
Associated Press News – Sam Metz | Published: 1/13/2021
A Nevada lawmaker resigned amid an investigation involving the use of campaign contributions that prompted law enforcement to raid his home. Assemblyperson Alex Assefa tendered his resignation in a letter that did not mention the investigation but addressed questions about whether his primary residence was in the district he represents. Police in May raided a North Las Vegas home owned by Assefa’s wife, Zenash Mebratu, and a condominium he listed as his residence in campaign filings. Nevada law requires legislators live in the districts they represent.
New York – New York City Will End Contracts with Trump Over Capitol Riot
New York Times – Emma Fitzsimmons | Published: 1/13/2021
For the last several years, the tumultuous arc of President Trump’s relationship with New York City has been on a steep decline. His name was stripped from private properties. Part of his re-election campaign focused on characterizing New York as an “anarchist jurisdiction.” He even changed his legal residency to Florida. Then, the city announced it would terminate its contracts with the Trump Organization after the riot at the U.S. Capitol. The decision by Mayor Bill de Blasio was another blow to Trump’s prestige in New York and hammered home the depths to which the president has become a political and social pariah in his hometown.
New York – New York’s Aggressive Elections Enforcement Chief to Retire
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 1/12/2021
Risa Sugarman, who pursued significant cases during more than six years as New York’s top elections enforcement official, confirmed she is retiring. Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Sugarman as the first chief enforcement counsel for the state Board of Elections’ independent enforcement division. Sugarman is the only person ever to hold the position overseeing the small unit, which largely operates separately from the rest of the politically appointed board. Her office’s authority has been curbed in recent years by regulations imposed by four commissioners with whom she often clashed, and most recently, by a state law giving the board rather than Sugarman oversight of candidates enrolled in the publicly financed elections system.
North Carolina – Charlotte Council Member Announces Sudden Retirement After Taking Construction Job
MSN – Danielle Chemtob and Alison Kuznitz (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 1/11/2021
Charlotte City Councilperson James Mitchell announced his sudden retirement after stirring controversy over his new role as co-owner and president of a construction company. Mitchell is slated to take the helm of RJ Leeper. City ethics policy prevents officials from using their position for personal benefit. Mitchell had said he would recuse himself from voting on anything involving RJ Leeper, and the firm’s vice president would handle city projects. The company is working on public projects like the Charlotte Convention Center and Charlotte Douglas International Airport expansions.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Cash Comprised Big Chunk of Donations to Dark Money Outfits Backing DeWine and His Daughter, Documents Show
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 1/8/2021
Money from FirstEnergy Corp. comprised more than one-third of all contributions to a “dark money” group supporting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and likely all the cash given to one backing his daughter’s county prosecutor bid, tax records show. The donations came the same year that the Republican-controlled Legislature passed House Bill 6, which included a $1 billion subsidy for two nuclear plants, then-owned by FirstEnergy Solutions. DeWine signed the bill within hours of it reaching his desk. Federal investigators say former House Speaker Larry Householder and others used $61 million from energy companies to fuel Householder’s leadership fight, House Bill 6’s passage, and an effort to block a ballot initiative to upend the bailout.
Oklahoma – Former Stitt Staffer Lobbying for Company Bidding on State Medicaid Contract
The Oklahoman – Carmen Forman | Published: 1/11/2021
A former staffer of Gov. Kevin Stitt is lobbying for a health care company bidding on a multimillion-dollar state contract to privatize Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. With Oklahoma on the cusp of expanding Medicaid, Stitt announced his intention to outsource care for many o the state’s Medicaid recipients by hiring private companies to manage the program’s spending. Former Deputy Secretary of State Samantha Davidson Guinn, who was promoted to that role after serving as the governor’s policy director, left the Stitt administration in September. Now, she is senior vice president of government affairs, strategy, and policy for Healthcare Highways, which is bidding on the state’s SoonerSelect program.
Oregon – Rioters Stormed the Oregon Capitol in December. Video Sows a Republican Lawmaker Let Them In.
Seattle Times – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2021
State Rep. Mike Nearman let demonstrators into the Oregon Capitol during a one-day special session in December, starting a riot. Three surveillance videos show Nearman walking out of a Capitol side door, moving out of the way for a protester, and walking alongside the building as protesters streamed toward the open door. Protesters had been looking for a way to get into the Capitol on December 21 while the Legislature was in session. The open door ultimately allowed at least 50 people to access the Capitol’s vestibule and led to six Salem and Oregon State police officers getting pepper sprayed.
South Dakota – City Insurance Now Covers Legal Defense If Mayor, Councilors Face Ethics Violation
MSN – Trevor Mitchell (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 1/10/2021
Several members of the Sioux Falls City Council are raising concerns about a new addition to the city’s insurance policy that would provide legal representation for councilors accused of ethics violations. The new general endorsement adds coverage related to ethics complaints against the mayor or city councilors, providing legal expenses of up to $10,000 per occurrence with $20,000 aggregate per coverage term, at a cost to the city of $7,500. The coverage was newly available to any city with an ethics policy or ordinance, said Bill O’Toole, the city’s human resources director.
Tennessee – Tennessee House Speaker on FBI Raid: Those subject to search warrants on ‘administrative leave’
MSN – Natalie Allison (Tennessean) | Published: 1/8/2021
Federal agents descended on multiple Tennessee Republican House members’ homes and state offices, collecting evidence while executing search warrants as part of an unspecified investigation just days before the legislative session began. The U.S. attorney’s office confirmed the FBI visited the homes of former House Speaker Glen Casada; Rep. Robin Smith; Rep. Todd Warner; and former Casada aide Cade Cothren. They also went to a business associated with Warner. Speaker Cameron Sexton said he placed three staff members on paid administrative leave in connection with the case.
Texas – A Texas Lawmaker Worked with the State Restaurant Association to Draft an Alcohol-to-Go Bill. His Wife Lobbies for the Group.
Texas Tribune – Mitchell Ferman and Juan Pablo Garnham | Published: 1/13/2021
State Rep. Charlie Geren, a restaurant owner, filed legislation to allow restaurants to sell alcohol for pickup and delivery orders, which would provide an industry crushed by the coronavirus pandemic with the new, permanent revenue stream. Geren said his Railhead Smokehouse restaurant does not have a mixed beverage permit. That means it would not benefit from the bill. But House Bill 1024 could benefit a client of Geren’s wife, lobbyist Mindy Ellmer. The Texas Restaurant Association, which is backing the legislation, paid Ellmer between $25,000 and $49,000 for lobbying work from September through December. Adrian Shelley, Texas director for Public Citizen, said that mix of personal and political ties underscores the state’s ethics laws should be strengthened.
Utah – Tribune Analysis: Utah lawmakers spend unlimited amounts in campaign cash – sometimes in violation of state law
MSN – Taylor Stevens and Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/10/2021
A Salt Lake Tribune analysis found since 2015, Utah lawmakers have collectively spent millions of dollars, often with little or no transparency about where the money is going and limited oversight from the state’s elections office, which has one full-time employee to review tens of thousands of expenditures. Legislators with easy paths to reelection can allocate excess campaign funds into travel, food, and gifts, and some have done so without explaining how the purchases are connected to their elected office or campaign. The analysis also found at least two lawmakers appear to have overpaid themselves for personal loans to their campaigns. Legislators say the state’s system demands transparency and dismiss a need for more cumbersome rules to keep candidates and officeholders in check.
Washington – ‘He’s Been Fibbing for 20 Years’: Tim Eyman trial approaches conclusion, state alleges years of schemes
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 1/7/2021
The state of Washington’s case against Tim Eyman inched toward its conclusion with the state accusing the serial initiative promoter of a decades-long run of money laundering, soliciting kickbacks, and violating campaign finance law in a scheme to enrich himself through political donations. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose 2017 lawsuit against Eyman precipitated the civil trial, seeks millions of dollars in damages and he hopes to permanently bar Eyman from accepting money on behalf of any political committee or handling their finances. Newman said the law allows for a maximum base penalty of $5.6 million, but that the state was seeking about $2.6 million.
West Virginia – GOP West Virginia Lawmaker Who Live-Streamed Himself Storming the Capitol Resigns After Arrest
MSN – Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2021
A newly elected Republican lawmaker in West Virginia resigned after he was arrested for trespassing in the U.S. Capitol in a mob of Trump supporters hoping to halt President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Derrick Evans chronicled the riot on Facebook Live, capturing the moment the crowd cracked open the Capitol’s doors and he crossed the threshold. Evans was among dozens arrested for crimes related to the break-in. He was charged with two federal misdemeanors, unlawfully entering restricted grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct, and taken into custody. Evans ended his short tenure with a one-sentence resignation letter, He was sworn in to the House of Delegates in December.
January 14, 2021 •
Campaign Finance California: “U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Dispute Over California Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Requirement” by Lawrence Hurley for Reuters Nevada: “Nevada Lawmaker Resigns Amid Campaign Finance Investigation” by Sam Metz for Associated Press News Elections National: “A Siege on […]
California: “U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Dispute Over California Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Requirement” by Lawrence Hurley for Reuters
Nevada: “Nevada Lawmaker Resigns Amid Campaign Finance Investigation” by Sam Metz for Associated Press News
National: “A Siege on the U.S. Capitol, a Strike Against Democracy Worldwide” by Anthony Faiola, Shibani Mahtani, and Isabelle Khurshudyan (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “House Hands Trump a Second Impeachment, This Time with GOP Support” by Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Backlash to Riot at Capitol Hobbles Trump’s Business as Banks, Partners Flee the Brand” by Josh Dawsey, David Fahrenthold, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) for MSN
Colorado: “Denver Mayor Hancock’s Office Still Exposed to Conflicts of Interest, Auditor Says” by Conrad Swanson for Denver Post
Michigan: “Michigan Plans to Charge Ex-Gov. Snyder in Flint Water Probe” by Ed White, David Egert, and Tammy Webber for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Michael Madigan’s Decadeslong Grip on Illinois Ends as House Democrats Set to Make Rep. Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch State’s First Black Speaker” by Rick Pearson, Dan Petrella, and Jamie Munks (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News
National: “House Democrats Reintroduce Bill to Reduce Lobbyist Influence” by Alex Gangitano (The Hill) for MSN
Texas: “A Texas Lawmaker Worked with the State Restaurant Association to Draft an Alcohol-to-Go Bill. His Wife Lobbies for the Group.” by Mitchell Ferman and Juan Pablo Garnham for Texas Tribune
January 12, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “U.S. Campaign Finance System Rocked as Major Firms Pause or Halt Political Contributions After Election Results Challenged” by Todd Frankel, Jeff Stein, and Tony Romm (Washington Post) for Seattle Times Utah: “Tribune Analysis: Utah lawmakers spend unlimited […]
National: “U.S. Campaign Finance System Rocked as Major Firms Pause or Halt Political Contributions After Election Results Challenged” by Todd Frankel, Jeff Stein, and Tony Romm (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
Utah: “Tribune Analysis: Utah lawmakers spend unlimited amounts in campaign cash – sometimes in violation of state law” by Taylor Stevens and Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) for MSN
National: “Dems Prep ‘Incitement of Insurrection’ Charge against Trump” by Lisa Mascaro, Bill Barrow, and Mary Clare Jalonick for Associated Press News
Kansas: “Wichita City Council Plans to Tackle Ethics Reform Following Clendenin Resignation” by Chance Swaim for Wichita Eagle
South Dakota: “City Insurance Now Covers Legal Defense If Mayor, Councilors Face Ethics Violation” by Trevor Mitchell (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) for MSN
Tennessee: “Tennessee House Speaker on FBI Raid: Those subject to search warrants on ‘administrative leave’” by Natalie Allison (Tennessean) for MSN
National: “As Biden Raises Money for His Virtual Inauguration, Lobbyists Prepare for a Scaled-Down Schmooze-Fest” by Fredreka Schouten for CNN
Minnesota: “State Board Proposals Would Change How Lobbying Activities Are Reported in Minnesota” by Peter Callaghan for Minnesota Post
Oklahoma: “Former Stitt Staffer Lobbying for Company Bidding on State Medicaid Contract” by Carmen Forman for The Oklahoman
January 11, 2021 •
Another new batch of states are going in session this week! Are you ready? Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Delaware Georgia Idaho Illinois Iowa Maryland Michigan New Jersey South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming It’s […]
Another new batch of states are going in session this week! Are you ready?
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
It’s another big week in a busy legislative year. Stay in touch with lobbycomply.com to see when the other starts will convene.
January 11, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Georgia: “Atlanta Mayor Fined $37,000 for Campaign Finance Violations During 2017 Mayor’s Race” by Staff for WSB Ohio: “FirstEnergy Cash Comprised Big Chunk of Donations to Dark Money Outfits Backing DeWine and His Daughter, Documents Show” by Jessie […]
Georgia: “Atlanta Mayor Fined $37,000 for Campaign Finance Violations During 2017 Mayor’s Race” by Staff for WSB
Ohio: “FirstEnergy Cash Comprised Big Chunk of Donations to Dark Money Outfits Backing DeWine and His Daughter, Documents Show” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Washington: “‘He’s Been Fibbing for 20 Years’: Tim Eyman trial approaches conclusion, state alleges years of schemes” by David Gutman for Seattle Times
National: “Trump Says He Won’t Attend Biden’s Inauguration” by Quint Forgey for Politico
Georgia: “‘Find the Fraud’: Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Twitter Bans Trump’s Account, Citing Risk of Further Violence” by Nitasha Tiku, Tony Romm, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Downtown Developer Will Pay $1.2 Million in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case” by David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
National: “K Street Adjusts for Democratic Senate” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
Iowa: “Iowa Governor, Ades Appear in PR Video for No-Bid Vendor” by Ryan Foley (Associated Press) for MSN
January 8, 2021 •
National/Federal Aides Weigh Resignations, Removal Options as Trump Rages Against Perceived Betrayals MSN – Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021 President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence, raging about perceived betrayals, […]
Aides Weigh Resignations, Removal Options as Trump Rages Against Perceived Betrayals
MSN – Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence, raging about perceived betrayals, as an array of top aides weighed resigning and some senior administration officials began conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment – an extraordinary measure that would remove the president before Trump’s term expires on January 20. An unease coursed through the administration over the president’s refusal to accept his election loss and his role in inciting a mob to storm the Capitol, disrupting the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. One administration official described Trump’s behavior as that of “a total monster,” while another said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”
Appeals Court Backs Subpoena-Like Power for Minority in House
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/29/2020
A divided federal appeals court upheld the power of legislators in the House minority to demand records from the executive branch. Acting in a dispute over records related to President Trump’s Trump International Hotel, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled lawmakers can resort to the courts to enforce an obscure statute known as the seven-member rule. The Trump administration argued the lawmakers lacked standing to turn to the courts to force disclosure of the records, but the majority on the panel disagreed.
Congress Affirms Biden’s Presidential Win Following Riot at U.S. Capitol
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, Seung Min Kim, and Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
Members of Congress, shaken and angry following a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Trump’s supporters, put a final stamp on President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and brought an end to a historically turbulent post-election period. Republicans had at one point planned to object to the electoral college votes in a series of states won by Biden, but after the storming of the Capitol, several GOP senators changed course, disputing only Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both challenges failed. In the final moments of the joint session, Senate Chaplain Barry Black said a prayer lamenting “the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.”
‘Covid Can Kill’: Lawmakers issue fresh warnings about virus after death of Rep.-elect Luke Letlow
MSN – David Nakamura and Fenit Nirappil (Washington Post) | Published: 12/30/2020
U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow’s death from COVID-19 has been met with shock and grief from fellow lawmakers, offering another stark example of the lethality of a pandemic. Letlow died just days before he was to be sworn after winning a runoff vote for Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District. Doctors said he had no apparent underlying health conditions that contributed to his death. At a candidate forum in October, Letlow urged the state to ease pandemic restrictions, saying, “We’re now at a place if we do not open our economy, we’re in real danger.” In a fall interview, Letlow commended President Trump’s handling of the pandemic and expressed skepticism about mask mandates.
House Approves Rules Package for New Congress
The Hill – Juliegrace Brufke and Cristina Marcos | Published: 1/4/2021
The House adopted a new set of rules for the 117th Congress with provisions to extend remote voting during the pandemic, protect whistleblowers, and limit the minority’s ability to amend legislation on the floor. Democrats also sought to prioritize diversity efforts in the rules package. One provision orders the use of gender-neutral language in the House rules, including pronouns and references to familial relationships like father, son, mother, or daughter.
In Viral Ad, New Member of Congress Appears to Walk Capitol Hill Streets with a Glock
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/4/2021
One of the newest members of Congress, Rep. Lauren Boebert, kicked off the session with a viral digital ad proclaiming her right to carry firearms on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and in the streets of Washington, D.C. Boebert, owner of a gun-themed restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, released the video amid efforts by some Democrats to ban members from carrying guns on the Capitol grounds, which they have been allowed to do since 1967. The ad appears to show Boebert walking near federal buildings and in alleys on Capitol Hill, citing rising violent crime as the reason she wants to carry a weapon.
‘Is This Really Happening?’: The siege of Congress, seen from the inside
Politico – Staff | Published: 1/7/2021
It was an unusual session of Congress to start with, a piece of fractious political theater around the normally ceremonial moment when America finally ratifies its choice of president. Then came the shouts in the hallways. And broken glass, and panicky texts, and confusion, and an abrupt halt to the basic working of the government. When the waves of pro-President Trump rioters overwhelmed Capitol police and surged through the building’s lobbies and stairways, they trapped journalists and nearly all members of the U.S. Congress. Five of the journalists in the building were congressional reporters for Politico. They gave their account of when the threat to American democracy came from inside the building.
Lobbyist Brother of Biden Advisor Has Reputation for Deep Connections and Looking to Avoid Possible Conflicts
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 12/31/2020
The lobbyist brother of one of President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisors has cultivated a reputation for his deep connections in Washington, D.C. and for his decades of delivering results for corporate clients. Some past associates and clients of Jeff Ricchetti also say he has rejected requests to lobby his brother, longtime Biden aide and incoming White House counselor Steve Ricchetti. In 2020, Jeff Ricchetti had his biggest batch of clients since 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The surge in clients came as Biden won the Democratic primary and eventually defeated President Trump in the general election.
Lobbyists with Ties to House GOP See Fortunes Rising
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/4/2021
Before the elections, lobbyists with ties to House Republicans had to wonder how much influence they would have in the 117th Congress. They are not worrying anymore. While Democrats predicted their party would gain seats in the chamber, they lost at least 12 incumbents and did not pick off a single House Republican. That means they are poised to see their fortunes rise. Democrats’ slim majority will offer Republicans uncommon sway for the minority party, providing opportunities to help broker legislative deals, or sink them.
No Emails Have Leaked from the 2020 Election Campaigns Yet – Tiny USB Sticks May Be One Reason Why
CNBC – Jordan Novet | Published: 12/23/2020
It appears this year’s presidential election campaigns avoided the sorts of cyberattacks that played out in 2016. No emails leaked this time. One thing that changed in the past four years: politicians, campaign workers, and their friends and family members started counting on USB sticks to securely log in to email accounts and other online services. Google worked with a nonprofit called Defending Digital Campaigns to give out more than 10,500 kits containing physical security keys. The FEC authorized the nonprofit to distribute cybersecurity products to campaigns for free or discounted prices.
Twitter, Facebook Lock Down Trump After Social Media-Fueled Riot in D.C.
Los Angeles Times – Sam Dean, Johana Bhuiyan, and Suhauna Hussein | Published: 1/6/2021
The mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol took shape on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and their social media peers spent President Trump’s term in office lurching from one crisis to another, scrambling to revise their policies on misinformation, hate speech, and incitement to violence in response to challenges from the White House and prominent figures and organizations that support the president. The rally was planned largely on their own platforms and promoted by the president to protest the supposed theft of the presidential election and disrupt the final certification of the electoral college vote. Although the companies took their strongest enforcement actions ever, including temporary locks on Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, critics say the companies’ pattern of tentative half-measures helped precipitate a crisis.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Former Oakland Building Inspector Accused of Bribery Fined $55,000 by Ethics Commission
San Jose Mercury News – Annie Sciacca | Published: 1/5/2021
Oakland’s ethics commission fined a former city building permit inspector $55,000 over accusations he violated the government ethics act by accepting bribes and misusing his position. The commission voted unanimously to impose a $5,000 penalty for each of 11 violations it found against Anthony Harbaugh. The violations include soliciting money from property owners in exchange for a “pass” on certain inspections. The penalty was far above the $22,000 fine recommended by a hearing officer. For many of the counts, the commissioners increased the recommended fines, and in some, they instituted fines where the hearing officer had not.
California – Grand Jury Accuses San Jose Unified of Misleading Public and Its Own Board About Lobbying Efforts
San Jose Spotlight – Lloyd Alaban | Published: 12/30/2020
The San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) left the public and its own governing board in the dark about lobbying activities that were carried out on its behalf and possibly violated government ethics laws in the process, according to a grand jury report. The SJUSD hired a consulting firm to help it with a proposal to build affordable housing for district teachers and employees but did not disclose to its board or the public the consulting firm was also lobbying city officials. District staff members denied to the board the consultancy was doing any lobbying for the district. Meanwhile, SJUSD obscured for the public and its board the lobbying activities another firm it hired was doing at the state level.
California – Newsom’s Friendship with Lobbyist Who Threw French Laundry Party Brings Questions
Los Angeles Times – Taryn Luna and Phil Willon | Published: 12/31/2020
On the website of one of Sacramento’s most influential lobbying firms, partner Jason Kinney boasted of his close connection to Gavin Newsom, noting he has advised the governor for “nearly 14 years.” The plug suddenly disappeared days after Newsom drew national criticism for attending Kinney’s birthday dinner at a famed Napa Valley restaurant. The event turned into a political disaster for Newsom, drawing charges of hypocrisy at the very time the governor urged residents to avoid gatherings and stay home as much as possible amid an unprecedented surge in the coronavirus. But the episode also exposed something that has long been the subject of quiet discussion in Sacramento: Newsom’s decision to maintain a tight relationship with Kinney, who is director of a lobbying firm with business before the governor.
California – Opponent of Newsom Church Restrictions Identified as California Recall Donor
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 1/5/2021
An Orange County donor named John Kruger has been identified as the source of a $500,000 contribution toward recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom, solving a mystery that transfixed California political watchers. The effort to unseat Newsom received its first six-figure infusion courtesy of a limited liability company called Prov 3:9. The firm had a virtually nonexistent business presence and no record of political spending, fueling questions about its true funder and spurring a request for a state investigation from former FEC member Ann Ravel.
Colorado – Aurora’s Adoption of Strict Limits on Campaign Contributions Means Most of Colorado’s Largest Cities Have Controls in Place
Denver Post – John Aguilar | Published: 1/3/2021
Aurora will soon impose strict limits on how much money can be raised in mayoral and city council races, becoming the latest large Colorado city to reform a campaign finance system that many decry as too opaque and friendly to big business interests. With Aurora joining Denver, Fort Collins, and Lakewood in revamping its rules on the role of money in local races, four of the state’s five most populous cities will have campaign finance controls on the books. Colorado Springs puts no restrictions on donations to candidates running for public office.
Connecticut – Ritter Family of Hartford Extends Its Influence in Connecticut Legislature, Courts
MSN – Christopher Keating (Hartford Courant) | Published: 1/4/2021
Matthew Ritter is set become speaker of the Connecticut House. At the same time, his mother, Christine Keller, recently started serving on the state Supreme Court. Tom Ritter – Matthew’s father and Christine’s husband – is an influential lobbyist at a Hartford law firm and a member of the University of Connecticut board of trustees, in addition to being a former speaker in the 1990s. Gov. Ned Lamont nominated Ritter’s mother to the state’s highest court, but said he has no concerns about one family accumulating too much power or any potential conflicts-of-interest with the speaker of the House and a Supreme Court justice in the same family.
Florida – City of Tallahassee and Former Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Settle Lawsuit
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/6/2021
The former embattled Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe and the city agreed to dismiss a lawsuit she filed more than a year ago claiming she was retaliated against and forced from her position. Meadows-Keefe left the post less than a year ago after a long-running dust up with city officials, chiefly Mayor John Dailey. She had demanded Dailey publicly apologize to her and the city write her a $450,000 check in return for her to step down from the post.
Florida – Lobbyists Reach Agreement with Ethics Commission Over Secret Trip to Atlanta
MSN – Christopher Hong (Floida Times-Union) | Published: 1/5/2021
Conventus LLC, co-owned by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s former chief administrator, and a consultant who led his election campaigns admitted they organized and paid for a trip to Atlanta that was attended by Curry, then-JEA Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn, and then-city council President Scott Wilson. In an agreement with the city Ethics Commission. Tallahassee officials are prohibited from accepting gifts from registered lobbyists worth greater than $100. The commission concluded the trip was worth more than the $400 that Conventus co-owners Sam Mousa and Tim Baker told some of the participants to reimburse the company in order to not cross the $100 gift threshold.
Georgia – A Federal Judge in Atlanta Denied a Last-Minute Effort by Trump to Decertify Biden’s Victory in Georgia.
New York Times – Alan Feuer | Published: 1/5/2021
A federal judge in Atlanta denied a last-minute effort by President Trump to decertify Georgia’s election results, handing the president yet another courtroom loss before Congress is scheduled to bring the presidential race to an official end. The ruling by Judge Mark Cohen denying the emergency petition brought the number of legal defeats Trump and his allies have suffered since Election Day to more than 60. The challenges have spanned eight states and dozens of courts.
Georgia – ‘I Just Want to Find 11,780 Votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/3/2021
President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in a phone call that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act. In the recording, Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act, and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one-point warning Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.” Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected Trump’s assertions, explaining the president is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.
Georgia – Warnock, Ossoff Win in Georgia, Handing Dems Senate Control
Associated Press News – Steve Peoples, Bill Barrow, and Russ Bynum | Published: 1/6/2021
Democrats won both Senate seats in Georgia and with them, the U.S. Senate majority, serving President Trump a defeat in his turbulent final days in office while dramatically improving the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s progressive agenda. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democratic challengers who represented the diversity of their party’s evolving coalition, defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992. Warnock becomes the first African American from Georgia elected to the Senate. Ossoff becomes the state’s first Jewish senator and, at 33 years old, the Senate’s youngest member.
Illinois – ‘Ghost Payroll Scheme’ Earned CPS Tech $122K – While Doing No Work and Living in California, Watchdog Says
Chicago Sun-Times – Nader Issa | Published: 1/6/2021
A former computer technician at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was paid nearly $122,000 over two years, all while primarily living in California and doing virtually no work, according to a report from the district’s watchdog which found her school’s principal was aware of the situation but did nothing about it. The staffer self-dealt another $237,300 from the school system through a printing company she and her husband helped manage that sold goods to 14 CPS schools, including her own.
Illinois – GOP Members Introduce Bill to Distance Redistricting Process from Politicians
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel and Derek Cantu | Published: 1/5/2021
Illinois House Republicans are proposing a bill that they say could avoid another partisan redistricting cycle and say they ae holding Gov. JB Pritzker’s feet to the fire, daring him to uphold a campaign promise to veto any new legislative maps design which unfairly benefit one political party over another. Though the state constitution lays out a June 30 deadline for the Legislature to pass new maps, that deadline has been blown for the last five decades since the 1970 constitution was ratified, leaving the district drawing process to a bipartisan commission. Republican members claim previous map designs were developed in such a manner to divide or pack together constituents into irregular district lines based upon party affiliation.
Indiana – Some Donors to Pete Buttigieg’s Presidential Campaign Scored Contracts from South Bend When He Was Mayor
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 12/23/2020
Pete Buttigieg, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for Transportation secretary and the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, received presidential campaign donations from executives at companies that had public works contracts with the city while he led it. A review of dozens of the city’s infrastructure contracts during his second term as mayor, from 2016 into 2020, shows that under Buttigieg, a portion of the city’s spending went toward contractors who later became donors to his campaign for president which he launched in 2019. If he is confirmed, Buttigieg, as head of the Department of Transportation, would be responsible for pushing forward the incoming administration’s infrastructure proposal.
Louisiana – 5 Years Before Ethics Charges Were Filed, Groundwater Commission Was Told of Potential Conflicts
The Advocate – David Mitchell | Published: 1/2/2021
Five years before five members of a Baton Rouge-area groundwater commission were charged with conflict-of-interest violations, an attorney for the commission warned of exactly the problem that led to the charges. In 2015, former Assistant Attorney General Megan Terrell, then the groundwater commission’s legal advisor, concluded state ethics law could bar commissioners from drawing a salary from the big groundwater users they were supposed to regulate, like Baton Rouge Water and ExxonMobil. She wrote that while ethics opinions do not prevent industrial and other major users from nominating representatives to the groundwater commission, as state law allows them, it “may affect the ability of these users from nominating their own employees.”
Missouri – Lobbyist Steve Tilley Worked to Steer Marijuana Money to Jason Kander Tiny Home Project
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson and Jack Suntrup | Published: 12/30/2020
Gov. Mike Parson’s decision to spend part of the proceeds from Missouri’s fledgling medical marijuana program on a tiny home project for veterans may have been influenced by one of the Capitol’s most powerful lobbyists. Among former House Speaker Steve Tilley’s lengthy list of lobbying clients is the Veterans Community Project, a nonprofit that received $2.5 million in the most recent state budget to build 50 homes to help former military personnel. Records show the hiring of Tilley and his lobbying firm by Veterans Community Project came just three days after Parson’s visit to the development. But the deal has generated conflict.
New York – Queens Senator Fined $15K for ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Trips from City Funds
Queens Eagle – David Brand | Published: 1/5/2021
State Sen. James Sanders was fined $15,000 for accepting all-expense-paid trips and various “valuable gifts” from a local nonprofit he funded during his time in the New York City Council. Sanders was a council member when local nonprofit Margert Community Corporation picked up his tab at an all-inclusive Poconos resort on five separate occasions between 2009 and 2012, according to the Conflict of Interest Board. As Margert lavished Sanders with trips and gifts, he funneled nearly $842,000 in discretionary funding to the nonprofit.
New York – Three Men Gave $250 Each to a Candidate for City Comptroller – and Say They Never Heard of Him
The City – Clifford Michel | Published: 1/4/2021
Ameer Alonzo, Agnissan Achi, and Silas Adedokun were listed as giving $250 each to New York Sen. Brian Benjamin’s campaign. They say they did not give any money. “It sounds like a scam. … This is just so random,” Achi said. The men – and a toddler – are among 23 individuals who were recorded as contributing to the Benjamin 2021 campaign fund via an intermediary named Michael Murphy. Each name is associated with a $250 money order. Under New York City’s public campaign financing program, the first $100 of each of those donations is potentially eligible for $800 in taxpayer-supplied matching dollars. Contributions must come from the named donor’s own funds.
North Dakota – North Dakota Lobbyist Gift Ban Takes Effect; Ethics Bills Set in Legislature
Williston Herald – Jack Dura (Bismarck Tribune) | Published: 1/4/2021
Lobbyists in North Dakota now cannot give gifts to public officials, including state lawmakers, executive branch officials, legislative staff, and governor’s Cabinet members. Items as nominal as cups and stress balls are prohibited. Gifting violations carry civil penalties that could be up to $1,000 for gifts worth less than $500, and twice the value of gifts worth $500 or more. Legislation has come forth related to the Ethics Commission, including its budget bill and a proposal allowing for advisory opinions and etching complaint procedures into law.
Ohio – Despite Bribery Scandal, Influence of Dark Money in Ohio Remains Unchecked
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 1/4/2021
A federal investigation into a nearly $61 million bribery scandal in Columbus shined a bright light on the influence of so-called dark money in state politics. Investigators allege businesses like FirstEnergy spent nearly $61 million to help Rep. Larry Householder win control of the Ohio House, pass a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants, and defend that law against a ballot effort to block it. This money was donated to nonprofit and for-profit corporations that are not required to disclose anything about their contributions. But in the months since Householder’s arrest, Ohio lawmakers have done nothing to curtail dark money’s influence in Ohio.
Ohio – Groups Backing Gov. DeWine and His Daughter Received FirstEnergy Cash Funneled Through Dark Money Outfits
MSM – Jackie Borchardt (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/23/2020
Cash from FirstEnergy Corp. and related businesses reached the coffers of “dark money” groups supporting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his daughter and Greene County prosecutor candidate, Alice DeWine, tax documents show. The documents shed new light on a key player in a federal bribery investigation that entangled the former Ohio House speaker and four others. They also show for the first time where a “dark money” group supporting Alice DeWine’s bid for prosecutor got some of its funding. A spokesperson for the governor said DeWine spoke with FirstEnergy officials in 2019 and asked them to support his daughter’s effort with independent expenditures. Independent expenditures are political ads that support or oppose a candidate without cooperation with that candidate or their campaign.
Oklahoma – Ethics Commission Slaps Two Lobbyists with Hefty Financial Penalties
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 1/5/2021
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission imposed hefty penalties on two well-known lobbyists for violations of campaign finance law. James Milner agreed to pay $65,000 while James McSpadden will pay $50,000, both for violations related to the acceptance and expenditure of funds of Oklahomans for Healthy Living. Milner served as the group’s chairperson, while McSpadden was treasurer. The commission found Oklahomans for Healthy Living acted as a straw political action committee by accepting and distributing illegal corporate contributions, failing to disclose the donations, failing to identify that such contributions were from a corporate source, and expending corporate funds to Oklahoma committees.
Pennsylvania – Ex-House Speaker John Perzel Wins 3rd and Likely Final Bid to Avoid Paying $1M for Corruption Conviction
PennLive.com – Matt Miller | Published: 1/4/2021
Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis said state prosecutors did not prove an exact dollar value for what they claim was the loss from former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel’s participation in the so-called Computergate scandal. He was among several House Republicans who were convicted or pleaded guilty to using taxpayer funds to create a computer system designed to promote the election of GOP candidates. Perzel was first hit with the $1 million in 2012 when Lewis sentenced him to prison and probation on his guilty pleas to theft, conspiracy, and conflict-of-interest charges.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Republicans Block Seating of Democratic State Senator, Take Control from Lieutenant Governor
MSN – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 1/5/2021
The seating of new Pennsylvania legislators turned into a bitter partisan spectacle as Republicans in the state Senate blocked a Democratic lawmaker from taking his oath of office and removed the Democratic lieutenant governor from his role overseeing the proceedings. Leaders shouted and spoke over each other, at one point trying to conduct dueling sessions in a stark showcase of this year’s political divisions over normally routine functions of democracy. Republicans say they will not seat Sen.-elect Jim Brewster as a legal challenge to his victory is pending, although his win has been certified and the state Supreme Court sided with him in a dispute over how to count votes in a close race.
South Carolina – Magistrate Judges Took Bribes, Stole Money and Mishandled Cases. South Carolina Officials Now Want Reform
ProPublica – Joseph Cranney (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 1/5/2021
When the South Carolina Legislature reconvenes, lawmakers say a priority will be ramping up their scrutiny of local magistrate judges, many of whom are among the state’s busiest but least qualified jurists. A series by The Charleston Post and Courier and ProPublica exposed how a flawed system of selection and oversight provided fertile ground for incompetence and corruption on the bench. One proposal would do away with loopholes that have allowed magistrates to shield ethical offenses or preside for years despite expired terms.
South Carolina – SC Senators Turn Spotlight on NextEra, Energy Giant Seeking to Buy Santee Cooper
The State – John Monk | Published: 12/31/2020
A South Carolina Senate subcommittee voted to investigate energy giant NextEra’s efforts to acquire Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric utility. The subcommittee agreed to send NextEra a letter requesting numerous details about the company’s lobbying efforts with, and campaign contributions to, state lawmakers. The panel will also ask NextEra to provide details on a reported ongoing federal criminal investigation into some of the company’s dealings in Florida. If NextEra refuses to provide the information, senators will seek subpoena power from the Senate.
Virginia – Richmond Judge Recuses Himself from Case Involving State Senator Who Has Power Over Reappointing Him to the Bench
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 12/28/2020
Richmond General District Court Judge David Hicks, who presided over the arraignment of a state senator and then appeared before that senator to seek reappointment to the bench, recused himself from any further role in the criminal case. A retired judge has been appointed to handle the next hearing for Virginia Sen. Joseph Morrissey, who is facing misdemeanor charges of improper conduct at a polling place during the 2019 election. Virginia is one of only two states in which the Legislature appoints judges. While all members of the Senate and House vote on the appointments, the custom is to defer to the choices of each local delegation.
Washington – Olympia Lawmaking Is About to Go Virtual. Participants See Both Minefields and Silver Linings
Tri-City Herald – Sarah Genzler | Published: 1/3/2021
During the 2021 session, Olympia’s Capitol Campus that comes alive each January will, under current plans, remain largely dormant. Legislative buildings will stay closed to the public, with COVID-19 transmission prevention in mind. Much of the typical activity and conversation will move online. Not everyone supports that vision. Republican leaders believe more access could be preserved safely. And groups have stated plans to enter and occupy the state Legislative Building during session, claiming that keeping the Capitol closed to the public is unconstitutional, COVID-19 or not.
West Virginia – GOP West Virginia State Delegate Live-Streams as He Storms Congress with Pro-Trump Mob: ‘We’re going in!’
MSN – Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
Sporting a black helmet and shouting, “Trump! Trump!,” a West Virginia delegate pushed his way through the crowd as he narrated on Facebook Live the moment the mob cracked open the doors of Congress. “We’re in! We’re in!” cheered Derrick Evans, a newly elected member of West Virginia’s House. His recording, which has since been deleted, left state officials from both parties slamming his participation in the mob of pro-Trump supporters who broke into Congress as lawmakers convened to confirm the results of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Amid the violent coup attempt, one woman was shot and killed by police, and three others died of medical emergencies.
January 7, 2021 •
Campaign Finance California: “Opponent of Newsom Church Restrictions Identified as California Recall Donor” by Jeremy White for Politico Oklahoma: “Ethics Commission Slaps Two Lobbyists with Hefty Financial Penalties” by Barbara Hoberock for Tulsa World Elections National: “Congress Affirms Biden’s Presidential […]
California: “Opponent of Newsom Church Restrictions Identified as California Recall Donor” by Jeremy White for Politico
Oklahoma: “Ethics Commission Slaps Two Lobbyists with Hefty Financial Penalties” by Barbara Hoberock for Tulsa World
National: “Congress Affirms Biden’s Presidential Win Following Riot at U.S. Capitol” by Rosalind Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, Seung Min Kim, and Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania Republicans Block Seating of Democratic State Senator, Take Control from Lieutenant Governor” by Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “‘Is This Really Happening?’: The siege of Congress, seen from the inside” by Staff for Politico
Florida: “City of Tallahassee and Former Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Settle Lawsuit” by Karl Etters for Tallahassee Democrat
Illinois: “‘Ghost Payroll Scheme’ Earned CPS Tech $122K – While Doing No Work and Living in California, Watchdog Says” by Nader Issa for Chicago Sun-Times
New York: “Queens Senator Fined $15K for ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Trips from City Funds” by David Brand for Queens Eagle
Florida: “Lobbyists Reach Agreement with Ethics Commission Over Secret Trip to Atlanta” by Christopher Hong for Florida Times-Union
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