March 31, 2022 •
Elections Georgia: “Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown” by Fredreka Schouten (CNN) for MSN Ethics South Dakota: “SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear” by Stephen Groves (Associated Press) for Yahoo […]
Georgia: “Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown” by Fredreka Schouten (CNN) for MSN
South Dakota: “SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear” by Stephen Groves (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
National: “Flynn Partner Wins New Trial in Foreign-Agent Case” by Josh Gerstein (Politico) for Yahoo News
National: “How Google and Amazon Bankrolled a ‘Grassroots’ Activist Group of Small Business Owners to Lobby Against Big Tech Oversight” by Eamon Javers and Meghan Maharishi for CNBC
Vermont: “Corporations Can’t Donate to Molly Gray’s Campaign. But Their Lobbyists Host Fundraisers” by Lola Duffort for VTDigger.org
National: “Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Transparency in the Lucrative – and Murky – Federal Contracting Process” by Lucien Bruggeman and Soo Rin Kim for ABC News
Florida: “Florida’s Redistricting Mess Heads to Special Session after DeSantis Vetoes ‘Defective’ Map” by Gary Fineout (Politico) for MSN
Ohio: “Ohio’s High Court Suggests No Ruling Before Primary on Redistricting Map” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
March 30, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Ex-Congressman David Rivera Loses ‘Last-Ditch’ Move to Avoid $456,000 Campaign Fine” by Francisco Alvarado for Florida Bulldog Idaho: “Ammon Bundy Pays Himself Thousands in Campaign Cash” by James Dawson for Boise State Public Radio Maryland: “Legal Spending […]
Florida: “Ex-Congressman David Rivera Loses ‘Last-Ditch’ Move to Avoid $456,000 Campaign Fine” by Francisco Alvarado for Florida Bulldog
Idaho: “Ammon Bundy Pays Himself Thousands in Campaign Cash” by James Dawson for Boise State Public Radio
Maryland: “Legal Spending from Mosby Campaign Accounts Did Not Violate Maryland Law, Election Board Finds” by Emily Opilo for Baltimore Sun
National: “Jan. 6 White House Logs Given to House Show 7-hour Gap in Trump Calls” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Jan. 6 Committee Backs Contempt Charges for Two Former Trump Aides” by Jacqueline Alemany and Amy Wang (Washington Post) for MSN
Arizona: “Panel Strikes Down Plan to Give Arizona Lawmakers Big Raises” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star
National: “Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington” by Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
Connecticut: “CT Contracting Watchdog Clears Key Hurdle to Add Investigative Staff” by Keith Phaneuf for CTMirror.org
March 29, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Maryland: “FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group” by Jeffrey Tomich for E&E News New York: “Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin” by Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland […]
Maryland: “FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group” by Jeffrey Tomich for E&E News
New York: “Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin” by Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland for New York Daily News
National: “Trump Likely Committed Felony Obstruction, Federal Judge Rules” by Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein, and Nicholas Wu for Politico
Illinois: “Michael Madigan’s Indictment: How he pushed for allies to get ComEd jobs and his own daughter’s legislation was killed.” by Jeremy Gorner, Dan Petrella, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
West Virginia: “How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions” by Julie Tate, Christopher Flavelle, and Erin Schaff (New York Times) for Yahoo News
California: “Airbnb Routinely Deploys Its ‘Astroturf Army’ to Combat California Short-Term Rental Regulations, Critics Say” by Silas Valentino (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
Virginia: “Key Youngkin Adviser Is Paid by Political Firms” by Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Why Redistricting Has Stalled in 4 Unfinished States” by Ally Mutnick and Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo News
March 28, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI” by Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) for MSN Illinois: “State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense” by Peter […]
National: “Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI” by Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense” by Peter Hancock for Capitol News Illinois
Oregon: “Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Ask Oregon Supreme Court for a New Hearing” by Julia Shumway for Oregon Capital Chronicle
National: “Virginia Thomas Urged White House Chief to Pursue Unrelenting Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Election, Texts Show” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN
Georgia: “Guilty Verdict in Atlanta City Hall Corruption Trial” by Associated Press for Yahoo News
South Carolina: “SC Ethics Commission Stops Silencing Whistleblowers After Free-Speech Lawsuit” by Avery Wilks for Charleston Post and Courier
Colorado: “Judge Says Republican Consultants Didn’t Violate Redistricting Lobbying Rules” by Bente Birkeland for Colorado Public Radio
Maryland: “Judge Throws Out Maryland Congressional Map Over ‘Extreme’ Gerrymandering” by Meagan Flynn, Ovetta Wiggins, and Erin Cox (Washington Post) for MSN
March 25, 2022 •
National/Federal As GOP Lawmakers Push for More Election Fraud Charges, Prosecutors Find Few Cases MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022 Demands for criminal cases tied to the 2020 election continue to stress the political system […]
As GOP Lawmakers Push for More Election Fraud Charges, Prosecutors Find Few Cases
MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
Demands for criminal cases tied to the 2020 election continue to stress the political system and put pressure on prosecutors, particularly elected Republicans. Supporters of former President Trump also are pushing GOP lawmakers, who have already enacted numerous laws tightening voting rules, to stiffen penalties for fraud and create investigative teams aimed at rooting out election malfeasance, efforts that critics say will further suppress voting. But a Washington Post survey of attorneys general and large district attorney offices in the six swing states turned up just 39 cases of people charged with illegal activity related to the November 2020 election.
Capitol Riot Suspect Who Fled to Belarus Granted Asylum, State Media Says
MSN – Rachel Pennett (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
A man on the FBI’s wanted list for his alleged role in the Capitol riot has been granted asylum in Belarus. Evan Neumann fled to Europe after the insurrection. He lived in Ukraine for four months before crossing into Belarus on foot late last year. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his close ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, have referenced the Capitol riot, calling the prosecution of those involved an example of “double standards” by the U.S. because it frequently criticizes crackdowns on anti-government protests abroad.
Could Proxy Voting Make the House More Inclusive? Some Lawmakers Hope So
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 3/9/2022
Democrats argued to extend and reimagine two things that have helped the U.S. House weather the coronavirus pandemic ––proxy voting and remote hearings. Those practices are set to expire March 30. Republicans pushed back during the “members’ day” hearing, which gave a broad range of lawmakers the chance to sound off on how the House should operate as the pandemic wanes. Things should return to normal, Republicans said. Some said remote work is ripe for abuse, blamed it for contributing to a toxic culture in Congress, and raised questions of constitutionality.
Ethics Advocates Say Senate Staffers Could Be Breaking Rules on Stock Ownership
NPR – Deirdre Walsh | Published: 3/21/2022
The Senate and the House are considering legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks. But there is already a narrow ban in place for some Senate staff members that was enacted in the 1970s, and an outside legal group believes some aides appear to be violating that ban. Senate committee staffers are required to divest stock in industries related to the jurisdiction of the panel they work for. The Campaign Legal Center said its review of financial disclosure forms found five senior Senate committee aides with stock holdings that could run afoul of the rule.
Russian Entities Kept Much of Their D.C. Influence Peddling Outside Public View
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 3/22/2022
For years, Russian entities registered to lobby under the Lobbying Disclosure Act rather than the Foreign Agents Registration Act. They were able to do that so long as a foreign government or political party was not the “principal beneficiary” of the lobbying effort. Those Russian entities, some of whom have been sanctioned by the Biden administration, are able to influence U.S. policy without disclosing details about the scope of their outreach, such as information about the dates of their activities, names of contacts, speeches or internet postings, and specific expenses on behalf of the client, among other activities.
Ted Cruz’s Latest Troll? Turning His Campaign into a Super PAC
Daily Beast – Roger Sollenberger | Published: 3/22/2022
Federal law says candidates can only give other candidates $2,000 per election. But U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz may have found a loophole. In February, Cruz poured $137,183 into the House campaign for Cassy Garcia, his former staffer turned congressional candidate. Cruz, who is currently challenging the FEC in the Supreme Court, broke new ground, assuming unlimited spending powers and raising campaign finance red flags. None of Garcia’s campaign finance reports show a dime spent on promotion – no advertising, digital marketing, signs, mailings, or get-out-the-vote efforts, just a $600 website.
The Federal Election Commission Slapped Marathon Petroleum Corporation with a $85,000 Fine After It Illegally Contributed $1 Million to 2 Republican PACs
Yahoo News – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 3/18/2022
The FEC levied a $85,000 fine against Marathon Petroleum Company after it illegally contributed $1 million to a pair of PACs supporting House and Senate Republicans’ re-election campaigns. Marathon has contracts with the federal government, and campaign finance laws prohibit federal contractors from making any political contributions while negotiating or performing federal contracts.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska House Passes Campaign Contribution Limits Bill
Alaska Public Media – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Alaska House narrowly passed legislation that would set a limit on individual contributions to candidates after prior limits were struck down by a court and the state agency overseeing campaign finance rules urged the Legislature to revisit the issue. The bill would set a $2,000 limit on what an individual could give to a candidate each election cycle. It has a $5,000 a year limit on what an individual can give a group, such as a non-party organization.
California – Alvarez Work for SDG&E Could Have Violated City Ethics Law
Voice of San Diego – Andrew Keatts | Published: 3/21/2022
When former city council member David Alvarez helped San Diego Gas & Electric push an energy infrastructure project, he may have violated San Diego’s prohibition on elected officials influencing city decisions after leaving office. Alvarez says he was working as part of a contract to do community engagement, not lobbying, and therefore is not in violation of ethics law. After leaving office, elected officials face a two-year waiting period during which they cannot influence officials over city decisions.
California – SJ City Council Passes Draft Proposal to Bar Political Donations by Foreign-Owned Corps
California Globe – Evan Symon | Published: 3/23/2022
The city council approved a piece of draft legislation to prohibit foreign-influenced corporations from making political contributions to any city elections in San Jose. The new campaign finance law would not allow corporations with one percent or more ownership by a single foreign national or five percent or more ownership by multiple foreign nationals from making political expenditures in city elections. While the proposal was only a policy memorandum on final draft ordinance language, its passage was seen as an indication the council would pass the ordinance in the coming weeks.
Connecticut – Connecticut Lobbyists Back at Capitol After Two Years to Influence Legislation
Yahoo News – Christopher Keating (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/20/2022
For the past two years, lobbyists in Connecticut disappeared from the state Capitol as the building was closed to the public for fear of spreading the coronavirus. Now, mask-wearing lobbyists say they are happy to be back after having little personal access to lawmakers during the entire pandemic. While it is impossible to roll back the clock, both lawmakers and lobbyists say some legislation might have been changed over the past two years if the advocates could have lobbied more aggressively and in person as they always did in the past.
Georgia – Augusta Mayor Faces State Law Charges, $800,000 Fines in Ethics Commission Decision
MSN – Susan McCord (Augusta Chronicle) | Published: 3/22/2022
Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis faces charges he broke state laws and fines of more than $800,000 after the Georgia ethics commission found probable cause to move forward with two complaints against him. The investigations stemmed from the origin of billboards encouraging voters to support replacing the James Brown Arena. The billboards appeared a few weeks before a non-binding ballot poll on where to build a new facility. The billboards were attributed to Concerned Citizens of Richmond County. The complaint said unlike a corporation, a ballot committee is required to register with election officials when it raises or spends more than $500.
Georgia – Stacey Abrams Seeks Access Now to Unlimited Fundraising
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 3/20/2022
Georgia’s Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams, is asserting she should be allowed to immediately begin using a fundraising vehicle that would allow her to raise unlimited contributions because she is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Abrams could sue to gain access to a leadership committee, a type of fundraising committee approved by lawmakers last year. The committees can raise unlimited funds, while top individual donors to Abrams’ direct committee would be limited to giving $7,600 for the May 24 primary election and another $7,600 for the November general election.
Illinois – After the Madigan Charges, Democrats Lack an Appetite for New Ethics Reform This Spring
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 3/22/2022
The chances of Democrats pushing through a new round of ethics reforms in the wake of former Speaker Michael Madigan appear bleak at the moment, with time running out on the Illinois Legislature’s spring calendar. A top government reform group and a former state legislative watchdog say what lawmakers did last year on ethics is not nearly enough and more stringent safeguards are needed to confront legislative conflicts-of-interest and other misconduct that have been adding to the federal prison population.
Illinois – Chicago City Council Debates Measure to Ban Spouses of Aldermen from Lobbying Elected Officials
MSN – Mary Ann Ahern (WMAQ) | Published: 3/23/2022
A proposed ordinance before the Chicago City Council would prohibit spouses or partners of elected officials from lobbying their fellow aldermen, with the measure following reports that City Clerk and Illinois secretary of state candidate Anna Valencia failed to disclose her husband’s lobbying contracts. Valencia did not disclose her husband Reyahd Kazmi’s lobbying, which is required under state law.
Illinois – Ex-Ald. Ricardo Muñoz Sentenced to 13 Months in Prison for Spending Thousands of Dollars in Political Funds on Tuition, Trips and Sports Tickets
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/17/2022
Former Chicago Ald. Ricardo Muñoz was sentenced to 13 months in prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a political campaign fund he controlled and spending it on personal items ranging from iPhones to skydiving excursions. Muñoz had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering, becoming the latest in a long line of city council members to be caught using their elected positions to line their own pockets.
Illinois – Former State Rep. Edward Acevedo Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison for Tax Case Stemming from ComEd Probe
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/23/2022
A federal judge sentenced former state Rep. Edward Acevedo on to six months in prison for cheating on his taxes in a prosecution that resulted from the same investigation that led to the indictment of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Acevedo is now the first person to be sentenced in the sweeping probe that has so far led to charges against Madigan, two of his closest advisers, and a slew of former Commonwealth Edison executives and contract lobbyists, many with ties to the former speaker.
Maryland – Giving from the Grave? Marilyn Mosby’s Dead Grandfather Contributed to Her and Her Husband’s Campaigns
Baltimore Brew – Mark Reutter | Published: 3/23/2022
The grandfather of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby died in 2015 but apparently lives on as a source of campaign money for her and her husband, city council President Nick Mosby. Prescott Thompson is listed as contributing $500 to Marilyn Mosby last year. The report was filed on January 19, 2022, six days after she was indicted on federal charges linked to her purchase of two Florida vacation homes. Marilyn Mosby has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Maryland – Maryland’s High Court Takes Up Gerrymandering Case That Delayed State’s Elections
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
Maryland’s highest court heard arguments in the gerrymandering case that has shaken up the state’s elections calendar, with Republicans arguing that about a dozen recently redrawn legislative districts are politically, demographically, or racially unfair. The map, approved by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, dictates the boundaries for state Senate and House districts. Under the state constitution, each legislative district is supposed to consist of adjoining land, be compact, and have a substantially equal number of residents. The map must give “due regard” to natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions.
Maryland – Md. Legislator Says Corporate Funding of ‘Astroturf’ Ad Campaigns Must Be Disclosed
WTOP – Bruce DePuyt | Published: 3/21/2022
An influential Maryland legislator is taking aim at what he considers “astroturf” lobbying by large government contractors. Under a measure sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke and 14 others, companies with million-dollar state government contracts would be required to disclose contributions they make to advocacy organizations. Luedtke said the broadcast and internet advertising campaigns these groups sponsor “create the appearance of a grassroots movement when, in truth, support comes from a narrow group of special interests that have a financial interest in a project.”
Michigan – Michigan Republicans Delay Absentee Ballot Signature Rules
MSN – David Eggert (Associated Press) | Published: 3/22/2022
Republican lawmakers delayed until after the November election rules that will tell Michigan election clerks how to match the signatures of people applying for and submitting absentee ballots. The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules’ maneuver to propose bills keeps the regulations from taking effect for nine months. The rules drafted by the state elections bureau eventually will go into effect because Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would likely veto Republicans’ alternative legislation.
Mississippi – Speaker Philip Gunn Uses Secret Capitol Meetings to Pass His Bills and Restrict Public Debate. Is It Legal?
Mississippi Today – Adam Ganucheau | Published: 3/21/2022
Mississippi Speaker Philip Gunn called a House Republican Caucus to a closed-door meeting on March 14. Gunn told the Republicans that he, his chief of staff, and Rep. Trey Lamar had reworked a tax reform proposal that, if passed, could change the way government funds public services for generations. Few House Republicans knew the details of Gunn’s updated proposal until that meeting. A few minutes after the bill passed committee, the entire House passed it on the floor. The caucus meetings are just one tool Gunn regularly employs to strong-arm House Republicans into passing the bills he authors or supports and to restrict public debate among his fellow party mates, critics say.
New Jersey – Bill to Expand New Jersey Bribery Law to Include Candidates for Office Gains Momentum
MSN – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 3/17/2022
After a decade in legislative limbo, a bill that would allow politicians to be convicted of bribery even if they do not hold public office has begun moving in the New Jersey General Assembly. Over the last decade, courts have dismissed charges or overturned convictions against several politicians based on the loophole, despite evidence they took bribes with the intention of granting official favors if elected. The bill that expands the definition of “public servant” in the state’s bribery statute.
New Mexico – Cowboys for Trump Co-Founder Charged with Campaign Violation
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 3/18/2022
A New Mexico elected official was charged with a misdemeanor campaign finance violation for refusing to register his political group Cowboys for Trump, the state’s attorney general announced. Couy Griffin, a county commissioner, has been facing off with state election regulators for more than a year over whether he needs to register the group as a political committee. Griffin expressed concern that registering may lead to other disclosure requirements about contributions and spending.
New Mexico – New Harassment Allegations Against Lawmaker Prompt Call for State Ethics Commission to Handle Future Complaints
New Mexico In Depth – Marjorie Childress and Trip Jennings | Published: 3/21/2022
Representatives of eight organizations called for New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto to resign or for his legislative colleagues to remove him from office if he did not leave, in an open letter containing new allegations of sexual harassment and bullying. The accusations against Ivey-Soto come a month after lobbyist Marianna Anay accused him of sexually harassing her. After receiving Anaya’s complaint in February, legislative leaders opened an investigation into Ivey-Soto, adhering to a system where complaints against state lawmakers are kept confidential in a procedure overseen by other lawmakers.
New York – Ethics Commission Orders Cuomo to Repay $5.1M from Book Deal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/18/2022
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) passed a motion again ordering former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repay $5.1 million in book royalties. Cuomo is already stating he will contest the order and will not comply. This time, JCOPE is taking a near-certain legal battle with Cuomo into its own hands.
New York – Hochul’s Ethics Overhaul Plan Wilts but New Plan Is Pushed
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/23/2022
Although lawmakers have not shut the door on reforming the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to have law school leaders appoint members of a new ethics panel appears dead. In its wake, a coalition good-government groups sent a new proposal to the governor’s office, the Assembly, and the state Senate, all controlled by Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said there is still a potential for an ethics overhaul as part of the budget process.
New York – Prosecutor Who Resigned Over Stalled Trump Probe Says Ex-President Committed Felonies
MSN – Shayna Jacobs, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
A veteran prosecutor who resigned from a special appointment to the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into Donald Trump’s finances and business practices said the former president personally committed felonies and should be charged promptly. The comments were made in Mark Pomerantz’s resignation letter as he and Carey Dunne, another top investigator on the team probing Trump and the family-run Trump Organization, abruptly left the office after people familiar with the matter said District Attorney Alvin Bragg appeared uninterested in pursuing a case.
North Carolina – N.C. Investigates Mark Meadows After Reports That He Never Lived Where He Registered to Vote
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 3/17/2022
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are probing Mark Meadows over his voter registration after news organizations reported the former White House chief of staff registered to vote in 2020 using the address of a mobile home that he has never lived in. WRAL reported the State Board of Elections is also investigating Meadows. It is illegal to provide false information on a voter registration, and while Americans can have multiple residences, they can have only one official domicile, which is tied to their voter registration.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Panel to Split Proposed Conflict of Interest Rules
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 3/23/2022
The North Dakota Ethics Commission decided to split draft conflict-of-interest rules into two categories for further review. The panel is writing the rules for state government officials and members of certain boards to disclose conflicts and some campaign contributions when handling “quasi-judicial” proceedings. Commissioner Paul Richard recommended the consolidated rules for general conflicts-of-interest and for “quasi-judicial” proceedings be split. The board’s attorney also walked its members through revisions to the proposed rules.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Shareholders’ Attorneys Identify Charles Jones, Michael Dowling for Devising House Bill 6 Payments
Cleveland Plain Dealer – John Caniglia | Published: 3/23/2022
Charles Jones, the former chief executive officer of FirstEnergy, and Michael Dowling, who led the company’s lobbying efforts, “devised and orchestrated” a $64 million bribery scheme to pay a top Ohio legislative leader and utility regulator in exchange for official action, according to a sworn declaration in court. While Jones and Dowling were both suspected central characters in the operation – both were fired after initial FBI arrests in the case – the new filing marks the first time the two were personally identified. FirstEnergy said it paid the bribes to help pass House Bill 6, an energy policy overhaul worth an estimated $1.3 billion to the utility.
Ohio – Ohio GOP Governor Candidate Joe Blystone Ordered to Return More Than $100,000 in Campaign Donations
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 3/23/2022
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office says Republican Joe Blystone’s campaign for governor must refund a total of more than $100,000 in contributions that violate the state’s limit on cash donations or ban on corporate contributions. The flagged contributions include more than $101,000 in donations that exceed the state’s limit of $100 for each contribution made in cash, according to Brian Katz, campaign finance director for LaRose’s office. Katz also said it is necessary for Blystone to refund $1,100 in in-kind contributions from corporations, which are not allowed to give to Ohio candidates.
Oklahoma – Lawmakers Again Stifle Debate on Applying Open Records Law to Themselves
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 3/17/2022
Lawmakers’ emails to lobbyists, calendars, call logs, and other records that could give the public insight into the bills they craft are set to remain secret for at least another year. A bill that would have ended Oklahoma’s status as one of a handful of states that allows the Legislature to exempt itself from open records and meeting laws failed to clear a key legislative deadline. The proposal would have ended a decades-old exemption that allowed the Legislature to ignore the open records and meeting laws that city councils, county commissioners, school boards, and other state governing bodies must follow.
Oregon – Oregon Supreme Court Ruling Likely Dooms Campaign Finance Limits This Year
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 3/18/2022
In a setback for election reformers, the Oregon Supreme Court declined to direct Secretary of State Shemia Fagan to reverse a decision to disqualify ballot measures aimed at limiting campaign contributions. Proponents of the measures asked the Supreme Court to step in and rule Fagan’s interpretation of the state constitution was incorrect. If justices had agreed, it might have given the group enough time to collect signatures and put one of their proposals before voters. But the court ruled that intervening in the case would not be appropriate.
Pennsylvania – Kenyatta Johnson Corruption Case Heads to Trial After Pandemic Delays
WHYY – Aaron Moselle | Published: 3/18/2022
Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson and his wife, political consultant Dawn Chavous, are headed to court more than two years after they were charged in a federal fraud and racketeering case. The couple will be joined by Abdur Rahim Islam and Shahied Dawan, two former executives at Universal Companies, a nonprofit real estate developer and charter-school operator headquartered in Johnson’s legislative district. Federal prosecutors say the co-defendants participated in a tangled quid pro quo that saw Johnson use his council seat to help Universal in exchange for a series of bribes concealed as payments to Chavous’ consulting firm, which the nonprofit had hired.
Tennessee – Campaign Finance Probes of Ex-Speaker, Ex-Staffer Head to DA
Yahoo News – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance’s voted to give prosecutors their investigations surrounding a former House speaker and his then-chief of staff, who have been implicated in an alleged political consulting kickback scheme. Another former lawmaker recently plead guilty to helping carry out the scheme. The vote refers the probes about former House Speaker Glen Casada, his former chief of staff Cade Cothren, and the Faith Family Freedom Fund PAC to the Williamson County district attorney’s office.
Vermont – Vermont Code of Ethics Bill Unanimously Passes State Senate
MSN – Lisa Rathke (Associated Press) | Published: 3/23/2022
A bill to create a state code of ethics for elected and appointed officials, legislators, and all state employees was passed unanimously by Vermont Senate. A majority of other states already have similar codes. The bill, which now goes to the House, also would apply to individuals appointed to state boards and commissions or who are authorized to act or speak on behalf of the state. Anyone who violates the code of ethics can be investigated by the Vermont State Ethics Commission.
Wisconsin – Supreme Court Rejects GOP Bid to Block Wisconsin Congressional Map but Sides with Republicans in State Legislative Map Dispute
MSN – Tierney Sneed (CNN) | Published: 3/23/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Republican Party request that it upend a congressional map adopted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that was preferred by Democrats. That redistricting plan had a Republican lean but was still favored by Democrats because of the potential it could give them at least one additional seat in the U.S. House. The justices, however, also on issued an order in a separate Wisconsin redistricting case that blocked a state legislative map adopted by the state Supreme Court that was backed by Democrats.
Wyoming – Alleged Threats by Wyoming Legislators Lead to Calls for Civility
Pinedale Roundup – Jonathan Make (Wyoming Tribune Eagle) | Published: 3/17/2022
Amid new allegations of a state legislator making verbal threats, some who do business in the Wyoming Capitol here are seeking a return to greater civility. News emerged that state Rep. John Romero-Martinez allegedly threatened, in speaking with others, the lives of Rep. Andi LeBeau and former Rep. Sara Burlingame. In recent days, legislative leaders had separately asked a Senate panel to consider whether to launch a formal investigation into allegations recently brought against Sen. Anthony Bouchard. The full Senate has stripped Bouchard of his committee assignments.
Wyoming – Bill Signed into Law Attempts to Close Dark Money Loopholes
Wyoming News Tribune – Jasmine Hall | Published: 3/19/2022
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed into law a bill that attempts to close “dark money” loopholes through additional campaign finance reporting fees. The new law requires all campaigns, PACs, and organizations to file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures. If there is a failure to file the reports with the secretary of state, there can be a final order imposing a civil penalty. The penalty can be up to $500 a day beginning on the date of the final order and ending when the final report is filed. Previously, it was a one-time fee of $500.
Wyoming – Federal Judge Sides with Wyoming Gun Owners in Campaign Ad Lawsuit
Cowboy State Daily – Jim Angell and Ellen Fike | Published: 3/21/2022
A federal judge said Wyoming cannot force a Second Amendment advocacy group to share the names of its donors. U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled in favor of Wyoming Gun Owners (WyGo), finding the state law requiring the group to share a list of people who helped pay for a campaign ad is unconstitutional. The secretary of state’s office said WyGO was required to file campaign finance reports, including a list of contributions and expenditures, because it had spent more than $500 on “political activity.”
March 23, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Maryland: “Md. Legislator Says Corporate Funding of ‘Astroturf’ Ad Campaigns Must Be Disclosed” by Bruce DePuyt for WTOP Wyoming: “Federal Judge Sides with Wyoming Gun Owners in Campaign Ad Lawsuit” by Jim Angell and Ellen Fike for Cowboy […]
Maryland: “Md. Legislator Says Corporate Funding of ‘Astroturf’ Ad Campaigns Must Be Disclosed” by Bruce DePuyt for WTOP
Wyoming: “Federal Judge Sides with Wyoming Gun Owners in Campaign Ad Lawsuit” by Jim Angell and Ellen Fike for Cowboy State Daily
Georgia: “Augusta Mayor Faces State Law Charges, $800,000 Fines in Ethics Commission Decision” by Susan McCord (Augusta Chronicle) for MSN
Illinois: “After the Madigan Charges, Democrats Lack an Appetite for New Ethics Reform This Spring” by Dave McKinney for WBEZ
New Mexico: “New Harassment Allegations Against Lawmaker Prompt Call for State Ethics Commission to Handle Future Complaints” by Marjorie Childress and Trip Jennings for New Mexico In Depth
Mississippi: “Speaker Philip Gunn Uses Secret Capitol Meetings to Pass His Bills and Restrict Public Debate. Is It Legal?” by Adam Ganucheau for Mississippi Today
National: “Russian Entities Kept Much of Their D.C. Influence Peddling Outside Public View” by Hailey Fuchs (Politico) for MSN
California: “Alvarez Work for SDG&E Could Have Violated City Ethics Law” by Andrew Keatts for Voice of San Diego
March 22, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “The Federal Election Commission Slapped Marathon Petroleum Corporation with a $85,000 Fine After It Illegally Contributed $1 Million to 2 Republican PACs” by Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) for Yahoo News Georgia: “Stacey Abrams Seeks Access Now to […]
National: “The Federal Election Commission Slapped Marathon Petroleum Corporation with a $85,000 Fine After It Illegally Contributed $1 Million to 2 Republican PACs” by Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) for Yahoo News
Georgia: “Stacey Abrams Seeks Access Now to Unlimited Fundraising” by Associated Press for MSN
New Mexico: “Cowboys for Trump Co-Founder Charged with Campaign Violation” by Associated Press for Yahoo News
Wyoming: “Bill Signed into Law Attempts to Close Dark Money Loopholes” by Jasmine Hall for Wyoming News Tribune
National: “Ethics Advocates Say Senate Staffers Could Be Breaking Rules on Stock Ownership” by Deirdre Walsh for NPR
New York: “Ethics Commission Orders Cuomo to Repay $5.1M from Book Deal” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Pennsylvania: “Kenyatta Johnson Corruption Case Heads to Trial After Pandemic Delays” by Aaron Moselle for WHYY
Connecticut: “Connecticut Lobbyists Back at Capitol After Two Years to Influence Legislation” by Christopher Keating (Hartford Courant) for Yahoo News
March 18, 2022 •
National/Federal Biden Doles Out Ethics Waivers at Greater Clip Than Trump, Watchdog Reports Washington Examiner – Andrew Kerr | Published: 3/16/2022 President Biden pledged to lead “the most ethically rigorous administration in history,” but his administration has excused top officials from […]
Biden Doles Out Ethics Waivers at Greater Clip Than Trump, Watchdog Reports
Washington Examiner – Andrew Kerr | Published: 3/16/2022
President Biden pledged to lead “the most ethically rigorous administration in history,” but his administration has excused top officials from federal ethics regulations at a greater rate than Donald Trump, a watchdog group reported. Biden’s ethics pledge and federal laws prohibit officials from engaging in matters involving their former employers for at least one year after being sworn in, but those regulations can be waived if the interests of the federal government outweigh possible ethical concerns.
Document in Jan. 6 Case Shows Plan to Storm Government Buildings
Yahoo News – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 3/15/2022
A document found by federal prosecutors in the possession of a far-right leader contained a detailed plan to surveil and storm government buildings around the Capitol on January 6 last year. The document, titled “1776 Returns,” was cited by prosecutors in charging the far-right leader, Enrique Tarrio, the former head of the Proud Boys extremist group, with conspiracy. The indictment of Tarrio described the document in general terms, but people familiar with it added substantial new details about the scope and complexity of the plan it set out for directing an effort to occupy six House and Senate office buildings and the Supreme Court.
Exxon Mobil’s Lobbying Report Sets Benchmark, ESG Advocates Say
MSN – Ellen Meyers (Roll Call) | Published: 3/10/2022
A report from Exxon Mobil outlining its lobbying activities is giving investors insight into how one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies advocates on climate policies and other issues and sets a benchmark to measure disclosure on political spending by other companies, advocates say. Exxon Mobil released the report on its 2020 lobbying efforts on climate in response to a shareholder resolution from the United Steelworkers trade union and the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids.
Fearing Political Violence in 2024, Judges Sentence Jan. 6 Defendants to Probation Through the Next Election
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2022
Federal judges are increasingly sentencing defendants who participated in the January 6, 2021, breach of the Capitol to three-year terms of court supervision, fearing they could be misled into committing political violence in the 2024 presidential election. James Little became the first defendant to receive a combination of a 60-day jail term and 36 months of probation. Little pleaded guilty after telling the FBI he saw President Biden’s election victory as “the second Bolshevik revolution” and warned agents and the Democratic Party of civil war if it were not overturned.
Ginni Thomas, Wife of Supreme Court Justice, Says She Attended Jan. 6 ‘Stop-the-Steal’ Rally Before Capitol Attack
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 3/14/2022
Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, for the first time publicly acknowledged she participated in the January 6, 2021 “Stop-the-Steal” rally on the Ellipse that preceded the storming of the U.S. Capitol, raising questions about the impartiality of her husband’s work. Ginni Thomas said she was at the rally for a short period of time, got cold, and went home before Trump took the stage that day. In February 2021, she apologized to her husband’s former law clerks after a rift developed among them over her election advocacy of Trump and endorsement of the rally that led to violence and death at the Capitol.
GOP Pushes for an ‘Earthquake in American Electoral Power’
MSN – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 3/9/2022
A legal argument lurking in two U.S. Supreme Court cases could give Republican legislators in battleground states sweeping control over election procedures, with ramifications that could include power over how states select presidential electors. Republicans from Pennsylvania and North Carolina challenged court-ordered redistricting plans in their states based on the “independent legislature” theory. It is a reading of the Constitution, stemming from the 2000 election recount in Florida, that argues legislators have ultimate power over elections in their states and that state courts have a limited ability, or none at all, to check it.
Inside the Effort to Disbar Attorneys Who Backed Bogus Election Lawsuits
MSN – Tierny Sneed (CNN) | Published: 3/10/2022
Lawyers who backed former President Trump’s bogus election reversal gambits are facing fresh opposition for their involvement in the form of a flashy new campaign, launched by fellow members of the legal community, aimed at potentially disbarring the Trump-aligned attorneys. Those who have sought disciplinary responses say the post-election conduct crossed ethical lines into the realm of professional misconduct, and that the tactics were well outside the normal bounds of legal challenges to election procedures. Already several ex-Trump lawyers have found themselves subject to state bar reviews.
K Street Firms Starting to Tap Private Equity, Even Go Public
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/16/2022
Some K Street firms are seeking investment dollars, often to hire up in areas such as polling, public relations, digital and grassroots organizing, and state-level lobbying. Some policy and lobbying shops have inked deals with private equity firms, and more are likely on the way. In another twist for the industry, a group of prominent firms banded together and went public on a stock exchange in London late last year. These moves represent a clear shift from two decades ago when advertising conglomerates acquired many of Washington’s biggest operations.
Lobbying Broke All-Time Mark in 2021 Amid Flurry of Government Spending
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 3/12/2022
President Biden’s domestic agenda has taken a back seat to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it drew unprecedented attention from K Street lobbyists and special interest groups last year. The lobbying industry had a record year in 2021, taking in $3.7 billion in revenue as companies, associations, and other organizations pressed Congress and the administration over trillions of dollars in new pandemic spending and rules affecting health care, travel, and other industries. The revenue figures show lobbying spending began steadily growing in 2017 before mostly flattening in 2020 as the pandemic began.
Omarosa Manigault Newman Ordered to Pay $61,000 Over Trump-Era Ethics Violation
HuffPost – Nina Golgowski | Published: 3/16/2022
Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman was ordered to pay more than $61,000 after a federal judge said she “willfully” refused to file financial disclosure documents after being fired from the Trump administration. A law required Manigault Newman to file a public financial disclosure report within 30 days of her termination on December 12, 2017. Her report was not received until September 2019, three months after a lawsuit was filed against her over her failure to comply.
Russian Oligarch Andrey Muraviev Indicted in Political Contribution Scheme Linked to Illegal Donors to Trump PAC
CNBC – Dan Mangan | Published: 3/14/2022
A Russian oligarch linked to men accused of making illegal donations to a PAC set up for former President Trump was himself indicted by a federal grand jury for using those men to funnel contributions to other politicians. The oligarch, Andrey Muraviev, already was publicly known to have been the source of donations made on his behalf by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Those two Soviet-born former associates of Trump’s ex-lawyer Rudy Giuliani used money from Muraviev for contributions to try to get licenses for retail cannabis and marijuana businesses.
Trump Accused of Breaking Campaign Laws by Teasing 2024 Run
MSN – Meg Kinnard (Associated Press) | Published: 3/14/2022
As former President Trump continues to tease a future White House bid, a pro-Democratic super PAC accused him of violating federal campaign laws by raising and spending money for a run without officially filing his candidacy. Alleging that Trump has already privately decided to mount a 2024 campaign, American Bridge says he was then obligated to file a candidacy intent statement within 15 days of receiving contributions or making any expenditure over $5,000.
U.S. Lobbyists Connect Ukraine Officials with Powerful Allies to Help in War Against Russia
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 3/15/2022
Lobbyists are working to connect Ukrainian officials with powerful allies in the U.S., including mayors, governors, and representatives of at least one firearm’s dealer to help the war-torn country in its fight against Russia. At least one American firm and a separate lawyer each recently disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act that they started pro-bono work for Ukrainian government officials since the start of Russia’s invasion. The move for these types of advisors to start helping Ukrainian leaders comes as Western sanctions have led to lobbyists distancing themselves from Russian backed entities.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Set to Go on Trial, Which Will Focus on His Memory and Money
Lincoln Journal-Star – Todd Cooper (Omaha World-Herald) | Published: 3/13/2022
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska is on trial over accusations he lied about illegal campaign contributions from a Nigerian billionaire. The trial is the first of a sitting member of Congress in 21 years. Fortenberry has pleaded not guilty to charges he intentionally misled FBI agents and prosecutors who were investigating a $30,000 donation from Gilbert Chagoury during a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles.
From the States and Municipalities
California – ‘Abstain’: Are OC officials using a public meeting ethics check to dodge accountability?
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada and Brandon Pho | Published: 3/16/2022
At any given public meeting, local officials in Orange County could make rent control or high-rise developments part of their residents’s lives with a simple “Yes” or “No” vote. But some elected leaders are turning to a third way to vote on controversial policies during public meetings: the abstention. It is traditionally used by elected officials to shield against conflicts-of-interest when voting on issues they may have a personal stake in. At least one city is raising questions about whether the abstention has now become a way for elected officials to avoid taking any stance at all, dodging accountability by invoking the non-vote for vague or unpersuasive reasons.
Colorado – A State Lawmaker Dropped His Firearm Inside the Capitol While Hurrying to a Vote
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 3/14/2022
A Colorado lawmaker accidentally dropped his handgun in a public area inside the state Capitol recently. The firearm did not discharge, and no one was injured. State Rep. Richard Holtorf was hurrying up a short set of steps outside the House chamber when his handgun fell out of his pants onto the marble floor. The witnesses said Holtorf quickly picked it up and proceeded to enter the chamber. “This incident was unacceptable and created a dangerous situation for lawmakers, staff, and the public visiting the Capitol,” said House Speaker Alec Garnett.
Colorado – Colorado Campaign Donation Limits Stand – for Now – After Federal Court Ruling
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 3/11/2022
A federal judge denied a request for a preliminary injunction to suspend Colorado’s campaign contribution limits. Individual donors are limited to giving $400 to state legislative candidates and $1,250 to candidates for statewide office. Senior U.S. District Court Judge John Kane said a full trial based on more extensive evidence must be held before the donation caps are rejected. Still, Kane agreed the limits are likely too low, leaving open the possibility they could be overturned after a trial in the coming months.
Florida – Disney Suspends Political Donations in Florida After Bill Restricting LGBTQ Discussion
MSN – Kelsey Ables (Washington Post) | Published: 3/12/2022
Disney announced it would pause all political donations in Florida in the wake of a state bill that restricts discussion of LGBTQ issues in public schools. Over the last few weeks, the company had received criticism for remaining about what critics call the “don’t say gay” bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek also said the company would increase support for advocacy groups fighting similar laws elsewhere and would reassess Disney’s political donation policies.
Hawaii – Honolulu Councilwoman Tupola Likely Violated Ethics Laws, Commission Finds
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 3/10/2022
Honolulu City Councilperson Andria Tupola likely violated the law when she tried to use $1,500 in city funds to reimburse herself for items purchased for her former employer’s events, the Honolulu Ethics Commission determined. The commission determined Tupola had a conflict-of-interest, likely violated the city’s fair and equal treatment law and should repay the money.
Illinois – Ethics Board Fines Cook County Official Who ‘Flagrantly’ Disregarded Nepotism Ban; She Must Now Fire Her Cousin as Her Top Aide
Yahoo News – Alice Yin (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/15/2022
Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt must fire her cousin from his chief of staff position in her office and pay the county $2,000 for violating rules against nepotism, the county Ethics Board ruled. The formal admonishment comes after Wendt hired her cousin, Todd Thielmann, as her top staffer, triggering an investigation from the board tasked with disciplining employees who flout the ordinance governing best practices within their offices.
Iowa – Democrats Move Closer to Cutting Iowa’s First-in-the Nation Status for 2024 Presidential Calendar
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/11/2022
Democratic leaders took another step toward ending Iowa’s status as the first state in the party’s presidential nominating process during a sometimes contentious meeting that showed clear support for a new path that would prioritize more diverse and competitive states. The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee came to no final decisions, but for the second time this year, a majority of speakers made clear their openness to shaking up the presidential primary calendar to better reflect what speakers described as the party’s values.
Louisiana – Louisiana Lobbyist Arrested for Domestic Violence Faces Restrictions, Questions at Capitol
Louisiana Illuminator – Julie O’Donoghue | Published: 3/10/2022
Kevin Hayes, a Louisiana lobbyist who was arrested for domestic violence, has been visiting the Capitol, even though one of his alleged victims works in the building and has a protective order in place against him. The circumstances have raised red flags for domestic violence prevention advocates who question why Hayes is not facing more restrictions inside the statehouse. The incident also brought attention to his clients who have stuck with him in spite of his arrest.
Maryland – Maryland Court Delays State’s Primary Until July Amid Redistricting Challenge
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2022
Maryland’s highest court moved the state’s gubernatorial primary elections to July 19, a three-week delay, to allow time to resolve a legal challenge to recently redrawn legislative districts. Several candidates in the crowded race for governor welcomed the court decision, which gives them more time to raise their profile before the primary. But some observers worried that pushing the election into prime vacation season could prompt voter confusion or disenfranchisement.
Maryland – Top Maryland Democratic Party Official Resigns After Questioning Electability of Black Candidates
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2022
A top Maryland Democratic Party official who questioned whether voters would elect a Black candidate for governor stepped down as calls for her departure escalated. Barbara Goldberg Goldman, a prolific donor who was the party’s deputy treasurer, resigned and publicly apologized for the comments. Goldberg Goldman wrote in an email: “Consider this: Three African American males have run statewide for Governor and have lost. Maryland is not a Blue state. It’s a purple one. This is a fact we must not ignore.”
Michigan – Michigan House Republicans Introduce Ethics Reforms Amid Chatfield Probe
Business News Street – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 3/16/2022
Michigan House Republicans proposed a series of ethics reforms that respond to controversies surrounding former Speaker Lee Chatfield, who is under investigation by the State Police and Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office. The new bills would stop elected officials from paying immediate family members’ wages out of their campaign accounts and would ban lawmakers from having their travel paid for by lobbyists. The legislation also bans lawmakers from being reimbursed for trips, travel, or lodging through a nonprofit organization.
New York – Adams Quietly Undoes de Blasio-Era Lobbying Disclosure Requirement
MSN – Sally Goldenberg (Politico) | Published: 3/14/2022
New York City Mayor Eric Adams is ending a policy implemented under his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, of having top administration officials disclose meetings with lobbyists. De Blasio’s policy was voluntary and not required by law. Adams spokesperson Jonah Allon said the City Hall counsel’s office regularly trains staff about the “proper rules and regulations governing interactions with lobbyists,” who, by law, are required to report their meetings with government officials to the city clerk’s lobbying bureau. The move is the latest evidence that transparency may not be a priority for Adams.
New York – Chinese Operative Accused in Plot to Undermine US Candidate
MSN – Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 3/16/2022
Five people accused of acting on behalf of the Chinese government have been charged with plotting to stalk and harass Chinese dissidents living in the United States. One of the victims is a little-known congressional candidate in New York whose election bid a Chinese operative sought to undermine by seeking to uncover or even manufacture derogatory information that would cause him to lose the race, prosecutors said.
New York – Hochul Campaign Repays Almost $11K More for Aircraft Misuse
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/16/2022
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign reimbursed taxpayers an additional $10,742 stemming from three days in which she used state aircraft for campaigning but improperly billed taxpayers for the travel. The Albany Times Union flagged three initial, problematic days of Hochul air travel. Those trips mixed campaign and state business, but the administration charged taxpayers with the entire cost of each. In January, the administration said it would review all flights; the campaign subsequently paid back an initial $19,949 for the three days of travel examined by the reporting.
New York – State Board of Elections Begins Enforcing Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws
New York Focus – Sam Mellins | Published: 3/11/2022
The New York State Board of Elections has begun to enforce a law that is meant to limit “dark money” in elections by notifying thousands of corporate donors they are violating it. For three years, key provisions of the law went unenforced, and limited liability companies (LLCs) continued to make anonymous donations to campaigns. Notifying the companies is the first step towards enforcement. But imposing consequences on campaigns and donors would be more difficult. Current law, which the board has asked the Legislature to update, does not allow it to bring penalties against LLCs that are in violation.
New York – To Force Cuomo to Repay Millions, Ethics Commission Mulls New Tactic
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/15/2022
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics may adopt a new strategy in their attempt to force ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repay $5.1 million in book royalties, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations. Some commissioners are mulling a plan that would cut state Attorney General Letitia James out of the process of seeking the repayment. James’ office has expressed concern that the commissioners could not seek Cuomo’s “disgorgement” of the royalties he earned in 2020 without a full investigation into whether he misused state resources to produce the book, an inquiry that could last months or years.
Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Statehouse Maps, Ending Hopes of Full May Primary
MSN – Jessie Balmert and Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the third set of state House and Senate redistricting maps, effectively ending any hope of a May 3 primary with both legislative and statewide races. The decision marks the third time the justices have rejected legislative maps drawn by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The court ordered the commission to draw a new set of state House and Senate maps by March 28. It also made suggestions for the next round of mapmaking: draft maps in public, convene frequent meetings, and use a different mapmaker.
Ohio – PUCO Orders Long-Awaited Audit into Whether FirstEnergy Used Customer Money for HB6 Lobbying
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/9/2022
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will hire an auditor to examine whether any customer money collected by FirstEnergy was wrongly used to pay for lobbying to pass House Bill 6. FirstEnergy has reported its own investigation did not find any such spending, though a federal audit determined the company the company did improperly use ratepayer money for House Bill 6 lobbying. Once an auditor is chosen, the firm will have until December 16 to issue its report.
Ohio – Russia Business Deals Muddy Ohio GOP US Senate Primary
MSN – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 3/16/2022
Several Republicans competing for the party’s nomination to run for U.S. Senate in Ohio are facing scrutiny for their ties to Russia as the country intensifies its war against Ukraine. Much of the attention has focused on former Ohio Republican Party Chairperson Jane Timken, whose husband’s family founded a company that does business in Russia. But other candidates in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman, including J.D. Vance and Mike Gibbons, also have links to business deals in Russia that could become vulnerabilities in the primary.
Oregon – One of the Creators of Oregon’s Legal Psychedelic Mushroom Program Leaves Advisory Board
Portland Oregonian – Lizzy Acker | Published: 3/11/2022
Tom Eckert is stepping down as chair of the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board. Eckert, along with late wife, Sheri Eckert, worked for years to bring legal, regulated psilocybin to the state. The couple sponsored the bill that became law in 2020, which created a regulatory framework for therapeutic psychedelic mushrooms. A number of board members and subcommittee members are involved in for-profit psilocybin businesses and projects, including Tom Eckert.
South Dakota – South Dakota Secretary of State, Prosecutor Field Complaints About Ads Targeting Impeachment Committee
Yahoo News – Joe Sneve (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 3/15/2022
State and county officials in South Dakota are fielding complaints about the legality of billboard advertisements targeting lawmakers and calling for the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. The formal complaints allege Dakota Institute for Legislative Solution violated campaign finance law when it began running attack ads accusing five state lawmakers of obstructing an ongoing impeachment investigation into the attorney general, who struck and killed a man with his vehicle in 2020.
Tennessee – Airbnb Legislation Shows How Capitol Hill Culture Affects Tennessee Communities
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 3/14/2022
Legislation being pushed by Airbnb, designed to limit Nashville’s ability to regulate short-term rentals, shows how special interests spread campaign contributions among state lawmakers before trying to secure their votes, and how lobbyists use their influence to get lawmakers to sponsor legislation benefiting their clients. Critics say it also reveals how those practices can affect ordinary Tennesseans.
Tennessee – Tennessee Kickback Scandal Leaves GOP Reps Feeling Betrayed
MSN – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 3/10/2022
Tennessee House Republican lawmakers say they were betrayed by one of their own after they hired a shadowy political consulting firm talked up by a colleague who has since pleaded guilty to fraud in an alleged kickback scheme that also implicates a former House speaker and others. House GOP Caucus Chairperson Jeremy Faison said caucus members had no reason to suspect fraud when they hired Phoenix Solutions to perform campaign and related services for lawmakers. Faison promised “greater scrutiny every time” on hiring vendors, saying they will always be established companies.
Texas – A Texas County Didn’t Count 10,000 Ballots. Now the Parties Are at War Over Who’s to Blame.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/11/2022
During the March primary in Harris County, Texas, voting machines failed to power up, poll workers handed out the wrong-size ballots, and optical scanners rejected hundreds of votes. A weary election worker who had been on the job for at least 30 hours neglected to include about 10,000 of the roughly 360,000 votes in an unofficial tally. What Republicans and Democrats do not agree on is what went wrong. Republicans are demanding the state take over the Democratic-controlled elections office. Democrats say the problem is a new law enacted that made it harder to vote by mail and criminalized election mistakes.
Vermont – Ethics Bill Gets Green Light from Key Committee
VTDigger.org – Lola Duffort | Published: 3/9/2022
A bill creating a state ethics code binding all three branches in Vermont is moving forward after all. Despite earlier concerns from watchdogs that lawmakers would revise the legislation, the Senate Government Operations Committee voted to endorse its latest draft of and send it to the floor. Vermont is one of only five states without an ethics code. It created its first-ever ethics commission in 2017 after years of pressure from good-government advocates and the press.
Virginia – General Assembly OKs Bill Creating Candidate Finance Audits
Virginian-Pilot – Sarah Rankin (Associated Press) | Published: 3/10/2022
The Virginia General Assembly passed a campaign finance reform bill that adds a new layer of oversight to spending by candidates, but only after an amendment was added so it would not take effect until their next scheduled election cycle is over. The bill would both tighten record retention requirements and implement reviews of campaign committee financial records by the Department of Elections. Currently, candidates disclose their spending with varying degrees of specificity under what is effectively an honor system, with no state-sponsored review.
March 17, 2022 •
Campaign Finance South Dakota: “South Dakota Secretary of State, Prosecutor Field Complaints About Ads Targeting Impeachment Committee” by Joe Sneve (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) for Yahoo News Elections Maryland: “Maryland Court Delays State’s Primary Until July Amid Redistricting Challenge” by […]
South Dakota: “South Dakota Secretary of State, Prosecutor Field Complaints About Ads Targeting Impeachment Committee” by Joe Sneve (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) for Yahoo News
Maryland: “Maryland Court Delays State’s Primary Until July Amid Redistricting Challenge” by Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Chinese Operative Accused in Plot to Undermine US Candidate” by Eric Tucker (Associated Press) for MSN
National: “Fearing Political Violence in 2024, Judges Sentence Jan. 6 Defendants to Probation Through the Next Election” by Spencer Hsu and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Biden Doles Out Ethics Waivers at Greater Clip Than Trump, Watchdog Reports” by Andrew Kerr for Washington Examiner
Illinois: “Ethics Board Fines Cook County Official Who ‘Flagrantly’ Disregarded Nepotism Ban; She Must Now Fire Her Cousin as Her Top Aide” by Alice Yin (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News
New York: “To Force Cuomo to Repay Millions, Ethics Commission Mulls New Tactic” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
California: “‘Abstain’: Are OC officials using a public meeting ethics check to dodge accountability?” by Noah Biesiada and Brandon Pho for Voice of OC
National: “K Street Firms Starting to Tap Private Equity, Even Go Public” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
Tennessee: “Airbnb Legislation Shows How Capitol Hill Culture Affects Tennessee Communities” by Phil Williams for WTVF
March 16, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Russian Oligarch Andrey Muraviev Indicted in Political Contribution Scheme Linked to Illegal Donors to Trump PAC” by Dan Mangan for CNBC National: “Trump Accused of Breaking Campaign Laws by Teasing 2024 Run” by Meg Kinnard (Associated Press) […]
National: “Russian Oligarch Andrey Muraviev Indicted in Political Contribution Scheme Linked to Illegal Donors to Trump PAC” by Dan Mangan for CNBC
National: “Trump Accused of Breaking Campaign Laws by Teasing 2024 Run” by Meg Kinnard (Associated Press) for MSN
Virginia: “General Assembly OKs Bill Creating Candidate Finance Audits” by Sarah Rankin (Associated Press) for Virginian-Pilot
Iowa: “Democrats Move Closer to Cutting Iowa’s First-in-the Nation Status for 2024 Presidential Calendar” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
Maryland: “Top Maryland Democratic Party Official Resigns After Questioning Electability of Black Candidates” by Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Document in Jan. 6 Case Shows Plan to Storm Government Buildings” by Alan Feuer (New York Times) for Yahoo News
Colorado: “A State Lawmaker Dropped His Firearm Inside the Capitol While Hurrying to a Vote” by Bente Birkeland for Colorado Public Radio
National: “U.S. Lobbyists Connect Ukraine Officials with Powerful Allies to Help in War Against Russia” by Brian Schwartz for CNBC
March 15, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Set to Go on Trial, Which Will Focus on His Memory and Money” by Todd Cooper (Omaha World-Herald) for Lincoln Journal-Star Tennessee: “Tennessee Kickback Scandal Leaves GOP Reps Feeling Betrayed” by Jonathan Mattise […]
National: “U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Set to Go on Trial, Which Will Focus on His Memory and Money” by Todd Cooper (Omaha World-Herald) for Lincoln Journal-Star
Tennessee: “Tennessee Kickback Scandal Leaves GOP Reps Feeling Betrayed” by Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) for MSN
National: “Ginni Thomas, Wife of Supreme Court Justice, Says She Attended Jan. 6 ‘Stop-the-Steal’ Rally Before Capitol Attack” by Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) for MSN
Oregon: “One of the Creators of Oregon’s Legal Psychedelic Mushroom Program Leaves Advisory Board” by Lizzy Acker for Portland Oregonian
Vermont: “Ethics Bill Gets Green Light from Key Committee” by Lola Duffort for VTDigger.org
National: “Lobbying Broke All-Time Mark in 2021 Amid Flurry of Government Spending” by Jonathan O’Connell and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) for MSN
Louisiana: “Louisiana Lobbyist Arrested for Domestic Violence Faces Restrictions, Questions at Capitol” by Julie O’Donoghue for Louisiana Illuminator
New York: “Adams Quietly Undoes de Blasio-Era Lobbying Disclosure Requirement” by Sally Goldenberg (Politico) for MSN
March 14, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Colorado: “Colorado Campaign Donation Limits Stand – for Now – After Federal Court Ruling” by Sandra Fish for Colorado Sun Florida: “Disney Suspends Political Donations in Florida After Bill Restricting LGBTQ Discussion” by Kelsey Ables (Washington Post) for […]
Colorado: “Colorado Campaign Donation Limits Stand – for Now – After Federal Court Ruling” by Sandra Fish for Colorado Sun
Florida: “Disney Suspends Political Donations in Florida After Bill Restricting LGBTQ Discussion” by Kelsey Ables (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “State Board of Elections Begins Enforcing Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws” by Sam Mellins for New York Focus
National: “Inside the Effort to Disbar Attorneys Who Backed Bogus Election Lawsuits” by Tierny Sneed (CNN) for MSN
Texas: “A Texas County Didn’t Count 10,000 Ballots. Now the Parties Are at War Over Who’s to Blame.” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
Hawaii: “Honolulu Councilwoman Tupola Likely Violated Ethics Laws, Commission Finds” by Christina Jedra for Honolulu Civil Beat
National: “Exxon Mobil’s Lobbying Report Sets Benchmark, ESG Advocates Say” by Ellen Meyers (Roll Call) for MSN
Ohio: “PUCO Orders Long-Awaited Audit into Whether FirstEnergy Used Customer Money for HB6 Lobbying” by Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
March 11, 2022 •
National/Federal Big K Street Shops Will Close Offices in Russia MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/9/2022 Some of K Street’s biggest firms said they were winding down, or at least reevaluating, operations in Russia in response to the […]
Big K Street Shops Will Close Offices in Russia
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/9/2022
Some of K Street’s biggest firms said they were winding down, or at least reevaluating, operations in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine and sanctions that followed. Ceasing operations in Moscow are Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Squire Patton Boggs, two of Washington’s long-standing lobbying and legal powerhouses. Greenberg Traurig, which has an office in Poland but not in Russia, said it planned to donate up to $2 million for relief efforts and offer pro bono legal services for Ukrainian refugees.
Inside the Jan. 6 Committee’s Effort to Trace Every Dollar Raised and Spent Based on Trump’s False Election Claims
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 3/8/2022
The House select committee investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol wants to know whether the Trump campaign, its affiliated super PACs, the Republican National Committee, and protest organizers knowingly used false claims the election was stolen to dupe donors and raise large sums of cash. The primary objective is to determine whether email solicitations spreading false claims of election fraud served as a source of misinformation, prompting the need to make proposals for strengthening campaign finance laws. The committee will also consider if any laws were broken and refer those to the Justice Department.
Judge Denies Fox News Motion to Dismiss Defamation Suit by Election-Tech Company Smartmatic
MSN – Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) | Published: 3/9/2022
A judge allowed an election technology company’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News to proceed though he dismissed specific claims made against host Jeanine Pirro and two of the network’s guests. New York Supreme Court Judge David Cohen denied Fox’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, in which the company, Smartmatic, alleged the network and several of its on-air personalities “decimated its future business prospects” by falsely accusing it of rigging the 2020 election against Donald Trump.
Lobbyists Urge Lawmakers to Let Them Roam the Capitol Again
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/4/2022
After two years of pandemic- and insurrection-related security restrictions, some lobbyists are putting their advocacy skills toward an effort to reopen the legislative buildings on Capitol Hill widely to tour groups and lobbying coalitions. Currently, lobbyists may conduct in-person meetings on Capitol Hill, so long as a congressional aide signs them in and escorts them around the buildings. Not all lobbyists believe the Capitol is ready for an onslaught of visitors.
Republican Clash Shows the Enduring Appeal, and Dubious Benefit, of Campaign Platforms
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 3/3/2022
Political manifestos like U.S. Sen. Rick Scott’s “Resuce America” plan have proliferated over the past three decades, becoming a staple of party messaging, an instrument of policy development and, in some cases, a vehicle for personal ambitions. But since 1994, when Republicans rode their “Contract With America” to their first House majority in 40 years, they have been increasingly ignored by voters, mocked by observers, and shown to be largely irrelevant to the task of actually winning elections. Yet party leaders keep sinking untold time and effort into agendas that have produced uneven dividends.
Russian-American Charged with Acting as Illegal Russian Agent in the US
CNN – Sonia Moghe | Published: 3/8/2022
A dual Russian-American citizen was charged with acting as a spy in the U.S., according to court filings that say she ran organizations that “sought to spread Russian propaganda.” Elena Branson was charged with conspiring to act illegally as an agent of the Russian government, willfully failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and other charges. Branson worked on behalf of the Russian government and officials to advance their interests in the U.S. Prosecutors allege she coordinated meetings for Russians to lobby American officials and businesspeople, and operated groups to publicly promote Russian government policies.
Supreme Court Denies GOP Requests to Block New Congressional Maps in N.C., Pa.
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 3/7/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court refused requests from Republicans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to block new congressional maps approved by courts in those states, meaning the fall elections will be held in districts more favorable to Democrats than the ones created by the GOP-led state Legislatures. Three of the court’s dissenting conservatives – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch – said they would have intervened, and they thought the theory advanced by the challengers was probably correct and they are eager to consider such a challenge.
Texas Militia Member Convicted on All Charges in First Jan. 6 Trial
MSN – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 3/8/2022
Guy Reffitt, a Texas militia member who was at the head of an early wave of rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was found guilty of all five felony charges he faced related to the assault, including obstruction of an official proceeding, carrying a firearm during the attack, and threatening witnesses. The verdict is an important milestone for the Justice Department in the first jury trial since the attack that threatened the presidential transfer of power. The Reffitt trial is the first of potentially dozens stemming from the insurrection.
U.S. Judge Dismisses Most Serious Federal Charge Against Jan. 6 Capitol Riot Defendant
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/8/2022
A federal judge ruled the Justice Department cannot charge January 6 defendants with obstructing Congress’s certification of President Biden’s 2020 election victory unless they tampered with official documents or records in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. In striking down the lead charge brought in the government’s Capitol siege investigation, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, District Court Judge Carl Nichols broke with all other U.S. trial judges in Washington who have ruled on the question in Capitol riot cases to date. The decision tosses a wrench into the felony prosecutions of as many as 275 arrested individuals.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Decision Lifts Certain Contribution Limits in Alaska
Associated Press News – Becky Rohrer | Published: 3/4/2022
Alaska will have unlimited campaign contributions in most instances after the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) declined to impose new caps after old limits were struck down as unconstitutional. A draft opinion suggested the limits in place before those that were struck down “apply as adjusted for inflation,” which included proposed limits of $1,500 per calendar year for individuals to candidates. Campaigns were to adhere to the draft opinion until APOC weighed in. The commission also declined to index donation amounts for inflation. APOC said there were legal questions about whether it had the power to do those things.
Arizona – Arizona Lawmaker Speaks to White Nationalists, Calls for Violence – and Sets Fundraising Records
MSN – Beth Reinhard and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/8/2022
State Sen. Wendy Rogers, a Republican lawmaker who represents tens of thousands of constituents, has found a rising national profile as a face of the radicalized wing of the Republican Party. After a year of fanning bogus allegations about election fraud and other false claims, she is the most successful fundraiser in the Arizona Legislature. While her support for former President Trump’s election falsehoods puts her in line with many Republicans, Rogers has moved farther to the edges of American politics: calling for jailing and executing her political opponents, identifying herself as a member of the Oath Keepers militia group, and attending a conference organized by a group linked to QAnon.
California – Candidate Alleges Sheriff Villanueva’s Radio Show Violates Election, Broadcasting Rules
MSN – Alene Tchekmedyian (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/8/2022
A candidate for Los Angeles County sheriff filed complaints with state and federal agencies alleging that Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s weekly radio show on violates election and broadcasting rules. County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Eli Vera’s complaint to the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleges the show amounted to an illegal campaign donation by KFI to Villanueva. Vera said KFI charges more than $1,000 for a 30-second radio ad, which he said would put Villanueva’s segments well above the $3,000 limit a person or entity can contribute to a candidate.
Colorado – Grand Jury Indicts Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and Deputy Clerk in Election System Breach Investigation
Canon City Daily Camera – Saja Hindi (Denver Post) | Published: 3/9/2022
A grand jury returned 10 criminal counts against Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and six counts against Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley in its investigation of potential election equipment security breach. The charges stem from local, state, and federal investigations launched into the potential breach after the Colorado secretary of state sued Peters, a 2020 election denier, and Knisley over allegedly allowing an unauthorized man access to make copies of voting equipment servers. Passwords from the equipment were later posted online by Ron Watkins, a leading figure in the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Florida – Federal Grand Jury Indicts Former JEA Executives on Conspiracy, Wire Fraud
Yahoo News – Nate Monroe and David Bauerlein (Florida Times-Union) | Published: 3/7/2022
A grand jury indictment charged former JEA Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn and finance chief Ryan Wannemacher with conspiracy and wire fraud, casting the two men as the architects of a brazen scheme to secretly extract tens of millions of dollars of personal profit out of the city-owned utility before selling it to a private operator. Prosecutors allege almost every aspect of the failed effort to privatize one of Jacksonville’s largest and most important public agencies was a fraud, echoing the past findings of auditors, outside attorneys, a city council investigation, and media reporting.
Florida – Florida Lawmakers Approve an Elections Police Force, the First of Its Kind in the U.S.
MSN – Lori Rozsa (Washington Post) | Published: 3/9/2022
Two months after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed a plan for a powerful elections police force that would answer to him, state lawmakers passed a watered-down version that barely resembles what the governor asked for, but still worries voting rights advocates. DeSantis had asked for nearly $6 million to hire 52 people, including sworn officers, to investigate alleged violations of elections laws. The Republican-led House and Senate instead gave him about $2.5 million for the new Office of Election Crimes and Security.
Florida – Senate Passes Citizen Initiative Limits on Out-of-State Influence, Awaits House Answer
Florida Politics – Renzo Downey | Published: 3/7/2022
A bill to curb out-of-state influence in the ballot initiative process was amended after it was struck down last year. Because senators approved changes they hoped would avoid a second injunction in the courts, the bill must next return to the House. The proposal would limit non-Floridians from donating more than $3,000, and out-of-state political committees from receiving donations worth more than $3,000, when it comes to ballot initiatives in the petition-gathering process.
Florida – Tallahassee Commissioners Move Some Ethics Changes, Shoot Down Lobbyist Logs
Florida Politics – Tristan Wood | Published: 3/9/2022
The Tallahassee City Commission moved forward with some ethics ordinance changes but decided against making major changes to lobbying rules. The commission voted to implement new language in the misuse of public position ordinance so that it no longer requires intent. Commissioners did ban city lobbyists from being paid contingency fees but voted down other changes, such as amending the city’s definition of lobbyist.
Florida – Tallahassee Officials’ Trip After FSU Stadium Vote Raises Questions
stuartabsolon.com – Jeff Burlew (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 3/8/2022
The morning after a contentious meeting to finalize funding for Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter ended up on the same flight as a group of public officials, including Leon County Administrator Vince Long and City Manager Reese Goad, who collectively oversee Blueprint, an agency that implements infrastructure projects in the area. Also on the flight was State Attorney Jack Campbell and Ben Pingree, who directs the city and county department of planning, land management, and community enhancement. The trip on its face did not appear to run afoul of Florida’s Sunshine Law, said Barbara Petersen, executive director of the Florida Center for Government Accountability.
Georgia – First Trial in Atlanta Corruption Investigation Set to Start
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 3/8/2022
A political consultant who was a top aide to former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is the first person set to go to trial in a long-running federal investigation into corruption at City Hall. Mitzi Bickers helped Reed win election in 2009 and worked as the city’s director of human services. She is accused, among other things, of taking bribes to use her influence to steer city work to two contractors. Others ensnared in the investigation have pleaded guilty and been sent to prison, but Bickers has maintained her innocence.
Georgia – Kemp Appeals Ruling on Leadership Committee Funds in Primary
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 3/9/2022
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that says a “leadership committee” the governor created under a new state law cannot spend money to get him reelected during the Republican primary. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Cohen’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed by former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging the governor in the primary. Perdue and his campaign allege the law gives Kemp an unfair fundraising and spending advantage in the primary.
Illinois – Former Sen. Tom Cullerton Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement
Illinois Newsroom – Peter Hancock (Capital News Illinois) | Published: 3/8/2022
Former Illinois Sen. Tom Cullerton pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and could face more than a year in federal prison. Cullerton admitted he received pay and benefits from the Teamsters union during 2015 while doing little or no work. In addition to his salary, prosecutors alleged, Cullerton also received bonuses and health care benefits. Cullerton was indicted in 2019 on 40 counts of embezzlement, one for each biweekly paycheck he received from January 2015 through January 2016, a period of time when he also served in the state Senate.
Illinois – Former Veterans Affairs Chief Wrote Checks Totaling $50,000 to Her Mom from Her Political Fund
Better Government Association – Rachel Hinton | Published: 3/2/2022
The former head of the Illinois’ Veterans Affairs office used her campaign fund to write two checks totaling $50,000 to her mother, a move state elections officials say could be a violation of election laws. Linda Chapa LaVia said the checks, logged as January expenditures in her required campaign filings, were to repay a loan her mother made to help her start her political career about two decades ago. But records show her campaign made no disclosure of a loan to her committee, launched ahead of her successful campaign to become a state representative. It also does not show up in the original documents creating her fundraising committee.
Kansas – Lawmakers May Change How Kansas Supreme Court Justices Are Picked as Redistricting Case Looms
Yahoo News – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 3/7/2022
Lawmakers are considering changes to a six-decade-old system of selecting judges to the Kansas Supreme Court, at a time when the high court is on the cusp of hearing a landmark challenge to a set of GOP-authored congressional maps. Republican legislators insist the renewed push to end so-called merit selection of judges is unrelated to the redistricting lawsuits moving through the court system, which are all-but-certain to eventually arrive at the Supreme Court. They argue the move is needed to ensure Kansans have a voice in selecting jurists on the state’s highest court, either directly or via members of the Senate.
Kentucky – Metro Council Approves New Financial Disclosure Rules for Louisville Officials
WFPL – Roberto Roldan | Published: 3/4/2022
Elected officials in Louisville will now have to make yearly disclosures of their financial and business ties under new rules approved by Metro Council. The requirement will also apply to candidates for public office and city workers who can award contracts. City officials are already required to recuse themselves from making legal or contract decisions if they have a conflict-of-interest. But previously, there was no mandate for them to report much of their finances, making it hard to know when a conflict existed.
Massachusetts – State Senate Hires a Pay Consultant in Wake of Report That Says Staff Pay ‘Breaks with Best Practice’
MSN – Samantha Gross (Boston Globe) | Published: 3/3/2022
A salary study commissioned by the Massachusetts Senate but never publicly released found fault with the chamber’s hiring and pay practices for its staffers, concluding the approach “can be perceived as lacking fairness” and may lead to “problematic staff turnover.” Fourteen current and former legislative staff said the pay inequities are driving high turnover that hinders the Legislature’s ability to perform its basic functions, such as serving constituents and drafting legislation.
Michigan – Michigan Redistricting Panel Finished Maps Month Ago. Why Is It Still Meeting?
Bridge Michigan – Sergio Martínez-Beltrán | Published: 3/8/2022
Despite approving the new congressional and state legislative maps over two months ago, the Michigan redistricting commission continues to meet, and commissioners continue to get paid. That is partly because there is no clear expiration date for the group created in 2018 by a voter-approved constitutional amendment that some observers and experts now say was too vague.
Nevada – Judge Blocks GOP-Backed Redistricting Lawsuit for 2022 Election
Nevada Independent – Riley Snider | Published: 3/9/2022
Republican-backed efforts to challenge Nevada’s electoral maps in court on the heels of redistricting are likely on hold. A decision by Senior District Court Judge Robert Estes will have the likely effect of keeping the new legislative district maps, which largely favor Democrats, in place for the 2022 election. Estes said it would be “not fair” to interrupt the ongoing election process and two-week candidate filing period and the “election is going to proceed” under the boundary lines adopted after November’s special legislative session.
New York – Cuomo Doesn’t Say Whether He’s Running for Office. The Board of Elections Implies He Is.
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 3/8/2022
Despite calls to investigate the use of campaign money for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent ads, the New York State Board of Elections will not be doing so. Cuomo has been mounting a public-relations campaign akin to a political one recently. He has run ads intended to repair his reputation after his resignation amid mounting scandals. The board’s chief enforcement counsel said the law “does not prohibit a former office holder, or anyone else from using campaign funds to test the waters for a future political candidacy.” Whether Cuomo is intending to seek public office or using the pretense of a run to use his $16.4 million campaign fund to help clear his name is a moot point to good government groups.
New York – How the Manhattan D.A.’s Investigation into Donald Trump Unraveled
MSN – Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, and Jonah Bromwich (New York Times) | Published: 3/5/2022
Two senior prosecutors stood before the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, detailing their strategy for proving Donald Trump knew his annual financial statements were works of fiction. They needed Bragg to decide whether to seek criminal charges, but Bragg and his senior aides had doubts. They hammered Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne about whether they could show Trump had intended to break the law by inflating the value of his assets in the statements, a necessary element to prove the case. The meeting started a series of events that brought the investigation of Trump to a sudden halt, prompted the two prosecutors to resign.
New York – Inspector General Investigates JCOPE ‘Hot Mic’ Episode
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/7/2022
The state inspector general’s office is investigating a breach of confidentiality at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, spurred by a complaint filed by an attorney representing former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. At an August 26 meeting, JCOPE had ended its opening public portion and gone into what was supposed to be a closed executive session. But the live audio could still be heard for another 10 minutes, and the public was privy to discussion of a confidential investigation related to Cuomo.
North Carolina – In 2020, Meadows Registered to Vote at N.C. Mobile Home That He Reportedly Never Lived In
MSN – Marianna Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 3/7/2022
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows registered to vote in 2020 using the address of a North Carolina mobile home he has never lived in, a move scrutinized as potential voter fraud. According to the New Yorker, neither the home nor the address have belonged to him. It is illegal to provide false information on a voter registration, and while Americans can have multiple residences, they can only have one official domicile, which is tied to their voter registration. To register to vote in North Carolina, a citizen must have lived in the county where they are registering and have resided there for at least 30 days before the date of the election.
North Carolina – North Carolina Rep. Cawthorn’s Candidacy Challenge Blocked
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 3/4/2022
A federal judge blocked an effort by North Carolina voters to disqualify U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn from seeking reelection this fall by alleging his involvement with the rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol riot in January 2021 made him ineligible. U.S. District Judge Richard Myers declared the state’s candidate challenge process did not apply to a portion of the 14th Amendment designed to prevent members of Congress who had fought on the Confederate side during the Civil War from returning to Congress.
Ohio – Gun Lobbyist Wrote GOP Lawmakers’ ‘Permitless Carry’ Speech, Document Data Shows
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 3/4/2022
Last April, two Republicans in the Ohio House told lawmakers their “constitutional carry” bill would ease the bureaucratic hassle of undergoing training and a background check to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon. But they did not write the speech. Chris Dorr, a lobbyist and executive director of Ohio Gun Owners, did. Metadata attached to a copy of their testimony on the Legislature’s website shows his name as the author of the document. Dorr writing the testimony is among the clearest signs of the close working relationship between gun lobbyists and Republican lawmakers.
Ohio – Ohio Regulatory Judge Steps Back from FirstEnergy’s HB 6 Cases After Subpoenaed Records Reveal His Role
Energy News Network – Kathiann Kowalski | Published: 3/7/2022
An Ohio regulatory official stepped away from four FirstEnergy regulatory cases after subpoenaed documents showed he took part in policy matters relating to House Bill 6, the nuclear and coal bailout law at the heart of an ongoing corruption scandal. The materials show Gregory Price, a hearing examiner overseeing House Bill 6 cases for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), was included in policy communications with former PUCO Chairperson Sam Randazzo before the law passed and when bills to repeal it were proposed in the wake of the arrests of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others.
Tennessee – Ex-Tennessee Rep Pleads Guilty to Fraud in Consulting Scheme
MSN – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 3/8/2022
Former Tennessee Rep. Robin Smith pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge in connection with a political consulting firm involving state Rep. Glen Casada, who had served as House speaker. Prosecutors say Smith, Casada, and Casada’s then-chief of staff, Cade Cothren, used the firm to illegally funnel money to themselves through both campaign and taxpayer-funded work while concealing their involvement. Casada resigned from the top leadership post in 2019 after revelations he exchanged sexually explicit text messages about women with Cothren.
Texas – Ethics Commission Fines Republican $30K for Implying Black Democrats Endorsed Him
Yahoo News – TheGrio.com | Published: 3/8/2022
Eric Dick, who lost his bid for a seat on its Houston City Council in 2019, was fined $30,000 by the Texas Ethics Commission after falsely claiming he had been endorsed by a group of Black Democrats. Dick was running for office when he sent out an endorsement mailer by a group called the Harris County Black Democratic News. One side of the mailer had a banner that read, “Endorsement Announcement.” Dick originally told the commission he was not behind the mailer. But an investigation discovered he requested the mailer, approved the design, and arranged for its payment.
Vermont – Vermont Is One of Five States Without a Statutory Code of Ethics. A Bill in the Senate Seeks to Change That
Vermont Public Radio – Peter Hirschfeld | Published: 3/8/2022
The Vermont Senate is poised to advance legislation that would create a statutory code of ethics for elected officials and state employees, but government watchdogs continue to face resistance to an independent agency to enforce the code. Vermont is one of only five states without a statutory code of ethics. “In order to have a really solid framework for government ethics, an outside entity such as the ethics commission does need to have some kind of investigatory or enforcement power,” said Christina Sivret, executive director of the state Ethics Commission. “However, we envision that to be a very slow process. People are not even used to having a statutory code of ethics in place.”
Washington – WA Attorney General Bob Ferguson Announces $9M Settlement in Grocery Industry Campaign-Finance Case
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 3/2/2022
A trade group that represents some of the biggest U.S. food companies agreed to pay $9 million for violations of Washington’s campaign finance law after the state Supreme Court upheld a penalty twice that much. The Consumer Brands Association will pay the fine and drop an expected appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The settlement will finally end a long legal battle stemming from a 2013 ballot initiative that sought to require labeling of genetically modified food products. Documents showed the group sought to conceal the identities of corporations that wrote big checks to fund its campaign.
Washington DC – The Tiny Radio Station Broadcasting Russian Propaganda in D.C.
WFPL – Paul Farhi (Washington Post) | Published: 3/7/2022
WZHF, a former Spanish-language station 11 miles east of the White House in Maryland’s Capitol Heights, is the flagship of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to harness America’s radio airwaves to sell the Kremlin’s point of view. Despite periodic legal and political challenges, and the imposition of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, the station has stayed on the air, broadcasting its Kremlin-approved message. The station is one of only five outlets in the U.S. that air English-language broadcasts of “Radio Sputnik,” produced in Moscow and Washington under the Russian government’s supervision.
Wyoming – Crossover Voting Ban Dies, Other Election Legislation Prevails
WyoFile – Maggie Mullen | Published: 3/9/2022
Election reforms trumpeted by the Wyoming Republican Party failed this session. Meanwhile, two campaign finance bills passed, along with one to ease the absentee ballot process for clerks. House Bill 49 requires any organization that receives or spends funds in excess of $1,000 for the purpose of influencing an election outcome to officially file as a political organization. House Bill 80 would increase the penalties for campaigns and PACs that do not file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures.
March 10, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Inside the Jan. 6 Committee’s Effort to Trace Every Dollar Raised and Spent Based on Trump’s False Election Claims” by Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN New York: “Cuomo Doesn’t Say Whether […]
National: “Inside the Jan. 6 Committee’s Effort to Trace Every Dollar Raised and Spent Based on Trump’s False Election Claims” by Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Cuomo Doesn’t Say Whether He’s Running for Office. The Board of Elections Implies He Is.” by Joshua Solomon for Albany Times Union
Texas: “Ethics Commission Fines Republican $30K for Implying Black Democrats Endorsed Him” by TheGrio.com for Yahoo News
Wyoming: “Crossover Voting Ban Dies, Other Election Legislation Prevails” by Maggie Mullen for WyoFile
Colorado: “Grand Jury Indicts Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and Deputy Clerk in Election System Breach Investigation” by Saja Hindi (Denver Post) for Canon City Daily Camera
Florida: “Tallahassee Officials’ Trip After FSU Stadium Vote Raises Questions” by Jeff Burlew (Tallahassee Democrat) for stuartabsolon.com
Illinois: “Former Sen. Tom Cullerton Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement” by Peter Hancock (Capital News Illinois) for Illinois Newsroom
Vermont: “Vermont Is One of Five States Without a Statutory Code of Ethics. A Bill in the Senate Seeks to Change That” by Peter Hirschfeld for Vermont Public Radio
National: “Russian-American Charged with Acting as Illegal Russian Agent in the US” by Sonia Moghe for CNN
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