May 20, 2022 •
National/Federal A Fringe Conspiracy Theory, Fostered Online, Is Refashioned by the GOP Hartford Courant – Nicholas Confessore and Karen Yourish (New York Times) | Published: 5/16/2022 At the extremes of American life, replacement theory – the notion that Western elites, sometimes […]
A Fringe Conspiracy Theory, Fostered Online, Is Refashioned by the GOP
Hartford Courant – Nicholas Confessore and Karen Yourish (New York Times) | Published: 5/16/2022
At the extremes of American life, replacement theory – the notion that Western elites, sometimes manipulated by Jews, want to “replace” and disempower white Americans – has become an engine of racist terror, helping inspire a wave of mass shootings in recent years. But replacement theory, once confined to Reddit message boards and semi-obscure white nationalist sites, has gone mainstream. In sometimes more muted forms, the fear it crystallizes of a future America in which white people are no longer the numerical majority has become a potent force in conservative media and politics, where the theory has been borrowed and remixed to attract audiences, retweets, and small-dollar donations.
Feds Dismiss Campaign Finance Complaint Against Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert
Colorado Public Radio – Caitlyn Kim | Published: 5/16/2022
The FEC dismissed a complaint against U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert over her 2020 mileage reimbursement after the commissioners deadlocked on whether to investigate further. While the FEC’s Office of General Counsel did not find any evidence that Boebert converted campaign funds to personal use, as the complaint had alleged, it did note the “round figure of 32,000 miles driven for campaign-related purposes suggests that the assessment is a general estimate rather than one found on the kind of contemporaneous log contemplated in the Commission’s regulations.”
How Facebook Funded a Clandestine War Against Regulation
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski and Elizabeth Dwoskin (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2022
Backed by millions of dollars from Facebook-parent company Meta, the political advocacy group American Edge has launched a campaign to combat antitrust legislation in Washington, placing op-eds in regional newspapers throughout the country, commissioning studies, and collaborating with an array of partners, including minority business associations, conservative think tanks, and former national security officials. It is a playbook more common to other industries, but tech companies, under heightened scrutiny from federal regulators, are seizing on these methods.
How the Biden Administration Let Right-Wing Attacks Derail Its Disinformation Efforts
Yahoo News – Taylor Lorenz (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2022
On April 27, the Department of Homeland Security announced the creation of the first Disinformation Governance Board with the stated goal to “coordinate countering misinformation related to homeland security.” The Biden administration tapped Nina Jankowicz, a well-known figure in the field of fighting disinformation and extremism, as executive director. Within hours of her appointment, Jankowicz was thrust into the spotlight by the forces she dedicated her career to combating. She became a primary target on the right-wing Internet, subject to a barrage of harassment and abuse while unchecked misrepresentations of her work continue to go viral.
Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas 5 House Republicans, Including Minority Leader
MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Jacqueline Alemany, Leigh Ann Caldwell, and Mariana Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2022
The U.S. House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on announced it subpoenaed five Republican members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, after they refused to cooperate with the panel’s inquiry. The move marks a significant escalation in the committee’s efforts to obtain information related to lawmakers’ communications with former President Trump and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows before, during, and after the attack.
Supreme Court Agrees with Cruz, Strikes Campaign Contribution Limit
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled a $250,000 cap on the amount of money that candidates can be reimbursed after an election for personal loans to their own campaigns unjustifiably burdened political expression. It was the latest decision to knock out a part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and reemphasized the court’s view that many restrictions on campaign finance are unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment’s protection of speech. Justice Elena Kagan said the court was effectively abetting corruption by allowing donors to contribute to a campaign after an election in a way that benefits the candidate personally.
The Little Red Boxes Making a Mockery of Campaign Finance Laws
Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 5/16/2022
Democratic candidates nationwide are pioneering new frontiers in soliciting and directing money from friendly super PACs financed by multimillionaires, billionaires, and special-interest groups. Campaign watchdogs complain the practice further blurs the lines meant to keep wealthy interests from influencing people running for office, effectively evading the strict donation limits imposed on federal candidates. The practice is both brazen and simple. To work around the prohibition on directly coordinating with super PACs, candidates are posting their instructions to them inside the red boxes on public pages that super PACs continuously monitor.
U.S. Sues to Compel Casino Mogul Steve Wynn to Register as Agent of China
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2022
The U.S. Justice Department sued Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn to compel him to register as a foreign agent because of lobbying work it says he performed for the Chinese government during the Trump administration. The department said it had advised Wynn repeatedly over the last four years to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and is suing now because Wynn refused to do so. Though the Justice Department has ramped up efforts to criminally prosecute people who do not register as foreign agents, officials described this case as the first lawsuit of its kind in more than three decades.
Victories by Mastriano, Budd Show Potency of Trump’s False Stolen Election Claims in GOP
MSN – Annie Linskey and David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2022
Republican candidates who sought to overturn the 2020 election won statewide primaries in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, reflecting the lingering influence in the GOP of former President Trump’s false claims the vote was rigged against him. Their primary victories came on a day when the effect of Trump and his far-right movement on the midterm elections faced its biggest test to date. Incomplete results showed Trump’s influence over the movement he started was uneven, winning some but not all the races where he backed a candidate.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Senate to Investigate Wendy Rogers Over Social Media Post on Buffalo Shooting
Yahoo News – Ray Stern (Arizona Republic) | Published: 5/16/2022
The Arizona Senate Ethics Committee will investigate a social media post from state Sen. Wendy Rogers that suggested the shooter in a mass killing in Buffalo was a federal agent and part of a conspiracy by the federal government. The committee said it will examine Rogers’ remarks “relating to the Buffalo shooting as inappropriate of an elected official with this body.” An effort to expel Rogers pushed by Democrats failed.
California – Judge Halts Angel Stadium Sale for FBI Corruption Probe of Anaheim Mayor
KABC – City News Service | Published: 5/17/2022
The city of Anaheim’s planned sale of Angel Stadium to team owner Arte Moreno’s company was halted for at least two months by an Orange County Superior Court judge, who agreed to a request by the state to pause the deal amid a federal corruption probe of Mayor Harry Sidhu. The state attorney general’s office filed the petition requesting a halt to the sale, pointing to the federal investigation that involves, in part, allegations Sidhu was trying to leverage the deal to secure campaign contributions from the Los Angeles Angels.
Colorado – Some Colorado Lobbyists Work for Both Sides at the Same Time
KUSA – Zack Newman | Published: 5/16/2022
At least 15 lobbyists and firms in Colorado have had clients on opposite of a bill at the same time in 2021 and 2022. State law requires lobbyists to tell clients about any conflicts-of-interest and bars them from engaging in “any other practice that discredits the practice of lobbying or the general assembly.” Mike Beasley, who runs 5280 Strategies, said it is “really important” to avoid conflicts-of-interest and there are practices in place to prevent them. He said his contract requires him to flag possible conflicts as far in advance as possible.
Delaware – State Auditor Loses Bid to Have Procurement Charge Dropped
MSN – Randall Chase (Associated Press) | Published: 5/17/2022
A judge refused to dismiss a criminal charge accusing Delaware’s embattled state auditor of deliberately breaking up payments for a contract she entered into with a former campaign consultant in order to avoid compliance with state procurement law. Kathleen McGuiness, who is responsible for rooting out government fraud, waste, and abuse, was indicted on felony counts of theft and witness intimidation, and misdemeanor charges of official misconduct, conflict-of-interest, and noncompliance with procurement laws. McGuiness has denied any wrongdoing.
Florida – Florida Bans Protests Outside Homes
MSN – Lindsay Bever (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to outlaw protests outside private residences, a move opponents say violates First Amendment rights. The new law will make it a misdemeanor to picket or protest outside a person’s house to “harass or disturb” that person. Violators will receive a warning, and those who do not stop may be arrested for unlawful residential picketing, a crime punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Republicans and Democrats have been debating the legality of protesting outside the private residences of U.S. Supreme Court justices, and the White House has said such protests are fine when they are peaceful.
Florida – Florida Judge Blocks DeSantis’ Congressional Redistricting Effort
MSN – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 5/11/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ bid to remake the state’s congressional map was dealt a setback on after a state judge said he would block the plan because of the way it scattered Black voters among several districts. DeSantis personally pushed the GOP-led Legislature to approve the map, which boosts the number of Republican-held seats in the state. The map also dismantles the district held by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat. The map is facing a legal challenge by a coalition that argues it violates the state’s Fair Districts standards – voter-approved anti-gerrymandering amendments in the Florida Constitution.
Florida – Miami Heat Mayor Suarez’s Office Is Mum on Prime Courtside Seat at the Heat’s Playoff Game
MSN – Ben Carnack (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/18/2022
At a recent Miami Heat playoff game, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was seated courtside. The county ethics code mandates that gifts exceeding $100 must be reported in quarterly financial disclosures. Former Mayor Tomás Regalado, who faced an ethics probe that dealt, in part, with Miami Heat tickets, said it is inappropriate for the current mayor to sit courtside at a playoff game, whether the ticket was gifted to Suarez or he purchased it himself.
Florida – Mystery Group Behind Ads in ’20 Central Florida Primary Must Reveal Donors, Judge Rules
The Black Chronicle – Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 5/12/2022
A group that sent attack ads in a state Senate primary in Florida without disclosing its donors, must reveal its contributors and make its chairperson available for a deposition, a judge ruled. Though political committees are required to list their contributions publicly, Floridians for Equality and Justice listed just one donation, a $249,925 “starting balance” from a “dark money” nonprofit organization of the same name. Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jose Rodriguez said that records that state Sen. Annette Taddeo seeks, including bank records, exist and are in the committee’s possession.
Georgia – Georgia County Under Scrutiny After Claim of Post-Election Breach
MSN – Emma Brown and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/13/2022
A former elections supervisor in rural Coffee County, Georgia, told The Washington Post she opened her offices to a businessperson active in the election-denier movement to help investigate results she did not trust in the weeks after former President Trump’s 2020 defeat. Trump carried the conservative county by 40 points, but elections supervisor Misty Hampton said she remained suspicious of Joe Biden’s win in Georgia. Hampton made a video that went viral soon after the election, claiming to show Dominion Voting System machines, the ones used in her county, could be manipulated.
Georgia – Georgia’s Oxendine to Hand Over $128,000 to End Ethics Saga
WABE – Associated Press | Published: 5/12/2022
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission agreed to drop its campaign finance case against former state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who will hand over the $128,000 remaining in his campaign fund and admit no wrongdoing. The deal ends a years-long struggle over whether Oxendine broke state law by using campaign funds to buy a house, lease luxury cars, and join a private club. Some members of commission expressed frustration that Oxendine did not admit fault in the consent order.
Georgia – Lieutenant Governor Candidate Jones Hasn’t Disclosed Flights
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 5/16/2022
A Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia acknowledged he has been flying to campaign events on his family’s private plane without disclosing any donations or expenses related to the flights in campaign finance filings. A campaign spokesperson for state Sen. Burt Jones said the candidate planned to pay one lump sum after the May 24 primary for all flights taken. But state campaign finance law says candidates “must disclose (expenses made) on the campaign contribution disclosure report due for the reporting period in which the flight occurred.”
Illinois – Three-Peat: Chicago ranks no. 1 in Corruption, report finds
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 5/11/2022
For the third year in a row, Chicago is America’s most corrupt city, and Illinois is the third-most corrupt state, according to an annual report from the University of Illinois at Chicago. The report is based on an analysis of the public corruption statistics published by the U.S. Department of Justice. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that nearly shut down state and federal courts, 2020 was one of the most “significant” twelve months in the “startling saga of political and public corruption in Chicago and Illinois,” said the author of the report, Dick Simpson, a former Chicago City Council member.
Iowa – Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to Return Illegal $50,000 PAC Campaign Contribution
MSN – Katie Akin (Des Moines Register) | Published: 5/18/2022
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller will return an illegal $50,000 campaign contribution from the Democratic Attorneys General Association. Iowa law prohibits statewide candidates from accepting donations from PACs until the regular legislative session ends and lawmakers had not adjourned when Miller accepted the donation on May 13.
Kansas – Wichita Ethics Board Members, Candidates Could Be Disqualified Under ‘Goofy’ Policy
MSN – Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 5/17/2022
Quirks in Wichita’s ethics policy threaten to further delay a board that has been dormant for more than a year, stalling any investigations of potential misconduct by city officials. One empty board seat, the ethics officer position, stands between the passage and enforcement of the city’s ethics rules. But the three finalists for the position have either dropped out of the race or face disqualification. A prohibition on “active members” of political parties and nonpartisan political organizations disqualifies two of the three finalists, one of whom already dropped out of the race. The other finalist moved out of town and is no longer interested in the position.
Maryland – Baltimore Council President Nick Mosby Violated Ethics Law by Accepting Money from City Contractors Via Legal Defense Fund, Board Rules
MSN – Emily Opilo (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 5/12/2022
Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby violated the city’s ethics ordinance by accepting money from persons doing business with the city through his legal defense fund. The ruling by the city’s Board of Ethics does not name the donors but both are considered “controlled donors” under the law, which bars elected officials from receiving contributions from such donors, solicited or otherwise. The board also concluded Mosby violated a provision of the law barring him from soliciting donations, directly or indirectly, from controlled donors.
Michigan – Feds Charge Ex-Romulus Mayor with Wire Fraud in Corruption Crackdown
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 5/13/2022
Federal prosecutors charged the former mayor of Romulus with wire fraud for spending more than $15,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. LeRoy Burcroff is the latest current or former public official charged during a more than decade-long federal assault on corruption within municipal government and organized labor around Metro Detroit. That crackdown has led to charges against more than 110 people and the convictions of the two past presidents of the United Auto Workers, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and 23 contractors and public officials in Macomb County.
Montana – State Won’t Appeal Ruling Striking Down Parts of New Law
Helena Independent Record – Seaborn Lawson | Published: 5/18/2022
The Montana attorney general’s office will not appeal a District Court ruling that found state lawmakers went to unconstitutional lengths to pass new campaigning laws. Judge Mike Menahan ruled lawmakers had added sections unrelated to the original intent of Senate Bill 319 in a late-session meeting without public participation, in violation of the Montana Constitution.
New York – Adams’ Top Aide Navigates Uncharted Path on New York Ethics Issues
Yahoo News – Sally Goldenberg and Joe Anuta (Politico) | Published: 5/17/2022
Attorney Frank Carone of the firm Abrams Fensterman is chief of staff to New York City Mayor Eric Adams. A recent public disclosure shows the firm has been actively lobbying the new mayoral administration. Carone faces numerous conflicts-of-interest as he undertakes an expansive role in City Hall. An analysis of the firm’s clients from last year found more than 40 whose financial interests are intertwined with municipal government. Abrams Fensterman’s network of clients sets up a situation with little recent precedent in New York.
New York – Corporate Campaign Donors Identify Themselves Thanks to New York Focus Nudge
New York Focus – Sam Mellins | Published: 5/12/2022
In the wake of reporting into the state Board of Election’s failure to act on possible violations of a campaign finance law meant to limit “dark money” in New York elections, the agency began enforcement in March. That yielded rapid results, recent figures show: compliance with the law’s disclosure requirements has increased more than threefold since the board acted. The law required limited liability companies (LLCs) that make political donations to submit a form listing their owners and how much of the company each one owns. But majority of donors who gave via LLCs were not aware of or simply ignored this requirement.
New York – Court Expert Draws More GOP-Friendly New York Political Maps
MSN – Michelle Price (Associated Press) | Published: 5/16/2022
A court-appointed expert released a draft of new congressional maps for New York state that are more favorable to Republicans than the original gerrymandered political maps drawn by Democrats. A New York court will take comment on the maps for two days before a final version is approved by a judge on May 20, with primary elections for congressional races and the state Senate now being held August 23. Adding to the redistricting tangle, the state’s Assembly and gubernatorial primaries are still scheduled for June 28.
Ohio – Cincinnati Launches New Office of Ethics and Good Government to Rebuild ‘Public Trust’
Spectrum News – Casey Weldon | Published: 5/14/2022
Cincinnati endured one of its most difficult periods two years ago as it watched one-third of city council arrested on federal corruption charges. Federal prosecutors accused City Hall of having a “culture of corruption.” The city has worked to help reshape that image, and one way is through the creation of the Office of Ethics and Good Government. Its job is to educate elected officials and city staff on ethics-related issues, ranging from conflicts-of-interest to campaign contributions. It also investigates suspected cases of impropriety submitted through a new hotline.
Ohio – Lawmaker Proposed $300M Handout to Nursing Homes; Then Raised $52,000 from their Liaisons
Yahoo News – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 5/12/2022
An Ohio lawmaker last year proposed allocating $300 million of federal COVID-19 relief funds, divvied up among the state’s nursing homes with no strings attached. Ten days later, Rep. Sara Carruthers received a $13,200 campaign contribution from the chief executive of a chain of 59 nursing homes, $13,200 from his business partner, and another $13,200 from the chief executive’s wife. Two weeks later, a lobbyist for an association of nursing homes that backed the bill gave her another $13,200. The four contributions together comprise nearly half of all Carruthers’ campaign fundraising in 2021.
Ohio – Leader of Columbus Green-Energy Ballot Measure Guilty of Falsifying Campaign Finance Report
Yahoo News – Bill Bush and Jordan Laird (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 5/16/2022
The man who led the failed ProEnergy Issue 7 ballot initiative last November, which Columbus leaders called a blatant effort to grab taxpayer funds, was found guilty of filing a false campaign finance record in connection with the petition drive for a similar 2019 initiative. John Clark Jr. led the petition drive to get an initiative put on the ballot that, if it had passed, would have diverted more than $50 million of city money toward vague green-energy initiatives proposed by a group that would have been in sole control of the funds.
Ohio – Medicaid Director Owned Stock in Companies She Awarded Huge Contracts
Ohio Capital Journal – Marty Schladen | Published: 5/17/2022
Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran’s ethics filings show she continued to own stock in three health care companies in 2021, the same year she negotiated and signed billion-dollar contracts with their subsidiaries. State ethics rules only require that officials such as Corcoran list all the stocks they own at least $1,000 worth of in a given year. So, it is impossible to know how heavily invested she is in those companies. Corcoran declined to file an affidavit disclosing her exact holdings in companies whose subsidiaries she was awarding contracts and she has refused to make those disclosures voluntarily.
Oregon – Rich Donors Take Major Advantage of a Loophole in Portland’s Public Campaign Financing System
OPB – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 5/12/2022
Portland’s public campaign finance program aims to reduce the influence of big money in city politics by limiting the contributions that participating candidates can accept. In return for capping donations at $250, candidates get their small donations matched nine-fold by the city. But the ability of wealthy donors to give unlimited amounts to PACs that support candidates is, this year’s election shows, a fundamental loophole in the city’s efforts to curb campaign spending and, in the process, broaden who can run for office.
South Dakota – South Dakota Report: Noem’s daughter got special treatment
MSN – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 5/18/2022
State lawmakers unanimously approved a report finding South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s daughter got preferential treatment while she was applying for a real estate appraiser’s license in 2020. Noem has denied wrongdoing, despite holding a meeting that included her daughter, Kassidy Peters, and key decision-makers from the agency that was evaluating her application just days after the agency moved to deny her the license. After the meeting, Peters received another opportunity to demonstrate she could meet federal standards and was ultimately awarded the license.
Tennessee – Registry of Election Finance Declines to Investigate Rep. Sherrell’s Fire-Hall Checks
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 5/19/2022
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance claimed it had been “weaponized” in a state House District race and refused to investigate a complaint that Rep. Paul Sherrell wrote checks to volunteer fire halls and asked for cash back. “What we’re being asked here is to assume that Mr. Sherrell is a crook, bottom line. We’re to assume he is conducting illegal activity …,” board member Tom Lawless said, because Sherrell bought ham breakfasts for firefighters. Nevertheless, the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance urged Sherrell to make contributions differently in the future and to document all donations.
Texas – AG Ken Paxton Refuses to Disclose His Property Addresses to the Texas Ethics Commission
MSN – Jay Root and Taylor Goldenstein (Houston Chronicle) | Published: 5/18/2022
The state police made him do it. That is the excuse Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gives on his ethics disclosures in place of revealing, as required by law, the addresses of properties he owns in Austin and College Station. “Redacted for security purposes on request of TX DPS,” Paxton has written on every form since he began work as attorney general. But nothing in the law allows him to refuse to provide the addresses, and none of the parties involved could produce any records proving such a request was ever made.
Washington – Inside the Washington Legislative Workers’ Union Push and Building Frustration with Democratic Leadership
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 5/17/2022
Washington lawmakers passed a bill aimed at setting up a process to allow at least some legislative workers to unionize. The legislation also lifts the state’s prohibition on collective bargaining for legislative workers beginning in 2024. House Bill 2124 creates the Office of State Legislative Labor Relations to research and make recommendations to lawmakers about how staffers might unionize, and which workers might be part of that group. Lawmakers and others acknowledge they will likely need to pass another bill next year before collective bargaining begins.
Washington DC – Judges Accused of Sex Discrimination, Bullying, Internal Survey Shows
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2022
Complaints in a workplace survey conducted for the federal trial and appeals courts in the nation’s capital, an institution regarded as a steppingstone to the U.S. Supreme Court detail instances of gender discrimination, bullying, and racial insensitivity, while underscoring the power imbalance between judges with life tenure and the assistants who depend on them for career advancement. Current and former employees who acknowledged having witnessed misconduct described their reluctance to file complaints against their superiors. They cited fears of retaliation and distrust that the federal judiciary’s system for workplace accountability, which tasks judges with policing one another, ultimately would resolve their concerns.
Washington DC – Trump Sells D.C. Hotel Lease to Miami Investment Group
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 5/11/2022
The Trump Organization completed the sale of its District of Columbia hotel lease on Pennsylvania Avenue to CGI Merchant Group and its partner Hilton Worldwide Holdings, which will operate the hotel as a Waldorf Astoria property. Calls for the lease to be revoked or for Trump to divest himself of his real estate assets grew louder after he entered office and foreign leaders, corporations, and Republican politicians booked rooms and parties at the hotel as part of their efforts to curry favor with Trump.
West Virginia – ‘Everyone Was Shocked’: How WV’s ethics laws allowed someone barred from lobbying to try to influence legislators anyway
Mountain State Spotlight – Ian Karbal | Published: 5/16/2022
The West Virginia Ethics Act bars certain public officials from lobbying for at least a year after they leave office. But as Evan Jenkins’ rapid flip from state Supreme Court justice to timber company attorney highlighted, the law leaves plenty of wiggle room. He was able to speak directly to lawmakers, as well as propose specific language to legislation, all within weeks of holding a powerful position in government.
Wisconsin – Wis. Democrats File First-of-Its-Kind Suit vs. Fake Trump Electors
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2022
Three Democratic voters in Wisconsin, including two who served as electors for President Biden in 2020, filed suit against 10 supporters of Donald Trump in the state, arguing the group engaged in a civil conspiracy to violate state and federal law when they declared themselves presidential electors in 2020 even though Biden won the state’s popular vote. Wisconsin was one of five states won by Biden where Republican electors gathered December 14, 2020, and declared themselves “duly elected and qualified” – then sent signed certificates to Washington purporting to affirm Trump as the actual victor of their states.
May 13, 2022 •
National/Federal A 49-Year Crusade: Inside the movement to overturn Roe v. Wade MSN – Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Caroline Kitchener, and Rachel Roubein (Washington Post) | Published: 5/7/2022 Soon after Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Leonard Leo, the head of […]
A 49-Year Crusade: Inside the movement to overturn Roe v. Wade
MSN – Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Caroline Kitchener, and Rachel Roubein (Washington Post) | Published: 5/7/2022
Soon after Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Leonard Leo, the head of the conservative Federalist Society, met with the president-elect and his advisers with a list of six potential conservative nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Leo laid out a road map for Trump on the federal court system, potentially transforming the foundational understanding of rights in America. It was a moment that antiabortion activists had been working toward for decades: The highest reaches of Republican power finally focused, in unison, on achieving the once implausible goal of revisiting the jurisprudence of the 1960s and 1970s, including Roe v. Wade.
Congressman Probing Commanders Cancels Fundraiser Over Ethics Question
MSN – Daniel Lippman (Politico) | Published: 5/10/2022
U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has been investigating the Washington Commanders as chairperson of a House oversight subcommittee. He is also raising money for his reelection. Those two facts collided when Krishnamoorthi canceled a fundraiser after a reporter questioned the event. The issue was whether it was inappropriate for a pair of lobbyists, Mike Manatos and Tom Manatos, to explicitly invite donors to the event to discuss with Krishnamoorthi the probe of the football team and its owner, Dan Snyder. Linking pleas for campaign money to specific legislative actions is not allowed.
Dem AGs Pledge to Hold the Line If Roe Falls
Politico – Alice Miranda Ollstein | Published: 5/9/2022
While attorney general races tend to have lower turnout and spending than gubernatorial contests, the state’s chief law enforcement office has long been a springboard for politicians. In this year’s races, the possible overturning of Roe v, Wade has become a central issue. Those running in red and purple states have pledged not to prosecute people under whatever abortion bans their legislators or governors impose, while those in blue states are vowing to keep local prosecutors at bay and preserve access to the procedure.
Elon Musk Says He Would Reverse Twitter Ban on Donald Trump
MSN – Faiz Siddiqui, Drew Harwell, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/10/2022
Elon Musk said he will reverse Twitter’s permanent ban of former President Trump if the Tesla chief executive follows through with his plan to buy the social media company. Twitter banned Trump in the wake of the January 6 riots, citing the risk of further violence. Musk said the decision to ban Trump from the platform was a mistake. The decision to do so alienated much of the country, and Trump still has a voice, Musk said. Twitter has said its efforts have been aimed at minimizing harm and improving the user experience by limiting exposure to hate speech and harassment.
GOP State Legislators Move to Police Social Media
Yahoo News – Reid Wilson (The Hill) | Published: 5/11/2022
Republican lawmakers in at least 18 states have considered bills that would impose penalties on social media companies for censorship or content limits based on ideological viewpoints. The specifics vary, but many of the proposals would allow users who believe their views have been censored or silenced to bring lawsuits in state courts. One industry insider said forcing social media outlets to justify their decisions to moderate specific instances of content, the bulk of which are made by computer algorithms, would open those companies to legal harassment.
Inside Mark Meadows’s Final Push to Keep Trump in Power
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 5/9/2022
A review of Mark Meadows’ actions in a crucial three-week period culminating in the violent insurrection on January 6, 2021 – based on interviews, depositions, text messages, emails, congressional documents, recently published memoirs by key players and other material – shows how Meadows played a pivotal role in advancing Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Meadows’ moves are at the center of probes by both the House committee investigating the attack and the Justice Department, which is examining whether to press contempt-of-Congress charges against him and is conducting its own inquiry.
Judge Dismisses Trump’s Lawsuit Against Twitter
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2022
A California judge dismissed a lawsuit that Donald Trump filed against Twitter, the latest blow to the former president’s battles with major tech companies over their decisions to suspend his accounts in the fallout of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The lawsuit, which Trump initially filed last year along with suits targeting Google and Facebook, was viewed as part of a broader strategy to appeal to conservatives who have long argued social media companies unfairly censor their viewpoints.
Pelosi Sets $45,000 Minimum Yearly Salary for House Staff
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 5/6/2022
Addressing concerns about the working conditions for some Capitol Hill aides, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a $45,000 minimum annual salary for House staff and teed up for a vote a resolution that would pave the way for aides to join a union. While jobs on Capitol Hill are highly coveted and can lead to big salaries down the road, the work often involves grueling hours and low pay in a region where steep housing costs can leave little money for other necessities.
Supreme Court Leak Inquiry Exposes Gray Area of Press Protections
MSN – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 5/7/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1971 ruled the government could not prevent The New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers while the source of that leak, Daniel Ellsberg, was indicted by a federal grand jury for theft. The court is now grappling with the release of a draft opinion that sets the framework for overturning Roe v. Wade. Only this time the leak came from inside the building, and there is no law or code of conduct that suggests how an investigation into such a breach should proceed, or whether the journalists who brought the draft to light will be swept up in the kind of criminal investigation that top Republican lawmakers have demanded.
With High Court in Spotlight, Democrats Push Judicial Ethics Overhaul
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 5/10/2022
In the wake of revelations related to the U.S. Supreme Court, a group of liberal House and Senate Democrats is introducing new legislation to tighten judicial ethics laws, reflecting the rising anger on the left over the recent conduct of the high court’s conservative majority. A draft proposal calls for more disclosure, a binding code of conduct for the Supreme Court, and a new judicial recusal process. The Supreme Court is the only court in the country that is not required to abide by a judicial code of ethics.
Canada – MLA’s Motions to Improve Alberta Lobbyist Act Rejected by Committee
MSN – Michelle Bellefontaine (CBC) | Published: 5/8/2022
A committee of lawmakers reviewing Alberta’s Lobbyist Act voted against changes proposed by the province’s ethics commissioner, including the establishment of a registry to track meetings between lobbyists and public officeholders. The only motion accepted by the committee was a recommendation that government “take into account the importance of public transparency” when changing the act, which must be reviewed every five years. The provincial government will ultimately decide what it will accept when moving forward with changes to the law.
From the States and Municipalities
California – CalPERS Board Violated Open Meetings Law, Judge Rules. Ex-Board Member Wants More Information
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 5/9/2022
A judge ruled California Public Employees Retirement System’s Board of Administration violated open meetings law when it excluded the public from a discussion two years ago related to the exit of Ben Ming, its former investment chief. Meng quit after a conflict-of-interest complaint was filed over his personal investments in Blackstone, a private equity firm in which the pension fund also was invested. A notice published by the board said the meeting, held 12 days after Meng’s resignation, was closed so board members could discuss a “chief executive officer’s briefing on performance, employment, and personnel items.”
Colorado – Election-Denying Clerk Tina Peters, Deputy Belinda Knisley Barred from Overseeing 2022 Elections in Mesa County
MSN – Saja Hindi (Denver Post) | Published: 5/10/2022
For the second year in a row, a judge has ruled Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley are barred from overseeing an election – this time, the June primaries and November general election. Peters, who disputes the 2020 presidential election result and is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state, is also facing multiple investigations surrounding allegations of an election equipment security breach and campaign finance violations, including 10 criminal counts. Knisley was also indicted by the grand jury and was suspended from her role at the county for a workplace investigation.
Florida – Appeals Court Reinstates Florida’s 2021 Election Law Provisions Struck Gown by Judge
MSN – Steven Lemongello (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 5/6/2022
A federal appeals court overruled a judge who struck down much of Florida’s controversial 2021 election law, allowing the provisions to go into effect while a lawsuit makes its way through the courts. Judge Mark Walker ruled in March the Legislature intentionally discriminated against Black voters in drafting the law and ordered the state not to make any future changes to those provisions without his court’s approval. But three judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted the state’s request to appeal and overturn Walker’s ruling. The judges wrote the upcoming primary elections were too imminent for Walker to make such changes to the law.
Georgia – Challenge Over Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Eligibility Fails
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 5/6/2022
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger accepted a judge’s findings and said U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is qualified to run for reelection despite claims by a group of voters that she had engaged in insurrection. Administrative Law Judge Charles Beaudrot said Greene was eligible to run, finding the voters had not produced sufficient evidence to back their claims. After Raffensperger adopted the judge’s decision, the group that filed the complaint on behalf of the voters vowed to appeal.
Hawaii – Will Former Lawmakers’ Bribery Charges Lead to Broader Government Reform?
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 5/9/2022
There has been a renewed focus this year in Hawaii on government ethics and corruption in the wake of criminal charges involving two former lawmakers. J. Kalani English and Ty Cullen both pleaded guilty accepting bribes as part of a scheme to influence legislation. The charges also led to the creation of a group to address government conduct. Now, lawmakers and many in the public will be looking to the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct for proposals on how to tighten up ethics laws and increase government transparency ahead of the 2023 legislative session, which opens in January.
Kentucky – Andy Beshear Sues Over GOP Plan to Reduce His Power Over Ethics Commission Appointments
Yahoo News – Morgan Watkins (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 5/6/2022
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear sued over legislation the Republican-run General Assembly passed that reduces his authority to appoint members to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. The bill shifts Beshear’s power to the state’s constitutional officers, who are all Republicans. Beshear wants a judge to nix House Bill 334, which expands the ethics commission from five members to seven and gives the governor two appointments to the board while granting five other state officeholders one appointment each.
Maryland – Exclusive: U.S. congressman’s campaign may violate state election law
Yahoo News – Eric Cortellessa (Time) | Published: 5/8/2022
U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown wants to be Maryland’s top law enforcement officer, but his own campaign’s spending may violate state election law, according to campaign finance experts. Brown announced on October 25 that he would retire from Congress and run for state attorney general. Since then, he has used funds from his congressional campaign account to bankroll his bid for statewide office, a review of his financial disclosures shows. Meanwhile, Brown spent nothing from his state account to compensate the campaign’s staff in its first months of operation, the review found.
Michigan – ‘Massive Forgery Scheme’ Claims Rock Michigan Elections, Governor’s Race
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 5/5/2022
A petition fraud scandal threatening the candidacy of Republican gubernatorial front-runner James Craig has spread to at least three other Michigan candidates accused of submitting forged signatures from the same circulators in their quest to make the primary ballot. Gubernatorial, congressional, and judicial candidates are required to submit voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but experts say unusually high demand for paid circulators this spring led to a price spike that may have incentivized cheating or sloppy collections. State canvassers will soon decide who makes the ballot.
Michigan – Michigan Legislature Puts Term Limits Proposal on Ballot
MSN – David Eggert (Associated Press) | Published: 5/10/2022
The Michigan Legislature voted to put before voters a constitutional amendment to revise the state’s legislative term limits law and require state elected officials to disclose their personal financial information. Supporters of amending term limits say it would enable new lawmakers to focus on their job instead of immediately looking to run for higher office or find work outside the Legislature. Opponents say it is being mischaracterized as a proposal to improve term limits when it would double how many terms a House member could serve.
Mississippi – No More Anonymity, No Complaints During Election Season: Changes to city ethics complaints process coming
Yahoo News – Angele Latham (Jackson Sun) | Published: 5/5/2022
Changes may soon be coming to the way ethics complaints are handled against elected city officials in Jackson after council members voted on first reading to amend portions of the code of ethics to allow for the creation of an ethics board. Most notably, constituents may soon be unable to file complaints anonymously, and may only be able to file them outside of election season. The changes will become official if it is passed on second reading at the June city council meeting.
Nebraska – Pillen Beats Trump’s Candidate in Nebraska Governor Primary
ABC News – Grant Schulte (Associated Press) | Published: 5/11/2022
Republican voters in Nebraska picked Jim Pillen as their nominee for governor, siding with the University of Nebraska regent backed by the state’s outgoing governor over a rival supported by former President Trump and accused of groping multiple women. While Trump-endorsed candidates won primary races in West Virginia for the U.S. House, the statewide loss in Nebraska was a setback for the former president. Charles Herbster’s loss raises the stakes on other high-profile races in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where Trump has also intervened in campaigns.
New Jersey – Murphy Vetoes Bill Closing Bribery ‘Loopholes,’ Wants to Make the Law Tougher
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 5/10/2022
Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed a bill intended to close what its sponsors called a “loophole” in New Jersey’s corruption laws, which would make it clear it is illegal even for candidates to accept a bribe in the state. Murphy called for amendments that would make the bill even tougher. Those amendments would include charging anyone who facilitated or served as a go-between in setting up a bribe or payoff. The state Legislature voted unanimously to change the law to unequivocally state that bribery laws apply not only to public officials, but to candidates for public office as well.
New York – Ethics Commission Hits Back at Cuomo, Seeking $5M Book Repayment
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 5/9/2022
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) countersued ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, filing a court action seeking to force the repayment of $5.1 million in book proceeds paid to the former governor. In March, JCOPE ordered Cuomo to repay the money, but he has taken no steps to repay the book’s publisher. In the counterclaim, attorneys representing the commission asked that Cuomo be forced to repay the funds, and for an injunction barring Cuomo from disbursing the money in the meantime.
New York – For Nonprofits, a Voice in Lobbying Is Often Out of Reach Due to Rules
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 5/9/2022
Small nonprofit and other grassroots organizations are pushing for a $10,000 registration threshold in New York for lobbying-related spending. Doubling the current limit would enable many of those organizations and individuals to engage in trying to influence public policy without the need to expend resources or money to comply with the state’s reporting requirements. Nonprofit New York compiled a policy brief that found only three percent of nonprofit groups engage in lobbying with many dissuaded to participate because they are not equipped to handle the complex lobbying reporting requirements and fear the penalties that result from missteps.
New York – Judge Lifts Contempt Ruling Against Trump, with Conditions
Yahoo News – Graham Kates (CBS News) | Published: 5/11/2022
A New York State judge lifted a civil contempt ruling levied against Donald Trump, but said the former president still needs to pay $110,000 in fines accrued and satisfy other conditions. Trump was held in contempt on April 25 after failing to comply with a subpoena requiring that he turn over documents to investigators conducting a financial fraud probe for New York Attorney General Letitia James. Trump was fined $10,000 per day through May 6, the date of his most recent filing in the case.
Ohio – City Worker Who Helped Convicted Cleveland Councilman Ken Johnson in Corruption Scheme Spared Prison Time
MSN – Corey Shaffer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 5/10/2022
A federal judge spared a former city of Cleveland employee from prison for his role in helping then-council member Kenneth Johnson carry out a long-running corruption scheme. U.S. District Court Judge John Adams sentenced Robert Fitzpatrick to three years of probation. Fitzpatrick cooperated with the FBI investigation into Johnson, who took Fitzpatrick in to live with him as a teenager and then manipulated him to fall in line with the corruption scheme.
Oregon – Candidates, Others Have to Reset Passwords to Oregon Campaign Finance System After Hack
Oregon Capital Journal – Lynne Terry | Published: 5/10/2022
About 1,100 people who use the Oregon secretary of state’s online campaign finance tracking system must reset their passwords following a ransomware attack against a web provider. The office said the hack did not affect state election data. Those affected account for roughly 6% of the database users, the office said. The office is notifying those affected they have to create new passwords. The ORESTAR system is separate from other electoral databases.
Oregon – Prison Club for Oregon’s Convicted Killers Investigated for Financial ‘Discrepancies’
MSN – Noelle Crombie (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/8/2022
The newsletters provide updates on the wholesome pursuits of a civic-minded club: barbecues, toy drives, and backpacks filled with school supplies for children in need. The group spearheads an annual holiday gift giveaway, ensuring those without families of their own do not feel left out. Its members oversee a six-figure fundraising juggernaut. But this is no Rotary Club. It is the Lifers’ Unlimited Club at the Oregon State Penitentiary where only convicted killers need apply, and now it is in trouble. State Department of Corrections officials confirmed they have halted club activities while they investigate “discrepancies” in its finances.
South Carolina – SC GOP Lawmaker Settles 133 Alleged Campaign Finance Violations for Fine, Public Reprimand
MSN – Zak Koeske (The State) | Published: 5/5/2022
A state lawmaker who faced more than 100 ethics charges related to his use of campaign money settled the accusations with the South Carolina House Ethics Committee. Rep. Jonathon Hill, who is not seeking reelection, entered into a consent order with the committee. Under the terms of the settlement, Hill will be fined $12,000 and receive a public reprimand. He has not been criminally charged. An outside audit of Hill’s campaign disclosure reports over a three-year period turned up numerous alleged violations of South Carolina ethics code.
Tennessee – Titans Stadium Push Shows Family Connections on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 5/9/2022
The Tennessee Titans wanted a new stadium – a domed facility that could cost more than $2 billion – to replace the aging structure that opened almost 23 years ago. It put together a team of 15 lobbyists, including the wife of the powerful chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee and the daughter of the state’s Commissioner of Tourist Development. The lobbying effort is the latest example that reveals how the lines between public interest and personal interest can get blurred at the Capitol.
Virginia – Battling Yard Signs on a Quiet Corner in Alexandria
MSN – Emily Davies (Washington Post) | Published: 5/7/2022
Old Town Alexandria has in many ways stayed above the cultural fray that has dominated other parts of Northern Virginia over the past few years – avoiding explosive rallies over critical race theory like in nearby Loudoun County, for example. But dueling yard signs that appeared recently have brought the debate to the neighborhood. Many neighbors said the signs made public a sort of tension that is rarely articulated in an area proud of its understated brand of liberalism.
Virginia – State Supreme Court Vacancies Remain Unfilled During Political Standoff
Virginia Mercury – Allison Winter | Published: 5/9/2022
Two vacant seats in the Virginia Supreme Court that opened in the past year hang in the balance in the political standoff in the Legislature. State lawmakers said their negotiations continue but indicated they are no closer to resolution. Selecting justices is a constitutional duty of the General Assembly, which elects the justices by a majority vote. Once elected, a justice can serve for a 12-year term. In recent history Republican Legislatures have elected justices as a matter of course. But this year, the appointments are one of many political deadlocks in the current divided Legislature.
Virginia – Youngkin Retracts Job Offer to Indiana Official to Run Virginia DMV
MSN – Gregory Schneider and Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 5/10/2022
Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration retracted a job offer to a former Indiana state official to run the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles after the chosen candidate was the subject of an exposé in The Indianapolis Star about allegations of drinking on the job and making inappropriate comments. The Star reported Peter Lacy “abruptly” resigned in April from his job as head of Indiana’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles a day after he allegedly appeared intoxicated at a departmental meeting.
May 6, 2022 •
National/Federal A Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade Might Upend the Midterms MSN – Dan Balz, Colby Itkowitz, and Caroline Kitchener (Washington Post) | Published: 5/3/2022 Supporters of abortion rights and their Democratic allies predicted that Politico’s publication of a leaked […]
A Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade Might Upend the Midterms
MSN – Dan Balz, Colby Itkowitz, and Caroline Kitchener (Washington Post) | Published: 5/3/2022
Supporters of abortion rights and their Democratic allies predicted that Politico’s publication of a leaked draft opinion by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. would reverberate through to the fall campaign. They said it could make the election a choice between Democratic and Republican governance that could ultimately hold down expected GOP gains. Countering that view were assertions by Republicans and opponents of abortion who said their supporters would be energized by a decision and issues such as inflation and crime will continue to influence voters’ decisions as much or more than abortion rights.
Draft Abortion Opinion Puts New Spotlight on Confirmation Hearings
MSN – Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 5/4/2022
In the wake of a leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, there is fresh scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process, in which nominees say as little as possible and senators are left to parse their language on how they would rule. It is not just the increasingly predictable and evasive answers of nominees that are prodding some senators to conclude the hearings have become empty theater. More and more, the confirmation votes themselves seem a foregone conclusion, with senators hewing to the party line and many using their allotted time to launch political broadsides rather than seek information.
Former Top State Official to Plead Guilty for Helping Qatar
Yahoo News – Alan Sunderman and Jim Mustian (Associated Press) | Published: 4/27/2022
A former top-ranking State Department official will plead guilty for improperly helping Qatar influence U.S. policy and not disclosing on an ethics form gifts he received from a disgraced political fundraiser. Richard Olson, who was the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the end of the Obama administration, provided “aid and advice” to Qatar on lobbying activities in violation of a “revolving door” prohibition against such behavior for one year after leaving public service.
Gas Giants Have Been Ghostwriting Letters of Support from Elected Officials
Yahoo Finance – Chris D’Angelo (HuffPost) | Published: 5/2/2022
For the past several months, local officials in Virginia and North Carolina, primarily elected Republicans, have been peppering federal regulators with glowing letters in support of gas projects in their states. Internal emails show these letters all had something in common – they were ghostwritten by lobbyists and consultants of the two major pipeline firms behind those projects. The communications show how Williams Companies and TC Energy Corporation worked to boost political support for a number of natural gas infrastructure projects currently under federal review.
How a Billionaires Boys’ Club Came to Dominate the Public Square
MSN – Michael Scherer and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 5/1/2022
Technological change and the fortunes it created have given a small club of wealthy individuals the ability to play arbiter, moderator, and bankroller of not only the information that feeds the nation’s discourse but also the architecture that undergirds it. The information that courses over these networks is increasingly produced by publications controlled by fellow billionaires and other wealthy dynasties, who have filled the void of the collapsing profit-making journalism market with varying combinations of self-interest and altruism. It is a situation that has alarmed policy experts at both ends of the increasingly vicious ideological and partisan divides.
Jan. 6 Panel Wants Testimony from GOP Lawmakers Brooks, Biggs, Jackson
Yahoo News – Rebecca Beitsch (The Hill) | Published: 5/2/2022
The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol is seeking voluntary testimony from three additional members of Congress who appeared to have some coordination with rioters and efforts to block President Biden’s electoral victory both before and after the attack. The letter to Rep. Mo Brooks notes former President Trump asked him to help keep him in office even after January 6. A letter to Rep. Andy Biggs references his involvement in discussions to secure presidential pardons in connection with efforts to unwind the 2020 election. A letter to Rep. Ronny Jackson points to exchanges between members of the Oath Keepers militia group citing the need to protect the lawmaker.
Judge Upholds Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena for RNC Records
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 5/2/2022
A judge supported a House select committee’s effort to obtain internal Republican National Committee (RNC) data. In rejecting the RNC lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Tim Kelly said the committee had demonstrated its need for the party’s data on its fundraising emails between November 3, 2020, and January 6, 2021, when the RNC and Trump campaign sent supporters messages falsely suggesting the election was stolen. The committee contends those emails helped sow the seeds of the violence that erupted on January 6. The decision is a major victory for the panel and could open the doors to reams of internal RNC data held by Salesforce, a vendor the RNC used to run email fundraising campaigns.
Panel Sends FEC Nominee Dara Lindenbaum to Senate Floor
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 5/3/2022
The Senate Rules and Administration Committee approved the nomination of Dara Lindenbaum to the FEC. Lindenbaum, an election lawyer, would fill the seat of Steven Walther, an independent who was picked by Democrats. Lindenbaum said she would recuse herself for two years from cases involving her own clients or those of her firm. Her client roster includes Stacey Abrams, who is running for governor this year and ran in 2018, as well as other federal, state, and local candidates and political committees.
Trump Officials Muzzled CDC on Church Covid Guidance, Emails Confirm
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 4/28/2022
Trump White House officials in May 2020 removed public health advice urging churches to consider virtual religious services as the coronavirus spread, delivering a messaging change sought by the president’s supporters, according to emails from former top officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released reports saying the virus had killed three and infected dozens at church events in Arkansas and health experts had warned houses of worship had become hot spots for virus transmission. But Trump officials wrote they were frustrated by “problematic” advice the CDC had already posted. The guidance published by CDC did not include recommendations about offering virtual or drive-in options for religious services.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – A Top Ducey Aide Raised Nearly $13k from Lobbyists Whose Cash He Promised to Shun
Arizona Mirror – Dillon Rosenblatt | Published: 5/3/2022
When Matt Gress, the budget director for Gov. Doug Ducey, launched his campaign for the Arizona House in December, he promised not to accept any contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session to avoid the appearance his campaign might influence his work for the state. His first campaign finance report in 2022 shows he did not follow through on that promise.
California – ‘Pay to Play’ Governor Behest Payment Contracting Bill Killed by Senate Democrats
California Globe – Evan Symon | Published: 4/29/2022
A bill that would have prohibited state agencies in California from awarding contracts to companies that made behest payments on the governor’s behalf failed to pass the Senate Governmental Organization Committee. Senate Bill 1367 would have specifically prohibited state agencies from awarding a contract for which the agency had not secured at least three competitive bids or proposals to a company that made a payment at the behest of the governor in the preceding 12 months.
Colorado – Colorado Lawmakers Define ‘Major Purpose’ in Campaign Finance Laws, Clarify Who Must File Reports
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 5/4/2022
A bill in the Colorado Senate would change campaign finance laws pertaining to issue committees, which deal with ballot measures. The bill’s main purpose is to define “major purpose” in campaign finance statutes and the parameters under which it would apply, particularly when it comes to issue committees. Senate Bill 237 would establish clear thresholds on spending, above which an organization would qualify as having a “major purpose” of supporting a ballot measure and which would trigger registration as an issue committee, as well as a requirement to file campaign finance reports.
Florida – Disney’s Special Tax District Pushes Back Against Law That Would Dissolve It
MSN – Lori Rozsa and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 4/28/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis assailed Disney for siding with the LGBTQ community over a controversial law. But if DeSantis is looking to reshape Disney’s operations and its uniquely powerful control in the state, he may come up short. The details of the state’s dissolution of Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District are still being hashed out behind closed doors. But Reedy Creek is not waiting. The special taxing district, which encompasses most of Disney’s Central Florida properties and allows Disney to effectively self-govern, is already pushing back, indicating it plans to fight the dissolution of a 1967 compact with the state.
Georgia – City Fires Longtime Officials Who Were Mentioned During Bicker’s Corruption Trial
WSB – Richard Belcher | Published: 5/4/2022
The city of Atlanta fired two longtime city officials whose names came up in testimony during the Mitzi Bickers’ bribery trial. The star prosecution witness testified that Bickers, a former campaign aide to then-Mayor Kasim Reed, who later worked for his administration, told the witness that Cotena Alexander and Rita Braswell were “our people” at City Hall. Bickers was convicted of eight counts of bribery, money laundering.
Georgia – Stacey Abrams Switches Gears from Campaign Fundraising to Aiding Abortion Rights
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 5/4/2022
Stacey Abrams, one of the Democratic Party’s most notable fundraisers, paused fundraising for her Georgia gubernatorial race to redirect funds to abortion rights groups after a draft Supreme Court opinion signaling the end to a constitutional right to abortion was made public. Abrams’ ability to temporarily redirect funds to groups working to expand abortion access is thought to be possible in part because she regularly beats her main GOP competitors, Gov. Brian Kemp and former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, in fundraising.
Georgia – Trump Election Probe Special Grand Jury Selected in Atlanta
MSN – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 5/2/2022
A special grand jury was selected for the investigation into whether former President Trump and others illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in Georgia. The investigation has been underway since early last year, and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis took this unusual step to help it along. She noted in a letter to the chief judge that the special grand jury would be able to issue subpoenas to people who have refused to cooperate otherwise.
Idaho – Experts: Lawmaker rape case a ‘rare victory’ for sexual assault survivors
Idaho Press – Rebecca Boone (Associated Press) | Published: 4/30/2022
When a legislative intern came forward with rape allegations against an Idaho lawmaker last year, she was subjected to months of online harassment and abuse. She later testified about the attack at an ethics hearing, and some of the lawmaker’s supporters filmed her and chased her through the statehouse. The young woman took the stand to testify in his criminal trial and became so distraught she fled the courtroom. Aaron von Ehlinger’s rape conviction was a rare victory for prosecutors in a criminal justice system that can be fraught with trauma for sexual assault survivors, experts say.
Illinois – New Chicago IG Asked to Investigate City Clerk Anna Valencia’s Lobbying Connections
MSN – Mary Ann Ahern (WMAQ) | Published: 4/27/2022
For the first time in months, the city of Chicago has a new inspector general as Deborah Witzburg was unanimously approved for the position. Witzburg now officially replaces Joe Ferguson, who resigned after publicly criticizing Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. One of her first acts in office will be to potentially look into City Clerk Anna Valencia’s office, with Ald. Silvana Tabares asking the new inspector general to investigate allegations the secretary of state candidate and her husband Reyahd Kazmi violated state lobbying rules.
Kansas – Kansas Ethics Panel to Redo Hearing After Questions Over Director’s Law License, Statehouse Probe
Yahoo News – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 4/27/2022
The Kansas Government Ethics Commission moved to grant a new hearing in a case involving an Overland Park civic group, after questions were raised about the law license of the agency’s director, Mark Skoglund. The move comes weeks after Skoglund’s law license was used as pretense by legislators to make a policy change that would have effectively removed him from office. While lawmakers eventually backed off on the plan, it was later revealed the proposal was offered as the ethics panel was investigating one of the state’s most high-profile groups and, potentially, Republican legislators.
Kentucky – Supreme Court Denies Former Top KY Dem’s Request to Overturn Campaign Finance Conviction
MSN – Austin Horn (Lexington Herald Leader) | Published: 5/4/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court denied Jerry Lundergan’s request to overturn his conviction for illegally funneling $200,000 to his daughter’s 2014 political campaign. The former Kentucky Democratic Party chairperson was convicted in 2018 for the contributions made through a corporation to daughter Alison Lundergan Grimes in her 2014 challenge against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. Lundergan’s petition argued the federal ban on corporate contributions is unconstitutional when applied to donations from a close family member.
Louisiana – ‘I See How This Looks’: Council grills top Cantrell official over ‘smart cities’ deal
The Lens – Michael Isaac Stein | Published: 4/27/2022
New Orleans City Council members grilled a top city official, Jonathan Rhodes, over a now-abandoned “smart cities” project he played a central role in developing, and which has become the subject of a formal council investigation over potential contract-rigging and conflicts-of-interest. The council formally requested the city’s inspector general to open an investigation into New Orleans’ bidding process. Questions have mounted about the process that led the city to award the project to a consortium of companies called Smart+Connected NOLA. Rhodes had been in contact with the consortium for months before the request for proposals was released and worked with a consultant that is partnered with those same companies.
Maryland – Treasurer Charged with Embezzlement from Annapolis Campaign Committee
Baltimore Sun – Dan Belson (Capital Gazette) | Published: 5/4/2022
The Office of the State Prosecutor in Maryland announced it filed embezzlement charges against the treasurer of a Democratic political committee for Annapolis-area candidates, alleging she deposited more than $4,000 in campaign funds into a personal bank account. Prosecutors allege Alexandra Gilbreath, treasurer of Team 30 Slate, deposited funds from the committee into her personal Venmo account for an almost three-month span in 2018. She then used the funds for personal expenses, charging papers say. Prosecutors also accuse Gilbreath of failing to file or amend four campaign finance reports for the committee.
Massachusetts – Former State Police Head and Three Others Violated Ethics Law by Altering Arrest Report for Judge’s Daughter, Ethics Commission Alleges
MSN – Andrea Estes (Boston Globe) | Published: 4/29/2022
Richard McKeon, the former head of the Massachusetts State Police, violated the state’s conflict-of-interest law when he ordered a trooper to remove embarrassing remarks from the arrest report of a judge’s daughter, lawyers for the state Ethics Commission charged. Commission lawyers also allege Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr., as well as his First Assistant Jeffrey Travers, and State Police Major Susan Anderson abused their positions to help the judge after his daughter was arrested and charged with operating under the influence of alcohol and drugs. They asked the Ethics Commission’s hearing officer to find the four violated the law and impose fines up to $20,000 apiece.
Michigan – FBI Raids Home in New Public Corruption Probe in Metro Detroit
Detroit News – Robert Snell and Mike Martindale | Published: 5/3/2022
Federal agents arrested two Wayne County employees accused of using taxpayer money to buy power equipment worth more than $1.7 million they later sold for personal profit. The allegations against Wayne County Roads Division manager Kevin Gunn and foreman John Gibson involved 596 generators and other power equipment that was never supplied or used by the county. The alleged scheme involved Gunn soliciting county vendors to buy generators, lawnmowers, chainsaws, and backpack blowers from area retailers. The case marks the latest federal investigation of corruption within the ranks of government in Metro Detroit.
Minnesota – Minneapolis City Council Blocks Chamber Consulting Gift to Improve Mayor Frey’s Office Efficiency
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Liz Navratil | Published: 4/28/2022
Mayor Jacob Frey cannot receive consulting services from the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce after a city council vote fell one short of the number that he needed to accept the gift. The chamber intended to loan a staffer to the mayor’s office for several weeks in hopes she could advise the office on how to improve their efficiency. Some council members raised concerns about the arrangement, noting the chamber supported a ballot initiative last fall that granted the mayor more power over the city’s daily operations.
Mississippi – Governor Vetoes Bill Tweaking Campaign Finance Law
Daily Journal – Taylor Vance | Published: 5/4/2022
The way Mississippi holds its politicians accountable for skirting state campaign finance law is convoluted with large gaps in the enforcement process. It appears that will not change anytime soon. Gov. Tate Reeves vetoed legislation that would have transferred the power to levy fines against candidates who fail to file campaign finance reports on time from the state Ethics Commission to the Mississippi secretary of state’s office. The snag in the current process is that it forces three different state organizations to share responsibilities for issuing fines, leading to a confusing process.
New Jersey – A Toxic Culture Exists in N.J. Politics, Campaigns, Experts Say. This Lesson Aims to Prevent Harassment.
MSN – Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/29/2022
Three out of four people who are targeted with unwelcome sexual remarks or physical contact at work never file a sexual harassment complaint, according to experts who have studied the issue. For people who work on a political campaign or have a job in New Jersey politics, the YWCA of Northern New Jersey and New Jersey State Bar Association Foundation created a video tutorial to let everyone to know that “toxic culture” is not acceptable. The video, made with the help of some of the state’s most prominent women in politics, will be sent to every campaign and political body that can be located, beginning in June.
New York – Gov. Hochul Taps Rep. Antonio Delgado as New Lieutenant Governor
Gotham Gazette – Brigid Bergin | Published: 5/3/2022
U.S. Gov. Kathy Hochul moved to fill the vacant lieutenant governor position, tapping U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado to take the role. Hochul is the first woman to serve as governor of New York. Delgado is the first person of color to represent the 19th Congressional District. He is the first person of African American and Hispanic descent to be the state’s lieutenant governor. A representative of a predominantly white and rural congressional district, Delgado has emphasized his ability to work across the aisle. His campaign website touts the two awards he won for his bipartisanship from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
New York – Hochul Pens Legal Path for Former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin to Drop Off Primary Ballot
Yahoo News – Rob Hackford (WGRZ) | Published: 5/2/2022
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation that gives disgraced former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin a legal path to get off the state’s primary ballot. Hochul’s signature came almost immediately after the Legislature got it passed despite a limited timeline and political criticism. The law allows any candidate for local, state, or federal office to remove themselves from a ballot if they have had an accusatory instrument filed against them in state court; had a criminal complaint or indictment filed against them in federal court; been convicted at any time after they are designated or nominated.
New York – Judge Won’t Revive NY Political Maps That Favored Democrats
Yahoo News – Marina Villeneuve (Associated Press) | Published: 5/4/2022
A federal judge refused to order New York to hold its congressional and state Senate primaries this spring using district maps declared unconstitutional by state judges, saying a legal effort by Democrats to revive the maps looked unlikely to succeed. Replacement maps are now being drawn by an independent scholar at Carnegie Mellon University under the supervision of a state judge. The judge ordered the state’s primaries for Congress and state Senate moved from June to August so the redistricting process would have enough time to play out.
New York – Trump Grand Jury Ending in N.Y. with No Charges Against Ex-President
MSN – Shayna Jacobs, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 4/29/2022
A New Yor City grand jury that was convened late last year to hear evidence against Donald Trump was set to expire, closing a chapter in a lengthy criminal investigation that appears to be fizzling out without charges against the former president, people familiar with matter said. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who took office in January, inherited a probe launched by his predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., who was convinced there was a case against Trump for crimes related to manipulating the value of property assets to secure tax advantages or better loan rates.
North Carolina – Federal Court Considers Ruling That Blocked Madison Cawthorn Eligibility Challenge
Yahoo News – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 5/4/2022
A federal appeals court questioned whether a lower court got it right when it blocked a challenge of U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s candidacy by voters who cited a section of the Constitution addressing insurrection as disqualifying him. Three judges on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a lawsuit that Cawthorn filed to derail the formal challenge sent to the State Board of Elections in North Carolina from going forward. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Myers ruled for Cawthorn in March and prevented the board from formally examining whether he should remain on ballots, and the voters appealed.
Ohio – A Limited Ban on Developer Campaign Donations Goes into Effect This Month
WVXU – Becca Costello | Published: 5/4/2022
A ban on some campaign donations to Cincinnati City Council members and the mayor takes effect on May 26. Interim City Manager John Curp recently approved regulations for the “solicitation ban” the council passed last year. The rules prohibit sitting council members and the mayor from soliciting or accepting campaign donations from someone with active business at the council, starting from the day the ordinance is filed with the council clerk. A new Office of Ethics and Good Government has been working on the regulations since last fall.
Ohio – Election 2022: JD Vance wins Ohio’s GOP Senate primary
MSN – Jill Colvin and Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 5/4/2022
“Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance won Ohio’s contentious Republican U.S. Senate primary on, buoyed by Donald Trump’s endorsement in a race that was an early test of the former president’s hold on his party as the midterm season kicks into high gear. A onetime critic of Trump, Vance spent much of the campaign behind in the polls. But an endorsement from Trump pushed him to frontrunner status and the two men downplayed Vance’s past scathing criticism of the former president, with Vance saying he was wrong. He now faces Democrat Tim Ryan in the general election race to fill the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.
Tennessee – Campaign Finance Reform Bill Passes After McNally Issues Rebuke of Dark-Money Groups
Yahoo News – Adam Friedman (Tennessean) | Published: 4/28/2022
Tennessee lawmakers passed House Bill 1201, which requires 501(c)4s, often considered “dark money” organizations, to disclose any expenses over $5,000 in the 60 days leading up to an election when using candidate names and images. The bill’s final version would enhance several disclosure laws around campaign service companies and make various changes to increase transparency with the Registry of Election Finance. Some of the provisions directly respond to actions by former speaker and current Rep. Glen Casada and former Rep. Robin Smith. In March, Smith pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge.
Texas – Lobby Ordinance Needs Revision to Cover Virtual Meetings
Austin Monitor – Jo Clifton | Published: 5/4/2022
Auditors have found that while Austin’s registered lobbyists are largely complying with city regulations, there is one significant gap in the reporting requirements. Although lobbyists are required to report their in-person meetings, no such requirement exists for virtual meetings, according to a report discussed at a city council committee. Some offices use an electronic form while others use the electronic calendars to keep up with virtual lobbyist meetings, but nothing in city code requires either the lobbyist or the person being lobbied to keep a record.
Vermont – After Years in Committee Limbo, a Statewide Ethics Code Is Finally Adopted in Vermont
VTDigger.org – Sarah Mearhoff | Published: 5/4/2022
Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill that establishes a code of ethics in Vermont. Senate Bill 171 establishes baseline ethics rules for public officials in state government. It sets boundaries around conflicts-of-interest, preferential treatment, gifts, outside employment, the use of state employment for personal gain, among other provisions. It also protects whistleblowers from retaliation. Before the bill passed, Vermont was one of only five states without statewide codes of ethics for officials.
Virginia – Youngkin’s Move to Force Loudoun School Board Elections Called ‘Troubling’
MSN – Gregory Schneider and Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2022
Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s attempt to force the entire Loudon County School Board to face new elections this fall, shortening the terms of most of its members, stunned many political observers as an intrusion into local election integrity without modern precedent in Virginia. The plan, aimed at a school board that Youngkin has made a constant political target, initially won approval from the Republican-controlled House. But the Democratic-controlled Senate killed it, with one Republican senator joining the vote against a measure he called “troubling.”
Washington – Republican Spokane County Commissioner Candidate Gets Partial Exemption from Campaign Finance Requirements
Yahoo News – Colin Tiernan (Spokane Spokesman-Review) | Published: 4/29/2022
The Public Disclosure Commission voted to allow Kim Plese, a Republican candidate for Spokane County commissioner, to withhold the names of clients who spent more than $12,000 at her printing business for a one-year time-period, so long as those clients are not governmental entities or candidates for elected office. Washington law requires candidates for elected office to disclose a wide range of financial information. In Plese’s case, that means sharing recent transaction records for the business she owned for more than 30 years, Plese Printing and Marketing. Plese did not want to share records of sales greater than $12,000.
Washington DC – Trump Organizations Agree to Pay $750,000 to Settle Lawsuit with District
MSN – Keith Alexander (Washington Post) | Published: 5/3/2022
The Trump Organization and Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee agreed to pay the District of Columbia $750,000 to settle a lawsuit the city filed alleging the organizations misused nonprofit funds to benefit the former president and his family. The city filed a lawsuit in 2020 alleging the Inaugural Committee, a nonprofit corporation, coordinated with Trump’s family to overpay for event space in the Trump International Hotel and even paid for space on days when it did not hold events, among other malfeasance.
April 29, 2022 •
National/Federal Amid the War in Ukraine, PR Firms Defend Russian-Tied Clients MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 4/26/2022 Several wealthy businesspeople from Eastern Europe have turned to public relations professionals to help navigate press coverage emanating from Russia’s assault on […]
Amid the War in Ukraine, PR Firms Defend Russian-Tied Clients
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 4/26/2022
Several wealthy businesspeople from Eastern Europe have turned to public relations professionals to help navigate press coverage emanating from Russia’s assault on Ukraine. It has created a unique business opportunity for Madison Avenue and beyond. They want to make sure the press does not tie them to the Kremlin or describe them as oligarchs. Whereas K Street and some law firms have worked to distance themselves from Russian interests, public relations professionals have stepped in to help illuminate the distinctions between those businesspeople tied to Putin and those who want nothing to do with him.
Bill Subjecting U.S. Judges to More Financial Disclosure Passes Congress
Yahoo News – Nate Raymond (Reuters) | Published: 4/27/2022
Legislation that would subject U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal judges to tougher disclosure requirements for their financial holdings and stock trades passed the House in a rare show of bipartisanship. The bill, approved on a voice vote after winning Senate passage in February, would make it easier for the public to see if a member of the federal judiciary has a financial conflict-of-interest warranting recusal from hearing a case. Lawmakers introduced the bill after The Wall Street Journal reported more than 130 federal judges had failed to recuse themselves from cases involving companies in which they or their family members owned stock.
Democrats Ramp Up Investigation into Impact of Disinformation on Elections
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 4/21/2022
House Democrats are seeking information from officials in key battleground states about their efforts to combat “lies and conspiracy theories” that could damage the integrity of federal elections as part of a broader investigation into the “weaponization of misinformation and disinformation” in the electoral process. The leaders of the House Oversight and Reform and House Administration committees sent letters to election officials in Florida, Arizona, Texas, and Ohio – all Republican-led states – requesting the information while noting their concern about new laws affecting election administration.
Ethics of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Other Justices Questioned at Hearing
MSN – Ella Lee (USA Today) | Published: 4/28/2022
Experts and lawmakers questioned how strict ethics rules should be for U.S. Supreme Court justices, a topic that has gained importance recently with revelations that Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, supported efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election results. But the discussion at a House subcommittee hearing largely split along party lines. Republicans accused reform proponents of partisan and racial attacks against Justice Thomas. Democrats pointed to ethical lapses of justices appointed by both parties and the importance of the appearance of impartiality, in addition to impartiality as defined by law.
Feds Could Accept Donations of Up to $10K for Legal Funds Under First-Ever Ethics Rule
Government Executive – Eric Katz | Published: 4/22/2022
The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued first-of-its-kind guidelines for federal employees who accept donations to pay for job-related legal fees, easing the restrictions on receiving gifts that the workers typically face. The proposed rule followed high-profile Trump administration officials drawing scrutiny for their use of such funds. The OGE said the rule, while expanding the universe of individuals from whom federal employees can accept gifts, would help avoid perceptions of civil servants using their public office for private gain.
GOP Texts Cast Renewed Spotlight on Post-2020 Election Efforts
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 4/25/2022
Newly revealed text messages between then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and congressional Republicans including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene cast a renewed spotlight on communication between the Trump White House and allies determined to overturn the results of the 2020 election or stoke chaos in its aftermath. The texts involving dozens of GOP members of Congress prompted calls for a panel investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to reconsider issuing subpoenas or other punitive measures against lawmakers who were involved with peddling dubious legal theories that might have contributed to the deadly assault.
McCarthy Said Trump Acknowledged ‘Some Responsibility’ for Attack on Jan. 6
Seattle Times – Alexander Burns and Neil Vigdor (New York Times) | Published: 4/22/2022
Then-House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy told Republican lawmakers in the days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol that former President Trump acknowledged he bore “some responsibility” for what happened that day. The audio, obtained by The New York Times, is part of a series of revelations about GOP leaders’ private condemnations of Trump in the days after his supporters stormed the Capitol. The revelation comes as congressional investigators scour for evidence of Trump’s involvement in his supporters’ failed attempt to block the official certification of his loss in the 2020 election.
Paid Protesters, Free Lunches and Backroom Chats: Inside the menthol lobbying machine
Bureau of Investigative Journalism – Emily Baumgaertner (Los Angeles Times), Ben Stockton, and Ryan Lindsay | Published: 4/25/2022
Menthol cigarettes are the choice of 85% of Black smokers, the result of decades of targeted marketing in Black communities. Cities have banned the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes. As the Food and Drug Administration considers a nationwide ban, the owner of the country’s most popular menthol brand has waged a huge lobbying and public relations campaign to keep them in the hands of smokers. An investigation reveals how consultants working for Reynolds American have exploited concerns about police brutality against Black citizens and at times failed to declare their links to the industry.
Rep. Ronny Jackson’s Campaign Paid for Dues at Private Social Club
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 4/25/2022
U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson tapped his campaign account for more than $2,300 in costs associated with membership at a private social club in Texas, campaign finance records show. Jackson spent campaign donor money at the posh Amarillo Club on what were described in some disclosures to the FEC as membership fees or dues. It is illegal to spend campaign funds for personal purposes. “These costs are strictly associated with campaign and fundraising events,” Casey Nelson, a spokesperson for Jackson, said in a statement.
Trump Officials Overruled Pentagon to Approve Pandemic Loan, Emails Show
MSN – Yeganeh Torbati and Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2022
Senior Trump administration officials overruled Pentagon staffers to provide a politically connected trucking firm with hundreds of millions of dollars in pandemic aid after a concerted lobbying effort, according to documents released by House Democrats. Career employees at the Defense Department decided they should not certify Yellow Corp. was critical to maintaining national security, which would mean the company could not qualify for a loan program created by Congress, the investigation found. But the Trump appointees ignored that determination after a phone call between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Twitter Has Been Focused on ‘Healthy Conversations.’ Elon Musk Could Change That
MSN – Sarah Ashley O’Brien and Clare Duffy (CNN) | Published: 4/26/2022
Twitter has banned many accounts promoting abuse and spam, added labels for false or misleading information, and launched a team dedicated to studying and increasing transparency around the technology that determines what content is promoted on the site. But some critics say the work Twitter has done in recent years could be unraveled now that Elon Musk acquired Twitter in a deal worth about $44 billion. Twitter has an outsized influence in the online (and offline) world because it is popular among influential figures, and because it has often acted as a model for other platforms on how to address thorny harmful content issues.
Canada – Conservatives Ask If Trudeau Used ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’ Before 2016 Aga Khan Vacation
CBC – Staff | Published: 4/25/2022
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) examined the possibility of charging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with fraud after investigating his 2016 family vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas. The police force ultimately decided not to pursue a criminal investigation of the trip, which was separately examined by former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson. The RCMP’s decision responded, in part, to a nuance in the law that makes it possible for sitting prime ministers to grant themselves consent to receive gifts that otherwise would constitute fraud against the government.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – A Top GOP Prosecutor Said Trump Lost. Running for Senate, He Has a New Message.
MSN – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 4/23/2022
As false claims of a stolen election took root in 2020, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, spoke out on national television. Donald Trump was projected to lose the swing state, he said, and “no facts” suggested that would change. But Brnovich recently called into a far-right podcast with a different message: his investigation into the vote was turning up “serious concerns.” Many GOP candidates have embraced the former president’s false election claims while seeking an endorsement in their 2022 primary races. But Brnovich, now running for U.S. Senate, stands out for his shift over the past year and a half.
California – Beverly Hills Developer Agrees to Plead Guilty in Bribery Scheme
MSN – Christopher Goffard (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 4/27/2022
Developer Arman Gabaee agreed to plead guilty to bribing a former Los Angeles County real estate official in connection with a lucrative lease scheme, a charge that could bring a 10-year federal prison term. Gabaee paid the county employee, Thomas Shepos, about $1,000 a month from around 2011 to 2017, according to the plea agreement. In exchange, Shepos gave non-public information to Gabaee and got him favorable terms on county deals. Shepos cooperated with the FBI and secretly recorded meetings at which Gabaee paid $6,000 in cash bribes.
California – ‘People’s Convoy’ Truckers Driven Out After Youths, Residents Egged Them
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2022
A trucker convoy were blasting their horns and crowding the roadway outside the East Bay home of California Assembly member Buffy Wicks. The truckers said on a live stream they were targeting the Democrat because she had proposed a bill preventing coroners from investigating stillbirths and other lost pregnancies. Another bill she proposed calls for employers to mandate that workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It turns out that residents of the neighborhood, including the younger ones, were not happy with the hulking rigs disrupting their lives. Video shows people pelting the trucks with eggs and shouting, “Get out of our town!”
California – Riverside Man Who Was LADWP General Manager Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison in Bribery Scheme
Riverside Press-Enterprise – City News Service | Published: 4/25/2022
A former top executive of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) was sentenced to six years in federal prison for his role in a bribery scheme stemming from a probe of the city’s handling of the botched launch of a DWP billing system. David Wright will also pay a fine of $75,000. Prosecutors said Wright accepted bribes from a lawyer in exchange for supporting a $30 million, no-bid DWP contract. The lawyer named in the case, Paul Paradis, pleaded guilty to a federal bribery count and is awaiting sentencing.
California – Villanueva Backs Off Investigation of Times Reporter Who Revealed Cover-Up
MSN – Harriet Ryan and Brittny Mejia (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 4/26/2022
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva criticized Los Angeles Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian during a news conference in which he suggested two longtime foes leaked to the journalist a surveillance video showing a deputy kneeling on the head of a handcuffed inmate. Villanueva noted a list of possible felonies under investigation in the case, including conspiracy and burglary. The sheriff termed the video stolen property. The U.S. Supreme Court has held journalists generally cannot be held liable for publishing leaked materials that are about matters of public concern, even if the reporter knew or should have known they were obtained illegally.
Connecticut – A CT Group Home Director Wants to Cash in on Her State-Funded Properties
CT Mirror – Andrew Brown | Published: 4/24/2022
For nearly four decades, Malcolm and Margaret Winkley have run a pair of nonprofits in Connecticut that serve individuals with developmental disabilities. Over the course of those 40 years, the husband and wife used their authority over the two organizations, and the taxpayer money they received, to amass millions of dollars’ worth of real estate. Records show the couple held the titles for group homes while the nonprofits used state and federal funding to pay the taxes, insurance, and mortgages on those properties. That arrangement was specifically called out in an ethics opinion in 1999.
Florida – Voting Rights Groups Sue Florida Over New Congressional Map
Yahoo News – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 4/22/2022
Several voting rights and civil rights organizations as well as a Democratic-aligned redistricting group sued over Florida’s new congressional map on the same day Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the map into law. The map hands significant gains to Republicans and dismantles the North Florida seat now held by a Black Democrat. In their filings, the groups challenging the map contend the proposal violates Florida’s voter-approved anti-gerrymandering standards that were first approved by voters back in 2010.
Georgia – Greene Says She Can’t Remember If She Urged Trump to Impose Martial Law
MSN – Matthew Brown and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 4/21/2022
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, testifying about her alleged role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as part of a case seeking to disqualify her from seeking reelection, said she could not remember whether she urged then-President Trump to impose martial law to remain in power. The exchange marked one of dozens of times during the hearing that Greene said she could not recall her tweets or statements related to the attack. Greene’s appearance in an Atlanta courtroom represented one of the first times a member of Congress has been questioned under oath about the insurrection.
Illinois – Ethics Chair Proposes Sweeping Package of Ethics Reforms
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 4/22/2022
Chicago Ald. Michele Smith unveiled a sweeping package of ethics reforms. Provisions include empowering the city Board of Ethics to levy fines as high as $20,000 for violations, quadruple the current maximum, plus the “entire amount of the ill-gotten gains.” It would extend the $1,500 limit on campaign contributions within an election cycle to sub-contractors and applying that limit to other agencies of local government. “The whole idea of ‘I got a guy at City Hall’ – we’re trying to end that,” said Smith, who chairs the council’s Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight.
Illinois – Former Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison in Red Light Camera Bribery Case
WBBM – Todd Feurer | Published: 4/25/2022
Former Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta was sentenced to one year and one day in prison after pleading guilty to taking a $5,000 bribe from a red-light camera company executive in 2018. Presta, who resigned from office a day before pleading guilty to federal bribery and tax charges in November, was caught on camera accepting an envelope containing $5,000 in cash from former SafeSpeed executive Omar Maani, and then lied about it when questioned by the FBI and IRS, falsely claiming the envelope was empty.
Indiana – Candidate with Ties to Troubled Casino Wants Indiana Statehouse Seat – Again
Yahoo News – Tony Cook (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 4/26/2022
Former Indiana Rep. Matthew Whetstone resigned his seat in 2007 to become a lobbyist, then returned to the statehouse as parliamentarian for the House speaker in 2013, only to leave in 2015 to create his own lobbying firm. Now, Whetstone wants to return to the General Assembly. Critics say Whetstone’s case is a particularly egregious example of the “revolving door” culture at the Capitol, where government officials often seek private sector jobs to cash in on their public service. The state has a one-year waiting period for those who leave government service to become lobbyists, but there is no restriction for lobbyists who want to become lawmakers.
Iowa – Watchdogs Troubled by Ties to Iowa Government by Those Behind Carbon Dioxide Pipeline
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Leah Douglas (Reuters) | Published: 4/25/2022
Summit Carbon Solutions, the company behind a carbon pipeline proposal in the Midwest, has close ties to Iowa officials and regulators charged with approving a large part of its route. The proposed Midwest Carbon Express pipeline would connect customers such as ethanol plants in Iowa and Minnesota to a carbon storage facility in North Dakota. Iowa would host the longest portion of the pipeline. At least four members of Summit’s leadership have direct links to the Iowa governor’s office or the Iowa Utility Board, both of which could influence the future of the roughly 2,000-mile pipeline.
Kansas – Judge Strikes Down Kansas Map, Finding Lawmakers Intended to Dilute Minority Voter Power
MSN – Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard (Kansas City Star) | Published: 4/25/2022
A Kansas judge tossed the state’s Republican-drawn congressional map, finding the Legislature intentionally diluted minority votes in a partisan and political gerrymander that violated the state constitution. The decision by Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper is a victory for a group of voters who challenged the map, arguing it violated guarantees of voting rights, equal rights, and free speech in the Kansas Constitution. It is the first time in Kansas history a state court has ruled against a congressional map.
Maryland – Ohio Bribery Scandal Hits Home in Md. – and Utility Customers May Be Footing the Bill
Maryland Matters – Josh Kurtz | Published: 4/21/2022
In 2020, then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four of his associates were arrested in a bribery scandal. The aftershocks are still being felt in Maryland. Householder and the four operatives were charged in a federal criminal complaint of accepting $61 million in bribes from FirstEnergy to pass legislation that provided a $1.5 billion taxpayer-funded bailout for the utility’s nuclear power plants. FirstEnergy is the parent company of Potomac Edison, the electric utility that serves customers in Western Maryland. A consumer watchdog in the state is trying to figure out how much the Ohio scandal is costing ratepayers in Maryland.
Michigan – Monica Conyers a ‘Candidate’ for Wayne County Executive, but Banned from Serving
Detroit News – James David Jackson | Published: 4/27/2022
Former Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers set herself up for a comeback on April 19, when she filed to run as a Democrat in the Wayne County executive race. But she is banned from being elected to office under Michigan law since she pleaded guilty in 2009 to one federal count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Conyers was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for accepting money in exchange for her vote on a $1 billion sludge-hauling deal.
Minnesota – A Candidate Gave a Speech While in Labor – Then Had to Withdraw from the Race to Give Birth
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 4/25/2022
For months, a running joke inside Erin Maye Quade’s campaign for the Minnesota Senate was that the candidate, pregnant with her first child, might give birth April 23, the day Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party delegates would gather to vote on who would be the party’s nominee for the race. It would be a grueling convention, packed with speeches, in-person campaigning for delegates’ support, and potentially multiple rounds of balloting. As fate would have it, on the day of the convention, Maye Quade texted her campaign manager to let him know she had gone into labor four hours earlier.
Missouri – Dueker Deregisters as Lobbyist to Fundraise for St. Louis County Executive Race
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Nasim Benchaabane | Published: 4/26/2022
Local police union attorney Jane Dueker deregistered as a lobbyist to open her own campaign account for the Democratic primary for St. Louis County executive. Dueker, who had previously argued it was not necessary to fundraise for her campaign, said her decision was based on “the overwhelming support I’m getting from voters in St. Louis County.” Missouri law forbids registered lobbyists from operating campaign accounts. JanePAC, a third-party PAC newly formed to support Dueker, recently accepted $10,000 from the St. Louis County Police Association, one of the unions Dueker had represented as a lobbyist.
New York – Judge Holds Trump in Contempt Over Documents in New York A.G.’s Inquiry
MSN – Jonah Bromwich, Ben Protess, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 4/25/2022
A New York judge held Donald Trump in contempt of court for failing to turn over documents to the state’s attorney general, an extraordinary rebuke of the former president. The judge ordered Trump to comply with a subpoena seeking records and assessed a fine of $10,000 per day until he satisfied the court’s requirements. Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said she intended to appeal the ruling. Still, the ruling represents a significant victory for New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office is conducting a civil investigation into whether Trump falsely inflated the value of his assets in annual financial statements.
New York – Lt. Governor Indictment Puts Spotlight on State Campaign Finance Reform
Albany Times Union – Rebekah Ward | Published: 4/22/2022
When then-Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin was accused of taking fraudulent contributions for his 2021 failed bid for New York City comptroller, attention turned to a city agency soon to be mirrored at the state level: the Campaign Finance Board. Some proponents of statewide reform are lauding the role the city’s board appears to have had in spurring the indictment against Benjamin, which describes his attempt to defraud the city’s matching funds program. Detractors of the impending changes in the state’s campaign system say the alleged fraud does not bode well for a program that will soon see more taxpayer money spent on elections in New York.
New York – N.Y. Congressional Map Is Illegal and Must Be Redrawn, Court Says
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2022
New York’s highest court struck down the state’s new congressional map as unconstitutional, dealing a setback to Democrats ahead of this year’s midterm elections. The state’s Court of Appeals sided with Republicans, who sued over complaints that the new lines were drawn to help Democrats win more seats. The court called the map “substantively unconstitutional as drawn with impermissible partisan purpose.”
North Carolina – Former Representative Ends Campaign for NC House After Health Issues, Missing Finance Documents
Charlotte Observer – Will Wright | Published: 4/25/2022
Former state Rep. Rodney Moore’s return to politics started with a state-mandated prohibition on accepting campaign contributions. Moore was making his first bid for General Assembly since he was convicted of a felony charge in a campaign finance case in 2019. Moore announced on Twitter he was going to “withdraw my candidacy” for House District 112. He will still appear on ballots. Until earlier in April, he was barred from accepting campaign contributions in the new race. Records show Moore did not file a quarterly finance report from 2018 until April 7. He still owes the state several other required campaign disclosures.
North Dakota – State Senator to Resign After Report He Texted with Child Porn Suspect
MSN – Julian Mark (Washington Post) | Published: 4/25/2022
As Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier, accused of possessing child pornography, sat in a North Dakota jail in August 2021, he texted with people on the outside. Among them was one of the most powerful senators in the North Dakota Legislature. All told, state Sen. Ray Holmberg and Morgan-Derosier exchanged 72 text messages as Morgan-Derosier was being held on the child pornography charges, although it remains unclear exactly what they communicated about. Now Holmberg, the state’s longest-serving senator, announced his resignation.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Agrees to $37.5 Million Settlement to Resolve Ratepayer Lawsuits over HB6 Scandal
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/22/2022
FirstEnergy reached a $37.5 million settlement to resolve four lawsuits filed by ratepayers who sued the utility over the House Bill 6 scandal. FirstEnergy had set aside the money to settle the suits that alleged the company committed civil federal and state anti-racketeering violations. FirstEnergy is still involved other lawsuits related to the legislation, which federal authorities say was passed thanks to $60 million in FirstEnergy bribe money distributed via a network overseen by then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.
Ohio – Ohio State Superintendent of Public Instruction Finalist Led Job Search for the Position for Months Before Applying, Emails Show
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Laura Hancock | Published: 4/27/2022
A candidate on the short list for the open state superintendent of public instruction position led the superintendent search for several months, which provided him access to his competitors’ applications and other information. Steve Dackin was vice president of the Ohio State Board of Education before resigning. Former board members can apply for positions in the agency they have overseen, as long as the job search process is open and fair and “it is clear that they did not use the position, while on the board, to secure the job, and that the best and most qualified candidate is selected for the job,” according to an Ohio Ethics Commission summary of the law.
Oklahoma – Stitt Vetoes Bill Requiring Gubernatorial Appointees to File Financial Disclosure Forms
Yahoo News – Carmen Forman (Oklahoman) | Published: 4/27/2022
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed legislation that would require his appointed Cabinet secretaries and state agency directors to file financial disclosure forms. In his veto message, Stitt asked the Legislature to take a more holistic approach to requiring financial disclosures by also requesting the same information from legislative appointees to boards, commissions, and agency leadership positions.
Rhode Island – US Supreme Court Lets R.I. Election Finance Disclosure Law Stand
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 4/25/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court will not take up a challenge to Rhode Island’s campaign finance law. The state enacted the disclosure law in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations and other outside groups to spend unlimited amounts on elections. Two conservative groups claimed the law, which requires disclosures and disclaimers for independent expenditures or electioneering communications, violates the First Amendment and infringes on rights of privacy and association.
Tennessee – Tennessee Attorney General Takes Cade Cothren to Court Over Subpoena Issue
Yahoo News – Melissa Brown (Tennessean) | Published: 4/26/2022
The Tennessee attorney general asked a local court to compel former political aide Cade Cothren to explain why he refused to obey subpoenas issued in a campaign finance probe earlier this year. The court filing follows a Tennessee Registry of Election Finance investigation into Rep. Glen Casada and related PACs, which the registry referred to Williamson County prosecutors. Cothren’s attorney called the subpoenas an “abuse of process” and stated her client would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Virginia – Lawsuit Targets Skill-Game Company Over Lobbying Effort Invoking Deceased Senator
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 4/26/2022
A lawsuit seeks $1.35 million in damages against business entities affiliated with Queen of Virginia, one of the state’s leading suppliers of the electronic gaming machines that have spread to many sports bars, convenience stores, and truck stops. The estate of the late Virginia Sen. Yvonne Miller is suing the company over a photograph of Miller used as part of a lobbying campaign near the end of the 2021 General Assembly session, when lawmakers were considering outlawing skill games.
Washington DC – D.C. Councilmember Brooke Pinto Broke Campaign Finance Law Last Year
DCist – Martin Austermuhle | Published: 4/26/2022
The fundraiser held on December 6, 2021, was seemingly routine: a small group of wealthy supporters gathered at the home of real estate developer Marc Duber to contribute up to $500 a person to District of Columbia Councilperson Brooke Pinto. “Help Brooke retire her 2020 campaign loans,” read an invitation for the event, which ultimately netted the first-term lawmaker just over $21,000. But the fundraiser was lot legal. Pinto ran afoul of a new law that prohibits candidates who win office from fundraising to pay off campaign debts more than six months after they are elected to office.
April 22, 2022 •
National/Federal Agencies Announce Plans for More Equity in Federal Programs MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 4/14/2022 Dozens of federal agencies launched plans that focus on minority groups and other underserved communities, meant to open federal programs to more […]
Agencies Announce Plans for More Equity in Federal Programs
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 4/14/2022
Dozens of federal agencies launched plans that focus on minority groups and other underserved communities, meant to open federal programs to more people and reduce racial disparities caused by government decisions. The plans come in response to an executive order President Joe Biden issued on his first day in office to get federal agencies to reassess how their programs may contribute to inequities. Across agencies, the plans included steps like increased coordination with tribal governments, broadening procurement for minority-owned small businesses, and increasing civil rights enforcement.
Campaign Finance Watchdog Cracks Down on Untraceable Super PAC Donations
MSN – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 4/15/2022
A statement from four of the six members of the FEC indicated the agency would now start cracking down on straw donations to super PACs that are funneled through limited liability companies (LLCs) by requiring disclose of who is behind the LLCs. These types of contributions through anonymous LLCs have become increasingly common in recent years, as some wealthy political donors look to shield their contributions from the public by routing them through other entities first. The FEC has been frozen for years on what to do about these contributions, effectively blessing them by not policing requirements that would have forced further disclosure.
Capitol Police’s New Vetting Practices Raise ‘First Amendment Concerns,’ Whistleblowers’ Lawyer Says
Yahoo News – Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman (Politico) | Published: 4/19/2022
After a year of scrutiny following the January 6, 2021, insurrection, the Capitol Police is facing fresh criticism of its intelligence-gathering tactics from some of its own former analysts. An employment lawyer, who represents five people who worked in the department’s intelligence division in January of 2021, says his clients believe Capitol Police conduct veered beyond protecting members to raising First Amendment concerns. Among the allegations from Dan Gebhardt’s clients include that Capitol Police intelligence analysts were directed to “conduct research” on the relatives of members of Congress as part of their security work.
Censorship Battles’ New Frontier: Your public library
MSN – Annie Gowan (Washington Post) | Published: 4/17/2022
In a growing number of communities across America, conservatives have mounted challenges to books and other content related to race, sex, gender, and other subjects they deem inappropriate. A movement that started in schools has rapidly expanded to public libraries, accounting for 37 percent of book challenges last year. Conservative activists in several states, including Texas, Montana, and Louisiana have joined forces with like-minded officials to dissolve libraries’ governing bodies, rewrite or delete censorship protections, and remove books outside of official challenge procedures.
Fearing a Trump Repeat, Jan. 6 Panel Considers Changes to Insurrection Act
Yahoo News – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 4/20/2022
In the days before the attack on the Capitol, some of then-President Trump’s most extreme allies and members of right-wing militia groups urged him to use his power as commander in chief to unleash the military to help keep him in office. Now, as the House committee investigating last year’s riot uncovers new evidence about the lengths to which Trump was willing to go to cling to power, some lawmakers on the panel have begun discussions about rewriting the Insurrection Act, the 1807 law that gives presidents wide authority to deploy the military within the U.S. to respond to a rebellion.
GOP Lawmakers Vote Remotely More Often After Initial Scorn
Yahoo News – Alan Fram (Associated Press) | Published: 4/20/2022
More than 50 Republicans who once joined a lawsuit claiming the House’s pandemic-era proxy voting was unconstitutional have themselves voted by proxy this year, remotely without showing up. Across the aisle, U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, a Hawaiian Airlines pilot, has used proxy votes on all but five of this year’s 125 roll calls. Three of his Democratic colleagues have used the proxy procedure for every vote. They are among 303 lawmakers of both parties who have cast votes by proxy at least once this year.
Lee Worked Hard to Overturn Election, Keep Trump in Power, Texts Show
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 4/15/2022
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee worked furiously to overturn the 2020 election and keep then-President Trump in power before ultimately abandoning the effort when no evidence of widespread fraud surfaced and his outreach to states for alternate electors proved futile. Lee sent texts to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Lee makes clear he was working hard to assist Trump, saying in one text that he was spending “14 hours a day” on the effort and contacting state lawmakers seeking anything to give Congress a reason not to count the electoral votes for Biden and affirm his win.
Lobbying Heavy Hitters See Earnings Boom in First Quarter
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 4/20/2022
K Street’s largest lobbying firms reported big earnings in the first three months of 2022 as the industry set its sights on a packed legislative calendar leading up to November’s midterms. Most of Washington’s top lobbying firms had their best first quarter on record and fell just short of last year’s extraordinary fourth-quarter revenues that capped off a record-breaking year for K Street.
RNC Votes to Withdraw from Presidential Debates Commission
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 4/14/2022
The Republican National Committee (RNC) voted unanimously to withdraw from the Commission on Presidential Debates, following through on threats to bar GOP presidential nominees from participating in debates sponsored by the nonprofit organization. The RNC has accused the commission, which was repeatedly attacked by Donald Trump, of being biased in favor of Democrats. The bipartisan commission, which was established in 1987 and has hosted the debates since 1988, has rejected the charge.
These Lawyers and Firms Are Still Working with Russian Banks, Even Amid the War
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 4/15/2022
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a host of lobbyists and law firms cut their ties with business entities tied to the Kremlin. But some lawyers are still on the Russian payroll, helping entities navigate the sanctions put in place because of the conflict. Erich Ferrari, a sanctions lawyer based in Washington, said he has taken new work for Russian individuals and corporations recently sanctioned by the Biden administration. His work, he maintains, is entirely legal and not subject to public disclosure under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Canada – Lobbying Loophole Leaves B.C. Government Wide Open to Ethical Problems: Expert
North Shore News – Bob Mackin | Published: 4/18/2022
British Columbia’s New Democratic Party government ended the “wild west” of political campaign financing after it came to power in 2017 but left the door wide open to lobbying by party friends and insiders. Premier John Horgan’s party fulfilled a campaign promise to ban corporate and union donations and set an annual cap for individuals. They also strengthened lobbying regulations but did not go far enough to close the “revolving door,” said Daniel Gold, who studied the history and regulation of lobbying for a doctorate at the University of Ottawa.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey Signs Bill Prohibiting Public Spending on Union Activities
Ballotpedia News – Janie Valentine | Published: 4/15/2022
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1166 into law, prohibiting public-sector employers from spending public funds on a union’s political or lobbying activities. The bill defines union activities as “political activities performed by a union that involve advocating for the election or defeat of any political candidate” and “lobbying activities performed by a union that involve attempting to influence the passage or defeat of federal or state legislation, local ordinances, or any ballot measure.” It prohibits public employers from providing paid leave or other compensation while an employee performs such activities.
California – California Fire Victims Lobbyist Is Out Amid Sex Scandal
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 4/20/2022
Patrick McCallum, a lobbyist hired to secure a state loan to help tens of thousands of victims of devastating California wildfires, is leaving his job with the PG&E Fire Victim Trust amid a sexual harassment scandal. It was reported that McCallum’s wife, Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki, retaliated against a former school provost for reporting complaints by female university employees that McCallum had sexually harassed them during a party at his house.
California – City of Industry’s Confidentiality Could Sink Criminal Case Against Its Former City Manager, Experts Say
San Gabriel Valley News – Jason Henry (Pasadena Star News) | Published: 4/19/2022
The City of Industry has repeatedly prevented the testimony of witnesses in the criminal hearing of former City Manager Paul Philips and may end up creating an opening for Philips’ defense team to argue their client cannot receive a fair trial on corruption charges. Experts say the judge in Philips’ case could dismiss the misappropriation of public funds charge against the former administrator as a last resort if the court is unable to find a balance between Philips’ constitutional right to a fair trial and Industry’s statutory right to prevent the public disclosure of confidential discussions protected by attorney-client and closed session privileges.
Colorado – Colorado Legislature Passes Bill Limiting Campaign Contributions to School Board Candidates
Aurora Sentinel – Carina Julig | Published: 4/13/2022
Following a cycle of school board elections with record-breaking campaign contributions, Colorado law now dictates the amount of money that individual donors and groups can give to school board candidates. The new law caps individual contributions to $2,500 and small donor committee contributions to $25,000 per candidate. It will not limit spending by independent expenditure committees.
Georgia – Judge Denies Abrams Bid to Seek Unlimited Contributions
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 4/14/2022
A federal judge ruled Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams cannot immediately begin raising and spending unlimited campaign contributions under a state law passed last year because she is not yet her party’s nominee. Abrams and her campaign challenged the constitutionality of the new law, which allows certain top elected officials and party nominees to create leadership committees that can raise campaign funds without limits. But they also asked the judge to order the state ethics commission not to take any action against them if they continue to raise money before the May primary.
Georgia – Legal Effort to Remove Greene from Ga. Ballot Can Proceed, Judge Rules
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 4/19/2022
A federal judge ruled a group of Georgia voters can proceed with their legal effort to disqualify U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from running for reelection because of her role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group, filed the challenge with the Georgia secretary of state’s office, alleging Greene helped facilitate the violent insurrection aimed at preventing Congress from confirming Joe Biden’s win. The challenge claims Greene’s actions violate a provision of the 14th Amendment and thus makes her ineligible to run for reelection.
Georgia – Perdue’s Senate Campaign Disclosures Under Scrutiny
Axios Atlanta – Emma Hurt | Published: 4/21/2022
The Georgia ethics commission is evaluating whether former U.S. Sen. David Perdue violated state law by spending some of his leftover Senate campaign funds on his governor’s race. Georgia law allows federal campaign money to be spent on state campaigns only up to the $7,600 limit. Federal disclosure reports show Perdue paid nearly $24,000 for “management consulting” to AJ Strategies. The latest gubernatorial disclosures do not show payments to AJ Strategies. It is a longtime vendor of Perdue’s, but this year the description of its services changed from “fundraising consulting” to “management consulting.”
Hawaii – Commission Recommends Prosecution in Falsified Campaign Donations Case
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 4/20/2022
A development company executive could be facing criminal penalties over allegations he made illegal donations to Honolulu mayoral candidates in 2020. The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission voted to forward an investigation into the contributions from JL Capital Chief Executive Officer Timothy Lee to the state attorney general’s office for further investigation. Commission staff allege Lee illegally used employees to funnel money to the mayoral campaigns of Keith Amemiya and Kymberly Pine in 2020. Lee is accused of eight counts of false name contributions, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Hawaii – Documents Show US Rep. Kai Kahele Has a Special Deal with Hawaiian Airlines
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 4/15/2022
U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele is benefiting from a unique arrangement with Hawaiian Airlines that has allowed him to work and earn income as a part-time pilot while also serving in Congress. After Kahele was elected in November 2020, Hawaiian Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association crafted a new leave policy that would allow him to maintain his flight status, seniority, and longevity with the company while he represented Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. Kahele seems to be the only person within the company who qualifies for the benefit.
Illinois – Former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Anthony Ragucci Charged in Red Light Camera Bribery Scheme
WBBM – Todd Feurer | Published: 4/18/2022
Former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Anthony Ragucci is facing federal corruption charges, accused of taking thousands of dollars in payoffs in exchange for allowing red light cameras in the Chicago suburb. Ragucci, who resigned in January 2020 amid published reports of a federal investigation of the city’s red light camera contract, has been charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return.
Indiana – Casino Executive Admits Funneling Cash to Indy GOP, Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud
MSN – Tony Cook (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 4/18/2022
Casino executive and former Indiana lawmaker John Keeler pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of filing a false tax return in connection with a scheme to secretly funnel casino money to a Marion County Republican Party PAC. The guilty plea came one hour before Keeler’s trial was scheduled to begin and a week after his co-defendant, former state Sen. Brent Waltz, pleaded guilty. Keeler’s guilty plea is the latest develop in multi-year federal public corruption investigation involving New Centaur LLC, which owned Indiana’s only horse track-casinos until 2018. Keeler was the company’s vice president and general counsel.
Iowa – Iowa Supreme Court Rules Democrat Abby Finkenauer Can Be on Senate Primary Ballot
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 4/15/2022
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer can appear on the Democratic primary ballot in the state’s Senate race, overturning a judge’s decision that she had not qualified because of issues with her nomination petition. Finkenauer is a top Democratic recruit in the race against longtime U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley. Republicans sought to knock Finkenauer off the ballot by challenging three signatures – one without a date, one with an incorrect date, and one where the signer wrote a Zip code instead of a date.
Maryland – A Growing Trend: More Black women among Annapolis lobbying corps
Maryland Matters – Elizabeth Shwe | Published: 4/15/2022
As the first Black woman to own and manage a law practice focused on lobbying and government relations in Maryland, Lisa Harris Jones is known as a trailblazer in Annapolis, inspiring other Black women to enter the field and helping open doors. But it did not come without condescension from the “old boys club” at the time, Harris Jones said. When she was thinking of opening her own law practice, a white male lobbyist laughed at the idea, she said. “It actually put the fire in me to go out on my own and start my practice,” Harris Jones said.
Maryland – Baltimore County Council Chairman Violated Policy with Emails Linking to Campaign Contribution Page, Inspector General Says
Yahoo News – Alison Knezevich (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 4/20/2022
Baltimore County Council Chairperson Julian Jones violated county policy when some of his official emails to constituents included a “donate” button for his political campaign, an investigation by the county inspector general found. The emails were sent using a third-party email marketing service and transmitted through a private computer server. But they used one of Jones’ county email addresses in the “from” line, and replies to those emails went through a county computer server. The report cites policy prohibiting the use of county email for anything other than “county business.”
Maryland – Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby’s Annual Ethics Disclosure Lists No Donations to Her Legal Defense Fund
MSN – Alex Mann (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 4/14/2022
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed her latest state ethics disclosure, reporting no gifts to a legal defense fund established for her and her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby. The fund was created so the couple could defend themselves against a federal criminal tax investigation. Prominent supporters and community leaders have encouraged contributions, posting on Facebook and appearing at news conferences but whether anyone has donated remains a mystery. The submitted form should denote any donations from several key types of people outlined by state regulations.
Michigan – Michigan State Senator Hits Back at GOP Colleague Accusing Her of ‘Grooming’ Kids
Yahoo News – Christopher Wilson | Published: 4/20/2022
In a recent speech, Michigan Sen. Mallory McMorrow condemned a political attack by Sen. Lana Theis. She responded to accusations made in a fundraising email by Theis that McMorrow wants to “groom and sexualize kindergartners.” Republicans have attempted to position themselves as the party of parental rights, with state Legislatures across the country introducing a series of bills targeting the LGBTQ community, with those opposing the legislation being labeled as “groomers.” McMorrow’s speech was viewed over 9 million times in less than 24 hours since she posted it on Twitter.
Nebraska – GOP State Senator, Seven Other Women Say Charles Herbster Groped Them; He Denies Allegations
Nebraska Examiner – Aaron Sandeford | Published: 4/14/2022
Eight women, including state Sen. Julie Slama, accused Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster of sexual misconduct. Six women said Herbster touched them inappropriately. A seventh woman said he once cornered her privately and kissed her forcibly. Herbster has denied the allegations. All of Slama’s 12 female colleagues rallied behind the senator in a statement. They said the allegations render Herbster “unfit to serve.” Three of the women said they were concerned about their careers if they reported the behavior. Several said they feared Herbster’s wealth and power.
New Jersey – Many NJ Lawmakers Make Money from Local Government Contracts. Experts Say Disclosure Is Key
Bergen Record – Katie Sobko | Published: 4/18/2022
Municipal and county contracts for the law firm of Rainone Coughlin Minchello have grown from to more than $6.6 million in 2021. During that time, New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, a founding member of the firm, has become one of the most powerful Democrats in the state. The firm’s political contributions have also grown. In 2021, they were among the top ten donors among contractors. Coughlin and his firm are continuing a tradition of close contact between Trenton and local government. The contracts and contributions are legal, as long as the firm follows the state’s “pay-to-play” laws and publicly discloses the amounts.
New Jersey – One of N.J.’s Oldest Political Traditions Was Canceled Again This Year. Will the ‘Chamber Train’ Come Back?
MSN – Susan Livio and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/15/2022
For more than 80 years, New Jersey lawmakers, business leaders, and lobbyists boarded a row of Amtrak train cars to drink, talk, and schmooze in one of the state’s quirkiest political traditions. The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Walk to Washington” – better known as the Chamber Train – attracted hundreds willing to pay for a chance to meet some of the state’s most powerful people. But that all ended when the pandemic hit. The group canceled its event in 2022, for the second year in a row. Some are asking if the Chamber Train will return.
New Mexico – Democratic Lawmaker’s Campaign Contributions to Colleagues’ Opponents Spark Friction
Santa Fe New Mexican – Daniel Chacón | Published: 4/20/2022
New Mexico Rep. Patty Lundstrom is facing a backlash over her campaign donations to challengers running against four Democratic incumbents in the House. Rep. Gail Chasey said it is atypical for sitting lawmakers to support their colleagues’ opponents. “I understand she’s drawing a distinction between the money we raise for the general election as a caucus and these contributions, but I haven’t experienced this before,” Chasey said.
New Mexico – Santa Fe’s Transparency Regulations Withstand Final Appeal as U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Case
Santa Fe New Mexican – Staff and Associated Press | Published: 4/18/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Rio Grande Foundation’s challenge of Santa Fe’s campaign disclosure requirements in a case stemming from a failed city ballot initiative in 2017 that would have imposed a tax on sugar-laden beverages. The decision upholds a U.S. District Court ruling in favor of the city, which now prohibits organizations that spend more than $500 on political campaigning from shielding details about financial contributions.
New York – Ethics, Transparency, Campaign Finance, and Voting in the New State Budget
Gotham Gazette – Ethan Geringer-Sameth | Published: 4/19/2022
A new state ethics commission is one of several measures related to government ethics and accountability, voting, and campaign finance reform included in the $220 billion state budget that New York lawmakers adopted. They include funding to launch the statewide public-matching campaign finance system previously crafted by lawmakers, and steps to make voting more accessible. But other long-sought measures, like restoring some of the comptroller’s contracting oversight, were left out, while questions remain about some of the details of the policies that were included.
New York – Ex-Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison
New York Post – Priscilla DeGregory | Published: 4/14/2022
Former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was sentenced to 12 years in prison for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a restaurateur. His wife Linda, who was convicted of helping to cover up the corrupt arrangement, was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. Edward Mangano was convicted of accepting bribes and kickbacks from Harendra Singh, including five paid vacations, an expensive watch, hardwood flooring for his home, a $3,600 vibrating chair, and a $100,000 per year no-show job for Linda Mangano.
Ohio – Dark Money Helped Ohio Utilities Subsidize Coal Plants, Delaying Action on Climate Change at Ratepayers’ Expense
Energy News Network – Kathiann Kowalski | Published: 4/18/2022
It has been three years since Ohio lawmakers first introduced the power plant bailout legislation that is now at the heart of the largest corruption case in state history. Since House Bill 6 passed, an FBI investigation has revealed a $60 million bribery scheme, leading to admissions by FirstEnergy, a utility company central to the scandal, and guilty pleas from three defendants in a federal criminal case. Beyond that, accountability has been slow to come, and HB 6, which also eviscerated the state’s clean energy standards, remains on the books. The scandal shows how utility, fossil fuel, and nuclear interests have framed Ohio energy policy, even when that policy conflicts with voter preferences on renewable energy.
Ohio – Federal Judges Will Pick Rejected Maps If Redistricting Leaders Don’t Act by May 28
Yahoo News – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 4/20/2022
Federal judges will pick state House and Senate maps rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court if the state’s leaders do not draw constitutional alternatives by May 28. If they do not pick an acceptable map, the federal judges will order an August 2 primary using maps approved by Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission in February and later rejected by the state Supreme Court. The Redistricting Commission has yet to approve a map the Ohio Supreme Court says meets anti-gerrymandering requirements in the state constitution.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Ordered to Turn Over HB6-Related Documents to Customer Watchdog in Coming Weeks
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/20/2022
FirstEnergy must turn over thousands of documents regarding the House Bill 6 scandal it provided to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by May 22, months earlier than the company wanted, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio judges ruled. The FERC audit found FirstEnergy improperly accounted for part of the approximately $71 million used to lobby for the scandal-ridden energy bill and ordered it to draw up plans to issue customer refunds. The judges said FirstEnergy must also give the office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel a subset of documents relating to lobbying expenses, donations, and costs “that lacked proper supporting documentation.”
Pennsylvania – Judge Declares a Mistrial in Philadelphia Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson Trial
WHYY – Aaron Moselle | Published: 4/19/2022
A judge declared a mistrial after the jury remained deadlocked in the federal bribery trial of Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson. The decision comes a day after the panel indicated it was having trouble reaching a unanimous verdict. The outcome followed more than three weeks of testimony that threatened to end Johnson’s political career and send him and three co-defendants to prison. The trial was the second involving a sitting member of council within the past year. Councilperson Bobby Henon was convicted of bribery and conspiracy alongside powerful labor leader John Dougherty.
Tennessee – Court Finds Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Guilty of Contempt
Tennesse Lookout – Jamie Satterfield | Published: 4/19/2022
A judge deemed the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance guilty of “willfully” violating a court order barring the collection of registration fees from nonpartisan PACs. Senior Judge Thomas Wright ruled the state agency defied his injunction issued in 2018 and upheld by the Tennessee Court of Appeals a year late against collecting fees under a law the judge and the appellate court concluded was unconstitutional. Wright ordering the registry to refund $64,000 in registration fees.
Tennessee – Ethics Reform Bill Passes Senate Despite Barrage of Complaints from Dark-Money Groups
MSN – Adam Friedman (Tennessean) | Published: 4/14/2022
Tennessee lawmakers are poised to pass an ethics and campaign finance reform bill, despite strong opposition from “dark-money” organizations. Nonprofit political spending organizations have decried the bill as government overreach because it will require them to disclose spending around an election. The legislation that passed the state Senate would require these groups to disclose any expenses over $5,000 in the 60 days leading up to an election when using candidate names and images.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Chooses Maps Drawn by Republicans in New Redistricting Decision
Wisconsin Public Radio – Shawn Johnson | Published: 4/15/2022
The Wisconsin Supreme Court chose a legislative redistricting plan drawn by Republican state lawmakers, handing the GOP a major victory and giving the party’s candidates for the Legislature an even bigger advantage over the next decade. Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn joined the court’s conservatives to cast the deciding vote. Hagedorn wrote that given the directive from the U.S. Supreme Court, the state justices’ options for choosing a new map were limited.
April 15, 2022 •
National/Federal Before Giving Billions to Jared Kushner, Saudi Investment Fund Had Big Doubts Yahoo News – David Kirkpatrick and Kate Kelly (New York Times) | Published: 4/10/2022 Six months after leaving the White House, Jared Kushner secured a $2 billion investment […]
Before Giving Billions to Jared Kushner, Saudi Investment Fund Had Big Doubts
Yahoo News – David Kirkpatrick and Kate Kelly (New York Times) | Published: 4/10/2022
Six months after leaving the White House, Jared Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, a close ally during the Trump administration, despite objections from the fund’s advisers about the merits of the deal. But the full board of the Public Investment Fund overruled the panel. Ethics experts say such a deal creates the appearance of potential payback for Kushner’s actions in the White House, or of a bid for future favor if Trump seeks and wins another presidential term in 2024.
Campaign Finance Watchdog Issues Massive Fine for Foreign National’s Trump Super PAC Donation
MSN – Zach Montellaro and Myah Ward (Politico) | Published: 4/8/2022
The FEC issued the third-largest fine in its history for companies of a Canadian billionaire for contributions to a super PAC supporting then-President Trump after the agency found “reason to believe” the donations violated a federal law on foreign nationals contributing to American political committees or campaigns. Companies controlled by Barry Zekelman agreed to pay $975,000 to close an investigation by the FEC into $1.75 million worth of donations made to America First Action, the pro-Trump super PAC, throughout 2018.
Crypto Industry Helps Write, and Pass, Its Own Agenda in State Capitols
Seattle Times – Eric Lipton and David Yaffee-Bellany (New York Times) | Published: 4/10/2022
Across the nation, cryptocurrency executives and lobbyists are helping to draft bills to benefit the fast-growing industry, then pushing lawmakers to adopt these made-to-order laws before moving rapidly to profit from the legislative victories. The effort is part of an emerging national strategy by the industry, in the absence of comprehensive federal regulatory demands, to work state by state to engineer a more friendly legal system. Lobbyists are aiming to clear the way for the continued explosive growth of cryptocurrency companies, which are trying to revolutionize banking, e-commerce, and even art and music.
DNC Sets Off Free-for-All to Remake Presidential Calendar
Yahoo News – Elena Schneider (Politico) | Published: 4/13/2022
The Democratic National Committee is officially reopening its presidential nominating process, upending the current calendar led by Iowa and New Hampshire and requiring them and any other interested states to apply for early-state status in 2024. The influential perch guarantees candidates, attention, and money flow into those states during national campaigns, and gives voters there an outsize say in picking presidents.
DOJ Plans to Investigate Boxes of Records Taken to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 4/7/2022
The Justice Department has begun taking steps to investigate former President Trump’s removal of presidential records to Mar-a-Lago, some of which were labeled “top secret.” Sources said the probe remained in the very early stages. The department is facing increasing political pressure to disclose its plans in the case. House Oversight Committee Chairperson Carolyn Maloney has accused the Justice Department of obstructing her committee’s investigation into the 15 boxes of records Trump took to his estate in Palm Beach.
In Conference Call Before Riot, a Plea to ‘Descend on the Capitol’
Yahoo News – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 4/12/2022
One week before an angry mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, a communications expert named Jason Sullivan, a onetime aide to Roger Stone, joined a conference call with a group of then-President Trump’s supporters and made an urgent plea. After assuring his listeners the 2020 election had been stolen, Sullivan told them they had to go to Washington on January 6, 2021, the day that Congress was to meet to finalize the electoral count, and “descend on the Capitol.” The recording of the call emerged as the Justice Department has expanded its criminal probe of the attack.
Inside ‘the Next Big Political Frontier’ of State Supreme Court Races
Yahoo News – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/9/2022
The 2022 midterm elections have the fewest competitive congressional races in recent memory, thanks in part to both parties drawing themselves safer districts to lock in their majorities in the redistricting cycle. But races to elect state Supreme Court judges, which will play a critical role in drawing political maps and shaping the balance of power, are political battlefields. The conservative supermajority on the U.S. Supreme Court has prompted progressive litigators to bring more consequential and politically contentious cases to state courts.
Jan. 6 Panel Has Evidence for Criminal Referral of Trump, but Splits on Sending
Yahoo News – Michael Schmidt and Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 4/10/2022
The leaders of the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack have grown divided over whether to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department of former President Trump, even though they have concluded they have enough evidence to do so, people involved in the discussions said. The debate centers on whether making a referral – a largely symbolic act – would backfire by politically tainting the department’s expanding investigation into the January 6 assault and what led up to it.
Nonprofit Pledges $80 Million for Local Election Administration
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 4/12/2022
The founder of a nonprofit that has become a target of Republican ire for funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to election administrators in 2020 announced her organization will spearhead a similar new effort starting this year. Tiana Epps-Johnson, who leads the Center for Tech and Civic Life, said the new U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence would send $80 million in the next five years to election departments across the country in need of basic funding for equipment replacement and other resources.
Partisan ‘Doom Loop’? The Answer Is More Parties, This Group Says
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 4/8/2022
A new advocacy group, Fix Our House, argues the only way to break America out of its political “doom loop where voters in each party see each other as enemies” is to change the way elections work – specifically, elections to the U.S. House. It believes proportional representation is the key to ending gerrymandering, breaking up congressional deadlock, and reducing partisan divisions. The group argues the nation is being driven to political extremes by an electoral system that might have worked before cable news, social media, super PACs, and modern campaigning but now rewards those who promise to burn it all down.
Records of Foreign Gifts Given to Trump and Pence in 2020 Are Missing, State Department Says
MSN – Alia Shoaib (Business Insider) | Published: 4/9/2022
The Trump administration did not provide information about gifts from foreign governments in 2020 received by former President Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and other White House officials, the State Department said. As a result, the department said it could not compile a complete and accurate accounting of gifts received by Trump, his family, and other officials during his final year in office.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Selma Is Tired of Being Just a Symbol – They Want Change
MSN – Emmanuel Fenton (Washington Post) | Published: 4/11/2022
On March 7, 1965, more than 500 demonstrators marched in Selma, Alabama, to protest policies designed to keep Black people from voting. When they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met by state troopers who attacked them with bully clubs. Selma has become an annual stopover for politicians looking to bolster their civil rights bona fides. To mark the anniversary of what became known as Bloody Sunday, the city hosts the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee. But aside from the infusion of tourist dollars and fleeting national media attention, Selma feels like a city left behind, with little to show for its vaulted place in America’s civil rights history.
Alaska – Lawsuit Challenges Alaska Campaign Disclosure Rules
Alaska Public Media – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 4/7/2022
Political donors sued over campaign finance rules enacted under a 2020 voter initiative in Alaska, arguing the disclosure rules are burdensome and could lead to reprisals against them and their business interests in a climate of “cancel culture.” Provisions of the measure calling for open primaries and ranked choice voting in general elections were challenged previously in state courts and upheld.
California – BART May Need to Void $40-Million Contract After Potential Conflict of Interest Found, Inspector General Says
Yahoo News – Alex Wigglesworth (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 4/9/2022
The Bay Area Rapid Transit agency may be required to void a $40-million construction management contract after an investigation revealed a potential conflict-of-interest between a manager who played a role in making and administering the contract and the firm to which it was awarded. Inspector General Harriet Richardson said she began the investigation after receiving evidence the manager used to work for the construction management firm, and the manager’s spouse and sibling still worked for the firm.
California – Corruption Probe Ends in Ex-San Mateo County Community College District Chancellor’s Arrest
MSN – Jason Green (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 4/12/2022
An investigation into allegations of corruption against leaders of the San Mateo County Community College District came to a head with the arrest of a former chancellor on 21 felony counts including tax fraud and theft of public funds. Prosecutors allege Ronald Galatolo, with the help of former Vice Chancellor of Facilities Jose Nunez, directed construction projects to be awarded to companies from whom he had received and continued to receive gifts, including concert tickets and international travel, and with whom he shared financial interests.
California – S.F.’s Environmental Official Resigns Over Alleged $25,000 Donation
San Francisco Examiner – Adam Shanks and Jessica Wolfrom | Published: 4/7/2022
San Francisco’s top environmental official abruptly resigned amid scrutiny about her alleged solicitation of a donation from Recology for her department. Department of the Environment Director Debbie Raphael’s resignation came two days after a news story revealed the gift. It was reported Raphael solicited a $25,000 donation from Recology at the same time the waste management company was inking a city contract to haul trash to its Solano County landfill in 2015.
Florida – Florida Legislators Give DeSantis Their Power to Draw House Map
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and Lori Rozsa (Washington Post) | Published: 4/11/2022
The Republican-held Florida Legislature will not redraw its congressional map, yielding its redistricting role to Gov. Ron DeSantis to draft a version he will sign. The decision is the latest turn in an unprecedented fissure between the governor and the Legislature. The move followed DeSantis’s call for a special session to draw the House map.
Georgia – Judge Questions Abrams Suit Seeking Unlimited Contributions
Yahoo News – Jeff Amy (Associated Press) | Published: 4/11/2022
A federal judge expressed skepticism that he can give Stacey Abrams the immediate right to begin raising and spending unlimited campaign contributions under Georgia law. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Cohen told a lawyer for Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign she was asking him to rewrite state law to allow Abrams’ One Georgia committee to start taking money before the May 24 primary.
Georgia – With Biden’s Voting Rights Push Stalled, Georgia Activists Regroup
MSN – Matthew Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 4/11/2022
For months, Georgia voting rights advocates and faith leaders warned a new state law would drastically suppress minority turnout and pleaded with Congress to enshrine protections. But with no signs of progress in President Biden’s push for voting rights bills, those groups are now confronting a new challenge: how to turn out voters despite the restrictions passed by state Republicans in the wake of Biden’s upset win there.
Illinois – Emails Show Valencia Promoted Smart City Development While Her Lobbyist Husband Profited from It
WCIA – Mark Maxwell | Published: 4/7/2022
Over the course of several years, official and personal correspondence shows Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia spent a significant portion of her time in office paving the way for projects that directly benefited her husband, Reyahd Kazmi, who is a registered lobbyist. Kazmi omitted key information from ethics forms and funneled payments between various entities in a manner that hid much of that information from public scrutiny. In one case, Valencia at times used text messages and personal and government email accounts to discuss investment strategies for a development project that involved Kazmi’s clients.
Illinois – Session Recap: Lawmakers pass limits on campaign contributions in judicial races
Capitol News Illinois – Peter Hancock | Published: 4/12/2022
This year’s races for seats on the Illinois Supreme Court, as well as other judicial contests, could come under a new set of campaign finance rules aimed at limiting how much money candidates could raise from so-called dark money sources and from individual donors. The bill still needs approval from Gov. JB Pritzker. It would take effect immediately, meaning it would be in effect for the 2022 election cycle, upon his signature. The bill also makes a change to self-funded campaigns, limiting how much any individual, other than candidates and their immediate family members, may give to a judicial campaign.
Indiana – ‘I Plead Guilty’: Former Indiana GOP Sen. Brent Waltz admits role in straw donor scheme
Yahoo News – Tony Cook (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 4/11/2022
Former Indiana Sen. Brent Waltz admitted in federal court he participated in a scheme to funnel $40,500 in illegal donations to his failed campaign for Congress in 2015. Under an agreement with prosecutors, Waltz pleaded guilty to making and receiving conduit contributions and making false statements to the FBI. The plea agreement comes just one week before Waltz and John Keeler, another former lawmaker turned casino executive, were scheduled to go to trial. Prosecutors say the illegal campaign contributions were fueled with cash from one of Indiana’s largest casino operators, Centaur Gaming.
Maryland – Maryland Appeals Court Upholds State’s Legislative Redistricting Map
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2022
Maryland’s highest court upheld the legislative redistricting map approved by the General Assembly in March, rejecting arguments made by Republicans that the map was unfair and gerrymandered. The decision from the Court of Appeals ends a legal challenge that upended the state election calendar and settles uncertainty over when voters will make selections for local, state, and congressional races.
Maryland – Prince George’s School Board Ethics Panel to Resign En Masse
MSN – Nicole Asbury (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2022
All members of the Prince George’s County Board of Education’s ethics panel resigned, almost a year after producing reports critical of some board members and causing mass dissension in the county. The panel’s chairperson, Gregory Morton Sr., wrote the en masse resignation was because members faced an “unanticipated, disruptive impact” to their personal and professional lives through the course of their term. The ethics panel authored error-riddled reports that targeted a more liberal majority of the board’s elected members, including accusations of steering contracts, doing political favors, and engaging in a quid pro quo with a labor union.
Michigan – Jury Acquits Two in Michigan Governor Kidnap Plot; Deadlocks on Two Others
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 4/8/2022
A jury acquitted two men of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and deadlocked on the counts against two others, apparently agreeing to some degree with defense claims that FBI agents entrapped the men in a violent plot shortly before the 2020 election. The trial was closely watched as a test of the federal government’s ramped-up efforts to combat domestic terrorism, and the verdict is a partial defeat for the Justice Department. The men’s arrest raised alarms about the possibility of politically motivated violence as the nation was increasingly divided over the presidential race.
Michigan – Legislation Aims to Prohibit Fundraising Loophole Used by Gov. Whitmer
MLive.com – Samuel Robinson | Published: 4/13/2022
A bill that would set legal definitions for what is considered an active recall effort in Michigan was debated before the House Ethics and Elections Committee. House Bill 5910 would require a recall candidate to form a committee within 10 days after becoming a candidate. The account would not need to be established until the recall committee receives a contribution or makes an expenditure. The legislation, which has bipartisan support, comes in response to a fundraising loophole used last year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Minnesota – Elephants in the Room? Bill Language Would Ban Private Clubs for Lawmakers, Lobbyists Proposed by GOP Campaign Committee
MinnPost – Peter Callaghan | Published: 4/7/2022
A Minnesota bill would close the door to an exclusive political club that never actually opened. One sentence in the omnibus bill, Senate File 975, would ban contributions to any club set up by a political committee of a candidate or a political caucus of the Legislature that provides access to lawmakers. State law prohibits contributions to lawmakers during legislative sessions. But a mysterious request made to the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board suggested a loophole around that ban: charging membership dues to a club that provides access to Capitol decision-makers.
Mississippi – Ethics Complaint Filed After Reporter Barred from House GOP Caucus Meeting
Mississippi Today – Adam Ganucheau | Published: 4/13/2022
The Mississippi Center for Justice filed a formal ethics complaint on behalf of reporter Nick Judin, who was barred entry from a House Republican Caucus meeting in March. Major pieces of legislation authored or supported by Republican leaders, including House Speaker Philip Gunn, are often discussed and debated inside the backroom meetings. Many observers question whether the caucus meetings violate the state’s Open Meetings Act because the caucus consists of well more than half of the entire House body. The caucus meetings had never been challenged before the Ethics Commission or state courts.
New Jersey – With Revelation of Racist Recordings, Prosecutors Face Scrutiny Over Their Handling of Investigation
MSN – Riley Yates and S.P. Sullivan (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/7/2022
At the height of racial justice protests over the murder of George Floyd, Union County prosecutors seized control of Clark Township’s police department, citing “credible allegations of misconduct” by its leadership, and vowing to restore public trust. But in announcing the takeover in July 2020, neither county prosecutors nor the New Jersey attorney general’s office said what they were investigating. Now, criminal justice experts and community advocates are asking why. The question follows revelations that Clark’s mayor, police chief, and an internal affairs sergeant were secretly recorded using racial slurs. The township paid a whistleblower and his attorney $400,000 in a settlement to conceal the allegations.
New York – Buffalo Officers Can Return to Duty After Pushing 75-Year-Old Protester
MSN – Julian Mark (Washington Post) | Published: 4/11/2022
In June 2020, two Buffalo police officers pushed a 75-year-old human rights demonstrator, causing him to fall backward, hit his head on the sidewalk, and lie motionless while bleeding from his head. Graphic video of the incident circulated widely, and the two officers were suspended from the department. Now, Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski will be allowed to start working again, after an arbitrator concluded the two used “absolutely legitimate” force and did not violate department policies.
New York – Emails Reveal How Major Hochul Campaign Donors Seek Sway
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/10/2022
In response to a Freedom of Information Law request, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office provided the Albany Times Union with 161 pages of emails that offer a glimpse of how affluent campaign donors try to leverage that status to land high-level government access. A significant portion of Hochul’s campaign fundraising was facilitated through top lobbying firms, which held fundraisers that were exclusive to their clients. According to the donors’ accounts in the emails, Hochul did not discourage discussion of state business at these events and directed donors to connect with her campaign staff, which subsequently connected them to top state officials.
New York – New State Budget Includes New Ethics Commission
WBFO – Karen DeWitt | Published: 4/11/2022
The new state budget replaces New York’s troubled ethics commission with a new entity aimed at lowering the number of scandals in state government. But critics say the measure does not go far enough and could replicate some of the same problems the current commission created. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics JCOPE) will end in the new budget and be replaced with a new commission on ethics and lobbying in government. JCOPE was dominated by appointees from the governor’s office and had complicated voting rules.
New York – New York Lt. Gov. Benjamin Resigns After Indictment in Campaign Finance Scheme
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon and Chris Bragg | Published: 4/12/2022
New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin resigned after being charged with corruption offenses in an alleged scheme to trade state grants for campaign contributions. The charges stem from Benjamin’s time as a state senator and his unsuccessful run for New York City comptroller. He was seeking donations and public matching funds and enlisted the help of a developer to raise money and disguise its source. In exchange, prosecutors say Benjamin used his authority to try to steer $50,000 to a charitable group the developer controlled. Prosecutors allege Benjamin took steps to cover up his scheme when he was under consideration for lieutenant governor.
North Carolina – Mark Meadows Removed from N.C. Voter Rolls Amid Fraud Investigation
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 4/12/2022
Mark Meadows, President Trump’s White House chief of staff, has been removed from the voter rolls in North Carolina as the state investigates allegations that he committed voter fraud in the 2020 election. Meadows helped promote Trump’s baseless claims that widespread voter fraud delivered the presidency to Joe Biden. But the rhetoric about potential voter fraud have clashed with reports in recent weeks that Meadows registered to vote in 2020 using the address of a North Carolina mobile home he never stayed in.
Pennsylvania – Draft Bills and Late-Night Emails Reveal Cozy Ties Between Pa. State Lawmaker, Casino Lobbyists
PennLive.com – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) | Published: 4/11/2202
A bill introduced by state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson would ban thousands of unregulated gaming machines that have popped up in gas stations, convenience stores, bars, social clubs, and other establishments across Pennsylvania. The legislation was ghostwritten by the gaming industry. At the senator’s request, lobbyists and lawyers for Pennsylvania’s top-earning casino had drafted the bill, and the final text matched that version almost word-for-word. Emails between Tomlinson’s office and Parx Casino’s lobbyists offer a glimpse of the reach that lobbyists enjoy in the Legislature.
South Carolina – SC Developers Give Over the Legal Limit to Horry Candidates Through LLCs. Here’s How
The State – J. Dale Shumaker | Published: 4/13/2022
Developers have made contributions to Horry County Council candidates well over Soth Carolina’s $1,000-per-candidate-per-election-cycle limit. Some of those developers have given to the same candidates multiple times through limited liability companies, using a part of the state ethics law that allows businesses to donate to campaigns as individuals. Ethics experts said that while the practice of donating the maximum-allowed amount multiple times using separate companies is legal and common, it is an “unfortunate” pattern in South Carolina.
South Dakota – South Dakota House Votes to Impeach Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, 36-31
Yahoo News – Joe Sneve (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 4/12/2022
The South Dakota House impeached state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg over his conduct related to a 2020 automobile crash that killed a pedestrian. The vote defies a recommendation by a special investigative committee of lawmakers, who deemed Ravnsborg’s actions did not amount to impeachable offenses and triggers a trial in the Senate that will decide whether he will be forced out of office.
Tennessee – House Speaker Backs Ethics Bill to Bring Expenses ‘From the Dark into the Light’
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 4/13/2022
Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton extolled disclosure requirements in an ethics reform bill and questioned the motives of groups opposed to the legislation, mainly 501(c)4 organizations that can shower “dark money” on campaigns in the final two months of an election. Sexton made a rare appearance in the Local Government Committee where he defended a bill that would require tax-exempt groups that spend money to influence elections to report aggregate expenditures of $5,000 within 60 days of a campaign, among other provisions.
Virginia – Youngkin Vetoes Bipartisan Bills While Stoking Political Rancor
MSN – Laura Vozzella and Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 4/12/2022
Virginia Gov. Genn Youngkin vetoed 25 bills that had bipartisan support in the General Assembly, throwing sharp elbows particularly at lawmakers who represent blue areas of Northern Virginia. He vetoed nine of the 10 bills sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin while signing identical House bills in six of those cases. Typically, a governor signs both versions, allowing both sponsors bragging rights for getting a bill passed into law. The vetoes were widely seen as payback for Senate Democrats’ refusal to confirm a handful of Youngkin appointments.
Wisconsin – Elections Commission Fines Election Denier $2,400 for Frivolous Voter Fraud Allegations
Madison.com – Mitchell Schmidt (Wisconsin State Journal) | Published: 4/7/2022
The Wisconsin Elections Commission fined an election denier who was previously convicted of making fraudulent claims to investors more than $2,400 for filing frivolous complaints of alleged voter fraud. Peter Bernegger, who was convicted in federal court in 2009 for making fraudulent claims to investors in his business, filed multiple claims of voter fraud with the commission earlier this year. He also presented his claims before the Assembly elections committee in February. State election officials later debunked many of what they described as “unverified, fantastical claims” of widespread election fraud, including several made by Bernegger.
Wyoming – Targeted: Lawmakers in the political crosshairs of Wyo Gun Owners
WyoFile – Mike Koshmrl | Published: 4/12/2022
Hundreds of text and phone messages, some threatening violence, were sent to state Sen. Larry Hicks over his bill on gun rights. The deluge was orchestrated by a group that has pushed controversial gun bills at the Legislature. The group, Wyoming Gun Owners, drew outrage from top lawmakers for its campaign tactics and were investigated by the state attorney general for failing to disclose its donors. A federal judge ruled the election law Wyoming Gun Owners was accused of breaking was itself unconstitutional.
April 8, 2022 •
National/Federal Democrats Unveil Bill to Impose Ethics, Recusal Standards on Supreme Court Yahoo News – Harper Neidig (The Hill) | Published: 4/6/2022 A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation that would force the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt various ethics standards. […]
Democrats Unveil Bill to Impose Ethics, Recusal Standards on Supreme Court
Yahoo News – Harper Neidig (The Hill) | Published: 4/6/2022
A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation that would force the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt various ethics standards. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said the bill is aimed at addressing a lack of clear, enforceable standards for when justices should recuse themselves. The legislation largely mirrors previous bills aimed at reforming judicial ethics at the Supreme Court, but Democrats said there is a new urgency behind the effort amid outcry over revelations involving Ginni Thomas, a Republican activist and the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.
Dissatisfied with Their Party, Wealthy Republican Donors Form Secret Coalitions
Yahoo News – Kenneth Vogel, Shane Goldmacher, and Ryan Mac (New York Times) | Published: 4/7/2022
A new coalition of wealthy conservative benefactors that says it aims to “disrupt but advance the Republican agenda” gathered for a private summit recently at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The coalition, called the Rockbridge Network, includes some of Trump’s biggest donors, such as Peter Thiel and Rebekah Mercer, and has laid out an ambitious goal – to reshape the American right by spending more than $30 million on conservative media, legal, policy, and voter registration projects, among other initiatives.
Flurry of New Laws Move Blue and Red States Further Apart
Yahoo News – Shawn Hubler and Jill Cowan (New York Times) | Published: 4/3/2022
Spurred by a U.S. Supreme Court that is expected to soon upend an array of longstanding rights, including the constitutional right to abortion, left-leaning lawmakers from Washington to Vermont have begun to expand access to abortion, bolster voting rights and denounce laws in conservative states targeting LGBTQ. minors. The flurry of action, particularly in the West, is intensifying already marked differences between life in liberal- and conservative-led parts of the country. It is a sign of the consequences when state governments are controlled increasingly by single parties. Control of legislative chambers is split between parties now in two states – Minnesota and Virginia – compared with 15 states 30 years ago.
Former GOP Lawmaker Pardoned by Trump Hit with Campaign Finance Fines
NBC News – Zoë Richards | Published: 4/1/2022
Former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was pardoned by former President Trump in 2020, agreed to pay an FEC fine over misuse of campaign funds. Hunter and his wife Margaret Hunter, his former campaign manager, said they would pay $12,000 “solely for the purpose of settling this matter only and without admitting liability.” Hunter’s campaign committee agreed to pay a separate $4,000 fine. The FEC said due to his campaign’s “lack of financial resources,” the agency sought a smaller than usual fine, noting it would typically seek a “substantially higher civil penalty” of $133,000 based on the violations.
GAO: Most lobbyists follow disclosure rules, but some leave out details
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 4/5/2022
More than 90 percent of lobbyists provided documentation to back up their publicly reported income and expenses, the Government Accountability Office concluded after conducting routine audits of registered lobbyists to assess compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Still, the audit found some 35 percent of reports may have omitted previous government employment, which lobbyists are required to list. About seven percent missed some campaign contributions that lobbyists are required to report.
Garland Faces Growing Pressure as Jan. 6 Investigation Widens
Seattle Times – Michael Schmidt, Katie Rogers, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 4/2/2022
Attorney General Merrick Garland’s deliberative approach to investigating the riot at the Capitol has come to frustrate Democratic allies of the White House and, at times, President Biden himself. As recently as late last year, Biden confided to his inner circle that he believed former President Trump was a threat to democracy and should be prosecuted. While Biden has never communicated his frustrations directly to Garland, he has said privately he wanted Garland to act less like a ponderous judge and more like a prosecutor who is willing to take decisive action over the events of January 6, 2021.
House Judiciary Delves into FARA in First Dedicated Hearing in 30 Years
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 4/5/2022
Lawmakers, a legal scholar, government watchdogs, and a nonprofit advocate debated whether the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) should be expanded or reined in during a recent hearing, the first such session dedicated to FARA held by the House Judiciary Committee since 1991. The hearing held by the panel’s subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights, and civil liberties, largely revolved around how to balance the transparency objectives of FARA and target the law without infringing upon or having a chilling effect on the constitutionally protected activities that the statute regulates.
House Votes to Hold Ex-Trump Aides Navarro, Scavino in Contempt of Congress
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Matt Zapotosky, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/6/2022
The House voted to hold two former aides to ex-President Trump in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas related to the investigation into the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. The vote results in criminal referrals to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to charge former trade and manufacturing director Peter Navarro and former White House communications chief Daniel Scavino Jr. with misdemeanors that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
How Trump Allies Are Pushing to Hand-Count Ballots Around the U.S.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Amy Gardner, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2022
Allies of former President Trump are traveling the country to press for hand-counted paper ballots in elections. In recent weeks, officials have discussed the idea in public meetings in Colorado, Louisiana, Kansas, Nevada, and New Hampshire, and bills to require hand-counting have been proposed in at least six states. None of the statewide bills have passed, nor have the proposals gotten traction in large jurisdictions. But there has been increasing pressure placed on Republicans to endorse the idea, and some smaller towns and counties are now seriously considering it. Top backers of Trump’s election fraud claims are investing heavily in the effort to promote hand-counting and using the pitch to raise money from supporters.
Inside the Consulting Firm Run by Ginni Thomas, Wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
MSN – Brian Schwartz (CNBC) | Published: 4/5/2022
Ginni Thomas runs a little-known consulting company that some campaign watchdog groups say could create yet another conflict-of-interest for her husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Text messages show Ginni Thomas prodded former President Trump’s then chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in late 2020 to try to overturn the presidential election results. It has led to calls by lawmakers to create a formal Supreme Court code of ethics. Very little is known about her company, Liberty Consulting, which is listed as an asset on her husband’s Supreme Court disclosures.
Nonprofits Help Fill the Gap in Statehouse News Coverage
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 4/6/2022
Nationwide, the number of statehouse reporters employed at nonprofit news outlets has grown from 92 in 2014 to 353 today. That means they represent 20 percent of the total statehouse press corps, up from just six percent in 2014, according to a new study. Journalism in general is in decline but it appears statehouse reporting will not vanish, thanks in large part to nonprofit newsrooms. But fewer than half of the state-level journalists are full-time reporters, according to the research. The rest are only covering Legislatures or other parts of state government part time, or they are interns or support staff.
U.S. Judge Acquits Jan. 6 Defendant Who Said He Was Waved in by Police
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/6/2022
A federal judge found a former U.S. Energy Department contract engineer not guilty of trespassing and disorderly conduct in the attack on the Capitol, saying the defendant plausibly argued that police officers allowed him into the building. U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden, a Donald Trump appointee, acquitted Matthew Martin of four misdemeanor counts of trespassing and disorderly conduct in a bench trial, handing the Justice Department its first defeat in a Capitol breach prosecution.
Canada – Foreign-Lobbyist Registry Finds Support Among Canadian Critics of Russia, Iran and China
The Globe and Mail – Steven Chase | Published: 4/7/2022
A bill that would set up a public registry to track those seeking to influence government on behalf of foreign countries is gaining support among Canadians concerned about the efforts by Russia, Iran, and China to lobby policymakers. The legislation would require those acting on behalf of a foreign government or entities related to that government to register. This obligation would be triggered if they seek to influence public policy, legislation, regulations, and government programs or if they want to set up meetings with public officeholders.
From the States and Municipalities
Arkansas – Firm Paying $8M to Arkansas, Feds Over Corruption Probe
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 3/31/2022
The nonprofit that was at the center of a corruption probe that involved several legislators is paying more than $6.9 million to the federal government and more than $1.1 million in restitution to Arkansas. Federal prosecutors announced the non-prosecution agreement with Preferred Family Healthcare. Several former executives from the charity, former Arkansas legislators, and others have pleaded guilty as part of the corruption probe.
Colorado – Former Colorado Elections Official Tina Peters May Have Breached a State Ethics Law by Accepting a Private Plane Ride from Mike Lindell
Yahoo News – Cheryl Teh (Business Insider) | Published: 4/5/2022
Former Colorado elections official Tina Peters may have flouted a state ethics law by accepting a private plane ride from MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. He said he gave Peters a lift on his private jet in August when he flew her to his cyber-symposium in South Dakota. Peters’ acceptance of the place ride may have violated Amendment 41, which prohibits public officials like Peters from receiving gifts, including travel, that cost more than $65.
Florida – Federal Judge Overturns Parts of Florida Election Law, Citing ‘Horrendous History’ of Racism
Yahoo News – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/31/2022
A federal judge struck down key provisions of a 2021 Florida election law championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and ruled the state must get court approval for the next 10 years before it enacts further changes in three areas. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker said the law placed restrictions on voters that were unconstitutional and discriminated against minority citizens. Those included limits on drop boxes used for mail-in voting, on giving items to voters waiting in line, and new requirements placed on voter registration groups. Walker framed Florida’s law as another in a long line of changes that were aimed at Democrats but wound up placing an illegal burden on minorities.
Florida – Inside the Scott Maddox Messages: A Tallahassee Democrat investigation into back-door dealings
Yahoo News – Jeff Burlew, Jeffrey Schweers, and Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 4/5/2022
Before federal prosecutors unveiled their case in the public corruption trial of John Burnette, a treasure trove of sealed government evidence found its way online because of a mix-up by someone on the defense team. The evidence consisted of hundreds of text messages to and from former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox, the central figure in the FBI’s “Operation Capital Currency” investigation and one of Burnette’s co-defendants. The messages between Maddox and numerous political movers and shakers laid bare the way he conducted business behind the scenes during his last years in office. Maddox is set to be sentenced in the case.
Florida – Legislature Delivers Gov. DeSantis Second Pass at Limiting Big Dollar Influence in Ballot Initiatives
Florida Politics – Renzo Downey | Published: 4/5/2022
Legislative leaders officially sent Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis their second attempt to limit spending in the ballot initiative process after last year’s proposal met legal hurdles. House Bill 921 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. Critics say it still runs afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision protecting political contributions as free speech.
Georgia – State Worker Accused of Using Fake Belly to Pretend She’s Pregnant Skirts Prison in GA
MSN – Hayley Fowler (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 4/4/2022
A former state employee in Georgia accused of concocting an elaborate sham pregnancy that included a made-up father and pretend baby bump will not go to prison after she pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Robin Folsom pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and making false statements. A judge sentenced her to five years of probation and 40 hours of community service as a result. She was also ordered to pay $12,307 in restitution. Folsom is accused of lying about her pregnancies to receive 265 hours of paid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Georgia – Would Longer Session Help Georgia Legislature?
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Craig Nelson | Published: 3/31/2022
Critics wonder if the traditional flurry of last-minute activity at the end of the 40-day legislative session is compatible with Georgia’s oft-stated ambition to be a major economic and political player in the nation and lawmakers’ duty to oversee a fiscal year budget now exceeding $30 billion. They say even more problematic is the lack of ethnic, gender, and economic diversity that the so-called citizen legislator model engenders.
Kansas – Kansas Statehouse Subpoenas, Pay-to-Play Allegations, Consultants’ Feud Disrupt End of Session
Kansas Reflector – Tim Carpenter | Published: 4/3/2022
Before adjourning the legislative session, Republican lawmakers attempted to write into law a requirement that the executive director of the Governmental Ethics Commission hold a Kansas license to practice law. The target of their ire was Executive Director Mark Skoglund, the top regulator of legislators’ campaign finance activities who fell out of favor among some Republicans. The final hours also featured the disclosure that the ethics commission issued subpoenas to GOP legislators and political operatives as part of an investigation into PACs tied to conservative causes and lawmakers.
Louisiana – Jeff Landry Spent $420,000+ from Campaign Donors on His Own Staffing Company
Corporation Crime Commission – Andrea Gallo (The Advocate) | Published: 3/31/2022
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has directed more than $420,000 in campaign money to a staffing company he owns. His practice of cutting campaign checks to companies he owns stretches back to at least 2007 but has accelerated in recent years. A spokesperson for Landry says the payments are perfectly legal, and the attorney general only runs his campaign staff payroll through UST Staffing because it is efficient. Landry is the only statewide official in using such a system, and the net effect is that his campaign reports do not show how many people work for his campaign, or who they are.
Maryland – Hogan Signs New Md. Congressional Map into Law, Ending Legal Battles
MSN – Meagan Flynn and Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2022
Gov. Larry Hogan signed a new Maryland congressional map into law, ending legal battles over the congressional maps that had left the state’s campaigns in limbo. Hogan agreed to enact the new map after the Maryland attorney general’s office said it would abandon its appeal of a judge’s ruling that found the previous map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Republican also plaintiffs agreed to abandon challenges to the new map. The agreement means that, after months of legal wrangling, Maryland’s congressional map is set for the upcoming midterm elections and for the next decade.
Maryland – Latinos Find Little Room in Majority African American County
MSN – Rachel Chason (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2022
As they watched their communities devastated by hunger and sickness, a group of Latino leaders in Prince George’s County said their struggle for resources during the coronavirus pandemic was exacerbated by the near-total lack of Latino officials in the government. A cohort of Latino leaders who issued a statement six months ago highlighting the lack of representation say their requests for an audit have been dismissed and their calls for the administration to change its recruitment practices have gone unanswered. It’s an old friction in Prince George’s that was felt anew as the pandemic underscored inequities faced by Black and Latino communities nationwide, with both historically marginalized groups struggling for resources.
Michigan – Michigan AG Hopeful Tom Leonard’s Fundraising Draws Fairness Concerns
Bridge Michigan – Yue Stella Yu | Published: 4/1/2022
John Kennedy was sure who he wanted elected as Michigan’s next attorney general, and money was not a problem. But Kennedy did not know how much money his desired candidate, former House Speaker Tom Leonard, needed to win. “We asked him what the maximum we could give to the campaign was,” said Kennedy. The maximum an individual can give to someone running for statewide office in Michigan is $7,150. But Kennedy and his wife wrote multiple checks totaling $39,300 to support Leonard’s bid. The Kennedys each contributed their individual maximum to Leonard’s campaign. But John Kennedy then wrote a second check for $25,000 to one of Leonard’s leadership PACs, the Michigan Values Leadership Fund.
Mississippi – Phil Bryant Had His Sights on a Payout as Welfare Funds Flowed to Brett Favre
MSN – Anna Wolfe (Mississippi Today) | Published: 4/5/2022
Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant used the authority of his office, the weight of his political influence, and the power of his connections to help his friend and retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre boost a pharmaceutical venture. Then Bryant tried to cash in on the project when he left office, text messages show. Favre met with Bryant’s welfare officials to strike a deal for a $1.7 million investment in the biomedical startup Prevacus, which promised it had found a treatment for concussions. Prosecutors now say that money was stolen from a federal program intended to serve the state’s poorest residents, a pot of money that had virtually no oversight.
Nevada – Former Democratic Assemblyman Indicted for Campaign Fund Theft, Falsifying Documents
Nevada Independent – Sean Golonka | Published: 3/31/2022
A grand jury indicted former Nevada Assembly member Alexander Assefa on 14 charges, finding probable cause Assefa stole tens of thousands of dollars from his campaign account and lied about his residency on candidacy forms. During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers updated the penalty thresholds for crimes of theft, but because Assefa committed the crimes before implementation of the change, he was charged under the previous law.
New Hampshire – Trump Aide Seeking NH House Seat Voted in 2 States in 2016
MSN – Brian Slodysko and Holly Ramer (Associated Press) | Published: 4/5/2022
A former Trump administration official now running for Congress in New Hampshire voted twice during the 2016 primary election season, potentially violating federal voting law. Matt Mowers, a leading GOP primary candidate looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, cast an absentee ballot in New Hampshire’s 2016 presidential primary. At the time, Mowers served as the director of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign. After Christie’s bid fizzled, Mowers cast another ballot in New Jersey’s Republican presidential primary, using his parents’ address to re-register in his home state.
New Jersey – A Bribe Is a Bribe, Court Says, Ruling That a Mayoral Candidate Is Subject to N.J. Corruption Laws
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/4/2022
An appeals court reinstated the bribery indictment against former Bayonne mayoral candidate Jason O’Donnell. The ruling reverses a controversial trial court’s decision to throw out the case last year because O’Donnell was not an elected public official when he reportedly took $10,000 in a paper bag in a corruption sting set up by the New Jersey attorney general’s office. In that earlier decision, a Superior Court judge concluded that as a candidate for public office, O’Donnell had no power to make any promises in return for the cash payment prosecutors say he accepted. He later lost the election.
New Jersey – Emails Reveal Prominent Law Firms Were Among Donors to Caddle’s Dark Money Groups
Yahoo News – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 4/6/2022
An attorney for one of the biggest school districts in New Jersey raised money from law firms that funded a “dark money” group run by political operative Sean Caddle, who has admitted hiring two men to kill an associate. The group, in turn, indirectly paid for ads and canvassing to boost the political faction that had hired the lawyer, Jonathan Williams. Emails reveal some of the donors to a network of “dark money” organizations Caddle and Gianni Donates formed in what appeared to be an effort to hide the source of the money spent on municipal elections around the state, a network that has drawn interest from state and federal investigators.
New York – Cuomo Files Lawsuit and Complaint Targeting Ethics Commission
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 4/2/2022
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is waging a legal counter assault on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). His attorney, Rita Glavin, filed a complaint asking the state inspector general’s office to investigate their claim that members of the commission or its staff leaked confidential information about Cuomo’s dealings with the ethics panel. Glavin also filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court challenging JCOPE’s efforts to make him return more than $5 million in proceeds from a book he wrote about his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
New York – New York Judge Strikes Down Democratic-Drawn Maps
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2022
A New York judge struck down the state’s new congressional and legislative maps as defying a voter-backed constitutional amendment that aimed to end partisan gerrymandering. State Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister ordered state lawmakers to draw bipartisan maps by April 11 or the court will appoint an independent map drawer to do it. The state will appeal the decision, triggering an automatic stay until the state appeals court takes it up.
Ohio – Former DeWine Aide Warned Governor About Utility Regulator Before the FBI Raided His Home
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 4/4/2022
More than two years before FirstEnergy admitted paying Ohio’s top utility regulator a $4.3 million bribe, Mike DeWine’s former campaign treasurer warned senior aides to the new governor about the eventual nominee’s “opaque and undisclosed” financial ties to the company. The warning came in a 198-page dossier alleging Sam Randazzo, a lawyer and lobbyist who represented gas companies and industrial scale electricity buyers, uses businesses registered in his name to “funnel” money from FirstEnergy to buy real estate.
Ohio – New Whistleblower Policy Would Require Cuyahoga County Employees to Report County Ethics – but Not State, Federal – Violations
MSN – Kaitlin Durbin (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/6/2022
In what is expected to be the final revision, the Cuyahoga County Council members compromised on a whistleblower policy that limits mandatory reporting only to elected officials, employees, and board members with “actual knowledge” of county ethics violations. It also takes them off the hook for having to speak up if they know the violation has already been reported by someone else.
South Carolina – SC GOP Lawmaker Hit with 133 SC Ethics Charges Alleging Spending, Reporting Violations
MSN – Maayan Schechter (The State) | Published: 4/5/2022
South Carolina Rep. Jonathan Hill faces 133 ethics-related charges for allegedly violating the state’s campaign spending and disclosure laws that includes an allegation he spent campaign cash on a personal mortgage. Hill has long been at odds with his own party. He is the only Republican who is not a member of the House Republican Caucus after he was indefinitely suspended after publicly criticizing leadership, sharing private caucus conversations, and posting lawmakers’ cellphone numbers online.
South Dakota – South Dakota Lawmaker Gave Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg Legal Advice After Fatal Crash
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 4/6/2022
A lawmaker who will cast a vote on whether to impeach South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg says he gave him legal advice following Ravnsborg’s involvement in a fatal car crash. Rep. Scott Odenbach, who at the time was running for the seat he eventually won, said Ravnsborg reached out to him for input on a public statement that was released two days after the attorney general struck and killed Joe Boever, a pedestrian who was walking along a rural highway.
Tennessee – Ethics Reform Bill to Tamp Down on Corruption Clears First Hurdle in Tennessee Senate
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 4/5/2022
Legislation designed to make ethics laws more transparent passed its first committee. Senate Bill 1005 now goes to the Senate floor. The bill would require increased reporting for lawmakers, PACs, some key staff members, and groups with 501c4 tax designations. Lawmakers, for instance, would be required to report all contributions and expenses. The Legislature has been embroiled in an FBI investigation for more than three years, part of which focuses on the formation of shady political committees and vendors that did business with the House Republican Caucus and GOP members.
Tennessee – Nashville Council Censures Member Jonathan Hall for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Cassandra Stephenson (Tennessean) | Published: 4/6/2022
Nashville’s Metro Council voted to censure Jonathan Hall for campaign finance-related ethics violations, an uncommon move for the 40-member body. The Board of Ethical Conduct recommended censure after concluding Hall violated the ethics code by failing to file required financial disclosures in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance voted in January to impose a $360,000 penalty on Hall for 36 violations. Registry board members delayed their reconsideration of the penalty pending updates from local authorities.
Texas – Texas Is Quietly Using Redistricting Lawsuits to Launch a Broader War Against Federal Voting Rights Law
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 4/4/2022
Over the years, Texas lawmakers have repeatedly been ordered to correct gerrymandering that suppressed the political power of Black and Hispanic voters. The pathway to federal court has been through the Voting Rights Act. Key portions of the law have been weakened in the last decade, but Texans of color still find a way to file lawsuits under its Section 2, which prohibits discriminatory voting procedures and practices that deny voters of color an equal opportunity to participate in elections. Tucked into the legal briefs the state has filed this year with a three-judge panel considering redistricting lawsuits are two arguments that reach far beyond the validity of the specific maps being challenged.
Wisconsin – Robin Vos Found in Contempt of Court for Failing to Turn Over Records About the Republican Election Review
Yahoo News – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 3/30/2022
A judge found Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in contempt of court for failing to release documents related to a Republican-run review of the 2020 election. Dane County Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ordered Vos and the Assembly to turn over records within 14 days and to each pay $1,000 per day if they fail to do that. Vos has approved spending up to $676,000 in taxpayer funds on the election review, but the review and its related legal expenses could exceed that amount.
April 1, 2022 •
National/Federal Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington MSN – Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022 SKDK, a public relations and political strategy firm, is a unique force in Washington, straddling the […]
Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington
MSN – Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022
SKDK, a public relations and political strategy firm, is a unique force in Washington, straddling the line between the private sector and the Biden administration to quietly affect change. The firm has served a roster of high-powered clients, including Fortune 500 companies, occasionally foreign governments, and candidates. Neither SKDK nor Anita Dunn, the firm’s co-founder who was an architect of President Biden’s 2020 victory and served in the administration, lobby or represent any clients on matters before the federal government. Still, Dunn’s role is questioned by some ethics experts, who say she has, avoided rules meant to promote transparency.
Did Trump Asking Putin for Dirt on Hunter Biden Violate Election Law?
Newsweek – Ewan Palmer | Published: 3/31/2022
Questions have been raised about whether Donald Trump asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to find information on Hunter Biden’s alleged business dealings was a violation of federal law. Trump once again publicly sought a foreign power’s assistance in unearthing political dirt on one of his political opponents after he repeated dubious claims regarding President Joe Biden’s son. While he has not formally announced his intention to run for president in 2024, some have accused Trump of breaking the law that prohibits any person from soliciting, accepting, or receiving anything of value from a foreign national in connection with an election.
FEC Fines DNC, Clinton for Violating Rules in Funding Steele Dossier
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
The FEC fined the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for violating rules with the funding of the dossier at the center of accusations of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. The FEC said the fine for the Clinton campaign was $8,000 and the fine for the DNC was $105,000.
Flynn Partner Wins New Trial in Foreign-Agent Case
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 3/25/2022
A onetime business partner of former President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn scored a legal victory as a federal judge ordered a new trial for the Iranian-born businessperson on charges he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey as Trump ran for president in 2016. The ruling was the latest lurch in a legal roller coaster ride for Bijan Rafiekian, who was found guilty by a jury, then then had his two felony convictions thrown out only to see the guilty verdicts reinstated by an appeals court.
How Google and Amazon Bankrolled a ‘Grassroots’ Activist Group of Small Business Owners to Lobby Against Big Tech Oversight
CNBC – Eamon Javers and Meghan Maharishi | Published: 3/30/2022
The Connected Commerce Council (3C), which pitches itself as a grassroots movement representing small business owners, is really a well-financed advocacy group funded by Google and Amazon. The companies are currently the council’s sole financial support. Lobbying watchdog group the Campaign for Accountability called 3C an “Astroturf” lobbying organization, thanks to the tech giants’ financial support. The group does have some active small business members, several of whom said they value 3C’s offerings and agree with its issue advocacy in Washington, D.C.
Jan. 6 Committee Backs Contempt Charges for Two Former Trump Aides
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022
Internal White House records from the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that were turned over to a House select committee show a gap in former President Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the building was being violently assaulted. The seven-hour gap stands in stark contrast to the extensive public reporting about phone conversations Trump had with allies during the attack. One lawmaker on the panel said the committee is investigating a “possible coverup” of the official White House record from that day.
Jan. 6 White House Logs Given to House Show 7-hour Gap in Trump Calls
MSN – Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 3/29/2022
Internal White House records from the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that were turned over to the House select committee show a gap in former President Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the building was being violently assaulted. The seven-hour gap stands in stark contrast to the extensive public reporting about phone conversations Trump had with allies during the attack. One lawmaker on the panel said the committee is investigating a “possible coverup” of the official White House record from that day.
Justice Dept. Expands Jan. 6 Probe to Look at Rally Prep, Financing
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
The criminal investigation into the attack on the Capitol has expanded to examine the preparations for the rally that preceded the riot, as the Justice Department aims to determine the full extent of any conspiracy to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. A federal grand jury has issued subpoena requests to some officials in former President Trump’s orbit who assisted in planning, funding, and executing the January 6 rally.
Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Transparency in the Lucrative – and Murky – Federal Contracting Process
ABC News – Lucien Bruggeman and Soo Rin Kim | Published: 3/28/2022
A bipartisan coalition of senators introduced legislation meant to improve transparency in the competitive and murky federal contracting process, taking aim at companies that accept lucrative work from government agencies without having to disclose potential conflicts-of-interest. The Preventing Organizational Conflicts of interest in Federal Acquisition Act would force contractors to “disclose other parts of their business that conflict with the work they are bidding to perform for the government,” according to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI
MSN – Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2022
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry resigned from Congress after he was convicted on three felony counts for lying to federal investigators about illegal campaign contributions from a foreign billionaire. Foreign nationals are prohibited from donating to candidates running for federal office in the U.S. It is also illegal to disguise a donor’s identity through third-party contributions. Fortenberry was convicted of one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. Each of the counts carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
Trump Likely Committed Felony Obstruction, Federal Judge Rules
Politico – Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein, and Nicholas Wu | Published: 3/28/2022
A federal judge ruled former President Trump “more likely than not” attempted to illegally obstruct Congress as part of a criminal conspiracy when he tried to subvert the 2020 election on January 6, 2021. U.S. District Court Judge David Carter’s ruling came as he ordered the release to a House select committee of 101 emails from Trump ally John Eastman, rejecting Eastman’s effort to shield them via attorney-client privilege. Eastman used the email account of his former employer to discuss political and legal strategy related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election and had sued the committee to prevent them from obtaining the emails.
Trump NLRB Member’s Conflicts Broke Law, Inspector General Alleges
Bloomberg Law – Ian Kullgren | Published: 3/28/2022
Former National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) member William Emanuel allegedly broke federal ethics law by failing to monitor investments that created disqualifying conflicts-of-interest in five cases, according to board documents. The U.S. Department of Justice last year declined to press charges against Emanuel, which ethics experts attributed to the high burden of proof in criminal cases. Documents show his conduct despite repeated warnings created at least the possibility of self-enrichment. The case highlights a gap in ethics enforcement that could be exploited by future appointees at the NLRB and other agencies.
Turmoil at CBS News Over Trump Aide Mick Mulvaney’s Punditry Gig
MSN – Jeremy Barr (Wshington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
CBS News’s decision to hire former Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney as a paid on-air contributor is drawing backlash within the company because of his history of bashing the press and promoting the former president’s fact-free claims. Many journalists and political commentators suggested the network was jeopardizing its long history of journalistic excellence. One person said the frustration among staff was less about Mulvaney’s high-ranking role in the Trump administration and more about the inaccuracy of some of his past comments.
Virginia Thomas Urged White House Chief to Pursue Unrelenting Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Election, Texts Show
MSN – Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2022
Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist married to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in a series of urgent text exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote. The 29 messages reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Virginia Thomas and then-President Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court to negate the election results.
Why Redistricting Has Stalled in 4 Unfinished States
Yahoo News – Ally Mutnick and Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/28/2022
The final stage of the redistricting cycle has arrived: gridlock. Spats between governors and state legislators, and between different Republican factions, have brought map-making to a standstill in the final four states still without new congressional lines for the 2022 elections. With filing deadlines looming, 44 House seats are still outstanding in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Missouri and, most importantly, Florida, which has 28 districts all by itself.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Republicans Enact a Controversial New Proof-of-Citizenship Voting Law
KJZZ – Ben Giles | Published: 3/30/2022
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation to expand U.S. citizenship voting requirements in the state, a measure that critics warn will jeopardize the voter registrations of thousands of residents. In signing House Bill 2492, Ducey disputed testimony from local officials and voting rights advocates who say an unknown number of voters – predominantly older, longtime Arizona residents – will be purged from the voter rolls because the last time they registered to vote, there was no requirement to provide proof of citizenship. Critics say those voters would then need to register again.
Arizona – Panel Strikes Down Plan to Give Arizona Lawmakers Big Raises
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 3/28/2022
Arizona lawmakers will still have to depend on voters’ goodwill, or lack thereof, to get more pay. The House Appropriations Committee quashed a proposal to create a system that would peg lawmakers’ salary at 60 percent of what the governor is paid. That would move legislative pay next year from $24,000 to $57,000. The measure would have replaced the current system of having a special commission study the issue and make recommendations that go on the ballot. The death of the package also means some proffered changes on lobbyist reporting also will not take effect.
California – Airbnb Routinely Deploys Its ‘Astroturf Army’ to Combat California Short-Term Rental Regulations, Critics Say
MSN – Silas Valentino (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 3/28/2022
In 2020, one week before the San Diego Planning Commission met to discuss capping the number of short-term rentals in the city, Airbnb emailed its hosts asking for help. “The Planning Commission needs to hear from hosts like you,” read the email, signed by The Airbnb Team. At the bottom there were two links: one to a short form that generated an email to city council members and another to RSVP for the meeting’s public comment session. Airbnb is not the only tech company to generate seemingly grassroots campaigns. In fact, they are so common that BuzzFeed reporter Caroline O’Donovan gave this “click-to-lobby” tactic a name: “Brobilizing.”
Colorado – Judge Says Republican Consultants Didn’t Violate Redistricting Lobbying Rules
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 3/25/2022
An administrative law judge ruled former state Sen. Greg Brophy, former House Speaker Frank McNulty, and political strategist Alan Philp did not violate Colorado’s lobbying rules with their work on redistricting last year. A complaint alleged they either failed to register as lobbyists while conducting meetings related to redistricting and proposing ideas for maps, or they did not properly disclose income related to their work. Judge Matthew Norwood concluded their activities did not meet the definition of lobbying.
Connecticut – CT Contracting Watchdog Clears Key Hurdle to Add Investigative Staff
CTMirror.org – Keith Phaneuf | Published: 3/29/2022
Connecticut’s contracting watchdog panel moved one step closer to getting the investigative staff it has sought since its inception 13 years ago. The Government Administration and Elections Committee approved a bill mandating the five investigative posts sought by the State Contracting Standards Board be filled before the first quarter of the next fiscal year ends, in late September. Pressure from legislators to strengthen the watchdog intensified this year following reports the FBI is investigating school construction work and other projects once overseen by Gov. Ned Lamont’s former deputy budget director.
Florida – Ex-Congressman David Rivera Loses ‘Last-Ditch’ Move to Avoid $456,000 Campaign Fine
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 3/28/2022
A federal judge rejected former U.S. Rep. David Rivera’s “last-ditch effort” to dodge a $456,000 judgment against him tied to his decade-old campaign violations. Roughly a year after ruling in favor of the FEC, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke denied Rivera’s motion to dismiss the agency’s lawsuit against him on the grounds he never received mail notices he was going to be sued, and that a five-year statute of limitations had expired when the complaint was filed in 2017. The FEC case is now administratively closed, and Rivera is on the hook for the six-figure judgment.
Florida – Florida’s Redistricting Mess Heads to Special Session after DeSantis Vetoes ‘Defective’ Map
MSN – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/29/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a new congressional map while calling for a mid-April special legislative session so state lawmakers can craft new maps that satisfy him. DeSantis contended the Legislature-approved congressional map was “defective” and violated federal law. He made clear he would be opposed to any proposal designed to keep intact districts that had a sizable minority population, but where minority voters do not constitute an overall majority.
Georgia – Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown
MSN – Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 3/29/2022
A Georgia Senate committee eviscerated a controversial elections overhaul a day after local election officials from both parties blasted it as complicating their work in an election year. The fate of the massive bill, which sped through the GOP-led House in March, is now uncertain and could result in a showdown in the final days of the legislative session.
Georgia – Guilty Verdict in Atlanta City Hall Corruption Trial
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 3/23/2022
A jury found a political operative and former Atlanta employee guilty on charges including money laundering, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit bribery that resulted from a long-running federal investigation into corruption at City Hall. Mitzi Bickers was the first person to go to trial over the corruption probe during former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration. Bickers was accused of using her influence to funnel business to city contractors. Prosecutors said she directed roughly $17 million in city work to the two men and their companies in exchange for about $2 million in bribes.
Idaho – Ammon Bundy Pays Himself Thousands in Campaign Cash
Boise State Public Radio – James Dawson | Published: 3/25/2022
Ammon Bundy, the anti-government activist running as an independent candidate to be Idaho’s next governor, has paid thousands of dollars in campaign donations to a company he owns. Bundy’s campaign has paid $13,500 in $1,500 monthly installments since June 1, 2021, to Abish-Husbondi Inc, a company incorporated in Wyoming. Bundy is listed as the company’s president and sole officer in an annual report. Idaho law states that, in general, “A contribution shall lot be converted by any person to personal use.” But the law appears silent on whether candidates can contract with their own businesses.
Illinois – Michael Madigan’s Indictment: How he pushed for allies to get ComEd jobs and his own daughter’s legislation was killed.
MSN – Jeremy Gorner, Dan Petrella, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/27/2022
Nearly four years ago, legislation that aimed to help low-income electricity customers was making its way to the floor of an Illinois House chamber tightly controlled by its longtime speaker, Michael Madigan. The bill’s main advocate was Madigan’s daughter, then-state Attorney General Lisa Madigan. One of its primary opponents was Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), the state’s largest electric utility. ComEd won because, according to federal prosecutors, Michael Madigan paved the way. Prosecutors allege he greenlighted efforts to defeat his own daughter’s bill as he pressed ComEd to give jobs to two political allies.
Illinois – State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense
Capitol News Illinois – Peter Hancock | Published: 3/24/2022
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled elected public officials and their campaign committees may, in limited circumstances, use campaign funds to pay criminal defense fees. The case involved a former Chicago City Council member, Danny Solis, who reportedly avoided federal prosecution by agreeing to cooperate with the FBI and Department of Justice in their investigation of another alderman, Ed Burke, who was indicted on federal corruption charges.
Kansas – Kansas Governmental Ethics Leader Under Fire Amid Law License Questions. Legislature Eyes Response.
MSN – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital Journal) | Published: 3/31/2022
The director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission is under fire over the status of his law license, a conflict that could result in the Legislature pursuing a policy change to target the group and its leader, Mark Skoglund. The issue stems from a broader case regarding whether a group should be considered a political committee. Two motions filed with the ethics panel would push to dismiss or reconsider the case, arguing Skoglund misrepresented his status as an active attorney. Currently, Skoglund’s law license is suspended.
Maryland – FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group
E&E News – Jeffrey Tomich | Published: 3/28/2022
Records from FirstEnergy’s Maryland utility show some of its customers’ monthly payments in 2017 were secretly flowing to a “dark money” group formed to help further former President Trump’s agenda. The records show Potomac Edison paid $163,000 that year to America First Policies, which was founded by some of Trump’s top administration and campaign officials. The America First payment, made around the time FirstEnergy was pressing the Trump administration for help to rescue coal and nuclear plants, was revealed as part of an ongoing Maryland Public Service Commission investigation. It is among millions of dollars in payments by FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries to groups that are not required to list their donors.
Maryland – Judge Throws Out Maryland Congressional Map Over ‘Extreme’ Gerrymandering
MSN – Meagan Flynn, Ovetta Wiggins, and Erin Cox (Washington Post) | Published: 3/25/2022
A Maryland judge threw out the state’s congressional map, calling it an “extreme partisan gerrymander” in what is a victory for Republicans. The ruling by Anne Arundel County Senior Judge Lynne Battaglia marks the first time in Maryland history a judge has found a congressional map violated the state constitution. Battaglia ruled the map ran afoul of rules laid out in the law traditionally applied to legislative districts, requiring them to be compact and to give regard to political subdivisions. She also ruled the map violated the state constitution’s equal protection, free speech, and free elections clauses.
Maryland – Legal Spending from Mosby Campaign Accounts Did Not Violate Maryland Law, Election Board Finds
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 3/29/2022
The use of campaign funds for the legal defense of both Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, did not violate state election law, according to a decision from the Maryland State Board of Elections. The board launched an inquiry into the couple’s spending after both filed reports claiming legal costs paid out to multiple law firms as campaign expenses. State law prohibits any candidate or political committee from using campaign funds for legal expenses related to investigations or court proceedings that “do not have a direct connection with the candidacy.”
Missouri – Dueker Says She Has ‘Good Shot’ at Defeating Page Despite Lack of Campaign Account
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 3/30/2022
A Democrat running in the August primary against incumbent St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says she has no current plans to open a campaign account for her bid. Jane Dueker, a local police union attorney and registered lobbyist, would have to do so under Missouri law if she raises more than $1,000. But because she is a registered lobbyist, she is not allowed to operate a campaign account.
New York – Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin
New York Daily News – Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland | Published: 3/25/2022
Federal investigators issued subpoenas and are seeking information about grants related to New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin’s time as a state senator. Investigators with the Southern District of New York have subpoenaed state officials and Senate employees as they probe money Benjamin steered toward projects in his former district. The inquiry is related to funds doled out through the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a lump sum appropriation in the state budget administered through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
Ohio – Ohio’s High Court Suggests No Ruling Before Primary on Redistricting Map
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 3/29/2022
The Ohio Supreme Court suggested it will not rule on whether a Republican-drawn congressional map is legal until after the May 3 primary. In January, justices stuck down Republicans’ first redrawing of its congressional districts on grounds it violated a constitutional amendment passed by voters to ban partisan gerrymandering. Republicans submitted a new, minimally altered map in March that Democrats and voting rights groups complained was no better. But a legal technicality restarted the clock on the case, and the court’s schedule indicated it would not have a decision until weeks after Ohioans have cast ballots in the primary.
Oregon – Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Ask Oregon Supreme Court for a New Hearing
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 3/24/2022
A coalition of good government groups is asking the Oregon Supreme Court to reconsider a decision that would keep voters from deciding in November whether the state should limit money in politics. The court rejected a request from the proponents of three proposed ballot initiatives to overturn a decision by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan that would prevent the initiatives from appearing on the November ballot. Petitioner Jason Kafoury described a new legal filing asking the court to reconsider their case as a “Hail Mary.”
South Carolina – SC Ethics Commission Stops Silencing Whistleblowers After Free-Speech Lawsuit
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks | Published: 3/24/2022
The South Carolina Ethics Commission reversed a three decades-old policy preventing anyone who files a complaint against a public official from talking about it unless the complaint is found valid. The decision came after a whistleblower whose complaint was dismissed by the commission sued and said the secrecy violated free speech rights and unfairly silenced people who wanted to report wrongdoing. Leaders in the state Legislature filed documents in the lawsuit saying they never intended for the state’s ethics laws to silence whistleblowers.
South Dakota – SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear
Yahoo News – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 3/29/2022
Republicans on a South Dakota House committee want to clear the state’s attorney general of impeachment charges for his actions surrounding a 2020 fatal car crash, arguing that anything wrong he did was not part of his work “in office.” But those pushing to remove Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg from office are not giving up before the full House convenes in two weeks. The House committee concluded its monthslong inquiry by voting along party lines late to recommend that Ravnsborg, a Republican, face no impeachment charges.
Vermont – Corporations Can’t Donate to Molly Gray’s Campaign. But Their Lobbyists Host Fundraisers
VTDigger.org – Lola Duffort | Published: 3/30/2022
The four Democratic candidates vying to represent Vermont in the U.S. House have all taken the same pledge: no money from corporate PACs. But while the candidates say they would not take money from PACs representing big business, at least one is receiving significant support from some of the lobbyists who represent their interests in Washington, D.C. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray attended Capitol Hill events hosted by Luke Albee and Ed Pagano, two former chiefs of staff to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy who have both spent years as corporate lobbyists.
Virginia – Key Youngkin Adviser Is Paid by Political Firms
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2022
Matthew Moran works as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s director of policy and legislative affairs, but the only paycheck he collects is from two political consulting firms. He is on a paid leave from Creative Direct, where he is a vice president, and an affiliate in which he has an ownership interest, Link Public Affairs. Neither firm employs registered lobbyists, but Link runs public affairs campaigns designed to influence legislators. Critics say the arrangement presents a conflict-of-interest and creates a loophole around “revolving-door” laws, which prohibit certain paid state employees from lobbying for a year after leaving their jobs.
West Virginia – How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions
Yahoo News – Julie Tate, Christopher Flavelle, and Erin Schaff (New York Times) | Published: 3/27/2022
A power plant near Grant Town, West Virginia, is the link between the coal industry and the personal finances of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. Although the fact that Manchin owns a coal business is well known, an examination by The New York Times offers a more detailed portrait of the degree to which Manchin’s business has been interwoven with his official actions. He created his business while a state lawmaker. Manchin supplied a type of low-grade coal mixed with rock and clay known as “gob” that is typically cast aside as junk by mining companies but can be burned to produce electricity. The Grant Town plant has been the sole customer for his gob for the past 20 years.
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 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 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 4, 2022 •
National/Federal Backstage Drama at Jan. 6 Rally for Trump Draws Interest of House Committee MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2022 The White House was made aware of concerns among allies of Donald Trump […]
Backstage Drama at Jan. 6 Rally for Trump Draws Interest of House Committee
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2022
The White House was made aware of concerns among allies of Donald Trump that some people coming to Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, to potentially speak at the rally were too extreme, even for a president who had frequently pushed or crossed the boundaries of traditional political norms. The advance warnings to the White House and the friction between organizers have become a focus for the House select committee investigating the insurrection, as lawmakers try to understand the planning and financing behind the rally.
First Jan. 6 Defendant Pleads Guilty to Seditious Conspiracy in Capitol Attack
MSN – Tom Jackman and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2022
A member of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group became the first to admit to engaging in seditious conspiracy on January 6, 2021, to keep President Biden from taking office. Joshua James pleaded guilty to helping lead a group that prosecutors say sent two tactically equipped teams into the Capitol and organized a cache of weapons in a hotel just outside the city. He may face the stiffest sentence of any January 6 defendant so far, according to preliminary sentencing guidelines.
Four US Lawmakers or Their Spouses Personally Invested in Russian Companies: Documents
MSN – Dave Levinthal (Business Insider) | Published: 3/1/2022
Four members of Congress or their spouses have either currently or recently invested money in Russian companies, financial disclosures show. These investments come to light in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has prompted the U.S. government to hit Russia with heavy sanctions and triggered boycotts of Russian products and culture. Congress is debating whether to ban members from trading individual stocks amid violations of current financial disclosure laws and potential conflicts-of-interest.
Four Women on the Supreme Court Would Bring Historic, Near Gender Parity for Institution Long Dominated by White Men
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2022
If President Biden’s nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, it would mean four women would simultaneously serve for the first time in its 233-year history, as close to gender parity as possible on the nine-person bench. That will not change the court’s ideological direction, and law professors and political scientists continue to debate whether gender significantly affects legal interpretation. But those who welcome the change say it is important for representational reasons, and they assert it could bolster the public’s view of the court’s legitimacy.
Guns, Radicalization and a Father’s Alleged Threat: First Jan. 6 trial set to begin
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/28/2022
Guy Reffitt, a purported recruiter for the right-wing, anti-government Three Percenters movement is the first person to stand trial in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. For the first time, a defendant will get to confront in open court a portion of the mountain of video evidence, online communications data, and police testimony the government has amassed against roughly 750 federally charged individuals. A judge and jury in D.C. also will weigh prosecutors’ application of rarely used criminal statutes to prosecute the first violent incursion of the Capitol by U.S. citizens.
Jan. 6 Committee Alleges Trump, Allies Engaged in Potential ‘Criminal Conspiracy’ by Trying to Block Congress from Certifying Election
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, Jacqueline Alemany, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2022
The House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol said in a court filing it had evidence former President Trump and his allies engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” by trying to block Congress from certifying the election. The alleged criminal acts, which include conspiring to defraud the United States, were raised by the committee in a filing challenging conservative lawyer John Eastman’s refusal to turn over thousands of emails the panel requested related to his role in trying to persuade former Vice President Mike Pence to reject electors from states won by Joe Biden.
Lobbyists Ramp Up Fly-Ins Despite Capitol Covid-19 Restrictions
Bloomberg Government – Nancy Ognanovich | Published: 2/24/2022
Two years after the pandemic forced the closure of the U.S. Capitol, the lobbying community still faces challenges maintaining relationships and effective communications with House and Senate lawmakers and staff. But with Covid-19 cases waning and important legislative issues on the agenda, some lobbyists and industry associations are resuming their trek to Washington, D.C. and have devised ways to deal with continued restrictions on entering the Capitol complex. More than 50 different business groups plan trips, with industry fly-ins beginning March 2, according to Ed Mortimer, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president.
‘My Life Was a Constant Lie’: Chabot’s ex-campaign manager sentenced for $1.4 million theft
MSN – Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 3/1/2022
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s onetime campaign manager, Jamie Schwartz, was sentenced to two years in federal prison for stealing $1.42 million from the campaign. Schwartz’s embezzlement took place over at least eight years, prosecutors said. But the scheme began to unravel in the summer of 2019 when the FEC began an audit of the campaign. According to prosecutors, Schwartz falsified official records, forged bank records, and lied to the FEC.
Some Records Taken by Trump Are So Sensitive They May Not Be Described in Public
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2022
Some of the presidential records recovered from former President Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago are so sensitive they may not be able to be described in forthcoming inventory reports in an unclassified way. The revelation comes as U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney sent the National Archives and Records Administration a request for further information on 15 boxes of records recovered from Trump’s resort. There are records at the very highest levels of classification, including some that can be viewed by only a small number of government officials.
Trial Opens for Men Accused of Funneling Millions to Back Hillary Clinton in 2016 Presidential Race
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 2/24/2022
Businessperson Rani El-Saadi is on trial, accused of conspiring to illegally donate more than $3 million to back Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Prosecutors said digital payments magnate Andy Khawaja supplied the $150,000 that El-Saadi personally donated to attend a Clinton fundraiser in 2016. Khawaja has been in Lithuania fighting extradition to the U.S. for more than two years and was declared a fugitive. “Khawaja wanted very badly to gain power and influence in the U.S.,” prosecutor Michelle Parikh told the jury.
US Lobbying Firms Rush to Cut Ties with Russian Businesses Hit with Sanctions
CNN – Casey Tolan, Curt Devine, and Daniel Medina | Published: 2/26/2022
In the years leading up to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, U.S. lobbyists have raked in millions of dollars from Russian banks and financial firms paying to push their interests in Washington. Now, in the wake of the Russian invasion and new sanctions announced by President Biden, many of those lobbying firms are rushing to cut ties and drop their lucrative contracts. The exodus marks the rupture of a Moscow-to-K-Street conduit that has long employed former federal officials and members of Congress of both parties, experts said.
Canada – Ethics Commissioner Calls for Reform of Alberta Lobbyist Rules
CBC – Paige Parsons | Published: 3/3/2022
The province should create a communication registry for lobbyists to address what she says is a lack of transparency, Alberta’s ethics commissioner says. Marguerite Trussler’s office put forward a number of recommendations for changes to the Alberta Lobbyists Act as part of a review of the legislation currently underway. The law must be reviewed every five years, and a committee is expected to submit a report with its recommendations to the Legislature by September.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Mayor’s Top Aide Held Private Call with Ash Street Defendant, Lobbyist Before Tuesday Council Meeting
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 2/27/2022
One day before the San Diego City Council met to discuss the lawsuits over a controversial lease, Mayor Todd Gloria’s chief operating officer, Jay Goldstone, spoke privately with the principal owner of a development firm that is being by the city and his lobbyist. Jay Goldstone testified at his deposition he reached out to lobbyist Christopher Wahl days ahead of a city council meeting. Wahl set up the conference call between Goldstone, himself, and his client, Cisterra Development majority owner Steven Black. A mayoral spokesperson did not say why no lawyers participated in the meeting or why the other defendants were not involved.
Colorado – Envelope with Checks Found in Colorado Capitol Bathroom Creates Sticky Situation
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 2/24/2022
A Colorado House staffer went into the men’s public bathroom in the basement of the Capitol and found an envelope. Inside were checks, made out to the Senate Majority Fund, the independent expenditure committee that helps to finance Republican campaigns for the state Senate. How many checks were in the envelope and how much total are not known, although a source mentioned they are in the five figures.
Connecticut – Upstairs, Downstairs: In CT Capitol, Senate is off limits, House is open
CTMirror.org – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 3/2/2022
The House and Senate Democratic majorities in Connecticut diverged sharply and awkwardly on questions of COVID-19 and public access to a state Capitol that has been largely closed for nearly two years. The second floor of the Capitol, where the House resides, was open and its hallways lined by lobbyists, representatives of unions and non-profits, and one woman handing out flyers opposed to legalizing assisted suicide. The third-floor home of the Senate was closed.
Florida – Bill Banning Lobbying for Ex-Lawmakers Heads to Gov. DeSantis’ Desk
Florida Politics – Gary Rohrer | Published: 2/25/2022
Former lawmakers who lobby their ex-colleagues in the Florida Legislature or executive branch could face a fine and other sanctions starting next year, after the Senate unanimously passed House Bill 7001, sending it to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk. Under the bill, a lawmaker who receives compensation for lobbying at the state level within six years after leaving office could be subject to a public censure, a civil fine of up to $10,000, the forfeiture of any money received to lobby, or all three.
Florida – They Threw a $74,000 Goodbye Party for a County Official. Lobbyists Pitched In. How Did That Help the Public?
MSN – Lisa Huriash (South Florida Sun Sentinel) | Published: 2/25/2022
Broward County lobbyists, politicians, and county officials were on the guest list for a surprise celebration at the FLA Live Arena in February. Now the event, marking the retirement of Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, is facing scrutiny over whether it created the appearance of melding the county’s interests with those of lobbyists and private financial interests. Some of the funding for the event came from the Florida Panthers, the hockey team that has historically come before the county ask for public subsidies to stay afloat, and its top two people were on the guest list.
Illinois – Ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan, Long the State’s Most Powerful Pol, Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges
Yahoo – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/2/2022
Michael Madigan, the former speaker of the Illinois House and for decades one of the nation’s most powerful legislators, was charged in a racketeering and bribery scheme, becoming the most prominent politician swept up in a federal investigation of government corruption in the state. The 22-count indictment comes after a yearslong probe and alleges Madigan participated in an array of bribery and extortion schemes from aimed at using the power of his office for personal gain. He was dethroned as speaker in 2021 as the investigation swirled around him, and soon after resigned the House seat he had held since 1971.
Illinois – Investigation of AT&T Contracts in Probe Orbiting Michael Madigan Centers on Funds to Lobbyists and Former State Rep, Sources Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/2/2022
Consulting funds flowing from AT&T to a lobbyist with deep ties to then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and eventually to a former state representative are at the center of a federal investigation into the company’s lobbying practices in Springfield. AT&T disclosed that federal prosecutors notified it they were considering filing criminal charges against its Illinois subsidiary involving “a single, nine-month consulting contract in 2017? worth $22,500. Records show the company that year had hired a stable of Madigan-connected lobbyists working for the subsidiary as AT&T was fighting for a controversial bill to end landline service.
Kansas – Kansas Lawmakers Are Supposed to Vet Bills in Committees. But Are Their Hearings Fair?
MSN – Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard (Kansas City Star) | Published: 3/1/2022
Lawmakers and lobbyists in Kansas say some legislative committees either limit public comment or tip the scales in the favor of bills supported by the Republican majority. In theory, the Legislature’s 48 committees are supposed to serve as a first check on bills, allowing lawmakers to vet them before they are sent to the floor. But in practice, Republican chairs are able to determine what voices are heard, what bills move forward, and even push policy pieces without a public hearing. Some Democrats and lobbyists complain these practices allow Republicans to paint a false picture of public opinion and stifle debate when convenient.
Maine – Subpoenas Will Ramp Up Maine Investigation into National Conservative Group
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 2/28/2022
The Maine ethics commission voted to allow staff to subpoena the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to require them to turn over documents to determine if it violated state contribution laws by allowing lawmakers to use software that contains voter information and is used to track constituent interactions. ALEC has refused to participate in the probe, saying it believes it is illegitimate. The move is expected to lead to months of litigation over the subpoenas.
Massachusetts – Are Campaign Donations to MA Sheriffs Too Suggestive of Pay-to-Play? CT May Have Solution
Herald News – Kyle Stucker (USA Today) | Published: 2/25/2022
A report revealed Massachusetts sheriffs received $2.69 million in questionable donations during their campaigns, calling into question whether construction firms, medical companies, and other special interests are buying influence. Sheriffs deny being involved in “pay-to-play” schemes. Even if wealthy special interests are not buying policies that pad their coffers, the advocacy groups behind the report suggested such campaign donations do not pass the smell test even though they’re legal. The groups believe Massachusetts and other states should adopt Connecticut’s public financing model to improve confidence and fairness in their elections.
Michigan – Term Limits Were Supposed to Fix Lansing. Did They Make It Worse Instead?
MLive.com – Samuel Robinson | Published: 3/2/2022
Thirty years have passed since Michigan voters approved limits to the number of years politicians can serve to six (three terms) in the House and eight (two terms) in the Senate. While the change ushered out veteran lawmakers, many still wonder whether that was a good thing. Michigan’s strictest-in-the-nation term limits have drawn a backlash so strong a bipartisan group is now aiming to loosen rules by putting the question back on the ballot. Critics argue that setting strict limits on how long politicians can serve has splintered relationships at the Capitol and reduced bipartisanship to a point where it is hurting constituents.
Missouri – Independence Mayor Asked About Campaign Donations in Deposition, but Advised to Stay Mum
MSN – Kevin Hardy (Kansas City Star) | Published: 3/2/2022
Independence Mayor Eileen Weir was asked in a deposition last year about campaign contributions she received from a Missouri company looking to do business with the city. The donations have raised questions among other city council members and drew the interest of the FBI. But a transcript of that deposition shows she mostly avoided the topic after her personal attorney objected to the line of questioning and advised her not to answer questions about the contributions. The mayor was questioned under oath as part of a defamation lawsuit against the city and two council members.
Nevada – Social Video Shows ‘Racist’ Taunts of Nevada Governor, Wife
MSN – Ken Ritter (Associated Press) | Published: 2/28/2022
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, and his wife were accosted during the weekend by two men who followed them out of a Las Vegas restaurant shouting profanities, taunts, and anti-government statements in an incident posted on the Internet. Sisolak characterized the incident as “racist threats.” His wife is a former municipal finance specialist of Chinese heritage who was born in the Nevada town of Ely. The incident now is being investigated by state police.
New Jersey – 2 Counties Tried to Skirt N.J. Public Bidding Laws. Now the Legislature May Make It Legal.
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/2/2022
Efforts by two counties to evade New Jersey’s bidding laws on projects involving tens of millions of dollars in public funding are now the focus of a bill introduced in the state Senate that would make legal what the courts have so far declared to be illegal. The legislation would clear the way for county improvement authorities to essentially award no-bid deals to favored contractors. Under the measure, counties would be able to ignore the bidding requirements of New Jersey’s Local Public Contracts Law by declaring any major construction proposal a “redevelopment project.”
New York – Lt. Gov.’s Campaign Expenses Show Conflicts with Taxpayer Refunds
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/28/2022
The Albany Times Union found a dozen instances where Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin submitted vouchers claiming the full, taxpayer-funded reimbursement for traveling from New York City to Albany; during those same trips, a campaign-issued debit card was used to pay for gasoline. Each time he had sought full taxpayer reimbursement for the 12 trips, Benjamin stated he was the one bearing the costs. Albany politicians collecting taxpayer-funded reimbursement for costs already covered by their campaigns has at times proven controversial and was the subject of the 2006 trial of former Assemblyperson Clarence Norman.
New York – ‘Malicious Cyberattack’ Strikes New York Ethics Agency
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 2/25/2022
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) shut down its online filing system as authorities investigate a “deliberate malicious cyberattack.” JCOPE said the attack involved a web server that houses, among other systems, the agency’s lobbying application and financial disclosure filing systems.
Ohio – Ohio House Won’t Release Texts Between House Rep and Indicted Ex-Speaker
WEWS – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 3/2/2022
Lawyers with the Ohio House denied a public records requests for text messages between a sitting lawmaker and former Speaker Larry Householder, who was expelled by his peers while under a racketeering indictment related to alleged public corruption. State Rep. Jay Edwards and Householder regularly exchange text messages and talk on the phone. Edwards said they always avoid discussing the criminal case against Householder and usually, but not always, avoid public policy discussions as well. Edwards says the messages do not exist because “… I go through at night and erase text messages I don’t find useful.”
Ohio – Ohio Judge Helped Write a Bailout That Led to Arrests; Now He’s Blocking Outside Probes
WEWS – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 2/28/2022
A judge who oversees utility cases was involved in writing a coal and nuclear bailout now at the center of what prosecutors have described as the largest public corruption case in Ohio history, subpoenaed documents show. That same judge, Greg Price, is presiding over multiple regulatory cases in which a government watchdog agency is trying to investigate that same corruption. His orders, spanning 18 months, have blocked investigations into FirstEnergy, a utility at the center of the scandal.
Oklahoma – Claiming Out-of-State Influences, Oklahoma Looks to Clamp Down on State Question Laws
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 2/28/2022
Several Oklahoma lawmakers are looking to add hurdles for citizen-led groups to pass the type of state questions that legalized medical marijuana, expanded Medicaid, and won voter support despite Republican leaders’ opposition in recent years. More than a dozen bills up for consideration, all authored by GOP legislators, seek to either requirements for citizen-led voter initiatives to get on the ballot or increase the threshold for some of the proposals to pass on Election Day.
Oregon – Oregon Labor, Business Interest Groups File Challenges to Campaign Contribution Limit Proposals
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/25/2022
Oregon business and labor groups filed challenges to three proposed ballot measures that would set campaign contribution limits in the state. The challenges were anticipated by supporters but nonetheless increase the likelihood that voters will not get to weigh in on political donation limits. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan disqualified the proposed measures because she said they should have included the entire texts of laws they would amend, including sections that would be left unchanged. Fagan based her decision on a 2004 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling that previous secretaries of state generally did not follow.
Pennsylvania – Activists Disrupt House GOP Leader’s Speech Demanding Action on Gift Ban Legislation
PennLive.com – Jan Murphy | Published: 2/28/2022
Activists seeking passage of legislation to ban gifts to lawmakers disrupted the Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon to pressure House leadership to act on the bill. Reid Stever, a representative of MarchOnHarrisburg, interrupted House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff’s speech to press for a vote on House Bill 1945, which makes it illegal for lawmakers to accept a gift from a lobbyist. It won House State Government Committee approval last March but has yet to be brought up for a vote by the full chamber.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania GOP Urges Supreme Court to Toss Congressional Map
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 2/28/2022
Pennsylvania Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a state court-approved congressional map, arguing the Democrat-controlled court exceeded its authority by imposing the map without the Legislature’s approval. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court selected the map after the politically divided state government failed to approve one. The appeal argued the state court’s selection of one of the plaintiffs’ maps targeted Republicans and violated the Constitution by having congressional districts that deviated in population by two or more people.
Tennessee – Former Tennessee Speaker Casada Aide Cothren Refuses to Testify in State Campaign Finance Probe
Yahoo News – Andy Sher (Chattanooga Times Fress Press) | Published: 3/2/2022
Cade Cothren, the former chief of staff to then-Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and did not appear before the Registry of Election Finance regarding his alleged involvement as the head of a PAC that attacked a Casada critic. The registry voted to issue subpoenas for information related to the Faith Family Freedom Fund PAC to Cothren, Casada, and several others who may have had knowledge of the committee.
Texas – Dallas Hires Former Texas Health Inspector General to Investigate City Corruption Claims
Dallas Morning News – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 2/23/2022
Dallas hired a former state health inspector general to lead a new office in charge of investigating allegations of waste, abuse, and fraud. Bart Bevers was chosen as the city’s first inspector general, a position created in December when city officials made several changes to ethics rules to strengthen transparency and accountability. Several scandals involving Dallas officials have resulted in convictions on corruption-related charges.
Texas – Rejected Mail Ballots, Confused Voters: Texas’s restrictive new law casts shadow over primary
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/1/2022
Democrats and voting rights advocates predicted for months that new election rules in Texas, referred to as Senate Bill 1 in the state, would make it harder for some people to vote and for election officials to do their jobs. The March 1 primary made clear to critics that those predictions, so far, have come true, providing a glimpse of what voting could look like in more than a dozen states that enacted similarly restrictive laws in the aftermath of the 2020 contest.
Utah – Utah Lawmakers Pass New Media Restrictions for House Floor
MSN – Sam Metz (Associated Press) | Published: 3/1/2022
The Utah House approved new rules that limit where members of the press can film and interview lawmakers, following similar action taken by the state Senate. The rules extend pandemic-era restrictions on when journalists can report from the floors of the legislative chambers. Media organizations and journalists oppose the rules changes, arguing that restricting media movements would make it more difficult to cover fast-paced action and make it easier for lawmakers to dodge the press. They said the move reduced transparency.
Virginia – Virginia Lawmakers Still Can’t Bring Themselves to Ban Personal Use of Campaign Cash
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 3/2/2022
After years of debate and multiple studies, Virginia lawmakers still are not ready to pass a law preventing themselves from using campaign money on personal expenses that have nothing to do with running for office. The last remaining bill prohibiting personal use of campaign funds died in a House subcommittee, with several legislators framing the issue as too complex to tackle even though the practice is already outlawed at the federal level and in most states. Republicans on the panel defeated the version of the bill that had passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin GOP’s 2020 Report Embraces Fringe Election Decertification Theory
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 3/1/2022
A draft report for a Republican-run investigation of the 2020 election in Wisconsin, embraces the fringe theory that election results could be decertified after the fact – advancing former President Trump’s calls to overturn an election he lost over a year ago. Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman has been conducting a probe of the 2020 election, authorized by state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Gableman’s interim report attacks Wisconsin election administrators and argues for dismantling the state’s election board.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Regulator Bias Case Spawned by Power Line
Madison.com – Chris Hubbuch (Wisconsin State Journal) | Published: 2/28/2022
The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments in a case stemming from a power line dispute that could have sweeping implications for regulators, judges, and other public officials. The court is being asked to decide if a former utility regulator’s personal relationships could invalidate the permit for a controversial power line being built in the state. Opponents of the line sought to question former Public Service Commissioner Mike Huebsch about communications, some using an encrypted messaging app, with utility lobbyists and his eventual attempt to land a job with one of the utilities behind the project.
February 25, 2022 •
National/Federal Big U.S. Law Firms Pitch Changes to DOJ ‘Foreign Agent’ Regulations Reuters – Mike Scarcella | Published: 2/16/2022 Many law firms responded to a U.S. Department of Justice request for views from attorneys, lobbing offices, and other outlets about potential […]
Big U.S. Law Firms Pitch Changes to DOJ ‘Foreign Agent’ Regulations
Reuters – Mike Scarcella | Published: 2/16/2022
Many law firms responded to a U.S. Department of Justice request for views from attorneys, lobbing offices, and other outlets about potential revisions to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The law has come into sharper focus amid greater scrutiny of foreign influence efforts in the U.S. and more enforcement actions. The Justice Department is in the early stages of a rule-making process and has not issued any proposed changes to the law.
Fed Overhauls Investment and Trading Rules Following Resignations of Top Officials
MSN – Rachel Siegel (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2022
The Federal Reserve overhauled its trading rules for policymakers and staff, rewriting previous guidelines that central bankers said were insufficient amid the resignations of three top policymakers. The rules mirror a general outline offered by Federal Reserve Board Chairperson Jerome Powell. But additional details reflect tougher standards and the culmination of a review that sought to regain public trust after the financial activities of top officials came under heightened scrutiny.
Feds Just Let Ron Paul’s Old Campaign Slide on Likely Violations
MSN – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 2/17/2022
More than 10 years ago, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign got caught up in a bribery scandal that netted felony convictions against three senior staffers. Five years later, the FEC unanimously found Paul’s campaign likely broke the law. But it was not until recently that the FEC finally disclosed its unanimous vote. It took more than 3,700 days after Paul campaign aides paid an Iowa senator who dramatically flipped his presidential endorsement for the agency to make its final decision. After all the investigations had concluded, the FEC decided to let the whole thing slide.
GOP Lawmakers Are Pushing High-Tech ‘Fraud-Proof’ Ballots. A Texas Company Could Be the Only Supplier.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2022
High-tech security features would be required to be embedded on ballots under measures proposed in at least four states by Republican lawmakers – all promoters of false claims the 2020 election was marred by mass fraud – to make the ballots as hard to counterfeit as passports or currency. But the specialized inks and watermarks also would limit the number of companies capable of selling ballot paper, potentially to just one Texas firm with no previous experience in elections that consulted with the lawmakers proposing the measures.
Judge Allows Lawmaker Jan. 6 Lawsuits Against Trump to Proceed
MSN – Todd Ruger (Roll Call) | Published: 2/18/2022
A federal judge ruled Democratic lawmakers and Capitol Police officers can move forward with civil lawsuits against former President Trump in connection with the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, but U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks should be dismissed as a defendant. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta issued the ruling on motions by the defendants to dismiss claims in three related lawsuits, which seek to hold Trump, the former president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others personally responsible for their roles in the events.
National Archives Confirms Classified Material Was in Boxes at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Residence
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2022
The National Archives and Records Administration confirmed it found items marked classified in boxes of White House records that former President Trump took with him to his Mar-a-Lago residence. U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero said the agency had been in touch with the Justice Department over the matter. The Washington Post had reported that some of the Mar-a-Lago documents were marked as classified, including some at the “top secret” level, a revelation that seemed likely to intensify the legal pressure that Trump or his staffers could face.
Ryan Zinke Broke Ethics Rules While Leading Trump’s Interior Dept., Watchdog Finds
MSN – Anna Phillips and Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2022
Facing serious allegations about this ethics and conduct in office, Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump’s former Interior secretary, told a government official in 2018 that negotiations over a land deal in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, were proceeding without him. His involvement was minimal and his meeting with the project’s developers at Interior headquarters was “purely social.” But a report by the department’s internal watchdog said text message exchanges show he communicated with the developers 64 times to discuss the project’s design, the use of his foundation’s land as a parking lot, and his interest in operating a brewery on the site.
Supreme Court Formally Denies Trump’s Request to Review the January 6 Committee’s Bid for White House Records
Yahoo News – Sonam Sheth, Brent Griffiths, and Oma Seddiq (Business Insider) | Published: 2/22/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court officially denied former President Trump’s request to review the January 6 select committee’s bid for White House records. The decision was widely expected after the court declined Trump’s request to block the National Archives and Records Administration from turning over executive-branch documents to the congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot. A federal judge rejected Trump’s request in November, saying in a while Trump had the right to assert the privilege, President Biden was not required to honor it. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. affirmed the ruling.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Lawmakers Can’t Ignore Their Own Open Meeting Laws, Court Rules
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/15/2022
State lawmakers cannot ignore open meeting laws by claiming the laws do not apply to them, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled. Judge Jennifer Campbell said there is no evidence that lawmakers ever intended to exempt themselves when they approved the laws. A lawsuit contended there were 26 Republican lawmakers from Arizona attending an annual conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council. The council funded largely by corporate interests, serves as a clearinghouse for proposed changes in state laws across the nation.
California – 49ers CEO Jed York Accused of Violating Santa Clara’s Lobbyist Ordinance Over 2026 World Cup Ads
Peninsula Premier – Grace Hase (San Jose Mercury News) | Published: 2/23/2022
San Francisco 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York may have violated Santa Clara’s lobbying ordinance after spending more than $15,000 on Facebook ads without registering with the city as a lobbyist. The ads asked residents to tell the Santa Clara City Council to support bringing the 2026 FIFA World Cup to Levi’s Stadium. The stadium is publicly owned and governed by the Stadium Authority, which is composed of the mayor and council. The lobbying law defines an expenditure lobbyist as an individual who spends more than $5,000 influencing city business. While several members of the 49ers’ organization are registered lobbyists, York is not.
California – DWP Commissioner Held Fundraiser for Councilmember Koretz in Violation of City Rules
Knock LA – John Peltz | Published: 2/22/2022
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Commissioner Jill Banks Barad-Hopkins sent out invitations to a fundraiser for city council member and city controller candidate Paul Koretz, which would be held in the backyard of her house. Attached was a flier with her name on it next to Koretz’s, and a payment form for contributions and tickets. She also noted Koretz’s work on labor rights, animal rights, environmental protection, and reducing homelessness. City ethics laws prohibit for city commissioners to hold fundraisers for a candidate for office. It is also a violation for city officials to ask someone else to donate, among other provisions.
Colorado – Why is Colorado Lawmaker’s Home Address in His District for an Empty Lot?
MSN – Marshall Zellinger (KUSA) | Published: 2/23/2022
Colorado House Minority Leader Hugh McKean is challenging McKean’s residency. Austin filed two complaints: one elections complaint about his residency and a campaign finance complaint about the address McKean listed on his candidate affidavit. Hein points out McKean’s voting address is an empty lot. A state law automatically registers someone to vote when they get a driver’s license or renew their license. It also automatically updates a person’s voter registration if they change their driver’s license address. “Because we have ‘motor-voter,’ [it] switched my voter registration to the [lot] where I’m building [a house],” said McKean.
Connecticut – Federal Prosecutors Unseal New Indictment Accusing Former CT Lawmaker, His Wife and Business Associates of Stealing COVID Relief and Other Funds
MSN – Edmund Mahoney (Hartford Courant) | Published: 2/16/2022
Federal prosecutors unsealed a new indictment against former Connecticut Rep. Michael DiMassa that raises the total amount of federal grant money he is accused of stealing to more than $1 million and brings new theft and conspiracy charges against his wife and two associates. DiMassa and business associate John Bernardo are accused of creating phony businesses as a vehicle to steal federal money allocated to West Haven to defray the costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida – Confidential Records Leaked from Ex-Double-Dipping Collier Deputy Manager’s Office
newsonedirect.com – Rachel Heimann Mercader (Naples Daily News) | Published: 2/20/2022
Former Collier County Deputy Manager Sean Callahan apparently left “confidential” records relating to foreign governments behind after his firing from the county. The records, discovered in his county government office, were related to his second, secret lobbyist job with the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. An expert on U.S. foreign lobbyist affairs said Callahan’s client caseload was significant, adding doubt that he could have possibly fulfilled his duties for both his county and secret lobbyist role at the same time.
Hawaii – Corruption at The Hawaii Legislature Puts Campaign Donations in the Spotlight
Honolulu Civil Beat – Kevin Dayton | Published: 2/16/2022
The convictions of former Hawaii Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and former state Rep. Ty Cullen on charges of accepting bribes to benefit a wastewater company in the Legislature may provoke campaign finance reform in the state. In addition to illicit cash that changed hands in a restaurant men’s room and was stuffed under the floor mat of a car, there were dozens of apparently lawful campaign contributions that businessperson Milton Choy gave to English, Cullen, and other political figures in Hawaii. Some see a direct link between political donations and government contracts.
Hawaii – Honolulu Ethics Commission Rules Out Gift Disclosure for City Employees
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 2/16/2022
The Honolulu Ethics Commission wants the city to lower the value of gifts accepted by city employees from $200 to $25, but it is not interested in requiring gift disclosure forms. The debate comes amid increased scrutiny over ethics rules after two former Hawaii legislators pleaded guilty to thousands of dollars in bribes. Federal prosecutors brought charges of honest services wire fraud after former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and ex-Rep. Ty Cullen failed to list the money on mandatory annual gift disclosures filed with the state.
Hawaii – How Honolulu’s Ex-City Attorney Went from Obscurity to a Federal Indictment
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 2/20/2022
Before Donna Leong became the city and county of Honolulu’s top attorney, she was the chief legal officer for the Outrigger hotel chain. In the private sector, it is not unusual for a company to part ways with an employee and pay them off to make a problem disappear quickly, according to David Carey, Outrigger’s former chief executive. Now Leong is facing a federal conspiracy charge for allegedly doing just that, striking a deal with the police chief at the time, Louis Kealoha, and paying $250,000 in public funds to cut him loose as he faced a corruption probe.
Illinois – Judge Cites ‘Common Sense,’ Legal Precedent in Denying Bid to Dismiss Counts in ComEd Bribery Probe
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/17/2022
A federal judge denied a motion to dismiss key counts against a longtime confidant of ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and three others charged in the ongoing Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) bribery probe, saying the charges outlined in the indictment were sufficient. U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber said it was “common sense” that the benefits the defendants allegedly intended to lavish on Madigan, which included do-nothing jobs given by ComEd to Madigan loyalists, need not be paid directly to Madigan in order for them to be considered bribes.
Illinois – The Illinois Subsidiary of AT&T Is Under Federal Criminal Investigation
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 2/17/2022
Federal prosecutors investigating alleged schemes to influence former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan are considering filing charges against a subsidiary of AT&T involving a 2017 consulting contract. It was reported in 2020 that AT&T had been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors amid a widening criminal probe into Madigan’s political operation. The subpoena was part of an inquiry into whether companies improperly used a stable of consultants with ties to the longtime speaker as they pushed for legislation in Springfield.
Massachusetts – The Massachusetts State House Is Now Open to the Public, Nearly Two Years into the COVID Pandemic
MassLive.com – Alison Kuznitz | Published: 2/22/2022
The Massachusetts statehouse reopened to the public for the first time in nearly two years on with little fanfare. But in a noticeable change, a small white tent was erected outside the building, in a testament to the strict COVID-19 protocols that Beacon Hill leaders implemented that far exceed what Gov. Charlie Baker is mandating statewide. Rick Branca, a lobbyist for disabled Massachusetts veterans, was the first person inside the building. He said there was a “huge learning curve” for doing his job remotely while the statehouse was shuttered for more than 700 days.
Michigan – Millions Poured into Michigan Petition Drives. Their Funding Is a Mystery.
Bridge Michigan – Yue Stella Yu | Published: 2/14/2022
A handful of groups have poured millions of dollars into Michigan’s dozen-plus ballot drives that seek major changes to election, education, health, and drug policies but are keeping their donor identities a secret. Committees working for or against citizen petition initiatives in Michigan have raised a total $10.6 million through December 2021.Of that money, $9.4 million, almost 90 percent of all contributions, comes from nonprofits such as 501(c)(4)s, including social welfare groups or associations of employees.
Missouri – Party Officials Move to Block Embattled Missouri Lawmaker from Running in 2022 Election
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 2/23/2022
The Missouri Republican Party moved to block a sitting lawmaker from running in the 2022 election. State Rep. Patricia Derges had been seeking to run for reelection despite facing federal Medicaid fraud charges since last year. The GOP said it would not accept a required filing fee from Derges to get on the August primary ballot.
Nebraska – Female Nebraska Lawmakers Call for Change Amid Photo Probe
Yahoo News – Grant Schulte (Associated Press) | Published: 2/22/2022
Several female Nebraska lawmakers railed against the Legislature’s handling of a male state senator who resigned after admitting he took photos of a female subordinate without her consent, calling for an overhaul of their internal policies and recounting their own experiences of being groped, harassed, and belittled. The push by half a dozen female lawmakers from both parties came less than a day after Sen. Mike Groene abruptly stepped down and abandoned his campaign to be a University of Nebraska Regent. Groene said none of the images were sexual in nature and he also snapped pictures of other staffers and office visitors, including his wife.
New Mexico – Appeals Court: Cowboys for Trump is a political committee
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 2/17/2022
A federal appeals court turned away a constitutional challenge by Cowboys for Trump and co-founder Couy Griffin to New Mexico election laws and registration requirements for political groups. The secretary of state’s office prevailed in a June 2020 arbitration decision that ordered Cowboys for Trump to register, file expenditure and contribution reports, and pay a fine of $7,800.
New Mexico – Lobbyist Accuses Dem Senator of Sexual Harassment, Calls for His Removal
NM Political Report – Andy Lyman | Published: 2/22/2022
Lobbyist Marianna Anaya issued an open letter detailing instances where she said she received unwanted sexual comments and advances from New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto and called for him to resign. Anaya wrote she confronted Ivey-Soto about a groping incident. She said he acknowledged the incident but stopped short of accepting responsibility. Anaya also alleged in her letter that Ivey-Soto retaliated against her by holding up a voting rights bill in the Senate Rules Committee, which he chairs. Anaya also wrote he had consulted with other women who said they had “similar, or worse interactions” with Ivey-Soto.
New York – Donald Trump and Two of His Children Must Be Deposed by New York Attorney General, Judge Rules
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/17/2022
Former President Trump and two of his adult children must give depositions in a long-running civil investigation into the family’s business practices, a ruling that means the trio could face hours of uncomfortable questioning by investigators in the near future. Attorneys for Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump tried to get subpoenas for their testimony thrown out. They accused New York Attorney General Letitia James of trying to circumvent the legal process by seeking evidence for the civil matter that she could also use to build a criminal case against the former president and his business.
New York – Prosecutors in Trump Probe Quit After New DA Seems to Abandon Plan to Seek Indictment of Former President
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/23/2022
The two prosecutors leading the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation into former President Trump and his business resigned amid a pause in their presentation of evidence to a grand jury, throwing the future of the inquiry into doubt. The prosecutors, Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, submitted their resignations after the new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, indicated to them that he had doubts about moving forward with a case against Trump, sources said. The case centers on whether Trump and his business inflated the value of their assets to secure more favorable loans, insurance, and tax rates.
North Carolina – Cawthorn Insurrection Challenge to Re-election Handed a Setback
Bloomberg Law – John Holland | Published: 2/22/2022
Lawyers and voters behind a push to label U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn an insurrectionist, and therefore ineligible to run for re-election, cannot intervene in his federal lawsuit seeking to have the effort ruled unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Myers gave Cawthorn two procedural victories in his quest to block the North Carolina State Board of Elections from investigating the voters’ complaint that Cawthorn “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” The larger question of whether state election officials can use the 14th Amendment to keep sitting members of Congress from seeking re-election remains and may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
North Carolina – NC Political Maps Are Official and Election Can Begin, After Court Rulings
MSN – Will Doran (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 2/23/2022
One of the new maps for political districts that North Carolina lawmakers drew is still too skewed to be used in upcoming elections, a state court ruled. The judges overseeing the lawsuit ruled they would accept the newly redrawn versions of maps for the state House and Senate that lawmakers passed, but not the new congressional map. The judges had a group of outside experts draw a new congressional map for the state. An analysis of the map drawn by the outside experts shows it would have more safe seats for Democratic candidates, and fewer tossup seats, than the map the Republican-led Legislature had drawn.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Panel to Further Revise Conflict of Interest Rules; PSC Members Share Views
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 2/23/2022
The North Dakota Ethics Commission is writing the rules for conflicts-of-interest, including for members of certain boards to disclose conflicts and campaign donations when handling “quasi-judicial” proceedings. Such boards include the Public Service Commissioners and governor-led Industrial Commission, which make decisions usually involving companies in the energy and utility industries. Both boards have their own ethics policies. Chief in the ethics panel’s discussion was the role of a “neutral decisionmaker,” or a designated person to consult for determining whether a public official should recuse themselves from a decision.
Ohio – Will Ohio Politicians Be Held in Contempt of Court for Failing to Pass District Maps?
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 2/23/2022
Members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission pleaded with the state Supreme Court not to punish them for failing to pass state House and Senate maps on time. Several Republicans on the commission had declared the task impossible after rejecting Democrats’ proposed maps. Commission members offered excuses to avoid being held in contempt of court, including that seven individuals could not be penalized for the panel’s collective failure to craft maps by February 17.
Oregon – Oregon Supreme Court Says No to Nick Kristof’s Governor Candidacy
OPB – Lauren Drake and Dirk VanderHart | Published: 2/17/2022
Nicholas Kristof, the former New York Times columnist who quit his job to run for Oregon governor, is officially out of the race. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled Kristof cannot legally vie for the governorship because he does not meet the state’s three-year residency requirement for the job. Kristof said the ruling ends his campaign and he will not fight the ruling any further. The decision will reshape the dynamics of the race to replace Gov. Kate Brown. In fundraising, Kristof has far outpaced the other two best-known Democratic primary candidates, former House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read.
Oregon – Supporters Ask Oregon Supreme Court to Overrule Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s Decision to Kill Contribution Limit Proposals
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/16/2022
Oregon is one of five states that has no limits on campaign contributions. Reformers proposed limits in three potential ballot initiatives, but Secretary of State Shemia Fagan disqualified them from appearing on the November ballot. Supporters of the limits asked the Oregon Supreme Court to reverse Fagan’s decision, which would effectively end any chance of voters weighing in on contribution limits this year. Fagan said she had to disqualify the ballot proposals due to a 2004 court ruling that initiatives must include the complete text of the law at issue.
Pennsylvania – Doug Mastriano Said He’s Barely Spent Any Money Running for Governor. How Can That Be?
MSN – Andrew Seidman (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 2/21/2022
Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano built his political brand as an antiestablishment crusader – often directing his harshest criticism not toward Democrats, but at fellow Republicans in Harrisburg. Along with his support for former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, it has made him something of an icon among far-right activists. But Mastriano’s unusual expenditure report raises questions about his compliance with campaign finance laws. It underscores Mastriano’s challenge of harnessing the grassroots energy powering his candidacy to build a professional operation even as he shuns consultants and big donors.
Pennsylvania – Former Health Secretary Beam Takes Lobbying Job with UPMC, Raising Concern and Hope
Pennsylvania Capital Star – Stephen Caruso | Published: 2/22/2022
Former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Alison Beam will become the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC) next vice president of government affairs. Beam also served as a top staffer in the state Insurance Department. UPMC is the state’s largest private employer with vast interests, from health care policy to millions of dollars in government contracts at stake in Harrisburg. The hospital chain spent at least $474,000 lobbying lawmakers last year. Beam’s hire raised eyebrows among good government advocates, who highlighted it as a prime example of the “revolving door” between public service and the private sector.
Rhode Island – In Failed Bid to Unseat Cicilline, Republican Candidate Sought Help from Russian Intelligence
Yahoo News – Alex Kuffner (Providence Journal) | Published: 2/21/2022
H. Russell Taub, the onetime Rhode Island Republican congressional candidate who was imprisoned for defrauding political donors three years ago, illegally sought help from Russian intelligence in his failed bid to unseat U.S. Rep. David Cicilline in 2016, the FEC found. Taub violated federal campaign law “by knowingly soliciting, accepting, or receiving a prohibited in-kind foreign national contribution in the form of opposition research related to the candidate’s opponent,” the FEC concluded. Taub admitted wrongdoing as part of a settlement agreement but was excused from paying a $31,000 fine due to “financial hardship.”
South Carolina – Former Richland County Recreation Chief Guilty of Ethics Violations, Ordered to Pay Nearly $36K
Charleston Post and Courier – Stephen Fastenau | Published: 2/16/2022
A former Richland County recreation director violated South Carolina ethics law by signing off on raises to family members who worked under him and must pay fines and restitution. James Brown III Brown must pay an $8,000 fine and $25,250 in forfeited salary increases related to promotions and raises Brown approved for family members during 2012 and 2013. There also was a $2,500 administrative fee. Brown resigned as head of the Richland County Recreation Commission in 2016 amid allegations of sexual harassment and nepotism.
Tennessee – Loopholes Let Lobbyists Flood Lawmakers with Campaign Contributions Despite Prohibition
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 2/17/2022
Before 2006, lobbyists could give political contributions directly to Tennessee lawmakers. But since that was outlawed, some lobbyists figured out they could create a PAC, put money into that PAC, and call it a contribution not from the lobbyist, but from the PAC, and get away with essentially the same thing. Some lobbyists show up at fundraisers with checks from their clients or from PACs operated by their clients, a practice known as “bundling.”
Washington DC – A Judge Just Handed Trump a Major Loss in the DC Attorney General’s Lawsuit Over Inauguration Funds as the Case Heads to Trial
Yahoo News – Jacob Shamsian (Business Insider) | Published: 2/15/2022
A judge reinstated the Trump Organization as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by the District of Columbia attorney general over whether former President Trump misused funds for his 2017 inauguration, reversing an earlier decision and handing a loss to Trump as the case heads to trial. Attorney General Karl Racine accused the Trump Organization, the Trump International Hotel in the city, and Trump’s 2017 presidential inaugural committee, which is a tax-exempt nonprofit, of using tax-free funds to improperly pay the family’s business and members of the Trump family.
Wisconsin – Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman’s Critical Comments Lead to $1.4 Million Jury Verdict in Defamation Case
Yahoo News – Alison Dirr and Bruce Vielmetti (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/21/2022
Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman’s critical statements about a troubled housing facility in his district in 2007 have landed him on the losing end of a $1.4 million jury verdict, which if paid would be borne by city taxpayers. The jurors found Bauman made untrue statements about Tri-Corp Housing while criticizing its operation of West Samaria, a residential facility for low-income, cognitively disabled people. Tri-Corp argued Bauman, whose district included West Samaria, was liable for critical statements and press releases and for lobbying other officials to rule against the nonprofit in administrative hearings.
Wyoming – Legislation Could Ease and Restrict Voting
Wyoming Eagle Tribune – Maggie Mullins (WyoFile.com) | Published: 2/23/2022
Wyoming lawmakers put forward about a dozen election-related bills at the opening of the budget session. Five remain in play, including one that has garnered national attention, mostly for its implications on Wyoming’s congressional race. The four other bills propose changes to the handling of absentee ballots, campaign finance law, and what is required of political organizations in the state.
February 18, 2022 •
National/Federal Arizona GOP Rep. David Schweikert Fined $125,000 by Federal Election Commission for Repeated Campaign Finance Law Violations MSN – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 2/11/2022 U.S. Rep. David Schweikert agreed to pay a $125,000 fine related to repeated campaign […]
Arizona GOP Rep. David Schweikert Fined $125,000 by Federal Election Commission for Repeated Campaign Finance Law Violations
MSN – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 2/11/2022
U.S. Rep. David Schweikert agreed to pay a $125,000 fine related to repeated campaign finance violations he committed between 2010 and 2017. The FEC found Schweikert “knowingly and willfully” misreported who and for what his official funds were used and misused campaign funds for personal affairs. In July 2020, Schweikart was fined $50, 000 by the House ethics committee for the same set of violations. He admitted to 11 different violations of House rules, leading to a formal reprimand.
Biden Orders Release of Trump White House Logs to Congress
Yahoo News – Colleen Long (Associated Press) | Published: 2/16/2022
President Biden is ordering the release of White House visitor logs under Donald Trump to the House committee investigating the riot of Jan. 6, 2021, once more rejecting Trump’s claims of executive privilege. The committee has sought a trove of data from the National Archives, including presidential records that Trump had fought to keep private. The records being released to Congress are visitor logs showing appointment information for individuals who were allowed to enter the White House on the day of the insurrection.
Democrats Push a Matchmaking Service for Tech Workers and Campaigns
NBC News – Alex Seitz-Ward | Published: 2/14/2022
Political campaigns have increasingly become exercises in data management as campaigns try to identify, connect with, and track thousands of voters and volunteers, all while keeping their systems secure from hackers. But the professional networks of tech and campaigns do not often intersect, making it hard for people in either to find one another. Tech skills are some of the most in-demand, and therefore expensive, in the job market. LinkedIn co-founder and liberal donor Allen Blue created DigiDems in 2018 to try to fix that and expand the Democratic Party’s talent pool by recruiting Silicon Valley veterans.
Election Experts Sound Alarms as Costs Escalate and Funding Dwindles
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2022
When a global pandemic threatened to throw the 2020 presidential election into chaos, hundreds of millions of dollars flowed to state and local election agencies to ensure they had the resources to conduct a fair and accessible election. Now that money is gone and while the pandemic has ebbed it has not disappeared, and new challenges have arisen, including rising security threats, supply-chain disruptions, and escalating costs for basic materials such as paper ballots. Election officials and voting experts are warning as the midterm elections get underway that new funding is needed to avoid significant problems in November.
Inside the Totally Legal, Fairly Macabre, Classically Political World of the True Zombie PACs
Politico – Hailey Fuchs | Published: 2/11/2022
An investigation found accounts associated with eight late politicians that still have money in the bank, some with hundreds of thousands of dollars, or debts that, according to FEC records, remain unpaid. These zombie PACs and campaign committees have been paying for such things as communications consulting, campaign contributions, car rentals, or fees for former associates. All of it is legal. The ability of the committees of dead politicians to continue paying out money highlights how donations from political supporters can find their way to entities, causes, and individuals far removed from the candidate’s election.
Jan. 6 Panel Targets Key Players in False Trump Elector Strategy
MSN – Nicholas Wu, Kyle Cheney, and Betsy Woodruff Swan (Politico) | Published: 2/15/2022
The House select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot targeted two state lawmakers who were instrumental in pushing Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, as it dives deeper on Republican efforts to send false presidential electors to Washington. The committee subpoenaed Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano and Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem. Both played key roles and earned Trump’s praise for pressing their colleagues to ratify alternate slates of electors in 2020, which would have thrown out millions of votes in their states.
‘Larry and I Will Always Be Together’: Joe Manchin’s closest political ally cashes in on senator’s rise
MSN – Theodoric Meyer and Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/14/2022
Larry Puccio spent nearly a decade as U.S. Sen. Manchin’s right-hand man, running his campaigns for secretary of state and governor in West Virginia and serving as chief of staff in both offices. Manchin is now the Senate’s swing vote and one of the most powerful people in Washington. A month after Democrats reclaimed the Senate, turning the ability to sway Manchin into a sought-after skill, Puccio registered for the first time as a federal lobbyist. He and a partner have lobbied the Senate almost exclusively, collecting more than $310,000 in addition to his earnings from his state-level lobbying business in West Virginia.
Opposition Research Goes Hyperlocal
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 2/15/2022
Across the United States, there are tens of thousands of state, county, and local officials who will set and enforce the rules on voting, then go about counting and reporting the votes in the elections to come. To the alarm of independent experts, allies of Donald Trump have been targeting these once-anonymous offices, seeking to fill them with hard-core partisans all the way down to the level of precinct captain. Now, the Democratic organization American Bridge, known primarily for its opposition research into Republicans, launched what it says is a $10 million campaign to influence the races for election administration in a dozen key states.
Sarah Palin Loses Jury Trial in Closely Watched New York Times Libel Case
MSN – Elahe Izadi and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2022
A jury concluded the New York Times did not libel Sarah Palin in a faulty 2017 editorial, echoing a decision by the judge, who a day earlier said he would dismiss her case regardless of the decision. The jury decision conformed with that of U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff, who said – while the jury was still deliberating and unaware of his comments – that the former Alaska governor had not demonstrated the newspaper acted with “actual malice,” the high legal standard that public figures must demonstrate to claim libel.
Selling Trump: A profitable post-presidency like no other
Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher and Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 2/12/2022
In the year since Donald Trump left the White House, he has undertaken a wide-ranging set of moneymaking ventures, trading repeatedly on his political fame and fan base in pursuit of profit. Much as he did while in the White House, Trump has blurred the lines between his political ambitions and his business interests. Other past presidents have cashed in financially after leaving the White House. But no former president has been more determined to meld his business interests with a continuing political operation and capitalize on that for personal gain.
These Companies Stopped Campaign Donations to Election Objectors. Their Lobbyists Did Not.
MSN – Emily Birnbaum, Megan Wilson, and Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 2/15/2022
Throughout 2021, in-house government affairs staff for at least 13 companies gave personal donations to Republicans who objected to the presidential election results. The under-the-radar donations meant that even as the companies stuck to their pledges not to give to the147 Republicans who objected to certifying the election on January 6, 2021, their lobbyists ingratiated themselves with the GOP lawmakers, some of whom are expected to take leadership roles in the House if Republicans take back control in the midterm elections.
Three Hawaii Defense Contractors Charged with Illegal Donations to Sen. Susan Collins
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Emily Davies (Washington Post) | Published: 2/10/2022
Three former executives of a U.S. defense contractor in Hawaii were indicted on federal charges of making unlawful campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and a PAC that supported her. Martin Kao, Clifford Chen, and Lawrence Lum Kee were formerly the chief executive, chief financial officer, and accountant, respectively, for a defense contractor prohibited under federal law from making contributions in federal elections. The company was Martin Defense Group, formerly known as Navatek, the company confirmed.
Trump’s Longtime Accountant Says His Financial Statements Cannot Be Relied Upon
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 2/14/2022
Former President Trump’s accounting firm informed his company that a decade’s worth of Trump’s financial statements “should no longer be relied upon” and suggested any recipient of the documents be alerted. Mazars helped Trump prepare and which have come under scrutiny recently by New York Attorney General Letitia James. She has alleged in civil filings that Trump used the statements to inflate the value of his properties misstated his personal worth in representations to lenders.
Canada – Emergency Law Invoked as Canadians Mull Identity
Yahoo News – Catherine Porter (New York Times) | Published: 2/14/2022
If the outside world is baffled by the scenes unfolding in the streets of Canada as giant trucks stake out ground in the normally placid capital of Ottawa, so are many Canadians. The chaos of recent weeks has left many wondering if Canada is witnessing the birth of a political alt-right, or if it is a pandemic-induced tantrum that, once exhausted, will leave behind a country bewildered but essentially unchanged. It could also be, some argue, that the so-called freedom convoy is not an aberration at all but a mirror to an integral part of the country.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Republicans Look to Curb Lobbying Activities by Cities, Counties, School Districts
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 2/15/2022
Because cities and counties often oppose legislation they propose, Republican lawmakers are looking to ban them from hiring the contract lobbyists who fight those bills at the Arizona Capitol. On a party-line vote, the Senate Government Committee approved Senate Bill 1198, which prohibits cities, towns, counties, school districts, and other political subdivisions of the state from hiring outside lobbyists. Any organization whose membership is primarily composed of public bodies would be barred from using any of the money they get from membership dues for lobbying.
Connecticut – Top Connecticut Prosecutor to Retire, Not Face Firing, Amid Ethics Probe
Yahoo News – Dave Collins (Associated Press) | Published: 2/10/2022
Embattled Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr. agreed to resign amid mounting pressure over an alleged patronage hiring. Colangelo had been under fire for his decision to hire the daughter of a state budget officer from whom he was seeking raises for himself and other senior employees. U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy Jr., hired by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to investigate that decision, had released a report questioning Colangelo’s credibility.
Florida – Gov. Ron DeSantis Scrambles Florida’s Redistricting Debate, with an Eye to 2022 and Perhaps 2024 Elections
MSN – Colby Itkowitz, Lori Rozsa, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has cast himself as the nation’s boldest conservative Republican leader, his eye on a 2022 reelection campaign and a potential presidential run two years later. It nonetheless shocked even fellow Florida Republicans when DeSantis incited a redistricting battle with his own party, roping the state’s two legislative chambers into the fray and asking the state’s highest court to pick sides. Days before the state Senate was to vote on new congressional district lines in January, DeSantis presented a dramatically more partisan map that boosted Republican seats and eliminated a district where a plurality of voters are Black.
Florida – Rep. Carlos Gimenez’s Son Arrested for Slapping Miami Commissioner in Steakhouse, Police Say
MSN – Charles Rabin, Douglas Hanks, and Linda Robertson (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/11/2022
The son of U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez was arrested after police say he slapped a Miami city commissioner earlier in the day at a Morton’s Steakhouse. What triggered the spat, the latest episode in the long-running soap opera of Miami politics, was not immediately clear. But the two men involved, Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Carlos Gimenez, a lawyer and lobbyist, are members of powerful political families with ties going back more than a decade.
Florida – To Be Continued: Proposed lobbying, ethics laws to come back to city commission
Yahoo News – Jeff Burlew (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 2/16/2022
Recommendations from the Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board to beef up lobbying restrictions and close loopholes allowing unregistered lobbyists to operate without consequence will come back to city commissioners for more discussion during their March meeting. The recommendations include expanding the ethics board’s jurisdiction to include lobbyists appearing before the city, revising the definition of a lobbyist to clear up ambiguity, and requiring lobbyists to maintain contact logs with government officials that would become public record in three days.
Georgia – Stacey Abrams, David Perdue Call Foul on GOP Proposal to Ban Fundraising While Georgia Legislature Is in Session
MSN – Vanessa Williams (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2022
Both the Democrat and Republican seeking to oust Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp are calling foul on a proposal by Republican lawmakers that would prohibit fundraising while the state Legislature is in session. Lawmakers say the measure is fair given that current officeholders are prohibited from raising money during the legislative session, but Democrat Stacey Abrams and former U.S, Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging Kemp in the GOP primary, say the proposal unfairly targets their campaigns and gives Kemp an unfair advantage.
Hawaii – Bill Would Ban Hawaii Film Officials from Appearing in Films
Honolulu Civil Beat – Stewart Yerton | Published: 2/16/2022
A Hawaii lawmaker is trying to crack down on what he says was improper behavior by the Maui County film commissioner, Tracy Quinlan, who accepted a substantial part in a television movie being shot on the island, despite the commissioner’s involvement facilitating the industry. Rep. Sean Quinlan’s bill would prohibit movie and television producers, at least those getting cash incentives from the government, from hiring state and county employees “whose official capacity is related to motion picture, digital media, or film production.”
Hawaii – Ex-Hawaii Lawmakers Plead Guilty to Taking Bribes in Office
MSN – Jennifer Sinco Kellehe (Associated Press) | Published: 2/15/2022
Two former Hawaii lawmakers face 20-year prison sentences after pleading guilty to taking bribes in exchange for shaping legislation that would benefit a company involved with publicly financed cesspool conversion projects. As part of agreements to plead guilty to honest services wire fraud, former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English agreed to forfeit about $15,000 and Former Rep. Ty Cullen agreed to forfeit $23,000, representing the amounts of cash they received. English, who retired from his position last May, told the judge he believed the legislation he was shaping would be beneficial to state residents and the business owner.
Illinois – Senate Approves New Ethics Watchdog Over Objections of Ethics Commission Chair
Yahoo News – Andrew Adams (State Journal-Register) | Published: 2/17/2022
The Illinois Senate approved former federal judge Michael McCuskey to fill the role of legislative inspector general. Controversy has swirled the inspector general selection since the last person in the position, Carol Pope, announced her resignation citing a lack of authority to do the job. The legislative inspector general investigates allegations of corruption, sexual misconduct, and other ethical breaches among members of the General Assembly and state employees in the legislative branch. The resolution now goes to the House.
Kentucky – City Would Register Metro Council Lobbyists Under New Ordinance
WDRB – Marcus Green | Published: 2/14/2022
A proposed city ordinance would require people and organizations that lobby metro council members and other top Louisville officials to register and publicly list the issues they seek to influence. It defines a lobbyist as anyone who is “engaged” to influence decisions of city agencies or to shape nearly all aspects of legislation, from passage to defeat, through communications with elected leaders or their staffs. Councilperson Bill Hollander said the bill is not in direct response to the role developers allegedly played in influencing council member Brent Ackerson in a zoning case that is being challenged in court.
Massachusetts – Michelle Wu Has Raised Over $1 Million for Her Inaugural Festivities, Most of It from Boston’s Power Brokers
MSN – Emma Platoff (Boston Globe) | Published: 2/14/2022
Mayor Michelle Wu has raised more than $1 million for her inaugural festivities, the bulk of it from Boston’s traditional power brokers, including big business, lobbyists, and real estate developers with projects before the city. With ambitions to transform the city, Wu has made it clear she intends to be a different kind of mayor. But her inaugural fund, while more modest than her predecessor’s, places her squarely within an age-old political tradition: tapping the wealthy and powerful to fund festivities where top donors gain access to the city’s new leader.
Michigan – Michigan State Police Raid Home of Ex-Speaker Chatfield’s Top Staffers
Detroit News – Craig Mauger and Beth LeBlanc | Published: 2/15/2022
Michigan State Police troopers searched the home of former House Speaker Lee Chatfield’s top political and legislative staffers, a move one legal expert said would indicate authorities demonstrated there was probable cause a crime was committed. In January, Chatfield’s sister-in-law, Rebekah Chatfield, accused the former speaker of sexually abusing her beginning when she was 15 years old. Political accounts tied to Chatfield directed at least $900,000 in campaign and nonprofit funds to family members, legislative staff, and organizations they led for wages and consulting fees, according to a Detroit News investigation.
New Jersey – Court Halts Union County Government Project, Ruling No-Bid $123.8M Contract Violated N.J. Law
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 2/15/2022
Union County’s $123.8 million government complex that opponents claimed had illegally skirted New Jersey’s public bidding laws was halted by a state appeals court, which said the next phase of the project had to be publicly bid. Dobco, a construction and development company vying for the Union County project, filed lawsuits after the firm was passed over for consideration before the contracts were awarded. Lawyers for Dobco charged the county illegally circumvented state statutes by using their respective improvement authorities to get around New Jersey’s Local Public Contracts Law.
New Mexico – Lobbyist Money Hidden in New Mexico Politics
Capital & Main – Jerry Redfern | Published: 2/14/2022
Legislation proposed by state Sen. Jeff Steinborn would require greater disclosures from lobbyists about their expenditures, and by extension their influence on the bills that become law and those that languish. When trying to figure out whose money is backing what bill, Steinborn says the current lax lobbying laws force legislators to become detectives if they want to find out more about who is behind the bills they’re voting on. A recent ad campaign by the state’s largest oil and gas lobbying group is an inadvertent example of what is not known about money and speech in the state.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Pushed for ‘Cooperative’ Utility Regulator; DeWine Heeded Its Pick
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 2/16/2022
FirstEnergy executives and two politicians who the company admitted to bribing unified behind renominating a “very cooperative” incumbent to serve on a regulatory panel. A court filing does not identify the commissioner but refers to an “incumbent” and then-current “PUCO official.” Commissioner Lawrence Friedeman was the only of five incumbents at the time who applied for a seat. He was reappointed by Gov. Mike DeWine to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The apparent connection between the corruption probe and Friedeman suggests FirstEnergy played some additional role in controlling who would sit on the board that regulates it.
Ohio – For the First time, Cincinnati Council and Mayor Have a Code of Conduct They Must Abide By
WVXU – Becca Costello | Published: 2/16/2022
The Cincinnati City Council approved the first ever code of conduct for council members and their staff. The new rules are part of a series of reforms that stemmed from three council member arrests on federal corruption charges in 2020. All council members and their staff must sign a copy of the code. Future council members and staff will have to sign the document within 45 days of taking office or starting the job. Council could censure a member for violating the code of conduct with a majority vote.
Ohio – Mayor Resigns After Saying Ice-Fishing Shanties Could Lead to Prostitution
MSN – Andrea Salcedo and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2022
A debate about a local ban on ice fishing took a viral turn when an Ohio mayor wondered about long-term consequences. Opening Hudson Springs Lake to ice fishing sounds good “on the surface,” Hudson Mayor Craig Shubert said at a recent council meeting, but what if people wanted to fish out of shanties? “Then that leads to another problem: prostitution,” he said. Online derision followed. So did criticism from colleagues. Hudson City Councilperson Nicole Kowalski said people were upset that Shubert “continually embarrasses our town with wild claims.” Shubert resigned on February 14.
Ohio – Shareholders, on Behalf of FirstEnergy Corp., Settle for $180 Million Over House Bill 6 Allegations
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 2/10/2022
Shareholders, acting on behalf of FirstEnergy, have agreed to a $180 million settlement with a group of top officials who ran the company during the House Bill 6 scandal. The investors accused the utility’s leaders, including current and former board members and executives, in derivative lawsuits in federal court. The claims sought to make the corporation whole from what authorities called the largest bribery scheme in Ohio history. The settlement calls for FirstEnergy to adopt reforms involving its political spending and lobbying. In a key development, the company will provide greater disclosures of its political activities to shareholders.
Oklahoma – How A State Lawmaker’s Day Job Tiptoed into Lobbying
Oklahoma Watch – Jennifer Palmer | Published: 2/15/2022
Oklahoma Rep. Toni Hasenbeck voted for and often co-authored legislation expanding school choice in 2021, earning her a grade of “A+” in the grassroots lobbying group ChoiceMatters’ ranking of lawmakers. That group’s parent organization hired Hasenbeck for a paid position where she spent some of her time teaching parents how to advocate for school choice, including at the Legislature. ChoiceMatters regularly emails its members with messages to support legislation by contacting their representatives. Her work exemplifies the potential conflict-of-interest that legislators’ day jobs can have on the job voters entrust them with, experts said.
Oregon – Rejected Campaign Finance Ideas Could Have New Life in Oregon Senate Bill
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 2/10/2022
Proposed ballot measures to cap political donations in Oregon face a tough road to the ballot, after Secretary of State Shemia Fagan rejected them on procedural grounds. Now, one prominent state lawmaker says he will push his fellow legislators to put a similar proposal before voters themselves. Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner unveiled an amendment that cobbles together elements of several now-defunct proposals from good government groups, labor unions, and advocacy organizations.
Tennessee – Special Interests Spend Estimated $60 Million Every Year to Influence Tennessee State Officials
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 2/14/2022
Special interests spend an estimated $60 million a year to influence state officials in Tennessee, according to a media investigation. Because entities that hire lobbyists are not required to report the exact amount they spend on lobbying activities, those dollar amounts reflect a best possible estimate. Employers of lobbyists are required to report ranges of spending. The estimates were derived by picking the mid-point of each reporting range. Former lawmaker Martin Daniel said “money buys access to legislators because those lobbyists are frequently in the Cordell Hull building” where legislative offices are located.
Texas – Texas Counties Reject Unprecedented Numbers of Mail Ballots Ahead of March 1 Primary Under Restrictive New Law
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2022
A restrictive new voting law in Texas has sown confusion and erected hurdles for those casting ballots in the state’s March 1 primary, with election administrators rejecting early batches of mail ballots at historic rates and voters uncertain about whether they will be able to participate. In recent days, thousands of ballots have been rejected because voters did not meet a new requirement to provide an identification number inside the return envelope. The rejection rates provide an early opportunity to assess the impact of Senate Bill 1, one of dozens of restrictive voting laws enacted by Republicans across the country last year.
Vermont – As Ethics Bill Goes Back to the Drawing Board, Advocates Grow Weary
VTDigger.org – Lola Dufort | Published: 2/15/2022
Lawmakers created Vermont’s first-ever state ethics commission in 2017 after years of public pressure from government transparency groups and the press. But for good government advocates, the resolution was inadequate. The commission had no investigative or enforcement powers and basically nothing to enforce since no single statutory code of ethics covers all three branches of government. Attempts at reform in the past five years have gone nowhere and a new attempt to make progress on the subject this legislative session is on shaky ground.
Virginia – Deputy Va. Attorney General Resigns After Revelation of Facebook Posts Praising Jan. 6 Rioters, Claiming Trump Won Election
MSN – Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) | Published: 2/10/2022
A top deputy overseeing election issues for Virginia’s new Republican attorney general resigned after The Washington Post questioned the office about Facebook posts she had made praising January 6, 2021, rioters and falsely claiming Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Former Deputy Attorney General Monique Miles also espoused unfounded conspiracy theories about voter fraud and election interference in more than a dozen Facebook comments that spanned months.
Washington – Seattle Mayor’s Phone Was Manually Set to Delete Texts
Governing – Daniel Beekman and Lewis Kamb (Seattle Times) | Published: 2/14/2022
Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s text messages from one of the most tumultuous periods in city history vanished because a phone setting likely was manually changed to delete texts automatically, and ex-Police Chief Carmen Best deleted her texts, a forensic analysis has found. The analysis, which tried but failed to recover the texts and investigated what happened to the public records, including messages exchanged during Seattle’s racial justice protests in the summer of 2020, indicated Durkan’s texts were set in July 2020 to delete after 30 days, and that Best’s texts were “periodically deleted.”
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Allows Lower Court’s Ban on the Use of Ballot Drop Boxes for April Election
Yahoo News – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/11/2022
A closely divided Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled it would allow a lower court decision to go into effect that will ban the use of ballot drop boxes for the April election. Drop boxes can still be used for primaries and it is possible the high court will change course and allow them for other elections. While a final decision is yet to come, the ruling suggests the use of ballot drop boxes could soon come to an end in Wisconsin. Drop boxes became popular during elections in 2020 as the coronavirus spread across the state.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.