October 22, 2021 •
National/Federal Advocates Worry Biden Is Letting U.S. Democracy Erode on His Watch MSN – Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2021 Voting rights advocates meet once every week or two with White House officials via video […]
Advocates Worry Biden Is Letting U.S. Democracy Erode on His Watch
MSN – Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2021
Voting rights advocates meet once every week or two with White House officials via video conference, and in almost every session, an advocate speaks up to say President Biden must do more, that American democracy is under threat and the president is not meeting the challenge. In the nine months since Biden took office, GOP officials throughout the country have baselessly challenged the 2020 results, conducting clumsy audits. States have restricted voting and have changed their procedures to allow political influence over elections. Many in Trump’s camp have taken to lauding the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol.
As Some Black Staff Members Leave Congress, Those Who Remain Call for Change
New York Times – Aishvarya Kavi | Published: 10/17/2021
Black staff members in Congress are sounding the alarm on a “painful” two years, including the coronavirus pandemic and the January 6 attack on the Capitol, they say have exacerbated the challenges they face in pursuing a career on Capitol Hill. Two congressional staff associations called for better pay and “a stronger college-to-Congress pipeline” to recruit Black graduates. They also urged voters to push lawmakers to diversify their staff. Published on behalf of more than 300 Black staffers, the letter offers a glimpse at the experiences of those who work behind the scenes drafting policy, interacting with constituents, and advancing agendas.
As Trump Thunders About Last Election, Republicans Worry About the Next One
Yahoo News – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 10/18/2021
The Republican Party’s ambitions of ending unified Democratic control in Washington in 2022 are colliding with a considerable force that can sway tens of millions of votes: former President Trump’s increasingly vocal demands that members of his party remain in a permanent state of obedience, endorsing his false claims of a stolen election or risking his wrath. “If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020, Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It’s the single most important thing for Republicans to do.,” Trump said in a recent statement.
David Cameron Cleared Over Unregistered Lobbying on Work for US Biotech Group
Financial Times – Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe | Published: 10/20/2021
Former United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron was cleared by the lobbying regulator over whether he should have registered as a consultant lobbyist while working with biotechnology group Illumina. OpenDemocracy reported that Cameron, who is a paid adviser for Illumina, met the then vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi just months after the company was granted £870,000 of contracts with Public Health England. The registrar assessed four pieces of communication by the former prime minister, which included text messages referencing Illumina that were sent in 2021 to Zahawi.
Drain the Swamp? This Guy’s Trying to Fill It.
Yahoo News – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 10/15/2021
Ivan Adler is a recruiter who specializes in plucking lawmakers and staffers off Capitol Hill or elsewhere in government and placing them into jobs on K Street in trade associations, corporations, law practices, and lobbying firms. There are other lobbyist recruiters in Washington, but few, if any, do it with as much bravado as Adler. His name is well-known among lawmakers who are leaving their posts for jobs in the private sector. Adler said he is so plugged in that he is sometimes among the first to know a member of Congress is contemplating whether to seek reelection.
FBI Searches D.C., NYC Homes Connected to Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 10/19/2021
FBI agents searched homes connected to sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, one in Washington, D.C. and one in New York City, as part of an unspecified criminal investigation into the activities of a man who has not set foot on U.S. soil in years. His name came up repeatedly in recent investigations involving Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Deripaska is a billionaire and has long been a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also did business for years with Paul Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign chairperson, although he and Deripaska eventually had a falling out.
Fed Ethics Office Warned Officials to Curb Unnecessary Trading During Rescue
New York Times – Jeanna Smialek | Published: 10/21/2021
As the Federal Reserve was taking steps to shore up financial markets at the onset of the pandemic last year, its ethics office sent out a warning. Officials might want to avoid unnecessary trading for a few months as the Fed dived deeper into markets, the Board of Governors’ ethics unit suggested in an email, a message that was passed along to regional bank presidents. But the recommendation did not go far enough to prevent a trading scandal that is now engulfing the Fed and being leveraged against its chair, Jerome Powell, as the White House mulls whether to reappoint him before his leadership term expires early next year.
House Jan. 6 Panel Votes to Hold Ex-Trump Advisor Stephen Bannon in Contempt
Yahoo News – Del Quentin Wilber (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/19/2021
A congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol voted to hold former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon in contempt for not cooperating with its inquiry, a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to get answers about the insurrection from the political operative. Former President Trump has told allies not to cooperate with the inquiry. Bannon helped run Trump’s 2016 campaign and served briefly in the White House but was a private citizen in the run-up to the insurrection. If the full House votes to endorse the resolution, Bannon will be referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.
K Street Revenues Boom
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 10/20/2021
The leading K Street firms continue to rake in record sums of cash as corporate clients push their chips in to influence President Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda. Companies and trade associations, fighting to stave off corporate tax hikes and other Democratic proposals to reshape sections of the economy, are leaning on lobbyists who have cultivated close relationships with congressional leaders and Biden administration officials. Nearly all the top lobbying firms increased their third-quarter revenue over the same period last year.
Lobbying Groups’ Effectiveness Hits New High This Year: Study
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 10/19/2021
Trade associations are finding unprecedented success in influencing policymakers this year. An APCO Worldwide study surveyed 322 congressional staffers, executive branch officials, and private sector executives, and reported trade groups are having their best year since APCO started tracking their effectiveness in 2013. That finding comes after trade groups launched extensive lobbying campaigns to influence Democrats’ coronavirus stimulus package, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the $3.5 trillion social spending plan. Their efforts are bolstered by Democrats’ thin majorities and divisions between the party’s moderates and progressives.
Nebraska GOP Rep. Fortenberry Indicted
MSN – Hailey Fuchs and Olivia Beavers (Politico) | Published: 10/19/2021
A federal grand jury indicted U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, alleging he concealed information and made false statements to authorities. The Justice Department said Fortenberry repeatedly lied to and misled authorities during an investigation into illegal contributions to his reelection campaign that were made by a Nigerian-born billionaire, Gilbert Chagoury. The charges against Fortenberry emerged from a case against Chagoury, who under federal law cannot contribute to U.S. elections but admitted to providing approximately $180,000 to make campaign donations.
Political Nonprofit Fundraising Off Breast Cancer Has Deep Ties to Scam PAC Networks
Center for Responsive Politics – Roger Sollengberger and Anna Massoglia | Published: 10/15/2021
Although it sounds like a noble charity, the American Breast Cancer Coalition (ABCC) is a political group and rather than trying to address breast cancer, it appears to be a scheme to extract millions of dollars in donations, mostly from small donors. In recent robocalls, a female voice claims the goal of the group’s fundraising is to “support legislators who will fight for the fast-track approval of life saving breast cancer health bills and breast cancer treatment drugs to the FDA.” But IRS records tell a different story, revealing payments to firms with ties to a multimillion-dollar “scam PAC” network.
Staffers Keep Clashing Over Masks in the Capitol Hallways
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 10/21/2021
One congressional staffer said he almost always wears a mask at work. His closest colleagues do too. But everywhere the Democrat looked recently, bare faces rushed by, ignoring the signs: “Use of face covering is required.” Some staffers say they feel trapped in a never-ending proxy war, squabbling over masks as larger partisan tensions rage in Congress. Nineteen months into the pandemic, masks are still much more than simple pieces of fabric and that is especially true when you work on Capitol Hill, in the heart of political Washington, D.C.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’: Arizona GOP goes full fringe
MSN – David Siders (Politico) | Published: 10/20/2021
As the Republican Party hardens around its fealty to former President Trump, the Arizona GOP is filling up its midterm ballot with a roster of conspiracy theorists and extremists that could threaten the party’s prospects in a state that has drifted leftward in recent elections. The latest of those candidates is Ron Watkins, a celebrity in the QAnon conspiracy world suspected of being Q, who announced his plans to run for Congress recently. It is not just that Watkins embraces the baseless claim the November election was stolen. It is that an entire ticket is running on that falsehood now.
California – California #MeToo Leaders Say Capitol’s Sexual Harassment Unit Is Too Close to the Legislature
MSN – Hannah Wiley (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 10/18/2021
A network of activists called We Said Enough launched in October 2017 with a Los Angeles Times op-ed that called out a “pervasive” culture of abusive behavior by men in California’s institutions of power. More than 140 women, including several lawmakers and party leaders, signed the letter. In the following months, three lawmakers resigned amid public sexual misconduct allegations and investigations. The Capitol responded to the movement by setting up an independent review panel it dubbed the Workplace Conduct Unit to field new complaints. Activists say problems still persist.
California – California Board Diversity Requirements Face Legal Challenge
MSN – Ellen Myers (Roll Call) | Published: 10/14/2021
California, one of the first states to require companies to include women on their boards of directors, may see its ability to enforce director diversity laws upended depending on the outcome of multiple lawsuits. One of those lawsuits is a complaint from three California taxpayers over enforcement of Senate Bill 826, which requires public companies with principal executive offices in the state to incrementally increase the number of women on their boards. It will head to trial on October 25.
California – Top California Labor Official and Husband Accused of Grand Theft, Embezzlement and Tax Evasion
MSN – Taryn Luna (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/13/2021
The top staff member at California’s largest labor union resigned after she and her husband were charged with felonies including tax fraud. Alma Hernandez served as executive director for SEIU California since 2016. Hernandez faces two charges of grand theft and one of perjury for her work as treasurer on a 2014 political committee supporting a state Senate candidate. The complaint alleges she directed nearly $12,000 in campaign money to her husband for campaign food services that he never provided. That political committee received numerous contributions from the SEIU California’s political arm.
Colorado – Colorado County Clerk Who Embraced Conspiracy Theories Is Barred from Overseeing Elections
MSN – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 10/13/2021
A Colorado judge prohibited Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from overseeing this November’s election. The effort by Peters to ferret out supposedly hidden evidence of fraud in the 2020 election amounted to an escalation in the attacks on the nation’s voting systems, according to experts. Secretary of State Jena Griswold filed a lawsuit seeking to strip Peters of her election duties after passwords for Mesa County’s voting machines were posted online and copies of the hard drives were presented at a symposium hosted by MyPillow executive Mike Lindell, who denies President Biden won the 2020 election.
Connecticut – Guilty Plea Entered in State Senate Election Fraud Case
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/20/2021
A former campaign worker for a state Senator in Connecticut pleaded guilty to federal charges she conspired to fraudulently obtain public funds for the senator’s 2018 legislative campaign. Tina Manus worked on the campaign of Sen. Dennis Bradley, who is awaiting trial on charges his campaign ran a scheme to make it look as though he qualified for funds to which he was not entitled. Manus pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to cooperate in the investigation.
Connecticut – State Rep. Michael DiMassa Arrested by FBI in Probe of Misuse of COVID Relief Funds, Accused of Stealing More Than $600,000
MSN – Edmund Mahoney (Hartford Courant) | Published: 10/20/2021
Connecticut Rep. Michael DiMassa was arrested, accused of stealing more than $600,000 in federal COVID relief money by billing the city of West Haven, where he also worked as an aide to the city council, for pandemic related consulting services that federal officials said he never performed. Federal prosecutors said a portion of the alleged thefts appear to correspond with DiMassa’s purchase of tens of thousands of dollars in gambling chip at the Mohegan Sun Casino.
Florida – ‘It Gets Complicated’: Inconsistencies emerge when commissioners declare conflicts of interest
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 10/20/2021
Citing actual or apparent conflicts-of-interest, Leon County and Tallahassee city commissioners refrained from voting on issues big and small, from COVID-19 relief efforts to legal fees and development minutia. An investigation based on voting conflict forms and other public records found commissioners were sometimes inconsistent as they navigated what remains a complicated and grey area of the law. They often relied on an exemption in state statutes allowing them to abstain for mere appearances of a possible conflict-of-interest, though that provision is supposed to be applied narrowly.
Illinois – Chicago Sky Owner Michael Alter Agrees to Pay Fine for Lobbying Mayor Lori Lightfoot
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/20/2021
Chicago Sky owner Michael Alter will pay a $5,000 fine to the city after the ethics board sanctioned him for unregistered lobbying of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Alter argued earlier this year that the board was wrong to fine him for unregistered lobbying after The Chicago Tribune obtained emails showing he asked Lightfoot for help gaining a gambling license. But he has since reversed course and agreed to pay the fine.
Illinois – Indicted Former City Club President Fined $75K by Ethics Board for Violating Lobbying Rules
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/19/2021
Jay Doherty, the former head of the City Club of Chicago, was fined $75,000 by the Chicago Board of Ethics for violating the lobbying law. An investigation concluded Doherty “violated the ordinance on three occasions by lobbying on behalf of entities for which the individual had not duly registered as a lobbyist, and on four occasions lobbied but failed to properly report that lobbying activity as required on the quarterly lobbying activity reports.” Doherty has pleaded not guilty to charges that accused him of being part of a scheme to reward those loyal to former House Speaker Michael Madigan with money and jobs in exchange for Madigan’s support.
Illinois – Three-Judge Panel Declares Illinois Legislative Redistricting Plan Unconstitutional
Courthouse News Service – Dave Byrnes | Published: 10/20/2021
A three-judge panel declared Illinois’ June 2021 state legislative redistricting unconstitutional, in a rebuke to the Legislature’s Democratic-controlled State Board of Elections. A lawsuit alleged that, as the redistricting plan was based on preliminary 2015-2019 state population estimates made by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and not the official 2020 Census results, it violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The judges said the redistricting plan apportions state legislative districts in such a way that some districts are severely under-populated, while others are severely over-populated.
Louisiana – Gary Smith Sr. Files Ethics Disclosure on Debris Deals, the First Such Disclosure in Years
New Orleans Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 10/18/2021
The father of state Sen. Gary Smith Jr. filed an ethics disclosure for debris-staging contracts worth more than $105,000, the first such disclosure anyone has made to the Louisiana Board of Ethics in six years. The Smith family owns a network of companies that has long made money off hurricane work. After Katrina in 2005, one of the companies won a controversial FEMA deal to provide trailers for more than $100 million. It is not clear why such disaster contract disclosures are so rare.
Maine – Maine Ethics Watchdog Turn Back CMP Allies’ Request to Investigate Corridor Foe
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 10/15/2021
The state’s ethics commission rejected a request from Central Maine Power Co. allies to investigate a top opponent of their $1 billion corridor project, Sandra Howard, who leads the nonprofit Say No to NECEC, over a large contribution from a political group she runs to a nonprofit she also runs. The vote means the commission will not investigate the anti-corridor side during the last weeks of a referendum campaign that has drawn more than $60 million in spending.
Massachusetts – Grand Jury Is Said to Have Heard Testimony About Potential Campaign Finance Violations by MassGOP Head, Republican State Senator
MSN – Emma Platoff (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/18/2021
A state grand jury has heard testimony about potential campaign finance violations by the head of the Massachusetts Republican Party and a state senator, according to a person who received a subpoena and spoke before the panel. Sources said the probe appears focused on GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, Sen. Ryan Fattman, and his wife, Worcester County’s register of probate, Stephanie Fattman. In April, campaign finance regulators told state prosecutors the Republicans might have violated campaign finance laws. The work of the grand jury would mark an escalation in the probe and suggests authorities are pursuing it as a criminal matter.
Massachusetts – High-Powered Lobbying Firm Arrives in Boston Touting Ties to Labor Secretary Martin Walsh
MSN – Neya Thanikachalam (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/15/2021
An influential national lobbying firm opened a Boston location touting a potentially valuable advantage – connections to former mayor and current U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh. Ballard Partners said its new location will be headed by Eugene O’Flaherty, the former city attorney under Walsh. O’Flaherty, who joined Ballard Partners days after Walsh was confirmed, has lobbied the Labor Department on behalf of at least eight clients. Virginia Canter, the chief ethics counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, suggested Walsh make his calendar public to show he was not prioritizing lobbyists’ agendas.
Michigan – Michigan SOS Must Release Documents on Deal with Pro-Whitmer Group, Court
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 10/18/2021
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office must release more internal records on how it handled campaign finance violations by a group that backed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s election in 2018. Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray ruled the secretary of state’s office had improperly withheld some documents in response to a public records request by the conservative group Michigan Rising Action. The ruling could shed light on the behind-the-scenes discussions that led to Build a Better Michigan agreeing to a $37,500 settlement.
Michigan – Whitmer’s Campaign Might Have to Return Excess Contributions Soon, Filing Says
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 10/15/2021
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reelection campaign could have to return or donate $3.4 million in excess contributions it collected outside the state’s normal donor limits as soon as January, according to a new court filing on behalf of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. The filing came in response to the Michigan Republican Party’s lawsuit in federal court, challenging the Democratic governor’s use of a decades-old state policy on recalls to garner large contributions, above the normal $7,150 limit on individual donors, to bolster her reelection campaign account.
Missouri – Missouri Governor Accuses Journalist Who Warned State About Cybersecurity Flaw of Criminal ‘Hacking’
MSN – Elahe Izade (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2021
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson lashed out at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the newspaper informed the state of a data risk that left 100,000 Social Security numbers vulnerable to public disclosure. Parson said the Cole County prosecutor and the Missouri Highway Patrol would investigate the matter. He said the news outlet that uncovered and reported the vulnerability would be held accountable. The governor said the “”ndividual” who alerted the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was attempting to “embarrass the state and sell headlines for their news outlet.”
Nevada – State Ethics Panel: Bonnie Weber didn’t break law over quarterly meetings with developers
MSN – James DeHaven (Reno Gazette-Journal) | Published: 10/20/2021
Reno City Councilperson Bonnie Weber did not break the law by hosting a series of “summits” with prominent developers. The Nevada Commission on Ethics dismissed a complaint that accused Weber of improperly using public funds to entertain city developers at the Bonanza Casino. The complaint also alleged at least one other city employee joined Weber for the quarterly meeting. Commissioners gave the city three months to come up with rules that “adequately address” situations where city staff are asked to work at closed-door events organized by an elected official.
New York – Top Brass Head for Exits as Chaos Engulfs NYC Consulting Firm
MSN – Sally Goldenberg (Politico) | Published: 10/14/2021
One of New York’s leading lobbying and consulting firms is in disarray, feuding with its corporate owner as top executives head for the exits. Mercury Public Affairs, a global company that has been embroiled in litigation against parent company Omnicom Medias Group in California, is now facing an exodus of key personnel in New York City as they prepare to battle Omnicom’s mandated noncompete requirements for departed staff. At issue in New York is Omnicom’s insistence on restrictive covenants that stipulate departed staffers cannot continue to represent the firm’s clients or work together for at least a year.
New York – Trump Organization, Already Under Indictment, Faces New Criminal Inquiry
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Ben Protess | Published: 10/20/2021
Former President Trump’s business, which is under indictment in Manhattan, is facing a criminal investigation by another prosecutor’s office that has begun to examine financial dealings at a golf course the company owns, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The district attorney’s office in Westchester County, New York, subpoenaed records from the course, Trump National Golf Club Westchester, and the town of Ossining, which sets property taxes on the course. The district attorney appears to be focused, at least in part, on whether the Trump Organization misled local officials about the property’s value to reduce its taxes.
Ohio – Stow Councilwoman Faces Ethics Charge Over Failure to File Financial Statement
MSN – Krista Kano (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 10/20/2021
The Ohio Ethics Commission is pursuing legal action against Stow City Councilperson Christina Shaw for failure to file a required financial disclosure statement in 2019. An arraignment is scheduled where Shaw is to be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Commission spokesperson Susan Willeke said the commission generally grants extensions and “going to court isn’t necessarily the first step.”
Pennsylvania – PA Lawmakers Spend Millions of Tax Dollars on Private Lawyers, but Often Don’t Reveal Why
MSN – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) and Sam Janesch (The Caucus) | Published: 10/12/2021
The Pennsylvania Legislature spent nearly $10 million during the past two years on private lawyers but routinely shielded the purpose of those expenses, hiding which lawmakers and their staff members required representation and why. A review of thousands of pages of legal invoices and engagement letters from 2019 and 2020 shows the cases ranged from public records fights to attempts to overturn last year’s presidential election. In many instances, Republicans and Democrats in both chambers blacked out the reason for hiring lawyers, flouting case law that requires them to make public those details. Other records were so vague it was impossible to identify the reason for the representation.
Virginia – New Political Ad Strategy in Virginia: Promoting news articles in Google search results
MSN – Karina Ellwood (Washington Post) | Published: 10/18/2021
Google ads purchased by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign feature links to news and opinion articles about his opponent, Glenn Youngkin. The ads show up at the top of search results for keywords such as “Glenn Youngkin,” and include a disclosure that they are advertisements, as well as an additional tag required for political advertisements indicating they are paid for by the McAuliffe campaign. But the ads include titles written by the campaign, which are subtly different from the original search engine headlines written by the publications and appear in the same format as a headline would appear in a search result.
Washington – Facebook Provided False Testimony in Campaign Transparency Lawsuit, Washington Attorney General Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Gutman | Published: 10/13/2021
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said a Facebook representative provided false testimony in a lawsuit that accuses the company of violating state campaign finance laws. Ferguson says both the company and its attorneys knew the testimony was false. Ferguson sued Facebook last year, alleging it has “repeatedly and openly” violated disclosure laws by selling political ads without providing required details of the spending. The company has argued Washington’s laws are unconstitutional and violate both free speech protections and the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.
Washington DC – D.C. Housing Authority Board Chair Steps Down Amid Questions Over Conflicts of Interest
MSN – Marissa Lang, Michael Brice-Saddler, and Steve Thompson (Washington Post) | Published: 10/20/2021
Neil Albert, who has for the last four years served as the chair of the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s board of commissioners, resigned amid questions over alleged conflicts-of-interest. Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to look further into allegations made in recent news reports that Albert did not properly disclose his romantic partnership with the chief executive of an architectural firm that has worked with authority.
Wisconsin – Calls Intensify to End Wisconsin’s Election Review Amid Blunders by Ex-Judge in Charge
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 10/14/2021
After a series of blatant errors, Michael Gableman, the former judge leading the Republican review of the state’s 2020 presidential election, admitted he does not have “a comprehensive understanding or even any understanding of how elections work.” The latest round of reversals and blunders is intensifying calls to end the probe, one of several recent efforts around the country to revisit Joe Biden’s win in states where former President Trump and his supporters have leveled baseless accusations of voter fraud.
October 15, 2021 •
National/Federal Activists Try to Keep Up Pressure to Pass Elections and Voting Bills MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 10/13/2021 Groups pushing for voting rights and elections legislation in the U.S. Senate are planning a sustained campaign over the […]
Activists Try to Keep Up Pressure to Pass Elections and Voting Bills
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 10/13/2021
Groups pushing for voting rights and elections legislation in the U.S. Senate are planning a sustained campaign over the coming weeks, aiming to put the issue top of mind for Democrats, even as other matters have dominated in the chamber. A broad coalition of liberal organizations will organize regular demonstrations outside the White House, other rallies, and a multimodal relay from West Virginia to the U.S. Capitol. The effort is part of a push to keep the measures high on the agenda as negotiations over a reconciliation package, an infrastructure bill, and raising the nation’s debt limit have taken center stage.
Big Tech Sweeps Up Hill Staffers – Just When Congress Needs Them the Most
MSN – Emily Birnbaum and John Hendel (Politico) | Published: 10/12/2021
Silicon Valley and the telecommunications industry are snatching up some of the top Democratic policy experts on Capitol Hill just as Congress gears up for fights with the companies. The brain drain has seen more than a dozen senior Democratic tech and telecom policy staffers leaving their posts this year, with many taking lobbying roles at powerhouses including Facebook, Verizon, and Apple. They are leaving members’ personal offices as well as the Senate and House committees that oversee agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, along with topics like broadband, online speech, and data privacy.
‘Cannot Wait for Washington:’ How voting rights activists are navigating new restrictions ahead of November elections
WRAL – Fredrika Schouten, Dianne Gallagher, and Wesley Bruer (CNN) | Published: 10/11/2021
In states from Georgia to Montana, activists are scrambling to help voters navigate the new restrictions passed largely in Republican-controlled states after record turnout in 2020 helped elect Joe Biden and flipped control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats. Nineteen states have passed 33 new laws this year to restrict voting. But some of the most extensive changes are clustered in just a handful. Four states – Iowa, Georgia, Florida, and Texas – enacted sweeping revisions of their existing laws, bundled together in single omnibus bills.
Dozens of States Have Tried to End Qualified Immunity. Police Officers and Unions Helped Beat Nearly Every Bill.
MSN – Kimberly Kindy (Washington Post) | Published: 10/7/2021
In the months after George Floyd’s murder, state legislators across the country tried to undo a legal doctrine that makes it virtually impossible to sue police officers for violating a person’s civil rights. But then, in state after state, the bills withered, were withdrawn, or were altered beyond recognition. At least 35 state “qualified-immunity” bills have died in the past 18 months. The efforts failed amid multifaceted lobbying campaigns by police officers and their unions targeting lawmakers.
Giuliani Associates Face Trial in Campaign Finance Scheme
Yahoo News – Tom Hays and Larry Neumeister (Associated Press) | Published: 10/11/2021
Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born businessperson, and a co-defendant, Ukraine-born investor Andrey Kukushkin, are accused of making illegal campaign contributions to American politicians to further their business interests. Igor Fruman, who has pleaded guilty in the case, and Parnas initially caught the attention of investigators after making big donations through a corporate entity to Republican political committees, including a $325,000 donation in 2018 to America First Action, a super PAC supporting Donald Trump. The pair then became middlemen in Rudolph Giuliani’s effort to discredit then-candidate Joe Biden.
‘Scam’ Political Groups Try New Trick – and Rake in Millions
Daily Beast – Roger Sollenberger | Published: 10/11/2021
A network of shady political groups at the center of a new class action lawsuit for bilking donors out of tens of millions of dollars appears to be attempting a legal work-around to continue pulling in the money and evading government scrutiny. The 17 groups in the network bear the tell-tale signs of “scam PACs,” entities which present themselves to donors as nonprofit charities but register as political groups with the government. The loophole allows the groups to operate in a gray zone outside the reach of the different federal agencies that regulate nonprofits and political organizations.
The Imminent Impact of Redistricting: Sharper partisan elbows, less compromise by both sides in the House
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2021
Redistricting is getting started around the country, but the first maps released suggest a coming decade of even more deeply entrenched partisanship for Congress. Most House lawmakers already represent solidly partisan constituencies. Every two years, party control is determined by the outcome of only a few dozen seats. Next year, Republicans need to flip only a handful of seats to wrest power away from Democrats. Of the country’s 435 congressional districts, Donald Trump or President Biden won just 50 of them by five or less percentage points. Those swing districts could be reduced by at least a third after redistricting, experts estimate.
Trump Hotel Lost $70M Despite Millions in Foreign Business
Yahoo News – Bernard Condon (Associated Press) | Published: 10/8/2021
Despite the Republican-paid political events and bar tabs from lobbyists, foreign dignitaries, and other supporters of Donald Trump, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. lost an estimated $74 million between 2016 and 2020. The tally came from Trump’s own auditors, showing losses that generally increased through his tenure in the White House. The new account of revenues and losses at the hotel was released as House Democrats push the Biden administration to turn over additional documents to determine if Trump broke federal rules by continuing to operate the hotel through his family while serving as president.
White Tiger and Cheetah Furs: A mess of Trump gift exchanges
MSN – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2021
Gift exchanges between the U.S. and foreign leaders, a highly regulated process intended to shield administrations from questions of impropriety, devolved into sometimes absurd shambles during the Trump administration. Former President Trump’s handling of foreign gifts is not at the top of his critics’ list of his offenses, and there is no evidence he or Melania Trump took any gifts to which they were not entitled. But ethics experts said the problems reflected larger issues with the Trump presidency.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Campaign Regulator Confirms $38,500 Fine Against Bronson Campaign
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 10/11/2021
The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) confirmed a $38,500 fine against Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s election campaign for filing inaccurate campaign expenditure reports during a runoff election. According to APOC’s final order, the fine could have been higher, but commissioners declined to fine Bronson for failing to promptly return donations that were larger than the maximum allowed by law. That is because a three-judge panel on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled many of the state’s maximum donation limits were unconstitutional.
Arizona – Lawmaker Takes Aim at Corp Comm Policy on Campaign Contributions by Utilities
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 10/11/2021
Attorneys for the Arizona Legislature believe a Corporation Commission policy intended to restrict campaign contributions by regulated utilities violates the state constitution, and the lawmaker who requested that opinion is hoping it will persuade the commission to change course for next year’s election. Commissioners cannot knowingly take contributions from regulated public service corporations, their lobbyists, employees, or officers, nor can they accept money from any intervenor in a case that is before the commission. The commission’s intention in passing the rule was to require commissioners to recuse themselves if they have taken money from people involved in cases they are hearing.
California – Former Officials Nuñez, Boxer and Villaraigosa Lead Exodus from Powerful Lobbying Firm
MSN – Seema Mehta and Melanie Mason (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/6/2021
Former prominent elected officials Fabian Nuñez, Barbara Boxer, and Antonio Villaraigosa led the mass resignations from one of California’s most powerful lobbying firms, Mercury Public Affairs. The departures are largely prompted by financial disputes. Nuñez filed a lawsuit that alleges Mercury’s parent company failed to live up to an agreement that would allow the group to grow its business around the world. Nuñez excoriates the company’s handling of a foreign nonprofit tied to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort that exposed Mercury to liability and public denouncement.
California – Gavin Newsom Signs Law Giving Journalists Unrestricted Access to Protests Closed by Police
MSN – Andrew Sheeler (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 10/9/2021
Police must allow journalists access to closed-off demonstrations and protests under a new law signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom. The law requires that journalists be given unfettered access to closed-off protests, and prohibits law enforcement officers from assaulting, interfering, or obstructing journalists from covering such events. Sen. Mike McGuire argued while California law permitted journalists access to closed areas during emergencies and natural disasters, those protections did not extend to covering demonstrations, marches, protests, and rallies.
California – L.A. Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and Ex-USC Dean Indicted on Bribery Charges
MSN – Michael Finnegan, Matt Hamilton, and Harriet Ryan (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/13/2021
Los Angeles City Councilperson Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted on federal charges for his role in an alleged bribery scheme that landed his son a professorship at the University of Southern California (USC). Prosecutors allege Ridley-Thomas helped direct funding and contracts to USC’s School of Social work while serving on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In exchange, his son, a former state lawmaker, was guaranteed graduate school admission and a paid teaching position by the school’s then-dean, Marilyn Louise Flynn.
Colorado – Colorado Secretary of State to Pursue Redistricting Lobbying Complaint Against GOP in Court
Denver Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 10/13/2021
An effort to influence Colorado’s new independent redistricting process will end up being scrutinized by an administrative law judge after Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced her office intends to pursue claims of lobbying disclosure violations. Griswold said her office found reason to believe two Republican operatives working for a group called Colorado Neighborhood Coalition, former Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty and former state lawmaker Greg Brophy, failed to properly register as redistricting lobbyists.
Delaware – Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness Indicted on Two Felony Charges
MSN – Xerxes Wilson and Sarah Gamard (Delaware News Journal) | Published: 10/11/2021
Delaware Auditor Kathy McGuiness was indicted on criminal charges that she hired and supervised her daughter in a do-nothing state job, circumvented state contracting laws to divert taxpayer money to a political campaign group, and spied on and discriminated against employees who questioned her conduct. McGuiness faces two felony charges and several misdemeanors in the indictment, which appears to make her the first statewide elected official to be indicted on felony charges while holding office.
Georgia – Judge Dismisses Fulton County Ballot Review Case in Georgia
MSN – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 10/12/2021
A judge dismissed a lawsuit alleging there were fraudulent ballots and improper ballot counting in Fulton County, Georgia’s most populous county, during the 2020 election. The suit sought a review of some 147,000 absentee ballots to see if any were illegitimate. Henry County Superior Court Chief Judge Brian Amero’s order dismissing the case says the voters who brought the lawsuit “failed to allege a particularized injury” and therefore lacked the standing to claim their state constitutional rights to equal protection and due process had been violated.
Georgia – Senate Candidate Herschel Walker Cancels Fundraiser After Uproar Over Donor’s Use of Vaccine-Needle Swastika in Profile
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 10/12/2021
A fundraiser for Herschel Walker, a U.S. Senate candidate in Georgia, was canceled after its host was criticized for featuring an image that used a swastika made out of syringes on her Twitter profile. Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais, a Republican donor, was set to host a fundraiser for Walker in Texas. That specific rendering of the vaccine-needle swastika has been co-opted by activists nationwide who oppose coronavirus vaccine mandates and compare them to Nazi treatment of the Jews.
Illinois – Ex-CEO Pleads Guilty to Bribery Tied to Dorothy Brown’s Women’s History Month Program
Chicago Sun-Times – Jon Sedel | Published: 10/12/2021
The former chief executive officer of a Pennsylvania debt-collection company admitted making payments to support former Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s Women’s History Month program to reward her for business he thought she steered his way. Donald Donagher Jr. pleaded guilty in federal court to one bribery count alleging he paid $869 in March 2014 to a company that provided plaques for the program. He also admitted he had $1,000 paid to a company that catered the event.
Indiana – Ex-Indiana Mayor Gets 21 Months in Prison for Seeking Bribe
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/13/2021
A former northwestern Indiana mayor who was convicted of taking a $13,000 bribe from a trucking company and illegal tax evasion was sentenced to 21 months in prison. A jury found former Portage Mayor James Snyder sought the bribe in return for steering about $1.1 million in city contracts to the company.
Indiana – ‘Room for Mischief’: Inside the secretive process to fill vacant seats without elections
MSN – Amelia Pak-Harvey and Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 10/7/2021
U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz got her start in politics working behind the scenes for the local county Republican Party. She used those connections to win her first office when a group of party insiders, not voters, selected her for an Indiana Senate seat over the more politically established candidates. At the time, Spartz had no experience or name recognition as an elected official, which would have made winning an election decided by voters more difficult. The 93 people responsible for Spartz’s critical journey to the statehouse were not every-day Hamilton County voters. They were a little-known facet of Indiana’s political system: precinct committee people, referred to in party lingo as “PCs.” And the public has no clue who most of them were.
Iowa – Democrats Edge Toward Dumping Iowa’s Caucuses as the First Presidential Vote
Portland Press Herald – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2021
Democrats’ disdain for Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucus has been rising for years. Now the day of reckoning for Iowa Democrats is fast approaching, as the national party starts to create a new calendar for the 2024 presidential nomination that could remove Iowa from its privileged position for the first time since 1972, when candidates started flocking to the state for an early jump on the race to the White House. The caucus has been damaged by high barriers to participation, a dearth of racial diversity, the rightward drift in the state’s electorate, and a leftward drift in the Democratic participants.
Iowa – Iowa Auditor Sued for Refusing to Release Emails About Rejected Accusation Against Gov. Kim Reynolds
MSN – Daniel Lathrop (Des Moines Register) | Published: 10/11/2021
Iowa’s Democratic state auditor is facing a lawsuit related to a controversial report he issued accusing Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of violating ethics laws, claims a state ethics panel rejected. The Kirkwood Institute, a conservative public interest law firm, claims Rob Sand is violating the state’s open records law by withholding communications with an Associated Press reporter and a liberal blogger relating to the report. Kirkwood Institute President Alan Ostergren requested the records to determine whether Sand was using state resources for “private political gain” when his office alleged Reynolds had violated state ethics laws by appearing in state-funded ads promoting COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Michigan – Detroit Council Approves Reforms to City’s Controversial Towing System
Detroit News – James David Dickson and George Hunter | Published: 10/12/2021
The Detroit City Council unanimously approved a series of changes in a bid to boost transparency and accountability in the city’s towing system. The vote came after years of controversy surrounding the city’s municipal towing operations and amid a federal probe that has entangled three council members this year and previously has resulted in criminal convictions of police officers who took bribes from towers. The action is one of multiple initiatives to revamp Detroit’s towing procedures.
New Jersey – Judge Was Wrong to Throw Out Bribery Case in Infamous Corruption Sting, Prosecutors Say
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 10/7/2021
A Superior Court judge was wrong when she threw out a bribery case against a former Bayonne mayoral candidate in what had been one of New Jersey’s biggest corruption operations in years, prosecutors said. The state attorney general’s office is seeking to reverse the dismissal of a criminal indictment against Jason O’Donnell. He had been charged with taking cash in exchange for promises of tax and real estate work if he won his election. The judge concluded O’Donnell committed no crime under the state’s corruption statutes, finding he had no influence to offer because he was not a public official when he was ensnared in the sting.
New Mexico – Annual Review of Campaign Finances Resumes in New Mexico
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 10/9/2021
After a four-year hiatus, state election regulators have resumed spot-checks on campaign finance disclosures by politicians, candidates, and political committees, with 10 accounts referred to New Mexico’s fledgling State Ethics Commission and state prosecutors for possible enforcement action. The random sampling of campaign finance disclosures from the 2020 general election cycle taps into a newly deployed electronic campaign finance reporting system at the secretary of state’s office that reconciles an intricate web of campaign contributions, transfers, and expenditures.
New Mexico – New Mexico Governor Settles Harassment Claim for $150K
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/11/2021
The final price tag for a settlement reached by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and a former campaign spokesperson to settle accusations of harassment is now $150,000. The latest payments were disclosed in a mandatory campaign finance report filed by the governor’s campaign. The staffer, James Hallinan, accused Lujan Grisham of dropping water in his lap and then grabbing his crotch in the midst of a campaign staff meeting, accusations the governor denies.
New York – Cuomo Book Approval Faces New Challenge
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/12/2021
When the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting, a commissioner is planning to again try and have the agency’s approval of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book deal rescinded. After failing by one vote at a September meeting, Commissioner Gary Lavine is planning a different tact: a motion arguing JCOPE staff never had the authority to issue the approval. In 2012, JCOPE passed a resolution allowing the executive director of the staff to take certain actions between monthly commissioner meetings. JCOPE staff argues this 2012 resolution granted it authority to approve Cuomo’s book deal in July 2020.
New York – Hochul Scraps Cuomo’s ‘Defense’ Program Critics Say Helped Suppress Negative Information
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/12/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is ending a program begun under her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, which had helped suppress negative information about Cuomo and his administration. When announced in 2015, the state’s first-ever “ethics, risk, and compliance” initiative was framed as bringing a private-sector risk management model to state agencies and public authorities. But for Cuomo’s office, the job also meant managing negative information that might come to light, a practice that exploded into public view during the controversy over Cuomo’s alleged suppression of nursing home death data.
New York – Mayor de Blasio’s $1 Million Bill: He owes lawyers, lobbyists and taxpayers
The City – Greg Smith | Published: 10/12/2021
As he hints at running for governor, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has racked up nearly $1 million in debts to lawyers, campaign consultants, and taxpayers that records indicate he currently cannot pay. The mayor owes one of the city’s biggest lobbyist law firms upwards of $435,000. The Department of Investigation informed de Blasio he must reimburse taxpayers nearly $320,000 for his use of a securing detail during his failed presidential campaign. The latest filings for his various campaign and PACs reveal he has got more than $182,500 in outstanding campaign debts and only about $11,800 cash on hand.
New York – New York City’s Top Corruption Watchdog Leaving for Federal Role
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 10/13/2021
Margaret Garnett, the commissioner of the New York City agency that roots out corruption in local government, will leave her post and become the second-ranking official in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. Garnett has been the city’s investigation commissioner since 2018. In perhaps her final report as commissioner, her office, the Department of Investigation, criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio’s use of his security detail for political and personal reasons, including for trips taken during his presidential campaign.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Manager Endorses Idea for ‘Ethics and Good Government’ Officer
WVXU – Becca Costello | Published: 10/11/2021
A director of ethics and good government could take on responsibility for implementing anti-corruption reform in Cincinnati. Creating that new position is a key part of City Manager Paula Boggs Muething’s reform recommendations. The officer would be responsible for implementing anti-corruption reform approved by the city council based on recommendations of the Economic Development Reform Panel, which was formed in response to three council member arrests on federal corruption charges last year.
Ohio – Former Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson Sentenced to Six Years in Prison, Ordered to Pay More than $740,000 in Restitution
Cleveland Plain Dealer – John Caniglia | Published: 10/8/2021
Former Cleveland City Council member Kenneth Johnson was sentenced to six years in prison for stealing from the city and federal government. U.S. District Court Judge John Adams ordered Johnson, a 40-year member of council, to pay a portion of more than $740,000 in restitution for a series of schemes he ran from City Hall. A jury convicted him of public corruption charges in July. He was accused of siphoning tens of thousands of dollars from the council, underpaying his taxes, and steering government money to keep his adopted sons on the payroll of a community development corporation that he helped fund.
Ohio – Law-Firm Lobbyists Tell Federal Judge Details of Their Big Role in Passing Scandal-Tainted House Bill 6 Nuclear Bailout
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/13/2021
National law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld played a significant role in the passage of House Bill 6 in Ohio by organizing lobbying efforts, setting up large political donations, and helping to write the scandal-ridden energy law. Four members of the Washington D.C. firm submitted the documents at the demand of a bankruptcy judge, who is holding up the final $1.2 million of about $68 million in fees and expenses Akin Gump charged to FirstEnergy Solutions until the law firm’s House Bill 6 lobbying team answered questions about their involvement with the passage of the law and other activities surrounding a $60 million bribery scandal.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission Rules in Favor of Rep. Wiggam, Others in Finance Complaint
MSN – Bryce Buyakie (Daily Record) | Published: 10/7/2021
The Ohio Election Commission found the American Legislative Exchange Council did not violate campaign finance law when it provided software worth $3,000 to three state lawmakers during their 2020 campaigns. A complaint alleged the lawmakers did not report the gifted software as in-kind contributions. “Because they didn’t accept and use the software and it was only provided to them, it is not an in-kind contribution,” said Executive Director Philip Richter. The only dissenting voice acknowledged the commission does not know if Rep. Scott Wiggam activated the software. If activated and used, Richter said it could be a violation of Ohio law.
Pennsylvania – Amid FBI Scrutiny, Top PSERS Pension Officials Update Financial Disclosures
MSN – Craig McCoy and John DiStefano (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 10/11/2021
Amid an FBI investigation into real estate held by the Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS), the agency’s investment chief and his top staff have updated their financial disclosures to include their roles on the boards of agency-affiliated companies that own PSERS buildings in Harrisburg and elsewhere. PSERS has acknowledged agency official James Grossman and others on his staff were on a disclosure form filed with the IRS not only as board members for the affiliated companies but as paid staff. This seemed to put them in dual and conflicting roles as top employees of both PSERS and firms that did business with the pension fund.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Lawmakers Hand Out Millions in Public Contracts to Law Firms That Fill Their Campaign Coffers
WHYY – Sam Janesch (The Caucus) and Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) | Published: 10/13/2021
Law firms and attorneys who have worked for the Pennsylvania House and Senate have donated at least $5.5 million to 18 campaign committees controlled by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders during the last decade. In all, they gave at least $24 million to local and state-level campaigns across Pennsylvania during that time in a state that allows unlimited contributions with few disclosure rules. Legislators in turn hire firms for all types of legal matters. Good-government advocates warn such a mutually beneficial system, while legal, can foster a “pay-to-play” culture in which contracts are awarded to political allies.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Republicans Unveil Lobbying Reform Package to Address ‘Most Pressing Loopholes’ in Law
Pennsylvania Capital-Journal – Marley Parish | Published: 10/13/2021
Nine months after the top Republican in the Pennsylvania Senate vowed to make transparency a major priority in the Legislature, lawmakers are inching toward some lobbying reform. Four Republicans in the upper chamber introduced a package of bills that would impose new requirements for lobbyists and political consultants to avoid conflicts-of-interest and define the relationship between lawmakers and those who try to influence them. Critics called the reform proposals a baby step.
Rhode Island – Vote Postponed on Proposal to Shield ‘Maybe’ Candidates from Having to Report Finances
MSN – Katherine Gregg (Providence Journal) | Published: 10/12/2021
Faced with a wall of opposition, state election officials postponed a vote until at least December on letting potential candidates for state and local office “test the waters” without revealing how much they raise or spend. The Rhode Island Board of Elections decided to hold off after a flurry of opposition from state Republican Party Chairperson Sue Cienki, Common Cause, two of the already announced Democratic candidates for governor, and an army of legislators.
Virginia – Document Details Hefty Payments from Dominion Energy to Media Influencers and Lobbyists
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Patrick Wilson | Published: 10/8/2021
A document in the ongoing review of Dominion Energy’s finances reveals hefty dollar amounts from the electric monopoly to media influencers and lobbyists. Recipients include a columnist who wrote editorials about Dominion for a large state newspaper, former lawmakers who lobby the current ones, and the most renowned political commentator in Virginia. Dominion Energy is known to employ many lobbyists and political consultants, helping it achieve legislative success, but the document provides new details about who the company uses and how much it spends on consulting.
Virginia – Lobbyists in Virginia Don’t Have to Report How Much They Actually Earn
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Patrick Wilson | Published: 10/13/2021
Virginia lawmakers require companies or entities that hire lobbyists to report who the lobbyists are and how much they are paid. Because there are several ways to calculate the payment amounts, the public disclosures generally are far below the actual dollar amounts the lobbyists earn. Critics say the public has no way of knowing exactly how much money lobbyists are paid to lobby their elected representatives.
October 8, 2021 •
National/Federal Court Orders FEC to Rule on Complaints Against NRA’s Alleged Campaign Coordination Scheme MSN – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 10/1/2021 A federal court ordered the FEC to rule on pending complaints that allege the National Rifle Association […]
Court Orders FEC to Rule on Complaints Against NRA’s Alleged Campaign Coordination Scheme
MSN – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 10/1/2021
A federal court ordered the FEC to rule on pending complaints that allege the National Rifle Association (NRA) used shell entities to illegally coordinate campaign spending with federal candidates, including with the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump. In a 2019 lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged the NRA used a “network of shell corporations” to circumvent contribution limits and coordinate approximately $35 million in ad spending with the campaigns of at least seven Republican candidates over the last three election cycles.
False Election Claims Undermine Efforts to Increase Security
MSN – Maggie Miller (The Hill) | Published: 10/2/2021
Officials say the biggest threat facing U.S. elections is not Russian hacking or domestic voter fraud but disinformation and misinformation increasingly undermining the public’s perception of voting security. Since the 2016 vote, Congress has allocated millions of dollars to states to shore up cybersecurity and replace outdated, vulnerable voting machines, but even as improvements are made, faith in the system is being eroded.
Fed Says Trading Activity by Top Officials Under Independent Review
MSN – Rachel Siegel (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2021
The Federal Reserve released a rare public statement revealing an independent review by the Office of Inspector General for the Federal Reserve Board, over whether trading activity by top Fed officials “was in compliance with both the relevant ethics rules and the law.” Leaders had previously announced the Fed’s own internal ethics review of financial trading rules for top officials, and Fed Chairperson Jerome Powell said there would be changes to existing guidance. But the latest statement reflected a more concerted focus on the legality of the trades themselves.
Group Files Complaint with California Bar Association Against John Eastman, Lawyer Who Advised Trump on Election Challenges
MSN – Tom Hamburger and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2021
A bipartisan group of former officials and legal heavyweights, including two former federal judges, asked the California bar association to investigate the conduct of John Eastman, the adviser to then-President Trump who mapped out a legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election results. The complaint cites Eastman’s work in election challenges rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court and his speech at a January 6 rally in Washington before a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. But the memo centers on Eastman’s alleged role in pressing Vice President Pence not to count electoral votes and certify President Biden as the winner.
Journalists Sue U.S. Broadcasting Arm for Wrongful Dismissal Under Trump
Yahoo News – Daniel Lippman (Politico) | Published: 10/4/2021
Seven foreign journalists working for the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) who were fired by the Trump administration have sued the agency for breach of contract and wrongful termination. The journalists argue their careers and livelihoods have been significantly hurt by being fired and are seeking back pay. The complaints note Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker who was installed as chief executive of USAGM in June 2020, expressed his distrust of foreign journalists working for the various broadcast entities under the USAGM umbrella and refused to renew more than 30 of their visas, causing them to lose their jobs.
Koch-Backed Group Fuels Opposition to School Mask Mandates, Leaked Letter Shows
Seattle Times – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/1/2021
A letter made available to paying members of the Independent Women’s Forum that shows how people should protest mask mandates in schools was made possible through the largesse of Republican megadonors. The document offers a glimpse into the inner workings of a well-financed conservative campaign to undermine regulations that health authorities say are necessary to contain the coronavirus. As a nonprofit, Independent Women’s Forum is exempt from disclosing its donors and paying federal income taxes.
Lawmakers Seek Details on Accounting Firms After a New York Times Report
New York Times – Jesse Drucker | Published: 10/5/2021
Two Democratic lawmakers are seeking information from the country’s biggest accounting firms about the
“revolving door” between the firm’s tax departments and top positions at the Treasury Department. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal made the request after The New York Times detailed how multinational accounting firms effectively draft tax rules from inside the government that benefit their clients. The Times found at least 35 examples in which employees of big accounting firms left to join the Treasury’s tax policy office or other government positions and then returned to the same firm.
Once a Hero, Oregon Congressional Candidate Funds Questioned
ABC News – Brian Slodysko (Associated Press) | Published: 10/3/2021
Alek Skarlatos, a hero soldier-turned-Republican congressional candidate, started a nonprofit shortly after his 2020 defeat in an Oregon race, pledging to advocate for veterans “left high and dry” by the country “they put their lives on the line for.” The group, which Skarlatos seeded with $93,000 in leftover campaign funds, has done little since then to advance that cause. What it has nurtured, though, are Skarlatos’ political ambitions, providing $65,000 to his 2022 bid for a rematch with U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio. It is a seat that Republicans are targeting in their quest to win back the House.
Report Cites New Details of Trump Pressure on Justice Dept. Over Election
Yahoo News – Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 10/7/2021
An interim report by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee provides new details about Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to do his bidding in the chaotic final weeks of his presidency. The report draws on documents, emails, and testimony from three top Justice Department officials. It provides the most complete account yet of Trump’s efforts to push the department to validate election fraud claims that had been disproved by the FBI and state investigators.
Sen. Grassley Congratulates Korean American Judge on Her Work Ethic. Some Asian Americans Say It Echoes Divisive Stereotypes.
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2021
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, congratulated a Korean American judicial nominee for the “hard work ethic” of “you and your people,” invoking a stereotype about Asian Americans. The senator, who is seeking reelection to another six-year term, praised Lucy Koh, a judge nominated by President Biden to the federal appeals court, during her confirmation hearing. U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said even if Grassley’s motives were well-intentioned, they came from a place of prejudicial views.
Special Report – How AT&T Helped Build Far-Right One America News
MSN – John Shiffman (Reuters) | Published: 10/6/2021
A review of court records shows the role AT&T played in creating and funding One America News (OAN), a far-right network that continues to spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic. OAN founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr has testified the inspiration to launch OAN in 2013 came from AT&T executives. Since then, AT&T has been a crucial source of funds flowing into OAN, providing tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Ninety percent of OAN’s revenue came from a contract with AT&T-owned television platforms, including satellite broadcaster DirecTV.
U.S. Navy Hit by Another International Bribery Scandal
MSN – Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) | Published: 10/3/2021
U.S. Navy corruption case that has echoes of the “Fat Leonard” scandal with a defense contractor facing accusations he delivered cash bribes and bilked the Navy out of at least $50 million to service its ships in foreign ports. The Justice Department is trying to extradite the contractor – Frank Rafaraci, chief executive of Multinational Logistics Services (MLS) – from Malta. In one instance, when the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visited Bahrain in January 2015, MLS billed the Navy for more than $231,000 in “port authority fees,” even though the port authority charged only $12,686.
Why Democrats See 3 Governor’s Races as a Sea Wall for Fair Elections
New York Times – Reid Epstein and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 10/6/2021
In three critical battleground states, Democratic governors have blocked efforts by Republican-controlled Legislatures to restrict voting rights and undermine the 2020 election. Now, the 2022 races for governor in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – states that have long been vital to Democratic presidential victories – are taking on major new significance. At stake are how easy it is to vote, who controls the electoral system and, some Democrats worry, whether the results of federal, state, and local elections will be accepted no matter which party wins.
From the States and Municipalities
California – S.F. Ethics Commission Finds ‘Problematic’ Gifting at City Departments
MSN – Lauren Hernández (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 10/1/2021
Several departments in San Francisco have accepted gifts from restricted organizations – groups with which the city does business – and distributed those gifts to city employees, actions that undermine rules regarding gifts, according to a new report by the city Ethics Commission. The report released details “problematic” conduct related to gifts, including the awarding of tickets to events such as concerts, and the receipt of benefits and funds to pay for private parties, dinners, and other celebrations.
Florida – DeSantis Says He’s Running. Where Are the Documents?
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/30/2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he is running for re-election, but he has filed no campaign documents, released no financial disclosures, reported no campaign expenditures, nor established a campaign treasurer – all required for candidates for statewide office in Florida. The governor’s political committee had raised more than $50 million this election cycle. “We allow potential candidates to have political committees where they can raise unlimited amounts of money … then when they become an official candidate, we put limits on what they can raise and direct into the campaign account,” said Integrity Florida President Ben Wilcox.
Florida – Judge Revives Lawsuit Against Secretive Group That Paid for Ads in High-Stakes Senate Race
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin | Published: 10/6/2021
A lawmaker will get a second chance to force a secretive political group to reveal the donors who helped fund advertisements in a key Florida Senate race last year, after the media identified the possible leader of the group as Stephen Jones. A judge gave an extra 60 days for state Sen. Annette Taddeo to serve a lawsuit she filed against Floridians for Equality and Justice, which sent mailers last year attacking Democrat Patricia Sigman without disclosing its donors. Taddeo’s attorneys argued Jones “took steps to secret his true address in forming the political committee for the purpose of potentially avoiding responsibility for illegal acts.”
Georgia – Giving Limit Rises to $7,600 for Georgia Political Donors
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 9/30/2021
Candidates for statewide offices in Georgia can now accept more from each donor. Individuals, corporations, political committees, and political party can give each candidate up to $7,600 for each primary and general election and $4,500 for each runoff. That is up from $7,000 for primary and general elections and $4,100 for runoffs.
Georgia – Protection Against Violent Threats Could Be Legitimate Georgia Campaign Expense
Georgia Recorder – Jill Nolan | Published: 10/1/2021
The recent spate of violent threats against elected officials has the Georgia ethics commission rethinking its position on whether home security systems should qualify as a legitimate campaign-related expense. Seven years ago, the commission ruled candidates and officeholders could not use campaign funds to help secure their homes. But after a tumultuous last year, the current commissioners are on the verge of reversing course. The request comes from the Democratic Party of Georgia, but the escalation in threats toward public officials is a problem for both parties.
Idaho – In Idaho, a Power Play While the Governor’s Away
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/5/2021
Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he will rescind an executive order involving Covid-19 vaccines by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, and the commanding general of the Idaho National Guard also told McGeachin she cannot activate troops to send to the U.S.-Mexico border. Little was in Texas meeting with nine other Republican governors over concerns on how President Biden is handling border issues. McGeachin, a far-right Republican, is running for governor. In Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor do not run on the same ticket.
Illinois – Former City Club President in Texts to Mayor Lori Lightfoot: ‘ComEd duped me’ in bribery probe tied to Madigan
MSN – Gregory Pratt, Jason Meisner, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/30/2021
Jay Doherty, former head of the City Club of Chicago who is under indictment, texted Mayor Lori Lightfoot that he had been misled by Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and the utility’s alleged bribery of then-House Speaker Michael Madigan. The messages show Doherty tried to downplay his role in the probe to the mayor even after federal agents raided the City Club’s offices. The texts also show Lightfoot helped Doherty with a booking even after he was first publicly connected to the probe. Doherty was indicted in an alleged scheme to funnel money and jobs to Madigan loyalists in exchange for the speaker’s help with legislation ComEd wanted.
Indiana – Indiana Casino Exec and Former Republican Lawmaker Faces New Tax Fraud Charges
MSN – Johnny Magdaleno (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 10/1/2021
A federal grand jury imposed additional charges on an Indiana casino executive with for his alleged role in as scheme to funnel casino cash into an ex-state senator’s failed campaign for Congress. John Keeler was already facing four federal charges for allegedly working with out-of-state political consultants to recruit straw donors. Those straw donors were reimbursed with funds from Keeler’s casino company, according to federal prosecutors. Now the Justice Department says Keeler tried to use those contributions to lower his company’s taxable income.
Kentucky – Most KY State Workers Who Gamed the System to Collect Jobless Benefits Were Not Fired
Lexington Herald-Leader – John Cheves | Published: 10/6/2021
Of at least 19 state workers in Kentucky who participated in a scheme to improperly collect state and federal unemployment benefits during the spring of 2020, none were prosecuted while one was fired and eight were briefly suspended and then returned to their jobs. Gov. Andy Beshear had said the workers would be punished for their roles in a scheme to claim $54,232 in jobless benefits while still holding full-time state jobs. Some lied about lost part-time jobs to seem eligible; some used their official access to the state jobless benefits system to facilitate claims for themselves, colleagues, and friends.
Maine – Maine Ethics Commission Orders Investigation into Conservative Group’s Software System
Government Technology – Scott Thistle (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 9/30/2021
The Maine ethics commission voted to investigate whether the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is illegally trying to influence elections by providing a software package to lawmakers. But the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices also voted to dismiss a complaint that two Republican state lawmakers violated campaign finance laws after it was determined they never used ALEC’s software for campaign purposes.
Maryland – Baltimore County Issues Final Recommendations for Fair Public Election System in New Report
MSN – Emily Goodnight (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 10/5/2021
The Baltimore County Fair Election Fund Work Group released its final report to help create the county’s first public campaign financing system. The group has spent the past six months developing a comprehensive set of recommendations, detailing how the county’s public campaign fund will work, including how candidates can qualify for public funding, the limits and thresholds related to matching fund limits, and how much funding campaigns can receive from the program.
Maryland – Former Hogan Chief of Staff Indicted on Charges of Secretly Recording Governor on Phone Calls, Embezzling Funds
MSN – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 10/5/2021
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff was indicted on charges he defrauded a state agency he led by inducing it to pay him nearly $280,000 in mostly severance pay before he moved to his post in the governor’s office. Roy McGrath also used funds from the Maryland Environmental Service to pay a personal pledge to a museum and got the agency to pay tuition expenses for a class after he left his job as executive director, according to the indictment. He also recorded conversations with senior state officials without their consent and faces state charges.
Michigan – Gov. Whitmer Vetoes 4 Election Bills at NAACP Dinner, Says They Perpetuated ‘Big Lie’
MSN – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 10/4/2021
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed four election bills, the first of dozens expected to land on her desk following the contentious 2020 presidential election and the flurry of legislative activity it has prompted to overhaul voting laws across the country. The measures would have codified current election practices, required election challengers to undergo training, and expanded the types of places that could serve as polling locations.
Michigan – Taylor Mayor Pocketed Campaign Cash, Lottery Tickets in Bribery Scandal, Feds Say
Detroit Free Press – Robert Snell | Published: 10/5/2021
Federal prosecutors leveled new allegations against Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars, accusing him of cashing campaign checks at a party store in exchange for cash and scratch-off lottery tickets while corrupting a city foreclosed property program. The allegations were contained in a new criminal case against an alleged co-conspirator as prosecutors signaled at least two people are expected to plead guilty in connection with the case. Sollars was indicted in December 2019 on federal bribery and wire fraud charges and accused of helping a man obtain city-owned properties in exchange for free work on his home and vacation chalet.
Mississippi – Mississippi Aid Program Gave Little Help to Renters, but Millions to a Top Law Firm
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) | Published: 10/1/2021
More than seven months after Congress created the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, Mississippi had spent only 11 percent of $186.7 million in first-round funding, compared with a national average of 32 percent. Mississippians are clamoring for the funds: 9,000 people applied to the program in August. But tenants and advocates say it can take more than a month to get a response from the program, which is administered in part by Balch & Bingham, a politically connected law firm. Hired through a no-bid $3.8 million contract, the firm plays a key role in reviewing and scrutinizing aid applications, a process critics say leads to enormous delays.
Missouri – Missouri Ethics Commission: Columbia Mayor Must Terminate Campaign Committee
Columbia Missourian – Stephanie Southey | Published: 10/1/2021
Columbia Mayor Brian Treece was ordered to terminate his campaign committee. The Missouri Ethics Commission issued the order and said Treece violated state law. The state law from 2016 requires registered lobbyists to dissolve their candidate committees and that the campaign money should be returned to donors or contributed to a nonprofit group or political party committee. Treece did not terminate his committee in 2016 before registering as a lobbyist in 2017, 2018, 2019, or 2020.
New Mexico – Free Lunches Earn Business Access to New Mexico Lawmakers
MSN – Cedar Attanasio (Associated Press) | Published: 10/7/2021
As long as they are disclosed, it is legal for companies to buy New Mexico lawmakers lunches and give gifts. Sen. Gay Kernan said sponsored lunches have been common practice in her 19 years serving the Legislature, and that a sandwich cannot buy her vote. Former Rep. Jim Dines, who says he refused to accept as much as a bottle of water from lobbyists, believes there is a problem. “The appearance of impropriety is always there when you accept something [for] free. … Only the legislator themselves know whether … they’re being influenced,” said Dines.
New Mexico – NM Ethics Agency Seeks Expanded Staff, Jurisdiction
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 10/1/2021
The State Ethics Commission will ask New Mexico lawmakers next year to sharply increase its staff to ensure the agency can carry out its role as an independent watchdog. The agency also agreed to ask the Legislature to expand its jurisdiction to the parts of the state constitution that prohibit profiting from public office and ban lawmakers from having an interest in contracts authorized by bills passed during their term.
New York – JCOPE Votes to Investigate Itself Over Cuomo Book Deal Approval
WXXI – Karen Dewitt | Published: 10/5/2021
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) voted to open an independent investigation of how the panel approved a $5 million book deal for former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to write a memoir about his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. The deal has been the subject of a probe by the state attorney general as well as federal investigators. Cuomo never submitted the book contract to the panel, and the full commission never voted to approve the arrangement. Several commissioners complained at the time they were shut out of the decisions.
New York – Lovely Warren to Resign by Dec. 1 as Part of Plea Deal Over All Criminal Charges She Faces
MSN – Gary Craig and Brian Sharp (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) | Published: 10/4/2021
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren admitted to violating the state’s election law and, as part of a plea agreement, will resign from office by December 1. The plea deal heads off what was expected to be a month-long trial, while also resolving weapons and child endangerment charges Warren confronted in a separate criminal case. The city’s first Black woman to be elected mayor, Warren’s tenure has been a roller coaster ride, highlighted by some successful commercial development throughout the community but marred by the criminal allegations that have now hounded her for a year.
New York – Want to Be a City Commissioner? It Helps to Be Friendly with the Mayor.
New York Times – Dana Rubenstein | Published: 10/6/2021
Faced with half a dozen major vacancies during his eighth and final year in office, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had what appeared to be a simple choice: promote an experienced hand from within or persuade an outsider to sign on for what was likely to be a very temporary job. But in three of those instances, de Blasio chose a third option – he hired a loyalist. Each of the three has demonstrated long-term fidelity to the outgoing mayor, and he has reciprocated by putting them atop agencies of which they have varying levels of subject-matter expertise.
Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine Says He Won’t Recuse Himself from Redistricting Lawsuits Involving His Father, Gov. Mike DeWine
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/30/2021
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine says he does not plan to recuse himself from hearing a trio of lawsuits challenging new state House and Senate districts his father, Gov. Mike DeWine, voted to approve. Justice DeWine has recused himself at times from lawsuits involving decisions made by his father, including as recently as September, when, saying he wanted to “avoid the appearance of impropriety,” he withdrew from a case challenging Gov. DeWine’s decision to end enhanced federal unemployment benefits. In the redistricting cases, Justice DeWine noted his father was one of seven members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which approved the maps.
Ohio – Ohio’s Medicaid Director Owns the Stock of Some Major Contractors, but Won’t Say How Much
Ohio Capital Journal – Marty Schladen | Published: 10/6/2021
Since she became director of the Ohio Department of Medicaid in January 2019, Maureen Corcoran has owned stock in some of the department’s biggest contractors. Given the size of those contracts, they could have increased the value of the stock Corcoran owned. But while she complied with one set of state disclosure requirements, Corcoran will not say just how much stock she owns in such companies as CVS Health, UnitedHealth Group, and Express Scripts, each of which has done billions of dollars’ worth of business with the Medicaid department since Corcoran started running it.
Oregon – People for Portland Co-Founder Accused of Two-Timing Powerful Business Group
MSN – Shane Dixon Kavanaugh (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 9/30/2021
Lobbyist Dan Lavey ditched the Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association, an off-and-on client for years, after receiving a financial offer he “couldn’t refuse” from the Northwest Grocery Association, the beer and wine distributors allege. The two industry associations, among the most influential in Oregon, are frequent political opponents and are poised to square-off again over a possible ballot initiative next year that would privatize state liquor sales. “Reputation and relationships are all we have in this work [and] flagrantly flipping sides is not something we usually see in Oregon politics,” said Amy Ruiz, a senior vice president with Strategies 360.
Pennsylvania – John Dougherty and Bobby Henon Bribery Trial: What you need to know
MSN – Oona Goodin-Smith (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 10/4/2021
Union leader John Dougherty and Philadelphia City Councilperson Bobby Henon are now in court more than two years after they were charged in a federal bribery and corruption case. The outcome could shape the future of organized labor, politics, and public corruption investigations in the city for years to come. Federal prosecutors charged Dougherty, Henon, and six other Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers officials. But last year, a judge granted a defense request to split the case into two trials. The first trial is focused solely on charges tied to the relationship between Dougherty and Henon.
Pennsylvania – South Fla. Pols Wondered Where Campaign Cash Came From. The Answer Led to a Beleaguered N.J. Developer
MSN – Jacob Adelman (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 10/7/2021
National Realty Investment Advisors (NRIA) pitches outsized investor returns in television and radio ads from its development projects. Many of those projects have been in Philadelphia. NRIA is under investigation by the FBI and financial regulators, and a former executive has separately been charged with fraud. One of the major projects it is depending on to start generating profits is in Delray Beach, Florida. Three New Jersey companies contributed to Delray Beach politicians with a common link to the city: all were started by NRIA employees and NRIA needed officials’ approval for its $59 million apartment project there.
Rhode Island – Senators Grill McKee Administration Over $5.2 Million Contract
MSN – Edward Fitzgerald (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/6/2021
The Senate oversight committee grilled officials in Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee’s administration over a $5.2-million contract awarded to ILO Group, a consulting firm that formed two days after McKee took office. The committee looked at a Zoom call that took place on March 5, one day after the ILO had formed. That meeting led to the state seeking proposals and awarding contracts to ILO and a lower bidder. The Zoom call included Mike Magee, one of McKee’s top campaign donors and the leader of Chiefs for Change, a network of state and district education chiefs. Senators noted ILO’s managing partner, Julia Rafal-Baer, worked for Chiefs for Change, and she had been invited to join that Zoom meeting.
South Dakota – Did Kristi Noem Abuse Governor’s Office to Get Daughter Appraiser License? Accountability Panel Will Decide
MSN – Joe Sneve (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 10/6/2021
A panel of South Dakota judges will review allegations about Gov. Kristi Noem abused her office to help her daughter obtain a state appraiser license. The attorney general’s office announced it was referring the complaint to the Government Accountability Board, which will investigate the matter and determine if any misconduct occurred. The allegations center around a meeting Noem had with officials with the Department of Labor and Regulation after the agency had recommended denying Noem’s daughter, Kassidy Peters, a real estate appraiser license.
October 1, 2021 •
National/Federal As Districts Grow More Diverse, Congressional Outreach Does Too MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 9/30/2021 Over the past decade, U.S. Rep. Katie Porter’s 45th District in Southern California grew to the largest by population in the state […]
As Districts Grow More Diverse, Congressional Outreach Does Too
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 9/30/2021
Over the past decade, U.S. Rep. Katie Porter’s 45th District in Southern California grew to the largest by population in the state and was 45 percent non-Hispanic white in 2020, down from 55 percent in 2010. The district is more than one quarter Asian, which has shaped how Porter reaches out to her constituents. For example, she often contacts local community groups and ethnic churches in efforts to share more information about federal programs.
As Redistricting Begins, States Tackle the Issue of ‘Prison Gerrymandering’
MSN – Emmanuel Felton (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2021
As lawmakers begin drawing lines for congressional and state legislative districts based on the 2020 Census, there is a key question facing these drafters: how to count the 2.3 million people housed in the nation’s jails and prisons. While inmates are not allowed to vote in 48 states, they count for the purposes of representation. For most of American history, counting inmates where they were imprisoned did not have a huge impact on political power and representation. But that changed when states began adopting tough-on-crime laws in the 1980s, leading to an era of mass incarcerations.
Biden White House Leans Toward Releasing Information About Trump and Jan. 6 Attack, Setting Off Legal and Political Showdown
MSN – Tom Hamburger and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2021
The White House is leaning toward releasing information to Congress about what Donald Trump and his aides were doing during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol despite the former president’s objections, a decision that could have significant ramifications. Trump has said he will cite “executive privilege” to block information requests from the House select committee investigating the events of that day, banking on a legal theory that has successfully allowed presidents and their aides to avoid or delay congressional scrutiny for decades. But the Biden White House plans to err on the side of disclosure given the gravity of the events.
Covert Postal Service Unit Probed Jan. 6 Social Media
Yahoo News – Betsy Woodruff Swann (Politico) | Published: 9/27/2021
In the days after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, an obscure arm of the U.S. Postal Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service’s Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) sent bulletins to law enforcement agencies around the country on how to view social media posts that had been deleted. Few Americans are aware the same organization that delivers their mail also runs a surveillance operation rooted in an agency that dates back to the 18th century. And iCOP’s involvement raises questions about how broad the mandate of the Postal Service’s policing arm has grown from its stated mission of keeping mail deliverers safe.
DNC to Host First In-Person Fundraiser of the Covid Era
Yahoo News – Caitlin Oprysko (Politico) | Published: 9/25/2021
Eighteen months into the pandemic, the Democratic National Committee held its first in-person, indoor fundraising events, turning to K Street to haul in cash ahead of the midterm cycle. For lobbyists who have been starved of facetime with party leaders, they can give $36,500, the maximum amount an individual or non-multi-candidate PAC can contribute to a national party committee. That donation brings with it a more intimate “private clutch,” according to the invitation. The hosting of an in-person event marks a return for Democrats to the usual method of raising cash after meeting with donors became confined to Zoom calls.
Fallout Begins for Far-Right Trolls Who Trusted Epik to Keep Their Identities Secret
Seattle Times – Drew Harwell, Hannah Allam, Jeremy Merrill, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2021
In the real world, Joshua Alayon worked as a real estate agent in Pompano Beach, Florida. But online, data revealed by the massive hack of Epik, an Internet-services company popular with the far right, signaled a darker side. Alayon’s name and personal details were found on invoices suggesting he had once paid for websites with names such as racisminc.com and theholocaustisfake.com. The hacking group Anonymous exposed previously obscure details of far-right sites and launched a race among extremism researchers to identify the hidden promoters of online hate. After Alayon’s name appeared in the breached data, his brokerage firm dropped him as an agent.
FEC Debates Deadlocks and Dismissals
Investigative Reporting Workshop – Keith Newell | Published: 9/29/2021
Since its founding in 1974, the FEC has long been regarded as an ineffective agency, garnering criticism as a “toothless tiger” or a “tightly leashed watchdog.” The panel has a maximum of six members, with no more than three from one party. Since 2006, an increasingly high number of deadlocked votes result in dismissals of allegations of misconduct; deadlocks are effectively victories for the Republican commissioners. Party loyalty appears to be less important to commissioners than ideology.
House Jan. 6 Committee Issues Subpoenas for Pro-Trump Rally Organizers
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Tom Hamburger, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 9/29/2021
The U.S. House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas to 11 people associated with or involved in the planning of pro-Trump rallies that preceded the violent insurrection. The subpoenas come a week after it issued subpoenas targeting two top Trump White House officials, the chief of staff to the acting defense secretary, and longtime Trump adviser Stephen Bannon. The subpoenas may be able to shed light on the degree to which Donald Trump and his senior White House aides knew about their fears of chaos on January 6.
Ohio Men Sentenced to 45 Days Become First Jan. 6 Misdemeanor Defendants to Receive Jail Time
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/29/2021
A court sentenced two Ohio men to serve 45 days in jail after federal prosecutors for the first-time requested incarceration at sentencing hearings for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders in the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The punishment comes after judges for months have questioned whether no-prison plea deals offered by the government to low-level January 6 defendants are too lenient to deter future attackers from terrorizing members of Congress.
Supreme Court Observers See Trouble Ahead as Public Approval of Justices Erodes
MSN – Robert Barnes and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2021
On October 4, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin one of the most potentially divisive terms in years. Docketed cases concern gun control, separation of church and state, and the biggest showdown in decades on the constitutional right to an abortion. Meanwhile, a presidential commission studying the court is being bombarded with criticism from the left, and occasionally the right, that the justices are too political, too powerful, and serve for too long. “Not since Bush v. Gore has the public perception of the court’s legitimacy seemed so seriously threatened,” Georgetown Supreme Court Institute Executive Director Irv Gornstein said.
The FEC Unanimously Rejected a Trump Campaign Complaint Against Snapchat After the Social Media Site Removed the Former President’s Content from Its ‘Discover’ Feed
Yahoo News – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/23/2021
The FEC dismissed a complaint made by former President Trump’s campaign against Snapchat, which it said had violated election laws by removing the campaign’s content from its curated “Discover” page. Snapchat announced in June 2020 it would no longer promote Trump’s content on the page, though it did not remove Trump’s account from the platform. The Trump campaign alleged Snapchat made an illegal contribution to Joe Biden by doing so.
There Are Just 9 Women Governors. Both Parties Want Change.
Yahoo News – Liz Crampton (Politico) | Published: 9/28/2021
Women now account for a third of state lawmakers, more than a quarter of the U.S. House and nearly as much of the U.S. Senate, but in many states have yet to shatter the highest glass ceiling: governorships. Today, just nine women hold the title, with power split among six Democrats and three Republicans. Four of those women took over the role by succession. There is growing urgency among leaders in both major parties around bolstering the chances of women running in the 2022 gubernatorial elections, when voters in 36 states will pick their next chief executive.
Trump Loses Case to Enforce Omarosa Manigault Newman’s N.D.A.
MSN – Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 9/28/2021
Former President Trump lost an effort to enforce a nondisclosure agreement against Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide and a star on “The Apprentice” who wrote a tell-all book about serving in his administration. The decision from an arbiter calls for her to collect legal fees from the Trump campaign. The campaign filed the case shortly after Manigault Newman published her book. It claimed she violated a nondisclosure agreement she had signed during the 2016 campaign stipulating she would not reveal private or confidential information about Trump’s family, business, or personal life.
Two Fed Officials Announce Retirements Amid Controversy Over Ethics and Stocktrading
MSN – Rachel Siegel (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2021
Two top Federal Reserve officials are leaving their posts amid scrutiny over their stock-trading activities during the coronavirus crisis, behavior which spurred an unusual review by the Fed of trading rules for its officials. Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan both announced their retirements. Earlier, media outlets reported on the financial disclosures of the regional bank presidents, showing both actively traded in stocks and other investments while in their roles setting monetary policy and assisting the central bank through the covid crisis.
U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Senator Cruz’s Campaign Finance Challenge
Yahoo Finance – Andrew Chung (Reuters) | Published: 9/30/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the FEC’s bid to restore a campaign finance law that limits the amount of money candidates can accept from donors after an election as they try to recoup the money they personally lent to their formal campaign organizations. A lower court ruling found the cap violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech by unjustifiably burdening political expression. The law imposes a ceiling of $250,000 on payments from donations made after an election even if candidates made loans exceeding that sum.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Recount Results Raise Stakes for GOP-Backed Ballot Reviews in Other States
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2021
A GOP-commissioned report that did not find evidence fraud tainted Arizona’s 2020 election has intensified the fight over similar partisan ballot reviews in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, with former President Trump pressing for such examinations and Democrats stepping up their efforts to block them. The outcome of the recount in Maricopa County, which concluded President Biden won the state’s largest county by even more votes than the certified results, raises the stakes for the Republican leaders who have gone along with Trump’s demands for “forensic audits” in other states.
California – Between the Lines: Hidden partisans try to influence California’s independent redistricting
MSN – Ben Christopher and Sameea Kamal (CalMatters) | Published: 9/28/2021
California congressional districts are drawn by an independent citizens commission, but it is hearing from candidates and party officials who do not disclose their partisan affiliations. Though the commission is prohibited from considering the electoral interests of elected officials, candidates, or political parties, there is nothing that bars any of those players from trying to influence the decisions, nor any laws or rules requiring public commenters to list potential conflicts-of-interest. But not disclosing a personal stake may cross an ethical line, said Jessica Levinson, a former member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.
California – California Is Now Permanently a Vote-by-Mail State as Gavin Newsom Signs Bill
MSN – Lara Korte (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 9/27/2021
California will now mail ballots to voters in all elections, extending a practice temporarily adopted during the pandemic to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at polling locations. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 37, which requires county elections officials to mail a ballot to every active registered voter for all elections, whether they request it or not. Voters can still choose to vote at physical polling locations, if they prefer.
California – California Treasurer Sued for Harassment Often Shared Overnight Lodging with Staffers
MSN – Sophia Bollag (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 9/28/2021
Treasurer Fiona Ma has frequently shared hotel rooms with her chief of staff during her tenure as California’s top banking official, a practice she said she engaged in “to save money,” according to expense reports. A review of travel documents found that sharing lodging with staff was a common practice for Ma, who is facing a lawsuit filed by a different employee, who no longer works in the office. The worker accused her of sexual harassment when the two women shared hotel rooms.
California – L.A. County Sheriff’s Unit Accused of Targeting Political Enemies
MSN – Alene Tchekmedyian (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/23/2021
A group of deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department make up a little-known team of investigators formed by Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other top sheriff’s officials. Much of what they do, by design, is a mystery to the public and even to most within the department. But as some of the investigations handled by the team have come to light, a common thread has emerged: their targets are outspoken critics of Villanueva or the department. Concern over the Civil Rights and Public Integrity Deta has caused consternation both inside and outside the department.
California – Oakland Issues Its Largest Ethics Fine Ever, Against a Corrupt Former Building Inspector
Oaklandside – David DeBolt | Published: 9/28/2021
The Oakland Public Ethics Commission issued a fine of $309,600 against a former city building inspector accused of accepting bribes from property owners in exchange for greenlighting inspections or issuing permits. It is by far the largest fine ever issued by the commission. Thomas Espinosa, the former specialty combination inspector in the city’s Planning and Building Department’s Code Enforcement Division, also convinced some property owners whose buildings he inspected to hire him as a contractor, the investigation found.
Colorado – An Elections Supervisor Embraced Conspiracy Theories. Officials Say She Has Become an Insider Threat.
MSN – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2021
In a lawsuit filed by the Colorado secretary of state, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and her deputy have been accused of sneaking someone into the county elections offices to copy the hard drives of Dominion Voting Systems machines. Those copies later surfaced online and in the hands of election deniers. Local and state state prosecutors, and the FBI, are investigating whether criminal charges are warranted. The events represent an escalation in the attacks on the nation’s voting system, one in which officials who were responsible for election security allegedly took actions that undermined that security.
Colorado – Aurora City Council OKs Changes to Campaign Finance Law After Lawsuit from Mayor
Denver Gazette – Hannah Metzger | Published: 9/29/2021
The Aurora City Council approved changes to its campaign finance law after a court ruled in favor of Mayor Mike Coffman, who sued the city over provisions he claimed violated his freedom of speech. The lawsuit argued the measure, passed by the council in 2020, prohibited former and future candidates from pushing for ballot issues or helping other candidates with their campaigns, which Coffman said was intended to prevent his supporters from mobilizing in support of other candidates.
Colorado – Ex-Colorado GOP Chair Disbarred in Pro-Trump PAC Funds Case
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 9/23/2021
Former Colorado Republican Party Chairperson Ryan Call will be disbarred after acknowledging he took nearly $280,000 from a super PAC supporting former President Trump while Call served as the PAC’s treasurer. Call admitted to entering the Rebuilding America Now PAC into a secret contract to pay himself $5,000 a month for “political strategy and fundraising support” and he misled members of his former law firm about his activities with the committee.
Colorado – Newly Revealed Interactions Added to Redistricting Lobbying Complaint
Colorado Politics – Evan Wyloge | Published: 9/27/2021
A complaint filed against a group of Republican political consultants and lobbyists, accusing them of failing to file proper redistricting lobbying disclosure, grew larger when the complainant added new interactions between the complaint targets and Colorado’s redistricting commissioners. The complaint accused consultant Alan Philp of failing to file lobbying disclosure reports and accused former House speaker and now-lobbyist Frank McNulty and lobbyist Greg Brophy of failing to register and report their interactions with commissioners. All three work for Colorado Neighborhood Coalition, a nonprofit that does not disclose its donors.
Hawaii – Years Before Indictments, Honolulu Permitting Department Was Warned About Corrupt Culture
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 9/29/2021
The Honolulu Ethics Commission investigated the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) several times after it received numerous complaints about a “pay-to-play” culture at the department, records show. Taken as a whole, the records foreshadow the scandal that erupted earlier this year. In March, five current and former DPP employees, along with a local architect, were indicted for bribery schemes going back as far as 2012. The commission told DPP leadership about its concerns several times.
Illinois – Former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz Pleads Guilty to Spending Campaign Funds on Sports, Travel and Other Personal Items
MSN – Madeline Buckley (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/27/2021
Former Chicago Ald. Ricardo Muñoz pleaded guilty to spending cash from a political fund on personal items such as sports tickets, meals, and travel. Muñoz pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. Federal prosecutors alleged Muñoz stole from a PAC formed by the Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus (CPRC), where he served as chairperson and performed the duties of its treasurer. Prosecutors accused him of moving funds from the CPRC into another fund he controlled, Citizens for Muñoz, and then into his personal checking account.
Illinois – Obscenity Ruling? State’s Top Court to Hear Case Seeking to End Pols Using ‘Obscene Amounts’ of Campaign Cash to Pay Lawyers
Chicago Sun-Times – Rachel Hinton | Published: 9/29/2021
The state’s top court plans to rule on the question of whether politicians can dip into their campaign funds to pay for their criminal defense or other legal troubles, a decision that could directly affect the embattled husband of Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Burke. She recused herself from the decision to take the case and from hearing it once it comes before the justices. Her husband, Ald. Edward Burke (14th), has already spent nearly $2 million in campaign contributions on legal fees since federal agents raided his ward headquarters.
Maryland – Baltimore’s Revamped Ethics Board Says It’s Ready to Provide Guidance to City Employees
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 9/28/2021
Baltimore’s long underutilized Board of Ethics began issuing advisory opinions for the first time in three years in 2021 and has seen its web traffic triple, according to the panel’s annual report. The report, which is itself the first annual recap from the board since 2014, details a restructuring of the Board of Ethics since it was moved under the supervision of the Office of the Inspector General, a move that became effective last October. Since then, the board has been staffed by a full-time director and administrative assistant who established an ethics hotline and revamped the city’s ethics training process for city employees and elected officials.
Michigan – Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey Admits He Took Bribes for Help with Towing
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/28/2021
Andre Spivey became the second Detroit City Council member this year to plead guilty to a public corruption charge, admitting he took $35,900 in bribes from an undercover law enforcement agent and a confidential FBI source in exchange for wielding his political influence. Spivey accepted the bribes in exchange for his assistance with a pending vehicle towing ordinance before the council, he said in court. The bribes were paid over the course of eight separate meetings with the confidential FBI source, most of which were recorded.
New Hampshire – NH Supreme Court Asked to Define Governor’s Executive Privilege
MSN – Kevin Landrigan (Manchester Union Leader) | Published: 9/28/2021
Both sides in a legal dispute over open records asked the state’s highest court, for the first time, to spell out when New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu can claim executive privilege to keep documents secret. Activist Louise Spencer sued Sununu’s office over email contacts his staffers had with a national Republican PAC before and after Sununu vetoed a 2019 bill to create an independent redistricting commission. The suit maintained that the governor’s office should not be exempt from the state’s Right-to-Know Law.
New Mexico – Ethics Board Hands Gonzales a Reprimand and $2,000 Fine
Albuquerque Journal – Oliver Uyttebrouck | Published: 9/24/2021
The Albuquerque Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices imposed a $2,000 fine and a public reprimand on Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales, finding his mayoral campaign submitted 16 forged documents in his bid for public financing. The finding punctuates an unsuccessful monthslong quest by Gonzales to obtain more than $600,000 in public campaign financing. That effort foundered on a pair of complaints centered on the five-dollar qualifying contributions that candidates must collect from city voters to qualify for public money.
New York – MTA Bus Boss Covered License Plate to Avoid Tolls, Had $100k in Outstanding Fines: Watchdog
Yahoo News – Clayton Guse (New York Daily News) | Published: 9/27/2021
A New York City Transit superintendent used a plastic license plate cover to dodge tolls for years across New York, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) inspector general said. The superintendent, identified as Aditya Samaroo, bragged to his colleagues he avoided paying tolls on bridges and tunnels by obscuring his license plate. Samaroo also dodged more than $100,000 in outstanding tolls and late fees by regularly swapping out his car’s license plates.
Ohio – Ohio Governor Lobbyist Resigns; Was Linked to Bribery Probe
MSN – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 9/24/2021
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s top lobbyist, a man linked to an ongoing federal bribery probe but never charged, resigned after three years on the job. Legislative Director Dan McCarthy cited “the pace and grind” of the job. Federal prosecutors charged five individuals with orchestrating a $60 million bribery scheme to assure the 2019 passage of a bill bailing out two nuclear power plants. The power plants were operated at the time by a wholly owned subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. McCarthy is a former FirstEnergy lobbyist who was president of one of the “dark money” groups that has been implicated in the alleged bribery scheme.
Pennsylvania – A Leading Addiction Recovery Reformer in Philly Was on the Payroll of a Rehab Center Now Charged with Crimes
MSN – Jeremy Roebuck and Aubrey Wilson (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 9/27/2021
Fred Way has spent the last decade working to improve addiction recovery houses in Philadelphia. But for much of that time, he was on the payroll of a rehabilitation facility now accused of encouraging their worst abuses. He has advised lawmakers on state policy, and the recovery-house certification program created by his nonprofit, the Pennsylvania Alliance of Recovery Residences, serves as the only benchmark for judging the quality of housing in Philadelphia for people in early recovery, and for determining which of those homes will receive coveted city funds. In a state grand jury report this summer, Wray acknowledged taking money from a drug rehab facility under criminal investigation.
South Dakota – As Daughter Sought State License, Noem Summoned Agency Head
Yahoo News – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 9/27/2021
Days after a South Dakota agency moved to deny her daughter’s application to become a certified real estate appraiser, Gov. Kristi Noem summoned to her office the state employee who ran the agency, the woman’s direct supervisor, and the state labor secretary. Noem’s daughter also attended. Kassidy Peters ultimately obtained the certification in November 2020, four months after the meeting at her mother’s office. A week after that, the labor secretary called the agency head, Sherry Bren, to demand her retirement, according to an age discrimination complaint. Bren left her job after the state paid her $200,000 to withdraw the complaint.
Texas – Dallas Needs More Oversight and Stronger Ethics Rules, Review Finds
Dallas Morning News – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 9/27/2021
Dallas needs a department solely dedicated to investigating misconduct complaints to ensure they are properly handled, according to a report calling for ethics reforms. The city should create an Office of Inspector General and appoint a licensed attorney role who would find, investigate. and issue rulings on cases of alleged fraud, waste, abuse, campaign finance violations and other ethics misconduct, the report said. The move would replace the current process, where complaints are funneled through different channels and not independently investigated.
Texas – ”Home Cooking’ Concerns Revealed in Corruption Prosecutions Outside Texas Capital
KXAN – David Barer and Josh Hinkle | Published: 9/20/2021
The Public Integrity Unit housed in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office was dismantled in 2015, following allegations it was politicizing prosecutions. Texas lawmakers aimed to reform the system by moving state public corruption investigations to the Department of Public Safety’s Texas Rangers and prosecuting accused officials in their home counties rather than Travis County. Six years later, a media investigation found prosecutions of statewide public officials for corruption are nearly non-existent. Since 2015, the Rangers investigated a handful of state-level elected leaders, but few faced charges.
Texas – Texas Appears to Be Paying a Secretive Republican Political Operative $120,000 Annually to Work Behind the Scenes on Redistricting
MSN – Alexa Ura (Texas Tribune) | Published: 9/29/2021
A Republican redistricting operative whose clandestine work helped drag Wisconsin into a legal morass last decade appears to now be on the payroll of the Texas Legislature as lawmakers work to redraw maps that will determine the distribution of political power for years to come. The operative, Adam Foltz, was part of the team that helped craft Wisconsin’s legislative maps after Republicans took control of that state Legislature in 2010. Foltz played a key role in a tight-lipped and questionable redrawing process that shut out Democrats and drew the condemnation of federal judges who described it as “needlessly secret,” according to court records.
Washington – Weekly WA Newspaper Fined $15,000 for Selling Election Coverage
Crosscut – Melissa Santos | Published: 9/28/2021
The Tacoma Weekly agreed to pay a $15,000 fine for telling candidates last year they could buy a news story, and even the newspaper’s editorial endorsement, as part of a $2,500 advertising package. Accepting money in exchange for story placement or positive coverage goes against journalistic standards of ethics. But beyond that, it also violates Washington state law, which forbids news outlets from soliciting money in exchange for “an endorsement, article, or other communication in the news media promoting or opposing a candidate.”
September 24, 2021 •
National/Federal A Republican Fundraising Vendor Wants More Small-Dollar Contributors to Replace Vanishing PAC Money Campaigns and Elections – Staff | Published: 9/22/2021 A large Republican fundraising vendor is pushing its clients to reorient their strategies around small-dollar contributors as PAC donations […]
A Republican Fundraising Vendor Wants More Small-Dollar Contributors to Replace Vanishing PAC Money
Campaigns and Elections – Staff | Published: 9/22/2021
A large Republican fundraising vendor is pushing its clients to reorient their strategies around small-dollar contributors as PAC donations have dried up in the wake of the January 6 insurrection and a move away from Washington, D.C. lobbying by corporations and trade associations. Fundraising Inc., a vendor that is under the Axiom Strategies corporate umbrella, announced it has “revamped the traditional PAC-focused GOP fundraising model” to an “updated approach … to better compete with Democrats for small-dollar donations.”
Dark News: The murky world of undercover EU lobbying
Politico – Mark Scott | Published: 9/16/2021
EU Reporter is not alone in offering companies and governments a paid-for platform to promote their views to European Union officials. Other Brussels-based outlets publish clearly labeled sponsored content from advertisers seeking to influence decision-makers. But EU Reporter presents its coverage as straight news, with rarely an indication that a company or government paid for the articles. In addition to undisclosed paid-for content, the site posts EU and corporate press releases, opinion articles from European lawmakers, and original material, making it impossible for readers to determine who is behind the coverage.
Democrats Begin Effort to Curb Post-Trump Presidential Powers
Yahoo Finance – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 9/21/2021
House Democrats introduced a package of proposed new limits on executive power on, beginning a post-Trump push to strengthen checks on the presidency that they hope will compare to the overhauls that followed the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War. Democrats have spent months negotiating with the Biden White House to refine a broad set of proposals that amount to a point-by-point rebuke of the ways Donald Trump shattered norms over the course of his presidency. The Democrats have compiled numerous bills into a package they call the Protecting Our Democracy Act.
Durham Prosecution Faces Hurdles in D.C. Court
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 9/17/2021
For Special Counsel John Durham, obtaining an indictment of lawyer Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI during its investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia may turn out to be the easy part. Getting a Washington jury to convict Sussmann could be far harder, judging by a case with significant parallels: the 2019 prosecution of former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig.
Huge Hack Reveals Embarrassing Details of Who’s Behind Proud Boys and Other Far-Right Websites
MSN – Drew Harwell, Craig Timberg, and Hannah Allam (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2021
Epik has been the favorite Internet company of the far right, providing domain services to QAnon theorists, Proud Boys, and other instigators of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, allowing them to broadcast hateful messages from behind a veil of anonymity. But that veil vanished when a breach by the hacker group Anonymous dumped more than 150 gigabytes of previously private data – including usernames, passwords, and other identifying information of Epik’s customers. Researchers have treated the leak as a Rosetta Stone to the far right, helping them to decode who has been doing what with whom over several years.
‘It’s Spreading’: Phony election fraud conspiracies infect midterms
MSN – David Siders and Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 9/20/2021
Donald Trump may have started the “Big Lie” movement, but what was once the province of an aggrieved former president has spread far beyond him, infecting elections at every level with vague, unspecified claims that future races are already rigged. It is a fiction that is poised to factor heavily in the midterm elections and in 2024, providing Republican candidates with a rallying cry for the rank-and-file and priming the electorate for future challenges to races the GOP may lose.
Jan. 6 Investigation Accelerates as It Turns Toward Trump
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 9/22/2021
Six members of the U.S. House panel investigating the Capitol attack made clear they are prepared to fly past any obstacles they encounter, mindful of Trump’s past success at stymieing congressional investigators. The calendar makes their job tougher: panel members know they need to show results quickly as the midterms bear down, given Democrats’ thin majority. The potential hurdles are many, from high-powered lawyers representing the former president’s inner circle to the tech companies sitting on potential witnesses’ communications. But they are already getting results from some corners.
Lauren Boebert Paid Rent and Utilities with Campaign Funds, FEC Filings Show
Denver Post – Conrad Swanson | Published: 9/22/2021
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert paid rent and utility bills with campaign funds in violation of federal campaign finance laws, new filings with the FEC show. The filings also indicate Boebert reimbursed her campaign for the $6,650 worth of payments. Each of the four payments in question (two for $2,000 each and another two for $1,325 each) were amended to show payments for the same amount, description, and on the same days to John Pacheco, whose address is the same as Shooters Grill in Rifle, which Boebert owns. Pacheco’s relationship to Boebert was not immediately clear.
Lawmakers Launch Investigation into Climate Crisis Disinformation by Fossil Fuel Industry
MSN – Ella Nilsen (CNN) | Published: 9/16/2021
The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced it is launching an investigation into fossil fuel industry disinformation on the climate crisis. The committee invited the heads of six oil companies and major lobbying groups to testify in October. The announcement comes after reports the industry participated in campaigns aimed at creating confusion about the cause of the climate crisis, or sowing skepticism in the science.
Outside Ethics Group Says 7 House Lawmakers Didn’t Disclose Stock Trades
National Public Radio – Deidre Walsh | Published: 9/22/2021
The Campaign Legal Center filed ethics complaints against seven U.S. House members for failing to report stock trades. It is the latest example of a bipartisan trend that has emerged almost 10 years after Congress overwhelmingly passed a law to provide transparency and show lawmakers are not profiting from their jobs: Members of Congress are ignoring the disclosure law. What makes the complaints filed Wednesday different is that it appears these members never filed reports at all.
Powell Orders Ethics Review After Fed Presidents Disclosed Multimillion-Dollar Investments
CNBC – Thomas Franck | Published: 9/16/2021
Federal Reserve Chairperson Jerome Powell directed staff to review the central bank’s ethics rules for appropriate financial activities after disclosures that several senior officials made multiple multimillion-dollar stock trades in 2020, while others held significant investments. News of Powell’s inquiry broke after U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent 12 letters to the Fed’s regional bank presidents demanding stricter ethics from the nation’s top central bank officials. She called on each Fed president to institute a ban on the ownership and trading of individual stocks by senior officials at each regional office.
Roger Stone Served ‘a Big, Big Stack of Papers’ from Capitol Riot Lawsuit During Radio Interview
Seattle Times – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 9/16/2021
As he was asked in a phone interview whether former President Trump would run in 2024, Roger Stone paused to answer the front door. Stone, a longtime confidant to the former president, apologized to the St. Louis radio show, but he had a good reason: he was being served with papers related to the lawsuit filed by seven U.S. Capitol Police officers against him, Trump, far-right “violent extremist groups,” and others accused of being responsible for the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The FEC Unanimously Rejected Matt Gaetz’s Complaint Against Twitter Over an Alleged 2018 ‘Shadow Ban’
Yahoo News – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/17/2021
The FEC unanimously rejected a complaint by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz against Twitter that alleged the company violated campaign finance regulations by “shadow-banning” Gaetz in 2018, limiting the visibility of his account on the website’s search results. Twitter said Gaetz was caught up in an automated process by the company to improve discourse on Twitter because his account was “associated with other accounts that already had high indicia of misuse or abuse.”
Threats Against Members of Congress Are Skyrocketing. It’s Changing the Job.
Yahoo News – Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/20/2021
In a year that kicked off with the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, threats against lawmakers are soaring. In the first three months of 2021, the Capitol Police recorded 4,135 threats against members of Congress. If that pace continues, total threats this year will double those in 2020. It is changing the job for lawmakers, who must tread a fine line between being accessible to those they represent and keeping themselves, their families, and their staffs safe. After January 6, some members temporarily relocated their families over concerns their homes would be targeted. Some wore bulletproof vests to the presidential inauguration.
Trump Campaign Knew Lawyers’ Voting Machine Claims Were Baseless, Memo Shows
Yahoo News – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 9/21/2021
A team of lawyers allied with Donald Trump held a news conference after the 2020 election and laid out a conspiracy theory claiming a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros, and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Trump. But by the time the news conference occurred on November 19, Trump’s campaign had already prepared an internal memo on many of the outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, and the separate software company, Smartmatic, according to court documents The memo determined those allegations were untrue.
Trump Just Sued the New York Times and His Niece. If History Is a Guide, He Probably Won’t Win.
MSN – Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2021
Donald Trump has once again sued a news organization alleging its reporting was unfair to him. If history is any guide, this one is also likely to generate a flurry of attention before quietly stalling out. Trump’s latest lawsuit is aimed at the New York Times and his niece, Mary Trump. It centers on the newspaper’s publication in 2018 of a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of Trump’s alleged tax-avoidance tactics and the history of his family inheritance.
Two GOP Operatives Indicted for Allegedly Routing Money from Russian National to Support Trump Campaign
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/20/2021
President Trump after being convicted in a 2012 campaign finance scheme is facing new charges related to an alleged 2016 plot to illegally funnel donations made by a Russian national to support then-candidate Trump’s White House bid. Jesse Benton, who was previously a top aide to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and later ran a pro-Trump super PAC, and Roy Wead, a conservative author and former special assistant to President George H.W. Bush, were charged in the case.
Canada – Trudeau’s Party Wins Canada Vote but Fails to Get Majority
MSN – Rob Gilles (Associated Press) | Published: 9/21/2021
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party secured victory in parliamentary elections but failed to get the majority in a vote that focused on the coronavirus pandemic, but many Canadians saw as unnecessary. Trudeau entered the election leading a stable minority government that was not under threat of being toppled but was hoping Canadians would reward him with a majority for navigating the pandemic better than many other leaders. Still, Trudeau struggled to justify why he called the election early given the virus, and the opposition accused him of holding the vote two years before the deadline for his own ambition.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Candidates Will Not Be Able to Fundraise During the Special Session
Alabama Reporter – Brandon Moseley | Published: 9/23/2021
Alabama legislators will convene for a special session on September 27. This means state lawmakers, candidates for the Legislature, and statewide officeholders and candidates for statewide office will not be able to accept campaign contributions. The secretary of state’s office said any contribution postmarked prior to the blackout and received after the blackout may be accepted.
Alaska – Protect Juneau’s Future Shared Who Paid for Its Campaign, but No Laws Require It
KTOO – Jeremy Hsieh | Published: 9/21/2021
A deadline passed for local candidates and issues groups all over the state to disclose their campaign finances ahead of local elections on October 5. But the public probably will never know exactly who paid how much for the campaign that helped quash a ballot initiative to limit cruise ships in Juneau. That is because campaign finance disclosure laws would not apply in this case until after it cleared the signature-gathering stage.
California – Kern County Under Investigation After Denying Group COVID Contract Over Support for Defunding Police
Yahoo News – Sam Morgen (Bakersfield Californian) | Published: 9/22/2021
Kern County may end up paying for a decision by the board of supervisors to withhold a $1.2 million coronavirus contract from a nonprofit group that had voiced support for defunding police. The nonprofits were selected because of their community ties. The Kern County Public Health Department said the groups would be a more trusted resource to communities at the greatest risk than county officials. Building Healthy Communities said in Facebook posts funding for the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern High School District Police Department should be diverted to other causes. That was enough for supervisors to withhold approval of a contract to the organization even though preparation and hiring had already taken place.
Florida – A Local Government Candidate Claimed to Be the City’s ‘Most High-Profile Hispanic Democrat.’ She’s Not Hispanic.
MSN – Jaclyn Peiser (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2021
Speaking before a group of Democratic leaders in Florida’s Miami-Dade County on Zoom, Miami Beach City Commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez made her pitch as to why the party should endorse her. She called herself “the most high-profile Hispanic Democrat in the city of Miami Beach.” Not endorsing her, she continued, “would be upsetting and confusing” for constituents. But Rosen Gonzalez is not Hispanic.
Florida – Anti-Mask FL GOP Bookkeeper Dies of COVID – Leaving Party Without Access to Finance Software
MSN – Brett Bachnman (Salon) | Published: 9/19/2021
After spending months railing against COVID-19 precautions, a Republican Party official in Florida passed away recently, leaving his county-level GOP organization without access to critical financial accounts. Gregg Prentice served as accountant for the Hillsborough County GOP and chaired the organization’s committee for election integrity, and was responsible for filing its monthly reports to the FEC. A filing claims Prentice died without sharing login information for these accounts, or any sort of instructions for how to use them.
Florida – Senate Redistricting Chair Vows to Redeem Process as He Plans to Limit Public’s Input
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/20/2021
The Florida Senate announced new rules that put limits on the input the chamber gets from average citizens, political consultants, and lobbyists. The Senate will require more disclosure from anyone who attempts to address legislators in a public meeting by requiring them to submit a disclosure form that indicates if they are a lobbyist or getting their expenses paid. Legislators will be required to retain all records of communications they get about maps. The goal is to prevent lawmakers from using political consultants to illegally influence redistricting as they did 10 years ago, when the courts invalidated the legislatively drawn Senate maps.
Florida – Tallahassee Ethics Board Proposing Stronger Lobbying Ordinances, Expanded Role
MSN – Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 9/17/2021
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board wants to strengthen policies governing lobbyists as the glare of a federal corruption probe and investigative reporters have illuminated paid work and deal-making done behind the scenes on projects and policies. The board is recommending two ordinances and one change to the city charter that requires a ballot amendment in language sent to the city commission. The ethics panel has been working for months to add more teeth to its role in regulating lobbying in the city.
Georgia – Fulton Board Gets New Chair as Georgia Reviews Its Elections
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 9/16/2021
Commissioners in Fulton County picked former Atlanta City Council President to lead their election board as a state panel reviews how elections are conducted in Georgia’s most populous county. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican facing a primary challenge next year, objected to what he called a “blatantly political appointment” because Woolard had registered earlier this year as a lobbyist for Fair Fight Action, a group started by Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who narrowly lost the race for governor in 2018.
Illinois – Sources Say Chicago Ald. Jim Gardiner Allegedly Tried to Pay Campaign Worker with Tax Dollars
WBEZ – Mariah Woelfel | Published: 9/19/2021
Chicago Ald. Jim Gardiner allegedly tried to use taxpayer funds to pay an employee for work they did on his 2020 campaign for ward committeeman, sources said. It is the latest allegation to unfold as Gardiner is facing inquiries by multiple agencies, including the FBI, and possible censure by his city council colleagues for crude texts he wrote about constituents and colleagues, as well as allegedly withholding city services from critics.
Indiana – Longest Serving State Senator Forced Out of His Seat in Redistricting Process: ‘This is a classic example of gerrymandering.’
Chicago Daily Herald – Alexandra Kukulka (Post-Tribune) | Published: 9/22/2021
Frank Mrvan, the longest serving member of the Indiana Senate, has been effectively forced out of his seat after the redrawing of Senate maps would require him to move or run against a colleague. “This is a classic example of gerrymandering,” said Lake County Democratic Party Chairperson James Wieser. “It’s disrespectful to a public official that’s given his heart and soul, as has his whole family, to our party for 50 years plus.”
Massachusetts – Ex-Mayor, Elected at Age 23, Gets 6 Years in Corruption Case
Yahoo News – Alanna Durkin Richer (Associated Press) | Published: 9/21/2021
Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana businesses that wanted to operate in his city. The judge handed down his punishment after tossing several convictions stemming from allegations that Correia swindled investors who backed a smartphone app he created. “If we can’t trust each other, if we can’t trust our government, where are we?” U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock asked.
Michigan – Facing Tight Timeline, Voter-Led Michigan Redistricting Commission on Steep Learning Curve
MSN – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/20/2021
Michigan’s first-ever citizen redistricting commission is finding itself on a steep learning curve as members race against the clock to draw new maps ahead of the 2022 election, crunching a monthslong process into a matter of weeks following an unprecedented delay in census data. The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission blew past a deadline in the state constitution for proposing the new districts. But with four weeks of mapping under its belt, the commissioners, who have never drawn political districts before, have raised concerns the group might not get the job done in the time it has allotted for itself.
Missouri – Lawmakers Renting from Lobbyists Less Often in Jefferson City
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 9/16/2021
Lobbyists are no longer leasing housing to Missouri lawmakers in Jefferson City, with one exception. State Rep. Adam Schwadron is the only legislator renting from a registered lobbyist, according to disclosures filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Leases between lobbyists and state officials have drawn scrutiny in the past and have been less common in recent years: between 2016 and 2018, lobbyists reported renting to a dozen lawmakers and state officials.
Montana – Montana Doesn’t Always Draw a Straight Line from Groups to Their Lobbying
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson (Lee Newspapers State Bureau) | Published: 9/19/2021
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan acknowledged the state does not have a perfect system for connecting principals to the on-the-ground lobbying efforts they are paying for. Along with the inability to track reported lobbying expenses in a centralized database, there were a number of groups that paid lobbyists during the 2021 session without saying what legislation they were lobbying for or against, or that funneled lobbying expenses through other groups. In other instances, the flow of dollars from groups or corporations through multiple lobbying firms further obscured the money’s source.
New Mexico – Grand Jury Indicts Ex-Lawmaker in Alleged Kickback Scheme
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 9/20/2021
Former New Mexico Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton was indicted by a grand jury on charges of racketeering, money laundering, fraud, and ethics violations in connection with an alleged kickback scheme. She was fired in August by the Albuquerque public school system from her position in vocational education amid administrative and criminal probes into her ties to a private contractor for the state’s largest school district.
New York – Aides of Former Gov. Cuomo on Hook for New Legal Bills
MSN – Marina Villeneuve (Associated Press) | Published: 9/23/2021
New York state has stopped paying legal bills for state employees who worked for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he faced ongoing investigations on the state and federal level. The state stopped paying for those aides’ legal bills after September 2. The Hochul administration is now deciding whether there is a legal basis for the state to pay bills for legal services on or before September 2. The administration did not specify how many staffers had legal bills paid for by the state.
New York – State Inspector General Resigns Amid Controversy
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/17/2021
New York Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro, a longtime aide to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, resigned from her post as the executive branch’s top internal-affairs watchdog. Tagliafierro’s departure comes less than a month after Cuomo’s resignation and two weeks after the Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted to ask state Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the conduct of the inspector general’s office in its probe of an illegal leak of confidential information from the ethics commission to Cuomo in January 2019.
North Carolina – North Carolina Judges Strike Down State’s Voter ID Law
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 9/17/2021
North Carolina judges struck down the state’s latest photo voter identification law, agreeing with minority voters that Republicans approved rules tainted by racial bias to remain in power. Two of the three trial judges declared the December 2018 law is unconstitutional, even though it was designed to implement a photo voter ID mandate added to the North Carolina Constitution in a referendum just weeks earlier. They said the law intentionally discriminates against Black voters, violating their equal protections.
Pennsylvania – New Equity Report Required of Lobbyists & Lobbying Firms in Pennsylvania
JD Supra – Staff | Published: 9/22/2021
Starting this year, Pennsylvania is requiring all registered lobbyists and lobbying firms to file an Annual Equity Report. The report must disclose how much equity, as a percentage, the lobbyist or firm holds or has held in an affiliate principal, and for whom the lobbyist or firm lobbied during the reporting period. The report must be filed even if the lobbyist or firm has no equity to report.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Legislators Promised #MeToo Reforms Inside Capitol. So Far, Few Changes Have Become Law
LancasterOnline.com – Lindsay Weber (Allentown Morning Call) | Published: 9/22/2021
Three years after a handful of sexual harassment and assault cases plagued the state Capitol and prompted calls for reform, little has changed in how Pennsylvania’s political leaders handle new accusations. Legislation inspired by the #MeToo movement designed to hold accountable those involved in sexual misconduct and those who cover it up would have created independent, streamlined ways for staffers and others to report complaints. But those proposals have gone nowhere. Bills that would have banned nondisclosure agreements and prevented the use of taxpayer money for settlements have met the same fate.
Rhode Island – Former State Official to Pay Fine to Settle Ethics Complaint
Bowling Green Daily News – Associated Press | Published: 9/21/2021
A former state official in Rhode Island will pay a $4,500 fine to settle an ethics complaint over his solicitation of campaign donations from state vendors for a mayoral run. Brett Smiley, who is running for Providence mayor, resigned as director of the Rhode Island Department of Administration early this year. The agency oversees hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of state contracting and spending. Smiley admitted that six separate solicitations from an owner or officer of a company that does business with the state violated the code of ethics.
Rhode Island – RI Donor-Disclosure Laws Upheld Again; Conservative Group Says It Will Appeal to High Court
MSN – Patrick Anderson (Providence Journal) | Published: 9/16/2021
A federal appeals court upheld Rhode Island’s campaign-spending disclosure laws against a constitutional challenge by a coalition of conservative groups. Those groups say they intend to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. A three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals on said the law that makes top donors identify themselves in certain election advertising does not infringe on those donors’ free-speech rights.
September 17, 2021 •
National/Federal Delta Variant Postpones K Street’s Full Return MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 9/14/2021 On the cusp of Memorial Day back in May, most lobbyists were gearing up for a more normal return to their in-person work life, […]
Delta Variant Postpones K Street’s Full Return
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 9/14/2021
On the cusp of Memorial Day back in May, most lobbyists were gearing up for a more normal return to their in-person work life, as they began to reemerge for meetings on Capitol Hill and sessions with clients and colleagues. The rise of the delta variant, however, has prompted most firms to postpone requirements for employees to return to the office, and many K Street denizens said most of their advocacy activities and team meetings remain virtual.
Election Fraud Cases Sow Doubts About Legal Profession’s Future
Bloomberg Law – Melissa Heelan | Published: 9/14/2021
Attorneys behind dismissed cases over alleged fraud in the 2020 presidential election have been cited for violating professional standards requiring candor in the courtroom and barring the filing of lawsuits not backed up by fact or law. Charles Geyh, a legal ethics professor at Indiana University, said courts rose to the occasion, but the discipline might not be enough to stop lawyers from being involved in similar challenges in the future. No one’s been disbarred yet despite calls from some for severe discipline. Sanctions range from a temporary license suspension for Rudy Giuliani to judicial dressing downs and orders to pay court costs.
FEC Finds Twitter Didn’t Break Law by Blocking Spread of Hunter Biden Story
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher and Kate Conger | Published: 9/13/2021
The FEC ruled Twitter did not break election laws when it blocked users from sharing links to a New York Post story about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. The FEC said Twitter’s actions in blocking the spread of the article were made with valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, making them legal, a decision that is likely to set a precedent for future cases involving social media sites and federal campaigns. The FEC used the same reasoning to side with Snapchat and reject a complaint from the Trump campaign. The campaign argued the company provided an improper gift to Biden by rejecting Trump from its Discover platform.
Fed’s Kaplan, Rosengren to Sell All Stocks Amid Ethics Concerns
MSN – Catarina Saraiva and Craig Torres (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/10/2021
The presidents of the Federal Reserve banks of Boston and Dallas said they are selling their individual stock holdings by September 30, in moves aimed at appeasing ethical concerns over their trading activity last year. Boston Fed chief Eric Rosengren and the Dallas Fed’s Robert Kaplan released near-identical statements after their most recent financial disclosure documents showed active trading in a range of investments during a year in which the central bank took sweeping policy actions to protect the U.S. economy from Covid-19. They both said they would invest the proceeds of their sales in diversified index funds or hold them in cash.
Former Chancellor Philip Hammond Cleared of Breaking Rules After His Lobbying of Treasury Was Ruled Only ‘Incidental’
Yahoo News – Henry Dyer (Business Insider) | Published: 9/10/2021
Lord Philip Hammond, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, was cleared of breaking lobbying rules when he contacted a senior Treasury official on behalf of a bank he was working for. Former ministers are generally barred from trying to influence the government on behalf of clients. But Hammond’s activity was deemed acceptable by an independent regulator on the grounds it was “incidental.” Critics said the ruling highlights flaws in the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act, passed in 2014.
Giuliani Associate Igor Fruman Pleads Guilty in Campaign-Finance Case
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2021
A Soviet-born businessperson who assisted Rudolph Giuliani in his Ukrainian political efforts on behalf of former President Trump pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, as others charged in the case prepare to stand trial. Igor Fruman, who was arrested with co-defendant Lev Parnas at Dulles International Airport in 2019, entered a guilty plea to one count of soliciting foreign campaign contributions.
GOP Online Donation Platform Tweaks Fees, Sending Millions More to Midterm Campaigns
Yahoo News – Isaac Isenstadt (Politico) | Published: 9/16/2021
Republicans are making a small change to their online fundraising program that could have a big impact on the party’s finances heading into the 2022 midterm election. WinRed, the GOP’s principal small-dollar donation processor, is lowering the fees it charges candidates and committees for each contribution they receive through the platform. The shift, which follows months of behind-the-scenes deliberations involving the party’s senior officials, could result in millions of dollars more being funneled into campaign coffers next year.
GOP Senate Candidates Backed Legal Challenges to the 2020 Election
MSN – Bridget Bowman (Roll Call) | Published: 9/15/2021
At least nine Republican U.S. Senate candidates have a political résumé with a contentious item: filing or actively supporting one of the failed lawsuits that furthered former President Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rife with fraud. Since many GOP candidates support Trump’s claims, participating in lawsuits could help some stand out in crowded Republican primaries, where they need to win over Trump supporters who say voter fraud played a role in President Biden’s win. Some Democrats think focusing on the 2020 election could be a liability for Republicans in the midterms with voters who rejected Trump’s divisive rhetoric or his unfounded concerns about the validity of the last election.
McCarthy Asks Supreme Court to Overturn House Proxy Voting Rules Adopted as Pandemic Precaution and Used by Nearly 100 Republicans
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 9/10/2021
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review and overturn the House’s proxy voting rules, which were adopted last year to allow lawmakers to cast votes remotely as a pandemic precaution. McCarthy criticized proxy voting as a “power grab” and “a raw abuse of power” by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who along with many Democrats pushed for the historic rule change at the beginning of the pandemic.
Revised Democratic Voting Bill Drops Controversial Provisions, Tweaks Others as Pressure for Action Mounts
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 9/14/2021
A group of Democratic senators, including key centrist Joe Manchin III, introduced a pared-down voting rights, campaign finance, and government ethics bill in hopes of building momentum for its passage through a closely divided Senate. The new Freedom to Vote Act retains significant portions of the For the People Act, Democrats’ marquee voting legislation that passed the House this year but was blocked by a Senate filibuster. Tt also discards significant pieces and tweaks others, largely to placate Manchin and indulge his hopes of building enough Republican support to pass the bill.
Struggle for Control of Afghanistan Comes to K Street
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 9/15/2021
A leading figure in the Afghan resistance has retained a lobbyist to seek military and financial support in the U.S. for a fight against the Taliban. Ahmad Massoud, the leader of one of the most prominent groups of fighters seeking to oust the Taliban from power, signed the contract with Robert Stryk, who built a lobbying practice during the Trump administration working with clients that others on K Street were wary of representing. The contract, which indicates the work will be pro bono, comes as an array of Afghan constituencies are seeking lobbying help as they jockey for recognition in Washington and the international community.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – GOP Lawmaker Who Refused to Follow Mask Mandate While Flying Says She Can’t Get to the Alaskan Capital
MSN – Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2021
An Alaska lawmaker requested an excusal from the state Senate until mid-January, citing the challenges of traveling to Juneau from Anchorage after she was suspended from flying on Alaska Airlines earlier this year. Sen. Lora Reinbold requested the excusal through January 15. She said she was unaware of any other airline flying to the state capital during that period. The airline banned her indefinitely in the spring after she clashed with staffers over the airline mask mandate issued by federal transportation officials.
Arkansas – Dentist Guilty of Conspiring to Bribe Former Arkansas Lawmaker Hutchinson
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Ron Wood | Published: 9/14/2021
Benjamin Burris, an orthodontist who operated clinics across Arkansas, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of bribing former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson to pass laws to benefit Burris’s businesses. Burris paid Hutchinson $157,500 between February 2014 and November 2016. Hutchinson, then a practicing lawyer, was paid monthly retainers that nominally were for legal services. But he was also expected to introduce and lobby for laws or regulatory changes Burris wanted, the indictment said.
California – Newsom Soundly Defeats California Recall Attempt
MSN – Phil Willon, Taryn Luna, and Julia Wick (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/14/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom survived a historic recall election, winning a major vote of confidence during a COVID-19 pandemic that has tested his ability to lead the state through the largest worldwide health crisis in modern times. The recall offered Republicans their best chance in more than a decade to take the helm of the largest state. But the effort was undercut when Newsom and the nation’s leading Democrats, aided by visits to California by President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, portrayed the campaign to oust the governor as a “life and death” battle against “Trumpism” and far-right anti-vaccine activists.
California – Recology Agrees to Pay $36 Million for Role in Bribes to City Official
MSN – Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 9/10/2021
Three waste management companies that are part of Recology Inc. agreed to pay $36 million for their role in a corruption scheme that included kickbacks to former San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. The resolution comes as federal prosecutors announced a charge of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud against the three subsidiaries, which officials said conspired to bribe Nuru for favorable treatment with the trash company’s city contracts. In his former role, Nuru had considerable sway in the rate-setting process with Recology.
Colorado – Unregistered Redistricting Lobbying Complaint to Receive Full Investigation After Colorado Secretary of State Approves Probe
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 9/15/2021
An investigation into whether a secretly funded nonprofit organization has been illegally lobbying Colorado’s redistricting commissioners will move forward after the secretary of state found enough evidence to warrant a full probe. The decision to further investigate Colorado Neighborhood Coalition, the 501c4 nonprofit organization run by longtime Republican operatives at the center of the complaint, could have broad implications for the transparency now required around the redistricting process, and comes after several efforts to influence the redistricting commissions without full transparency have emerged.
Florida – Florida Official Sentence to 5 Years in Corruption Case
MSN – Brendan Farrington (Associated Press) | Published: 9/9/2021
A federal judge sentenced former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges related to public corruption. Maddox’s business associate, Paige Carte-Smith, was sentenced to two years for her role. Prosecutors said Maddox would send clients to Carter-Smith’s lobbying firm after he returned to the city commission in 2012, and she would then pay Maddox for his influence. Maddox was first elected to the commission in 1990 and later served as the Tallahassee mayor until 2003.
Florida – Tallahassee City Commissioner Calls for Ethics Reforms Following Maddox Trial
WFSU – Valerie Crowder | Published: 9/10/2021
A former Tallahassee commissioner’s public corruption trial has sparked calls for ethics reform. Former Commissioner Scott Maddox was sentenced to five years in federal prison for orchestrating a bribery scheme through his lobbying firm. City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow is proposing six policy recommendations aimed at making it harder for public officials to abuse their power. They include requiring all city officials to detail any meetings related to city business they have with paid lobbyists and report contact logs with anyone paid to influence policy.
Hawaii – What Civil Beat’s Salary Database Tells Us About the Embattled Auditor’s Office
Honolulu Civil Beat – Richard Wiens | Published: 9/12/2021
When the Honolulu Civil Beat published the salaries and job titles of more than 48,000 state workers, they included the payrolls of two agencies whose directors have made a lot of headlines lately: the state auditor’s office and the Hawaii Ethics Commission. Auditor Les Kondo has been under fire from a working group that found his office was producing inadequate performance audits. Ethics Commission Director Dan Gluck generated controversy after he was nominated to become a judge on the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals. The salary database shows how the offices led by Kondo and Gluck have evolved over the last decade.
Idaho – Former Idaho Legislator Faces Arrest Warrant on Two Felony Charges – Including Rape
Idaho Statesman – Hayat Norimine | Published: 9/10/2021
The former Idaho legislator who resigned earlier this year after a House ethics committee hearing now faces two felony charges, including one for rape. An arrest warrant has been issued for former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, who stepped down after a 19-year-old legislative intern’s accusation of sexual assault. Von Ehlinger has denied any wrongdoing, saying his actions with the intern were consensual. He resigned just hours after the ethics panel recommended expelling him from his seat, following a finding he engaged in “conduct unbecoming.”
Illinois – Chicago Sky Owner Michael Alter Fined by City Ethics Board for Seeking Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Help on Gambling License Without Registering as a Lobbyist
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/15/2021
Michael Alter, owner of the Chicago Sky basketball team in the WNBA, was fined $5,000 for lobbying Mayor Lori Lightfoot without registering. Alter emailed first lady Amy Eshleman in December to ask for the mayor’s help obtaining a gambling license for his team. In the email, Alter noted he previously discussed the issue with Lightfoot. Lobbyists are required to register with the city and report contact with city departments. Alter has not registered as a lobbyist in Chicago dating back to 2013.
Illinois – Ethics Bill Clears Illinois House on Second Try, Will Head Back to Governor
Journal Gazette and Times-Courier – Peter Hancock (Capitol News Illinois) | Published: 9/9/2021
The Illinois House voted to accept changes to an ethics bill that Gov. J.B. Pritzker requested, paving the way for it to become law once the governor signs it. Senate Bill 539 cleared both chambers during the spring session. It contained enough reforms, such as increased financial disclosure requirements and limits on the ability of elected officials to lobby other units of government, so many lawmakers believed it was the best they could get at the time. But a few weeks after it passed, Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope submitted her intent to resign, saying the bill would weaken her office by limiting the types of investigations she could conduct.
Illinois – Ethics Board Finds Probable Cause Ald. Gardiner Violated Ethics Ordinance Twice
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 9/15/2021
The Chicago Board of Ethics found there is probable cause to believe Ald. Jim Gardiner violated the city’s ethics ordinance by using his office to retaliate against his political foes. Gardiner will have a chance to challenge the board’s determination, which could result in fines ranging between $200 to $5,000 per violation. The finding adds to the beleaguered alderman’s woes. It was reported that Gardiner is under federal investigation for allegedly accepting bribes and demanding payments before taking official actions.
Kentucky – Woman Pleads Guilty to Lying About Boss’s Lexington Council Campaign Donation Scheme
MSN – Jeremy Chisenhall (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 9/15/2021
Elizabeth Stormbringer pleaded guilty to perjury and lying to the FBI in a scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws in a Lexington City Council race. Officials at the time were investigating potential campaign finance crimes committed by her boss at a real estate development company. She also admitted to lying under oath while she testified before the grand jury. Investigators discovered she made a $1,000 donation to a council candidate in 2018 and then received a $1,000 check from her boss, Timothy Wellman. He was an executive at CRM Companies who had a development project the council considered.
Louisiana – Former State Parks Employee Fined for Violating Ethics Laws
KATC – Staff | Published: 9/13/2021
The Louisiana Board of Ethics fined a former parks employee $26,000 after finding he accepted payments from production companies filming in his park in violation of state law. Arthur Schick worked for an agency within the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. The board found he received a total of $13,000 in compensation from various film production companies between 2015 and 2017. When a production company signs an agreement to use a park, they pay a damage fee to cover any costs incurred by their work. The board said Schick was adding on a “site rep” fee, and he was depositing that in his own bank account.
Maryland – Maryland Elections Officials Ask Michael Steele to Prove He’s Following Campaign Law
MSN – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/14/2021
Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor who is contemplating a run for governor, must disclose information about his exploratory campaign to show he is not violating campaign finance laws. The Maryland State Board of Elections sent a letter to Steele requesting the details by October 11. It came in response to a complaint that Steele was improperly using a federal account to raise and spend money for a future state campaign in Maryland.
Massachusetts – Campaign Finance Reform Pitched as Way to Diversify Candidate Pool
WWLP – Chris Lisinski (State House News Service) | Published: 9/15/2021
Lawmakers are again pushing to add childcare to the list of allowable campaign finance expenses in Massachusetts, buoyed by a legislative commission’s endorsement of the change last year, a growing list of more than a dozen states that have already deployed similar reforms, and the possibility that a new top campaign finance regulator will embrace the proposal. A bill before the Election Laws Committee would explicitly allow candidates to use their campaign accounts to cover childcare costs while the parent is occupied with running for office.
Massachusetts – Former Top House Democrat Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Fraud
WWLP – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 9/15/2021
A federal judge sentenced former Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle to 15 months after Nangle pleaded guilty earlier this year to illegally using campaign funds to fund a lifestyle that included golf club memberships and casino trips to Connecticut and lying to banks about his debt to obtain mortgages and other loans. Prosecutors said during the period covered by their investigation, Nangle was heavily in debt and gambling at various casinos, using campaign funds to rent cars to travel to casinos and even paying someone at Mohegan Sun to collect his winnings so he did not have to pay income taxes.
Massachusetts – Wu and Essaibi George Will Advance as Top Candidates in Historic Race for Boston Mayor
MSN – Emma Platoff (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/15/2021
Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George, two daughters of immigrants and longtime Boston City Council members who have struck dramatically different tones on the campaign trail to become the city’s next mayor, are advancing to November’s general election. Either would be the first woman of color Boston has ever elected mayor, a historic shift. But the contest between them will nonetheless test the city’s appetite for change.
Michigan – FBI Seized Towing Docs, Electronics and Records for Benson Aide During Detroit City Hall Raid
Detroit News – Robert Snell and Sarah Rahal | Published: 9/14/2021
FBI agents investigating Detroit City Hall corruption seized electronics, towing paperwork, shredded documents, and payroll records for Emberly Vick, an aide of Detroit City Councilperson Scott Benson, during a recent raid. The document confirms media reports that said the corruption investigation was focused on Detroit towing operations in what amounts to the broadest public corruption probe in the eight years since former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of racketeering conspiracy. Vick has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
New Jersey – Activist Assails ELEC for Deleting Dismissed Campaign Finance Complaints from Its Website
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 9/14/2021
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) has for years quietly been disposing complaints against politicians it dismissed by deleting them from its website. Now, after an activist whose tips to the commission led to multicount complaints against two Democrats noticed those complaints were dismissed with no public justification and little public disclosure, ELEC said it is taking that policy “under advisement.”
New Mexico – Gonzales Shifts Course, Turns to Private Donors
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 9/14/2021
Hours after losing another round in his prolonged legal fight for public campaign financing, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said he will try a new tack in the 2021 mayor’s race in Albuquerque. Gonzales said he would turn to private donors for support, forgoing his quest to get taxpayer money for his campaign. The decision concludes his monthslong battle over $600,000 in public campaign cash. Gonzales’ battle sustained a blow when a state judge ruled City Clerk Ethan Watson had taken the appropriate actions necessary to deny Gonzales the taxpayer money and rejected Gonzales’ claims that Watson was biased.
New York – Hochul Leaves Door Open to Probe of Cuomo Campaign Spending
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 9/9/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is leaving the door open for a potential investigation into how former Gov. Andrew Cuomo is spending roughly $18 million of campaign cash after he resigned from office in the wake of an investigation that found he sexually harassed multiple women. The response comes as watchdogs are calling for the state Board of Election chief enforcement officer Michael Johnson to investigate Cuomo’s spending from his campaign account. Common Cause filed a formal complaint with the Board of Elections.
New York – James Says JCOPE Leak Referral Was Improper
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg and Joshua Solomon | Published: 9/14/2021
New York Attorney General Letitia James informed the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) that her office will not presently be able to investigate the leak of confidential information to then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019. JCOPE had passed a motion seeking to make a criminal referral to James’ office, which asked for an investigation into the apparent leak. In her letter, James cited the state law creating JCOPE, which created much-criticized special voting rules that can serve to protect politicians from scrutiny.
North Carolina – NC Lawmakers Turn to Funding Once Ruled Unethical. Are Their $14,000 Salaries the Cause?
MSN – Lucille Sherman (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 9/13/2021
Last fall, North Carolina lawmakers repealed a rule that barred lawmakers from collecting state money to cover food, lodging, and travel while working at the General Assembly and simultaneously using campaign accounts to pay for the same housing, meals, and travel in Raleigh, a practice that a campaign watchdog has described as “double dipping.” The move protected at least two lawmakers who had continued to use campaign funds for housing while collecting the state per diem stipends for food and lodging, between May and October last year. This year, about a dozen lawmakers have used both sources of funding.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania GOP Lawmakers Approve Wide-Ranging Subpoenas for Personal Information of 2020 Voters
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2021
Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania authorized a series of broad subpoenas for personal information on voters as part of an expanding effort to review the results of the 2020 election. The move drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats, who described the effort as insecure and unwarranted, said they would consider mounting a court fight. Among other requests, Republicans are seeking the names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses, and methods of voting for millions of people who cast ballots in the May primary and the November general election.
Tennessee – Tennessee Valley Authority Accused of Funding ‘Dirty Energy Lobbyists’
Courthouse News Service – Rosana Hughes | Published: 9/9/2021
In a federal lawsuit, a coalition of environmental conservation groups are seeking to force the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to address a petition to regulate the agency’s spending, alleging the public utility funds “dirty energy lobbyists” with customer money. The coalition sifted through the TVA’s financial and other public records and counted hundreds of third-party organizations, such as the Edison Electric Institute, that receive TVA dollars. Those organizations, the conservationists say, “routinely make political donations, engage in legislative lobbying, … and pursue other forms of political advocacy that promote fossil fuel interests ….”
Texas – Austin ISD Stands by Hire of Ex-State Official Who Resigned Amid Ethics Allegations
MSN – Nicole Foy (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 9/10/2021
Austin Independent School District leaders say they are standing behind the decision to hire as general counsel a former state government official who resigned in 2017 amid allegations of ethics violations. The district hired Stuart Bowen, a lawyer and former Texas Health and Human Services inspector general, as its general counsel in August. Bowen in 2017 was forced to resign his position as the state’s top insurance fraud investigator after allegations arose that he was also working for a lobbying firm that represents the Iraqi government.
Texas – Texas Governor Signs Bill Prohibiting Social Media Giants from Blocking Users Based on Viewpoint
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2021
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that would prohibit large technology companies from blocking or restricting people or their posts based on their viewpoint, setting the stage for a legal battle with the tech industry. The law applies to social media companies with more than 50 million monthly active users in the U.S., including Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube, and requires them to create reports on any illegal or potentially policy-violating content, as well as build a complaint system, where people could challenge companies’ decisions to remove content or flag illegal activity.
Virginia – Campaign Funds Can Be Used for Child Care, Virginia AG Says
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 9/10/2021
Attorney General Mark Herring said candidates in Virginia can use campaign funds to pay campaign-related child-care expenses, an opinion that puts the state in alignment with federal election rules but has little immediate impact due to Virginia’s anything-goes campaign finance system. Proponents of the child-care exemption say it gives parents of young children, particularly women, more freedom to run for office without worrying about a hit to their family budget.
Wisconsin – How Wisconsin Is Ruled by a Shadow Governor
Yahoo News – Daniel Vock (Politico) | Published: 9/15/2021
For nearly three years, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has used his GOP majority, and the support of the Republicans who control the state Senate, to block, thwart, or resist almost every significant move made by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Governors asserted unprecedented powers in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and lawmakers in many states chafed at the broad executive reach. But few have done more to constrain gubernatorial power than Vos, the president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
September 10, 2021 •
National/Federal A Pro-Trump Group Organizing a DC Rally for Jan. 6 Defendants Lost Its Tax-Exempt Status – but Is Still Claiming Donations Are Tax-Deductible Yahoo News – Charles Davis (Business Insider) | Published: 9/8/2021 A group founded by a former Trump […]
A Pro-Trump Group Organizing a DC Rally for Jan. 6 Defendants Lost Its Tax-Exempt Status – but Is Still Claiming Donations Are Tax-Deductible
Yahoo News – Charles Davis (Business Insider) | Published: 9/8/2021
A group founded by a former Trump campaign staffer that is organizing a rally on behalf of January 6 defendants is soliciting “tax-deductible” contributions despite losing its tax-exempt status last year. According to its website, Look Ahead America is a “non-profit organization” founded by Matt Braynard, a former data analyst on the 2016 Trump campaign. Although ostensibly non-partisan, it has clear and avowed sympathies, On September 18, it is organizing what it calls a “#JusticeForJ6” rally at the U.S. Capitol, conflating those arrested for taking part in the pro-Trump January 6 riot with “political prisoners.”
Corporate Boards, Consulting, Speaking Fees: How U.S. generals thrived after Afghanistan
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/4/2021
The failure of the American mission in Afghanistan became deadly apparent when the Afghan army collapsed as the Taliban took control. But the generals who led the mission – including McChrystal, who sought and supervised the 2009 American troop surge – have thrived in the private sector since leaving the war. They have amassed influence within businesses, at universities, and in think tanks, in some cases selling their experience in a conflict that killed an estimated 176,000 people, cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion, and concluded with the restoration of Taliban rule.
Encryption Poised to Hamper Jan. 6 Investigators’ Phone Records Push
Yahoo News – Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 9/8/2021
The congressional panel investigating the January 6 insurrection escalated its inquiry, sending dozens of requests to social media and telecommunications companies asking them to hold onto individuals’ communications data related to attempts to overturn the 2020 election and the Capitol siege. Several of the companies that received preservation requests said they would comply to the best of their ability. But the encryption used on many of those services will limit the amount of data the select committee is able to gather if it does make a formal request or issue a subpoena for the actual messages, experts say.
Ethics Panel Announces Four Investigations
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 9/7/2021
The U.S. House ethics committee announced it is investigating four members: Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.), and Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.). The cases were investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which concluded that in each case there was a substantial reason to believe a violation occurred. The OCE is a fact-finding office and, unlike the ethics committee, cannot discipline members or issue subpoenas.
Fears of Critical Race Theory Unleash Army of School Board Candidates
Yahoo News – Daniel Payne (Politico) | Published: 9/8/2021
Tapping into the trickle-up anger over teaching about systemic racism is now a unifying force in campaigns for Congress, governor, and among Republicans with presidential ambitions. But it is the local school board races – outside the spotlight, in elections that attract just a few hundred voters – that may define what students learn for years to come. The movement has the potential to build a stronger GOP as once-uninvolved conservative candidates flood local government and party races, seeking a platform to fight critical race theory and other culture war issues. While such elections are often nonpartisan, the Republican Party sees an opportunity to build a pipeline of new candidates.
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Fined $2,500 for Failing to Wear Mask on House Floor
MSN – Chelsey Cox (USA Today) | Published: 9/9/2021
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was fined for flouting a mask mandate on the floor of the House. The fine is part of an ongoing battle over COVID-19 restrictions as the delta variant surges, with many conservatives, including members of Congress, stridently resisting masks and other measures. Notice of the fine was posted by the House ethics committee when Greene did not submit an appeal within an approved time frame. Greene was fined for the same offense on May 20 and her initial appeal was not approved by the committee.
Human Rights Campaign President Fired After Helping to Advise Cuomo
MSN – Brian Pietsch and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 9/7/2021
The president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group, was fired over his involvement advising former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s response to sexual assault allegations. State Attorney General Letitia James found David, a onetime lawyer in the governor’s office, had been consulted by Cuomo’s staff on a letter the governor helped draft to undermine the harassment allegations of Lindsey Boylan, Cuomo’s first accuser. While leading the HRC, David suggested changes to the never-released Boylan letter, which was later leaked to reporters.
New Texas Voting Bill Deepens Growing Disparities in How Americans Can Cast Their Ballots
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2021
Red and blue states are increasingly moving in opposite directions on how millions of Americans can cast their ballots, exacerbating a growing divide as Republicans in states across the country, most recently Texas, impose new voting restrictions, while Democrats in others expand access. The conflicting trends are widening the disparities in election policy in the wake of the 2020 election, with Republicans heeding former President Trump’s calls to tighten rules and Democrats moving to make permanent many voting policies that helped turnout soar during the pandemic.
Proponents of Post-Trump Curbs on Executive Power Prepare New Push
Yahoo News – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 9/9/2021
As Donald Trump’s norm-busting presidency careened through two impeachments, his departure set the stage for lawmakers to impose new limits on executive power like the period after Watergate and the Vietnam War. But nearly nine months after Trump left the White House, the legal rules that govern the presidency have yet to be tightened. Would-be reformers, sensing the window for change might close soon, are preparing a major push, one the Biden White House is eyeing warily.
Trump-Appointed Ambassador Directed Government Business to His Hotel, Emails Show
MSN – Amy Wang and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 9/3/2021
Kelly Craft, who was appointed to two ambassadorships under former President Trump, directed government business to Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C. while in office, emails show. It was not the first time Craft showed an affinity for the hotel owned by Trump’s company. According to the emails, Craft stayed at the Trump International Hotel multiple times while in Washington.
White House Asks Several Trump Appointees to Resign from Military Service Academy Boards
MSN – Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2021
The White House said it asked a number of Trump administration appointees to resign their positions on the advisory boards at military service academies, arguing the move was about qualifications, not politics. Among the 11 officials are former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and former White House Press Secretary Sean Spice. Asked whether the White House was concerned the move might risk politicizing positions that have traditionally been nonpartisan roles spanning administrations, Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that the president’s primary concern was an appointee’s qualifications and values.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Supreme Court Confirms an End to 2 Limits on Cash in Political Campaigns
Yahoo News – James Brooks (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 9/3/2021
In a pair of rulings, the Alaska Supreme Court confirmed that two state limits on spending during political campaigns are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The justices said the state cannot limit political contributions to third-party groups because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. The other ruling confirms a summary order issued that overturned a one dollar-per-signature limit on payments to those who gather signatures for ballot measures.
Arizona – Trump Helped Bankroll Senate Audit, Texts Suggest
Arizona Capitol Times – Dillon Rosenblatt and Kyra Haas | Published: 8/31/2021
Former President Trump may have offered to help pay for Arizona election audit that supporters hope will reverse his election loss, according to records. In an April text exchange with audit spokesperson Randy Pullen, Trump campaign official and former Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit offered to send $175,000 to the Guardian Defense Fund, a “dark-money” group run by Rep. Mark Finchem, where Pullen serves as treasurer. It is unclear if Trump’s money eventually made it to the audit. The Senate’s contractor, Cyber Ninjas, announced it raised more than $5.6 million from five different nonprofit organizations, but did not share the original donors.
California – Bell City Manager, Ex-State Senator, Developer Charged in Corruption Case
Yahoo News – Richard Winston (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/3/2021
Prosecutors said four men have been charged in connection with the embezzlement and misappropriation of millions of dollars in public funds that were supposed to be used to study whether a solar farm was suitable on land to be purchased by the City of Industry. Paul Philips, the former manager of the City of Industry, former state Sen. Frank Hill, attorney Anthony Bouza, and William Barkett, the developer of the solar project, were charged. The City of Industry advanced $20 million to Barkett’s company to build a 450-megawatt solar project. But it never broke ground, and the money was never paid back. Though some of the allocated money was paid to other vendors, Barkett is accused of spending about $8.3 million on personal items.
California – Favors Aren’t Bribes, Say Ex-LA Councilman’s Attorneys
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – Fred Shuster (City News Service) | Published: 9/8/2021
Attorneys for Jose Huizar filed papers arguing the bribery case against the ex-Los Angeles City Councill member should be tossed because the alleged conduct does not violate laws cited in the 41-count federal racketeering indictment. Huizar, the central figure in a six-year probe of suspected corruption at City Hall, and his associates were allegedly involved in a $1.5 million “pay-to-play” scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for cash and campaign donations in exchange for help getting building projects through the city’s approval process.
California – Fears Rise Over Disinformation in California’s Recall Election
MSN – Reid Wilson (The Hill) | Published: 9/8/2021
Conspiracy theorists who once spread baseless allegations and disinformation about the results of the 2020 elections have turned their attention to the recall election targeting California Gov. Gavin Newsome in an effort that watchdogs say is meant to further undermine faith in the nation’s electoral system. But less than a year after technology giants came under pressure to monitor and squelch disinformation related to last year’s elections, groups dedicated to fighting conspiracy theories say the companies are letting bad actors run free.
Illinois – Republicans Upend Democratic Efforts to Show They’re Serious About Ethics Reform in Springfield
MSN – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/3/2021
In a move that appeared to catch majority Democrats by surprise, Illinois House Republicans rejected an ethics proposal tweaked by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and are using the resignation of the General Assembly’s top watchdog to push for what they argue are more meaningful anti-corruption measures. The ethics package, crafted in response to an ongoing federal corruption probe that has swept from Chicago City Hall to Springfield, now faces long odds of becoming law and Democrats who control state government risk losing a chance to show they are taking steps to root out corruption.
Maine – Portland Councilor, a Plaintiff in Lawsuit Against the City, Won’t Recuse Herself from Dispute
Portland Press Herald – Randy Billings | Published: 9/3/2021
Portland City Councilor April Fournier said she will not recuse herself from discussions about a lawsuit that clean-elections advocates filed against the city, even though she is named as a plaintiff in the case. The issue emerged as the council considered how to respond to a court’s request for formal “findings of fact” to explain why it rejected a petition to place a public campaign financing proposal on the ballot in 2019. The council decided such a change to the city’s charter would require a lengthy review process before it could go to voters. Fournier, who was not a councilor at the time, was one of 13 residents to sign on with Fair Elections Portland as plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging that decision.
Massachusetts – Former Mayor Jasiel Correia Could Owe Over $566,000 in His Fraud and Extortion Case
Herald News – Dan Medeiros | Published: 9/8/2021
The federal government has finished totaling up his tab, and they want former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia to repay $566,740 he illegally obtained from investors in his smartphone app and extorted from people looking to open marijuana businesses in Fall River. In May, Correia was found guilty of 21 counts of wire fraud, tax fraud, extortion, and conspiracy conducted both before and during his tenure as mayor.
Michigan – FBI Contacted Wayne County Campaign Finance Office Amid Raids on Detroit City Hall
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/8/2021
The FBI contacted the Wayne County clerk’s campaign finance office around the time federal agents searched Detroit City Hall in August as part of an ongoing public corruption investigation. While the exact timing and nature of the FBI’s contact is unclear, investigators’ interest in the county clerk’s office could be a new wrinkle in the corruption investigation of several sitting city council members.
Michigan – Pro-Trump Lawyers Face $200,000 Legal Bill for ‘Frivolous’ Election Case
Yahoo News – Jan Wolfe (Reuters) | Published: 9/8/2021
Michigan officials demanded that lawyers who unsuccessfully sued to overturn former President Trump’s election defeat in the state pay about $200,000 to reimburse for legal fees and related costs. U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker has ruled state and local election officials in Michigan were entitled to reimbursement of their legal fees but has not yet determined the exact amount. The judge will now review the request to determine if it is reasonable.
Michigan – Time’s Up in Ex-Romulus Mayor Probe Despite New Evidence
PressReader.com – George Hunter (Detroit News) | Published: 9/4/2021
Michigan State Police recently received new evidence in connection with an 11-year-old corruption investigation that, according to public records, focused on former Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert, but the probe was not reopened because the statute of limitations on possible criminal charges expired. Lambert, who served as mayor from 2001 to 2013 and is seeking to regain the position in November, has never been charged with a crime. The probe focused on allegations Lambert forced business owners to pay for political favors and purchase tickets to fundraisers, as well as questions about a money trail involving a Florida real estate transaction.
Montana – How a Small Town Silenced a Neo-Nazi Hate Campaign
Yahoo News – Elizabeth Williamson (New York Times) | Published: 9/5/2021
Richard Spencer once boasted he stood at the vanguard of a white nationalist movement emboldened by Donald Trump. But leaders in Whitefish, Montana, say Spencer, who once ran his National Policy Institute from his mother’s summer house in the town, is now an outcast. His organization has dissolved, and he is facing trial in over his role in the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville. Residents of Whitefish, who joined with state officials, human rights groups, and synagogues, say their bipartisan counteroffensive could hold lessons for others in an era of disinformation and intimidation, and in the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot.
Montana – Native Transgender Lobbyist Sues Conservative News Website for Libel
Missoula Current – Darrell Ehrlick (Montana Standard) | Published: 9/7/2021
Adrian Jawort, a transgender lobbyist for Montana Native Voice, is suing the Montana Daily Gazette for claiming she cornered a state senator and Montana Family Foundation President Jeff Laszloffy, who escorted the senator to the sergeant-at-arms for his protection. Jawort denied the allegations and asked the newspaper to remove the written account of the alleged incident and correct the reporting. The Daily Gazette refused to do so. Jawort filed a lawsuit, claiming the publication damaged her ability to do her job and asked for $250,000 in damages.
New Mexico – Gonzales Denied Public Campaign Funding for the Second Time
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 9/2/2021
For the second time in about two months, the Albuquerque city clerk rejected Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ application for about $600,000 in public money to run his mayoral campaign. Ethan Watson – whose initial denial on July 9 sparked a series of appeals, hearings, and court filings, wrote he would not certify Gonzales for the money because Gonzales violated city code and related regulations while trying to qualify for the funds. The sheriff’s campaign manager said Watson is biased.
New York – A Deputy Mayor in New York Had a Stash of Weapons and Fake FBI Badges with His Name and Photo on Them, Feds Say
MSN – Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2021
When authorities executing a search warrant descended into the basement of Brian Downey’s home, they discovered more than a dozen firearms displayed on a black wall, federal agents said. As officers continued searching the home of the deputy mayor of Airmont, New York, they found a sawed-off shotgun in a closet and an illegally modified short-barrel rifle. They also discovered fake badges that bore Downey’s name from various agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, and the FBI.
New York – After Cuomo Scandals, NY Lawmakers Tout Need for Recall Option
Press-Republican – Joe Mahoney (CNHI News Service) | Published: 9/8/2021
Up until a month ago, New York and California were both states with governors in deep political hot water. But with Andrew Cuomo having resigned on his own as New York’s chief executive, a major difference in how the two states can deal with issues relating to competency in public office is now in focus: Californians have the power to recall leaders at the ballot box, while New Yorkers do not. Some New York lawmakers are desirous of changing the status quo, proposing what could be a heavy lift at the statehouse.
New York – Ethics Agency Subpoenaed in Investigation of Cuomo’s Book
Alton Telegraph – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 9/8/2021
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office issued a subpoena to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics for its records on former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book chronicling his administration’s early response to the coronavirus pandemic. The subpoena was issued in connection with a criminal investigation that the attorney general is conducting into whether Cuomo’s use of government workers to assist him in writing the book violated any laws. It signals the investigation into Cuomo’s and his staff’s potential misuse of government resources for private gain is entering a phase beyond interviews and gathering publicly available records.
New York – Ex-Cuomo Aide, Founding SUNY Poly President See Convictions Upheld in Appeals Court
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Larry Neumeister (Associated Press) | Published: 9/8/2021
The conviction of one of ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aides, Joseph Percoco, for fraud and accepting bribes was affirmed by a federal appeals court, as was the separate conviction of founding SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros. The appeals court also upheld the conviction of Steven Aiello, a real estate executive who was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in funneling bribes to Percoco to gain his influence in an ambitious Buffalo Billion development project aimed at encouraging economic development upstate.
New York – Facebook Mum on Staffer Who May Have Broken Law Advising Cuomo on Sex Harass Claims
New York Post – Theo Wayt | Published: 9/8/2021
Facebook communications manager Dani Lever was part of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “inner circle” of confidantes who helped plan the then-governor’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct. She joined Facebook in August 2020 after having worked in the governor’s press office since 2014. Legal experts say Lever’s role advising Cuomo likely put Facebook in violation of New York state’s lobbying law. The law bans registered lobbyists from giving gifts worth more than $15 to public officials and Facebook has been a registered lobbyist in New York state since at least 2019.
New York – Trump Tower’s Key Tenants Have Fallen Behind on Rent and Moved out. But Trump Has One Reliable Customer: His own PAC.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/3/2021
As Trump Tower dealt with imploding tenants, political backlash, and a broader, pandemic-related slump in Manhattan office leasing since last year, it has been able to count on one reliable, high-paying tenant: former President Trump’s own political operation. Starting in March, one of his committees, Make America Great Again PSC, paid $37,541.67 per month to rent office space on the 15th floor of Trump Tower, a space previously rented by his campaign. A person familiar with Trump’s PAC said its staffers do not regularly use the office space. Also, for several months, Trump’s PAC paid the Trump Organization $3,000 per month to rent a retail kiosk in the tower’s lobby, even though the lobby was closed.
North Carolina – Cooper Vetoes Restrictions on NC Nonprofit Donor Disclosure
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 9/4/2021
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed legislation that would prohibit the public disclosure of donors to North Carolina-based nonprofits, calling the measure unneeded. Republicans who sent the bill to his desk said the restrictions would protect the free-speech and free-association rights of donors. Other bill supporters say the identifying information could be used by those who wish to harass donors for their viewpoints on social issues.
North Carolina – NC Elections Board Fines Political Campaigns Combined $330K for Late or Missing Finance Reports
WCNC – Nate Morabido | Published: 9/7/2021
Some of the most recognizable campaigns in North Carolina failed to meet deadlines to disclose who donated to their cause and how they spent that money. Hundreds of those campaigns now owe hefty fines as a result. Records show the State Board of Elections already assessed a combined $330,000 in penalties to campaigns this year alone for filing their 2020 routine campaign finance paperwork late or failing to file those reports altogether.
Ohio – FBI Suspected Dayton Mayor Whaley of Bribery in 2014, Court Documents Show
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 9/8/2021
The FBI suspected Dayton Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley in 2014 of accepting cash bribes from a city contractor, according to search warrant applications. Whaley was not charged with any crime. The warrants detail sworn statements from FBI agents to a federal judge outlining their suspicion of impropriety. In both instances, federal magistrates found probable cause to grant the warrants. In the documents, agents told the judge a controller for demolition company Steve Rauch Inc., which pleaded guilty last year to a charge of conspiracy to engage in mail fraud regarding subcontracting work, said in recorded phone calls with another company official that Whaley accepted cash bribes from Rauch on multiple occasions.
Ohio – Most Cleveland Mayoral Candidates Won’t Disavow ‘Dark Money’ Spending
MSN – Seth Richardson (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/8/2021
Outside money has taken hold in the Cleveland mayoral race. Its prevalence has intensified as early voting continues for the September 14 primary with what appears to be a competitive race between seven candidates to succeed retiring Mayor Frank Jackson. Many of the groups are independent expenditure committees, meaning they can raise and spend an unlimited amount of money. The committees will eventually have to disclose their donors, though there are ways of complicating those disclosures to shield donors’ identities. Only two candidate said they outright disavowed any outside spending.
Pennsylvania – ‘Unfortunate but Necessary’: Anthony Hamlet to resign as Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Andrew Goldstein | Published: 9/8/2021
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, who has faced increasing criticism in recent weeks, said he will resign effective in October. Hamlet has come under fire after the state Ethics Commission found he improperly received travel reimbursements, accepted payments for appearances related to his job, and incorrectly filed financial documents. He has defended his actions, arguing the report showed he was negligent but had no willful intent of wrongdoing. Robert Caruso, executive director of the Ethics Commission, noted Hamlet’s conduct over several years was “an egregious violation of the public trust.”
Rhode Island – Governor’s Former Chief of Staff Faces Fine Over Unregistered Construction Company
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/3/2021
Days after resigning as chief of staff to Gov. Dan McKee, Anthony Silva has been slapped with a $1,000 fine by the state’s Department of Business Regulation (DBR) for building a home on land in Cumberland without the required contractor registration. The DBR’s investigation was one of three into Silva’s activities during the time he was chief of staff, first in the lieutenant governor’s office ant then in the governor’s office.
South Carolina – SC Ethics Whistleblowers Are Bound by Gag Orders. A Lawsuit Will Challenge That.
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks | Published: 8/31/2021
In South Carolina, whistleblowers who want to file an ethics complaint against a public official are first sworn to secrecy. They cannot talk about their allegations until the State Ethics Commission has investigated the complaint and decided what to do. Breaking the seal of secrecy is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in prison. Observers have long suspected the rules violate free-speech protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. But now, a Columbia attorney is mounting a legal challenge to strike down the. gag orders for good.
Washington – Employees Who Blew Whistle on Seattle Mayor’s Missing Texts File Lawsuit Against the City
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb and Daniel Beekman | Published: 9/3/2021
The city employees who blew the whistle about Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s missing text messages sued the city, alleging they were “constructively discharged” from their jobs in retaliation for their refusal to break the public records law. In May, a Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission investigation report revealed Durkan’s texts from late August 2019 to late June 2020 had not been retained. Several high-profile lawsuits that have been filed against the city focus on decisions the mayor and other officials made in June 2020, during racial-justice protests and unrest on Capitol Hill.
Wisconsin – US Senate Candidate from Wisconsin Charged with Campaign Finance Violations
Courthouse News Service – Joe Kelly | Published: 9/7/2021
Milwaukee Ald. Chantia Lewis, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat, was charged with felony campaign finance violations and other financial misconduct. A criminal complaint alleges Lewis filed false campaign finance reports with inaccurate information on her campaign account balances, contributions. and disbursements, deposited campaign donations to her personal bank accounts, structured a campaign contribution as to avoid limit requirements, and used campaign funds for personal expenses. An embezzlement charge carries the highest penalty, which includes up to a $25,000 fine and a maximum of 10 years in prison, or both.
September 3, 2021 •
National/Federal Are Censures of Politicians a Form of Free Speech or a Threat to It? New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 8/30/2021 Censures, which are formal reprimands and a kind of punishment, seem to be on the rise in […]
Are Censures of Politicians a Form of Free Speech or a Threat to It?
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 8/30/2021
Censures, which are formal reprimands and a kind of punishment, seem to be on the rise in these divisive times. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments this fall on whether the First Amendment has anything to say about when elected bodies can impose them on their members. The justices will have to decide whether censures condemning politicians’ statements are a threat to free speech that chills expression or a form of free speech responding to one set of views with another.
As Washington Stews, State Legislatures Increasingly Shape American Politics
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 8/29/2021
With the release of the 2020 census, the drawing of legislative districts that could in large part determine control of Congress for the next decade heads to the nation’s state Legislatures, the heart of Republican political power. Increasingly, state Legislatures, especially in 30 GOP-controlled states, have seized an outsize role for themselves, pressing conservative agendas on voting, Covid-19, and the culture wars that are amplifying partisan splits and shaping policy well beyond their own borders.
Capitol Riot Defendants’ Lawyer Apparently Hospitalized with Covid Leaves Clients Without Counsel, Prosecutors Say
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2021
An attorney who represents the largest number of defendants charged in the January 6 Capitol riots has dropped out of sight amid conflicting statements by associates over whether he has been hospitalized with covid-19, U.S. prosecutors told judges. Prosecutors said John Pierce has been incommunicado for the past seven days, leaving 17 clients effectively without defense counsel. The filings put a spotlight on Pierce, whose rhetoric has attracted Trump supporters facing criminal charges and whose business and legal tactics have drawn questions over whether his political or financial interests are affecting his representation of clients.
Corporate America Launches Massive Lobbying Blitz to Kill Key Parts of Democrats’ $3.5 Trillion Economic Plan
MSN – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2021
A torrent of political groups representing some of the country’s most influential corporations is laying the groundwork for a massive lobbying campaign to stop Congress from enacting significant swaths of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic agenda. The emerging opposition appears to be vast, spanning drug manufacturers, big banks, tech titans, major retailers, and oil-and-gas giants. In recent weeks, top Washington organizations representing these and other industries have started strategizing behind the scenes, seeking to battle back key elements in Democrats proposed overhaul to federal health care, education, and safety net programs.
DOJ Issues Warning to States Ahead of Redistricting
MSN – Rebecca Beitsch (Roll Call) | Published: 9/1/2021
The Department of Justice issued a warning to states ahead of a year of congressional mapmaking that it will pursue cases against jurisdictions seeking to dilute the voting power of various minorities. The latest guidance signals an administration prepared to take a more aggressive approach in battling gerrymandering. The department said it would be ready to go after any jurisdiction that does not meet the “one person, one vote” principle.
Ex-UK Chancellor Philip Hammond Rapped by Lobbying Watchdog
Politico.eu – Matei Rosca and Matt Honeycombe-Foster | Published: 9/1/2021
Former British Chancellor Philip Hammond was scolded by Westminster’s lobbying watchdog for contacting high-ranking Treasury civil servants on behalf of his new employer, OakNorth, a London-based lender. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) said Hammond’s attempt to pitch OakNorth services to officials, even on a non-profit basis as far as the bank was concerned, was inappropriate. Hammond accused ACOBA of trying to prove its own relevance and challenged it to point to a specific breach of the rules governing jobs for ex-ministers.
G.O.P. Election Reviews Create a New Kind of Security Threat
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 9/1/2021
As Republican state and county officials and their allies mount efforts to discredit the result of the 2020 contest, there has been a wave of GOP-driven reviews of the vote count conducted by uncredentialed and partisan companies or people. These reviews have given rise to their own new set of threats to the integrity of the voting machines, software, and other equipment that make up the nation’s election infrastructure. Election officials and security experts say previously unknown technical vulnerabilities could be discovered by partisan malefactors and exploited in future elections.
Jan. 6 Investigators Demand Records from Social Media Companies
Yahoo News – Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 8/27/2021
The select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection is seeking records from social media companies, on whose platforms many defendants charged in the Capitol attack planned and coordinated their actions. The panel is asking all the companies to explain whether their algorithms helped spread misinformation and account for what they did to address or remove content or posts that might have spread falsehoods about the riot. It also requests information on the companies’ communications with law enforcement regarding January 6 and the election, as well as on their reporting practices.
January 6 Committee to Ask Telecommunications Companies to Preserve Phone Records of Members of Congress Who Participated in ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally
CNN – Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen, Annie Grayer, and Whitney Wild | Published: 8/30/2021
The House select committee investigating the January 6 riot is set to request that a group of telecommunications companies preserve the phone records of a group of Republican members of Congress and former President Trump, as well as members of the Trump family, who played some role in the “Stop the Steal” rally that served as the prelude to the insurrection at the Capitol. According to the sources, this group was targeted because the committee concluded each of these lawmakers played some role in the rally. They either attended, spoke, actively planned, or encouraged people to attend.
Lauren Boebert Removes Name from Business Filings Tied to Oil and Gas Consulting Firm Run by Her Husband
Colorado Sun – Thy Vo | Published: 9/1/2021
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert removed her name from business paperwork linked to the oil and gas consulting firm run by her husband after drawing scrutiny for nearly $1 million in payments it received from Terra Energy, a drilling company operating in her district. The changes, made after media reports of her ties to Boebert Consulting, distance Rep. Boebert from the two companies, which are registered to the couple’s home. But it is not clear what ownership or stake, if any, Lauren Boebert has in either company.
Seven Capitol Police Officers Sue Trump, Right-Wing Groups Over Injuries from Jan. 6 Riot
MSN – Paul Duggan and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2021
Seven U.S. Capitol Police officers sued former President Trump and more than a dozen alleged participants in the January 6 riot at the Capitol, saying the defendants are responsible for the officers being “violently assaulted, spat on, tear-gassed, bear-sprayed, subjected to racial slurs and epithets, and put in fear for their lives.” The lawsuit alleges Trump, by falsely claiming the presidential election was rigged, incited a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol to stop Congress from confirming President Biden’s victory.
Tommy Tuberville’s Stock Trades During Infrastructure Talks Raise Questions About Conflicts of Interest
Center for Responsive Politics – Isaiah Poritz | Published: 9/1/2021
In July, while the Senate was in the final weeks of negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure bill, U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville bought and sold between $170,000 and $475,000 in stock and options of a mining and steel manufacturing company that said it could benefit greatly from the infrastructure plan. While Tuberville ultimately voted against the bill and his spokesperson said he was not involved in negotiations, the optics of trading stock in a company that could benefit from pending legislation can be harmful, ethics experts say.
Canada – How Interested Outsiders Use ‘Third Party’ Status to Promote Causes, Influence Election
CBC – Christian Pass-Lang | Published: 8/30/2021
With an election underway, parties are officially on the hunt for the votes of Canadians, crisscrossing the country and campaigning right up to the September 20 election. To fund all that travel, advertising, and election gear, parties will be spending a lot of money. But political parties and candidates will not be the only groups spending big in the election campaign. “Third parties: are also in the mix and will be hoping to shape the political conversation and get their issue prioritized.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ASU and UA Offer Lawmakers Free Tickets to Football Games; the Public Can’t Know Who Accepts Them
Infoshri.com – Alison Steinbach (Arizona Republic) | Published: 8/27/2021
The return of college football carries a perk for all members of the Legislature: free admission to every game at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. It is part of the universities’ efforts to engage with lawmakers, build relationships, and set issues for the upcoming legislative session, university officials say. But those who monitor money and politics say the public deserves more information about the practice. Under state lobbying laws, the free tickets qualify as “special events,” not gifts. That means as long as all 90 members of the Legislature are invited, the schools do not have to report who accepted their offer.
Arizona – FBI Examining $100M Tax Refund Push by Gov. Ducey Staffers after Arizona Republic Investigation
MSN – Craig Harris (Arizona Republic) | Published: 9/1/2021
An investigation by the Arizona Republic uncovered how Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration pushed the Department of Revenue to agree to refund sales taxes on fuel for mining companies, even though that tax had been in place for decades. The companies that stood to benefit were represented by the tax firm Ryan LLC, founded by Ducey supporter G. Brint Ryan. The top three deputies in Ducey’s administration left their government jobs to work for Ryan to push for the tax refund. The FBI’s Public Corruption unit is now investigating the matter.
Colorado – Conservative Dark-Money Group Battles to Keep Its Donors Secret
Durango Herald – Sandra Fish (Colorado Sun) | Published: 8/25/2021
An administrative law judge recommended a $40,000 fine for Unite for Colorado after it spent $4 million to support or oppose three 2020 ballot initiatives, finding the group should have revealed its donors. The ruling also requires the nonprofit to file as an issue committee and reveal its donors from August 2020 through January. Unite for Colorado plans to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, progressive activists filed a new complaint against Unite for Colorado centered on the $3.7 million it has donated to two ballot initiatives likely to be considered by voters in November.
Colorado – Redistricting Lobbying Laws Violated, New Complaint Alleges
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 8/24/2021
A complaint filed with the Colorado secretary of state accuses a group of secretly funded political operatives of illegally lobbying the state’s redistricting commissioners. The complaint accuses former House Speaker Frank McNulty and former lawmaker Greg Brophy of lobbying the state’s independent redistricting commissioners without formally registering as lobbyists. It also accuses political consultant Alan Philp, along with McNulty and Brophy, of failing to report payments for lobbying activity.
Florida – FEC Slaps U.S. Rep. Salazar’s Campaign for Accepting Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Illegal Contributions
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 9/2/2021
U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar’s re-election committee has amassed $147,400 in excessive campaign contributions for her primary, according to warning letters from the FEC. The over-the-legal-limit donations include $5,700 from Abelardo de la Espriella, a Colombian lawyer and U.S. permanent resident who up until two years ago was the criminal defense attorney for a fellow countryman targeted in a Colombian money-laundering probe involving ill-gotten government contracts in Venezuela.
Florida – VancoreJones, Paid to ‘Influence Local Government,’ Failed to Register as Lobbyists
Tallahassee Reports – Steve Stewart | Published: 8/30/2021
An exhibit in the recently concluded public corruption trial in Tallahassee indicates J.T. Burnette executed a contract on November 12, 2013, with VancoreJones Communications to “influence local government agencies” related to real estate projects on behalf of TM Street, LLC. But records show no one from VancoreJones has ever registered to lobby for TM Street with the Leon County Commission, or the city of Tallahassee.
Georgia – New Georgia Campaign Finance Law Is ‘Carving a Loophole’ for Unlimited Fundraising
MSN – Elliot Davis (U.S. News and World Report) | Published: 9/1/2021
Eleven states allow candidates to raise unlimited contributions. States with unlimited financing often cite strict laws mandating disclosure and transparency to defend the embrace of money in politics. They also note their systems ensure a level playing field. But that is not the case in Georgia, critics note. Not only could the new law, described by analysts as an “incumbent protection scheme,” offer the current governor a massive advantage in a crucial race next year, but it has the possibility of being exported to other states where it could reshape the way elections are run.
Illinois – Illinois Legislators Pass Redrawn Legislative Map, Kill Ethics Bill; Energy Policy Overhaul Clears Senate
MSN – Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/31/2021
Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly used their supermajority to push through revised boundaries for the state’s legislative districts aimed at ensuring their control in Springfield through the end of the decade. The House voted down proposed change made by Gov. JB Pritzker to an ethics package, killing the legislation. Pritzker and sponsoring lawmakers have hailed the package as an important step toward addressing pervasive public corruption in Illinois, but good-government groups and even some supporters have argued that does not go far enough.
Indiana – Lawsuit Claims Indiana Treasurer Granted Illegal Contracts
MSN – Tom Davies (Associated Press) | Published: 8/31/2021
A whistleblower is suing Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, alleging her office failed to get required approvals on contracts and made improper payments totaling more than $6.5 million, often to top contributors to her campaigns. The lawsuit filed by a former top Treasury Department staffer claims Mitchell bypassed required approvals from other state agencies in giving the contracts for lobbying and financial services without seeking competitive bids.
Michigan – Michigan GOP Cannot Use Party Fund to Back Petition Drive to Overhaul Voting
MSN – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 8/31/2021
The Michigan Republican Party cannot use its administrative fund to back a petition proposing major changes to voting in the state, according to a preliminary review by the Bureau of Elections. Former general counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Bob LaBrant, raised concerns about the possibility the GOP might use its administrative fund to funnel undisclosed contributions to a petition drive that would circumvent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s expected veto of election bills.
Michigan – Michigan Utilities Spent Millions Electing Lawmakers Who Could Probe Outages
Energy Central – Craig Mauer (Detroit News) | Published: 8/30/2021
Michigan officeholders who are poised to investigate a wave of recent outages that spurred 1 million customers to lose power have benefited from $55 million in “political” and “civic” spending over the last five years by the state’s top utilities. Critics said the close financial connections between CMS Energy and DTE Energy and lawmakers raise doubts about state government’s ability to prevent future outages, prepare the electric system for weather that is becoming increasingly severe, and advocate on behalf of residents.
Minnesota – MN Lawmaker Cuts Off 3 Fingers in Saw Mishap; Lobbyists’ Donations Create Awkwardness
Yahoo News – Dave Orrick (St. Paul Pioneer Press) | Published: 8/31/2021
In August, Minnesota Rep. Erin Koegel lost control of a power saw and cut off three fingers on her left hand. A GoFundMe page was established to help her with child-care and other expenses while she recovers. A number of lobbyists’ names were on the donor list. That would appear to violate a state law that prohibits lawmakers from accepting most gifts worth more than five dollars from lobbyists. There are exceptions, but none appear to apply for Koegel’s situation. Speaker Melissa Hortman asked a House staffer to seek a formal opinion from the Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board.
New Mexico – Judge Reverses Decision to Deny Gonzales Funds
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 8/27/2021
A state District Court judge reversed the Albuquerque city clerk’s decision to deny Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales over $600,000 in public financing for his mayoral campaign, citing a lack of due process. Judge Bryan Biedscheid said Watson could still ultimately deny Gonzales the money. To do so, however, he would need to either determine that Gonzales has been found to have violated regulations or make the finding himself after a new process he must establish that grants Gonzales due process.
New York – At JCOPE, Two More Cuomo Appointees Resign
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/1/2021
The number of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointees on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) are dwindling. In the short term, that could render JCOPE unable to take action against Cuomo; in the longer term, the departures could provide the ex-governor far less protection from possible sanction. Since Cuomo announced his own resignation on August 10, three of his six appointees to the panel have resigned or stated the intention to exit the commission.
New York – Cuomo’s Legal Woes Continue, Could Cost Public at Least $9.5M
NBC News – Associated Press | Published: 8/31/2021
Resigning from office probably did not end former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legal problems, and no matter what happens next, taxpayers are likely to wind up with a hefty bill. The state has agreed to pay up to $9.5 million to lawyers representing and investigating Cuomo and his administration over sexual harassment allegations and other matters. That figure does not include the legal fees of Cuomo’s private attorney, whose bills are being paid by his campaign committee. Gov. Kathy Hochul can decide whether the state will continue to pay lawyers to defend the former governor and his administration going forward.
New York – Hochul’s First Bill Suspends State’s Open Meetings Law
Politico – Bill Mahoney | Published: 9/1/2021
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s bill extending New York’s eviction moratorium includes language that suspends the state’s Open Meetings Law. The legislation, the first of Hochul’s tenure, was due to pass a week after the governor pledged that “transparency will be the hallmark of [her] administration.” But the measure, and the rushed way in which it was logrolled through the Legislature, did not win over many transparency advocates.
New York – JCOPE Votes to Ask AG to Conduct Criminal Probe of Alleged Leak to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/26/2021
In a startling reversal, the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) passed a motion asking state Attorney General Letitia James to investigate whether confidential information was illegally leaked to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019. JCOPE also authorized James to conduct a criminal probe into whether the state inspector general’s office, which investigated the alleged leak to Cuomo, intentionally failed to find out the identity of the leaker and instead “covered up” the matter.
New York – NY Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Top Aide Is Married to a Lobbyist for Verizon, Google and Airbnb
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 8/26/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top aide is married to a lobbyist who represent clients such as Verizon, Google, and Airbnb. Hochul named Karen Persichilli Keogh, a veteran of Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate office and the wife of longtime lobbyist Mike Keogh, as secretary to the governor. Prior to taking her new job with Hochul, Karen Keogh was an executive at J.P. Morgan Chase, where she once held a state lobbying position. Mike Keogh has several marquee clients that have recently been trying to influence New York lawmakers and officials.
North Carolina – North Carolina General Assembly Passes Bill Limiting Nonprofit Donor Disclosure
Ballotpedia – Jerrick Adams | Published: 9/1/2021
The North Carolina Senate gave final approval to a bill that would make donations to nonprofit corporations confidential. The bill now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper. The bill’s supporters say it will protect donors from harassment or discrimination based on the organizations they choose to support. Opponents say it would decrease transparency around campaign contributions and allow politically active nonprofits to hide their donors.
North Carolina – Trump’s Pick in a Key Senate Race Touts His Agriculture Ties. He Doesn’t Mention His Role in a Bankruptcy That Cost Farmers Millions.
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2021
As U.S. Rep. Ted Budd launched his campaign for a pivotal U.S. Senate seat earlier this year, the North Carolina Republican pitched himself as a staunch ally of farmers. Budd’s story helped him win the support of former President Trump and the Club for Growth, a conservative political committee, has vowed to spend a record $10 million on his campaign. But as Budd has told his narrative in a state where agriculture is the largest business, he made no mention of his role in his family’s calamitous involvement in a company called AgriBioTech, which ended in a bankruptcy case that cost farmers millions of dollars in losses.
Ohio – John Raphael Avoids Prison in Greater Columbus Convention Center Bribery Scheme Sentence
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/26/2021
Deviating from federal sentencing guidelines, a judge gave two-time convicted public corruption figure John Raphael, once an influential Columbus City Hall lobbyist, no prison time in a bribery case. Raphael could have faced up to 20 years in prison for taking bribes to help a national food services company win a public food-service contract from the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, on whose board he served at the time. But U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson, who acknowledged he grew up in the same neighborhood as the defendant and knew members of his family, sentenced Raphael to one day of prison, waived in advance, and placed him on three years of probation.
Oregon – Multnomah County Judge Rules Campaign Contribution Limits Constitutional
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Sam Stites | Published: 8/26/2021
Campaign contribution limits passed by Multnomah County voters are now able to be enforced in local elections. Circuit Court Judge Eric Bloch County ruled political donations caps do not violate free speech protected by the First Amendment. The ruling is sure to put Multnomah County back in the spotlight in terms of discussions around statewide limits on campaign donations. Oregon is one of only five states with no limits at all on contributions, despite decades of effort by campaign finance activists.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Ordered to Pay More Than $7,000, Forfeit Vacation Days for Ethics Violations
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Andrew Goldstein | Published: 8/26/2021
The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission found Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet violated the law by improperly receiving travel reimbursements, getting payments for appearances related to his job, and incorrectly filing financial documents. The commission ordered Hamlet to pay close to $8,000 and forfeit 14 vacation days, valued at more than $12,000. At least some of the violations occurred during a trip Hamlet and several other district administrators took to Cuba in April 2019.
Rhode Island – Anthony Silva, McKee’s Chief of Staff, Resigns Amid Wetlands Controversy
MSN – Antonia Noori Farzan (Providence Journal) | Published: 8/30/2021
Anthony Silva, the embattled chief of staff to Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee, resigned from his position amid an investigation into whether he used his political influence to get permission to develop a controversial wetlands property. Silva had been facing both a state Ethics Commission complaint brought forward by Republicans and an independent investigation by the attorney general’s office that was initiated at McKee’s request, amid mounting political pressure.
Rhode Island – Former RI Lottery Director Changes Mind After Registering as IGT Lobbyist
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 9/1/2021
Days after former Rhode Island Lottery Director Gerald Aubin registered as a lobbyist for IGT, the state’s longtime gambling said he will not be working for the company after all. Aubin, who served as director of the state Lottery beginning in 1996, retired in 2020. He formed a new company called GSA and was listed on the secretary of state’s website as a lobbyist for IGT, a company he regulated for two decades. “… As a former gaming regulator and law enforcement official, I couldn’t get comfortable with it,” Aubin said.
Texas – GOP Legislators in Texas Give Final Approval to New Voting Restrictions, Overcoming Democratic Opposition
MSN – Eva Ruth Moravec and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2021
The Texas Legislature passed the final version of a Republican bill that will implement strict new voting rules, sending it to the governor’s desk after months of intense partisan battling over how elections should be conducted in the state. The votes were a win for Gov. Greg Abbott. He had called two special legislative sessions as part of a long-running effort to pass the elections measure, which will take effect in three months. After the Senate voted, Abbott said he looks forward to signing the bill into law.
Wisconsin – Emails Show Prehn Coordinated with Republican Officials, Lobbyists as He Clings to Expired Seat
Wisconsin Examiner – Henry Redmon | Published: 8/26/2021
Fred Prehn, the chairperson of the Natural Resources Board who has generated controversy and complaints for refusing to vacate his seat after his term expired in May, coordinated and communicated with high-profile Republican officials and lobbyists as he planned to maintain the GOP’s grip on Wisconsin’s conservation policy, emails show. State Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit against Prehn seeking to boot him from the post. Legislative leaders hired taxpayer-funded attorneys to defend Prehn.
August 27, 2021 •
National/Federal A Capitol Riot Suspect Was Hours Away from Sentencing. Then Prosecutors Received Video of an Assault on Police. MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/19/2021 Even after Robert Reeder pleaded guilty to illegally picketing inside the U.S. Capitol […]
A Capitol Riot Suspect Was Hours Away from Sentencing. Then Prosecutors Received Video of an Assault on Police.
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/19/2021
Even after Robert Reeder pleaded guilty to illegally picketing inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, he remained adamant he was innocent of the worst allegations leveled against him. Prosecutors argued Reeder actively participated in chants with rioters and egged on the aggressive crowd, though they could not show he participated in any violence. They asked a federal judge to sentence him with a fine and prison time. But new video from the riot that surfaced just before his sentencing hearing appeared to show Reeder allegedly physically grappling with a police officer.
California Republican Is Debt Free for First Time in Office. What Happened to His Creditors?
Fresno Bee – Gillian Brassil (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 8/23/2021
U.S. Rep. David Valadao claimed no liabilities for 2020 – a far cry from 2019, when he said he owed at least $16 million to various creditors, some of whom he did not disclose the identities of, in connection to one of his family’s dairy farms. The farm declared bankruptcy after Valadao and his family’s farms were sued by Rabobank, a financial services company, over unpaid loans. Maria Martinez who lives in Valadao’s district, filed an ethics complaint seeking more information about the unidentified creditors from Valadao’s previous disclosure forms. The complaint says it is unlikely the unnamed creditors were each owed less than $10,000 given the limited number of people listed in the farm’s bankruptcy filings.
DOJ Investigating One-Time Trump Campaign Adviser Over Alleged Ties to Qatar: Report
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 8/24/2021
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether one-time Trump campaign adviser and lobbyist Barry Bennett set up an advocacy group without disclosing its ties to Qatar. Bennett reportedly launched a group called Yemen Crisis to embarrass Qatar’s rivals – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – amid their military campaign in Yemen. Bennett did not disclose his ties to Yemen Crisis Watch, or register the group under lobbying laws, despite receiving $250,000 from the Embassy of Qatar “for use in supporting the relief of humanitarian suffering in Yemen,” according to a Justice Department filing.
Ethics Office: Rep. Mooney tapped campaign funds for family vacations, fast food
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 8/25/2021
U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney spent thousands of campaign dollars on personal expenses, including numerous fast-food meals and family excursions to West Virginia resorts, while failing to properly report more than $40,000 in expenditures, the Office of Congressional Ethics found. Mooney’s deficient reporting to the FEC concealed additional instances of converting campaign funds for personal use, according to an OCE report. After the OCE launched the inquiry, Mooney paid his campaign back more than $12,000.
FCC Proposes Record $5 Million Fine Against Jacob Wohl, Jack Burkman for Election Robocalls
MSN – Rachel Lerman (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a $5.1 million fine against two right-wing operatives known for perpetuating conspiracy theories, in one of its largest penalties to date. Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman improperly made 1,141 election-related robocalls to cellphones without getting people’s consent first, which the law requires. The pair were charged with four felonies in Michigan last year for allegedly intimidating voters with robocalls that spread inaccurate messages about voting by mail.
Foreign Lobbyists Gave Millions to Influence 2020 Elections Amid Foreign Influence Concerns
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 8/19/2021
Individuals registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act made at least $8.5 million in political contributions during the 2020 election cycle. Another $25 million came from lobbyists representing foreign clients registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to political groups or campaigns to influence U.S. elections. But they can hire foreign agents or lobbyists to advocate for their interests and lobbyists who are American citizens are able to donate, even to the same lawmakers they may be lobbying on behalf of foreign clients.
House Passes Bill to Strengthen Voting Rights Act in Face of New Restrictions in GOP-Led States
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
The U.S. House passed legislation that supporters said would restore key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court struck down in 2013. In Shelby County v. Holder, the high court’s conservative majority ruled the law’s provision for determining voter discrimination was outdated, a decision that greatly curtailed the ability of the federal government to monitor the election processes of states with a history of racism.
Internal Probe Clears Capitol Police Officer in Shooting of Ashli Babbitt
MSN – Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2021
An internal investigation has cleared a U.S. Capitol Police officer of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt during the siege of the Capitol on January 6. The Justice Department previously announced the officer would not face criminal charges in the killing of the 35-year-old California woman, who was shot as she tried to force her way through a set of doors deep inside the Capitol.
Jan. 6 Select Committee Probe Expands to Trump and Top Officials in a Wave of Demands
National Public Radio – Claudia Grisales | Published: 8/25/2021
The House select committee charged with investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has issued a wave of record requests targeting communications by former President Trump and his top officials in the lead-up to the riot. It marks the most widespread list of demands since the siege, directing letters to eight federal entities, including the National Archives and Records Administration, which is charged with maintaining records for past White House administrations. The demands could be followed by subpoenas.
From the States and Municipalities
Colorado – Ethics Commission Dismissed Complaint Against Delta County Official but Decision Is on Appeal
Denver Gazette – Marianne Goodland | Published: 8/23/2021
The Colorado Independent Ethics commission, on a tie vote, dismissed a complaint against Delta County Administrator Robbie LeValley. The complaint alleged LeValley violated the public trust by using her position to benefit her family’s business, a beef ranch. LeValley charged several purchases from Homestead Meats in 2019, which she co-owns with several other partners, for county events on her county credit card. The events in question, both tied to the county fair, required the beef being served to come from a Delta County ranch, and for that, Homestead was the only supplier.
Colorado – Incumbent Colorado Lawmaker Coached Public Testimony for Redistricting Hearings
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 8/19/2021
A state lawmaker looking to protect the fortunes of his Republican caucus as Colorado’s political maps are redrawn this year held a video training earlier this summer to coach people on how to provide testimony intended to keep the incumbent legislators in power after the redistricting cycle. On the video training, Rep. Matt Soper lamented that the independent redistricting commission system is designed to elicit input from non-political, everyday people talking about their communities, and not from incumbent lawmakers who want to keep a safe seat for themselves.
Florida – Florida Elections Commission Gearing Up for Looming Challenges
Yahoo News – John Haughey (The Center Square) | Published: 8/24/2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed three members to the Florida Elections Commission (FEC), including a chairperson, meaning the watchdog now has the required quorum and can meet for the first time since May. The FEC is managing the defense of state election laws, including Florida’s decision not to appeal an injunction preventing Senate Bill 1890 from being enacted. It is also dealing with the challenge to Florida’s 2019 felon voting law now before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Florida – No-Party Candidate in Miami Election Fraud Case Takes Plea Deal, Apologizes to Voters
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/24/2021
An auto parts salesperson and acquaintance of a former state lawmaker accused of running a vote-siphoning scheme in a 2020 Florida Senate race pleaded guilty to charges he accepted illegal donations and lied on sworn campaign documents, among other things. Alexis Rodriguez was recruited to run as a no-party candidate in the key Senate race by former state Sen. Frank Artiles. The point of Rodriguez’s candidacy, investigators said, was to “confuse voters and siphon votes from the incumbent.” Sen. Ileana Garcia won the election by 32 votes. Rodriguez, who shares a surname with the incumbent Democrat, received more than 6,000 votes.
Georgia – Former NFL Player Herschel Walker, Supported by Trump, Jumps into the Georgia Senate Race
Santa Fe New Mexican – Maryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Former football star Herschel Walker filed paperwork to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, challenging Raphael Warnock with the backing of former President Trump. After former U.S. Sen. David Perdue said he would not run again, Walker would be the most recognized candidate in the Republican field.
Georgia – How the Apple Lobbying Machine Took on Georgia, and Won
MSN – Emily Birnbaum (Politico) | Published: 8/20/2021
Apple’s aggressive lobbying efforts in Georgia highlight a pattern that has played out with little national attention across the country this year: state lawmakers introduce bills that would force Apple and Google to give up some control over their mobile phone app stores. Then Apple exerts pressure on lawmakers with promises of economic investment or threats to pull its money, and the legislation stalls. Local lawmakers have struggled to brush aside Apple’s lobbying firepower as the company hires key state lobbyists and focuses on defeating legislation that threatens the company’s bottom line.
Idaho – Idaho Supreme Court Overturns Tougher Ballot Initiative Law
MSN – Rebecca Boone (Associated Press) | Published: 8/23/2021
The Idaho Supreme Court struck down a new law designed to make it harder for voters to get initiatives on the ballot, saying the legislation was so restrictive it violated a fundamental right under the state’s constitution. Opponents of the law said it made Idaho’s initiative process the toughest in the nation, rendering such efforts virtually impossible to achieve. But supporters said the law would protect people with less popular political opinions from being overrun by the majority.
Illinois – ComEd Scheme to Influence Madigan Was Not Legal Lobbying – It Was Bribery, Prosecutors Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/24/2021
An alleged scheme to lavish benefits on longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in exchange for his influence on Commonwealth Edison legislation in Springfield clearly meets the criteria of the bribery statute even if there was no explicit agreement between the parties, federal prosecutors argued in a motion. Lawyers for Michael McClain, Anne Pramaggiore, John Hooker, and Jay Doherty asked a District Court judge to dismiss several of the key elements of the case against them, arguing there was no quid pro quo agreement and jobs, contracts, and other payments to chosen Madigan political operatives constituted legal lobbying.
Illinois – Cryptocurrency Expands into Illinois Politics as Candidate Accepts Bitcoin Donations
Bloomington Pantagraph – John Kielman (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/25/2021
Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim, who is running for reelection next year, became the first candidate in Illinois to accept digital currency when a supporter gave her a three-dollar donation in Litecoin, with the promise of more to come later. It is a new and potentially lucrative fundraising technique – Dogecoin, one form of crypto Kim accepts, has seen its value increase 100-fold over the past year – and Kim said it is a way to connect with tech-savvy people who might be new to political donations.
Maine – PAC Opposing Powerline Corridor is Fined $2,500 for Late Filing
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 8/23/2021
A PAC bankrolled by two Texas energy companies was fined $2,500 by the Maine ethics commission for violating state campaign finance law. The commission voted unanimously to impose the penalty against Mainers for Local Power after it failed to notify one of its major contributors, the energy company Calpine, that it had donated more than $100,000 to the PAC and was required to file a major donor report with the ethics panel.
Maryland – Error-Riddled Ethics Reports on School Board Create Political Firestorm in Prince George’s County
MSN – Rachel Chason and Donna St. George (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Ethics reports accuse a majority of the elected school board members in Prince George’s County of a variety of offenses, including steering contracts, doing political favors, and engaging in a quid pro quo with a labor union. The allegations are being levied against a more progressive bloc that has frequently clashed with the county’s political establishment, setting off a political battle in the suburb of Washington, D.C. The back-and-forth is the latest, and most contentious, episode in months of chaos that began in February.
Michigan – FBI Raids Detroit’s City Hall, Council Members’ Homes as It Focuses on Towing Operations
Detroit News – Robert Snell, Sarah Rahal, and George Hunter | Published: 8/25/2021
A widening public corruption investigation emerged as FBI agents raided Detroit City Hall and the homes of city council members Janeé Ayers and Scott Benson, the latest development in a scandal that has led to charges against Councilperson André Spivey. The full scope of the investigation was unclear, but FBI agents were focused on municipal towing operations and accusations city officials received bribes, according to sources. Agents also searched the homes of several council employees, including Ricardo Silva and Carol Banks, chiefs of staff for Ayers and Benson, respectively.
Michigan – Federal Judge in Michigan Orders Pro-Trump Lawyers Disciplined Over Lawsuit Seeking to Overturn 2020 Election
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2021
A judge sanctioned Sidney Powell and other lawyers who sued in Michigan to overturn President Biden’s election victory. U.S. District Court Judge Parker said the lawyers made assertions in court that were not backed by evidence and failed to perform the due diligence required by legal rules before alleging mass fraud in the state’s vote. She referred the group to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, as well as disciplinary committees in the states where each attorney is licensed, which could initiate proceedings that could result in the lawyers being disbarred.
Michigan – Michigan Attorney General Nessel Won’t Charge State GOP Chair Ron Weiser
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 8/23/2021
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel declined to pursue criminal action against state Republican Party Chairperson Ron Weiser related to payments Weiser allegedly made to a former GOP secretary of state candidate to drop out of the race in 2018. Nessel said a conciliation agreement between the secretary of state’s office and the Michigan GOP barred further criminal litigation under the state’s campaign finance law and Weiser, as chairperson, is not a public officer as defined by the law, so other criminal statutes “simply do not apply.”
Minnesota – Minnesota GOP ‘in Ruins’ After Shocking Scandal
Yahoo News – David Siders and Paul Zemko (Politico) | Published: 8/21/2021
The resignation of the Minnesota Republican Party’s embattled chairperson, Jennifer Carnahan, marked a new low for a state party in decline. The proximate cause of Carnahan’s departure was a firestorm that engulfed the party in recent days, after a GOP donor she was close to was indicted on federal sex-trafficking charges. Carnahan, the wife of U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, was accused by party officials and former staffers of running a toxic, retaliatory workplace, mismanaging party finances, and, through the use of non-disclosure agreements, squashing transparency.
New York – As JCOPE Eyes Cuomo, Will His Appointees Remain?
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/30/2021
Though Andrew Cuomo has left the governor’s office, his legal troubles are far from over. He faces criminal investigations into possible inappropriate touching of women, a state attorney general probe into his $5.1 million book deal, a federal probe into the suppression of nursing home death data, and a forthcoming Assembly report on those matters and more. An entity that has been generally pliant to Cuomo since its creation in 2011, the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics, may be more prone to taking action now, especially since the commission itself now faces greater threat of being eliminated by critics, who say it has been ineffectual.
New York – Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Daughter-in-Law Is Top Lobbyist at Pharma Firm That Has Sought to Influence NY Lawmakers
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 8/24/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s daughter-in-law is a top lobbyist at a pharmaceutical firm that has been trying to influence state and federal lawmakers. Christina Hochul is director of federal policy at Biogen. A Biogen spokesperson said Christina Hochul does not lobby at the New York state level and will not do so. Biogen did not rule out the company itself engaging with New York lawmakers while Kathy Hochul is governor.
New York – JCOPE’s Opaque New Transparency Policy
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/24/2021
Gov. Kathy Hochul has called for a complete overhaul of New York’s ethics oversight system. And as the state’s much-maligned current ethics watchdog faces the possibility of dissolution, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) recently announced a reform: a new policy that in principle could make its work less secretive. But in practice, the policy so far has been aimed at bolstering the reputation of the JCOPE itself, with information released or withheld based on that as opposed to overall transparency.
New York – Leaders of the ‘Time’s Up’ Anti-Harassment Group Worked Closely with Cuomo Aide After First Accusation Against Him Surfaced
MSN – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2021
The leaders of Time’s Up, the advocacy group founded by political insiders in Washington and Hollywood to fight workplace sexual misconduct, decided against issuing a statement in support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first harassment accuser in December after consulting with the governor’s top aide, according to interviews and records. Text messages between five senior Time’s Up advisers revealed a far more extensive behind-the-scenes effort to work with Cuomo’s office amid the sexual harassment charges than the group has previously acknowledged.
North Carolina – Cooper Signs Bill Allowing Officials to Benefit More from Public Contracts
Yahoo News – Nyamekye Daniel (The Center Square) | Published: 8/24/2021
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill that allows public officials to benefit more from public contracts. House Bill 366 raises the limit on the conflict-of-interest exemption for government officials and government employees in certain instances and changes regulations related to agriculture, energy, environment, natural resources, construction, and insurance.
North Carolina – Court Rules North Carolina Must Allow Former Felons to Vote
MSN – Paulina Villegas (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
A panel of the state Superior Court ordered the restoration of voting rights for thousands of people with a felony conviction in what advocates call the largest expansion of voting rights in decades in North Carolina. The ruling could make North Carolina the only state in the South to automatically restore voting rights to people after they leave prison. Last year, the same judges had ruled the law’s requirement that felons must first pay monetary obligation such as fines was unenforceable because voting would be bound to financial ability.
North Carolina – Restrictions on NC Nonprofit Donor Disclosures OK’d by House
WRAL – Associated Press | Published: 8/19/2021
A bill described by supporters as one that prevents snooping into citizens’ contributions to North Carolina charities neared final legislative approval following an affirmative state House vote. A version cleared the Senate three months ago. The bill says the names of donors to North Carolina-based nonprofits cannot be disclosed publicly by the group without a donor’s written permission. It also states a donor’s identifying information is not a public record when held by a state or local government agency. A government worker who uses or discloses it could be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Discloses 2021 Dark Money Spending; Deal Doesn’t Require Posting Past Donations
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 8/20/2021
The utility at the center of a $60 million bribery scheme in Ohio dramatically decreased the funds it provides to “dark money” groups to influence public policy, according to a filing required by a deal with federal prosecutors that allowed FirstEnergy to avoid a criminal case. FirstEnergy paid $2.2 million to nonprofits and groups benefitting public officials during the first half of 2021. That is considerably below the approximately $60 million the company paid between 2017 and 2020 to “dark money” groups to fund a bailout of two nuclear power plants.
Oregon – Portland Police Stand by as Proud Boys and Far-Right Militias Flash Guns and Brawl with Antifa Counterprotesters
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2021
A large crowd of more than 100 far-right activists, including Proud Boys and armed militia members, descended on Portland, Oregon, staging a “Back the Blue” rally in front of the Justice Center that houses the downtown police precinct. Hundreds of Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters gathered to oppose the far-right crowd. The two groups sparred for more than two hours, as people exchanged blows, fired paintballs at each other, and blasted chemicals indiscriminately into the crowd. People lobbed fireworks back and forth.
Pennsylvania – In Latest Bow to Trump, GOP Lawmakers in Pennsylvania Plan to Launch Hearings on 2020 Vote
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania plan to formally launch hearings as part of an investigation into the 2020 vote in the state, the latest GOP-backed effort to revisit an election that former President Trump has falsely claimed was fraudulent. State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman said lawmakers are pursuing a “full forensic investigation” of the election that will aim to examine ballots and voter rolls. It is the latest sign of how Republican leaders in key battleground states are bowing to pressure from Trump and his acolytes to investigate baseless allegations that voting irregularities tainted the November election.
Texas – Dallas Council Member Violated Ethics Code for Saying Woman Sounded ‘Foolish’ on Facebook
Dallas Morning News – Lauren Girgis | Published: 8/20/2021
The Ethics Advisory Commission found Dallas City Councilperson Adam Bazaldua in violation of the ethics code for Facebook comments where he wrote that a constituent sounded “foolish.” The commission found Bazaldua violated a section of the code stating that city officials shall not make comments or take actions that are “abusive,” “derogatory,” “rude,” or make “personal attacks upon the character, integrity, or motives of others.”
Texas – Texas Republicans Renew Effort to Advance Voting Bill as Democrats Regroup
MSN – Jane Timm (NBC News) | Published: 8/23/2021
The Texas House could pass voting restrictions soon after Democrats’ efforts to stave off the Republican-backed changes were stymied by three Democrats who broke ranks with much of the rest of their caucus and returned to work at the Capitol. Their return restored a quorum for the first time since more than 50 House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C. The coordinated escape from Austin left Texas Republicans furious, creating wanted posters and threatening to have missing members arrested.
Virginia – Ex-Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe Found Guilty on All Public Corruption Charges
WAVY – Brian Reese, Jason Marks, and Sarah Fearing | Published: 8/24/2021
Former Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe was found guilty on all 11 counts in a federal bribery trial. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count. McCabe was accused of taking bribes from two Norfolk jail vendors and the companies’ chief executive officers. McCabe had argued the gifts and campaign donations, which happened from 1994 to 2016, were just gestures between good friends.
Virginia – Virginia, an ‘Outlier’ on Campaign Finance Reform, Considers New Restrictions
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Andrew Cain (Richmond Times-Dispatch) | Published: 8/24/2021
The Virginia Legislature has tasked the Joint Subcommittee to Study Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform with examining the costs of campaigning in the state, the effectiveness of the present disclosure laws and their enforcement, the constitutional options available to regulate campaign finances, and “the desirability” of revisions such as implementing contribution limits. In submitting a report by November 1, the panel could recommend proposed changes for the new governor and Legislature to review during the 60-day session that begins in January.
Washington – Mayor’s Office Knew for Months Durkan’s Phone Setting Caused Texts to Vanish, Emails Show
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb, Daniel Beekman, and Jim Brunner | Published: 8/20/2021
When the public learned in May that 10 months of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s text messages were missing, her office initially attributed the loss to an “unknown technology issue” with one of three phones she used during the period in question. But officials already had known for months why the texts were gone and when they disappeared, internal emails appear to show. City Attorney Pete Holmes says the initial explanation from Durkan’s office was misleading.
Wisconsin – Two More Redistricting Lawsuits Have Been Filed in Wisconsin as Conservatives and Liberals Mount a Legal Battle Over Election Maps
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 8/23/2021
Voters filed two redistricting lawsuits as conservatives and liberals fight over whether state or federal judges should be the ones to decide how to draw Wisconsin’s congressional and legislative districts. Voters represented by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed one of the lawsuits before the state Supreme Court. Hours later, three voting rights groups brought their own case in federal court in Madison. Republicans who control the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are not expected to reach a deal on the maps, which will leave it to the courts to decide where to put the lines.
August 20, 2021 •
National/Federal As Population Grows, So Does Debate on How to Reach Latino Voters in ’22 Midterms MSN – Stephanie Akin and Suzanne Monyak (Roll Call) | Published: 8/18/2021 Democrats know that, overall, the party does better with Latino voters than Republicans, […]
As Population Grows, So Does Debate on How to Reach Latino Voters in ’22 Midterms
MSN – Stephanie Akin and Suzanne Monyak (Roll Call) | Published: 8/18/2021
Democrats know that, overall, the party does better with Latino voters than Republicans, but there is more recognition that the Hispanic electorate is far from monolithic, and outreach needs to start much earlier. Republicans, meanwhile, saw candidates do better with Latinos – even flipping two South Florida congressional seats – and want to build on that success. While a majority of Americans eligible to vote said they were contacted by a campaign or a group supporting a campaign in the month before the November election, fewer Latino and Asian American citizens reported such contacts.
Colorado’s Boebert Discloses Husband’s Work for Energy Firm
Federal News Network – Nicholas Riccardi (Associated Press) | Published: 8/18/2021
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s husband made $478,000 last year working as a consultant for an energy firm, information that was not disclosed during Boebert’s congressional campaign and only reported in her financial disclosure forms filed recently. Rep. Boebert reported her husband, Jayson Boebert, received the money as a consultant to Terra Energy Productions in 2020, and earned $460,000 as a consultant for the firm in 2019. Ethics and campaign finance laws require candidates and members of Congress to disclose sources of their immediate family’s income, along with major investments and assets.
DeJoy Bought Up to $305,000 in Bonds from USPS Board Chair’s Investment Firm
MSN – Jacob Bogage and Douglas MacMillan (Washington Post) | Published: 8/14/2021
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy purchased up to $305,000 in bonds from an investment firm whose managing partner, Ron Bloom, also chairs the U.S. Postal Service’s governing board, the independent body responsible for evaluating DeJoy’s performance. DeJoy’s financial adviser purchased the bonds on the open market, Postal Service spokesperson Jeffrey Adams said, and Bloom manages a division separate from the one that sells public securities. Two ethics experts disagreed over whether the bond purchases could cause conflict-of-interest issues in the agency’s top ranks.
Election Officials Call for Audit Guidelines After Trump-Fueled Surge
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 8/17/2021
The nation’s top election officials are calling for more stringent guidelines for post-election audits, as supporters of former President Trump continue to relitigate his defeat in 2020. At the summer meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State, members approved a series of recommendations for post-election audits on everything from a timeline to chain of custody of election materials. Trump has pushed his supporters to export the audit in Maricopa County, Arizona, to other states. Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have tried to launch their own, but so far neither have made similar sort of progress as in Arizona.
House Revises Voting Rights Bill to Boost Justice Department Powers to Challenge States
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 8/17/2021
House Democrats introduced the latest version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, intent on beefing up a civil rights-era law cut back by a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The effort still faces significant Republican opposition and the prospects of a filibuster in the Senate. The bill comes after a series of House committee hearings over the past several months to establish a legislative record for modern efforts to suppress minority groups’ voting power.
Inspector General Urges Ethics Review at Federal Election Commission Following ProPublica Report
MSN – Jake Pearson (ProPublica) | Published: 8/12/2021
The FEC’s inspector general called on the agency to review its ethics policies and internal controls after a media investigation last year revealed a senior manager openly supported Donald Trump and maintained a close relationship with a Republican attorney who went on to serve as the 2016 Trump campaign’s top lawyer. It raised questions about the impartiality of the official, Debbie Chacona, who oversees the unit responsible for keeping unlawful contributions out of political campaigns. The division’s staffers are supposed to adhere to an ethics code and forgo any public partisan activities because such actions could imply preferential treatment for a candidate or party.
Pelosi Announces House Staffers Can Now Earn Higher Salaries Than Lawmakers
MSN – Cristina Marcos (The Hill) | Published: 8/13/2021
Some U.S. House staff will now be able to earn higher salaries than the members of Congress for whom they work under a new order announced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to help retain top talent on Capitol Hill. Staff salaries have remained stagnant for more than a decade thanks to the lawmaker pay freeze that has been in place since 2009, leading many people to leave Capitol Hill for higher-paying jobs at lobbying groups or in the executive branch. But under the new policy unveiled by Pelosi, the salary cap for House staffers will be $199,300, up from the maximum salary of $173,900 in 2020 for both the House and Senate.
State Redistricting Can Start with New Census Data, but Litigation Looms
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 8/12/2021
The Census Bureau kicked off a shortened redistricting season with the release of detailed mapmaking data from last year’s count, as most states across the country scramble to finish their maps in time for next year’s midterm elections. A handful of states, including Ohio and Colorado, face redistricting deadlines before the end of September. Others, like Texas, will have to draw their maps in a special legislative session. Democratic-aligned groups in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Louisiana have sued over the process. The parties have split control over state government in each of those states, making a deadlock over new maps likely.
Canada – Canada’s Trudeau Calls Snap Election in Bid to Regain Parliamentary Majority
MSN – Amanda Coletta (Washington Post) | Published: 8/15/2021
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, betting his standing has been improved by his government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic while his main opponent has failed to gain traction with voters, called a snap federal election for September 20 in a bid to regain a majority in the House of Commons. Opposition party leaders decried the decision to hold an election at a time when public health officials have said the country is in a delta variant-fueled fourth coronavirus wave. Most cases are among those who are unvaccinated.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Lawmaker Critical of State Move in Campaign Caps Case
MSN – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 8/18/2021
The decision to not seek further legal review of a split court ruling that struck down several campaign contribution caps in Alaska was criticized by a state lawmaker who said the state should have pressed forward with a legal fight. The dissent in the case was strong, said Sen. Bill Wielechowski. He said Gov. Mike Dunleavy has an obligation to defend the laws of the state. A divided federal appeals court panel struck down a $500-a-year limit on what an individual can give a candidate, a $500-a-year cap on individual contributions to non-party groups and a $3,000-a-year limit on total nonresident donations a candidate for office like state House can raise.
Alaska – Mayor Bronson Replaces Head of Solid Waste Services with Father of Former Campaign Manager
Yahoo News – Emily GoodyKoontz (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 8/18/2021
Dan Zipay, a longtime player in Anchorage’s trash-hauling industry and the father of Mayor Dave Bronson’s former campaign manager, will be the new head of the city’s garbage collection agency. Zipay is a part-owner of Denali Disposal, a private trash collection company, which is run by his daughter, Bernadette Wilson, who was also Bronson’s campaign chairperson. Anchorage Assemblyperson Chris Constant said he has a “a lot of questions” about Dan Zipay’s appointment and potential conflicts-of-interest, including if the city were to privatize Solid Waste Services.
Arkansas – Hung Jury on All but One Count in Gilbert Baker Corruption Trial
KUAR – Debra Hale-Shelton (Arkansas Nonprofit News Network) | Published: 8/12/2021
A federal jury acquitted former lobbyist and political fundraiser Gilbert Baker of conspiracy but failed to reach a verdict on eight other charges, including one count of bribery and seven of wire fraud. In the indictment and trial, prosecutors argued Baker was the middleman in an alleged plot in 2013 to bribe former Faulkner County Circuit Court Judge Mike Maggio on behalf of Michael Morton, a wealthy nursing home owner and campaign financier. Maggio, who testified for the prosecution, pleaded guilty to bribery in 2015 and is serving a 10-year prison sentence. Morton has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.
California – El Monte Council Removes Colleague’s Title, Extra Duties Following Lobbyist Gift Scandal
San Gabriel Valley Tribune – Jason Henry | Published: 8/13/2021
The El Monte City Council removed Vicky Martinez Muela from her position as mayor pro tem and revoked her membership in outside commissions in response to allegations she accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from a lobbyist, including a partial payment for a breast augmentation surgery. Under state law, local government officials are prohibited from receiving gifts over $520 as of January 2021. Martinez Muela did not report any of the gifts from Lopez on her annual economic disclosures, though she had previously reported meals as low as $15 in the past.
California – Federal Lawsuit Challenges California Recall as Unconstitutional
Politico – Jeremy White and Debra Kahn | Published: 8/12/2021
Two California voters are challenging the legality of the state’s recall system less than a month before Election Day, echoing concerns from constitutional scholars as Gov. Gavin Newsom fights for his political life. A complaint argues the state’s recall provision violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by allowing sitting governors to be replaced by candidates who have received fewer votes. The plaintiffs want a court order either prohibiting the recall election or adding Newsom’s name to the replacement candidate list.
Colorado – Colorado Republican Official Accused After Voting System Passwords Are Leaked to Right-Wing Site
MSN – Kim Bellware (Washington Post) | Published: 8/13/2021
A bizarre security breach of a rural Colorado county’s voting system has escalated into a criminal probe of the clerk’s office, a ban on the county’s existing election equipment, and heightened partisan divides over election-fraud claims. Footage that showed passwords related to the county’s voting systems was surreptitiously recorded during a May security update and published recently on a far-right blog. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold determined Mesa County cannot use its existing equipment for its November election.
Florida – Donations to Fried, Crist Campaigns Linked to Dark Money Group in Election Fraud Case
Florida Daily Tribune – Samantha Gross and Bianca Padró Ocasio (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/18/2021
A “dark-money” donor at the center of a public corruption investigation into the 2020 election cycle helped back three groups that recently contributed to 2022 Democratic candidates for governor, including Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist. Urban Action Fund and Democratic Action Network PC, and Democratic Services Network received a total of $85,500 from Grow United Inc. last October. Grow United, which does not disclose its money sources, paid for more than $500,000 in misleading mailers targeting Democrats in three key state Senate races in 2020.
Florida – Florida Gov. DeSantis Promotes Regeneron, a COVID-19 Treatment Connected to One of His Largest Donors
MSN – Zac Anderson, Michael Kennedy, and Jeffrey Schweers (Sarasota Herald Tribune) | Published: 8/18/2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis has zeroed in on monoclonal antibody therapy as a lifeline for COVID-19 patients, holding press conferences around the state where he name-checks a specific drugmaker, Regeneron, which is a major investment for one of his largest campaign contributors. As DeSantis ramps up his reelection bid, the largest donation to his political committee this cycle is a $5 million contribution from Kenneth Griffin, the chief executive of hedge fund Citadel, which owns $15.9 million shares in Regeneron. Griffin also gave DeSantis $5.75 million in 2018, during his run for governor.
Florida – How Florida Condo Associations Wielded Political Power Before the Surfside Collapse
MSN – Jon Schuppe (NBC News) | Published: 8/12/2021
Florida, where millions of homes are vulnerable to hurricanes, rising seas, and saltwater corrosion, has some of the country’s strictest regulations for high-rise condominiums. But the collapse of a 12-story condo tower in Surfside has drawn fresh attention to loopholes that allow condo associations to delay inspections, renovations, and compliance with directives they say are too expensive or burdensome. Veteran lobbyists hold outsize sway over part-time lawmakers constrained by term limits and a 60-day window each year to decide which among hundreds of bills should become law.
Florida – Jurors Convict Prominent Tallahassee Businessman J.T. Burnette on Public Corruption Charges
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 8/12/2021
J.T. Burnette, one of Tallahassee’s leading businesspeople whose formula for success included dangling money in front of local politicians and officials, was convicted on a host of public corruption charges. Burnette is the third major player to go down as part of the FBI’s “Operation Capital Currency,” a two-year undercover investigation into “pay-to-play” in Tallahassee. Former mayor and city commissioner Scott Maddox, along with his girlfriend and longtime business partner, Paige Carter-Smith, pleaded guilty in 2019.
Georgia – Potential G.O.P. Takeover of Atlanta-Area Election Board Inches Forward
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 8/18/2021
The Georgia State Election Board appointed a majority-Republican panel to review the performance of the Fulton County board of elections, another step toward a potential Republican takeover of the election system in the biggest Democratic county in the state. The moves surrounding the Fulton County board have come as Republican-controlled Legislatures across the country angle for greater power over election administration, often seeking to strip it from election officials and give it to partisan lawmakers.
Illinois – Ontario PC Fundraising Letters Labelled ‘Invoice’ Blasted as a ‘Scam’ as Calls Mount for Investigation
CBC – John Rieti and Karina Zapata | Published: 8/18/2021
An Ontario woman says she was incensed after receiving a fundraising letter from the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario that looks like an invoice, something opposition parties are already criticizing as a “scam.” Part of the letter is labelled “invoice” and looks like a bill to be sent to the Ontario PCs in Toronto. The only line item says, “Election Readiness Fund” and lists a total of $300, then lower down the page states there is a “balance due.” The word donation does appear, but only at the bottom of the page. The Ontario Liberal party called for an investigation by Elections Ontario and the anti-fraud branch of the Ontario Provincial Police.
Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds Didn’t Violate Iowa’s Self-Promotion Law with COVID Mask Ads, Board Finds
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 8/13/2021
The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board found Gov. Kim Reynolds did not violate the state’s ban on using taxpayer funds for self-promotion when she appeared in advertisements last year encouraging Iowans to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Step Up, Stop the Spread” advertisements, which featured Reynolds sitting in her formal office with her name and title onscreen, used about $150,000 of federal stimulus funds. State Auditor Rob Sand’s complaint said using those funds violate the law, which prohibits using taxpayer money for self-promotion.
Iowa – No Evidence That National Conservative Group Heritage Action Lobbied for Iowa Election Law, Ethics Board Says
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 8/13/2021
The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board said it found no evidence a national conservative organization illegally lobbied the state Legislature for a law that cut the amount of time residents have to vote. The board opened an investigation into Heritage Action after video surfaced of the group’s executive director, Jessica Anderson, claiming credit for writing parts of the bill. Lobbyists in Iowa must register with the House and Senate and list specific bills they intend to influence.
Kansas – After Resignation, Michael O’Donnell Asked Sedgwick County for Money for New Employer
MSN – Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 8/17/2021
The Sedgwick County Commission delayed a $36,000 payment to Mayflower Clinic after the nonprofit’s founder failed to disclose the involvement of former county Commissioner Michael O’Donnell, who resigned amid scandal and is now the clinic’s executive director. In 2018, O’Donnell was indicted and later acquitted on federal charges of money laundering for paying friends out of his campaign account. He admitted the payments violated state law and agreed to pay a $12,500 fine to the state ethics commission.
New Mexico – City Investigation Supports Allegations Against Gonzales’ Campaign
Albuquerque Journal – Olivier Uyttebrouck | Published: 8/16/2021
An investigation by Albuquerque’s inspector general has found Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ mayoral campaign cut corners in its quest for more than $600,000 in public financing. The report substantiated allegations made against Gonzales’ campaign, including that it submitted a substantial number of qualifying contributions for which voters neither signed the receipt nor paid the required five-dollar contribution. In so doing, the campaign violated city laws that spell out what candidates must do to tap into public financing.
New York – #MeToo Take 2? Movement’s Strength Hailed Amid Cuomo Fallout
MSN – Jocelyn Noveck (Associated Press) | Published: 8/12/2021
A number of leading figures connected with #MeToo say the movement, launched in 2017 with revelations about Harvey Weinstein, reached a significant milestone with the resignation of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, regardless of fits and starts along the way. To attorney Debra Katz, who has represented women accusing powerful men of sexual misconduct for four decades, said the Cuomo resignation would never have happened before #MeToo. She noted the domino effect of one accuser coming out and then others emerging, inspired by the courage of fellow accusers and enraged by attempts to discredit them.
New York – Cuomo Fallout? Two Ex-Governor’s Aides Leave Kivvit Consulting
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/16/2021
The apparent fallout is continuing for former aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who became involved in the controversies that enveloped the governor. Former Cuomo chief of staff Joshua Vlasto and ex-communications director Richard Bamberger abruptly left the consulting firm Kivvit, whose managing partner is another high-ranking Cuomo aide, Maggie Moran. While Moran was not mentioned in a scathing report issued by the state attorney general’s office that detailed Cuomo’s alleged harassment of multiple women as well his office’s response to the allegations, Vlasto and Bamberger were both discussed.
New York – Cuomo-Appointed Ethics Chair Resigns
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/13/2021
The chairperson of the New York the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), Camille Joseph Varlack, submitted her resignation. While the timing might suggest Varlack’s departure is tied to Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepping down – Varlack was appointed as chair by Cuomo in February – the resignation had apparently been in the works for some time. The resignation comes at a time of tumult for JCOPE and state government generally, and with one commissioner trying to void the prior approval of Cuomo’s $5.1 million book deal last year.
New York – Firm Denies Lobbying Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul for Husband’s Company
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/12/2021
Kathy Hochul, scheduled to become governor of New York on August 24, is already facing questions about whether her position running the state, and her husband’s job, present a conflict-of-interest. Disclosure filings from last year that say Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was lobbied at least twice by a firm representing Delaware North Companies contained incorrect information, the firm maintained. Delaware North Companies is a major food, hospitality, and gaming company where Hochul’s husband, William Hochul, has been a high-ranking official since 2016.
New York – Kushner Friend Ken Kurson Charged in N.Y. Eavesdropping Case After Trump Pardon
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 8/18/2021
Ken Kurson, a close friend of former President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, was charged in a state eavesdropping and computer-trespass case in New York months after receiving a federal pardon while facing similar harassment allegations. The former New York Observer editor’s arrest marks what is likely the first instance of a local prosecutor pursuing state-level charges against a person after that individual was given a pass by Trump for the same alleged conduct that federal authorities had pursued. A president’s clemency grants apply only in federal cases.
North Carolina – Got $10,000? You Can Watch a Football Game with NC Lawmakers.
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 8/16/2021
A group with ties to Republican lawmakers sent out fundraiser invitations, asking for donations up to $10,000 to mingle with half a dozen North Carolina. lawmakers at college football game. Greater Carolina is a 501(c)(4), one of several “dark money” groups that can raise unlimited cash without identifying donors. It sent invites to lobbyists and others in the General Assembly orbit, inviting them to the September 2 game between East Carolina University and Appalachian State, which will be played in Charlotte.
North Carolina – No Prison Time for NC Politician Who Took Almost $400,000 from Donors for Personal Use
MSN – Will Doran (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 8/17/2021
After admitting to financial crimes like not paying taxes, as part of a scheme to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from his political supporters for his own personal use, a powerful North Carolina politician will avoid prison. Prosecutors say former state Rep. David Lewis will have to pay a $1,000 fine and avoid getting in trouble again for the next two years. He could have faced up to 30 years in prison if he had gone to trial and lost. Federal prosecutors had agreed not to seek any prison time against Lewis in exchange for his guilty plea and repayment of the $365,000 he took.
North Carolina – Two Coronavirus Cases Known at NC Legislature as Rumors Stir Worry
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 8/16/2021
There were two confirmed cases of coronavirus at the North Carolina Legislature in the past week and an additional negative test. Some Democratic House members expressed concern, as did some lobbyists who heard about a Senate staff case through the grapevine. One House Democrat said they were worried about coming to the Legislative Building. Most state lawmakers, and particularly Republicans, did not when asked recently whether they were vaccinated. Some Republican members traveled to Utah for the annual American Legislative Exchange Council meeting, a gathering of conservative lawmakers from around the country.
North Carolina – Utilities Commission Makes It Tougher for Companies to Charge Political Expenditures to Ratepayers
NC Policy Watch – Lisa Sorg | Published: 8/16/2021
A ruling by the North Carolina Utilities Commission will hinder public utilities from passing along lobbying and advertising expenses to ratepayers. This “discretionary spending” includes advertising that appears on social media, as well as promotional materials that serve only to burnish a utility’s image, compete with other utilities for customers, and are unrelated to providing service to the public. Utilities must also keep detailed lobbying records involving conversations with the executive branch of state government. Other expenses, such as political advertising and lobbying, must be covered by company shareholders.
Ohio – County Coroners’ Multiple Side Jobs Raise Concerns
MSN – Josh Swigert (Dayton Daily News) | Published: 8/15/2021
The elected coroners of Montgomery, Warren, and Clark counties in Ohio all had side jobs last year for other counties their offices also do business with, raising concerns about potential conflicts-of-interest. Payroll data and financial disclosure forms coroners file with the Ohio Ethics Commission show some elected coroners also do private work in addition to their multiple government jobs. The coroners said these arrangements happen because of a lack of forensic pathologists and places that can do autopsies. Warren County Coroner Russell Uptegrove’s multiple publicly funded jobs paid him more than $600,000 last year.
Rhode Island – Ethics Commission Finds Probable Cause of Violation by Former Warwick Official
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 8/17/2021
The Rhode Island Ethics Commission found probable cause to believe former Warwick City Council President Steven Merolla violated the ethics code by approving $195,000 in payments to an accounting firm whose partners included his campaign treasurer and personal accountant. Merolla not only voted for the increases of $30,000 and $165,000 in a city contract with the accounting firm YKSM, he also signed five invoices for the firm and hounded administration officials when they balked at making the payments, according to a commission report.
South Carolina – South Carolina Politicians Blow Off Their Ethics Fines with Few Consequences
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks and Joseph Cranney | Published: 8/14/2021
Dozens of public officials across South Carolina disregard fines they owe to the state Ethics Commission, allowing their debts to accrue with little or no consequences. Nearly $2.9 million is owed by 370 politicians, local officials, and others. A media investigation identified at least 50 individuals with more than $250,000 in outstanding debts who currently hold office. Nothing in South Carolina law prevents these debtors from continuing to hold or seek office. Scores of them have won re-election while stiff-arming the state’s ethics watchdog, a strapped agency with little authority to collect on its fines.
Texas – ‘It’s the Height of Hypocrisy’: After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott contracts covid-19, Democrats ramp up calls for mask mandates
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Eva Ruth Moravec (Washington Post) | Published: 8/18/2021
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been vaccinated, tested positive for the coronavirus recently. Abbott is among the Republican governors who have resisted public health mandates aimed at stemming the tide of the virus’s delta variant. Videos and photos posted by Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign show him delivering remarks and mingling with a mask-less crowd of more than 100 people indoors at an event when he may have been contagious. Abbott’s escalating efforts to stop mask mandates have ended up in the Texas courts.
Texas – Texas Supreme Court Says House Democrats Can Be Arrested and Brought to the Capitol, Siding with Republicans Trying to Secure a Quorum
Texas Tribune – Joshua Fechner | Published: 8/17/2021
Texas House Democrats who refuse to show up to the state Capitol in their bid to prevent Republican lawmakers from passing a voting restrictions bill can be arrested and brought to the lower chamber, the state Supreme Court ruled. The all-Republican court sided with Gov. Greg Abbott and ordered a Travis County District Court judge to revoke his temporary restraining order blocking the civil arrest of Democratic lawmakers whose absences have denied the chamber the number of present members needed to move any legislation.
Virginia – Citizens Who Want Money Out of Va. Politics Release New Report Urging Changes
The Daily Progress – Patrick Wilson (Richmond Times-Dispatch) | Published: 8/18/2021
After listening to lawmakers and studying other states, a citizen group that wants money out of Virginia politics issued a report it says can be a blueprint for the General Assembly to improve the state’s permissive campaign finance structure. Virginia is one of few states without a limit on campaign donations. Among the recommendations by MoneyOutVA are enhanced disclosures, regular auditing of campaign funding, and creating guidelines for complaints. The report endorses public financing of elections.
August 13, 2021 •
National/Federal DeJoy Maintains Financial Ties to Former Company as USPS Awards It New $120 Million Contract MSN – Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 8/6/2021 The U.S. Postal Service will pay $120 million over the next five years to a major […]
DeJoy Maintains Financial Ties to Former Company as USPS Awards It New $120 Million Contract
MSN – Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 8/6/2021
The U.S. Postal Service will pay $120 million over the next five years to a major logistics contractor that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy previously helped lead and with which his family maintains financial ties. The new contract will deepen the Postal Service’s relationship with XPO Logistics, where DeJoy served as supply chain chief executive after the company purchased New Breed Logistics, the trucking firm he owned for more than 30 years. Since he became postmaster general, DeJoy has divested between $65.4 million and $155.3 million worth of XPO shares. But DeJoy’s family businesses continue to lease four North Carolina office buildings to XPO.
Dominion Lodges Suits Against OAN, Newsmax, Ex-Overstock CEO
MSN – Nick Niedzwiadek (Politico) | Published: 8/10/2021
Dominion Voting Systems opened another front in its battle against right-wing attacks on the integrity of its technology, filing lawsuits against two conservative media outlets and former Overstock.com Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne. Dominion accused Byrne, Newsmax, and One America News Network of making defamatory claims against the company and spreading baseless allegations that its machines were used to rig the election for Joe Biden. Dominion alleges the companies went outside of protected First Amendment activities by giving a platform to false claims about the company and showing little concern for the truth.
Dominion’s Lawsuits Against Trump Allies Can Move Forward After Judge Rejects Arguments
MSN – Lateshia Beachum and Maria Luisa Paul (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
A federal judge denied requests by former President Trump’s allies to throw out more than $3 billion in defamation lawsuits over false claims that a voting machine company’s technology was used to rig the 2020 election. The ruling allows lawsuits by Dominion Voting Systems against former Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudolph Giuliani, as well as MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, to move forward. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said Powell and Lindell made their claims “knowing that they were false or with reckless disregard for the truth.”
Frustration and Persistence for Activists on the 56th Anniversary of the Voting Rights
MSN – Vanessa Williams (Washington Post) | Published: 8/6/2021
The 1965 Voting Rights Act is considered the most significant achievement of the civil rights movement because it removed Jim Crow-era laws that blocked the vast majority of Black people from voting, especially in the South. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013, and another this year, weakened the landmark law, while Republican-controlled Legislatures passed new voting restrictions advocates say target people of color, as well as young and working-class people. Activists are exasperated that members of Congress and President Biden have not been able to push through federal legislation that would supersede the voting laws moving through state Legislatures across the country.
GOP Congressman Suing Pelosi Over Mask Mandate Contracts Coronavirus
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 8/5/2021
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, one of three Republican members of Congress who filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the chamber’s mask mandate, tested positive for the coronavirus. Pelosi kept in place the mask mandate after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance to say fully vaccinated people most likely did not have to wear masks, sparking a backlash among House Republicans, who accused Pelosi of wanting simply to “control” the chamber.
House Democrats Granted Limited Access to Trump Financial Records
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
House Democrats investigating former President Trump can have access to his personal financial records from 2017 and 2018, a federal judge ruled, as well as information related to his lease of a building near the White House. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that courts must take separation of powers concerns into account when members of Congress want personal information from the president. Because of Congress’s role in overseeing the president’s foreign business interests, release of the records from 2017 and 2018 is justified, said U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta.
Judge Suggests Feds Are Too Lenient Toward Jan. 6 Defendants
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 8/9/2021
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell suggested federal prosecutors were being too lenient in their handling of cases stemming from the storming of the Capitol as lawmakers were convening on January 6 to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race. Howell raised questions about why some defendants were being permitted to resolve their criminal cases by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and why the amount of money prosecutors are seeking to recover through those plea deals was based on a relatively paltry estimate of about $1.5 million in damages caused by the rioters.
Rand Paul Discloses 16 Months Late That His Wife Bought Stock in Company Behind Covid Treatment
Seattle Times – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul revealed his wife bought stock in Gilead Sciences, which makes an antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19, in February 2020, before it was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The disclosure came 16 months after the 45-day reporting deadline set forth in the Stock Act, which is designed to combat insider trading. The investment, especially the delayed reporting of it, alarmed experts in corporate and securities law, who said it raised questions about whether Paul’s family profited from nonpublic information about the looming health emergency and plans by the U.S. government to combat it.
Republicans Risk Becoming Face of Delta Surge as Key GOP Governors Oppose Anti-Covid Measures
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
Three governors frequently mentioned as potential presidential candidates in 2024 – Greg Abbott in Texas, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem – are at the vanguard of Republican resistance to public-health mandates aimed at stemming the tide of the delta variant, which has caused a new spike in coronavirus cases. They and other national and local GOP officials cast their opposition to such measures as an effort to protect personal choice. But some fear the party is on track to make itself the face of the delta variant, endangering fellow Americans while also risking political damage in the long term.
Secret IRS Files Reveal How Much the Ultrawealthy Gained by Shaping Trump’s ‘Big, Beautiful Tax Cut’
Talking Points Memo – Justin Elliot and Robert Faturechi (ProPublica) | Published: 8/11/2021
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the biggest rewrite of the tax code in decades. Crafted largely in secret by a handful of Trump administration officials and members of Congress, the bill was rushed through the legislative process. As draft language of the bill made its way through Congress, lawmakers friendly to billionaires and their lobbyists were able to stretch the bill to accommodate a variety of special groups. In the first year after Trump signed the bill, just 82 ultrawealthy households collectively walked away with more than $1 billion in total tax savings.
Watchdog Sues FEC for Closing Investigation into Rick Scott, Allied Super PAC
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 8/9/2021
A watchdog group sued the FEC for dismissing a complaint alleging U.S. Sen. Rick Scott unlawfully used a super PAC to support his 2018 Senate run. The Campaign Legal Center challenged the decision by Republican commissioners to close an investigation into Scott against the recommendation of the agency’s nonpartisan lawyers. End Citizens United had alleged Scott and the New Republican PAC, a group he formerly chaired, violated election laws prohibiting coordination between candidates and outside groups.
‘We Are in Harm’s Way’: Election officials fear for their personal safety amid torrent of false claims about voting
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Rosalind Helderman, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
Nine months after the 2020 election, local officials across the country are coping with an ongoing barrage of criticism and personal attacks that many fear could lead to an exodus of veteran election administrators before the next presidential race. As former President Trump continues to promote the false notion that the 2020 White House race was tainted by fraud, there is mounting evidence his attacks are curdling the faith many Americans once had in their elections and taking a deep toll on the public servants who work to protect the vote.
What Rosen Told U.S. Senators: Trump applied ‘persistent’ pressure to get Justice to discredit election
MSN – Ann Marimow and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/12/2021
Former President Trump’s last attorney general told U.S. senators his boss was “persistent” in trying to pressure the Justice Department to discredit the results of the 2020 election. In closed-door testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeffrey Rosen said he had to “persuade the president not to pursue a different path” at a high-stakes January meeting in which Trump considered ousting Rosen as the nation’s most powerful law enforcement officer. The testimony is part of a trough of information that congressional investigators are assembling about Trump’s efforts to reverse his defeat and use the Justice Department to stay in office.
Canada – Lobbyist Jack Stirling Sent to Penalty Box for a Month in the Wake of Jan Harder Integrity Case
Ottawa Citizen – Jon Willing | Published: 8/5/2021
Jack Stirling and his company, The Stirling Group, was banned from lobbying in Ottawa for 30 days. Stirling acknowledged he provided free services to a council member between November 2019 and February 2020, while he was registered as a lobbyist at City Hall. At the time, he had three active lobbying files with the city. Under the lobbyist code of conduct, a lobbyist with active files cannot offer gifts or benefits to council members or their staff.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – State Fines Anchorage Mayor Bronson $33,500 for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Emily GoodyKoontz (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 8/9/2021
The Alaska Public Offices Commission fined the campaign of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson a total of $33,500 for failing to report financial contributions to the campaign on time. State rules dictate that during the nine days before an election, candidates must disclose contributions that are more than $250 in a 24-hour report. The fine is in addition to a $26,500 penalty recommended by APOC staff against Bronson in July for multiple violations.
Arizona – Arizona State Sen. Tony Navarrete Resigns Seat After Arrest in Child Sex Abuse Case
MSN – Mary Joe Pitzl (Arizona Republic) | Published: 8/10/2021
After days of pleas for him to step down in the wake of an arrest on allegations of child sexual abuse, Tony Navarrete resigned his Arizona Senate seat but issued a separate statement vowing to prove his innocence. His employer, the faith-based Neighborhood Ministries, put Navarrete on leave and said he will be terminated. The arrest came after a 16-year-old boy went to Phoenix police with allegations of abuse dating from 2019. The probable cause statement also alleged Navarrete attempted sexual conduct with a 13-year-old boy.
Arizona – Business Consultants Offer to Buy Ghostwritten Op-Eds Pressuring Arizona Senators
Radiofree.org – Lee Fang (The Intercept) | Published: 8/10/2021
Public relations experts working for a mysterious client have been preparing ghostwritten opinion columns set to run in Arizona newspapers. The columns warn U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema to oppose civil litigation reform legislation designed to prevent Americans from being forced into binding arbitration. If enacted, the legislation would ensure consumers’ and employees’ rights to pursue civil litigation against corporations. But the consultants could not find local residents to author the columns. Instead, they are offering as much as $2,000 to help identify “normal, everyday” people willing to sign their names to pre-written arguments.
California – Hockey Arena’s Developers Donated $60,000 to Perez After Project Won County Approval
MSN – Tom Coulter (Palm Springs Desert Sun) | Published: 8/9/2021
A month after Riverside County supervisors approved a $250 million project to build a hockey arena, the cohort spearheading the plans gave the maximum campaign contribution to Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, whose district encompasses the project. Perez was the only supervisor on the five-member board to receive donations from the developers in recent months. Other groups with ties to the arena project also have donated to Perez.
California – Water Authority’s Confidential Consultant Contracts Surprised Board
Voice of San Diego – MacKenzie Elmer | Published: 8/4/2021
The San Diego County Water Authority is building a team of consultants but will not explain the work they are doing. The authority spent $167,000 on two consultant contracts since July 2019 without disclosing them to the board, which is composed of representatives from the region’s 24 water agencies. It also will not say what a third contract that was approved by the board, worth more than $330,000, was for. A rule allows the general manager to execute contracts below $150,000 without board approval. One board member argued a consultant was lobbying against her water district’s interests.
Florida – Dark Money Behind Florida ‘Ghost’ Candidates Has Ties to Alabama Political Players, Records Suggest
MSN – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 8/5/2021
The source of more than $500,000 spent last year promoting “ghost] candidates in key state Senate races remained a mystery even as the scandal rocked Florida politics, but newly public records suggest the money is tied to political players in Alabama. The money paid for nearly identical mailers apparently tailored to persuade Democratic-leaning voters to support the independent candidates in each of the three races, all of which were ultimately won by Republicans. Authorities in Miami-Dade County have charged two people in connection with one of those races.
Florida – DeSantis Donor Got $50 Million in Emergency Pandemic Work
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 8/5/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration awarded nearly $50 million in no-bid Covid-related work to a controversial company that lobbied his administration for the contracts, then gave the governor a $100,000 political contribution. Nomi Health, Inc. has received $46 million under two separate contracts it signed with the state for Covid-19 testing and vaccine work between February and June. The spending was approved under a DeSantis-signed pandemic executive order, which gave the administration broad legal authority to spend state funds without legislative approval or going through a normal procurement process.
Florida – Florida Won’t Defend Ballot Measure Contribution Cap
The Center Square – John Haughey | Published: 8/10/2021
Florida will not appeal a federal judge’s ruling striking down a law that caps early campaign donations to citizens’ initiatives committees sponsoring constitutional amendments at $3,000. The judge’s order prohibits the Florida Elections Commission from enforcing the contribution limit. U.S. District Court Judge Allen Winsor determined Florida has “no significant interest” in limiting political speech in the form of donations to political committees engaged in petition drives to get proposed constitutional amendments before voters.
Florida – Will Canady the Candidate Pose Ethical Dilemma for Canady the Florida Chief Justice?
Yahoo News – Dara Kam (News Service of Florida) | Published: 8/11/2021
Jennifer Canady’s election to the House could be a history making victory as she would be the first spouse of a sitting Florida Supreme Court justice to serve in the state Legislature in modern history. But the Canady union could also prove thorny for Chief Justice Charles Canady if his wife wins, according to legal experts. The family relationship between a sitting Florida judge or Supreme Court justice and a state legislator “may very well raise serious issues of judicial conduct and disqualification under the Florida code of judicial conduct,” University of Miami law professor Anthony Alfieri said.
Louisiana – New Orleans Ethics Review Board Recommends Barring City Council Campaign Donations from Entergy, Cox and Other Utilities
The Lens – Michael Isaac Stein | Published: 8/11/2021
The New Orleans Ethics Review Board voted to recommend a revision to the ethics code that would bar city council members and candidates from accepting political contributions from city-regulated utility firms like Entergy New Orleans or Cox Communications, along with any vendor working on a contract awarded by the council or the Sewerage and Water Board. The city council would need to approve the change. There are still some big legal questions about whether the council members have the authority to wade into campaign finance restrictions or apply government ethics rules to candidates who are not yet government officials.
Maine – Bangor Board of Ethics Alters Guidelines on Political Speech from Councilors
Bangor Daily News – David Marino Jr. | Published: 8/11/2021
The Bangor Board of Ethics approved a proposed law on political speech by city officials. The new code is less ambiguous than the last, with the framers aiming to balance the First Amendment rights of Bangor officials with language that will maintain the city’s neutrality and not align it with viewpoints or organizations it does not officially support. Bangor is one of the few population centers in Maine with an explicit ban on certain political speech from officials.
Maine – Ethics Panel Continues Pursuit of Financial Records from Unnamed Consultants
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 8/8/2021
The Maine ethics commission is continuing its efforts to shield the identity of two political consulting firms involved in the $1 billion Central Maine Power transmission corridor project even as it prepares to take legal action against the firms. The commission’s lawyer, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Bolton, is expected to file a lawsuit soon to enforce a subpoena for records from the firms, which appear to be based in California and Virginia. But the commission will give the firms advance notice so they can file simultaneous motions asking the court to seal the case from public view while a judge decides whether to enforce the subpoenas.
Mississippi – City Sanctioned for Slow Response to Public Records Request
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 8/9/2021
The Mississippi Ethics Commission ordered the city of Jackson to pay more than $170,000 in legal fees for violating state law by taking more than a year to provide public records a television station requested. It is the largest amount the commission has ever ordered a public entity to pay and one of a few times the agency has required payment of legal fees. The decision comes more than two years after WLBT made seven public-records requests to the Jackson Police Department for emails, memos, and crime statistics.
New Mexico – Complaint Against Keller Tossed
MSN – Olivier Uyttebrouck and Jessica Dyer (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 8/9/2021
Albuquerque City Clerk Ethan Watson tossed an election ethics complaint against himself and Mayor Tim Keller, saying it fails to meet standards requiring a detailed description of the allegations and how they violated specific rules. The complaint alleges Keller violated rules when pursuing over $600,000 in public campaign financing. It also identifies the city clerk, saying he failed to follow his own published rules when he approved Keller’s qualifying contributions, among other charges.
New Mexico – Former County Official Convicted of Procurement Violation
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 8/5/2021
A former Rio Arriba County commissioner faces up to 18 months in prison when he is sentenced on a conviction for violating New Mexico’s procurement code. A judge ruled ex-Commissioner Barney Trujillo violated the law when he failed to disclose contributions that he made to an Española school board member’s campaign.
New York – Cuomo Has $18 Million in Campaign Cash. What Can He Do with It?
New York Times – J. David Goodman | Published: 8/12/2021
Even after his resignation takes effect in less than two weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will still control $18 million campaign account amassed in apparent preparation for a run at a fourth term next year. But his huge stock of campaign money, the most money retained by a departing New York politician in recent memory, affords him a range of possibilities, including the chance to attempt an eventual comeback or to play a role in the state’s political life by donating to other candidates.
New York – New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Announces Resignation in Effort to Head Off Likely Impeachment in Wake of Devastating Report on His Conduct
MSN – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/10/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation after state Attorney General Letitia James released the results of an investigation that found he sexually harassed at least 11 women. The governor still faces the possibility of criminal charges, with prosecutors around the state continuing to investigate him. Cuomo repeatedly denied improperly touching women, even as accusations mounted, and dismissed the harassment claims as a misinterpretation of his affectionate political style. Impeachment proceedings were ongoing and Cuomo advisers said privately they expected he would be removed from office.
New York – Other Politicians’ Scandals Propelled Career of NY’s Next Governor, Ex-Rep. Kathy Hochul
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 8/10/2021
New York’s next governor, Kathy Hochul, has had a political career defined by scandal by both her political adversaries and allies. She will be the state’s first female governor and the first from Buffalo since Grover Cleveland in 1882. Hochu will take office after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation. A state attorney general’s report fond allegations of sexual harassment made against Cuomo credible.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Bribery Scandal Raises Questions About Vetting at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/8/2021
FirstEnergy admitted money paid to Sam Randazzo before he became chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) was a bribe given in exchange for favorable treatment. In ethics forms Randazzo filed shortly after Gov. Mike DeWine hired him, he disclosed making money consulting through two companies he owned but did not list the amounts. State officials must disclose the amount only if it came from an entity looking to do business with the agency where they work. Randazzo did not mention FirstEnergy was a client. DeWine said he did not know FirstEnergy had paid Randazzo more than $20 million over the past decade.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission to Review Campaign Finance Complaint Against Rep. Wiggam, Others
MSN – Bryce Buyakie (Times Record) | Published: 8/6/2021
A complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission alleges three state lawmakers received free campaign management software linked to the Republican National Committee worth a total of $9,000. The compliant says the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization that writes legislation, gave Reps. Scott Wiggam and Bill Seitz, along with Sen. Robert McColley, free access to the software for 2020 election campaign. ALEC may have provided it to some of the group’s other 2,000 state legislative members across the country, totaling around $6 million in campaign contributions, the complaint alleges.
Oregon – Report Finds Small-Dollar Donors in Portland Achieved New Influence in Local Elections
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 8/10/2021
Rules dictate that after every election, an oversight group for the Open and Accountable Elections program must produce a report evaluating how Portland’s system of public campaign financing panned out. Their report found that during its debut election cycle, the program fundamentally changed the dynamics of fundraising in Portland: small-dollar donors were now the main focus of most campaigns.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania’s Lawmaker Reimbursement Rules Are ‘Ripe for Abuse’
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Sam Janesch, Mike Wereschagin, and Brad Bumsted (The Caucus) | Published: 8/6/2021
Despite warnings from good-government advocates and even some inside the Capitol that Pennsylvania’s two state-run systems for reimbursing lawmakers are ripe for abuse, Republican leadership has failed to move reforms. Unlike most private and public sector employers, state lawmakers often are not required to provide any proof when seeking reimbursements from taxpayer-funded accounts. On the campaign side, the public cannot see thousands of dollars of election expenses lumped together under vague categories and charged to credit cards.
Tennessee – Commission Overrides Harris Veto of County Ethics Advisory Panel
Daily Memphian – Bill Dries | Published: 8/9/2021
Shelby County commissioners overrode County Mayor Lee Harris’s veto of a new ethics advisory panel to be appointed by the commission. Commissioner Amber Mills proposed the advisory group, saying it would advise the commission on anyone the mayor appoints to the county’s ethics panel as well as any proposed amendments to the ethics ordinance.
Texas – Texas GOP Hits New Roadblocks in Push for Voting Restrictions
MSN – Eva Ruth Moravec and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
Texas Republicans hit fresh roadblocks in their effort to enact new voting restrictions, facing a Democratic filibuster in the state Senate and signs that legal maneuvering could protect House quorum breakers from arrest. In the House, which remained without a quorum, deputies for the sergeant-at-arms apparently failed to find any absent Democrats as they delivered civil arrest warrants to their offices. The unexpected developments threw fresh uncertainty into a months-long standoff that has crystallized the national debate over voting rights.
Washington – Group That Wants to Provide Legal Help to Eyman Starts Fight with Disclosure Commission
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 8/9/2021
A group that wants to represent anti-tax activist Tim Eyman has sued over how Washington’s campaign finance law might apply to its pro bono legal work. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Eyman for violating campaign finance laws and a judge fined Eyman $2.6 million. The judge found him to be a “continuing political committee,” and he had not properly filed campaign finance reports and put donors’ contributions to personal use. The Institute for Free Speech wants to represent Eyman on appeal, but his designation as a “continuing political committee” raised questions about whether the institute would be subject to campaign finance laws if they represented him for free.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin GOP Lawmaker Takes First Step Toward Launching Arizona-Style Election Review
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 8/6/2021
State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, chairperson of the Wisconsin Assembly’s elections committee, said she was subpoenaing 2020 election materials including physical ballots and voting machines from two large counties, in an attempt to bring an Arizona-style review of the 2020 election to another state. The subpoenas seek a wide scope of materials, stretching from the physical ballots themselves, to tabulation equipment and “forensic images” of election equipment. It is not yet clear if the subpoenas are valid, however.
August 6, 2021 •
National/Federal $5,800 Bottle of Whiskey, a Gift from Japan to Pompeo, Is Missing, U.S. Says Seattle Times – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 8/4/2021 The State Department is investigating the whereabouts of a $5,800 bottle of whiskey the Japanese […]
$5,800 Bottle of Whiskey, a Gift from Japan to Pompeo, Is Missing, U.S. Says
Seattle Times – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 8/4/2021
The State Department is investigating the whereabouts of a $5,800 bottle of whiskey the Japanese government gave to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2019. It was unclear whether Pompeo ever received the gift, as he was traveling in Saudi Arabia on the day Japanese officials gave it to the State Department. American officials can keep gifts that are less than $390. But if the officials want to keep gifts that are over that price, they must purchase them.
CNN’s Cuomo Conundrum: A star anchor with a brother in trouble
Yahoo News – Michael Grynbaum (New York Times) | Published: 8/4/2021
Earlier this year, CNN executives told Chris Cuomo that if he wanted to formally advise his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on responding to the sexual harassment accusations, he could take a temporary leave from CNN and return to later. The idea was optional and intended as an acknowledgment of Chris Cuomo’s unique position as both a prime-time network anchor and the brother of a prominent politician facing a scandal. It underlines the conundrum for a network whose top-rated anchor belongs to one of the country’s most powerful families, and the lengths that CNN has gone to accommodate Chris Cuomo, even as he had to apologize for participating in strategy sessions with Gov. Cuomo’s aides.
Facebook Boots NYU Disinformation Researchers Off Its Platform and Critics Cry Foul
NPR – Shannon Bond | Published: 8/4/2021
Facebook blocked a team of New York University researchers studying political ads and COVID misinformation from accessing its site, a move critics say is meant to silence research that makes the company look bad. The researchers at the NYU Ad Observatory launched a tool last year to collect data about the political ads people see on Facebook. Around 16,000 people have installed the browser extension. It enables them to share data on which ads they are shown and why those ads were targeted at them with the researchers. Facebook says the browser extension violates its privacy rules because it collects information about advertisers.
Federal Election Commission Fines Sen. Rand Paul’s Presidential PAC Over Contributions
USA Today – Morgan Watkins (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 7/29/2021
The FEC fined U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign committee $21,000 for how it handled certain financial contributions. The investigation concerned a PAC called the Freedom for All Americans, which used to be known as Rand Paul for President Inc. and was his principal campaign committee during his presidential run in 2015 and 2016. The FEC said the committee failed to either refund $165,749 in contributions for the 2016 presidential election or redesignate them for use in a different election within 60 days after Donald Trump won the Republican nomination.
His Campaign Is Over. But Trump’s Political Groups Are Still Spending Donor Money at His Properties.
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2021
Save America, the leadership PAC where former President Trump is asking loyalists to direct their political contributions, paid for lodging about two dozen times in the first six months of 2021. Nine of those times, the payments went to properties owned by the former president. All told, the PAC sent at least $68,000 to the Trump Hotel Collection, showing how the real estate mogul, long after ending his presidential campaign and leaving office, continues to use donor money at his own properties.
Judge Sanctions Lawyers for Bringing 2020 Election Conspiracy Lawsuit
Yahoo News – Maeve Sheehey (Politico) | Published: 8/4/2021
A federal judge sanctioned lawyers who filed suit against Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook, and others, claiming conspiracy in the 2020 presidential election. Originally, plaintiffs sued on behalf of all registered American voters and said the 2020 election involved a conspiracy between governors, secretaries of state, election officials, Dominion, Facebook, and more. U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Colorado N. Reid Neureiter wrote, “The Complaint is one enormous conspiracy theory.”
Prospect of Massive Economic Packages Unleashes Lobbying Bonanza in Washington
MSN – Tony Romm and Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) | Published: 8/4/2021
Nearly 2,000 companies and organizations have lobbied Congress and the Biden administration this year to influence major new infrastructure spending, an effort that is sure to intensify now that the Senate is hoping to vote within days on their version of the $1 trillion public-works package. The proposal, along with a still-forming second economic package valued at $3.5 trillion, carries high stakes for corporations that have long pined for infrastructure improvements and other federal spending that would be beneficial to their bottom lines.
The Justice Department Puts States on Notice About Election Audits and Voting Changes
National Public Radio – Carrie Johnson | Published: 7/28/2021
The U.S. Justice Department is putting states on notice about their obligations under federal law as Republican-led efforts to conduct reviews of the 2020 election intensify. Federal authorities issued a pair of new guidance documents to states and voters to remind them of their responsibilities and their rights. The moves are part of the Biden administration’s push to demonstrate it is on guard amid new voting restrictions proposed and enacted by GOP-led states across the nation, and as Democratic-led federal voting legislation has stalled.
Trump to Acting AG, According to Aide’s Notes: ‘Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me’
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/30/2021
Then-President Trump pressed top Justice Department officials last year to declare the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud so he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to overturn the results. Former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue’s notes show the degree to which the president was personally involved in such efforts and the ways in which Justice Department officials walked a tightrope of listening to him while not taking any concrete actions they considered unethical or partisan. The notes also say Trump suggested to then-Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen that he might be replaced.
Trump’s Tax Returns Can Be Released to Congress, DOJ Tells IRS
MSN – David Yaffe-Bellamy and Laura Davison (Bloomberg) | Published: 7/30/2021
The Department of Justice directed the Treasury Department to hand over former President Trump’s tax returns to Congress, a move that means six years of Trump’s personal and business financial information could become public. The move marks the latest and perhaps one of the final salvos in the years-long political standoff between Trump and Democratic leaders in Washington and New York over access to the returns. The Ways and Means Committee, which is controlled by Democrats, can choose to publish a report about Trump’s income and tax information based on the IRS returns, effectively making his tax returns public.
What the Latest Numbers Show on Hill Staff Diversity
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 7/28/2021
A few recent reports on staff diversity highlight the enduring challenge of making the top tier of federal government employees look like the nation they serve. While some progress has been made, staffers on Capitol Hill continue to be whiter than the rest of America, despite ongoing pledges and programs from Democrats to diversify. Republicans have not made similar commitments. “The essence of democracy is representation, and race is connected to representation,” said Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies President Spencer Overton.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Court Nixes Some Caps for Alaska Campaign Contributions
MSN – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 7/31/2021
A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned three of Alaska’s main limits on campaign contributions. The ruling overturned a $500 per-year cap on the amount of money an Alaskan can contribute to a particular candidate; a $500 per-year limit on contributions to a particular political group; and a $3,000 cap on the amount a candidate can accept from all out-of-state donors combined in a year. The panel upheld a $5,000 limit on the amount a political party can give to a candidate.
Arizona – Arizona Lawmakers Invest More in Private Prisons After Record-High Campaign Contributions
MSN – Jimmy Jenkins (WJZZ), Joseph Darius Jaafari and Justin Price (Arizona Republic) | Published: 7/29/2021
Lobbyists often spend money to entertain lawmakers to get them to vote in their clients’ interests and politicians welcome the meetings. But the closure of Arizona’s states prison in Florence represented a unique opportunity for private prison groups, whose spending on campaign contributions and lobbying in the state reached record levels over the past two years. The direct access to legislators has some lawmakers and prison reformers arguing the state is getting a bad deal on private prison contracts, as a direct result of money flowing from private prison groups into lawmakers’ coffers.
Arizona – Republican-Led Arizona Ballot Review Grinds to Rocky Conclusion, with Results Expected Next Month
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/29/2021
The Arizona Senate returned nearly 2.1 million ballots to the control of the state’s largest county as the GOP-led recount of votes cast in the 2020 presidential election drew to a rocky close, marked by upheaval that is likely to further undermine public confidence in its conclusions, set to be announced in August. The tumult provided a capstone to a widely criticized review of the 2020 election that has been decried by election experts and Maricopa County officials and has deeply divided Arizona Republicans.
California – A Lobbyist’s Secret Gift to a Councilwoman Prompts El Monte to Consider New Ethics Rules
MSN – Adam Elmahrek (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/2/2021
Calling for reforms in government accountability, the El Monte City Council launched an effort to create an ethics commission that would sanction city officials who violate rules on accepting expensive gifts and other conflicts-of-interest. The action followed a Los Angeles Times article that detailed how Councilperson Victoria Martinez Muela accepted financial assistance from a lobbyist to help pay for her breast augmentation surgery. The lobbyist, Sigrid Lopez, said in a sworn declaration that she paid $1,100 to a cosmetic surgeon in 2016 to help cover the cost of the procedure.
California – Recall Money Wars: What do Newsom’s million-dollar donors want?
CalMatters – Ben Christopher | Published: 7/28/2021
The main committee tasked with defending California Gov. Gavin Newsom against the September 14 recall has raised some $39 million. Another allied committee and Newsom’s own 2022 campaign account, which state law allows him to draw upon this year, add another $4 million. That is more than double all the cash raised by the committees campaigning for his ouster and the 46 candidates vying to replace him, combined. It also represents the generosity, or perhaps the strategic expenditure, of a broad coalition of some unlikely allies.
California – San Francisco’s Mayor Agrees to $23K Fine for Ethics Breach
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 8/3/2021
San Francisco Mayor London Breed agreed to pay nearly $23,000 in a fine to the city for a series of ethics violations while in office, including asking a former governor to release her brother from prison and allowing a former head of public works embroiled in a corruption scandal to pay her car repair bill. The proposed agreement from the city’s Ethics Commission also fines Breed for failing to properly report a 2015 campaign contribution while running for reelection to the Board of Supervisors.
Colorado – Aurora Lobbyist Registration Law Takes Effect; No Penalties Until 2022
Sentinel Colorado – Kara Mason | Published: 8/2/2021
As of August 1, people or organizations that are lobbying in the city of Aurora must register with the clerk’s office. Lobbyists will have to disclose their activities in public reports and submit a quarterly financial report with the city clerk. The first reports are due October 15.
Connecticut – Connecticut Drawn into Fight Over Conservative ALEC’s Tax-Exempt Status
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 7/29/2021
Connecticut is one of 15 states where campaign finance complaints were filed against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), alleging the conservative nonprofit was illegally distributing software to Republican lawmakers. Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy allege ALEC made unreported in-kind contributions to its members in 2020 by giving away campaign software worth $3,000 a copy, violating state and federal campaign laws. The voter-management software compiles and collates voter history and information and helps the coordination of campaign efforts. Many campaigns use such software.
Florida – Key Figures in ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scandal Had Business Relationship, Records Show
MSN – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 7/30/2021
Frank Artiles, the former Republican lawmaker accused of bribing a spoiler candidate to run in an important state Senate election, had a business relationship with the political consultant behind an advertising campaign that boosted that candidate and similar ones in two other races. Records show Artiles was working as a $5,000-a-month contractor for Let’s Preserve the American Dream, a nonprofit with ties to the business-lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida. The records also show the person Artiles reported to at the nonprofit was Alex Alvarado, the strategist who ran two political committees that spent $550,000 last year promoting mysterious independent candidates who appeared on the ballot in three key races.
Florida – Miami Beach Candidate Asks Voters to Donate to Her Campaign. And Eat at Her Restaurant
MSN – Martin Vassolo (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/30/2021
It is standard practice for candidates to ask for votes or money in campaign emails. But Miami Beach Commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez raised a few eyebrows when she asked voters to donate to her campaign – and visit her new restaurant, too. It is the latest instance of Rosen Gonzalez skirting conventions in what has at times been a controversial political career.
Idaho – Idaho House Ethics Committee Denounces an Absent Rep. Giddings, Recommends Punishment
Yahoo News – Hayat Norimine (Idaho Statesman) | Published: 8/3/2021
An Idaho House ethics committee unanimously voted to censure state Rep. Priscilla Giddings and remove her from a committee that oversees state employees. A complaint alleged Giddings defamed a 19-year-old who accused a former House Republican of sexual assault by sharing an article from a far-right website that identified her. The complaint also said she misrepresented her actions to the ethics committee while under oath. Committee members said Giddings exhibited a pattern of dishonesty and disrespect to her colleagues in her testimony. But her actions didn’t rise to the level of expulsion, Republican committee members said.
Illinois – Ex-Illinois Governor Blagojevich, Granted Clemency by Trump, Sues for Right to Seek Elected Office Again
MSN – Andrew Jeong (Washington Post) | Published: 8/3/2021
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich sued the state, demanding that his right to run for state and local elected office, which was yanked by the Illinois Legislature in 2009, be restored. Blagojevich was convicted of 18 felony counts of corruption in 2011, although several were later dismissed by an appeals court. Federal prosecutors had accused Blagojevich of corruption and campaign finance violations, including seeking contributions in return for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama after his election to the White House in 2008.
Maine – State Ethics Panel Launches Probe into Company That Donated to Democrats
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 7/30/2021
The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices voted to launch an investigation into a now-defunct Portland company that donated $150,000 to the Maine Democratic Party in 2018. Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne said the creation of Alpine Initiatives LLC four days before it made the large donation was suspicious given there is no public evidence the company conducted any other business before it was dissolved just 14 months later in 2019.
Michigan – Donor Bernstein Funds Whitmer’s Recall Fight That Brother Could Rule On
Yahoo News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 7/30/2021
The family connection between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s top donor, lawyer Mark Bernstein, and his brother, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, is drawing new scrutiny amid a legal fight over recall efforts. Attorneys for the governor asked the state Supreme Court to consider their case against a series of recall petitions that have been approved by the Board of State Canvassers. Twelve days later, Mark Bernstein gave Whitmer’s campaign $250,000. Under the Whitmer campaign’s interpretation, because Mark Bernstein had already given her a maximum contribution of $7,150 for the 2022 election, all $250,000 would have to go toward fighting the recalls.
Missouri – Anti-Mask Protesters Swarmed a St. Louis County Council Meeting. Then, an Attendee Tested Positive for Covid.
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/2/2021
Because of the increasing number of hospitalizations and the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, officials in St. Louis instituted a policy requiring masks be worn inside public places and on public transit. But the return to mask-wearing stoked the ire of many people who opposed the restrictions, including at a raucous county council meeting. Now, public health officials announced at least one person has tested positive for the coronavirus and may have exposed others who attended the meeting.
Missouri – Just Before Parson Vetoed Missouri Emissions Bill, Staffer’s Spouse Hired by Testing Company
Yahoo News – Allison Kite (Missouri Independent) | Published: 8/3/2021
Three weeks before Missouri Gov. Mike Parson vetoed legislation that would have undermined a federally mandated vehicle emissions testing program, the spouse of his policy director registered as a lobbyist for the lone state contractor providing those tests. Parson cited as justification a threat from the Environmental Protection Agency to impose sanctions if Missouri removed three counties from the program. But the registration of Jay Hahn, a lobbyist married to Parson’s policy director, Kayla Hahn, has raised questions about the process and whether the arrangement ran afoul of conflict-of-interest laws.
Missouri – Missouri Governor Pardons Gun-Waving St. Louis Lawyer Couple
Yahoo News – Jim Salter (Associated Press) | Published: 8/3/2021
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced he made good on his promise to pardon a couple who gained notoriety for pointing guns at social justice demonstrators as they marched past the couple’s home in a luxury St. Louis enclave last year. Parson pardoned Mark McCloskey, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and was fined $750, and Patricia McCloskey, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was fined $2,000. Photos and cellphone video captured the confrontation, which drew widespread attention and made the couple heroes to some and villains to others.
Nebraska – Nebraska Legislative Races Keep Breaking Spending Records, and There’s No End in Sight
Lincoln Journal Star – Martha Stoddard (Omaha World-Herald) | Published: 7/30/2021
Running for state Legislature got a lot more expensive in Nebraska last year. Candidates in the 2020 general election shattered records set just two years earlier, with average spending 30 percent higher than in 2018 and the top-spending campaign nearing the $500,000 mark. Neither lawmakers nor campaign observers expect the trend to slow down anytime soon. Legislative campaign spending has been rising since 2012, when the Nebraska Supreme Court tossed out the state’s Campaign Finance Limitation Act, which had used incentives to encourage candidates to abide by voluntary spending limits.
New Mexico – Court Upholds Santa Fe Regulations on Campaign Disclosure
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 8/4/2021
A federal appeals court rejected efforts by a libertarian-leaning group in New Mexico to shield future financial contributions from public disclosure in defiance of requirement enacted by the city of Santa Fe. The 10th District Court of Appeals rejected a request by the Rio Grande Foundation to invalidate city campaign finance provisions as unconstitutional. The foundation complied with a city order and disclosed two relatively minor donations of $7,700. Later it sought to invalidate the regulations, citing a “chilling effect” on political contributions free speech.
New York – AG: Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, broke state and federal law
MSN – Anna Gromwold and Shannon Young (Washington Post) | Published: 8/3/2021
Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees, creating a hostile work environment for women in violation of state and federal law, New York Attorney General Letitia James said. In a new report, investigators laid out a devastating portrait of behavior by the governor, substantiating an allegation that Cuomo embraced an executive assistant and reached under her blouse to grab her breast. Witnesses also described an environment in the governor’s office that was abusive and vindictive, with one of the women who came forward targeted for retaliation through the release of her personnel file, investigators said.
New York – County Approves Bill to Let Police Sue Anyone Who Harasses Them. Activists Cry Foul.
MSN – Pauline Villegas (Washington Post) | Published: 8/2/2021
Nassau County lawmakers passed a bill that allows first responders to sue any person who harasses, attacks, or injures them while they are in uniform. Proponents argue the bill offers additional protections to officers in the face of “destructive riots and lawlessness” targeting law enforcement officials following George Floyd’s death in police custody. Its critics say the legislation comes as “retaliation” for Black Lives Matter protests against police abuses and warn it could suppress First Amendment rights.
Ohio – How Did Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson’s Corruption Schemes Go Unnoticed for So Long?
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/4/2021
Cleveland City Councilperson Kenneth Johnson was convicted recently on 15 corruption-related charges. He faces up to 10 years in prison for stealing from council coffers, underpaying his taxes, and steering government money to keep three relatives on the payroll of a community development corporation he helped fund as a council member. For nearly nine years, Johnson filled out monthly expense reports that earned him $127,200 without hearing a single request to look at where that money was going. From City Hall to state officials who audited the city’s books, Johnson went overlooked. U.S District Court Judge John Adams admitted during the trial the investigation into Johnson stemmed from stories in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Ohio – JobsOhio $21 Million PPE Contract Prompts Political Consultant’s Lawsuit Over Finder’s Fee
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/29/2021
A company’s $21 million contract to provide JobsOhio with masks and other personal protective equipment is the subject of an ongoing Cuyahoga County lawsuit filed by a local political consultant who says he is owed a cut of the deal. Bobby Ina says RB Sigma has failed to pay him a 15 percent fee on the contract, which the consultant said he helped arrange during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. But the company says it does not owe anything since state law bars anyone from getting paid a percentage of a state contract they lobbied on, so the contract is illegal.
Ohio – Mayoral Hopeful State Sen. Sandra Williams Identified by Pseudonym in FirstEnergy Deferred Prosecution Agreement
MSN – Seth Richardson (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/30/2021
The ongoing federal corruption investigation into House Bill 6 has found its way to the Cleveland mayoral race, with one hopeful, Ohio Sen. Sandra Williams, being referred to anonymously in the deferred prosecution agreement between FirstEnergy and the U.S. Justice Department. Williams, who was the lone Senate Democratic co-sponsor the bill when it passed in 2019, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. In an interview, Williams said all her actions on House Bill 6 were legal and within the scope of her job as a state legislator.
Ohio – Shontel Brown Tops Progressive Favorite Nina Turner in Ohio’s 11th District Primary
MSN – Stephanie Akin (Roll Call) | Published: 8/3/2021
Shontel Brown, chairperson of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party in Ohio, defeated progressive favorite Nina Turner for her party’s nomination in the special election for the state’s 11th Congressional District. The win makes Brown the favorite in November for the deep-blue seat that Marcia Fudge vacated to become Housing and Urban Development secretary. The primary split the party’s establishment and progressive wings. Along with attracting heavy spending by outside groups and significant grassroots funding, the race drew high-profile figures to the district in the days before the election.
Ohio – Trump-Backed Lobbyist Mike Carey Wins Primary in Ohio’s 15th District
MSN – Stephanie Akin (Roll Call) | Published: 8/3/2021
Mike Carey, a relatively unknown coal lobbyist endorsed by former President Trump, won a crowded Republican primary in the special election for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District, making him the heavy favorite to succeed former U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers in November. Carey’s win came as vindication for Trump after Republican Jake Ellzey defeated the candidate Trump backed in a Texas special election, raising questions about the former president’s ability to recognize winning candidates and the power of his endorsement in the 2022 midterms.
Texas – Energy Industry Showers Gov. Greg Abbott, Other Texas Politicians with Campaign Cash after They Passed Power Grid Bills
Texas Tribune – Mitchell Furman and Carla Astudillo | Published: 8/4/2021
Fixing Texas’ power grid was about the only thing Republicans and Democrats seemed to agree on earlier this year. Millions of Texans endured a week of subfreezing temperatures with no power demanded improvements to prevent another disaster. But by the end of the legislative session, if top power companies were aggrieved by any of the new laws targeting their industry, they did not show it. From June 21 to June 30, five of the largest and most prominent companies in the power grid supply chain or their top executives collectively donated about $497,000 to state elected officials and political groups. That is more than twice the $207,000 they gave during the same period when the legislative session ended in in 2019.
Washington DC – More People Ran for Office and Donated to Campaigns Because of D.C’s New Public Financing Program
DCist.com – Martin Austermuhle | Published: 8/2/2021
The number of people running for elected office and contributing to local District of Columbia campaigns increased in 2020, likely because of the city’s new program that offers public financing to candidates running for elected office. Those are among the conclusions of a new report from Auditor Kathy Patterson assessing the Fair Elections Program, which was passed into law in 2018 and first implemented during last year’s election cycle, when it distributed almost $4 million to dozens of candidates for seats on the city council and State Board of Education.
Wisconsin – Democrats Introduce Bills That Would Overhaul Wisconsin Campaign Finance System
Wisconsin State Journal – Riley Vetterkind | Published: 8/3/2021
Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin called for stricter campaign contribution limits and more mandatory transparency among donors, even as their party’s fundraising has been boosted by looser limits Republicans adopted in recent years. Several Democrats, as well as advocacy groups such as the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, introduced seven bills to address a system they say favors the wealthy and corporations and has relegated Wisconsinites to the role of spectators to the political process.
Wyoming – PAC Backing Cheney Challenger Gray Funded Solely by His Father
WyoFile.com – Nick Reynolds | Published: 8/2/2021
Wyoming Rep. Chuck Gray’s father is the sole funder of a secretive PAC that is boosting Gray’s bid to oust U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in next year’s Republican primary. Jan Charles Gray is the only contributor to Protect Wyoming Values PAC. The operation has orchestrated an extensive social media and phone text campaign promoting Gray as the best candidate to replace Cheney. Federal campaign finance laws that dictate how PACs can coordinate with candidates require groups affiliated with a candidate to register their contributions as in-kind donations to the candidate’s campaign. Coordinated expenditures are subject to different regulations, including contribution limits, than independent PAC activities without direct ties to a campaign.
July 30, 2021 •
National/Federal As Coronavirus Surges, GOP Lawmakers Are Moving to Limit Public Health Powers MSN – Frances Stead Sellers and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021 Republican lawmakers are rallying around the cause of individual freedom to counter community-based disease mitigation […]
As Coronavirus Surges, GOP Lawmakers Are Moving to Limit Public Health Powers
MSN – Frances Stead Sellers and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021
Republican lawmakers are rallying around the cause of individual freedom to counter community-based disease mitigation methods, moves experts say leave the country ill-equipped to counter the resurgent coronavirus and a future outbreak. In some states, anger at perceived overreach by health officials has prompted legislative attempts to limit their authority, including new state laws that prevent the closure of businesses or allow lawmakers to rescind mask mandates. Some state courts have reined in the emergency and regulatory powers governors have wielded against the virus. In its recent rulings and analysis, the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled its willingness to limit disease mitigation in the name of religious freedom.
As Trump Pushed for Probes of 2020 Election, He Called Acting AG Rosen Almost Daily
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 7/28/2021
Then-President Trump called his acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, nearly every day at the end of last year to alert him to claims of voter fraud or alleged improper vote counts in the 2020 election and asked what the Justice Department was doing about the issue. There are notes of some of the calls that were written by a top aide to Rosen. The notes could be turned over to Congress in a matter of days if Trump does not file papers in court seeking to block such a handover. Both Rosen and Donoghue could be questioned about the conversations by congressional committees examining Trump’s actions in the days after the election.
China Critic Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama Violated Stock Disclosure Law, Sold Alibaba Option
CNBC – Dan Mangan | Published: 7/27/2021
U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville ran for office while arguing for the “rule of law” and criticizing China, but in less than eight months on the job, the Alabama Republican violated a federal financial transparency law, while also selling stock options of China’s leading e-commerce company. Tuberville failed as required by the STOCK Act to file disclosures of about 130 stock and stock options trades executed from January through May within a maximum 45-day window. The trades ranged in total value from $894,000 to more than $3.5 million.
Democrats Broaden Probe of Trump-Era Meddling at CDC
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2021
Congressional investigators expanded their inquiry of political interference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under former President Trump, citing newly obtained documents and additional reports of the administration’s meddling in government scientists’ work. The expanded investigation centers on efforts to blunt the CDC’’ Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, which offer public updates on scientists’ findings. The reports had been considered untouchable by political appointees in the past, but Trump appointees pushed to edit the findings, worried they undermined Trump’s more optimistic spin on the pandemic.
Democrats Look to Move Past Partisan Rancor and Set Serious Tone for Jan. 6 Investigation
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2021
Members of the House select committee have been preparing for weeks to move swiftly with an investigation examining key unanswered questions surrounding the breaching of the Capitol by a mob of former President Trump’s supporters who echoed his false claims about the 2020 election while seeking to stop Congress’s efforts to certify its results and declare Joe Biden the next president. Those questions include to what degree the attack was coordinated, what led to the security lapses, and how Trump and his administration responded as lawmakers scrambled to safety while the insurrectionists marched through the halls of Congress.
‘Good Trouble’: Black caucus embraces civil disobedience
MSN – Marty Johnson (The Hill) | Published: 7/28/2021
Civil disobedience was an integral part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and is playing a pivotal role again as Black lawmakers express discontent over inaction on voting rights. U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson were arrested after staging separate voting rights protests at the Hart Senate Office Building. Their actions stem from mounting frustration over the filibuster, which has thrown the passage of both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act into jeopardy.
Justice Department Declines to Defend Rep. Mo Brooks Against Jan. 6 Incitement Lawsuit
MSN – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/27/2021
The Justice Department and the House of Representatives declined on to represent U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks in a lawsuit that accuses him of helping to incite the deadly riot at the Capitol on January 6. The Alabama Republican is one of several defendants in the suit filed by U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, who says Brooks knowingly incited a mob of then-President Trump’s supporters to storm the Capitol, using incendiary rhetoric at a rally near the White House before the violent assault began. Trump himself, as well as Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Justice Department Issues Policy Limiting White House Contact
MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/21/2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a directive seeking to limit political influence on law enforcement matters by strictly limiting contacts between Justice Department personnel and the White House. The memo follows through on campaign pledges by Joe Biden to reestablish the department’s independence after a series of episodes where then-President Trump publicly and privately complained about prosecutors’ decisions, urging them to lay off his friends and target his political enemies.
K Street Clamors for Democratic Hill Aides, Who Don’t Want to Leave
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 7/29/2021
Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill are in high demand – on K Street, in the Biden administration, and in burgeoning political campaigns. But the level of clamoring for them, especially in the booming lobbying sector, has surprised even veteran observers of the “revolving door.” But Democratic aides are reluctant to leave, even for bigger paychecks, given that their party controls the House, Senate, and executive branch. They have that rare opportunity to help craft once-in-a-generation legislative packages and, potentially, to help shape public policy for decades to come.
One Third of States Have Passed Restrictive Voting Laws This Year
MSN – Reid Wilson (The Hill) | Published: 7/27/2021
One in every three states across the nation have passed new laws restricting voter access to the ballot in the wake of the 2020 elections, a pace that showcases the national battle over election reform. Voting rights experts and advocates say they have never seen such an explosion of election overhauls. Legislatures in 17 states have passed 29 bills that would in some way curtail a voter’s access, according to a tally maintained by the Brennan Center for Justice. The overhauls vary widely by state.
Trade Groups Wrestle with Supporting GOP Lawmakers Who Embrace Trump’s Election Lie
MSN – Allan Smith (NBC News) | Published: 7/26/2021
The January 6 Capitol riot forced the sprawling network of Washington, D.C. trade associations, which represent everything from hedge fund managers to construction contractors, to reconsider their political contributions. These groups donate liberally to members of both parties, typically with little scrutiny. Some of these organizations have since dialed down or stopped donating to the large number of Republican lawmakers who objected to the election results. Others, after a brief pause, have restarted their giving.
Trump’s PAC Collected $75 Million This Year, but So Far the Group Has Not Put Money Into Pushing for the 2020 Ballot Reviews He Touts
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2021
Former President Trump’s political PAC raised roughly $75 million in the first half of this year as he trumpeted the false notion the 2020 election was stolen from him, but the group has not devoted funds to help finance the ongoing ballot review in Arizona or to push for similar endeavors in other states, according to people familiar with the finances. Instead, the Save America leadership PAC, which has few limits on how it can spend its money, has paid for some of the former president’s travel, legal costs, and staff, along with other expenses. The PAC has held onto much of its cash.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Commission Staff Recommends $52,650 Fine Against Anchorage Mayor Bronson for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Emily Goodykoontz (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 7/24/2021
Staff of the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) recommended a $52,650 fine against the campaign of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson for what it says are multiple violations of state campaign finance law. The report found the campaign violated transparency rules when it did not disclose tens of thousands of dollars in debt for more than seven months after it was incurred – until after this year’s April 6 election and the May 11 runoff – among multiple other infractions, according to the report.
Arizona – Appeals Court Tosses Former Arizona Lawmaker’s Lawsuit Over Expulsion
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 7/22/2021
A federal appeals court tossed out the claims of former state Rep. Don Shooter that his rights were violated when he was expelled in 2018 from the Arizona House. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the claims against former House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and former gubernatorial aide Kirk Adams cannot survive the fact they have qualified immunity for their actions. Judge Daniel Collins pointed out the Arizona Constitution empowers the House to discipline its own members and even oust them with a two-thirds vote. He said that limits the ability of federal courts to second-guess the procedures used here.
California – Calif. Task Force Recommends Public Archive for Digital Campaign Ads
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 7/27/2021
A task force convened by the California Fair Political Practices Commission is recommending the creation of a digital archive to track online advertisements promoting candidates for state office. The task force members say a public database of digital ads would help voters, researchers, journalists, and others keep better track of campaign spending by state office seekers. The online archive would be the first of its kind among the 50 states, although similar programs already exist in cities like New York and Los Angeles, the report noted.
California – Hefty Contracts for Campaign Contributors in Huntington Park
KCET – Erick Cabrera and Julie Patel | Published: 7/26/2021
An examination of public records from 2018 through 2020 confirmed several companies contracted by Huntington Park gave gifts and campaign contributions to council members during that time. In all, $38,000, or over 30 percent of the roughly $125,000 in campaign donations to current Huntington Park council members, came from eight companies and their executives that were identified as city contractors at some point during that time. At least half of the roughly $4,300 in gifts provided to council members came from city contractors or subcontractors, according to economic interest forms.
California – In El Monte, a Close Friendship Shatters Over Cannabis Vote, Surgery Payment
Yahoo News – Adam Elmahrek (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/24/2021
One was a lobbyist and the other was an El Monte City Council member, but they also were best friends who thought they had a special bond. But the friendship shattered when Victoria Martinez Muela voted against allowing retail sales of cannabis in the city, a proposal that Sigrid Lopez had championed. Now, Lopez has signed a sworn declaration as part of a complaint submitted to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office alleging Martinez Muela may have accepted a $1,100 gift from her for a medical procedure and failed to disclose it on financial statements, in violation of California law.
California – Powerful Developers, Lobbyist Helped Hire San Jose Planning Director
San Jose Spotlight – Eli Wolfe | Published: 7/24/2021
San Jose’s new planning director was chosen by developers and lobbyists, many of whom have projects pending at City Hall. The planning director is one of the most powerful positions in San Jose’s government because they make initial decisions on major developments and land use projects. A city insider said it is not unusual to have developers and land use lobbyists on interview committees for high-level jobs. They said this is by design because San Jose’s government wants planning directors who will green light development projects, which have become an increasingly important part of the city’s economic growth strategy.
Florida – Dark Money Group Intervening in FPL Rate Case Asks PSC to Hide Members
The Capitolist – Brian Burgess | Published: 7/27/2021
A group seeking to intervene in a rate case filed by Florida Power and Light (FPL) is refusing to disclose its donors and took steps to shield its member list from public view. Floridians Against Increased Rates (FAIR) was founded by lobbyist and former Jacksonville Electric Authority board member Michael Hightower. As part of the process, FAIR initially submitted a list of over 500 members, many of which they claim are FPL customers who allegedly oppose any increase in rates. But FAIR blocked an attempt to verify their membership list by filing a motion to shield the names and other information about the group.
Florida – Ethics Panel Rejects Penalty for Sham No-Party Candidate as Not Tough Enough
MSN – Ana Ceballos (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/23/2021
The Florida Commission on Ethics rejected a $6,500 fine against a sham no-party candidate who ran in a 2020 Miami-Dade legislative race, a rare move that was triggered by calls for stiffer penalties in a case one commissioner called one of the “most egregious” in the state. The commission also found probable cause that Alexis Pedro Rodriguez filed inaccurate campaign documents and accepted money from former state Sen. Frank Artiles with the understanding he would change his party affiliation from Republican to no party to qualify to run in the Senate District 37 election.
Florida – Ex-Florida State Sen. Frank Artiles Worked Closely with Top GOP Consulting Firm During ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scheme, Documents Indicate
MSN – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 7/27/2021
On June 11 of last year, authorities say Frank Artiles met Alex Rodriguez in the parking lot of a Miami bank, where Artiles gave Rodriguez $2,000 in cash so his friend could open a campaign account and run as a sham candidate in an important state Senate election in South Florida. Then, they say, Artiles told Rodriguez he had to rush to the airport so he could fly to Tallahassee and hand-deliver Rodriguez’s elections paperwork. Records show Artiles billed Data Targeting, the political consulting firm that was at the same time being paid millions of dollars by state Republican leaders to run Senate campaigns, for the cost of a plane ticket. Artiles is now awaiting trial on charges related to the sham-candidate scheme.
Florida – Trust at Issue as Miami-Dade Ethics Commission Takes Big Step Away from Transparency
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 7/27/2021
In a blow to transparency, the Miami Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust is no longer posting its investigative reports online. And soon, the ethics commission will remove other public documents that have been available on its website for years. Usually less than 10 pages long, the reports provide brief summaries about closed cases, including descriptions of witness interviews and evidence collected during a probe. The reports also state whether a case became a formal complaint to the ethics commission, closed without taking any further action, or was forwarded to the state attorney’s office to conduct a possible criminal probe.
Georgia – Georgia Judge Dismisses Election Suit Against Fulton County but Allows Claim Against Individual Officials
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/27/2021
Superior Court Judge Brian Amero dismissed claims filed against Fulton County, the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections and the Fulton County Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Courts on the basis of Georgia’s sovereign immunity laws. Superior Court Judge Brian Amero granted a request by the plaintiffs to add the county’s election board members as individuals, not as a collective group, to the lawsuit as new respondents, effectively keeping alive a small group’s efforts to inspect all 147,000 absentee ballots cast in the state’s largest county last November.
Illinois – Cook Co. Official Defends Hiring Her Cousin as Chief of Staff
MSN – Alice Yin (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/24/2021
A complaint that a Cook County elected official hired her first cousin as her chief of staff triggered an ethics inquiry earlier this year, but the official in question shot down calls for the relative to resign. Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt hired her cousin Todd Thielmann as the top staffer in her office. Questions about the employment prompted an inquiry from the board’s ethics officer, who in a letter to Wendt noted the board’s ethics policy restricts the hiring of relatives of agency officials. During a June board meeting, Wendt did not answer questions about the hiring and then voted against an amended ethics policy that would have more clearly prohibited such a move.
Massachusetts – Essaibi George Is Running for Boston Mayor. Her Husband, a Housing Developer, Has Had a Lot of Problems with City Hall
MSN – Andrew Ryan and Danny McDonald (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/28/2021
After developer Douglas George built a luxury condominium building, he christened it “The Vista” for its “jaw dropping views” of Boston’s skyline. When another developer wanted to build next door at obstruct that view, in stepped George’s wife, city Councilor Annissa Essaibi George. Now a candidate for mayor, Essaibi George used her office to try to block the rival project. Her office’s involvement, which appears to violate state conflict-of-interest law, raises questions about the councilor’s actions, but also underscores the entanglements between a leading mayoral candidate and her husband, with whom the city has long battled over his real estate practices.
Massachusetts – Mass. State House Remains Closed, Even as Other Buildings Open
WBUR – Steve Brown | Published: 7/29/2021
While most cities and towns in Massachusetts have lifted the pandemic restrictions on their libraries and other buildings, the State House likely will not reopen to the public for at least another couple of months. Secretary of State Bill Galvin, whose office oversees tours of the building, is pushing lawmakers to end the 16-month closure more quickly, arguing the structure could reopen with little risk to public health. Lobbyist Arline Isaacson said the closure has made it harder to talk to politicians.
Michigan – Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey and Office Worker Allegedly Accepted $35,000 in Bribes
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 7/28/2021
Detroit City Councilperson Andre Spivey and an unnamed worker on his staff accepted more than $35,000 in bribery payments, federal prosecutors alleged. The payments were part of an alleged bribery conspiracy from 2016 to 2020 to influence city business, prosecutors said. Spivey was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.
Michigan – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Uses a State Policy to Raise Millions
Yahoo News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 7/27/2021
By using a state policy that allows officeholders facing recalls to collect unlimited contributions from donors, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s has taken in an extra $3.4 million from dozens of contributors who normally would have been capped at $7,150 each. Whitmer is facing multiple recall efforts, although it is unclear how serious they are, that have at least sought permission from the Board of State Canvassers. Former Secretary of State Richard Austin found it would be improper to allow committees seeking to recall officeholders to raise unlimited amounts while capping contributions to those officeholders who must defend themselves.
Missouri – Missouri Ethics Commission Seeks $191,550 from Former Ferguson Lawmaker in Federal Prison
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 7/28/2021
Former state Rep. Courtney Curtis’s legal troubles continue behind bars after he was sentenced in March to nearly two years in federal prison for misuse of campaign funds. The Missouri Ethics Commission said in a lawsuit that Curtis owes the state $191,550 after he did not comply with two orders in 2017 and 2019 which required him to file necessary campaign reports and to pay fines.
New Mexico – New Mexico State Rep. Williams Stapleton Under Criminal Investigation
MSN – Robert Knott (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 7/28/2021
State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton is under criminal investigation on allegations of racketeering, money laundering, and receiving illegal kickbacks. Investigators conducted searches at her business and home and had been looking into irregularities in her work as an administrator at Albuquerque Public Schools. The allegations involve Williams Stapleton’s connections to Robotics Management Learning Systems, which has provided web-based learning materials to Albuquerque. The affidavit outlined an elaborate scheme in which Williams Stapleton was able to be involved with the procurement of a contract with the company and approve invoices for payments.
New Mexico – Proposal Would Give Unpaid New Mexico Lawmakers a Salary
MSN – Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 7/26/2021
As members of the only Legislature in the country that serve in office for free, New Mexico lawmakers are once again broaching the politically thorny idea of giving themselves a salary. But they are hoping to avoid the predictable backlash by letting others decide what the amount should be. A proposed constitutional amendment would put the decision-making in the hands of the State Ethics Commission, which would review and establish salaries for legislators every two years. The commission also would set the salaries of all elected officers of the executive and judicial branches of state government.
New York – Cuomo Said AG Probe Would Clear Him. Now His Aides Say It’s Political.
Politico – Anna Gronewold | Published: 7/24/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing a cascade of misconduct claims earlier this year, wrote a letter in March directing state Attorney General Tish James to investigate the scandals that were threatening to end his career. When James is done with her work, Cuomo assured the public, everyone will see he had done nothing wrong. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion,” he said at the time, refusing calls to resign. Now, James and the outside attorneys she hired to conduct the work appear close to wrapping up the inquiry after interviewing the governor. But Cuomo’s top aides no longer seem convinced James will deliver the findings their boss had promised and staked his future on.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Commission OKs $10 Food/Drink Exception to Gift Rules
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 7/28/2021
The North Dakota Ethics Commission unanimously adopted a $10 food and drink exception to its gift rules for public officials. The panel also is looking into questions about conference expenses for public officials when the conference organization offers to pay for their attendance, and what levels of educating versus advocating are occurring at such events. Commission Executive Director Dave Thiele said the issue “seems to come up fairly routinely.”
Ohio – DeWine Says He Didn’t Know About Alleged $4.3m Bribe of Utility Regulator He Appointed
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 7/27/2021
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine distanced himself from a utility regulator he appointed who was accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from FirstEnergy Corp. FirstEnergy said in a court it paid Sam Randazzo $22 million in consulting fees in the decade leading up to his appointment as chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. This includes a $4.3 million payment, sent shortly before DeWine appointed Randazzo in early 2019, to hand down rulings favorable to the company. DeWine said while he did not know about the $4.3 million payment, “everybody” knew Randazzo worked for FirstEnergy during the appointment process.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Admitted Secretive Dark Money Made Bribery Scheme Possible. So What Happened to Ohio Legislation That Called for More Disclosure?
MSN – Laura Hancock (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/26/2021
In a deal with federal prosecutors, FirstEnergy had to admit it could not have bankrolled the massive House Bill 6 bribery scheme had it not been for “dark money.” The utility admitted its executives funneled more than $60 million in bribes through a secretive group controlled by now-indicted former House Speaker Larry Householder. When Householder was arrested, many members of the Ohio General Assembly seemed to agree “dark money” was a problem, introducing bills that would require entities known as 501(c)(4)s to disclose donors. Legislation was introduced by members of both parties during the current two-year session and the last. Yet no bill has made it past the finish line to become law.
Oregon – Mike Nearman Pleads Guilty to Official Misconduct, Receives 18 Months Probation
MSN – Connor Radnovich (Salem Statesman-Journal) | Published: 7/27/2021
Former state Rep. Mike Nearman pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree official misconduct for letting rioters into the closed Oregon Capitol during a special session in 2020. In exchange for dropping a charge of trespassing, Nearman accepted a sentence that includes probation, an 18-month ban from Capitol grounds, 80 hours of community service, and $2,900 in fines and restitution. Nearman allowed dozens of rioters, some armed, to gain access to the Capitol, which was closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. Six officers were injured.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Lawmaker Resigns Amid Theft Charges but Likely Will Keep Her Taxpayer-Funded Pension and Health Benefits
MSN – Jan Murphy (PennLive) | Published: 7/24/2021
State Rep. Margo Davidson, charged with misusing thousands of dollars from her campaign and legislative accounts, resigned from the Pennsylvania House. Her charges relate to misuse of campaign funds and legislative expenses between 2015 and 2019. During that time, investigators found she had sought taxpayer reimbursement for overnight stays in Harrisburg that she had already paid for out of her campaign accounts, as well as for some nights when she did not stay in Harrisburg. Davidson is also accused of soliciting a witness to lie to investigators regarding the criminal investigation into her campaign finances and per diem.
Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott Promised ‘Transparency and Accountability’ for Border Wall Donations. But Donors Don’t Have to Use Real Names
Texas Tribune – James Barragan | Published: 7/23/2021
Despite promises from Gov. Greg Abbott that transparency in the crowdfunding process for funding construction of the border wall in Texas would be paramount, donor information released to The Texas Tribune for the first week of collections was bereft of any way to verify the identities of the majority of the donors. Abbott’s office is not disclosing the locations of donors, nor is it requiring they identify themselves with their real names. The shortcomings in the disclosures have raised ethical concerns about the private fundraising effort for the governor’s major state initiative. Experts have warned that without clear disclosure rules, it could invite the perception of a “pay-to-play” system in which anonymous donors benefit from their contributions to one of Abbott’s priority projects.
Virginia – Anemic Start for Virginia’s Campaign Finance Study Could Delay Final Report
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 7/29/2021
As both political parties flood supporters with desperate-sounding pleas for money to win the 2021 elections, an effort to study campaign finance reform in Virginia is off to a less urgent start. A joint General Assembly subcommittee approved in February to study whether the state needs stricter laws on money in politics still has not held its first meeting. With less than 100 days left to finish its work by a November 1 deadline, some policymakers are now wondering if they have enough time to complete the study on time.
Virginia – Lobbyists Load Va. Lawmakers onto Private Jet to Kick Off Push to Loosen Slots Laws
Virginia Mercury – Ned Oliver | Published: 7/22/2021
A coalition of gambling companies hoping to get slot machines back into Virginia convenience stores and bars kicked off its legislative push with a private flight for four state lawmakers to Chicago. While the plush jet raised some eyebrows – Virginia politicians have generally eschewed gifts of private air travel after scandal consumed former Gov. Bob McDonnell – organizers said it was strictly an opportunity to learn from Illinois, which broadly legalized video gambling terminals in 2009.
Washington DC – D.C. Reforms Gave Inmates a Vote. Now an Elected Official Is Working from Jail.
MSN – Stephanie Lai (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021
Joel Castón gets ready for his day not as an inmate convicted of first-degree murder nearly three decades ago, but as newly elected city official with a few months left behind bars. He is Washington. D.C.’s first incarcerated person to win an election. Like most Advisory Neighborhood Commission members, who serve to connect and provide input from their community to the city council, the responsibilities are tacked on to other work. Castón’s public service is voluntary. But unlike his colleagues who attend meetings or visit constituents, Castón cannot leave his housing unit and constituents cannot visit him. Instead, they contact him through the jail’s mailing system. He works on a schedule set by the jail.
July 23, 2021 •
National/Federal 2020 Presidential Polls Suffered Worst Performance in Decades, Report Says MSN – Dan Balz (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2021 Public opinion polls in the 2020 presidential election suffered from errors of “unusual magnitude,” the highest in 40 years for surveys […]
2020 Presidential Polls Suffered Worst Performance in Decades, Report Says
MSN – Dan Balz (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2021
Public opinion polls in the 2020 presidential election suffered from errors of “unusual magnitude,” the highest in 40 years for surveys estimating the national popular vote and in at least 20 years for state-level polls, according to a study. Polls understated the support for then-President Trump in nearly every state and by an average of more the three percentage points overall. Polls in U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races suffered from the same problem. Task force members were not able to reach definitive conclusions on exactly what caused the problems in the most recent polls and therefore how to correct their methodology ahead of the next elections.
‘A Propaganda Tool’ for Trump: A second federal judge castigates attorneys who filed a lawsuit challenging the 2020 results
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/16/2021
Two Colorado lawyers filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 160 million American voters, alleging a vast conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election by the voting equipment manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla Chan, and elected officials in four states, and asking for $160 billion in damages. The case was dismissed in April, but a federal judge is considering disciplining the lawyers for filing a frivolous claim – sharply questioning the duo in a hearing about whether they had allowed themselves to be used as “a propaganda tool” of former President Trump.
Battle for Power in Haiti Extends to Lobbying in Washington
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Natalie Kitroeff | Published: 7/21/2021
The struggle for power in Haiti after the assassination of the country’s president has spilled onto K Street, where rival Haitian politicians, business leaders, and interest groups are turning to lobbyists to wage an expensive and escalating proxy battle for influence with the United States. Documents, interviews, and communications among Haitian politicians and officials show a scramble across a wide spectrum of Haitian interests to hire lobbyists and consultants in Washington and use those already on their payrolls in the hopes of winning American backing in a period of leadership turmoil in Haiti.
Bipartisan House Probe of Jan. 6 Insurrection Falls Apart after Pelosi Blocks Two GOP Members
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor, Jacqueline Alemany, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 7/21/2021
Plans for a bipartisan committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection fell apart after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved to block two controversial Republicans appointed by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy from sitting on the panel, paving the way for two separate and largely partisan investigations of the violent attack on the Capitol. Pelosi called on McCarthy to name two new Republicans to the committee after refusing to appoint conservative Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, a privilege she has as speaker. As staunch backers of former President Trump, both members voted against his impeachment and pushed to overturn the election results.
Democrats Leverage Legal Experience in Voting Rights Push
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 7/21/2021
There are a handful of House voting rights attorneys-turned-lawmakers helping to write the latest version of Democrats’ Voting Rights Act bill, which include provisions to push back on a swath of changes to election laws state Legislatures across the country have passed. Critics argue those changes will make it harder for many Democratic-leaning groups, including minority communities, to cast a ballot. About a dozen legislators on both sides of the aisle, although mostly Democrats, have formal experience with redistricting, as attorneys or state legislators.
Did Rick Scott Break Campaign Finance Law in 2018? Federal Regulators Tie, Case Closed.
Miami Herald – Steve Contorno | Published: 7/16/2021
A three-year probe into U.S. Sen. Rick Scott ended with the FEC deadlocked on whether he and a political committee he once led violated campaign laws during his 2018 bid for Senate. A split decision along party lines comes as the FEC’s general counsel concluded there was reason to believe Scott broke the law. At issue is Scott’s involvement with New Republican PAC, a committee first created in 2013 by a Republican operative.
It’s Not Just Voting Rights. Republicans Are Going After Ballot Campaigns.
Yahoo News – Liz Crampton and Mona Zhang (Politico) | Published: 7/20/2021
There is a wave of legislation moving through GOP-controlled state Legislatures that is intended to combat progressive policymaking at the ballot box. Successful referendums to expand Medicaid, legalize marijuana, and fund public education through taxes on the wealthy have all faced similar threats following consternation from conservative lawmakers. As Democrats have decried Republican efforts to restrict voting rights, lawmakers have also quietly chipped away at the citizen-driven referendum process in statehouses across the country. Lawmakers have also attempted to retroactively undo parts of initiatives approved by voters in some states.
Justice Department Curtails Seizure of Reporters’ Phone, Email Records in Leak Investigations
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland sharply limited how and when prosecutors can secretly obtain reporters’ phone and email records, formalizing a Biden administration decree that the government would stop using secret orders and subpoenas for journalists’ data to hunt for leakers. The previous Justice Department rules for using reporters’ data to pursue unauthorized disclosures of classified information were widely criticized by First Amendment advocates and members of Congress.
Lobbyists with Biden Ties Enjoy Surge in Revenue, Clients
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 7/21/2021
Lobbyists with ties to President Biden are flourishing as corporate clients seek to influence Biden’s ambitious agenda. Business is booming on K Street, with many of the leading lobbying firms enjoying record revenues in recent months. Lobbyists sporting connections to the White House are in high demand as Biden negotiates trillion-dollar spending plans and his administration attempts to aggressively regulate corporate giants.
‘Normal Is Not Good Enough’: After Trump, pressure’s on Biden to create new ethics rules
MSN – Anita Kumar (Politico) | Published: 7/16/2021
Six months into President Biden’s term, watchdog groups and some Democratic lawmakers are pushing the president to follow through on his campaign promise to press for an aggressive 25-point plan for ethics reform, fearful the window to do so may be closing and with it an opportunity to prevent the lapses of the Trump years from happening again. Biden established strong ethics rules for his own aides, but executive actions only last as long as the president in office is willing to live by them. The longer lasting reforms, reform groups say, come through legislative action.
Rep. Michelle Steel Reported $7,900 Donation from Woman Who’d Died Months Earlier
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 7/19/2021
A joint fundraising committee controlled by U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel disclosed a contribution of $7,900 earlier this year. But the reported donor had been dead for seven months. Steel’s campaign amended disclosure forms filed to show the money coming from the decedent’s husband, who was also a donor on the original disclosure. Dead people are not supposed to make political contributions unless they leave instructions for managers of their estates to do so. But one expert said other campaigns have run into trouble in the past when depositing checks from joint accounts, which appears to be what happened in Steel’s case.
Trump Adviser Tom Barrack Arrested on Foreign-Agent Charges
MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/20/2021
Tom Barrack, a longtime supporter of and adviser to former President Trump, was arrested on charges he secretly acted in the U.S. as an agent for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Barrack is accused of failing to register as a foreign agent, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and four counts of making false statements to the FBI. Prosecutors allege Barrack used his relationship with Trump to lobby on behalf of the UAE without registering as a lobbyist or telling administration officials he was working on the country’s behalf. They also say he lied to FBI agents during an interview about his dealings with the Persian Gulf nation.
Trump Foreign Business Dealings Attract Scrutiny as New York Probe Heats Up
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 7/20/2021
As the New York attorney general’s criminal investigation into the Trump Organization heats up, former President Trump’s business empire is facing further scrutiny in Scotland while scrubbing longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg’s name from corporate filings across the globe. Weisselberg is facing a 15-count indictment against him and the Trump Organization in New York. Scotland’s Court of Session has heard arguments in a judicial review of the Scottish government’s decision against investigating purported discrepancies in Trump’s financial reporting and two golf club purchases.
Trumpworld Lobbyists Find Life Just Isn’t the Same Under Joe
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 7/21/2021
When Donald Trump took office in 2017, the handful of K Street lobbyists who could boast ties to him were inundated with calls from potential clients. Six months into the Biden administration, several Trump-connected firms together are down millions of dollars in fees compared to a year earlier; one prominent firm with Trump ties has collapsed, and another has withdrawn from Washington entirely. K Street always experiences shake ups when power changes hands. But the dearth of lobbyists with connections to Trump when he assumed office in 2017 drew a clutch of operatives with ties to him to Washington.
What Were the Capitol Rioters Thinking on Jan. 6?
MSN – Dan Zak and Karen Heller (Washington Post) | Published: 7/20/2021
Were the people involved in the breach of the Capitol acting on their most deeply held convictions, or were they somehow not themselves on January 6? Months of evidence, court filings, and motion hearings have created a composite sketch of the people arrested and of the country many said they were fighting for. Some defendants seemed bent on bloodshed and were charged with felonies including conspiracy. Many defendants are charged with misdemeanors, such as disorderly conduct; their legal defense rests on the distinction between causing the chaos and merely being swept up in it.
Zombie Campaigns-to-Be Hold Millions in Cash with Murky Rules
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle and Nancy Ognanovich | Published: 7/19/2021
Federal law says campaign contributions must be used to run for office or pay for official expenses – “personal use” of the money is barred. But the line between personal and political is becoming blurred, with ex-lawmakers in recent years spending millions of dollars to help elect other candidates, including family members, or to fund nonprofit organizations they support. If a recent court decision holds up, former lawmakers may even be able to tap campaign funds to repay old personal loans they made to their accounts. Many of these so-called zombie committees last for years after the lawmakers who established them left electoral politics.
Canada – Several of Doug Ford’s Key Pandemic Decisions Were Swayed by Business Interests, Star Analysis Suggests
Toronto Star – Richard Warinca | Published: 7/15/2021
At crucial points large and small since Ontario first declared a state of emergency in March of 2020 the government has made decisions that align with the interests of lobbyists – many of whom have close ties to Premier Doug Ford, his party, or both – and the businesses they represent. Those decisions have often favored certain sectors over others and have, at key moments in the pandemic, gone against public health advice, delaying or fracturing lockdowns.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Judge: Arizona Senate must disclose who is funding its election review
Tucson Sentinel – Jim Small (Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting) | Published: 7/15/2021
A judge said the Arizona Senate’s reasoning for why it rejected a public records request for documents relating to the ongoing ballot review, including who is funding the effort, would lead to the “absurd result” of effectively gutting state public records law and “erode any sense of transparency” in government. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp sharply criticized the Senate’s defense in rejecting the chamber’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit brought by American Oversight.
California – San Diego City Attorney Withdraws Law Firm’s $250,000 Contract to Help Defend New Franchise Deal with SDG&E
San Diego Union Tribune – Rob Nikoleswki | Published: 7/20/2021
The San Diego city attorney withdrew a contract of up to $250,000 from an international law firm after a potential conflict-of-interest was pointed out by two opponents of the city’s recently signed agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). The city attorney originally sought to retain the services of Dentons to provide legal services for handling implementation and litigation dealing with the new franchise agreement. But two people said after each performed a Google search, they came across a presentation from Dentons that included a mention the firm had represented Sempra, the parent company of SDG&E, regarding projects Sempra had in Mexico.
California – Who’s In? California Recall Candidate List Draws Confusion
MSN – Michael Blood and Kathleen Ronayne (Associated Press) | Published: 7/18/2021
The official list of who is running in the recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom remained unsettled, with conservative talk radio host Larry Elder maintaining he should be included but state officials saying he submitted incomplete tax returns, a requirement to run. Among other candidates, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s campaign was in a dispute with state officials over whether he could be listed as the city’s “retired” mayor and YouTube creator Kevin Paffrath said he planned to sue to get his YouTube nickname on the ballot. Caitlyn Jenner was reportedly in Australia filming a reality show, though she tweeted she and her campaign team are “in full operation.”
Colorado – Disclosure, Questions Over Reporting Requirements
Colorado Springs Daily Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 7/18/2021
Colorado’s independent redistricting commissioners are in the middle of a statewide tour, listening as members of the public give their opinions on what they want the next decade’s congressional and legislative maps to look like. But that is not entirely what has been going on. In at least one example at a public input hearing, a woman who implied no political connection, gave specific map suggestions after being coached by a paid political consultant. After reporters began asking questions, it was reported as part of a paid lobbying effort. A constitutional amendment requires paid efforts to sway the commission be publicly reported.
Idaho – North Idaho Rep. Faces Ethics Hearing for Publicly Naming Alleged Sexual Assault Victim
MSN – Hayat Norimine (Idaho Statesman) | Published: 7/20/2021
After calls from sexual assault survivors and advocates, an Idaho House member now faces an ethics hearing over her behavior as a representative. Rep. Priscilla Giddings will face a hearing on August 2 over her conduct when a 19-year-old legislative intern alleged that another Republican lawmaker sexually assaulted her. Complaints alleged Giddings retaliated against the intern by disseminating “defamatory writings” that identified her. Complaints also said Giddings misrepresented her actions to the ethics committee.
Illinois – FEC Rules US Rep. Robin Kelly Cannot Raise Money for Nonfederal Candidates, Leaving Her Largely a Figurehead as Illinois Democratic Chair
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/15/2021
The FEC ruled U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly cannot be involved in raising or spending money for state and local office candidates in her new role as Illinois Democratic Party chairperson, relegating her largely to figurehead status within the party. Kelly is also prohibited from using her name and title on state fundraising solicitations because, as a federal officeholder, she is bound by federal laws on raising campaign cash that are stricter than those of the state. Under the ruling, the state Democratic Party must create a special committee to oversee state fundraising for nonfederal campaigns with no involvement by Kelly.
Illinois – On First Full Day as Official Candidate for Reelection, Gov. J.B. Pritzker Indicates He’ll Sign Controversial Ethics Bill, Pledges Return to ‘Kitchen Table’ Issues in Second Term
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/20/2021
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker indicated he will sign a controversial ethics bill he acknowledged “didn’t go far enough,” saying he believes it makes some progress toward restoring the public’s trust in state government. Controversy has surrounded many provisions and the state’s legislative inspector general, Carol Pope, contended lawmakers “demonstrated true ethics reform is not a priority” when she announced her resignation recently.
Illinois – Rep. Marie Newman Settles Lawsuit Alleging She Bribed Potential Opponent
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 7/20/2021
U.S. Rep. Marie Newman agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging she bribed a potential primary opponent not to run against her, putting to rest a bizarre episode in Illinois politics. Iymen Chehade alleged he and Newman entered into an employment contract in December 2018 that said if Newman won the race in Illinois’ Third Congressional District in 2020, Chehade would be hired in her office and paid between $135,000 and $140,000 annually.
Iowa – Iowa Group That Backed Ernst Fights to Block Donor Disclosure
Iowa Capital Dispatch – Clark Kauffman | Published: 7/21/2021
A group that supported U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s 2020 re-election bid is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit it says would give “the wolf the keys to the henhouse” and allow others to “rifle through” records pertaining to its donors. Iowa Values allegedly spent close to $1.5 million supporting Ernst’s successful re-election campaign and is now being sued by the Campaign Legal Center. The lawsuit marks the first known use of an obscure provision in federal campaign law that allows a private individual or group to take a claim of campaign finance violations directly to federal court.
Minnesota – Minn. State Rep. John Thompson Faces Calls to Resign Over Allegations of Domestic Violence, Indecent Exposure
MSN – Julian Mark (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2021
Minnesota Rep. John Thompson launched his political career after a police officer shot and killed his friend Philando Castile during a July 2016 traffic stop. Thompson pledged to reform policing in the state and was elected this past November. Now, state Republican and Democratic officials, including Gov. Tim Walz, are calling for Thompson’s ouster after his own recent traffic stop led to new revelations about his past. Since the stop, police reports surfaced showing that years ago, Thompson was accused of choking and hitting a girlfriend on multiple occasions and once exposing himself to two women while children were present.
Missouri – Is Columbia Mayor Brian Treece Violating Campaign Finance Law? Veto Renews Questions
Columbia Daily Tribune – Charles Dunlop | Published: 7/15/2021
Nearly two years ago, attorney Dan Viets filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission regarding Mayor Brian Treece and his candidate committee. Viets is still waiting on an answer to his inquiry. The delay could be related to House Bill 685, Viets said. This bill, which included changes to requirements to run for public office, was vetoed by Gov. Mike Parson. The law in question requires that any person who registers as a lobbyist must dissolve their candidate committee for any public office in Missouri and disburse the funds either by refunding money to donors, giving it to charity, or donating to a political party committee.
New Mexico – Powerful Ties: New Mexico attorney general accused of violating state ethics laws
MSN – Lindsay Fendt (Searchlight New Mexico) | Published: 7/16/2021
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas’ close relationship with a local law firm is under scrutiny amid allegations that attorney Marcus Rael Jr. used his influence with the attorney general to convince Balderas to sign off on a multi-billion-dollar utility merger. The merger between a global energy giant and New Mexico’s largest utility could drastically change electricity distribution in the state, with hundreds of millions of dollars for New Mexico utility customers hanging in the balance.
New York – Adams’ Top Aide Doubled Her Salary While Moonlighting on His Campaign
The City – Greg Smith | Published: 7/21/2021
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ top aide doubled her salary during the mayoral primary race by working both for his campaign and at her taxpayer-funded job. Ingrid Lewis-Martin earns $172,900 annually as Adams’ deputy borough president. Starting April 15, Adams’ mayoral campaign started paying her $6,500 on a biweekly basis for a total of $40,000 through June 30, records show. Even as she worked on Adams’ successful campaign, she proved a crucial contact for lobbyists seeking support from her boss in his role as borough president.
New York – Ethics Agency Probing Cuomo Aide’s Calls
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/20/2021
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is investigating a series of phone calls made by a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which some county executives felt improperly mixed politics with vaccine distribution efforts. A JCOPE investigator has been calling county executives to set up fact-finding interviews concerning their interactions with Larry Schwartz, who is one of Cuomo’s most trusted advisers and had served as New York’s “vaccine czar” during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York – Mayor Lovely Warren Pleads Not Guilty to Firearms, Child Endangerment Charges
MSN – Gary Craig and Will Cleveland (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) | Published: 7/21/2021
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren denied she illegally possessed firearms or took any actions that endangered the well-being of her young daughter. Warren, also facing allegations of campaign finance fraud, pleaded not guilty in court to firearms possession and child endangerment charges. Having lost the Democratic primary, Warren appears to be in her final months as mayor. Yet, while trying to navigate a surge in gun violence, as well as the usual day-to-day responsibilities of a mayor, she also is now confronting multiple criminal allegations.
Ohio – A House Race in Cleveland Captures the Democrats’ Generational Divide
New York Times – Jonathan Weisman | Published: 7/20/2021
On August 3, the voters of Ohio’s 11th Congressional District will provide some indication of the direction the Democratic Party is heading – toward the progressive approach Nina Turner embodies or the reserved mold of its leaders in Washington, D.C., shaped more by the establishment than the ferment stirring its grassroots. The party establishment is throwing time and money into an effort to stop Turner, a former state senator. The Congressional Black Caucus’s PAC endorsed Turner’s main rival, Shontel Brown, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chairperson.
Ohio – A Year Out, $60M Bribery Scandal Felt in Business, Politics
MSN – Mark Gillispie and Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 7/19/2021
The arrests one year ago of then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates in connection with an alleged $60 million bribery scheme have rocked business and politics across the state, and events over the last year suggest a federal probe’s tentacles only continue to grow. Householder pleaded not guilty. He was removed from the speakership last year, reelected to office in November despite felony racketeering charges, then expelled from the chamber. His political adviser Jeff Longstreth, lobbyist Juan Cespedes, and Generation Now, a dark money group accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes, pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
Ohio – Federal Prosecutors Portray Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson as a Swindler Who Fleeced Taxpayers
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/21/2021
A longtime Cleveland recreation worker testified he signed years of city timesheets for work he never did for Councilperson Kenneth Johnson. The council member used the timesheets to obtain $127,200 in reimbursements from January 2010 to October 2018 and deposited the money in his bank account, prosecutors said. Johnson is on trial, accused of 15 theft-related counts. Prosecutors also have accused Johnson of working with John Hopkins, the former executive of the Buckeye-Shaker Square Development Corp., to steer at least $100,000 in federal block grants.
Ohio – FirstEnergy to Pay $230M in Settlement in Ohio Bribery Case
MSN – Mark Gillispie (Associated Press) | Published: 7/22/2021
FirstEnergy agreed to a $230 million penalty for bribing former House Speaker Larry Householder and former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairperson Sam Randazzo. FirstEnergy is charged with conspiracy to commit honest services fraud involving what authorities called the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history. FirstEnergy Corp. and FirstEnergy Solutions, now called Energy Harbor, allegedly donated $59 million to Generation Now, a “dark money” group controlled by Householder, who is listed as Public Official A in the information. FirstEnergy is also accused of influencing Randazzo, identified as Public Official B, via a $4.3 million payment.
Ohio – From Donations to Lobbyists, Ohio’s 15th Congressional District Candidates Have Ties to House Bill 6
MSN – Haley BeMiller (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 7/21/2021
Every corner of Ohio politics has been touched in some way by former state Rep. Larry Householder and the House Bill 6 scandal. The special election in the 15th Congressional District is no exception. Multiple candidates in the crowded Republican field can be traced to the controversy through votes, donations, and ties to a coal lobbying group that benefited from its passage. The arrests of Householder and four operatives did not seem to affect statehouse races a few months later. But Democrats have signaled they plan to make the scandal and the legislation key issues in future campaigns, including for the 15th District.
Oregon – Audit Finds Tax Funded Forest Institute in Oregon Misled Public, May Have Broken State Law
MSN – Tony Schick (OPB) and Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 7/21/2021
The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI), established by state lawmakers in 1991 to provide credible public education based on facts and reliable science, operates with broad authority and almost no oversight, undermining its public benefit and credibility, according to a state audit. The report said the findings “reasonably raise the question” of whether OFRI broke the law, which bars the agency from attempting to influence the actions of any other state body. A media report found the agency sought to discredit climate scientists and operated as a de facto lobbying and public relations arm for the timber industry.
Pennsylvania – Indicted Philly Lawmakers Collect Legal Defense Cash Gifts from Parking Magnates, Strip Club Owners and Lobbyists
Billy Penn – Max Marin and Ryan Briggs | Published: 7/16/2021
Philadelphia City Councilmembers Bobby Henon and Kenyatta Johnson both accepted tens of thousands in cash donations to support legal defense costs related to their respective indictments on federal corruption charges, including some from prominent political donors, lobbyists, and even a strip club owner. Such legal aid contributions are considered “gifts” under city ethics laws, which generally prohibit gifts from entities seeking to influence government officials. But Henon accepted money from parking magnate Joseph Zuritsky and later co-sponsored a bill designed to cut parking taxes.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Decertifies Fulton County’s Voting System After Third-Party Audit Done for GOP
U.S. News and World Report – Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 7/21/2021
Pennsylvania’s top election official decertified the voting machines of a small county that disclosed it had agreed to requests by local Republican lawmakers and allowed a software firm to inspect the machines as part of an “audit” after the 2020 election. The action by Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid almost certainly means Fulton County will have to buy or lease new voting machines. The lawmakers’ request for the review came amid former President Trump’s baseless claims the 2020 election was rigged against him in Pennsylvania and other battleground states.
Washington DC – Conflict of Interest? Company Hired to Review Troubled DC Crime Lab Wins New Contract with Same Lab
WTOP – Jack Moore | Published: 7/19/2021
In May, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announced she was bringing a forensic consulting firm to perform an independent review of the city’s troubled crime lab, which had just seen its accreditation stripped and is the subject of a criminal investigation over its handling of errors in a murder case. In a letter to city council members, the mayor described SNA International as an “independent firm with extensive forensic sciences laboratories experience.” But the letter did not mention the company had previously done work for the lab, and had been preliminarily approved for what has been described as a “critical upgrade” to the lab’s case-tracking system.
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