January 22, 2021 •
National/Federal As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign – and What It Says About American Democracy MSN – David Nakamura (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2021 President Trump’s four years in office ended after a reign defined […]
As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign – and What It Says About American Democracy
MSN – David Nakamura (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2021
President Trump’s four years in office ended after a reign defined by constant chaos, corruption, and scandal, a tenure that numerous scholars predict is destined to rank him among America’s worst presidents. Trump’s claims of policy victories, including a raft of conservative judges and steps toward Middle East peace, will be overshadowed by his mismanagement of the pandemic and his unprecedented assault on the U.S. election results, they said. Historians preparing to reckon with his legacy say it is not just Trump who will be examined in the harsh reflection of history’s mirror, but also American society and the nation’s commitment to democracy.
Biden Ethics Order Marks Departure from Trump Administration
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko | Published: 1/19/2021
Ethics rules implemented by President Biden are intended to minimize the ethics minefield posed by the “revolving door” of incoming former lobbyists and consultants who typically staff presidential administrations, as well as the future employment of departing officials who often find lucrative jobs in Washington, D.C.’s influence industry. Under the order, officials who leave the administration will be prohibited from lobbying the White House for Biden’s duration in office. Those who depart toward the end of his tenure will be prohibited from lobbying the White House for at least two years. One provision prohibits incoming administration officials from accepting “golden parachute” payments from their former employers for taking a government job.
Census Bureau Says Trump’s Push to Exclude Undocumented Is Dead
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 1/16/2021
President Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census totals used to apportion congressional seats is officially dead. The Census Bureau announced that data on apportionment and a related calculation of the number of undocumented immigrants Trump has specifically requested would not be released until after Joe Biden is sworn in. Biden has said he opposed Trump’s efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants, who have historically been included. The agreement arose from a suit from the National Urban League and other plaintiffs opposed to the plan over the accuracy of the census.
Democrats Seek Momentum for Voting, Political Money Overhaul
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/19/2021
Senate Democrats, with the slimmest possible majority in the chamber, signaled a symbolic first order of business: a major overhaul of the nation’s voting, campaign finance, and ethics laws. The measure, dubbed HR 1 in the House and now christened in the Senate as S 1 to signify that it is a top priority, died in the GOP-controlled Senate last Congress. Democrats, as well as outside groups pushing for passage, said the overhaul would help shore up voters’ confidence in a democracy damaged by a violent attempted insurrection at the Capitol and after four years of corruption scandals and flouting of ethics norms during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Democrats Seize on GOP Donor Fallout
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/16/2021
Democrats are seizing on the fallout from donors distancing themselves from Republicans, with lawmakers and advocacy groups saying it is a rare opportunity to change fundraising rules and the influence corporations have on campaigns. Progressives are ramping up calls to permanently eliminate corporate PAC contributions, while moderate Democrats see an opening to win over business groups and leaders who have traditionally thrown much of their support behind Republicans. Corporate donors are freezing their PACs and reassessing their giving strategies while others say they would not give any money to Republicans who voted to challenge the election results.
Energy Secretary Nominee Jennifer Granholm Has Millions in Energy Investments
MSN – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 1/20/2021
President Joe Biden’s energy secretary pick, Jennifer Granholm, disclosed millions of dollars of investments in corporate and private business interests, including millions in companies linked to the energy industry, as lawmakers prepare to consider her nomination. The former Michigan governor and her husband, Daniel Mulhern, reported owning from $4.4 million up to $16.8 million in corporate interests and private assets like residential real estate properties, according to her new financial disclosure report. Granholm joins a series of Biden nominees who have ties to corporate and private interests, which have raised concerns over potential conflict-of-interest.
Groups with Biden Ties Pose Ethics Quandary for His Administration
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 1/18/2021
The University of Delaware’s Biden Institute promises in its mission statement to embody the spirit of “honesty, integrity, compassion and courage” it says have defined President Biden’s career in politics. The research center he helped launch to promote scholarship on public policy has the potential to become an ethical headache for his administration. The institute does not disclose all its donors and has not committed to doing so once Biden is sworn in as president. The institute continues to engage in a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign, which could attract donations from those interested in currying favor with the administration. The institute is one of a network of charitable organizations and academic centers bearing Biden’s name.
How Twitter, on the Front Lines of History, Finally Decided to Ban Trump
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Nitasha Tiku (Wasjington Post) | Published: 1/16/2021
Twitter banned President Trump permanently. In an instant, the megaphone of the leader of the free world was wiped out, along with his following of 88 million he had built throughout his presidency, some of whom amplified his every word. It also ended an era of free speech online that Twitter, which a senior executive once referred to as “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” had itself helped create. A dozen current and former employees and close observers of the company reconstructed the critical decision, marked by tearful meetings, bitter internal arguments, and the culmination of years of debate within the company.
Justice Dept. Will Not Pursue Charges Against Sen. Richard Burr Over Stock Sales at Outset of Pandemic
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 1/19/2021
The Justice Department ended its investigation into U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and will not pursue charges against the North Carolina Republican, who was being probed for stock sales he made before the coronavirus pandemic crashed global markets. Burr was one of a number of senators to come under investigation last year for stock sales they made before the pandemic’s effect on the markets. As the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Burr had received frequent briefings and reports on the threat of the coronavirus. Burr said he relied on public information rather than information he was specifically privy to as a lawmaker. His case, though, was always considered more serious than those of the other lawmakers.
Lawmakers Who Conspired with Capitol Attackers in Legal Peril
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 1/14/2021
Lawmakers who interacted with the pro-Trump protesters who rioted at the Capitol on January 6 could face criminal charges and will almost certainly come under scrutiny in the burgeoning federal investigation into the assault, former prosecutors said. Unlike with the president, there is no Justice Department policy shielding members of Congress from legal accountability while in office. The role members of Congress may have played in facilitating the attack drew intense attention this week after Democratic lawmakers alleged some of their Republican colleagues facilitated tours of the Capitol one day before demonstrators engaged in the assault that terrorized lawmakers, ransacked congressional offices, and left as many as five people dead.
Rallies Ahead of Capitol Riot Were Planned by Established Washington Insiders
MSN – Robert O’Harrow Jr. (Washington Post) | Published: 1/17/2021
The fiery rallies that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol were organized and promoted by an array of established conservative insiders and activists, documents and videos show. The Republican Attorneys General Association was involved, as were the activist groups Turning Point Action and Tea Party Patriots. At least six current or former members of the Council for National Policy, an influential group that for decades has served as a hub for conservative and Christian activists, also played roles in promoting the rallies. The two days of rallies were staged not by white nationalists and other extremists, but by well-funded nonprofit groups and individuals that figure prominently in the machinery of conservative activism in Washington.
Trump Grants Clemency to 143 People in Late-Night Pardon Blast
MSN – Rosalind Heldrman, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 1/20/2021
President Trump granted clemency to 143 people, using a final act of presidential power to extend mercy to former White House strategist Stephen Bannon, well-connected celebrities, and nonviolent drug offenders but he did not preemptively pardon himself or his family. The last-minute clemency extended to Bannon underscores how Trump has used his presidential power to benefit allies and political backers. He had previously pardoned or commuted the sentences of his former campaign chairperson, former national security adviser, and a former campaign foreign policy adviser.
Trump Revokes Administration Ethics Rules on His Way Out the Door
National Public Radio – Tamara Keith | Published: 1/20/2021
In one of his final acts in office, President Trump revoked an executive order on ethics he signed when he first took office, freeing the way for people who have served in his administration to cash in with lobbying jobs. When Trump signed the order, he hailed it as a fulfillment of his campaign promise to “drain the swamp.” Among other things, it banned administration officials from lobbying the agencies where they worked for a full five years after the termination of their employment.
Canada – Two N.B. Reactor Developers Defend Use of Liberal-Connected Lobbyists
MSN – Jacques Poitras (CBC) | Published: 1/19/2021
The two companies developing small modular nuclear reactors in New Brunswick are defending their use of Liberal Party-connected lobbyists. ARC Nuclear has former Premier Shawn Graham working on their behalf, while Moltex Energy is using Jordan O’Brien, the one-time chief of staff to another Liberal premier, Brian Gallant. Consultants and in-house lobbyists dealing with the provincial government have been required to register publicly since 2017. Graham’s registration to lobby the federal government for ARC Nuclear lists him as “inactive.”
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Banned from the Capitol, Alaska Lobbyists Contend with Pandemic Predicament
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 1/20/2021
Lobbyists are paid for access to and intelligence on what is happening in the Alaska Capitol, but for now, they are banned from the building. They are also contending with a disorganized power structure. It has been more than two months since the election, but the Senate only recently formed a ruling majority and the House still has no one in charge. Lobbyists say the power vacuum and their loss of in-person access to the Capitol will be an undeniable obstacle as they seek to influence policy and provide lawmakers information from businesses, local governments, organized labor, and other interests.
Arkansas – New Lawmaker Fined Over Ethics Violation; Former Rival Off Hook
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 1/17/2021
State Rep. Ashley Hudson agreed to pay a $50 fine and receive a public letter of caution in a settlement of a complaint filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission. Former Rep. Jim Sorvillo corrected an unintentional campaign reporting error within 30 days of learning about the mistake, so the commission found Sorvillo did not violate state ethics law, commission Director Graham Sloan said.
California – After Anonymous Donation to Newsom Recall, Democrat Revives Campaign Finance Proposal
Sacramento Bee – Lara Korte | Published: 1/13/2021
California Assemblyperson Marc Berman is reviving his effort to force more large political contributors to disclose their identities after an investor kicked in $500,000 to a campaign seeking to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom and remained anonymous for weeks. Assembly Bill 236 would require limited liability companies (LLCs) to disclose their sources of funding in the event it contributes $50,000 or more to campaigns in the state in a given year, or a total of $100,000 in four consecutive years. The bill would effectively require companies to identify funders and investors who contributed more than $1,000 to the LLC in a year and whose monies were used in political donations, Berman said.
Connecticut – Weeks After Election, CT Stopped Monitoring Online Voter Fraud Talk
MSN – Kasturi Pananjady and Dave Altimari (Connecticut Mirror) | Published: 1/18/2021
In the aftermath of the November election, intelligence analyst Hannah Glidden was working for the secretary of the state’s office under a novel contract. Her job was to flag any social media talk of voter fraud or disinformation about the election in Connecticut. Glidden brought dozens of posts to the attention of officials who said the reports were valuable as they tried to tamp down misinformation. But Glidden’s contract ran out at the end of November, costing the agency a source of information that has not yet been restored at a time when officials in Connecticut and across the country are struggling to not only negate disinformation about the last election but prepare for violence in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Florida – Florida Police Were After a Covid-19 Data Scientist. She Turned Herself In – and Tested Positive.
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 1/19/2021
Florida health officials fired data scientist Rebekah Jones, accusing her of insubordination as she was putting together the state’s coronavirus dashboard. After she started her own website to publish pandemic data, armed police officers raided her home. A warrant was issued for her arrest for computer crimes. Jones, who claims officials tried to manipulate official numbers on the pandemic, turned herself in to authorities. After posting bail, Jones said she had tested positive for the coronavirus while in custody. Her arrest and diagnosis are the latest developments in a contentious public battle between Jones and state officials since she was fired from the Florida Department of Health in May.
Hawaii – No More ‘Gifts of Aloha’ for State Lawmakers
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 1/15/2021
The new ban on “gifts of aloha” from lobbyists to Hawaii lawmakers is just one of dozens of new rules passed by the state Ethics Commission as the Legislature opened the 2021 session. The rules, which took effect in November, give a clearer framework for how state employees and the commission should abide by the ethics code. New chapters on lobbying and gift giving seek to provide clearer guidance in both of those areas. in years past, lawmakers reported receiving numerous small gifts on the opening day of the session as constituents and lobbyists flocked to their open offices.
Illinois – Ald. Brookins Sues Ethics Board After It Fines Him $5,000 For Violating Ethics Ordinance
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 1/15/2021
Ald. Howard Brookins sued the Chicago Board of Ethics after it found he had violated the city’s ethics ordinance by defending clients, including former Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, in criminal cases involving the Chicago Police Department. The board fined Brookins $5,000 after he agreed to represent Moreno. Brookins has yet to pay that fine. The Ethics Board ruled in September 2019 that council members face “diverging interests” when they represent a client charged with a crime based on evidence developed by Chicago police officers.
Illinois – Ethics Advocates Happy Illinois Legislature’s Reform Attempt Failed
MSN – Cole Lauterbach (Center Square) | Published: 1/18/2021
In the rush of legislation passed in the 101st General Assembly’s final hours, an ethics reform effort was put on hold in Illinois. Surprisingly, some advocates are relieved it stalled. From its introduction, the reform bill was steeped in irony; 87 pages of unvetted legislation inserted into a shell bill via a floor amendment in the middle of the night amid a flurry of other bills to be considered by a lame-duck Legislature. Watchdog groups said in a joint statement the matter flew in the face of transparency and did little to improve Illinois’ reputation for corruption.
Massachusetts – Inspector General Raises New Questions About Hingham Housing Authority Payments
MSN – Todd Wallach (Boston Globe) | Published: 1/18/2021
The state inspector general’s office is raising new questions about a conflict-of-interest involving the retired director of a Hingham public housing agency. The Massachusetts Ethics Commission fined Hingham Housing Authority Executive Director Sharon Napier $2,500 in 2018 for failing to disclose her ties to a company that performed inspections of its apartment units and having a financial interest in a separate contract to sell one of the units. The inspector general found she received $2,496.94 in “special pay” the same week she paid the $2,500 fine.
Massachusetts – Search for Top Campaign Finance Regulator Resumes Friday
WWLP – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 1/20/2021
Almost a year since applicants first submitted their resumes to replace Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance Director Michael Sullivan, the search process that had been on hiatus since March is set to resume. Secretary of State William Galvin’s office said the search committee will meet to resume the process of hiring someone to take over for Sullivan as the state’s top campaign finance regulator. The hiring process was put on a long pause due to the pandemic after Galvin and members of the committee developed a list of finalists they hoped to interview.
Minnesota – In Minnesota, a GOP Lawmaker’s Death Brings Home the Reality of COVID
Yahoo News – Trip Gabriel (New York Times) | Published: 1/18/2021
More than 100 state senators, their spouses, and their staff members gathered for a celebratory dinner after the November election at a catering hall outside the Twin Cities. Masks were offered to guests on arrival, but there was little mask wearing over hours of dining and drinking, at a moment when a long-predicted surge in coronavirus infections was gripping the state. At least four senators in attendance tested positive for COVID-19 in the days that followed. Sen. Jerry Relph, struggling to breathe after testing positive for the coronavirus, was admitted to a hospital in mid-November. He died on December 18 at age 76.
Missouri – St. Louis Lawmaker Banished to Basement Office After Colleagues Censure Him
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/18/2021
Missouri Rep. Wiley Price has been forced to move his belongings from an office suite on the Capitol’s first floor to a windowless basement hearing room after his colleagues censured him. Price said the action by Republican leadership is part of an effort to force him to resign. The House Ethics Commission found Price was in frequent contact with an intern in January 2020, though the two have denied any sexual relationship. The committee found Price committed perjury by denying he contacted the intern. The panel also found Price threatened an assistant who reported Price told her of his relationship with the intern.
New Jersey – Auction for Chance to Implode Trump Plaza Casino Is Canceled
New York Times – Mihir Zavari | Published: 1/19/2021
The auction was promoting a “once in a lifetime” experience in Atlantic City that would raise money for a youth charity: the right to push a button to implode the vacant Trump Plaza hotel and casino. But the auction, which had drawn a high bid of $175,000, was canceled after objection from the building’s owner, a subsidiary controlled by a company run by Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor who has supported President Trump. The proceeds would have gone to the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City.
New Jersey – N.J. Politics Has a ‘Toxic Culture’ of Sexual Harassment. Here Are 5 Ways to Fix It, Landmark Report Says.
Newark Star Ledger – Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 1/14/2021
After spending a year listening to women’s stories about being sexually harassed, assaulted, and marginalized in New Jersey politics, a committee of top female politicians and lobbyists released a report calling for the creation of an independent investigative unit to handle complaints involving political campaigns and government The new investigative team would be overseen by the Election Law Enforcement Commission. The commission would allow victims to bypass campaign and party officials to file complaints about sexual harassment, bullying, or discrimination in state and local politics. The creation of the new investigative unit is one of five recommendations to help change the “toxic culture” in New Jersey politics and government.
New Jersey – Why Donations to NJ Political Campaigns from Public Contractors Nosedived in 10-Year Span
MSN – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 1/20/2021
Contributions from public contractors to New Jersey’s six biggest political fundraising committees sank by $22 million in the past decade compared with the prior 10 years, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). That is good news for advocates of “pay-to-play” laws, which restrict how much money vendors can donate to political campaigns. The 94 percent dip in contributions from contractors coincided with state laws restricting donations to Democratic and Republican fundraising committees, showing the laws worked on the state level, said ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle. But there is a downside, Brindle warns in the report.
New Mexico – Lawmaker, Advocates Pursue Greater Sunshine from Lobbyists
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 1/19/2021
Some argue the public would be better served if there was more transparency regarding the work of lobbyists to change, pass, or stop legislation in New Mexico. In 2021, some advocates think a new crop of freshman lawmakers plus fewer lobbyists in the Capitol due to the pandemic may help the prospects of new disclosure laws. Lobbyists are required to register under state law. But only a fraction are professionals who may represent multiple clients and are usually hired based on their experience and relationships with legislators and staff. Roughly 30 percent spend money to further their interests, whether through political contributions, expenditures on meals and other activities, or gifts.
New York – Trump Investigators Have Tax Records Even Before Court Order
MSN – Greg Farrell and Greg Stohr (Bloomberg) | Published: 1/20/2021
Investigators probing former President Trump’s finances have gotten hold of some of his tax records, allowing them to move ahead even without a U.S. Supreme Court order that would give them eight years of his returns. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA, is leading one of the most closely watched cases that could result in criminal charges. While Vance agreed to await a high-court decision on forcing the handover of tax records from 2011 to 2018, his office now has some of the information from other sources, according to people familiar with the matter.
North Dakota – Bipartisan Bill Proposes Taxpayers Pay for Lawmakers’ Meals
Associated Press News – James MacPherson | Published: 1/20/2021
A bill proposes that North Dakota taxpayers pick up the tab for lawmakers’ meals since dinners paid for by lobbyists and interest groups are now banned under new ethics rules. State Rep. Keith Kempenich is sponsoring the legislation that would allow lawmakers who live outside Bismarck to claim reimbursement for meals. Kempenich, who has been in the House since 1993, said dinners funded by lobbyists and other groups had gone from “steak and lobster to finger food” during that time. Lawmakers used to joke about the weight they packed on during a session, but this session, he said, the free food is nonexistent.
Ohio – Cleveland State Lets Cuyahoga County’s Former HR Chief Apply for Job 10 Months Late, Then Hires Him While on Probation for Corruption-Related Charges
MSN – Courtney Astolfi (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 1/19/2021
Cleveland State University (CSU) allowed Douglas Dykes to apply for a newly created human resources job 10 months after the deadline for applications had elapsed, then hired Dykes while he was on probation for corruption-related charges, passing over 37 other applicants. Dykes started work at CSU on December 14, 2020, as associate vice president of human resources. Five months earlier, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in a deal made with corruption investigators, who dropped felony theft-in-office charges. CSU spokesperson Alison Bibb-Carson has said the university believes in “providing talented people second chances.”
Ohio – FBI Investigation Revealed Vast FirstEnergy-Backed Political Network Hidden Through Lax State Disclosure Rules
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 1/19/2021
Legal filings and media reports over the past six months have peeled back the layers of a “dark-money” political network funded by FirstEnergy. But because state and federal law do not require political nonprofits to disclose their donors, the only reason the public knows about anything about the utility’s ties to the expansive constellation of Ohio political causes is the federal investigation into House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law which prosecutors say passed due to a $61 million bribery scheme, funded by FirstEnergy and its affiliates through secret or difficult to trace political donations. An FBI agent described a political non-profit seeded with $20 million from FirstEnergy, much of which went to a different nonprofit that was central to the bribery scheme. But the nonprofit also funneled money to other diverse causes.
Pennsylvania – Court Rules in Favor of City in Darlene Harris Campaign Finance Suit
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Mick Stinelli | Published: 1/19/2021
An Allegheny County Common Pleas judge ruled against former city Councilperson Darlene Harris in her attempt to throw out a fine for breaking Pittsburgh’s campaign finance rules. The suit alleged the city’s rules went against the Pennsylvania Constitution after she was fined $4,150 by the Ethics Hearing Board for refusing to file campaign documents during her unsuccessful re-election campaign for city council last year. “The City of Pittsburgh has broad powers of regulation pursuant to its Home Rule Charter which gives the City power to regulate campaign finances,” Judge Joseph James wrote in his opinion.
South Carolina – Divided SC Supreme Court Rebukes Statehouse Probe Prosecutor
Associated Press News – Jeffrey Collins | Published: 1/20/2021
A divided South Carolina Supreme Court ruled a prosecutor investigating statehouse corruption overstepped his authority, but also upheld an 18-month prison sentence for one of the lawmakers caught up in the probe. Rep. Jim Harrison appealed his convictions on misconduct in office and perjury charges. The justices threw out the misconduct in office conviction saying Solicitor David Pascoe overstepped his authority by continuing a state grand jury probe of corruption beyond specific lawmakers who state Attorney General Alan Wilson asked Pascoe’s office to prosecute. But the court upheld the perjury conviction. Harrison lied to the grand jury about what he did to get paid a salary from a political consultant while he was a lawmaker.
Tennessee – Tennessee Lawmaker Again Seeks to Restrict Public Record Requests Deemed as ‘Harassments’
MSN – Yue Stella Yu (Tennessean) | Published: 1/15/2021
A bill seeking to restrict public records access for people deemed “harassing” is back before Tennessee lawmakers after similar legislation died last year. Under Senate Bill 135, government entities would hold the power to launch a mediation process with those requesting public records and the ability to seek an injunction to block the request if the mediation fails as long as the staff deem the requests as “harassments.” Proponents of the bill argue the legislation helps filter out frivolous requests, but open records advocates cautioned the bill could erode public access to documents and allow government entities to sue over requests they dislike.
Utah – Latter-Day Saints Are Overrepresented in Utah’s Legislature, Holding 9 of Every 10 Seats
MSN – Lee Davidson (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/14/2021
Eighty-nine of the 103 state lawmakers in Utah are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church members also hold all the state’s congressional seats and statewide political offices, such as governor. “That Mormon dominance is the most important fact about Utah politics, and it determines political outcomes …,” said retired journalist Rod Decker, who wrote a book on the topic, “Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room.”
West Virginia – With Death of Judge, Governor Will Now Appoint Judge in Line to Hear Residency Case Against Him
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Joe Severino | Published: 1/19/2021
With the death of Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Charles King, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice will now appoint King’s replacement to the bench, and that person will be responsible for presiding over the pending residency case against the governor. The residency case, which claims the governor is violating the state constitution by not living in Charleston, has been pending in the courts for more than two years. State law does not require an appointed Circuit Court judge to recuse themselves from a case with a possible conflict-of-interest. If the appointee does recuse themselves, the case will go to one of the six remaining Kanawha circuit judges.
Wisconsin – New Health Official Isn’t Saying Whether She Will Avoid Conflicts with Former Lobbying Clients
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)) | Published: 1/20/2021
Wisconsin’s incoming top health official is not saying whether she will step away from decisions affecting the health care clients she represented as a lobbyist when she becomes interim health services secretary. Karen Timberlake served as Wisconsin’s health secretary from 2008 to 2011 and in recent years has focused on health care issues as a lobbyist with Michael Best Strategies. She shed those clients recently, but in her new job will be able to make decisions that have profound effects on how they operate and their bottom lines. State law does not require officials to recuse themselves from decisions affecting former clients. The state puts limits on government officials who go on to do lobbying work, but not on lobbyists who become government officials.
Wisconsin – Speaker Vos Puts Limits on Who Can Respond to Tweets Despite First Amendment Ruling Against Him
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 1/19/2021
Two years after a federal judge found Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had unconstitutionally blocked a liberal group from following him on Twitter, Vos is again restricting who can interact with him on the social media platform. The last time Vos and his colleagues tried to control who could respond to his tweets, it cost taxpayers $200,000 in legal bills.
January 15, 2021 •
National/Federal A Siege on the U.S. Capitol, a Strike Against Democracy Worldwide MSN – Anthony Faiola, Shibani Mahtani, and Isabelle Khurshudyan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021 The insurrection at the Capitol is threatening America’s historical role promoting democracy around the world. […]
A Siege on the U.S. Capitol, a Strike Against Democracy Worldwide
MSN – Anthony Faiola, Shibani Mahtani, and Isabelle Khurshudyan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021
The insurrection at the Capitol is threatening America’s historical role promoting democracy around the world. The spectacle of President Trump rallying supporters to march on the Capitol over baseless claims of election fraud as lawmakers certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory has provided a propaganda coup for Washington’s enemies, undermined pro-democracy movements worldwide, and offered a model for would-be autocrats. Four years of Trump had already dimmed America’s democratic bona fides. Now, the international implications of the events in Washington are expected to reverberate far beyond Biden’s inauguration.
As Biden Raises Money for His Virtual Inauguration, Lobbyists Prepare for a Scaled-Down Schmooze-Fest
MSN – Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 1/11/2021
With the coronavirus pandemic raging around the country, President-elect Joe Biden and congressional inauguration planners have closed much of the traditional avenues for access. Instead of receiving the typical 200,000 tickets to share with constituents eager to see Biden take the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress will receive tickets for themselves and one guest only. And K Street lobbyists are scrambling to adjust to the new reality. All around the nation’s capital, just as a new administration and a new Congress set up shop, corporate lobbyists, trade associations, and others in the influence industry have had to abandon the usual tools of their trade.
Backlash to Riot at Capitol Hobbles Trump’s Business as Banks, Partners Flee the Brand
MSN – Josh Dawsey, David Fahrenthold, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2021
The Trump Organization in the past week has lost a bank, an e-commerce platform, and the privilege of hosting the PGA Championship. In the future, the business also could lose its Washington, D.C. hotel. Properties. By refusing to acknowledge he would be returning to private life, President Trump appears to have sabotaged what could have been his best chance at success in that realm – a rebound of the battered Trump brand. Now, through his encouragement of rioters who ransacked the U.S. Capitol, Trump has made his company a pariah and driven away allies who could have brought it revenue and post-politics credibility.
Beyond Impeachment, a Push for Ethics Laws That Do Not Depend on Shame
New York Times – Elizabeth Williamson | Published: 1/11/2021
House Democrats are pressing ahead with an effort to try to ensure President Trump’s record of violating democratic and constitutional norms cannot be repeated. Trump’s term revealed gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. Trump ignored watchdog rulings and constitutional safeguards, pressed to overturn the outcome of an election, and pardoned those who covered for him, all while funneling taxpayer dollars to his family business. Among the changes embraced by House leaders are limits on the president’s pardon powers, mandated release of a president’s tax returns, new enforcement powers for independent agencies and Congress, and firmer prohibitions against financial conflicts-of-interest in the White House.
House Democrats Reintroduce Bill to Reduce Lobbyist Influence
MSN – Alex Gangitano (The Hill) | Published: 1/13/2021
A bill to reduce the influence of lobbyists and to close the so-called “revolving door” was reintroduced in Congress. The Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act was first introduced in 2019. The bill would ban companies from making “golden parachute” payments that reward former employees for joining the government and strengthen recusal requirements to stop senior government officials from acting in ways that benefit former employers or clients, among other provisions.
House Hands Trump a Second Impeachment, This Time with GOP Support
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021
The U.S. House made history by impeaching a president for a second time, indicting President Trump days before he leaves office for inciting a riot with false claims of a stolen election that led to the storming of the Capitol and five deaths. Unlike Trump’s first impeachment, which proceeded with almost no GOP support, this effort attracted 10 Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking party leader in the House. The Senate now appears likely to hold a trial after Trump’s departure, an unprecedented scenario that could end with lawmakers barring him from holding the presidency again.
K Street Adjusts for Democratic Senate
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/7/2021
Even as partisan vitriol grips Washington, D.C., lobbyists say they expect lawmakers to find common ground on additional legislation to mitigate the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures dealing with infrastructure projects as well as potentially on immigration and tax policy. With Democrats in charge of the Senate floor, they will be able to move more quickly on nominations for the incoming Biden administration, allowing potentially more time to consider legislation. Democrats will face pressure from their liberal flank to roll back the filibuster rules for legislation, which currently requires 60 votes to clear the chamber.
Trump Says He Won’t Attend Biden’s Inauguration
Politico – Quint Forgey | Published: 1/8/2021
President Trump announced he will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, shattering another norm of the American presidency on what will be his final day in office. With his decision, Trump is poised to become the first U.S. president in modern political history to not appear for his successor’s swearing-in ceremony, one of the nation’s most prominent public displays of its commitment to a peaceful transfer of power.
Trump’s Nonprofit Inaugural Committee Improperly Paid a $49,000 Bill Incurred by His Company, D.C. Attorney General Alleges
MSN – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2021
President Trump’s private business failed to pay a $49,000 hotel bill incurred during Trump’s 2017 inaugural and then, after the bill went to a collections agency, Trump’s nonprofit inaugural committee agreed to pay the charge instead, according to a new filing from District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, who had already sued Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee, alleging it had wasted donors’ money on an overpriced, barely used ballroom at Trump’s own hotel. Racine added an allegation to that suit. He said the president’s inaugural committee, a tax-exempt charity, improperly paid a bill it did not owe, using nonprofit funds to pay a bill owed by a for-profit business.
Twitter Bans Trump’s Account, Citing Risk of Further Violence
MSN – Nitasha Tiku, Tony Romm, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2021
Twitter banned President Trump from its site, a punishment for his role in inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol, robbing him of the megaphone he used to communicate directly with more than 88 million supporters and critics. Twitter has been Trump’s primary communication tool to push policies, drive news cycles, fire officials, spread falsehoods, savage opponents, and praise allies. Twitter had resisted taking action against Trump for years, arguing a world leader should be able to speak to his or her citizens unfettered. But Trump’s escalating tweets casting doubt on the 2020 election and the riot at the U.S. Capitol his comments helped inspire led the company to reverse course.
U.S. Campaign Finance System Rocked as Major Firms Pause or Halt Political Contributions After Election Results Challenged
Seattle Times – Todd Frankel, Jeff Stein, and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2021
The funding of campaigns is being rocked as some of the nation’s biggest firms such as Facebook, Google, BlackRock, Marriott, and Dow announced plans to halt some or all political contributions as a result of the insurrection at the Capitol, a sign of corporate America’s growing uneasiness with the election doubts and violent attacks inspired by President Trump. Major companies that collectively pour millions of dollars annually into campaigns through employee-funded PACs are registering their worry and anger about the chaos by pledging to reexamine their role in American politics.
Canada – Grace Period for New Lobbyist Registry Ends
Yukon News – Haley Ritchie | Published: 1/14/2021
The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. The new legislation, aimed at increasing government transparency, came into effect on October 15. Lobbyists were then given a 90-day grace period to “learn about the process and to adapt to the new reporting requirements.” That grace period ended January 13.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Downtown Developer Will Pay $1.2 Million in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 1/7/2021
A real estate company whose residential tower is a major part of the federal bribery case against former Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar agreed to pay $1.2 million to resolve its portion of the investigation. Carmel Partners will make the payment as part of a non-prosecution agreement that will spare the company from becoming a defendant in the corruption case. The agreement contained an allegation against Huizar that has not appeared in previous indictments. At one point in 2018, Huizar asked a Carmel executive if he would provide $250,000 in exchange for a reduction in the amount the company paid into a fund for affordable housing.
California – Gun Bribery Probe: Santa Clara County Sheriff acted to obscure use of donor’s Sharks suite, according to testimony
East Bay Times – Robert Salonga | Published: 1/12/2021
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith sought to hide her use of a penthouse suite at a San Jose Sharks game two years ago by having an employee buy cheaper seats in her name to avoid gift-reporting obligations for the suite now targeted by an indictment against her second-in-command. The circumvention was described by management analyst Lara McCabe in her testimony to a grand jury, which would later hand down bribery charges alleging favor-trading for concealed-gun permits involving Undersheriff Rick Sung, a top Apple security executive, a prominent supporter, and a sheriff’s captain who doubled as a close adviser.
California – U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Dispute Over California Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Requirement
Reuters – Lawrence Hurley | Published: 1/8/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge by two conservative groups to a California requirement that tax-exempt charities disclose to the state the identity of their top financial donors. The justices will take up the appeal of a lower court ruling that said California’s attorney general could require the two nonprofit organizations, Americans for Prosperity and the Thomas More Law Center, to furnish him with donor details. The groups argued the demand infringed upon their freedom of speech and association under the First Amendment.
Colorado – Denver Mayor Hancock’s Office Still Exposed to Conflicts of Interest, Auditor Says
Denver Post – Conrad Swanson | Published: 1/12/2021
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration is still at risk of allowing political favoritism and conflicts-of-interest to influence business deals, City Auditor Tim O’Brien said. That is despite warnings and calls for change as far back as 2019, when O’Brien audited Denver’s processes for entering into contracts and found weaknesses that were exacerbated by inadequate documentation to track how the city’s vendors are selected.
Florida – COVID-19 Keeps Lobbyists from Florida Capitol
Tampa Bay Times – Dara Kam | Published: 1/13/2021
As lawmakers gathered in Tallahassee, the scene in the Capitol was a stark departure from the typically convivial initial round of committee meetings in advance of the legislative session. The halls of the Capitol would typically be buzzing during the committee-meeting kickoff, as lobbyists rub elbows with legislators and aides while advocating for issues ranging from medical marijuana to budget items. But the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the 22-story edifice and adjacent buildings into an eerily desolate landscape as lawmakers and their staff, lobbyists, and reporters comply with new restrictions aimed at keeping as few people as possible from roaming inside the Capitol complex.
Florida – Former Broward Schools Administrator Arrested in Grand Jury Corruption Probe
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Scott Travis | Published: 1/13/2021
A former Broward schools administrator has been arrested as part of a statewide grand jury probe, accused of illegally steering a $17 million technology contract to a friend. Tony Hunter, formerly the chief information officer, was charged with bid tampering and unlawful compensation by a public official. The case is related to the district’s $17 million purchase of Recordex Simplicity flat screen devices. A combination big-screen TV and touch-screen computer, the devices are designed to make learning more interactive for students. The school district and the grand jury started reviewing Hunter’s actions after The South Florida Sun Sentinel questioned the deal and Hunter’s ties to the vendor.
Florida – Former Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Charged with Stalking
MSN – Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 1/12/2021
Tallahassee’s first independent ethics officer was arrested on charges of stalking the former city auditor. Julie Meadows-Keefe, who just weeks ago settled a retaliation lawsuit against the city, is accused of cyberstalking Bert Fletcher, with whom she had a romantic relationship. Her arrest comes after Meadows-Keefe threatened physical violence and sent hundreds of texts, phone calls, and emails during the final week of December, according to police. Fletcher and Meadows-Keefe’s offices were adjacent in City Hall and they began a romantic relationship while Fletcher was still married.
Georgia – Atlanta Mayor Fined $37,000 for Campaign Finance Violations During 2017 Mayor’s Race
WSB – Staff | Published: 1/7/2021
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms agreed during a state ethics commission meeting to pay a fine of $37,000 for irregularities in her campaign finances during the 2017 mayoral race. The settlement comes after a long investigation into both candidate’s campaign contributions during the race. In the agreement, Bottoms’ campaign admits to accepting $6,900 in campaign donations that exceeded state limits on the amount individuals can contribute. The campaign also acknowledges receiving another $110,797 in contributions that violated other state statutes.
Georgia – ‘Find the Fraud’: Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2021
President Trump urged Georgia’s lead elections investigator to “find the fraud” in a lengthy December phone call, saying the official would be a “national hero,” according to an individual familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversation. Trump placed the call to the investigations chief for the Georgia secretary of state’s office shortly before Christmas while the individual was leading an inquiry into allegations of ballot fraud in Cobb County, in the suburbs of Atlanta. The president’s attempts to intervene in an ongoing investigation could amount to obstruction of justice or other criminal violations, legal experts said, though they cautioned a case could be difficult to prove.
Illinois – Ethics Board Fines Ald. Austin $145,500 For Accepting Improper Campaign Contributions
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 1/12/2021
The Chicago Board of Ethics fined Ald. Carrie Austin $145,500 for accepting $48,500 in excessive contributions from a person doing business with the city. The fine is the first time the board levied the maximum fine allowed for violations of the city’s campaign finance law – three times the amount of the improper contributions. Companies and people doing business with the city are limited to contributing $1,600 to any one candidate per year. The law holds both the person and firm making the donation as well as the elected official who accepted the contribution responsible for the infraction.
Illinois – Illinois Elects First Black Speaker After Decades of Madigan Rule
Politico – Shia Kapos | Published: 1/13/2021
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch became the first Black speaker of the Illinois House as Democrats rejected Michael Madigan, who had been speaker for nearly four decades. What started last year as a simmering legal and political scandal, touched off by a corruption scandal around a local utility, turned into a rare opportunity to shed old leadership. Madigan’s supporters started pulling away after he was implicated in a federal “pay-to-play” scheme involving Commonwealth Edison. The public utility agreed to pay a $200 million fine and acknowledged it had tried to curry favor with Madigan by offering jobs and contracts to his allies in exchange for favorable legislation.
Iowa – Iowa Governor, Ades Appear in PR Video for No-Bid Vendor
MSN – Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 1/7/2021
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and four aides helped make a marketing video for a company that was awarded no-bid contracts for work on the coronavirus pandemic, a move that has raised allegations of favoritism and improper use of public resources. Domo’s video featured interviews with Reynolds, state epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati, and chief operations officer Paul Trombino portraying their COVID-19 management as a success for Iowa and the software vendor. The appearances go against long-standing guidance to avoid any hint of preferential treatment in relationships with contractors. The video put a positive spin on their response to the virus, which has caused more cases and deaths per capita in Iowa than most other states.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Plans to Tackle Ethics Reform Following Clendenin Resignation
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 1/10/2021
When Mayor Brandon Whipple was elected, he promised sweeping ethics reform at City Hall after a media investigation showed holes in Wichita’s city council ethics policy, including no limits on gifts and no penalties for violations. The call for change came after Whipple’s predecessor, Jeff Longwell, steered a $500 million contract for a new water treatment plant away from one of the top engineering firms in the country and to a local group that included his friends and political supporters. Former Councilperson James Clendenin stepped down amid ouster proceedings for his role in a smear campaign against Whipple. By the end of January, a new ethics policy proposal will go before the council for discussion.
Michigan – Former Michigan Gov. Snyder Charged in Flint Water Crisis
Politico – Associated Press | Published: 1/13/2021
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is facing two counts of willful neglect of duty related to the water crisis in Flint, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. In April 2014, a Snyder-appointed emergency manager who was running the struggling city carried out a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction. The corrosive water, however, was not treated properly and released lead from old plumbing into homes in one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in U.S. history.
Minnesota – State Board Proposals Would Change How Lobbying Activities Are Reported in Minnesota
Minnesota Post – Peter Callaghan | Published: 1/8/2021
The Minnesota board that oversees the lobbying of state and local governments is considering changes that would make reporting by lobbyists more useful and more transparent. Both the current rules and the proposed rules are complex. Lobbyists would no longer have to report overhead costs, but they would have to report the actual bill numbers and ordinances they pushed for, as well as which clients they worked for and what they did to influence the result. Legislation is required to make any changes to the rules that determine how much information residents of the state get about who spends how much to influence legislators, administrative agencies, and local councils and boards.
Missouri – Missouri House Censures St. Louis Lawmaker Accused of Having Sex with Intern
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/13/2021
The Missouri House voted to censure a St. Louis Democrat who refused to resign in response to allegations he had sex with an intern and tried to cover it up. Rep. Wiley Price faced the official discipline after his former legislative aide reported Price informed her of his relationship with the intern. The House Ethics Committee in December unanimously recommended censure for Price, but Rep. Jered Taylor moved to expel Price instead. Democrats argued the chamber should reject the move to expel Price because the Ethics Committee had already debated the issue and had recommended censure.
Nevada – Nevada Lawmaker Resigns Amid Campaign Finance Investigation
Associated Press News – Sam Metz | Published: 1/13/2021
A Nevada lawmaker resigned amid an investigation involving the use of campaign contributions that prompted law enforcement to raid his home. Assemblyperson Alex Assefa tendered his resignation in a letter that did not mention the investigation but addressed questions about whether his primary residence was in the district he represents. Police in May raided a North Las Vegas home owned by Assefa’s wife, Zenash Mebratu, and a condominium he listed as his residence in campaign filings. Nevada law requires legislators live in the districts they represent.
New York – New York City Will End Contracts with Trump Over Capitol Riot
New York Times – Emma Fitzsimmons | Published: 1/13/2021
For the last several years, the tumultuous arc of President Trump’s relationship with New York City has been on a steep decline. His name was stripped from private properties. Part of his re-election campaign focused on characterizing New York as an “anarchist jurisdiction.” He even changed his legal residency to Florida. Then, the city announced it would terminate its contracts with the Trump Organization after the riot at the U.S. Capitol. The decision by Mayor Bill de Blasio was another blow to Trump’s prestige in New York and hammered home the depths to which the president has become a political and social pariah in his hometown.
New York – New York’s Aggressive Elections Enforcement Chief to Retire
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 1/12/2021
Risa Sugarman, who pursued significant cases during more than six years as New York’s top elections enforcement official, confirmed she is retiring. Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Sugarman as the first chief enforcement counsel for the state Board of Elections’ independent enforcement division. Sugarman is the only person ever to hold the position overseeing the small unit, which largely operates separately from the rest of the politically appointed board. Her office’s authority has been curbed in recent years by regulations imposed by four commissioners with whom she often clashed, and most recently, by a state law giving the board rather than Sugarman oversight of candidates enrolled in the publicly financed elections system.
North Carolina – Charlotte Council Member Announces Sudden Retirement After Taking Construction Job
MSN – Danielle Chemtob and Alison Kuznitz (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 1/11/2021
Charlotte City Councilperson James Mitchell announced his sudden retirement after stirring controversy over his new role as co-owner and president of a construction company. Mitchell is slated to take the helm of RJ Leeper. City ethics policy prevents officials from using their position for personal benefit. Mitchell had said he would recuse himself from voting on anything involving RJ Leeper, and the firm’s vice president would handle city projects. The company is working on public projects like the Charlotte Convention Center and Charlotte Douglas International Airport expansions.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Cash Comprised Big Chunk of Donations to Dark Money Outfits Backing DeWine and His Daughter, Documents Show
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 1/8/2021
Money from FirstEnergy Corp. comprised more than one-third of all contributions to a “dark money” group supporting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and likely all the cash given to one backing his daughter’s county prosecutor bid, tax records show. The donations came the same year that the Republican-controlled Legislature passed House Bill 6, which included a $1 billion subsidy for two nuclear plants, then-owned by FirstEnergy Solutions. DeWine signed the bill within hours of it reaching his desk. Federal investigators say former House Speaker Larry Householder and others used $61 million from energy companies to fuel Householder’s leadership fight, House Bill 6’s passage, and an effort to block a ballot initiative to upend the bailout.
Oklahoma – Former Stitt Staffer Lobbying for Company Bidding on State Medicaid Contract
The Oklahoman – Carmen Forman | Published: 1/11/2021
A former staffer of Gov. Kevin Stitt is lobbying for a health care company bidding on a multimillion-dollar state contract to privatize Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. With Oklahoma on the cusp of expanding Medicaid, Stitt announced his intention to outsource care for many o the state’s Medicaid recipients by hiring private companies to manage the program’s spending. Former Deputy Secretary of State Samantha Davidson Guinn, who was promoted to that role after serving as the governor’s policy director, left the Stitt administration in September. Now, she is senior vice president of government affairs, strategy, and policy for Healthcare Highways, which is bidding on the state’s SoonerSelect program.
Oregon – Rioters Stormed the Oregon Capitol in December. Video Sows a Republican Lawmaker Let Them In.
Seattle Times – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2021
State Rep. Mike Nearman let demonstrators into the Oregon Capitol during a one-day special session in December, starting a riot. Three surveillance videos show Nearman walking out of a Capitol side door, moving out of the way for a protester, and walking alongside the building as protesters streamed toward the open door. Protesters had been looking for a way to get into the Capitol on December 21 while the Legislature was in session. The open door ultimately allowed at least 50 people to access the Capitol’s vestibule and led to six Salem and Oregon State police officers getting pepper sprayed.
South Dakota – City Insurance Now Covers Legal Defense If Mayor, Councilors Face Ethics Violation
MSN – Trevor Mitchell (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 1/10/2021
Several members of the Sioux Falls City Council are raising concerns about a new addition to the city’s insurance policy that would provide legal representation for councilors accused of ethics violations. The new general endorsement adds coverage related to ethics complaints against the mayor or city councilors, providing legal expenses of up to $10,000 per occurrence with $20,000 aggregate per coverage term, at a cost to the city of $7,500. The coverage was newly available to any city with an ethics policy or ordinance, said Bill O’Toole, the city’s human resources director.
Tennessee – Tennessee House Speaker on FBI Raid: Those subject to search warrants on ‘administrative leave’
MSN – Natalie Allison (Tennessean) | Published: 1/8/2021
Federal agents descended on multiple Tennessee Republican House members’ homes and state offices, collecting evidence while executing search warrants as part of an unspecified investigation just days before the legislative session began. The U.S. attorney’s office confirmed the FBI visited the homes of former House Speaker Glen Casada; Rep. Robin Smith; Rep. Todd Warner; and former Casada aide Cade Cothren. They also went to a business associated with Warner. Speaker Cameron Sexton said he placed three staff members on paid administrative leave in connection with the case.
Texas – A Texas Lawmaker Worked with the State Restaurant Association to Draft an Alcohol-to-Go Bill. His Wife Lobbies for the Group.
Texas Tribune – Mitchell Ferman and Juan Pablo Garnham | Published: 1/13/2021
State Rep. Charlie Geren, a restaurant owner, filed legislation to allow restaurants to sell alcohol for pickup and delivery orders, which would provide an industry crushed by the coronavirus pandemic with the new, permanent revenue stream. Geren said his Railhead Smokehouse restaurant does not have a mixed beverage permit. That means it would not benefit from the bill. But House Bill 1024 could benefit a client of Geren’s wife, lobbyist Mindy Ellmer. The Texas Restaurant Association, which is backing the legislation, paid Ellmer between $25,000 and $49,000 for lobbying work from September through December. Adrian Shelley, Texas director for Public Citizen, said that mix of personal and political ties underscores the state’s ethics laws should be strengthened.
Utah – Tribune Analysis: Utah lawmakers spend unlimited amounts in campaign cash – sometimes in violation of state law
MSN – Taylor Stevens and Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/10/2021
A Salt Lake Tribune analysis found since 2015, Utah lawmakers have collectively spent millions of dollars, often with little or no transparency about where the money is going and limited oversight from the state’s elections office, which has one full-time employee to review tens of thousands of expenditures. Legislators with easy paths to reelection can allocate excess campaign funds into travel, food, and gifts, and some have done so without explaining how the purchases are connected to their elected office or campaign. The analysis also found at least two lawmakers appear to have overpaid themselves for personal loans to their campaigns. Legislators say the state’s system demands transparency and dismiss a need for more cumbersome rules to keep candidates and officeholders in check.
Washington – ‘He’s Been Fibbing for 20 Years’: Tim Eyman trial approaches conclusion, state alleges years of schemes
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 1/7/2021
The state of Washington’s case against Tim Eyman inched toward its conclusion with the state accusing the serial initiative promoter of a decades-long run of money laundering, soliciting kickbacks, and violating campaign finance law in a scheme to enrich himself through political donations. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose 2017 lawsuit against Eyman precipitated the civil trial, seeks millions of dollars in damages and he hopes to permanently bar Eyman from accepting money on behalf of any political committee or handling their finances. Newman said the law allows for a maximum base penalty of $5.6 million, but that the state was seeking about $2.6 million.
West Virginia – GOP West Virginia Lawmaker Who Live-Streamed Himself Storming the Capitol Resigns After Arrest
MSN – Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2021
A newly elected Republican lawmaker in West Virginia resigned after he was arrested for trespassing in the U.S. Capitol in a mob of Trump supporters hoping to halt President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Derrick Evans chronicled the riot on Facebook Live, capturing the moment the crowd cracked open the Capitol’s doors and he crossed the threshold. Evans was among dozens arrested for crimes related to the break-in. He was charged with two federal misdemeanors, unlawfully entering restricted grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct, and taken into custody. Evans ended his short tenure with a one-sentence resignation letter, He was sworn in to the House of Delegates in December.
January 8, 2021 •
National/Federal Aides Weigh Resignations, Removal Options as Trump Rages Against Perceived Betrayals MSN – Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021 President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence, raging about perceived betrayals, […]
Aides Weigh Resignations, Removal Options as Trump Rages Against Perceived Betrayals
MSN – Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence, raging about perceived betrayals, as an array of top aides weighed resigning and some senior administration officials began conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment – an extraordinary measure that would remove the president before Trump’s term expires on January 20. An unease coursed through the administration over the president’s refusal to accept his election loss and his role in inciting a mob to storm the Capitol, disrupting the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. One administration official described Trump’s behavior as that of “a total monster,” while another said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”
Appeals Court Backs Subpoena-Like Power for Minority in House
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/29/2020
A divided federal appeals court upheld the power of legislators in the House minority to demand records from the executive branch. Acting in a dispute over records related to President Trump’s Trump International Hotel, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled lawmakers can resort to the courts to enforce an obscure statute known as the seven-member rule. The Trump administration argued the lawmakers lacked standing to turn to the courts to force disclosure of the records, but the majority on the panel disagreed.
Congress Affirms Biden’s Presidential Win Following Riot at U.S. Capitol
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, Seung Min Kim, and Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
Members of Congress, shaken and angry following a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Trump’s supporters, put a final stamp on President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and brought an end to a historically turbulent post-election period. Republicans had at one point planned to object to the electoral college votes in a series of states won by Biden, but after the storming of the Capitol, several GOP senators changed course, disputing only Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both challenges failed. In the final moments of the joint session, Senate Chaplain Barry Black said a prayer lamenting “the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.”
‘Covid Can Kill’: Lawmakers issue fresh warnings about virus after death of Rep.-elect Luke Letlow
MSN – David Nakamura and Fenit Nirappil (Washington Post) | Published: 12/30/2020
U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow’s death from COVID-19 has been met with shock and grief from fellow lawmakers, offering another stark example of the lethality of a pandemic. Letlow died just days before he was to be sworn after winning a runoff vote for Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District. Doctors said he had no apparent underlying health conditions that contributed to his death. At a candidate forum in October, Letlow urged the state to ease pandemic restrictions, saying, “We’re now at a place if we do not open our economy, we’re in real danger.” In a fall interview, Letlow commended President Trump’s handling of the pandemic and expressed skepticism about mask mandates.
House Approves Rules Package for New Congress
The Hill – Juliegrace Brufke and Cristina Marcos | Published: 1/4/2021
The House adopted a new set of rules for the 117th Congress with provisions to extend remote voting during the pandemic, protect whistleblowers, and limit the minority’s ability to amend legislation on the floor. Democrats also sought to prioritize diversity efforts in the rules package. One provision orders the use of gender-neutral language in the House rules, including pronouns and references to familial relationships like father, son, mother, or daughter.
In Viral Ad, New Member of Congress Appears to Walk Capitol Hill Streets with a Glock
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/4/2021
One of the newest members of Congress, Rep. Lauren Boebert, kicked off the session with a viral digital ad proclaiming her right to carry firearms on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and in the streets of Washington, D.C. Boebert, owner of a gun-themed restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, released the video amid efforts by some Democrats to ban members from carrying guns on the Capitol grounds, which they have been allowed to do since 1967. The ad appears to show Boebert walking near federal buildings and in alleys on Capitol Hill, citing rising violent crime as the reason she wants to carry a weapon.
‘Is This Really Happening?’: The siege of Congress, seen from the inside
Politico – Staff | Published: 1/7/2021
It was an unusual session of Congress to start with, a piece of fractious political theater around the normally ceremonial moment when America finally ratifies its choice of president. Then came the shouts in the hallways. And broken glass, and panicky texts, and confusion, and an abrupt halt to the basic working of the government. When the waves of pro-President Trump rioters overwhelmed Capitol police and surged through the building’s lobbies and stairways, they trapped journalists and nearly all members of the U.S. Congress. Five of the journalists in the building were congressional reporters for Politico. They gave their account of when the threat to American democracy came from inside the building.
Lobbyist Brother of Biden Advisor Has Reputation for Deep Connections and Looking to Avoid Possible Conflicts
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 12/31/2020
The lobbyist brother of one of President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisors has cultivated a reputation for his deep connections in Washington, D.C. and for his decades of delivering results for corporate clients. Some past associates and clients of Jeff Ricchetti also say he has rejected requests to lobby his brother, longtime Biden aide and incoming White House counselor Steve Ricchetti. In 2020, Jeff Ricchetti had his biggest batch of clients since 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The surge in clients came as Biden won the Democratic primary and eventually defeated President Trump in the general election.
Lobbyists with Ties to House GOP See Fortunes Rising
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/4/2021
Before the elections, lobbyists with ties to House Republicans had to wonder how much influence they would have in the 117th Congress. They are not worrying anymore. While Democrats predicted their party would gain seats in the chamber, they lost at least 12 incumbents and did not pick off a single House Republican. That means they are poised to see their fortunes rise. Democrats’ slim majority will offer Republicans uncommon sway for the minority party, providing opportunities to help broker legislative deals, or sink them.
No Emails Have Leaked from the 2020 Election Campaigns Yet – Tiny USB Sticks May Be One Reason Why
CNBC – Jordan Novet | Published: 12/23/2020
It appears this year’s presidential election campaigns avoided the sorts of cyberattacks that played out in 2016. No emails leaked this time. One thing that changed in the past four years: politicians, campaign workers, and their friends and family members started counting on USB sticks to securely log in to email accounts and other online services. Google worked with a nonprofit called Defending Digital Campaigns to give out more than 10,500 kits containing physical security keys. The FEC authorized the nonprofit to distribute cybersecurity products to campaigns for free or discounted prices.
Twitter, Facebook Lock Down Trump After Social Media-Fueled Riot in D.C.
Los Angeles Times – Sam Dean, Johana Bhuiyan, and Suhauna Hussein | Published: 1/6/2021
The mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol took shape on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and their social media peers spent President Trump’s term in office lurching from one crisis to another, scrambling to revise their policies on misinformation, hate speech, and incitement to violence in response to challenges from the White House and prominent figures and organizations that support the president. The rally was planned largely on their own platforms and promoted by the president to protest the supposed theft of the presidential election and disrupt the final certification of the electoral college vote. Although the companies took their strongest enforcement actions ever, including temporary locks on Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, critics say the companies’ pattern of tentative half-measures helped precipitate a crisis.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Former Oakland Building Inspector Accused of Bribery Fined $55,000 by Ethics Commission
San Jose Mercury News – Annie Sciacca | Published: 1/5/2021
Oakland’s ethics commission fined a former city building permit inspector $55,000 over accusations he violated the government ethics act by accepting bribes and misusing his position. The commission voted unanimously to impose a $5,000 penalty for each of 11 violations it found against Anthony Harbaugh. The violations include soliciting money from property owners in exchange for a “pass” on certain inspections. The penalty was far above the $22,000 fine recommended by a hearing officer. For many of the counts, the commissioners increased the recommended fines, and in some, they instituted fines where the hearing officer had not.
California – Grand Jury Accuses San Jose Unified of Misleading Public and Its Own Board About Lobbying Efforts
San Jose Spotlight – Lloyd Alaban | Published: 12/30/2020
The San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) left the public and its own governing board in the dark about lobbying activities that were carried out on its behalf and possibly violated government ethics laws in the process, according to a grand jury report. The SJUSD hired a consulting firm to help it with a proposal to build affordable housing for district teachers and employees but did not disclose to its board or the public the consulting firm was also lobbying city officials. District staff members denied to the board the consultancy was doing any lobbying for the district. Meanwhile, SJUSD obscured for the public and its board the lobbying activities another firm it hired was doing at the state level.
California – Newsom’s Friendship with Lobbyist Who Threw French Laundry Party Brings Questions
Los Angeles Times – Taryn Luna and Phil Willon | Published: 12/31/2020
On the website of one of Sacramento’s most influential lobbying firms, partner Jason Kinney boasted of his close connection to Gavin Newsom, noting he has advised the governor for “nearly 14 years.” The plug suddenly disappeared days after Newsom drew national criticism for attending Kinney’s birthday dinner at a famed Napa Valley restaurant. The event turned into a political disaster for Newsom, drawing charges of hypocrisy at the very time the governor urged residents to avoid gatherings and stay home as much as possible amid an unprecedented surge in the coronavirus. But the episode also exposed something that has long been the subject of quiet discussion in Sacramento: Newsom’s decision to maintain a tight relationship with Kinney, who is director of a lobbying firm with business before the governor.
California – Opponent of Newsom Church Restrictions Identified as California Recall Donor
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 1/5/2021
An Orange County donor named John Kruger has been identified as the source of a $500,000 contribution toward recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom, solving a mystery that transfixed California political watchers. The effort to unseat Newsom received its first six-figure infusion courtesy of a limited liability company called Prov 3:9. The firm had a virtually nonexistent business presence and no record of political spending, fueling questions about its true funder and spurring a request for a state investigation from former FEC member Ann Ravel.
Colorado – Aurora’s Adoption of Strict Limits on Campaign Contributions Means Most of Colorado’s Largest Cities Have Controls in Place
Denver Post – John Aguilar | Published: 1/3/2021
Aurora will soon impose strict limits on how much money can be raised in mayoral and city council races, becoming the latest large Colorado city to reform a campaign finance system that many decry as too opaque and friendly to big business interests. With Aurora joining Denver, Fort Collins, and Lakewood in revamping its rules on the role of money in local races, four of the state’s five most populous cities will have campaign finance controls on the books. Colorado Springs puts no restrictions on donations to candidates running for public office.
Connecticut – Ritter Family of Hartford Extends Its Influence in Connecticut Legislature, Courts
MSN – Christopher Keating (Hartford Courant) | Published: 1/4/2021
Matthew Ritter is set become speaker of the Connecticut House. At the same time, his mother, Christine Keller, recently started serving on the state Supreme Court. Tom Ritter – Matthew’s father and Christine’s husband – is an influential lobbyist at a Hartford law firm and a member of the University of Connecticut board of trustees, in addition to being a former speaker in the 1990s. Gov. Ned Lamont nominated Ritter’s mother to the state’s highest court, but said he has no concerns about one family accumulating too much power or any potential conflicts-of-interest with the speaker of the House and a Supreme Court justice in the same family.
Florida – City of Tallahassee and Former Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Settle Lawsuit
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/6/2021
The former embattled Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe and the city agreed to dismiss a lawsuit she filed more than a year ago claiming she was retaliated against and forced from her position. Meadows-Keefe left the post less than a year ago after a long-running dust up with city officials, chiefly Mayor John Dailey. She had demanded Dailey publicly apologize to her and the city write her a $450,000 check in return for her to step down from the post.
Florida – Lobbyists Reach Agreement with Ethics Commission Over Secret Trip to Atlanta
MSN – Christopher Hong (Floida Times-Union) | Published: 1/5/2021
Conventus LLC, co-owned by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s former chief administrator, and a consultant who led his election campaigns admitted they organized and paid for a trip to Atlanta that was attended by Curry, then-JEA Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn, and then-city council President Scott Wilson. In an agreement with the city Ethics Commission. Tallahassee officials are prohibited from accepting gifts from registered lobbyists worth greater than $100. The commission concluded the trip was worth more than the $400 that Conventus co-owners Sam Mousa and Tim Baker told some of the participants to reimburse the company in order to not cross the $100 gift threshold.
Georgia – A Federal Judge in Atlanta Denied a Last-Minute Effort by Trump to Decertify Biden’s Victory in Georgia.
New York Times – Alan Feuer | Published: 1/5/2021
A federal judge in Atlanta denied a last-minute effort by President Trump to decertify Georgia’s election results, handing the president yet another courtroom loss before Congress is scheduled to bring the presidential race to an official end. The ruling by Judge Mark Cohen denying the emergency petition brought the number of legal defeats Trump and his allies have suffered since Election Day to more than 60. The challenges have spanned eight states and dozens of courts.
Georgia – ‘I Just Want to Find 11,780 Votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/3/2021
President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in a phone call that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act. In the recording, Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act, and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one-point warning Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.” Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected Trump’s assertions, explaining the president is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.
Georgia – Warnock, Ossoff Win in Georgia, Handing Dems Senate Control
Associated Press News – Steve Peoples, Bill Barrow, and Russ Bynum | Published: 1/6/2021
Democrats won both Senate seats in Georgia and with them, the U.S. Senate majority, serving President Trump a defeat in his turbulent final days in office while dramatically improving the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s progressive agenda. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democratic challengers who represented the diversity of their party’s evolving coalition, defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992. Warnock becomes the first African American from Georgia elected to the Senate. Ossoff becomes the state’s first Jewish senator and, at 33 years old, the Senate’s youngest member.
Illinois – ‘Ghost Payroll Scheme’ Earned CPS Tech $122K – While Doing No Work and Living in California, Watchdog Says
Chicago Sun-Times – Nader Issa | Published: 1/6/2021
A former computer technician at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was paid nearly $122,000 over two years, all while primarily living in California and doing virtually no work, according to a report from the district’s watchdog which found her school’s principal was aware of the situation but did nothing about it. The staffer self-dealt another $237,300 from the school system through a printing company she and her husband helped manage that sold goods to 14 CPS schools, including her own.
Illinois – GOP Members Introduce Bill to Distance Redistricting Process from Politicians
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel and Derek Cantu | Published: 1/5/2021
Illinois House Republicans are proposing a bill that they say could avoid another partisan redistricting cycle and say they ae holding Gov. JB Pritzker’s feet to the fire, daring him to uphold a campaign promise to veto any new legislative maps design which unfairly benefit one political party over another. Though the state constitution lays out a June 30 deadline for the Legislature to pass new maps, that deadline has been blown for the last five decades since the 1970 constitution was ratified, leaving the district drawing process to a bipartisan commission. Republican members claim previous map designs were developed in such a manner to divide or pack together constituents into irregular district lines based upon party affiliation.
Indiana – Some Donors to Pete Buttigieg’s Presidential Campaign Scored Contracts from South Bend When He Was Mayor
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 12/23/2020
Pete Buttigieg, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for Transportation secretary and the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, received presidential campaign donations from executives at companies that had public works contracts with the city while he led it. A review of dozens of the city’s infrastructure contracts during his second term as mayor, from 2016 into 2020, shows that under Buttigieg, a portion of the city’s spending went toward contractors who later became donors to his campaign for president which he launched in 2019. If he is confirmed, Buttigieg, as head of the Department of Transportation, would be responsible for pushing forward the incoming administration’s infrastructure proposal.
Louisiana – 5 Years Before Ethics Charges Were Filed, Groundwater Commission Was Told of Potential Conflicts
The Advocate – David Mitchell | Published: 1/2/2021
Five years before five members of a Baton Rouge-area groundwater commission were charged with conflict-of-interest violations, an attorney for the commission warned of exactly the problem that led to the charges. In 2015, former Assistant Attorney General Megan Terrell, then the groundwater commission’s legal advisor, concluded state ethics law could bar commissioners from drawing a salary from the big groundwater users they were supposed to regulate, like Baton Rouge Water and ExxonMobil. She wrote that while ethics opinions do not prevent industrial and other major users from nominating representatives to the groundwater commission, as state law allows them, it “may affect the ability of these users from nominating their own employees.”
Missouri – Lobbyist Steve Tilley Worked to Steer Marijuana Money to Jason Kander Tiny Home Project
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson and Jack Suntrup | Published: 12/30/2020
Gov. Mike Parson’s decision to spend part of the proceeds from Missouri’s fledgling medical marijuana program on a tiny home project for veterans may have been influenced by one of the Capitol’s most powerful lobbyists. Among former House Speaker Steve Tilley’s lengthy list of lobbying clients is the Veterans Community Project, a nonprofit that received $2.5 million in the most recent state budget to build 50 homes to help former military personnel. Records show the hiring of Tilley and his lobbying firm by Veterans Community Project came just three days after Parson’s visit to the development. But the deal has generated conflict.
New York – Queens Senator Fined $15K for ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Trips from City Funds
Queens Eagle – David Brand | Published: 1/5/2021
State Sen. James Sanders was fined $15,000 for accepting all-expense-paid trips and various “valuable gifts” from a local nonprofit he funded during his time in the New York City Council. Sanders was a council member when local nonprofit Margert Community Corporation picked up his tab at an all-inclusive Poconos resort on five separate occasions between 2009 and 2012, according to the Conflict of Interest Board. As Margert lavished Sanders with trips and gifts, he funneled nearly $842,000 in discretionary funding to the nonprofit.
New York – Three Men Gave $250 Each to a Candidate for City Comptroller – and Say They Never Heard of Him
The City – Clifford Michel | Published: 1/4/2021
Ameer Alonzo, Agnissan Achi, and Silas Adedokun were listed as giving $250 each to New York Sen. Brian Benjamin’s campaign. They say they did not give any money. “It sounds like a scam. … This is just so random,” Achi said. The men – and a toddler – are among 23 individuals who were recorded as contributing to the Benjamin 2021 campaign fund via an intermediary named Michael Murphy. Each name is associated with a $250 money order. Under New York City’s public campaign financing program, the first $100 of each of those donations is potentially eligible for $800 in taxpayer-supplied matching dollars. Contributions must come from the named donor’s own funds.
North Dakota – North Dakota Lobbyist Gift Ban Takes Effect; Ethics Bills Set in Legislature
Williston Herald – Jack Dura (Bismarck Tribune) | Published: 1/4/2021
Lobbyists in North Dakota now cannot give gifts to public officials, including state lawmakers, executive branch officials, legislative staff, and governor’s Cabinet members. Items as nominal as cups and stress balls are prohibited. Gifting violations carry civil penalties that could be up to $1,000 for gifts worth less than $500, and twice the value of gifts worth $500 or more. Legislation has come forth related to the Ethics Commission, including its budget bill and a proposal allowing for advisory opinions and etching complaint procedures into law.
Ohio – Despite Bribery Scandal, Influence of Dark Money in Ohio Remains Unchecked
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 1/4/2021
A federal investigation into a nearly $61 million bribery scandal in Columbus shined a bright light on the influence of so-called dark money in state politics. Investigators allege businesses like FirstEnergy spent nearly $61 million to help Rep. Larry Householder win control of the Ohio House, pass a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants, and defend that law against a ballot effort to block it. This money was donated to nonprofit and for-profit corporations that are not required to disclose anything about their contributions. But in the months since Householder’s arrest, Ohio lawmakers have done nothing to curtail dark money’s influence in Ohio.
Ohio – Groups Backing Gov. DeWine and His Daughter Received FirstEnergy Cash Funneled Through Dark Money Outfits
MSM – Jackie Borchardt (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/23/2020
Cash from FirstEnergy Corp. and related businesses reached the coffers of “dark money” groups supporting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his daughter and Greene County prosecutor candidate, Alice DeWine, tax documents show. The documents shed new light on a key player in a federal bribery investigation that entangled the former Ohio House speaker and four others. They also show for the first time where a “dark money” group supporting Alice DeWine’s bid for prosecutor got some of its funding. A spokesperson for the governor said DeWine spoke with FirstEnergy officials in 2019 and asked them to support his daughter’s effort with independent expenditures. Independent expenditures are political ads that support or oppose a candidate without cooperation with that candidate or their campaign.
Oklahoma – Ethics Commission Slaps Two Lobbyists with Hefty Financial Penalties
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 1/5/2021
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission imposed hefty penalties on two well-known lobbyists for violations of campaign finance law. James Milner agreed to pay $65,000 while James McSpadden will pay $50,000, both for violations related to the acceptance and expenditure of funds of Oklahomans for Healthy Living. Milner served as the group’s chairperson, while McSpadden was treasurer. The commission found Oklahomans for Healthy Living acted as a straw political action committee by accepting and distributing illegal corporate contributions, failing to disclose the donations, failing to identify that such contributions were from a corporate source, and expending corporate funds to Oklahoma committees.
Pennsylvania – Ex-House Speaker John Perzel Wins 3rd and Likely Final Bid to Avoid Paying $1M for Corruption Conviction
PennLive.com – Matt Miller | Published: 1/4/2021
Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis said state prosecutors did not prove an exact dollar value for what they claim was the loss from former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel’s participation in the so-called Computergate scandal. He was among several House Republicans who were convicted or pleaded guilty to using taxpayer funds to create a computer system designed to promote the election of GOP candidates. Perzel was first hit with the $1 million in 2012 when Lewis sentenced him to prison and probation on his guilty pleas to theft, conspiracy, and conflict-of-interest charges.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Republicans Block Seating of Democratic State Senator, Take Control from Lieutenant Governor
MSN – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 1/5/2021
The seating of new Pennsylvania legislators turned into a bitter partisan spectacle as Republicans in the state Senate blocked a Democratic lawmaker from taking his oath of office and removed the Democratic lieutenant governor from his role overseeing the proceedings. Leaders shouted and spoke over each other, at one point trying to conduct dueling sessions in a stark showcase of this year’s political divisions over normally routine functions of democracy. Republicans say they will not seat Sen.-elect Jim Brewster as a legal challenge to his victory is pending, although his win has been certified and the state Supreme Court sided with him in a dispute over how to count votes in a close race.
South Carolina – Magistrate Judges Took Bribes, Stole Money and Mishandled Cases. South Carolina Officials Now Want Reform
ProPublica – Joseph Cranney (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 1/5/2021
When the South Carolina Legislature reconvenes, lawmakers say a priority will be ramping up their scrutiny of local magistrate judges, many of whom are among the state’s busiest but least qualified jurists. A series by The Charleston Post and Courier and ProPublica exposed how a flawed system of selection and oversight provided fertile ground for incompetence and corruption on the bench. One proposal would do away with loopholes that have allowed magistrates to shield ethical offenses or preside for years despite expired terms.
South Carolina – SC Senators Turn Spotlight on NextEra, Energy Giant Seeking to Buy Santee Cooper
The State – John Monk | Published: 12/31/2020
A South Carolina Senate subcommittee voted to investigate energy giant NextEra’s efforts to acquire Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric utility. The subcommittee agreed to send NextEra a letter requesting numerous details about the company’s lobbying efforts with, and campaign contributions to, state lawmakers. The panel will also ask NextEra to provide details on a reported ongoing federal criminal investigation into some of the company’s dealings in Florida. If NextEra refuses to provide the information, senators will seek subpoena power from the Senate.
Virginia – Richmond Judge Recuses Himself from Case Involving State Senator Who Has Power Over Reappointing Him to the Bench
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 12/28/2020
Richmond General District Court Judge David Hicks, who presided over the arraignment of a state senator and then appeared before that senator to seek reappointment to the bench, recused himself from any further role in the criminal case. A retired judge has been appointed to handle the next hearing for Virginia Sen. Joseph Morrissey, who is facing misdemeanor charges of improper conduct at a polling place during the 2019 election. Virginia is one of only two states in which the Legislature appoints judges. While all members of the Senate and House vote on the appointments, the custom is to defer to the choices of each local delegation.
Washington – Olympia Lawmaking Is About to Go Virtual. Participants See Both Minefields and Silver Linings
Tri-City Herald – Sarah Genzler | Published: 1/3/2021
During the 2021 session, Olympia’s Capitol Campus that comes alive each January will, under current plans, remain largely dormant. Legislative buildings will stay closed to the public, with COVID-19 transmission prevention in mind. Much of the typical activity and conversation will move online. Not everyone supports that vision. Republican leaders believe more access could be preserved safely. And groups have stated plans to enter and occupy the state Legislative Building during session, claiming that keeping the Capitol closed to the public is unconstitutional, COVID-19 or not.
West Virginia – GOP West Virginia State Delegate Live-Streams as He Storms Congress with Pro-Trump Mob: ‘We’re going in!’
MSN – Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
Sporting a black helmet and shouting, “Trump! Trump!,” a West Virginia delegate pushed his way through the crowd as he narrated on Facebook Live the moment the mob cracked open the doors of Congress. “We’re in! We’re in!” cheered Derrick Evans, a newly elected member of West Virginia’s House. His recording, which has since been deleted, left state officials from both parties slamming his participation in the mob of pro-Trump supporters who broke into Congress as lawmakers convened to confirm the results of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Amid the violent coup attempt, one woman was shot and killed by police, and three others died of medical emergencies.
December 25, 2020 •
National/Federal A Frustrated Trump Redoubles Efforts to Challenge Election Result MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020 President Trump has intensified efforts to overturn the election, raising a series of radical measures […]
A Frustrated Trump Redoubles Efforts to Challenge Election Result
MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020
President Trump has intensified efforts to overturn the election, raising a series of radical measures in recent days, including military intervention, seizing voting machines, and a 13th-hour appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump said he had spoken with Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville about challenging the electoral vote count when the House and Senate convene on January 6 to formally affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump’s conversation with Tuberville is part of a much broader effort by the defeated president to invalidate the election. He is increasingly reaching out to allies like Giuliani and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for ideas and searching his Twitter feed for information to promote.
Bennet Introduces Bill to Eliminate ‘Zombie’ Campaign Accounts
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlick | Published: 12/18/2020
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced the Zeroing Out Money for Buying Influence after Elections (ZOMBIE) Act to address what happens with campaign money for federal candidates when they leave office. The ZOMBIE Act requires candidates to close campaign accounts within six months of not filing to run for reelection or another federal office. People would also need to close their personal or leadership committees before registering as a lobbyist or foreign agent. Candidates may divest their unspent money to donors, the U.S. Treasury, or a charity. The candidate or their family may not have personal ties to the recipient charity, however.
Despite Trump’s Intense Hunt for Voter Fraud, Officials in Key States Have So Far Identified Just a Small Number of Possible Cases
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Jon Swaine, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 12/23/2020
After an intense hunt by President Trump’s allies to surface voting irregularities in this year’s election, law enforcement agencies in six key swing states targeted by the president have found just a modest number of complaints that have merited investigation. So far, only a handful of cases have resulted in actual criminal charges alleging wrongdoing – some of them against Republican voters aiming to help Trump. The tiny number of incidents further undercut Trump’s barrage of false allegations that there was widespread manipulation of the vote. The alleged voter fraud cases, mostly spotted by local election officials, were identified due to the kinds of safeguards in place in states and counties specifically designed to catch problems.
FBI Links Iran to Online Hit List Targeting Top Officials Who’ve Refuted Trump’s Election Fraud Claims
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) | Published: 12/22/2020
The FBI has concluded Iran was behind online efforts to incite lethal violence against the bureau’s director, a former top U.S. cyber expert, and multiple state elections officials who have refuted claims of widespread voter fraud promoted by President Trump and his allies. FBI Director Christopher Wray and ousted Homeland Security Department official Christopher Krebs were among more than a dozen people whose images, home addresses, and other personal information were posted on a website titled “Enemies of the People.” Crosshairs were superimposed over the photos. In August, intelligence officials said Iran was seeking to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and divide the country in advance of the election.
High Court Rules Challenge to Trump Census Plan Is Premature
Associated Press News – Mark Sherman | Published: 12/18/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed as premature a challenge to President Trump’s plan to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count used to allot states seats in the House of Representatives. But the court’s decision is not a final ruling on the matter, and it is not clear whether Trump will receive final numbers from the Census Bureau before he leaves office. The high court said it was too soon to rule on the legality of Trump’s plan because it is not yet clear how many people he would seek to exclude and whether the division of House seats would be affected.
House Intends to Reissue Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records Next Year
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/21/2020
The House Oversight Committee intends to reissue a subpoena for President Trump’s financial records next year. The House has been pursuing Trump’s financial documents form his accounting firm, Mazars USA, since Democrats took power in early 2019 but the effort has been tied up in the courts. The case landed before the U.S. Supreme Court this year, and the justices determined the lower courts had failed to scrutinize the subpoena closely enough, kicking it back to them for further review. Now, as the congressional session winds down, the House is signaling it intends to continue pursuing Trump’s financial documents even as he prepares to leave office.
Kushner Helped Launch Shell Company That Paid Campaign Funds to Trump Family: Report
MSN – Mary Papenfuss (HuffPost) | Published: 12/19/2020
A campaign shell company created in part by Jared Kushner spent half of President Trump’s massive campaign fund and secretly paid Trump family members and associates, according to Business Insider. Lara Trump, the wife of the president’s son Eric, was head of the company, and a nephew of Vice President Mike Pence served as its vice president, Business Insider reported. The company was incorporated in Delaware as American Made Media Consultants Corporation and American Made Media Consultants. Records reveal the president’s campaign and its affiliated Trump Make America Great Again Committee with the Republican National Committee spent more than $617 million through the company, which purchased ads but also funded the more amorphous tasks of “digital consulting” and “research consulting.”
Major U.S. Companies Are Lobbying in a Scrum for Early Vaccine
MSN – Christopher Rowland, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jacob Bogage, Abha Bhattarai, and Laura Reiley (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020
Companies are lobbying states and the federal government to prioritize their workers for early immunization against the coronavirus amid limited supplies of the vaccine. After front-line health-care workers and elderly people in nursing homes and assisted-living centers are immunized, the government is expected to begin shipping vaccine to communities for those it has designated as essential workers. The task of setting the sequence of vaccinations within that disparate population, verifying who is essential and setting up equitable systems for access is triggering competition. The government’s list is so broad it includes everyone from weather forecasters to the operators of shooting ranges. Some policy experts fear the competition for vaccines will favor the wealthiest companies with the strongest lobbying teams in state capitals.
New Round of Trump Clemency Benefits Manafort, Other Allies
Associated Press News – Eric Tucker | Published: 12/24/2020
President Trump pardoned more than two dozen people, including former campaign chairperson Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, in the latest wave of clemency to benefit longtime associates and supporters. The actions, in Trump’s waning time at the White House, bring to nearly 50 the number of people whom the president has granted clemency in the last week. The list from the last two days includes not only multiple people convicted in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia but also allies from Congress and other felons whose causes were championed by friends.
Trump Pardons 15, Commutes 5 Sentences, Including GOP Allies
Associated Press News – Colleen Long, Kevin Freking, and Eric Tucker | Published: 12/23/2020
President Trump granted clemency to 20 people, including three former Republican members of Congress and two people who were convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Recipients of Trump’s newest pardons included his first two congressional endorsers, former Rep. Chris Collins, convicted on charges related to insider trading, and former Rep. Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance abuses, including some to support extramarital affairs. Some of Trump’s actions seemed intended to send clear messages, such as grants of clemency for George Papadopoulos, the former campaign operative whose 2016 activities triggered the FBI probe that led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Trump Will Face Different Twitter Rules When He Leaves Office
MSN – Emily Glazer (Wall Street Journal) | Published: 12/22/2020
President Trump has used his Twitter account as a megaphone during his administration. When he leaves office, he will need to abide by a different set of rules. Trump is currently able to tweet with less risk, compared with private citizens, of having tweets taken down or his account suspended. His Twitter account, which has more than 88 million followers, will no longer receive special privileges when he becomes a private citizen, Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio said. The loss of privileges reserved for world leaders and public officials would mean that if Trump violates the site’s rules, those tweets would be taken down rather than labeled in the future, Pacilio said.
Watchdog: Amy McGrath Campaign Illegally Coordinated with Democratic Party Super PACs in Bid to Unseat Mitch McConnell
MSN – Colin Kalmbacher (Law & Crime) | Published: 12/17/2020
The U.S. Senate campaign of failed candidate Amy McGrath illegally coordinated with a Democratic Party super PAC in violation of federal campaign finance law, according to a complaint filed with the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said McGrath’s campaign, along with the Senate campaign of Mike Espy, violated the law during the 2020 election. The CLC said McGrath’s campaign and the Ditch Fund illegally coordinated on up to $8 million worth of spending during her unsuccessful bid to unseat Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Espy’s failed effort at replacing Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith allegedly violated federal law by coordinating with the March on PAC to the tune of some $50,000, according to the CLC.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – AG Says Pima County Ban on Political Contributions Unconstitutional
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 12/18/2020
Pima County’s prohibition on its employees contributing money to candidates for county office violates both the U.S. and Arizona constitutions, according to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. In a nonbinding opinion, Brnovich said the policy impermissibly infringes on the free speech rights of Pima County employees. The 1992 policy bars county employees from contributing money or soliciting contributions for county candidates. County supervisors passed the rule as an ethics reform to prevent elected officials from pressuring employees to contribute to their campaigns.
Arizona – Candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission Faces Investigation into Campaign Spending
MSN – Ryan Randazzo (Arizona Republic) | Published: 12/17/2020
The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission agreed that Eric Sloan, who lost a bid to become one of the state’s utility regulators, appears to have violated laws regarding how candidates can spend public campaign money. The vote will initiate an investigation that could include subpoenas for Sloan’s finance records and depositions of witnesses. It ultimately could result in a fine. Sloan’s former campaign company accused Sloan of failing to pay him for a variety of services that helped get Slone on the ballot and then spending all his public money from the Clean Elections Commission elsewhere, which put him over the spending limit.
California – Newsom Appoints Alex Padilla to Fill Harris’ Senate Seat
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 12/22/2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom is appointing California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to the U.S. Senate, giving the state its first Latino senator. From the moment President-elect Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, California politicians began positioning themselves for the possible opening. The lobbying around Newsom has intensified since Biden’s victory, with various groups representing different constituencies urging the governor to appoint a Latino, a Black woman, or another representative of California’s diversity. The governor chose the presumed frontrunner in Padilla, who has supported Newsom’s political ambitions and offered the historic opportunity in a state where Latinos are a plurality at 40 percent of the population.
California – Newsom Lobbying Ban Won’t Immediately Affect French Laundry Dining Partner
MSN – Alexei Kosoff (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 12/17/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom committed to not hiring any registered lobbyist as a paid consultant and barred his paid campaign or political consultants from directly lobbying the governor, his staff, or state agencies under his control. The new policy bans a dozen people serving as paid consultants to his campaign or the California Democratic Party from lobbying, but Jason Kinney is not among them. Kinney, the lobbyist and longtime adviser to Newsom, whose attendance at a 50th birthday dinner for Kinney sparked criticism over his close ties to consultants who also work for corporate clients and other influential interests at the Capitol.
Colorado – Denver Clerk Lopez Contracts with Outside Group to Run City’s Campaign Finance System
North Denver Tribune – Staff | Published: 12/14/2020
Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul López today announced his office has contracted with MapLight a nonprofit technology firm, to build a replacement for the city’s outdated campaign finance reporting application. MapLight’s new application will be uniquely designed to administer Denver’s campaign finance regulations, provide in-depth search functions for the public, and implement the Fair Elections Fund. The new campaign finance system will launch in the second half of 2021 and will include a litany of needed upgrades for campaign users, employees, and Denver residents.
Colorado – How Colorado’s New Redistricting Commissions Will Navigate a Political Swamp in 2021
Bloomfield Enterprise – Jon Murray (Denver Post) | Published: 12/22/2020
A redistricting commission will take the helm in Colorado in 2021, steering the process of redrawing congressional and legislative districts, a process that in the past has often been dominated by whichever party held more sway. A lot will hinge on who gets picked as commissioners, how well they work together, and how they juggle competing interests, including jockeying for an eighth congressional seat that is expected to be granted to Colorado. But advocates say commissions are set up to keep decision-making out of back rooms. Each is required to be divided evenly between Democratic, Republican, and unaffiliated members. Many political insiders and lobbyists are barred from being members, and extensive rules require consensus to approve the new maps.
Florida – Antonacci Gets a New Job and an Old Problem: The appearance of a conflict of interest with his wife
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 12/16/2020
Outgoing Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci was named by Florida’s Cabinet to be the next Chief Judge/Executive Director of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. He must now be confirmed by the state Senate. For the second time in five years, however, Antonacci’s new job creates an immediate appearance of a conflict-of-interest involving his wife, Anne Longman, a lawyer who often represents clients before the division her husband would now lead.
Florida – ‘Could Really Use the Support’: Witness says Beach politician drove donors to mystery PAC
Miami Herald – Christina Saint Louis | Published: 12/17/2020
Before Petter Hagland became a key figure in the ethics scandal that wrecked Michael Grieco’s mayoral aspirations, he received multiple emails from the then-Miami Beach commissioner badgering him for one thing: money. “I am asking for your support in my endeavors to seek higher office,” Grieco wrote to Hagland, part of a wealthy Norwegian shipping and oil family, in an email. The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust questioned Hagland about those exchanges as part of its investigation into Grieco’s involvement with People for Better Leaders, the murky PAC that raised over $200,000, much of it from special interests doing business with the city, in the run-up to the 2017 municipal election. The $25,000 from Hagland was the largest contribution to the mystery PAC.
Florida – Michael Grieco’s Fundraising Falsehoods Violated Ethics Rules, Panel Finds
Miami Herald – Christina Saint Louis | Published: 12/17/2020
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found state Rep. Michael Grieco violated the Citizens’ Bill of Rights twice during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner by falsely portraying his involvement with the PAC People for Better Leaders. The first falsehood was when he told the Miami Herald, “I do not have a political committee. I didn’t set one up. I haven’t solicited one,” and again when he told the Herald, “It is absolutely untrue. … You can look right into my soul.” Evidence and testimony elicited in a hearing, including sworn statements from donors and the chairperson of the PAC, indicated Grieco was actively involved in creating, operating, coordinating, and funding the PAC.
Georgia – GOP Launches Legal War on Absentee Voting Ahead of Georgia Runoffs
Politico – Zach Montellaro and James Arkin | Published: 12/17/2020
Federal judges in Georgia rejected a pair of Republican-led lawsuits to restrict absentee voting ahead of January’s U.S. Senate runoffs, the first salvos in a GOP effort to change voting rules for future elections following President Trump’s loss in 2020. Republicans filed three lawsuits – two in federal court, one in state court – in Georgia ahead of the runoffs, in which hundreds of thousands of people have already voted by mail or in person for races that will decide control of the Senate. The suits are an attempt to make successfully voting by mail harder in Georgia, which Republicans say is necessary to protect the security of the elections and others claim is an attempt to suppress votes for Democratic candidates.
Illinois – Rules Requiring Nonprofits to Register as Lobbyists Delayed Again
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 12/21/2020
Rules requiring nonprofit organizations to register as lobbyists in Chicago were set to go into effect January 1, 2020, but were delayed after dozens of nonprofit groups objected, saying the regulations would force them to pay costly registration fees or risk $1,000 fines. The effort to amend the guidelines was still underway when the coronavirus pandemic forced City Hall to shut down, and the delay was extended. It will now last until spring 2021. The ethics ordinance will need to be revised by the city council to clarify the rules, officials with the Chicago Board of Ethics have said.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin to Resign Amid Investigation, Controversy
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 12/22/2020
Under investigation for potential abuse of CARES Act funds and facing ouster proceedings for participating in a political scandal during the 2019 mayoral race, Wichita City Councilperson James Clendenin plans to resign by the end of the year. Clendenin faced the possibility of being the first council member ousted in the city’s 150-year history. Clendenin is one of three city officeholders behind the “Protect Wichita Girls” video, a political advertisement that falsely accused Mayor Brandon Whipple of sexual harassment, and a plot to blame former Sedgwick County GOP Chairperson Dalton Glasscock for the bogus ad.
Maine – Maine Regulator Can Get Financial Records from Anti-CMP Corridor Group, Judge Rules
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 12/17/2020
Maine’s ethics commission can request financial records from a “dark-money” group opposing Central Maine Power’s proposed $1 billion corridor project as part of a broader investigation. Stop the Corridor sued the ethics commission, aiming to shield its donors from public view after the commission voted to require the group to disclose financial information as part of an investigation into whether Stop the Corridor had to register as a political committee after it gave $85,000 to another ant-corridor organization. But a judge disagreed with the anti-corridor group’s argument that the ethics agency had no jurisdiction to do so, denying a delay of the commission’s order by finding the group was unlikely to succeed and the information requested was relevant to the probe.
Maryland – With New Members in Place, Baltimore Spending Board Beefs Up Transparency on Conflicts of Interest
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 12/16/2020
Baltimore’s spending board voted to make its abstention process more transparent following a controversy in which the city’s then-comptroller repeatedly voted to approve spending for organizations with which she was connected. While members of the Board of Estimates were previously required to maintain a list of groups with which they had ties that could create a conflict and disclose any abstentions during meetings, the new rules require members to state the reason for abstaining in a memo that will be posted online with the board’s agenda.
Massachusetts – House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo Discloses He’s in Talks for Job at Northeastern, Setting Off Succession Campaign
MSN – Matt Stout and Andrea Estes (Boston Globe) | Published: 12/18/2020
House Speaker Robert DeLeo filed a much-anticipated ethics disclosure notifying officials he is in talks for a job with Northeastern University, potentially marking the beginning of the end of his tenure as the longest-serving House leader in Massachusetts history. According to his letter, DeLeo said he asked his personal attorney to contact the state’s Ethics Commission to “discuss my status and to ensure compliance” with the conflict-of-interest law. DeLeo wrote he is currently not required to file a disclosure but chose to “out of an abundance of caution.” DeLeo would be the first speaker since 1990 to step down on his own timetable and without the specter of either a criminal investigation or indictment.
Missouri – Ethics Panel Rebukes St. Louis Lawmaker Accused of Having Sex with Intern
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 12/17/2020
Missouri Rep. Wiley Price IV faces censure after an investigation into whether he had sex with his legislative intern earlier this year. Price did not admit to having sex with the intern but was found to have attempted to cover up the incident and interfered in the House Ethics Committee probe into his behavior. The committee recommended the full House strongly admonish Price. That could include stripping him of his committee assignments and not allowing him to meet with the Democratic caucus. He also will be barred from having an intern in the future, and the report calls for Price to repay $22,494 to cover the cost of the investigation.
New Mexico – Nonprofit Groups Test New Independent Expenditure Law to the Test
New Mexico Political Report – Brian Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 12/16/2020
New Mexico lawmakers passed campaign reporting requirements in 2019 to force nonprofit groups, which can spend money on campaigns without registering as political committees, to disclose their spending as well as the names, addresses, and contribution amounts of their donors who fund such independent expenditures. In 2020, two nonprofit groups immediately put the new law to the test by refusing to disclose donors despite enforcement efforts by both the secretary of state and the State Ethics Commission. The challenges by the nonprofit groups represent a key test for both the law itself and for the enforcing power of the ethics panel, which was also established in 2019.
New York – Ex-Sen. Jeff Klein Seeks to Block Ethics Hearing on Sexual Harassment Allegations
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/21/2020
Former New York Sen. Jeffrey Klein has filed a petition in state Supreme Court seeking to block the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) from holding a hearing on whether he violated Public Officers Law when he allegedly forcibly kissed a female staff member outside an Albany bar five years ago. The petition alleges JCOPE exceeded its authority and abused its discretion when it rejected a hearing officer’s recommendation the case should be dismissed.
North Dakota – Attorney General: North Dakota Ethics Commission can write lobbying definitions
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 12/23/2020
The North Dakota Ethics Commission can write rules defining “lobby” and “lobbyist” pertaining to gift restrictions, according to state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. He issued an opinion in response to the board’s request for clarification on its authority to expand on the definitions relating to gifts. Commissioners have encountered conflicting language in state law and the North Dakota Constitution as they have established the board and its rules.
Ohio – Elections Commission Dings Rep. Nino Vitale Over Late Report, Delays More Serious Charges
MSN – Rick Rouan (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/17/2020
A state lawmaker who has backed an effort to impeach Gov. Mike DeWine, urged Ohioans not to get tested for the coronavirus, and was accused of using anti-Semitic language against former Health Director Dr. Amy Acton is now answering for alleged campaign finance violations. The Ohio Elections Commission found Rep. Nino Vitale violated the law by filing one of his reports after the deadline. The commission did not level any penalty or fine against Vitale for the late filing. The case included several other allegations, including that Vitale improperly used a campaign account to accept payment for a concealed carry class he taught. The remaining five counts in the case were set for a separate hearing to be scheduled later. Vitale appeared to suggest the complaint was tied to his support of articles of impeachment against DeWine.
Ohio – Leader of Columbus Green-Energy Ballot Measure Indicted for False Campaign Finance Reports
MSN – Mark Ferenchick (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/16/2020
John Clark Jr., who led the initiative petition drive that would have diverted tens of millions of dollars of city of Columbus money toward vague green-energy initiatives, was indicted on felony charges of filing false campaign finance reports. The charges relate to false information provided on campaign finance reports filed with the city in 2019. The Franklin County prosecutor’s office said the false statements are related to the source and amount of contributions made to the ballot initiative. The 2019 initiative would have redirected $57 million dollars in city money to proposed green-energy initiatives by ProEnergy Ohio LLC, a limited partnership group Clark led.
Ohio – Ohio Lawmakers Do Nothing on Scandal-Tainted House Bill
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/22/2020
After a federal bribery investigation ousted a former House leader, Ohio lawmakers did nothing to repeal or delay the $1 billion nuclear plant bailout at the heart of the alleged “pay-to-play” scheme. Caught between lawmakers who wanted to do more to curb the nuclear subsidies and those who wanted to bail out the plants, the Republican-controlled House could not cobble together the votes needed for a change. A judge relieved some of the pressure on lawmakers to act by blocking the fees from appearing on Ohioans’ electric bills in January. The fees subsidize two nuclear plants owned by Energy Harbor. Lawmakers will continue to work to find a definitive legislative solution next year, Speaker Bob Cupp said.
Oregon – Staffers for Oregon Lawmakers Have Filed to Form a Union
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 12/16/2020
Legislative aides in Oregon want to be the first group of such employees in the country to form their own union. While unions often have a partisan tinge in the statehouse, staffers of lawmakers in both parties note changes in recent years they felt highlighted a need for better representation. One is a lengthy process that has sought to modify pay within the Capitol. One facet of that process, adopted earlier this year, was focused on ensuring staffers are paid equitably if they serve in similar roles. Another change is the Legislature’s ongoing revisions of Capitol policies for harassment and retaliation. The employees said a union would ensure their voices are present when lawmakers make such decisions.
South Carolina – Richland Councilwoman Accused of Corruption as Prosecutor Criticizes County Spending
MSN – David Travis Bland, Bristow Marchant, and Sarah Ellis (The State) | Published: 12/18/2020
Richland County Council member Dalhi Myers used taxpayer money for personal travel to Greece and other places, a resort hotel stay in Nashville, and “premium chocolates” and other personal items, according to an indictment. The grand jury indicted Myers on 24 charges that include misconduct in office, use of official position for personal gain, embezzlement, writing a fraudulent check, and use of campaign funds for personal expenses. Most of the indictments allege she used county taxpayer money for personal use. If convicted on all charges, she could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.
Tennessee – In Earlier Meetings, Ford, Jr. Cast Votes in Favor of $450K Award Entangled in His Business
Memphis Commercial Appeal – Sarah Macaraeg | Published: 12/17/2020
Records show Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford, Jr. twice introduced and voted in favor of a $450,000 budget allocation to Junior Achievement, a nonprofit he later said he sold computers through his business, E&J Computer Services and Repair. The committee votes moved Ford’s grant resolution in front of the full Board of Commissioners with a favorable recommendation. Ford left the room of the final vote without making a disclosure, video shows, though he acknowledged he had had conflicts-of-interest in mind. The records of the earlier meetings show that Ford did not recuse himself at any stage.
Texas – $1.7M for George Strait, Six-Figure Bonuses: Months later, a lawsuit forced Texas to release details on inaugural spending
Texas Tribune – Jay Root (Houston Chronicle) and Shannon Najmabadi | Published: 12/17/2020
Gov. Greg Abbott and the 2019 Texas Inaugural Committee spent months fighting the disclosure of documents detailing how they spent a record-setting $5.3 million that event organizers raised mostly from corporations and wealthy donors. But The Texas Tribune sued the committee and successfully obtained the bank statements and spending ledger in an out-of-court settlement. The result is the most detailed and complete account of inaugural spending in decades. Attorney Bill Aleshire, who represented The Tribune, said the legal fight he had to wage to get the records highlights the need for better transparency in state inaugurations, which accept corporate money but face little regulation over how it gets spent.
Texas – Developer Sherman Roberts Indicted on Charges of Bribing Dwaine Caraway and Carolyn Davis
D Magazine – Matt Goodman | Published: 12/17/2020
Sherman Roberts, chief executive officer of City Wide Community Development Corporation, was indicted on bribery charges for his dealings with two former Dallas City Council members who, prosecutors claim, supported his tax-credit housing projects in exchange for money and promises of future payments. The indictment does not name the council members, but one appears to be the late Carolyn Davis, who was chair of the city’s Housing Committee at the time of one of the alleged bribes. The other alleged bribe recipient appears to be former Councilperson Dwaine Caraway, who is serving a 56-month sentence for accepting bribes for his vote on another contract.
Virginia – In Richmond, the Case of the State Senator and the Judge Draws Attention to Lax Ethics Rules
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 12/18/2020
Virginia is one of two states where judges are selected by the Legislature, a practice that dates to the Colonial era. When Richmond General District Judge David Hicks appeared before a General Assembly committee seeking reappointment to the bench, he had an unusual connection to one of the lawmakers conducting the review. State Sen. Joseph Morrissey had just appeared in Hicks’s courtroom the week before as a defendant in a misdemeanor criminal case. With Hicks still presiding over Morrissey’s case, the interaction raised eyebrows. It casts a light on the way business is conducted around the Capitol and draws attention to Virginia conflict-of-interest rules that largely leave it up to public officials to self-police.
Washington DC – While Incarcerated in the D.C. Jail, a Candidate Fights for an ANC Seat
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer | Published: 12/17/2020
Joel Caston has filled many roles during his 26 years of incarceration, from youth mentor to published author to financial literacy instructor for his fellow inmates. Now he is seeking a new job: elected official. Caston ran in November for a long-vacant seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, The District of Columbia’s most granular level of local government, with the goal of representing inmates at the city jail as the first person to hold the office while incarcerated. But his pursuit has been hampered by a paperwork error, and the Board of Elections says he would not be allowed to take office. Caston and his advocates outside the jail say they are not giving up on finding a solution.
December 18, 2020 •
National/Federal Attorney General William Barr to Step Down Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/14/2020 Attorney General William Barr is leaving his position, a decision that follows months of complaints from President Trump about the administration’s top lawyer. […]
Attorney General William Barr to Step Down
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/14/2020
Attorney General William Barr is leaving his position, a decision that follows months of complaints from President Trump about the administration’s top lawyer. The cordial tone of Trump’s tweet announcing Barr’s exit was in marked contrast to the president’s public scolding of the attorney general in recent weeks. In Trump’s telling, Barr had failed to make public a financial crimes investigation into Joe Biden’s son that was ongoing before the election and failed to muster the Justice Department in support of Trump’s legal campaign to upend the election results. Barr’s letter confirming his departure opened with an allusion to Trump’s insistent but baseless claims the election was stolen. The letter did not repeat or disavow Barr’s statement that he had seen no indication of “widespread” fraud.
Biden’s Inaugural Will Be Mostly Virtual, but Money from Donors Will Be Real
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Eric Lipton | Published: 12/16/2020
President-elect Joe Biden’s allies have begun an ambitious campaign to raise millions of dollars from corporations and individuals by offering special “V.I.P. participation” in reimagined inaugural festivities that will be largely virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. The contrast between the constraints of putting on inaugural festivities during a public health crisis and fundraising as usual underscores how donations to an inaugural are not just about getting good seats for the swearing-in or tickets to black-tie balls. They are also a way for corporations and well-heeled individuals to curry favor with a new administration, a reality that prompted liberal groups to ask Biden’s inaugural committee to forgo corporate donations.
Electoral College Affirms Biden’s Victory on a Relatively Calm Day of a Chaotic Election
MSN – Elise Viebeck, Dan Simmons, Amy Worden, and Omar Sofradzija (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2020
President-elect Joe Biden achieved formal victory over President Trump, winning his 306 votes in the electoral college and advancing one more step toward inauguration even as die-hard Trump supporters redoubled their efforts to stop the normal transfer of power. Electors gathered in every state and the District of Columbia for a day-long series of votes that delivered no surprises for either Trump or Biden. The proceedings harked back to more typical presidential elections and stood in contrast with the unprecedented, though fruitless, six weeks of legal and procedural chaos triggered by Trump’s refusal to accept his loss.
EPA Can’t Claw Back Names of ‘Happy Hour’ Oil Lobbyists
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 12/9/2020
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot claw back documents it disclosed by mistake revealing the names of oil lobbyists who planned a “happy hour” outing with EPA officials, a federal judge ruled. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero found the EPA failed to show unveiling names and email addresses of lobbyists posed the kind of privacy or safety risk that would justify ordering the documents be returned. The EPA argued that disclosing those details could make the lobbyists targets of harassment by the media or “individual actors.” Spero found no evidence that unmasking other lobbyists’ names in Freedom of Information Act-requested documents led to the kind of harassment the EPA feared.
Forced to Take Networking Virtual by Pandemic, K Street May Never Go Back
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 12/10/2020
K Street lobbyists have embraced the virtual world for networking events, policy panels, and client conferences, in many cases nabbing big-name speakers, including members of Congress, government officials, and business executives. Though Zoom interactions may never fully replace in-person hobnobbing, most lobbyists expect virtual sessions to endure long after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. Such events are free but ingratiate lobbyists with clients, potential clients, and Washington’s policymakers on whom they may rely for future decisions amid the political tumult of a new Congress and a new administration.
Judges May Reinstate Foreign Agent Case Against Flynn Partner
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/12/2020
A federal appeals court panel is signaling it may reinstate criminal charges against a business partner of Michael Flynn over a consulting project Flynn’s firm did for Turkish interests, despite Flynn’s receipt of a pardon from President Trump that absolves the former national security adviser of criminal liability in the matter. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the government’s bid to revive a pair of guilty verdicts a federal court jury returned last year against Bijan Rafiekian, co-founder of Flynn’s short-lived firm, Flynn Intel Group.
Legislatures Across Country Plan Sweeping Election Reform Push
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 12/10/2020
State Legislatures across the country are contemplating sweeping changes to the way elections are administered after a tumultuous presidential contest, one that ended with both the highest voter turnout in American history and the outgoing president baselessly calling its integrity into question. In its wake, election rules have become the hottest topic for Legislatures, especially in presidential battleground states. In some states, lawmakers plan to make permanent access to absentee and mail-in voting that were temporarily expanded by the coronavirus pandemic, while others are looking to enact new restrictions on how people can vote.
Potential Family Conflicts Arise for Joe Biden and Aides as His Administration Drafts New Ethics Rules
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2020
Joe Biden is preparing to step back into the Oval Office with different expectations from his time as vice present about how to handle the relationship between his official power and his family’s private interests. After President Trump”s years of mixing family with governing and an election that highlighted the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter, the president-elect has promised to keep his family from being hired into his administration, and to prohibit family entanglements with “any foreign operation.” Lawyers for the presidential transition are drafting new rules for the Biden White House that are likely to be more restrictive than the rules that governed the Obama administration. Biden has made clear he wants a clean break from Trump, who employed his family and spent public funds at family businesses.
Sen. David Perdue Sold His Home to a Finance Industry Official Whose Organization Was Lobbying the Senate
ProPublica – Robert Faterechi | Published: 12/10/2020
U.S. Sen. Dave Perdue sold his Washington, D.C., home last year to a brokerage industry official whose organization is under the purview of a committee Perdue sits on. The deal was made off market, without the home being listed for sale publicly. Though an appraisal by the buyer found Perdue sold for slightly under market value, four local real estate experts disagreed, saying the almost $1.8 million sale price Perdue garnered seemed high. A fifth expert said the price was squarely fair market value. Ultimately, congressional ethics experts said, their concern was Perdue sold privately and to someone whose organization that he oversaw as a senator.
Trump and His GOP Allies Vow to ‘Fight On’ after Supreme Court Rejects Legal Challenge to Overturn Election Results
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 12/12/2020
President Trump amplified his unfounded claims and falsehoods about President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, lashed out at his attorney general and Republican governors he deemed unfaithful to him, and vowed to continue challenging the election results, despite the U.S. Supreme Court dealing a final blow to his brazen legal efforts to overturn the vote. Many of Trump’s GOP allies in Congress were not swayed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the challenge brought by the Texas attorney general that asked the justices to invalidate millions of ballots cast in four battleground states – Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Georgia – and toss out Biden’s win.
U.S. SEC Relaxes Rules on Company ‘Resource Extraction’ Disclosures
Reuters – Katanga Johnson | Published: 12/16/2020
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relaxed requirements on oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments, completing a rule created by Congress. The agency voting to adopt industry-friendly changes to its “resources extraction” disclosure rule follows a 10-year industry fight to water down the measure, mandated by the 2010 Dodd Frank law passed to battle corporate corruption. It was the third version of the rule. SEC member Allison Lee said the rule does not demand the “detail” that would enable regulators to spot potential corruption. It also applies to fewer companies and raises the value threshold for disclosure, among other weaknesses, Lee said.
VA Watchdog Told Prosecutors His Probe of Secretary Wilkie’s Effort to Discredit House Staffer Turned Up Possible Criminal Conduct
MSN – Lisa Rein ansd Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2020
Confronted with a sexual assault allegation at a veterans hospital, Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie repeatedly sought to discredit the congressional aide who made the complaint and his staff worked to spread negative information about her while ignoring known problems of harassment at the facility, according to a report. The VA’s internal watchdog paints a portrait of a department led by senior officials who were indifferent, if not hostile, to the issues at the department’s flagship medical center in the nation’s capital. It found Wilkie acted unprofessionally if not unethically, in the case of the Navy veteran who is a policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, chairperson of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Gavin Newsom Bans His Paid Consultants from Lobbying in New ‘Ethics Memo’
MSN – Linda Korte (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 12/11/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is barring any paid campaign or political consultant from directly communicating on behalf of a client with the governor, members of his staff, or the agencies under his control for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action. He is barring any registered lobbyists from serving as paid campaign or political consultants. Newsom also directed his legal affairs secretary to appoint a chief ethics advisor to advise him and his team on all ethics matters. It is unclear whether the new ban applies to lobbyists who advise the governor but are not currently on his payroll.
California – With ‘a Lot to Lose,’ Dialysis Firms Spend Big, Become California Power Players
Yahoo News – Samantha Young (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 12/9/2020
The nation’s dialysis industry has poured $233 million into California campaigns over the past four years, establishing its leading companies as a formidable political force eager to protect their bottom line and influence state policy. Most of the money the industry spent funded the defeat of two union-backed ballot measures that would have regulated dialysis clinics and cut into their profits. But the companies and their trade association also stepped up their offense, dedicating about $16.4 million to lobbying and political contributions during the same period, an analysis shows.
Florida – DeSantis Wants ‘Normal’ Government Meetings. This Village Is Meeting at a Dog Park
Yahoo News – Aaron Leibowitz (Miami Herald) | Published: 12/9/2020
As temperatures dipped into the low 50s, a frigid night by Florida standards, officials in North Bay Village gathered under a small open tent on a waterfront grassy knoll behind a local dog park for a meeting. A handful of residents stood or sat on lawn chairs outside the tent, gravitating toward heat lamps for warmth. The strange scene reflected one local effort to protect against the spread of COVID-19, at a time when the tools to do so in Florida are limited. North Bay Village has now held two meetings next to the dog park to comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ demand that local governments return to in-person meetings.
Florida – Ethics Board Lobbying Ordinances Taking Shape Aim to Close Loopholes at Tallahassee City Hall
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 12/16/2020
Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board is continuing its work to develop additions to the city’s lobbying ordinances, floating three proposals that would strengthen its oversight over those trying to influence government. For the new measures, the board is looking to expand its purview to include oversight over lobbying, clearly defining who is a lobbyist and who would be subject to registering with the city, and requiring detailed logs of all lobbyist contacts with government officials. The proposed definition would include all who seek to influence any decision or recommendation “that foreseeably will be heard or reviewed by the City Commission or decision-making body.”
Florida – GOP Lawyer Appointed by Florida Governor Resigns State Panel in Protest Over Raid on Ousted Data Scientist’s Home
MSN – Teo Armus and Marisa Iati (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2020
A Republican lawyer resigned from a Florida judicial panel to object to police raiding the home of a data scientist who has alleged the state health department ousted her for resisting unethical pandemic-related requests. Ron Filipkowski, who served on a nominating commission for the state’s 12th Circuit, wrote in a resignation letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s general counsel that he considered the search warrant executed on Rebekah Jones’s home “unconscionable.” He also said it was indicative of the state’s “reckless and irresponsible” handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida – Mar-a-Lago Neighbors to Trump: Spend your post-presidency elsewhere
MSN – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 12/16/2020
Next-door neighbors of Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach he has called his Winter White House, do not want Trump as a resident when he leaves the presidency. They assert Trump lost his legal right to live at Mar-a-Lago because of an agreement he signed in the early 1990s when he converted the estate from his private residence to a private club. The legal maneuver could force Palm Beach to publicly address whether Trump can make Mar-a-Lago his legal residence and home, as he has been expected to do, when he becomes an ex-president. For years, various neighbors have raised concerns about disruptions, such as clogged traffic and blocked streets, caused by the president’s frequent trips to the club. Even before he was president, Trump created ill will in the town.
Florida – Secret Donor Name in Florida Senate Races Wiped from Records, Replaced
Tampa Bay Times – Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos | Published: 12/14/2020
The name of the mystery donor behind a $550,000 effort that helped promote no-party candidates in three key Florida Senate races, including one that is under investigation, was changed in campaign finance reports. While making changes to fix errors in campaign finance reports is common, election attorneys say it is unusual to see political committees change the name of their sole donor two months after the fact. If it is determined the committees intentionally changed the name to conceal the donor, or to make the contribution in the name of another, fines or criminal penalties could be involved, said Natalie Kato, an elections and campaign finance attorney.
Georgia – Georgia Runoffs Become High-Stakes GOP Fundraising Experiment
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 12/14/2020
Top Republicans are using the expensive U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia to sell their party on a deeper investment in digital fundraising, pointing to the surge in donations for the contests as an example of what GOP candidates could reap in 2022 and beyond, if they put the right infrastructure in place early. The effort is introducing some senators to online fundraising tactics that have been popular among Democrats for years but are not nearly as prevalent among Republicans. Thirty-one Republicans, including 17 who are up for reelection in 2022, are tapping into their donor lists in “tandem” email efforts benefiting themselves and the Georgia candidates, raising nearly $10 million online.
Illinois – Ethics Board Fines Ald. Brookins $5,000 For Violating Ethics Ordinance
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 12/14/2020
The Chicago Board of Ethics voted to fine Ald. Howard Brookins $5,000 for violating a city ordinance by defending clients, including former Ald. Proco Joe Moreno, in criminal cases involving the Chicago Police Department. The fine levied by the board is the maximum allowed. The Ethics Board ruled in September 2019 that aldermen face “diverging interests” when they represent a client charged with a crime based on evidence developed by Chicago police officers.
Illinois – Illinois House Panel Ends Probe of Powerful Speaker Madigan
Associated Press News – John O’Connor | Published: 12/15/2020
An Illinois House committee ended its consideration of a breach of trust claim against Speaker Michael Madigan, voting down further proceedings that could have led to discipline against the powerful Democrat. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin last summer filed documents seeking a charge of conduct unbecoming a legislator against Madigan after federal prosecutors implicated the longtime leader in a bribery scheme involving Commonwealth Edison. Madigan has been speaker for all but two of the past 37 years and is the longest-serving leader of any legislative body in American history.
Kansas – Supreme Court Won’t Revive Kansas Voter Registration ID Law
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 12/14/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Kansas that sought to revive a law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. A federal appeals court had declared the law unconstitutional. Kansas had been the only state to require people to show a physical document such as a birth certificate or passport when applying to register to vote. The issue is distinct from state laws that call for people to produce driver licenses or other photo IDs to cast a vote in person. The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was a leading source for Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally may have voted in the 2016 election.
Kentucky – Executive Gets One Year in State Prison for Campaign Case Linked to Lexington Council
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 12/14/2020
A former real estate executive was sentenced to a year in state prison after pleading guilty to 16 counts of campaign finance violations related to the May 2018 Lexington council primary. Timothy Wellman, a former CRM Companies executive, pleaded guilty in October. Federal prosecutors say Wellman circumvented Kentucky campaign finance limits prohibiting individuals from donating more than $2,000 to a candidate by using more than a dozen straw contributors and then reimbursing them. During the federal trial, Wellman was accused of asking those straw contributors to lie to the FBI or a federal grand jury about those campaign donations.
Maine – A Maine Legislature Changed by the Pandemic Could Challenge Lobbyists in 2021
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 12/10/2020
Lobbyists in Maine always try to get to know lawmakers when a new legislative session starts, but the coronavirus pandemic may alter how relationships are built and negotiations handled as the 2021 session set to begin in earnest this January looks like it will take place more on Zoom and less in the statehouse. Details are still being worked out, but the Augusta Civic Center is likely to serve as the main site of business. The statehouse has been closed to anyone who is not a lawmaker, staffer, delivery or contract worker, or reporter since the pandemic hit. Lawmakers approved an order allowing committees to cast votes and the public to participate in meetings electronically, giving them more flexibility.
Michigan – Michigan AG Reviewing Whether Lawmakers Can Lobby Out of State
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 12/9/2020
The Michigan attorney general’s office is reviewing whether legislators serving in the state can legally be registered lobbyists outside its borders. It was reported in November that Rep. Rebekah Warren had been hired by the interest group National Popular Vote and filed a lobbying disclosure on behalf of the organization in Pennsylvania. She is also registered to lobby in North Carolina. State law bans lawmakers and other state officials from accepting pay for “personally engaging in lobbying.” But it is unclear whether that prohibition refers specifically to only lobbying in Michigan, which is what the rest of the law is focused on.
New Mexico – Ethics Panel Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure of Group’s Donors
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 12/11/2020
The New Mexico Ethics Commission filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing a group that spent more than $130,000 on political advertisements in Democratic legislative primary election races to disclose its donors. The lawsuit, the first of its kind filed by the commission since its creation this year, could be a test case for a law amended in 2019 that requires more “dark money” disclosure for election-related expenditures. The Council for a Competitive New Mexico has argued its donors do not have to be disclosed since their donations do not meet the state’s definition of a contribution.
New York – First Ruling Goes Against Ranked-Choice Voting Opponents
City and State – Rebecca Lewis | Published: 12/16/2020
A lawsuit to delay ranked-choice voting in New York City hit its first roadblock: the state judge in the case has denied a request for a temporary restraining order. The ruling could be a death knell for the lawsuit, which would result in ranked-choice voting proceeding unimpeded next year, even as the plaintiffs continue to fight. Judge Carol Edmead denied a request from a half-dozen city council members and several community groups seeking a temporary restraining order to stop ranked-choice voting from being used in the upcoming special election to replace former council Member Rory Lancman. Scheduled for February 2, it would be the first election in the city to use the new system approved by voters in 2019.
New York – Judge Orders Trump Organization to Give More Records to N.Y. Attorney General
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 12/15/2020
A state judge dealt a loss to the Trump Organization, ordering the president’s company to turn over records related to a controversial property that is the subject of a civil investigation by the New York attorney general’s office. The documents and communications at issue could help investigators answer questions about a conservation easement that was granted several years ago at the Seven Springs estate in New York’s Westchester Country, a move that netted President Trump’s company a $21 million tax deduction. The materials, which Trump’s lawyers had sought to shield, include messages exchanged between an engineer and a land-use lawyer who worked on Trump’s behalf.
New York – Many New York Judges Spend Their Way Toward Seats on the Bench. And It’s Perfectly Legal
The City – Sam Mellins (New York Focus) | Published: 12/10/2020
Of the 24 judges elected to the New York Supreme Court this year, 20 have donated to the county party organizations that nominated them or to the politicians who lead those organizations. The contributions reflect a political climate in which party leaders, far more than voters, determine who obtains Supreme Court seats, a nominally elected position. By the time voters select Supreme Court judges in November, the real decisions have usually already been made the previous summer, when county Democratic Party organizations select the nominees.
New York – ‘Simply No Truth to These Claims’: Gov. Cuomo’s office denies former aide’s sexual harassment allegation
USA Today – Matthew Brown | Published: 12/13/2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by a former development aide who is now running for office in New York City. Lindsey Boylan wrote on Twitter that Cuomo “sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched.” Boylan is currently running to be Manhattan borough president. Personnel memos written in 2018 indicate Boylan resigned from Cuomo’s administration after she was confronted about complaints about her own office behavior.
Ohio – Councilwoman Sundermann Proposes Charter Amendment, Says ‘We Must Rebuild Trust in Our City Government.’
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/15/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson Betsy Sundermann put forward a charter amendment that would allow the city to suspend a council member if that person is indicted and to remove them if convicted. The current charter does not address what should happen in the event a council member gets in trouble, as happened this year with the arrest of three members on federal bribery charges. It was Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost who sought and won temporary suspensions of Jeff Pastor and P.G. Sittenfeld. Both accepted suspensions and are fighting charges brought against them.
Ohio – Governor Was Warned of Would-Be Regulator’s Ties to Utility
Associated Press News – Mark Gillespie and Julie Carr Smyth | Published: 12/9/2020
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine disregarded cries of alarm in 2019 from consumer and environmental advocates, concerns echoed in a previously undisclosed last-minute plea from GOP insiders, when he was selecting the state’s top utility regulator, a man now under scrutiny as a wide-ranging bribery and corruption investigation roils the state. Nearly two years later, the Republican governor continues to defend his choice of Samuel Randazzo as the powerful chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and many of those early critics insist it was a mistake to dismiss their concerns.
Rhode Island – R.I. Political Operative Jeff Britt Cleared of Charges in Money Laundering Trial
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick and Dan McGowan (Boston Globe) | Published: 12/16/2020
Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini found Jeffrey Britt not guilty of money laundering or violating campaign finance laws. The decision capped off the high-profile trial tied to outgoing Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s 2016 re-election campaign, which he won by 85 votes over Steve Frias. Britt worked for Mattiello as a political adviser. Britt was accused of illegally paying for a pro-Mattiello campaign mailer from Frias’s one-time Republican opponent Shawna Lawton by funneling money through two other people. Procaccini called Rhode Island’s money laundering law “constitutionally deficient,” and questioned the credibility of the witnesses who testified against Britt.
Tennessee – Knox County Won’t Kill Ethics Committee, But Could Change Its Rules to Prevent Smears
Knoxville News Sentinel – Tyler Whetstone | Published: 12/14/2020
The Knox County Ethics Committee will not be eliminated, though some of its bylaws could be changed. A group of commissioners had discussed the possibility of doing away with the ethics committee. Any chance of that happening, however, was dismissed during a meeting of the newly formed committee on committees, which was created to determine whether the county commission needs each of its committees. Instead, the committee asked the ethics panel, which is made up of appointed volunteers and a single commissioner, to discuss whether to require statute of limitations of 90 to 180 days on infractions, and whether to shield people running for office from complaints during the election.
Texas – Limited Capacity at Texas Capitol During 2021 Session Raises Transparency Concerns
KTAB – Maggie Glynn | Published: 12/15/2020
Texas still does not have an official plan for how the upcoming legislative session will operate during the pandemic. But the House of Representatives has outlined a framework for the opening ceremony, offering the first glimpse of how lawmakers will balance transparency with COVID-19 precautions. The House Administrative Committee’s plan will limit media and some guests to the galley, which sparked some concern about transparency if that process should continue through the session.
Washington – On the Legal Hot Seat, Tim Eyman Admits He Fibbed to Donors
Everett Herald – Jerry Cornfield | Published: 12/17/2020
Washington’s ubiquitous initiative promoter Tim Eyman got his chance to tell his version of events that are threatening his political career. Then, the state’s attorney set about taking apart his story and elicited a confession from Eyman that he does not always tell the truth when asking supporters for money. Eyman stands accused of using his initiative campaigns to enrich himself and violating state campaign finance laws. The civil trial stems from a 2017 lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleging Eyman failed to report shifting money donated for Initiative 1185, a tax-limiting measure, into the campaign for Initiative 517, which sought to modify the initiative and referendum process. Eyman served as an officer of committees for both initiatives.
Washington – Seattle City Council Votes to Require Registration, Disclosure by Public Lobbying Groups
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 12/14/2020
The Seattle City Council voted to require certain groups that spend money to build public pressure on politicians to register and disclose their finances. Recommended by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, the new rules approved would apply to groups that spend at least $750 in a month (or $1,500 in three months) on “presenting a program to the public” to affect legislation. The individuals behind a group would need to identify themselves and their contractors, and the group would be required to identify its donors (for contributions of $25 or more). The organization also would be required to describe its purpose and would need to record its spending in monthly reports.
Washington DC – In First D.C. Election with Public Financing, Candidates and Donors Bumped Up Against Rules
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer and Michael Brice-Saddler | Published: 12/15/2020
In the first year of public campaign financing in the District of Columbia, Washingtonians made enough small-dollar donations to generate $3.4?million in taxpayer funding, fueling campaigns for several well-known politicians and many newcomers. The candidates, in turn, spent that money on everything from takeout food to branded masks and more. To participate in the Fair Elections Program, candidates had to follow more-stringent rules on donations and expenditures than their competitors who opted out of public financing. One requirement is candidates not pay themselves or any family members, except for reimbursing themselves for out-of-pocket campaign expenditures.
Wisconsin – Path from Legislature to Lobbyist Well Traveled
Beloit Daily News – Steven Walters (WisconsinEye) | Published: 12/15/2020
Of the 708 registered lobbyists in Wisconsin, about 100 are former state legislators or Capitol aides. Why does the Legislature-to-lobbying door swing so often? Lawmakers, especially those who had leadership positions, sell the personal relationships they built up in the Capitol to prospective clients or statewide trade and industry organizations. Legislators, now paid $52,000 a year, can make many times that as lobbyists or corporate executives.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Tosses Trump Election Lawsuit
Associated Press News – Scott Bauer | Published: 12/14/2020
A narrowly divided Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his election loss in the battleground state about an hour before the Electoral College cast Wisconsin’s 10 votes for Joe Biden. In the ruling, the court’s three liberal justices were joined by conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn who said three of Trump’s four claims were filed too late and the other was without merit. The ruling ends Trump’s legal challenges in state court. The president sought to have more than 221,000 ballots disqualified in Dane and Milwaukee counties, the state’s two most heavily Democratic counties. Those were the only counties where Trump sought a recount, even though he lost statewide by about 21,000 votes.
December 11, 2020 •
National/Federal Barr Taps Durham as Special Counsel, Pushing Probe into Biden Era Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/1/2020 Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. attorney John Durham as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the […]
Barr Taps Durham as Special Counsel, Pushing Probe into Biden Era
Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/1/2020
Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. attorney John Durham as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The appointment formalizes Durham’s ongoing probe but more significantly, would give Durham latitude to continue the politically explosive investigation after President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. Democrats have long viewed Durham’s efforts as political payback by President Trump and his allies, seeking to deflect from evidence the Trump campaign capitalized on the Kremlin’s efforts.
Biden’s Choice for Pentagon Faces Questions on Ties to Contractors
New York Times – Eric Lipton, Kenneth Vogel, and Michael LaForgia | Published: 12/8/2020
Raytheon Technologies makes fighter jet engines, weapons, high-tech sensors, and dozens of other military products. Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin III of the Army, a member of Raytheon’s board, has been named by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next secretary of defense. Raytheon is not Austin’s only link to military contractors. He has also been a partner in an investment firm that has been buying small defense firms. The decision to nominate Austin has drawn a new wave of questions about the corporate ties of people Biden is choosing for his administration. Those ties are especially relevant when it comes to the Pentagon, which spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year on weapons and other supplies.
Conservative Nonprofit Group Challenging Election Results Around the Country Has Tie to Trump Legal Adviser Jenna Ellis
MSN – John Swain, Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
A conservative legal organization that has filed lawsuits challenging the election results in five states has a tie to President Trump’s legal team, raising questions about the independence of what has appeared to be an endeavor separate from the president’s last-gasp legal maneuvering. Senior Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis serves as special counsel to the Thomas More Society, which has filed lawsuits through the newly formed Amistad Project alleging problems with the vote in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Her affiliation with the organization, as well as other links between Trump’s team and the conservative group, suggest a coordinated effort to flood the nation’s courts with repetitive litigation that allows the president to claim the election results remain contested.
Could Trump Pardon Family Members and Other Close Associates? His Prior Pardons May Set the Stage for More
USA Today – David Jackson, John Fritze, and Kevin Johnson | Published: 12/4/2020
As President Trump weighs granting pardons to close associates – and perhaps family members and even himself – experts said he may not pay much of a political price, no matter whom the recipients are. The number of pardons with a political sheen that Trump has signed, along with the unorthodox way he has wielded the power, may have desensitized the public to the issue. The reaction to former national security advisor Michael Flynn’s pardon, though muted, underscored the president’s broad clemency powers are increasingly viewed, like much else, along partisan lines: Democrats express outrage, and supporters of Trump cheer. That division, several experts said, may partly explain why some Americans shrug their shoulders.
EU Lobby Register Falls Short of Transparency Demands
Politico – Cristina Gonzalez | Published: 12/8/2020
It was hailed as a victory when negotiators from the European Parliament, Commission, and the Council found compromise on establishing a joint mandatory lobby register, but the definition of “mandatory” remains to be seen. The provisional agreement, which must still be approved by the respective institutions, sets out to make it compulsory for lobbyists to be registered in the European Union’s Transparency Register to carry out certain activities like meeting with top officials. But there is nothing explicitly mandatory in the compromise text. Instead, it gives each institution the license to individually interpret what it means, “and to define the activities that they decide to make conditional upon registration in the register,” the compromise reads. Now, each institution must outline its view in a forthcoming joint political statement.
GOP Women’s Record-Breaking Success Reflects Party’s Major Shift on Recruiting and Supporting Female Candidates
Washington Post – Rachael Bade | Published: 12/7/2020
There are 17 newly elected Republican women who will give the party a record number of female lawmakers in Congress, the results of a successful strategy of recruiting and supporting women running for office. Of the 13 Democratic incumbents who lost their seats on election night, Republican women were responsible for defeating 10. In January, Republicans will welcome their most ethnically diverse and gender-diverse freshman class in history as women and lawmakers of color join their predominantly White and male ranks. The recruitment effort behind their success reflects a major shift.
Justice Department’s Interest in Hunter Biden Covered More than Taxes
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 12/9/2020
The federal investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son has been more extensive than a statement from Hunter Biden indicates, according to a person with firsthand knowledge of the probe. Hunter Biden said he had been contacted about a tax investigation out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware. The securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York also scrutinized Hunter Biden’s finances, according to the source. The person said as of early last year, investigators in Delaware and Washington, D.C. were probing potential money laundering and Hunter Biden’s foreign ties. In addition to the probe into Hunter Biden, federal authorities in Pennsylvania are conducting a criminal investigation of a hospital business in which Joe Biden’s brother James was involved.
Murdoch’s Son and Daughter-in-Law Spent Millions on Progressive Causes in 2020 Cycle
Center for Responsive Politics – Ollie Gratzinger | Published: 12/4/2020
The Murdoch name has come to be associated largely with right-leaning politics, as Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who owns Fox News and other outlets spanning three continents, has built a family dynasty based largely on conservatism. But Kathryn and James Murdoch, daughter-in-law and youngest son of the news tycoon, are forging a new reputation for the Murdoch name, contributing heavily this cycle to progressive political groups, including super PACs supporting President-elect Joe Biden. James Murdoch resigned from his position at Fox last July over “disagreements over certain editorial content.”
Neera Tanden, Biden’s Pick for Budget Chief, Runs a Think Tank Backed by Corporate and Foreign Interests
MSN – Yeganeh Torbati and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2020
Now that President-elect Joe Biden picked Neera Tanden to run the Office of Management and Budget, her ties to some of the most powerful players in the U.S. economy are drawing scrutiny from advocates for accountability in government. Tanden would have a hand in policies that touch every part of the economy after years spent courting corporate and foreign donors at the think tank Center for American Progress. Between 2014 and 2019, the center received at least $33 million in donations from firms in the financial sector, private foundations primarily funded by wealth earned on Wall Street. Critics also argued the hundreds of hours of relationship-building that goes into securing large donations from corporations and wealthy people give private interests the opportunity to influence the views of Tanden and others in her position.
Senate Restores FEC as Agency Confronts Massive Backlog of Cases
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 12/9/2020
The U.S. Senate confirmed three new members of the FEC, giving the campaign finance regulator a full slate of six commissioners for the first time since February 2017. Senators confirmed Sean Cooksey, Allen Dickerson, and Shana Broussard, who will be the agency’s first Black commissioner in its 45-year history. The FEC faces a backlog of 388 enforcement cases. Broussard said during a Senate Rules Committee meeting that she would prioritize addressing important cases set to expire due to the agency’s statute of limitations. Commissioners are also tasked with changing outdated rules.
Steakhouses, Hill Bars and Ski Trips: GOP carries on amid the pandemic
Politico – Sarah Ferris, Melanie Zanona, and Daniel Lippman | Published: 12/7/2020
It is not just the White House flouting pandemic rules to mark Washington, D.C.’s schmooziest season. Some corners of the GOP, including members of Congress, are refusing to let the coronavirus intrude on their holiday gatherings and in-person fundraisers, whether it is on the slopes of Utah or in the steakhouses of Washington. Meanwhile, discussions are underway about holding the Conservative Political Action Conference in person early next year. The event planning comes as the nation is battered by another surge in coronavirus cases, prompting a fresh round of warnings from public health experts to avoid group settings, particularly indoors. And it underscores the resistance by many in the GOP, led by President Trump, to adjust to the new normal of the pandemic.
Supreme Court Denies Trump Allies’ Bid to Overturn Pennsylvania Election Results
MSN – Robert Barnes and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 12/8/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute attempt by President Trump’s allies to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, a blow to the president’s continuing efforts to reverse his loss to Joe Biden. The court’s brief order denying a requested injunction provided no reasoning, nor did it note any dissenting votes. It was the first request to delay or overturn the results of the presidential election to reach the court. The lawsuit was part of a blizzard of litigation and personal interventions Trump and his lawyers have waged to overturn victories by Biden in a handful of key states. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a sweeping complaint that asked the court to overturn Biden’s wins in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia.
Women Make Record-Breaking Gains Across State Legislatures
The Hill – Julia Manchester | Published: 12/8/2020
Women broke barriers in state Legislature races across the country in November, with a record number of women from both parties winning their races at the state level. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women will hold more than 30 percent of seats in state Legislatures for the first time in American history. The gains women made at the state level this cycle appeared to have reflected the record gains women made at the federal level as well. For Republicans, this marks an improvement for a party that has struggled to recruit women to its ranks.
Canada – ‘Loophole’ in Civic Election Act Breeds Unfairness and Financial Secrecy, Experts Say
CBC – Angela King | Published: 12/5/2020
A section of Ontario’s Municipal Elections Act creates an unequal playing field, undermines transparency, and should be changed, election experts say. Concerns have been raised about a part of the legislation that allows a corporation to pay an employee while volunteering for a political campaign after a Toronto man revealed he was paid by a lobbying firm to help campaign for candidates in the 2018 civic election. Kevin Haynes said he felt like an “election hitman” when he was paid $20 per hour in cash by a major lobbying group to knock on doors for nine candidates, seven of whom won.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – FBI Questions Alaska Lawmakers on Topics Including Permanent Fund Dividend Votes
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 12/8/2020
The FBI has interviewed or sought to question at least 11 Alaska legislators this year, asking in at least some of the interviews whether any lawmakers received a financial benefit in exchange for their vote on the Permanent Fund dividend. Not all interviewed lawmakers would say what they were asked about, and it is not clear what the FBI is searching for. An interview may not mean a legislator is under investigation – several lawmakers said the FBI told them during the interviews that they were not personally under investigation. Uncertainty over the motive for the interviews is roiling lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, where Republicans are attempting to form a majority government.
Arizona – Arizona Legislature Shuts Down after Rudy Giuliani Possibly Exposed Lawmakers to COVID-19
MSN – Maria Polletta (Arizona Republic) | Published: 12/6/2020
The Arizona Legislature closed for a week “out of an abundance of caution” after Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, possibly exposed several Republican lawmakers to COVID-19. Giuliani tested positive for the virus on December 6, less than a week after he visited Arizona as part of a multistate tour aimed at contesting 2020 election results. Giuliani had spent more than 10 hours discussing election concerns with Arizona Republicans, including two members of Congress and at least 13 current and future state lawmakers. He led the meeting maskless, flouting social distancing guidelines, and posing for photos.
Arizona – Judge Dismisses Dem Lawsuit Challenging Independent Redistricting Candidates
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 12/7/2020
Democratic legislative leaders’ lawsuit to disqualify two of the five finalists for independent chair of the state’s next redistricting commission fell flat after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Janice Crawford ruled the disputed applicants did not violate the criteria set out in the Arizona Constitution. Crawford ruled Thomas Loquvam, an attorney for the utility company EPCOR, does not violate the constitution’s prohibition on lobbyists serving on the Independent Redistricting Commission, and gun store owner Robert Wilson meets the qualifications to serve as an independent.
California – L.A. Fines Former City Official, Company $45,000 for Lobbying Violations
MyNewsLA.com – Staff | Published: 12/8/2020
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission imposed a fine of $45,000 on Daniel Ahadian and nur Corporation for violating city lobbying laws. Ahadian is a former city official who worked with the Planning Department, and the sole owner of nur, a planning and land use consulting firm. Ahadian and nur admitted failing to register as lobbying entities and file quarterly disclosure reports from the first quarter of 2018 through the fourth quarter of 2019. Lobbying entities are required to register with the Ethics Commission and report their activities on a quarterly basis to help the public identify who is attempting to influence city action.
California – L.A.’s Ethics Commission Gets a New Boss: A 29-year employee of the watchdog agency
Yahoo News – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 12/8/2020
David Tristan, deputy executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, was named as the new executive director of the commission, replacing Heather Holt, who faces term limits. Commissioner Jeff Daar cited Tristan’s decades of experience at the agency. “Obviously, he has a passion for the mission of the Ethics Commission,” Daar said. Rob Quan, an organizer with Unrig LA, a good-government advocacy group, described Tristan as extremely responsive. He described how advocates have called Tristan over the years to discuss a variety of topics, including campaign filings and broken links on the commission website.
California – Real Estate Developer Pleads Guilty in Sprawling L.A. Campaign Money Laundering Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/3/2020
Businessperson Samuel Leung pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit campaign money laundering, admitting he took part in a scheme to reimburse campaign donors between January 2009 and February 2015 – just as his apartment project was being reviewed and approved at Los Angeles City Hall. State law prohibits donors from making political contributions in the name of another person. The guilty plea came more than four years after a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed a sprawling network of more than 100 people and companies with direct or indirect ties to Leung made political donations totaling more than $600,000 while Leung’s project was under review. The project was approved in 2015.
Connecticut – Audit Finds Lax Oversight of Public Campaign Financing
CT Examiner – Emilia Otte | Published: 12/3/2020
For the last nine years, the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) has failed to report the use of grant money financing candidates running for the Connecticut General Assembly, according to a recent audit. The SEEC is responsible for the Citizen’s Election Program, which gives grant money to campaigns for state Senate or House through the Citizen’s Election Fund, a pool of money that comes from the sale of abandoned property. By law, the SEEC must report annually on the amount of money in the fund and the number of people who have contributed to it. The commission is also required to present an analysis each cycle to the General Assembly of the amount of grant money issued, how campaigns have spent the money, and how much leftover money was returned to the fund.
Florida – Disgraced Republican Lawmaker Planted No-Party Candidate in Key Senate Race, Sources Say
Miami Herald – Ana Ceballos and Samantha Gross | Published: 12/3/2020
As the results for a key Florida Senate race appeared on television screens in an Irish pub, former Sen. Frank Artiles boasted he planted a no-party candidate in the race, which Republican Ileana Garcia won by 32 votes over incumbent Jose Javier Rodriguez. “That is me, that was all me,” Artiles boasted to a crowd at Liam Fitzpatrick’s restaurant, according to a person who was there. Artiles recruited Alexis (Alex) Rodriguez, a longtime acquaintance. The no-party candidate with the same surname as the incumbent Democrat had been a registered Republican until just before his qualifying papers were filed to make him a Senate candidate. Sources have indicated Artiles’ involvement in launching Rodriguez’s bid was extensive.
Florida – Florida Police Raid House of Fired Data Scientist Who Alleged State Manipulated Covid-19 Stats
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
Florida police with guns drawn raided the home of an ousted health department data scientist, searching Rebekah Jones’ computer, phone, and other hardware that supports the coronavirus website she set up after accusing the state of manipulating its official numbers. Law enforcement officials allege Jones may have also used the devices to hack into a health department website to send an unauthorized message to Florida emergency personnel, urging them to speak out against the state’s pandemic response. After her dismissal, Jones launched her own data portal, advertising it as independent alternative to the state dashboard. Now, Jones says, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s raid is an attempt to silence her work.
Florida – Florida Voters Barred Ex-Lawmakers from Lobbying for 6 Years, but Revolving Door Still Swings
MSN – Gary Roher (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 12/7/2020
The “revolving door” between government and lobbying firms in Florida was supposed to end after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 banning elected officials and agency heads from lobbying for six years after leaving their posts. But that amendment does not take effect until the end of 2022, meaning the movement will continue for another two years. Since the November election, three Florida lawmakers have taken jobs as lobbyists, and one state agency director left her position in October to lead a trade group for an industry she used to regulate.
Georgia – Savannah Council Accepts Apology Kesha Gibson-Carter Says She Didn’t Make
Savannah Morning News – DeAnn Komanecky | Published: 12/9/2020
Savannah City Council members who filed ethics complaints against fellow Alderperson Kesha Gibson-Carter said they were ready to forgive the alderwoman. An ethics board found Gibson-Carter had violated the city’s ethics code. The three said they were ready to move forward instead of pushing for the only remedy available, a reprimand or censure, since Gibson-Carter had apologized privately to City Manager Michael Brown. Gibson-Carter is adamant she had not apologized to anyone, including the city manager, and had no intentions to do so.
Illinois – Ex-State Sen. Martin Sandoval, Snared in Political Corruption Investigation, Dies of Coronavirus: Attorney
Chicago Sun-Times – Jon Seidel, Mark Brown, and Mitchell Armentrout | Published: 12/5/2020
Former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval, who became a crucial figure in a series of ongoing public corruption investigations early this year when he admitted taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, has died from COVID-19. The Senate’s former Transportation Committee chair also agreed to “cooperate in any matter in which he is called upon” by federal prosecutors. In November, prosecutors told a judge that Sandoval had “provided valuable cooperation that is expected to last at least several more months.” Now, legal experts say Sandoval’s death has the potential to complicate the aggressive probe of Illinois politics.
Iowa – Iowa’s Contact-Tracing Firm Helped Trump, Reynolds Campaigns
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 12/4/2020
After facing a workforce shortage for months, Iowa awarded an emergency $2.3 million contact-tracing contract to a company that has worked for the campaigns of President Trump and Gov. Kim Reynolds and is owned by a Republican insider. The Iowa Department of Public Health selected MCI for the two-month contract out of 14 applicants, saying it submitted the best proposal and its political connections were not considered. MCI is owned by GOP donor Anthony Marlowe, who has boasted it played a key role in Trump’s 2016 victory and was among the state’s top backers of Trump’s reelection bid.
Kentucky – Woman Faces 3 Counts of Lying to FBI, Jury in Bribery Case Tied to Lexington Council
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 12/4/2020
A Kentucky woman was indicted by a federal grand jury for lying to the FBI and making false statements about campaign contributions to Lexington council members during the investigation trial of a former real estate executive. Elizabeth Stormbringer was charged with three counts related to lying about whether she was reimbursed by former CRM Executive Timothy Wellman for campaign contributions she made to Lexington council members in 2018. Wellman had a project the council would consider. He was found guilty on 11 charges relating to obstructing a federal investigation into illegal contributions.
Michigan – ‘Unambiguous, Loud and Threatening’: Trump supporters protest at home of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
USA Today – Miriam Marini (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 12/6/2020
Dozens of protesters gathered in front of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s home recently, shouting through megaphones against the certification of the election and demanding a forensic audit. A portion of the demonstration was broadcast live on Facebook. The protesters are seen walking up to Benson’s home, some wearing President Donald Trump paraphernalia and carrying American flags. Throughout the election, Trump circulated false conspiracies about election fraud in Michigan. Benson said the protesters gathered in front of her home as she and her four-year-old son were finishing putting up Christmas decorations, just when the two were preparing to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Missouri – Medical Marijuana Subpoena May Have Been Connected to Independence FBI Probe
Columbia News Tribune – Jason Hancock (Missouri Independence) | Published: 12/7/2020
Lyndall Fraker, director of medical marijuana regulation at the Missouri Department of Health and Seniors Services, testified a grand jury subpoena his agency received was likely connected to an FBI investigation in Independence. The revelation is the first indication of the target of the federal subpoena. The FBI questioned officials in Independence about a pair of contracts issued by the city council. One called for the city to pay a company $9.75 million to tear down a power plant. The bid was more than twice that of the other bidder. The other contract called for the city to pay nearly $1 million to purchase a golf club to build a solar farm with Gardner Capital. Days before the vote, PACs funded by Gardner made four $2,500 donations to Independence Mayor Eileen Weir, who has denied the donations were connected to her vote to endorse the project.
Nevada – Nevada Supreme Court Rejects Trump Campaign’s Appeal to Overturn Biden’s Win
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2020
The Nevada Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal from President Trump’s campaign to overturn the state’s election results, the latest loss in the president’s ongoing legal efforts to have states he did not win declare him victorious. The decision from the court came after a lower court gave a full-scale ruling against the Trump campaign’s efforts in the state. Nevada District Court Judge James Russell ruled there was no evidence supporting the claims of fraud and wrongdoing made by the campaign in a state that President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 33,000 votes.
New York – Election Reformers Love Ranked-Choice Voting, but NYC Immigrants See Doom
Courthouse News Service – Nina Pullano | Published: 12/9/2020
Some of New York City’s multinational communities say they are being left behind in the Board of Elections’ plans to implement ranked-choice voting, a system that lets voters choose multiple candidates in order of preference. These groups teamed up with local politicians in a complaint that asks a court to block the change. The complaint accuses the elections board of violating city charter requirements to implement ranked-choice voting in a timely manner, while also contending that the city’s software is not up to snuff and changes of this nature should not be contemplated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Paired with a failure to educate people on ranked-choice voting, the BLA Caucus says New Yorkers of color, seniors, and those who speak limited English are among 5 million voters in danger of disenfranchisement.
Ohio – Householder Dark Money Group Reputedly Broke Deal with AEP-Backed Nonprofit to Fund
MSN – Randy Ludlow and Marc Kovac (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/5/2020
A board member of an American Electric Power-funded nonprofit said a separate group central in the nuclear plant bailout scandal appears to have used grants, including $550,000 newly disclosed in tax filings, for political purposes in violation of its agreement. J.B. Hadden, an attorney who serves on the board of Empowering Ohio’s Economy Inc., said the nonprofit’s grant agreement with Generation Now required the funding be used in compliance with IRS laws and for social welfare purposes only. Part of the agreement with Generation Now stated the money was not to be used “in furtherance of any political or campaign intervention activities.
Ohio – P.G. Sittenfeld Accepts Suspension from Cincinnati City Council After Arrest on Bribery Charges
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/7/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld accepted a suspension from his seat, a process initiated by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost after Sittenfeld was arrested on federal bribery charges. Sittenfeld is one of three council members arrested and accused of “pay-to-play” schemes this year and the second member of council to accept a state suspension, which bars them from working, but allows them to collect their salary. The city charter does not address what happens in the event an elected official is arrested or convicted on charges of corruption, something that would directly affect their ability to do their job. But state law allows for the suspension of an elected official in the event of an arrest.
Ohio – Should an Ex-FirstEnergy Lobbyist Lead the Hunt for Ohio’s Next Utility Regulator? Consumer Advocate Asks
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/3/2020
Consumer advocates question whether a former FirstEnergy lobbyist should lead the effort to replace ex-Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairperson Sam Randazzo, who resigned after the FBI searched his property and a filing implied he received $4 million to terminate “a purported consulting agreement” with FirstEnergy. A nominating council is led by Michael Koren, a former FirstEnergy lobbyist. Koren lobbied for the company when House Bill 6 to subsidize FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants in Ohio was introduced. The bill is at the heart of a corruption scandal allegedly involving FirstEnergy.
Pennsylvania – Firm Ran Pa. Senator’s Campaign and Worked with Super PAC to Attack Opponent, but Denies Coordination
Spotlight PA – Sam Janesch (The Caucus) and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 12/8/2020
In the closing days of this year’s election, an ad attacking Democrat George Scott appeared in his race for the Pennsylvania Senate against incumbent John DiSanto, which was paid for by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). Direct coordination between groups like the RSLC, which run super PACs, and campaigns is forbidden. To create the ad, the group turned to a middleman, the same firm running DiSanto’s campaign: Red Maverick Media, headed by strategist Ray Zaborney. No one has accused Zaborney’s firm or RSLC of wrongdoing. But watchdogs and campaign finance experts said the arrangement is another example of how weak state and federal campaign finance rules, combined with meager oversight, create gray areas and loopholes.
Pennsylvania – Trump Asks Pennsylvania House Speaker for Help Overturning Election Results, Personally Intervening in a Third State
MSN – Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
President Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House twice to make an extraordinary request for help reversing his loss in the state, reflecting a broadening pressure campaign by the president and his allies to try to subvert the 2020 election result. The president’s outreach to Pennsylvania’s Republican House leader came after his campaign and its allies decisively lost numerous legal challenges in the state in both state and federal court. Trump has continued to press his baseless claims of widespread voting irregularities both publicly and privately.
Tennessee – Rutherford Mayor Bill Ketron Faces Audit Hearings on Campaign Finance Violation Accusations
MSN – Scott Broden (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal) | Published: 12/7/2020
Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron will face audit hearings in 2021 on campaign finance accusations. The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance approved staff audits of Ketron’s state senate and Quest PAC accounts between January 2018 and July 2019. Another pending audit of Ketron’s mayoral campaign finance account is expected to be done by February. The registry issued subpoenas in 2019 while the mayor’s daughter, Kelsey Ketron, faced insurance fraud charges as part of an indictment pertaining to her job with the family-owned insurance company. Kelly Ketron served as treasurer during his campaigns, and indictments accused her of pocketing over $65,000 from her father’s political funds.
Texas – California-Based Independent Voter Project Hosts Trip to Hawaii for State Legislators, Raising Ethics Filing Probe
The Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 12/9/2020
A California-based organization paid for roughly 100 legislators from four states, including Texas, to attend a four-day fundraising event in Hawaii. The Independent Voter Project (IVP) is a 501(c)3 organization created to “re-engage nonpartisan voters and promote nonpartisan election reforms through initiatives, litigation, and voter education.” Despite Hawaii’s stringent lockdown, IVP received special permission to hold a conference with more than the 12-person limit. The Dallas Morning News found that over the last three years of IVP hosting this trip, potential financial disclosure violations exist for Texas lawmakers who attended.
Texas – Texas Senate Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying
The Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 12/9/2020
Each year, local governments in Texas spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on lobbyists whose job it is to persuade state lawmakers to allow for bigger government. It is a practice some legislators say must end. The Senate Affairs Committee held a hearing on the issue of taxpayer-funded lobbying at the Capitol. State Sen. Bob Hall filed legislation to end the practice after a companion bill was filed in the House. Hall said at the meeting that taxpayer-funded lobbying has been used to work against taxpayers. Tom Forbes, president of the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas, said if the Legislature were to ban the practice next year, taxpayer-funded lobbying would continue, it just would not be as visible and would operate in the shadows.
Washington DC – Ivanka Trump Confirms She Was Questioned by the D.C. Attorney General’s Office Over Inaugural Committee Spending
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 12/2/2020
Ivanka Trump said she was questioned for more than five hours by investigators from the District of Columbia attorney general’s office, which has accused President Trump’s Inaugural Committee of wasting donating money on an overpriced ballroom at the president’s hotel in the city. In early 2017, when the Inaugural Committee booked ballrooms at the hotel, that meant the president was effectively on both sides of the transaction: his committee paid his hotel, using donors’ money. Attorney General Karl Racine said the committee and the hotel took advantage of that arrangement.
December 4, 2020 •
National/Federal 12 Votes Separated These House Candidates. Then 55 Ballots Were Found. New York Times – Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jessie McKinley | Published: 12/2/2020 After all the votes had been counted in a heated U.S. House rematch in Central New York, […]
12 Votes Separated These House Candidates. Then 55 Ballots Were Found.
New York Times – Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jessie McKinley | Published: 12/2/2020
After all the votes had been counted in a heated U.S. House rematch in Central New York, only 12 votes separated Republican Claudia Tenney from U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat. But the razor-thin margin is far from the only reason the race is engulfed in chaos. There was the case of the missing Post-it notes, which had mysteriously fallen off a stack of disputed ballots, making it unclear whether they had been counted and why they had been challenged. The scandal has been christened “StickyGate” by local media. The other unresolved House race is an open seat in Iowa’s Second District, where Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican, was recently certified the winner following a recount in which she led the Democrat, Rita Hart, by just six votes. Hart has indicated she intends to challenge the result.
2,596 Trades in One Term: Inside Senator Perdue’s stock portfolio
New York Times – Stephanie Saul, Kate Kelly, and Michael LaForgia | Published: 12/2/2020
Along with U.S. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Georgia Republican, David Perdue faces an unusual runoff election in January. With control of the Senate at stake, and amid renewed concern about the potential for conflicts-of-interest in stock trading by members of Congress, Perdue’s investment activity, and especially his numerous well-timed trades, has increasingly come into the public glare. Data from Senate Stock Watcher, a website that aggregates publicly available information on lawmakers’ trading, shows the breadth of trades Perdue made in companies that stood to benefit from policy and spending matters that came not just before the Senate as a whole, but before the committees and subcommittees on which he served.
20 Days of Fantasy and Failure: Inside Trump’s quest to overturn the election
MSN – Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 11/28/2020
However clear-eyed President Trump’s aides may have been about his loss to Joe Biden, many of them nonetheless indulged their boss and encouraged him to keep fighting with legal appeals. The result was an election aftermath without precedent in U.S. history. With his denial of the outcome, despite a string of courtroom defeats, Trump endangered America’s democracy, threatened to undermine national security and public health, and duped millions of his supporters into believing, perhaps permanently, that Biden was elected illegitimately.
Criticized by Moderates and Pressured by Their Base, Liberals Fight for a Voice in the Democratic Party
MSN – Sean Sullivan and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 11/29/2020
The left is toiling to exert their influence on a Democratic Party led by President-elect Joe Biden, an avowed centrist, and his moderate allies on Capitol Hill. After an election in which the country opted for a reset, not a revolution, moderate Democrats hold the power in the party. Many blame the polarizing themes championed by the left for the party’s shrunken House majority and Senate losses. This recrimination from party leaders, along with skepticism from some Biden allies, could limit liberals’ influence. But liberals offer a different take, arguing their base won Biden the White House. The shifting dynamics in the party have thrust the movement to a crossroad on the eve of the Biden presidency.
Disputing Trump, Barr Says No Widespread Election Fraud
Associated Press News – Michael Balsamo | Published: 12/1/2020
Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. His comments come despite President Trump’s repeated baseless claims that the election was stolen, Trump’s effort to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election, and his refusal to concede his loss to Joe Biden. Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they have received, but they have uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.
‘Mercenary’ Donor Sold Access for Millions in Foreign Money
Associated Press News – Alan Suderman and Jim Mustain | Published: 11/30/2020
Federal prosecutors say Imaad Zuberi’s life was built on a series of lies and the lucrative enterprise of funding American political campaigns and profiting from the resulting influence. They describe Zuberi as a “mercenary” campaign donor who gave to anyone, often using illegal straw donors, he thought could help him. “Pay-to-play,” he explained to clients, was just “how America work(s).” Zuberi’s story underscores how loosely regulated campaign finance and foreign lobbying laws are and raises an embarrassing question: how does such a cynical fraudster find favor with so many officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government? There are unanswered questions about Zuberi’s foreign entanglements and who benefited from his actions.
New Administration, House Turnover Raise Prospects for More Diversity on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 11/19/2020
Business groups in Washington, D.C. are hopeful the incoming Biden administration will prompt a round of hiring that will lead to more diversity on K Street. Diversity among lobbyists has been little changed over the past two years, but the arrival of a new administration and the departure of several House lawmakers increases the odds of more employment opportunities at trade associations, lobbying shops, and law firms. Congressional Democrats led the way on diversity in 2018, when a record number of women and minority lawmakers were elected to Congress. That was followed two years later by Republicans, with 17 GOP women elected to the House earlier this month. But those trends have not extended to K Street.
‘No Corporate PAC’ Pledges Hit Record in 2020, But May Face Uncertainty in 2022
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 12/2/2020
A record 155 incumbents and challengers vowed to reject corporate PAC money during the 2020 campaign for Congress. That stance helped attract small-dollar donations and generated enthusiasm among voters who favor a broad campaign finance overhaul. But many candidates lost anyway. Now, as Democrats face a 2022 midterm cycle in which, traditionally, the president’s party loses seats in the House, incumbents and future challengers are assessing whether the pledges pay off. On the other side, the PACs of companies continue to grapple with diminished clout partly due to contribution limits set long ago that do not budge for inflation. So, the future of such pledges, along with the influence of corporate PACs, remains uncertain.
NRA Reports Alleged Misspending by Current and Former Executives to IRS
MSN – Beth Reinhard and Carol Leonning (Washington Post) | Published: 11/26/2020
After years of denying allegations of lax financial oversight, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has made a stunning declaration in a new tax filing: current and former executives used the nonprofit group’s money for personal benefit and enrichment. The NRA said it continues to review the alleged abuse of funds, as the tax-exempt organization curtails services and runs up multimillion-dollar legal bills. The assertion of impropriety comes after the attorney general of New York state filed a lawsuit accusing NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre and other top executives of using NRA funds for decades to provide inflated salaries and expense accounts.
Supreme Court Wary of Quick Ruling on Trump Drive to Exclude Many Immigrants from Census
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro | Published: 11/30/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court seemed reluctant to issue an immediate, sweeping ruling on President Trump’s plans to exclude undocumented immigrants from the decennial census used to allocate House seats. During an oral argument session, there appeared to be few, if any, takers on the high court for Trump’s effort to leave all unlawful immigrants out of the critical count. Several of the court’s most conservative justices seemed skeptical of the constitutionality of the president’s move, but they expressed misgivings about ruling on that issue now when thorny questions about smaller groups of unlawful migrants could be just weeks away.
Trump Era Court Battles Weaken Congressional Power
Roll Call – Todd Ruger | Published: 12/1/2020
Congress will emerge from the Trump administration with weakened power to check a president or oversee the operation of the federal government, the most consequential fallout experts see for lawmakers after four years of nearly constant high-profile courtroom showdowns with a defiant president. Democratic lawmakers often had no other recourse than to go to court because of President Trump’s approach. Once there, lawmakers fell short or did not get what they sought, and it does not bode well for similar oversight efforts in administrations to come.
Trump Has Discussed with Advisers Pardons for His 3 Eldest Children and Giuliani
New York Times – Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt | Published: 12/1/2020
President Trump has discussed with advisers whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law, and to his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, and talked with Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week, according to two people briefed on the matter. Trump has told others he is concerned that a Justice Department under President-elect Joe Biden might seek retribution against the president by targeting the oldest three of his five children – Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump – as well as Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser. The speculation about pardon activity at the White House is churning furiously, underscoring how much the Trump administration has been dominated by investigations and criminal prosecutions of people in the president’s orbit.
Trump Pardons Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Who Pleaded Guilty to Lying to the FBI
Washington Post – Rosalind Helserman and Josh Dawsey | Published: 11/25/2020
President Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, ending a three-year legal saga that included Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI, his later effort to withdraw that plea, and then a controversial decision by Attorney General William Barr to try to drop the case altogether. Trump’s move marks a full embrace of the retired general he had ousted from the White House after only 22 days on the job, and a final salvo against the Russia investigation that shadowed the first half of his term in office. The pardon for Flynn underlines how Trump has used his clemency power to benefit allies and well-connected offenders.
Trump Raises More Than $150 Million Appealing to False Election Claims
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michelle Yee He Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 11/30/2020
President Trump’s political operation has raised more than $150 million since Election Day, using misleading appeals about the election to shatter fundraising records set during the campaign. The influx of political donations is one reason Trump and some allies are inclined to continue a legal onslaught and public affairs blitz focused on baseless claims of election fraud, even as their attempts have repeatedly failed in court and as key states continue to certify wins for President-elect Joe Biden. Much of the money raised since the election is likely to go into an account for the president to use on political activities after he leaves office.
Trump to Restart Foreign Deals, Breaking a Post-Presidency Norm
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 12/1/2020
President Trump’s namesake company plans to resume foreign real estate projects after he leaves office as it grapples with a tarnished brand in the United States and the need to pay off hundreds of millions of dollars of debt. The arrangement is already being criticized as one that could be used to pay back Trump for his policies as president or to influence U.S. policy through a former president – and possibly a future presidential candidate. Other former presidents have faced allegations they were monetizing the office with their post-presidency ventures, But Trump’s return to overseas deal-making as a private businessperson raises a new set of ethical issues no ex-president has ever confronted.
Canada – Lobbying Watchdog Says Three Cases Have Been Sent to RCMP for Criminal Investigation Since Start of Pandemic
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 11/28/2020
The federal lobbying watchdog says she has referred three files to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for criminal investigation since the beginning of the pandemic in a year that has seen a significant uptick in lobbying. Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger was called to detail her office’s work as questions have swirled throughout the summer about the lobbying activities by WE Charity and the husband of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff. Both have denied any wrongdoing. During her testimony, Bélanger said 2020 has been a busy year for lobbyists, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Mike Hubbard’s Prison Sentence Cut from 4 Years to 28 Months
AL.com – Associated Press | Published: 11/25/2020
Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker slashed former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to 28 months, significantly reducing the time the once-powerful Republican will spend behind bars for an ethics conviction. Walker reduced Hubbard’s sentence at the request of defense attorneys after part of his conviction was overturned earlier this year. In his order, Walker noted Hubbard was convicted of 12 felonies when he handed down the four-year sentence, but that six counts were reversed on appeal.
Alaska – Junior Staffer Says Top Alaska Official Told Her to Keep Allegations of Misconduct Secret
ProPublica – Kyle Hopkins (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 11/18/2020
Officials in the office of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, including his chief of staff, knew for months his appointed attorney general had sent unwelcome personal text messages to a staff member but told the woman to keep it quiet, the staffer said. The woman said Tara Fradley, the manager in the governor’s Anchorage office, helped her compose a text to then-Attorney General Kevin Clarkson asking him to stop inviting her to his home at night, something he had done at least 18 times. The woman also said Dunleavy’s chief of staff, Ben Stevens, became aware of the texts by April but no human resources investigators contacted her until two months later, after a whistleblower wrote an anonymous letter that was obtained by news organizations and by an attorney working on an effort to recall Dunleavy from office.
Alaska – Lawsuit Challenges Alaska’s New Ranked-Choice Voting Ballot Measure
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 12/1/2020
The Alaskan Independence Party, its chairperson, and two Anchorage residents are suing to overturn Ballot Measure 2, a sweeping election reform initiative approved in November that would install ranked-choice voting in Alaska’s general elections. The plaintiffs claim the measure would violate their rights “to free political association, free speech, right to petition, right to due process” and other rights guaranteed by the Alaska and U.S. constitutions. In addition to making Alaska the only state other than Maine using ranked elections for almost all contests, the ballot measure imposes new campaign finance disclosure requirements for legislative and local races.
California – Inglewood Caps Campaign Contributions at $100,000 to Avoid New State Law
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – Jason Henry | Published: 11/24/2020
Inglewood will not follow a new state law limiting local campaign contributions to $4,700, instead opting for a cap 21 times higher than what a state senator can accept from a single source. The Inglewood City Council voted unanimously to set the city’s donation limit at $100,000, one of the highest caps in the state. The city of roughly 110,000 residents previously had no limit, but a new state law taking effect in January forces cities and counties to adhere to the limits set for state legislators unless they establish their own law first.
California – Raymond Chan, Former L.A. Deputy Mayor, Charged in Federal City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Joel Rubin | Published: 11/30/2020
Raymond Chan, a former Los Angeles deputy mayor, is the latest figure to be accused of playing a part in a scheme allegedly run by ousted city Councilperson Jose Huizar. Prosecutors say both men were involved in shaking down developers who sought help pushing real estate projects through the city’s approval process. Prosecutors also announced corruption charges against Wei Huang, chairperson of a Chinese real estate company, and developer Dae Yong Lee. The superseding indictment added new allegations, signaling the government’s intention to prosecute Chan, Huizar, and the two developers as a group. Chan is accused of an array of illegal activities, including arranging “indirect bribe payments” to city officials by securing employment contracts for the officials’ relatives.
California – San Francisco Public Utilities Commission GM Harlan Kelly Charged with Fraud as Part of Corruption Scheme
KPIX – Staff | Published: 11/30/2020
The FBI reportedly raided the home of Harlan Kelly, Jr. on the same day authorities announced he had been charged with honest services wire fraud. Following the charges, Kelly resigned from his post as general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Prosecutors say Kelly engaged in a long-running bribery scheme and corrupt partnership with construction executive and permit expediting consultant Walter Wong. Nine people have been charged in a corruption scheme allegedly involving the former head of the city’s Department of Public Works, Mohammed Nuru. The complaint alleges Wong provided Kelly with bribes in exchange for official acts by Kelly that benefited or attempted to benefit Wong’s business ventures.
Colorado – Special Session Catches Secretary of State’s Office Off-Guard
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 12/1/2020
Colorado’s special legislative session has apparently caught the secretary of state’s office off-guard when it comes to how lobbyists report which bills they are working on. A lobbyist said the special session was not listed on the secretary of state’s lobbyist page, a full day after the session started. If someone entered one of the bills from the special session, the website would default to a 2020 bill from the regular session and could not recognize the nomenclature of the special session bills. And for at least the first 24 hours of the special session, lobbyists had no idea what they were supposed to do.
Delaware – Wilmington Councilman Rebuked: ‘City employees must not be threatened for doing their jobs’
Wilmington News Journal – Jeanne Kuang | Published: 11/25/2020
Wilmington City Councilperson Vash Turner received a public reprimand from the city’s Ethics Commission, which found he violated city code when he threatened cutting an auditor’s salary during a public meeting. The Ethics Commission received a complaint from the auditor, Terence Williams, who refused to conduct a forensic audit of the insolvent nonprofit Wilmington Housing Partnership’s finances as requested by council members in a resolution, saying he believed it would be expensive and unnecessary in lieu of a traditional audit. Turner asked council staff in an email to “work on a resolution or ordinance to reduce the Auditor salary for insubordination of council legislation,” according to the commission.
Georgia – ‘Someone’s Going to Get Killed’: GOP election official in Georgia blames President Trump for fostering violent threats
Anchorage Daily News – Amy Gardner and Keith Newell (Washington Post) | Published: 12/1/2020
A top Republican election official in Georgia lashed out at President Trump during a news conference, blaming him for a flood of threats that have besieged his office and calling on the president and other Republicans to condemn the behavior. Gabriel Sterling, a voting systems manager for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, was visibly angry and shaken as he approached a lectern in the Georgia Capitol. Sterling’s public chastisement represents one of the strongest rebukes yet of Trump’s baseless attacks on the election’s integrity by a member of his own party.
Hawaii – Ex-Hawaii Prosecutor, Police Chief Get Prison for Corruption
Yahoo News – Jennifer Sinco Kelleher (Associated Press) | Published: 11/30/2020
A judge sentenced a former high-ranking Honolulu prosecutor to 13 years in prison and her retired police chief husband to seven years, saying she stole money from her own grandmother and then used his law enforcement power to frame her uncle for a crime he did not commit – all to maintain the couple’s lavish lifestyle. Louis Kealoha agreed to retire amid a wide-ranging federal investigation. The judge described how Katherine Kealoha orchestrated a reverse mortgage scheme that forced her grandmother to sell her home, framed her uncle for stealing the Kealohas’ mailbox, stole money from children whose trusts she controlled as a lawyer, cheated her uncle out of his life savings, convinced her firefighter lover to lie about their affair, and used her position as a prosecutor to turn a drug investigation away from her brother.
Illinois – City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin Denies Wrongly Firing Chief of Staff, Other Employees
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 11/23/2020
A former top aide to Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin alleged in an email to a city ethics official that she was fired after refusing to participate in unspecified “illegal and unethical conduct.” Conyears-Ervin said that is false. Conyears-Ervin’s former chief of staff, Tiffany Harper, was fired along with three colleagues. Conyears-Ervin said she pushed the workers out as part of an office shake-up designed to move her office in a different direction. But in an email to Steve Berlin, executive director of the city’s ethics board, Harper said she believes she and two other officials were let go “without cause or reason.”
Illinois – New Cache of ComEd Documents Shows Indicted Madigan Confidant Pressing Utility for Jobs and Contracts
Yahoo News – Dan Petrella, Jamie Munks, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/26/2020
Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) released a trove of documents in an Illinois House committee probe into Speaker Michael Madigan’s actions. ComEd has admitted to operating a scheme to influence Madigan. Federal prosecutors say the company hired Madigan’s political allies to win favorable legislation, including electricity rate hikes. They allege those payments were arranged by ComEd executives and lobbyists and funneled to subcontractors who often performed little or no actual work. The developments broaden what is known about the indirect but ethically questionable interactions between Madigan and ComEd at a time when the utility had major legislative business pending at the statehouse that depended on the speaker’s blessing.
New Jersey – Christie’s 2013 Campaign Hasn’t Paid Off $1M in Debt to 2 Firms
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 12/1/2020
Seven years after his 2013 reelection, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s gubernatorial campaign still owes $1 million in debt stemming from the Bridgegate scandal. But the moribund campaign may be allowed to stop filing campaign finance reports this year. And there’s no sign that the campaign has sought to pay back its debts, or that either of the companies that are owed the money – a prominent law firm and a cybersecurity firm that billed large monthly amounts to taxpayers during the Christie administration – have made an effort to collect.
New Jersey – NJ Attorney General’s Probe Seeks Records Connected to Democratic Power Broker
Bergen Record – Terrence McDonald | Published: 11/23/2020
An investigation by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal into public health brokerage contracts and potential “pay-to-play” violations appears to go beyond Bergen County, with investigators now probing Plainfield’s work with a firm run by a Democratic power broker out of Middlesex County. Plainfield received a subpoena seeking contracts and related documents to be reviewed by a state grand jury, five days after the office subpoenaed Bergen County for similar records. The subpoena demands the city hand over a host of documents going back to 2015 related to its employee health insurance broker. The subpoena does not name the firm, but Plainfield’s broker is Acrisure.
North Carolina – Court Upholds North Carolina’s Voter Identification Law
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 12/1/2020
A federal appeals court upheld North Carolina’s law requiring voters to present photo identification before casting ballots, even as it acknowledged the state’s “long and shameful history of race-based voter suppression.” A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said North Carolina’s past practice does not indefinitely prevent the state from enacting new voting restrictions. The panel said a lower-court judge had improperly considered the state’s “past conduct to bear so heavily on its later acts that it was virtually impossible for it to pass a voter-ID law that meets constitutional muster,” according to the opinion from Judge Julius Richardson.
Ohio – Bankruptcy Judge Orders Lobbyists to Testify About Any Ties to Householder Bribery Case
Akron Beacon Journal – Jim Mackinnon | Published: 11/25/2020
A bankruptcy judge is ordering four Ohio lobbyists who work for the top law firm in the FirstEnergy Solutions bankruptcy to answer questions under oath about any possible ties to a bribery case. Bankruptcy Court Judge Alan Koshchik told the four lobbyists, known as the “Ohio statehouse team” with law firm Akin Gump, to answer his questions in writing by January 8. The four lobbyists “were the timekeepers involved who interacted with currently-indicted individuals or entities …,” according to the court filing. The judge said about $2.8 million is being sought by Akin Gump related to state government lobbying, including work tied to the passage of House Bill 6. The bill, now law, is at the center of the $61 million federal bribery investigation.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld Arrested on Federal Charges
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 11/19/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld was arrested and charged with bribery and attempted extortion. The complaint says Sittenfeld solicited and accepted $40,000 donations, made to a PAC supporting his bid for mayor, from a city developer and two undercover FBI agents posing as the developer’s business partners. In exchange, Sittenfeld in December 2018 promised to “deliver the votes” on city council for a development project, according to the complaint. The arrest is the latest in a string of high-profile corruption cases federal officials have undertaken in Ohio this year.
Ohio – Councilman Mann Seeks Independent Commission to Audit City Council Development Deals Saying the City Is in a ‘Crisis Unlike I Have Seen’
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge | Published: 11/30/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson David Mann is putting forward a plan to create a commission that will do an independent assessment of past city development deals. He is calling it the Commission to Clean Up City Council. It comes in the wake of three sitting Cincinnati City Council members being arrested this year on charges that allege they participated in “pay-to-play” schemes. None of the three arrests are related to each other. The commission would review links between campaign contributions and development contracts with the city. In addition to the review, Mann said it would also be tasked with making recommendations to keep corruption out of city deals and recommend any needed changes to the charter.
Ohio – Former Ohio Senate President Admits Ethics Violation for Not Disclosing Lobbying Clients
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 11/30/2020
Former Ohio Sen. Tom Niehaus admitted an ethics violation after turning himself in for failing to disclose lobbying clients while serving on the board of the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority. Niehaus, who served as Senate president from 2011 through 2013, reached a settlement approved by the Ohio Ethics Commission in which he received a reprimand for violating ethics laws. The investigation uncovered no evidence that Niehaus’ actions benefited any of his lobbying clients while he served on the authority’s board.
Ohio – Watchdog Group Aims to Turn Lights Back on with Open Records
The Record-Herald – Farnoush Amiri (Associated Press) | Published: 11/30/2020
A watchdog group is hoping to turn the lights back on at the Ohio Statehouse by opening long-closed records to see who is influencing the legislative process after a $1.3 billion nuclear plant bailout that is now under federal investigation. A proposal from Common Cause Ohio hopes to persuade lawmakers to once again bring transparency and accountability to the process behind a bill becoming a law. The records surround discussions and decisions at the Legislative Service Commission, a nonpartisan agency that assists lawmakers with drafting and researching legislation. The records, also called bill files, include memos from a bill’s sponsor and material provided by lobbyists who asked the House or Senate sponsor to propose it.
Pennsylvania – Ex-State Lawmaker Found Guilty in Bribery Case Loses Appeal of Her Convictions, Probation Sentence
PennLive.com – Matt Miller | Published: 11/30/2020
A Pennsylvania appeals court panel refused to overturn the convictions of former state Rep. Vanessa Brown on conflict-of-interest and bribery charges stemming from an undercover sting operation. The Superior Court judges reached that decision despite Vanessa Brown’s claims of racial bias and prosecutorial impropriety. Brown in 20108 was sentenced to 23 months of probation and ordered to pay $4,000 in restitution. Investigators said Brown took that amount of money in payoffs from an undercover agent with the state attorney general’s office who was posing as a lobbyist during an investigation into corruption in state government.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Looks to Tighten Campaign Finance Reports for PACs, Independent Expenditures
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Ashley Murray | Published: 11/24/2020
Pittsburgh’s Ethics Hearing Board wants to track so-called dark money in local political campaigns. A bill before the city council would allow the board to do that by requiring tighter reporting rules for PACs and allowing further tracking of funds that back direct political mailers and ads. As the city law stands now, residents seeking local elected office must file a financial disclosure report for their respective candidate committees on the first business day of each month for three months leading up to the election. The proposed legislation would require the same reporting rigor for independent groups of individuals funding a campaign for or against a candidate or a ballot question.
Tennessee – Memphis City Council Votes Against Reforms to Bring Lobbying into the Light
MSN – Samuel Hardiman (Memphis Commercial Appeal) | Published: 12/1/2020
The Memphis City Council voted against adopting an ordinance that would require those lobbying the council to register and name their clients. The proposal would have required those paid to lobby council members to register with the city permits’ office, pay a $50 annual fee, and have their name on a list available to the public that includes who has hired them. Councilperson Martavius Jones called the ordinance “unnecessary.” Jones said the measure would not make council more transparent and there is nothing stopping council members from saying “no” to meetings with lobbyists.
Texas – Lawyers for Nate Paul Gave AG Ken Paxton $25k After He Waded into Civil Suit
Houston Chronicle – Taylor Goldentein and Jay Root | Published: 12/1/2020
Several weeks after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made the unusual move of intervening in a civil lawsuit involving his friend and campaign donor Nate Paul, Paxton received a $25,000 donation from the law firm hired by Paul in the case, records show. Involving his office in the civil case was just one of a handful of apparent interventions by Paxton on behalf of Paul that troubled the attorney general’s top aides, leading seven of them to report Paxton to law enforcement for potential corruption charges in October, including bribery and abuse of office. Those accusations are now being investigated by the FBI.
Virginia – As Virginia Democrats Rein Themselves In with Bill Limits, Some Legislators See Lost Opportunities
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 11/29/2020
Because the coronavirus has made the logistics of legislating more difficult, Virginia’s House and Senate will strictly limit the number of bills that can be introduced for the General Assembly session that begins January 13. Delegates will be allowed to propose seven bills apiece, down from the usual 15. Senators – who have not had a hard limit in years, if ever – will be capped at 12 each. That is forcing Virginia’s 140 legislators to be especially selective about what bills they submit. The first casualty of that policy could be the handful of lighter and quirky bills that usually leaven each session. The second could be the Democrats’ agenda.
Washington DC – Outgoing D.C. Council Member David Grosso Will Work as a Lobbyist for Arent Fox
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer | Published: 12/1/2020
Outgoing District of Columbia Councilperson David Grosso will take a job as a lobbyist for a firm representing clients with business before the council. Grosso (I-At Large), who decided not to seek reelection this year, said he will lobby his former colleagues on behalf of clients including hospitals and cannabis businesses, in addition to working on national issues, in his new role as a partner at Arent Fox. A critic during his time in office of too-cozy relationships between business interests and public officials, Grosso said he views his decision to go from lawmaker to lobbyist as different from the conduct of predecessors he has criticized.
November 20, 2020 •
National/Federal 6 Lawmakers in 5 Days: New COVID-19 infections put spotlight on Congress’ loose guidelines USA Today – Christal Hayes | Published: 11/18/2020 As rampant nationwide coronavirus spikes force states to reexamine reopening efforts, Congress is still struggling to maneuver around […]
6 Lawmakers in 5 Days: New COVID-19 infections put spotlight on Congress’ loose guidelines
USA Today – Christal Hayes | Published: 11/18/2020
As rampant nationwide coronavirus spikes force states to reexamine reopening efforts, Congress is still struggling to maneuver around the pandemic as it encroaches on legislative business and endangers its members. COVID-19 has loomed over Congress for much of the year, yet lawmakers are still bickering over wearing face masks and not social distancing. Congressional leaders have refused to make coronavirus testing mandatory for lawmakers traveling back and forth to their home states. A rash of recent cases has infected a handful of lawmakers and sent several others into quarantine all while the U.S. Capitol welcomed back more than 500 legislators in the House and Senate.
Biden’s IRS Could Finally Give Trump’s Tax Returns to Democrats
Politico – Brian Faler | Published: 11/16/2020
President Trump’s defeat will make it easier for Democrats to get his tax returns, and some prominent lawmakers plan to keep the heat on the incoming Biden administration and House leaders to deliver. Once Biden controls the Treasury Department, his administration could simply hand over the records to its allies in Congress, who have been fighting in court to force Trump to turn them over. But Biden is casting himself as a uniter and releasing the returns risks looking like a vindictive investigation of his predecessor. Yet, if Democrats were to suddenly say “never mind,” it would not only be an embarrassing about-face, it would also infuriate people such as U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, head of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee.
Corporations and Foreign Nations Pivot to Lobby Biden
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Eric Lipton | Published: 11/17/2020
While Joe Biden has taken steps to demonstrate his distance from lobbyists, his presidency is being welcomed on K Street. Lobbyists and other advisers who help clients navigate Washington are highlighting ties to Biden and his team in pitches to prospective clients, while firms and interest groups that lack such ties are scrambling to secure them. Such connections are plentiful because aides and colleagues of Biden’s have been cycling between government and the influence industry going back to his 36 years in the Senate and his eight years as vice president. It is a far cry from four years ago, when Donald Trump swept into town with few connections to established gatekeepers and lobbyists.
Fewer Opportunities and a Changed Political Environment in the U.S. May Have Curbed Moscow’s Election Interference This Year, Analysts Say
MSN – Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020
Russia failed to mount any major hacking or disinformation operations to interfere in the presidential election, and the Kremlin’s hackers did not even attempt to target elections systems in the way they did in 2016, according to U.S. officials. Analysts said it is too early to know why, but they point to a variety of possible reasons. Those include cyber and other operations that helped keep the Russians at bay, harder targets at the state and local level, and a political climate in which Americans themselves were the largest purveyors if disinformation, dwarfing Moscow’s efforts to influence the campaign through social media and its propaganda channels.
GOP Shows Limited Appetite for Pursuing Biden Probes
The Hill – Alexander Bolton | Published: 11/15/2020
Republicans are showing little appetite for aggressively pursuing investigations into President-elect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden if they keep their U.S. Senate majority in 2021. Sens. Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson, who led a joint investigation of Hunter Biden this year, are signaling they will take a tough stance on the incoming administration. But other GOP senators are taking a wait-and-see approach. One of the considerations among Republicans is a desire by some to lower the partisan temperature and possibly explore common ground with Democrats.
NASA Official Asked Boeing If It Would Protest a Major Contract It Lost. Instead, Boeing Resubmitted Its Bid
MSN – Christian Davenport (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020
Boeing’s bid to build a spacecraft capable of flying astronauts to the moon did not meet NASA’s requirements, and the company was going to lose out on a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But NASA was worried Boeing would protest the contract award, potentially holding it up for months at a time when the space agency was trying to meet a White House mandate to get astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. in February, Doug Loverro, then the head of NASA’s human exploration directorate, called Jim Chilton, the senior vice president of Boeing’s space and launch division, to explain the company was going to lose the contract and to inquire whether it would file a challenge. That call occurred during a period when the agency was to have no contact with any of the bidders.
Palazzo’s Campaign Spending Under Investigation. ‘What We Saw Was Outrageous,’ Rival Says
Biloxi Sun Herald – Margaret Baker and Anita Lee | Published: 11/13/2020
U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo is being investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) for allegedly using campaign funds to pay expenses associated with a farm he used to own. The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint asking the OCE to investigate Palazzo’s campaign spending. It centered on campaign expenditures to rent a farm and to pay an accounting firm Palazzo founded and is now run by his former wife. Palazzo’s campaign spent $60,000 to rent a farm he owned from 2018 to 2019, the complaint said. The farm is located more than 30 miles from his campaign committee.
Pelosi, Democrats Renew Push to Overhaul Election, Campaign Finance Laws
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/16/2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would press ahead early next year with a campaign finance and elections overhaul, even as the measure may face the same Senate fate it did this Congress: doom. Even though the Senate majority for the 117th Congress hinges on two runoff elections in Georgia, Democrats and their outside allies said they would still push for the measure, spotlighting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s resistance.
Senior Justice Dept. Official Stalled Probe Against Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Sources Say
MSN – Juliet Eilperin and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 11/12/2020
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen deferred a bid from line prosecutors to move forward with possible criminal charges against former Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, saying they needed to gather more evidence and refine the case, according to people familiar with the matter. The move last year by Rosen, an appointee of President Trump, angered some career prosecutors and has delayed for months the release of an Interior Department inspector general’s report. At issue is whether Zinke made false statements to investigators who were looking into his decision not to grant a petition by two Indian tribes to operate a commercial casino off reservation land in East Windsor, Connecticut.
Trump Fires Top DHS Official Who Refuted His Claims That the Election Was Rigged
MSN – Ellen Nakashima and Nick Miroff (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020
President Trump fired a top Department of Homeland Security official who led the agency’s efforts to help secure the election and was vocal about tamping down unfounded claims of ballot fraud. Trump fired Christopher Krebs, who headed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and led successful efforts to help state and local election offices protect their systems and to rebut misinformation. Krebs in a tweet refuted allegations that election systems were manipulated, saying “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.'” Krebs’s statement amounted to a debunking of Trump’s central claim that the November election was stolen.
Watchdogs Urge Transparency as Executives from Powerful DC Firm Floated for Biden Administration
ABC News – Matthew Mosk and Mike Devine | Published: 11/12/2020
As speculation swirls over who President-elect Joe Biden will tap for top posts at intelligence and national security agencies, a number of names being publicly floated come from a Washington, D.C.-based firm packed with Obama-era powerbrokers. The company, WestExec Advisors, describes itself as a “strategic advisory firm” that helps private businesses navigate potential challenges around the world, including international laws, “geopolitical trends,” and “changes in Washington and in other capitals.” Unlike lobbying firms, which are usually required to disclose to the names of clients and government agencies they contact, WestExec falls into a different category of company, allowing it to operate with far less transparency.
With Trench Warfare Deepening, Parties Face Unsettled Electoral Map
New York Times – Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns | Published: 11/15/2020
America’s two major parties had hoped the 2020 presidential election would render a decisive judgment on the country’s political trajectory. But after a race that broke records for voter turnout and campaign spending, neither Democrats nor Republicans have achieved a dominant upper hand. Instead, the election delivered a split decision, ousting President Trump but narrowing the Democratic majority in the House and perhaps preserving the Republican majority in the Senate. As Joe Biden prepares to take office and preside over a closely divided government, leaders in both camps are acknowledging voters seem to have issued not a mandate for the left or the right but a muddled plea to move on from Trump-style chaos.
Canada – Fitzgibbon Is the First Cabinet Minister to Be Reprimanded by National Assembly
Montreal Gazette – Jocelyne Richer | Published: 11/12/2020
Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon became the first provincial minister to be reprimanded by the National Assembly. While he maintains he did nothing wrong, Fitzgibbon will have to live with the unanimous vote for the rest of his political career. An investigation by concluded Fitzgibbon placed himself in a situation where his personal interest could influence his independence and judgment as a cabinet minister because of his close friendship with businessperson and lobbyist Luc Laperrière. The report criticized Fitzgibbon for allowing Laperrière privileged access to him while the latter was promoting three business dossiers being handled by Fitzgibbon’s ministry.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Voters Approve Alaska Ballot Measure 2 Which Adopts Top-Four Primaries, Ranked-Choice General Elections
Ballotpedia News – Ryan Byrne | Published: 11/18/2020
Ballot Measure 2 was approved by Alaska voters. It makes several changes to election policies, including: replacing partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices; establishing ranked-choice voting for general elections, including the presidential election, in which voters can rank the candidates; and requiring persons and entities that contribute more than $2,000 that were derived from donations, contributions, dues, or gifts to disclose the true sources of the money.
California – California Lawmakers Head to Maui with Lobbyists Despite Pandemic, Travel Warnings
Politico – Katy Murphy | Published: 11/16/2020
The coronavirus pandemic did not derail an annual gathering of lobbyists and California lawmakers on the shores of Maui that brought people from across the country to a luxury resort. Roughly 100 people from four states converged at the Fairmont Kea Lani for a four-day legislative conference organized by the Independent Voter Project, said the group’s executive director, Dan Howle. The 18th annual event was a third of its regular size, Howle said, but it still drew nearly 20 lawmakers from California, Texas, and Washington state. The theme was how to reopen states’ economies amid the public health crisis.
California – Former Consultant for California High-Speed Rail Project Is Cleared of Ethics Violations
Yahoo News – Ralph Vartabedian | Published: 11/12/2020
The Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into the top consultant working on the California bullet train last year found he did not violate state law, following allegations he was among those who approved a contract modification for a company in which he held stock. The probe found Roy Hill, formerly the top official at the state’s main consulting firm, WSP, did not violate state laws for conflicts-of-interest. Hill was deputy chief operating officer for the project. The matter involved allegations Hill signed a $51-million change order for the construction team led by the Spanish firm Dragados. It happened in the same year he may have owned more than $100,000 of stock in Jacobs Engineering, which is part of the Dragados team.
California – Newsom’s Cozy Ties with Top Lobbyist Showcased by French Laundry Dinner Party
Politico – Jeremy White and Debra Kahn | Published: 11/16/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is being criticized for his decision to attend a celebration for political operative Jason Kinney at the French Laundry in Napa County. After the private dinner was reported, Newsom said while the outdoor meal did not violate coronavirus restrictions, he showed poor judgment in attending. The meal also cast a brighter spotlight on Kinney and the dual clout he wields in the insular world of California politics. Kinney is not the first operative to blur the line between politics and policy. The doors between campaigns, administrations, and Sacramento’s lobbying corps have long swung open for people with contacts and experience to leverage.
Florida – State Investigating Mysterious Candidate Who Swayed Tight Florida Senate Race
Tampa Bay Times – Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos | Published: 11/17/2020
The razor-thin victory that delivered Ileana Garcia to the Florida Senate and ousted Democrat José Javier Rodríguez continues to raise eyebrows for one reason: a mysterious third candidate named Alex Rodriguez. A one-time mechanic with no history in local politics, Alex Rodriguez never started a campaign website, attended no candidate forums, and received no donations, save for a $2,000 loan from himself. Mailers pitching his name sent to voters in the Coral Gables area were sent by a shadowy political group that, so far, has been untraceable. When a television reporter recently tracked Alex Rodriguez down, he pretended to be someone else.
Georgia – Ga. Secretary of State Says Fellow Republicans Are Pressuring Him to Find Ways to Exclude Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2020
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he has come under increasing pressure from fellow Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state. Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.
Illinois – City Council Divided Over Changing Naperville’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules
Chicago Tribune – Suzanne Baker (Naperville Sun) | Published: 11/18/2020
Proposed changes to the Naperville campaign ethics regulations to include finance disclosures for city council members raised as many questions as it did support. Council member Theresa Sullivan originally sought to amend the city’s ethics code to require council members and the mayor to recuse themselves from voting on any agenda item if the petitioner, or a representative of the petitioner, donated more than $500 to their most recent campaign. Sullivan said she has since realized a mandatory recusal opens the door to more unintended consequences than she anticipated. Instead, Sullivan said she supports an option where council members must announce any campaign donation of $500 or more before voting on any pertinent issue where a donor was either a petitioner or opponent.
Illinois – Feds Charge Former Top ComEd Executives, Lobbyists in Springfield Corruption Case
WBEZ – Dan Milhalopoulos, Dave McKinney, and Tony Arnold | Published: 11/18/2020
Federal prosecutors marched deeper into Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle, charging longtime confidant Michael McClain and former Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) Chief Executive Officer Anne Pramaggiore in a bribery scheme designed to curry favor with the powerful speaker. Also charged are ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and Jay Doherty, the former president of the City Club of Chicago, who was accused of helping to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to three people with ties to Madigan. ComEd admitted in July to an effort to win Madigan’s favor for rate increases and other legislation by funneling consulting payments to his allies for doing little or no work for the utility.
Louisiana – After IG’s Ouster, Stronger Whistleblower Laws Considered by New Orleans Ethics Review Board
Nola.com – Jeff Adelson | Published: 11/17/2020
The ouster of New Orleans’ inspector general could spark a move for more expansive whistleblower protection laws or more detailed oversight of that office, city council members were told. Following allegations of rampant absenteeism against Inspector General Derry Harper and reports he warned staff against taking their concerns over his head, Ethics Review Board Chairperson Michael Cowan said efforts were underway to tighten the reins. The potential challenge, he said, would be balancing greater oversight of the watchdog office with the need for it to remain independent of political influence.
Maine – Ethics Commission to Review Records of Maine Legislative ‘Leadership PACs’
Portland Press Herald – Kevin Miller | Published: 11/18/2020
The Maine ethics commission will review the finances of 15 so-called leadership PACs run by state lawmakers to ensure the groups are keeping accurate records and not violating state laws prohibiting personal use of PAC money. Members of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices stressed the reviews were being conducted “without any suggestion of impropriety.” But they also acknowledged the structure of “leadership PACs” – political action committees set up by legislators to raise and spend money – means there may be fewer “checks and balances” than in larger organizations.
Michigan – Trump Coronavirus Adviser Tells Michigan to ‘Rise Up’ Against New Shutdown Orders
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 11/15/2020
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closing colleges, high schools, workplaces, and in-person dining for three weeks as coronavirus cases have spiked. After she appealed to the Trump administration to intervene in the pandemic, White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas responded with a call to action. But instead of supporting Whitmer’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus in Michigan, he urged residents to reject the state’s public health guidelines. “The only way this stops is if people rise up,” Atlas said in a tweet, which quoted a reporter who had shared information about Whitmer’s new restrictions. Critics condemned the rhetoric, which mirrored President Trump’s statements that correlated “tyranny” with the restrictions put in place previously by Whitmer, who was the target of an alleged kidnap plot that was thwarted.
Michigan – U.S. Attorney Sought Records from Joan Jackson Johnson’s Charity; City Must Repay $234K in HUD Grants
Lansing State Journal – Sarah Lehr | Published: 11/13/2020
Federal prosecutors requested records from One Church One Family, a private charity formerly managed by Joan Jackson Johnson. Meanwhile, Lansing is preparing to repay $233,710 in federal grant money the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concluded the city mismanaged during Jackson Johnson’s tenure as director of Human Relations and Community Services. Jackson Johnson retired in February after an external audit found she mismanaged city money and may have sought to “conceal” conflicts-of-interest by not properly disclosing them.
Michigan – Wayne County Republican Who Asked to ‘Rescind’ Her Vote Certifying Election Results Says Trump Called Her
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Kayla Ruble, and Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) | Published: 11/19/2020
President Trump called a Republican canvassing board member in Wayne County who announced she wanted to rescind her decision to certify the results of the presidential election. “I did receive a call from President Trump, late Tuesday evening, after the meeting,” Monica Palmer, one of two GOP members of the four-member board. “He was checking in to make sure I was safe after hearing the threats and doxing that had occurred.” The call came after an hours-long meeting in which the canvassing board voted to certify the results of the November 3 election, a key step toward finalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state. The state said Palmer’s board has done its job and cannot retract its votes.
Missouri – Failure to Pay Ethics Fine Could Cost Bruce Franks About $75,000
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Joe Hollerman | Published: 11/16/2020
After not making a payment in 10 months on a negotiated $14,000 fine, the Missouri Ethics Commission now contends that former state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. owes more than $89,000. The state filed suit against Franks, saying he has not made a payment on the lower fine that was negotiated last year. The suit says Franks’ failure to make a payment on the agreed-upon amount now causes the remaining $75,000 of the fine to be restored.
Nevada – Former Tourism Exec Strikes Ethics Deal in Misuse of Gift Cards
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German | Published: 11/13/2020
Brig Lawson, a former executive with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, agreed to pay $13,881 in state ethics fines for using agency-bought airline gift cards on personal travel. Lawson also will pay another $8,881 fine the Nevada Ethics Commission said is twice the value of the Southwest Airlines gift cards he and his domestic partner and his partner’s parents used for personal trips.
New Mexico – Modest Sunshine Still Leaves Campaign Cash in Shadow
New Mexico In Depth – Sara Swann (The Fulcrum) and Bryan Metzger | Published: 11/18/2020
What is happening in New Mexico illustrates that improving the transparency of how campaigns are financed can be done, but making progress often requires incremental steps that take a lot of time. It is an example of what states across the country must grapple with when they seek to slow the influence of money over their own politics, at a time when federal regulation of presidential and congressional elections has shriveled. Money still floats through the state’s elections while remaining out of public view because a new law did not strengthen donor disclosure requirements for PACs.
New York – After Cuomo Book Approval, Ethics Commissioners Quash Greater Scrutiny
The Telegraph – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 11/17/2020
Staff for the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has long issued informal advisory opinions to public officials seeking advice about how to conduct themselves properly under state ethics and lobbying laws. In 2012, commissioners passed a resolution allowing staff to do that work between meetings. At the same time, state law requires JCOPE to engage in a formal process: approving or disapproving requests by state employees to earn over $5,000 in outside income. In practice, JCOPE’s informal advisory opinions have become conflated with the formal approval process. Staff has used the opinion letters to approve or disapprove the formal requests to earn income, even though nothing in the resolution passed by commissioners granted staff that authority.
New York – Despite State Law, Democrats’ Seats on Ethics Panel Remain Vacant
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/16/2020
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has been short two commissioners for more than a year, due to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins not following that law that a commissioner must be replaced within 30 days by the government leader responsible for making that appointment. Gov. Andrew Cuomo appoints six commissioners, three Republicans and three Democrats. Among Republican lawmakers, Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt has three picks and Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay has one. Senate Democratic spokesperson Mike Murphy said JCOPE has “well-documented problems which make it hard to find people that would want to serve.”
Ohio – FBI Searches Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo’s Home
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer and Andrew Tobias | Published: 11/16/2020
FBI agents searched a home owned by Sam Randazzo, chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). An FBI spokesperson declined to provide details about why the home was searched. The PUCO chair is one of the most powerful positions in state government, wielding influence on matters regarding the regulation of utilities in the state to include profits and rates charged to customers. The search comes after the FBI arrested then- House Speaker Larry Householder and four others in connection to a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly funded by FirstEnergy, which was seeking a $1 billion legislative bailout for its two nuclear power plants in the state.
Ohio – How FBI Agents Posed as Cincinnati Hotel Developers to Catch Suspects in 2 Ohio Bribery Scandals
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 11/12/2020
Lobbyist Neil Clark did not realize, while chatting with hotel developer clients after a Cincinnati Reds game, that he was talking with undercover FBI agents working to uncover two bribery schemes. The first was against Cincinnati City Councilperson Jeff Pator, who is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for his vote on development projects. The second was against Clark, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, and three others. They are accused of orchestrating a nearly $61 million bribery scheme to seize control of the House, pass a bailout for nuclear plants, and defend those subsidies against a ballot initiative. Those two apparently unconnected, widespread bribery investigations converged in Cincinnati.
Ohio – Sundermann, Landsman Propose Reforms After 2 Council Members Accused of Taking Bribes
MSN – Jennifer Edwards Baker (WXIX) | Published: 11/16/2020
Cincinnati City Councilmembers Greg Landsman and Betsy Sundermann separately announced a series of proposed City Hall reforms, including a charter amendment that would allow for recall of people in office and a creating a city Ethics Commission. The announcements come on the heels of two councilmembers, Tamaya Dennard and Jeff Pastor, being arrested on charges that allege “pay-to-play” schemes. Pastor was accused of taking $55,000 in bribes, allegation he has vowed to fight. Dennard, who has resigned, was arrested after she promised a developer she would vote for a development project in exchange for $15,000.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rejects Complaints About Philadelphia Election Observations
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein | Published: 11/17/2020
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled observers’ rights to watch ballot counting was sufficient in Philadelphia, rejecting a claim from President Trump’s campaign that poll observers did not get “meaningful access.” The Trump campaign argued observers were stationed too far away to see the process of counting votes, and a lower court initially agreed with them, ordering that they be allowed closer to the process. The state Supreme Court, which had previously rejected other Republican arguments, vacated that lower court order.
Pennsylvania – Top Pa. Senator’s Campaign Revives Lawsuit Against Journalists Over Public Records Fees
PennLive – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) | Published: 11/12/2020
The campaign of Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati renewed its lawsuit against a Spotlight PA journalist and others, asking the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas to overturn a lower court’s dismissal of the case. Scarnati’s campaign sued The Caucus, Caucus Bureau Chief Brad Bumsted, and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis for $5,070. The suit claims they owe an accounting firm the money for producing public records that documented questionable spending by Scarnati’s campaign. The campaign also wants $1,000 for attorney fees and court costs. A judge ruled Scarnati’s campaign should pay the accounting firm.
Tennessee – Nashville Council Members Call for Ethics Review of Actions by Colleague Robert Swope
The Tennessean – Yihyng Jeong | Published: 11/16/2020
Council members are calling for an ethics review of Metro Council member Robert Swope’s conduct after recent reports say he tried to steer government contracts to his company. A letter has circulated gauging interest among council members in asking Swope to seek an advisory opinion from the Metro Board of Ethical Conduct. The concerns follow news reports that uncovered emails showing Swopes last year tried to get city contracts Intelligent Transit and also attempted to initiate a loan proposal to lend Metro $500 million from a company he is affiliated with, in exchange for ownership of some future city infrastructure.
Texas – FBI Is Investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, AP Report Says
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 11/17/2020
The FBI is investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Associated Press reported, vetting allegations made by eight of Paxton’s former top aides that he illegally used the power of his office to benefit a political donor. Sources said the bureau was examining claims made by the whistleblowers that Paxton broke the law by intervening several times in legal matters involving Nate Paul, a real estate investor and friend who donated $25,000 to Paxton’s campaign in 2018. Aides told authorities they believed Paxton had committed crimes as part of his relationship with Paul, citing bribery and abuse of office. Since then, four aides have been fired, three have resigned, and one has been placed on leave, sparking a whistleblower lawsuit.
Virginia – Charges Dismissed Against State Sen. Louise Lucas in Vandalism of Portsmouth’s Confederate Monument
Virginian-Pilot – Margaret Matray | Published: 11/16/2020
A judge dismissed charges against Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas and all others charged in a June protest at Portsmouth’s Confederate monument at the request of the city’s top prosecutor, who said the elements of the charges were not properly met. The felony charges against Lucas and 18 others – including local NAACP leaders, several public defenders, and a school board member –stem from a protest and vandalism at the city’s Confederate monument. Activists and Democrats questioned the timing of the charges, which came a day before a General Assembly special session. Lucas, a veteran Democratic legislator, has been an outspoken advocate for police reform.
Washington – After Years of Preamble, Tim Eyman’s Trial Begins. Could It Mean the End of His Initiatives?
Wenatchee World – David Gutman (Seattle Times) | Published: 11/16/2020
Tim Eyman has spent decades running initiatives to lower taxes and advance conservative policies in Washington. He now stands accused of laundering political donations to enrich himself, accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm, and a years-long refusal to comply with campaign finance laws. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose 2017 lawsuit precipitated the civil trial, seeks millions of dollars in damages and hopes to permanently bar Eyman from accepting money on behalf of any political committee or handling their finances. Eyman has personally received and concealed more than $1 million, Ferguson says.
West Virginia – W.Va. Lobbyist Puccio Crosses Political Streams to Advise Democrat Manchin, Republican Justice
West Virginia MetroNews – Brad McElhinny | Published: 11/15/2020
Larry Puccio has been walking a political tightrope. His path crosses influence, access, politics, loyalty, friendship, and no small degree of personal finance against the backdrop of a West Virginia that is transitioning from longtime Democratic dominance toward Republican power. He is a lobbyist, former state Democratic Party chairperson, and ex-chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin when he was governor. But this political season, Puccio pushed for the re-election of Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican who first won office as a Democrat.
November 13, 2020 •
National/Federal Biden’s DOJ Must Determine Whether Trump Should Be Prosecuted Bloomberg Law – David Yaffe-Bellany and Billy House | Published: 11/9/2020 Joe Biden won the presidency promising to bring Americans together. But now his administration is sure to come under pressure […]
Biden’s DOJ Must Determine Whether Trump Should Be Prosecuted
Bloomberg Law – David Yaffe-Bellany and Billy House | Published: 11/9/2020
Joe Biden won the presidency promising to bring Americans together. But now his administration is sure to come under pressure from some Democrats to risk exacerbating divisions by investigating and prosecuting President Trump. Although Biden has said prosecuting a former president would be a “very unusual thing and probably not very good for democracy,” he also vowed in an NPR interview in August that he would not “interfere with the Justice Department’s judgment of whether or not they think they should pursue the prosecution of anyone that they think has violated the law.”
Bipartisan Super PAC Protest Gives Up the Ghost at High Court
Courthouse News Service – Jack Rodgers | Published: 11/9/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit from congressional Democrats challenging the legality of super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in support of candidates. The lawmakers’ case challenged an appeals court decision from 2010 that eliminated any financial contribution limits to PACs that are not affiliated with a candidate or party. They argued there is little sense in capping individual contributions to candidates while allowing independent groups to raise as much as they want in support of candidates.
Echoing Trump, Congressional Candidates Refuse to Concede, Make Unproven Fraud Claims
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 11/10/2020
Errol Webber was never expected to have much of a chance at winning his race for Congress. The Republican had challenged a popular incumbent, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass in a deep-blue swath of Los Angeles, so it was no surprise returns showed him losing by more than 72 percentage points. But that did not stop Webber from questioning the results in California’s 37th Congressional District. “I’m going to the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office in Norwalk today to audit the vote counting procedures,” Webber wrote. As President Trump makes unfounded allegations of voting fraud and demands a recount in the presidential election, his rhetoric and unwillingness to concede appear to be trickling down the ballot.
Fighting Election Results, Trump Employs a New Weapon: The government
New York Times – Peter Baker and Lara Jakes | Published: 11/10/2020
President Trump, facing the prospect of leaving the White House in defeat, is harnessing the power of the federal government to resist the results of an election he lost, something that no sitting president has done in American history. The standoff left the U.S. in the position of the kind of country whose weak democratic processes it often criticizes. Rather than congratulating Biden and inviting him to the White House, as his predecessors traditionally have done after an election changed party control, Trump has been marshaling his administration and pressuring his Republican allies into acting as if the outcome were still uncertain, either out of faint hope of actually overturning the results or at least creating a narrative to explain his loss.
Growing Discomfort at Law Firms Representing Trump in Election Lawsuits
New York Times – Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Rachel Abrams, and David Enrich | Published: 11/9/2020
Jones Day is the most prominent firm representing President Trump and the Republican Party as they prepare to wage a legal war challenging the results of the election. The work is intensifying concerns inside the firm about the propriety and wisdom of working for Trump, according to lawyers at the firm. Some senior lawyers at Jones Day are worried it is advancing arguments that lack evidence and may be helping Trump and his allies undermine the integrity of American elections. At another large firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, lawyers have held internal meetings to voice similar concerns about their firm’s election-related work for Trump and the GOP. At least one lawyer quit in protest.
Harris’ Husband, Doug Emhoff, Poised to Break Stereotypes
Associated Press News – Kathleen Roynane | Published: 11/11/2020
Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will leave his private law practice by Inauguration Day to focus on his role at the White House. “We’ve been waiting for this sort of gender switch for decades now,” said Kim Nalder, a political science professor who has focused on women and gender. Emhoff’s decision to cut ties with DLA Piper also offered an early test of how a Biden administration would avoid potential ethical issues. While Emhoff is not a lobbyist, the firm has a large presence lobbying the federal government on behalf of clients including Comcast, Raytheon, and the government of Puerto Rico. He took a leave of absence from the firm in August when Biden chose Harris as his running mate.
Job-Seeking Trump Officials Likely to Get Chilly Reception on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 11/9/2020
White House aides and other administration officials looking to pivot to lobbying following President Trump’s defeat are likely to get a cool reception on K Street. Most lobbying firms are not eager to snatch up Trump staffers, since in the eyes of employers they carry more risk than reward, several veteran lobbyists said. The job market will be even more difficult for younger aides with little previous experience. One lobbyist said Trump aides need something other than the 45th president on their resumes.
K Street Not Waiting for Trump to Concede the Presidential Race
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/10/2020
Even as President Trump balked at conceding the election, lobbying interests that span the political and policy spectrum began to publicly congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as soon as The Associated Press and television networks projected their victory. Not only that, business groups and other K Street interests have begun to reach out to the incoming Biden administration on policy and personnel matters, seeking to shape the agenda of the coming years. Still, even as the nation’s lobbying sector works to influence the incoming Biden administration, it is not clear how receptive the transition, or the new administration, might be to the perspectives of K Street.
Kamala Harris, Daughter of Jamaican and Indian Immigrants, Elected Nation’s First Female Vice President
MSN – Chelsea Janes (Washington Post) | Published: 11/7/2020
A vice president-elect stepped forward and, for the first time in American history, it was not a man. Kamala Harris, a daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, is set to become the highest-ranking woman in the nation’s 244-year existence, as well as a high-profile representation of the country’s increasingly diverse composition. Harris’s victory comes 55 years after the Voting Rights Act abolished laws that disenfranchised Black Americans, 36 years after the first woman ran on a presidential ticket and four years after Democrats were devastated by the defeat of Hillary Clinton, the only woman to win the presidential nomination of a major party. Harris emerged in all white, a nod to the uniform of the suffragists who fought to enfranchise women 100 years ago, an embodiment of what was once just a dream for so many.
Less Travel, More Zoom: Some COVID-19 campaign changes may endure
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/9/2020
COVID-19 upended campaigning as we knew it: candidates, realizing it was taboo to cuddle babies or shake hands during a pandemic, moved to Zoom events to woo voters. Donors shifted from mingling at the hors d’oeuvres buffet to getting takeout and sipping cocktails in front of their screens. The rapid explosion in digital donating and get-out-the-vote efforts are likely to remain, particularly among Democratic candidates. The ease of traversing the country from the comforts of home will be hard to give up entirely, even though candidates and consultants from both parties say they do still crave and will again embrace the in-person, human interaction of retail politics on the trail.
‘My Faith Is Shaken’: The QAnon conspiracy theory faces a post-Trump identity crisis
MSN – Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 11/10/2020
The “Q” of the infamous QAnon conspiracy theory has gone quiet before. But the abrupt lack of posts from Q since Election Day, which the anonymous figure had touted for months as a key moment of reckoning, has sparked speculation and alarm among the movement’s most ardent followers. President Trump’s election loss and the week-long disappearance of their unnamed prophet have wrenched some QAnon believers into a crisis of faith, with factions voicing unease about their future or rallying others to stay calm and “trust the plan.” Some QAnon proponents have begun to publicly grapple with reality and question whether the conspiracy theory is a hoax. “Have we all been conned?” one user wrote on 8kun.
Pressure Mounts on State Republicans as Lawsuits Challenging Election Results Founder
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck, Tom Hamburger, John Swain, and Emma Brown | Published: 11/11/2020
Pressure mounted on state and local officials in battleground states to accept claims of ballot-counting irregularities and voter fraud in the election despite a lack of evidence, as Republicans sought new ways to block certification of Joe Biden’s clear victory in the presidential race. The efforts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia these states – where Biden has won or is leading in the count – come as the Trump campaign struggles to amass genuine evidence of fraud that will pass muster in court. Republican lawsuits seeking to challenge the election results so far have foundered, and affidavits cited as proof of election fraud in cities such as Detroit have failed to substantiate serious claims that votes were counted illegally.
QAnon Goes to Washington: Two supporters win seats in Congress
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 11/5/2020
QAnon is heading to Congress, as Marjorie Taylor Greene, a supporter of the baseless and complicated pro-President Trump conspiracy theory, won a House seat in Georgia, and Lauren Boebert claimed a House seat in Colorado. While those wins are the first by Republican candidates who publicly backed the wide-ranging delusion centered on allegations of a “deep state’ undermining Trump and liberals trafficking children, they will join a GOP conference that may already host some “Q-curious” members.
Record Number of House GOP Women Just One of Many ‘Firsts’ for 117th Congress
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 11/12/2020
Republicans will have at least 26 women in the House, the most they have ever had and more than double what they have now, when the 117th Congress convenes in January. That figure, which grew by two when races in California and Texas were called for Michelle Steel and Beth Van Duyne, could still grow further, with GOP women leading in four of the 15 races still uncalled. The change to the gender composition of the House GOP is just one of many coming to the next Congress, which will also blaze trails on race, sexual orientation, and age.
‘Stop the Steal’ Supporters, Restrained by Facebook, Turn to Parler to Peddle False Election Claims
Boston Globe – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rachel Lerman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/10/2020
As President Trump and his allies continue to contest Joe Biden’s victory, social media has become central to sustaining efforts to delegitimize the results. Yet those campaigns are resulting in the most high-stakes cat-and-mouse game for Facebook and other social media companies to date. The companies are banning groups and hashtags, altering search results, labeling posts, down-ranking problematic content, and implementing a host of measures to ward off misinformation. One sign of the impact of these actions is the renewed interest in Parler. The app has a free-speech doctrine and has become a haven for groups and individuals kicked off Facebook. Parlor now boasts 7.6 million user accounts compared with 4.5 million about a week ago, said Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Wernick.
Trump Solicits ‘Election Defense’ Donations That Also Finance His New Leadership PAC
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 11/11/2020
President Trump’s supporters have been peppered with texts and emails asking for donations to support legal battles contesting his loss to Joe Biden. But details in the fine print show a small portion of the contributions would go toward these “election defense” funds to support recounts and lawsuits in several swing states. The majority of each donation goes to a PAC called Save America, which Trump set up in recent days and will allow him to support candidates and maintain political influence in Washington even after leaving office. The so-called leadership PAC is a loosely regulated fundraising vehicle that allows current and former elected officials to raise and spend money to maintain relationships with donor and help their political allies.
Canada – Chrystia Freeland’s Policy Adviser Agrees to Ethics Screen Related to Lobbyist Spouse
Globe and Mail – Bill Curry | Published: 11/10/2020
Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s policy director, Leslie Church, has agreed to an ethics screen to manage potential conflicts-of-interest involving Sheamus Murphy, her lobbyist husband, who regularly meets with senior federal officials on behalf of corporate clients. Murphy is a partner with the lobbying firm Counsel Public Affairs. Opposition Members of Parliament say they question why a screen is being applied only now, even though Church has worked for Liberal cabinet ministers since 2015. A spokesperson for Freeland said Church has been in regular contact with the ethics commissioner’s office since 2015 and has followed its advice.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Prosecutor Indicted on Ethics Charges, Free on Bond
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 11/9/2020
An Alabama prosecutor was indicted on five felony charges of using his office for personal gain by allegedly using his position to benefit his family and conspiring to steal a pickup truck. Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes was charged with illegally hiring his three children to work for his office and paying private lawyers with public funds to settle a matter that helped him and his wife. He was also charged with issuing a subpoena to a company to gather evidence for his own potential defense. The state said Hughes allegedly tried to steal a 1985 Ford Ranger pickup truck from a business in neighboring Chambers County by hatching a plan to use a search warrant to make a business give up the vehicle.
Arizona – Arizona’s Political Transformation Began Long Before Biden Was on the Ballot
MSN – Jose Del Real and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 11/7/2020
Arizona’s transformation from a onetime conservative stronghold to a swing state capable of deciding this year’s presidential election is the result of a decade of work by Mexican American activists, soaring demographic change, and the consolidation of independent voters behind Joe Biden. He was also buoyed by President Trump’s repeated attacks on the state’s late U.S. senator, John McCain, whose wife endorsed Biden, and by the strong and well-funded campaign of former astronaut Mark Kelly, a Democrat who won McCain’s old seat.
California – Biden Win Sets Off Rush for Harris’ Senate Seat in California
Politico – Carla Marinucci | Published: 11/7/2020
Launching Kamala Harris into the White House as vice president come January has officially kicked off one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s biggest political decisions: appointing California’s next U.S. senator. Many Newsom insiders insist the governor wants to make a historic choice, making Secretary of State Alex Padilla a leading contender. If picked, Padilla, a longtime Newsom supporter, would become the first Latino senator in the state’s 170-year history. The governor also has to contend with women’s groups who have also pressured him to fill Harris’ seat with another woman of color, putting U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, high on the list.
California – California Campaign Finance Complaints Rose Sharply in 2020
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 11/6/2020
The California Fair Political Practices Commission saw a big jump in the number of complaints alleging campaign finance violations for the November election, even in comparison to the tumultuous 2016 presidential election year, and dozens of investigations are ongoing, officials say. The complaints allege violations of campaign laws regarding state and local elections, including whether campaigns properly reported contributions and how they were spent, as well as whether political ads included required disclosures, such as who paid for them. The turmoil over the contest between President Trump and Joe Biden has raised the political temperature for other contests as well, experts say.
California – Man Who Conspired to Make Illegal Contributions to 2012 Mayoral Candidates Gets 1 Year in Prison
KSWB – City News Service | Published: 11/9/2020
A self-proclaimed “campaign guru,” who was previously convicted and sentenced for conspiring with a Mexican billionaire to make nearly $600,000 in illegal campaign contributions to a pair of 2012 San Diego mayoral candidates, was re-sentenced to one year in federal prison, after an appeals court invalidated one of his convictions. Ravneet Singh was convicted in 2016 of conspiring with Jose Susumo Azano and others to inject hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner, even though Azano’s status as a foreign national made such contributions illegal. Singh was also fined $10,000.
Florida – Plantation Mayor Was Hiding Public Records, Inspector General Says
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Wells Dusenbery | Published: 11/5/2020
Broward County’s inspector general concluded the mayor of one of Broward’s biggest cities broke the law with a range of violations from hiding public records to falsifying campaign finance documents. Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner could face serious recourse, and potential charges, after an investigation uncovered numerous violations of open government and campaign finance laws. The inspector general said Stoner unlawfully overdrew her campaign account and then made an illegal, post-election loan to cover the overdraft. She later filed false campaign treasurer reports to cover up the overdraft and illegal contribution, according to the report.
Georgia – How Stacey Abrams and Her Band of Believers Turned Georgia Blue
Politico – Maya King | Published: 11/8/2020
Those leading the effort to flip Georgia from red to blue – a group composed of Black female elected officials, voting rights advocates, and community organizers – understood why Democrats had often fallen short in the South the past decade. Topping the list of reasons: the region’s conservative bent, voter suppression tactics by the right, and the failure by Democrats to mount a sustained voter outreach program. Stacey Abrams’ close loss in Georgia’s gubernatorial election made clear to her and other liberals that demographic shifts had reached a tipping point. They argued Democrats could win more races by expanding their coalition to include disengaged voters of color, as opposed to continuing the focus on persuading undecided, moderate, often white voters.
Hawaii – Ethics Complaint Filed After Honolulu Lobbyist Fails (Again) To Register
Honolulu Civil Beat – Anita Hofschneider | Published: 11/10/2020
David Arakawa is the executive director of the Land Use Research Foundation, a group that lobbies on behalf of landowners and developers in Hawaii. He has not registered to lobby City Hall despite advocating against recent legislative proposals to reshape Honolulu’s parking and urban-planning policies. Marti Townsend, who leads the Hawaii chapter of the environmental group Sierra Club, filed a complaint with the city ethics commission highlighting Arakawa’s failure to register to lobby. It was reported in 2018 that Arakawa failed to register as a lobbyist. After the story, he registered, but Arakawa’s name is also missing from Honolulu’s 2019 list of registered lobbyists. Despite registering in 2018, he does not appear to have filed a required annual report detailing his spending that year.
Illinois – Election Fraud Allegations from 2016 Heard in Appellate Court as Federal Probe Swirls Around Democratic Boss Michael Madigan
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/10/2020
The corruption investigation swirling around Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan bled into arguments before a federal appeals panel over a lawsuit alleging Madigan conspired to put up two “sham” candidates with Hispanic names to confuse voters in the 2016 Democratic primary. Lawyers for plaintiff Jason Gonzales were in court to argue the appeals court should overturn a lower court ruling which tossed out allegations of election fraud by Madigan’s political operation. The lead attorney for Gonzales, Anthony Peraica, used the ongoing criminal investigation to try to make his point, even though the alleged misconduct in the case before the panel took place years before the federal criminal probe came to light. The investigation is illustrative of how Madigan exercises control over the state’s politics to his own personal gain, Peraica argued.
Illinois – Ethics Board Investigating Ald. Brookins’ Decision to Represent Former Ald. Moreno
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 11/9/2020
Former Ald. Proco Joe Moreno, facing felony charges of obstruction of justice and insurance fraud, has a new lawyer – Ald. Howard Brookins, who is now under investigation himself. Brookins’ decision to represent his former colleague on the city council appears to have violated a ruling from the Chicago Board of Ethics that banned aldermen who are attorneys from defending clients in criminal cases involving the Police Department. Cook County prosecutors allege Moreno falsely claimed both to police and his insurance agency that his Audi A6 had been stolen out of his garage. But Moreno allegedly turned the vehicle and its keys over willingly only hours earlier to a woman he had previously dated.
Kansas – ‘Hit’ Tweet Against Kansas Governor Has Dems Seeking Ouster
Associated Press News – John Hanna | Published: 11/5/2020
Aaron Coleman, a Democratic candidate who admitted to circulating revenge porn and was charged at the age of 14 with threatening to shoot a high school student, won a state House seat in Kansas, and party leaders promised to try to oust him after what they saw as a threat against the governor. A political operative provided The Associated Press with a screen shot of a tweet in which Coleman predicted Gov. Laura Kelly would face an “extremely bloody” Democratic primary in two years. “I’m not playing around,” Coleman wrote in the tweet. “People will realize one day when I call a hit out on you it’s real.”
Maryland – Lobbyists Prepare for Challenges with Md. General Assembly as COVID-19 Pandemic Continues
WTOP – Josh Kurtz (Maryland Matters) | Published: 11/9/2020
For decades, legislative advocacy in Annapolis has looked largely the same: well-resourced entities sign up a plugged-in lobbyist – often an ex-legislator or top-ranking former government staffer – to plead their case, while nonprofits and activist groups rely as much on grassroots organizing or in-house lobbyists as on high-paid hired guns. But with the General Assembly’s presiding officers making public declarations in recent days about what the first full legislative session in the age of COVID-19 is going to look like when lawmakers return, advocates for corporate interests and activist groups alike are coming to grips with the idea their daily routines are going to change drastically, at least for the three-month session that will begin in January.
Massachusetts – Quincy Firm Pays $250,000 to Settle Allegations of Illegal Campaign Donations
MSN – Shelley Murphy (Boston Globe) | Published: 11/9/2020
A real estate development firm was fined $250,000 after Massachusetts officials discovered it funneled company funds to employees and instructed them to make more than $57,000 in illegal contributions to the campaign finance accounts of city and state officials, including $10,000 to Gov. Charlie Baker. Since 2017, Boston Property Ventures President Richard McDonald padded the personal bank accounts of 16 employees with company funds and instructed them to make contributions to designated candidates, an investigation by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance found. It is the second-largest fine for campaign finance violations in state history and the second violation of this nature for Boston Property Ventures.
Missouri – Former Missouri Lawmaker Admits Misusing Campaign Funds
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Robert Patrick | Published: 11/6/2020
Former Missouri Rep. Courtney Curtis could face at least a year in prison after admitting in court he used more than $47,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses. Curtis in 2016 and 2017 defrauded campaign donors by using their contributions for personal expenses, including for apartment rent, utilities, hotel, airfare, and travel expenses and to cover bills at restaurants and bars, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith said. Curtis also made cash withdrawals and deposited campaign money into his personal bank account.
New Jersey – Birdsall Exec Convicted in High-Profile Pay-to-Play Scheme Loses Professional Licenses
Newark Star Ledger – Samantha Marcus (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 11/10/2020
Two New Jersey professional boards stripped a former Birdsall Group executive of his professional licenses more than three years after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 270 days in jail for funneling illegal campaign contributions to politicians. James Johnston was one of eight former executives, shareholders, and managers at the now-defunct firm who pleaded guilty. The firm, which received millions of dollars in government engineering contracts, went out of business after admitting it flouted state campaign finance laws. It was accused of funneling more than $1 million in corporate political contributions through employees to get around New Jersey’s “pay-to-play” law, which would have disqualified it from winning government contracts.
New York – After Cuomo Book Approval, Rancor and Rebuke at Ethics Agency
Alton Telegraph – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 11/11/2020
Before a deal was struck to publish “American Crisis,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new best-selling book, the governor had to gain approval for the venture from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). Cuomo’s office has provided little information about that approval process but has noted on several occasions that JCOPE did approve the publishing deal. Yet two weeks after the book’s October release, a JCOPE member publicly questioned how much weight the agency’s opinions on such matters really carry, sparking an extraordinary response from Cuomo’s appointees on the panel.
New York – N.Y.’s Green and Libertarian Political Parties in Peril as Working Families Party Avoids Disaster
New York Daily News – Denis Slattery | Published: 11/9/2020
The Green Party of New York is feeling blue but vowing to fight on after failing to get enough votes in the presidential election to remain on the ballot in the Empire State. An election law overhaul related to New York’s soon-to-be-implemented public matching funds program significantly increased the threshold needed for parties to retain their line on the state ballot, a blow to third parties. According to the new rules, a party must garner either 130,000 votes or two percent of the total votes cast, whichever is higher, to maintain its status. The Working Families Party and the Conservative Party were able to garner enough votes to retain their status by endorsing and running major party candidates on their lines.
Ohio – FBI Arrests Cincinnati Councilman After Undercover Agents Reveal ‘Brazen’ Bribery Scheme, Feds Say
USA Today – Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 11/10/2020
FBI agents arrested Cincinnati City Councilperson Jeff Pastor in what authorities describe as a brazen bribery scheme involving payoffs for help with city development projects. Federal prosecutors say Pastor, who joined the council in January 2018, began soliciting money from developers within months of taking office and, in some instances, accepted bags of cash in return for his vote or other favorable treatment. A friend of Pastor’s, Tyran Marshall, also faces federal charges and is accused of setting up a charitable nonprofit through which Pastor funneled bribes. U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said Pastor, who is accused of collecting $55,000 in bribes, at one point told undercover agents he should be paid $200,000 for his help.
Oklahoma – Government Bodies to Resume In-Person Meetings, Spurring Coronavirus Concerns
The Oklahoman – Carmen Forman | Published: 11/10/2020
Government bodies in Oklahoma will return to meeting in person after a temporary law that allows for virtual meetings expires on November 15. Legislative leaders have no plans to call a special session to extend the deadline of a law that allows government bodies to meet entirely over videoconferencing or teleconferencing platforms. As COVID-19 started to take hold in Oklahoma, state lawmakers in March temporarily amended the state’s Open Meeting Act so elected officials and residents could virtually attend public meetings. But the law that will sunset, raising concerns about how in-person meetings could contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
South Dakota – Noem’s Pitch to Aid Trump Seems to Benefit Own Campaign Fund
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 11/10/2020
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has enthusiastically taken up President Trump’s efforts to contest the results of the presidential election, asking for online donations to “help us bring it home for the president,” but it appears the money is set to flow into her own reelection account. The website soliciting money allows donors to check the amount of their contribution and includes a box to cover a processing “so 100% of my donation goes to Kristi for Governor.” It is unlikely that much, if any, of the money will end up going to Trump, said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause. Ryan noted the governor can give a maximum of $2,800 to Trump’s campaign under federal law. If she wanted more to flow to Trump, she could have directed donors to the president’s own donation site.
Texas – AP Sources: Texas AG’s affair tied to criminal allegations
Associated Press News – Jake Bleiberg | Published: 11/5/2020
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had an extramarital affair with a woman whom he later recommended for a job with the wealthy donor now at the center of criminal allegations against him, according to two people who said Paxton told them about the relationship. They said Paxton acknowledged the affair in 2018 to senior members of his office and political staff. Developer Nate Paul said in a deposition that Paxton recommended the woman for her job with Paul’s real estate company. The attorney general’s top deputies reported their boss to the FBI in September for alleged bribery, abuse of office, and other crimes Those allegations stem in part from Paxton’s decision to investigate Paul’s claims that a judge and the FBI broke the law in searches of his home and offices last year.
Texas – Texas’ Patrick Offers Reward as Trump Makes Unfounded Claims
Associated Press News – Paul Weber | Published: 11/10/2020
Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick offered up to $1 million in defense of President Trump’s unsupported claims of irregularities in the presidential election, saying he would pay out rewards for information that leads to voter fraud arrests and convictions. The money put up by the lieutenant governor appeared to be a first among Republican officeholders who are backing Trump as he refuses to concede. A former chief Texas ethics regulator said paying out reward money, which would come from Patrick’s political campaign, could run afoul of federal campaign finance laws.
Washington – Appeals Court Upholds $18M Campaign Finance Fine
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 11/11/2020
The Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed $18 million penalty imposed against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) for violating campaign finance laws during a 2013 battle over a ballot initiative that would have required labeling ingredients with genetically modified organisms on all packaged food products. The court found the GMA violations “represented an intentional attempt to conceal the identity of companies donating millions of dollars in a contentious ballot campaign.” The GMA spent more than $11?million to defeat the initiative. But its contributions were disclosed only as coming from the association, not the companies that bankrolled the effort, such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestle, and General Mills.
November 6, 2020 •
National/Federal A Government Watchdog Says White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Spent Campaign Funds on Personal Expenditures Business Insider – Yelena Dzhanova | Published: 10/31/2020 Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is calling for an investigation into White […]
A Government Watchdog Says White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Spent Campaign Funds on Personal Expenditures
Business Insider – Yelena Dzhanova | Published: 10/31/2020
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is calling for an investigation into White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows after accusing him of misusing thousands of dollars in campaign funds. CREW identified personal expenditures made by Meadows’ campaign after he resigned from Congress. On the same day as Meadows’ official resignation from Congress, his campaign spent $2,650 on jewelry in Washington, the complaint says. The campaign continued to use its funds after the former representative announced his retirement from Congress, spending over $6,500 at various restaurants and establishments, including at the Trump International Hotel.
Congressional Democrats’ High Hopes Dashed as GOP Clings to Senate Majority, Scores Unexpected Gains in the House
Washington Post – Paul Kane, Rachael Bade, and Seung Min Kim | Published: 11/4/2020
Congressional Democrats began a period of reckoning after another political debacle left them suffering losses to their House majority and clinging to a narrow path to Senate control, a stark contrast to the strong optimism of a “blue wave” that would repudiate President Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill. In the highly anticipated ¬Senate matchups, Republicans scored easier-than-expected victories in Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Maine, Montana, and South Carolina while establishing narrow but steady leads in Georgia and North Carolina. House Democrats struggled to come to grips with how they managed to lose seats after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and party strategists predicted gains of 10 or more that would give them commanding control over the chamber. Instead, they appear to be headed to the smallest House majority in 18 years.
Cruz Fights to Get Back Money He Loaned Campaign
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/28/2020
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is calling on a federal court panel to strike down an FEC rule limiting post-election contributions to pay back money he loaned his 2018 campaign. Cruz gave two loans to his campaign in the last run for reelection. The donations totaled $260,000, $5,000 from his personal bank accounts and $255,000 originating from a loan on personal assets. But a campaign finance law caps the amount of money a campaign committee can repay a candidate for personal loans at $250,000. Cruz sued, accusing the FEC of limiting the First Amendment right to political speech for candidates, their campaign committees, and donors by setting a time limit on donations and on a candidate’s ability to spend personal funds for campaign speech.
Florida Businessman Pleads Guilty in Fraud Case Involving Giuliani Associates
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/29/2020
A Florida entrepreneur is the first defendant to plead guilty in a campaign finance and business fraud case involving associates of Rudy Giuliani. David Correia pleaded guilty to two felony counts: one of making false statements to the FEC and one of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The case against Correia and three other men – Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, and David Kukushkin – has drawn widespread attention because Parnas and Fruman worked closely with Giuliani on various issues related to Ukraine. The indictment says the men used foreign money to influence American political campaigns to benefit their business ventures and to encourage then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s ouster.
GOP Holds Line in State Legislatures, Dealing Blow to Democrats
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 11/4/2020
Democratic hopes of claiming control of state legislative chambers across the nation crashed into an immovable Republican wall in key states, a substantial blow to the party’s chances of wielding more influence in the decennial redistricting process ahead. Election results appear to show Republicans picked up enough seats to win control of at least two legislative chambers, the New Hampshire Senate and the Alaska House, where Republicans appear to be in a position to break a bipartisan coalition that ran the House for the last two years. Thousands of ballots are left to be counted, and Democrats still have a chance in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
How ActBlue Has Transformed Democratic Politics
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 10/30/2020
Democrats have buried Republican opponents under an avalanche of campaign ads, fueled by billions of dollars donated this year through ActBlue, the online fundraising processor for Democratic campaigns. Their wild success in 2020 has reshaped the way candidates not only raise money but campaign for office, building a culture of contributions as civic engagement that has grown into an overwhelming force. Republicans have tried to match it, but they still lag behind. Amid all the once-in-a-lifetime features of this election, the explosion of online fundraising may be the one that truly transforms politics over time.
How the NFL’s Gridiron PAC Uses Influence in Washington
ESPN – Michael Rothstein | Published: 10/29/2020
In 2007, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, the son of a former U.S. senator, sought to strengthen the league’s political influence. He boosted lobbying efforts, increasing NFL expenditures to more than $1 million that year for the first time. He opened a Washington, D.C.-based office and hired Jeff Miller to be its first in-house lobbyist. A year later, with a $5,000 donation from Goodell and $2,500 from league employee Joe Browne, the NFL borrowed a play from Major League Baseball by starting its own PAC. Since then, the league has maintained the office, continued its work with lobbying firms and has exceeded seven figures in lobbying efforts every year except for 2017. It is on pace to do so again this year.
Mueller Investigated Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Roger Stone for DNC Hacks
BuzzFeed News – Jason Leopold and Ken Bensinger | Published: 11/2/2020
Prosecutors investigated Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Roger Stone for the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers as well as for possible campaign finance violations, but ultimately chose not to charge them, newly released portions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report reveal. Although Wikileaks published emails stolen from the DNC in 2016 and Stone, a close associate to Donald Trump, appeared to know in advance the materials were coming, investigators “did not have sufficient evidence” to prove active participation in the hacks or knowledge the electronic thefts were continuing. Prosecutors could not establish the hacked emails amounted to campaign contributions benefitting Trump’s election chances and felt their publication might have been protected by the First Amendment.
The FEC Says Jill Stein, Who Raised $7.3 Million to Recount the 2016 Election, Owes Them More Than $66,000 for Campaign Finance Violations
Business Insider – Charles Davis | Published: 10/29/2020
The Green Party’s Jill Stein raised millions of dollars to recount the 2016 presidential election, promising her donors, mostly liberals grappling with Donald Trump’s shock win in the Electoral College, transparency and direct democracy. But instead of verifying the outcome of the election, a majority of the $7.3 million that Stein raised for counting votes went to salaries for her core campaign staff, who were kept on for another three years, lawyers for Stein’s personal legal defense in the U.S. Senate’s Russia investigation, and tens of thousands of dollars in fines levied by the FEC. The Stein campaign is now out of money, still owing tens of thousands of dollars to the FEC for failing to disclose how it was spending donations.
Top FEC Official’s Undisclosed Ties to Trump Raise Concerns Over Agency Neutrality
ProPublica – Mike Spies and Jake Pearson | Published: 10/28/2020
Debbie Chacona oversees the division of the FEC that serves as the first line of defense against illegal flows of cash in political campaigns. Its dozens of analysts sift through billions of dollars of reported contributions and expenditures, searching for any that violate the law. The work of Chacona, a civil servant, is guided by a strict ethics code and long-standing norms that employees avoid any public actions that might suggest partisan leanings. But Chacona’s open support of President Trump and her close ties to former FEC member Donald McGahn, who went on to become the 2016 Trump campaign’s top lawyer, have raised questions among agency employees and prompted at least one formal complaint.
Trump Campaign Mounts Challenges in Four States as Narrow Margins Raise Stakes for Battles Over Which Ballots Will Count
MSN – Elise Viebeck, Robert Barnes, Tom Hamburger, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/4/2020
President Trump’s reelection campaign said it would launch a legal blitz to try to halt vote-counting in Pennsylvania and Michigan, would seek a recount in Wisconsin, and challenged the handling of ballots in Georgia, threatening to draw out the final results of the White House contest. The campaign’s aggressive legal posture while the presidential race remains unresolved underscored how the close margins in key states have raised the stakes for litigation over which ballots will count. It comes after Trump, who has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the election, pledged to get the courts to determine its outcome. Democrats said they were unfazed by what they said was legal posturing by the president’s campaign.
U.S. Supreme Court Hands Narrow Win to Black Lives Matter Activist Over Protest Incident
Reuters – Lawrence Hurley | Published: 11/2/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson in his ongoing effort to avoid a lawsuit filed by a police officer injured during a 2016 protest in Louisiana triggered by the police killing of a Black man. The justices threw out a lower court ruling that had allowed the lawsuit to proceed and said more analysis was needed on whether state law allows for such a claim. The officer sued the Black Lives Matter organization and McKesson seeking monetary damages over an incident at protest in Baton Rouge. The negligence lawsuit argued McKesson should have known violence would result from his actions leading the protest, which was one of many around the country that year.
Canada – Ethics Commissioner Clears Morneau of Accepting Gift from WE Charity
CTV – Joan Bryden (Canadian Press) | Published: 10/29/2020
Canada’s ethics watchdog cleared former Finance Minister Bill Morneau of failing to disclose a gift from WE Charity. In a letter to Morneau, ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said he accepts that the former minister “genuinely believed” he had paid for the entire cost of two trips he and family members took in 2017 to view WE’s humanitarian projects in Ecuador and Kenya. As soon as Morneau became aware last summer that WE had covered $41,000 worth of expenses for the trips, Dion says he reimbursed the charity. Morneau reimbursed the money shortly before testifying on the matter at the House of Commons Finance Committee in July.
Canada – Ethics Committee Debates New Motion That Could Relaunch Study into WE Charity Scandal
MSN – Christopher Nardi (National Post) | Published: 11/2/2020
The House of Commons ethics committee is making a third attempt at examining conflicts of interest in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, after two tries to probe Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s relationship with WE Charity each failed by one vote. The committee began debating a motion to study possible conflicts-of-interest and lobbying violations in relation to pandemic spending, and specifically the deal with WE Charity to manage a student volunteering program worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – After Waymo Moved Business to State, Ducey Pressed for Its Google Affiliate to Get a $24M, No-Bid Contract
USA Today – Craig Harris (Arizona Republic) | Published: 11/2/2020
Alphabet, best known as the parent company of Google, brought its Waymo subsidiary to Arizona to take advantage of Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order that allowed self-driving cars to operate on public roadways in the state. When Arizona was looking for a new email and communication system, the Department of Administration, at the urging of the governor’s office, awarded a no-bid contract to Google. The deals follow a pattern. The Arizona Republic has found that either Ducey or his staff have been involved in at least a half dozen transactions in which the administration distributed contracts or financial rewards to businesses and nonprofit groups friendly to the governor. In turn, Ducey received campaign contributions from their employees or positive media coverage tied to the organizations’ actions.
Arizona – Judge Won’t Delay Appointments to Arizona’s Redistricting Panel Despite Lawsuit
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 10/29/2020
A judge declined to delay appointment of more members to Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission while she hears arguments about whether two of the nominees are legally qualified to serve. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Janice Crawford said the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which made the nominations, had a chance to investigate the backgrounds of all the applicants, including the two that top Democratic lawmakers contend are ineligible. Crawford said the Democrats are belatedly asking her to bring the process to a temporary halt and set aside constitutionally set deadlines for making appointments, which she is unwilling to do.
Arkansas – 2 Issues on State Ballot Approved by Voters
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 11/4/2020
Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment that will end lifetime term limits for state lawmakers. But they rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have made it more difficult for citizen groups to qualify ballot measures for general election ballots and increased the voting threshold for the state Legislature to refer proposed constitutional amendments to voters.
California – FBI Raids Compton Councilman’s Home, Baldwin Park City Attorney’s Office in Pot Inquiry
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek and Ruben Vives | Published: 11/3/2020
FBI agents served search warrants at the home of Compton City Councilperson Isaac Galvan and the law offices of Baldwin Park City Attorney Robert Tafoya, part of a federal investigation examining Baldwin Park’s dealings with cannabis businesses, according to sources. The raids come amid controversy over Baldwin Park’s approval of licenses for cultivation, distribution, manufacturing, and testing cannabis. In September, a former Baldwin Park police officer said in a sworn declaration he had received complaints from three cannabis operations alleging “questionable business practices, which included paying as much as $250,000 cash in a brown paper bag to city officials.”
Colorado – Aurora City Council Passes Sweeping Campaign Finance Reform
Denver Gazette – Hannah Metzger | Published: 11/4/2020
The Aurora City Council passed a campaign finance reform ordinance, increasing transparency and limiting money in the city’s local elections. The ordinance limits donations from individuals and committees to $1,000 in at-large and mayor races and $400 for city council wards. It also bans contributions from “artificial persons” and increases transparency of donations and enforcement of regulations. The ordinance goes into effect on January 1.
Colorado – Judge Denies Advocacy Group’s Attempt to Suspend Colo. Campaign Finance Enforcement
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlick | Published: 10/29/2020
A federal judge denied a conservative advocacy group’s request to halt campaign finance investigations against committees that advocate for or against ballot initiatives. Colorado law requires organizations whose major purpose is campaigning on ballot initiatives to register an issue committee if they have accepted or expended more than $200. Committees that accept or spend more than $5,000 in an election cycle must also disclose their donors and the nature of their spending. The Colorado Union of Taxpayers and the Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition filed a complaint claiming the registration requirement was unconstitutional, and the First Amendment “gives all Americans the right to speak freely on matters of public concern without obtaining government blessing or fearing government penalty.”
Georgia – DeKalb County Voters Overwhelmingly Vote to Empower County Ethics Board
Decaterish.com – Dan Wisenhunt | Published: 11/5/2020
DeKalb County voters on November 3 approved a reform measure affecting the appointment process for the county’s Ethics Board, giving an agency that had been hobbled for the last two years new life. The measure voters approved does not give the county chief executive officer an appointment to the board or give the CEO power to review the board’s policies and procedures. County employees can still take concerns directly to the board. The position of ethics officer remains intact with the power to investigate violations. The biggest change is the appointment process that undermined the board in 2018.
Hawaii – Retired Hawaii Official Fined $5K for Accepting Free Meals
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 10/29/2020
Tian Xiao, a former top examiner for the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, was fined $5,000 by the state Ethics Commission for accepting free meals from a vendor he oversaw. Xiao accepted about $654 worth of meals, including dinner for himself and his wife at the upscale Nobu Honolulu restaurant. Xiao allegedly violated the state’s gift law by accepting four meals from vendor Risk & Regulatory Consulting in August and October 2018 and July and September 2019, the commission said.
Indiana – Indiana’s Speaker of the House Is Registered as a Lobbyist in New York City
Indianapolis Monthly – Adam Wren | Published: 10/30/2020
Indiana Speaker of the House Todd Huston is registered as a lobbyist for the College Board in New York City and has been since 2015, according to a review of public records, though Huston claims to have never actually lobbied on behalf of his employer. Huston was not aware of his registration status until within the last several weeks, and so did not disclose it to the Indiana House Ethics Committee. “I have not and do not lobby,” Huston said in a statement. “Additionally, at my request, there is an organizational firewall in place to ensure I am not involved in any of my employer’s matters involving the state of Indiana.”
Kansas – Kansas State Parties Didn’t Disclose Which Candidates They’re Backing and Attacking
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 10/30/2020
The Kansas Democratic and Republican party committees likely violated state campaign finance law by failing to disclose which candidates they are backing and attacking with more than $1.7 million in mailers this election cycle. Neither party has correctly reported its spending since 2010, when both parties clearly identified which candidates that they were boosting with campaign mail, a Wichita Eagle analysis found. In the past decade, both major state parties stopped reporting information that is required by state law.
Maryland – Baltimore County Voters Move Toward Public Matching Fund for Candidates
Maryland Matters – Bennett Leckrone | Published: 11/5/2020
Preliminary election results showed voters signed off on creating an election fund that would match small donations for local candidates in Baltimore County, a measure advocates say would create fairer elections. The charter amendment would create a Citizens’ Election Fund system in the county, establishing a public trust that, starting in 2026, would match small donations for county council and county executive candidates. It also would establish a commission within the county that would determine details and provide for funding of the program. Participation would be voluntary for candidates.
Maryland – Following Pugh Scandal, UMMS Seeks a ‘Fresh Start’ in Implementing Auditor-Recommended Ethics Changes
Yahoo News – Ben Leonard (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 10/29/2020
The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) implemented dozens of recommendations from auditors relating to board governance and conflicts-of-interest a year after a high-profile scandal involving ex-Baltimore City Mayor and former system board member Catherine Pugh. Lawmakers asked the Office of Legislative Audits to investigate UMMS after it was reported that one-third of the 30-member board had contracts with the system, including Pugh. The system paid Pugh $500,000 for 100,000 copies of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books. Pugh later pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges related to the deal.
Mississippi – Mississippi Approves Flag with Magnolia, ‘In God We Trust’
Associated Press News – Emily Wagster Pettus | Published: 11/4/2020
Mississippi will fly a new state flag with a magnolia and the phrase “In God We Trust,” with voters approving the design on November 3. It replaces a Confederate-themed flag that state lawmakers retired months ago as part of the national reckoning over racial injustice. Mississippi has been without a flag since late June, when legislators surrendered the last state banner in the U.S. that included the Confederate battle emblem. The rebel flag is widely condemned as racist.
Missouri – Amendment 3: Effort to overturn Clean Missouri redistricting poised to pass narrowly
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 11/4/2020
Missouri voters reversed changes they made to the redistricting process two years ago by approving Amendment 3. The 2018 reform created a new demographer position to draft districts aimed at producing more competitive elections and a Legislature better reflecting the statewide vote. Now, the old bipartisan commissions will be back in charge with appellate judges backing them up if they deadlock. Amendment 3 also bans all gifts to lawmakers from most paid lobbyists and reduces the amount an individual ccan donate to a Missouri Senate candidate’s personal campaign committee.
New Jersey – Former Jersey City School Board President and Head of Re-Entry Organization Indicted by Feds
Newark Star Ledger – Patrick Villanova | Published: 11/2/2020
Sudhan Thomas, the former president of the Jersey City Board of Education and the ex-head of the city’s Employment and Training Program, was indicted on charges of embezzlement, money laundering, and fraud. Thomas is accused of embezzling $45,000 from JCETP, an organization receiving federal funds, as well as wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the JCETP theft. Thomas was also charged with wire fraud for embezzling money from his 2016 Jersey City school board campaign; wire fraud for embezzling money from his 2019 campaign; and bank fraud for stealing checks issued by and to another school board candidate’s campaign in 2018.
New York – Judge Rules Sterne Agee Analyst Complicit in NY Pension Pay-to-Play Scheme
Chief Investment Officer – Michael Katz | Published: 11/3/2020
A federal judge ruled John Paulsen, a former managing director at Sterne Agee & Leach, aided and abetted a “pay-to-play” scheme involving the $216.3 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe found Navnoor Kang, the pension fund’s director of fixed income, used his position to solicit and receive improper entertainment from Paulsen and Deborah Kelley, a registered representative at the firm. In exchange for the entertainment, Kang directed a “significant amount” of state business to Sterne Agee, which generated “sizable commissions,” Gardephe said.
New York – State Elections Commissioner Held Another Role: Political party official
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/1/2020
About two months before Gregory Peterson resigned as a state Board of Elections commissioner last year, questions emerged about a potential conflict-of-interest. Since 2008, Peterson had served as one of two Republican-appointed commissioners on the four-person board, influential posts responsible for setting statewide elections policy and helping regulate candidates’ campaigns. Beginning in 2011, Peterson held another title: vice-chairperson of the Nassau County Republican Party, a political organization that works to elect GOP candidates on Long Island and is regulated by the Board of Elections. A provision of the Public Officers Law bars state government officials in policymaking roles from being an “officer, director, or board member of any party or political organization.”
North Dakota – North Dakota Voters Reject Measure 2 by Wide Margin
Grand Forks Herald – Jeremy Turley | Published: 11/4/2020
North Dakota voters rejected a ballot measure that would have given the Legislature a say in the process of amending the state constitution. Currently, petitioners can gather about 27,000 signatures from North Dakota residents, place a constitutional measure on the ballot, and if it passes, a change to the constitution must be made. Under Measure 2, the Legislature would have gotten the authority to reject a voter-approved constitutional measure and send the measure back to a public vote for final approval.
Ohio – 2 Ohio Political Operatives Plead Guilty in Bribery Probe
Associated Press News – Andrew Welsh-Huggins | Published: 10/29/2020
Jeffrey Longstreth and lobbyist Juan Cespedes pleaded guilty to racketeering charges involving the House Bill 6 scandal. Longstreth served as former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s political strategist. Cespedes worked as a lobbyist for FirstEnergy Solutions, the former subsidiary of FirstEnergy that owned two nuclear power plants in Ohio. Longstreth and Cespedes were among five men charged in what federal prosecutors called the largest “pay-to-play” scandal in the state’s history involving the passage of a $1.3 billion bailout of the plants. An FBI affidavit said Householder and lobbyists Neil Clark and Matthew Borges, as well as Longstreth and Cespedes, accepted more than $60 million in bribes from FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries over a course of three years to push House Bill 6 and fight off a ballot initiative.
Ohio – Embattled Former Ohio House Speaker Easily Wins Re-Election
The Center Square – J.D. Davidson | Published: 11/4/2020
An indictment, an arrest, two guilty pleas, and a $60 million bribery scandal did not stop former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder from returning to the statehouse. Householder, who faced opposition only from four write-in candidates, easily won re-election in a wide-ranging district that covers mostly rural areas in central and eastern Ohio but also includes some affluent and growing Columbus suburbs. In July, the House voted unanimously to strip Householder of his speakership after a federal indictment that charged him with bribery and racketeering connected to House Bill 6, a nuclear energy bailout bill that provided billions of dollars for two Ohio nuclear power plants.
Oregon – Oregon Opens Door for Campaign Finance Limits
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 11/3/2020
In a historic vote that presages the demise of some of the nation’s most permissive campaign finance rules, Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 107. It amends the state constitution to permit campaign finance reform. The measure gives state and local governments the ability to enact laws that limit campaign contributions and expenditures and require their disclosure. It also would require political campaign advertisements to identify who pays for them.
Oregon – Portland Man Files Complaint to Enforce Oregon’s 2006 Campaign Contribution Limits
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 10/30/2020
A Portland advocate for limits on political donations has filed a complaint with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office seeking to enforce a 2006 voter-approved campaign finance law that capped donations from any one individual at $100 for most races. Ron Buel’s complaint focuses on a recent $150 donation by May 2020 Portland City Council candidate Seth Woolley to Woolley’s own PAC, but the complaint could have vast implications.
Oregon – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan to His Own Campaign Wasn’t Illegal, City Auditor Says
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 11/3/2020
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler did not violate election rules by loaning his reelection campaign $150,000, City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero announced a few hours before the ballot dropoff deadline. Hull Caballero noted while Portland voters in 2018 approved campaign finance restrictions that included a $5,000 limit on candidates making personal loans to their campaigns, the Oregon Supreme Court in April deemed expenditure limits violated the First Amendment.
Tennessee – Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley Put on Medical Probation for Unethical Opioid Prescriptions
The Tennessean – Brett Kelman | Published: 11/4/2020
A state medical board ordered professional probation for the medical license of Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley, a punishment described by his attorney as “the death penalty” for Hensley’s decades-long career as a small town doctor. Hensley admitted to providing medical care and prescribing opioids and other controlled substances to several family members and a second cousin who was both his employee and his romantic partner. In some cases, Hensley did not document the prescriptions or take mandatory steps to prevent addiction or misuse.
Texas – City Ethics Commission Wrestles with Access During Pandemic
Austin Monitor – Elizabeth Pagano | Published: 11/2/2020
In its previous, pre-pandemic incarnation, the Austin Ethics Review Commission met in a back room of City Hall that was often jammed full of commissioners, accusers, defenders, and occasionally, reporters. Since March, however, it has been much harder to follow the work of the body tasked with reviewing ethics violations by city employees. Unlike some other commissions, meetings have not been broadcast. And those curious about the commission’s activities were not given an option to listen in. So, anyone interested in what was going on had one choice: wait a few days, and then check for an audio recording of the meeting. It is a situation that commissioners are hoping to change.
Virginia – In Va., Gun-Control Fight Gives Rise to Movement for County-Approved Militias
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 10/31/2020
Earlier this year, Campbell County’s board of supervisors officially recognized a self-proclaimed militia as an organization to “enhance the safety and security” of citizens and as a “barrier against a tyrannical government.” Bedford County followed suit and a similar resolution is being debated in Halifax County. Armed militia groups have formed throughout Virginia this year, an outgrowth of the “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement that swept county courthouses a year ago as a backlash against proposed gun control laws. Supporters say the militia members are simply citizens out to help their communities and the resolutions are symbolic, meant to send a message to Democrats who control state government that rural Virginia will not abide any efforts to restr5ict access to guns.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Republican Party Says Hackers Stole $2.3 Million
Yahoo News – Scott Bauer (Associated Press) | Published: 10/29/2020
Hackers have stolen $2.3 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party’s account that was being used to help reelect President Trump in the state. GOP Chairperson Andrew Hitt said the hackers manipulated invoices from four vendors who were being paid for direct mail for Trump’s reelection efforts as well as for pro-Trump material such as hats to be handed out to supporters. Invoices and other documents were altered so when the party paid them for the services rendered, the money went to the hackers instead of the vendors, Hitt said.
October 23, 2020 •
National/Federal Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/20/2020 A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals indicated there is little need for a […]
Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/20/2020
A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals indicated there is little need for a swift ruling in the legal battle over access to President Trump’s financial records The panel previously upheld the subpoena brought by the House but considered the case for the second time after the U.S. Supreme Court instructed it to reevaluate the House’s subpoena power. Democrats had hoped to have Trump’s past financial statements for campaign leverage. For Judge David Tatel, however, the more prudent move would be to wait until after the next Congress convenes on January 3. The case is one of several ongoing legal battles over the president’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight.
Ex-Interior Official Violated Trump Ethics Pledge by Meeting with Former Associates: Watchdog
The Hill – Rebecca Bietsch | Published: 10/21/2020
A former top Interior Department political appointee violated his ethics pledge by taking a meeting with an organization he previously volunteered for, according to a report from the department’s watchdog. Sources said the employee in question is Todd Wynn, the former head of the department’s Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs. Wynn, now a lobbyist for a major Arizona utility, took a meeting with Rich Lindsey, an energy committee policy consultant from the Council of State Governments. Wynn previously was on the board of trustees for the Council of State Governments 21st Century Foundation.
Former Top Trump Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty to Foreign Lobbying Charge
Miami Herald – Ben Wieder | Published: 10/20/2020
Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and, at the time, the Republican National Committee, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to serve as an unregistered foreign agent. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and has agreed to forfeit $6.6 million he was paid for his work. The charge is related to his efforts to arrange meetings with top American officials to help quash a U.S. investigation into the 1MDB Malaysian embezzlement scheme and to push for the deportation of Chinese dissident Guo Wengui. Broidy agreed he acted as a foreign agent in his efforts.
Full Federal Appeals Court in D.C. to Weigh House Subpoena to Ex-White House Counsel Donald McGahn
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 10/15/2020
The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived the House of Representatives’ attempt to enforce a subpoena to former White House counsel Don McGahn but cautioned the case could go unresolved once this Congress’s term ends in January. The appeals court said it will revisit a three-judge panel decision to dismiss the House lawsuit, which came after the White House claimed key presidential aides are “absolutely immune” from compelled testimony to Congress. The panel found Congress has not passed a law expressly authorizing it to sue to enforce its subpoenas.
How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller | Published: 10/20/2020
Some campaign aides for President Trump privately acknowledge they are facing difficult spending decisions at a time when Joe Biden has flooded the airwaves with advertising, even though Trump’s political operation has raised well over $1 billion since he took the White House in 2017. That has put Trump in the position of needing to do more of his signature rallies as a substitute during the coronavirus pandemic while relying on an unproven theory that he can turn out supporters who are infrequent voters at historic levels. “You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly,” said Republican consultant Mike Murphy.
Lobbyists Face Challenges Meeting Newly Elected Lawmakers in November
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 10/15/2020
Lobbyists are preparing for the difficulty of virtually getting to know newly elected members of Congress when they come to Washington, D.C. for orientation in November. A victory by Joe Biden would make that task even harder given the influx of new aides and administration officials. In all, lobbyists could find themselves navigating the challenges of trying to meet new leadership, committee, agency, and administration staffers in a pandemic without in-person meetings or the fundraisers that typically populate K Street’s calendar shortly after a general election.
On the Job and On the Stump, Cabinet Officials Flout Hatch Act
Bloomberg Law – Stephen Lee, Megan Boyanton, Andrew Kreigbaum, Shaun Courtney, and Alex Ruoff | Published: 10/14/2020
Under President Trump, allegations of violations of the Hatch Act, which clamps down on political activities of government employees while they are on the job, have come at a rate not seen in previous administrations, but there have been few consequences. Two agencies have a role in enforcing Hatch Act violations: the Justice Department, which handles criminal cases, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which takes on civil violations. But while the OSC sometimes makes Hatch Act findings, the Justice Department rarely does, said David Gergen, a professor of public service at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Supreme Court Tees Up Census Case Over Whether Trump Can Exclude Undocumented Immigrants
Politico – Steven Shepard | Published: 10/16/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count used to apportion congressional districts to the 50 states. The court’s announcement teed up oral arguments in the case for November 30, an accelerated timeline that paves the way for a potential decision before the Census Bureau is set to deliver the population counts to Trump’s desk at the end of the year. In July, Trump issued a memorandum in July, asking the Census Bureau to subtract undocumented immigrants from the count for the purposes of congressional apportionment, the reallocation of the nation’s 435 House districts every 10 years.
The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 10/20/2020
While Joe Biden’s campaign has trumpeted the small donations flooding in at record rates, the elite world of billionaires and multimillionaires has remained a critical cog in the Biden money machine. As the size of checks has grown, the campaign has become less transparent, declining so far to disclose the names of its most influential bundlers. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Wall Street, Biden’s campaign has aggressively courted the megadonor class. It has raised almost $200 million from donors who gave at least $100,000 to his joint operations with the Democratic Party in the last six months, about twice as much as President Trump raised from six-figure donors in that time.
Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits
New York Times – Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner, and Susanne Craig | Published: 10/20/2020
President Trump and his allies have tried to paint Joe Biden as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there. But Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. It turns out China is one of only three foreign nations where Trump maintains a bank account. The foreign accounts do not show up on Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management LLC, which records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.
Twitter Changes Policy That Blocked a New York Post Story About Biden’s Son
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 10/15/2020
Twitter changed a rule about hacked materials that resulted in blocking a controversial New York Post story about the alleged emails of Joe Biden’s son. The link to the New York Post story will still be blocked under a policy that prohibits sharing people’s personal information. Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde tweeted that the company made the decision after receiving “feedback” that the policy on hacked materials as written could result in undue censorship of journalists and whistleblowers. Going forward, Twitter will remove content only if it is directly posted by hackers or those acting in concert with them. It will label more questionable tweets.
U.S. Government Concludes Iran Was Behind Threatening Emails Sent to Democrats
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 10/22/2020
U.S. officials accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election. The disclosure by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily called news conference marked the first time this election cycle that a foreign adversary has been accused of targeting specific voters in a bid to undermine democratic confidence. The claim that Iran was behind the email operation, which came into view as Democrats in several states reported receiving emails demanding they vote for President Trump, was leveled without specific evidence. Other U.S. officials, speaking privately, stressed that Russia still remained the major threat to the 2020 election.
White House Was Warned Giuliani Was Target of Russian Intelligence Operation to Feed Misinformation to Trump
MSN – Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2020
The intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani as a conduit for disinformation aimed at undermining Joe Biden’s presidential run. Trump and Giuliani have promoted unsubstantiated claims about Biden that have aligned with Russian disinformation efforts, and Giuliani has met with a Ukrainian lawmaker whom American officials believe is a Russian agent. When national security adviser Robert O’Brien cautioned Trump in a private conversation, Trump dismissed concern about Giuliani’s activities by saying, “That’s Rudy.”
Canada – Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds
CBC – Tara Carman | Published: 10/21/2020
A ban on union and corporate donations to British Columbia political parties and a cap on the amount individuals can give has hurt the provincial Liberals the most, a CBC News analysis found. The ban was introduced by the New Democratic Party (NDP) government in November 2017. Even though British Columbia’s two largest parties both used to accept tens of thousands of dollars from deep-pocketed donors – unions in the case of the NDP and businesses in the case of the Liberals, for the most part – the Liberals were more dependent on those contributions. Donations of $250 or less collectively form the biggest piece of the donation pie for all three parties. This was also true before the rule change, but the limits have made those types of contributions more important.
Canada – Lobbyists Must Now Report Their Activities
Whitehorse Daily Star – Gabrielle Plonka | Published: 10/21/2020
Lobbyists are now required to report their activities in the Yukon Territory with the implementation of the Lobbyist Registration Act. Lobbyists are responsible for registering and entering their information online. A 90-day grace period from October 15 is in effect, to allow for lobbyists to learn and adhere to the new reporting requirements. All lobbyists must register by January 13, 2021. David Jones, the Yukon’s conflict of interest commissioner, is responsible for maintaining and overseeing the Lobbyist Registry.
Canada – Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal in Aga Khan Lobbying Case
CTV – Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) | Published: 10/15/2020
A new court ruling means the federal lobbying commissioner will not be taking a fresh look at whether the Aga Khan broke rules by giving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a vacation in the Bahamas. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal in the matter from Democracy Watch. In September 2017, then-Commissioner Karen Shepherd said there was no basis to a complaint that the Aga Khan, a billionaire philanthropist and religious leader, had violated the code for lobbyists by allowing Trudeau and his family to stay on his private island in the Caribbean the previous Christmas.
From the States and Municipalities
California – City Clerk Sent People’s Credit Card Numbers to Jailed Husband
Patch – City News Service | Published: 10/21/2020
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission imposed a fine of $7,500 against Lorena Saucillo, a former city clerk who sent people’s credit card information to her incarcerated husband. On two occasions, Saucillo recorded credit card information provided by landlords who were paying city fees. Using her city email address, Lorena sent the credit card information to a personal email account accessible to her husband, whom she knew was intending to use the information for fraudulent purposes, the commission said.
California – Community Newspaper Backed by Former Irvine Mayor and Current Council Candidate Draws Criticism
Los Angeles Times – Ben Brazil | Published: 10/20/2020
An Irvine community newspaper backed by a former mayor and City Council candidate is drawing criticism from academics and council members who consider it misleading to residents. Some have called Irvine Community News & Views biased in favor of Larry Agran, the longstanding local politician who helped get the newspaper started. Agran said in an interview that the newspaper, which claims a circulation of 66,500, is legitimate and just like any other. Agran credited publisher and friend Frank Lunding with starting and running the paper. “I have written for it. I am proud of it. I help Frank wherever I can. I help recruit writers for him,” Agran said.
California – Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify voter signatures
San Diego Union Tribune – John Wilkens | Published: 10/18/2020
Election workers eyeballing the signatures of San Diego County voters are at the heart of a screening process that happens before mail ballots for the November 3 election are counted. Workers compare scanned images of voters’ return-envelope signatures with samples already on file at the county Registrar of Voters. It is how they verify the person returning a ballot is the person it was sent to, a safeguard against fraud. Exact matches are not required. Instead, the workers are checking similarities in characteristics such as the slant of the letters, the spacing between the first and last names, and how the “I’s” are dotted and the “t’s” crossed.
California – Main Witness in Santa Clara County Concealed-Gun Bribery Case Pleads Guilty
San Jose Mercury News – Robert Salonga | Published: 10/19/2020
Former AS Solution security manager Martin Nielsen, the primary witness who implicated a sheriff’s captain and three others in an alleged bribery scheme to trade political donations supporting Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith for concealed-carry weapons permits, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for his role in the ploy. According to the indictment, Nielsen and two others conspired with the four main defendants to obtain up to a dozen concealed-carry weapons permits from the sheriff’s office in exchange for $90,000 in donations to groups that supported Smith.
Colorado – Facing a Deluge of Misinformation, Colorado Takes the Offensive Against It
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti and Davey Alba | Published: 10/20/2020
In 2019, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold saw a tweet falsely claiming her state’s election system had been hacked. The flare-up was another reminder of how pervasive election misinformation had become since the 2016 presidential election. To prevent deceptive tweets, doctored videos, and other forms of misinformation from undermining Colorado’s elections, Griswold is starting a new initiative that will run ads on social media and expand digital outreach to help voters identify foreign misinformation. Griswold and other secretaries of state are bracing for a deluge of misinformation about voting as Election Day draws closer, forced to defend a decentralized election system that has shown a particular weakness to the impact of rumors and outright lies.
Florida – Appeals Court Rejects NRA Lobbyist’s Case Over Graphic Parkland Massacre Emails
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 10/21/2020
A full federal appeals court rejected a request by National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer to take up a case about graphic emails she received after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Hammer asked for the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear her case against attorney Lawrence Sorensen, who emailed photos to Hammer that included photos of gunshot wounds. The request came after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle and a three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled against Hammer, who alleged Sorensen violated state laws about issues such as cyberstalking, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Florida – In Last-Minute Push, DeSantis Administration Urges Florida Election Officials to Remove Felons Who Owe Fines from Voting Rolls
Washington Post – Beth Reinhard and Lori Rozsa | Published: 10/20/2020
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration delivered last-minute guidance to local election officials recommending measures that voting-rights advocates say could intimidate or confuse voters, the latest salvo in a pitched battle over who is able to cast ballots in a state crucial to President Trump’s reelection. In a notice sent to local election officials, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews urged them to remove from the voter rolls people with felony convictions who still owe court fines and fees, a move that local officials said is impossible to accomplish before Election Day. A second memo from Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee’s general counsel recommended that election staff or law enforcement guard all mail ballot drop boxes, a step that local election officials say is not required under the law.
Florida – Orlando Airport Leaders Will Review Their Lobbying Rules Following Sentinel Report
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 10/21/2020
The agency that runs Orlando International Airport will reexamine its lobbying rules after The Orlando Sentinel reported that a prominent lobbyist broke those rules over the summer but did not face any consequences. Christina Daly Brodeur, a lobbyist at Ballard Partners, called four board members in July on behalf of a client. The rules require lobbyists to report their contacts with board members within one week. Brodeur did not disclose her calls until nearly three months later.
Illinois – Chicago Mayor Exchanged Emails with Lobbyist as City Ethics Board Declined to Enforce Lobbying Ban
MSN – John Byrne and Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/20/2020
Mayor Lori Lightfoot exchanged emails with lobbyist and Flossmoor Trustee Gyata Kimmons months after a law took effect banning elected public officials from lobbying Chicago City Hall. Kimmons emailed Lightfoot on behalf of a real estate company with tenants at O’Hare International Airport. The back-and-forth occurred after Lightfoot introduced a proposal that would have rolled back part of the ordinance that prohibited elected officials such as Kimmons from lobbying city officials while keeping his elected post. Alderman rejected Lightfoot’s plan but while it was pending, Kimmons continued to lobby the city. During that time, the Chicago Board of Ethics declined to enforce the restrictions against lobbying by elected officials on the grounds that if Lightfoot’s proposal passed, it would nullify them.
Illinois – Cook County Commissioner Is Part Owner of and Worked for a Cannabis License Applicant, Which Critics Say She Should Have Disclosed Sooner
Chicago Tribune – Robert McCoppin | Published: 10/15/2020
Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen, who is a former Illinois cannabis regulator, said she is part owner of a company that is applying for cannabis licenses and she was paid to write the applications. The state’s “revolving door” law, meant to keep state workers from immediately switching from regulating an industry to participating in it, prohibits any regulatory worker from accepting compensation from any entity which that person “substantially” regulated, within one year of their state employment. Effective next year, the law will prohibit any state workers who participated substantially in awarding cannabis licenses from holding ownership in any cannabis license for two years after they leave their state jobs. Degnen said she was out of her state job for two years before she joined AmeriCanna Dream late last year.
Illinois – Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep
Chicago Sun-Times – Robert Herguth | Published: 10/18/2020
The Illinois Democratic Party has been deluging potential voters in the general election with campaign mailers taking aim at Republican state Rep. Bradley Stephens for taking donations from one of the new bogeymen of Illinois politics: the red-light camera industry. But records also reveal House Speaker Michael Madigan, who runs the state Democratic Party and has been bankrolling the campaign of Stephens’ opponent, has accepted generous campaign checks from red-light camera companies and people affiliated with them for many years. Madigan’s campaign funds have also accepted donations from officials tied to SafeSpeed, which has been swept up in an ongoing federal corruption investigation.
Kansas – Wichita Man Arrested for Allegedly Threatening to Kidnap and Kill Mayor Over City’s Mask Mandate, Police Say
Washington Post – Timothy Bella | Published: 10/19/2020
When Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple was told about the series of text messages sent to another city official, the mayor said he noticed the man, frustrated by the city’s mask mandate to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, had spelled out a graphic, specific threat to kidnap and kill him. The Wichita Police Department confirmed that Meredith Dowty was arrested on a charge of criminal threat for allegedly sending the frightening texts directed at Whipple. The arrest in Kansas’s largest city follows a disturbing trend of alleged abduction plots involving elected officials nationwide.
Kentucky – Ethics Problems in Kentucky County Government? Many Have No Ethics Boards to Look.
MSN – Bill Estep (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 10/14/2020
Dozens of Kentucky counties are failing to fully follow a law requiring financial disclosure by officials and having local boards to handle ethics issues, according to state Auditor Mike Harmon’s office. Harmon said his office surveyed counties on the issue because it has referred findings about potential problems to county ethics boards, only to find there was no active board. In addition to violating the law, the widespread county shortcomings could undermine confidence in government, Harmon said.
Maryland – Maryland Lawmakers Issue Subpoena to Hogan’s Former Chief of Staff Over Six-Figure Payout
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 10/15/2020
State lawmakers issued subpoenas for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff, Roy McGrath, and Matthew Sherring, who worked for McGrath at the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), to appear before a committee investigating McGrath’s six-figure payout from his prior job at a state agency. McGrath left his position as Hogan’s top aide four days after The Baltimore Sun reported he negotiated a payout worth more than $238,000 when he left the MES. It was also reported The Sun subsequently reported that McGrath and other executives earned tens of thousands of dollars in annual bonuses, and he was paid more than $55,000 in expense reimbursements for travel, meetings, and meals after he left the agency.
Michigan – Michigan Appeals Court Reinstates Election Day Mail-In Ballot Deadline as Early Voting Surge Continues
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck, John Glionna, and Douglas Moser | Published: 10/17/2020
A state appeals court in Michigan moved up the deadline for voters to return mail-in ballots, reimposing a cutoff favored by Republicans during a continuing surge in early and mail-in voting around the country. A panel from the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that said ballots could be counted if they were postmarked before Election Day and received within 14 days. The extension would have made Michigan’s deadline one of the most generous in the country. Voters in the state now must return their mail-in ballots by eight p.m. on November 3.
Montana – Montana’s Political Cop Finds Cooney Violated Campaign Finance Rules
Bozeman Daily Chronicle – Perrin Stein | Published: 10/19/2020
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan found Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who is running for governor against U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, failed to properly report in-kind contributions from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and also accepted donations beyond the state limit from the group. The Cooney campaign and the DGA worked on a statewide advertising campaign criticizing Gianforte for his alleged support of a sales tax. Mangan said the Cooney campaign failed to disclose the costs associated with a website that was a component of the advertising campaign as an in-kind contribution from the DGA.
New Mexico – NM Investment Scandal Winds Down
Albuquerque Journal – Mike Gallagher | Published: 10/17/2020
The New Mexico Supreme Court effectively closed the books on state investment scandals involving “pay-to-play” schemes beginning in 2004 that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in investments that went south. The court upheld earlier rulings that rejected a challenge to a $24.5 million settlement reached between lawyers for the Educational Retirement Board (ERB) and State Investment Council with Vanderbilt Capital Advisors. The state lost more than $100 million on its Vanderbilt investments, and the settlement had been challenged as inadequate by Frank Foy, former chief investment officer at the ERB.
North Carolina – Federal Appeals Court Won’t Lift North Carolina Ballot-Receipt Extension
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/21/2020
A divided federal appeals court denied an attempt by Republicans to block an agreement by North Carolina officials allowing absentee ballots in the November election to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and received up to nine days later. North Caolina typically counts absentee ballots that arrive up to three days after the election, but the State Board of Elections agreed to extend that window to nine days due to the increased ballot requests related to the coronavirus pandemic, as well concerns about mail delays due to recent Postal Service changes.
Ohio – Ex-House Speaker Runs for Reelection Despite Federal Charges
Associated Press News – Farnoush Amiri | Published: 10/17/2020
Ohio Rep. Larry Householder is likely to win reelection this year despite being indicted on racketeering charges in the alleged bribery scheme to pass a bailout of two nuclear power plants. House members considered removing Householder from the chamber immediately but, if they did so before November 3, voters would be able to reelect him and a lawmaker cannot be expelled twice. The only option now for both parties is to wait until the legislative session begins in January to consider expelling or impeaching him. If reelected, Householder would be automatically removed from office if he is convicted as state law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony or bribery charges from holding public office.
Ohio – Indicted Lobbyist Caims Jay Edwards Is ‘Representative 8’ in HB6 Affidavit, Report Says
Athens News – Ben Peters | Published: 10/16/2020
Neil Clark, a longtime Columbus lobbyist who was indicted in a corruption probe, said Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards is “Representative 8” in the federal affidavit connected to the House Bill 6 scandal. Clark said he, Edwards, then-House Speaker Larry Householder, an aide, and two clients – who Clark reportedly believed to be working undercover with the FBI – met in September 2019 at the Aubergine Club, where they discussed the importance of defeating the ballot initiative campaign that aimed to repeal House Bill 6. Edwards, who served as majority whip, said he does not recall attending the meeting, but he never explicitly denied it occurred.
Oregon – Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 10/15/2020
Oregon voters who go online to search for information about the election are likely to find a website called the “2020 Oregon voter guide” at the top of their search results. Thanks to paid search engine ads, that website shows up before the state’s official voters’ guide. It looks neutral and informational, but it endorses only Democrats and urges a “yes” vote on all four statewide ballot measures. Campaign finance data shows at least one candidate and some state and local ballot measures endorsed by the guide are paying the PAC that produced it. That information is not listed on the website, nor on political mailers.
Pennsylvania – Supreme Court Allows Pennsylvania to Count Ballots Received Up to 3 Days After Election Day
USA Today – Richard Wolf | Published: 10/19/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled absentee ballots in Pennsylvania can be received up to three days beyond Election Day, setting a precedent that could apply to some other states as well. The justices’ order establishes the ground rules for mail-in voting in one of the nation’s key battleground states. The ruling could have an impact in other states where the deadline for mail-in ballots has been the subject of court battles. Those include Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Indiana, and Montana.
Rhode Island – What’s in a Semicolon? Punctuation Is Key as Lawyers Offer Last Arguments in Political Operative Jeffrey Britt’s Case
MSN – Kate Mulvaney (Providence Journal) | Published: 10/19/2020
Final written arguments were submitted in the trial of Jeremy Britt, a campaign operative for Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. The arguments did not focus solely on Britt’s guilt or innocence on the most serious charge he faces – allegedly funneling money through a once-rival Republican’s campaign to hide his own role in arranging and financing a mailer endorsing Mattiello. At the judge’s request, they also addressed the significance of the punctuation in the state’s money-laundering law. More specifically, whether placement of commas and semicolons should determine Britt’s fate.
Wyoming – Secretary of State Will Require Gun Rights Group to Disclose Donors
Casper Star Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 10/20/2020
The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office ordered a pro-gun lobbying organization to reveal its donors after a summer in which the group flooded Wyoming with dozens of ads disparaging a number of sitting lawmakers in competitive races. The office said Wyoming Gun Owners failed to comply with state campaign finance law by not reporting the electioneering communications. The gun owners group now has until November 4 to release the names of its donors or face a $500 fine. If the group refuses to comply, the case will then go to the state attorney general.
October 16, 2020 •
National/Federal As U.S. Politics Heats Up, Companies Seek to Avoid Controversy Reuters – Jessica DiNapoli | Published: 10/13/2020 A record number of U.S. companies are either banning political spending or making sure they disclose it, as they seek to steer clear […]
As U.S. Politics Heats Up, Companies Seek to Avoid Controversy
Reuters – Jessica DiNapoli | Published: 10/13/2020
A record number of U.S. companies are either banning political spending or making sure they disclose it, as they seek to steer clear of controversy ahead of the November 3 election, a new study found. While many American corporations donate to candidates and campaigns, some do not disclose it. This can put them in the crosshairs of customers and suppliers who can accuse them of a lack of transparency. The Center for Political Accountability found 332 companies in the S&P 500 prohibited some kind of political spending, like funding political committees, or disclosed some or all of their election-related spending in 2020, up roughly nine percent from 2016.
As Virus Spread, Reports of Trump Administration’s Private Briefings Fueled Sell-Off
New York Times – Kate Kelly and Mark Mazzetti | Published: 10/14/2020
On the day President Trump declared the coronavirus was “very much under control,” senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the Hoover Institution, were less confident. Tomas Philipson, an economic adviser to the president, told the group he could not yet estimate the effects of the virus on the American economy. To some in the group, the implication was that an outbreak could prove worse than administration advisers were signaling in public. A hedge fund consultant’s assessment of the meeting spread through parts of the investment world and traders spotted the immediate significance: the president’s aides appeared to be giving wealthy party donors an early warning of a potentially impactful contagion at a time when Trump was publicly insisting the threat was nonexistent.
Court Tells FEC to Take Action on Complaint Against Dark Money Group Tied to Joni Ernst
The Gazete – James Lynch | Published: 10/14/2020
A U.S. District Court judge entered a default judgment against the FEC, ordering it to act on a complaint involving a so-called dark money group tied to U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s campaign. The complaint was brought by the Campaign Legal Center, which told the court the FEC had failed to take action on its complaint that Ernst’s campaign had illegally coordinated with Iowa Values, a political nonprofit backing the senator. Candidates and outside groups are prohibited from coordinating their political activities. The FEC generally has not enforced coordination rules, allowing for the proliferation of super PACs and nonprofit groups tied to party leaders and individual candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Facebook to Temporarily Halt Political Ads in U.S. After Polls Close Nov. 3, Broadening Earlier Restrictions
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 10/7/2020
Facebook said it plans to temporarily suspend all political and issue-based advertising after polls close November 3, a move the company said was intended to limit confusion, misinformation, and abuse of its services in the days after the presidential election. Facebook also said it would remove calls for people to watch the polls when those posts use militaristic or intimidating language. Executives said the policy applies to anyone, including President Trump and other officials. Trump has made calls for people to engage in poll-watching, and Donald Trump Jr. appeared in an ad urging people to “defend your ballot” and join an “army” to protect the polls.
Fake Twitter Accounts Posing as Black Trump Supporters Appear, Reach Thousands, Then Vanish
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 10/13/2020
An account featuring the image of a Black police officer, President Trump, and the words “VOTE REPUBLICAN” had a brief but spectacular run on Twitter. In six days after it became active, it tweeted just eight times but garnered 24,000 followers, with its most popular tweet being liked 75,000 times. Then, on days later, the account was suspended by Twitter for breaking its rules against platform manipulation. The reach of @CopJrCliff and other fake accounts from supposed Black Trump supporters highlights how an account can be effective at pushing misleading narratives in just a few days – faster than Twitter can take it down.
Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Charged with Acting as a Foreign Agent, Is Likely to Plead Guilty
Seattle Times – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 10/8/2020
Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy was charged in a criminal information with conspiring to act as a foreign agent as he lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese interests, an indication he is likely to soon plead guilty in the case to resolve the allegations against him. Prosecutors outlined how they believe he took millions of dollars in undisclosed money to end a U.S. investigation into Malaysian corruption and, separately, to return outspoken Chinese exile Guo Wengui to his home country. Prosecutors said Broidy and others orchestrated “back-channel, unregistered campaigns” to influence the administration, though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
New Justice Dept. Election Fraud Guidance Could Allow Boosting of Trump’s Exaggerated Claims, Legal Observers Say
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 10/7/2020
The Justice Department issued guidance giving federal prosecutors more leeway to take public action on suspected election fraud before ballots are in, a move some legal analysts worry could foreshadow an effort to bolster President Trump’s exaggerated claims of fraud via mail-in voting. The guidance detailed what it called an “exception to the general non-interference with elections policy,” which discourages prosecutors from taking overt steps in fraud investigations until all ballots are counted and certified. Critics say Trump and Attorney General William Barr seem to be working in concert to undermine public confidence in the election result, and the newly issued guidance could aid in that effort – allowing prosecutors to publicize cases of suspected fraud they previously would have been barred from discussing.
NYT: Vegas connections helped Trump engineer $21M windfall during 2016 race
The Hill – Naomi Jagoda | Published: 10/9/2020
Donald Trump’s tax records reveal he engineered a windfall of more than $21 million during his 2016 presidential run, The New York Times reported. A hotel Trump owns with casino mogul Phil Ruffin in Las Vegas made payments to several companies Trump controlled, and that money then flowed to the president himself. The hotel wrote off the payments as a business expense, The Times said. The newspaper reported that the payments came at a time when Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign needed funds and many of his businesses were losing money. The tax records do not indicate whether the payments helped Trump’s campaign, his businesses, or both, the newspaper said.
Sonny Perdue Faces Ethics Questions Over His Business Holdings
Politico – Ryan McCrimmon | Published: 10/15/2020
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue pledged in 2017 to separate himself from his multimillion-dollar business holdings that could pose conflicts-of-interest in his public duties. But last year, he disclosed he had become trustee of a newly formed fund that includes many of the same assets as his original family trust. Watchdog organizations are now calling for the Agriculture Department’s inspector general to investigate whether Perdue has run afoul of the ethics agreement he signed as a nominee for the job early in the Trump administration. The commitments entailed moving his holdings into a new trust and agreeing not to serve as a trustee or beneficiary of the fund.
Supreme Court Halts Census in Latest Twist of 2020 Count
Associated Press News – Mike Schneider | Published: 10/14/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration can end census field operations early, in a blow to efforts to make sure minorities and hard-to-enumerate communities are properly counted in the crucial once-a-decade tally. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit managed to get nearly two extra weeks of counting people as the case made its way through the courts. But the ruling increased the chances of the administration retaining control of the process that decides how many congressional seats each state gets, and by extension how much voting power each state has.
Supreme Court Won’t Revive Congressional Emoluments Case Against Trump
Washington Post – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow | Published: 10/13/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive an attempt by Democratic members of Congress to sue President Trump over his private businesses accepting payments from foreign governments. Without comment, the justices let stand a decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to dismiss the lawsuit filed by 215 members of Congress. Their novel lawsuit sought to enforce the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provision. A unanimous panel of the appeals court said the individual members did not have legal standing to take the president to court.
The Mystery of a GOP Congressman’s Seemingly Rent-Free Campaign Office
Politico – Daniel Newhauser | Published: 10/9/2020
For at least seven years, U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn appears to have enjoyed rent-free use of a campaign office supplied by a political donor, which would be a clear violation of federal election law that comes amid mounting scrutiny of his finances. In dozens of filings with the FEC, Hagedorn has listed a basement suite in a downtown Mankato, Minnesota, building as his campaign’s headquarters. But election spending records show Hagedorn has reported no payments for the use of that space over the course of the past four elections he has run to represent Minnesota’s First Congressional District, including his current race. Ethics experts expressed skepticism with Hagedorn’s actions.
Trump Taps U.S. Marine Band for White House Event and Raises Questions About Employing the Military for Political Purposes
Washington Post – Paul Sonne | Published: 10/11/2020
When President Trump, recovering from COVID-19, welcomed hundreds of people to what resembled a campaign rally on the White House grounds, the guests filed onto the South Lawn past a military band in resplendent red, its horns blasting the tune “America” from “West Side Story.” The use of the United States Marine Band for a de facto political rally marked another instance of the president pushing the boundaries of U.S. law and the military tradition of political neutrality. Federal regulations bar the use of government resources for, and the coercion of federal employees into, political activities aimed at a candidate’s reelection, and taxpayer-funded military bands cannot be used for campaign events.
Trump’s Children Brought Secret Service Money to the Family Business with Their Visits, Records Show
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 10/12/2020
President Trump’s adult children and their families have caused the U.S. government to spend at least $238,000 at Trump properties so far, according to Secret Service records. Government ethics experts say nothing is wrong with Trump’s children seeking protection from the Secret Service. But, they said, the Trump Organization’s decision to charge for the agents’ rooms created a situation in which, just by traveling, Trump’s children could bring taxpayer money to their family’s business. That, ethics experts said, could create the appearance that Trump family members were exploiting their publicly funded protection for private financial gain.
‘Unmasking’ Probe Commissioned by Barr Concludes Without Charges or Any Public Report
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Shane Harris (Washington Post) | Published: 10/13/2020
The federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William Barr to review whether Obama-era officials improperly requested the identities of individuals whose names were redacted in intelligence documents has completed his work without finding any substantive wrongdoing. The Justice Department has so far declined to release the results of U.S. Attorney John Bash’s work, though people familiar with his findings say they would likely disappoint conservatives who have tried to paint the “unmasking” of names, a common practice in government to help understand classified documents, as a political conspiracy.
With Election Day Looming, Twitter Imposes New Limits on U.S. Politicians – and Ordinary Users, Too
Seattle Times – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2020
Twitter will impose new warnings on politicians’ lies, restrict premature declarations of victory, and block calls for polling violence or other disruptions, the company announced as it rolled out wide-ranging changes designed to harden the platform against abuse related to the U.S. election on November 3. The moves also will temporarily alter the look and feel of Twitter. Retweeting others, for example, will require an extra step designed to encourage users to add their own thoughts before posting. Recommendations and trends will get new curbs intended to prevent abuse. The policy changes are the culmination of years of revisions intended to prevent a repeat of 2016’s electoral debacle on social media, when disinformation, false news reports, and Russian interference rampaged virtually unchecked across all major platforms.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Absentee Witness Requirements Scrapped for Election
Associated Press News – Becky Bohrer | Published: 10/13/2020
The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling eliminating witness requirements for absentee ballots for the general election. Superior Court Judge Dani Crosby had ruled enforcement of the witness requirements during the coronavirus pandemic “impermissibly burdens the right to vote.” She waited to put the order into effect, to allow the Supreme Court to weigh in. The case was brought by the Arctic Village Council, League of Women Voters of Alaska, and two individuals. Their attorneys have argued the witness requirement is unconstitutional during the pandemic and a bar to voting for those who do not live with someone who is at least 18 and able to serve as a witness.
California – Arcadia Subsidiary of Chinese Company to Pay $1 Million Fine in LA City Hall Bribery Scandal
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – City News Service | Published: 10/7/2020
The subsidiary of a China-based real estate company agreed to pay $1.05 million to resolve a probe into its involvement in the Los Angeles City Hall corruption scandal. Jia Yuan USA Co. will pay the penalty and continue cooperating with the federal government in its probe of city Councilperson Jose Huizar and other figures. A Jia Yuan employee provided Huizar with Katy Perry concert tickets after he and former Deputy Mayor Ray Chan helped resolve an issue involving compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Jia Yuan also admitted providing in-kind campaign contributions to several U.S. political candidates by hosting reduced-cost fundraising events. Some of those events took place at the direction of a foreign national barred from participating in American elections, investigators said.
California – California Officials Say GOP’s Ballot Boxes Are Illegal. Republicans May Expand the Practice
Los Angeles Times – Stephanie Lai and Sarah Parvini | Published: 10/13/2020
In recent weeks, gray metal containers labeled as ballot drop boxes have been placed at various locations – including gun shops, shooting ranges, churches, and Republican Party offices – in several California counties. State GOP officials acknowledged responsibility for the boxes and have rejected allegations of wrongdoing, in defiance of what the state’s top election official and attorney general say is an illegal practice. At the center of the battle are questions of whether it is legal to collect ballots through third party boxes and what constitutes an “official” ballot drop box.
California – Ex-Director of Coliseum Authority Takes Plea Deal in Stadium Naming Rights Case; Avoids Jail Time
San Jose Mercury News – David Debolt | Published: 10/13/2020
Former Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Executive Director Scott McKibben, who was criminally charged with violating state law by seeking payment from RingCentral for negotiating a stadium naming rights contract, took a plea deal and by doing so avoided trial and possible jail time. Prosecutors alleged McKibben violated the law because he sought a $50,000 payment from RingCentral as part of a $3 million deal to rename the ballpark “RingCentral Coliseum.” The law prohibits public officials from having a financial interest in contracts made by them in their official capacity. McKibben will serve three years’ probation and take an ethics course. Judge Kevin Murphy will decide how much McKibben should pay the stadium authority.
Colorado – Colorado Voters to Decide Whether to Pull Out of National Popular Vote Effort
Denver Post – John Aguilar | Published: 10/11/2020
State lawmakers decided last year that Colorado should join 14 other state and Washington, D.C. in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which pledges their Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most raw votes nationwide. On November 3, Coloradans will get the chance to affirm or reject that decision when they vote on Proposition 113, which was put on the ballot by opponents of the movement. A “yes” vote keeps the state in the compact, while a “no” vote maintains the system Colorado has used for decades to choose a president, in which the candidate with the most statewide support gets its nine Electoral College votes.
Florida – Federal Judge Denies Request to Extend Florida Voter Registration Deadline
Tampa Bay Times – Allison Ross | Published: 10/9/2020
A federal judge rejected calls by several voting rights groups that Florida should further extend its voter registration deadline following repeated outages to the state’s online on the last day people could sign up to vote in the November 3 election. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker said “Florida’s interest in preventing chaos in its already precarious and perennially chaotic election” outweighed the concern of potentially thousands of Floridians being unable to cast ballots in the general election. The state had argued reopening the voter registration deadline could mean Floridians who registered during that later time may have to cast provisional ballots if counties cannot update their voter rolls in time, and extending the deadline could cause voter confusion and other issues.
Florida – Prominent Lobbyist Didn’t Disclose Calls to Orlando Airport Board Members, Violating Policy
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 10/14/2020
Under the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s policies, lobbyists are supposed to publicly disclose meetings with board members within seven days. But Christina Daly Brodeur, a lobbyist at Ballard Partners, did not reveal she called four members of the board that runs Orlando International Airport on behalf of a client until nearly three months later, after The Orlando Sentinel requested records related to the firm’s work at the airport. Authority leaders, however, say they do not plan to act. “… She self-reported and became compliant and … there’s nothing further we can do,” said Dan Gerber, the authority’s general counsel. Some government-transparency advocates criticized the lack of consequences.
Georgia – Common Cause Calls for Investigation of Georgia Ethics Commission’s Conflict of Interest Policies
WAGA – Dale Russell | Published: 10/9/2020
A good government group is calling on Georgia’s ethics commission to investigate its own policies regarding how commission members handle potential conflicts-of-interest. The rules for deciding when a member should recuse themselves are confusing. Commission Chairperson Jake Evans says a commission policy gives him the authority to order a member to recuse themselves. But he follows a state attorney general’s opinion from 1989 to let members decide for themselves whether they have a conflict.
Hawaii – Ballot Questions Could Bolster Ethics Watchdog’s Staffing and Spending
Honolulu Civil Beat – Chad Blair | Published: 10/11/2020
The Honolulu Ethics Commission could enjoy greater autonomy over its budget should voters grant them that ability in November. Voters are also being asked whether the commission should also be granted more flexibility to hire and retain staff. Commission Chairperson Victoria Marks said passage of the charter amendments would give the agency greater flexibility to describe positions, and hire and retain the specialized staff that she said it needs “to grow and strengthen the city’s ethics and lobbyist programs.” Marks said the amendments would provide the commission “with budget flexibility and greater autonomy” from the city administration.
Illinois – Aldermen Reject Lightfoot’s Proposal to Ease Ban on Lobbying by Elected Officials
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/13/2020
Aldermen rejected Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s ordinance that would have rolled back part of tougher City Hall lobbying rules for elected officials the city council passed last year. It would have once again allowed elected officials from outside Chicago to lobby the mayor, aldermen, and other city government agencies on behalf of private clients, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving Chicago. With federal investigators probing lobbying practices in Springfield and past City Hall scandals tied to lobbying infractions, aldermen said it was not the time to walk back the stricter requirements.
Minnesota – Federal Judge Upholds Minnesota’s Deadline Extension for Counting Ballots
National Public Radio – Jason Slotkin | Published: 10/12/2020
A federal judge upheld Minnesota’s seven-day deadline extension for counting mail-in ballots after it was challenged by a pair of Republicans. Minnesota extended its deadline for receiving mail-in ballots after voting rights groups raised concerns the state’s previous deadline could disenfranchise voters as the state receives an unprecedented amount of absentee ballots. In past elections, absentee ballots would only be counted if received by eight p.m. on Election Day. A state court agreement reached with Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon allowed ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if received within seven days.
New York – Trump Again Asks Supreme Court to Block Subpoena for His Tax Records
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 10/13/2020
Personal lawyers for President Trump, seeking to appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time in less than a year, asked the justices to delay a ruling that would allow Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. To obtain Trump’s financial records. In an “emergency” application, Trump’s legal team told the court that a U.S. District Court judge was wrong to rule Vance had a legal right to subpoena the materials and an appeals court panel in New York was wrong to uphold that decision. The request for intervention marks a return for the case. In July, the high court ruled the fact that Trump was the sitting president did not make him absolutely immune from criminal investigation, as his legal team had argued.
New York – Trump Got a $21 Million Tax Break for Saving the Forest Outside His N.Y. Mansion. Now the Deal Is Under Investigation.
MSN – Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O’Connell, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2020
Donald Trump received a tax break of $21.1 million five years ago after promising to preserve 150 acres of woodlands in New York state. The amount of the tax break was set by a 2016 appraisal that valued Seven Springs at $56.6 million, more than double the value assessed by the three Westchester County towns that each contained a piece of the property. New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating whether the Trump Organization improperly inflated the value of the land. The appraisal appears to have relied on unsupported assertions and misleading conclusions that boosted the value of Trump’s charitable gift and his tax break. The appraisal was written by Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate firm that has worked with Trump over many years and whose headquarters are in a building co-owned by Trump.
North Carolina – A Legal Fight Over How to Fix Ballot Errors in North Carolina Has Left Thousands of Voters in Limbo – Nearly Half People of Color
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck | Published: 10/12/2020
A dispute over how North Carolina voters should correct problems with their mail ballots remains unresolved, leaving at least 6,800 votes – including more than 3,300 ballots from people of color – in limbo across a key presidential battleground state. The legal fight intensified after the state Board of Elections said in September it would allow voters to “cure,” or fix, deficiencies in their mail ballots by completing and returning an affidavit to county election officials. The affidavit would neutralize a range of voter errors that could lead to ballots being tossed, including failure to provide a witness signature. ballots being tossed, including failure to provide a witness signature. But a federal judge put the plan on hold October 3, arguing it changed the rules too close to Election Day.
Oregon – City of Portland Lawyers Won’t Defend Auditor in Legal Appeals of Mayor’s Campaign Violations, City Council Says
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 10/14/2020
The Portland City Council refused a request from the city auditor for city lawyers to represent her in lawsuits filed by Mayor Ted Wheeler’s campaign, citing the city attorney’s assertion it would be an ethical violation and a conflict-of-interest. Auditor Mary Hull Caballero argued before the vote that Wheeler’s campaign is not a client of the city attorney’s office and she fined the campaign through her capacity as a Portland elected official who oversees the city elections process. She noted city lawyers already represent her in other elections-related lawsuits, including one filed on behalf of mayoral challenger Sarah Iannarone about Wheeler’s campaign.
Pennsylvania – Judge Throws Out Trump Campaign’s Pennsylvania Lawsuit
Associated Press News – Marc Levy | Published: 10/10/2020
A federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a lawsuit filed by President Trump’s campaign, dismissing its challenges to the battleground state’s poll-watching law and its efforts to limit how mail-in ballots can be collected and which of them can be counted. The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan, who was appointed by Trump, also poured cold water on the president’s claims that Pennsylvania is fertile ground for election fraud. Trump’s campaign said it would appeal at least one element of the decision.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania House Insurance Committee Chairwoman Reaps Big Harvest of Campaign Contributions from Insurance Industry
Allentown Morning Call – Ford Turner | Published: 10/9/2020
State Rep. Tina Pickett, whose position in Harrisburg gives her enormous authority over what happens to proposed insurance laws, has more cash in her political campaign account than any of her 201 colleagues in the Pennsylvania House, thanks in large part to the insurance industry. A review of hundreds of campaign finance reports showed Pickett’s $268,546.49 cash balance in late May was inflated by a years-long influx of insurance industry cash that began when Pickett became chairperson of the House Insurance Committee in 2013. Experts say the contributions are made to curry favor.
Rhode Island – A Chaotic Campaign Helped Save Rhode Island’s House Speaker in 2016. Now It Threatens to End His Political Career
Boston Globe – Dan McGowan and Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 10/13/2020
The criminal trial of Jeffrey Britt, a former campaign consultant to Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, was meant to determine whether Britt laundered $2,000 to help pay for a postcard mailer designed to boost Mattiello during that 2016 campaign. But it also offered a rare glimpse into the win-at-all-costs culture of politics, as witnesses detailed the strategies employed to help defeat Steven Frias. Those tactics included surveillance conducted on Frias by a private investigator who was seeking a state job, a mail-ballot operation run by an operative who had previous tours of political duty with some of the state’s most corrupt politicians, and the mailer that Britt orchestrated to try to convince a handful of Republicans to back the Democrat in the race. Mattiello won the race by 85 votes, a margin where almost any maneuver could have tipped the scales in the speaker’s favor.
Texas – Appeals Court OKs Texas Governor’s Order to Limit Drop Off Locations for Absentee Ballots
NBC News – Rachel Elbaum | Published: 10/13/2020
A federal appeals court panel upheld Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to shut down dozens of mail ballot drop-off sites weeks before November’s election. The ruling comes after a federal judge halted the order, which allowed for only one absentee ballot drop off location for every county, regardless of its size. The Texas secretary of state had argued Abbott’s order was part of a 40-day expansion of Texans’ absentee voting opportunities put in place because of Covid-19 that went beyond what state election rules normally permit. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said it agreed with her.
Virginia – Inside the Utility Company Lobbying Blitz That Will Hike Electric Bills
ProPublica – Patrick Wilson (Richmond Times-Dispatch) | Published: 10/9/2020
When Democrats campaigned for seats in the Virginia Legislature last year, they took aim at the state’s largest power broker: Dominion Energy. The electric utility’s clout was legendary at the Capitol, where it doled out millions of dollars in campaign contributions and employed an army of lobbyists who helped write energy policy for decades. The result was soaring electricity bills and an energy grid heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Democrats vowed to change that. But Dominion fought back and ended up as a winner in a bill intended to diminish its influence. By doubling the size of its lobbying corps and tapping its long-standing relationships with legislative leaders and Gov. Ralph Northam, the utility secured the right to build its top priority – a massive offshore wind farm set to be the most expensive utility project in Virginia history.
Virginia – Men in Alleged Kidnapping Plot Also Considered Targeting Virginia Governor, FBI Says
National Public Radio – Bill Chappell and Ryan Lucas | Published: 10/13/2020
Two of the men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took part in a discussions earlier this year with members of self-styled militia groups about potentially abducting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, an FBI agent testified. Special Agent Richard Trask did not say whether any of the attendees ultimately took any action toward potentially targeting Northam, and no one has been charged with any threats against him. Whitmer and Northam, both Democrats, have faced resistance in their respective states to measures they’ have taken to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Virginia – Va. Congressional Candidate Reported No Assets. His Amended Disclosure Shows He Holds Dozens of Stocks.
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 10/9/2020
After previously disclosing owning zero financial assets, Virginia congressional candidate Bob Good filed an amended financial disclosure showing he holds dozens of stocks, including in two companies that had business before the Campbell County Board of Supervisors when Good served on the panel. He now reports between $213,000 and $1.65 million in assets and unearned income. Virginia law requires local and state lawmakers to disclose their personal economic interests in forms filed with the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council.
Washington – Port of Tacoma, Others Agree to Fine in Save Tacoma Water Campaign Finance Case
MSN – Alexid Krell (Tacoma News-Tribune) | Published: 10/12/2020
The Port of Tacoma, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County agreed to pay a civil penalty for violating campaign finance law while fighting initiatives that were trying to limit industrial development on the Tideflats. They will pay a $34,000 fine, with $17,000 suspended. The case stemmed from efforts by a group called Save Tacoma Water following citizen opposition to a proposed methanol plant. Activist Arthur West complained the three groups violated campaign finance law in their effort.
Washington – Twitter to Pay $100k to Washington State in Settlement Over Political Ad Disclosure Violations
GeekWire – Todd Bishop | Published: 10/13/2020
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Twitter agreed to pay $100,000 for failing to maintain records related to ads that ran from 2012 through 2019, when Twitter banned political advertising. Companies are required to maintain records about who paid for ads, when they ran, how much they cost, and the name of the candidate or measure supported or opposed. Twitter failed to maintain the required records for at least 38 Washington candidates and committees that reported paying $194,550 for political advertising on its platform.
Wisconsin – Federal Appeals Court Blocks Extension for Wisconsin Ballot Returns
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/8/2020
Federal judges blocked a lower court’s order extending the deadline for returning mail ballots in Wisconsin, requiring that absentee ballots be in the hands of election officials by the time the polls close on Election Day. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of staying the lower court’s order, which would have allowed for ballots postmarked by Election Day to be received by November 9, six days later, in order to be counted. The stay also suspended an order extending the deadline for online and mailed-in voter registration from October 14 to October 21, and it stopped potential electronic delivery of certain ballots.
October 9, 2020 •
National/Federal Biden Transition Elevates Former Facebook Exec as Ethics Arbiter Politico – Alex Thompson and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 10/1/2020 Joe Biden’s transition team named Jessica Hertz, until recently a Facebook executive focused on government regulations, as its general counsel and […]
Biden Transition Elevates Former Facebook Exec as Ethics Arbiter
Politico – Alex Thompson and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 10/1/2020
Joe Biden’s transition team named Jessica Hertz, until recently a Facebook executive focused on government regulations, as its general counsel and charged her with navigating conflicts-of-interest and other ethical issues for the Biden administration-in-waiting, a move that drew immediate fire from the left. Hertz will oversee a team responsible for “enforcement, oversight, and compliance” of the ethics plan that Biden’s team released. In it, they promise to reestablish many of the rules President Obama instituted to limit the role of former lobbyists in the 2008 transition. Biden’s rules bar those who have worked as registered lobbyists or foreign agents in the past year from working on the transition unless Hertz signs off.
Facebook Imposes Major New Restrictions on QAnon, Stepping Up Enforcement Against the Conspiracy Theory
MSN – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2020
Facebook imposed sweeping new sanctions on the QAnon conspiracy theory, expanding its policy to remove all affiliated groups and pages, and all accounts on the Facebook subsidiary Instagram, even if they do not violate other policies by inciting violence or trafficking in hate speech. The move expands an enforcement action in August that targeted more than 3,000 pages and groups but stopped short of a full ban. But the content morphed almost instantaneously, prompting the more sweeping action. This action comes after more than two years of mounting evidence that the QAnon conspiracy is rife with violent, hateful themes that regularly violated policies across Silicon Valley and also inspired numerous real-world crimes.
In a New Ruling, Judge Says Census Count Must Continue Through October
MSN – Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2020
A federal judge ordered that the 2020 Census continue until October 31, blocking for now the government’s efforts to complete the survey in time to deliver apportionment data to the president by the end of the year. The ruling follows a tense week in which the government appeared to try to circumvent a preliminary injunction against ending the count early. The National Urban League and a group of counties, cities, and others said a truncated schedule would irreparably harm communities that might be undercounted.
Justice Dept. Acknowledges FBI Notes Given to Flynn Defense Contain Altered Dates
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 10/7/2020
The Justice Department said it inadvertently altered dates on copies of notes from two former senior FBI officials that were turned over to Michael Flynn’s defense team and filed to the court as potentially exculpatory evidence. The dates were added to notes of former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former FBI agent Peter Strzok and should have been removed before the documents were scanned by agency headquarters, the Justice Department told a judge weighing its request to dismiss the former Trump national security adviser’s prosecution. McCabe and Strzok were key figures investigating possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016.
Public Records Requests Fall Victim to the Coronavirus Pandemic
Washington Post – Nate Jones | Published: 10/1/2020
With most government employees still working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, the disclosure of public records by many federal agencies and local government offices nationwide has worsened or even ground to a halt. When the pandemic was declared in early March, many employees at local, state, and federal agencies abandoned their offices and began working remotely. Employees tasked with answering open-records requests have been forced to rely on telework computer systems that are often incompatible with the software used to process records requests.
Several Lawmakers Disclose Opaque Financial Records
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 10/1/2020
Federal law requires members of Congress to publicly file annual financial disclosure statements and periodically report certain stock transactions exceeding $1,000. Such mandates provide the public with a view of lawmakers’ financial interests and possible conflicts-of-interest, but members are not required to file in a uniform manner. That has left some reports opaque and partially illegible. There is a stark contrast in clarity between financial disclosure reports filed in a standardized, electronic format and those that are not.
Sonny Perdue Fuels Ethics Scrutiny as Trump’s Rural Envoy
Politico – Ryan McCrimmon | Published: 10/5/2020
On top of his overt appeal to reelect President Trump, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has kept many farmers in Trump’s corner by doling out unprecedented sums of taxpayer aid to offset the industry’s losses after years of trade turmoil and painful biofuel policies. Democrats have questioned the practice but have made almost no effort to attach any strings to the payments. Now, Perdue is facing a fresh round of criticism for requiring federal contractors to stuff promotional letters from Trump into millions of Agriculture Department food boxes distributed to needy families, over the objections of lawmakers and many food banks. The department says these activities are not political and rejects the allegation the signed letters are a violation of the Hatch Act.
Trump Returns to Oval Office as Aides Refuse to Say When He Last Tested Negative for the Coronavirus
Washington Post – Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, and Ashley Parker | Published: 10/7/2020
The White House again refused to say when President Trump last tested negative for the coronavirus, leaving open the possibility he potentially exposed dozens of people to the deadly virus before the announcement of his positive test on October 2. Trump attended several events, including a presidential debate against Joe Biden, a campaign rally, and an in-person fundraiser, where he could have potentially exposed people to the coronavirus if he was infectious at that time. Two officials familiar with the situation said Trump has not been tested daily in recent months. Only rarely has Trump been tested on a machine other than the one produced by Abbott Laboratories, which provides rapid results, but are not always accurate.
Trump’s Call for Poll-Watching Volunteers Sparks Fear of Chaos and Violence on Election Day
MSN – Amy Gardner, Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/30/2020
President Trump’s debate-stage call for volunteers to stand watch at voting locations has prompted an enthusiastic response from known neo-Nazis and right-wing activists, leading many state election and law enforcement officials to prepare for voter intimidation, arrests, and even violence on Election Day. The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee for months have promised to recruit as many as 50,000 poll watchers to monitor voting locations on Election Day. The campaign’s “Army for Trump” website has contributed to that effort, urging supporters to join the “army of supporters fighting to re-elect him in 2020.”
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – An Initiative Proposes to Overhaul Alaska’s Elections. But Not Everyone Thinks They’re Broken.
Anchorage Daily News – Nat Herz (Alaska Public Media) | Published: 9/29/2020
Political activists proposed a citizen’s initiative to change Alaska’s entire election system. Ballot Measure 2 would mandate more transparency about who is funding the super PAC-like independent spending groups that operate in Alaska’s elections. But its two most ambitious provisions target the election process itself: the initiative would do away with Alaska’s partisan primary altogether, replacing it with a single ballot open to all voters, and the top four candidates would advance to the general election. Then, in the general election, Alaskans would choose winners using a new system called ranked choice voting. They have never been combined for statewide elections in the way the Alaska initiative proposes, leaving a measure of uncertainty about how it could transform the state’s politics and government.
California – Was City of Industry Tricked into Hiring a Negotiator with a Major Conflict of Interest on Failed $20 Million Solar Project?
San Gabriel Valley News – Jason Henry | Published: 9/29/2020
An attorney who negotiated the terms of a $20 million solar project on behalf of the city of Industry, California, did not disclose to the city the proposed developer owed him $1.5 million from a prior business relationship. Industry now alleges the developer, William Barkett, orchestrated the hiring of attorney Anthony Bouza to limit oversight on the project. The city sued Barkett in 2019, alleging he siphoned off the $20 million and could not provide evidence that work occurred.
Delaware – Fittingly, Supreme Court Term Starts with Test of Political Affiliations for Judges
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 10/5/2020
Delaware requires its major courts be roughly balanced, so that no more than a bare majority of a court is made up of members of one political party. It requires the minority be made up of the other political party. The result, Stanford law professor Michael McConnell told the U.S. Supreme Court, is “Delaware’s courts are widely regarded as the least partisan and most professional in the nation.” Attorney David Finger said the plan denies the chance for his client, lawyer James Adams, to serve on the courts because he is neither a Democrat nor Republican but a political independent, and that violates his First Amendment rights of political association. It seemed a fitting beginning for the court’s new term, as the Senate is torn along partisan lines about whether to confirm just before the election Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Florida – In Florida, the Gutting of a Landmark Law Leaves Few Felons Likely to Vote
ProPublica – Lawrence Mower and Langston Taylor (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 10/7/2020
What was expected to be the nation’s largest voter re-enfranchisement in more than 50 years resulted in less than a quarter of an estimated 1.4 million felons in Florida signing up to vote. Officials have not removed any felons from the rolls for owing fines or fees, and they are unlikely to do so before Election Day, Secretary of State Laurel Lee said. It is unclear whether those whom the state fails to prune are entitled to vote or may face prosecution if they do. Amid the confusion, the one certainty is Florida’s governor and Legislature have tamped down the felon vote, according to an analysis of state records. In a presidential election marred by voter suppression tactics, the weakening of Florida’s Amendment 4 may constitute the biggest single instance of voter disenfranchisement.
Florida – Palm Bay Developer Brian West Arrested on Bribery Charges Involving Palm Bay City Council
Florida Today – Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon, Jim Waymer, and Dave Berman | Published: 10/2/2020
Developer Brian West was arrested on felony charges of bribery over an alleged scheme to buy votes on the Palm Bay City Council to rezone land for a project. The alleged bribery appears to have been directed at Councilperson Brian Anderson, who appears to have acted as the confidential informant with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The circumstances that led to West’s arrest revolved around allegations of an attempted deal brokered by local hotelier Puneet Kapur to buy votes to approve the rezoning of a subdivision to commercial use. That is land that one of West’s companies was trying to develop.
Illinois – Berrios Son-in-Law Indicted in Bribery Scheme Involving Ex-State Rep. Luis Arroyo
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 10/2/2020
The son-in-law of onetime Cook County Democratic boss Joseph Berrios was indicted for his alleged role in a bribery scheme that brought down former Illinois Rep. Luis Arroyo and exposed a shadowy lobbying effort to expand sweepstakes gaming machines. James Weiss was charged with bribery, wire fraud, mail fraud, and lying to the FBI. The indictment also added new wire and mail fraud charges against Arroyo, who was originally charged with one count of federal program bribery and had been on track to plead guilty. According to the charges, Arroyo agreed to pay a state senator $2,500 a month in kickbacks in exchange for the senator’s support on legislation involving video gambling sweepstakes games that would benefit Weiss, who was in the sweepstakes business and was one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients.
Illinois – Chicago Aldermen to Consider Rolling Back Part of City’s Elected Official Lobbying Ban
MSN – John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/30/2020
Chicago aldermen now appear likely to consider a proposal introduced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot that would roll back part of the tougher rules they passed to prevent elected officials from lobbying City Hall. Ald. Jason Ervin used a parliamentary rule to threaten an up-or-down city council floor vote on Lightfoot’s ordinance that would again let elected officials from outside Chicago lobby aldermen, the mayor’s office, and other city government departments. Ervin’s move prompted Ethics Committee Chairperson Michele Smith to instead agree to hold a hearing on the proposal in her committee.
Maryland – Can Public Campaign Financing Improve Government? Baltimore County Executive, Activists Start Campaign to Convince Voters.
Baltimore Sun – Alison Knezevich | Published: 10/6/2020
Saying it is time to reduce the influence of big money on Baltimore County politics, activists kicked off an effort to convince voters to approve public financing for local campaigns. Last year, a bill to put public campaign financing on the ballot was the Democratic county executive’s first major legislative initiative. It is now up to voters whether to approve the charter amendment in November. If they do, the county will create a “citizen’s election fund” that candidates for the Baltimore County Council and county executive would have the option to use starting in 2026. The details of the program, including the specific funding source, would be worked out later if voters approve the amendment.
Michigan – F.B.I. Says a Michigan Militia Plotted to Kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
New York Times – Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Shaila Dewan, and Kathleen Gray | Published: 10/8/2020
The FBI revealed it thwarted a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, unsealing charges against six people who the agency said contemplated a violent overthrow of the government. The FBI said it had learned so much about the plot by intercepting encrypted messages and because it had undercover agents and confidential informants working with the group. Whitmer has been the subject of attack from right-wing protesters for measures she imposed to control the coronavirus. Thousands of people gathered in Lansing to protest executive orders she issued shutting down most of the state to help stop the spread of the virus. In April, President Trump openly encouraged such protests, tweeting, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.”
Michigan – Michigan AG Dana Nessel Files Charges Against GOP Operatives Over Robocalls
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 10/1/2020
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed felony charges against two well-known out-of-state Republican operatives for allegedly orchestrating robocalls aimed at suppressing the vote in the Detroit area. Nessel charged Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl with election law and conspiracy crimes that would bring up to 24 years in prison for each of them if convicted. The charges stem from a false robocall that discouraged mail-in voting by telling people their personal information will be part of a public database that will then be used by police if they vote by mail.
Missouri – Amid Accusations of Insider Politics, Parson Campaign Rents Space from Lobbyists
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 10/7/2020
At the same time Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s campaign is criticizing his opponent’s husband for having served as a lobbyist, the governor’s team is sharing office space with lobbyists. The campaign is renting space in the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s headquarters in Jefferson City, as well as using space in a suite of offices owned by lobbyist Brent Hemphill, who represents Ameren, AT&T, and a number of casinos. Parson campaign manager Steele Shippy said Hemphill contributed the space in his building as an in-kind donation. The offices used by the campaign are on a different floor from Hemphill’s lobbying organization, Shippy said.
Missouri – St. Louis Husband and Wife Who Pointed Guns at Protesters Indicted on Firearms Charges
NBC News – Tim Stelloh | Published: 10/7/2020
The St. Louis husband and wife who were captured on video brandishing guns at protesters over the summer were indicted on firearm and evidence tampering charges. The indictment comes nearly four months after Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who have been embraced by conservatives and appeared at the Republican National Convention, were filmed and photographed outside their affluent home pointing a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun at the demonstrators.
Montana – Record Penalties Levied in Dark Money Lawsuit
Montana Free Press – John Adams | Published: 10/2/2020
A judge entered a $1.76 million judgement against two now-defunct corporations that were found to have made illegal contributions to Republican candidates in Montana. The judgment is likely the final chapter in a case that spanned more than a decade, led to the largest-ever fine against a sitting politician in Montana, and was featured in the documentary film “Dark Money.” Western Tradition Partnership and Direct Mail and Communications will pay $881,955 in penalties for violating laws prohibiting corporations from giving directly to campaigns. They will pay an additional $881,955 fine for failing to report the illegal contributions. The two groups were fined $500 each for not maintaining and producing records of their campaign activities.
New Jersey – NJ Investigating Bergen Health Broker Records in Criminal Probe of Political Donations
Bergen Record – Terence McDonald | Published: 9/29/2020
New Jersey’s attorney general launched an investigation into public health brokerage contracts and potential “pay-to-play” violations in Bergen County. The investigation has resulted in at least one subpoena to the county seeking contracts and related documents to be reviewed by a grand jury. The subpoena demands the county hand over. Since 2016, the county’s health broker has been Acrisure. In Bergen County, contributions to all county-level elected officials and both political parties must be disclosed. The county’s pay-to-play law also restricts donations from a vendor’s subsidiaries. The insurance industry is a lucrative one, attracting power brokers who build close relationships with elected officials and reward them with a steady stream of donations.
New Mexico – New Mexico State Ethics Commission Urged to Reform Candidate Finance Reports
Santa Fe New Mexican – Robert Knott | Published: 10/2/2020
A watchdog group says New Mexico’s law on financial disclosure reporting is lax and confusing and leads to a lack of transparency that makes it difficult to accurately track the financial activities of candidates. New Mexico Ethics Watch Executive Director Kathleen Sabo said financial disclosure forms for 12 state Senate candidates and 24 candidates for the House are missing or cannot be viewed on the secretary of state’s website. Guidelines for filling out those forms are so vague, she said, they allow legislators to avoid disclosing how much they earn and with whom they do business.
New York – Andrew Cuomo Holds Webinar with Firm That Promised His Book to Employees
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Jon Campbell | Published: 10/2/2020
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom hosted a closed-to-the-public webinar with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, sending an email invitation to employees that prominently featured the cover of “American Crisis,” Cuomo’s upcoming account of leading the state during the coronavirus pandemic. Each person who registered for the webinar is due to receive a copy of the book, which carries a hardcover list price of $30. Crown Publishing Group confirmed it is not providing copies to Skadden free of charge. Skadden is a registered lobbyist in New York, though the firm lists only one lobbying client in the state: The Shed, a performing and visual arts center. Most of the lobbying work appears centered on New York City, not the state.
New York – Appeals Court Rejects Trump Effort to Shield Financial Records
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 10/7/2020
A federal appeals court rejected President Trump’s efforts to keep his financial records from a Manhattan prosecutor, putting the president on track for a second date at the U.S. Supreme Court in his campaign to keep those documents private. A three-judge panel of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments from Trump’s legal team that the subpoena issued to Trump’s accounting firm at the request of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was too broad and the subpoena amounted to retaliation for the refusal of Trump’s businesses to cooperate with Vance’s office.
New York – NYC Council Expels Andy King Over Latest Harassment, Ethics Violations
MSN – Stephen Rex Brown and Shant Shahrigian (New York Daily News) | Published: 10/5/2020
The New York City Council expelled Andy King over charges he harassed and discriminated against a female employee, took a kickback from another staffer, and failed to pay a fine for previous misconduct. The vote to expel King resulted from the third investigation into his conduct in less than three years. In the latest case, the council’s Ethics Committee found he forced a female staffer to go on unpaid leave after she complained of menstrual bleeding. King gave a different employee a $9,500 one-time payment with council funds and demanded a $2,000 kickback in return. The panel found King refused to accept part of the punishment he received last year for separate violations.
New York – Rochester, New York, Mayor Indicted on 2 Felony Campaign Finance Charges
USA Today – Gary Craig and Tony Sharp (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) | Published: 10/2/2020
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren was indicted on two felony campaign finance charges. The first charge is for first-degree scheme to defraud; the second is an election law offense for illegally coordinating activities and expenditures. The grand jury indictment is connected to Warren’s 2017 mayoral re-election campaign. Warren has refuted any wrongdoing in the matter. If convicted, Warren would be removed from office under state law. While Warren would be unlikely to be incarcerated, her pension could be forfeited if the matter is determined to be a crime related to public office, and she also could lose her law license.
North Carolina – Democrat’s Personal Scandal Roils N. Carolina Senate Race
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko and Gary Robertson | Published: 10/7/2020
A race in North Carolina critical to control of the U.S. Senate has been thrown into turmoil over allegations of personal misconduct by Democrat Cal Cunningham, a married man who had an extramarital relationship this summer with a consultant. Previously undisclosed text messages and interviews show the relationship extended beyond suggestive texts, as was previously reported, to an intimate encounter as recent as July. Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, and the contest between Cunningham and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis has been among the most watched in the country, with polls showing a tight race and both parties investing heavily in the outcome.
Ohio – Federal Judge Thinks LaRose Has Permitted Off-Site Ballot Collection Sites in Ohio, Dismisses Drop Box Lawsuit. But Is He Right?
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 10/6/2020
A federal judge determined Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has permitted county boards of elections to offer off-site ballot collection sites and dismissed a lawsuit from voting-rights activists seeking an expansion of ballot drop boxes. But parties in the case, elections officials, and observers said they are confused by U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster’s order and what it will mean for state elections. Officials in LaRose’s office have said they have not actually said that extra ballot drop boxes are allowed, and local elections officials say they are waiting on guidance. Polster declined to clarify his ruling, while LaRose’s office issued a statement that did not clearly address what their next step is.
Ohio – FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor Can Still Donate to Legislative Candidates During HB6 Repeal Debate, Judge Rules
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 10/2/2020
A judge ruled FirstEnergy Corp. and the owner of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants can still make political donations to state lawmakers as the Legislature considers whether to repeal a controversial law benefiting the companies. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Chris Brown reluctantly denied an injunction request by Attorney General Dave Yost to restrict FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor, ex-House Speaker Larry Householder, and others involved in the House Bill 6 scandal from donating to any state legislative candidate through the end of the year, nor lobby any legislator about repealing or changing the legislation.
Oregon – After Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan, Iannarone Campaign Takes City Auditor to Court to Enforce Self-Funding Limits
OPB – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 10/6/2020
Portland mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone’s campaign asked a court to make the city auditor enforce a strict cap on the money that candidates can lend themselves to fund their election efforts. The request comes after Mayor Ted Wheeler loaned his campaign $150,000. Voters approved strict campaign finance limits in 2018, including a $5,000 cap on how much candidates can loan themselves. After a series of court challenges, the city auditor announced in May she would begin enforcing most of the campaign finance changes, except for the limits on self-funding. The city has taken the position that the self-funding portion of the charter conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court precedent and would not hold up in court.
Oregon – Election 2020: Oregon’s Measure 107 would allow laws to limit campaign contributions
Salem Statesman Journal – Capi Lynn | Published: 10/6/2020
Measure 107 on the November ballot would amend the Oregon Constitution, allowing not just the state but local governments to enact laws that limit campaign contributions and expenditures and require their disclosure. The measure also would require campaign advertisements to identify who paid for them. Oregon is one of five states with no limits on political campaign donations and ranks first in per-capita corporate political donations. State lawmakers approved sending Measure 107 to voters. If it passes, it will be up to them to come to a consensus on what limits and disclosure look like.
Pennsylvania – Chester County District Judge Siphoned $4K From His Campaign Fund to Feed a Gambling Habit, AG Says
Philadelphia Inquirer – Vinny Vella | Published: 10/7/2020
Chester County Magisterial District Judge Michael Cabry III diverted nearly $4,000 in campaign donations for personal expenses, using the funds to prop up his “six-figure gambling habit,” at casinos in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, state prosecutors said. In the run-up to the 2017 election, Cabry created Citizens for Cabry, a PAC overseen by his niece, the grand jury said. Its reports reflected personal reimbursements to Cabry through debit cards linked to the PAC’s bank account. Those reimbursements included ATM withdrawals at Delaware Park Casino, Dover Downs Casino, and Bally’s Resort and Casino, as well as stays at hotels near those casinos, the grand jury said.
Pennsylvania – Courtright: ‘I should have known better.’
Citizen’s Voice – Joseph Kohut | Published: 10/2/2020
The former mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison on charges he shook down businesses for bribes and campaign contributions. Bill Courtright resigned last year as mayor of the city of 78,000 and pleaded guilty to bribery, extortion, and conspiracy. Prosecutors say Courtright took bribes from a company that had a contract with the city to collect delinquent taxes and garbage fees.
Pennsylvania – Judge Dismisses Suit by Top Pa. Senator’s Campaign Against Spotlight PA Journalist, Others
Philadelphia Inquirer – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) | Published: 10/7/2020
A judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati’s campaign against a Spotlight PA reporter and The Caucus and one of its journalists. Scarnati’s campaign wanted The Caucus, and reporters Brad Bumsted, and Angela Couloumbis to pay its accounting firm $5,070 for producing and copying public records that documented questionable campaign spending by Scarati. It also wanted the trio to pay $1,000 in attorneys’ fees and court costs. But Magisterial District Court Judge Jacqueline Mizerock ruled Scarnati’s campaign, not the journalists, should be on the hook for the costs the accounting firm incurred.
Rhode Island – Speaker Mattiello Isn’t the One on Trial for Money Laundering Today. But His Reputation Could Be.
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 10/4/2020
Little-known Democratic political operative Jeffrey Britt is on trial for money laundering and making an illegal campaign contribution, but much of the focus will be on someone who is not on trial: House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. Britt’s lawyer says Leo Skenyon, Mattiello’s chief of staff, told Britt to persuade a defeated Republican candidate to endorse Mattiello instead of the candidate from her own party who was seeking to unseat the speaker in 2016. Britt has pleaded not guilty to the charge he illegally funneled money to her to pay for a mailer that carried her endorsement. If Skenyon knew what he was doing, Britt maintains, then so did the Mattiello campaign. Of the three men, only Britt is charged. But Britt’s attorney is determined to put Mattiello on trial.
South Carolina – High Court Reinstates S. Carolina Ballot Witness Requirement
Associated Press News – Jessica Gresko | Published: 10/6/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a requirement that South Carolina residents voting by mail in November’s election get a witness to sign their ballots. Democrats had sought to have the requirement put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Republicans had defended it as deterring fraud. While the high court reinstated the requirement as a lawsuit over it proceeds, voters have already started returning ballots. More than 200,000 absentee ballots have been mailed and 18,000 returned, according to the state’s election commission. The court said any ballots cast before the court’s action on October 5 “and received within two days of this order may not be rejected for failing to comply with the witness requirement.”
Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott Limits Counties to One Absentee Ballot Drop-Off Location, Bolstering GOP Efforts to Restrict Voting
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 10/1/2020
Gov. Greg Abbott threw the weight of his office behind Republican efforts to limit options for Texas voters who want to hand-deliver their completed absentee ballots for the November election, a rebuke to some large, Democratic counties that have set up multiple drop-off locations in what they call an effort to maximize voter convenience. The governor issued a proclamation directing counties to designate just one location for ballot drop-offs and allowing political parties to install poll watchers to observe the process. With the U.S. Postal Service warning of potential delays, many Texans are eager to deliver their completed absentee ballots in person.
Texas – Texas Supreme Court Rules Harris County Cannot Mail Out Ballot Applications to All Registered Voters
CNN – Ashley Killough and Veronica Stracqualursi | Published: 10/7/2020
The Texas Supreme Court ruled Harris County, one of the largest in the country, cannot mail out applications for absentee ballots to all of its 2.4 million registered voters. The ruling is the latest blow for Democrats and voting rights groups who have pushed for Texas to expand vote-by-mail access amid the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans have blocked their efforts in favor of stricter measures that they argue ensure the integrity of the electoral process. The decision blocks Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins from sending out applications for mail-in ballots to every registered voter in the county even if they may be ineligible for absentee voting, including in Houston, the state’s largest city and a Democratic stronghold.
Washington DC – Mayor Bowser Has $219,000 in Her Fund for Needy Residents. During the Pandemic, She Has Given $0.
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 10/5/2020
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and city council Chairperson Phil Mendelson have not made a single donation this year from the special charitable funds they control, even as the coronavirus pandemic has left thousands of city residents jobless and businesses scrambling to stay afloat. Bowser has $219,000 in her constituent services fund, while Mendelson has nearly $136,000, mostly from leftover campaign money. Six other council members have accumulated a total of $39,000 but spent only $7,000 since the virus arrived in the region in March. Watchdogs, who have long criticized the constituent service program because it allows individuals and special-interest groups to give money to politicians outside of campaign season, say there is no shortage of organizations and residents in need of financial assistance, and elected officials should be more proactive.
West Virginia – WV State Ed Official Urged SAT Seller to Hire Former GOP Chairman to ‘Neutralize’ ACT Lobbyist
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Ryan Quinn | Published: 10/2/2020
West Virginia’s assistant schools superintendent for testing successfully urged the seller of the SAT test to hire the state Republican Party’s former chairperson as a lobbyist. Assistant Superintendent Jan Barth said Conrad Lucas would, as she put it in an email, “neutralize” a lobbyist for the competing ACT test. This means Barth, who oversees statewide learning standards, in addition to standardized testing, recommended the hiring of a legislative representative for an organization, the College Board, that is paid roughly $1 million annually by Barth’s agency. The College Board might seek to extend that contract in the future.
October 2, 2020 •
National/Federal Amy Coney Barrett, a Disciple of Justice Scalia, Is Poised to Push the Supreme Court Further Right Washington Post – Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg, and Ann Marimow | Published: 9/26/2020 The declarations of political war started coming fast […]
Amy Coney Barrett, a Disciple of Justice Scalia, Is Poised to Push the Supreme Court Further Right
Washington Post – Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg, and Ann Marimow | Published: 9/26/2020
The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grassroots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds, and Senate inboxes. If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending, and potentially much more, and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign.
Courts View GOP Fraud Claims Skeptically as Democrats Score Key Legal Victories Over Mail Voting
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2020
A review by The Washington Post of nearly 90 state and federal voting lawsuits found judges have been broadly skeptical as Republicans use claims of voter fraud to argue against ensuring votes cast by mail are counted and protecting the wide distribution of mail ballots in some states. In no case did a judge back President Trump’s view, refuted by experts, that fraud is a problem significant enough to sway a presidential election. Some of the wins have been preliminary. In many cases, judges issued split decisions, granting some of the changes sought by liberal plaintiffs and otherwise maintaining the status quo as favored by Republicans. But The Post found judges appointed by Republicans and Democrats alike have been dubious of GOP arguments that lowering barriers to mail voting could lead to widespread fraud.
Ethics Watchdog Seeks Stronger Powers to Police Rules Covering Public Officials
Irish Times – Jack Horgan-Jones | Published: 9/30/2020
Ireland’s ethics watchdog said she hopes the government will strengthen its powers to police “revolving-door” rules in a review announced in the wake of controversy regarding former minister Michael D’Arcy’s move to the private sector. The new powers would include the right to seize documents and compel testimony from people suspected of breaching the rules, which stipulate a 12-month waiting period before former ministers or senior officials join the private sector. Sherry Perrault, head of ethics and regulation at the Standards in Public Office Commission, said she welcomed the announcement of a review of the post-employment provisions of the Regulation of Lobbying Act.
False G.O.P. Ad Prompts QAnon Death Threats Against a Democratic Congressman
New York Times – Catie Edmonson | Published: 9/30/2020
U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski is facing down death threats from QAnon supporters after the House Republicans’ campaign arm falsely accused him of lobbying to protect sexual predators. QAnon supporters began targeting Malinowski after he led a bipartisan resolution condemning the movement, which spreads a baseless conspiracy theory that President Trump is battling a cabal of Democratic pedophiles. QAnon believers seized on an advertisement released by the campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, that falsely claimed Malinowski, then a lobbyist for Human Rights Watch, worked to block a provision in a 2006 crime bill that would have expanded registration requirements for sex offenders.
Florida Republican Cooperating with Campaign Finance Probe
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 9/24/2020
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is accused of spending at least $50,000 in campaign money on vacations and restaurant and luxury hotel bills. The department’s Public Integrity Section is looking into the expenditures, which includes a 2017 trip to Walt Disney World with her children and grandchildren, rooms at a Ritz-Carlton resort, and a New Year’s Eve meal at a high-end seafood restaurant.
Judges Propose Making Disclosure of Their Personal Details a Crime
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/24/2020
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, has drawn widespread attention for her reported membership in People of Praise, a largely Catholic, charismatic religious group. Judge Barbara Lagoa is a longtime member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Those details, easily found in numerous news stories about the potential Supreme Court nominees, could become illegal for media outlets or anyone else to publish on the internet under a proposal federal judges sent to Congress. Under the suggested legislation, lawmakers would grant judges extraordinary latitude to decide what personal information to exclude from the public eye.
Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance
New York Times – Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire | Published: 9/27/2020
Donald Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750. He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, largely because he reported losing much more money than he made. As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the IRS over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund he claimed and received after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million. The tax returns Trump has fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public.
Michael Flynn Judge Emphasizes He Is Not a ‘Rubber Stamp’ in Justice Dept. Bid to Drop Prosecution
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow | Published: 9/29/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Emmitt Sullivan began scrutinizing the Justice Department’s bid to dismiss the criminal case against Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators. Sullivan emphasized his role is not to serve as a “rubber stamp” when it comes to reviewing Attorney General William Barr’s questionable request to toss the prosecution of the highest-ranking Trump adviser charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The climactic confrontation could help define the limits of executive- and judicial-branch powers and promises to provide legal and political drama before an election in which Flynn’s contentious prosecution has electrified Trump’s supporters and opponents.
Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Maggie Haberman, and Jeremy Peters | Published: 9/27/2020
The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grassroots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds, and Senate inboxes. If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending, and potentially much more, and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign.
Ransomware Attacks Take on New Urgency Ahead of Vote
MSN – Nicole Perloth and David Sanger (New York Times) | Published: 9/27/2020
A company that sells software cities and states use to display results on election night was hit by ransomware, the latest of nearly a thousand such attacks over the past year against small towns, big cities, and the contractors who run their voting systems. Many of the attacks are conducted by Russian criminal groups, some with shady ties to President Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services. While Tyler Technologies does not tally votes, it is used by election officials to aggregate and report them in at least 20 places around the country, making it exactly the kind of soft target the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and United States Cyber Command worry could be struck by anyone trying to sow chaos and uncertainty on election night.
Some Democrats Worry Millions Flowing from Super PACs Prioritize White Swing Voters Over Minorities
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 9/25/2020
Some Democratic strategists are raising the alarm about the millions of dollars being spent by super PACs in support of Joe Biden, saying too much is being spent on White swing voters while not enough is being devoted to driving up turnout among voters of color. The complaints are perennial, but they carry new resonance this year, as Biden has struggled to inspire enthusiasm among young Black voters and Latinos. The Democratic concerns come a more than $150 million has already been spent by the main super PACs supporting Biden, some of which have made it part of their strategy to win back supporters of former President Barack Obama who pivoted in 2016 to Trump.
Trump Incessantly Interrupts and Insults Biden as They Spar in Acrimonious First Debate
Washington Post – Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Annie Linskey | Published: 9/30/2020
The presidential campaign devolved into chaos and acrimony as President Trump incessantly interrupted and insulted Democratic nominee Joe Biden while the two sparred over the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court, and race relations in their first debate. The most anticipated event on the fall campaign calendar was an uncontrollable spectacle of badgering and browbeating, of raised voices and hot tempers. Trump;s interjections and jeers, some of them false and made in an apparent effort to fluster Biden, landed with such ferocity that moderator Chris Wallace pleaded multiple times with the president to follow the agreed-upon debate rules.
Trump’s Debts and Foreign Deals Pose Security Risks, Former Intelligence Officials Say
MSN – Greg Miller and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2020
Former intelligence officials and security experts said revelations about President Trump’s tax records raise profound questions about whether he should be trusted to safeguard U.S. secrets and interests. The records show Trump has continued to make money off foreign investments and projects while in office; foreign officials have spent lavishly at his Washington, D.C. hotel and other properties; and despite this revenue he is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt with massive payments coming due. Trump faces the need for a substantial infusion of cash in the coming years to avert potential financial crisis. As a result, officials and experts said Trump has made himself vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments aware of his predicament and put himself in a position in which his financial interests and the nation’s priorities could be in conflict.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Abruptly Ousts Top Political Consultant Scott Reed, Alleging Leaks
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger | Published: 9/29/2020
Scott Reed, the veteran Republican political consultant, was fired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the organization’s political director amid allegations he leaked confidential information. Reed helped pilot the chamber’s well-funded congressional election strategy for more than a decade. The chamber’s spending on congressional races has for years eclipsed those of other business trade associations. In addition to donations to candidates, the chamber has a national grassroots organizing effort engaging local business leaders.
When Your Job Is to Make Sure Nov. 3 Isn’t a Disaster
New York Times – Dionne Searcey | Published: 9/30/2020
Secretaries of state, who serve as the top elections officials in most states in what is usually a partisan elected position, are in charge of managing a chaotic, disinformation-prone, pandemic-plagued presidential vote that none of them envisioned when they took office. That a sitting president has become the chief sower of distrust in the election process has added new levels of exasperation for the officials whose days have already been spent rushing from top-secret briefings on thwarting Russian and Chinese disinformation campaigns to making sure enough hand sanitizer is available at hundreds of polling places.
Women Rise on K Street – Slowly
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 9/28/2020
Lobbying firms and corporate government relations offices with strong female representation have existed over time, though they are rare. Today, more women are rising in the ranks or opening their own shops to slowly balance the playing field. Lobbying is a typical next step for lawmakers after leaving Congress. But men dominate the pool of former members who have moved to K Street. Of The Hill’s top lobbyists of 2019 list, about one-third of the corporate lobbyists recognized are women.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Mining Executive Resigns a Day After Being Caught on Tape Boasting of His Ties to GOP Politicians
Washington Post – Juliet Eilperin | Published: 9/25/2020
Mining executive Tom Collier, who boasted in secretly taped conversations he had leveraged his ties to Republican officials to advance a controversial project in Alaska, resigned. Collier, chief executive officer of the Pebble Limited Partnership, offered his resignation a day after the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released recordings of Zoom calls in which he talked of currying favor with the White House and Alaska lawmakers to win federal approval for a massive gold and copper mine. Speaking to EIA investigators, who were posing as possible investors in the project, he touted his effort to funnel money to Republican politicians in Alaska and defeat those who sided with Democrats against the mine.
Arizona – Court Reopens Door to ‘Dark Money’ in Arizona Political Races
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 9/29/2020
The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled the state Legislature was within its rights to decide that any group the IRS has classified as non-profit does not have to disclose its donors, even if it uses the money to finance independent expenditures to elect or defeat candidates. That change overturned the ability of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to determine whether the group was really a charity or only a thinly disguised PAC, which disclose donors. The ruling also allows political parties to spend unlimited amounts on behalf of their candidates without disclosure, among other provisions.
California – California NAACP President Aids Corporate Prop Campaigns – Collects $1.2 Million and Counting
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 9/25/2020
As leader of the California NAACP, Alice Huffman has weighed in with positions in the ballot handbook critics say run counter to the historic organization’s mission to advance racial equality. What the guide does not tell voters is Huffman’s political consulting firm has been paid more than $1.2 million so far this year by ballot measure campaigns she or the group has endorsed. Huffman’s dual roles as both a paid campaign consultant and leader of a civil rights group amount to an unusual, but legal, arrangement. Huffman’s approach – making money from the campaigns that also wind up with an NAACP seal of approval – is stirring controversy in some Black communities. Critics say it appears the endorsement of the renowned organization is essentially up for sale.
California – Porter Ranch Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in LA City Hall Bribery Scheme
Los Angeles Daily News – City News Service | Published: 9/30/2020
Lobbyist and former Los Angeles City Hall official Morrie Goldman pleaded guilty to conspiring with now-suspended Councilperson Jose Huizar in a bribery scheme. Goldman was a lobbyist for a company which had a pending development project in the city’s Arts District. He and others established two PACs, one of which purportedly supported a variety of causes but actually was created to primarily benefit the city council campaign of a relative of Huizar’s who was planning to run for his council seat. Goldman admitted he agreed with Huizar and an executive at the company that the developer would contribute $50,000 to a PAC established to support the relative’s campaign. In exchange, Huizar would vote against a union appeal of the company’s project in the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which he chaired at the time.
Florida – Felon Voting: Forcing fees to be paid not an issue for some wealthy felons
Palm Beach Post – John Pacenti | Published: 9/29/2020
Republicans have called for a criminal investigation into vote-buying after a $16 million contribution from New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to pay legal financial obligations of felons. The state indicated it does not have the wherewithal to verify felons who register have actually paid their obligations by the general election on November 3. While a federal judge in Tallahassee found Gov. Ron DeSantis’ financial requirement for felons was unconstitutional, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the governor, saying they were part of completing any prison sentence. “This disproportionately impacts the poor and keeps them disenfranchised, but if you are wealthy, you re-enfranchised,” said Michael Barfield, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
Florida – JEA Bidder Florida Power and Light Discussed Donating to Charities Led by City Council Members
Florida Times Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 9/29/2020
A month after JEA announced last July it would soon be for sale, Florida Power and Light (FPL) executives held a meeting with the lobbyists helping with the politics of the company’s effort to buy the city-owned utility. Among the assignments the lobbyists received at the meeting: find charities with close ties to Jacksonville City Council members, who would have to vote on any deal to sell JEA. FPL’s game plan included a “charitable giving” component, according to documents obtained by a council committee investigating the failed sale. The documents provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how FPL planned to use its financial muscle to strengthen its bid to buy JEA and win community support by financially supporting high-profile events, educational institutions, and nonprofits tied to public officials.
Georgia – Choudhary Sentenced to Jail for Bribing Atlanta Official to Win Airport Contract
Rome News-Tribune – Everett Catts | Published: 9/29/2020
As part of the federal government’s corruption investigation of Atlanta, a businessperson was sentenced to nearly two years in prison for bribing a city official to secure a contract at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Hayat Choudhary, chief executive officer of Atlanta Airport Shuttle Services, paid $20,000 in cash to a Department of Procurement official to secure a contract at the airport.
Illinois – 3 Ethics Board Exits Later, Cook County Commissioners Unveil First Draft of Ethics Code Reforms
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 9/24/2020
After a nine-month lag in the Cook County ethics board’s plan to revise the ethics ordinance, as well as three member exits, the Board of Commissioners unveiled a bundle of proposed reforms that mostly won the approval of two ousted ethics board chairpersons. The changes are based on revisions the ethics board voted in favor of in January despite objection from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office that more time was needed to examine the language. Since then, two members reluctantly left after Preckwinkle opted not to reappoint them, and a third resigned in protest.
Illinois – Former ComEd VP Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Feds in Bribery Case Orbiting House Speaker Michael Madigan
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/29/2020
Fidel Marquez, the former senior vice president of governmental affairs at Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), pleaded guilty to one count of bribery conspiracy, the first criminal conviction in an ongoing corruption investigation in Illinois. ComEd has been charged with bribery and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. It will pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with investigators in exchange for the charges being dropped in three years. The plea agreement says Marquez conspired with others to solicit jobs, contracts, and monetary payments for House Speaker Michael Madigan and his associates to influence legislation beneficial to ComEd.
Illinois – Legislative Hearings into Madigan Reveal New Details About the ComEd Bribery Scheme
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold | Published: 9/29/2020
Lawyers representing Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) told a legislative panel how the utility repeatedly engaged in bribery to influence Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. The committee weighing potential misconduct charges against the speaker heard the most public airing so far about the lengths ComEd went to curry favor with Madigan, including revelations the scheme was wider than previously disclosed. The company has admitted to showering no-work contracts on members of Madigan’s political team and even putting one ally on the company’s board to illegally bolster its standing with the speaker.
Illinois – Top Lightfoot Adviser on Intergovernmental Affairs to Marry Chicag Alderman, Raising Ethical Concerns from City Staff
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt and John Byrne | Published: 9/26/2020
A top legislative adviser to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is marrying Ald. Jim Gardiner, raising concerns from some of the mayor’s staff about the ethical implications of the relationship. Lightfoot’s senior adviser for legislative counsel and government affairs, Samantha Fields, has been dating Gardiner for months and they plan to get married in October. Chicago Board of Ethics Executive Director Steve Berlin said city employees and officials are only prohibited from supervising a spouse.
Indiana – Indiana Casino Executive Charged in Illegal Campaign Scheme
Associated Press News – John Davies | Published: 9/29/2020
A top executive of an Indiana casino company that is building a $400 million casino in Gary was indicted on federal charges of illegally funneling campaign contributions to a former state lawmaker’s unsuccessful congressional campaign. The indictment charges Spectacle Entertainment vice president John Keeler and former Indiana Sen. Brent Waltz with taking part in a scheme to direct more than $25,000 in illegal corporate contributions through straw donors to Waltz’s 2016 campaign.
Maryland – HUD Inspectors Find Ben Carson’s Actions Didn’t Benefit Son in Baltimore Deals, but Had the ‘Appearance’ of Ethical Issues
Baltimore Sun – Meredith Cohen | Published: 9/29/2020
The inspector general’s office for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs ((HUD) released an investigative report that found no evidence HUD Secretary Ben Carson used his position to benefit his son’s business interests in Baltimore, but he “could have done more to avoid the appearance that he was not complying with federal ethics regulations.” The investigation stems largely from a 2017 “listening tour” in the city by Carson, a former neurosurgeon at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The report said the inspector general’s office received “multiple complaints” the HUD secretary allowed his son to invite companies and individuals to participate in the tour to advance his own financial interests.
Massachusetts – Former Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg Returns to Beacon Hill as Lobbyist
MSN – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 9/24/2020
When Stanley Rosenberg left Beacon Hill in the spring of 2018 under less than desirable circumstances, no one could say for sure if or when he might resurface after a career spent in public service. But Rosenberg, who once ascended the political platform in Massachusetts to become the first openly gay and Jewish president of the Senate, is back, and in a position that he never imagined for himself. He is a lobbyist. He resigned more than two years ago after an investigation into the activities of his husband, Bryon Hefner, including allegations he sexually assaulted four men. While the Ethics Committee did not find Rosenberg violated any Senate rules or allowed Hefner to influence Senate business, the committee recommended barring Rosenberg from any leadership positions or committee chairs for one term.
Missouri – Voters See ‘Unfair’ Ballot Language on Cleaner Missouri in Two Counties
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 9/24/2020
Voters in at least two Missouri counties got absentee ballots recently with a key error. Clerks in Buchanan and Vernon counties had ballots with the wrong language describing Amendment 3, which asks voters to reverse changes they made to the state’s redistricting process two years ago. Two courts threw out language written by the Legislature as unfair and rewrote it in August. But Buchanan County Clerk Mary Baack-Garvey and Vernon County Clerk Mike Buehler said their ballots were mistakenly printed with the old language, prompting them to request reprinting with the correct language.
New York – Appeals Court Judges Skeptical of Trump Effort to Block Release of Financial Info
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 9/25/2020
President Trump’s drive to block Manhattan prosecutors from accessing a large swath of his tax and financial records got a chilly reception from a federal appeals court. Three judges on the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals repeatedly questioned Trump attorney William Consovoy’s claim that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s grand jury subpoena for Trump’s records was “overbroad” and issued in retaliation for the Trump organization’s resistance to an earlier demand for Trump’s tax returns. Rather, they said, it was Consovoy who seemed to be misconstruing long-settled understandings about how grand jury subpoenas and investigations work.
New York – City Council Ethics Committee Moves to Expel Bronx Councilmember Andy King
Gothamist – David Cruz | Published: 9/29/2020
The New York City Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics took the rare step of recommending expelling Councilperson Andy King following another lengthy investigation into allegations of inappropriate comments, taking bribes, and skirting a $15,000 fine from another prior investigation. The committee determined King asked for a $2,000 kickback from a staffer, and ignored a previously issued $15,000 penalty for a 2019 inquiry that resulted in a 30-day suspension and an office monitor. He has yet to pay for the fine despite being offered a payment plan. The committee also substantiated a harassment claim against King, which alleged he made inappropriate comments to a female staffer in September 2017.
Ohio – Ohio Republican Party Pulls Attack Ad After Realizing It Attacked the Wrong Person
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/28/2020
The Ohio Republican Party pulled an ad that falsely attacked state Rep. Phil Robinson for being sued over an unpaid debt from 1999. Along with a picture of Robinson, the ad read, “Phil Robinson can’t manage his own finances …. Can we trust him with ours?” It included a link to a website that has since been taken down. But the site showed information about a 1999 case filed in Cleveland Municipal Court against someone named Phil Robinson. It was a different Phil Robinson.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Republicans Ask Supreme Court to Stop Voting Accommodations
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 9/28/2020
Pennsylvania’s Republican legislative leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a decision by the state’s high court to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in Democrats’ favor on a number of mail-voting rules: permitting voters to turn in ballots via drop box in addition to using the U.S. Postal Service; allowing ballots to be returned up to three days after Election Day; and blocking a Republican effort to allow partisan poll watchers to be stationed in counties where they do not live.
Rhode Island – Judge Upholds R.I. Campaign Finance Law; Conservative Groups Appeal
Providence Journal – Patrick Anderson | Published: 9/29/2020
A federal judge rejected a bid to invalidate a portion of Rhode Island’s campaign finance laws, but conservative groups seeking to launch anonymous political campaigns have filed an appeal. U.S. District Court Judge Mary McElroy dismissed a lawsuit that argued the state’s disclosure laws for independent campaign expenditures are unconstitutional. Under Rhode Island law, any person or organization spending $1,000 or more to benefit a candidate or an outcome in a ballot referendum must disclose it to the Board of Elections, even if they are not coordinated with a campaign. The plaintiffs argued that donors, businesses, and organizations should be afforded a “safe space” to engage in political speech without fear their actions will face pushback, as long as it is not coordinated with individual candidates.
Tennessee – Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Violated Open Meetings Act with Secret Vote
The Tennessean – Mariah Timms | Published: 9/25/2020
A judge ruled the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance violated open meetings law when it voted by email to reduce a state lawmaker’s fines in April. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle rejected the state’s argument the vote was inconsequential and therefore unnecessary to be taken in public. The secret vote involved a settlement of penalties that could have kept Rep. Joe Towns from being eligible to run for office on the eve of the eligibility deadline. Towns faced more than $66,000 in penalties owed to the registry and the state Ethics Commission for failing to file certain documents.
Washington – Freed Agrees to Civil Penalty to Resolve Campaign Finance, Reporting Violations
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 9/25/2020
A former Republican gubernatorial candidate and current write-in candidate for lieutenant governor agreed to a civil penalty with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Joshua Freed’s 2020 gubernatorial campaign repaid him at least $450,000 of a $500,000 loan he made to the campaign, which violated a $6,000 repayment limit. He agreed to a $50,000 penalty, with half of it suspended as long as he does not have further violations.
West Virginia – Legislators Raise Concerns Over Lack of Oversight on Governor’s Grant Awards
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Phil Kabler | Published: 9/30/2020
Legislative leadership is abdicating its appropriations powers by allowing West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to award more than $20 million to date in CARES Act Small Business Grants without oversight, said Mick Bates, minority chairperson of the House Finance Committee. Since July, Justice has handed out more than 4,000 grants, most for $5,000, but some $2,000 grants to sole proprietors, out of $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act pandemic relief funds the state received. Some of those grants have drawn scrutiny, including $5,000 grants Justice awarded to VIP Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club in Martinsburg, and to legislative lobbyist Larry Puccio, who clientele includes Justice’s Greenbrier resort.
Wisconsin – Appellate Court Halts Wisconsin Ballot-Counting Extension
Associated Press News – Todd Richmond | Published: 9/27/2020
A federal appeals court temporarily halted a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin’s presidential election, a momentary victory for Republicans and President Trump in the key battleground state. As it stands, ballots will now be due by eight p.m. on Election Day. A lower court judge had sided with Democrats and their allies to extend the deadline until November 9. Democrats sought more time to help deal with an expected historic high number of absentee ballots.
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