April 9, 2021 •
National/Federal ‘A Complete Ripoff’: Campaign finance experts puzzled and stunned by Trump camp’s reported ‘money bomb’ ploy MSN – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/6/2021 Some donors who gave a few hundred dollars to former President Trump’s reelection campaign were […]
‘A Complete Ripoff’: Campaign finance experts puzzled and stunned by Trump camp’s reported ‘money bomb’ ploy
MSN – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/6/2021
Some donors who gave a few hundred dollars to former President Trump’s reelection campaign were shocked to see thousands drained from their accounts. Refund requests spiked in the final months of the campaign. A New York Times investigation detailed a recurring donation scheme reportedly referred to as “the money bomb” the Trump campaign used to pad its coffers in the final months of the campaign through the Republican fundraising platform WinRed. The payments, according to the Times, essentially functioned as an “interest-free loan” from Trump’s donors to his campaign, which faced financial turmoil in the months leading up to the November 3 election.
Corporate America Isn’t Welcoming Former Trump Cabinet Officials with Open Arms, Headhunters Say
MSN – Tory Newmyer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/7/2021
Before she joined the Trump administration as transportation secretary, Elaine Chao earned millions of dollars over the past decade by serving on the boards of big public companies such as Dole Foods and Wells Fargo. She offered sterling credentials to businesses eager to keep current with the Republican leadership, but Chao is encountering a fraught reentry into the private sector. Headhunters who have sought similarly prominent work for Chao have found little interest. While the small numbers make comparisons difficult, corporations do not seem to have an immediate interest in other top Trump administration alums either.
Corporate America Isn’t Welcoming Former Trump Cabinet Officials with Open Arms, Headhunters Say
MSN – Tory Newmyer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Before she joined the Trump administration as transportation secretary, Elaine Chao earned millions of dollars over the past decade by serving on the boards of big public companies such as Dole Foods and Wells Fargo. She offered sterling credentials to businesses eager to keep current with the Republican leadership, but Chao is encountering a fraught reentry into the private sector. Headhunters who have sought similarly prominent work for Chao have found little interest. While the small numbers make comparisons difficult, corporations do not seem to have an immediate interest in other top Trump administration alums either.
Covid Survivors Look to Turn Grief into Lobbying Clout
Politico – Alice Miranda Ollstein | Published: 4/5/2021
Activists with chronic illnesses helped save the Affordable Care Act from repeal and gun violence survivors built a movement to take on the National Rifle Association. Now, a cohort of COVID-19 survivors is working to turn their grief into political power. As President Biden pitches a multi-trillion-dollar package to shore up the country’s physical infrastructure, the new advocates, including people who lost loved ones to the virus, are focusing their grassroots lobbying on the follow-up plan Biden is expected to unveil addressing the country’s “human infrastructure.” Fresh off a round of lobbying in favor of the pandemic aid bill, recently formed groups are also launching efforts at the federal and state levels.
Democratic Firm Aims to Diversify Consultant Class
Politico – James Arkin | Published: 4/5/2021
A major Democratic consulting firm is building a new public affairs practice and launching a paid fellowship program intended to increase diversity in the party’s consultant class. Left Hook, a firm that works with major congressional candidates and committees, is launching the fellowship program this fall and bringing on a new veteran campaign operative to run a public affairs division. The effort is part of a long-term goal to increase the diversity in their own ranks in the hopes of pushing the party to further develop talent pipelines for women and people of color.
Former Trump HUD Official Fined, Barred from Government Employment
Politico – Katy O’Donnell | Published: 4/6/2021
A federal watchdog fined former Trump housing official Lynne Patton $1,000 and barred her from federal employment for four years after she violated a law prohibiting executive branch employees from engaging in political activities while on duty. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel penalized Patton, who served as Housing and Urban Development regional administrator for New York and New Jersey, over a video she produced with New York City Housing Authority residents to air at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Gaetz Is Said to Have Boasted of His ‘Access to Women’ Provided by Friend Charged in Sex-Trafficking Case
MSN – Michael Scherer and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 4/2/2021
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz repeatedly boasted to people involved in Florida politics about women he met through a county tax collector who has since been charged by federal authorities with sex trafficking of a minor, according to two people who heard his comments directly. They said Gatetz also showed them videos on his phone of naked or topless women on multiple occasions, including at parties with Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County. The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz paid for sex with women in violation of federal sex-trafficking laws.
Gaetz Reported to Have Sought a ‘Blanket’ Pardon from Trump
Politico – Benjamin Dinn and Matt Dixon | Published: 4/6/2021
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz allegedly sought a “blanket” presidential pardon from Donald Trump in the closing weeks of his administration, a request which was ultimately not fulfilled. The request for a blanket preemptive pardon for Gaetz and unidentified congressional allies, came as the Justice Department was opening an investigation into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel across state lines.
Honduras Hired Elite D.C. Law Firm in Failed Lobbying Effort to Derail ‘State-Sponsored Drug Trafficking Probe’ of President’s Brother
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/1/2021
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández’s government retained an influential Washington, D.C. law firm to lobby U.S. prosecutors to call off a “state-sponsored drug trafficking” probe of his brother, who was sentenced recently for smuggling 185 tons of cocaine into the United States. Prosecutors cited the failed September 2019 influence campaign by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, along with the murder of four people linked to the investigation, in urging stiff punishment for Juan Antonio Hernández, who is also a former Honduran lawmaker.
New Labor Secretary’s Ex-Boston Aides Line Up to Lobby in D.C.
Bloomberg Law – Ben Penn | Published: 4/6/2021
Three former senior aides who served under Labor Secretary Marty Walsh when he was Boston’s mayor are now lobbyists seeking to promote business interests in matters facing the U.S. Labor Department. Such career pivots are common in Washington, where businesses prize individuals who have working relationships with policymakers. There is no indication the trio of former staffers will have an easier time than any other company or union representative in gaining access to the new secretary. But the Walsh acolytes’ shift to labor lobbying highlights the business community’s desire to tap into the new secretary’s penchant for pragmatism and receptiveness to employer concerns despite his roots in organized labor.
Republicans Ramp Up Attacks on Corporations Over Georgia Voting Law, Threaten ‘Consequences’
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor and Todd Frankel (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Republicans are attacking corporations over their decision to condemn the controversial Georgia voting law, part of the party’s embrace of the populism espoused by former President Trump even as it creates tensions with traditional allies in the business community. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused corporations of siding with Democrats’ portrayal of the law as the new Jim Crow. His statement included a threat of unspecified “serious consequences” if companies continued to stand opposite Republicans on a variety of issues. The acrimony underscores the party’s increasingly fraying relationship with corporate America over social and cultural issues.
Sen. Ted Cruz Illegally Promoted His Book with Campaign Funds, Watchdog Alleges in Ethics Complaints
CNBC – Kevin Breuninger | Published: 4/7/2021
The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) alleges U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz violated campaign finance rules by using donor funds to promote his book. The CLC accused Cruz’s campaign committee of spending up to $18,000 in late 2020 on Facebook advertisements that “exclusively” urged viewers to buy copies of the senator’s book. Those ads included links to buy the book from third-party online booksellers, said the CLC. “Because Cruz receives royalties from book sales, his campaign crossed a legal line by spending donor funds on Facebook ads promoting sales of that book,” said Brendan Fischer, CLC director of federal reform.
The Battle for Tribune: Inside the campaign to find new owners for a legendary group of newspapers
MSN – Elahe Izade and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Last year, as a group of Baltimore Sun reporters embarked on a quest to find a new owner that could save their paper from a hedge-fund takeover, Ted Venetoulis, a former Baltimore County executive, launched the Save Our Sun campaign. It would eventually inspire a national effort to keep nearly a dozen newspapers owned by the same chain from being bought by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund with a singular reputation for gutting newsrooms. Although millionaires and political insiders were crucial to the rescue plan, so too were the reporters who work at the threatened papers.
White House Meets Little Resistance in Hiring Former Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 4/6/2021
Alethea Predeoux, a former lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees, and Charanya Krishnaswami, who lobbied for Amnesty International, received ethics waivers to join the Biden administration. The moves come after President Biden signed an executive order placing restrictions on all former registered lobbyists working in the administration, drawing praise from advocacy groups. Some of those same organizations have taken no issue with the recent waivers. Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said: “Public interest lobbyists are generally not an issue. The issue is corporate lobbyists who could … skew hundreds of billions of dollars to their former industry.”
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill Admits Affair, Won’t Run for U.S. Senate: ‘There’s no excuse’
AL.com – Connor Sheets and Kyle Whitmore | Published: 4/7/2021
After initially denying reports of an extramarital affair, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill admitted he had “an inappropriate relationship” with a legal assistant and will not make an anticipated run for the U.S. Senate. The revelations threw a wrench into the race to replace Sen. Richard Shelby, who is retiring. While campaigning for secretary of state, rumors that Merrill had a consensual encounter with a married woman in 2010 circulated. The allegation did little to stymie Merrill’s political aspirations, which continued with his 2019 campaign for U.S. Senate, where he was one of five GOP candidates hoping to unseat incumbent Democrat Doug Jones. In that campaign, Merrill made headlines for his comments about family values.
California – Carlsbad Approves Campaign Contribution Limits
San Diego Union Tribune – Phil Diehl | Published: 4/7/2021
Carlsbad lowered the limits on individual campaign contributions in a compromise that some city council members said was an effort to level the playing field for local candidates. Instead of using California’s default limit of $4,900 per donor, the council voted to set the maximum at $900 for council district elections and $3,100 for the mayoral and other citywide elected offices. The council also added a $10,000 cap on personal campaign loans.
California – How GOP Used Misinformation, Partisan News Sites to Flip California House Seats
CalMatters – Freddie Brewster and Katie Licari | Published: 3/26/2021
Last fall, Republicans flipped four congressional seats in California previously held by Democrats. Although the races varied in their rhetoric, they had one thing in common: the National Republican Congressional Committee targeted all four Democratic candidates in dossiers posted publicly that were filled with information, some of it false, used by some candidates for negative campaigning. The misinformation in turn was amplified not only on social media but by a handful of upstart conservative partisan news outlets.
Connecticut – Jon Lender: $20,000 ethics fine paid two years after being levied on former UConn official, who awarded her husband a $53,000 fellowship
MSN – Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) | Published: 4/2/2021
Former University of Connecticut graduate school diversity officer Charmane Thurmand, who was found by state ethics officials to have improperly given her husband a $53,000 fellowship, paid a $20,000 fine two years after it was levied, finally ending a contentious case. In March 2019, The Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board ordered Thurmand to pay the maximum $10,000 fine for each of two violations it found she had committed three years earlier. The Office of State Ethics filed an enforcement action with the help of the state attorney general’s office to collect the money.
Florida – Ethics Questions Raised About Developer Tapped for Riviera’s $300M Marina Project
MSN – Tony Doris (Palm Beach Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Turning Riviera Beach’s waterfront into a municipal centerpiece has been a challenge for city officials and most of the construction has yet to materialize. As negotiators and Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) staff work behind the scenes, a new challenge has arisen for the city council members, who sit as the CRA board of directors. A series of articles cast one of the main developers, Vaughn Irons, in an unfavorable light. The stories focus on Irons allegedly presenting a document purporting to be from the DeKalb County Ethics Board that found it would not be a conflict for him to win a $1.5 million county contract while serving as chair of the county’s Economic Development Authority. The Ethics Board said it never issued that opinion.
Florida – Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie Pleads Guilty to Misusing Office; Corruption Felonies Dropped
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Marc Freeman | Published: 4/1/2021
Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie pleaded guilty to charges arising out of a public corruption case that ended her long political career. With her plea deal, she shook off all four felony corruption counts. Haynie no longer stands accused of concealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, including money from prominent city developers. She pleaded guilty to misuse of public office and failure to disclose a voting conflict, and received 122 months on probation.
Florida – Who Is Lobbying to Change Florida’s Privacy Laws? That’s Private
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 4/1/2021
A mysterious group is the driving lobbying force behind legislation that would beef up Florida’s data privacy laws. It has hired a Tallahassee-based lobbying team and spent $300,000 in political contributions, but almost no one, including the sponsors of the bills, has any idea who is behind the group. The organization, Propel Florida, is a nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors, lists a UPS box in Lithia as its only address and was incorporated last April. But over the first half of the 2021 legislative session, the group has flexed its political muscle.
Georgia – Georgia’s Republican Party Accused of Illegally Accepting In-Kind Contributions from an Election Integrity Nonprofit in a New FEC Complaint
Yahoo News – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 3/31/2021
Two watchdog groups filed a complaint with the FEC accusing the Georgia Republican Party of illegally accepting in-kind contributions from True the Vote, a nonprofit that engaged in election-related activities around Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs., and not properly reporting them. The FEC defines in-kind contributions as a “non-monetary contribution” to benefit a campaign or committee. Federal law bans corporations (including both for-profit and non-profit organizations) from making such contributions to candidates or party committees or coordinating with them.
Georgia – MLB All-Star Game Yanked from Georgia Over Voting Law
Associated Press News – Ronald Blume | Published: 4/2/2021
Atlanta lost Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game over the league’s objections to sweeping changes to Georgia voting laws that critics, including the chief executive officers of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, have condemned as being too restrictive. Gov. Brian Kemp has insisted the law’s critics have mischaracterized what it does, yet GOP lawmakers adopted the changes largely in response to false claims of fraud in the 2020 elections by former President Trump and his supporters. The law includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run.
Illinois – Feds Put Spotlight on Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. in Sprawling Corruption Probe
WBEZ – Tony Arnold | Published: 4/7/2021
A sitting Cook County commissioner is now under the federal microscope as part of a sprawling federal corruption investigation into lobbyists and politicians in Illinois. The latest elected official to face scrutiny is Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena earlier this year to the Illinois Department of Revenue. The subpoena requested the agency release tax returns for Arroyo, his lobbying firm, and his wife. In 2019, Arroyo filed paperwork to lobby the Illinois Legislature while his father was a member. It is not illegal to lobby one government body while serving as an elected official in another, but state lawmakers are considering banning the practice.
Illinois – Illinois House Hears Ethics Proposals, Including ‘Revolving Door’ Prohibition for Lawmakers
The Center Square – Greg Bishop | Published: 4/5/2021
Lawmakers in an Illinois House committee are picking up on things the previous General Assembly attempted to address but was sidetracked last year by COVID-19. Stories boiled over throughout 2019 about corruption at the statehouse. They include a lawmaker wearing a wire catching another legislator in an alleged bribe, to other officials having their offices raided by federal investigators. The Ethics and Elections Committee heard about several ideas to address the problem.
Illinois – No Limit? Republican Gary Rabine Ups the Ante in High-Stakes Governor’s Race
Chicago Sun-Times – Andrew Sullander | Published: 4/5/2021
Four years after the Illinois race for governor broke national records for self-financing candidates, next year’s contest is shaping up to be another duel of the deep pockets. Businessperson Gary Rabine notified state election officials he had donated enough of his own cash to his gubernatorial campaign to lift all fundraising caps on the race.
Iowa – Iowa Democrat Drops Attempt to Contest House Race, Citing ‘Toxic Campaign of Political Disinformation’
MSN – Marianna Sotomayer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2021
Democrat Rita Hart dropped her challenge in the Iowa Second Congressional District race, asking the House to no longer consider an investigation into the outcome of her race against Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks following intense Republican pushback. Miller-Meeks was declared the winner over Hart following a recount with a difference of just six votes out of 400,000 cast. Hart alleges 22 legally cast ballots were not considered during the initial November canvass and subsequent recount, resulting in the tightest congressional electoral outcome in modern history.
Kentucky – Democratic Governor in Deep-Red Kentucky Signs Bill to Expand Voting, Bucking National Trend
MSN – Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) | Published: 4/8/2021
As Republicans from Georgia to Texas have pushed bills to restrict voting after President Trump’s loss, a markedly different story played out in deep-red Kentucky. The Bluegrass State’s GOP-dominated Legislature instead passed a bipartisan bill to expand access to the ballot box. Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, signed the measure, which mandates three days of no-excuse early voting, drop-boxes in every county, and an online portal to register absentee, among other changes.
Michigan – Dominion Says Ex-Michigan State Senator’s Election Fraud Claims ‘Successfully Duped Thousands of People’
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
For months, former Michigan Sen. Patrick Colbeck has repeated baseless claims about mass fraud in the presidential election to state senators and pro-Trump crowds, falsely insinuating that rigged voting machines and bogus ballots swayed the results. Now, Colbeck is the latest target in Dominion Voting Systems’ legal battle to combat claims by Republican allies of former President Trump the company says have damaged its reputation. Dominion demanded Colbeck retract his “demonstrably false claims” about the 2020 election results.
Montana – Montana House Rejects Bill Calling Media ‘Slander Machines’
Associated Press News – Iris Samuels | Published: 4/7/2021
The Montana House narrowly rejected a measure that sought to prevent media outlets from reporting on news that lawmakers deem defamatory. The Stop Guilt by Accusation Act closely resembles bills introduced in at least four other states. None have been signed into law. Supporters of the measure said it was not meant to silence the media, but to ensure that reporting on public figures does not stray from the truth. Opponents said they wished to protect the public debate fostered by a free media.
New Mexico – Redistricting Bill One of 50 Signed into Law Tuesday by Lujan Grisham
Yahoo News – Robert Knott | Published: 4/7/2021
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that will create an independent, seven-member commission to redraw election district boundaries later this year, a victory for good-government advocates who say the maps too often are influenced by state politicians’ self-interest. Commissioners will be chosen no later than July 1 and have up to four months to come up with a plan using Census Bureau data. The coronavirus pandemic has led to a delay in the release of that information, which is estimated to be made public in September. The Legislature will then convene a special session to choose the final plans.
New York – New York Attorney General Probes Finances of Key Trump Aide
MSN – David Fahrenthold and Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 4/1/2021
The New York attorney general has gathered personal financial records of the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer and his family, another sign of legal pressure on one of former President Trump’s closest aides. Allen Weisselberg has handled Trump’s finances for decades, rising to become the company’s most powerful person not named “Trump.” In complex investigations, prosecutors often seek evidence of wrongdoing by subordinates to pressure them to reveal damaging information about their bosses. The pressure by both offices being brought to bear on Weisselberg appears designed to pursue that strategy against Trump.
North Carolina – Bar Lobbyists from UNC Board of Governors, a New Bill Says. 3 of Them Are Members Now.
MSN – Lucille Sherman and Kate Murphy (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 4/5/2021
A bill would bar the Legislature from appointing lobbyists to the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors. Senate Bill 546 would cut off one way some lawmakers influence the state’s higher education system by appointing close allies and donors. The bill would prevent lobbyists from trying to balance the interests of the system with those of clients who want certain legislation passed and lawmakers whose support they need to bring those bills across the finish line. Some lobbyists with big-name clients also have the power to direct campaign money to legislators, said watchdog Bob Hall.
North Dakota – Citing Too Much Paperwork, North Dakota Lawmakers Sink Bills to Boost Campaign Finance Transparency
Inforum.com – Jeremy Turley | Published: 4/6/2021
North Dakota senators defeated two bills that would have required political donors to disclose where their money is going, citing a likely increase in the amount of paperwork expected of partisan groups that help elect lawmakers. Candidates and political committees are not legally compelled in North Dakota to detail which campaigns they are supporting or opposing with donations. A bipartisan group of lawmakers set out to change that after Gov. Doug Burgum bankrolled millions of hard-to-track dollars in political advertising for and against candidates during last year’s election cycle.
Ohio – Bill Seeks to End ‘Dark Money’ Spending in Ohio Elections
The Courier – Tyler Buchanan (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 4/6/2021
Republican lawmakers are proposing to revamp some of Ohio’s campaign finance laws that would shine a light on “dark money” groups. Public officials from both parties have called for reforms in the wake of the House Bill 6 scandal, which saw the speaker of the state House arrested, as well as widespread attention paid to how certain groups navigate campaign finance and tax laws to anonymously influence election results.
Ohio – Columbus Zoo Investigation: CEO used zoo money personally, failed to bid construction project at The Wilds
MSN – Alissa Widman Reese | Published: 4/6/2021
Former Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Chief Executive Officer Tom Stalf used zoo funds to purchase a recreational vehicle for his exclusive use and used it for a family trip, according to an investigation by a law firm hired by the zoo’s board of directors. Stalf also personally selected the vendor for a $2 million construction project and did not seek competitive bidding. The findings are among the new revelations detailed in the zoo’s first public update on the case. Staif and former Chief Financial Officer Greg Bell resigned after it was reported they used zoo assets personally and for the benefit of their families.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Complaint Seeks Campaign Spending Details from Householder-Aligned Candidate
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/7/2021
A conservative activist issued subpoenas as part of a state elections case he filed against a former state legislative candidate aligned with then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Chris Hicks is hoping to uncover information about campaign spending for Allen Freeman, who in May 2020 finished last in a Republican primary for a state House seat. The Ohio Elections Commission authorized Hicks’ complaint for a full hearing, which gives him power to subpoena records and, in some instances, compel people to answer questions in writing.
Texas – What’s Inside Texas’s Move to Overhaul Voting Rules
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 4/7/2021
The war over voting access that has roiled Georgia is headed next to Texas, where Republican legislators are working through an omnibus elections overhaul package that would dramatically change the way some voters cast a ballot in future contests. The measure has been labeled a priority by both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who controls the state Senate. It follows on the heels of election overhauls that passed in 2017 and failed in 2019, but after a chaotic election held amid a pandemic, it aims to crack down on several practices that supporters say ran afoul of current state law.
Vermont – Anti-Bottle Bill ‘Patch Call’ Campaign Draws Fire
VTDigger.org – James Finn | Published: 4/7/2021
A campaign by a group of business lobbyists tried to thwart a bill that would reform recycling in Vermont through a “grassroots” effort. That campaign sparked confusion among lawmakers and constituents who have found themselves on the receiving end of the lobbying efforts and drawn criticism from environmentalists who say the group is being deceptive about its intentions. Vermonters for Recycling claims to be a “community organization” that “advocates for smart, reasonable and effective solutions for the effective reuse of waste materials in Vermont.” But despite the grassroots appearance, the group is run by a Boston-based lobbying firm hired by Vermont business groups that oppose House Bill 175.
Virginia – Unorthodox Republican Contest for Virginia Governor Breeds Confusion, Suspicion
MSN – Laura Vozella (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2021
Virginia Republicans are a month away from picking their candidate for governor – not by voters going to the ballot box, but instead by way of a byzantine internal nomination process that has bred confusion and suspicion among the party faithful. Longtime activists and newcomers are struggling to understand how to conduct and partake in the “unassembled convention,” an unorthodox format chosen by party leaders during a pandemic and a GOP family feud. As a nomination method, conventions are easier to manipulate than primaries because local party leaders control the application process, decide who is eligible to vote. and pick the convention location.
April 2, 2021 •
National/Federal Business Groups Rethinking Value of In-Person Lobbying The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/31/2021 Before the pandemic, business groups held fly-ins that allowed for in-person meetings with members of Congress and agency officials. Trade associations are rethinking the need […]
Business Groups Rethinking Value of In-Person Lobbying
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/31/2021
Before the pandemic, business groups held fly-ins that allowed for in-person meetings with members of Congress and agency officials. Trade associations are rethinking the need for in-person lobbying and the travel costs that come with it. Many experts on K Street say engagement efforts are more likely to consist of a hybrid of meetings online and in Washington, D.C., along with fewer trips overall. Virtual fly-ins help lower the barrier of entry for advocacy because companies and groups are not spending as much as they otherwise would sending employees to Washington. In addition to reducing the cost of meeting with lawmakers, the pandemic has allowed for more meetings overall.
Cameron ‘Blocked Rule Change’ That Left ‘Open Door’ for Him to Lobby for Greensill
MSN – Kayleena Makortoff (Guardian) | Published: 3/29/2021
The Labour Party accused former British Prime Minister David Cameron of blocking rule changes that could have stopped him from personally lobbying government officials on behalf of collapsed lender Greensill Capital without publicly declaring his interests. The opposition party put forward amendments to the Lobbying Act that would have increased transparency and scrutiny of in-house lobbying. Rules only require third parties to log their efforts in the public register, while in-house lobbyists do not have to. The amendment, which would have required both groups to register, was defeated after Cameron, who was still prime minister, ordered Conservative peers to vote against the changes in January 2014, Labour said.
Corporations, Vocal About Racial Justice, Go Quiet on Voting Rights
New York Times – David Gelles | Published: 3/29/2021
As Black Lives Matter protesters filled the streets last summer, many of the country’s largest corporations expressed solidarity and pledged support for racial justice. But now, with lawmakers around the country advancing restrictive voting rights bills that would have a disproportionate impact on Black voters, corporate America has gone quiet. Its guarded approach stands in stark contrast to its engagement with other social and political issues in recent years. Many big companies spoke out against then-President Trump on issues including climate change, immigration, and white supremacy.
Court Voids Trump Campaign’s Non-Disclosure Agreement
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/30/2021
A federal judge ruled a broad non-disclosure agreement that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign required employees to sign is unenforceable. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe’s ruling generally steered clear of the constitutional issues presented by such agreements in the context of political campaigns. Instead, the judge said the sweeping, boilerplate language the campaign compelled employees to sign was so vague the agreement was invalid under New York contract law.
Dems Could Dethrone Iowa
Politico – Natasha Korecki and Holly Otterbein | Published: 3/31/2021
Democratic Party leaders are considering overhauling the 2024 presidential primary calendar, a transformation that would include ousting Iowa and New Hampshire from their perches as the first states to vote. Senior party leaders and Democratic National Committee members are privately exploring the idea of pushing South Carolina and Nevada to the front of the primary election schedule, as well as the possibility of multiple states holding the first nominating contest on the same day. Critics have long insisted that Iowa and New Hampshire have an outsized role in framing the presidential contest despite being unrepresentative of the rest of the country.
Dominion Voting Sues Fox for $1.6B Over 2020 Election Claims
Associated Press News – Colleen Long | Published: 3/25/2021
Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed to boost faltering ratings that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election. It is the first defamation suit filed against a media outlet by the voting company, which was a target of misleading, false, and bizarre claims spread by former President Trump and his allies in the aftermath of Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Dominion argues Fox News, which amplified inaccurate assertions that Dominion altered votes, “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process,” according to the lawsuit.
Ethics Upholds Gohmert’s $5,000 Metal Detector Fine
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 3/30/2021
The House Committee on Ethics Committee upheld the $5,000 fine levied against U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert for bypassing a security screening to enter the House chamber. Gohmert appealed days after House Democrats voted to enact the punitive measure to enforce compliance with the metal detector screenings established following the January 6 insurrection. Gohmert stated in his appeal that he had complied with the security screening upon first entering the chamber on February 4. He then left the House floor briefly to use the restroom and was unaware that he had to undergo another screening upon reentering the chamber.
FEC Greenlights Campaign Spending for Bodyguards
Politico – Daniel Payne | Published: 3/25/2021
Members of Congress will now be allowed to hire bodyguards with campaign funds, according to a new ruling from the FEC. The agency said members of the House and Senate may spend campaign dollars to hire security personnel when they are not being protected by law enforcement on Capitol Hill. The FEC will also give more guidance to lawmakers on using campaign money for personal security needs beyond the hiring of bodyguards. “I’ve never thought of us as a country where the leadership of the country had to be surrounded by armed guards and needed to keep the public at arm’s length at all times,” said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, who voted to approve the final ruling.
Gaetz Investigation Complicated by Overture to His Father About Ex-FBI Agent Who Went Missing
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2021
The Justice Department is investigating U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz over allegations he had sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel, though the probe has been complicated by Gaetz’s assertion his family is being extorted. The FBI separately is exploring the extortion claims that center around Robert Levinson, the longest-held American hostage in Iran. The investigation into Gaetz’s alleged relationship with the 17-year-old grew from a federal case against a different Florida Republican: Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector who was charged last summer with sex trafficking of a child and other offenses.
GOP Donors Are Hobnobbing in Person Again; Dems Are Sticking to Zoom
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Susannah Luthi | Published: 3/31/2021
A few Democrats have dipped their toes in the water with outdoor events, but the party has mostly stuck to virtual fundraisers. A list of more than 80 upcoming fundraisers for House Democrats sent out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently includes no in-person events, and a half-dozen Democratic lobbyists and consultants said they could not recall being invited to any such gatherings. Democrats’ caution poses a sharp contrast with a growing number of lawmakers on the Republican side of the aisle, who have been meeting in person with donors for weeks, if not months, and are showing no desire to slow down.
No ‘Dreamers’ Allowed: DACA recipients still can’t work for Congress
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 3/25/2021
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. as children, to apply for deportation relief if they meet certain criteria. It also allows them to file for a Social Security number, get a driver’s license, and apply for federal student financial aid. But an appropriations provision has prevented federal money from being used to pay noncitizens as federal employees, with few exceptions. Dreamers can get a job on Capitol Hill only if they are paid by third parties, as interns or fellows placed through groups like the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
NRA Faces Internal Woes as It Girds for New Gun Control Fight
MSN – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
In 2017, the National Rifle Association (NRA) celebrated its ascendant political power with a newly elected U.S. president, Donald Trump, who stood at the organization’s national convention lectern promising to deliver for the gun-rights group that had helped secure his election. Four years later, though, the NRA is confronting challenges that have undercut the power of the long-feared lobby organization, even as new gun control measures are proposed after two mass shootings. It has been plagued by allegations of self-dealing and is defending itself against a lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general that alleges the NRA violated its nonprofit status as its top leaders allegedly raided the group’s coffers for personal gain.
Trump Helped the GOP Raise $2 Billion. Now Former Aides and Allies Are Jockeying to Tap into His Fundraising Power.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2021
The number of independent money operations connected to former President Trump – some directly associated with him, others that have his tacit blessing – has been expanding since he left office. The groups, which include both nonprofits and super PACs, are seeking to capitalize on Trump’s fundraising firepower, which drove a record $2.2 billion into the three Republican Party campaign committees during his time in office. GOP officials are trying to keep that pipeline going, a prospect complicated by Trump’s ambivalence about letting the party continue to fundraise off his name and the separate fundraising efforts springing up around him, some of which could take aim at Republicans who have crossed the former president.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Mark Finchem Sought to Overturn the Presidential Race. Now He Wants to Run Arizona’s Elections
MSN – Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) | Published: 3/29/2021
One of the leaders of an effort to overturn the results of the presidential race in Arizona wants to oversee the next presidential election as secretary of state. Rep. Mark Finchem filed a statement of interest to run for the post, the first official step in a campaign to become Arizona’s top election official. Finchem previously hinted he might run for the office, having gained notoriety with his support for former President Trump and his claims of wrongdoing in the last election.
California – How California’s Recall Rules Could Spell Trouble for Gavin Newsom
San Jose Mercury News – Ben Christopher (CALmatters) | Published: 3/8/2021
If recalls followed the rules of a normal California election – the person who wins a majority of the votes wins – then Gov. Gavin Newsom, an incumbent Democrat in a thoroughly Democratic state, would have nothing to worry about. But unfortunately for him, a recall is not like an ordinary California election. One part standard-issue candidate race, one part free-spending ballot measure campaign, California recalls adhere to a unique and some critics say, less than fully democratic procedure that makes for a much more unpredictable outcome.
Florida – Carla Miller Retiring from City Ethics Office
Jacksonville Daily Record – Max Marbut | Published: 3/29/2021
Carla Miller is retiring as director of Jacksonville’s Office of Ethics, Compliance and Oversight, effective October 1. Miller said that after 24 years of service to the city she will be putting more time into the nonprofit she established to promote ethics development and education and will assume a part-time role in the city ethics agency during the transition. Miller helped write the first ethics code for local government. The city also established a confidential whistleblower hotline to give city employees and the public a means to report suspected unethical activity.
Georgia – Georgia State Democratic Lawmaker Arrested While Trying to Watch Gov. Kemp Sign Voting Bill
MSN – Amy Wang and Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
State Rep. Park Cannon was arrested after trying to watch Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sign a controversial new voting bill into law in a heated interaction that was caught on video. Facebook Live video shows Cannon knocking on the door to Kemp’s office as he was holding a news conference inside about Senate Bill 202, a sweeping set of restrictions on how ballots are cast and counted in Georgia. A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Safety confirmed Cannon was arrested for obstructing law enforcement and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members.
Hawaii – Five Honolulu Planning Department Employees Indicted for Bribery
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 3/30/2021
Five current and former Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting employees are facing federal charges for allegedly accepting bribes. A local architect has also been indicted in connection with the alleged scheme. Wayne Inouye, a former building plans examiner, allegedly solicited and accepted gifts, payments, and other things of value several times in the last decade. In exchange, he rewarded those paying the bribes with favorable treatment including expediting permit approvals, according to the indictment. Inouye took steps to hide his criminal activity including by using a sole proprietorship, the indictment states. The other indictments follow the same pattern.
Illinois – Chicago-Based Marijuana Giant Part of Federal Pay-to-Play Investigation
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/29/2021
A Chicago-based marijuana cultivator and dispenser that has rapidly grown into one of the nation’s biggest cannabis firms is under federal investigation for possible “pay-to-play” violations during its push for state licenses, sources said. Investigators have been scrutinizing campaign donations and other steps Green Thumb Industries (GTI) took as it sought to secure growing and distribution licenses in Illinois and several other states. Illinois records show GTI’s executives and affiliates have donated to politicians and a PAC that were instrumental in the marijuana legalization effort. The company also hired a succession of lobbyists and consultants with ties to then-House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Illinois – Former State Sen. Annazette Collins Indicted on Federal Tax Charges Stemming from Her Lobbying Income
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Illinois Sen. Annazette Collins was indicted on federal charges alleging she underreported income and failed to file federal income tax returns for her lobbying and consulting firm. The indictment was the latest brought in connection with the ongoing federal corruption probe into an alleged bribery scheme by Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) to influence then-House Speaker Michael Madigan. Collins was one of a number of ex-lawmakers hired by ComEd after retiring from public office, though the indictment does not specifically mention her work for the utility.
Illinois – Longtime Political Operative for Ald. Edward Burke, Former State Sen. Martin Sandoval Charged with Deceiving FBI
MSN – Jason Meisner | Published: 3/29/2021
A precinct captain for indicted Chicago Ald. Edward Burke and aide to former state Sen. Martin Sandoval was charged with misleading the FBI in its political corruption investigation in Illinois. According to the charge, Rudy Acosta Jr. failed to disclose in interviews with agents benefits both he and Sandoval received from another person including “free services, meals, and travel.” The information also stated that when Acosta was questioned by the FBI on six separate occasions, he hid the fact that he made “periodic cash payments” to Sandoval.
Kentucky – KY Legislature Passes Last-Minute Bill That Shields Information of Public Officials
MSN – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 3/30/2021
The Kentucky House quickly passed legislation that would allow any police officer, prosecutor, and some court employees – and anyone related to them – to shield a wide array of personal information from the public. At 11 p.m. on the second to last day of the session, a floor amendment was introduced to Senate Bill 48, which had been filed that day, ensuring the public could not read it before lawmakers voted. The amendment was later passed by the Senate. Because it passed in the final two days of the session, lawmakers will not have the ability to override any potential veto.
Maryland – U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI Investigating Marilyn and Nick Mosby
Baltimore Magazine – Ron Cassie | Published: 3/26/2021
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her husband, city council President Nick Mosby, are the subject of a federal investigation into her campaign finances and the couple’s business records and taxes. As part of the wide-ranging probe, the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI have served several subpoenas seeking financial records related to the couple’s tax returns from 2014-2020, loan documents, bank and investment statements, credit card files, information related to their consulting and travel businesses, as well as copies of all campaign finance records related to Mosby’s campaign organization, the Friends of Marilyn Mosby.
Massachusetts – Judge Denies Bid by Senator, Wife to Block Officials from Referring Probe into Them to State Prosecutors
MSN – Matt Stout | Published: 3/30/2021
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Christine Roach denied a request from a state senator that she temporarily block campaign finance regulators from referring an investigation into him, his wife, and other family members to prosecutors. Roach also declined a request by state Sen. Ryan Fattman and others that the Office of Campaign and Political Finance provide them with “all” the evidence that Director Michael Sullivan has compiled against them. The judge wrote the Fattmans have “no reasonable likelihood of success” proving Sullivan violated state law by not turning over all the evidence, or he violated their due process by not recusing himself from the probe, as they have demanded.
Missouri – For Sexual Assault Survivors, Greitens’ Return Can Mean Fresh Trauma, Experts Say
McClatchyDC.com – Bryan Lowry and Jeanne Kuang | Published: 3/28/2021
Dee Ogilvy was sexually assaulted 42 years ago at her place of work. The police never made an arrest in the case and a shoulder injury from the attack still gives her pain. Ogilvy said she is disgusted to see former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat less than three years after allegations of blackmail and sexual assault helped lead to his resignation. His return comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defies calls for his resignation after allegations of sexual misconduct from at least 10 women.
Missouri – Former Missouri House Representative Gets 21 Months in Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Robert Patrick | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Missouri Rep. Courtney Curtis was sentenced to 21 months in prison for misusing campaign funds for personal expenses and was ordered to repay $47,867. He filed false campaign finance reports to cover up his crimes. Before sentencing Curtis, the judge tallied up the 822 financial transactions representing misuse of campaign funds, including cash withdrawals in or near casinos.
Missouri – Missouri Curator Worried He’d Lose Seat If Didn’t ‘Play Ball’ with Controversial Lobbyist
Kansas City Star – Rudi Keller (Missouri Independent) | Published: 3/31/2021
University of Missouri Curator David Steelman raised objections that one of the system’s lobbyists, former House Speaker Steve Tilley, was using his connections to the university to seek business for other clients. Steelman called the arrangement “an obvious conflict,” and openly worried if he did not “play ball” he would lose his seat on the nine-member board that governs the university system. His term is expired, and he remains on the board until a replacement is confirmed by the Missouri Senate. Gov. Mike Parson nominated Keith Holloway for Steelman’s seat. Tilley, who both lobbies state government and provides campaign consulting services, has been paid $5,000 a month since February 2019 to lobby for the system.
New Mexico – New Mexico Lawmakers Snub Lobbying Transparency. In Other States, It’s Business as Usual.
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 3/26/2021
In a 2015 report, the Center for Public Integrity gave New Mexico a grade of “F” for lobbying disclosure, the 43rd worst in the country. It has not improved since then and lawmakers did not give the topic a full hearing during the 2021 legislative session. One argument made in opposition to increased disclosure is that it would be excessively burdensome for lobbyists. Another fear is greater disclosure will dampen public participation in the legislative process or harm a lobbyist’s effectiveness. But in the neighboring state of Colorado, the sort of transparency proposed for New Mexico is just business as usual.
New York – ‘Apprentice’ Contestant’s Lawsuit Against Trump Can Resume, N.Y. Court Says
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2021
The New York State Court of Appeals ruled a defamation case against former President Trump, brought by an “Apprentice” contestant who alleged he sexually assaulted her years ago, can go forward as the immunity claim he raised while in office no longer applies. The defense was raised in the lawsuit brought by Summer Zervos and in other long-running cases still facing Trump. Zervos alleges Trump, who hosted the popular reality show, smeared her when she came forward with the sexual assault allegation. In denying her claims, Trump said Zervos lied and suggested she was motivated by money.
New York – Bannon Criminal Probe in N.Y. Includes Embedded Investigators from State Attorney General’s Office
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
The New York attorney general’s office has partnered with Manhattan’s district attorney to investigate Stephen Bannon for the alleged fundraising scam that prompted his federal pardon in the waning hours of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to people familiar with the matter. The move adds prosecutorial firepower to a criminal case widely seen as an attempted end-run around the former president’s bid to protect a political ally. Attorney General Letitia James has built a reputation, in part, around her promises to hold Trump and his associates accountable for alleged misdeeds. Presidential pardons do not apply to state investigations.
New York – N.Y. State Sen. Brian Benjamin’s Campaign Expenses Raise Questions About Propriety
New York Daily News – Michael Gartland | Published: 3/28/2021
New York Sen. Brian Benjamin used money from his Senate campaign account to pay for “constituent services” at a Harlem jazz club at almost exactly the same time he and his wife held their wedding celebration there, raising questions about whether the lawmaker may have abused campaign finance rules. Benjamin is running for New York City comptroller. His campaign returned more than a dozen contributions after people listed as donors claimed they never gave to him.
New York – Seven Months Later, Cuomo Administration Divulges Details About His Covid-19 Book Deal
Buffalo News – Tom Precious | Published: 3/31/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was given permission by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) in July to write a book about his handling of state government during the first wave of Covid-19, as long as the subject matter of the book was “unrelated to the governor’s duties” in office, according to state documents. The New York Times reported Cuomo used top aides and junior staffers for help on his book project. JCOPE specifically told Cuomo he could not use state “personnel” or property “for activities associated with the book.”
North Dakota – Transparency Advocates Raise Concerns Over North Dakota Redistricting Plan
Grand Forks Herald – Jeremy Turley | Published: 3/26/2021
Later this year, a group of top North Dakota lawmakers will redraw the state’s political boundaries for the next decade. The exercise always attracts the attention of incumbent legislators and civically minded residents, but several transparency advocates worry the redistricting plan will be formed behind closed doors and without the public’s input. The Republican-backed bill to establish the legislative redistricting process states drafts of the redistricting plan are exempt from open records laws until they are presented to the full Legislature.
Ohio – Ohio Campaign-Finance Reform Bill Gets First Look Since Emergence of Dark Money Scandal
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/25/2021
The Ohio House is taking up a bill that would impose tougher disclosure requirements on corporate political donors, a move to increase campaign finance transparency in the aftermath of the House Bill 6 scandal. House Bill 13 would require political nonprofits and other corporate groups to disclose their donors and spending with the Ohio secretary of state’s office, similar to PACs or candidates. Among the groups it would affect are 5019(c)4s, nonprofits often used as vehicles for “dark money” spending.
Ohio – Top Columbus Zoo Officials Resign Following Dispatch Investigation
MSN – Jennifer Smola and Alissa Widman Neese (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 3/29/2021
Tom Stalf resigned as chief executive officer of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Greg Bell stepped down as chief financial officer after a media investigation found they misused the zoo’s resources. They allowed relatives to live in houses owned or controlled by the zoo for below-market rent in exchange for the residents making improvements to the property. Stalf and Bell sought the use of the zoo’s suites and tickets to local entertainment venues for themselves and their family members. Most of the tickets requested were available through the zoo’s marketing contracts with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State University and were intended for hosting financial supporters of the zoo.
South Carolina – Former SC Governor, Congressman Sanford Joins Lobbying Firm
Associated Press News – Meg Kinnard | Published: 3/30/2021
Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, member of Congress, and one-time presidential candidate, is going to work for a lobbying firm. Shumaker Advisors announced Sanford would be joining the firm as an executive vice president and principal. The government relations arm of a law firm, Shumaker Advisors operates seven offices in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and the Carolinas. Sanford has been working to find a foothold since end of the most recent iteration of his political career. Sanford was elected twice as governor before an extramarital affair marred the end of his second term.
Texas – GOP Candidate from New Jersey Accused of Pandering After He Transforms into Cowboy for Texas Run
MSN – Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2021
Dan Rodimer has led many lives, but his latest – a cowboy hat-wearing, Southern-drawling bull rider – might be the most extreme transformation to date. In his first ad as a candidate for Texas’s Sixth Congressional District, “Big Dan” Rodimer speaks in a gravelly, indistinct Southern accent, throws jabs at Democratic policies, and compares House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a bull he is supposedly riding in the ad. But the New Jersey native did not have the twang last year when he ran for Congress in Nevada. He has remade himself again on a road he hopes will lead to Congress, though his latest persona has earned him ridicule, even from fellow Republicans.
Texas – Lawsuit Challenges Austin’s Fundraising Rules for Political Candidates
MSN – Ryan Autullo (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 3/26/2021
A new federal lawsuit revives a challenge to city of Austin rules that prohibit candidates from accepting political contributions until one year before an election. Fundraising blackouts are designed to prevent corruption and the perception of wrongdoing by limiting the window individual donors and businesses are permitted to give money to elected officials. Unlike Texas lawmakers who are in session every other year, city council members meet year-round and regularly vote on matters that could be influenced by donors making financial promises.
Utah – Salt Lake County GOP Forms Ethics Committee in Response to Harassment Allegations
Salt Lake Tribune – Bryan Schott | Published: 3/30/2021
The Salt Lake County Republican Party is forming an ethics advisory committee in the wake of multiple women alleging leadership took no action to address their complaints of harassment and bullying. Former GOP Chairperson Scott Miller resigned in the wake of a Salt Lake Tribune story about complaints he did nothing to stop inappropriate behavior by his communications director, Dave Robinson, during his tenure at the helm of the party. Miller also sent out an email to Republican delegates denigrating the women who came forward with allegations, questioning their motives. Miller later apologized in the face of widespread condemnation.
Washington – Don Benton, Ex-Washington State Senator and Trump Ally, Behind Mystery Mailer
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Washington Sen. Don Benton, who served in the Trump administration, is responsible for a recent mailer that criticizes Democratic lawmakers for a proposed change to the state’s estate tax. State law requires a sponsor to be listed on campaign mailers. But that is not necessary for communications known as grassroots lobbying, which focus instead on the debate over legislative proposals. In that case, the citizen complaints alleging a lack of disclosure information might not apply.
March 26, 2021 •
National/Federal Congressional Fundraisers Lobby Corporations That Suspended Political Donations Following Capitol Riot MSN – Brian Schwartz (CNBC) | Published: 3/19/2021 Fundraisers for congressional candidates and party campaign arms have been lobbying corporations to resume donating after many suspended their political contributions. […]
Congressional Fundraisers Lobby Corporations That Suspended Political Donations Following Capitol Riot
MSN – Brian Schwartz (CNBC) | Published: 3/19/2021
Fundraisers for congressional candidates and party campaign arms have been lobbying corporations to resume donating after many suspended their political contributions. Dozens of corporations at least temporarily paused donations from their PACs after the January 6 Capitol Hill riot that led to at least five deaths. That day, more than 145 Republican lawmakers, encouraged by then-President Trump, voted to dispute the results of the Electoral College certifying Joe Biden as the next president. Most companies have since said they are reviewing their PACs’ policies on who they give to in the future.
Court Reinstates Guilty Verdicts Against Flynn Partner Over Turkey Lobbying
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/17/2021
A federal appeals court reinstated a jury’s guilty verdicts on the business partner of former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn over the pair’s lobbying for Turkish interests during the 2016 presidential campaign. A three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a judge’s ruling last year tossing out the guilty verdicts against Bijan Rafiekian, a businessperson who worked with Flynn on a lobbying and public relations campaign targeting a longtime opponent of the Turkish government, Fethullah Gulen. Judge James Wynn acknowledged the evidence against Rafiekian was far from overwhelming, but said jurors were free to convict the defendant based on circumstantial evidence and inferences.
David Cameron to Be Investigated by Lobbying Body
BBC – Staff | Published: 3/24/2021
Former United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron is being investigated by a lobbying watchdog after reports he contacted government officials on behalf of financial services company Greensill Capital. The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists said it was looking into whether he had done unregistered consultant lobbying. A source close to Cameron said he was exempt from the register as he had been an in-house employee. The contact is said to have taken place after Cameron was prime minister.
HUD Secretary May Have Violated Ethics Law by Championing Democrats in Ohio Senate Race at White House
MSN – Tyler Pager (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2021
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, a former member of Congress from Cleveland, may have violated the Hatch Act at the White House when discussing the 2022 U.S, Senate race in Ohio and promoting Democrats’ chances to win the seat, experts said. Fudge answered a question about the race for the seat of retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “… I think we’re going to put a good person in that race no matter who we choose …,” Fudge said. “I think we have a good shot at it. I know people have written off Ohio. I haven’’ written off Ohio. I believe we can win the Senate race.” The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch officials from engaging in political campaigns and related activities in an official capacity.
Intern Pay Was Supposed to Boost Diversity in Congress. Most of the Money Went to White Students
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 3/22/2021
Pay Our Interns pushed lawmakers until they agreed to allocate $20,000 to each House office and about $50,000 to each Senate office annually for intern pay, starting in 2019. It would go a long way toward closing the intern diversity gap, hoped Carlos Mark Vera, founder of the group. Instead, the people getting paid internships were overwhelmingly white, 76 percent white, compared to just 52 percent of the national undergraduate population. Black and Latino students were underrepresented, comprising 15 percent and 20 percent of undergraduates nationally but roughly seven percent and eight percent of paid Capitol Hill interns. While interns rarely have much impact on lawmaking, they often go on to more important positions that can affect legislation.
Lobbyists See Biden’s Infrastructure Package as Windfall
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/23/2021
A massive White House spending proposal on infrastructure and other domestic priorities is setting the stage for a potential lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill, particularly as more lawmakers embrace a return to earmarks. Lobbying shops on K Street are eager to take on clients who would be competing for new government funding in the legislation expected to hit $3 trillion, and lobbyists on both sides of the aisle are excited about earmarks opening up new avenues of advocacy. Watchdog groups are excited about the legislation to deal with infrastructure, climate change, and global vaccine gaps, among other areas. But they are concerned corporate lobbyists could influence it beyond its intended scope.
Many House Members Averse to Cooperating with OCE, Study Shows
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 3/17/2021
More than a third of U.S. House members investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) refused to fully cooperate with the probes since the office started investigating lawmakers in 2009. The Campaign Legal Center’s report shows that except for the 113th Congress, member cooperation has steadily declined. Unlike the House Committee on Ethics, the OCE lacks subpoena power and cannot issue sanctions. When members choose not to sit for OCE interviews or produce certain documents, the office is forced to complete its fact-gathering process without that information.
Rep. Tom Reed Apologizes for Sexual Misconduct Detailed in Post Report, Won’t Challenge Cuomo in 2022
MSN – Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 3/21/2021
Days after a former lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed publicly apologized, vowed not to seek reelection, and abandoned a possible run against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Reed said in a statement that he was “struggling” in early 2017, when the incident occurred, and entered treatment for alcohol abuse that year. Reed recently has been weighing a bid to unseat Cuomo and had called for the governor to be impeached amid allegations he sexually harassed multiple women, mostly state employees. Since he was elected to Congress in 2010, Reed has cast himself as a champion of women’s rights.
Senators Turn to Democrats’ Overhaul of Elections and Ethics
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/24/2021
As outside groups ramped up multimillion-dollar campaigns for and against it, U.S. senators took their first formal look at Democrats’ symbolic top-priority bill, a nearly 800-page overhaul of election, campaign finance, and government ethics laws. The bill’s fate may come down to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’ He is the lone Democrat in the 50-50 chamber who has not yet embraced the legislation, dubbed S1 and HR1, even though he signed on as a co-sponsor when the Senate was in GOP control in the last Congress and the bill had no chance of passing. Manchin told reporters the legislation “might divide us even further on a partisan basis” but indicated he supported some provisions.
Several of Biden’s Top White House Aides Aren’t Required to Disclose Personal Finances
Yahoo News – Soo Rin Kim and Libby Cathy (ABC News) | Published: 3/23/2021
Some of President Joe Biden’s top aides in the White House, including advisers overseeing the administration’s coronavirus response and vaccine operation, have not publicly disclosed their personal finances. Senior White House adviser Anita Dunn, deputy coronavirus response coordinator Andy Slavitt, and coronavirus vaccine coordinator Bechara Choucair are not required to file public financial disclosure reports that would reveal their past employment, source of income, personal assets and liabilities, due to the temporary nature of their positions or because they are paid below the reporting threshold, a White House official said.
Trump Faces an Onslaught of Legal Problems, as Investigations and Dozens of Lawsuits Trail Him from Washington to Florida
MSN – David Fahenthold, Amy Gardner, Shayna Jacobs, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/18/2021
A district attorney is sifting through millions of pages of former President Trump’s tax records. The state attorney general has subpoenaed his lawyers, his bankers, his chief financial officer, and even one of his sons. That is just in New York. Trump is also facing criminal investigations in Georgia and the District of Columbia related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He must defend himself against a growing raft of lawsuits, including some seeking damages from Trump’s actions on January 6, when he encouraged a march to the Capitol that ended in a mob storming the building. The volume of these legal problems indicates that after a moment of maximum invincibility in the White House, Trump has fallen to a point of historic vulnerability before the law.
Trump Officials Hindered at Least Nine Key Oversight Probes, Watchdogs Said. Some May Finally Be Released in Coming Months.
MSN – Lisa Rein, Tom Hamburger, Michael Laris, and John Hudson (Washington Post) | Published: 3/22/2021
Politically sensitive work by government watchdogs, mandated by Congress to monitor federal agencies for waste, fraud, and misconduct, faced roadblocks or otherwise were dragged out during the Trump era. Across the government, at least nine key oversight investigations were impeded by clashes with the White House or political appointees. Tensions between federal watchdogs and the administration they monitor are not uncommon. But 11 inspectors general or their senior aides who served under Trump said hostility to oversight reached unprecedented levels during his time in office.
Widows Describe What It’s Like Running for Congress
MSN – Paul Fontello (Roll Call) | Published: 3/19/2021
Julia Letlow’s husband, U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, died of COVID-19 complications five days before he could be sworn in for the start of the new Congress. Now, Julia Letlow could join a small group of lawmakers in congressional history who succeeded their deceased spouses. According to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, 47 women have been appointed or elected to fill vacancies in Congress created when their husbands died. A century ago, that was a key path for women entering politics, according to Debbie Walsh, the center’s director. Widows were seen as dutiful rather than threatening, which helped them break the gender barrier.
Canada – Former Ambassador MacNaughton Did Not Violate Lobbying Act: Commissioner
Yahoo News – Canadian Press | Published: 3/23/2021
Canada’s former ambassador to the United States has been cleared of illegally lobbying federal government officials. Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said David MacNaughton did not violate the Lobbying Act last year when he had dozens of communications with senior officials about government policy and its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bélanger said MacNaughton had 49 communications with federal officials and offered the pro bono services of his current employer, Palantir Technologies Canada, in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Because those communications were short and did not constitute a “significant part” of his work for Palantir, Bélanger said they did not violate the law.
From the States and Municipalities
California – L.A. to Pay Out $150,000 Over Lawsuit by Former Aide to Jose Huizar
MSN – Emily Alpert Reyes (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/24/2021
Los Angeles will pay up to $150,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former aide who alleged he was fired after speaking up about possible crimes committed by then-city Councilperson Jose Huizar. The decision marks the third payout made by the city to settle retaliation suits filed by former staffers for Huizar, who is now facing federal charges that include bribery, racketeering, and money laundering. The settlement involving former staffer Jesse Leon brings the city’s total tab for such lawsuits to $350,000.
Colorado – Aurora Lawmakers Sold on Lobbyist Reform, Delivery Fee Caps and Tax-Free Menstrual Products
Sentinel Colorado – Grant Stringer | Published: 3/22/2021
Aurora lawmakers finalized tighter rules on lobbying disclosures. Lobbyists will have to frequently disclose their activities in public reports. The law will create a public record of lobbyists attempting to sway the city’s decision-making targets. City council members, city staff, commission members and zoning officials who speak with them will also have to disclose activities with lobbyists.
Colorado – In Record Year for Colorado Campaign Finance Complaints, Republicans Cry Foul Over Enforcement
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 3/24/2021
Republicans are crying foul over campaign finance decisions by a deputy secretary of state who rejected recommendations by the Campaign Finance Enforcement team organized a year ago by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat. A record number of complaints were filed in 2020 along with the second highest fine issued in recent years. But it is possible the system created in 2019 could be tested, as some Republicans challenge the claims filed against them. In at least two instances, the office’s Campaign Finance Enforcement team recommended dismissing complaints, but the deputy secretary of state reversed the recommendations.
Connecticut – Ex-GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Obsitnik Fined $90,000 by Election Enforcement Agency for 2018 Campaign Financing Irregularities
MSN – Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/18/2021
Connecticut election regulators on fined former gubernatorial candidate Steve Obsitnik $90,000 over allegations he illegally coordinated with an independent expenditure committee created to help his failed 2018 campaign. The State Elections Enforcement Commission also alleged he failed to register his candidate committee within 10 days of declaring a run for governor. State Rep. Jason Perillo was fined $10,000 over allegations he made a “disallowed” contribution to Obsitnik’s campaign and helped coordinate with the independent expenditure committee.
Florida – ‘A Cloud of Corruption’: Democrats want DOJ probe of Florida state Senate races
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty and Samantha Gross | Published: 3/25/2021
A week after former state Sen. Frank Artiles was arrested on felony charges of offering no-party candidate Alexis Rodriguez $50,000 to run as an independent in a South Florida state Senate race, Florida’s Democrats in Congress are asking U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland for a corruption investigation. The lawmakers argued the potential illicit transfer of campaign funds across state lines warrants scrutiny from the federal government. Political committees used money from a “dark money” group to pay for the ads that touted independent candidates, which included language that mimicked Democrats’ platforms and seemed designed to confuse voters, the members of Congress wrote to Garland.
Georgia – Female Lawmakers in Georgia File Sexual Harassment Complaint After Lewd Comments
Courthouse News Service – Aimee Sachs | Published: 3/17/2021
Female lawmakers in the Georgia House filed a sexual harassment complaint to the ethics committee after a male colleague made an inappropriate comment. During a debate on legislation about outgoing surgery sedation, Rep. Kasey Carpenter made what he later said was intended to be a joke about rapper Cardi B’s buttocks. For at least a dozen of the House women, Carpenter’s comment was not only inappropriate and offensive but a reflection of a culture of toxic masculinity in the Capitol they are fed up with.
Georgia – Georgia Bill for New Leadership Money Heads to Governor
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 3/18/2021
Georgia lawmakers passed a bill that would allow for the creation of new “leadership committees” that could raise campaign funds without limits and coordinate directly with individual candidates, including during a legislative session. It would allow for committees controlled by the governor, lieutenant governor, a political party’s nominee for governor or lieutenant governor, and by the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the state House and Senate. Democrats argued the bill will lead to more money interests being injected into state politics, while Republicans said the bill gives both parties equal opportunity to generate campaign funds.
Hawaii – The Hawaii Capitol Is Closed to The Public, But Some Lobbyists Still Have Entrée
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 3/24/2021
The public has been barred from entering the Capitol since March 2020, when Hawaii Sen. Clarence Nishihara tested positive for COVID-19 after a trip to Las Vegas. At the start of the 2021 legislative session, constituents were again banned from entering the Capitol and visiting offices and committee rooms. Instead, they testified remotely to legislative committees. But some individuals, including registered lobbyists, have been able to gain an audience with lawmakers in their offices after scheduling appointments.
Illinois – Executive Resigns from Hospital That Offered Early Vaccines to Employees at Trump’s Chicago Hotel
MSN – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2021
The chief operating officer of a small Chicago hospital resigned after reports he used coronavirus vaccines meant for low-income residents to vaccinate employees at his luxury wristwatch dealer, his regular steakhouse, and his condominium building, which is former President Trump’s Chicago tower. Anosh Ahmed’s actions had raised concerns that Loretto Hospital executives were putting their friends ahead of their patients. The city of Chicago had already cut off Loretto’s supply of new vaccines while it investigated.
Kentucky – Second Person Charged with Lying to Jury, FBI in Case Connected to Lexington Council
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 3/19/2021
Jeffrey Collins was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly lying to federal investigators and a jury about campaign contributions to Lexington City Council members. Collins, a then-employee of CRM Companies, faces two counts related to a $1,000 contribution he gave during the May 2018 council primaries. The lies allegedly occurred during the investigation and trial of former real estate executive Timothy Wellman, who worked for CRM Companies. No allegations of wrongdoing were made against council members.
Maryland – Complaints Filed About Maryland Lawmaker Who Tuned into Legislative Meetings from the Operating Room
MSN – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 3/23/2021
A Maryland lawmaker who is also a surgeon twice tuned into General Assembly committee meetings from an operating room during a legislative session in which many hearings and votes have been held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. When Del. Terri Hill’s Zoom account was logged into a meeting of the Health and Government Operations Committee for about an hour, it showed multiple gowned and masked figures moving about, with sets of operating room lights visible on the screen. Hill defended the practice as not much different from listening to music or a recorded book while in the operating room. Complaints have been filed against Hill with the state Board of Physicians and the General Assembly’s ethics committee.
Maryland – Following Monthly Exposé, Maryland House Passes Bill Targeting Hogan’s Business Dealings
Washington Monthly – Eric Cortellessa | Published: 3/18/2021
The Maryland House passed a bill to reform state ethics law, following a news story about Gov. Larry Hogan’s advancing road and highway projects near properties his company owns, which can boost the value of those properties. Hogan dismissed he report as a “blog thing,” but the story was cited by proponents of the new bill. The legislation would tighten disclosure laws by requiring the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, and any agency head to notify state ethics officials and members of the General Assembly whenever they face a decision in which they or a relative have a monetary interest. It would also require all elected officials to reveal more information about businesses in which they have a stake.
Missouri – St. Charles County Lawmaker Wants to Impose Tough Ethics Rules – on St. Louis City Elected Officials
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 3/22/2021
A ranking member of the Missouri House wants to impose tougher ethics rules on officials in St. Louis. Rep. John Wiemann, the speaker pro tem, says just as state officials are barred from receiving gifts and must wait two years to begin lobbying their former colleagues, city officials also should face limits. Under changes in the state constitution approved by voters, lobbyists are banned from giving out gifts or meals to state lawmakers worth more than five dollars. But that prohibition did not include mayors, city council members, and other local officials.
Montana – Montana’s Governor Broke Rules to Kill a Yellowstone Wolf. A State Agency Gave Him a Warning.
Yahoo News – Erin Snodgrass (Business Insider) | Published: 3/23/2021
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte was let off with a warning for defying a state regulation before trapping and killing a Yellowstone wolf near the national park in February. Though wolves inside Yellowstone are protected from hunters, Montana law does allow for the trapping and hunting of wolves in other parts of the state, including those that wander out of the park’s boundaries. But Gianforte harvested the wolf without having completed a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course.
Nevada – Ex-Lawmaker Charged with Misusing Funds, False Records
Associated Press News – Michele Price | Published: 3/19/2021
The Nevada attorney general’s office charged former state Rep. Alex Assefa of misusing campaign funds and filing false voter registration and campaign finance records. Prosecutors filed 14 charges against Assefa, who before resigning in January in the wake of reports he was under investigation related to his finances and whether he lived in the legislative district he represented. Prosecutors alleged Assefa lied about his residence on voter registration forms, filed false campaign finance reports, and misappropriated at least $11,150 in campaign funds.
Nevada – Lobbyists Must Register, Report; Still Can’t Enter Legislature
This Is Reno – Jerri Davis | Published: 3/19/2021
Assembly Bill 110, which addresses lobbying the Capitol during the pandemic, was signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak. Lobbyists have not been allowed inside the legislative building.at all this session, which began February 1. Nevada law previously required lobbyists to register only if they were conducting business in-person. Under the bill, lobbyists can now register online. They will need to file reports on their activity since the start of the session.
New Jersey – Former Candidate Tied to N.J. Corruption Case Gets Probation Over $10K Campaign Contribution
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/18/2021
A former Morris County freeholder candidate tied to an ongoing New Jersey “pay-to-play” investigation was sentenced to probation over campaign contribution she took from a tax attorney who allegedly had been looking to lock-down lucrative municipal contracts. Mary Dougherty, the wife of the current mayor of Morristown, originally was charged with bribery, but pleaded guilty to reduced charges in February of falsifying a campaign finance report. The plea means she will not face prison. She was also required to forfeit the $10,000 contribution.
New Mexico – Lobbyist Caught Swearing During Virtual Senate Finance Committee Meeting
KRQE – Brady Wakayama | Published: 3/21/2021
Virtual meetings are now common during the pandemic and there are stories of people forgetting to mute themselves at the wrong time. That is exactly what happened recently at the New Mexico Legislature. The hot mic incident happened as lawmakers were discussing a tax reform package. It would expand a tax credit for low-income workers and expands the low-income comprehensive tax rebate. “I got legislative sessions going and these b****es are trying to throw taxes on us,” said one business lobbyist attending a virtual Senate Finance Committee meeting.
New York – Andrew Cuomo’s Family Members Were Given Special Access to Covid Testing, According to People Familiar with the Arrangement
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Amy Brittain, and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2021
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration arranged special access to government-run coronavirus testing for members of his family and other well-connected people as the pandemic hit New York last year, according to three people with direct knowledge of the effort. As part of the program, a state lab immediately processed the results of those who were tested, the people said, even as average New Yorkers were struggling to get tested in the early days of the pandemic because of a scarcity of resources. New York law prohibits state officials from using their positions to secure privileges for themselves or others.
New York – Cuomo Ethics Commissioners Block Subpoena to Governor’s Office
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/23/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointees to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) blocked a subpoena seeking information about the unpaid volunteers playing an outsized role in the COVID-19 response. If issued, the proposed subpoena would have sought information about which volunteers aiding Cuomo have been exempted from normal ethics rules under executive orders issued by the governor. The subpoena also would have sought information about whether those volunteers ever recused themselves from governmental matters that posed potential conflicts-of-interest with their day jobs.
Ohio – Florida Authorities Say Columbus Lobbyist’s Death an Apparent Suicide
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 3/17/2021
Police believe a longtime Ohio lobbyist charged in connection with the House Bill 6 probe took his own life. Michelle Batten, a spokesperson for the Collier County sheriff’s office in Florida, said investigators do not suspect foul play was involved in Neil Clark’s death. Prosecutors say Clark played a role in a $61 million bribery scheme, funded by FirstEnergy and its affiliates, to pass the bill that bailed out two power plants owned by a former FirstEnergy subsidiary.
Ohio – Nursing Home Association Gave $135,000 to Dark Money Group Indicted in Ohio Bribery Case
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 3/22/2021
An entity representing Ohio’s nursing home industry contributed at least $135,000 to a “dark money” group that has pleaded guilty to its role in an alleged racketeering scheme involving former House Speaker Larry Householder. The nonprofit 501(c)(4) entity, 55 Green Meadows, is affiliated with the Ohio Health Care Association. In 2017 and 2018, 55 Green Meadows, donated the money to Generation Now, group that prosecutors say Householder secretly controlled. Both these nonprofit entities, known as “social welfare” organizations under federal tax law, can legally spend unlimited sums influencing politics so long as this is not the organization’s “primary activity.”
South Carolina – An SC Councilman’s Company Did Work for His City for Years. No One Asked Questions.
Charleston Post and Courier – Stephen Hobbs and Thad Moore | Published: 3/20/2021
Every year, elected officials in South Carolina flood the State Ethics Commission with paperwork intended to reveal potential conflicts-of-interest. But for more than a decade, a medical practice owned by Dillon’s current acting mayor, Dr. Phil Wallace, made money from the city and he never disclosed it. The relationship was hardly a secret. Wallace’s medical practice had a list of clients on its website and “Historic City of Dillon, S.C.” was at the top of the list. The case shows how in South Carolina, clear entanglements can fall through the cracks.
South Carolina – SC AG Alan Wilson’s Office Gives Public Corruption Cases to Upstate Prosecutor
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 3/18/2021
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office will give four high-profile cases involving alleged public corruption by three former state lawmakers and a political consultant to a state prosecutor. The charges against Richard Quinn Sr. and the lawmakers that will now be handled by Seventh Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette stem from special prosecutor David Pascoe’s investigation into statehouse corruption. In January, after state Supreme Court decision in one of Pascoe’s corruption cases placed limits on Pascoe’s authority, he turned over his pending cases in his investigation to Wilson for disposal.
Texas – Texas’s Chief Energy Regulator Fiercely Defended Fossil Fuels After Historic Blackouts. She Also Profits from Oil and Gas.
MSN – Neena Santija and Aaron Gregg (Washington Post) | Published: 3/19/2021
Christi Craddick, who chairs a commission overseeing the oil and gas industry in Texas, defended said natural gas producers were not responsible for the widespread powers outages the state suffered in the wake of a recent winter storm. Craddick and her father, a well-known state representative who sits on two committees overseeing oil and gas, have direct financial ties to that industry, including with some of the same gas-producing companies that have admitted to shutdowns of their own facilities during the storm. Critics say the ownership stakes reflect a conflict of interest for the Craddicks and exemplify a major ethics loophole in Texas, where regulators can have financial interests in the companies they oversee.
Vermont – Zoom Boom: Will Statehouse livestreaming continue when lawmakers return?
VTDigger.org – Kit Norton | Published: 3/22/2021
Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the statehouse last year in Vermont, legislative committee meetings were relatively difficult for the public to access. They were taped for posterity, but recordings were hard to come by. Only House and Senate floor proceedings were available via livestream, courtesy of Vermont Public Radio. In the year since, lawmakers have grown accustomed to conducting business and members of the public, the press, and lobbyists have grown accustomed to accessing video of those proceedings on YouTube. Now, the Senate is considering legislation that could make Statehouse business available to the public even after the pandemic is over.
Washington DC – ‘It’s Not a Local Issue Anymore’: D.C. statehood moves from political fringe to the center of the national Democratic agenda
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2021
With Joe Biden as president, a Democratic majority in Congress behind him, and a fast-evolving political landscape has propelled District of Columbia statehood up the Democratic priority list after it passed the U.S. House for the first time last year. The jolt of momentum stems in part from an increasingly urgent desire among Democrats to act while they have power to erode what they see as Republican structural advantages in the nation’s democracy, including the Senate. Statehood would probably result in two additional Democratic senators, shifting the dynamic in a chamber where members from conservative, rural states can wield disproportionate influence over legislation, federal courts, and presidential nominations.
Wisconsin – Bill Would Require Legislators and Their Staff to Stop Deleting Public Records
Wisconsin Examiner – Melanie Conklin | Published: 3/18/2021
The Wisconsin Legislature is required to respond to open records request, just as any other government entity in the state. But in its own statutes, the body gives itself a major pass that allows its records such as emails and correspondence, and therefore its actions, to be shielded from the public. Legislators and staff may simply delete or throw out the records. Unlike other governmental entities, there is no requirement that they save records, prior to those documents being requested via an open-records request.
March 19, 2021 •
National/Federal Army Initially Pushed to Deny District’s Request for National Guard Before Jan. 6 MSN – Paul Sonne, Peter Hermann, Ellen Nakashima, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2021 The Army pushed to reject the District of Columbia’s request for […]
Army Initially Pushed to Deny District’s Request for National Guard Before Jan. 6
MSN – Paul Sonne, Peter Hermann, Ellen Nakashima, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2021
The Army pushed to reject the District of Columbia’s request for a modest National Guard presence ahead of the January 6 rally that led to the Capitol riot, underscoring the reluctance of some at the Pentagon to involve the military in security arrangements that day. In an internal draft memo, the Army said the U.S. military should not be needed to help police with traffic and crowd management, as city officials had requested, unless more than 100,000 demonstrators were expected. The memo said the request should be denied because a federal agency had not been identified to run the preparations and on-the-day operations; the resources of other federal agencies had not been exhausted; and law enforcement was “far better suited” for the task.
Brussels Lobbying Business Picks Up Despite Pandemic
Politico – Lily Bayer | Published: 3/10/2021
Not even a pandemic can keep European Union (EU) lobbyists down for long. While some endured revenue falls and staff cuts after the coronavirus crisis first hit, consultancies and other lobbying outfits have become increasingly active since then. Some of the uptick is due to the crisis itself. Private sector clients and others are eager to influence the EU’s post-coronavirus recovery plans. Some of it is due to Brussels entering what are traditionally the busiest years of a legislative cycle, with the European Commission in its second year in office.
Corporate PAC Donations to Parties and Candidates Plummet after Capitol Riot
MSN – Kate Ackley and Herb Jackson (Roll Call) | Published: 3/16/2021
Campaign finance data show companies and organizations largely stuck to their public pledges to pause at least some of their political donations after a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol and 147 Republicans in the House and Senate voted to reject electoral votes from certain states that President Biden won. The coronavirus pandemic also put a dent in giving during the earliest weeks of this year. But PACs would normally use checks in January after an election year to introduce themselves to new office holders, help candidates build up funds to scare away potential challengers or to retire old campaign debt, and assist party committees gearing up for another campaign cycle. Disclosures from 2021 show this did not happen.
House Committee Seeks Financial Records for Trump’s Washington Hotel
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2021
A House committee asked the Biden administration to provide detailed financial records on former President Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel, which is in a federally owned building and must give the government financial data as part of its lease. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee first asked for records on the hotel in 2019. But for two years, while Trump’s administration was the Trump International Hotel’s landlord, the government refused to hand them over. Those records, if made public, would reveal the inner workings of a hotel that became a place where the sitting president’s company could be paid by foreign governments, Republican allies, and companies with business before the Trump administration.
House GOP Super PAC Launches Hard-Money Arm
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/17/2021
The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC with close ties to House Republican leadership, is launching a hard-money arm that will allow it to endorse and contribute directly to candidates and members of Congress. The effort, dubbed the CLF Trailblazers Fund, marks a new step for the high-spending super PAC that will allow it to have a more direct role in congressional races, potentially including GOP primaries.
How 535,000 Covid Deaths Spurred Political Awakenings Across America
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 3/17/2021
Many people who have lost loved ones, or whose lives have been upended by long-haul symptoms of COVID-19, have turned to political action, seeking answers and new policies from a government whose failures under the Trump administration allowed the U.S. to become one of the hardest hit countries by the pandemic. Dozens recently participated in an advocacy training session over Zoom, run by a group called Covid Survivors for Change. The group organized virtual meetings with the offices of 16 U.S. senators and more than 50 group members lobbied for the coronavirus relief package.
‘I Still Don’t Feel Safe’: House lawmakers adjust to metal detectors, new normal
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 3/12/2021
Since January, lawmakers have been queuing up at the chamber doors, rummaging through their pockets, and sliding bags and other belongings across a table before they walk through the metal detectors. It is a common sight at sports stadiums or concert venues, less so in the U.S. House. Two months later, the outrage has cooled somewhat, but a question remains: Is this the new normal? Republicans who once made a scene, shouting at Capitol Police or dodging the screenings, are now complying as quietly as they would at the airport. They may not be happy about it, but it is starting to feel routine.
‘Manels’ Flourished During Key Period in Congress, Research Finds
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 3/16/2021
When U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa convened a hearing on birth control with mostly male witnesses in 2012, some Democratic women staged a walkout. Less noticed is the lack of women in more mundane settings, where the effects of gender are not as obvious. Caroline Bruckner of American University wanted to see who got a voice at the witness table as Republicans pushed through an overhaul of the tax code. There were 12 hearings and just 19 percent of the witnesses were women. Five of the hearings featured only men. Bruckner is looking at past panels, working with a team of other researchers at American University to track gender representation at legislative hearings for 15 committees going back 10 years.
Putin Targeted People Close to Trump in Bid to Influence 2020 Election, U.S. Intelligence Says
Seattle Times – Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials in Moscow sought to influence the 2020 election by spreading misleading information about Joe Biden through prominent individuals, some of whom were close to former President Trump, the U.S. intelligence community said in a report. It does not identify those individuals by name, but it appears to reference Trump’s onetime personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, whose repeated meetings with a suspected Russian agent came under scrutiny by U.S. officials. While foreign disinformation and interference was a major concern heading into the 2020 campaign, domestic efforts to disrupt the race, including by Trump and his allies, turned out to be of greater significance.
Two Arrested in Assault on Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, Who Died After Jan. 6 Capitol Riot
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Peter Hermann (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2021
Federal authorities arrested and charged two men with assaulting U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray during the January 6 Capitol riot but have not determined whether the exposure caused his death. Julian Khater and George Tanios are charged with nine counts including assaulting three officers with a deadly weapon. They are also charged with civil disorder and obstruction of a congressional proceeding. The charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Lawmakers Move to Block Private Funds for Elections
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 3/15/2021
Raising the specter of Mark Zuckerberg influencing who holds office in Arizona, Republican lawmakers moved to block counties from taking money from any private source to help run future elections. The party-line vote by the Senate Government Committee follows the disclosure that nine Arizona counties got more than $6 million last year from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. The grants were to help defray some of the costs of running an election during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Jennifer Marson, executive director for the Arizona Association of Counties.
California – Bill to Increase Transparency of Lobbying Activities Passed in Senate Committee
California Globe – Evan Symon | Published: 3/16/2021
Legislation that would increase the transparency of lobbying activities in Sacramento was approved by the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee. Senate Bill 305 would allow electronic signatures on lobbyist registration forms and documents. Presently, a handwritten signature is required. The forms are also currently restricted to be handed in-person at the secretary of state’s office or sent through the mail. Sen. Brian Jones introduced the bill because of the delay current procedures have on keeping the public informed.
California – French Laundry Friend Now Banned from Lobbying California Gov. Gavin Newsom
MSN – Sophia Bollag (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 3/16/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom adopted an expanded lobbying ban for his political consultants, months after he drew criticism for dining with lobbyist Jason Kinney at an expensive restaurant in violation of his own pandemic restrictions. Under the new rules, appointees “with a high level of influence over the Administration’s policy decisions” are prohibited from accepting gifts from lobbyists. The rule applies to Newsom, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, senior officials at agencies and departments, policy advisers, and “any equivalent position.” The administration also asked the Fair Political Practices Commission to maintain a list on its website of everyone registered to lobby Newsom and executive branch agencies.
California – Get Ready for California Recall to Break the Bank in 2021
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 3/16/2021
Limitless money, a slew of candidates, and undivided national attention are about to converge in a battle for California’s future. An effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is highly likely to qualify after supporters submit their last signatures. The ensuing campaign will be a melee free from the constraints that inhibit other statewide contests in California. Donation caps do not apply. Hundreds of millions of dollars are likely to inundate the state as the full might of California’s Democratic establishment vies with a concerted Republican effort to oust a humbled blue state leader.
California – Oakland’s Transparency Problem: Thousands of public records requests are backlogged
Vallejo Times Herald – Annie Sciacca | Published: 3/15/2021
When people try to obtain public records from the city of Oakland, especially police reports, many probably feel their requests have been tossed into the abyss. In more than 6,300 cases, the police department and other city offices either have not responded to record requests or have not supplied all the sought-after documents, according to a review of Oakland’s NextRequest portal, which pulls all the requests into one place. Under the California Public Records Act, government agencies must let people who request documents know within 10 days whether they possess them, intend to withhold them and, if so, on what legal basis. Agencies can extend the 10-day period another 14 days.
Colorado – Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman Sues City Over Recent Campaign Finance Changes
Canon City Daily Recortd – John Aguilar (Denver Post) | Published: 3/17/2021
Aurora Mayor Michael Coffman sued his own city, claiming a campaign finance reform measure passed by the city council last year is “designed to silence” him by barring officeholders in Aurora from organizing campaigns on behalf of candidates or ballot issues. The mayor said he supports the bulk of the ordinance, which limits individual donations to a candidate or his or her political committee to $400 per election cycle in a ward race and $1,000 in an at-large or mayoral race.
Florida – Florida Property Rights Bill Was Written by a Development Company
Tampa Bay Times – Zachary Sampson | Published: 3/16/2021
A bill in the Florida Legislature that would bolster a state property rights law that critics say already scares local governments away from protecting the environment was written by representatives of a major development business that has donated to its state Senate sponsor. Sen. Ray Rodrigues said he worked with a lobbyist for the Barron Collier Companies and Collier Enterprises Management to draft the proposal. An email shows the lobbyist passed along draft language from an executive at Barron Collier Companies, one branch of a real estate and investment empire left by Collier County’s namesake.
Florida – Police Raid Home of Former GOP Lawmaker Who Bragged About Planting No-Party Candidate
Miami Herald – Ana Ceballos, Samantha Gross, and David Ovalle | Published: 3/17/2021
Authorities raided the house of former Florida Sen. Frank Artiles. He is believed to be tied to a state investigation involving a sham no-party candidate who likely swayed the outcome of a key 2020 Miami-Dade state Senate race. While details remain sealed, it was reported that Artiles got involved in the Senate District 37 race when he recruited and boasted about planting Alex Rodriguez, an auto-parts dealer, to run in the race. Rodriguez was on the ballot as a no-party candidate, shared the same surname as the incumbent Democrat, and his mysterious candidacy has been under investigation since November.
Hawaii – Hawaii Lawmakers Seek Exemption from Political Ad Disclosures
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 3/18/2021
The public could have less transparency in elections and less insight into what political advertisements candidates are paying for under a pair of measures moving through the Hawaii Legislature. House Bill 144 and House Bill 674 would exempt candidates from filing reports on ads with the state. That law was intended to shine a light on how much money candidates and political committees are spending on ads during election season to sway voters. Wording in the ad reporting law has confounded some campaigns and led to significant fines in recent years.
Illinois – At Trump’s Chicago Tower, Employees Got Vaccinated Early – Thanks to a Hospital Whose COO Lives in the Building
MSN – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 3/17/2021
Employees at former President Trump’s Chicago tower got early access to coronavirus vaccines, arranged by a hospital whose chief operating officer owns a $2.7 million condo in the building. Seventy-two employees of Trump’s hotel and condo tower were vaccinated on March 10 and 11, despite city guidelines saying hotel employees would not be eligible until March 29. The city asked for more details about the vaccination event from its organizer, Loretto Hospital. The small hospital is in a majority-Black neighborhood nine miles from Trump’s downtown tower and says its mission is to provide vaccines to the “minority communities hardest hit” by the pandemic.
Iowa – Iowa Extended Contact Tracing Contract with Company Owned by Republican Party Donor as Cases Plummeted
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 3/12/2021
As coronavirus virus cases plummeted, Iowa quietly extended a $3.9 million contact tracing contract with a company owned by a major Republican Party donor and supporter of Gov. Kim Reynolds. After a one-day emergency bidding process in November, the state Department of Public Health hired MCI, a telemarketing firm, to trace the contacts of residents infected with COVID-19. The award of the two-month, $2.3 million contract came during a surge in cases that filled up hospitals with patients and after months of complaints from counties about a shortage of contact tracing workers. MCI performed telemarketing and data work for Donald Trump’s two presidential campaigns and also provided services for Reynolds’ political campaign.
Kentucky – ‘Not a Knee-Jerk Reaction.’ Legislators Say Ethics Bills Not Just Aimed at Beshear.
Lexington Herald-Leader – John Cheves | Published: 3/12/2021
The Kentucky Legislature is moving two government ethics bills aimed at Gov. Andy Beshear – but also, lawmakers, say, at future governors from both parties who will follow him. The House appeared poised to give final passage to Senate Bill 6, which would create ethics rules for the people who work on transition teams for newly elected governors and other state constitutional officers, such as attorneys general and state auditors. The other measure is House Bill 454, which would reorganize the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, the panel that enforces a code of ethics on most of state government.
Maine – Legislation That Would Silence Foreign Companies During Maine Ballot Campaigns Gets First Look
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 3/15/2021
A trio of bills seeking to silence the influence of foreign companies on statewide ballot questions in Maine drew support and opposition during a public hearing before the Legislature. At stake is an ongoing, $1 billion powerline-expansion project spearheaded by Central Maine Power Co. and Hydro-Quebec, an energy company owned and operated by the Canadian province of Quebec. The legislation, offered by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, would prohibit Hydro-Quebec from spending in an attempt to influence the outcome of a ballot question in November that would require the Legislature approve the project. It has been approved by state and federal regulators.
Maryland – Baltimore Clarifies Rules to Govern Board of Estimates Votes, Abstentions
Yahoo News – Tim Prudente (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 3/13/2021
Baltimore’s Board of Ethics clarified the voting rules for the city spending panel, finding a member may in fact vote on matters pertaining to units of city government under his or her control. In a written opinion, the ethics panel concluded a 2013 change to city law limits instances in which members of the Board of Estimates must abstain from voting because of a conflict-of-interest. “… However, the BOE is free to adopt additional voting abstention policies to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the opinion states.
Maryland – Ex-Baltimore Mayor’s Associate, the Final Defendant in ‘Healthy Holly’ Case, Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison
Yahoo News – Justin Fenton (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 3/4/2021
The final defendant in the case against former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh ended when the former director of a nonprofit job training center was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison on tax fraud charges. Roslyn Wedington was director of the Maryland Center for Adult Training, where Pugh served on the board of directors. Pugh aide Gary Brown helped Wedington earn an off-the-books salary so she could for years avoid paying taxes and wage garnishment. Brown was sentenced to 27 months in prison for his role, as well as a fraud scheme related to Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s books. Pugh is serving a three-year sentence in federal prison.
Maryland – Unlike Many Other States, Maryland’s Legislature Is Moving to Make It Easier to Vote Early or by Mail
Yahoo News – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 3/12/2021
Inspired by – or perhaps infuriated by – the contentious 2020 presidential election, Maryland lawmakers are pushing dozens of bills to change the way the state’s voters cast their ballots. Maryland’s Democrat-led General Assembly is moving to make it easier to vote by mail and to vote early, partially driven by the pandemic election that saw record turnout in the state by those means. Republican lawmakers, who are significantly outnumbered in Annapolis, are pushing bills they say would cut down on voter fraud, such as requiring identification at the polls and checking signatures on mailed ballots.
Michigan – Michigan Officials Dodge Transparency Reforms Enacted Elsewhere, Reject Dozens of Bills
Yahoo – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 3/16/2021
The Michigan Legislature has rejected more than 130 bills aimed at boosting transparency and ethics in government since a national nonprofit organization rated the state last in the subjects six years ago. The statistic shows Michigan officeholders’ ongoing resistance to laws that would provide the public more information about their decisions, including disclosing their communications and revealing potential conflicts-of-interest. Similar measures have already been enacted in most other states. But proponents of the reforms hope the tides are changing in Michigan.
New Jersey – N.J. Mayor Weighs November Re-Election Bid – When He’ll Be 97
Newark Star Ledger – Steve Strunsky (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/15/2021
In the summer of 2017, when Vito Perillo was 92, he resolved to do something about Tinton Falls’ steadily increasing property taxes, a rise documented by saving every one of his tax bills since 1980, the year he retired as a civilian defense employee. He ran and won the mayor race in the Monmouth County borough. Four years later, with Perillo’s first term expiring at the end of the year, he must decide whether to seek a second term in November. Perillo, one of the oldest mayors in the state and the nation, if not the oldest, will be 97 years old at that point.
New York – A Father’s Gift to a Mayoral Candidate: A $1 Million Super PAC
New York Times – Dana Rubinstein | Published: 3/17/2021
With New York City’s mayoral primary a little more than three months away and a deadline to qualify for the city’s matching-funds program having just passed, pleas for donations have been in overdrive in recent days. But in the background, another spigot of money has opened for two Democratic candidates who are trailing in early polls. An independent expenditure committee for Raymond McGuire, a former Wall Street executive, has garnered more than $3 million, with more than 70 donations from business magnates. A new super PAC for Donovan, a former cabinet member in the Obama administration, has drawn $1.02 million from just two donors – the primary benefactor being his father, Michael Donovan, who donated $1 million.
New York – Cuomo Impeachment Probe Authorized by New York Assembly Speaker as Sexual Harassment Claims Grow
MSN – Dan Mangan (CNBC) | Published: 3/11/2021
The speaker of the New York Assembly authorized an impeachment investigation into allegations of misconduct by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been the subject of multiple sexual harassment claims in recent weeks. The probe was set in motion hours after more than 50 Democratic state lawmakers, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the National Organization for Women demanded Cuomo resign. The developments came a day after a newspaper reported a member of Cuomo’s staff had accused him of aggressively groping her in the governor’s mansion last year.
New York – New York’s Vaccine Czar Called County Officials to Gauge Their Loyalty to Cuomo Amid Sexual Harassment Investigation
MSN – Amy Brittain and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 3/14/2021
New York’s “vaccine czar,” an adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, phoned county officials recently in attempts to gauge their loyalty to the embattled governor amid an ongoing sexual harassment investigation, according to officials. One Democratic county executive was so unsettled by the outreach from Larry Schwartz, head of the state’s vaccine rollout, that the executive filed notice of an impending ethics complaint with the public integrity unit of the state attorney general’s office. The executive feared the county’s vaccine supply could suffer if Schwartz was not pleased with the executive’s response to his questions about support of the governor.
New York – Report: Rochester police, mayor ‘knowingly suppressed’ information in Prude case
National Public Radio – Vanessa Romo | Published: 3/12/2021
Rochester city officials, including the former police chief and the mayor, “knowingly suppressed” information from getting to the public, and some officials made “untrue statements” about the events leading to the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man experiencing a mental health episode who was asphyxiated by police while restrained and handcuffed. An independent report chronicles how ex-Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and Mayor Lovely Warren, over the course of more than five months, took deliberate steps to avoid disclosing the disturbing nature of the encounter between Prude and the officers.
Ohio – Advocates Call for Greater Transparency in Ohio Campaign Contributions Raised by Lobbyists
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 3/16/2021
Common Cause Ohio wants the state to require lobbyists to disclose fundraising they coordinate on behalf of politicians, saying the change would give voters a better idea which groups are trying to influence state policy through their campaign money. Ohio currently requires lobbyists to disclose the money they spend entertaining elected officials. State campaign finance laws require political donors to disclose their name, address, and employer. But those requirements do not reflect the lobbyists who may coordinate the donations.
Ohio – Cincinnati Elections Commission Reverses Decision, Tightens Contribution Rules. It Could Cost Aftab Pureval
MSN – Scott Wartman (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 3/11/2021
The Cincinnati Elections Commission reversed its January decision on the rules for use of previous campaign contributions for mayoral candidates. The board decided individual donors to mayoral and council candidates cannot exceed the $1,100 campaign contribution limits for any race going back four years to the previous mayoral race. The vote reverses a decision from that said candidates could use funds raised in non-city races before the previous general election.
Ohio – Federal Utility Regulator Investigates FirstEnergy’s Lobbying on House Bill 6
MSN – Jesse Balmart (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 3/17/2021
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is looking into how FirstEnergy lobbied for a $1 billion nuclear bailout in 2019. The FERC, which is tasked with regulating utilities like FirstEnergy, is investigating the company’s lobbying on House Bill 6, a bill that overhauled Ohio’s energy policies and included $1 billion in subsidies for two nuclear plants in the state, then-owned by FirstEnergy Solutions. FirstEnergy was directed to preserve documents and information related to lobbying. This investigation is in addition to an ongoing FERC audit of FirstEnergy.
Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court Will Hear Argument of ‘Political Retribution’ by LaRose Against Summit County GOP Chair
MSN – Doug Livingtston (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 3/15/2021
The Summit County Republican Party is accusing Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose of spinning “inaccurate and incomplete” facts to “exact political retribution” against its local leader. LaRose rejected the reappointment of Bryan Williams, who is vice president of the state central committee and chairperson of the Summit County GOP, to another four years on the Summit County Board of Elections. LaRose gave the party’s county executive committee a deadline to give him another name for the open seat. Local party leaders met and voted to sue LaRose instead.
South Dakota – South Dakota Legislature Adopts Bill Barring Public Agencies from Collecting, Releasing Information About Nonprofit Donors
Ballotpedia – Staff | Published: 3/16/2021
The South Dakota Legislature approved a bill that would bar public agencies from requiring individuals or groups to disclose identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors, clearing the way for Gov. Kristi Noem’s signature. Senate Bill 103 would bar any public agency, including state and municipal government units and courts, from requiring a current or prospective contractor to provide a public agency with a list of the nonprofits “to which it has provided financial or nonfinancial support,” among other provisions. The legislation does not bar public agencies from furnishing personal information about a nonprofit’s donors or supporters for campaign finance reporting requirements.
Utah – Secretive Out-of-State Group Pushes Bill That Makes It Harder to Get a Voter Initiative on the Ballot
MSN – Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 3/11/2021
This legislative session, supporters of a bill tightening the rules for ballot initiatives stressed that the measure would protect Utah from the influence of outside interests, which have previously dumped money into signature-gathering campaigns on medical cannabis and Medicaid expansion. What some state lawmakers might not have realized was this legislation was promoted by a shadowy, out-of-state group called the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA). While ballot initiative campaigns must disclose their donors, the public has no idea which wealthy benefactors might have helped the FGA advance its political agenda in Utah, said Spencer Stokes, a state lobbyist and the co-owner of a signature-gathering firm.
Virginia – Northam Restores Voting Rights for 69,000 with Felony Convictions
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2021
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam restored the voting rights of 69,000 people convicted of felonies under a policy change that speeds up the process, no longer requiring former prisoners to go through lengthy probations before qualifying to seek restoration. Virginia is one of a handful of states that permanently disenfranchise all those convicted of felonies unless they have their rights restored by the governor. This year, Virginia’s General Assembly gave preliminary approval to a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights for felons as soon as they complete their incarceration. In the meantime, Northam said he was taking a cue from that proposal and changing the timing of his process, reviewing rights as soon as someone is freed.
Washington – Washington AG Bob Ferguson Wants an Additional $2.8 Million in Legal Fees from Tim Eyman
Spokane Spokesman-Review – David Gutman (Seattle Times) | Published: 3/12/2021
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson wants an additional $2.8 million in legal fees and costs related to his lawsuit against anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman. The lawsuit dragged on because of what Ferguson called Eyman’s “cost-inflating, frivolous, obstructive and defiant litigation tactics.” Eyman was found liable recently of “numerous and particularly egregious” violations of campaign finance law for laundering political donations to enrich himself, accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm, secretly shuttling money between initiative campaigns, and concealing the source of other political contributions.
March 12, 2021 •
National/Federal Another Oath Keeper with Links to Roger Stone Charged in Capitol Riot Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/9/2021 A second member of the Oath Keepers militia who provided security to longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone […]
Another Oath Keeper with Links to Roger Stone Charged in Capitol Riot
Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/9/2021
A second member of the Oath Keepers militia who provided security to longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone has been charged with storming and breaching the Capitol. Joshua James, who has been seen in photos flanking Stone ahead of the riot, was later seen on camera inside the building amid a crush of rioters who overran police. The arrest, made public a day after prosecutors revealed they charged fellow Oath Keeper and Stone security guard Roberto Minuta for entering the Capitol, is the latest evidence that prosecutors are homing in on the extremist group with key ties to organizers of pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” events.
Biden Signs Executive Order Promoting Voting Rights on 56th Anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’
Seattle Times – Felicia Sonmez and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/7/2021
President Biden signed an executive order aimed at promoting voting rights amid a push by Republican-led state Legislatures to roll back voting access in the wake of former President Trump’s 2020 loss and his baseless effort to cast doubt on the integrity of U.S. elections. The order comes on the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day that state troopers violently beat hundreds of marchers, including John Lewis, the late civil rights icon who served as a Democratic member of Congress from Georgia, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
Digging in as an All-GOP Firm in a Democratic Town
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/4/2021
Many of K Street’s power players have gone in search of Democratic talent now that the party controls official Washington, D.C., but one shop went in a totally different direction, recruiting its newest partner from the Trump administration. The CGCN Group, an all-Republican lobbying and communications outfit, plans to remain a single-party firm, and unapologetically so, even though Democrats hold the Senate, House, and White House. The firm’s lobbyists and employees previously worked with lawmakers and officials who span the GOP’s ideological spectrum.
Feds Investigating Hagedorn Appearances on Minnesota Talk Radio Station
SouthernMinn.com – Daniel Newhauser (Minnesota Reformer) | Published: 3/5/2021
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is probing a news radio station’s financial relationship with U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, questioning whether the station broke the law by allowing a man paid by Hagedorn’s campaign to interview the congressman on air. The investigation began after media reports on business dealings between Hagedorn and Al Travis Thielfoldt. Neither revealed during interviews on Thiefoldt’s show that Hagedorn had entrusted Thielfoldt with more than $1.4 million to place ads on local stations. The FCC is investigating whether Hagedorn’s campaign paid Thielfoldt or KTOE for the interviews, and whether the station violated the law by failing to publicly disclose the financial relationship between the men.
House Democrats End Controversial Consultant Ban
Politico – Ally Mutnick | Published: 3/9/2021
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is officially ending its controversial ban on political consultants who work with candidates challenging sitting Democratic incumbents, clinching a victory for progressives. Though it was in place for fewer than two years, it still stymied some liberal primary challengers. The policy forbade the committee from contracting with or recommending to any House campaign a consultant or firm who worked to primary a sitting Democratic incumbent. It spurred a strong backlash but was popular with members who are more prone to primary challenges and do not want their party apparatus, to which they pay dues, to enable their opponents.
House Restarts Push to Enforce Subpoena for Trump Financial Records
MSN – Todd Ruger (Roll Call) | Published: 3/4/2021
The federal courts have spent so long deciding whether House Democrats could subpoena Donald Trump’s personal financial records from his accounting firm that the ongoing legal saga has a new wrinkle: what changes now that he is a former president? The House Oversight and Reform Committee reissued the subpoena to Mazars USA in February, and it is identical to the one from 2019 that ultimately led the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a new test for when Congress could obtain those records.
Inside the Lincoln Project’s Secrets, Side Deals and Scandals
New York Times – Danny Hakim, Maggie Astor, and Jo Becker | Published: 3/8/2021
The Lincoln Project collected more than $87 million in donations and produced scores of viral videos that were intended to drive then-President Trump to distraction. The men who founded the Lincoln Project – Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, Reed Galen, and Rick Wilson – moved to set themselves up in the new enterprise, creating TLP Media last fall. Its aim was to transform the original project, a super PAC, into a far more lucrative venture. The behind-the-scenes moves by the founders showed that whatever their political goals, they were also privately taking steps to make money from the earliest stages and wanted to limit the number of people who would share in the spoils.
Oil Refiner Valero to Disclose Climate Lobbying After Criticism
MSN – Gerson Freitas Jr. and Saijel Kishan (Bloomberg) | Published: 3/3/2021
Valero Energy, one of the largest U.S. oil refiners, is planning to publish details of its climate lobbying activities after an investor pressed for more disclosure. Valero will release a report later this year. The decision follows discussions with Mercy Investment Services, which had filed a proposed shareholder resolution demanding to know how Valero’s lobbying aligns with global efforts to fight climate change. That resolution has now been withdrawn, Valero said.
Rep. Eric Swalwell Sues Trump Over Jan. 6 Riot, Alleging He Poses Risk of ‘Inciting Future Political Violence’
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/4/2021
A House impeachment manager and intelligence subcommittee chairperson filed a federal lawsuit against former President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudolph Giuliani, and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, claiming they should be held liable for injuries and destruction caused by their incitement of the January 6 mob assault on the Capitol. U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell alleged Trump and his fellow speakers at a rally near the White House that day were directly responsible for mobilizing a crowd of tens of thousands of pro-Trump supporters to march on the Capitol and priming them for violence.
State Department Aide Appointed by Trump Stormed the Capitol, Beat Police with a Riot Shield, FBI Says
San Diego Union Tribune – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 3/5/2021
The FBI arrested Federico Klein, a political appointee of former President Trump, on charges he stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, marking the first member of the administration arrested in connection with the insurrection. Klein was still employed at the State Department as a staff assistant when he joined a mob in a tunnel leading into the Capitol, the FBI said. Then he allegedly “physically and verbally engaged with the officers holding the line” at the building’s entrance, according to the complaint. After ignoring officers’ orders to move back, he assaulted officers with a riot shield that had been stolen from police, the complaint said, and then used the shield to wedge open a door into the Capitol.
Trump’s Fundraising Whiplash Highlights GOP’s Small-Donor Issue
MSN – Bridget Bowman (Roll Call) | Published: 3/10/2021
Donald Trump’s conflicting statements about whether Republican campaign committees can use his likeness to fundraise has underscored a broader problem facing the GOP: tapping into the grassroots donors who fueled the former president’s record-breaking campaign hauls. While GOP candidates have tried to tap into grassroots fundraising, Trump has energized small-dollar donors for his own campaign. In recent days, he has threatened to cut Republican campaign committees off from using his name to fundraise.
U.S. House Republicans May Follow Democrats in Rebooting Shamed ‘Earmarks’
Reuters – Jarret Renshaw | Published: 3/9/2021
U.S. House Republicans are weighing whether to join Democrats in getting back into earmarks, the practice of loading spending bills with legislators’ pet projects. Sources said sentiment is growing in the GOP toward embracing earmarks roughly a decade after the party decided to scrap the long-standing practice amid a raft of high-profile controversies. Democrats who control the House agreed to bring back earmarks this year.
From the States and Municipalities
California – As Newsom Pushes to Extend Emergency Spending Authority During Pandemic, Lobbyist Influence Remains Opaque
Capital Public Radio – Scott Rodd | Published: 3/4/2021
While lobbyists in California must disclose efforts to influence policy and legislation, they are not required to disclose lobbying activities when vying for lucrative contracts. Government ethics experts say that is an area that demands greater transparency for Californians to understand how their government awards contracts and opportunities, especially as Gov. Gavin Newsom pushes to extend his emergency spending authority for another year. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office warns that under the extension, “there would be no reasonable checks and balances on the Governor’s COVID-19 spending authority.”
California – City Hall Corruption Probe: Former S.F. official and girlfriend to Mohammed Nuru agrees to plead guilty, cooperate with feds
MSN – Michael Williams (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 3/9/2021
Sandra Zuniga, the former director of San Francisco’s Office of Neighborhood Services, agreed to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and will cooperate with the federal investigation into City Hall corruption. Prosecutors alleged she conspired for years with former city Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru to launder the proceeds of his alleged fraud. Prosecutors said Zuniga, at one point a romantic partner to Nuru, deposited the proceeds from alleged bribes into her own bank account. Those funds, federal officials said, were later used to make mortgage payments on a vacation home Nuru owned.
California – New Escondido Council Erases Campaign Finance Reforms Enacted by Predecessors
San Diego Union Tribune – Joe Tash | Published: 3/4/2021
Five months after adopting new campaign finance rules for city elections, the Escondido City Council reversed course and voted to strip away two of the changes enacted by the previous council. In October, the council reduced the contribution limits for city offices such as mayor, city council, and city treasurer, and established a prohibition on candidates carrying over surplus campaign funds from one election to the next. The council also voted to impose its new contribution limits on all persons and organizations, including political parties, businesses, and labor unions. The council voted to do away with the prohibition on rolling over campaign funds and exempted political parties from the contribution limits.
California – S.F. City Hall Corruption: Recology to repay customers $94.5 million for rates Mohammed Nuru helped set
MSN – Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 3/4/2021
San Franciscans will recoup nearly $100 million in overpaid trash-collection fees after a probe by the city attorney’s office detailed how the waste management company Recology improperly hiked its prices over the last four years. The settlement with Recology represents the latest twist in the sprawling City Hall corruption saga centered around former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, other city officials, contractors, and nonprofit groups. Nuru played a key role in the rate-setting process for Recology. Multiple investigations alleged Nuru accepted bribes from Recology in exchange for allowing the company to inflate its rates. A former Recology executive was fired and arrested in November in light of those allegations.
California – San Jose School District Denies Improper Lobbying Charges
San Jose Spotlight – Lloyd Alaban | Published: 3/10/2021
Officials with San Jose’s biggest school district denied charges they improperly hired lobbying firms to push a teacher housing proposal, saying at least one of the firms never lobbied for them at all, despite meeting with officials who would approve the plans. The allegations stem from a grand jury report. It found that San Jose Unified School District failed to disclose conflicts-of-interest and lobbying contracts related to a proposal to build affordable housing for teachers and staff. The school district’s board rejected concerns that the contracts with two different firms working on the housing project had been inappropriate. But it agreed to provide more transparency around such agreements in the future.
Georgia – Georgia Republicans Want to Reshape Voting Laws, Burdening Voters of Color
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Carrie Levine, Kimberly Cataudella, and Stephen Fowler | Published: 3/5/2021
Election experts say the 2020 election was fair, and courts have tossed out dozens of lawsuits filed by former President Trump’s campaign and allied groups after finding no evidence of fraud. Nonetheless, Republicans around the country are sponsoring measures to constrain voter access, arguing they are responding to the perception that elections need to be more secure. Georgia, with a Republican-controlled Legislature, is at the epicenter of that fight. Record participation from voters of color in the 2020 election and subsequent runoff helped Democrats flip the state’s electoral votes and both U.S. Senate seats.
Illinois – How Michael Madigan’s Departure Accelerates a Shift in Chicago Politics from Old-School Machine to New-Era Progressives
Yahoo News – Bill Ruthhart and John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/4/2021
The last two Cook County Democratic Party bosses suffered embarrassing losses to political newcomers for county assessor and mayor. A congressional seat held for decades by a powerful establishment family now belongs to a progressive outsider. Several longtime white machine politicians in Chicago have been defeated by first-time candidates of color. The change is being driven by generational, ideological, and demographic shifts, with federal law enforcement and organized labor providing major assists. The result is a move away from old-style bosses toward a more diffuse leadership structure that is more diverse and practices an increasingly progressive style of politics centered on economic and racial equity.
Illinois – State’s Ex-Pot Regulators, Pols Are Cashing In On the Exploding Industry. A Proposed Crackdown Won’t Stop All of Them.
Chicago Sun-Times – Tom Schuba | Published: 3/10/2021
A year after recreational cannabis sales kicked off in Illinois, legalization has been a boon for the few multimillion-dollar companies granted permission to grow and sell marijuana and a windfall for local and state governments strapped for cash. It has also been a jackpot for a host of former cannabis regulators. On top of that, two sponsors of the law that legalized recreational cannabis are also benefiting from the pot industry, albeit through connections to firms operating in other states. State Rep. Marty Moylan introduced legislation that would strengthen conflict-of-interest provisions in the law that aim to prevent lawmakers, regulators, and their families from profiting off the industry.
Iowa – Journalist Acquitted in Iowa Case Seen as Attack on Press
MSN – Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 3/10/2021
An Iowa jury acquitted a journalist who was pepper-sprayed and arrested by police while covering a protest, in a case that critics have derided as an attack on press freedoms and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. The jury found Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri and her ex-boyfriend Spenser Robnett not guilty on misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse and interference with official acts. More than 100 groups called for the dismissal of charges last summer, but prosecutors aggressively pursued them, arguing tSahouri and Robnett did not comply with police orders to leave the chaotic scene and interfered with the officer who arrested Sahouri.
Maine – Maine Ethics Commission Says Senate District 14 Candidate Violated Election Law, but Assesses No Penalty
Portland Press Herald – Jessica Lowell (Kennebec Jouirnal) | Published: 3/8/2021
A state Senate candidate violated Maine’s election sign law but will not be assessed a penalty, the Commission on Governmental and Ethics Practices ruled. The commission said in failing to initially add a disclosure statement to those signs, William Guerrette violated state campaign laws. In a separate action, it voted to assess no penalty against Guerrette. The complaint said the four electronic signs urging people to vote for Guerrette failed to include a disclaimer explaining who paid for the signs and who authorized them. Initially, Guerrette was told the signs were fine, but when his campaign was directed to add disclosure statements, the statements were added.
Massachusetts – Body Armor and Pepper Spray: Politicians can buy safety gear with campaign funds after Capitol attack
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 3/7/2021
An advisory opinion from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance allows the state’s elected officials to use campaign funds to buy bulletproof vests, gas masks, and other gear to protect themselves and their staffs following the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Michael Sullivan, the campaign office’s director, noted the agency previously allowed candidates to use campaign money to pay for a security detail or a home security system. Sullivan citied the “recent events in our nation’s capital” and that officials or their staffs could reasonably be concerned about their safety at the statehouse or elsewhere.
Michigan – Auditor-Recommended Election Reforms Approved in Michigan House
MLive.com – Samuel Dodge | Published: 3/9/2021
The Michigan House approved a series of election reform bills, including a package addressing recommended changes by the state auditor general. A report from the auditor general recommended ways to improve the process, including cleaning up the qualified voter file’s list of names, ensuring better training of local clerks, and improving campaign finance reporting. In addition, House Bill 4130 moves back the date for lobbyists to submit their reports by one month. House Bill 4131 extends the deadline to correct errors and omissions in campaign finance statements.
Michigan – Feds Probe MDOT Corruption Case with Alleged Ghost Contractors, Bonuses for Wives
Yahoo News – Robert Snell (Detroit News) | Published: 3/6/2021
Five Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) contractors are targets of an FBI investigation over whether they defrauded taxpayers out of more than $7.3 million by overbilling, submitting phony expenses, and giving no-show, six-figure jobs to their wives. Search warrant filings reveal a years-long, ongoing wire fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering investigation targeting at least five executives at Surveying Solutions. The company is one of the state’s preeminent surveying firms and has worked on more than 150 MDOT projects in recent years’ worth $29.3 million.
Michigan – Lobbyist Advanced Client’s Plan as Appointee on Michigan Pot Panel
Yahoo News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 3/5/2021
The Marijuana Regulatory Agency created the Racial Equity Advisory Work Group to develop policy recommendations and make Michigan a “leader on diversity, equity, and inclusion” in the marijuana industry. When the workgroup’s ideas were unveiled, the top recommendation was to create a new license type, allowing for “marijuana microbusinesses.” An Ann Arbor-based business, Tranquility Fields, wants to franchise small marijuana operations across the state. Among the group’s lobbyists is Berton Brown, one of the 21 workgroup members. Critics argue having a lobbyist on an official state workgroup advancing recommendations that could boost his employer is a conflict-of-interest.
Missouri – After Judges Rewrite GOP Lawmakers’ Ballot Language, Missouri House Votes to Strip Their Power
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup and Maria Benevento | Published: 3/10/2021
After Missouri courts last year threw out and rewrote the Legislature’s ballot language for a proposed change to the state constitution, Republican lawmakers moved to strip judges’ power to rewrite ballot language. The effort follows rulings from two courts in the run-up to the November election that tossed the Legislature’s wording for a question that changed the way Missouri was to draw state legislative districts after the 2020 Census. In addition to the redistricting changes, the measure banned lobbyist gifts. But Cole Circuit County Judge Patricia Joyce rewrote the summary.
New Mexico – Political Spending Transparency Bill Clears Senate
New Mexico In Depth – Bryan Metzger | Published: 3/10/2021
The New Mexico Senate approved a bill that would close a loophole in the state’s transparency laws and require lawmakers running for federal office to disclose their contributions every 10 days during the legislative session. The loophole allows nonprofit organizations to avoid disclosing donors behind political spending if those giving the money requested in writing that their donations not be spent for political purposes, even if the group decides to use the money for politics anyway.
New York – Cuomo’s Behavior Created ‘Hostile, Toxic’ Workplace Culture for Decades, Former Aides Say
MSN – Amy Brittain, Josh Dawsey, Hannah Knowles, and Tracy Jan (Washington Post) | Published: 3/6/2021
Fresh accounts of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s workplace behavior by former aides come after several women have publicly accused him of inappropriate personal comments or unwelcome physical contact. The allegations have engulfed one of the country’s top Democratic officials in crisis and put a focus on the workplace culture he has fostered during his three decades in public office. Many former aides and advisers described a toxic environment in which the governor unleashes verbal attacks on subordinates. Some said he seemed to delight in humiliating his employees, particularly in group meetings.
New York – Is NYC’s Expensive Campaign Finance Program Worth the Cost?
Gothamist – Cindy Rodriguez | Published: 3/3/2021
New York City’s Campaign Finance Board recently doled out $37 million in matching funds to candidates running for public office, the highest in its history. Their eight-to-one matching program is supposed to level the playing field and encourage campaigns to rely on small donors instead of big money and special interests. But in two different special elections in Queens, several candidates received tens of thousands of dollars in public financing and only a few hundred votes, leaving some to question whether, during a financial crisis, city taxpayer money should be spent differently. “‘’m concerned that we are wasting a tremendous amount of public funds for people to have vanity projects,” said Patrick Jenkins, a district leader in Queens.
New York – NY Officials Removed Fuller Tally of Nursing Home Deaths
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 3/5/2021
The state Health Department confirmed that members of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force altered a report to omit the full number of nursing home patients killed by the coronavirus, but insisted the changes were made because of concerns about the data’s accuracy. It has been reported that gubernatorial aides pushed state health officials to edit the July report so it counted only residents who died inside long-term care facilities, and not those who became ill there and later died at a hospital. It is the latest blow for Cuomo, who has been besieged by scandals involving his handling of nursing home deaths and accusations he sexually harassed two former aides and a woman he met at a wedding he officiated.
New York – Top NYC Lobbyist Settles Ethics Case in de Blasio Fundraising Probe
New York Post – Carl Campanile | Published: 3/9/2021
Suri Kasirer, New York City’s top lobbyist, agreed to a $5,000 settlement with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) over her firm’s dealings with the non-profit group created to promote Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda. The settlement noted Kasirer assisted in raising money for the since defunct Campaign for One New York after the mayor personally asked her for assistance in raising funds for the group. The Lobbying Act prohibits lobbyists and their clients from giving gifts to a public official, which includes gifts to third parties on behalf of or at the behest of a public official. JCOPE investigated whether donations by individuals with business before the city were a gift to the mayor.
North Dakota – North Dakota House Expels Lawmaker Accused of Misconduct
Associated Press News – James MacPherson | Published: 3/5/2021
The North Dakota House voted to expel Rep. Luke Simons, who was accused of threatening and sexually harassing women at the Capitol, the first time in state history a lawmaker has been expelled. Simons is accused of a pattern of sexually aggressive, lewd, and threatening behavior. Rep. Emily O’Brien said his harassment was so pervasive that she switched desks to get away from him.
Ohio – 5 More Householder Campaign Finance Claims Referred in Ohio
Associated Press News – Julie Carr Smyth | Published: 3/5/2021
Ohio’s elections chief said he has amended his massive list of campaign finance violations against suspects in an alleged $60 million bribery scheme to include five additional allegations against former House Speaker Larry Householder. Secretary of State Frank LaRose said a routine examination of state filings by Householder showed five individuals exceeded legal giving limits between March 11, 2019, and January 15, 2020. Householder, who has been ousted as speaker but remains a state representative, and four others were arrested and indicted on federal racketeering charges for what has been called the biggest corruption scandal in state history.
Ohio – Bankruptcy Judge Questioned FirstEnergy Solutions’ Law Firm on a Draft Political Contributions Motion That Was Never Filed
Energy and Policy Institute – Dave Anderson | Published: 3/10/2021
Bankruptcy court records show lawyers for FirstEnergy Solutions (FES) drafted, but never filed, a motion seeking a judge’s approval to make political contributions shortly before the company gave $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association during the closing weeks of the 2018 elections. The $500,000 contribution represents nearly half of the over $1 million FirstEnergy has spent in support of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine since 2017. FirstEnergy’s financial support is one of several factors that has drawn DeWine into the scandal surrounding House Bill 6, which was set to deliver a $1 billion ratepayer bailout to two nuclear power plants then owned by FES before courts halted the payments.
Ohio – In Filing, FirstEnergy Said State Regulator Acted for the Company’s Benefit as a Result of $4.3 Million Payment
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/4/2021
A previously unnoticed disclosure by FirstEnergy Corp. sheds additional light on company’s view of the $4.3 million it paid to an unnamed state official shortly before that person took a job as a top utility regulator in Ohio. In legal disclosures, the utility said the payment to a consulting firm tied to that person led to “conduct corresponding to such payment,” and to that person “acting at the request or for the benefit of FirstEnergy as a consequence of receiving such payment.” The company said the payment led it to update its terms with its lenders on November 17. The day before, the FBI raided then-Public Utilities Commission Chairperson Sam Randazzo’s home. Randazzo quit on the day after FirstEnergy disclosed the payment.
Oregon – A Timber Lobbyist Called Our Investigation ‘Completely Bogus.’ We Have the Receipts to Show It’s Not
ProPublica – Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) and Tony Schick (Oregon Public Broadcasting) | Published: 3/8/2021
With the Oregon Legislature taking up bills to overhaul or eliminate the Oregon Forest Resources Institute after a media investigation, lobbyists have repeatedly attacked the reporting as incorrect. The institute is a quasi-governmental agency meant to promote forestry education. The investigation found the institute had acted as a de facto lobbying arm of the timber industry, in some cases skirting legal constraints that forbid it from doing so.
Oregon – Lobbyists Try for Influence, Without as Much Access to Oregon Lawmakers
Portland Oregonian – Jake Thomas (Salem Reporter) | Published: 3/3/2021
An impromptu five-minute conversation can be politically effective in the halls of the Oregon Capitol. Such encounters have long been crucial for the army of lobbyists hoping to get a moment with a state legislator. But that personal style of lobbying has been checked by the coronavirus pandemic. The Capitol has been closed since last March to the public and to lobbyists. Now, those representing everyone from acupuncturists to veterinarians must make do with text messages, emails, and video conferences. Now, lobbyists must book virtual meetings weeks in advance for conversations that would normally take five to 10 minutes.
South Carolina – SC Government Waste and Corruption Revelations Confront Culture Resistant to Change
Charleston Post and Courier – Tony Bartelme and Glenn Smith | Published: 3/7/2021
Media reports on gas authorities, fire districts, and other special-purpose districts in South Carolina that operate with little outside scrutiny led one agency to reconsider its spending practices. Gov. Henry McMaster and some lawmakers called for more scrutiny of special-purpose districts and a bill was filed to ratchet up ethics reporting requirements for these entities. Other agencies remain unmoved. Their leaders defend traveling with spouses to five-star resorts for “work retreats” – trips that involved just a handful of meetings but plenty of time for golf, and, in one case, glass-blowing lessons. Truly changing a public service culture that has operated for decades with loose restrictions will take time and effort, watchdogs caution.
Texas – Twitter Sues Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Asks Court to Halt His Investigation of the Social Media Company
Texas Tribune – Marissa Martinez | Published: 3/8/2021
Twitter filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in federal court and asked a judge to halt the state’s top lawyer from investigating the company. Twitter’s court filings include a request for a temporary restraining order that would keep Paxton and his office from enforcing a demand that seeks documents revealing the company’s internal decision-making processes for banning users, among other things. Paxton, a fervent supporter of former President Trump, sent the company a civil investigative demand after it banned Trump from its platform following January’s siege at the U.S. Capitol.
West Virginia – Ethics Commission Breaks Up County Prosecutor’s Hiring of Her Boyfriend
Charleston Gazette and Mail – Phil Kabler | Published: 3/4/2021
A county prosecutor violated the law by hiring her boyfriend as an assistant prosecutor, and must terminate his employment within 30 days, the West Virginia Ethics commission ruled. A key point in the decision was the prosecutor had failed to advertise the job opening but had reached out to local lawyers about the vacancy. The commission also concluded that an organization that lobbies the Legislature may recognize a lawmaker by making a charitable contribution in the legislator’s name to a local homeless shelter in excess of the $25 limit on gifts in the Ethics Act.
March 5, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 3/1/2021 President Biden and is under pressure to do more to restore confidence in the federal government following Donald Trump’s term in the White House. But […]
Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 3/1/2021
President Biden and is under pressure to do more to restore confidence in the federal government following Donald Trump’s term in the White House. But the schedules for the president and vice president are not posted online, the White House comment line is shut down, and there are no citizen petitions on the White House’s website. The administration has committed to releasing visitor logs. But it does not plan to divulge the names of attendees of virtual meetings, which are the primary mode of interaction until the pandemic eases. While Biden has received praise for keeping the American public informed, primarily by resuming the daily White House press briefings, he has yet to hold a news conference of his own.
Budget Nominee Tanden Withdraws Nomination Amid Opposition
Associated Press News – Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 3/2/2021
President Biden’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, has withdrawn her nomination after she faced opposition from key Democratic and Republican senators for her controversial tweets. Her withdrawal marks the first high-profile defeat of one of Biden’s nominees. The White House stuck with Tanden even after some centrist Republicans made their opposition known. Tanden faced pointed questions over her past comments about members from both parties during her confirmation hearing. Sen. Bernie Sanders accused her of issuing “vicious attacks” against progressives and had not said whether he’d support her nomination.
Capitol Riot Defendants Facing Jail Have Regrets. Judges Aren’t Buying It.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2021
As defendants charged in the Capitol siege have been coming through court, some have been shifting blame onto former President Trump, downplaying their actions, or expressing remorse. But federal judges, particularly those who work a few blocks from the Capitol, are not buying it. One judge called a defendant’s claim of civil disobedience “detached from reality.” Another verbally smacked down an attorney who tried to use the QAnon conspiracy theory to explain his client shouting “kill them all.” Other judges have been giving defendants civics lessons on how democracy works.
Elaine Chao Used DOT Staff to Aid Personal Errands, Father’s Business, Inspector Finds
Politico – Sam Mintz and Tanya Snyder | Published: 3/3/2021
Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao repeatedly used her staff and her position of power to boost the reputation of her shipping magnate father and otherwise aid her family, the Department of Transportation’s inspector concluded. The internal watchdog faulted Chao for four kinds of ethics violations, including planning to bring relatives on an official trip to China and requiring the department’s public affairs staff to help market a book written by her father. It found she also had employees handle personal errands such as shipping Christmas ornaments. Investigators referred their findings to the Justice Department for prosecution in December but it declined.
Ethics Watchdog: ‘Substantial’ evidence GOP lawmaker improperly spent funds, misused position to help brother
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 3/1/2021
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) concluded there is “substantial” evidence that U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo misused campaign as well as official funds and used his office to help his brother in violation of House rules. The OCE said it found evidence indicating Palazzo asked his House office staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands; and used his position as a member of Congress to contact the assistant secretary of the Navy to help his brother reenlist. The report said Palazzo charged his campaign committee rent for ostensibly using a riverfront home he owned as a headquarters, equal to the amount of his monthly mortgage, insurance, and tax payments “during a time of personal financial stress.”
Facebook Lifts Political Ad Ban
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 3/3/2021
Facebook lifted its ban on political ads, ending a self-imposed prohibition that began immediately after the 2020 general election and remained active for months. Facebook’s platform is one of the largest and most cost-effective ways for campaigns to reach voters and potential supporters. Digital strategists in both parties were critical of Facebook’s decision to cut off access to voters for the last several months, upending off-year campaign strategies.
HR 1 Overhaul Would Set New Holiday and New Rules for Lobbyists, Elections and Justices
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/3/2021
The U.S. House approved a sweeping political money, elections, influence, and ethics measure, but the bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. A hallmark of the package would set out an optional system to finance congressional campaigns with public money. It would provide a six-to-one match of small-dollar campaign donations. Under the legislation, all states would be required to send voters an application to cast their ballots by mail. Now, anyone who keeps their lobbying activities under 20 percent of their time for a client can remain under the public radar. HR 1 would take that threshold down to 10 percent.
‘It’s Donald Trump’s Party’: How the former president is building a political operation to cement his hold on the GOP
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2021
Any doubts about Donald Trump’s primacy in the Republican Party have been settled in recent weeks by the parade of petitioners he has welcomed to his Florida club. The party chairperson, the top two House Republicans, U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, and a coterie of other former aides and advisers have all made appearances at Mar-a-Lago, offering their counsel and seeking the favor of a former president who many believe controls the short-term fortunes of GOP candidates up and down the ballot and has made it clear he plans to use that power. Trump has started building his post-White House political operation and cementing his role as the party’s de facto leader.
Jim Jordan Under Scrutiny for Nearly $3 Million in Unreported Campaign Funds
Yahoo News – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 3/3/2021
The campaign committee for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan received ten notices from the FEC flagging discrepancies on its books totaling nearly $3 million dollars and dating back over two years. The campaign claims the errors slipped through the cracks amid a record fundraising surge, and it has more money on the books now, but experts say the dollar amount – errors totaling some $2.87 million – may trigger an FEC investigation. The errors also appear connected to newly developed, largely hidden payment systems in the murky world of Republican digital advertising, where vendors not only receive direct spending, but take cuts from fundraising as well.
Rep. Ronny Jackson Made Sexual Comments, Drank Alcohol and Took Ambien While Working as White House Physician, Pentagon Watchdog Finds
CNN – Manu Raju, Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen, and Oren Lieberman | Published: 3/3/2021
The Department of Defense inspector general’s office found U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip, and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted concerns from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care during his time serving as the top White House physician. The report notes the investigation into Jackson “was limited in scope and unproductive” as White House counsel under Donald Trump insisted on being present at all interviews of current White House Medical Unit employees, which had a “potential chilling effect” on the probe.
Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to Minorities
Anchorage Daily News – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court seemed inclined to make it more difficult to challenge widely used voting laws that in practice might be more of a burden to minority voters. The justices reviewed the protections provided by the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to forbid laws that result in discrimination based on race. The cases involve two voting regulations that are in common use across the country. One throws out the ballots of those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other restricts who may collect ballots cast early for delivery to polling places, a practice then-President Trump denounced as “ballot harvesting.” The greater impact will be the test the court develops for proving violations of the VRA, as new laws are proposed and state Legislatures begin redrawing congressional and legislative districts.
Canada – Ontario Law Would Restrict Election Spending by Third-Party Groups, Double Donation Limits for Individuals
Toronto Star – Robert Benzie | Published: 2/25/2021
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’ Progressive Conservatives have unveiled proposed campaign finance changes, doubling annual donation caps to $3,300, extending per-vote subsidies for political parties, and limiting PAC spending. Under legislation, advance polling days would also be increased from five to 10 to allow for safer voting in the COVID-19 era. Conservatives want to clamp down on PACs, such as the pro-Tory Ontario Proud and Working Families, which boosted the Liberals in past election campaigns. Such third-party advertising groups spent more than $5 million in the six months leading up to the June 2018 election.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Dark Money’ Is Still Trying to Influence Phoenix Elections Despite New Law. Here’s How.
MSN – Jen Fifield (Arizona Republic) | Published: 2/24/2021
Some Phoenix voters got the first deceitful political mailer from Americans for Progress nearly two weeks ago, and they just keep coming. The ads are seemingly attempting to trick voters in the progressive district into thinking Yassamin Ansari, a Democratic candidate for Phoenix City Council, is a Republican. But voters do not have a way of knowing who is sending them. Americans for Progress has yet to file a disclosure with the city. A new law was intended to stop these “dark money” ads from influencing city elections, but the group sending the ads remains shrouded in secrecy, even as voting for city council races is underway.
California – 5 Charged in SF Corruption Probe, Temporarily Barred from Receiving City Contracts
KPIX – Staff | Published: 3/2/2021
Five business executives linked to widespread corruption in San Francisco have been temporarily barred from doing business with the city. All five have been implicated in a federal investigation that began more than a year ago and centers around high-ranking city officials like former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and former Public Utilities Commission General Manger Harlan Kelly accepting gifts in exchange for help obtaining city contracts. The suspension orders are the first of their kind. A 2020 city law allows for city contractors who have been charged criminally, civilly, or administratively to be suspended from receiving public funds while the case against them is ongoing.
California – Ethics Commission Staff Were Told to Soften Their Advice on Gifts, Whistleblower Says
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 2/25/2021
Heather Holt, who was executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, told staffers at a 2018 meeting that a member of the city council had “threatened to cut the Ethics Commission’s budget if they did not give more permissive advice” on certain gift rules, according to an email written by Alexandria Latragna, the agency’s ethics program manager at the time. Latragna wrote Holt told commission staff that to maintain a good relationship with the council, they would need to be more “middle of the road” with the advice they gave on rules involving private events sponsored by lobbyists. David Tristan, who replaced Holt as executive director, issued a denial of the incident on her behalf.
California – Prosecutors Extract Pleas, $215 Million in Charter School Fraud Case
Voice of San Diego – Will Huntsberry | Published: 2/26/2021
The two ringleaders of an online charter school scam that raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Sean McManus and Jason Schrock, as well as nine other defendants, were charged in 2019 as part of a complicated scheme that involved enrolling fake students into their online charter schools and collecting public money for each student. As part of McManus and Schrock’s plea deal, they agreed to turn over all remaining cash and assets owned by A3 and its subsidiary companies. So far, that includes at least $215 million that will eventually make its way back into state coffers.
Colorado – Aurora Moves Forward Bills on Lobbying Disclosures, Sales Tax Exemptions on Menstrual Products
Aurora Sentinel – Grant Stringer | Published: 3/1/2021
The Aurora City Council gave first approval to a bill implementing strict lobbying disclosure requirements. The rules would require lobbyists to register their clients and income with the city, which would be made public to boost public trust in government, Councilperson Angela Lawson said. They would have to submit quarterly, detailed reports on their activities and financial motivations or face up to $2,500 fines per each charge.
Connecticut – Ex-State Employee Faces $5K Penalty for Using Work Computer, Email for Private Businesses
MSN – Russell Blair (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/2/2021
A former employee of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty after an investigation determined he used his state-issued computer, phone, and email address to run private businesses unrelated to his state job. Sean Condon used the state equipment to operate a retail men’s hair and skin care product business and an internet marketing business while on state time, according to a consent order he signed with the Office of State Ethics.
Florida – Legislating in the Time of COVID-19 Means Putting Protections Over Public Access
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas and Kirby Wilson (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/2/2021
Florida legislators opened their 60-day session this year trying to navigate a global pandemic and stay healthy enough to avoid disrupting their activities, access to elected government is limited. Gov. Ron DeSantis has not allowed the Capitol to be open to visitors and the public, even as he ordered all businesses to be open in Florida. Citizens are kept out of the buildings and at a distance, and the pandemic protocols set up by legislative leaders to allow the public to testify in person before committee hearings have proven cumbersome and technology challenged.
Florida – Wealthy Keys Enclave Received COVID Vaccines in January Before Much of the State
MSN – David Goodhue and Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/3/2021
As Florida’s eldest residents struggled to sign up to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, nearly all those aged 65 years and older in a wealthy gated enclave in the Florida Keys had been vaccinated by mid-January. The Ocean Reef Club is home to many wealthy donors to the Florida Republican Party and GOP candidates, including Gov. Ron DeSantis. In fact, the only people from Key Largo who gave to DeSantis’ political committee live in Ocean Reef. On February 25, one resident of Ocean Reef, Bruce Rauner, the former Republican governor of Illinois, donated $250,00 to DeSantis.
Illinois – Ex-Lawmaker’s Indictment Stems Partly from Secret ComEd Payments, Source Says
WBEZ – Dave McKinney, Tony Arnold, and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 2/25/2021
A newly filed federal tax-evasion indictment against a former member of ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s leadership team stems at least in part from secret payments for “government relations” work from Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). A source familiar with the probe said a six-count indictment against former state Rep. Edward Acevedo is a byproduct from the ongoing bribery investigation into ComEd’s Springfield lobbying practices. Federal charging documents against Acevedo and separate tax-evasion charges against his two sons do not make that connection clear. But the source said the case relates, in part, to unreported income originating from ComEd that Acevedo received from a company called Apex Strategy.
Illinois – Illinois Democrats Tap U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson to Succeed Michael Madigan as State Party Chair
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/3/2021
Illinois Democratic leaders selected U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly as their new state party chairperson and the successor to embattled former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who held the post for 23 years. The race was not without controversy. Outside attorneys for the state Democratic Party warned that Kelly, as a federal officeholder, would be prohibited from raising state money because Illinois fundraising rules are less strict than the federal rules that bind the member of Congress.
Illinois – Madigan Picks Another House Successor After Quickly Forcing Out His First Choice Over ‘Alleged Questionable Conduct’
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/25/2021
Angie Guerrero-Cuellar became the second replacement in four days for the Illinois House seat held by former Speaker Michael Madigan following a meeting of local ward and township committee members. Guerrero-Cuellar succeeds Madigan’s original hand-picked successor, Edward Guerra Kodatt, who resigned after the former speaker and Chicago Ald. Marty Quinn called on him to step down for unspecified “alleged questionable conduct.” The abrupt moves over the vacancy created by Madigan’s resignation were a sharp contrast to the hands-on, detail-oriented style the ex-speaker has displayed in running his ward and district office.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts Republican Nominated for Top Campaign Finance Job
Boston Herald – State House News Service | Published: 2/26/2021
The panel that has been searching for a new director for the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) was unanimous in its selection of Woburn City Clerk William Campbell to lead the agency. Secretary of State William Galvin mentioned talking with Campbell about the changing nature of campaigns and how the OCPF fits in. Campbell, if he accepts the job, would be the first new director since the retiring Michael Sullivan took charge of the agency about 27 years ago.
Michigan – Coronavirus Created ‘Perfect Storm’ That Rained Private Money on Michigan Election Administration
MSN – Gus Burns (MLive.com) | Published: 2/28/2021
The 474 local clerks’ offices in Michigan received millions of dollars from private nonprofits to administer the 2020 elections. Most spent grant funds on additional personnel needed to sort, verify, and count the influx of ballots that tripled for some offices due to relaxed absentee voting restrictions and a statewide push to promote remote voting. Some used their money for things like get-out-the-vote campaigns, ballot drop boxes, and in one case, a trailer that allowed city employees to travel to neighborhoods and deliver absentee ballots in person. Private money, usually reserved for politically motivated campaign efforts and ballot initiatives, has never entered Michigan elections this way, at the ground floor of democracy to pay for the mechanics.
Mississippi – Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 3/3/2021
Lawmakers defeated legislation that would have provided transparency around how Gov. Tate Reeves and future Mississippi governors raise and spend money on inauguration festivities. House Bill 109 said Reeves and future governor-elects would be required to reveal their inauguration financial information to the secretary of state’s office, similar to how politicians must publicly disclose information about their campaign funds. Governors and other top Mississippi politicians have long used 501(c)4 nonprofits to fund their inauguration ceremonies, parties, and transition expenses. Donors to those nonprofits can be kept secret.
Montana – Lawmaker Revives Proposal to Eliminate State’s Top Political Cop
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 2/25/2021
Rep. Derek Skees is reviving a proposal he brought four years earlier to eliminate Montana’s commissioner of political practices, the state’s enforcer of campaign finance and lobbying laws. Similar to legislation that passed the House in the 2017 session before stalling out in the Senate, House Bill 535 proposes shifting much of the office’s duties to the secretary of state, including receiving campaign statements and reports for candidates and political committees. Under the new bill, the secretary of state would also be responsible for receiving and investigating campaign finance and election complaints.
New Jersey – Firm Cited in Pay-to-Play Lawsuit Quits Job with N.J. Town
Newark Star Ledger – Bill Duhart (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/1/2021
A firm cited in a “pay-to-play” lawsuit resigned an appointment to a township government post days after it had been appointed for an additional year. Capehart Scatchard resigned its position as conflict counsel with Washington Township in Gloucester County after a pair of citizen watchdogs accused it of making campaign contributions to several elected township officials, including the mayor. The firms were then paid more than $17,500 for annual no-bid contracts, which is a violation of state “pay-to-play” laws, according to the suit.
New Mexico – Compromise Redistricting Bill Advances Unanimously from Senate Committee
New Mexico Political Report – Robert Nott (Santa Fe News Mexican) | Published: 3/2/2021
Lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee came to a quick compromise on a measure they hope will set New Mexico’s sometimes controversial redistricting process on a smooth path via an independent, bipartisan panel to redraw voting district boundaries. The bill calls for a seven-member panel and prohibits a majority of Democrats or Republicans and only requires the commission to come up with three plans for the Legislature to consider. There is no language in that would force the Legislature to accept any of the submitted plans.
New Mexico – Lobbyists Still Picking Up the Tab
Yahoo News – Dan McKay (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 2/28/2021
New Mexico lawmakers are conducting much of this year’s session online to limit the spread of COVID-19. Committee hearings have moved entirely to Zoom, and full meetings of the House and Senate are a mix of in-person and remote participation. The Capitol is closed, with only legislators, staff, and some media members allowed inside. But lobbyists are still finding ways to feed hungry lawmakers, sometimes in person.
New York – ‘Embarrassed’ Cuomo Apologizes but Won’t Resign Over Sexual Harassment Allegations
National Public Radio – Rachel Triesman | Published: 3/3/2021
In his first press briefing since three women came forward with claims of sexual harassment, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” but denied touching anyone inappropriately and said he would not resign. New York’s attorney general is investigating the allegations, which were raised by two former aides and a woman who met Cuomo at a wedding. Cuomo, who is facing mounting calls to resign, reiterated he will cooperate with that investigation, and asked New Yorkers to wait for the full report before forming an opinion.
New York – Trump’s Tax Returns Have Been Turned Over to Manhattan District Attorney
Seattle Times – Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/25/2021
The Manhattan district attorney’s office possesses former President Trump’s tax returns and a wealth of other financial data, records deemed central to prosecutors’ criminal investigation into Trump’s business activities. The transfer, involving millions of pages of documents spanning eight years, occurred within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court order rejecting Trump’s last-ditch bid to shield the information. Investigators are examining whether the values of certain properties in the Trump Organization’s portfolio were manipulated to gain tax advantages or favorable loans and insurance rates under false pretenses. They have asked specifically about the company’s methods of valuing its Manhattan assets for purposes of seeking loans.
North Carolina – Charlotte City Council Escapes Sanctions After Flurry of Ethics Complaints Ends Quietly
MSN – Alison Kuznitz (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 3/3/2021
Charlotte City Council members were cleared of any wrongdoing after a flurry of ethics complaints were filed against them in 2020. Although the findings clear any councilperson of direct violations of the city’s ethics guidelines, the review made several recommendations. In whole, the report appears to validate the council’s assertion that the frenzy of complaints –spurred on by an ethics policy that became “weaponized,” as council member Ed Driggs phrased it, by the public – were politically fueled and frivolous.
Oregon – A Decade After Oregon Cracked Down on Lobbyist Wining and Dining, Lawmakers Consider Loosening Limits
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 3/2/2021
Oregon lawmakers are considering whether to allow lobbyists to “wine and dine” them without limits, more than a decade after they clamped down on the practice with a broad ethics law. The Legislature passed the bill after members were embarrassed by media reports on how beer and wine distributors paid for lawmakers to travel to Hawaii. Oregon law now bars legislators and other public officials from accepting more than $50 per year from any entity that wants to influence a government decision. Sen. Fred Girod, chief sponsor of Senate Bill 463, said scrapping the limit would help nurture the types of relationships lawmakers need in the Capitol because people are better able to connect when they are sharing a meal or drinks.
Oregon – Oregon Voters Want to Limit Money in Politics, but Lawmakers Might Not Get There This Session
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/28/2021
Among the thousands of proposals Oregon lawmakers are considering this year, few have as clear-cut a mandate as capping campaign contributions. Voters overwhelmingly signaled their desire to clamp down on the state’s no-limits political money system in November, when they passed a constitutional amendment to allow donation limits. More than 1.7 million people voted for it, the most ever to support a ballot measure according to the secretary of state’s office. Yet it is far from clear that lawmakers will pass a law to cap donations during the five-month session that runs through June.
Pennsylvania – Good Government or ‘Gag’ Order? In Chesco, New Ethics Policy Muzzles County Workers
MSN – William Bender (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 3/1/2021
Included in Chester County’s new ethics policy is a strict confidentiality clause for many county employees that would essentially turn almost everything learned on the job into the equivalent of classified information, a clampdown that labor-law experts say could infringe on First Amendment rights and whistleblower protections. Employees are required to sign the policy by March 6. Those who violate it can face disciplinary action, including termination. County commissioners passed the ethics policy unanimously two months after a media report, which relied partially on leaked information, revealed major problems with the county’s COVID-19 antibody testing program, contradicting county officials who had publicly insisted it ran smoothly.
South Carolina – Ex-Candidate for SC Legislature Sues Opponent, Pollster and Journalist for Defamation
The State – David Weisman (Myrtle Beach Sun News) | Published: 2/25/2021
South Carolina Sen. Luke Rankin won a contentious reelection campaign during last year’s Republican primary, but that clash has been renewed in the court system after his former opponent filed a defamation suit. John Gallman filed the complaint against Rankin and a host of other entities and people, including an Horry County Council member, local reporter, and national pollster, alleging a coordinated conspiracy to spread defamatory accusations and confidential health records, along with violating campaign finance laws.
South Carolina – Some SC Lawmakers Think It’s Time to Allow More Money in State Campaigns, Not Less
Charleston Post and Courier – Schuyler Knopf | Published: 2/27/2021
At a time when the public mood says there is too much money in politics, some South Carolina lawmakers think it is time to push the donation ceiling higher. Three House Republicans are behind an effort to double the contribution limit an individual can give to their favorite politician for any office. State Rep. B. Newton said the issue comes down to inflation and the fact that South Carolina’s legislative districts, particularly the suburbs, have seen a population explosion in recent years.
Tennessee – Tennessee Regulators Revisit Complaints About Shadowy Campaign Group
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 3/2/2021
Tennessee regulators decided to revisit complaints regarding shadowy campaign activities surrounding a legislative race. The Registry of Election Finance plans to reconsider its decision last year to take no action on complaints filed against state Rep. Todd Warner and a group that called itself the Faith Family Freedom Fund. That same day, the Faith Family Freedom Fund filed paperwork to close out its PAC, raising questions about whether it might be trying to sidestep further scrutiny. All of this comes as an FBI investigation focuses on a number of individuals connected with those campaigns.
Washington – Washington State Accuses Google of Campaign Finance Violations
Courthouse News Service – Karina Brown | Published: 2/24/2021
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson again sued Google, alleging it has continued to flout state campaign finance law. The law requires publishers to keep records of who bought the political ads they run, and to make that information available within 24 hours of publishing to anyone requesting it. Ferguson sued Google in 2018, claiming the company did not maintain or make available the data. Google agreed to pay $217,000 to settle those claims and announced it would no longer run ads for state or local elections in Washington. But since then, 57 candidates and political committees have filed reports detailing 188 payments totaling over $460,000 to Google’s advertising networks, according to the latest lawsuit.
Washington DC – In Faraway State Houses, a Battle Brews Over Making D.C. the 51st State
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2021
Lawmakers in at least eight states have taken formal steps to support or oppose the District of Columbia becoming the 51st state, an unprecedented nationwide response to a once-fledgling movement now surging with momentum in Washington. The statehood bill sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton will be the subject of a House Oversight Committee on March 11. The bill has enough support to pass the House, but it is likely to face roadblocks in the narrowly divided Senate. In her three decades leading the cause, Norton said, she has never seen such a flurry of action from so many states at once. She was even pleased to see the anti-statehood resolutions.
February 26, 2021 •
National/Federal Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack Washington Post – Tory Newmyer | Published: 2/23/2021 The insurrection at the Capitol continues to reverberate for major corporations that make campaign contributions. Dozens of companies […]
Activist Shareholders Pressing Companies to Disclose More of Their Political Activity after Capitol Attack
Washington Post – Tory Newmyer | Published: 2/23/2021
The insurrection at the Capitol continues to reverberate for major corporations that make campaign contributions. Dozens of companies have frozen their giving – either across the board or limited to the 147 Republican lawmakers who opposed certifying President Biden’s electoral victory – and pledged to rethink how they participate in the process. But some left-leaning investors and clients are concerned corporate interests are simply waiting for the dust to settle before resuming contributions to Republicans, despite those lawmakers also championing positions on environmental and social matters the companies say they oppose. So, they are leveraging their commercial relationships with the companies to try to force them to act. JPMorgan’s resistance to the activist push typifies the corporate response so far.
Bloomberg’s 2020 Aides Got an Unwelcome Surprise in Their Tax Forms
Politico – Christopher Cadelago | Published: 2/23/2021
Nearly a year after Michael Bloomberg’s $1 billion presidential campaign ended, his staff members are still dealing with the aftershocks. Aides to the former Democratic candidate started receiving tax forms recently that in some cases list incomes that are tens of thousands of dollars more than they were compensated in salary. The added amounts account for paid housing and other benefits they received last year, but the price tag is coming to many as a surprise. Bloomberg representatives have assured some aides the additional taxes they now owe the government were taken care of by the campaign. A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said the aides were paid more during the campaign to account for the higher tax burden, though not all the ex-aides said they were aware of the arrangement at the time.
Cruz Returns from Cancun Amid Texas Crisis
Politico – Andrew Desiderio and Marianne Levine | Published: 2/18/2021
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was already treading on rough political terrain but then boarded a flight to Cancun during a natural disaster. The Texas Republican, condemned by opponents for objecting to November’s presidential election results even after rioters besieged the Capitol, fled his frozen home state for the Mexican resort city while Texans reeled from winter storms that have left millions without electricity and running water. Cruz took hours to acknowledge his trip as critics accused him of political malpractice at best and all-out negligence at worst.
Dominion Files Defamation Lawsuit Against MyPillow CEO Over False Claims Voting Machines Were Rigged Against Trump
Anchorage Daily News – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2021
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against MyPillow Chief Executive Officer Mike Lindell, accusing him of seeking to boost pillow sales by promoting false claims that Dominion’s voting machines were manipulated to rig the 2020 election against then-President Trump. In interviews and other public appearances, the lawsuit says, Lindell repeatedly spread those claims while viewers were urged to buy his products. His company has offered discounts to customers who use the promo codes “QAnon” and “FightforTrump,” according to the lawsuit.
Election Officials Defended the 2020 Vote. In 2022, They’ll Have to Defend Themselves.
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 2/23/2021
Campaigns for secretary of state are becoming the next major arena of nationwide political combat. Sitting secretaries and political groups are preparing for a flood of candidates, money, and attention into campaigns for the newly prominent positions in 2022. Voting rules have become a bigger cause for both political parties, while coronavirus-fueled election changes combined with Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories to turn secretaries of state into pivotal characters in last year’s presidential election. Twenty-six states will have secretary of state elections next year, including five of the 10 closest states in the 2020 presidential election.
Former Congressman Rivera Fined $456,000 for Propping Up a Ringer Candidate
Yahoo News – Alex Daugherty (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/23/2021
Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera was ordered to pay $456,000 to the FEC, which had sued him for secretly providing funds to a primary challenger of his eventual Democratic opponent in the 2012 election. The FEC accused Rivera of initiating the scheme when he directed an associate, Ana Sol Alliegro, to offer Justin Sternad, one of Garcia’s three primary challengers, financial support for his campaign. Sternad accepted the offer, and Alliegro spent the next few months transmitting funds to Sternad. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke described Rivera’s actions as “egregious,” adding that there was a chance his conduct would continue, noting he continued to run for office after the scheme.
Impeachment Is Over. But Other Efforts to Reckon with Trump’s Post-Election Chaos Have Just Begun.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 2/21/2021
Although Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on a charge his rhetoric incited the Capitol siege, public officials and private companies are pursuing a multi-front legal effort to hold him and his allies accountable in other ways. The actions target the former president and numerous others who indulged and echoed his falsehoods that President Biden did not win the election. The goal, according to those supportive of such efforts, is to mete out some form of punishment for those who helped undermine confidence in the election results and fueled the attack on the Capitol. They also hope to discourage other public officials from rerunning Trump’s strategy of attempting to overturn an election result by sowing doubt about the legitimacy of the vote.
Judges Order 2-Month Delay in Case to Compel McGahn Testimony to House
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 2/18/2021
The House’s effort to compel testimony from former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn will be delayed two months, a federal appeals court ordered, adopting a proposal by the Biden administration. The order makes it increasingly likely that a full two years will elapse without enforcement of the House’s April 2019 subpoena of McGahn to obtain his testimony about alleged efforts by former President Trump to obstruct special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The case has become a poster child of sorts for the courts’ inability to resolve congressional subpoena fights on a timeline that allows Congress to make practical use of the information.
K Street Eyes a Return of Earmarks to Boost Business
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 2/23/2021
Congressional earmarks practically built the modern lobbying business. And though the influence sector has endured a decade without them, the likely return of member-directed federal spending has sent cautious jubilation down K Street. With earmarks poised for a likely comeback during this Congress, lobbyists are eyeing new business opportunities. But they are not expecting it to be a return to K Street’s high-flying days, when lobbyists built empires out of the business of securing earmarks for clients. Lawmakers, if they do bring back the practice, are likely only to allow the federal dollars to go to nonprofit organizations and local governments. Still, lobbyists say even limited earmarks for nonprofits could spur new public-private partnerships, with businesses queuing up to collaborate on future projects.
Lauren Boebert’s Campaign Amends Reimbursement Report That Raised Red Flags
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 2/23/2021
U.S. Rep. Laura Boebert’s campaign acknowledged a prior campaign finance report, which raised ethical red flags and led to requests for an investigation, was inaccurate. Still, the campaign defended a large payment to Boebert. Media reports showed Boebert was paid more than $22,000 in mileage reimbursements from her campaign account, an unusually large amount that several ethics experts said raised questions. The amended report reiterating that Boebert received $21,200, but claiming it was a reimbursement for mileage, travel expenses, and hotel stays. Mileage accounted for $17,280 of the reimbursements, the campaign says.
‘Mercenary’ Donor Gets 12 Years in Campaign Finance Scheme
Associated Press News – Brian Melley, Alan Suderman, and Jim Mustain | Published: 2/18/2021
A once high-flying political fundraiser who prosecutors said gave illegal campaign contributions to Joe Biden, Lindsey Graham, and a host of other U.S. politicians was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Imaad Zuberi, who was accused of ingratiating himself with politicians in both major parties and peddling the resulting influence to foreign governments, pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and failing to register as a foreign agent. He also was ordered to pay nearly $16 million in restitution and a nearly $2 million fine. Federal prosecutors described Zuberi as a “mercenary” political donor who gave to anyone he thought could help him. Pay to play, he explained to clients, was just “how America works.”
State GOP Lawmakers Propose Flurry of Voting Restrictions to Placate Trump Supporters, Spurring Fears of a Backlash
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/19/2021
Republican state lawmakers across the country have proposed a flurry of voting restrictions they say are needed to restore confidence in U.S. elections, an effort intended to placate supporters of former President Trump who believe his false claims the 2020 outcome was rigged. But the effort is dividing Republicans, some of whom are warning it will tar the GOP as the party of voter suppression and give Democrats ammunition to mobilize their supporters ahead of the 2022 midterms.
Supreme Court Ends Trump’s Bid to Shield His Tax Returns and Effort to Challenge Election Losses
Seattle Times – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2021
Former President Trump received a dual defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court, a body he transformed with his appointments and one he had long hoped would be a last line of defense in his battles with Congress and Democrats. The court refused Trump’s last-chance efforts to shield his private financial records from Manhattan’s district attorney in one case and tossed out a slew of challenges to the presidential election and his loss to Joe Biden. Now, Trump faces unprecedented legal peril for a former president. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s criminal investigation of his business dealings in New York will accelerate and broaden and Trump faces scrutiny in Georgia for his efforts to subvert the election results there.
This Congress Is the Most Diverse Ever. But Hill Staffers Remain Overwhelmingly White.
Politico – Maya King | Published: 2/23/2021
The 117th Congress is the most diverse ever, with the largest representation of racial and ethnic groups in history, a 97 percent increase over the last 10 Congresses. But among Capitol Hill staff, the people who really run Congress on a working level. There is a dearth of diversity. Despite efforts to diversify over the last several years, the racial makeup of House and Senate staffs do not align with their districts and voting bases. Among top-level staffers, the lack of diversity is most striking: there is only one Black chief of staff in the Senate and only four Latinos. If staffers do not represent the communities they are meant to serve, advocates say, it undermines lawmakers’ attempts to solve the issues unique to those communities.
U.S. Investigating Possible Ties Between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol Rioters
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2021
The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating whether high-profile right-wing figures, including Roger Stone and Alex Jones, may have played a role in the Capitol breach as part of a broader look into the mind-set of those who committed violence and their apparent paths to radicalization, according to people familiar with the investigation. Officials at this stage said they are principally seeking to understand what the rioters were thinking, and who may have influenced beliefs, which could be critical to showing their intentions at trial. Investigators also want to determine whether anyone who influenced them bears enough responsibility to justify potential criminal charges.
Why State Legislatures Are Still Very White – and Very Male
Politico – Renuka Rayasam, Nolan McCaskill, Beatrice Jin, and Allan James Vestal | Published: 2/22/2021
State Legislatures around the country have made little progress in diversifying their ranks during the last decade, with many states losing ground in boosting the representation of people of color and white women. Even as the share of nonwhite Americans has grown, an analysis finds most state Legislatures are lacking in diversity, with nearly every state failing to achieve racial and gender parity with their own population data. Despite efforts to diversify politics, progress in statehouses remains slow and halting. That is in contrast to the U.S. House, where historically underrepresented groups, including women and people of color, are serving in record numbers.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Former Birmingham Water Works Contractors Plead Guilty to Felony Ethics Charges
AL.com – Carol Robinson | Published: 2/19/2021
Two former contractors with the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) pleaded guilty to felony ethics charges. Jerry DeWayne Jones and Terry Lee Williams are now convicted of offering or giving anything to a public official for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action. Jones, Williams, and former BWWB Chairperson Sherry Lewis were indicted on the state charges. Lewis was charged with using her position for personal gain, or for the gain of a family member, and voting on matters in which she or her family members had financial interest. Jones and Williams were charged with of aiding and abetting Lewis in committing those crimes, with offering her money and other items for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action.
Alaska – Alaskans Were Left in the Dark as Money Poured into Elections Last Year. Now, That’s Changing.
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 2/17/2021
Groups on both sides of last year’s battle for control of the Alaska Legislature spent substantial amounts of money from entities that do not disclose their donors before the election — or at all. But starting this year, that practice will be banned. An initiative approved in November requires groups trying to influence the election of candidates to disclose the “true source” of all their donations greater than $2,000.
Florida – Florida County Rejects Governor’s Order to Lower Flags in Memory of Rush Limbaugh
Anchorage Daily News – Terry Spencer and Bobby Caina Calvan (Associated Press) | Published: 2/24/2021
Palm Beach County defied Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by refusing to lower its courthouse flags to half-staff in honor of the late conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. The governor also ordered the town of Palm Beach and the Capitol in Tallahassee to fly their flags at half-staff. Those flags were lowered. “… Although Rush Limbaugh was a significant public figure, he was also an incredibly divisive one who hurt many people with his words and actions,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said on Twitter.
Florida – Local Players Retain Influence Under St. Petersburg’s Campaign Finance Rules
MSN – Josh Solomon (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 2/24/2021
The St. Petersburg City Council passed a campaign finance ordinance to guard against attempted corporate takeover of local affairs. Although the ordinance sets disclosure requirements and spending limits to thwart the multi-million-dollar campaigns bankrolled by deep-pocketed companies, it did nothing to prohibit the long-running practice of local players, some who do regular business before the city, asserting outsized influence in city elections. Now, what the 2017 ordinance did and did not do is taking center stage in the mayoral race.
Illinois – Embattled Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Steps Down as State Democratic Party Chair
Yahoo News – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/22/2021
Former longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan resigned as chairperson of the state Democratic Party. Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, previously the Democratic vice chair, will take over on an interim basis. Madigan’s resignation as the head of the state party, a post he has held since 1998, completes the swift downfall that began when fellow House Democrats deposed him as speaker after he held the gavel for nearly four decades. He resigned his seat as state representative.
Illinois – Ex-Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios Pays $100,000 to Settle Ethics Case
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 2/18/2021
Former Cook County Democratic boss Joe Berrios agreed to pay $100,000 to end two ethics cases against him that he had been fighting since he was the county’s assessor. But the six-figure settlement represents a discount for Berrios from the $168,000 in fines the county’s Board of Ethics levelled against him three years ago for violations of rules intended to encourage honest government in the notoriously corrupt county. The deal avoids additional expenses that could have been incurred in trying to pry the full judgment from Berrios, ethics board Chairperson Thomas Szromba said.
Illinois – Michael Madigan Resigns from Illinois House After Being Ousted as Speaker
MSN – Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/18/2021
Michael Madigan, who set much of Illinois’ political agenda for four decades, resigned his seat in the Legislature a little more than a month after he was deposed by fellow Democrats as the nation’s longest-serving statehouse speaker. Madigan saw his power ebb in recent years when sexual harassment issues came to light in his political and governmental operation. His hold on power took another hit when Commonwealth Edison agreed to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with federal prosecutors in acknowledging its part in a near decade-long bribery scheme, seeking to win Madigan’s favor on legislation by giving jobs and contracts to his allies.
Indiana – Indiana Attorney General Keeps Job with Health Benefits Firm
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/17/2021
Indiana’s newly elected attorney general says state ethics officials have cleared his ongoing role with a health benefits consulting firm in which he has an ownership stake, but he has declined to release that opinion. Todd Rokita began his term as state government’s top lawyer in early January while still working for Apex Benefits, a company he joined as an executive in 2019. Attorney general’s office spokesperson Lauren Houck said Rokita is working with Apex “in a limited capacity” as a strategic policy adviser and remains a director or executive board member with other businesses.
Indiana – Mowery Drops Out of Marion County GOP Race Following IndyStar Report
MSN – Amelia Pak-Harvey (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 2/24/2021
Cindy Mowery, a candidate for the Marion County Republican chair position, dropped out of the race a day after The Indianapolis Star reported state lawmakers were trying to overturn an ethics ordinance that currently bars her from holding the job. A bill would void an Indianapolis ethics ordinance that would forbid a county chair from doing business with the city. Mowery serves as the Republican appointee of the Voter Registration Board, one of several appointments made by the county party chair and the only one that carries a salary.
Massachusetts – Ex-Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Illegal Use of Campaign Funds
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/24/2021
Former Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle pleaded guilty in federal court to a series of charges including illegally using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses. He also pleaded guilty to defrauding a bank to obtain loans to purchase his home and repay personal debts and to collecting income he failed to report to the IRS. Nangle was heavily in debt and gambled extensively at casinos and online and used thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for expenses like dues at a local golf club, rental cars to travel to casinos, and flowers for his girlfriend. Nangle had served as a member of the House Committee on Ethics.
Michigan – Elected Officials in Michigan Would Disclose Financial Records in New House Bill
MLive.com – Samuel Dodge | Published: 2/23/2021
Michigan lawmakers are reengaging on an effort to mandate elected officials to fill out financial disclosure forms. Michigan is one of two states, and the only one with a full-time Legislature, with no requirement for state public officials to disclose basic financial information, including income sources, business investments, gifts, and travel compensation. Michigan ranked last in the Center for Public Integrity’s 2015 State Integrity Investigation, which documented several facets of each state’s transparency laws.
New York – Former Aide Says Cuomo Kissed Her, Suggested Strip Poker
Associated Press News – Marina Villeneuve | Published: 2/24/2021
A former member of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration who previously accused him of sexual harassment offered new details, saying he once kissed her on the lips without consent after a private meeting. Lindsey Boylan said during her more than three years working as an economic adviser in the administration, Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” compared her to one of his rumored ex-girlfriends and once joked they should play strip poker. Cuomo spokesperson Caitlin Girouard said all of Boylan’s “claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.”
New York – Jimmy Van Bramer Swore Off Special Interest Cash While Money Flowed to Husband’s Film
New York Post – Jon Levine | Published: 2/20/2021
While New York City Councilperson Jimmy Van Bramer may have sworn off special interest cash, the same has not been true for his husband, author and documentary filmmaker Dan Hendrick. His 2017 documentary “Saving Jamaica Bay” was largely financed with money from lobbyists and big real estate interests the council member swore to avoid. Van Bramer vowed in 2009 he would never accept campaign donations from lobbyists.
North Carolina – NC Lieutenant Governor Staff Calls Campaign Finance Report Errors ‘Clerical’
MSN – Danielle Battaglia (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 2/22/2021
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s campaign report does not explain why $186 worth of medical bills were campaign-related, or why he bought “campaign clothes and accessories” for $2,840 with the majority being spent at a sporting goods store. It also does not explain why his wife needed to be reimbursed $4,500 for campaign clothing or how and where she spent the money. A complaint asks the State Board of Elections to investigate Robinson’s spending. Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said it is unclear why Robinson needed clothing for his campaign from Lake Gaston Outfitters, a store that specializes in hiking, canoeing, and cycling gear.
Ohio – Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson Indicted on Federal Conspiracy Charges Involving Reimbursements from City
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 2/23/2021
Cleveland City Councilperson Kenneth Johnson was arrested, accused of fleecing the city out of more than $127,000 by submitting false monthly expense reports over the course of several years. A federal grand jury indicted Johnson on 15 charges, including conspiracy to commit theft from a federal program, aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, tampering with a witness, and falsification of records during a federal investigation. Johnson’s longtime aide, Garnell Jamison, was indicted on the same charges. The indictment alleges many of the charges stem from Johnson requesting the maximum amount of monthly reimbursement, $1,200, from council for services that were never performed.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Halts Political Contributions, Limits Lobbying as Part of Householder Investigation, Utility Says
MSN – Jim Mackinnon (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 2/18/2021
FirstEnergy has stopped making political contributions and will no longer donate to 501(c)(4) organizations, said Steven Strah, president and acting chief executive officer of the company. He said lobbying will be “much more limited” compared to past practice and the utility will provide more disclosure on its lobbying activities. FirstEnergy is caught up in federal and state bribery and racketeering investigations involving former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others over the passage and support of House Bill 6. The bill, now law, provided more than $1 billion in subsidies to nuclear plants now owned and operated by Energy Harbor, a former FirstEnergy subsidiary.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Facing Harassment Allegations, Risk of Expulsion, Resigns
Center Square – Tim Gruver | Published: 2/22/2021
State Rep. Diego Hernandez resigned his Oregon House seat days before his peers were set to hold a historic vote on his expulsion over a string of harassment allegations after a nine-month investigation into his past conduct with five women who worked with and around him at the Capitol. A report commissioned by the Legislative Equity Office substantiated that Hernandez harassed, intimidated, and threatened four of the five women interviewed by investigators. The House Conduct Committee concluded Hernandez’s behavior with three of the women violated the Legislature’s rule related to maintaining a safe workplace.
Pennsylvania – Voters May Never Again Get to Choose Pa.’s Lieutenant Governor Candidates
MSN – Cynthia Fernandez (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 2/23/2021
The Pennsylvania Senate is advancing a measure that would give the state’s political parties final say over candidates for lieutenant governor, taking power away from voters. It is a necessary change to a process that has not always resulted in the best partnerships, Democratic and Republican lawmakers say. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow a gubernatorial candidate to choose a running mate after the spring primary, subject to approval from their party’s state committee. Now, voters choose candidates for lieutenant governor during closed, statewide primaries. The winner appears with the pick for governor on the general election ballot as a packaged deal.
South Carolina – Can SC School Board Member Still Have Say in $23M Project? What Ethics Commission Says
MSN – Bristow Marchant (The State) | Published: 2/24/2021
A Midlands-area school board member will not be allowed to visit a school construction site while he is recused himself from being involved with the project. An advisory opinion issued by the South Carolina Ethics Commission says Ken Loveless is prohibited from visiting the Piney Woods Elementary School site or reviewing work related to the project. Loveless agreed to recuse himself because of a business tie with Contract Construction, the main contractor on the $23 million project. Loveless’ company is a subcontractor with Contract Construction on a separate project, a new lab for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
South Dakota – South Dakota’s AG Charged with 3 Misdemeanors in Fatal Crash
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 2/18/2021
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors for striking and killing a man with his car last summer, avoiding more serious felony charges in a case that raised questions about how the state’s top law enforcement official first reported the crash. Ravnsborg could face up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine on each charge: careless driving, driving out of his lane, and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone. Ravnsborg initially told authorities he thought he had struck a deer or another large animal as he drove home from a Republican fundraiser.
Tennessee – Registry of Election Finance Changes Unlikely Amid FBI Probe
Patch – Sam Stockard (Tennessee Lookout) | Published: 2/17/2021
With an FBI investigation hanging over the state Legislature, changes are improbable in the makeup of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. An idea to merge the Registry of Election Finance and Ethics Commission into one eight-member body is being floated in the Legislature. But it will meet resistance from key lawmakers and members of those panels. Tom Lawless, who chaired the Registry board for the past year, said instead of structural changes, the Registry needs more money to hire outside auditors to check into legislators’ campaign finances when they violate the rules. A modern reporting system is needed, as well, to simplify the process for candidates, Lawless said.
Texas – Texas Governor’s Biggest Donors: Energy industry that failed
Associated Press News – Paul Weber and Nomaan Merchant | Published: 2/19/2021
As frozen Texas reels under one of the worst electricity outages in U.S. history, Gov. Greg Abbott has blamed grid operators and iced-over wind turbines but gone easier on another culprit: an oil and gas industry that is the state’s dominant business and his biggest political contributor. Oil and gas built and enriched Texas, and with that its politicians, including those who became president. But none has reaped campaign contributions on the scale of Abbott, who has raised more than $150 million from donors.
Utah – Utah House Lawmakers Kill Campaign Finance Disclosure Bill
MSN – Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 2/24/2021
A campaign finance reform bill died in the Utah House by a narrow vote, though few lawmakers spoke up during debate to voice concerns with the measure. Senate Bill 92 would have called on candidates to sort their campaign expenses into predetermined categories as a way of increasing transparency in political spending. While state law already requires candidates to list the reason for their expenditures, Rep. Norm Thurston told the House, “there’s incredible variety in how people report that, a lot of creative reporting.”
Virginia – Senate Spikes Bill to Rein in Personal Use of Campaign Cash
Associated Press News – Sarah Rankin | Published: 2/23/2021
The Virginia Senate effectively killed a measure that would have prevented politicians from putting campaign funds toward personal uses, with an exception for childcare-related expenses. Virginia has one of the least restrictive and policed campaign finance systems in the country and is an outlier in the nation for not already having such a ban. But state lawmakers, who insist they want to work on the issue, have repeatedly balked in recent years at making a change.
Washington – WA Supreme Court Throws Out Think Tank’s Attack on Union Political Activity
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 2/23/2021
The Freedom Foundation failed to meet a deadline in several campaign finance lawsuits it brought against unions, the Washington Supreme Court ruled. The conservative think tank alleged the unions had violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act by not reporting money spent on political activity. After the government did not take enforcement action, the Freedom Foundation filed so-called citizen actions, in Superior Court, but not within a deadline required by state law at the time, a majority of the state’s high court ruled.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Wildlife Officials Ate $20,000 of Illegal Caviar, Prosecutors Say. Now the ‘Sturgeon General’ Faces Charges.
MSN – Antonia Noori Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2021
Some Wisconsin wildlife officials allegedly dined like oligarchs, feasting on tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of caviar and passing around jars of the prized delicacy at team meetings. Meanwhile, some of their colleagues were working undercover to expose the scheme. The investigation resulted in the arrest of the state’s top sturgeon expert, Ryan Koenigs, nicknamed the “sturgeon general” by local television stations, allegedly obtained at least $20,000 worth of caviar in a single year while holding down a post as a biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He faces charges of misdemeanor theft for illegally trading sturgeon eggs, as well as obstructing an investigation by a conservation warden.
February 19, 2021 •
National/Federal A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back. MSN – Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021 Conservative political donor Fred Eshelman gave $2 million to a nonprofit […]
A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back.
MSN – Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021
Conservative political donor Fred Eshelman gave $2 million to a nonprofit group in Texas that was seeking to expose voter fraud. Over the next two weeks, Eshelman came to regret his contribution and to doubt conspiracy theories of rampant illegal voting. Now, he wants his money back. The story behind the Eshelman contribution provides new insights into the frenetic days after the election, when baseless claims led donors to give hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse President Biden’s victory. Documents in Eshelman’s litigation, along with interviews, show how True the Vote’s private assurances it was on the cusp of revealing illegal election schemes repeatedly fizzled as the group’s focus shifted from one allegation to the next.
Adam Kinzinger’s Lonely Mission
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 2/15/2021
As the Republican Party censures, condemns, and seeks to purge leaders who are not in lock step with Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger stands as enemy number one – unwelcome not just in his party but also in his own family, some of whom recently disowned him. Kinzinger is at the forefront of the effort to navigate post-Trump politics. He is betting his political career, professional relationships, and kinship with a wing of his sprawling family that his party’s future lies in disavowing Trump and the conspiracy theories the former president stoked.
Biden’s New VA Chief Inherits Oversight Office from Trump Viewed as Abetting Corruption
MSN – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/17/2021
The Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) was created by former President Trump to root out waste and corruption in Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) top ranks. But to many in the department, the veterans community, and both parties in Congress, the unusual program created to stop corruption has only carried out more of it. Trump appointees cycled in and out of leadership roles, hiring unqualified friends, and producing substandard inquiries of senior leaders’ misconduct, the VA’s inspector general found. Two of three directors in four years had no investigative background. Instead of acknowledgment, whistleblowers faced reprisal.
Census Delays Could Squeeze Courts’ Review of House Maps
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 2/12/2021
States will not get the key data to draw new congressional and legislative maps until September, the Census Bureau said, setting up a race to draw new maps and fight over them in court before the 2022 midterms. The latest delay could make it difficult for states to redraw congressional district lines before next year’s elections and leave little time for the expected court fights to play out, experts said. The Census Bureau has run into problems with finalizing census data after the coronavirus pandemic and decisions by the Trump administration hampered last year’s count.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Resigns Amid Fallout from Contentious Phone Call with Reporter
MSN – Ashley Parker and Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2021
Deputy White House press secretary TJ Ducklo resigned amid fallout from a contentious phone call in which he berated and threatened a female reporter who was working on a story about a potential conflict-of-interest stemming from his personal life. After details from the phone call emerged in news reports, the White House found itself grappling with its first major test of President Biden’s promise to take seriously claims of abusive language and behavior, as well as to drastically shift the tone and culture of government after former President Trump.
Eroding Trust, Spreading Fear: The historical ties between pandemics and extremism
MSN – Marc Fisher (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021
Since ancient times, pandemics have spurred sharp turns in political beliefs, spawning extremist movements, waves of mistrust, and wholesale rejection of authorities. Nearly a year into the coronavirus crisis, Americans are falling prey to the same phenomenon, historians, theologians, and other experts say. New insecurities and fears loosed by the pandemic fed into an existing erosion of trust in leaders and institutions, according to those who have studied how people react to rampant, uncontrolled disease. Some of these insecurities predated the pandemic: many of those arrested in the Capitol riot owned businesses or worked white-collar jobs. But many got involved in politics only after virus-related shutdowns hit their personal finances.
House Homeland Security Chairman Sues Trump and Giuliani, Accusing Them of Inciting Capitol Riot
MSN – Spener Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2021
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairperson of the House Homeland Security Committee filed a federal lawsuit accusing former President Trump, attorney Rudolph Giuliani, and two extremist groups whose members have been charged in the January 6 storming of the Capitol with illegally conspiring to intimidate and block Congress’s certification of the 2020 election. Thompson alleged Trump and Giuliani’s false claims the election was stolen fomented a raid that violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 law enacted after the Civil War to bar violent interference in Congress’s constitutional duties.
Lincoln Project Co-Founder Reed Galen Ran Little Known Dark Money Group as Super PAC’s Dealings Face Scrutiny
CNBC – Brian Scwartz | Published: 2/16/2021
As co-founders of the Lincoln Project were making millions of dollars from a super PAC they ran, one of them, Reed Galen, launched a “dark money” organization that may have enriched him and his allies even further. The group, Project Yellowstone, says it is a 501(c)(4) that was created to educate voters on how to vote in person or by mail in the 2020 presidential election campaign. Documents show the Lincoln Project and Project Yellowstone were directly linked. Although this partnership is not illegal, the arrangement could have allowed behind the scenes payments to firms with ties to the super PAC’s leadership or other vendors that often did work with the Lincoln Project.
Loneliest Class in Congress Wonders How to Make Friends
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 2/10/2021
An axiom that rings true on Capitol Hill is that it is all about who you know, even right now. This might just be the loneliest Congress in memory, but Congress is still about relationships. As roughly five dozen new lawmakers enter their second month in office and try to settle into the House, they are asking what it means for the future. Untangling the mess of their early months in Congress will be an ongoing task for freshman lawmakers, as they figure out what is new because of the pandemic, what is new because of the insurrection, and what is not new at all but just part of the same old partisan in Washington.
Now Out of Office, Trump May Have to Face Tax Questions
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell, David Fahrenthold, and Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2021
When former President Trump returns to his business, he will face some challenges, such as declining real estate income and investigations from New York authorities. But he may also have to finally face two tax issues that have been simmering in the background, either of which experts say could carry significant consequences should they materialize now that he is out of office. Experts say legal and administrative authorities are more likely to address Trump’s tax issues now that he is a private citizen, even as Biden administration officials debate how much to hold Trump accountable for past actions while also trying to move the country forward.
Trump Acquitted on Impeachment Charge of Inciting Deadly Attack on the Capitol
MSN – Amy Gardner, Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2021
Former President Trump was acquitted of inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol, becoming the first president in U.S. history to face a second impeachment trial, and surviving it in part because of his continuing hold on the Republican Party despite his electoral defeat in November. That grip appeared to loosen slightly during the vote, when seven Republicans crossed party lines to vote for conviction – a sign of the rift the Capitol siege has caused within GOP ranks and the desire by some in the party to move on from Trump. Still, the vote, in which all Democrats and two independents voted against Trump, fell far short of the two-thirds required to convict.
Trump Left Behind a Clemency Mess. The Clock’s Ticking for Biden to Solve It.
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 2/11/2021
When Joe Biden took office, he inherited the largest backlog of unresolved clemency cases in U.S. history: 14,000 people waiting to find out if their convictions would be erased or sentences reduced, or if they would get any answer at all. Many of those have languished in the system for years after former President Trump largely bypassed the century-old process for reviewing cases and instead granted pardons based on advice from politically connected friends, lobbyists, and television celebrities. Biden’s White House counsel’s office has started to reach out to attorneys and advocates for suggestions on reforms, what could be done about the backlog, and mistakes they believe were made in previous administrations.
Canada – Democracy Watch Asks Ontario Court to Stop ‘Biased’ Watchdog from Letting PC Insiders Lobby
HuffPost – Emma Paling | Published: 2/10/2021
Advocacy group Democracy Watch is asking a court to overturn three decisions by Ontario Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, arguing he allows unethical lobbying by connections to Premier Doug Ford and his ministers. The commissioner’s annual reports, which describe his decisions, do not name the lobbyists or politicians he has investigated for breaking the rules. But the decisions being challenged were all issued in 2019 and 2020, meaning they apply to members of the Provincial Parliament elected when Ford’s Progressive Conservatives took power in 2018.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Panel Votes to Boost Unlawful Protest Penalties
Associated Press News – Jonathan Cooper | Published: 2/16/2021
Arizona lawmakers are considering boosting penalties for people arrested at protests, drawing opposition from civil rights groups worried that officers will target Black Lives Matter demonstrators or others with messages police find distasteful. A measure approved by a House committee is among several bills advancing in the Republican-controlled Legislature in the wake of demonstrations against police brutality last year. Critics say the measures would be selectively enforced by overzealous police and prosecutors and would discourage people from exercising their First Amendment right to protest.
Arizona – Ethics Chair Dismisses 82 Complaints vs. Finchem, Won’t Investigate His Capitol Rally Role
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/12/2021
The head of the House Ethics Committee is dismissing all 82 complaints against Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem. Rep. Becky Nutt said none of the allegations against Finchem back up the contention he “supported the violent overthrow of our government” or he directly participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Finchem was at the rally, and he posted a photo on Twitter taken once the mob had reached the Capitol, Rep. César Chávez said in his complaint. But there is no evidence he entered the building and that became a crucial point in the decision to dismiss the case without demanding a response from Finchem and without investigating further, Nutt said.
California – L.A. Ethics Commission Issues Five Fines for Failure to Register as Lobbyists
MyNewsLA.com – Staff | Published: 2/16/2021
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission issued five fines totaling $162,500 to companies and people who failed to register as lobbyists. Velada Consulting and its owner David Vela were fined $7,500 after admitting they failed to register as lobbying entities in 2020 and failed to file a disclosure report for 2020’s second quarter. The four other fines were issued for Craig Fry & Associates and three of its employees.
California – San Francisco Contractor Gets 1 Year in Prison for Bribery
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 2/11/2021
Businessperson Florence Kong was sentenced to one year in prison for bribing a San Francisco official, marking the first criminal penalty handed down in a City Hall corruption probe. Kong pleaded guilty to giving $95,000 and a gold Rolex watch to former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru in exchange for help obtaining lucrative business from the city. Prosecutors said that in addition to the watch, Kong plied Nuru with expensive meals, an envelope of cash for his daughter at her graduation party, and work on his vacation home.
Colorado – The Colorado Capitol’s Hallways Are Where Dealmaking Happens. Coronavirus Has Emptied Them.
Colorado Sun – Jessie Paul and Thy Vo | Published: 2/17/2021
Lawmakers, legislative staff, and journalists in Colorado were granted access to COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the resumption of the legislative session. Lobbyists were not. As a result, many of them are trying to limit their time in the once-bustling statehouse, even if there is nothing stopping them from being in the building. That means informal conversations and meetings, where a lot of important policies get ironed out, will likely happen infrequently this year. State lawmakers are aware of the access problems lobbyists and members of the public will have, but they are mostly brushing off the concerns and chalking them up to the myriad of changes people have had to endure during the pandemic.
Florida – State Finds No Sunshine Law Violations in Orlando Airport Probe but Details Behind-the-Scenes Maneuvering
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia and Kevin Spear | Published: 2/12/2021
A 16-month probe into a failed attempt to hand out no-bid contracts at Orlando International Airport found no laws were broken but revealed how a lobbyist and airport leaders worked behind the scenes to back a deal that ultimately erupted in controversy. Investigators found three of the seven members on the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s governing board met separately with lobbyist Chris Dorworth in the days leading up to an August 2019 board meeting to discuss an unadvertised plan to steer important legal contracts to a pair of local attorneys. But investigators said there was no evidence any those board members communicated directly with each other or instructed Dorworth to do so on their behalf.
Florida – Voting by Mail in Florida Was a Success, So Why Do Legislators Want to Make It Harder?
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/16/2021
Senate Republicans agreed Florida’s vote-by-mail process worked smoothly in the last election cycle but still needed a change. After a record 4.8 million Floridians voted by mail in November, the Ethics and Elections Committee approved Senate Bill 90 along party lines to limit vote-by-mail applications to one election cycle and require everyone who signed up for mail ballots in 2020 to reapply to get them in 2022. Current law allows voters who ask for a mail-in ballot to have their request remain current for two general election cycles unless they opt out.
Georgia – Graham’s Post-Election Call with Raffensperger Will Be Scrutinized in Georgia Probe, Person Familiar with Inquiry Says
MSN – Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/12/2021
An Atlanta-area prosecutor plans to scrutinize a post-Election Day phone call between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as part of a criminal investigation into whether former President Trump or his allies broke the law while trying to reverse his defeat in the state, according to a person familiar with the probe. During their conversation, Graham asked the secretary of state whether he had the power to toss out all mail ballots in certain counties, Raffensperger said. He said Graham appeared to be asking him to improperly find a way to set aside legally cast ballots. Graham denied that, saying he was seeking information to better understand how the state verified mail ballots.
Indiana – More Vinyl Villages? Lawmaker Who Builds Homes Pushes Bill to Eliminate Housing Standards
South Bend Tribune – Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 2/11/2021
An Indiana lawmaker who builds homes is the sole author on a bill to ban community architecture design requirements, a proposal that could save him and others in his profession thousands of dollars. Ethics experts say Rep. Doug Miller’s involvement in the bill is inappropriate because of his ownership of development company Tailor Made Homes and his role on the board of directors for the National Association of Homebuilders. He also chairs the House committee that passed the legislation, giving him control of that process.
Maryland – Former State Investigator Questions Payment from Marilyn Mosby Election Committee to Her Private Lawyers
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 2/16/2021
The former political-corruption investigator for Maryland asked the state prosecutor to investigate a $3,250 payment made by the election campaign of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to her personal lawyers. In an email to the state prosecutor, James Cabezas wrote that the payment is not allowed under the law. The payment went to the law firm of Kramon & Graham. Andrew Graham is one of the top attorneys in Maryland for lawyers and judges facing ethical or legal issues. Mosby hired the firm as her personal lawyers to represent her during a seven-month investigation by the city inspector general into her travel, gifts, and businesses.
Montana – Gianforte Repeals Directives Made by Former Governor
Associated Press News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 2/12/2021
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte repealed two executive orders issued by former Gov. Steve Bullock. One required companies to report political spending if they wanted to bid on large state contracts and the second allowed counties to decide if they wanted to hold the November 2020 general election mostly by mail. Bullock’s political spending order required companies bidding for certain state contracts to disclose political donations made within 60 days of an election. Opponents argued it violated companies’ First Amendment rights and raised the possibility that a company’s donations could lead to retaliation.
Nevada – Group of Conservative Activists Sue State, Legislature Over Closure of Legislative Building to Lobbyists
Nevada Independent – Riley Snyder and Michelle Rindells | Published: 2/17/2021
Four lobbyists in Nevada are suing the governor, a top lawmaker, and legislative staff, arguing they are suffering irreparable harm from coronavirus-prevention rules that have kept the legislative session largely virtual and bar lobbyists from entering the Legislative Building. The lawsuit seeks a court-ordered injunction to “immediately allow plaintiffs access to the State Capital to engage in lobbying activities,” saying emergency orders limiting public access to the Legislature violate their constitutional rights to petition the government and free speech. They also argue Nevada is no longer experiencing a bona fide emergency to justify the restrictions.
New Jersey – Cash in a Paper Bag: North Jersey pols indicted in ‘old-school political corruption’ case
MSN – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 2/16/2021
Four New Jersey politicians hit with bribery charges in 2019 have been indicted by a state grand jury as part of alleged schemes to take tens of thousands of dollars in bribes masked as campaign contributions – in one case a paper bag filled with cash. The defendants are accused of promising a tax attorney they would vote to award his firm public contracts in exchange for the illegal contributions. The tax attorney was a cooperating witness working for state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office. “The conduct alleged in these indictments is old-school political corruption at its worst, the kind that erodes public faith in government …,” Grewal said.
New Jersey – Former Middlesex Mayor Sentenced for Stealing, Laundering $275K in Campaign, Charity Funds
MSN – Suzanne Russell (MyCentralJersey.com) | Published: 2/16/2021
Former Middlesex Borough Mayor Ronald DiMura was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing more than $275,000 from local political campaigns, investors, and a charity. DiMura, who resigned after his indictment, is permanently barred from public office and public employment in New Jersey. He also must pay $83,372 in restitution and must forfeit $163,582, the remainder of the funds he stole.
New Mexico – Dark Money Group Pushing PRC Reform Tied to Major Oil Company
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 2/12/2021
Exxon Mobil contributed to a “dark-money” group that supported a successful November referendum reforming New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission, according to a campaign finance report filed by one of its lobbyists. One of the state’s largest energy producers, the multinational gave at least $10,000 to the Committee to Protect New Mexico Consumers, a nonprofit that spent $250,000 touting the merits of a constitutional amendment, which eventually passed handily. The contribution can be found in an October 7 report filed by lobbyist Deanna Archuleta. The “dark money” campaign and lobbyist involvement illustrate the challenges faced by the public in knowing what special interests stand to gain from elections or their role in creating public policy or ballot measures.
New Mexico – Settlement Reveals New Mexico Utility Funded Political Group
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/13/2021
The parent firm of the largest utility in New Mexico funded a group that spent more than $130,000 on political advertisements in highly contested Democratic legislative primary election races last year. PNM Resources, the parent firm of Public Service Company of New Mexico, financed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico. The disclosure was made public as part of a settlement agreement that involved the New Mexico Ethics Commission agreeing to drop a lawsuit. The commission also agreed to waive any civil penalties against the group and will not require it to register as a political committee.
New York – Coverup Claims Engulf Cuomo as Scandal Over Nursing Home Deaths Grows
Politico – Shannon Young and Anna Gronewold | Published: 2/12/2021
When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide told Democratic lawmakers why the administration slow-walked information on nursing home deaths in the state, she appeared to be trying to dispel smoldering rumors of a cover-up. Instead, Melissa DeRosa, threw gasoline on a fire that had enveloped Cuomo’s legacy of effective leadership during the Covid-19 crisis. DeRosa told legislators the administration “froze” after the U.S. Justice Department made an inquiry into Cuomo’s management of nursing homes. She said state officials refrained from releasing the data because of worry then-President Trump was trying to turn the tragedy “into a giant political football.”
New York – New York Ethics Panel Chair Steps Down, Replaced by Ex-Cuomo Aide
New York Post – Bernadette Hogan | Published: 2/10/2021
Michael Rosen, chairperson of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) stepped down and is slated to be replaced by attorney Camille Joseph Varlack, another former staffer to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. JCOPE itself has come under fire in recent years, accused of a lack of transparency. The panel was set up in 2011 as an independent check on state officials and lobbying activities. Appointees are made by the governor and the Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, but committee discussions are bound by state ethics law to remain private.
North Dakota – Once Again, N.D. Lawmakers Ponder the Benefits, Costs of Annual Sessions
MSN – Brayden Zencker (Devil’s Lake Journal) | Published: 2/11/2021
North Dakota Sen. Brad Bekkedahl is lead sponsor of Senate Bill 2218, which would allow for annual legislative sessions. It would not change how sessions are conducted now during odd-numbered years, but Bekkedahl proposes adding a short session in even-numbered years. Legislative Management, a bipartisan committee, would decide the timing and duration of sessions during even-numbered years. North Dakota is one of just four states that still conduct legislative sessions every two years.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Hall Corruption: Voters will get a say on two charter amendments this May
MSN – Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 2/10/2021
After three Cincinnati City Council members were indicted on federal bribery charges this past year, one thing became clear: there was no provision in the city charter to remove a council member charged with a felony. Cincinnati voters will get a chance to change that on May 4. The council voted to put two charter amendments on the ballot that would offer different avenues for suspending or removing council members who are indicted for crimes.
Ohio – Federal Judge Ignores Prison Recommendations in Convention Center Bribery Scandal Sentence
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 2/16/2021
A man who participated in a bribery scheme with former Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority board member John Raphael over a multi-million-dollar food vendor contract was sentenced to six months home confinement, community service, and probation for the next four years. Rodney Myers, who had pleaded guilty to federal programs bribery in November 2019, was facing federal sentencing guidelines that called for up to two years in prison for his role in steering the food service contract at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Raphael is facing 20 years for his part in the same bribery scheme after pleading guilty.
South Carolina – Accountability Suffers as Newspaper Closures Grow in SC, Nation
Times and Democrat – Glenn Smith and Tony Bartelme (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 2/15/2021
Seven newspapers in South Carolina closed their doors in the past year, joining more than 60 that shuttered across the nation as the coronavirus hit an industry already battered by shrinking revenue and job cuts. This exacerbated a trend that has created so-called news deserts in hundreds of communities, depriving them of vital government watchdogs. Without that scrutiny, corruption can blossom. The Charleston Post and Courier examined 100 South Carolina misconduct cases in which criminal charges were filed since 2015. Roughly 75 percent involved public officials and employees accused of betraying the rural community in which they worked.
South Carolina – NextEra Didn’t Share Santee Cooper Lobbying Efforts. SC Senators Look to Require It
The State – Joseph Bestos | Published: 2/11/2021
A group of South Carolina senators want to force Florida-based utility NextEra to provide information about its lobbying efforts to buy Santee Cooper. The Senate Judiciary Committee pushed forward a resolution to require NextEra to disclose communications it had with lawmakers and officials since July 31, 2017, when state-owned Santee Cooper and SCE&G abandoned efforts to build two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina. The failure of the project led the state to debate whether to sell or reform Santee Cooper.
South Carolina – Prosecutor Pascoe’s Saga of Exposing Public Corruption in Legislature Comes to End
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 2/16/2021
After more than six years of winning convictions against South Carolina politicians on public corruption charges, special prosecutor David Pascoe is turning his three remaining unfinished cases over to state Attorney General Alan Wilson. “Procedural confusion” created by a recent state Supreme Court decision that overturned one of his convictions was a major reason for halting what has been an ongoing house-cleaning of corrupt General Assembly lawmakers, according to a letter sent by Pascoe to the attorney general. But the high court also ruled Pascoe’s winning a conviction on perjury charges of former Rep. Jim Harrison was lawful. Harrison will be the first state lawmaker in decades to serve a prison sentence on corruption-related charges.
South Dakota – South Dakota Gov. Noem Defends ‘Dark Money’ Push as Privacy Protection
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 2/12/2021
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defended her push to shield donor information of nonprofit organizations that influence public policy, including one group that was connected to her campaign. The governor said the legislation was intended to protect the privacy rights of donors who wish to anonymously contribute to charities. Although she insisted it “does absolutely nothing on campaign finance,” critics said it would further the use of so-called dark money. One bill would bar state officials from requiring nonprofit groups, including those that work to influence policy, to disclose information on donors. A second bill would further protect donor privacy, allowing them to sue if their information were made public.
Tennessee – New Audit Raises More Questions About Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Spending
WTVF – Jennifer Kraus | Published: 2/10/2021
A new audit raises even more questions about how Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron spent his campaign money. The latest audit ordered by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance looked at Ketron’s spending in 2018 and early 2019 from his campaign account during his successful run for mayor. This comes after state auditors found nearly $250,000 missing from two other campaign accounts belonging to Ketron. One was his senate campaign account and the other was for the PAC he ran while in the state Senate. Like the latest audit, the two previous investigations found reported payments that never actually happened as well as overstated expenses and dozens of expenditures with no receipts or invoices.
Virginia – Special Prosecutor Looking into Virginia Beach’s Former Lobbyist Who Lined Up a Job to Work for City Contractor
MSN – Alyssa Skelton (The Virginian-Pilot) | Published: 2/11/2021
Bob Matthias retired from the city of Virginia Beach on January 1 after serving as assistant to the city manager. In that role, Matthias oversaw the awarding of a lobbying contract to Principle Advantage Government Relations Group while also negotiating a potential job with the company. An ordinance requires departing city employees wait one year before working for a company that receives city contracts associated with the employees’ previous job duties. State law prohibits employees involved in the procurement process from negotiating or securing prospective employment with the contractor.
Washington – Eyman Fined $2.6 Million, Barred from Campaign Control
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 2/10/2021
A Thurston County judge found longtime anti-tax activist Tim Eyman violated campaign finance laws and fined him $2.6 million. The judge also ruled Eyman, who has led initiative campaigns across Washington for decades, will no longer be allowed to have any financial control over political committees. Eyman was charged with laundering political contributions to enrich himself; accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm; secretly shuttling money between initiative campaigns; and concealing the source of other campaign donations. “Mr. Eyman’s violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act are numerous and particularly egregious and were ‘intentional’ as that term is defined by law,” wrote Judge James Dixon.
Wisconsin – Steven DeVougas Resignation Brings End to Milwaukee Ethics Board Investigation of Him
MSN – Alison Dirr (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/17/2021
The recent resignation of Steven DeVougas from the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission also ended the ongoing city Ethics Board investigation into allegations over his ties to a prominent real estate developer. DeVougas resigned from the powerful civilian oversight panel following more than a year of controversy since it was reported he accompanied the developer, his corporate client, to an August 2019 police interview of the developer regarding a sexual assault allegation against him. The case remains open and under review at the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office.
February 12, 2021 •
National/Federal After Capitol Riot, Desperate Families Turn to Groups That ‘Deprogram’ Extremists MSN – Paulina Villegas and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2021 There is a surge of desperate families and friends calling organizations that aim to deradicalize and “deprogram” […]
After Capitol Riot, Desperate Families Turn to Groups That ‘Deprogram’ Extremists
MSN – Paulina Villegas and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2021
There is a surge of desperate families and friends calling organizations that aim to deradicalize and “deprogram” extremists across the ideological spectrum. Such groups say demand for their free services has never been higher. Parents for Peace says calls to its national helpline have tripled since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with a growing number of younger people being groomed in white supremacist ideology. After supporters of then-President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, the intervention groups have experienced a deluge of calls related to the attack as well as to conspiracy theories and QAnon. The range of extremist ideas they encounter also has widened in the past year, driven by the 2020 election and the pandemic.
After Losing Committees, Marjorie Taylor Greene Says She Has Been ‘Freed’ to Push the GOP Further Right
Seattle Times – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2021
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene declared the House’s decision to remove her from her committee assignments has liberated her to build a political network aimed at supporting former President Trump and pushing the GOP further to the right. Greene’s comments demonstrated that far from being cowed by the uproar over the various extremist remarks she made in the years leading up to her election in November, she has only been emboldened in her social-media-fueled campaign against Democrats, cultural elites, and the media.
As Biden’s Son-in-Law Invests in COVID-19 Response, Questions of Family and Ethics Could Resurface
ABC News – Lucien Bruggeman | Published: 2/9/2021
During the 2020 presidential campaign, attention on Joe Biden’s family focused largely on his son, Hunter Biden. But experts say it is the president’s son-in-law, Howard Krein, who could present fresh ethical challenges for the new administration. Krein helps oversee StartUp Health investments in hundreds of companies, including some hoping to break through with the federal agencies battling the global coronavirus pandemic. Since 2011, when Krein co-founded the firm, Joe Biden has been an active supporter of the venture – headlining corporate conferences and inviting the company’s executives to the Oval Office to meet then-President Barack Obama.
First Circuit Rules Nonmember Workers Can’t Be Forced to Fund Union Lobbying
Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 2/4/2021
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected a request by a union in a case that has been ongoing on since 2009, handing a victory to a longtime non-union nurse who objected to being forced to pay for union lobbying expenses. For 11 years, United Nurses and Allied Professionals officials and lawyers have argued non-union nurses like the plaintiff, Jeanette Geary, and her fellow nurses who are not members of their workplace’s union, be required to pay union lobbying expenses. With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Geary filed a federal complaint arguing the union infringed on her constitutionally protected rights under the foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision.
Former Mueller Prosecutor Predicts Increased Pursuit of Unregistered Foreign Agents
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko and Josh Gerstein | Published: 2/4/2021
Brandon Van Grack, the Justice Department official who spearheaded the department’s crackdown on unregistered foreign agents praised the department’s tougher approach to enforcing the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) and predicted the department will continue the crackdown under the Biden administration. Van Grack was a lead prosecutor on Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller’s work spurred prosecutions that ensnared some of former President Trump’s top allies. The probe also revitalized FARA, the law requiring entities who represent a foreign government or political party to file disclosures detailing their work and sent chills down K Street.
How the Jan. 6 Riot Could Make It Tougher to Lobby
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 2/8/2021
The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the lobbying industry online. The deadly assault on the Capitol ignited a fresh fear among lobbyists and activists. What if, they worry, new security measures keep them at a distance from the lawmakers and staff they aim to influence, long after the pandemic ends? Access is currency on K Street, and the subtleties of in-person relationship-building can be at least as important as crafting a policy message. Big-money lobbyists are likely to regain such interactions through fundraising events when they return post-pandemic, but rank-and-file lobbyists and advocates for lower-dollar influence campaigns say they are troubled at the prospect of no longer having access to the Capitol complex.
It’s Not a Typical Trial. Lawyers in the Trump Impeachment Case Will Argue Big Constitutional Questions.
MSN – Ann Marimow and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/8/2021
The arguments by opposing lawyers in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump are expected to revolve largely around a pair of constitutional questions: a First Amendment defense of his fiery speech ahead of the violent January 6 attack on the Capitol and a challenge to the legality of putting a former president on trial. Trump is the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, and the only one to be tried in the Senate after leaving office. While an impeachment proceeding is distinct from a typical criminal trial, with a different set of rules, Trump’s case will feature broad legal questions about whether his actions violate the Constitution.
Tester Revives ‘Spotlight Act’ on Dark Money
Billings Gazette – Tom Lutey | Published: 2/4/2021
U.S. Sen Jon Tester reintroduced the Spotlight Act, which would require nonprofits to reveal their major donors to the IRS. At issue are nonprofit “social welfare” groups registered under the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code. Another group, trade associations, fall under section 501(c)(6). These groups avoid disclosing donors by not attacking candidates outright, but instead focusing on a particular issue and what side of the issue a candidate chooses. The ads often end by encouraging people to call a candidate to express disapproval about a specific issue.
The Big Business of Online Politics: Buying your email address
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 2/10/2021
Avalanche, an email acquisition service, will charge Democratic campaigns and progressive groups to send emails to its list of prized online donors, allowing those groups to solicit contributions and expand their own email programs. Companies and groups like Avalanche are popping up to fill the hole left by Facebook and Google’s prolonged political ad bans, which bar campaigns and political groups from running ads on their platforms to draw in small-dollar donors. By cutting off that pipeline to voters and potential supporters, the tech giants have set off a race to find new ways to reach those contributors. One old-school fundraising tactic is regaining fresh traction: buying, renting, and swapping email lists.
Trump Broke Them. Now the Pandemic Is Bringing Them Together.
Politico – Stephanie Murray | Published: 2/10/2021
When the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) came to Boston for its annual summit in 2007, its members did not have to work hard to find common ground. By the time the conference returned to Boston in 2017, just as Donald Trump was taking office, partisanship had taken hold of a bipartisan group. Now, groups like the NCSL, the National Governors Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are moving back to bipartisanship just as state and city leaders have been entrusted with more power than they have had in the nation’s history. If they continue to move toward unity, state and city leaders could once again turn the professional organizations into formidable lobbying groups capable of pressuring Congress, the president, and shaping the way American moves on from the pandemic.
Trump’s Political Operation Paid More Than $3.5 Million to Jan. 6 Organizers
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 2/10/2021
As former President Trump faces an impeachment trial on charges of inciting attacks on the U.S. Capitol, unanswered questions about the full extent of his ties to a nearby rally the same day highlight the need for more campaign finance transparency. Newly identified payments in recent FEC filings show people involved in organizing the protests on January 6 received even larger sums from Trump’s 2020 campaign than previously known. The Center for Responsive Politics unearthed more than $3.5 million in direct payments from Trump’s 2020 campaign, along with its joint fundraising committees, to people and firms involved in the Washington, D.C. demonstration before a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Two Republicans Fined for Bypassing Security Just Days After House Approved New Penalties
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) | Published: 2/6/2021
Two Republican House members were fined $5,000 for bypassing the security screening that was set up outside the House chamber in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. Reps. Louie Gohmert and Andrew Clyde appear to be the first members punished under the rule, which says lawmakers who bypass the metal detectors that have been installed outside some doors to the chamber will be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for each subsequent offense.
What of ‘Individual-1′? Feds’ Trump Campaign Case Is ‘Dead’
Associated Press News – Jim Mustian and Larry Neumeister | Published: 2/5/2021
The federal probe of hush money paid to cover up former President Trump’s alleged extramarital affairs has not been restarted, even though he no longer has the legal shield of the presidency. Trump’s exit from the White House prompted speculation that prosecutors might revive the investigation that sent his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to prison. An attorney for one key witness described the investigation as “dead,” adding prosecutors have even returned certain evidence they collected, a likely indication no one else will be charged.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Trump Campaign Paid Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem $6,000 During Effort to Overturn Election Results
MSN – Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) | Published: 2/6/2021
Former President Trump’s reelection campaign reported paying $6,037 to a business owned by state Rep. Mark Finchem while the lawmaker pushed for the Legislature to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona. The campaign reported in its latest financial disclosure it made a payment on December 18 to “Mrk Finchem PLLC” and the address provided for the company is the lawmaker’s home. The campaign labeled the expense as “recount: legal consulting.” Lawmakers are required to disclose each business in which they have a position or a fiduciary relationship. Finchem did not address why the company is not listed on his most recent financial disclosure, which covered all of 2020.
California – Ex-SoCal Mayor, 10 Others Charged in Corruption Probe
Courthouse News Service – Nathan Solis | Published: 2/4/2021
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged former Maywood Mayor Ramon Medina and 10 others for “widespread corruption” that involved bribes for city contracts, embezzlement, and an attempt to heavily discount city property to secure a bingo hall. Investigators raided Maywood City Hall, the homes and businesses of Medina, and other locations. The searches came after an audit called out the city’s poor practices and more than $15 million in debt. Medina is alleged to have sought and received bribes from individuals and companies seeking to do business in Maywood, one of the county’s smallest and most densely populated cities.
California – Lyft Could Pay About $3,000 for Failing to Disclose That It Paid for Some Ads in Its $48 Million Prop 22 Campaign
MSN – Katie Canales (Business Insider) | Published: 2/10/2021
Lyft faces a $3,371 fine for not disclosing it paid for some ads as part of its Proposition 22 campaign in California. The Fair Political Practices Commission is proposing the company be fined $1,499 for email ads that did not include a note indicating they were paid for by Lyft, $936 for robocalls and text ads that were also missing such a message, and $936 for robocalls and text ads that bore the wrong name. Instead of all workers having full-time employee status, Proposition 22 requires gig companies to provide an alternative set of benefits to cover expenses, including healthcare subsidies.
Georgia – Georgia Prosecutors Open Criminal Investigation into Trump’s Efforts to Subvert Election Results
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/10/2021
An Atlanta-area prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia in the wake of calls former President Trump placed to state officials, urging them to invalidate Joe Biden’s victory in the state. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis did not mention Trump by name but stated her office is examining a raft of potential criminal charges related to “attempts to influence” the administration of the 2020 election in the state. Prosecutors are scrutinizing all three of those calls, as well as the circumstances around the sudden resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta.
Hawaii – Hawaii Lawmakers Want Their ‘Gifts of Aloha’ Back
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 2/4/2021
The Hawaii Ethics Commission recently approved rules that prevent lawmakers from accepting so-called gifts of aloha, generally small food items, especially from lobbyists, who along with their clients have often gifted such items to lawmakers and their staffs. The new rules were meant to clarify several laws dealing with ethics in state government and to prevent officials in positions of authority from accepting gifts that might appear improper. But the ban has given rise to questions concerning the circumstances in which a legislator may or may not accept food items given to them out of courtesy. For example, what happens if a constituent who is not a lobbyist offers a bottle of water?
Iowa – Iowa Governor Auctioned off Access for Pork Barons’ Charity
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 2/8/2021
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds auctioned off an afternoon of her time to raise money for the namesake charity of a couple who own one of the nation’s largest pork producers and have contributed nearly $300,000 to her campaign. The 2019 auction to benefit the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation provides a striking example of the governor’s close relationship with the state’s pork industry and particularly Iowa Select Farms, owned by the couple. Company staff members run the Hansens’ foundation, which sponsors charitable programs including giveaways of pork products to needy families. The time with Reynolds was advertised as an “afternoon with Iowa’s leading lady.”
Louisiana – Former Top Gambling Regulator in Louisiana Taking Job as Advisor to British Gaming Company
The Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 2/8/2021
Ronnie Jones, the former top gambling regulator in Louisiana who was ousted from his post last year, is taking a new job as an advisor to the British gaming firm Entain, helping the company navigate the U.S. regulatory process as it expands a sports betting venture. The Louisiana Board of Ethics gave Jones the green light to do the work, after Jones asked for an advisory opinion about whether accepting the job would violate state ethics laws. Those laws bar former agency heads and board members from working for companies with business before their former agencies.
Maryland – Advance Registration Required for Testifying at Legislature
Associated Press News – Audrey Decker (Capital News Service) | Published: 2/9/2021
Signing up to speak at a bill hearing or file written testimony got harder and for some, maybe impossible, after the coronavirus pandemic shifted how the Maryland General Assembly accepts witness testimonies. In previous years, interested parties would trek to Annapolis the morning of a bill hearing and sign up to testify. If they needed assistance in the process, lobbyists could do it for them. While the online system makes it accessible for people who couldn’t previously go to Annapolis in person, it has its own set of challenges.
Maryland – Baltimore Officials Release Report on Prosecutor’s Travel
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/9/2021
The top state prosecutor in Baltimore, a prominent figure in the racial justice movement, attended two dozen events outside Maryland in 2018 and 2019 without getting approval for more than half of the trips, according to an inspector general’s report. It also found Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was physically absent from her job for 85 days during that time. While noting that almost $23,700 of the $27,015 total cost of the trips was paid by sponsoring organizations, the report found six of the 24 trips were paid for in full or in part by Mosby’s office or the city.
Mississippi – Mississippi Politicians Continue to Enrich Themselves with Campaign Funds, Documents Show
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 2/4/2021
Mississippi politicians continue to personally profit from their campaign funds, new state filings show, a practice that is illegal in many other states and at the federal level. Lawmakers passed campaign finance reforms in 2017 following embarrassing reports that showed how officials had spent donations on everything from children’s parties, to cars, to an $800 pair of cowboy boots. Yet a grandfather clause inserted into the legislation essentially let the unregulated spending continue as long as politicians used money raised before 2018.
Missouri – Missouri Republicans Want Veto Power on Citizen Petitions That Change the Constitution
MSN – Austin Huguelet (Springfield News-Leader) | Published: 2/10/2021
Missouri Republicans are taking another run at making it harder for citizen petitions to change the state constitution. Now, once proposed constitutional amendments are approved by voters, the state Legislature cannot change them without asking voters first. Progressive groups have taken advantage of that in recent years to go straight to voters on ethics reform and Medicaid expansion that could not pass in the GOP-dominated Legislature. But in a committee hearing, Republicans said it is time to push back.
Nevada – Lobbyists Alter Methods of Approach at Hushed Nevada Session
Las Vegas Sun – John Sadler | Published: 2/10/2021
The Nevada Legislature is closed to in-person lobbying because of COVID-19 protocols during the recently started legislative session, leaving lobbyists searching for new ways to connect with lawmakers. The halls of the statehouse are generally teeming with lobbyists hustling to make crucial connections, but that is far from the case in 2021. The hope among lobbyists is that restrictions could be eventually lifted to allow people into the statehouse before the end of the 120-day session in late May. In the interim they are connecting by telephone and videoconferencing apps like Zoom.
New Jersey – How a National Insurance Agency and Political Insiders Work New Jersey’s Money Game
Gothamist – Nancy Solomon (WNYC) | Published: 2/9/2021
Acrisure, a national insurance company, may have secured government contracts worth millions of dollars by exploiting a loophole in New Jersey’s “pay-to-play” rules through the acquisition of branch offices once owned by well-connected political insiders that remain on the payroll. Those insiders, and its company employees, subsequently contributed more than $100,000 to lawmakers dating back to 2015 and sometimes days before those lawmakers voted on awarding lucrative contracts to Acrisure. New Jersey has one of the strongest “pay-to-play” laws in the country aimed at limiting campaign contributions by people who profit from government contracts. But the regulations vary from one municipal government to another in the state.
New Mexico – New Mexico Legislature Advancing Bipartisan Redistricting Reform
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 2/11/2021
A bipartisan plan to reform the way New Mexico draws its political boundaries is advancing through the state Legislature. The measure would create an independent commission to draw district lines. Four members of the commission would be appointed by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, and another three – two independents or representatives of minor parties and one retired Court of Appeals judge – would be chosen by the state Ethics Commission. The commissioners cannot be public officials, candidates for office, or a registered lobbyist, and they cannot hold leadership positions in a political party at either the state or federal level.
New York – Cor Development Fights State Ethics Panel Over Lobbying Allegations from 2016
MSN – Tim Knauss (Syracuse Post-Standard) | Published: 2/8/2021
It has been two-and-a-half years since two Cor Development executives were convicted on federal corruption charges related to their state business dealings. Now the company is fighting the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ (JCOPE) slow-moving investigation into four-year-old allegations that grew out of the federal probe: that Cor failed to submit required lobbying disclosures. Cor seeks a court order barring JCOPE from investigating, arguing the agency waited too long to notify Cor of the probe and did not give the company a chance to promptly answer the allegations.
New York – New York’s High Court Ends State Case Against Paul Manafort
Yahoo News – Jennifer Peltz and Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 2/8/2021
Paul Manafort will not face mortgage fraud charges in New York after the state’s highest court declined to revisit lower court decisions that barred prosecuting former President Trump’s onetime campaign chairperson on double jeopardy grounds. The New York Court of Appeals decision closed the door on charges against Manafort in the matter and came less than two months after Trump pardoned him in a similar federal case that had put him behind bars.
Ohio – ‘Dark Money’ Group Admits Involvement in Householder Bribery Scandal
Columbus Dispatch – Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 2/5/2021
A nonprofit entered a guilty plea in a $60 million bribery and racketeering scheme involving Ohio’s taxpayer-funded energy company bailout and former House Speaker Larry Householder, Generation Now admitted it was used to funnel millions of dollars in bribes from a utility company to Householder in relation to the passage of House Bill 6. Generation Now allowed the government to take nearly $1.5 million from two bank accounts and received five years of probation. Householder and four co-conspirators were charged in what federal prosecutors called the largest political corruption case in state history. Householder has pleaded not guilty. He was removed as speaker but won reelection to the Ohio House in November.
Ohio – Democrats Seek a Reset Button in Ohio
Politico – James Arkin | Published: 2/8/2021
Democrats are searching for a winning strategy as they try to win an open U.S. Senate seat next year after Rob Portman’s retirement cracked open the door in a race that likely would have been an afterthought otherwise. But finding that formula has eluded the party. They are throwing out plenty of ideas, with varying degrees of difficulty: sever the local campaign from the “coastal” Democratic brand; focus on jobs and the economy to reclaim some lost ground with working-class whites; kindle greater excitement among Black voters to turn out in large numbers and grow the party base. But the trends are bleak: the GOP swept every statewide office except Sherrod Brown’s Senate seat over the last decade.
Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine’s Grandson Hired as Lobbyist for Electric Vehicle Manufacturer Lordstown Motors
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 2/4/2021
A prominent Ohio electric vehicle startup has hired Gov. Mike DeWine’s grandson as a lobbyist as it seeks state incentives, law changes, and other state government help to get its business off the ground. Matt DeWine is a lobbyist for Lordstown Motors. He started as an intern with last June, a month after he graduated from Miami University and was hired full-time in July. The same month his grandson was hired as an intern, Gov. DeWine visited the Lordstown plant after receiving a private tour.
Ohio – Uproar Over Dominion Voting Machines in One Ohio County Shows Trump’s Falsehoods Linger
MSN – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/8/2021
Late last year, officials in an Ohio county voted to buy Dominion voting machines. It was a good deal for the county, said Stark County Board of Elections Director Jeff Matthews. It was also a step into a firestorm as Donald Trump’s supporters were incorrectly accusing Dominion Voting Systems of helping to rig the 2020 results. Two months later, the county has yet to replace its aging voting equipment while May primaries loom. The all-Republican board of commissioners has fielded a deluge of upset callers and spent a recent meeting peppering election staff with doubts and questions. The situation is a testament to how viral accusations repeatedly debunked by courts and authorities have persisted, hanging over local decision-making and saddling officials with the task of somehow rebuilding public trust.
Oklahoma – Bill Reauthorizing Virtual Meetings Zooms Through Oklahoma House
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 2/8/2021
Oklahoma lawmakers sent to the governor a bill that allows public bodies such as school boards and city councils to convene virtually. In addition, state Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp told a House subcommittee the agency may not be able to function much longer if it does not get a larger appropriation and relief from a statute that caps the fines and fees collected annually at $150,000. Kemp is asking for an additional $350,000 for two staff members and to begin full oversight of political subdivisions such as towns and counties.
Oregon – Oregon Rep. Diego Hernandez Could Face Removal After Harassment Investigation
MSN – Claire Withycombe (Salem Statesman Journal) | Published: 2/5/2021
The House Committee on Conduct recommended the full chamber expel Rep. Diego Hernandez after finding he engaged in sexual and workplace harassment and created a hostile work environment. The committee found Hernandez violated standards of conduct for House members in his treatment of three women, all of whom had business at the Capitol. The panel concluded Hernandez pressured two women to restart romantic relationships and subjected a long-term partner to controlling and abusive treatment.
Pennsylvania – Sons of Top Two Pa. Senate Leaders Are Registered Lobbyists for Same Firm
Lancaster Online – Gillian McGoldrick | Published: 2/4/2021
The sons of the Pennsylvania Senate’s two top leaders are both registered lobbyists for the same firm that lobbies on behalf of some of the state’s largest corporations. Mike Ward, the son of Majority Leader Kim Ward, and Anthony Costa, the son of Minority Leader Jay Costa, are both Pittsburgh-based lobbyists for Cameron Companies. Given Ward’s and Costa’s direct relationships to the top Republican and Democrat in the Senate, the sons’ clients could get special treatment across the Legislature and a leg-up in getting their legislative priorities across the finish line, said Khalif Ali, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania.
Rhode Island – RI Ethics Commissioner Resigns Amid Controversy Over Role in Smiley Campaign
MSN – Katherine Gregg (Providence Journal) | Published: 2/5/2021
Rhode Island Ethics Commission member Emili Vaziri resigned from the panel following two campaign meetings that took place at her law office. State law bars commission members from participating in political campaigns. The meetings involved Department of Administration Director Brett Smiley, who is running for Providence mayor, and political operative Ed Cotugno. Vaziri was among the commissioners who voted in favor of an advisory opinion clearing the way for Smiley to start raising money for his campaign. The resignation comes in the wake of a series of controversies around Smiley’s fundraising and political activities while leading the agency that distributes and oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts.
South Carolina – SC Gov. McMaster Fires Agency Chief for Contract to Her Husband’s Employer
MSN – Maayan Schechter (The State) | Published: 2/8/2021
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster removed the director he appointed to the State Accident Fund over a recent contract worth upwards of $600,000 the governor said was awarded to a company that hired her husband to do the work. McMaster called for an investigation into whether ousted Director Amy Cofield played a role in guiding the state agency’s funding to her husband’s employer, and in effect to him, through the contract.
Tennessee – Tennessee: FBI raid no excuse for not filing campaign report
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi | Published: 2/10/2021
Campaign finance officials offered little sympathy to a lawmaker who said he was unable to complete a recent campaign finance report due the FBI confiscating all his campaign files. Rep. Todd Warner was one of several Tennessee lawmakers whose homes and offices were searched by federal agents earlier this year. Warner told the Registry of Election Finance he could not complete his most recent report because he did not have access to key documents. “‘The FBI took my paperwork’ is not excuse for not filing your report,” said Registry member Henry Fincher.
Utah – Utah Ethics Commission Received ‘Multiple’ Concerns in 2020, Didn’t Investigate Any Cases
KUTV – Jim Spiewak | Published: 2/4/2021
Investigating those in the highest levels of government has become tougher through the years in Utah. There are some lawmakers who want more options for legitimate complaints to be further reviewed. Anyone can file a complaint with Utah Executive Branch Ethics Commission, a group made up of five volunteers tasked with investigating claims of unethical or illegal behavior, and several were filed in 2020.None were investigated.
Washington DC – K Street, Political Parents Channel Advocacy into Reopening Schools
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 2/9/2021
The debate over pandemic schooling has ignited passion and protest across the nation. But in the District of Columbia area where some parents hail from K Street, Capitol Hill, and candidate campaigns, the volunteer advocates bring a level of polish to rival politically connected teachers’ unions as they seek to sway local and state officials. The parent advocacy campaigns across the region, which skews Democratic and racially diverse, span the political spectrum. Many parents lobbying for a return to schools say they are frustrated by the politics of the debate, especially last year when then-President Trump said he wanted buildings to welcome students back, ginning up opposition from liberals.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Health Official Won’t Handle Matters Affecting Former Clients
MSN – Patrick Marley and Mary Spicuzza (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/8/2021
Wisconsin’s new health secretary, Karen Timberlake, said she would recuse herself from matters affecting her former lobbying clients. That goes beyond what state law requires. As a lobbyist with Michael Best Strategies, Timberlake represented DentaQuest, an oral health company; MyPath, a company that serves people with disabilities; Rogers Behavioral Health, which lobbies to raise Medicaid payments for behavioral health providers; and the Network for Innovation in Senior Care, a consortium of long-term and rehabilitative care providers. When Timberlake leaves her government post, she will not be able to immediately return to lobbying on the same issues.
February 5, 2021 •
National/Federal An Emboldened Extremist Wing Flexes Its Power in a Leaderless G.O.P. New York Times – Annie Karni and Sam Baker | Published: 2/1/2021 With no dominant leader other than a one-term president, a radical right movement that became emboldened under […]
An Emboldened Extremist Wing Flexes Its Power in a Leaderless G.O.P.
New York Times – Annie Karni and Sam Baker | Published: 2/1/2021
With no dominant leader other than a one-term president, a radical right movement that became emboldened under President Trump has been maneuvering for more power in the Republican Party and ascending in different states and congressional districts. More moderate Republicans feel increasingly under attack, but so far have made little progress in galvanizing voters, donors, or new recruits for office to push back against extremism. Nothing is defining and dividing the GOP more than loyalty to Trump and his false claims about the election.
Biden Brother’s Role in Florida Law Firm Complicates White House Ethics Message
MSN – Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/3/2021
President Biden’s younger brother promoted his relationship with the president in an advertisement for a law firm published on Inauguration Day. Frank Biden, listed as a senior advisor for Berman Law Group, was featured in the firm’s ad in the Daily Business Review along with quotes describing his relationship with the new president and their family name. President Biden has promised to lead a highly ethical administration, which he has pitched as a contrast to his predecessor, and adopted strict rules form those serving in his administration, although they do not necessarily apply to family members. A White House official said a process is in place, involving the counsel’s office and representatives of the family, to address potential conflicts-of-interest as they arise.
House Adopts Fines for Lawmakers Who Don’t Comply with Metal Detectors
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 2/3/2021
The U.S. House adopted new rules that will enact fines against lawmakers who refuse to comply with the security screenings now required for entry into the chamber in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. Fines of $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for the second are now in effect. The metal detectors outside the House chamber were installed days after the attack on the Capitol, but several House Republicans defiantly pushed past Capitol Police officers and sergeant-at-arms staff into the chamber without going through the metal detectors. Lawmakers will not be able to use campaign money or congressional office budget funds to pay the fines.
House Democrats Revive Bill to Ban Colleagues from Carrying Guns on Capitol Grounds
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/28/2021
U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman filed the No Congressional Gun Loophole Act, seeking to nullify regulations that exempt members of Congress from a federal law banning guns on Capitol grounds. The move is likely to rankle Republicans who, in some cases, have refused to cooperate with security screenings put in place in the wake of the siege of January 6. Huffman has pushed to prohibit his colleagues from toting guns since 2018 but he says the overheated political environment and the behavior by some House Republicans in recent weeks “have really helped underscore” the need to refile the bill at this moment.
House Opens Investigation of Pandemic Ventilator Purchases Overseen by White House
MSN – Reed Albergotti and Aaron Gregg (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
A House subcommittee is investigating a government deal to buy $70 million worth of ventilators for the coronavirus pandemic response that a Washington Post investigation found were inadequate for treating most covid-19 patients. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Logistics Agency purchased 11,200 AutoMedx SAVe II+ ventilators from Combat Medical Systems, which distributes the devices. Adrian Urias, AutoMedx’s co-founder and current shareholder, advised the Trump administration’s covid-19 task force on ventilator purchases. When the government posted the minimum specifications that ventilator manufacturers had to meet to sell devices for the pandemic response, those specifications were nearly identical to a spec sheet listed on AutoMedx’s website at the time.
Nonprofit Tied to Amalgamated Bank Looks to Capture Corporate Donors Through New Fund Following Capitol Hill Riot
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 2/2/2021
A nonprofit tied to Amalgamated Bank is launching a fund with the intent of capturing political donations from corporations that have stopped giving after the riot on Capitol Hill. The Amalgamated Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) that calls itself nonpartisan, is moving ahead with the Democracy Reinvestment Fund. It will take in corporate donations and use that money to help finance other nonprofit organizations. Though officials did not say which corporations the fund is going to target, a group of companies decided to halt contributions to House and Senate lawmakers who, even after the deadly riot, challenged the electoral results confirming Joe Bide as president.
Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Mileage Reimbursement ‘Raises Red Flags,’ Ethics Experts Say
MSN – Jason Wingerter (Denver Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert paid herself more than $22,000 in mileage reimbursements from her campaign account last year. Her campaign defends the reimbursements but three ethics experts who reviewed the money transfers say they raise questions. To justify those reimbursements, Boebert would have had to drive 38,712 miles while campaigning, despite having no publicly advertised campaign events in March, April, or July, and only one in May. Because the reimbursements came in two payments – a modest $1,060 at the end of March and $21,200 on November 11 – Boebert would have had to drive 36,870 miles in just over seven months between April 1 and Nov. 11 to justify the second payment.
Secretive Ethics Panel Will Judge Hawley and Cruz
Politico – Burgess Everett | Published: 1/31/2021
Former President Trump’s impeachment trial will be conducted on the Senate floor, live on television. The investigation into Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley will take place behind closed doors by one of the most secretive committees in Congress. After multiple leading Democrats called for the two Republicans to resign, Cruz and Hawley’s challenge to President Biden’s Electoral College win is now tied up in the opaque Senate Ethics Committee. While Trump’s impeachment trial will conclude quickly, the probe into whether the two senators played a role in inciting the violent Capitol attack will unwind over an interminable timetable with little hint of where it is going.
Small Donors Ruled 2020; Will That Change Post-Trump?
Center for Responsive Politics – Krystal Hur | Published: 2/2/2021
Small donors played a pivotal role in financing both Democratic and Republican campaigns in the 2020 election. With Donald Trump in Florida and President Biden taking his place in the White House, it remains unclear whether small donations will continue to pour in for either party. As the GOP’s reign in Washington, D.C. comes to an end, so have its relationships with some corporate power players who have historically been influential supporters of the party. The role of “dark money” in future elections could be complicated if the For the People Act; a campaign finance reform bill, is passed.
Trump Supporter Charged in 2016 Twitter Scheme to Undermine Hillary Clinton
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
A far-right social media influencer was arrested and accused of interfering in the 2016 election through an organized campaign to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy by conning supporters of Hillary Clinton into voting through illegitimate means such as text message or online. Prosecutors allege Douglass Mackey used an alias, reportedly derived from actor Charlie Sheen’s character Ricky Vaughn in the 1989 film “Major League,” to circulate messages on Twitter that encouraged Clinton’s supporters to “Avoid the line. Vote from home,” according to charging documents. Nearly 5,000 people fell for the ploy, according to the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, which announced the arrest.
Trump’s Actions Described as ‘a Betrayal of Historic Proportions’ in Trial Brief Filed by House Impeachment Managers
MSN – Amy Gardner, Karoun Demirjian, and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
House Democrats made their case to convict former President Trump of inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol in an impeachment brief, accusing Trump of jeopardizing the foundations of American democracy by whipping his supporters into a “frenzy” for the sole purpose of retaining his hold on the presidency. Impeachment managers made an impassioned case that Trump was “singularly responsible” for the mayhem. They argued he is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors because he used the powers of his office to advance his personal political interests at the expense of the nation. Trump’s defense attorneys filed a response to the article of impeachment, denying Trump incited the crowd at his rally to storm the Capitol and “engage in destructive behavior.” The brief also disputed that Trump’s claims of voter fraud were false.
Trump’s Legal Team Exited After He Insisted Impeachment Defense Focus on False Claims of Election Fraud
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/31/2021
The implosion of former President Trump’s legal team comes as Trump remains fixated on arguing at his second impeachment trial that the 2020 election was stolen from him, a defense that advisers warn is ill-conceived and Republican strategists fear will fuel the growing divide in the GOP. Karl Bowers Jr. and four other attorneys who recently signed on to represent the former president abruptly parted ways with him days before his Senate trial for his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump’s office announced two new lawyers were taking over his defense.
Trump-Tied Lobbyists’ Revenues Peaked in President’s Final Year
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 1/28/2021
Lobbyists selling their connections to former President Trump capped off a lucrative four-year run with their best year in 2020. After raking in millions of dollars from high-profile clients, these Washington influencers are already losing clients under President Biden but could still benefit from Trump’s continued influence over the GOP. Wealthy interests attempted to get their message across to Trump through groups that supported his run for president. Consultants asked Trump’s popular Twitter allies to push their clients’ message to the president on his favorite app. Lobbyists pushed to plant stories in conservative outlets that would make it into Trump’s daily news packet or air ads on his favorite TV shows.
US Score Falls in Economist’s Annual Democracy Index
The Hill – Celine Castronuevo | Published: 2/3/2021
The overall state of democracy in the U.S. declined last year, according to an annual ranking by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, which cited the continued erosion of trust in the country’s institutions. The U.S. retained its rank as the 25th most democratic nation, out of 167 countries analyzed, but remains in the “flawed democracy” category after being demoted from the “full democracy” group in 2016, the report said. The report measures five main categories –electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture –and assigns scores to each one.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Voter Protection Act Blocking Bipartisan Bill
Arizona Capitol Times – Greta Forslund | Published: 1/29/2021
A bill introduced by Arizona Rep. Leo Biasiucci’s proposes that judges could order people to do community service, valued at $12 an hour, as payment for their tickets rather than money. Lawmakers like the idea because it is criminal justice reform that both helps those in need and serves the community. Opponents said the Voter Protection Act applies to the bill because it could cut funding to the voter-approved Clean Elections Commission. Biasiucci said while he recognizes the Clean Elections Commission is funded by traffic tickets, there are 17 or 18 other agencies also funded by those tickets, and he did not want to pick just one agency to be exempt from the bill.
California – San Diego Unified School District’s Federal Lobbying Efforts Come Under Scrutiny by Parent Group
La Jolla Light – Kristen Taketa (San Diego Union Tribune) | Published: 1/30/2021
A watchdog group criticized the San Diego Unified School District for spending tens of thousands of dollars, including some coronavirus relief money, on a federal lobbying firm. The school board hired The Raben Group with a contract worth up to $150,000 to advocate for more school stimulus funding, advance the district’s interests among federal lawmakers, and raise the district’s “profile as a leader,” according to the contract. It is not uncommon for school districts to lobby, said Dan Auble, researcher for the Center for Responsible Politics. He said he does not know if lobbying is an allowable use of CARES Act funding; generally, federal contractors are prohibited from spending their contract money on lobbying.
Florida – Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter Activists Clashed in a Florida Suburb. Only One Side Was Charged.
MSN – Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
When local Black Lives Matter activists started marching through the small town of New Port Richey, Florida, last summer – shouting slogans through bullhorns demanding racial justice – it took only a few days for the Proud Boys and other counter-protesters to show up and confront them. Groups of mostly White men encircled the demonstrators. They revved motorcycles while yelling threats, obscenities, and support for the police and President Trump, at times using their own bullhorns. Amid fears that the confrontations could lead to violence, police started enforcing the town’s rarely used noise ordinance, which essentially forbids disturbances louder than a close conversation between two people. But only the Black Lives Matter protesters were cited.
Illinois – Former Gubernatorial Candidate McCann Indicted on Campaign Finance Charges
State Journal-Register – Ben Szalinski | Published: 2/3/2021
Former Illinois Sen. Sam McCann was indicted on multiple charges alleging he misused campaign funds for personal expenses. The indictment alleges McCann used campaign money for things like vehicles, personal debts, mortgages, and pay for himself. After losing the November 2018 governor’s race, the charges state McCann continued to pay himself with funds from the Conservative Party for a total of about $187,000.
Illinois – Worth Township Trustee Pleads Guilty to Tax Charge Stemming from Ongoing Political Corruption Probe
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/1/2021
A Worth Township trustee pleaded guilty to a federal tax charge and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their ongoing political corruption investigation in Illinois. Richard Lewandowski pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with one misdemeanor count of failing to file an income tax return in 2018. Lewandowski’s plea makes him the latest Democratic player to cooperate in a corruption investigation that has stretched from Chicago to Springfield. Lewandowski is a former state representative and ally of ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan who resigned as a supervisor last year amid the investigation involving red-light camera company SafeSpeed.
Indiana – As Indiana’s Legislature Considers Redistricting This Year, Experts Look Back on the Impact of Gerrymandering
Chicago Tribune – Alexandra Kukulka (Post Tribune) | Published: 1/28/2021
When states are given the opportunity to redraw district lines every 10 years following the census, it is common for the political party with the majority within the state to redraw districts in their favor, known as gerrymandering. Officials announced the Indiana Legislature will likely have to hold a special session over the summer because of a delay in the completion of data from the 2020 census. Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, said the organization was excited to hear that Indiana will review redistricting in a special session.
Iowa – Iowa Republicans Considering Giving Political Ideology the Same Protections as Race, Religion, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 1/27/2021
Political ideology would join race, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation as a protected class in the Iowa Civil Rights Act if a Republican proposal in the state Legislature were to become law. The bill’s supporters claim protecting political ideology is necessary to push back against “cancel culture,” which they said has resulted in supporters of former President Trump and others being targeted.
Iowa – Iowa’s House Speaker Said He Can’t Make Lawmakers Wear Masks – But He Did Enforce a Ban on Jeans
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 2/4/2021
State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell protested the lack of a mask mandate by violating the dress code of the Iowa House floor, where face coverings are not required during the legislative session. She wore jeans to the floor, which goes against the new rules for this year. When Wessel-Kroeschell tried to speak during a floor debate, Speaker Pat Grassley said he would not recognize her. Grassley has previously said he cannot mandate lawmakers to wear face coverings on the House floor. “Not wearing a mask can kill people. … They’re putting all of us in danger. So, if they can enforce a denim dress code, they can also enforce a mask mandate,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.
Kansas – Michael O’Donnell Hit with $25,000 Fine After Admitting to Campaign Law Violations
MSN – Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 1/27/2021
Former Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael ‘’Donnell was fined $25,000 after admitting to nine campaign finance violations. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined O’Donnell for violations that included using campaign money for personal use and fraudulent reporting. He was accused of funneling money to four friends, who he falsely claimed were campaign workers. O’Donnell’s fine is the second highest in the history of Kansas campaign finance laws. The violations are the latest round of legal proceedings tied to O’Donnell’s controversial political career.
Maryland – Lawmakers, Governor Push Reforms at Maryland Environmental Service After Director’s Payout
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 1/27/2021
State lawmakers are considering a long list of changes to the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), a low-profile independent agency thrust into the spotlight after its director received a six-figure payout when he left to work for Gov. Larry Hogan. The bill would restrict future payouts, restructure the board, and add new requirements, such as ethics training. The MES came under scrutiny after it was reported the ex-director, Roy McGrath, had been paid more than $238,000 when he departed to become Hogan’s chief of staff. McGrath called it “severance” pay, though he voluntarily left the agency to join the governor’s team at the same salary.
Massachusetts – Boston City Council Votes to Bypass Special Election for Mayor
WBTS – Staff | Published: 2/3/2021
The Boston City Council approved a petition that would bypass the otherwise required special election if Mayor Marty Walsh resigns before March 5. Councilor Ricardo Arroyo filed the petition after President Joe Biden nominated Walsh as labor secretary. Arroyo said that given the COVID-19 crisis, it would be irresponsible for the city to potentially hold four elections – a special, the regularly scheduled November contest, and preliminary elections preceding each – in a five-month span. The change needs approval from the state Legislature, Walsh, and Gov. Charlie Baker to take effect.
Massachusetts – Mariano Plans Look at Unregistered Advocacy Coalitions, House Rules Changes
Springfield Patriot-Ledger – Katie Lannan (State House News Service) | Published: 1/28/2021
Promising meaningful short-term reforms paired with an exploration of unregistered advocacy coalitions, Massachusetts House Speaker Ronald Mariano plans to seek a review of rules that govern House operations during a six-month extension of pandemic-era emergency rules. The move, which comes as activists are lobbying for changes that they say would make it easier to track the progress of legislation and force recorded votes on priority bills, would put off what is usually one of the first matters of legislative business at the outset of a new session.
Missouri – State Rep. Tricia Derges Indicted by Grand Jury, Accused of Faking Stem Cell Treatments
MSN – Austin Huguelet (Springfield News-Leader) | Published: 2/2/2021
A federal grand jury indicted Missouri Rep. Patricia Derges on fraud charges after she falsely promoted a treatment she was selling at medical clinics as containing stem cells that could treat various diseases, including COVID-19. The indictment also accuses Derges of illegally providing prescription drugs to clients and making false statements to federal agents investigating the case. Derges is not a physician but is licensed as an assistant physician, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. She operates three Ozark Valley Medical Clinic sites.
New York – Manhattan District Attorney Considering Prosecuting Stephen Bannon Following His Pardon by Trump in Federal Fraud Case
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
The Manhattan district attorney’s office is weighing whether to bring a state court case against Stephen Bannon, who was indicted on federal fraud charges for his role in a fundraising scheme to build a border wall but received a last-minute pardon from then-President Trump. Bannon, one of the architects of Trump’s 2016 election victory and briefly a White House adviser, was among 143 people who received pardons from Trump in his last 24 hours in office. Bannon left the White House early in Trump’s term after he fell out with the president, who wavered until the last minute on issuing his former strategist a pardon.
North Dakota – Bill Seeks More Transparency in Political Advertisements
Dickinson Press – Dylan Sherman (North Dakota Newspaper Association) | Published: 2/1/2021
While candidate campaigns, PACs, and ballot measure sponsors disclose their donors over $200 in North Dakota, independent expenditures do not have as much transparency. House Bill 1451 would impost the same disclosure requirements for independent expenditures. Rep. Jason Dockter chairs the Political Subdivisions Committee, which will consider the bill. He said more transparency in political spending would be beneficial to all in North Dakota.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Hall Hopes New Ethics Panel Will Shore Up Public Trust After Council Arrests
WCPO – Mariel Carbone | Published: 1/27/2021
After three high-profile arrests involving city council members accused of cutting crooked deals with local property developers, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has appointed an ethics panel to reevaluate the city’s official interactions with developers. The members of the nine-seat panel include former lawyers, judges, business leaders, political leaders, a pastor, and a real-estate developer. The three council members were accused of soliciting money in exchange for tipping City Hall’s scales in certain local developers’ favor.
Ohio – Ex-Columbus City Hall Lobbyist, Franklin County Authority Member John Raphael Agrees to Bribery Plea
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 2/3/2021
John Raphael, a former Columbus City Hall lobbyist, again agreed to plead guilty to corruption charges for billing clients “success fees” that were really intended as bribes in return for securing public contracts. For the second time since 2016, Raphael is facing prison for his role in a bribery and kickback scheme he caried out as a member of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, the entity that owns the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Raphael acknowledged that at the same time he was a member of the facilities authority, he was a paid consultant to a food services company whom he supplied with confidential information that helped it win a business contract with the authority to supply the convention center.
Ohio – P.G. Sittenfeld’s PAC at Center of Corruption Case: ‘Secret slush fund’ or legal account?
WCPO – Paula Christian | Published: 1/27/2021
The FBI arrested Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld in November and charged him with honest services wire fraud, bribery, and attempted extortion. Prosecutors call Sittenfeld’s PAC, where he deposited $40,000 from undercover FBI agents allegedly in exchange for his support on a development project, a slush fund. But experts say Sittenfeld’s case is different from two other council members charged in separate bribery cases, in part because he allegedly asked for contributions to his PAC, and not money for personal use. Experts also question whether prosecutors can prove he performed an official action to benefit the project that is tied to those donations.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers: Rep. Diego Hernandez created a hostile workplace
OPB – Lauren Drake | Published: 2/2/2021
Oregon lawmakers found Rep. Diego Hernandez created a hostile workplace at the state Capitol for at least one woman who worked in the building. His conduct violated legislative conduct rules, a committee decided. Lawmakers are holding a series of hearings into Hernandez’s alleged behavior. The inquiry delves into the allegations of five women, identified only as “subject one” through “subject five.” The investigators could not substantiate claims made by two women.
Tennessee – Tennessee Lawmaker in Email to State Officials: FBI took all campaign files in search
MSN – Jonathan Matisse (Associated Press) | Published: 1/27/2021
One of several Republican state lawmakers in Tennessee whose homes and legislative offices were searched by federal agents said the FBI confiscated all files and documents related to his campaign. Newly sworn-in Rep. Todd Warner provided the details to the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance to explain why he could not complete his most recent campaign finance report on time.
Texas – Should Cities’ Funds Be Used to Pay Lobbyists? Texas Bill Bids to Put a Stop to It
Austin American-Statesman – Philip Jankowski | Published: 2/2/2021
Proposed legislation would make it illegal for cities, counties, and other local government entities in Texas to hire lobbyists. Efforts to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying emerged in part from the annoyance of lawmakers who saw cities and counties push back in 2019 against their work to pass a property tax cap law. State Rep. Mayes Middleton said his bill removes the middleman between local governments and legislators, and local lawmakers elected to represent their cities or counties should be speaking to state lawmakers directly, instead of spending taxpayer dollars on lobbyists.
Utah – What Do Special Interests Get for Providing $9 of Every $10 in Utah Legislators’ Campaigns?
MSN – Lee Davidson (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/28/2021
Utah is one of only 10 states with no campaign contribution limits. Utah also allows direct donations from corporations, which is banned in 22 states. With laws so friendly to interest groups, nearly a third of Utah legislators who raised money last year received nothing from voters in their districts, largely because they did not need their money. The situation perpetually raises questions about how much access and influence special interests may be buying on Utah’s Capitol Hill, and whether legislators are beholden to them. Lawmakers and political scientists generally say it does not buy votes, but likely does improve access for donors to make their case to policymakers.
Vermont – Peddle Power: In a remote democracy, lobbyists adapt to remain relevant
Seven Days – Kevin McCallum | Published: 2/2/2021
Unable to buttonhole senators in the halls or grab lunch with committee chairpersons in the cafeteria, lobbyists in Vermont found their working lives disrupted. Yet even as their stock-in-trade – access to lawmakers – has been curtailed, demand for their influence has remained as strong as ever. Decisions made in Montpelier, from executive lockdown orders to legislative spats over who should receive relief funds, have taken on existential import, raising the stakes for lobbyists and their clients.
Virginia – Legislator Censured After Praising Capitol Rioters Files Suit against Virginia Senate
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 2/1/2021
Virginia Sen. Amanda Chase, who was censured after she praised those who stormed the U.S. Capitol as “patriots,” filed a federal lawsuit contending the rebuke from her Senate colleagues violated her constitutional rights. The Senate censured Chase, a Trump-style populist seeking the GOP nomination for governor, for what it described as a pattern of “unacceptable conduct.” The censure resolution criticized Chase for praising the insurrectionists, but also detailed incidents stretching back several years, including a 2019 episode in which she cursed at a state Capitol police officer over a parking spot.
Washington – With 1 in 5 Lobbyists Coming from State Service, Washington State Lawmakers Hear Bill to Restrict Revolving Door
The Columbian – Joseph O’Sullivan (Seattle Times) | Published: 1/28/2021
As a handful of state lawmakers filed a bill to create a one-year waiting period for public officials to become lobbyists, a “revolving-door” example emerged from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s office. Charles Knutson, a senior policy adviser for the governor on economic development, innovation, and global affairs, left that position on December 22. By January 6, Knutson had registered as a lobbyist with Amazon. In Olympia, Knutson’s two-week journey from government staffer to private policy work is far from unusual. Officials often move from state positions to lobbying in weeks or months, sometimes within days. Nearly one in five of the state’s approximately 800 registered lobbyists worked previously in elected office or state government.
Washington DC – The Capitol Fence Meant D.C. Couldn’t Enact Laws. Vice President Harris’s Office Stepped In.
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer | Published: 2/1/2021
The new security fencing around the U.S. Capitol led to an unusual scene – a District of Columbia employee and a staffer for Vice President Harris, meeting up in a hotel lobby to hand off boxes stuffed with legislative texts. It was the city government’s solution to an unusual problem: federal law requires the council to deliver, by hand, copies of each bill it passes to Congress. But after the breach of the Capitol by a mob trying to overturn former President Trump’s electoral defeat, strict new security measures were put in place. Staffers from the city government were not allowed through the seven-foot-tall fence to deliver bills.
West Virginia – Federal Judge Rules in Lobbyist Lawsuit Against State Education Officials
Weirton Daily Times – Steven Allen Adams | Published: 1/28/2021
A federal judge ruled, in part, that a former state superintendent of schools and Department of Education officials retaliated against a lobbyist for his critical social media posts. The judge granted a motion by lobbyist Jason Webb for two elements of one count he faces that accused former state superintendent of schools Steve Paine and Jan Barth, an assistant superintendent of schools at the Department of Education, of retaliation against Webb. The lobbyist accused Paine and Barth of using government power to intimidate him from exercising his free speech rights. Formerly under contract with college test-prep company ACT, Webb accused Paine and Barth of threatening ACT over Webb’s public comments, resulting in ACT dropping Webb as a lobbyist one month after Webb filed the lawsuit.
January 29, 2021 •
National/Federal Beau Biden Foundation to Deny Lobbyist Donations, Make Major Donors Public The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/21/2021 The Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, which works to combat child abuse and was named after President Biden’s […]
Beau Biden Foundation to Deny Lobbyist Donations, Make Major Donors Public
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/21/2021
The Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, which works to combat child abuse and was named after President Biden’s late son, told donors it will make changes to increase transparency. The foundation said it will expand its ethical guidelines following Biden’s inauguration by not accepting donations from lobbyists and foreign agents and by making major donors public. It also said it will only accept gifts from U.S. citizens, lawfully admitted permanent residents, and American corporate entities and associations.
Biden Is Firing Some Top Trump Holdovers, but in Some Cases, His Hands May Be Tied
MSN – Lisa Rein and Ann Gearan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/24/2021
President Biden’s team moved quickly to dump several high-profile, Senate-confirmed Trump appointees whose terms extended beyond Inauguration Day, in some cases by several years. They include the surgeon general, the National Labor Relations Board’s powerful general counsel, and the heads of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Agency for Global Media. But other, lower-profile Trump loyalists, some of whom helped carry out his administration’s most controversial policies, are scattered throughout Biden’s government in permanent, senior positions. Identifying them, let alone dislodging them, could be difficult for the new leadership.
‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House
MSN – Bill Allison (Bloomberg) | Published: 1/23/2021
President Joe Biden benefited from a record-breaking amount of donations from anonymous donors to outside groups backing him, meaning the public will never have a full accounting of who helped him win the White House. Democrats have said they want to ban “dark money” as uniquely corrupting, since it allows supporters to quietly back a candidate without scrutiny. Yet in their effort to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, they embraced it. Campaign finance laws, in theory, are supposed to limit the influence big money has over politicians. But the system has loopholes, which groups backing Biden and other candidates, have exploited.
House Democrats Plan to Focus Impeachment Trial on How Rioters Reacted to Trump’s Remarks
MSN – Seung Min Kim, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 1/25/2021
The House formally delivered an article of impeachment charging former President Donald Trump with inciting the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, as Democrats prepared to use his own words as evidence against him in his Senate trial. While no final decisions on trial strategy have been made, House managers are concentrating on building their case around Trump personally, both what he said in the run-up to the January 6 attack and at a rally that day, and how his words were interpreted within the White House and outside of it, according to people familiar with the deliberations.
Inspector General Will Investigate Whether Any Justice Dept. Officials Improperly Sought to Help Trump Overturn the Election
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 1/25/2021
The Justice Department’s inspector general announced its office is opening an investigation into whether any current or former department official tried to improperly “alter the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election” – a broad review that comes on the heels of a revelation that then-President Trump considered replacing his acting attorney general with an official more amenable to his unfounded claims of voter fraud. Inspector General Michael Horowitz noted his jurisdiction would be limited to “allegations concerning the conduct of former and current DOJ employees,” and he could not examine other government officials.
Kroger Unknowingly Funneled Donations to a Militant Group. After the Capitol Riots, It’s Cutting It Off.
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 1/21/2021
When Kroger launched its community rewards program more than seven years ago, the supermarket chain pitched the initiative as a way that shoppers could support charities of their choosing. But one of the nonprofit groups being funded through the program was the Indiana Oath Keepers, the local branch of a self-styled militia group whose members now are accused of planning to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance. After court documents disclosed disturbing new allegations about the extremist group, including plans to make “citizens’ arrests” of elected officials, Kroger pulled the Indiana Oath Keepers from its rewards initiative.
Millions Earmarked for Public Health Emergencies Were Used to Pay for Unrelated Projects, Says Inspector General
MSN – Dan Diamond and Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
Federal officials repeatedly raided a fund earmarked for biomedical research in the years leading up to the covid-19 pandemic, spending millions of dollars to pay for unrelated salaries, administrative expenses, and even the cost of removing office furniture, according to an investigation conducted by the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general. It centered on hundreds of millions of dollars intended for the development of vaccines, drugs, and therapies by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), an arm of the federal health department. The inspector general substantiated some of the whistleblower’s claims, finding staff referred to the agency as the “bank of BARDA.”
One of Trump’s Final Acts Will Allow Former Aides to Profit from Foreign Ties
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 1/24/2021
In the final hours of his presidency, Donald Trump revoked the ethics pledge he signed four years earlier, which barred those who had served in his administration from lobbying for foreign governments and political parties for the rest of their lives. With those restrictions gone, former Trump administration officials will be free to represent foreign powers, exactly the kind of behavior Trump had promised to eradicate. The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires those who lobby for foreign governments and political parties, along with some other foreign interests, to disclose their work. Several prominent Trump allies failed to do so, ensnaring them in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and other probes.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Endorsement of Conspiracy Theories, Violence Sparks Calls for Her Resignation – Again
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
Marjorie Taylor Greene openly supported and spread conspiracy theories for years, yet her northwest Georgia district elected her to Congress by a wide margin. Now, in office for a little a few weeks, she is facing a second round of calls for her resignation after a string of reports revealed her repeated endorsements of political violence and extremism. The latest revelations include videos in which Greene repeats bogus claims by suggesting the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida, were staged; a Facebook post that expresses support for a dangerous conspiracy theory about child abuse; and a pattern of online activity approving of the execution of Democratic leaders and federal agents.
Shell Companies and ‘Dark Money’ May Hide Details of Trump Ties to DC Protests
Center for Resposive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 1/22/2021
Former President Trump’s presidential campaign aides played key roles orchestrating a rally protesting certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election before hundreds of rioters breached the U.S. Capitol on January 6. But the full extent of the Trump campaign’s ties to the protests may not be fully known due to its use of shell companies that hide details of its financial dealings and the central role “dark money” played in the protests. Multiple individuals listed on the permit granted by the National Park Service worked for Trump’s presidential campaign. That raises new questions about the Trump campaign’s lack of spending transparency and the unknown extent of the event’s ties to Trump aides.
State Republicans Push New Voting Restrictions after Trump’s Loss
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 1/25/2021
Republican legislators across the country are preparing a slew of new voting restrictions in the wake of former President Trump’s defeat. Republicans in deep-red states and battlegrounds alike are citing Trump’s meritless claims of voter fraud in 2020, and the declining trust in election integrity Trump helped drive, as an excuse to tighten access to the polls. Some GOP officials have been blunt about their motivations: they do not believe they can win unless the rules change.
Supreme Court Ends Lawsuits Alleging That Trump Illegally Profited from Business Interests
MSN – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 1/25/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court put an end to lawsuits alleging former President Trump violated a constitutional anti-corruption prohibition by profiting from his business empire while president. The justices declined to hear Trump’s request to consider lower court orders that said lawsuits could go forward, agreeing with those on both sides of the issue that the cases became moot with Trump no longer in office. The justices also vacated the lower court judgments in the cases/ It means there is no definitive answer after years of legal wrangling over the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which prohibit presidents and others from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional approval.
The Road to Clemency from Trump Was Closed to Most Who Sought It
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 1/26/2021
Of the nearly 240 pardons and commutations issued by former President Trump, only 25 came through the rigorous process for identifying and vetting worthy clemency petitions overseen by the Justice Department. The others came through an ad hoc White House process that favored applications benefiting or pushed by Trump’s allies, friends, and family. In addition to rewarding people whose allies could afford to buy access to the highest levels of the administration, the results included pardons for people with direct personal relationships with the former president. The Justice Department recommended against clemency for some of the people on Trump’s list.
The ‘Rug Has Been Pulled Out’: Campaigns flop amid Facebook, Google ad bans
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 1/27/2021
Facebook and Google’s on-again, off-again bans on political ads are hitting campaigns during a crucial fundraising window, cutting off a key pipeline to potential supporters and disrupting early planning for the next round of elections, from state and local races this year to looming midterm elections in 2022. The self-imposed bans have essentially pressed pause on a political industry that spent $3.2 billion advertising on Google and Facebook in the last two-and-a-half years. Some digital political firms are freezing hiring due to the uncertainty surrounding their biggest ad platforms. The bans have also interfered with organizing and early fundraising efforts piggybacking off a new administration and the start of a new election cycle.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Official Who Defended Nazi License Plates Is Removed from State Discrimination Board
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
After photos emerged on social media of a truck in Alaska bearing the vanity license plate “3REICH,” many lawmakers were quick to condemn the phrase, a reference to Nazi Germany. But not Jamie Allard. The Anchorage Assembly member, who also sits on a state commission that investigates discrimination complaints insisted the personalized message on the plate was a benign translation from German of the word “realm.” Gov. Mike Dunleavy removed her from the state’s human rights commission.
Arizona – Ethics Complaint Filed Against Arizona Lawmaker Over Treatment of Staffer Highlights Lack of Code of Conduct
MSN – Andrew Oxord (Arizona Republic) | Published: 1/25/2021
An ethics complaint made against a newly-elected state senator less than three weeks into Arizona’s legislative session has renewed scrutiny of the Capitol’s code of conduct – or, rather, its lack of one. A former assistant to Sen. Wendy Rogers claimed he was forced to resign under duress the day he returned from quarantining due to a positive COVID-19 test. The assistant said Rogers asked him to work every day he was on paid leave and when he returned, a conversation with his boss lead to her cursing at him and yelling in his face. The complaint depicts Rogers as a nightmare of a boss and as potentially violating various laws.
Arkansas – Sarah Sanders Announces Run for Arkansas Governor
MSN – Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) | Published: 1/25/2021
When then-President Trump announced Sarah Sanders would be departing her job as White House press secretary in June 2019, he urged her to run for governor of Arkansas. “She would be fantastic,” Trump tweeted at the time. Now, less than a week after Trump himself left the White House under the cloud of a second impeachment, Sanders said she is following his suggestion. Sanders, who endeared herself to Trump’s base while combatively, and sometimes misleadingly, sparring with the press, is seen by many as an early favorite in the race to lead a heavily GOP state where Trump’s role in the U.S. Capitol riot may not hurt her appeal.
California – As L.A. City Hall Corruption Probe Endures, Ethics-Reform Bids Launched – but Will Any Take Hold?
Los Angeles Daily News – Elizabeth Chou | Published: 1/22/2021
The FBI probe into “pay-to-play” corruption at Los Angeles City Hall that has spilled into the open over the past two years has sparked some changes to ethics rules, especially around political contributions by developers. It forced the removal of former Councilperson Jose Huizar. who pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering and bribery in a scheme often involving developers. The probe has also led to cases against high-ranking staffers, lobbyists, and others. In recent years, a handful of moves were made to rebuild trust in city officials, but the path has been rocky and long.
California – Englander Sentenced to 14 Months in Prison in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
MSN – Michael Finnegan and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 1/25/2021
Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison and a $15,000 fine following a years-long FBI investigation focused on suspected “pay-to-play” schemes in City Hall. He lied to federal authorities about secret cash payments and a debauched night in Las Vegas provided by a businessperson seeking introductions to developers. Englander is the first person to be sentenced in the probe. He pleaded guilty to falsifying material facts, a felony. The sentencing concluded a precipitous fall for a politician who, less than three years ago, held the council’s second-ranking leadership post and served on its most powerful committees.
Connecticut – Barred from Capitol Due to Pandemic, CT Lobbyists Face Hurdles During Critical Legislative Session
KCTV – Matt Pilon (Hartford Business Journal) | Published: 1/25/2021
Lobbyists are known for their ability to work a room, but those recently interviewed by Hartford Business Journal said the pandemic has thrown that element out the window. With the public barred from entering the Capitol for at least the next few months, if not the entire 2021 regular legislative session that runs until early June, lobbyists in the state’s $90 million industry will be forced to rely on phone calls, emails, texts, and videoconferences to connect with lawmakers and staff.
Connecticut – Joe Aresimowicz Is Latest House Speaker to Go Through ‘Revolving Door’ Into Lobbying – As 6 of 7 Speakers Since 1989 Have Done
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 1/23/2021
A “revolving-door” statute bars former Connecticut House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz for one year from lobbying his longtime legislative colleagues at the state government level, so he has not registered with the Office of State Ethics as a lobbyist for 2021. But Aresimowicz will spend that year “focus[ed] on business development and municipal and federal issues on behalf of the firm’s clients and will supplement the services we provide to them,” according to an announcement by the government-relations firm that hired him, Gaffney Bennett and Associates. Five of the six people who preceded Aresimowicz as speaker, dating to 1989, later became Connecticut lobbyists for at least some period.
Florida – State Auditors Flag Land Purchase Between City and Former Mayor Kathy Meehan’s Relatives
MSN – Rick Neale | Published: 1/21/2021
State auditors flagged a land deal in which the city of Melbourne paid $27,000 above appraised value to buy a parcel owned by then-Mayor Kathy Meehan’s relatives and the land turned out to be contaminated with arsenic. The city bought the land for $315,000 from MEE3 LLC, a corporation managed by Meehan’s husband, Dennis, and his brothers, Ronald and Kenneth Meehan. The city obtained an appraisal valuing the land at $288,000. But City Hall staff determined the property was worth the additional $27,000. The state Joint Legislative Auditing Committee challenged that assertion.
Georgia – A Georgia GOP Lawmaker Refused Coronavirus Tests. He Was Kicked Off the Floor for ‘Jeopardizing the Health’ of Colleagues.
MSN – Jaclyn Peiser (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
As the Georgia House convened recently, Speaker David Ralston called for an unnamed lawmaker who had repeatedly refused to be tested for the coronavirus to discreetly remove himself from the room. But no one left the chamber. Ralston then called on a state trooper to escort out Rep. David Clark for violating the twice-a-week testing policy and for “jeopardizing the health of our members in this chamber.” It was reported that during the first week of the Legislature’s session, nine senators, staff, aides, and interns tested positive for the virus.
Illinois – Madigan No Longer ‘Mr. Speaker,’ but He’s Still ‘ublic Official A’
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 1/22/2021
After four decades at the helm of Illinois politics, Rep. Michael Madigan may no longer be “Mr. Speaker,” but he still retains a decidedly more ignominious title – “Public Official A.” Madigan, whose record run as House speaker ended recently, remains the unnamed politician at the center of an ongoing federal corruption probe that so far has led to bribery charges against one of his closest confidants and several others tied to Commonwealth Edison. Madigan has not been charged and denied any wrongdoing. But now that he has lost the speaker’s gavel, there has been talk of what it might mean for the U.S. attorney’s office and its still-active investigation.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Ethics Meeting Ends in Charges, Countercharges and Thrown Papers
MSN – Chance Swaim and Dion Lefler (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 1/26/2021
A Wichita City Council meeting to shape a new ethics policy ended poorly after members of the council left the bench and the mayor tossed a printout of social media screenshots at a council member over a plexiglass COVID barrier. After nearly four hours of heated debate about whether the policy should include provisions related to campaign finance, and whether unethical behavior is prevalent enough to warrant a new policy, the workshop ended without a formal vote to close the meeting.
Massachusetts – Boston City Council Considers Proposal to Suspend Special Election
WBUR – Anthony Brooks | Published: 1/26/2021
Boston City Council members heard a range of arguments, mostly in favor, of a home rule petition to suspend a special mayoral election this summer. The hearing was prompted by the pending resignation of Mayor Marty Walsh, who has been nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as Secretary of Labor. If confirmed, Walsh’s departure would shake up City Hall politics and prompt a compressed race to succeed him. If Walsh leaves his post before March 5, the city charter requires both a special election for mayor and a regularly scheduled November election. That could mean as many as four elections this year – a general and run-off election for both – and possibly four different mayors in a 12-month period.
Michigan – Corrupt UAW Boss Wore Wire While Playing Golf with Union Brothers
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 1/20/2021
Prosecutors said a United Auto Workers (UAW) official caught in a years-long corruption scandal deserves probation because he helped prosecutors convict two former presidents and secure federal oversight of the belabored union. Edward “Nick” Robinson’s help in exposing corruption within the UAW’s top ranks included risking his safety by wearing secret recording devices during union junkets and while golfing with corrupt colleagues, according to a sentencing memo. Robinson is portrayed in court filings as a pivotal figure in an investigation that has led to the convictions of 15 people. The probe revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds, and received bribes and illegal benefits.
Minnesota – Donations from University Regents to Lobbying Group Under Increasing Scrutiny
KSTP – Joseph Augustine and Jay Kolis | Published: 1/26/2021
Several members of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents are facing growing criticism for donating to a PAC that is acting as an independent lobbyist for the university. Maroon and Gold Rising is an unaffiliated non-profit group created last year primarily by alumni and former regents who say its mission is to support the university’s requests for funding. But it also operates a PAC that shares the same name, website and some of the same members. Professor Richard Painter, a well-known expert in legal ethics at the university, says the regents have created potential conflicts-of-interest by donating to outside political groups.
Mississippi – Charter Schools Receive Taxpayer Dollars. Should Their Board Members Follow State Ethics Laws?
Mississippi Today – Kate Royals | Published: 1/20/2021
The Mississippi Ethics Commission says charter school board members are subject to state ethics laws, which prohibit conflicts-of-interest that could lead to the misspending of public dollars. But several operators and advocates of charter schools, which receive taxpayer funding, say they should be exempt from those laws. The conflict was brought to light by Ethics Commission opinions filed in 2020 after two charter schools were discovered to be spending their public funding with board members’ employers. The revelations highlight long-standing tension between charter school and traditional public-school advocates, who say charter schools need to be held to the same standards as other public governing bodies.
Mississippi – Gov. Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Raised $1.6M from Unknown Donors, Paid Family Member’s Company
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 1/21/2021
Unlike many other states and the federal government, Mississippi has no rules around how politicians raise, spend, and disclose inaugural money. That means elected officeholders in Mississippi can use these inaugural nonprofits to raise large amounts of money outside the boundaries of campaign finance laws that typically regulate other types of political fundraising. A nonprofit set up to fund Gov. Tate Reeves’ inauguration last year paid nearly $150,000 to a business owned by the governor’s brother and sister-in-law, documents show.
Missouri – Missouri Employee Pension Says Firm Had Lobbyist, Lawmaker Apply Pressure on Lawsuit
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) | Published: 1/27/2021
A Canadian private equity firm accused in a lawsuit of mishandling investments by Missouri’s largest public pension hired a lobbyist to influence key legislators and put pressure on the pension outside of court proceedings, a top pension official claimed. Catalyst Capital Group hired lobbyist Richard McIntosh after the Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System sued the firm. Ronda Stegmann, the system’s executive director, testified in a court hearing that McIntosh then tried to set up a meeting with Stegmann, two legislators, and Catalyst executives. Companies routinely hire lobbyists to influence legislation and policies. Less common is the involvement of a lobbyist around ongoing litigation.
Nebraska – Often Heated Redistricting Process Expected to Add State Senators in Nebraska’s Metro Areas
Omaha World-Herald – Paul Hammel | Published: 1/25/2021
Nebraska lawmakers are beginning the politically and sometimes emotionally charged job of redrawing congressional and legislative districts, as well as voting districts for other state offices. But one of the main questions facing those who will work on redistricting is whether it will happen at all during the Legislature’s regular 90-day session, which is scheduled to end in early June. Delays in the completion of the census have made it doubtful that final population figures needed for redistricting will arrive by the traditional time in early April.
Nevada – Legislative Building Will Be Closed to Public at Start of Session, Is Expected to Open More After Vaccinations
Nevada Independent – Michelle Rindell | Published: 1/21/2021
Nevada’s 2021 legislative session will start off closed to all but lawmakers, essential staff, and some members of the media, with all others participating virtually, according to a logistics plan issued by the Legislative Counsel Bureau. Legislators will meet with constituents and lobbyists through Microsoft Teams. To account for the fact that more lobbying will take place virtually, the plan also calls for updating state law that requires only lobbyists who appear in person in the building to register and be regulated.
New Jersey – Hoboken City Council Tightens Pay-to-Play Laws Before Mayoral Election
Hudson Reporter – Marilyn Bear | Published: 1/22/2021
The Hoboken City Council introduced an ordinance that aims to tighten the city’s “pay-to-play” laws. According to current law, PACs and unions are limited to $500 donations for individual candidates as opposed to the $2,600 allowable by state law. Hoboken restricts contributions from developers, vendors, and professionals seeking city contracts. If approved, the reform measure would not allow vendors who received emergency contracts to contribute to any PACs or independent expenditure groups for 12 months before entering into a contract with the city. It restricts any vendor from donating within 12 months beyond the termination of their contract.
New Mexico – Lobbyists Adjust to New Reality of Virtual Session
New Mexico Political Report – Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 1/25/2021
Robert Duran is learning to adapt to a virtual environment amid a pandemic that prompted state officials to move most lawmaking over to the Internet and keep the building closed to the public and others, including lobbyists like Duran who are a mainstay when the Legislature meets in Santa Fe. Duran and other lobbyists said this year’s legislative session, which began with masked lawmakers separated by Plexiglas partitions between their desks, is a big adjustment for people in an industry whose bread and butter is face-to-face interaction.
New Mexico – Secretary of State to Pursue Fines, Enforcement in Cowboys for Trump Case
MSN – Nicole Maxwell (Alamogordo News) | Published: 1/21/2021
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced she intends to pursue arbitration order enforcement against the Cowboys for Trump political advocacy organization. The move comes after a federal court dismissed a case filed by Cowboys for Trump and its founder, Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, against Toulouse Oliver’s office. The case was about whether Cowboys for Trump should be classified as a PAC and if fines the group allegedly accrued were truly owed.
New York – Supreme Court Won’t Hear Appeal from Sheldon Silver, Former N.Y. Lawmaker
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 1/25/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court let stand the conviction of Sheldon Silver, the once-powerful state Assembly speaker in New York who went to prison last year on federal corruption charges. The court has in recent years been skeptical of broad interpretations of public corruption laws, saying they are not all-purpose devices to ensure good government. Silver’s lawyers told the justices that prosecutors had overreached in his case by securing his conviction of accepting bribes in a real estate scheme without proving those who made the payments had intended to influence particular official actions.
North Dakota – Legislative Lobbyists Navigate Through New Restrictions
Grand Forks Herald – Dylan Sherman (North Dakota Newspaper Association) | Published: 1/25/2021
Lobbyists, like lawmakers and everyone else in the North Dakota Capitol, have to follow coronavirus guidelines, such as wearing a mask and limiting personal contact, and abide by new ethics guidelines banning gifts. The political process is based on relationships and policy, lobbyist Levi Andrist said. Now, as most people cannot look each other in the eye or shake hands, it makes it more difficult to discuss public policy. Andrist said there have been some positives to the new layout, with online participation being one of them.
Ohio – Portman’s Exit Signals Uncertainty for Senate GOP
Politico – Burgess Everett and James Arkin | Published: 1/26/2021
Ohio Republican Rob Portman will not seek a third U.S. Senate term in 2022, a blow to both Republicans’ hopes of taking back the Senate and the chamber’s dwindling number of centrists/ Portman is one of the most effective legislators in the Senate, using his relationships gleaned from a long career in Washington to find compromise. But he cited legislative paralysis in the chamber as a major factor in his decision to retire at the end of next year. Portman joins GOP Sens. Pat Toomey and Richard Burr in retirement next year in key swing states. Democrats currently hold a narrow majority in an evenly split Senate.
Oregon – Investigation: Oregon state lawmaker likely created a hostile workplace at state Capitol
OPB – Lauren Drake | Published: 1/25/2021
An investigation into the behavior of Oregon Rep. Diego Hernandez found he likely created a hostile work environment at the Capitol for two women, according to an internal investigation into the representative’s behavior. Both women had brief, consensual romantic relationships with Hernandez. Both women, according to the investigation, tried to end those relationships. But they felt Hernandez’s behaviors forced them into making a difficult choice: they could either resume a relationship with him or risk jeopardizing their careers. The investigation delves into the allegations of five women. All the women included in the report either work in the Capitol or have conducted business with the Legislature in their professional capacity.
Pennsylvania – An Appeals Court Upheld a Campaign Finance Conviction for Bob Brady’s Onetime Political Guru
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck | Published: 1/26/2021
A federal appeals court upheld the conviction of former U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s top political strategist, Ken Smukler, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2019 for repeated violations of campaign finance law. A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found Smukler coordinated what amounted to illegal campaign contributions to give clients, including Brady, an edge in two congressional races in 2012 and 2014. But the judges vacated his conviction on two of the seven counts of which he was found guilty, ruling the trial judge had failed to properly instruct the jury on the level of proof required to show Smukler had known about the laws he was violating when he broke them.
Virginia – Virginia Senator Who Called U.S. Capitol Rioters ‘Patriots’ Is Censured
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
The Virginia Senate voted to censure state Sen. Amanda Chase over a long pattern of behavior that includes referring to the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6 as “patriots” and making insulting comments toward the Virginia Capitol Police and the clerk of the Senate. Chase spoke to the crowd of Donald Trump supporters in Washington, D.C. on the day of the riot but left before they went to the Capitol and crashed through security lines.
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.
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