July 30, 2021 •
National/Federal As Coronavirus Surges, GOP Lawmakers Are Moving to Limit Public Health Powers MSN – Frances Stead Sellers and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021 Republican lawmakers are rallying around the cause of individual freedom to counter community-based disease mitigation […]
As Coronavirus Surges, GOP Lawmakers Are Moving to Limit Public Health Powers
MSN – Frances Stead Sellers and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021
Republican lawmakers are rallying around the cause of individual freedom to counter community-based disease mitigation methods, moves experts say leave the country ill-equipped to counter the resurgent coronavirus and a future outbreak. In some states, anger at perceived overreach by health officials has prompted legislative attempts to limit their authority, including new state laws that prevent the closure of businesses or allow lawmakers to rescind mask mandates. Some state courts have reined in the emergency and regulatory powers governors have wielded against the virus. In its recent rulings and analysis, the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled its willingness to limit disease mitigation in the name of religious freedom.
As Trump Pushed for Probes of 2020 Election, He Called Acting AG Rosen Almost Daily
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 7/28/2021
Then-President Trump called his acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, nearly every day at the end of last year to alert him to claims of voter fraud or alleged improper vote counts in the 2020 election and asked what the Justice Department was doing about the issue. There are notes of some of the calls that were written by a top aide to Rosen. The notes could be turned over to Congress in a matter of days if Trump does not file papers in court seeking to block such a handover. Both Rosen and Donoghue could be questioned about the conversations by congressional committees examining Trump’s actions in the days after the election.
China Critic Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama Violated Stock Disclosure Law, Sold Alibaba Option
CNBC – Dan Mangan | Published: 7/27/2021
U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville ran for office while arguing for the “rule of law” and criticizing China, but in less than eight months on the job, the Alabama Republican violated a federal financial transparency law, while also selling stock options of China’s leading e-commerce company. Tuberville failed as required by the STOCK Act to file disclosures of about 130 stock and stock options trades executed from January through May within a maximum 45-day window. The trades ranged in total value from $894,000 to more than $3.5 million.
Democrats Broaden Probe of Trump-Era Meddling at CDC
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2021
Congressional investigators expanded their inquiry of political interference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under former President Trump, citing newly obtained documents and additional reports of the administration’s meddling in government scientists’ work. The expanded investigation centers on efforts to blunt the CDC’’ Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, which offer public updates on scientists’ findings. The reports had been considered untouchable by political appointees in the past, but Trump appointees pushed to edit the findings, worried they undermined Trump’s more optimistic spin on the pandemic.
Democrats Look to Move Past Partisan Rancor and Set Serious Tone for Jan. 6 Investigation
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2021
Members of the House select committee have been preparing for weeks to move swiftly with an investigation examining key unanswered questions surrounding the breaching of the Capitol by a mob of former President Trump’s supporters who echoed his false claims about the 2020 election while seeking to stop Congress’s efforts to certify its results and declare Joe Biden the next president. Those questions include to what degree the attack was coordinated, what led to the security lapses, and how Trump and his administration responded as lawmakers scrambled to safety while the insurrectionists marched through the halls of Congress.
‘Good Trouble’: Black caucus embraces civil disobedience
MSN – Marty Johnson (The Hill) | Published: 7/28/2021
Civil disobedience was an integral part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and is playing a pivotal role again as Black lawmakers express discontent over inaction on voting rights. U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson were arrested after staging separate voting rights protests at the Hart Senate Office Building. Their actions stem from mounting frustration over the filibuster, which has thrown the passage of both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act into jeopardy.
Justice Department Declines to Defend Rep. Mo Brooks Against Jan. 6 Incitement Lawsuit
MSN – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/27/2021
The Justice Department and the House of Representatives declined on to represent U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks in a lawsuit that accuses him of helping to incite the deadly riot at the Capitol on January 6. The Alabama Republican is one of several defendants in the suit filed by U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, who says Brooks knowingly incited a mob of then-President Trump’s supporters to storm the Capitol, using incendiary rhetoric at a rally near the White House before the violent assault began. Trump himself, as well as Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Justice Department Issues Policy Limiting White House Contact
MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/21/2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a directive seeking to limit political influence on law enforcement matters by strictly limiting contacts between Justice Department personnel and the White House. The memo follows through on campaign pledges by Joe Biden to reestablish the department’s independence after a series of episodes where then-President Trump publicly and privately complained about prosecutors’ decisions, urging them to lay off his friends and target his political enemies.
K Street Clamors for Democratic Hill Aides, Who Don’t Want to Leave
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 7/29/2021
Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill are in high demand – on K Street, in the Biden administration, and in burgeoning political campaigns. But the level of clamoring for them, especially in the booming lobbying sector, has surprised even veteran observers of the “revolving door.” But Democratic aides are reluctant to leave, even for bigger paychecks, given that their party controls the House, Senate, and executive branch. They have that rare opportunity to help craft once-in-a-generation legislative packages and, potentially, to help shape public policy for decades to come.
One Third of States Have Passed Restrictive Voting Laws This Year
MSN – Reid Wilson (The Hill) | Published: 7/27/2021
One in every three states across the nation have passed new laws restricting voter access to the ballot in the wake of the 2020 elections, a pace that showcases the national battle over election reform. Voting rights experts and advocates say they have never seen such an explosion of election overhauls. Legislatures in 17 states have passed 29 bills that would in some way curtail a voter’s access, according to a tally maintained by the Brennan Center for Justice. The overhauls vary widely by state.
Trade Groups Wrestle with Supporting GOP Lawmakers Who Embrace Trump’s Election Lie
MSN – Allan Smith (NBC News) | Published: 7/26/2021
The January 6 Capitol riot forced the sprawling network of Washington, D.C. trade associations, which represent everything from hedge fund managers to construction contractors, to reconsider their political contributions. These groups donate liberally to members of both parties, typically with little scrutiny. Some of these organizations have since dialed down or stopped donating to the large number of Republican lawmakers who objected to the election results. Others, after a brief pause, have restarted their giving.
Trump’s PAC Collected $75 Million This Year, but So Far the Group Has Not Put Money Into Pushing for the 2020 Ballot Reviews He Touts
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2021
Former President Trump’s political PAC raised roughly $75 million in the first half of this year as he trumpeted the false notion the 2020 election was stolen from him, but the group has not devoted funds to help finance the ongoing ballot review in Arizona or to push for similar endeavors in other states, according to people familiar with the finances. Instead, the Save America leadership PAC, which has few limits on how it can spend its money, has paid for some of the former president’s travel, legal costs, and staff, along with other expenses. The PAC has held onto much of its cash.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Commission Staff Recommends $52,650 Fine Against Anchorage Mayor Bronson for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Emily Goodykoontz (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 7/24/2021
Staff of the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) recommended a $52,650 fine against the campaign of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson for what it says are multiple violations of state campaign finance law. The report found the campaign violated transparency rules when it did not disclose tens of thousands of dollars in debt for more than seven months after it was incurred – until after this year’s April 6 election and the May 11 runoff – among multiple other infractions, according to the report.
Arizona – Appeals Court Tosses Former Arizona Lawmaker’s Lawsuit Over Expulsion
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 7/22/2021
A federal appeals court tossed out the claims of former state Rep. Don Shooter that his rights were violated when he was expelled in 2018 from the Arizona House. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the claims against former House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and former gubernatorial aide Kirk Adams cannot survive the fact they have qualified immunity for their actions. Judge Daniel Collins pointed out the Arizona Constitution empowers the House to discipline its own members and even oust them with a two-thirds vote. He said that limits the ability of federal courts to second-guess the procedures used here.
California – Calif. Task Force Recommends Public Archive for Digital Campaign Ads
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 7/27/2021
A task force convened by the California Fair Political Practices Commission is recommending the creation of a digital archive to track online advertisements promoting candidates for state office. The task force members say a public database of digital ads would help voters, researchers, journalists, and others keep better track of campaign spending by state office seekers. The online archive would be the first of its kind among the 50 states, although similar programs already exist in cities like New York and Los Angeles, the report noted.
California – Hefty Contracts for Campaign Contributors in Huntington Park
KCET – Erick Cabrera and Julie Patel | Published: 7/26/2021
An examination of public records from 2018 through 2020 confirmed several companies contracted by Huntington Park gave gifts and campaign contributions to council members during that time. In all, $38,000, or over 30 percent of the roughly $125,000 in campaign donations to current Huntington Park council members, came from eight companies and their executives that were identified as city contractors at some point during that time. At least half of the roughly $4,300 in gifts provided to council members came from city contractors or subcontractors, according to economic interest forms.
California – In El Monte, a Close Friendship Shatters Over Cannabis Vote, Surgery Payment
Yahoo News – Adam Elmahrek (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/24/2021
One was a lobbyist and the other was an El Monte City Council member, but they also were best friends who thought they had a special bond. But the friendship shattered when Victoria Martinez Muela voted against allowing retail sales of cannabis in the city, a proposal that Sigrid Lopez had championed. Now, Lopez has signed a sworn declaration as part of a complaint submitted to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office alleging Martinez Muela may have accepted a $1,100 gift from her for a medical procedure and failed to disclose it on financial statements, in violation of California law.
California – Powerful Developers, Lobbyist Helped Hire San Jose Planning Director
San Jose Spotlight – Eli Wolfe | Published: 7/24/2021
San Jose’s new planning director was chosen by developers and lobbyists, many of whom have projects pending at City Hall. The planning director is one of the most powerful positions in San Jose’s government because they make initial decisions on major developments and land use projects. A city insider said it is not unusual to have developers and land use lobbyists on interview committees for high-level jobs. They said this is by design because San Jose’s government wants planning directors who will green light development projects, which have become an increasingly important part of the city’s economic growth strategy.
Florida – Dark Money Group Intervening in FPL Rate Case Asks PSC to Hide Members
The Capitolist – Brian Burgess | Published: 7/27/2021
A group seeking to intervene in a rate case filed by Florida Power and Light (FPL) is refusing to disclose its donors and took steps to shield its member list from public view. Floridians Against Increased Rates (FAIR) was founded by lobbyist and former Jacksonville Electric Authority board member Michael Hightower. As part of the process, FAIR initially submitted a list of over 500 members, many of which they claim are FPL customers who allegedly oppose any increase in rates. But FAIR blocked an attempt to verify their membership list by filing a motion to shield the names and other information about the group.
Florida – Ethics Panel Rejects Penalty for Sham No-Party Candidate as Not Tough Enough
MSN – Ana Ceballos (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/23/2021
The Florida Commission on Ethics rejected a $6,500 fine against a sham no-party candidate who ran in a 2020 Miami-Dade legislative race, a rare move that was triggered by calls for stiffer penalties in a case one commissioner called one of the “most egregious” in the state. The commission also found probable cause that Alexis Pedro Rodriguez filed inaccurate campaign documents and accepted money from former state Sen. Frank Artiles with the understanding he would change his party affiliation from Republican to no party to qualify to run in the Senate District 37 election.
Florida – Ex-Florida State Sen. Frank Artiles Worked Closely with Top GOP Consulting Firm During ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scheme, Documents Indicate
MSN – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 7/27/2021
On June 11 of last year, authorities say Frank Artiles met Alex Rodriguez in the parking lot of a Miami bank, where Artiles gave Rodriguez $2,000 in cash so his friend could open a campaign account and run as a sham candidate in an important state Senate election in South Florida. Then, they say, Artiles told Rodriguez he had to rush to the airport so he could fly to Tallahassee and hand-deliver Rodriguez’s elections paperwork. Records show Artiles billed Data Targeting, the political consulting firm that was at the same time being paid millions of dollars by state Republican leaders to run Senate campaigns, for the cost of a plane ticket. Artiles is now awaiting trial on charges related to the sham-candidate scheme.
Florida – Trust at Issue as Miami-Dade Ethics Commission Takes Big Step Away from Transparency
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 7/27/2021
In a blow to transparency, the Miami Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust is no longer posting its investigative reports online. And soon, the ethics commission will remove other public documents that have been available on its website for years. Usually less than 10 pages long, the reports provide brief summaries about closed cases, including descriptions of witness interviews and evidence collected during a probe. The reports also state whether a case became a formal complaint to the ethics commission, closed without taking any further action, or was forwarded to the state attorney’s office to conduct a possible criminal probe.
Georgia – Georgia Judge Dismisses Election Suit Against Fulton County but Allows Claim Against Individual Officials
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/27/2021
Superior Court Judge Brian Amero dismissed claims filed against Fulton County, the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections and the Fulton County Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Courts on the basis of Georgia’s sovereign immunity laws. Superior Court Judge Brian Amero granted a request by the plaintiffs to add the county’s election board members as individuals, not as a collective group, to the lawsuit as new respondents, effectively keeping alive a small group’s efforts to inspect all 147,000 absentee ballots cast in the state’s largest county last November.
Illinois – Cook Co. Official Defends Hiring Her Cousin as Chief of Staff
MSN – Alice Yin (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/24/2021
A complaint that a Cook County elected official hired her first cousin as her chief of staff triggered an ethics inquiry earlier this year, but the official in question shot down calls for the relative to resign. Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt hired her cousin Todd Thielmann as the top staffer in her office. Questions about the employment prompted an inquiry from the board’s ethics officer, who in a letter to Wendt noted the board’s ethics policy restricts the hiring of relatives of agency officials. During a June board meeting, Wendt did not answer questions about the hiring and then voted against an amended ethics policy that would have more clearly prohibited such a move.
Massachusetts – Essaibi George Is Running for Boston Mayor. Her Husband, a Housing Developer, Has Had a Lot of Problems with City Hall
MSN – Andrew Ryan and Danny McDonald (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/28/2021
After developer Douglas George built a luxury condominium building, he christened it “The Vista” for its “jaw dropping views” of Boston’s skyline. When another developer wanted to build next door at obstruct that view, in stepped George’s wife, city Councilor Annissa Essaibi George. Now a candidate for mayor, Essaibi George used her office to try to block the rival project. Her office’s involvement, which appears to violate state conflict-of-interest law, raises questions about the councilor’s actions, but also underscores the entanglements between a leading mayoral candidate and her husband, with whom the city has long battled over his real estate practices.
Massachusetts – Mass. State House Remains Closed, Even as Other Buildings Open
WBUR – Steve Brown | Published: 7/29/2021
While most cities and towns in Massachusetts have lifted the pandemic restrictions on their libraries and other buildings, the State House likely will not reopen to the public for at least another couple of months. Secretary of State Bill Galvin, whose office oversees tours of the building, is pushing lawmakers to end the 16-month closure more quickly, arguing the structure could reopen with little risk to public health. Lobbyist Arline Isaacson said the closure has made it harder to talk to politicians.
Michigan – Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey and Office Worker Allegedly Accepted $35,000 in Bribes
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 7/28/2021
Detroit City Councilperson Andre Spivey and an unnamed worker on his staff accepted more than $35,000 in bribery payments, federal prosecutors alleged. The payments were part of an alleged bribery conspiracy from 2016 to 2020 to influence city business, prosecutors said. Spivey was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.
Michigan – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Uses a State Policy to Raise Millions
Yahoo News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 7/27/2021
By using a state policy that allows officeholders facing recalls to collect unlimited contributions from donors, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s has taken in an extra $3.4 million from dozens of contributors who normally would have been capped at $7,150 each. Whitmer is facing multiple recall efforts, although it is unclear how serious they are, that have at least sought permission from the Board of State Canvassers. Former Secretary of State Richard Austin found it would be improper to allow committees seeking to recall officeholders to raise unlimited amounts while capping contributions to those officeholders who must defend themselves.
Missouri – Missouri Ethics Commission Seeks $191,550 from Former Ferguson Lawmaker in Federal Prison
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 7/28/2021
Former state Rep. Courtney Curtis’s legal troubles continue behind bars after he was sentenced in March to nearly two years in federal prison for misuse of campaign funds. The Missouri Ethics Commission said in a lawsuit that Curtis owes the state $191,550 after he did not comply with two orders in 2017 and 2019 which required him to file necessary campaign reports and to pay fines.
New Mexico – New Mexico State Rep. Williams Stapleton Under Criminal Investigation
MSN – Robert Knott (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 7/28/2021
State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton is under criminal investigation on allegations of racketeering, money laundering, and receiving illegal kickbacks. Investigators conducted searches at her business and home and had been looking into irregularities in her work as an administrator at Albuquerque Public Schools. The allegations involve Williams Stapleton’s connections to Robotics Management Learning Systems, which has provided web-based learning materials to Albuquerque. The affidavit outlined an elaborate scheme in which Williams Stapleton was able to be involved with the procurement of a contract with the company and approve invoices for payments.
New Mexico – Proposal Would Give Unpaid New Mexico Lawmakers a Salary
MSN – Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 7/26/2021
As members of the only Legislature in the country that serve in office for free, New Mexico lawmakers are once again broaching the politically thorny idea of giving themselves a salary. But they are hoping to avoid the predictable backlash by letting others decide what the amount should be. A proposed constitutional amendment would put the decision-making in the hands of the State Ethics Commission, which would review and establish salaries for legislators every two years. The commission also would set the salaries of all elected officers of the executive and judicial branches of state government.
New York – Cuomo Said AG Probe Would Clear Him. Now His Aides Say It’s Political.
Politico – Anna Gronewold | Published: 7/24/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing a cascade of misconduct claims earlier this year, wrote a letter in March directing state Attorney General Tish James to investigate the scandals that were threatening to end his career. When James is done with her work, Cuomo assured the public, everyone will see he had done nothing wrong. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion,” he said at the time, refusing calls to resign. Now, James and the outside attorneys she hired to conduct the work appear close to wrapping up the inquiry after interviewing the governor. But Cuomo’s top aides no longer seem convinced James will deliver the findings their boss had promised and staked his future on.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Commission OKs $10 Food/Drink Exception to Gift Rules
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 7/28/2021
The North Dakota Ethics Commission unanimously adopted a $10 food and drink exception to its gift rules for public officials. The panel also is looking into questions about conference expenses for public officials when the conference organization offers to pay for their attendance, and what levels of educating versus advocating are occurring at such events. Commission Executive Director Dave Thiele said the issue “seems to come up fairly routinely.”
Ohio – DeWine Says He Didn’t Know About Alleged $4.3m Bribe of Utility Regulator He Appointed
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 7/27/2021
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine distanced himself from a utility regulator he appointed who was accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from FirstEnergy Corp. FirstEnergy said in a court it paid Sam Randazzo $22 million in consulting fees in the decade leading up to his appointment as chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. This includes a $4.3 million payment, sent shortly before DeWine appointed Randazzo in early 2019, to hand down rulings favorable to the company. DeWine said while he did not know about the $4.3 million payment, “everybody” knew Randazzo worked for FirstEnergy during the appointment process.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Admitted Secretive Dark Money Made Bribery Scheme Possible. So What Happened to Ohio Legislation That Called for More Disclosure?
MSN – Laura Hancock (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/26/2021
In a deal with federal prosecutors, FirstEnergy had to admit it could not have bankrolled the massive House Bill 6 bribery scheme had it not been for “dark money.” The utility admitted its executives funneled more than $60 million in bribes through a secretive group controlled by now-indicted former House Speaker Larry Householder. When Householder was arrested, many members of the Ohio General Assembly seemed to agree “dark money” was a problem, introducing bills that would require entities known as 501(c)(4)s to disclose donors. Legislation was introduced by members of both parties during the current two-year session and the last. Yet no bill has made it past the finish line to become law.
Oregon – Mike Nearman Pleads Guilty to Official Misconduct, Receives 18 Months Probation
MSN – Connor Radnovich (Salem Statesman-Journal) | Published: 7/27/2021
Former state Rep. Mike Nearman pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree official misconduct for letting rioters into the closed Oregon Capitol during a special session in 2020. In exchange for dropping a charge of trespassing, Nearman accepted a sentence that includes probation, an 18-month ban from Capitol grounds, 80 hours of community service, and $2,900 in fines and restitution. Nearman allowed dozens of rioters, some armed, to gain access to the Capitol, which was closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. Six officers were injured.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Lawmaker Resigns Amid Theft Charges but Likely Will Keep Her Taxpayer-Funded Pension and Health Benefits
MSN – Jan Murphy (PennLive) | Published: 7/24/2021
State Rep. Margo Davidson, charged with misusing thousands of dollars from her campaign and legislative accounts, resigned from the Pennsylvania House. Her charges relate to misuse of campaign funds and legislative expenses between 2015 and 2019. During that time, investigators found she had sought taxpayer reimbursement for overnight stays in Harrisburg that she had already paid for out of her campaign accounts, as well as for some nights when she did not stay in Harrisburg. Davidson is also accused of soliciting a witness to lie to investigators regarding the criminal investigation into her campaign finances and per diem.
Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott Promised ‘Transparency and Accountability’ for Border Wall Donations. But Donors Don’t Have to Use Real Names
Texas Tribune – James Barragan | Published: 7/23/2021
Despite promises from Gov. Greg Abbott that transparency in the crowdfunding process for funding construction of the border wall in Texas would be paramount, donor information released to The Texas Tribune for the first week of collections was bereft of any way to verify the identities of the majority of the donors. Abbott’s office is not disclosing the locations of donors, nor is it requiring they identify themselves with their real names. The shortcomings in the disclosures have raised ethical concerns about the private fundraising effort for the governor’s major state initiative. Experts have warned that without clear disclosure rules, it could invite the perception of a “pay-to-play” system in which anonymous donors benefit from their contributions to one of Abbott’s priority projects.
Virginia – Anemic Start for Virginia’s Campaign Finance Study Could Delay Final Report
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 7/29/2021
As both political parties flood supporters with desperate-sounding pleas for money to win the 2021 elections, an effort to study campaign finance reform in Virginia is off to a less urgent start. A joint General Assembly subcommittee approved in February to study whether the state needs stricter laws on money in politics still has not held its first meeting. With less than 100 days left to finish its work by a November 1 deadline, some policymakers are now wondering if they have enough time to complete the study on time.
Virginia – Lobbyists Load Va. Lawmakers onto Private Jet to Kick Off Push to Loosen Slots Laws
Virginia Mercury – Ned Oliver | Published: 7/22/2021
A coalition of gambling companies hoping to get slot machines back into Virginia convenience stores and bars kicked off its legislative push with a private flight for four state lawmakers to Chicago. While the plush jet raised some eyebrows – Virginia politicians have generally eschewed gifts of private air travel after scandal consumed former Gov. Bob McDonnell – organizers said it was strictly an opportunity to learn from Illinois, which broadly legalized video gambling terminals in 2009.
Washington DC – D.C. Reforms Gave Inmates a Vote. Now an Elected Official Is Working from Jail.
MSN – Stephanie Lai (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021
Joel Castón gets ready for his day not as an inmate convicted of first-degree murder nearly three decades ago, but as newly elected city official with a few months left behind bars. He is Washington. D.C.’s first incarcerated person to win an election. Like most Advisory Neighborhood Commission members, who serve to connect and provide input from their community to the city council, the responsibilities are tacked on to other work. Castón’s public service is voluntary. But unlike his colleagues who attend meetings or visit constituents, Castón cannot leave his housing unit and constituents cannot visit him. Instead, they contact him through the jail’s mailing system. He works on a schedule set by the jail.
July 23, 2021 •
National/Federal 2020 Presidential Polls Suffered Worst Performance in Decades, Report Says MSN – Dan Balz (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2021 Public opinion polls in the 2020 presidential election suffered from errors of “unusual magnitude,” the highest in 40 years for surveys […]
2020 Presidential Polls Suffered Worst Performance in Decades, Report Says
MSN – Dan Balz (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2021
Public opinion polls in the 2020 presidential election suffered from errors of “unusual magnitude,” the highest in 40 years for surveys estimating the national popular vote and in at least 20 years for state-level polls, according to a study. Polls understated the support for then-President Trump in nearly every state and by an average of more the three percentage points overall. Polls in U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races suffered from the same problem. Task force members were not able to reach definitive conclusions on exactly what caused the problems in the most recent polls and therefore how to correct their methodology ahead of the next elections.
‘A Propaganda Tool’ for Trump: A second federal judge castigates attorneys who filed a lawsuit challenging the 2020 results
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/16/2021
Two Colorado lawyers filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 160 million American voters, alleging a vast conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election by the voting equipment manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla Chan, and elected officials in four states, and asking for $160 billion in damages. The case was dismissed in April, but a federal judge is considering disciplining the lawyers for filing a frivolous claim – sharply questioning the duo in a hearing about whether they had allowed themselves to be used as “a propaganda tool” of former President Trump.
Battle for Power in Haiti Extends to Lobbying in Washington
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Natalie Kitroeff | Published: 7/21/2021
The struggle for power in Haiti after the assassination of the country’s president has spilled onto K Street, where rival Haitian politicians, business leaders, and interest groups are turning to lobbyists to wage an expensive and escalating proxy battle for influence with the United States. Documents, interviews, and communications among Haitian politicians and officials show a scramble across a wide spectrum of Haitian interests to hire lobbyists and consultants in Washington and use those already on their payrolls in the hopes of winning American backing in a period of leadership turmoil in Haiti.
Bipartisan House Probe of Jan. 6 Insurrection Falls Apart after Pelosi Blocks Two GOP Members
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor, Jacqueline Alemany, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 7/21/2021
Plans for a bipartisan committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection fell apart after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved to block two controversial Republicans appointed by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy from sitting on the panel, paving the way for two separate and largely partisan investigations of the violent attack on the Capitol. Pelosi called on McCarthy to name two new Republicans to the committee after refusing to appoint conservative Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, a privilege she has as speaker. As staunch backers of former President Trump, both members voted against his impeachment and pushed to overturn the election results.
Democrats Leverage Legal Experience in Voting Rights Push
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 7/21/2021
There are a handful of House voting rights attorneys-turned-lawmakers helping to write the latest version of Democrats’ Voting Rights Act bill, which include provisions to push back on a swath of changes to election laws state Legislatures across the country have passed. Critics argue those changes will make it harder for many Democratic-leaning groups, including minority communities, to cast a ballot. About a dozen legislators on both sides of the aisle, although mostly Democrats, have formal experience with redistricting, as attorneys or state legislators.
Did Rick Scott Break Campaign Finance Law in 2018? Federal Regulators Tie, Case Closed.
Miami Herald – Steve Contorno | Published: 7/16/2021
A three-year probe into U.S. Sen. Rick Scott ended with the FEC deadlocked on whether he and a political committee he once led violated campaign laws during his 2018 bid for Senate. A split decision along party lines comes as the FEC’s general counsel concluded there was reason to believe Scott broke the law. At issue is Scott’s involvement with New Republican PAC, a committee first created in 2013 by a Republican operative.
It’s Not Just Voting Rights. Republicans Are Going After Ballot Campaigns.
Yahoo News – Liz Crampton and Mona Zhang (Politico) | Published: 7/20/2021
There is a wave of legislation moving through GOP-controlled state Legislatures that is intended to combat progressive policymaking at the ballot box. Successful referendums to expand Medicaid, legalize marijuana, and fund public education through taxes on the wealthy have all faced similar threats following consternation from conservative lawmakers. As Democrats have decried Republican efforts to restrict voting rights, lawmakers have also quietly chipped away at the citizen-driven referendum process in statehouses across the country. Lawmakers have also attempted to retroactively undo parts of initiatives approved by voters in some states.
Justice Department Curtails Seizure of Reporters’ Phone, Email Records in Leak Investigations
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland sharply limited how and when prosecutors can secretly obtain reporters’ phone and email records, formalizing a Biden administration decree that the government would stop using secret orders and subpoenas for journalists’ data to hunt for leakers. The previous Justice Department rules for using reporters’ data to pursue unauthorized disclosures of classified information were widely criticized by First Amendment advocates and members of Congress.
Lobbyists with Biden Ties Enjoy Surge in Revenue, Clients
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 7/21/2021
Lobbyists with ties to President Biden are flourishing as corporate clients seek to influence Biden’s ambitious agenda. Business is booming on K Street, with many of the leading lobbying firms enjoying record revenues in recent months. Lobbyists sporting connections to the White House are in high demand as Biden negotiates trillion-dollar spending plans and his administration attempts to aggressively regulate corporate giants.
‘Normal Is Not Good Enough’: After Trump, pressure’s on Biden to create new ethics rules
MSN – Anita Kumar (Politico) | Published: 7/16/2021
Six months into President Biden’s term, watchdog groups and some Democratic lawmakers are pushing the president to follow through on his campaign promise to press for an aggressive 25-point plan for ethics reform, fearful the window to do so may be closing and with it an opportunity to prevent the lapses of the Trump years from happening again. Biden established strong ethics rules for his own aides, but executive actions only last as long as the president in office is willing to live by them. The longer lasting reforms, reform groups say, come through legislative action.
Rep. Michelle Steel Reported $7,900 Donation from Woman Who’d Died Months Earlier
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 7/19/2021
A joint fundraising committee controlled by U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel disclosed a contribution of $7,900 earlier this year. But the reported donor had been dead for seven months. Steel’s campaign amended disclosure forms filed to show the money coming from the decedent’s husband, who was also a donor on the original disclosure. Dead people are not supposed to make political contributions unless they leave instructions for managers of their estates to do so. But one expert said other campaigns have run into trouble in the past when depositing checks from joint accounts, which appears to be what happened in Steel’s case.
Trump Adviser Tom Barrack Arrested on Foreign-Agent Charges
MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/20/2021
Tom Barrack, a longtime supporter of and adviser to former President Trump, was arrested on charges he secretly acted in the U.S. as an agent for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Barrack is accused of failing to register as a foreign agent, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and four counts of making false statements to the FBI. Prosecutors allege Barrack used his relationship with Trump to lobby on behalf of the UAE without registering as a lobbyist or telling administration officials he was working on the country’s behalf. They also say he lied to FBI agents during an interview about his dealings with the Persian Gulf nation.
Trump Foreign Business Dealings Attract Scrutiny as New York Probe Heats Up
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 7/20/2021
As the New York attorney general’s criminal investigation into the Trump Organization heats up, former President Trump’s business empire is facing further scrutiny in Scotland while scrubbing longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg’s name from corporate filings across the globe. Weisselberg is facing a 15-count indictment against him and the Trump Organization in New York. Scotland’s Court of Session has heard arguments in a judicial review of the Scottish government’s decision against investigating purported discrepancies in Trump’s financial reporting and two golf club purchases.
Trumpworld Lobbyists Find Life Just Isn’t the Same Under Joe
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 7/21/2021
When Donald Trump took office in 2017, the handful of K Street lobbyists who could boast ties to him were inundated with calls from potential clients. Six months into the Biden administration, several Trump-connected firms together are down millions of dollars in fees compared to a year earlier; one prominent firm with Trump ties has collapsed, and another has withdrawn from Washington entirely. K Street always experiences shake ups when power changes hands. But the dearth of lobbyists with connections to Trump when he assumed office in 2017 drew a clutch of operatives with ties to him to Washington.
What Were the Capitol Rioters Thinking on Jan. 6?
MSN – Dan Zak and Karen Heller (Washington Post) | Published: 7/20/2021
Were the people involved in the breach of the Capitol acting on their most deeply held convictions, or were they somehow not themselves on January 6? Months of evidence, court filings, and motion hearings have created a composite sketch of the people arrested and of the country many said they were fighting for. Some defendants seemed bent on bloodshed and were charged with felonies including conspiracy. Many defendants are charged with misdemeanors, such as disorderly conduct; their legal defense rests on the distinction between causing the chaos and merely being swept up in it.
Zombie Campaigns-to-Be Hold Millions in Cash with Murky Rules
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle and Nancy Ognanovich | Published: 7/19/2021
Federal law says campaign contributions must be used to run for office or pay for official expenses – “personal use” of the money is barred. But the line between personal and political is becoming blurred, with ex-lawmakers in recent years spending millions of dollars to help elect other candidates, including family members, or to fund nonprofit organizations they support. If a recent court decision holds up, former lawmakers may even be able to tap campaign funds to repay old personal loans they made to their accounts. Many of these so-called zombie committees last for years after the lawmakers who established them left electoral politics.
Canada – Several of Doug Ford’s Key Pandemic Decisions Were Swayed by Business Interests, Star Analysis Suggests
Toronto Star – Richard Warinca | Published: 7/15/2021
At crucial points large and small since Ontario first declared a state of emergency in March of 2020 the government has made decisions that align with the interests of lobbyists – many of whom have close ties to Premier Doug Ford, his party, or both – and the businesses they represent. Those decisions have often favored certain sectors over others and have, at key moments in the pandemic, gone against public health advice, delaying or fracturing lockdowns.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Judge: Arizona Senate must disclose who is funding its election review
Tucson Sentinel – Jim Small (Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting) | Published: 7/15/2021
A judge said the Arizona Senate’s reasoning for why it rejected a public records request for documents relating to the ongoing ballot review, including who is funding the effort, would lead to the “absurd result” of effectively gutting state public records law and “erode any sense of transparency” in government. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp sharply criticized the Senate’s defense in rejecting the chamber’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit brought by American Oversight.
California – San Diego City Attorney Withdraws Law Firm’s $250,000 Contract to Help Defend New Franchise Deal with SDG&E
San Diego Union Tribune – Rob Nikoleswki | Published: 7/20/2021
The San Diego city attorney withdrew a contract of up to $250,000 from an international law firm after a potential conflict-of-interest was pointed out by two opponents of the city’s recently signed agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). The city attorney originally sought to retain the services of Dentons to provide legal services for handling implementation and litigation dealing with the new franchise agreement. But two people said after each performed a Google search, they came across a presentation from Dentons that included a mention the firm had represented Sempra, the parent company of SDG&E, regarding projects Sempra had in Mexico.
California – Who’s In? California Recall Candidate List Draws Confusion
MSN – Michael Blood and Kathleen Ronayne (Associated Press) | Published: 7/18/2021
The official list of who is running in the recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom remained unsettled, with conservative talk radio host Larry Elder maintaining he should be included but state officials saying he submitted incomplete tax returns, a requirement to run. Among other candidates, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s campaign was in a dispute with state officials over whether he could be listed as the city’s “retired” mayor and YouTube creator Kevin Paffrath said he planned to sue to get his YouTube nickname on the ballot. Caitlyn Jenner was reportedly in Australia filming a reality show, though she tweeted she and her campaign team are “in full operation.”
Colorado – Disclosure, Questions Over Reporting Requirements
Colorado Springs Daily Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 7/18/2021
Colorado’s independent redistricting commissioners are in the middle of a statewide tour, listening as members of the public give their opinions on what they want the next decade’s congressional and legislative maps to look like. But that is not entirely what has been going on. In at least one example at a public input hearing, a woman who implied no political connection, gave specific map suggestions after being coached by a paid political consultant. After reporters began asking questions, it was reported as part of a paid lobbying effort. A constitutional amendment requires paid efforts to sway the commission be publicly reported.
Idaho – North Idaho Rep. Faces Ethics Hearing for Publicly Naming Alleged Sexual Assault Victim
MSN – Hayat Norimine (Idaho Statesman) | Published: 7/20/2021
After calls from sexual assault survivors and advocates, an Idaho House member now faces an ethics hearing over her behavior as a representative. Rep. Priscilla Giddings will face a hearing on August 2 over her conduct when a 19-year-old legislative intern alleged that another Republican lawmaker sexually assaulted her. Complaints alleged Giddings retaliated against the intern by disseminating “defamatory writings” that identified her. Complaints also said Giddings misrepresented her actions to the ethics committee.
Illinois – FEC Rules US Rep. Robin Kelly Cannot Raise Money for Nonfederal Candidates, Leaving Her Largely a Figurehead as Illinois Democratic Chair
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/15/2021
The FEC ruled U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly cannot be involved in raising or spending money for state and local office candidates in her new role as Illinois Democratic Party chairperson, relegating her largely to figurehead status within the party. Kelly is also prohibited from using her name and title on state fundraising solicitations because, as a federal officeholder, she is bound by federal laws on raising campaign cash that are stricter than those of the state. Under the ruling, the state Democratic Party must create a special committee to oversee state fundraising for nonfederal campaigns with no involvement by Kelly.
Illinois – On First Full Day as Official Candidate for Reelection, Gov. J.B. Pritzker Indicates He’ll Sign Controversial Ethics Bill, Pledges Return to ‘Kitchen Table’ Issues in Second Term
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/20/2021
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker indicated he will sign a controversial ethics bill he acknowledged “didn’t go far enough,” saying he believes it makes some progress toward restoring the public’s trust in state government. Controversy has surrounded many provisions and the state’s legislative inspector general, Carol Pope, contended lawmakers “demonstrated true ethics reform is not a priority” when she announced her resignation recently.
Illinois – Rep. Marie Newman Settles Lawsuit Alleging She Bribed Potential Opponent
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 7/20/2021
U.S. Rep. Marie Newman agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging she bribed a potential primary opponent not to run against her, putting to rest a bizarre episode in Illinois politics. Iymen Chehade alleged he and Newman entered into an employment contract in December 2018 that said if Newman won the race in Illinois’ Third Congressional District in 2020, Chehade would be hired in her office and paid between $135,000 and $140,000 annually.
Iowa – Iowa Group That Backed Ernst Fights to Block Donor Disclosure
Iowa Capital Dispatch – Clark Kauffman | Published: 7/21/2021
A group that supported U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s 2020 re-election bid is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit it says would give “the wolf the keys to the henhouse” and allow others to “rifle through” records pertaining to its donors. Iowa Values allegedly spent close to $1.5 million supporting Ernst’s successful re-election campaign and is now being sued by the Campaign Legal Center. The lawsuit marks the first known use of an obscure provision in federal campaign law that allows a private individual or group to take a claim of campaign finance violations directly to federal court.
Minnesota – Minn. State Rep. John Thompson Faces Calls to Resign Over Allegations of Domestic Violence, Indecent Exposure
MSN – Julian Mark (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2021
Minnesota Rep. John Thompson launched his political career after a police officer shot and killed his friend Philando Castile during a July 2016 traffic stop. Thompson pledged to reform policing in the state and was elected this past November. Now, state Republican and Democratic officials, including Gov. Tim Walz, are calling for Thompson’s ouster after his own recent traffic stop led to new revelations about his past. Since the stop, police reports surfaced showing that years ago, Thompson was accused of choking and hitting a girlfriend on multiple occasions and once exposing himself to two women while children were present.
Missouri – Is Columbia Mayor Brian Treece Violating Campaign Finance Law? Veto Renews Questions
Columbia Daily Tribune – Charles Dunlop | Published: 7/15/2021
Nearly two years ago, attorney Dan Viets filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission regarding Mayor Brian Treece and his candidate committee. Viets is still waiting on an answer to his inquiry. The delay could be related to House Bill 685, Viets said. This bill, which included changes to requirements to run for public office, was vetoed by Gov. Mike Parson. The law in question requires that any person who registers as a lobbyist must dissolve their candidate committee for any public office in Missouri and disburse the funds either by refunding money to donors, giving it to charity, or donating to a political party committee.
New Mexico – Powerful Ties: New Mexico attorney general accused of violating state ethics laws
MSN – Lindsay Fendt (Searchlight New Mexico) | Published: 7/16/2021
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas’ close relationship with a local law firm is under scrutiny amid allegations that attorney Marcus Rael Jr. used his influence with the attorney general to convince Balderas to sign off on a multi-billion-dollar utility merger. The merger between a global energy giant and New Mexico’s largest utility could drastically change electricity distribution in the state, with hundreds of millions of dollars for New Mexico utility customers hanging in the balance.
New York – Adams’ Top Aide Doubled Her Salary While Moonlighting on His Campaign
The City – Greg Smith | Published: 7/21/2021
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ top aide doubled her salary during the mayoral primary race by working both for his campaign and at her taxpayer-funded job. Ingrid Lewis-Martin earns $172,900 annually as Adams’ deputy borough president. Starting April 15, Adams’ mayoral campaign started paying her $6,500 on a biweekly basis for a total of $40,000 through June 30, records show. Even as she worked on Adams’ successful campaign, she proved a crucial contact for lobbyists seeking support from her boss in his role as borough president.
New York – Ethics Agency Probing Cuomo Aide’s Calls
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/20/2021
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is investigating a series of phone calls made by a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which some county executives felt improperly mixed politics with vaccine distribution efforts. A JCOPE investigator has been calling county executives to set up fact-finding interviews concerning their interactions with Larry Schwartz, who is one of Cuomo’s most trusted advisers and had served as New York’s “vaccine czar” during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York – Mayor Lovely Warren Pleads Not Guilty to Firearms, Child Endangerment Charges
MSN – Gary Craig and Will Cleveland (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) | Published: 7/21/2021
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren denied she illegally possessed firearms or took any actions that endangered the well-being of her young daughter. Warren, also facing allegations of campaign finance fraud, pleaded not guilty in court to firearms possession and child endangerment charges. Having lost the Democratic primary, Warren appears to be in her final months as mayor. Yet, while trying to navigate a surge in gun violence, as well as the usual day-to-day responsibilities of a mayor, she also is now confronting multiple criminal allegations.
Ohio – A House Race in Cleveland Captures the Democrats’ Generational Divide
New York Times – Jonathan Weisman | Published: 7/20/2021
On August 3, the voters of Ohio’s 11th Congressional District will provide some indication of the direction the Democratic Party is heading – toward the progressive approach Nina Turner embodies or the reserved mold of its leaders in Washington, D.C., shaped more by the establishment than the ferment stirring its grassroots. The party establishment is throwing time and money into an effort to stop Turner, a former state senator. The Congressional Black Caucus’s PAC endorsed Turner’s main rival, Shontel Brown, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chairperson.
Ohio – A Year Out, $60M Bribery Scandal Felt in Business, Politics
MSN – Mark Gillispie and Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 7/19/2021
The arrests one year ago of then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates in connection with an alleged $60 million bribery scheme have rocked business and politics across the state, and events over the last year suggest a federal probe’s tentacles only continue to grow. Householder pleaded not guilty. He was removed from the speakership last year, reelected to office in November despite felony racketeering charges, then expelled from the chamber. His political adviser Jeff Longstreth, lobbyist Juan Cespedes, and Generation Now, a dark money group accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes, pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
Ohio – Federal Prosecutors Portray Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson as a Swindler Who Fleeced Taxpayers
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/21/2021
A longtime Cleveland recreation worker testified he signed years of city timesheets for work he never did for Councilperson Kenneth Johnson. The council member used the timesheets to obtain $127,200 in reimbursements from January 2010 to October 2018 and deposited the money in his bank account, prosecutors said. Johnson is on trial, accused of 15 theft-related counts. Prosecutors also have accused Johnson of working with John Hopkins, the former executive of the Buckeye-Shaker Square Development Corp., to steer at least $100,000 in federal block grants.
Ohio – FirstEnergy to Pay $230M in Settlement in Ohio Bribery Case
MSN – Mark Gillispie (Associated Press) | Published: 7/22/2021
FirstEnergy agreed to a $230 million penalty for bribing former House Speaker Larry Householder and former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairperson Sam Randazzo. FirstEnergy is charged with conspiracy to commit honest services fraud involving what authorities called the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history. FirstEnergy Corp. and FirstEnergy Solutions, now called Energy Harbor, allegedly donated $59 million to Generation Now, a “dark money” group controlled by Householder, who is listed as Public Official A in the information. FirstEnergy is also accused of influencing Randazzo, identified as Public Official B, via a $4.3 million payment.
Ohio – From Donations to Lobbyists, Ohio’s 15th Congressional District Candidates Have Ties to House Bill 6
MSN – Haley BeMiller (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 7/21/2021
Every corner of Ohio politics has been touched in some way by former state Rep. Larry Householder and the House Bill 6 scandal. The special election in the 15th Congressional District is no exception. Multiple candidates in the crowded Republican field can be traced to the controversy through votes, donations, and ties to a coal lobbying group that benefited from its passage. The arrests of Householder and four operatives did not seem to affect statehouse races a few months later. But Democrats have signaled they plan to make the scandal and the legislation key issues in future campaigns, including for the 15th District.
Oregon – Audit Finds Tax Funded Forest Institute in Oregon Misled Public, May Have Broken State Law
MSN – Tony Schick (OPB) and Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 7/21/2021
The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI), established by state lawmakers in 1991 to provide credible public education based on facts and reliable science, operates with broad authority and almost no oversight, undermining its public benefit and credibility, according to a state audit. The report said the findings “reasonably raise the question” of whether OFRI broke the law, which bars the agency from attempting to influence the actions of any other state body. A media report found the agency sought to discredit climate scientists and operated as a de facto lobbying and public relations arm for the timber industry.
Pennsylvania – Indicted Philly Lawmakers Collect Legal Defense Cash Gifts from Parking Magnates, Strip Club Owners and Lobbyists
Billy Penn – Max Marin and Ryan Briggs | Published: 7/16/2021
Philadelphia City Councilmembers Bobby Henon and Kenyatta Johnson both accepted tens of thousands in cash donations to support legal defense costs related to their respective indictments on federal corruption charges, including some from prominent political donors, lobbyists, and even a strip club owner. Such legal aid contributions are considered “gifts” under city ethics laws, which generally prohibit gifts from entities seeking to influence government officials. But Henon accepted money from parking magnate Joseph Zuritsky and later co-sponsored a bill designed to cut parking taxes.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Decertifies Fulton County’s Voting System After Third-Party Audit Done for GOP
U.S. News and World Report – Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 7/21/2021
Pennsylvania’s top election official decertified the voting machines of a small county that disclosed it had agreed to requests by local Republican lawmakers and allowed a software firm to inspect the machines as part of an “audit” after the 2020 election. The action by Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid almost certainly means Fulton County will have to buy or lease new voting machines. The lawmakers’ request for the review came amid former President Trump’s baseless claims the 2020 election was rigged against him in Pennsylvania and other battleground states.
Washington DC – Conflict of Interest? Company Hired to Review Troubled DC Crime Lab Wins New Contract with Same Lab
WTOP – Jack Moore | Published: 7/19/2021
In May, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announced she was bringing a forensic consulting firm to perform an independent review of the city’s troubled crime lab, which had just seen its accreditation stripped and is the subject of a criminal investigation over its handling of errors in a murder case. In a letter to city council members, the mayor described SNA International as an “independent firm with extensive forensic sciences laboratories experience.” But the letter did not mention the company had previously done work for the lab, and had been preliminarily approved for what has been described as a “critical upgrade” to the lab’s case-tracking system.
July 16, 2021 •
National/Federal An American Kingdom MSN – Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2021 There is growing Christian movement that is nondenominational, openly political, and has become an engine of former President Trump’s Republican Party. The ultimate mission is not just transforming […]
An American Kingdom
MSN – Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2021
There is growing Christian movement that is nondenominational, openly political, and has become an engine of former President Trump’s Republican Party. The ultimate mission is not just transforming individual lives but also reforming civilization itself, with a free-market economy, Bible-based education, church-based social programs, and laws curtailing LGBTQ rights. Strains of this thinking formed the basis of the Christian right and fueled the GOP for decades. What is new is the degree to which Trump elevated a network of leaders who in turn elevated him as God’s chosen president, a fusion that has secured the movement as a grassroots force within the GOP just as the old Christian right is waning.
As a High-Ranking Biden Aide Pushes Congress to Raise Inheritance Taxes, His Brother Lobbies Against It
MSN – Michael Scherer, Jeff Stein, and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2021
The brother and former business partner of a top White House adviser has been hired to lobby Democratic senators to oppose a central plank of President Biden’s legislative agenda that would raise taxes on the inheritors of large estates. Lobbyist Jeff Ricchetti is helping to lead an effort by a life insurance trade group to preserve current system. White House senior counselor Steve Ricchetti has at the same time been working against his brother’s efforts by championing Biden’s proposal on Capitol Hill.
Attorneys General in 4 States Looking into Online Fundraising Practices of Both Major Parties
MSN – Steve Thompson and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/8/2021
Attorneys general in four states are looking into the online fundraising practices of both major political parties. The practices being examined include the use of pre-checked boxes that lock in recurring donations from donors who may not intend to sign up for more than one contribution. WinRed, a fundraising platform for GOP committees and campaigns, asked a federal court to stop the investigations by the attorneys general of Minnesota, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York, arguing consumer protection statutes the attorneys general may try to enforce are preempted by federal law.
Exxon Lobbyists Paid the 6 Democrats Named in Sting Video Nearly $333,000
HuffPost – Alexander Kaufman | Published: 7/13/2021
Exxon Mobil lobbyist Keith McCoy listed six Democrats the company saw as key allies to push its legislative agenda in the U.S. Senate in a secretly recorded sting video from Greenpeace UK. New analysis of campaign disclosures found U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly, Maggie Hassan, Joe Manchin, Chris Coons, Kyrsten Sinema, and Jon Tester received a combined total of nearly $333,000 from lobbyists, PACs, and lobbying firms affiliated with Exxon over the past decade. A 2017 Ohio State University study indicates such donations have a measurable effect on lawmakers, particularly as they enter the five-figure range.
‘Get on the Team or Shut Up’: How Trump created an army of GOP enforcers
Politico – David Siders and Stephanie Murray | Published: 7/13/2021
From the earliest days of his presidency, Donald Trump and his political team worked to re-engineer the infrastructure of the Republican Party, installing allies in top leadership posts in key states. The effect has been dramatic and continues to reverberate after he left office. In red states, blue states, and swing states, these leaders – nearly all of whom were elected during Trump’s presidency or right after – are redefining the traditional role of the state party chair. They are emerging not just as guardians of the former president’s political legacy, but as chief enforcers of Trumpism within the GOP.
‘No Training’ Is a Common Staff Complaint. Meet the Congress Coaches
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 7/12/2021
When he first took the job as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon in 2018, Roddy Flynn looked around for places to get training and advice. He did not find many, and he remembers joining a text chain instead, crowdsourcing answers with his fellow freshman chiefs of staff. “To have people you can call, in a more formal way, would have been wonderful,” Flynn said. This time, he found a more official place to go, a new coaching program run by the House chief administrative officer, part of an effort to beef up support resources in the sprawling workplace that is Congress.
Toyota Stops Donations to Election Objectors After PAC Takes Ads Out Against Company
Detroit News – Riley Beggin | Published: 7/8/2021
Toyota will no longer donate to members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election in January, the company said after facing blowback over resuming those corporate contributions. The move follows an announcement that the Lincoln Project, a PAC founded by Republicans to help defeat former President Trump, would be releasing a series of advertisements directed at companies that donated to policymakers who opposed certifying the election, beginning with Toyota.
Trump Justice Dept. Effort to Learn Source of Leaks for Post Stories Came in Barr’s Final Days as AG, Court Documents Show
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 7/13/2021
Newly unsealed court documents show the Justice Department under Donald Trump sought a court order for the communications records of three Washington Post reporters in the final days of William Barr’s tenure as attorney general in 2020, as prosecutors sought to identify sources for three articles written in 2017. The documents indicate the extent to which federal investigators suspected the disclosures of classified information were coming from Congress. The new details about the investigation come as Justice Department officials are working on regulations to limit the ways in which they can pursue reporters’ data when hunting for the sources of classified information.
Why There’s Even More Pressure Now on Congress to Pass a Voting Rights Bill
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 7/9/2021
Congress faces growing pressure to pass new federal voting legislation in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that will make it more difficult to challenge a spate of new state-level voting restrictions. A package that would have set a new national baseline for election laws while overhauling campaign finance and government ethics provisions ran into a solid wall of Republican opposition in the Senate. Democrats are also working on a separate bill that would respond to a Supreme Court decision invalidating a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
Canada – Ethics Commissioner Reviewing Request to Investigate Trudeau Over Payments to Friend’s Firm
National Post – Stephanie Taylor (Canadian Press) | Published: 7/14/2021
The federal ethics watchdog is reviewing a request to investigate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over payments made to a company owned by his friend. Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Michael Barrett wrote to ethics commissioner Mario Dion asking he launch an inquiry into the prime minister’s possible involvement in awarding contracts to Data Sciences. The company was founded by Tom Pitfield, who served as the Liberal Party’s chief digital strategist during the 2015 and 2019 election campaigns. The Globe and Mail reported that MPs’ expenditure reports showed most of the Liberal caucus had paid money through their office budgets to the company, which has also been hired to provide digital services to the Liberal Party of Canada.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Fann Says Audit Team, Maricopa County Have Different Ballot Totals
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 7/13/2021
The number of ballots counted by the Arizona Senate’s self-styled audit did not match Maricopa County’s official total from the 2020 general election, which prompted the election review team to acquire machines for a new tally, Senate President Karen Fann said. Election administration experts have been harshly critical of the procedures used by Cyber Ninjas, the company Fann hired to lead the audit team, and its subcontractors used to count ballots, and have expressed concerns the contractors leading the review have exhibited a lack of basic knowledge about election procedures.
Arizona – Redistricting Will Always Be Contentious. Ask Arizona.
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 7/15/2021
Redistricting maps help determine which party will hold political power. That means intense battles even in states, such as Arizona, that have taken steps to reduce politicians’ control over the results. Arizona’s independent redistricting commission received an avalanche of comments during its recent meeting. A review found hundreds of them echoed calls to action boosted online by Republican political figures and conservative social media pages that also have promoted the state Senate’s controversial review of the 2020 election in Maricopa County. The nexus suggests that nationally, the forces sowing doubts about the 2020 vote could focus their attention on redistricting to sway future elections.
California – California Supreme Court Will Be Asked to Grant Extra Time for State’s Redistricting Panel
Yahoo News – John Myers (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/14/2021
California’s redistricting commission will ask the state Supreme Court to give the panel two extra weeks to draw political maps this fall and winter, saying a delay from the federal government in providing new census data will otherwise limit public participation in the once-a-decade process. The move sets the stage for the court to intervene for the second time in the past year to adjust the process of drawing new legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts. Last summer, the justices agreed to add four months to what would otherwise have been an August 15 deadline to finalize the state’s maps.
California – Charity and Politics: California elected officials would have to disclose their connections under proposed rule
CalMatters.org – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 7/13/2021
In the months before California lawmakers in June granted prison guards a $5,000 bonus and raises, the guards’ union made a few charitable donations, including to nonprofits run by the legislators who were preparing to vote on the pay hikes. Donations like this from groups that lobby the Legislature to nonprofits controlled by legislators, their staff, and family members have been under scrutiny by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) since it was reported they have become a common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits of the state’s campaign finance laws. The FPPC is scheduled to discuss new regulations to require elected officials to provide more information on special interest donations to their nonprofits.
California – Former County Clerk-Recorder, State Assemblyman Canciamilla Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Theft, Perjury Charges
DanvilleSanRamon.com – Bay City News Service | Published: 7/13/2021
Former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla pleaded guilty to nine counts of grand theft and perjury for using campaign accounts for personal reasons. He will serve one year in county jail as well as two years’ probation. After he resigned as clerk-recorder, Canciamilla agreed to pay $150,000 to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, admitting to spending campaign funds on travel to Asia, restaurant meals, airfare, repayment of a personal loan, and transfers to his personal bank accounts.
California – Former SF Public Works Manager Faces Perjury Counts in Corruption Scandal
KNTV – Jaxon Van Derbeken, Michael Batt, and Joe Rojas | Published: 7/8/2021
A former San Francisco Public Works manager is facing charges for allegedly hiding his role in a company that reaped more than $250,000 in no-bid contracts to provide T-shirts and other swag to the department’s employees. Gerald Sanguinetti faces perjury charges for concealing his ties to SDL Merchandising, a company he allegedly owned and was run by his wife, and charges of failing to disclose those ties to the city. SDL was paid through an off-the-books account managed by the non-profit San Francisco Parks Alliance on behalf of top public works officials. According to federal prosecutors, former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru used the Parks Alliance account to collect bribes.
California – How Sacramento Sheriff Used Inmate Welfare Fund for Cameras, Fencing – and a Tahoe Resort
MSN – Jason Pohl and Michael Fitch (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 7/14/2021
Since 2014, Sacramento County has collected roughly $5 million each year from the phone call and commissary fees at the county’s two jails. That money has been deposited into an inmate welfare fund, originally designed to pay for programs and services that benefit people locked inside such as education or job training. But records detail how the sheriff’s office has increasingly leaned on the inmate fund to backfill its budgets and buy expensive new equipment. Millions of dollars have been spent on employee salaries. In the past two years, the staff spent at least $12,000 for flights and lodging, apparently for conferences.
California – Newsom Can’t Label Himself a Democrat on Recall Ballot
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 7/12/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will appear on recall ballots without his Democratic Party label after losing a last-minute legal fight. Newsom’s team had scrambled to correct an error that will now deprive him of his party preference on ballots for the September 14 recall. Newsom sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber, arguing the law imposes a needlessly early deadline for recall targets to request their party designation and that voters deserve to see that information. Judge James Arguelles disagreed with an argument from Newsom’s attorney that party status was a vital piece of information for voters.
Florida – Naples Ethics Commission to Self-Start Investigations Based on Informal Complaints
MSN – Omar Rodriguez Ortiz (Naples Daily News) | Published: 7/12/2021
The Naples Commission on Ethics and Government Integrity voted to self-start investigations based on information it receives through informal complaints. The new rules allow the commission to begin investigations if it obtains ethical misconduct allegations about city employees, officers, board members, and contractors via unsworn statements such as anonymous sources, e-mails, and calls. To begin a preliminary inquiry, the commission’s executive director must first consider whether the source of the allegations can be vetted, whether the allegations can be independently corroborated with evidence, and whether similar allegations have been received from other sources, according to the rules.
Florida – None of the Cuba Protesters Who Closed Miami Highway Cited Under GOP-Backed Anti-Rioting Law
MSN – Brittany Shammas, Timothy Bella, Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2021
Scores of people crowded a major Miami-area highway recently, chanting in support of protests that erupted in Cuba against the country’s government. The rally caused an hours-long closure on part of the Palmetto Expressway. It was the sort of scene envisioned by a Florida law that Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed amid last year’s wave of racial justice demonstrations. The legislation calls for protesters to be cited if they block traffic. But no citations were given. Critics took issue with the lack of citations, saying the law is unclear or unevenly applied. DeSantis, who invoked the possibility of protesters shutting down a highway as he signed the bill into law, has been vocal in his support of rallies against the Cuban government.
Hawaii – Ethics Commission Quietly Drops Kealoha Investigation as Questions Swirl
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 7/9/2021
In February, the Honolulu Ethics Commission voted to drop its ongoing investigation into retired police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife Katherine, who is a former city prosecutor. It cited their federal convictions for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and other crimes. Commission Chairperson David Monk said any punishment the panel could have imposed would have paled in comparison to the years-long prison sentences the Kealohas are now serving. Despite the commission’s decision, there are still plenty of questions remaining about the agency’s role in one of the largest public corruption scandals in state history.
Idaho – Multiple Complaints Accuse Idaho Freedom Foundation of Breaking Nonprofit Rules
KPVI – Clark Corbin and Audrey Dutton (Idaho Capital Sun) | Published: 7/7/2021
Travis Oler, a Democratic legislative candidate, created the Hold Idaho Accountable nonprofit this year. One of his first actions was to file a complaint with the IRS alleging the Idaho Freedom Foundation violated its nonprofit status by engaging in excessive lobbying, becoming at least the third person to file a complaint against the foundation. But a former IRS regulator said the agency may not be equipped right now to devote investigative resources to complaints against tax-exempt organizations, and the question of whether a group like Idaho Freedom Foundation is engaged in “excessive lobbying” is a complicated one.
Illinois – ‘Paper Tiger’: Illinois’ legislative watchdog resigns citing lack of ethics reform
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel | Published: 7/14/2021
Illinois Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope resigned from her job after more than two years in the role she called a “paper tiger” for what she said was its relative powerlessness. Pope said her repeated suggestions for how to improve the office have been ignored by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, and by her own assessment, legislation passed by lawmakers this spring aimed at ethics reform have actually weakened her office. The measure was sent to Gov. JB Pritzker but he has not signed it yet.
Maryland – Baltimore County Wants to Reform Its Inspector General Office. Here’s How Other State and Local Watchdogs Stack Up.
MSN – Taylor DeVille (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 7/9/2021
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and some county council members want to create an oversight panel to monitor the county’s corruption watchdog and set limits on the way the office may conduct investigations. But facing resounding criticism, Olszewski decided to hold off on filing a bill to rein in the inspector general. The Association of Inspectors General, a national consortium that sets the standards for how those offices should function, said the changes would mute the county’s current (and first) inspector general, Kelly Madigan.
Massachusetts – Forget Lawn Signs. Kim Janey Jumps into the Campaign Swag Game
MSN – Meghan Irons (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/14/2021
Forget the lawn signs and window placards. Acting Mayor Kim Janey is adding new swag to this year’s race for mayor, as part of a messaging and fundraising effort making its debut in Boston. Her campaign webstore is selling “Mayor Janey Our Mayor” T-Shirts, “Madam Mayor Kim Janey” totes, and “Mayor Janey” hats – for $30 to $34. Stickers and buttons are five dollars. Campaign merchandise is standard fare in national elections, but it is a relatively new phenomenon in this old-time city, where candidates are used to giving away stickers, pins, and window placards.
Michigan – Mayor Defends Using Campaign Funds on Daughter’s Wedding, Argues It Doubled as Campaign Event
MSN – Natalie Colarossi (Newsweek) | Published: 7/10/2021
The mayor of Romulus, Michigan, defended using thousands of dollars in campaign funds to help pay for his daughter’s wedding by stating it doubled as a campaign event. Mayor LeRoy Burcroff acknowledged using $4,500 from the funds to cover the open bar at the wedding at a yacht club. Burcroff’s attorney, Daniel Wholihan, said the wedding was related to the campaign because many of those attending the wedding had also worked for Burcroff.
Michigan – Michigan Attorney General Nessel’s Office ‘Reviewing’ 2018 Weiser Deal
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 7/8/2021
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office is reviewing state GOP Chairperson Ron Weiser’s use of party funds in a 2018 deal that required a secretary of state candidate to abruptly end his campaign. The Michigan Republican Party revealed it agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty to resolve a campaign finance complaint focused on the situation. The question now turns to whether Nessel’s office would attempt to pursue its own investigation into elements of the incident that fall outside of campaign finance policy.
Michigan – ‘This Is Really Fantastical’: Federal judge in Michigan presses Trump-allied lawyers on 2020 election fraud claims in sanctions hearing
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/12/2021
The latest effort to hold former President Trump and his allies accountable for months of baseless claims about the 2020 election played out in a Michigan courtroom, where U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker asked skeptical questions of several lawyers she is considering imposing sanctions against for filing a suit seeking to overturn the results. During the hearing, Parker pressed the lawyers involved – including Trump allies Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood – to explain what steps they had taken to ensure their court filings in the case had been accurate. She appeared astonished by many of their answers.
Mississippi – They Wrote Campaign Checks to Tate Reeves. Then He Appointed Them to Powerful Ed Boards.
Mississippi Today – Molly Minta | Published: 7/7/2021
All but one of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ four appointees to the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) board are campaign donors. Similarly, all three of Reeves’ recent selections for the Mississippi Community College Board, announced the same day as the IHL picks, are contributors. Reeves is far from the first governor to award appointments to friends, campaign donors, and supporters. The practice is common and legal in Mississippi, though not free from criticism. The insider appointments not only raise ethical questions but are indicative of a system of favoritism that excludes the historically Black colleges and universities.
Montana – Montana Justices Say Lawmakers Overstepped in Seeking Emails
MSN – Mary Beth Hanson (Associated Press) | Published: 7/14/2021
The Montana Supreme Court ruled legislative leaders overstepped their authority in issuing a subpoena for months of emails belonging to the court’s administrator, saying the request was not related to a valid legislative interest. The email issue was raised while the court was considering a legal challenge to a new law that eliminated the Judicial Nomination Commission and allowed the governor to fill judicial vacancies between elections. The law is an element of a longer-term effort by Republican lawmakers to remake what they consider an activist judiciary and to appoint or elect more conservative judges.
Nevada – FBI Investigating Vegas Councilwoman for Trump-Related Campaign Fraud
Hill Reporter – Tara Dublin | Published: 7/14/2021
Federal authorities are investigating the campaign finances of a Las Vegas City Council member with ties to a local militia. FBI agents showed up at City Hall, where they openly questioned council members and others as part of an investigation into Michele Fiore, who was accused last year of using city resources to campaign for Donald Trump’s re-election. Agents also executed a search warrant at Fiore’s home. A complaint was filed in July 2020 about Fiore’s campaign activity for Trump, and she survived a recall effort but resigned as mayor pro tem over racist remarks she made at a Clark County Republican Party event.
New Mexico – How Big Oil Keeps a Grip on New Mexico – with the Help of a Major Lobbyist
MSN – Cody Nelson (Floodlight) and Adrian Hedden (Carlsbad Current-Argus) | Published: 7/11/2021
When President Biden paused oil and gas drilling leases on federal lands, the alarm bells rang in southeastern New Mexico. Officials in Eddy County, where the top employers are in the mining and oil and gas industries, appeared to be depending on their influential allies, including the lobbying firm FTI Consulting, to keep it that way. Emails, contracts, and other records show how FTI has used its footholds in the area for years to help push pro fossil-fuel messaging and policy. At the same time, FTI has been able to give its energy company clients easy access to local officials. But the firm and one of its spinoffs are not registered as lobbyists with the state.
New York – How Will Government Meetings Adjust to a Post-Zoom World?
Politico – Bill Mahoney | Published: 7/11/2021
A recent meeting of the New York Senate’s Ethics Committee was scheduled with participants attending both in-person and via videoconferencing. It is a new experiment that foreshadows a looming debate over how the “new normal” will look for public bodies. Traditional meetings became virtual last year, adding physical distance between people and their government and making it easier for elected officials to dodge interactions with protesters, the press, and the public. But that shift also made government more accessible for members the public who might not be able to participate in traditional meetings because of factors like physical disabilities.
New York – ‘We All Wait with Bated Breath’: Secretive Cuomo inquiry leaves New York politics in limbo
MSN – Anna Gronewold (Politico) | Published: 7/11/2021
Few New York governors in recent history have dominated the news cycle, and the levers of government, like Andrew Cuomo. But with an embattled Cuomo eyeing reelection next year, the future of state politics rests with another statewide official: Attorney General Tish James. The attorney general, who has been investigating allegations against the governor, has retained private attorneys who have interviewed several women who accused Cuomo of harassment, as well as top staff said to be aware of his alleged misconduct. But little more is known about the probe and the uncertainty has paralyzed much of New York’s political apparatus.
Ohio – Dem Star Nina Turner Blows Pledge Not to Take Lobbyist Money
MSN – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 7/12/2021
The Democratic frontrunner for an open congressional seat in Ohio, Nina Turner, pledged in January she would not accept campaign contributions from lobbyists or corporations. But weeks later, she appears to have done just that. FEC records show Turner campaign reported a donation of $1,000 from the director of Amare Public Affairs, a firm Turner founded last year as an offshoot of lobbying shop Mercury Public Affairs. Three days after her pledge, Turner accepted $250 from a partner at Mercury, which has gained public notoriety over the last few years, even drawing scrutiny during the investigation into Russian election interference.
Tennessee – Tennessee Abandons Vaccine Outreach to Minors – Not Just for COVID-19
MSN – Brett Kelman (The Tennessean) | Published: 7/13/2021
The Tennessee Department of Health is halting its outreach to minors to get vaccinated against all diseases, not just COVID-19. Normally, the health department regularly advocates for vaccinating kids against many diseases without controversy. Decisions to ratchet back outreach comes amid pressure from conservative lawmakers, who have embraced misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, said Dr. Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee’s former top vaccine official. Fiscus was fired without explanation recently. She said she was scapegoated to appease lawmakers, who had described routine vaccine outreach as “reprehensible.”
Texas – A Texas Man Was Arrested on Charges That He Voted in the 2020 Democratic Primary While on Parole. He Could Face as Much as 20 Years in Prison.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 7/10/2021
Hervis Rogers was so intent on casting a ballot in last year’s presidential primary that he waited six hours to vote, catching the attention of a CNN news crew when he became the last person tom do so at his Houston polling place. More than a year later, Rogers was arrested on charges he voted in last year’s Democratic primary while on parole. Under Texas law, it is illegal for a felon to “knowingly” vote while still serving a sentence, including parole. Doing so is a second-degree felony, punishable with a minimum of two years and a maximum of 20 years in prison. In at least 20 states, Rogers’s alleged vote would not be a crime.
Texas – Inside the Secret Plan for the Texas Democratic Exodus: A phone tree, a scramble to pack and a politically perilous trip
MSN – Amy Gardner, Eva Ruth Moravec, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, and Nicole Asbury (Washington Post) | Published: 7/13/2021
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session to complete the year’s unfinished business, including the passage of far-reaching legislation restricting voting access that had failed when House Democrats staged a walkout in May. They were ready to do the same this time around to block what they described as an assault on democracy meant to make it harder for people who tend to vote Democratic to cast their ballots. It was just a question of when. What followed over a matter of hours was an exodus from Texas as dozens of Democratic lawmakers made arrangements to leave their homes and their jobs, potentially for weeks, and drew sharp rebukes for walking away from their responsibilities in the Texas Legislature.
Washington – City Denies Wrongdoing Alleged in Public Records Lawsuit, Countersues The Seattle Times
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb | Published: 7/13/2021
Lawyers for the city of Seattle deny it broke Washington’s public records law and countersued The Seattle Times in response to a lawsuit alleging the city mishandled reporters’ requests for top officials’ text messages during a tumultuous period last summer. The city denied most legal contentions, including claims based on an ethics investigation into a whistleblower’s complaint that found Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office violated the public disclosure law after discovering the mayor’s texts for a 10-month period were missing. Although it concedes the mayor’s texts are lost, the city’s response includes a counterclaim against the newspaper.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers Vetoes Bill That Would’ve Kept Legislators’ Discipline Records for Sexual Harassment Confidential
MSN – Molly Beck (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 7/9/2021
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoed legislation that could have made it more difficult for the public to get records about lawmakers who are disciplined or accused of sexual harassment. The bill, which was passed unanimously, would have formally created a human resources office for the state Legislature and specified disciplinary records and complaints against lawmakers should be treated confidentially. The bill would have bolstered a standing legislative practice of withholding complaints against lawmakers. Evers said labeling such records as confidential in state law could prevent the public from knowing details about lawmakers’ misconduct.
July 9, 2021 •
National/Federal 6 Months After Capitol Assault, Corporate Pledges Fall Flat ABC News – David Klepper (Associated Press) | Published: 7/4/2021 After the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, corporate America took a stand against the lies that powered the mob. Dozens of […]
6 Months After Capitol Assault, Corporate Pledges Fall Flat
ABC News – David Klepper (Associated Press) | Published: 7/4/2021
After the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, corporate America took a stand against the lies that powered the mob. Dozens of big companies, citing their commitment to democracy, pledged to avoid donating money to the 147 lawmakers who objected to the certification of Joe Biden’s victory on the false grounds that voting fraud stole the election from Donald Trump. Six months later, many of those companies have resumed funneling cash to PACs that benefit the election efforts of lawmakers whether they objected to the election certification or not. When it comes to seeking political influence through corporate giving, business as usual is back, if it ever left.
Deal of the Art: White House grapples with ethics of Hunter Biden’s pricey paintings
MSN – Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2021
Under an agreement with the White House, a gallery owner is planning to set prices for Hunter Biden’s artwork and will withhold all records, including potential bidders and final buyers. The owner also agreed to reject any offer he deems suspicious or that comes in over the asking price. It is an attempt to avoid ethical issues that could arise as President Biden’s son tries to sell a product with a highly subjective value. Not only has Hunter Biden previously been accused of trading in on his name, but his latest vocation is in a field where works do not have a fixed value and where concerns have arisen about secretive buyers and undisclosed sums.
Hunt for Capitol Attackers Still on 6 Months After Jan. 6
MSN – Alanna Durkin Richer and Michael Kunzleman (Associated Press) | Published: 7/6/2021
The first waves of arrests in the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol focused on the easy targets. Dozens in the pro-Trump mob openly bragged about their actions on January 6 on social media and were captured in shocking footage broadcast live by national news outlets. But six months after the insurrection, the Justice Department is still hunting for scores of rioters, even as the first of more than 500 people already arrested have pleaded guilty. The struggle reflects the massive scale of the investigation and the grueling work still ahead for authorities in the face of an increasing effort by some Republican lawmakers to rewrite what happened that day.
Interns ‘Literally Couch Surf’ in DC. But More Pay Could Be on the Way
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 6/30/2021
A Washington, D.C. internship can open doors for career paths in Congress, the federal government, and the government-industrial complex of think tanks, law firms, and lobbying shops, if you can afford it. That “if” – a massive one for kids whose parents cannot cover the cost of a few months of the city’s sky-high rents and overpriced eateries – may get a bit smaller next year, as the House Appropriations Committee advanced a pair of spending bills bumping allocations for paying interns. The reception he gets could help answer some questions about life in Washington after Trump.
Political Spending Proposals Gain Traction in Proxy Season
MSN – Keith Lewis (Roll Call) | Published: 7/1/2021
Shareholder proposals seeking to increase transparency on publicly traded companies’ political activities won in record numbers this proxy season. Investors gave strong support to measures asking corporate boards to disclose more about company campaign contributions and lobbying. Consistent upward trends in the number and success of political activity disclosure efforts over the past few proxy seasons demonstrate the Securities and Exchange Commission needs to establish a framework for environment, social, and governance disclosure, according to Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability.
Rudy Giuliani Is Being Scrutinized for Foreign Lobbying. He May Have Been One of Many in the Trump White House.
Center for Responsive Politics – Maggie Hicks | Published: 7/7/2021
Foreign agents reported being paid more than $30.5 million to influence U.S. policy or public opinion on behalf of Turkish interests during the Trump administration. The Justice Department has reportedly launched an inquiry into Rudolph Giuliana that may reveal even more undisclosed lobbying. In 2017, the Turkish government signed a contract with Greenberg Traurig, where Giuliani was a partner from 2016 to 2018. Turkey also hired Ballard Partners. The firm’s president, Brian Ballard, was vice chair of Trump’s inaugural committee and was a member of his transition team.
Sober Inquiry or Slash-and-Burn? McCarthy at a Jan. 6 Crossroads
Yahoo News – Olivia Beavers (Politico) | Published: 7/7/2021
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has a choice when it comes to the investigation of the Capitol riot: get serious or sabotage the process. His options are not necessarily binary, but the path he takes could shape his political future as he eyes the speaker’s gavel. Among Republican members who have lived through two impeachments, some want McCarthy to pick fighters skilled enough to withstand a months-long bombardment from Democrats. But the Republicans most eager to serve on the panel are the party’s firebrands, more practiced at crafting viral clips than they are at making a sustained, credible case against top Democratic oversight practitioners.
Supreme Court Ruling Opens Door to More Campaign Finance Challenges
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 7/5/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law requiring charities to reveal their donors to state officials. The ruling does not apply to publicly disclosed donors or political groups. But in the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that disclosure laws must be “narrowly tailored” to important government interests. Experts say the opinion effectively toughens the standard of review for all laws that compel disclosure, including election rules. Rick Hasen, an expert in campaign finance law, said the ruling “calls into question a number of campaign finance disclosure laws” and limits on the amount of money donors can give to candidates.
The Russia Inquiry Ended a Democratic Lobbyist’s Career. He Wants It Back.
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/8/2021
The collapse of Tony Podesta’s $42-million-a-year lobbying and public relations firm in 2017 amid a federal investigation shook K Street and rendered him toxic, a rare Democratic victim of the Trump-era scandals. But an indictment never came. The Justice Department dropped its investigation, Donald Trump was defeated, and Podesta’s longtime allies took control in Washington. Now Podesta is exploring a return to a landscape he once dominated.
Trump Files Class Action Lawsuits Targeting Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube Over ‘Censorship’ of Conservatives
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski and Rachel Lerman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2021
Former President Trump filed class-action lawsuits targeting Facebook, Google, and Twitter, escalating his long-running battle with the companies following their suspensions of his accounts. Legal experts and business associations immediately criticized the claims, predicting they had little chance of succeeding in court. But the lawsuits raised a series of legal claims that will find favor among Trump’s most fervent supporters who have long argued the social media companies treat conservative voices unfairly.
Trump, Fighting to Toss Out Subpoena, Offered to Give House Democrats Peek at Financial Statements
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2021
Former President Trump has offered to give U.S. House Democrats a peek at financial statements related to his complex business empire from before his 2016 presidential bid and eight years of contracts with his accounting firm but refused to divulge more sensitive source data or internal communications, his lawyers told a federal judge. The disclosure of the offer, made in June in unsuccessful court-ordered mediation, came as Trump urged a federal judge to end a stalemate and toss out a House subpoena for eight years of his financial records, calling the congressional demand unconstitutional and unenforceable.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Court: Mesnard lost immunity with press release
Arizona Capitol Times – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/30/2021
State lawmakers have absolute immunity from being sued by those who are the targets of legislative investigative reports, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled. In a unanimous decision, the justices said ousted Rep. Don Shooter has no legal right to pursue a defamation lawsuit against then-House Speaker J.D. Mesnard for publishing a report by an outside legal team that concluded Shooter was guilty of violating a “zero tolerance” policy against sexual harassment. But the court said lawmakers lose that immunity when they start publishing press releases about what they do. that includes writing about and explaining the official report.
Arizona – Judge Questions Claim the Public Has No Right to Know Who’s Paying for Ariz. Election Audit
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Servies) | Published: 7/7/2021
A judge questioned a state Senate attorney’s claim that the public has no right to know who is paying for the 2020 election audit in Arizona, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp pointed out that Senate President Karen Fann has said the Senate, in hiring an outside firm to conduct the audit, was performing “this important constitutional duty.” Fann’s attorney, Kory Langhofer, claims the Arizona Constitution pretty much forbids judicial second-guessing of how the Senate conducts its business, and whether it is complying with the law.
California – Former S.F. Leaders Tied to Corruption Scandal Are Collecting Pensions
MSN – Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 7/3/2021
Three former San Francisco officials who resigned in the wake of corruption allegations still receive city pensions. With few exceptions, city workers cannot lose their pensions unless they are convicted of and sentenced for a crime of “moral turpitude,” according to city law. In recent decades, such instances have been extremely rare in San Francisco, and it could be years before the three respective cases are adjudicated.
California – Gavin Newsom Recall Election Date Officially Set: California voters to cast ballots in September
MSN – Lara Kote (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 7/2/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will face a recall election on September 14, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis announced. Her declaration follows more than a year of petition-gathering and campaigning fueled, in part, by outrage over the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Newsom is enjoying the fruits of an overflowing state bank account and the reopening of California after the pandemic.
California – Lobbyist Seeks $2M Fee for Work on Behalf of Insurer That Donated to State’s Insurance Regulator
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 7/4/2021
A contract dispute being waged in a courtroom is complicating the re-election plans for California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who two years ago suspended all fundraising amid a campaign finance scandal. The lawsuit involves Lara’s one-time boss and political mentor, former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. It also includes Rusty Areias, another former state lawmaker who now works as a Sacramento lobbyist. Mercury Public Affairs, where Nunez is a partner, and Areias are plaintiffs in a case demanding $2 million in lobbying and consulting fees from Applied Underwriters.
California – She Was a Watchdog over L.A. Politicians. But They Had Power Over Her Raise
MSN – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/6/2021
The duties of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission kept growing during Heather Holt’s tenure as executive director, and she believed the salary for her position should go up as well. But to get that increase, she needed approval from the city’s elected officials. Holt never received that raise, which became a casualty of the economic crisis that followed the outbreak of COVID-19. But her behind-the-scenes campaign highlights an uncomfortable fact about the city’s ethics agency – it operates at the mercy of officials it is charged with policing.
Georgia – Atlanta City Clerk to Halt Removal of Candidates’ Info from Documents After Legal Questions
SaportaReport.com – John Ruch | Published: 6/30/2021
The Atlanta municipal clerk’s office for years has redacted the contact information of candidates from campaign finance documents in an online database, a practice one open-records expert called unlawful and defeating the purpose of transparency. In response to questions about the practice, Municipal Clerk Foris Webb III said the redactions will be halted and existing ones undone. Some municipal candidates also file reports in a state system that does not redact information, and there may be other ways to locate candidates online.
Georgia – Federal Judge Declines to Block Portions of Georgia Election Law
MSN – Rebecca Beitsch (The Hill) | Published: 7/7/2021
A federal judge in Georgia declined to strike down portions of the state’s controversial voter law ahead of run-off elections. The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Jean-Paul Boulee did not weigh in on some of the most controversial aspects of the law, nor did it strike down a portion of the statute that changes the deadline for requesting absentee ballots. It also did not a provision on election observation. Boulee said because the plaintiffs are seeking to challenge the voting law ahead of a run-off election, doing so would “change the election administration rules for elections that are already underway.”
Idaho – Idaho Freedom Foundation Official Fined for Breaking Lobbyist Registration Law
Idaho Education News – Audrey Dutton (Idaho Capital Sun) | Published: 7/2/2021
Dustin Hurst, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, was fined $250 for lobbying on the state’s higher education budget without first registering. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that advocates for limited government. It created an organization in recent years called Idaho Freedom Action, with the same staff and offices. Hurst is the registered agent for both organizations, according to Secretary of State records.
Illinois – Ald. Carrie Austin and Chief of Staff Indicted on Bribery Charges for Allegedly Accepting Home Improvements from Developer
Yahoo News – Gregory Pratt and Megan Crepeau (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/1/2021
Under a cloud for two years since her ward office was raided by federal agents, Chicago Ald. Carrie Austin was indicted on federal bribery charges along with her chief of staff. Austin and her top aide, Chester Wilson, shepherded a new real-estate development through City Hall bureaucracy and were given home-improvement perks from a developer seeking to influence them, the indictment alleges. Between them, they allegedly got new kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, bathroom tiling, sump pumps, and an HVAC system for free or at a discount.
Indiana – Judge Letting Indiana’s Governor Sue to Block Emergency Law
MSN – Tom Davies (Associated Press) | Published: 7/6/2021
A judge sided with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in a dispute between top state Republicans over whether he can proceed with a lawsuit challenging the increased power state legislators gave themselves to intervene during public health emergencies. Holcomb argues the law passed by is unconstitutional because it gives lawmakers a new power to call themselves into a special legislative “emergency session” during statewide emergencies declared by the governor. Holcomb and some legal experts maintain the state constitution only allows the governor to call the Legislature into special session after its annual session ends.
Louisiana – Ex-Charter School Board Member Faces $16K Ethics Fine Over Loan; He Says He Was Just Trying to Help
New Orleans Advocate – Charles Lussier | Published: 7/7/2021
A former board member of the defunct Laurel Oaks Charter School in Baton Rouge has been ordered to pay a total of $16,000 for making a $15,000 loan to the school in fall 2018 and then pocketing $4,000 in interest. Joseph Wicker said he was just trying to help the struggling school make payroll and retain staff. The Louisiana Board of Ethics in June resolved a separate case from the same school, which state officials closed in 2019 after just three years in operation over concerns about the safety of students and questionable financial practices.
Michigan – Michigan GOP, Weiser Agree to Pay $200,000 to Resolve Campaign Finance Probe
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 7/2/2021
The Michigan Republican Party agreed to pay $200,000 to resolve a campaign finance complaint that claimed Chairperson Ron Weiser used party funds to lure a secretary of state candidate out of a race in 2018. The allegations surfaced in February when-then Chairperson Laura Cox accused Weiser of orchestrating a “secret deal” with Stan Grot to get Grot to drop out of the GOP’ race for secretary of state. The deal involved $200,000 in payments from the party’s undisclosed administrative account to Grot, said Cox, who lost to Weiser in her reelection bid days after she made the claims against him.
Minnesota – Sitting Lawmakers Will No Longer Be Able to Work as Lobbyists as New Law Takes Aim at GOP Leader
Minnesota Reformer – Ricardo Lopez | Published: 7/1/2021
Sitting state lawmakers will no longer be able to work as lobbyists, after a Republican amendment taking aim at Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt was adopted as part of a broader tax bill. The measure will outlaw such work arrangements and comes more than a year after Daudt raised eyebrows by announcing his job with Stateside Associates, a Virginia-based lobbying firm. Daudt has defended his job, saying he would not lobby the Minnesota Legislature. The job announcement as director of public affairs said he would not be involved in lobbying at all.
Mississippi – Mississippi Elected Officials, Candidates Owe Thousands in Unpaid Campaign Finance Fines
Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth and Taylor Vance | Published: 7/1/2021
Mississippi politicians and candidates are required by law to file campaign finance reports, which reveal who is giving them money and how they are spending it, but many are not doing so. In hundreds of cases since 2018, state-level candidates and elected officials ignored or overlooked this basic transparency requirement. The vast majority of the time, they did not pay their fines, which ranged from $50 to $500. Since 2018, unpaid campaign finance fines outnumber paid ones nearly three-to-one. Officeholders and candidates have stiffed the state out of nearly $150,000 by either refusing to pay their fine or not realizing one had been levied.
Montana – How G.O.P. Laws in Montana Could Complicate Voting for Native Americans
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 7/6/2021
It has been less than a century since Native Americans in the U.S. gained the right to vote by law, and they never attained the ability to do so easily in practice. New restrictions – ballot collection bans, earlier registration deadlines, stricter voter ID laws, and more – are likely to make it harder, and the starkest consequences may be seen in places like Montana: sprawling, sparsely populated Western and Great Plains states where Native Americans have a history of playing decisive roles in close elections.
New York – Eric Adams Wins Democratic Primary in NYC’s Mayoral Race
MSN – Karen Matthews (Associated Press) | Published: 7/6/2021
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams won the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City after appealing to the political center and promising to strike the right balance between fighting crime and ending racial injustice in policing. A former police captain, Adams would be the city’s second Black mayor if elected. He triumphed over a large field in New York’s first major race to use ranked choice voting. Adams will be the prohibitive favorite in the general election against Curtis Sliwa, the Republican founder of the Guardian Angels. Democrats outnumber Republicans seven-to-one in New York City.
New York – Ethics Commissioners Seek Reopening of Cuomo Leak Probe
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/7/2021
Three members of the New York Joint Commission on Ethics (JCOPE) want an investigation reopened into who illegally leaked confidential information to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie acknowledged receiving a berating from Cuomo shortly after a JCOPE meeting in January 2019. The governor was apparently irate about how Heastie’s appointees voted in a confidential proceeding that day on whether to investigate the possible misuse of government resources of a former top Cuomo aide, Joseph Percoco. It is a misdemeanor to leak information about JCOPE’s confidential deliberations.
New York – Prosecutors Say Spreadsheets from Trump Organization Offer a Road Map for Its Indictment. Where the Investigation Goes Now Is the Question.
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Shayna Jacobs, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/4/2021
Prosecutors said the Trump Organization provided a road map for its own indictment. They claimed the company spent 15 years paying its chief financial officer “off the books,” giving him cars, an apartment, tuition payments, and cash that were hidden from income tax authorities. But at the same time, according to an indictment, the company was keeping spreadsheets that tallied the payments being hidden. Prosecutors treated the spreadsheets as the accounting equivalent of a confession. Yet the indictment left many questions unanswered. Still, legal experts say, the spreadsheets could cast a shadow over the former president and his company.
New York – Trump Organization Prosecutors Confront Accusations of Political Bias
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2021
The Trump Organization wasted little time before denouncing the indictment of its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and condemning state authorities in New York for their “scorched earth attempt to harm” the corporation’s figurehead, former President Trump. Former prosecutors and legal experts who have watched the investigation, a joint pursuit by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James, rejected Trump’s assertion his company and close adviser are being pursued as part of a political vendetta. Still, the investigation’s political overtones are inescapable.
Ohio – Cincinnati’s Anti-Corruption Task Force Reveals Recommendations. Now It Wants to Hear from You.
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 7/7/2021
Cincinnati’s anti-corruption task force unveiled its initial recommendations. Among them: forbidding campaign contributions from developers while their proposals are before city council and disclosing any PAC accounts under a candidates’ control. Those recommendations are at the heart of the corruption cases brought against three council members in 2020.
Oregon – Nearman Loses Bid for Oregon House Seat to Former Aide Ahead of Court Date
The Center Square – Tim Gruver | Published: 7/7/2021
Former Rep. Mike Nearman will see his Oregon House seat go to his onetime aide, Anna Scharf, after being handily refused reappointment. Nearman had campaigned to reclaim the seat he was expelled from in June for helping a violent right-wing mob into the Oregon Capitol in December. But Nearman found himself on the outs with the county commissioners who chose Scharf to represent House District 23. Answering questions from commissioners, Scharf cited homelessness and government overreach as chief concerns for the district.
Pennsylvania – Ethics Panel Closes Investigation into Former Pa. Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 7/6/2021
After a year-long investigation, the state Ethics Commission found Jennifer Storm, Pennsylvania’s former chief advocate for crime victims, did not trade on her high-profile public position to benefit her personal business ventures. Storm agreed to technical violations of the ethics law, closing out an inquiry she believes was instigated by political enemies as payback for her outspoken advocacy in prominent cases. Storm must amend her annual statements of financial interest and pay a $3,000 fine for failing to disclose airfare, lodging, or income associated with two conferences she attended, as well as rental income.
South Carolina – Richard Quinn, Once a Powerful SC GOP Consultant, Faces New Charges in Corruption Probe
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks | Published: 7/2/2021
A state grand jury hit longtime political consultant Richard Quinn Sr. with a new round of criminal charges, signaling South Carolina’s years-long investigation into statehouse corruption is ongoing. The new indictment charges Quinn with 12 counts of perjury and two counts of obstruction of justice. Most of the charges accuse the longtime power broker of lying to the state grand jury in order to cover up potential wrongdoing by his political operation.
South Carolina – SC Judges Remain on the Bench for Years Despite Alleged Crimes, Ethical Lapses
Charleston Post and Courier – Joseph Cranney and Avery Wilks | Published: 7/1/2021
South Carolina’s secretive, slow-moving system for policing its judges allows the accused to remain on the bench for years despite serious questions about their character and impartiality, a media investigation found. The Disciplinary Counsel’s office, an investigative arm of the state Supreme Court, receives more than 200 complaints against the state’s judges each year. But those investigations almost never lead to a judge being removed or publicly reprimanded. It is one of myriad ways that South Carolina allows government officials to police themselves and escape public scrutiny.
Texas – Texas Special Session Brings Election Law Back into Spotlight
CBS News – Adam Brewster and Ed O’Keefe | Published: 7/7/2021
Texas lawmakers returned to Austin for a special session that is expected to put the state’s battle over voting rights back in the national spotlight. The special session comes several weeks after House Democrats staged a walkout to defeat a bill that would have overhauled election laws. The final version of Senate Bill 7 provides an indication of what lawmakers are going to focus on. That bill would have set limits on the hours that early voting can be conducted, banned drive-through voting, added new requirements for mail voting, and made it a felony for public officials to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications.
Utah – 11 Anti-Mask Protesters Charged with Disrupting Granite School Board Meeting
MSN – Courtney Taylor (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 7/6/2021
Anti-mask protesters who forced an early end to a school board meeting in May after they stormed the room and shouted obscenities at board members are now facing criminal charges. Granite School District confirmed that 11 people have been charged with disrupting a public meeting, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Police are still searching for a 12th person who was allegedly involved in the confrontation with individuals aggressively pushing for the district to not require face masks in schools.
Washington DC – Jack Evans Agrees to Payment Plan for Ethics Fines
Washington City Paper – Mitch Ryals | Published: 7/1/2021
Former District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans will pay the city $2,000 per month for the next 26 months, according to a settlement with the city attorney general. The settlement comes after Evans failed to pay the $55,000 that he owes for violating ethics rules while in office. The agreement is the third such document Evans has signed promising to pay up.
Washington DC – Rudy Giuliani Suspended from Practicing Law in Washington, DC
CNN – Katelyn Polantz | Published: 7/7/2021
Rudolph Giuliani’s law license has been suspended in Washington, D.C., after he temporarily lost his license in New York for pushing election lies and that state court system looks further into his case. The appeals court in the District of Columbia said Giuliani would be suspended from working as an attorney in the city “pending outcome” of his situation in New York. Giuliani does not regularly practice law in Washington, but the suspension is still a major blow to the former U.S. attorney and New York City mayor, once considered an accomplished and formidable force in legal circles.
July 2, 2021 •
National/Federal DOJ-Ordered Foreign Agent Registrations Boost China and Russia’s 2020 FARA Spending Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia and Maggie Hicks | Published: 6/24/2021 China, Qatar, and Russia dominated the top 10 ranking of countries spending the most on foreign […]
DOJ-Ordered Foreign Agent Registrations Boost China and Russia’s 2020 FARA Spending
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia and Maggie Hicks | Published: 6/24/2021
China, Qatar, and Russia dominated the top 10 ranking of countries spending the most on foreign influence, lobbying and propaganda operations targeting the U.S. in 2020, according to Foreign Agents Registration Act records. Much of the spike in reported spending can be attributed to new registrations ordered by the Justice Department. Covington & Burling and Akin Gump were the top grossing U.S. firms paid for foreign lobbying and influence operations last year.
Exxon Lobbyist Concedes Company Fought ‘Against Some of the Science’ in Activist Recording
MSN – Zack Budryk and Rachel Frazen (The Hill) | Published: 6/30/2021
A lobbyist for ExxonMobil conceded the energy giant “aggressively [fought] against some of the science” behind climate change and describes their work against climate efforts with “shadow groups” in undercover footage filmed by an activist group called Unearthed. The footage shows lobbyist Keith McCoy describing the company’s carbon tax stance as simply a “talking point,” adding that he speaks with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s office weekly.
FEC Reviewing Rules on Salaries, Benefits for Candidates
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 6/29/2021
Nabilah Islam, who lost her bid for Congress in 2020, is calling on the FEC to change the rules to allow candidates to secure a minimum salary and health benefits through their campaigns. She also wants the FEC to set a uniform time frame for when candidates may begin drawing compensation. Candidates now cannot pay themselves more than they were making in the year previous to their run for office, which means unemployed people or stay-at-home caregivers are not entitled to a salary. Reform groups support the effort, saying it would make it easier for a more diverse collection of people to seek public office.
House Votes to Create Select Committee for Investigating Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol
MSN – Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2021
The House voted to form a select committee tasked with investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol with nearly all Republicans opposing the legislation, a sign of the political challenges that face Democrats as they attempt to probe why thousands of former President Trump’s supporters laid siege to the Capitol complex. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be able to select eight of the 13 panel members herself, including its chairperson, and maintain the power to overrule Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for picking anyone Democrats consider objectionable.
Inside the ‘Shadow Reality World’ Promoting the Lie That the Presidential Election Was Stolen
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Emma Brown, Tom Hamburger, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/24/2021
A loosely affiliated network of figures has harnessed right-wing media outlets, podcasts, and the social media platform Telegram to promote the falsehood that the 2020 election was rigged, a belief that is an animating force inside the Republican Party. These falsehoods are now seeping into civic life, spurring citizens in multiple states to demand local officials review the vote. The echo chamber is being sustained by figures such as Mike Lindell, chief executive of MyPillow, who says he has spent $16 million in the effort. Other untold sums have been donated by ordinary Americans to nonprofit groups that say they are focused on “election integrity.”
Overseeing Federal Housing Agency Resigns, Months After Watchdog Report Finds Abuse of Authority
MSN – Rachel Siegel (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2021
The inspector general overseeing the Federal Housing Finance Agency resigned, two months after a watchdog report alleged that she abused her authority, retaliated against employees, and blocked an investigation into her conduct. The report noted years of complaints against Laura Wertheimer and other staff members, and it ultimately concluded “misconduct of this nature warrants consideration of substantial disciplinary action, up to and including removal.”
Rep. Gosar Denies Knowledge of Fundraiser with Group That Promotes White-Nationalist Ideas Despite Invitation for the Event
MSN – Marrianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 6/29/2021
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar denied he plans to attend a fundraiser with a group that promotes white nationalist ideas, despite an invitation for the event circulating online that features the Gosar and Nick Fuentes, a far-right operative who leads America First. The invitation includes contact information for Gosar’s campaign and says it was “paid for by Nicholas Fuentes and authorized by Gosar for Congress Committee.” This would be the second event that Gosar has attended this year with Fuentes, who has previously defended segregation as being “better” for both White and Black Americans and has downplayed the horrors of the Holocaust.
Rudy Giuliani Facing Inquiry into Whether He Lobbied Trump for Turkey
MSN – Christian Berthelsen, Greg Farrell, and Chris Strom (Bloomberg) | Published: 6/29/2021
Rudolph Giuliani is the subject of a Justice Department inquiry into possible foreign lobbying for Turkish interests separate from a criminal probe of his activities in Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter. For almost a year, Giuliani has been fielding questions about whether he was acting for Turkey when he pushed the Trump administration in 2017 to drop money-laundering charges against gold trader Reza Zarrab and deport exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. The Turkey inquiry is not criminal, in contrast to the Ukraine investigation.
The Land Was Worth Millions. A Big Ag Corporation Sold It to Sonny Perdue’s Company for $250,000.
Seattle Times – Desmond Butler (Washington Post) | Published: 6/29/2021
In February 2017, weeks after then-President Trump selected him to be agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue’s company bought a small grain plant in South Carolina from one of the biggest agricultural corporations in America. The former Georgia governor did not disclose the deal as there was no legal requirement to do so. The Washington Post found Archer-Daniels-Midland sold the land at a small fraction of its estimated value just as it stood to benefit from a friendly secretary of agriculture.
Trump Appointees Allowed Terminated EPA Staffers to Keep Receiving Salaries, Watchdog Report Says
MSN – Amy Wang and Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 6/26/2021
Two former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials intentionally kept two staffers on the payroll and allowed them to continue receiving their salaries even after they were terminated, according to a report from the agency’s watchdog. The report also found the former officials, both appointed by former President Trump, committed other fraudulent payroll-related activities – including one giving the other an improper pay increase – that cost the EPA more than $130,000.
Trump’s Endorsements: Revenge against enemies, rewards for friends and purveyors of election falsehoods
MSN – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/26/2021
How aggressively former President Trump should involve himself in the 2022 midterm elections is a question gripping his orbit as he positions himself for a potential run in 2024. His endorsement is the hottest ticket in Republican primary politics in many states, strategists say. But some around him and in senior positions in the GOP want Trump to give them sparingly, fearful losses and a diminished brand could backfire by allowing Democrats to maintain control of the House and Senate and weaken his standing before the next presidential contest.
Undercover GOP Operatives Trained by Former Spies Infiltrated Liberal Groups to Try and Compromise Them from the Inside, Report Says
Yahoo News – Sonam Sheth and Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 6/25/2021
A wealthy Republican donor and a former British spy spearheaded an effort to train Republican operatives to go undercover and infiltrate liberal organizations, The New York Times reported. The donor, Erik Prince, is a hardline Trump supporter who founded the private military contractor Blackwater, now known as Academi. Prince worked with a former British spy, Richard Seddon, on a conservative operation to “infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns and the offices of Democratic as well as moderate Republican elected officials during the 2020 election cycle,” The Times reported, citing interviews and documents.
Unkept Promise on Elections Overhaul Leaves Democrats Scrambling
MSN – Shawn Zeller (Roll Call) | Published: 6/26/2021
Democrats intended the bill to overhaul elections, campaign finance, and ethics law that stalled in the U.S. Senate as a statement of principle to draw a contrast with Republicans. But the measure’s demise is, thus far, demonstrating more fissures in their own party. It has divided progressives who believe democracy cannot survive without its enactment, a president in Joe Biden who has not used his bully pulpit to promote it as much as they would like, and moderate Democrats who do not think it is worth upending the filibuster to overcome GOP opposition.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona’s Maricopa County Will Replace Voting Equipment, Fearful That GOP-Backed Election Review Has Compromised Security
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 6/28/2021
Arizona’s Maricopa County announced it will replace voting equipment that was turned over to a private contractor for a Republican-commissioned review of the 2020 presidential election, concerned the process compromised the security of the machines. Officials from Maricopa, the state’s largest county and home to Phoenix, provided no estimates of the costs involved but have previously said the machines cost millions of dollars to acquire. The process being used to recount ballots and examine voting machines has been criticized by election experts as sloppy, insecure, and opaque.
Arizona – Legislature Sends Voter Protection Act Change to Ballot
MSN – Bob Christie (Associated Press) | Published: 6/26/2021
Arizona voters will be asked next year to amend the state constitution to give the Legislature more power to change citizen’s initiatives they have approved. The referral approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature would amend the Voter Protection Act. That constitutional provision was approved by the state’s voters in 1998 after lawmakers overturned a 1996 initiative legalizing medical marijuana. The act prevents lawmakers from changing a law passed by initiative unless the change both “furthers the purpose” and obtains a 3/4th vote of the Legislature.
Arizona – Supreme Court Says Arizona Limits Don’t Violate Voting Rights Act
MSN – Ariane de Vogue, Fredreka Schouten, and Chandelis Duster (CNN) | Published: 7/1/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled a pair of Arizona voting restrictions do not run afoul of federal law, dealing a blow to voting rights advocates. The decision comes as a raft of Republican-crafted voting limits are introduced and passed across the country, with Democrats and civil rights groups turning to courts to argue the new measures threaten to suppress the vote of racial minorities. One Arizona policy at issue in the case requires provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct to be discarded. The second measure makes it illegal for most third parties to deliver ballots for others, a practice critics refer to as “ballot harvesting.”
California – Newsom Sues Elections Chief to Call Himself a Democrat on Recall Ballot
Politico – Kevin Yamamura | Published: 6/29/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is suing his own appointed elections chief to get two words next to his name on the recall ballot: Democratic Party. The governor and his staff overlooked paperwork last year that would have allowed him to state his party preference on a recall ballot, according to a legal filing. Secretary of State Shirley Weber has confirmed that proponents had more than enough signatures to qualify the contest, and several ministerial steps remain before the date is confirmed.
California – Online Activism Is Spilling into the Streets of Southern California, Sparking a Post-Trump Movement
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin (Washington Post) | Published: 6/29/2021
For years, social media companies have sought and failed to limit the reach of misinformation and other harmful material spread on their sites. That failure culminated in January when – after months of allowing falsehoods about a stolen election to proliferate – the companies kicked former President Trump, along with tens of thousands of followers, off their platforms for inciting violence during the Capitol insurrection. But six months later, a right-wing movement is reconstituting itself, and once again, it is fueled by social media.
California – Supreme Court Nixes California Disclosure Law in Blow to Dark-Money Opponents
MSN – Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro (Roll Call) | Published: 7/1/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of two conservative groups that challenged a California requirement for tax-exempt charities to provide the state the identities of their top financial donors. The ruling could have a political impact, complicating donor-disclosure requirements for groups that often spend large sums in elections but stop short of the “express advocacy” for or against candidates that triggers stricter rules on revealing the sources of donations. Most charities are still required to file lists of donors giving over $5,000 in a year, but the IRS in 2018 dropped the requirement for some politically oriented groups.
Florida – Federal Judge Blocks Florida Law That Would Penalize Social Media Companies
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2021
A federal judge blocked a Florida law that would penalize social media companies for blocking a politician]s posts, a blow to conservatives’ efforts to respond to Facebook and other websites’ suspension of former President Trump. The law was due to go into effect July 1, but in issuing a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle suggested the law would be found unconstitutional. The law laid out fines for tech companies that suspended candidates in the run-up to an election.
Florida – No Criminal Charges for Baugh’s Vaccine VIP List. State Judgment on Ethics Comes Next
MSN – Ryan Callahan (Bradenton Herald) | Published: 6/30/2021
A criminal investigation into Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh’s priority list for COVID-19 vaccinations did not yield any charges, but an ethics board will make a separate ruling on the case. The sheriff’s office said it did not believe Baugh’s order to have herself and four friends vaccinated broke state law, but an investigator said that action “may present certain ethical issues.” Baugh faces at least 18 complaints about the directive. Baugh “knowingly and intentionally attempted to obtain a benefit for herself and others,” but the county’s law enforcement agency does not enforce potential ethics violations.
Georgia – Biden Administration Sues Georgia Over Its GOP-Enacted Voter Restrictions
MSN – Betsy Woodruff Swan, Zach Montellaro, and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 6/24/2021
The Justice Department is suing Georgia over its bill altering election practices in the state. Republican state legislators around the country have pushed a host of provisions that would make it more challenging for people to vote, moves that have targeted Democratic-leaning voters and disproportionately impact people of color. While suits under the Voting Rights Act can be brought over election practices simply because they disproportionately impact minorities, federal officials alleged the new provisions in Georgia are intentionally discriminatory – meaning the Justice Department believes it can prove the state Legislature purposefully sought to diminish the voting power of black voters.
Illinois – Politics Isn’t Child’s Play, but New Campaign Finance Rule Hopes to Make It More Family Friendly
Chicago Sun-Times – Rachel Hinton | Published: 6/24/2021
What passes for political expenses in Illinois often run the gamut. Politicians have spent campaign cash over the years on legal fees season tickets for the Chicago Bulls, White Sox, and Cubs. Campaign funds even once covered the funeral expenses of a former state legislator. So, why not childcare? That was one question state Sen. Melinda Bush said drove her push to clarify state law pertaining to the use of campaign money. She argues that clarification, which is part of an election bill recently signed into law, could remove a barrier to running for office.
Kentucky – Federal Officials Investigate Link Between Former Gov. Matt Bevin Pardon and Fundraiser
MSN – Andrew Wolfson (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 6/29/2021
Two years after then-Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin pardoned Patrick Baker, a convicted killer whose family hosted a political fundraiser for Bevin, the FBI and federal prosecutors are investigating the executive action. It was reported that Baker’s ex-girlfriend, Dawn Turner, told investigators she believed the purpose of the fundraiser was to influence Bevin to give Patrick Baker a pardon and the donor event was “crucial” in getting it. Bevin has denied he pardoned Baker because of the fundraiser, but the revelations show the former governor still faces possible criminal liability.
Louisiana – Louisiana Cap on Lobbying Spending Edges Up Again, to $65
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 6/30/2021
The cap for how much Louisiana’s lobbyists can spend to entertain public edged higher as of July 1. With the start of the new state budget year, the limit lobbyists can spend on food and drink for state lawmakers, other elected officials, and public employees is growing from $63 to $65 per person, per occasion.
Maine – Governor Mills Signs a Full Slate of Election, Campaign Finance Reforms into Law
Maine Wire – Katherine Revelo | Published: 6/24/2021
Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed into law several bills that affect campaigns and elections in the state. Legislative Document 916 makes changes to the laws that govern how voter information can be accessed from the state’s central voter registration system while Legislative Document 1363 makes several changes to the use of ranked choice voting and absentee ballots in Maine elections. Legislative Document 1417 bans “segregated fund committees” from accepting individual donations that exceed $5,000 in a calendar year. Legislative Document 1377 makes changes to the laws governing the disclosure of personal sources of income, reporting campaign finance information, and participation in the Maine Clean Election Act.
Massachusetts – Here’s How Feds Say Former House Candidate Abhijit Das Paid Off Debts on Yacht, Massachusetts Hotel Business with Illegal Political Donations
MSN – Jackson Cote (MassLive.com) | Published: 6/29/2021
Federal prosecutors arrested former congressional candidate Abhijit Das, alleging he tailored a scheme to illegally obtain political donations, tried to conceal those illicit contributions, and then used hundreds of thousands of dollars of that money on personal expenses, like his struggling hotel business and yacht. Prosecutors said Das devised a scheme to ask friends and associates for contributions were over the then-$2,700 limit on individual donations. Three individuals gave about $125,000 to the campaign and Das structured the donations as personal loans to circumvent FEC reporting requirements and contribution limits.
Missouri – Missouri Officials Can’t Charge Fees for Attorney Review of Public Records, Court Says
MSN – Katie Moore (Kansas City Star) | Published: 6/30/2021
Government officials in Missouri cannot charge fees for the time attorneys spend reviewing public records prior to their release, the state Supreme Court ruled. Gov. Mike Parson’s office in 2018 charged Elad Gross, a Democrat who ran for attorney general last year, $3,618 for a cache of records on former Gov. Eric Greitens. Parson argued the Sunshine Law allows research or staff time to be charged. But the high court said attorney review time does not fall under either of those categories and public records may be fulfilled without any attorney review time.
Montana – Montana Judge Blocks Portions of Campaign Finance Bill
MSN – Amy Beth Hanson (Associated Press) | Published: 6/29/2021
Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Michael Menahan said he will temporarily block the implementation of two sections of a Montana campaign finance law that was set to take effect July 1. One provision would ban politicking in certain areas of college campuses. The other requires a judge to recuse themselves from a case if their campaigns for office received at least of half of the maximum individual contribution from a lawyer working on the case or involved party during the previous six years.
New Jersey – Murphy Intends to Again Veto Mandatory Minimums Bill Over Weaker Penalties for Public Corruption, Officials Say
MSN – Ted Sherman and Amanda Hoover (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/24/2021
A bill that was intended as a landmark criminal justice measure ending minimum mandatory sentences for many nonviolent crimes in New Jersey was amended to include those charged with official misconduct and public corruption/ Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed it in April. A new version of the bill with the same controversial changes left intact passed the Legislature a second time. And the governor plans to kill it once again because it would eliminate mandatory prison time for elected officials who abuse their office for their own benefit, such as those who take bribes.
New York – Giuliani’s N.Y. Law License Suspended in Connection with Efforts to Overturn 2020 Election
MSN – Shayna Jacobs, Rosalind Helderman, and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 6/24/2021
New York state suspended Rudolph Giuliani from practicing law after finding he sought to mislead judges, lawmakers, and the public as he helped shepherd former President Trump’s legal challenges to the election results. An appeals court said Giuliani’s actions represented an “immediate threat” to the public and he “directly inflamed” the tensions that led to the Capitol riot. The suspension represents one of the first serious attempts to impose consequences on Trump or his top allies for spreading falsehoods about the election results.
New York – New York City Primary Meltdown Deals New Setback to Nation’s Strained Electoral System
MSN – Amy Gardner and David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2021
New York City election officials announced they mistakenly included 135,000 test ballots in early tallies of the Democratic primary for mayor, skewing the count. The Board of Elections issued an apology that pinned the blame on “human error that could have been avoided.” The episode called attention to the city’s history of shoddy election administration. It also represents an awkward turn for national Democrats as they try to defend the soundness of the country’s elections while accusing former President Trump and his GOP allies of undermining democracy through their baseless claims that last year’s election was tainted by widespread fraud.
New York – State Ethics Panel Votes Down Criminal Probe into Cuomo Leak
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 6/30/2021
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted against seeking a criminal investigation into whether someone from within its own ranks leaked confidential information to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, even as new details emerged about the 2019 incident. Six members of the body voted in favor of seeking an investigation, two votes short of the number necessary to formally pursue such an inquiry. Four commissioners, all appointed by Cuomo, voted against making the criminal referral, which the state attorney general would need to pursue the matter. None of the Cuomo-appointed commissioners explained their votes opposing the probe, which would have directly touched a governor already facing multiple, unrelated investigations.
New York – Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg Surrenders in Criminal Case Over Company’s Business Dealings
MSN – Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2021
Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg surrendered to authorities after prosecutors secured grand jury indictments against him and the former president’s family company. People familiar with the case said the charges were related to allegations of unpaid taxes on benefits for Trump Organization executives. Weisselberg is the first individual to be charged in connection with a criminal investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is now collaborating with New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate Trump’s business practices.
Ohio – Feds Asked Frank LaRose for 20 Years of ECOT Campaign Donation Records
Akron Beacon Journal – Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 6/26/2021
The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed nearly 20 years of campaign contribution records from the Ohio secretary of state’s office for the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), an indication the now-closed online charter school and its key players have come under federal criminal investigation. In August 2017, the Ohio Republican Party returned $76,000 in campaign donations to William Lager, ECOT’s founder, and Melissa Vasil. That refund came after former House Speaker Larry Householder returned $70,000 to the Summit County Republican Party.
South Carolina – Judge Orders Powerful Ex-SC Lawmaker to Prison in State House Corruption Investigation
MSN – John Monk and Maayan Schecter (The State) | Published: 6/29/2021
Former South Carolina Rep. Jim Harrison pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison for misconduct in office and perjury for lying to a grand jury. Harrison the first former state lawmaker to be sentenced to prison out of five others convicted so far in an investigation of corruption at the General Assembly. The misconduct charge was centered around his illegal acceptance of some $900,000 over 13 years from the now-defunct Richard Quinn & Associates consulting firm. That money, prosecutors said, was then used to illegally influence legislation. Harrison was the former chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee.
South Carolina – With Party Facing Ethics Fines, Current and Former Horry County GOP Officials Questioning Why
MyHorryNews.com – Jonathan Haynes and Charles Perry | Published: 6/26/2021
The Horry County Republican Party potentially faces thousands of dollars in fines for not filing financial disclosure forms with the South Carolina Ethics Commission over the last four years. But current and former party officials question whether they even needed to submit those records. Local leaders said the commission levied a $1,700 penalty against the group. They also said the ethics panel warned that failing to file the mandatory forms could result in up to $85,000 in penalties. That revelation has led to finger-pointing among the current leaders, who were selected in April and are accusing their predecessors of leaving them in this predicament.
South Dakota – South Dakota Governor Sending National Guard to Mexico Border on Mission Funded by GOP Megadonor
MSN – Alex Horton (Washington Post) | Published: 6/29/2021
Gov. Kristi Noem will use a contribution from a Republican donor to fund a deployment of up to 50 South Dakota National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico. The Guard members will deploy in response to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s plea to augment border security with law enforcement resources from other states. Privately funding a military mission is an affront to civilian oversight of the armed forces, said military and oversight experts, describing the move – a Republican governor sending troops to a GOP-led state, paid for by a Republican donor – as likely unprecedented and unethical.
Texas – Developer Found Guilty of Bribing Two Former Dallas City Council Members to Help Housing Projects
MSN – Kevin Krause (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 6/30/2021
Developer Ruel Hamilton was found guilty of three bribery counts for making payments to two former Dallas City Council members in exchange for their help with his low-income apartment projects in the city. Hamilton was accused of bribing Dwaine Caraway and Carolyn Davis for their support and while they served on the council. The trial was the latest Dallas City Hall corruption case to land in federal court. The case was notable because it also targeted a white businessperson who paid bribes. Previous corruption trials in Dallas have mainly involved local Black politicians, leading to accusations of racial bias in prosecutorial decision-making.
Virginia – Fourth Person Linked to Former Congressman Scott Taylor’s Campaign Is Charged with Election Fraud
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 6/28/2021
A fourth person who worked on former U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor’s failed 2018 reelection bid has been charged with election fraud. Rob Catron, who worked as a campaign consultant for Taylor, was indicted on 10 counts of making a false statement and election fraud, a felony. The allegations appear tied to a 2018 petition fraud scandal in which Taylor’s campaign sought to get a third-party spoiler candidate on the ballot, purportedly to siphon votes away from Taylor’s Democratic challenger, now-U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria.
Wisconsin – GOP Candidate Bankrolled Jan. 6 Riot Trip with Campaign Cash
Yahoo News – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 6/25/2021
Two months after congressional candidate Derrick Van Orden lost his race in Wisconsin, he joined the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 and he paid for the trip with money left over from his campaign. Van Orden, who is running again, acknowledged attending the protest but claimed he never entered the Capitol grounds. Social media posts from the riot suggest that is not true. FEC regulations state that travel expenses must be “directly related to the campaign.” Van Orden, who wrote off roughly $4,000 in transportation and hotel costs around January 6 for him, his wife, and a campaign staffer, did not declare his 2022 candidacy until April.
June 25, 2021 •
National/Federal A Family Affair: Children and other relatives of Biden aides get administration jobs MSN – Sean Sullivan and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 6/17/2021 President Biden promised that no member of his family would be a part of his […]
A Family Affair: Children and other relatives of Biden aides get administration jobs
MSN – Sean Sullivan and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 6/17/2021
President Biden promised that no member of his family would be a part of his administration. But that vow did not extend to his senior staff and their relatives. In the first few months of Biden’s presidency, at least five children of his top aides have secured jobs in the administration. The pattern has drawn concerns from ethics experts, diversity advocates, and others. They say it is disappointing that Biden did not shift even further from the practices of Donald Trump’s presidency, which they felt reeked of nepotism and cronyism.
Capitol Rioter Used Charity to Promote Violence, Feds Say
MSN – Michael Kunzelman (Associated Press) | Published: 6/17/2021
Alan Hostetter used his tax-exempt nonprofit as a platform to oppose COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, protest that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump, and advocate for violence against political opponents, according to a federal indictment. He is charged with conspiracy in the January 6 insurrection, and could be in violation of IRS rules governing nonprofits. The IRS prohibits charities like Hostetter’s from participating in any campaign activity for or against candidates. In his application for tax-exempt status, Hostetter said American Phoenix Project would not directly or indirectly engage in political campaigns.
Federal Judge Tosses Most Claims Against Trump, Barr and U.S. Officials in Clearing of Lafayette Square
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 6/21/2021
U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich dismissed most claims filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. and others in lawsuits that accused the Trump administration of authorizing an unprovoked attack on demonstrators in Lafayette Square last year. The plaintiffs asserted the government used unnecessary force to enable a photo op of then-President Trump outside St John’s Church. But Friedrich called allegations that federal officials conspired to make way for the photo too speculative. The judge allowed litigation to go forward challenging restrictions on protests and other First Amendment activity at Lafayette Square.
Garland Tries to Untangle the Trump Legacy at the Justice Department
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 6/21/2021
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is facing criticism from some Democrats that he is not doing enough to quickly expunge Trump-era policies and practices. On issues ranging from leak investigations to civil and criminal cases involving former President Trump, Garland has been beset by a chorus of congressional second-guessers, even as he insists that he is adhering to the principles of equal justice under the law. How he charts his way through the politically sensitive cases is likely to determine how much of a long-term impact the Trump presidency has on the Justice Department.
How Democrats Are ‘Unilaterally Disarming’ in the Redistricting Wars
Politico – Ally Mutnick | Published: 6/21/2021
In key states over the past decade, Democrats have gained control of Legislatures and governorships that have long been in charge of drawing new election maps, only to cede that authority, often to independent commissions tasked with drawing political boundaries free of partisan interference. Supporters of these initiatives say it is good governance to bar politicians from drawing districts for themselves and their party. But exasperated Democrats counter that it left them hamstrung in the battle to hold the U.S. House by diluting or negating their ability to gerrymander in the way Republicans plan to do in many red states. With the House so closely divided, Democrats will need every advantage to cling to their majority in 2022.
In Sentencing Regretful Capitol Protester, Federal Judge Rebukes Republicans
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2021
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth castigated Republican lawmakers for downplaying the violence of the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6, saying in handing down the first sentence to a charged defendant that those who break the law must pay a penalty. Lamberth credited Anna Morgan-Lloyd for her early cooperation and admission of guilt, expressing frustration with both defendants and observers who argue the riot was merely a political protest. He sentenced her to three years of probation.
Investors Press Firms on Donations as Political Spending Jumps
MSN – Laura Weiss (Roll Call) | Published: 6/24/2021
Democratic state treasurers and social issue-focused investment funds are pressing 82 corporations to be transparent about donations to candidates and causes as contributions resume after a pause in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. More than 125 groups managing over $1.5 trillion in invested assets recently wrote to board members who oversee political spending at some of the largest public corporations. The letter asks companies to provide public disclosure of the amount and recipient of every election-related expenditure, including those made through PACs and third-party groups such as trade associations.
PAC Sues FEC for Dismissing Complaint Against Trump Campaign
Courthouse News Service – Samantha Hawkins | Published: 6/21/2021
A PAC filed a lawsuit against the FEC for dismissing its complaint alleging Donald Trump campaign coordinated with a super PAC that ended up raising $150 million during the 2020 election. End Citizens United says the Trump campaign solicited and directed donations to America First Action and allege the super PAC was the only outside, non-campaign group “approved” by Trump or the Republican National Committee to donate to. FEC regulations prohibit campaigns from soliciting contributions to super PACs without taking measures to ensure the donations comply with federal contribution limits.
Republican House Campaign Arm Says It Will Begin Soliciting Cryptocurrency Donations
MSN – Max Greenwood (The Hill) | Published: 6/17/2021
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) will begin soliciting cryptocurrency donations, making it the first national party committee to do so. It will process cryptocurrency contributions using the payment service BitPay. The procedure will allow the NRCC to effectively bypass the FEC’s $100 cap on transfers of cryptocurrency and accept donations of up to $10,000 per year from an individual.
Senate Republicans Block Debate on Elections Bill, Dealing Blow to Democrats’ Voting Rights Push
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 6/22/2021
Senate Republicans banded together to block a sweeping Democratic bill that would revamp the architecture of American democracy, dealing a grave blow to efforts to federally override dozens of GOP-passed state voting laws. Republicans have also taken aim at numerous other provisions in the Democratic legislation, including a proposal to publicly finance congressional campaigns, potential new disclosure requirements for political donors, and a realignment of the FEC meant to break partisan gridlock in enforcing election laws.
States Across the Country Are Dropping Barriers to Voting, Widening a Stark Geographic Divide in Ballot Access
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2021
Newly enacted laws in more than half of the states expand access to the voting process on a number of fronts, such as offering additional early and mail voting options, protecting mail ballots from being improperly rejected, and making it easier to register to vote. The push to make voting easier comes as Republicans have embraced voting restrictions in GOP-controlled states. The overall result is a deepening divide in ballot access depending on where voters live, one shaped by how lawmakers have reacted to both the pandemic and former President Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was tainted by massive fraud.
Unmasking the Far Right: An extremist paid a price when his identity was exposed online after a violent clash in Washington
MSN – Robert Klemko (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2021
Journalist Laura Jedeed was filming a group of Trump supporters in the District of Columbia after the “Million MAGA March” last November when a man wearing an American flag mask approached her, stepped on her toes, and began yelling. “What’s up, you stupid b—-?” the man shouted as the mask slipped down. Jedeed uploaded video of the incident. The man in the mask was identified through social media and he lost his job. The disclosure online of Dawson’s personal information is part of an effort by left-wing activists to punish members of far-right groups accused of violent behavior by exposing them to their employers, family, and friends.
Whitehouse Bolsters Push to Shine Light on ‘Dark Money’ at Supreme Court
MSN – Todd Ruger (Roll Call) | Published: 6/23/2021
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has written reports and essays, introduced bills, filed briefs, gone on cable television, and made presentations at Supreme Court confirmation hearings. But he has not been as convincing as he hoped in his campaign to curb conservative anonymous donors and their influence on the high court, even as that “dark money” now floods in to support the judicial nomination process his party controls.
Canada – Jan Harder Resigns from Committee as Gloves Come Off at City Council
CBC – Joanne Chianello and Kate Porter | Published: 6/23/2021
Ottawa Councilor Jan Harder stepped down from her role as chair of the committee responsible for urban planning and development in the city, but that did not quell the acrimony surrounding the integrity commissioner’s report on her. The council was set to vote on sanctions recommended in a report by Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau, which found Harder created a perceived conflict-of-interest by hiring registered lobbyist Jack Stirling and his daughter to work for her office, while Stirling represented private planning clients at City Hall and even personally represented them at the committee Harder chaired.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – APOC Fines Former GOP Alaska Rep. Pruitt for ‘Widespread, Serious’ Campaign Finance Violations
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 6/23/2021
The Alaska Public Offices Commission imposed a $20,000 fine on former state Rep. Lance Pruitt, saying he broke multiple laws with vague and sloppy reporting, banned contributions, and late reimbursements to himself. Pruitt said his errors were unintentional. “In hindsight, I wish I would’ve hired someone to do my reports instead of trying to balance that and a campaign by myself,” Pruitt said.
Arizona – State Senate Wants to Investigate If Social Media Platforms Are Violating Campaign Finance Laws
Pinal Central – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/23/2021
The Arizona Senate voted to spend $500,000 to investigate the practices of social media platforms and search engines to see if they are violating campaign finance laws. The Unreported In-Kind Political Contributions Task Force Fund is charged with investigating whether and to what extent the practices of social media platforms and internet search engines effectively become in-kind political contributions to a candidate, meaning the donation of some service with financial value,
California – Curb Nonprofit Donations? Republicans Running in Newsom Recall Say It Would Reduce Conflicts
MSN – Sophia Bollag (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 6/17/2021
About a dozen companies lobbying to influence state policy have given more than $800,000 to a nonprofit founded by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsome. She has been paid more than $2.3 million by the nonprofit for her work leading the organization and creating documentary films. Now, two Republicans running to replace California Gov. Gavin Newsom are calling for new laws curbing such donations, arguing companies trying to influence state policy should not contribute to nonprofits that employ elected officials’ family members.
California – Elections Officials Alarmed by Democrats’Plans to Change Newsom Recall Rules
MSN – John Myers (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/17/2021
Elections officials across California said the proposed rules written by Democratic state lawmakers for the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom could push the event’s cost far beyond the current estimate of $215 million, creating voter confusion and delaying the counting of ballots. Local officials began sounding the alarm soon after Democrats unveiled new legislation allowing the recall to be held as early as August 24. The proposal would shorten the timeline by up to two months by eliminating the existing requirement of a lengthy analysis of the election’s costs.
Florida – In Push Against ‘Indoctrination,’ DeSantis Mandates Surveys of Florida Students’ Beliefs
MSN – Caroline Anders (Washington Post) | Published: 6/24/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he is concerned about the free flow of ideas on campus and whether higher education stifles free speech from conservatives. Under a law that will take effect July 1, public universities must assess “viewpoint diversity” on campus each year through a survey from the State Board of Education. The law does not address penalties for schools where the survey finds low levels of “intellectual freedom” and “viewpoint diversity,” but DeSantis hinted at the potential for budget cuts at universities that do not pass muster. Public universities in the U.S. are already bound by the First Amendment and cannot discriminate against viewpoints.
Florida – In Secret Recording, Florida Republican Threatens to Send Russian-Ukrainian ‘Hit Squad’ After Rival
MSN – Marc Caputo (Politico) | Published: 6/17/2021
A little-known Republican candidate in one of Florida’s most competitive congressional seats was secretly recorded threatening to send “a Russian and Ukrainian hit squad” to a fellow GOP opponent to make her “disappear.” During a call with a conservative activist that was recorded before he became a candidate, William Braddock repeatedly warned the activist to not support Anna Paulina Luna in the Republican primary for a Tampa Bay-area congressional seat because he had access to assassins.
Florida – Top Florida Political Players Scrutinized in Artiles Case Ahead of August Trial
Miami Herald – Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos | Published: 6/23/2021
A public corruption investigation that took root in a single Miami-Dade legislative race has roped in prominent players across Florida over the last several months, including a GOP-linked research firm, a top not-for-profit hospital network, and a veteran Republican operative who leads a Tallahassee-based political organization. A judge announced the trial would begin August 30. Records obtained by the Miami Herald show that since at least April, investigators have been issuing subpoenas to gather information from an array of people and organizations and financial records that go back several years.
Indiana – 2 More Plea Deals Reached in Muncie Corruption Case; Nichols Is Final Defendant
MSN – Douglas Walker (Muncie Star Press) | Published: 6/22/2021
Two more defendants facing criminal charges stemming from the federal investigation of corruption in former Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler’s administration signed plea agreements. Only one of the nine defendants charged in the years-long corruption probe remains scheduled to stand trial on related charges. Plea agreements were entered in the cases of contractor Tony Franklin and businessperson Jeffrey Burke. Franklin is accused of conspiring to steer Muncie Sanitary District contracts to his business in exchange for “cash bribes and kickbacks.”
Louisiana – Louisiana Governor Agrees to Remove PAC Limits for Campaigns
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 6/22/2021
Candidates for office in Louisiana will soon be able to take unlimited sums directly from PACs under a bill signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The removal of limits on donations that come largely from special interest groups will take effect August 1. Edwards signed the legislation despite opposition from the state Board of Ethics.
Maine – Maine Campaign Finance Regulator Hides Public Meeting during Investigation of Anti-Corridor Group
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 6/18/2021
Maine’s ethics commission removed the video and livestream of a public proceeding after a commissioner mentioned the name of a person or business entity the campaign finance regulator is investigating. The unusual move came at the request of Stop the Corridor, a political group that opposes Central Maine Power’s controversial transmission project. The meeting was called because Stop the Corridor is protesting the commission’s subpoena for records. The majority of both meetings have been held in executive session, a closed-door proceeding the commission uses to discuss information that it has agreed to keep confidential in investigations.
Missouri – St. Louis Gun-Waving Couple Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanors
Politico – Associated Press | Published: 6/17/2021
A St. Louis couple who gained notoriety for pointing guns at social justice demonstrators last year pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and agreed to give up the weapons they used during the confrontation. Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was fined $2,000. Her husband, Mark McCloskey, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was fined $750. They claimed the protesters were trespassing and they feared for their safety. Mark McCloskey has announced he was running for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri.
Montana – Lawmakers Abandon Investigative Subpoenas for Judges’ Records
Ravalli Republic – Seaborn Larson (Helena Independent Record) | Published: 6/22/2021
A legislative committee investigating the judicial branch withdrew its subpoenas for Montana Supreme Court records. There had been an escalating confrontation between Republican lawmakers and the judiciary over claims of improper use of state resources, lobbying efforts by judges, and failure to retain public records. The subpoenas were challenged in court as an overreach of the Legislature’s constitutional authority by Supreme Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin, whose own emails had been subpoenaed by the committee.
New Jersey – N.J. Wants to Protect Women on the Campaign Trail, but Sexual Harassment Bill Is Mired in Politics, Critics Say
MSN – Susan Livio and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/17/2021
A bill that would make New Jersey one of the first states in the nation to outlaw sexual harassment in political campaigns is back under consideration in Trenton three months after sponsors pulled it amid disagreements over what it should say. Advocates say the legislation is needed in state and local campaigns where sexual misconduct often goes unreported and there are no human resources departments for campaign workers and candidates to turn to if they are sexually harassed. The heart of the bill calls for spending $2 million to create the Office on Discrimination and Harassment Prevention inside the Election Law Enforcement Commission.
New York – Adams Leads in N.Y.C. Mayoral Primary, but Ranked-Choice Awaits
MSN – Katie Glueck (New York Times) | Published: 6/23/2021
Eric Adams, who ran for mayor of New York City on a message focused on issues of public safety, emerged with a substantial lead in the Democratic primary, but fell short of outright victory in a race that will now usher in a new period of uncertainty. Because Adams seemed unlikely to earn more than 50 percent of the vote, the contest will be decided under New York’s new ranked-choice voting system. It may take until mid-July before a Democratic primary victor, who would become an overwhelming favorite to win the general election, is officially declared.
New York – Councilman Defeats Indicted Rochester Mayor in Dem. Primary
Star Herald – Carolyn Thompson and Deepti Hajela (Associated Press) | Published: 6/22/2021
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who ran for a third term while under indictment in a campaign finance case, was defeated in the Democratic primary by city Councilperson Malik Evans. There is no Republican challenger on the November ballot. Warren started to face calls for her resignation last summer amid protests over the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who was pressed to the pavement by a group of police officers until he stopped breathing. In October, she was indicted on charges she schemed to evade campaign contribution limits. In May, Warren’s husband was charged with being part of a drug trafficking ring.
New York – India Walton, Self-Identified Socialist, Scores Upset Victory in Buffalo Mayoral Primary
MSN – David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2021
Buffalo Democrats nominated a self-identified socialist as their candidate for mayor, as nurse and activist India Walton scored an upset victory over four-term incumbent Byron Brown in the June 22 primary. Republicans have not fielded a candidate for mayor and have not won City Hall in Buffalo since the 1960s, making the Democratic primary winner all but certain to take office in January. Walton identified as a socialist inside the Democratic Party, and she saw her campaign as a way to dispel worries about the label and its ideological goals.
New York – Trump and His CFO Allen Weisselberg Stay Close as Prosecutors Advance Their Case
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell, Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/21/2021
As chief financial officer at Donald Trump’s private company, Allen Weisselberg is a key figure in prosecutors’ efforts to indict the former president, legal experts say. His central role in nearly every aspect of Trump’s business afforded him a singular view of the Trump Organization’s tax liabilities and finances. Although that role allowed him to stay behind the scenes, it may place him front and center in what would be an unprecedented prosecution of a former president. Officials involved in the Weisselberg investigation have grown frustrated about what they view as a lack of cooperation from him and believe he continues to regularly speak with Trump.
North Carolina – McCrae Dowless Pleads Guilty to Financial Crimes Related to 2018 Election Fraud Scandal
MSN – Will Doran (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 6/21/2021
McCrae Dowless pleaded guilty in federal court to two crimes stemming from the investigation into the absentee ballot fraud scheme he is accused of running in North Carolina. He pleaded guilty to two of the four charges he faced related to Social Security disability fraud. There is a separate state-level court case dealing with the election fraud accusations. The disability fraud charges came as part of an investigation into Dowless for allegedly running an absentee ballot scheme in which he and some assistants would collect people’s ballots and, in some cases, fraudulently sign them or even fill in votes for races that the voters had left blank, officials say.
Ohio – Ohio House Panel Advances Bill Allowing Officials Accused of Corruption to Choose Where Their Trial Is Held
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/22/2021
Republican-backed legislation to allow Ohio politicians accused of corruption to be tried in their home counties rather than Columbus cleared the House Civil Justice Committee. House Bill 286 would remove the Franklin County prosecutor’s exclusive authority to try state public corruption cases. The measure comes just months after a Democrat was elected to the position for the first time in nearly 60 years. The vote was held days after the House expelled former Speaker Larry Householder, who is facing a federal charge of overseeing a $60 million bribery scheme to pass legislation.
Ohio – Ohio Lobbyists Get Keycard Access to Capitol, State Buildings
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 6/24/2021
The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board allows access cards to be issued to registered lobbyists, elected officials, legislative staff, and certain journalists, among others in Ohio. The cards enable someone to skip security lines at government buildings, access elevator bays, and enter the statehouse after hours. For lobbyists, facetime with policymakers is easier to come by in the public spaces than calling and setting a meeting. Other states have different approaches in giving lobbyists access.
Oregon – Lobbying Group Mike Nearman Invited into Oregon Capitol Eluded Disclosing Funding Sources for Years
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 6/21/2021
Members of the Oregon Citizens Lobby were instructed on how enter the closed Capitol by state Rep. Mike Nearman, who was expelled from office for his actions that day. The group has generated a steady stream of lobbying-related training events and alerts over the last 10 years. It rallies its volunteers to press legislators to support or oppose bills. But Oregon Citizens Lobby has never registered to lobby, despite a state requirement for any entity that spends more than $100 on lobbying in any three-month period to disclose its total spending.
Pennsylvania – The Philly Ethics Board Fines PAC Formed by Retired Cops That Spent Big Against Krasner
WHYY – Ryan Briggs | Published: 6/17/2021
A PAC founded by former law enforcement officers, which backed Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s opponent in the May Primary, was fined for violating the city’s campaign finance law. Protect Our Police PAC, which poured money into Krasner challenger Carlos Vega’s campaign, missed filing deadlines on seven campaign finance reports and will pay a $12,000 fine. The city’s law requires PACs to disclose revenues, debts, and expenditures that influence the outcome of an election.
Rhode Island – Sen. Whitehouse, Under Scrutiny for Family Ties to Exclusive Beach Club, Says It Has Non-White Members
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2021
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who has come under scrutiny over his family’s ties to an exclusive beach club, said he checked and there is a “diversity in membership” with non-White members. Still, Whitehouse said, the attention to the issue made him reevaluate his other affiliations, and he found that a sailing club in Newport, Rhode Island, that he belongs to, which he did not name, is not diverse.
South Carolina – Uncovered: Some S.C. public officials got caught doing the wrong thing – with little or no consequences
Times and Democrat – Tony Bartelme (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 6/23/2021
An investigation by The Charleston Post and Courier found more than 1,100 educators, law enforcement officers, judges, and state employees in South Carolina violated ethics rules since 2018. These cases represent a gray zone of ethical breaches, cases that often do not make headlines. They can be found in the files of South Carolina’s many self-policing boards and panels, agencies such as the state Criminal Justice Academy, Department of Education, and Ethics Commission.
Washington DC – At Senate Committee, D.C. Statehood Is Debated Anew
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 6/22/2021
Proponents of statehood for the District of Columbia sought to counter arguments the idea is unconstitutional, urging a U.S. Senate committee to fulfill America’s founding principle of no taxation without representation in the nation’s capital. It was the first Senate committee hearing on statehood since 2014. The committee did not bring up the bill for a vote that year, but advocates are optimistic it may get one this year, even as the bill’s prospects are low in the full Senate.
Wisconsin – GOP Redistricting Put Fitzgerald Brothers – Who Live 13 Miles Apart – in Different Congressional Districts
La Crosse Tribune – Peter Cameron (The Badger Project) | Published: 6/20/2021
When Republican map-drawing in 2011 cemented the party’s dominance in the Wisconsin Legislature for the following decade, it also did something a bit more personal. Despite living very close to one another, the homes of Scott Fitzgerald, then the state Senate majority leader, and his younger brother Jeff Fitzgerald, then the Assembly speaker, were split from the same congressional district into separate ones. This allowed both to potentially serve in Congress without having to run against each other.
June 18, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden’s Vow to Limit Ethics Conflicts Finds a Test Case: The Ricchetti brothers MSN – Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021 President Biden vowed to ban his own family from involvement in government, disclose records of […]
Biden’s Vow to Limit Ethics Conflicts Finds a Test Case: The Ricchetti brothers
MSN – Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021
President Biden vowed to ban his own family from involvement in government, disclose records of White House visitors, and support new legislation that would expand the definition of lobbying and mandate more detailed disclosure of contacts with White House officials. The White House has chastised Biden’s brother for evoking his relationship to the president in an ad for his law firm. But when it comes to dealing with the family and former employer relationships of senior staff, some of whom have close relatives or former bosses who work in the private sector on public policy issues, the White House has largely reverted to existing precedent.
Earmark Return Boosts Lobbyists Hired to Give Localities an Edge
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson and Jack Fitzpatrick | Published: 6/17/2021
Van Scoyoc Associates, the lobbying firm that once reigned as a leader in nabbing local earmarks, was eager to get back into the game this year when Congress revived the practice of designating funding for lawmaker projects. When the House released its latest round of spending requests, the firm was among the leaders on K Street in clinching projects. Lobbying firms such as Van Scoyoc are pitching their expertise in securing money for municipalities and nonprofit groups around the country that seek help navigating the time-consuming appropriations process on Capitol Hill.
Emails Show Trump Pressured Justice Dept. Over 2020 Election
MSN – Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long (Associated Press) | Published: 6/15/2021
During the last weeks of his presidency, Donald Trump and his allies pressured the Justice Department to investigate unsubstantiated claims of widespread 2020 election fraud that even his former attorney general declared without evidence, emails show. The emails reveal in new detail how Trump, his White House chief of staff, and other allies pressured members of the U.S. government to challenge the 2020 election over false claims. They also show the extent to which Trump worked to enlist then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in his campaign’s failing legal efforts to challenge the election result.
Exodus of Election Officials Raises Concerns of Partisanship
MSN – Anthony Izaguirre (Associated Press) | Published: 6/13/2021
After facing threats and intimidation during the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath, and now the potential of new punishments in certain states, county officials who run elections are quitting or retiring early. The once quiet job of election administration has become a political minefield thanks to the baseless claims of widespread fraud that continue to be pushed by many in the Republican Party. The exits raise the question of who will take these jobs.
F.E.C. Dismisses Case Against Democrats Over Outreach to Ukraine
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/16/2021
The FEC dismissed a complaint by an ally of former President Trump accusing the Democratic Party and one of its former consultants of violating campaign finance laws by working with Ukraine to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign by damaging Trump’s. An unusual bipartisan combination of members of the commission voted against pursuing the complaint. It claimed the Democratic National Committee and a consultant who had worked for it violated a prohibition on foreign donations by soliciting damaging information and statements from Ukrainian government officials about Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairperson at the time.
G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We don’t have a voice anymore’
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 6/14/2021
A series of Republican bills to restrict voting access across the country would disproportionately affect people with disabilities. For years, advocates have worked to mobilize Americans with disabilities, more than 38 million of whom are eligible to vote, into a voting bloc powerful enough to demand politicians address their needs. Now, after an election in which mail-in voting helped them turn out in large numbers, the restrictive proposals are simultaneously threatening their rights and testing their nascent political influence.
Garland Announces Expansion of Justice Department’s Voting Rights Unit, Vowing to Scrutinize GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions and Ballot Reviews
MSN – Amy Gardner and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/11/2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged to double the size of the Justice Department’s voting rights enforcement staff to combat efforts to restrict ballot access and prosecute those who threaten or harm election workers. Garland said the additional trial attorneys will scrutinize new laws and existing practices across the nation for potential discrimination against Americans of color, including in new measures Republican state lawmakers are pushing. The expanded unit will also monitor the growing number of post-election ballot reviews being called for by supporters of former President Trump.
‘It Was Exhaustion, It Was Sadness, It Was Fatigue’: America’s mayors call it quits
Politico – Lisa Kashinsky | Published: 6/16/2021
Mayors across the country are calling it quits after an exhausting year navigating the front lines of an unprecedented confluence of crises that touched nearly every aspect of human life. Mayors in cities big and small, urban and rural, are giving up for now on their political careers. In the process, they’ are shaking up the municipal landscape, creating a brain drain in City Halls and upsetting the political pipeline all over America. Covid-19 changed the calculus for mayors mulling reelection, but the public health crisis was only a fraction of a larger equation.
Justice Dept. Drops John Bolton Book Lawsuit, Won’t Charge the Ex-Security Aide Who Became Trump’s Scathing Critic
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
The Justice Department abandoned its effort to claw back profits of a book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton and closed a grand jury investigation into whether he criminally mishandled classified information without charging him. Bolton’s attorney called the dismissal a complete vindication for the diplomat, repudiating what Bolton said was the Trump White House’s politically motivated attempt to stifle the pre-election publication of his critical memoir before the 2020 presidential election, using security as a pretext.
Manchin Outlines Demands on Voting Legislation, Creating an Opening for Potential Democratic Compromise
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
Joe Manchin, the lone Senate Democrat who is not sponsoring a sweeping voting rights and campaign finance bill, outlined for the first time a list of policy demands on election legislation – opening the door to a possible compromise that could counter a bevy of Republican-passed laws that have rolled back ballot access in numerous states. Manchin is willing to support key provisions of the For the People Act, including mandating at least two weeks of early voting and measures meant to eliminate partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. But he also supported several provisions that have historically been opposed by most Democrats.
McGahn Elaborates on Mueller Testimony, but Stops Short of Condemning Trump in Interview with Congress
MSN – Karoun Demirjian, Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2021
Former White House counsel Donald McGahn told lawmakers he was seeking to avoid “a chain reaction that would be not in anyone’s interest” when he ignored then-President Trump’s direction to fire the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a transcript of his closed-door testimony. The exchange came after a two-year court battle for McGahn’s testimony. His appearance on Capitol Hill was the product of a deal between lawmakers and the Biden administration that ended any further appeals.
Trump’s FDA Commissioner Takes Job at Moderna Backer
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021
Former FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn is joining the venture capital firm that launched Moderna and remains closely tied to the coronavirus vaccine maker. Hahn headed the FDA when it authorized Moderna’s vaccine last year before stepping down at the end of the Trump administration. The move is the latest by a federal official to a company that is regulated by the government or that might profit from firms regulated by the government, what critics call a “revolving door” they say undermines trust in federal decisions.
Trump’s Justice Department Secretly Sought Data from Apple on Former White House Counsel McGahn
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/13/2021
The tech company Apple recently notified former White House counsel Donald McGahn and his wife that the Justice Department had secretly requested their information in 2018. Seizing a White House counsel’s data is striking. The latest development comes amid criticism of the Trump-era leak investigations involving members of Congress and journalists at several news organizations. Meanwhile, Republicans have questioned the seizure of records of Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, and another lawyer, Victoria Toensing.
Canada – Ethics Committee Calls for Sweeping Reforms in Wake of WE Charity Scandal
CBC – Elizabeth Thompson | Published: 6/10/2021
A House of Commons committee is proposing a sweeping series of reforms to the way the federal government in Canada makes decisions on contracts after releasing a report on the WE Charity scandal. Among the nearly two dozen recommendations, the committee recommends the government no longer award contracts to shell companies that lack assets to avoid liability. The committee said it also wants to see changes in rules put in place to prevent conflicts-of-interest on the part of cabinet ministers. It also says that public office holders should be accompanied by staff to take notes when they meet lobbyists.
Canada – Lobbyists Slipping Through Cracks of Lobbying Act: Commissioner
iPolitics – Aiden Chamandy | Published: 6/15/2021
The latest high-profile investigation to reveal shortcomings in Canada’s lobbying demonstrates the legislation still needs a parliamentary review, Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said. Rob Silver, husband of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, has had contact with officials handling the federal wage subsidy and rent-relief programs. Bélanger said she suspects lobbying occurred that does not meet the threshold to register in Silver’s case, but she has no data to support the claim, because it is not collected in the federal lobbying registry.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Records Show Little Email Contact Between Gov. Dunleavy’s Former Aide and Oil Company That Hired Him
KTOO – Nathaniel Herz (Alaska Public Media) | Published: 6/14/2021
Ben Stevens, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s former chief of staff, had minimal email contact with officials from ConocoPhillips before he left his state post to take an executive job at the and gas company, according to his correspondence. Interest groups and some lawmakers have been scrutinizing Stevens’ move from state service to the private sector, saying the quick transition raises questions about whether Stevens is complying with state ethics laws.
California – San Diego Website Meltdown Preceded by Vendor Spat, Email Shows
San Diego Reader – Matt Potter | Published: 6/14/2021
The intrigue surrounding the city of San Diego’s abrupt switch to a new campaign finance disclosure website has deepened with the partial rejection by city officials of a request for public records that might shed further light on the controversial matter. The bumpy changeover of the site’s operator, from the veteran contractor Netfile to a new vendor calling itself Pasadena Consulting, was undertaken two months ago by the city clerk’s office without public announcement or official word to the site’s operator or official word to the media.
Colorado – Colorado Supreme Court Beats Back State Politicians’ Redistricting Efforts
Denver Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 6/1/2021
Colorado’s independent redistricting commissions are independent from the state’s political class and their desires, the state Supreme Court ruled in rebuffing lawmakers, the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. The Colorado Supreme Court said legislation that would change this year’s redistricting process amounts to an unconstitutional infringement on the redistricting commissions’ authority to determine how to go about their once-in-a-decade work of redrawing the state’s political maps.
Connecticut – Lawyer Says ‘No Quid Pro Quo’ in Provision Struck from Connecticut Marijuana Bill That Favored One Producer
Hartford Courant – Mark Pazniokas (Connecticut Mirror) | Published: 6/14/2021
Investor J.D. DeMatteo’s interest in getting one of the first licenses to produce marijuana for Connecticut’s recreational market coincided with state Sen. Doug McCrory’s desire to open the industry to “social equity” applicants from poor and urban neighborhoods. McCrory insisted on a provision in the cannabis legalization bill that was intended to allow DeMatteo to jump to the head of the line for a cultivation license if he took on a social equity partner. Whether the provision was the result of altruism, opportunism, or a bit of both, it became an example of the ad hoc nature of legislative negotiations over how to dole out access to a lucrative new market.
Florida – Miami Beach Rep. Michael Grieco Ordered to Pay $1,000 After Probe of Ethics Lapses
MSN – Christina Sant Louis (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/12/2021
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust issued a “letter of instruction” rebuking state Rep. Michael Grieco for twice violating the Citizens’ Bill of Rights during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner. The commission found Grieco falsely portrayed his involvement with the People for Better Leaders PAC. It ordered him to pay $1,000 to cover costs. A third allegation that Grieco indirectly solicited a contribution from a city vendor was dismissed.
Hawaii – Emails Show HART Leaders Always Wanted to Hire Hanabusa as Consultant
Honolulu Civil Beat – Marcel Honore and Nick Grube | Published: 6/15/2021
Before a lucrative rail consulting gig went out for public bid, top officials at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) were determined to award that contract to the board’s former chairperson, Colleen Hanabusa, internal records show. HART Board Chairman Toby Martyn declared in December he wanted to hire Hanabusa as a lobbyist who could help with its budget problems and would report directly to the board she used to lead. Martyn also discussed the contract with Hanabusa 10 days before the solicitation was released publicly. HART leaders say there were no procurement violations, but they are still checking whether the process violated city ethics policies.
Maine – Maine Ethics Panel Votes to Pursue Records from Power Line Opponents
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 6/11/2021
Maine’s campaign finance watchdog agency voted to continue efforts to determine whether a limited liability corporation working to block a controversial transmission line project should have registered as a PAC or a ballot question committee. The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices also agreed to pursue a subpoena for financial information from an unidentified political consultant who has worked with Stop the Corridor to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect project. The project will be the subject of a statewide ballot question in November.
Massachusetts – Judge Rejects Plea Deal in Corruption Case of Former Correia Chief of Staff
WPRI – Shaun Towne and Steph Machado | Published: 6/10/2021
A federal judge rejected a plea deal Genoveva Andrade made with prosecutors in a public corruption case that would have spared her jail time. The unusual decision means Andrade, who was chief of staff to former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, remains charged with six crimes. She could potentially go to trial or plead guilty again under a new agreement with the prosecution. Andrade pleaded guilty to helping Correia in his scheme to shake down marijuana vendors for bribes in exchange for his approval of their proposed cannabis shops.
Massachusetts – Mass. Republican Party Explored Whether It Can Use Its Own Money to Pay for a Candidate’s Legal Fees
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 6/13/2021
The Massachusetts Republican Party, which has struggled to raise money in recent years, asked state campaign finance regulators if it could tap its own legal defense fund to pay costs for a candidate who is facing “legal actions initiated by a state administrative or law enforcement agency.” GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, state Sen. Ryan Fattman, and Stephanie Fattman, the Worcester County Register of Probate and Ryan Fattman’s wife, were each referred to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office in April by the state campaign finance office, which said it had evidence they and others may have violated various campaign finance laws last year.
Mississippi – Lt. Gov. Hosemann’s Inaugural Nonprofit Got $368k in Secret Donations, Filings Show
Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 6/10/2021
A nonprofit created to fund Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann’s inauguration raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret donations, with some gifts as large as $20,000, recent tax filings show. The organization, Advance Mississippi 2020, raised the money to pay for inauguration events early last year including a gala and prayer breakfast. The group was dissolved later in 2020 with the leftover money given to several charities. The documents are the latest example of how Mississippi politicians can use nonprofits to sidestep the usual restrictions and transparency required by campaign finance laws.
Nebraska – Donor to Nebraska Anti-Gambling Campaign Will Pay Record-Breaking Late Filing Fee
Omaha World-Herald – Martha Stoddard | Published: 6/11/2021
An Ohio-based group that spent more than $2.3 million to fight Nebraska’s casino gambling measures last fall will pay a record-breaking fine for missing a campaign finance report deadline. The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission voted to grant a request for relief from Collective Prosperity. They reduced the fee to $23,130, down from the original $231,300 that was determined by a formula in state law. The law requires corporations, unions, trade groups, or professional associations based outside of Nebraska to file contribution reports if they give more than $10,000 a year to a Nebraska campaign.
New York – Cuomo’s Inner Circle Raised Money for Aide Who Was Convicted of Bribery
New York Times – Brian Rosenthal and J. David Goodman | Published: 6/15/2021
After one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most trusted aides and closest friends, Joseph Percoco, was convicted of accepting more than $300,000 in bribes from executives with business before the state, the governor quickly distanced himself. Privately, however, members of Cuomo’s inner circle, including one of his sisters, have for years been raising money for Percoco. As recently as last year, the group was helping to fund Percoco’s appeal of his conviction, after some of its members also helped finance a trust fund for his children.
New York – Longtime Assembly Aide Approved as New York’s Election Watchdog
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 6/14/2021
Michael Johnson a former New York Assembly aide, was chosen as the state Board of Elections chief enforcement counsel, replacing Risa Sugarman. When the enforcement counsel position was created in March 2014, it was touted as a major reform. During her six-year tenure, Sugarman angered a wide swath of the Legislature with investigations and lawsuits. She fined major labor unions that were allies of Assembly Democrats. In the Senate, the list of targets included all three factions of the chamber: Democrats, Republicans, and the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference.
North Dakota – North Dakota Paid Its Top Investment Management Firm Millions Without Competitive Bidding Process
The Forum – Patrick Springer | Published: 6/15/2021
The state of North Dakota has paid its top investment consultant $12.9 million over the past 20 years without subjecting the firm to a competitive bidding process, an arrangement allowed by state law. The North Dakota State Investment Board has relied on investment consultant Callan for more than three decades to help select investment managers to steer the state’s $19.4 billion investment portfolio. Callan has a unique role in recommending other investment firms and working with the state on its overall investment strategies.
Ohio – Ally of Suspended Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charges
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/10/2021
A second ally of suspended Cleveland City Councilperson Kenneth Johnson admitted to charges involving the federal corruption investigation of Johnson. John Hopkins, the former executive director of the Buckeye-Shaker Square Development Corp., pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft from a federal program. Johnson’s friend, Robert Fitzpatrick, pleaded to conspiracy involving fraudulent expense reports the council member filed with the city. A federal grand jury indicted Johnson, Hopkins, and Johnson’s longtime aide, Garnell Jamison. Prosecutors said Johnson stole more than $127,000 from city coffers by submitting false monthly expense reports.
Ohio – Larry Householder Out: Ohio House votes to remove former speaker
MSN – Jessie Balmert, Laura Bischoff, and Anna Staver (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 6/16/2021
State Rep. Larry Householder, a former two-time House speaker, was expelled from the Ohio Legislature nearly 11 months after his arrest on a federal corruption charge. House members utilized a little-used provision in the Ohio Constitution that allows lawmakers to police their own for “disorderly conduct.” Householder was arrested last year in connection with the state’s largest bribery scheme. He is accused of orchestrating a nearly $61 million operation to win control of the Ohio House, pass a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants, and defend that law against a ballot initiative to block it.
Oregon – ‘Only Reasonable Course of Action’: Oregon GOP legislator ousted over state Capitol breach
USA Today – Connor Radnovich (Salem Statesman Journal) | Published: 6/11/2021
The Oregon House expelled Rep. Mike Nearman, who let violent, far-right protesters into the state Capitol on December 21. The vote marked the first time a member has been expelled by the House in its 160-year history. The only vote against the resolution was Nearman’s own. He said he let the protesters in because he believes the Capitol, which has been closed to the public to protect against spread of the coronavirus, should have been open. Nearman also faces two misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Poised for History-Making Election of Its First Black Mayor This Fall
MSN – Nick Keppler (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
More than five decades after Cleveland became the first, followed by virtually every other major city in the Midwest and Northeast, Pittsburgh is finally poised to join their ranks and make history this fall by electing a Black mayor. The all-but-certain victory of state Rep. Ed Gainey comes as the former steel town, these days dubbed one of America’s most livable cities, looks hard at the racial inequities that have meant different experiences and opportunities for African American residents. Gainey is the first candidate to defeat a sitting mayor in nearly 90 years.
Rhode Island – Former RI State Rep-Elect Pleads Guilty to Embezzling from Nonprofit
MSN – Providence Journal Staff | Published: 6/16/2021
A man who won a seat in the Rhode Island House but resigned before being sworn pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement and campaign finance charges. The court gave Laufton Ascencao a five-year suspended sentence with probation, imposed a $1,000 fine, and ordered restitution of $13,387.70 to the Rhode Island Chapter of the Sierra Club. Allegations of financial impropriety surfaced shortly after his election, including the charge that he used money from the Rhode Island Sierra Club to help finance his campaign.
South Carolina – SC House Reveals New List of $90M in Taxpayer Funds for Lawmakers’ Pet Projects
MSN – Andrew Caplan (The State) | Published: 6/13/2021
The South Carolina House released its list of nearly $90 million in earmarks members want in the upcoming budget that takes effect July 1. But the list falls short of the level of transparency and accountability that most lawmakers said they favored when polled by reporters. The new list also reveals some lawmakers are sponsoring earmarks that, in previous years, other legislators took heat for sponsoring because of potential conflicts-of-interest. Some watchdogs wonder if these lawmakers are trying to head off additional criticism by convincing their colleagues to sponsor the questionable earmarks on their behalf.
Tennessee – Closed Cold Case Murder Tied to Ousted Tennessee Governor
ABC News – Kimberly Kruesi (Associated Press) | Published: 6/9/2021
Investigators have been chipping away at the 42-year-old cold case of Samuel Pettyjohn’s murder since they renewed their investigation in 2015. At the time of his death, prosecutors said he was an informant in a federal probe of then-Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton, who was accused of taking bribes in exchange for state prisoners receiving early parole. Investigators have now linked Pettyjohn’s killing to the Blanton inquiry. Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston said Pettyjohn was killed in a murder-for-hire plot paid for in-part by a third party on behalf of Blanton’s administration.
Texas – Dallas City Corruption Trial Begins for a Local Developer Accused of Bribing Former Councilors
MSN – Kevin Krause (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 6/14/2021
It is a transaction that happens routinely in politics: the payment of money by a business owner to a public official with the expectation of some future favorable action. But when is that payment an illegal bribe and when does it fall into the category of a routine campaign contribution? A federal jury will soon decide the matter, at least in the trial of developer Ruel Hamilton, who is accused of bribing two former Dallas City Council members. Prosecutors say Hamilton made payments to Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway in exchange for their help on the council with his real estate properties.
Texas – State Bar Investigating Texas Attorney General
MSN – Jake Bleiberg (Associated Press) | Published: 6/10/2021
The State Bar of Texas is investigating whether state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on bogus claims of fraud amounted to professional misconduct. The bar association initially declined to take up a complaint that Paxton’s petitioning of the U.S. Supreme Court to block Joe Biden’s victory was frivolous and unethical. But a tribunal that oversees grievances against lawyers overturned that decision and ordered the bar to look into the accusations against the Republican official.
Virginia – Black Virginians Took Ralph Northam Back. Neither Has Forgotten.
New York Times – Astead Herndon | Published: 6/14/2021
On a national level, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam may forever be enshrined as the Democrat who defied calls to resign in the face of unquestionable racism – a photograph on his yearbook page that showed one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume. But among Black political leaders and elected officials in Virginia, he is set to leave office with another legacy: becoming the most racially progressive governor in the state’s history, whose focus on uplifting Black communities since the 2019 scandal will have a tangible and lasting effect.
Washington – Google to Pay Washington State $400,000 to Settle Campaign Finance Lawsuit
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 6/17/2021
Google agreed to pay $400,000 to settle charges it has not complied with Washington’s campaign finance laws, which require businesses to retain records of political ads they sell in the state. It is the second time in three years that the company has settled a campaign finance lawsuit in Washington. Google paid $200,000, plus attorneys’ fees, to settle a similar lawsuit, but admitted no wrongdoing. This time, Google agreed it did not comply with state law, but still disputes whether the law applies the company.
June 11, 2021 •
National/Federal Abbe Lowell Is the Go-To Lawyer for Embattled Politicians. Now He Faces a Controversy of His Own. Mother Jones – Dan Friedman | Published: 6/8/2021 Abbe Lowell, one of Washington’s top attorneys, has spent decades helping high-profile clients engulfed in […]
Abbe Lowell Is the Go-To Lawyer for Embattled Politicians. Now He Faces a Controversy of His Own.
Mother Jones – Dan Friedman | Published: 6/8/2021
Abbe Lowell, one of Washington’s top attorneys, has spent decades helping high-profile clients engulfed in political scandals. But now Lowell – known for representing Jared Kushner, Jack Abramoff, and others – is himself the subject of a controversy. Lowell negotiated a plea bargain for Nickie Lum Davis, a Republican fundraiser who had engaged in illegal lobbying. Davis later fired Lowell. A new lawyer representing her said Lowell failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest to Davis prior to her guilty plea. At the heart of this dispute is the allegation that an influential attorney with a slew of prominent political clients failed to tell one of those clients about what could be perceived as a personal interest in her case.
After Hitting Pause, PACs Begin to Press Play Again
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 6/7/2021
Business PACs, many of which paused donations earlier this year amid fallout from the violent Capitol attack, have begun to send more money to lawmakers, including to the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the presidential election results of some states. PACs from defense, agriculture, and other sectors have led in donations to such lawmakers. Still, PAC money is down. Contributions to both parties’ House and Senate campaign arms dropped significantly in the first four months of this year when compared with the same period in the previous two election cycles.
Democrats Grapple with Way Forward on Biden Agenda After Manchin Throws Up Roadblocks
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
Democrats grappled with the seeming decimation of their sweeping legislative ambitions at the hands of one of their own lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who quashed prospects for the party’s marquee voting rights bill and cast a pall over other planks of President Biden’s agenda. Manchin declared his opposition to the For the People Act, a sweeping measure meant in part to override new voting restrictions passed by Republican Legislatures and reiterated his vow never to repeal or modify the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule known as the filibuster.
Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More deadlock than ever
Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 6/8/2021
Democrats seeking more robust enforcement of election laws and transparency measures have been routinely routed at the FEC. They have complained Republicans have weaponized the commission’s bipartisan structure to turn it into a toothless agency. Now, the Democratic commissioners have begun to strike back by leveraging some of the same arcane rules that have stymied enforcement efforts for years to make the agency do even less. The goal appears to be to take a panel seen as dysfunctional and create further deadlock, compelling federal courts to fill the breach when it comes to policing federal election law.
Facebook Gives Trump Path to Return – but Not Until at Least 2023
Politico – Cristiano Lima | Published: 6/4/2021
Facebook announced that former President Trump’s accounts will be suspended for two years, extending the suspension that began in January following a finding Trump stoked violence ahead of the insurrection at the Capitol. The company said after that period it would evaluate whether “the risk to public safety has receded,” and then make a call on his possible reinstatement. Facebook also said it will stiffen penalties for public figures during times of civil unrest and violence. Politicians’ posts will no longer be automatically treated as newsworthy, and thus protected from the platform’s rules against harassment, hate speech, and more. But their rule-breaking remarks may still be exempt under Facebook’s newsworthiness exemption.
FBI Investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in Connection with His Political Fundraising
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 6/3/2021
The FBI is investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in connection with campaign fundraising activity involving his former business. The Washington Post published an examination of how employees at DeJoy’s former company, New Breed Logistics, alleged they were pressured by DeJoy or his aides to attend political fundraisers or donate to Republican candidates, and then were paid back through bonuses. Such reimbursements could run afoul of state or federal laws, which prohibit “straw-donor” schemes meant to allow wealthy donors to evade individual contribution limits and obscure the source of a candidate’s money.
GOP Governors Are Cutting Unemployment Aid. Some Have Ties to Businesses That May Benefit.
MSN – Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
Republican governors in 25 states are conducting a giant economic experiment, ceasing enhanced jobless aid for an estimated 4 million people, arguing the generous benefits are dissuading people from going back to work. But a number of these governors have personal connections to businesses that are trying to find workers and could benefit from the policy change. The Biden administration and its allies in Congress argue any reluctance by Americans to return to work is due more to a lack of childcare, lingering concerns over safety during the pandemic, and low wages.
Justice Dept. Continues Appeal on Behalf of Trump in Defamation Case Brought by Sexual Assault Accuser
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 6/7/2021
The Justice Department’s Civil Division under President Biden is continuing the Trump-era push to represent the former president in a defamation lawsuit brought by author E. Jean Carroll. The lawsuit brought by Carroll, who accused Donald Trump two years ago of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s, has been stalled in litigation over whether the Justice Department had standing to represent him on the grounds that his denials in response to her claim were made while performing his presidential duties. The legal maneuver would have required a judge to find a tort law that protects government employees from civil liability applies to a sitting president.
Justice Dept. Vows to End Court Orders Seeking Journalists’ Data in Leak Probes
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/5/2021
The U.S. Justice Department pledged to stop using court orders to get journalists’ information in leak investigations following disclosures about a flurry of such efforts at the end of the Trump administration. The marked shift in approaches between the Trump and Biden administrations comes after it was revealed the department fought a legal battle to obtain information about the email activities of four New York Times reporters as part of a leak investigation. As The Times made the showdown public, it complained the aggressive investigative effort represented a significant intrusion on First Amendment rights and journalists’ ability to gather the news.
Lack of Data on Diverse Electorate Tests Pollsters, Politicians
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 6/4/2021
The most diverse electorate in the country’s history headed to the polls in 2020, but pollsters and party officials are not sure how to tap that potential source of political support. They lack good data about these increasingly diverse communities, and cultural understanding to go with them, leading politicians to make naive mistakes. An industry of firms that provide voter data to pollsters, campaigns, and others has been trying to find the best way to parse specific parts of voters’ identities like religion, race, and ethnicity.
New Bill Aims to Shut the FARA Revolving Door
Center for Responsive Politics – Alyce McFadden | Published: 6/3/2021
Former federal government officials would be prohibited from representing foreign corporations and governments as lobbyists under new bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher and Jared Golden. The Congressional and Executive Foreign Lobbying Ban Act seeks to prohibit federally elected lawmakers, senior-level government appointees, and high-ranking military officers from registering as lobbyists for foreign agents after they leave the government.
Sen. Ted Cruz Prevails in Campaign Finance Lawsuit
Roll Call – Todd Ruger and Kate Ackley | Published: 6/3/2021
A federal court sided with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to strike down a “somewhat obscure” section of a 2002 campaign finance law, which is expected to give a boost to wealthier candidates who self-fund their campaigns. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found Section 304 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act unconstitutionally infringes on candidates’ free speech rights. That section prohibits federal candidates who made personal campaign loans before the election from using more than $250,000 in post-election contributions to repay them.
Trump’s Election Fraud Claims Propelled Them to the Capitol on Jan. 6. His Ongoing Comments Are Keeping Them in Jail.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2021
Although former President Trump has been blocked from major social media platforms and recently shut down his own blog, he is still monitoring and promoting false claims of election fraud. Citing Trump’s ongoing comments, federal judges have shared fears that the defendants accused of the worst violence or threats of violence at the January 6 Capitol insurrection remain a danger to public safety and should remain in custody while they await trial. “Unfortunately, the political dynamics that gave way to January 6th have not faded,” U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said in detaining a man accused of throwing a hatchet and a desk during the riot.
Canada – Judge Rules Against Ontario Third Party Campaign Finance Rules Declaring It Unconstitutional
Global News – Holly McKenzie-Sutter (Canadian Press) | Published: 6/9/2021
A judge struck down a limit on third-party ad spending introduced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government, declaring recent changes to the law unconstitutional. A group of education unions argued the changes to the Election Finances Act would have a chilling effect on their rights to free expression in the year leading up to a provincial election. The government recently doubled the restricted pre-election spending period to 12 months but kept the $600,000 limit on third-party political advertisement spending. The attorney general argued the changes were necessary to protect democratic elections from outside influence.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Companies Lobbying Gavin Newsom Helped Pay His Wife’s Salary, Report Finds
MSN – Evie Fordham (Fox News) | Published: 6/3/2021
Companies with a history of lobbying the state California, including PG&E, Kaiser Permanente. and Comcast, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit of Gov. Gavin Newsome’s wife. Jennifer Siebel Newsom received $2.3 million in total salary from her nonprofit, The Representation Project, between 2011 and 2018, according to tax returns. Siebel Newsom’s foundation billed itself as a gender watchdog organization releasing films to “challenge limiting gender stereotypes and shift norms.” Newsom has appeared in two of The Representation Project’s films.
California – Judge and Attorney in Pivotal Newsom Recall Lawsuit Were Former Law Partners
MSN – Phil Willon (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/7/2021
The judge whose ruling was pivotal to the recall campaign against California Gov. Gavin Newsom, providing supporters extra time to gather the necessary petition signatures to trigger a special election, was once a law partner with the attorney hired by the effort’s proponents to plead their case. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James Arguelles and Bradley Benbrook were attorneys at Stevens, O’Connell & Jacobs before 2010 and the two served as co-counsel on at least two cases. Howard Herships, who opposes the campaign to recall Newsom, said he raised the issue in a complaint against the judge filed with the Commission on Judicial Performance.
Connecticut – Jon Lender: The wife of the lone GOP senator who voted for Connecticut’s recreational marijuana has a job at medical cannabis grower Curaleaf
MSN – Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) | Published: 6/8/2021
Esther Witkos, the wife of state Sen. Kevin Witkos – who was the lone Republican to vote yes when the Senate voted to approve a controversial bill to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Connecticut – has a job with Curaleaf, a medical marijuana grower/producer. Sen. Witkos said his wife has been an hourly worker at a Curaleaf production facility for more than a year. He said he had nothing to do with her getting a job there, and her employment there had no bearing on his vote.
Connecticut – ‘There Are Certain People That Drink Heavily.’ CT Lawmakers Talk About Alcohol Use in Session
MSN – Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) | Published: 6/4/2021
Connecticut House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, fearing extracurricular partying could distract lawmakers from the public’s business, ordered his caucus to move their offices back to the Capitol to avoid distractions. Speaker Matt Ritter chastised his caucus after lawmakers began tailgating on the roof of the Legislative Office Building garage. One House member admitted wine at dinner and the stress of the session contributed to her failure to speak complete sentences during a floor debate. While the drinking might not be good public relations for the Legislature, people with institutional memories say it is no worse than it ever has been.
Florida – As Artiles Criminal Case Unfolds, Sham NPA Candidate Agrees to Ethics Violations, Fine
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/7/2021
As a corruption case involving former Florida Sen. Frank Artiles continues to play out in court, the no-party candidate accused of being paid and recruited to run in the Senate District 37 election was fined for his involvement. Artiles’ defense team continues to debate with the state attorney’s office over how much potential evidence should be made public related to an alleged scheme to recruit and pay Alexis Pedro Rodriguez to run as a no-party candidate in the race. Rodriguez will pay a $6,500 fine for accepting money with the understanding he would change his party affiliation, qualify to run, and file a false disclosure form.
Florida – Ethics Commission: No evidence of improper lobbying on Coral Gables Wawa project
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/9/2021
Miami-Dade County’s ethics commission determined there was no probable cause to pursue a complaint filed on behalf of the Gables Accountability Project, a group of Coral Gables residents who sued the city in opposition to a planned Wawa gas station and convenience store. The complaint alleged lobbyist and former state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and lobbyist Laura Russo failed to properly register to lobby on the project before they sent letters to the city attorney and other officials regarding the removal of trees at the site of the future gas station.
Florida – Judge Asked to Block New Law That Limits Contributions to Florida Amendment Initiatives
South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 6/8/2021
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and other supporters of three proposed constitutional amendments designed to expand voting want a federal judge to block a new state law that places a $3,000 limit on contributions to ballot-initiative drives. They filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, arguing the limit is unconstitutional and would prevent them from collecting enough petition signatures to put the proposed amendments on the November 2022 ballot.
Florida – Mystery Donor Gives $100K-Plus to DeSantis
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 6/3/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has received more than $100,000 from a mystery donor, Tread Standard, that federal regulators previously said was possibly set up illegally to mask the likely source of the money. But it remains unclear who is behind the Delaware-based entity or its political largesse. Tread Standard was the subject of an FEC complaint during the 2016 election cycle that it gave $150,000 to a super PAC supporting former Gov. Jeb Bush’s failed presidential bid. Red flags were raised because the six-figure contribution to the super PAC supporting Bush was given less than two months after Tread Standard was incorporated, and there was no sign the entity did anything that generated its own revenue.
Idaho – Idaho State Legislator Doxxed a Sexual Assault Survivor, Drawing Ethics Complaints
The Intercept – Sara Sirota | Published: 6/3/2021
Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings is facing several ethics complaints after circulating articles revealing the identity of a 19-year-old woman who reported to authorities that another lawmaker, former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, had sexually assaulted her. Giddings is a reservist in the U.S. military, an institution confronting issues of abuse and underreporting, and is seeking greater power in Idaho politics as a candidate for lieutenant governor. Sexual assault survivors often fear others will not believe them or will retaliate against them, inducing further trauma and convincing them more often than not against informing authorities.
Illinois – Chicago’s Ethics Ordinance Infinitely Stronger Than State Version, Top Ethics Officials Say
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 6/4/2021
The city’s ethics ordinance is infinitely stronger than the Illinois General Assembly’s version, the Chicago Board of Ethics said, and it is “gratified” that home-rule will prevail. It is another slap at the widely ridiculed six-month lobbying ban for lawmakers approved by the Legislature in response to the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal. “We are gratified that the General Assembly heeded our urging that Chicago’s lobbying laws not be superseded by the ethics and lobbying reform bill recently passed by the General Assembly,” Ethics Board Chairperson William Conlon and Executive Director Steve Berlin wrote in a statement.
Illinois – Exelon Lobbyist Leads an Effort to Win a Big Payday for Illinois Lawmakers
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 6/7/2021
Eric Madiar, a contract lobbyist for Exelon, is representing former Illinois Rep. Michael Fortner in a class-action lawsuit to win back cost-of-living pay raises legislators, including Fortner, previously voted to block. The cost of the forgone raises for lawmakers was estimated at $14.4 million. The suit was filed as Exelon seeks legislative approval to hike rates to prop up its struggling nuclear plants.
Illinois – Former Chicago Alderman Aiding Corruption Probe Made Audio and Video Recordings of Then-Speaker Michael Madigan on Multiple Topics, Sources Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/9/2021
Former Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis recorded Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on numerous occasions as the speaker allegedly sought business for his private law firm, sources said. He also recorded colleagues at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where Madigan led the Illinois delegation. Solis wearing a wire on Madigan, a famously cautious and shrewd political boss, could help explain why federal prosecutors apparently have cut Solis an unprecedented deal in a federal corruption probe. The potential conflict between Madigan’s dual careers a public official and private lawyer has come under scrutiny numerous times over the years.
Louisiana – Advocates Decry ‘Double Standard’ in Louisiana’s Legislature, Citing Groundwater Ethics Bill
New Orleans Advocate – Blake Paterson | Published: 6/8/2021
Black lawmakers joined social justice advocates to decry what they say is a “double standard” at the Louisiana Capitol where wealthy corporate interests win big while everyday citizens get left behind. They highlighted a bill that would exonerate several members of the Baton Rouge-area groundwater commission from ethics charges they face for working for the companies they are tasked with regulating. Gray Sexton, an attorney representing three members employed by ExxonMobil, Georgia-Pacific, and Entergy who were charged by the ethics board, said the bill simply acknowledges the fact that industry for decades has had a seat at the table.
Maine – Maine House Backs Limiting Foreign Election Spending in Challenge to CMP Corridor
Bangor Daily News – Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews | Published: 6/9/2021
The Maine House passed a bill to bar foreign government-owned companies from spending on state ballot questions after a Canadian energy company dumped millions of dollars into the Central Maine Power corridor referendum fight last year. The proposed ban gained momentum following the spending by Hydro Quebec, a Canadian energy company, to influence potential ballot questions about the corridor. After a first referendum on the corridor was declared unconstitutional last year, corridor opponents mounted a second petition this year aiming to halt the transmission line’s construction.
Maryland – Baltimore Spending Board Approves New Travel Expense Rules for Elected Officials
Baltimore Sun – Phil Davis | Published: 6/9/2021
Baltimore’s spending board approved a new expense policy for elected officials, adopting rules recommended by a city work group after an investigation into State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s travel costs. Elected officials must now seek the Board of Estimates’ approval for travel expenses of $100 or more if a third party is paying the costs. Officials also have to disclose details, including the purpose of a trip and who is paying.
Michigan – Gabe Leland Gets 2.5 Years of Probation on Misconduct in Office Charge
Detroit News – Sarah Rahal | Published: 6/7/2021
Former Detroit City Councilperson Gabe Leland was sentenced to two-and-a-half years of probation after pleading guilty to a state misconduct in office charge. He was accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 in cash and free car repairs from a businessperson in exchange for his vote on a land deal. The allegations resulted in an indictment on federal bribery charges in addition to the felony misconduct in office charge, but the federal charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Michigan – House OKs Ethics Reform with Financial Disclosure, Lobby Limits
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 6/9/2021
Amid debate over whether the legislation went far enough, the Michigan House passed 13 bills and one joint resolution that proponents hope will boost transparency and ethics among lawmakers. The bills seek to create an ethics committee in each chamber, require confidential financial disclosures from members, and prevent legislators and senior administration officials from lobbying for two years after leaving office. The package moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has expressed concerns that financial disclosure requirements could discourage people from running for office.
New Jersey – Stunning Development in Big N.J. Corruption Case as Judge Tosses Charges Against Former Candidate
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/3/2021
In a major setback for prosecutors, the bribery and corruption case against Jason O’Donnell, a former New Jersey Assembly member who was running for Bayonne mayor, was thrown out of court as a judge found O’Donnell committed no crime. The judge said O’Donnell had no power to make any promises in return for a $10,000 cash payment he allegedly accepted from an informant during an undercover sting operation. O’Donnell and four other candidates and officials were accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and cash payoffs from an attorney seeking promises of lucrative tax and real estate work.
New Mexico – Citizen Lawmakers Find Work in New Cannabis Industry
New Mexico Political Report – Andy Lyman | Published: 6/6/2021
Even prior to the passage of the Cannabis Regulation Act in New Mexico, a handful of consulting and legal firms specializing in cannabis regulations and law existed. But since the law was approved, there are at least three elected officials who are currently, or plan to, sell their knowledge to those interested in getting in at the ground floor of what is expected to become a booming new industry. That raises questions about the ethics of state and local lawmakers selling their services in an industry they sometimes have a hand at creating.
New York – She’s Running for New York City Council. But Newspapers Won’t Publish Her Photo.
Politico – Hannah Dreyfus | Published: 6/9/2021
Amber Adler is the first Orthodox Jewish woman to run for city council in her Brooklyn district, which includes ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. As she heads toward the June 22 primary, Adler is a victim of a recent trend among Jewish media outlets in Orthodox neighborhoods in the U.S. – a refusal to publish photographs of women and girls for religious reasons. Which means if Adler wants campaign ads printed in the Jewish news, she cannot be in most of them. Adler is butting up against expectations that Orthodox women do not assume positions of communal authority.
North Carolina – Raleigh Mayor Sits Out Development Hearings to Avoid Conflict of Interest
Yahoo News – Anna Johnson (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 6/4/2021
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin recused herself twice from a recent city council meeting due to potential conflicts-of-interest involving her employer. The mayor did not participate in a public hearing on a proposed development because her employer, Barnhill Contracting, began working on the project in 2019. Baldwin was hired as the director of business development for Barnhill’s Triangle and Streamline Divisions in May 2020. She faced criticism for accepting the job soon after the construction company received a $6.3 million city contract.
North Dakota – Above Board or ‘Pay to Play’? Firm That Guides North Dakota’s $19.4B Portfolio Comes Under Fire
Grand Forks Herald – Patrick Springer | Published: 5/31/2021
Questions have been raised about potential conflicts-of-interest involving a financial adviser that recommends fund managers for North Dakota’s $19.4 billion investment portfolio. A firm called Callan, whose advisory role has been described as a “manager of managers,” received payments from 12 of the 14 companies that manage the investments for the Legacy Fund, the state’s oil tax savings account. As the North Dakota State Investment Board’s leading financial adviser, Callan plays an influential role in advising the board on selecting fund management firms for the Legacy Fund, public employee pension funds, and state insurance funds.
Ohio – Ohio Public Corruption Cases Could Be Tried in Defendants’ Home Counties, Under GOP Proposal
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/9/2021
A state lawmaker is seeking to remove the Franklin County prosecutor’s exclusive authority to try Ohio public corruption cases, just months after a Democrat was elected to the position for the first time in nearly 60 years. An amendment to a bill would allow lawmakers, candidates, and political groups accused of violating state law to choose to be tried in their home counties, rather than in Franklin County as current law requires. The proposal comes amid the House Bill 6 scandal, in which ex-Speaker Larry Householder and allies are facing federal charges they received $60 million in bribe money to pass a bailout of two nuclear power plants.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Faces Expulsion in Assault on State Capitol
Associated Press News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 6/8/2021
A state lawmaker faces being expelled from office after a video emerged apparently showing him choreographing how he would let far-right protesters into the closed Oregon Capitol days before he did so in December. The crowd entered the building during an emergency legislative session, and some sprayed chemical irritants at police. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek recently introduced a resolution that would have the House expel Rep. Mike Nearman if two-thirds of its members vote in favor. She appointed a committee to consider the matter.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Vote to Defund Forest Research Institute over Lobbying Scandal
Yahoo News – Tim Gruver (The Center Square) | Published: 6/9/2021
Oregon House members voted to pull the plug on a public agency accused of playing fast and loose with its ethical standards in its business with the timber industry. The bill redirects millions of dollars from the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) to the Oregon Department of Forestry. A recent media investigation found the taxpayer-funded OFRI attempted to discredit state-sponsored climate research without merit. In 2018, investigators found the OFRI organized a campaign to tarnish an Oregon State University study that concluded the state could cut its carbon footprint if it felled trees on private land less often.
Pennsylvania – How the National Push by Trump Allies to Audit 2020 Ballots Started Quietly in Pennsylvania
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2021
A push to conduct unofficial election audits in Pennsylvania served as a last-ditch effort by allies of former President Trump to undercut Joe Biden’s win after failing in the courts and Legislature. The lobbying foreshadowed a playbook now in use in Arizona and increasingly being sought in other communities as Trump supporters clamor for reviews of the ballots cast last fall, citing false claims the vote was corrupted by fraud. Trump’s backers argue any evidence of problems they uncover will prove the election system is vulnerable and could have been manipulated to help Biden. The audits are being pushed by an affiliation of GOP lawmakers, lawyers, and self-described election experts, backed by private fundraising campaigns whose donors are unknown.
Washington – Seattle Times Sues City of Seattle over Durkan’s Missing Text Messages During Protests
Seattle Times – Asia Fields | Published: 6/4/2021
The Seattle Times filed a lawsuit alleging the city of Seattle mishandled requests from reporters for officials’ text messages during a tumultuous period last summer when police abandoned the a precinct and used tear gas on protesters. The complaint follows a whistleblower investigation that found Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office violated state public records laws in its handling of requests after discovering the mayor’s texts were missing for a 10-month period. The newspaper claims the city violated the Public Records Act by withholding or destroying the mayor’s records after they were requested.
Wyoming – Inside the Campaign-Finance ‘End Run’ That Earned GOP an FEC Fine
WyoFile.com – Nick Reynolds | Published: 6/4/2021
The Wyoming Republican Party secretly supported a 2016 Trump campaign “end run” around donation limitations without securing requisite authorization, according to a former official. The violation, which resulted in a $52,000 fine, cited the party’s failure to meet reporting deadlines for a series of unusual transfers between the Republican National Committee, the state GOP, and the Trump Victory Fund PAC, according to the party’s then-treasure, Doug Chamberlain. But Chamberlain, who was responsible for signing off on all the state GOP’s financial activities and FEC compliance, said he was unaware of the arrangement.
June 4, 2021 •
National/Federal 2 Nonprofits That Track Money in Politics Are Merging Maryland Matters – Josh Kurtz | Published: 6/3/2021 Watchdogs, journalists, opposition researchers, and the civic minded have relied on data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute […]
2 Nonprofits That Track Money in Politics Are Merging
Maryland Matters – Josh Kurtz | Published: 6/3/2021
Watchdogs, journalists, opposition researchers, and the civic minded have relied on data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in Politics to help them keep elected officials and the special interests that seek to influence them accountable. Now, the nation’s two leading money-in-politics data organizations, are joining forces. They announced they are merging into a combined entity called OpenSecrets. The merger will create a new one-stop shop for integrated federal, state, and local data on campaign finance, lobbying, and more.
Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Must File as Foreign Agent, U.S. Says
MSN – Ilya Banares (Bloomberg) | Published: 5/26/2021
The Justice Department told former casino magnate Steve Wynn to register as a foreign lobbyist for China and is ready to go to court if he does not comply. The order stems from allegations Wynn tried to persuade American officials to send Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessperson with ties to former President Trump, back to his home country. Guo was charged there with corruption, bribery, and fraud and is considered a fugitive by Chinese authorities. Under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, any person representing the interest of foreign entities in the U.S. must disclose their relationship. They also need to make public all the activities they’ have done on their behalf and, if applicable, how much they were paid.
Court to Name Special Master to Examine Materials Seized from Giuliani
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/28/2021
A federal judge denied a request from former President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani for the return of a trove of digital information the FBI seized in a raid on his Manhattan home and office as part of an investigation into potential violations of laws on lobbying for foreign entities. But U.S. District Court Judge Paul Oetken said he will appoint an outside lawyer as a so-called special master to oversee the process of making sure investigators do not get access to attorney-client privileged materials they are not entitled to.
Democrats Grapple with the Enemy Within: What to do about the filibuster rule that could kill their agenda
MSN – Michael Kranish, Mike DeBonis, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 5/29/2021
As Senate Democrats work to solidify support within their conference to move on gun violence, climate change, voting rights, and an investigation into the Capitol riots, they are running up against the same stubborn reality: they need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster and put their agenda into law. This requirement is not in the U.S. Constitution, nor is it in a law. It is a rule imposed by senators and could be eliminated by a united rank of Democrats. Yet Democrats are unable to repeal the filibuster and are feuding among themselves about whether they should make a more determined effort to do so before the midterm elections.
FEC Spares Trump but Fines Tabloid Publisher for Hush-Money Payment to Ex-Playboy Model Who Claimed Affair with Him
MSN – Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2021
The FEC fined the National Enquirer’s parent company $187,500 for “knowingly and willfully” violating election law by making a payment in 2016 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with former President Trump years before he was elected. Common Cause alleged the company’s $150,000 payment to McDougal months before the 2016 election was effectively an illegal in-kind corporate contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign. The payment allegedly benefited the campaign by suppressing McDougal’s story of an alleged relationship with Trump before voters went to the polls.
Federal Prosecutors Looking into Whether Gaetz Obstructed Justice
Politico – Marc Caputo | Published: 6/2/2021
Federal prosecutors are examining whether U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz obstructed justice during a phone call he had with a witness in the sex-crimes investigation of Gaetz. The witness was one of a handful of women who entered Gaetz’s orbit via former local tax collector Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to a host of crimes, including sex-trafficking a 17-year-old. The obstruction inquiry stems from a phone call the witness had with Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend. The ex-girlfriend patched Gaetz into the call. While it is unknown exactly what was said, the discussion is central to whether prosecutors can charge Gaetz with obstructing justice, which makes it illegal to suggest a witness in a criminal case lie or give misleading testimony.
GOP Bill Would Codify IRS Rule Hiding ‘Dark Money’ Donors
Center for Responsive Politics – Alyce McFadden | Published: 5/27/2021
The Don’t Weaponize the IRS Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, would prevent the IRS from mandating that 501(c)(4) nonprofits identify their top donors in filings to the agency, turning IRS guidance issued under former President Trump into law. Republican senators who signed on as co-sponsors say the measure would protect outside groups from discrimination by the IRS. The agency previously apologized for slow-walking conservative groups’ applications for nonprofit status and leaking nonprofit donors.
Sources: Dem lobbying firm under federal investigation for Burisma work
Politico – Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman | Published: 6/3/2021
The Justice Department is investigating the work of a consulting firm linked to President Biden’s son for potential illegal lobbying, four people familiar with the probe said. The firm, Blue Star Strategies, took on as a client the Ukrainian energy company Burisma while Hunter Biden served on its board. Republican operatives’ efforts to investigate Burisma and the alleged corruption that surrounded the firm were at the heart of the first Trump impeachment. The probe comes as the Justice Department ramps up its scrutiny of foreign governments’ efforts to influence U.S. politics through covert lobbying operations.
Steve Chabot’s Ex-Campaign Manager Facing More Than 2 Years in Prison After Guilty Plea
MSN – Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/28/2021
Prosecutors say they will seek a prison sentence that is no longer than 32 months for U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s former campaign manager, who admitted he stole more than $1.4 million from the campaign. Jamie Schwartz signed a plea agreement admitting he embezzled the money between 2011 and 2019. Schwartz will pay $1,420,475 in restitution to the campaign. It is a conservative estimate of how much he obtained through the embezzlement, prosecutors said.
Trump Administration Secretly Seized Phone Records of Times Reporters
New York Times – Charlie Savage and Katie Benner | Published: 6/2/2021
The Trump Justice Department seized the phone records of four New York Times reporters in 2017 as part of a leak investigation. It was the latest in a series of revelations about the Trump administration secretly obtaining reporters’ communications records to uncover their sources. It also seized the phone logs of reporters who work for The Washington Post and the phone and email logs for a CNN reporter. After the disclosures, President Biden said he would not allow the department to take such a step during his administration, calling it ‘simply, simply wrong.”
Canada – Pierre Fitzgibbon Steps Down as Minister in Wake of Ethics Report
Montreal Gazette – Philip Authier | Published: 6/2/2021
Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon stepped down as a cabinet minister in the wake of an ethics commission report saying he has a conflict-of-interest. The ethics commissioner, Ariane Mignolet, had said Fitzgibbon should be barred from sitting in the in the provincial Legislature until he sells the stake that he holds in two firms doing business with the government.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Observers of Arizona’s GOP-Led Election Audit Document Security Breaches, Prohibited Items on Counting Floor
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2021
Observers of the Republican-led recount have found security gates left open, confidential manuals left unattended, and quality-control measures disregarded, according to the Arizona secretary of state’s office. A software update caused so many errors the company handling the recount abandoned the update and went back to the old software. In other instances, prohibited items including cellphones and pens with black or blue ink were allowed onto the counting floor. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and election security experts have criticized the audit as error riddled. Now, Hobbs’s office is documenting the alleged infractions online.
California – California Lawmakers Approve District Attorney Recusal Law
Courthouse News Service – Tim Cahill | Published: 6/2/2021
District attorneys in California whose campaigns were funded by police unions would have to recuse themselves from investigations of law enforcement officers under legislation approved by lawmakers. Supporters say the bill will prevent conflicts-of-interest and restore public faith that bad officers will be brought to justice. In the event both the district attorney and state Attorney General accepted banned law enforcement donations, a special prosecutor would then take over.
California – Ex-San Francisco Official Arrested for Attempted Robbery
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 6/3/2021
San Francisco’s former public works director, who resigned after being charged in a City Hall corruption case, was arrested after allegedly trying to rob someone at knifepoint, authorities said. Mohammed Nuru was booked on suspicion of attempted robbery after someone reported being approached by a man who pulled a knife and demanded the man’s property, according to a police statement. Nuru resigned his post last year after being charged with fraud and lying to the FBI. Prosecutors allege he took thousands of dollars in gifts and cash from contractors.
California – Multimillionaire Recall Candidate John Cox Owes Consultants from Failed Gubernatorial Bid
MSN – Seema Mehta (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/27/2021
Recall candidate John Cox’s prior gubernatorial campaign has been ordered by a judge to pay about $100,000 to a political consulting firm that produced television ads for his unsuccessful 2018 race, one of a string of unpaid bills detailed in a lawsuit and campaign filings. Cox’s campaign has refused to pay, leading to a “debtor’s examination” hearing over the financial status of that campaign committee. A spokesperson for Cox’s current gubernatorial campaign said the invoices were submitted late and Cox contests the amount owed.
Colorado – Court Blocks Portion of Aurora Campaign Finance Measure in Case Brought by Mayor Mike Coffman
Denver Post – Sam Tabachnik | Published: 6/1/2021
An Arapahoe County District Court judge blocked portions of an Aurora campaign finance reform measure from going into effect in a case that featured the mayor accusing his own city of targeting him through law. Judge Peter Michaelson agreed with the First Amendment arguments in Mayor Mike Coffman’s filing that the ordinance’s prohibition on a political candidate campaigning for other candidates or ballot initiatives is unconstitutional.
Florida – Florida Sued Over Law to Ban Social Media Content Blocking
Associated Press News – Brendan Farrington | Published: 5/27/2021
Two groups representing online companies sued Florida over a new law that seeks to punish large social media businesses like Facebook and Twitter if they remove content or ban politicians. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will allow the state to fine large social media sites if they inactivate a statewide politician’s account and will let any Floridian sue those companies if they feel like they have been treated unfairly.
Florida – Nikki Fried Amended Past Financial Disclosures Before Jumping into Florida Governor’s Race
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 6/2/2021
Shortly before jumping into the race for Florida governor, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried amended two separate financial disclosure forms, including one showing previously unreported earnings of $351,480. In both instances, Fried reported earning substantially more money from her lobbying business than she initially disclosed, money that in part came from work she did on behalf of a nursery that was eventually acquired by a medical marijuana company. Fried, a former lobbyist for the cannabis industry, is engaged to the former chief executive of one of the nation’s largest medical marijuana companies.
Idaho – Idaho Lieutenant Governor Banned Mask Mandates While the Governor Was Out of town. It Didn’t Last.
MSN – Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) | Published: 5/28/2021
Idaho Gov. Brad Little rescinded an executive order canceling mask mandates that his second-in-command issued while he was away at a conference, calling it an “abuse of power.” It was the latest clash in a pandemic-long feud between Little and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin over public-health measures designed to protect Idahoans from the coronavirus. McGeachin, who recently announced she is running for governor, has spent months criticizing Little’s response to the crisis as too heavy-handed.
Illinois – Lawyers for 4 Charged in ComEd Bribery Case Say No Quid Pro Quo with Madigan, Ask for Charges to Be Dismissed
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/1/2021
Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan had no arrangement with anyone to help Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) win key legislation in Springfield in exchange for bribes, lawyers for four people charged in the corruption case argued. The court filing on behalf of Michael McClain, Anne Pramaggiore, John Hooker, and Jay Doherty asked U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber to toss several of the key elements of the case, including allegations of bribery conspiracy involving jobs doled out by ComEd to associates of the then-powerful speaker.
Illinois – Package of Government Ethics Reforms Passed by Illinois Legislature, Sent to Pritzker
Bloomington Pantagraph – Dean Olsen (State Journal-Register) | Published: 6/1/2021
Illinois lawmakers approved ethics reforms following numerous indictments, convictions, and investigations in recent years involving legislators and powerful interests. The bills would bar elected officials from lobbying other units of government and would give the legislative inspector general the power to initiate investigations of lawmakers without first receiving approval from a bipartisan commission. It prevents lawmakers from holding campaign fundraisers across the state on any day the General Assembly is in session, or on a day immediately preceding a session.
Iowa – State Auditor Says Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Illegally Promoted Herself with Mask Ads; She Denies It
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 6/2/2021
State Auditor Rob Sand is alleging Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds violated the state’s self-promotion law by appearing in a video last year to promote mask wearing during the pandemic, but Reynolds says the public awareness campaign falls under the law’s exemption for disaster emergencies. In the video, Reynolds appears in the governor’s formal office with her name and title onscreen and tells Iowans about steps to take to avoid the virus, like mask wearing, social distancing, and isolating from others. The video also featured health care officials.
Kansas – Ethics Panel Fines Anti-Abortion Activist $5,000 for Campaign Report Failures
Kansas Reflector – Tim Carpenter | Published: 5/27/2021
Conservative activist Mark Gietzen received a $5,000 fine from the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission for failure to submit timely campaign finance reports in the wake of an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Wichita. Gietzen, founder of the Kansas Coalition for Life, missed deadlines for submitting reports in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Those documents have now been completed, but the case was not dismissed because Gietzen had a track record of noncompliance after racking up $2,860 in civil penalties for violations of campaign law.
Louisiana – Lawmakers Back Removal of PAC Limits for Louisiana Campaigns
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 5/28/2021
Louisiana lawmakers agreed to let candidates for office take unlimited sums directly from PACs, in a significant change to campaign finance limits governing donations that come largely from special interest groups. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ed Price, described his measure as a transparency effort.
Maine – Maine Lawmaker Will Sit Out House Work After Disobeying Mask Mandate
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 6/2/2021
Maine’s only Libertarian lawmaker agreed to sit out work in the House for a few days after delaying proceedings as the lone member to disobey a statehouse mask mandate. State Rep. John Andrews was one of seven members who initially defied the mask mandate after Gov. Janet Mills lifted the requirement for vaccinated people in indoor settings. While those other members indicated they may continue the protest after House Speaker Ryan Fecteau removed them from their committee, they wore masks in the chamber.
Michigan – There Are a Lot of Proposals to Increase Michigan Government Transparency. We Break Them Down.
Michigan Advance – Allison Donahue | Published: 6/2/2021
Bills aimed at boosting ethics, transparency, and financial disclosure laws have been introduced in the Michigan Legislature this year from both parties. Michigan received a grade of “F” in the last State Integrity Investigation from the Center for Public Integrity and ranked worst in the country for accountability and transparency. But it can be challenging to navigate all the proposals reforming conflicts-of-interest, the Freedom of Information Act, and lobbying. Some open government advocates say not all these bills pass the smell test because they lack accountability measures or are monitored by in-house committees rather than giving the public full access.
Michigan – Whitmer’s Campaign Will Pay for Controversial Florida Flight
MSN – Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 5/27/2021
A Michigan chemical company that arranged for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to fly to Florida in its private jet is under scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Administration, prompting a change in how the flight will be paid for, Whitmer’s campaign disclosed. The governor’s re-election campaign will pay PVS Chemicals for the $27,521 cost of the flight to visit Whitmer’s father, not a nonprofit corporation she controls, as announced earlier, Whitmer campaign attorney Christopher Trebilcock said.
Montana – Lawsuit Takes Aim at Bill Affecting Montana Campuses, Judicial Campaigns
Missoula Current – Mike Dennison | Published: 6/1/2021
Another lawsuit was filed to strike down a law passed by Montana Republicans, this time taking aim at language the suit says was unconstitutionally inserted into a bill in the closing hours of the session. The suit from a county prosecutor, attorneys, and a political organization says Senate Bill 319 was improperly “hijacked” to ban voter-registration and other political activity on parts of Montana college campuses and require judges to step down from certain cases. The changes violate a constitutional requirement that bills include only one subject, the suit said.
Nevada – Nevada OKs Bill in Try for 1st Presidential Nominating State
Associated Press News – Michelle Price and Sam Metz | Published: 5/31/2021
Nevada lawmakers passed a bill that aims to make the state the first to weigh in on the 2024 presidential primary contests. The move upends decades of political tradition and is likely to prompt pushback from other early states that want to retain their places in the calendar. The push for Nevada to jump past Iowa’s caucuses and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary follows a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign. Proponents argued Nevada is a diverse state with a population that mirrors the demographics of the nation, and therefore is a better choice for testing presidential hopefuls than Iowa and New Hampshire.
Nevada – To Build a Crowd for a Pro-Trump Rally, Nevada GOP Consultant Sought Help from Proud Boys
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2021
Two days after the 2020 election, as then-President Trump railed that his victory had been stolen, a small group of men dressed in yellow-and-black Proud Boys shirts appeared with dozens of other Trump supporters to protest the counting of ballots at Nevada’s biggest voting center. The rally looked like an organic response to a president then trailing in early returns and threatening anew to contest his defeat. But private messages from Facebook and interviews show the extent of the efforts, in at least one battleground state, to demonstrate the appearance of grassroots energy to spread Trump’s falsehoods about the election. His claims would only grow over the coming months, culminating in a violent attack on the Capitol.
New Jersey – Phil Murphy Took on New Jersey’s Democratic Machine. Now He Needs It to Win.
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 5/31/2021
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, seeking reelection to a second term, has broken with his progressive base as they have turned their attention to an institutional foe: that same boss-dominated power structure Murphy had shunned. The governor has made peace with George Norcross, New Jersey’s most feared political power broker, and is embracing the state’s unusual primary ballot system, which gives prominent placement to party-endorsed candidates awarded the party’s “line” on the ballot, moving independent challengers to far-flung positions.
New York – Eric Adams Pays for Mayoral Campaign Advice from Lawyers Who Lobby Him
The City – Greg Smith and Reuven Blau | Published: 5/31/2021
In July 2018, Eric Adams’ campaign hired a law firm called Pitta LLP as a political and legal consultant. By then, talk had started that the Brooklyn borough president was planning a run for City Hall. The same lawyers who run Pitta also operate one of the city’s biggest lobbying outfits, Pitta Bishop Del Giorno, and had for years lobbied Adams personally on behalf of multiple clients, including vendors seeking city contracts and several unions. They continued to do so, even after Adams hired the Pitta law firm for his campaign. In the gaggle of major mayoral candidates, Adams is unique in this regard.
New York – Feds Subpoena Powerful Lobbyist with Close Ties to Carl Heastie
New York Post – Ben Fuerherd | Published: 5/28/2021
Federal prosecutors subpoenaed an influential lobbyist and Democratic fundraiser who is a friend and former college roommate of New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie as part of a public corruption probe. The New York Timers reported investigators from the Southern District of New York have also sought records from two clients of the lobbyist, Patrick Jenkins, as well as an unnamed state agency,. The clients who were subpoenaed include Draftkings, an online fantasy sports betting platform, and del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County.
Ohio – City Council Votes Not to Suspend Wendell Young after April Indictment
WCPO – Staff | Published: 5/26/2021
Cincinnati City Council voted not to suspend Councilperson Wendell Young following his indictment on a tampering with evidence charge related to the “Gang of Five” scandal. Councilperson Betsy Sundermann brought the motion to suspend Young after the passage of Issue 2, which allows council to vote on the suspension of another member if that member is indicted. “How could people not vote for this when they all wanted it on the ballot and the voters passed it by 78 percent?” Sundermann said after the council’s vote.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Appear Unlikely to Limit Campaign Contributions, as Key Proponent Moves to Drop Effort
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 6/1/2021
Despite voters’ overwhelming support for campaign contribution limits, Oregon lawmakers appear close to giving up on efforts to pass such limits this legislative session. A central proponent proposed the Legislature scrap donation caps and instead focus on creating a state program to match small donations with public funds. “We just felt this was the one thing we could get agreement about,” said Rep. Dan Rayfield, a chief sponsor of the proposal that received the most consideration this session, House Bill 2680.
Pennsylvania – Allentown Buys More Time on Proposed Campaign Finance Regulations
Allentown Morning Call – Andrew Wagaman | Published: 6/2/2021
Allentown City Council postponed proposed campaign finance regulations, seeking more time to determine how to enforce reporting requirements and contribution limits. While three council members on the Rules Committee liked the idea, they felt the bill did not adequately empower the city clerk and board of ethics to give the regulations teeth. Councilperson Joshua Siegel has been calling for campaign finance reform since 2017, arguing “electoral guardrails” might have prevented the “pay-to-play” corruption scandal that ensnared former Mayor Ed Pawlowski and members of his administration.
Texas – A False Date Rape Drugging Accusation Against a Lobbyist Exposed Claims of His role in the Texas Capitol’s Culture of Sexual Harassment
Texas Tribune – Cassandra Pollock | Published: 5/26/2021
A Texas Department of Public Safety investigation concluded Rick Dennis, a lobbyist with one of Austin’s most prominent firms, was not guilty of using a date rape drug on two female legislative staff members. Rumors that Dennis had been accused of doing so rocked the Capitol in April, prompting outraged reactions from state lawmakers. The report said the false allegation was fueled by two female staffers, one of whom was trying to cover up behavior of her own that had nothing to do with Dennis. Still, the incident laid bare larger questions about a Capitol culture that many female staffers say often leads to allegations of misconduct and harassment being brushed under the rug by those with the power to act.
Texas – After Defeating Restrictive Voting Bill, Texas Democrats Send Loud Message: ‘We need Congress to do their part’
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/31/2021
Texas Democrats who defeated a Republican effort to pass a suite of new voting restrictions with a dramatic late-night walkout from the state House chamber have a message for President Biden and his allies in Congress: If we can protect voting rights, you can, too. The surprise move by roughly 60 Democratic lawmakers headed off the expected passage of Senate Bill 7, a voting measure that would have been one of the most stringent in the nation, by denying Republicans a required quorum and forcing them to abruptly adjourn without taking a vote.
Virginia – Stoney Campaign Donors Among ONE Casino Investors; Illustrates Cross Between Politics and Public Projects
WRIC – Ben Dennis | Published: 6/2/2021
Several of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s campaign donors are among the named investors in the Urban ONE casino project and the organization says some of them committed support for the development before Stoney recommended it to city council. Virginia does not restrict who or how much someone can donate to a candidate or cause, though the connection between the city’s casino race and key players does illustrate the role of transparency between politics and public projects.
Wisconsin – Top Wisconsin Republican Robin Vos Hires Former Cops to Investigate November Election
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) | Published: 5/26/2021
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is hiring retired police officers to investigate aspects of the November election, joining with Republicans from around the country who have questioned President Biden’s victory. Vos said he hopes the investigators can get to the bottom of issues Republicans have raised unsuccessfully in court. Ann Jacobs, who leads the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said she was worried the investigation would undermine confidence in an election that was conducted properly.
May 28, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Justice Department Fights Release of Legal Memo on Prosecuting Trump Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/24/2021 The Department of Justice released more of a key memorandum concluding former President Trump did not commit obstruction of justice through his […]
Biden Justice Department Fights Release of Legal Memo on Prosecuting Trump
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/24/2021
The Department of Justice released more of a key memorandum concluding former President Trump did not commit obstruction of justice through his alleged attempts to thwart federal investigations, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia. But top department officials filed an appeal to try to keep the majority of that legal opinion under wraps, despite a judge’s order requiring that the legal memo be released in its entirety. The Biden administration is in the curious position of seeking to maintain secrecy surrounding some of the most pivotal legal decisions of the Trump era.
Commerce Department Security Unit Evolved into Counterintelligence-Like Operation, Washington Post Examination Found
MSN – Shawn Boburg (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2021
An obscure security unit tasked with protecting the Commerce Department’s officials and facilities has evolved into something more akin to a counterintelligence operation that collected information on hundreds of people inside and outside the department. The Investigations and Threat Management Service covertly searched employees’ offices at night, ran broad keyword searches of their emails trying to surface signs of foreign influence, and scoured Americans’ social media for critical comments about the census. The unit’s tactics appear as if “someone watched too many ‘Mission Impossible’ movies,” said Bruce Ridlen, a former supervisor.
House Ethics Panel to Drop $5K Metal Detector Fines Against Clyburn, Rogers
MSN – Cristina Marcos (The Hill) | Published: 5/20/2021
The House Committee on Ethics agreed to drop $5,000 fines issued to both Majority Whip James Clyburn and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers for allegedly failing to complete security screenings before entering the House chamber. The move to drop the fines indicates the decisions regarding Clyburn and Rogers were bipartisan. It marks the first time that fines issued to House members for evading security screenings have been successfully appealed.
Jennifer Granholm Sells Holdings in Electric Bus Maker AfteRepublican Criticisms
Politico – Eric Wolff | Published: 5/26/2021
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm sold her holdings in electric bus maker Proterra following criticism from Republicans that she might be profiting from the administration’s push for electric vehicles. The move fulfills the last of her obligations under her ethics agreement three months before an August deadline. She had been a board member for the company but resigned before becoming secretary.
Marjorie Taylor Greene Appeared in a Super PAC Ad Asking for Money. That Might Break the Rules.
ProPublica – Isaac Arnsdorf | Published: 5/21/2021
Not long after her election to Congress, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene helped raise money for a super PAC by appearing in a video ad that tests the boundaries of rules limiting fundraising by elected officials. The ad explicitly asks for money for the Stop Socialism Now PAC, an entity that can accept unlimited donations. But candidates and elected officials are not allowed to solicit contributions greater than $5,000. Legal experts differed in their assessments of whether Greene’s appearance follows the law, depending on their views of how strictly campaign finance rules should be interpreted.
Michigans Top Election Official and Dominion Warn Counties About the Risks of Vote Audits by Outside Groups
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2021
Michigan’s top election official and the company whose voting equipment has been the subject of baseless claims of fraud are cautioning local governments in the state that outside audits of the 2020 election results like the one underway in Maricopa County, Arizona, would be illegal and would void the machines’ security warranties. The warnings come amid a growing campaign by former President Trump and his supporters to pressure county governments to launch audits reviewing ballots cast in the last presidential election, which they claim without evidence was tainted by large-scale fraud and votes manipulated on equipment purchased from Dominion Voting Systems.
Pardon-Probe Ruling Roils Legal Teams for Trump Ally Broidy, Associate
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/20/2021
Two targets of a Justice Department investigation into efforts to influence the U.S. government’s probe regarding the looting of Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund recently shook up their legal teams. The moves by Elliott Broidy and Nickie Lum Davis were prompted, at least in part, by a mysterious court ruling and by news reports that identified some of the key players. Broidy and Davis both pleaded guilty to charges they worked together to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act by failing to report they were taking millions of dollars from Jho Low for their efforts to get the Justice Department to drop an investigation. The probe took on a high profile due to Broidy’s close ties to former President Trump.
Republicans Move to Limit a Grass-Roots Tradition of Direct Democracy
New York Times – Reid Epstein and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 5/22/2021
Ballot initiatives, a century-old fixture of American democracy that allows voters to bypass their Legislatures to enact new laws, often with results that defy the desires of the state’s elected representatives. While they have been a tool of both parties in the past, Democrats have been particularly successful in recent years at using ballot initiatives to advance their agenda in conservative states where they have few other avenues. But this year, some Republican-led Legislatures have passed laws limiting the use of the practice, one piece of a broader GOP attempt to lock in political control for years to come.
Senate Democrats Introduce Legislation to Ban Political Committees from Using Prechecked Donation Boxes
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and Paul Farhi (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2021
A group of U.S. Senate Democrats introduced legislation that would ban political committees from automatically renewing campaign contributions without a donor’s explicit consent. The online fundraising tactic, which was embraced by former President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, has allowed federal candidates and political parties to shore up their coffers by prechecking a box online that sets up recurring donations – putting the onus on the donor to opt out. The practice has been criticized as deceptive and predatory.
Steve Bannon’s Fraud Case Dismissed After Months of Haggling over Trump
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2021
A federal judge formally dismissed the fraud case against Stephen Bannon, the conservative provocateur and ex-adviser to former President Trump, ending months of litigation over how the court system should handle his pardon while related criminal cases remain unresolved. U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres, citing examples of other cases being dismissed following a presidential reprieve, granted Bannon s application, ruling Trump’s pardon was valid and “dismissal of the Indictment is the proper course.”
Suited Up, K Street Returns
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 5/20/2021
After more than a year of virtual-only advocacy because of the pandemic, newly vaccinated K Street lobbyists are reemerging for meetings on Capitol Hill and in-person fundraisers, as well as meals and sit-downs to reconnect with clients and coworkers. Still, many say they expect the Zoom life to carry on as the industry wrestles with the future. Many lobbyists said Republicans were returning to in-real-life meetings more quickly. But new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the subsequent lifting of capacity limitations on restaurants and other gathering spots in the District of Columbia means lobbyists of both parties are filling up their calendars faster than they anticipated.
They Tried to Overturn the 2020 Election. Now They Want to Run the Next One.
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 5/24/2021
Some Republicans who challenged the legitimacy of President Biden’s victory are running for secretary of state in key battlegrounds that could decide control of Congress in 2022 and who wins the White House in 2024. Their candidacies come with former President Trump still fixated on spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election, insisting he won and lying about widespread and systemic fraud. Each of their states has swung between the two parties over the last decade. “Someone who is running for an election administration position whose focus is not the rule of law but instead ‘the end justifies the means,’ that’s very dangerous in a democracy,” said Bill Gates, the Republican vice chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Trump Justice Dept. Secretly Obtained CNN Correspondent’s Phone, Email Records
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 5/20/2021
The Justice Department under then-President Trump secretly obtained the phone and email records of CNN’s Pentagon correspondent, again illustrating how the previous administration was willing to seek journalists’ data to investigate disclosures of information it preferred to remain secret. The Justice Department had revealed that under Trump it had secretly obtained Washington Post journalists’ phone records and tried to obtain their email records. The seizure appears related to reporting during the early months of Trump’s presidency and focused on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Trump Tried to End Spygate Probe of New England Patriots by Offering Bribe, Late Senator’s Son Says
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2021
Donald Trump allegedly attempted to stop a congressional probe of the “Spygate” case involving the New England Patriots by offering a bribe to then-U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, the late senator’s son claimed. An ESPN report detailed how Trump, nearly a decade before he became president, allegedly acted on behalf of Patriots owner Robert Kraft when he met with Specter in 2008 to offer him “a lot of money in Palm Beach” if Spector dropped his investigation into the team. The Patriots were found to have violated league rules when they videotaped the defensive coaches for the New York Jets from an unauthorized location in 2007.
From the States and Municipalities
California – San Diego Crashes Its Own Campaign Disclosure Website
San Diego Reader – Matt Potter | Published: 5/21/2021
The city of San Diego’s online campaign disclosure system, at one time a stellar model of electronic reporting, now appears to have lost a key vendor and been down for weeks without any public announcement, except for a note on the site that filings would return soon. An early effort to use electronic filing via Netfile stalled out in 2005 after the city manager questioned its estimated annual cost but San Diego became one of the vendor’s first clients. What led city officials to dispense with Netfile in favor of what appears to be a home-grown filing and disclosure system remains a tightly held secret.
Connecticut – State Senator Dennis Bradley and Former Bridgeport School Board Chair Jessica Martinez Are Accused in a Federal Fraud Indictment of Stealing Public Campaign Funds
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney and Christopher Keating | Published: 5/25/2021
State Sen. Dennis Bradley Jr. and his campaign treasurer, Jessica Martinez, were charged with a conspiracy to cheat Connecticut’s public campaign financing system out of about $180,000. The indictment says Bradley secretly paid about $5,600 to cover drinks for 150 guests at a campaign event in violation of public campaign financing rules that limit candidates to spending $2,000 in personal funds on such events. He also is accused of using his or his law firm’s money to pay for invitations, a band, and other expenses.
Connecticut – The Supreme Court Orders a Constitutional Test of the State’s Campaign Finance Reforms After Two GOP Senators Are Punished for Criticizing a Democratic Governor
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney | Published: 5/20/2021
The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed decisions by the State Elections Enforcement Commission and a Superior Court, which fined former Republican state Senate candidates Joe Markley and Rob Sampson for breaking election law in 2014 by spending public campaign grants on literature criticizing then-Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy. the decision sends the case back to Superior Court with instructions to rule on a first amendment question: what candidates running for office with taxpayer campaign grants can say on the stump, or more specifically, who they can and cannot criticize.
Florida – Ethics Board Makes Recommendations to Bolster Tallahassee Lobbying Ordinance
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 5/20/2021
Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board approved a series of recommendations to strengthen the city’s lobbying ordinance, chiefly defining who is a lobbyist. Specifically citing reporting last year by the Tallahassee Democrat that detailed the intersection of lobbying, private business, political campaigns, and public policy, the board has worked to expand who would be considered a lobbyist and enact meaningful enforcement.
Florida – Florida Governor Signs Bill Barring Social Media Companies from Blocking Political Candidates
MSN – Kat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that aims to punish social media companies for their moderation decisions, a move Silicon Valley immediately criticized and likely sets the stage for potential legal challenges. The legislation would bar Internet companies from suspending political candidates in the run-up to elections. It also would also make it easier for the state attorney general and individuals to bring lawsuits when they think tech companies have acted unfairly. Legal experts and trade groups raised concerns about the constitutionality of the law and warned it gives the government too much power over online speech.
Florida – ‘Ghost’ Candidate in Key Florida State Senate Race Had Help from Controversial Political Consultant
MSN – Annie Martin and Jason Garcia (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 5/21/2021
About four months after political strategist Eric Foglesong pleaded guilty to stealing money from a campaign and was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution, he waded back into Orlando’s local elections, contributing nearly $900 to a pair of little-known independent candidates who filed to run in two legislative races. Foglesong also likely wrote the $1,187 check that paid the qualifying fee for one of those candidates. The candidacies of the two independents, Jestine Iannotti and Juan Rodriguez, were later promoted by Republican-linked groups with ads apparently meant to siphon support away from Democratic candidates.
Florida – New Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book Has Conflict of Interest as Republicans Quietly Shower Taxpayer Millions on Her Charity
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 5/20/2021
Lauren Book, the newly anointed leader of Florida’s Senate Democrats, has a financial conflict-of-interest that is raising questions about her loyalties as her party prepares for the challenge of redistricting in January. For the past two years, House and Senate Republicans showered the Book’s charity, Lauren’s Kids, with $4 million in taxpayer dollars. The appropriations, including $2 million awarded in the regular session that ended April 30, were camouflaged to make it difficult for the public to spot them.
Georgia – In Echo of Arizona, Georgia State judge Orders Fulton County to Allow Local Voters to Inspect Mailed Ballots Cast Last Fall
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2021
A state judge in Georgia ordered Fulton County to allow a group of local voters to inspect all 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in the 2020 election in response to a lawsuit alleging that officials accepted thousands of counterfeit ballots. The decision marks the latest instance of a local government being forced to undergo a third-party inspection of its election practices amid baseless accusations promoted by Donald Trump that fraud flipped the 2020 contest for President Biden.
Illinois – Former Chief of Staff to House Speaker Michael Madigan Charged with Lying to Federal Grand Jury in ComEd Probe
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 5/26/2021
Tim Mapes, who served for years under former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan as the clerk of the House and as his chief of staff, was indicted was charges of lying to a federal grand jury investigating allegations that Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) paid bribes in exchange for Madigan’s assistance pushing through legislation. The indictment alleged Mapes repeatedly lied during an appearance before the grand jury when asked about Madigan’s relationship with his confidant Michael McClain, who was charged with orchestrating the bribery scheme. ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate in the investigation.
Illinois – Multiple Charities Supported by ComEd Lobbied for Bills Favorable to the Utility Giant
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 5/26/2021
Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) gave nearly $9 million in the past year to nonprofit organizations. Critics say what some of those investments have yielded for ComEd is a de facto, ratepayer-underwritten lobbying force in Illinois that helped move some of the company’s legislative initiatives during the past decade. An analysis shows a pattern in which the same grant recipients that ratepayers subsidize are wearing dueling hats as utility company advocates before the General Assembly. The same is true for a long list of ComEd contractors who have advocated on behalf of the company. State law says utility companies like ComEd cannot make their customers pay for the cost of their lobbying expenses.
Illinois – State’s Top Fiscal Watchdog Misspent Nearly $250K In Campaign Funds, High Court Finds
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel | Published: 5/20/2021
State Auditor General Frank Mautino should not have spent nearly $250,000 in campaign funds for fuel and repairs to personal vehicles when he was a lawmaker, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled. But Mautino did not violate campaign finance law by spending campaign funds in round, whole numbers – what the local government accountability nonprofit whose investigation sparked the suit against Mautino called a common red flag in conducting audits. The high court found there was no evidence Mautino’s campaign committee paid more than fair market value for goods and services bought with campaign dollars.
Indiana – Watchdog Finds Ben Shoulders’ Campaign Money Moves ‘Odd,’ Lack of Answers ‘Troublesome’
MSN – Thomas Langhorne (Evansville Courier & Press) | Published: 5/24/2021
Vanderburgh County Commissioner Ben Shoulders reported two large transactions of campaign money in vague terms unchallenged by elections officials in his 2020 campaign finance report. Shoulders’ filing says the campaign paid him $10,592.72, calling it “personal expensea in error” (misspelling included). On another page it says Shoulders paid the campaign the same amount on the same date, calling that a “reimbursement for error.” There is no evidence Shoulders violated any laws. But there is also no explanation for how he could have mistakenly withdrawn such a sum from his campaign fund for personal use, how the money was spent, or even any documents supporting his contention both transactions happened on the same day.
Kentucky – Ex-State Employee Fined for Taking Bribes from Horse-Therapy Rehabilitation Center
MSN – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 5/20/2021
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission fined a former state employee $46,000 for accepting bribes while working for the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice. The commission found Shannon Anson accepted 23 payments worth $50,500 between August 2013 and July 2015 to refer kids in their care to the now-defunct Bluegrass Training and Therapy Center in Louisville. Anson was a social service specialist, which meant she was in charge of finding programs to place kids who went through the state agency.
Massachusetts – For Years, Investigators Have Sent Maura Healey Evidence of Illegal Campaign Finance Activity. She’s Never Prosecuted Any
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 5/24/2021
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has not acted in any of the cases alleging campaign finance violations sent to her office by a watchdog agency, declining at least nine times to pursue a lawsuit or a prosecution, including against candidates with a history of campaign infractions or fines. Officials have disclosed little about the 13 cases referred by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, four of which remain under review. That the state’s chief prosecutor decided none of the cases rose to the level of civil or criminal prosecution raises questions about how aggressively campaign finance laws are being enforced.
Nevada – Nevada GOP Thrown into Turmoil After Avowed Proud Boys Member Said He Participated in Censure Vote of State Official
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2021
The leaders of the Nevada Republican Party are facing an internal revolt after an avowed Proud Boys member said he was invited with friends to attend a state party meeting and cast the deciding votes in the censure of a state official who concluded the 2020 election in the state was not tainted by fraud. Members of the all-male far-right group have a history of violence. More than two dozen alleged members or supporters of the Proud Boys have been charged with committing crimes connected to the attack on the Capitol, and the Canadian government recently labeled the chapter there a terrorist entity.
New Hampshire – NH Senate Votes to End Voluntary Campaign Spending Limits, Increase Contribution, Reporting Thresholds
WMUR – John DiStaso | Published: 5/20/2021
Legislation to end the voluntary campaign spending limit program and change thresholds for contributions and reporting requirements was among several voting-related bill passed by the New Hampshire Senate. Donna Soucy, the Senate Democratic leader, opposed ending the voluntary spending limit program and increase in the reporting threshold. Soucy said she was concerned by ending the voluntary limit, “We are sending a message that we are not looking at campaign finance in a way where we would have the ability to limit ourselves in our activities.”
New Jersey – Assembly Campaign Donations to Union County Official Expose Pay-to-Play Loophole
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 5/19/2021
Several months after the Union County Improvement Authority awarded a no-bid contract to design a new $100 million county government complex in Elizabeth, top members of the architecture firm that received it donated to the nascent New Jersey Assembly campaign of a high-ranking authority official. The contributions do not appear to violate the state’s “pay-to-play” law, which bars contractors who receive no-bid contracts from giving to officials and political parties that can influence them. But they do expose one of many loopholes in the law.
New York – Chris Cuomo Took Part in Strategy Calls Advising His Brother, the New York Governor, on How to Respond to Sexual Harassment Allegations
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 5/20/2021
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and senior members of the governor’s staff on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations made earlier this year by women who had worked with the governor. The calls occurred earlier this year, when a growing number of claims that Andrew Cuomo made inappropriate comments or touched women without their permission had escalated into a political crisis for the governor. The behind-the-scenes strategy offered by Chris Cuomo cuts against the widely accepted norm in journalism that those reporting the news should not be involved in politics.
New York – Prosecutor in Trump Criminal Probe Convenes Grand Jury to Hear Evidence, Weigh Potential Charges
Seattle Times – Shayna Jacobs and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2021
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. convened the grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former President Trump, other executives at his company, or the business itself, should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges. The move indicates the investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. It also suggests Vance thinks he has found evidence of a crime — if not by Trump, by someone potentially close to him or by his company. Separately, New York Attorney General Letitia James began a civil investigation of the Trump Organization in 2019.
New York – Senate Democrats Shape Debate on Ethics Commission
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 5/25/2021
The state Senate passed legislation to reform the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). One bill removes partisan advantages built into the JCOPE appointment process, giving the legislative leaders of each conference two appointments. It would also remove the requirement that state officials can be investigated or found guilty of ethical violations only with the votes of at least two members of their own political party. They now would just need a vote of any eight members of JCOPE. Another bill would impose anti-sexual harassment training for lobbyists in Albany.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Commission Advances $10 Food/Drink Limit
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 5/26/2021
The North Dakota Ethics Commission is eyeing a limited food and drink exception in its gift rules for state government. The panel advanced the proposal for public comment through July 9. The rule is for a $10 limit on food and beverages purchased for public officials, who include state elected officials and lawmakers. A lobbyist gift ban took effect this year, prohibiting trinkets as nominal as cups and stress balls.
Ohio – Will the Ohio House Move on Resolutions to Expel Former Speaker Larry Householder?
MSN – Anna Staver and Jessie Balmert (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 5/26/2021
The big question circling the Ohio Capitol was whether the House would act on two resolutions to expel their former speaker, Larry Householder. Democratic and Republican lawmakers each introduced resolutions to vote Householder out of office for his alleged involvement in a $61 million bribery scheme to bail out two nuclear power plants. The House too away his speaker’s gavel a few weeks after his arrest, but the chamber has not voted on whether to expel him from office. Householder won re-election in November with more than 70 percent of the vote.
Pennsylvania – Lawmakers Report Receiving Fewer Gifts During Pandemic as Push for Ban Continues
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 5/21/2021
Every May, legislators and other public officials in Pennsylvania are required to file reports detailing, among other items, whether they received pricey gifts, transportation, or hospitality from lobbyists, businesses, or others with a stake in government. For many lawmakers, 2020 was a banner year for staying home and eschewing people bearing gifts, according to their disclosure forms. The few gifts of note came largely before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in March. Still, the push to ban elected officials from accepting gifts and other perks continues in the Legislature, despite past efforts that have largely been met with indifference.
Tennessee – Casada Linked to Phoenix Solutions Ownership
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 5/24/2021
The FBI is investigating whether former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada was owner of a shadowy vendor that did work for several Republicans and netted $231,000 from the House Republican Caucus, according to statements to a lawmaker. FBI agents searched the home of Cade Cothren, the former chief of staff for Casada who was fired two years ago in a texting scandal. Lawmakers who used Phoenix Solutions reportedly said they were told by Cothren or Rep. Robin Smith to make payments for work to Phoenix Solutions, a New Mexico-based company organized by Matthew Phoenix, who has disappeared since the FBI investigation took place and media started asking questions.
Texas – House Bill to Punish Lobbyists Accused of Harassment Gutted in Senate Committee
Dallas Morning News – Lauren McGaughy | Published: 5/20/2021
Texas senators amended a bill meant to punish lobbyists accused of sexual harassment, removing key enforcement and penalties the House wanted. But lawmakers hope to find a compromise in the waning days of the legislative session to ensure lobbyists will be included in anti-sexual harassment efforts going forward, after an alleged drugging incident roiled the Capitol earlier this session.
Washington – How Auto Dealers Lobbyist Wrote an Exemption into Washington’s New Capital Gains Tax Law
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 5/21/2021
Behind the scenes, the lobbyist for the Washington State Auto Dealers Association secured a special carve-out from the capital gains tax that many other Washington business owners may soon owe if they sell their companies. By the time the bill passed a key Senate committee, it included a provision exempting the “goodwill” portion of auto dealerships’ value, the amount attributed to brand and name recognition and community reputation. The exemption’s wording was virtually identical to language suggested by the auto dealers’ lobbyist, Scott Hazlegrove, in emails to the bill’s chief sponsor.
May 21, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Administration’s Deep Ties to Uber, Lyft in Spotlight After Vaccine-Assistance Partnership Announced ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Lucien Bruggeman | Published: 5/17/2021 When the White House announced an agreement with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides […]
Biden Administration’s Deep Ties to Uber, Lyft in Spotlight After Vaccine-Assistance Partnership Announced
ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Lucien Bruggeman | Published: 5/17/2021
When the White House announced an agreement with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to vaccine sites as part of President Biden’s aim to inoculate 70 percent of Americans against the coronavirus by the Fourth of July, the partnership drew praise but also questions. The administration touted the arrangement as an answer to one of the vaccine effort’s toughest challenges: how to help people with limited transportation options get their shots. But it is also drawn attention to the role several senior administration officials once played in working and advocating for the rideshare companies, relationships already under scrutiny as the companies wade through government regulations and manage labor disputes.
Democrats Confront Reality on Voting Rights: Congress probably isn’t coming to the rescue
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2021
Asked about the path to enact new voting-rights laws, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer has offered a pat reply: “Failure is not an option.” Faced with a barrage of new state laws aiming to restrict voting outside Election Day, most Democrats agree with Schumer that the need for a federal backstop is essential. But failure is very much an option – it is, in fact, the most likely one. A Senate committee reached a partisan deadlock over Democrats’ overhaul of federal election, ethics, and campaign finance ethics, and campaign finance law, and there is no clear path to breaking it.
Dems Reach New Fundraising Deal, with Boost for GOP States
Associated Press News – Bill Barrow | Published: 5/14/2021
National and state Democratic officials have reached a joint fundraising deal to increase aid to state parties, with an extra boost for those in Republican-dominated states. The agreement is intended to allow the party’s wealthiest backers to contribute up to $875,000 annually to a combined fund that, under federal campaign finance rules, can be distributed to party accounts around the country. The deal is intended to run through 2024.
FBI Probing Possible Illegal Donations to Susan Collins PAC and Congressional Campaign, Search Warrant Indicates
MSN – Emily Davies (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2021
The FBI has launched a probe into possible illegal campaign contributions funded by a defense company that supported U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’s 2020 re-election campaign, according to a search warrant application. Nothing in the warrant indicates Collins or her staff were aware of the allegedly illegal donations. The application outlined reasons investigators believe the former chief executive of Navatek, now known as Martin Defense Group, funneled donations funded by the company to a PAC supporting Collins through a shell company and donations to the Collins for Senator campaign through his family members.
Gaetz Associate Admits to Sex Trafficking of a Minor, Agrees in Writing to Cooperate Fully with Prosecutors
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 5/14/2021
A Florida politician considered key to the investigation of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz agreed to cooperate fully with federal prosecutors as he admitted in a plea agreement that he paid a minor to engage in sex acts with him and others. The agreement Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector for Seminole County, is an ominous sign for Gaetz. Even before he had accepted a plea deal, Greenberg had been outlining to prosecutors how he and Gaetz would pay women for sex, in hopes of convincing them he could be a witness against Gaetz and earn a break for himself.
Government Watchdog Says Fudge Violated Hatch Act
Politico – Daniel Lippman | Published: 5/13/2021
The Office of Special Counsel concluded Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in political activities while on the job, earlier this year when she opined on the 2022 U.S. Senate election in Ohio. When a reporter asked her about the Senate race in her home state, she responded that she had two friends, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who were thinking of running. Both have since launched statewide campaigns, although Whaley is running for governor instead.
Greene Searched Capitol Office Building for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, 2019 Video Shows
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 5/14/2021
Less than two years before Marjorie Taylor Greene became a member of Congress, she walked the halls of a congressional office building with a few men searching for a new Democratic congresswoman from New York named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A deleted video from February 2019 shows Greene arriving at Ocasio-Cortez’s office door to find it locked. She, and the men with her, then taunt her staff through a mail slot and defile her guest book, all while mocking Ocasio-Cortez.
Inspired by Arizona Recount, Trump Loyalists Push to Revisit Election Results in Communities Around the Country
MSN – Amy Gardner and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/19/2021
The ramifications of former President Trump’s ceaseless attacks on the 2020 election are increasingly visible throughout the country. In emails, phone calls, and public meetings, his supporters are questioning how their elections are administered and pressing public officials to revisit the vote count, wrongly insisting Trump won the presidential race. Behind the scenes, a loose network of lawyers, self-styled election experts, and political groups is bolstering community efforts by demanding audits, filing lawsuits, and pushing unsubstantiated claims that residents are echoing in public meetings.
Manchester’s Political Contributions, Ambassador Nod Are Subject of Criminal Probe
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 5/14/2021
A federal grand jury issued subpoenas in a criminal investigation into the nomination of developer Douglas Manchester as ambassador to the Bahamas by former President Trump. The case appears to focus on the Republican National Committee (RNC) and its two senior leaders, and possibly members of Congress. Weeks after Manchester withdrew his nomination, emails surfaced indicating he was at the center of a possible “pay-to-play” arrangement with the RNC. CBS News disclosed exchanges between RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel and Manchester that implied he would make additional donations to the GOP after winning confirmation.
This Biden Pick Has Worked for Top Offshore Wind Firms. Now He’s Poised to Help Oversee the Industry.
Anchorage Daily News – Joshua Partlow and Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2021
Tommy Beaudreau spent the Trump years as a corporate lawyer working for energy companies of all stripes, including many of the developers that are key to the Biden administration’s goal of building thousands of offshore wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean. Beaudreau is now poised to be confirmed as the number-two official at the Interior Department, which will decide whether these projects should receive federal permits to start construction after evaluating their environmental impact. Although some environmental groups have criticized him for his corporate work for fossil fuel companies, it is his private practice work for a wide swath of the offshore wind industry that may force him to sit out key decisions.
Three GOP Lawmakers Fined $500 for Defying House Mask Rules Amid Republican Backlash: ‘Worth it.’
MSN – Andrea Salcedco (Washington Post) | Published: 5/19/2021
As the U.S. House finished voting recently, a group of Republicans gathered on the floor, smiled, and huddled for a selfie. None wore masks. They were among about a dozen Republican lawmakers who openly defied the decision by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to keep a mask mandate on the floor until all lawmakers and staff are vaccinated. Now three of those GOP lawmakers – Brian Mast, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a physician, and Beth Van Duyne – face $500 fines for breaking the rules. All three were fined because this was the second time that they defied the mask mandate.
White House Releases Biden’s Tax Returns in Restoration of Presidential Tradition
CNN – Jason Hoffman, Maegan Vazquez, and Allie Malloy | Published: 5/17/2021
The White House released the 2020 tax returns for both President Biden and Vice President Harris, restoring a presidential tradition that had been ignored under former President Trump. The White House also released the first and second families’ financial public financial disclosure reports. Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to give a veiled criticism of Biden’s predecessor, telling reporters that the White House expects to “continue to release the president’s tax returns as should be expected of all presidents.”
Canada – Trudeau Cleared in WE Charity Controversy, but Ethics Commissioner Finds Morneau Broke the Rules
Globe and Mail – Bill Curry and Marieke Walsh | Published: 5/13/2021
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was cleared in the ethics commissioner’s investigation into the WE Charity controversy, but former Finance Minister Bill Morneau was found in breach of the Conflict of Interest Act. Commissioner Mario Dion released the two reports almost a year after the scandal erupted, leading to multiple probes by House of Commons committees and officers of Parliament, the resignation of a finance minister and the downfall of one of Canada’s most prominent charities.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Our Democracy Is Imperiled’: Maricopa County officials decry 2020 recount as a sham and call on Arizona Republicans to end the process
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/17/2021
The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors denounced an ongoing audit of the 2020 election vote as a “sham” and a “con,” calling on the GOP-led state Senate to end the controversial recount that has been championed by former President Trump. Board members said the audit has been inept, promoted falsehoods, and defamed the public servants who ran the fall election. In a calculated show of unity, they were joined by Maricopa’s other elected officials: the sheriff, a Democrat; and the Republican county recorder, who leads the elections office.
California – After French Laundry Dinner, a Lobbying Boom for Newsom Adviser’s Firm
MSN – Alexei Koseff (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 5/19/2021
An uncomfortable spotlight shone on lobbyist Jason Kinney last year after he hosted an infamous birthday dinner attended by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The event violated California’s social distancing rules at the time and unleashed a political storm for Newsom. But the notoriety may have boosted Kinney’s fortunes in an industry where personal connections are the primary currency. Billings by lobbying firm Axiom Advisors, where Kinney is a partner, rose by more than 25 percent last quarter. Among more than 60 clients on the company’s roster during those three months, nine had newly hired Axiom Advisors to lobby on their behalf.
California – California Recall Candidates Use Auto-Donation Tactic Trump Made Famous
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 5/17/2021
California recall candidates are charging donors recurring campaign contributions through a tactic made famous by former President Trump and condemned by the FEC. Republican contenders Caitlyn Jenner and Doug Ose have preset their donation pages to charge repeat contributions every month as well as a “May Money Pledge” bonus contribution. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s re-election page at one point defaulted to a recurring donation as well, though it no longer does. Consumer advocates and campaign finance officials say the tactic misleads donors into giving more money than they intend because they must uncheck boxes to ensure they are not regularly charged. Automatic deductions can be difficult to stop once they begin.
California – How Donors Give Millions to Garcetti-Backed Nonprofit and Keep Their Identities Secret
Yahoo News – Dakota Smith and Melody Gutierrez (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/13/2021
An analysis of more than $60 million given to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s charity fund found at least $3.8 million came from those who donated through accounts that mask their identity. Open-government groups say charitable gifts made on behalf of elected officials may go to worthy causes, but it remains critical to identify where the gifts come from to ensure the public knows the donor’s background. In some cases, companies that donate at the request of elected officials have business before the state or local governments, such as contracts or regulatory decisions.
California – Nuru Scandal: Permit expediter Walter Wong to repay SF $1.7M
San Francisco Examiner – Joshua Sabatini | Published: 5/13/2021
Longtime permit expediter and city contractor Walter Wong agreed to repay San Francisco more than $1.7 million in money earned through public contracts plus penalties after he pleaded guilty to federal charges tied to the FBI City Hall corruption probe. Wong will repay The City $1.45 million for contracts and grants he and his companies were awarded without a competitive process through his relationships with former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru and former general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Harlan Kelly. Wong also agreed to pay $317,650 in penalties and late fees for ethics violations.
Florida – New Florida Law Strikes Down Tallahassee Contribution Limits in Local Races
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 5/14/2021
Leon County and Tallahassee’s $250 campaign contribution limit is no more after the Florida Legislature preempted local governments’ ability to put a cap on how much an individual can give to candidates. Senate Bill 1890 was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis but will not go into effect until July 1. It raises the campaign contribution for city and countywide offices, as well as local judicial seats to $1,000 per donor. It also increases statewide contribution limits to $3,000.
Idaho – Advocates: Giddings should be held accountable for doxxing Jane Doe
Idaho Press – Eric Sheridan | Published: 5/18/2021
A crowd gathered on the steps of the statehouse to call for Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings to be held accountable for sharing the personal details of the 19-year-old who accused former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger of raping her. Von Ehlinger resigned following a committee hearing, where he was found to have engaged in behavior “unbecoming” of a representative. Prior to the hearing, Giddings twice published a link to a blog that named the 19-year-old. Jane Doe’s photograph and other personal information have since circulated, causing local advocacy groups to call for the Legislature, U.S. Air Force, and Idaho Air National Guard to hold Giddings accountable and remove her from leadership roles.
Illinois – With Weeks of Session Left, Dueling Ethics Bills Stalling Despite Multiple Corruption Scandals
Bloomington Pantagraph – Ben Szalinski (State Journal Register) | Published: 5/17/2021
Since Illinois lawmakers last had a full spring session in 2019, four one-time state lawmakers have been arrested on corruption charges. Three resigned after being charged, and federal investigators pursued charges on other individuals with close connections to the statehouse and the former House speaker. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle stressed the need for ethics reform following the scandals, yet no legislation that directly addresses the actions of their former colleagues has reached floor debate.
Iowa – Iowa Democrats File Ethics Complaints Accusing Heritage Action of Illegal Lobbying
MSN – Stephanie Gruber-Miler (Des Moines Register) | Published: 5/18/2021
Iowa House Democrats filed ethics complaints accusing two Heritage Action representatives of violating state lobbying law. In a leaked video, the national conservative group claimed credit for writing parts of a recently approved election law in Iowa. The complaints accuse the Heritage Action staffers of violated the law by failing to register as lobbyists and failing to declare on a bill prior to advocating for its passage. The Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board also sent a letter to the group asking for information on its lobbying efforts.
Louisiana – Louisiana May Soon Lift Campaign Finance Limits on PACs
Associated Press News – Melinda Deslatte | Published: 5/19/2021
Candidates in Louisiana would be able to take unlimited sums directly from PACs under a bill that moved nearer to final passage. Sen. Ed Price said he sponsored the legislation to do away with restrictions on contributions that largely come from special interest groups as “more of a transparency bill than anything.” He said candidates trying to get around the limits have created multiple PACs of their own to accept the cash to help them with races. He said that makes it harder for the public to track the donations and see who is contributing to a candidate’s election effort.
Maryland – Legislation Will Extend State Rules on Gift-Giving to MACo and MML
Maryland Matters – Bennett Leckrone | Published: 5/17/2021
Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill that will ban state officials and employees from retaliating against someone who reports a violation of Maryland’s ethics law or participates in an ethics investigation. Senate Bill 4 will also close a loophole in the state’s rules on gifts to lawmakers by extending those rules to the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties. Senate President Bill Ferguson’s chief of staff, Yaakov Weissmann, said the amendment was introduced to ensure the state’s ethics law applies evenly to all organizations. He said the issue was first brought to Ferguson’s attention when lobbying firms raised questions about how to conduct virtual events due to the pandemic.
Massachusetts – An ‘Army of 16-Year-Olds’ Takes on the Democrats
New York Times – Ellen Barry | Published: 5/19/2021
Calla Walsh is a leader in the group of activists known in Boston as the Markeyverse. Walsh, a 16-year-old high school junior, is also representative of an influential new force in Democratic politics, activists who cut their teeth on the presidential campaigns of U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The full strength of these activists, many of whom are not old enough to vote, did not become clear until last fall, when they were key to one of the year’s most surprising upsets, helping U.S. Sen. Edward Markey defeat a primary challenge from Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, who had been heavily favored to win.
Massachusetts – Jury Convicts Ex-Fall River Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II of Extortion, Wire Fraud, Filing False Tax Returns
MSN – Shelley Murphy (Boston Globe) | Published: 5/14/2021
Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was convicted of stealing money from investors in his start-up to bankroll his lavish lifestyle and soliciting bribes from marijuana vendors who wanted to operate in the city. Before Correia became mayor, prosecutors say he lured investors to support his app called “SnoOwl” by falsely claiming he previously sold another business for a big profit. Prosecutors say he used nearly two-thirds of the almost $400,000 he took from investors on himself and spent it on things like fancy hotels, casinos, high-end restaurants, and expensive gifts for his girlfriend.
Michigan – Gov. Whitmer Discloses Cost of Trip to Visit Her Father and How It Was Paid For
MSN – Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 5/14/2021
A nonprofit corporation paid most of the $27,521 cost of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s contentious private plane trip to visit her father. Whitmer used her personal funds to pay the $855 cost of her seat. That was calculated as the comparable cost of a first-class ticket, said gubernatorial spokesperson Tiffany Brown. The disclosures followed weeks of criticism of Whitmer for refusing to say when she left the state to visit her father during the coronavirus pandemic, at a time that Michigan residents were being cautioned about travel.
Montana – MT Supreme Court Rejects AG Request to Disqualify Itself in Email Case
KTVH – Mike Dennison | Published: 5/12/2021
A unanimous Montana Supreme Court rejected a request by state Attorney General Austin Knudsen to disqualify all seven of its justices from the case involving its internal documents and alleged bias. Justice Laurie McKinnon, writing for the court, said the Republican-led Legislature “manufactured a conflict” by issuing subpoenas to the justices, seeking the documents, and attacking a court or judge is not sufficient grounds to force them to step down from the case. She said it is the court’s job to decide the legality of the legislative subpoenas and stepping aside would be shirking its constitutional duty.
New York – Investigation of Trump Organization Now Exploring Possible Criminal Conduct, N.Y. Attorney General’s Office Says
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2021
New York Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation into the Trump Organization is now considered a criminal matter, her office said, noting officials with the former president’s company were recently apprised of the development. The attorney general’s notification to the Trump Organization suggested a cooperative relationship has developed between investigators working for James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., whose office has been heading a criminal probe into the company and its officers since 2018.
New York – NYC Comptroller Candidate Dave Weprin’s Use of Campaign Cash to Pay Fine Is ‘Not Permissible’: Election lawyer
MSN – Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 5/18/2021
New York City comptroller candidate and state Assemblyperson David Weprin took seven years to fully pay off a six-figure debt to the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and when he finally did, he used money raised through his state political fund. CFB documents Weprin signed to qualify for matching funds require he and others affiliated with his city campaign acknowledge personal responsibility for any fines incurred. That, said election lawyer John Ciampoli, could pose a legal problem for Weprin because while state election law allows candidates to use state campaign finance cash to pay off fines in connection to an election, it does not permit them to do so to pay down personal liabilities.
New York – What’s a ‘Bundler,’ And How Are They Bringing Money to the Mayoral Race?
Gothamist – David Cruz | Published: 5/18/2021
Two dozen people who are limited from contributing to New York City mayoral candidates because of their business ties with the city are legally circumventing those restrictions by serving as so-called bundlers. So far, campaign records show the campaigns of Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, and Scott Stringer are among the candidates in this election cycle who have received thousands of dollars in donations on behalf of bundlers. Experts say that while permissible, such an arrangement, which has been criticized by the city Campaign Finance Board, allows bundlers to boost their chances of getting facetime with those primed to acquire power.
North Carolina – Powerful NC Politician Who Stole from GOP Donors Shouldn’t Go to Prison, Feds Say
MSN – Will Doran (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 5/19/2021
One of the most powerful lawmakers in North Carolina likely will not be spending any time behind bars for a campaign finance scheme that prosecutors say he ran to defraud conservative donors. Federal prosecutors recommended only probation for former state Rep. David Lewis, who could have faced up to 30 years in prison. Lewis pleaded guilty to multiple federal crimes last year and gave back the money he took, rather than trying to fight the case at trial, which prosecutors said contributed to their decision to go easy on him.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Attorneys: Political donations in federal bribery probe are protected by the First Amendment
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/19/2021
FirstEnergy wants to dismiss a lawsuit brought by shareholders alleging securities fraud, saying the company’s political donations were protected by the First Amendment. FirstEnergy has been under scrutiny since it was alleged former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others engaged in a $61 million bribery scheme to pass a bailout for two nuclear plants, then owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, and defend that law against a ballot initiative. A FirstEnergy subsidiary donated most of that money. “At most, the complaint alleges that Householder received contributions, but it is not bribery to support politicians who favor policies that align with one’s interests,” FirstEnergy attorneys wrote in a court motion.
Ohio – Ohio Democrats and Republicans Seek More Transparency for Dark Money Politics
MSN – Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 5/14/2021
In the wake of the largest public corruption case in Ohio history, lawmakers are pushing bills that call for more transparency for “dark money” in politics. State Reps. Diane Grendell and Mark Fraizer introduced House Bill 13, which they call the Light of Day Bill. The bill would require 501(c)4 nonprofit organizations to disclose political spending and donors.
Pennsylvania – At the Pa. Turnpike Commission, Layoffs and Other Big Business Largely Decided Behind Closed Doors
MSN – Jonathan Silver (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) | Published: 5/17/2021
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission meets mostly behind closed doors and fails to deliberate in public while making critical decisions that impact the lives of millions of people. Though some meetings are exempt from the public, the termination of a quarter of the agency’s workforce last year amounted to the type of decision that should have been carried out in the open, say legal experts. The five commissioners for years have approved major expenditures, from billion-dollar bond issues to large contracts, while following a similar pattern: closed-door meetings followed by brief public voting sessions with no debate and few dissenting opinions.
Pennsylvania – FBI Probe of Massive Pa. Pension Fund Seeks Evidence of Kickbacks or Bribery
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) and Joseph DiStefano and Craig McCoy (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 5/14/2021
Federal prosecutors investigating Pennsylvania’s $64 billion public school pension fund are looking for evidence of kickbacks or bribery as they explore why the plan exaggerated investment returns and spent heavily to amass real estate in Harrisburg. Subpoenas demand information from the fund itself, its executive director, and at least three other senior officials. The documents lay bare the scope of the probe and reveal prosecutors and the FBI are investigating possible “honest services” fraud and wire fraud.
Pennsylvania – Pa.’s Top Two Republicans Announce Plans for Lobbying Reform, But Is It Enough?
Pennsylvania Capital-Star – Marley Parish | Published: 5/17/2021
A new package of bills could tighten the guidelines for Pennsylvania lobbyists. Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and House Speaker Bryan Cutler unveiled plans to draft legislation and build on the state’s existing law by regulating lobbyists’ influence and establishing a code of conduct. Under the proposal, lobbyists would be required to disclose and register any client conflicts and potential assets and complete annual ethics training. Campaign consultants, who also would be required to register, would be prevented from registering as lobbyists and lobbying elected officials for two years.
Pennsylvania – The Hidden Tab
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis, Mike Wereschagin, Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch | Published: 5/12/2021
The Pennsylvania Legislature spent $203 million from 2017 through 2020 to feed, house, transport, and provide rental offices and other perks for lawmakers and their staffs. About $20 million in all over the four years went directly into lawmakers’ pockets in the form of reimbursements for meals, mileage subsidies, per diems, and other expenses. It is a difficult, time-consuming, and potentially costly process to figure out what lawmakers are buying with taxpayer money. Though spending records are public upon request, legislative officials do not provide the information in an easy-to-use format. Often, key details are redacted.
Tennessee – Registry Director Now Questions Whether State Law Allowed Ketron Payment Plan
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 5/20/2021
A month after the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance authorized its executive director to negotiate a payment plan with Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron on a $135,000 civil penalty, Bill Young, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, is raising doubts about whether such a move would have been legal. The question could be moot, at least for now, after Ketron’s attorney told Young the mayor is withdrawing his request to set up a payment plan and will pay the entire $135,000 in a lump sum.
Tennessee – Tennessee to Rebid $123M Contract Amid Rigging Accusations
Associated Press News – Travis Loller | Published: 5/10/2021
The Tennessee Department of Correction said it will rebid a $123 million contract for behavioral health services after a lawsuit accused a state official of rigging the bidding process. Tennessee-based prison contractor Corizon claims the Correction Department’s former chief financial officer, Wesley Landers sent internal emails related to the contract to a vice president at Centurion of Tennessee. In return, Landers got a “cushy” job with a Centurion affiliate in Georgia, the lawsuit claims.
Wisconsin – A ‘Community for All’? Not So Fast, This Wisconsin County Says
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 5/18/2021
There was a yearlong debate over whether Marathon County, Wisconsin, should declare itself “a community for all.” When George Floyd was killed, communities and businesses engaged in a reckoning over social justice, diversity, and inclusion. But while scores of other communities adopted new policies and issued proclamations vowing to make progress, the residents of Marathon County, which is 91 percent white, could not agree on what to say. About the only consensus that has emerged is the prolonged fight over the phrase has only made things worse, ripping at the communal fabric in this central Wisconsin county and amplifying the tensions that had been simmering before Floyd’s death.
May 14, 2021 •
National/Federal ‘A Perpetual Motion Machine’: How disinformation drives voting laws New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 5/13/2021 Former President Trump’s months-long campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election did not overturn the results. But his unfounded claims shattered his supporters’ […]
‘A Perpetual Motion Machine’: How disinformation drives voting laws
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 5/13/2021
Former President Trump’s months-long campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election did not overturn the results. But his unfounded claims shattered his supporters’ trust in the electoral system, laying the foundation for numerous Republican-led bills pushing more restrictive voter rules. The bills demonstrate how disinformation can take on a life of its own, forming a feedback loop that shapes policy for years to come. When promoted with sufficient intensity, falsehoods, whether about election security or other topics, can shape voters’ attitudes toward policies, and lawmakers can cite those attitudes as the basis for major changes.
An Influential PAC Group Is Telling Businesses to Restart Political Donations, Including to GOP Lawmakers Who Voted to Overturn the Election Results
MSN – Grace Dean (Business Insider) | Published: 5/12/2021
Corporations that temporarily stopped political donations after the January 6 Capitol riot are being urged to restart contributions by a trade association that advises companies’ PACs, according to a report. The National Association of Business PACs (NABPAC) has encouraged its members to “move beyond” the siege by restarting donations. The group’s membership includes more than 250 corporate PACs. It was reported that NABPAC hosted a webinar in March with Republican strategist Michael DuHaime, who advised companies on how to restart donations, and how to communicate this with the public, given that there would be “fallout.”
Cheney Booted from Republican Leadership Spot
Politico – Melanie Zanona and Olivia Beavers | Published: 5/12/2021
House Republicans voted quickly to remove Liz Cheney as their third-ranking leader over her repeated criticism of former President Trump, a shakeup that ties the party tighter to Trump and threatens to create a new litmus test in the GOP. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his top deputies complained that Cheney’s constant readiness to call out Trump’s lies about the 2020 election was a distraction that prevented the party from unifying around a cohesive message to win back the House next year. U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a moderate turned Trump ally, is the only candidate running to replace Cheney.
FARA Filings Spotlight Giuliani’s Foreign Entanglements Amid Probe
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 5/7/2021
Federal investigators executed search warrants as part of a probe into Rudolph Giuliani and whether he may have acted as an unregistered foreign agent while serving as the personal lawyer to former President Trump. The search warrants suggest the investigation is concentrating on his dealings in Ukraine, including whether he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Giuliani has come under scrutiny for “shadow lobbying” for foreign clients but never registering. Anyone who engages in “quasi-political activities” covered by FARA on behalf of a foreign principal could be required to register. The broad range of activities that would trigger this requirement includes more than just direct lobbying.
FEC Quietly Finds Consensus Despite Hush-Money Dispute
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/7/2021
The FEC voted to close an investigation into whether former President Trump violated election law by making hush-money payments during the 2016 election. Watchdogs panned the decision, which went against the advice of the FEC’s top lawyer, saying it reaffirms the agency’s inability to enforce the law. Still, the FEC found consensus on key issues at its recent meeting. The agency unanimously approved a series of legislative recommendations, calling on Congress to crack down on deceptive default recurring donations and so-called scam PACs.
House Democrats and White House Reach Deal Over Testimony by Ex-Trump Aide
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 5/11/2021
The Biden administration and House Democrats have reached a tentative deal to allow Donald Trump’s former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to testify before Congress about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia inquiry. The deal appears likely to avert a definitive court precedent that would draw a clear line in ambiguous areas: the scope and limits of Congress’s constitutional power to compel testimony for its oversight responsibilities, and a president’s constitutional power to keep secret conversations with a White House lawyer.
Rep. Greene Aggressively Confronts Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Causing New York Congresswoman to Raise Security Concerns
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2021
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene aggressively confronted Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and falsely accused her of supporting “terrorists,” leading Ocasio-Cortez’s office to call on leadership to ensure Congress remains “a safe, civil place for all Members and staff.” Two reporters witnessed Ocasio-Cortez exit the House chamber ahead of Greene, who shouted “Hey Alexandria” twice to get her attention. When Ocasio-Cortez did not stop walking, Greene picked up her pace and began shouting at her and asking why she supports antifa and Black Lives Matter, falsely labeling them “terrorist” groups. Greene also shouted that Ocasio-Cortez was failing to defend her “radical socialist” beliefs by declining to publicly debate her.
Trump Justice Department Secretly Obtained Post Reporters’ Phone Records
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 5/7/2021
The Justice Department under former President Trump secretly seized the phone records of three Washington Post reporters who covered the federal investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The disclosure sets up a new clash between the federal government and news organizations and advocates for press freedom, who regard the seizures of reporters’ records as incursions into constitutionally protected newsgathering activity. Similar actions have occurred only rarely over the past decade. The action is presumably aimed at identifying the reporters’ sources as federal investigators scrutinized whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to sway the election.
White House Lifts Secrecy of Visitor Logs Cloaked by Trump
MSN – Jennifer Epstein (Bloomberg) | Published: 5/7/2021
President Biden’s White House released its first set of records detailing visits by official guests, returning to a practice set by the Obama administration and dismissed by the Trump team. The White House disclosed 400 visits during Biden’s first 12 days in office. While hundreds of visitors might have been to the White House complex on an ordinary pre-pandemic day, the sparse logs from the start of the Biden presidency show just how limited in-person activities have been.
Wide Splits Evident on Voting and Campaign Finance as Senate Panel Takes Up Overhaul
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 5/11/2021
Republicans and Democrats on an evenly divided U.S. Senate committee demonstrated how far apart they are on political spending, voting, campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws as they debated a sweeping 800-page bill. Charges of Democrats trying to grab power and allegations that Republicans in statehouses were seeking to disenfranchise minority voters mixed in with debates over how to mandate financial disclosure for political ads without imposing unconstitutional limits on free speech, and how to make voting easier without opening the door to bad actors who could game the system.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – 15 Years After VECO Scandal, Stevens’ New Oil Job Renews Old Ethics Questions
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 5/11/2021
In 2007, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin signed ethics reforms into law, in what she touted as a necessary response to a corruption scandal that ensnared several state lawmakers. Among the lawmakers investigated in that scandal was then-Senate President Ben Stevens. His Senate office was twice searched by the FBI, and two oil industry executives said they had paid him bribes. Stevens always denied wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime. Now, Stevens is now renewing questions about those same ethics laws in his new job as an executive at oil company ConocoPhillips, a position he started three days after leaving one of the most powerful jobs in state government: Chief of staff to Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Arizona – Arizona Makes It Easier to Purge Some from Early Voting List
Associated Press News – Jonathan Cooper | Published: 5/11/2021
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation purging infrequent voters from a list of those who automatically get a mail-in ballot each election, ignoring protests from Democrats and business leaders who said the measure would suppress the votes of people of color. The governor acted hours after a tense debate in the state Senate, during which Republicans tried to silence Democrats who said the bill would perpetuate systemic racism. Republicans have only a single-vote edge in the Arizona House and Senate, so legislation there has been tougher to pass than in other states.
Arizona – Arizona Republicans Push Back Against Justice Department Concerns, Setting Up Possible Clash over Maricopa County Recount
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2021
Arizona officials involved with a Republican-commissioned recount of the November presidential election in the state’s largest county brushed off concerns raised by the U.S. Justice Department, raising the possibility of a clash between state and federal authorities over the audit. Pamela Karlan, who heads the department’s civil rights division, wrote a letter to the president of the Arizona Senate suggesting the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County by a private contractor may not comply with federal law, which requires that ballots be securely maintained for 22 months following a federal election.
Florida – Ana Cruz Toured Tampa with Related CEO, but They Didn’t Talk Rome Yard Business, She Says
MSN – Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 5/11/2021
The month before the Related Group was named as the city’s choice for a lucrative contract to develop a prime property, Mayor Jane Castor’s partner, Ana Cruz, toured Tampa with the firm’s founder. Later, Cruz and Jorge Pérez traveled to the development site. Pérez, head of the Related Group, then got out for a tour organized by Castor’s nephew. Also on that tour was Joe Robinson, whose actions during the bid selection process led to a protest against the city’s preliminary award of the Rome Yard project.
Florida – Florida’s DeSantis Signs New Voting Restrictions into Law, Making the State the Latest to Add Hurdles to the Voting Process
MSN – Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed broad legislation that imposes new rules on voting and new penalties for those who do not follow them, hailing the measures as necessary to shore up public faith in elections even as critics accused him of trying to make it harder to vote, particularly for people of color. Like similar bills that Republicans are pushing in dozens of state Legislatures, the Florida measure adds hurdles to voting by mail, restricts the use of drop boxes, and prohibits any actions that could influence those standing in line to vote.
Georgia – Gov. Kemp Signs Bill Allowing More Money to Flow into Georgia Politics
Rome News-Tribune – Staff | Published: 5/10/2021
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law allowing state leaders to set up committees that could raise money during General Assembly sessions while lobbyists are trying to get legislation passed. Senate Bill 221 creates eight so-called leadership committees” that would collect campaign donations ahead of statewide and legislative elections. While those committees would have to disclose the names of donors, they would not be subject to the contribution limits that apply to individual candidates.
Idaho – Idaho Intern Reports Rape, Says Lawmakers ‘Destroyed Me’
Associated Press News – Rebecca Boone | Published: 5/4/2021
The harassment began soon after a report by a 19-year-old intern, who alleged an Idaho lawmaker raped her, became public. One state representative sought a copy of the police report and made inquiries into how the young woman could be referred for criminal charges for reporting the alleged rape. Another shared links to a far-right blog post that included the intern’s name, photo, and personal details about her life with thousands of people in a newsletter and on social media. And members of a anti-government activist group tried to follow and harass the young woman after she was called to testify in a public hearing.
Illinois – Even in Chicago’s Crowded History of FBI Cooperators, Daniel Solis’ Deal Stands Out
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 5/7/2021
Former Ald. Daniel Solis apparently has cut a deal with prosecutors that many in Chicago’s legal community say is unprecedented for an elected official, especially one allegedly caught betraying the public trust. In exchange for going undercover and helping prosecute Ald. Edward Burke, Solis was offered what is known as a deferred prosecution agreement. The deal means he will not serve jail time for taking campaign cash in exchange for official action and could keep his nearly $100,000 annual city pension.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Passes Ethics Policy, Promises Campaign Finance Reform
MSN – Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 5/11/2021
A new ethics law in Wichita sets gift limits for elected and appointed officials for the first time. The law creates an Ethics Advisory Board to investigate and rule on complaints. City officials could be censured or fined up to $1,000 for serious violations. Lesser offenses would require an official to undergo ethics training. It also offers whistleblower protection to city employees who report violations.
Maine – Maine Money-in-Politics Overhaul Targets Direct Donations from Businesses
Bangor Daily News – Jessica Piper | Published: 5/12/2021
A measure moving through the Maine Legislature to restrict business contributions to legislative campaigns would weaken one path to influence for lawmakers, though businesses and nonprofits would still have ways to affect races. The bill would ban direct contributions from businesses and other corporations to candidates. It would also take aim at donations to PACs controlled by legislators that are not subject to the same limits as candidate campaigns. Those so-called leadership PACs account for a relatively small portion of the money in politics every year, but they are notable because they are affiliated with prominent lawmakers.
Massachusetts – Petitioners Ask US Supreme Court to Declare Gov. Baker’s COVID Restrictions a Violation of the Constitution
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 5/10/2021
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is close to lifting remaining COVID-19 restrictions, but critics who believe he overstepped his authority are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare Baker’s actions to date a violation of the Constitution. The plaintiffs unsuccessfully attempted to overturn many of his executive orders that put business and other gathering restrictions in place but lost that case in in the state’s highest court. While it is unlikely the justices would act in time to disrupt Baker’s reopening plans, the lawyers and advocates involved say the case still has value in making sure future governors don’t similarly use public health to wield expansive executive authority.
Michigan – Gov. Whitmer: Flight to visit father was not ‘a gift’
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 5/12/2021
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said her flight to visit her father was not paid for by taxpayer dollars and was not “a gift,” but she declined to provide additional information about how the trip was funded. Her comments came at a press conference about two months after she traveled out of state to visit her father, who lives in Florida and her office says is battling a chronic illness. For the trip, Whitmer took a private plane that’s usually shared by three of Michigan’s most prominent political donors.
Michigan – Michigan House-Passed Bill Would Spell Out Conflict of Interest Policy for Lawmakers
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbons | Published: 5/6/2021
Michigan lawmakers would be explicitly barred from voting on issues they have a personal interest in under legislation that passed the House with bipartisan support. House Bill 4001 would prohibit state lawmakers from voting on bills or other measures that could personally benefit them, their families, or any entities in which they have a stake. Currently, conflict-of-interest policies are in place through state law and legislative rules, but there are few mechanisms to regulate or enforce violations.
New Jersey – Ex-Hopatcong Mayor Fined Maximum Possible by State Ethics Panel
New Jersey Herald – Eric Obenauer | Published: 5/10/2021
A state ethics panel fined former Hopatcong Mayor Cliff Lundin $22,500 for using government vehicles for personal business and government computers to view and store pornography during the time he headed the agency overseeing New Jersey’s soil control regulations. The state also accused Lundin of using his position to grant friends a waiver from the regulations he was responsible for enforcing and running a private law practice on state time.
New York – Federal Judge Denies NRA Attempt to Declare Bankruptcy in Win for New York State Attorney General
MSN – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 5/11/2021
A federal judge denied an effort by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to file for bankruptcy protection, ruling the gun rights group filed the case in a bad-faith attempt to fend off a lawsuit by the New York attorney general. The decision was a victory for Attorney General Letitia James, who filed a far-reaching civil suit against the group accusing top officials of fraud and self-dealing. NRA chief Wayne LaPierre and his legal team contended the lawsuit was a political act intended to destroy the organization.
Ohio – ‘A Terrible Idea’: Multitasking state senator drives while videoconferencing
MSN – Michael Laris (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2021
Like many pandemic-era workers, Ohio Sen. Andrew Brenner found himself relying on videoconferencing to make his busy schedule work. The problem for Brenner was he did so while driving, while his government meeting was being recorded, and while his legislative colleagues were pressing to tighten rules on using smartphones behind the wheel. That combination opened the Republican to online ridicule and swipes from political opponents as local and national media turned his drive into a parable on driver safety and political irony.
Ohio – Ohio Is No.1 State When It Comes to Public Corruption, Experts Say
USA Today – Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 5/11/2021
The public corruption case in Ohio involving $61 million in “dark money” spent to influence legislation is the biggest open investigation in any statehouse in America. Watchdogs said the House Bill 6 case, an open investigation against another previous House speaker, and several city-level cases, makes Ohio the leader among states for corruption. “The whole thing is amazing in scope …,” said Todd Wickerham, former FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Cincinnati office. The House Bill 6 case may be charting new ground in corruption prosecutions by alleging “dark money” was used as bribe money.
Ohio – Special Prosecutor Seeks Suspension of Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/12/2021
Special prosecutor Patrick Hanley said he is seeking to suspend Wendell Young from the Cincinnati City Council after Young was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with records. There are no provisions in the city charter that address what should happen if an elected official is charged with a crime. But under state rules. either the state attorney general or prosecutor can move to suspend an elected official who has been charged with a crime.
Oregon – Audit: Oregon should boost ethics officials; independence, anti-corruption measures
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/5/2021
An audit of the structure of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission (OGEC) and the state laws that govern its work found OGEC operations are generally aligned with other states and with leading practices. But the audit identified areas where the commission could be strengthened and given more independence. Auditors noted Oregon “is in the minority of states lacking an ethics organization that oversees campaign finance.” In general, they reported Oregon’s laws against public officials’ misuse of their offices, acceptance of expensive gifts, and conflicts-of-interest are in line with national standards.
Oregon – Portland Business Alliance Contests 23 of 25 Lobbying Violations Found by City Auditor
Portland Oregonian – Shane Dixon Cavanaugh | Published: 5/10/2021
The city auditor’s office found the Portland Business Alliance failed to disclose at least 25 times it had contacted city officials in 2020 to request access, funding, or action, primarily by email. The alliance contends 23 of the unreported emails and other interactions with officials did not need to be reported because they did not meet the city’s definition of lobbying. The business alliance’s president, Andrew Hoan, said his group would accept the auditor’s recommendation that its staff participate in additional lobbying training.
Oregon – Remote Testimony Could Be Here to Stay at the Oregon Capitol
MSN – Chris Lehman (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/11/2021
So far this session, with committee hearings held entirely on virtual platforms, people have signed up to address legislative committees more than 14,000 times in Oregon. That is already well over the number who sought to testify in person in 2019, with more than six weeks remaining in this year’s session. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would require both the state Legislature and local governments to offer remote testimony as an option, even when the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.
South Carolina – Columbia Mayor Benjamin Registered as Lobbyist for SC’s Largest Medical Provider Prisma
Charleston Post and Courier – Steven Fastenau | Published: 5/11/2021
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who is not seeking reelection, has become a registered lobbyist for South Carolina’s largest hospital system. Benjamin filed as a lobbyist for Prisma Health, which has large operations in Columbia and is among the area’s biggest employers. South Carolina law prohibits state lawmakers and statewide elected officials and department heads appointed by the governor from lobbying while in office and for a year after leaving their positions, but no such provision exists for local elected officials.
Tennessee – FBI Investigation at Tennessee Statehouse Continued Through Legislative Session
Yahoo News – Andy Sher (Chattanooga Times Free Press) | Published: 5/8/2021
Federal officials have been publicly silent in the four months following FBI raids on three sitting Tennessee House members, two of them political consultants performing work for several GOP colleagues. But federal agents have not been idle since their searches of the homes and legislative offices of Rep. Robin Smith and former Speaker Glen Casada, plus a freshman representative and a former top House staffer. FBI agents for months have visited the Cordell Hull State Office Building to interview lawmakers for whom Smith and Casada, both political consultants, did work in 2020. Smith and Casada provided campaign services, state government-funded constituent mail communications, and surveys to colleagues.
Texas – Texas House Approves Bill Mandating Sexual Harassment Training for Lobbyists and a Way to Report Complaints, with 2 No Votes
MSN – Madlin Mekelburg (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/11/2021
A bill to require sexual harassment training for lobbyists at the Texas Capitol passed easily in the House. The bill would prohibit sexual harassment by lobbyists and allow people who work around the Capitol to file complaints against people for violations. It would also require lobbyists to complete sexual harassment training as part of their licensing process.
Texas – Top Consultant for Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller Charged with Theft Over Hemp Licenses
MSN – Tony Plohetski (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/7/2021
Authorities charged one of the state’s most influential lobbyists and a top political consultant to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller with theft after investigators said he stole money from possible investors in the state’s hemp industry. According to an affidavit, the case against Smith has been ongoing for nearly two years and involves what alleged victims say was his promised assistance in securing licenses from Miller’s office to produce hemp. Lawmakers in 2019 legalized hemp with a new state-regulated program.
Texas – Unwanted Touching, Late-Night Texts: Women at Texas Capitol describe culture of harassment
USA Today – Nicole Cobler, Madlin Mekelburg, and John Moritz (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/3/2021
An investigation into an allegation that a lobbyist slipped a drug into the drink of a legislative staffer thrust workplace harassment at the Texas Capitol into the daylight, with legislative leaders working to improve avenues for women to report mistreatment and legislation filed to require sexual misconduct training for lobbyists. Multiple women described a work environment in which they are objectified and made to feel uncomfortable in their daily interactions with male counterparts. Women said they fear career-ending repercussions if they complain, instead turning to a whisper network to warn one another of the predators to avoid.
Virginia – Youngkin Wins Virginia GOP Nomination for Governor
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 5/10/2021
Businessperson Glenn Youngkin won the Republican nomination for governor in Virginia, emerging from a crowded field to claim the GOP mantle for one of the most closely watched races of 2021. November’s general election will be perhaps the most competitive statewide race of the year. Though Virginia voted for now-President Joe Biden, the state has often veered away from the party that occupies the White House in gubernatorial races.
Washington – Seattle Ethics Panel Requires Kshama Sawant to Pay $3,516 for Violating Law
Seattle Times – Nina Shapiro | Published: 5/10/2021
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commissioner ratified a settlement agreement with Councilperson Kshama Sawant in which she admitted improperly using city money and other resources to support a proposed ballot measure. The vote means Sawant must pay the city $3,516, twice the amount she spent to promote an earnings tax on big businesses like Amazon. The decision comes as a recall campaign is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative seeking Sawant’s ouster.
Washington – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan Had Phone Set to Keep Texts Only 30 Days, Her Office Says
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb and Daniel Beekman | Published: 5/12/2021
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose text messages are missing for a 10-month period that includes the peak of last year’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations, at some point had an iPhone set to automatically delete texts older than 30 days. The standard text-retention options on iPhones are generally inadequate for preserving public records of substance under state law, and elected officials should know that, according an open-government expert. “There’s nothing in state law that says you can automatically delete records after 30 days,” said Toby Nixon, president emeritus of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.
West Virginia – Audit: Association of smaller W.Va. colleges and universities received $132,000 in illegal payments
West Virginia Public Broadcasting – David Misitch | Published: 5/10/2021
Some regional colleges and universities made $132,000 in illegal payments to an association that was created to lobby on their behalf, according to an audit. In 2013, the West Virginia Association of Regional Colleges and Universities was created as a 501(c)6 organization and registered with the West Virginia secretary of state’s office. The organization was comprised of college and university presidents, who are state employees. The group was dissolved in 2015. Despite the dissolution, the audit found the schools made $132,000 in unauthorized payments to the association. At least $105,000 of those payments went toward lobbying.
Wyoming – Federal Elections Commission Fines Wyo GOP $52,000
WyoFile,com – Nick Reynolds | Published: 5/10/2021
The FEC fined the Wyoming Republican Party $52,000 for a campaign finance violation stemming from former President Trump’s 2016 campaign. State GOP Chairperson Matt Micheli said the violation occurred during the runup to the election. A miscommunication between the Wyoming GOP’s accountant and the Trump campaign, Micheli said, resulted in the party failing to report a significant monetary transfer between the campaign and the party until after the election.
May 7, 2021 •
National/Federal ‘Cult of Personality’: House Dems seize on Cheney chaos Politico – Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu | Published: 5/5/2021 Republicans are days away from dethroning U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as their third-ranking leader after her repeated broadsides against former President […]
‘Cult of Personality’: House Dems seize on Cheney chaos
Politico – Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu | Published: 5/5/2021
Republicans are days away from dethroning U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as their third-ranking leader after her repeated broadsides against former President Trump. In doing so, Democrats believe the GOP is handing over the ingredients for a political litmus test that could energize their push to beat the historical odds and hang onto their narrow House majority next fall. The Cheney ouster opens the door to tarring the GOP, once again, as the party of Trump. The turmoil over Cheney’s future has elevated Trump’s voice in the party to a degree last seen before his encouragement of baseless election fraud claims turned to violence on January 6.
Delayed Census Data Kicks Off Flood of Redistricting Lawsuits
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 5/1/2021
Every redistricting cycle brings a torrent of litigation over the country’s political boundaries, which can play an outsized role in determining which party controls the House of Representatives and statehouses around the country. But this year, a confluence of forces – including the census delays, pending federal legislation about redistricting, and major U.S. Supreme Court rulings earlier in the decade – could transform that steady stream of lawsuits into a downpour. Combined with the compressed timeline for making new maps, the litigation promises to make redistricting a more chaotic and unpredictable affair in 2021 and 2022.
Democrats Tweak Marquee Voting Bill as They Seek Path Out of Senate
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
Congressional Democrats amended their voting-rights, campaign finance, and ethics bill, addressing concerns raised by elections administrators but forgoing a more radical rewrite of the legislation. The changes to the For the People Act come after the bill passed the House and ahead of a vote in a Senate committee that could advance the bill to the floor. Republicans are opposed to the bill, meaning it will be unable to clear a Senate filibuster. While many activists and some senators are eager to change the chamber’s rules to allow the bill to pass with a simple majority, many Democratic senators have expressed misgivings about doing so.
ESG Lobbying Surges with Democratic Control of Washington
MSN – Laura Weiss (Roll Call) | Published: 4/29/2021
More lobbyists reported raising environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues with U.S. officials and lawmakers this year, with Democrats now controlling Washington, than ever before. “ESG” has been steadily appearing in more federal quarterly lobbying reports in recent years. Those issues are now at their highest point as regulators and members of Congress prepare policy on climate change. Groups that disclosed such lobbying included large trade associations, asset managers, financial services firms, insurers, pension-focused groups, and at least two left-leaning organizations advocating ESG disclosure rules.
Facebook’s Oversight Board Upholds Ban on Trump. At Least for Now.
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin, Kat Zakrzewski, and Heather Kelly (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the social network’s ban on former President Trump for encouraging violence following the January 6 attack on the Capitol, a decision that holds major implications for how the speech of political leaders should be policed online. But the Oversight Board, which is largely independent of the social network, also left open the door for Trump’s return. The expert panel took issue with Facebook’s “indefinite” suspension of Trump, calling it “vague and uncertain.” It sent the decision back to Facebook and said it had six months to clarify Trump’s punishment and come up with a response that fits its known rules.
FBI Warned Giuliani, Key Trump Ally in Senate of Russian Disinformation Campaign Targeting Biden
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 4/29/2021
The FBI warned Rudolph Giuliani in late 2019 that he was the target of a Russian influence operation aimed at circulating falsehoods intended to damage President Biden ahead of last year’s election, according to current and former U.S. officials. The warning was part of an effort by the bureau to alert members of Congress and at least one conservative media outlet, One America News, they faced a risk of being used to further Russia’s attempt to influence the election’s outcome. Giuliani received the warning while deeply involved with former President Trump’s reelection campaign and related activities in Ukraine to surface incriminating information about the Biden family.
For Republicans, Fealty to Trump’s Election Falsehood Becomes Defining Loyalty Test
MSN – Ashley Parker and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 5/2/2021
Rejection of the 2020 election results has increasingly become a litmus test for acceptance in the Republican Party. In January, eight senators and 139 House members voted in support of objections to the election results and since then, Republicans from Congress to statehouses to local party organizations have embraced the falsehood that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. In Washington, internal feuding over who is to blame for the insurrection has riven the House Republican leadership. Local officials are facing censure and threats. The issue also could reverberate through the 2022 midterms and the 2024 election.
How Top White House Adviser Anita Dunn Is Dodging Ethics Disclosure
The Intercept – Lee Fang | Published: 5/4/2021
President Biden’s promise to reverse the “revolving door” and usher in a new, transparent administration has not extended to one of his closest advisers. Thanks to a loophole, Anita Dunn, a member of the president’s inner circle, does not have to file the public financial disclosure required of every other presidential appointee. She was hired into a special, temporary role that keeps her disclosure – and, therefore, her client list at the consulting firm SKDK and any conflicts-of-interest – out of the public eye.
Judge Blasts Barr, Justice Dept. for ‘Disingenuous’ Handling of Secret Trump Obstruction Memo
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
A judge accused the Justice Department and then-Attorney General William Barr of misleading the court and public to hide how he decided former President Trump should not be charged for obstructing Robert Mueller’ s Russia investigation. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the release of a 2019 memo prepared by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which Barr sought to keep secret by asserting it was part of the department’s internal decision-making process before he selectively announced the Mueller report’s findings that March. Jackson wrote that after viewing the memo and other evidence the department’s claims “are so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence.”
Newsmax Issues Retraction and Apology to Dominion Employee Over Election Stories
National Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 4/30/2021
The right-wing media outlet Newsmax, which amplified former President Trump’s false allegations of election rigging and widespread voter fraud, said there is no evidence that Dominion Voting Systems and one of its top employees, Eric Coomer, manipulated election results in 2020. Coomer withdrew his defamation lawsuit against Newsmax earlier Friday, ahead of Newmax’s apology. Coomer’s attorneys said he has reached a financial settlement, but terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Observers Report Ballots and Laptop Computers Have Been Left Unattended in Arizona Recount, According to Secretary of State
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
Ballots have been left unattended on counting tables. Laptop computers sit abandoned, at times open, unlocked, and unmonitored. Procedures are constantly shifting, with untrained workers using different rules to count ballots. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sent a letter outlining a string of problems she said observers from her office have witnessed at a Republican-led recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona’s largest county. The recount of Maricopa County’s nearly 2.1 million ballots was ordered by the GOP-led state Senate, despite the fact that county officials, as well as state and federal judges, found no merit to claims the vote was tainted by fraud or other problems.
California – Campaign Season Lasts Year-Round in Santa Clara County
San Jose Spotlight – Madelyn Reese | Published: 5/4/2021
In Santa Clara County, politicians can fundraise for their campaigns all year and keep the excess money to pay off incurred debt. That is much different than campaign finance rules in San Jose. Both San Jose and Santa Clara County have rules that are stricter than the state, but the county’s approach to fundraising is novel in that it allows elected officials to fundraise the entire time they are in office. San Jose only allows candidates and elected officials to fundraise 180 days before an election.
Florida – Florida Republicans Rushed to Curb Mail Voting After Trump’s Attacks on the Practice. Now Some Fear It Could Lower GOP Turnout.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/3/2021
For more than thirty years, Republican campaigns in Florida have invested millions of dollars encouraging their supporters to cast ballots by mail. State legislators passed laws making it easier. GOP voters became so comfortable with casting ballots by mail that in 2020, nearly 35 percent of those who turned out did so. Now, some Republicans are reacting with alarm after the GOP-dominated Legislature passed a bill that puts new restrictions on the use of mail ballots. As voting rights advocates accuse proponents of attempting to suppress the votes of people of color, these Republicans say their own political fortunes are in peril, as well.
Florida – Tampa Activist Joe Robinson at Center of Rome Yard Controversy
MSN – Charlie Frago (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 5/4/2021
A disputed bid process in Tampa’s prime development parcel has some optic problems. Family members of Mayor Jane Castor have been tied to the deal with Related, a developer that won the initial nod to develop the Rome Yard. It was discovered recently that Joe Robinson, a local activist and engineer, signed a $75,000 professional services contract with a partner to the deal, the Tampa Housing Authority. Robinson, who was involved in the Related pick as a selection committee member, initiated a move during a meeting to throw out minority outreach scores, a successful effort that led to Related being ranked higher than Invictus.
Idaho – Idaho Lawmaker Accused of Rape Resigns After Ethics Ruling
Associated Press News – Rebecca Boone | Published: 4/29/2021
An Idaho lawmaker accused of rape by a 19-year-old legislative intern resigned after an ethics committee found he should be formally censured. The investigation into Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger began in March after a young staffer reported he raped her in his apartment after the two had dinner at a Boise restaurant. Von Ehlinger has denied all wrongdoing and maintains he had consensual sexual contact with the young woman. He resigned after the committee unanimously agreed he engaged in “behavior unbecoming” and recommended he be suspended without pay for the rest of the legislative session.
Illinois – A Slew of Ex-State Lawmakers Face Criminal Charges, but Critics Question Whether Proposed Reforms Are Enough for Illinois’ ‘Very Vibrant Culture of Corruption’
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella and Jenny Whidden | Published: 5/3/2021
Two years into a federal corruption investigation that has led to charges against more than half a dozen current and former state lawmakers and precipitated the downfall of longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, legislators are scrambling to strengthen Illinois’ government ethics laws. Proposals include tightening rules for lobbyists, requiring additional financial disclosures from elected officials, giving more independence to the legislative inspector general, and prohibiting lawmakers from becoming lobbyists immediately upon leaving office. But critics say the proposals do not go far enough to fix the problems.
Illinois – Chicago Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, Nephew of Richard M. Daley, Hit with Federal Charges in Bank Case
MSN – Jason Meisner and John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 4/29/2021
Chicago Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, the nephew and grandson of the city’s two legendary mayors, was charged s part of a federal investigation into the collapse of a bank in his family’s longtime neighborhood, records show. Thompson was charged in a seven-count indictment with filing false tax returns and lying to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. officials about $219,000 in loans and other payments he received from Washington Federal Bank for Savings before it was shuttered in 2017.
Indiana – Indiana’s Top Elections Official Admits Fundraising Error
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 4/28/2021
Indiana’s top elections official acknowledged violating political fundraising rules with the launch of her 2022 election campaign. Secretary of State Holli Sullivan requested contributions as she announced her campaign five days earlier than allowed under changes to state law signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb that day.
Kansas – Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel Arrested for Battery After Physical Altercation with Student
MSN – Sarah Ritter and Jonathan Shorman (Kansas City Star) | Published: 4/29/2021
Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel was arrested on charges of misdemeanor battery after getting into a physical altercation with a student while substitute teaching. Throughout the day, high school students began recording videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, and God. Parents said Samsel “put hands on [a] student” and allegedly kneed him in the crotch. In a video apparently taken immediately after the incident, the student is shown on the ground. Samsel is standing over him and says, “did it hurt?”
Kansas – Overland Park Councilman Fined Thousands for Ignoring Campaign Finance Violations
Kansas City Star – Katie Bernard and Sarah Ritter | Published: 4/28/2021
In 2019, Overland Park City Councilperson Scott Hamblin spent $87.57 from his campaign fund at Men’s Wearhouse in violation of state campaign finance rules. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined Hamblin and campaign treasurer Tara Burke $270 each for misuse of campaign funds and $5,000 each for failure to file reports. The $5,000 fine can be dropped to $1,000 if the reports are filed and the fine is paid within 30 days. The commission said Hamblin’s campaign failed to file two required campaign finance reports in the past year and never reimbursed his campaign for the Men’s Wearhouse purchases.
Michigan – Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland Pleads Guilty to Misconduct in Office, Resigns
Detroit News – Christine Ferretti | Published: 5/3/2021
Gabe Leland pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in office and resigned his seat on the Detroit City Council. He will not serve any jail time under the plea agreement. Leland was accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 in cash and free car repairs from a businessperson in exchange for his vote on a controversial land deal. After his indictment in 2018, Leland vowed it would be “business as usual” for him at City Hall and he was “innocent until proven guilty.” He had continued to take part in council sessions and meetings for more than two years.
Michigan – House Panel Debates Financial Disclosure Bills That Wouldn’t Make Sitting Lawmakers’ Finances Public
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbons | Published: 5/4/2021
A Michigan House committee took up legislation that would require lawmakers to disclose their personal finances, debating the merits of a plan that would subject elected officials to new disclosure requirements without allowing the public to see it until they are out of office. The package would compel lawmakers to submit financial information for themselves and immediate family members, including income sources over $5,000, properties valued over $50,000 excluding their primary residence, and stocks, bonds and annuities valued at $10,000 or more, to a new legislative ethics committee in their chamber.
Mississippi – Mississippi Politicians Are Capitalizing on Loopholes in State’s Campaign Finance Law
Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 4/28/2021
Former Mississippi Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall was retired last year but continued spending campaign money accumulated over a long career in elected office. His actions highlight loopholes in campaign finance law. Politicians can use campaign funds for personal reasons as long as it is money they raised before 2018, when reforms took effect banning the practice. A politician may stop filing disclosure reports even if they have funds remaining in their campaign account. This means the public might never learn what a candidate or politician does with hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars in leftover campaign cash.
Montana – Legislature Approves Campaign Finance Exemption for Religious Groups
Montana Standard – Sam Wilson | Published: 4/29/2021
Montana lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session passed a bill exempting religious organizations from some of the campaign reporting requirements for political communications. Senate Bill 689, which was originally written to target a political organization representing students in the state university system that generally supports liberal causes, also includes language that exempts churches and other religious groups from having to file campaign finance reports on the cost of political communications.
Montana – Legislature Passes New Recusal Requirements for Judges
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 4/28/2021
Montana lawmakers passed a bill that establishes broad conflict-of-interest guidelines for judges while prohibiting some political activities in some areas on public college campuses. Under Senate Bill 319, judicial officers would be disallowed from presiding over a case if they received at least half of the maximum individual contribution from a lawyer or party during the previous six years. They would also have to recuse themselves if a lawyer or party to the case donated to a political committee that supported the judge or opposed their opponent in the past six years.
Montana – Montana Supreme Court Says COPP Can’t Issue Subpoena for Records
Montana Standard – Holly Michels | Published: 5/3/2021
The Montana Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the state commissioner of political practices does not have the power to subpoena records during investigations. The Montana Democratic Party had filed a complaint claiming the state Republican Party failed to comply with campaign finance reporting and disclosure requirements for elections in 2016, 2017, and 2018. When Commissioner Jeff Mangan investigated, he first informally requested the state GOP produce relevant documents. The party only provided public campaign finance reports it had already filed in 2016. When the GOP did not respond to a subpoena, the commissioner went to court to compel the party to respond.
New Mexico – State Senator Plans to Sue New Mexico Cabinet Secretary, Alleging Retaliation
Yahoo News – Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 5/3/2021
State Sen. Jacob Candelaria is planning to sue New Mexico Health Secretary Tracie Collins over an ethics complaint he claims she filed against him in retaliation for his request for records related to the state’s response to COVID-19 and the spending of federal funds. Candelaria said the tort claim, which is a notice of intent to sue, will be the first in a series of actions he plans to take to expose the alleged retaliation and threats he faced after he filed public records requests with the governor’s office last year.
New York – Larry Schwartz, Cuomo’s Volunteer COVID Vaccine Czar, Stepping Down
MSN – Dennis Slattery (New York Daily News) | Published: 4/29/2021
Larry Schwartz, who ran New York’s coronavirus contact tracing program and vaccination efforts during the past year, is stepping down. The move comes a day after state lawmakers rolled back a rule exempting Schwartz and other volunteers who assisted the administration during the crisis from the state’s public officers laws. Currently the chief strategy officer at OTG, an airport concessions company, Schwartz previously served as a senior adviser to Cuomo before being appointed secretary to the governor in 2011. He left the administration in 2015 but currently serves on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board.
New York – Reformers Push for Independent Watchdog to Tackle Albany Corruption
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal – Joe Mahoney (CNHI News) | Published: 5/4/2021
The mystery of what happened to a lobbying disclosure report from Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates comes at a time when lawmakers are mulling the possibility of scrapping the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) for a more independent agency. Records show the firm has nothing on file for the bi-monthly reporting period of January through February of this year. Patrick Jenkins said the firm made a complete filing, and he was unaware it was not showing up in the online system. David Grandeau, a former director of the defunct state Lobbying Commission, said the case reflects how JCOPE has been failing to make such filings transparent and to be vigorous in responding to alleged corruption at the statehouse.
North Carolina – Ex-Buncombe Commissioner Vice Chair Frost Sentenced to 6 Months for Corruption; May Appeal
MSN – Joel Burgess (Ashville Citizen Times) | Published: 4/28/2021
Former Buncombe County Commissioner Ellen Frost was sentenced to six months in prison for corruption. The sentence was unexpected following a plea deal with prosecutors who recommended no prison time. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Conrad said the case was unusual in that she did not gain monetarily, but it had the “very serious nature of local government corruption.” Frost admitted to conspiring with ex-County Manager Wanda Greene to misapply more than $575,000 of taxpayer’s funds toward equestrian enterprises.
Ohio – Cincinnati Issues 1 and 2: Voters back anti-corruption measures for City Hall
MSN – Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/4/2021
Cincinnati voters approved a pair of ant-corruption measures that will make it easier to remove a council member in the event they are arrested. Issue 1 and Issue 2 were put on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the city council and were not controversial. They come as four council members are accused in separate corruption scandals in the last 14 months. There was no provision in the city charter that addressed removal in any form, which left outsiders like the state attorney general to act.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Complaint Seeks Campaign Spending Details from Householder-Aligned Candidate
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/29/2021
A conservative activist issued subpoenas as part of a state elections case he filed against a former state legislative candidate aligned with ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Chris Hicks is hoping to uncover information about campaign spending for Allen Freeman, a township trustee from Clermont County who in May 2020 finished last in a three-candidate Republican primary for a state House seat. Freeman reported spending just $14,000 on his campaign, even though public records show his campaign bought more than $100,000 worth of television ads alone.
Oregon – Big Political Donors Get Big Say in Oregon Political Money Limits
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 4/29/2021
Now that campaign contribution limits are legal in Oregon, the specifics that lawmakers are negotiating in private would set much higher limits than voters have approved and allow the broadest possible array of entities to continue making big donations. While the public cannot attend those meetings, wealthy donors have been allowed in, according to lawmakers. Interest in capping political money was never particularly high this session – no Democratic leaders listed it as a priority – and now appears to be withering.
Oregon – Former Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt Arrested in Prostitution Sting
Portland Oregonian – Chris Lehman | Published: 5/3/2021
Dave Hunt, a former speaker of the Oregon House who currently is a lobbyist in Salem, is accused by Portland Police of soliciting sex from an undercover officer. He was one of eight men arrested by the Human Trafficking Unit undercover operation. According to a news release, officers posted decoy ads online and Hunt, along with the others arrested, responded to arrange payment for sexual acts.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Who Let Far-Right Demonstrators into Capitol Charged with Criminal Misconduct
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 4/30/2021
An Oregon lawmaker who let violent far-right demonstrators into the Capitol during a December 21 special session was criminally charged with first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass. Rep. Mike Nearman was caught on security videos opening a door and allowing demonstrators to enter the building. Earlier this year, House Speaker Tina Kotek called for Nearman to resign because his actions “put every person in the Capitol in serious danger,” and she joined multiple other lawmakers to file a formal conduct complaint with the Legislative Equity Office alleging Nearman’s actions created a hostile work environment.
Pennsylvania – One Ritzy Fundraiser Shows How Tough Selling Lobbying Reform in Pa. Will Be
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch (The Caucus) | Published: 5/4/2021
House Speaker Bryan Cutler and Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman plan to unveil a proposed ban on lobbyists who moonlight as political consultants as part of a lobbying reform package. Yet as the plan is being finalized, Corman is attending a fundraiser organized by one of a trio of companies that has cornered the market on the business practice Corman’s legislation aims to stop. The Harrisburg-based firms, called The Mavericks, fundraise for elected officials, run their political campaigns, then lobby them once they are in office.
South Carolina – $352K Used to Avoid Prosecution Could Go to Fight SC State House Corruption
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 4/29/2021
Special Prosecutor David Pascoe said he wants to give $352,000 his investigative team collected from five powerful organizations to the South Carolina Ethics Commission. The money is from separate corporate integrity agreements Pascoe and his team made during his nearly seven-year investigation of questionable lobbying practices and secret payments to state lawmakers. Pascoe said although enough evidence likely existed to get a grand jury to issue indictments for unlawful lobbying practices against the entities, it would have been tough to gather enough evidence to convince a jury in a trial “beyond a reasonable doubt” of the charges.
South Carolina – More Than a Dozen Horry Politicians Could Face Ethics Fines – but the Law Isn’t Perfect
MSN – Dale Shoemaker and Maya Brown (Myrtle Beach Sun News) | Published: 4/30/2021
Some politicians in South Carolina could face fines from the state Ethics Commission because they failed to file a required ethics report or filed that report past the deadline. Those same reports also reveal the business and other economic interests of elected officials across Horry County. Because most politicians in the county do not serve in those positions as full-time jobs, almost all of them have day jobs, or own businesses. But critics say because of loopholes in the law, those reports do not tell the whole story of where a politician earns their money, what business interests they have, and what conflicts-of-interest could arise as they serve the public.
Tennessee – GOP Lawmaker: Three-Fifths Compromise was to end slavery
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi | Published: 5/5/2021
Tennessee Rep. Justin Lafferty falsely declared an 18th century policy designating a slave as three-fifths of a person was adopted for “the purpose of ending slavery,” commenting amid a debate over whether educators should be restricted while teaching about systematic racism in America. Historians largely agree the compromise gave slaveholding states inordinate power over choosing a president and decisions of the Continental Congress. That clout eventually faded when Northern state populations began to rise. No lawmakers in the chamber directly challenged Lafferty’s false claims but some applauded when he finished talking.
Texas – Authorities Say They Won’t Seek Charges After Investigating Allegation That a Lobbyist Drugged a Texas Capitol Staffer
Texas Tribune – Cassandra Pollock | Published: 4/29/2021
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Travis County District Attorney’s Office said, “… there is not enough evidence to support” an allegation that a lobbyist used a date rape drug on a Capitol staffer and “no crime occurred in this instance.” After DPS confirmed it was investigating the allegation, Bill Miller, a co-founder of HillCo Partners, had said one of its employees was “a person of interest” in the investigation. The latest allegation sparked another conversation about the prevalence of sexual misconduct around the Capitol and prompted questions about whether the current system still allows such behavior.
Texas – Texas Lawmakers Want Lobbyists Trained on Sexual Harassment After Date Rape Drug Allegations
Dallas Morning News – Allie Morris and James Branagan | Published: 4/29/2021
Texas lawmakers are making a push in the legislative session to require lobbyists to undergo sexual harassment training, a response to a recent allegation that a lobbyist drugged a Capitol staffer. House Bill 4661 and Senate Bill 2233 were filed after legislative deadlines to introduce bills in each chamber. But in a rare move that indicates unanimous support, lawmakers suspended those rules to allow the bills to move forward. One bill would require lobbyists, as part of the registration process, to complete sexual harassment training every two years.
Washington DC – Manchin Says He Doesn’t Support D.C. Statehood Bill, Dealing Advocates a Major Blow
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2021
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters he does not support the bill to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state. Manchin, a key swing vote in the closely divided Senate, said he believes a constitutional amendment, rather than legislation, would be required to admit the District of Columbia as a state. His stance deals a blow to statehood advocates who were hoping for his support after the bill passed the House.
April 30, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Signs Executive Order Raising Federal Contractors’ Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour MSN – Dartunorro Clark (NBC News) | Published: 4/28/2021 President Biden signed an executive order that raises the minimum wage for federal contractors and tipped employees working […]
Biden Signs Executive Order Raising Federal Contractors’ Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour
MSN – Dartunorro Clark (NBC News) | Published: 4/28/2021
President Biden signed an executive order that raises the minimum wage for federal contractors and tipped employees working on government contracts to $15 an hour. The raise will begin in January, and agencies must implement the measure no later than March. Biden has signed a separate order to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for federal employees. The new order also directs federal agencies to raise the tipped minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2024 and to ensure that tipped employees working on federal contracts earn the same minimum wage as other employees on those contracts.
Feds Raid Giuliani’s Home, Office, Escalating Criminal Probe
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak, Michael Balsamo, and Eric Tucker | Published: 4/29/2021
Federal agents raided Rudy Giuliani’s home and office, seizing computers and cellphones in a major escalation of the Justice Department’s investigation into the business dealings of former President Trump’s personal lawyer. Giuliani has been under federal scrutiny for several years over his ties to Ukraine. The dual searches sent the strongest signal yet that he could eventually face federal charges. The warrants, which required approval from the top levels of the Justice Department, signify prosecutors believe they have probable cause that Giuliani committed a federal crime though they do not guarantee that charges will materialize.
Gaetz Probe Includes Scrutiny of Potential Public Corruption Tied to Medical Marijuana Industry
CNN – Evan Perez, Paula Reid, Scott Glover, and David Shortell | Published: 4/23/2021
Federal authorities are investigating whether a 2018 trip to the Bahamas involving U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and several young women was part of an effort to illegally influence Gaetz about medical marijuana, people briefed on the matter said. The Justice Department is examining whether Gaetz took gifts, including travel and paid escorts, in exchange for political favors, the sources said. In pursuing evidence of corruption, sources said investigators are scrutinizing Gaetz’s connections to medical marijuana, both the legislation he has sponsored and his connections to people involved in the industry, searching for “pay-to-play” arrangements.
Inside the Democratic Strategy to Expand Voting Rights State by State
Politico – Liz Crampton | Published: 4/20/2021
Red and blue states are on opposite tracks in shaping the electoral process. As Republicans pass some of the most restrictive voting laws of modern times, Democrats are ramping up a strategy to expand voting rights by passing bills to make it easier for more Americans to access the ballot box. The fracture between red states limiting voting access and blue states expanding it may deepen the partisan divide in an already divided nation. The actions are also likely to end up in the courts, leading to potentially years of debate over what is constitutional.
Jim Clyburn Fined for Avoiding Metal Detectors Off the House Floor
CNN – Annie Grayer and Manu Raju | Published: 4/23/2021
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was fined for violating the procedure of going through the metal detectors installed off the House floor, the first Democrat to receive such a penalty. All members who avoid going through the metal detectors are fined $5,000 for their first offense and $10,000 for their second, a rule Clyburn supported that was instituted after the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. These fines are deducted directly from members’ salaries by the chief administrative officer.
Kamala Harris’ Influencer Niece Raises Concerns Among Some Ethics Experts
MSN – Lucien Bruggeman (ABC News) | Published: 4/28/2021
Entrepreneur and influencer Meena Harris’s propensity to invoke her famous aunt, Vice President Kamala Harris, during a post-inauguration media blitz has raised concerns among some ethics experts. Meena Harris represents a unique challenge for public servants in the internet influencer era, where visibility and name recognition translate into followers – and where followers are currency. Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, said by “using her relationship with the vice president to heighten her profile, Meena Harris is playing with fire.”
New Census Numbers Shift Political Power South to Republican Strongholds
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2021
The once-a-decade reshuffling of the 435 U.S. House seats will give six states more representation at the expense of seven states on a razor-thin margin, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The effort to redraw congressional districts is likely to benefit Republican officeholders more than Democrats next year. That stands as a threat to Democratic control of the House. The full partisan effect of the shifts will not be known for months, as states must sift through population data that will be released later this year to draw new congressional district lines, resulting in hundreds of decisions by state lawmakers and independent commissions about the partisan makeup of each individual district.
Only 17 Percent of Public Affairs Staff Are People of Color: Survey
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 4/22/2021
Public affairs executives revealed only 17 percent of public affairs staff on average at firms are people of color. Sixty-one percent of executives said that the lack of diversity discourages individuals from entering the public affairs field, according to a survey of 127 executives conducted by the Public Affairs Council. The survey is part of the council’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiative and examined hiring, staffing and training, and advancement and programming, among other criteria.
Rep. Steve Chabot’s Ex-Treasurer Charged with Embezzling $1.4 Million from His Campaign
MSN – Sabrina Eaton (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/27/2021
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s former campaign treasurer was charged with wire fraud and records falsification for embezzling more than $1.4 million from Chabot’s campaign. James Schwartz II also did consulting work for the campaign through companies he controlled. A bill of information says Schwartz embezzled money from the campaign by writing larger checks from the campaign to himself and his companies than he and those companies earned. Prosecutors say he concealed the embezzled money by misrepresenting the amount he was paid in reports the campaign filed at the FEC.
The Arcane Legislative Maneuver ‘Sucking Up All the Oxygen in D.C.’
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 4/27/2021
The likelihood that Democrats will move an infrastructure bill using reconciliation, which lets the Senate pass legislation with only 50 votes as long it complies with a byzantine set of rules, has made Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, one of the most powerful people in Washington. It is also changed the influence industry, fueling a sudden demand for lobbyists who specialize in reconciliation. The demand for such expertise on is another indication of how the legislative process has broken down. While lobbyists are still hired to help shape legislation that moves through Congress the traditional way, much of the action is increasingly narrowed to a few massive bills.
The Brother of a Top Biden Advisor Lobbied the White House This Year on Behalf of Big Health-Care Companies
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 4/21/2021
Lobbyist Jeff Ricchetti, the brother of President Biden’s advisor Steve Ricchetti, lobbied the Executive Office of the President for health care clients during the first quarter of the year as the administration began its efforts to combat the Covid pandemic. Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, compared the Ricchetti brothers’ situation to an instance from former President Trump’s tenure.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Lawmaker Blasted Airline for ‘Mask Tyranny.’ Now She’s Banned from the Only Flights to the Capital.
MSN – Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2021
A police officer responded recently to an Alaska Airlines terminal in Juneau as state Sen. Lora Reinbold clashed with staffers over mask rules. It was a familiar battle for the lawmaker, a vaccine skeptic who has criticized flight attendants as “mask bullies” and accused the airline of “mask tyranny.” Now, she is not welcome on their flights at all. Alaska Airlines banned Reinbold “for her continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy,” the airline said. That is a serious problem for Reinbold because Alaska Airlines operates the only regular flights to the state capital from her home in the Anchorage area.
Arizona – Election Conspiracies Live on with Audit by Arizona GOP
Associated Press News – Jonathan Cooper and Bob Christie | Published: 4/25/2021
Conspiracy theories about the 2020 election proliferated across the country even before President Biden’s victory but have had staying power in Arizona, which flipped to the Democratic column for just the second time in 72 years. Republican lawmakers are challenging the outcome as they embark on an unprecedented effort to audit the results. The Senate used its subpoena power to take possession of all 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County and the machines that counted them. They gave the materials to Cyber Ninjas, a security firm with no election experience. The process is alarming election professionals who fear the auditors are not up to the complex task and will severely undermine faith in democracy.
California – Caitlyn Jenner Running for California Governor
Politico – Carla Marinucci and Steven Shepard | Published: 4/23/2021
Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon turned television star and transgender activist, is officially running for governor in California. Her entry puts a Hollywood-sized spotlight on the Republican-led effort to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office —complicating his path, firing up social media, and raising questions about just how much of a circus-like atmosphere will dominate the election. Jenner will give Newsom a challenger with name recognition and wealth in a vast state, where candidates often struggle to connect with voters in large and distinct media markets.
California – Ex-Palmdale Mayor Pleads Guilty to Perjury in No-Show Job Corruption Scandal
MSN – James Queally (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 4/22/2021
Former Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford pleaded guilty to a single count of perjury, ending a years-long probe of a “pay-to-play” scandal where he was accused of collecting $500,000 from consultants who he then helped attain lucrative contracts with the city. Under the terms of the plea, Ledford was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay about $189,000 in restitution. Ledford, who had been mayor of Palmdale since 1992, lost a re-election bid in 2018.
California – San Jose Mulls Major Changes to Campaign Finance Law
San Jose Spotlight – Lloyd Alaban | Published: 4/26/2021
San Jose City Council members are looking to overhaul campaign finance regulations in hopes of avoiding more ugly political contests in 2022. A new proposal includes a requirement that campaign committees file mailers with the city clerk, an online repository for all campaign ads, more detailed disclosures for campaign literature, and a cap on donations from “corporations with conflicts of interest.” The city has strict rules on contributions and spending for campaigns controlled by candidates. But there are few regulations for outside committees.
California – Supreme Court Hears Case That Could Endanger Election Transparency Rules
The Fulcrum – Sara Swann | Published: 4/26/2021
A case that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court examines the constitutionality of a California regulation requiring nonprofits wishing to raise money in the state to disclose their largest donors to the state attorney general. While the case is about the reporting rules for charities and other tax-exempt organizations, good-government advocates are concerned about a decision opening the door for successful challenges to campaign finance transparency rules or to the disclosure requirements for the millionaires, businesses, and advocacy groups that spend large amounts of money to influence elections.
Florida – Legislators Send DeSantis a Bill to Limit Citizen Initiatives. Is It Constitutional?
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 4/26/2021
If signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate Bill 1890 would impose a $3,000 limit on contributions to any political committee sponsoring or opposing a constitutional amendment proposed by initiative, limiting the ability of proponents to finance the expensive signature-gathering operation needed to bring a proposed amendment before voters. The cap is the same as on donations to individual legislative campaigns. But lawmakers can accept unlimited amounts of campaign money as long as it is given to their political committees. Under the bill, only after an idea obtains enough signatures to get onto the ballot does the cap disappear and affiliated committees can collect unlimited contributions to help pass the measure.
Florida – Who’s Behind Grow United PAC, Which Funded Ghost Florida Senate Candidates? It’s a Mystery
MSN – Mark Harper (Daytona Beach News-Journal) | Published: 4/22/2021
Layers of secrecy connect Florida Senate candidate Jestine Iannotti and a mysterious entity that spent $180,000 to promote her. A ghost candidate and a political unknown, Iannotti never campaigned in the race Jason Brodeur won. But campaign ads were mailed on her behalf that were designed to take votes from Brodeur’s other opponent, Patricia Sigman. Records show the money behind Iannotti’s campaign begins with an obscure source and fades into two short-lived political committees fronted by mysterious people. Those PACs in turn funneled more than $500,000 into helping Iannotti and two other state Senate ghost candidates. How that money was specifically used to help the ghost candidates is not clear.
Hawaii – Honolulu Bribery Scandal Prompts Permit Department Overhaul
Associated Press News – Jennifer Sinco Kelleher | Published: 4/23/2021
Honolulu is overhauling its building permit process after a federal investigation resulted in indictments alleging a bribery scheme. Indictments allege five current and former employees of the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) took bribes in exchange for favors, including approving plans for residential projects and nullifying code violations at a multi-family residence. The city’s corporation counsel will use an outside investigator to examine how current DPP systems work, report whether procedures are being properly followed, and identify any breakdowns within the system.
Idaho – Ethics Hearing: Idaho lawmaker accused of rape pleads Fifth
Associated Press News – Rebecca Boone | Published: 4/28/2021
An Idaho lawmaker facing rape allegations from a 19-year-old intern refused to answer some questions during a legislative ethics hearing after his attorney told him to invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination. A committee will use testimony from Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger’s hearing to determine if the lawmaker “engaged in conduct unbecoming a representative which is detrimental to the integrity of the House.” He could be expelled. Much of the testimony focused on whether it was appropriate or expressly forbidden for lawmakers to date staff members. The committee also heard testimony from two other representatives who said von Ehlinger was previously warned against making women feel uncomfortable.
Illinois – Fired Madison County Officials Sue Cities Over Two-year Corruption Investigation
MSN – Kavahn Mansouri (Belleville News-Democrat) | Published: 4/21/2021
Two former Madison County administrators who were fired last year filed a lawsuit against several cities they say contributed to the investigation that caused them to lose their jobs. The civil lawsuit filed by former County Administrator Doug Hulme and Information Technology Director Robert Dorman claims four cities whose police officers participated in the county’s anti-corruption task force led to the county’s firing of the two. Dorman and Hulme were accused of accessing employee emails for political gain and leveraging information in a “pay-for-play” scheme. The Illinois attorney general’s office declined to file charges, but the county board voted to fire them. Both say that firing denied them due process.
Indiana – Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb Sues Over Legislation Limiting Executive Powers
Indianapolis Star – Amelia Park-Harvey (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 4/27/2021
The ongoing power struggle between Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and the state Legislature is now making its way to court. It is the latest development in the rift between Holcomb and members of his own Republican Party who have been perturbed by the governor’s extensive ability to declare a state of emergency and issues various mandates during the coronavirus. Lawmakers overrode Holcomb’s veto of a bill that would allow lawmakers to call themselves into an emergency session distribute discretionary federal funds. Now, Holcomb is suing over the measure, asking a judge to stop the new law.
Indiana – Quiet Extension of Indiana Legislative Session Until Nov. 15 Draws Legal, Political Scrutiny
The Republic – Hope Shrum (StateHouseFile.com) | Published: 4/27/2021
Current and former state lawmakers and a former Indiana Supreme Court justice are raising concerns that a new law to extend the 2021 legislative session until November 15 blurs the separation of powers and could have serious implications for the future. The coronavirus pandemic postponed 2020 census results and the change was necessary in order to vote on election redistricting in the fall, proponents say. But some worry the unusual move could set a precedent for a full-time Legislature, and others wonder about lawmakers fundraising while technically still in session, which is typically not allowed.
Kansas – Wichita City Officials Drop ‘Friends’ from Ethics Proposal, Back Away from Fines
MSN – Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 4/27/2021
After drafting a new ethics code, the Wichita City Council moved to weaken the wording of the existing policy, scrubbing all mention of the word “friends.” The council is left to police itself under the current ethics code and has not enforced the policy, saying friends was not well defined. The new proposal would strengthen other parts of the law. It would limit gifts to $150 a year, create an advisory board to handle complaints against council members and city board appointees, establish whistleblower protections, and allow penalties to be handed out for violations.
Michigan – Indicted Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars Ruled Ineligible for Ballot Over Outstanding Campaign Filings, Fees
Detroit News – Christine Ferretti | Published: 4/24/2021
Taylor City Clerk Cynthia Bower ruled indicted Mayor Rick Sollars is ineligible to appear on the August primary ballot over his failure to file campaign finance reports and pay thousands of dollars in late fees. Bower said the legal challenge to Sollars’ candidacy is uncharted for Taylor and came into play under a Michigan law that went into effect in 2018. Sollars, she said, has the option of seeking an appeal of her decision or waging a write-in campaign.
Michigan – State Investigation into Detroit Mayor’s Office, Deleted Emails Results in No Charges
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 4/21/2021
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that a nearly two-year criminal investigation into the conduct of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office concerning a local prenatal health care program will not result in any criminal charges. The investigation focused on the deletion by city staffers of about 150 city emails and the propriety of the city’s partnership with the program, Make Your Date. While Nessel acknowledged the investigation found unethical behavior, she said the findings did not support a criminal prosecution.
Missouri – Missouri House Docks the Pay of St. Louis Lawmaker Who Was Censured After Ethics Investigation
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 4/26/2021
A Missouri lawmaker has seen his pay slashed since his colleagues in the House censured him in January over allegations he had sex with a Capitol intern and tried to cover it up. House leaders began withholding $1,000 per month, or $500 per pay period, from state Rep. Wiley Price a month after he became the first House member in state history to receive the official rebuke. The deductions stem from a line in the House Ethics Committee resolution censuring Price; the resolution orders him to pay back $22,492 in costs associated with a yearlong ethics investigation.
Nebraska – Nebraska Watchdog Group Files Complaint Against Former Lawmaker
Omaha World-Herald – Martha Stoddard | Published: 4/21/2021
A watchdog group accused the head of Blueprint Nebraska, a panel of state business leaders promoting economic growth, of failing to register as a lobbyist. The complaint names Jim Smith, a former state senator who is now president of Blueprint Nebraska.
New York – After Shift, State Ethics Panel Hires New Executive Director
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/28/2021
New York’s ethics oversight agency has a top staffer to lead its operations after having gone two years with the position unfilled. And for the first time, that key post at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) will not be filled by a former staffer of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. JCOPE announced the hiring of Sanford Berland as its executive director. Berland is a former Court of Claims and state Supreme Court justice, and also had a long private legal career, including 14 years at Pfizer.
New York – Chaim Deutsch Kicked Out of City Council After Pleading Guilty to Tax Fraud
MSN – John Annese (New York Daily News) | Published: 4/28/2021
Chaim Deutsch was expelled from the New York City Council after pleading guilty to federal tax fraud. He could face a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Initially, council Speaker Corey Johnson stripped Deutsch of his committee assignments and barred him from doling out so-called member items, which are discretionary grants to community groups and projects. Johnson announced Deustch was removed from office, citing a state law that declares a public office vacant if its holder is convicted of a crime that violates his or her oath of office.
New York – Donovan’s Dad Discussed Mayoral Campaign Contribution Targets and Aided Super PAC, Records Show
The City – Greg Smith | Published: 4/26/2021
In New York City, independent expenditure committees that support candidates can raise unrestricted dollars but are barred from coordinating their spending with campaigns they back. New Start NYC, which supports mayoral hopeful Shaun Donovan and has been funded almost entirely by the candidate’s wealthy father to the tune of $3 million, has insisted it does not coordinate efforts in any way with the candidate’s campaign. The Campaign Finance Board said it found no evidence of improper activity and cleared Donovan’s campaign to receive nearly $1.5 million in public matching funds. But documents in the case present a more complex picture.
New York – New York’s Ethics’ Overhaul on a Slow Path to Reform, but Will It Get There?
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/26/2021
Since the 1980’s, cycles of scandal and reform have played out in a familiar Albany rhythm. Scandal brought pressure to change to New York’s ethics laws. The Legislature created a new ethics enforcement system, but the new commission was ultimately ineffectual as it lacked independence from politicians who created it. To newspaper editorial boards, watchdog groups, and some legislators, it is the perfect time to get rid of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). Few consider JCOPE a viable vehicle to investigate the allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo because of the influence he exerts over the panel.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Says It’s Talking to Feds About Cutting Deal in HB6 Bribery Probe
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 4/22/2021
FirstEnergy is talking with federal prosecutors about taking a deal in the bribery investigation linked to a nuclear bailout bill in Ohio. That includes the possibility of a deferred prosecution agreement, through which a company can take actions like paying a fine or cooperating with prosecutors to avoid being criminally charged. FirstEnergy has not been officially accused of wrongdoing in the matter. But prosecutors have made clear they think the company and its affiliates gave $61 million to former House Speaker Larry Householder and his allies to help Householder gain his leadership position and to help pass legislation favorable to FirstEnergy.
Oregon – Portland Business Alliance Violated City Lobbying Rules 25 Times, Auditor Finds
OPB – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 4/27/2021
The Portland Business Alliance violated the city’s lobbying rules 25 times over the course of 2020, according to an audit. Officials discovered the violations after launching a review of possible undisclosed lobbying efforts by the trade group. A media inquiry asked why the alliance’s most recent lobbying report mentioned a series of meetings and telephone calls, but no emails. The violations could have resulted in a maximum penalty of $75,000 but the city auditor’s office fined the alliance $450 total. They also recommended the group’s staff get trained on how to comply with lobbying laws.
Pennsylvania – How a Steelers Owner Wrote Big Campaign Checks Days After $100 Million Investment from Pa.’s Largest Pension Fund
Philadelphia Inquirer – John DiStephano | Published: 4/27/2021
Pennsylvania’s largest pension fund invested $100 million in a business backed by Thomas Tull, a co-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two days later, campaign records show Tull made nearly $1.5 million in donations among national Democrats and Republicans. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party received $10,000. When they were asked whether the money ran afoul of “pay-to-play” rules for contributions at that level, Tull and national Democrats took steps to undo the donation. Critics say the problem of “pay-to-play” in pension fund investments has grown worse following court decisions striking down campaign finance controls, especially by stripping away limits on how much national political funds can raise.
South Carolina – Fired SC Director ‘Tainted’ Process Giving Husband a $600K Contract, Report Says
MSN – Maayan Schechter (The State) | Published: 4/23/2021
Former State Accident Fund Director Amy Cofield, fired by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster after she was accused of helping her husband get a lucrative contract with the agency she ran, said at the time that his hiring was necessary because her department struggled to find a company to do much needed programming work after receiving no bids. But a new report by state Inspector General Brian Lamkin says Cofield involved herself in the procurement process that eventually landed her husband a $600,000 contract, creating a conflict-of-interest that was both “organizational and personal.”
Texas – As the Voting-Rights Fight Moves to Texas, Defiant Republicans Test the Resolve of Corporations That Oppose Restrictions
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 4/21/2021
As the battle over a new Georgia law imposing identification requirements for mail ballots and other voting limits raged this month, Republicans in Texas knew they would be next. and acted quickly to try to head off the swelling number of corporations that had begun to scrutinize even more restrictive proposals being considered there and around the country. To many of the companies and voting-rights advocates, the message is clear: some Republicans have no plans to back down, and businesses that continue to speak out could face retribution.
Texas – Texas Lawmakers, Lobby Firm React to Allegations That a Lobbyist Gave Date Rape Drug to Capitol Aide
Texas Tribune – Cassandra Pollock | Published: 4/25/2021
After the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed it is investigating an allegation that a lobbyist used a date rape drug on at least one Capitol staff member, a prominent Austin-based lobby shop said it had launched an internal investigation into the matter, telling state lawmakers in an email the firm and its employees “do not and will not tolerate a culture where anyone is not valued with respect and dignity.” State lawmakers, staffers, and other Capitol observers denounced the alleged incident, with several House members declaring they were banning from their offices any lobbyist or lobby firm associated with the accusation.
Washington DC – D.C. to Pay $1.6M In Police Misconduct Lawsuit Filed After 2017 Inauguration Protests
National Public Radio – Colleen Grablick (DCist.com) | Published: 4/26/2021
The District of Columbia. will pay $1.6 million to settle two lawsuits filed against the city for false arrests and excessive force during demonstrations on Inauguration Day in 2017. The lawsuits charge that police violated their constitutional rights and city. law when they arrested more than 200 people without probable cause during protests against former President Trump’s inauguration. The suits also alleged unlawful conditions of confinement for those arrests, and excessive use of force by Metropolitan Police Department officers.
Washington DC – House Democrats Pass D.C. Statehood – Launching Bill into Uncharted Territory
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 4/22/2021
For the second time in history, the U.S. House passed legislation to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state, bolstering momentum for a once-illusory goal that has become a pivotal tenet of the Democratic Party’s voting rights platform. Democrats unanimously approved Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Washington, D.C. Admission Act, describing it as a bid to restore equal citizenship to the residents of the nation’s capital and rectify a historic injustice. But the political odds remain formidable, with the Senate filibuster requiring the support of 60 senators to advance legislation. Republicans, who hold 50 seats, have branded the bill as a Democratic power grab because it would create two Senate seats for the deep-blue city.
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