October 8, 2021 •
National/Federal Court Orders FEC to Rule on Complaints Against NRA’s Alleged Campaign Coordination Scheme MSN – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 10/1/2021 A federal court ordered the FEC to rule on pending complaints that allege the National Rifle Association […]
Court Orders FEC to Rule on Complaints Against NRA’s Alleged Campaign Coordination Scheme
MSN – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 10/1/2021
A federal court ordered the FEC to rule on pending complaints that allege the National Rifle Association (NRA) used shell entities to illegally coordinate campaign spending with federal candidates, including with the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump. In a 2019 lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged the NRA used a “network of shell corporations” to circumvent contribution limits and coordinate approximately $35 million in ad spending with the campaigns of at least seven Republican candidates over the last three election cycles.
False Election Claims Undermine Efforts to Increase Security
MSN – Maggie Miller (The Hill) | Published: 10/2/2021
Officials say the biggest threat facing U.S. elections is not Russian hacking or domestic voter fraud but disinformation and misinformation increasingly undermining the public’s perception of voting security. Since the 2016 vote, Congress has allocated millions of dollars to states to shore up cybersecurity and replace outdated, vulnerable voting machines, but even as improvements are made, faith in the system is being eroded.
Fed Says Trading Activity by Top Officials Under Independent Review
MSN – Rachel Siegel (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2021
The Federal Reserve released a rare public statement revealing an independent review by the Office of Inspector General for the Federal Reserve Board, over whether trading activity by top Fed officials “was in compliance with both the relevant ethics rules and the law.” Leaders had previously announced the Fed’s own internal ethics review of financial trading rules for top officials, and Fed Chairperson Jerome Powell said there would be changes to existing guidance. But the latest statement reflected a more concerted focus on the legality of the trades themselves.
Group Files Complaint with California Bar Association Against John Eastman, Lawyer Who Advised Trump on Election Challenges
MSN – Tom Hamburger and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2021
A bipartisan group of former officials and legal heavyweights, including two former federal judges, asked the California bar association to investigate the conduct of John Eastman, the adviser to then-President Trump who mapped out a legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election results. The complaint cites Eastman’s work in election challenges rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court and his speech at a January 6 rally in Washington before a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. But the memo centers on Eastman’s alleged role in pressing Vice President Pence not to count electoral votes and certify President Biden as the winner.
Journalists Sue U.S. Broadcasting Arm for Wrongful Dismissal Under Trump
Yahoo News – Daniel Lippman (Politico) | Published: 10/4/2021
Seven foreign journalists working for the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) who were fired by the Trump administration have sued the agency for breach of contract and wrongful termination. The journalists argue their careers and livelihoods have been significantly hurt by being fired and are seeking back pay. The complaints note Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker who was installed as chief executive of USAGM in June 2020, expressed his distrust of foreign journalists working for the various broadcast entities under the USAGM umbrella and refused to renew more than 30 of their visas, causing them to lose their jobs.
Koch-Backed Group Fuels Opposition to School Mask Mandates, Leaked Letter Shows
Seattle Times – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/1/2021
A letter made available to paying members of the Independent Women’s Forum that shows how people should protest mask mandates in schools was made possible through the largesse of Republican megadonors. The document offers a glimpse into the inner workings of a well-financed conservative campaign to undermine regulations that health authorities say are necessary to contain the coronavirus. As a nonprofit, Independent Women’s Forum is exempt from disclosing its donors and paying federal income taxes.
Lawmakers Seek Details on Accounting Firms After a New York Times Report
New York Times – Jesse Drucker | Published: 10/5/2021
Two Democratic lawmakers are seeking information from the country’s biggest accounting firms about the
“revolving door” between the firm’s tax departments and top positions at the Treasury Department. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal made the request after The New York Times detailed how multinational accounting firms effectively draft tax rules from inside the government that benefit their clients. The Times found at least 35 examples in which employees of big accounting firms left to join the Treasury’s tax policy office or other government positions and then returned to the same firm.
Once a Hero, Oregon Congressional Candidate Funds Questioned
ABC News – Brian Slodysko (Associated Press) | Published: 10/3/2021
Alek Skarlatos, a hero soldier-turned-Republican congressional candidate, started a nonprofit shortly after his 2020 defeat in an Oregon race, pledging to advocate for veterans “left high and dry” by the country “they put their lives on the line for.” The group, which Skarlatos seeded with $93,000 in leftover campaign funds, has done little since then to advance that cause. What it has nurtured, though, are Skarlatos’ political ambitions, providing $65,000 to his 2022 bid for a rematch with U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio. It is a seat that Republicans are targeting in their quest to win back the House.
Report Cites New Details of Trump Pressure on Justice Dept. Over Election
Yahoo News – Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 10/7/2021
An interim report by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee provides new details about Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to do his bidding in the chaotic final weeks of his presidency. The report draws on documents, emails, and testimony from three top Justice Department officials. It provides the most complete account yet of Trump’s efforts to push the department to validate election fraud claims that had been disproved by the FBI and state investigators.
Sen. Grassley Congratulates Korean American Judge on Her Work Ethic. Some Asian Americans Say It Echoes Divisive Stereotypes.
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2021
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, congratulated a Korean American judicial nominee for the “hard work ethic” of “you and your people,” invoking a stereotype about Asian Americans. The senator, who is seeking reelection to another six-year term, praised Lucy Koh, a judge nominated by President Biden to the federal appeals court, during her confirmation hearing. U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said even if Grassley’s motives were well-intentioned, they came from a place of prejudicial views.
Special Report – How AT&T Helped Build Far-Right One America News
MSN – John Shiffman (Reuters) | Published: 10/6/2021
A review of court records shows the role AT&T played in creating and funding One America News (OAN), a far-right network that continues to spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic. OAN founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr has testified the inspiration to launch OAN in 2013 came from AT&T executives. Since then, AT&T has been a crucial source of funds flowing into OAN, providing tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Ninety percent of OAN’s revenue came from a contract with AT&T-owned television platforms, including satellite broadcaster DirecTV.
U.S. Navy Hit by Another International Bribery Scandal
MSN – Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) | Published: 10/3/2021
U.S. Navy corruption case that has echoes of the “Fat Leonard” scandal with a defense contractor facing accusations he delivered cash bribes and bilked the Navy out of at least $50 million to service its ships in foreign ports. The Justice Department is trying to extradite the contractor – Frank Rafaraci, chief executive of Multinational Logistics Services (MLS) – from Malta. In one instance, when the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visited Bahrain in January 2015, MLS billed the Navy for more than $231,000 in “port authority fees,” even though the port authority charged only $12,686.
Why Democrats See 3 Governor’s Races as a Sea Wall for Fair Elections
New York Times – Reid Epstein and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 10/6/2021
In three critical battleground states, Democratic governors have blocked efforts by Republican-controlled Legislatures to restrict voting rights and undermine the 2020 election. Now, the 2022 races for governor in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – states that have long been vital to Democratic presidential victories – are taking on major new significance. At stake are how easy it is to vote, who controls the electoral system and, some Democrats worry, whether the results of federal, state, and local elections will be accepted no matter which party wins.
From the States and Municipalities
California – S.F. Ethics Commission Finds ‘Problematic’ Gifting at City Departments
MSN – Lauren Hernández (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 10/1/2021
Several departments in San Francisco have accepted gifts from restricted organizations – groups with which the city does business – and distributed those gifts to city employees, actions that undermine rules regarding gifts, according to a new report by the city Ethics Commission. The report released details “problematic” conduct related to gifts, including the awarding of tickets to events such as concerts, and the receipt of benefits and funds to pay for private parties, dinners, and other celebrations.
Florida – DeSantis Says He’s Running. Where Are the Documents?
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/30/2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he is running for re-election, but he has filed no campaign documents, released no financial disclosures, reported no campaign expenditures, nor established a campaign treasurer – all required for candidates for statewide office in Florida. The governor’s political committee had raised more than $50 million this election cycle. “We allow potential candidates to have political committees where they can raise unlimited amounts of money … then when they become an official candidate, we put limits on what they can raise and direct into the campaign account,” said Integrity Florida President Ben Wilcox.
Florida – Judge Revives Lawsuit Against Secretive Group That Paid for Ads in High-Stakes Senate Race
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin | Published: 10/6/2021
A lawmaker will get a second chance to force a secretive political group to reveal the donors who helped fund advertisements in a key Florida Senate race last year, after the media identified the possible leader of the group as Stephen Jones. A judge gave an extra 60 days for state Sen. Annette Taddeo to serve a lawsuit she filed against Floridians for Equality and Justice, which sent mailers last year attacking Democrat Patricia Sigman without disclosing its donors. Taddeo’s attorneys argued Jones “took steps to secret his true address in forming the political committee for the purpose of potentially avoiding responsibility for illegal acts.”
Georgia – Giving Limit Rises to $7,600 for Georgia Political Donors
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 9/30/2021
Candidates for statewide offices in Georgia can now accept more from each donor. Individuals, corporations, political committees, and political party can give each candidate up to $7,600 for each primary and general election and $4,500 for each runoff. That is up from $7,000 for primary and general elections and $4,100 for runoffs.
Georgia – Protection Against Violent Threats Could Be Legitimate Georgia Campaign Expense
Georgia Recorder – Jill Nolan | Published: 10/1/2021
The recent spate of violent threats against elected officials has the Georgia ethics commission rethinking its position on whether home security systems should qualify as a legitimate campaign-related expense. Seven years ago, the commission ruled candidates and officeholders could not use campaign funds to help secure their homes. But after a tumultuous last year, the current commissioners are on the verge of reversing course. The request comes from the Democratic Party of Georgia, but the escalation in threats toward public officials is a problem for both parties.
Idaho – In Idaho, a Power Play While the Governor’s Away
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/5/2021
Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he will rescind an executive order involving Covid-19 vaccines by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, and the commanding general of the Idaho National Guard also told McGeachin she cannot activate troops to send to the U.S.-Mexico border. Little was in Texas meeting with nine other Republican governors over concerns on how President Biden is handling border issues. McGeachin, a far-right Republican, is running for governor. In Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor do not run on the same ticket.
Illinois – Former City Club President in Texts to Mayor Lori Lightfoot: ‘ComEd duped me’ in bribery probe tied to Madigan
MSN – Gregory Pratt, Jason Meisner, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/30/2021
Jay Doherty, former head of the City Club of Chicago who is under indictment, texted Mayor Lori Lightfoot that he had been misled by Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and the utility’s alleged bribery of then-House Speaker Michael Madigan. The messages show Doherty tried to downplay his role in the probe to the mayor even after federal agents raided the City Club’s offices. The texts also show Lightfoot helped Doherty with a booking even after he was first publicly connected to the probe. Doherty was indicted in an alleged scheme to funnel money and jobs to Madigan loyalists in exchange for the speaker’s help with legislation ComEd wanted.
Indiana – Indiana Casino Exec and Former Republican Lawmaker Faces New Tax Fraud Charges
MSN – Johnny Magdaleno (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 10/1/2021
A federal grand jury imposed additional charges on an Indiana casino executive with for his alleged role in as scheme to funnel casino cash into an ex-state senator’s failed campaign for Congress. John Keeler was already facing four federal charges for allegedly working with out-of-state political consultants to recruit straw donors. Those straw donors were reimbursed with funds from Keeler’s casino company, according to federal prosecutors. Now the Justice Department says Keeler tried to use those contributions to lower his company’s taxable income.
Kentucky – Most KY State Workers Who Gamed the System to Collect Jobless Benefits Were Not Fired
Lexington Herald-Leader – John Cheves | Published: 10/6/2021
Of at least 19 state workers in Kentucky who participated in a scheme to improperly collect state and federal unemployment benefits during the spring of 2020, none were prosecuted while one was fired and eight were briefly suspended and then returned to their jobs. Gov. Andy Beshear had said the workers would be punished for their roles in a scheme to claim $54,232 in jobless benefits while still holding full-time state jobs. Some lied about lost part-time jobs to seem eligible; some used their official access to the state jobless benefits system to facilitate claims for themselves, colleagues, and friends.
Maine – Maine Ethics Commission Orders Investigation into Conservative Group’s Software System
Government Technology – Scott Thistle (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 9/30/2021
The Maine ethics commission voted to investigate whether the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is illegally trying to influence elections by providing a software package to lawmakers. But the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices also voted to dismiss a complaint that two Republican state lawmakers violated campaign finance laws after it was determined they never used ALEC’s software for campaign purposes.
Maryland – Baltimore County Issues Final Recommendations for Fair Public Election System in New Report
MSN – Emily Goodnight (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 10/5/2021
The Baltimore County Fair Election Fund Work Group released its final report to help create the county’s first public campaign financing system. The group has spent the past six months developing a comprehensive set of recommendations, detailing how the county’s public campaign fund will work, including how candidates can qualify for public funding, the limits and thresholds related to matching fund limits, and how much funding campaigns can receive from the program.
Maryland – Former Hogan Chief of Staff Indicted on Charges of Secretly Recording Governor on Phone Calls, Embezzling Funds
MSN – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 10/5/2021
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff was indicted on charges he defrauded a state agency he led by inducing it to pay him nearly $280,000 in mostly severance pay before he moved to his post in the governor’s office. Roy McGrath also used funds from the Maryland Environmental Service to pay a personal pledge to a museum and got the agency to pay tuition expenses for a class after he left his job as executive director, according to the indictment. He also recorded conversations with senior state officials without their consent and faces state charges.
Michigan – Gov. Whitmer Vetoes 4 Election Bills at NAACP Dinner, Says They Perpetuated ‘Big Lie’
MSN – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 10/4/2021
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed four election bills, the first of dozens expected to land on her desk following the contentious 2020 presidential election and the flurry of legislative activity it has prompted to overhaul voting laws across the country. The measures would have codified current election practices, required election challengers to undergo training, and expanded the types of places that could serve as polling locations.
Michigan – Taylor Mayor Pocketed Campaign Cash, Lottery Tickets in Bribery Scandal, Feds Say
Detroit Free Press – Robert Snell | Published: 10/5/2021
Federal prosecutors leveled new allegations against Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars, accusing him of cashing campaign checks at a party store in exchange for cash and scratch-off lottery tickets while corrupting a city foreclosed property program. The allegations were contained in a new criminal case against an alleged co-conspirator as prosecutors signaled at least two people are expected to plead guilty in connection with the case. Sollars was indicted in December 2019 on federal bribery and wire fraud charges and accused of helping a man obtain city-owned properties in exchange for free work on his home and vacation chalet.
Mississippi – Mississippi Aid Program Gave Little Help to Renters, but Millions to a Top Law Firm
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Yeganeh Torbati (Washington Post) | Published: 10/1/2021
More than seven months after Congress created the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, Mississippi had spent only 11 percent of $186.7 million in first-round funding, compared with a national average of 32 percent. Mississippians are clamoring for the funds: 9,000 people applied to the program in August. But tenants and advocates say it can take more than a month to get a response from the program, which is administered in part by Balch & Bingham, a politically connected law firm. Hired through a no-bid $3.8 million contract, the firm plays a key role in reviewing and scrutinizing aid applications, a process critics say leads to enormous delays.
Missouri – Missouri Ethics Commission: Columbia Mayor Must Terminate Campaign Committee
Columbia Missourian – Stephanie Southey | Published: 10/1/2021
Columbia Mayor Brian Treece was ordered to terminate his campaign committee. The Missouri Ethics Commission issued the order and said Treece violated state law. The state law from 2016 requires registered lobbyists to dissolve their candidate committees and that the campaign money should be returned to donors or contributed to a nonprofit group or political party committee. Treece did not terminate his committee in 2016 before registering as a lobbyist in 2017, 2018, 2019, or 2020.
New Mexico – Free Lunches Earn Business Access to New Mexico Lawmakers
MSN – Cedar Attanasio (Associated Press) | Published: 10/7/2021
As long as they are disclosed, it is legal for companies to buy New Mexico lawmakers lunches and give gifts. Sen. Gay Kernan said sponsored lunches have been common practice in her 19 years serving the Legislature, and that a sandwich cannot buy her vote. Former Rep. Jim Dines, who says he refused to accept as much as a bottle of water from lobbyists, believes there is a problem. “The appearance of impropriety is always there when you accept something [for] free. … Only the legislator themselves know whether … they’re being influenced,” said Dines.
New Mexico – NM Ethics Agency Seeks Expanded Staff, Jurisdiction
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 10/1/2021
The State Ethics Commission will ask New Mexico lawmakers next year to sharply increase its staff to ensure the agency can carry out its role as an independent watchdog. The agency also agreed to ask the Legislature to expand its jurisdiction to the parts of the state constitution that prohibit profiting from public office and ban lawmakers from having an interest in contracts authorized by bills passed during their term.
New York – JCOPE Votes to Investigate Itself Over Cuomo Book Deal Approval
WXXI – Karen Dewitt | Published: 10/5/2021
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) voted to open an independent investigation of how the panel approved a $5 million book deal for former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to write a memoir about his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. The deal has been the subject of a probe by the state attorney general as well as federal investigators. Cuomo never submitted the book contract to the panel, and the full commission never voted to approve the arrangement. Several commissioners complained at the time they were shut out of the decisions.
New York – Lovely Warren to Resign by Dec. 1 as Part of Plea Deal Over All Criminal Charges She Faces
MSN – Gary Craig and Brian Sharp (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) | Published: 10/4/2021
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren admitted to violating the state’s election law and, as part of a plea agreement, will resign from office by December 1. The plea deal heads off what was expected to be a month-long trial, while also resolving weapons and child endangerment charges Warren confronted in a separate criminal case. The city’s first Black woman to be elected mayor, Warren’s tenure has been a roller coaster ride, highlighted by some successful commercial development throughout the community but marred by the criminal allegations that have now hounded her for a year.
New York – Want to Be a City Commissioner? It Helps to Be Friendly with the Mayor.
New York Times – Dana Rubenstein | Published: 10/6/2021
Faced with half a dozen major vacancies during his eighth and final year in office, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had what appeared to be a simple choice: promote an experienced hand from within or persuade an outsider to sign on for what was likely to be a very temporary job. But in three of those instances, de Blasio chose a third option – he hired a loyalist. Each of the three has demonstrated long-term fidelity to the outgoing mayor, and he has reciprocated by putting them atop agencies of which they have varying levels of subject-matter expertise.
Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine Says He Won’t Recuse Himself from Redistricting Lawsuits Involving His Father, Gov. Mike DeWine
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/30/2021
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine says he does not plan to recuse himself from hearing a trio of lawsuits challenging new state House and Senate districts his father, Gov. Mike DeWine, voted to approve. Justice DeWine has recused himself at times from lawsuits involving decisions made by his father, including as recently as September, when, saying he wanted to “avoid the appearance of impropriety,” he withdrew from a case challenging Gov. DeWine’s decision to end enhanced federal unemployment benefits. In the redistricting cases, Justice DeWine noted his father was one of seven members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which approved the maps.
Ohio – Ohio’s Medicaid Director Owns the Stock of Some Major Contractors, but Won’t Say How Much
Ohio Capital Journal – Marty Schladen | Published: 10/6/2021
Since she became director of the Ohio Department of Medicaid in January 2019, Maureen Corcoran has owned stock in some of the department’s biggest contractors. Given the size of those contracts, they could have increased the value of the stock Corcoran owned. But while she complied with one set of state disclosure requirements, Corcoran will not say just how much stock she owns in such companies as CVS Health, UnitedHealth Group, and Express Scripts, each of which has done billions of dollars’ worth of business with the Medicaid department since Corcoran started running it.
Oregon – People for Portland Co-Founder Accused of Two-Timing Powerful Business Group
MSN – Shane Dixon Kavanaugh (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 9/30/2021
Lobbyist Dan Lavey ditched the Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association, an off-and-on client for years, after receiving a financial offer he “couldn’t refuse” from the Northwest Grocery Association, the beer and wine distributors allege. The two industry associations, among the most influential in Oregon, are frequent political opponents and are poised to square-off again over a possible ballot initiative next year that would privatize state liquor sales. “Reputation and relationships are all we have in this work [and] flagrantly flipping sides is not something we usually see in Oregon politics,” said Amy Ruiz, a senior vice president with Strategies 360.
Pennsylvania – John Dougherty and Bobby Henon Bribery Trial: What you need to know
MSN – Oona Goodin-Smith (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 10/4/2021
Union leader John Dougherty and Philadelphia City Councilperson Bobby Henon are now in court more than two years after they were charged in a federal bribery and corruption case. The outcome could shape the future of organized labor, politics, and public corruption investigations in the city for years to come. Federal prosecutors charged Dougherty, Henon, and six other Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers officials. But last year, a judge granted a defense request to split the case into two trials. The first trial is focused solely on charges tied to the relationship between Dougherty and Henon.
Pennsylvania – South Fla. Pols Wondered Where Campaign Cash Came From. The Answer Led to a Beleaguered N.J. Developer
MSN – Jacob Adelman (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 10/7/2021
National Realty Investment Advisors (NRIA) pitches outsized investor returns in television and radio ads from its development projects. Many of those projects have been in Philadelphia. NRIA is under investigation by the FBI and financial regulators, and a former executive has separately been charged with fraud. One of the major projects it is depending on to start generating profits is in Delray Beach, Florida. Three New Jersey companies contributed to Delray Beach politicians with a common link to the city: all were started by NRIA employees and NRIA needed officials’ approval for its $59 million apartment project there.
Rhode Island – Senators Grill McKee Administration Over $5.2 Million Contract
MSN – Edward Fitzgerald (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/6/2021
The Senate oversight committee grilled officials in Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee’s administration over a $5.2-million contract awarded to ILO Group, a consulting firm that formed two days after McKee took office. The committee looked at a Zoom call that took place on March 5, one day after the ILO had formed. That meeting led to the state seeking proposals and awarding contracts to ILO and a lower bidder. The Zoom call included Mike Magee, one of McKee’s top campaign donors and the leader of Chiefs for Change, a network of state and district education chiefs. Senators noted ILO’s managing partner, Julia Rafal-Baer, worked for Chiefs for Change, and she had been invited to join that Zoom meeting.
South Dakota – Did Kristi Noem Abuse Governor’s Office to Get Daughter Appraiser License? Accountability Panel Will Decide
MSN – Joe Sneve (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 10/6/2021
A panel of South Dakota judges will review allegations about Gov. Kristi Noem abused her office to help her daughter obtain a state appraiser license. The attorney general’s office announced it was referring the complaint to the Government Accountability Board, which will investigate the matter and determine if any misconduct occurred. The allegations center around a meeting Noem had with officials with the Department of Labor and Regulation after the agency had recommended denying Noem’s daughter, Kassidy Peters, a real estate appraiser license.
September 24, 2021 •
National/Federal A Republican Fundraising Vendor Wants More Small-Dollar Contributors to Replace Vanishing PAC Money Campaigns and Elections – Staff | Published: 9/22/2021 A large Republican fundraising vendor is pushing its clients to reorient their strategies around small-dollar contributors as PAC donations […]
A Republican Fundraising Vendor Wants More Small-Dollar Contributors to Replace Vanishing PAC Money
Campaigns and Elections – Staff | Published: 9/22/2021
A large Republican fundraising vendor is pushing its clients to reorient their strategies around small-dollar contributors as PAC donations have dried up in the wake of the January 6 insurrection and a move away from Washington, D.C. lobbying by corporations and trade associations. Fundraising Inc., a vendor that is under the Axiom Strategies corporate umbrella, announced it has “revamped the traditional PAC-focused GOP fundraising model” to an “updated approach … to better compete with Democrats for small-dollar donations.”
Dark News: The murky world of undercover EU lobbying
Politico – Mark Scott | Published: 9/16/2021
EU Reporter is not alone in offering companies and governments a paid-for platform to promote their views to European Union officials. Other Brussels-based outlets publish clearly labeled sponsored content from advertisers seeking to influence decision-makers. But EU Reporter presents its coverage as straight news, with rarely an indication that a company or government paid for the articles. In addition to undisclosed paid-for content, the site posts EU and corporate press releases, opinion articles from European lawmakers, and original material, making it impossible for readers to determine who is behind the coverage.
Democrats Begin Effort to Curb Post-Trump Presidential Powers
Yahoo Finance – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 9/21/2021
House Democrats introduced a package of proposed new limits on executive power on, beginning a post-Trump push to strengthen checks on the presidency that they hope will compare to the overhauls that followed the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War. Democrats have spent months negotiating with the Biden White House to refine a broad set of proposals that amount to a point-by-point rebuke of the ways Donald Trump shattered norms over the course of his presidency. The Democrats have compiled numerous bills into a package they call the Protecting Our Democracy Act.
Durham Prosecution Faces Hurdles in D.C. Court
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 9/17/2021
For Special Counsel John Durham, obtaining an indictment of lawyer Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI during its investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia may turn out to be the easy part. Getting a Washington jury to convict Sussmann could be far harder, judging by a case with significant parallels: the 2019 prosecution of former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig.
Huge Hack Reveals Embarrassing Details of Who’s Behind Proud Boys and Other Far-Right Websites
MSN – Drew Harwell, Craig Timberg, and Hannah Allam (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2021
Epik has been the favorite Internet company of the far right, providing domain services to QAnon theorists, Proud Boys, and other instigators of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, allowing them to broadcast hateful messages from behind a veil of anonymity. But that veil vanished when a breach by the hacker group Anonymous dumped more than 150 gigabytes of previously private data – including usernames, passwords, and other identifying information of Epik’s customers. Researchers have treated the leak as a Rosetta Stone to the far right, helping them to decode who has been doing what with whom over several years.
‘It’s Spreading’: Phony election fraud conspiracies infect midterms
MSN – David Siders and Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 9/20/2021
Donald Trump may have started the “Big Lie” movement, but what was once the province of an aggrieved former president has spread far beyond him, infecting elections at every level with vague, unspecified claims that future races are already rigged. It is a fiction that is poised to factor heavily in the midterm elections and in 2024, providing Republican candidates with a rallying cry for the rank-and-file and priming the electorate for future challenges to races the GOP may lose.
Jan. 6 Investigation Accelerates as It Turns Toward Trump
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 9/22/2021
Six members of the U.S. House panel investigating the Capitol attack made clear they are prepared to fly past any obstacles they encounter, mindful of Trump’s past success at stymieing congressional investigators. The calendar makes their job tougher: panel members know they need to show results quickly as the midterms bear down, given Democrats’ thin majority. The potential hurdles are many, from high-powered lawyers representing the former president’s inner circle to the tech companies sitting on potential witnesses’ communications. But they are already getting results from some corners.
Lauren Boebert Paid Rent and Utilities with Campaign Funds, FEC Filings Show
Denver Post – Conrad Swanson | Published: 9/22/2021
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert paid rent and utility bills with campaign funds in violation of federal campaign finance laws, new filings with the FEC show. The filings also indicate Boebert reimbursed her campaign for the $6,650 worth of payments. Each of the four payments in question (two for $2,000 each and another two for $1,325 each) were amended to show payments for the same amount, description, and on the same days to John Pacheco, whose address is the same as Shooters Grill in Rifle, which Boebert owns. Pacheco’s relationship to Boebert was not immediately clear.
Lawmakers Launch Investigation into Climate Crisis Disinformation by Fossil Fuel Industry
MSN – Ella Nilsen (CNN) | Published: 9/16/2021
The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced it is launching an investigation into fossil fuel industry disinformation on the climate crisis. The committee invited the heads of six oil companies and major lobbying groups to testify in October. The announcement comes after reports the industry participated in campaigns aimed at creating confusion about the cause of the climate crisis, or sowing skepticism in the science.
Outside Ethics Group Says 7 House Lawmakers Didn’t Disclose Stock Trades
National Public Radio – Deidre Walsh | Published: 9/22/2021
The Campaign Legal Center filed ethics complaints against seven U.S. House members for failing to report stock trades. It is the latest example of a bipartisan trend that has emerged almost 10 years after Congress overwhelmingly passed a law to provide transparency and show lawmakers are not profiting from their jobs: Members of Congress are ignoring the disclosure law. What makes the complaints filed Wednesday different is that it appears these members never filed reports at all.
Powell Orders Ethics Review After Fed Presidents Disclosed Multimillion-Dollar Investments
CNBC – Thomas Franck | Published: 9/16/2021
Federal Reserve Chairperson Jerome Powell directed staff to review the central bank’s ethics rules for appropriate financial activities after disclosures that several senior officials made multiple multimillion-dollar stock trades in 2020, while others held significant investments. News of Powell’s inquiry broke after U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent 12 letters to the Fed’s regional bank presidents demanding stricter ethics from the nation’s top central bank officials. She called on each Fed president to institute a ban on the ownership and trading of individual stocks by senior officials at each regional office.
Roger Stone Served ‘a Big, Big Stack of Papers’ from Capitol Riot Lawsuit During Radio Interview
Seattle Times – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 9/16/2021
As he was asked in a phone interview whether former President Trump would run in 2024, Roger Stone paused to answer the front door. Stone, a longtime confidant to the former president, apologized to the St. Louis radio show, but he had a good reason: he was being served with papers related to the lawsuit filed by seven U.S. Capitol Police officers against him, Trump, far-right “violent extremist groups,” and others accused of being responsible for the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The FEC Unanimously Rejected Matt Gaetz’s Complaint Against Twitter Over an Alleged 2018 ‘Shadow Ban’
Yahoo News – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/17/2021
The FEC unanimously rejected a complaint by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz against Twitter that alleged the company violated campaign finance regulations by “shadow-banning” Gaetz in 2018, limiting the visibility of his account on the website’s search results. Twitter said Gaetz was caught up in an automated process by the company to improve discourse on Twitter because his account was “associated with other accounts that already had high indicia of misuse or abuse.”
Threats Against Members of Congress Are Skyrocketing. It’s Changing the Job.
Yahoo News – Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/20/2021
In a year that kicked off with the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, threats against lawmakers are soaring. In the first three months of 2021, the Capitol Police recorded 4,135 threats against members of Congress. If that pace continues, total threats this year will double those in 2020. It is changing the job for lawmakers, who must tread a fine line between being accessible to those they represent and keeping themselves, their families, and their staffs safe. After January 6, some members temporarily relocated their families over concerns their homes would be targeted. Some wore bulletproof vests to the presidential inauguration.
Trump Campaign Knew Lawyers’ Voting Machine Claims Were Baseless, Memo Shows
Yahoo News – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 9/21/2021
A team of lawyers allied with Donald Trump held a news conference after the 2020 election and laid out a conspiracy theory claiming a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros, and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Trump. But by the time the news conference occurred on November 19, Trump’s campaign had already prepared an internal memo on many of the outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, and the separate software company, Smartmatic, according to court documents The memo determined those allegations were untrue.
Trump Just Sued the New York Times and His Niece. If History Is a Guide, He Probably Won’t Win.
MSN – Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2021
Donald Trump has once again sued a news organization alleging its reporting was unfair to him. If history is any guide, this one is also likely to generate a flurry of attention before quietly stalling out. Trump’s latest lawsuit is aimed at the New York Times and his niece, Mary Trump. It centers on the newspaper’s publication in 2018 of a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of Trump’s alleged tax-avoidance tactics and the history of his family inheritance.
Two GOP Operatives Indicted for Allegedly Routing Money from Russian National to Support Trump Campaign
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/20/2021
President Trump after being convicted in a 2012 campaign finance scheme is facing new charges related to an alleged 2016 plot to illegally funnel donations made by a Russian national to support then-candidate Trump’s White House bid. Jesse Benton, who was previously a top aide to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and later ran a pro-Trump super PAC, and Roy Wead, a conservative author and former special assistant to President George H.W. Bush, were charged in the case.
Canada – Trudeau’s Party Wins Canada Vote but Fails to Get Majority
MSN – Rob Gilles (Associated Press) | Published: 9/21/2021
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party secured victory in parliamentary elections but failed to get the majority in a vote that focused on the coronavirus pandemic, but many Canadians saw as unnecessary. Trudeau entered the election leading a stable minority government that was not under threat of being toppled but was hoping Canadians would reward him with a majority for navigating the pandemic better than many other leaders. Still, Trudeau struggled to justify why he called the election early given the virus, and the opposition accused him of holding the vote two years before the deadline for his own ambition.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Candidates Will Not Be Able to Fundraise During the Special Session
Alabama Reporter – Brandon Moseley | Published: 9/23/2021
Alabama legislators will convene for a special session on September 27. This means state lawmakers, candidates for the Legislature, and statewide officeholders and candidates for statewide office will not be able to accept campaign contributions. The secretary of state’s office said any contribution postmarked prior to the blackout and received after the blackout may be accepted.
Alaska – Protect Juneau’s Future Shared Who Paid for Its Campaign, but No Laws Require It
KTOO – Jeremy Hsieh | Published: 9/21/2021
A deadline passed for local candidates and issues groups all over the state to disclose their campaign finances ahead of local elections on October 5. But the public probably will never know exactly who paid how much for the campaign that helped quash a ballot initiative to limit cruise ships in Juneau. That is because campaign finance disclosure laws would not apply in this case until after it cleared the signature-gathering stage.
California – Kern County Under Investigation After Denying Group COVID Contract Over Support for Defunding Police
Yahoo News – Sam Morgen (Bakersfield Californian) | Published: 9/22/2021
Kern County may end up paying for a decision by the board of supervisors to withhold a $1.2 million coronavirus contract from a nonprofit group that had voiced support for defunding police. The nonprofits were selected because of their community ties. The Kern County Public Health Department said the groups would be a more trusted resource to communities at the greatest risk than county officials. Building Healthy Communities said in Facebook posts funding for the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern High School District Police Department should be diverted to other causes. That was enough for supervisors to withhold approval of a contract to the organization even though preparation and hiring had already taken place.
Florida – A Local Government Candidate Claimed to Be the City’s ‘Most High-Profile Hispanic Democrat.’ She’s Not Hispanic.
MSN – Jaclyn Peiser (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2021
Speaking before a group of Democratic leaders in Florida’s Miami-Dade County on Zoom, Miami Beach City Commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez made her pitch as to why the party should endorse her. She called herself “the most high-profile Hispanic Democrat in the city of Miami Beach.” Not endorsing her, she continued, “would be upsetting and confusing” for constituents. But Rosen Gonzalez is not Hispanic.
Florida – Anti-Mask FL GOP Bookkeeper Dies of COVID – Leaving Party Without Access to Finance Software
MSN – Brett Bachnman (Salon) | Published: 9/19/2021
After spending months railing against COVID-19 precautions, a Republican Party official in Florida passed away recently, leaving his county-level GOP organization without access to critical financial accounts. Gregg Prentice served as accountant for the Hillsborough County GOP and chaired the organization’s committee for election integrity, and was responsible for filing its monthly reports to the FEC. A filing claims Prentice died without sharing login information for these accounts, or any sort of instructions for how to use them.
Florida – Senate Redistricting Chair Vows to Redeem Process as He Plans to Limit Public’s Input
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/20/2021
The Florida Senate announced new rules that put limits on the input the chamber gets from average citizens, political consultants, and lobbyists. The Senate will require more disclosure from anyone who attempts to address legislators in a public meeting by requiring them to submit a disclosure form that indicates if they are a lobbyist or getting their expenses paid. Legislators will be required to retain all records of communications they get about maps. The goal is to prevent lawmakers from using political consultants to illegally influence redistricting as they did 10 years ago, when the courts invalidated the legislatively drawn Senate maps.
Florida – Tallahassee Ethics Board Proposing Stronger Lobbying Ordinances, Expanded Role
MSN – Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 9/17/2021
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board wants to strengthen policies governing lobbyists as the glare of a federal corruption probe and investigative reporters have illuminated paid work and deal-making done behind the scenes on projects and policies. The board is recommending two ordinances and one change to the city charter that requires a ballot amendment in language sent to the city commission. The ethics panel has been working for months to add more teeth to its role in regulating lobbying in the city.
Georgia – Fulton Board Gets New Chair as Georgia Reviews Its Elections
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 9/16/2021
Commissioners in Fulton County picked former Atlanta City Council President to lead their election board as a state panel reviews how elections are conducted in Georgia’s most populous county. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican facing a primary challenge next year, objected to what he called a “blatantly political appointment” because Woolard had registered earlier this year as a lobbyist for Fair Fight Action, a group started by Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who narrowly lost the race for governor in 2018.
Illinois – Sources Say Chicago Ald. Jim Gardiner Allegedly Tried to Pay Campaign Worker with Tax Dollars
WBEZ – Mariah Woelfel | Published: 9/19/2021
Chicago Ald. Jim Gardiner allegedly tried to use taxpayer funds to pay an employee for work they did on his 2020 campaign for ward committeeman, sources said. It is the latest allegation to unfold as Gardiner is facing inquiries by multiple agencies, including the FBI, and possible censure by his city council colleagues for crude texts he wrote about constituents and colleagues, as well as allegedly withholding city services from critics.
Indiana – Longest Serving State Senator Forced Out of His Seat in Redistricting Process: ‘This is a classic example of gerrymandering.’
Chicago Daily Herald – Alexandra Kukulka (Post-Tribune) | Published: 9/22/2021
Frank Mrvan, the longest serving member of the Indiana Senate, has been effectively forced out of his seat after the redrawing of Senate maps would require him to move or run against a colleague. “This is a classic example of gerrymandering,” said Lake County Democratic Party Chairperson James Wieser. “It’s disrespectful to a public official that’s given his heart and soul, as has his whole family, to our party for 50 years plus.”
Massachusetts – Ex-Mayor, Elected at Age 23, Gets 6 Years in Corruption Case
Yahoo News – Alanna Durkin Richer (Associated Press) | Published: 9/21/2021
Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana businesses that wanted to operate in his city. The judge handed down his punishment after tossing several convictions stemming from allegations that Correia swindled investors who backed a smartphone app he created. “If we can’t trust each other, if we can’t trust our government, where are we?” U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock asked.
Michigan – Facing Tight Timeline, Voter-Led Michigan Redistricting Commission on Steep Learning Curve
MSN – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/20/2021
Michigan’s first-ever citizen redistricting commission is finding itself on a steep learning curve as members race against the clock to draw new maps ahead of the 2022 election, crunching a monthslong process into a matter of weeks following an unprecedented delay in census data. The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission blew past a deadline in the state constitution for proposing the new districts. But with four weeks of mapping under its belt, the commissioners, who have never drawn political districts before, have raised concerns the group might not get the job done in the time it has allotted for itself.
Missouri – Lawmakers Renting from Lobbyists Less Often in Jefferson City
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 9/16/2021
Lobbyists are no longer leasing housing to Missouri lawmakers in Jefferson City, with one exception. State Rep. Adam Schwadron is the only legislator renting from a registered lobbyist, according to disclosures filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Leases between lobbyists and state officials have drawn scrutiny in the past and have been less common in recent years: between 2016 and 2018, lobbyists reported renting to a dozen lawmakers and state officials.
Montana – Montana Doesn’t Always Draw a Straight Line from Groups to Their Lobbying
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson (Lee Newspapers State Bureau) | Published: 9/19/2021
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan acknowledged the state does not have a perfect system for connecting principals to the on-the-ground lobbying efforts they are paying for. Along with the inability to track reported lobbying expenses in a centralized database, there were a number of groups that paid lobbyists during the 2021 session without saying what legislation they were lobbying for or against, or that funneled lobbying expenses through other groups. In other instances, the flow of dollars from groups or corporations through multiple lobbying firms further obscured the money’s source.
New Mexico – Grand Jury Indicts Ex-Lawmaker in Alleged Kickback Scheme
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 9/20/2021
Former New Mexico Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton was indicted by a grand jury on charges of racketeering, money laundering, fraud, and ethics violations in connection with an alleged kickback scheme. She was fired in August by the Albuquerque public school system from her position in vocational education amid administrative and criminal probes into her ties to a private contractor for the state’s largest school district.
New York – Aides of Former Gov. Cuomo on Hook for New Legal Bills
MSN – Marina Villeneuve (Associated Press) | Published: 9/23/2021
New York state has stopped paying legal bills for state employees who worked for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he faced ongoing investigations on the state and federal level. The state stopped paying for those aides’ legal bills after September 2. The Hochul administration is now deciding whether there is a legal basis for the state to pay bills for legal services on or before September 2. The administration did not specify how many staffers had legal bills paid for by the state.
New York – State Inspector General Resigns Amid Controversy
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/17/2021
New York Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro, a longtime aide to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, resigned from her post as the executive branch’s top internal-affairs watchdog. Tagliafierro’s departure comes less than a month after Cuomo’s resignation and two weeks after the Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted to ask state Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the conduct of the inspector general’s office in its probe of an illegal leak of confidential information from the ethics commission to Cuomo in January 2019.
North Carolina – North Carolina Judges Strike Down State’s Voter ID Law
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 9/17/2021
North Carolina judges struck down the state’s latest photo voter identification law, agreeing with minority voters that Republicans approved rules tainted by racial bias to remain in power. Two of the three trial judges declared the December 2018 law is unconstitutional, even though it was designed to implement a photo voter ID mandate added to the North Carolina Constitution in a referendum just weeks earlier. They said the law intentionally discriminates against Black voters, violating their equal protections.
Pennsylvania – New Equity Report Required of Lobbyists & Lobbying Firms in Pennsylvania
JD Supra – Staff | Published: 9/22/2021
Starting this year, Pennsylvania is requiring all registered lobbyists and lobbying firms to file an Annual Equity Report. The report must disclose how much equity, as a percentage, the lobbyist or firm holds or has held in an affiliate principal, and for whom the lobbyist or firm lobbied during the reporting period. The report must be filed even if the lobbyist or firm has no equity to report.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Legislators Promised #MeToo Reforms Inside Capitol. So Far, Few Changes Have Become Law
LancasterOnline.com – Lindsay Weber (Allentown Morning Call) | Published: 9/22/2021
Three years after a handful of sexual harassment and assault cases plagued the state Capitol and prompted calls for reform, little has changed in how Pennsylvania’s political leaders handle new accusations. Legislation inspired by the #MeToo movement designed to hold accountable those involved in sexual misconduct and those who cover it up would have created independent, streamlined ways for staffers and others to report complaints. But those proposals have gone nowhere. Bills that would have banned nondisclosure agreements and prevented the use of taxpayer money for settlements have met the same fate.
Rhode Island – Former State Official to Pay Fine to Settle Ethics Complaint
Bowling Green Daily News – Associated Press | Published: 9/21/2021
A former state official in Rhode Island will pay a $4,500 fine to settle an ethics complaint over his solicitation of campaign donations from state vendors for a mayoral run. Brett Smiley, who is running for Providence mayor, resigned as director of the Rhode Island Department of Administration early this year. The agency oversees hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of state contracting and spending. Smiley admitted that six separate solicitations from an owner or officer of a company that does business with the state violated the code of ethics.
Rhode Island – RI Donor-Disclosure Laws Upheld Again; Conservative Group Says It Will Appeal to High Court
MSN – Patrick Anderson (Providence Journal) | Published: 9/16/2021
A federal appeals court upheld Rhode Island’s campaign-spending disclosure laws against a constitutional challenge by a coalition of conservative groups. Those groups say they intend to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. A three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals on said the law that makes top donors identify themselves in certain election advertising does not infringe on those donors’ free-speech rights.
September 23, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Alaska: “Protect Juneau’s Future Shared Who Paid for Its Campaign, but No Laws Require It” by Jeremy Hsieh for KTOO Elections National: “Trump Campaign Knew Lawyers’ Voting Machine Claims Were Baseless, Memo Shows” by Alan Feuer (New York […]
Alaska: “Protect Juneau’s Future Shared Who Paid for Its Campaign, but No Laws Require It” by Jeremy Hsieh for KTOO
National: “Trump Campaign Knew Lawyers’ Voting Machine Claims Were Baseless, Memo Shows” by Alan Feuer (New York Times) for Yahoo News
National: “Huge Hack Reveals Embarrassing Details of Who’s Behind Proud Boys and Other Far-Right Websites” by Drew Harwell, Craig Timberg, and Hannah Allam (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Durham Prosecution Faces Hurdles in D.C. Court” by Josh Gerstein (Politico) for Yahoo News
New York: “State Inspector General Resigns Amid Controversy” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Pennsylvania: “Pa. Legislators Promised #MeToo Reforms Inside Capitol. So Far, Few Changes Have Become Law” by Lindsay Weber (Allentown Morning Call) for LancasterOnline.com
California: “Kern County Under Investigation After Denying Group COVID Contract Over Support for Defunding Police” by Sam Morgen (Bakersfield Californian) for Yahoo News
August 27, 2021 •
National/Federal A Capitol Riot Suspect Was Hours Away from Sentencing. Then Prosecutors Received Video of an Assault on Police. MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/19/2021 Even after Robert Reeder pleaded guilty to illegally picketing inside the U.S. Capitol […]
A Capitol Riot Suspect Was Hours Away from Sentencing. Then Prosecutors Received Video of an Assault on Police.
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/19/2021
Even after Robert Reeder pleaded guilty to illegally picketing inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, he remained adamant he was innocent of the worst allegations leveled against him. Prosecutors argued Reeder actively participated in chants with rioters and egged on the aggressive crowd, though they could not show he participated in any violence. They asked a federal judge to sentence him with a fine and prison time. But new video from the riot that surfaced just before his sentencing hearing appeared to show Reeder allegedly physically grappling with a police officer.
California Republican Is Debt Free for First Time in Office. What Happened to His Creditors?
Fresno Bee – Gillian Brassil (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 8/23/2021
U.S. Rep. David Valadao claimed no liabilities for 2020 – a far cry from 2019, when he said he owed at least $16 million to various creditors, some of whom he did not disclose the identities of, in connection to one of his family’s dairy farms. The farm declared bankruptcy after Valadao and his family’s farms were sued by Rabobank, a financial services company, over unpaid loans. Maria Martinez who lives in Valadao’s district, filed an ethics complaint seeking more information about the unidentified creditors from Valadao’s previous disclosure forms. The complaint says it is unlikely the unnamed creditors were each owed less than $10,000 given the limited number of people listed in the farm’s bankruptcy filings.
DOJ Investigating One-Time Trump Campaign Adviser Over Alleged Ties to Qatar: Report
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 8/24/2021
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether one-time Trump campaign adviser and lobbyist Barry Bennett set up an advocacy group without disclosing its ties to Qatar. Bennett reportedly launched a group called Yemen Crisis to embarrass Qatar’s rivals – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – amid their military campaign in Yemen. Bennett did not disclose his ties to Yemen Crisis Watch, or register the group under lobbying laws, despite receiving $250,000 from the Embassy of Qatar “for use in supporting the relief of humanitarian suffering in Yemen,” according to a Justice Department filing.
Ethics Office: Rep. Mooney tapped campaign funds for family vacations, fast food
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 8/25/2021
U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney spent thousands of campaign dollars on personal expenses, including numerous fast-food meals and family excursions to West Virginia resorts, while failing to properly report more than $40,000 in expenditures, the Office of Congressional Ethics found. Mooney’s deficient reporting to the FEC concealed additional instances of converting campaign funds for personal use, according to an OCE report. After the OCE launched the inquiry, Mooney paid his campaign back more than $12,000.
FCC Proposes Record $5 Million Fine Against Jacob Wohl, Jack Burkman for Election Robocalls
MSN – Rachel Lerman (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a $5.1 million fine against two right-wing operatives known for perpetuating conspiracy theories, in one of its largest penalties to date. Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman improperly made 1,141 election-related robocalls to cellphones without getting people’s consent first, which the law requires. The pair were charged with four felonies in Michigan last year for allegedly intimidating voters with robocalls that spread inaccurate messages about voting by mail.
Foreign Lobbyists Gave Millions to Influence 2020 Elections Amid Foreign Influence Concerns
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 8/19/2021
Individuals registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act made at least $8.5 million in political contributions during the 2020 election cycle. Another $25 million came from lobbyists representing foreign clients registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to political groups or campaigns to influence U.S. elections. But they can hire foreign agents or lobbyists to advocate for their interests and lobbyists who are American citizens are able to donate, even to the same lawmakers they may be lobbying on behalf of foreign clients.
House Passes Bill to Strengthen Voting Rights Act in Face of New Restrictions in GOP-Led States
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
The U.S. House passed legislation that supporters said would restore key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court struck down in 2013. In Shelby County v. Holder, the high court’s conservative majority ruled the law’s provision for determining voter discrimination was outdated, a decision that greatly curtailed the ability of the federal government to monitor the election processes of states with a history of racism.
Internal Probe Clears Capitol Police Officer in Shooting of Ashli Babbitt
MSN – Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2021
An internal investigation has cleared a U.S. Capitol Police officer of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt during the siege of the Capitol on January 6. The Justice Department previously announced the officer would not face criminal charges in the killing of the 35-year-old California woman, who was shot as she tried to force her way through a set of doors deep inside the Capitol.
Jan. 6 Select Committee Probe Expands to Trump and Top Officials in a Wave of Demands
National Public Radio – Claudia Grisales | Published: 8/25/2021
The House select committee charged with investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has issued a wave of record requests targeting communications by former President Trump and his top officials in the lead-up to the riot. It marks the most widespread list of demands since the siege, directing letters to eight federal entities, including the National Archives and Records Administration, which is charged with maintaining records for past White House administrations. The demands could be followed by subpoenas.
From the States and Municipalities
Colorado – Ethics Commission Dismissed Complaint Against Delta County Official but Decision Is on Appeal
Denver Gazette – Marianne Goodland | Published: 8/23/2021
The Colorado Independent Ethics commission, on a tie vote, dismissed a complaint against Delta County Administrator Robbie LeValley. The complaint alleged LeValley violated the public trust by using her position to benefit her family’s business, a beef ranch. LeValley charged several purchases from Homestead Meats in 2019, which she co-owns with several other partners, for county events on her county credit card. The events in question, both tied to the county fair, required the beef being served to come from a Delta County ranch, and for that, Homestead was the only supplier.
Colorado – Incumbent Colorado Lawmaker Coached Public Testimony for Redistricting Hearings
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 8/19/2021
A state lawmaker looking to protect the fortunes of his Republican caucus as Colorado’s political maps are redrawn this year held a video training earlier this summer to coach people on how to provide testimony intended to keep the incumbent legislators in power after the redistricting cycle. On the video training, Rep. Matt Soper lamented that the independent redistricting commission system is designed to elicit input from non-political, everyday people talking about their communities, and not from incumbent lawmakers who want to keep a safe seat for themselves.
Florida – Florida Elections Commission Gearing Up for Looming Challenges
Yahoo News – John Haughey (The Center Square) | Published: 8/24/2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed three members to the Florida Elections Commission (FEC), including a chairperson, meaning the watchdog now has the required quorum and can meet for the first time since May. The FEC is managing the defense of state election laws, including Florida’s decision not to appeal an injunction preventing Senate Bill 1890 from being enacted. It is also dealing with the challenge to Florida’s 2019 felon voting law now before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Florida – No-Party Candidate in Miami Election Fraud Case Takes Plea Deal, Apologizes to Voters
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/24/2021
An auto parts salesperson and acquaintance of a former state lawmaker accused of running a vote-siphoning scheme in a 2020 Florida Senate race pleaded guilty to charges he accepted illegal donations and lied on sworn campaign documents, among other things. Alexis Rodriguez was recruited to run as a no-party candidate in the key Senate race by former state Sen. Frank Artiles. The point of Rodriguez’s candidacy, investigators said, was to “confuse voters and siphon votes from the incumbent.” Sen. Ileana Garcia won the election by 32 votes. Rodriguez, who shares a surname with the incumbent Democrat, received more than 6,000 votes.
Georgia – Former NFL Player Herschel Walker, Supported by Trump, Jumps into the Georgia Senate Race
Santa Fe New Mexican – Maryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Former football star Herschel Walker filed paperwork to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, challenging Raphael Warnock with the backing of former President Trump. After former U.S. Sen. David Perdue said he would not run again, Walker would be the most recognized candidate in the Republican field.
Georgia – How the Apple Lobbying Machine Took on Georgia, and Won
MSN – Emily Birnbaum (Politico) | Published: 8/20/2021
Apple’s aggressive lobbying efforts in Georgia highlight a pattern that has played out with little national attention across the country this year: state lawmakers introduce bills that would force Apple and Google to give up some control over their mobile phone app stores. Then Apple exerts pressure on lawmakers with promises of economic investment or threats to pull its money, and the legislation stalls. Local lawmakers have struggled to brush aside Apple’s lobbying firepower as the company hires key state lobbyists and focuses on defeating legislation that threatens the company’s bottom line.
Idaho – Idaho Supreme Court Overturns Tougher Ballot Initiative Law
MSN – Rebecca Boone (Associated Press) | Published: 8/23/2021
The Idaho Supreme Court struck down a new law designed to make it harder for voters to get initiatives on the ballot, saying the legislation was so restrictive it violated a fundamental right under the state’s constitution. Opponents of the law said it made Idaho’s initiative process the toughest in the nation, rendering such efforts virtually impossible to achieve. But supporters said the law would protect people with less popular political opinions from being overrun by the majority.
Illinois – ComEd Scheme to Influence Madigan Was Not Legal Lobbying – It Was Bribery, Prosecutors Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/24/2021
An alleged scheme to lavish benefits on longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in exchange for his influence on Commonwealth Edison legislation in Springfield clearly meets the criteria of the bribery statute even if there was no explicit agreement between the parties, federal prosecutors argued in a motion. Lawyers for Michael McClain, Anne Pramaggiore, John Hooker, and Jay Doherty asked a District Court judge to dismiss several of the key elements of the case against them, arguing there was no quid pro quo agreement and jobs, contracts, and other payments to chosen Madigan political operatives constituted legal lobbying.
Illinois – Cryptocurrency Expands into Illinois Politics as Candidate Accepts Bitcoin Donations
Bloomington Pantagraph – John Kielman (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/25/2021
Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim, who is running for reelection next year, became the first candidate in Illinois to accept digital currency when a supporter gave her a three-dollar donation in Litecoin, with the promise of more to come later. It is a new and potentially lucrative fundraising technique – Dogecoin, one form of crypto Kim accepts, has seen its value increase 100-fold over the past year – and Kim said it is a way to connect with tech-savvy people who might be new to political donations.
Maine – PAC Opposing Powerline Corridor is Fined $2,500 for Late Filing
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 8/23/2021
A PAC bankrolled by two Texas energy companies was fined $2,500 by the Maine ethics commission for violating state campaign finance law. The commission voted unanimously to impose the penalty against Mainers for Local Power after it failed to notify one of its major contributors, the energy company Calpine, that it had donated more than $100,000 to the PAC and was required to file a major donor report with the ethics panel.
Maryland – Error-Riddled Ethics Reports on School Board Create Political Firestorm in Prince George’s County
MSN – Rachel Chason and Donna St. George (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Ethics reports accuse a majority of the elected school board members in Prince George’s County of a variety of offenses, including steering contracts, doing political favors, and engaging in a quid pro quo with a labor union. The allegations are being levied against a more progressive bloc that has frequently clashed with the county’s political establishment, setting off a political battle in the suburb of Washington, D.C. The back-and-forth is the latest, and most contentious, episode in months of chaos that began in February.
Michigan – FBI Raids Detroit’s City Hall, Council Members’ Homes as It Focuses on Towing Operations
Detroit News – Robert Snell, Sarah Rahal, and George Hunter | Published: 8/25/2021
A widening public corruption investigation emerged as FBI agents raided Detroit City Hall and the homes of city council members Janeé Ayers and Scott Benson, the latest development in a scandal that has led to charges against Councilperson André Spivey. The full scope of the investigation was unclear, but FBI agents were focused on municipal towing operations and accusations city officials received bribes, according to sources. Agents also searched the homes of several council employees, including Ricardo Silva and Carol Banks, chiefs of staff for Ayers and Benson, respectively.
Michigan – Federal Judge in Michigan Orders Pro-Trump Lawyers Disciplined Over Lawsuit Seeking to Overturn 2020 Election
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2021
A judge sanctioned Sidney Powell and other lawyers who sued in Michigan to overturn President Biden’s election victory. U.S. District Court Judge Parker said the lawyers made assertions in court that were not backed by evidence and failed to perform the due diligence required by legal rules before alleging mass fraud in the state’s vote. She referred the group to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, as well as disciplinary committees in the states where each attorney is licensed, which could initiate proceedings that could result in the lawyers being disbarred.
Michigan – Michigan Attorney General Nessel Won’t Charge State GOP Chair Ron Weiser
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 8/23/2021
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel declined to pursue criminal action against state Republican Party Chairperson Ron Weiser related to payments Weiser allegedly made to a former GOP secretary of state candidate to drop out of the race in 2018. Nessel said a conciliation agreement between the secretary of state’s office and the Michigan GOP barred further criminal litigation under the state’s campaign finance law and Weiser, as chairperson, is not a public officer as defined by the law, so other criminal statutes “simply do not apply.”
Minnesota – Minnesota GOP ‘in Ruins’ After Shocking Scandal
Yahoo News – David Siders and Paul Zemko (Politico) | Published: 8/21/2021
The resignation of the Minnesota Republican Party’s embattled chairperson, Jennifer Carnahan, marked a new low for a state party in decline. The proximate cause of Carnahan’s departure was a firestorm that engulfed the party in recent days, after a GOP donor she was close to was indicted on federal sex-trafficking charges. Carnahan, the wife of U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, was accused by party officials and former staffers of running a toxic, retaliatory workplace, mismanaging party finances, and, through the use of non-disclosure agreements, squashing transparency.
New York – As JCOPE Eyes Cuomo, Will His Appointees Remain?
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/30/2021
Though Andrew Cuomo has left the governor’s office, his legal troubles are far from over. He faces criminal investigations into possible inappropriate touching of women, a state attorney general probe into his $5.1 million book deal, a federal probe into the suppression of nursing home death data, and a forthcoming Assembly report on those matters and more. An entity that has been generally pliant to Cuomo since its creation in 2011, the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics, may be more prone to taking action now, especially since the commission itself now faces greater threat of being eliminated by critics, who say it has been ineffectual.
New York – Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Daughter-in-Law Is Top Lobbyist at Pharma Firm That Has Sought to Influence NY Lawmakers
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 8/24/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s daughter-in-law is a top lobbyist at a pharmaceutical firm that has been trying to influence state and federal lawmakers. Christina Hochul is director of federal policy at Biogen. A Biogen spokesperson said Christina Hochul does not lobby at the New York state level and will not do so. Biogen did not rule out the company itself engaging with New York lawmakers while Kathy Hochul is governor.
New York – JCOPE’s Opaque New Transparency Policy
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/24/2021
Gov. Kathy Hochul has called for a complete overhaul of New York’s ethics oversight system. And as the state’s much-maligned current ethics watchdog faces the possibility of dissolution, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) recently announced a reform: a new policy that in principle could make its work less secretive. But in practice, the policy so far has been aimed at bolstering the reputation of the JCOPE itself, with information released or withheld based on that as opposed to overall transparency.
New York – Leaders of the ‘Time’s Up’ Anti-Harassment Group Worked Closely with Cuomo Aide After First Accusation Against Him Surfaced
MSN – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2021
The leaders of Time’s Up, the advocacy group founded by political insiders in Washington and Hollywood to fight workplace sexual misconduct, decided against issuing a statement in support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first harassment accuser in December after consulting with the governor’s top aide, according to interviews and records. Text messages between five senior Time’s Up advisers revealed a far more extensive behind-the-scenes effort to work with Cuomo’s office amid the sexual harassment charges than the group has previously acknowledged.
North Carolina – Cooper Signs Bill Allowing Officials to Benefit More from Public Contracts
Yahoo News – Nyamekye Daniel (The Center Square) | Published: 8/24/2021
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill that allows public officials to benefit more from public contracts. House Bill 366 raises the limit on the conflict-of-interest exemption for government officials and government employees in certain instances and changes regulations related to agriculture, energy, environment, natural resources, construction, and insurance.
North Carolina – Court Rules North Carolina Must Allow Former Felons to Vote
MSN – Paulina Villegas (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
A panel of the state Superior Court ordered the restoration of voting rights for thousands of people with a felony conviction in what advocates call the largest expansion of voting rights in decades in North Carolina. The ruling could make North Carolina the only state in the South to automatically restore voting rights to people after they leave prison. Last year, the same judges had ruled the law’s requirement that felons must first pay monetary obligation such as fines was unenforceable because voting would be bound to financial ability.
North Carolina – Restrictions on NC Nonprofit Donor Disclosures OK’d by House
WRAL – Associated Press | Published: 8/19/2021
A bill described by supporters as one that prevents snooping into citizens’ contributions to North Carolina charities neared final legislative approval following an affirmative state House vote. A version cleared the Senate three months ago. The bill says the names of donors to North Carolina-based nonprofits cannot be disclosed publicly by the group without a donor’s written permission. It also states a donor’s identifying information is not a public record when held by a state or local government agency. A government worker who uses or discloses it could be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Discloses 2021 Dark Money Spending; Deal Doesn’t Require Posting Past Donations
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 8/20/2021
The utility at the center of a $60 million bribery scheme in Ohio dramatically decreased the funds it provides to “dark money” groups to influence public policy, according to a filing required by a deal with federal prosecutors that allowed FirstEnergy to avoid a criminal case. FirstEnergy paid $2.2 million to nonprofits and groups benefitting public officials during the first half of 2021. That is considerably below the approximately $60 million the company paid between 2017 and 2020 to “dark money” groups to fund a bailout of two nuclear power plants.
Oregon – Portland Police Stand by as Proud Boys and Far-Right Militias Flash Guns and Brawl with Antifa Counterprotesters
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2021
A large crowd of more than 100 far-right activists, including Proud Boys and armed militia members, descended on Portland, Oregon, staging a “Back the Blue” rally in front of the Justice Center that houses the downtown police precinct. Hundreds of Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters gathered to oppose the far-right crowd. The two groups sparred for more than two hours, as people exchanged blows, fired paintballs at each other, and blasted chemicals indiscriminately into the crowd. People lobbed fireworks back and forth.
Pennsylvania – In Latest Bow to Trump, GOP Lawmakers in Pennsylvania Plan to Launch Hearings on 2020 Vote
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania plan to formally launch hearings as part of an investigation into the 2020 vote in the state, the latest GOP-backed effort to revisit an election that former President Trump has falsely claimed was fraudulent. State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman said lawmakers are pursuing a “full forensic investigation” of the election that will aim to examine ballots and voter rolls. It is the latest sign of how Republican leaders in key battleground states are bowing to pressure from Trump and his acolytes to investigate baseless allegations that voting irregularities tainted the November election.
Texas – Dallas Council Member Violated Ethics Code for Saying Woman Sounded ‘Foolish’ on Facebook
Dallas Morning News – Lauren Girgis | Published: 8/20/2021
The Ethics Advisory Commission found Dallas City Councilperson Adam Bazaldua in violation of the ethics code for Facebook comments where he wrote that a constituent sounded “foolish.” The commission found Bazaldua violated a section of the code stating that city officials shall not make comments or take actions that are “abusive,” “derogatory,” “rude,” or make “personal attacks upon the character, integrity, or motives of others.”
Texas – Texas Republicans Renew Effort to Advance Voting Bill as Democrats Regroup
MSN – Jane Timm (NBC News) | Published: 8/23/2021
The Texas House could pass voting restrictions soon after Democrats’ efforts to stave off the Republican-backed changes were stymied by three Democrats who broke ranks with much of the rest of their caucus and returned to work at the Capitol. Their return restored a quorum for the first time since more than 50 House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C. The coordinated escape from Austin left Texas Republicans furious, creating wanted posters and threatening to have missing members arrested.
Virginia – Ex-Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe Found Guilty on All Public Corruption Charges
WAVY – Brian Reese, Jason Marks, and Sarah Fearing | Published: 8/24/2021
Former Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe was found guilty on all 11 counts in a federal bribery trial. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count. McCabe was accused of taking bribes from two Norfolk jail vendors and the companies’ chief executive officers. McCabe had argued the gifts and campaign donations, which happened from 1994 to 2016, were just gestures between good friends.
Virginia – Virginia, an ‘Outlier’ on Campaign Finance Reform, Considers New Restrictions
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Andrew Cain (Richmond Times-Dispatch) | Published: 8/24/2021
The Virginia Legislature has tasked the Joint Subcommittee to Study Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform with examining the costs of campaigning in the state, the effectiveness of the present disclosure laws and their enforcement, the constitutional options available to regulate campaign finances, and “the desirability” of revisions such as implementing contribution limits. In submitting a report by November 1, the panel could recommend proposed changes for the new governor and Legislature to review during the 60-day session that begins in January.
Washington – Mayor’s Office Knew for Months Durkan’s Phone Setting Caused Texts to Vanish, Emails Show
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb, Daniel Beekman, and Jim Brunner | Published: 8/20/2021
When the public learned in May that 10 months of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s text messages were missing, her office initially attributed the loss to an “unknown technology issue” with one of three phones she used during the period in question. But officials already had known for months why the texts were gone and when they disappeared, internal emails appear to show. City Attorney Pete Holmes says the initial explanation from Durkan’s office was misleading.
Wisconsin – Two More Redistricting Lawsuits Have Been Filed in Wisconsin as Conservatives and Liberals Mount a Legal Battle Over Election Maps
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 8/23/2021
Voters filed two redistricting lawsuits as conservatives and liberals fight over whether state or federal judges should be the ones to decide how to draw Wisconsin’s congressional and legislative districts. Voters represented by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed one of the lawsuits before the state Supreme Court. Hours later, three voting rights groups brought their own case in federal court in Madison. Republicans who control the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are not expected to reach a deal on the maps, which will leave it to the courts to decide where to put the lines.
August 13, 2021 •
National/Federal DeJoy Maintains Financial Ties to Former Company as USPS Awards It New $120 Million Contract MSN – Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 8/6/2021 The U.S. Postal Service will pay $120 million over the next five years to a major […]
DeJoy Maintains Financial Ties to Former Company as USPS Awards It New $120 Million Contract
MSN – Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 8/6/2021
The U.S. Postal Service will pay $120 million over the next five years to a major logistics contractor that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy previously helped lead and with which his family maintains financial ties. The new contract will deepen the Postal Service’s relationship with XPO Logistics, where DeJoy served as supply chain chief executive after the company purchased New Breed Logistics, the trucking firm he owned for more than 30 years. Since he became postmaster general, DeJoy has divested between $65.4 million and $155.3 million worth of XPO shares. But DeJoy’s family businesses continue to lease four North Carolina office buildings to XPO.
Dominion Lodges Suits Against OAN, Newsmax, Ex-Overstock CEO
MSN – Nick Niedzwiadek (Politico) | Published: 8/10/2021
Dominion Voting Systems opened another front in its battle against right-wing attacks on the integrity of its technology, filing lawsuits against two conservative media outlets and former Overstock.com Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne. Dominion accused Byrne, Newsmax, and One America News Network of making defamatory claims against the company and spreading baseless allegations that its machines were used to rig the election for Joe Biden. Dominion alleges the companies went outside of protected First Amendment activities by giving a platform to false claims about the company and showing little concern for the truth.
Dominion’s Lawsuits Against Trump Allies Can Move Forward After Judge Rejects Arguments
MSN – Lateshia Beachum and Maria Luisa Paul (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
A federal judge denied requests by former President Trump’s allies to throw out more than $3 billion in defamation lawsuits over false claims that a voting machine company’s technology was used to rig the 2020 election. The ruling allows lawsuits by Dominion Voting Systems against former Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudolph Giuliani, as well as MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, to move forward. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said Powell and Lindell made their claims “knowing that they were false or with reckless disregard for the truth.”
Frustration and Persistence for Activists on the 56th Anniversary of the Voting Rights
MSN – Vanessa Williams (Washington Post) | Published: 8/6/2021
The 1965 Voting Rights Act is considered the most significant achievement of the civil rights movement because it removed Jim Crow-era laws that blocked the vast majority of Black people from voting, especially in the South. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013, and another this year, weakened the landmark law, while Republican-controlled Legislatures passed new voting restrictions advocates say target people of color, as well as young and working-class people. Activists are exasperated that members of Congress and President Biden have not been able to push through federal legislation that would supersede the voting laws moving through state Legislatures across the country.
GOP Congressman Suing Pelosi Over Mask Mandate Contracts Coronavirus
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 8/5/2021
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, one of three Republican members of Congress who filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the chamber’s mask mandate, tested positive for the coronavirus. Pelosi kept in place the mask mandate after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance to say fully vaccinated people most likely did not have to wear masks, sparking a backlash among House Republicans, who accused Pelosi of wanting simply to “control” the chamber.
House Democrats Granted Limited Access to Trump Financial Records
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
House Democrats investigating former President Trump can have access to his personal financial records from 2017 and 2018, a federal judge ruled, as well as information related to his lease of a building near the White House. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that courts must take separation of powers concerns into account when members of Congress want personal information from the president. Because of Congress’s role in overseeing the president’s foreign business interests, release of the records from 2017 and 2018 is justified, said U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta.
Judge Suggests Feds Are Too Lenient Toward Jan. 6 Defendants
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 8/9/2021
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell suggested federal prosecutors were being too lenient in their handling of cases stemming from the storming of the Capitol as lawmakers were convening on January 6 to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race. Howell raised questions about why some defendants were being permitted to resolve their criminal cases by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and why the amount of money prosecutors are seeking to recover through those plea deals was based on a relatively paltry estimate of about $1.5 million in damages caused by the rioters.
Rand Paul Discloses 16 Months Late That His Wife Bought Stock in Company Behind Covid Treatment
Seattle Times – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul revealed his wife bought stock in Gilead Sciences, which makes an antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19, in February 2020, before it was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The disclosure came 16 months after the 45-day reporting deadline set forth in the Stock Act, which is designed to combat insider trading. The investment, especially the delayed reporting of it, alarmed experts in corporate and securities law, who said it raised questions about whether Paul’s family profited from nonpublic information about the looming health emergency and plans by the U.S. government to combat it.
Republicans Risk Becoming Face of Delta Surge as Key GOP Governors Oppose Anti-Covid Measures
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
Three governors frequently mentioned as potential presidential candidates in 2024 – Greg Abbott in Texas, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem – are at the vanguard of Republican resistance to public-health mandates aimed at stemming the tide of the delta variant, which has caused a new spike in coronavirus cases. They and other national and local GOP officials cast their opposition to such measures as an effort to protect personal choice. But some fear the party is on track to make itself the face of the delta variant, endangering fellow Americans while also risking political damage in the long term.
Secret IRS Files Reveal How Much the Ultrawealthy Gained by Shaping Trump’s ‘Big, Beautiful Tax Cut’
Talking Points Memo – Justin Elliot and Robert Faturechi (ProPublica) | Published: 8/11/2021
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the biggest rewrite of the tax code in decades. Crafted largely in secret by a handful of Trump administration officials and members of Congress, the bill was rushed through the legislative process. As draft language of the bill made its way through Congress, lawmakers friendly to billionaires and their lobbyists were able to stretch the bill to accommodate a variety of special groups. In the first year after Trump signed the bill, just 82 ultrawealthy households collectively walked away with more than $1 billion in total tax savings.
Watchdog Sues FEC for Closing Investigation into Rick Scott, Allied Super PAC
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 8/9/2021
A watchdog group sued the FEC for dismissing a complaint alleging U.S. Sen. Rick Scott unlawfully used a super PAC to support his 2018 Senate run. The Campaign Legal Center challenged the decision by Republican commissioners to close an investigation into Scott against the recommendation of the agency’s nonpartisan lawyers. End Citizens United had alleged Scott and the New Republican PAC, a group he formerly chaired, violated election laws prohibiting coordination between candidates and outside groups.
‘We Are in Harm’s Way’: Election officials fear for their personal safety amid torrent of false claims about voting
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Rosalind Helderman, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
Nine months after the 2020 election, local officials across the country are coping with an ongoing barrage of criticism and personal attacks that many fear could lead to an exodus of veteran election administrators before the next presidential race. As former President Trump continues to promote the false notion that the 2020 White House race was tainted by fraud, there is mounting evidence his attacks are curdling the faith many Americans once had in their elections and taking a deep toll on the public servants who work to protect the vote.
What Rosen Told U.S. Senators: Trump applied ‘persistent’ pressure to get Justice to discredit election
MSN – Ann Marimow and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/12/2021
Former President Trump’s last attorney general told U.S. senators his boss was “persistent” in trying to pressure the Justice Department to discredit the results of the 2020 election. In closed-door testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeffrey Rosen said he had to “persuade the president not to pursue a different path” at a high-stakes January meeting in which Trump considered ousting Rosen as the nation’s most powerful law enforcement officer. The testimony is part of a trough of information that congressional investigators are assembling about Trump’s efforts to reverse his defeat and use the Justice Department to stay in office.
Canada – Lobbyist Jack Stirling Sent to Penalty Box for a Month in the Wake of Jan Harder Integrity Case
Ottawa Citizen – Jon Willing | Published: 8/5/2021
Jack Stirling and his company, The Stirling Group, was banned from lobbying in Ottawa for 30 days. Stirling acknowledged he provided free services to a council member between November 2019 and February 2020, while he was registered as a lobbyist at City Hall. At the time, he had three active lobbying files with the city. Under the lobbyist code of conduct, a lobbyist with active files cannot offer gifts or benefits to council members or their staff.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – State Fines Anchorage Mayor Bronson $33,500 for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Emily GoodyKoontz (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 8/9/2021
The Alaska Public Offices Commission fined the campaign of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson a total of $33,500 for failing to report financial contributions to the campaign on time. State rules dictate that during the nine days before an election, candidates must disclose contributions that are more than $250 in a 24-hour report. The fine is in addition to a $26,500 penalty recommended by APOC staff against Bronson in July for multiple violations.
Arizona – Arizona State Sen. Tony Navarrete Resigns Seat After Arrest in Child Sex Abuse Case
MSN – Mary Joe Pitzl (Arizona Republic) | Published: 8/10/2021
After days of pleas for him to step down in the wake of an arrest on allegations of child sexual abuse, Tony Navarrete resigned his Arizona Senate seat but issued a separate statement vowing to prove his innocence. His employer, the faith-based Neighborhood Ministries, put Navarrete on leave and said he will be terminated. The arrest came after a 16-year-old boy went to Phoenix police with allegations of abuse dating from 2019. The probable cause statement also alleged Navarrete attempted sexual conduct with a 13-year-old boy.
Arizona – Business Consultants Offer to Buy Ghostwritten Op-Eds Pressuring Arizona Senators
Radiofree.org – Lee Fang (The Intercept) | Published: 8/10/2021
Public relations experts working for a mysterious client have been preparing ghostwritten opinion columns set to run in Arizona newspapers. The columns warn U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema to oppose civil litigation reform legislation designed to prevent Americans from being forced into binding arbitration. If enacted, the legislation would ensure consumers’ and employees’ rights to pursue civil litigation against corporations. But the consultants could not find local residents to author the columns. Instead, they are offering as much as $2,000 to help identify “normal, everyday” people willing to sign their names to pre-written arguments.
California – Hockey Arena’s Developers Donated $60,000 to Perez After Project Won County Approval
MSN – Tom Coulter (Palm Springs Desert Sun) | Published: 8/9/2021
A month after Riverside County supervisors approved a $250 million project to build a hockey arena, the cohort spearheading the plans gave the maximum campaign contribution to Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, whose district encompasses the project. Perez was the only supervisor on the five-member board to receive donations from the developers in recent months. Other groups with ties to the arena project also have donated to Perez.
California – Water Authority’s Confidential Consultant Contracts Surprised Board
Voice of San Diego – MacKenzie Elmer | Published: 8/4/2021
The San Diego County Water Authority is building a team of consultants but will not explain the work they are doing. The authority spent $167,000 on two consultant contracts since July 2019 without disclosing them to the board, which is composed of representatives from the region’s 24 water agencies. It also will not say what a third contract that was approved by the board, worth more than $330,000, was for. A rule allows the general manager to execute contracts below $150,000 without board approval. One board member argued a consultant was lobbying against her water district’s interests.
Florida – Dark Money Behind Florida ‘Ghost’ Candidates Has Ties to Alabama Political Players, Records Suggest
MSN – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 8/5/2021
The source of more than $500,000 spent last year promoting “ghost] candidates in key state Senate races remained a mystery even as the scandal rocked Florida politics, but newly public records suggest the money is tied to political players in Alabama. The money paid for nearly identical mailers apparently tailored to persuade Democratic-leaning voters to support the independent candidates in each of the three races, all of which were ultimately won by Republicans. Authorities in Miami-Dade County have charged two people in connection with one of those races.
Florida – DeSantis Donor Got $50 Million in Emergency Pandemic Work
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 8/5/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration awarded nearly $50 million in no-bid Covid-related work to a controversial company that lobbied his administration for the contracts, then gave the governor a $100,000 political contribution. Nomi Health, Inc. has received $46 million under two separate contracts it signed with the state for Covid-19 testing and vaccine work between February and June. The spending was approved under a DeSantis-signed pandemic executive order, which gave the administration broad legal authority to spend state funds without legislative approval or going through a normal procurement process.
Florida – Florida Won’t Defend Ballot Measure Contribution Cap
The Center Square – John Haughey | Published: 8/10/2021
Florida will not appeal a federal judge’s ruling striking down a law that caps early campaign donations to citizens’ initiatives committees sponsoring constitutional amendments at $3,000. The judge’s order prohibits the Florida Elections Commission from enforcing the contribution limit. U.S. District Court Judge Allen Winsor determined Florida has “no significant interest” in limiting political speech in the form of donations to political committees engaged in petition drives to get proposed constitutional amendments before voters.
Florida – Will Canady the Candidate Pose Ethical Dilemma for Canady the Florida Chief Justice?
Yahoo News – Dara Kam (News Service of Florida) | Published: 8/11/2021
Jennifer Canady’s election to the House could be a history making victory as she would be the first spouse of a sitting Florida Supreme Court justice to serve in the state Legislature in modern history. But the Canady union could also prove thorny for Chief Justice Charles Canady if his wife wins, according to legal experts. The family relationship between a sitting Florida judge or Supreme Court justice and a state legislator “may very well raise serious issues of judicial conduct and disqualification under the Florida code of judicial conduct,” University of Miami law professor Anthony Alfieri said.
Louisiana – New Orleans Ethics Review Board Recommends Barring City Council Campaign Donations from Entergy, Cox and Other Utilities
The Lens – Michael Isaac Stein | Published: 8/11/2021
The New Orleans Ethics Review Board voted to recommend a revision to the ethics code that would bar city council members and candidates from accepting political contributions from city-regulated utility firms like Entergy New Orleans or Cox Communications, along with any vendor working on a contract awarded by the council or the Sewerage and Water Board. The city council would need to approve the change. There are still some big legal questions about whether the council members have the authority to wade into campaign finance restrictions or apply government ethics rules to candidates who are not yet government officials.
Maine – Bangor Board of Ethics Alters Guidelines on Political Speech from Councilors
Bangor Daily News – David Marino Jr. | Published: 8/11/2021
The Bangor Board of Ethics approved a proposed law on political speech by city officials. The new code is less ambiguous than the last, with the framers aiming to balance the First Amendment rights of Bangor officials with language that will maintain the city’s neutrality and not align it with viewpoints or organizations it does not officially support. Bangor is one of the few population centers in Maine with an explicit ban on certain political speech from officials.
Maine – Ethics Panel Continues Pursuit of Financial Records from Unnamed Consultants
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 8/8/2021
The Maine ethics commission is continuing its efforts to shield the identity of two political consulting firms involved in the $1 billion Central Maine Power transmission corridor project even as it prepares to take legal action against the firms. The commission’s lawyer, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Bolton, is expected to file a lawsuit soon to enforce a subpoena for records from the firms, which appear to be based in California and Virginia. But the commission will give the firms advance notice so they can file simultaneous motions asking the court to seal the case from public view while a judge decides whether to enforce the subpoenas.
Mississippi – City Sanctioned for Slow Response to Public Records Request
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 8/9/2021
The Mississippi Ethics Commission ordered the city of Jackson to pay more than $170,000 in legal fees for violating state law by taking more than a year to provide public records a television station requested. It is the largest amount the commission has ever ordered a public entity to pay and one of a few times the agency has required payment of legal fees. The decision comes more than two years after WLBT made seven public-records requests to the Jackson Police Department for emails, memos, and crime statistics.
New Mexico – Complaint Against Keller Tossed
MSN – Olivier Uyttebrouck and Jessica Dyer (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 8/9/2021
Albuquerque City Clerk Ethan Watson tossed an election ethics complaint against himself and Mayor Tim Keller, saying it fails to meet standards requiring a detailed description of the allegations and how they violated specific rules. The complaint alleges Keller violated rules when pursuing over $600,000 in public campaign financing. It also identifies the city clerk, saying he failed to follow his own published rules when he approved Keller’s qualifying contributions, among other charges.
New Mexico – Former County Official Convicted of Procurement Violation
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 8/5/2021
A former Rio Arriba County commissioner faces up to 18 months in prison when he is sentenced on a conviction for violating New Mexico’s procurement code. A judge ruled ex-Commissioner Barney Trujillo violated the law when he failed to disclose contributions that he made to an Española school board member’s campaign.
New York – Cuomo Has $18 Million in Campaign Cash. What Can He Do with It?
New York Times – J. David Goodman | Published: 8/12/2021
Even after his resignation takes effect in less than two weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will still control $18 million campaign account amassed in apparent preparation for a run at a fourth term next year. But his huge stock of campaign money, the most money retained by a departing New York politician in recent memory, affords him a range of possibilities, including the chance to attempt an eventual comeback or to play a role in the state’s political life by donating to other candidates.
New York – New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Announces Resignation in Effort to Head Off Likely Impeachment in Wake of Devastating Report on His Conduct
MSN – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/10/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation after state Attorney General Letitia James released the results of an investigation that found he sexually harassed at least 11 women. The governor still faces the possibility of criminal charges, with prosecutors around the state continuing to investigate him. Cuomo repeatedly denied improperly touching women, even as accusations mounted, and dismissed the harassment claims as a misinterpretation of his affectionate political style. Impeachment proceedings were ongoing and Cuomo advisers said privately they expected he would be removed from office.
New York – Other Politicians’ Scandals Propelled Career of NY’s Next Governor, Ex-Rep. Kathy Hochul
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 8/10/2021
New York’s next governor, Kathy Hochul, has had a political career defined by scandal by both her political adversaries and allies. She will be the state’s first female governor and the first from Buffalo since Grover Cleveland in 1882. Hochu will take office after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation. A state attorney general’s report fond allegations of sexual harassment made against Cuomo credible.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Bribery Scandal Raises Questions About Vetting at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/8/2021
FirstEnergy admitted money paid to Sam Randazzo before he became chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) was a bribe given in exchange for favorable treatment. In ethics forms Randazzo filed shortly after Gov. Mike DeWine hired him, he disclosed making money consulting through two companies he owned but did not list the amounts. State officials must disclose the amount only if it came from an entity looking to do business with the agency where they work. Randazzo did not mention FirstEnergy was a client. DeWine said he did not know FirstEnergy had paid Randazzo more than $20 million over the past decade.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission to Review Campaign Finance Complaint Against Rep. Wiggam, Others
MSN – Bryce Buyakie (Times Record) | Published: 8/6/2021
A complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission alleges three state lawmakers received free campaign management software linked to the Republican National Committee worth a total of $9,000. The compliant says the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization that writes legislation, gave Reps. Scott Wiggam and Bill Seitz, along with Sen. Robert McColley, free access to the software for 2020 election campaign. ALEC may have provided it to some of the group’s other 2,000 state legislative members across the country, totaling around $6 million in campaign contributions, the complaint alleges.
Oregon – Report Finds Small-Dollar Donors in Portland Achieved New Influence in Local Elections
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 8/10/2021
Rules dictate that after every election, an oversight group for the Open and Accountable Elections program must produce a report evaluating how Portland’s system of public campaign financing panned out. Their report found that during its debut election cycle, the program fundamentally changed the dynamics of fundraising in Portland: small-dollar donors were now the main focus of most campaigns.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania’s Lawmaker Reimbursement Rules Are ‘Ripe for Abuse’
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Sam Janesch, Mike Wereschagin, and Brad Bumsted (The Caucus) | Published: 8/6/2021
Despite warnings from good-government advocates and even some inside the Capitol that Pennsylvania’s two state-run systems for reimbursing lawmakers are ripe for abuse, Republican leadership has failed to move reforms. Unlike most private and public sector employers, state lawmakers often are not required to provide any proof when seeking reimbursements from taxpayer-funded accounts. On the campaign side, the public cannot see thousands of dollars of election expenses lumped together under vague categories and charged to credit cards.
Tennessee – Commission Overrides Harris Veto of County Ethics Advisory Panel
Daily Memphian – Bill Dries | Published: 8/9/2021
Shelby County commissioners overrode County Mayor Lee Harris’s veto of a new ethics advisory panel to be appointed by the commission. Commissioner Amber Mills proposed the advisory group, saying it would advise the commission on anyone the mayor appoints to the county’s ethics panel as well as any proposed amendments to the ethics ordinance.
Texas – Texas GOP Hits New Roadblocks in Push for Voting Restrictions
MSN – Eva Ruth Moravec and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
Texas Republicans hit fresh roadblocks in their effort to enact new voting restrictions, facing a Democratic filibuster in the state Senate and signs that legal maneuvering could protect House quorum breakers from arrest. In the House, which remained without a quorum, deputies for the sergeant-at-arms apparently failed to find any absent Democrats as they delivered civil arrest warrants to their offices. The unexpected developments threw fresh uncertainty into a months-long standoff that has crystallized the national debate over voting rights.
Washington – Group That Wants to Provide Legal Help to Eyman Starts Fight with Disclosure Commission
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 8/9/2021
A group that wants to represent anti-tax activist Tim Eyman has sued over how Washington’s campaign finance law might apply to its pro bono legal work. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Eyman for violating campaign finance laws and a judge fined Eyman $2.6 million. The judge found him to be a “continuing political committee,” and he had not properly filed campaign finance reports and put donors’ contributions to personal use. The Institute for Free Speech wants to represent Eyman on appeal, but his designation as a “continuing political committee” raised questions about whether the institute would be subject to campaign finance laws if they represented him for free.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin GOP Lawmaker Takes First Step Toward Launching Arizona-Style Election Review
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 8/6/2021
State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, chairperson of the Wisconsin Assembly’s elections committee, said she was subpoenaing 2020 election materials including physical ballots and voting machines from two large counties, in an attempt to bring an Arizona-style review of the 2020 election to another state. The subpoenas seek a wide scope of materials, stretching from the physical ballots themselves, to tabulation equipment and “forensic images” of election equipment. It is not yet clear if the subpoenas are valid, however.
August 10, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Maine: “Ethics Panel Continues Pursuit of Financial Records from Unnamed Consultants” by Scott Thistle for Portland Press Herald Ohio: “Ohio Elections Commission to Review Campaign Finance Complaint Against Rep. Wiggam, Others” by Bryce Buyakie (Times Record) for MSN […]
Maine: “Ethics Panel Continues Pursuit of Financial Records from Unnamed Consultants” by Scott Thistle for Portland Press Herald
Ohio: “Ohio Elections Commission to Review Campaign Finance Complaint Against Rep. Wiggam, Others” by Bryce Buyakie (Times Record) for MSN
Washington: “Group That Wants to Provide Legal Help to Eyman Starts Fight with Disclosure Commission” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune
Wisconsin: “Wisconsin GOP Lawmaker Takes First Step Toward Launching Arizona-Style Election Review” by Zach Montellaro (Politico) for Yahoo News
New York: “Melissa DeRosa, Top Aide to Cuomo, Resigns in Wake of State Attorney General’s Report” by Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
Ohio: “FirstEnergy Bribery Scandal Raises Questions About Vetting at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Texas: “Austin Judge Signs Order to Block Arrests of Democrats Who Refuse to Return to Texas Capitol for Special Session” by James Barragán for Texas Tribune
California: “Water Authority’s Confidential Consultant Contracts Surprised Board” by MacKenzie Elmer for Voice of San Diego
August 9, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Dark Money Behind Florida ‘Ghost’ Candidates Has Ties to Alabama Political Players, Records Suggest” by Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) for MSN Elections National: “Frustration and Persistence for Activists on the 56th Anniversary of the […]
Florida: “Dark Money Behind Florida ‘Ghost’ Candidates Has Ties to Alabama Political Players, Records Suggest” by Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) for MSN
National: “Frustration and Persistence for Activists on the 56th Anniversary of the Voting Rights” by Vanessa Williams (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “DeJoy Maintains Financial Ties to Former Company as USPS Awards It New $120 Million Contract” by Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “DeSantis Donor Got $50 Million in Emergency Pandemic Work” by Matt Dixon for Politico
Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania’s Lawmaker Reimbursement Rules Are ‘Ripe for Abuse’” by Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Sam Janesch, Mike Wereschagin, and Brad Bumsted (The Caucus) for Spotlight PA
National: “GOP Congressman Suing Pelosi Over Mask Mandate Contracts Coronavirus” by Amy Wang (Washington Post) for MSN
Canada: “Lobbyist Jack Stirling Sent to Penalty Box for a Month in the Wake of Jan Harder Integrity Case” by Jon Willing for Ottawa Citizen
New Mexico: “Former County Official Convicted of Procurement Violation” by Associated Press for MSN
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 17, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Nebraska: “Donor to Nebraska Anti-Gambling Campaign Will Pay Record-Breaking Late Filing Fee” by Martha Stoddard for Omaha World-Herald Washington: “Google to Pay Washington State $400,000 to Settle Campaign Finance Lawsuit” by David Gutman for Seattle Times Elections National: […]
Nebraska: “Donor to Nebraska Anti-Gambling Campaign Will Pay Record-Breaking Late Filing Fee” by Martha Stoddard for Omaha World-Herald
Washington: “Google to Pay Washington State $400,000 to Settle Campaign Finance Lawsuit” by David Gutman for Seattle Times
National: “‘It Was Exhaustion, It Was Sadness, It Was Fatigue’: America’s mayors call it quits” by Lisa Kashinsky for Politico
National: “Manchin Outlines Demands on Voting Legislation, Creating an Opening for Potential Democratic Compromise” by Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Pittsburgh Poised for History-Making Election of Its First Black Mayor This Fall” by Nick Keppler (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Cuomo’s Inner Circle Raised Money for Aide Who Was Convicted of Bribery” by Brian Rosenthal and J. David Goodman for New York Times
Ohio: “Larry Householder Out: Ohio House votes to remove former speaker” by Jessie Balmert, Laura Bischoff, and Anna Staver (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Canada: “Lobbyists Slipping Through Cracks of Lobbying Act: Commissioner” by Aiden Chamandy for iPolitics
North Dakota: “North Dakota Paid Its Top Investment Management Firm Millions Without Competitive Bidding Process” by Patrick Springer for The Forum
Colorado: “Colorado Supreme Court Beats Back State Politicians’ Redistricting Efforts” by Evan Wyloge for Denver Gazette
June 16, 2021 •
Campaign Finance California: “San Diego Website Meltdown Preceded by Vendor Spat, Email Shows” by Matt Potter for San Diego Reader Elections National: “G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We don’t have a voice anymore’” by Maggie Astor for New York Times […]
California: “San Diego Website Meltdown Preceded by Vendor Spat, Email Shows” by Matt Potter for San Diego Reader
National: “G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We don’t have a voice anymore’” by Maggie Astor for New York Times
National: “Emails Show Trump Pressured Justice Dept. Over 2020 Election” by Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long for Associated Press News
National: “Trump’s FDA Commissioner Takes Job at Moderna Backer” by Dan Diamond (Washington Post) for MSN
Alaska: “Records Show Little Email Contact Between Gov. Dunleavy’s Former Aide and Oil Company That Hired Him” by Nathaniel Herz (Alaska Public Media) for KTOO
Connecticut: “Lawyer Says ‘No Quid Pro Quo’ in Provision Struck from Connecticut Marijuana Bill That Favored One Producer” by Mark Pazniokas (Connecticut Mirror) for Hartford Courant
Texas: “Dallas City Corruption Trial Begins for a Local Developer Accused of Bribing Former Councilors” by Kevin Krause (Dallas Morning News) for MSN
Hawaii: “Emails Show HART Leaders Always Wanted to Hire Hanabusa as Consultant” by Marcel Honore and Nick Grube for Honolulu Civil Bea
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 13, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “An Influential PAC Group Is Telling Businesses to Restart Political Donations, Including to GOP Lawmakers Who Voted to Overturn the Election Results” by Grace Dean (Business Insider) for MSN Maine: “Maine Money-in-Politics Overhaul Targets Direct Donations from […]
National: “An Influential PAC Group Is Telling Businesses to Restart Political Donations, Including to GOP Lawmakers Who Voted to Overturn the Election Results” by Grace Dean (Business Insider) for MSN
Maine: “Maine Money-in-Politics Overhaul Targets Direct Donations from Businesses” by Jessica Piper for Bangor Daily News
National: “House Democrats and White House Reach Deal Over Testimony by Ex-Trump Aide” by Charlie Savage for New York Times
Kansas: “Wichita City Council Passes Ethics Policy, Promises Campaign Finance Reform” by Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) for MSN
New York: “Federal Judge Denies NRA Attempt to Declare Bankruptcy in Win for New York State Attorney General” by Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN
Washington: “Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan Had Phone Set to Keep Texts Only 30 Days, Her Office Says” by Lewis Kamb and Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times
National: “Cheney Booted from Republican Leadership Spot” by Melanie Zanona and Olivia Beavers for Politico
Oregon: “Remote Testimony Could Be Here to Stay at the Oregon Capitol” by Chris Lehman (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
South Carolina: “Columbia Mayor Benjamin Registered as Lobbyist for SC’s Largest Medical Provider Prisma” by Steven Fastenau for Charleston Post and Courier
Texas: “Texas House Approves Bill Mandating Sexual Harassment Training for Lobbyists and a Way to Report Complaints, with 2 No Votes” by Madlin Mekelburg (Austin American-Statesman) for MSN
Florida: “Ana Cruz Toured Tampa with Related CEO, but They Didn’t Talk Rome Yard Business, She Says” by Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell (Tampa Bay Times) for MSN
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.
May 6, 2021 •
Campaign Finance California: “Campaign Season Lasts Year-Round in Santa Clara County” by Madelyn Reese for San Jose Spotlight Elections National: “Democrats Tweak Marquee Voting Bill as They Seek Path Out of Senate” by Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics […]
California: “Campaign Season Lasts Year-Round in Santa Clara County” by Madelyn Reese for San Jose Spotlight
National: “Democrats Tweak Marquee Voting Bill as They Seek Path Out of Senate” by Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Facebook’s Oversight Board Upholds Ban on Trump. At Least for Now.” by Elizabeth Dwoskin, Kat Zakrzewski, and Heather Kelly (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Judge Blasts Barr, Justice Dept. for ‘Disingenuous’ Handling of Secret Trump Obstruction Memo” by Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “House Panel Debates Financial Disclosure Bills That Wouldn’t Make Sitting Lawmakers’ Finances Public” by Lauren Gibbons for MLive.com
Ohio: “Cincinnati Issues 1 and 2: Voters back anti-corruption measures for City Hall” by Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Oregon: “Former Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt Arrested in Prostitution Sting” by Chris Lehman for Portland Oregonian
Tennessee: “GOP Lawmaker: Three-Fifths Compromise was to end slavery” by Kimberlee Kruesi for Associated Press News
National: “How Top White House Adviser Anita Dunn Is Dodging Ethics Disclosure” by Lee Fang for The Intercept
New York: “Reformers Push for Independent Watchdog to Tackle Albany Corruption” by Joe Mahoney (CNHI News) for Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Florida: “Tampa Activist Joe Robinson at Center of Rome Yard Controversy” by Charlie Frago (Tampa Bay Times) for MSN
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.