January 15, 2021 •
National/Federal A Siege on the U.S. Capitol, a Strike Against Democracy Worldwide MSN – Anthony Faiola, Shibani Mahtani, and Isabelle Khurshudyan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021 The insurrection at the Capitol is threatening America’s historical role promoting democracy around the world. […]
A Siege on the U.S. Capitol, a Strike Against Democracy Worldwide
MSN – Anthony Faiola, Shibani Mahtani, and Isabelle Khurshudyan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021
The insurrection at the Capitol is threatening America’s historical role promoting democracy around the world. The spectacle of President Trump rallying supporters to march on the Capitol over baseless claims of election fraud as lawmakers certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory has provided a propaganda coup for Washington’s enemies, undermined pro-democracy movements worldwide, and offered a model for would-be autocrats. Four years of Trump had already dimmed America’s democratic bona fides. Now, the international implications of the events in Washington are expected to reverberate far beyond Biden’s inauguration.
As Biden Raises Money for His Virtual Inauguration, Lobbyists Prepare for a Scaled-Down Schmooze-Fest
MSN – Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 1/11/2021
With the coronavirus pandemic raging around the country, President-elect Joe Biden and congressional inauguration planners have closed much of the traditional avenues for access. Instead of receiving the typical 200,000 tickets to share with constituents eager to see Biden take the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress will receive tickets for themselves and one guest only. And K Street lobbyists are scrambling to adjust to the new reality. All around the nation’s capital, just as a new administration and a new Congress set up shop, corporate lobbyists, trade associations, and others in the influence industry have had to abandon the usual tools of their trade.
Backlash to Riot at Capitol Hobbles Trump’s Business as Banks, Partners Flee the Brand
MSN – Josh Dawsey, David Fahrenthold, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2021
The Trump Organization in the past week has lost a bank, an e-commerce platform, and the privilege of hosting the PGA Championship. In the future, the business also could lose its Washington, D.C. hotel. Properties. By refusing to acknowledge he would be returning to private life, President Trump appears to have sabotaged what could have been his best chance at success in that realm – a rebound of the battered Trump brand. Now, through his encouragement of rioters who ransacked the U.S. Capitol, Trump has made his company a pariah and driven away allies who could have brought it revenue and post-politics credibility.
Beyond Impeachment, a Push for Ethics Laws That Do Not Depend on Shame
New York Times – Elizabeth Williamson | Published: 1/11/2021
House Democrats are pressing ahead with an effort to try to ensure President Trump’s record of violating democratic and constitutional norms cannot be repeated. Trump’s term revealed gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. Trump ignored watchdog rulings and constitutional safeguards, pressed to overturn the outcome of an election, and pardoned those who covered for him, all while funneling taxpayer dollars to his family business. Among the changes embraced by House leaders are limits on the president’s pardon powers, mandated release of a president’s tax returns, new enforcement powers for independent agencies and Congress, and firmer prohibitions against financial conflicts-of-interest in the White House.
House Democrats Reintroduce Bill to Reduce Lobbyist Influence
MSN – Alex Gangitano (The Hill) | Published: 1/13/2021
A bill to reduce the influence of lobbyists and to close the so-called “revolving door” was reintroduced in Congress. The Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act was first introduced in 2019. The bill would ban companies from making “golden parachute” payments that reward former employees for joining the government and strengthen recusal requirements to stop senior government officials from acting in ways that benefit former employers or clients, among other provisions.
House Hands Trump a Second Impeachment, This Time with GOP Support
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021
The U.S. House made history by impeaching a president for a second time, indicting President Trump days before he leaves office for inciting a riot with false claims of a stolen election that led to the storming of the Capitol and five deaths. Unlike Trump’s first impeachment, which proceeded with almost no GOP support, this effort attracted 10 Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking party leader in the House. The Senate now appears likely to hold a trial after Trump’s departure, an unprecedented scenario that could end with lawmakers barring him from holding the presidency again.
K Street Adjusts for Democratic Senate
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/7/2021
Even as partisan vitriol grips Washington, D.C., lobbyists say they expect lawmakers to find common ground on additional legislation to mitigate the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures dealing with infrastructure projects as well as potentially on immigration and tax policy. With Democrats in charge of the Senate floor, they will be able to move more quickly on nominations for the incoming Biden administration, allowing potentially more time to consider legislation. Democrats will face pressure from their liberal flank to roll back the filibuster rules for legislation, which currently requires 60 votes to clear the chamber.
Trump Says He Won’t Attend Biden’s Inauguration
Politico – Quint Forgey | Published: 1/8/2021
President Trump announced he will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, shattering another norm of the American presidency on what will be his final day in office. With his decision, Trump is poised to become the first U.S. president in modern political history to not appear for his successor’s swearing-in ceremony, one of the nation’s most prominent public displays of its commitment to a peaceful transfer of power.
Trump’s Nonprofit Inaugural Committee Improperly Paid a $49,000 Bill Incurred by His Company, D.C. Attorney General Alleges
MSN – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2021
President Trump’s private business failed to pay a $49,000 hotel bill incurred during Trump’s 2017 inaugural and then, after the bill went to a collections agency, Trump’s nonprofit inaugural committee agreed to pay the charge instead, according to a new filing from District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, who had already sued Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee, alleging it had wasted donors’ money on an overpriced, barely used ballroom at Trump’s own hotel. Racine added an allegation to that suit. He said the president’s inaugural committee, a tax-exempt charity, improperly paid a bill it did not owe, using nonprofit funds to pay a bill owed by a for-profit business.
Twitter Bans Trump’s Account, Citing Risk of Further Violence
MSN – Nitasha Tiku, Tony Romm, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2021
Twitter banned President Trump from its site, a punishment for his role in inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol, robbing him of the megaphone he used to communicate directly with more than 88 million supporters and critics. Twitter has been Trump’s primary communication tool to push policies, drive news cycles, fire officials, spread falsehoods, savage opponents, and praise allies. Twitter had resisted taking action against Trump for years, arguing a world leader should be able to speak to his or her citizens unfettered. But Trump’s escalating tweets casting doubt on the 2020 election and the riot at the U.S. Capitol his comments helped inspire led the company to reverse course.
U.S. Campaign Finance System Rocked as Major Firms Pause or Halt Political Contributions After Election Results Challenged
Seattle Times – Todd Frankel, Jeff Stein, and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2021
The funding of campaigns is being rocked as some of the nation’s biggest firms such as Facebook, Google, BlackRock, Marriott, and Dow announced plans to halt some or all political contributions as a result of the insurrection at the Capitol, a sign of corporate America’s growing uneasiness with the election doubts and violent attacks inspired by President Trump. Major companies that collectively pour millions of dollars annually into campaigns through employee-funded PACs are registering their worry and anger about the chaos by pledging to reexamine their role in American politics.
Canada – Grace Period for New Lobbyist Registry Ends
Yukon News – Haley Ritchie | Published: 1/14/2021
The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. The new legislation, aimed at increasing government transparency, came into effect on October 15. Lobbyists were then given a 90-day grace period to “learn about the process and to adapt to the new reporting requirements.” That grace period ended January 13.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Downtown Developer Will Pay $1.2 Million in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 1/7/2021
A real estate company whose residential tower is a major part of the federal bribery case against former Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar agreed to pay $1.2 million to resolve its portion of the investigation. Carmel Partners will make the payment as part of a non-prosecution agreement that will spare the company from becoming a defendant in the corruption case. The agreement contained an allegation against Huizar that has not appeared in previous indictments. At one point in 2018, Huizar asked a Carmel executive if he would provide $250,000 in exchange for a reduction in the amount the company paid into a fund for affordable housing.
California – Gun Bribery Probe: Santa Clara County Sheriff acted to obscure use of donor’s Sharks suite, according to testimony
East Bay Times – Robert Salonga | Published: 1/12/2021
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith sought to hide her use of a penthouse suite at a San Jose Sharks game two years ago by having an employee buy cheaper seats in her name to avoid gift-reporting obligations for the suite now targeted by an indictment against her second-in-command. The circumvention was described by management analyst Lara McCabe in her testimony to a grand jury, which would later hand down bribery charges alleging favor-trading for concealed-gun permits involving Undersheriff Rick Sung, a top Apple security executive, a prominent supporter, and a sheriff’s captain who doubled as a close adviser.
California – U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Dispute Over California Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Requirement
Reuters – Lawrence Hurley | Published: 1/8/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge by two conservative groups to a California requirement that tax-exempt charities disclose to the state the identity of their top financial donors. The justices will take up the appeal of a lower court ruling that said California’s attorney general could require the two nonprofit organizations, Americans for Prosperity and the Thomas More Law Center, to furnish him with donor details. The groups argued the demand infringed upon their freedom of speech and association under the First Amendment.
Colorado – Denver Mayor Hancock’s Office Still Exposed to Conflicts of Interest, Auditor Says
Denver Post – Conrad Swanson | Published: 1/12/2021
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration is still at risk of allowing political favoritism and conflicts-of-interest to influence business deals, City Auditor Tim O’Brien said. That is despite warnings and calls for change as far back as 2019, when O’Brien audited Denver’s processes for entering into contracts and found weaknesses that were exacerbated by inadequate documentation to track how the city’s vendors are selected.
Florida – COVID-19 Keeps Lobbyists from Florida Capitol
Tampa Bay Times – Dara Kam | Published: 1/13/2021
As lawmakers gathered in Tallahassee, the scene in the Capitol was a stark departure from the typically convivial initial round of committee meetings in advance of the legislative session. The halls of the Capitol would typically be buzzing during the committee-meeting kickoff, as lobbyists rub elbows with legislators and aides while advocating for issues ranging from medical marijuana to budget items. But the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the 22-story edifice and adjacent buildings into an eerily desolate landscape as lawmakers and their staff, lobbyists, and reporters comply with new restrictions aimed at keeping as few people as possible from roaming inside the Capitol complex.
Florida – Former Broward Schools Administrator Arrested in Grand Jury Corruption Probe
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Scott Travis | Published: 1/13/2021
A former Broward schools administrator has been arrested as part of a statewide grand jury probe, accused of illegally steering a $17 million technology contract to a friend. Tony Hunter, formerly the chief information officer, was charged with bid tampering and unlawful compensation by a public official. The case is related to the district’s $17 million purchase of Recordex Simplicity flat screen devices. A combination big-screen TV and touch-screen computer, the devices are designed to make learning more interactive for students. The school district and the grand jury started reviewing Hunter’s actions after The South Florida Sun Sentinel questioned the deal and Hunter’s ties to the vendor.
Florida – Former Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Charged with Stalking
MSN – Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 1/12/2021
Tallahassee’s first independent ethics officer was arrested on charges of stalking the former city auditor. Julie Meadows-Keefe, who just weeks ago settled a retaliation lawsuit against the city, is accused of cyberstalking Bert Fletcher, with whom she had a romantic relationship. Her arrest comes after Meadows-Keefe threatened physical violence and sent hundreds of texts, phone calls, and emails during the final week of December, according to police. Fletcher and Meadows-Keefe’s offices were adjacent in City Hall and they began a romantic relationship while Fletcher was still married.
Georgia – Atlanta Mayor Fined $37,000 for Campaign Finance Violations During 2017 Mayor’s Race
WSB – Staff | Published: 1/7/2021
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms agreed during a state ethics commission meeting to pay a fine of $37,000 for irregularities in her campaign finances during the 2017 mayoral race. The settlement comes after a long investigation into both candidate’s campaign contributions during the race. In the agreement, Bottoms’ campaign admits to accepting $6,900 in campaign donations that exceeded state limits on the amount individuals can contribute. The campaign also acknowledges receiving another $110,797 in contributions that violated other state statutes.
Georgia – ‘Find the Fraud’: Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2021
President Trump urged Georgia’s lead elections investigator to “find the fraud” in a lengthy December phone call, saying the official would be a “national hero,” according to an individual familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversation. Trump placed the call to the investigations chief for the Georgia secretary of state’s office shortly before Christmas while the individual was leading an inquiry into allegations of ballot fraud in Cobb County, in the suburbs of Atlanta. The president’s attempts to intervene in an ongoing investigation could amount to obstruction of justice or other criminal violations, legal experts said, though they cautioned a case could be difficult to prove.
Illinois – Ethics Board Fines Ald. Austin $145,500 For Accepting Improper Campaign Contributions
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 1/12/2021
The Chicago Board of Ethics fined Ald. Carrie Austin $145,500 for accepting $48,500 in excessive contributions from a person doing business with the city. The fine is the first time the board levied the maximum fine allowed for violations of the city’s campaign finance law – three times the amount of the improper contributions. Companies and people doing business with the city are limited to contributing $1,600 to any one candidate per year. The law holds both the person and firm making the donation as well as the elected official who accepted the contribution responsible for the infraction.
Illinois – Illinois Elects First Black Speaker After Decades of Madigan Rule
Politico – Shia Kapos | Published: 1/13/2021
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch became the first Black speaker of the Illinois House as Democrats rejected Michael Madigan, who had been speaker for nearly four decades. What started last year as a simmering legal and political scandal, touched off by a corruption scandal around a local utility, turned into a rare opportunity to shed old leadership. Madigan’s supporters started pulling away after he was implicated in a federal “pay-to-play” scheme involving Commonwealth Edison. The public utility agreed to pay a $200 million fine and acknowledged it had tried to curry favor with Madigan by offering jobs and contracts to his allies in exchange for favorable legislation.
Iowa – Iowa Governor, Ades Appear in PR Video for No-Bid Vendor
MSN – Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 1/7/2021
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and four aides helped make a marketing video for a company that was awarded no-bid contracts for work on the coronavirus pandemic, a move that has raised allegations of favoritism and improper use of public resources. Domo’s video featured interviews with Reynolds, state epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati, and chief operations officer Paul Trombino portraying their COVID-19 management as a success for Iowa and the software vendor. The appearances go against long-standing guidance to avoid any hint of preferential treatment in relationships with contractors. The video put a positive spin on their response to the virus, which has caused more cases and deaths per capita in Iowa than most other states.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Plans to Tackle Ethics Reform Following Clendenin Resignation
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 1/10/2021
When Mayor Brandon Whipple was elected, he promised sweeping ethics reform at City Hall after a media investigation showed holes in Wichita’s city council ethics policy, including no limits on gifts and no penalties for violations. The call for change came after Whipple’s predecessor, Jeff Longwell, steered a $500 million contract for a new water treatment plant away from one of the top engineering firms in the country and to a local group that included his friends and political supporters. Former Councilperson James Clendenin stepped down amid ouster proceedings for his role in a smear campaign against Whipple. By the end of January, a new ethics policy proposal will go before the council for discussion.
Michigan – Former Michigan Gov. Snyder Charged in Flint Water Crisis
Politico – Associated Press | Published: 1/13/2021
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is facing two counts of willful neglect of duty related to the water crisis in Flint, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. In April 2014, a Snyder-appointed emergency manager who was running the struggling city carried out a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction. The corrosive water, however, was not treated properly and released lead from old plumbing into homes in one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in U.S. history.
Minnesota – State Board Proposals Would Change How Lobbying Activities Are Reported in Minnesota
Minnesota Post – Peter Callaghan | Published: 1/8/2021
The Minnesota board that oversees the lobbying of state and local governments is considering changes that would make reporting by lobbyists more useful and more transparent. Both the current rules and the proposed rules are complex. Lobbyists would no longer have to report overhead costs, but they would have to report the actual bill numbers and ordinances they pushed for, as well as which clients they worked for and what they did to influence the result. Legislation is required to make any changes to the rules that determine how much information residents of the state get about who spends how much to influence legislators, administrative agencies, and local councils and boards.
Missouri – Missouri House Censures St. Louis Lawmaker Accused of Having Sex with Intern
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/13/2021
The Missouri House voted to censure a St. Louis Democrat who refused to resign in response to allegations he had sex with an intern and tried to cover it up. Rep. Wiley Price faced the official discipline after his former legislative aide reported Price informed her of his relationship with the intern. The House Ethics Committee in December unanimously recommended censure for Price, but Rep. Jered Taylor moved to expel Price instead. Democrats argued the chamber should reject the move to expel Price because the Ethics Committee had already debated the issue and had recommended censure.
Nevada – Nevada Lawmaker Resigns Amid Campaign Finance Investigation
Associated Press News – Sam Metz | Published: 1/13/2021
A Nevada lawmaker resigned amid an investigation involving the use of campaign contributions that prompted law enforcement to raid his home. Assemblyperson Alex Assefa tendered his resignation in a letter that did not mention the investigation but addressed questions about whether his primary residence was in the district he represents. Police in May raided a North Las Vegas home owned by Assefa’s wife, Zenash Mebratu, and a condominium he listed as his residence in campaign filings. Nevada law requires legislators live in the districts they represent.
New York – New York City Will End Contracts with Trump Over Capitol Riot
New York Times – Emma Fitzsimmons | Published: 1/13/2021
For the last several years, the tumultuous arc of President Trump’s relationship with New York City has been on a steep decline. His name was stripped from private properties. Part of his re-election campaign focused on characterizing New York as an “anarchist jurisdiction.” He even changed his legal residency to Florida. Then, the city announced it would terminate its contracts with the Trump Organization after the riot at the U.S. Capitol. The decision by Mayor Bill de Blasio was another blow to Trump’s prestige in New York and hammered home the depths to which the president has become a political and social pariah in his hometown.
New York – New York’s Aggressive Elections Enforcement Chief to Retire
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 1/12/2021
Risa Sugarman, who pursued significant cases during more than six years as New York’s top elections enforcement official, confirmed she is retiring. Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Sugarman as the first chief enforcement counsel for the state Board of Elections’ independent enforcement division. Sugarman is the only person ever to hold the position overseeing the small unit, which largely operates separately from the rest of the politically appointed board. Her office’s authority has been curbed in recent years by regulations imposed by four commissioners with whom she often clashed, and most recently, by a state law giving the board rather than Sugarman oversight of candidates enrolled in the publicly financed elections system.
North Carolina – Charlotte Council Member Announces Sudden Retirement After Taking Construction Job
MSN – Danielle Chemtob and Alison Kuznitz (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 1/11/2021
Charlotte City Councilperson James Mitchell announced his sudden retirement after stirring controversy over his new role as co-owner and president of a construction company. Mitchell is slated to take the helm of RJ Leeper. City ethics policy prevents officials from using their position for personal benefit. Mitchell had said he would recuse himself from voting on anything involving RJ Leeper, and the firm’s vice president would handle city projects. The company is working on public projects like the Charlotte Convention Center and Charlotte Douglas International Airport expansions.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Cash Comprised Big Chunk of Donations to Dark Money Outfits Backing DeWine and His Daughter, Documents Show
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 1/8/2021
Money from FirstEnergy Corp. comprised more than one-third of all contributions to a “dark money” group supporting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and likely all the cash given to one backing his daughter’s county prosecutor bid, tax records show. The donations came the same year that the Republican-controlled Legislature passed House Bill 6, which included a $1 billion subsidy for two nuclear plants, then-owned by FirstEnergy Solutions. DeWine signed the bill within hours of it reaching his desk. Federal investigators say former House Speaker Larry Householder and others used $61 million from energy companies to fuel Householder’s leadership fight, House Bill 6’s passage, and an effort to block a ballot initiative to upend the bailout.
Oklahoma – Former Stitt Staffer Lobbying for Company Bidding on State Medicaid Contract
The Oklahoman – Carmen Forman | Published: 1/11/2021
A former staffer of Gov. Kevin Stitt is lobbying for a health care company bidding on a multimillion-dollar state contract to privatize Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. With Oklahoma on the cusp of expanding Medicaid, Stitt announced his intention to outsource care for many o the state’s Medicaid recipients by hiring private companies to manage the program’s spending. Former Deputy Secretary of State Samantha Davidson Guinn, who was promoted to that role after serving as the governor’s policy director, left the Stitt administration in September. Now, she is senior vice president of government affairs, strategy, and policy for Healthcare Highways, which is bidding on the state’s SoonerSelect program.
Oregon – Rioters Stormed the Oregon Capitol in December. Video Sows a Republican Lawmaker Let Them In.
Seattle Times – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2021
State Rep. Mike Nearman let demonstrators into the Oregon Capitol during a one-day special session in December, starting a riot. Three surveillance videos show Nearman walking out of a Capitol side door, moving out of the way for a protester, and walking alongside the building as protesters streamed toward the open door. Protesters had been looking for a way to get into the Capitol on December 21 while the Legislature was in session. The open door ultimately allowed at least 50 people to access the Capitol’s vestibule and led to six Salem and Oregon State police officers getting pepper sprayed.
South Dakota – City Insurance Now Covers Legal Defense If Mayor, Councilors Face Ethics Violation
MSN – Trevor Mitchell (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 1/10/2021
Several members of the Sioux Falls City Council are raising concerns about a new addition to the city’s insurance policy that would provide legal representation for councilors accused of ethics violations. The new general endorsement adds coverage related to ethics complaints against the mayor or city councilors, providing legal expenses of up to $10,000 per occurrence with $20,000 aggregate per coverage term, at a cost to the city of $7,500. The coverage was newly available to any city with an ethics policy or ordinance, said Bill O’Toole, the city’s human resources director.
Tennessee – Tennessee House Speaker on FBI Raid: Those subject to search warrants on ‘administrative leave’
MSN – Natalie Allison (Tennessean) | Published: 1/8/2021
Federal agents descended on multiple Tennessee Republican House members’ homes and state offices, collecting evidence while executing search warrants as part of an unspecified investigation just days before the legislative session began. The U.S. attorney’s office confirmed the FBI visited the homes of former House Speaker Glen Casada; Rep. Robin Smith; Rep. Todd Warner; and former Casada aide Cade Cothren. They also went to a business associated with Warner. Speaker Cameron Sexton said he placed three staff members on paid administrative leave in connection with the case.
Texas – A Texas Lawmaker Worked with the State Restaurant Association to Draft an Alcohol-to-Go Bill. His Wife Lobbies for the Group.
Texas Tribune – Mitchell Ferman and Juan Pablo Garnham | Published: 1/13/2021
State Rep. Charlie Geren, a restaurant owner, filed legislation to allow restaurants to sell alcohol for pickup and delivery orders, which would provide an industry crushed by the coronavirus pandemic with the new, permanent revenue stream. Geren said his Railhead Smokehouse restaurant does not have a mixed beverage permit. That means it would not benefit from the bill. But House Bill 1024 could benefit a client of Geren’s wife, lobbyist Mindy Ellmer. The Texas Restaurant Association, which is backing the legislation, paid Ellmer between $25,000 and $49,000 for lobbying work from September through December. Adrian Shelley, Texas director for Public Citizen, said that mix of personal and political ties underscores the state’s ethics laws should be strengthened.
Utah – Tribune Analysis: Utah lawmakers spend unlimited amounts in campaign cash – sometimes in violation of state law
MSN – Taylor Stevens and Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/10/2021
A Salt Lake Tribune analysis found since 2015, Utah lawmakers have collectively spent millions of dollars, often with little or no transparency about where the money is going and limited oversight from the state’s elections office, which has one full-time employee to review tens of thousands of expenditures. Legislators with easy paths to reelection can allocate excess campaign funds into travel, food, and gifts, and some have done so without explaining how the purchases are connected to their elected office or campaign. The analysis also found at least two lawmakers appear to have overpaid themselves for personal loans to their campaigns. Legislators say the state’s system demands transparency and dismiss a need for more cumbersome rules to keep candidates and officeholders in check.
Washington – ‘He’s Been Fibbing for 20 Years’: Tim Eyman trial approaches conclusion, state alleges years of schemes
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 1/7/2021
The state of Washington’s case against Tim Eyman inched toward its conclusion with the state accusing the serial initiative promoter of a decades-long run of money laundering, soliciting kickbacks, and violating campaign finance law in a scheme to enrich himself through political donations. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose 2017 lawsuit against Eyman precipitated the civil trial, seeks millions of dollars in damages and he hopes to permanently bar Eyman from accepting money on behalf of any political committee or handling their finances. Newman said the law allows for a maximum base penalty of $5.6 million, but that the state was seeking about $2.6 million.
West Virginia – GOP West Virginia Lawmaker Who Live-Streamed Himself Storming the Capitol Resigns After Arrest
MSN – Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2021
A newly elected Republican lawmaker in West Virginia resigned after he was arrested for trespassing in the U.S. Capitol in a mob of Trump supporters hoping to halt President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Derrick Evans chronicled the riot on Facebook Live, capturing the moment the crowd cracked open the Capitol’s doors and he crossed the threshold. Evans was among dozens arrested for crimes related to the break-in. He was charged with two federal misdemeanors, unlawfully entering restricted grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct, and taken into custody. Evans ended his short tenure with a one-sentence resignation letter, He was sworn in to the House of Delegates in December.
January 11, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Georgia: “Atlanta Mayor Fined $37,000 for Campaign Finance Violations During 2017 Mayor’s Race” by Staff for WSB Ohio: “FirstEnergy Cash Comprised Big Chunk of Donations to Dark Money Outfits Backing DeWine and His Daughter, Documents Show” by Jessie […]
Georgia: “Atlanta Mayor Fined $37,000 for Campaign Finance Violations During 2017 Mayor’s Race” by Staff for WSB
Ohio: “FirstEnergy Cash Comprised Big Chunk of Donations to Dark Money Outfits Backing DeWine and His Daughter, Documents Show” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Washington: “‘He’s Been Fibbing for 20 Years’: Tim Eyman trial approaches conclusion, state alleges years of schemes” by David Gutman for Seattle Times
National: “Trump Says He Won’t Attend Biden’s Inauguration” by Quint Forgey for Politico
Georgia: “‘Find the Fraud’: Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Twitter Bans Trump’s Account, Citing Risk of Further Violence” by Nitasha Tiku, Tony Romm, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Downtown Developer Will Pay $1.2 Million in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case” by David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
National: “K Street Adjusts for Democratic Senate” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
Iowa: “Iowa Governor, Ades Appear in PR Video for No-Bid Vendor” by Ryan Foley (Associated Press) for MSN
December 11, 2020 •
National/Federal Barr Taps Durham as Special Counsel, Pushing Probe into Biden Era Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/1/2020 Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. attorney John Durham as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the […]
Barr Taps Durham as Special Counsel, Pushing Probe into Biden Era
Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/1/2020
Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. attorney John Durham as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The appointment formalizes Durham’s ongoing probe but more significantly, would give Durham latitude to continue the politically explosive investigation after President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. Democrats have long viewed Durham’s efforts as political payback by President Trump and his allies, seeking to deflect from evidence the Trump campaign capitalized on the Kremlin’s efforts.
Biden’s Choice for Pentagon Faces Questions on Ties to Contractors
New York Times – Eric Lipton, Kenneth Vogel, and Michael LaForgia | Published: 12/8/2020
Raytheon Technologies makes fighter jet engines, weapons, high-tech sensors, and dozens of other military products. Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin III of the Army, a member of Raytheon’s board, has been named by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next secretary of defense. Raytheon is not Austin’s only link to military contractors. He has also been a partner in an investment firm that has been buying small defense firms. The decision to nominate Austin has drawn a new wave of questions about the corporate ties of people Biden is choosing for his administration. Those ties are especially relevant when it comes to the Pentagon, which spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year on weapons and other supplies.
Conservative Nonprofit Group Challenging Election Results Around the Country Has Tie to Trump Legal Adviser Jenna Ellis
MSN – John Swain, Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
A conservative legal organization that has filed lawsuits challenging the election results in five states has a tie to President Trump’s legal team, raising questions about the independence of what has appeared to be an endeavor separate from the president’s last-gasp legal maneuvering. Senior Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis serves as special counsel to the Thomas More Society, which has filed lawsuits through the newly formed Amistad Project alleging problems with the vote in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Her affiliation with the organization, as well as other links between Trump’s team and the conservative group, suggest a coordinated effort to flood the nation’s courts with repetitive litigation that allows the president to claim the election results remain contested.
Could Trump Pardon Family Members and Other Close Associates? His Prior Pardons May Set the Stage for More
USA Today – David Jackson, John Fritze, and Kevin Johnson | Published: 12/4/2020
As President Trump weighs granting pardons to close associates – and perhaps family members and even himself – experts said he may not pay much of a political price, no matter whom the recipients are. The number of pardons with a political sheen that Trump has signed, along with the unorthodox way he has wielded the power, may have desensitized the public to the issue. The reaction to former national security advisor Michael Flynn’s pardon, though muted, underscored the president’s broad clemency powers are increasingly viewed, like much else, along partisan lines: Democrats express outrage, and supporters of Trump cheer. That division, several experts said, may partly explain why some Americans shrug their shoulders.
EU Lobby Register Falls Short of Transparency Demands
Politico – Cristina Gonzalez | Published: 12/8/2020
It was hailed as a victory when negotiators from the European Parliament, Commission, and the Council found compromise on establishing a joint mandatory lobby register, but the definition of “mandatory” remains to be seen. The provisional agreement, which must still be approved by the respective institutions, sets out to make it compulsory for lobbyists to be registered in the European Union’s Transparency Register to carry out certain activities like meeting with top officials. But there is nothing explicitly mandatory in the compromise text. Instead, it gives each institution the license to individually interpret what it means, “and to define the activities that they decide to make conditional upon registration in the register,” the compromise reads. Now, each institution must outline its view in a forthcoming joint political statement.
GOP Women’s Record-Breaking Success Reflects Party’s Major Shift on Recruiting and Supporting Female Candidates
Washington Post – Rachael Bade | Published: 12/7/2020
There are 17 newly elected Republican women who will give the party a record number of female lawmakers in Congress, the results of a successful strategy of recruiting and supporting women running for office. Of the 13 Democratic incumbents who lost their seats on election night, Republican women were responsible for defeating 10. In January, Republicans will welcome their most ethnically diverse and gender-diverse freshman class in history as women and lawmakers of color join their predominantly White and male ranks. The recruitment effort behind their success reflects a major shift.
Justice Department’s Interest in Hunter Biden Covered More than Taxes
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 12/9/2020
The federal investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son has been more extensive than a statement from Hunter Biden indicates, according to a person with firsthand knowledge of the probe. Hunter Biden said he had been contacted about a tax investigation out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware. The securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York also scrutinized Hunter Biden’s finances, according to the source. The person said as of early last year, investigators in Delaware and Washington, D.C. were probing potential money laundering and Hunter Biden’s foreign ties. In addition to the probe into Hunter Biden, federal authorities in Pennsylvania are conducting a criminal investigation of a hospital business in which Joe Biden’s brother James was involved.
Murdoch’s Son and Daughter-in-Law Spent Millions on Progressive Causes in 2020 Cycle
Center for Responsive Politics – Ollie Gratzinger | Published: 12/4/2020
The Murdoch name has come to be associated largely with right-leaning politics, as Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who owns Fox News and other outlets spanning three continents, has built a family dynasty based largely on conservatism. But Kathryn and James Murdoch, daughter-in-law and youngest son of the news tycoon, are forging a new reputation for the Murdoch name, contributing heavily this cycle to progressive political groups, including super PACs supporting President-elect Joe Biden. James Murdoch resigned from his position at Fox last July over “disagreements over certain editorial content.”
Neera Tanden, Biden’s Pick for Budget Chief, Runs a Think Tank Backed by Corporate and Foreign Interests
MSN – Yeganeh Torbati and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2020
Now that President-elect Joe Biden picked Neera Tanden to run the Office of Management and Budget, her ties to some of the most powerful players in the U.S. economy are drawing scrutiny from advocates for accountability in government. Tanden would have a hand in policies that touch every part of the economy after years spent courting corporate and foreign donors at the think tank Center for American Progress. Between 2014 and 2019, the center received at least $33 million in donations from firms in the financial sector, private foundations primarily funded by wealth earned on Wall Street. Critics also argued the hundreds of hours of relationship-building that goes into securing large donations from corporations and wealthy people give private interests the opportunity to influence the views of Tanden and others in her position.
Senate Restores FEC as Agency Confronts Massive Backlog of Cases
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 12/9/2020
The U.S. Senate confirmed three new members of the FEC, giving the campaign finance regulator a full slate of six commissioners for the first time since February 2017. Senators confirmed Sean Cooksey, Allen Dickerson, and Shana Broussard, who will be the agency’s first Black commissioner in its 45-year history. The FEC faces a backlog of 388 enforcement cases. Broussard said during a Senate Rules Committee meeting that she would prioritize addressing important cases set to expire due to the agency’s statute of limitations. Commissioners are also tasked with changing outdated rules.
Steakhouses, Hill Bars and Ski Trips: GOP carries on amid the pandemic
Politico – Sarah Ferris, Melanie Zanona, and Daniel Lippman | Published: 12/7/2020
It is not just the White House flouting pandemic rules to mark Washington, D.C.’s schmooziest season. Some corners of the GOP, including members of Congress, are refusing to let the coronavirus intrude on their holiday gatherings and in-person fundraisers, whether it is on the slopes of Utah or in the steakhouses of Washington. Meanwhile, discussions are underway about holding the Conservative Political Action Conference in person early next year. The event planning comes as the nation is battered by another surge in coronavirus cases, prompting a fresh round of warnings from public health experts to avoid group settings, particularly indoors. And it underscores the resistance by many in the GOP, led by President Trump, to adjust to the new normal of the pandemic.
Supreme Court Denies Trump Allies’ Bid to Overturn Pennsylvania Election Results
MSN – Robert Barnes and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 12/8/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute attempt by President Trump’s allies to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, a blow to the president’s continuing efforts to reverse his loss to Joe Biden. The court’s brief order denying a requested injunction provided no reasoning, nor did it note any dissenting votes. It was the first request to delay or overturn the results of the presidential election to reach the court. The lawsuit was part of a blizzard of litigation and personal interventions Trump and his lawyers have waged to overturn victories by Biden in a handful of key states. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a sweeping complaint that asked the court to overturn Biden’s wins in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia.
Women Make Record-Breaking Gains Across State Legislatures
The Hill – Julia Manchester | Published: 12/8/2020
Women broke barriers in state Legislature races across the country in November, with a record number of women from both parties winning their races at the state level. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women will hold more than 30 percent of seats in state Legislatures for the first time in American history. The gains women made at the state level this cycle appeared to have reflected the record gains women made at the federal level as well. For Republicans, this marks an improvement for a party that has struggled to recruit women to its ranks.
Canada – ‘Loophole’ in Civic Election Act Breeds Unfairness and Financial Secrecy, Experts Say
CBC – Angela King | Published: 12/5/2020
A section of Ontario’s Municipal Elections Act creates an unequal playing field, undermines transparency, and should be changed, election experts say. Concerns have been raised about a part of the legislation that allows a corporation to pay an employee while volunteering for a political campaign after a Toronto man revealed he was paid by a lobbying firm to help campaign for candidates in the 2018 civic election. Kevin Haynes said he felt like an “election hitman” when he was paid $20 per hour in cash by a major lobbying group to knock on doors for nine candidates, seven of whom won.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – FBI Questions Alaska Lawmakers on Topics Including Permanent Fund Dividend Votes
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 12/8/2020
The FBI has interviewed or sought to question at least 11 Alaska legislators this year, asking in at least some of the interviews whether any lawmakers received a financial benefit in exchange for their vote on the Permanent Fund dividend. Not all interviewed lawmakers would say what they were asked about, and it is not clear what the FBI is searching for. An interview may not mean a legislator is under investigation – several lawmakers said the FBI told them during the interviews that they were not personally under investigation. Uncertainty over the motive for the interviews is roiling lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, where Republicans are attempting to form a majority government.
Arizona – Arizona Legislature Shuts Down after Rudy Giuliani Possibly Exposed Lawmakers to COVID-19
MSN – Maria Polletta (Arizona Republic) | Published: 12/6/2020
The Arizona Legislature closed for a week “out of an abundance of caution” after Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, possibly exposed several Republican lawmakers to COVID-19. Giuliani tested positive for the virus on December 6, less than a week after he visited Arizona as part of a multistate tour aimed at contesting 2020 election results. Giuliani had spent more than 10 hours discussing election concerns with Arizona Republicans, including two members of Congress and at least 13 current and future state lawmakers. He led the meeting maskless, flouting social distancing guidelines, and posing for photos.
Arizona – Judge Dismisses Dem Lawsuit Challenging Independent Redistricting Candidates
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 12/7/2020
Democratic legislative leaders’ lawsuit to disqualify two of the five finalists for independent chair of the state’s next redistricting commission fell flat after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Janice Crawford ruled the disputed applicants did not violate the criteria set out in the Arizona Constitution. Crawford ruled Thomas Loquvam, an attorney for the utility company EPCOR, does not violate the constitution’s prohibition on lobbyists serving on the Independent Redistricting Commission, and gun store owner Robert Wilson meets the qualifications to serve as an independent.
California – L.A. Fines Former City Official, Company $45,000 for Lobbying Violations
MyNewsLA.com – Staff | Published: 12/8/2020
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission imposed a fine of $45,000 on Daniel Ahadian and nur Corporation for violating city lobbying laws. Ahadian is a former city official who worked with the Planning Department, and the sole owner of nur, a planning and land use consulting firm. Ahadian and nur admitted failing to register as lobbying entities and file quarterly disclosure reports from the first quarter of 2018 through the fourth quarter of 2019. Lobbying entities are required to register with the Ethics Commission and report their activities on a quarterly basis to help the public identify who is attempting to influence city action.
California – L.A.’s Ethics Commission Gets a New Boss: A 29-year employee of the watchdog agency
Yahoo News – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 12/8/2020
David Tristan, deputy executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, was named as the new executive director of the commission, replacing Heather Holt, who faces term limits. Commissioner Jeff Daar cited Tristan’s decades of experience at the agency. “Obviously, he has a passion for the mission of the Ethics Commission,” Daar said. Rob Quan, an organizer with Unrig LA, a good-government advocacy group, described Tristan as extremely responsive. He described how advocates have called Tristan over the years to discuss a variety of topics, including campaign filings and broken links on the commission website.
California – Real Estate Developer Pleads Guilty in Sprawling L.A. Campaign Money Laundering Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/3/2020
Businessperson Samuel Leung pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit campaign money laundering, admitting he took part in a scheme to reimburse campaign donors between January 2009 and February 2015 – just as his apartment project was being reviewed and approved at Los Angeles City Hall. State law prohibits donors from making political contributions in the name of another person. The guilty plea came more than four years after a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed a sprawling network of more than 100 people and companies with direct or indirect ties to Leung made political donations totaling more than $600,000 while Leung’s project was under review. The project was approved in 2015.
Connecticut – Audit Finds Lax Oversight of Public Campaign Financing
CT Examiner – Emilia Otte | Published: 12/3/2020
For the last nine years, the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) has failed to report the use of grant money financing candidates running for the Connecticut General Assembly, according to a recent audit. The SEEC is responsible for the Citizen’s Election Program, which gives grant money to campaigns for state Senate or House through the Citizen’s Election Fund, a pool of money that comes from the sale of abandoned property. By law, the SEEC must report annually on the amount of money in the fund and the number of people who have contributed to it. The commission is also required to present an analysis each cycle to the General Assembly of the amount of grant money issued, how campaigns have spent the money, and how much leftover money was returned to the fund.
Florida – Disgraced Republican Lawmaker Planted No-Party Candidate in Key Senate Race, Sources Say
Miami Herald – Ana Ceballos and Samantha Gross | Published: 12/3/2020
As the results for a key Florida Senate race appeared on television screens in an Irish pub, former Sen. Frank Artiles boasted he planted a no-party candidate in the race, which Republican Ileana Garcia won by 32 votes over incumbent Jose Javier Rodriguez. “That is me, that was all me,” Artiles boasted to a crowd at Liam Fitzpatrick’s restaurant, according to a person who was there. Artiles recruited Alexis (Alex) Rodriguez, a longtime acquaintance. The no-party candidate with the same surname as the incumbent Democrat had been a registered Republican until just before his qualifying papers were filed to make him a Senate candidate. Sources have indicated Artiles’ involvement in launching Rodriguez’s bid was extensive.
Florida – Florida Police Raid House of Fired Data Scientist Who Alleged State Manipulated Covid-19 Stats
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
Florida police with guns drawn raided the home of an ousted health department data scientist, searching Rebekah Jones’ computer, phone, and other hardware that supports the coronavirus website she set up after accusing the state of manipulating its official numbers. Law enforcement officials allege Jones may have also used the devices to hack into a health department website to send an unauthorized message to Florida emergency personnel, urging them to speak out against the state’s pandemic response. After her dismissal, Jones launched her own data portal, advertising it as independent alternative to the state dashboard. Now, Jones says, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s raid is an attempt to silence her work.
Florida – Florida Voters Barred Ex-Lawmakers from Lobbying for 6 Years, but Revolving Door Still Swings
MSN – Gary Roher (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 12/7/2020
The “revolving door” between government and lobbying firms in Florida was supposed to end after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 banning elected officials and agency heads from lobbying for six years after leaving their posts. But that amendment does not take effect until the end of 2022, meaning the movement will continue for another two years. Since the November election, three Florida lawmakers have taken jobs as lobbyists, and one state agency director left her position in October to lead a trade group for an industry she used to regulate.
Georgia – Savannah Council Accepts Apology Kesha Gibson-Carter Says She Didn’t Make
Savannah Morning News – DeAnn Komanecky | Published: 12/9/2020
Savannah City Council members who filed ethics complaints against fellow Alderperson Kesha Gibson-Carter said they were ready to forgive the alderwoman. An ethics board found Gibson-Carter had violated the city’s ethics code. The three said they were ready to move forward instead of pushing for the only remedy available, a reprimand or censure, since Gibson-Carter had apologized privately to City Manager Michael Brown. Gibson-Carter is adamant she had not apologized to anyone, including the city manager, and had no intentions to do so.
Illinois – Ex-State Sen. Martin Sandoval, Snared in Political Corruption Investigation, Dies of Coronavirus: Attorney
Chicago Sun-Times – Jon Seidel, Mark Brown, and Mitchell Armentrout | Published: 12/5/2020
Former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval, who became a crucial figure in a series of ongoing public corruption investigations early this year when he admitted taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, has died from COVID-19. The Senate’s former Transportation Committee chair also agreed to “cooperate in any matter in which he is called upon” by federal prosecutors. In November, prosecutors told a judge that Sandoval had “provided valuable cooperation that is expected to last at least several more months.” Now, legal experts say Sandoval’s death has the potential to complicate the aggressive probe of Illinois politics.
Iowa – Iowa’s Contact-Tracing Firm Helped Trump, Reynolds Campaigns
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 12/4/2020
After facing a workforce shortage for months, Iowa awarded an emergency $2.3 million contact-tracing contract to a company that has worked for the campaigns of President Trump and Gov. Kim Reynolds and is owned by a Republican insider. The Iowa Department of Public Health selected MCI for the two-month contract out of 14 applicants, saying it submitted the best proposal and its political connections were not considered. MCI is owned by GOP donor Anthony Marlowe, who has boasted it played a key role in Trump’s 2016 victory and was among the state’s top backers of Trump’s reelection bid.
Kentucky – Woman Faces 3 Counts of Lying to FBI, Jury in Bribery Case Tied to Lexington Council
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 12/4/2020
A Kentucky woman was indicted by a federal grand jury for lying to the FBI and making false statements about campaign contributions to Lexington council members during the investigation trial of a former real estate executive. Elizabeth Stormbringer was charged with three counts related to lying about whether she was reimbursed by former CRM Executive Timothy Wellman for campaign contributions she made to Lexington council members in 2018. Wellman had a project the council would consider. He was found guilty on 11 charges relating to obstructing a federal investigation into illegal contributions.
Michigan – ‘Unambiguous, Loud and Threatening’: Trump supporters protest at home of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
USA Today – Miriam Marini (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 12/6/2020
Dozens of protesters gathered in front of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s home recently, shouting through megaphones against the certification of the election and demanding a forensic audit. A portion of the demonstration was broadcast live on Facebook. The protesters are seen walking up to Benson’s home, some wearing President Donald Trump paraphernalia and carrying American flags. Throughout the election, Trump circulated false conspiracies about election fraud in Michigan. Benson said the protesters gathered in front of her home as she and her four-year-old son were finishing putting up Christmas decorations, just when the two were preparing to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Missouri – Medical Marijuana Subpoena May Have Been Connected to Independence FBI Probe
Columbia News Tribune – Jason Hancock (Missouri Independence) | Published: 12/7/2020
Lyndall Fraker, director of medical marijuana regulation at the Missouri Department of Health and Seniors Services, testified a grand jury subpoena his agency received was likely connected to an FBI investigation in Independence. The revelation is the first indication of the target of the federal subpoena. The FBI questioned officials in Independence about a pair of contracts issued by the city council. One called for the city to pay a company $9.75 million to tear down a power plant. The bid was more than twice that of the other bidder. The other contract called for the city to pay nearly $1 million to purchase a golf club to build a solar farm with Gardner Capital. Days before the vote, PACs funded by Gardner made four $2,500 donations to Independence Mayor Eileen Weir, who has denied the donations were connected to her vote to endorse the project.
Nevada – Nevada Supreme Court Rejects Trump Campaign’s Appeal to Overturn Biden’s Win
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2020
The Nevada Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal from President Trump’s campaign to overturn the state’s election results, the latest loss in the president’s ongoing legal efforts to have states he did not win declare him victorious. The decision from the court came after a lower court gave a full-scale ruling against the Trump campaign’s efforts in the state. Nevada District Court Judge James Russell ruled there was no evidence supporting the claims of fraud and wrongdoing made by the campaign in a state that President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 33,000 votes.
New York – Election Reformers Love Ranked-Choice Voting, but NYC Immigrants See Doom
Courthouse News Service – Nina Pullano | Published: 12/9/2020
Some of New York City’s multinational communities say they are being left behind in the Board of Elections’ plans to implement ranked-choice voting, a system that lets voters choose multiple candidates in order of preference. These groups teamed up with local politicians in a complaint that asks a court to block the change. The complaint accuses the elections board of violating city charter requirements to implement ranked-choice voting in a timely manner, while also contending that the city’s software is not up to snuff and changes of this nature should not be contemplated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Paired with a failure to educate people on ranked-choice voting, the BLA Caucus says New Yorkers of color, seniors, and those who speak limited English are among 5 million voters in danger of disenfranchisement.
Ohio – Householder Dark Money Group Reputedly Broke Deal with AEP-Backed Nonprofit to Fund
MSN – Randy Ludlow and Marc Kovac (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/5/2020
A board member of an American Electric Power-funded nonprofit said a separate group central in the nuclear plant bailout scandal appears to have used grants, including $550,000 newly disclosed in tax filings, for political purposes in violation of its agreement. J.B. Hadden, an attorney who serves on the board of Empowering Ohio’s Economy Inc., said the nonprofit’s grant agreement with Generation Now required the funding be used in compliance with IRS laws and for social welfare purposes only. Part of the agreement with Generation Now stated the money was not to be used “in furtherance of any political or campaign intervention activities.
Ohio – P.G. Sittenfeld Accepts Suspension from Cincinnati City Council After Arrest on Bribery Charges
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/7/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld accepted a suspension from his seat, a process initiated by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost after Sittenfeld was arrested on federal bribery charges. Sittenfeld is one of three council members arrested and accused of “pay-to-play” schemes this year and the second member of council to accept a state suspension, which bars them from working, but allows them to collect their salary. The city charter does not address what happens in the event an elected official is arrested or convicted on charges of corruption, something that would directly affect their ability to do their job. But state law allows for the suspension of an elected official in the event of an arrest.
Ohio – Should an Ex-FirstEnergy Lobbyist Lead the Hunt for Ohio’s Next Utility Regulator? Consumer Advocate Asks
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/3/2020
Consumer advocates question whether a former FirstEnergy lobbyist should lead the effort to replace ex-Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairperson Sam Randazzo, who resigned after the FBI searched his property and a filing implied he received $4 million to terminate “a purported consulting agreement” with FirstEnergy. A nominating council is led by Michael Koren, a former FirstEnergy lobbyist. Koren lobbied for the company when House Bill 6 to subsidize FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants in Ohio was introduced. The bill is at the heart of a corruption scandal allegedly involving FirstEnergy.
Pennsylvania – Firm Ran Pa. Senator’s Campaign and Worked with Super PAC to Attack Opponent, but Denies Coordination
Spotlight PA – Sam Janesch (The Caucus) and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 12/8/2020
In the closing days of this year’s election, an ad attacking Democrat George Scott appeared in his race for the Pennsylvania Senate against incumbent John DiSanto, which was paid for by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). Direct coordination between groups like the RSLC, which run super PACs, and campaigns is forbidden. To create the ad, the group turned to a middleman, the same firm running DiSanto’s campaign: Red Maverick Media, headed by strategist Ray Zaborney. No one has accused Zaborney’s firm or RSLC of wrongdoing. But watchdogs and campaign finance experts said the arrangement is another example of how weak state and federal campaign finance rules, combined with meager oversight, create gray areas and loopholes.
Pennsylvania – Trump Asks Pennsylvania House Speaker for Help Overturning Election Results, Personally Intervening in a Third State
MSN – Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
President Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House twice to make an extraordinary request for help reversing his loss in the state, reflecting a broadening pressure campaign by the president and his allies to try to subvert the 2020 election result. The president’s outreach to Pennsylvania’s Republican House leader came after his campaign and its allies decisively lost numerous legal challenges in the state in both state and federal court. Trump has continued to press his baseless claims of widespread voting irregularities both publicly and privately.
Tennessee – Rutherford Mayor Bill Ketron Faces Audit Hearings on Campaign Finance Violation Accusations
MSN – Scott Broden (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal) | Published: 12/7/2020
Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron will face audit hearings in 2021 on campaign finance accusations. The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance approved staff audits of Ketron’s state senate and Quest PAC accounts between January 2018 and July 2019. Another pending audit of Ketron’s mayoral campaign finance account is expected to be done by February. The registry issued subpoenas in 2019 while the mayor’s daughter, Kelsey Ketron, faced insurance fraud charges as part of an indictment pertaining to her job with the family-owned insurance company. Kelly Ketron served as treasurer during his campaigns, and indictments accused her of pocketing over $65,000 from her father’s political funds.
Texas – California-Based Independent Voter Project Hosts Trip to Hawaii for State Legislators, Raising Ethics Filing Probe
The Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 12/9/2020
A California-based organization paid for roughly 100 legislators from four states, including Texas, to attend a four-day fundraising event in Hawaii. The Independent Voter Project (IVP) is a 501(c)3 organization created to “re-engage nonpartisan voters and promote nonpartisan election reforms through initiatives, litigation, and voter education.” Despite Hawaii’s stringent lockdown, IVP received special permission to hold a conference with more than the 12-person limit. The Dallas Morning News found that over the last three years of IVP hosting this trip, potential financial disclosure violations exist for Texas lawmakers who attended.
Texas – Texas Senate Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying
The Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 12/9/2020
Each year, local governments in Texas spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on lobbyists whose job it is to persuade state lawmakers to allow for bigger government. It is a practice some legislators say must end. The Senate Affairs Committee held a hearing on the issue of taxpayer-funded lobbying at the Capitol. State Sen. Bob Hall filed legislation to end the practice after a companion bill was filed in the House. Hall said at the meeting that taxpayer-funded lobbying has been used to work against taxpayers. Tom Forbes, president of the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas, said if the Legislature were to ban the practice next year, taxpayer-funded lobbying would continue, it just would not be as visible and would operate in the shadows.
Washington DC – Ivanka Trump Confirms She Was Questioned by the D.C. Attorney General’s Office Over Inaugural Committee Spending
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 12/2/2020
Ivanka Trump said she was questioned for more than five hours by investigators from the District of Columbia attorney general’s office, which has accused President Trump’s Inaugural Committee of wasting donating money on an overpriced ballroom at the president’s hotel in the city. In early 2017, when the Inaugural Committee booked ballrooms at the hotel, that meant the president was effectively on both sides of the transaction: his committee paid his hotel, using donors’ money. Attorney General Karl Racine said the committee and the hotel took advantage of that arrangement.
December 9, 2020 •
Campaign Finance National: “Murdoch’s Son and Daughter-in-Law Spent Millions on Progressive Causes in 2020 Cycle” by Ollie Gratzinger for Center for Responsive Politics Elections National: “Women Make Record-Breaking Gains Across State Legislatures” by Julia Manchester for The Hill Pennsylvania: “Trump […]
National: “Murdoch’s Son and Daughter-in-Law Spent Millions on Progressive Causes in 2020 Cycle” by Ollie Gratzinger for Center for Responsive Politics
National: “Women Make Record-Breaking Gains Across State Legislatures” by Julia Manchester for The Hill
Pennsylvania: “Trump Asks Pennsylvania House Speaker for Help Overturning Election Results, Personally Intervening in a Third State” by Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Steakhouses, Hill Bars and Ski Trips: GOP carries on amid the pandemic” by Sarah Ferris, Melanie Zanona, and Daniel Lippman for Politico
Florida: “Florida Police Raid House of Fired Data Scientist Who Alleged State Manipulated Covid-19 Stats” by Reis Thebault (Washington Post) for MSN
Missouri: “Medical Marijuana Subpoena May Have Been Connected to Independence FBI Probe” by Jason Hancock (Missouri Independence) for Columbia News Tribune
Ohio: “P.G. Sittenfeld Accepts Suspension from Cincinnati City Council After Arrest on Bribery Charges” by Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Iowa: “Iowa’s Contact-Tracing Firm Helped Trump, Reynolds Campaigns” by Ryan Foley for Associated Press News
Arizona: “Judge Dismisses Dem Lawsuit Challenging Independent Redistricting Candidates” by Jeremy Duda for Arizona Mirror
November 20, 2020 •
National/Federal 6 Lawmakers in 5 Days: New COVID-19 infections put spotlight on Congress’ loose guidelines USA Today – Christal Hayes | Published: 11/18/2020 As rampant nationwide coronavirus spikes force states to reexamine reopening efforts, Congress is still struggling to maneuver around […]
6 Lawmakers in 5 Days: New COVID-19 infections put spotlight on Congress’ loose guidelines
USA Today – Christal Hayes | Published: 11/18/2020
As rampant nationwide coronavirus spikes force states to reexamine reopening efforts, Congress is still struggling to maneuver around the pandemic as it encroaches on legislative business and endangers its members. COVID-19 has loomed over Congress for much of the year, yet lawmakers are still bickering over wearing face masks and not social distancing. Congressional leaders have refused to make coronavirus testing mandatory for lawmakers traveling back and forth to their home states. A rash of recent cases has infected a handful of lawmakers and sent several others into quarantine all while the U.S. Capitol welcomed back more than 500 legislators in the House and Senate.
Biden’s IRS Could Finally Give Trump’s Tax Returns to Democrats
Politico – Brian Faler | Published: 11/16/2020
President Trump’s defeat will make it easier for Democrats to get his tax returns, and some prominent lawmakers plan to keep the heat on the incoming Biden administration and House leaders to deliver. Once Biden controls the Treasury Department, his administration could simply hand over the records to its allies in Congress, who have been fighting in court to force Trump to turn them over. But Biden is casting himself as a uniter and releasing the returns risks looking like a vindictive investigation of his predecessor. Yet, if Democrats were to suddenly say “never mind,” it would not only be an embarrassing about-face, it would also infuriate people such as U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, head of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee.
Corporations and Foreign Nations Pivot to Lobby Biden
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Eric Lipton | Published: 11/17/2020
While Joe Biden has taken steps to demonstrate his distance from lobbyists, his presidency is being welcomed on K Street. Lobbyists and other advisers who help clients navigate Washington are highlighting ties to Biden and his team in pitches to prospective clients, while firms and interest groups that lack such ties are scrambling to secure them. Such connections are plentiful because aides and colleagues of Biden’s have been cycling between government and the influence industry going back to his 36 years in the Senate and his eight years as vice president. It is a far cry from four years ago, when Donald Trump swept into town with few connections to established gatekeepers and lobbyists.
Fewer Opportunities and a Changed Political Environment in the U.S. May Have Curbed Moscow’s Election Interference This Year, Analysts Say
MSN – Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020
Russia failed to mount any major hacking or disinformation operations to interfere in the presidential election, and the Kremlin’s hackers did not even attempt to target elections systems in the way they did in 2016, according to U.S. officials. Analysts said it is too early to know why, but they point to a variety of possible reasons. Those include cyber and other operations that helped keep the Russians at bay, harder targets at the state and local level, and a political climate in which Americans themselves were the largest purveyors if disinformation, dwarfing Moscow’s efforts to influence the campaign through social media and its propaganda channels.
GOP Shows Limited Appetite for Pursuing Biden Probes
The Hill – Alexander Bolton | Published: 11/15/2020
Republicans are showing little appetite for aggressively pursuing investigations into President-elect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden if they keep their U.S. Senate majority in 2021. Sens. Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson, who led a joint investigation of Hunter Biden this year, are signaling they will take a tough stance on the incoming administration. But other GOP senators are taking a wait-and-see approach. One of the considerations among Republicans is a desire by some to lower the partisan temperature and possibly explore common ground with Democrats.
NASA Official Asked Boeing If It Would Protest a Major Contract It Lost. Instead, Boeing Resubmitted Its Bid
MSN – Christian Davenport (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020
Boeing’s bid to build a spacecraft capable of flying astronauts to the moon did not meet NASA’s requirements, and the company was going to lose out on a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But NASA was worried Boeing would protest the contract award, potentially holding it up for months at a time when the space agency was trying to meet a White House mandate to get astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. in February, Doug Loverro, then the head of NASA’s human exploration directorate, called Jim Chilton, the senior vice president of Boeing’s space and launch division, to explain the company was going to lose the contract and to inquire whether it would file a challenge. That call occurred during a period when the agency was to have no contact with any of the bidders.
Palazzo’s Campaign Spending Under Investigation. ‘What We Saw Was Outrageous,’ Rival Says
Biloxi Sun Herald – Margaret Baker and Anita Lee | Published: 11/13/2020
U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo is being investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) for allegedly using campaign funds to pay expenses associated with a farm he used to own. The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint asking the OCE to investigate Palazzo’s campaign spending. It centered on campaign expenditures to rent a farm and to pay an accounting firm Palazzo founded and is now run by his former wife. Palazzo’s campaign spent $60,000 to rent a farm he owned from 2018 to 2019, the complaint said. The farm is located more than 30 miles from his campaign committee.
Pelosi, Democrats Renew Push to Overhaul Election, Campaign Finance Laws
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/16/2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would press ahead early next year with a campaign finance and elections overhaul, even as the measure may face the same Senate fate it did this Congress: doom. Even though the Senate majority for the 117th Congress hinges on two runoff elections in Georgia, Democrats and their outside allies said they would still push for the measure, spotlighting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s resistance.
Senior Justice Dept. Official Stalled Probe Against Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Sources Say
MSN – Juliet Eilperin and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 11/12/2020
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen deferred a bid from line prosecutors to move forward with possible criminal charges against former Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, saying they needed to gather more evidence and refine the case, according to people familiar with the matter. The move last year by Rosen, an appointee of President Trump, angered some career prosecutors and has delayed for months the release of an Interior Department inspector general’s report. At issue is whether Zinke made false statements to investigators who were looking into his decision not to grant a petition by two Indian tribes to operate a commercial casino off reservation land in East Windsor, Connecticut.
Trump Fires Top DHS Official Who Refuted His Claims That the Election Was Rigged
MSN – Ellen Nakashima and Nick Miroff (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020
President Trump fired a top Department of Homeland Security official who led the agency’s efforts to help secure the election and was vocal about tamping down unfounded claims of ballot fraud. Trump fired Christopher Krebs, who headed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and led successful efforts to help state and local election offices protect their systems and to rebut misinformation. Krebs in a tweet refuted allegations that election systems were manipulated, saying “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.'” Krebs’s statement amounted to a debunking of Trump’s central claim that the November election was stolen.
Watchdogs Urge Transparency as Executives from Powerful DC Firm Floated for Biden Administration
ABC News – Matthew Mosk and Mike Devine | Published: 11/12/2020
As speculation swirls over who President-elect Joe Biden will tap for top posts at intelligence and national security agencies, a number of names being publicly floated come from a Washington, D.C.-based firm packed with Obama-era powerbrokers. The company, WestExec Advisors, describes itself as a “strategic advisory firm” that helps private businesses navigate potential challenges around the world, including international laws, “geopolitical trends,” and “changes in Washington and in other capitals.” Unlike lobbying firms, which are usually required to disclose to the names of clients and government agencies they contact, WestExec falls into a different category of company, allowing it to operate with far less transparency.
With Trench Warfare Deepening, Parties Face Unsettled Electoral Map
New York Times – Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns | Published: 11/15/2020
America’s two major parties had hoped the 2020 presidential election would render a decisive judgment on the country’s political trajectory. But after a race that broke records for voter turnout and campaign spending, neither Democrats nor Republicans have achieved a dominant upper hand. Instead, the election delivered a split decision, ousting President Trump but narrowing the Democratic majority in the House and perhaps preserving the Republican majority in the Senate. As Joe Biden prepares to take office and preside over a closely divided government, leaders in both camps are acknowledging voters seem to have issued not a mandate for the left or the right but a muddled plea to move on from Trump-style chaos.
Canada – Fitzgibbon Is the First Cabinet Minister to Be Reprimanded by National Assembly
Montreal Gazette – Jocelyne Richer | Published: 11/12/2020
Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon became the first provincial minister to be reprimanded by the National Assembly. While he maintains he did nothing wrong, Fitzgibbon will have to live with the unanimous vote for the rest of his political career. An investigation by concluded Fitzgibbon placed himself in a situation where his personal interest could influence his independence and judgment as a cabinet minister because of his close friendship with businessperson and lobbyist Luc Laperrière. The report criticized Fitzgibbon for allowing Laperrière privileged access to him while the latter was promoting three business dossiers being handled by Fitzgibbon’s ministry.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Voters Approve Alaska Ballot Measure 2 Which Adopts Top-Four Primaries, Ranked-Choice General Elections
Ballotpedia News – Ryan Byrne | Published: 11/18/2020
Ballot Measure 2 was approved by Alaska voters. It makes several changes to election policies, including: replacing partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices; establishing ranked-choice voting for general elections, including the presidential election, in which voters can rank the candidates; and requiring persons and entities that contribute more than $2,000 that were derived from donations, contributions, dues, or gifts to disclose the true sources of the money.
California – California Lawmakers Head to Maui with Lobbyists Despite Pandemic, Travel Warnings
Politico – Katy Murphy | Published: 11/16/2020
The coronavirus pandemic did not derail an annual gathering of lobbyists and California lawmakers on the shores of Maui that brought people from across the country to a luxury resort. Roughly 100 people from four states converged at the Fairmont Kea Lani for a four-day legislative conference organized by the Independent Voter Project, said the group’s executive director, Dan Howle. The 18th annual event was a third of its regular size, Howle said, but it still drew nearly 20 lawmakers from California, Texas, and Washington state. The theme was how to reopen states’ economies amid the public health crisis.
California – Former Consultant for California High-Speed Rail Project Is Cleared of Ethics Violations
Yahoo News – Ralph Vartabedian | Published: 11/12/2020
The Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into the top consultant working on the California bullet train last year found he did not violate state law, following allegations he was among those who approved a contract modification for a company in which he held stock. The probe found Roy Hill, formerly the top official at the state’s main consulting firm, WSP, did not violate state laws for conflicts-of-interest. Hill was deputy chief operating officer for the project. The matter involved allegations Hill signed a $51-million change order for the construction team led by the Spanish firm Dragados. It happened in the same year he may have owned more than $100,000 of stock in Jacobs Engineering, which is part of the Dragados team.
California – Newsom’s Cozy Ties with Top Lobbyist Showcased by French Laundry Dinner Party
Politico – Jeremy White and Debra Kahn | Published: 11/16/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is being criticized for his decision to attend a celebration for political operative Jason Kinney at the French Laundry in Napa County. After the private dinner was reported, Newsom said while the outdoor meal did not violate coronavirus restrictions, he showed poor judgment in attending. The meal also cast a brighter spotlight on Kinney and the dual clout he wields in the insular world of California politics. Kinney is not the first operative to blur the line between politics and policy. The doors between campaigns, administrations, and Sacramento’s lobbying corps have long swung open for people with contacts and experience to leverage.
Florida – State Investigating Mysterious Candidate Who Swayed Tight Florida Senate Race
Tampa Bay Times – Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos | Published: 11/17/2020
The razor-thin victory that delivered Ileana Garcia to the Florida Senate and ousted Democrat José Javier Rodríguez continues to raise eyebrows for one reason: a mysterious third candidate named Alex Rodriguez. A one-time mechanic with no history in local politics, Alex Rodriguez never started a campaign website, attended no candidate forums, and received no donations, save for a $2,000 loan from himself. Mailers pitching his name sent to voters in the Coral Gables area were sent by a shadowy political group that, so far, has been untraceable. When a television reporter recently tracked Alex Rodriguez down, he pretended to be someone else.
Georgia – Ga. Secretary of State Says Fellow Republicans Are Pressuring Him to Find Ways to Exclude Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2020
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he has come under increasing pressure from fellow Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state. Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.
Illinois – City Council Divided Over Changing Naperville’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules
Chicago Tribune – Suzanne Baker (Naperville Sun) | Published: 11/18/2020
Proposed changes to the Naperville campaign ethics regulations to include finance disclosures for city council members raised as many questions as it did support. Council member Theresa Sullivan originally sought to amend the city’s ethics code to require council members and the mayor to recuse themselves from voting on any agenda item if the petitioner, or a representative of the petitioner, donated more than $500 to their most recent campaign. Sullivan said she has since realized a mandatory recusal opens the door to more unintended consequences than she anticipated. Instead, Sullivan said she supports an option where council members must announce any campaign donation of $500 or more before voting on any pertinent issue where a donor was either a petitioner or opponent.
Illinois – Feds Charge Former Top ComEd Executives, Lobbyists in Springfield Corruption Case
WBEZ – Dan Milhalopoulos, Dave McKinney, and Tony Arnold | Published: 11/18/2020
Federal prosecutors marched deeper into Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle, charging longtime confidant Michael McClain and former Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) Chief Executive Officer Anne Pramaggiore in a bribery scheme designed to curry favor with the powerful speaker. Also charged are ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and Jay Doherty, the former president of the City Club of Chicago, who was accused of helping to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to three people with ties to Madigan. ComEd admitted in July to an effort to win Madigan’s favor for rate increases and other legislation by funneling consulting payments to his allies for doing little or no work for the utility.
Louisiana – After IG’s Ouster, Stronger Whistleblower Laws Considered by New Orleans Ethics Review Board
Nola.com – Jeff Adelson | Published: 11/17/2020
The ouster of New Orleans’ inspector general could spark a move for more expansive whistleblower protection laws or more detailed oversight of that office, city council members were told. Following allegations of rampant absenteeism against Inspector General Derry Harper and reports he warned staff against taking their concerns over his head, Ethics Review Board Chairperson Michael Cowan said efforts were underway to tighten the reins. The potential challenge, he said, would be balancing greater oversight of the watchdog office with the need for it to remain independent of political influence.
Maine – Ethics Commission to Review Records of Maine Legislative ‘Leadership PACs’
Portland Press Herald – Kevin Miller | Published: 11/18/2020
The Maine ethics commission will review the finances of 15 so-called leadership PACs run by state lawmakers to ensure the groups are keeping accurate records and not violating state laws prohibiting personal use of PAC money. Members of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices stressed the reviews were being conducted “without any suggestion of impropriety.” But they also acknowledged the structure of “leadership PACs” – political action committees set up by legislators to raise and spend money – means there may be fewer “checks and balances” than in larger organizations.
Michigan – Trump Coronavirus Adviser Tells Michigan to ‘Rise Up’ Against New Shutdown Orders
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 11/15/2020
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closing colleges, high schools, workplaces, and in-person dining for three weeks as coronavirus cases have spiked. After she appealed to the Trump administration to intervene in the pandemic, White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas responded with a call to action. But instead of supporting Whitmer’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus in Michigan, he urged residents to reject the state’s public health guidelines. “The only way this stops is if people rise up,” Atlas said in a tweet, which quoted a reporter who had shared information about Whitmer’s new restrictions. Critics condemned the rhetoric, which mirrored President Trump’s statements that correlated “tyranny” with the restrictions put in place previously by Whitmer, who was the target of an alleged kidnap plot that was thwarted.
Michigan – U.S. Attorney Sought Records from Joan Jackson Johnson’s Charity; City Must Repay $234K in HUD Grants
Lansing State Journal – Sarah Lehr | Published: 11/13/2020
Federal prosecutors requested records from One Church One Family, a private charity formerly managed by Joan Jackson Johnson. Meanwhile, Lansing is preparing to repay $233,710 in federal grant money the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concluded the city mismanaged during Jackson Johnson’s tenure as director of Human Relations and Community Services. Jackson Johnson retired in February after an external audit found she mismanaged city money and may have sought to “conceal” conflicts-of-interest by not properly disclosing them.
Michigan – Wayne County Republican Who Asked to ‘Rescind’ Her Vote Certifying Election Results Says Trump Called Her
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Kayla Ruble, and Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) | Published: 11/19/2020
President Trump called a Republican canvassing board member in Wayne County who announced she wanted to rescind her decision to certify the results of the presidential election. “I did receive a call from President Trump, late Tuesday evening, after the meeting,” Monica Palmer, one of two GOP members of the four-member board. “He was checking in to make sure I was safe after hearing the threats and doxing that had occurred.” The call came after an hours-long meeting in which the canvassing board voted to certify the results of the November 3 election, a key step toward finalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state. The state said Palmer’s board has done its job and cannot retract its votes.
Missouri – Failure to Pay Ethics Fine Could Cost Bruce Franks About $75,000
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Joe Hollerman | Published: 11/16/2020
After not making a payment in 10 months on a negotiated $14,000 fine, the Missouri Ethics Commission now contends that former state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. owes more than $89,000. The state filed suit against Franks, saying he has not made a payment on the lower fine that was negotiated last year. The suit says Franks’ failure to make a payment on the agreed-upon amount now causes the remaining $75,000 of the fine to be restored.
Nevada – Former Tourism Exec Strikes Ethics Deal in Misuse of Gift Cards
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German | Published: 11/13/2020
Brig Lawson, a former executive with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, agreed to pay $13,881 in state ethics fines for using agency-bought airline gift cards on personal travel. Lawson also will pay another $8,881 fine the Nevada Ethics Commission said is twice the value of the Southwest Airlines gift cards he and his domestic partner and his partner’s parents used for personal trips.
New Mexico – Modest Sunshine Still Leaves Campaign Cash in Shadow
New Mexico In Depth – Sara Swann (The Fulcrum) and Bryan Metzger | Published: 11/18/2020
What is happening in New Mexico illustrates that improving the transparency of how campaigns are financed can be done, but making progress often requires incremental steps that take a lot of time. It is an example of what states across the country must grapple with when they seek to slow the influence of money over their own politics, at a time when federal regulation of presidential and congressional elections has shriveled. Money still floats through the state’s elections while remaining out of public view because a new law did not strengthen donor disclosure requirements for PACs.
New York – After Cuomo Book Approval, Ethics Commissioners Quash Greater Scrutiny
The Telegraph – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 11/17/2020
Staff for the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has long issued informal advisory opinions to public officials seeking advice about how to conduct themselves properly under state ethics and lobbying laws. In 2012, commissioners passed a resolution allowing staff to do that work between meetings. At the same time, state law requires JCOPE to engage in a formal process: approving or disapproving requests by state employees to earn over $5,000 in outside income. In practice, JCOPE’s informal advisory opinions have become conflated with the formal approval process. Staff has used the opinion letters to approve or disapprove the formal requests to earn income, even though nothing in the resolution passed by commissioners granted staff that authority.
New York – Despite State Law, Democrats’ Seats on Ethics Panel Remain Vacant
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/16/2020
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has been short two commissioners for more than a year, due to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins not following that law that a commissioner must be replaced within 30 days by the government leader responsible for making that appointment. Gov. Andrew Cuomo appoints six commissioners, three Republicans and three Democrats. Among Republican lawmakers, Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt has three picks and Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay has one. Senate Democratic spokesperson Mike Murphy said JCOPE has “well-documented problems which make it hard to find people that would want to serve.”
Ohio – FBI Searches Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo’s Home
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer and Andrew Tobias | Published: 11/16/2020
FBI agents searched a home owned by Sam Randazzo, chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). An FBI spokesperson declined to provide details about why the home was searched. The PUCO chair is one of the most powerful positions in state government, wielding influence on matters regarding the regulation of utilities in the state to include profits and rates charged to customers. The search comes after the FBI arrested then- House Speaker Larry Householder and four others in connection to a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly funded by FirstEnergy, which was seeking a $1 billion legislative bailout for its two nuclear power plants in the state.
Ohio – How FBI Agents Posed as Cincinnati Hotel Developers to Catch Suspects in 2 Ohio Bribery Scandals
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 11/12/2020
Lobbyist Neil Clark did not realize, while chatting with hotel developer clients after a Cincinnati Reds game, that he was talking with undercover FBI agents working to uncover two bribery schemes. The first was against Cincinnati City Councilperson Jeff Pator, who is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for his vote on development projects. The second was against Clark, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, and three others. They are accused of orchestrating a nearly $61 million bribery scheme to seize control of the House, pass a bailout for nuclear plants, and defend those subsidies against a ballot initiative. Those two apparently unconnected, widespread bribery investigations converged in Cincinnati.
Ohio – Sundermann, Landsman Propose Reforms After 2 Council Members Accused of Taking Bribes
MSN – Jennifer Edwards Baker (WXIX) | Published: 11/16/2020
Cincinnati City Councilmembers Greg Landsman and Betsy Sundermann separately announced a series of proposed City Hall reforms, including a charter amendment that would allow for recall of people in office and a creating a city Ethics Commission. The announcements come on the heels of two councilmembers, Tamaya Dennard and Jeff Pastor, being arrested on charges that allege “pay-to-play” schemes. Pastor was accused of taking $55,000 in bribes, allegation he has vowed to fight. Dennard, who has resigned, was arrested after she promised a developer she would vote for a development project in exchange for $15,000.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rejects Complaints About Philadelphia Election Observations
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein | Published: 11/17/2020
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled observers’ rights to watch ballot counting was sufficient in Philadelphia, rejecting a claim from President Trump’s campaign that poll observers did not get “meaningful access.” The Trump campaign argued observers were stationed too far away to see the process of counting votes, and a lower court initially agreed with them, ordering that they be allowed closer to the process. The state Supreme Court, which had previously rejected other Republican arguments, vacated that lower court order.
Pennsylvania – Top Pa. Senator’s Campaign Revives Lawsuit Against Journalists Over Public Records Fees
PennLive – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) | Published: 11/12/2020
The campaign of Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati renewed its lawsuit against a Spotlight PA journalist and others, asking the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas to overturn a lower court’s dismissal of the case. Scarnati’s campaign sued The Caucus, Caucus Bureau Chief Brad Bumsted, and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis for $5,070. The suit claims they owe an accounting firm the money for producing public records that documented questionable spending by Scarnati’s campaign. The campaign also wants $1,000 for attorney fees and court costs. A judge ruled Scarnati’s campaign should pay the accounting firm.
Tennessee – Nashville Council Members Call for Ethics Review of Actions by Colleague Robert Swope
The Tennessean – Yihyng Jeong | Published: 11/16/2020
Council members are calling for an ethics review of Metro Council member Robert Swope’s conduct after recent reports say he tried to steer government contracts to his company. A letter has circulated gauging interest among council members in asking Swope to seek an advisory opinion from the Metro Board of Ethical Conduct. The concerns follow news reports that uncovered emails showing Swopes last year tried to get city contracts Intelligent Transit and also attempted to initiate a loan proposal to lend Metro $500 million from a company he is affiliated with, in exchange for ownership of some future city infrastructure.
Texas – FBI Is Investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, AP Report Says
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 11/17/2020
The FBI is investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Associated Press reported, vetting allegations made by eight of Paxton’s former top aides that he illegally used the power of his office to benefit a political donor. Sources said the bureau was examining claims made by the whistleblowers that Paxton broke the law by intervening several times in legal matters involving Nate Paul, a real estate investor and friend who donated $25,000 to Paxton’s campaign in 2018. Aides told authorities they believed Paxton had committed crimes as part of his relationship with Paul, citing bribery and abuse of office. Since then, four aides have been fired, three have resigned, and one has been placed on leave, sparking a whistleblower lawsuit.
Virginia – Charges Dismissed Against State Sen. Louise Lucas in Vandalism of Portsmouth’s Confederate Monument
Virginian-Pilot – Margaret Matray | Published: 11/16/2020
A judge dismissed charges against Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas and all others charged in a June protest at Portsmouth’s Confederate monument at the request of the city’s top prosecutor, who said the elements of the charges were not properly met. The felony charges against Lucas and 18 others – including local NAACP leaders, several public defenders, and a school board member –stem from a protest and vandalism at the city’s Confederate monument. Activists and Democrats questioned the timing of the charges, which came a day before a General Assembly special session. Lucas, a veteran Democratic legislator, has been an outspoken advocate for police reform.
Washington – After Years of Preamble, Tim Eyman’s Trial Begins. Could It Mean the End of His Initiatives?
Wenatchee World – David Gutman (Seattle Times) | Published: 11/16/2020
Tim Eyman has spent decades running initiatives to lower taxes and advance conservative policies in Washington. He now stands accused of laundering political donations to enrich himself, accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm, and a years-long refusal to comply with campaign finance laws. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose 2017 lawsuit precipitated the civil trial, seeks millions of dollars in damages and hopes to permanently bar Eyman from accepting money on behalf of any political committee or handling their finances. Eyman has personally received and concealed more than $1 million, Ferguson says.
West Virginia – W.Va. Lobbyist Puccio Crosses Political Streams to Advise Democrat Manchin, Republican Justice
West Virginia MetroNews – Brad McElhinny | Published: 11/15/2020
Larry Puccio has been walking a political tightrope. His path crosses influence, access, politics, loyalty, friendship, and no small degree of personal finance against the backdrop of a West Virginia that is transitioning from longtime Democratic dominance toward Republican power. He is a lobbyist, former state Democratic Party chairperson, and ex-chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin when he was governor. But this political season, Puccio pushed for the re-election of Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican who first won office as a Democrat.
November 18, 2020 •
Campaign Finance National: “Pelosi, Democrats Renew Push to Overhaul Election, Campaign Finance Laws” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call Missouri: “Failure to Pay Ethics Fine Could Cost Bruce Franks About $75,000” by Joe Hollerman for St. Louis Post-Dispatch Elections National: […]
National: “Pelosi, Democrats Renew Push to Overhaul Election, Campaign Finance Laws” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
Missouri: “Failure to Pay Ethics Fine Could Cost Bruce Franks About $75,000” by Joe Hollerman for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
National: “Fewer Opportunities and a Changed Political Environment in the U.S. May Have Curbed Moscow’s Election Interference This Year, Analysts Say” by Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) for MSN
Georgia: “Ga. Secretary of State Says Fellow Republicans Are Pressuring Him to Find Ways to Exclude Ballots” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Despite State Law, Democrats’ Seats on Ethics Panel Remain Vacant” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Ohio: “FBI Searches Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo’s Home” by Jeremy Pelzer and Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer
Tennessee: “Nashville Council Members Call for Ethics Review of Actions by Colleague Robert Swope” by Yihyng Jeong for The Tennessean
California: “California Lawmakers Head to Maui with Lobbyists Despite Pandemic, Travel Warnings” by Katy Murphy for Politico
National: “NASA Official Asked Boeing If It Would Protest a Major Contract It Lost. Instead, Boeing Resubmitted Its Bid” by Christian Davenport (Washington Post) for MSN
September 4, 2020 •
National/Federal 1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says MSN – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 9/1/2020 More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, underscoring concerns about […]
1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says
MSN – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 9/1/2020
More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, underscoring concerns about whether the agency has the ability to process what is expected to be a major increase in mail-in votes for the presidential election in November. In a survey of mail-in ballots sent during primaries from June 2 to August 13, the agency’s inspector general found election boards across the country had sent more than one million ballots during the final week of the election, putting those votes at “high risk” of not making it back to officials in time to be counted. Hundreds of ballots were mailed after elections were over, meaning they could not be counted, and only a small percentage used the proper tracking procedures, the audit found.
As Clashes Between Armed Groups and Leftist Protesters Turn Deadly, Police Face Complaints of Tolerating Vigilantes
MSN – Joshua Partlow and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2020
As protesters march against racism and police violence in cities and towns across the nation, they are being confronted by groups of armed civilians who claim to be assisting and showing support for police battered and overwhelmed by the protests. The confrontations have left at least three people dead in recent days. The incidents have drawn complaints that local authorities abetted the violence by tolerating the presence of these self-appointed enforcers with no uniforms, varied training, and limited accountability. The stated motives of these vigilante actors, who are virtually indistinguishable from one another once massed on the streets, range from protecting storefronts and free speech to furthering White supremacy and fomenting civil war.
As Trump Appointees Flout the Hatch Act, Civil Servants Who Get Caught Get Punished
MSN – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 8/28/2020
The Hatch Act, the anti-corruption law Congress passed in 1939, applies on paper at least to civil servants and political appointees alike. But the top Trump administration officials showcased in prime-time appearances and speaking slots at the Republican National Convention serve as a reminder that when it comes to flouting the separation between governing and politicking, there appears to be a two-tiered system of consequences. Special Counsel Henry Kerner, who was appointed by President Trump, cited at least nine high-level Trump appointees for abusing their government roles to further the president’s reelection or disparage his rivals. They have largely thumbed their noses at the law. Career employees, meanwhile, have faced warning letters, reprimands, suspensions without pay and, in extreme cases, been fired and debarred from returning to government.
Barr Tightens Rules on Surveillance of Political Candidates and Advisers
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett | Published: 9/1/2020
Attorney General William Barr imposed new rules tightening the use of government surveillance on political candidates or their staffers, a move likely to cheer conservatives who have long criticized how the FBI investigated the Trump campaign in 2016. Barr said before the FBI and Justice Department seek a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to secretly monitor the communications of an elected official, a declared political candidate, or any of their staff and advisers, officials must first consider warning that person foreign governments may be targeting them, and if they choose not to give such a warning, the FBI director must spell out in writing the reasons for not doing so.
D.C. Circuit Panel Guts House Subpoena Power
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/31/2020
A divided federal appeals court panel dealt a blow to the U.S. House’s investigative power, ruling the House cannot go to court to enforce subpoenas because there is no statute giving that chamber the authority to do so. The ruling marked the second time a District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals panel essentially voided a subpoena the House issued last year to Donald McGahn demanding the former White House counsel testify about his dealings with President Trump related to the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. If the decision stands, it could cripple the House’s ability to demand information from sources unwilling to give it up readily.
Election Security Officials See No Sign of Foreign Threat to Mail-In Voting
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2020
Foreign governments such as Russia and China continue to try to interfere in the upcoming U.S. election, but officials have seen no evidence of countries trying to manipulate or manufacture mail-in ballots, officials said. Federal authorities are ramping up their efforts to keep state and local election systems secure, particularly in light of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, which led to criticism the government had been slow and soft in its response. Those assurances are in contrast to statements by President Trump, who has repeatedly argued mail-in voting is so ripe for abuse that he would block additional funds for the U.S. Postal Service to handle a surge in mail ballots this year.
Facebook Will Block New Political Advertising the Week Before Election Day
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg | Published: 9/3/2020
Facebook announced it would ban new political advertisements from its platform in the week leading up to the November election. The move to limit ads, part of a spate of election-related announcements, is an attempt to reduce misinformation that is expected to flood social networks as Election Day draws near. The company also said it would label posts by any candidate or campaign that tries to declare victory before the results are in, directing people to the official results from Reuters. It will do the same for any posts that try to delegitimize the outcome of the election. It has also started to limit users’ ability to forward articles on its Messenger platform to large groups of people.
Homeland Security Blocked Warnings of Russian Campaign Against Biden
New York Times – Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/2/2020
The Department of Homeland Security declined to publish a July 9 intelligence document that warns of Russian attempts to denigrate Joe Biden’s mental health, prompting new scrutiny of political influence at the department. Before the bulletin was distributed, senior Homeland Security officials intervened to halt publication. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson asked the inspector general for the department to review the matter. The department’s leaders and its intelligence office have already attracted criticism for appearing to shape decisions around the political whims of the White House, such as actions at the U.S.-Mexican border and the deployment of tactical teams to Portland and Washington, D.C., against the wishes of local governments.
How Trump’s Company Charged the U.S. Government More Than $900,000
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2020
Donald Trump has now visited his own properties 270 times as president, according to a Washington Post tally. Through these trips, he has brought the Trump Organization a stream of private revenue from federal agencies and Republican campaign groups. Federal spending records show taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office. New documents give more detail about how the Trump Organization charged the Secret Service – a kind of captive customer, required to follow Trump everywhere. In addition to rentals at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump Organization charged daily “resort fees” to Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Pence in Las Vegas and in another instance asked agents to pay a $1,300 “furniture removal charge” during a presidential visit to a Trump resort in Scotland.
Inside Trump’s Pressure Campaign on Federal Scientists Over a Covid-19 Treatment
MSN – Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2020
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made a series of missteps recently, following flip-flops earlier this year on authorizing and then revoking clearance for the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and its initial decision not to regulate Covid-19 antibody tests. It also feeds a long-running narrative of a White House repeatedly undermining its health and science experts, not just at the FDA but also at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “I’ve been following health regulatory decisions for decades and have never seen this amount of White House arm twisting to force agencies … to make decisions based on political pressure, rather than the best science,” said Jerome Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Justice Department Zeroing in On Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky, Carol Leonnig, and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 9/1/2020
Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy is under scrutiny for his alleged role in a campaign to persuade high-level Trump administration officials to drop an investigation of Malaysian government corruption, as well as for his attempt to push for the extradition of a Chinese dissident back to his home country. He has been in discussions with the Justice Department and could ultimately reach a plea deal in connection with efforts to influence the U.S. government on behalf of foreign interests. After the 2016 election, Broidy served as a national deputy finance chairperson for the Republican National Committee. He resigned in the wake of a report he had paid a woman $1.6 million in exchange for her silence about a sexual affair. Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen helped arrange the settlement, Broidy acknowledged.
Michael Flynn Case Does Not Have to Be Immediately Dismissed, Appeals Court Rules
Washington Post – Ann Marimow and Spencer Hsu | Published: 8/31/2020
A federal judge can scrutinize the Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, allowing the legal saga to continue. The decision from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gives U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan the go-ahead to question prosecutors’ unusual move to dismiss Flynn’s case ahead of sentencing. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts before Trump took office in 2017. The decision by the full court reverses a ruling by a three-judge panel that ordered Sullivan to close the case. Judge Thomas Griffith said it would be premature for the appeals court to intervene and force Sullivan’s hand before he had rendered a decision.
Postal Chief DeJoy Has Long Leveraged Connections, Dollars
Associated Press News – Matthew Daly, Brian Slodysko, and Anthony Izaguirre | Published: 8/30/2020
How Louis DeJoy was hired as postmaster general is among the questions Congress is trying to unravel as lawmakers scrutinize a series of operational changes at the Postal Service that have resulted in widespread mail delays and fears the agency will not be able to handle an expected surge in mail-in ballots this fall as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration denies any impropriety in the selection of DeJoy, a former supply chain chief executive who is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades not to be a career postal employee. DeJoy’s prolific giving to organizations and Republican candidates, including $1.2 million to President Trump, has also drawn a spotlight to the transactional appearance of some of his contributions.
PPP Loans Helped Out Congressional Spouses’ Workplaces
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 8/28/2020
The Paycheck Protection Program is not accepting loan applications anymore, but the extent to which members of Congress and their families benefited from it continues to roll in. The law firm where U.S. Rep. Martha Roby’s husband works – and engages in a 401(k) profit sharing plan at the firm worth up to $1.8 million – received a loan between $5-$10 million. Conflict-of-interest prohibitions do not apply to the Paycheck Protection Program, a component of the $2 trillion CARES Act. As such, members of Congress and their families are allowed to get Paycheck – Protection Program relief, an effort they helped pass into law.
Top Lobbying, Public Affairs Firms Join to Form Holding Company
Bloomberg Law – Megan Wilson | Published: 8/28/2020
Five lobbying and public affairs firms have set up their own holding company, an unconventional partnership in the influence industry that allows them to expand their businesses while remaining independent. The Public Policy Holding Company will specialize in advocacy and is owned by the participating firms, a contrast to the more common practice of massive multinationals gobbling up K Street firms. The benefits for the firms include being able to offer clients a suite of lobbying, public affairs, and state-level advocacy without sacrificing their individual brands or businesses.
Canada – Montreal-Based Ventilation Company Becomes Fourth Company Banned from Federal Contracts for 10 Years
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 9/1/2020
For the first time in four years, the federal government added a new company to its blacklist of suppliers. Les Industries Garanties Limitée is banned from bidding on federal contracts for a decade after an employee admitting bid-rigging in 2017. The company, which bills itself as “Montreal’s largest and most innovative leader in air conditioning services for commercial, industrial, residential and institutional sectors,” is only the fourth company to be deemed ineligible for federal contracts or real property agreements under the Integrity Regime. The regime aims to weed out and sanction any potential federal supplier who has been convicted of certain crimes, such as bribery, bid-rigging, or illegal lobbying.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – AG: Time for former Alabama speaker to go to prison
Associated Press News – Kim Chandler | Published: 8/31/2020
The Alabama Supreme Court refused to reverse its decision upholding much of the 2016 ethics conviction of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and the state attorney general said it is time for the once-powerful Republican to report to prison. The court this spring overturned five of the counts in Hubbard’s ethics convictions while upholding six others. Prosecutors accused Hubbard of leveraging his powerful public office to obtain clients and investments for his businesses. His defense lawyers maintained the transactions were all aboveboard.
Arizona – Charity Founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb Has $18,000 in Unaccounted Spending
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 8/31/2020
A charity founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb reported raising more than $50,000 during its first year in operation but has not reported how it spent a single penny during that time. Instead, tax filings by the American Sheriff Foundation are largely blank, leave at least $18,000 unaccounted for, and do not disclose business relationships between board members that must be reported to the IRS. While the organization touts itself as building bridges between community and law enforcement, records obtained by The Arizona Republic leave unclear how much money the foundation is spending on charity and where the rest of its funds are going.
Arkansas – 2 Measures Kicked Off State Ballot
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – John Moritz | Published: 8/28/2020
The Arkansas Supreme Court removed a pair of proposed changes to the state constitution from the November ballot, halting attempts to enact ranked-choice voting and a new method for drawing legislative and congressional districts. The court disqualified both measures on technical grounds, finding fault with the wording the groups behind the measures used to certify their paid canvassers met all the requirements to collect signatures. Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas wrote in submissions they “acquired ” criminal background checks for each of their canvassers. Secretary of State John Thurston’s office, however, said the groups needed to certify that the canvassers “passed” the background checks.
California – Biden-Linked Firm Won California Voter Outreach Contract
Associated Press News – Kathleen Ronayne and Chris Blood | Published: 8/27/2020
The California agency that oversees elections has signed a $35 million contract with a firm linked to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to produce advertising to encourage voters to participate in the November election. Under the contract, SKD Knickerbocker, a Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm, will help run the “Vote Safe California” campaign, which will urge people to vote during the pandemic. Anita Dunn, the firm’s managing director, is a senior strategist for Biden’s presidential campaign. The firm’s work for Biden is highlighted on its website, with a headline saying the company is “proud to be a part of Team Biden.”
California – He Paved the Way for Big Electronic Billboards. Then $75,000 Poured in for His Reelection
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/30/2020
When a real estate developer proposed a $1.2-billion skyscraper near downtown Los Angeles, city council member Curren Price stepped forward to champion the project, despite warnings it would accelerate gentrification in the area. Price urged his colleagues to approve the development in 2016, saying it would create hundreds of jobs. He also ensured that developer Ara Tavitian received permission to install three digital billboards on a 12-story building already located on the site, over objections from city planning commissioners. Months later, three of Tavitian’s real estate companies poured $75,000 into a PAC working to reelect Price.
Connecticut – Connecticut Judge: Public campaign grants can pay for child care
Connecticut Post – Emilie Munson | Published: 8/28/2020
A Connecticut judge ruled candidates for elected office can use public campaign funding to pay for childcare while they are campaigning, clearing the way for more parents to run for office in the state. The plaintiff, Caitlin Clarkson Pereira ran for state representative in 2018. The state agency that oversees campaign finance laws rebuked her attempt to use public election grants to cover childcare. The grants can be used to pay for travel and other expenses produced by a campaign.
Georgia – State Ethics Commission Says Atlanta Mayor Not Cooperating with Election Investigation
WSB – Richard Belcher | Published: 9/2/2020
The fallout from a long and expensive 2017 Atlanta mayor’s race is still being felt some three years later as ethics investigations dog the participants. In August, the Georgia’s ethics commission fined the losing candidate, Mary Norwood, $27,000 which she immediately paid off. But the commission said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is not cooperating with its investigation into hundreds of thousands of dollars in suspected illegal campaign contributions. The commission notified Bottoms this past December they found evidence of nearly $400,000 of financial irregularities within the campaign.
Illinois – Former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski Admits to Bribery and Extortion
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/1/2020
Jeff Tobolski, a former Cook County commissioner and mayor, admitted he took “multiple extortion and bribe payments” worth a total of more than $250,000. He admitted conspiring with an unnamed McCook police officer to get cash payments from a restaurant owner in exchange for giving permission to the business to sell liquor. Media reports said a factory owner in Tobolski’s county board district felt pressured to give a campaign contribution to the commission while the businessperson’s application for a county property-tax break was pending. In one email, Tobolski said the tool-and-die business should contribute campaign cash annually and budget for the expense as if it were a “fixed cost” of doing business in his district.
Illinois – Former SafeSpeed Executive Who Wore FBI Wire Charged with Bribery Conspiracy Involving Oak Lawn Red-Light Camera Scheme
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 8/31/2020
Federal prosecutors charged a central figure in their ongoing corruption probe in Chicago involving red-light camera company SafeSpeed. The one-count criminal information alleges Omar Maani, who was co-owner of the company, conspired with Patrick Doherty, who has worked as a paid consultant for SafeSpeed, and another sales agent for the company to pay $4,000 in bribes to pay off the relative of an Oak Lawn trustee to expand the number of red-light cameras there. To hide the purpose of the bribes, the money would come from a company where Doherty was a manager. Maani’s cooperation with federal authorities already has led to charges against a number of politicians and power players, including then-Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval.
Illinois – Naperville Council Member Proposes Ethics Policy to Limit Influence of Campaign Donations on City Business
Chicago Tribune – Erin Hegarty (Naperville Sun) | Published: 9/2/2020
Naperville City Councilperson Theresa Sullivan requested the city look into whether it could enforce stricter ethics policies to keep campaign donations from influencing city council votes. Sullivan proposed city staff research amending Naperville’s ethics code to require council members and the mayor to recuse themselves from voting on an agenda item if the petitioner, or a representative of the petitioner, donated more than $500 to the mayor or council member’s most recent campaign.
Indiana – Whiting Mayor, Wife Pulled $255K from Campaign to Fuel Gambling Habit, Pay Credit Card Debt, Feds Say
Northwest Indiana Times – Lauren Cross | Published: 8/27/2020
Longtime Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura illegally spent $255,000 in campaign money to fuel his and his wife’s gambling habits, pay down debts, and support his adult daughter, federal prosecutors said in announcing felony charges against him. Diane Stahura transferred money from the campaign committee’s bank account to the Stahuras’ personal bank account, authorities said. Prosecutors said Joe Stahura filed a false tax return in 2019, falsely listing his gross income and not accounting for $51,480 stolen from the campaign account in 2018. Additionally, on his campaign finance report he overstated the loan repayment amount to his campaign by approximately $40,000, prosecutors said.
Iowa – Judge Voids 50,000 Absentee Ballot Requests in Iowa County
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 8/28/2020
A judge ordered an Iowa county to invalidate 50,000 requests for absentee ballots, agreeing with President Trump’s campaign that its elections commissioner overstepped his authority by pre-filling them with voters’ personal information. Judge Ian Thornhill issued a temporary injunction ordering Linn County Auditor Joel Miller to notify voters in writing the forms should not have been pre-filled with their information and cannot be processed. Instead, they will have to either fill out new requests for absentee ballots or vote on Election Day. Republicans said the ruling would hold a “rogue auditor” accountable and enhance voting security, while Democrats called it an act of voter suppression.
Kentucky – Kentucky’s New Election Finance Reporting System Plagued with More Delays
Louisville Courier-Journal – Joe Sonka | Published: 8/28/2020
When it passed a law in 2019 requiring candidates and committees to file their campaign finance reports electronically, the Kentucky General Assembly was aiming for increased transparency. The new system would let taxpayers know as soon as possible who was contributing to whom. The law went into effect this year, but so far has fallen short of that aim. The system delays run counter to the essential mission of the agency, providing timely transparency on who is bankrolling political campaigns. It makes any major financial push by special interest groups difficult to detect.
Missouri – Judges Redo Voter Summary of Missouri Redistricting Measure
Associated Press News – Summer Ballentine | Published: 8/31/2020
A Missouri appeals court panel rewrote a summary for voters describing a November ballot measure that would revamp the state’s model for drawing fair and competitive legislative districts. The Legislature’s combined the redistricting changes with popular measures to lower campaign contribution limits and restrict lobbyist gifts to lawmakers. “We believe that voters need to be informed that they are being asked to reconsider, and substantially modify, a measure which they only recently approved,” according to the ruling written by Judge Alok Ahuja.
Montana – COPP Dismisses Complaints Against Bullock, Warns of Fees for Future Faulty Claims
Great Falls Tribune – Phil Drake | Published: 8/28/2020
The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices dismissed two complaints filed by the state Republican Party against Gov. Steve Bullock, saying they did not meet ethics code violations. In one case, Commissioner Jeff Mangan warned that ethics complaints, with and without basis in law and fact, are on a “steep rise” and he will begin charging complaints when cases fail to meet legal standards. He said conclusory statements, assumptions, or opinions are not enough to support a proceeding under the ethics code.
Montana – Judge Upholds Montana Political Spending Disclosure Rule
Associated Press News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 8/31/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Lovell upheld Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s executive order that requires companies to report political spending if they want to bid on large state contracts. Lovell ruled the Illinois Opportunity Project does not have the legal standing to challenge the order, which requires reporting of contributions even to “dark money” groups. Under Bullock’s order, companies submitting bids for contracts valued at more than $25,000 for services or $50,000 for goods must disclose two years’ worth of political spending if it exceeds $2,500.
New York – Court Shields Trump Tax Returns, Likely Until After Election
ABC News – Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 9/1/2020
A federal appeals court granted President Trump a temporary reprieve in the fight over his tax returns, barring Manhattan’s top prosecutor from getting the records while Trump’s lawyers embark on another bid to overturn the subpoena seeking them. With a temporary stay in place and Trump expecting a return to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is unlikely the case will be resolved or any tax returns will be turned over before the November election. A lawyer for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office argued further delays to the enforcement of a subpoena issued nearly a year ago would only hamper their investigation, which he said covers a wide range of business dealings connected to the Trump Organization.
Ohio – FirstEnergy, Caught Up in FBI Investigation, Used Its ‘Political Might’ to Pressure the Ohio Statehouse
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/27/2020
Interviews and a review of hundreds of pages of court documents and campaign finance reports, show FirstEnergy and its affiliates have used an army of lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants, as well as political contributions, to pressure Ohio lawmakers to get what they want when they want it. The companies have used a rough-and-tumble political style to gain legislators’ support through fear or favor, according to interviews and court records. The tactics have sought to mold even the most independent lawmakers into compliant followers. The strategy became clear when the racketeering indictment of Former Speaker Larry Householder and four associates linked to House Bill 6 underscored the political influence of FirstEnergy and its former subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission Fines Anti-Nuclear Bailout Campaign Group for Not Disclosing Donors
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/27/2020
The Ohio Elections Commission fined the group behind the failed 2019 campaign to repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law, for failing to disclose who funded their efforts. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts faces a fine of at least $5,225, or $25 for each day that has passed since a January 31 campaign finance deadline. Commission members approved the fine recommended by staff after the group failed to file a routine report detailing donors and campaign expenses. Particularly since House Bill 6 was implicated in a federal corruption investigation, advocates and state lawmakers have cited the fight over the bill in calls for reforms to increase transparency in Ohio’s campaign finance system.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission to Consider 162 Campaign Finance Complaints Related to Larry Householder’s Campaign for Speaker
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/27/2020
Larry Householder and his allies committed dozens of violations of state campaign finance law, including bribery, while helping Householder become and retain his power as speaker of the House, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said. LaRose referred 162 elections complaints to the Elections Commission against Householder and four other men: his former top political aide Jeff Longstreth and lobbyists Matt Borges, Juan Cespedes, and Neil Clark. The alleged violations parallel a federal investigation, which has charged Householder and the others of accepting more than $60 million in bribes, funneled through a network of political groups, from FirstEnergy and its affiliates to help Householder get elected as speaker in 2019.
Ohio – Ohio House Poised to Remove Householder from Legislative Ethics Panel Following Corruption Arrest
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/1/2020
The Ohio House is moving to remove state Rep. Larry Householder from his seat on a legislative ethics board, six weeks after Householder was arrested in a federal corruption probe. Republicans added language to an unrelated bill to make it possible to remove Householder from the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), which oversees lobbying and ethics rules for the Legislature. Householder had gotten an automatic seat on the JLEC board when he was speaker, and state law otherwise was designed to prevent removing a lawmaker once they are on.
Oregon – Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/30/2020
As the first state in the nation to adopt vote-by-mail and automatic voter registration, Oregon has built a reputation for high voter turnout. But while Oregon voters have their say at the ballot box, corporations have their say more frequently in the Legislature, by keeping the state’s politicians awash in campaign cash. Oregon is one of five states that lack any limits on campaign contributions made by corporations, and one of eleven that lack any limit on individual donations to a candidate. The result is the state is number one in per capita corporate political donations and sixth overall in total corporate political donations. Heading into the November election, a coalition of state groups is putting the issue of unlimited corporate money in state politics before voters in a ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution.
Virginia – Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 9/1/2020
For vision-impaired voters in Virginia, there was no easy way to vote. They would either have to risk their health during a pandemic to vote in person or forgo voter privacy by asking someone to fill in the blanks on their mail-in ballot forms. Now, after the center and several other groups advocating for the blind filed a federal lawsuit, the Virginia Department of Elections has agreed to offer a new option. A consent decree will allow vision-impaired individuals to electronically receive mail-in ballots compatible with screen-reader assistive technology. The agreement applies only to the November 3 election.
Washington – Washington One of the Few States Without a ‘Cooling Off’ Period for Public Servants Turned Lobbyists
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Connell and Patrick Malone | Published: 9/2/2020
Nearly one in five of Washington’s roughly 800 registered lobbyists previously worked in state government or elected office. That includes about 60 lobbyists who came from high-ranking public positions. They include former chiefs of staff of governors, Cabinet secretaries, and deputy directors for state agencies. Several are former state lawmakers or attorneys for the Legislature. Government-reform advocates say the “revolving door” creates the potential for powerful interests to influence public servants who could be in line to land a job outside government. Then, as lobbyists, former officials can use their extensive knowledge and contacts to potentially exercise outsized influence on policy and legislation.
West Virginia – Lawsuit Reveals Lobbyist Drama
Wheeling News-Register – Steven Allen Adams | Published: 8/30/2020
Depositions filed in federal court revealed the internal drama behind the selection of standardized tests and the rivalry between the former state superintendent of schools and a lobbyist. It was a rivalry that spilled into social media with attacks on the West Virginia Department of Education, state education officials allegedly threatening one major testing supplier and even pressuring another testing supplier to hire their own lobbyist to “combat” and “neutralize” the other lobbyist. The lawsuit filed by lobbyist Jason Webb against Steve Paine, former state superintendent of schools, and Jan Barth, assistant superintendent for the Division of Teaching and Learning at the Department of Education, showcases the fight between two companies to become the state’s new standardized test.
September 2, 2020 •
Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations” by David Moore for Sludge Elections Virginia: “Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued” by Meagan Flynn for Washington Post Ethics National: “PPP […]
Oregon: “Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations” by David Moore for Sludge
Virginia: “Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued” by Meagan Flynn for Washington Post
National: “PPP Loans Helped Out Congressional Spouses’ Workplaces” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call
National: “D.C. Circuit Panel Guts House Subpoena Power” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico
National: “Barr Tightens Rules on Surveillance of Political Candidates and Advisers” by Devlin Barrett for Washington Post
Alabama: “AG: Time for former Alabama speaker to go to prison” by Kim Chandler for Associated Press News
National: “Guilty Plea in Hawaii Woman’s Lobbying of Trump Officials” by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Former SafeSpeed Executive Who Wore FBI Wire Charged with Bribery Conspiracy Involving Oak Lawn Red-Light Camera Scheme” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Canada: “Montreal-Based Ventilation Company Becomes Fourth Company Banned from Federal Contracts for 10 Years” by Christopher Nardi for National Post
July 20, 2020 •
Campaign Finance Kentucky: “Jerry Lundergan Gets 21 Months in Prison for Election Finance Violation in Daughter’s Campaign” by Deborah Yetter for Louisville Courier-Journal New Mexico: “Spending in New Mexico Primary Highlights Dark Money at Work” by Bryan Metzger (New Mexico […]
Kentucky: “Jerry Lundergan Gets 21 Months in Prison for Election Finance Violation in Daughter’s Campaign” by Deborah Yetter for Louisville Courier-Journal
New Mexico: “Spending in New Mexico Primary Highlights Dark Money at Work” by Bryan Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) for New Mexico Political Report
National: “Tens of Thousands of Mail Ballots Have Been Tossed Out in This Year’s Primaries. What Will Happen in November?” by Elise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Supreme Court Declines to Overturn Decision in Fight Over Felon Voting in Florida” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times
National: “‘It Was Like Being Preyed Upon’: Portland protesters say federal officers in unmarked vans are detaining them” by Katie Shepherd for Washington Post
New York: “Trump Lawyer, Prosecutor Spar Over Future of Tax Returns Subpoena Case” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
National: “GOP Lawmaker Raises Concern Over Lobbyist Gaining Unauthorized Access to Online Hearing Platform” by James Bikales for The Hill
Illinois: “ComEd to Pay $200 Million Fine in Alleged Bribery Scheme as Feds Say Madigan Allies Got Jobs, Contracts” by Dan Hinkel and Rick Pierson for Chicago Tribune
National: “Watchdog Report Faults Medicare Agency’s Contract Management” by Richard Lardner for AP News
July 17, 2020 •
National/Federal America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them New York Times – Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker | Published: 7/13/2020 Governors have always been judged on their disaster responses, but the coronavirus wreaking […]
America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them
New York Times – Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker | Published: 7/13/2020
Governors have always been judged on their disaster responses, but the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the country these days does not recede like floodwaters and cannot be tamed by calling out the National Guard. The states’ chief executives have been tested for the very virus that keeps testing them – politically, personally, and logistically. They have been forced onto the national and global stage in a way few governors have ever endured, an unending and public test on a scientific and ever-shifting subject with the lives of their constituents, the economies of their states, and their political careers at stake. The pandemic has many of America’s governors of both parties under a spotlight for which none of their aides and consultants have a playbook.
Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 7/9/2020
A recent report from the Campaign Finance Institute finds that, on average, 73 percent of state campaign funding from 2016 through 2019 came from large donors or PACs, while just 12 percent came from small donors contributing $250 or less. if small donors are incentivized to donate state campaigns, the share currently given to politicians by large donors and special-interest PACs could be flipped on its head with nearly three-quarters of campaign funding could come from amplified donations of $250 and under, according to a previous CFI report that examined public financing in New York.
Chief of White House’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ Vaccine Effort Can Keep Investing in Pharma Firms, Under IG Ruling
Albany Times Union – Christopher Rowland (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2020
The co-director of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed can maintain extensive investments in the drug industry and avoid ethics disclosures while he continues to make decisions about government contracts for promising coronavirus vaccines under a decision by the Health and Human Services inspector general. The ruling came in response to a complaint that said the administration has carved out an improper exception to federal conflict-of-interest rules for Moncef Slaoui, a former high-ranking official at GlaxoSmithKline. Slaoui took the helm of the initiative as what the administration described as a volunteer contractor. That allowed him to avoid the requirement for government employees to disclose financial interests and divest in holdings that conflict with their responsibilities.
Inside the White House, a Gun Industry Lobbyist Delivers for His Former Patrons
New York Times – Michael LaForgia and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/13/2020
Michael Williams spent nearly two years helping to run a trade group focused on expanding sales of firearm silencers by American manufacturers. But he could not overturn a ban on sales to private foreign buyers enacted to protect American troops overseas. Then Williams joined the Trump administration. As a White House lawyer, he pushed to overturn the prohibition, raising the issue with influential administration officials, and creating pressure within the State Department. On July 10, the State Department lifted the ban. The change paved the way for as much as $250 million a year in possible new sales for companies Williams had championed as general counsel of the American Suppressor Association. His role follows a pattern in the Trump administration, with the president handing over policymaking to allies of special interest groups with a stake in those policies.
Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 7/14/2020
CourierNewsroom.com, also known as Courier, was created and funded by the Democratic-aligned digital organization Acronym. Courier has spent over $1.4 million on Facebook ads this election cycle, mostly to promote its flattering articles and videos about more than a dozen endangered U.S. House Democrats at the top of the party’s priority list this November. But because Courier is organized as a media outlet, it does not have to disclose its donors or the total money it spends promoting politicians. This activity – creating an unregulated advertising stream promoting Democratic officeholders, more akin to a PAC than a newsroom – diverges from other partisan news outlets that are proliferating online as local newspapers struggle.
Ousted U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Says Barr Pushed Him to Resign and Take Another Job
MSN – Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2020
Attorney General William Barr repeatedly pressured then-U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman to resign and take another job, including as chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to clear the way for President Trump to install a political ally as the leader of the powerful federal prosecutors’ office in Manhattan. Berman, who testified privately before the House Judiciary Committee, described in a written statement the unusual sequence of events that led to his departure on June 20. The revelation of Barr’s tactics adds to the picture of what was already known about the extraordinary turn of events that culminated in Berman stepping down amid suspicions he was being ousted for political reason.
‘She Knows Better’: Ex-ethics chief Walter Shaub says Ivanka Trump broke rule by promoting Goya beans
USA Today – William Cummings and David Jackson | Published: 7/15/2020
Ivanka Trump is facing questions of whether she violated ethics rules in a social media post that promoted Goya Foods, whose chief executive officer angered opponents of President Trump by praising the president at an event. Ivanka Trump posted an image of herself on Twitter holding aloft a can of Goya black beans, along with a caption featuring the company’s slogan, “If it’s Goya, it has to be good.” Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said that because Ivanka Trump often uses her Twitter account to conduct official business and includes her job description in her profile, “Ms. Trump’s Goya tweet is clearly a violation of the government’s misuse of position regulation.”
States That Raced to Reopen Let Businesses Write Their Own Rules, Documents Show
Anchorage Daily News – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2020
Business networks and industry organizations helped write the rules of the pandemic response in some of the places that were the last to impose restrictions and the first to ease them. It also sheds light on the thinking of governors who have pledged not to reverse course on reopening, even as coronavirus cases spike in their states. Moves to throw open the doors with the virus still raging help explain recent surges in these states, epidemiologists say. Across the country, moves to reopen the economy before containing the virus offered a lesson in “how the political system accommodates the needs of business,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause.
The Once-Mocked ‘Never Trump’ Movement Becomes a Sudden Campaign Force
MSN – Ashley Parker and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2020
A “Never Trump” rebellion that began four years ago as a largely ineffective cadre of Republicans has transformed in recent weeks into a potentially disruptive force in this year’s presidential race. Groups such as the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump emphasize guerrilla tactics and scathing ads as they troll the president. The movement seeks to build a national political operation to oust both Donald Trump and his supporters in Congress, with an emphasis on persuading white suburban voters who consider themselves true Republicans to break from the president.
Trump Commutes Longtime Friend Roger Stone’s Prison Sentence
AP News – Jill Colvin and Eric Tucker | Published: 7/11/2020
President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant Roger Stone days before Stone was to begin serving a 40-month prison term for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing the U.S. House investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. The move is another intervention by Trump in the nation’s justice system and underscores his willingness to flout the norms and standards that have governed presidential conduct for decades. Democrats, already alarmed by the Justice Department’s dismissal of the case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, denounced the president as further undermining the rule of law.
Trump Isn’t Secretly Winking at QAnon. He’s Retweeting Its Followers.
Politico – Tina Nguyen | Published: 7/12/2020
President Trump on July 4 retweeted 14 tweets from accounts supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory, a sprawling and ever-mutating belief that a mysterious government official who goes by “Q” is leaving online clues about Trump’s secret plan to dismantle a cadre of Washington elites engaged in everything from pedophilia to child sex trafficking. It was not the first time Trump has nodded, accidentally or not, to QAnon followers on Twitter. But his QAnon-baiting has gone into overdrive in recent months. The engagement has continued even as the FBI has labeled the online community a potential source of domestic terrorism after several people radicalized by QAnon have been charged with crimes inspired by the conspiracy theory.
Trump Replaces Campaign Manager as Polls Show Him Trailing Biden in Presidential Race
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020
President Trump announced he is replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with longtime political aide Bill Stepien as recent polls show him falling further behind Joe Biden in the presidential race amid a spreading pandemic that has devastated the economy. The president said Parscale will stay as a senior adviser focusing on digital and data strategies. Parscale has been marginalized in the campaign for several weeks, officials said, with Trump angry about a botched rally in Oklahoma, where far fewer people attended than expected. Stepien was the field director for the 2016 campaign, He was formerly a top aide to then-New Jersey Gov. Gov. Chris Christie. Stepien was expelled from Christi’s orbit in the aftermath of bridge lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in 2013, an episode known as Bridgegate.
Trump Says He ‘Disagreed’ With Privately Funded Border Wall, So Why Did His Administration Award the Builder $1.7 Billion in Contracts to Erect More Walls?
ProPublica – Perla Trevizo and Jeremy Schwartz | Published: 7/13/2020
President Trump complained via Twitter that a privately constructed border wall in Texas was a bad idea and poorly done, not mentioning his administration has awarded the builder a $1.7 billion contract to build more walls. With the backing of Trump supporters, Tommy Fisher built a three-mile border fence along the Rio Grande. But just months after completion of his showcase piece directly on the banks of the river, there are signs of erosion along and under the fence that threatens its stability and could cause it to topple into the river if not fixed. The administration gave Fisher the billion-dollar contract to build additional stretches of the wall in Arizona, despite a lawsuit around the South Texas project and an ongoing audit by the Pentagon’s inspector general of a previous border wall contract that is looking into possible “inappropriate influence.”
White House Lawyer Gives Trump Extra Time to File His Personal Financial Disclosure Forms, the Second Extension Since May 15
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Anu Narayanswami | Published: 7/13/2020
President Trump was granted a second 45-day extension to file his personal financial disclosure forms, which will give the American public its only detailed look at the president’s private business interests. The forms are supposed to detail Trump’s income, debt, stock holdings, and outstanding loans for 2019. Federal law allows only two such extensions. Trump appears to be the only president since 2001 to need an extension for his financial disclosure filing.
Canada – PM Trudeau’s Mother, Brother and Wife Were Paid to Speak at WE Charity Events
CTV – Rachel Gilmore | Published: 7/9/2020
Members of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family were paid a total of nearly $300,000 over the last four years to speak at WE Charity events. The charity group is at the center of an ethics investigation into Trudeau. The federal ethics commissioner launched an investigation into Trudeau over his government’s now-cancelled decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program, which is slated to pay students and new graduates for their volunteer work this summer. While the charity has backed out of the management of the program following days of controversy, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said the request for an investigation “satisfies the requirements” laid out in the Conflict of Interest Act.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Birmingham Airport, State Water Boards Push for Clear Application of Ethics Law
Yellowhammer News – Tim Howe | Published: 7/9/2020
The Birmingham Airport Authority (BAA) and the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute filed briefs urging Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Brooke Reid to deny a motion by the Alabama Ethics Commission to revise an order she issued in June. Reid ruled BAA employees were not public employees because the funds used to pay them is generated from private sources, such as landing fees paid by airlines. Alabama law says an entity’s employees are subject to the ethics statutes if the funds used to pay their salaries come from “state, county or municipal funds.” Numerous requirements and restrictions accompany the designation as “public employees” for purposes of the ethics law, including the filing of annual statements of economic interest with the Ethics Commission.
Alabama – Jeff Sessions Loses Runoff in Alabama as Trump Helps End Career of Key Supporter
Anchorage Daily News – Paul Kane and Toluse Olorunnipa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2020
Tommy Tuberville defeated Jeff Sessions in the runoff to be the Republican nominee in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race against incumbent Doug Jones. The result culminated four months of President Trump imploring the state’s voters to reject Sessions, the man who the president once said he leaned on for advice in forming his “America First” agenda. Trump’s endorsement of Tuberville in the race has always seemed to have more to do with Trump’s anger at Sessions over his recusing himself from the Russia investigation while attorney general than with any particular support for the former Auburn University football coach.
Arizona – Arizona House Ethics Chair Drops Probe of Rep. Cook
KJZZ – Associated Press | Published: 7/9/2020
The head of a special Arizona House ethics committee said he was dropping an investigation into the actions of a fellow Republican lawmaker who faced complaints he engaged in an improper relationship with a lobbyist and helped her avoid a tax seizure. Rep. John Allen said in a letter announcing his decision that he did not believe Rep. David Cook’s conduct “unequivocally constitutes the sort of ‘disorderly behavior’ punishable under the House’s Rules” and the state constitution. The unilateral decision brought protest from Democrats on the panel.
Arkansas – State Lawmaker Is Hired to Lead Youth Lockup; Red Flags Raised, Watchdog Say
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Ginny Monk | Published: 7/14/2020
Arkansas Rep. Jasen Kelly was hired as director of Rite of Passage, the firm that manages all four of the state’s residential facilities for juvenile offenders for the Division of Youth Services. Kelly said the job does not conflict with his duties as a legislator or pose an ethical issue. He plans to recuse himself from votes or discussions that deal with Rite of Passage. Tom Masseau, executive director of Disability Rights Arkansas, called for Kelly’s resignation from the House, saying it was the only way to resolve a potential conflict-of-interest.
California – California’s Department of Conservation Rolls Out New Ethics Policy After Years of Complaints
Palm Springs Desert Sun – Mark Olalde | Published: 7/15/2020
The California Department of Conservation, which has for years weathered accusations of a cozy relationship with the oil industry, introduced a new ethics policy that has drawn praise from advocates of good governance. The new conflict-of-interest manual, which came into force in March and applies across the department’s five agencies, forbids employees from maintaining financial holdings in businesses they regulate without written approval from the department’s director. Media reports found that leadership in the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources held investments in major oil companies, including Chevron, which has a large footprint in the state.
California – L.A.’s Corruption Probe Involves Developers, a Councilman – and His 80-Year-Old Mom
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/13/2020
Investigators have turned the spotlight in Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar’s corruption case on an unlikely figure in a “pay-to-play” scandal: an elderly woman who emigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico, once worked in a meatpacking plant, and has lived in a modest home in Boyle Heights. Isidra Huizar, the 80-year-old mother of the embattled council member, is one of the unnamed figures mentioned in the sprawling case. Federal prosecutors have alleged, without mentioning her by name, that Isidra Huizar helped her son launder bribe money he received between 2014 and 2017. Huizar’s mother, identified only as Relative A-2, repeatedly received cash from her son, then used the proceeds to pay his expenses, according to an affidavit.
Colorado – Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 7/10/2020
Outside groups spent nearly $1.7 million on eight highly contested Colorado legislative primary races in 2020. But it is not always easy to figure out where the money came from, despite a 2019 law touted as bringing more transparency to a system that includes cash from nonprofits that do not disclose their donors. In other instances, discerning where the money came from is possible if you have time to track all the state and federal committees involved until the funder is revealed. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold acknowledged the loophole in the law that some committees use to avoid naming nonprofit donors. She attributed it to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allowed unlimited spending in political contests as long as committees do not coordinate with candidates or political parties.
Florida – Florida Democrats Return PPP Money Amid Scandal
Politico – Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon | Published: 7/8/2020
The Florida Democratic Party announced it was returning at least $780,000 in small-business loans after its own lawmakers criticized the acceptance of the money as highly questionable if not unethical and illegal. The party immediately applied for the loan after Congress first passed the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, even though there was discussion at the time that the money should go to neither lobbyists nor political causes. The party is currently underwriting the salaries of campaign staff throughout Florida, including those working to elect Joe Biden.
Florida – Florida Lawmaker’s Ties to NFL Robbery Case Sparks Investigation
Tampa Bay Times – Meghan Bobrowsky | Published: 7/14/2020
The Florida Bar opened an investigation into the actions of state Rep. and lawyer Michael Grieco after it was reported his office was the scene of what appeared to be payoffs to victims of an alleged robbery by National Football League players Quinton Dunbar and Deandre Baker in May. Grieco had previously been representing Dunbar and Baker were accused of stealing money and jewelry from people at gunpoint at a party. It was revealed that police believe four victims recanted after being paid a total of $55,000 in cash in Grieco’s office. The victims reportedly signed sworn affidavits alleging Dunbar did not have anything to do with the robbery.
Florida – Hot Zone? Florida Republicans Told to ‘Get Tested’ After Lobbyist Who Attended Their Fundraiser Now Positive for Coronavirus
Florida Politics – Staff | Published: 7/14/2020
A Florida lobbyist who attended a recent Republican fundraiser near Jacksonville has tested positive for COVID-19. Another lobbyist who briefly attended the event and asked to remain anonymous said they left after entering the reception and seeing no one wearing masks. Some attendees also attended an event two days later with Vice President Mike Pence where he thanked members of the Republican National Host Committee for their work on the Jacksonville event.
Florida – NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer to Face Ethics Commission Hearing
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 7/13/2020
Florida’s top gun lobbyist Marion Hammer faces a probable cause hearing before the Florida Commission on Ethics regarding her failure to disclose payments from the National Rifle Association (NRA). State Sen. Perry Thurston filed complaints about Hammer with the Senate and the ethics commission in May 2019. Two weeks before, it was reported the NRA paid Hammer hundreds of thousands of dollars she had not disclosed for a decade on quarterly lobbyist compensations reports required by the Legislature. State law says the fine for late reports is “$50 per day per report for each late day up to a maximum of $5,000 per late report.” Hammer, however, was not fined or otherwise disciplined.
Florida – RNC Restricts Convention Attendance as Florida Coronavirus Cases Climb
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/16/2020
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is planning to sharply limit attendance for its convention in Jacksonville, Florida, shrinking the event celebrating President Trump’s renomination amid concerns about coronavirus. RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel, who is overseeing planning for the convention, said attendance for the first three nights of the four-night event will be limited to delegates. When Trump delivers his nomination acceptance speech on the fourth night of the convention, August 27, attendance will be expanded to delegates, a guest of their choosing, and alternate delegates.
Illinois – Contractor Claims City Unfairly Awarded Lucrative Fuel Deal to Company Tied to Federal Corruption Investigation
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 7/9/2020
A Florida fuel distributor that lost a recent bid for a $43 million contract to provide diesel to the city of Chicago filed an official protest, saying the process was skewed to take care of an influential local company linked to an ongoing federal corruption probe. The protest filed by World Fuel Services alleged its proposal, which was the lowest of three submitted to the city, was rejected in favor of the second-lowest bidder that used Black Dog Petroleum as its minority-owned subcontractor. Black Dog and its owner, Amit Gauri, were named in search warrants and subpoenas by federal prosecutors in a probe of former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval and suburban mayors and industry heavyweights.
Kansas – Kansas Freshman GOP Rep. Watkins Charged with 3 Felonies
AP News – John Hanna | Published: 7/15/2020
U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins who had listed a UPS postal box as his residence on a state voter registration form was charged with three felonies, including illegal voting. The charges came three weeks before Kansas’s Republican primary election. The UPS postal box was listed as Watkins’ residential address for voter registration purposes when he cast a mail-in ballot for a local city council and school board election in November 2019. He later changed his residential listing. The most serious criminal charge accuses Watkins of voting in the 2019 local city and school board election in Topeka without being qualified.
Kentucky – Breonna Taylor Protesters Sat on the Kentucky Attorney General’s Lawn. Police Charged 87 with Felonies.
Portland Press Herald – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020
Protesters who refused to leave the front lawn of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron were arrested and each one was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors. The activists had come to demand Cameron charge the three police officers who fatally shot Breonna Taylor inside her home while executing a no-knock warrant. The felony charge applies to people who use “physical force or a threat” to influence “the testimony, vote, decision, or opinion” of a participant in the legal process, like a victim, a witness, or a judge. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky denounced the felony charges filed against the protesters, calling them “overblown, outrageous, and inappropriate.”
Missouri – FBI Continues Scrutiny of Independence, Requests More Records from City Government
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jason Hancock, Kevin Hardy, and Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) | Published: 7/13/2020
The FBI has once again requested records from Independence City Hall, the latest in a series of inquiries by federal authorities over the last year that appear to be focused on a pair of utilities contracts and medical marijuana regulations. The Independence City Council in 2017 awarded Environmental Operations the contract to tear down a power plant in Missouri City that Independence Power and Light was no longer using. The contract was immediately controversial since Environmental Operations got the job with a $9.75 million bid, more than twice that of the other bidder. Environmental Operations’ owner, Stacy Hastie, is well connected in Missouri politics. A federal grand jury issued a subpoena to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services last year demanding records on four medical marijuana applicants.
Missouri – St. Louis Prosecutor Receives Death Threats as Trump Defends Couple Who Pointed Guns at Protesters
Stamford Advocate – Meagan Flynn, Tom Jackman, and Ben Guarino (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, the prosecutor investigating the couple who aimed guns at protesters, says she has received racist attacks and death threats that have worsened as President Trump has thrown his support behind the couple. Both the president and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson have offered impassioned defenses of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who went viral after brandishing guns at protesters on the private street outside their mansion. Parson, who said the couple had “every right to protect their property,” said he spoke with Trump recently. He said Trump made it clear he “doesn’t like what he sees and the way these people are being treated,” referencing the McCloskeys.
New Jersey – New Jersey Puts $578 Million in Controversial Tax Breaks on Hold After Investigation
ProPublica – Nancy Solomon (WNYC) | Published: 7/13/2020
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration put a freeze on the continued disbursement of $578 million worth of tax breaks awarded by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority under former Gov. Chris Christie. A task force’s lead investigator said he referred several companies to law enforcement for making potentially fraudulent threats to move out of state to obtain tax breaks. Of the 12 companies whose awards are under review, five are connected to Democratic Party boss George Norcross and represent most of the money – $540 million. Some companies provided the same out-of-state location where they claimed they would move if they did not get a tax break, Blue Hill Plaza in Rockland County, New York. But the applications were approved.
New Mexico – New Mexico Group ‘Cowboys for Trump’ Ordered to Pay Fines, Register as Political Committee
AP News – Russell Contreras | Published: 7/11/2020
The New Mexico group, Cowboys for Trump, must register as a political committee in the state, and pay $7,600 in fines for not filing expenditure reports, an arbitrator ruled. Cowboys for Trump has protested the requirements because it argues campaign finance laws violate free speech, and the group does not meet the definition of a political committee. Cowboys for Trump members say the group is a for-profit organization.
New York – Probe Into De Blasio’s Old Charity Given Green Light by State Judge
New York Post – Bernadette Hogan and Carl Campanile | Published: 7/15/2020
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) received approval from a judge to investigate potentially illegal donations given to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s since-closed not-for-profit group. State Supreme Court Judge Richard Platkin ruled JCOPE has the authority to pursue a probe into Broadway Stages’ communications with de Blasio as well as $60,000 in donations. Broadway Stages claimed JCOPE cannot investigate individuals who give “gifts” and is limited to regulating officials who receive those monetary donations. It also denied giving to Campaign for One New York following a request from de Blasio or any another public official.
New York – Trump Raises New Objections to Subpoena Seeking His Tax Returns
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Benjamin Weiser | Published: 7/15/2020
Days after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a defeat to President Trump, clearing the way for the Manhattan district attorney to seek his tax returns, his lawyers renewed their efforts to block or at least narrow access to the records. Trump’s lawyers wrote to the federal judge in Manhattan who originally presided over the case, saying they planned to argue the district attorney’s subpoena was too broad and politically motivated. The president and the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat, have been locked in a battle over the records for almost a year.
Ohio – Campaign Finance Cover Clouds Bribery Accusations
Toledo Blade – Tom Troy | Published: 7/11/2020
Investigators say Toledo City Council members Yvonne Harper, Tyrone Riley, Larry Sykes, and Gary Johnson, all Democrats, engaged in a “pay-to-play” scheme that exchanged money for votes. They face federal bribery and extortion charges. More than $34,000 changed hands between business owners and the council members during the investigation. Several local politicians and campaign experts, however, contend the line between what constitutes a campaign contribution and what constitutes a bribe may be fuzzy to some because of a culture in which politicians and businesses, interest groups, and unions symbiotically support each other through political donations and favorable votes on legislation.
Oregon – Oregon AG Appeals Federal Judge’s Order on Redistricting Bid
AP News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 7/15/2020
Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno announced she is fighting a federal judge’s order for Oregon to give more leeway to a group that seeks to change how the state draws its electoral districts. U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane said the coronavirus pandemic and Gov. Kate Brown’s shutdown orders prevented People Not Politicians from obtaining the required number of signatures by a July 2 deadline to put the issue on the ballot for the November election. The Legislature is currently responsible for redrawing district lines. People Not Politicians wants an independent citizen redistricting commission to do it instead and seeks to have voters approve an amendment to the state constitution that would allow that.
South Carolina – Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove | Published: 7/12/2020
Anonymous donors poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a South Carolina Senate primary for a seat that covers Myrtle Beach, exploiting the state’s weak campaign finance laws and influencing voters in Horry County. The large amount of money spent on the primary runoff between state Sen. Luke Rankin and John Gallman highlights the outsize role that so-called dark money groups can play in state elections in South Carolina. Combined, the organizations were able to spend more than three times what Rankin was able to raise for his own campaign. That is because people who give directly to candidates are subject to contribution limits in South Carolina, whereas these groups are not.
Tennessee – Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign Finance Violations
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 7/9/2020
Campaign finance officials followed through on a plan to levy a $10,500 penalty against former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada after an audit determined he failed to adequately retain receipts for roughly $100,000 in expenditures. Despite Casada being eligible to face more than $2.9 million in fines, the Registry of Election Finance voted in favor of the smaller penalty. Although the audits found a number of issues with Casada’s personal campaign committee and a PAC controlled, the registry only fined him for failing to have receipts for 299 expenditures.
Texas – Ronny Jackson, Ex-White House Doctor, Wins Texas House Runoff
MSN – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 7/14/2020
Dr. Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician with no political experience who ran a campaign based on his close relationship with President Trump, won a Republican runoff election for a U.S. House seat in Texas, effectively stamping his ticket to Congress next year. Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral, left the West Wing in December after becoming Trump’s unlikely choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he had to withdraw his name from consideration amid allegations related to his professional conduct. Jackson made a series of mistakes that could have derailed any congressional campaign. But after Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraising official for the president’s re-election campaign, realized Jackson’s campaign was in trouble, they asked two senior members of Trump’s re-election campaign to step in.
July 15, 2020 •
Campaign Finance National: “Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars” by Alex Thompson for Politico Elections Florida: “Headed to the Convention? Not I, More Republicans Are Saying” by Reid Epstein, Nicholas Fandos, and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) […]
National: “Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars” by Alex Thompson for Politico
Florida: “Headed to the Convention? Not I, More Republicans Are Saying” by Reid Epstein, Nicholas Fandos, and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Ousted U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Says Barr Pushed Him to Resign and Take Another Job” by Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump Isn’t Secretly Winking at QAnon. He’s Retweeting Its Followers.” by Tina Nguyen for Politico
California: “L.A.’s Corruption Probe Involves Developers, a Councilman – and His 80-Year-Old Mom” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
Missouri: “FBI Continues Scrutiny of Independence, Requests More Records from City Government” by Jason Hancock, Kevin Hardy, and Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
New Jersey: “New Jersey Puts $578 Million in Controversial Tax Breaks on Hold After Investigation” by Nancy Solomon (WNYC) for ProPublica
Florida: “Hot Zone? Florida Republicans Told to ‘Get Tested’ After Lobbyist Who Attended Their Fundraiser Now Positive for Coronavirus” by Staff for Florida Politics
National: “Trump Says He ‘Disagreed’ With Privately Funded Border Wall, So Why Did His Administration Award the Builder $1.7 Billion in Contracts to Erect More Walls?” by Perla Trevizo and Jeremy Schwartz for ProPublica
July 14, 2020 •
Campaign Finance South Carolina: “Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race” by Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove for Charleston Post and Courier Tennessee: “Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign […]
South Carolina: “Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race” by Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove for Charleston Post and Courier
Tennessee: “Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign Finance Violations” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean
National: “The Once-Mocked ‘Never Trump’ Movement Becomes a Sudden Campaign Force” by Ashley Parker and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them” by Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker for New York Times
National: “White House Lawyer Gives Trump Extra Time to File His Personal Financial Disclosure Forms, the Second Extension Since May 15” by David Fahrenthold and Anu Narayanswami for Washington Post
Alabama: “Birmingham Airport, State Water Boards Push for Clear Application of Ethics Law” by Tim Howe for Yellowhammer News
National: “Inside the White House, a Gun Industry Lobbyist Delivers for His Former Patrons” by Michael LaForgia and Kenneth Vogel for New York Times
Florida: “NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer to Face Ethics Commission Hearing” by Dan Christensen for Florida Bulldog
Illinois: “Contractor Claims City Unfairly Awarded Lucrative Fuel Deal to Company Tied to Federal Corruption Investigation” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
July 3, 2020 •
National/Federal A Common Thread Among Many Trump Press Staffers: They’re related to other Trump staffers MSN – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2020 Landing a White House job is a highly competitive sport, and who manages to get those jobs […]
A Common Thread Among Many Trump Press Staffers: They’re related to other Trump staffers
MSN – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2020
Landing a White House job is a highly competitive sport, and who manages to get those jobs has always been a subject of fascination. In the Trump White House, being the relative of someone with a big administration job seems to be one crucial advantage. Family connections, through marriage or direct blood ties, turn up in several places among the people who are in charge of communicating the administration’s agenda or involved in his reelection effort. In a legal opinion written in early 2017, the Justice Department concluded the president has “special hiring authority” and that a decades-old anti-nepotism statute did not apply to the White House.
A Dozen Donors Paid Nearly $480,000 in Legal Fees for Pence in Mueller Inquiry, New Filing Shows
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2020
A dozen donors gave about $480,000 to cover Vice President Mike Pence’s legal bills in the special counsel’s investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Jim Atterholt, Pence’s former gubernatorial chief of staff, started the fund with $25 in December 2018. Since then, donors gave between $5,000 and $100,000, including business executives from Pence’s home state of Indiana and longtime Republican contributors. Federal ethics rules prohibit executive branch officials from receiving excessive gifts, and watchdogs have called on clearer guidelines for legal expense funds to prevent the potential for conflicts-of-interest or undue influence.
As Support for Mask-Wearing Grows, So Do Political Risks for Forgoing Them
MSN – Annie Linskey and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 6/26/2020
President Trump makes a point of not wearing a mask in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, has gone in the other direction. A mask is part of his 2020 signature look. This divergent accessorizing once highlighted yet another partisan divide. For Trump allies, going barefaced is about individual liberty. For Biden supporters, the mask is a symbol of science and sound policy. But as infections spike in red states, support for masks has grown. Some Republicans have urged the public to cover their faces in public, arguing it is the best way to slow the virus. This shift in rhetoric highlights the potential risks for the president as he continues to ignore the advice of public health experts, who agree masks are crucial to slow the spread of the virus.
Congressional Black Caucus Seizes on Push for Racial Justice to Wield Greater Influence
MSN – Rachel Bade, Karoun Demirjian, and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2020
The Congressional Black Caucus is seizing the national moment of reckoning over systemic inequality and racial injustice to wield its greatest level of influence inside the Capitol and in national politics. The caucus took the lead in crafting policing legislation the House passed, an expansive measure to stop police brutality after the death of George Floyd. Three caucus members – Sen. Kamala Harris and Reps. Val Demings and Karen Bass – are on the shortlist of potential running mates for Joe Biden. And with black candidates around the nation channeling the public clamor for equality into likely primary upsets recently, the group is poised to expand its ranks next year when it marks its 50th anniversary.
Democrats Confirm Plans for Nearly All-Virtual Convention
AP News – Bill Barrow | Published: 6/24/2020
Democrats will hold an almost entirely virtual presidential nominating convention August 17-20 in Milwaukee using live broadcasts and online streaming. Joe Biden plans to accept the nomination in person, but it remains to be seen whether there will be a significant in-person audience there to see it. The Democratic National Committee said in a statement that official business, including the votes to nominate Biden and his yet-to-be-named running mate, will take place virtually, with delegates being asked not to travel to Milwaukee.
Devin Nunes Can’t Sue Twitter Over Statements by Fake Cow, Judge Rules
McClatchy DC – Kate Irby | Published: 6/24/2020
A judge ruled U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes has no right to sue Twitter over statements made by a fake Internet cow, someone parodying his mother, and a Republican strategist. Judge John Marshall said Twitter was “immune from the defamation claims of” Nunes due to federal law that says social media companies are not liable for what people post on their platforms. Nunes sued Twitter, the two parody accounts known as Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes, and strategist Liz Mair. He alleged the latter three had defamed him online, ruining his reputation and causing him to win his 2018 election by a narrower margin than normal. He accused Twitter of being negligent for allowing the alleged defamation.
DOJ Files Charges Against Disgraced Lobbyist Jack Abramoff
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 6/25/2020
Jack Abramoff is set to return to prison after agreeing to plead guilty to violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). He is the first person charged with violating the LDA, which was amended in 2007 after his earlier scheme was uncovered. It was one of the biggest corruption scandals in recent history, resulting in 20 convictions or guilty pleas. Prosecutors said that in 2017, Abramoff agreed to seek changes in federal law and met with members of Congress on behalf of the marijuana industry without registering as a lobbyist. He was also charged with marketing a cryptocurrency to potential investors with a series of false claims. Abramoff made a public showing of rehabilitating himself after he was released from prison in 2010.
For Months, Trump Allies Hunted for Tapes of Biden in Ukraine. Now They’re Turning Up.
Washington Post – Paul Sonne, Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and David Stern | Published: 6/30/2020
President Trump’s allies were in pursuit last year of tape recordings of Joe Biden speaking to Ukrainian officials while he was vice president, conversations they believed could help them damage Biden’s current bid for the White House. Now, with just months to go before Election Day, that material is surfacing in Ukraine and being touted by some of the president’s backers in the U.S. Recordings show Biden, as he has previously said publicly, linked loan guarantees for Ukraine to the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general. The tapes do not provide evidence to back Rudolph Giuliani’s accusation that Biden sought to have him fired to block an investigation of a gas company that had hired his son Hunter. The authenticity of the audio files, which appear heavily edited, could not be verified.
GOP Appointee Resigns from Federal Election Commission, Once Again Leaving It Without a Quorum
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 6/26/2020
Caroline Hunter, a Republican commissioner on FEC, announced he is stepping down on July 3, leaving the agency without a quorum and unable to vote on enforcement actions. Hunter’s resignation came just weeks after the FEC had regained a quorum of four commissioners following the confirmation of Republican James Trainor. The White House announced its plans to nominate campaign finance lawyer Allen Dickerson to replace Hunter. Dickerson is the legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, a nonprofit that opposes limits on political speech and advertising. The FEC, which is ideologically split by design, is now left with one Republican, one Democrat, and an independent who often caucuses with Democrats.
Hickenlooper Rolls to Victory in Colorado Senate Primary
Politico – James Arkin and Ally Mutnick | Published: 6/30/2020
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper won the Democratic Senate primary in Colorado and will face U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, one of the most vulnerable Republicans on the ballot this fall. It was just one of several major races across the country. Hickenlooper was the prohibitive favorite for months, leaning on his successes in his two terms as governor and his universal name recognition and positive image among voters. But he stumbled in the closing stretch of the race, apologizing for racially insensitive comments, and being held in contempt by the Independent Ethics Commission, which ruled he twice violated state ethics laws as governor.
House Republican Leaders Support GOP Nominee Open to QAnon Conspiracy Theory
Washington Post – Paul Kane and Colby Itkowitz | Published: 7/1/2020
Republican leaders stood by the upset winner of the GOP primary in a competitive U.S. House seat despite her openness to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory. The National Republican Congressional Committee, overseen by top GOP leaders, embraced Lauren Boebert as their nominee following her defeat of five-term Rep. Scott Tipton. Boebert is the ninth individual to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the House or Senate who is either a full supporter of the QAnon movement or has voiced support for some of its tenets, none of which have a foundation in truth. Conspiracy theory experts consider it a webbed network filled with activists who wrongly believe a secret group of elites inside of and outside of government is working against Trump, as well as other false allegations of pedophilia among top Democratic officials.
Human Rights Groups Turn Their Sights on Trump’s America
Politico – Nahal Toosi | Published: 7/1/2020
International activists, groups, and institutions are increasingly focusing on the United States as a villain, not a hero, on human rights. While the country has never fully escaped such scrutiny, former officials and activists say that under President Trump, American domestic strife is raising an unusual level of alarm alongside U.S. actions on the global stage. Some groups also flag what they say is an erosion of democracy in a country that has long styled itself as a beacon of freedom.
Judge Sets July 14 Surrender Date, Immediate Home Confinement for Roger Stone
Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/26/2020
A federal judge ordered longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone to prison on July 14 and into home confinement until then, citing Stone’s own evidence of medical issues that he cited to request a delay of his June 30 surrender date to begin a 40-month jail term. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Stone’s request to delay the start of his sentence until September 3. Jackson sentenced Stone to his 40-month jail term in February following his conviction on charges of repeatedly lying to Congress and intimidating a witness to impede the House’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
New York Court Sides with Publisher of Explosive Book by President Trump’s Niece
Seattle Times – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020
A court lifted a temporary restraining order against the publication of a book by President Trump’s niece, enabling publisher Simon & Schuster to continue printing and distributing the insider account by Mary Trump. A New York Supreme Court judge agreed to impose the restraining order to allow the parties to present their arguments, raising doubts about whether it would be published. But the Supreme Court’s appellate division lifted the restraining order that had been imposed on Simon & Schuster, while leaving in place the one regarding Mary Trump. That effectively enables the publisher to continue distributing copies of the book in preparation for the planned July 28 publication, even as the overall merits of the case are argued.
Reddit Closes Long-Running Forum Supporting President Trump After Years of Policy Violations
MSN – Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin (WashingtonPost) | Published: 6/29/2020
Reddit shut down its popular but controversial forum devoted to supporting President Trump, following years in which the social media company tried but often failed to control the racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, glorification of violence, and conspiracy theories that flourished there. The move by Reddit comes amid a broader crackdown by technology companies to try to rein in hateful, deceptive. and other problematic content on their platforms, typically after high-profile scandals prompted action. Reddit also implemented its first policy banning hate speech and closed about 2,000 individual forums, what the company calls “subreddits.” The company already had a policy against “divisive language” in advertising.
SBA Exempted Lawmakers, Federal Officials from Ethics Rules in $660 Billion Loan Program
Washington Post – Jonathan O’Connell and Aaron Gregg | Published: 6/26/2020
A brief and barely noticed “blanket approval” issued by the Trump administration allows lawmakers, Small Business Administration (SBA) staff, other federal officials and their families to bypass long-standing rules on conflicts-of-interest to seek funds for themselves, adding to concerns that coronavirus aid programs could be subject to fraud and abuse. Policy experts and watchdogs said the blanket waiver could allow officials to write the rules to benefit themselves. Josh Gotbaum, a Brookings Institution scholar who has worked in economic policy under Democratic and Republican administrations, said he was “appalled” by the waiver.
The Lincoln Project Is Trolling Trump. But Can It Sway Voters?
Politico – Tina Nguyen and Elena Schneider | Published: 6/29/2020
In the past few months, the Lincoln Project, an anti-President Trump PAC run by Republicans, has successfully established itself as a squatter in Trump’s mental space, thanks to several factors: members each boasting hundreds of thousands of social media followers, rapidly cut ads that respond to current events, and a single-minded focus on buying airtime wherever Trump is most likely to be bingeing cable news that day, whether it is the District of Columbia. market or his golf courses across the country. And every time Trump responds, the Lincoln Project scores an incalculable amount of earned media, and millions of views online. But though the PAC has successfully caught the president’s attention, Trump’s critics worry the ads may not work to “prosecute the case” against his reelection, as the group vowed to do in December.
Zuckerberg Once Wanted to Sanction Trump. Then Facebook Wrote Rules That Accommodated Him.
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg, and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 6/28/2020
Facebook constrained its efforts against false and misleading news, adopted a policy allowing politicians to lie, and altered its news feed algorithm to neutralize claims it was biased against conservatives, according to documents and employees. A document shows it began in 2015 when as a candidate, Donald Trump posted a video calling for a ban of Muslims entering the U.S. Facebook executives declined to remove it, setting in motion an exception for political discourse. Concessions to Trump paved the way for a growing list of digitally savvy politicians to push out misinformation and incendiary political language. It has complicated the understanding of major events and contributed to polarization. Fear of Trump’s wrath pushed Facebook into more deferential behavior toward its growing number of right-leaning users, tilting the balance of news people see on the network.
Canada – Alberta Local Elections Bill Gets Mixed Reaction from Experts, Former Candidates
CBC – Madeleine Cummings and Michelle Bellfontaine | Published: 6/28/2020
Policy experts and former candidates are giving a mixed reaction to amendments to Alberta’s Local Authorities Election Amendment Act. Among the changes proposed are removing the requirement for candidates to disclose their donors prior to Election Day, removing limits on spending by third-party advertisers outside the local election campaign period, and allowing individuals to donate up to $5,000 to as many candidates as they want during an election.
Canada – Records Show Charity Closely Linked to Trudeau Has Received Multiple Sole-Source Contracts from Liberal Government
Canada.com – Christopher Nardi | Published: 6/29/2020
WE Charity, which has close ties to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family, and which will get millions of dollars to administer a federal student volunteer grant program. has received a series of exclusively sole-source contracts from the federal government over the last three years. Sole-source contracts are government contracts that are handed directly to a chosen supplier, without the opportunity for others to provide competing bids for the business. The contracts were for vague services such as “Management consulting,” “Public relations services,” and, in three cases, “Other professional services not otherwise specified,” according to records.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Asks Supreme Court to Review COVID-19 Election Ruling
Roll Call – Todd Ruger | Published: 6/29/2020
Alabama officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step into the debate over how to conduct elections in the midst of a national health crisis in a legal dispute over absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s largest counties. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill filed an application to the high court to overturn a lower court’s injunction that found the requirements could violate the constitutional right to vote for some elderly and disabled voters during the coronavirus pandemic. At issue in Alabama are two requirements state officials say combat voter fraud. Voters must submit a copy of their photo ID with their absentee ballot application, and absentee ballots must contain a voter affidavit that is either notarized or signed by two witnesses.
Arizona – Witness in Rep. David Cook Investigation Says Lawmaker Sent Threatening Message
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 6/29/2020
The day before a legislative ethics committee released a critical report on Arizona Rep. David Cook, the lawmaker got a copy for himself and a few hours later sent a message to one of the witnesses that the witness took as a threat. Patrick Bray was interviewed by investigators looking into claims that Cook had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist at the same time he was supporting her legislation. The investigation also looked into allegations Cook intervened to stop a local sheriff from seizing property belonging to the lobbyist’s family.
California – Feds Say Tower Project Shows Toll of Bribery in Huizar Case: Less affordable housing
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 6/26/2020
In 2018, a real estate developer received the blessing of the Los Angeles City Council for a new high-rise in the Arts District. The real estate executive said the council had approved the tallest building yet in the Arts District, and with “minimal” requirements for affordable housing, according to federal prosecutors. Now l investigators are describing the Arts District project as one of the real estate developments entangled in an alleged criminal scheme headed by Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna cited it as an example of “the harm that comes with bribery.”
California – Huizar, Facing Felony Charge, Will No Longer Receive L.A. Council Salary, Official Says
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser | Published: 6/29/2020
Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin moved to have the city stop paying Councilperson Jose Huizar his salary, saying it would be “unacceptable” for Huizar to continue receiving taxpayer funds while facing a felony charge in a federal corruption case. Huizar had been earning nearly $214,000 per year. Galperin said Huizar’s last day receiving a city salary was June 23, the day he was charged with racketeering in a case in which he is accused of receiving $1.5 million in bribes and other improper financial benefits. A Galperin spokesperson said the City Charter allows the controller to stop salary payments when a council member is not “devoting his time to duties related to his office.”
California – Nuru Scandal Prompts New Rules for Public Works to Prevent Corruption
San Francisco Examiner – Joshua Sabatini | Published: 6/29/2020
The alleged public corruption engaged in by former San Francisco Public Works head Mohammed Nuru was able to go on unchecked for years due to gaps in city contracting and gift rules he exploited, according to a new report. The city controller’s investigation of the Public Works department resulted in eight recommendations to reform its operations to prevent the sort of behavior for which Nuru is accused. Federal prosecutors have accused Nuru of trading favors for city contractors and developers in exchange for gifts. Nuru also created a culture conducive to public corruption, the report said.
California – Permit Expediter Accused of Fraud to Cooperate in FBI City Hall Corruption Probe
San Francisco Examiner – Michael Barber and Joseph Sabatini | Published: 6/25/2020
A San Francisco permit expediter is facing criminal charges for allegedly engaging in “pay-to-play” schemes with public officials including former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru for more than a decade. Prosecutors charged Walter Wong with two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. He has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the FBI investigation into public corruption at City Hall. Wong has helped developers navigate San Francisco’s complicated permitting process for more than a decade and is also a building contractor. He is the seventh person to be charged as a result of the expanding FBI corruption probe.
Florida – A Lawsuit to Kick Carlos Gimenez Off the Ballot for Congress Continues – For Now
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 6/25/2020
A typographical error led to a two-month legal fight between Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and firefighter Omar Blanco, and the dispute that began with a misspelled check now has Blanco accusing Gimenez of using illegal funds to qualify for the ballot in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. The back-and-forth will continue, at least for now, after a judge denied Gimenez’s motion to dismiss Blanco’s lawsuit. An attorney for Blanco said Gimenez’s candidacy is illegal if his $10,400 check, written in April to qualify for the primary ballot, was paid for with funds from a PAC instead of Gimenez’s campaign account. The bank that issued Gimenez’s check said it did not have any records of a campaign account bearing Gimenez’s name, or the misspelled version – “Giminez” – that appeared on his qualifying check.
Florida – Conflict-of-Interest Issues Spark Conflict Among Tourism Development Council Members
Florida Today – Dave Berman | Published: 6/25/2020
A behind-the-scenes dispute involving members of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council over perceived conflicts-of-interest has become public, as Giles Malone and Bob Baugher repeatedly sniped at one another during a recent meeting. Their debate focused on Malone’s role in helping bring the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games to Brevard County and his involvement in linking athletes with hotels. The debate could lead to a larger examination of how the council handles business dealings involving its members and their companies. That includes when members must abstain from voting on certain matters and when they must formally declare they have a conflict of interest. County officials plan to ask the Florida Commission on Ethics to help sort things out.
Georgia – Georgia Lawmakers Pass New DeKalb Ethics Bill
The Champion – Asia Ashley | Published: 6/28/2020
On the final day of the legislative session, Georgia lawmakers passed a new proposal to the DeKalb County ethics laws. The county’s ethics board has been dormant and unable to make recommendations on complaints received since August 2018 when the state Supreme Court ruled the board was unconstitutional due to its members being appointed by non-elected entities. If House Bill 1243 is approved by voters in November, the new ethics board would begin their roles on January 1, 2020.
Maryland – Baltimore Comptroller Pratt Responds to Report Alleging She Approved Contracts for Groups on Abstention List
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 6/24/2020
Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt asked the city inspector general to correct a report on her voting history, saying it may have left a misleading impression that she approved contracts in which she had a conflict-of-interest. In her response to the report, Pratt said she maintains a long “abstentions list” – organizations that she has worked with, belonged to, or filed tax returns for as a private accountant – in an effort to be transparent as a member of the city’s powerful Board of Estimates. Inspector General Isabel Cumming said she stood by the report.
Mississippi – Mississippi Governor Signs Bill Changing State’s Flag, Abandoning Confederate Symbol
Philadelphia Inquirer – Mark Berman and Ben Guarino (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2020
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill that retires the only state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem. The new flag’s design will be determined later, but lawmakers have barred it from including the most recognizable icon of the Confederacy, which many people associate with racism, slavery, and oppression. Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 election, with supporters saying they saw it as a symbol of Southern heritage. But a growing number of cities and all the state’s public universities have abandoned it. The issue was still broadly considered too volatile for legislators to touch until the death of George Floyd set off protests against racial injustice, followed by calls to take down Confederate symbols.
Montana – Official Finds Montana GOP Violated Campaign Finance Laws
AP News – Mary Beth Hanson | Published: 6/26/2020
The Montana Republican Party and two minor party qualification committees violated state campaign finance laws in a successful effort to qualify the Green Party of Montana for the primary ballot without the Green Party’s knowledge. The Montana GOP has acknowledged paying Advanced Micro Targeting $100,000 to gather signatures to certify the Green Party for the ballot. The money was also listed as an in-kind contribution to a group called Montanans for Conservation, which did not register as a minor party qualifying committee until after the Green Party was certified for the ballot on March 6. The Legislature passed a law in 2019 requiring groups to report any spending for paid signature gatherers to qualify issues or parties for the ballot to ensure transparency.
New Jersey – Buried in N.J.’s Budget Cuts: A break for a billionaire
New York Times – Tracey Tully | Published: 7/2/2020
New Jersey lawmakers passed a stopgap three-month budget that included $4 billion in cuts. It was fast-tracked to meet the July 1 deadline, leaving watchdogs and advocacy organizations largely in the dark about key details during a time when most traditional lobbying and legislative activities have been sidelined by the virus. Somewhere along the way a one-paragraph clause was quietly inserted. The wording could clear the way for private development in Liberty State Park, which has been eyed for decades by developers. Liberty National, an exclusive private golf club, has been pressing for years to expand into a nearby section of the park. Key lawmakers said they were blindsided by the maneuver that would likely reward the wealthy at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is exposing the nation’s economic and racial divide.
New York – NYC Board of Elections Director Fined for Violating Ethics Law
Gothamist – Brigid Bergin (WNYC) | Published: 6/25/2020
New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan was fined $2,500 for violating the city’s ethics law. In 2016, Ryan served as an unpaid member of an advisory board for Election Systems and Software (ES&S), a vendor the board purchases its election machines and other supplies from. In 2018, it was revealed Ryan took nine trips paid for by ES&S. Ryan sought guidance from the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board who advised him ES&S could pay for his travel expenses to attend board meetings as needed for him to fulfill his city duties. But Ryan committed an ethics violation while attending a meeting in Manhattan in 2016.
North Carolina – NC Legislators Notified After a Lobbyist Tests Positive for Coronavirus
Raleigh News and Observer – Lucille Sherman, Danielle Battaglia, and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan | Published: 7/1/2020
A lobbyist who met with as many as five members of the North Carolina General Assembly tested positive for COVID-19. “I am told no legislators who met with the lobbyists have symptoms or have tested positive,” House Speaker Tim Moore said in a text message. Moore said the lobbyist went to meetings and did not linger in the building. This is the second time a person who was in the Legislative Building has been reported as testing positive for COVID-19. In March, a cafeteria staff member tested positive one day after working in the building.
Ohio – Federal Agents Charge Four Toledo City Council Members in Bribery Probe
Toledo Blade – Allison Dunn and Sarah Elms | Published: 6/30/2020
Four Toledo City Council members and a private attorney were arrested on charges of accepting cash and other things of value from business owners in exchange for favorable votes on issues before the council, federal prosecutors said. Council members Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, Larry Sykes, and Garrick Johnson, along with Keith Mitchell, an attorney who Harper allegedly used to solicit and funnel bribe payments, all face bribery and extortion charges. Details in the complaint suggest up to $34,260 changed hands between business owners, the council members, and Mitchell during the two-year investigation.
Ohio – ‘The World Will Never Break Me.’ Tamaya Dennard Pleads Guilty; Sentencing Coming Later.
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge and Kevin Grasha | Published: 6/28/2020
Former Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard pleaded guilty to accepting $15,000 as part of a scheme to exchange her votes for money. According to court documents, on two separate days in September 2019, Dennard requested and received a $10,000 cashier’s check, then $5,000 in cash from an attorney to pay for her personal expenses. In exchange for the money, documents say, “Dennard promised and did provide favorable official action on behalf of” the lawyer’s unnamed client. After receiving the $15,000, Dennard continued to solicit additional money from the attorney.
Texas – U.S. Supreme Court Declines Texas Democrats’ Request to Allow All Texans to Vote by Mail
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 6/26/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an initial bid by state Democrats to expand voting by mail to all Texas voters during the coronavirus pandemic. The high court denied the Texas Democratic Party’s request to let U.S. District Judge Fred Biery’s order to expand mail-in voting take effect while the case is on appeal. Biery ruled in May that Texas must allow all voters fearful of becoming infected at polling places to vote by mail even if they would not ordinarily qualify for mail-in ballots under state election law. The decision means the state’s strict rules to qualify for ballots that can be filled out at home will remain in place for the July 14 primary runoff election. Under current law, mail-in ballots are available only if voters are 65 or older, cite a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period, or are confined in jail.
Utah – Lobbyists and a Utah Senate Leader Create What Critics Call a ‘Fake PAC’ to Help Friends
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 6/27/2020
Lobbyist Spencer Stokes and Utah Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert were upset when the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Term Limits attacked two state Senate candidates they like, including the cousin of Hemmert’s wife. So, they helped form a new local PAC, called Utah Term Limits, to send competing mailers. They created it one day after deadlines that would have required disclosing its donors and expenses before the June 30 primary election. So, the source of the money remains hidden. Senate candidate and former Utah Rep. Rich Cunningham said it appears to have little if any membership beyond lobbyists who use dark money and late ads to muddy up who in his race really favors limiting the terms of politicians.
Washington DC – Milestone House Vote on DC Statehood Is Where It Likely Ends … For Now
Roll Call – Chris Cioffi | Published: 6/26/2020
A U.S. House approved a bill to admit the District of Columbia as the 51st state, the first time a such legislation passed either chamber of Congress. It is also expected to be the bill’s last stop, at least until next year. The bill has little chance of making it to the floor in the Republican-controlled Senate. The vote does mark a milestone for many who have spent years fighting for statehood, and if Democrats keep their focus, it might one day become reality if the party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.
July 2, 2020 •
Elections National: “Hickenlooper Rolls to Victory in Colorado Senate Primary” by James Arkin and Ally Mutnick for Politico Florida: “A Lawsuit to Kick Carlos Gimenez Off the Ballot for Congress Continues – For Now” by Alex Daugherty for Miami Herald […]
National: “Hickenlooper Rolls to Victory in Colorado Senate Primary” by James Arkin and Ally Mutnick for Politico
Florida: “A Lawsuit to Kick Carlos Gimenez Off the Ballot for Congress Continues – For Now” by Alex Daugherty for Miami Herald
National: “A Common Thread Among Many Trump Press Staffers: They’re related to other Trump staffers” by Paul Fahri (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “A Dozen Donors Paid Nearly $480,000 in Legal Fees for Pence in Mueller Inquiry, New Filing Shows” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Human Rights Groups Turn Their Sights on Trump’s America” by Nahal Toosi for Politico
Ohio: “Federal Agents Charge Four Toledo City Council Members in Bribery Probe” by Allison Dunn and Sarah Elms for Toledo Blade
Ohio: “‘The World Will Never Break Me.’ Tamaya Dennard Pleads Guilty; Sentencing Coming Later.” by Sharon Coolidge and Kevin Grasha for Cincinnati Enquirer
North Carolina: “NC Legislators Notified After a Lobbyist Tests Positive for Coronavirus” by Lucille Sherman, Danielle Battaglia, and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan for Raleigh News and Observer
Canada: “Records Show Charity Closely Linked to Trudeau Has Received Multiple Sole-Source Contracts from Liberal Government” by Christopher Nardi for Canada.com
California: “Nuru Scandal Prompts New Rules for Public Works to Prevent Corruption” by Joshua Sabatini for San Francisco Examiner
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