June 18, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden’s Vow to Limit Ethics Conflicts Finds a Test Case: The Ricchetti brothers MSN – Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021 President Biden vowed to ban his own family from involvement in government, disclose records of […]
Biden’s Vow to Limit Ethics Conflicts Finds a Test Case: The Ricchetti brothers
MSN – Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021
President Biden vowed to ban his own family from involvement in government, disclose records of White House visitors, and support new legislation that would expand the definition of lobbying and mandate more detailed disclosure of contacts with White House officials. The White House has chastised Biden’s brother for evoking his relationship to the president in an ad for his law firm. But when it comes to dealing with the family and former employer relationships of senior staff, some of whom have close relatives or former bosses who work in the private sector on public policy issues, the White House has largely reverted to existing precedent.
Earmark Return Boosts Lobbyists Hired to Give Localities an Edge
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson and Jack Fitzpatrick | Published: 6/17/2021
Van Scoyoc Associates, the lobbying firm that once reigned as a leader in nabbing local earmarks, was eager to get back into the game this year when Congress revived the practice of designating funding for lawmaker projects. When the House released its latest round of spending requests, the firm was among the leaders on K Street in clinching projects. Lobbying firms such as Van Scoyoc are pitching their expertise in securing money for municipalities and nonprofit groups around the country that seek help navigating the time-consuming appropriations process on Capitol Hill.
Emails Show Trump Pressured Justice Dept. Over 2020 Election
MSN – Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long (Associated Press) | Published: 6/15/2021
During the last weeks of his presidency, Donald Trump and his allies pressured the Justice Department to investigate unsubstantiated claims of widespread 2020 election fraud that even his former attorney general declared without evidence, emails show. The emails reveal in new detail how Trump, his White House chief of staff, and other allies pressured members of the U.S. government to challenge the 2020 election over false claims. They also show the extent to which Trump worked to enlist then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in his campaign’s failing legal efforts to challenge the election result.
Exodus of Election Officials Raises Concerns of Partisanship
MSN – Anthony Izaguirre (Associated Press) | Published: 6/13/2021
After facing threats and intimidation during the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath, and now the potential of new punishments in certain states, county officials who run elections are quitting or retiring early. The once quiet job of election administration has become a political minefield thanks to the baseless claims of widespread fraud that continue to be pushed by many in the Republican Party. The exits raise the question of who will take these jobs.
F.E.C. Dismisses Case Against Democrats Over Outreach to Ukraine
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/16/2021
The FEC dismissed a complaint by an ally of former President Trump accusing the Democratic Party and one of its former consultants of violating campaign finance laws by working with Ukraine to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign by damaging Trump’s. An unusual bipartisan combination of members of the commission voted against pursuing the complaint. It claimed the Democratic National Committee and a consultant who had worked for it violated a prohibition on foreign donations by soliciting damaging information and statements from Ukrainian government officials about Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairperson at the time.
G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We don’t have a voice anymore’
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 6/14/2021
A series of Republican bills to restrict voting access across the country would disproportionately affect people with disabilities. For years, advocates have worked to mobilize Americans with disabilities, more than 38 million of whom are eligible to vote, into a voting bloc powerful enough to demand politicians address their needs. Now, after an election in which mail-in voting helped them turn out in large numbers, the restrictive proposals are simultaneously threatening their rights and testing their nascent political influence.
Garland Announces Expansion of Justice Department’s Voting Rights Unit, Vowing to Scrutinize GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions and Ballot Reviews
MSN – Amy Gardner and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/11/2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged to double the size of the Justice Department’s voting rights enforcement staff to combat efforts to restrict ballot access and prosecute those who threaten or harm election workers. Garland said the additional trial attorneys will scrutinize new laws and existing practices across the nation for potential discrimination against Americans of color, including in new measures Republican state lawmakers are pushing. The expanded unit will also monitor the growing number of post-election ballot reviews being called for by supporters of former President Trump.
‘It Was Exhaustion, It Was Sadness, It Was Fatigue’: America’s mayors call it quits
Politico – Lisa Kashinsky | Published: 6/16/2021
Mayors across the country are calling it quits after an exhausting year navigating the front lines of an unprecedented confluence of crises that touched nearly every aspect of human life. Mayors in cities big and small, urban and rural, are giving up for now on their political careers. In the process, they’ are shaking up the municipal landscape, creating a brain drain in City Halls and upsetting the political pipeline all over America. Covid-19 changed the calculus for mayors mulling reelection, but the public health crisis was only a fraction of a larger equation.
Justice Dept. Drops John Bolton Book Lawsuit, Won’t Charge the Ex-Security Aide Who Became Trump’s Scathing Critic
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
The Justice Department abandoned its effort to claw back profits of a book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton and closed a grand jury investigation into whether he criminally mishandled classified information without charging him. Bolton’s attorney called the dismissal a complete vindication for the diplomat, repudiating what Bolton said was the Trump White House’s politically motivated attempt to stifle the pre-election publication of his critical memoir before the 2020 presidential election, using security as a pretext.
Manchin Outlines Demands on Voting Legislation, Creating an Opening for Potential Democratic Compromise
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
Joe Manchin, the lone Senate Democrat who is not sponsoring a sweeping voting rights and campaign finance bill, outlined for the first time a list of policy demands on election legislation – opening the door to a possible compromise that could counter a bevy of Republican-passed laws that have rolled back ballot access in numerous states. Manchin is willing to support key provisions of the For the People Act, including mandating at least two weeks of early voting and measures meant to eliminate partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. But he also supported several provisions that have historically been opposed by most Democrats.
McGahn Elaborates on Mueller Testimony, but Stops Short of Condemning Trump in Interview with Congress
MSN – Karoun Demirjian, Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2021
Former White House counsel Donald McGahn told lawmakers he was seeking to avoid “a chain reaction that would be not in anyone’s interest” when he ignored then-President Trump’s direction to fire the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a transcript of his closed-door testimony. The exchange came after a two-year court battle for McGahn’s testimony. His appearance on Capitol Hill was the product of a deal between lawmakers and the Biden administration that ended any further appeals.
Trump’s FDA Commissioner Takes Job at Moderna Backer
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021
Former FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn is joining the venture capital firm that launched Moderna and remains closely tied to the coronavirus vaccine maker. Hahn headed the FDA when it authorized Moderna’s vaccine last year before stepping down at the end of the Trump administration. The move is the latest by a federal official to a company that is regulated by the government or that might profit from firms regulated by the government, what critics call a “revolving door” they say undermines trust in federal decisions.
Trump’s Justice Department Secretly Sought Data from Apple on Former White House Counsel McGahn
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/13/2021
The tech company Apple recently notified former White House counsel Donald McGahn and his wife that the Justice Department had secretly requested their information in 2018. Seizing a White House counsel’s data is striking. The latest development comes amid criticism of the Trump-era leak investigations involving members of Congress and journalists at several news organizations. Meanwhile, Republicans have questioned the seizure of records of Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, and another lawyer, Victoria Toensing.
Canada – Ethics Committee Calls for Sweeping Reforms in Wake of WE Charity Scandal
CBC – Elizabeth Thompson | Published: 6/10/2021
A House of Commons committee is proposing a sweeping series of reforms to the way the federal government in Canada makes decisions on contracts after releasing a report on the WE Charity scandal. Among the nearly two dozen recommendations, the committee recommends the government no longer award contracts to shell companies that lack assets to avoid liability. The committee said it also wants to see changes in rules put in place to prevent conflicts-of-interest on the part of cabinet ministers. It also says that public office holders should be accompanied by staff to take notes when they meet lobbyists.
Canada – Lobbyists Slipping Through Cracks of Lobbying Act: Commissioner
iPolitics – Aiden Chamandy | Published: 6/15/2021
The latest high-profile investigation to reveal shortcomings in Canada’s lobbying demonstrates the legislation still needs a parliamentary review, Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said. Rob Silver, husband of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, has had contact with officials handling the federal wage subsidy and rent-relief programs. Bélanger said she suspects lobbying occurred that does not meet the threshold to register in Silver’s case, but she has no data to support the claim, because it is not collected in the federal lobbying registry.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Records Show Little Email Contact Between Gov. Dunleavy’s Former Aide and Oil Company That Hired Him
KTOO – Nathaniel Herz (Alaska Public Media) | Published: 6/14/2021
Ben Stevens, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s former chief of staff, had minimal email contact with officials from ConocoPhillips before he left his state post to take an executive job at the and gas company, according to his correspondence. Interest groups and some lawmakers have been scrutinizing Stevens’ move from state service to the private sector, saying the quick transition raises questions about whether Stevens is complying with state ethics laws.
California – San Diego Website Meltdown Preceded by Vendor Spat, Email Shows
San Diego Reader – Matt Potter | Published: 6/14/2021
The intrigue surrounding the city of San Diego’s abrupt switch to a new campaign finance disclosure website has deepened with the partial rejection by city officials of a request for public records that might shed further light on the controversial matter. The bumpy changeover of the site’s operator, from the veteran contractor Netfile to a new vendor calling itself Pasadena Consulting, was undertaken two months ago by the city clerk’s office without public announcement or official word to the site’s operator or official word to the media.
Colorado – Colorado Supreme Court Beats Back State Politicians’ Redistricting Efforts
Denver Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 6/1/2021
Colorado’s independent redistricting commissions are independent from the state’s political class and their desires, the state Supreme Court ruled in rebuffing lawmakers, the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. The Colorado Supreme Court said legislation that would change this year’s redistricting process amounts to an unconstitutional infringement on the redistricting commissions’ authority to determine how to go about their once-in-a-decade work of redrawing the state’s political maps.
Connecticut – Lawyer Says ‘No Quid Pro Quo’ in Provision Struck from Connecticut Marijuana Bill That Favored One Producer
Hartford Courant – Mark Pazniokas (Connecticut Mirror) | Published: 6/14/2021
Investor J.D. DeMatteo’s interest in getting one of the first licenses to produce marijuana for Connecticut’s recreational market coincided with state Sen. Doug McCrory’s desire to open the industry to “social equity” applicants from poor and urban neighborhoods. McCrory insisted on a provision in the cannabis legalization bill that was intended to allow DeMatteo to jump to the head of the line for a cultivation license if he took on a social equity partner. Whether the provision was the result of altruism, opportunism, or a bit of both, it became an example of the ad hoc nature of legislative negotiations over how to dole out access to a lucrative new market.
Florida – Miami Beach Rep. Michael Grieco Ordered to Pay $1,000 After Probe of Ethics Lapses
MSN – Christina Sant Louis (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/12/2021
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust issued a “letter of instruction” rebuking state Rep. Michael Grieco for twice violating the Citizens’ Bill of Rights during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner. The commission found Grieco falsely portrayed his involvement with the People for Better Leaders PAC. It ordered him to pay $1,000 to cover costs. A third allegation that Grieco indirectly solicited a contribution from a city vendor was dismissed.
Hawaii – Emails Show HART Leaders Always Wanted to Hire Hanabusa as Consultant
Honolulu Civil Beat – Marcel Honore and Nick Grube | Published: 6/15/2021
Before a lucrative rail consulting gig went out for public bid, top officials at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) were determined to award that contract to the board’s former chairperson, Colleen Hanabusa, internal records show. HART Board Chairman Toby Martyn declared in December he wanted to hire Hanabusa as a lobbyist who could help with its budget problems and would report directly to the board she used to lead. Martyn also discussed the contract with Hanabusa 10 days before the solicitation was released publicly. HART leaders say there were no procurement violations, but they are still checking whether the process violated city ethics policies.
Maine – Maine Ethics Panel Votes to Pursue Records from Power Line Opponents
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 6/11/2021
Maine’s campaign finance watchdog agency voted to continue efforts to determine whether a limited liability corporation working to block a controversial transmission line project should have registered as a PAC or a ballot question committee. The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices also agreed to pursue a subpoena for financial information from an unidentified political consultant who has worked with Stop the Corridor to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect project. The project will be the subject of a statewide ballot question in November.
Massachusetts – Judge Rejects Plea Deal in Corruption Case of Former Correia Chief of Staff
WPRI – Shaun Towne and Steph Machado | Published: 6/10/2021
A federal judge rejected a plea deal Genoveva Andrade made with prosecutors in a public corruption case that would have spared her jail time. The unusual decision means Andrade, who was chief of staff to former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, remains charged with six crimes. She could potentially go to trial or plead guilty again under a new agreement with the prosecution. Andrade pleaded guilty to helping Correia in his scheme to shake down marijuana vendors for bribes in exchange for his approval of their proposed cannabis shops.
Massachusetts – Mass. Republican Party Explored Whether It Can Use Its Own Money to Pay for a Candidate’s Legal Fees
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 6/13/2021
The Massachusetts Republican Party, which has struggled to raise money in recent years, asked state campaign finance regulators if it could tap its own legal defense fund to pay costs for a candidate who is facing “legal actions initiated by a state administrative or law enforcement agency.” GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, state Sen. Ryan Fattman, and Stephanie Fattman, the Worcester County Register of Probate and Ryan Fattman’s wife, were each referred to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office in April by the state campaign finance office, which said it had evidence they and others may have violated various campaign finance laws last year.
Mississippi – Lt. Gov. Hosemann’s Inaugural Nonprofit Got $368k in Secret Donations, Filings Show
Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 6/10/2021
A nonprofit created to fund Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann’s inauguration raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret donations, with some gifts as large as $20,000, recent tax filings show. The organization, Advance Mississippi 2020, raised the money to pay for inauguration events early last year including a gala and prayer breakfast. The group was dissolved later in 2020 with the leftover money given to several charities. The documents are the latest example of how Mississippi politicians can use nonprofits to sidestep the usual restrictions and transparency required by campaign finance laws.
Nebraska – Donor to Nebraska Anti-Gambling Campaign Will Pay Record-Breaking Late Filing Fee
Omaha World-Herald – Martha Stoddard | Published: 6/11/2021
An Ohio-based group that spent more than $2.3 million to fight Nebraska’s casino gambling measures last fall will pay a record-breaking fine for missing a campaign finance report deadline. The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission voted to grant a request for relief from Collective Prosperity. They reduced the fee to $23,130, down from the original $231,300 that was determined by a formula in state law. The law requires corporations, unions, trade groups, or professional associations based outside of Nebraska to file contribution reports if they give more than $10,000 a year to a Nebraska campaign.
New York – Cuomo’s Inner Circle Raised Money for Aide Who Was Convicted of Bribery
New York Times – Brian Rosenthal and J. David Goodman | Published: 6/15/2021
After one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most trusted aides and closest friends, Joseph Percoco, was convicted of accepting more than $300,000 in bribes from executives with business before the state, the governor quickly distanced himself. Privately, however, members of Cuomo’s inner circle, including one of his sisters, have for years been raising money for Percoco. As recently as last year, the group was helping to fund Percoco’s appeal of his conviction, after some of its members also helped finance a trust fund for his children.
New York – Longtime Assembly Aide Approved as New York’s Election Watchdog
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 6/14/2021
Michael Johnson a former New York Assembly aide, was chosen as the state Board of Elections chief enforcement counsel, replacing Risa Sugarman. When the enforcement counsel position was created in March 2014, it was touted as a major reform. During her six-year tenure, Sugarman angered a wide swath of the Legislature with investigations and lawsuits. She fined major labor unions that were allies of Assembly Democrats. In the Senate, the list of targets included all three factions of the chamber: Democrats, Republicans, and the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference.
North Dakota – North Dakota Paid Its Top Investment Management Firm Millions Without Competitive Bidding Process
The Forum – Patrick Springer | Published: 6/15/2021
The state of North Dakota has paid its top investment consultant $12.9 million over the past 20 years without subjecting the firm to a competitive bidding process, an arrangement allowed by state law. The North Dakota State Investment Board has relied on investment consultant Callan for more than three decades to help select investment managers to steer the state’s $19.4 billion investment portfolio. Callan has a unique role in recommending other investment firms and working with the state on its overall investment strategies.
Ohio – Ally of Suspended Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charges
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/10/2021
A second ally of suspended Cleveland City Councilperson Kenneth Johnson admitted to charges involving the federal corruption investigation of Johnson. John Hopkins, the former executive director of the Buckeye-Shaker Square Development Corp., pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft from a federal program. Johnson’s friend, Robert Fitzpatrick, pleaded to conspiracy involving fraudulent expense reports the council member filed with the city. A federal grand jury indicted Johnson, Hopkins, and Johnson’s longtime aide, Garnell Jamison. Prosecutors said Johnson stole more than $127,000 from city coffers by submitting false monthly expense reports.
Ohio – Larry Householder Out: Ohio House votes to remove former speaker
MSN – Jessie Balmert, Laura Bischoff, and Anna Staver (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 6/16/2021
State Rep. Larry Householder, a former two-time House speaker, was expelled from the Ohio Legislature nearly 11 months after his arrest on a federal corruption charge. House members utilized a little-used provision in the Ohio Constitution that allows lawmakers to police their own for “disorderly conduct.” Householder was arrested last year in connection with the state’s largest bribery scheme. He is accused of orchestrating a nearly $61 million operation to win control of the Ohio House, pass a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants, and defend that law against a ballot initiative to block it.
Oregon – ‘Only Reasonable Course of Action’: Oregon GOP legislator ousted over state Capitol breach
USA Today – Connor Radnovich (Salem Statesman Journal) | Published: 6/11/2021
The Oregon House expelled Rep. Mike Nearman, who let violent, far-right protesters into the state Capitol on December 21. The vote marked the first time a member has been expelled by the House in its 160-year history. The only vote against the resolution was Nearman’s own. He said he let the protesters in because he believes the Capitol, which has been closed to the public to protect against spread of the coronavirus, should have been open. Nearman also faces two misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Poised for History-Making Election of Its First Black Mayor This Fall
MSN – Nick Keppler (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
More than five decades after Cleveland became the first, followed by virtually every other major city in the Midwest and Northeast, Pittsburgh is finally poised to join their ranks and make history this fall by electing a Black mayor. The all-but-certain victory of state Rep. Ed Gainey comes as the former steel town, these days dubbed one of America’s most livable cities, looks hard at the racial inequities that have meant different experiences and opportunities for African American residents. Gainey is the first candidate to defeat a sitting mayor in nearly 90 years.
Rhode Island – Former RI State Rep-Elect Pleads Guilty to Embezzling from Nonprofit
MSN – Providence Journal Staff | Published: 6/16/2021
A man who won a seat in the Rhode Island House but resigned before being sworn pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement and campaign finance charges. The court gave Laufton Ascencao a five-year suspended sentence with probation, imposed a $1,000 fine, and ordered restitution of $13,387.70 to the Rhode Island Chapter of the Sierra Club. Allegations of financial impropriety surfaced shortly after his election, including the charge that he used money from the Rhode Island Sierra Club to help finance his campaign.
South Carolina – SC House Reveals New List of $90M in Taxpayer Funds for Lawmakers’ Pet Projects
MSN – Andrew Caplan (The State) | Published: 6/13/2021
The South Carolina House released its list of nearly $90 million in earmarks members want in the upcoming budget that takes effect July 1. But the list falls short of the level of transparency and accountability that most lawmakers said they favored when polled by reporters. The new list also reveals some lawmakers are sponsoring earmarks that, in previous years, other legislators took heat for sponsoring because of potential conflicts-of-interest. Some watchdogs wonder if these lawmakers are trying to head off additional criticism by convincing their colleagues to sponsor the questionable earmarks on their behalf.
Tennessee – Closed Cold Case Murder Tied to Ousted Tennessee Governor
ABC News – Kimberly Kruesi (Associated Press) | Published: 6/9/2021
Investigators have been chipping away at the 42-year-old cold case of Samuel Pettyjohn’s murder since they renewed their investigation in 2015. At the time of his death, prosecutors said he was an informant in a federal probe of then-Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton, who was accused of taking bribes in exchange for state prisoners receiving early parole. Investigators have now linked Pettyjohn’s killing to the Blanton inquiry. Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston said Pettyjohn was killed in a murder-for-hire plot paid for in-part by a third party on behalf of Blanton’s administration.
Texas – Dallas City Corruption Trial Begins for a Local Developer Accused of Bribing Former Councilors
MSN – Kevin Krause (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 6/14/2021
It is a transaction that happens routinely in politics: the payment of money by a business owner to a public official with the expectation of some future favorable action. But when is that payment an illegal bribe and when does it fall into the category of a routine campaign contribution? A federal jury will soon decide the matter, at least in the trial of developer Ruel Hamilton, who is accused of bribing two former Dallas City Council members. Prosecutors say Hamilton made payments to Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway in exchange for their help on the council with his real estate properties.
Texas – State Bar Investigating Texas Attorney General
MSN – Jake Bleiberg (Associated Press) | Published: 6/10/2021
The State Bar of Texas is investigating whether state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on bogus claims of fraud amounted to professional misconduct. The bar association initially declined to take up a complaint that Paxton’s petitioning of the U.S. Supreme Court to block Joe Biden’s victory was frivolous and unethical. But a tribunal that oversees grievances against lawyers overturned that decision and ordered the bar to look into the accusations against the Republican official.
Virginia – Black Virginians Took Ralph Northam Back. Neither Has Forgotten.
New York Times – Astead Herndon | Published: 6/14/2021
On a national level, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam may forever be enshrined as the Democrat who defied calls to resign in the face of unquestionable racism – a photograph on his yearbook page that showed one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume. But among Black political leaders and elected officials in Virginia, he is set to leave office with another legacy: becoming the most racially progressive governor in the state’s history, whose focus on uplifting Black communities since the 2019 scandal will have a tangible and lasting effect.
Washington – Google to Pay Washington State $400,000 to Settle Campaign Finance Lawsuit
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 6/17/2021
Google agreed to pay $400,000 to settle charges it has not complied with Washington’s campaign finance laws, which require businesses to retain records of political ads they sell in the state. It is the second time in three years that the company has settled a campaign finance lawsuit in Washington. Google paid $200,000, plus attorneys’ fees, to settle a similar lawsuit, but admitted no wrongdoing. This time, Google agreed it did not comply with state law, but still disputes whether the law applies the company.
June 17, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Nebraska: “Donor to Nebraska Anti-Gambling Campaign Will Pay Record-Breaking Late Filing Fee” by Martha Stoddard for Omaha World-Herald Washington: “Google to Pay Washington State $400,000 to Settle Campaign Finance Lawsuit” by David Gutman for Seattle Times Elections National: […]
Nebraska: “Donor to Nebraska Anti-Gambling Campaign Will Pay Record-Breaking Late Filing Fee” by Martha Stoddard for Omaha World-Herald
Washington: “Google to Pay Washington State $400,000 to Settle Campaign Finance Lawsuit” by David Gutman for Seattle Times
National: “‘It Was Exhaustion, It Was Sadness, It Was Fatigue’: America’s mayors call it quits” by Lisa Kashinsky for Politico
National: “Manchin Outlines Demands on Voting Legislation, Creating an Opening for Potential Democratic Compromise” by Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Pittsburgh Poised for History-Making Election of Its First Black Mayor This Fall” by Nick Keppler (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Cuomo’s Inner Circle Raised Money for Aide Who Was Convicted of Bribery” by Brian Rosenthal and J. David Goodman for New York Times
Ohio: “Larry Householder Out: Ohio House votes to remove former speaker” by Jessie Balmert, Laura Bischoff, and Anna Staver (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Canada: “Lobbyists Slipping Through Cracks of Lobbying Act: Commissioner” by Aiden Chamandy for iPolitics
North Dakota: “North Dakota Paid Its Top Investment Management Firm Millions Without Competitive Bidding Process” by Patrick Springer for The Forum
Colorado: “Colorado Supreme Court Beats Back State Politicians’ Redistricting Efforts” by Evan Wyloge for Denver Gazette
June 16, 2021 •
Campaign Finance California: “San Diego Website Meltdown Preceded by Vendor Spat, Email Shows” by Matt Potter for San Diego Reader Elections National: “G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We don’t have a voice anymore’” by Maggie Astor for New York Times […]
California: “San Diego Website Meltdown Preceded by Vendor Spat, Email Shows” by Matt Potter for San Diego Reader
National: “G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We don’t have a voice anymore’” by Maggie Astor for New York Times
National: “Emails Show Trump Pressured Justice Dept. Over 2020 Election” by Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long for Associated Press News
National: “Trump’s FDA Commissioner Takes Job at Moderna Backer” by Dan Diamond (Washington Post) for MSN
Alaska: “Records Show Little Email Contact Between Gov. Dunleavy’s Former Aide and Oil Company That Hired Him” by Nathaniel Herz (Alaska Public Media) for KTOO
Connecticut: “Lawyer Says ‘No Quid Pro Quo’ in Provision Struck from Connecticut Marijuana Bill That Favored One Producer” by Mark Pazniokas (Connecticut Mirror) for Hartford Courant
Texas: “Dallas City Corruption Trial Begins for a Local Developer Accused of Bribing Former Councilors” by Kevin Krause (Dallas Morning News) for MSN
Hawaii: “Emails Show HART Leaders Always Wanted to Hire Hanabusa as Consultant” by Marcel Honore and Nick Grube for Honolulu Civil Bea
May 14, 2021 •
National/Federal ‘A Perpetual Motion Machine’: How disinformation drives voting laws New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 5/13/2021 Former President Trump’s months-long campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election did not overturn the results. But his unfounded claims shattered his supporters’ […]
‘A Perpetual Motion Machine’: How disinformation drives voting laws
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 5/13/2021
Former President Trump’s months-long campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election did not overturn the results. But his unfounded claims shattered his supporters’ trust in the electoral system, laying the foundation for numerous Republican-led bills pushing more restrictive voter rules. The bills demonstrate how disinformation can take on a life of its own, forming a feedback loop that shapes policy for years to come. When promoted with sufficient intensity, falsehoods, whether about election security or other topics, can shape voters’ attitudes toward policies, and lawmakers can cite those attitudes as the basis for major changes.
An Influential PAC Group Is Telling Businesses to Restart Political Donations, Including to GOP Lawmakers Who Voted to Overturn the Election Results
MSN – Grace Dean (Business Insider) | Published: 5/12/2021
Corporations that temporarily stopped political donations after the January 6 Capitol riot are being urged to restart contributions by a trade association that advises companies’ PACs, according to a report. The National Association of Business PACs (NABPAC) has encouraged its members to “move beyond” the siege by restarting donations. The group’s membership includes more than 250 corporate PACs. It was reported that NABPAC hosted a webinar in March with Republican strategist Michael DuHaime, who advised companies on how to restart donations, and how to communicate this with the public, given that there would be “fallout.”
Cheney Booted from Republican Leadership Spot
Politico – Melanie Zanona and Olivia Beavers | Published: 5/12/2021
House Republicans voted quickly to remove Liz Cheney as their third-ranking leader over her repeated criticism of former President Trump, a shakeup that ties the party tighter to Trump and threatens to create a new litmus test in the GOP. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his top deputies complained that Cheney’s constant readiness to call out Trump’s lies about the 2020 election was a distraction that prevented the party from unifying around a cohesive message to win back the House next year. U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a moderate turned Trump ally, is the only candidate running to replace Cheney.
FARA Filings Spotlight Giuliani’s Foreign Entanglements Amid Probe
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 5/7/2021
Federal investigators executed search warrants as part of a probe into Rudolph Giuliani and whether he may have acted as an unregistered foreign agent while serving as the personal lawyer to former President Trump. The search warrants suggest the investigation is concentrating on his dealings in Ukraine, including whether he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Giuliani has come under scrutiny for “shadow lobbying” for foreign clients but never registering. Anyone who engages in “quasi-political activities” covered by FARA on behalf of a foreign principal could be required to register. The broad range of activities that would trigger this requirement includes more than just direct lobbying.
FEC Quietly Finds Consensus Despite Hush-Money Dispute
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/7/2021
The FEC voted to close an investigation into whether former President Trump violated election law by making hush-money payments during the 2016 election. Watchdogs panned the decision, which went against the advice of the FEC’s top lawyer, saying it reaffirms the agency’s inability to enforce the law. Still, the FEC found consensus on key issues at its recent meeting. The agency unanimously approved a series of legislative recommendations, calling on Congress to crack down on deceptive default recurring donations and so-called scam PACs.
House Democrats and White House Reach Deal Over Testimony by Ex-Trump Aide
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 5/11/2021
The Biden administration and House Democrats have reached a tentative deal to allow Donald Trump’s former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to testify before Congress about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia inquiry. The deal appears likely to avert a definitive court precedent that would draw a clear line in ambiguous areas: the scope and limits of Congress’s constitutional power to compel testimony for its oversight responsibilities, and a president’s constitutional power to keep secret conversations with a White House lawyer.
Rep. Greene Aggressively Confronts Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Causing New York Congresswoman to Raise Security Concerns
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2021
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene aggressively confronted Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and falsely accused her of supporting “terrorists,” leading Ocasio-Cortez’s office to call on leadership to ensure Congress remains “a safe, civil place for all Members and staff.” Two reporters witnessed Ocasio-Cortez exit the House chamber ahead of Greene, who shouted “Hey Alexandria” twice to get her attention. When Ocasio-Cortez did not stop walking, Greene picked up her pace and began shouting at her and asking why she supports antifa and Black Lives Matter, falsely labeling them “terrorist” groups. Greene also shouted that Ocasio-Cortez was failing to defend her “radical socialist” beliefs by declining to publicly debate her.
Trump Justice Department Secretly Obtained Post Reporters’ Phone Records
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 5/7/2021
The Justice Department under former President Trump secretly seized the phone records of three Washington Post reporters who covered the federal investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The disclosure sets up a new clash between the federal government and news organizations and advocates for press freedom, who regard the seizures of reporters’ records as incursions into constitutionally protected newsgathering activity. Similar actions have occurred only rarely over the past decade. The action is presumably aimed at identifying the reporters’ sources as federal investigators scrutinized whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to sway the election.
White House Lifts Secrecy of Visitor Logs Cloaked by Trump
MSN – Jennifer Epstein (Bloomberg) | Published: 5/7/2021
President Biden’s White House released its first set of records detailing visits by official guests, returning to a practice set by the Obama administration and dismissed by the Trump team. The White House disclosed 400 visits during Biden’s first 12 days in office. While hundreds of visitors might have been to the White House complex on an ordinary pre-pandemic day, the sparse logs from the start of the Biden presidency show just how limited in-person activities have been.
Wide Splits Evident on Voting and Campaign Finance as Senate Panel Takes Up Overhaul
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 5/11/2021
Republicans and Democrats on an evenly divided U.S. Senate committee demonstrated how far apart they are on political spending, voting, campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws as they debated a sweeping 800-page bill. Charges of Democrats trying to grab power and allegations that Republicans in statehouses were seeking to disenfranchise minority voters mixed in with debates over how to mandate financial disclosure for political ads without imposing unconstitutional limits on free speech, and how to make voting easier without opening the door to bad actors who could game the system.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – 15 Years After VECO Scandal, Stevens’ New Oil Job Renews Old Ethics Questions
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 5/11/2021
In 2007, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin signed ethics reforms into law, in what she touted as a necessary response to a corruption scandal that ensnared several state lawmakers. Among the lawmakers investigated in that scandal was then-Senate President Ben Stevens. His Senate office was twice searched by the FBI, and two oil industry executives said they had paid him bribes. Stevens always denied wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime. Now, Stevens is now renewing questions about those same ethics laws in his new job as an executive at oil company ConocoPhillips, a position he started three days after leaving one of the most powerful jobs in state government: Chief of staff to Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Arizona – Arizona Makes It Easier to Purge Some from Early Voting List
Associated Press News – Jonathan Cooper | Published: 5/11/2021
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation purging infrequent voters from a list of those who automatically get a mail-in ballot each election, ignoring protests from Democrats and business leaders who said the measure would suppress the votes of people of color. The governor acted hours after a tense debate in the state Senate, during which Republicans tried to silence Democrats who said the bill would perpetuate systemic racism. Republicans have only a single-vote edge in the Arizona House and Senate, so legislation there has been tougher to pass than in other states.
Arizona – Arizona Republicans Push Back Against Justice Department Concerns, Setting Up Possible Clash over Maricopa County Recount
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2021
Arizona officials involved with a Republican-commissioned recount of the November presidential election in the state’s largest county brushed off concerns raised by the U.S. Justice Department, raising the possibility of a clash between state and federal authorities over the audit. Pamela Karlan, who heads the department’s civil rights division, wrote a letter to the president of the Arizona Senate suggesting the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County by a private contractor may not comply with federal law, which requires that ballots be securely maintained for 22 months following a federal election.
Florida – Ana Cruz Toured Tampa with Related CEO, but They Didn’t Talk Rome Yard Business, She Says
MSN – Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 5/11/2021
The month before the Related Group was named as the city’s choice for a lucrative contract to develop a prime property, Mayor Jane Castor’s partner, Ana Cruz, toured Tampa with the firm’s founder. Later, Cruz and Jorge Pérez traveled to the development site. Pérez, head of the Related Group, then got out for a tour organized by Castor’s nephew. Also on that tour was Joe Robinson, whose actions during the bid selection process led to a protest against the city’s preliminary award of the Rome Yard project.
Florida – Florida’s DeSantis Signs New Voting Restrictions into Law, Making the State the Latest to Add Hurdles to the Voting Process
MSN – Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed broad legislation that imposes new rules on voting and new penalties for those who do not follow them, hailing the measures as necessary to shore up public faith in elections even as critics accused him of trying to make it harder to vote, particularly for people of color. Like similar bills that Republicans are pushing in dozens of state Legislatures, the Florida measure adds hurdles to voting by mail, restricts the use of drop boxes, and prohibits any actions that could influence those standing in line to vote.
Georgia – Gov. Kemp Signs Bill Allowing More Money to Flow into Georgia Politics
Rome News-Tribune – Staff | Published: 5/10/2021
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law allowing state leaders to set up committees that could raise money during General Assembly sessions while lobbyists are trying to get legislation passed. Senate Bill 221 creates eight so-called leadership committees” that would collect campaign donations ahead of statewide and legislative elections. While those committees would have to disclose the names of donors, they would not be subject to the contribution limits that apply to individual candidates.
Idaho – Idaho Intern Reports Rape, Says Lawmakers ‘Destroyed Me’
Associated Press News – Rebecca Boone | Published: 5/4/2021
The harassment began soon after a report by a 19-year-old intern, who alleged an Idaho lawmaker raped her, became public. One state representative sought a copy of the police report and made inquiries into how the young woman could be referred for criminal charges for reporting the alleged rape. Another shared links to a far-right blog post that included the intern’s name, photo, and personal details about her life with thousands of people in a newsletter and on social media. And members of a anti-government activist group tried to follow and harass the young woman after she was called to testify in a public hearing.
Illinois – Even in Chicago’s Crowded History of FBI Cooperators, Daniel Solis’ Deal Stands Out
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 5/7/2021
Former Ald. Daniel Solis apparently has cut a deal with prosecutors that many in Chicago’s legal community say is unprecedented for an elected official, especially one allegedly caught betraying the public trust. In exchange for going undercover and helping prosecute Ald. Edward Burke, Solis was offered what is known as a deferred prosecution agreement. The deal means he will not serve jail time for taking campaign cash in exchange for official action and could keep his nearly $100,000 annual city pension.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Passes Ethics Policy, Promises Campaign Finance Reform
MSN – Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 5/11/2021
A new ethics law in Wichita sets gift limits for elected and appointed officials for the first time. The law creates an Ethics Advisory Board to investigate and rule on complaints. City officials could be censured or fined up to $1,000 for serious violations. Lesser offenses would require an official to undergo ethics training. It also offers whistleblower protection to city employees who report violations.
Maine – Maine Money-in-Politics Overhaul Targets Direct Donations from Businesses
Bangor Daily News – Jessica Piper | Published: 5/12/2021
A measure moving through the Maine Legislature to restrict business contributions to legislative campaigns would weaken one path to influence for lawmakers, though businesses and nonprofits would still have ways to affect races. The bill would ban direct contributions from businesses and other corporations to candidates. It would also take aim at donations to PACs controlled by legislators that are not subject to the same limits as candidate campaigns. Those so-called leadership PACs account for a relatively small portion of the money in politics every year, but they are notable because they are affiliated with prominent lawmakers.
Massachusetts – Petitioners Ask US Supreme Court to Declare Gov. Baker’s COVID Restrictions a Violation of the Constitution
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 5/10/2021
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is close to lifting remaining COVID-19 restrictions, but critics who believe he overstepped his authority are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare Baker’s actions to date a violation of the Constitution. The plaintiffs unsuccessfully attempted to overturn many of his executive orders that put business and other gathering restrictions in place but lost that case in in the state’s highest court. While it is unlikely the justices would act in time to disrupt Baker’s reopening plans, the lawyers and advocates involved say the case still has value in making sure future governors don’t similarly use public health to wield expansive executive authority.
Michigan – Gov. Whitmer: Flight to visit father was not ‘a gift’
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 5/12/2021
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said her flight to visit her father was not paid for by taxpayer dollars and was not “a gift,” but she declined to provide additional information about how the trip was funded. Her comments came at a press conference about two months after she traveled out of state to visit her father, who lives in Florida and her office says is battling a chronic illness. For the trip, Whitmer took a private plane that’s usually shared by three of Michigan’s most prominent political donors.
Michigan – Michigan House-Passed Bill Would Spell Out Conflict of Interest Policy for Lawmakers
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbons | Published: 5/6/2021
Michigan lawmakers would be explicitly barred from voting on issues they have a personal interest in under legislation that passed the House with bipartisan support. House Bill 4001 would prohibit state lawmakers from voting on bills or other measures that could personally benefit them, their families, or any entities in which they have a stake. Currently, conflict-of-interest policies are in place through state law and legislative rules, but there are few mechanisms to regulate or enforce violations.
New Jersey – Ex-Hopatcong Mayor Fined Maximum Possible by State Ethics Panel
New Jersey Herald – Eric Obenauer | Published: 5/10/2021
A state ethics panel fined former Hopatcong Mayor Cliff Lundin $22,500 for using government vehicles for personal business and government computers to view and store pornography during the time he headed the agency overseeing New Jersey’s soil control regulations. The state also accused Lundin of using his position to grant friends a waiver from the regulations he was responsible for enforcing and running a private law practice on state time.
New York – Federal Judge Denies NRA Attempt to Declare Bankruptcy in Win for New York State Attorney General
MSN – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 5/11/2021
A federal judge denied an effort by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to file for bankruptcy protection, ruling the gun rights group filed the case in a bad-faith attempt to fend off a lawsuit by the New York attorney general. The decision was a victory for Attorney General Letitia James, who filed a far-reaching civil suit against the group accusing top officials of fraud and self-dealing. NRA chief Wayne LaPierre and his legal team contended the lawsuit was a political act intended to destroy the organization.
Ohio – ‘A Terrible Idea’: Multitasking state senator drives while videoconferencing
MSN – Michael Laris (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2021
Like many pandemic-era workers, Ohio Sen. Andrew Brenner found himself relying on videoconferencing to make his busy schedule work. The problem for Brenner was he did so while driving, while his government meeting was being recorded, and while his legislative colleagues were pressing to tighten rules on using smartphones behind the wheel. That combination opened the Republican to online ridicule and swipes from political opponents as local and national media turned his drive into a parable on driver safety and political irony.
Ohio – Ohio Is No.1 State When It Comes to Public Corruption, Experts Say
USA Today – Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 5/11/2021
The public corruption case in Ohio involving $61 million in “dark money” spent to influence legislation is the biggest open investigation in any statehouse in America. Watchdogs said the House Bill 6 case, an open investigation against another previous House speaker, and several city-level cases, makes Ohio the leader among states for corruption. “The whole thing is amazing in scope …,” said Todd Wickerham, former FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Cincinnati office. The House Bill 6 case may be charting new ground in corruption prosecutions by alleging “dark money” was used as bribe money.
Ohio – Special Prosecutor Seeks Suspension of Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/12/2021
Special prosecutor Patrick Hanley said he is seeking to suspend Wendell Young from the Cincinnati City Council after Young was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with records. There are no provisions in the city charter that address what should happen if an elected official is charged with a crime. But under state rules. either the state attorney general or prosecutor can move to suspend an elected official who has been charged with a crime.
Oregon – Audit: Oregon should boost ethics officials; independence, anti-corruption measures
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/5/2021
An audit of the structure of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission (OGEC) and the state laws that govern its work found OGEC operations are generally aligned with other states and with leading practices. But the audit identified areas where the commission could be strengthened and given more independence. Auditors noted Oregon “is in the minority of states lacking an ethics organization that oversees campaign finance.” In general, they reported Oregon’s laws against public officials’ misuse of their offices, acceptance of expensive gifts, and conflicts-of-interest are in line with national standards.
Oregon – Portland Business Alliance Contests 23 of 25 Lobbying Violations Found by City Auditor
Portland Oregonian – Shane Dixon Cavanaugh | Published: 5/10/2021
The city auditor’s office found the Portland Business Alliance failed to disclose at least 25 times it had contacted city officials in 2020 to request access, funding, or action, primarily by email. The alliance contends 23 of the unreported emails and other interactions with officials did not need to be reported because they did not meet the city’s definition of lobbying. The business alliance’s president, Andrew Hoan, said his group would accept the auditor’s recommendation that its staff participate in additional lobbying training.
Oregon – Remote Testimony Could Be Here to Stay at the Oregon Capitol
MSN – Chris Lehman (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/11/2021
So far this session, with committee hearings held entirely on virtual platforms, people have signed up to address legislative committees more than 14,000 times in Oregon. That is already well over the number who sought to testify in person in 2019, with more than six weeks remaining in this year’s session. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would require both the state Legislature and local governments to offer remote testimony as an option, even when the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.
South Carolina – Columbia Mayor Benjamin Registered as Lobbyist for SC’s Largest Medical Provider Prisma
Charleston Post and Courier – Steven Fastenau | Published: 5/11/2021
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who is not seeking reelection, has become a registered lobbyist for South Carolina’s largest hospital system. Benjamin filed as a lobbyist for Prisma Health, which has large operations in Columbia and is among the area’s biggest employers. South Carolina law prohibits state lawmakers and statewide elected officials and department heads appointed by the governor from lobbying while in office and for a year after leaving their positions, but no such provision exists for local elected officials.
Tennessee – FBI Investigation at Tennessee Statehouse Continued Through Legislative Session
Yahoo News – Andy Sher (Chattanooga Times Free Press) | Published: 5/8/2021
Federal officials have been publicly silent in the four months following FBI raids on three sitting Tennessee House members, two of them political consultants performing work for several GOP colleagues. But federal agents have not been idle since their searches of the homes and legislative offices of Rep. Robin Smith and former Speaker Glen Casada, plus a freshman representative and a former top House staffer. FBI agents for months have visited the Cordell Hull State Office Building to interview lawmakers for whom Smith and Casada, both political consultants, did work in 2020. Smith and Casada provided campaign services, state government-funded constituent mail communications, and surveys to colleagues.
Texas – Texas House Approves Bill Mandating Sexual Harassment Training for Lobbyists and a Way to Report Complaints, with 2 No Votes
MSN – Madlin Mekelburg (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/11/2021
A bill to require sexual harassment training for lobbyists at the Texas Capitol passed easily in the House. The bill would prohibit sexual harassment by lobbyists and allow people who work around the Capitol to file complaints against people for violations. It would also require lobbyists to complete sexual harassment training as part of their licensing process.
Texas – Top Consultant for Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller Charged with Theft Over Hemp Licenses
MSN – Tony Plohetski (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/7/2021
Authorities charged one of the state’s most influential lobbyists and a top political consultant to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller with theft after investigators said he stole money from possible investors in the state’s hemp industry. According to an affidavit, the case against Smith has been ongoing for nearly two years and involves what alleged victims say was his promised assistance in securing licenses from Miller’s office to produce hemp. Lawmakers in 2019 legalized hemp with a new state-regulated program.
Texas – Unwanted Touching, Late-Night Texts: Women at Texas Capitol describe culture of harassment
USA Today – Nicole Cobler, Madlin Mekelburg, and John Moritz (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/3/2021
An investigation into an allegation that a lobbyist slipped a drug into the drink of a legislative staffer thrust workplace harassment at the Texas Capitol into the daylight, with legislative leaders working to improve avenues for women to report mistreatment and legislation filed to require sexual misconduct training for lobbyists. Multiple women described a work environment in which they are objectified and made to feel uncomfortable in their daily interactions with male counterparts. Women said they fear career-ending repercussions if they complain, instead turning to a whisper network to warn one another of the predators to avoid.
Virginia – Youngkin Wins Virginia GOP Nomination for Governor
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 5/10/2021
Businessperson Glenn Youngkin won the Republican nomination for governor in Virginia, emerging from a crowded field to claim the GOP mantle for one of the most closely watched races of 2021. November’s general election will be perhaps the most competitive statewide race of the year. Though Virginia voted for now-President Joe Biden, the state has often veered away from the party that occupies the White House in gubernatorial races.
Washington – Seattle Ethics Panel Requires Kshama Sawant to Pay $3,516 for Violating Law
Seattle Times – Nina Shapiro | Published: 5/10/2021
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commissioner ratified a settlement agreement with Councilperson Kshama Sawant in which she admitted improperly using city money and other resources to support a proposed ballot measure. The vote means Sawant must pay the city $3,516, twice the amount she spent to promote an earnings tax on big businesses like Amazon. The decision comes as a recall campaign is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative seeking Sawant’s ouster.
Washington – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan Had Phone Set to Keep Texts Only 30 Days, Her Office Says
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb and Daniel Beekman | Published: 5/12/2021
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose text messages are missing for a 10-month period that includes the peak of last year’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations, at some point had an iPhone set to automatically delete texts older than 30 days. The standard text-retention options on iPhones are generally inadequate for preserving public records of substance under state law, and elected officials should know that, according an open-government expert. “There’s nothing in state law that says you can automatically delete records after 30 days,” said Toby Nixon, president emeritus of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.
West Virginia – Audit: Association of smaller W.Va. colleges and universities received $132,000 in illegal payments
West Virginia Public Broadcasting – David Misitch | Published: 5/10/2021
Some regional colleges and universities made $132,000 in illegal payments to an association that was created to lobby on their behalf, according to an audit. In 2013, the West Virginia Association of Regional Colleges and Universities was created as a 501(c)6 organization and registered with the West Virginia secretary of state’s office. The organization was comprised of college and university presidents, who are state employees. The group was dissolved in 2015. Despite the dissolution, the audit found the schools made $132,000 in unauthorized payments to the association. At least $105,000 of those payments went toward lobbying.
Wyoming – Federal Elections Commission Fines Wyo GOP $52,000
WyoFile,com – Nick Reynolds | Published: 5/10/2021
The FEC fined the Wyoming Republican Party $52,000 for a campaign finance violation stemming from former President Trump’s 2016 campaign. State GOP Chairperson Matt Micheli said the violation occurred during the runup to the election. A miscommunication between the Wyoming GOP’s accountant and the Trump campaign, Micheli said, resulted in the party failing to report a significant monetary transfer between the campaign and the party until after the election.
May 13, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “An Influential PAC Group Is Telling Businesses to Restart Political Donations, Including to GOP Lawmakers Who Voted to Overturn the Election Results” by Grace Dean (Business Insider) for MSN Maine: “Maine Money-in-Politics Overhaul Targets Direct Donations from […]
National: “An Influential PAC Group Is Telling Businesses to Restart Political Donations, Including to GOP Lawmakers Who Voted to Overturn the Election Results” by Grace Dean (Business Insider) for MSN
Maine: “Maine Money-in-Politics Overhaul Targets Direct Donations from Businesses” by Jessica Piper for Bangor Daily News
National: “House Democrats and White House Reach Deal Over Testimony by Ex-Trump Aide” by Charlie Savage for New York Times
Kansas: “Wichita City Council Passes Ethics Policy, Promises Campaign Finance Reform” by Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) for MSN
New York: “Federal Judge Denies NRA Attempt to Declare Bankruptcy in Win for New York State Attorney General” by Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN
Washington: “Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan Had Phone Set to Keep Texts Only 30 Days, Her Office Says” by Lewis Kamb and Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times
National: “Cheney Booted from Republican Leadership Spot” by Melanie Zanona and Olivia Beavers for Politico
Oregon: “Remote Testimony Could Be Here to Stay at the Oregon Capitol” by Chris Lehman (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
South Carolina: “Columbia Mayor Benjamin Registered as Lobbyist for SC’s Largest Medical Provider Prisma” by Steven Fastenau for Charleston Post and Courier
Texas: “Texas House Approves Bill Mandating Sexual Harassment Training for Lobbyists and a Way to Report Complaints, with 2 No Votes” by Madlin Mekelburg (Austin American-Statesman) for MSN
Florida: “Ana Cruz Toured Tampa with Related CEO, but They Didn’t Talk Rome Yard Business, She Says” by Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell (Tampa Bay Times) for MSN
May 7, 2021 •
National/Federal ‘Cult of Personality’: House Dems seize on Cheney chaos Politico – Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu | Published: 5/5/2021 Republicans are days away from dethroning U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as their third-ranking leader after her repeated broadsides against former President […]
‘Cult of Personality’: House Dems seize on Cheney chaos
Politico – Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu | Published: 5/5/2021
Republicans are days away from dethroning U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as their third-ranking leader after her repeated broadsides against former President Trump. In doing so, Democrats believe the GOP is handing over the ingredients for a political litmus test that could energize their push to beat the historical odds and hang onto their narrow House majority next fall. The Cheney ouster opens the door to tarring the GOP, once again, as the party of Trump. The turmoil over Cheney’s future has elevated Trump’s voice in the party to a degree last seen before his encouragement of baseless election fraud claims turned to violence on January 6.
Delayed Census Data Kicks Off Flood of Redistricting Lawsuits
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 5/1/2021
Every redistricting cycle brings a torrent of litigation over the country’s political boundaries, which can play an outsized role in determining which party controls the House of Representatives and statehouses around the country. But this year, a confluence of forces – including the census delays, pending federal legislation about redistricting, and major U.S. Supreme Court rulings earlier in the decade – could transform that steady stream of lawsuits into a downpour. Combined with the compressed timeline for making new maps, the litigation promises to make redistricting a more chaotic and unpredictable affair in 2021 and 2022.
Democrats Tweak Marquee Voting Bill as They Seek Path Out of Senate
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
Congressional Democrats amended their voting-rights, campaign finance, and ethics bill, addressing concerns raised by elections administrators but forgoing a more radical rewrite of the legislation. The changes to the For the People Act come after the bill passed the House and ahead of a vote in a Senate committee that could advance the bill to the floor. Republicans are opposed to the bill, meaning it will be unable to clear a Senate filibuster. While many activists and some senators are eager to change the chamber’s rules to allow the bill to pass with a simple majority, many Democratic senators have expressed misgivings about doing so.
ESG Lobbying Surges with Democratic Control of Washington
MSN – Laura Weiss (Roll Call) | Published: 4/29/2021
More lobbyists reported raising environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues with U.S. officials and lawmakers this year, with Democrats now controlling Washington, than ever before. “ESG” has been steadily appearing in more federal quarterly lobbying reports in recent years. Those issues are now at their highest point as regulators and members of Congress prepare policy on climate change. Groups that disclosed such lobbying included large trade associations, asset managers, financial services firms, insurers, pension-focused groups, and at least two left-leaning organizations advocating ESG disclosure rules.
Facebook’s Oversight Board Upholds Ban on Trump. At Least for Now.
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin, Kat Zakrzewski, and Heather Kelly (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the social network’s ban on former President Trump for encouraging violence following the January 6 attack on the Capitol, a decision that holds major implications for how the speech of political leaders should be policed online. But the Oversight Board, which is largely independent of the social network, also left open the door for Trump’s return. The expert panel took issue with Facebook’s “indefinite” suspension of Trump, calling it “vague and uncertain.” It sent the decision back to Facebook and said it had six months to clarify Trump’s punishment and come up with a response that fits its known rules.
FBI Warned Giuliani, Key Trump Ally in Senate of Russian Disinformation Campaign Targeting Biden
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 4/29/2021
The FBI warned Rudolph Giuliani in late 2019 that he was the target of a Russian influence operation aimed at circulating falsehoods intended to damage President Biden ahead of last year’s election, according to current and former U.S. officials. The warning was part of an effort by the bureau to alert members of Congress and at least one conservative media outlet, One America News, they faced a risk of being used to further Russia’s attempt to influence the election’s outcome. Giuliani received the warning while deeply involved with former President Trump’s reelection campaign and related activities in Ukraine to surface incriminating information about the Biden family.
For Republicans, Fealty to Trump’s Election Falsehood Becomes Defining Loyalty Test
MSN – Ashley Parker and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 5/2/2021
Rejection of the 2020 election results has increasingly become a litmus test for acceptance in the Republican Party. In January, eight senators and 139 House members voted in support of objections to the election results and since then, Republicans from Congress to statehouses to local party organizations have embraced the falsehood that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. In Washington, internal feuding over who is to blame for the insurrection has riven the House Republican leadership. Local officials are facing censure and threats. The issue also could reverberate through the 2022 midterms and the 2024 election.
How Top White House Adviser Anita Dunn Is Dodging Ethics Disclosure
The Intercept – Lee Fang | Published: 5/4/2021
President Biden’s promise to reverse the “revolving door” and usher in a new, transparent administration has not extended to one of his closest advisers. Thanks to a loophole, Anita Dunn, a member of the president’s inner circle, does not have to file the public financial disclosure required of every other presidential appointee. She was hired into a special, temporary role that keeps her disclosure – and, therefore, her client list at the consulting firm SKDK and any conflicts-of-interest – out of the public eye.
Judge Blasts Barr, Justice Dept. for ‘Disingenuous’ Handling of Secret Trump Obstruction Memo
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
A judge accused the Justice Department and then-Attorney General William Barr of misleading the court and public to hide how he decided former President Trump should not be charged for obstructing Robert Mueller’ s Russia investigation. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the release of a 2019 memo prepared by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which Barr sought to keep secret by asserting it was part of the department’s internal decision-making process before he selectively announced the Mueller report’s findings that March. Jackson wrote that after viewing the memo and other evidence the department’s claims “are so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence.”
Newsmax Issues Retraction and Apology to Dominion Employee Over Election Stories
National Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 4/30/2021
The right-wing media outlet Newsmax, which amplified former President Trump’s false allegations of election rigging and widespread voter fraud, said there is no evidence that Dominion Voting Systems and one of its top employees, Eric Coomer, manipulated election results in 2020. Coomer withdrew his defamation lawsuit against Newsmax earlier Friday, ahead of Newmax’s apology. Coomer’s attorneys said he has reached a financial settlement, but terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Observers Report Ballots and Laptop Computers Have Been Left Unattended in Arizona Recount, According to Secretary of State
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
Ballots have been left unattended on counting tables. Laptop computers sit abandoned, at times open, unlocked, and unmonitored. Procedures are constantly shifting, with untrained workers using different rules to count ballots. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sent a letter outlining a string of problems she said observers from her office have witnessed at a Republican-led recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona’s largest county. The recount of Maricopa County’s nearly 2.1 million ballots was ordered by the GOP-led state Senate, despite the fact that county officials, as well as state and federal judges, found no merit to claims the vote was tainted by fraud or other problems.
California – Campaign Season Lasts Year-Round in Santa Clara County
San Jose Spotlight – Madelyn Reese | Published: 5/4/2021
In Santa Clara County, politicians can fundraise for their campaigns all year and keep the excess money to pay off incurred debt. That is much different than campaign finance rules in San Jose. Both San Jose and Santa Clara County have rules that are stricter than the state, but the county’s approach to fundraising is novel in that it allows elected officials to fundraise the entire time they are in office. San Jose only allows candidates and elected officials to fundraise 180 days before an election.
Florida – Florida Republicans Rushed to Curb Mail Voting After Trump’s Attacks on the Practice. Now Some Fear It Could Lower GOP Turnout.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/3/2021
For more than thirty years, Republican campaigns in Florida have invested millions of dollars encouraging their supporters to cast ballots by mail. State legislators passed laws making it easier. GOP voters became so comfortable with casting ballots by mail that in 2020, nearly 35 percent of those who turned out did so. Now, some Republicans are reacting with alarm after the GOP-dominated Legislature passed a bill that puts new restrictions on the use of mail ballots. As voting rights advocates accuse proponents of attempting to suppress the votes of people of color, these Republicans say their own political fortunes are in peril, as well.
Florida – Tampa Activist Joe Robinson at Center of Rome Yard Controversy
MSN – Charlie Frago (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 5/4/2021
A disputed bid process in Tampa’s prime development parcel has some optic problems. Family members of Mayor Jane Castor have been tied to the deal with Related, a developer that won the initial nod to develop the Rome Yard. It was discovered recently that Joe Robinson, a local activist and engineer, signed a $75,000 professional services contract with a partner to the deal, the Tampa Housing Authority. Robinson, who was involved in the Related pick as a selection committee member, initiated a move during a meeting to throw out minority outreach scores, a successful effort that led to Related being ranked higher than Invictus.
Idaho – Idaho Lawmaker Accused of Rape Resigns After Ethics Ruling
Associated Press News – Rebecca Boone | Published: 4/29/2021
An Idaho lawmaker accused of rape by a 19-year-old legislative intern resigned after an ethics committee found he should be formally censured. The investigation into Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger began in March after a young staffer reported he raped her in his apartment after the two had dinner at a Boise restaurant. Von Ehlinger has denied all wrongdoing and maintains he had consensual sexual contact with the young woman. He resigned after the committee unanimously agreed he engaged in “behavior unbecoming” and recommended he be suspended without pay for the rest of the legislative session.
Illinois – A Slew of Ex-State Lawmakers Face Criminal Charges, but Critics Question Whether Proposed Reforms Are Enough for Illinois’ ‘Very Vibrant Culture of Corruption’
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella and Jenny Whidden | Published: 5/3/2021
Two years into a federal corruption investigation that has led to charges against more than half a dozen current and former state lawmakers and precipitated the downfall of longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, legislators are scrambling to strengthen Illinois’ government ethics laws. Proposals include tightening rules for lobbyists, requiring additional financial disclosures from elected officials, giving more independence to the legislative inspector general, and prohibiting lawmakers from becoming lobbyists immediately upon leaving office. But critics say the proposals do not go far enough to fix the problems.
Illinois – Chicago Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, Nephew of Richard M. Daley, Hit with Federal Charges in Bank Case
MSN – Jason Meisner and John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 4/29/2021
Chicago Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, the nephew and grandson of the city’s two legendary mayors, was charged s part of a federal investigation into the collapse of a bank in his family’s longtime neighborhood, records show. Thompson was charged in a seven-count indictment with filing false tax returns and lying to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. officials about $219,000 in loans and other payments he received from Washington Federal Bank for Savings before it was shuttered in 2017.
Indiana – Indiana’s Top Elections Official Admits Fundraising Error
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 4/28/2021
Indiana’s top elections official acknowledged violating political fundraising rules with the launch of her 2022 election campaign. Secretary of State Holli Sullivan requested contributions as she announced her campaign five days earlier than allowed under changes to state law signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb that day.
Kansas – Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel Arrested for Battery After Physical Altercation with Student
MSN – Sarah Ritter and Jonathan Shorman (Kansas City Star) | Published: 4/29/2021
Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel was arrested on charges of misdemeanor battery after getting into a physical altercation with a student while substitute teaching. Throughout the day, high school students began recording videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, and God. Parents said Samsel “put hands on [a] student” and allegedly kneed him in the crotch. In a video apparently taken immediately after the incident, the student is shown on the ground. Samsel is standing over him and says, “did it hurt?”
Kansas – Overland Park Councilman Fined Thousands for Ignoring Campaign Finance Violations
Kansas City Star – Katie Bernard and Sarah Ritter | Published: 4/28/2021
In 2019, Overland Park City Councilperson Scott Hamblin spent $87.57 from his campaign fund at Men’s Wearhouse in violation of state campaign finance rules. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined Hamblin and campaign treasurer Tara Burke $270 each for misuse of campaign funds and $5,000 each for failure to file reports. The $5,000 fine can be dropped to $1,000 if the reports are filed and the fine is paid within 30 days. The commission said Hamblin’s campaign failed to file two required campaign finance reports in the past year and never reimbursed his campaign for the Men’s Wearhouse purchases.
Michigan – Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland Pleads Guilty to Misconduct in Office, Resigns
Detroit News – Christine Ferretti | Published: 5/3/2021
Gabe Leland pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in office and resigned his seat on the Detroit City Council. He will not serve any jail time under the plea agreement. Leland was accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 in cash and free car repairs from a businessperson in exchange for his vote on a controversial land deal. After his indictment in 2018, Leland vowed it would be “business as usual” for him at City Hall and he was “innocent until proven guilty.” He had continued to take part in council sessions and meetings for more than two years.
Michigan – House Panel Debates Financial Disclosure Bills That Wouldn’t Make Sitting Lawmakers’ Finances Public
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbons | Published: 5/4/2021
A Michigan House committee took up legislation that would require lawmakers to disclose their personal finances, debating the merits of a plan that would subject elected officials to new disclosure requirements without allowing the public to see it until they are out of office. The package would compel lawmakers to submit financial information for themselves and immediate family members, including income sources over $5,000, properties valued over $50,000 excluding their primary residence, and stocks, bonds and annuities valued at $10,000 or more, to a new legislative ethics committee in their chamber.
Mississippi – Mississippi Politicians Are Capitalizing on Loopholes in State’s Campaign Finance Law
Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 4/28/2021
Former Mississippi Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall was retired last year but continued spending campaign money accumulated over a long career in elected office. His actions highlight loopholes in campaign finance law. Politicians can use campaign funds for personal reasons as long as it is money they raised before 2018, when reforms took effect banning the practice. A politician may stop filing disclosure reports even if they have funds remaining in their campaign account. This means the public might never learn what a candidate or politician does with hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars in leftover campaign cash.
Montana – Legislature Approves Campaign Finance Exemption for Religious Groups
Montana Standard – Sam Wilson | Published: 4/29/2021
Montana lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session passed a bill exempting religious organizations from some of the campaign reporting requirements for political communications. Senate Bill 689, which was originally written to target a political organization representing students in the state university system that generally supports liberal causes, also includes language that exempts churches and other religious groups from having to file campaign finance reports on the cost of political communications.
Montana – Legislature Passes New Recusal Requirements for Judges
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 4/28/2021
Montana lawmakers passed a bill that establishes broad conflict-of-interest guidelines for judges while prohibiting some political activities in some areas on public college campuses. Under Senate Bill 319, judicial officers would be disallowed from presiding over a case if they received at least half of the maximum individual contribution from a lawyer or party during the previous six years. They would also have to recuse themselves if a lawyer or party to the case donated to a political committee that supported the judge or opposed their opponent in the past six years.
Montana – Montana Supreme Court Says COPP Can’t Issue Subpoena for Records
Montana Standard – Holly Michels | Published: 5/3/2021
The Montana Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the state commissioner of political practices does not have the power to subpoena records during investigations. The Montana Democratic Party had filed a complaint claiming the state Republican Party failed to comply with campaign finance reporting and disclosure requirements for elections in 2016, 2017, and 2018. When Commissioner Jeff Mangan investigated, he first informally requested the state GOP produce relevant documents. The party only provided public campaign finance reports it had already filed in 2016. When the GOP did not respond to a subpoena, the commissioner went to court to compel the party to respond.
New Mexico – State Senator Plans to Sue New Mexico Cabinet Secretary, Alleging Retaliation
Yahoo News – Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 5/3/2021
State Sen. Jacob Candelaria is planning to sue New Mexico Health Secretary Tracie Collins over an ethics complaint he claims she filed against him in retaliation for his request for records related to the state’s response to COVID-19 and the spending of federal funds. Candelaria said the tort claim, which is a notice of intent to sue, will be the first in a series of actions he plans to take to expose the alleged retaliation and threats he faced after he filed public records requests with the governor’s office last year.
New York – Larry Schwartz, Cuomo’s Volunteer COVID Vaccine Czar, Stepping Down
MSN – Dennis Slattery (New York Daily News) | Published: 4/29/2021
Larry Schwartz, who ran New York’s coronavirus contact tracing program and vaccination efforts during the past year, is stepping down. The move comes a day after state lawmakers rolled back a rule exempting Schwartz and other volunteers who assisted the administration during the crisis from the state’s public officers laws. Currently the chief strategy officer at OTG, an airport concessions company, Schwartz previously served as a senior adviser to Cuomo before being appointed secretary to the governor in 2011. He left the administration in 2015 but currently serves on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board.
New York – Reformers Push for Independent Watchdog to Tackle Albany Corruption
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal – Joe Mahoney (CNHI News) | Published: 5/4/2021
The mystery of what happened to a lobbying disclosure report from Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates comes at a time when lawmakers are mulling the possibility of scrapping the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) for a more independent agency. Records show the firm has nothing on file for the bi-monthly reporting period of January through February of this year. Patrick Jenkins said the firm made a complete filing, and he was unaware it was not showing up in the online system. David Grandeau, a former director of the defunct state Lobbying Commission, said the case reflects how JCOPE has been failing to make such filings transparent and to be vigorous in responding to alleged corruption at the statehouse.
North Carolina – Ex-Buncombe Commissioner Vice Chair Frost Sentenced to 6 Months for Corruption; May Appeal
MSN – Joel Burgess (Ashville Citizen Times) | Published: 4/28/2021
Former Buncombe County Commissioner Ellen Frost was sentenced to six months in prison for corruption. The sentence was unexpected following a plea deal with prosecutors who recommended no prison time. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Conrad said the case was unusual in that she did not gain monetarily, but it had the “very serious nature of local government corruption.” Frost admitted to conspiring with ex-County Manager Wanda Greene to misapply more than $575,000 of taxpayer’s funds toward equestrian enterprises.
Ohio – Cincinnati Issues 1 and 2: Voters back anti-corruption measures for City Hall
MSN – Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/4/2021
Cincinnati voters approved a pair of ant-corruption measures that will make it easier to remove a council member in the event they are arrested. Issue 1 and Issue 2 were put on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the city council and were not controversial. They come as four council members are accused in separate corruption scandals in the last 14 months. There was no provision in the city charter that addressed removal in any form, which left outsiders like the state attorney general to act.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Complaint Seeks Campaign Spending Details from Householder-Aligned Candidate
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/29/2021
A conservative activist issued subpoenas as part of a state elections case he filed against a former state legislative candidate aligned with ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Chris Hicks is hoping to uncover information about campaign spending for Allen Freeman, a township trustee from Clermont County who in May 2020 finished last in a three-candidate Republican primary for a state House seat. Freeman reported spending just $14,000 on his campaign, even though public records show his campaign bought more than $100,000 worth of television ads alone.
Oregon – Big Political Donors Get Big Say in Oregon Political Money Limits
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 4/29/2021
Now that campaign contribution limits are legal in Oregon, the specifics that lawmakers are negotiating in private would set much higher limits than voters have approved and allow the broadest possible array of entities to continue making big donations. While the public cannot attend those meetings, wealthy donors have been allowed in, according to lawmakers. Interest in capping political money was never particularly high this session – no Democratic leaders listed it as a priority – and now appears to be withering.
Oregon – Former Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt Arrested in Prostitution Sting
Portland Oregonian – Chris Lehman | Published: 5/3/2021
Dave Hunt, a former speaker of the Oregon House who currently is a lobbyist in Salem, is accused by Portland Police of soliciting sex from an undercover officer. He was one of eight men arrested by the Human Trafficking Unit undercover operation. According to a news release, officers posted decoy ads online and Hunt, along with the others arrested, responded to arrange payment for sexual acts.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Who Let Far-Right Demonstrators into Capitol Charged with Criminal Misconduct
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 4/30/2021
An Oregon lawmaker who let violent far-right demonstrators into the Capitol during a December 21 special session was criminally charged with first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass. Rep. Mike Nearman was caught on security videos opening a door and allowing demonstrators to enter the building. Earlier this year, House Speaker Tina Kotek called for Nearman to resign because his actions “put every person in the Capitol in serious danger,” and she joined multiple other lawmakers to file a formal conduct complaint with the Legislative Equity Office alleging Nearman’s actions created a hostile work environment.
Pennsylvania – One Ritzy Fundraiser Shows How Tough Selling Lobbying Reform in Pa. Will Be
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch (The Caucus) | Published: 5/4/2021
House Speaker Bryan Cutler and Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman plan to unveil a proposed ban on lobbyists who moonlight as political consultants as part of a lobbying reform package. Yet as the plan is being finalized, Corman is attending a fundraiser organized by one of a trio of companies that has cornered the market on the business practice Corman’s legislation aims to stop. The Harrisburg-based firms, called The Mavericks, fundraise for elected officials, run their political campaigns, then lobby them once they are in office.
South Carolina – $352K Used to Avoid Prosecution Could Go to Fight SC State House Corruption
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 4/29/2021
Special Prosecutor David Pascoe said he wants to give $352,000 his investigative team collected from five powerful organizations to the South Carolina Ethics Commission. The money is from separate corporate integrity agreements Pascoe and his team made during his nearly seven-year investigation of questionable lobbying practices and secret payments to state lawmakers. Pascoe said although enough evidence likely existed to get a grand jury to issue indictments for unlawful lobbying practices against the entities, it would have been tough to gather enough evidence to convince a jury in a trial “beyond a reasonable doubt” of the charges.
South Carolina – More Than a Dozen Horry Politicians Could Face Ethics Fines – but the Law Isn’t Perfect
MSN – Dale Shoemaker and Maya Brown (Myrtle Beach Sun News) | Published: 4/30/2021
Some politicians in South Carolina could face fines from the state Ethics Commission because they failed to file a required ethics report or filed that report past the deadline. Those same reports also reveal the business and other economic interests of elected officials across Horry County. Because most politicians in the county do not serve in those positions as full-time jobs, almost all of them have day jobs, or own businesses. But critics say because of loopholes in the law, those reports do not tell the whole story of where a politician earns their money, what business interests they have, and what conflicts-of-interest could arise as they serve the public.
Tennessee – GOP Lawmaker: Three-Fifths Compromise was to end slavery
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi | Published: 5/5/2021
Tennessee Rep. Justin Lafferty falsely declared an 18th century policy designating a slave as three-fifths of a person was adopted for “the purpose of ending slavery,” commenting amid a debate over whether educators should be restricted while teaching about systematic racism in America. Historians largely agree the compromise gave slaveholding states inordinate power over choosing a president and decisions of the Continental Congress. That clout eventually faded when Northern state populations began to rise. No lawmakers in the chamber directly challenged Lafferty’s false claims but some applauded when he finished talking.
Texas – Authorities Say They Won’t Seek Charges After Investigating Allegation That a Lobbyist Drugged a Texas Capitol Staffer
Texas Tribune – Cassandra Pollock | Published: 4/29/2021
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Travis County District Attorney’s Office said, “… there is not enough evidence to support” an allegation that a lobbyist used a date rape drug on a Capitol staffer and “no crime occurred in this instance.” After DPS confirmed it was investigating the allegation, Bill Miller, a co-founder of HillCo Partners, had said one of its employees was “a person of interest” in the investigation. The latest allegation sparked another conversation about the prevalence of sexual misconduct around the Capitol and prompted questions about whether the current system still allows such behavior.
Texas – Texas Lawmakers Want Lobbyists Trained on Sexual Harassment After Date Rape Drug Allegations
Dallas Morning News – Allie Morris and James Branagan | Published: 4/29/2021
Texas lawmakers are making a push in the legislative session to require lobbyists to undergo sexual harassment training, a response to a recent allegation that a lobbyist drugged a Capitol staffer. House Bill 4661 and Senate Bill 2233 were filed after legislative deadlines to introduce bills in each chamber. But in a rare move that indicates unanimous support, lawmakers suspended those rules to allow the bills to move forward. One bill would require lobbyists, as part of the registration process, to complete sexual harassment training every two years.
Washington DC – Manchin Says He Doesn’t Support D.C. Statehood Bill, Dealing Advocates a Major Blow
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2021
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters he does not support the bill to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state. Manchin, a key swing vote in the closely divided Senate, said he believes a constitutional amendment, rather than legislation, would be required to admit the District of Columbia as a state. His stance deals a blow to statehood advocates who were hoping for his support after the bill passed the House.
May 6, 2021 •
Campaign Finance California: “Campaign Season Lasts Year-Round in Santa Clara County” by Madelyn Reese for San Jose Spotlight Elections National: “Democrats Tweak Marquee Voting Bill as They Seek Path Out of Senate” by Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics […]
California: “Campaign Season Lasts Year-Round in Santa Clara County” by Madelyn Reese for San Jose Spotlight
National: “Democrats Tweak Marquee Voting Bill as They Seek Path Out of Senate” by Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Facebook’s Oversight Board Upholds Ban on Trump. At Least for Now.” by Elizabeth Dwoskin, Kat Zakrzewski, and Heather Kelly (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Judge Blasts Barr, Justice Dept. for ‘Disingenuous’ Handling of Secret Trump Obstruction Memo” by Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “House Panel Debates Financial Disclosure Bills That Wouldn’t Make Sitting Lawmakers’ Finances Public” by Lauren Gibbons for MLive.com
Ohio: “Cincinnati Issues 1 and 2: Voters back anti-corruption measures for City Hall” by Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Oregon: “Former Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt Arrested in Prostitution Sting” by Chris Lehman for Portland Oregonian
Tennessee: “GOP Lawmaker: Three-Fifths Compromise was to end slavery” by Kimberlee Kruesi for Associated Press News
National: “How Top White House Adviser Anita Dunn Is Dodging Ethics Disclosure” by Lee Fang for The Intercept
New York: “Reformers Push for Independent Watchdog to Tackle Albany Corruption” by Joe Mahoney (CNHI News) for Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Florida: “Tampa Activist Joe Robinson at Center of Rome Yard Controversy” by Charlie Frago (Tampa Bay Times) for MSN
April 30, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Signs Executive Order Raising Federal Contractors’ Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour MSN – Dartunorro Clark (NBC News) | Published: 4/28/2021 President Biden signed an executive order that raises the minimum wage for federal contractors and tipped employees working […]
Biden Signs Executive Order Raising Federal Contractors’ Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour
MSN – Dartunorro Clark (NBC News) | Published: 4/28/2021
President Biden signed an executive order that raises the minimum wage for federal contractors and tipped employees working on government contracts to $15 an hour. The raise will begin in January, and agencies must implement the measure no later than March. Biden has signed a separate order to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for federal employees. The new order also directs federal agencies to raise the tipped minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2024 and to ensure that tipped employees working on federal contracts earn the same minimum wage as other employees on those contracts.
Feds Raid Giuliani’s Home, Office, Escalating Criminal Probe
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak, Michael Balsamo, and Eric Tucker | Published: 4/29/2021
Federal agents raided Rudy Giuliani’s home and office, seizing computers and cellphones in a major escalation of the Justice Department’s investigation into the business dealings of former President Trump’s personal lawyer. Giuliani has been under federal scrutiny for several years over his ties to Ukraine. The dual searches sent the strongest signal yet that he could eventually face federal charges. The warrants, which required approval from the top levels of the Justice Department, signify prosecutors believe they have probable cause that Giuliani committed a federal crime though they do not guarantee that charges will materialize.
Gaetz Probe Includes Scrutiny of Potential Public Corruption Tied to Medical Marijuana Industry
CNN – Evan Perez, Paula Reid, Scott Glover, and David Shortell | Published: 4/23/2021
Federal authorities are investigating whether a 2018 trip to the Bahamas involving U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and several young women was part of an effort to illegally influence Gaetz about medical marijuana, people briefed on the matter said. The Justice Department is examining whether Gaetz took gifts, including travel and paid escorts, in exchange for political favors, the sources said. In pursuing evidence of corruption, sources said investigators are scrutinizing Gaetz’s connections to medical marijuana, both the legislation he has sponsored and his connections to people involved in the industry, searching for “pay-to-play” arrangements.
Inside the Democratic Strategy to Expand Voting Rights State by State
Politico – Liz Crampton | Published: 4/20/2021
Red and blue states are on opposite tracks in shaping the electoral process. As Republicans pass some of the most restrictive voting laws of modern times, Democrats are ramping up a strategy to expand voting rights by passing bills to make it easier for more Americans to access the ballot box. The fracture between red states limiting voting access and blue states expanding it may deepen the partisan divide in an already divided nation. The actions are also likely to end up in the courts, leading to potentially years of debate over what is constitutional.
Jim Clyburn Fined for Avoiding Metal Detectors Off the House Floor
CNN – Annie Grayer and Manu Raju | Published: 4/23/2021
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was fined for violating the procedure of going through the metal detectors installed off the House floor, the first Democrat to receive such a penalty. All members who avoid going through the metal detectors are fined $5,000 for their first offense and $10,000 for their second, a rule Clyburn supported that was instituted after the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. These fines are deducted directly from members’ salaries by the chief administrative officer.
Kamala Harris’ Influencer Niece Raises Concerns Among Some Ethics Experts
MSN – Lucien Bruggeman (ABC News) | Published: 4/28/2021
Entrepreneur and influencer Meena Harris’s propensity to invoke her famous aunt, Vice President Kamala Harris, during a post-inauguration media blitz has raised concerns among some ethics experts. Meena Harris represents a unique challenge for public servants in the internet influencer era, where visibility and name recognition translate into followers – and where followers are currency. Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, said by “using her relationship with the vice president to heighten her profile, Meena Harris is playing with fire.”
New Census Numbers Shift Political Power South to Republican Strongholds
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2021
The once-a-decade reshuffling of the 435 U.S. House seats will give six states more representation at the expense of seven states on a razor-thin margin, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The effort to redraw congressional districts is likely to benefit Republican officeholders more than Democrats next year. That stands as a threat to Democratic control of the House. The full partisan effect of the shifts will not be known for months, as states must sift through population data that will be released later this year to draw new congressional district lines, resulting in hundreds of decisions by state lawmakers and independent commissions about the partisan makeup of each individual district.
Only 17 Percent of Public Affairs Staff Are People of Color: Survey
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 4/22/2021
Public affairs executives revealed only 17 percent of public affairs staff on average at firms are people of color. Sixty-one percent of executives said that the lack of diversity discourages individuals from entering the public affairs field, according to a survey of 127 executives conducted by the Public Affairs Council. The survey is part of the council’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiative and examined hiring, staffing and training, and advancement and programming, among other criteria.
Rep. Steve Chabot’s Ex-Treasurer Charged with Embezzling $1.4 Million from His Campaign
MSN – Sabrina Eaton (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/27/2021
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s former campaign treasurer was charged with wire fraud and records falsification for embezzling more than $1.4 million from Chabot’s campaign. James Schwartz II also did consulting work for the campaign through companies he controlled. A bill of information says Schwartz embezzled money from the campaign by writing larger checks from the campaign to himself and his companies than he and those companies earned. Prosecutors say he concealed the embezzled money by misrepresenting the amount he was paid in reports the campaign filed at the FEC.
The Arcane Legislative Maneuver ‘Sucking Up All the Oxygen in D.C.’
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 4/27/2021
The likelihood that Democrats will move an infrastructure bill using reconciliation, which lets the Senate pass legislation with only 50 votes as long it complies with a byzantine set of rules, has made Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, one of the most powerful people in Washington. It is also changed the influence industry, fueling a sudden demand for lobbyists who specialize in reconciliation. The demand for such expertise on is another indication of how the legislative process has broken down. While lobbyists are still hired to help shape legislation that moves through Congress the traditional way, much of the action is increasingly narrowed to a few massive bills.
The Brother of a Top Biden Advisor Lobbied the White House This Year on Behalf of Big Health-Care Companies
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 4/21/2021
Lobbyist Jeff Ricchetti, the brother of President Biden’s advisor Steve Ricchetti, lobbied the Executive Office of the President for health care clients during the first quarter of the year as the administration began its efforts to combat the Covid pandemic. Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, compared the Ricchetti brothers’ situation to an instance from former President Trump’s tenure.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Lawmaker Blasted Airline for ‘Mask Tyranny.’ Now She’s Banned from the Only Flights to the Capital.
MSN – Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2021
A police officer responded recently to an Alaska Airlines terminal in Juneau as state Sen. Lora Reinbold clashed with staffers over mask rules. It was a familiar battle for the lawmaker, a vaccine skeptic who has criticized flight attendants as “mask bullies” and accused the airline of “mask tyranny.” Now, she is not welcome on their flights at all. Alaska Airlines banned Reinbold “for her continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy,” the airline said. That is a serious problem for Reinbold because Alaska Airlines operates the only regular flights to the state capital from her home in the Anchorage area.
Arizona – Election Conspiracies Live on with Audit by Arizona GOP
Associated Press News – Jonathan Cooper and Bob Christie | Published: 4/25/2021
Conspiracy theories about the 2020 election proliferated across the country even before President Biden’s victory but have had staying power in Arizona, which flipped to the Democratic column for just the second time in 72 years. Republican lawmakers are challenging the outcome as they embark on an unprecedented effort to audit the results. The Senate used its subpoena power to take possession of all 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County and the machines that counted them. They gave the materials to Cyber Ninjas, a security firm with no election experience. The process is alarming election professionals who fear the auditors are not up to the complex task and will severely undermine faith in democracy.
California – Caitlyn Jenner Running for California Governor
Politico – Carla Marinucci and Steven Shepard | Published: 4/23/2021
Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon turned television star and transgender activist, is officially running for governor in California. Her entry puts a Hollywood-sized spotlight on the Republican-led effort to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office —complicating his path, firing up social media, and raising questions about just how much of a circus-like atmosphere will dominate the election. Jenner will give Newsom a challenger with name recognition and wealth in a vast state, where candidates often struggle to connect with voters in large and distinct media markets.
California – Ex-Palmdale Mayor Pleads Guilty to Perjury in No-Show Job Corruption Scandal
MSN – James Queally (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 4/22/2021
Former Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford pleaded guilty to a single count of perjury, ending a years-long probe of a “pay-to-play” scandal where he was accused of collecting $500,000 from consultants who he then helped attain lucrative contracts with the city. Under the terms of the plea, Ledford was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay about $189,000 in restitution. Ledford, who had been mayor of Palmdale since 1992, lost a re-election bid in 2018.
California – San Jose Mulls Major Changes to Campaign Finance Law
San Jose Spotlight – Lloyd Alaban | Published: 4/26/2021
San Jose City Council members are looking to overhaul campaign finance regulations in hopes of avoiding more ugly political contests in 2022. A new proposal includes a requirement that campaign committees file mailers with the city clerk, an online repository for all campaign ads, more detailed disclosures for campaign literature, and a cap on donations from “corporations with conflicts of interest.” The city has strict rules on contributions and spending for campaigns controlled by candidates. But there are few regulations for outside committees.
California – Supreme Court Hears Case That Could Endanger Election Transparency Rules
The Fulcrum – Sara Swann | Published: 4/26/2021
A case that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court examines the constitutionality of a California regulation requiring nonprofits wishing to raise money in the state to disclose their largest donors to the state attorney general. While the case is about the reporting rules for charities and other tax-exempt organizations, good-government advocates are concerned about a decision opening the door for successful challenges to campaign finance transparency rules or to the disclosure requirements for the millionaires, businesses, and advocacy groups that spend large amounts of money to influence elections.
Florida – Legislators Send DeSantis a Bill to Limit Citizen Initiatives. Is It Constitutional?
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 4/26/2021
If signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate Bill 1890 would impose a $3,000 limit on contributions to any political committee sponsoring or opposing a constitutional amendment proposed by initiative, limiting the ability of proponents to finance the expensive signature-gathering operation needed to bring a proposed amendment before voters. The cap is the same as on donations to individual legislative campaigns. But lawmakers can accept unlimited amounts of campaign money as long as it is given to their political committees. Under the bill, only after an idea obtains enough signatures to get onto the ballot does the cap disappear and affiliated committees can collect unlimited contributions to help pass the measure.
Florida – Who’s Behind Grow United PAC, Which Funded Ghost Florida Senate Candidates? It’s a Mystery
MSN – Mark Harper (Daytona Beach News-Journal) | Published: 4/22/2021
Layers of secrecy connect Florida Senate candidate Jestine Iannotti and a mysterious entity that spent $180,000 to promote her. A ghost candidate and a political unknown, Iannotti never campaigned in the race Jason Brodeur won. But campaign ads were mailed on her behalf that were designed to take votes from Brodeur’s other opponent, Patricia Sigman. Records show the money behind Iannotti’s campaign begins with an obscure source and fades into two short-lived political committees fronted by mysterious people. Those PACs in turn funneled more than $500,000 into helping Iannotti and two other state Senate ghost candidates. How that money was specifically used to help the ghost candidates is not clear.
Hawaii – Honolulu Bribery Scandal Prompts Permit Department Overhaul
Associated Press News – Jennifer Sinco Kelleher | Published: 4/23/2021
Honolulu is overhauling its building permit process after a federal investigation resulted in indictments alleging a bribery scheme. Indictments allege five current and former employees of the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) took bribes in exchange for favors, including approving plans for residential projects and nullifying code violations at a multi-family residence. The city’s corporation counsel will use an outside investigator to examine how current DPP systems work, report whether procedures are being properly followed, and identify any breakdowns within the system.
Idaho – Ethics Hearing: Idaho lawmaker accused of rape pleads Fifth
Associated Press News – Rebecca Boone | Published: 4/28/2021
An Idaho lawmaker facing rape allegations from a 19-year-old intern refused to answer some questions during a legislative ethics hearing after his attorney told him to invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination. A committee will use testimony from Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger’s hearing to determine if the lawmaker “engaged in conduct unbecoming a representative which is detrimental to the integrity of the House.” He could be expelled. Much of the testimony focused on whether it was appropriate or expressly forbidden for lawmakers to date staff members. The committee also heard testimony from two other representatives who said von Ehlinger was previously warned against making women feel uncomfortable.
Illinois – Fired Madison County Officials Sue Cities Over Two-year Corruption Investigation
MSN – Kavahn Mansouri (Belleville News-Democrat) | Published: 4/21/2021
Two former Madison County administrators who were fired last year filed a lawsuit against several cities they say contributed to the investigation that caused them to lose their jobs. The civil lawsuit filed by former County Administrator Doug Hulme and Information Technology Director Robert Dorman claims four cities whose police officers participated in the county’s anti-corruption task force led to the county’s firing of the two. Dorman and Hulme were accused of accessing employee emails for political gain and leveraging information in a “pay-for-play” scheme. The Illinois attorney general’s office declined to file charges, but the county board voted to fire them. Both say that firing denied them due process.
Indiana – Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb Sues Over Legislation Limiting Executive Powers
Indianapolis Star – Amelia Park-Harvey (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 4/27/2021
The ongoing power struggle between Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and the state Legislature is now making its way to court. It is the latest development in the rift between Holcomb and members of his own Republican Party who have been perturbed by the governor’s extensive ability to declare a state of emergency and issues various mandates during the coronavirus. Lawmakers overrode Holcomb’s veto of a bill that would allow lawmakers to call themselves into an emergency session distribute discretionary federal funds. Now, Holcomb is suing over the measure, asking a judge to stop the new law.
Indiana – Quiet Extension of Indiana Legislative Session Until Nov. 15 Draws Legal, Political Scrutiny
The Republic – Hope Shrum (StateHouseFile.com) | Published: 4/27/2021
Current and former state lawmakers and a former Indiana Supreme Court justice are raising concerns that a new law to extend the 2021 legislative session until November 15 blurs the separation of powers and could have serious implications for the future. The coronavirus pandemic postponed 2020 census results and the change was necessary in order to vote on election redistricting in the fall, proponents say. But some worry the unusual move could set a precedent for a full-time Legislature, and others wonder about lawmakers fundraising while technically still in session, which is typically not allowed.
Kansas – Wichita City Officials Drop ‘Friends’ from Ethics Proposal, Back Away from Fines
MSN – Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 4/27/2021
After drafting a new ethics code, the Wichita City Council moved to weaken the wording of the existing policy, scrubbing all mention of the word “friends.” The council is left to police itself under the current ethics code and has not enforced the policy, saying friends was not well defined. The new proposal would strengthen other parts of the law. It would limit gifts to $150 a year, create an advisory board to handle complaints against council members and city board appointees, establish whistleblower protections, and allow penalties to be handed out for violations.
Michigan – Indicted Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars Ruled Ineligible for Ballot Over Outstanding Campaign Filings, Fees
Detroit News – Christine Ferretti | Published: 4/24/2021
Taylor City Clerk Cynthia Bower ruled indicted Mayor Rick Sollars is ineligible to appear on the August primary ballot over his failure to file campaign finance reports and pay thousands of dollars in late fees. Bower said the legal challenge to Sollars’ candidacy is uncharted for Taylor and came into play under a Michigan law that went into effect in 2018. Sollars, she said, has the option of seeking an appeal of her decision or waging a write-in campaign.
Michigan – State Investigation into Detroit Mayor’s Office, Deleted Emails Results in No Charges
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 4/21/2021
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that a nearly two-year criminal investigation into the conduct of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office concerning a local prenatal health care program will not result in any criminal charges. The investigation focused on the deletion by city staffers of about 150 city emails and the propriety of the city’s partnership with the program, Make Your Date. While Nessel acknowledged the investigation found unethical behavior, she said the findings did not support a criminal prosecution.
Missouri – Missouri House Docks the Pay of St. Louis Lawmaker Who Was Censured After Ethics Investigation
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 4/26/2021
A Missouri lawmaker has seen his pay slashed since his colleagues in the House censured him in January over allegations he had sex with a Capitol intern and tried to cover it up. House leaders began withholding $1,000 per month, or $500 per pay period, from state Rep. Wiley Price a month after he became the first House member in state history to receive the official rebuke. The deductions stem from a line in the House Ethics Committee resolution censuring Price; the resolution orders him to pay back $22,492 in costs associated with a yearlong ethics investigation.
Nebraska – Nebraska Watchdog Group Files Complaint Against Former Lawmaker
Omaha World-Herald – Martha Stoddard | Published: 4/21/2021
A watchdog group accused the head of Blueprint Nebraska, a panel of state business leaders promoting economic growth, of failing to register as a lobbyist. The complaint names Jim Smith, a former state senator who is now president of Blueprint Nebraska.
New York – After Shift, State Ethics Panel Hires New Executive Director
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/28/2021
New York’s ethics oversight agency has a top staffer to lead its operations after having gone two years with the position unfilled. And for the first time, that key post at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) will not be filled by a former staffer of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. JCOPE announced the hiring of Sanford Berland as its executive director. Berland is a former Court of Claims and state Supreme Court justice, and also had a long private legal career, including 14 years at Pfizer.
New York – Chaim Deutsch Kicked Out of City Council After Pleading Guilty to Tax Fraud
MSN – John Annese (New York Daily News) | Published: 4/28/2021
Chaim Deutsch was expelled from the New York City Council after pleading guilty to federal tax fraud. He could face a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Initially, council Speaker Corey Johnson stripped Deutsch of his committee assignments and barred him from doling out so-called member items, which are discretionary grants to community groups and projects. Johnson announced Deustch was removed from office, citing a state law that declares a public office vacant if its holder is convicted of a crime that violates his or her oath of office.
New York – Donovan’s Dad Discussed Mayoral Campaign Contribution Targets and Aided Super PAC, Records Show
The City – Greg Smith | Published: 4/26/2021
In New York City, independent expenditure committees that support candidates can raise unrestricted dollars but are barred from coordinating their spending with campaigns they back. New Start NYC, which supports mayoral hopeful Shaun Donovan and has been funded almost entirely by the candidate’s wealthy father to the tune of $3 million, has insisted it does not coordinate efforts in any way with the candidate’s campaign. The Campaign Finance Board said it found no evidence of improper activity and cleared Donovan’s campaign to receive nearly $1.5 million in public matching funds. But documents in the case present a more complex picture.
New York – New York’s Ethics’ Overhaul on a Slow Path to Reform, but Will It Get There?
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/26/2021
Since the 1980’s, cycles of scandal and reform have played out in a familiar Albany rhythm. Scandal brought pressure to change to New York’s ethics laws. The Legislature created a new ethics enforcement system, but the new commission was ultimately ineffectual as it lacked independence from politicians who created it. To newspaper editorial boards, watchdog groups, and some legislators, it is the perfect time to get rid of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). Few consider JCOPE a viable vehicle to investigate the allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo because of the influence he exerts over the panel.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Says It’s Talking to Feds About Cutting Deal in HB6 Bribery Probe
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 4/22/2021
FirstEnergy is talking with federal prosecutors about taking a deal in the bribery investigation linked to a nuclear bailout bill in Ohio. That includes the possibility of a deferred prosecution agreement, through which a company can take actions like paying a fine or cooperating with prosecutors to avoid being criminally charged. FirstEnergy has not been officially accused of wrongdoing in the matter. But prosecutors have made clear they think the company and its affiliates gave $61 million to former House Speaker Larry Householder and his allies to help Householder gain his leadership position and to help pass legislation favorable to FirstEnergy.
Oregon – Portland Business Alliance Violated City Lobbying Rules 25 Times, Auditor Finds
OPB – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 4/27/2021
The Portland Business Alliance violated the city’s lobbying rules 25 times over the course of 2020, according to an audit. Officials discovered the violations after launching a review of possible undisclosed lobbying efforts by the trade group. A media inquiry asked why the alliance’s most recent lobbying report mentioned a series of meetings and telephone calls, but no emails. The violations could have resulted in a maximum penalty of $75,000 but the city auditor’s office fined the alliance $450 total. They also recommended the group’s staff get trained on how to comply with lobbying laws.
Pennsylvania – How a Steelers Owner Wrote Big Campaign Checks Days After $100 Million Investment from Pa.’s Largest Pension Fund
Philadelphia Inquirer – John DiStephano | Published: 4/27/2021
Pennsylvania’s largest pension fund invested $100 million in a business backed by Thomas Tull, a co-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two days later, campaign records show Tull made nearly $1.5 million in donations among national Democrats and Republicans. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party received $10,000. When they were asked whether the money ran afoul of “pay-to-play” rules for contributions at that level, Tull and national Democrats took steps to undo the donation. Critics say the problem of “pay-to-play” in pension fund investments has grown worse following court decisions striking down campaign finance controls, especially by stripping away limits on how much national political funds can raise.
South Carolina – Fired SC Director ‘Tainted’ Process Giving Husband a $600K Contract, Report Says
MSN – Maayan Schechter (The State) | Published: 4/23/2021
Former State Accident Fund Director Amy Cofield, fired by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster after she was accused of helping her husband get a lucrative contract with the agency she ran, said at the time that his hiring was necessary because her department struggled to find a company to do much needed programming work after receiving no bids. But a new report by state Inspector General Brian Lamkin says Cofield involved herself in the procurement process that eventually landed her husband a $600,000 contract, creating a conflict-of-interest that was both “organizational and personal.”
Texas – As the Voting-Rights Fight Moves to Texas, Defiant Republicans Test the Resolve of Corporations That Oppose Restrictions
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 4/21/2021
As the battle over a new Georgia law imposing identification requirements for mail ballots and other voting limits raged this month, Republicans in Texas knew they would be next. and acted quickly to try to head off the swelling number of corporations that had begun to scrutinize even more restrictive proposals being considered there and around the country. To many of the companies and voting-rights advocates, the message is clear: some Republicans have no plans to back down, and businesses that continue to speak out could face retribution.
Texas – Texas Lawmakers, Lobby Firm React to Allegations That a Lobbyist Gave Date Rape Drug to Capitol Aide
Texas Tribune – Cassandra Pollock | Published: 4/25/2021
After the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed it is investigating an allegation that a lobbyist used a date rape drug on at least one Capitol staff member, a prominent Austin-based lobby shop said it had launched an internal investigation into the matter, telling state lawmakers in an email the firm and its employees “do not and will not tolerate a culture where anyone is not valued with respect and dignity.” State lawmakers, staffers, and other Capitol observers denounced the alleged incident, with several House members declaring they were banning from their offices any lobbyist or lobby firm associated with the accusation.
Washington DC – D.C. to Pay $1.6M In Police Misconduct Lawsuit Filed After 2017 Inauguration Protests
National Public Radio – Colleen Grablick (DCist.com) | Published: 4/26/2021
The District of Columbia. will pay $1.6 million to settle two lawsuits filed against the city for false arrests and excessive force during demonstrations on Inauguration Day in 2017. The lawsuits charge that police violated their constitutional rights and city. law when they arrested more than 200 people without probable cause during protests against former President Trump’s inauguration. The suits also alleged unlawful conditions of confinement for those arrests, and excessive use of force by Metropolitan Police Department officers.
Washington DC – House Democrats Pass D.C. Statehood – Launching Bill into Uncharted Territory
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 4/22/2021
For the second time in history, the U.S. House passed legislation to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state, bolstering momentum for a once-illusory goal that has become a pivotal tenet of the Democratic Party’s voting rights platform. Democrats unanimously approved Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Washington, D.C. Admission Act, describing it as a bid to restore equal citizenship to the residents of the nation’s capital and rectify a historic injustice. But the political odds remain formidable, with the Senate filibuster requiring the support of 60 senators to advance legislation. Republicans, who hold 50 seats, have branded the bill as a Democratic power grab because it would create two Senate seats for the deep-blue city.
April 23, 2021 •
National/Federal A Government Ethics Office Refused to Approve Kanye West’s Financial Disclosures from His Failed Presidential Campaign MSN – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/19/2021 The Office of Government Ethics refused to sign off on Kanye West’s financial disclosure forms […]
A Government Ethics Office Refused to Approve Kanye West’s Financial Disclosures from His Failed Presidential Campaign
MSN – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/19/2021
The Office of Government Ethics refused to sign off on Kanye West’s financial disclosure forms from his failed 2020 presidential campaign. Observers said the unusual step is likely due to West not fully disclosing his wife’s income and assets. On the form, West claimed he was exempt from reporting Kim Kardashian West’s income by citing a law stating federal candidates can go without disclosing their spouse’s income sources if they have no knowledge of the income stream, it is not connected to their own economic activities, and they do not expect to derive a financial benefit from it.
As Some States Rush to Redistrict, Gerrymandering Fight Moves to Back Burner
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 4/15/2021
A handful of states are looking to jump the gun amid the wait for census data, putting efforts to change the way legislative maps get redrawn on the back foot and raising concerns about transparency. Because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic and decisions by the former Trump administration, Census Bureau officials will be late delivering decennial results. The agency has promised congressional apportionment data by the end of April, with redistricting data coming as late as the end of September. The delays present challenges to dozens of states, ranging from blown mapmaking deadlines to crammed primary schedules.
Big Spending on Personal Security Ignites Post-Jan. 6 Debate Over Members’ Budgets
Politico – Sarah Ferris and Daniel Payne | Published: 4/16/2021
More than one third of the 17 Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach or convict former President Trump used campaign funds to install security systems or hire private details within weeks of their votes, for a total of nearly $200,000 over the first three months of this year. Congressional spending on private security has surged among members of both parties since the deadly riot on January 6 amid a spike in death threats against lawmakers and their families. That spending, all revealed in recent campaign finance disclosures, spotlights a challenge many lawmakers are eager to tackle: how to update the strict rules that govern personal security costs for members of Congress.
Corporations Agree to Transparency on Climate Lobbying
MSN – Laura Weiss (Roll Call) | Published: 4/14/2021
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of socially responsible investors, announced its members made deals with the five companies to report publicly about their influence on climate policy and alignment with the Paris Agreement, which led to the withdrawal of shareholder proposals. Some of the companies will provide stand-alone climate lobbying reports that lay out direct and trade association activities, while others will include disclosures in sustainability reports. The group expects some of the disclosures to include that companies are changing their lobbying practices.
Election Objectors Leaned on Small Donors After Corporate PAC Backlash
Politico – Zach Montellaro, Theodoric Meyer, and Allan James Vestal | Published: 4/16/2021
Most House Republicans who objected to the certification of President Biden’s victory saw their small-dollar fundraising rise in the first three months of this year compared to the same quarter in 2019, in the latest indication that Republicans are not facing a major cash crunch three months after many corporate PACs vowed to stop giving to their campaigns. It is not clear how long the corporate PACs that paused the giving will remain dark or who they will support once they reopen for business.
Government Spends £66,000 on Lobbyists Register Run by Part-Time Boss
The Guardian – Jim Waterson | Published: 4/16/2021
The United Kingdom’s Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists was founded in 2014 following a series of scandals in the early part of David Cameron’s tenure as prime minister, with a pledge to increase transparency around lobbying activities. But its activities have been severely limited by the narrow powers and resources granted to it by the government compared with equivalent registers in countries such as the United States. The culture of lobbying the government has come under scrutiny following the revelations that Cameron privately lobbied leading government ministers on behalf of Greensill Capital.
Groups See New Openings for Digging Up Dirt on Trump
The Hill – Rebecca Beitsch | Published: 4/20/2021
Public interest groups determined to stay focused on the Trump administration say they have new openings for unearthing information now that the past government’s political appointees have departed. Various groups that flooded the government with Freedom of Information Act requests say the departures have greased the wheels of various agencies’ public records shops. Requests ranging from the pandemic response and the January 6 attack on the Capitol are moving forward, potentially aiding activists eager to bring new dirt to light.
How the G.O.P. Is Creating Harsher Penalties for Protesters
Yahoo News – Reid Epstein and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) | Published: 4/21/2021
There is a wave of new anti-protest legislation, sponsored and supported by Republicans, in the 11 months since Black Lives Matter protests swept the country following the death of George Floyd. The Minneapolis police officer who killed Floyd, Derek Chauvin, was convicted on murder and manslaughter charges. But while Democrats seized on Floyd’s death to highlight racism in policing and other forms of social injustice, Republicans responded to a summer of protests by proposing a raft of punitive new measures governing the right to lawfully assemble. GOP lawmakers in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills during the 2021 legislative session, more than twice as many proposals as in any other year.
‘I’m Still a Zero’: Vaccine-resistant Republicans warn that their skepticism is worsening
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 4/20/2021
Public health officials are working to understand potential roadblocks in the campaign to inoculate Americans against the coronavirus. Among the most pressing questions are why so many Republican voters remain opposed to the shots and whether the recent decision to pause Johnson & Johnson vaccinations was a factor. Although more than half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, more than 40 percent of Republicans have consistently told pollsters they are not planning to be vaccinated, a group that could threaten efforts to tamp down the virus’s spread, public health officials fear.
Just 12 Megadonors Accounted for 7.5% of Political Giving Over Past Decade, Says Report
MSN – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 4/20/2021
A dozen megadonors and their spouses contributed a combined $3.4 billion to federal candidates and political groups since 2009, according to a report produced by Issue One. The research shows the top 12 donors split equally between six Democrats and six Republicans. The list includes multiple Wall Street billionaires and investors, a Facebook co-founder, a shipping magnate, and the heir to a family fortune dating back to the Gilded Age. The study quantifies the intensifying concentration and increasing role of the super-rich in American politics following the loosening of restrictions on political spending by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Leadership PACs Are Often Overlooked. These Corny Names Can’t Be Ignored
MSN – Herb Jackson (Roll Call) | Published: 4/20/2021
If you won your seat in Congress by one of the narrowest margins ever – six votes – you cannot run away from it. And U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks showed she is owning her win in choosing the name for her leadership PAC, a fundraising committee that operates parallel to, and with more relaxed spending rules, than the one she will use to run for reelection. Showing some originality in an area of campaign finance where too many lawmakers rely on gimmicks, or even names that were taken before them, Miller-Meeks not only trumpeted her close win by choosing “Six Political Action Committee.” That is Six PAC if you are filling out checks.
Pompeos Violated Rules on Use of State Department Resources, IG Finds
Politico – Nahal Tusi | Published: 4/16/2021
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated federal ethics rules governing the use of taxpayer-funded resources when he and his wife, Susan, asked State Department employees to carry out tasks for their personal benefit more than 100 times, a government watchdog determined. Investigators uncovered scores of instances in which Mike or Susan Pompeo asked State Department staffers to handle tasks of a personal nature, from booking salon appointments and private dinner reservations to picking up their dog and arranging tours for the Pompeos’ political allies. Employees told investigators they viewed the requests from Susan Pompeo, who was not on the federal payroll, as being backed by the secretary.
The End of the Imperial Governorship
Politico – Nick Neidzwaidek | Published: 4/14/2021
Lawmakers across the country have proposed and, in many cases, passed measures to curtail the sweeping powers bestowed on their state executives. The tug-of-war between legislators and governors has the potential to shape the boundaries of gubernatorial authority for years to come and raises substantive questions of how much leeway the state leaders should have during prolonged crises. Debates over things like mask mandates and economic restrictions were frequent last year. But the conflict over the power of the executive transcends ordinary politics, playing out in states both red and blue, and even where one party controls both branches.
The GOP’s Big Bulk Book-Buying Machine Is Boosting Republicans on the Bestseller Lists
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 4/15/2021
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spent nearly $400,000 on bulk purchases of U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s book last year. It acquired 25,500 copies through two online booksellers, enough to fuel the book’s ascent up the bestseller lists. The NRCC said it gave away copies as incentives to donors. The NRCC was not the only outfit providing a boost to conservative authors. Four party-affiliated organization collectively spent more than $1 million during the past election cycle mass-purchasing books written by GOP candidates, elected officials. The purchases helped turn several volumes into bestsellers.
Third House GOP Lawmaker Issued $5,000 Metal Detector Fine
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 4/20/2021
A third Republican lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, has been issued a $5,000 fine for failing to comply with a security screening before entering the House chamber. Rogers set off the metal detector stationed at one of the entrances to the chamber but continued walking. A Capitol Police officer then told Rogers he needed to go through additional security. “Maybe later, I have to vote,” Rogers replied, according to the police report.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Another Recology Exec Faces Charges of Bribing Mohammed Nuru
MSN – Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 4/20/2021
A former Recology vice president was charged with money laundering and bribery as part of an alleged attempt to increase San Francisco’s dumping fees to the waste management company, becoming the business’ second executive to be netted in the still-expanding City Hall corruption scandal. The case against John Porter comes to light as the company prepares to pay back nearly $100 million to San Francisco customers who were overcharged, and months after Paul Giusti, one of Porter’s subordinates, was charged with similar conduct.
California – How San Jose Mayor’s Ally Helped Bloom Energy Skirt a Natural Gas Ban
San Jose Spotlight – Sonja Herrera and Tran Nguyen | Published: 4/15/2021
Two weeks before San Jose passed a ban on natural gas for new commercial buildings, city officials introduced an exemption that benefited a local company, Bloom Energy, whose vice president is a friend to the mayor. Critics say the way they did it shows the stark difference in access granted to political insiders, as well as the extent to which city policy is swayed by special interests. “It’s politics. … We want everybody to have an opportunity to chime in, especially if you’re going to be directly impacted,” said Councilperson Raul Peralez. “In theory, it makes sense … in real practice, it’s not very fair.”
Florida – Dark Money Details Emerge as Former Florida State Senator and No-Party Candidate Head to Court
MSN – Ana Ceballos and Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 4/14/2021
An alleged election scheme that stumped Florida’s political world is about to spill into court, as former state Sen. Frank Artiles is set to face trial in a public corruption case. Artiles is facing several felony charges for allegedly recruiting and paying Alexis Pedro Rodriguez, an auto-parts dealer, to run as a no-party candidate in Senate District 37 race to sway the outcome of the election. While prosecutors have charged Artiles and Rodriguez related to the scheme, the investigation is still open, and many questions remain on whether the case could expand to other 2020 Florida Senate races that also featured mysterious no-party candidates.
Florida – Matt Gaetz’s Scandal Puts a New Spotlight on Florida’s Male-Dominated Capital Culture
Bangor Daily News – Skyler Swisher (South Florida Sun Sentinel) | Published: 4/17/2021
Tallahassee has long been a perfect recipe for political scandal – a state capital that can take on a frat-house-like atmosphere removed from the watchful eyes of spouses and loved ones. Now, as U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz fights to save his career, scrutiny is once again being placed on the long-standing culture of Florida’s capital city where Gaetz got his start in politics. The pandemic has changed dynamics for the 2021 legislative session with COVID-19 safeguards keeping lobbyists away from the Capitol and toning down after-hours events. But a persistent cultural problem still exists, said Susan Glickman, who lobbies for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Illinois – How Should Springfield Clean Up After the ComEd Scandal? Lawmakers’ Reform Plans Are Hazy
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold | Published: 4/17/2021
Illinois lawmakers have yet to put up new ethical guardrails in response to the historic Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) bribery scandal that toppled ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan and led to a series of federal indictments. Given the nature of Madigan’s dramatic and forced departure, meting out some legislative consequences for the powerful utility company’s misconduct would be a logical response for Illinois lawmakers this spring. A pair of potential rewrites to state utility law give some prominence to ethics reforms related to the revelations in the ComEd probe, but nothing under consideration would seriously curb the outsized political influence ComEd has enjoyed for decades in Illinois.
Kansas – Proposed Ethics Code Limits Gifts to Wichita Officials for the First Time in History
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 4/16/2021
Wichita city leaders are considering overhauling their ethics code and for the first time setting a limit on gifts to city council members. The proposed rules would ban gifts worth more than $150 a year, establish an anonymous hotline for reporting ethics violations, and set up an appointed commission to review complaints. Violating the code could result in a fine between $100 and $1,000. Mayor Brandon Whipple has pushed for the reforms after ethical breaches led to several local officials leaving office in recent years and raised questions about the city’s bidding process.
Louisiana – Proposal to Shield Industry’s Groundwater Board Members from Ethics Charges Advances
New Orleans Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 4/20/2021
A proposal to exempt the industry members of the Capital Area Groundwater Commission from certain ethics laws after five members of the board were hit with conflicts-of-interest charges won support from a Senate panel over opposition from environmental advocates. At stake is whether five members of the board – those employed by the Baton Rouge Water Company, ExxonMobil, Georgia-Pacific, and Entergy – can sit on the board without running afoul of state ethics laws. The Louisiana Board of Ethics voted to bring charges against the members last year because they are employed by companies they regulate.
Louisiana – State Senator Casts Tie-Breaking Vote for Slidell Casino. His Wife Is One of the Lobbyists
Louisiana Daily News – Tyler Bridges (New Orleans Advocate) | Published: 4/19/2021
A controversial proposal to move a casino boat to Slidell cleared its first hurdle when a Senate committee chairperson, whose wife is a lobbyist for the measure, cast the tie-breaking vote. State Sen. Gary Smith’s wife is one of 19 lobbyists hired by Brent Stevens, the founder of P2E, the company that wants to move its shuttered casino. The extraordinary number of lobbyists has caught the attention of insiders who note it takes only 20 votes to approve legislation in the Senate. Before the hearing, Smith said he did not know his wife, a veteran lobbyist, was working on the issue.
Maryland – In Rebuke to Hogan, Maryland Statehouse Passes Ethics Bill
Washington Monthly – Eric Cortellessa | Published: 4/13/2021
Maryland lawmakers unanimously voted for more enhanced disclosure requirements for elected officials following a media report about Gov. Larry Hogan who, unbeknownst to legislators or the public, advanced road and highway infrastructure projects near properties owned by his real-estate firm, a move that can increase the value of those properties. Hogan has not yet said whether he will sign the bill into law, although that seems likely given there are more than enough votes to override a veto.
Massachusetts – Should DiMasi, and Other Federal Felons, Face a Ban on Lobbying Beacon Hill? The SJC Will Decide
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 4/16/2021
The Supreme Judicial Court will rule on whether former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and others guilty of federal corruption charges should be barred from lobbying state lawmakers, the governor, and other Massachusetts officials for 10 years after their conviction, even if their crimes are not directly cited in the state law. The question could be precedent-setting and has been at the center of a two-plus-year legal battle between Secretary of State William Galvin and DiMasi, who joined the lobbyist ranks in September after a Superior Court judge ruled the ban did not apply to him because the law only references state convictions, not federal ones.
Massachusetts – Wunderkind Ex-Mayor to Face Jurors in Fraud, Bribery Case
Associated Press News – Alanna Durkin Richer | Published: 4/18/2021
After he was elected mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, at just 23 years old, it seemed Jasiel Correia’s political career had nowhere to go but up. But prosecutors now say he is a fraud and a thief. Correia heads to trial on charges he stole more than $230,000 from investors in a smartphone app he created to pay for things like a Mercedes and casino trips. As mayor, he is accused of convincing his chief of staff to give him half of her salary to keep her city job and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana businesses seeking to operate there.
Michigan – Benson’s Office Backs Unlock Michigan on Not Disclosing Donor Sources
Yahoo News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 4/14/2021
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson decided a nonprofit organization that is funded by secret donors and helped bankroll the Unlock Michigan campaign does not have to report where its contributions came from. The ruling is a boon for nonprofit groups that want to engage in campaigns in Michigan without having to file disclosures. A complaint argued because Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility made a series of contributions to Unlock Michigan, the group qualified as a ballot committee itself. Under that interpretation, the group would have to file its own disclosures about where $1.8 million came from.
Michigan – Michigan House Unveils Plan to Overhaul Ethics Policies Ranked Last in Country
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 4/20/2021
The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Michigan House revealed a plan to institute wide-ranging ethics reforms, targeting policies that have been ranked worst nationally for transparency. At least some of the bills are proposing fundamental changes for lobbying and disclosure laws, which have been agreed on by House members on both sides of the aisle. If all of them became law, they would alter how Lansing operates, providing additional oversight, de-emphasizing the so-called “lame duck” period, and changing the House process for deciding when bills take effect.
Michigan – Police Pulled Over a Michigan Lawmaker for Allegedly Driving Drunk. He Threatened to Call the Governor.
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 4/22/2021
For almost 50 miles, witnesses reported, a Chevy Tahoe with the vanity plate “ELECTED” was driving so recklessly that at least one person saw the car go the wrong way before it rolled into a ditch. Inside the vehicle, state police found Michigan Rep. Jewell Jones, whose blood alcohol level was allegedly more than double the legal limit. In the cupholder behind him was a semiautomatic handgun. “If you hit me, it’s going to be very bad for you. I’ll call Gov. [Gretchen] Whitmer right now,” Jones told the officers. “When I call Gretchen,” he allegedly continued, they would have to hand over their “IDs, badge numbers, everything.”
Michigan – Whitmer: Michigan will vet labor, environmental compliance of firms bidding on state jobs
MSN – Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 4/16/2021
Companies bidding on state government contracts will be vetted to try to ensure they are not committing payroll fraud, are paying fair wages and benefits, and have acceptable labor and environmental records, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. The new rules, which Whitmer said will implement an executive directive she issued in 2019, are in part a response to the 2018 repeal of Michigan’s “prevailing wage” law. which generally required firms to pay union wages and benefits for state government and school district jobs, following a voter initiative, Whitmer said.
Missouri – Eric Greitens Was Biggest Donor to Own Senate Campaign; State Filing Raises Red Flags
Yahoo News – Bryan Lowry (Kansas City Star) | Published: 4/16/2021
One donor accounted for more than half of the money raised so far by former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ U.S. Senate campaign: Eric Greitens. His total represents about a tenth of what was raised by Democrat Lucas Kunce during the first quarter of the 2022 cycle. Greitens still maintains a state campaign account with nearly $200,000 but is barred from using it for his Senate candidacy under state and federal campaign rules. Greitens’ state report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission raises some red flags.
Missouri – Missouri House Expels Lawmaker Accused by His Children of Sexual and Physical Abuse
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 4/21/2021
Days after rejecting state Rep. Rick Roeber’s letter of resignation, the Missouri House voted to expel the Kansas City-area Republican whose now-adult children testified he sexually abused them when they were minors. A House Ethics Committee report states Roeber sexually abused two of his children when they were nine and five, respectively, and attempted to abuse the children other times. The report also says Roeber physically and mentally abused his children. Roeber, according to the report, said the published allegations prior to the election were “a political hit.” He said at one point during the investigation “all my kids are Democrats.”
Montana – Bill Exempting Religious Groups from Campaign Reporting Gets Another Shot
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 4/21/2021
A bill exempting religious nonprofits from Montana’s campaign finance reporting requirements won the Senate’s endorsement after an earlier version was tabled in the House. Sen. Bryce Bennett said political organizations could hide behind a tax-exempt status as a religious group and use that cover to avoid disclosing donors the way other political committees are required to in the state. Sen. David Howard rejected that argument, saying the federal government has strict requirements for religious organizations to maintain a tax-exempt designation.
New York – Eric Adams’ Campaigns and Nonprofit Reaped Big Bucks from Lobbyists and Developers Seeking Help
The City – Eric Green and Yoav Gonen | Published: 4/18/2021
Eric Adams, Brooklyn’s borough president and a top-tier candidate for mayor, will soon deliver a recommendation that could help determine whether a zoning plan that would add thousands of new residences to what was once a primarily manufacturing and working-class enclave lives, dies, or is significantly altered. A longtime lobbyist for real estate interests with major investments in the area sits on the board of a nonprofit Adams controls. Besides serving on the board, Ethan Geto, provides pro bono services for the fund and his firm created and manages the nonprofit’s website.
New York – Mount Vernon Ethics Board Chair Arrested Over Campaign Threats
MSN – Jonathan Bandler (Rockland/Westchester Journal News) | Published: 4/21/2021
A lawyer trying to get on the Democratic primary ballot for the Mount Vernon City Council was arrested after allegedly threatening Councilperson Janice Duarte over her brother’s objections to his nominating petitions. Gregory Cannata, chairperson of the city’s Board of Ethics, was arraigned on two misdemeanor charges of third-degree attempted coercion after he was accused of threatening to ruin Duarte if her brother did not withdraw his objections.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young Charged with Felony in ‘Gang of 5’ Texting Case
MSN – Sharon Coolidge and Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 4/15/2021
Cincinnati City Councilperson Wendell Young was indicted on a single charge stemming from a three-year-old texting scandal. A grand jury charged Young with tampering with records, a third-degree felony punishable by up to three years in prison. The charges against Young mark the fourth time a sitting council member who was elected in 2017 has been charged with a crime. The texting scandal has cast a shadow over council since the texting among a majority of members occurred in 2018 during a battle over whether to fire the city manager.
Ohio – In Ohio, Utility and Fossil Fuel Influence Reaches Beyond Bailout Bill
Energy News Network – Kathiann Kowalski | Published: 4/19/2021
“Dark money” loopholes remain in Ohio law, despite a surgical repeal of part of the law at the heart of a $60 million corruption scandal. Meanwhile, more evidence has emerged in recent months, detailing the flow of money by groups engaged in the House Bill 6 scandal and showing close ties between current and former utility lobbyists and Gov. Mike DeWine, as well as various lawmakers. “We need to learn from our mistakes,” said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, noting the House Bill 6 case is just the latest in a line of corruption scandals that have hit state politics in the past two decades.
Pennsylvania – Confined to Zoom No More, Activists Return to State Capitol to Hold Lawmakers to Account
Pennsylvania Capital-Star – Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison | Published: 4/20/2021
After being shut out for much of the last year, activists of all stripes are returning to the Pennsylvania Capitol. The building’s typical open-door policy allows citizens to attend rallies, knock on lawmakers’ doors, and sit in galleries to watch proceedings. But most advocacy groups curtailed their in-person activism last year, turning instead to Zoom or phone-banking campaigns. Michael Pollack, executive director of March on Harrisburg, said, “Lobbying over Zoom is very difficult. Legislators are able to avoid eye contact. … They are also able to orchestrate the conversation in a way so their staff can take the questions.”
Tennessee – Bill Ketron Penalized $135K for Campaign Finance Violations
Mufreesboro Post – Tayla Courage | Published: 4/16/2021
Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron was ordered to pay $135,000 by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance after state auditors found hundreds of thousands of dollars unaccounted for in his campaign and PAC accounts. Ketron told the board the money was not missing but poor accounting just made it look that way. His daughter, who was the campaign’s treasurer, was sentenced to eight years of probation after pleading no contest to 15 counts accusing her of fraudulent insurance acts, forgery, theft, and impersonating a licensed professional. Ketron said he would check in with his daughter to make sure she was keeping up with filings and deadlines, and she reassured him she was attending to her duties as treasurer.
Washington – Tim Eyman Ordered to Pay $2.9 Million to Cover Washington Attorney General’s Legal Costs
The Chronicle – David Gutman (Seattle Times) | Published: 4/16/2021
Anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman must pay almost $2.9 million to cover the legal fees and costs of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s long-running lawsuit against Eyman for campaign finance violations, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled. That sum is in addition to the $2.6 million civil penalty that Dixon previously imposed on Eyman for years of campaign finance violations the judge called “numerous and particularly egregious.” In granting the legal fees, Dixon gave a near-total victory to Ferguson in his nearly four-year case against Eyman.
West Virginia – Former ACT Lobbyist Won $500K from Lawsuit Against Former WV Schools Superintendent
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Ryan Quinn | Published: 4/15/2021
A former lobbyist for ACT Inc., the college entrance exam provider, was awarded $500,000 to settle his lawsuit against former state schools Superintendent Steve Paine and a current assistant superintendent. Lobbyist Jason Webb sued Paine, alleging the superintendent repeatedly discriminated against ACT’s attempt to win the statewide standardized testing contracts and, when Webb spoke up about it, threatened ACT with a loss of business if Webb did not relent.
April 22, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Just 12 Megadonors Accounted for 7.5% of Political Giving Over Past Decade, Says Report” by Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) for MSN National: “A Government Ethics Office Refused to Approve Kanye West’s Financial Disclosures from His Failed […]
National: “Just 12 Megadonors Accounted for 7.5% of Political Giving Over Past Decade, Says Report” by Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) for MSN
National: “A Government Ethics Office Refused to Approve Kanye West’s Financial Disclosures from His Failed Presidential Campaign” by Grace Panetta (Business Insider) for MSN
National: “How the G.O.P. Is Creating Harsher Penalties for Protesters” by Reid Epstein and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) for Yahoo News
Louisiana: “Proposal to Shield Industry’s Groundwater Board Members from Ethics Charges Advances” by Sam Karlin for New Orleans Advocate
Massachusetts: “Wunderkind Ex-Mayor to Face Jurors in Fraud, Bribery Case” by Alanna Durkin Richer for Associated Press News
Michigan: “Michigan House Unveils Plan to Overhaul Ethics Policies Ranked Last in Country” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News
Missouri: “Missouri House Expels Lawmaker Accused by His Children of Sexual and Physical Abuse” by Jack Suntrup for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Ohio: “Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young Charged with Felony in ‘Gang of 5’ Texting Case” by Sharon Coolidge and Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Louisiana: “State Senator Casts Tie-Breaking Vote for Slidell Casino. His Wife Is One of the Lobbyists” by Tyler Bridges (New Orleans Advocate) for Louisiana Daily News
Pennsylvania: “Confined to Zoom No More, Activists Return to State Capitol to Hold Lawmakers to Account” by Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison for Pennsylvania Capital-Star
Michigan: “Whitmer: Michigan will vet labor, environmental compliance of firms bidding on state jobs” by Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) for MSN
March 26, 2021 •
Beginning on April 1 and continuing until July 31, 2021, the threshold for requiring a formal tender process in the Northwest Territories will be reduced from $25,000 to $10,000 for general goods and services. This temporary change, being implemented by […]
Beginning on April 1 and continuing until July 31, 2021, the threshold for requiring a formal tender process in the Northwest Territories will be reduced from $25,000 to $10,000 for general goods and services.
This temporary change, being implemented by the Departments of Finance and Industry, Tourism, and Investment, is an effort to allow more territorial businesses have a “fair and equal opportunity to compete for [government] contracts by increasing transparency, and awareness of government procurement opportunities,” according to a press release by the Government of Northwest Territories.
Starting on April 1, all government purchasing above $10,000 will be processed through the public procurement process. Departments seeking goods and services estimated to be $10,000 and over will use requests for proposals or tenders.
This change was made in response to a procurement review held earlier this year with input from the government’s business development staff and the Northwest Territories’ business community.
March 3, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Mississippi: “Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate” by Luke Ramseth for Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Elections National: “Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to […]
Mississippi: “Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate” by Luke Ramseth for Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
National: “Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to Minorities” by Robert Barnes (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
National: “Ethics Watchdog: ‘Substantial’ evidence GOP lawmaker improperly spent funds, misused position to help brother” by Cristina Marcos for The Hill
National: “Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs” by Anita Kumar for Politico
Connecticut: “Ex-State Employee Faces $5K Penalty for Using Work Computer, Email for Private Businesses” by Russell Blair (Hartford Courant) for MSN
Florida: “Legislating in the Time of COVID-19 Means Putting Protections Over Public Access” by Mary Ellen Klas and Kirby Wilson (Miami Herald) for Yahoo News
Colorado: “Aurora Moves Forward Bills on Lobbying Disclosures, Sales Tax Exemptions on Menstrual Products” by Grant Stringer for Aurora Sentinel
Oregon: “A Decade After Oregon Cracked Down on Lobbyist Wining and Dining, Lawmakers Consider Loosening Limits” by Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
California: “5 Charged in SF Corruption Probe, Temporarily Barred from Receiving City Contracts” by Staff for KPIX
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
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