October 22, 2021 •
National/Federal Advocates Worry Biden Is Letting U.S. Democracy Erode on His Watch MSN – Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2021 Voting rights advocates meet once every week or two with White House officials via video […]
Advocates Worry Biden Is Letting U.S. Democracy Erode on His Watch
MSN – Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2021
Voting rights advocates meet once every week or two with White House officials via video conference, and in almost every session, an advocate speaks up to say President Biden must do more, that American democracy is under threat and the president is not meeting the challenge. In the nine months since Biden took office, GOP officials throughout the country have baselessly challenged the 2020 results, conducting clumsy audits. States have restricted voting and have changed their procedures to allow political influence over elections. Many in Trump’s camp have taken to lauding the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol.
As Some Black Staff Members Leave Congress, Those Who Remain Call for Change
New York Times – Aishvarya Kavi | Published: 10/17/2021
Black staff members in Congress are sounding the alarm on a “painful” two years, including the coronavirus pandemic and the January 6 attack on the Capitol, they say have exacerbated the challenges they face in pursuing a career on Capitol Hill. Two congressional staff associations called for better pay and “a stronger college-to-Congress pipeline” to recruit Black graduates. They also urged voters to push lawmakers to diversify their staff. Published on behalf of more than 300 Black staffers, the letter offers a glimpse at the experiences of those who work behind the scenes drafting policy, interacting with constituents, and advancing agendas.
As Trump Thunders About Last Election, Republicans Worry About the Next One
Yahoo News – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 10/18/2021
The Republican Party’s ambitions of ending unified Democratic control in Washington in 2022 are colliding with a considerable force that can sway tens of millions of votes: former President Trump’s increasingly vocal demands that members of his party remain in a permanent state of obedience, endorsing his false claims of a stolen election or risking his wrath. “If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020, Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It’s the single most important thing for Republicans to do.,” Trump said in a recent statement.
David Cameron Cleared Over Unregistered Lobbying on Work for US Biotech Group
Financial Times – Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe | Published: 10/20/2021
Former United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron was cleared by the lobbying regulator over whether he should have registered as a consultant lobbyist while working with biotechnology group Illumina. OpenDemocracy reported that Cameron, who is a paid adviser for Illumina, met the then vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi just months after the company was granted £870,000 of contracts with Public Health England. The registrar assessed four pieces of communication by the former prime minister, which included text messages referencing Illumina that were sent in 2021 to Zahawi.
Drain the Swamp? This Guy’s Trying to Fill It.
Yahoo News – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 10/15/2021
Ivan Adler is a recruiter who specializes in plucking lawmakers and staffers off Capitol Hill or elsewhere in government and placing them into jobs on K Street in trade associations, corporations, law practices, and lobbying firms. There are other lobbyist recruiters in Washington, but few, if any, do it with as much bravado as Adler. His name is well-known among lawmakers who are leaving their posts for jobs in the private sector. Adler said he is so plugged in that he is sometimes among the first to know a member of Congress is contemplating whether to seek reelection.
FBI Searches D.C., NYC Homes Connected to Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 10/19/2021
FBI agents searched homes connected to sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, one in Washington, D.C. and one in New York City, as part of an unspecified criminal investigation into the activities of a man who has not set foot on U.S. soil in years. His name came up repeatedly in recent investigations involving Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Deripaska is a billionaire and has long been a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also did business for years with Paul Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign chairperson, although he and Deripaska eventually had a falling out.
Fed Ethics Office Warned Officials to Curb Unnecessary Trading During Rescue
New York Times – Jeanna Smialek | Published: 10/21/2021
As the Federal Reserve was taking steps to shore up financial markets at the onset of the pandemic last year, its ethics office sent out a warning. Officials might want to avoid unnecessary trading for a few months as the Fed dived deeper into markets, the Board of Governors’ ethics unit suggested in an email, a message that was passed along to regional bank presidents. But the recommendation did not go far enough to prevent a trading scandal that is now engulfing the Fed and being leveraged against its chair, Jerome Powell, as the White House mulls whether to reappoint him before his leadership term expires early next year.
House Jan. 6 Panel Votes to Hold Ex-Trump Advisor Stephen Bannon in Contempt
Yahoo News – Del Quentin Wilber (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/19/2021
A congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol voted to hold former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon in contempt for not cooperating with its inquiry, a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to get answers about the insurrection from the political operative. Former President Trump has told allies not to cooperate with the inquiry. Bannon helped run Trump’s 2016 campaign and served briefly in the White House but was a private citizen in the run-up to the insurrection. If the full House votes to endorse the resolution, Bannon will be referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.
K Street Revenues Boom
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 10/20/2021
The leading K Street firms continue to rake in record sums of cash as corporate clients push their chips in to influence President Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda. Companies and trade associations, fighting to stave off corporate tax hikes and other Democratic proposals to reshape sections of the economy, are leaning on lobbyists who have cultivated close relationships with congressional leaders and Biden administration officials. Nearly all the top lobbying firms increased their third-quarter revenue over the same period last year.
Lobbying Groups’ Effectiveness Hits New High This Year: Study
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 10/19/2021
Trade associations are finding unprecedented success in influencing policymakers this year. An APCO Worldwide study surveyed 322 congressional staffers, executive branch officials, and private sector executives, and reported trade groups are having their best year since APCO started tracking their effectiveness in 2013. That finding comes after trade groups launched extensive lobbying campaigns to influence Democrats’ coronavirus stimulus package, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the $3.5 trillion social spending plan. Their efforts are bolstered by Democrats’ thin majorities and divisions between the party’s moderates and progressives.
Nebraska GOP Rep. Fortenberry Indicted
MSN – Hailey Fuchs and Olivia Beavers (Politico) | Published: 10/19/2021
A federal grand jury indicted U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, alleging he concealed information and made false statements to authorities. The Justice Department said Fortenberry repeatedly lied to and misled authorities during an investigation into illegal contributions to his reelection campaign that were made by a Nigerian-born billionaire, Gilbert Chagoury. The charges against Fortenberry emerged from a case against Chagoury, who under federal law cannot contribute to U.S. elections but admitted to providing approximately $180,000 to make campaign donations.
Political Nonprofit Fundraising Off Breast Cancer Has Deep Ties to Scam PAC Networks
Center for Responsive Politics – Roger Sollengberger and Anna Massoglia | Published: 10/15/2021
Although it sounds like a noble charity, the American Breast Cancer Coalition (ABCC) is a political group and rather than trying to address breast cancer, it appears to be a scheme to extract millions of dollars in donations, mostly from small donors. In recent robocalls, a female voice claims the goal of the group’s fundraising is to “support legislators who will fight for the fast-track approval of life saving breast cancer health bills and breast cancer treatment drugs to the FDA.” But IRS records tell a different story, revealing payments to firms with ties to a multimillion-dollar “scam PAC” network.
Staffers Keep Clashing Over Masks in the Capitol Hallways
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 10/21/2021
One congressional staffer said he almost always wears a mask at work. His closest colleagues do too. But everywhere the Democrat looked recently, bare faces rushed by, ignoring the signs: “Use of face covering is required.” Some staffers say they feel trapped in a never-ending proxy war, squabbling over masks as larger partisan tensions rage in Congress. Nineteen months into the pandemic, masks are still much more than simple pieces of fabric and that is especially true when you work on Capitol Hill, in the heart of political Washington, D.C.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’: Arizona GOP goes full fringe
MSN – David Siders (Politico) | Published: 10/20/2021
As the Republican Party hardens around its fealty to former President Trump, the Arizona GOP is filling up its midterm ballot with a roster of conspiracy theorists and extremists that could threaten the party’s prospects in a state that has drifted leftward in recent elections. The latest of those candidates is Ron Watkins, a celebrity in the QAnon conspiracy world suspected of being Q, who announced his plans to run for Congress recently. It is not just that Watkins embraces the baseless claim the November election was stolen. It is that an entire ticket is running on that falsehood now.
California – California #MeToo Leaders Say Capitol’s Sexual Harassment Unit Is Too Close to the Legislature
MSN – Hannah Wiley (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 10/18/2021
A network of activists called We Said Enough launched in October 2017 with a Los Angeles Times op-ed that called out a “pervasive” culture of abusive behavior by men in California’s institutions of power. More than 140 women, including several lawmakers and party leaders, signed the letter. In the following months, three lawmakers resigned amid public sexual misconduct allegations and investigations. The Capitol responded to the movement by setting up an independent review panel it dubbed the Workplace Conduct Unit to field new complaints. Activists say problems still persist.
California – California Board Diversity Requirements Face Legal Challenge
MSN – Ellen Myers (Roll Call) | Published: 10/14/2021
California, one of the first states to require companies to include women on their boards of directors, may see its ability to enforce director diversity laws upended depending on the outcome of multiple lawsuits. One of those lawsuits is a complaint from three California taxpayers over enforcement of Senate Bill 826, which requires public companies with principal executive offices in the state to incrementally increase the number of women on their boards. It will head to trial on October 25.
California – Top California Labor Official and Husband Accused of Grand Theft, Embezzlement and Tax Evasion
MSN – Taryn Luna (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/13/2021
The top staff member at California’s largest labor union resigned after she and her husband were charged with felonies including tax fraud. Alma Hernandez served as executive director for SEIU California since 2016. Hernandez faces two charges of grand theft and one of perjury for her work as treasurer on a 2014 political committee supporting a state Senate candidate. The complaint alleges she directed nearly $12,000 in campaign money to her husband for campaign food services that he never provided. That political committee received numerous contributions from the SEIU California’s political arm.
Colorado – Colorado County Clerk Who Embraced Conspiracy Theories Is Barred from Overseeing Elections
MSN – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 10/13/2021
A Colorado judge prohibited Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from overseeing this November’s election. The effort by Peters to ferret out supposedly hidden evidence of fraud in the 2020 election amounted to an escalation in the attacks on the nation’s voting systems, according to experts. Secretary of State Jena Griswold filed a lawsuit seeking to strip Peters of her election duties after passwords for Mesa County’s voting machines were posted online and copies of the hard drives were presented at a symposium hosted by MyPillow executive Mike Lindell, who denies President Biden won the 2020 election.
Connecticut – Guilty Plea Entered in State Senate Election Fraud Case
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/20/2021
A former campaign worker for a state Senator in Connecticut pleaded guilty to federal charges she conspired to fraudulently obtain public funds for the senator’s 2018 legislative campaign. Tina Manus worked on the campaign of Sen. Dennis Bradley, who is awaiting trial on charges his campaign ran a scheme to make it look as though he qualified for funds to which he was not entitled. Manus pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to cooperate in the investigation.
Connecticut – State Rep. Michael DiMassa Arrested by FBI in Probe of Misuse of COVID Relief Funds, Accused of Stealing More Than $600,000
MSN – Edmund Mahoney (Hartford Courant) | Published: 10/20/2021
Connecticut Rep. Michael DiMassa was arrested, accused of stealing more than $600,000 in federal COVID relief money by billing the city of West Haven, where he also worked as an aide to the city council, for pandemic related consulting services that federal officials said he never performed. Federal prosecutors said a portion of the alleged thefts appear to correspond with DiMassa’s purchase of tens of thousands of dollars in gambling chip at the Mohegan Sun Casino.
Florida – ‘It Gets Complicated’: Inconsistencies emerge when commissioners declare conflicts of interest
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 10/20/2021
Citing actual or apparent conflicts-of-interest, Leon County and Tallahassee city commissioners refrained from voting on issues big and small, from COVID-19 relief efforts to legal fees and development minutia. An investigation based on voting conflict forms and other public records found commissioners were sometimes inconsistent as they navigated what remains a complicated and grey area of the law. They often relied on an exemption in state statutes allowing them to abstain for mere appearances of a possible conflict-of-interest, though that provision is supposed to be applied narrowly.
Illinois – Chicago Sky Owner Michael Alter Agrees to Pay Fine for Lobbying Mayor Lori Lightfoot
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/20/2021
Chicago Sky owner Michael Alter will pay a $5,000 fine to the city after the ethics board sanctioned him for unregistered lobbying of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Alter argued earlier this year that the board was wrong to fine him for unregistered lobbying after The Chicago Tribune obtained emails showing he asked Lightfoot for help gaining a gambling license. But he has since reversed course and agreed to pay the fine.
Illinois – Indicted Former City Club President Fined $75K by Ethics Board for Violating Lobbying Rules
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/19/2021
Jay Doherty, the former head of the City Club of Chicago, was fined $75,000 by the Chicago Board of Ethics for violating the lobbying law. An investigation concluded Doherty “violated the ordinance on three occasions by lobbying on behalf of entities for which the individual had not duly registered as a lobbyist, and on four occasions lobbied but failed to properly report that lobbying activity as required on the quarterly lobbying activity reports.” Doherty has pleaded not guilty to charges that accused him of being part of a scheme to reward those loyal to former House Speaker Michael Madigan with money and jobs in exchange for Madigan’s support.
Illinois – Three-Judge Panel Declares Illinois Legislative Redistricting Plan Unconstitutional
Courthouse News Service – Dave Byrnes | Published: 10/20/2021
A three-judge panel declared Illinois’ June 2021 state legislative redistricting unconstitutional, in a rebuke to the Legislature’s Democratic-controlled State Board of Elections. A lawsuit alleged that, as the redistricting plan was based on preliminary 2015-2019 state population estimates made by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and not the official 2020 Census results, it violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The judges said the redistricting plan apportions state legislative districts in such a way that some districts are severely under-populated, while others are severely over-populated.
Louisiana – Gary Smith Sr. Files Ethics Disclosure on Debris Deals, the First Such Disclosure in Years
New Orleans Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 10/18/2021
The father of state Sen. Gary Smith Jr. filed an ethics disclosure for debris-staging contracts worth more than $105,000, the first such disclosure anyone has made to the Louisiana Board of Ethics in six years. The Smith family owns a network of companies that has long made money off hurricane work. After Katrina in 2005, one of the companies won a controversial FEMA deal to provide trailers for more than $100 million. It is not clear why such disaster contract disclosures are so rare.
Maine – Maine Ethics Watchdog Turn Back CMP Allies’ Request to Investigate Corridor Foe
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 10/15/2021
The state’s ethics commission rejected a request from Central Maine Power Co. allies to investigate a top opponent of their $1 billion corridor project, Sandra Howard, who leads the nonprofit Say No to NECEC, over a large contribution from a political group she runs to a nonprofit she also runs. The vote means the commission will not investigate the anti-corridor side during the last weeks of a referendum campaign that has drawn more than $60 million in spending.
Massachusetts – Grand Jury Is Said to Have Heard Testimony About Potential Campaign Finance Violations by MassGOP Head, Republican State Senator
MSN – Emma Platoff (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/18/2021
A state grand jury has heard testimony about potential campaign finance violations by the head of the Massachusetts Republican Party and a state senator, according to a person who received a subpoena and spoke before the panel. Sources said the probe appears focused on GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, Sen. Ryan Fattman, and his wife, Worcester County’s register of probate, Stephanie Fattman. In April, campaign finance regulators told state prosecutors the Republicans might have violated campaign finance laws. The work of the grand jury would mark an escalation in the probe and suggests authorities are pursuing it as a criminal matter.
Massachusetts – High-Powered Lobbying Firm Arrives in Boston Touting Ties to Labor Secretary Martin Walsh
MSN – Neya Thanikachalam (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/15/2021
An influential national lobbying firm opened a Boston location touting a potentially valuable advantage – connections to former mayor and current U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh. Ballard Partners said its new location will be headed by Eugene O’Flaherty, the former city attorney under Walsh. O’Flaherty, who joined Ballard Partners days after Walsh was confirmed, has lobbied the Labor Department on behalf of at least eight clients. Virginia Canter, the chief ethics counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, suggested Walsh make his calendar public to show he was not prioritizing lobbyists’ agendas.
Michigan – Michigan SOS Must Release Documents on Deal with Pro-Whitmer Group, Court
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 10/18/2021
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office must release more internal records on how it handled campaign finance violations by a group that backed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s election in 2018. Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray ruled the secretary of state’s office had improperly withheld some documents in response to a public records request by the conservative group Michigan Rising Action. The ruling could shed light on the behind-the-scenes discussions that led to Build a Better Michigan agreeing to a $37,500 settlement.
Michigan – Whitmer’s Campaign Might Have to Return Excess Contributions Soon, Filing Says
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 10/15/2021
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reelection campaign could have to return or donate $3.4 million in excess contributions it collected outside the state’s normal donor limits as soon as January, according to a new court filing on behalf of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. The filing came in response to the Michigan Republican Party’s lawsuit in federal court, challenging the Democratic governor’s use of a decades-old state policy on recalls to garner large contributions, above the normal $7,150 limit on individual donors, to bolster her reelection campaign account.
Missouri – Missouri Governor Accuses Journalist Who Warned State About Cybersecurity Flaw of Criminal ‘Hacking’
MSN – Elahe Izade (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2021
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson lashed out at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the newspaper informed the state of a data risk that left 100,000 Social Security numbers vulnerable to public disclosure. Parson said the Cole County prosecutor and the Missouri Highway Patrol would investigate the matter. He said the news outlet that uncovered and reported the vulnerability would be held accountable. The governor said the “”ndividual” who alerted the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was attempting to “embarrass the state and sell headlines for their news outlet.”
Nevada – State Ethics Panel: Bonnie Weber didn’t break law over quarterly meetings with developers
MSN – James DeHaven (Reno Gazette-Journal) | Published: 10/20/2021
Reno City Councilperson Bonnie Weber did not break the law by hosting a series of “summits” with prominent developers. The Nevada Commission on Ethics dismissed a complaint that accused Weber of improperly using public funds to entertain city developers at the Bonanza Casino. The complaint also alleged at least one other city employee joined Weber for the quarterly meeting. Commissioners gave the city three months to come up with rules that “adequately address” situations where city staff are asked to work at closed-door events organized by an elected official.
New York – Top Brass Head for Exits as Chaos Engulfs NYC Consulting Firm
MSN – Sally Goldenberg (Politico) | Published: 10/14/2021
One of New York’s leading lobbying and consulting firms is in disarray, feuding with its corporate owner as top executives head for the exits. Mercury Public Affairs, a global company that has been embroiled in litigation against parent company Omnicom Medias Group in California, is now facing an exodus of key personnel in New York City as they prepare to battle Omnicom’s mandated noncompete requirements for departed staff. At issue in New York is Omnicom’s insistence on restrictive covenants that stipulate departed staffers cannot continue to represent the firm’s clients or work together for at least a year.
New York – Trump Organization, Already Under Indictment, Faces New Criminal Inquiry
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Ben Protess | Published: 10/20/2021
Former President Trump’s business, which is under indictment in Manhattan, is facing a criminal investigation by another prosecutor’s office that has begun to examine financial dealings at a golf course the company owns, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The district attorney’s office in Westchester County, New York, subpoenaed records from the course, Trump National Golf Club Westchester, and the town of Ossining, which sets property taxes on the course. The district attorney appears to be focused, at least in part, on whether the Trump Organization misled local officials about the property’s value to reduce its taxes.
Ohio – Stow Councilwoman Faces Ethics Charge Over Failure to File Financial Statement
MSN – Krista Kano (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 10/20/2021
The Ohio Ethics Commission is pursuing legal action against Stow City Councilperson Christina Shaw for failure to file a required financial disclosure statement in 2019. An arraignment is scheduled where Shaw is to be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Commission spokesperson Susan Willeke said the commission generally grants extensions and “going to court isn’t necessarily the first step.”
Pennsylvania – PA Lawmakers Spend Millions of Tax Dollars on Private Lawyers, but Often Don’t Reveal Why
MSN – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) and Sam Janesch (The Caucus) | Published: 10/12/2021
The Pennsylvania Legislature spent nearly $10 million during the past two years on private lawyers but routinely shielded the purpose of those expenses, hiding which lawmakers and their staff members required representation and why. A review of thousands of pages of legal invoices and engagement letters from 2019 and 2020 shows the cases ranged from public records fights to attempts to overturn last year’s presidential election. In many instances, Republicans and Democrats in both chambers blacked out the reason for hiring lawyers, flouting case law that requires them to make public those details. Other records were so vague it was impossible to identify the reason for the representation.
Virginia – New Political Ad Strategy in Virginia: Promoting news articles in Google search results
MSN – Karina Ellwood (Washington Post) | Published: 10/18/2021
Google ads purchased by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign feature links to news and opinion articles about his opponent, Glenn Youngkin. The ads show up at the top of search results for keywords such as “Glenn Youngkin,” and include a disclosure that they are advertisements, as well as an additional tag required for political advertisements indicating they are paid for by the McAuliffe campaign. But the ads include titles written by the campaign, which are subtly different from the original search engine headlines written by the publications and appear in the same format as a headline would appear in a search result.
Washington – Facebook Provided False Testimony in Campaign Transparency Lawsuit, Washington Attorney General Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Gutman | Published: 10/13/2021
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said a Facebook representative provided false testimony in a lawsuit that accuses the company of violating state campaign finance laws. Ferguson says both the company and its attorneys knew the testimony was false. Ferguson sued Facebook last year, alleging it has “repeatedly and openly” violated disclosure laws by selling political ads without providing required details of the spending. The company has argued Washington’s laws are unconstitutional and violate both free speech protections and the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.
Washington DC – D.C. Housing Authority Board Chair Steps Down Amid Questions Over Conflicts of Interest
MSN – Marissa Lang, Michael Brice-Saddler, and Steve Thompson (Washington Post) | Published: 10/20/2021
Neil Albert, who has for the last four years served as the chair of the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s board of commissioners, resigned amid questions over alleged conflicts-of-interest. Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to look further into allegations made in recent news reports that Albert did not properly disclose his romantic partnership with the chief executive of an architectural firm that has worked with authority.
Wisconsin – Calls Intensify to End Wisconsin’s Election Review Amid Blunders by Ex-Judge in Charge
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 10/14/2021
After a series of blatant errors, Michael Gableman, the former judge leading the Republican review of the state’s 2020 presidential election, admitted he does not have “a comprehensive understanding or even any understanding of how elections work.” The latest round of reversals and blunders is intensifying calls to end the probe, one of several recent efforts around the country to revisit Joe Biden’s win in states where former President Trump and his supporters have leveled baseless accusations of voter fraud.
October 15, 2021 •
National/Federal Activists Try to Keep Up Pressure to Pass Elections and Voting Bills MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 10/13/2021 Groups pushing for voting rights and elections legislation in the U.S. Senate are planning a sustained campaign over the […]
Activists Try to Keep Up Pressure to Pass Elections and Voting Bills
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 10/13/2021
Groups pushing for voting rights and elections legislation in the U.S. Senate are planning a sustained campaign over the coming weeks, aiming to put the issue top of mind for Democrats, even as other matters have dominated in the chamber. A broad coalition of liberal organizations will organize regular demonstrations outside the White House, other rallies, and a multimodal relay from West Virginia to the U.S. Capitol. The effort is part of a push to keep the measures high on the agenda as negotiations over a reconciliation package, an infrastructure bill, and raising the nation’s debt limit have taken center stage.
Big Tech Sweeps Up Hill Staffers – Just When Congress Needs Them the Most
MSN – Emily Birnbaum and John Hendel (Politico) | Published: 10/12/2021
Silicon Valley and the telecommunications industry are snatching up some of the top Democratic policy experts on Capitol Hill just as Congress gears up for fights with the companies. The brain drain has seen more than a dozen senior Democratic tech and telecom policy staffers leaving their posts this year, with many taking lobbying roles at powerhouses including Facebook, Verizon, and Apple. They are leaving members’ personal offices as well as the Senate and House committees that oversee agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, along with topics like broadband, online speech, and data privacy.
‘Cannot Wait for Washington:’ How voting rights activists are navigating new restrictions ahead of November elections
WRAL – Fredrika Schouten, Dianne Gallagher, and Wesley Bruer (CNN) | Published: 10/11/2021
In states from Georgia to Montana, activists are scrambling to help voters navigate the new restrictions passed largely in Republican-controlled states after record turnout in 2020 helped elect Joe Biden and flipped control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats. Nineteen states have passed 33 new laws this year to restrict voting. But some of the most extensive changes are clustered in just a handful. Four states – Iowa, Georgia, Florida, and Texas – enacted sweeping revisions of their existing laws, bundled together in single omnibus bills.
Dozens of States Have Tried to End Qualified Immunity. Police Officers and Unions Helped Beat Nearly Every Bill.
MSN – Kimberly Kindy (Washington Post) | Published: 10/7/2021
In the months after George Floyd’s murder, state legislators across the country tried to undo a legal doctrine that makes it virtually impossible to sue police officers for violating a person’s civil rights. But then, in state after state, the bills withered, were withdrawn, or were altered beyond recognition. At least 35 state “qualified-immunity” bills have died in the past 18 months. The efforts failed amid multifaceted lobbying campaigns by police officers and their unions targeting lawmakers.
Giuliani Associates Face Trial in Campaign Finance Scheme
Yahoo News – Tom Hays and Larry Neumeister (Associated Press) | Published: 10/11/2021
Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born businessperson, and a co-defendant, Ukraine-born investor Andrey Kukushkin, are accused of making illegal campaign contributions to American politicians to further their business interests. Igor Fruman, who has pleaded guilty in the case, and Parnas initially caught the attention of investigators after making big donations through a corporate entity to Republican political committees, including a $325,000 donation in 2018 to America First Action, a super PAC supporting Donald Trump. The pair then became middlemen in Rudolph Giuliani’s effort to discredit then-candidate Joe Biden.
‘Scam’ Political Groups Try New Trick – and Rake in Millions
Daily Beast – Roger Sollenberger | Published: 10/11/2021
A network of shady political groups at the center of a new class action lawsuit for bilking donors out of tens of millions of dollars appears to be attempting a legal work-around to continue pulling in the money and evading government scrutiny. The 17 groups in the network bear the tell-tale signs of “scam PACs,” entities which present themselves to donors as nonprofit charities but register as political groups with the government. The loophole allows the groups to operate in a gray zone outside the reach of the different federal agencies that regulate nonprofits and political organizations.
The Imminent Impact of Redistricting: Sharper partisan elbows, less compromise by both sides in the House
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2021
Redistricting is getting started around the country, but the first maps released suggest a coming decade of even more deeply entrenched partisanship for Congress. Most House lawmakers already represent solidly partisan constituencies. Every two years, party control is determined by the outcome of only a few dozen seats. Next year, Republicans need to flip only a handful of seats to wrest power away from Democrats. Of the country’s 435 congressional districts, Donald Trump or President Biden won just 50 of them by five or less percentage points. Those swing districts could be reduced by at least a third after redistricting, experts estimate.
Trump Hotel Lost $70M Despite Millions in Foreign Business
Yahoo News – Bernard Condon (Associated Press) | Published: 10/8/2021
Despite the Republican-paid political events and bar tabs from lobbyists, foreign dignitaries, and other supporters of Donald Trump, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. lost an estimated $74 million between 2016 and 2020. The tally came from Trump’s own auditors, showing losses that generally increased through his tenure in the White House. The new account of revenues and losses at the hotel was released as House Democrats push the Biden administration to turn over additional documents to determine if Trump broke federal rules by continuing to operate the hotel through his family while serving as president.
White Tiger and Cheetah Furs: A mess of Trump gift exchanges
MSN – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2021
Gift exchanges between the U.S. and foreign leaders, a highly regulated process intended to shield administrations from questions of impropriety, devolved into sometimes absurd shambles during the Trump administration. Former President Trump’s handling of foreign gifts is not at the top of his critics’ list of his offenses, and there is no evidence he or Melania Trump took any gifts to which they were not entitled. But ethics experts said the problems reflected larger issues with the Trump presidency.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Campaign Regulator Confirms $38,500 Fine Against Bronson Campaign
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 10/11/2021
The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) confirmed a $38,500 fine against Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s election campaign for filing inaccurate campaign expenditure reports during a runoff election. According to APOC’s final order, the fine could have been higher, but commissioners declined to fine Bronson for failing to promptly return donations that were larger than the maximum allowed by law. That is because a three-judge panel on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled many of the state’s maximum donation limits were unconstitutional.
Arizona – Lawmaker Takes Aim at Corp Comm Policy on Campaign Contributions by Utilities
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 10/11/2021
Attorneys for the Arizona Legislature believe a Corporation Commission policy intended to restrict campaign contributions by regulated utilities violates the state constitution, and the lawmaker who requested that opinion is hoping it will persuade the commission to change course for next year’s election. Commissioners cannot knowingly take contributions from regulated public service corporations, their lobbyists, employees, or officers, nor can they accept money from any intervenor in a case that is before the commission. The commission’s intention in passing the rule was to require commissioners to recuse themselves if they have taken money from people involved in cases they are hearing.
California – Former Officials Nuñez, Boxer and Villaraigosa Lead Exodus from Powerful Lobbying Firm
MSN – Seema Mehta and Melanie Mason (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/6/2021
Former prominent elected officials Fabian Nuñez, Barbara Boxer, and Antonio Villaraigosa led the mass resignations from one of California’s most powerful lobbying firms, Mercury Public Affairs. The departures are largely prompted by financial disputes. Nuñez filed a lawsuit that alleges Mercury’s parent company failed to live up to an agreement that would allow the group to grow its business around the world. Nuñez excoriates the company’s handling of a foreign nonprofit tied to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort that exposed Mercury to liability and public denouncement.
California – Gavin Newsom Signs Law Giving Journalists Unrestricted Access to Protests Closed by Police
MSN – Andrew Sheeler (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 10/9/2021
Police must allow journalists access to closed-off demonstrations and protests under a new law signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom. The law requires that journalists be given unfettered access to closed-off protests, and prohibits law enforcement officers from assaulting, interfering, or obstructing journalists from covering such events. Sen. Mike McGuire argued while California law permitted journalists access to closed areas during emergencies and natural disasters, those protections did not extend to covering demonstrations, marches, protests, and rallies.
California – L.A. Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and Ex-USC Dean Indicted on Bribery Charges
MSN – Michael Finnegan, Matt Hamilton, and Harriet Ryan (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/13/2021
Los Angeles City Councilperson Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted on federal charges for his role in an alleged bribery scheme that landed his son a professorship at the University of Southern California (USC). Prosecutors allege Ridley-Thomas helped direct funding and contracts to USC’s School of Social work while serving on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In exchange, his son, a former state lawmaker, was guaranteed graduate school admission and a paid teaching position by the school’s then-dean, Marilyn Louise Flynn.
Colorado – Colorado Secretary of State to Pursue Redistricting Lobbying Complaint Against GOP in Court
Denver Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 10/13/2021
An effort to influence Colorado’s new independent redistricting process will end up being scrutinized by an administrative law judge after Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced her office intends to pursue claims of lobbying disclosure violations. Griswold said her office found reason to believe two Republican operatives working for a group called Colorado Neighborhood Coalition, former Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty and former state lawmaker Greg Brophy, failed to properly register as redistricting lobbyists.
Delaware – Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness Indicted on Two Felony Charges
MSN – Xerxes Wilson and Sarah Gamard (Delaware News Journal) | Published: 10/11/2021
Delaware Auditor Kathy McGuiness was indicted on criminal charges that she hired and supervised her daughter in a do-nothing state job, circumvented state contracting laws to divert taxpayer money to a political campaign group, and spied on and discriminated against employees who questioned her conduct. McGuiness faces two felony charges and several misdemeanors in the indictment, which appears to make her the first statewide elected official to be indicted on felony charges while holding office.
Georgia – Judge Dismisses Fulton County Ballot Review Case in Georgia
MSN – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 10/12/2021
A judge dismissed a lawsuit alleging there were fraudulent ballots and improper ballot counting in Fulton County, Georgia’s most populous county, during the 2020 election. The suit sought a review of some 147,000 absentee ballots to see if any were illegitimate. Henry County Superior Court Chief Judge Brian Amero’s order dismissing the case says the voters who brought the lawsuit “failed to allege a particularized injury” and therefore lacked the standing to claim their state constitutional rights to equal protection and due process had been violated.
Georgia – Senate Candidate Herschel Walker Cancels Fundraiser After Uproar Over Donor’s Use of Vaccine-Needle Swastika in Profile
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 10/12/2021
A fundraiser for Herschel Walker, a U.S. Senate candidate in Georgia, was canceled after its host was criticized for featuring an image that used a swastika made out of syringes on her Twitter profile. Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais, a Republican donor, was set to host a fundraiser for Walker in Texas. That specific rendering of the vaccine-needle swastika has been co-opted by activists nationwide who oppose coronavirus vaccine mandates and compare them to Nazi treatment of the Jews.
Illinois – Ex-CEO Pleads Guilty to Bribery Tied to Dorothy Brown’s Women’s History Month Program
Chicago Sun-Times – Jon Sedel | Published: 10/12/2021
The former chief executive officer of a Pennsylvania debt-collection company admitted making payments to support former Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s Women’s History Month program to reward her for business he thought she steered his way. Donald Donagher Jr. pleaded guilty in federal court to one bribery count alleging he paid $869 in March 2014 to a company that provided plaques for the program. He also admitted he had $1,000 paid to a company that catered the event.
Indiana – Ex-Indiana Mayor Gets 21 Months in Prison for Seeking Bribe
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/13/2021
A former northwestern Indiana mayor who was convicted of taking a $13,000 bribe from a trucking company and illegal tax evasion was sentenced to 21 months in prison. A jury found former Portage Mayor James Snyder sought the bribe in return for steering about $1.1 million in city contracts to the company.
Indiana – ‘Room for Mischief’: Inside the secretive process to fill vacant seats without elections
MSN – Amelia Pak-Harvey and Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 10/7/2021
U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz got her start in politics working behind the scenes for the local county Republican Party. She used those connections to win her first office when a group of party insiders, not voters, selected her for an Indiana Senate seat over the more politically established candidates. At the time, Spartz had no experience or name recognition as an elected official, which would have made winning an election decided by voters more difficult. The 93 people responsible for Spartz’s critical journey to the statehouse were not every-day Hamilton County voters. They were a little-known facet of Indiana’s political system: precinct committee people, referred to in party lingo as “PCs.” And the public has no clue who most of them were.
Iowa – Democrats Edge Toward Dumping Iowa’s Caucuses as the First Presidential Vote
Portland Press Herald – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2021
Democrats’ disdain for Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucus has been rising for years. Now the day of reckoning for Iowa Democrats is fast approaching, as the national party starts to create a new calendar for the 2024 presidential nomination that could remove Iowa from its privileged position for the first time since 1972, when candidates started flocking to the state for an early jump on the race to the White House. The caucus has been damaged by high barriers to participation, a dearth of racial diversity, the rightward drift in the state’s electorate, and a leftward drift in the Democratic participants.
Iowa – Iowa Auditor Sued for Refusing to Release Emails About Rejected Accusation Against Gov. Kim Reynolds
MSN – Daniel Lathrop (Des Moines Register) | Published: 10/11/2021
Iowa’s Democratic state auditor is facing a lawsuit related to a controversial report he issued accusing Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of violating ethics laws, claims a state ethics panel rejected. The Kirkwood Institute, a conservative public interest law firm, claims Rob Sand is violating the state’s open records law by withholding communications with an Associated Press reporter and a liberal blogger relating to the report. Kirkwood Institute President Alan Ostergren requested the records to determine whether Sand was using state resources for “private political gain” when his office alleged Reynolds had violated state ethics laws by appearing in state-funded ads promoting COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Michigan – Detroit Council Approves Reforms to City’s Controversial Towing System
Detroit News – James David Dickson and George Hunter | Published: 10/12/2021
The Detroit City Council unanimously approved a series of changes in a bid to boost transparency and accountability in the city’s towing system. The vote came after years of controversy surrounding the city’s municipal towing operations and amid a federal probe that has entangled three council members this year and previously has resulted in criminal convictions of police officers who took bribes from towers. The action is one of multiple initiatives to revamp Detroit’s towing procedures.
New Jersey – Judge Was Wrong to Throw Out Bribery Case in Infamous Corruption Sting, Prosecutors Say
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 10/7/2021
A Superior Court judge was wrong when she threw out a bribery case against a former Bayonne mayoral candidate in what had been one of New Jersey’s biggest corruption operations in years, prosecutors said. The state attorney general’s office is seeking to reverse the dismissal of a criminal indictment against Jason O’Donnell. He had been charged with taking cash in exchange for promises of tax and real estate work if he won his election. The judge concluded O’Donnell committed no crime under the state’s corruption statutes, finding he had no influence to offer because he was not a public official when he was ensnared in the sting.
New Mexico – Annual Review of Campaign Finances Resumes in New Mexico
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 10/9/2021
After a four-year hiatus, state election regulators have resumed spot-checks on campaign finance disclosures by politicians, candidates, and political committees, with 10 accounts referred to New Mexico’s fledgling State Ethics Commission and state prosecutors for possible enforcement action. The random sampling of campaign finance disclosures from the 2020 general election cycle taps into a newly deployed electronic campaign finance reporting system at the secretary of state’s office that reconciles an intricate web of campaign contributions, transfers, and expenditures.
New Mexico – New Mexico Governor Settles Harassment Claim for $150K
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/11/2021
The final price tag for a settlement reached by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and a former campaign spokesperson to settle accusations of harassment is now $150,000. The latest payments were disclosed in a mandatory campaign finance report filed by the governor’s campaign. The staffer, James Hallinan, accused Lujan Grisham of dropping water in his lap and then grabbing his crotch in the midst of a campaign staff meeting, accusations the governor denies.
New York – Cuomo Book Approval Faces New Challenge
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/12/2021
When the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting, a commissioner is planning to again try and have the agency’s approval of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book deal rescinded. After failing by one vote at a September meeting, Commissioner Gary Lavine is planning a different tact: a motion arguing JCOPE staff never had the authority to issue the approval. In 2012, JCOPE passed a resolution allowing the executive director of the staff to take certain actions between monthly commissioner meetings. JCOPE staff argues this 2012 resolution granted it authority to approve Cuomo’s book deal in July 2020.
New York – Hochul Scraps Cuomo’s ‘Defense’ Program Critics Say Helped Suppress Negative Information
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/12/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is ending a program begun under her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, which had helped suppress negative information about Cuomo and his administration. When announced in 2015, the state’s first-ever “ethics, risk, and compliance” initiative was framed as bringing a private-sector risk management model to state agencies and public authorities. But for Cuomo’s office, the job also meant managing negative information that might come to light, a practice that exploded into public view during the controversy over Cuomo’s alleged suppression of nursing home death data.
New York – Mayor de Blasio’s $1 Million Bill: He owes lawyers, lobbyists and taxpayers
The City – Greg Smith | Published: 10/12/2021
As he hints at running for governor, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has racked up nearly $1 million in debts to lawyers, campaign consultants, and taxpayers that records indicate he currently cannot pay. The mayor owes one of the city’s biggest lobbyist law firms upwards of $435,000. The Department of Investigation informed de Blasio he must reimburse taxpayers nearly $320,000 for his use of a securing detail during his failed presidential campaign. The latest filings for his various campaign and PACs reveal he has got more than $182,500 in outstanding campaign debts and only about $11,800 cash on hand.
New York – New York City’s Top Corruption Watchdog Leaving for Federal Role
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 10/13/2021
Margaret Garnett, the commissioner of the New York City agency that roots out corruption in local government, will leave her post and become the second-ranking official in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. Garnett has been the city’s investigation commissioner since 2018. In perhaps her final report as commissioner, her office, the Department of Investigation, criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio’s use of his security detail for political and personal reasons, including for trips taken during his presidential campaign.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Manager Endorses Idea for ‘Ethics and Good Government’ Officer
WVXU – Becca Costello | Published: 10/11/2021
A director of ethics and good government could take on responsibility for implementing anti-corruption reform in Cincinnati. Creating that new position is a key part of City Manager Paula Boggs Muething’s reform recommendations. The officer would be responsible for implementing anti-corruption reform approved by the city council based on recommendations of the Economic Development Reform Panel, which was formed in response to three council member arrests on federal corruption charges last year.
Ohio – Former Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson Sentenced to Six Years in Prison, Ordered to Pay More than $740,000 in Restitution
Cleveland Plain Dealer – John Caniglia | Published: 10/8/2021
Former Cleveland City Council member Kenneth Johnson was sentenced to six years in prison for stealing from the city and federal government. U.S. District Court Judge John Adams ordered Johnson, a 40-year member of council, to pay a portion of more than $740,000 in restitution for a series of schemes he ran from City Hall. A jury convicted him of public corruption charges in July. He was accused of siphoning tens of thousands of dollars from the council, underpaying his taxes, and steering government money to keep his adopted sons on the payroll of a community development corporation that he helped fund.
Ohio – Law-Firm Lobbyists Tell Federal Judge Details of Their Big Role in Passing Scandal-Tainted House Bill 6 Nuclear Bailout
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/13/2021
National law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld played a significant role in the passage of House Bill 6 in Ohio by organizing lobbying efforts, setting up large political donations, and helping to write the scandal-ridden energy law. Four members of the Washington D.C. firm submitted the documents at the demand of a bankruptcy judge, who is holding up the final $1.2 million of about $68 million in fees and expenses Akin Gump charged to FirstEnergy Solutions until the law firm’s House Bill 6 lobbying team answered questions about their involvement with the passage of the law and other activities surrounding a $60 million bribery scandal.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission Rules in Favor of Rep. Wiggam, Others in Finance Complaint
MSN – Bryce Buyakie (Daily Record) | Published: 10/7/2021
The Ohio Election Commission found the American Legislative Exchange Council did not violate campaign finance law when it provided software worth $3,000 to three state lawmakers during their 2020 campaigns. A complaint alleged the lawmakers did not report the gifted software as in-kind contributions. “Because they didn’t accept and use the software and it was only provided to them, it is not an in-kind contribution,” said Executive Director Philip Richter. The only dissenting voice acknowledged the commission does not know if Rep. Scott Wiggam activated the software. If activated and used, Richter said it could be a violation of Ohio law.
Pennsylvania – Amid FBI Scrutiny, Top PSERS Pension Officials Update Financial Disclosures
MSN – Craig McCoy and John DiStefano (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 10/11/2021
Amid an FBI investigation into real estate held by the Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS), the agency’s investment chief and his top staff have updated their financial disclosures to include their roles on the boards of agency-affiliated companies that own PSERS buildings in Harrisburg and elsewhere. PSERS has acknowledged agency official James Grossman and others on his staff were on a disclosure form filed with the IRS not only as board members for the affiliated companies but as paid staff. This seemed to put them in dual and conflicting roles as top employees of both PSERS and firms that did business with the pension fund.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Lawmakers Hand Out Millions in Public Contracts to Law Firms That Fill Their Campaign Coffers
WHYY – Sam Janesch (The Caucus) and Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) | Published: 10/13/2021
Law firms and attorneys who have worked for the Pennsylvania House and Senate have donated at least $5.5 million to 18 campaign committees controlled by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders during the last decade. In all, they gave at least $24 million to local and state-level campaigns across Pennsylvania during that time in a state that allows unlimited contributions with few disclosure rules. Legislators in turn hire firms for all types of legal matters. Good-government advocates warn such a mutually beneficial system, while legal, can foster a “pay-to-play” culture in which contracts are awarded to political allies.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Republicans Unveil Lobbying Reform Package to Address ‘Most Pressing Loopholes’ in Law
Pennsylvania Capital-Journal – Marley Parish | Published: 10/13/2021
Nine months after the top Republican in the Pennsylvania Senate vowed to make transparency a major priority in the Legislature, lawmakers are inching toward some lobbying reform. Four Republicans in the upper chamber introduced a package of bills that would impose new requirements for lobbyists and political consultants to avoid conflicts-of-interest and define the relationship between lawmakers and those who try to influence them. Critics called the reform proposals a baby step.
Rhode Island – Vote Postponed on Proposal to Shield ‘Maybe’ Candidates from Having to Report Finances
MSN – Katherine Gregg (Providence Journal) | Published: 10/12/2021
Faced with a wall of opposition, state election officials postponed a vote until at least December on letting potential candidates for state and local office “test the waters” without revealing how much they raise or spend. The Rhode Island Board of Elections decided to hold off after a flurry of opposition from state Republican Party Chairperson Sue Cienki, Common Cause, two of the already announced Democratic candidates for governor, and an army of legislators.
Virginia – Document Details Hefty Payments from Dominion Energy to Media Influencers and Lobbyists
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Patrick Wilson | Published: 10/8/2021
A document in the ongoing review of Dominion Energy’s finances reveals hefty dollar amounts from the electric monopoly to media influencers and lobbyists. Recipients include a columnist who wrote editorials about Dominion for a large state newspaper, former lawmakers who lobby the current ones, and the most renowned political commentator in Virginia. Dominion Energy is known to employ many lobbyists and political consultants, helping it achieve legislative success, but the document provides new details about who the company uses and how much it spends on consulting.
Virginia – Lobbyists in Virginia Don’t Have to Report How Much They Actually Earn
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Patrick Wilson | Published: 10/13/2021
Virginia lawmakers require companies or entities that hire lobbyists to report who the lobbyists are and how much they are paid. Because there are several ways to calculate the payment amounts, the public disclosures generally are far below the actual dollar amounts the lobbyists earn. Critics say the public has no way of knowing exactly how much money lobbyists are paid to lobby their elected representatives.
October 11, 2021 •
Campaign Finance New Mexico: “Annual Review of Campaign Finances Resumes in New Mexico” by Morgan Lee (Associated Press) for MSN Ohio: “Ohio Elections Commission Rules in Favor of Rep. Wiggam, Others in Finance Complaint” by Bryce Buyakie (Daily Record) for […]
New Mexico: “Annual Review of Campaign Finances Resumes in New Mexico” by Morgan Lee (Associated Press) for MSN
Ohio: “Ohio Elections Commission Rules in Favor of Rep. Wiggam, Others in Finance Complaint” by Bryce Buyakie (Daily Record) for MSN
Indiana: “‘Room for Mischief’: Inside the secretive process to fill vacant seats without elections” by Amelia Pak-Harvey and Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) for MSN
National: “Trump Hotel Lost $70M Despite Millions in Foreign Business” by Bernard Condon (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
National: “Dozens of States Have Tried to End Qualified Immunity. Police Officers and Unions Helped Beat Nearly Every Bill.” by Kimberly Kindy (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Former Officials Nuñez, Boxer and Villaraigosa Lead Exodus from Powerful Lobbying Firm” by Seema Mehta and Melanie Mason (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Virginia: “Document Details Hefty Payments from Dominion Energy to Media Influencers and Lobbyists” by Patrick Wilson for Richmond Times-Dispatch
National: “The Imminent Impact of Redistricting: Sharper partisan elbows, less compromise by both sides in the House” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
October 1, 2021 •
National/Federal As Districts Grow More Diverse, Congressional Outreach Does Too MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 9/30/2021 Over the past decade, U.S. Rep. Katie Porter’s 45th District in Southern California grew to the largest by population in the state […]
As Districts Grow More Diverse, Congressional Outreach Does Too
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 9/30/2021
Over the past decade, U.S. Rep. Katie Porter’s 45th District in Southern California grew to the largest by population in the state and was 45 percent non-Hispanic white in 2020, down from 55 percent in 2010. The district is more than one quarter Asian, which has shaped how Porter reaches out to her constituents. For example, she often contacts local community groups and ethnic churches in efforts to share more information about federal programs.
As Redistricting Begins, States Tackle the Issue of ‘Prison Gerrymandering’
MSN – Emmanuel Felton (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2021
As lawmakers begin drawing lines for congressional and state legislative districts based on the 2020 Census, there is a key question facing these drafters: how to count the 2.3 million people housed in the nation’s jails and prisons. While inmates are not allowed to vote in 48 states, they count for the purposes of representation. For most of American history, counting inmates where they were imprisoned did not have a huge impact on political power and representation. But that changed when states began adopting tough-on-crime laws in the 1980s, leading to an era of mass incarcerations.
Biden White House Leans Toward Releasing Information About Trump and Jan. 6 Attack, Setting Off Legal and Political Showdown
MSN – Tom Hamburger and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2021
The White House is leaning toward releasing information to Congress about what Donald Trump and his aides were doing during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol despite the former president’s objections, a decision that could have significant ramifications. Trump has said he will cite “executive privilege” to block information requests from the House select committee investigating the events of that day, banking on a legal theory that has successfully allowed presidents and their aides to avoid or delay congressional scrutiny for decades. But the Biden White House plans to err on the side of disclosure given the gravity of the events.
Covert Postal Service Unit Probed Jan. 6 Social Media
Yahoo News – Betsy Woodruff Swann (Politico) | Published: 9/27/2021
In the days after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, an obscure arm of the U.S. Postal Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service’s Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) sent bulletins to law enforcement agencies around the country on how to view social media posts that had been deleted. Few Americans are aware the same organization that delivers their mail also runs a surveillance operation rooted in an agency that dates back to the 18th century. And iCOP’s involvement raises questions about how broad the mandate of the Postal Service’s policing arm has grown from its stated mission of keeping mail deliverers safe.
DNC to Host First In-Person Fundraiser of the Covid Era
Yahoo News – Caitlin Oprysko (Politico) | Published: 9/25/2021
Eighteen months into the pandemic, the Democratic National Committee held its first in-person, indoor fundraising events, turning to K Street to haul in cash ahead of the midterm cycle. For lobbyists who have been starved of facetime with party leaders, they can give $36,500, the maximum amount an individual or non-multi-candidate PAC can contribute to a national party committee. That donation brings with it a more intimate “private clutch,” according to the invitation. The hosting of an in-person event marks a return for Democrats to the usual method of raising cash after meeting with donors became confined to Zoom calls.
Fallout Begins for Far-Right Trolls Who Trusted Epik to Keep Their Identities Secret
Seattle Times – Drew Harwell, Hannah Allam, Jeremy Merrill, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2021
In the real world, Joshua Alayon worked as a real estate agent in Pompano Beach, Florida. But online, data revealed by the massive hack of Epik, an Internet-services company popular with the far right, signaled a darker side. Alayon’s name and personal details were found on invoices suggesting he had once paid for websites with names such as racisminc.com and theholocaustisfake.com. The hacking group Anonymous exposed previously obscure details of far-right sites and launched a race among extremism researchers to identify the hidden promoters of online hate. After Alayon’s name appeared in the breached data, his brokerage firm dropped him as an agent.
FEC Debates Deadlocks and Dismissals
Investigative Reporting Workshop – Keith Newell | Published: 9/29/2021
Since its founding in 1974, the FEC has long been regarded as an ineffective agency, garnering criticism as a “toothless tiger” or a “tightly leashed watchdog.” The panel has a maximum of six members, with no more than three from one party. Since 2006, an increasingly high number of deadlocked votes result in dismissals of allegations of misconduct; deadlocks are effectively victories for the Republican commissioners. Party loyalty appears to be less important to commissioners than ideology.
House Jan. 6 Committee Issues Subpoenas for Pro-Trump Rally Organizers
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Tom Hamburger, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 9/29/2021
The U.S. House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas to 11 people associated with or involved in the planning of pro-Trump rallies that preceded the violent insurrection. The subpoenas come a week after it issued subpoenas targeting two top Trump White House officials, the chief of staff to the acting defense secretary, and longtime Trump adviser Stephen Bannon. The subpoenas may be able to shed light on the degree to which Donald Trump and his senior White House aides knew about their fears of chaos on January 6.
Ohio Men Sentenced to 45 Days Become First Jan. 6 Misdemeanor Defendants to Receive Jail Time
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/29/2021
A court sentenced two Ohio men to serve 45 days in jail after federal prosecutors for the first-time requested incarceration at sentencing hearings for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders in the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The punishment comes after judges for months have questioned whether no-prison plea deals offered by the government to low-level January 6 defendants are too lenient to deter future attackers from terrorizing members of Congress.
Supreme Court Observers See Trouble Ahead as Public Approval of Justices Erodes
MSN – Robert Barnes and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2021
On October 4, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin one of the most potentially divisive terms in years. Docketed cases concern gun control, separation of church and state, and the biggest showdown in decades on the constitutional right to an abortion. Meanwhile, a presidential commission studying the court is being bombarded with criticism from the left, and occasionally the right, that the justices are too political, too powerful, and serve for too long. “Not since Bush v. Gore has the public perception of the court’s legitimacy seemed so seriously threatened,” Georgetown Supreme Court Institute Executive Director Irv Gornstein said.
The FEC Unanimously Rejected a Trump Campaign Complaint Against Snapchat After the Social Media Site Removed the Former President’s Content from Its ‘Discover’ Feed
Yahoo News – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/23/2021
The FEC dismissed a complaint made by former President Trump’s campaign against Snapchat, which it said had violated election laws by removing the campaign’s content from its curated “Discover” page. Snapchat announced in June 2020 it would no longer promote Trump’s content on the page, though it did not remove Trump’s account from the platform. The Trump campaign alleged Snapchat made an illegal contribution to Joe Biden by doing so.
There Are Just 9 Women Governors. Both Parties Want Change.
Yahoo News – Liz Crampton (Politico) | Published: 9/28/2021
Women now account for a third of state lawmakers, more than a quarter of the U.S. House and nearly as much of the U.S. Senate, but in many states have yet to shatter the highest glass ceiling: governorships. Today, just nine women hold the title, with power split among six Democrats and three Republicans. Four of those women took over the role by succession. There is growing urgency among leaders in both major parties around bolstering the chances of women running in the 2022 gubernatorial elections, when voters in 36 states will pick their next chief executive.
Trump Loses Case to Enforce Omarosa Manigault Newman’s N.D.A.
MSN – Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 9/28/2021
Former President Trump lost an effort to enforce a nondisclosure agreement against Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide and a star on “The Apprentice” who wrote a tell-all book about serving in his administration. The decision from an arbiter calls for her to collect legal fees from the Trump campaign. The campaign filed the case shortly after Manigault Newman published her book. It claimed she violated a nondisclosure agreement she had signed during the 2016 campaign stipulating she would not reveal private or confidential information about Trump’s family, business, or personal life.
Two Fed Officials Announce Retirements Amid Controversy Over Ethics and Stocktrading
MSN – Rachel Siegel (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2021
Two top Federal Reserve officials are leaving their posts amid scrutiny over their stock-trading activities during the coronavirus crisis, behavior which spurred an unusual review by the Fed of trading rules for its officials. Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan both announced their retirements. Earlier, media outlets reported on the financial disclosures of the regional bank presidents, showing both actively traded in stocks and other investments while in their roles setting monetary policy and assisting the central bank through the covid crisis.
U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Senator Cruz’s Campaign Finance Challenge
Yahoo Finance – Andrew Chung (Reuters) | Published: 9/30/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the FEC’s bid to restore a campaign finance law that limits the amount of money candidates can accept from donors after an election as they try to recoup the money they personally lent to their formal campaign organizations. A lower court ruling found the cap violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech by unjustifiably burdening political expression. The law imposes a ceiling of $250,000 on payments from donations made after an election even if candidates made loans exceeding that sum.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Recount Results Raise Stakes for GOP-Backed Ballot Reviews in Other States
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2021
A GOP-commissioned report that did not find evidence fraud tainted Arizona’s 2020 election has intensified the fight over similar partisan ballot reviews in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, with former President Trump pressing for such examinations and Democrats stepping up their efforts to block them. The outcome of the recount in Maricopa County, which concluded President Biden won the state’s largest county by even more votes than the certified results, raises the stakes for the Republican leaders who have gone along with Trump’s demands for “forensic audits” in other states.
California – Between the Lines: Hidden partisans try to influence California’s independent redistricting
MSN – Ben Christopher and Sameea Kamal (CalMatters) | Published: 9/28/2021
California congressional districts are drawn by an independent citizens commission, but it is hearing from candidates and party officials who do not disclose their partisan affiliations. Though the commission is prohibited from considering the electoral interests of elected officials, candidates, or political parties, there is nothing that bars any of those players from trying to influence the decisions, nor any laws or rules requiring public commenters to list potential conflicts-of-interest. But not disclosing a personal stake may cross an ethical line, said Jessica Levinson, a former member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.
California – California Is Now Permanently a Vote-by-Mail State as Gavin Newsom Signs Bill
MSN – Lara Korte (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 9/27/2021
California will now mail ballots to voters in all elections, extending a practice temporarily adopted during the pandemic to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at polling locations. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 37, which requires county elections officials to mail a ballot to every active registered voter for all elections, whether they request it or not. Voters can still choose to vote at physical polling locations, if they prefer.
California – California Treasurer Sued for Harassment Often Shared Overnight Lodging with Staffers
MSN – Sophia Bollag (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 9/28/2021
Treasurer Fiona Ma has frequently shared hotel rooms with her chief of staff during her tenure as California’s top banking official, a practice she said she engaged in “to save money,” according to expense reports. A review of travel documents found that sharing lodging with staff was a common practice for Ma, who is facing a lawsuit filed by a different employee, who no longer works in the office. The worker accused her of sexual harassment when the two women shared hotel rooms.
California – L.A. County Sheriff’s Unit Accused of Targeting Political Enemies
MSN – Alene Tchekmedyian (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/23/2021
A group of deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department make up a little-known team of investigators formed by Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other top sheriff’s officials. Much of what they do, by design, is a mystery to the public and even to most within the department. But as some of the investigations handled by the team have come to light, a common thread has emerged: their targets are outspoken critics of Villanueva or the department. Concern over the Civil Rights and Public Integrity Deta has caused consternation both inside and outside the department.
California – Oakland Issues Its Largest Ethics Fine Ever, Against a Corrupt Former Building Inspector
Oaklandside – David DeBolt | Published: 9/28/2021
The Oakland Public Ethics Commission issued a fine of $309,600 against a former city building inspector accused of accepting bribes from property owners in exchange for greenlighting inspections or issuing permits. It is by far the largest fine ever issued by the commission. Thomas Espinosa, the former specialty combination inspector in the city’s Planning and Building Department’s Code Enforcement Division, also convinced some property owners whose buildings he inspected to hire him as a contractor, the investigation found.
Colorado – An Elections Supervisor Embraced Conspiracy Theories. Officials Say She Has Become an Insider Threat.
MSN – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2021
In a lawsuit filed by the Colorado secretary of state, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and her deputy have been accused of sneaking someone into the county elections offices to copy the hard drives of Dominion Voting Systems machines. Those copies later surfaced online and in the hands of election deniers. Local and state state prosecutors, and the FBI, are investigating whether criminal charges are warranted. The events represent an escalation in the attacks on the nation’s voting system, one in which officials who were responsible for election security allegedly took actions that undermined that security.
Colorado – Aurora City Council OKs Changes to Campaign Finance Law After Lawsuit from Mayor
Denver Gazette – Hannah Metzger | Published: 9/29/2021
The Aurora City Council approved changes to its campaign finance law after a court ruled in favor of Mayor Mike Coffman, who sued the city over provisions he claimed violated his freedom of speech. The lawsuit argued the measure, passed by the council in 2020, prohibited former and future candidates from pushing for ballot issues or helping other candidates with their campaigns, which Coffman said was intended to prevent his supporters from mobilizing in support of other candidates.
Colorado – Ex-Colorado GOP Chair Disbarred in Pro-Trump PAC Funds Case
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 9/23/2021
Former Colorado Republican Party Chairperson Ryan Call will be disbarred after acknowledging he took nearly $280,000 from a super PAC supporting former President Trump while Call served as the PAC’s treasurer. Call admitted to entering the Rebuilding America Now PAC into a secret contract to pay himself $5,000 a month for “political strategy and fundraising support” and he misled members of his former law firm about his activities with the committee.
Colorado – Newly Revealed Interactions Added to Redistricting Lobbying Complaint
Colorado Politics – Evan Wyloge | Published: 9/27/2021
A complaint filed against a group of Republican political consultants and lobbyists, accusing them of failing to file proper redistricting lobbying disclosure, grew larger when the complainant added new interactions between the complaint targets and Colorado’s redistricting commissioners. The complaint accused consultant Alan Philp of failing to file lobbying disclosure reports and accused former House speaker and now-lobbyist Frank McNulty and lobbyist Greg Brophy of failing to register and report their interactions with commissioners. All three work for Colorado Neighborhood Coalition, a nonprofit that does not disclose its donors.
Hawaii – Years Before Indictments, Honolulu Permitting Department Was Warned About Corrupt Culture
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 9/29/2021
The Honolulu Ethics Commission investigated the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) several times after it received numerous complaints about a “pay-to-play” culture at the department, records show. Taken as a whole, the records foreshadow the scandal that erupted earlier this year. In March, five current and former DPP employees, along with a local architect, were indicted for bribery schemes going back as far as 2012. The commission told DPP leadership about its concerns several times.
Illinois – Former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz Pleads Guilty to Spending Campaign Funds on Sports, Travel and Other Personal Items
MSN – Madeline Buckley (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/27/2021
Former Chicago Ald. Ricardo Muñoz pleaded guilty to spending cash from a political fund on personal items such as sports tickets, meals, and travel. Muñoz pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. Federal prosecutors alleged Muñoz stole from a PAC formed by the Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus (CPRC), where he served as chairperson and performed the duties of its treasurer. Prosecutors accused him of moving funds from the CPRC into another fund he controlled, Citizens for Muñoz, and then into his personal checking account.
Illinois – Obscenity Ruling? State’s Top Court to Hear Case Seeking to End Pols Using ‘Obscene Amounts’ of Campaign Cash to Pay Lawyers
Chicago Sun-Times – Rachel Hinton | Published: 9/29/2021
The state’s top court plans to rule on the question of whether politicians can dip into their campaign funds to pay for their criminal defense or other legal troubles, a decision that could directly affect the embattled husband of Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Burke. She recused herself from the decision to take the case and from hearing it once it comes before the justices. Her husband, Ald. Edward Burke (14th), has already spent nearly $2 million in campaign contributions on legal fees since federal agents raided his ward headquarters.
Maryland – Baltimore’s Revamped Ethics Board Says It’s Ready to Provide Guidance to City Employees
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 9/28/2021
Baltimore’s long underutilized Board of Ethics began issuing advisory opinions for the first time in three years in 2021 and has seen its web traffic triple, according to the panel’s annual report. The report, which is itself the first annual recap from the board since 2014, details a restructuring of the Board of Ethics since it was moved under the supervision of the Office of the Inspector General, a move that became effective last October. Since then, the board has been staffed by a full-time director and administrative assistant who established an ethics hotline and revamped the city’s ethics training process for city employees and elected officials.
Michigan – Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey Admits He Took Bribes for Help with Towing
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/28/2021
Andre Spivey became the second Detroit City Council member this year to plead guilty to a public corruption charge, admitting he took $35,900 in bribes from an undercover law enforcement agent and a confidential FBI source in exchange for wielding his political influence. Spivey accepted the bribes in exchange for his assistance with a pending vehicle towing ordinance before the council, he said in court. The bribes were paid over the course of eight separate meetings with the confidential FBI source, most of which were recorded.
New Hampshire – NH Supreme Court Asked to Define Governor’s Executive Privilege
MSN – Kevin Landrigan (Manchester Union Leader) | Published: 9/28/2021
Both sides in a legal dispute over open records asked the state’s highest court, for the first time, to spell out when New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu can claim executive privilege to keep documents secret. Activist Louise Spencer sued Sununu’s office over email contacts his staffers had with a national Republican PAC before and after Sununu vetoed a 2019 bill to create an independent redistricting commission. The suit maintained that the governor’s office should not be exempt from the state’s Right-to-Know Law.
New Mexico – Ethics Board Hands Gonzales a Reprimand and $2,000 Fine
Albuquerque Journal – Oliver Uyttebrouck | Published: 9/24/2021
The Albuquerque Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices imposed a $2,000 fine and a public reprimand on Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales, finding his mayoral campaign submitted 16 forged documents in his bid for public financing. The finding punctuates an unsuccessful monthslong quest by Gonzales to obtain more than $600,000 in public campaign financing. That effort foundered on a pair of complaints centered on the five-dollar qualifying contributions that candidates must collect from city voters to qualify for public money.
New York – MTA Bus Boss Covered License Plate to Avoid Tolls, Had $100k in Outstanding Fines: Watchdog
Yahoo News – Clayton Guse (New York Daily News) | Published: 9/27/2021
A New York City Transit superintendent used a plastic license plate cover to dodge tolls for years across New York, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) inspector general said. The superintendent, identified as Aditya Samaroo, bragged to his colleagues he avoided paying tolls on bridges and tunnels by obscuring his license plate. Samaroo also dodged more than $100,000 in outstanding tolls and late fees by regularly swapping out his car’s license plates.
Ohio – Ohio Governor Lobbyist Resigns; Was Linked to Bribery Probe
MSN – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 9/24/2021
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s top lobbyist, a man linked to an ongoing federal bribery probe but never charged, resigned after three years on the job. Legislative Director Dan McCarthy cited “the pace and grind” of the job. Federal prosecutors charged five individuals with orchestrating a $60 million bribery scheme to assure the 2019 passage of a bill bailing out two nuclear power plants. The power plants were operated at the time by a wholly owned subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. McCarthy is a former FirstEnergy lobbyist who was president of one of the “dark money” groups that has been implicated in the alleged bribery scheme.
Pennsylvania – A Leading Addiction Recovery Reformer in Philly Was on the Payroll of a Rehab Center Now Charged with Crimes
MSN – Jeremy Roebuck and Aubrey Wilson (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 9/27/2021
Fred Way has spent the last decade working to improve addiction recovery houses in Philadelphia. But for much of that time, he was on the payroll of a rehabilitation facility now accused of encouraging their worst abuses. He has advised lawmakers on state policy, and the recovery-house certification program created by his nonprofit, the Pennsylvania Alliance of Recovery Residences, serves as the only benchmark for judging the quality of housing in Philadelphia for people in early recovery, and for determining which of those homes will receive coveted city funds. In a state grand jury report this summer, Wray acknowledged taking money from a drug rehab facility under criminal investigation.
South Dakota – As Daughter Sought State License, Noem Summoned Agency Head
Yahoo News – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 9/27/2021
Days after a South Dakota agency moved to deny her daughter’s application to become a certified real estate appraiser, Gov. Kristi Noem summoned to her office the state employee who ran the agency, the woman’s direct supervisor, and the state labor secretary. Noem’s daughter also attended. Kassidy Peters ultimately obtained the certification in November 2020, four months after the meeting at her mother’s office. A week after that, the labor secretary called the agency head, Sherry Bren, to demand her retirement, according to an age discrimination complaint. Bren left her job after the state paid her $200,000 to withdraw the complaint.
Texas – Dallas Needs More Oversight and Stronger Ethics Rules, Review Finds
Dallas Morning News – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 9/27/2021
Dallas needs a department solely dedicated to investigating misconduct complaints to ensure they are properly handled, according to a report calling for ethics reforms. The city should create an Office of Inspector General and appoint a licensed attorney role who would find, investigate. and issue rulings on cases of alleged fraud, waste, abuse, campaign finance violations and other ethics misconduct, the report said. The move would replace the current process, where complaints are funneled through different channels and not independently investigated.
Texas – ”Home Cooking’ Concerns Revealed in Corruption Prosecutions Outside Texas Capital
KXAN – David Barer and Josh Hinkle | Published: 9/20/2021
The Public Integrity Unit housed in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office was dismantled in 2015, following allegations it was politicizing prosecutions. Texas lawmakers aimed to reform the system by moving state public corruption investigations to the Department of Public Safety’s Texas Rangers and prosecuting accused officials in their home counties rather than Travis County. Six years later, a media investigation found prosecutions of statewide public officials for corruption are nearly non-existent. Since 2015, the Rangers investigated a handful of state-level elected leaders, but few faced charges.
Texas – Texas Appears to Be Paying a Secretive Republican Political Operative $120,000 Annually to Work Behind the Scenes on Redistricting
MSN – Alexa Ura (Texas Tribune) | Published: 9/29/2021
A Republican redistricting operative whose clandestine work helped drag Wisconsin into a legal morass last decade appears to now be on the payroll of the Texas Legislature as lawmakers work to redraw maps that will determine the distribution of political power for years to come. The operative, Adam Foltz, was part of the team that helped craft Wisconsin’s legislative maps after Republicans took control of that state Legislature in 2010. Foltz played a key role in a tight-lipped and questionable redrawing process that shut out Democrats and drew the condemnation of federal judges who described it as “needlessly secret,” according to court records.
Washington – Weekly WA Newspaper Fined $15,000 for Selling Election Coverage
Crosscut – Melissa Santos | Published: 9/28/2021
The Tacoma Weekly agreed to pay a $15,000 fine for telling candidates last year they could buy a news story, and even the newspaper’s editorial endorsement, as part of a $2,500 advertising package. Accepting money in exchange for story placement or positive coverage goes against journalistic standards of ethics. But beyond that, it also violates Washington state law, which forbids news outlets from soliciting money in exchange for “an endorsement, article, or other communication in the news media promoting or opposing a candidate.”
September 30, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “FEC Debates Deadlocks and Dismissals” by Keith Newell for Investigative Reporting Workshop Elections National: “There Are Just 9 Women Governors. Both Parties Want Change.” by Liz Crampton (Politico) for Yahoo News Ethics National: “Fallout Begins for Far-Right […]
National: “FEC Debates Deadlocks and Dismissals” by Keith Newell for Investigative Reporting Workshop
National: “There Are Just 9 Women Governors. Both Parties Want Change.” by Liz Crampton (Politico) for Yahoo News
National: “Fallout Begins for Far-Right Trolls Who Trusted Epik to Keep Their Identities Secret” by Drew Harwell, Hannah Allam, Jeremy Merrill, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
California: “California Treasurer Sued for Harassment Often Shared Overnight Lodging with Staffers” by Sophia Bollag (Sacramento Bee) for MSN
Hawaii: “Years Before Indictments, Honolulu Permitting Department Was Warned About Corrupt Culture” by Christina Jedra for Honolulu Civil Beat
Maryland: “Baltimore’s Revamped Ethics Board Says It’s Ready to Provide Guidance to City Employees” by Emily Opilo for Baltimore Sun
Michigan: “Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey Admits He Took Bribes for Help with Towing” by Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) for MSN
New Hampshire: “NH Supreme Court Asked to Define Governor’s Executive Privilege” by Kevin Landrigan (Manchester Union Leader) for MSN
California: “Between the Lines: Hidden partisans try to influence California’s independent redistricting” by Ben Christopher and Sameea Kamal (CalMatters) for MSN
September 29, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Illinois: “Former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz Pleads Guilty to Spending Campaign Funds on Sports, Travel and Other Personal Items” by Madeline Buckley (Chicago Tribune) for MSN Elections California: “California Is Now Permanently a Vote-by-Mail State as Gavin Newsom Signs […]
Illinois: “Former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz Pleads Guilty to Spending Campaign Funds on Sports, Travel and Other Personal Items” by Madeline Buckley (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
California: “California Is Now Permanently a Vote-by-Mail State as Gavin Newsom Signs Bill” by Lara Korte (Sacramento Bee) for MSN
National: “Two Fed Officials Announce Retirements Amid Controversy Over Ethics and Stocktrading” by Rachel Siegel (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump Loses Case to Enforce Omarosa Manigault Newman’s N.D.A.” by Maggie Haberman (New York Times) for MSN
California: “Oakland Issues Its Largest Ethics Fine Ever, Against a Corrupt Former Building Inspector” by David DeBolt for Oaklandside
Texas: “Dallas Needs More Oversight and Stronger Ethics Rules, Review Finds” by Everton Bailey Jr. for Dallas Morning News
Colorado: “Newly Revealed Interactions Added to Redistricting Lobbying Complaint” by Evan Wyloge for Colorado Politics
National: “As Redistricting Begins, States Tackle the Issue of ‘Prison Gerrymandering’” by Emmanuel Felton (Washington Post) for MSN
September 27, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “DNC to Host First In-Person Fundraiser of the Covid Era” by Caitlin Oprysko (Politico) for Yahoo News New Mexico: “Ethics Board Hands Gonzales a Reprimand and $2,000 Fine” by Oliver Uyttebrouck for Albuquerque Journal Washington: “Tacoma News […]
National: “DNC to Host First In-Person Fundraiser of the Covid Era” by Caitlin Oprysko (Politico) for Yahoo News
New Mexico: “Ethics Board Hands Gonzales a Reprimand and $2,000 Fine” by Oliver Uyttebrouck for Albuquerque Journal
Washington: “Tacoma News Outlet Fined for Soliciting Cash in Exchange for News Coverage of Candidates” by Staff for Tacoma News Tribune
Arizona: “Arizona Recount Results Raise Stakes for GOP-Backed Ballot Reviews in Other States” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Biden White House Leans Toward Releasing Information About Trump and Jan. 6 Attack, Setting Off Legal and Political Showdown” by Tom Hamburger and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “L.A. County Sheriff’s Unit Accused of Targeting Political Enemies” by Alene Tchekmedyian (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Ohio: “Ohio Governor Lobbyist Resigns; Was Linked to Bribery Probe” by Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) for MSN
National: “Without Congressional Action, States Start Drawing New Maps” by Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) for MSN
September 24, 2021 •
National/Federal A Republican Fundraising Vendor Wants More Small-Dollar Contributors to Replace Vanishing PAC Money Campaigns and Elections – Staff | Published: 9/22/2021 A large Republican fundraising vendor is pushing its clients to reorient their strategies around small-dollar contributors as PAC donations […]
A Republican Fundraising Vendor Wants More Small-Dollar Contributors to Replace Vanishing PAC Money
Campaigns and Elections – Staff | Published: 9/22/2021
A large Republican fundraising vendor is pushing its clients to reorient their strategies around small-dollar contributors as PAC donations have dried up in the wake of the January 6 insurrection and a move away from Washington, D.C. lobbying by corporations and trade associations. Fundraising Inc., a vendor that is under the Axiom Strategies corporate umbrella, announced it has “revamped the traditional PAC-focused GOP fundraising model” to an “updated approach … to better compete with Democrats for small-dollar donations.”
Dark News: The murky world of undercover EU lobbying
Politico – Mark Scott | Published: 9/16/2021
EU Reporter is not alone in offering companies and governments a paid-for platform to promote their views to European Union officials. Other Brussels-based outlets publish clearly labeled sponsored content from advertisers seeking to influence decision-makers. But EU Reporter presents its coverage as straight news, with rarely an indication that a company or government paid for the articles. In addition to undisclosed paid-for content, the site posts EU and corporate press releases, opinion articles from European lawmakers, and original material, making it impossible for readers to determine who is behind the coverage.
Democrats Begin Effort to Curb Post-Trump Presidential Powers
Yahoo Finance – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 9/21/2021
House Democrats introduced a package of proposed new limits on executive power on, beginning a post-Trump push to strengthen checks on the presidency that they hope will compare to the overhauls that followed the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War. Democrats have spent months negotiating with the Biden White House to refine a broad set of proposals that amount to a point-by-point rebuke of the ways Donald Trump shattered norms over the course of his presidency. The Democrats have compiled numerous bills into a package they call the Protecting Our Democracy Act.
Durham Prosecution Faces Hurdles in D.C. Court
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 9/17/2021
For Special Counsel John Durham, obtaining an indictment of lawyer Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI during its investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia may turn out to be the easy part. Getting a Washington jury to convict Sussmann could be far harder, judging by a case with significant parallels: the 2019 prosecution of former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig.
Huge Hack Reveals Embarrassing Details of Who’s Behind Proud Boys and Other Far-Right Websites
MSN – Drew Harwell, Craig Timberg, and Hannah Allam (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2021
Epik has been the favorite Internet company of the far right, providing domain services to QAnon theorists, Proud Boys, and other instigators of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, allowing them to broadcast hateful messages from behind a veil of anonymity. But that veil vanished when a breach by the hacker group Anonymous dumped more than 150 gigabytes of previously private data – including usernames, passwords, and other identifying information of Epik’s customers. Researchers have treated the leak as a Rosetta Stone to the far right, helping them to decode who has been doing what with whom over several years.
‘It’s Spreading’: Phony election fraud conspiracies infect midterms
MSN – David Siders and Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 9/20/2021
Donald Trump may have started the “Big Lie” movement, but what was once the province of an aggrieved former president has spread far beyond him, infecting elections at every level with vague, unspecified claims that future races are already rigged. It is a fiction that is poised to factor heavily in the midterm elections and in 2024, providing Republican candidates with a rallying cry for the rank-and-file and priming the electorate for future challenges to races the GOP may lose.
Jan. 6 Investigation Accelerates as It Turns Toward Trump
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 9/22/2021
Six members of the U.S. House panel investigating the Capitol attack made clear they are prepared to fly past any obstacles they encounter, mindful of Trump’s past success at stymieing congressional investigators. The calendar makes their job tougher: panel members know they need to show results quickly as the midterms bear down, given Democrats’ thin majority. The potential hurdles are many, from high-powered lawyers representing the former president’s inner circle to the tech companies sitting on potential witnesses’ communications. But they are already getting results from some corners.
Lauren Boebert Paid Rent and Utilities with Campaign Funds, FEC Filings Show
Denver Post – Conrad Swanson | Published: 9/22/2021
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert paid rent and utility bills with campaign funds in violation of federal campaign finance laws, new filings with the FEC show. The filings also indicate Boebert reimbursed her campaign for the $6,650 worth of payments. Each of the four payments in question (two for $2,000 each and another two for $1,325 each) were amended to show payments for the same amount, description, and on the same days to John Pacheco, whose address is the same as Shooters Grill in Rifle, which Boebert owns. Pacheco’s relationship to Boebert was not immediately clear.
Lawmakers Launch Investigation into Climate Crisis Disinformation by Fossil Fuel Industry
MSN – Ella Nilsen (CNN) | Published: 9/16/2021
The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced it is launching an investigation into fossil fuel industry disinformation on the climate crisis. The committee invited the heads of six oil companies and major lobbying groups to testify in October. The announcement comes after reports the industry participated in campaigns aimed at creating confusion about the cause of the climate crisis, or sowing skepticism in the science.
Outside Ethics Group Says 7 House Lawmakers Didn’t Disclose Stock Trades
National Public Radio – Deidre Walsh | Published: 9/22/2021
The Campaign Legal Center filed ethics complaints against seven U.S. House members for failing to report stock trades. It is the latest example of a bipartisan trend that has emerged almost 10 years after Congress overwhelmingly passed a law to provide transparency and show lawmakers are not profiting from their jobs: Members of Congress are ignoring the disclosure law. What makes the complaints filed Wednesday different is that it appears these members never filed reports at all.
Powell Orders Ethics Review After Fed Presidents Disclosed Multimillion-Dollar Investments
CNBC – Thomas Franck | Published: 9/16/2021
Federal Reserve Chairperson Jerome Powell directed staff to review the central bank’s ethics rules for appropriate financial activities after disclosures that several senior officials made multiple multimillion-dollar stock trades in 2020, while others held significant investments. News of Powell’s inquiry broke after U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent 12 letters to the Fed’s regional bank presidents demanding stricter ethics from the nation’s top central bank officials. She called on each Fed president to institute a ban on the ownership and trading of individual stocks by senior officials at each regional office.
Roger Stone Served ‘a Big, Big Stack of Papers’ from Capitol Riot Lawsuit During Radio Interview
Seattle Times – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 9/16/2021
As he was asked in a phone interview whether former President Trump would run in 2024, Roger Stone paused to answer the front door. Stone, a longtime confidant to the former president, apologized to the St. Louis radio show, but he had a good reason: he was being served with papers related to the lawsuit filed by seven U.S. Capitol Police officers against him, Trump, far-right “violent extremist groups,” and others accused of being responsible for the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The FEC Unanimously Rejected Matt Gaetz’s Complaint Against Twitter Over an Alleged 2018 ‘Shadow Ban’
Yahoo News – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/17/2021
The FEC unanimously rejected a complaint by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz against Twitter that alleged the company violated campaign finance regulations by “shadow-banning” Gaetz in 2018, limiting the visibility of his account on the website’s search results. Twitter said Gaetz was caught up in an automated process by the company to improve discourse on Twitter because his account was “associated with other accounts that already had high indicia of misuse or abuse.”
Threats Against Members of Congress Are Skyrocketing. It’s Changing the Job.
Yahoo News – Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/20/2021
In a year that kicked off with the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, threats against lawmakers are soaring. In the first three months of 2021, the Capitol Police recorded 4,135 threats against members of Congress. If that pace continues, total threats this year will double those in 2020. It is changing the job for lawmakers, who must tread a fine line between being accessible to those they represent and keeping themselves, their families, and their staffs safe. After January 6, some members temporarily relocated their families over concerns their homes would be targeted. Some wore bulletproof vests to the presidential inauguration.
Trump Campaign Knew Lawyers’ Voting Machine Claims Were Baseless, Memo Shows
Yahoo News – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 9/21/2021
A team of lawyers allied with Donald Trump held a news conference after the 2020 election and laid out a conspiracy theory claiming a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros, and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Trump. But by the time the news conference occurred on November 19, Trump’s campaign had already prepared an internal memo on many of the outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, and the separate software company, Smartmatic, according to court documents The memo determined those allegations were untrue.
Trump Just Sued the New York Times and His Niece. If History Is a Guide, He Probably Won’t Win.
MSN – Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2021
Donald Trump has once again sued a news organization alleging its reporting was unfair to him. If history is any guide, this one is also likely to generate a flurry of attention before quietly stalling out. Trump’s latest lawsuit is aimed at the New York Times and his niece, Mary Trump. It centers on the newspaper’s publication in 2018 of a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of Trump’s alleged tax-avoidance tactics and the history of his family inheritance.
Two GOP Operatives Indicted for Allegedly Routing Money from Russian National to Support Trump Campaign
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/20/2021
President Trump after being convicted in a 2012 campaign finance scheme is facing new charges related to an alleged 2016 plot to illegally funnel donations made by a Russian national to support then-candidate Trump’s White House bid. Jesse Benton, who was previously a top aide to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and later ran a pro-Trump super PAC, and Roy Wead, a conservative author and former special assistant to President George H.W. Bush, were charged in the case.
Canada – Trudeau’s Party Wins Canada Vote but Fails to Get Majority
MSN – Rob Gilles (Associated Press) | Published: 9/21/2021
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party secured victory in parliamentary elections but failed to get the majority in a vote that focused on the coronavirus pandemic, but many Canadians saw as unnecessary. Trudeau entered the election leading a stable minority government that was not under threat of being toppled but was hoping Canadians would reward him with a majority for navigating the pandemic better than many other leaders. Still, Trudeau struggled to justify why he called the election early given the virus, and the opposition accused him of holding the vote two years before the deadline for his own ambition.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Candidates Will Not Be Able to Fundraise During the Special Session
Alabama Reporter – Brandon Moseley | Published: 9/23/2021
Alabama legislators will convene for a special session on September 27. This means state lawmakers, candidates for the Legislature, and statewide officeholders and candidates for statewide office will not be able to accept campaign contributions. The secretary of state’s office said any contribution postmarked prior to the blackout and received after the blackout may be accepted.
Alaska – Protect Juneau’s Future Shared Who Paid for Its Campaign, but No Laws Require It
KTOO – Jeremy Hsieh | Published: 9/21/2021
A deadline passed for local candidates and issues groups all over the state to disclose their campaign finances ahead of local elections on October 5. But the public probably will never know exactly who paid how much for the campaign that helped quash a ballot initiative to limit cruise ships in Juneau. That is because campaign finance disclosure laws would not apply in this case until after it cleared the signature-gathering stage.
California – Kern County Under Investigation After Denying Group COVID Contract Over Support for Defunding Police
Yahoo News – Sam Morgen (Bakersfield Californian) | Published: 9/22/2021
Kern County may end up paying for a decision by the board of supervisors to withhold a $1.2 million coronavirus contract from a nonprofit group that had voiced support for defunding police. The nonprofits were selected because of their community ties. The Kern County Public Health Department said the groups would be a more trusted resource to communities at the greatest risk than county officials. Building Healthy Communities said in Facebook posts funding for the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern High School District Police Department should be diverted to other causes. That was enough for supervisors to withhold approval of a contract to the organization even though preparation and hiring had already taken place.
Florida – A Local Government Candidate Claimed to Be the City’s ‘Most High-Profile Hispanic Democrat.’ She’s Not Hispanic.
MSN – Jaclyn Peiser (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2021
Speaking before a group of Democratic leaders in Florida’s Miami-Dade County on Zoom, Miami Beach City Commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez made her pitch as to why the party should endorse her. She called herself “the most high-profile Hispanic Democrat in the city of Miami Beach.” Not endorsing her, she continued, “would be upsetting and confusing” for constituents. But Rosen Gonzalez is not Hispanic.
Florida – Anti-Mask FL GOP Bookkeeper Dies of COVID – Leaving Party Without Access to Finance Software
MSN – Brett Bachnman (Salon) | Published: 9/19/2021
After spending months railing against COVID-19 precautions, a Republican Party official in Florida passed away recently, leaving his county-level GOP organization without access to critical financial accounts. Gregg Prentice served as accountant for the Hillsborough County GOP and chaired the organization’s committee for election integrity, and was responsible for filing its monthly reports to the FEC. A filing claims Prentice died without sharing login information for these accounts, or any sort of instructions for how to use them.
Florida – Senate Redistricting Chair Vows to Redeem Process as He Plans to Limit Public’s Input
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/20/2021
The Florida Senate announced new rules that put limits on the input the chamber gets from average citizens, political consultants, and lobbyists. The Senate will require more disclosure from anyone who attempts to address legislators in a public meeting by requiring them to submit a disclosure form that indicates if they are a lobbyist or getting their expenses paid. Legislators will be required to retain all records of communications they get about maps. The goal is to prevent lawmakers from using political consultants to illegally influence redistricting as they did 10 years ago, when the courts invalidated the legislatively drawn Senate maps.
Florida – Tallahassee Ethics Board Proposing Stronger Lobbying Ordinances, Expanded Role
MSN – Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 9/17/2021
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board wants to strengthen policies governing lobbyists as the glare of a federal corruption probe and investigative reporters have illuminated paid work and deal-making done behind the scenes on projects and policies. The board is recommending two ordinances and one change to the city charter that requires a ballot amendment in language sent to the city commission. The ethics panel has been working for months to add more teeth to its role in regulating lobbying in the city.
Georgia – Fulton Board Gets New Chair as Georgia Reviews Its Elections
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 9/16/2021
Commissioners in Fulton County picked former Atlanta City Council President to lead their election board as a state panel reviews how elections are conducted in Georgia’s most populous county. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican facing a primary challenge next year, objected to what he called a “blatantly political appointment” because Woolard had registered earlier this year as a lobbyist for Fair Fight Action, a group started by Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who narrowly lost the race for governor in 2018.
Illinois – Sources Say Chicago Ald. Jim Gardiner Allegedly Tried to Pay Campaign Worker with Tax Dollars
WBEZ – Mariah Woelfel | Published: 9/19/2021
Chicago Ald. Jim Gardiner allegedly tried to use taxpayer funds to pay an employee for work they did on his 2020 campaign for ward committeeman, sources said. It is the latest allegation to unfold as Gardiner is facing inquiries by multiple agencies, including the FBI, and possible censure by his city council colleagues for crude texts he wrote about constituents and colleagues, as well as allegedly withholding city services from critics.
Indiana – Longest Serving State Senator Forced Out of His Seat in Redistricting Process: ‘This is a classic example of gerrymandering.’
Chicago Daily Herald – Alexandra Kukulka (Post-Tribune) | Published: 9/22/2021
Frank Mrvan, the longest serving member of the Indiana Senate, has been effectively forced out of his seat after the redrawing of Senate maps would require him to move or run against a colleague. “This is a classic example of gerrymandering,” said Lake County Democratic Party Chairperson James Wieser. “It’s disrespectful to a public official that’s given his heart and soul, as has his whole family, to our party for 50 years plus.”
Massachusetts – Ex-Mayor, Elected at Age 23, Gets 6 Years in Corruption Case
Yahoo News – Alanna Durkin Richer (Associated Press) | Published: 9/21/2021
Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana businesses that wanted to operate in his city. The judge handed down his punishment after tossing several convictions stemming from allegations that Correia swindled investors who backed a smartphone app he created. “If we can’t trust each other, if we can’t trust our government, where are we?” U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock asked.
Michigan – Facing Tight Timeline, Voter-Led Michigan Redistricting Commission on Steep Learning Curve
MSN – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/20/2021
Michigan’s first-ever citizen redistricting commission is finding itself on a steep learning curve as members race against the clock to draw new maps ahead of the 2022 election, crunching a monthslong process into a matter of weeks following an unprecedented delay in census data. The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission blew past a deadline in the state constitution for proposing the new districts. But with four weeks of mapping under its belt, the commissioners, who have never drawn political districts before, have raised concerns the group might not get the job done in the time it has allotted for itself.
Missouri – Lawmakers Renting from Lobbyists Less Often in Jefferson City
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 9/16/2021
Lobbyists are no longer leasing housing to Missouri lawmakers in Jefferson City, with one exception. State Rep. Adam Schwadron is the only legislator renting from a registered lobbyist, according to disclosures filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Leases between lobbyists and state officials have drawn scrutiny in the past and have been less common in recent years: between 2016 and 2018, lobbyists reported renting to a dozen lawmakers and state officials.
Montana – Montana Doesn’t Always Draw a Straight Line from Groups to Their Lobbying
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson (Lee Newspapers State Bureau) | Published: 9/19/2021
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan acknowledged the state does not have a perfect system for connecting principals to the on-the-ground lobbying efforts they are paying for. Along with the inability to track reported lobbying expenses in a centralized database, there were a number of groups that paid lobbyists during the 2021 session without saying what legislation they were lobbying for or against, or that funneled lobbying expenses through other groups. In other instances, the flow of dollars from groups or corporations through multiple lobbying firms further obscured the money’s source.
New Mexico – Grand Jury Indicts Ex-Lawmaker in Alleged Kickback Scheme
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 9/20/2021
Former New Mexico Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton was indicted by a grand jury on charges of racketeering, money laundering, fraud, and ethics violations in connection with an alleged kickback scheme. She was fired in August by the Albuquerque public school system from her position in vocational education amid administrative and criminal probes into her ties to a private contractor for the state’s largest school district.
New York – Aides of Former Gov. Cuomo on Hook for New Legal Bills
MSN – Marina Villeneuve (Associated Press) | Published: 9/23/2021
New York state has stopped paying legal bills for state employees who worked for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he faced ongoing investigations on the state and federal level. The state stopped paying for those aides’ legal bills after September 2. The Hochul administration is now deciding whether there is a legal basis for the state to pay bills for legal services on or before September 2. The administration did not specify how many staffers had legal bills paid for by the state.
New York – State Inspector General Resigns Amid Controversy
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/17/2021
New York Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro, a longtime aide to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, resigned from her post as the executive branch’s top internal-affairs watchdog. Tagliafierro’s departure comes less than a month after Cuomo’s resignation and two weeks after the Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted to ask state Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the conduct of the inspector general’s office in its probe of an illegal leak of confidential information from the ethics commission to Cuomo in January 2019.
North Carolina – North Carolina Judges Strike Down State’s Voter ID Law
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 9/17/2021
North Carolina judges struck down the state’s latest photo voter identification law, agreeing with minority voters that Republicans approved rules tainted by racial bias to remain in power. Two of the three trial judges declared the December 2018 law is unconstitutional, even though it was designed to implement a photo voter ID mandate added to the North Carolina Constitution in a referendum just weeks earlier. They said the law intentionally discriminates against Black voters, violating their equal protections.
Pennsylvania – New Equity Report Required of Lobbyists & Lobbying Firms in Pennsylvania
JD Supra – Staff | Published: 9/22/2021
Starting this year, Pennsylvania is requiring all registered lobbyists and lobbying firms to file an Annual Equity Report. The report must disclose how much equity, as a percentage, the lobbyist or firm holds or has held in an affiliate principal, and for whom the lobbyist or firm lobbied during the reporting period. The report must be filed even if the lobbyist or firm has no equity to report.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Legislators Promised #MeToo Reforms Inside Capitol. So Far, Few Changes Have Become Law
LancasterOnline.com – Lindsay Weber (Allentown Morning Call) | Published: 9/22/2021
Three years after a handful of sexual harassment and assault cases plagued the state Capitol and prompted calls for reform, little has changed in how Pennsylvania’s political leaders handle new accusations. Legislation inspired by the #MeToo movement designed to hold accountable those involved in sexual misconduct and those who cover it up would have created independent, streamlined ways for staffers and others to report complaints. But those proposals have gone nowhere. Bills that would have banned nondisclosure agreements and prevented the use of taxpayer money for settlements have met the same fate.
Rhode Island – Former State Official to Pay Fine to Settle Ethics Complaint
Bowling Green Daily News – Associated Press | Published: 9/21/2021
A former state official in Rhode Island will pay a $4,500 fine to settle an ethics complaint over his solicitation of campaign donations from state vendors for a mayoral run. Brett Smiley, who is running for Providence mayor, resigned as director of the Rhode Island Department of Administration early this year. The agency oversees hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of state contracting and spending. Smiley admitted that six separate solicitations from an owner or officer of a company that does business with the state violated the code of ethics.
Rhode Island – RI Donor-Disclosure Laws Upheld Again; Conservative Group Says It Will Appeal to High Court
MSN – Patrick Anderson (Providence Journal) | Published: 9/16/2021
A federal appeals court upheld Rhode Island’s campaign-spending disclosure laws against a constitutional challenge by a coalition of conservative groups. Those groups say they intend to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. A three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals on said the law that makes top donors identify themselves in certain election advertising does not infringe on those donors’ free-speech rights.
September 22, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Two GOP Operatives Indicted for Allegedly Routing Money from Russian National to Support Trump Campaign” by Felicia Sonmez and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for MSN Rhode Island: “Former State Official to Pay Fine to Settle Ethics Complaint” […]
National: “Two GOP Operatives Indicted for Allegedly Routing Money from Russian National to Support Trump Campaign” by Felicia Sonmez and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for MSN
Rhode Island: “Former State Official to Pay Fine to Settle Ethics Complaint” by Associated Press for Bowling Green Daily News
Canada: “Trudeau’s Party Wins Canada Vote but Fails to Get Majority” by Rob Gilles (Associated Press) for MSN
National: “Threats Against Members of Congress Are Skyrocketing. It’s Changing the Job.” by Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) for Yahoo News
National: “Democrats Begin Effort to Curb Post-Trump Presidential Powers” by Charlie Savage (New York Times) for Yahoo Finance
Massachusetts: “Ex-Mayor, Elected at Age 23, Gets 6 Years in Corruption Case” by Alanna Durkin Richer (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
Florida: “Senate Redistricting Chair Vows to Redeem Process as He Plans to Limit Public’s Input” by Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) for MSN
Michigan: “Facing Tight Timeline, Voter-Led Michigan Redistricting Commission on Steep Learning Curve” by Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) for MSN
September 3, 2021 •
National/Federal Are Censures of Politicians a Form of Free Speech or a Threat to It? New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 8/30/2021 Censures, which are formal reprimands and a kind of punishment, seem to be on the rise in […]
Are Censures of Politicians a Form of Free Speech or a Threat to It?
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 8/30/2021
Censures, which are formal reprimands and a kind of punishment, seem to be on the rise in these divisive times. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments this fall on whether the First Amendment has anything to say about when elected bodies can impose them on their members. The justices will have to decide whether censures condemning politicians’ statements are a threat to free speech that chills expression or a form of free speech responding to one set of views with another.
As Washington Stews, State Legislatures Increasingly Shape American Politics
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 8/29/2021
With the release of the 2020 census, the drawing of legislative districts that could in large part determine control of Congress for the next decade heads to the nation’s state Legislatures, the heart of Republican political power. Increasingly, state Legislatures, especially in 30 GOP-controlled states, have seized an outsize role for themselves, pressing conservative agendas on voting, Covid-19, and the culture wars that are amplifying partisan splits and shaping policy well beyond their own borders.
Capitol Riot Defendants’ Lawyer Apparently Hospitalized with Covid Leaves Clients Without Counsel, Prosecutors Say
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2021
An attorney who represents the largest number of defendants charged in the January 6 Capitol riots has dropped out of sight amid conflicting statements by associates over whether he has been hospitalized with covid-19, U.S. prosecutors told judges. Prosecutors said John Pierce has been incommunicado for the past seven days, leaving 17 clients effectively without defense counsel. The filings put a spotlight on Pierce, whose rhetoric has attracted Trump supporters facing criminal charges and whose business and legal tactics have drawn questions over whether his political or financial interests are affecting his representation of clients.
Corporate America Launches Massive Lobbying Blitz to Kill Key Parts of Democrats’ $3.5 Trillion Economic Plan
MSN – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2021
A torrent of political groups representing some of the country’s most influential corporations is laying the groundwork for a massive lobbying campaign to stop Congress from enacting significant swaths of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic agenda. The emerging opposition appears to be vast, spanning drug manufacturers, big banks, tech titans, major retailers, and oil-and-gas giants. In recent weeks, top Washington organizations representing these and other industries have started strategizing behind the scenes, seeking to battle back key elements in Democrats proposed overhaul to federal health care, education, and safety net programs.
DOJ Issues Warning to States Ahead of Redistricting
MSN – Rebecca Beitsch (Roll Call) | Published: 9/1/2021
The Department of Justice issued a warning to states ahead of a year of congressional mapmaking that it will pursue cases against jurisdictions seeking to dilute the voting power of various minorities. The latest guidance signals an administration prepared to take a more aggressive approach in battling gerrymandering. The department said it would be ready to go after any jurisdiction that does not meet the “one person, one vote” principle.
Ex-UK Chancellor Philip Hammond Rapped by Lobbying Watchdog
Politico.eu – Matei Rosca and Matt Honeycombe-Foster | Published: 9/1/2021
Former British Chancellor Philip Hammond was scolded by Westminster’s lobbying watchdog for contacting high-ranking Treasury civil servants on behalf of his new employer, OakNorth, a London-based lender. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) said Hammond’s attempt to pitch OakNorth services to officials, even on a non-profit basis as far as the bank was concerned, was inappropriate. Hammond accused ACOBA of trying to prove its own relevance and challenged it to point to a specific breach of the rules governing jobs for ex-ministers.
G.O.P. Election Reviews Create a New Kind of Security Threat
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 9/1/2021
As Republican state and county officials and their allies mount efforts to discredit the result of the 2020 contest, there has been a wave of GOP-driven reviews of the vote count conducted by uncredentialed and partisan companies or people. These reviews have given rise to their own new set of threats to the integrity of the voting machines, software, and other equipment that make up the nation’s election infrastructure. Election officials and security experts say previously unknown technical vulnerabilities could be discovered by partisan malefactors and exploited in future elections.
Jan. 6 Investigators Demand Records from Social Media Companies
Yahoo News – Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 8/27/2021
The select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection is seeking records from social media companies, on whose platforms many defendants charged in the Capitol attack planned and coordinated their actions. The panel is asking all the companies to explain whether their algorithms helped spread misinformation and account for what they did to address or remove content or posts that might have spread falsehoods about the riot. It also requests information on the companies’ communications with law enforcement regarding January 6 and the election, as well as on their reporting practices.
January 6 Committee to Ask Telecommunications Companies to Preserve Phone Records of Members of Congress Who Participated in ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally
CNN – Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen, Annie Grayer, and Whitney Wild | Published: 8/30/2021
The House select committee investigating the January 6 riot is set to request that a group of telecommunications companies preserve the phone records of a group of Republican members of Congress and former President Trump, as well as members of the Trump family, who played some role in the “Stop the Steal” rally that served as the prelude to the insurrection at the Capitol. According to the sources, this group was targeted because the committee concluded each of these lawmakers played some role in the rally. They either attended, spoke, actively planned, or encouraged people to attend.
Lauren Boebert Removes Name from Business Filings Tied to Oil and Gas Consulting Firm Run by Her Husband
Colorado Sun – Thy Vo | Published: 9/1/2021
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert removed her name from business paperwork linked to the oil and gas consulting firm run by her husband after drawing scrutiny for nearly $1 million in payments it received from Terra Energy, a drilling company operating in her district. The changes, made after media reports of her ties to Boebert Consulting, distance Rep. Boebert from the two companies, which are registered to the couple’s home. But it is not clear what ownership or stake, if any, Lauren Boebert has in either company.
Seven Capitol Police Officers Sue Trump, Right-Wing Groups Over Injuries from Jan. 6 Riot
MSN – Paul Duggan and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2021
Seven U.S. Capitol Police officers sued former President Trump and more than a dozen alleged participants in the January 6 riot at the Capitol, saying the defendants are responsible for the officers being “violently assaulted, spat on, tear-gassed, bear-sprayed, subjected to racial slurs and epithets, and put in fear for their lives.” The lawsuit alleges Trump, by falsely claiming the presidential election was rigged, incited a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol to stop Congress from confirming President Biden’s victory.
Tommy Tuberville’s Stock Trades During Infrastructure Talks Raise Questions About Conflicts of Interest
Center for Responsive Politics – Isaiah Poritz | Published: 9/1/2021
In July, while the Senate was in the final weeks of negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure bill, U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville bought and sold between $170,000 and $475,000 in stock and options of a mining and steel manufacturing company that said it could benefit greatly from the infrastructure plan. While Tuberville ultimately voted against the bill and his spokesperson said he was not involved in negotiations, the optics of trading stock in a company that could benefit from pending legislation can be harmful, ethics experts say.
Canada – How Interested Outsiders Use ‘Third Party’ Status to Promote Causes, Influence Election
CBC – Christian Pass-Lang | Published: 8/30/2021
With an election underway, parties are officially on the hunt for the votes of Canadians, crisscrossing the country and campaigning right up to the September 20 election. To fund all that travel, advertising, and election gear, parties will be spending a lot of money. But political parties and candidates will not be the only groups spending big in the election campaign. “Third parties: are also in the mix and will be hoping to shape the political conversation and get their issue prioritized.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ASU and UA Offer Lawmakers Free Tickets to Football Games; the Public Can’t Know Who Accepts Them
Infoshri.com – Alison Steinbach (Arizona Republic) | Published: 8/27/2021
The return of college football carries a perk for all members of the Legislature: free admission to every game at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. It is part of the universities’ efforts to engage with lawmakers, build relationships, and set issues for the upcoming legislative session, university officials say. But those who monitor money and politics say the public deserves more information about the practice. Under state lobbying laws, the free tickets qualify as “special events,” not gifts. That means as long as all 90 members of the Legislature are invited, the schools do not have to report who accepted their offer.
Arizona – FBI Examining $100M Tax Refund Push by Gov. Ducey Staffers after Arizona Republic Investigation
MSN – Craig Harris (Arizona Republic) | Published: 9/1/2021
An investigation by the Arizona Republic uncovered how Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration pushed the Department of Revenue to agree to refund sales taxes on fuel for mining companies, even though that tax had been in place for decades. The companies that stood to benefit were represented by the tax firm Ryan LLC, founded by Ducey supporter G. Brint Ryan. The top three deputies in Ducey’s administration left their government jobs to work for Ryan to push for the tax refund. The FBI’s Public Corruption unit is now investigating the matter.
Colorado – Conservative Dark-Money Group Battles to Keep Its Donors Secret
Durango Herald – Sandra Fish (Colorado Sun) | Published: 8/25/2021
An administrative law judge recommended a $40,000 fine for Unite for Colorado after it spent $4 million to support or oppose three 2020 ballot initiatives, finding the group should have revealed its donors. The ruling also requires the nonprofit to file as an issue committee and reveal its donors from August 2020 through January. Unite for Colorado plans to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, progressive activists filed a new complaint against Unite for Colorado centered on the $3.7 million it has donated to two ballot initiatives likely to be considered by voters in November.
Colorado – Redistricting Lobbying Laws Violated, New Complaint Alleges
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 8/24/2021
A complaint filed with the Colorado secretary of state accuses a group of secretly funded political operatives of illegally lobbying the state’s redistricting commissioners. The complaint accuses former House Speaker Frank McNulty and former lawmaker Greg Brophy of lobbying the state’s independent redistricting commissioners without formally registering as lobbyists. It also accuses political consultant Alan Philp, along with McNulty and Brophy, of failing to report payments for lobbying activity.
Florida – FEC Slaps U.S. Rep. Salazar’s Campaign for Accepting Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Illegal Contributions
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 9/2/2021
U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar’s re-election committee has amassed $147,400 in excessive campaign contributions for her primary, according to warning letters from the FEC. The over-the-legal-limit donations include $5,700 from Abelardo de la Espriella, a Colombian lawyer and U.S. permanent resident who up until two years ago was the criminal defense attorney for a fellow countryman targeted in a Colombian money-laundering probe involving ill-gotten government contracts in Venezuela.
Florida – VancoreJones, Paid to ‘Influence Local Government,’ Failed to Register as Lobbyists
Tallahassee Reports – Steve Stewart | Published: 8/30/2021
An exhibit in the recently concluded public corruption trial in Tallahassee indicates J.T. Burnette executed a contract on November 12, 2013, with VancoreJones Communications to “influence local government agencies” related to real estate projects on behalf of TM Street, LLC. But records show no one from VancoreJones has ever registered to lobby for TM Street with the Leon County Commission, or the city of Tallahassee.
Georgia – New Georgia Campaign Finance Law Is ‘Carving a Loophole’ for Unlimited Fundraising
MSN – Elliot Davis (U.S. News and World Report) | Published: 9/1/2021
Eleven states allow candidates to raise unlimited contributions. States with unlimited financing often cite strict laws mandating disclosure and transparency to defend the embrace of money in politics. They also note their systems ensure a level playing field. But that is not the case in Georgia, critics note. Not only could the new law, described by analysts as an “incumbent protection scheme,” offer the current governor a massive advantage in a crucial race next year, but it has the possibility of being exported to other states where it could reshape the way elections are run.
Illinois – Illinois Legislators Pass Redrawn Legislative Map, Kill Ethics Bill; Energy Policy Overhaul Clears Senate
MSN – Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/31/2021
Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly used their supermajority to push through revised boundaries for the state’s legislative districts aimed at ensuring their control in Springfield through the end of the decade. The House voted down proposed change made by Gov. JB Pritzker to an ethics package, killing the legislation. Pritzker and sponsoring lawmakers have hailed the package as an important step toward addressing pervasive public corruption in Illinois, but good-government groups and even some supporters have argued that does not go far enough.
Indiana – Lawsuit Claims Indiana Treasurer Granted Illegal Contracts
MSN – Tom Davies (Associated Press) | Published: 8/31/2021
A whistleblower is suing Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, alleging her office failed to get required approvals on contracts and made improper payments totaling more than $6.5 million, often to top contributors to her campaigns. The lawsuit filed by a former top Treasury Department staffer claims Mitchell bypassed required approvals from other state agencies in giving the contracts for lobbying and financial services without seeking competitive bids.
Michigan – Michigan GOP Cannot Use Party Fund to Back Petition Drive to Overhaul Voting
MSN – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 8/31/2021
The Michigan Republican Party cannot use its administrative fund to back a petition proposing major changes to voting in the state, according to a preliminary review by the Bureau of Elections. Former general counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Bob LaBrant, raised concerns about the possibility the GOP might use its administrative fund to funnel undisclosed contributions to a petition drive that would circumvent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s expected veto of election bills.
Michigan – Michigan Utilities Spent Millions Electing Lawmakers Who Could Probe Outages
Energy Central – Craig Mauer (Detroit News) | Published: 8/30/2021
Michigan officeholders who are poised to investigate a wave of recent outages that spurred 1 million customers to lose power have benefited from $55 million in “political” and “civic” spending over the last five years by the state’s top utilities. Critics said the close financial connections between CMS Energy and DTE Energy and lawmakers raise doubts about state government’s ability to prevent future outages, prepare the electric system for weather that is becoming increasingly severe, and advocate on behalf of residents.
Minnesota – MN Lawmaker Cuts Off 3 Fingers in Saw Mishap; Lobbyists’ Donations Create Awkwardness
Yahoo News – Dave Orrick (St. Paul Pioneer Press) | Published: 8/31/2021
In August, Minnesota Rep. Erin Koegel lost control of a power saw and cut off three fingers on her left hand. A GoFundMe page was established to help her with child-care and other expenses while she recovers. A number of lobbyists’ names were on the donor list. That would appear to violate a state law that prohibits lawmakers from accepting most gifts worth more than five dollars from lobbyists. There are exceptions, but none appear to apply for Koegel’s situation. Speaker Melissa Hortman asked a House staffer to seek a formal opinion from the Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board.
New Mexico – Judge Reverses Decision to Deny Gonzales Funds
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 8/27/2021
A state District Court judge reversed the Albuquerque city clerk’s decision to deny Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales over $600,000 in public financing for his mayoral campaign, citing a lack of due process. Judge Bryan Biedscheid said Watson could still ultimately deny Gonzales the money. To do so, however, he would need to either determine that Gonzales has been found to have violated regulations or make the finding himself after a new process he must establish that grants Gonzales due process.
New York – At JCOPE, Two More Cuomo Appointees Resign
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/1/2021
The number of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointees on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) are dwindling. In the short term, that could render JCOPE unable to take action against Cuomo; in the longer term, the departures could provide the ex-governor far less protection from possible sanction. Since Cuomo announced his own resignation on August 10, three of his six appointees to the panel have resigned or stated the intention to exit the commission.
New York – Cuomo’s Legal Woes Continue, Could Cost Public at Least $9.5M
NBC News – Associated Press | Published: 8/31/2021
Resigning from office probably did not end former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legal problems, and no matter what happens next, taxpayers are likely to wind up with a hefty bill. The state has agreed to pay up to $9.5 million to lawyers representing and investigating Cuomo and his administration over sexual harassment allegations and other matters. That figure does not include the legal fees of Cuomo’s private attorney, whose bills are being paid by his campaign committee. Gov. Kathy Hochul can decide whether the state will continue to pay lawyers to defend the former governor and his administration going forward.
New York – Hochul’s First Bill Suspends State’s Open Meetings Law
Politico – Bill Mahoney | Published: 9/1/2021
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s bill extending New York’s eviction moratorium includes language that suspends the state’s Open Meetings Law. The legislation, the first of Hochul’s tenure, was due to pass a week after the governor pledged that “transparency will be the hallmark of [her] administration.” But the measure, and the rushed way in which it was logrolled through the Legislature, did not win over many transparency advocates.
New York – JCOPE Votes to Ask AG to Conduct Criminal Probe of Alleged Leak to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/26/2021
In a startling reversal, the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) passed a motion asking state Attorney General Letitia James to investigate whether confidential information was illegally leaked to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019. JCOPE also authorized James to conduct a criminal probe into whether the state inspector general’s office, which investigated the alleged leak to Cuomo, intentionally failed to find out the identity of the leaker and instead “covered up” the matter.
New York – NY Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Top Aide Is Married to a Lobbyist for Verizon, Google and Airbnb
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 8/26/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top aide is married to a lobbyist who represent clients such as Verizon, Google, and Airbnb. Hochul named Karen Persichilli Keogh, a veteran of Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate office and the wife of longtime lobbyist Mike Keogh, as secretary to the governor. Prior to taking her new job with Hochul, Karen Keogh was an executive at J.P. Morgan Chase, where she once held a state lobbying position. Mike Keogh has several marquee clients that have recently been trying to influence New York lawmakers and officials.
North Carolina – North Carolina General Assembly Passes Bill Limiting Nonprofit Donor Disclosure
Ballotpedia – Jerrick Adams | Published: 9/1/2021
The North Carolina Senate gave final approval to a bill that would make donations to nonprofit corporations confidential. The bill now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper. The bill’s supporters say it will protect donors from harassment or discrimination based on the organizations they choose to support. Opponents say it would decrease transparency around campaign contributions and allow politically active nonprofits to hide their donors.
North Carolina – Trump’s Pick in a Key Senate Race Touts His Agriculture Ties. He Doesn’t Mention His Role in a Bankruptcy That Cost Farmers Millions.
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2021
As U.S. Rep. Ted Budd launched his campaign for a pivotal U.S. Senate seat earlier this year, the North Carolina Republican pitched himself as a staunch ally of farmers. Budd’s story helped him win the support of former President Trump and the Club for Growth, a conservative political committee, has vowed to spend a record $10 million on his campaign. But as Budd has told his narrative in a state where agriculture is the largest business, he made no mention of his role in his family’s calamitous involvement in a company called AgriBioTech, which ended in a bankruptcy case that cost farmers millions of dollars in losses.
Ohio – John Raphael Avoids Prison in Greater Columbus Convention Center Bribery Scheme Sentence
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/26/2021
Deviating from federal sentencing guidelines, a judge gave two-time convicted public corruption figure John Raphael, once an influential Columbus City Hall lobbyist, no prison time in a bribery case. Raphael could have faced up to 20 years in prison for taking bribes to help a national food services company win a public food-service contract from the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, on whose board he served at the time. But U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson, who acknowledged he grew up in the same neighborhood as the defendant and knew members of his family, sentenced Raphael to one day of prison, waived in advance, and placed him on three years of probation.
Oregon – Multnomah County Judge Rules Campaign Contribution Limits Constitutional
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Sam Stites | Published: 8/26/2021
Campaign contribution limits passed by Multnomah County voters are now able to be enforced in local elections. Circuit Court Judge Eric Bloch County ruled political donations caps do not violate free speech protected by the First Amendment. The ruling is sure to put Multnomah County back in the spotlight in terms of discussions around statewide limits on campaign donations. Oregon is one of only five states with no limits at all on contributions, despite decades of effort by campaign finance activists.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Ordered to Pay More Than $7,000, Forfeit Vacation Days for Ethics Violations
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Andrew Goldstein | Published: 8/26/2021
The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission found Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet violated the law by improperly receiving travel reimbursements, getting payments for appearances related to his job, and incorrectly filing financial documents. The commission ordered Hamlet to pay close to $8,000 and forfeit 14 vacation days, valued at more than $12,000. At least some of the violations occurred during a trip Hamlet and several other district administrators took to Cuba in April 2019.
Rhode Island – Anthony Silva, McKee’s Chief of Staff, Resigns Amid Wetlands Controversy
MSN – Antonia Noori Farzan (Providence Journal) | Published: 8/30/2021
Anthony Silva, the embattled chief of staff to Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee, resigned from his position amid an investigation into whether he used his political influence to get permission to develop a controversial wetlands property. Silva had been facing both a state Ethics Commission complaint brought forward by Republicans and an independent investigation by the attorney general’s office that was initiated at McKee’s request, amid mounting political pressure.
Rhode Island – Former RI Lottery Director Changes Mind After Registering as IGT Lobbyist
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 9/1/2021
Days after former Rhode Island Lottery Director Gerald Aubin registered as a lobbyist for IGT, the state’s longtime gambling said he will not be working for the company after all. Aubin, who served as director of the state Lottery beginning in 1996, retired in 2020. He formed a new company called GSA and was listed on the secretary of state’s website as a lobbyist for IGT, a company he regulated for two decades. “… As a former gaming regulator and law enforcement official, I couldn’t get comfortable with it,” Aubin said.
Texas – GOP Legislators in Texas Give Final Approval to New Voting Restrictions, Overcoming Democratic Opposition
MSN – Eva Ruth Moravec and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2021
The Texas Legislature passed the final version of a Republican bill that will implement strict new voting rules, sending it to the governor’s desk after months of intense partisan battling over how elections should be conducted in the state. The votes were a win for Gov. Greg Abbott. He had called two special legislative sessions as part of a long-running effort to pass the elections measure, which will take effect in three months. After the Senate voted, Abbott said he looks forward to signing the bill into law.
Wisconsin – Emails Show Prehn Coordinated with Republican Officials, Lobbyists as He Clings to Expired Seat
Wisconsin Examiner – Henry Redmon | Published: 8/26/2021
Fred Prehn, the chairperson of the Natural Resources Board who has generated controversy and complaints for refusing to vacate his seat after his term expired in May, coordinated and communicated with high-profile Republican officials and lobbyists as he planned to maintain the GOP’s grip on Wisconsin’s conservation policy, emails show. State Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit against Prehn seeking to boot him from the post. Legislative leaders hired taxpayer-funded attorneys to defend Prehn.
September 2, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Georgia: “New Georgia Campaign Finance Law Is ‘Carving a Loophole’ for Unlimited Fundraising” by Elliot Davis (U.S. News and World Report) for MSN Michigan: “Michigan GOP Cannot Use Party Fund to Back Petition Drive to Overhaul Voting” by […]
Georgia: “New Georgia Campaign Finance Law Is ‘Carving a Loophole’ for Unlimited Fundraising” by Elliot Davis (U.S. News and World Report) for MSN
Michigan: “Michigan GOP Cannot Use Party Fund to Back Petition Drive to Overhaul Voting” by Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) for MSN
National: “G.O.P. Election Reviews Create a New Kind of Security Threat” by Nick Corasaniti for New York Times
Texas: “GOP Legislators in Texas Give Final Approval to New Voting Restrictions, Overcoming Democratic Opposition” by Eva Ruth Moravec and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Illinois Legislators Pass Redrawn Legislative Map, Kill Ethics Bill; Energy Policy Overhaul Clears Senate” by Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
New York: “At JCOPE, Two More Cuomo Appointees Resign” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Minnesota: “MN Lawmaker Cuts Off 3 Fingers in Saw Mishap; Lobbyists’ Donations Create Awkwardness” by Dave Orrick (St. Paul Pioneer Press) for Yahoo News
Rhode Island: “Former RI Lottery Director Changes Mind After Registering as IGT Lobbyist” by Eli Sherman for WPRI
National: “DOJ Issues Warning to States Ahead of Redistricting” by Rebecca Bietsch (Roll Call) for MSN
August 27, 2021 •
National/Federal A Capitol Riot Suspect Was Hours Away from Sentencing. Then Prosecutors Received Video of an Assault on Police. MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/19/2021 Even after Robert Reeder pleaded guilty to illegally picketing inside the U.S. Capitol […]
A Capitol Riot Suspect Was Hours Away from Sentencing. Then Prosecutors Received Video of an Assault on Police.
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/19/2021
Even after Robert Reeder pleaded guilty to illegally picketing inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, he remained adamant he was innocent of the worst allegations leveled against him. Prosecutors argued Reeder actively participated in chants with rioters and egged on the aggressive crowd, though they could not show he participated in any violence. They asked a federal judge to sentence him with a fine and prison time. But new video from the riot that surfaced just before his sentencing hearing appeared to show Reeder allegedly physically grappling with a police officer.
California Republican Is Debt Free for First Time in Office. What Happened to His Creditors?
Fresno Bee – Gillian Brassil (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 8/23/2021
U.S. Rep. David Valadao claimed no liabilities for 2020 – a far cry from 2019, when he said he owed at least $16 million to various creditors, some of whom he did not disclose the identities of, in connection to one of his family’s dairy farms. The farm declared bankruptcy after Valadao and his family’s farms were sued by Rabobank, a financial services company, over unpaid loans. Maria Martinez who lives in Valadao’s district, filed an ethics complaint seeking more information about the unidentified creditors from Valadao’s previous disclosure forms. The complaint says it is unlikely the unnamed creditors were each owed less than $10,000 given the limited number of people listed in the farm’s bankruptcy filings.
DOJ Investigating One-Time Trump Campaign Adviser Over Alleged Ties to Qatar: Report
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 8/24/2021
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether one-time Trump campaign adviser and lobbyist Barry Bennett set up an advocacy group without disclosing its ties to Qatar. Bennett reportedly launched a group called Yemen Crisis to embarrass Qatar’s rivals – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – amid their military campaign in Yemen. Bennett did not disclose his ties to Yemen Crisis Watch, or register the group under lobbying laws, despite receiving $250,000 from the Embassy of Qatar “for use in supporting the relief of humanitarian suffering in Yemen,” according to a Justice Department filing.
Ethics Office: Rep. Mooney tapped campaign funds for family vacations, fast food
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 8/25/2021
U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney spent thousands of campaign dollars on personal expenses, including numerous fast-food meals and family excursions to West Virginia resorts, while failing to properly report more than $40,000 in expenditures, the Office of Congressional Ethics found. Mooney’s deficient reporting to the FEC concealed additional instances of converting campaign funds for personal use, according to an OCE report. After the OCE launched the inquiry, Mooney paid his campaign back more than $12,000.
FCC Proposes Record $5 Million Fine Against Jacob Wohl, Jack Burkman for Election Robocalls
MSN – Rachel Lerman (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a $5.1 million fine against two right-wing operatives known for perpetuating conspiracy theories, in one of its largest penalties to date. Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman improperly made 1,141 election-related robocalls to cellphones without getting people’s consent first, which the law requires. The pair were charged with four felonies in Michigan last year for allegedly intimidating voters with robocalls that spread inaccurate messages about voting by mail.
Foreign Lobbyists Gave Millions to Influence 2020 Elections Amid Foreign Influence Concerns
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 8/19/2021
Individuals registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act made at least $8.5 million in political contributions during the 2020 election cycle. Another $25 million came from lobbyists representing foreign clients registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to political groups or campaigns to influence U.S. elections. But they can hire foreign agents or lobbyists to advocate for their interests and lobbyists who are American citizens are able to donate, even to the same lawmakers they may be lobbying on behalf of foreign clients.
House Passes Bill to Strengthen Voting Rights Act in Face of New Restrictions in GOP-Led States
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
The U.S. House passed legislation that supporters said would restore key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court struck down in 2013. In Shelby County v. Holder, the high court’s conservative majority ruled the law’s provision for determining voter discrimination was outdated, a decision that greatly curtailed the ability of the federal government to monitor the election processes of states with a history of racism.
Internal Probe Clears Capitol Police Officer in Shooting of Ashli Babbitt
MSN – Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2021
An internal investigation has cleared a U.S. Capitol Police officer of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt during the siege of the Capitol on January 6. The Justice Department previously announced the officer would not face criminal charges in the killing of the 35-year-old California woman, who was shot as she tried to force her way through a set of doors deep inside the Capitol.
Jan. 6 Select Committee Probe Expands to Trump and Top Officials in a Wave of Demands
National Public Radio – Claudia Grisales | Published: 8/25/2021
The House select committee charged with investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has issued a wave of record requests targeting communications by former President Trump and his top officials in the lead-up to the riot. It marks the most widespread list of demands since the siege, directing letters to eight federal entities, including the National Archives and Records Administration, which is charged with maintaining records for past White House administrations. The demands could be followed by subpoenas.
From the States and Municipalities
Colorado – Ethics Commission Dismissed Complaint Against Delta County Official but Decision Is on Appeal
Denver Gazette – Marianne Goodland | Published: 8/23/2021
The Colorado Independent Ethics commission, on a tie vote, dismissed a complaint against Delta County Administrator Robbie LeValley. The complaint alleged LeValley violated the public trust by using her position to benefit her family’s business, a beef ranch. LeValley charged several purchases from Homestead Meats in 2019, which she co-owns with several other partners, for county events on her county credit card. The events in question, both tied to the county fair, required the beef being served to come from a Delta County ranch, and for that, Homestead was the only supplier.
Colorado – Incumbent Colorado Lawmaker Coached Public Testimony for Redistricting Hearings
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 8/19/2021
A state lawmaker looking to protect the fortunes of his Republican caucus as Colorado’s political maps are redrawn this year held a video training earlier this summer to coach people on how to provide testimony intended to keep the incumbent legislators in power after the redistricting cycle. On the video training, Rep. Matt Soper lamented that the independent redistricting commission system is designed to elicit input from non-political, everyday people talking about their communities, and not from incumbent lawmakers who want to keep a safe seat for themselves.
Florida – Florida Elections Commission Gearing Up for Looming Challenges
Yahoo News – John Haughey (The Center Square) | Published: 8/24/2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed three members to the Florida Elections Commission (FEC), including a chairperson, meaning the watchdog now has the required quorum and can meet for the first time since May. The FEC is managing the defense of state election laws, including Florida’s decision not to appeal an injunction preventing Senate Bill 1890 from being enacted. It is also dealing with the challenge to Florida’s 2019 felon voting law now before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Florida – No-Party Candidate in Miami Election Fraud Case Takes Plea Deal, Apologizes to Voters
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/24/2021
An auto parts salesperson and acquaintance of a former state lawmaker accused of running a vote-siphoning scheme in a 2020 Florida Senate race pleaded guilty to charges he accepted illegal donations and lied on sworn campaign documents, among other things. Alexis Rodriguez was recruited to run as a no-party candidate in the key Senate race by former state Sen. Frank Artiles. The point of Rodriguez’s candidacy, investigators said, was to “confuse voters and siphon votes from the incumbent.” Sen. Ileana Garcia won the election by 32 votes. Rodriguez, who shares a surname with the incumbent Democrat, received more than 6,000 votes.
Georgia – Former NFL Player Herschel Walker, Supported by Trump, Jumps into the Georgia Senate Race
Santa Fe New Mexican – Maryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Former football star Herschel Walker filed paperwork to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, challenging Raphael Warnock with the backing of former President Trump. After former U.S. Sen. David Perdue said he would not run again, Walker would be the most recognized candidate in the Republican field.
Georgia – How the Apple Lobbying Machine Took on Georgia, and Won
MSN – Emily Birnbaum (Politico) | Published: 8/20/2021
Apple’s aggressive lobbying efforts in Georgia highlight a pattern that has played out with little national attention across the country this year: state lawmakers introduce bills that would force Apple and Google to give up some control over their mobile phone app stores. Then Apple exerts pressure on lawmakers with promises of economic investment or threats to pull its money, and the legislation stalls. Local lawmakers have struggled to brush aside Apple’s lobbying firepower as the company hires key state lobbyists and focuses on defeating legislation that threatens the company’s bottom line.
Idaho – Idaho Supreme Court Overturns Tougher Ballot Initiative Law
MSN – Rebecca Boone (Associated Press) | Published: 8/23/2021
The Idaho Supreme Court struck down a new law designed to make it harder for voters to get initiatives on the ballot, saying the legislation was so restrictive it violated a fundamental right under the state’s constitution. Opponents of the law said it made Idaho’s initiative process the toughest in the nation, rendering such efforts virtually impossible to achieve. But supporters said the law would protect people with less popular political opinions from being overrun by the majority.
Illinois – ComEd Scheme to Influence Madigan Was Not Legal Lobbying – It Was Bribery, Prosecutors Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/24/2021
An alleged scheme to lavish benefits on longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in exchange for his influence on Commonwealth Edison legislation in Springfield clearly meets the criteria of the bribery statute even if there was no explicit agreement between the parties, federal prosecutors argued in a motion. Lawyers for Michael McClain, Anne Pramaggiore, John Hooker, and Jay Doherty asked a District Court judge to dismiss several of the key elements of the case against them, arguing there was no quid pro quo agreement and jobs, contracts, and other payments to chosen Madigan political operatives constituted legal lobbying.
Illinois – Cryptocurrency Expands into Illinois Politics as Candidate Accepts Bitcoin Donations
Bloomington Pantagraph – John Kielman (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/25/2021
Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim, who is running for reelection next year, became the first candidate in Illinois to accept digital currency when a supporter gave her a three-dollar donation in Litecoin, with the promise of more to come later. It is a new and potentially lucrative fundraising technique – Dogecoin, one form of crypto Kim accepts, has seen its value increase 100-fold over the past year – and Kim said it is a way to connect with tech-savvy people who might be new to political donations.
Maine – PAC Opposing Powerline Corridor is Fined $2,500 for Late Filing
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 8/23/2021
A PAC bankrolled by two Texas energy companies was fined $2,500 by the Maine ethics commission for violating state campaign finance law. The commission voted unanimously to impose the penalty against Mainers for Local Power after it failed to notify one of its major contributors, the energy company Calpine, that it had donated more than $100,000 to the PAC and was required to file a major donor report with the ethics panel.
Maryland – Error-Riddled Ethics Reports on School Board Create Political Firestorm in Prince George’s County
MSN – Rachel Chason and Donna St. George (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Ethics reports accuse a majority of the elected school board members in Prince George’s County of a variety of offenses, including steering contracts, doing political favors, and engaging in a quid pro quo with a labor union. The allegations are being levied against a more progressive bloc that has frequently clashed with the county’s political establishment, setting off a political battle in the suburb of Washington, D.C. The back-and-forth is the latest, and most contentious, episode in months of chaos that began in February.
Michigan – FBI Raids Detroit’s City Hall, Council Members’ Homes as It Focuses on Towing Operations
Detroit News – Robert Snell, Sarah Rahal, and George Hunter | Published: 8/25/2021
A widening public corruption investigation emerged as FBI agents raided Detroit City Hall and the homes of city council members Janeé Ayers and Scott Benson, the latest development in a scandal that has led to charges against Councilperson André Spivey. The full scope of the investigation was unclear, but FBI agents were focused on municipal towing operations and accusations city officials received bribes, according to sources. Agents also searched the homes of several council employees, including Ricardo Silva and Carol Banks, chiefs of staff for Ayers and Benson, respectively.
Michigan – Federal Judge in Michigan Orders Pro-Trump Lawyers Disciplined Over Lawsuit Seeking to Overturn 2020 Election
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2021
A judge sanctioned Sidney Powell and other lawyers who sued in Michigan to overturn President Biden’s election victory. U.S. District Court Judge Parker said the lawyers made assertions in court that were not backed by evidence and failed to perform the due diligence required by legal rules before alleging mass fraud in the state’s vote. She referred the group to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, as well as disciplinary committees in the states where each attorney is licensed, which could initiate proceedings that could result in the lawyers being disbarred.
Michigan – Michigan Attorney General Nessel Won’t Charge State GOP Chair Ron Weiser
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 8/23/2021
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel declined to pursue criminal action against state Republican Party Chairperson Ron Weiser related to payments Weiser allegedly made to a former GOP secretary of state candidate to drop out of the race in 2018. Nessel said a conciliation agreement between the secretary of state’s office and the Michigan GOP barred further criminal litigation under the state’s campaign finance law and Weiser, as chairperson, is not a public officer as defined by the law, so other criminal statutes “simply do not apply.”
Minnesota – Minnesota GOP ‘in Ruins’ After Shocking Scandal
Yahoo News – David Siders and Paul Zemko (Politico) | Published: 8/21/2021
The resignation of the Minnesota Republican Party’s embattled chairperson, Jennifer Carnahan, marked a new low for a state party in decline. The proximate cause of Carnahan’s departure was a firestorm that engulfed the party in recent days, after a GOP donor she was close to was indicted on federal sex-trafficking charges. Carnahan, the wife of U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, was accused by party officials and former staffers of running a toxic, retaliatory workplace, mismanaging party finances, and, through the use of non-disclosure agreements, squashing transparency.
New York – As JCOPE Eyes Cuomo, Will His Appointees Remain?
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/30/2021
Though Andrew Cuomo has left the governor’s office, his legal troubles are far from over. He faces criminal investigations into possible inappropriate touching of women, a state attorney general probe into his $5.1 million book deal, a federal probe into the suppression of nursing home death data, and a forthcoming Assembly report on those matters and more. An entity that has been generally pliant to Cuomo since its creation in 2011, the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics, may be more prone to taking action now, especially since the commission itself now faces greater threat of being eliminated by critics, who say it has been ineffectual.
New York – Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Daughter-in-Law Is Top Lobbyist at Pharma Firm That Has Sought to Influence NY Lawmakers
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 8/24/2021
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s daughter-in-law is a top lobbyist at a pharmaceutical firm that has been trying to influence state and federal lawmakers. Christina Hochul is director of federal policy at Biogen. A Biogen spokesperson said Christina Hochul does not lobby at the New York state level and will not do so. Biogen did not rule out the company itself engaging with New York lawmakers while Kathy Hochul is governor.
New York – JCOPE’s Opaque New Transparency Policy
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/24/2021
Gov. Kathy Hochul has called for a complete overhaul of New York’s ethics oversight system. And as the state’s much-maligned current ethics watchdog faces the possibility of dissolution, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) recently announced a reform: a new policy that in principle could make its work less secretive. But in practice, the policy so far has been aimed at bolstering the reputation of the JCOPE itself, with information released or withheld based on that as opposed to overall transparency.
New York – Leaders of the ‘Time’s Up’ Anti-Harassment Group Worked Closely with Cuomo Aide After First Accusation Against Him Surfaced
MSN – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2021
The leaders of Time’s Up, the advocacy group founded by political insiders in Washington and Hollywood to fight workplace sexual misconduct, decided against issuing a statement in support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first harassment accuser in December after consulting with the governor’s top aide, according to interviews and records. Text messages between five senior Time’s Up advisers revealed a far more extensive behind-the-scenes effort to work with Cuomo’s office amid the sexual harassment charges than the group has previously acknowledged.
North Carolina – Cooper Signs Bill Allowing Officials to Benefit More from Public Contracts
Yahoo News – Nyamekye Daniel (The Center Square) | Published: 8/24/2021
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill that allows public officials to benefit more from public contracts. House Bill 366 raises the limit on the conflict-of-interest exemption for government officials and government employees in certain instances and changes regulations related to agriculture, energy, environment, natural resources, construction, and insurance.
North Carolina – Court Rules North Carolina Must Allow Former Felons to Vote
MSN – Paulina Villegas (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
A panel of the state Superior Court ordered the restoration of voting rights for thousands of people with a felony conviction in what advocates call the largest expansion of voting rights in decades in North Carolina. The ruling could make North Carolina the only state in the South to automatically restore voting rights to people after they leave prison. Last year, the same judges had ruled the law’s requirement that felons must first pay monetary obligation such as fines was unenforceable because voting would be bound to financial ability.
North Carolina – Restrictions on NC Nonprofit Donor Disclosures OK’d by House
WRAL – Associated Press | Published: 8/19/2021
A bill described by supporters as one that prevents snooping into citizens’ contributions to North Carolina charities neared final legislative approval following an affirmative state House vote. A version cleared the Senate three months ago. The bill says the names of donors to North Carolina-based nonprofits cannot be disclosed publicly by the group without a donor’s written permission. It also states a donor’s identifying information is not a public record when held by a state or local government agency. A government worker who uses or discloses it could be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Discloses 2021 Dark Money Spending; Deal Doesn’t Require Posting Past Donations
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 8/20/2021
The utility at the center of a $60 million bribery scheme in Ohio dramatically decreased the funds it provides to “dark money” groups to influence public policy, according to a filing required by a deal with federal prosecutors that allowed FirstEnergy to avoid a criminal case. FirstEnergy paid $2.2 million to nonprofits and groups benefitting public officials during the first half of 2021. That is considerably below the approximately $60 million the company paid between 2017 and 2020 to “dark money” groups to fund a bailout of two nuclear power plants.
Oregon – Portland Police Stand by as Proud Boys and Far-Right Militias Flash Guns and Brawl with Antifa Counterprotesters
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2021
A large crowd of more than 100 far-right activists, including Proud Boys and armed militia members, descended on Portland, Oregon, staging a “Back the Blue” rally in front of the Justice Center that houses the downtown police precinct. Hundreds of Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters gathered to oppose the far-right crowd. The two groups sparred for more than two hours, as people exchanged blows, fired paintballs at each other, and blasted chemicals indiscriminately into the crowd. People lobbed fireworks back and forth.
Pennsylvania – In Latest Bow to Trump, GOP Lawmakers in Pennsylvania Plan to Launch Hearings on 2020 Vote
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2021
Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania plan to formally launch hearings as part of an investigation into the 2020 vote in the state, the latest GOP-backed effort to revisit an election that former President Trump has falsely claimed was fraudulent. State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman said lawmakers are pursuing a “full forensic investigation” of the election that will aim to examine ballots and voter rolls. It is the latest sign of how Republican leaders in key battleground states are bowing to pressure from Trump and his acolytes to investigate baseless allegations that voting irregularities tainted the November election.
Texas – Dallas Council Member Violated Ethics Code for Saying Woman Sounded ‘Foolish’ on Facebook
Dallas Morning News – Lauren Girgis | Published: 8/20/2021
The Ethics Advisory Commission found Dallas City Councilperson Adam Bazaldua in violation of the ethics code for Facebook comments where he wrote that a constituent sounded “foolish.” The commission found Bazaldua violated a section of the code stating that city officials shall not make comments or take actions that are “abusive,” “derogatory,” “rude,” or make “personal attacks upon the character, integrity, or motives of others.”
Texas – Texas Republicans Renew Effort to Advance Voting Bill as Democrats Regroup
MSN – Jane Timm (NBC News) | Published: 8/23/2021
The Texas House could pass voting restrictions soon after Democrats’ efforts to stave off the Republican-backed changes were stymied by three Democrats who broke ranks with much of the rest of their caucus and returned to work at the Capitol. Their return restored a quorum for the first time since more than 50 House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C. The coordinated escape from Austin left Texas Republicans furious, creating wanted posters and threatening to have missing members arrested.
Virginia – Ex-Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe Found Guilty on All Public Corruption Charges
WAVY – Brian Reese, Jason Marks, and Sarah Fearing | Published: 8/24/2021
Former Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe was found guilty on all 11 counts in a federal bribery trial. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count. McCabe was accused of taking bribes from two Norfolk jail vendors and the companies’ chief executive officers. McCabe had argued the gifts and campaign donations, which happened from 1994 to 2016, were just gestures between good friends.
Virginia – Virginia, an ‘Outlier’ on Campaign Finance Reform, Considers New Restrictions
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Andrew Cain (Richmond Times-Dispatch) | Published: 8/24/2021
The Virginia Legislature has tasked the Joint Subcommittee to Study Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform with examining the costs of campaigning in the state, the effectiveness of the present disclosure laws and their enforcement, the constitutional options available to regulate campaign finances, and “the desirability” of revisions such as implementing contribution limits. In submitting a report by November 1, the panel could recommend proposed changes for the new governor and Legislature to review during the 60-day session that begins in January.
Washington – Mayor’s Office Knew for Months Durkan’s Phone Setting Caused Texts to Vanish, Emails Show
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb, Daniel Beekman, and Jim Brunner | Published: 8/20/2021
When the public learned in May that 10 months of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s text messages were missing, her office initially attributed the loss to an “unknown technology issue” with one of three phones she used during the period in question. But officials already had known for months why the texts were gone and when they disappeared, internal emails appear to show. City Attorney Pete Holmes says the initial explanation from Durkan’s office was misleading.
Wisconsin – Two More Redistricting Lawsuits Have Been Filed in Wisconsin as Conservatives and Liberals Mount a Legal Battle Over Election Maps
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 8/23/2021
Voters filed two redistricting lawsuits as conservatives and liberals fight over whether state or federal judges should be the ones to decide how to draw Wisconsin’s congressional and legislative districts. Voters represented by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed one of the lawsuits before the state Supreme Court. Hours later, three voting rights groups brought their own case in federal court in Madison. Republicans who control the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are not expected to reach a deal on the maps, which will leave it to the courts to decide where to put the lines.
August 25, 2021 •
Elections Florida: “No-Party Candidate in Miami Election Fraud Case Takes Plea Deal, Apologizes to Voters” by Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) for MSN Idaho: “Idaho Supreme Court Overturns Tougher Ballot Initiative Law” by Rebecca Boone (Associated Press) for MSN Minnesota: “Minnesota […]
Florida: “No-Party Candidate in Miami Election Fraud Case Takes Plea Deal, Apologizes to Voters” by Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) for MSN
Idaho: “Idaho Supreme Court Overturns Tougher Ballot Initiative Law” by Rebecca Boone (Associated Press) for MSN
Minnesota: “Minnesota GOP ‘in Ruins’ After Shocking Scandal” by David Siders and Paul Zemko (Politico) for Yahoo News
North Carolina: “Court Rules North Carolina Must Allow Former Felons to Vote” by Paulina Villegas (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Feds Say Members of Madigan’s Inner Circle Weren’t ‘Merely’ Lobbying, Urge Judge Not to Toss Charges” by John Seidel for Chicago Sun-Times
Maryland: “Error-Riddled Ethics Reports on School Board Create Political Firestorm in Prince George’s County” by Rachel Chason and Donna St. George (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “DOJ Investigating One-Time Trump Campaign Adviser Over Alleged Ties to Qatar: Report” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) for MSN
Wisconsin: “Two More Redistricting Lawsuits Have Been Filed in Wisconsin as Conservatives and Liberals Mount a Legal Battle Over Election Maps” by Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) for MSN
August 23, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Foreign Lobbyists Gave Millions to Influence 2020 Elections Amid Foreign Influence Concerns” by Anna Massoglia for Center for Responsive Politics North Carolina: “Restrictions on NC Nonprofit Donor Disclosures OK’d by House” by Associated Press for WRAL Elections […]
National: “Foreign Lobbyists Gave Millions to Influence 2020 Elections Amid Foreign Influence Concerns” by Anna Massoglia for Center for Responsive Politics
North Carolina: “Restrictions on NC Nonprofit Donor Disclosures OK’d by House” by Associated Press for WRAL
Florida: “Ex-Florida Lawmaker and Lobbyist Had His Hands in Second Miami State Senate Race, Records Show” by Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) for MSN
Texas: “Texas Republicans Renew Effort to Advance Voting Bill as Democrats Regroup” by Jane Timm (NBC News) for MSN
National: “A Capitol Riot Suspect Was Hours Away from Sentencing. Then Prosecutors Received Video of an Assault on Police.” by Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) for MSN
Washington: “Mayor’s Office Knew for Months Durkan’s Phone Setting Caused Texts to Vanish, Emails Show” by Lewis Kamb, Daniel Beekman, and Jim Brunner for Seattle Times
Georgia: “How the Apple Lobbying Machine Took on Georgia, and Won” by Emily Birnbaum for Politico
Colorado: “Incumbent Colorado Lawmaker Coached Public Testimony for Redistricting Hearings” by Evan Wyloge for Colorado Springs Gazette
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