April 9, 2021 •
National/Federal ‘A Complete Ripoff’: Campaign finance experts puzzled and stunned by Trump camp’s reported ‘money bomb’ ploy MSN – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/6/2021 Some donors who gave a few hundred dollars to former President Trump’s reelection campaign were […]
‘A Complete Ripoff’: Campaign finance experts puzzled and stunned by Trump camp’s reported ‘money bomb’ ploy
MSN – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/6/2021
Some donors who gave a few hundred dollars to former President Trump’s reelection campaign were shocked to see thousands drained from their accounts. Refund requests spiked in the final months of the campaign. A New York Times investigation detailed a recurring donation scheme reportedly referred to as “the money bomb” the Trump campaign used to pad its coffers in the final months of the campaign through the Republican fundraising platform WinRed. The payments, according to the Times, essentially functioned as an “interest-free loan” from Trump’s donors to his campaign, which faced financial turmoil in the months leading up to the November 3 election.
Corporate America Isn’t Welcoming Former Trump Cabinet Officials with Open Arms, Headhunters Say
MSN – Tory Newmyer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/7/2021
Before she joined the Trump administration as transportation secretary, Elaine Chao earned millions of dollars over the past decade by serving on the boards of big public companies such as Dole Foods and Wells Fargo. She offered sterling credentials to businesses eager to keep current with the Republican leadership, but Chao is encountering a fraught reentry into the private sector. Headhunters who have sought similarly prominent work for Chao have found little interest. While the small numbers make comparisons difficult, corporations do not seem to have an immediate interest in other top Trump administration alums either.
Corporate America Isn’t Welcoming Former Trump Cabinet Officials with Open Arms, Headhunters Say
MSN – Tory Newmyer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Before she joined the Trump administration as transportation secretary, Elaine Chao earned millions of dollars over the past decade by serving on the boards of big public companies such as Dole Foods and Wells Fargo. She offered sterling credentials to businesses eager to keep current with the Republican leadership, but Chao is encountering a fraught reentry into the private sector. Headhunters who have sought similarly prominent work for Chao have found little interest. While the small numbers make comparisons difficult, corporations do not seem to have an immediate interest in other top Trump administration alums either.
Covid Survivors Look to Turn Grief into Lobbying Clout
Politico – Alice Miranda Ollstein | Published: 4/5/2021
Activists with chronic illnesses helped save the Affordable Care Act from repeal and gun violence survivors built a movement to take on the National Rifle Association. Now, a cohort of COVID-19 survivors is working to turn their grief into political power. As President Biden pitches a multi-trillion-dollar package to shore up the country’s physical infrastructure, the new advocates, including people who lost loved ones to the virus, are focusing their grassroots lobbying on the follow-up plan Biden is expected to unveil addressing the country’s “human infrastructure.” Fresh off a round of lobbying in favor of the pandemic aid bill, recently formed groups are also launching efforts at the federal and state levels.
Democratic Firm Aims to Diversify Consultant Class
Politico – James Arkin | Published: 4/5/2021
A major Democratic consulting firm is building a new public affairs practice and launching a paid fellowship program intended to increase diversity in the party’s consultant class. Left Hook, a firm that works with major congressional candidates and committees, is launching the fellowship program this fall and bringing on a new veteran campaign operative to run a public affairs division. The effort is part of a long-term goal to increase the diversity in their own ranks in the hopes of pushing the party to further develop talent pipelines for women and people of color.
Former Trump HUD Official Fined, Barred from Government Employment
Politico – Katy O’Donnell | Published: 4/6/2021
A federal watchdog fined former Trump housing official Lynne Patton $1,000 and barred her from federal employment for four years after she violated a law prohibiting executive branch employees from engaging in political activities while on duty. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel penalized Patton, who served as Housing and Urban Development regional administrator for New York and New Jersey, over a video she produced with New York City Housing Authority residents to air at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Gaetz Is Said to Have Boasted of His ‘Access to Women’ Provided by Friend Charged in Sex-Trafficking Case
MSN – Michael Scherer and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 4/2/2021
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz repeatedly boasted to people involved in Florida politics about women he met through a county tax collector who has since been charged by federal authorities with sex trafficking of a minor, according to two people who heard his comments directly. They said Gatetz also showed them videos on his phone of naked or topless women on multiple occasions, including at parties with Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County. The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz paid for sex with women in violation of federal sex-trafficking laws.
Gaetz Reported to Have Sought a ‘Blanket’ Pardon from Trump
Politico – Benjamin Dinn and Matt Dixon | Published: 4/6/2021
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz allegedly sought a “blanket” presidential pardon from Donald Trump in the closing weeks of his administration, a request which was ultimately not fulfilled. The request for a blanket preemptive pardon for Gaetz and unidentified congressional allies, came as the Justice Department was opening an investigation into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel across state lines.
Honduras Hired Elite D.C. Law Firm in Failed Lobbying Effort to Derail ‘State-Sponsored Drug Trafficking Probe’ of President’s Brother
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/1/2021
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández’s government retained an influential Washington, D.C. law firm to lobby U.S. prosecutors to call off a “state-sponsored drug trafficking” probe of his brother, who was sentenced recently for smuggling 185 tons of cocaine into the United States. Prosecutors cited the failed September 2019 influence campaign by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, along with the murder of four people linked to the investigation, in urging stiff punishment for Juan Antonio Hernández, who is also a former Honduran lawmaker.
New Labor Secretary’s Ex-Boston Aides Line Up to Lobby in D.C.
Bloomberg Law – Ben Penn | Published: 4/6/2021
Three former senior aides who served under Labor Secretary Marty Walsh when he was Boston’s mayor are now lobbyists seeking to promote business interests in matters facing the U.S. Labor Department. Such career pivots are common in Washington, where businesses prize individuals who have working relationships with policymakers. There is no indication the trio of former staffers will have an easier time than any other company or union representative in gaining access to the new secretary. But the Walsh acolytes’ shift to labor lobbying highlights the business community’s desire to tap into the new secretary’s penchant for pragmatism and receptiveness to employer concerns despite his roots in organized labor.
Republicans Ramp Up Attacks on Corporations Over Georgia Voting Law, Threaten ‘Consequences’
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor and Todd Frankel (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Republicans are attacking corporations over their decision to condemn the controversial Georgia voting law, part of the party’s embrace of the populism espoused by former President Trump even as it creates tensions with traditional allies in the business community. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused corporations of siding with Democrats’ portrayal of the law as the new Jim Crow. His statement included a threat of unspecified “serious consequences” if companies continued to stand opposite Republicans on a variety of issues. The acrimony underscores the party’s increasingly fraying relationship with corporate America over social and cultural issues.
Sen. Ted Cruz Illegally Promoted His Book with Campaign Funds, Watchdog Alleges in Ethics Complaints
CNBC – Kevin Breuninger | Published: 4/7/2021
The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) alleges U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz violated campaign finance rules by using donor funds to promote his book. The CLC accused Cruz’s campaign committee of spending up to $18,000 in late 2020 on Facebook advertisements that “exclusively” urged viewers to buy copies of the senator’s book. Those ads included links to buy the book from third-party online booksellers, said the CLC. “Because Cruz receives royalties from book sales, his campaign crossed a legal line by spending donor funds on Facebook ads promoting sales of that book,” said Brendan Fischer, CLC director of federal reform.
The Battle for Tribune: Inside the campaign to find new owners for a legendary group of newspapers
MSN – Elahe Izade and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Last year, as a group of Baltimore Sun reporters embarked on a quest to find a new owner that could save their paper from a hedge-fund takeover, Ted Venetoulis, a former Baltimore County executive, launched the Save Our Sun campaign. It would eventually inspire a national effort to keep nearly a dozen newspapers owned by the same chain from being bought by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund with a singular reputation for gutting newsrooms. Although millionaires and political insiders were crucial to the rescue plan, so too were the reporters who work at the threatened papers.
White House Meets Little Resistance in Hiring Former Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 4/6/2021
Alethea Predeoux, a former lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees, and Charanya Krishnaswami, who lobbied for Amnesty International, received ethics waivers to join the Biden administration. The moves come after President Biden signed an executive order placing restrictions on all former registered lobbyists working in the administration, drawing praise from advocacy groups. Some of those same organizations have taken no issue with the recent waivers. Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said: “Public interest lobbyists are generally not an issue. The issue is corporate lobbyists who could … skew hundreds of billions of dollars to their former industry.”
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill Admits Affair, Won’t Run for U.S. Senate: ‘There’s no excuse’
AL.com – Connor Sheets and Kyle Whitmore | Published: 4/7/2021
After initially denying reports of an extramarital affair, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill admitted he had “an inappropriate relationship” with a legal assistant and will not make an anticipated run for the U.S. Senate. The revelations threw a wrench into the race to replace Sen. Richard Shelby, who is retiring. While campaigning for secretary of state, rumors that Merrill had a consensual encounter with a married woman in 2010 circulated. The allegation did little to stymie Merrill’s political aspirations, which continued with his 2019 campaign for U.S. Senate, where he was one of five GOP candidates hoping to unseat incumbent Democrat Doug Jones. In that campaign, Merrill made headlines for his comments about family values.
California – Carlsbad Approves Campaign Contribution Limits
San Diego Union Tribune – Phil Diehl | Published: 4/7/2021
Carlsbad lowered the limits on individual campaign contributions in a compromise that some city council members said was an effort to level the playing field for local candidates. Instead of using California’s default limit of $4,900 per donor, the council voted to set the maximum at $900 for council district elections and $3,100 for the mayoral and other citywide elected offices. The council also added a $10,000 cap on personal campaign loans.
California – How GOP Used Misinformation, Partisan News Sites to Flip California House Seats
CalMatters – Freddie Brewster and Katie Licari | Published: 3/26/2021
Last fall, Republicans flipped four congressional seats in California previously held by Democrats. Although the races varied in their rhetoric, they had one thing in common: the National Republican Congressional Committee targeted all four Democratic candidates in dossiers posted publicly that were filled with information, some of it false, used by some candidates for negative campaigning. The misinformation in turn was amplified not only on social media but by a handful of upstart conservative partisan news outlets.
Connecticut – Jon Lender: $20,000 ethics fine paid two years after being levied on former UConn official, who awarded her husband a $53,000 fellowship
MSN – Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) | Published: 4/2/2021
Former University of Connecticut graduate school diversity officer Charmane Thurmand, who was found by state ethics officials to have improperly given her husband a $53,000 fellowship, paid a $20,000 fine two years after it was levied, finally ending a contentious case. In March 2019, The Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board ordered Thurmand to pay the maximum $10,000 fine for each of two violations it found she had committed three years earlier. The Office of State Ethics filed an enforcement action with the help of the state attorney general’s office to collect the money.
Florida – Ethics Questions Raised About Developer Tapped for Riviera’s $300M Marina Project
MSN – Tony Doris (Palm Beach Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Turning Riviera Beach’s waterfront into a municipal centerpiece has been a challenge for city officials and most of the construction has yet to materialize. As negotiators and Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) staff work behind the scenes, a new challenge has arisen for the city council members, who sit as the CRA board of directors. A series of articles cast one of the main developers, Vaughn Irons, in an unfavorable light. The stories focus on Irons allegedly presenting a document purporting to be from the DeKalb County Ethics Board that found it would not be a conflict for him to win a $1.5 million county contract while serving as chair of the county’s Economic Development Authority. The Ethics Board said it never issued that opinion.
Florida – Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie Pleads Guilty to Misusing Office; Corruption Felonies Dropped
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Marc Freeman | Published: 4/1/2021
Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie pleaded guilty to charges arising out of a public corruption case that ended her long political career. With her plea deal, she shook off all four felony corruption counts. Haynie no longer stands accused of concealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, including money from prominent city developers. She pleaded guilty to misuse of public office and failure to disclose a voting conflict, and received 122 months on probation.
Florida – Who Is Lobbying to Change Florida’s Privacy Laws? That’s Private
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 4/1/2021
A mysterious group is the driving lobbying force behind legislation that would beef up Florida’s data privacy laws. It has hired a Tallahassee-based lobbying team and spent $300,000 in political contributions, but almost no one, including the sponsors of the bills, has any idea who is behind the group. The organization, Propel Florida, is a nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors, lists a UPS box in Lithia as its only address and was incorporated last April. But over the first half of the 2021 legislative session, the group has flexed its political muscle.
Georgia – Georgia’s Republican Party Accused of Illegally Accepting In-Kind Contributions from an Election Integrity Nonprofit in a New FEC Complaint
Yahoo News – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 3/31/2021
Two watchdog groups filed a complaint with the FEC accusing the Georgia Republican Party of illegally accepting in-kind contributions from True the Vote, a nonprofit that engaged in election-related activities around Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs., and not properly reporting them. The FEC defines in-kind contributions as a “non-monetary contribution” to benefit a campaign or committee. Federal law bans corporations (including both for-profit and non-profit organizations) from making such contributions to candidates or party committees or coordinating with them.
Georgia – MLB All-Star Game Yanked from Georgia Over Voting Law
Associated Press News – Ronald Blume | Published: 4/2/2021
Atlanta lost Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game over the league’s objections to sweeping changes to Georgia voting laws that critics, including the chief executive officers of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, have condemned as being too restrictive. Gov. Brian Kemp has insisted the law’s critics have mischaracterized what it does, yet GOP lawmakers adopted the changes largely in response to false claims of fraud in the 2020 elections by former President Trump and his supporters. The law includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run.
Illinois – Feds Put Spotlight on Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. in Sprawling Corruption Probe
WBEZ – Tony Arnold | Published: 4/7/2021
A sitting Cook County commissioner is now under the federal microscope as part of a sprawling federal corruption investigation into lobbyists and politicians in Illinois. The latest elected official to face scrutiny is Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena earlier this year to the Illinois Department of Revenue. The subpoena requested the agency release tax returns for Arroyo, his lobbying firm, and his wife. In 2019, Arroyo filed paperwork to lobby the Illinois Legislature while his father was a member. It is not illegal to lobby one government body while serving as an elected official in another, but state lawmakers are considering banning the practice.
Illinois – Illinois House Hears Ethics Proposals, Including ‘Revolving Door’ Prohibition for Lawmakers
The Center Square – Greg Bishop | Published: 4/5/2021
Lawmakers in an Illinois House committee are picking up on things the previous General Assembly attempted to address but was sidetracked last year by COVID-19. Stories boiled over throughout 2019 about corruption at the statehouse. They include a lawmaker wearing a wire catching another legislator in an alleged bribe, to other officials having their offices raided by federal investigators. The Ethics and Elections Committee heard about several ideas to address the problem.
Illinois – No Limit? Republican Gary Rabine Ups the Ante in High-Stakes Governor’s Race
Chicago Sun-Times – Andrew Sullander | Published: 4/5/2021
Four years after the Illinois race for governor broke national records for self-financing candidates, next year’s contest is shaping up to be another duel of the deep pockets. Businessperson Gary Rabine notified state election officials he had donated enough of his own cash to his gubernatorial campaign to lift all fundraising caps on the race.
Iowa – Iowa Democrat Drops Attempt to Contest House Race, Citing ‘Toxic Campaign of Political Disinformation’
MSN – Marianna Sotomayer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2021
Democrat Rita Hart dropped her challenge in the Iowa Second Congressional District race, asking the House to no longer consider an investigation into the outcome of her race against Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks following intense Republican pushback. Miller-Meeks was declared the winner over Hart following a recount with a difference of just six votes out of 400,000 cast. Hart alleges 22 legally cast ballots were not considered during the initial November canvass and subsequent recount, resulting in the tightest congressional electoral outcome in modern history.
Kentucky – Democratic Governor in Deep-Red Kentucky Signs Bill to Expand Voting, Bucking National Trend
MSN – Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) | Published: 4/8/2021
As Republicans from Georgia to Texas have pushed bills to restrict voting after President Trump’s loss, a markedly different story played out in deep-red Kentucky. The Bluegrass State’s GOP-dominated Legislature instead passed a bipartisan bill to expand access to the ballot box. Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, signed the measure, which mandates three days of no-excuse early voting, drop-boxes in every county, and an online portal to register absentee, among other changes.
Michigan – Dominion Says Ex-Michigan State Senator’s Election Fraud Claims ‘Successfully Duped Thousands of People’
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
For months, former Michigan Sen. Patrick Colbeck has repeated baseless claims about mass fraud in the presidential election to state senators and pro-Trump crowds, falsely insinuating that rigged voting machines and bogus ballots swayed the results. Now, Colbeck is the latest target in Dominion Voting Systems’ legal battle to combat claims by Republican allies of former President Trump the company says have damaged its reputation. Dominion demanded Colbeck retract his “demonstrably false claims” about the 2020 election results.
Montana – Montana House Rejects Bill Calling Media ‘Slander Machines’
Associated Press News – Iris Samuels | Published: 4/7/2021
The Montana House narrowly rejected a measure that sought to prevent media outlets from reporting on news that lawmakers deem defamatory. The Stop Guilt by Accusation Act closely resembles bills introduced in at least four other states. None have been signed into law. Supporters of the measure said it was not meant to silence the media, but to ensure that reporting on public figures does not stray from the truth. Opponents said they wished to protect the public debate fostered by a free media.
New Mexico – Redistricting Bill One of 50 Signed into Law Tuesday by Lujan Grisham
Yahoo News – Robert Knott | Published: 4/7/2021
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that will create an independent, seven-member commission to redraw election district boundaries later this year, a victory for good-government advocates who say the maps too often are influenced by state politicians’ self-interest. Commissioners will be chosen no later than July 1 and have up to four months to come up with a plan using Census Bureau data. The coronavirus pandemic has led to a delay in the release of that information, which is estimated to be made public in September. The Legislature will then convene a special session to choose the final plans.
New York – New York Attorney General Probes Finances of Key Trump Aide
MSN – David Fahrenthold and Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 4/1/2021
The New York attorney general has gathered personal financial records of the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer and his family, another sign of legal pressure on one of former President Trump’s closest aides. Allen Weisselberg has handled Trump’s finances for decades, rising to become the company’s most powerful person not named “Trump.” In complex investigations, prosecutors often seek evidence of wrongdoing by subordinates to pressure them to reveal damaging information about their bosses. The pressure by both offices being brought to bear on Weisselberg appears designed to pursue that strategy against Trump.
North Carolina – Bar Lobbyists from UNC Board of Governors, a New Bill Says. 3 of Them Are Members Now.
MSN – Lucille Sherman and Kate Murphy (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 4/5/2021
A bill would bar the Legislature from appointing lobbyists to the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors. Senate Bill 546 would cut off one way some lawmakers influence the state’s higher education system by appointing close allies and donors. The bill would prevent lobbyists from trying to balance the interests of the system with those of clients who want certain legislation passed and lawmakers whose support they need to bring those bills across the finish line. Some lobbyists with big-name clients also have the power to direct campaign money to legislators, said watchdog Bob Hall.
North Dakota – Citing Too Much Paperwork, North Dakota Lawmakers Sink Bills to Boost Campaign Finance Transparency
Inforum.com – Jeremy Turley | Published: 4/6/2021
North Dakota senators defeated two bills that would have required political donors to disclose where their money is going, citing a likely increase in the amount of paperwork expected of partisan groups that help elect lawmakers. Candidates and political committees are not legally compelled in North Dakota to detail which campaigns they are supporting or opposing with donations. A bipartisan group of lawmakers set out to change that after Gov. Doug Burgum bankrolled millions of hard-to-track dollars in political advertising for and against candidates during last year’s election cycle.
Ohio – Bill Seeks to End ‘Dark Money’ Spending in Ohio Elections
The Courier – Tyler Buchanan (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 4/6/2021
Republican lawmakers are proposing to revamp some of Ohio’s campaign finance laws that would shine a light on “dark money” groups. Public officials from both parties have called for reforms in the wake of the House Bill 6 scandal, which saw the speaker of the state House arrested, as well as widespread attention paid to how certain groups navigate campaign finance and tax laws to anonymously influence election results.
Ohio – Columbus Zoo Investigation: CEO used zoo money personally, failed to bid construction project at The Wilds
MSN – Alissa Widman Reese | Published: 4/6/2021
Former Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Chief Executive Officer Tom Stalf used zoo funds to purchase a recreational vehicle for his exclusive use and used it for a family trip, according to an investigation by a law firm hired by the zoo’s board of directors. Stalf also personally selected the vendor for a $2 million construction project and did not seek competitive bidding. The findings are among the new revelations detailed in the zoo’s first public update on the case. Staif and former Chief Financial Officer Greg Bell resigned after it was reported they used zoo assets personally and for the benefit of their families.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Complaint Seeks Campaign Spending Details from Householder-Aligned Candidate
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/7/2021
A conservative activist issued subpoenas as part of a state elections case he filed against a former state legislative candidate aligned with then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Chris Hicks is hoping to uncover information about campaign spending for Allen Freeman, who in May 2020 finished last in a Republican primary for a state House seat. The Ohio Elections Commission authorized Hicks’ complaint for a full hearing, which gives him power to subpoena records and, in some instances, compel people to answer questions in writing.
Texas – What’s Inside Texas’s Move to Overhaul Voting Rules
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 4/7/2021
The war over voting access that has roiled Georgia is headed next to Texas, where Republican legislators are working through an omnibus elections overhaul package that would dramatically change the way some voters cast a ballot in future contests. The measure has been labeled a priority by both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who controls the state Senate. It follows on the heels of election overhauls that passed in 2017 and failed in 2019, but after a chaotic election held amid a pandemic, it aims to crack down on several practices that supporters say ran afoul of current state law.
Vermont – Anti-Bottle Bill ‘Patch Call’ Campaign Draws Fire
VTDigger.org – James Finn | Published: 4/7/2021
A campaign by a group of business lobbyists tried to thwart a bill that would reform recycling in Vermont through a “grassroots” effort. That campaign sparked confusion among lawmakers and constituents who have found themselves on the receiving end of the lobbying efforts and drawn criticism from environmentalists who say the group is being deceptive about its intentions. Vermonters for Recycling claims to be a “community organization” that “advocates for smart, reasonable and effective solutions for the effective reuse of waste materials in Vermont.” But despite the grassroots appearance, the group is run by a Boston-based lobbying firm hired by Vermont business groups that oppose House Bill 175.
Virginia – Unorthodox Republican Contest for Virginia Governor Breeds Confusion, Suspicion
MSN – Laura Vozella (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2021
Virginia Republicans are a month away from picking their candidate for governor – not by voters going to the ballot box, but instead by way of a byzantine internal nomination process that has bred confusion and suspicion among the party faithful. Longtime activists and newcomers are struggling to understand how to conduct and partake in the “unassembled convention,” an unorthodox format chosen by party leaders during a pandemic and a GOP family feud. As a nomination method, conventions are easier to manipulate than primaries because local party leaders control the application process, decide who is eligible to vote. and pick the convention location.
April 8, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Ohio: “Ohio Elections Complaint Seeks Campaign Spending Details from Householder-Aligned Candidate” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN Elections Kentucky: “Democratic Governor in Deep-Red Kentucky Signs Bill to Expand Voting, Bucking National Trend” by Tim Elfrink (Washington […]
Ohio: “Ohio Elections Complaint Seeks Campaign Spending Details from Householder-Aligned Candidate” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Kentucky: “Democratic Governor in Deep-Red Kentucky Signs Bill to Expand Voting, Bucking National Trend” by Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) for MSN
Texas: “What’s Inside Texas’s Move to Overhaul Voting Rules” by Reid Wilson for The Hill
National: “Corporate America Isn’t Welcoming Former Trump Cabinet Officials with Open Arms, Headhunters Say” by Tory Newmyer (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “The Battle for Tribune: Inside the campaign to find new owners for a legendary group of newspapers” by Elahe Izade and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) for MSN
Alabama: “Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill Admits Affair, Won’t Run for U.S. Senate: ‘There’s no excuse’” by Connor Sheets and Kyle Whitmore for AL.com
Illinois: “Feds Put Spotlight on Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. in Sprawling Corruption Probe” by Tony Arnold for WBEZ
National: “New Labor Secretary’s Ex-Boston Aides Line Up to Lobby in D.C.” by Ben Penn for Bloomberg Law
New Mexico: “Redistricting Bill One of 50 Signed into Law Tuesday by Lujan Grisham” by Robert Knott (Santa Fe New Mexican) for Yahoo News
April 2, 2021 •
National/Federal Business Groups Rethinking Value of In-Person Lobbying The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/31/2021 Before the pandemic, business groups held fly-ins that allowed for in-person meetings with members of Congress and agency officials. Trade associations are rethinking the need […]
Business Groups Rethinking Value of In-Person Lobbying
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/31/2021
Before the pandemic, business groups held fly-ins that allowed for in-person meetings with members of Congress and agency officials. Trade associations are rethinking the need for in-person lobbying and the travel costs that come with it. Many experts on K Street say engagement efforts are more likely to consist of a hybrid of meetings online and in Washington, D.C., along with fewer trips overall. Virtual fly-ins help lower the barrier of entry for advocacy because companies and groups are not spending as much as they otherwise would sending employees to Washington. In addition to reducing the cost of meeting with lawmakers, the pandemic has allowed for more meetings overall.
Cameron ‘Blocked Rule Change’ That Left ‘Open Door’ for Him to Lobby for Greensill
MSN – Kayleena Makortoff (Guardian) | Published: 3/29/2021
The Labour Party accused former British Prime Minister David Cameron of blocking rule changes that could have stopped him from personally lobbying government officials on behalf of collapsed lender Greensill Capital without publicly declaring his interests. The opposition party put forward amendments to the Lobbying Act that would have increased transparency and scrutiny of in-house lobbying. Rules only require third parties to log their efforts in the public register, while in-house lobbyists do not have to. The amendment, which would have required both groups to register, was defeated after Cameron, who was still prime minister, ordered Conservative peers to vote against the changes in January 2014, Labour said.
Corporations, Vocal About Racial Justice, Go Quiet on Voting Rights
New York Times – David Gelles | Published: 3/29/2021
As Black Lives Matter protesters filled the streets last summer, many of the country’s largest corporations expressed solidarity and pledged support for racial justice. But now, with lawmakers around the country advancing restrictive voting rights bills that would have a disproportionate impact on Black voters, corporate America has gone quiet. Its guarded approach stands in stark contrast to its engagement with other social and political issues in recent years. Many big companies spoke out against then-President Trump on issues including climate change, immigration, and white supremacy.
Court Voids Trump Campaign’s Non-Disclosure Agreement
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/30/2021
A federal judge ruled a broad non-disclosure agreement that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign required employees to sign is unenforceable. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe’s ruling generally steered clear of the constitutional issues presented by such agreements in the context of political campaigns. Instead, the judge said the sweeping, boilerplate language the campaign compelled employees to sign was so vague the agreement was invalid under New York contract law.
Dems Could Dethrone Iowa
Politico – Natasha Korecki and Holly Otterbein | Published: 3/31/2021
Democratic Party leaders are considering overhauling the 2024 presidential primary calendar, a transformation that would include ousting Iowa and New Hampshire from their perches as the first states to vote. Senior party leaders and Democratic National Committee members are privately exploring the idea of pushing South Carolina and Nevada to the front of the primary election schedule, as well as the possibility of multiple states holding the first nominating contest on the same day. Critics have long insisted that Iowa and New Hampshire have an outsized role in framing the presidential contest despite being unrepresentative of the rest of the country.
Dominion Voting Sues Fox for $1.6B Over 2020 Election Claims
Associated Press News – Colleen Long | Published: 3/25/2021
Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed to boost faltering ratings that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election. It is the first defamation suit filed against a media outlet by the voting company, which was a target of misleading, false, and bizarre claims spread by former President Trump and his allies in the aftermath of Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Dominion argues Fox News, which amplified inaccurate assertions that Dominion altered votes, “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process,” according to the lawsuit.
Ethics Upholds Gohmert’s $5,000 Metal Detector Fine
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 3/30/2021
The House Committee on Ethics Committee upheld the $5,000 fine levied against U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert for bypassing a security screening to enter the House chamber. Gohmert appealed days after House Democrats voted to enact the punitive measure to enforce compliance with the metal detector screenings established following the January 6 insurrection. Gohmert stated in his appeal that he had complied with the security screening upon first entering the chamber on February 4. He then left the House floor briefly to use the restroom and was unaware that he had to undergo another screening upon reentering the chamber.
FEC Greenlights Campaign Spending for Bodyguards
Politico – Daniel Payne | Published: 3/25/2021
Members of Congress will now be allowed to hire bodyguards with campaign funds, according to a new ruling from the FEC. The agency said members of the House and Senate may spend campaign dollars to hire security personnel when they are not being protected by law enforcement on Capitol Hill. The FEC will also give more guidance to lawmakers on using campaign money for personal security needs beyond the hiring of bodyguards. “I’ve never thought of us as a country where the leadership of the country had to be surrounded by armed guards and needed to keep the public at arm’s length at all times,” said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, who voted to approve the final ruling.
Gaetz Investigation Complicated by Overture to His Father About Ex-FBI Agent Who Went Missing
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2021
The Justice Department is investigating U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz over allegations he had sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel, though the probe has been complicated by Gaetz’s assertion his family is being extorted. The FBI separately is exploring the extortion claims that center around Robert Levinson, the longest-held American hostage in Iran. The investigation into Gaetz’s alleged relationship with the 17-year-old grew from a federal case against a different Florida Republican: Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector who was charged last summer with sex trafficking of a child and other offenses.
GOP Donors Are Hobnobbing in Person Again; Dems Are Sticking to Zoom
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Susannah Luthi | Published: 3/31/2021
A few Democrats have dipped their toes in the water with outdoor events, but the party has mostly stuck to virtual fundraisers. A list of more than 80 upcoming fundraisers for House Democrats sent out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently includes no in-person events, and a half-dozen Democratic lobbyists and consultants said they could not recall being invited to any such gatherings. Democrats’ caution poses a sharp contrast with a growing number of lawmakers on the Republican side of the aisle, who have been meeting in person with donors for weeks, if not months, and are showing no desire to slow down.
No ‘Dreamers’ Allowed: DACA recipients still can’t work for Congress
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 3/25/2021
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. as children, to apply for deportation relief if they meet certain criteria. It also allows them to file for a Social Security number, get a driver’s license, and apply for federal student financial aid. But an appropriations provision has prevented federal money from being used to pay noncitizens as federal employees, with few exceptions. Dreamers can get a job on Capitol Hill only if they are paid by third parties, as interns or fellows placed through groups like the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
NRA Faces Internal Woes as It Girds for New Gun Control Fight
MSN – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
In 2017, the National Rifle Association (NRA) celebrated its ascendant political power with a newly elected U.S. president, Donald Trump, who stood at the organization’s national convention lectern promising to deliver for the gun-rights group that had helped secure his election. Four years later, though, the NRA is confronting challenges that have undercut the power of the long-feared lobby organization, even as new gun control measures are proposed after two mass shootings. It has been plagued by allegations of self-dealing and is defending itself against a lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general that alleges the NRA violated its nonprofit status as its top leaders allegedly raided the group’s coffers for personal gain.
Trump Helped the GOP Raise $2 Billion. Now Former Aides and Allies Are Jockeying to Tap into His Fundraising Power.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2021
The number of independent money operations connected to former President Trump – some directly associated with him, others that have his tacit blessing – has been expanding since he left office. The groups, which include both nonprofits and super PACs, are seeking to capitalize on Trump’s fundraising firepower, which drove a record $2.2 billion into the three Republican Party campaign committees during his time in office. GOP officials are trying to keep that pipeline going, a prospect complicated by Trump’s ambivalence about letting the party continue to fundraise off his name and the separate fundraising efforts springing up around him, some of which could take aim at Republicans who have crossed the former president.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Mark Finchem Sought to Overturn the Presidential Race. Now He Wants to Run Arizona’s Elections
MSN – Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) | Published: 3/29/2021
One of the leaders of an effort to overturn the results of the presidential race in Arizona wants to oversee the next presidential election as secretary of state. Rep. Mark Finchem filed a statement of interest to run for the post, the first official step in a campaign to become Arizona’s top election official. Finchem previously hinted he might run for the office, having gained notoriety with his support for former President Trump and his claims of wrongdoing in the last election.
California – How California’s Recall Rules Could Spell Trouble for Gavin Newsom
San Jose Mercury News – Ben Christopher (CALmatters) | Published: 3/8/2021
If recalls followed the rules of a normal California election – the person who wins a majority of the votes wins – then Gov. Gavin Newsom, an incumbent Democrat in a thoroughly Democratic state, would have nothing to worry about. But unfortunately for him, a recall is not like an ordinary California election. One part standard-issue candidate race, one part free-spending ballot measure campaign, California recalls adhere to a unique and some critics say, less than fully democratic procedure that makes for a much more unpredictable outcome.
Florida – Carla Miller Retiring from City Ethics Office
Jacksonville Daily Record – Max Marbut | Published: 3/29/2021
Carla Miller is retiring as director of Jacksonville’s Office of Ethics, Compliance and Oversight, effective October 1. Miller said that after 24 years of service to the city she will be putting more time into the nonprofit she established to promote ethics development and education and will assume a part-time role in the city ethics agency during the transition. Miller helped write the first ethics code for local government. The city also established a confidential whistleblower hotline to give city employees and the public a means to report suspected unethical activity.
Georgia – Georgia State Democratic Lawmaker Arrested While Trying to Watch Gov. Kemp Sign Voting Bill
MSN – Amy Wang and Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
State Rep. Park Cannon was arrested after trying to watch Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sign a controversial new voting bill into law in a heated interaction that was caught on video. Facebook Live video shows Cannon knocking on the door to Kemp’s office as he was holding a news conference inside about Senate Bill 202, a sweeping set of restrictions on how ballots are cast and counted in Georgia. A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Safety confirmed Cannon was arrested for obstructing law enforcement and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members.
Hawaii – Five Honolulu Planning Department Employees Indicted for Bribery
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 3/30/2021
Five current and former Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting employees are facing federal charges for allegedly accepting bribes. A local architect has also been indicted in connection with the alleged scheme. Wayne Inouye, a former building plans examiner, allegedly solicited and accepted gifts, payments, and other things of value several times in the last decade. In exchange, he rewarded those paying the bribes with favorable treatment including expediting permit approvals, according to the indictment. Inouye took steps to hide his criminal activity including by using a sole proprietorship, the indictment states. The other indictments follow the same pattern.
Illinois – Chicago-Based Marijuana Giant Part of Federal Pay-to-Play Investigation
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/29/2021
A Chicago-based marijuana cultivator and dispenser that has rapidly grown into one of the nation’s biggest cannabis firms is under federal investigation for possible “pay-to-play” violations during its push for state licenses, sources said. Investigators have been scrutinizing campaign donations and other steps Green Thumb Industries (GTI) took as it sought to secure growing and distribution licenses in Illinois and several other states. Illinois records show GTI’s executives and affiliates have donated to politicians and a PAC that were instrumental in the marijuana legalization effort. The company also hired a succession of lobbyists and consultants with ties to then-House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Illinois – Former State Sen. Annazette Collins Indicted on Federal Tax Charges Stemming from Her Lobbying Income
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Illinois Sen. Annazette Collins was indicted on federal charges alleging she underreported income and failed to file federal income tax returns for her lobbying and consulting firm. The indictment was the latest brought in connection with the ongoing federal corruption probe into an alleged bribery scheme by Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) to influence then-House Speaker Michael Madigan. Collins was one of a number of ex-lawmakers hired by ComEd after retiring from public office, though the indictment does not specifically mention her work for the utility.
Illinois – Longtime Political Operative for Ald. Edward Burke, Former State Sen. Martin Sandoval Charged with Deceiving FBI
MSN – Jason Meisner | Published: 3/29/2021
A precinct captain for indicted Chicago Ald. Edward Burke and aide to former state Sen. Martin Sandoval was charged with misleading the FBI in its political corruption investigation in Illinois. According to the charge, Rudy Acosta Jr. failed to disclose in interviews with agents benefits both he and Sandoval received from another person including “free services, meals, and travel.” The information also stated that when Acosta was questioned by the FBI on six separate occasions, he hid the fact that he made “periodic cash payments” to Sandoval.
Kentucky – KY Legislature Passes Last-Minute Bill That Shields Information of Public Officials
MSN – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 3/30/2021
The Kentucky House quickly passed legislation that would allow any police officer, prosecutor, and some court employees – and anyone related to them – to shield a wide array of personal information from the public. At 11 p.m. on the second to last day of the session, a floor amendment was introduced to Senate Bill 48, which had been filed that day, ensuring the public could not read it before lawmakers voted. The amendment was later passed by the Senate. Because it passed in the final two days of the session, lawmakers will not have the ability to override any potential veto.
Maryland – U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI Investigating Marilyn and Nick Mosby
Baltimore Magazine – Ron Cassie | Published: 3/26/2021
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her husband, city council President Nick Mosby, are the subject of a federal investigation into her campaign finances and the couple’s business records and taxes. As part of the wide-ranging probe, the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI have served several subpoenas seeking financial records related to the couple’s tax returns from 2014-2020, loan documents, bank and investment statements, credit card files, information related to their consulting and travel businesses, as well as copies of all campaign finance records related to Mosby’s campaign organization, the Friends of Marilyn Mosby.
Massachusetts – Judge Denies Bid by Senator, Wife to Block Officials from Referring Probe into Them to State Prosecutors
MSN – Matt Stout | Published: 3/30/2021
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Christine Roach denied a request from a state senator that she temporarily block campaign finance regulators from referring an investigation into him, his wife, and other family members to prosecutors. Roach also declined a request by state Sen. Ryan Fattman and others that the Office of Campaign and Political Finance provide them with “all” the evidence that Director Michael Sullivan has compiled against them. The judge wrote the Fattmans have “no reasonable likelihood of success” proving Sullivan violated state law by not turning over all the evidence, or he violated their due process by not recusing himself from the probe, as they have demanded.
Missouri – For Sexual Assault Survivors, Greitens’ Return Can Mean Fresh Trauma, Experts Say
McClatchyDC.com – Bryan Lowry and Jeanne Kuang | Published: 3/28/2021
Dee Ogilvy was sexually assaulted 42 years ago at her place of work. The police never made an arrest in the case and a shoulder injury from the attack still gives her pain. Ogilvy said she is disgusted to see former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat less than three years after allegations of blackmail and sexual assault helped lead to his resignation. His return comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defies calls for his resignation after allegations of sexual misconduct from at least 10 women.
Missouri – Former Missouri House Representative Gets 21 Months in Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Robert Patrick | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Missouri Rep. Courtney Curtis was sentenced to 21 months in prison for misusing campaign funds for personal expenses and was ordered to repay $47,867. He filed false campaign finance reports to cover up his crimes. Before sentencing Curtis, the judge tallied up the 822 financial transactions representing misuse of campaign funds, including cash withdrawals in or near casinos.
Missouri – Missouri Curator Worried He’d Lose Seat If Didn’t ‘Play Ball’ with Controversial Lobbyist
Kansas City Star – Rudi Keller (Missouri Independent) | Published: 3/31/2021
University of Missouri Curator David Steelman raised objections that one of the system’s lobbyists, former House Speaker Steve Tilley, was using his connections to the university to seek business for other clients. Steelman called the arrangement “an obvious conflict,” and openly worried if he did not “play ball” he would lose his seat on the nine-member board that governs the university system. His term is expired, and he remains on the board until a replacement is confirmed by the Missouri Senate. Gov. Mike Parson nominated Keith Holloway for Steelman’s seat. Tilley, who both lobbies state government and provides campaign consulting services, has been paid $5,000 a month since February 2019 to lobby for the system.
New Mexico – New Mexico Lawmakers Snub Lobbying Transparency. In Other States, It’s Business as Usual.
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 3/26/2021
In a 2015 report, the Center for Public Integrity gave New Mexico a grade of “F” for lobbying disclosure, the 43rd worst in the country. It has not improved since then and lawmakers did not give the topic a full hearing during the 2021 legislative session. One argument made in opposition to increased disclosure is that it would be excessively burdensome for lobbyists. Another fear is greater disclosure will dampen public participation in the legislative process or harm a lobbyist’s effectiveness. But in the neighboring state of Colorado, the sort of transparency proposed for New Mexico is just business as usual.
New York – ‘Apprentice’ Contestant’s Lawsuit Against Trump Can Resume, N.Y. Court Says
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2021
The New York State Court of Appeals ruled a defamation case against former President Trump, brought by an “Apprentice” contestant who alleged he sexually assaulted her years ago, can go forward as the immunity claim he raised while in office no longer applies. The defense was raised in the lawsuit brought by Summer Zervos and in other long-running cases still facing Trump. Zervos alleges Trump, who hosted the popular reality show, smeared her when she came forward with the sexual assault allegation. In denying her claims, Trump said Zervos lied and suggested she was motivated by money.
New York – Bannon Criminal Probe in N.Y. Includes Embedded Investigators from State Attorney General’s Office
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
The New York attorney general’s office has partnered with Manhattan’s district attorney to investigate Stephen Bannon for the alleged fundraising scam that prompted his federal pardon in the waning hours of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to people familiar with the matter. The move adds prosecutorial firepower to a criminal case widely seen as an attempted end-run around the former president’s bid to protect a political ally. Attorney General Letitia James has built a reputation, in part, around her promises to hold Trump and his associates accountable for alleged misdeeds. Presidential pardons do not apply to state investigations.
New York – N.Y. State Sen. Brian Benjamin’s Campaign Expenses Raise Questions About Propriety
New York Daily News – Michael Gartland | Published: 3/28/2021
New York Sen. Brian Benjamin used money from his Senate campaign account to pay for “constituent services” at a Harlem jazz club at almost exactly the same time he and his wife held their wedding celebration there, raising questions about whether the lawmaker may have abused campaign finance rules. Benjamin is running for New York City comptroller. His campaign returned more than a dozen contributions after people listed as donors claimed they never gave to him.
New York – Seven Months Later, Cuomo Administration Divulges Details About His Covid-19 Book Deal
Buffalo News – Tom Precious | Published: 3/31/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was given permission by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) in July to write a book about his handling of state government during the first wave of Covid-19, as long as the subject matter of the book was “unrelated to the governor’s duties” in office, according to state documents. The New York Times reported Cuomo used top aides and junior staffers for help on his book project. JCOPE specifically told Cuomo he could not use state “personnel” or property “for activities associated with the book.”
North Dakota – Transparency Advocates Raise Concerns Over North Dakota Redistricting Plan
Grand Forks Herald – Jeremy Turley | Published: 3/26/2021
Later this year, a group of top North Dakota lawmakers will redraw the state’s political boundaries for the next decade. The exercise always attracts the attention of incumbent legislators and civically minded residents, but several transparency advocates worry the redistricting plan will be formed behind closed doors and without the public’s input. The Republican-backed bill to establish the legislative redistricting process states drafts of the redistricting plan are exempt from open records laws until they are presented to the full Legislature.
Ohio – Ohio Campaign-Finance Reform Bill Gets First Look Since Emergence of Dark Money Scandal
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/25/2021
The Ohio House is taking up a bill that would impose tougher disclosure requirements on corporate political donors, a move to increase campaign finance transparency in the aftermath of the House Bill 6 scandal. House Bill 13 would require political nonprofits and other corporate groups to disclose their donors and spending with the Ohio secretary of state’s office, similar to PACs or candidates. Among the groups it would affect are 5019(c)4s, nonprofits often used as vehicles for “dark money” spending.
Ohio – Top Columbus Zoo Officials Resign Following Dispatch Investigation
MSN – Jennifer Smola and Alissa Widman Neese (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 3/29/2021
Tom Stalf resigned as chief executive officer of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Greg Bell stepped down as chief financial officer after a media investigation found they misused the zoo’s resources. They allowed relatives to live in houses owned or controlled by the zoo for below-market rent in exchange for the residents making improvements to the property. Stalf and Bell sought the use of the zoo’s suites and tickets to local entertainment venues for themselves and their family members. Most of the tickets requested were available through the zoo’s marketing contracts with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State University and were intended for hosting financial supporters of the zoo.
South Carolina – Former SC Governor, Congressman Sanford Joins Lobbying Firm
Associated Press News – Meg Kinnard | Published: 3/30/2021
Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, member of Congress, and one-time presidential candidate, is going to work for a lobbying firm. Shumaker Advisors announced Sanford would be joining the firm as an executive vice president and principal. The government relations arm of a law firm, Shumaker Advisors operates seven offices in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and the Carolinas. Sanford has been working to find a foothold since end of the most recent iteration of his political career. Sanford was elected twice as governor before an extramarital affair marred the end of his second term.
Texas – GOP Candidate from New Jersey Accused of Pandering After He Transforms into Cowboy for Texas Run
MSN – Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2021
Dan Rodimer has led many lives, but his latest – a cowboy hat-wearing, Southern-drawling bull rider – might be the most extreme transformation to date. In his first ad as a candidate for Texas’s Sixth Congressional District, “Big Dan” Rodimer speaks in a gravelly, indistinct Southern accent, throws jabs at Democratic policies, and compares House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a bull he is supposedly riding in the ad. But the New Jersey native did not have the twang last year when he ran for Congress in Nevada. He has remade himself again on a road he hopes will lead to Congress, though his latest persona has earned him ridicule, even from fellow Republicans.
Texas – Lawsuit Challenges Austin’s Fundraising Rules for Political Candidates
MSN – Ryan Autullo (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 3/26/2021
A new federal lawsuit revives a challenge to city of Austin rules that prohibit candidates from accepting political contributions until one year before an election. Fundraising blackouts are designed to prevent corruption and the perception of wrongdoing by limiting the window individual donors and businesses are permitted to give money to elected officials. Unlike Texas lawmakers who are in session every other year, city council members meet year-round and regularly vote on matters that could be influenced by donors making financial promises.
Utah – Salt Lake County GOP Forms Ethics Committee in Response to Harassment Allegations
Salt Lake Tribune – Bryan Schott | Published: 3/30/2021
The Salt Lake County Republican Party is forming an ethics advisory committee in the wake of multiple women alleging leadership took no action to address their complaints of harassment and bullying. Former GOP Chairperson Scott Miller resigned in the wake of a Salt Lake Tribune story about complaints he did nothing to stop inappropriate behavior by his communications director, Dave Robinson, during his tenure at the helm of the party. Miller also sent out an email to Republican delegates denigrating the women who came forward with allegations, questioning their motives. Miller later apologized in the face of widespread condemnation.
Washington – Don Benton, Ex-Washington State Senator and Trump Ally, Behind Mystery Mailer
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Washington Sen. Don Benton, who served in the Trump administration, is responsible for a recent mailer that criticizes Democratic lawmakers for a proposed change to the state’s estate tax. State law requires a sponsor to be listed on campaign mailers. But that is not necessary for communications known as grassroots lobbying, which focus instead on the debate over legislative proposals. In that case, the citizen complaints alleging a lack of disclosure information might not apply.
March 30, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Trump Helped the GOP Raise $2 Billion. Now Former Aides and Allies Are Jockeying to Tap into His Fundraising Power.” by Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) for MSN Massachusetts: “State Officials […]
National: “Trump Helped the GOP Raise $2 Billion. Now Former Aides and Allies Are Jockeying to Tap into His Fundraising Power.” by Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) for MSN
Massachusetts: “State Officials Are Investigating Senator, Wife for Potential Campaign Finance Violations” by Matt Sout (Boston Globe) for MSN
New York: “N.Y. State Sen. Brian Benjamin’s Campaign Expenses Raise Questions About Propriety” by Michael Gartland for New York Daily News
National: “Corporations, Vocal About Racial Justice, Go Quiet on Voting Rights” by David Gelles for New York Times
California: “How California’s Recall Rules Could Spell Trouble for Gavin Newsom” by Ben Christopher (CALmatters) for San Jose Mercury News
Texas: “GOP Candidate from New Jersey Accused of Pandering After He Transforms into Cowboy for Texas Run” by Meryl Kornfield for MSN
Maryland: “U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI Investigating Marilyn and Nick Mosby” by Ron Cassie for Baltimore Magazine
National: “NRA Faces Internal Woes as It Girds for New Gun Control Fight” by Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN
North Dakota: “Transparency Advocates Raise Concerns Over North Dakota Redistricting Plan” by Jeremy Turley for Grand Forks Herald
March 5, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 3/1/2021 President Biden and is under pressure to do more to restore confidence in the federal government following Donald Trump’s term in the White House. But […]
Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 3/1/2021
President Biden and is under pressure to do more to restore confidence in the federal government following Donald Trump’s term in the White House. But the schedules for the president and vice president are not posted online, the White House comment line is shut down, and there are no citizen petitions on the White House’s website. The administration has committed to releasing visitor logs. But it does not plan to divulge the names of attendees of virtual meetings, which are the primary mode of interaction until the pandemic eases. While Biden has received praise for keeping the American public informed, primarily by resuming the daily White House press briefings, he has yet to hold a news conference of his own.
Budget Nominee Tanden Withdraws Nomination Amid Opposition
Associated Press News – Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 3/2/2021
President Biden’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, has withdrawn her nomination after she faced opposition from key Democratic and Republican senators for her controversial tweets. Her withdrawal marks the first high-profile defeat of one of Biden’s nominees. The White House stuck with Tanden even after some centrist Republicans made their opposition known. Tanden faced pointed questions over her past comments about members from both parties during her confirmation hearing. Sen. Bernie Sanders accused her of issuing “vicious attacks” against progressives and had not said whether he’d support her nomination.
Capitol Riot Defendants Facing Jail Have Regrets. Judges Aren’t Buying It.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2021
As defendants charged in the Capitol siege have been coming through court, some have been shifting blame onto former President Trump, downplaying their actions, or expressing remorse. But federal judges, particularly those who work a few blocks from the Capitol, are not buying it. One judge called a defendant’s claim of civil disobedience “detached from reality.” Another verbally smacked down an attorney who tried to use the QAnon conspiracy theory to explain his client shouting “kill them all.” Other judges have been giving defendants civics lessons on how democracy works.
Elaine Chao Used DOT Staff to Aid Personal Errands, Father’s Business, Inspector Finds
Politico – Sam Mintz and Tanya Snyder | Published: 3/3/2021
Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao repeatedly used her staff and her position of power to boost the reputation of her shipping magnate father and otherwise aid her family, the Department of Transportation’s inspector concluded. The internal watchdog faulted Chao for four kinds of ethics violations, including planning to bring relatives on an official trip to China and requiring the department’s public affairs staff to help market a book written by her father. It found she also had employees handle personal errands such as shipping Christmas ornaments. Investigators referred their findings to the Justice Department for prosecution in December but it declined.
Ethics Watchdog: ‘Substantial’ evidence GOP lawmaker improperly spent funds, misused position to help brother
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 3/1/2021
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) concluded there is “substantial” evidence that U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo misused campaign as well as official funds and used his office to help his brother in violation of House rules. The OCE said it found evidence indicating Palazzo asked his House office staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands; and used his position as a member of Congress to contact the assistant secretary of the Navy to help his brother reenlist. The report said Palazzo charged his campaign committee rent for ostensibly using a riverfront home he owned as a headquarters, equal to the amount of his monthly mortgage, insurance, and tax payments “during a time of personal financial stress.”
Facebook Lifts Political Ad Ban
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 3/3/2021
Facebook lifted its ban on political ads, ending a self-imposed prohibition that began immediately after the 2020 general election and remained active for months. Facebook’s platform is one of the largest and most cost-effective ways for campaigns to reach voters and potential supporters. Digital strategists in both parties were critical of Facebook’s decision to cut off access to voters for the last several months, upending off-year campaign strategies.
HR 1 Overhaul Would Set New Holiday and New Rules for Lobbyists, Elections and Justices
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/3/2021
The U.S. House approved a sweeping political money, elections, influence, and ethics measure, but the bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. A hallmark of the package would set out an optional system to finance congressional campaigns with public money. It would provide a six-to-one match of small-dollar campaign donations. Under the legislation, all states would be required to send voters an application to cast their ballots by mail. Now, anyone who keeps their lobbying activities under 20 percent of their time for a client can remain under the public radar. HR 1 would take that threshold down to 10 percent.
‘It’s Donald Trump’s Party’: How the former president is building a political operation to cement his hold on the GOP
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2021
Any doubts about Donald Trump’s primacy in the Republican Party have been settled in recent weeks by the parade of petitioners he has welcomed to his Florida club. The party chairperson, the top two House Republicans, U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, and a coterie of other former aides and advisers have all made appearances at Mar-a-Lago, offering their counsel and seeking the favor of a former president who many believe controls the short-term fortunes of GOP candidates up and down the ballot and has made it clear he plans to use that power. Trump has started building his post-White House political operation and cementing his role as the party’s de facto leader.
Jim Jordan Under Scrutiny for Nearly $3 Million in Unreported Campaign Funds
Yahoo News – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 3/3/2021
The campaign committee for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan received ten notices from the FEC flagging discrepancies on its books totaling nearly $3 million dollars and dating back over two years. The campaign claims the errors slipped through the cracks amid a record fundraising surge, and it has more money on the books now, but experts say the dollar amount – errors totaling some $2.87 million – may trigger an FEC investigation. The errors also appear connected to newly developed, largely hidden payment systems in the murky world of Republican digital advertising, where vendors not only receive direct spending, but take cuts from fundraising as well.
Rep. Ronny Jackson Made Sexual Comments, Drank Alcohol and Took Ambien While Working as White House Physician, Pentagon Watchdog Finds
CNN – Manu Raju, Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen, and Oren Lieberman | Published: 3/3/2021
The Department of Defense inspector general’s office found U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip, and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted concerns from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care during his time serving as the top White House physician. The report notes the investigation into Jackson “was limited in scope and unproductive” as White House counsel under Donald Trump insisted on being present at all interviews of current White House Medical Unit employees, which had a “potential chilling effect” on the probe.
Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to Minorities
Anchorage Daily News – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court seemed inclined to make it more difficult to challenge widely used voting laws that in practice might be more of a burden to minority voters. The justices reviewed the protections provided by the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to forbid laws that result in discrimination based on race. The cases involve two voting regulations that are in common use across the country. One throws out the ballots of those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other restricts who may collect ballots cast early for delivery to polling places, a practice then-President Trump denounced as “ballot harvesting.” The greater impact will be the test the court develops for proving violations of the VRA, as new laws are proposed and state Legislatures begin redrawing congressional and legislative districts.
Canada – Ontario Law Would Restrict Election Spending by Third-Party Groups, Double Donation Limits for Individuals
Toronto Star – Robert Benzie | Published: 2/25/2021
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’ Progressive Conservatives have unveiled proposed campaign finance changes, doubling annual donation caps to $3,300, extending per-vote subsidies for political parties, and limiting PAC spending. Under legislation, advance polling days would also be increased from five to 10 to allow for safer voting in the COVID-19 era. Conservatives want to clamp down on PACs, such as the pro-Tory Ontario Proud and Working Families, which boosted the Liberals in past election campaigns. Such third-party advertising groups spent more than $5 million in the six months leading up to the June 2018 election.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Dark Money’ Is Still Trying to Influence Phoenix Elections Despite New Law. Here’s How.
MSN – Jen Fifield (Arizona Republic) | Published: 2/24/2021
Some Phoenix voters got the first deceitful political mailer from Americans for Progress nearly two weeks ago, and they just keep coming. The ads are seemingly attempting to trick voters in the progressive district into thinking Yassamin Ansari, a Democratic candidate for Phoenix City Council, is a Republican. But voters do not have a way of knowing who is sending them. Americans for Progress has yet to file a disclosure with the city. A new law was intended to stop these “dark money” ads from influencing city elections, but the group sending the ads remains shrouded in secrecy, even as voting for city council races is underway.
California – 5 Charged in SF Corruption Probe, Temporarily Barred from Receiving City Contracts
KPIX – Staff | Published: 3/2/2021
Five business executives linked to widespread corruption in San Francisco have been temporarily barred from doing business with the city. All five have been implicated in a federal investigation that began more than a year ago and centers around high-ranking city officials like former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and former Public Utilities Commission General Manger Harlan Kelly accepting gifts in exchange for help obtaining city contracts. The suspension orders are the first of their kind. A 2020 city law allows for city contractors who have been charged criminally, civilly, or administratively to be suspended from receiving public funds while the case against them is ongoing.
California – Ethics Commission Staff Were Told to Soften Their Advice on Gifts, Whistleblower Says
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 2/25/2021
Heather Holt, who was executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, told staffers at a 2018 meeting that a member of the city council had “threatened to cut the Ethics Commission’s budget if they did not give more permissive advice” on certain gift rules, according to an email written by Alexandria Latragna, the agency’s ethics program manager at the time. Latragna wrote Holt told commission staff that to maintain a good relationship with the council, they would need to be more “middle of the road” with the advice they gave on rules involving private events sponsored by lobbyists. David Tristan, who replaced Holt as executive director, issued a denial of the incident on her behalf.
California – Prosecutors Extract Pleas, $215 Million in Charter School Fraud Case
Voice of San Diego – Will Huntsberry | Published: 2/26/2021
The two ringleaders of an online charter school scam that raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Sean McManus and Jason Schrock, as well as nine other defendants, were charged in 2019 as part of a complicated scheme that involved enrolling fake students into their online charter schools and collecting public money for each student. As part of McManus and Schrock’s plea deal, they agreed to turn over all remaining cash and assets owned by A3 and its subsidiary companies. So far, that includes at least $215 million that will eventually make its way back into state coffers.
Colorado – Aurora Moves Forward Bills on Lobbying Disclosures, Sales Tax Exemptions on Menstrual Products
Aurora Sentinel – Grant Stringer | Published: 3/1/2021
The Aurora City Council gave first approval to a bill implementing strict lobbying disclosure requirements. The rules would require lobbyists to register their clients and income with the city, which would be made public to boost public trust in government, Councilperson Angela Lawson said. They would have to submit quarterly, detailed reports on their activities and financial motivations or face up to $2,500 fines per each charge.
Connecticut – Ex-State Employee Faces $5K Penalty for Using Work Computer, Email for Private Businesses
MSN – Russell Blair (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/2/2021
A former employee of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty after an investigation determined he used his state-issued computer, phone, and email address to run private businesses unrelated to his state job. Sean Condon used the state equipment to operate a retail men’s hair and skin care product business and an internet marketing business while on state time, according to a consent order he signed with the Office of State Ethics.
Florida – Legislating in the Time of COVID-19 Means Putting Protections Over Public Access
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas and Kirby Wilson (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/2/2021
Florida legislators opened their 60-day session this year trying to navigate a global pandemic and stay healthy enough to avoid disrupting their activities, access to elected government is limited. Gov. Ron DeSantis has not allowed the Capitol to be open to visitors and the public, even as he ordered all businesses to be open in Florida. Citizens are kept out of the buildings and at a distance, and the pandemic protocols set up by legislative leaders to allow the public to testify in person before committee hearings have proven cumbersome and technology challenged.
Florida – Wealthy Keys Enclave Received COVID Vaccines in January Before Much of the State
MSN – David Goodhue and Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/3/2021
As Florida’s eldest residents struggled to sign up to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, nearly all those aged 65 years and older in a wealthy gated enclave in the Florida Keys had been vaccinated by mid-January. The Ocean Reef Club is home to many wealthy donors to the Florida Republican Party and GOP candidates, including Gov. Ron DeSantis. In fact, the only people from Key Largo who gave to DeSantis’ political committee live in Ocean Reef. On February 25, one resident of Ocean Reef, Bruce Rauner, the former Republican governor of Illinois, donated $250,00 to DeSantis.
Illinois – Ex-Lawmaker’s Indictment Stems Partly from Secret ComEd Payments, Source Says
WBEZ – Dave McKinney, Tony Arnold, and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 2/25/2021
A newly filed federal tax-evasion indictment against a former member of ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s leadership team stems at least in part from secret payments for “government relations” work from Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). A source familiar with the probe said a six-count indictment against former state Rep. Edward Acevedo is a byproduct from the ongoing bribery investigation into ComEd’s Springfield lobbying practices. Federal charging documents against Acevedo and separate tax-evasion charges against his two sons do not make that connection clear. But the source said the case relates, in part, to unreported income originating from ComEd that Acevedo received from a company called Apex Strategy.
Illinois – Illinois Democrats Tap U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson to Succeed Michael Madigan as State Party Chair
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/3/2021
Illinois Democratic leaders selected U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly as their new state party chairperson and the successor to embattled former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who held the post for 23 years. The race was not without controversy. Outside attorneys for the state Democratic Party warned that Kelly, as a federal officeholder, would be prohibited from raising state money because Illinois fundraising rules are less strict than the federal rules that bind the member of Congress.
Illinois – Madigan Picks Another House Successor After Quickly Forcing Out His First Choice Over ‘Alleged Questionable Conduct’
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/25/2021
Angie Guerrero-Cuellar became the second replacement in four days for the Illinois House seat held by former Speaker Michael Madigan following a meeting of local ward and township committee members. Guerrero-Cuellar succeeds Madigan’s original hand-picked successor, Edward Guerra Kodatt, who resigned after the former speaker and Chicago Ald. Marty Quinn called on him to step down for unspecified “alleged questionable conduct.” The abrupt moves over the vacancy created by Madigan’s resignation were a sharp contrast to the hands-on, detail-oriented style the ex-speaker has displayed in running his ward and district office.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts Republican Nominated for Top Campaign Finance Job
Boston Herald – State House News Service | Published: 2/26/2021
The panel that has been searching for a new director for the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) was unanimous in its selection of Woburn City Clerk William Campbell to lead the agency. Secretary of State William Galvin mentioned talking with Campbell about the changing nature of campaigns and how the OCPF fits in. Campbell, if he accepts the job, would be the first new director since the retiring Michael Sullivan took charge of the agency about 27 years ago.
Michigan – Coronavirus Created ‘Perfect Storm’ That Rained Private Money on Michigan Election Administration
MSN – Gus Burns (MLive.com) | Published: 2/28/2021
The 474 local clerks’ offices in Michigan received millions of dollars from private nonprofits to administer the 2020 elections. Most spent grant funds on additional personnel needed to sort, verify, and count the influx of ballots that tripled for some offices due to relaxed absentee voting restrictions and a statewide push to promote remote voting. Some used their money for things like get-out-the-vote campaigns, ballot drop boxes, and in one case, a trailer that allowed city employees to travel to neighborhoods and deliver absentee ballots in person. Private money, usually reserved for politically motivated campaign efforts and ballot initiatives, has never entered Michigan elections this way, at the ground floor of democracy to pay for the mechanics.
Mississippi – Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 3/3/2021
Lawmakers defeated legislation that would have provided transparency around how Gov. Tate Reeves and future Mississippi governors raise and spend money on inauguration festivities. House Bill 109 said Reeves and future governor-elects would be required to reveal their inauguration financial information to the secretary of state’s office, similar to how politicians must publicly disclose information about their campaign funds. Governors and other top Mississippi politicians have long used 501(c)4 nonprofits to fund their inauguration ceremonies, parties, and transition expenses. Donors to those nonprofits can be kept secret.
Montana – Lawmaker Revives Proposal to Eliminate State’s Top Political Cop
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 2/25/2021
Rep. Derek Skees is reviving a proposal he brought four years earlier to eliminate Montana’s commissioner of political practices, the state’s enforcer of campaign finance and lobbying laws. Similar to legislation that passed the House in the 2017 session before stalling out in the Senate, House Bill 535 proposes shifting much of the office’s duties to the secretary of state, including receiving campaign statements and reports for candidates and political committees. Under the new bill, the secretary of state would also be responsible for receiving and investigating campaign finance and election complaints.
New Jersey – Firm Cited in Pay-to-Play Lawsuit Quits Job with N.J. Town
Newark Star Ledger – Bill Duhart (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/1/2021
A firm cited in a “pay-to-play” lawsuit resigned an appointment to a township government post days after it had been appointed for an additional year. Capehart Scatchard resigned its position as conflict counsel with Washington Township in Gloucester County after a pair of citizen watchdogs accused it of making campaign contributions to several elected township officials, including the mayor. The firms were then paid more than $17,500 for annual no-bid contracts, which is a violation of state “pay-to-play” laws, according to the suit.
New Mexico – Compromise Redistricting Bill Advances Unanimously from Senate Committee
New Mexico Political Report – Robert Nott (Santa Fe News Mexican) | Published: 3/2/2021
Lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee came to a quick compromise on a measure they hope will set New Mexico’s sometimes controversial redistricting process on a smooth path via an independent, bipartisan panel to redraw voting district boundaries. The bill calls for a seven-member panel and prohibits a majority of Democrats or Republicans and only requires the commission to come up with three plans for the Legislature to consider. There is no language in that would force the Legislature to accept any of the submitted plans.
New Mexico – Lobbyists Still Picking Up the Tab
Yahoo News – Dan McKay (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 2/28/2021
New Mexico lawmakers are conducting much of this year’s session online to limit the spread of COVID-19. Committee hearings have moved entirely to Zoom, and full meetings of the House and Senate are a mix of in-person and remote participation. The Capitol is closed, with only legislators, staff, and some media members allowed inside. But lobbyists are still finding ways to feed hungry lawmakers, sometimes in person.
New York – ‘Embarrassed’ Cuomo Apologizes but Won’t Resign Over Sexual Harassment Allegations
National Public Radio – Rachel Triesman | Published: 3/3/2021
In his first press briefing since three women came forward with claims of sexual harassment, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” but denied touching anyone inappropriately and said he would not resign. New York’s attorney general is investigating the allegations, which were raised by two former aides and a woman who met Cuomo at a wedding. Cuomo, who is facing mounting calls to resign, reiterated he will cooperate with that investigation, and asked New Yorkers to wait for the full report before forming an opinion.
New York – Trump’s Tax Returns Have Been Turned Over to Manhattan District Attorney
Seattle Times – Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/25/2021
The Manhattan district attorney’s office possesses former President Trump’s tax returns and a wealth of other financial data, records deemed central to prosecutors’ criminal investigation into Trump’s business activities. The transfer, involving millions of pages of documents spanning eight years, occurred within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court order rejecting Trump’s last-ditch bid to shield the information. Investigators are examining whether the values of certain properties in the Trump Organization’s portfolio were manipulated to gain tax advantages or favorable loans and insurance rates under false pretenses. They have asked specifically about the company’s methods of valuing its Manhattan assets for purposes of seeking loans.
North Carolina – Charlotte City Council Escapes Sanctions After Flurry of Ethics Complaints Ends Quietly
MSN – Alison Kuznitz (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 3/3/2021
Charlotte City Council members were cleared of any wrongdoing after a flurry of ethics complaints were filed against them in 2020. Although the findings clear any councilperson of direct violations of the city’s ethics guidelines, the review made several recommendations. In whole, the report appears to validate the council’s assertion that the frenzy of complaints –spurred on by an ethics policy that became “weaponized,” as council member Ed Driggs phrased it, by the public – were politically fueled and frivolous.
Oregon – A Decade After Oregon Cracked Down on Lobbyist Wining and Dining, Lawmakers Consider Loosening Limits
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 3/2/2021
Oregon lawmakers are considering whether to allow lobbyists to “wine and dine” them without limits, more than a decade after they clamped down on the practice with a broad ethics law. The Legislature passed the bill after members were embarrassed by media reports on how beer and wine distributors paid for lawmakers to travel to Hawaii. Oregon law now bars legislators and other public officials from accepting more than $50 per year from any entity that wants to influence a government decision. Sen. Fred Girod, chief sponsor of Senate Bill 463, said scrapping the limit would help nurture the types of relationships lawmakers need in the Capitol because people are better able to connect when they are sharing a meal or drinks.
Oregon – Oregon Voters Want to Limit Money in Politics, but Lawmakers Might Not Get There This Session
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/28/2021
Among the thousands of proposals Oregon lawmakers are considering this year, few have as clear-cut a mandate as capping campaign contributions. Voters overwhelmingly signaled their desire to clamp down on the state’s no-limits political money system in November, when they passed a constitutional amendment to allow donation limits. More than 1.7 million people voted for it, the most ever to support a ballot measure according to the secretary of state’s office. Yet it is far from clear that lawmakers will pass a law to cap donations during the five-month session that runs through June.
Pennsylvania – Good Government or ‘Gag’ Order? In Chesco, New Ethics Policy Muzzles County Workers
MSN – William Bender (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 3/1/2021
Included in Chester County’s new ethics policy is a strict confidentiality clause for many county employees that would essentially turn almost everything learned on the job into the equivalent of classified information, a clampdown that labor-law experts say could infringe on First Amendment rights and whistleblower protections. Employees are required to sign the policy by March 6. Those who violate it can face disciplinary action, including termination. County commissioners passed the ethics policy unanimously two months after a media report, which relied partially on leaked information, revealed major problems with the county’s COVID-19 antibody testing program, contradicting county officials who had publicly insisted it ran smoothly.
South Carolina – Ex-Candidate for SC Legislature Sues Opponent, Pollster and Journalist for Defamation
The State – David Weisman (Myrtle Beach Sun News) | Published: 2/25/2021
South Carolina Sen. Luke Rankin won a contentious reelection campaign during last year’s Republican primary, but that clash has been renewed in the court system after his former opponent filed a defamation suit. John Gallman filed the complaint against Rankin and a host of other entities and people, including an Horry County Council member, local reporter, and national pollster, alleging a coordinated conspiracy to spread defamatory accusations and confidential health records, along with violating campaign finance laws.
South Carolina – Some SC Lawmakers Think It’s Time to Allow More Money in State Campaigns, Not Less
Charleston Post and Courier – Schuyler Knopf | Published: 2/27/2021
At a time when the public mood says there is too much money in politics, some South Carolina lawmakers think it is time to push the donation ceiling higher. Three House Republicans are behind an effort to double the contribution limit an individual can give to their favorite politician for any office. State Rep. B. Newton said the issue comes down to inflation and the fact that South Carolina’s legislative districts, particularly the suburbs, have seen a population explosion in recent years.
Tennessee – Tennessee Regulators Revisit Complaints About Shadowy Campaign Group
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 3/2/2021
Tennessee regulators decided to revisit complaints regarding shadowy campaign activities surrounding a legislative race. The Registry of Election Finance plans to reconsider its decision last year to take no action on complaints filed against state Rep. Todd Warner and a group that called itself the Faith Family Freedom Fund. That same day, the Faith Family Freedom Fund filed paperwork to close out its PAC, raising questions about whether it might be trying to sidestep further scrutiny. All of this comes as an FBI investigation focuses on a number of individuals connected with those campaigns.
Washington – Washington State Accuses Google of Campaign Finance Violations
Courthouse News Service – Karina Brown | Published: 2/24/2021
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson again sued Google, alleging it has continued to flout state campaign finance law. The law requires publishers to keep records of who bought the political ads they run, and to make that information available within 24 hours of publishing to anyone requesting it. Ferguson sued Google in 2018, claiming the company did not maintain or make available the data. Google agreed to pay $217,000 to settle those claims and announced it would no longer run ads for state or local elections in Washington. But since then, 57 candidates and political committees have filed reports detailing 188 payments totaling over $460,000 to Google’s advertising networks, according to the latest lawsuit.
Washington DC – In Faraway State Houses, a Battle Brews Over Making D.C. the 51st State
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2021
Lawmakers in at least eight states have taken formal steps to support or oppose the District of Columbia becoming the 51st state, an unprecedented nationwide response to a once-fledgling movement now surging with momentum in Washington. The statehood bill sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton will be the subject of a House Oversight Committee on March 11. The bill has enough support to pass the House, but it is likely to face roadblocks in the narrowly divided Senate. In her three decades leading the cause, Norton said, she has never seen such a flurry of action from so many states at once. She was even pleased to see the anti-statehood resolutions.
February 19, 2021 •
National/Federal A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back. MSN – Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021 Conservative political donor Fred Eshelman gave $2 million to a nonprofit […]
A GOP Donor Gave $2.5 Million for a Voter Fraud Investigation. Now He Wants His Money Back.
MSN – Shawn Boberg and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021
Conservative political donor Fred Eshelman gave $2 million to a nonprofit group in Texas that was seeking to expose voter fraud. Over the next two weeks, Eshelman came to regret his contribution and to doubt conspiracy theories of rampant illegal voting. Now, he wants his money back. The story behind the Eshelman contribution provides new insights into the frenetic days after the election, when baseless claims led donors to give hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse President Biden’s victory. Documents in Eshelman’s litigation, along with interviews, show how True the Vote’s private assurances it was on the cusp of revealing illegal election schemes repeatedly fizzled as the group’s focus shifted from one allegation to the next.
Adam Kinzinger’s Lonely Mission
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 2/15/2021
As the Republican Party censures, condemns, and seeks to purge leaders who are not in lock step with Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger stands as enemy number one – unwelcome not just in his party but also in his own family, some of whom recently disowned him. Kinzinger is at the forefront of the effort to navigate post-Trump politics. He is betting his political career, professional relationships, and kinship with a wing of his sprawling family that his party’s future lies in disavowing Trump and the conspiracy theories the former president stoked.
Biden’s New VA Chief Inherits Oversight Office from Trump Viewed as Abetting Corruption
MSN – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/17/2021
The Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) was created by former President Trump to root out waste and corruption in Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) top ranks. But to many in the department, the veterans community, and both parties in Congress, the unusual program created to stop corruption has only carried out more of it. Trump appointees cycled in and out of leadership roles, hiring unqualified friends, and producing substandard inquiries of senior leaders’ misconduct, the VA’s inspector general found. Two of three directors in four years had no investigative background. Instead of acknowledgment, whistleblowers faced reprisal.
Census Delays Could Squeeze Courts’ Review of House Maps
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 2/12/2021
States will not get the key data to draw new congressional and legislative maps until September, the Census Bureau said, setting up a race to draw new maps and fight over them in court before the 2022 midterms. The latest delay could make it difficult for states to redraw congressional district lines before next year’s elections and leave little time for the expected court fights to play out, experts said. The Census Bureau has run into problems with finalizing census data after the coronavirus pandemic and decisions by the Trump administration hampered last year’s count.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Resigns Amid Fallout from Contentious Phone Call with Reporter
MSN – Ashley Parker and Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2021
Deputy White House press secretary TJ Ducklo resigned amid fallout from a contentious phone call in which he berated and threatened a female reporter who was working on a story about a potential conflict-of-interest stemming from his personal life. After details from the phone call emerged in news reports, the White House found itself grappling with its first major test of President Biden’s promise to take seriously claims of abusive language and behavior, as well as to drastically shift the tone and culture of government after former President Trump.
Eroding Trust, Spreading Fear: The historical ties between pandemics and extremism
MSN – Marc Fisher (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2021
Since ancient times, pandemics have spurred sharp turns in political beliefs, spawning extremist movements, waves of mistrust, and wholesale rejection of authorities. Nearly a year into the coronavirus crisis, Americans are falling prey to the same phenomenon, historians, theologians, and other experts say. New insecurities and fears loosed by the pandemic fed into an existing erosion of trust in leaders and institutions, according to those who have studied how people react to rampant, uncontrolled disease. Some of these insecurities predated the pandemic: many of those arrested in the Capitol riot owned businesses or worked white-collar jobs. But many got involved in politics only after virus-related shutdowns hit their personal finances.
House Homeland Security Chairman Sues Trump and Giuliani, Accusing Them of Inciting Capitol Riot
MSN – Spener Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2021
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairperson of the House Homeland Security Committee filed a federal lawsuit accusing former President Trump, attorney Rudolph Giuliani, and two extremist groups whose members have been charged in the January 6 storming of the Capitol with illegally conspiring to intimidate and block Congress’s certification of the 2020 election. Thompson alleged Trump and Giuliani’s false claims the election was stolen fomented a raid that violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 law enacted after the Civil War to bar violent interference in Congress’s constitutional duties.
Lincoln Project Co-Founder Reed Galen Ran Little Known Dark Money Group as Super PAC’s Dealings Face Scrutiny
CNBC – Brian Scwartz | Published: 2/16/2021
As co-founders of the Lincoln Project were making millions of dollars from a super PAC they ran, one of them, Reed Galen, launched a “dark money” organization that may have enriched him and his allies even further. The group, Project Yellowstone, says it is a 501(c)(4) that was created to educate voters on how to vote in person or by mail in the 2020 presidential election campaign. Documents show the Lincoln Project and Project Yellowstone were directly linked. Although this partnership is not illegal, the arrangement could have allowed behind the scenes payments to firms with ties to the super PAC’s leadership or other vendors that often did work with the Lincoln Project.
Loneliest Class in Congress Wonders How to Make Friends
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 2/10/2021
An axiom that rings true on Capitol Hill is that it is all about who you know, even right now. This might just be the loneliest Congress in memory, but Congress is still about relationships. As roughly five dozen new lawmakers enter their second month in office and try to settle into the House, they are asking what it means for the future. Untangling the mess of their early months in Congress will be an ongoing task for freshman lawmakers, as they figure out what is new because of the pandemic, what is new because of the insurrection, and what is not new at all but just part of the same old partisan in Washington.
Now Out of Office, Trump May Have to Face Tax Questions
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell, David Fahrenthold, and Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2021
When former President Trump returns to his business, he will face some challenges, such as declining real estate income and investigations from New York authorities. But he may also have to finally face two tax issues that have been simmering in the background, either of which experts say could carry significant consequences should they materialize now that he is out of office. Experts say legal and administrative authorities are more likely to address Trump’s tax issues now that he is a private citizen, even as Biden administration officials debate how much to hold Trump accountable for past actions while also trying to move the country forward.
Trump Acquitted on Impeachment Charge of Inciting Deadly Attack on the Capitol
MSN – Amy Gardner, Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2021
Former President Trump was acquitted of inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol, becoming the first president in U.S. history to face a second impeachment trial, and surviving it in part because of his continuing hold on the Republican Party despite his electoral defeat in November. That grip appeared to loosen slightly during the vote, when seven Republicans crossed party lines to vote for conviction – a sign of the rift the Capitol siege has caused within GOP ranks and the desire by some in the party to move on from Trump. Still, the vote, in which all Democrats and two independents voted against Trump, fell far short of the two-thirds required to convict.
Trump Left Behind a Clemency Mess. The Clock’s Ticking for Biden to Solve It.
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 2/11/2021
When Joe Biden took office, he inherited the largest backlog of unresolved clemency cases in U.S. history: 14,000 people waiting to find out if their convictions would be erased or sentences reduced, or if they would get any answer at all. Many of those have languished in the system for years after former President Trump largely bypassed the century-old process for reviewing cases and instead granted pardons based on advice from politically connected friends, lobbyists, and television celebrities. Biden’s White House counsel’s office has started to reach out to attorneys and advocates for suggestions on reforms, what could be done about the backlog, and mistakes they believe were made in previous administrations.
Canada – Democracy Watch Asks Ontario Court to Stop ‘Biased’ Watchdog from Letting PC Insiders Lobby
HuffPost – Emma Paling | Published: 2/10/2021
Advocacy group Democracy Watch is asking a court to overturn three decisions by Ontario Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, arguing he allows unethical lobbying by connections to Premier Doug Ford and his ministers. The commissioner’s annual reports, which describe his decisions, do not name the lobbyists or politicians he has investigated for breaking the rules. But the decisions being challenged were all issued in 2019 and 2020, meaning they apply to members of the Provincial Parliament elected when Ford’s Progressive Conservatives took power in 2018.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Panel Votes to Boost Unlawful Protest Penalties
Associated Press News – Jonathan Cooper | Published: 2/16/2021
Arizona lawmakers are considering boosting penalties for people arrested at protests, drawing opposition from civil rights groups worried that officers will target Black Lives Matter demonstrators or others with messages police find distasteful. A measure approved by a House committee is among several bills advancing in the Republican-controlled Legislature in the wake of demonstrations against police brutality last year. Critics say the measures would be selectively enforced by overzealous police and prosecutors and would discourage people from exercising their First Amendment right to protest.
Arizona – Ethics Chair Dismisses 82 Complaints vs. Finchem, Won’t Investigate His Capitol Rally Role
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/12/2021
The head of the House Ethics Committee is dismissing all 82 complaints against Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem. Rep. Becky Nutt said none of the allegations against Finchem back up the contention he “supported the violent overthrow of our government” or he directly participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Finchem was at the rally, and he posted a photo on Twitter taken once the mob had reached the Capitol, Rep. César Chávez said in his complaint. But there is no evidence he entered the building and that became a crucial point in the decision to dismiss the case without demanding a response from Finchem and without investigating further, Nutt said.
California – L.A. Ethics Commission Issues Five Fines for Failure to Register as Lobbyists
MyNewsLA.com – Staff | Published: 2/16/2021
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission issued five fines totaling $162,500 to companies and people who failed to register as lobbyists. Velada Consulting and its owner David Vela were fined $7,500 after admitting they failed to register as lobbying entities in 2020 and failed to file a disclosure report for 2020’s second quarter. The four other fines were issued for Craig Fry & Associates and three of its employees.
California – San Francisco Contractor Gets 1 Year in Prison for Bribery
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 2/11/2021
Businessperson Florence Kong was sentenced to one year in prison for bribing a San Francisco official, marking the first criminal penalty handed down in a City Hall corruption probe. Kong pleaded guilty to giving $95,000 and a gold Rolex watch to former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru in exchange for help obtaining lucrative business from the city. Prosecutors said that in addition to the watch, Kong plied Nuru with expensive meals, an envelope of cash for his daughter at her graduation party, and work on his vacation home.
Colorado – The Colorado Capitol’s Hallways Are Where Dealmaking Happens. Coronavirus Has Emptied Them.
Colorado Sun – Jessie Paul and Thy Vo | Published: 2/17/2021
Lawmakers, legislative staff, and journalists in Colorado were granted access to COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the resumption of the legislative session. Lobbyists were not. As a result, many of them are trying to limit their time in the once-bustling statehouse, even if there is nothing stopping them from being in the building. That means informal conversations and meetings, where a lot of important policies get ironed out, will likely happen infrequently this year. State lawmakers are aware of the access problems lobbyists and members of the public will have, but they are mostly brushing off the concerns and chalking them up to the myriad of changes people have had to endure during the pandemic.
Florida – State Finds No Sunshine Law Violations in Orlando Airport Probe but Details Behind-the-Scenes Maneuvering
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia and Kevin Spear | Published: 2/12/2021
A 16-month probe into a failed attempt to hand out no-bid contracts at Orlando International Airport found no laws were broken but revealed how a lobbyist and airport leaders worked behind the scenes to back a deal that ultimately erupted in controversy. Investigators found three of the seven members on the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s governing board met separately with lobbyist Chris Dorworth in the days leading up to an August 2019 board meeting to discuss an unadvertised plan to steer important legal contracts to a pair of local attorneys. But investigators said there was no evidence any those board members communicated directly with each other or instructed Dorworth to do so on their behalf.
Florida – Voting by Mail in Florida Was a Success, So Why Do Legislators Want to Make It Harder?
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/16/2021
Senate Republicans agreed Florida’s vote-by-mail process worked smoothly in the last election cycle but still needed a change. After a record 4.8 million Floridians voted by mail in November, the Ethics and Elections Committee approved Senate Bill 90 along party lines to limit vote-by-mail applications to one election cycle and require everyone who signed up for mail ballots in 2020 to reapply to get them in 2022. Current law allows voters who ask for a mail-in ballot to have their request remain current for two general election cycles unless they opt out.
Georgia – Graham’s Post-Election Call with Raffensperger Will Be Scrutinized in Georgia Probe, Person Familiar with Inquiry Says
MSN – Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/12/2021
An Atlanta-area prosecutor plans to scrutinize a post-Election Day phone call between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as part of a criminal investigation into whether former President Trump or his allies broke the law while trying to reverse his defeat in the state, according to a person familiar with the probe. During their conversation, Graham asked the secretary of state whether he had the power to toss out all mail ballots in certain counties, Raffensperger said. He said Graham appeared to be asking him to improperly find a way to set aside legally cast ballots. Graham denied that, saying he was seeking information to better understand how the state verified mail ballots.
Indiana – More Vinyl Villages? Lawmaker Who Builds Homes Pushes Bill to Eliminate Housing Standards
South Bend Tribune – Kaitlin Lange (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 2/11/2021
An Indiana lawmaker who builds homes is the sole author on a bill to ban community architecture design requirements, a proposal that could save him and others in his profession thousands of dollars. Ethics experts say Rep. Doug Miller’s involvement in the bill is inappropriate because of his ownership of development company Tailor Made Homes and his role on the board of directors for the National Association of Homebuilders. He also chairs the House committee that passed the legislation, giving him control of that process.
Maryland – Former State Investigator Questions Payment from Marilyn Mosby Election Committee to Her Private Lawyers
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 2/16/2021
The former political-corruption investigator for Maryland asked the state prosecutor to investigate a $3,250 payment made by the election campaign of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to her personal lawyers. In an email to the state prosecutor, James Cabezas wrote that the payment is not allowed under the law. The payment went to the law firm of Kramon & Graham. Andrew Graham is one of the top attorneys in Maryland for lawyers and judges facing ethical or legal issues. Mosby hired the firm as her personal lawyers to represent her during a seven-month investigation by the city inspector general into her travel, gifts, and businesses.
Montana – Gianforte Repeals Directives Made by Former Governor
Associated Press News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 2/12/2021
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte repealed two executive orders issued by former Gov. Steve Bullock. One required companies to report political spending if they wanted to bid on large state contracts and the second allowed counties to decide if they wanted to hold the November 2020 general election mostly by mail. Bullock’s political spending order required companies bidding for certain state contracts to disclose political donations made within 60 days of an election. Opponents argued it violated companies’ First Amendment rights and raised the possibility that a company’s donations could lead to retaliation.
Nevada – Group of Conservative Activists Sue State, Legislature Over Closure of Legislative Building to Lobbyists
Nevada Independent – Riley Snyder and Michelle Rindells | Published: 2/17/2021
Four lobbyists in Nevada are suing the governor, a top lawmaker, and legislative staff, arguing they are suffering irreparable harm from coronavirus-prevention rules that have kept the legislative session largely virtual and bar lobbyists from entering the Legislative Building. The lawsuit seeks a court-ordered injunction to “immediately allow plaintiffs access to the State Capital to engage in lobbying activities,” saying emergency orders limiting public access to the Legislature violate their constitutional rights to petition the government and free speech. They also argue Nevada is no longer experiencing a bona fide emergency to justify the restrictions.
New Jersey – Cash in a Paper Bag: North Jersey pols indicted in ‘old-school political corruption’ case
MSN – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 2/16/2021
Four New Jersey politicians hit with bribery charges in 2019 have been indicted by a state grand jury as part of alleged schemes to take tens of thousands of dollars in bribes masked as campaign contributions – in one case a paper bag filled with cash. The defendants are accused of promising a tax attorney they would vote to award his firm public contracts in exchange for the illegal contributions. The tax attorney was a cooperating witness working for state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office. “The conduct alleged in these indictments is old-school political corruption at its worst, the kind that erodes public faith in government …,” Grewal said.
New Jersey – Former Middlesex Mayor Sentenced for Stealing, Laundering $275K in Campaign, Charity Funds
MSN – Suzanne Russell (MyCentralJersey.com) | Published: 2/16/2021
Former Middlesex Borough Mayor Ronald DiMura was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing more than $275,000 from local political campaigns, investors, and a charity. DiMura, who resigned after his indictment, is permanently barred from public office and public employment in New Jersey. He also must pay $83,372 in restitution and must forfeit $163,582, the remainder of the funds he stole.
New Mexico – Dark Money Group Pushing PRC Reform Tied to Major Oil Company
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 2/12/2021
Exxon Mobil contributed to a “dark-money” group that supported a successful November referendum reforming New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission, according to a campaign finance report filed by one of its lobbyists. One of the state’s largest energy producers, the multinational gave at least $10,000 to the Committee to Protect New Mexico Consumers, a nonprofit that spent $250,000 touting the merits of a constitutional amendment, which eventually passed handily. The contribution can be found in an October 7 report filed by lobbyist Deanna Archuleta. The “dark money” campaign and lobbyist involvement illustrate the challenges faced by the public in knowing what special interests stand to gain from elections or their role in creating public policy or ballot measures.
New Mexico – Settlement Reveals New Mexico Utility Funded Political Group
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/13/2021
The parent firm of the largest utility in New Mexico funded a group that spent more than $130,000 on political advertisements in highly contested Democratic legislative primary election races last year. PNM Resources, the parent firm of Public Service Company of New Mexico, financed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico. The disclosure was made public as part of a settlement agreement that involved the New Mexico Ethics Commission agreeing to drop a lawsuit. The commission also agreed to waive any civil penalties against the group and will not require it to register as a political committee.
New York – Coverup Claims Engulf Cuomo as Scandal Over Nursing Home Deaths Grows
Politico – Shannon Young and Anna Gronewold | Published: 2/12/2021
When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide told Democratic lawmakers why the administration slow-walked information on nursing home deaths in the state, she appeared to be trying to dispel smoldering rumors of a cover-up. Instead, Melissa DeRosa, threw gasoline on a fire that had enveloped Cuomo’s legacy of effective leadership during the Covid-19 crisis. DeRosa told legislators the administration “froze” after the U.S. Justice Department made an inquiry into Cuomo’s management of nursing homes. She said state officials refrained from releasing the data because of worry then-President Trump was trying to turn the tragedy “into a giant political football.”
New York – New York Ethics Panel Chair Steps Down, Replaced by Ex-Cuomo Aide
New York Post – Bernadette Hogan | Published: 2/10/2021
Michael Rosen, chairperson of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) stepped down and is slated to be replaced by attorney Camille Joseph Varlack, another former staffer to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. JCOPE itself has come under fire in recent years, accused of a lack of transparency. The panel was set up in 2011 as an independent check on state officials and lobbying activities. Appointees are made by the governor and the Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, but committee discussions are bound by state ethics law to remain private.
North Dakota – Once Again, N.D. Lawmakers Ponder the Benefits, Costs of Annual Sessions
MSN – Brayden Zencker (Devil’s Lake Journal) | Published: 2/11/2021
North Dakota Sen. Brad Bekkedahl is lead sponsor of Senate Bill 2218, which would allow for annual legislative sessions. It would not change how sessions are conducted now during odd-numbered years, but Bekkedahl proposes adding a short session in even-numbered years. Legislative Management, a bipartisan committee, would decide the timing and duration of sessions during even-numbered years. North Dakota is one of just four states that still conduct legislative sessions every two years.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Hall Corruption: Voters will get a say on two charter amendments this May
MSN – Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 2/10/2021
After three Cincinnati City Council members were indicted on federal bribery charges this past year, one thing became clear: there was no provision in the city charter to remove a council member charged with a felony. Cincinnati voters will get a chance to change that on May 4. The council voted to put two charter amendments on the ballot that would offer different avenues for suspending or removing council members who are indicted for crimes.
Ohio – Federal Judge Ignores Prison Recommendations in Convention Center Bribery Scandal Sentence
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 2/16/2021
A man who participated in a bribery scheme with former Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority board member John Raphael over a multi-million-dollar food vendor contract was sentenced to six months home confinement, community service, and probation for the next four years. Rodney Myers, who had pleaded guilty to federal programs bribery in November 2019, was facing federal sentencing guidelines that called for up to two years in prison for his role in steering the food service contract at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Raphael is facing 20 years for his part in the same bribery scheme after pleading guilty.
South Carolina – Accountability Suffers as Newspaper Closures Grow in SC, Nation
Times and Democrat – Glenn Smith and Tony Bartelme (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 2/15/2021
Seven newspapers in South Carolina closed their doors in the past year, joining more than 60 that shuttered across the nation as the coronavirus hit an industry already battered by shrinking revenue and job cuts. This exacerbated a trend that has created so-called news deserts in hundreds of communities, depriving them of vital government watchdogs. Without that scrutiny, corruption can blossom. The Charleston Post and Courier examined 100 South Carolina misconduct cases in which criminal charges were filed since 2015. Roughly 75 percent involved public officials and employees accused of betraying the rural community in which they worked.
South Carolina – NextEra Didn’t Share Santee Cooper Lobbying Efforts. SC Senators Look to Require It
The State – Joseph Bestos | Published: 2/11/2021
A group of South Carolina senators want to force Florida-based utility NextEra to provide information about its lobbying efforts to buy Santee Cooper. The Senate Judiciary Committee pushed forward a resolution to require NextEra to disclose communications it had with lawmakers and officials since July 31, 2017, when state-owned Santee Cooper and SCE&G abandoned efforts to build two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina. The failure of the project led the state to debate whether to sell or reform Santee Cooper.
South Carolina – Prosecutor Pascoe’s Saga of Exposing Public Corruption in Legislature Comes to End
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 2/16/2021
After more than six years of winning convictions against South Carolina politicians on public corruption charges, special prosecutor David Pascoe is turning his three remaining unfinished cases over to state Attorney General Alan Wilson. “Procedural confusion” created by a recent state Supreme Court decision that overturned one of his convictions was a major reason for halting what has been an ongoing house-cleaning of corrupt General Assembly lawmakers, according to a letter sent by Pascoe to the attorney general. But the high court also ruled Pascoe’s winning a conviction on perjury charges of former Rep. Jim Harrison was lawful. Harrison will be the first state lawmaker in decades to serve a prison sentence on corruption-related charges.
South Dakota – South Dakota Gov. Noem Defends ‘Dark Money’ Push as Privacy Protection
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 2/12/2021
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defended her push to shield donor information of nonprofit organizations that influence public policy, including one group that was connected to her campaign. The governor said the legislation was intended to protect the privacy rights of donors who wish to anonymously contribute to charities. Although she insisted it “does absolutely nothing on campaign finance,” critics said it would further the use of so-called dark money. One bill would bar state officials from requiring nonprofit groups, including those that work to influence policy, to disclose information on donors. A second bill would further protect donor privacy, allowing them to sue if their information were made public.
Tennessee – New Audit Raises More Questions About Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Spending
WTVF – Jennifer Kraus | Published: 2/10/2021
A new audit raises even more questions about how Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron spent his campaign money. The latest audit ordered by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance looked at Ketron’s spending in 2018 and early 2019 from his campaign account during his successful run for mayor. This comes after state auditors found nearly $250,000 missing from two other campaign accounts belonging to Ketron. One was his senate campaign account and the other was for the PAC he ran while in the state Senate. Like the latest audit, the two previous investigations found reported payments that never actually happened as well as overstated expenses and dozens of expenditures with no receipts or invoices.
Virginia – Special Prosecutor Looking into Virginia Beach’s Former Lobbyist Who Lined Up a Job to Work for City Contractor
MSN – Alyssa Skelton (The Virginian-Pilot) | Published: 2/11/2021
Bob Matthias retired from the city of Virginia Beach on January 1 after serving as assistant to the city manager. In that role, Matthias oversaw the awarding of a lobbying contract to Principle Advantage Government Relations Group while also negotiating a potential job with the company. An ordinance requires departing city employees wait one year before working for a company that receives city contracts associated with the employees’ previous job duties. State law prohibits employees involved in the procurement process from negotiating or securing prospective employment with the contractor.
Washington – Eyman Fined $2.6 Million, Barred from Campaign Control
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 2/10/2021
A Thurston County judge found longtime anti-tax activist Tim Eyman violated campaign finance laws and fined him $2.6 million. The judge also ruled Eyman, who has led initiative campaigns across Washington for decades, will no longer be allowed to have any financial control over political committees. Eyman was charged with laundering political contributions to enrich himself; accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm; secretly shuttling money between initiative campaigns; and concealing the source of other campaign donations. “Mr. Eyman’s violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act are numerous and particularly egregious and were ‘intentional’ as that term is defined by law,” wrote Judge James Dixon.
Wisconsin – Steven DeVougas Resignation Brings End to Milwaukee Ethics Board Investigation of Him
MSN – Alison Dirr (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/17/2021
The recent resignation of Steven DeVougas from the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission also ended the ongoing city Ethics Board investigation into allegations over his ties to a prominent real estate developer. DeVougas resigned from the powerful civilian oversight panel following more than a year of controversy since it was reported he accompanied the developer, his corporate client, to an August 2019 police interview of the developer regarding a sexual assault allegation against him. The case remains open and under review at the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office.
February 16, 2021 •
Campaign Finance New Mexico: “Dark Money Group Pushing PRC Reform Tied to Major Oil Company” by Brian Metzger for New Mexico In Depth South Dakota: “South Dakota Gov. Noem Defends ‘Dark Money’ Push as Privacy Protection” by Stephen Groves for […]
New Mexico: “Dark Money Group Pushing PRC Reform Tied to Major Oil Company” by Brian Metzger for New Mexico In Depth
South Dakota: “South Dakota Gov. Noem Defends ‘Dark Money’ Push as Privacy Protection” by Stephen Groves for Associated Press News
Georgia: “Graham’s Post-Election Call with Raffensperger Will Be Scrutinized in Georgia Probe, Person Familiar with Inquiry Says” by Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Eroding Trust, Spreading Fear: The historical ties between pandemics and extremism” by Marc Fisher (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Deputy White House Press Secretary Resigns Amid Fallout from Contentious Phone Call with Reporter” by Ashley Parker and Matt Viser (Washington Post) for MSN
Arizona: “Ethics Chair Dismisses 82 Complaints vs. Finchem, Won’t Investigate His Capitol Rally Role” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star
New York: “Coverup Claims Engulf Cuomo as Scandal Over Nursing Home Deaths Grows” by Shannon Young and Anna Gronewold for Politico
South Carolina: “NextEra Didn’t Share Santee Cooper Lobbying Efforts. SC Senators Look to Require It” by Joseph Bestos for The State
National: “Census Delays Could Squeeze Courts’ Review of House Maps” by Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) for MSN
February 12, 2021 •
National/Federal After Capitol Riot, Desperate Families Turn to Groups That ‘Deprogram’ Extremists MSN – Paulina Villegas and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2021 There is a surge of desperate families and friends calling organizations that aim to deradicalize and “deprogram” […]
After Capitol Riot, Desperate Families Turn to Groups That ‘Deprogram’ Extremists
MSN – Paulina Villegas and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2021
There is a surge of desperate families and friends calling organizations that aim to deradicalize and “deprogram” extremists across the ideological spectrum. Such groups say demand for their free services has never been higher. Parents for Peace says calls to its national helpline have tripled since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with a growing number of younger people being groomed in white supremacist ideology. After supporters of then-President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, the intervention groups have experienced a deluge of calls related to the attack as well as to conspiracy theories and QAnon. The range of extremist ideas they encounter also has widened in the past year, driven by the 2020 election and the pandemic.
After Losing Committees, Marjorie Taylor Greene Says She Has Been ‘Freed’ to Push the GOP Further Right
Seattle Times – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2021
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene declared the House’s decision to remove her from her committee assignments has liberated her to build a political network aimed at supporting former President Trump and pushing the GOP further to the right. Greene’s comments demonstrated that far from being cowed by the uproar over the various extremist remarks she made in the years leading up to her election in November, she has only been emboldened in her social-media-fueled campaign against Democrats, cultural elites, and the media.
As Biden’s Son-in-Law Invests in COVID-19 Response, Questions of Family and Ethics Could Resurface
ABC News – Lucien Bruggeman | Published: 2/9/2021
During the 2020 presidential campaign, attention on Joe Biden’s family focused largely on his son, Hunter Biden. But experts say it is the president’s son-in-law, Howard Krein, who could present fresh ethical challenges for the new administration. Krein helps oversee StartUp Health investments in hundreds of companies, including some hoping to break through with the federal agencies battling the global coronavirus pandemic. Since 2011, when Krein co-founded the firm, Joe Biden has been an active supporter of the venture – headlining corporate conferences and inviting the company’s executives to the Oval Office to meet then-President Barack Obama.
First Circuit Rules Nonmember Workers Can’t Be Forced to Fund Union Lobbying
Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 2/4/2021
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected a request by a union in a case that has been ongoing on since 2009, handing a victory to a longtime non-union nurse who objected to being forced to pay for union lobbying expenses. For 11 years, United Nurses and Allied Professionals officials and lawyers have argued non-union nurses like the plaintiff, Jeanette Geary, and her fellow nurses who are not members of their workplace’s union, be required to pay union lobbying expenses. With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Geary filed a federal complaint arguing the union infringed on her constitutionally protected rights under the foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision.
Former Mueller Prosecutor Predicts Increased Pursuit of Unregistered Foreign Agents
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko and Josh Gerstein | Published: 2/4/2021
Brandon Van Grack, the Justice Department official who spearheaded the department’s crackdown on unregistered foreign agents praised the department’s tougher approach to enforcing the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) and predicted the department will continue the crackdown under the Biden administration. Van Grack was a lead prosecutor on Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller’s work spurred prosecutions that ensnared some of former President Trump’s top allies. The probe also revitalized FARA, the law requiring entities who represent a foreign government or political party to file disclosures detailing their work and sent chills down K Street.
How the Jan. 6 Riot Could Make It Tougher to Lobby
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 2/8/2021
The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the lobbying industry online. The deadly assault on the Capitol ignited a fresh fear among lobbyists and activists. What if, they worry, new security measures keep them at a distance from the lawmakers and staff they aim to influence, long after the pandemic ends? Access is currency on K Street, and the subtleties of in-person relationship-building can be at least as important as crafting a policy message. Big-money lobbyists are likely to regain such interactions through fundraising events when they return post-pandemic, but rank-and-file lobbyists and advocates for lower-dollar influence campaigns say they are troubled at the prospect of no longer having access to the Capitol complex.
It’s Not a Typical Trial. Lawyers in the Trump Impeachment Case Will Argue Big Constitutional Questions.
MSN – Ann Marimow and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/8/2021
The arguments by opposing lawyers in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump are expected to revolve largely around a pair of constitutional questions: a First Amendment defense of his fiery speech ahead of the violent January 6 attack on the Capitol and a challenge to the legality of putting a former president on trial. Trump is the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, and the only one to be tried in the Senate after leaving office. While an impeachment proceeding is distinct from a typical criminal trial, with a different set of rules, Trump’s case will feature broad legal questions about whether his actions violate the Constitution.
Tester Revives ‘Spotlight Act’ on Dark Money
Billings Gazette – Tom Lutey | Published: 2/4/2021
U.S. Sen Jon Tester reintroduced the Spotlight Act, which would require nonprofits to reveal their major donors to the IRS. At issue are nonprofit “social welfare” groups registered under the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code. Another group, trade associations, fall under section 501(c)(6). These groups avoid disclosing donors by not attacking candidates outright, but instead focusing on a particular issue and what side of the issue a candidate chooses. The ads often end by encouraging people to call a candidate to express disapproval about a specific issue.
The Big Business of Online Politics: Buying your email address
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 2/10/2021
Avalanche, an email acquisition service, will charge Democratic campaigns and progressive groups to send emails to its list of prized online donors, allowing those groups to solicit contributions and expand their own email programs. Companies and groups like Avalanche are popping up to fill the hole left by Facebook and Google’s prolonged political ad bans, which bar campaigns and political groups from running ads on their platforms to draw in small-dollar donors. By cutting off that pipeline to voters and potential supporters, the tech giants have set off a race to find new ways to reach those contributors. One old-school fundraising tactic is regaining fresh traction: buying, renting, and swapping email lists.
Trump Broke Them. Now the Pandemic Is Bringing Them Together.
Politico – Stephanie Murray | Published: 2/10/2021
When the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) came to Boston for its annual summit in 2007, its members did not have to work hard to find common ground. By the time the conference returned to Boston in 2017, just as Donald Trump was taking office, partisanship had taken hold of a bipartisan group. Now, groups like the NCSL, the National Governors Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are moving back to bipartisanship just as state and city leaders have been entrusted with more power than they have had in the nation’s history. If they continue to move toward unity, state and city leaders could once again turn the professional organizations into formidable lobbying groups capable of pressuring Congress, the president, and shaping the way American moves on from the pandemic.
Trump’s Political Operation Paid More Than $3.5 Million to Jan. 6 Organizers
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 2/10/2021
As former President Trump faces an impeachment trial on charges of inciting attacks on the U.S. Capitol, unanswered questions about the full extent of his ties to a nearby rally the same day highlight the need for more campaign finance transparency. Newly identified payments in recent FEC filings show people involved in organizing the protests on January 6 received even larger sums from Trump’s 2020 campaign than previously known. The Center for Responsive Politics unearthed more than $3.5 million in direct payments from Trump’s 2020 campaign, along with its joint fundraising committees, to people and firms involved in the Washington, D.C. demonstration before a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Two Republicans Fined for Bypassing Security Just Days After House Approved New Penalties
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Derek Hawkins (Washington Post) | Published: 2/6/2021
Two Republican House members were fined $5,000 for bypassing the security screening that was set up outside the House chamber in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. Reps. Louie Gohmert and Andrew Clyde appear to be the first members punished under the rule, which says lawmakers who bypass the metal detectors that have been installed outside some doors to the chamber will be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for each subsequent offense.
What of ‘Individual-1′? Feds’ Trump Campaign Case Is ‘Dead’
Associated Press News – Jim Mustian and Larry Neumeister | Published: 2/5/2021
The federal probe of hush money paid to cover up former President Trump’s alleged extramarital affairs has not been restarted, even though he no longer has the legal shield of the presidency. Trump’s exit from the White House prompted speculation that prosecutors might revive the investigation that sent his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to prison. An attorney for one key witness described the investigation as “dead,” adding prosecutors have even returned certain evidence they collected, a likely indication no one else will be charged.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Trump Campaign Paid Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem $6,000 During Effort to Overturn Election Results
MSN – Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) | Published: 2/6/2021
Former President Trump’s reelection campaign reported paying $6,037 to a business owned by state Rep. Mark Finchem while the lawmaker pushed for the Legislature to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona. The campaign reported in its latest financial disclosure it made a payment on December 18 to “Mrk Finchem PLLC” and the address provided for the company is the lawmaker’s home. The campaign labeled the expense as “recount: legal consulting.” Lawmakers are required to disclose each business in which they have a position or a fiduciary relationship. Finchem did not address why the company is not listed on his most recent financial disclosure, which covered all of 2020.
California – Ex-SoCal Mayor, 10 Others Charged in Corruption Probe
Courthouse News Service – Nathan Solis | Published: 2/4/2021
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged former Maywood Mayor Ramon Medina and 10 others for “widespread corruption” that involved bribes for city contracts, embezzlement, and an attempt to heavily discount city property to secure a bingo hall. Investigators raided Maywood City Hall, the homes and businesses of Medina, and other locations. The searches came after an audit called out the city’s poor practices and more than $15 million in debt. Medina is alleged to have sought and received bribes from individuals and companies seeking to do business in Maywood, one of the county’s smallest and most densely populated cities.
California – Lyft Could Pay About $3,000 for Failing to Disclose That It Paid for Some Ads in Its $48 Million Prop 22 Campaign
MSN – Katie Canales (Business Insider) | Published: 2/10/2021
Lyft faces a $3,371 fine for not disclosing it paid for some ads as part of its Proposition 22 campaign in California. The Fair Political Practices Commission is proposing the company be fined $1,499 for email ads that did not include a note indicating they were paid for by Lyft, $936 for robocalls and text ads that were also missing such a message, and $936 for robocalls and text ads that bore the wrong name. Instead of all workers having full-time employee status, Proposition 22 requires gig companies to provide an alternative set of benefits to cover expenses, including healthcare subsidies.
Georgia – Georgia Prosecutors Open Criminal Investigation into Trump’s Efforts to Subvert Election Results
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/10/2021
An Atlanta-area prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia in the wake of calls former President Trump placed to state officials, urging them to invalidate Joe Biden’s victory in the state. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis did not mention Trump by name but stated her office is examining a raft of potential criminal charges related to “attempts to influence” the administration of the 2020 election in the state. Prosecutors are scrutinizing all three of those calls, as well as the circumstances around the sudden resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta.
Hawaii – Hawaii Lawmakers Want Their ‘Gifts of Aloha’ Back
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 2/4/2021
The Hawaii Ethics Commission recently approved rules that prevent lawmakers from accepting so-called gifts of aloha, generally small food items, especially from lobbyists, who along with their clients have often gifted such items to lawmakers and their staffs. The new rules were meant to clarify several laws dealing with ethics in state government and to prevent officials in positions of authority from accepting gifts that might appear improper. But the ban has given rise to questions concerning the circumstances in which a legislator may or may not accept food items given to them out of courtesy. For example, what happens if a constituent who is not a lobbyist offers a bottle of water?
Iowa – Iowa Governor Auctioned off Access for Pork Barons’ Charity
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 2/8/2021
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds auctioned off an afternoon of her time to raise money for the namesake charity of a couple who own one of the nation’s largest pork producers and have contributed nearly $300,000 to her campaign. The 2019 auction to benefit the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation provides a striking example of the governor’s close relationship with the state’s pork industry and particularly Iowa Select Farms, owned by the couple. Company staff members run the Hansens’ foundation, which sponsors charitable programs including giveaways of pork products to needy families. The time with Reynolds was advertised as an “afternoon with Iowa’s leading lady.”
Louisiana – Former Top Gambling Regulator in Louisiana Taking Job as Advisor to British Gaming Company
The Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 2/8/2021
Ronnie Jones, the former top gambling regulator in Louisiana who was ousted from his post last year, is taking a new job as an advisor to the British gaming firm Entain, helping the company navigate the U.S. regulatory process as it expands a sports betting venture. The Louisiana Board of Ethics gave Jones the green light to do the work, after Jones asked for an advisory opinion about whether accepting the job would violate state ethics laws. Those laws bar former agency heads and board members from working for companies with business before their former agencies.
Maryland – Advance Registration Required for Testifying at Legislature
Associated Press News – Audrey Decker (Capital News Service) | Published: 2/9/2021
Signing up to speak at a bill hearing or file written testimony got harder and for some, maybe impossible, after the coronavirus pandemic shifted how the Maryland General Assembly accepts witness testimonies. In previous years, interested parties would trek to Annapolis the morning of a bill hearing and sign up to testify. If they needed assistance in the process, lobbyists could do it for them. While the online system makes it accessible for people who couldn’t previously go to Annapolis in person, it has its own set of challenges.
Maryland – Baltimore Officials Release Report on Prosecutor’s Travel
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 2/9/2021
The top state prosecutor in Baltimore, a prominent figure in the racial justice movement, attended two dozen events outside Maryland in 2018 and 2019 without getting approval for more than half of the trips, according to an inspector general’s report. It also found Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was physically absent from her job for 85 days during that time. While noting that almost $23,700 of the $27,015 total cost of the trips was paid by sponsoring organizations, the report found six of the 24 trips were paid for in full or in part by Mosby’s office or the city.
Mississippi – Mississippi Politicians Continue to Enrich Themselves with Campaign Funds, Documents Show
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 2/4/2021
Mississippi politicians continue to personally profit from their campaign funds, new state filings show, a practice that is illegal in many other states and at the federal level. Lawmakers passed campaign finance reforms in 2017 following embarrassing reports that showed how officials had spent donations on everything from children’s parties, to cars, to an $800 pair of cowboy boots. Yet a grandfather clause inserted into the legislation essentially let the unregulated spending continue as long as politicians used money raised before 2018.
Missouri – Missouri Republicans Want Veto Power on Citizen Petitions That Change the Constitution
MSN – Austin Huguelet (Springfield News-Leader) | Published: 2/10/2021
Missouri Republicans are taking another run at making it harder for citizen petitions to change the state constitution. Now, once proposed constitutional amendments are approved by voters, the state Legislature cannot change them without asking voters first. Progressive groups have taken advantage of that in recent years to go straight to voters on ethics reform and Medicaid expansion that could not pass in the GOP-dominated Legislature. But in a committee hearing, Republicans said it is time to push back.
Nevada – Lobbyists Alter Methods of Approach at Hushed Nevada Session
Las Vegas Sun – John Sadler | Published: 2/10/2021
The Nevada Legislature is closed to in-person lobbying because of COVID-19 protocols during the recently started legislative session, leaving lobbyists searching for new ways to connect with lawmakers. The halls of the statehouse are generally teeming with lobbyists hustling to make crucial connections, but that is far from the case in 2021. The hope among lobbyists is that restrictions could be eventually lifted to allow people into the statehouse before the end of the 120-day session in late May. In the interim they are connecting by telephone and videoconferencing apps like Zoom.
New Jersey – How a National Insurance Agency and Political Insiders Work New Jersey’s Money Game
Gothamist – Nancy Solomon (WNYC) | Published: 2/9/2021
Acrisure, a national insurance company, may have secured government contracts worth millions of dollars by exploiting a loophole in New Jersey’s “pay-to-play” rules through the acquisition of branch offices once owned by well-connected political insiders that remain on the payroll. Those insiders, and its company employees, subsequently contributed more than $100,000 to lawmakers dating back to 2015 and sometimes days before those lawmakers voted on awarding lucrative contracts to Acrisure. New Jersey has one of the strongest “pay-to-play” laws in the country aimed at limiting campaign contributions by people who profit from government contracts. But the regulations vary from one municipal government to another in the state.
New Mexico – New Mexico Legislature Advancing Bipartisan Redistricting Reform
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 2/11/2021
A bipartisan plan to reform the way New Mexico draws its political boundaries is advancing through the state Legislature. The measure would create an independent commission to draw district lines. Four members of the commission would be appointed by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, and another three – two independents or representatives of minor parties and one retired Court of Appeals judge – would be chosen by the state Ethics Commission. The commissioners cannot be public officials, candidates for office, or a registered lobbyist, and they cannot hold leadership positions in a political party at either the state or federal level.
New York – Cor Development Fights State Ethics Panel Over Lobbying Allegations from 2016
MSN – Tim Knauss (Syracuse Post-Standard) | Published: 2/8/2021
It has been two-and-a-half years since two Cor Development executives were convicted on federal corruption charges related to their state business dealings. Now the company is fighting the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ (JCOPE) slow-moving investigation into four-year-old allegations that grew out of the federal probe: that Cor failed to submit required lobbying disclosures. Cor seeks a court order barring JCOPE from investigating, arguing the agency waited too long to notify Cor of the probe and did not give the company a chance to promptly answer the allegations.
New York – New York’s High Court Ends State Case Against Paul Manafort
Yahoo News – Jennifer Peltz and Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 2/8/2021
Paul Manafort will not face mortgage fraud charges in New York after the state’s highest court declined to revisit lower court decisions that barred prosecuting former President Trump’s onetime campaign chairperson on double jeopardy grounds. The New York Court of Appeals decision closed the door on charges against Manafort in the matter and came less than two months after Trump pardoned him in a similar federal case that had put him behind bars.
Ohio – ‘Dark Money’ Group Admits Involvement in Householder Bribery Scandal
Columbus Dispatch – Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 2/5/2021
A nonprofit entered a guilty plea in a $60 million bribery and racketeering scheme involving Ohio’s taxpayer-funded energy company bailout and former House Speaker Larry Householder, Generation Now admitted it was used to funnel millions of dollars in bribes from a utility company to Householder in relation to the passage of House Bill 6. Generation Now allowed the government to take nearly $1.5 million from two bank accounts and received five years of probation. Householder and four co-conspirators were charged in what federal prosecutors called the largest political corruption case in state history. Householder has pleaded not guilty. He was removed as speaker but won reelection to the Ohio House in November.
Ohio – Democrats Seek a Reset Button in Ohio
Politico – James Arkin | Published: 2/8/2021
Democrats are searching for a winning strategy as they try to win an open U.S. Senate seat next year after Rob Portman’s retirement cracked open the door in a race that likely would have been an afterthought otherwise. But finding that formula has eluded the party. They are throwing out plenty of ideas, with varying degrees of difficulty: sever the local campaign from the “coastal” Democratic brand; focus on jobs and the economy to reclaim some lost ground with working-class whites; kindle greater excitement among Black voters to turn out in large numbers and grow the party base. But the trends are bleak: the GOP swept every statewide office except Sherrod Brown’s Senate seat over the last decade.
Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine’s Grandson Hired as Lobbyist for Electric Vehicle Manufacturer Lordstown Motors
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 2/4/2021
A prominent Ohio electric vehicle startup has hired Gov. Mike DeWine’s grandson as a lobbyist as it seeks state incentives, law changes, and other state government help to get its business off the ground. Matt DeWine is a lobbyist for Lordstown Motors. He started as an intern with last June, a month after he graduated from Miami University and was hired full-time in July. The same month his grandson was hired as an intern, Gov. DeWine visited the Lordstown plant after receiving a private tour.
Ohio – Uproar Over Dominion Voting Machines in One Ohio County Shows Trump’s Falsehoods Linger
MSN – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/8/2021
Late last year, officials in an Ohio county voted to buy Dominion voting machines. It was a good deal for the county, said Stark County Board of Elections Director Jeff Matthews. It was also a step into a firestorm as Donald Trump’s supporters were incorrectly accusing Dominion Voting Systems of helping to rig the 2020 results. Two months later, the county has yet to replace its aging voting equipment while May primaries loom. The all-Republican board of commissioners has fielded a deluge of upset callers and spent a recent meeting peppering election staff with doubts and questions. The situation is a testament to how viral accusations repeatedly debunked by courts and authorities have persisted, hanging over local decision-making and saddling officials with the task of somehow rebuilding public trust.
Oklahoma – Bill Reauthorizing Virtual Meetings Zooms Through Oklahoma House
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 2/8/2021
Oklahoma lawmakers sent to the governor a bill that allows public bodies such as school boards and city councils to convene virtually. In addition, state Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp told a House subcommittee the agency may not be able to function much longer if it does not get a larger appropriation and relief from a statute that caps the fines and fees collected annually at $150,000. Kemp is asking for an additional $350,000 for two staff members and to begin full oversight of political subdivisions such as towns and counties.
Oregon – Oregon Rep. Diego Hernandez Could Face Removal After Harassment Investigation
MSN – Claire Withycombe (Salem Statesman Journal) | Published: 2/5/2021
The House Committee on Conduct recommended the full chamber expel Rep. Diego Hernandez after finding he engaged in sexual and workplace harassment and created a hostile work environment. The committee found Hernandez violated standards of conduct for House members in his treatment of three women, all of whom had business at the Capitol. The panel concluded Hernandez pressured two women to restart romantic relationships and subjected a long-term partner to controlling and abusive treatment.
Pennsylvania – Sons of Top Two Pa. Senate Leaders Are Registered Lobbyists for Same Firm
Lancaster Online – Gillian McGoldrick | Published: 2/4/2021
The sons of the Pennsylvania Senate’s two top leaders are both registered lobbyists for the same firm that lobbies on behalf of some of the state’s largest corporations. Mike Ward, the son of Majority Leader Kim Ward, and Anthony Costa, the son of Minority Leader Jay Costa, are both Pittsburgh-based lobbyists for Cameron Companies. Given Ward’s and Costa’s direct relationships to the top Republican and Democrat in the Senate, the sons’ clients could get special treatment across the Legislature and a leg-up in getting their legislative priorities across the finish line, said Khalif Ali, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania.
Rhode Island – RI Ethics Commissioner Resigns Amid Controversy Over Role in Smiley Campaign
MSN – Katherine Gregg (Providence Journal) | Published: 2/5/2021
Rhode Island Ethics Commission member Emili Vaziri resigned from the panel following two campaign meetings that took place at her law office. State law bars commission members from participating in political campaigns. The meetings involved Department of Administration Director Brett Smiley, who is running for Providence mayor, and political operative Ed Cotugno. Vaziri was among the commissioners who voted in favor of an advisory opinion clearing the way for Smiley to start raising money for his campaign. The resignation comes in the wake of a series of controversies around Smiley’s fundraising and political activities while leading the agency that distributes and oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts.
South Carolina – SC Gov. McMaster Fires Agency Chief for Contract to Her Husband’s Employer
MSN – Maayan Schechter (The State) | Published: 2/8/2021
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster removed the director he appointed to the State Accident Fund over a recent contract worth upwards of $600,000 the governor said was awarded to a company that hired her husband to do the work. McMaster called for an investigation into whether ousted Director Amy Cofield played a role in guiding the state agency’s funding to her husband’s employer, and in effect to him, through the contract.
Tennessee – Tennessee: FBI raid no excuse for not filing campaign report
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi | Published: 2/10/2021
Campaign finance officials offered little sympathy to a lawmaker who said he was unable to complete a recent campaign finance report due the FBI confiscating all his campaign files. Rep. Todd Warner was one of several Tennessee lawmakers whose homes and offices were searched by federal agents earlier this year. Warner told the Registry of Election Finance he could not complete his most recent report because he did not have access to key documents. “‘The FBI took my paperwork’ is not excuse for not filing your report,” said Registry member Henry Fincher.
Utah – Utah Ethics Commission Received ‘Multiple’ Concerns in 2020, Didn’t Investigate Any Cases
KUTV – Jim Spiewak | Published: 2/4/2021
Investigating those in the highest levels of government has become tougher through the years in Utah. There are some lawmakers who want more options for legitimate complaints to be further reviewed. Anyone can file a complaint with Utah Executive Branch Ethics Commission, a group made up of five volunteers tasked with investigating claims of unethical or illegal behavior, and several were filed in 2020.None were investigated.
Washington DC – K Street, Political Parents Channel Advocacy into Reopening Schools
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 2/9/2021
The debate over pandemic schooling has ignited passion and protest across the nation. But in the District of Columbia area where some parents hail from K Street, Capitol Hill, and candidate campaigns, the volunteer advocates bring a level of polish to rival politically connected teachers’ unions as they seek to sway local and state officials. The parent advocacy campaigns across the region, which skews Democratic and racially diverse, span the political spectrum. Many parents lobbying for a return to schools say they are frustrated by the politics of the debate, especially last year when then-President Trump said he wanted buildings to welcome students back, ginning up opposition from liberals.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Health Official Won’t Handle Matters Affecting Former Clients
MSN – Patrick Marley and Mary Spicuzza (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/8/2021
Wisconsin’s new health secretary, Karen Timberlake, said she would recuse herself from matters affecting her former lobbying clients. That goes beyond what state law requires. As a lobbyist with Michael Best Strategies, Timberlake represented DentaQuest, an oral health company; MyPath, a company that serves people with disabilities; Rogers Behavioral Health, which lobbies to raise Medicaid payments for behavioral health providers; and the Network for Innovation in Senior Care, a consortium of long-term and rehabilitative care providers. When Timberlake leaves her government post, she will not be able to immediately return to lobbying on the same issues.
February 5, 2021 •
National/Federal An Emboldened Extremist Wing Flexes Its Power in a Leaderless G.O.P. New York Times – Annie Karni and Sam Baker | Published: 2/1/2021 With no dominant leader other than a one-term president, a radical right movement that became emboldened under […]
An Emboldened Extremist Wing Flexes Its Power in a Leaderless G.O.P.
New York Times – Annie Karni and Sam Baker | Published: 2/1/2021
With no dominant leader other than a one-term president, a radical right movement that became emboldened under President Trump has been maneuvering for more power in the Republican Party and ascending in different states and congressional districts. More moderate Republicans feel increasingly under attack, but so far have made little progress in galvanizing voters, donors, or new recruits for office to push back against extremism. Nothing is defining and dividing the GOP more than loyalty to Trump and his false claims about the election.
Biden Brother’s Role in Florida Law Firm Complicates White House Ethics Message
MSN – Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/3/2021
President Biden’s younger brother promoted his relationship with the president in an advertisement for a law firm published on Inauguration Day. Frank Biden, listed as a senior advisor for Berman Law Group, was featured in the firm’s ad in the Daily Business Review along with quotes describing his relationship with the new president and their family name. President Biden has promised to lead a highly ethical administration, which he has pitched as a contrast to his predecessor, and adopted strict rules form those serving in his administration, although they do not necessarily apply to family members. A White House official said a process is in place, involving the counsel’s office and representatives of the family, to address potential conflicts-of-interest as they arise.
House Adopts Fines for Lawmakers Who Don’t Comply with Metal Detectors
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 2/3/2021
The U.S. House adopted new rules that will enact fines against lawmakers who refuse to comply with the security screenings now required for entry into the chamber in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. Fines of $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for the second are now in effect. The metal detectors outside the House chamber were installed days after the attack on the Capitol, but several House Republicans defiantly pushed past Capitol Police officers and sergeant-at-arms staff into the chamber without going through the metal detectors. Lawmakers will not be able to use campaign money or congressional office budget funds to pay the fines.
House Democrats Revive Bill to Ban Colleagues from Carrying Guns on Capitol Grounds
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/28/2021
U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman filed the No Congressional Gun Loophole Act, seeking to nullify regulations that exempt members of Congress from a federal law banning guns on Capitol grounds. The move is likely to rankle Republicans who, in some cases, have refused to cooperate with security screenings put in place in the wake of the siege of January 6. Huffman has pushed to prohibit his colleagues from toting guns since 2018 but he says the overheated political environment and the behavior by some House Republicans in recent weeks “have really helped underscore” the need to refile the bill at this moment.
House Opens Investigation of Pandemic Ventilator Purchases Overseen by White House
MSN – Reed Albergotti and Aaron Gregg (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
A House subcommittee is investigating a government deal to buy $70 million worth of ventilators for the coronavirus pandemic response that a Washington Post investigation found were inadequate for treating most covid-19 patients. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Logistics Agency purchased 11,200 AutoMedx SAVe II+ ventilators from Combat Medical Systems, which distributes the devices. Adrian Urias, AutoMedx’s co-founder and current shareholder, advised the Trump administration’s covid-19 task force on ventilator purchases. When the government posted the minimum specifications that ventilator manufacturers had to meet to sell devices for the pandemic response, those specifications were nearly identical to a spec sheet listed on AutoMedx’s website at the time.
Nonprofit Tied to Amalgamated Bank Looks to Capture Corporate Donors Through New Fund Following Capitol Hill Riot
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 2/2/2021
A nonprofit tied to Amalgamated Bank is launching a fund with the intent of capturing political donations from corporations that have stopped giving after the riot on Capitol Hill. The Amalgamated Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) that calls itself nonpartisan, is moving ahead with the Democracy Reinvestment Fund. It will take in corporate donations and use that money to help finance other nonprofit organizations. Though officials did not say which corporations the fund is going to target, a group of companies decided to halt contributions to House and Senate lawmakers who, even after the deadly riot, challenged the electoral results confirming Joe Bide as president.
Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Mileage Reimbursement ‘Raises Red Flags,’ Ethics Experts Say
MSN – Jason Wingerter (Denver Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert paid herself more than $22,000 in mileage reimbursements from her campaign account last year. Her campaign defends the reimbursements but three ethics experts who reviewed the money transfers say they raise questions. To justify those reimbursements, Boebert would have had to drive 38,712 miles while campaigning, despite having no publicly advertised campaign events in March, April, or July, and only one in May. Because the reimbursements came in two payments – a modest $1,060 at the end of March and $21,200 on November 11 – Boebert would have had to drive 36,870 miles in just over seven months between April 1 and Nov. 11 to justify the second payment.
Secretive Ethics Panel Will Judge Hawley and Cruz
Politico – Burgess Everett | Published: 1/31/2021
Former President Trump’s impeachment trial will be conducted on the Senate floor, live on television. The investigation into Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley will take place behind closed doors by one of the most secretive committees in Congress. After multiple leading Democrats called for the two Republicans to resign, Cruz and Hawley’s challenge to President Biden’s Electoral College win is now tied up in the opaque Senate Ethics Committee. While Trump’s impeachment trial will conclude quickly, the probe into whether the two senators played a role in inciting the violent Capitol attack will unwind over an interminable timetable with little hint of where it is going.
Small Donors Ruled 2020; Will That Change Post-Trump?
Center for Responsive Politics – Krystal Hur | Published: 2/2/2021
Small donors played a pivotal role in financing both Democratic and Republican campaigns in the 2020 election. With Donald Trump in Florida and President Biden taking his place in the White House, it remains unclear whether small donations will continue to pour in for either party. As the GOP’s reign in Washington, D.C. comes to an end, so have its relationships with some corporate power players who have historically been influential supporters of the party. The role of “dark money” in future elections could be complicated if the For the People Act; a campaign finance reform bill, is passed.
Trump Supporter Charged in 2016 Twitter Scheme to Undermine Hillary Clinton
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
A far-right social media influencer was arrested and accused of interfering in the 2016 election through an organized campaign to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy by conning supporters of Hillary Clinton into voting through illegitimate means such as text message or online. Prosecutors allege Douglass Mackey used an alias, reportedly derived from actor Charlie Sheen’s character Ricky Vaughn in the 1989 film “Major League,” to circulate messages on Twitter that encouraged Clinton’s supporters to “Avoid the line. Vote from home,” according to charging documents. Nearly 5,000 people fell for the ploy, according to the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, which announced the arrest.
Trump’s Actions Described as ‘a Betrayal of Historic Proportions’ in Trial Brief Filed by House Impeachment Managers
MSN – Amy Gardner, Karoun Demirjian, and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
House Democrats made their case to convict former President Trump of inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol in an impeachment brief, accusing Trump of jeopardizing the foundations of American democracy by whipping his supporters into a “frenzy” for the sole purpose of retaining his hold on the presidency. Impeachment managers made an impassioned case that Trump was “singularly responsible” for the mayhem. They argued he is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors because he used the powers of his office to advance his personal political interests at the expense of the nation. Trump’s defense attorneys filed a response to the article of impeachment, denying Trump incited the crowd at his rally to storm the Capitol and “engage in destructive behavior.” The brief also disputed that Trump’s claims of voter fraud were false.
Trump’s Legal Team Exited After He Insisted Impeachment Defense Focus on False Claims of Election Fraud
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/31/2021
The implosion of former President Trump’s legal team comes as Trump remains fixated on arguing at his second impeachment trial that the 2020 election was stolen from him, a defense that advisers warn is ill-conceived and Republican strategists fear will fuel the growing divide in the GOP. Karl Bowers Jr. and four other attorneys who recently signed on to represent the former president abruptly parted ways with him days before his Senate trial for his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump’s office announced two new lawyers were taking over his defense.
Trump-Tied Lobbyists’ Revenues Peaked in President’s Final Year
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 1/28/2021
Lobbyists selling their connections to former President Trump capped off a lucrative four-year run with their best year in 2020. After raking in millions of dollars from high-profile clients, these Washington influencers are already losing clients under President Biden but could still benefit from Trump’s continued influence over the GOP. Wealthy interests attempted to get their message across to Trump through groups that supported his run for president. Consultants asked Trump’s popular Twitter allies to push their clients’ message to the president on his favorite app. Lobbyists pushed to plant stories in conservative outlets that would make it into Trump’s daily news packet or air ads on his favorite TV shows.
US Score Falls in Economist’s Annual Democracy Index
The Hill – Celine Castronuevo | Published: 2/3/2021
The overall state of democracy in the U.S. declined last year, according to an annual ranking by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, which cited the continued erosion of trust in the country’s institutions. The U.S. retained its rank as the 25th most democratic nation, out of 167 countries analyzed, but remains in the “flawed democracy” category after being demoted from the “full democracy” group in 2016, the report said. The report measures five main categories –electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture –and assigns scores to each one.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Voter Protection Act Blocking Bipartisan Bill
Arizona Capitol Times – Greta Forslund | Published: 1/29/2021
A bill introduced by Arizona Rep. Leo Biasiucci’s proposes that judges could order people to do community service, valued at $12 an hour, as payment for their tickets rather than money. Lawmakers like the idea because it is criminal justice reform that both helps those in need and serves the community. Opponents said the Voter Protection Act applies to the bill because it could cut funding to the voter-approved Clean Elections Commission. Biasiucci said while he recognizes the Clean Elections Commission is funded by traffic tickets, there are 17 or 18 other agencies also funded by those tickets, and he did not want to pick just one agency to be exempt from the bill.
California – San Diego Unified School District’s Federal Lobbying Efforts Come Under Scrutiny by Parent Group
La Jolla Light – Kristen Taketa (San Diego Union Tribune) | Published: 1/30/2021
A watchdog group criticized the San Diego Unified School District for spending tens of thousands of dollars, including some coronavirus relief money, on a federal lobbying firm. The school board hired The Raben Group with a contract worth up to $150,000 to advocate for more school stimulus funding, advance the district’s interests among federal lawmakers, and raise the district’s “profile as a leader,” according to the contract. It is not uncommon for school districts to lobby, said Dan Auble, researcher for the Center for Responsible Politics. He said he does not know if lobbying is an allowable use of CARES Act funding; generally, federal contractors are prohibited from spending their contract money on lobbying.
Florida – Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter Activists Clashed in a Florida Suburb. Only One Side Was Charged.
MSN – Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
When local Black Lives Matter activists started marching through the small town of New Port Richey, Florida, last summer – shouting slogans through bullhorns demanding racial justice – it took only a few days for the Proud Boys and other counter-protesters to show up and confront them. Groups of mostly White men encircled the demonstrators. They revved motorcycles while yelling threats, obscenities, and support for the police and President Trump, at times using their own bullhorns. Amid fears that the confrontations could lead to violence, police started enforcing the town’s rarely used noise ordinance, which essentially forbids disturbances louder than a close conversation between two people. But only the Black Lives Matter protesters were cited.
Illinois – Former Gubernatorial Candidate McCann Indicted on Campaign Finance Charges
State Journal-Register – Ben Szalinski | Published: 2/3/2021
Former Illinois Sen. Sam McCann was indicted on multiple charges alleging he misused campaign funds for personal expenses. The indictment alleges McCann used campaign money for things like vehicles, personal debts, mortgages, and pay for himself. After losing the November 2018 governor’s race, the charges state McCann continued to pay himself with funds from the Conservative Party for a total of about $187,000.
Illinois – Worth Township Trustee Pleads Guilty to Tax Charge Stemming from Ongoing Political Corruption Probe
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/1/2021
A Worth Township trustee pleaded guilty to a federal tax charge and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their ongoing political corruption investigation in Illinois. Richard Lewandowski pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with one misdemeanor count of failing to file an income tax return in 2018. Lewandowski’s plea makes him the latest Democratic player to cooperate in a corruption investigation that has stretched from Chicago to Springfield. Lewandowski is a former state representative and ally of ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan who resigned as a supervisor last year amid the investigation involving red-light camera company SafeSpeed.
Indiana – As Indiana’s Legislature Considers Redistricting This Year, Experts Look Back on the Impact of Gerrymandering
Chicago Tribune – Alexandra Kukulka (Post Tribune) | Published: 1/28/2021
When states are given the opportunity to redraw district lines every 10 years following the census, it is common for the political party with the majority within the state to redraw districts in their favor, known as gerrymandering. Officials announced the Indiana Legislature will likely have to hold a special session over the summer because of a delay in the completion of data from the 2020 census. Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, said the organization was excited to hear that Indiana will review redistricting in a special session.
Iowa – Iowa Republicans Considering Giving Political Ideology the Same Protections as Race, Religion, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 1/27/2021
Political ideology would join race, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation as a protected class in the Iowa Civil Rights Act if a Republican proposal in the state Legislature were to become law. The bill’s supporters claim protecting political ideology is necessary to push back against “cancel culture,” which they said has resulted in supporters of former President Trump and others being targeted.
Iowa – Iowa’s House Speaker Said He Can’t Make Lawmakers Wear Masks – But He Did Enforce a Ban on Jeans
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 2/4/2021
State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell protested the lack of a mask mandate by violating the dress code of the Iowa House floor, where face coverings are not required during the legislative session. She wore jeans to the floor, which goes against the new rules for this year. When Wessel-Kroeschell tried to speak during a floor debate, Speaker Pat Grassley said he would not recognize her. Grassley has previously said he cannot mandate lawmakers to wear face coverings on the House floor. “Not wearing a mask can kill people. … They’re putting all of us in danger. So, if they can enforce a denim dress code, they can also enforce a mask mandate,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.
Kansas – Michael O’Donnell Hit with $25,000 Fine After Admitting to Campaign Law Violations
MSN – Chance Swaim (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 1/27/2021
Former Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael ‘’Donnell was fined $25,000 after admitting to nine campaign finance violations. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined O’Donnell for violations that included using campaign money for personal use and fraudulent reporting. He was accused of funneling money to four friends, who he falsely claimed were campaign workers. O’Donnell’s fine is the second highest in the history of Kansas campaign finance laws. The violations are the latest round of legal proceedings tied to O’Donnell’s controversial political career.
Maryland – Lawmakers, Governor Push Reforms at Maryland Environmental Service After Director’s Payout
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 1/27/2021
State lawmakers are considering a long list of changes to the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), a low-profile independent agency thrust into the spotlight after its director received a six-figure payout when he left to work for Gov. Larry Hogan. The bill would restrict future payouts, restructure the board, and add new requirements, such as ethics training. The MES came under scrutiny after it was reported the ex-director, Roy McGrath, had been paid more than $238,000 when he departed to become Hogan’s chief of staff. McGrath called it “severance” pay, though he voluntarily left the agency to join the governor’s team at the same salary.
Massachusetts – Boston City Council Votes to Bypass Special Election for Mayor
WBTS – Staff | Published: 2/3/2021
The Boston City Council approved a petition that would bypass the otherwise required special election if Mayor Marty Walsh resigns before March 5. Councilor Ricardo Arroyo filed the petition after President Joe Biden nominated Walsh as labor secretary. Arroyo said that given the COVID-19 crisis, it would be irresponsible for the city to potentially hold four elections – a special, the regularly scheduled November contest, and preliminary elections preceding each – in a five-month span. The change needs approval from the state Legislature, Walsh, and Gov. Charlie Baker to take effect.
Massachusetts – Mariano Plans Look at Unregistered Advocacy Coalitions, House Rules Changes
Springfield Patriot-Ledger – Katie Lannan (State House News Service) | Published: 1/28/2021
Promising meaningful short-term reforms paired with an exploration of unregistered advocacy coalitions, Massachusetts House Speaker Ronald Mariano plans to seek a review of rules that govern House operations during a six-month extension of pandemic-era emergency rules. The move, which comes as activists are lobbying for changes that they say would make it easier to track the progress of legislation and force recorded votes on priority bills, would put off what is usually one of the first matters of legislative business at the outset of a new session.
Missouri – State Rep. Tricia Derges Indicted by Grand Jury, Accused of Faking Stem Cell Treatments
MSN – Austin Huguelet (Springfield News-Leader) | Published: 2/2/2021
A federal grand jury indicted Missouri Rep. Patricia Derges on fraud charges after she falsely promoted a treatment she was selling at medical clinics as containing stem cells that could treat various diseases, including COVID-19. The indictment also accuses Derges of illegally providing prescription drugs to clients and making false statements to federal agents investigating the case. Derges is not a physician but is licensed as an assistant physician, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. She operates three Ozark Valley Medical Clinic sites.
New York – Manhattan District Attorney Considering Prosecuting Stephen Bannon Following His Pardon by Trump in Federal Fraud Case
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 2/2/2021
The Manhattan district attorney’s office is weighing whether to bring a state court case against Stephen Bannon, who was indicted on federal fraud charges for his role in a fundraising scheme to build a border wall but received a last-minute pardon from then-President Trump. Bannon, one of the architects of Trump’s 2016 election victory and briefly a White House adviser, was among 143 people who received pardons from Trump in his last 24 hours in office. Bannon left the White House early in Trump’s term after he fell out with the president, who wavered until the last minute on issuing his former strategist a pardon.
North Dakota – Bill Seeks More Transparency in Political Advertisements
Dickinson Press – Dylan Sherman (North Dakota Newspaper Association) | Published: 2/1/2021
While candidate campaigns, PACs, and ballot measure sponsors disclose their donors over $200 in North Dakota, independent expenditures do not have as much transparency. House Bill 1451 would impost the same disclosure requirements for independent expenditures. Rep. Jason Dockter chairs the Political Subdivisions Committee, which will consider the bill. He said more transparency in political spending would be beneficial to all in North Dakota.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Hall Hopes New Ethics Panel Will Shore Up Public Trust After Council Arrests
WCPO – Mariel Carbone | Published: 1/27/2021
After three high-profile arrests involving city council members accused of cutting crooked deals with local property developers, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has appointed an ethics panel to reevaluate the city’s official interactions with developers. The members of the nine-seat panel include former lawyers, judges, business leaders, political leaders, a pastor, and a real-estate developer. The three council members were accused of soliciting money in exchange for tipping City Hall’s scales in certain local developers’ favor.
Ohio – Ex-Columbus City Hall Lobbyist, Franklin County Authority Member John Raphael Agrees to Bribery Plea
MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 2/3/2021
John Raphael, a former Columbus City Hall lobbyist, again agreed to plead guilty to corruption charges for billing clients “success fees” that were really intended as bribes in return for securing public contracts. For the second time since 2016, Raphael is facing prison for his role in a bribery and kickback scheme he caried out as a member of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, the entity that owns the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Raphael acknowledged that at the same time he was a member of the facilities authority, he was a paid consultant to a food services company whom he supplied with confidential information that helped it win a business contract with the authority to supply the convention center.
Ohio – P.G. Sittenfeld’s PAC at Center of Corruption Case: ‘Secret slush fund’ or legal account?
WCPO – Paula Christian | Published: 1/27/2021
The FBI arrested Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld in November and charged him with honest services wire fraud, bribery, and attempted extortion. Prosecutors call Sittenfeld’s PAC, where he deposited $40,000 from undercover FBI agents allegedly in exchange for his support on a development project, a slush fund. But experts say Sittenfeld’s case is different from two other council members charged in separate bribery cases, in part because he allegedly asked for contributions to his PAC, and not money for personal use. Experts also question whether prosecutors can prove he performed an official action to benefit the project that is tied to those donations.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers: Rep. Diego Hernandez created a hostile workplace
OPB – Lauren Drake | Published: 2/2/2021
Oregon lawmakers found Rep. Diego Hernandez created a hostile workplace at the state Capitol for at least one woman who worked in the building. His conduct violated legislative conduct rules, a committee decided. Lawmakers are holding a series of hearings into Hernandez’s alleged behavior. The inquiry delves into the allegations of five women, identified only as “subject one” through “subject five.” The investigators could not substantiate claims made by two women.
Tennessee – Tennessee Lawmaker in Email to State Officials: FBI took all campaign files in search
MSN – Jonathan Matisse (Associated Press) | Published: 1/27/2021
One of several Republican state lawmakers in Tennessee whose homes and legislative offices were searched by federal agents said the FBI confiscated all files and documents related to his campaign. Newly sworn-in Rep. Todd Warner provided the details to the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance to explain why he could not complete his most recent campaign finance report on time.
Texas – Should Cities’ Funds Be Used to Pay Lobbyists? Texas Bill Bids to Put a Stop to It
Austin American-Statesman – Philip Jankowski | Published: 2/2/2021
Proposed legislation would make it illegal for cities, counties, and other local government entities in Texas to hire lobbyists. Efforts to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying emerged in part from the annoyance of lawmakers who saw cities and counties push back in 2019 against their work to pass a property tax cap law. State Rep. Mayes Middleton said his bill removes the middleman between local governments and legislators, and local lawmakers elected to represent their cities or counties should be speaking to state lawmakers directly, instead of spending taxpayer dollars on lobbyists.
Utah – What Do Special Interests Get for Providing $9 of Every $10 in Utah Legislators’ Campaigns?
MSN – Lee Davidson (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/28/2021
Utah is one of only 10 states with no campaign contribution limits. Utah also allows direct donations from corporations, which is banned in 22 states. With laws so friendly to interest groups, nearly a third of Utah legislators who raised money last year received nothing from voters in their districts, largely because they did not need their money. The situation perpetually raises questions about how much access and influence special interests may be buying on Utah’s Capitol Hill, and whether legislators are beholden to them. Lawmakers and political scientists generally say it does not buy votes, but likely does improve access for donors to make their case to policymakers.
Vermont – Peddle Power: In a remote democracy, lobbyists adapt to remain relevant
Seven Days – Kevin McCallum | Published: 2/2/2021
Unable to buttonhole senators in the halls or grab lunch with committee chairpersons in the cafeteria, lobbyists in Vermont found their working lives disrupted. Yet even as their stock-in-trade – access to lawmakers – has been curtailed, demand for their influence has remained as strong as ever. Decisions made in Montpelier, from executive lockdown orders to legislative spats over who should receive relief funds, have taken on existential import, raising the stakes for lobbyists and their clients.
Virginia – Legislator Censured After Praising Capitol Rioters Files Suit against Virginia Senate
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 2/1/2021
Virginia Sen. Amanda Chase, who was censured after she praised those who stormed the U.S. Capitol as “patriots,” filed a federal lawsuit contending the rebuke from her Senate colleagues violated her constitutional rights. The Senate censured Chase, a Trump-style populist seeking the GOP nomination for governor, for what it described as a pattern of “unacceptable conduct.” The censure resolution criticized Chase for praising the insurrectionists, but also detailed incidents stretching back several years, including a 2019 episode in which she cursed at a state Capitol police officer over a parking spot.
Washington – With 1 in 5 Lobbyists Coming from State Service, Washington State Lawmakers Hear Bill to Restrict Revolving Door
The Columbian – Joseph O’Sullivan (Seattle Times) | Published: 1/28/2021
As a handful of state lawmakers filed a bill to create a one-year waiting period for public officials to become lobbyists, a “revolving-door” example emerged from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s office. Charles Knutson, a senior policy adviser for the governor on economic development, innovation, and global affairs, left that position on December 22. By January 6, Knutson had registered as a lobbyist with Amazon. In Olympia, Knutson’s two-week journey from government staffer to private policy work is far from unusual. Officials often move from state positions to lobbying in weeks or months, sometimes within days. Nearly one in five of the state’s approximately 800 registered lobbyists worked previously in elected office or state government.
Washington DC – The Capitol Fence Meant D.C. Couldn’t Enact Laws. Vice President Harris’s Office Stepped In.
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer | Published: 2/1/2021
The new security fencing around the U.S. Capitol led to an unusual scene – a District of Columbia employee and a staffer for Vice President Harris, meeting up in a hotel lobby to hand off boxes stuffed with legislative texts. It was the city government’s solution to an unusual problem: federal law requires the council to deliver, by hand, copies of each bill it passes to Congress. But after the breach of the Capitol by a mob trying to overturn former President Trump’s electoral defeat, strict new security measures were put in place. Staffers from the city government were not allowed through the seven-foot-tall fence to deliver bills.
West Virginia – Federal Judge Rules in Lobbyist Lawsuit Against State Education Officials
Weirton Daily Times – Steven Allen Adams | Published: 1/28/2021
A federal judge ruled, in part, that a former state superintendent of schools and Department of Education officials retaliated against a lobbyist for his critical social media posts. The judge granted a motion by lobbyist Jason Webb for two elements of one count he faces that accused former state superintendent of schools Steve Paine and Jan Barth, an assistant superintendent of schools at the Department of Education, of retaliation against Webb. The lobbyist accused Paine and Barth of using government power to intimidate him from exercising his free speech rights. Formerly under contract with college test-prep company ACT, Webb accused Paine and Barth of threatening ACT over Webb’s public comments, resulting in ACT dropping Webb as a lobbyist one month after Webb filed the lawsuit.
February 3, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Nonprofit Tied to Amalgamated Bank Looks to Capture Corporate Donors Through New Fund Following Capitol Hill Riot” by Brian Schwartz for CNBC North Dakota: “Bill Seeks More Transparency in Political Advertisements” by Dylan Sherman (North Dakota Newspaper […]
National: “Nonprofit Tied to Amalgamated Bank Looks to Capture Corporate Donors Through New Fund Following Capitol Hill Riot” by Brian Schwartz for CNBC
North Dakota: “Bill Seeks More Transparency in Political Advertisements” by Dylan Sherman (North Dakota Newspaper Association) for Dickinson Press
National: “An Emboldened Extremist Wing Flexes Its Power in a Leaderless G.O.P.” by Annie Karni and Sam Baker for New York Times
National: “Trump’s Actions Described as ‘a Betrayal of Historic Proportions’ in Trial Brief Filed by House Impeachment Managers” by Amy Gardner, Karoun Demirjian, and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Worth Township Trustee Pleads Guilty to Tax Charge Stemming from Ongoing Political Corruption Probe” by Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News
Virginia: “Legislator Censured After Praising Capitol Rioters Files Suit against Virginia Senate” by Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) for MSN
Washington DC: “The Capitol Fence Meant D.C. Couldn’t Enact Laws. Vice President Harris’s Office Stepped In.” by Julie Zauzmer for Washington Post
Texas: “Should Cities’ Funds Be Used to Pay Lobbyists? Texas Bill Bids to Put a Stop to It” by Philip Jankowski for Austin American-Statesman
Indiana: “As Indiana’s Legislature Considers Redistricting This Year, Experts Look Back on the Impact of Gerrymandering” by Alexandra Kukulka (Post Tribune) for Chicago Tribune
January 29, 2021 •
National/Federal Beau Biden Foundation to Deny Lobbyist Donations, Make Major Donors Public The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/21/2021 The Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, which works to combat child abuse and was named after President Biden’s […]
Beau Biden Foundation to Deny Lobbyist Donations, Make Major Donors Public
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/21/2021
The Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, which works to combat child abuse and was named after President Biden’s late son, told donors it will make changes to increase transparency. The foundation said it will expand its ethical guidelines following Biden’s inauguration by not accepting donations from lobbyists and foreign agents and by making major donors public. It also said it will only accept gifts from U.S. citizens, lawfully admitted permanent residents, and American corporate entities and associations.
Biden Is Firing Some Top Trump Holdovers, but in Some Cases, His Hands May Be Tied
MSN – Lisa Rein and Ann Gearan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/24/2021
President Biden’s team moved quickly to dump several high-profile, Senate-confirmed Trump appointees whose terms extended beyond Inauguration Day, in some cases by several years. They include the surgeon general, the National Labor Relations Board’s powerful general counsel, and the heads of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Agency for Global Media. But other, lower-profile Trump loyalists, some of whom helped carry out his administration’s most controversial policies, are scattered throughout Biden’s government in permanent, senior positions. Identifying them, let alone dislodging them, could be difficult for the new leadership.
‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House
MSN – Bill Allison (Bloomberg) | Published: 1/23/2021
President Joe Biden benefited from a record-breaking amount of donations from anonymous donors to outside groups backing him, meaning the public will never have a full accounting of who helped him win the White House. Democrats have said they want to ban “dark money” as uniquely corrupting, since it allows supporters to quietly back a candidate without scrutiny. Yet in their effort to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, they embraced it. Campaign finance laws, in theory, are supposed to limit the influence big money has over politicians. But the system has loopholes, which groups backing Biden and other candidates, have exploited.
House Democrats Plan to Focus Impeachment Trial on How Rioters Reacted to Trump’s Remarks
MSN – Seung Min Kim, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 1/25/2021
The House formally delivered an article of impeachment charging former President Donald Trump with inciting the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, as Democrats prepared to use his own words as evidence against him in his Senate trial. While no final decisions on trial strategy have been made, House managers are concentrating on building their case around Trump personally, both what he said in the run-up to the January 6 attack and at a rally that day, and how his words were interpreted within the White House and outside of it, according to people familiar with the deliberations.
Inspector General Will Investigate Whether Any Justice Dept. Officials Improperly Sought to Help Trump Overturn the Election
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 1/25/2021
The Justice Department’s inspector general announced its office is opening an investigation into whether any current or former department official tried to improperly “alter the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election” – a broad review that comes on the heels of a revelation that then-President Trump considered replacing his acting attorney general with an official more amenable to his unfounded claims of voter fraud. Inspector General Michael Horowitz noted his jurisdiction would be limited to “allegations concerning the conduct of former and current DOJ employees,” and he could not examine other government officials.
Kroger Unknowingly Funneled Donations to a Militant Group. After the Capitol Riots, It’s Cutting It Off.
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 1/21/2021
When Kroger launched its community rewards program more than seven years ago, the supermarket chain pitched the initiative as a way that shoppers could support charities of their choosing. But one of the nonprofit groups being funded through the program was the Indiana Oath Keepers, the local branch of a self-styled militia group whose members now are accused of planning to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance. After court documents disclosed disturbing new allegations about the extremist group, including plans to make “citizens’ arrests” of elected officials, Kroger pulled the Indiana Oath Keepers from its rewards initiative.
Millions Earmarked for Public Health Emergencies Were Used to Pay for Unrelated Projects, Says Inspector General
MSN – Dan Diamond and Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
Federal officials repeatedly raided a fund earmarked for biomedical research in the years leading up to the covid-19 pandemic, spending millions of dollars to pay for unrelated salaries, administrative expenses, and even the cost of removing office furniture, according to an investigation conducted by the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general. It centered on hundreds of millions of dollars intended for the development of vaccines, drugs, and therapies by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), an arm of the federal health department. The inspector general substantiated some of the whistleblower’s claims, finding staff referred to the agency as the “bank of BARDA.”
One of Trump’s Final Acts Will Allow Former Aides to Profit from Foreign Ties
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 1/24/2021
In the final hours of his presidency, Donald Trump revoked the ethics pledge he signed four years earlier, which barred those who had served in his administration from lobbying for foreign governments and political parties for the rest of their lives. With those restrictions gone, former Trump administration officials will be free to represent foreign powers, exactly the kind of behavior Trump had promised to eradicate. The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires those who lobby for foreign governments and political parties, along with some other foreign interests, to disclose their work. Several prominent Trump allies failed to do so, ensnaring them in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and other probes.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Endorsement of Conspiracy Theories, Violence Sparks Calls for Her Resignation – Again
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
Marjorie Taylor Greene openly supported and spread conspiracy theories for years, yet her northwest Georgia district elected her to Congress by a wide margin. Now, in office for a little a few weeks, she is facing a second round of calls for her resignation after a string of reports revealed her repeated endorsements of political violence and extremism. The latest revelations include videos in which Greene repeats bogus claims by suggesting the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida, were staged; a Facebook post that expresses support for a dangerous conspiracy theory about child abuse; and a pattern of online activity approving of the execution of Democratic leaders and federal agents.
Shell Companies and ‘Dark Money’ May Hide Details of Trump Ties to DC Protests
Center for Resposive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 1/22/2021
Former President Trump’s presidential campaign aides played key roles orchestrating a rally protesting certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election before hundreds of rioters breached the U.S. Capitol on January 6. But the full extent of the Trump campaign’s ties to the protests may not be fully known due to its use of shell companies that hide details of its financial dealings and the central role “dark money” played in the protests. Multiple individuals listed on the permit granted by the National Park Service worked for Trump’s presidential campaign. That raises new questions about the Trump campaign’s lack of spending transparency and the unknown extent of the event’s ties to Trump aides.
State Republicans Push New Voting Restrictions after Trump’s Loss
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 1/25/2021
Republican legislators across the country are preparing a slew of new voting restrictions in the wake of former President Trump’s defeat. Republicans in deep-red states and battlegrounds alike are citing Trump’s meritless claims of voter fraud in 2020, and the declining trust in election integrity Trump helped drive, as an excuse to tighten access to the polls. Some GOP officials have been blunt about their motivations: they do not believe they can win unless the rules change.
Supreme Court Ends Lawsuits Alleging That Trump Illegally Profited from Business Interests
MSN – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 1/25/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court put an end to lawsuits alleging former President Trump violated a constitutional anti-corruption prohibition by profiting from his business empire while president. The justices declined to hear Trump’s request to consider lower court orders that said lawsuits could go forward, agreeing with those on both sides of the issue that the cases became moot with Trump no longer in office. The justices also vacated the lower court judgments in the cases/ It means there is no definitive answer after years of legal wrangling over the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which prohibit presidents and others from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional approval.
The Road to Clemency from Trump Was Closed to Most Who Sought It
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 1/26/2021
Of the nearly 240 pardons and commutations issued by former President Trump, only 25 came through the rigorous process for identifying and vetting worthy clemency petitions overseen by the Justice Department. The others came through an ad hoc White House process that favored applications benefiting or pushed by Trump’s allies, friends, and family. In addition to rewarding people whose allies could afford to buy access to the highest levels of the administration, the results included pardons for people with direct personal relationships with the former president. The Justice Department recommended against clemency for some of the people on Trump’s list.
The ‘Rug Has Been Pulled Out’: Campaigns flop amid Facebook, Google ad bans
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 1/27/2021
Facebook and Google’s on-again, off-again bans on political ads are hitting campaigns during a crucial fundraising window, cutting off a key pipeline to potential supporters and disrupting early planning for the next round of elections, from state and local races this year to looming midterm elections in 2022. The self-imposed bans have essentially pressed pause on a political industry that spent $3.2 billion advertising on Google and Facebook in the last two-and-a-half years. Some digital political firms are freezing hiring due to the uncertainty surrounding their biggest ad platforms. The bans have also interfered with organizing and early fundraising efforts piggybacking off a new administration and the start of a new election cycle.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Official Who Defended Nazi License Plates Is Removed from State Discrimination Board
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
After photos emerged on social media of a truck in Alaska bearing the vanity license plate “3REICH,” many lawmakers were quick to condemn the phrase, a reference to Nazi Germany. But not Jamie Allard. The Anchorage Assembly member, who also sits on a state commission that investigates discrimination complaints insisted the personalized message on the plate was a benign translation from German of the word “realm.” Gov. Mike Dunleavy removed her from the state’s human rights commission.
Arizona – Ethics Complaint Filed Against Arizona Lawmaker Over Treatment of Staffer Highlights Lack of Code of Conduct
MSN – Andrew Oxord (Arizona Republic) | Published: 1/25/2021
An ethics complaint made against a newly-elected state senator less than three weeks into Arizona’s legislative session has renewed scrutiny of the Capitol’s code of conduct – or, rather, its lack of one. A former assistant to Sen. Wendy Rogers claimed he was forced to resign under duress the day he returned from quarantining due to a positive COVID-19 test. The assistant said Rogers asked him to work every day he was on paid leave and when he returned, a conversation with his boss lead to her cursing at him and yelling in his face. The complaint depicts Rogers as a nightmare of a boss and as potentially violating various laws.
Arkansas – Sarah Sanders Announces Run for Arkansas Governor
MSN – Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) | Published: 1/25/2021
When then-President Trump announced Sarah Sanders would be departing her job as White House press secretary in June 2019, he urged her to run for governor of Arkansas. “She would be fantastic,” Trump tweeted at the time. Now, less than a week after Trump himself left the White House under the cloud of a second impeachment, Sanders said she is following his suggestion. Sanders, who endeared herself to Trump’s base while combatively, and sometimes misleadingly, sparring with the press, is seen by many as an early favorite in the race to lead a heavily GOP state where Trump’s role in the U.S. Capitol riot may not hurt her appeal.
California – As L.A. City Hall Corruption Probe Endures, Ethics-Reform Bids Launched – but Will Any Take Hold?
Los Angeles Daily News – Elizabeth Chou | Published: 1/22/2021
The FBI probe into “pay-to-play” corruption at Los Angeles City Hall that has spilled into the open over the past two years has sparked some changes to ethics rules, especially around political contributions by developers. It forced the removal of former Councilperson Jose Huizar. who pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering and bribery in a scheme often involving developers. The probe has also led to cases against high-ranking staffers, lobbyists, and others. In recent years, a handful of moves were made to rebuild trust in city officials, but the path has been rocky and long.
California – Englander Sentenced to 14 Months in Prison in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
MSN – Michael Finnegan and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 1/25/2021
Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison and a $15,000 fine following a years-long FBI investigation focused on suspected “pay-to-play” schemes in City Hall. He lied to federal authorities about secret cash payments and a debauched night in Las Vegas provided by a businessperson seeking introductions to developers. Englander is the first person to be sentenced in the probe. He pleaded guilty to falsifying material facts, a felony. The sentencing concluded a precipitous fall for a politician who, less than three years ago, held the council’s second-ranking leadership post and served on its most powerful committees.
Connecticut – Barred from Capitol Due to Pandemic, CT Lobbyists Face Hurdles During Critical Legislative Session
KCTV – Matt Pilon (Hartford Business Journal) | Published: 1/25/2021
Lobbyists are known for their ability to work a room, but those recently interviewed by Hartford Business Journal said the pandemic has thrown that element out the window. With the public barred from entering the Capitol for at least the next few months, if not the entire 2021 regular legislative session that runs until early June, lobbyists in the state’s $90 million industry will be forced to rely on phone calls, emails, texts, and videoconferences to connect with lawmakers and staff.
Connecticut – Joe Aresimowicz Is Latest House Speaker to Go Through ‘Revolving Door’ Into Lobbying – As 6 of 7 Speakers Since 1989 Have Done
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 1/23/2021
A “revolving-door” statute bars former Connecticut House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz for one year from lobbying his longtime legislative colleagues at the state government level, so he has not registered with the Office of State Ethics as a lobbyist for 2021. But Aresimowicz will spend that year “focus[ed] on business development and municipal and federal issues on behalf of the firm’s clients and will supplement the services we provide to them,” according to an announcement by the government-relations firm that hired him, Gaffney Bennett and Associates. Five of the six people who preceded Aresimowicz as speaker, dating to 1989, later became Connecticut lobbyists for at least some period.
Florida – State Auditors Flag Land Purchase Between City and Former Mayor Kathy Meehan’s Relatives
MSN – Rick Neale | Published: 1/21/2021
State auditors flagged a land deal in which the city of Melbourne paid $27,000 above appraised value to buy a parcel owned by then-Mayor Kathy Meehan’s relatives and the land turned out to be contaminated with arsenic. The city bought the land for $315,000 from MEE3 LLC, a corporation managed by Meehan’s husband, Dennis, and his brothers, Ronald and Kenneth Meehan. The city obtained an appraisal valuing the land at $288,000. But City Hall staff determined the property was worth the additional $27,000. The state Joint Legislative Auditing Committee challenged that assertion.
Georgia – A Georgia GOP Lawmaker Refused Coronavirus Tests. He Was Kicked Off the Floor for ‘Jeopardizing the Health’ of Colleagues.
MSN – Jaclyn Peiser (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
As the Georgia House convened recently, Speaker David Ralston called for an unnamed lawmaker who had repeatedly refused to be tested for the coronavirus to discreetly remove himself from the room. But no one left the chamber. Ralston then called on a state trooper to escort out Rep. David Clark for violating the twice-a-week testing policy and for “jeopardizing the health of our members in this chamber.” It was reported that during the first week of the Legislature’s session, nine senators, staff, aides, and interns tested positive for the virus.
Illinois – Madigan No Longer ‘Mr. Speaker,’ but He’s Still ‘ublic Official A’
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 1/22/2021
After four decades at the helm of Illinois politics, Rep. Michael Madigan may no longer be “Mr. Speaker,” but he still retains a decidedly more ignominious title – “Public Official A.” Madigan, whose record run as House speaker ended recently, remains the unnamed politician at the center of an ongoing federal corruption probe that so far has led to bribery charges against one of his closest confidants and several others tied to Commonwealth Edison. Madigan has not been charged and denied any wrongdoing. But now that he has lost the speaker’s gavel, there has been talk of what it might mean for the U.S. attorney’s office and its still-active investigation.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Ethics Meeting Ends in Charges, Countercharges and Thrown Papers
MSN – Chance Swaim and Dion Lefler (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 1/26/2021
A Wichita City Council meeting to shape a new ethics policy ended poorly after members of the council left the bench and the mayor tossed a printout of social media screenshots at a council member over a plexiglass COVID barrier. After nearly four hours of heated debate about whether the policy should include provisions related to campaign finance, and whether unethical behavior is prevalent enough to warrant a new policy, the workshop ended without a formal vote to close the meeting.
Massachusetts – Boston City Council Considers Proposal to Suspend Special Election
WBUR – Anthony Brooks | Published: 1/26/2021
Boston City Council members heard a range of arguments, mostly in favor, of a home rule petition to suspend a special mayoral election this summer. The hearing was prompted by the pending resignation of Mayor Marty Walsh, who has been nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as Secretary of Labor. If confirmed, Walsh’s departure would shake up City Hall politics and prompt a compressed race to succeed him. If Walsh leaves his post before March 5, the city charter requires both a special election for mayor and a regularly scheduled November election. That could mean as many as four elections this year – a general and run-off election for both – and possibly four different mayors in a 12-month period.
Michigan – Corrupt UAW Boss Wore Wire While Playing Golf with Union Brothers
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 1/20/2021
Prosecutors said a United Auto Workers (UAW) official caught in a years-long corruption scandal deserves probation because he helped prosecutors convict two former presidents and secure federal oversight of the belabored union. Edward “Nick” Robinson’s help in exposing corruption within the UAW’s top ranks included risking his safety by wearing secret recording devices during union junkets and while golfing with corrupt colleagues, according to a sentencing memo. Robinson is portrayed in court filings as a pivotal figure in an investigation that has led to the convictions of 15 people. The probe revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds, and received bribes and illegal benefits.
Minnesota – Donations from University Regents to Lobbying Group Under Increasing Scrutiny
KSTP – Joseph Augustine and Jay Kolis | Published: 1/26/2021
Several members of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents are facing growing criticism for donating to a PAC that is acting as an independent lobbyist for the university. Maroon and Gold Rising is an unaffiliated non-profit group created last year primarily by alumni and former regents who say its mission is to support the university’s requests for funding. But it also operates a PAC that shares the same name, website and some of the same members. Professor Richard Painter, a well-known expert in legal ethics at the university, says the regents have created potential conflicts-of-interest by donating to outside political groups.
Mississippi – Charter Schools Receive Taxpayer Dollars. Should Their Board Members Follow State Ethics Laws?
Mississippi Today – Kate Royals | Published: 1/20/2021
The Mississippi Ethics Commission says charter school board members are subject to state ethics laws, which prohibit conflicts-of-interest that could lead to the misspending of public dollars. But several operators and advocates of charter schools, which receive taxpayer funding, say they should be exempt from those laws. The conflict was brought to light by Ethics Commission opinions filed in 2020 after two charter schools were discovered to be spending their public funding with board members’ employers. The revelations highlight long-standing tension between charter school and traditional public-school advocates, who say charter schools need to be held to the same standards as other public governing bodies.
Mississippi – Gov. Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Raised $1.6M from Unknown Donors, Paid Family Member’s Company
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 1/21/2021
Unlike many other states and the federal government, Mississippi has no rules around how politicians raise, spend, and disclose inaugural money. That means elected officeholders in Mississippi can use these inaugural nonprofits to raise large amounts of money outside the boundaries of campaign finance laws that typically regulate other types of political fundraising. A nonprofit set up to fund Gov. Tate Reeves’ inauguration last year paid nearly $150,000 to a business owned by the governor’s brother and sister-in-law, documents show.
Missouri – Missouri Employee Pension Says Firm Had Lobbyist, Lawmaker Apply Pressure on Lawsuit
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) | Published: 1/27/2021
A Canadian private equity firm accused in a lawsuit of mishandling investments by Missouri’s largest public pension hired a lobbyist to influence key legislators and put pressure on the pension outside of court proceedings, a top pension official claimed. Catalyst Capital Group hired lobbyist Richard McIntosh after the Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System sued the firm. Ronda Stegmann, the system’s executive director, testified in a court hearing that McIntosh then tried to set up a meeting with Stegmann, two legislators, and Catalyst executives. Companies routinely hire lobbyists to influence legislation and policies. Less common is the involvement of a lobbyist around ongoing litigation.
Nebraska – Often Heated Redistricting Process Expected to Add State Senators in Nebraska’s Metro Areas
Omaha World-Herald – Paul Hammel | Published: 1/25/2021
Nebraska lawmakers are beginning the politically and sometimes emotionally charged job of redrawing congressional and legislative districts, as well as voting districts for other state offices. But one of the main questions facing those who will work on redistricting is whether it will happen at all during the Legislature’s regular 90-day session, which is scheduled to end in early June. Delays in the completion of the census have made it doubtful that final population figures needed for redistricting will arrive by the traditional time in early April.
Nevada – Legislative Building Will Be Closed to Public at Start of Session, Is Expected to Open More After Vaccinations
Nevada Independent – Michelle Rindell | Published: 1/21/2021
Nevada’s 2021 legislative session will start off closed to all but lawmakers, essential staff, and some members of the media, with all others participating virtually, according to a logistics plan issued by the Legislative Counsel Bureau. Legislators will meet with constituents and lobbyists through Microsoft Teams. To account for the fact that more lobbying will take place virtually, the plan also calls for updating state law that requires only lobbyists who appear in person in the building to register and be regulated.
New Jersey – Hoboken City Council Tightens Pay-to-Play Laws Before Mayoral Election
Hudson Reporter – Marilyn Bear | Published: 1/22/2021
The Hoboken City Council introduced an ordinance that aims to tighten the city’s “pay-to-play” laws. According to current law, PACs and unions are limited to $500 donations for individual candidates as opposed to the $2,600 allowable by state law. Hoboken restricts contributions from developers, vendors, and professionals seeking city contracts. If approved, the reform measure would not allow vendors who received emergency contracts to contribute to any PACs or independent expenditure groups for 12 months before entering into a contract with the city. It restricts any vendor from donating within 12 months beyond the termination of their contract.
New Mexico – Lobbyists Adjust to New Reality of Virtual Session
New Mexico Political Report – Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 1/25/2021
Robert Duran is learning to adapt to a virtual environment amid a pandemic that prompted state officials to move most lawmaking over to the Internet and keep the building closed to the public and others, including lobbyists like Duran who are a mainstay when the Legislature meets in Santa Fe. Duran and other lobbyists said this year’s legislative session, which began with masked lawmakers separated by Plexiglas partitions between their desks, is a big adjustment for people in an industry whose bread and butter is face-to-face interaction.
New Mexico – Secretary of State to Pursue Fines, Enforcement in Cowboys for Trump Case
MSN – Nicole Maxwell (Alamogordo News) | Published: 1/21/2021
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced she intends to pursue arbitration order enforcement against the Cowboys for Trump political advocacy organization. The move comes after a federal court dismissed a case filed by Cowboys for Trump and its founder, Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, against Toulouse Oliver’s office. The case was about whether Cowboys for Trump should be classified as a PAC and if fines the group allegedly accrued were truly owed.
New York – Supreme Court Won’t Hear Appeal from Sheldon Silver, Former N.Y. Lawmaker
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 1/25/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court let stand the conviction of Sheldon Silver, the once-powerful state Assembly speaker in New York who went to prison last year on federal corruption charges. The court has in recent years been skeptical of broad interpretations of public corruption laws, saying they are not all-purpose devices to ensure good government. Silver’s lawyers told the justices that prosecutors had overreached in his case by securing his conviction of accepting bribes in a real estate scheme without proving those who made the payments had intended to influence particular official actions.
North Dakota – Legislative Lobbyists Navigate Through New Restrictions
Grand Forks Herald – Dylan Sherman (North Dakota Newspaper Association) | Published: 1/25/2021
Lobbyists, like lawmakers and everyone else in the North Dakota Capitol, have to follow coronavirus guidelines, such as wearing a mask and limiting personal contact, and abide by new ethics guidelines banning gifts. The political process is based on relationships and policy, lobbyist Levi Andrist said. Now, as most people cannot look each other in the eye or shake hands, it makes it more difficult to discuss public policy. Andrist said there have been some positives to the new layout, with online participation being one of them.
Ohio – Portman’s Exit Signals Uncertainty for Senate GOP
Politico – Burgess Everett and James Arkin | Published: 1/26/2021
Ohio Republican Rob Portman will not seek a third U.S. Senate term in 2022, a blow to both Republicans’ hopes of taking back the Senate and the chamber’s dwindling number of centrists/ Portman is one of the most effective legislators in the Senate, using his relationships gleaned from a long career in Washington to find compromise. But he cited legislative paralysis in the chamber as a major factor in his decision to retire at the end of next year. Portman joins GOP Sens. Pat Toomey and Richard Burr in retirement next year in key swing states. Democrats currently hold a narrow majority in an evenly split Senate.
Oregon – Investigation: Oregon state lawmaker likely created a hostile workplace at state Capitol
OPB – Lauren Drake | Published: 1/25/2021
An investigation into the behavior of Oregon Rep. Diego Hernandez found he likely created a hostile work environment at the Capitol for two women, according to an internal investigation into the representative’s behavior. Both women had brief, consensual romantic relationships with Hernandez. Both women, according to the investigation, tried to end those relationships. But they felt Hernandez’s behaviors forced them into making a difficult choice: they could either resume a relationship with him or risk jeopardizing their careers. The investigation delves into the allegations of five women. All the women included in the report either work in the Capitol or have conducted business with the Legislature in their professional capacity.
Pennsylvania – An Appeals Court Upheld a Campaign Finance Conviction for Bob Brady’s Onetime Political Guru
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck | Published: 1/26/2021
A federal appeals court upheld the conviction of former U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s top political strategist, Ken Smukler, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2019 for repeated violations of campaign finance law. A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found Smukler coordinated what amounted to illegal campaign contributions to give clients, including Brady, an edge in two congressional races in 2012 and 2014. But the judges vacated his conviction on two of the seven counts of which he was found guilty, ruling the trial judge had failed to properly instruct the jury on the level of proof required to show Smukler had known about the laws he was violating when he broke them.
Virginia – Virginia Senator Who Called U.S. Capitol Rioters ‘Patriots’ Is Censured
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 1/27/2021
The Virginia Senate voted to censure state Sen. Amanda Chase over a long pattern of behavior that includes referring to the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6 as “patriots” and making insulting comments toward the Virginia Capitol Police and the clerk of the Senate. Chase spoke to the crowd of Donald Trump supporters in Washington, D.C. on the day of the riot but left before they went to the Capitol and crashed through security lines.
January 27, 2021 •
Elections National: “State Republicans Push New Voting Restrictions after Trump’s Loss” by Zach Montellaro for Politico Arkansas: “Sarah Sanders Announces Run for Arkansas Governor” by Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics National: “Biden Is Firing Some Top Trump Holdovers, […]
National: “State Republicans Push New Voting Restrictions after Trump’s Loss” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
Arkansas: “Sarah Sanders Announces Run for Arkansas Governor” by Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Biden Is Firing Some Top Trump Holdovers, but in Some Cases, His Hands May Be Tied” by Lisa Rein and Ann Gearan (Washington Post) for MSN
Arizona: “Ethics Complaint Filed Against Arizona Lawmaker Over Treatment of Staffer Highlights Lack of Code of Conduct” by Andrew Oxord (Arizona Republic) for MSN
California: “Englander Sentenced to 14 Months in Prison in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case” by Michael Finnegan and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
New York: “Supreme Court Won’t Hear Appeal from Sheldon Silver, Former N.Y. Lawmaker” by Adam Liptak for New York Times
National: “One of Trump’s Final Acts Will Allow Former Aides to Profit from Foreign Ties” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico
North Dakota: “Legislative Lobbyists Navigate Through New Restrictions” by Dylan Sherman (North Dakota Newspaper Association) for Grand Forks Herald
Nebraska: “Often Heated Redistricting Process Expected to Add State Senators in Nebraska’s Metro Areas” by Paul Hammel for Omaha World-Herald
January 8, 2021 •
National/Federal Aides Weigh Resignations, Removal Options as Trump Rages Against Perceived Betrayals MSN – Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021 President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence, raging about perceived betrayals, […]
Aides Weigh Resignations, Removal Options as Trump Rages Against Perceived Betrayals
MSN – Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence, raging about perceived betrayals, as an array of top aides weighed resigning and some senior administration officials began conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment – an extraordinary measure that would remove the president before Trump’s term expires on January 20. An unease coursed through the administration over the president’s refusal to accept his election loss and his role in inciting a mob to storm the Capitol, disrupting the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. One administration official described Trump’s behavior as that of “a total monster,” while another said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”
Appeals Court Backs Subpoena-Like Power for Minority in House
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/29/2020
A divided federal appeals court upheld the power of legislators in the House minority to demand records from the executive branch. Acting in a dispute over records related to President Trump’s Trump International Hotel, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled lawmakers can resort to the courts to enforce an obscure statute known as the seven-member rule. The Trump administration argued the lawmakers lacked standing to turn to the courts to force disclosure of the records, but the majority on the panel disagreed.
Congress Affirms Biden’s Presidential Win Following Riot at U.S. Capitol
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, Seung Min Kim, and Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
Members of Congress, shaken and angry following a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Trump’s supporters, put a final stamp on President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and brought an end to a historically turbulent post-election period. Republicans had at one point planned to object to the electoral college votes in a series of states won by Biden, but after the storming of the Capitol, several GOP senators changed course, disputing only Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both challenges failed. In the final moments of the joint session, Senate Chaplain Barry Black said a prayer lamenting “the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.”
‘Covid Can Kill’: Lawmakers issue fresh warnings about virus after death of Rep.-elect Luke Letlow
MSN – David Nakamura and Fenit Nirappil (Washington Post) | Published: 12/30/2020
U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow’s death from COVID-19 has been met with shock and grief from fellow lawmakers, offering another stark example of the lethality of a pandemic. Letlow died just days before he was to be sworn after winning a runoff vote for Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District. Doctors said he had no apparent underlying health conditions that contributed to his death. At a candidate forum in October, Letlow urged the state to ease pandemic restrictions, saying, “We’re now at a place if we do not open our economy, we’re in real danger.” In a fall interview, Letlow commended President Trump’s handling of the pandemic and expressed skepticism about mask mandates.
House Approves Rules Package for New Congress
The Hill – Juliegrace Brufke and Cristina Marcos | Published: 1/4/2021
The House adopted a new set of rules for the 117th Congress with provisions to extend remote voting during the pandemic, protect whistleblowers, and limit the minority’s ability to amend legislation on the floor. Democrats also sought to prioritize diversity efforts in the rules package. One provision orders the use of gender-neutral language in the House rules, including pronouns and references to familial relationships like father, son, mother, or daughter.
In Viral Ad, New Member of Congress Appears to Walk Capitol Hill Streets with a Glock
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/4/2021
One of the newest members of Congress, Rep. Lauren Boebert, kicked off the session with a viral digital ad proclaiming her right to carry firearms on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and in the streets of Washington, D.C. Boebert, owner of a gun-themed restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, released the video amid efforts by some Democrats to ban members from carrying guns on the Capitol grounds, which they have been allowed to do since 1967. The ad appears to show Boebert walking near federal buildings and in alleys on Capitol Hill, citing rising violent crime as the reason she wants to carry a weapon.
‘Is This Really Happening?’: The siege of Congress, seen from the inside
Politico – Staff | Published: 1/7/2021
It was an unusual session of Congress to start with, a piece of fractious political theater around the normally ceremonial moment when America finally ratifies its choice of president. Then came the shouts in the hallways. And broken glass, and panicky texts, and confusion, and an abrupt halt to the basic working of the government. When the waves of pro-President Trump rioters overwhelmed Capitol police and surged through the building’s lobbies and stairways, they trapped journalists and nearly all members of the U.S. Congress. Five of the journalists in the building were congressional reporters for Politico. They gave their account of when the threat to American democracy came from inside the building.
Lobbyist Brother of Biden Advisor Has Reputation for Deep Connections and Looking to Avoid Possible Conflicts
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 12/31/2020
The lobbyist brother of one of President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisors has cultivated a reputation for his deep connections in Washington, D.C. and for his decades of delivering results for corporate clients. Some past associates and clients of Jeff Ricchetti also say he has rejected requests to lobby his brother, longtime Biden aide and incoming White House counselor Steve Ricchetti. In 2020, Jeff Ricchetti had his biggest batch of clients since 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The surge in clients came as Biden won the Democratic primary and eventually defeated President Trump in the general election.
Lobbyists with Ties to House GOP See Fortunes Rising
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/4/2021
Before the elections, lobbyists with ties to House Republicans had to wonder how much influence they would have in the 117th Congress. They are not worrying anymore. While Democrats predicted their party would gain seats in the chamber, they lost at least 12 incumbents and did not pick off a single House Republican. That means they are poised to see their fortunes rise. Democrats’ slim majority will offer Republicans uncommon sway for the minority party, providing opportunities to help broker legislative deals, or sink them.
No Emails Have Leaked from the 2020 Election Campaigns Yet – Tiny USB Sticks May Be One Reason Why
CNBC – Jordan Novet | Published: 12/23/2020
It appears this year’s presidential election campaigns avoided the sorts of cyberattacks that played out in 2016. No emails leaked this time. One thing that changed in the past four years: politicians, campaign workers, and their friends and family members started counting on USB sticks to securely log in to email accounts and other online services. Google worked with a nonprofit called Defending Digital Campaigns to give out more than 10,500 kits containing physical security keys. The FEC authorized the nonprofit to distribute cybersecurity products to campaigns for free or discounted prices.
Twitter, Facebook Lock Down Trump After Social Media-Fueled Riot in D.C.
Los Angeles Times – Sam Dean, Johana Bhuiyan, and Suhauna Hussein | Published: 1/6/2021
The mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol took shape on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and their social media peers spent President Trump’s term in office lurching from one crisis to another, scrambling to revise their policies on misinformation, hate speech, and incitement to violence in response to challenges from the White House and prominent figures and organizations that support the president. The rally was planned largely on their own platforms and promoted by the president to protest the supposed theft of the presidential election and disrupt the final certification of the electoral college vote. Although the companies took their strongest enforcement actions ever, including temporary locks on Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, critics say the companies’ pattern of tentative half-measures helped precipitate a crisis.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Former Oakland Building Inspector Accused of Bribery Fined $55,000 by Ethics Commission
San Jose Mercury News – Annie Sciacca | Published: 1/5/2021
Oakland’s ethics commission fined a former city building permit inspector $55,000 over accusations he violated the government ethics act by accepting bribes and misusing his position. The commission voted unanimously to impose a $5,000 penalty for each of 11 violations it found against Anthony Harbaugh. The violations include soliciting money from property owners in exchange for a “pass” on certain inspections. The penalty was far above the $22,000 fine recommended by a hearing officer. For many of the counts, the commissioners increased the recommended fines, and in some, they instituted fines where the hearing officer had not.
California – Grand Jury Accuses San Jose Unified of Misleading Public and Its Own Board About Lobbying Efforts
San Jose Spotlight – Lloyd Alaban | Published: 12/30/2020
The San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) left the public and its own governing board in the dark about lobbying activities that were carried out on its behalf and possibly violated government ethics laws in the process, according to a grand jury report. The SJUSD hired a consulting firm to help it with a proposal to build affordable housing for district teachers and employees but did not disclose to its board or the public the consulting firm was also lobbying city officials. District staff members denied to the board the consultancy was doing any lobbying for the district. Meanwhile, SJUSD obscured for the public and its board the lobbying activities another firm it hired was doing at the state level.
California – Newsom’s Friendship with Lobbyist Who Threw French Laundry Party Brings Questions
Los Angeles Times – Taryn Luna and Phil Willon | Published: 12/31/2020
On the website of one of Sacramento’s most influential lobbying firms, partner Jason Kinney boasted of his close connection to Gavin Newsom, noting he has advised the governor for “nearly 14 years.” The plug suddenly disappeared days after Newsom drew national criticism for attending Kinney’s birthday dinner at a famed Napa Valley restaurant. The event turned into a political disaster for Newsom, drawing charges of hypocrisy at the very time the governor urged residents to avoid gatherings and stay home as much as possible amid an unprecedented surge in the coronavirus. But the episode also exposed something that has long been the subject of quiet discussion in Sacramento: Newsom’s decision to maintain a tight relationship with Kinney, who is director of a lobbying firm with business before the governor.
California – Opponent of Newsom Church Restrictions Identified as California Recall Donor
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 1/5/2021
An Orange County donor named John Kruger has been identified as the source of a $500,000 contribution toward recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom, solving a mystery that transfixed California political watchers. The effort to unseat Newsom received its first six-figure infusion courtesy of a limited liability company called Prov 3:9. The firm had a virtually nonexistent business presence and no record of political spending, fueling questions about its true funder and spurring a request for a state investigation from former FEC member Ann Ravel.
Colorado – Aurora’s Adoption of Strict Limits on Campaign Contributions Means Most of Colorado’s Largest Cities Have Controls in Place
Denver Post – John Aguilar | Published: 1/3/2021
Aurora will soon impose strict limits on how much money can be raised in mayoral and city council races, becoming the latest large Colorado city to reform a campaign finance system that many decry as too opaque and friendly to big business interests. With Aurora joining Denver, Fort Collins, and Lakewood in revamping its rules on the role of money in local races, four of the state’s five most populous cities will have campaign finance controls on the books. Colorado Springs puts no restrictions on donations to candidates running for public office.
Connecticut – Ritter Family of Hartford Extends Its Influence in Connecticut Legislature, Courts
MSN – Christopher Keating (Hartford Courant) | Published: 1/4/2021
Matthew Ritter is set become speaker of the Connecticut House. At the same time, his mother, Christine Keller, recently started serving on the state Supreme Court. Tom Ritter – Matthew’s father and Christine’s husband – is an influential lobbyist at a Hartford law firm and a member of the University of Connecticut board of trustees, in addition to being a former speaker in the 1990s. Gov. Ned Lamont nominated Ritter’s mother to the state’s highest court, but said he has no concerns about one family accumulating too much power or any potential conflicts-of-interest with the speaker of the House and a Supreme Court justice in the same family.
Florida – City of Tallahassee and Former Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Settle Lawsuit
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/6/2021
The former embattled Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe and the city agreed to dismiss a lawsuit she filed more than a year ago claiming she was retaliated against and forced from her position. Meadows-Keefe left the post less than a year ago after a long-running dust up with city officials, chiefly Mayor John Dailey. She had demanded Dailey publicly apologize to her and the city write her a $450,000 check in return for her to step down from the post.
Florida – Lobbyists Reach Agreement with Ethics Commission Over Secret Trip to Atlanta
MSN – Christopher Hong (Floida Times-Union) | Published: 1/5/2021
Conventus LLC, co-owned by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s former chief administrator, and a consultant who led his election campaigns admitted they organized and paid for a trip to Atlanta that was attended by Curry, then-JEA Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn, and then-city council President Scott Wilson. In an agreement with the city Ethics Commission. Tallahassee officials are prohibited from accepting gifts from registered lobbyists worth greater than $100. The commission concluded the trip was worth more than the $400 that Conventus co-owners Sam Mousa and Tim Baker told some of the participants to reimburse the company in order to not cross the $100 gift threshold.
Georgia – A Federal Judge in Atlanta Denied a Last-Minute Effort by Trump to Decertify Biden’s Victory in Georgia.
New York Times – Alan Feuer | Published: 1/5/2021
A federal judge in Atlanta denied a last-minute effort by President Trump to decertify Georgia’s election results, handing the president yet another courtroom loss before Congress is scheduled to bring the presidential race to an official end. The ruling by Judge Mark Cohen denying the emergency petition brought the number of legal defeats Trump and his allies have suffered since Election Day to more than 60. The challenges have spanned eight states and dozens of courts.
Georgia – ‘I Just Want to Find 11,780 Votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/3/2021
President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in a phone call that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act. In the recording, Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act, and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one-point warning Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.” Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected Trump’s assertions, explaining the president is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.
Georgia – Warnock, Ossoff Win in Georgia, Handing Dems Senate Control
Associated Press News – Steve Peoples, Bill Barrow, and Russ Bynum | Published: 1/6/2021
Democrats won both Senate seats in Georgia and with them, the U.S. Senate majority, serving President Trump a defeat in his turbulent final days in office while dramatically improving the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s progressive agenda. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democratic challengers who represented the diversity of their party’s evolving coalition, defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992. Warnock becomes the first African American from Georgia elected to the Senate. Ossoff becomes the state’s first Jewish senator and, at 33 years old, the Senate’s youngest member.
Illinois – ‘Ghost Payroll Scheme’ Earned CPS Tech $122K – While Doing No Work and Living in California, Watchdog Says
Chicago Sun-Times – Nader Issa | Published: 1/6/2021
A former computer technician at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was paid nearly $122,000 over two years, all while primarily living in California and doing virtually no work, according to a report from the district’s watchdog which found her school’s principal was aware of the situation but did nothing about it. The staffer self-dealt another $237,300 from the school system through a printing company she and her husband helped manage that sold goods to 14 CPS schools, including her own.
Illinois – GOP Members Introduce Bill to Distance Redistricting Process from Politicians
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel and Derek Cantu | Published: 1/5/2021
Illinois House Republicans are proposing a bill that they say could avoid another partisan redistricting cycle and say they ae holding Gov. JB Pritzker’s feet to the fire, daring him to uphold a campaign promise to veto any new legislative maps design which unfairly benefit one political party over another. Though the state constitution lays out a June 30 deadline for the Legislature to pass new maps, that deadline has been blown for the last five decades since the 1970 constitution was ratified, leaving the district drawing process to a bipartisan commission. Republican members claim previous map designs were developed in such a manner to divide or pack together constituents into irregular district lines based upon party affiliation.
Indiana – Some Donors to Pete Buttigieg’s Presidential Campaign Scored Contracts from South Bend When He Was Mayor
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 12/23/2020
Pete Buttigieg, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for Transportation secretary and the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, received presidential campaign donations from executives at companies that had public works contracts with the city while he led it. A review of dozens of the city’s infrastructure contracts during his second term as mayor, from 2016 into 2020, shows that under Buttigieg, a portion of the city’s spending went toward contractors who later became donors to his campaign for president which he launched in 2019. If he is confirmed, Buttigieg, as head of the Department of Transportation, would be responsible for pushing forward the incoming administration’s infrastructure proposal.
Louisiana – 5 Years Before Ethics Charges Were Filed, Groundwater Commission Was Told of Potential Conflicts
The Advocate – David Mitchell | Published: 1/2/2021
Five years before five members of a Baton Rouge-area groundwater commission were charged with conflict-of-interest violations, an attorney for the commission warned of exactly the problem that led to the charges. In 2015, former Assistant Attorney General Megan Terrell, then the groundwater commission’s legal advisor, concluded state ethics law could bar commissioners from drawing a salary from the big groundwater users they were supposed to regulate, like Baton Rouge Water and ExxonMobil. She wrote that while ethics opinions do not prevent industrial and other major users from nominating representatives to the groundwater commission, as state law allows them, it “may affect the ability of these users from nominating their own employees.”
Missouri – Lobbyist Steve Tilley Worked to Steer Marijuana Money to Jason Kander Tiny Home Project
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson and Jack Suntrup | Published: 12/30/2020
Gov. Mike Parson’s decision to spend part of the proceeds from Missouri’s fledgling medical marijuana program on a tiny home project for veterans may have been influenced by one of the Capitol’s most powerful lobbyists. Among former House Speaker Steve Tilley’s lengthy list of lobbying clients is the Veterans Community Project, a nonprofit that received $2.5 million in the most recent state budget to build 50 homes to help former military personnel. Records show the hiring of Tilley and his lobbying firm by Veterans Community Project came just three days after Parson’s visit to the development. But the deal has generated conflict.
New York – Queens Senator Fined $15K for ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Trips from City Funds
Queens Eagle – David Brand | Published: 1/5/2021
State Sen. James Sanders was fined $15,000 for accepting all-expense-paid trips and various “valuable gifts” from a local nonprofit he funded during his time in the New York City Council. Sanders was a council member when local nonprofit Margert Community Corporation picked up his tab at an all-inclusive Poconos resort on five separate occasions between 2009 and 2012, according to the Conflict of Interest Board. As Margert lavished Sanders with trips and gifts, he funneled nearly $842,000 in discretionary funding to the nonprofit.
New York – Three Men Gave $250 Each to a Candidate for City Comptroller – and Say They Never Heard of Him
The City – Clifford Michel | Published: 1/4/2021
Ameer Alonzo, Agnissan Achi, and Silas Adedokun were listed as giving $250 each to New York Sen. Brian Benjamin’s campaign. They say they did not give any money. “It sounds like a scam. … This is just so random,” Achi said. The men – and a toddler – are among 23 individuals who were recorded as contributing to the Benjamin 2021 campaign fund via an intermediary named Michael Murphy. Each name is associated with a $250 money order. Under New York City’s public campaign financing program, the first $100 of each of those donations is potentially eligible for $800 in taxpayer-supplied matching dollars. Contributions must come from the named donor’s own funds.
North Dakota – North Dakota Lobbyist Gift Ban Takes Effect; Ethics Bills Set in Legislature
Williston Herald – Jack Dura (Bismarck Tribune) | Published: 1/4/2021
Lobbyists in North Dakota now cannot give gifts to public officials, including state lawmakers, executive branch officials, legislative staff, and governor’s Cabinet members. Items as nominal as cups and stress balls are prohibited. Gifting violations carry civil penalties that could be up to $1,000 for gifts worth less than $500, and twice the value of gifts worth $500 or more. Legislation has come forth related to the Ethics Commission, including its budget bill and a proposal allowing for advisory opinions and etching complaint procedures into law.
Ohio – Despite Bribery Scandal, Influence of Dark Money in Ohio Remains Unchecked
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 1/4/2021
A federal investigation into a nearly $61 million bribery scandal in Columbus shined a bright light on the influence of so-called dark money in state politics. Investigators allege businesses like FirstEnergy spent nearly $61 million to help Rep. Larry Householder win control of the Ohio House, pass a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants, and defend that law against a ballot effort to block it. This money was donated to nonprofit and for-profit corporations that are not required to disclose anything about their contributions. But in the months since Householder’s arrest, Ohio lawmakers have done nothing to curtail dark money’s influence in Ohio.
Ohio – Groups Backing Gov. DeWine and His Daughter Received FirstEnergy Cash Funneled Through Dark Money Outfits
MSM – Jackie Borchardt (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/23/2020
Cash from FirstEnergy Corp. and related businesses reached the coffers of “dark money” groups supporting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his daughter and Greene County prosecutor candidate, Alice DeWine, tax documents show. The documents shed new light on a key player in a federal bribery investigation that entangled the former Ohio House speaker and four others. They also show for the first time where a “dark money” group supporting Alice DeWine’s bid for prosecutor got some of its funding. A spokesperson for the governor said DeWine spoke with FirstEnergy officials in 2019 and asked them to support his daughter’s effort with independent expenditures. Independent expenditures are political ads that support or oppose a candidate without cooperation with that candidate or their campaign.
Oklahoma – Ethics Commission Slaps Two Lobbyists with Hefty Financial Penalties
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 1/5/2021
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission imposed hefty penalties on two well-known lobbyists for violations of campaign finance law. James Milner agreed to pay $65,000 while James McSpadden will pay $50,000, both for violations related to the acceptance and expenditure of funds of Oklahomans for Healthy Living. Milner served as the group’s chairperson, while McSpadden was treasurer. The commission found Oklahomans for Healthy Living acted as a straw political action committee by accepting and distributing illegal corporate contributions, failing to disclose the donations, failing to identify that such contributions were from a corporate source, and expending corporate funds to Oklahoma committees.
Pennsylvania – Ex-House Speaker John Perzel Wins 3rd and Likely Final Bid to Avoid Paying $1M for Corruption Conviction
PennLive.com – Matt Miller | Published: 1/4/2021
Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis said state prosecutors did not prove an exact dollar value for what they claim was the loss from former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel’s participation in the so-called Computergate scandal. He was among several House Republicans who were convicted or pleaded guilty to using taxpayer funds to create a computer system designed to promote the election of GOP candidates. Perzel was first hit with the $1 million in 2012 when Lewis sentenced him to prison and probation on his guilty pleas to theft, conspiracy, and conflict-of-interest charges.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Republicans Block Seating of Democratic State Senator, Take Control from Lieutenant Governor
MSN – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 1/5/2021
The seating of new Pennsylvania legislators turned into a bitter partisan spectacle as Republicans in the state Senate blocked a Democratic lawmaker from taking his oath of office and removed the Democratic lieutenant governor from his role overseeing the proceedings. Leaders shouted and spoke over each other, at one point trying to conduct dueling sessions in a stark showcase of this year’s political divisions over normally routine functions of democracy. Republicans say they will not seat Sen.-elect Jim Brewster as a legal challenge to his victory is pending, although his win has been certified and the state Supreme Court sided with him in a dispute over how to count votes in a close race.
South Carolina – Magistrate Judges Took Bribes, Stole Money and Mishandled Cases. South Carolina Officials Now Want Reform
ProPublica – Joseph Cranney (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 1/5/2021
When the South Carolina Legislature reconvenes, lawmakers say a priority will be ramping up their scrutiny of local magistrate judges, many of whom are among the state’s busiest but least qualified jurists. A series by The Charleston Post and Courier and ProPublica exposed how a flawed system of selection and oversight provided fertile ground for incompetence and corruption on the bench. One proposal would do away with loopholes that have allowed magistrates to shield ethical offenses or preside for years despite expired terms.
South Carolina – SC Senators Turn Spotlight on NextEra, Energy Giant Seeking to Buy Santee Cooper
The State – John Monk | Published: 12/31/2020
A South Carolina Senate subcommittee voted to investigate energy giant NextEra’s efforts to acquire Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric utility. The subcommittee agreed to send NextEra a letter requesting numerous details about the company’s lobbying efforts with, and campaign contributions to, state lawmakers. The panel will also ask NextEra to provide details on a reported ongoing federal criminal investigation into some of the company’s dealings in Florida. If NextEra refuses to provide the information, senators will seek subpoena power from the Senate.
Virginia – Richmond Judge Recuses Himself from Case Involving State Senator Who Has Power Over Reappointing Him to the Bench
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 12/28/2020
Richmond General District Court Judge David Hicks, who presided over the arraignment of a state senator and then appeared before that senator to seek reappointment to the bench, recused himself from any further role in the criminal case. A retired judge has been appointed to handle the next hearing for Virginia Sen. Joseph Morrissey, who is facing misdemeanor charges of improper conduct at a polling place during the 2019 election. Virginia is one of only two states in which the Legislature appoints judges. While all members of the Senate and House vote on the appointments, the custom is to defer to the choices of each local delegation.
Washington – Olympia Lawmaking Is About to Go Virtual. Participants See Both Minefields and Silver Linings
Tri-City Herald – Sarah Genzler | Published: 1/3/2021
During the 2021 session, Olympia’s Capitol Campus that comes alive each January will, under current plans, remain largely dormant. Legislative buildings will stay closed to the public, with COVID-19 transmission prevention in mind. Much of the typical activity and conversation will move online. Not everyone supports that vision. Republican leaders believe more access could be preserved safely. And groups have stated plans to enter and occupy the state Legislative Building during session, claiming that keeping the Capitol closed to the public is unconstitutional, COVID-19 or not.
West Virginia – GOP West Virginia State Delegate Live-Streams as He Storms Congress with Pro-Trump Mob: ‘We’re going in!’
MSN – Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
Sporting a black helmet and shouting, “Trump! Trump!,” a West Virginia delegate pushed his way through the crowd as he narrated on Facebook Live the moment the mob cracked open the doors of Congress. “We’re in! We’re in!” cheered Derrick Evans, a newly elected member of West Virginia’s House. His recording, which has since been deleted, left state officials from both parties slamming his participation in the mob of pro-Trump supporters who broke into Congress as lawmakers convened to confirm the results of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Amid the violent coup attempt, one woman was shot and killed by police, and three others died of medical emergencies.
December 25, 2020 •
National/Federal A Frustrated Trump Redoubles Efforts to Challenge Election Result MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020 President Trump has intensified efforts to overturn the election, raising a series of radical measures […]
A Frustrated Trump Redoubles Efforts to Challenge Election Result
MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020
President Trump has intensified efforts to overturn the election, raising a series of radical measures in recent days, including military intervention, seizing voting machines, and a 13th-hour appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump said he had spoken with Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville about challenging the electoral vote count when the House and Senate convene on January 6 to formally affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump’s conversation with Tuberville is part of a much broader effort by the defeated president to invalidate the election. He is increasingly reaching out to allies like Giuliani and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for ideas and searching his Twitter feed for information to promote.
Bennet Introduces Bill to Eliminate ‘Zombie’ Campaign Accounts
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlick | Published: 12/18/2020
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced the Zeroing Out Money for Buying Influence after Elections (ZOMBIE) Act to address what happens with campaign money for federal candidates when they leave office. The ZOMBIE Act requires candidates to close campaign accounts within six months of not filing to run for reelection or another federal office. People would also need to close their personal or leadership committees before registering as a lobbyist or foreign agent. Candidates may divest their unspent money to donors, the U.S. Treasury, or a charity. The candidate or their family may not have personal ties to the recipient charity, however.
Despite Trump’s Intense Hunt for Voter Fraud, Officials in Key States Have So Far Identified Just a Small Number of Possible Cases
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Jon Swaine, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 12/23/2020
After an intense hunt by President Trump’s allies to surface voting irregularities in this year’s election, law enforcement agencies in six key swing states targeted by the president have found just a modest number of complaints that have merited investigation. So far, only a handful of cases have resulted in actual criminal charges alleging wrongdoing – some of them against Republican voters aiming to help Trump. The tiny number of incidents further undercut Trump’s barrage of false allegations that there was widespread manipulation of the vote. The alleged voter fraud cases, mostly spotted by local election officials, were identified due to the kinds of safeguards in place in states and counties specifically designed to catch problems.
FBI Links Iran to Online Hit List Targeting Top Officials Who’ve Refuted Trump’s Election Fraud Claims
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) | Published: 12/22/2020
The FBI has concluded Iran was behind online efforts to incite lethal violence against the bureau’s director, a former top U.S. cyber expert, and multiple state elections officials who have refuted claims of widespread voter fraud promoted by President Trump and his allies. FBI Director Christopher Wray and ousted Homeland Security Department official Christopher Krebs were among more than a dozen people whose images, home addresses, and other personal information were posted on a website titled “Enemies of the People.” Crosshairs were superimposed over the photos. In August, intelligence officials said Iran was seeking to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and divide the country in advance of the election.
High Court Rules Challenge to Trump Census Plan Is Premature
Associated Press News – Mark Sherman | Published: 12/18/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed as premature a challenge to President Trump’s plan to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count used to allot states seats in the House of Representatives. But the court’s decision is not a final ruling on the matter, and it is not clear whether Trump will receive final numbers from the Census Bureau before he leaves office. The high court said it was too soon to rule on the legality of Trump’s plan because it is not yet clear how many people he would seek to exclude and whether the division of House seats would be affected.
House Intends to Reissue Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records Next Year
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/21/2020
The House Oversight Committee intends to reissue a subpoena for President Trump’s financial records next year. The House has been pursuing Trump’s financial documents form his accounting firm, Mazars USA, since Democrats took power in early 2019 but the effort has been tied up in the courts. The case landed before the U.S. Supreme Court this year, and the justices determined the lower courts had failed to scrutinize the subpoena closely enough, kicking it back to them for further review. Now, as the congressional session winds down, the House is signaling it intends to continue pursuing Trump’s financial documents even as he prepares to leave office.
Kushner Helped Launch Shell Company That Paid Campaign Funds to Trump Family: Report
MSN – Mary Papenfuss (HuffPost) | Published: 12/19/2020
A campaign shell company created in part by Jared Kushner spent half of President Trump’s massive campaign fund and secretly paid Trump family members and associates, according to Business Insider. Lara Trump, the wife of the president’s son Eric, was head of the company, and a nephew of Vice President Mike Pence served as its vice president, Business Insider reported. The company was incorporated in Delaware as American Made Media Consultants Corporation and American Made Media Consultants. Records reveal the president’s campaign and its affiliated Trump Make America Great Again Committee with the Republican National Committee spent more than $617 million through the company, which purchased ads but also funded the more amorphous tasks of “digital consulting” and “research consulting.”
Major U.S. Companies Are Lobbying in a Scrum for Early Vaccine
MSN – Christopher Rowland, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jacob Bogage, Abha Bhattarai, and Laura Reiley (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020
Companies are lobbying states and the federal government to prioritize their workers for early immunization against the coronavirus amid limited supplies of the vaccine. After front-line health-care workers and elderly people in nursing homes and assisted-living centers are immunized, the government is expected to begin shipping vaccine to communities for those it has designated as essential workers. The task of setting the sequence of vaccinations within that disparate population, verifying who is essential and setting up equitable systems for access is triggering competition. The government’s list is so broad it includes everyone from weather forecasters to the operators of shooting ranges. Some policy experts fear the competition for vaccines will favor the wealthiest companies with the strongest lobbying teams in state capitals.
New Round of Trump Clemency Benefits Manafort, Other Allies
Associated Press News – Eric Tucker | Published: 12/24/2020
President Trump pardoned more than two dozen people, including former campaign chairperson Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, in the latest wave of clemency to benefit longtime associates and supporters. The actions, in Trump’s waning time at the White House, bring to nearly 50 the number of people whom the president has granted clemency in the last week. The list from the last two days includes not only multiple people convicted in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia but also allies from Congress and other felons whose causes were championed by friends.
Trump Pardons 15, Commutes 5 Sentences, Including GOP Allies
Associated Press News – Colleen Long, Kevin Freking, and Eric Tucker | Published: 12/23/2020
President Trump granted clemency to 20 people, including three former Republican members of Congress and two people who were convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Recipients of Trump’s newest pardons included his first two congressional endorsers, former Rep. Chris Collins, convicted on charges related to insider trading, and former Rep. Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance abuses, including some to support extramarital affairs. Some of Trump’s actions seemed intended to send clear messages, such as grants of clemency for George Papadopoulos, the former campaign operative whose 2016 activities triggered the FBI probe that led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Trump Will Face Different Twitter Rules When He Leaves Office
MSN – Emily Glazer (Wall Street Journal) | Published: 12/22/2020
President Trump has used his Twitter account as a megaphone during his administration. When he leaves office, he will need to abide by a different set of rules. Trump is currently able to tweet with less risk, compared with private citizens, of having tweets taken down or his account suspended. His Twitter account, which has more than 88 million followers, will no longer receive special privileges when he becomes a private citizen, Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio said. The loss of privileges reserved for world leaders and public officials would mean that if Trump violates the site’s rules, those tweets would be taken down rather than labeled in the future, Pacilio said.
Watchdog: Amy McGrath Campaign Illegally Coordinated with Democratic Party Super PACs in Bid to Unseat Mitch McConnell
MSN – Colin Kalmbacher (Law & Crime) | Published: 12/17/2020
The U.S. Senate campaign of failed candidate Amy McGrath illegally coordinated with a Democratic Party super PAC in violation of federal campaign finance law, according to a complaint filed with the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said McGrath’s campaign, along with the Senate campaign of Mike Espy, violated the law during the 2020 election. The CLC said McGrath’s campaign and the Ditch Fund illegally coordinated on up to $8 million worth of spending during her unsuccessful bid to unseat Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Espy’s failed effort at replacing Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith allegedly violated federal law by coordinating with the March on PAC to the tune of some $50,000, according to the CLC.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – AG Says Pima County Ban on Political Contributions Unconstitutional
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 12/18/2020
Pima County’s prohibition on its employees contributing money to candidates for county office violates both the U.S. and Arizona constitutions, according to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. In a nonbinding opinion, Brnovich said the policy impermissibly infringes on the free speech rights of Pima County employees. The 1992 policy bars county employees from contributing money or soliciting contributions for county candidates. County supervisors passed the rule as an ethics reform to prevent elected officials from pressuring employees to contribute to their campaigns.
Arizona – Candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission Faces Investigation into Campaign Spending
MSN – Ryan Randazzo (Arizona Republic) | Published: 12/17/2020
The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission agreed that Eric Sloan, who lost a bid to become one of the state’s utility regulators, appears to have violated laws regarding how candidates can spend public campaign money. The vote will initiate an investigation that could include subpoenas for Sloan’s finance records and depositions of witnesses. It ultimately could result in a fine. Sloan’s former campaign company accused Sloan of failing to pay him for a variety of services that helped get Slone on the ballot and then spending all his public money from the Clean Elections Commission elsewhere, which put him over the spending limit.
California – Newsom Appoints Alex Padilla to Fill Harris’ Senate Seat
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 12/22/2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom is appointing California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to the U.S. Senate, giving the state its first Latino senator. From the moment President-elect Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, California politicians began positioning themselves for the possible opening. The lobbying around Newsom has intensified since Biden’s victory, with various groups representing different constituencies urging the governor to appoint a Latino, a Black woman, or another representative of California’s diversity. The governor chose the presumed frontrunner in Padilla, who has supported Newsom’s political ambitions and offered the historic opportunity in a state where Latinos are a plurality at 40 percent of the population.
California – Newsom Lobbying Ban Won’t Immediately Affect French Laundry Dining Partner
MSN – Alexei Kosoff (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 12/17/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom committed to not hiring any registered lobbyist as a paid consultant and barred his paid campaign or political consultants from directly lobbying the governor, his staff, or state agencies under his control. The new policy bans a dozen people serving as paid consultants to his campaign or the California Democratic Party from lobbying, but Jason Kinney is not among them. Kinney, the lobbyist and longtime adviser to Newsom, whose attendance at a 50th birthday dinner for Kinney sparked criticism over his close ties to consultants who also work for corporate clients and other influential interests at the Capitol.
Colorado – Denver Clerk Lopez Contracts with Outside Group to Run City’s Campaign Finance System
North Denver Tribune – Staff | Published: 12/14/2020
Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul López today announced his office has contracted with MapLight a nonprofit technology firm, to build a replacement for the city’s outdated campaign finance reporting application. MapLight’s new application will be uniquely designed to administer Denver’s campaign finance regulations, provide in-depth search functions for the public, and implement the Fair Elections Fund. The new campaign finance system will launch in the second half of 2021 and will include a litany of needed upgrades for campaign users, employees, and Denver residents.
Colorado – How Colorado’s New Redistricting Commissions Will Navigate a Political Swamp in 2021
Bloomfield Enterprise – Jon Murray (Denver Post) | Published: 12/22/2020
A redistricting commission will take the helm in Colorado in 2021, steering the process of redrawing congressional and legislative districts, a process that in the past has often been dominated by whichever party held more sway. A lot will hinge on who gets picked as commissioners, how well they work together, and how they juggle competing interests, including jockeying for an eighth congressional seat that is expected to be granted to Colorado. But advocates say commissions are set up to keep decision-making out of back rooms. Each is required to be divided evenly between Democratic, Republican, and unaffiliated members. Many political insiders and lobbyists are barred from being members, and extensive rules require consensus to approve the new maps.
Florida – Antonacci Gets a New Job and an Old Problem: The appearance of a conflict of interest with his wife
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 12/16/2020
Outgoing Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci was named by Florida’s Cabinet to be the next Chief Judge/Executive Director of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. He must now be confirmed by the state Senate. For the second time in five years, however, Antonacci’s new job creates an immediate appearance of a conflict-of-interest involving his wife, Anne Longman, a lawyer who often represents clients before the division her husband would now lead.
Florida – ‘Could Really Use the Support’: Witness says Beach politician drove donors to mystery PAC
Miami Herald – Christina Saint Louis | Published: 12/17/2020
Before Petter Hagland became a key figure in the ethics scandal that wrecked Michael Grieco’s mayoral aspirations, he received multiple emails from the then-Miami Beach commissioner badgering him for one thing: money. “I am asking for your support in my endeavors to seek higher office,” Grieco wrote to Hagland, part of a wealthy Norwegian shipping and oil family, in an email. The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust questioned Hagland about those exchanges as part of its investigation into Grieco’s involvement with People for Better Leaders, the murky PAC that raised over $200,000, much of it from special interests doing business with the city, in the run-up to the 2017 municipal election. The $25,000 from Hagland was the largest contribution to the mystery PAC.
Florida – Michael Grieco’s Fundraising Falsehoods Violated Ethics Rules, Panel Finds
Miami Herald – Christina Saint Louis | Published: 12/17/2020
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found state Rep. Michael Grieco violated the Citizens’ Bill of Rights twice during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner by falsely portraying his involvement with the PAC People for Better Leaders. The first falsehood was when he told the Miami Herald, “I do not have a political committee. I didn’t set one up. I haven’t solicited one,” and again when he told the Herald, “It is absolutely untrue. … You can look right into my soul.” Evidence and testimony elicited in a hearing, including sworn statements from donors and the chairperson of the PAC, indicated Grieco was actively involved in creating, operating, coordinating, and funding the PAC.
Georgia – GOP Launches Legal War on Absentee Voting Ahead of Georgia Runoffs
Politico – Zach Montellaro and James Arkin | Published: 12/17/2020
Federal judges in Georgia rejected a pair of Republican-led lawsuits to restrict absentee voting ahead of January’s U.S. Senate runoffs, the first salvos in a GOP effort to change voting rules for future elections following President Trump’s loss in 2020. Republicans filed three lawsuits – two in federal court, one in state court – in Georgia ahead of the runoffs, in which hundreds of thousands of people have already voted by mail or in person for races that will decide control of the Senate. The suits are an attempt to make successfully voting by mail harder in Georgia, which Republicans say is necessary to protect the security of the elections and others claim is an attempt to suppress votes for Democratic candidates.
Illinois – Rules Requiring Nonprofits to Register as Lobbyists Delayed Again
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 12/21/2020
Rules requiring nonprofit organizations to register as lobbyists in Chicago were set to go into effect January 1, 2020, but were delayed after dozens of nonprofit groups objected, saying the regulations would force them to pay costly registration fees or risk $1,000 fines. The effort to amend the guidelines was still underway when the coronavirus pandemic forced City Hall to shut down, and the delay was extended. It will now last until spring 2021. The ethics ordinance will need to be revised by the city council to clarify the rules, officials with the Chicago Board of Ethics have said.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin to Resign Amid Investigation, Controversy
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 12/22/2020
Under investigation for potential abuse of CARES Act funds and facing ouster proceedings for participating in a political scandal during the 2019 mayoral race, Wichita City Councilperson James Clendenin plans to resign by the end of the year. Clendenin faced the possibility of being the first council member ousted in the city’s 150-year history. Clendenin is one of three city officeholders behind the “Protect Wichita Girls” video, a political advertisement that falsely accused Mayor Brandon Whipple of sexual harassment, and a plot to blame former Sedgwick County GOP Chairperson Dalton Glasscock for the bogus ad.
Maine – Maine Regulator Can Get Financial Records from Anti-CMP Corridor Group, Judge Rules
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 12/17/2020
Maine’s ethics commission can request financial records from a “dark-money” group opposing Central Maine Power’s proposed $1 billion corridor project as part of a broader investigation. Stop the Corridor sued the ethics commission, aiming to shield its donors from public view after the commission voted to require the group to disclose financial information as part of an investigation into whether Stop the Corridor had to register as a political committee after it gave $85,000 to another ant-corridor organization. But a judge disagreed with the anti-corridor group’s argument that the ethics agency had no jurisdiction to do so, denying a delay of the commission’s order by finding the group was unlikely to succeed and the information requested was relevant to the probe.
Maryland – With New Members in Place, Baltimore Spending Board Beefs Up Transparency on Conflicts of Interest
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 12/16/2020
Baltimore’s spending board voted to make its abstention process more transparent following a controversy in which the city’s then-comptroller repeatedly voted to approve spending for organizations with which she was connected. While members of the Board of Estimates were previously required to maintain a list of groups with which they had ties that could create a conflict and disclose any abstentions during meetings, the new rules require members to state the reason for abstaining in a memo that will be posted online with the board’s agenda.
Massachusetts – House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo Discloses He’s in Talks for Job at Northeastern, Setting Off Succession Campaign
MSN – Matt Stout and Andrea Estes (Boston Globe) | Published: 12/18/2020
House Speaker Robert DeLeo filed a much-anticipated ethics disclosure notifying officials he is in talks for a job with Northeastern University, potentially marking the beginning of the end of his tenure as the longest-serving House leader in Massachusetts history. According to his letter, DeLeo said he asked his personal attorney to contact the state’s Ethics Commission to “discuss my status and to ensure compliance” with the conflict-of-interest law. DeLeo wrote he is currently not required to file a disclosure but chose to “out of an abundance of caution.” DeLeo would be the first speaker since 1990 to step down on his own timetable and without the specter of either a criminal investigation or indictment.
Missouri – Ethics Panel Rebukes St. Louis Lawmaker Accused of Having Sex with Intern
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 12/17/2020
Missouri Rep. Wiley Price IV faces censure after an investigation into whether he had sex with his legislative intern earlier this year. Price did not admit to having sex with the intern but was found to have attempted to cover up the incident and interfered in the House Ethics Committee probe into his behavior. The committee recommended the full House strongly admonish Price. That could include stripping him of his committee assignments and not allowing him to meet with the Democratic caucus. He also will be barred from having an intern in the future, and the report calls for Price to repay $22,494 to cover the cost of the investigation.
New Mexico – Nonprofit Groups Test New Independent Expenditure Law to the Test
New Mexico Political Report – Brian Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 12/16/2020
New Mexico lawmakers passed campaign reporting requirements in 2019 to force nonprofit groups, which can spend money on campaigns without registering as political committees, to disclose their spending as well as the names, addresses, and contribution amounts of their donors who fund such independent expenditures. In 2020, two nonprofit groups immediately put the new law to the test by refusing to disclose donors despite enforcement efforts by both the secretary of state and the State Ethics Commission. The challenges by the nonprofit groups represent a key test for both the law itself and for the enforcing power of the ethics panel, which was also established in 2019.
New York – Ex-Sen. Jeff Klein Seeks to Block Ethics Hearing on Sexual Harassment Allegations
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/21/2020
Former New York Sen. Jeffrey Klein has filed a petition in state Supreme Court seeking to block the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) from holding a hearing on whether he violated Public Officers Law when he allegedly forcibly kissed a female staff member outside an Albany bar five years ago. The petition alleges JCOPE exceeded its authority and abused its discretion when it rejected a hearing officer’s recommendation the case should be dismissed.
North Dakota – Attorney General: North Dakota Ethics Commission can write lobbying definitions
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 12/23/2020
The North Dakota Ethics Commission can write rules defining “lobby” and “lobbyist” pertaining to gift restrictions, according to state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. He issued an opinion in response to the board’s request for clarification on its authority to expand on the definitions relating to gifts. Commissioners have encountered conflicting language in state law and the North Dakota Constitution as they have established the board and its rules.
Ohio – Elections Commission Dings Rep. Nino Vitale Over Late Report, Delays More Serious Charges
MSN – Rick Rouan (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/17/2020
A state lawmaker who has backed an effort to impeach Gov. Mike DeWine, urged Ohioans not to get tested for the coronavirus, and was accused of using anti-Semitic language against former Health Director Dr. Amy Acton is now answering for alleged campaign finance violations. The Ohio Elections Commission found Rep. Nino Vitale violated the law by filing one of his reports after the deadline. The commission did not level any penalty or fine against Vitale for the late filing. The case included several other allegations, including that Vitale improperly used a campaign account to accept payment for a concealed carry class he taught. The remaining five counts in the case were set for a separate hearing to be scheduled later. Vitale appeared to suggest the complaint was tied to his support of articles of impeachment against DeWine.
Ohio – Leader of Columbus Green-Energy Ballot Measure Indicted for False Campaign Finance Reports
MSN – Mark Ferenchick (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/16/2020
John Clark Jr., who led the initiative petition drive that would have diverted tens of millions of dollars of city of Columbus money toward vague green-energy initiatives, was indicted on felony charges of filing false campaign finance reports. The charges relate to false information provided on campaign finance reports filed with the city in 2019. The Franklin County prosecutor’s office said the false statements are related to the source and amount of contributions made to the ballot initiative. The 2019 initiative would have redirected $57 million dollars in city money to proposed green-energy initiatives by ProEnergy Ohio LLC, a limited partnership group Clark led.
Ohio – Ohio Lawmakers Do Nothing on Scandal-Tainted House Bill
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/22/2020
After a federal bribery investigation ousted a former House leader, Ohio lawmakers did nothing to repeal or delay the $1 billion nuclear plant bailout at the heart of the alleged “pay-to-play” scheme. Caught between lawmakers who wanted to do more to curb the nuclear subsidies and those who wanted to bail out the plants, the Republican-controlled House could not cobble together the votes needed for a change. A judge relieved some of the pressure on lawmakers to act by blocking the fees from appearing on Ohioans’ electric bills in January. The fees subsidize two nuclear plants owned by Energy Harbor. Lawmakers will continue to work to find a definitive legislative solution next year, Speaker Bob Cupp said.
Oregon – Staffers for Oregon Lawmakers Have Filed to Form a Union
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 12/16/2020
Legislative aides in Oregon want to be the first group of such employees in the country to form their own union. While unions often have a partisan tinge in the statehouse, staffers of lawmakers in both parties note changes in recent years they felt highlighted a need for better representation. One is a lengthy process that has sought to modify pay within the Capitol. One facet of that process, adopted earlier this year, was focused on ensuring staffers are paid equitably if they serve in similar roles. Another change is the Legislature’s ongoing revisions of Capitol policies for harassment and retaliation. The employees said a union would ensure their voices are present when lawmakers make such decisions.
South Carolina – Richland Councilwoman Accused of Corruption as Prosecutor Criticizes County Spending
MSN – David Travis Bland, Bristow Marchant, and Sarah Ellis (The State) | Published: 12/18/2020
Richland County Council member Dalhi Myers used taxpayer money for personal travel to Greece and other places, a resort hotel stay in Nashville, and “premium chocolates” and other personal items, according to an indictment. The grand jury indicted Myers on 24 charges that include misconduct in office, use of official position for personal gain, embezzlement, writing a fraudulent check, and use of campaign funds for personal expenses. Most of the indictments allege she used county taxpayer money for personal use. If convicted on all charges, she could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.
Tennessee – In Earlier Meetings, Ford, Jr. Cast Votes in Favor of $450K Award Entangled in His Business
Memphis Commercial Appeal – Sarah Macaraeg | Published: 12/17/2020
Records show Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford, Jr. twice introduced and voted in favor of a $450,000 budget allocation to Junior Achievement, a nonprofit he later said he sold computers through his business, E&J Computer Services and Repair. The committee votes moved Ford’s grant resolution in front of the full Board of Commissioners with a favorable recommendation. Ford left the room of the final vote without making a disclosure, video shows, though he acknowledged he had had conflicts-of-interest in mind. The records of the earlier meetings show that Ford did not recuse himself at any stage.
Texas – $1.7M for George Strait, Six-Figure Bonuses: Months later, a lawsuit forced Texas to release details on inaugural spending
Texas Tribune – Jay Root (Houston Chronicle) and Shannon Najmabadi | Published: 12/17/2020
Gov. Greg Abbott and the 2019 Texas Inaugural Committee spent months fighting the disclosure of documents detailing how they spent a record-setting $5.3 million that event organizers raised mostly from corporations and wealthy donors. But The Texas Tribune sued the committee and successfully obtained the bank statements and spending ledger in an out-of-court settlement. The result is the most detailed and complete account of inaugural spending in decades. Attorney Bill Aleshire, who represented The Tribune, said the legal fight he had to wage to get the records highlights the need for better transparency in state inaugurations, which accept corporate money but face little regulation over how it gets spent.
Texas – Developer Sherman Roberts Indicted on Charges of Bribing Dwaine Caraway and Carolyn Davis
D Magazine – Matt Goodman | Published: 12/17/2020
Sherman Roberts, chief executive officer of City Wide Community Development Corporation, was indicted on bribery charges for his dealings with two former Dallas City Council members who, prosecutors claim, supported his tax-credit housing projects in exchange for money and promises of future payments. The indictment does not name the council members, but one appears to be the late Carolyn Davis, who was chair of the city’s Housing Committee at the time of one of the alleged bribes. The other alleged bribe recipient appears to be former Councilperson Dwaine Caraway, who is serving a 56-month sentence for accepting bribes for his vote on another contract.
Virginia – In Richmond, the Case of the State Senator and the Judge Draws Attention to Lax Ethics Rules
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 12/18/2020
Virginia is one of two states where judges are selected by the Legislature, a practice that dates to the Colonial era. When Richmond General District Judge David Hicks appeared before a General Assembly committee seeking reappointment to the bench, he had an unusual connection to one of the lawmakers conducting the review. State Sen. Joseph Morrissey had just appeared in Hicks’s courtroom the week before as a defendant in a misdemeanor criminal case. With Hicks still presiding over Morrissey’s case, the interaction raised eyebrows. It casts a light on the way business is conducted around the Capitol and draws attention to Virginia conflict-of-interest rules that largely leave it up to public officials to self-police.
Washington DC – While Incarcerated in the D.C. Jail, a Candidate Fights for an ANC Seat
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer | Published: 12/17/2020
Joel Caston has filled many roles during his 26 years of incarceration, from youth mentor to published author to financial literacy instructor for his fellow inmates. Now he is seeking a new job: elected official. Caston ran in November for a long-vacant seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, The District of Columbia’s most granular level of local government, with the goal of representing inmates at the city jail as the first person to hold the office while incarcerated. But his pursuit has been hampered by a paperwork error, and the Board of Elections says he would not be allowed to take office. Caston and his advocates outside the jail say they are not giving up on finding a solution.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com