September 15, 2023 •
National/Federal Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions in Illegal Campaign Contributions Associated Press News – Jake Offenhartz | Published: 9/7/2023 A former top executive at the failed FTX cryptocurrency exchange pleaded guilty to making tens of millions of dollars […]
Associated Press News – Jake Offenhartz | Published: 9/7/2023
A former top executive at the failed FTX cryptocurrency exchange pleaded guilty to making tens of millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and engaging in a criminal conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transfer business. Ryan Salame, the former co-chief executive of FTX Digital Markets, is the fourth high-ranking official at the company or its affiliates to plead guilty to criminal charges.
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2023
After he was charged with mishandling national security papers, former President Trump asked to be allowed to discuss classified evidence in the case right where he allegedly had kept the documents: at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home and private club. The federal judge overseeing the case appeared to tell him no recently. U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon issued protective order granting prosecutors’ request for a set of rules about how classified information and documents should be handled in the case, rules that conform to the general practice of federal courts.
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2023
A federal appeals court barred special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation from recovering cellphone texts and other communications between U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and other lawmakers and staff about overturning the 2020 election on January 6, 2021, and ruled a judge must individually review roughly 2,000 documents to decide which, if any, fall outside lawmakers’ constitutional immunity from criminal investigation. The opinion, which the Justice Department could appeal, prolongs a secret dispute that has tied up the search of the conservative lawmaker’s phone data for more than a year.
MSN – Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
When Richard Olson Jr. retired from the State Department in 2016, he was lauded by colleagues for an illustrious career that included high-profile postings as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. But previously undisclosed court records reveal the State Department’s inspector general investigated Olson for failing to report a $60,000 gift of diamond jewelry to his mother-in-law from the emir of Dubai. As part of a broader investigation, the FBI also questioned him about his extramarital affair with a journalist working in Pakistan while he was serving as the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad.
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski and Joseph Menn (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the Biden White House, top government health officials, and the FBI likely violated the First Amendment by improperly influencing tech companies’ decisions to remove or suppress posts on the coronavirus and elections. The decision was likely to be seen as victory for conservatives who have long argued social media platforms’ content moderation efforts restrict their free speech rights. But some advocates also said the ruling was an improvement over a temporary injunction U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty issued in July.
MSN – Paul Duggan (Washington Post) | Published: 9/7/2023
Peter Navarro, a senior Trump White House aide and vocal election denier who has said he helped hatch a legislative scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential race, was found guilty of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. With right-wing provocateur Stephen Bannon, who was found guilty of contempt of Congress, Navarro is the second high-ranking Trump official to be convicted in a criminal case related to efforts to undo President Biden’s victory at the polls.
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
Probing investigators’ methods and scruples is a strategy that has been utilized by both political parties during tumultuous moments and is a well-worn tool for lawmakers seeking to give the appearance of oversight. The strategy has been effective in shaping public opinion of the investigations of Donald Trump after years of broadsides against the judicial system by Trump and his allies. But in the wake of 91 criminal charges against Trump, the party’s attacks on prosecutors threatens to degrade an important precedent that protects prosecutorial independence and the ability to fairly root out wrongdoing without partisan influence or gain.
MSN – Heidi Przybyla (Politico) | Published: 9/10/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 Citizens United case transformed the world of politics. It loosened restrictions on campaign spending and unleashed a flow of anonymous donor money to nonprofit groups run by political activists. The conservative legal movement seized the moment with greater success than any other group, and the consequences have shaped American jurisprudence and politics in dramatic ways.
NBC News – Rebecca Kaplan, Summer Concepcion, and Sahil Kapur | Published: 9/12/2023
Speaker Kevin McCarthy directed three House committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden to seek bank records and other documents from the president and his son Hunter Biden. McCarthy’s decision represents a major reversal for the speaker after he had he would not open an impeachment inquiry without a vote of the full House. McCarthy faces criticism from across the GOP spectrum due to the lack of evidence implicating the president in Hunter Biden’s transgressions.
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 9/6/2023
The idea of barring Donald Trump from seeking the presidency on grounds that it would violate the 14th Amendment may be an increasingly popular constitutional argument pushed by a segment of legal scholars and activists. But it turns out election officials have been discussing how to handle it for months. The legal theory argues Trump is constitutionally disqualified from running for president under the amendment’s “insurrection clause,” which states that anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” after taking an oath of office to defend the Constitution is forbidden from holding public office.
From the States and Municipalities
CTV – Katherine DeClerq | Published: 9/6/2023
Ontario Premier Doug Ford instructed the province’s attorney general to review legislation governing lobbyists and add increased penalties, including jail time, if they break rules. The request comes amid an integrity commissioner report that highlighted how certain developers with access to staff within the housing ministry were given an unfair advantage when it came to a development deal in Clarington. The government has committed to reviewing legislation governing lobbyists in the coming weeks.
Yahoo News – Kim Chandler (Associated Press) | Published: 9/12/2203
Alabama asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let it keep Republican-drawn congressional lines in place as the state continues to fight a court order to create a second district where Black voters constitute a majority or close to it. Despite losing at the Supreme Court earlier this year in the redistricting case, the state is pursuing another appeal, hoping for a different result with the most recent Republican version of the map. Alabama asked the justices to stay a ruling issued by a three-judge panel that blocked the use of the latest districts in upcoming elections and directed a court-appointed special master to propose new lines for the state.
Associated Press News – Becky Bohrer | Published: 9/13/2023
Backers of an effort to repeal ranked voting in Alaska violated state campaign finance rules, including by channeling money through a church-affiliated organization in a way that initially concealed the source of the contributions, a new report alleges. The report from the staff for the Alaska Public Offices Commission recommends penalties of $22,500 for Art Mathias, a leader of the repeal effort, and approximately $20,000 for the church-affiliated Ranked Choice Education Association among its findings.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 9/14/2023
After the corruption scandal kicked off in Anaheim last year, residents and activists throughout Orange County began asking questions about the impacts of lobbyists and if they wield outsized influence. It is a scandal that also touched on Irvine City Hall, where Mayor Farrah Khan’s former consultant Melahat Rafiei admitted to attempted bribery in 2018, forcing officials there to rethink their relationship with lobbyists. Now, new restrictions on lobbyists could be coming to after city council members voted to have city staff come back with proposals to strengthen the city’s disclosure rules.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 9/13/2023
The Anaheim City Council is considering beefing up the city’s lobbyist rules in the wake of the corruption scandal and may require government relations employees to register as lobbyists. It marked the first in a series of reform discussions set to take place over the next few months. An investigation detailed a loose network of lobbyists, with little enforcement of the city’s current rules and alleged multiple high-profile lobbyists violated the law by failing to report a host of meetings with officials. Currently, only contracted lobbyists are required to register with the city.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 9/7/2023
Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu has been wrestling with public corruption allegations from the U.S. Department of Justice over the past year, which ended when he signed a plea agreement admitting to the charges. But he did not pay for his own legal defense, his campaign donors did, a total of $300,000 according to campaign finance disclosures. California Fair Political Practices Commission rules make no mention of elected officials being able to use the funds to defend themselves from criminal prosecution.
CT News Junkie – Hugh McQuaid | Published: 9/13/2023
The publicly funded campaigns of former Sen. Joe Markley and then-Rep. Rob Sampson jointly criticized Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2014, including one shared mailer, each paying half the cost. That campaign expenditure and similar ones ignited a free-speech fight that reached the state Supreme Court over whether restrictions on using public campaign funds conflicts with the First Amendment. At issue was whether Markley and Sampson’s criticism of Malloy, who was seeking reelection in 2014, was furthering their own campaigns or boosting the governor’s Republican challenger, Tom Foley.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/14/2023
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took at least six undisclosed trips on private jets and accepted lodging and dining in late 2018, according to documents that reflect his proclivity for luxury travel and leisure time with wealthy donors. The trips came during the period between DeSantis’s election and inauguration as governor. DeSantis did not report the flights or accommodations as gifts or campaign contributions, and it is unclear whether he used a separate legal option to personally reimburse for the flights at the cost of coach airfare.
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/8/2023
Latvala, who resigned in 2018 after allegations he had sexually harassed a legislative aide and a former lobbyist. Both women continue to stand by their allegations that Latvala, one of the most powerful men in state government, had used his positional power over them to grope them, make inappropriate sexual comments, and make sexual advances. But neither wanted to continue with an ethics trial and said they were exhausted by the emotional turmoil and five-year wait for the state to mete out justice.
Associated Press News – Kate Brumback | Published: 9/14/2023
A judge ruled former President Trump and 16 others will be tried separately from two defendants who are set to go to trial in October in the case accusing them of participating in an illegal scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. Lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro had filed demands for a speedy trial. Trump and other defendants asked to be tried separately from Powell and Chesebro, with some saying they could not be ready by the October 23 trial date.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2023
A federal judge denied a request from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to move the Georgia election-interference case against him from state to federal court, a shift he had sought on the grounds he was a federal officer at the time of the actions that led to his indictment. Meadows had hoped a move to federal court could lead to a dismissal of the case because h as a federal officer, he is immune from prosecution for acts taken in the course of his normal work.
MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2023
An Atlanta-area special grand jury that investigated alleged 2020 election interference in Georgia by Donald Trump and his allies recommended charging one of Trump’s closest associates, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, and 37 other people, a far larger group than a prosecutor ultimately charged. The final report by the special grand jury largely echoed Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s theory of the case, alleging a sweeping criminal conspiracy to subvert Joe Biden’s legitimate election win in Georgia.
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/11/2023
Less than a week after the release of a 2020 letter alleging city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin abused her office, the head of the Chicago Board of Ethics said the board handles all such complaints properly by referring them to the city’s inspector general’s office, but it cannot do more unless it receives detailed findings from the inspector general. Under questioning for days about why the board has not acted on the letter even though it and the city Law Department received a copy in December 2020, Ethics Board Chairperson William Conlon defended the board’s actions while also declining to discuss any case specifically.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 9/12/2023
One of the leaders of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s transition team will pay a $10,000 fine to resolve charges brought by the Chicago Board of Ethics that he violated the city’s lobbying regulations. Djavan Conway, who owns Conway Consulting Group, acknowledged he failed to terminate his registration as a City Hall lobbyist in January 2021. Conway’s failure to notify officials he was not lobbying in 2022 triggered daily fines of $1,000.
Indiana Capital Chronicle – Whitney Downard | Published: 9/7/2023
The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that would determine whether the state’s election code prohibits or limits corporate contributions to PACs that engage in independent campaign-related expenditures. Attorney James Bopp said while his client, the Indiana Right to Life Victory Fund, has not been limited by the state’s campaign finance laws or restricted from making contributions, a “plain language” reading of statute could potentially harm PAC activities in the future.
MSN – Emily Opilo (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/7/2023
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott requested guidance from the Board of Ethics on how to keep his campaign separate from city business as the race for mayor begins to heat up. Scott asked for written guidance and an in-person meeting between city ethics officials and Scott’s senior staff. Scott has made moves recently that have intermingled campaign and official duties.
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/8/2023
State General Andrea Campbell’s office is negotiating a potential settlement with the Massachusetts Republican Party, its former leader, and a state senator, among others, over alleged campaign finance violations, signaling the years-long probe could be nearing a close. Campaign finance regulators first referred evidence to prosecutors in 2021 that then-state GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, as well as state Sen. Ryan Fattman and Worcester County register of probate Stephanie Fattman, may have violated various campaign finance laws during the 2020 election, including those barring people from disguising the true source of donations.
Axios – Samuel Robinson | Published: 9/8/2023
Michigan Republicans are calling on House Democrats to move on legislation to bring financial disclosure requirements to lawmakers following a media investigation of state Rep. Angela Witwer. She has maintained a close relationship with the consulting firm she founded, The Detroit News found. The firm, Edge Partnerships, has worked with trade associations and agencies like the Michigan Department of Education, whose funding is set by lawmakers, including Witwer in her influential role as House Appropriations Committee chairperson.
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 9/7/2023
A rarely used state ethics panel ruled an appointee to the Michigan Arts and Culture Council violated ethics policy by failing to recuse herself from several votes on grants for organizations she leads. The State Board of Ethics ruled Deborah Mikula violated two sections of the state ethics law related to conflicts-of-interest but did not violate two other provisions when she voted in favor of grants for the Michigan Library Association, where she serves as executive director, and the Cultural Advocacy Network of Michigan, where she once served as president.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 9/11/2023
A state Supreme Court justice ruled that a commission created last year to enforce ethics rules for New York’s employees and elected officials violates the state’s constitution because it is too independent. The ruling was issued in a court battle in which former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has fought against the ethics commission’s efforts to investigate a $5 million deal he received for writing a book about his administration’s handling of the pandemic. The decision is expected to be reviewed by the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.
MSN – Joe Anuta, Jeff Coltin, and Emily Ngo (Politico) | Published: 9/13/2023
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg released a multi-count indictment of former city Department of Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich, accusing him of abusing his position and in his role as a former adviser to Mayor Eric Adams. Ulrich was among seven people charged in the wide-ranging indictment. “We allege that Eric Ulrich accepted or solicited more than $150,000 worth of bribes in less than two years by monetizing each elected and appointed role he held in New York City government,” Bragg said.
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/7/2023
Ohio will use the same congressional districts in 2024 that it used last year, as the state Supreme Court granted the dismissal of two legal challenges to the map the court previously deemed to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits had sought the dismissal of their own cases, saying they do not want voters to be in limbo ahead of the election. They also fear that if the current map is thrown out, Republicans would draw an even more GOP-friendly map than the current one, under which Republicans hold 10 seats and Democrats hold five.
Yahoo News – Haley BeMiller (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 9/8/2023
State Rep. Bob Young announced his resignation from the Ohio House as he faces allegations of domestic violence and violating a restraining order. Young was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and assault in July. He is accused of slapping his wife during a private party at his home following a fundraiser.
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 9/11/2023
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has six employees and a budget of about $820,000 a year, making it one of the smallest and least-funded state agencies. Its executive director is leaving at the end of the year and its online database will go dark during the middle of next year’s campaign season if something is not done soon. Commissioner Jarred Brejcha is confident the panel can handle the flood of money, much of it untraceable, pouring into races at every level. Others, including the exiting executive and a former commissioner, are not nearly as convinced.
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 9/12/2023
Court of Common Pleas Judge Joshua Roberts dismissed a lawsuit filed by the city Board of Ethics that alleged mayoral candidate Jeff Brown illegally coordinated with For a Better Philadelphia, a super PAC. Roberts’ ruling neither rejected any of the facts laid out by the board nor challenged the board’s authority to regulate super PACs, which are allowed to accept unlimited donations but are prohibited from coordinating with campaigns. Instead, the judge focused on a debate over definitions that had been central to the case.
Yahoo News – Bristow Marchant (The State) | Published: 9/8/2023
After years of failure to disclose her financial interests and campaign spending to the state, a former member of Richland County Council has been hit with a nearly $300,000 penalty by the South Carolina Ethics Commission. But commissioners gave former Councilperson Gwendolyn Kennedy a window to avoid paying most of her fine. The commission found Kennedy committed 134 separate violations of state ethics law and campaign disclosure requirements dating to her time on county council from 2016 to 2020. The commission reached its decision after an August 17 hearing, at which the commission order notes Kennedy did not appear.
Yahoo News – Allie Feinberg (Knoxville News Sentinel) | Published: 9/13/2023
The Knox County Ethics Committee is considering a complaint filed against a county commissioner and a well-known developer over whether a property sale violated the ethics code ethics code. Scott Davis of Mesana Investments transferred ownership of a plot of land to Commissioner Kyle Ward, who paid $10 for the land, which the county appraised for more than $50,000 earlier this year. The complaint alleges Ward accepted a gift of over $50,000, which violates the ethics code.
MSN – Robert Garrett and Lauren McGaughey (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 9/13/2023
No matter how his impeachment trial turns out, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s state pension is not in jeopardy. Paxton is among an elite set of elected officials. Even if they are impeached, convicted, and booted from office, state legislators and statewide officeholders such as Paxton retain their pensions. Only judges, who are enrolled in a separate pension fund, lose these retirement benefits if they are impeached and removed.
MSN – Sarah Rankin and Denise Lavoie (Associated Press) | Published: 9/11/2023
A candidate in a high-stakes legislative contest in Virginia had sex with her husband in live videos posted on a pornographic website and asked viewers to pay them money in return for carrying out specific sex acts. Susanna Gibson, who is running for a seat in the House of Delegates in a district just outside Richmond, issued a statement in which it denounced the sharing of the videos as a violation of the law and her privacy. The contest will carry significant weight in determining the balance of power in the Virginia General Assembly.
Virginia Public Media – Ben Paviour | Published: 9/11/2023
Gov. Glenn Youngkin flew on Altria’s private jet to and from an undisclosed location at an unknown time, according to campaign finance records. Neither his campaign committee nor Altria will say who else was on board or give any other details about the trip. It is one of a handful of times Youngkin has benefited from donors who have given him at least $365,000 worth of unspecified “flight services” as part of his political work. Altria is a major player in Virginia politics and the General Assembly.
September 13, 2023 •
Campaign Finance National: “Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions in Illegal Campaign Contributions” by Jake Offenhartz for Associated Press News Massachusetts: “Attorney General in Settlement Negotiations with State GOP, Senator Over Alleged Campaign Finance Violations” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for […]
National: “Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions in Illegal Campaign Contributions” by Jake Offenhartz for Associated Press News
Massachusetts: “Attorney General in Settlement Negotiations with State GOP, Senator Over Alleged Campaign Finance Violations” by Matt Stout (Boston Globe) for MSN
Virginia: “Youngkin Borrowed Altria’s Jet. No One Will Say Where He Went.” by Ben Paviour for Virginia Public Media
National: “Constitutional Debate Over Trump’s Eligibility to Run More Extensive Than Realized” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
National: “Kevin McCarthy Announces House Will Begin an Impeachment Inquiry into Biden” by Rebecca Kaplan, Summer Concepcion, and Sahil Kapur for NBC News
New York: “Judge Rules N.Y.’s Ethics Commission Is Unconstitutional in Cuomo Case” by Brendan Lyons for Albany Times Union
Ohio: “Rep. Bob Young Resigns from Ohio House as He Faces Domestic Violence Charges” by Haley BeMiller (Akron Beacon Journal) for Yahoo News
Alabama: “Alabama Asks US Supreme Court Again to Intervene in Redistricting Case” by Kim Chandler (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
September 11, 2023 •
Campaign Finance California: “Former Anaheim Mayor, Who Admitted to Corruption, Funds Legal Defense with Campaign Money” by Noah Biesiada for Voice of OC Indiana: “Campaign Finance Contributions on the Indiana Supreme Court Docket” by Whitney Downard for Indiana Capital Chronicle Elections Georgia: “Judge Denies Mark […]
September 8, 2023 •
National/Federal AI Deepfakes in Campaigns May Be Detectable, But Will It Matter? MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 9/5/2023 Deepfake audio, authentic sounding but false recordings built from short snippets of a subject talking, have become extremely realistic, presenting the […]
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 9/5/2023
Deepfake audio, authentic sounding but false recordings built from short snippets of a subject talking, have become extremely realistic, presenting the potential for underhanded political tactics. Artificial intelligence (AI) developers warn that the technology’s rapid development and widespread deployment risks undermining the foundations of representative democracy. Campaign attack ads have long used the most unflattering pictures of their opponents. But AI will supercharge the ability of campaigns, and their rogue supporters, to produce believable fakes.
MSN – Brad Dress (The Hill) | Published: 8/29/2023
Rep. Andy Kim announced he reintroduced legislation that would limit the ability of major defense contractors and foreign governments to hire former Defense Department officials and influence the Pentagon as lobbyists. The Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act would impose a four-year ban on defense contractors hiring senior Pentagon officials and enact a similar ban on former Defense Department employees who managed their contracts.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 9/5/2023
A federal appellate court blocked Justice Department access to the phone records of a Republican lawmaker as part of the investigation charging former President Trump with trying to undo the 2020 election results. The ruling stymies investigators who have been fighting to review thousands of documents from Rep. Scott Perry. U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell granted the special counsel access to most of the records nine months ago. Perry had argued the search would violate constitutional protection from criminal investigation for lawmakers engaged in “speech or debate.”
MSN – Will Sommer (Washington Post) | Published: 9/5/2023
An audit showed Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe covered personal expenses with funds from the donor-supported nonprofit whose self-described mission is investigative journalism. The Westchester County, New York, district attorney’s office is investigating O’Keefe. Before he left Project Veritas in February, under pressure from its board of directors, O’Keefe was surrounded by a “cult of personality” that enabled him to behave as if he were “untouchable,” the audit concluded.
MSN – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/5/2023
Republicans on Capitol Hill have hired far more former lobbyists to work in their offices than Democrats in the last year, according to a new analysis. Legistorm found that 61 of the 91 former lobbyists who took jobs in partisan offices on Capitol Hill in the last year were hired by Republicans. But the problem of the “revolving door” is one that besets both political parties.
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 9/5/2023
Enrique Tarrio, the national leader of the Proud Boys on January 6, 2021, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for masterminding a seditious conspiracy aimed at derailing the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The sentence, the lengthiest among hundreds arising from the attack on the Capitol, is a reflection of prosecutors’ evidence that the Proud Boys, helmed by Tarrio, played the most pivotal role in stoking the violent breach of police lines and the Capitol itself.
Yahoo News – Davey Alba (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/6/2023
Google will make it mandatory for all election advertisers to add a clear and conspicuous disclosure starting in mid-November when their ads contain Artificial Intelligence generated content. Advertisers must include prominent language like, “This audio was computer generated,” on altered election ads across Google’s platforms. The policy does not apply to minor fixes, such as image resizing or brightening. The update will improve Google’s transparency measures for election ads, the company said.
From the States and Municipalities
Globe and Mail – Ian Bailey | Published: 9/1/2203
Konrad Winrich von Finckenstein, a former chairperson of Canada’s broadcasting regulator, has been named interim federal conflict-of-interest and ethics commissioner, after the government’s previous pick for the role resigned amid concern about the appropriateness of the appointment. Mario Dion, who stepped down as commissioner in February, said the vacancy has put investigations on hold. During Dion’s term, he found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several cabinet ministers had broken ethics rules.
Yahoo News – Ethan Cohen and Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 9/5/2023
A federal court blocked a newly drawn Alabama congressional map because it did not create a second majority-Black district, as the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered earlier this year. The three-judge panel ordered a special master to submit three proposed maps that would create a second Black-majority district by September 25. The judges wrote they were “not aware of any other case,” where a state Legislature had responded to being ordered to a draw map with a second majority-minority district, by creating which the state itself admitted did not create the required district.
Alaska Public Media – James Brooks (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 9/6/2023
Alaska Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom approved two ballot measures and disqualified a third from advancing into the signature-gathering phase. One of the two measures approved by Dahlstrom would reimpose limits on political contributions. The state has been without donation caps limits since 2021, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Alaska’s prior limits after a lawsuit by Republican activists.
DNyuz – Jill Cowan, Serge Kovaleski, and Leanne Abraham (New York Times) | Published: 9/4/2023
The redistricting battle in Los Angeles underscores how some big city leaders – often Democrats – have used gerrymandering for their political advantage, much the way Republican lawmakers have redrawn legislative lines to secure or expand their control over some statehouses. Similar fights have been waged in Boston, Miami, and Chicago. The conflict in Los Angeles became a national controversy after audio was leaked that revealed the racist language that politicians used behind closed doors to discuss where to draw district boundaries.
San Francisco Standard – Noah Baustin | Published: 8/31/2023
An ex-parole agent and local pop singer pleaded guilty to bribery charges in federal court, marking the latest development in a Justice Department investigation uncovering corruption in San Francisco City Hall. Prosecutors accused Ken Hong Wong of paying former San Francisco Public Works head Mohammed Nuru $20,000 to get someone an engineering job in his department. An investigation revealed the job recipient was Xulu Liu, a recent college graduate and Chinese national. Public Works hired Liu as an assistant engineer earning $46 an hour in September 2019, public records show. She left the job after two weeks.
California – San Jose Council Eases Transparency Rule
San Jose Spotlight – Jana Kadash | Published: 9/5/2023
The San Jose City Council changed three ethics rules that could affect how money is used to influence policy. Officials revised the city’s “revolving door” protocol for former employees, removed fees for late lobbying disclosures, and uncapped reimbursement amounts for personal loans candidates made to their campaigns. City Clerk Toni Taber said the city did not collect fines for late weekly filings before the council nixed the fees. A media review found lobbyists often do not fill out the forms properly even if submitted on time.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 9/6/2023
Anaheim residents and local community groups are charting their own path for reforms in the wake of a corruption scandal that has entangled City Hall. Residents and activists decided to take matters into their own hands after seeing Anaheim City Council members largely ignored calls for reforms until their most recent meeting on the heels of the former mayor agreeing to plead guilty to public corruption charges.
MSN – Andrew Atterbury (Politico) | Published: 9/6/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Tina Descovich, a co-founder of the conservative parental rights group Moms for Liberty, to the Florida Commission on Ethics. The move gives the governor a staunch ally on the panel responsible for weighing complaints against public officials in the state, which recently saw one remember resign after a conflict-of-interest violation. Aside from organizing the parental advocacy group, Descovich is a former school board member and runs a political committee that helped some conservatives win local education elections in 2022.
Yahoo News – David Kihara and Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 9/2/2023
A judge ruled Gov. Ron DeSantis’s redrawn congressional districts in North Florida violate the state’s constitution and ordered the Republican-led Legislature to create a new map. The ruling is a rebuke to DeSantis, who previously vetoed the Legislature’s attempts to redraw Florida’s congressional maps and pushed lawmakers to approve his map that dismantled a seat formerly held by Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat. The section violated is commonly referred to as the Fair Districts Amendment, which states that lawmakers cannot redraw congressional districts that “diminish” minority voters’ ability to elect someone of their choice.
MSN – Jeff Amy (Associated Press) | Published: 8/30/2023
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp offered his strongest denunciation to date of efforts by his fellow Republicans to go after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, dismissing the moves as “political theater that only inflames the emotions of the moment.” Some Republicans in Washington and Georgia have been attacking Willis since even before she announced the indictment of Donald Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. Kemp said any calls for a special session to impeach Willis or defund her office were wrong and she had done nothing to merit removal.
The Hill – Zach Schonfeld | Published: 9/6/2023
A state judge denied Kenneth Chesebro’s attempt to sever his charges in the Georgia election interference case from fellow Trump-aligned attorney Sidney Powell, saying he did not deem it necessary to do so to achieve a fair trial. But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee did signal he has doubts about District Attorney Fani Willis’s broader desire to try all 19 co-defendants, including former President Trump, together.
Yahoo News – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/5/2023
Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin used government workers to plan her daughter’s birthday party and be her personal bodyguard while she also pressured public employees to hold events benefiting political allies and repeatedly misused taxpayer resources, two former top aides alleged in a recently released letter the city fought for years to keep confidential. After Conyears-Ervin in 2020 dismissed employees Ashley Evans and Tiffany Harper, they shared a $100,000 settlement from the city. That settlement came after the letter was sent to the city’s top attorney and the Board of Ethics.
MSN – Josh Ward (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 9/5/2023
The spouses of presidents and governors often have formal positions, as well as aides and offices. That is not common at the municipal level. But the Louisville mayor’s office bucks that trend, and it may run afoul of the city’s anti-nepotism rules. Sources said Mayor Craig Greenberg’s wife has an office in Metro Hall, a city-issued email, and gives orders to staffers. The Louisville ethics code says, “a family member of the Mayor” or other elected official “shall not be employed by or appointed to a position with such elected official’s office.”
MSN – Ian Auzenne (WWL) | Published: 9/2/2023
A 2021 plane flight taken by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is the leading Republican candidate for governor, is landing him in trouble with the state Board of Ethics. The board voted to charge Landry and Stanton Aviation with one count each of ethics violations. Landry is charged with accepting a gift in relation to his position as attorney general. Stanton Aviation is charged with providing a gift to Landry.
MSN – Emily Opilo (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/6/2023
The Baltimore Board of Ethics must release the list of donors to a legal-defense fund formed to benefit city council President Nick Mosby and former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Maryland’s Public Information Act Compliance Board ordered. The compliance board found the ethics panel violated the Public Information Act by redacting the names of more than 130 donors to the fund when it released the list in March. The ethics board argued the names constituted financial information.
Nevada Independent – Jacob Solis | Published: 9/1/2023
Nevada Assemblyperson Michelle Gorelow will not run for re-election in 2024, a surprise move that comes after Gorelow had come under increasing pressure to justify taking a new position at a nonprofit that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in legislatively approved funding earlier this year. Separately, Assemblyperson C.H. Miller has come under fire for failing to disclose his employment by the Urban Chamber in a regular financial disclosure form ahead of a vote to give the nonprofit $100,000.
Albany Times Union – Emilie Munson | Published: 9/1/2023
Over the course of about a year, New York Gaming Commissioner Marissa Shorenstein voted on multiple regulations with implications for a client of her employer, but the commission said her actions avoided any conflict-of-interest. Shorenstein worked as a principal at SKDK, a prominent public relations and lobbying firm that did work for the New York Racing Association, a not-for-profit corporation that operates three thoroughbred tracks in New York and is regulated by the Gaming Commission.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2023
E. Jean Carroll, the advice columnist who was awarded $5 million in damages at a civil sexual assault trial against former President Trump in May, won the majority of a related defamation case in a summary judgment decision. U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled the May verdict clearly proved disparaging comments Trump made about Carroll in 2019 were false. Those comments do not need to be aired again to prove liability to jurors in s civil defamation trial scheduled for January, Kaplan said.
MSN – Camila DeChalus (Washington Post) | Published: 9/2/2023
Democrat Sherrod Brown has won three U.S. Senate terms in Ohio, once a key swing state that has shifted solidly to Republicans over the past two presidential elections with a personal appeal to working-class families and particularly union trades. Now facing a tough reelection challenge in 2024, Brown is wagering that by casting himself as a pro-labor, progressive populist, he can retain support from White working-class voters whose embrace of Donald Trump has propelled Ohio’s move to the right.
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/3/2023
The Catholic Church in Ohio is gearing up for this November’s election in a manner that in some ways resembles a PAC. It is preparing to distribute literature to parishioners, deploy church leaders to political fundraisers, make direct campaign contributions, and have its priests preach from the pulpit in opposition to a ballot measure that would add legal protections for abortion to the state constitution. Brian Hickey, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, said he has heard from people who believe that churches and other religious organizations are not allowed to wade into politics under federal tax law. But that is not the case, Hickey said.
MSN – Maxine Bernstein (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 9/1/2023
The St. Helens Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 321 failed to properly report the source of a $6,000 contribution for the May election of three new Columbia River Fire & Rescue board members, according to a complaint to the state secretary of state’s office. The three union-backed candidates also never reported any contributions from the union, which paid for posters, mailers, and signs promoting their candidacy for a board seat, according to state records.
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 9/1/2023
A clause in Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law says that correspondence between a state lawmaker and a person seeking their help is off-limits to the public – unless that person is a lobbyist. But for years, the Legislature has summarily rejecting all requests for its emails, letters, or other forms of communications regardless of who was on the sending or receiving end. Spotlight PA put the lobbyist clause to the test by requesting from both the state House and Senate copies of communications between legislators and a narrow group of well-known lobbyists.
MSN – Mackenzie Huber (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 9/5/2023
Former South Dakota Sen. Jessica Castleberry was found to have accepted over $500,000 in allegedly illegal indirect benefits from state government while serving as a legislator. The state constitution prohibits lawmakers from being interested “directly or indirectly” in contracts with the state or counties. In the handful of state Supreme Court cases and opinions dealing with the matter over the last 135 years, none has explicitly defined “indirect,” said Michael Card of the University of South Dakota.
Austin Monitor – Jo Clifton | Published: 9/1/2023
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman declared an Austin regulation on campaign fundraising unconstitutional. The regulation prohibits candidates for city council seats from seeking or accepting campaign contributions more than a year before an election. The rule was enacted after another judge struck down a city regulation prohibiting candidates from raising money more than six months before an election.
Yahoo News – J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 9/4/2023
With television ads, text messages, direct mail, and billboards, supporters of the embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have embarked on an escalating campaign of political pressure, backed by hard-right billionaires, aimed at trying to sway the outcome of Paxton’s impeachment trial. The targets of their efforts are narrow: the 19 Republican members of the state Senate who will act as jurors in the trial and decide whether allegations of corruption and abuse of power are serious enough to warrant permanently removing and barring Paxton from office.
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Mike Tony | Published: 9/5/2023
The West Virginia Public Service Commission chose Van Reen Accounting to audit Mon Power and Potomac Edison lobbying expenses in a review that will cover costs charged to the FirstEnergy subsidiaries related to the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history. The scope of the audit is to include lobbying and other costs of all FirstEnergy companies related to Ohio House Bill 6. That legislation was a billion-dollar bailout of FirstEnergy nuclear plants in Ohio.
September 6, 2023 •
Elections National: “AI Deepfakes in Campaigns May Be Detectable, But Will It Matter?” by Jim Saska (Roll Call) for MSN Ohio: “Sen. Sherrod Brown Bets a Progressive Can Still Win in Trump-Leaning Ohio” by Camila DeChalus (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics California: “San Francisco Corruption: […]
National: “AI Deepfakes in Campaigns May Be Detectable, But Will It Matter?” by Jim Saska (Roll Call) for MSN
Ohio: “Sen. Sherrod Brown Bets a Progressive Can Still Win in Trump-Leaning Ohio” by Camila DeChalus (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “San Francisco Corruption: Ex-parole agent pleads guilty in bribery case” by Noah Baustin for San Francisco Standard
National: “Democrat Introduces Bill to Limit Defense Contractor, Foreign Government Influence on Pentagon” by Brad Dress (The Hill) for MSN
New York: “State Gaming Official Voted on Rules Affecting Her Firm’s Client” by Emilie Munson for Albany Times Union
Texas: “A Conservative Push to Save Ken Paxton” by J. David Goodman (New York Times) for Yahoo News
West Virginia: “PSC Chooses Firm to Audit Mon Power and Potomac Edison Lobbying Expenses” by Mike Tony for Charleston Gazette-Mail
Alabama: “Federal Court Strikes Down Alabama’s Second Attempt to Avoid Adding Another Majority-Black Congressional District” by Ethan Cohen and Fredreka Schouten (CNN) for Yahoo News
September 5, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Oregon: “Campaign Finance Complaint Filed Against Fire Union Stemming from Contributions for Columbia River Board Candidatesw” by Maxine Bernstein (Portland Oregonian) for MSN Texas: “Judge Declares City Campaign Contribution Blackout Period Unconstitutional” by Jo Clifton for Austin Monitor Elections Ohio: “The Catholic Church […]
Oregon: “Campaign Finance Complaint Filed Against Fire Union Stemming from Contributions for Columbia River Board Candidatesw” by Maxine Bernstein (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
Texas: “Judge Declares City Campaign Contribution Blackout Period Unconstitutional” by Jo Clifton for Austin Monitor
Ohio: “The Catholic Church Will Campaign Against Ohio’s Abortion-Rights Amendment. What About the Separation of Church and State?” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Georgia: “Efforts to Punish Fani Willis Over Trump Prosecution Are ‘Political Theater,’ Georgia Gov. Kemp Says” by Jeff Amy (Associated Press) for MSN
Nevada: “Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow Won’t Run for Re-election Amid Scrutiny Over Nonprofit Ties” by Jacob Solis for Nevada Independent
Pennsylvania: “Inside Spotlight PA’s Fight to Unseal Lobbyist Communications with the Legislature” by Angela Couloumbis for Spotlight PA
California: “How a New City Council Map of L.A. Turned into a Political Brawl” by Jill Cowan, Serge Kovaleski, and Leanne Abraham (New York Times) for DNyuz
Florida: “Judge Says DeSantis’ Congressional Map Is Unconstitutional, Orders Lawmakers to Draw New One” by David Kihara and Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo News
August 25, 2023 •
National/Federal Democratic Group Plans $10 Million Push to Protect Election Officials DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 8/17/2023 A group that works to elect Democrats as the top election officials in states around the country is planning a $10 […]
DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 8/17/2023
A group that works to elect Democrats as the top election officials in states around the country is planning a $10 million venture to pay for private security for election officials of both parties, register new voters, and try to combat disinformation. The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State is starting a tax-exempt organization called Value the Vote that will initially focus on five battleground states: Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 8/22/2023
The federal grand jury in the District of Columbia that helped investigate Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents has ended, special counsel Jack Smith said in a court filing, which laid out new details about how the probe quietly expanded to look at alleged coverup efforts. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are sparring over the use of two grand juries to investigate Trump’s alleged hoarding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his home and private club. Trump is charged with illegally retaining national defense information after leaving the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve the material.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer, and Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2023
Republican presidential contenders targeted each other as much as they did the absent front-runner, Donald Trump, in a combative first debate with a series of clashes reflecting the fierce competition to emerge as the main alternative to the former president. Trump’s decision to skip the event, a choice that highlighted his commanding polling lead, left him without a defense over two hours that marked the official start of the nomination battle. His biggest consolation came when all but one of the candidates onstage raised their hands to signal they would support Trump if he won the nomination and was convicted of a crime in a court of law.
MSN – Kimberly Kindy (Washington Post) | Published: 8/21/2023
In Washington, D.C., the White House and federal lawmakers are pursuing ways to constrain Chinese-owned businesses like TikTok amid a bipartisan push to limit China’s reach. Now state legislators have embraced a novel, locally focused tactic aimed at China’s domestic investments: restrictions on Chinese land ownership. Lawmakers in 33 states have introduced bills this year that would prohibit the Chinese government, some China-based businesses, and many Chinese citizens from buying agricultural land or property near military bases.
OpenSecrets – Maia Cook | Published: 8/18/2023
Super PACs, now a staple in modern presidential campaigns, are already gearing up to spend unlimited sums to support and oppose candidates for the 2024 election and many of those groups have a cozy relationship with the candidates they support. This might raise eyebrows to people that remember Citizens United, which stated any coordination between a campaign committee and an outside group backing their campaign – including PACs, corporations, nonprofits, and unions – is illegal.
Stateline – Matt Vasilogambros | Published: 8/21/2023
Over the past decade, ranked choice voting has become increasingly popular. From conservative Utah to liberal New York City, 13 million American voters in 51 jurisdictions now use the system, under which voters rank candidates based on preference, leading to an instant runoff in a crowded race. This year, Democrats and Republicans in power pushed back. Arguing that ranked choice voting is too complicated for voters to understand, Democrats in the District of Columbia and Republicans in states such as Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota took steps to prevent adoption of the voting system.
Yahoo News – Jonathan Swan, Alan Feuer, Luke Broadwater, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 8/22/2023
After receiving a subpoena from a grand jury investigating former President Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, Mark Meadows started a delicate dance with federal prosecutors. He had no choice but to testify eventually. Yet Meadows –Trump’s final White House chief of staff – initially declined to answer certain questions, sticking to his former boss’s position they were shielded by executive privilege. But when prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith challenged Trump’s executive privilege claims before a judge, Meadows pivoted.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama Daily News – Mary Sell | Published: 8/20/2023
The Alabama House Ethics Committee will begin discussing possible changes to the state’s multiple ethics laws that apply to elected officials, government employees, and lobbyists. The committee will first review a 2019 report from the Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission, a group created by the Legislature to propose changes to existing ethics laws.
CalMatters – Sameea Kamal | Published: 8/23/2023
State boards are backing a bill to continue the exemptions from California’s open meetings law. An unusual coalition of good government, press, taxpayer, and industry groups is fighting back. Senate Bill 544 seeks to remove requirements to post all teleconference locations, post agendas at each location, and make those locations accessible to the public. The bill’s opponents – a rare coalition of good government, press, taxpayer. and industry groups – say Californians should be able to address their government officials in person.
MSN – Dakota Smith and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/23/2023
When the city council voted down a proposed appointment to the city Ethics Commission, it all happened quickly and quietly. No one on the council offered a reason for the swift, and some say brutal, unanimous vote rejecting Jamie York. But after days of complaints from York’s allies and neighborhood council leaders, the explanations have come tumbling out.
MSN – Adam Elmahrek, Nathan Fenno, and Gabriel San Román (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/16/2023
Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu agreed to plead guilty to four criminal charges, capping a years-long investigation into alleged corruption that led to his resignation and scuttled the city’s $320 million sale of Angel Stadium. The charges against Sidhu include lying to FBI agents about not expecting to receive anything from the Angels when the transaction closed – secret recordings captured him saying he hoped to secure a $1-million campaign contribution – and destroying an email in which he provided confidential information about the city’s negotiations to a team consultant.
MSN – Alfred Ng (Politico) | Published: 8/18/2023
One of the world’s largest advertising firms is crafting a campaign to thwart a California bill intended to enhance people’s control over the data that companies collect on them. Records show Interpublic Group emails reveal how an advertising company could use that same personal data and targeting capabilities to undermine a public policy proposal that threatens its bottom line.
Yahoo News – Stephanie Zappelli (San Louis Obispo Tribune) | Published: 8/19/2023
California Assemblyperson Dawn Addis was fined for accepting a campaign contribution from a lobbyist. When Addis ran for the Assembly in 2019, her campaign accepted a $250 donation from lobbyist Steve Black. The Political Reform Act bans lobbyists from donating to candidates running for office, and candidates from accepting such contributions. Both Addis and Black said they were unaware of the ban.
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlik | Published: 8/23/2023
A trial judge threw out a lawsuit from the Colorado Union of Taxpayers over the state’s rules for advocating on ballot initiatives after finding the conservative advocacy group had not shown the government was likely to take enforcement action against it for failing to comply with the transparency regulations. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled the group had a reasonable fear of drawing a complaint about its spending without registering, and, therefore, had the ability to sue over the campaign finance law.
District of Columbia – D.C. Attorney General Is Probing Leonard Leo’s Network
MSN – Heidi Przybyla (Politico) | Published: 8/22/2023
District of Columbia Attorney General Brian Schwalb is investigating judicial activist Leonard Leo and his network of nonprofit groups. The scope of the probe+ is unclear. But it comes after it was reported that one of Leo’s nonprofits paid his for-profit company tens of millions of dollars in the two years since he joined the company. A complaint was filed with the attorney general and the IRS requesting a probe into what services were provided and whether Leo was in violation of laws against using charities for personal enrichment.
MSN – Skyler Swisher (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 8/22/2023
Glen Gilzean resigned as chairperson of the Florida Commission on Ethics so he can keep his $400,000-a-year job leading Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Disney World oversight district. In his resignation letter, Gilzean wrote he was unaware of a potential conflict-of-interest under state law until media reports flagged it.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/20/2023
Fundraisers for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hoped some lobbyists in the state would raise at least $1 million each for his PAC, the state, and the Republican Governors Association, according to a document from his primary fundraiser. The document suggested lobbyists be allowed to offer their clients perks, such as meals and rounds of golf with DeSantis. While it is common for politicians to seek donations from lobbyists, the efforts by DeSantis to effectively auction off his leisure time to those seeking to influence state policy created a special pathway of access for donors that is striking in the way it was documented in writing, ethics experts said.
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/15/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to dismantle a congressional district formerly held by a Black Democrat could be reversed according to a surprise agreement between lawyers for the state and civil rights groups challenging Florida’s map. Under the agreement the plaintiffs will drop their legal challenges to congressional districts in Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area, and focus arguments on the North Florida district they say violates state and federal voting rights protections for Black voters.
Yahoo News – Sarah Blaskey and Joey Flechas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/22/2023
The Florida Commission on Ethics is reviewing a complaint over Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s attendance at exclusive, high-priced sporting events since the start of 2022. The complaint asks ethics officials to investigate Suarez’s VIP access to various events, including the Miami Formula One race in May 2023, and whether somebody else paid. Suarez, who was invited along with his wife to this year’s race by a billionaire with business before the city, says he reimbursed the businessperson. He did not provide proof. If he did repay in full, the tickets would not be a gift and he would not have to disclose them.
MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/21/2023
A judge approved a $200,000 bond for former President Trump, who is expected to surrender on charges he and 18 allies illegally conspired to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia. The consent bond order sets strict rules for Trump’s release. He is not allowed to communicate with witnesses or co-defendants about the case, except through his lawyers, and he is barred from intimidating witnesses or co-defendants.
WBEZ – Tessa Weinberg | Published: 8/16/2023
As the Chicago City Council enters its 100th year under its modern form, some aldermen, good government advocates, and political science experts say despite incremental progress, the council still has institutional inertia to overcome before it can operate independently from the historical grip the mayor’s office has held. Proposals include altering the council’s structure, more robustly staffing fiscal and legislative agencies, and a wholesale reset on Chicago’s municipal governance by codifying reforms in a city charter.
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 4/19/2023
Newly unsealed court records provide insight into how law enforcement justified an unusual raid of the office of a Marion, Kansas, newspaper, a decision that has drawn widespread condemnation from news organizations and press freedom advocates. The Marion County Sheriff’s office said it was investigating “identity theft” and “unlawful acts concerning computers” when it searched the offices of the Marion County Record, the home of the paper’s publisher Eric Meyer, and the home of a local city council member – seizing computers, cell phones, and other materials, according to search warrant affidavits.
Louisville Public Media – Roberto Roldan | Published: 8/20/2023
Metro Councilperson Anthony Piagentini was an early supporter of a plan by the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council to train hundreds of entry-level workers and build an “innovation corridor” in the city. But when the $40 million project came up for a final vote in December, Piagentini abstained and removed himself as a co-sponsor without explanation. It was later found he took a job with the Healthcare CEO Council one day after the metro council approved funding. Piagentini faces an ethics board hearing in the case.
Baltimore Brew – Mark Reutter | Published: 8/23/2023
Baltimore Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy issued an unusual memorandum recently. Titled “Attempted Bribes,” it informed her staff that “City of Baltimore employees are not permitted to accept bribes.” Kennedy listed the processing of permits, performing building inspections, issuing housing code violations, and acquiring and disposing of property as potential interactions where bribes could take place. Her memo came on the heels of an alert by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming, which found building inspectors were not sure what to do when they were offered cash or gift cards.
MSN – Lia Russell (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 8/16/2023
In the three years since its inception, Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan’s office has gone from three people toiling in a small windowless room to doubling its staff size and budget. That was the main message of its annual report, summarizing what Madigan’s office has accomplished during the previous fiscal year. The office is charged with rooting out fraud, misconduct, and waste within county government.
WXYZ – Staff | Published: 8/22/2023
The former mayor of Taylor, Michigan, is facing years in prison after entering into a plea agreement in a federal corruption case. Sollars admitted to bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds by accepting things of value to influence and reward business transactions related to the city’s Right of Refusal program. The indictment said Sollars accepted over $30,000 in renovations to his home, more than $12,000 worth of household appliances and cabinets, cash, and other items to give a company city business.
Omaha World-Herald – Lauren Wagner and Molly Ashford | Published: 8/23/2023
A federal judge rejected a third attempt by former Omaha City Councilperson Vincent Palermo to be released from custody. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart said there was no reason to allow Palermo to be released after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge recently. She also had concerns about Palermo obstructing justice if released. Palermo admitted to conspiring with his co-defendants to deprive the citizens of Omaha of honest representation by their city council member.
MSN – Matt Arco, Brent Johnson, and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/21/2023
Two longtime advisers to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, including one who is poised to run for the state Assembly in the fall, were once the subject of a federal subpoena seeking records related to them and their consulting and lobbying firms. In the subpoena, federal prosecutors requested the recipient to present emails and documents to or from Brendan Gill, his public affairs consulting firm, The BGill Group, and the lobbying firm he is affiliated with, Public Strategies Impact. The subpoena, issued in February 2020, also sought similar documents and emails to and from Adam Alonso, Murphy’s former deputy chief of staff.
New Jersey – Democrat Challenging Testa Is Ghosting the Campaign
Press of Atlantic City – Bill Barlow | Published: 8/23/2023
Charles Laspata filed petitions in the spring to challenge incumbent New Jersey Sen. Michael Testa, It does not appear that Laspata has done much about the campaign since then. Democratic leaders in Cape May and Cumberland counties say they have not heard from Laspata, and attempts to contact him through email, social media, and by phone have been unsuccessful. The website of the Election Law Enforcement Commission does not show any of Lasopata’s required campaign finance forms have been filed for the primary election.
Yahoo News – Colleen Heild (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 8/17/2023
Some provisions of a New Mexico campaign finance law limiting the amount of money state political parties can give are unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled. The court enjoined the state from enforcing its $11,000 limit on contributions from state political parties to gubernatorial candidates or candidate committees; its $5,500 limit per election cycle for all other candidates; and the state’s $5,500 cap from state political parties to county parties. The judge upheld a $27,500 cutoff on donations from individuals and entities to state political parties.
North Carolina – N.C. Republican Bill Limits Mail Voting, Private Election Funding
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 8/17/2023
Republicans in North Carolina passed election administration legislation that curtails absentee voting, empowers partisan poll watchers, and restricts private funding for elections. Voting rights advocates and Democrats have warned the measure, which passed both chambers in the Legislature along party lines, erodes access to the ballot in the battleground state. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to veto the legislation, but Republicans can overturn his decision because they have veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers.
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 8/23/2023
With funding of critical concern, trouble appears to be on the horizon for Oklahoma’s electronic campaign filing system. In a letter to lawmakers and Gov. Kevin Stitt, outgoing state Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said the system needs an upgrade or replacement. She suggested that going back to paper filings would be an option.
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 8/21/2023
A nonprofit led by Orego’s public employee unions filed two ballot measure proposals that contain an end-run strategy aimed at defeating a proposal that campaign finance reformers have been working to qualify for the ballot to cap contributions and shed light on “dark money.” The two measures that Our Oregon filed to get on the ballot in 2024 would similarly limit the size of donations, but they would allow unions, business associations, and other membership organizations to continue sending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to candidates.
WTAJ – Rebecca Parsons | Published: 8/23/2023
A new bill in Pennsylvania aims to increase transparency in elections by requiring campaigns and campaign organizations to itemize reimbursements on campaign finance reports. “… Donors give to campaigns with the expectation that their funds are going to be used for legitimate campaign expenditures and they deserve to know specifically how that money is being spent …,” said Rep. Jamie Barton, the bill’s sponsor.
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 8/23/2023
Rhode Island’s First Congressional District race has delved into matters of climate change, defense spending, and education, but a less familiar issue is emerging as the campaign enters its final two weeks: “red-boxing.” Lt .Gov. Sabina Matos, one of 12 Democrats in the race, has accused rival Aaron Regunberg of lying about publishing information on his campaign website that she claims was aimed at helping a super PAC boost his candidacy. Regunberg in turn has accused Matos and other candidates of posting information intended for super PACs backing their campaigns.
Charleston Post and Courier – Skylar Laird | Published: 8/17/2023
Former Richland County Councilperson Gwen Kennedy used her county taxpayer money to buy groceries, as well as “double dip” on travel expenses, and buy gas multiple times on the same day, a South Carolina Ethics Commission attorney said. Kennedy also misused campaign funds while running for county council, failed to file a number of required disclosures, and violated several other state ethics laws, commission General Counsel Courtney Laster said.
MSN – Annie Todd (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 8/17/2023
State Sen. Jessica Castleberry announced her resignation after an investigation found she violated the South Dakota State Constitution by accepting federal funds for her small business. Castleberry will be required to repay the state $499,129 with interest after she accepted COVID-19 stimulus funds for her daycare. Attorney General Marty Jackley said none of the money was spent inappropriately and went toward Department of Social Services-approved expenditures. He did not say why it took three years for someone to notice the expenditures.
MSN – Lauren McGaughy (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 8/18/2023
Thousands of pages of newly released documents purport to reveal the depth of the relationship between Ken Paxton and Nate Paul, the real estate developer at the center of the Texas attorney general’s impeachment case. The evidence goes to the heart of the impeachment allegations, that Paxton used his power to help Paul thwart a federal investigation into his business, which had been raided by the FBI in 2019, and Paul bribed Paxton by funding a home remodel and giving a job to a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair.
Seatte Times – Bob Brunner | Published: 8/19/2023
After months of resistance, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson disclosed the donors behind more than $1.2 million in surplus campaign funds from past years he shifted to his 2024 gubernatorial bid. Ferguson pumped the cash into his campaign in April and May, getting ahead of a state Public Disclosure Commission vote that aimed to close the loophole allowing such anonymous transfers, which critics said violate the spirit of campaign finance laws.
MSN – Scott Bauer (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 8/23/2023
Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature asked that the newest Democratic-backed justice on the state Supreme Court recuse herself from lawsuits seeking to overturn GOP-drawn electoral maps, arguing she has prejudged the cases. Republicans argue in motions filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court that Justice Janet Protasiewicz cannot fairly hear the cases because during her campaign for the seat she called the Republican-drawn maps “unfair” and “rigged” and said there needs to be “a fresh look at the gerrymandering question.”
August 21, 2023 •
Campaign Finance New Mexico: “Judge Tosses Parts of NM Campaign Finance Law” by Colleen Heild for Albuquerque Journal Elections National: “Democratic Group Plans $10 Million Push to Protect Election Officials” by Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) for DNyuz North Carolina: “N.C. Republican Bill Limits Mail […]
August 18, 2023 •
National/Federal ‘Biased.’ ‘Corrupt.’ ‘Deranged.’ Trump’s Taunts Test Limits of Release. Buffalo News – Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan, and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 8/16/2023 After eight years of pushing back at a number of institutions in the U.S., Donald Trump […]
Buffalo News – Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan, and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 8/16/2023
After eight years of pushing back at a number of institutions in the U.S., Donald Trump is now probing the limits of what the criminal justice system will tolerate and the lines that District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan sought to lay out about what he can say about the election interference case she is overseeing. He has waged a similarly defiant campaign against others involved in criminal cases against him. Some lawyers have said if Trump were an ordinary citizen issuing these attacks, he would be in jail by now. The question is whether Trump will face consequences for this kind of behavior ahead of a trial.
Business Insider – Peter Syme | Published: 8/15/2023
New evidence that prosecutors want to use against Sam Bankman-Fried details how one high-ranking FTX executive knew his boss’s political donations were designed to gain favorable influence in Washington D.C. The FTX founder gave nearly $40 million to Democrats and PACs during last year’s midterm elections. Although prosecutors have put that number as high as $100 million because they say Bankman-Fried funneled millions of dollars more through FTX executives. Prosecutors say the donations were funded by money taken from FTX customers.
MSN – Ryan Tarinelli (Roll Call) | Published: 8/10/2023
An appellate court panel heard arguments about a lower court ruling that would restrict the Biden administration’s ability to interact with social media companies on content moderation. An injunction, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has paused for now, would block various federal government entities from contacting in any form social media companies to remove content with “protected free speech.” The panel, which reserved its most probing questions for the Justice Department, did not indicate when it might rule.
MSN – Tierny Sneed (CNN) | Published: 8/13/2023
It is undeniable that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s friendships with billionaires willing to foot his bill on their vacations together have given the conservative jurist a lifestyle most Americans could only dream of. But determining whether Thomas violated ethics rules and laws by failing to disclose that hospitality is tricky. The law in question is the Ethics in Government Act, and how it should be applied to the extravagant travel that Thomas and other justices have been treated to has been a subject of debate.
The Hill – Zach Schonfeld and Mychael Schnell | Published: 8/16/2023
Samuel Miele, a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. George Santos, was indicted on allegations he had impersonated a top aide to a member of House leadership while soliciting donations for Santos’s campaign. Miele is charged with four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. While court documents do not identify the impersonated aide’s name or the lawmaker they work for, a complaint filed with the FEC accused Miele of impersonating Dan Meyer, who previously served as chief of staff to Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The Hill – Rebecca Beitsch | Published: 8/16/2023
Special counsel Jack Smith sought to review former President Trump’s direct messages, draft tweets, and location information as his office battled for information related to his account on X, formerly known as Twitter. Newly unsealed court records offer more detail about what prosecutors were looking for when they subpoenaed records related to the Twitter account in January, a request granted by the court.
Yahoo News – J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 8/12/2023
There is an expanding campaign by conservatives across the country to limit the power of Democratic prosecutors who have promised to reform the criminal justice system, or else to oust the prosecutors altogether. More than two dozen bills have been introduced in 16 states to limit prosecutors’ power, mostly in Republican-controlled states. Several of those bills have become law. Despite attacks on their policies and attempts to blame them for rising crime, progressive prosecutors have continued to win many elections.
Yahoo News – Ali Swenson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/10/2023
The FEC began a process to potentially regulate AI-generated deepfakes in political ads ahead of the 2024 election, a move advocates say would safeguard voters against a particularly insidious form of election disinformation. The FEC’s unanimous procedural vote advances a petition asking it to regulate ads that use artificial intelligence to misrepresent political opponents as saying or doing something they did not, a stark issue that is already being highlighted in the current Republican presidential primary.
Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 8/11/2023
Donald Trump’s legal problems are not just piling up – his legal bills are, too. New financial reports show the former president’s various political committees and the super PAC backing him have used roughly 30 cents of every dollar spent so far this year on legal-related costs. The total amounts to more than $27 million in legal fees and other investigation-related bills in the first six months of 2023. The new disclosures revealed the remarkable degree to which Trump’s political and legal cash are intermingled, much like his own political and legal fate.
From the States and Municipalities
MSN – Canadian Press | Published: 8/15/2023
The federal government has remained without a conflict-of-interest and ethics watchdog for more than six months, a vacancy that the most recent commissioner says is putting investigations on hold and could allow violations to go unnoticed. Mario Dion retired in February after serving as the last permanent commissioner. Martine Richard took on an interim role in April. But she resigned within weeks because of controversy over the fact she is the sister-in-law of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 8/14/2023
Alabama Republicans were ordered by a federal court to redraw their congressional maps to ensure there were two majority-Black districts. They did not. Instead, they are going back to the same federal court after the Supreme Court weighed in, this time to argue their attempts at coming up with a new map are good enough. Plaintiffs argued the new districts plainly do not meet the court’s standards, and Republicans were engaging in political gamesmanship by ignoring the court and drawing lines that would still only present Black voters the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choosing in one district.
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 8/7/2023
With efforts by one set of foes already rebuffed, Arizona’s top Republican lawmakers are making their own bid to quash a new state law designed to shine a light on “dark money.” In a new court filing, Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma contend Proposition 211 infringes on the constitutional right of the Legislature to make laws. They want Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Frank Moskowitz to override what voters approved just last year.
Mission Local – Joe Eskenazi | Published: 8/15/2023
Former San Francisco Planning Commission member Frank Fung admits he contracted with a city entity while serving as a city officer and faces a five-digit fine. Fung, a 20-year city appointee who served on the Planning Commission until June 2022, agreed to a settlement in which he will pay $24,200.
MSN – Michael Slaten and Tony Saavedra (Orange County Register) | Published: 8/10/2023
Investigators in Anaheim found deep levels of coordination between PACs and former Mayor Harry Sidhu’s campaign in 2018, a possible violation of state election laws. Investigators from JL Group said former Core Strategic Group Chief Executive Officer Jeff Flint and former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Todd Ament ran many campaign meetings for Sidhu while also coordinating spending through independent expenditures.
California – Oakland Lobbyists Must Pay to Play, Officials Say
Oaklandside – Eli Wolfe | Published: 8/10/2023
Oakland requires lobbyists to register and disclose basic information about who is employing them, how much they are paid, and who in the city they contacted. The Public Ethics Commission agreed to send the city council several recommendations to change to the lobbying law. The commission wants to carve out some exceptions to lobbyist registration fees. They want to grant a fee waiver to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations with less than $750,000 in annual revenue, and a reduction for small businesses with less than $200,000 in annual revenue.
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 8/14/2023
Industry groups and wealthy activists have figured out how to use California;s direct democracy system in ways that are changing how policy is made, prompting pushback from unions and others. Like never before, the business of lawmaking in Sacramento is intertwined with a ballot initiative industry that churns through hundreds of millions of dollars each cycle, and policy battles loop from the Legislature to the streets back to the Legislature again.
San Francisco Standard – Eddie Sun | Published: 8/15/2023
Bay Area Rapid Transit Board President Janice Li agreed to a $5,275 fine for failing to register as a lobbyist for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The coalition’s former executive director, Brian Wiedenmeier, was also named in the complaint. Li served as the nonprofit’s advocacy director from 2015 to 2022. The two qualified as “contact lobbyists” under local law because they reached out to city officials about coalition business at least five times a month.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 8/9/2023
Anaheim leaders give out hundreds of free tickets every year to events at Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, but a new investigation into alleged corruption found the city has failed to stop those tickets from going into the hands of special interests for years. While the city has a policy that requires city leaders to state a reason for giving out tickets, investigators from the JL Group noted there is no penalty for violating that policy, and it is easy to circumvent.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 8/16/2023
Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken’s proposed reforms to safeguard against corruption fell apart as her city council colleagues criticized an independent investigation and significantly softened every one of the mayor’s reform recommendations. Independent investigators put together a scathing report that alleges “pay-to-play” conspiracies, misconduct, a misuse of federal COVID dollars, and outsized influence by Disneyland resort interests on City Hall.
Florida – State Appeals Lobbying Decision
Citrus County Chronicle – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 8/14/2023
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody appealed a federal judge’s ruling that blocked part of a state constitutional amendment imposing new lobbying restrictions. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom issued a permanent injunction against a restriction on state and local officials lobbying other government bodies while in office. Bloom said the restriction violated First Amendment rights. The state separately requested a stay that would lead to the injunction only applying to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rene Garcia while the appeal moves forward.
WFSU – Margie Menzel | Published: 8/15/2023
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board agreed to continue discussions on why the number of lobbyists registered with the city has plummeted. Critics say there is a loophole to evade that registration, which would require reporting one’s clients and fees.
Yahoo News – Romy Ellenbogen (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/14/2023
The head of Florida’s ethics commission may have violated one of the commission’s own rules. Glen Gilzean, the chairperson of the Florida Commission on Ethics, was appointed in 2019 by Gov. Ron DeSantis. But Gilzean in May also took on another role, as the new administrator of the DeSantis-controlled Central Florida Tourism Oversight district, a special district formerly that governs Walt Disney World and two surrounding cities. State law says members appointed to the state ethics commission may not “hold any public employment.”
Yahoo News – Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 8/15/2023
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is using the state’s version of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to go after former President Trump, who along with 18 of his allies was indicted on charges of participating in a wide-ranging conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. One power of RICO is that it often allows a prosecutor to tell a sweeping story, not only laying out a set of criminal acts but identifying a group of people working toward a common goal, as part of an “enterprise,” to engage in patterns of illegal activities.
Yahoo News – Ryan Suppe (Idaho Statesman) | Published: 8/11/2023
A judge ruled Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador had a “notable conflict of interest” when his office began investigating officials with the state Department of Health and Welfare over how it distributed federal child-care grants. The health officials were the attorney general’s clients, and a lawyer under Labrador had advised them the grants in question were legally distributed.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 8/15/2023
Former Ald. Howard Brookins will not have to pay a $5,000 fine for violating the city’s ethics law by defending clients in criminal cases involving the Chicago Police Department. Brookins sued the Board of Ethics after it unanimously levied the fine against him, saying it had no authority to stop him from serving as a criminal defense attorney in Chicago.
Seattle Times – Steven Lee Myers and Benjamin Mullins (New York Times) | Published: 8/13/2023
A small Kansas police department is facing criticism for raiding a local newspaper’s office and the home of its owner and publisher, seizing computers and cellphones, and, in the publisher’s view, stressing his 98-year-old mother enough to cause her death. The searches appeared to be linked to an investigation into how a document containing information about a local restaurateur found its way to the local newspaper — and whether the restaurant owner’s privacy was violated in the process. The editor of the newspaper said the raids may have had more to do with tensions between the paper and officials in the town of Marion over prior coverage.
Yahoo News – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 8/10/2023
Tim Sheehy, who is rung for the U.S. Senate in Montana, plans to steer a portion of the revenue from his forthcoming memoir to an industry group that lobbies federal lawmakers, adding to existing conflict-of-interest questions surrounding the wealthy first-time candidate. Candidates for office occasionally release books to help burnish their image and tell their story, and sitting lawmakers sometimes draw hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside income from book deals. But Sheehy’s book release poses unique conflict-of-interest questions, given his apparent plans for the revenue.
MSN – Abby Turner and Andrew Kaczynski (CNN) | Published: 8/12/2023
Sam Brown, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Nevada, created a PAC to “help elect Republicans” but most of its funds were spent paying down debt from his failed previous campaign. The group donated less than seven percent of its funds to the candidates it was set up to support, a move one campaign finance expert likened to using the PAC as a “slush fund.”
This Is Reno – Kristin Hackbarth | Published: 8/15/2023
The Washoe County Board of Commissioners heard the first reading of a new ordinance that would require compensated lobbyists to register with the county. The policy, which some said was overdue, was modeled after Reno’s lobbying policy and is similar to others in Clark County, Las Vegas, and Henderson. It would require anyone who receives anything of value to communicate with county commissioners on behalf of someone else on any issue to register with the county.
New Mexico – New Ethics Complaint Targets Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 8/16/2023
A new ethics complaint accuses New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of violating state law by leveraging his power as a legislator for financial gain and to seek sexual favors. Much of the complaint centers on Ivey-Soto’s employment by an organization that serves county clerks throughout New Mexico, an arrangement it says is a conflict-of-interest, given his dual role as a legislator who crafts election laws the clerks must carry out.
Santa Fe New Mexican – Daniel Chacón | Published: 8/10/2023
In a defeat for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who unilaterally stopped the Human Services Department from awarding Medicaid contracts worth billions of dollars to providers who had followed the state’s procurement process and scored the highest bids, the department will move forward with the winning bidders after all. The decision is part of a settlement agreement the state Ethics Commission reached with the governor and the department.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 8/14/2023
A New York appellate court dismissed a lawsuit filed last year by Gary Levine, a former commissioner for the state’s now-dismantled Joint Commission on Public Ethics, accusing Andrew Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, of defamation for suggesting he had leaked confidential information to the press about Cuomo’s dealings with the ethics panel. The appellate court found Glavin’s letter constituted a “statement of opinion” when she urged the inspector general’s office to launch an investigation of Lavine.
MSN – Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 8/14/2023
The judge in Donald Trump’s Manhattan hush-money criminal case rejected the former president’s demand to step aside, denying defense claims that he is biased against Trump because he has given money to Democrats and his daughter is a party consultant. Judge Juan Manuel Merchan acknowledged he made several small donations to Democratic causes during the 2020 campaign, including $15 to Joe Biden, but said he is certain of his “ability to be fair and impartial.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 8/8/2023
Ten Republican and Independent senators who participated in a six-week walkout during the 2023 legislation session spring will not be allowed to run for reelection, Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced. Oregonians overwhelmingly voted last year to create consequences for legislative walkouts via Measure 113. But the decision drew a promise of a court challenge from GOP lawmakers, who have said the measure was so sloppily worded they are technically allowed to serve another term before consequences for a walkout begin.
Willamette Weekly – Nigel Jaquiss | Published: 8/14/2023
Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced that her office will now publish a searchable list of campaign finance violations monthly. Other states have long made such data public, informing voters which candidates posted contributions and expenditures late or incorrectly. The former elections director, Deborah Scroggin, pushed for Oregon to publish such violations throughout 2022, but then-Secretary of State Shemia Fagan and her top managers delayed the launch.
Yahoo News – Annie Todd (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 8/15/2023
Gov. Kristi Noem issued an executive order that contracts issued by the state include a clause to guard against conflict-of-interest if a state lawmaker is about to enter into a contract that could violate the South Dakota Constitution. According to the state constitution, lawmakers are prohibited from being either directly or indirectly interested in any contract with the state or county during their term in office and one year after.
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 8/11/2023
Former Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey was sentenced to 21 months in prison for directing a scheme to funnel state campaign funds to his failed 2016 congressional race. His co-defendant in the scheme, Josh Smith, owner of The Standard Club, a Nashville restaurant frequented by Republican lawmakers, netted five years of probation, a $250,000 fine, and 720 hours of public service. Smith reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors last November and was prepared to testify against Kelsey.
MSN – Juan Lozano (Associated Press) | Published: 8/15/2023
A judge called a new law unconstitutional that passed in the Republican-led Texas Legislature and will dictate how elections are run in the state’s most populous county, which is a Democratic stronghold and home to Houston. The law, which would abolish a position that oversees elections in Harris County, was temporarily blocked by state District Court Judge Karin Crump after county officials filed a lawsuit. But the judge’s order was put on hold after the state attorney general’s office filed a notice it will appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.
MSN – Stacy Parker (Virginian-Pilot) | Published: 8/15/2023
A vacant lot near Naval Air Station Oceana that is owned by a state senator could soon become a temporary laydown area for Dominion Energy’s $10 billion wind farm project. The Virginia Beach Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval. Sen. Bill DeSteph owns more than $250,000 of stock in Dominion Energy and has voted on legislation that affects electric and other utilities.
Yahoo News – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 8/15/2023
The county board meeting in Wausau, Wisconsin, on August 12, 2021, got contentious fast. What happened about 12 minutes in, as members of the community squabbled over a resolution intended to promote diversity and inclusion, has become the subject of a bitter legal fight that threatens to bankrupt one of the few remaining sources of local news in the area. First Amendment experts say the case highlights a troubling trend of wealthy and powerful people using defamation law as retribution.
August 15, 2023 •
Campaign Finance California: “Report: Anaheim PACs, campaigns coordinated in 2018 mayor race, possibly violating law” by Michael Slaten and Tony Saavedra (Orange County Register) for MSN Nevada: “Nevada GOP Senate Candidate Raised Money to Help Other Candidates – the Funds Mostly Paid […]
California: “Report: Anaheim PACs, campaigns coordinated in 2018 mayor race, possibly violating law” by Michael Slaten and Tony Saavedra (Orange County Register) for MSN
Nevada: “Nevada GOP Senate Candidate Raised Money to Help Other Candidates – the Funds Mostly Paid Down His Old Campaign’s Debt Instead” by Abby Turner and Andrew Kaczynski (CNN) for MSN
National: “Appeals Court Weighs Order on Social Media Content Moderation” by Ryan Tarinelli (Roll Call) for MSN
Georgia: “Trump Charged in Georgia 2020 Election Probe, His Fourth Indictment” by Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
Idaho: “‘Conflict of Interest’: Idaho AG gave officials legal advice, then investigated them” by Ryan Suppe (Idaho Statesman) for Yahoo News
Kansas: “Raid of Small Kansas Newspaper Raises Free Press Concerns” by Steven Lee Myers and Benjamin Mullins (New York Times) for Seattle Times
New York: “Team Cuomo Notches Legal Win as Court Dismisses Defamation Claim” by Brendan Lyons for Albany Times Union
Alabama: “Alabama Republicans Defend Not Creating a Second Majority Black District in Court” by Zach Montellaro (Politico) for Yahoo News
August 11, 2023 •
National/Federal FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Still Slapped with Campaign Finance Charge, Prosecutors Say ABC News – Aaron Katersky and Max Zahn | Published: 8/8/2023 Federal prosecutors signaled their intention to hold cryptocurrency executive Sam Bankman-Fried accountable for alleged campaign finance violations despite […]
ABC News – Aaron Katersky and Max Zahn | Published: 8/8/2023
Federal prosecutors signaled their intention to hold cryptocurrency executive Sam Bankman-Fried accountable for alleged campaign finance violations despite dropping the charge on a technicality. Prosecutors accused Bankman-Fried of seeking influence in Washington and in state capitals by improperly using customer and investor money to make political donations.
Associated Press News – Alanna Durkin Richer | Published: 8/9/2023
Special counsel Jack Smith’s team obtained a search warrant in January for records related to Donald Trump’s Twitter account, and a judge levied a $350,000 fine on the company for missing the deadline to comply. Smith’s team repeatedly mentioned Trump’s tweets in an indictment that charges the former president with conspiring to subvert the will of voters and cling to power after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.
DNyuz – Shane Goldmacher, Maggie Astor, and Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 8/7/2023
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s transformation from Donald Trump’s most loyal lieutenant to an indispensable, if reluctant, witness for his prosecution became clear when he emerged as perhaps the central character in an indictment accusing the former president of a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. The indictment revealed Pence kept contemporaneous notes on the tumultuous period leading up to January 6, 2021. “You’re too honest,” Trump berated Pence as he refused to go along with the election plot, according to the indictment.
MSN – Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2023
U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon asked prosecutors to explain the use of grand juries in Florida and Washington in the classified documents case against Donald Trump even though charges were filed in South Florida. For many months, prosecutors questioned witnesses in the Florida case before a federal grand jury in Washington. The proceedings yielded much of the evidence at the crux of the case. But in May, the grand jury activity appeared to continue in Miami. Ultimately, prosecutors filed charges in a West Palm Beach courthouse in the same district as Miami and the area where Trump’s home is located.
MSN – Sabrina Rodriguez (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2023
A co-founder of March for Our Lives and the campaign manager who helped elect the first Gen Z member of Congress are teaming up to launch a new organization focused on getting more young progressives elected to office, primarily focusing on state lawmakers. Leaders We Deserve aims to help young people running for state Legislatures and Congress by providing candidates they endorse with the campaign knowledge – from fundraising to networking – and money to win.
MSN – Steve Contorno and Kit Maher (CNN) | Published: 8/8/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis replaced campaign manager Generra Peck, ending speculation about her future leading his struggling White House bid and continuing a shakeup of his presidential campaign. In her place, DeSantis chose James Uthmeier, the chief of staff for his gubernatorial office, a trusted adviser known in Florida as an enforcer of DeSantis’s agenda. The latest move reflects a campaign still grasping for solutions to build support and recapture momentum of when DeSantis was surging after a dominant performance in his gubernatorial reelection.
MSN – Madison Hall (Business Insider) | Published: 8/8/2023
The FEC’s inspector general found Commissioner Trey Trainor did not commit any ethics violations after he participated in an “election integrity” event where he was labeled as a member of the “Trump Elections Team.” The inspector general said while it may appear he acted improperly, his billing was written without his knowledge, undermining “any appearance of impropriety.” The report notes Trainor and his counsel refused to cooperate with the government’s investigation.
MSN – Michael Scherer and Isaac Arnsdorf (Washington Post) | Published: 8/5/2023
A super PAC funding much of Ron DeSantis’s presidential effort has become a joint investor with his campaign in a private transportation management company that provides lower-cost airplane leases for the Florida governor. The unusual agreement, which allows both the DeSantis campaign and the Never Back Down to lease planes in a larger volume at lower market rates, is another way DeSantis and his allies have found to use unlimited donations to help cover the cost of activities historically borne directly by official campaigns.
MSN – Amy Gardner, Patrick Marley, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2023
Donald Trump’s defenders have long insisted his false elector scheme was legal because the slates met as mere placeholders, to be activated only if the campaign won in court. Prosecutors now charge that Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and others intended all along to use the electors to falsely claim the outcome of the election was in doubt, facilitating an effort to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in Congress on January 6, 2021. Especially important may be the experience in Pennsylvania, where new interviews reveal the extent of discomfort with the plan by Trump electors.
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2023
A federal judge ordered a hearing over prosecutors’ demand that former President Trump keep government evidence turned over in his criminal election interference case secret until trial, as the two sides clashed anew over whether permitting Trump to discuss the case would taint potential jurors or intimidate witnesses. Prosecutors said they wanted to turn over evidence to speed the defense’s trial preparations but were concerned about Trump’s history of posting on social media about “witnesses, judges, attorneys and others” associated with cases against him.
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/3/2023
Justice Elena Kagan said the Supreme Court, which has faced criticism over lavish, undisclosed free travel by some of her colleagues, is struggling to devise an ethics policy despite continued discussion. The criticism stems from expensive trips taken years ago by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. underwritten by wealthy business executives and not disclosed in required annual financial reports. Kagan provided fresh insight into the struggle to craft a policy distinct from the ethics code that applies to other federal judges.
ProPublica – Brett Murphy and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 8/10/2023
During Clarence Thomas’s three decades on the Supreme Court, a cadre of industry titans and ultrawealthy executives have treated him to vacations aboard their yachts, ushered him into the premium suites at sporting events, and sent their private jets to fetch him – including, on more than one occasion, an entire 737. It is a stream of luxury that is both more extensive and from a wider circle than has been previously understood.
Seattle Times – Carl Hulse (New York Times) | Published: 8/8/2023
Proposals to censure lawmakers and impeach members of the Biden administration are piling up quickly in the U.S. House in an illustration of how once-solemn acts are becoming almost routine as the two parties seize on these procedures as part of their political combat. The proliferation of censures and cries for impeachment is troubling to some who see it as a threat to the standing of the institution as well as diminishing the weight such punishments are supposed to carry. Censure is the congressional penalty just below expulsion.
Yahoo News – Liz Champion (Politico) | Published: 8/9/2023
Ten state lawmakers nationwide switched parties in 2023. That includes six who jumped from one of the major parties to the other. In 2022, by contrast, just two state lawmakers changed affiliation between the Democrats and Republicans. The uptick in party transitions this year speaks to the growing polarization and party feuding inside state Capitols. In some states that saw allegiance flips, it had huge bearing on what legislation passed.
Yahoo News – Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 8/9/2023
When WinRed, the company that processes nearly all online Republican campaign contributions, recently released its trove of donor data for the first half of the year, contributions were conspicuously absent for one presidential candidate: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. It was no technical glitch. The DeSantis campaign worked with WinRed in a way that prevented the disclosure of donor information, ensuring the campaign’s small donors would remain anonymous.
Yahoo News – Jo Becker and Julie Tate (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2023
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s Prevost Marathon cost $267,230, according to title history records. Thomas, who has told friends how he scrimped and saved to afford the motor coach, did not buy it on his own. In fact, the purchase was underwritten, at least in part, by Anthony Welters, a close friend who made his fortune in the health care industry. He provided Thomas with financing that experts said a bank would have been unlikely to extend, not only because Thomas was already carrying a lot of debt, but because the Marathon brand’s high level of customization makes its used motor coaches difficult to value.
From the States and Municipalities
Anchorage Daily News – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 8/3/2023
The Alaska Department of Law is proposing rules that would allow the state to represent a governor, lieutenant governor, or attorney general in complaints against them alleging ethics violations. Currently, they must hire outside attorneys to represent them in such matters. Under the proposed rules, those officeholders could decline representation by the department and hire their own attorneys if they wished.
MSN – Mary Jo Pitzl (Arizona Republic) | Published: 8/7/2023
The interim director of the Maricopa County Democratic Party said he launched an investigation into the party’s handling of a $24,000 business deal that has led to accusations of cronyism, altered postal records, and cover-ups. The deal appeared to be intended to benefit the former executive director’s fiancé. The party spent $24,480 for a mass mailing before the November 2022 election. But the mailer never reached the mailboxes of the 118,000 Democrats for whom it was intended, and the money was only refunded months later, after the party’s attorneys demanded repayment.
MSN – Michael Slaton (Orange County Register) | Published: 8/8/2023
Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken announced her plans for the city council to start discussing several new reforms in the wake of the release of an independent investigation into corruption at City Hall, including several changes focused on transparency. “The release of last week’s independent report confirmed the wrongdoing that many suspected was going on for years,” Aitken said in a news release. “… Restoring transparency and public confidence will take time, and reforms will likely come in stages.”
MSN – Michael Slaton and Tony Saavedra (Orange County Register) | Published: 8/2/2023
Independent investigators hired by Anaheim said they found numerous potential violations of the city’s lobbying laws in the last decade, in what they described as a “pattern of behavior” by lobbyists. A report on corruption highlighted former Mayor Curt Pringle and Jeff Flint, the former chief executive of Core Strategic Group, saying they failed to report their lobbying activity to the city clerk, which investigators said was potentially a crime of perjury. To combat the issues described in their report, investigators recommended Anaheim create a city ombudsman/ethics officer, whose duties would include monitoring the lobbying reports submitted.
San Jose Spotlight – Jana Kadah | Published: 8/4/2023
In San Jose, when you leave a job working for the city you are barred from lobbying anyone at City Hall for at least two years. But a handful of ex-employees are exceptions to the rule. The latest example is Allie Hughes, a former staffer for San Jose Councilperson David Cohen. She recently left the city to work as a lobbyist for Canyon Snow Consulting. City Attorney Nora Frimann recommended the exemption, citing Hughes’ limited time with the city.
MSN – Laura Meckler (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2023
After days of confusion, the Florida education commissioner said high schools may teach Advanced Placement Psychology without running afoul of Florida law, including material on sexual orientation and gender identity. Commissioner Manny Díaz Jr. had told districts previously that the class could be offered, but only if material on those topics was excluded. Large school districts across Florida responded by dropping the course and began a stressful process of quickly preparing instructors to teach new curriculum.
Yahoo News – Charles Frazier (WFTV) | Published: 8/9/2023
A former Kissimmee city commissioner who was accused of entering a 2022 race for the Osceola County Commission as a “ghost candidate” was sentenced to jail for campaign finance violations. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, their investigation into Carlos Irizarry’s campaign began when they were notified of allegations that he was offered money to enter the race only to affect the outcome by taking votes from opposing candidate Jackie Espinosa.
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/9/2023
A federal judge struck down a Florida law that restricted state and local officials lobbying other government bodies while in office. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom sided with officials who argued the language in a 2018 ballot measure was too broad and poorly defined to comply with First Amendment protections on free speech. Bloom left intact another portion of the law that bans elected and appointed government officials from lobbying the agencies they represented for six years after leaving them.
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/6/2023
As the federal investigation into then-House Speaker Michael Madigan was heating up two years ago, prosecutors assured Tim Mapes, Madigan’s onetime chief of staff, would not be charged as long as he told the truth to a grand jury. But prosecutors allege Mapes lied repeatedly in his testimony in an ill-fated attempt to protect his longtime boss. Now, Mapes, a key member of Madigan’s inner circle, is on trial on perjury charges. His indictment marked an intriguing power play by the U.S. attorney’s office in what has become one of the biggest political corruption scandals in state history.
Yahoo News – Jason Alatidd (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 8/3/2023
A Kansas lawmaker wants to rewrite conflict-of-interest laws in response to a state employee bidding on and winning a consulting contract. Paul Hughes, the former Commerce Department deputy secretary, formed Catapult Kansas while still employed by the state. He then bid on a consulting contract – he was the only bidder – and was awarded the contract for $180,000 a year.
The Center Square – Christian Wade | Published: 8/3/2023
Maine voters will have a say in whether foreign corporations should be allowed to spend money to sway the outcome. Supporters say the ballot question is aimed at eliminating a loophole in state law that allows foreign governments to spend money on referendum campaigns. Foreign entities cannot contribute to political candidates under both federal and state election laws.
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 8/3/2023
Stefanie Lambert Junttila, a pro-Trump attorney who challenged 2020 election results across the country, was charged with four felonies stemming from an alleged plot to illegally access Michigan voting machines. Lambert Junttila is the third suspect indicted by a grand jury in special prosecutor D.J. Hilson’s probe of the alleged tampering scheme. Matthew DePerno, the 2020 Republican nominee for state attorney general, was charged along with former state Rep. Daire Rendon.
Yahoo News – Wicker Perlis (Jackson Clarion-Ledger) | Published: 8/4/2023
The treasurer for the lieutenant governor campaign of state Sen. Chris McDaniel is under investigation by the office of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. A press release did not mention the McDaniel campaign directly, naming Thomas Datwyler, a Wisconsin-based political consultant who serves as the campaign treasurer, and Invest in Mississippi, a PAC Datwyler created in July. It is against the law for campaigns and PACs to coordinate or communicate with each other.
MSN – Taylor Avery (Las Vegas Review-Journal) | Published: 8/9/2023
Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo plans to appeal a recent state ethics board decision that found he violated the law by using his sheriff’s badge and uniform during his campaign for governor. Ethics Commission members voted to fine Lombardo $20,000 and censure him for four violations of state law barring the use of government time, property, or equipment for personal use.
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/7/2023
The New Jersey Supreme Court said candidates who do not hold elected office can be charged under the state’s public official bribery laws. The court sided with state officials by ruling candidates do not need to win elections to be subject to the “plain words” of the bribery statute. The law was challenged by Jason O’Donnell, a former state lawmaker and candidate for mayor of Bayonne, who allegedly accepted $10,000 in cash from an individual in exchange for the promise to appoint them as tax counsel for the city.
New York – Hochul’s Husband Is Leaving Delaware North
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 8/4/2023
William Hochul Jr., New York’s first gentleman, is departing his position as senior vice president and general counsel at Delaware North, a job that had led to a number of thorny issues for the governor. Hiswork at the high-powered gaming company has led to Gov. Kathy Hochul to recuse herself from matters that veer too close to that sector, including recent negotiations with the Seneca Nation over a contentious gaming compact.
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 8/7/2023
We Decide New York, a small but devoted group of mostly older women, banded together online to defend then-Gov Andrew Cuomo from a cascade of sexual misconduct claims that led to his resignation in August 2021. But it turns out the group’s online activity had secretly been ordered by someone even closer to the former governor’s cause: Madeline Cuomo, his sister. Documents give unusual insight into how far members of one of America’s most storied political families were willing to go to rehabilitate a fallen scion and humiliate those they believed had wronged him.
MSN – Molly Crane-Newman, Graham Rayman, and Chris Sommerfeldt (New York Daily News) | Published: 8/9/2023
Howard Redmond, who as an New York City Police Department inspector who oversaw for Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family’s around-the-clock security, pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from his work for City Hall. Assistant District Attorney Samantha Dworken said Redmond admitted to ignoring investigators and then hiding and deleting evidence. The two-year probe found de Blasio’s bodyguards operated like glorified chauffeurs, flying in the face of city ethics laws barring public servants from using city resources for personal benefit.
MSN – Toluse Olorunnipa, Rachel Roubein, and Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2023
Ohio voters rejected a ballot measure that would have made it more difficult to amend the state constitution ahead of a November vote to ensure access to abortion. The issue of abortion has become a rare consistent source of electoral victories for Democrats over the past year. The result in Ohio, coming after voters in other Republican-leaning states like Kentucky and Kansas also rejected GOP efforts to restrict abortion, underscores how the issue has already reshaped the political landscape for 2024, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said.
Ohio Capital Journal – Marty Schladen | Published: 8/8/2023
In early 2019, news of financial ties between FirstEnergy and the man incoming-Gov. Mike DeWine named to lead the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio began to spread. As it did, FirstEnergy’s top executives feared they would not have a regulator they could control, according to court documents. As it happened, the nominee, Sam Randazzo, ended up being appointed to the commission after being paid $4.3 million by FirstEnergy. He proceeded to help draft a law providing the utility with a $1.3 billion bailout.
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 8/7/2023
Oregon lawmakers will ask voters to weigh in on big questions in 2024, including how voting will work, whether lawmakers should be able to impeach top officials, and whether elected officials should receive raises. Before the legislative session ended in June, lawmakers voted to send three proposed laws to voters on their November 2024 ballots. More referrals could be coming. A majority of Democratic legislators support an effort to change quorum requirements for the House and Senate to prevent future walkouts like the one that just stalled the Legislature for six weeks.
MSN – Andrew Jeong (Washington Post) | Published: 8/3/2023
Two Tennessee Democrats who were expelled from the state Legislature in April over their participation in a gun-control protest won back their seats. Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones easily defeated their Republican opponents in districts that lean Democratic. Pearson won more than 90 percent of the votes. Jones received more than 75 percent.
MSN – Meagan Vazquez (Washington Post) | Published: 8/10/2023
A coalition of civil rights organizations and Tennessee residents filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s recently enacted congressional and state Senate redistricting plans, asserting the state violated the U.S. Constitution by diluting the voting power of African Americans and other voters of color in the state. The plaintiffs argue the plan unfairly fractured the power of Black voters and other minority voters in the Nashville and Memphis areas.
MSN – Ella McCarthy (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 8/5/2023
A recent appointee to the Austin Ethics Review Commission is married to a current city council member. The commission conducts hearings and makes rulings on complaints alleging violations of the provisions within the commission’s jurisdiction, including complaint against city council members. Mayor Kirk Watson does not believe there are any legal or ethical concerns with the appointment, and Councilperson Paige Ellis and Espinoza feel their marriage will not affect Espinoza’s actions on the commission.
August 4, 2023 •
National/Federal Trump Aide Carlos De Oliveira’s Journey from Failed Witness to Defendant MSN – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/28/2023 Carlos De Oliveira was indicted along with Donald Trump and Walt Nauta, all three accused of […]
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/28/2023
Carlos De Oliveira was indicted along with Donald Trump and Walt Nauta, all three accused of seeking to delete security footage at Mar-a-Lago that the Justice Department was requesting as part of its classified documents investigation. De Oliveira’s actions at Mar-a-Lago, and later statements to federal investigators, shows how the longtime Trump employee has become a key figure in the investigation, one whose alleged actions could bolster the obstruction case against the former president.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 7/29/2023
Former President Trump’s political group spent more than $40 million on legal costs in the first half of 2023 to defend Trump, his advisers, and others, financing legal work that has drawn scrutiny from prosecutors about potential conflicts-of-interest between Trump and witnesses. While interviewing potential witnesses associated with Trump, prosecutors have raised pointed questions about who is paying for their lawyers and why.
MSN – Paul Farhi (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2023
Haunted by a sense that the news is relentlessly toxic, once-loyal readers and viewers have been gradually ebbing away, posing a persistent threat to the news business. Researchers say “news avoidance” could be a response to an age of hyper-information. Digital media has made news ubiquitous and instantly available from thousands of sources representing every ideology, geography, and language. Much of it, people say, drives feelings of depression, anger, anxiety, or helplessness.
MSN – Caroline Anders (Washington Post) | Published: 7/29/2023
A federal judge dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit against CNN, in which the former president said the network defamed him by associating him with Adolf Hitler. Trump argued by using the phrase the “big lie” in reference to his unfounded claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, the network created an unfair association between him and the Nazi regime. Hitler and Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels used the term as a propaganda tool that involved repeating a falsehood until the public started to believe it.
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, Perry Stein, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2023
A grand jury indicted former President Trump for a raft of alleged crimes in his brazen efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, the latest legal and political aftershock stemming from the riot at the U.S. Capitol. The charges represent the third indictment of the former president filed since March, setting the stage for one of the stranger presidential contests in history, in which a major-party front-runner may have to alternate between campaign stops and courtroom hearings over the next year.
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2023
When Donald Trump was indicted and accused of trying to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election, he found himself in the unenviable company of defendants charged under a criminal statute dating to the Reconstruction era. The statute, Section 241 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, was originally adopted as part of the Enforcement Act of 1870. It was the first in a series of measures known as the Ku Klux Klan Acts designed to protect rights guaranteed by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 8/2/2023
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. started a flurry of conversation among judicial and congressional experts when he expressed a self-proclaimed “controversial view” that Congress does not have “the authority to regulate the Supreme Court – period.” Those experts generally agree that such a broad comment on its face is not correct, since Congress does have authority to regulate the court’s docket, budget, and even how many justices there are. But the specifics get trickier when it comes to whether Congress has the authority to pass a code of ethics for the Supreme Court, which congressional Democrats have pushed for this year.
MSN – Mike McIntire (New York Times) | Published: 7/30/2023
Long before the National Rifle Association (NRA) tightened its grip on Congress and won over the Supreme Court, U.S. Rep. John Dingell Jr. had a plan. It would transform the NRA from an outdated club of sportsmen into a lobbying juggernaut that would enforce elected officials’ allegiance, derail legislation behind the scenes, and redefine the legal landscape. Dingell was one of at least nine senators and representatives who served as leaders of the NRA, often prodding it to action. At seemingly every hint of a legislative threat, they stepped up, documents show, helping erect a firewall that impedes gun control today.
Seattle Times – Rebecca Davis O’Brien, and Alexandra Berzon (New York Times) | Published: 7/28/2023
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott has more campaign money than most of his Republican presidential rivals, and he has not been shy about spending it. Where that money is ultimately going, however, is a mystery. Scott spent about $6.6 million from April through June but most of it cannot be traced to an actual vendor. Instead, roughly $5.3 million went to two shadowy entities: newly formed limited liability companies with no online presence and no record of other federal election work. Their business records show they were set up by the same person in the months before Scott entered the race.
Yahoo News – Tracey Tully (New York Times) | Published: 8/1/2023
U.S. Robert Menendez is under investigation by the Justice Department for the second time in less than a decade, and this time, his wife is also in prosecutors’ sights. The new inquiry appears to be focused at least in part on the possibility that either the senator or his wife received undisclosed gifts from a company run by a friend of Menendez, and those gifts might have been given in exchange for political favors. Unlike her husband, Nadine Menendez has lived a mainly private life.
From the States and Municipalities
CalMatters – Sameea Kamal and Jeremia Kimelman | Published: 8/3/2023
An analysis shows local governments, water districts, and transit agencies in California have spent nearly $24 million on lobbying the state this year, accounting for about 10 percent of the more than $233 million total. Not all local government agencies lobby the state, but those that do tend to want to influence policies. They also seek more money from the state budget. Some national research shows the advocacy pays off as cities that do lobby receive between seven percent and 9 percent more per person in state funding than those that do not.
California – By Several Measures, the FPPC Is Outnumbered
Capitol Weekly – Brian Joseph | Published: 8/1/2023
The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) finds violations of the Political Reform Act in a few different ways, through complaints filed with the agency by members of the public, referrals from other agencies, proactive cases agency staff see in the media, and through a limited number of audits of disclosures by staff. Ann Ravel, a former FPPC chairperson, said that in a “perfect world,” the agency would have the resources and staff to proactively review many more disclosures filed with the state.
MSN – Christopher Cadelago and Melanie Mason (Politico) | Published: 8/2/2023
A ballot initiative likely to come before California voters next year would overhaul the state’s open records law, forcing unprecedented scrutiny into lobbying activities at the Capitol, and ensuring sexual harassment allegations against lawmakers are public. Bob Stern, who co-authored the state’s political reform law in 1974, reviewed the proposed measure and pointed to support from the public in further scrutinizing lawmakers’ interactions with lobbyists as well as more information into legislative probes.
MSN – Nathan Fenno and Gabriel San Román (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/31/2023
An outside investigation into alleged corruption in Anaheim detailed Disneyland area resort interests improperly steering City Hall policymaking. The report noted numerous lobbyist meetings that were not reported as required and raised concerns about the close relationship between the city and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. It characterized former Mayor Harry Sidhu’s Anaheim First initiative as “nothing more than a fig leaf for potential future public corruption and the wrongful diversion of public funds.”
San Francisco Examiner – Adam Shanks | Published: 7/28/2023
San Francisco’s ethics watchdog was spared the significant reductions to its budget first proposed by Mayor London Breed. The budget agreement finalized by the board of supervisors and Breed restored $2.3 million to the commission’s funding. While the money is only a small portion of the city’s budget, supervisors and ethics panel leaders stressed the importance of its work, particularly given that 2024 is a major election year.
Broward.US – Anthony Man (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) | Published: 7/26/2023
The Fort Lauderdale commissioners who welcome Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi are reimbursing the soccer team. The Fort Lauderdale leaders, along with elected officials from Miami-Dade County, were hosted by the team in a VIP area at DRV PNK Stadium for the event. Some were able to talk with and get pictures with the new player and team co-owner David Beckham. City Attorney D’Wayne Spence said those who attended should pay. He also cited state law requiring commissioners to report gifts worth more than $100 and a prohibition on accepting gifts from lobbyists or vendors.
Seattle Times – Sarah Mervosh (New York Times) | Published: 7/28/2023
When Florida set out to revamp its standards for teaching Black history this spring, a natural place to turn would have been the state’s African American History Task Force. The volunteer task force – a group of Black educators, Democratic politicians, and community leaders, appointed by the commissioner of education – has helped shape African American history instruction in Florida for more than two decades. But in updating educational standards to comply with a new law that limits how racism and other aspects of history can be taught, state officials largely bypassed the task force.
Yahoo News – Jeffrey Schweers (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 7/28/2023
If it had not been for a fender bender on Interstate 75 near Chattanooga, Tennessee, most folks would not know Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was using state government vehicles for his 2024 run for president. The collision draws a curtain back on the campaign’s use of state resources. But finding out who is paying for it is nearly impossible thanks to a new law passed by the Legislature to protect the governor’s travel records from public view.
Yahoo News – Jeff Burlew (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 8/3/2023
Last year, 29 individuals registered to lobby city commissioners and staff in Tallahassee. They paid their annual $25 registration fees and disclosed their clients and interests. But so far this year, only six lobbyists have signed up, marking a 77 percent year-to-date drop and an all-time low in registration numbers since the city’s lobbying ordinance was enacted in 2011. The anemic registration numbers raise questions about the effectiveness of the city’s lobbying ordinance and point to the possibility of unregistered lobbyists skirting requirements.
DNyuz – Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 7/31/2023
A Georgia judge forcefully rejected an effort by former President Trump to throw out evidence collected by a special grand jury and to remove the current prosecutor from the investigation into Trump’s attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney seemed to have little patience for the arguments from Trump’ legal team and suggested Trump’ lawyers were gumming up the legal process with frivolous filings.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Chad Blair and Patti Epler | Published: 8/2/2023
Despite a new law banning fundraising during the legislative session in Hawaii, it did not halt the flow of campaign donations to many state senators and representatives. A review of the latest campaign finance disclosures illustrates major special interests continue to give generously to lawmakers, especially those who wield a lot of power.
Yahoo News – Jason Alatidd (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 7/30/2023
A top economic development employee at the Kansas Department of Commerce bid on and won a $180,000 a year contract to consult for the agency. State officials maintain there was no conflict-of-interest in awarding the consulting contract to Paul Hughes, whose contract went into effect two weeks before he left his government job. While Hughes was still employed by the state, he formed his own company, Catapult Kansas LLC. He then bid on and was awarded a contract to consult for the Commerce Department on megaprojects.
Yahoo News – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 7/28/2023
Often, if a person incurs a low-level violation of the state’s campaign finance or lobbying laws such as filing the required reports late, they will ask the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission to waive or lower the fine associated with that offense. While some factors, such as an illness or an inability to pay the fine, almost always result in a waived or reduced fee, other times relatively similar cases see disparate outcomes. Now, the agency is taking a look at its policies to ensure it remains fair.
Maryland Daily Record – Madeleine O’Neill | Published: 7/31/2023
The onetime treasurer for a Baltimore County political slate who admitted to embezzling tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds will serve six months in jail. William McCollum stole money from the Baltimore County Victory Slate and the finance committee of former Baltimore County Councilperson Cathy Bevins. He was accused of stealing funds through direct payments to pay his personal credit card bill and by depositing checks made out to the fund or to vendors into his personal bank account.
MSN – Patrick Marley and Aaron Schaffer (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2023
A former Michigan lawmaker and a losing candidate for state attorney general were charged with felonies as part of an investigation into the improper acquisition of voting machines. Special prosecutor D.J. Hilson has been looking into efforts by a group of conservatives to persuade election clerks to give them voting machines as they attempted to prove the 2020 presidential election had been wrongly called for Joe Biden. The group never turned up any proof, and courts in dozens of cases across the country ruled the election was properly decided.
MSN – Henry Gomez (NBC News) | Published: 8/3/2023
Tim Sheehy is running in one of the country’s most competitive U.S. Senate races while also running an aerial firefighting company that is heavily dependent on federal contracts. Bridger Aerospace has explicit rules about political contributions and activities. Employees are not permitted to engage in politics while on company time. There are also rules requiring legal reviews and approval before company funds can be spent on behalf of candidates or campaigns. Officials with Bridger and the Sheehy campaign did not directly address questions about how the candidate is complying with corporate accountability measures.
Nebraska Examiner – Paul Hammel | Published: 7/28/2023
The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission hired a long-time staffer as its new executive director. David Hunter, who has worked for the commission since 2000, will succeed Frank Daley, who is retiring in September.
Nevada Independent – Carly Sauvageau | Published: 7/30/2023
The Nevada Commission on Ethics was thrust into the spotlight when it decided Gov. Joe Lombardo violated state ethics laws by wearing a sheriff’s badge in campaign ads and was issued a $20,000 fine – the largest ever since the commission’s creation in 1975 – as well as a censure. City councils to county commissions, public officers, and employees in the executive branch are overseen and occasionally investigated by the commission.
New Jersey – Brindle Will Retire from Top ELEC Post
New Jersey Globe – David Wildstein | Published: 7/31/2023
Jeff Brindle, the executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, will retire. Brindle’s decision comes more than five months after Gov. Phil Murphy had sought to oust Brindle from his post earlier this year over an email sent to a staffer last fall that mocked National Coming Out Day. He will leave at the end of the year. Brindle is suing Murphy and some top aides over their bid to force him out.
Yahoo News – Dan McKay (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 8/1/2023
A PAC agreed to pay a $1,000 civil penalty and disclose its financial activity in a new report after New Mexico’s independent ethics agency accused it of violating campaign finance laws in a 2022 legislative race. The New Mexico Values PAC disclosed just $2,500 in contributions and spending. But the ethics panel said it is unlikely the PAC fully disclosed its activity.
Spectrum News – Nick Reisman | Published: 7/27/2023
Republicans in the New York General Assembly are challenging a pending limit on the amount of money state lawmakers can earn outside of their jobs as elected officials. The lawsuit seeks to strike down the $35,000 cap, set to take effect in early 2025. Lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul approved a legislative pay raise from $110,000 to $142,000 last year.
North Carolina – Inside the Party Switch that Blew Up North Carolina Politics
Seattle Times – Kate Kelly and David Perlmutt (New York Times) | Published: 7/30/2023
Rep. Tricia Cotham’s win in the November general election for the North Carolina House helped Democrats lock in enough seats to prevent, by a single vote, a Republican supermajority in the chamber. Three months after Cotham took office in January, she delivered a mortal shock to Democrats and abortion rights supporters. She switched parties and then cast a decisive vote to enact a 12-week limit on most abortions, the state’s most restrictive abortion policy in 50 years.
North Carolina – ‘Sophisticated Scam’ Nabs $50k from Stein’s Gubernatorial Campaign
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 7/31/2023
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s gubernatorial campaign was the victim of a “sophisticated scam” that cost the candidate’s operation about $50,000. A campaign finance filing, breaking down donations and expenses from the first six months of 2023, lists a $50,438.77 expense in January identified as a “fraudulent wire transfer payment.”
Yahoo News – Jazper Lu (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 7/30/2023
Some North Carolina lawmakers attended the 50th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The politically conservative organization regularly convenes state legislators from around the U.S., mostly Republicans, with private sector representatives to write and publish “model bills,” draft legislation that can then be used by anyone. Historically, some North Carolina policies have gone on to form the building blocks for ALEC model legislation. Several of the state’s lawmakers have served in top ALEC leadership positions.
Missouri Independent – Zachary Roth and Morgan Trau | Published: 8/2/2023
Ohioans over the last century have used the state’s ballot initiative process to pass constitutional amendments that raised the minimum wage, integrated the National Guard, and removed the phrase “white male” from the constitution’s list of voter eligibility requirements. Now, lawmakers want to make it much tougher for an initiative to be approved. Opponents of the effort, who are leading in the polls, say doing so would undermine democracy. Whoever prevails, the verdict could reverberate far beyond the Buckeye State, as other states eye limits on ballot initiatives.
Yahoo News – Zach Schonfeld (The Hill) | Published: 8/1/2023
A state judge in Pennsylvania ruled an election worker cannot sue former President Trump over statements he made sowing doubt in the 2020 election results while in office, finding the statements are protected by presidential immunity. Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Erdos said Trump was immune for a tweet he issued and comments he made remotely from the White House during a Pennsylvania Senate committee hearing. The statements, made without evidence, claimed fraud in Pennsylvania’s election count.
MSN – Dylan McGuinness (Houston Chronicle) | Published: 8/2/2023
A dozen candidates running for elected positions in Houston failed to file required campaign finance reports in July, continuing a sloppy reporting period for the slate of candidates hoping to lead the city. The omissions account for nearly one in five of candidates running in the November elections, after about 25 percent failed to file the mandatory reports in January as well. Top mayoral contenders also had to refund contributions from those who exceeded the city’s cap and from prohibited city contractors.
MSN – Dylan Baddour (Inside Climate News) | Published: 8/1/2023
When an oil company sought pollution permits in Texas to expand its export terminal beside Lavaca Bay, a coalition produced an analysis alleging the company, Max Midstream, underrepresented expected emissions to avoid a more rigorous permitting process and stricter pollution control requirements. In response, Max Midstream claimed the groups and citizens involved had no right to bring forth a challenge because they lived more than one mile from the Seahawk Oil Terminal. But the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says the one-mile test cited by the company’s lawyers does not exist.
MSN – Kai Uyehara (Kitsap Sun) | Published: 7/28/2023
Washington Rep. Tarra Simmons was cited by a state legislative ethics board for accepting pay for speaking at Vanderbilt University about her experience as an incarcerated woman, an inspiring personal history that has been widely documented but ran afoul of rules when it was entwined with Simmons’ role as an elected official. Simmons said she was unaware of the state rules before accepting $1,000 for a 2021 speech. She was ordered to return the money and fined $250, which was waived by the state ethics board.
ABC News – Scott Bauer (Associated Press) | Published: 8/2/2023
A lawsuit asks Wisconsin’s newly liberal-controlled state Supreme Court to throw out Republican-drawn legislative maps as unconstitutional, the latest legal challenge of many nationwide that could upset political boundary lines before the 2024 election. The lawsuit asks that all 132 state lawmakers be up for election that year in newly drawn districts. In Senate districts that are midway through a four-year term in 2024, there would be a special election with the winner serving two years. Then the regular four-year cycle would resume in 2026.
July 28, 2023 •
National/Federal Senate GOP Leader McConnell Briefly Leaves News Conference After Freezing Up Midsentence Associated Press News – Mary Clare Jalonick | Published: 7/26/2023 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell briefly left his own press conference after stopping his remarks midsentence and staring off […]
Associated Press News – Mary Clare Jalonick | Published: 7/26/2023
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell briefly left his own press conference after stopping his remarks midsentence and staring off into space for several seconds. McConnell was out of the Senate for almost six weeks earlier this year after falling and hitting his head. He was hospitalized for several days, and suffered a concussion and fractured a rib. His speech has sounded more halting in recent weeks, prompting questions among some of his colleagues about his health.
DNyuz – David Yaffe-Bellany and Matthew Goldstein (New York Times) | Published: 7/27/2023
Federal prosecutors pursuing the criminal case against the cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried said they were dropping a charge that he violated campaign finance rules. Bankman-Fried was charged with fraud and campaign finance violations after the collapse of his company, FTX. He was extradited to the U.S. from the Bahamas, where FTX was based. But prosecutors said they had been informed by officials in the Bahamas the nation’s government had not intended to extradite Bankman-Fried on the campaign finance charge.
DNyuz – Steve Eder, Abbie Van Sickle, and Elizabeth Harris (New York Times) | Published: 7/27/2023
In recent months, media reports have highlighted a lack of transparency at the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the absence of a binding ethics code for the justices. The reports included Justice Clarence Thomas’s travels and relationships with wealthy benefactors. The justices’ book deals are not prohibited under the law, and income from the advances and royalties are reported on annual financial disclosure forms. But the deals have become lucrative for the justices, including for those who have used court staff members to help research and promote their books.
DNyuz – Grace Ashford (New York Times) | Published: 7/26/2023
In the years since U.S. Rep. George Santos first ran for the House in 2020, he has become adept at finding ways to extract money from politics. He founded a political consulting group that he marketed to other Republicans. He sought to profit from the Covid crisis, using campaign connections. He also solicited investments for and from political donors, raising ethical questions. A review of his political career found several previously unreported examples of how he sought to use the connections he made as a candidate for public office to enrich himself.
MSN – Jeremy Merrill and Hanna Kozlowska (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2023
While the legitimacy of the gold retirement investment industry is the subject of numerous lawsuits, including allegations of fraud by regulators, its advertising has become a mainstay of right-wing media. The industry spends millions of dollars a year to reach viewers of Fox, Newsmax, and other conservative outlets. For years, gold IRA industry advertising has echoed accusations against Democratic politicians commonly found in news segments on conservative outlets. The ads tout the coins as a safe haven from economic uncertainty and social upheaval.
MSN – Michael Macagnone and Mary Ellen McIntire (Roll Call) | Published: 7/25/2023
There is a series of courtroom redistricting battles playing out in about a dozen states. Some new maps could be drawn in time to change the electoral landscape in 2024, when Democrats need a net gain of five seats to take control of the House. But others may still be facing challenges as that election goes forward. One attorney said drawing new districts just once a decade after the census comes out is almost passé, and ongoing litigation is the new normal.
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 7/20/2023
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that would place new transparency rules on U.S. Supreme Court filings, place new recusal standards on the justices, and require the court to adopt a code of ethics. The party-line vote came as Democrats said Congress must act because reports about undisclosed gifts and travel received by justices had stained the institution. Republicans called the measure an attack on the legitimacy of a conservative-controlled court that has ruled in ways Democrats do not like.
MSN – Taylor Giorno (The Hill) | Published: 7/21/2023
K Street’s top lobbying firms reported strong earnings in a quarter marked by uncertainty. Lobbyists said they have been hard at work on some of the must-pass bills in the 118th Congress, including the National Defense Authorization Act, the Federal Aviation Authorization, and the Farm Bill reauthorization. Against the backdrop of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the narrowly avoided debt ceiling crisis, the Biden administration has pushed for new regulations. Lobbyists say Biden’s regulators push is driving a significant amount of their work.
MSN – Melissa Quinn (CBS News) | Published: 7/21/2023
The federal judge in Florida overseeing the Justice Department’s case against former President Trump over his alleged mishandling of sensitive government documents has set a date for his trial to begin in May 2024. The Justice Department had requested the trial start by mid-December of this year, but Trump’s legal team pushed back, arguing instead for the proceedings to begin after the 2024 presidential election. The May 20 date means the trial will take place toward the end of the Republican presidential primaries.
MSN – Sophia Nguyen (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2023
Less than a month before the Smithsonian’s Asian American Literature Festival was to begin, staffers prepared what they considered to be a routine memo discussing programs involving “potentially sensitive issues” they knew the host institution would want to be aware of in advance. Among the matters cited in the mem: a panel about book bans, and two events featuring queer, trans, and nonbinary writers. Hours later, the acting director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Pacific American Center, Yao-Fen You, informed organizers she decided to cancel the entire festival because of “unforeseen circumstances.”
MSN – David Ovalle (Washington Post) | Published: 7/24/2023
The political maelstrom swirling around coronavirus vaccines may be to blame for a higher rate of excess deaths among registered Republicans in Ohio and Florida during the coronavirus pandemic. The new study underscores the partisan divide over coronavirus vaccines that have saved lives but continued to roil American politics even as the pandemic has waned. Yale University researchers found registered Republicans had a higher rate of excess deaths than Democrats in the months following when vaccines became available for all adults in April 2021.
Yahoo News – Charlie Mahtesian and Madi Alexander (Politico) | Published: 7/21/2023
In state after state, fast-growing, traditionally liberal counties with colleges are flexing their electoral muscles, generating higher turnout and ever greater Democratic margins. They have already played a pivotal role in turning several red states blue and they could play an equally decisive role in key swing states next year. Name the flagship university and the story tends to be the same. If the surrounding county was a reliable source of Democratic votes in the past, it is a landslide county now.
Yahoo News – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 7/25/2023
Republican lobbyists on K Street are not rushing to back Donald Trump in his third run for the White House. But they are not rallying in full force behind an alternative either. While some lobbyists are doling out cash, others are fearful any type of public opposition to the former president could make them persona non grata in Washington should he get back to the White House.
From the States and Municipalities
MSN – Amanda Coletta (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2023
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is in a high-stakes showdown with Google and Meta, accusing them of unfairly profiting at the expense of Canadian news outlets and of using “bullying tactics” to intimidate officials. At issue Canada’s Online News Act, which aims to shore up a struggling media industry by requiring tech firms to compensate domestic news publishers for the content shared on their platforms.
National Public Radio – Jeff Amy and Kim Chandler (Associated Press) | Published: 7/21/2023
Alabama refused to create a second majority-Black congressional district, a move that could defy a recent order from the U.S. Supreme Court to give minority voters a greater voice and trigger a renewed battle over the state’s political map. State lawmakers faced a deadline to adopt new district lines after the Supreme Court in June upheld a three-judge panel’s finding that the current state map, with one majority-Black district out of seven in a state that is 27 percent Black, likely violates the Voting Rights Act.
Arizona Capitol Times – Howard Fischer (Arizona Capitol Services) | Published: 7/25/2023
Rebuffed in their bid to totally quash a voter-approved ban on “dark money,” two organizations involved in trying to influence Arizona politics are now trying to at least get themselves and their donors exempted from its provisions. In new legal filings, attorney Scott Freeman again argues Proposition 211 and its requirement for disclosure of the true source of campaign money violates state constitutional provisions guaranteeing free speech and privacy. Those claims, first filed last year, were rejected by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott McCoy.
MSN – Adam Elmahrek, Gabriel San Román, and Nathan Fenno (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/25/2023
The role of powerful business interests in Anaheim – home to Disneyland Resort and Angel Stadium – has come under renewed scrutiny amid an ongoing federal corruption investigation that became public last year. FBI affidavits detail strong alliances between city leaders and several unelected power brokers. Jordan Brandman provided an insider’s look at how Anaheim was run from when he became a city council member in 2012 to when he stepped down in disgrace two years ago. His account and records describe relationships that went deeper than the typical transactional ties that often bind lobbyists and government officials.
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/21/2023
A federal judge sentenced a Los Angeles real estate developer to six years in prison for providing cash bribes to former city council member Jose Huizar, then attempting to hide the transaction from investigators. Dae Yong Lee was found guilty of giving $500,000 in bribes in exchange for the approval of a 20-story residential tower. He was also convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.
California – Oakland’s Democracy Dollars Delayed, But Not Dead
Oaklandside – Eli Wolfe | Published: 7/26/2023
Oakland residents will not receive Democracy Dollars to spend in the 2024 general election due to the budget. But the program’s supporters are determined to see a successful launch in 2026. Democracy Dollar, an initiative to level the campaign finance playing field, was overwhelmingly approved by voters last November. The measure called for giving every registered voter $100 in vouchers they could use to support candidates for city council, mayor, and other city offices.
Yahoo News – Matt Hamilton (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/24/2023
Marilyn Flynn, the former dean of the University of Southern California’s (USC) social work program who admitted to bribing Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in exchange for his help securing the renewal of a county contract, was sentenced to 18 months of home confinement. Flynn admitted she agreed to send $100,000 from USC to the United Ways of California, which was sponsoring a new nonprofit led by Ridley-Thomas’ son. The money from USC coincided with the donation of $100,000 to USC’s social work program from a political campaign associated with Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 7/22/2023
In 2016, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission decided a complaint against Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon warranted an investigation. Seven years later, Dunafon said he still does not know what he is being charged with. In the meantime, the Colorado Court of Appeals decided the commission’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over the city government in the Dunafon case had no basis in law. While it is unclear when the case might be resolved, the battle between the commission and the city and its mayor has so far cost Glendale taxpayers more than $2 million.
MSN – Kevin Sullivan and Lori Rozsa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2023
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is intensifying his efforts to de-emphasize racism in his state’s public school curriculum by arguing some Black people benefited from being enslaved and defending the new African American history standards that civil rights leaders and scholars say misrepresents centuries of reality. “They’re probably going to show that some of the folks that eventually parlayed … being a blacksmith into doing things later in life,” DeSantis said while standing in front of a nearly all-White crowd of supporters.
MSN – Anthony Man (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) | Published: 7/18/2023
Among the thousands of fans who packed Fort Lauderdale’s professional soccer stadium recently were prominent elected officials, who were hosted in a secure VIP area, where some were able to talk with and get pictures with Inter Miami’s new superstar player, Lionel Messi, and team co-owner David Beckham. The presence of the elected officials raised questions about what they were doing at the event. One Fort Lauderdale commissioner said it was improper for his colleagues to attend.
Yahoo News – Grethel Aguila (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/26/2023
Sophia Lacayo, a failed Miami-Dade Commission candidate, spent more than a million dollars challenging one of the county’s longest-serving politicians last year. Now, prosecutors allege some of that money was mishandled. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said the violations were “deliberate steps” to sidestep campaign finance laws.
MSN – John Wagner and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2023
Rudy Giuliani, who served as a lawyer for former President Trump, is no longer contesting as a legal matter that he made false and defamatory statements about two former Georgia election workers – but argues in a new court filing what amounted to false claims about vote-rigging in the 2020 presidential election was constitutionally protected speech and did not damage the workers. The filing is the latest twist in a lawsuit brought by Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, who counted ballots in Fulton County during the November 2020 election.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 7/25/2023
Inspector General Deborah Witzburg said her office’s decision to declare two high-profile Chicago politicians violated the city’s ethics laws should put elected officials on notice that she plans to step up efforts to hold rule breakers accountable. Witzburg vowed to pursue enforcement of Chicago’s ethics rules with “greater frequency and rigor than ever before – paying down the deficit of legitimacy at which the city operates by ensuring that people who break the rules are held accountable, regardless of their positions.”
Louisiana Illuminator – Michael Isaac Stein (Verite) | Published: 7/23/2023
Investigators hired by the New Orleans City Council last year to look into the now-abandoned “smart cities” project found evidence of potential contract-rigging, ethics violations, and perjury by city officials. The final product concluded that the consortium of businesses that was selected for the proposed contract, Smart+Connected NOLA, had an unfair advantage in the public bidding process, and undisclosed financial relationships compromised the integrity of the process.
MSN – Sean Cotter (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/25/2023
Boston City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson admitted to an ethics violation and agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for hiring and then giving raises to her sister and son. Fernandes Anderson said both of her family members were “amazing” employees who she would happily hire again if it were allowed.
MLive – Ben Orner | Published: 7/20/2023
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission cleared Commissioner Anthony Eid of any ethics violations after he left a position as deputy director of Michigan Voices, a nonprofit that had lobbied the commission. With questions of a conflict-of-interest dogging Eid, Commissioner Rebecca Szetela asked for a ruling regarding his employment. But at a recent meeting, Szetela’s item was pulled from the agenda after commission Chairperson Doug Clark announced Eid and Michigan Voices had mutually parted ways and the matter should be deleted from the agenda because it “has been taken care of.”
MSN – Torey Van Oot (Axios) | Published: 7/27/2023
Cryptocurrency contributions to state campaign committees are now explicitly allowed under a law that took effect recently in Minnesota. Under the new rules, campaigns must convert donations made via virtual currency to U.S. dollars within five days. The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board asked legislators to address crypto to get ahead of any potential issues as digital currencies grow in popularity, Executive Director Jeff Sigurdson said.
Las Vegas Sun – Casey Harrison | Published: 7/25/2023
The Nevada Commission on Ethics voted to censure and fine Gov. Joe Lombardo $20,000 for using his Clark County Sheriff uniform and badge while running for governor in 2022 but declined to levy the proposed fine. Commission Executive Director Ross Armstrong said each of the 34 social media posts in question violated two provisions of state law, or 68 violations in total, which left Armstrong to recommend the commission order Lombardo to pay a record $1.67 million civil fine, be censured by the body, and be compelled to establish an ethics officer within the governor’s office.
New Jersey Monitor – Dana DiFilippo | Published: 7/26/2023
The state’s election watchdog dismissed almost half its active investigations into reported campaign finance violations after legislators passed a controversial new law critics warned would weaken enforcement. The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) held its first meeting since its former commissioners resigned in protest over the new law, which Gov. Murphy signed in April. With four new commissioners appointed by Murphy recently, ELEC tossed 107 cases.
Yahoo News – Ashley Balcerzak (Bergen Record) | Published: 7/24/2023
Tony Teixeira, former chief of staff to the New Jersey Senate president, was sentenced to eight months of house arrest and three years of probation after pleading guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud. Teixeira admitted he conspired with political operative Sean Caddle to overcharge campaigns, PACs, and nonprofits for work done by Caddle’s consulting firms and split the proceeds. Kickbacks to Teixeira were concealed through cash and checks made out to Teixeira’s relatives.
Source New Mexico – Megan Gleason | Published: 7/24/2023
Lawmakers are gathering all over New Mexico to discuss priorities for the next legislative session. Much like the 2023 Legislature, some lobbyists still feel unsafe at these meetings around the state’s public servants. Very little has changed since the last session, despite calls for more safety and accountability measures for lawmakers. After a senator who has had allegations against him in the past for sexual misconduct presented all day long at an interim committee meeting, lobbyists are raising their voices again for change in the Legislature.
DNyuz – Karen Zraick (New York Times) | Published: 7/26/2023
A restaurateur who was a key witness in a public corruption investigation was sentenced to four years in prison, ending an episode that churned up allegations of endemic wrongdoing that stretched across New York City and one of its most populous suburban areas. Harendra Singh pleaded guilty to charges he bribed a former Nassau County executive, Edward Mangano. Singh also admitted trying to bribe former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, to get favorable treatment for a restaurant in Queens.
MSN – Jazper Lu (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 7/24/2023
In a recent interview, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore defended his years-long relationship with a state official, noting the employee in question does not report to him. Moore also pointed out that rules allow legislators to date members of their own staff. This does not mean such conduct does not come under scrutiny, however.
Seattle Times – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 7/22/2023
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez was elected to Congress last year as a Democrat and became one of only a small number of lawmakers in her party who periodically crosses over to vote with Republicans. Now, Gluesenkamp Pérez is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress, and Dean’s Car Care – the family business named for her husband – has become the target of vicious online trolling from the left. Negative online reviews of the business excoriate her for siding with Republicans on a bill to repeal President Biden’s student loan relief initiative.
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 7/25/2023
The Rhode Island Ethics Commission opened an investigation into whether Gov. Dan McKee violated state law when a lobbyist treated him to lunch at a high-end restaurant. The state Republican Party called into question a meal where statehouse lobbyist Jeff Britt and his clients – executives of Scout Ltd. – met with McKee and his fundraising chairperson, Jerry Sahagian. Britt said the meal cost $228, and he picked up the tab after Sahagian told him he “did not have the campaign credit card.”
Associated Press News – Jonathan Matisse and Travis Loller | Published: 7/21/2023
Tennessee has begun requiring felons who want their voting rights back to first get their full citizenship rights restored by a judge or show they were pardoned. Election officials say the step is required after a recent court ruling. But attorneys representing the state’s disenfranchised felons accuse officials of searching for ways to suppress Black voters.
Tennessee Lookout – Adam Friedman | Published: 7/26/2023
Amy Adams Strunk and her family own the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League. The family is wealthy by almost every standard except one – among sports owners. When they were almost two billion dollars shy of the cash needed for a new stadium in Nashville, the family turned to a strategy common for Tennessee businesses wanting help with a project. They hired a deep roster of lobbyists to convince lawmakers to raise taxes and fund their proposal with public dollars that those opposed to the stadium say could have been spent elsewhere.
July 26, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Arizona: “Two Organizations Trying to Influence State Politics Attempting to Get Exemptions for Prop 211 Disclosures” by Howard Fischer (Arizona Capitol Services) for Arizona Capitol Times New Jersey: “Former Top Aide to NJ Senate Leader Avoids Prison Time in Tax Evasion, […]
Arizona: “Two Organizations Trying to Influence State Politics Attempting to Get Exemptions for Prop 211 Disclosures” by Howard Fischer (Arizona Capitol Services) for Arizona Capitol Times
New Jersey: “Former Top Aide to NJ Senate Leader Avoids Prison Time in Tax Evasion, Wire Fraud Case” by Ashley Balcerzak (Bergen Record) for Yahoo News
California: “Marilyn Flynn, Ex-USC Dean in Corruption Case with Ridley-Thomas, Sentenced to 3 Years Probation” by Matt Hamilton (Los Angeles Times) for Yahoo News
California: “A Politician’s Downfall Reveals a Disney Exec and a Secret ‘Cabal’s’ Power Over Anaheim” by Adam Elmahrek, Gabriel San Román, and Nathan Fenno (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
Massachusetts: “Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson Admits to Ethics Violation, Pays Penalty in Connection to Hiring Relatives” by Sean Cotter (Boston Globe) for MSN
National: “How Right-Wing News Powers the ‘Gold IRA’ Industry” by Jeremy Merrill and Hanna Kozlowska (Washington Post) for MSN
Rhode Island: “RI Ethics Panel to Investigate Gov. McKee’s Free Lunch with Lobbyist” by Eli Sherman for WPRI
National: “Many Redistricting Redos Pending, but ’24 Election Outlook Unclear” by Michael Macagnone and Mary Ellen McIntire (Roll Call) for MSN
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