July 16, 2021 •
National/Federal An American Kingdom MSN – Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2021 There is growing Christian movement that is nondenominational, openly political, and has become an engine of former President Trump’s Republican Party. The ultimate mission is not just transforming […]
An American Kingdom
MSN – Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2021
There is growing Christian movement that is nondenominational, openly political, and has become an engine of former President Trump’s Republican Party. The ultimate mission is not just transforming individual lives but also reforming civilization itself, with a free-market economy, Bible-based education, church-based social programs, and laws curtailing LGBTQ rights. Strains of this thinking formed the basis of the Christian right and fueled the GOP for decades. What is new is the degree to which Trump elevated a network of leaders who in turn elevated him as God’s chosen president, a fusion that has secured the movement as a grassroots force within the GOP just as the old Christian right is waning.
As a High-Ranking Biden Aide Pushes Congress to Raise Inheritance Taxes, His Brother Lobbies Against It
MSN – Michael Scherer, Jeff Stein, and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2021
The brother and former business partner of a top White House adviser has been hired to lobby Democratic senators to oppose a central plank of President Biden’s legislative agenda that would raise taxes on the inheritors of large estates. Lobbyist Jeff Ricchetti is helping to lead an effort by a life insurance trade group to preserve current system. White House senior counselor Steve Ricchetti has at the same time been working against his brother’s efforts by championing Biden’s proposal on Capitol Hill.
Attorneys General in 4 States Looking into Online Fundraising Practices of Both Major Parties
MSN – Steve Thompson and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/8/2021
Attorneys general in four states are looking into the online fundraising practices of both major political parties. The practices being examined include the use of pre-checked boxes that lock in recurring donations from donors who may not intend to sign up for more than one contribution. WinRed, a fundraising platform for GOP committees and campaigns, asked a federal court to stop the investigations by the attorneys general of Minnesota, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York, arguing consumer protection statutes the attorneys general may try to enforce are preempted by federal law.
Exxon Lobbyists Paid the 6 Democrats Named in Sting Video Nearly $333,000
HuffPost – Alexander Kaufman | Published: 7/13/2021
Exxon Mobil lobbyist Keith McCoy listed six Democrats the company saw as key allies to push its legislative agenda in the U.S. Senate in a secretly recorded sting video from Greenpeace UK. New analysis of campaign disclosures found U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly, Maggie Hassan, Joe Manchin, Chris Coons, Kyrsten Sinema, and Jon Tester received a combined total of nearly $333,000 from lobbyists, PACs, and lobbying firms affiliated with Exxon over the past decade. A 2017 Ohio State University study indicates such donations have a measurable effect on lawmakers, particularly as they enter the five-figure range.
‘Get on the Team or Shut Up’: How Trump created an army of GOP enforcers
Politico – David Siders and Stephanie Murray | Published: 7/13/2021
From the earliest days of his presidency, Donald Trump and his political team worked to re-engineer the infrastructure of the Republican Party, installing allies in top leadership posts in key states. The effect has been dramatic and continues to reverberate after he left office. In red states, blue states, and swing states, these leaders – nearly all of whom were elected during Trump’s presidency or right after – are redefining the traditional role of the state party chair. They are emerging not just as guardians of the former president’s political legacy, but as chief enforcers of Trumpism within the GOP.
‘No Training’ Is a Common Staff Complaint. Meet the Congress Coaches
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 7/12/2021
When he first took the job as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon in 2018, Roddy Flynn looked around for places to get training and advice. He did not find many, and he remembers joining a text chain instead, crowdsourcing answers with his fellow freshman chiefs of staff. “To have people you can call, in a more formal way, would have been wonderful,” Flynn said. This time, he found a more official place to go, a new coaching program run by the House chief administrative officer, part of an effort to beef up support resources in the sprawling workplace that is Congress.
Toyota Stops Donations to Election Objectors After PAC Takes Ads Out Against Company
Detroit News – Riley Beggin | Published: 7/8/2021
Toyota will no longer donate to members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election in January, the company said after facing blowback over resuming those corporate contributions. The move follows an announcement that the Lincoln Project, a PAC founded by Republicans to help defeat former President Trump, would be releasing a series of advertisements directed at companies that donated to policymakers who opposed certifying the election, beginning with Toyota.
Trump Justice Dept. Effort to Learn Source of Leaks for Post Stories Came in Barr’s Final Days as AG, Court Documents Show
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 7/13/2021
Newly unsealed court documents show the Justice Department under Donald Trump sought a court order for the communications records of three Washington Post reporters in the final days of William Barr’s tenure as attorney general in 2020, as prosecutors sought to identify sources for three articles written in 2017. The documents indicate the extent to which federal investigators suspected the disclosures of classified information were coming from Congress. The new details about the investigation come as Justice Department officials are working on regulations to limit the ways in which they can pursue reporters’ data when hunting for the sources of classified information.
Why There’s Even More Pressure Now on Congress to Pass a Voting Rights Bill
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 7/9/2021
Congress faces growing pressure to pass new federal voting legislation in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that will make it more difficult to challenge a spate of new state-level voting restrictions. A package that would have set a new national baseline for election laws while overhauling campaign finance and government ethics provisions ran into a solid wall of Republican opposition in the Senate. Democrats are also working on a separate bill that would respond to a Supreme Court decision invalidating a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
Canada – Ethics Commissioner Reviewing Request to Investigate Trudeau Over Payments to Friend’s Firm
National Post – Stephanie Taylor (Canadian Press) | Published: 7/14/2021
The federal ethics watchdog is reviewing a request to investigate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over payments made to a company owned by his friend. Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Michael Barrett wrote to ethics commissioner Mario Dion asking he launch an inquiry into the prime minister’s possible involvement in awarding contracts to Data Sciences. The company was founded by Tom Pitfield, who served as the Liberal Party’s chief digital strategist during the 2015 and 2019 election campaigns. The Globe and Mail reported that MPs’ expenditure reports showed most of the Liberal caucus had paid money through their office budgets to the company, which has also been hired to provide digital services to the Liberal Party of Canada.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Fann Says Audit Team, Maricopa County Have Different Ballot Totals
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 7/13/2021
The number of ballots counted by the Arizona Senate’s self-styled audit did not match Maricopa County’s official total from the 2020 general election, which prompted the election review team to acquire machines for a new tally, Senate President Karen Fann said. Election administration experts have been harshly critical of the procedures used by Cyber Ninjas, the company Fann hired to lead the audit team, and its subcontractors used to count ballots, and have expressed concerns the contractors leading the review have exhibited a lack of basic knowledge about election procedures.
Arizona – Redistricting Will Always Be Contentious. Ask Arizona.
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 7/15/2021
Redistricting maps help determine which party will hold political power. That means intense battles even in states, such as Arizona, that have taken steps to reduce politicians’ control over the results. Arizona’s independent redistricting commission received an avalanche of comments during its recent meeting. A review found hundreds of them echoed calls to action boosted online by Republican political figures and conservative social media pages that also have promoted the state Senate’s controversial review of the 2020 election in Maricopa County. The nexus suggests that nationally, the forces sowing doubts about the 2020 vote could focus their attention on redistricting to sway future elections.
California – California Supreme Court Will Be Asked to Grant Extra Time for State’s Redistricting Panel
Yahoo News – John Myers (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/14/2021
California’s redistricting commission will ask the state Supreme Court to give the panel two extra weeks to draw political maps this fall and winter, saying a delay from the federal government in providing new census data will otherwise limit public participation in the once-a-decade process. The move sets the stage for the court to intervene for the second time in the past year to adjust the process of drawing new legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts. Last summer, the justices agreed to add four months to what would otherwise have been an August 15 deadline to finalize the state’s maps.
California – Charity and Politics: California elected officials would have to disclose their connections under proposed rule
CalMatters.org – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 7/13/2021
In the months before California lawmakers in June granted prison guards a $5,000 bonus and raises, the guards’ union made a few charitable donations, including to nonprofits run by the legislators who were preparing to vote on the pay hikes. Donations like this from groups that lobby the Legislature to nonprofits controlled by legislators, their staff, and family members have been under scrutiny by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) since it was reported they have become a common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits of the state’s campaign finance laws. The FPPC is scheduled to discuss new regulations to require elected officials to provide more information on special interest donations to their nonprofits.
California – Former County Clerk-Recorder, State Assemblyman Canciamilla Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Theft, Perjury Charges
DanvilleSanRamon.com – Bay City News Service | Published: 7/13/2021
Former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla pleaded guilty to nine counts of grand theft and perjury for using campaign accounts for personal reasons. He will serve one year in county jail as well as two years’ probation. After he resigned as clerk-recorder, Canciamilla agreed to pay $150,000 to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, admitting to spending campaign funds on travel to Asia, restaurant meals, airfare, repayment of a personal loan, and transfers to his personal bank accounts.
California – Former SF Public Works Manager Faces Perjury Counts in Corruption Scandal
KNTV – Jaxon Van Derbeken, Michael Batt, and Joe Rojas | Published: 7/8/2021
A former San Francisco Public Works manager is facing charges for allegedly hiding his role in a company that reaped more than $250,000 in no-bid contracts to provide T-shirts and other swag to the department’s employees. Gerald Sanguinetti faces perjury charges for concealing his ties to SDL Merchandising, a company he allegedly owned and was run by his wife, and charges of failing to disclose those ties to the city. SDL was paid through an off-the-books account managed by the non-profit San Francisco Parks Alliance on behalf of top public works officials. According to federal prosecutors, former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru used the Parks Alliance account to collect bribes.
California – How Sacramento Sheriff Used Inmate Welfare Fund for Cameras, Fencing – and a Tahoe Resort
MSN – Jason Pohl and Michael Fitch (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 7/14/2021
Since 2014, Sacramento County has collected roughly $5 million each year from the phone call and commissary fees at the county’s two jails. That money has been deposited into an inmate welfare fund, originally designed to pay for programs and services that benefit people locked inside such as education or job training. But records detail how the sheriff’s office has increasingly leaned on the inmate fund to backfill its budgets and buy expensive new equipment. Millions of dollars have been spent on employee salaries. In the past two years, the staff spent at least $12,000 for flights and lodging, apparently for conferences.
California – Newsom Can’t Label Himself a Democrat on Recall Ballot
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 7/12/2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will appear on recall ballots without his Democratic Party label after losing a last-minute legal fight. Newsom’s team had scrambled to correct an error that will now deprive him of his party preference on ballots for the September 14 recall. Newsom sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber, arguing the law imposes a needlessly early deadline for recall targets to request their party designation and that voters deserve to see that information. Judge James Arguelles disagreed with an argument from Newsom’s attorney that party status was a vital piece of information for voters.
Florida – Naples Ethics Commission to Self-Start Investigations Based on Informal Complaints
MSN – Omar Rodriguez Ortiz (Naples Daily News) | Published: 7/12/2021
The Naples Commission on Ethics and Government Integrity voted to self-start investigations based on information it receives through informal complaints. The new rules allow the commission to begin investigations if it obtains ethical misconduct allegations about city employees, officers, board members, and contractors via unsworn statements such as anonymous sources, e-mails, and calls. To begin a preliminary inquiry, the commission’s executive director must first consider whether the source of the allegations can be vetted, whether the allegations can be independently corroborated with evidence, and whether similar allegations have been received from other sources, according to the rules.
Florida – None of the Cuba Protesters Who Closed Miami Highway Cited Under GOP-Backed Anti-Rioting Law
MSN – Brittany Shammas, Timothy Bella, Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2021
Scores of people crowded a major Miami-area highway recently, chanting in support of protests that erupted in Cuba against the country’s government. The rally caused an hours-long closure on part of the Palmetto Expressway. It was the sort of scene envisioned by a Florida law that Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed amid last year’s wave of racial justice demonstrations. The legislation calls for protesters to be cited if they block traffic. But no citations were given. Critics took issue with the lack of citations, saying the law is unclear or unevenly applied. DeSantis, who invoked the possibility of protesters shutting down a highway as he signed the bill into law, has been vocal in his support of rallies against the Cuban government.
Hawaii – Ethics Commission Quietly Drops Kealoha Investigation as Questions Swirl
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 7/9/2021
In February, the Honolulu Ethics Commission voted to drop its ongoing investigation into retired police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife Katherine, who is a former city prosecutor. It cited their federal convictions for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and other crimes. Commission Chairperson David Monk said any punishment the panel could have imposed would have paled in comparison to the years-long prison sentences the Kealohas are now serving. Despite the commission’s decision, there are still plenty of questions remaining about the agency’s role in one of the largest public corruption scandals in state history.
Idaho – Multiple Complaints Accuse Idaho Freedom Foundation of Breaking Nonprofit Rules
KPVI – Clark Corbin and Audrey Dutton (Idaho Capital Sun) | Published: 7/7/2021
Travis Oler, a Democratic legislative candidate, created the Hold Idaho Accountable nonprofit this year. One of his first actions was to file a complaint with the IRS alleging the Idaho Freedom Foundation violated its nonprofit status by engaging in excessive lobbying, becoming at least the third person to file a complaint against the foundation. But a former IRS regulator said the agency may not be equipped right now to devote investigative resources to complaints against tax-exempt organizations, and the question of whether a group like Idaho Freedom Foundation is engaged in “excessive lobbying” is a complicated one.
Illinois – ‘Paper Tiger’: Illinois’ legislative watchdog resigns citing lack of ethics reform
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel | Published: 7/14/2021
Illinois Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope resigned from her job after more than two years in the role she called a “paper tiger” for what she said was its relative powerlessness. Pope said her repeated suggestions for how to improve the office have been ignored by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, and by her own assessment, legislation passed by lawmakers this spring aimed at ethics reform have actually weakened her office. The measure was sent to Gov. JB Pritzker but he has not signed it yet.
Maryland – Baltimore County Wants to Reform Its Inspector General Office. Here’s How Other State and Local Watchdogs Stack Up.
MSN – Taylor DeVille (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 7/9/2021
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and some county council members want to create an oversight panel to monitor the county’s corruption watchdog and set limits on the way the office may conduct investigations. But facing resounding criticism, Olszewski decided to hold off on filing a bill to rein in the inspector general. The Association of Inspectors General, a national consortium that sets the standards for how those offices should function, said the changes would mute the county’s current (and first) inspector general, Kelly Madigan.
Massachusetts – Forget Lawn Signs. Kim Janey Jumps into the Campaign Swag Game
MSN – Meghan Irons (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/14/2021
Forget the lawn signs and window placards. Acting Mayor Kim Janey is adding new swag to this year’s race for mayor, as part of a messaging and fundraising effort making its debut in Boston. Her campaign webstore is selling “Mayor Janey Our Mayor” T-Shirts, “Madam Mayor Kim Janey” totes, and “Mayor Janey” hats – for $30 to $34. Stickers and buttons are five dollars. Campaign merchandise is standard fare in national elections, but it is a relatively new phenomenon in this old-time city, where candidates are used to giving away stickers, pins, and window placards.
Michigan – Mayor Defends Using Campaign Funds on Daughter’s Wedding, Argues It Doubled as Campaign Event
MSN – Natalie Colarossi (Newsweek) | Published: 7/10/2021
The mayor of Romulus, Michigan, defended using thousands of dollars in campaign funds to help pay for his daughter’s wedding by stating it doubled as a campaign event. Mayor LeRoy Burcroff acknowledged using $4,500 from the funds to cover the open bar at the wedding at a yacht club. Burcroff’s attorney, Daniel Wholihan, said the wedding was related to the campaign because many of those attending the wedding had also worked for Burcroff.
Michigan – Michigan Attorney General Nessel’s Office ‘Reviewing’ 2018 Weiser Deal
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 7/8/2021
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office is reviewing state GOP Chairperson Ron Weiser’s use of party funds in a 2018 deal that required a secretary of state candidate to abruptly end his campaign. The Michigan Republican Party revealed it agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty to resolve a campaign finance complaint focused on the situation. The question now turns to whether Nessel’s office would attempt to pursue its own investigation into elements of the incident that fall outside of campaign finance policy.
Michigan – ‘This Is Really Fantastical’: Federal judge in Michigan presses Trump-allied lawyers on 2020 election fraud claims in sanctions hearing
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/12/2021
The latest effort to hold former President Trump and his allies accountable for months of baseless claims about the 2020 election played out in a Michigan courtroom, where U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker asked skeptical questions of several lawyers she is considering imposing sanctions against for filing a suit seeking to overturn the results. During the hearing, Parker pressed the lawyers involved – including Trump allies Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood – to explain what steps they had taken to ensure their court filings in the case had been accurate. She appeared astonished by many of their answers.
Mississippi – They Wrote Campaign Checks to Tate Reeves. Then He Appointed Them to Powerful Ed Boards.
Mississippi Today – Molly Minta | Published: 7/7/2021
All but one of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ four appointees to the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) board are campaign donors. Similarly, all three of Reeves’ recent selections for the Mississippi Community College Board, announced the same day as the IHL picks, are contributors. Reeves is far from the first governor to award appointments to friends, campaign donors, and supporters. The practice is common and legal in Mississippi, though not free from criticism. The insider appointments not only raise ethical questions but are indicative of a system of favoritism that excludes the historically Black colleges and universities.
Montana – Montana Justices Say Lawmakers Overstepped in Seeking Emails
MSN – Mary Beth Hanson (Associated Press) | Published: 7/14/2021
The Montana Supreme Court ruled legislative leaders overstepped their authority in issuing a subpoena for months of emails belonging to the court’s administrator, saying the request was not related to a valid legislative interest. The email issue was raised while the court was considering a legal challenge to a new law that eliminated the Judicial Nomination Commission and allowed the governor to fill judicial vacancies between elections. The law is an element of a longer-term effort by Republican lawmakers to remake what they consider an activist judiciary and to appoint or elect more conservative judges.
Nevada – FBI Investigating Vegas Councilwoman for Trump-Related Campaign Fraud
Hill Reporter – Tara Dublin | Published: 7/14/2021
Federal authorities are investigating the campaign finances of a Las Vegas City Council member with ties to a local militia. FBI agents showed up at City Hall, where they openly questioned council members and others as part of an investigation into Michele Fiore, who was accused last year of using city resources to campaign for Donald Trump’s re-election. Agents also executed a search warrant at Fiore’s home. A complaint was filed in July 2020 about Fiore’s campaign activity for Trump, and she survived a recall effort but resigned as mayor pro tem over racist remarks she made at a Clark County Republican Party event.
New Mexico – How Big Oil Keeps a Grip on New Mexico – with the Help of a Major Lobbyist
MSN – Cody Nelson (Floodlight) and Adrian Hedden (Carlsbad Current-Argus) | Published: 7/11/2021
When President Biden paused oil and gas drilling leases on federal lands, the alarm bells rang in southeastern New Mexico. Officials in Eddy County, where the top employers are in the mining and oil and gas industries, appeared to be depending on their influential allies, including the lobbying firm FTI Consulting, to keep it that way. Emails, contracts, and other records show how FTI has used its footholds in the area for years to help push pro fossil-fuel messaging and policy. At the same time, FTI has been able to give its energy company clients easy access to local officials. But the firm and one of its spinoffs are not registered as lobbyists with the state.
New York – How Will Government Meetings Adjust to a Post-Zoom World?
Politico – Bill Mahoney | Published: 7/11/2021
A recent meeting of the New York Senate’s Ethics Committee was scheduled with participants attending both in-person and via videoconferencing. It is a new experiment that foreshadows a looming debate over how the “new normal” will look for public bodies. Traditional meetings became virtual last year, adding physical distance between people and their government and making it easier for elected officials to dodge interactions with protesters, the press, and the public. But that shift also made government more accessible for members the public who might not be able to participate in traditional meetings because of factors like physical disabilities.
New York – ‘We All Wait with Bated Breath’: Secretive Cuomo inquiry leaves New York politics in limbo
MSN – Anna Gronewold (Politico) | Published: 7/11/2021
Few New York governors in recent history have dominated the news cycle, and the levers of government, like Andrew Cuomo. But with an embattled Cuomo eyeing reelection next year, the future of state politics rests with another statewide official: Attorney General Tish James. The attorney general, who has been investigating allegations against the governor, has retained private attorneys who have interviewed several women who accused Cuomo of harassment, as well as top staff said to be aware of his alleged misconduct. But little more is known about the probe and the uncertainty has paralyzed much of New York’s political apparatus.
Ohio – Dem Star Nina Turner Blows Pledge Not to Take Lobbyist Money
MSN – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 7/12/2021
The Democratic frontrunner for an open congressional seat in Ohio, Nina Turner, pledged in January she would not accept campaign contributions from lobbyists or corporations. But weeks later, she appears to have done just that. FEC records show Turner campaign reported a donation of $1,000 from the director of Amare Public Affairs, a firm Turner founded last year as an offshoot of lobbying shop Mercury Public Affairs. Three days after her pledge, Turner accepted $250 from a partner at Mercury, which has gained public notoriety over the last few years, even drawing scrutiny during the investigation into Russian election interference.
Tennessee – Tennessee Abandons Vaccine Outreach to Minors – Not Just for COVID-19
MSN – Brett Kelman (The Tennessean) | Published: 7/13/2021
The Tennessee Department of Health is halting its outreach to minors to get vaccinated against all diseases, not just COVID-19. Normally, the health department regularly advocates for vaccinating kids against many diseases without controversy. Decisions to ratchet back outreach comes amid pressure from conservative lawmakers, who have embraced misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, said Dr. Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee’s former top vaccine official. Fiscus was fired without explanation recently. She said she was scapegoated to appease lawmakers, who had described routine vaccine outreach as “reprehensible.”
Texas – A Texas Man Was Arrested on Charges That He Voted in the 2020 Democratic Primary While on Parole. He Could Face as Much as 20 Years in Prison.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 7/10/2021
Hervis Rogers was so intent on casting a ballot in last year’s presidential primary that he waited six hours to vote, catching the attention of a CNN news crew when he became the last person tom do so at his Houston polling place. More than a year later, Rogers was arrested on charges he voted in last year’s Democratic primary while on parole. Under Texas law, it is illegal for a felon to “knowingly” vote while still serving a sentence, including parole. Doing so is a second-degree felony, punishable with a minimum of two years and a maximum of 20 years in prison. In at least 20 states, Rogers’s alleged vote would not be a crime.
Texas – Inside the Secret Plan for the Texas Democratic Exodus: A phone tree, a scramble to pack and a politically perilous trip
MSN – Amy Gardner, Eva Ruth Moravec, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, and Nicole Asbury (Washington Post) | Published: 7/13/2021
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session to complete the year’s unfinished business, including the passage of far-reaching legislation restricting voting access that had failed when House Democrats staged a walkout in May. They were ready to do the same this time around to block what they described as an assault on democracy meant to make it harder for people who tend to vote Democratic to cast their ballots. It was just a question of when. What followed over a matter of hours was an exodus from Texas as dozens of Democratic lawmakers made arrangements to leave their homes and their jobs, potentially for weeks, and drew sharp rebukes for walking away from their responsibilities in the Texas Legislature.
Washington – City Denies Wrongdoing Alleged in Public Records Lawsuit, Countersues The Seattle Times
Seattle Times – Lewis Kamb | Published: 7/13/2021
Lawyers for the city of Seattle deny it broke Washington’s public records law and countersued The Seattle Times in response to a lawsuit alleging the city mishandled reporters’ requests for top officials’ text messages during a tumultuous period last summer. The city denied most legal contentions, including claims based on an ethics investigation into a whistleblower’s complaint that found Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office violated the public disclosure law after discovering the mayor’s texts for a 10-month period were missing. Although it concedes the mayor’s texts are lost, the city’s response includes a counterclaim against the newspaper.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers Vetoes Bill That Would’ve Kept Legislators’ Discipline Records for Sexual Harassment Confidential
MSN – Molly Beck (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 7/9/2021
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoed legislation that could have made it more difficult for the public to get records about lawmakers who are disciplined or accused of sexual harassment. The bill, which was passed unanimously, would have formally created a human resources office for the state Legislature and specified disciplinary records and complaints against lawmakers should be treated confidentially. The bill would have bolstered a standing legislative practice of withholding complaints against lawmakers. Evers said labeling such records as confidential in state law could prevent the public from knowing details about lawmakers’ misconduct.
July 15, 2021 •
Idaho is slated to start its redistricting process this September. Based on the most recent Census, Idaho gained an additional congressional district, bringing their total up to two. Legislators will be tasked with dividing the state into two congressional districts […]
Idaho is slated to start its redistricting process this September.
Based on the most recent Census, Idaho gained an additional congressional district, bringing their total up to two.
Legislators will be tasked with dividing the state into two congressional districts and redrawing the state’s 35 legislative districts.
Legislative and party leaders appoint six members, three Republicans and three Democrats, to the Citizen Committee for Reapportionment to approve the newly drawn maps.
It takes at least four votes to approve a map.
Once the Citizen Committee for Reapportionment holds its first meeting, it has 90 days to adopt the newly drawn maps.
June 25, 2021 •
National/Federal A Family Affair: Children and other relatives of Biden aides get administration jobs MSN – Sean Sullivan and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 6/17/2021 President Biden promised that no member of his family would be a part of his […]
A Family Affair: Children and other relatives of Biden aides get administration jobs
MSN – Sean Sullivan and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 6/17/2021
President Biden promised that no member of his family would be a part of his administration. But that vow did not extend to his senior staff and their relatives. In the first few months of Biden’s presidency, at least five children of his top aides have secured jobs in the administration. The pattern has drawn concerns from ethics experts, diversity advocates, and others. They say it is disappointing that Biden did not shift even further from the practices of Donald Trump’s presidency, which they felt reeked of nepotism and cronyism.
Capitol Rioter Used Charity to Promote Violence, Feds Say
MSN – Michael Kunzelman (Associated Press) | Published: 6/17/2021
Alan Hostetter used his tax-exempt nonprofit as a platform to oppose COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, protest that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump, and advocate for violence against political opponents, according to a federal indictment. He is charged with conspiracy in the January 6 insurrection, and could be in violation of IRS rules governing nonprofits. The IRS prohibits charities like Hostetter’s from participating in any campaign activity for or against candidates. In his application for tax-exempt status, Hostetter said American Phoenix Project would not directly or indirectly engage in political campaigns.
Federal Judge Tosses Most Claims Against Trump, Barr and U.S. Officials in Clearing of Lafayette Square
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 6/21/2021
U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich dismissed most claims filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. and others in lawsuits that accused the Trump administration of authorizing an unprovoked attack on demonstrators in Lafayette Square last year. The plaintiffs asserted the government used unnecessary force to enable a photo op of then-President Trump outside St John’s Church. But Friedrich called allegations that federal officials conspired to make way for the photo too speculative. The judge allowed litigation to go forward challenging restrictions on protests and other First Amendment activity at Lafayette Square.
Garland Tries to Untangle the Trump Legacy at the Justice Department
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 6/21/2021
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is facing criticism from some Democrats that he is not doing enough to quickly expunge Trump-era policies and practices. On issues ranging from leak investigations to civil and criminal cases involving former President Trump, Garland has been beset by a chorus of congressional second-guessers, even as he insists that he is adhering to the principles of equal justice under the law. How he charts his way through the politically sensitive cases is likely to determine how much of a long-term impact the Trump presidency has on the Justice Department.
How Democrats Are ‘Unilaterally Disarming’ in the Redistricting Wars
Politico – Ally Mutnick | Published: 6/21/2021
In key states over the past decade, Democrats have gained control of Legislatures and governorships that have long been in charge of drawing new election maps, only to cede that authority, often to independent commissions tasked with drawing political boundaries free of partisan interference. Supporters of these initiatives say it is good governance to bar politicians from drawing districts for themselves and their party. But exasperated Democrats counter that it left them hamstrung in the battle to hold the U.S. House by diluting or negating their ability to gerrymander in the way Republicans plan to do in many red states. With the House so closely divided, Democrats will need every advantage to cling to their majority in 2022.
In Sentencing Regretful Capitol Protester, Federal Judge Rebukes Republicans
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2021
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth castigated Republican lawmakers for downplaying the violence of the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6, saying in handing down the first sentence to a charged defendant that those who break the law must pay a penalty. Lamberth credited Anna Morgan-Lloyd for her early cooperation and admission of guilt, expressing frustration with both defendants and observers who argue the riot was merely a political protest. He sentenced her to three years of probation.
Investors Press Firms on Donations as Political Spending Jumps
MSN – Laura Weiss (Roll Call) | Published: 6/24/2021
Democratic state treasurers and social issue-focused investment funds are pressing 82 corporations to be transparent about donations to candidates and causes as contributions resume after a pause in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. More than 125 groups managing over $1.5 trillion in invested assets recently wrote to board members who oversee political spending at some of the largest public corporations. The letter asks companies to provide public disclosure of the amount and recipient of every election-related expenditure, including those made through PACs and third-party groups such as trade associations.
PAC Sues FEC for Dismissing Complaint Against Trump Campaign
Courthouse News Service – Samantha Hawkins | Published: 6/21/2021
A PAC filed a lawsuit against the FEC for dismissing its complaint alleging Donald Trump campaign coordinated with a super PAC that ended up raising $150 million during the 2020 election. End Citizens United says the Trump campaign solicited and directed donations to America First Action and allege the super PAC was the only outside, non-campaign group “approved” by Trump or the Republican National Committee to donate to. FEC regulations prohibit campaigns from soliciting contributions to super PACs without taking measures to ensure the donations comply with federal contribution limits.
Republican House Campaign Arm Says It Will Begin Soliciting Cryptocurrency Donations
MSN – Max Greenwood (The Hill) | Published: 6/17/2021
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) will begin soliciting cryptocurrency donations, making it the first national party committee to do so. It will process cryptocurrency contributions using the payment service BitPay. The procedure will allow the NRCC to effectively bypass the FEC’s $100 cap on transfers of cryptocurrency and accept donations of up to $10,000 per year from an individual.
Senate Republicans Block Debate on Elections Bill, Dealing Blow to Democrats’ Voting Rights Push
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 6/22/2021
Senate Republicans banded together to block a sweeping Democratic bill that would revamp the architecture of American democracy, dealing a grave blow to efforts to federally override dozens of GOP-passed state voting laws. Republicans have also taken aim at numerous other provisions in the Democratic legislation, including a proposal to publicly finance congressional campaigns, potential new disclosure requirements for political donors, and a realignment of the FEC meant to break partisan gridlock in enforcing election laws.
States Across the Country Are Dropping Barriers to Voting, Widening a Stark Geographic Divide in Ballot Access
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2021
Newly enacted laws in more than half of the states expand access to the voting process on a number of fronts, such as offering additional early and mail voting options, protecting mail ballots from being improperly rejected, and making it easier to register to vote. The push to make voting easier comes as Republicans have embraced voting restrictions in GOP-controlled states. The overall result is a deepening divide in ballot access depending on where voters live, one shaped by how lawmakers have reacted to both the pandemic and former President Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was tainted by massive fraud.
Unmasking the Far Right: An extremist paid a price when his identity was exposed online after a violent clash in Washington
MSN – Robert Klemko (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2021
Journalist Laura Jedeed was filming a group of Trump supporters in the District of Columbia after the “Million MAGA March” last November when a man wearing an American flag mask approached her, stepped on her toes, and began yelling. “What’s up, you stupid b—-?” the man shouted as the mask slipped down. Jedeed uploaded video of the incident. The man in the mask was identified through social media and he lost his job. The disclosure online of Dawson’s personal information is part of an effort by left-wing activists to punish members of far-right groups accused of violent behavior by exposing them to their employers, family, and friends.
Whitehouse Bolsters Push to Shine Light on ‘Dark Money’ at Supreme Court
MSN – Todd Ruger (Roll Call) | Published: 6/23/2021
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has written reports and essays, introduced bills, filed briefs, gone on cable television, and made presentations at Supreme Court confirmation hearings. But he has not been as convincing as he hoped in his campaign to curb conservative anonymous donors and their influence on the high court, even as that “dark money” now floods in to support the judicial nomination process his party controls.
Canada – Jan Harder Resigns from Committee as Gloves Come Off at City Council
CBC – Joanne Chianello and Kate Porter | Published: 6/23/2021
Ottawa Councilor Jan Harder stepped down from her role as chair of the committee responsible for urban planning and development in the city, but that did not quell the acrimony surrounding the integrity commissioner’s report on her. The council was set to vote on sanctions recommended in a report by Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau, which found Harder created a perceived conflict-of-interest by hiring registered lobbyist Jack Stirling and his daughter to work for her office, while Stirling represented private planning clients at City Hall and even personally represented them at the committee Harder chaired.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – APOC Fines Former GOP Alaska Rep. Pruitt for ‘Widespread, Serious’ Campaign Finance Violations
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 6/23/2021
The Alaska Public Offices Commission imposed a $20,000 fine on former state Rep. Lance Pruitt, saying he broke multiple laws with vague and sloppy reporting, banned contributions, and late reimbursements to himself. Pruitt said his errors were unintentional. “In hindsight, I wish I would’ve hired someone to do my reports instead of trying to balance that and a campaign by myself,” Pruitt said.
Arizona – State Senate Wants to Investigate If Social Media Platforms Are Violating Campaign Finance Laws
Pinal Central – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/23/2021
The Arizona Senate voted to spend $500,000 to investigate the practices of social media platforms and search engines to see if they are violating campaign finance laws. The Unreported In-Kind Political Contributions Task Force Fund is charged with investigating whether and to what extent the practices of social media platforms and internet search engines effectively become in-kind political contributions to a candidate, meaning the donation of some service with financial value,
California – Curb Nonprofit Donations? Republicans Running in Newsom Recall Say It Would Reduce Conflicts
MSN – Sophia Bollag (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 6/17/2021
About a dozen companies lobbying to influence state policy have given more than $800,000 to a nonprofit founded by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsome. She has been paid more than $2.3 million by the nonprofit for her work leading the organization and creating documentary films. Now, two Republicans running to replace California Gov. Gavin Newsom are calling for new laws curbing such donations, arguing companies trying to influence state policy should not contribute to nonprofits that employ elected officials’ family members.
California – Elections Officials Alarmed by Democrats’Plans to Change Newsom Recall Rules
MSN – John Myers (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/17/2021
Elections officials across California said the proposed rules written by Democratic state lawmakers for the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom could push the event’s cost far beyond the current estimate of $215 million, creating voter confusion and delaying the counting of ballots. Local officials began sounding the alarm soon after Democrats unveiled new legislation allowing the recall to be held as early as August 24. The proposal would shorten the timeline by up to two months by eliminating the existing requirement of a lengthy analysis of the election’s costs.
Florida – In Push Against ‘Indoctrination,’ DeSantis Mandates Surveys of Florida Students’ Beliefs
MSN – Caroline Anders (Washington Post) | Published: 6/24/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he is concerned about the free flow of ideas on campus and whether higher education stifles free speech from conservatives. Under a law that will take effect July 1, public universities must assess “viewpoint diversity” on campus each year through a survey from the State Board of Education. The law does not address penalties for schools where the survey finds low levels of “intellectual freedom” and “viewpoint diversity,” but DeSantis hinted at the potential for budget cuts at universities that do not pass muster. Public universities in the U.S. are already bound by the First Amendment and cannot discriminate against viewpoints.
Florida – In Secret Recording, Florida Republican Threatens to Send Russian-Ukrainian ‘Hit Squad’ After Rival
MSN – Marc Caputo (Politico) | Published: 6/17/2021
A little-known Republican candidate in one of Florida’s most competitive congressional seats was secretly recorded threatening to send “a Russian and Ukrainian hit squad” to a fellow GOP opponent to make her “disappear.” During a call with a conservative activist that was recorded before he became a candidate, William Braddock repeatedly warned the activist to not support Anna Paulina Luna in the Republican primary for a Tampa Bay-area congressional seat because he had access to assassins.
Florida – Top Florida Political Players Scrutinized in Artiles Case Ahead of August Trial
Miami Herald – Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos | Published: 6/23/2021
A public corruption investigation that took root in a single Miami-Dade legislative race has roped in prominent players across Florida over the last several months, including a GOP-linked research firm, a top not-for-profit hospital network, and a veteran Republican operative who leads a Tallahassee-based political organization. A judge announced the trial would begin August 30. Records obtained by the Miami Herald show that since at least April, investigators have been issuing subpoenas to gather information from an array of people and organizations and financial records that go back several years.
Indiana – 2 More Plea Deals Reached in Muncie Corruption Case; Nichols Is Final Defendant
MSN – Douglas Walker (Muncie Star Press) | Published: 6/22/2021
Two more defendants facing criminal charges stemming from the federal investigation of corruption in former Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler’s administration signed plea agreements. Only one of the nine defendants charged in the years-long corruption probe remains scheduled to stand trial on related charges. Plea agreements were entered in the cases of contractor Tony Franklin and businessperson Jeffrey Burke. Franklin is accused of conspiring to steer Muncie Sanitary District contracts to his business in exchange for “cash bribes and kickbacks.”
Louisiana – Louisiana Governor Agrees to Remove PAC Limits for Campaigns
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 6/22/2021
Candidates for office in Louisiana will soon be able to take unlimited sums directly from PACs under a bill signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The removal of limits on donations that come largely from special interest groups will take effect August 1. Edwards signed the legislation despite opposition from the state Board of Ethics.
Maine – Maine Campaign Finance Regulator Hides Public Meeting during Investigation of Anti-Corridor Group
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 6/18/2021
Maine’s ethics commission removed the video and livestream of a public proceeding after a commissioner mentioned the name of a person or business entity the campaign finance regulator is investigating. The unusual move came at the request of Stop the Corridor, a political group that opposes Central Maine Power’s controversial transmission project. The meeting was called because Stop the Corridor is protesting the commission’s subpoena for records. The majority of both meetings have been held in executive session, a closed-door proceeding the commission uses to discuss information that it has agreed to keep confidential in investigations.
Missouri – St. Louis Gun-Waving Couple Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanors
Politico – Associated Press | Published: 6/17/2021
A St. Louis couple who gained notoriety for pointing guns at social justice demonstrators last year pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and agreed to give up the weapons they used during the confrontation. Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was fined $2,000. Her husband, Mark McCloskey, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was fined $750. They claimed the protesters were trespassing and they feared for their safety. Mark McCloskey has announced he was running for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri.
Montana – Lawmakers Abandon Investigative Subpoenas for Judges’ Records
Ravalli Republic – Seaborn Larson (Helena Independent Record) | Published: 6/22/2021
A legislative committee investigating the judicial branch withdrew its subpoenas for Montana Supreme Court records. There had been an escalating confrontation between Republican lawmakers and the judiciary over claims of improper use of state resources, lobbying efforts by judges, and failure to retain public records. The subpoenas were challenged in court as an overreach of the Legislature’s constitutional authority by Supreme Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin, whose own emails had been subpoenaed by the committee.
New Jersey – N.J. Wants to Protect Women on the Campaign Trail, but Sexual Harassment Bill Is Mired in Politics, Critics Say
MSN – Susan Livio and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/17/2021
A bill that would make New Jersey one of the first states in the nation to outlaw sexual harassment in political campaigns is back under consideration in Trenton three months after sponsors pulled it amid disagreements over what it should say. Advocates say the legislation is needed in state and local campaigns where sexual misconduct often goes unreported and there are no human resources departments for campaign workers and candidates to turn to if they are sexually harassed. The heart of the bill calls for spending $2 million to create the Office on Discrimination and Harassment Prevention inside the Election Law Enforcement Commission.
New York – Adams Leads in N.Y.C. Mayoral Primary, but Ranked-Choice Awaits
MSN – Katie Glueck (New York Times) | Published: 6/23/2021
Eric Adams, who ran for mayor of New York City on a message focused on issues of public safety, emerged with a substantial lead in the Democratic primary, but fell short of outright victory in a race that will now usher in a new period of uncertainty. Because Adams seemed unlikely to earn more than 50 percent of the vote, the contest will be decided under New York’s new ranked-choice voting system. It may take until mid-July before a Democratic primary victor, who would become an overwhelming favorite to win the general election, is officially declared.
New York – Councilman Defeats Indicted Rochester Mayor in Dem. Primary
Star Herald – Carolyn Thompson and Deepti Hajela (Associated Press) | Published: 6/22/2021
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who ran for a third term while under indictment in a campaign finance case, was defeated in the Democratic primary by city Councilperson Malik Evans. There is no Republican challenger on the November ballot. Warren started to face calls for her resignation last summer amid protests over the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who was pressed to the pavement by a group of police officers until he stopped breathing. In October, she was indicted on charges she schemed to evade campaign contribution limits. In May, Warren’s husband was charged with being part of a drug trafficking ring.
New York – India Walton, Self-Identified Socialist, Scores Upset Victory in Buffalo Mayoral Primary
MSN – David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2021
Buffalo Democrats nominated a self-identified socialist as their candidate for mayor, as nurse and activist India Walton scored an upset victory over four-term incumbent Byron Brown in the June 22 primary. Republicans have not fielded a candidate for mayor and have not won City Hall in Buffalo since the 1960s, making the Democratic primary winner all but certain to take office in January. Walton identified as a socialist inside the Democratic Party, and she saw her campaign as a way to dispel worries about the label and its ideological goals.
New York – Trump and His CFO Allen Weisselberg Stay Close as Prosecutors Advance Their Case
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell, Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/21/2021
As chief financial officer at Donald Trump’s private company, Allen Weisselberg is a key figure in prosecutors’ efforts to indict the former president, legal experts say. His central role in nearly every aspect of Trump’s business afforded him a singular view of the Trump Organization’s tax liabilities and finances. Although that role allowed him to stay behind the scenes, it may place him front and center in what would be an unprecedented prosecution of a former president. Officials involved in the Weisselberg investigation have grown frustrated about what they view as a lack of cooperation from him and believe he continues to regularly speak with Trump.
North Carolina – McCrae Dowless Pleads Guilty to Financial Crimes Related to 2018 Election Fraud Scandal
MSN – Will Doran (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 6/21/2021
McCrae Dowless pleaded guilty in federal court to two crimes stemming from the investigation into the absentee ballot fraud scheme he is accused of running in North Carolina. He pleaded guilty to two of the four charges he faced related to Social Security disability fraud. There is a separate state-level court case dealing with the election fraud accusations. The disability fraud charges came as part of an investigation into Dowless for allegedly running an absentee ballot scheme in which he and some assistants would collect people’s ballots and, in some cases, fraudulently sign them or even fill in votes for races that the voters had left blank, officials say.
Ohio – Ohio House Panel Advances Bill Allowing Officials Accused of Corruption to Choose Where Their Trial Is Held
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/22/2021
Republican-backed legislation to allow Ohio politicians accused of corruption to be tried in their home counties rather than Columbus cleared the House Civil Justice Committee. House Bill 286 would remove the Franklin County prosecutor’s exclusive authority to try state public corruption cases. The measure comes just months after a Democrat was elected to the position for the first time in nearly 60 years. The vote was held days after the House expelled former Speaker Larry Householder, who is facing a federal charge of overseeing a $60 million bribery scheme to pass legislation.
Ohio – Ohio Lobbyists Get Keycard Access to Capitol, State Buildings
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 6/24/2021
The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board allows access cards to be issued to registered lobbyists, elected officials, legislative staff, and certain journalists, among others in Ohio. The cards enable someone to skip security lines at government buildings, access elevator bays, and enter the statehouse after hours. For lobbyists, facetime with policymakers is easier to come by in the public spaces than calling and setting a meeting. Other states have different approaches in giving lobbyists access.
Oregon – Lobbying Group Mike Nearman Invited into Oregon Capitol Eluded Disclosing Funding Sources for Years
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 6/21/2021
Members of the Oregon Citizens Lobby were instructed on how enter the closed Capitol by state Rep. Mike Nearman, who was expelled from office for his actions that day. The group has generated a steady stream of lobbying-related training events and alerts over the last 10 years. It rallies its volunteers to press legislators to support or oppose bills. But Oregon Citizens Lobby has never registered to lobby, despite a state requirement for any entity that spends more than $100 on lobbying in any three-month period to disclose its total spending.
Pennsylvania – The Philly Ethics Board Fines PAC Formed by Retired Cops That Spent Big Against Krasner
WHYY – Ryan Briggs | Published: 6/17/2021
A PAC founded by former law enforcement officers, which backed Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s opponent in the May Primary, was fined for violating the city’s campaign finance law. Protect Our Police PAC, which poured money into Krasner challenger Carlos Vega’s campaign, missed filing deadlines on seven campaign finance reports and will pay a $12,000 fine. The city’s law requires PACs to disclose revenues, debts, and expenditures that influence the outcome of an election.
Rhode Island – Sen. Whitehouse, Under Scrutiny for Family Ties to Exclusive Beach Club, Says It Has Non-White Members
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2021
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who has come under scrutiny over his family’s ties to an exclusive beach club, said he checked and there is a “diversity in membership” with non-White members. Still, Whitehouse said, the attention to the issue made him reevaluate his other affiliations, and he found that a sailing club in Newport, Rhode Island, that he belongs to, which he did not name, is not diverse.
South Carolina – Uncovered: Some S.C. public officials got caught doing the wrong thing – with little or no consequences
Times and Democrat – Tony Bartelme (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 6/23/2021
An investigation by The Charleston Post and Courier found more than 1,100 educators, law enforcement officers, judges, and state employees in South Carolina violated ethics rules since 2018. These cases represent a gray zone of ethical breaches, cases that often do not make headlines. They can be found in the files of South Carolina’s many self-policing boards and panels, agencies such as the state Criminal Justice Academy, Department of Education, and Ethics Commission.
Washington DC – At Senate Committee, D.C. Statehood Is Debated Anew
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 6/22/2021
Proponents of statehood for the District of Columbia sought to counter arguments the idea is unconstitutional, urging a U.S. Senate committee to fulfill America’s founding principle of no taxation without representation in the nation’s capital. It was the first Senate committee hearing on statehood since 2014. The committee did not bring up the bill for a vote that year, but advocates are optimistic it may get one this year, even as the bill’s prospects are low in the full Senate.
Wisconsin – GOP Redistricting Put Fitzgerald Brothers – Who Live 13 Miles Apart – in Different Congressional Districts
La Crosse Tribune – Peter Cameron (The Badger Project) | Published: 6/20/2021
When Republican map-drawing in 2011 cemented the party’s dominance in the Wisconsin Legislature for the following decade, it also did something a bit more personal. Despite living very close to one another, the homes of Scott Fitzgerald, then the state Senate majority leader, and his younger brother Jeff Fitzgerald, then the Assembly speaker, were split from the same congressional district into separate ones. This allowed both to potentially serve in Congress without having to run against each other.
June 23, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Louisiana: “Louisiana Governor Agrees to Remove PAC Limits for Campaigns” by Associated Press for MSN Elections National: “Senate Republicans Block Debate on Elections Bill, Dealing Blow to Democrats’ Voting Rights Push” by Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN […]
Louisiana: “Louisiana Governor Agrees to Remove PAC Limits for Campaigns” by Associated Press for MSN
National: “Senate Republicans Block Debate on Elections Bill, Dealing Blow to Democrats’ Voting Rights Push” by Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Adams Leads in N.Y.C. Mayoral Primary, but Ranked-Choice Awaits” by Katie Glueck (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Federal Judge Tosses Most Claims Against Trump, Barr and U.S. Officials in Clearing of Lafayette Square” by Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
North Carolina: “McCrae Dowless Pleads Guilty to Financial Crimes Related to 2018 Election Fraud Scandal” by Will Doran (Raleigh News and Observer) for MSN
Rhode Island: “Sen. Whitehouse Defends Family’s Membership in Private Beach Club Amid Questions About Whether It Is All-White” by Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) for MSN
Washington DC: “At Senate Committee, D.C. Statehood Is Debated Anew” by Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “How Democrats Are ‘Unilaterally Disarming’ in the Redistricting Wars” by Ally Mutnick for Politico
June 22, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Maine: “Maine Campaign Finance Regulator Hides Public Meeting during Investigation of Anti-Corridor Group” by Steve Mistler for Maine Public Elections National: “How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections” by Nick Corasaniti and Reid Epstein (New York […]
Maine: “Maine Campaign Finance Regulator Hides Public Meeting during Investigation of Anti-Corridor Group” by Steve Mistler for Maine Public
National: “How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections” by Nick Corasaniti and Reid Epstein (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Unmasking the Far Right: An extremist paid a price when his identity was exposed online after a violent clash in Washington” by Robert Klemko (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Garland Tries to Untangle the Trump Legacy at the Justice Department” by Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Curb Nonprofit Donations? Republicans Running in Newsom Recall Say It Would Reduce Conflicts” by Sophia Bollag (Sacramento Bee) for MSN
New York: “Trump and His CFO Allen Weisselberg Stay Close as Prosecutors Advance Their Case” by Jonathan O’Connell, Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
Oregon: “Lobbying Group Mike Nearman Invited into Oregon Capitol Eluded Disclosing Funding Sources for Years” by Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
Wisconsin: “GOP Redistricting Put Fitzgerald Brothers – Who Live 13 Miles Apart – in Different Congressional Districts” by Peter Cameron (The Badger Project) for La Crosse Tribune
June 18, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden’s Vow to Limit Ethics Conflicts Finds a Test Case: The Ricchetti brothers MSN – Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021 President Biden vowed to ban his own family from involvement in government, disclose records of […]
Biden’s Vow to Limit Ethics Conflicts Finds a Test Case: The Ricchetti brothers
MSN – Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021
President Biden vowed to ban his own family from involvement in government, disclose records of White House visitors, and support new legislation that would expand the definition of lobbying and mandate more detailed disclosure of contacts with White House officials. The White House has chastised Biden’s brother for evoking his relationship to the president in an ad for his law firm. But when it comes to dealing with the family and former employer relationships of senior staff, some of whom have close relatives or former bosses who work in the private sector on public policy issues, the White House has largely reverted to existing precedent.
Earmark Return Boosts Lobbyists Hired to Give Localities an Edge
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson and Jack Fitzpatrick | Published: 6/17/2021
Van Scoyoc Associates, the lobbying firm that once reigned as a leader in nabbing local earmarks, was eager to get back into the game this year when Congress revived the practice of designating funding for lawmaker projects. When the House released its latest round of spending requests, the firm was among the leaders on K Street in clinching projects. Lobbying firms such as Van Scoyoc are pitching their expertise in securing money for municipalities and nonprofit groups around the country that seek help navigating the time-consuming appropriations process on Capitol Hill.
Emails Show Trump Pressured Justice Dept. Over 2020 Election
MSN – Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long (Associated Press) | Published: 6/15/2021
During the last weeks of his presidency, Donald Trump and his allies pressured the Justice Department to investigate unsubstantiated claims of widespread 2020 election fraud that even his former attorney general declared without evidence, emails show. The emails reveal in new detail how Trump, his White House chief of staff, and other allies pressured members of the U.S. government to challenge the 2020 election over false claims. They also show the extent to which Trump worked to enlist then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in his campaign’s failing legal efforts to challenge the election result.
Exodus of Election Officials Raises Concerns of Partisanship
MSN – Anthony Izaguirre (Associated Press) | Published: 6/13/2021
After facing threats and intimidation during the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath, and now the potential of new punishments in certain states, county officials who run elections are quitting or retiring early. The once quiet job of election administration has become a political minefield thanks to the baseless claims of widespread fraud that continue to be pushed by many in the Republican Party. The exits raise the question of who will take these jobs.
F.E.C. Dismisses Case Against Democrats Over Outreach to Ukraine
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/16/2021
The FEC dismissed a complaint by an ally of former President Trump accusing the Democratic Party and one of its former consultants of violating campaign finance laws by working with Ukraine to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign by damaging Trump’s. An unusual bipartisan combination of members of the commission voted against pursuing the complaint. It claimed the Democratic National Committee and a consultant who had worked for it violated a prohibition on foreign donations by soliciting damaging information and statements from Ukrainian government officials about Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairperson at the time.
G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We don’t have a voice anymore’
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 6/14/2021
A series of Republican bills to restrict voting access across the country would disproportionately affect people with disabilities. For years, advocates have worked to mobilize Americans with disabilities, more than 38 million of whom are eligible to vote, into a voting bloc powerful enough to demand politicians address their needs. Now, after an election in which mail-in voting helped them turn out in large numbers, the restrictive proposals are simultaneously threatening their rights and testing their nascent political influence.
Garland Announces Expansion of Justice Department’s Voting Rights Unit, Vowing to Scrutinize GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions and Ballot Reviews
MSN – Amy Gardner and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/11/2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged to double the size of the Justice Department’s voting rights enforcement staff to combat efforts to restrict ballot access and prosecute those who threaten or harm election workers. Garland said the additional trial attorneys will scrutinize new laws and existing practices across the nation for potential discrimination against Americans of color, including in new measures Republican state lawmakers are pushing. The expanded unit will also monitor the growing number of post-election ballot reviews being called for by supporters of former President Trump.
‘It Was Exhaustion, It Was Sadness, It Was Fatigue’: America’s mayors call it quits
Politico – Lisa Kashinsky | Published: 6/16/2021
Mayors across the country are calling it quits after an exhausting year navigating the front lines of an unprecedented confluence of crises that touched nearly every aspect of human life. Mayors in cities big and small, urban and rural, are giving up for now on their political careers. In the process, they’ are shaking up the municipal landscape, creating a brain drain in City Halls and upsetting the political pipeline all over America. Covid-19 changed the calculus for mayors mulling reelection, but the public health crisis was only a fraction of a larger equation.
Justice Dept. Drops John Bolton Book Lawsuit, Won’t Charge the Ex-Security Aide Who Became Trump’s Scathing Critic
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
The Justice Department abandoned its effort to claw back profits of a book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton and closed a grand jury investigation into whether he criminally mishandled classified information without charging him. Bolton’s attorney called the dismissal a complete vindication for the diplomat, repudiating what Bolton said was the Trump White House’s politically motivated attempt to stifle the pre-election publication of his critical memoir before the 2020 presidential election, using security as a pretext.
Manchin Outlines Demands on Voting Legislation, Creating an Opening for Potential Democratic Compromise
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
Joe Manchin, the lone Senate Democrat who is not sponsoring a sweeping voting rights and campaign finance bill, outlined for the first time a list of policy demands on election legislation – opening the door to a possible compromise that could counter a bevy of Republican-passed laws that have rolled back ballot access in numerous states. Manchin is willing to support key provisions of the For the People Act, including mandating at least two weeks of early voting and measures meant to eliminate partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. But he also supported several provisions that have historically been opposed by most Democrats.
McGahn Elaborates on Mueller Testimony, but Stops Short of Condemning Trump in Interview with Congress
MSN – Karoun Demirjian, Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2021
Former White House counsel Donald McGahn told lawmakers he was seeking to avoid “a chain reaction that would be not in anyone’s interest” when he ignored then-President Trump’s direction to fire the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a transcript of his closed-door testimony. The exchange came after a two-year court battle for McGahn’s testimony. His appearance on Capitol Hill was the product of a deal between lawmakers and the Biden administration that ended any further appeals.
Trump’s FDA Commissioner Takes Job at Moderna Backer
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2021
Former FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn is joining the venture capital firm that launched Moderna and remains closely tied to the coronavirus vaccine maker. Hahn headed the FDA when it authorized Moderna’s vaccine last year before stepping down at the end of the Trump administration. The move is the latest by a federal official to a company that is regulated by the government or that might profit from firms regulated by the government, what critics call a “revolving door” they say undermines trust in federal decisions.
Trump’s Justice Department Secretly Sought Data from Apple on Former White House Counsel McGahn
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/13/2021
The tech company Apple recently notified former White House counsel Donald McGahn and his wife that the Justice Department had secretly requested their information in 2018. Seizing a White House counsel’s data is striking. The latest development comes amid criticism of the Trump-era leak investigations involving members of Congress and journalists at several news organizations. Meanwhile, Republicans have questioned the seizure of records of Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, and another lawyer, Victoria Toensing.
Canada – Ethics Committee Calls for Sweeping Reforms in Wake of WE Charity Scandal
CBC – Elizabeth Thompson | Published: 6/10/2021
A House of Commons committee is proposing a sweeping series of reforms to the way the federal government in Canada makes decisions on contracts after releasing a report on the WE Charity scandal. Among the nearly two dozen recommendations, the committee recommends the government no longer award contracts to shell companies that lack assets to avoid liability. The committee said it also wants to see changes in rules put in place to prevent conflicts-of-interest on the part of cabinet ministers. It also says that public office holders should be accompanied by staff to take notes when they meet lobbyists.
Canada – Lobbyists Slipping Through Cracks of Lobbying Act: Commissioner
iPolitics – Aiden Chamandy | Published: 6/15/2021
The latest high-profile investigation to reveal shortcomings in Canada’s lobbying demonstrates the legislation still needs a parliamentary review, Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said. Rob Silver, husband of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, has had contact with officials handling the federal wage subsidy and rent-relief programs. Bélanger said she suspects lobbying occurred that does not meet the threshold to register in Silver’s case, but she has no data to support the claim, because it is not collected in the federal lobbying registry.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Records Show Little Email Contact Between Gov. Dunleavy’s Former Aide and Oil Company That Hired Him
KTOO – Nathaniel Herz (Alaska Public Media) | Published: 6/14/2021
Ben Stevens, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s former chief of staff, had minimal email contact with officials from ConocoPhillips before he left his state post to take an executive job at the and gas company, according to his correspondence. Interest groups and some lawmakers have been scrutinizing Stevens’ move from state service to the private sector, saying the quick transition raises questions about whether Stevens is complying with state ethics laws.
California – San Diego Website Meltdown Preceded by Vendor Spat, Email Shows
San Diego Reader – Matt Potter | Published: 6/14/2021
The intrigue surrounding the city of San Diego’s abrupt switch to a new campaign finance disclosure website has deepened with the partial rejection by city officials of a request for public records that might shed further light on the controversial matter. The bumpy changeover of the site’s operator, from the veteran contractor Netfile to a new vendor calling itself Pasadena Consulting, was undertaken two months ago by the city clerk’s office without public announcement or official word to the site’s operator or official word to the media.
Colorado – Colorado Supreme Court Beats Back State Politicians’ Redistricting Efforts
Denver Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 6/1/2021
Colorado’s independent redistricting commissions are independent from the state’s political class and their desires, the state Supreme Court ruled in rebuffing lawmakers, the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. The Colorado Supreme Court said legislation that would change this year’s redistricting process amounts to an unconstitutional infringement on the redistricting commissions’ authority to determine how to go about their once-in-a-decade work of redrawing the state’s political maps.
Connecticut – Lawyer Says ‘No Quid Pro Quo’ in Provision Struck from Connecticut Marijuana Bill That Favored One Producer
Hartford Courant – Mark Pazniokas (Connecticut Mirror) | Published: 6/14/2021
Investor J.D. DeMatteo’s interest in getting one of the first licenses to produce marijuana for Connecticut’s recreational market coincided with state Sen. Doug McCrory’s desire to open the industry to “social equity” applicants from poor and urban neighborhoods. McCrory insisted on a provision in the cannabis legalization bill that was intended to allow DeMatteo to jump to the head of the line for a cultivation license if he took on a social equity partner. Whether the provision was the result of altruism, opportunism, or a bit of both, it became an example of the ad hoc nature of legislative negotiations over how to dole out access to a lucrative new market.
Florida – Miami Beach Rep. Michael Grieco Ordered to Pay $1,000 After Probe of Ethics Lapses
MSN – Christina Sant Louis (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/12/2021
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust issued a “letter of instruction” rebuking state Rep. Michael Grieco for twice violating the Citizens’ Bill of Rights during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner. The commission found Grieco falsely portrayed his involvement with the People for Better Leaders PAC. It ordered him to pay $1,000 to cover costs. A third allegation that Grieco indirectly solicited a contribution from a city vendor was dismissed.
Hawaii – Emails Show HART Leaders Always Wanted to Hire Hanabusa as Consultant
Honolulu Civil Beat – Marcel Honore and Nick Grube | Published: 6/15/2021
Before a lucrative rail consulting gig went out for public bid, top officials at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) were determined to award that contract to the board’s former chairperson, Colleen Hanabusa, internal records show. HART Board Chairman Toby Martyn declared in December he wanted to hire Hanabusa as a lobbyist who could help with its budget problems and would report directly to the board she used to lead. Martyn also discussed the contract with Hanabusa 10 days before the solicitation was released publicly. HART leaders say there were no procurement violations, but they are still checking whether the process violated city ethics policies.
Maine – Maine Ethics Panel Votes to Pursue Records from Power Line Opponents
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 6/11/2021
Maine’s campaign finance watchdog agency voted to continue efforts to determine whether a limited liability corporation working to block a controversial transmission line project should have registered as a PAC or a ballot question committee. The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices also agreed to pursue a subpoena for financial information from an unidentified political consultant who has worked with Stop the Corridor to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect project. The project will be the subject of a statewide ballot question in November.
Massachusetts – Judge Rejects Plea Deal in Corruption Case of Former Correia Chief of Staff
WPRI – Shaun Towne and Steph Machado | Published: 6/10/2021
A federal judge rejected a plea deal Genoveva Andrade made with prosecutors in a public corruption case that would have spared her jail time. The unusual decision means Andrade, who was chief of staff to former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, remains charged with six crimes. She could potentially go to trial or plead guilty again under a new agreement with the prosecution. Andrade pleaded guilty to helping Correia in his scheme to shake down marijuana vendors for bribes in exchange for his approval of their proposed cannabis shops.
Massachusetts – Mass. Republican Party Explored Whether It Can Use Its Own Money to Pay for a Candidate’s Legal Fees
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 6/13/2021
The Massachusetts Republican Party, which has struggled to raise money in recent years, asked state campaign finance regulators if it could tap its own legal defense fund to pay costs for a candidate who is facing “legal actions initiated by a state administrative or law enforcement agency.” GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, state Sen. Ryan Fattman, and Stephanie Fattman, the Worcester County Register of Probate and Ryan Fattman’s wife, were each referred to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office in April by the state campaign finance office, which said it had evidence they and others may have violated various campaign finance laws last year.
Mississippi – Lt. Gov. Hosemann’s Inaugural Nonprofit Got $368k in Secret Donations, Filings Show
Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 6/10/2021
A nonprofit created to fund Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann’s inauguration raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret donations, with some gifts as large as $20,000, recent tax filings show. The organization, Advance Mississippi 2020, raised the money to pay for inauguration events early last year including a gala and prayer breakfast. The group was dissolved later in 2020 with the leftover money given to several charities. The documents are the latest example of how Mississippi politicians can use nonprofits to sidestep the usual restrictions and transparency required by campaign finance laws.
Nebraska – Donor to Nebraska Anti-Gambling Campaign Will Pay Record-Breaking Late Filing Fee
Omaha World-Herald – Martha Stoddard | Published: 6/11/2021
An Ohio-based group that spent more than $2.3 million to fight Nebraska’s casino gambling measures last fall will pay a record-breaking fine for missing a campaign finance report deadline. The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission voted to grant a request for relief from Collective Prosperity. They reduced the fee to $23,130, down from the original $231,300 that was determined by a formula in state law. The law requires corporations, unions, trade groups, or professional associations based outside of Nebraska to file contribution reports if they give more than $10,000 a year to a Nebraska campaign.
New York – Cuomo’s Inner Circle Raised Money for Aide Who Was Convicted of Bribery
New York Times – Brian Rosenthal and J. David Goodman | Published: 6/15/2021
After one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most trusted aides and closest friends, Joseph Percoco, was convicted of accepting more than $300,000 in bribes from executives with business before the state, the governor quickly distanced himself. Privately, however, members of Cuomo’s inner circle, including one of his sisters, have for years been raising money for Percoco. As recently as last year, the group was helping to fund Percoco’s appeal of his conviction, after some of its members also helped finance a trust fund for his children.
New York – Longtime Assembly Aide Approved as New York’s Election Watchdog
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 6/14/2021
Michael Johnson a former New York Assembly aide, was chosen as the state Board of Elections chief enforcement counsel, replacing Risa Sugarman. When the enforcement counsel position was created in March 2014, it was touted as a major reform. During her six-year tenure, Sugarman angered a wide swath of the Legislature with investigations and lawsuits. She fined major labor unions that were allies of Assembly Democrats. In the Senate, the list of targets included all three factions of the chamber: Democrats, Republicans, and the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference.
North Dakota – North Dakota Paid Its Top Investment Management Firm Millions Without Competitive Bidding Process
The Forum – Patrick Springer | Published: 6/15/2021
The state of North Dakota has paid its top investment consultant $12.9 million over the past 20 years without subjecting the firm to a competitive bidding process, an arrangement allowed by state law. The North Dakota State Investment Board has relied on investment consultant Callan for more than three decades to help select investment managers to steer the state’s $19.4 billion investment portfolio. Callan has a unique role in recommending other investment firms and working with the state on its overall investment strategies.
Ohio – Ally of Suspended Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charges
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/10/2021
A second ally of suspended Cleveland City Councilperson Kenneth Johnson admitted to charges involving the federal corruption investigation of Johnson. John Hopkins, the former executive director of the Buckeye-Shaker Square Development Corp., pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft from a federal program. Johnson’s friend, Robert Fitzpatrick, pleaded to conspiracy involving fraudulent expense reports the council member filed with the city. A federal grand jury indicted Johnson, Hopkins, and Johnson’s longtime aide, Garnell Jamison. Prosecutors said Johnson stole more than $127,000 from city coffers by submitting false monthly expense reports.
Ohio – Larry Householder Out: Ohio House votes to remove former speaker
MSN – Jessie Balmert, Laura Bischoff, and Anna Staver (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 6/16/2021
State Rep. Larry Householder, a former two-time House speaker, was expelled from the Ohio Legislature nearly 11 months after his arrest on a federal corruption charge. House members utilized a little-used provision in the Ohio Constitution that allows lawmakers to police their own for “disorderly conduct.” Householder was arrested last year in connection with the state’s largest bribery scheme. He is accused of orchestrating a nearly $61 million operation to win control of the Ohio House, pass a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants, and defend that law against a ballot initiative to block it.
Oregon – ‘Only Reasonable Course of Action’: Oregon GOP legislator ousted over state Capitol breach
USA Today – Connor Radnovich (Salem Statesman Journal) | Published: 6/11/2021
The Oregon House expelled Rep. Mike Nearman, who let violent, far-right protesters into the state Capitol on December 21. The vote marked the first time a member has been expelled by the House in its 160-year history. The only vote against the resolution was Nearman’s own. He said he let the protesters in because he believes the Capitol, which has been closed to the public to protect against spread of the coronavirus, should have been open. Nearman also faces two misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Poised for History-Making Election of Its First Black Mayor This Fall
MSN – Nick Keppler (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2021
More than five decades after Cleveland became the first, followed by virtually every other major city in the Midwest and Northeast, Pittsburgh is finally poised to join their ranks and make history this fall by electing a Black mayor. The all-but-certain victory of state Rep. Ed Gainey comes as the former steel town, these days dubbed one of America’s most livable cities, looks hard at the racial inequities that have meant different experiences and opportunities for African American residents. Gainey is the first candidate to defeat a sitting mayor in nearly 90 years.
Rhode Island – Former RI State Rep-Elect Pleads Guilty to Embezzling from Nonprofit
MSN – Providence Journal Staff | Published: 6/16/2021
A man who won a seat in the Rhode Island House but resigned before being sworn pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement and campaign finance charges. The court gave Laufton Ascencao a five-year suspended sentence with probation, imposed a $1,000 fine, and ordered restitution of $13,387.70 to the Rhode Island Chapter of the Sierra Club. Allegations of financial impropriety surfaced shortly after his election, including the charge that he used money from the Rhode Island Sierra Club to help finance his campaign.
South Carolina – SC House Reveals New List of $90M in Taxpayer Funds for Lawmakers’ Pet Projects
MSN – Andrew Caplan (The State) | Published: 6/13/2021
The South Carolina House released its list of nearly $90 million in earmarks members want in the upcoming budget that takes effect July 1. But the list falls short of the level of transparency and accountability that most lawmakers said they favored when polled by reporters. The new list also reveals some lawmakers are sponsoring earmarks that, in previous years, other legislators took heat for sponsoring because of potential conflicts-of-interest. Some watchdogs wonder if these lawmakers are trying to head off additional criticism by convincing their colleagues to sponsor the questionable earmarks on their behalf.
Tennessee – Closed Cold Case Murder Tied to Ousted Tennessee Governor
ABC News – Kimberly Kruesi (Associated Press) | Published: 6/9/2021
Investigators have been chipping away at the 42-year-old cold case of Samuel Pettyjohn’s murder since they renewed their investigation in 2015. At the time of his death, prosecutors said he was an informant in a federal probe of then-Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton, who was accused of taking bribes in exchange for state prisoners receiving early parole. Investigators have now linked Pettyjohn’s killing to the Blanton inquiry. Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston said Pettyjohn was killed in a murder-for-hire plot paid for in-part by a third party on behalf of Blanton’s administration.
Texas – Dallas City Corruption Trial Begins for a Local Developer Accused of Bribing Former Councilors
MSN – Kevin Krause (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 6/14/2021
It is a transaction that happens routinely in politics: the payment of money by a business owner to a public official with the expectation of some future favorable action. But when is that payment an illegal bribe and when does it fall into the category of a routine campaign contribution? A federal jury will soon decide the matter, at least in the trial of developer Ruel Hamilton, who is accused of bribing two former Dallas City Council members. Prosecutors say Hamilton made payments to Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway in exchange for their help on the council with his real estate properties.
Texas – State Bar Investigating Texas Attorney General
MSN – Jake Bleiberg (Associated Press) | Published: 6/10/2021
The State Bar of Texas is investigating whether state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on bogus claims of fraud amounted to professional misconduct. The bar association initially declined to take up a complaint that Paxton’s petitioning of the U.S. Supreme Court to block Joe Biden’s victory was frivolous and unethical. But a tribunal that oversees grievances against lawyers overturned that decision and ordered the bar to look into the accusations against the Republican official.
Virginia – Black Virginians Took Ralph Northam Back. Neither Has Forgotten.
New York Times – Astead Herndon | Published: 6/14/2021
On a national level, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam may forever be enshrined as the Democrat who defied calls to resign in the face of unquestionable racism – a photograph on his yearbook page that showed one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume. But among Black political leaders and elected officials in Virginia, he is set to leave office with another legacy: becoming the most racially progressive governor in the state’s history, whose focus on uplifting Black communities since the 2019 scandal will have a tangible and lasting effect.
Washington – Google to Pay Washington State $400,000 to Settle Campaign Finance Lawsuit
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 6/17/2021
Google agreed to pay $400,000 to settle charges it has not complied with Washington’s campaign finance laws, which require businesses to retain records of political ads they sell in the state. It is the second time in three years that the company has settled a campaign finance lawsuit in Washington. Google paid $200,000, plus attorneys’ fees, to settle a similar lawsuit, but admitted no wrongdoing. This time, Google agreed it did not comply with state law, but still disputes whether the law applies the company.
May 7, 2021 •
National/Federal ‘Cult of Personality’: House Dems seize on Cheney chaos Politico – Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu | Published: 5/5/2021 Republicans are days away from dethroning U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as their third-ranking leader after her repeated broadsides against former President […]
‘Cult of Personality’: House Dems seize on Cheney chaos
Politico – Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu | Published: 5/5/2021
Republicans are days away from dethroning U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as their third-ranking leader after her repeated broadsides against former President Trump. In doing so, Democrats believe the GOP is handing over the ingredients for a political litmus test that could energize their push to beat the historical odds and hang onto their narrow House majority next fall. The Cheney ouster opens the door to tarring the GOP, once again, as the party of Trump. The turmoil over Cheney’s future has elevated Trump’s voice in the party to a degree last seen before his encouragement of baseless election fraud claims turned to violence on January 6.
Delayed Census Data Kicks Off Flood of Redistricting Lawsuits
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 5/1/2021
Every redistricting cycle brings a torrent of litigation over the country’s political boundaries, which can play an outsized role in determining which party controls the House of Representatives and statehouses around the country. But this year, a confluence of forces – including the census delays, pending federal legislation about redistricting, and major U.S. Supreme Court rulings earlier in the decade – could transform that steady stream of lawsuits into a downpour. Combined with the compressed timeline for making new maps, the litigation promises to make redistricting a more chaotic and unpredictable affair in 2021 and 2022.
Democrats Tweak Marquee Voting Bill as They Seek Path Out of Senate
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
Congressional Democrats amended their voting-rights, campaign finance, and ethics bill, addressing concerns raised by elections administrators but forgoing a more radical rewrite of the legislation. The changes to the For the People Act come after the bill passed the House and ahead of a vote in a Senate committee that could advance the bill to the floor. Republicans are opposed to the bill, meaning it will be unable to clear a Senate filibuster. While many activists and some senators are eager to change the chamber’s rules to allow the bill to pass with a simple majority, many Democratic senators have expressed misgivings about doing so.
ESG Lobbying Surges with Democratic Control of Washington
MSN – Laura Weiss (Roll Call) | Published: 4/29/2021
More lobbyists reported raising environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues with U.S. officials and lawmakers this year, with Democrats now controlling Washington, than ever before. “ESG” has been steadily appearing in more federal quarterly lobbying reports in recent years. Those issues are now at their highest point as regulators and members of Congress prepare policy on climate change. Groups that disclosed such lobbying included large trade associations, asset managers, financial services firms, insurers, pension-focused groups, and at least two left-leaning organizations advocating ESG disclosure rules.
Facebook’s Oversight Board Upholds Ban on Trump. At Least for Now.
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin, Kat Zakrzewski, and Heather Kelly (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the social network’s ban on former President Trump for encouraging violence following the January 6 attack on the Capitol, a decision that holds major implications for how the speech of political leaders should be policed online. But the Oversight Board, which is largely independent of the social network, also left open the door for Trump’s return. The expert panel took issue with Facebook’s “indefinite” suspension of Trump, calling it “vague and uncertain.” It sent the decision back to Facebook and said it had six months to clarify Trump’s punishment and come up with a response that fits its known rules.
FBI Warned Giuliani, Key Trump Ally in Senate of Russian Disinformation Campaign Targeting Biden
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 4/29/2021
The FBI warned Rudolph Giuliani in late 2019 that he was the target of a Russian influence operation aimed at circulating falsehoods intended to damage President Biden ahead of last year’s election, according to current and former U.S. officials. The warning was part of an effort by the bureau to alert members of Congress and at least one conservative media outlet, One America News, they faced a risk of being used to further Russia’s attempt to influence the election’s outcome. Giuliani received the warning while deeply involved with former President Trump’s reelection campaign and related activities in Ukraine to surface incriminating information about the Biden family.
For Republicans, Fealty to Trump’s Election Falsehood Becomes Defining Loyalty Test
MSN – Ashley Parker and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 5/2/2021
Rejection of the 2020 election results has increasingly become a litmus test for acceptance in the Republican Party. In January, eight senators and 139 House members voted in support of objections to the election results and since then, Republicans from Congress to statehouses to local party organizations have embraced the falsehood that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. In Washington, internal feuding over who is to blame for the insurrection has riven the House Republican leadership. Local officials are facing censure and threats. The issue also could reverberate through the 2022 midterms and the 2024 election.
How Top White House Adviser Anita Dunn Is Dodging Ethics Disclosure
The Intercept – Lee Fang | Published: 5/4/2021
President Biden’s promise to reverse the “revolving door” and usher in a new, transparent administration has not extended to one of his closest advisers. Thanks to a loophole, Anita Dunn, a member of the president’s inner circle, does not have to file the public financial disclosure required of every other presidential appointee. She was hired into a special, temporary role that keeps her disclosure – and, therefore, her client list at the consulting firm SKDK and any conflicts-of-interest – out of the public eye.
Judge Blasts Barr, Justice Dept. for ‘Disingenuous’ Handling of Secret Trump Obstruction Memo
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
A judge accused the Justice Department and then-Attorney General William Barr of misleading the court and public to hide how he decided former President Trump should not be charged for obstructing Robert Mueller’ s Russia investigation. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the release of a 2019 memo prepared by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which Barr sought to keep secret by asserting it was part of the department’s internal decision-making process before he selectively announced the Mueller report’s findings that March. Jackson wrote that after viewing the memo and other evidence the department’s claims “are so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence.”
Newsmax Issues Retraction and Apology to Dominion Employee Over Election Stories
National Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 4/30/2021
The right-wing media outlet Newsmax, which amplified former President Trump’s false allegations of election rigging and widespread voter fraud, said there is no evidence that Dominion Voting Systems and one of its top employees, Eric Coomer, manipulated election results in 2020. Coomer withdrew his defamation lawsuit against Newsmax earlier Friday, ahead of Newmax’s apology. Coomer’s attorneys said he has reached a financial settlement, but terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Observers Report Ballots and Laptop Computers Have Been Left Unattended in Arizona Recount, According to Secretary of State
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2021
Ballots have been left unattended on counting tables. Laptop computers sit abandoned, at times open, unlocked, and unmonitored. Procedures are constantly shifting, with untrained workers using different rules to count ballots. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sent a letter outlining a string of problems she said observers from her office have witnessed at a Republican-led recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona’s largest county. The recount of Maricopa County’s nearly 2.1 million ballots was ordered by the GOP-led state Senate, despite the fact that county officials, as well as state and federal judges, found no merit to claims the vote was tainted by fraud or other problems.
California – Campaign Season Lasts Year-Round in Santa Clara County
San Jose Spotlight – Madelyn Reese | Published: 5/4/2021
In Santa Clara County, politicians can fundraise for their campaigns all year and keep the excess money to pay off incurred debt. That is much different than campaign finance rules in San Jose. Both San Jose and Santa Clara County have rules that are stricter than the state, but the county’s approach to fundraising is novel in that it allows elected officials to fundraise the entire time they are in office. San Jose only allows candidates and elected officials to fundraise 180 days before an election.
Florida – Florida Republicans Rushed to Curb Mail Voting After Trump’s Attacks on the Practice. Now Some Fear It Could Lower GOP Turnout.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/3/2021
For more than thirty years, Republican campaigns in Florida have invested millions of dollars encouraging their supporters to cast ballots by mail. State legislators passed laws making it easier. GOP voters became so comfortable with casting ballots by mail that in 2020, nearly 35 percent of those who turned out did so. Now, some Republicans are reacting with alarm after the GOP-dominated Legislature passed a bill that puts new restrictions on the use of mail ballots. As voting rights advocates accuse proponents of attempting to suppress the votes of people of color, these Republicans say their own political fortunes are in peril, as well.
Florida – Tampa Activist Joe Robinson at Center of Rome Yard Controversy
MSN – Charlie Frago (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 5/4/2021
A disputed bid process in Tampa’s prime development parcel has some optic problems. Family members of Mayor Jane Castor have been tied to the deal with Related, a developer that won the initial nod to develop the Rome Yard. It was discovered recently that Joe Robinson, a local activist and engineer, signed a $75,000 professional services contract with a partner to the deal, the Tampa Housing Authority. Robinson, who was involved in the Related pick as a selection committee member, initiated a move during a meeting to throw out minority outreach scores, a successful effort that led to Related being ranked higher than Invictus.
Idaho – Idaho Lawmaker Accused of Rape Resigns After Ethics Ruling
Associated Press News – Rebecca Boone | Published: 4/29/2021
An Idaho lawmaker accused of rape by a 19-year-old legislative intern resigned after an ethics committee found he should be formally censured. The investigation into Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger began in March after a young staffer reported he raped her in his apartment after the two had dinner at a Boise restaurant. Von Ehlinger has denied all wrongdoing and maintains he had consensual sexual contact with the young woman. He resigned after the committee unanimously agreed he engaged in “behavior unbecoming” and recommended he be suspended without pay for the rest of the legislative session.
Illinois – A Slew of Ex-State Lawmakers Face Criminal Charges, but Critics Question Whether Proposed Reforms Are Enough for Illinois’ ‘Very Vibrant Culture of Corruption’
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella and Jenny Whidden | Published: 5/3/2021
Two years into a federal corruption investigation that has led to charges against more than half a dozen current and former state lawmakers and precipitated the downfall of longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, legislators are scrambling to strengthen Illinois’ government ethics laws. Proposals include tightening rules for lobbyists, requiring additional financial disclosures from elected officials, giving more independence to the legislative inspector general, and prohibiting lawmakers from becoming lobbyists immediately upon leaving office. But critics say the proposals do not go far enough to fix the problems.
Illinois – Chicago Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, Nephew of Richard M. Daley, Hit with Federal Charges in Bank Case
MSN – Jason Meisner and John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 4/29/2021
Chicago Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, the nephew and grandson of the city’s two legendary mayors, was charged s part of a federal investigation into the collapse of a bank in his family’s longtime neighborhood, records show. Thompson was charged in a seven-count indictment with filing false tax returns and lying to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. officials about $219,000 in loans and other payments he received from Washington Federal Bank for Savings before it was shuttered in 2017.
Indiana – Indiana’s Top Elections Official Admits Fundraising Error
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 4/28/2021
Indiana’s top elections official acknowledged violating political fundraising rules with the launch of her 2022 election campaign. Secretary of State Holli Sullivan requested contributions as she announced her campaign five days earlier than allowed under changes to state law signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb that day.
Kansas – Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel Arrested for Battery After Physical Altercation with Student
MSN – Sarah Ritter and Jonathan Shorman (Kansas City Star) | Published: 4/29/2021
Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel was arrested on charges of misdemeanor battery after getting into a physical altercation with a student while substitute teaching. Throughout the day, high school students began recording videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, and God. Parents said Samsel “put hands on [a] student” and allegedly kneed him in the crotch. In a video apparently taken immediately after the incident, the student is shown on the ground. Samsel is standing over him and says, “did it hurt?”
Kansas – Overland Park Councilman Fined Thousands for Ignoring Campaign Finance Violations
Kansas City Star – Katie Bernard and Sarah Ritter | Published: 4/28/2021
In 2019, Overland Park City Councilperson Scott Hamblin spent $87.57 from his campaign fund at Men’s Wearhouse in violation of state campaign finance rules. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined Hamblin and campaign treasurer Tara Burke $270 each for misuse of campaign funds and $5,000 each for failure to file reports. The $5,000 fine can be dropped to $1,000 if the reports are filed and the fine is paid within 30 days. The commission said Hamblin’s campaign failed to file two required campaign finance reports in the past year and never reimbursed his campaign for the Men’s Wearhouse purchases.
Michigan – Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland Pleads Guilty to Misconduct in Office, Resigns
Detroit News – Christine Ferretti | Published: 5/3/2021
Gabe Leland pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in office and resigned his seat on the Detroit City Council. He will not serve any jail time under the plea agreement. Leland was accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 in cash and free car repairs from a businessperson in exchange for his vote on a controversial land deal. After his indictment in 2018, Leland vowed it would be “business as usual” for him at City Hall and he was “innocent until proven guilty.” He had continued to take part in council sessions and meetings for more than two years.
Michigan – House Panel Debates Financial Disclosure Bills That Wouldn’t Make Sitting Lawmakers’ Finances Public
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbons | Published: 5/4/2021
A Michigan House committee took up legislation that would require lawmakers to disclose their personal finances, debating the merits of a plan that would subject elected officials to new disclosure requirements without allowing the public to see it until they are out of office. The package would compel lawmakers to submit financial information for themselves and immediate family members, including income sources over $5,000, properties valued over $50,000 excluding their primary residence, and stocks, bonds and annuities valued at $10,000 or more, to a new legislative ethics committee in their chamber.
Mississippi – Mississippi Politicians Are Capitalizing on Loopholes in State’s Campaign Finance Law
Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 4/28/2021
Former Mississippi Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall was retired last year but continued spending campaign money accumulated over a long career in elected office. His actions highlight loopholes in campaign finance law. Politicians can use campaign funds for personal reasons as long as it is money they raised before 2018, when reforms took effect banning the practice. A politician may stop filing disclosure reports even if they have funds remaining in their campaign account. This means the public might never learn what a candidate or politician does with hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars in leftover campaign cash.
Montana – Legislature Approves Campaign Finance Exemption for Religious Groups
Montana Standard – Sam Wilson | Published: 4/29/2021
Montana lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session passed a bill exempting religious organizations from some of the campaign reporting requirements for political communications. Senate Bill 689, which was originally written to target a political organization representing students in the state university system that generally supports liberal causes, also includes language that exempts churches and other religious groups from having to file campaign finance reports on the cost of political communications.
Montana – Legislature Passes New Recusal Requirements for Judges
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 4/28/2021
Montana lawmakers passed a bill that establishes broad conflict-of-interest guidelines for judges while prohibiting some political activities in some areas on public college campuses. Under Senate Bill 319, judicial officers would be disallowed from presiding over a case if they received at least half of the maximum individual contribution from a lawyer or party during the previous six years. They would also have to recuse themselves if a lawyer or party to the case donated to a political committee that supported the judge or opposed their opponent in the past six years.
Montana – Montana Supreme Court Says COPP Can’t Issue Subpoena for Records
Montana Standard – Holly Michels | Published: 5/3/2021
The Montana Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the state commissioner of political practices does not have the power to subpoena records during investigations. The Montana Democratic Party had filed a complaint claiming the state Republican Party failed to comply with campaign finance reporting and disclosure requirements for elections in 2016, 2017, and 2018. When Commissioner Jeff Mangan investigated, he first informally requested the state GOP produce relevant documents. The party only provided public campaign finance reports it had already filed in 2016. When the GOP did not respond to a subpoena, the commissioner went to court to compel the party to respond.
New Mexico – State Senator Plans to Sue New Mexico Cabinet Secretary, Alleging Retaliation
Yahoo News – Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 5/3/2021
State Sen. Jacob Candelaria is planning to sue New Mexico Health Secretary Tracie Collins over an ethics complaint he claims she filed against him in retaliation for his request for records related to the state’s response to COVID-19 and the spending of federal funds. Candelaria said the tort claim, which is a notice of intent to sue, will be the first in a series of actions he plans to take to expose the alleged retaliation and threats he faced after he filed public records requests with the governor’s office last year.
New York – Larry Schwartz, Cuomo’s Volunteer COVID Vaccine Czar, Stepping Down
MSN – Dennis Slattery (New York Daily News) | Published: 4/29/2021
Larry Schwartz, who ran New York’s coronavirus contact tracing program and vaccination efforts during the past year, is stepping down. The move comes a day after state lawmakers rolled back a rule exempting Schwartz and other volunteers who assisted the administration during the crisis from the state’s public officers laws. Currently the chief strategy officer at OTG, an airport concessions company, Schwartz previously served as a senior adviser to Cuomo before being appointed secretary to the governor in 2011. He left the administration in 2015 but currently serves on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board.
New York – Reformers Push for Independent Watchdog to Tackle Albany Corruption
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal – Joe Mahoney (CNHI News) | Published: 5/4/2021
The mystery of what happened to a lobbying disclosure report from Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates comes at a time when lawmakers are mulling the possibility of scrapping the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) for a more independent agency. Records show the firm has nothing on file for the bi-monthly reporting period of January through February of this year. Patrick Jenkins said the firm made a complete filing, and he was unaware it was not showing up in the online system. David Grandeau, a former director of the defunct state Lobbying Commission, said the case reflects how JCOPE has been failing to make such filings transparent and to be vigorous in responding to alleged corruption at the statehouse.
North Carolina – Ex-Buncombe Commissioner Vice Chair Frost Sentenced to 6 Months for Corruption; May Appeal
MSN – Joel Burgess (Ashville Citizen Times) | Published: 4/28/2021
Former Buncombe County Commissioner Ellen Frost was sentenced to six months in prison for corruption. The sentence was unexpected following a plea deal with prosecutors who recommended no prison time. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Conrad said the case was unusual in that she did not gain monetarily, but it had the “very serious nature of local government corruption.” Frost admitted to conspiring with ex-County Manager Wanda Greene to misapply more than $575,000 of taxpayer’s funds toward equestrian enterprises.
Ohio – Cincinnati Issues 1 and 2: Voters back anti-corruption measures for City Hall
MSN – Sharon Coolidge and Hannah Sparling (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 5/4/2021
Cincinnati voters approved a pair of ant-corruption measures that will make it easier to remove a council member in the event they are arrested. Issue 1 and Issue 2 were put on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the city council and were not controversial. They come as four council members are accused in separate corruption scandals in the last 14 months. There was no provision in the city charter that addressed removal in any form, which left outsiders like the state attorney general to act.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Complaint Seeks Campaign Spending Details from Householder-Aligned Candidate
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/29/2021
A conservative activist issued subpoenas as part of a state elections case he filed against a former state legislative candidate aligned with ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Chris Hicks is hoping to uncover information about campaign spending for Allen Freeman, a township trustee from Clermont County who in May 2020 finished last in a three-candidate Republican primary for a state House seat. Freeman reported spending just $14,000 on his campaign, even though public records show his campaign bought more than $100,000 worth of television ads alone.
Oregon – Big Political Donors Get Big Say in Oregon Political Money Limits
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 4/29/2021
Now that campaign contribution limits are legal in Oregon, the specifics that lawmakers are negotiating in private would set much higher limits than voters have approved and allow the broadest possible array of entities to continue making big donations. While the public cannot attend those meetings, wealthy donors have been allowed in, according to lawmakers. Interest in capping political money was never particularly high this session – no Democratic leaders listed it as a priority – and now appears to be withering.
Oregon – Former Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt Arrested in Prostitution Sting
Portland Oregonian – Chris Lehman | Published: 5/3/2021
Dave Hunt, a former speaker of the Oregon House who currently is a lobbyist in Salem, is accused by Portland Police of soliciting sex from an undercover officer. He was one of eight men arrested by the Human Trafficking Unit undercover operation. According to a news release, officers posted decoy ads online and Hunt, along with the others arrested, responded to arrange payment for sexual acts.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmaker Who Let Far-Right Demonstrators into Capitol Charged with Criminal Misconduct
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 4/30/2021
An Oregon lawmaker who let violent far-right demonstrators into the Capitol during a December 21 special session was criminally charged with first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass. Rep. Mike Nearman was caught on security videos opening a door and allowing demonstrators to enter the building. Earlier this year, House Speaker Tina Kotek called for Nearman to resign because his actions “put every person in the Capitol in serious danger,” and she joined multiple other lawmakers to file a formal conduct complaint with the Legislative Equity Office alleging Nearman’s actions created a hostile work environment.
Pennsylvania – One Ritzy Fundraiser Shows How Tough Selling Lobbying Reform in Pa. Will Be
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch (The Caucus) | Published: 5/4/2021
House Speaker Bryan Cutler and Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman plan to unveil a proposed ban on lobbyists who moonlight as political consultants as part of a lobbying reform package. Yet as the plan is being finalized, Corman is attending a fundraiser organized by one of a trio of companies that has cornered the market on the business practice Corman’s legislation aims to stop. The Harrisburg-based firms, called The Mavericks, fundraise for elected officials, run their political campaigns, then lobby them once they are in office.
South Carolina – $352K Used to Avoid Prosecution Could Go to Fight SC State House Corruption
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 4/29/2021
Special Prosecutor David Pascoe said he wants to give $352,000 his investigative team collected from five powerful organizations to the South Carolina Ethics Commission. The money is from separate corporate integrity agreements Pascoe and his team made during his nearly seven-year investigation of questionable lobbying practices and secret payments to state lawmakers. Pascoe said although enough evidence likely existed to get a grand jury to issue indictments for unlawful lobbying practices against the entities, it would have been tough to gather enough evidence to convince a jury in a trial “beyond a reasonable doubt” of the charges.
South Carolina – More Than a Dozen Horry Politicians Could Face Ethics Fines – but the Law Isn’t Perfect
MSN – Dale Shoemaker and Maya Brown (Myrtle Beach Sun News) | Published: 4/30/2021
Some politicians in South Carolina could face fines from the state Ethics Commission because they failed to file a required ethics report or filed that report past the deadline. Those same reports also reveal the business and other economic interests of elected officials across Horry County. Because most politicians in the county do not serve in those positions as full-time jobs, almost all of them have day jobs, or own businesses. But critics say because of loopholes in the law, those reports do not tell the whole story of where a politician earns their money, what business interests they have, and what conflicts-of-interest could arise as they serve the public.
Tennessee – GOP Lawmaker: Three-Fifths Compromise was to end slavery
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi | Published: 5/5/2021
Tennessee Rep. Justin Lafferty falsely declared an 18th century policy designating a slave as three-fifths of a person was adopted for “the purpose of ending slavery,” commenting amid a debate over whether educators should be restricted while teaching about systematic racism in America. Historians largely agree the compromise gave slaveholding states inordinate power over choosing a president and decisions of the Continental Congress. That clout eventually faded when Northern state populations began to rise. No lawmakers in the chamber directly challenged Lafferty’s false claims but some applauded when he finished talking.
Texas – Authorities Say They Won’t Seek Charges After Investigating Allegation That a Lobbyist Drugged a Texas Capitol Staffer
Texas Tribune – Cassandra Pollock | Published: 4/29/2021
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Travis County District Attorney’s Office said, “… there is not enough evidence to support” an allegation that a lobbyist used a date rape drug on a Capitol staffer and “no crime occurred in this instance.” After DPS confirmed it was investigating the allegation, Bill Miller, a co-founder of HillCo Partners, had said one of its employees was “a person of interest” in the investigation. The latest allegation sparked another conversation about the prevalence of sexual misconduct around the Capitol and prompted questions about whether the current system still allows such behavior.
Texas – Texas Lawmakers Want Lobbyists Trained on Sexual Harassment After Date Rape Drug Allegations
Dallas Morning News – Allie Morris and James Branagan | Published: 4/29/2021
Texas lawmakers are making a push in the legislative session to require lobbyists to undergo sexual harassment training, a response to a recent allegation that a lobbyist drugged a Capitol staffer. House Bill 4661 and Senate Bill 2233 were filed after legislative deadlines to introduce bills in each chamber. But in a rare move that indicates unanimous support, lawmakers suspended those rules to allow the bills to move forward. One bill would require lobbyists, as part of the registration process, to complete sexual harassment training every two years.
Washington DC – Manchin Says He Doesn’t Support D.C. Statehood Bill, Dealing Advocates a Major Blow
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2021
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters he does not support the bill to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state. Manchin, a key swing vote in the closely divided Senate, said he believes a constitutional amendment, rather than legislation, would be required to admit the District of Columbia as a state. His stance deals a blow to statehood advocates who were hoping for his support after the bill passed the House.
May 4, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Mississippi: “Mississippi Politicians Are Capitalizing on Loopholes in State’s Campaign Finance Law” by Luke Ramseth for Mississippi Daily Journal Montana: “Legislature Approves Campaign Finance Exemption for Religious Groups” by Sam Wilson for Montana Standard Elections National: “For Republicans, […]
Mississippi: “Mississippi Politicians Are Capitalizing on Loopholes in State’s Campaign Finance Law” by Luke Ramseth for Mississippi Daily Journal
Montana: “Legislature Approves Campaign Finance Exemption for Religious Groups” by Sam Wilson for Montana Standard
National: “For Republicans, Fealty to Trump’s Election Falsehood Becomes Defining Loyalty Test” by Ashley Parker and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) for MSN
Kansas: “Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel Arrested for Battery After Physical Altercation with Student” by Sarah Ritter and Jonathan Shorman (Kansas City Star) for MSN
Oregon: “Oregon Lawmaker Who Let Far-Right Demonstrators into Capitol Charged with Criminal Misconduct” by Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
South Carolina: “More Than a Dozen Horry Politicians Could Face Ethics Fines – but the Law Isn’t Perfect” by Dale Shoemaker and Maya Brown (Myrtle Beach Sun News) for MSN
Texas: “Authorities Say They Won’t Seek Charges After Investigating Allegation That a Lobbyist Drugged a Texas Capitol Staffer” by Cassandra Pollock for Texas Tribune
Washington DC: “Manchin Says He Doesn’t Support D.C. Statehood Bill, Dealing Advocates a Major Blow” by Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Delayed Census Data Kicks Off Flood of Redistricting Lawsuits” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
April 23, 2021 •
National/Federal A Government Ethics Office Refused to Approve Kanye West’s Financial Disclosures from His Failed Presidential Campaign MSN – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/19/2021 The Office of Government Ethics refused to sign off on Kanye West’s financial disclosure forms […]
A Government Ethics Office Refused to Approve Kanye West’s Financial Disclosures from His Failed Presidential Campaign
MSN – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/19/2021
The Office of Government Ethics refused to sign off on Kanye West’s financial disclosure forms from his failed 2020 presidential campaign. Observers said the unusual step is likely due to West not fully disclosing his wife’s income and assets. On the form, West claimed he was exempt from reporting Kim Kardashian West’s income by citing a law stating federal candidates can go without disclosing their spouse’s income sources if they have no knowledge of the income stream, it is not connected to their own economic activities, and they do not expect to derive a financial benefit from it.
As Some States Rush to Redistrict, Gerrymandering Fight Moves to Back Burner
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 4/15/2021
A handful of states are looking to jump the gun amid the wait for census data, putting efforts to change the way legislative maps get redrawn on the back foot and raising concerns about transparency. Because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic and decisions by the former Trump administration, Census Bureau officials will be late delivering decennial results. The agency has promised congressional apportionment data by the end of April, with redistricting data coming as late as the end of September. The delays present challenges to dozens of states, ranging from blown mapmaking deadlines to crammed primary schedules.
Big Spending on Personal Security Ignites Post-Jan. 6 Debate Over Members’ Budgets
Politico – Sarah Ferris and Daniel Payne | Published: 4/16/2021
More than one third of the 17 Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach or convict former President Trump used campaign funds to install security systems or hire private details within weeks of their votes, for a total of nearly $200,000 over the first three months of this year. Congressional spending on private security has surged among members of both parties since the deadly riot on January 6 amid a spike in death threats against lawmakers and their families. That spending, all revealed in recent campaign finance disclosures, spotlights a challenge many lawmakers are eager to tackle: how to update the strict rules that govern personal security costs for members of Congress.
Corporations Agree to Transparency on Climate Lobbying
MSN – Laura Weiss (Roll Call) | Published: 4/14/2021
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of socially responsible investors, announced its members made deals with the five companies to report publicly about their influence on climate policy and alignment with the Paris Agreement, which led to the withdrawal of shareholder proposals. Some of the companies will provide stand-alone climate lobbying reports that lay out direct and trade association activities, while others will include disclosures in sustainability reports. The group expects some of the disclosures to include that companies are changing their lobbying practices.
Election Objectors Leaned on Small Donors After Corporate PAC Backlash
Politico – Zach Montellaro, Theodoric Meyer, and Allan James Vestal | Published: 4/16/2021
Most House Republicans who objected to the certification of President Biden’s victory saw their small-dollar fundraising rise in the first three months of this year compared to the same quarter in 2019, in the latest indication that Republicans are not facing a major cash crunch three months after many corporate PACs vowed to stop giving to their campaigns. It is not clear how long the corporate PACs that paused the giving will remain dark or who they will support once they reopen for business.
Government Spends £66,000 on Lobbyists Register Run by Part-Time Boss
The Guardian – Jim Waterson | Published: 4/16/2021
The United Kingdom’s Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists was founded in 2014 following a series of scandals in the early part of David Cameron’s tenure as prime minister, with a pledge to increase transparency around lobbying activities. But its activities have been severely limited by the narrow powers and resources granted to it by the government compared with equivalent registers in countries such as the United States. The culture of lobbying the government has come under scrutiny following the revelations that Cameron privately lobbied leading government ministers on behalf of Greensill Capital.
Groups See New Openings for Digging Up Dirt on Trump
The Hill – Rebecca Beitsch | Published: 4/20/2021
Public interest groups determined to stay focused on the Trump administration say they have new openings for unearthing information now that the past government’s political appointees have departed. Various groups that flooded the government with Freedom of Information Act requests say the departures have greased the wheels of various agencies’ public records shops. Requests ranging from the pandemic response and the January 6 attack on the Capitol are moving forward, potentially aiding activists eager to bring new dirt to light.
How the G.O.P. Is Creating Harsher Penalties for Protesters
Yahoo News – Reid Epstein and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) | Published: 4/21/2021
There is a wave of new anti-protest legislation, sponsored and supported by Republicans, in the 11 months since Black Lives Matter protests swept the country following the death of George Floyd. The Minneapolis police officer who killed Floyd, Derek Chauvin, was convicted on murder and manslaughter charges. But while Democrats seized on Floyd’s death to highlight racism in policing and other forms of social injustice, Republicans responded to a summer of protests by proposing a raft of punitive new measures governing the right to lawfully assemble. GOP lawmakers in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills during the 2021 legislative session, more than twice as many proposals as in any other year.
‘I’m Still a Zero’: Vaccine-resistant Republicans warn that their skepticism is worsening
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 4/20/2021
Public health officials are working to understand potential roadblocks in the campaign to inoculate Americans against the coronavirus. Among the most pressing questions are why so many Republican voters remain opposed to the shots and whether the recent decision to pause Johnson & Johnson vaccinations was a factor. Although more than half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, more than 40 percent of Republicans have consistently told pollsters they are not planning to be vaccinated, a group that could threaten efforts to tamp down the virus’s spread, public health officials fear.
Just 12 Megadonors Accounted for 7.5% of Political Giving Over Past Decade, Says Report
MSN – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 4/20/2021
A dozen megadonors and their spouses contributed a combined $3.4 billion to federal candidates and political groups since 2009, according to a report produced by Issue One. The research shows the top 12 donors split equally between six Democrats and six Republicans. The list includes multiple Wall Street billionaires and investors, a Facebook co-founder, a shipping magnate, and the heir to a family fortune dating back to the Gilded Age. The study quantifies the intensifying concentration and increasing role of the super-rich in American politics following the loosening of restrictions on political spending by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Leadership PACs Are Often Overlooked. These Corny Names Can’t Be Ignored
MSN – Herb Jackson (Roll Call) | Published: 4/20/2021
If you won your seat in Congress by one of the narrowest margins ever – six votes – you cannot run away from it. And U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks showed she is owning her win in choosing the name for her leadership PAC, a fundraising committee that operates parallel to, and with more relaxed spending rules, than the one she will use to run for reelection. Showing some originality in an area of campaign finance where too many lawmakers rely on gimmicks, or even names that were taken before them, Miller-Meeks not only trumpeted her close win by choosing “Six Political Action Committee.” That is Six PAC if you are filling out checks.
Pompeos Violated Rules on Use of State Department Resources, IG Finds
Politico – Nahal Tusi | Published: 4/16/2021
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated federal ethics rules governing the use of taxpayer-funded resources when he and his wife, Susan, asked State Department employees to carry out tasks for their personal benefit more than 100 times, a government watchdog determined. Investigators uncovered scores of instances in which Mike or Susan Pompeo asked State Department staffers to handle tasks of a personal nature, from booking salon appointments and private dinner reservations to picking up their dog and arranging tours for the Pompeos’ political allies. Employees told investigators they viewed the requests from Susan Pompeo, who was not on the federal payroll, as being backed by the secretary.
The End of the Imperial Governorship
Politico – Nick Neidzwaidek | Published: 4/14/2021
Lawmakers across the country have proposed and, in many cases, passed measures to curtail the sweeping powers bestowed on their state executives. The tug-of-war between legislators and governors has the potential to shape the boundaries of gubernatorial authority for years to come and raises substantive questions of how much leeway the state leaders should have during prolonged crises. Debates over things like mask mandates and economic restrictions were frequent last year. But the conflict over the power of the executive transcends ordinary politics, playing out in states both red and blue, and even where one party controls both branches.
The GOP’s Big Bulk Book-Buying Machine Is Boosting Republicans on the Bestseller Lists
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 4/15/2021
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spent nearly $400,000 on bulk purchases of U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s book last year. It acquired 25,500 copies through two online booksellers, enough to fuel the book’s ascent up the bestseller lists. The NRCC said it gave away copies as incentives to donors. The NRCC was not the only outfit providing a boost to conservative authors. Four party-affiliated organization collectively spent more than $1 million during the past election cycle mass-purchasing books written by GOP candidates, elected officials. The purchases helped turn several volumes into bestsellers.
Third House GOP Lawmaker Issued $5,000 Metal Detector Fine
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 4/20/2021
A third Republican lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, has been issued a $5,000 fine for failing to comply with a security screening before entering the House chamber. Rogers set off the metal detector stationed at one of the entrances to the chamber but continued walking. A Capitol Police officer then told Rogers he needed to go through additional security. “Maybe later, I have to vote,” Rogers replied, according to the police report.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Another Recology Exec Faces Charges of Bribing Mohammed Nuru
MSN – Megan Cassidy (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 4/20/2021
A former Recology vice president was charged with money laundering and bribery as part of an alleged attempt to increase San Francisco’s dumping fees to the waste management company, becoming the business’ second executive to be netted in the still-expanding City Hall corruption scandal. The case against John Porter comes to light as the company prepares to pay back nearly $100 million to San Francisco customers who were overcharged, and months after Paul Giusti, one of Porter’s subordinates, was charged with similar conduct.
California – How San Jose Mayor’s Ally Helped Bloom Energy Skirt a Natural Gas Ban
San Jose Spotlight – Sonja Herrera and Tran Nguyen | Published: 4/15/2021
Two weeks before San Jose passed a ban on natural gas for new commercial buildings, city officials introduced an exemption that benefited a local company, Bloom Energy, whose vice president is a friend to the mayor. Critics say the way they did it shows the stark difference in access granted to political insiders, as well as the extent to which city policy is swayed by special interests. “It’s politics. … We want everybody to have an opportunity to chime in, especially if you’re going to be directly impacted,” said Councilperson Raul Peralez. “In theory, it makes sense … in real practice, it’s not very fair.”
Florida – Dark Money Details Emerge as Former Florida State Senator and No-Party Candidate Head to Court
MSN – Ana Ceballos and Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 4/14/2021
An alleged election scheme that stumped Florida’s political world is about to spill into court, as former state Sen. Frank Artiles is set to face trial in a public corruption case. Artiles is facing several felony charges for allegedly recruiting and paying Alexis Pedro Rodriguez, an auto-parts dealer, to run as a no-party candidate in Senate District 37 race to sway the outcome of the election. While prosecutors have charged Artiles and Rodriguez related to the scheme, the investigation is still open, and many questions remain on whether the case could expand to other 2020 Florida Senate races that also featured mysterious no-party candidates.
Florida – Matt Gaetz’s Scandal Puts a New Spotlight on Florida’s Male-Dominated Capital Culture
Bangor Daily News – Skyler Swisher (South Florida Sun Sentinel) | Published: 4/17/2021
Tallahassee has long been a perfect recipe for political scandal – a state capital that can take on a frat-house-like atmosphere removed from the watchful eyes of spouses and loved ones. Now, as U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz fights to save his career, scrutiny is once again being placed on the long-standing culture of Florida’s capital city where Gaetz got his start in politics. The pandemic has changed dynamics for the 2021 legislative session with COVID-19 safeguards keeping lobbyists away from the Capitol and toning down after-hours events. But a persistent cultural problem still exists, said Susan Glickman, who lobbies for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Illinois – How Should Springfield Clean Up After the ComEd Scandal? Lawmakers’ Reform Plans Are Hazy
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold | Published: 4/17/2021
Illinois lawmakers have yet to put up new ethical guardrails in response to the historic Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) bribery scandal that toppled ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan and led to a series of federal indictments. Given the nature of Madigan’s dramatic and forced departure, meting out some legislative consequences for the powerful utility company’s misconduct would be a logical response for Illinois lawmakers this spring. A pair of potential rewrites to state utility law give some prominence to ethics reforms related to the revelations in the ComEd probe, but nothing under consideration would seriously curb the outsized political influence ComEd has enjoyed for decades in Illinois.
Kansas – Proposed Ethics Code Limits Gifts to Wichita Officials for the First Time in History
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 4/16/2021
Wichita city leaders are considering overhauling their ethics code and for the first time setting a limit on gifts to city council members. The proposed rules would ban gifts worth more than $150 a year, establish an anonymous hotline for reporting ethics violations, and set up an appointed commission to review complaints. Violating the code could result in a fine between $100 and $1,000. Mayor Brandon Whipple has pushed for the reforms after ethical breaches led to several local officials leaving office in recent years and raised questions about the city’s bidding process.
Louisiana – Proposal to Shield Industry’s Groundwater Board Members from Ethics Charges Advances
New Orleans Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 4/20/2021
A proposal to exempt the industry members of the Capital Area Groundwater Commission from certain ethics laws after five members of the board were hit with conflicts-of-interest charges won support from a Senate panel over opposition from environmental advocates. At stake is whether five members of the board – those employed by the Baton Rouge Water Company, ExxonMobil, Georgia-Pacific, and Entergy – can sit on the board without running afoul of state ethics laws. The Louisiana Board of Ethics voted to bring charges against the members last year because they are employed by companies they regulate.
Louisiana – State Senator Casts Tie-Breaking Vote for Slidell Casino. His Wife Is One of the Lobbyists
Louisiana Daily News – Tyler Bridges (New Orleans Advocate) | Published: 4/19/2021
A controversial proposal to move a casino boat to Slidell cleared its first hurdle when a Senate committee chairperson, whose wife is a lobbyist for the measure, cast the tie-breaking vote. State Sen. Gary Smith’s wife is one of 19 lobbyists hired by Brent Stevens, the founder of P2E, the company that wants to move its shuttered casino. The extraordinary number of lobbyists has caught the attention of insiders who note it takes only 20 votes to approve legislation in the Senate. Before the hearing, Smith said he did not know his wife, a veteran lobbyist, was working on the issue.
Maryland – In Rebuke to Hogan, Maryland Statehouse Passes Ethics Bill
Washington Monthly – Eric Cortellessa | Published: 4/13/2021
Maryland lawmakers unanimously voted for more enhanced disclosure requirements for elected officials following a media report about Gov. Larry Hogan who, unbeknownst to legislators or the public, advanced road and highway infrastructure projects near properties owned by his real-estate firm, a move that can increase the value of those properties. Hogan has not yet said whether he will sign the bill into law, although that seems likely given there are more than enough votes to override a veto.
Massachusetts – Should DiMasi, and Other Federal Felons, Face a Ban on Lobbying Beacon Hill? The SJC Will Decide
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 4/16/2021
The Supreme Judicial Court will rule on whether former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and others guilty of federal corruption charges should be barred from lobbying state lawmakers, the governor, and other Massachusetts officials for 10 years after their conviction, even if their crimes are not directly cited in the state law. The question could be precedent-setting and has been at the center of a two-plus-year legal battle between Secretary of State William Galvin and DiMasi, who joined the lobbyist ranks in September after a Superior Court judge ruled the ban did not apply to him because the law only references state convictions, not federal ones.
Massachusetts – Wunderkind Ex-Mayor to Face Jurors in Fraud, Bribery Case
Associated Press News – Alanna Durkin Richer | Published: 4/18/2021
After he was elected mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, at just 23 years old, it seemed Jasiel Correia’s political career had nowhere to go but up. But prosecutors now say he is a fraud and a thief. Correia heads to trial on charges he stole more than $230,000 from investors in a smartphone app he created to pay for things like a Mercedes and casino trips. As mayor, he is accused of convincing his chief of staff to give him half of her salary to keep her city job and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana businesses seeking to operate there.
Michigan – Benson’s Office Backs Unlock Michigan on Not Disclosing Donor Sources
Yahoo News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 4/14/2021
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson decided a nonprofit organization that is funded by secret donors and helped bankroll the Unlock Michigan campaign does not have to report where its contributions came from. The ruling is a boon for nonprofit groups that want to engage in campaigns in Michigan without having to file disclosures. A complaint argued because Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility made a series of contributions to Unlock Michigan, the group qualified as a ballot committee itself. Under that interpretation, the group would have to file its own disclosures about where $1.8 million came from.
Michigan – Michigan House Unveils Plan to Overhaul Ethics Policies Ranked Last in Country
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 4/20/2021
The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Michigan House revealed a plan to institute wide-ranging ethics reforms, targeting policies that have been ranked worst nationally for transparency. At least some of the bills are proposing fundamental changes for lobbying and disclosure laws, which have been agreed on by House members on both sides of the aisle. If all of them became law, they would alter how Lansing operates, providing additional oversight, de-emphasizing the so-called “lame duck” period, and changing the House process for deciding when bills take effect.
Michigan – Police Pulled Over a Michigan Lawmaker for Allegedly Driving Drunk. He Threatened to Call the Governor.
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 4/22/2021
For almost 50 miles, witnesses reported, a Chevy Tahoe with the vanity plate “ELECTED” was driving so recklessly that at least one person saw the car go the wrong way before it rolled into a ditch. Inside the vehicle, state police found Michigan Rep. Jewell Jones, whose blood alcohol level was allegedly more than double the legal limit. In the cupholder behind him was a semiautomatic handgun. “If you hit me, it’s going to be very bad for you. I’ll call Gov. [Gretchen] Whitmer right now,” Jones told the officers. “When I call Gretchen,” he allegedly continued, they would have to hand over their “IDs, badge numbers, everything.”
Michigan – Whitmer: Michigan will vet labor, environmental compliance of firms bidding on state jobs
MSN – Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 4/16/2021
Companies bidding on state government contracts will be vetted to try to ensure they are not committing payroll fraud, are paying fair wages and benefits, and have acceptable labor and environmental records, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. The new rules, which Whitmer said will implement an executive directive she issued in 2019, are in part a response to the 2018 repeal of Michigan’s “prevailing wage” law. which generally required firms to pay union wages and benefits for state government and school district jobs, following a voter initiative, Whitmer said.
Missouri – Eric Greitens Was Biggest Donor to Own Senate Campaign; State Filing Raises Red Flags
Yahoo News – Bryan Lowry (Kansas City Star) | Published: 4/16/2021
One donor accounted for more than half of the money raised so far by former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ U.S. Senate campaign: Eric Greitens. His total represents about a tenth of what was raised by Democrat Lucas Kunce during the first quarter of the 2022 cycle. Greitens still maintains a state campaign account with nearly $200,000 but is barred from using it for his Senate candidacy under state and federal campaign rules. Greitens’ state report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission raises some red flags.
Missouri – Missouri House Expels Lawmaker Accused by His Children of Sexual and Physical Abuse
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 4/21/2021
Days after rejecting state Rep. Rick Roeber’s letter of resignation, the Missouri House voted to expel the Kansas City-area Republican whose now-adult children testified he sexually abused them when they were minors. A House Ethics Committee report states Roeber sexually abused two of his children when they were nine and five, respectively, and attempted to abuse the children other times. The report also says Roeber physically and mentally abused his children. Roeber, according to the report, said the published allegations prior to the election were “a political hit.” He said at one point during the investigation “all my kids are Democrats.”
Montana – Bill Exempting Religious Groups from Campaign Reporting Gets Another Shot
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 4/21/2021
A bill exempting religious nonprofits from Montana’s campaign finance reporting requirements won the Senate’s endorsement after an earlier version was tabled in the House. Sen. Bryce Bennett said political organizations could hide behind a tax-exempt status as a religious group and use that cover to avoid disclosing donors the way other political committees are required to in the state. Sen. David Howard rejected that argument, saying the federal government has strict requirements for religious organizations to maintain a tax-exempt designation.
New York – Eric Adams’ Campaigns and Nonprofit Reaped Big Bucks from Lobbyists and Developers Seeking Help
The City – Eric Green and Yoav Gonen | Published: 4/18/2021
Eric Adams, Brooklyn’s borough president and a top-tier candidate for mayor, will soon deliver a recommendation that could help determine whether a zoning plan that would add thousands of new residences to what was once a primarily manufacturing and working-class enclave lives, dies, or is significantly altered. A longtime lobbyist for real estate interests with major investments in the area sits on the board of a nonprofit Adams controls. Besides serving on the board, Ethan Geto, provides pro bono services for the fund and his firm created and manages the nonprofit’s website.
New York – Mount Vernon Ethics Board Chair Arrested Over Campaign Threats
MSN – Jonathan Bandler (Rockland/Westchester Journal News) | Published: 4/21/2021
A lawyer trying to get on the Democratic primary ballot for the Mount Vernon City Council was arrested after allegedly threatening Councilperson Janice Duarte over her brother’s objections to his nominating petitions. Gregory Cannata, chairperson of the city’s Board of Ethics, was arraigned on two misdemeanor charges of third-degree attempted coercion after he was accused of threatening to ruin Duarte if her brother did not withdraw his objections.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young Charged with Felony in ‘Gang of 5’ Texting Case
MSN – Sharon Coolidge and Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 4/15/2021
Cincinnati City Councilperson Wendell Young was indicted on a single charge stemming from a three-year-old texting scandal. A grand jury charged Young with tampering with records, a third-degree felony punishable by up to three years in prison. The charges against Young mark the fourth time a sitting council member who was elected in 2017 has been charged with a crime. The texting scandal has cast a shadow over council since the texting among a majority of members occurred in 2018 during a battle over whether to fire the city manager.
Ohio – In Ohio, Utility and Fossil Fuel Influence Reaches Beyond Bailout Bill
Energy News Network – Kathiann Kowalski | Published: 4/19/2021
“Dark money” loopholes remain in Ohio law, despite a surgical repeal of part of the law at the heart of a $60 million corruption scandal. Meanwhile, more evidence has emerged in recent months, detailing the flow of money by groups engaged in the House Bill 6 scandal and showing close ties between current and former utility lobbyists and Gov. Mike DeWine, as well as various lawmakers. “We need to learn from our mistakes,” said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, noting the House Bill 6 case is just the latest in a line of corruption scandals that have hit state politics in the past two decades.
Pennsylvania – Confined to Zoom No More, Activists Return to State Capitol to Hold Lawmakers to Account
Pennsylvania Capital-Star – Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison | Published: 4/20/2021
After being shut out for much of the last year, activists of all stripes are returning to the Pennsylvania Capitol. The building’s typical open-door policy allows citizens to attend rallies, knock on lawmakers’ doors, and sit in galleries to watch proceedings. But most advocacy groups curtailed their in-person activism last year, turning instead to Zoom or phone-banking campaigns. Michael Pollack, executive director of March on Harrisburg, said, “Lobbying over Zoom is very difficult. Legislators are able to avoid eye contact. … They are also able to orchestrate the conversation in a way so their staff can take the questions.”
Tennessee – Bill Ketron Penalized $135K for Campaign Finance Violations
Mufreesboro Post – Tayla Courage | Published: 4/16/2021
Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron was ordered to pay $135,000 by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance after state auditors found hundreds of thousands of dollars unaccounted for in his campaign and PAC accounts. Ketron told the board the money was not missing but poor accounting just made it look that way. His daughter, who was the campaign’s treasurer, was sentenced to eight years of probation after pleading no contest to 15 counts accusing her of fraudulent insurance acts, forgery, theft, and impersonating a licensed professional. Ketron said he would check in with his daughter to make sure she was keeping up with filings and deadlines, and she reassured him she was attending to her duties as treasurer.
Washington – Tim Eyman Ordered to Pay $2.9 Million to Cover Washington Attorney General’s Legal Costs
The Chronicle – David Gutman (Seattle Times) | Published: 4/16/2021
Anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman must pay almost $2.9 million to cover the legal fees and costs of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s long-running lawsuit against Eyman for campaign finance violations, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled. That sum is in addition to the $2.6 million civil penalty that Dixon previously imposed on Eyman for years of campaign finance violations the judge called “numerous and particularly egregious.” In granting the legal fees, Dixon gave a near-total victory to Ferguson in his nearly four-year case against Eyman.
West Virginia – Former ACT Lobbyist Won $500K from Lawsuit Against Former WV Schools Superintendent
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Ryan Quinn | Published: 4/15/2021
A former lobbyist for ACT Inc., the college entrance exam provider, was awarded $500,000 to settle his lawsuit against former state schools Superintendent Steve Paine and a current assistant superintendent. Lobbyist Jason Webb sued Paine, alleging the superintendent repeatedly discriminated against ACT’s attempt to win the statewide standardized testing contracts and, when Webb spoke up about it, threatened ACT with a loss of business if Webb did not relent.
April 9, 2021 •
National/Federal ‘A Complete Ripoff’: Campaign finance experts puzzled and stunned by Trump camp’s reported ‘money bomb’ ploy MSN – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/6/2021 Some donors who gave a few hundred dollars to former President Trump’s reelection campaign were […]
‘A Complete Ripoff’: Campaign finance experts puzzled and stunned by Trump camp’s reported ‘money bomb’ ploy
MSN – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 4/6/2021
Some donors who gave a few hundred dollars to former President Trump’s reelection campaign were shocked to see thousands drained from their accounts. Refund requests spiked in the final months of the campaign. A New York Times investigation detailed a recurring donation scheme reportedly referred to as “the money bomb” the Trump campaign used to pad its coffers in the final months of the campaign through the Republican fundraising platform WinRed. The payments, according to the Times, essentially functioned as an “interest-free loan” from Trump’s donors to his campaign, which faced financial turmoil in the months leading up to the November 3 election.
Corporate America Isn’t Welcoming Former Trump Cabinet Officials with Open Arms, Headhunters Say
MSN – Tory Newmyer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/7/2021
Before she joined the Trump administration as transportation secretary, Elaine Chao earned millions of dollars over the past decade by serving on the boards of big public companies such as Dole Foods and Wells Fargo. She offered sterling credentials to businesses eager to keep current with the Republican leadership, but Chao is encountering a fraught reentry into the private sector. Headhunters who have sought similarly prominent work for Chao have found little interest. While the small numbers make comparisons difficult, corporations do not seem to have an immediate interest in other top Trump administration alums either.
Corporate America Isn’t Welcoming Former Trump Cabinet Officials with Open Arms, Headhunters Say
MSN – Tory Newmyer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Before she joined the Trump administration as transportation secretary, Elaine Chao earned millions of dollars over the past decade by serving on the boards of big public companies such as Dole Foods and Wells Fargo. She offered sterling credentials to businesses eager to keep current with the Republican leadership, but Chao is encountering a fraught reentry into the private sector. Headhunters who have sought similarly prominent work for Chao have found little interest. While the small numbers make comparisons difficult, corporations do not seem to have an immediate interest in other top Trump administration alums either.
Covid Survivors Look to Turn Grief into Lobbying Clout
Politico – Alice Miranda Ollstein | Published: 4/5/2021
Activists with chronic illnesses helped save the Affordable Care Act from repeal and gun violence survivors built a movement to take on the National Rifle Association. Now, a cohort of COVID-19 survivors is working to turn their grief into political power. As President Biden pitches a multi-trillion-dollar package to shore up the country’s physical infrastructure, the new advocates, including people who lost loved ones to the virus, are focusing their grassroots lobbying on the follow-up plan Biden is expected to unveil addressing the country’s “human infrastructure.” Fresh off a round of lobbying in favor of the pandemic aid bill, recently formed groups are also launching efforts at the federal and state levels.
Democratic Firm Aims to Diversify Consultant Class
Politico – James Arkin | Published: 4/5/2021
A major Democratic consulting firm is building a new public affairs practice and launching a paid fellowship program intended to increase diversity in the party’s consultant class. Left Hook, a firm that works with major congressional candidates and committees, is launching the fellowship program this fall and bringing on a new veteran campaign operative to run a public affairs division. The effort is part of a long-term goal to increase the diversity in their own ranks in the hopes of pushing the party to further develop talent pipelines for women and people of color.
Former Trump HUD Official Fined, Barred from Government Employment
Politico – Katy O’Donnell | Published: 4/6/2021
A federal watchdog fined former Trump housing official Lynne Patton $1,000 and barred her from federal employment for four years after she violated a law prohibiting executive branch employees from engaging in political activities while on duty. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel penalized Patton, who served as Housing and Urban Development regional administrator for New York and New Jersey, over a video she produced with New York City Housing Authority residents to air at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Gaetz Is Said to Have Boasted of His ‘Access to Women’ Provided by Friend Charged in Sex-Trafficking Case
MSN – Michael Scherer and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 4/2/2021
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz repeatedly boasted to people involved in Florida politics about women he met through a county tax collector who has since been charged by federal authorities with sex trafficking of a minor, according to two people who heard his comments directly. They said Gatetz also showed them videos on his phone of naked or topless women on multiple occasions, including at parties with Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County. The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz paid for sex with women in violation of federal sex-trafficking laws.
Gaetz Reported to Have Sought a ‘Blanket’ Pardon from Trump
Politico – Benjamin Dinn and Matt Dixon | Published: 4/6/2021
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz allegedly sought a “blanket” presidential pardon from Donald Trump in the closing weeks of his administration, a request which was ultimately not fulfilled. The request for a blanket preemptive pardon for Gaetz and unidentified congressional allies, came as the Justice Department was opening an investigation into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel across state lines.
Honduras Hired Elite D.C. Law Firm in Failed Lobbying Effort to Derail ‘State-Sponsored Drug Trafficking Probe’ of President’s Brother
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/1/2021
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández’s government retained an influential Washington, D.C. law firm to lobby U.S. prosecutors to call off a “state-sponsored drug trafficking” probe of his brother, who was sentenced recently for smuggling 185 tons of cocaine into the United States. Prosecutors cited the failed September 2019 influence campaign by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, along with the murder of four people linked to the investigation, in urging stiff punishment for Juan Antonio Hernández, who is also a former Honduran lawmaker.
New Labor Secretary’s Ex-Boston Aides Line Up to Lobby in D.C.
Bloomberg Law – Ben Penn | Published: 4/6/2021
Three former senior aides who served under Labor Secretary Marty Walsh when he was Boston’s mayor are now lobbyists seeking to promote business interests in matters facing the U.S. Labor Department. Such career pivots are common in Washington, where businesses prize individuals who have working relationships with policymakers. There is no indication the trio of former staffers will have an easier time than any other company or union representative in gaining access to the new secretary. But the Walsh acolytes’ shift to labor lobbying highlights the business community’s desire to tap into the new secretary’s penchant for pragmatism and receptiveness to employer concerns despite his roots in organized labor.
Republicans Ramp Up Attacks on Corporations Over Georgia Voting Law, Threaten ‘Consequences’
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor and Todd Frankel (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Republicans are attacking corporations over their decision to condemn the controversial Georgia voting law, part of the party’s embrace of the populism espoused by former President Trump even as it creates tensions with traditional allies in the business community. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused corporations of siding with Democrats’ portrayal of the law as the new Jim Crow. His statement included a threat of unspecified “serious consequences” if companies continued to stand opposite Republicans on a variety of issues. The acrimony underscores the party’s increasingly fraying relationship with corporate America over social and cultural issues.
Sen. Ted Cruz Illegally Promoted His Book with Campaign Funds, Watchdog Alleges in Ethics Complaints
CNBC – Kevin Breuninger | Published: 4/7/2021
The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) alleges U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz violated campaign finance rules by using donor funds to promote his book. The CLC accused Cruz’s campaign committee of spending up to $18,000 in late 2020 on Facebook advertisements that “exclusively” urged viewers to buy copies of the senator’s book. Those ads included links to buy the book from third-party online booksellers, said the CLC. “Because Cruz receives royalties from book sales, his campaign crossed a legal line by spending donor funds on Facebook ads promoting sales of that book,” said Brendan Fischer, CLC director of federal reform.
The Battle for Tribune: Inside the campaign to find new owners for a legendary group of newspapers
MSN – Elahe Izade and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Last year, as a group of Baltimore Sun reporters embarked on a quest to find a new owner that could save their paper from a hedge-fund takeover, Ted Venetoulis, a former Baltimore County executive, launched the Save Our Sun campaign. It would eventually inspire a national effort to keep nearly a dozen newspapers owned by the same chain from being bought by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund with a singular reputation for gutting newsrooms. Although millionaires and political insiders were crucial to the rescue plan, so too were the reporters who work at the threatened papers.
White House Meets Little Resistance in Hiring Former Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 4/6/2021
Alethea Predeoux, a former lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees, and Charanya Krishnaswami, who lobbied for Amnesty International, received ethics waivers to join the Biden administration. The moves come after President Biden signed an executive order placing restrictions on all former registered lobbyists working in the administration, drawing praise from advocacy groups. Some of those same organizations have taken no issue with the recent waivers. Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said: “Public interest lobbyists are generally not an issue. The issue is corporate lobbyists who could … skew hundreds of billions of dollars to their former industry.”
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill Admits Affair, Won’t Run for U.S. Senate: ‘There’s no excuse’
AL.com – Connor Sheets and Kyle Whitmore | Published: 4/7/2021
After initially denying reports of an extramarital affair, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill admitted he had “an inappropriate relationship” with a legal assistant and will not make an anticipated run for the U.S. Senate. The revelations threw a wrench into the race to replace Sen. Richard Shelby, who is retiring. While campaigning for secretary of state, rumors that Merrill had a consensual encounter with a married woman in 2010 circulated. The allegation did little to stymie Merrill’s political aspirations, which continued with his 2019 campaign for U.S. Senate, where he was one of five GOP candidates hoping to unseat incumbent Democrat Doug Jones. In that campaign, Merrill made headlines for his comments about family values.
California – Carlsbad Approves Campaign Contribution Limits
San Diego Union Tribune – Phil Diehl | Published: 4/7/2021
Carlsbad lowered the limits on individual campaign contributions in a compromise that some city council members said was an effort to level the playing field for local candidates. Instead of using California’s default limit of $4,900 per donor, the council voted to set the maximum at $900 for council district elections and $3,100 for the mayoral and other citywide elected offices. The council also added a $10,000 cap on personal campaign loans.
California – How GOP Used Misinformation, Partisan News Sites to Flip California House Seats
CalMatters – Freddie Brewster and Katie Licari | Published: 3/26/2021
Last fall, Republicans flipped four congressional seats in California previously held by Democrats. Although the races varied in their rhetoric, they had one thing in common: the National Republican Congressional Committee targeted all four Democratic candidates in dossiers posted publicly that were filled with information, some of it false, used by some candidates for negative campaigning. The misinformation in turn was amplified not only on social media but by a handful of upstart conservative partisan news outlets.
Connecticut – Jon Lender: $20,000 ethics fine paid two years after being levied on former UConn official, who awarded her husband a $53,000 fellowship
MSN – Jon Lender (Hartford Courant) | Published: 4/2/2021
Former University of Connecticut graduate school diversity officer Charmane Thurmand, who was found by state ethics officials to have improperly given her husband a $53,000 fellowship, paid a $20,000 fine two years after it was levied, finally ending a contentious case. In March 2019, The Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board ordered Thurmand to pay the maximum $10,000 fine for each of two violations it found she had committed three years earlier. The Office of State Ethics filed an enforcement action with the help of the state attorney general’s office to collect the money.
Florida – Ethics Questions Raised About Developer Tapped for Riviera’s $300M Marina Project
MSN – Tony Doris (Palm Beach Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
Turning Riviera Beach’s waterfront into a municipal centerpiece has been a challenge for city officials and most of the construction has yet to materialize. As negotiators and Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) staff work behind the scenes, a new challenge has arisen for the city council members, who sit as the CRA board of directors. A series of articles cast one of the main developers, Vaughn Irons, in an unfavorable light. The stories focus on Irons allegedly presenting a document purporting to be from the DeKalb County Ethics Board that found it would not be a conflict for him to win a $1.5 million county contract while serving as chair of the county’s Economic Development Authority. The Ethics Board said it never issued that opinion.
Florida – Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie Pleads Guilty to Misusing Office; Corruption Felonies Dropped
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Marc Freeman | Published: 4/1/2021
Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie pleaded guilty to charges arising out of a public corruption case that ended her long political career. With her plea deal, she shook off all four felony corruption counts. Haynie no longer stands accused of concealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, including money from prominent city developers. She pleaded guilty to misuse of public office and failure to disclose a voting conflict, and received 122 months on probation.
Florida – Who Is Lobbying to Change Florida’s Privacy Laws? That’s Private
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 4/1/2021
A mysterious group is the driving lobbying force behind legislation that would beef up Florida’s data privacy laws. It has hired a Tallahassee-based lobbying team and spent $300,000 in political contributions, but almost no one, including the sponsors of the bills, has any idea who is behind the group. The organization, Propel Florida, is a nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors, lists a UPS box in Lithia as its only address and was incorporated last April. But over the first half of the 2021 legislative session, the group has flexed its political muscle.
Georgia – Georgia’s Republican Party Accused of Illegally Accepting In-Kind Contributions from an Election Integrity Nonprofit in a New FEC Complaint
Yahoo News – Grace Panetta (Business Insider) | Published: 3/31/2021
Two watchdog groups filed a complaint with the FEC accusing the Georgia Republican Party of illegally accepting in-kind contributions from True the Vote, a nonprofit that engaged in election-related activities around Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs., and not properly reporting them. The FEC defines in-kind contributions as a “non-monetary contribution” to benefit a campaign or committee. Federal law bans corporations (including both for-profit and non-profit organizations) from making such contributions to candidates or party committees or coordinating with them.
Georgia – MLB All-Star Game Yanked from Georgia Over Voting Law
Associated Press News – Ronald Blume | Published: 4/2/2021
Atlanta lost Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game over the league’s objections to sweeping changes to Georgia voting laws that critics, including the chief executive officers of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, have condemned as being too restrictive. Gov. Brian Kemp has insisted the law’s critics have mischaracterized what it does, yet GOP lawmakers adopted the changes largely in response to false claims of fraud in the 2020 elections by former President Trump and his supporters. The law includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run.
Illinois – Feds Put Spotlight on Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. in Sprawling Corruption Probe
WBEZ – Tony Arnold | Published: 4/7/2021
A sitting Cook County commissioner is now under the federal microscope as part of a sprawling federal corruption investigation into lobbyists and politicians in Illinois. The latest elected official to face scrutiny is Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena earlier this year to the Illinois Department of Revenue. The subpoena requested the agency release tax returns for Arroyo, his lobbying firm, and his wife. In 2019, Arroyo filed paperwork to lobby the Illinois Legislature while his father was a member. It is not illegal to lobby one government body while serving as an elected official in another, but state lawmakers are considering banning the practice.
Illinois – Illinois House Hears Ethics Proposals, Including ‘Revolving Door’ Prohibition for Lawmakers
The Center Square – Greg Bishop | Published: 4/5/2021
Lawmakers in an Illinois House committee are picking up on things the previous General Assembly attempted to address but was sidetracked last year by COVID-19. Stories boiled over throughout 2019 about corruption at the statehouse. They include a lawmaker wearing a wire catching another legislator in an alleged bribe, to other officials having their offices raided by federal investigators. The Ethics and Elections Committee heard about several ideas to address the problem.
Illinois – No Limit? Republican Gary Rabine Ups the Ante in High-Stakes Governor’s Race
Chicago Sun-Times – Andrew Sullander | Published: 4/5/2021
Four years after the Illinois race for governor broke national records for self-financing candidates, next year’s contest is shaping up to be another duel of the deep pockets. Businessperson Gary Rabine notified state election officials he had donated enough of his own cash to his gubernatorial campaign to lift all fundraising caps on the race.
Iowa – Iowa Democrat Drops Attempt to Contest House Race, Citing ‘Toxic Campaign of Political Disinformation’
MSN – Marianna Sotomayer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2021
Democrat Rita Hart dropped her challenge in the Iowa Second Congressional District race, asking the House to no longer consider an investigation into the outcome of her race against Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks following intense Republican pushback. Miller-Meeks was declared the winner over Hart following a recount with a difference of just six votes out of 400,000 cast. Hart alleges 22 legally cast ballots were not considered during the initial November canvass and subsequent recount, resulting in the tightest congressional electoral outcome in modern history.
Kentucky – Democratic Governor in Deep-Red Kentucky Signs Bill to Expand Voting, Bucking National Trend
MSN – Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) | Published: 4/8/2021
As Republicans from Georgia to Texas have pushed bills to restrict voting after President Trump’s loss, a markedly different story played out in deep-red Kentucky. The Bluegrass State’s GOP-dominated Legislature instead passed a bipartisan bill to expand access to the ballot box. Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, signed the measure, which mandates three days of no-excuse early voting, drop-boxes in every county, and an online portal to register absentee, among other changes.
Michigan – Dominion Says Ex-Michigan State Senator’s Election Fraud Claims ‘Successfully Duped Thousands of People’
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 4/5/2021
For months, former Michigan Sen. Patrick Colbeck has repeated baseless claims about mass fraud in the presidential election to state senators and pro-Trump crowds, falsely insinuating that rigged voting machines and bogus ballots swayed the results. Now, Colbeck is the latest target in Dominion Voting Systems’ legal battle to combat claims by Republican allies of former President Trump the company says have damaged its reputation. Dominion demanded Colbeck retract his “demonstrably false claims” about the 2020 election results.
Montana – Montana House Rejects Bill Calling Media ‘Slander Machines’
Associated Press News – Iris Samuels | Published: 4/7/2021
The Montana House narrowly rejected a measure that sought to prevent media outlets from reporting on news that lawmakers deem defamatory. The Stop Guilt by Accusation Act closely resembles bills introduced in at least four other states. None have been signed into law. Supporters of the measure said it was not meant to silence the media, but to ensure that reporting on public figures does not stray from the truth. Opponents said they wished to protect the public debate fostered by a free media.
New Mexico – Redistricting Bill One of 50 Signed into Law Tuesday by Lujan Grisham
Yahoo News – Robert Knott | Published: 4/7/2021
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that will create an independent, seven-member commission to redraw election district boundaries later this year, a victory for good-government advocates who say the maps too often are influenced by state politicians’ self-interest. Commissioners will be chosen no later than July 1 and have up to four months to come up with a plan using Census Bureau data. The coronavirus pandemic has led to a delay in the release of that information, which is estimated to be made public in September. The Legislature will then convene a special session to choose the final plans.
New York – New York Attorney General Probes Finances of Key Trump Aide
MSN – David Fahrenthold and Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 4/1/2021
The New York attorney general has gathered personal financial records of the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer and his family, another sign of legal pressure on one of former President Trump’s closest aides. Allen Weisselberg has handled Trump’s finances for decades, rising to become the company’s most powerful person not named “Trump.” In complex investigations, prosecutors often seek evidence of wrongdoing by subordinates to pressure them to reveal damaging information about their bosses. The pressure by both offices being brought to bear on Weisselberg appears designed to pursue that strategy against Trump.
North Carolina – Bar Lobbyists from UNC Board of Governors, a New Bill Says. 3 of Them Are Members Now.
MSN – Lucille Sherman and Kate Murphy (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 4/5/2021
A bill would bar the Legislature from appointing lobbyists to the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors. Senate Bill 546 would cut off one way some lawmakers influence the state’s higher education system by appointing close allies and donors. The bill would prevent lobbyists from trying to balance the interests of the system with those of clients who want certain legislation passed and lawmakers whose support they need to bring those bills across the finish line. Some lobbyists with big-name clients also have the power to direct campaign money to legislators, said watchdog Bob Hall.
North Dakota – Citing Too Much Paperwork, North Dakota Lawmakers Sink Bills to Boost Campaign Finance Transparency
Inforum.com – Jeremy Turley | Published: 4/6/2021
North Dakota senators defeated two bills that would have required political donors to disclose where their money is going, citing a likely increase in the amount of paperwork expected of partisan groups that help elect lawmakers. Candidates and political committees are not legally compelled in North Dakota to detail which campaigns they are supporting or opposing with donations. A bipartisan group of lawmakers set out to change that after Gov. Doug Burgum bankrolled millions of hard-to-track dollars in political advertising for and against candidates during last year’s election cycle.
Ohio – Bill Seeks to End ‘Dark Money’ Spending in Ohio Elections
The Courier – Tyler Buchanan (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 4/6/2021
Republican lawmakers are proposing to revamp some of Ohio’s campaign finance laws that would shine a light on “dark money” groups. Public officials from both parties have called for reforms in the wake of the House Bill 6 scandal, which saw the speaker of the state House arrested, as well as widespread attention paid to how certain groups navigate campaign finance and tax laws to anonymously influence election results.
Ohio – Columbus Zoo Investigation: CEO used zoo money personally, failed to bid construction project at The Wilds
MSN – Alissa Widman Reese | Published: 4/6/2021
Former Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Chief Executive Officer Tom Stalf used zoo funds to purchase a recreational vehicle for his exclusive use and used it for a family trip, according to an investigation by a law firm hired by the zoo’s board of directors. Stalf also personally selected the vendor for a $2 million construction project and did not seek competitive bidding. The findings are among the new revelations detailed in the zoo’s first public update on the case. Staif and former Chief Financial Officer Greg Bell resigned after it was reported they used zoo assets personally and for the benefit of their families.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Complaint Seeks Campaign Spending Details from Householder-Aligned Candidate
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/7/2021
A conservative activist issued subpoenas as part of a state elections case he filed against a former state legislative candidate aligned with then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Chris Hicks is hoping to uncover information about campaign spending for Allen Freeman, who in May 2020 finished last in a Republican primary for a state House seat. The Ohio Elections Commission authorized Hicks’ complaint for a full hearing, which gives him power to subpoena records and, in some instances, compel people to answer questions in writing.
Texas – What’s Inside Texas’s Move to Overhaul Voting Rules
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 4/7/2021
The war over voting access that has roiled Georgia is headed next to Texas, where Republican legislators are working through an omnibus elections overhaul package that would dramatically change the way some voters cast a ballot in future contests. The measure has been labeled a priority by both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who controls the state Senate. It follows on the heels of election overhauls that passed in 2017 and failed in 2019, but after a chaotic election held amid a pandemic, it aims to crack down on several practices that supporters say ran afoul of current state law.
Vermont – Anti-Bottle Bill ‘Patch Call’ Campaign Draws Fire
VTDigger.org – James Finn | Published: 4/7/2021
A campaign by a group of business lobbyists tried to thwart a bill that would reform recycling in Vermont through a “grassroots” effort. That campaign sparked confusion among lawmakers and constituents who have found themselves on the receiving end of the lobbying efforts and drawn criticism from environmentalists who say the group is being deceptive about its intentions. Vermonters for Recycling claims to be a “community organization” that “advocates for smart, reasonable and effective solutions for the effective reuse of waste materials in Vermont.” But despite the grassroots appearance, the group is run by a Boston-based lobbying firm hired by Vermont business groups that oppose House Bill 175.
Virginia – Unorthodox Republican Contest for Virginia Governor Breeds Confusion, Suspicion
MSN – Laura Vozella (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2021
Virginia Republicans are a month away from picking their candidate for governor – not by voters going to the ballot box, but instead by way of a byzantine internal nomination process that has bred confusion and suspicion among the party faithful. Longtime activists and newcomers are struggling to understand how to conduct and partake in the “unassembled convention,” an unorthodox format chosen by party leaders during a pandemic and a GOP family feud. As a nomination method, conventions are easier to manipulate than primaries because local party leaders control the application process, decide who is eligible to vote. and pick the convention location.
April 8, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Ohio: “Ohio Elections Complaint Seeks Campaign Spending Details from Householder-Aligned Candidate” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN Elections Kentucky: “Democratic Governor in Deep-Red Kentucky Signs Bill to Expand Voting, Bucking National Trend” by Tim Elfrink (Washington […]
Ohio: “Ohio Elections Complaint Seeks Campaign Spending Details from Householder-Aligned Candidate” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Kentucky: “Democratic Governor in Deep-Red Kentucky Signs Bill to Expand Voting, Bucking National Trend” by Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) for MSN
Texas: “What’s Inside Texas’s Move to Overhaul Voting Rules” by Reid Wilson for The Hill
National: “Corporate America Isn’t Welcoming Former Trump Cabinet Officials with Open Arms, Headhunters Say” by Tory Newmyer (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “The Battle for Tribune: Inside the campaign to find new owners for a legendary group of newspapers” by Elahe Izade and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) for MSN
Alabama: “Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill Admits Affair, Won’t Run for U.S. Senate: ‘There’s no excuse’” by Connor Sheets and Kyle Whitmore for AL.com
Illinois: “Feds Put Spotlight on Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. in Sprawling Corruption Probe” by Tony Arnold for WBEZ
National: “New Labor Secretary’s Ex-Boston Aides Line Up to Lobby in D.C.” by Ben Penn for Bloomberg Law
New Mexico: “Redistricting Bill One of 50 Signed into Law Tuesday by Lujan Grisham” by Robert Knott (Santa Fe New Mexican) for Yahoo News
April 2, 2021 •
National/Federal Business Groups Rethinking Value of In-Person Lobbying The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/31/2021 Before the pandemic, business groups held fly-ins that allowed for in-person meetings with members of Congress and agency officials. Trade associations are rethinking the need […]
Business Groups Rethinking Value of In-Person Lobbying
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/31/2021
Before the pandemic, business groups held fly-ins that allowed for in-person meetings with members of Congress and agency officials. Trade associations are rethinking the need for in-person lobbying and the travel costs that come with it. Many experts on K Street say engagement efforts are more likely to consist of a hybrid of meetings online and in Washington, D.C., along with fewer trips overall. Virtual fly-ins help lower the barrier of entry for advocacy because companies and groups are not spending as much as they otherwise would sending employees to Washington. In addition to reducing the cost of meeting with lawmakers, the pandemic has allowed for more meetings overall.
Cameron ‘Blocked Rule Change’ That Left ‘Open Door’ for Him to Lobby for Greensill
MSN – Kayleena Makortoff (Guardian) | Published: 3/29/2021
The Labour Party accused former British Prime Minister David Cameron of blocking rule changes that could have stopped him from personally lobbying government officials on behalf of collapsed lender Greensill Capital without publicly declaring his interests. The opposition party put forward amendments to the Lobbying Act that would have increased transparency and scrutiny of in-house lobbying. Rules only require third parties to log their efforts in the public register, while in-house lobbyists do not have to. The amendment, which would have required both groups to register, was defeated after Cameron, who was still prime minister, ordered Conservative peers to vote against the changes in January 2014, Labour said.
Corporations, Vocal About Racial Justice, Go Quiet on Voting Rights
New York Times – David Gelles | Published: 3/29/2021
As Black Lives Matter protesters filled the streets last summer, many of the country’s largest corporations expressed solidarity and pledged support for racial justice. But now, with lawmakers around the country advancing restrictive voting rights bills that would have a disproportionate impact on Black voters, corporate America has gone quiet. Its guarded approach stands in stark contrast to its engagement with other social and political issues in recent years. Many big companies spoke out against then-President Trump on issues including climate change, immigration, and white supremacy.
Court Voids Trump Campaign’s Non-Disclosure Agreement
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/30/2021
A federal judge ruled a broad non-disclosure agreement that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign required employees to sign is unenforceable. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe’s ruling generally steered clear of the constitutional issues presented by such agreements in the context of political campaigns. Instead, the judge said the sweeping, boilerplate language the campaign compelled employees to sign was so vague the agreement was invalid under New York contract law.
Dems Could Dethrone Iowa
Politico – Natasha Korecki and Holly Otterbein | Published: 3/31/2021
Democratic Party leaders are considering overhauling the 2024 presidential primary calendar, a transformation that would include ousting Iowa and New Hampshire from their perches as the first states to vote. Senior party leaders and Democratic National Committee members are privately exploring the idea of pushing South Carolina and Nevada to the front of the primary election schedule, as well as the possibility of multiple states holding the first nominating contest on the same day. Critics have long insisted that Iowa and New Hampshire have an outsized role in framing the presidential contest despite being unrepresentative of the rest of the country.
Dominion Voting Sues Fox for $1.6B Over 2020 Election Claims
Associated Press News – Colleen Long | Published: 3/25/2021
Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed to boost faltering ratings that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election. It is the first defamation suit filed against a media outlet by the voting company, which was a target of misleading, false, and bizarre claims spread by former President Trump and his allies in the aftermath of Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Dominion argues Fox News, which amplified inaccurate assertions that Dominion altered votes, “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process,” according to the lawsuit.
Ethics Upholds Gohmert’s $5,000 Metal Detector Fine
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 3/30/2021
The House Committee on Ethics Committee upheld the $5,000 fine levied against U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert for bypassing a security screening to enter the House chamber. Gohmert appealed days after House Democrats voted to enact the punitive measure to enforce compliance with the metal detector screenings established following the January 6 insurrection. Gohmert stated in his appeal that he had complied with the security screening upon first entering the chamber on February 4. He then left the House floor briefly to use the restroom and was unaware that he had to undergo another screening upon reentering the chamber.
FEC Greenlights Campaign Spending for Bodyguards
Politico – Daniel Payne | Published: 3/25/2021
Members of Congress will now be allowed to hire bodyguards with campaign funds, according to a new ruling from the FEC. The agency said members of the House and Senate may spend campaign dollars to hire security personnel when they are not being protected by law enforcement on Capitol Hill. The FEC will also give more guidance to lawmakers on using campaign money for personal security needs beyond the hiring of bodyguards. “I’ve never thought of us as a country where the leadership of the country had to be surrounded by armed guards and needed to keep the public at arm’s length at all times,” said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, who voted to approve the final ruling.
Gaetz Investigation Complicated by Overture to His Father About Ex-FBI Agent Who Went Missing
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2021
The Justice Department is investigating U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz over allegations he had sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel, though the probe has been complicated by Gaetz’s assertion his family is being extorted. The FBI separately is exploring the extortion claims that center around Robert Levinson, the longest-held American hostage in Iran. The investigation into Gaetz’s alleged relationship with the 17-year-old grew from a federal case against a different Florida Republican: Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector who was charged last summer with sex trafficking of a child and other offenses.
GOP Donors Are Hobnobbing in Person Again; Dems Are Sticking to Zoom
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Susannah Luthi | Published: 3/31/2021
A few Democrats have dipped their toes in the water with outdoor events, but the party has mostly stuck to virtual fundraisers. A list of more than 80 upcoming fundraisers for House Democrats sent out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently includes no in-person events, and a half-dozen Democratic lobbyists and consultants said they could not recall being invited to any such gatherings. Democrats’ caution poses a sharp contrast with a growing number of lawmakers on the Republican side of the aisle, who have been meeting in person with donors for weeks, if not months, and are showing no desire to slow down.
No ‘Dreamers’ Allowed: DACA recipients still can’t work for Congress
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 3/25/2021
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. as children, to apply for deportation relief if they meet certain criteria. It also allows them to file for a Social Security number, get a driver’s license, and apply for federal student financial aid. But an appropriations provision has prevented federal money from being used to pay noncitizens as federal employees, with few exceptions. Dreamers can get a job on Capitol Hill only if they are paid by third parties, as interns or fellows placed through groups like the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
NRA Faces Internal Woes as It Girds for New Gun Control Fight
MSN – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
In 2017, the National Rifle Association (NRA) celebrated its ascendant political power with a newly elected U.S. president, Donald Trump, who stood at the organization’s national convention lectern promising to deliver for the gun-rights group that had helped secure his election. Four years later, though, the NRA is confronting challenges that have undercut the power of the long-feared lobby organization, even as new gun control measures are proposed after two mass shootings. It has been plagued by allegations of self-dealing and is defending itself against a lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general that alleges the NRA violated its nonprofit status as its top leaders allegedly raided the group’s coffers for personal gain.
Trump Helped the GOP Raise $2 Billion. Now Former Aides and Allies Are Jockeying to Tap into His Fundraising Power.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2021
The number of independent money operations connected to former President Trump – some directly associated with him, others that have his tacit blessing – has been expanding since he left office. The groups, which include both nonprofits and super PACs, are seeking to capitalize on Trump’s fundraising firepower, which drove a record $2.2 billion into the three Republican Party campaign committees during his time in office. GOP officials are trying to keep that pipeline going, a prospect complicated by Trump’s ambivalence about letting the party continue to fundraise off his name and the separate fundraising efforts springing up around him, some of which could take aim at Republicans who have crossed the former president.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Mark Finchem Sought to Overturn the Presidential Race. Now He Wants to Run Arizona’s Elections
MSN – Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) | Published: 3/29/2021
One of the leaders of an effort to overturn the results of the presidential race in Arizona wants to oversee the next presidential election as secretary of state. Rep. Mark Finchem filed a statement of interest to run for the post, the first official step in a campaign to become Arizona’s top election official. Finchem previously hinted he might run for the office, having gained notoriety with his support for former President Trump and his claims of wrongdoing in the last election.
California – How California’s Recall Rules Could Spell Trouble for Gavin Newsom
San Jose Mercury News – Ben Christopher (CALmatters) | Published: 3/8/2021
If recalls followed the rules of a normal California election – the person who wins a majority of the votes wins – then Gov. Gavin Newsom, an incumbent Democrat in a thoroughly Democratic state, would have nothing to worry about. But unfortunately for him, a recall is not like an ordinary California election. One part standard-issue candidate race, one part free-spending ballot measure campaign, California recalls adhere to a unique and some critics say, less than fully democratic procedure that makes for a much more unpredictable outcome.
Florida – Carla Miller Retiring from City Ethics Office
Jacksonville Daily Record – Max Marbut | Published: 3/29/2021
Carla Miller is retiring as director of Jacksonville’s Office of Ethics, Compliance and Oversight, effective October 1. Miller said that after 24 years of service to the city she will be putting more time into the nonprofit she established to promote ethics development and education and will assume a part-time role in the city ethics agency during the transition. Miller helped write the first ethics code for local government. The city also established a confidential whistleblower hotline to give city employees and the public a means to report suspected unethical activity.
Georgia – Georgia State Democratic Lawmaker Arrested While Trying to Watch Gov. Kemp Sign Voting Bill
MSN – Amy Wang and Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
State Rep. Park Cannon was arrested after trying to watch Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sign a controversial new voting bill into law in a heated interaction that was caught on video. Facebook Live video shows Cannon knocking on the door to Kemp’s office as he was holding a news conference inside about Senate Bill 202, a sweeping set of restrictions on how ballots are cast and counted in Georgia. A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Safety confirmed Cannon was arrested for obstructing law enforcement and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members.
Hawaii – Five Honolulu Planning Department Employees Indicted for Bribery
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 3/30/2021
Five current and former Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting employees are facing federal charges for allegedly accepting bribes. A local architect has also been indicted in connection with the alleged scheme. Wayne Inouye, a former building plans examiner, allegedly solicited and accepted gifts, payments, and other things of value several times in the last decade. In exchange, he rewarded those paying the bribes with favorable treatment including expediting permit approvals, according to the indictment. Inouye took steps to hide his criminal activity including by using a sole proprietorship, the indictment states. The other indictments follow the same pattern.
Illinois – Chicago-Based Marijuana Giant Part of Federal Pay-to-Play Investigation
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/29/2021
A Chicago-based marijuana cultivator and dispenser that has rapidly grown into one of the nation’s biggest cannabis firms is under federal investigation for possible “pay-to-play” violations during its push for state licenses, sources said. Investigators have been scrutinizing campaign donations and other steps Green Thumb Industries (GTI) took as it sought to secure growing and distribution licenses in Illinois and several other states. Illinois records show GTI’s executives and affiliates have donated to politicians and a PAC that were instrumental in the marijuana legalization effort. The company also hired a succession of lobbyists and consultants with ties to then-House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Illinois – Former State Sen. Annazette Collins Indicted on Federal Tax Charges Stemming from Her Lobbying Income
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Illinois Sen. Annazette Collins was indicted on federal charges alleging she underreported income and failed to file federal income tax returns for her lobbying and consulting firm. The indictment was the latest brought in connection with the ongoing federal corruption probe into an alleged bribery scheme by Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) to influence then-House Speaker Michael Madigan. Collins was one of a number of ex-lawmakers hired by ComEd after retiring from public office, though the indictment does not specifically mention her work for the utility.
Illinois – Longtime Political Operative for Ald. Edward Burke, Former State Sen. Martin Sandoval Charged with Deceiving FBI
MSN – Jason Meisner | Published: 3/29/2021
A precinct captain for indicted Chicago Ald. Edward Burke and aide to former state Sen. Martin Sandoval was charged with misleading the FBI in its political corruption investigation in Illinois. According to the charge, Rudy Acosta Jr. failed to disclose in interviews with agents benefits both he and Sandoval received from another person including “free services, meals, and travel.” The information also stated that when Acosta was questioned by the FBI on six separate occasions, he hid the fact that he made “periodic cash payments” to Sandoval.
Kentucky – KY Legislature Passes Last-Minute Bill That Shields Information of Public Officials
MSN – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 3/30/2021
The Kentucky House quickly passed legislation that would allow any police officer, prosecutor, and some court employees – and anyone related to them – to shield a wide array of personal information from the public. At 11 p.m. on the second to last day of the session, a floor amendment was introduced to Senate Bill 48, which had been filed that day, ensuring the public could not read it before lawmakers voted. The amendment was later passed by the Senate. Because it passed in the final two days of the session, lawmakers will not have the ability to override any potential veto.
Maryland – U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI Investigating Marilyn and Nick Mosby
Baltimore Magazine – Ron Cassie | Published: 3/26/2021
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her husband, city council President Nick Mosby, are the subject of a federal investigation into her campaign finances and the couple’s business records and taxes. As part of the wide-ranging probe, the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI have served several subpoenas seeking financial records related to the couple’s tax returns from 2014-2020, loan documents, bank and investment statements, credit card files, information related to their consulting and travel businesses, as well as copies of all campaign finance records related to Mosby’s campaign organization, the Friends of Marilyn Mosby.
Massachusetts – Judge Denies Bid by Senator, Wife to Block Officials from Referring Probe into Them to State Prosecutors
MSN – Matt Stout | Published: 3/30/2021
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Christine Roach denied a request from a state senator that she temporarily block campaign finance regulators from referring an investigation into him, his wife, and other family members to prosecutors. Roach also declined a request by state Sen. Ryan Fattman and others that the Office of Campaign and Political Finance provide them with “all” the evidence that Director Michael Sullivan has compiled against them. The judge wrote the Fattmans have “no reasonable likelihood of success” proving Sullivan violated state law by not turning over all the evidence, or he violated their due process by not recusing himself from the probe, as they have demanded.
Missouri – For Sexual Assault Survivors, Greitens’ Return Can Mean Fresh Trauma, Experts Say
McClatchyDC.com – Bryan Lowry and Jeanne Kuang | Published: 3/28/2021
Dee Ogilvy was sexually assaulted 42 years ago at her place of work. The police never made an arrest in the case and a shoulder injury from the attack still gives her pain. Ogilvy said she is disgusted to see former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat less than three years after allegations of blackmail and sexual assault helped lead to his resignation. His return comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defies calls for his resignation after allegations of sexual misconduct from at least 10 women.
Missouri – Former Missouri House Representative Gets 21 Months in Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Robert Patrick | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Missouri Rep. Courtney Curtis was sentenced to 21 months in prison for misusing campaign funds for personal expenses and was ordered to repay $47,867. He filed false campaign finance reports to cover up his crimes. Before sentencing Curtis, the judge tallied up the 822 financial transactions representing misuse of campaign funds, including cash withdrawals in or near casinos.
Missouri – Missouri Curator Worried He’d Lose Seat If Didn’t ‘Play Ball’ with Controversial Lobbyist
Kansas City Star – Rudi Keller (Missouri Independent) | Published: 3/31/2021
University of Missouri Curator David Steelman raised objections that one of the system’s lobbyists, former House Speaker Steve Tilley, was using his connections to the university to seek business for other clients. Steelman called the arrangement “an obvious conflict,” and openly worried if he did not “play ball” he would lose his seat on the nine-member board that governs the university system. His term is expired, and he remains on the board until a replacement is confirmed by the Missouri Senate. Gov. Mike Parson nominated Keith Holloway for Steelman’s seat. Tilley, who both lobbies state government and provides campaign consulting services, has been paid $5,000 a month since February 2019 to lobby for the system.
New Mexico – New Mexico Lawmakers Snub Lobbying Transparency. In Other States, It’s Business as Usual.
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 3/26/2021
In a 2015 report, the Center for Public Integrity gave New Mexico a grade of “F” for lobbying disclosure, the 43rd worst in the country. It has not improved since then and lawmakers did not give the topic a full hearing during the 2021 legislative session. One argument made in opposition to increased disclosure is that it would be excessively burdensome for lobbyists. Another fear is greater disclosure will dampen public participation in the legislative process or harm a lobbyist’s effectiveness. But in the neighboring state of Colorado, the sort of transparency proposed for New Mexico is just business as usual.
New York – ‘Apprentice’ Contestant’s Lawsuit Against Trump Can Resume, N.Y. Court Says
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2021
The New York State Court of Appeals ruled a defamation case against former President Trump, brought by an “Apprentice” contestant who alleged he sexually assaulted her years ago, can go forward as the immunity claim he raised while in office no longer applies. The defense was raised in the lawsuit brought by Summer Zervos and in other long-running cases still facing Trump. Zervos alleges Trump, who hosted the popular reality show, smeared her when she came forward with the sexual assault allegation. In denying her claims, Trump said Zervos lied and suggested she was motivated by money.
New York – Bannon Criminal Probe in N.Y. Includes Embedded Investigators from State Attorney General’s Office
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2021
The New York attorney general’s office has partnered with Manhattan’s district attorney to investigate Stephen Bannon for the alleged fundraising scam that prompted his federal pardon in the waning hours of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to people familiar with the matter. The move adds prosecutorial firepower to a criminal case widely seen as an attempted end-run around the former president’s bid to protect a political ally. Attorney General Letitia James has built a reputation, in part, around her promises to hold Trump and his associates accountable for alleged misdeeds. Presidential pardons do not apply to state investigations.
New York – N.Y. State Sen. Brian Benjamin’s Campaign Expenses Raise Questions About Propriety
New York Daily News – Michael Gartland | Published: 3/28/2021
New York Sen. Brian Benjamin used money from his Senate campaign account to pay for “constituent services” at a Harlem jazz club at almost exactly the same time he and his wife held their wedding celebration there, raising questions about whether the lawmaker may have abused campaign finance rules. Benjamin is running for New York City comptroller. His campaign returned more than a dozen contributions after people listed as donors claimed they never gave to him.
New York – Seven Months Later, Cuomo Administration Divulges Details About His Covid-19 Book Deal
Buffalo News – Tom Precious | Published: 3/31/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was given permission by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) in July to write a book about his handling of state government during the first wave of Covid-19, as long as the subject matter of the book was “unrelated to the governor’s duties” in office, according to state documents. The New York Times reported Cuomo used top aides and junior staffers for help on his book project. JCOPE specifically told Cuomo he could not use state “personnel” or property “for activities associated with the book.”
North Dakota – Transparency Advocates Raise Concerns Over North Dakota Redistricting Plan
Grand Forks Herald – Jeremy Turley | Published: 3/26/2021
Later this year, a group of top North Dakota lawmakers will redraw the state’s political boundaries for the next decade. The exercise always attracts the attention of incumbent legislators and civically minded residents, but several transparency advocates worry the redistricting plan will be formed behind closed doors and without the public’s input. The Republican-backed bill to establish the legislative redistricting process states drafts of the redistricting plan are exempt from open records laws until they are presented to the full Legislature.
Ohio – Ohio Campaign-Finance Reform Bill Gets First Look Since Emergence of Dark Money Scandal
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/25/2021
The Ohio House is taking up a bill that would impose tougher disclosure requirements on corporate political donors, a move to increase campaign finance transparency in the aftermath of the House Bill 6 scandal. House Bill 13 would require political nonprofits and other corporate groups to disclose their donors and spending with the Ohio secretary of state’s office, similar to PACs or candidates. Among the groups it would affect are 5019(c)4s, nonprofits often used as vehicles for “dark money” spending.
Ohio – Top Columbus Zoo Officials Resign Following Dispatch Investigation
MSN – Jennifer Smola and Alissa Widman Neese (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 3/29/2021
Tom Stalf resigned as chief executive officer of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Greg Bell stepped down as chief financial officer after a media investigation found they misused the zoo’s resources. They allowed relatives to live in houses owned or controlled by the zoo for below-market rent in exchange for the residents making improvements to the property. Stalf and Bell sought the use of the zoo’s suites and tickets to local entertainment venues for themselves and their family members. Most of the tickets requested were available through the zoo’s marketing contracts with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State University and were intended for hosting financial supporters of the zoo.
South Carolina – Former SC Governor, Congressman Sanford Joins Lobbying Firm
Associated Press News – Meg Kinnard | Published: 3/30/2021
Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, member of Congress, and one-time presidential candidate, is going to work for a lobbying firm. Shumaker Advisors announced Sanford would be joining the firm as an executive vice president and principal. The government relations arm of a law firm, Shumaker Advisors operates seven offices in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and the Carolinas. Sanford has been working to find a foothold since end of the most recent iteration of his political career. Sanford was elected twice as governor before an extramarital affair marred the end of his second term.
Texas – GOP Candidate from New Jersey Accused of Pandering After He Transforms into Cowboy for Texas Run
MSN – Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2021
Dan Rodimer has led many lives, but his latest – a cowboy hat-wearing, Southern-drawling bull rider – might be the most extreme transformation to date. In his first ad as a candidate for Texas’s Sixth Congressional District, “Big Dan” Rodimer speaks in a gravelly, indistinct Southern accent, throws jabs at Democratic policies, and compares House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a bull he is supposedly riding in the ad. But the New Jersey native did not have the twang last year when he ran for Congress in Nevada. He has remade himself again on a road he hopes will lead to Congress, though his latest persona has earned him ridicule, even from fellow Republicans.
Texas – Lawsuit Challenges Austin’s Fundraising Rules for Political Candidates
MSN – Ryan Autullo (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 3/26/2021
A new federal lawsuit revives a challenge to city of Austin rules that prohibit candidates from accepting political contributions until one year before an election. Fundraising blackouts are designed to prevent corruption and the perception of wrongdoing by limiting the window individual donors and businesses are permitted to give money to elected officials. Unlike Texas lawmakers who are in session every other year, city council members meet year-round and regularly vote on matters that could be influenced by donors making financial promises.
Utah – Salt Lake County GOP Forms Ethics Committee in Response to Harassment Allegations
Salt Lake Tribune – Bryan Schott | Published: 3/30/2021
The Salt Lake County Republican Party is forming an ethics advisory committee in the wake of multiple women alleging leadership took no action to address their complaints of harassment and bullying. Former GOP Chairperson Scott Miller resigned in the wake of a Salt Lake Tribune story about complaints he did nothing to stop inappropriate behavior by his communications director, Dave Robinson, during his tenure at the helm of the party. Miller also sent out an email to Republican delegates denigrating the women who came forward with allegations, questioning their motives. Miller later apologized in the face of widespread condemnation.
Washington – Don Benton, Ex-Washington State Senator and Trump Ally, Behind Mystery Mailer
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 3/31/2021
Former Washington Sen. Don Benton, who served in the Trump administration, is responsible for a recent mailer that criticizes Democratic lawmakers for a proposed change to the state’s estate tax. State law requires a sponsor to be listed on campaign mailers. But that is not necessary for communications known as grassroots lobbying, which focus instead on the debate over legislative proposals. In that case, the citizen complaints alleging a lack of disclosure information might not apply.
March 30, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Trump Helped the GOP Raise $2 Billion. Now Former Aides and Allies Are Jockeying to Tap into His Fundraising Power.” by Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) for MSN Massachusetts: “State Officials […]
National: “Trump Helped the GOP Raise $2 Billion. Now Former Aides and Allies Are Jockeying to Tap into His Fundraising Power.” by Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) for MSN
Massachusetts: “State Officials Are Investigating Senator, Wife for Potential Campaign Finance Violations” by Matt Sout (Boston Globe) for MSN
New York: “N.Y. State Sen. Brian Benjamin’s Campaign Expenses Raise Questions About Propriety” by Michael Gartland for New York Daily News
National: “Corporations, Vocal About Racial Justice, Go Quiet on Voting Rights” by David Gelles for New York Times
California: “How California’s Recall Rules Could Spell Trouble for Gavin Newsom” by Ben Christopher (CALmatters) for San Jose Mercury News
Texas: “GOP Candidate from New Jersey Accused of Pandering After He Transforms into Cowboy for Texas Run” by Meryl Kornfield for MSN
Maryland: “U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI Investigating Marilyn and Nick Mosby” by Ron Cassie for Baltimore Magazine
National: “NRA Faces Internal Woes as It Girds for New Gun Control Fight” by Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN
North Dakota: “Transparency Advocates Raise Concerns Over North Dakota Redistricting Plan” by Jeremy Turley for Grand Forks Herald
March 5, 2021 •
National/Federal Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 3/1/2021 President Biden and is under pressure to do more to restore confidence in the federal government following Donald Trump’s term in the White House. But […]
Biden Won’t Release White House Virtual Visitor Logs
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 3/1/2021
President Biden and is under pressure to do more to restore confidence in the federal government following Donald Trump’s term in the White House. But the schedules for the president and vice president are not posted online, the White House comment line is shut down, and there are no citizen petitions on the White House’s website. The administration has committed to releasing visitor logs. But it does not plan to divulge the names of attendees of virtual meetings, which are the primary mode of interaction until the pandemic eases. While Biden has received praise for keeping the American public informed, primarily by resuming the daily White House press briefings, he has yet to hold a news conference of his own.
Budget Nominee Tanden Withdraws Nomination Amid Opposition
Associated Press News – Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 3/2/2021
President Biden’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, has withdrawn her nomination after she faced opposition from key Democratic and Republican senators for her controversial tweets. Her withdrawal marks the first high-profile defeat of one of Biden’s nominees. The White House stuck with Tanden even after some centrist Republicans made their opposition known. Tanden faced pointed questions over her past comments about members from both parties during her confirmation hearing. Sen. Bernie Sanders accused her of issuing “vicious attacks” against progressives and had not said whether he’d support her nomination.
Capitol Riot Defendants Facing Jail Have Regrets. Judges Aren’t Buying It.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2021
As defendants charged in the Capitol siege have been coming through court, some have been shifting blame onto former President Trump, downplaying their actions, or expressing remorse. But federal judges, particularly those who work a few blocks from the Capitol, are not buying it. One judge called a defendant’s claim of civil disobedience “detached from reality.” Another verbally smacked down an attorney who tried to use the QAnon conspiracy theory to explain his client shouting “kill them all.” Other judges have been giving defendants civics lessons on how democracy works.
Elaine Chao Used DOT Staff to Aid Personal Errands, Father’s Business, Inspector Finds
Politico – Sam Mintz and Tanya Snyder | Published: 3/3/2021
Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao repeatedly used her staff and her position of power to boost the reputation of her shipping magnate father and otherwise aid her family, the Department of Transportation’s inspector concluded. The internal watchdog faulted Chao for four kinds of ethics violations, including planning to bring relatives on an official trip to China and requiring the department’s public affairs staff to help market a book written by her father. It found she also had employees handle personal errands such as shipping Christmas ornaments. Investigators referred their findings to the Justice Department for prosecution in December but it declined.
Ethics Watchdog: ‘Substantial’ evidence GOP lawmaker improperly spent funds, misused position to help brother
The Hill – Cristina Marcos | Published: 3/1/2021
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) concluded there is “substantial” evidence that U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo misused campaign as well as official funds and used his office to help his brother in violation of House rules. The OCE said it found evidence indicating Palazzo asked his House office staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands; and used his position as a member of Congress to contact the assistant secretary of the Navy to help his brother reenlist. The report said Palazzo charged his campaign committee rent for ostensibly using a riverfront home he owned as a headquarters, equal to the amount of his monthly mortgage, insurance, and tax payments “during a time of personal financial stress.”
Facebook Lifts Political Ad Ban
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 3/3/2021
Facebook lifted its ban on political ads, ending a self-imposed prohibition that began immediately after the 2020 general election and remained active for months. Facebook’s platform is one of the largest and most cost-effective ways for campaigns to reach voters and potential supporters. Digital strategists in both parties were critical of Facebook’s decision to cut off access to voters for the last several months, upending off-year campaign strategies.
HR 1 Overhaul Would Set New Holiday and New Rules for Lobbyists, Elections and Justices
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/3/2021
The U.S. House approved a sweeping political money, elections, influence, and ethics measure, but the bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. A hallmark of the package would set out an optional system to finance congressional campaigns with public money. It would provide a six-to-one match of small-dollar campaign donations. Under the legislation, all states would be required to send voters an application to cast their ballots by mail. Now, anyone who keeps their lobbying activities under 20 percent of their time for a client can remain under the public radar. HR 1 would take that threshold down to 10 percent.
‘It’s Donald Trump’s Party’: How the former president is building a political operation to cement his hold on the GOP
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2021
Any doubts about Donald Trump’s primacy in the Republican Party have been settled in recent weeks by the parade of petitioners he has welcomed to his Florida club. The party chairperson, the top two House Republicans, U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, and a coterie of other former aides and advisers have all made appearances at Mar-a-Lago, offering their counsel and seeking the favor of a former president who many believe controls the short-term fortunes of GOP candidates up and down the ballot and has made it clear he plans to use that power. Trump has started building his post-White House political operation and cementing his role as the party’s de facto leader.
Jim Jordan Under Scrutiny for Nearly $3 Million in Unreported Campaign Funds
Yahoo News – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 3/3/2021
The campaign committee for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan received ten notices from the FEC flagging discrepancies on its books totaling nearly $3 million dollars and dating back over two years. The campaign claims the errors slipped through the cracks amid a record fundraising surge, and it has more money on the books now, but experts say the dollar amount – errors totaling some $2.87 million – may trigger an FEC investigation. The errors also appear connected to newly developed, largely hidden payment systems in the murky world of Republican digital advertising, where vendors not only receive direct spending, but take cuts from fundraising as well.
Rep. Ronny Jackson Made Sexual Comments, Drank Alcohol and Took Ambien While Working as White House Physician, Pentagon Watchdog Finds
CNN – Manu Raju, Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen, and Oren Lieberman | Published: 3/3/2021
The Department of Defense inspector general’s office found U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip, and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted concerns from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care during his time serving as the top White House physician. The report notes the investigation into Jackson “was limited in scope and unproductive” as White House counsel under Donald Trump insisted on being present at all interviews of current White House Medical Unit employees, which had a “potential chilling effect” on the probe.
Supreme Court Appears to Favor Upholding Voting Laws Lower Court Found Unfair to Minorities
Anchorage Daily News – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court seemed inclined to make it more difficult to challenge widely used voting laws that in practice might be more of a burden to minority voters. The justices reviewed the protections provided by the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to forbid laws that result in discrimination based on race. The cases involve two voting regulations that are in common use across the country. One throws out the ballots of those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other restricts who may collect ballots cast early for delivery to polling places, a practice then-President Trump denounced as “ballot harvesting.” The greater impact will be the test the court develops for proving violations of the VRA, as new laws are proposed and state Legislatures begin redrawing congressional and legislative districts.
Canada – Ontario Law Would Restrict Election Spending by Third-Party Groups, Double Donation Limits for Individuals
Toronto Star – Robert Benzie | Published: 2/25/2021
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’ Progressive Conservatives have unveiled proposed campaign finance changes, doubling annual donation caps to $3,300, extending per-vote subsidies for political parties, and limiting PAC spending. Under legislation, advance polling days would also be increased from five to 10 to allow for safer voting in the COVID-19 era. Conservatives want to clamp down on PACs, such as the pro-Tory Ontario Proud and Working Families, which boosted the Liberals in past election campaigns. Such third-party advertising groups spent more than $5 million in the six months leading up to the June 2018 election.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – ‘Dark Money’ Is Still Trying to Influence Phoenix Elections Despite New Law. Here’s How.
MSN – Jen Fifield (Arizona Republic) | Published: 2/24/2021
Some Phoenix voters got the first deceitful political mailer from Americans for Progress nearly two weeks ago, and they just keep coming. The ads are seemingly attempting to trick voters in the progressive district into thinking Yassamin Ansari, a Democratic candidate for Phoenix City Council, is a Republican. But voters do not have a way of knowing who is sending them. Americans for Progress has yet to file a disclosure with the city. A new law was intended to stop these “dark money” ads from influencing city elections, but the group sending the ads remains shrouded in secrecy, even as voting for city council races is underway.
California – 5 Charged in SF Corruption Probe, Temporarily Barred from Receiving City Contracts
KPIX – Staff | Published: 3/2/2021
Five business executives linked to widespread corruption in San Francisco have been temporarily barred from doing business with the city. All five have been implicated in a federal investigation that began more than a year ago and centers around high-ranking city officials like former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and former Public Utilities Commission General Manger Harlan Kelly accepting gifts in exchange for help obtaining city contracts. The suspension orders are the first of their kind. A 2020 city law allows for city contractors who have been charged criminally, civilly, or administratively to be suspended from receiving public funds while the case against them is ongoing.
California – Ethics Commission Staff Were Told to Soften Their Advice on Gifts, Whistleblower Says
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 2/25/2021
Heather Holt, who was executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, told staffers at a 2018 meeting that a member of the city council had “threatened to cut the Ethics Commission’s budget if they did not give more permissive advice” on certain gift rules, according to an email written by Alexandria Latragna, the agency’s ethics program manager at the time. Latragna wrote Holt told commission staff that to maintain a good relationship with the council, they would need to be more “middle of the road” with the advice they gave on rules involving private events sponsored by lobbyists. David Tristan, who replaced Holt as executive director, issued a denial of the incident on her behalf.
California – Prosecutors Extract Pleas, $215 Million in Charter School Fraud Case
Voice of San Diego – Will Huntsberry | Published: 2/26/2021
The two ringleaders of an online charter school scam that raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Sean McManus and Jason Schrock, as well as nine other defendants, were charged in 2019 as part of a complicated scheme that involved enrolling fake students into their online charter schools and collecting public money for each student. As part of McManus and Schrock’s plea deal, they agreed to turn over all remaining cash and assets owned by A3 and its subsidiary companies. So far, that includes at least $215 million that will eventually make its way back into state coffers.
Colorado – Aurora Moves Forward Bills on Lobbying Disclosures, Sales Tax Exemptions on Menstrual Products
Aurora Sentinel – Grant Stringer | Published: 3/1/2021
The Aurora City Council gave first approval to a bill implementing strict lobbying disclosure requirements. The rules would require lobbyists to register their clients and income with the city, which would be made public to boost public trust in government, Councilperson Angela Lawson said. They would have to submit quarterly, detailed reports on their activities and financial motivations or face up to $2,500 fines per each charge.
Connecticut – Ex-State Employee Faces $5K Penalty for Using Work Computer, Email for Private Businesses
MSN – Russell Blair (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/2/2021
A former employee of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty after an investigation determined he used his state-issued computer, phone, and email address to run private businesses unrelated to his state job. Sean Condon used the state equipment to operate a retail men’s hair and skin care product business and an internet marketing business while on state time, according to a consent order he signed with the Office of State Ethics.
Florida – Legislating in the Time of COVID-19 Means Putting Protections Over Public Access
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas and Kirby Wilson (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/2/2021
Florida legislators opened their 60-day session this year trying to navigate a global pandemic and stay healthy enough to avoid disrupting their activities, access to elected government is limited. Gov. Ron DeSantis has not allowed the Capitol to be open to visitors and the public, even as he ordered all businesses to be open in Florida. Citizens are kept out of the buildings and at a distance, and the pandemic protocols set up by legislative leaders to allow the public to testify in person before committee hearings have proven cumbersome and technology challenged.
Florida – Wealthy Keys Enclave Received COVID Vaccines in January Before Much of the State
MSN – David Goodhue and Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/3/2021
As Florida’s eldest residents struggled to sign up to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, nearly all those aged 65 years and older in a wealthy gated enclave in the Florida Keys had been vaccinated by mid-January. The Ocean Reef Club is home to many wealthy donors to the Florida Republican Party and GOP candidates, including Gov. Ron DeSantis. In fact, the only people from Key Largo who gave to DeSantis’ political committee live in Ocean Reef. On February 25, one resident of Ocean Reef, Bruce Rauner, the former Republican governor of Illinois, donated $250,00 to DeSantis.
Illinois – Ex-Lawmaker’s Indictment Stems Partly from Secret ComEd Payments, Source Says
WBEZ – Dave McKinney, Tony Arnold, and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 2/25/2021
A newly filed federal tax-evasion indictment against a former member of ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s leadership team stems at least in part from secret payments for “government relations” work from Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). A source familiar with the probe said a six-count indictment against former state Rep. Edward Acevedo is a byproduct from the ongoing bribery investigation into ComEd’s Springfield lobbying practices. Federal charging documents against Acevedo and separate tax-evasion charges against his two sons do not make that connection clear. But the source said the case relates, in part, to unreported income originating from ComEd that Acevedo received from a company called Apex Strategy.
Illinois – Illinois Democrats Tap U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson to Succeed Michael Madigan as State Party Chair
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/3/2021
Illinois Democratic leaders selected U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly as their new state party chairperson and the successor to embattled former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who held the post for 23 years. The race was not without controversy. Outside attorneys for the state Democratic Party warned that Kelly, as a federal officeholder, would be prohibited from raising state money because Illinois fundraising rules are less strict than the federal rules that bind the member of Congress.
Illinois – Madigan Picks Another House Successor After Quickly Forcing Out His First Choice Over ‘Alleged Questionable Conduct’
MSN – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/25/2021
Angie Guerrero-Cuellar became the second replacement in four days for the Illinois House seat held by former Speaker Michael Madigan following a meeting of local ward and township committee members. Guerrero-Cuellar succeeds Madigan’s original hand-picked successor, Edward Guerra Kodatt, who resigned after the former speaker and Chicago Ald. Marty Quinn called on him to step down for unspecified “alleged questionable conduct.” The abrupt moves over the vacancy created by Madigan’s resignation were a sharp contrast to the hands-on, detail-oriented style the ex-speaker has displayed in running his ward and district office.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts Republican Nominated for Top Campaign Finance Job
Boston Herald – State House News Service | Published: 2/26/2021
The panel that has been searching for a new director for the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) was unanimous in its selection of Woburn City Clerk William Campbell to lead the agency. Secretary of State William Galvin mentioned talking with Campbell about the changing nature of campaigns and how the OCPF fits in. Campbell, if he accepts the job, would be the first new director since the retiring Michael Sullivan took charge of the agency about 27 years ago.
Michigan – Coronavirus Created ‘Perfect Storm’ That Rained Private Money on Michigan Election Administration
MSN – Gus Burns (MLive.com) | Published: 2/28/2021
The 474 local clerks’ offices in Michigan received millions of dollars from private nonprofits to administer the 2020 elections. Most spent grant funds on additional personnel needed to sort, verify, and count the influx of ballots that tripled for some offices due to relaxed absentee voting restrictions and a statewide push to promote remote voting. Some used their money for things like get-out-the-vote campaigns, ballot drop boxes, and in one case, a trailer that allowed city employees to travel to neighborhoods and deliver absentee ballots in person. Private money, usually reserved for politically motivated campaign efforts and ballot initiatives, has never entered Michigan elections this way, at the ground floor of democracy to pay for the mechanics.
Mississippi – Bill That Would Have Required Gov. Reeves to Reveal Inauguration Funding Dies in Senate
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal – Luke Ramseth | Published: 3/3/2021
Lawmakers defeated legislation that would have provided transparency around how Gov. Tate Reeves and future Mississippi governors raise and spend money on inauguration festivities. House Bill 109 said Reeves and future governor-elects would be required to reveal their inauguration financial information to the secretary of state’s office, similar to how politicians must publicly disclose information about their campaign funds. Governors and other top Mississippi politicians have long used 501(c)4 nonprofits to fund their inauguration ceremonies, parties, and transition expenses. Donors to those nonprofits can be kept secret.
Montana – Lawmaker Revives Proposal to Eliminate State’s Top Political Cop
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 2/25/2021
Rep. Derek Skees is reviving a proposal he brought four years earlier to eliminate Montana’s commissioner of political practices, the state’s enforcer of campaign finance and lobbying laws. Similar to legislation that passed the House in the 2017 session before stalling out in the Senate, House Bill 535 proposes shifting much of the office’s duties to the secretary of state, including receiving campaign statements and reports for candidates and political committees. Under the new bill, the secretary of state would also be responsible for receiving and investigating campaign finance and election complaints.
New Jersey – Firm Cited in Pay-to-Play Lawsuit Quits Job with N.J. Town
Newark Star Ledger – Bill Duhart (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/1/2021
A firm cited in a “pay-to-play” lawsuit resigned an appointment to a township government post days after it had been appointed for an additional year. Capehart Scatchard resigned its position as conflict counsel with Washington Township in Gloucester County after a pair of citizen watchdogs accused it of making campaign contributions to several elected township officials, including the mayor. The firms were then paid more than $17,500 for annual no-bid contracts, which is a violation of state “pay-to-play” laws, according to the suit.
New Mexico – Compromise Redistricting Bill Advances Unanimously from Senate Committee
New Mexico Political Report – Robert Nott (Santa Fe News Mexican) | Published: 3/2/2021
Lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee came to a quick compromise on a measure they hope will set New Mexico’s sometimes controversial redistricting process on a smooth path via an independent, bipartisan panel to redraw voting district boundaries. The bill calls for a seven-member panel and prohibits a majority of Democrats or Republicans and only requires the commission to come up with three plans for the Legislature to consider. There is no language in that would force the Legislature to accept any of the submitted plans.
New Mexico – Lobbyists Still Picking Up the Tab
Yahoo News – Dan McKay (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 2/28/2021
New Mexico lawmakers are conducting much of this year’s session online to limit the spread of COVID-19. Committee hearings have moved entirely to Zoom, and full meetings of the House and Senate are a mix of in-person and remote participation. The Capitol is closed, with only legislators, staff, and some media members allowed inside. But lobbyists are still finding ways to feed hungry lawmakers, sometimes in person.
New York – ‘Embarrassed’ Cuomo Apologizes but Won’t Resign Over Sexual Harassment Allegations
National Public Radio – Rachel Triesman | Published: 3/3/2021
In his first press briefing since three women came forward with claims of sexual harassment, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” but denied touching anyone inappropriately and said he would not resign. New York’s attorney general is investigating the allegations, which were raised by two former aides and a woman who met Cuomo at a wedding. Cuomo, who is facing mounting calls to resign, reiterated he will cooperate with that investigation, and asked New Yorkers to wait for the full report before forming an opinion.
New York – Trump’s Tax Returns Have Been Turned Over to Manhattan District Attorney
Seattle Times – Shayna Jacobs, David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/25/2021
The Manhattan district attorney’s office possesses former President Trump’s tax returns and a wealth of other financial data, records deemed central to prosecutors’ criminal investigation into Trump’s business activities. The transfer, involving millions of pages of documents spanning eight years, occurred within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court order rejecting Trump’s last-ditch bid to shield the information. Investigators are examining whether the values of certain properties in the Trump Organization’s portfolio were manipulated to gain tax advantages or favorable loans and insurance rates under false pretenses. They have asked specifically about the company’s methods of valuing its Manhattan assets for purposes of seeking loans.
North Carolina – Charlotte City Council Escapes Sanctions After Flurry of Ethics Complaints Ends Quietly
MSN – Alison Kuznitz (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 3/3/2021
Charlotte City Council members were cleared of any wrongdoing after a flurry of ethics complaints were filed against them in 2020. Although the findings clear any councilperson of direct violations of the city’s ethics guidelines, the review made several recommendations. In whole, the report appears to validate the council’s assertion that the frenzy of complaints –spurred on by an ethics policy that became “weaponized,” as council member Ed Driggs phrased it, by the public – were politically fueled and frivolous.
Oregon – A Decade After Oregon Cracked Down on Lobbyist Wining and Dining, Lawmakers Consider Loosening Limits
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 3/2/2021
Oregon lawmakers are considering whether to allow lobbyists to “wine and dine” them without limits, more than a decade after they clamped down on the practice with a broad ethics law. The Legislature passed the bill after members were embarrassed by media reports on how beer and wine distributors paid for lawmakers to travel to Hawaii. Oregon law now bars legislators and other public officials from accepting more than $50 per year from any entity that wants to influence a government decision. Sen. Fred Girod, chief sponsor of Senate Bill 463, said scrapping the limit would help nurture the types of relationships lawmakers need in the Capitol because people are better able to connect when they are sharing a meal or drinks.
Oregon – Oregon Voters Want to Limit Money in Politics, but Lawmakers Might Not Get There This Session
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/28/2021
Among the thousands of proposals Oregon lawmakers are considering this year, few have as clear-cut a mandate as capping campaign contributions. Voters overwhelmingly signaled their desire to clamp down on the state’s no-limits political money system in November, when they passed a constitutional amendment to allow donation limits. More than 1.7 million people voted for it, the most ever to support a ballot measure according to the secretary of state’s office. Yet it is far from clear that lawmakers will pass a law to cap donations during the five-month session that runs through June.
Pennsylvania – Good Government or ‘Gag’ Order? In Chesco, New Ethics Policy Muzzles County Workers
MSN – William Bender (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 3/1/2021
Included in Chester County’s new ethics policy is a strict confidentiality clause for many county employees that would essentially turn almost everything learned on the job into the equivalent of classified information, a clampdown that labor-law experts say could infringe on First Amendment rights and whistleblower protections. Employees are required to sign the policy by March 6. Those who violate it can face disciplinary action, including termination. County commissioners passed the ethics policy unanimously two months after a media report, which relied partially on leaked information, revealed major problems with the county’s COVID-19 antibody testing program, contradicting county officials who had publicly insisted it ran smoothly.
South Carolina – Ex-Candidate for SC Legislature Sues Opponent, Pollster and Journalist for Defamation
The State – David Weisman (Myrtle Beach Sun News) | Published: 2/25/2021
South Carolina Sen. Luke Rankin won a contentious reelection campaign during last year’s Republican primary, but that clash has been renewed in the court system after his former opponent filed a defamation suit. John Gallman filed the complaint against Rankin and a host of other entities and people, including an Horry County Council member, local reporter, and national pollster, alleging a coordinated conspiracy to spread defamatory accusations and confidential health records, along with violating campaign finance laws.
South Carolina – Some SC Lawmakers Think It’s Time to Allow More Money in State Campaigns, Not Less
Charleston Post and Courier – Schuyler Knopf | Published: 2/27/2021
At a time when the public mood says there is too much money in politics, some South Carolina lawmakers think it is time to push the donation ceiling higher. Three House Republicans are behind an effort to double the contribution limit an individual can give to their favorite politician for any office. State Rep. B. Newton said the issue comes down to inflation and the fact that South Carolina’s legislative districts, particularly the suburbs, have seen a population explosion in recent years.
Tennessee – Tennessee Regulators Revisit Complaints About Shadowy Campaign Group
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 3/2/2021
Tennessee regulators decided to revisit complaints regarding shadowy campaign activities surrounding a legislative race. The Registry of Election Finance plans to reconsider its decision last year to take no action on complaints filed against state Rep. Todd Warner and a group that called itself the Faith Family Freedom Fund. That same day, the Faith Family Freedom Fund filed paperwork to close out its PAC, raising questions about whether it might be trying to sidestep further scrutiny. All of this comes as an FBI investigation focuses on a number of individuals connected with those campaigns.
Washington – Washington State Accuses Google of Campaign Finance Violations
Courthouse News Service – Karina Brown | Published: 2/24/2021
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson again sued Google, alleging it has continued to flout state campaign finance law. The law requires publishers to keep records of who bought the political ads they run, and to make that information available within 24 hours of publishing to anyone requesting it. Ferguson sued Google in 2018, claiming the company did not maintain or make available the data. Google agreed to pay $217,000 to settle those claims and announced it would no longer run ads for state or local elections in Washington. But since then, 57 candidates and political committees have filed reports detailing 188 payments totaling over $460,000 to Google’s advertising networks, according to the latest lawsuit.
Washington DC – In Faraway State Houses, a Battle Brews Over Making D.C. the 51st State
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2021
Lawmakers in at least eight states have taken formal steps to support or oppose the District of Columbia becoming the 51st state, an unprecedented nationwide response to a once-fledgling movement now surging with momentum in Washington. The statehood bill sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton will be the subject of a House Oversight Committee on March 11. The bill has enough support to pass the House, but it is likely to face roadblocks in the narrowly divided Senate. In her three decades leading the cause, Norton said, she has never seen such a flurry of action from so many states at once. She was even pleased to see the anti-statehood resolutions.
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