January 8, 2021 •
National/Federal Aides Weigh Resignations, Removal Options as Trump Rages Against Perceived Betrayals MSN – Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021 President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence, raging about perceived betrayals, […]
Aides Weigh Resignations, Removal Options as Trump Rages Against Perceived Betrayals
MSN – Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence, raging about perceived betrayals, as an array of top aides weighed resigning and some senior administration officials began conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment – an extraordinary measure that would remove the president before Trump’s term expires on January 20. An unease coursed through the administration over the president’s refusal to accept his election loss and his role in inciting a mob to storm the Capitol, disrupting the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. One administration official described Trump’s behavior as that of “a total monster,” while another said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”
Appeals Court Backs Subpoena-Like Power for Minority in House
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/29/2020
A divided federal appeals court upheld the power of legislators in the House minority to demand records from the executive branch. Acting in a dispute over records related to President Trump’s Trump International Hotel, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled lawmakers can resort to the courts to enforce an obscure statute known as the seven-member rule. The Trump administration argued the lawmakers lacked standing to turn to the courts to force disclosure of the records, but the majority on the panel disagreed.
Congress Affirms Biden’s Presidential Win Following Riot at U.S. Capitol
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, Seung Min Kim, and Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
Members of Congress, shaken and angry following a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Trump’s supporters, put a final stamp on President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and brought an end to a historically turbulent post-election period. Republicans had at one point planned to object to the electoral college votes in a series of states won by Biden, but after the storming of the Capitol, several GOP senators changed course, disputing only Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both challenges failed. In the final moments of the joint session, Senate Chaplain Barry Black said a prayer lamenting “the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.”
‘Covid Can Kill’: Lawmakers issue fresh warnings about virus after death of Rep.-elect Luke Letlow
MSN – David Nakamura and Fenit Nirappil (Washington Post) | Published: 12/30/2020
U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow’s death from COVID-19 has been met with shock and grief from fellow lawmakers, offering another stark example of the lethality of a pandemic. Letlow died just days before he was to be sworn after winning a runoff vote for Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District. Doctors said he had no apparent underlying health conditions that contributed to his death. At a candidate forum in October, Letlow urged the state to ease pandemic restrictions, saying, “We’re now at a place if we do not open our economy, we’re in real danger.” In a fall interview, Letlow commended President Trump’s handling of the pandemic and expressed skepticism about mask mandates.
House Approves Rules Package for New Congress
The Hill – Juliegrace Brufke and Cristina Marcos | Published: 1/4/2021
The House adopted a new set of rules for the 117th Congress with provisions to extend remote voting during the pandemic, protect whistleblowers, and limit the minority’s ability to amend legislation on the floor. Democrats also sought to prioritize diversity efforts in the rules package. One provision orders the use of gender-neutral language in the House rules, including pronouns and references to familial relationships like father, son, mother, or daughter.
In Viral Ad, New Member of Congress Appears to Walk Capitol Hill Streets with a Glock
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/4/2021
One of the newest members of Congress, Rep. Lauren Boebert, kicked off the session with a viral digital ad proclaiming her right to carry firearms on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and in the streets of Washington, D.C. Boebert, owner of a gun-themed restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, released the video amid efforts by some Democrats to ban members from carrying guns on the Capitol grounds, which they have been allowed to do since 1967. The ad appears to show Boebert walking near federal buildings and in alleys on Capitol Hill, citing rising violent crime as the reason she wants to carry a weapon.
‘Is This Really Happening?’: The siege of Congress, seen from the inside
Politico – Staff | Published: 1/7/2021
It was an unusual session of Congress to start with, a piece of fractious political theater around the normally ceremonial moment when America finally ratifies its choice of president. Then came the shouts in the hallways. And broken glass, and panicky texts, and confusion, and an abrupt halt to the basic working of the government. When the waves of pro-President Trump rioters overwhelmed Capitol police and surged through the building’s lobbies and stairways, they trapped journalists and nearly all members of the U.S. Congress. Five of the journalists in the building were congressional reporters for Politico. They gave their account of when the threat to American democracy came from inside the building.
Lobbyist Brother of Biden Advisor Has Reputation for Deep Connections and Looking to Avoid Possible Conflicts
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 12/31/2020
The lobbyist brother of one of President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisors has cultivated a reputation for his deep connections in Washington, D.C. and for his decades of delivering results for corporate clients. Some past associates and clients of Jeff Ricchetti also say he has rejected requests to lobby his brother, longtime Biden aide and incoming White House counselor Steve Ricchetti. In 2020, Jeff Ricchetti had his biggest batch of clients since 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The surge in clients came as Biden won the Democratic primary and eventually defeated President Trump in the general election.
Lobbyists with Ties to House GOP See Fortunes Rising
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/4/2021
Before the elections, lobbyists with ties to House Republicans had to wonder how much influence they would have in the 117th Congress. They are not worrying anymore. While Democrats predicted their party would gain seats in the chamber, they lost at least 12 incumbents and did not pick off a single House Republican. That means they are poised to see their fortunes rise. Democrats’ slim majority will offer Republicans uncommon sway for the minority party, providing opportunities to help broker legislative deals, or sink them.
No Emails Have Leaked from the 2020 Election Campaigns Yet – Tiny USB Sticks May Be One Reason Why
CNBC – Jordan Novet | Published: 12/23/2020
It appears this year’s presidential election campaigns avoided the sorts of cyberattacks that played out in 2016. No emails leaked this time. One thing that changed in the past four years: politicians, campaign workers, and their friends and family members started counting on USB sticks to securely log in to email accounts and other online services. Google worked with a nonprofit called Defending Digital Campaigns to give out more than 10,500 kits containing physical security keys. The FEC authorized the nonprofit to distribute cybersecurity products to campaigns for free or discounted prices.
Twitter, Facebook Lock Down Trump After Social Media-Fueled Riot in D.C.
Los Angeles Times – Sam Dean, Johana Bhuiyan, and Suhauna Hussein | Published: 1/6/2021
The mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol took shape on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and their social media peers spent President Trump’s term in office lurching from one crisis to another, scrambling to revise their policies on misinformation, hate speech, and incitement to violence in response to challenges from the White House and prominent figures and organizations that support the president. The rally was planned largely on their own platforms and promoted by the president to protest the supposed theft of the presidential election and disrupt the final certification of the electoral college vote. Although the companies took their strongest enforcement actions ever, including temporary locks on Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, critics say the companies’ pattern of tentative half-measures helped precipitate a crisis.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Former Oakland Building Inspector Accused of Bribery Fined $55,000 by Ethics Commission
San Jose Mercury News – Annie Sciacca | Published: 1/5/2021
Oakland’s ethics commission fined a former city building permit inspector $55,000 over accusations he violated the government ethics act by accepting bribes and misusing his position. The commission voted unanimously to impose a $5,000 penalty for each of 11 violations it found against Anthony Harbaugh. The violations include soliciting money from property owners in exchange for a “pass” on certain inspections. The penalty was far above the $22,000 fine recommended by a hearing officer. For many of the counts, the commissioners increased the recommended fines, and in some, they instituted fines where the hearing officer had not.
California – Grand Jury Accuses San Jose Unified of Misleading Public and Its Own Board About Lobbying Efforts
San Jose Spotlight – Lloyd Alaban | Published: 12/30/2020
The San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) left the public and its own governing board in the dark about lobbying activities that were carried out on its behalf and possibly violated government ethics laws in the process, according to a grand jury report. The SJUSD hired a consulting firm to help it with a proposal to build affordable housing for district teachers and employees but did not disclose to its board or the public the consulting firm was also lobbying city officials. District staff members denied to the board the consultancy was doing any lobbying for the district. Meanwhile, SJUSD obscured for the public and its board the lobbying activities another firm it hired was doing at the state level.
California – Newsom’s Friendship with Lobbyist Who Threw French Laundry Party Brings Questions
Los Angeles Times – Taryn Luna and Phil Willon | Published: 12/31/2020
On the website of one of Sacramento’s most influential lobbying firms, partner Jason Kinney boasted of his close connection to Gavin Newsom, noting he has advised the governor for “nearly 14 years.” The plug suddenly disappeared days after Newsom drew national criticism for attending Kinney’s birthday dinner at a famed Napa Valley restaurant. The event turned into a political disaster for Newsom, drawing charges of hypocrisy at the very time the governor urged residents to avoid gatherings and stay home as much as possible amid an unprecedented surge in the coronavirus. But the episode also exposed something that has long been the subject of quiet discussion in Sacramento: Newsom’s decision to maintain a tight relationship with Kinney, who is director of a lobbying firm with business before the governor.
California – Opponent of Newsom Church Restrictions Identified as California Recall Donor
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 1/5/2021
An Orange County donor named John Kruger has been identified as the source of a $500,000 contribution toward recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom, solving a mystery that transfixed California political watchers. The effort to unseat Newsom received its first six-figure infusion courtesy of a limited liability company called Prov 3:9. The firm had a virtually nonexistent business presence and no record of political spending, fueling questions about its true funder and spurring a request for a state investigation from former FEC member Ann Ravel.
Colorado – Aurora’s Adoption of Strict Limits on Campaign Contributions Means Most of Colorado’s Largest Cities Have Controls in Place
Denver Post – John Aguilar | Published: 1/3/2021
Aurora will soon impose strict limits on how much money can be raised in mayoral and city council races, becoming the latest large Colorado city to reform a campaign finance system that many decry as too opaque and friendly to big business interests. With Aurora joining Denver, Fort Collins, and Lakewood in revamping its rules on the role of money in local races, four of the state’s five most populous cities will have campaign finance controls on the books. Colorado Springs puts no restrictions on donations to candidates running for public office.
Connecticut – Ritter Family of Hartford Extends Its Influence in Connecticut Legislature, Courts
MSN – Christopher Keating (Hartford Courant) | Published: 1/4/2021
Matthew Ritter is set become speaker of the Connecticut House. At the same time, his mother, Christine Keller, recently started serving on the state Supreme Court. Tom Ritter – Matthew’s father and Christine’s husband – is an influential lobbyist at a Hartford law firm and a member of the University of Connecticut board of trustees, in addition to being a former speaker in the 1990s. Gov. Ned Lamont nominated Ritter’s mother to the state’s highest court, but said he has no concerns about one family accumulating too much power or any potential conflicts-of-interest with the speaker of the House and a Supreme Court justice in the same family.
Florida – City of Tallahassee and Former Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Settle Lawsuit
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/6/2021
The former embattled Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe and the city agreed to dismiss a lawsuit she filed more than a year ago claiming she was retaliated against and forced from her position. Meadows-Keefe left the post less than a year ago after a long-running dust up with city officials, chiefly Mayor John Dailey. She had demanded Dailey publicly apologize to her and the city write her a $450,000 check in return for her to step down from the post.
Florida – Lobbyists Reach Agreement with Ethics Commission Over Secret Trip to Atlanta
MSN – Christopher Hong (Floida Times-Union) | Published: 1/5/2021
Conventus LLC, co-owned by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s former chief administrator, and a consultant who led his election campaigns admitted they organized and paid for a trip to Atlanta that was attended by Curry, then-JEA Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn, and then-city council President Scott Wilson. In an agreement with the city Ethics Commission. Tallahassee officials are prohibited from accepting gifts from registered lobbyists worth greater than $100. The commission concluded the trip was worth more than the $400 that Conventus co-owners Sam Mousa and Tim Baker told some of the participants to reimburse the company in order to not cross the $100 gift threshold.
Georgia – A Federal Judge in Atlanta Denied a Last-Minute Effort by Trump to Decertify Biden’s Victory in Georgia.
New York Times – Alan Feuer | Published: 1/5/2021
A federal judge in Atlanta denied a last-minute effort by President Trump to decertify Georgia’s election results, handing the president yet another courtroom loss before Congress is scheduled to bring the presidential race to an official end. The ruling by Judge Mark Cohen denying the emergency petition brought the number of legal defeats Trump and his allies have suffered since Election Day to more than 60. The challenges have spanned eight states and dozens of courts.
Georgia – ‘I Just Want to Find 11,780 Votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/3/2021
President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in a phone call that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act. In the recording, Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act, and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one-point warning Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.” Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected Trump’s assertions, explaining the president is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.
Georgia – Warnock, Ossoff Win in Georgia, Handing Dems Senate Control
Associated Press News – Steve Peoples, Bill Barrow, and Russ Bynum | Published: 1/6/2021
Democrats won both Senate seats in Georgia and with them, the U.S. Senate majority, serving President Trump a defeat in his turbulent final days in office while dramatically improving the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s progressive agenda. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democratic challengers who represented the diversity of their party’s evolving coalition, defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992. Warnock becomes the first African American from Georgia elected to the Senate. Ossoff becomes the state’s first Jewish senator and, at 33 years old, the Senate’s youngest member.
Illinois – ‘Ghost Payroll Scheme’ Earned CPS Tech $122K – While Doing No Work and Living in California, Watchdog Says
Chicago Sun-Times – Nader Issa | Published: 1/6/2021
A former computer technician at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was paid nearly $122,000 over two years, all while primarily living in California and doing virtually no work, according to a report from the district’s watchdog which found her school’s principal was aware of the situation but did nothing about it. The staffer self-dealt another $237,300 from the school system through a printing company she and her husband helped manage that sold goods to 14 CPS schools, including her own.
Illinois – GOP Members Introduce Bill to Distance Redistricting Process from Politicians
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel and Derek Cantu | Published: 1/5/2021
Illinois House Republicans are proposing a bill that they say could avoid another partisan redistricting cycle and say they ae holding Gov. JB Pritzker’s feet to the fire, daring him to uphold a campaign promise to veto any new legislative maps design which unfairly benefit one political party over another. Though the state constitution lays out a June 30 deadline for the Legislature to pass new maps, that deadline has been blown for the last five decades since the 1970 constitution was ratified, leaving the district drawing process to a bipartisan commission. Republican members claim previous map designs were developed in such a manner to divide or pack together constituents into irregular district lines based upon party affiliation.
Indiana – Some Donors to Pete Buttigieg’s Presidential Campaign Scored Contracts from South Bend When He Was Mayor
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 12/23/2020
Pete Buttigieg, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for Transportation secretary and the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, received presidential campaign donations from executives at companies that had public works contracts with the city while he led it. A review of dozens of the city’s infrastructure contracts during his second term as mayor, from 2016 into 2020, shows that under Buttigieg, a portion of the city’s spending went toward contractors who later became donors to his campaign for president which he launched in 2019. If he is confirmed, Buttigieg, as head of the Department of Transportation, would be responsible for pushing forward the incoming administration’s infrastructure proposal.
Louisiana – 5 Years Before Ethics Charges Were Filed, Groundwater Commission Was Told of Potential Conflicts
The Advocate – David Mitchell | Published: 1/2/2021
Five years before five members of a Baton Rouge-area groundwater commission were charged with conflict-of-interest violations, an attorney for the commission warned of exactly the problem that led to the charges. In 2015, former Assistant Attorney General Megan Terrell, then the groundwater commission’s legal advisor, concluded state ethics law could bar commissioners from drawing a salary from the big groundwater users they were supposed to regulate, like Baton Rouge Water and ExxonMobil. She wrote that while ethics opinions do not prevent industrial and other major users from nominating representatives to the groundwater commission, as state law allows them, it “may affect the ability of these users from nominating their own employees.”
Missouri – Lobbyist Steve Tilley Worked to Steer Marijuana Money to Jason Kander Tiny Home Project
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson and Jack Suntrup | Published: 12/30/2020
Gov. Mike Parson’s decision to spend part of the proceeds from Missouri’s fledgling medical marijuana program on a tiny home project for veterans may have been influenced by one of the Capitol’s most powerful lobbyists. Among former House Speaker Steve Tilley’s lengthy list of lobbying clients is the Veterans Community Project, a nonprofit that received $2.5 million in the most recent state budget to build 50 homes to help former military personnel. Records show the hiring of Tilley and his lobbying firm by Veterans Community Project came just three days after Parson’s visit to the development. But the deal has generated conflict.
New York – Queens Senator Fined $15K for ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Trips from City Funds
Queens Eagle – David Brand | Published: 1/5/2021
State Sen. James Sanders was fined $15,000 for accepting all-expense-paid trips and various “valuable gifts” from a local nonprofit he funded during his time in the New York City Council. Sanders was a council member when local nonprofit Margert Community Corporation picked up his tab at an all-inclusive Poconos resort on five separate occasions between 2009 and 2012, according to the Conflict of Interest Board. As Margert lavished Sanders with trips and gifts, he funneled nearly $842,000 in discretionary funding to the nonprofit.
New York – Three Men Gave $250 Each to a Candidate for City Comptroller – and Say They Never Heard of Him
The City – Clifford Michel | Published: 1/4/2021
Ameer Alonzo, Agnissan Achi, and Silas Adedokun were listed as giving $250 each to New York Sen. Brian Benjamin’s campaign. They say they did not give any money. “It sounds like a scam. … This is just so random,” Achi said. The men – and a toddler – are among 23 individuals who were recorded as contributing to the Benjamin 2021 campaign fund via an intermediary named Michael Murphy. Each name is associated with a $250 money order. Under New York City’s public campaign financing program, the first $100 of each of those donations is potentially eligible for $800 in taxpayer-supplied matching dollars. Contributions must come from the named donor’s own funds.
North Dakota – North Dakota Lobbyist Gift Ban Takes Effect; Ethics Bills Set in Legislature
Williston Herald – Jack Dura (Bismarck Tribune) | Published: 1/4/2021
Lobbyists in North Dakota now cannot give gifts to public officials, including state lawmakers, executive branch officials, legislative staff, and governor’s Cabinet members. Items as nominal as cups and stress balls are prohibited. Gifting violations carry civil penalties that could be up to $1,000 for gifts worth less than $500, and twice the value of gifts worth $500 or more. Legislation has come forth related to the Ethics Commission, including its budget bill and a proposal allowing for advisory opinions and etching complaint procedures into law.
Ohio – Despite Bribery Scandal, Influence of Dark Money in Ohio Remains Unchecked
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 1/4/2021
A federal investigation into a nearly $61 million bribery scandal in Columbus shined a bright light on the influence of so-called dark money in state politics. Investigators allege businesses like FirstEnergy spent nearly $61 million to help Rep. Larry Householder win control of the Ohio House, pass a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants, and defend that law against a ballot effort to block it. This money was donated to nonprofit and for-profit corporations that are not required to disclose anything about their contributions. But in the months since Householder’s arrest, Ohio lawmakers have done nothing to curtail dark money’s influence in Ohio.
Ohio – Groups Backing Gov. DeWine and His Daughter Received FirstEnergy Cash Funneled Through Dark Money Outfits
MSM – Jackie Borchardt (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/23/2020
Cash from FirstEnergy Corp. and related businesses reached the coffers of “dark money” groups supporting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his daughter and Greene County prosecutor candidate, Alice DeWine, tax documents show. The documents shed new light on a key player in a federal bribery investigation that entangled the former Ohio House speaker and four others. They also show for the first time where a “dark money” group supporting Alice DeWine’s bid for prosecutor got some of its funding. A spokesperson for the governor said DeWine spoke with FirstEnergy officials in 2019 and asked them to support his daughter’s effort with independent expenditures. Independent expenditures are political ads that support or oppose a candidate without cooperation with that candidate or their campaign.
Oklahoma – Ethics Commission Slaps Two Lobbyists with Hefty Financial Penalties
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 1/5/2021
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission imposed hefty penalties on two well-known lobbyists for violations of campaign finance law. James Milner agreed to pay $65,000 while James McSpadden will pay $50,000, both for violations related to the acceptance and expenditure of funds of Oklahomans for Healthy Living. Milner served as the group’s chairperson, while McSpadden was treasurer. The commission found Oklahomans for Healthy Living acted as a straw political action committee by accepting and distributing illegal corporate contributions, failing to disclose the donations, failing to identify that such contributions were from a corporate source, and expending corporate funds to Oklahoma committees.
Pennsylvania – Ex-House Speaker John Perzel Wins 3rd and Likely Final Bid to Avoid Paying $1M for Corruption Conviction
PennLive.com – Matt Miller | Published: 1/4/2021
Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis said state prosecutors did not prove an exact dollar value for what they claim was the loss from former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel’s participation in the so-called Computergate scandal. He was among several House Republicans who were convicted or pleaded guilty to using taxpayer funds to create a computer system designed to promote the election of GOP candidates. Perzel was first hit with the $1 million in 2012 when Lewis sentenced him to prison and probation on his guilty pleas to theft, conspiracy, and conflict-of-interest charges.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Republicans Block Seating of Democratic State Senator, Take Control from Lieutenant Governor
MSN – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 1/5/2021
The seating of new Pennsylvania legislators turned into a bitter partisan spectacle as Republicans in the state Senate blocked a Democratic lawmaker from taking his oath of office and removed the Democratic lieutenant governor from his role overseeing the proceedings. Leaders shouted and spoke over each other, at one point trying to conduct dueling sessions in a stark showcase of this year’s political divisions over normally routine functions of democracy. Republicans say they will not seat Sen.-elect Jim Brewster as a legal challenge to his victory is pending, although his win has been certified and the state Supreme Court sided with him in a dispute over how to count votes in a close race.
South Carolina – Magistrate Judges Took Bribes, Stole Money and Mishandled Cases. South Carolina Officials Now Want Reform
ProPublica – Joseph Cranney (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 1/5/2021
When the South Carolina Legislature reconvenes, lawmakers say a priority will be ramping up their scrutiny of local magistrate judges, many of whom are among the state’s busiest but least qualified jurists. A series by The Charleston Post and Courier and ProPublica exposed how a flawed system of selection and oversight provided fertile ground for incompetence and corruption on the bench. One proposal would do away with loopholes that have allowed magistrates to shield ethical offenses or preside for years despite expired terms.
South Carolina – SC Senators Turn Spotlight on NextEra, Energy Giant Seeking to Buy Santee Cooper
The State – John Monk | Published: 12/31/2020
A South Carolina Senate subcommittee voted to investigate energy giant NextEra’s efforts to acquire Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric utility. The subcommittee agreed to send NextEra a letter requesting numerous details about the company’s lobbying efforts with, and campaign contributions to, state lawmakers. The panel will also ask NextEra to provide details on a reported ongoing federal criminal investigation into some of the company’s dealings in Florida. If NextEra refuses to provide the information, senators will seek subpoena power from the Senate.
Virginia – Richmond Judge Recuses Himself from Case Involving State Senator Who Has Power Over Reappointing Him to the Bench
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 12/28/2020
Richmond General District Court Judge David Hicks, who presided over the arraignment of a state senator and then appeared before that senator to seek reappointment to the bench, recused himself from any further role in the criminal case. A retired judge has been appointed to handle the next hearing for Virginia Sen. Joseph Morrissey, who is facing misdemeanor charges of improper conduct at a polling place during the 2019 election. Virginia is one of only two states in which the Legislature appoints judges. While all members of the Senate and House vote on the appointments, the custom is to defer to the choices of each local delegation.
Washington – Olympia Lawmaking Is About to Go Virtual. Participants See Both Minefields and Silver Linings
Tri-City Herald – Sarah Genzler | Published: 1/3/2021
During the 2021 session, Olympia’s Capitol Campus that comes alive each January will, under current plans, remain largely dormant. Legislative buildings will stay closed to the public, with COVID-19 transmission prevention in mind. Much of the typical activity and conversation will move online. Not everyone supports that vision. Republican leaders believe more access could be preserved safely. And groups have stated plans to enter and occupy the state Legislative Building during session, claiming that keeping the Capitol closed to the public is unconstitutional, COVID-19 or not.
West Virginia – GOP West Virginia State Delegate Live-Streams as He Storms Congress with Pro-Trump Mob: ‘We’re going in!’
MSN – Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2021
Sporting a black helmet and shouting, “Trump! Trump!,” a West Virginia delegate pushed his way through the crowd as he narrated on Facebook Live the moment the mob cracked open the doors of Congress. “We’re in! We’re in!” cheered Derrick Evans, a newly elected member of West Virginia’s House. His recording, which has since been deleted, left state officials from both parties slamming his participation in the mob of pro-Trump supporters who broke into Congress as lawmakers convened to confirm the results of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Amid the violent coup attempt, one woman was shot and killed by police, and three others died of medical emergencies.
December 25, 2020 •
National/Federal A Frustrated Trump Redoubles Efforts to Challenge Election Result MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020 President Trump has intensified efforts to overturn the election, raising a series of radical measures […]
A Frustrated Trump Redoubles Efforts to Challenge Election Result
MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020
President Trump has intensified efforts to overturn the election, raising a series of radical measures in recent days, including military intervention, seizing voting machines, and a 13th-hour appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump said he had spoken with Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville about challenging the electoral vote count when the House and Senate convene on January 6 to formally affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump’s conversation with Tuberville is part of a much broader effort by the defeated president to invalidate the election. He is increasingly reaching out to allies like Giuliani and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for ideas and searching his Twitter feed for information to promote.
Bennet Introduces Bill to Eliminate ‘Zombie’ Campaign Accounts
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlick | Published: 12/18/2020
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced the Zeroing Out Money for Buying Influence after Elections (ZOMBIE) Act to address what happens with campaign money for federal candidates when they leave office. The ZOMBIE Act requires candidates to close campaign accounts within six months of not filing to run for reelection or another federal office. People would also need to close their personal or leadership committees before registering as a lobbyist or foreign agent. Candidates may divest their unspent money to donors, the U.S. Treasury, or a charity. The candidate or their family may not have personal ties to the recipient charity, however.
Despite Trump’s Intense Hunt for Voter Fraud, Officials in Key States Have So Far Identified Just a Small Number of Possible Cases
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Jon Swaine, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 12/23/2020
After an intense hunt by President Trump’s allies to surface voting irregularities in this year’s election, law enforcement agencies in six key swing states targeted by the president have found just a modest number of complaints that have merited investigation. So far, only a handful of cases have resulted in actual criminal charges alleging wrongdoing – some of them against Republican voters aiming to help Trump. The tiny number of incidents further undercut Trump’s barrage of false allegations that there was widespread manipulation of the vote. The alleged voter fraud cases, mostly spotted by local election officials, were identified due to the kinds of safeguards in place in states and counties specifically designed to catch problems.
FBI Links Iran to Online Hit List Targeting Top Officials Who’ve Refuted Trump’s Election Fraud Claims
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) | Published: 12/22/2020
The FBI has concluded Iran was behind online efforts to incite lethal violence against the bureau’s director, a former top U.S. cyber expert, and multiple state elections officials who have refuted claims of widespread voter fraud promoted by President Trump and his allies. FBI Director Christopher Wray and ousted Homeland Security Department official Christopher Krebs were among more than a dozen people whose images, home addresses, and other personal information were posted on a website titled “Enemies of the People.” Crosshairs were superimposed over the photos. In August, intelligence officials said Iran was seeking to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and divide the country in advance of the election.
High Court Rules Challenge to Trump Census Plan Is Premature
Associated Press News – Mark Sherman | Published: 12/18/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed as premature a challenge to President Trump’s plan to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count used to allot states seats in the House of Representatives. But the court’s decision is not a final ruling on the matter, and it is not clear whether Trump will receive final numbers from the Census Bureau before he leaves office. The high court said it was too soon to rule on the legality of Trump’s plan because it is not yet clear how many people he would seek to exclude and whether the division of House seats would be affected.
House Intends to Reissue Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records Next Year
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/21/2020
The House Oversight Committee intends to reissue a subpoena for President Trump’s financial records next year. The House has been pursuing Trump’s financial documents form his accounting firm, Mazars USA, since Democrats took power in early 2019 but the effort has been tied up in the courts. The case landed before the U.S. Supreme Court this year, and the justices determined the lower courts had failed to scrutinize the subpoena closely enough, kicking it back to them for further review. Now, as the congressional session winds down, the House is signaling it intends to continue pursuing Trump’s financial documents even as he prepares to leave office.
Kushner Helped Launch Shell Company That Paid Campaign Funds to Trump Family: Report
MSN – Mary Papenfuss (HuffPost) | Published: 12/19/2020
A campaign shell company created in part by Jared Kushner spent half of President Trump’s massive campaign fund and secretly paid Trump family members and associates, according to Business Insider. Lara Trump, the wife of the president’s son Eric, was head of the company, and a nephew of Vice President Mike Pence served as its vice president, Business Insider reported. The company was incorporated in Delaware as American Made Media Consultants Corporation and American Made Media Consultants. Records reveal the president’s campaign and its affiliated Trump Make America Great Again Committee with the Republican National Committee spent more than $617 million through the company, which purchased ads but also funded the more amorphous tasks of “digital consulting” and “research consulting.”
Major U.S. Companies Are Lobbying in a Scrum for Early Vaccine
MSN – Christopher Rowland, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jacob Bogage, Abha Bhattarai, and Laura Reiley (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2020
Companies are lobbying states and the federal government to prioritize their workers for early immunization against the coronavirus amid limited supplies of the vaccine. After front-line health-care workers and elderly people in nursing homes and assisted-living centers are immunized, the government is expected to begin shipping vaccine to communities for those it has designated as essential workers. The task of setting the sequence of vaccinations within that disparate population, verifying who is essential and setting up equitable systems for access is triggering competition. The government’s list is so broad it includes everyone from weather forecasters to the operators of shooting ranges. Some policy experts fear the competition for vaccines will favor the wealthiest companies with the strongest lobbying teams in state capitals.
New Round of Trump Clemency Benefits Manafort, Other Allies
Associated Press News – Eric Tucker | Published: 12/24/2020
President Trump pardoned more than two dozen people, including former campaign chairperson Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, in the latest wave of clemency to benefit longtime associates and supporters. The actions, in Trump’s waning time at the White House, bring to nearly 50 the number of people whom the president has granted clemency in the last week. The list from the last two days includes not only multiple people convicted in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia but also allies from Congress and other felons whose causes were championed by friends.
Trump Pardons 15, Commutes 5 Sentences, Including GOP Allies
Associated Press News – Colleen Long, Kevin Freking, and Eric Tucker | Published: 12/23/2020
President Trump granted clemency to 20 people, including three former Republican members of Congress and two people who were convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Recipients of Trump’s newest pardons included his first two congressional endorsers, former Rep. Chris Collins, convicted on charges related to insider trading, and former Rep. Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance abuses, including some to support extramarital affairs. Some of Trump’s actions seemed intended to send clear messages, such as grants of clemency for George Papadopoulos, the former campaign operative whose 2016 activities triggered the FBI probe that led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Trump Will Face Different Twitter Rules When He Leaves Office
MSN – Emily Glazer (Wall Street Journal) | Published: 12/22/2020
President Trump has used his Twitter account as a megaphone during his administration. When he leaves office, he will need to abide by a different set of rules. Trump is currently able to tweet with less risk, compared with private citizens, of having tweets taken down or his account suspended. His Twitter account, which has more than 88 million followers, will no longer receive special privileges when he becomes a private citizen, Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio said. The loss of privileges reserved for world leaders and public officials would mean that if Trump violates the site’s rules, those tweets would be taken down rather than labeled in the future, Pacilio said.
Watchdog: Amy McGrath Campaign Illegally Coordinated with Democratic Party Super PACs in Bid to Unseat Mitch McConnell
MSN – Colin Kalmbacher (Law & Crime) | Published: 12/17/2020
The U.S. Senate campaign of failed candidate Amy McGrath illegally coordinated with a Democratic Party super PAC in violation of federal campaign finance law, according to a complaint filed with the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said McGrath’s campaign, along with the Senate campaign of Mike Espy, violated the law during the 2020 election. The CLC said McGrath’s campaign and the Ditch Fund illegally coordinated on up to $8 million worth of spending during her unsuccessful bid to unseat Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Espy’s failed effort at replacing Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith allegedly violated federal law by coordinating with the March on PAC to the tune of some $50,000, according to the CLC.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – AG Says Pima County Ban on Political Contributions Unconstitutional
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 12/18/2020
Pima County’s prohibition on its employees contributing money to candidates for county office violates both the U.S. and Arizona constitutions, according to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. In a nonbinding opinion, Brnovich said the policy impermissibly infringes on the free speech rights of Pima County employees. The 1992 policy bars county employees from contributing money or soliciting contributions for county candidates. County supervisors passed the rule as an ethics reform to prevent elected officials from pressuring employees to contribute to their campaigns.
Arizona – Candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission Faces Investigation into Campaign Spending
MSN – Ryan Randazzo (Arizona Republic) | Published: 12/17/2020
The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission agreed that Eric Sloan, who lost a bid to become one of the state’s utility regulators, appears to have violated laws regarding how candidates can spend public campaign money. The vote will initiate an investigation that could include subpoenas for Sloan’s finance records and depositions of witnesses. It ultimately could result in a fine. Sloan’s former campaign company accused Sloan of failing to pay him for a variety of services that helped get Slone on the ballot and then spending all his public money from the Clean Elections Commission elsewhere, which put him over the spending limit.
California – Newsom Appoints Alex Padilla to Fill Harris’ Senate Seat
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 12/22/2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom is appointing California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to the U.S. Senate, giving the state its first Latino senator. From the moment President-elect Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, California politicians began positioning themselves for the possible opening. The lobbying around Newsom has intensified since Biden’s victory, with various groups representing different constituencies urging the governor to appoint a Latino, a Black woman, or another representative of California’s diversity. The governor chose the presumed frontrunner in Padilla, who has supported Newsom’s political ambitions and offered the historic opportunity in a state where Latinos are a plurality at 40 percent of the population.
California – Newsom Lobbying Ban Won’t Immediately Affect French Laundry Dining Partner
MSN – Alexei Kosoff (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 12/17/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom committed to not hiring any registered lobbyist as a paid consultant and barred his paid campaign or political consultants from directly lobbying the governor, his staff, or state agencies under his control. The new policy bans a dozen people serving as paid consultants to his campaign or the California Democratic Party from lobbying, but Jason Kinney is not among them. Kinney, the lobbyist and longtime adviser to Newsom, whose attendance at a 50th birthday dinner for Kinney sparked criticism over his close ties to consultants who also work for corporate clients and other influential interests at the Capitol.
Colorado – Denver Clerk Lopez Contracts with Outside Group to Run City’s Campaign Finance System
North Denver Tribune – Staff | Published: 12/14/2020
Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul López today announced his office has contracted with MapLight a nonprofit technology firm, to build a replacement for the city’s outdated campaign finance reporting application. MapLight’s new application will be uniquely designed to administer Denver’s campaign finance regulations, provide in-depth search functions for the public, and implement the Fair Elections Fund. The new campaign finance system will launch in the second half of 2021 and will include a litany of needed upgrades for campaign users, employees, and Denver residents.
Colorado – How Colorado’s New Redistricting Commissions Will Navigate a Political Swamp in 2021
Bloomfield Enterprise – Jon Murray (Denver Post) | Published: 12/22/2020
A redistricting commission will take the helm in Colorado in 2021, steering the process of redrawing congressional and legislative districts, a process that in the past has often been dominated by whichever party held more sway. A lot will hinge on who gets picked as commissioners, how well they work together, and how they juggle competing interests, including jockeying for an eighth congressional seat that is expected to be granted to Colorado. But advocates say commissions are set up to keep decision-making out of back rooms. Each is required to be divided evenly between Democratic, Republican, and unaffiliated members. Many political insiders and lobbyists are barred from being members, and extensive rules require consensus to approve the new maps.
Florida – Antonacci Gets a New Job and an Old Problem: The appearance of a conflict of interest with his wife
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 12/16/2020
Outgoing Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci was named by Florida’s Cabinet to be the next Chief Judge/Executive Director of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. He must now be confirmed by the state Senate. For the second time in five years, however, Antonacci’s new job creates an immediate appearance of a conflict-of-interest involving his wife, Anne Longman, a lawyer who often represents clients before the division her husband would now lead.
Florida – ‘Could Really Use the Support’: Witness says Beach politician drove donors to mystery PAC
Miami Herald – Christina Saint Louis | Published: 12/17/2020
Before Petter Hagland became a key figure in the ethics scandal that wrecked Michael Grieco’s mayoral aspirations, he received multiple emails from the then-Miami Beach commissioner badgering him for one thing: money. “I am asking for your support in my endeavors to seek higher office,” Grieco wrote to Hagland, part of a wealthy Norwegian shipping and oil family, in an email. The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust questioned Hagland about those exchanges as part of its investigation into Grieco’s involvement with People for Better Leaders, the murky PAC that raised over $200,000, much of it from special interests doing business with the city, in the run-up to the 2017 municipal election. The $25,000 from Hagland was the largest contribution to the mystery PAC.
Florida – Michael Grieco’s Fundraising Falsehoods Violated Ethics Rules, Panel Finds
Miami Herald – Christina Saint Louis | Published: 12/17/2020
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found state Rep. Michael Grieco violated the Citizens’ Bill of Rights twice during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner by falsely portraying his involvement with the PAC People for Better Leaders. The first falsehood was when he told the Miami Herald, “I do not have a political committee. I didn’t set one up. I haven’t solicited one,” and again when he told the Herald, “It is absolutely untrue. … You can look right into my soul.” Evidence and testimony elicited in a hearing, including sworn statements from donors and the chairperson of the PAC, indicated Grieco was actively involved in creating, operating, coordinating, and funding the PAC.
Georgia – GOP Launches Legal War on Absentee Voting Ahead of Georgia Runoffs
Politico – Zach Montellaro and James Arkin | Published: 12/17/2020
Federal judges in Georgia rejected a pair of Republican-led lawsuits to restrict absentee voting ahead of January’s U.S. Senate runoffs, the first salvos in a GOP effort to change voting rules for future elections following President Trump’s loss in 2020. Republicans filed three lawsuits – two in federal court, one in state court – in Georgia ahead of the runoffs, in which hundreds of thousands of people have already voted by mail or in person for races that will decide control of the Senate. The suits are an attempt to make successfully voting by mail harder in Georgia, which Republicans say is necessary to protect the security of the elections and others claim is an attempt to suppress votes for Democratic candidates.
Illinois – Rules Requiring Nonprofits to Register as Lobbyists Delayed Again
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 12/21/2020
Rules requiring nonprofit organizations to register as lobbyists in Chicago were set to go into effect January 1, 2020, but were delayed after dozens of nonprofit groups objected, saying the regulations would force them to pay costly registration fees or risk $1,000 fines. The effort to amend the guidelines was still underway when the coronavirus pandemic forced City Hall to shut down, and the delay was extended. It will now last until spring 2021. The ethics ordinance will need to be revised by the city council to clarify the rules, officials with the Chicago Board of Ethics have said.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin to Resign Amid Investigation, Controversy
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 12/22/2020
Under investigation for potential abuse of CARES Act funds and facing ouster proceedings for participating in a political scandal during the 2019 mayoral race, Wichita City Councilperson James Clendenin plans to resign by the end of the year. Clendenin faced the possibility of being the first council member ousted in the city’s 150-year history. Clendenin is one of three city officeholders behind the “Protect Wichita Girls” video, a political advertisement that falsely accused Mayor Brandon Whipple of sexual harassment, and a plot to blame former Sedgwick County GOP Chairperson Dalton Glasscock for the bogus ad.
Maine – Maine Regulator Can Get Financial Records from Anti-CMP Corridor Group, Judge Rules
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 12/17/2020
Maine’s ethics commission can request financial records from a “dark-money” group opposing Central Maine Power’s proposed $1 billion corridor project as part of a broader investigation. Stop the Corridor sued the ethics commission, aiming to shield its donors from public view after the commission voted to require the group to disclose financial information as part of an investigation into whether Stop the Corridor had to register as a political committee after it gave $85,000 to another ant-corridor organization. But a judge disagreed with the anti-corridor group’s argument that the ethics agency had no jurisdiction to do so, denying a delay of the commission’s order by finding the group was unlikely to succeed and the information requested was relevant to the probe.
Maryland – With New Members in Place, Baltimore Spending Board Beefs Up Transparency on Conflicts of Interest
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 12/16/2020
Baltimore’s spending board voted to make its abstention process more transparent following a controversy in which the city’s then-comptroller repeatedly voted to approve spending for organizations with which she was connected. While members of the Board of Estimates were previously required to maintain a list of groups with which they had ties that could create a conflict and disclose any abstentions during meetings, the new rules require members to state the reason for abstaining in a memo that will be posted online with the board’s agenda.
Massachusetts – House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo Discloses He’s in Talks for Job at Northeastern, Setting Off Succession Campaign
MSN – Matt Stout and Andrea Estes (Boston Globe) | Published: 12/18/2020
House Speaker Robert DeLeo filed a much-anticipated ethics disclosure notifying officials he is in talks for a job with Northeastern University, potentially marking the beginning of the end of his tenure as the longest-serving House leader in Massachusetts history. According to his letter, DeLeo said he asked his personal attorney to contact the state’s Ethics Commission to “discuss my status and to ensure compliance” with the conflict-of-interest law. DeLeo wrote he is currently not required to file a disclosure but chose to “out of an abundance of caution.” DeLeo would be the first speaker since 1990 to step down on his own timetable and without the specter of either a criminal investigation or indictment.
Missouri – Ethics Panel Rebukes St. Louis Lawmaker Accused of Having Sex with Intern
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 12/17/2020
Missouri Rep. Wiley Price IV faces censure after an investigation into whether he had sex with his legislative intern earlier this year. Price did not admit to having sex with the intern but was found to have attempted to cover up the incident and interfered in the House Ethics Committee probe into his behavior. The committee recommended the full House strongly admonish Price. That could include stripping him of his committee assignments and not allowing him to meet with the Democratic caucus. He also will be barred from having an intern in the future, and the report calls for Price to repay $22,494 to cover the cost of the investigation.
New Mexico – Nonprofit Groups Test New Independent Expenditure Law to the Test
New Mexico Political Report – Brian Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 12/16/2020
New Mexico lawmakers passed campaign reporting requirements in 2019 to force nonprofit groups, which can spend money on campaigns without registering as political committees, to disclose their spending as well as the names, addresses, and contribution amounts of their donors who fund such independent expenditures. In 2020, two nonprofit groups immediately put the new law to the test by refusing to disclose donors despite enforcement efforts by both the secretary of state and the State Ethics Commission. The challenges by the nonprofit groups represent a key test for both the law itself and for the enforcing power of the ethics panel, which was also established in 2019.
New York – Ex-Sen. Jeff Klein Seeks to Block Ethics Hearing on Sexual Harassment Allegations
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/21/2020
Former New York Sen. Jeffrey Klein has filed a petition in state Supreme Court seeking to block the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) from holding a hearing on whether he violated Public Officers Law when he allegedly forcibly kissed a female staff member outside an Albany bar five years ago. The petition alleges JCOPE exceeded its authority and abused its discretion when it rejected a hearing officer’s recommendation the case should be dismissed.
North Dakota – Attorney General: North Dakota Ethics Commission can write lobbying definitions
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 12/23/2020
The North Dakota Ethics Commission can write rules defining “lobby” and “lobbyist” pertaining to gift restrictions, according to state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. He issued an opinion in response to the board’s request for clarification on its authority to expand on the definitions relating to gifts. Commissioners have encountered conflicting language in state law and the North Dakota Constitution as they have established the board and its rules.
Ohio – Elections Commission Dings Rep. Nino Vitale Over Late Report, Delays More Serious Charges
MSN – Rick Rouan (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/17/2020
A state lawmaker who has backed an effort to impeach Gov. Mike DeWine, urged Ohioans not to get tested for the coronavirus, and was accused of using anti-Semitic language against former Health Director Dr. Amy Acton is now answering for alleged campaign finance violations. The Ohio Elections Commission found Rep. Nino Vitale violated the law by filing one of his reports after the deadline. The commission did not level any penalty or fine against Vitale for the late filing. The case included several other allegations, including that Vitale improperly used a campaign account to accept payment for a concealed carry class he taught. The remaining five counts in the case were set for a separate hearing to be scheduled later. Vitale appeared to suggest the complaint was tied to his support of articles of impeachment against DeWine.
Ohio – Leader of Columbus Green-Energy Ballot Measure Indicted for False Campaign Finance Reports
MSN – Mark Ferenchick (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/16/2020
John Clark Jr., who led the initiative petition drive that would have diverted tens of millions of dollars of city of Columbus money toward vague green-energy initiatives, was indicted on felony charges of filing false campaign finance reports. The charges relate to false information provided on campaign finance reports filed with the city in 2019. The Franklin County prosecutor’s office said the false statements are related to the source and amount of contributions made to the ballot initiative. The 2019 initiative would have redirected $57 million dollars in city money to proposed green-energy initiatives by ProEnergy Ohio LLC, a limited partnership group Clark led.
Ohio – Ohio Lawmakers Do Nothing on Scandal-Tainted House Bill
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/22/2020
After a federal bribery investigation ousted a former House leader, Ohio lawmakers did nothing to repeal or delay the $1 billion nuclear plant bailout at the heart of the alleged “pay-to-play” scheme. Caught between lawmakers who wanted to do more to curb the nuclear subsidies and those who wanted to bail out the plants, the Republican-controlled House could not cobble together the votes needed for a change. A judge relieved some of the pressure on lawmakers to act by blocking the fees from appearing on Ohioans’ electric bills in January. The fees subsidize two nuclear plants owned by Energy Harbor. Lawmakers will continue to work to find a definitive legislative solution next year, Speaker Bob Cupp said.
Oregon – Staffers for Oregon Lawmakers Have Filed to Form a Union
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 12/16/2020
Legislative aides in Oregon want to be the first group of such employees in the country to form their own union. While unions often have a partisan tinge in the statehouse, staffers of lawmakers in both parties note changes in recent years they felt highlighted a need for better representation. One is a lengthy process that has sought to modify pay within the Capitol. One facet of that process, adopted earlier this year, was focused on ensuring staffers are paid equitably if they serve in similar roles. Another change is the Legislature’s ongoing revisions of Capitol policies for harassment and retaliation. The employees said a union would ensure their voices are present when lawmakers make such decisions.
South Carolina – Richland Councilwoman Accused of Corruption as Prosecutor Criticizes County Spending
MSN – David Travis Bland, Bristow Marchant, and Sarah Ellis (The State) | Published: 12/18/2020
Richland County Council member Dalhi Myers used taxpayer money for personal travel to Greece and other places, a resort hotel stay in Nashville, and “premium chocolates” and other personal items, according to an indictment. The grand jury indicted Myers on 24 charges that include misconduct in office, use of official position for personal gain, embezzlement, writing a fraudulent check, and use of campaign funds for personal expenses. Most of the indictments allege she used county taxpayer money for personal use. If convicted on all charges, she could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.
Tennessee – In Earlier Meetings, Ford, Jr. Cast Votes in Favor of $450K Award Entangled in His Business
Memphis Commercial Appeal – Sarah Macaraeg | Published: 12/17/2020
Records show Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford, Jr. twice introduced and voted in favor of a $450,000 budget allocation to Junior Achievement, a nonprofit he later said he sold computers through his business, E&J Computer Services and Repair. The committee votes moved Ford’s grant resolution in front of the full Board of Commissioners with a favorable recommendation. Ford left the room of the final vote without making a disclosure, video shows, though he acknowledged he had had conflicts-of-interest in mind. The records of the earlier meetings show that Ford did not recuse himself at any stage.
Texas – $1.7M for George Strait, Six-Figure Bonuses: Months later, a lawsuit forced Texas to release details on inaugural spending
Texas Tribune – Jay Root (Houston Chronicle) and Shannon Najmabadi | Published: 12/17/2020
Gov. Greg Abbott and the 2019 Texas Inaugural Committee spent months fighting the disclosure of documents detailing how they spent a record-setting $5.3 million that event organizers raised mostly from corporations and wealthy donors. But The Texas Tribune sued the committee and successfully obtained the bank statements and spending ledger in an out-of-court settlement. The result is the most detailed and complete account of inaugural spending in decades. Attorney Bill Aleshire, who represented The Tribune, said the legal fight he had to wage to get the records highlights the need for better transparency in state inaugurations, which accept corporate money but face little regulation over how it gets spent.
Texas – Developer Sherman Roberts Indicted on Charges of Bribing Dwaine Caraway and Carolyn Davis
D Magazine – Matt Goodman | Published: 12/17/2020
Sherman Roberts, chief executive officer of City Wide Community Development Corporation, was indicted on bribery charges for his dealings with two former Dallas City Council members who, prosecutors claim, supported his tax-credit housing projects in exchange for money and promises of future payments. The indictment does not name the council members, but one appears to be the late Carolyn Davis, who was chair of the city’s Housing Committee at the time of one of the alleged bribes. The other alleged bribe recipient appears to be former Councilperson Dwaine Caraway, who is serving a 56-month sentence for accepting bribes for his vote on another contract.
Virginia – In Richmond, the Case of the State Senator and the Judge Draws Attention to Lax Ethics Rules
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 12/18/2020
Virginia is one of two states where judges are selected by the Legislature, a practice that dates to the Colonial era. When Richmond General District Judge David Hicks appeared before a General Assembly committee seeking reappointment to the bench, he had an unusual connection to one of the lawmakers conducting the review. State Sen. Joseph Morrissey had just appeared in Hicks’s courtroom the week before as a defendant in a misdemeanor criminal case. With Hicks still presiding over Morrissey’s case, the interaction raised eyebrows. It casts a light on the way business is conducted around the Capitol and draws attention to Virginia conflict-of-interest rules that largely leave it up to public officials to self-police.
Washington DC – While Incarcerated in the D.C. Jail, a Candidate Fights for an ANC Seat
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer | Published: 12/17/2020
Joel Caston has filled many roles during his 26 years of incarceration, from youth mentor to published author to financial literacy instructor for his fellow inmates. Now he is seeking a new job: elected official. Caston ran in November for a long-vacant seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, The District of Columbia’s most granular level of local government, with the goal of representing inmates at the city jail as the first person to hold the office while incarcerated. But his pursuit has been hampered by a paperwork error, and the Board of Elections says he would not be allowed to take office. Caston and his advocates outside the jail say they are not giving up on finding a solution.
December 24, 2020 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Michael Grieco’s Fundraising Falsehoods Violated Ethics Rules, Panel Finds” by Christina Saint Louis for Miami Herald Ohio: “Leader of Columbus Green-Energy Ballot Measure Indicted for False Campaign Finance Reports” by Mark Ferenchick (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN Elections […]
Florida: “Michael Grieco’s Fundraising Falsehoods Violated Ethics Rules, Panel Finds” by Christina Saint Louis for Miami Herald
Ohio: “Leader of Columbus Green-Energy Ballot Measure Indicted for False Campaign Finance Reports” by Mark Ferenchick (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN
National: “FBI Links Iran to Online Hit List Targeting Top Officials Who’ve Refuted Trump’s Election Fraud Claims” by Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Despite Trump’s Intense Hunt for Voter Fraud, Officials in Key States Have So Far Identified Just a Small Number of Possible Cases” by Rosalind Helderman, Jon Swaine, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for MSN
Washington DC: “While Incarcerated in the D.C. Jail, a Candidate Fights for an ANC Seat” by Julie Zauzmer for Washington Post
National: “Trump Pardons 15, Commutes 5 Sentences, Including GOP Allies” by Colleen Long, Kevin Freking, and Eric Tucker for Associated Press News
National: “New Round of Trump Clemency Benefits Manafort, Other Allies” by Eric Tucker for Associated Press News
Ohio: “Ohio Lawmakers Do Nothing on Scandal-Tainted House Bill” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
South Carolina: “Richland Councilwoman Accused of Corruption as Prosecutor Criticizes County Spending” by David Travis Bland, Bristow Marchant, and Sarah Ellis (The State) for MSN
Texas: “Developer Sherman Roberts Indicted on Charges of Bribing Dwaine Caraway and Carolyn Davis” by Matt Goodman for D Magazine
North Dakota: “Attorney General: North Dakota Ethics Commission can write lobbying definitions” by Jack Dura for Bismarck Tribune
Colorado: “How Colorado’s New Redistricting Commissions Will Navigate a Political Swamp in 2021” by Jon Murray (Denver Post) for Bloomfield Enterprise
December 11, 2020 •
National/Federal Barr Taps Durham as Special Counsel, Pushing Probe into Biden Era Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/1/2020 Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. attorney John Durham as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the […]
Barr Taps Durham as Special Counsel, Pushing Probe into Biden Era
Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/1/2020
Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. attorney John Durham as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The appointment formalizes Durham’s ongoing probe but more significantly, would give Durham latitude to continue the politically explosive investigation after President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. Democrats have long viewed Durham’s efforts as political payback by President Trump and his allies, seeking to deflect from evidence the Trump campaign capitalized on the Kremlin’s efforts.
Biden’s Choice for Pentagon Faces Questions on Ties to Contractors
New York Times – Eric Lipton, Kenneth Vogel, and Michael LaForgia | Published: 12/8/2020
Raytheon Technologies makes fighter jet engines, weapons, high-tech sensors, and dozens of other military products. Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin III of the Army, a member of Raytheon’s board, has been named by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next secretary of defense. Raytheon is not Austin’s only link to military contractors. He has also been a partner in an investment firm that has been buying small defense firms. The decision to nominate Austin has drawn a new wave of questions about the corporate ties of people Biden is choosing for his administration. Those ties are especially relevant when it comes to the Pentagon, which spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year on weapons and other supplies.
Conservative Nonprofit Group Challenging Election Results Around the Country Has Tie to Trump Legal Adviser Jenna Ellis
MSN – John Swain, Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
A conservative legal organization that has filed lawsuits challenging the election results in five states has a tie to President Trump’s legal team, raising questions about the independence of what has appeared to be an endeavor separate from the president’s last-gasp legal maneuvering. Senior Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis serves as special counsel to the Thomas More Society, which has filed lawsuits through the newly formed Amistad Project alleging problems with the vote in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Her affiliation with the organization, as well as other links between Trump’s team and the conservative group, suggest a coordinated effort to flood the nation’s courts with repetitive litigation that allows the president to claim the election results remain contested.
Could Trump Pardon Family Members and Other Close Associates? His Prior Pardons May Set the Stage for More
USA Today – David Jackson, John Fritze, and Kevin Johnson | Published: 12/4/2020
As President Trump weighs granting pardons to close associates – and perhaps family members and even himself – experts said he may not pay much of a political price, no matter whom the recipients are. The number of pardons with a political sheen that Trump has signed, along with the unorthodox way he has wielded the power, may have desensitized the public to the issue. The reaction to former national security advisor Michael Flynn’s pardon, though muted, underscored the president’s broad clemency powers are increasingly viewed, like much else, along partisan lines: Democrats express outrage, and supporters of Trump cheer. That division, several experts said, may partly explain why some Americans shrug their shoulders.
EU Lobby Register Falls Short of Transparency Demands
Politico – Cristina Gonzalez | Published: 12/8/2020
It was hailed as a victory when negotiators from the European Parliament, Commission, and the Council found compromise on establishing a joint mandatory lobby register, but the definition of “mandatory” remains to be seen. The provisional agreement, which must still be approved by the respective institutions, sets out to make it compulsory for lobbyists to be registered in the European Union’s Transparency Register to carry out certain activities like meeting with top officials. But there is nothing explicitly mandatory in the compromise text. Instead, it gives each institution the license to individually interpret what it means, “and to define the activities that they decide to make conditional upon registration in the register,” the compromise reads. Now, each institution must outline its view in a forthcoming joint political statement.
GOP Women’s Record-Breaking Success Reflects Party’s Major Shift on Recruiting and Supporting Female Candidates
Washington Post – Rachael Bade | Published: 12/7/2020
There are 17 newly elected Republican women who will give the party a record number of female lawmakers in Congress, the results of a successful strategy of recruiting and supporting women running for office. Of the 13 Democratic incumbents who lost their seats on election night, Republican women were responsible for defeating 10. In January, Republicans will welcome their most ethnically diverse and gender-diverse freshman class in history as women and lawmakers of color join their predominantly White and male ranks. The recruitment effort behind their success reflects a major shift.
Justice Department’s Interest in Hunter Biden Covered More than Taxes
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 12/9/2020
The federal investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son has been more extensive than a statement from Hunter Biden indicates, according to a person with firsthand knowledge of the probe. Hunter Biden said he had been contacted about a tax investigation out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware. The securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York also scrutinized Hunter Biden’s finances, according to the source. The person said as of early last year, investigators in Delaware and Washington, D.C. were probing potential money laundering and Hunter Biden’s foreign ties. In addition to the probe into Hunter Biden, federal authorities in Pennsylvania are conducting a criminal investigation of a hospital business in which Joe Biden’s brother James was involved.
Murdoch’s Son and Daughter-in-Law Spent Millions on Progressive Causes in 2020 Cycle
Center for Responsive Politics – Ollie Gratzinger | Published: 12/4/2020
The Murdoch name has come to be associated largely with right-leaning politics, as Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who owns Fox News and other outlets spanning three continents, has built a family dynasty based largely on conservatism. But Kathryn and James Murdoch, daughter-in-law and youngest son of the news tycoon, are forging a new reputation for the Murdoch name, contributing heavily this cycle to progressive political groups, including super PACs supporting President-elect Joe Biden. James Murdoch resigned from his position at Fox last July over “disagreements over certain editorial content.”
Neera Tanden, Biden’s Pick for Budget Chief, Runs a Think Tank Backed by Corporate and Foreign Interests
MSN – Yeganeh Torbati and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2020
Now that President-elect Joe Biden picked Neera Tanden to run the Office of Management and Budget, her ties to some of the most powerful players in the U.S. economy are drawing scrutiny from advocates for accountability in government. Tanden would have a hand in policies that touch every part of the economy after years spent courting corporate and foreign donors at the think tank Center for American Progress. Between 2014 and 2019, the center received at least $33 million in donations from firms in the financial sector, private foundations primarily funded by wealth earned on Wall Street. Critics also argued the hundreds of hours of relationship-building that goes into securing large donations from corporations and wealthy people give private interests the opportunity to influence the views of Tanden and others in her position.
Senate Restores FEC as Agency Confronts Massive Backlog of Cases
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 12/9/2020
The U.S. Senate confirmed three new members of the FEC, giving the campaign finance regulator a full slate of six commissioners for the first time since February 2017. Senators confirmed Sean Cooksey, Allen Dickerson, and Shana Broussard, who will be the agency’s first Black commissioner in its 45-year history. The FEC faces a backlog of 388 enforcement cases. Broussard said during a Senate Rules Committee meeting that she would prioritize addressing important cases set to expire due to the agency’s statute of limitations. Commissioners are also tasked with changing outdated rules.
Steakhouses, Hill Bars and Ski Trips: GOP carries on amid the pandemic
Politico – Sarah Ferris, Melanie Zanona, and Daniel Lippman | Published: 12/7/2020
It is not just the White House flouting pandemic rules to mark Washington, D.C.’s schmooziest season. Some corners of the GOP, including members of Congress, are refusing to let the coronavirus intrude on their holiday gatherings and in-person fundraisers, whether it is on the slopes of Utah or in the steakhouses of Washington. Meanwhile, discussions are underway about holding the Conservative Political Action Conference in person early next year. The event planning comes as the nation is battered by another surge in coronavirus cases, prompting a fresh round of warnings from public health experts to avoid group settings, particularly indoors. And it underscores the resistance by many in the GOP, led by President Trump, to adjust to the new normal of the pandemic.
Supreme Court Denies Trump Allies’ Bid to Overturn Pennsylvania Election Results
MSN – Robert Barnes and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 12/8/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute attempt by President Trump’s allies to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, a blow to the president’s continuing efforts to reverse his loss to Joe Biden. The court’s brief order denying a requested injunction provided no reasoning, nor did it note any dissenting votes. It was the first request to delay or overturn the results of the presidential election to reach the court. The lawsuit was part of a blizzard of litigation and personal interventions Trump and his lawyers have waged to overturn victories by Biden in a handful of key states. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a sweeping complaint that asked the court to overturn Biden’s wins in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia.
Women Make Record-Breaking Gains Across State Legislatures
The Hill – Julia Manchester | Published: 12/8/2020
Women broke barriers in state Legislature races across the country in November, with a record number of women from both parties winning their races at the state level. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women will hold more than 30 percent of seats in state Legislatures for the first time in American history. The gains women made at the state level this cycle appeared to have reflected the record gains women made at the federal level as well. For Republicans, this marks an improvement for a party that has struggled to recruit women to its ranks.
Canada – ‘Loophole’ in Civic Election Act Breeds Unfairness and Financial Secrecy, Experts Say
CBC – Angela King | Published: 12/5/2020
A section of Ontario’s Municipal Elections Act creates an unequal playing field, undermines transparency, and should be changed, election experts say. Concerns have been raised about a part of the legislation that allows a corporation to pay an employee while volunteering for a political campaign after a Toronto man revealed he was paid by a lobbying firm to help campaign for candidates in the 2018 civic election. Kevin Haynes said he felt like an “election hitman” when he was paid $20 per hour in cash by a major lobbying group to knock on doors for nine candidates, seven of whom won.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – FBI Questions Alaska Lawmakers on Topics Including Permanent Fund Dividend Votes
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 12/8/2020
The FBI has interviewed or sought to question at least 11 Alaska legislators this year, asking in at least some of the interviews whether any lawmakers received a financial benefit in exchange for their vote on the Permanent Fund dividend. Not all interviewed lawmakers would say what they were asked about, and it is not clear what the FBI is searching for. An interview may not mean a legislator is under investigation – several lawmakers said the FBI told them during the interviews that they were not personally under investigation. Uncertainty over the motive for the interviews is roiling lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, where Republicans are attempting to form a majority government.
Arizona – Arizona Legislature Shuts Down after Rudy Giuliani Possibly Exposed Lawmakers to COVID-19
MSN – Maria Polletta (Arizona Republic) | Published: 12/6/2020
The Arizona Legislature closed for a week “out of an abundance of caution” after Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, possibly exposed several Republican lawmakers to COVID-19. Giuliani tested positive for the virus on December 6, less than a week after he visited Arizona as part of a multistate tour aimed at contesting 2020 election results. Giuliani had spent more than 10 hours discussing election concerns with Arizona Republicans, including two members of Congress and at least 13 current and future state lawmakers. He led the meeting maskless, flouting social distancing guidelines, and posing for photos.
Arizona – Judge Dismisses Dem Lawsuit Challenging Independent Redistricting Candidates
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 12/7/2020
Democratic legislative leaders’ lawsuit to disqualify two of the five finalists for independent chair of the state’s next redistricting commission fell flat after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Janice Crawford ruled the disputed applicants did not violate the criteria set out in the Arizona Constitution. Crawford ruled Thomas Loquvam, an attorney for the utility company EPCOR, does not violate the constitution’s prohibition on lobbyists serving on the Independent Redistricting Commission, and gun store owner Robert Wilson meets the qualifications to serve as an independent.
California – L.A. Fines Former City Official, Company $45,000 for Lobbying Violations
MyNewsLA.com – Staff | Published: 12/8/2020
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission imposed a fine of $45,000 on Daniel Ahadian and nur Corporation for violating city lobbying laws. Ahadian is a former city official who worked with the Planning Department, and the sole owner of nur, a planning and land use consulting firm. Ahadian and nur admitted failing to register as lobbying entities and file quarterly disclosure reports from the first quarter of 2018 through the fourth quarter of 2019. Lobbying entities are required to register with the Ethics Commission and report their activities on a quarterly basis to help the public identify who is attempting to influence city action.
California – L.A.’s Ethics Commission Gets a New Boss: A 29-year employee of the watchdog agency
Yahoo News – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 12/8/2020
David Tristan, deputy executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, was named as the new executive director of the commission, replacing Heather Holt, who faces term limits. Commissioner Jeff Daar cited Tristan’s decades of experience at the agency. “Obviously, he has a passion for the mission of the Ethics Commission,” Daar said. Rob Quan, an organizer with Unrig LA, a good-government advocacy group, described Tristan as extremely responsive. He described how advocates have called Tristan over the years to discuss a variety of topics, including campaign filings and broken links on the commission website.
California – Real Estate Developer Pleads Guilty in Sprawling L.A. Campaign Money Laundering Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/3/2020
Businessperson Samuel Leung pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit campaign money laundering, admitting he took part in a scheme to reimburse campaign donors between January 2009 and February 2015 – just as his apartment project was being reviewed and approved at Los Angeles City Hall. State law prohibits donors from making political contributions in the name of another person. The guilty plea came more than four years after a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed a sprawling network of more than 100 people and companies with direct or indirect ties to Leung made political donations totaling more than $600,000 while Leung’s project was under review. The project was approved in 2015.
Connecticut – Audit Finds Lax Oversight of Public Campaign Financing
CT Examiner – Emilia Otte | Published: 12/3/2020
For the last nine years, the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) has failed to report the use of grant money financing candidates running for the Connecticut General Assembly, according to a recent audit. The SEEC is responsible for the Citizen’s Election Program, which gives grant money to campaigns for state Senate or House through the Citizen’s Election Fund, a pool of money that comes from the sale of abandoned property. By law, the SEEC must report annually on the amount of money in the fund and the number of people who have contributed to it. The commission is also required to present an analysis each cycle to the General Assembly of the amount of grant money issued, how campaigns have spent the money, and how much leftover money was returned to the fund.
Florida – Disgraced Republican Lawmaker Planted No-Party Candidate in Key Senate Race, Sources Say
Miami Herald – Ana Ceballos and Samantha Gross | Published: 12/3/2020
As the results for a key Florida Senate race appeared on television screens in an Irish pub, former Sen. Frank Artiles boasted he planted a no-party candidate in the race, which Republican Ileana Garcia won by 32 votes over incumbent Jose Javier Rodriguez. “That is me, that was all me,” Artiles boasted to a crowd at Liam Fitzpatrick’s restaurant, according to a person who was there. Artiles recruited Alexis (Alex) Rodriguez, a longtime acquaintance. The no-party candidate with the same surname as the incumbent Democrat had been a registered Republican until just before his qualifying papers were filed to make him a Senate candidate. Sources have indicated Artiles’ involvement in launching Rodriguez’s bid was extensive.
Florida – Florida Police Raid House of Fired Data Scientist Who Alleged State Manipulated Covid-19 Stats
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
Florida police with guns drawn raided the home of an ousted health department data scientist, searching Rebekah Jones’ computer, phone, and other hardware that supports the coronavirus website she set up after accusing the state of manipulating its official numbers. Law enforcement officials allege Jones may have also used the devices to hack into a health department website to send an unauthorized message to Florida emergency personnel, urging them to speak out against the state’s pandemic response. After her dismissal, Jones launched her own data portal, advertising it as independent alternative to the state dashboard. Now, Jones says, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s raid is an attempt to silence her work.
Florida – Florida Voters Barred Ex-Lawmakers from Lobbying for 6 Years, but Revolving Door Still Swings
MSN – Gary Roher (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 12/7/2020
The “revolving door” between government and lobbying firms in Florida was supposed to end after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 banning elected officials and agency heads from lobbying for six years after leaving their posts. But that amendment does not take effect until the end of 2022, meaning the movement will continue for another two years. Since the November election, three Florida lawmakers have taken jobs as lobbyists, and one state agency director left her position in October to lead a trade group for an industry she used to regulate.
Georgia – Savannah Council Accepts Apology Kesha Gibson-Carter Says She Didn’t Make
Savannah Morning News – DeAnn Komanecky | Published: 12/9/2020
Savannah City Council members who filed ethics complaints against fellow Alderperson Kesha Gibson-Carter said they were ready to forgive the alderwoman. An ethics board found Gibson-Carter had violated the city’s ethics code. The three said they were ready to move forward instead of pushing for the only remedy available, a reprimand or censure, since Gibson-Carter had apologized privately to City Manager Michael Brown. Gibson-Carter is adamant she had not apologized to anyone, including the city manager, and had no intentions to do so.
Illinois – Ex-State Sen. Martin Sandoval, Snared in Political Corruption Investigation, Dies of Coronavirus: Attorney
Chicago Sun-Times – Jon Seidel, Mark Brown, and Mitchell Armentrout | Published: 12/5/2020
Former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval, who became a crucial figure in a series of ongoing public corruption investigations early this year when he admitted taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, has died from COVID-19. The Senate’s former Transportation Committee chair also agreed to “cooperate in any matter in which he is called upon” by federal prosecutors. In November, prosecutors told a judge that Sandoval had “provided valuable cooperation that is expected to last at least several more months.” Now, legal experts say Sandoval’s death has the potential to complicate the aggressive probe of Illinois politics.
Iowa – Iowa’s Contact-Tracing Firm Helped Trump, Reynolds Campaigns
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 12/4/2020
After facing a workforce shortage for months, Iowa awarded an emergency $2.3 million contact-tracing contract to a company that has worked for the campaigns of President Trump and Gov. Kim Reynolds and is owned by a Republican insider. The Iowa Department of Public Health selected MCI for the two-month contract out of 14 applicants, saying it submitted the best proposal and its political connections were not considered. MCI is owned by GOP donor Anthony Marlowe, who has boasted it played a key role in Trump’s 2016 victory and was among the state’s top backers of Trump’s reelection bid.
Kentucky – Woman Faces 3 Counts of Lying to FBI, Jury in Bribery Case Tied to Lexington Council
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 12/4/2020
A Kentucky woman was indicted by a federal grand jury for lying to the FBI and making false statements about campaign contributions to Lexington council members during the investigation trial of a former real estate executive. Elizabeth Stormbringer was charged with three counts related to lying about whether she was reimbursed by former CRM Executive Timothy Wellman for campaign contributions she made to Lexington council members in 2018. Wellman had a project the council would consider. He was found guilty on 11 charges relating to obstructing a federal investigation into illegal contributions.
Michigan – ‘Unambiguous, Loud and Threatening’: Trump supporters protest at home of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
USA Today – Miriam Marini (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 12/6/2020
Dozens of protesters gathered in front of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s home recently, shouting through megaphones against the certification of the election and demanding a forensic audit. A portion of the demonstration was broadcast live on Facebook. The protesters are seen walking up to Benson’s home, some wearing President Donald Trump paraphernalia and carrying American flags. Throughout the election, Trump circulated false conspiracies about election fraud in Michigan. Benson said the protesters gathered in front of her home as she and her four-year-old son were finishing putting up Christmas decorations, just when the two were preparing to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Missouri – Medical Marijuana Subpoena May Have Been Connected to Independence FBI Probe
Columbia News Tribune – Jason Hancock (Missouri Independence) | Published: 12/7/2020
Lyndall Fraker, director of medical marijuana regulation at the Missouri Department of Health and Seniors Services, testified a grand jury subpoena his agency received was likely connected to an FBI investigation in Independence. The revelation is the first indication of the target of the federal subpoena. The FBI questioned officials in Independence about a pair of contracts issued by the city council. One called for the city to pay a company $9.75 million to tear down a power plant. The bid was more than twice that of the other bidder. The other contract called for the city to pay nearly $1 million to purchase a golf club to build a solar farm with Gardner Capital. Days before the vote, PACs funded by Gardner made four $2,500 donations to Independence Mayor Eileen Weir, who has denied the donations were connected to her vote to endorse the project.
Nevada – Nevada Supreme Court Rejects Trump Campaign’s Appeal to Overturn Biden’s Win
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2020
The Nevada Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal from President Trump’s campaign to overturn the state’s election results, the latest loss in the president’s ongoing legal efforts to have states he did not win declare him victorious. The decision from the court came after a lower court gave a full-scale ruling against the Trump campaign’s efforts in the state. Nevada District Court Judge James Russell ruled there was no evidence supporting the claims of fraud and wrongdoing made by the campaign in a state that President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 33,000 votes.
New York – Election Reformers Love Ranked-Choice Voting, but NYC Immigrants See Doom
Courthouse News Service – Nina Pullano | Published: 12/9/2020
Some of New York City’s multinational communities say they are being left behind in the Board of Elections’ plans to implement ranked-choice voting, a system that lets voters choose multiple candidates in order of preference. These groups teamed up with local politicians in a complaint that asks a court to block the change. The complaint accuses the elections board of violating city charter requirements to implement ranked-choice voting in a timely manner, while also contending that the city’s software is not up to snuff and changes of this nature should not be contemplated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Paired with a failure to educate people on ranked-choice voting, the BLA Caucus says New Yorkers of color, seniors, and those who speak limited English are among 5 million voters in danger of disenfranchisement.
Ohio – Householder Dark Money Group Reputedly Broke Deal with AEP-Backed Nonprofit to Fund
MSN – Randy Ludlow and Marc Kovac (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/5/2020
A board member of an American Electric Power-funded nonprofit said a separate group central in the nuclear plant bailout scandal appears to have used grants, including $550,000 newly disclosed in tax filings, for political purposes in violation of its agreement. J.B. Hadden, an attorney who serves on the board of Empowering Ohio’s Economy Inc., said the nonprofit’s grant agreement with Generation Now required the funding be used in compliance with IRS laws and for social welfare purposes only. Part of the agreement with Generation Now stated the money was not to be used “in furtherance of any political or campaign intervention activities.
Ohio – P.G. Sittenfeld Accepts Suspension from Cincinnati City Council After Arrest on Bribery Charges
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/7/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld accepted a suspension from his seat, a process initiated by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost after Sittenfeld was arrested on federal bribery charges. Sittenfeld is one of three council members arrested and accused of “pay-to-play” schemes this year and the second member of council to accept a state suspension, which bars them from working, but allows them to collect their salary. The city charter does not address what happens in the event an elected official is arrested or convicted on charges of corruption, something that would directly affect their ability to do their job. But state law allows for the suspension of an elected official in the event of an arrest.
Ohio – Should an Ex-FirstEnergy Lobbyist Lead the Hunt for Ohio’s Next Utility Regulator? Consumer Advocate Asks
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/3/2020
Consumer advocates question whether a former FirstEnergy lobbyist should lead the effort to replace ex-Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairperson Sam Randazzo, who resigned after the FBI searched his property and a filing implied he received $4 million to terminate “a purported consulting agreement” with FirstEnergy. A nominating council is led by Michael Koren, a former FirstEnergy lobbyist. Koren lobbied for the company when House Bill 6 to subsidize FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants in Ohio was introduced. The bill is at the heart of a corruption scandal allegedly involving FirstEnergy.
Pennsylvania – Firm Ran Pa. Senator’s Campaign and Worked with Super PAC to Attack Opponent, but Denies Coordination
Spotlight PA – Sam Janesch (The Caucus) and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 12/8/2020
In the closing days of this year’s election, an ad attacking Democrat George Scott appeared in his race for the Pennsylvania Senate against incumbent John DiSanto, which was paid for by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). Direct coordination between groups like the RSLC, which run super PACs, and campaigns is forbidden. To create the ad, the group turned to a middleman, the same firm running DiSanto’s campaign: Red Maverick Media, headed by strategist Ray Zaborney. No one has accused Zaborney’s firm or RSLC of wrongdoing. But watchdogs and campaign finance experts said the arrangement is another example of how weak state and federal campaign finance rules, combined with meager oversight, create gray areas and loopholes.
Pennsylvania – Trump Asks Pennsylvania House Speaker for Help Overturning Election Results, Personally Intervening in a Third State
MSN – Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2020
President Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House twice to make an extraordinary request for help reversing his loss in the state, reflecting a broadening pressure campaign by the president and his allies to try to subvert the 2020 election result. The president’s outreach to Pennsylvania’s Republican House leader came after his campaign and its allies decisively lost numerous legal challenges in the state in both state and federal court. Trump has continued to press his baseless claims of widespread voting irregularities both publicly and privately.
Tennessee – Rutherford Mayor Bill Ketron Faces Audit Hearings on Campaign Finance Violation Accusations
MSN – Scott Broden (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal) | Published: 12/7/2020
Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron will face audit hearings in 2021 on campaign finance accusations. The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance approved staff audits of Ketron’s state senate and Quest PAC accounts between January 2018 and July 2019. Another pending audit of Ketron’s mayoral campaign finance account is expected to be done by February. The registry issued subpoenas in 2019 while the mayor’s daughter, Kelsey Ketron, faced insurance fraud charges as part of an indictment pertaining to her job with the family-owned insurance company. Kelly Ketron served as treasurer during his campaigns, and indictments accused her of pocketing over $65,000 from her father’s political funds.
Texas – California-Based Independent Voter Project Hosts Trip to Hawaii for State Legislators, Raising Ethics Filing Probe
The Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 12/9/2020
A California-based organization paid for roughly 100 legislators from four states, including Texas, to attend a four-day fundraising event in Hawaii. The Independent Voter Project (IVP) is a 501(c)3 organization created to “re-engage nonpartisan voters and promote nonpartisan election reforms through initiatives, litigation, and voter education.” Despite Hawaii’s stringent lockdown, IVP received special permission to hold a conference with more than the 12-person limit. The Dallas Morning News found that over the last three years of IVP hosting this trip, potential financial disclosure violations exist for Texas lawmakers who attended.
Texas – Texas Senate Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying
The Center Square – Bethany Blankley | Published: 12/9/2020
Each year, local governments in Texas spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on lobbyists whose job it is to persuade state lawmakers to allow for bigger government. It is a practice some legislators say must end. The Senate Affairs Committee held a hearing on the issue of taxpayer-funded lobbying at the Capitol. State Sen. Bob Hall filed legislation to end the practice after a companion bill was filed in the House. Hall said at the meeting that taxpayer-funded lobbying has been used to work against taxpayers. Tom Forbes, president of the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas, said if the Legislature were to ban the practice next year, taxpayer-funded lobbying would continue, it just would not be as visible and would operate in the shadows.
Washington DC – Ivanka Trump Confirms She Was Questioned by the D.C. Attorney General’s Office Over Inaugural Committee Spending
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 12/2/2020
Ivanka Trump said she was questioned for more than five hours by investigators from the District of Columbia attorney general’s office, which has accused President Trump’s Inaugural Committee of wasting donating money on an overpriced ballroom at the president’s hotel in the city. In early 2017, when the Inaugural Committee booked ballrooms at the hotel, that meant the president was effectively on both sides of the transaction: his committee paid his hotel, using donors’ money. Attorney General Karl Racine said the committee and the hotel took advantage of that arrangement.
November 6, 2020 •
National/Federal A Government Watchdog Says White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Spent Campaign Funds on Personal Expenditures Business Insider – Yelena Dzhanova | Published: 10/31/2020 Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is calling for an investigation into White […]
A Government Watchdog Says White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Spent Campaign Funds on Personal Expenditures
Business Insider – Yelena Dzhanova | Published: 10/31/2020
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is calling for an investigation into White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows after accusing him of misusing thousands of dollars in campaign funds. CREW identified personal expenditures made by Meadows’ campaign after he resigned from Congress. On the same day as Meadows’ official resignation from Congress, his campaign spent $2,650 on jewelry in Washington, the complaint says. The campaign continued to use its funds after the former representative announced his retirement from Congress, spending over $6,500 at various restaurants and establishments, including at the Trump International Hotel.
Congressional Democrats’ High Hopes Dashed as GOP Clings to Senate Majority, Scores Unexpected Gains in the House
Washington Post – Paul Kane, Rachael Bade, and Seung Min Kim | Published: 11/4/2020
Congressional Democrats began a period of reckoning after another political debacle left them suffering losses to their House majority and clinging to a narrow path to Senate control, a stark contrast to the strong optimism of a “blue wave” that would repudiate President Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill. In the highly anticipated ¬Senate matchups, Republicans scored easier-than-expected victories in Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Maine, Montana, and South Carolina while establishing narrow but steady leads in Georgia and North Carolina. House Democrats struggled to come to grips with how they managed to lose seats after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and party strategists predicted gains of 10 or more that would give them commanding control over the chamber. Instead, they appear to be headed to the smallest House majority in 18 years.
Cruz Fights to Get Back Money He Loaned Campaign
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/28/2020
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is calling on a federal court panel to strike down an FEC rule limiting post-election contributions to pay back money he loaned his 2018 campaign. Cruz gave two loans to his campaign in the last run for reelection. The donations totaled $260,000, $5,000 from his personal bank accounts and $255,000 originating from a loan on personal assets. But a campaign finance law caps the amount of money a campaign committee can repay a candidate for personal loans at $250,000. Cruz sued, accusing the FEC of limiting the First Amendment right to political speech for candidates, their campaign committees, and donors by setting a time limit on donations and on a candidate’s ability to spend personal funds for campaign speech.
Florida Businessman Pleads Guilty in Fraud Case Involving Giuliani Associates
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/29/2020
A Florida entrepreneur is the first defendant to plead guilty in a campaign finance and business fraud case involving associates of Rudy Giuliani. David Correia pleaded guilty to two felony counts: one of making false statements to the FEC and one of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The case against Correia and three other men – Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, and David Kukushkin – has drawn widespread attention because Parnas and Fruman worked closely with Giuliani on various issues related to Ukraine. The indictment says the men used foreign money to influence American political campaigns to benefit their business ventures and to encourage then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s ouster.
GOP Holds Line in State Legislatures, Dealing Blow to Democrats
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 11/4/2020
Democratic hopes of claiming control of state legislative chambers across the nation crashed into an immovable Republican wall in key states, a substantial blow to the party’s chances of wielding more influence in the decennial redistricting process ahead. Election results appear to show Republicans picked up enough seats to win control of at least two legislative chambers, the New Hampshire Senate and the Alaska House, where Republicans appear to be in a position to break a bipartisan coalition that ran the House for the last two years. Thousands of ballots are left to be counted, and Democrats still have a chance in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
How ActBlue Has Transformed Democratic Politics
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 10/30/2020
Democrats have buried Republican opponents under an avalanche of campaign ads, fueled by billions of dollars donated this year through ActBlue, the online fundraising processor for Democratic campaigns. Their wild success in 2020 has reshaped the way candidates not only raise money but campaign for office, building a culture of contributions as civic engagement that has grown into an overwhelming force. Republicans have tried to match it, but they still lag behind. Amid all the once-in-a-lifetime features of this election, the explosion of online fundraising may be the one that truly transforms politics over time.
How the NFL’s Gridiron PAC Uses Influence in Washington
ESPN – Michael Rothstein | Published: 10/29/2020
In 2007, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, the son of a former U.S. senator, sought to strengthen the league’s political influence. He boosted lobbying efforts, increasing NFL expenditures to more than $1 million that year for the first time. He opened a Washington, D.C.-based office and hired Jeff Miller to be its first in-house lobbyist. A year later, with a $5,000 donation from Goodell and $2,500 from league employee Joe Browne, the NFL borrowed a play from Major League Baseball by starting its own PAC. Since then, the league has maintained the office, continued its work with lobbying firms and has exceeded seven figures in lobbying efforts every year except for 2017. It is on pace to do so again this year.
Mueller Investigated Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Roger Stone for DNC Hacks
BuzzFeed News – Jason Leopold and Ken Bensinger | Published: 11/2/2020
Prosecutors investigated Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Roger Stone for the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers as well as for possible campaign finance violations, but ultimately chose not to charge them, newly released portions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report reveal. Although Wikileaks published emails stolen from the DNC in 2016 and Stone, a close associate to Donald Trump, appeared to know in advance the materials were coming, investigators “did not have sufficient evidence” to prove active participation in the hacks or knowledge the electronic thefts were continuing. Prosecutors could not establish the hacked emails amounted to campaign contributions benefitting Trump’s election chances and felt their publication might have been protected by the First Amendment.
The FEC Says Jill Stein, Who Raised $7.3 Million to Recount the 2016 Election, Owes Them More Than $66,000 for Campaign Finance Violations
Business Insider – Charles Davis | Published: 10/29/2020
The Green Party’s Jill Stein raised millions of dollars to recount the 2016 presidential election, promising her donors, mostly liberals grappling with Donald Trump’s shock win in the Electoral College, transparency and direct democracy. But instead of verifying the outcome of the election, a majority of the $7.3 million that Stein raised for counting votes went to salaries for her core campaign staff, who were kept on for another three years, lawyers for Stein’s personal legal defense in the U.S. Senate’s Russia investigation, and tens of thousands of dollars in fines levied by the FEC. The Stein campaign is now out of money, still owing tens of thousands of dollars to the FEC for failing to disclose how it was spending donations.
Top FEC Official’s Undisclosed Ties to Trump Raise Concerns Over Agency Neutrality
ProPublica – Mike Spies and Jake Pearson | Published: 10/28/2020
Debbie Chacona oversees the division of the FEC that serves as the first line of defense against illegal flows of cash in political campaigns. Its dozens of analysts sift through billions of dollars of reported contributions and expenditures, searching for any that violate the law. The work of Chacona, a civil servant, is guided by a strict ethics code and long-standing norms that employees avoid any public actions that might suggest partisan leanings. But Chacona’s open support of President Trump and her close ties to former FEC member Donald McGahn, who went on to become the 2016 Trump campaign’s top lawyer, have raised questions among agency employees and prompted at least one formal complaint.
Trump Campaign Mounts Challenges in Four States as Narrow Margins Raise Stakes for Battles Over Which Ballots Will Count
MSN – Elise Viebeck, Robert Barnes, Tom Hamburger, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/4/2020
President Trump’s reelection campaign said it would launch a legal blitz to try to halt vote-counting in Pennsylvania and Michigan, would seek a recount in Wisconsin, and challenged the handling of ballots in Georgia, threatening to draw out the final results of the White House contest. The campaign’s aggressive legal posture while the presidential race remains unresolved underscored how the close margins in key states have raised the stakes for litigation over which ballots will count. It comes after Trump, who has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the election, pledged to get the courts to determine its outcome. Democrats said they were unfazed by what they said was legal posturing by the president’s campaign.
U.S. Supreme Court Hands Narrow Win to Black Lives Matter Activist Over Protest Incident
Reuters – Lawrence Hurley | Published: 11/2/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson in his ongoing effort to avoid a lawsuit filed by a police officer injured during a 2016 protest in Louisiana triggered by the police killing of a Black man. The justices threw out a lower court ruling that had allowed the lawsuit to proceed and said more analysis was needed on whether state law allows for such a claim. The officer sued the Black Lives Matter organization and McKesson seeking monetary damages over an incident at protest in Baton Rouge. The negligence lawsuit argued McKesson should have known violence would result from his actions leading the protest, which was one of many around the country that year.
Canada – Ethics Commissioner Clears Morneau of Accepting Gift from WE Charity
CTV – Joan Bryden (Canadian Press) | Published: 10/29/2020
Canada’s ethics watchdog cleared former Finance Minister Bill Morneau of failing to disclose a gift from WE Charity. In a letter to Morneau, ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said he accepts that the former minister “genuinely believed” he had paid for the entire cost of two trips he and family members took in 2017 to view WE’s humanitarian projects in Ecuador and Kenya. As soon as Morneau became aware last summer that WE had covered $41,000 worth of expenses for the trips, Dion says he reimbursed the charity. Morneau reimbursed the money shortly before testifying on the matter at the House of Commons Finance Committee in July.
Canada – Ethics Committee Debates New Motion That Could Relaunch Study into WE Charity Scandal
MSN – Christopher Nardi (National Post) | Published: 11/2/2020
The House of Commons ethics committee is making a third attempt at examining conflicts of interest in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, after two tries to probe Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s relationship with WE Charity each failed by one vote. The committee began debating a motion to study possible conflicts-of-interest and lobbying violations in relation to pandemic spending, and specifically the deal with WE Charity to manage a student volunteering program worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – After Waymo Moved Business to State, Ducey Pressed for Its Google Affiliate to Get a $24M, No-Bid Contract
USA Today – Craig Harris (Arizona Republic) | Published: 11/2/2020
Alphabet, best known as the parent company of Google, brought its Waymo subsidiary to Arizona to take advantage of Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order that allowed self-driving cars to operate on public roadways in the state. When Arizona was looking for a new email and communication system, the Department of Administration, at the urging of the governor’s office, awarded a no-bid contract to Google. The deals follow a pattern. The Arizona Republic has found that either Ducey or his staff have been involved in at least a half dozen transactions in which the administration distributed contracts or financial rewards to businesses and nonprofit groups friendly to the governor. In turn, Ducey received campaign contributions from their employees or positive media coverage tied to the organizations’ actions.
Arizona – Judge Won’t Delay Appointments to Arizona’s Redistricting Panel Despite Lawsuit
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 10/29/2020
A judge declined to delay appointment of more members to Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission while she hears arguments about whether two of the nominees are legally qualified to serve. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Janice Crawford said the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which made the nominations, had a chance to investigate the backgrounds of all the applicants, including the two that top Democratic lawmakers contend are ineligible. Crawford said the Democrats are belatedly asking her to bring the process to a temporary halt and set aside constitutionally set deadlines for making appointments, which she is unwilling to do.
Arkansas – 2 Issues on State Ballot Approved by Voters
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 11/4/2020
Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment that will end lifetime term limits for state lawmakers. But they rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have made it more difficult for citizen groups to qualify ballot measures for general election ballots and increased the voting threshold for the state Legislature to refer proposed constitutional amendments to voters.
California – FBI Raids Compton Councilman’s Home, Baldwin Park City Attorney’s Office in Pot Inquiry
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek and Ruben Vives | Published: 11/3/2020
FBI agents served search warrants at the home of Compton City Councilperson Isaac Galvan and the law offices of Baldwin Park City Attorney Robert Tafoya, part of a federal investigation examining Baldwin Park’s dealings with cannabis businesses, according to sources. The raids come amid controversy over Baldwin Park’s approval of licenses for cultivation, distribution, manufacturing, and testing cannabis. In September, a former Baldwin Park police officer said in a sworn declaration he had received complaints from three cannabis operations alleging “questionable business practices, which included paying as much as $250,000 cash in a brown paper bag to city officials.”
Colorado – Aurora City Council Passes Sweeping Campaign Finance Reform
Denver Gazette – Hannah Metzger | Published: 11/4/2020
The Aurora City Council passed a campaign finance reform ordinance, increasing transparency and limiting money in the city’s local elections. The ordinance limits donations from individuals and committees to $1,000 in at-large and mayor races and $400 for city council wards. It also bans contributions from “artificial persons” and increases transparency of donations and enforcement of regulations. The ordinance goes into effect on January 1.
Colorado – Judge Denies Advocacy Group’s Attempt to Suspend Colo. Campaign Finance Enforcement
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlick | Published: 10/29/2020
A federal judge denied a conservative advocacy group’s request to halt campaign finance investigations against committees that advocate for or against ballot initiatives. Colorado law requires organizations whose major purpose is campaigning on ballot initiatives to register an issue committee if they have accepted or expended more than $200. Committees that accept or spend more than $5,000 in an election cycle must also disclose their donors and the nature of their spending. The Colorado Union of Taxpayers and the Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition filed a complaint claiming the registration requirement was unconstitutional, and the First Amendment “gives all Americans the right to speak freely on matters of public concern without obtaining government blessing or fearing government penalty.”
Georgia – DeKalb County Voters Overwhelmingly Vote to Empower County Ethics Board
Decaterish.com – Dan Wisenhunt | Published: 11/5/2020
DeKalb County voters on November 3 approved a reform measure affecting the appointment process for the county’s Ethics Board, giving an agency that had been hobbled for the last two years new life. The measure voters approved does not give the county chief executive officer an appointment to the board or give the CEO power to review the board’s policies and procedures. County employees can still take concerns directly to the board. The position of ethics officer remains intact with the power to investigate violations. The biggest change is the appointment process that undermined the board in 2018.
Hawaii – Retired Hawaii Official Fined $5K for Accepting Free Meals
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 10/29/2020
Tian Xiao, a former top examiner for the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, was fined $5,000 by the state Ethics Commission for accepting free meals from a vendor he oversaw. Xiao accepted about $654 worth of meals, including dinner for himself and his wife at the upscale Nobu Honolulu restaurant. Xiao allegedly violated the state’s gift law by accepting four meals from vendor Risk & Regulatory Consulting in August and October 2018 and July and September 2019, the commission said.
Indiana – Indiana’s Speaker of the House Is Registered as a Lobbyist in New York City
Indianapolis Monthly – Adam Wren | Published: 10/30/2020
Indiana Speaker of the House Todd Huston is registered as a lobbyist for the College Board in New York City and has been since 2015, according to a review of public records, though Huston claims to have never actually lobbied on behalf of his employer. Huston was not aware of his registration status until within the last several weeks, and so did not disclose it to the Indiana House Ethics Committee. “I have not and do not lobby,” Huston said in a statement. “Additionally, at my request, there is an organizational firewall in place to ensure I am not involved in any of my employer’s matters involving the state of Indiana.”
Kansas – Kansas State Parties Didn’t Disclose Which Candidates They’re Backing and Attacking
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 10/30/2020
The Kansas Democratic and Republican party committees likely violated state campaign finance law by failing to disclose which candidates they are backing and attacking with more than $1.7 million in mailers this election cycle. Neither party has correctly reported its spending since 2010, when both parties clearly identified which candidates that they were boosting with campaign mail, a Wichita Eagle analysis found. In the past decade, both major state parties stopped reporting information that is required by state law.
Maryland – Baltimore County Voters Move Toward Public Matching Fund for Candidates
Maryland Matters – Bennett Leckrone | Published: 11/5/2020
Preliminary election results showed voters signed off on creating an election fund that would match small donations for local candidates in Baltimore County, a measure advocates say would create fairer elections. The charter amendment would create a Citizens’ Election Fund system in the county, establishing a public trust that, starting in 2026, would match small donations for county council and county executive candidates. It also would establish a commission within the county that would determine details and provide for funding of the program. Participation would be voluntary for candidates.
Maryland – Following Pugh Scandal, UMMS Seeks a ‘Fresh Start’ in Implementing Auditor-Recommended Ethics Changes
Yahoo News – Ben Leonard (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 10/29/2020
The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) implemented dozens of recommendations from auditors relating to board governance and conflicts-of-interest a year after a high-profile scandal involving ex-Baltimore City Mayor and former system board member Catherine Pugh. Lawmakers asked the Office of Legislative Audits to investigate UMMS after it was reported that one-third of the 30-member board had contracts with the system, including Pugh. The system paid Pugh $500,000 for 100,000 copies of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books. Pugh later pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges related to the deal.
Mississippi – Mississippi Approves Flag with Magnolia, ‘In God We Trust’
Associated Press News – Emily Wagster Pettus | Published: 11/4/2020
Mississippi will fly a new state flag with a magnolia and the phrase “In God We Trust,” with voters approving the design on November 3. It replaces a Confederate-themed flag that state lawmakers retired months ago as part of the national reckoning over racial injustice. Mississippi has been without a flag since late June, when legislators surrendered the last state banner in the U.S. that included the Confederate battle emblem. The rebel flag is widely condemned as racist.
Missouri – Amendment 3: Effort to overturn Clean Missouri redistricting poised to pass narrowly
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 11/4/2020
Missouri voters reversed changes they made to the redistricting process two years ago by approving Amendment 3. The 2018 reform created a new demographer position to draft districts aimed at producing more competitive elections and a Legislature better reflecting the statewide vote. Now, the old bipartisan commissions will be back in charge with appellate judges backing them up if they deadlock. Amendment 3 also bans all gifts to lawmakers from most paid lobbyists and reduces the amount an individual ccan donate to a Missouri Senate candidate’s personal campaign committee.
New Jersey – Former Jersey City School Board President and Head of Re-Entry Organization Indicted by Feds
Newark Star Ledger – Patrick Villanova | Published: 11/2/2020
Sudhan Thomas, the former president of the Jersey City Board of Education and the ex-head of the city’s Employment and Training Program, was indicted on charges of embezzlement, money laundering, and fraud. Thomas is accused of embezzling $45,000 from JCETP, an organization receiving federal funds, as well as wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the JCETP theft. Thomas was also charged with wire fraud for embezzling money from his 2016 Jersey City school board campaign; wire fraud for embezzling money from his 2019 campaign; and bank fraud for stealing checks issued by and to another school board candidate’s campaign in 2018.
New York – Judge Rules Sterne Agee Analyst Complicit in NY Pension Pay-to-Play Scheme
Chief Investment Officer – Michael Katz | Published: 11/3/2020
A federal judge ruled John Paulsen, a former managing director at Sterne Agee & Leach, aided and abetted a “pay-to-play” scheme involving the $216.3 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe found Navnoor Kang, the pension fund’s director of fixed income, used his position to solicit and receive improper entertainment from Paulsen and Deborah Kelley, a registered representative at the firm. In exchange for the entertainment, Kang directed a “significant amount” of state business to Sterne Agee, which generated “sizable commissions,” Gardephe said.
New York – State Elections Commissioner Held Another Role: Political party official
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/1/2020
About two months before Gregory Peterson resigned as a state Board of Elections commissioner last year, questions emerged about a potential conflict-of-interest. Since 2008, Peterson had served as one of two Republican-appointed commissioners on the four-person board, influential posts responsible for setting statewide elections policy and helping regulate candidates’ campaigns. Beginning in 2011, Peterson held another title: vice-chairperson of the Nassau County Republican Party, a political organization that works to elect GOP candidates on Long Island and is regulated by the Board of Elections. A provision of the Public Officers Law bars state government officials in policymaking roles from being an “officer, director, or board member of any party or political organization.”
North Dakota – North Dakota Voters Reject Measure 2 by Wide Margin
Grand Forks Herald – Jeremy Turley | Published: 11/4/2020
North Dakota voters rejected a ballot measure that would have given the Legislature a say in the process of amending the state constitution. Currently, petitioners can gather about 27,000 signatures from North Dakota residents, place a constitutional measure on the ballot, and if it passes, a change to the constitution must be made. Under Measure 2, the Legislature would have gotten the authority to reject a voter-approved constitutional measure and send the measure back to a public vote for final approval.
Ohio – 2 Ohio Political Operatives Plead Guilty in Bribery Probe
Associated Press News – Andrew Welsh-Huggins | Published: 10/29/2020
Jeffrey Longstreth and lobbyist Juan Cespedes pleaded guilty to racketeering charges involving the House Bill 6 scandal. Longstreth served as former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s political strategist. Cespedes worked as a lobbyist for FirstEnergy Solutions, the former subsidiary of FirstEnergy that owned two nuclear power plants in Ohio. Longstreth and Cespedes were among five men charged in what federal prosecutors called the largest “pay-to-play” scandal in the state’s history involving the passage of a $1.3 billion bailout of the plants. An FBI affidavit said Householder and lobbyists Neil Clark and Matthew Borges, as well as Longstreth and Cespedes, accepted more than $60 million in bribes from FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries over a course of three years to push House Bill 6 and fight off a ballot initiative.
Ohio – Embattled Former Ohio House Speaker Easily Wins Re-Election
The Center Square – J.D. Davidson | Published: 11/4/2020
An indictment, an arrest, two guilty pleas, and a $60 million bribery scandal did not stop former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder from returning to the statehouse. Householder, who faced opposition only from four write-in candidates, easily won re-election in a wide-ranging district that covers mostly rural areas in central and eastern Ohio but also includes some affluent and growing Columbus suburbs. In July, the House voted unanimously to strip Householder of his speakership after a federal indictment that charged him with bribery and racketeering connected to House Bill 6, a nuclear energy bailout bill that provided billions of dollars for two Ohio nuclear power plants.
Oregon – Oregon Opens Door for Campaign Finance Limits
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 11/3/2020
In a historic vote that presages the demise of some of the nation’s most permissive campaign finance rules, Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 107. It amends the state constitution to permit campaign finance reform. The measure gives state and local governments the ability to enact laws that limit campaign contributions and expenditures and require their disclosure. It also would require political campaign advertisements to identify who pays for them.
Oregon – Portland Man Files Complaint to Enforce Oregon’s 2006 Campaign Contribution Limits
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 10/30/2020
A Portland advocate for limits on political donations has filed a complaint with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office seeking to enforce a 2006 voter-approved campaign finance law that capped donations from any one individual at $100 for most races. Ron Buel’s complaint focuses on a recent $150 donation by May 2020 Portland City Council candidate Seth Woolley to Woolley’s own PAC, but the complaint could have vast implications.
Oregon – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan to His Own Campaign Wasn’t Illegal, City Auditor Says
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 11/3/2020
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler did not violate election rules by loaning his reelection campaign $150,000, City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero announced a few hours before the ballot dropoff deadline. Hull Caballero noted while Portland voters in 2018 approved campaign finance restrictions that included a $5,000 limit on candidates making personal loans to their campaigns, the Oregon Supreme Court in April deemed expenditure limits violated the First Amendment.
Tennessee – Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley Put on Medical Probation for Unethical Opioid Prescriptions
The Tennessean – Brett Kelman | Published: 11/4/2020
A state medical board ordered professional probation for the medical license of Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley, a punishment described by his attorney as “the death penalty” for Hensley’s decades-long career as a small town doctor. Hensley admitted to providing medical care and prescribing opioids and other controlled substances to several family members and a second cousin who was both his employee and his romantic partner. In some cases, Hensley did not document the prescriptions or take mandatory steps to prevent addiction or misuse.
Texas – City Ethics Commission Wrestles with Access During Pandemic
Austin Monitor – Elizabeth Pagano | Published: 11/2/2020
In its previous, pre-pandemic incarnation, the Austin Ethics Review Commission met in a back room of City Hall that was often jammed full of commissioners, accusers, defenders, and occasionally, reporters. Since March, however, it has been much harder to follow the work of the body tasked with reviewing ethics violations by city employees. Unlike some other commissions, meetings have not been broadcast. And those curious about the commission’s activities were not given an option to listen in. So, anyone interested in what was going on had one choice: wait a few days, and then check for an audio recording of the meeting. It is a situation that commissioners are hoping to change.
Virginia – In Va., Gun-Control Fight Gives Rise to Movement for County-Approved Militias
MSN – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 10/31/2020
Earlier this year, Campbell County’s board of supervisors officially recognized a self-proclaimed militia as an organization to “enhance the safety and security” of citizens and as a “barrier against a tyrannical government.” Bedford County followed suit and a similar resolution is being debated in Halifax County. Armed militia groups have formed throughout Virginia this year, an outgrowth of the “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement that swept county courthouses a year ago as a backlash against proposed gun control laws. Supporters say the militia members are simply citizens out to help their communities and the resolutions are symbolic, meant to send a message to Democrats who control state government that rural Virginia will not abide any efforts to restr5ict access to guns.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Republican Party Says Hackers Stole $2.3 Million
Yahoo News – Scott Bauer (Associated Press) | Published: 10/29/2020
Hackers have stolen $2.3 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party’s account that was being used to help reelect President Trump in the state. GOP Chairperson Andrew Hitt said the hackers manipulated invoices from four vendors who were being paid for direct mail for Trump’s reelection efforts as well as for pro-Trump material such as hats to be handed out to supporters. Invoices and other documents were altered so when the party paid them for the services rendered, the money went to the hackers instead of the vendors, Hitt said.
November 4, 2020 •
New Jersey voters approved Question 3, a resolution proposing to delay the legislative redistricting schedule due to the collection of census data. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the United States Census Bureau to delay its procedures for collecting census data. […]
New Jersey voters approved Question 3, a resolution proposing to delay the legislative redistricting schedule due to the collection of census data.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the United States Census Bureau to delay its procedures for collecting census data.
The approved constitutional amendment requires the Apportionment Commission to delay its adoption of new legislative districts until after the November 2021 election, if the United States Census Bureau does not provide the governor the redistricting census data by February 15, 2021.
November 2, 2020 •
Campaign Finance National: “Top FEC Official’s Undisclosed Ties to Trump Raise Concerns Over Agency Neutrality” by Mike Spies and Jake Pearson for ProPublica National: “Cruz Fights to Get Back Money He Loaned Campaign” by Megan Mineiro for Courthouse News Service […]
National: “Top FEC Official’s Undisclosed Ties to Trump Raise Concerns Over Agency Neutrality” by Mike Spies and Jake Pearson for ProPublica
National: “Cruz Fights to Get Back Money He Loaned Campaign” by Megan Mineiro for Courthouse News Service
Colorado: “Judge Denies Advocacy Group’s Attempt to Suspend Colo. Campaign Finance Enforcement” by Michael Karlick for Colorado Politics
Minnesota: “Federal Appeals Court Suggests Late-Arriving Minnesota Ballots May Be Tossed” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
Canada: “Ethics Commissioner Clears Morneau of Accepting Gift from WE Charity” by Joan Bryden (Canadian Press) for CTV
Hawaii: “Retired Hawaii Official Fined $5K for Accepting Free Meals” by Staff for Associated Press News
Maryland: “Following Pugh Scandal, UMMS Seeks a ‘Fresh Start’ in Implementing Auditor-Recommended Ethics Changes” by Ben Leonard (Baltimore Sun) for Yahoo News
Ohio: “2 Ohio Political Operatives Plead Guilty in Bribery Probe” by Andrew Welsh-Huggins for Associated Press News
National: “How the NFL’s Gridiron PAC Uses Influence in Washington” by Michael Rothstein for ESPN
Arizona: “Judge Won’t Delay Appointments to Arizona’s Redistricting Panel Despite Lawsuit” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star
October 30, 2020 •
National/Federal Administration Plans to Nominate Bipartisan Pair to Hobbled FEC Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/28/2020 After leaving so many vacancies at the FEC that it could not hold meetings for most of the 2020 campaign cycle, the Trump […]
Administration Plans to Nominate Bipartisan Pair to Hobbled FEC
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/28/2020
After leaving so many vacancies at the FEC that it could not hold meetings for most of the 2020 campaign cycle, the Trump administration said it planned to nominate a bipartisan pair to the hobbled agency. President Donald Trump’s picks are Republican Sean Cooksey, who serves as general counsel to Sen. Josh Hawley, and Shana Broussard, who currently serves as counsel to FEC member Steven Walther. Broussard, if confirmed, would be the first Black commissioner in the agency’s 45-year history.
Ballrooms, Candles and Luxury Cottages: During Trump’s term, millions of government and GOP dollars have flowed to his properties
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2020
Since his first month in office, President Trump has used his power to direct millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers, and from his political supporters, into his own businesses. The president brought taxpayer money to his businesses simply by bringing himself. He has visited his hotels and clubs more than 280 times, making them a familiar backdrop for his presidency. Documents show visits by Trump, his family, and his supporters have turned the government and the Republican Party into regular customers for the family business. In the case of the government, Trump’s visits turned it into a captive customer. What the government needed from Trump’s properties, it had to buy from Trump’s company.
Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Arelis Hernandez (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2020
Texas is one of five red states that emerged as conspicuous holdouts this year as the rest of the country rushed to loosen voting rules because of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the roughly 30 million registered voters who live there, and in Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee have no choice but to cast ballots in person this fall, even as the rate of coronavirus in the U.S. approaches its third peak. The situation underscores how the nation’s decentralized election systems and Republican opposition to mail voting this year are translating into vastly different voting experiences for Americans, depending on where they live. Legal challenges to the voting limits have foundered in some courts, rejected by a federal judiciary that has shifted rightward under President Trump.
COVID-19 Legislation, Postelection Prep Keep K Street Busy
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/21/2020
Negotiations over the federal response to the COVID-19 crisis have fueled the lobbying sector this year, as K Street firms and corporate representatives now turn their attention to the coming tumult after the November elections. Some of the nation’s biggest spenders on federal lobbying, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, Facebook, and Amazon, reported shelling out more money on influence campaigns so far this year than they did during the first three quarters of 2019. The biggest lobbying firms, such as Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, also reported increasing revenue this year.
Democrats in Pennsylvania, North Carolina Claim Key Wins at Supreme Court Ahead of Election
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020
Democrats won two significant U.S. Supreme Court victories involving voting deadlines in key battleground states, as the justices allowed extended periods for receiving mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. They declined to disturb decisions that allow Pennsylvania officials to receive ballots cast by Election Day and received within three days, and a ruling by North Carolina’s elections board that set a grace period of nine days. In both cases, the Republican Party and GOP legislators had opposed the extensions, and President Trump has railed on the campaign trail about the mail-in vote.
Facebook Tries to Block Tool Aimed at Promoting Transparency Around Political Ads
Politico – Mark Scott | Published: 10/23/2020
Facebook told researchers at New York University (NYU) to stop using a digital tool that tracks how people are targeted with political ads ahead of the November 3 election. The demand centers on the academics’ use of a web browser plug-in that gives Facebook users a way to share specific political ads they are seeing on the site. Political advertisers primarily target their ads to specific demographic groups, so the NYU tool, which collects roughly 16,000 ads each week, allows researchers to see how campaigns and other groups are crafting messages to voters based on race, age, location, or other criteria.
Guns at Voting Sites Emerge as Flash Point in Michigan Amid Nationwide Election Tension
MSN – Mark Berman (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2020
As tensions mount ahead of Election Day, a legal battle in Michigan is highlighting fears some officials and civil rights groups have about what will happen when people show up at polling sites with guns – which is legal in numerous jurisdictions across the U.S. Many Americans will be able to show up at their polling locations with guns, something that has unnerved law enforcement officials and experts nationwide at time of anxiety over whether clashes or violence could break out before, on, or after Election Day. Gun rights supporters argue law-abiding gun owners should be able to continue carrying their weapons where doing so is allowed. Exactly where that is allowed varies widely, echoing the way the country’s election processes vary from state to state.
How Trump Abandoned His Pledge to ‘Drain the Swamp’
Anchorage Daily News – Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2020
In the closing weeks of the 2016 election, Donald Trump led cheering supporters in chants of “drain the swamp,” promising he would completely disrupt the culture of Washington, D.C. He warned of the power of lobbyists and political donors who he said effectively bought off elected officials. He told voters he was uniquely prepared to take on the issue, because he knew personally as a donor how the system worked. But during his four years in office, Trump has taken few steps to clean up Washington. He has instead presided over a norm-shattering expansion of private interests in government.
In Campaign’s Closing Days, Disinformation Arrives Via Text Message and Email
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020
A video sent to voters falsely claimed Joe Biden wants to give “sex changes to second-graders.” A menacing directive advised Democrats to vote for Trump “or else.” And a years-old photograph newly circulated with erroneous instructions for how to blow past a purported poll watcher on Election Day. These deceptive, 11th-hour messages are not finding their way to Americans via the now well-trodden paths of Facebook and Twitter. Instead, they are arriving in waves of text messages and emails, making use of a more intimate and less heavily scrutinized vector of disinformation than the social networking services manipulated four years ago as part of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
International Election Observers in the U.S. Consider This Year the Most Challenging Ever
Washington Post – Carol Morello | Published: 10/22/2020
If legal controversy engulfs the 2020 elections, state Supreme Courts may be thrust into the prominent role of referee for the presidential race for the first time in two decades, placing new focus on judicial appointees that have increasingly shown partisan leanings. The Brennan Center found more than $500 million has been poured into state Supreme Court elections since 2000, reinventing the one-time “sleepy low-dollar contests,” as Douglas Keith of the Brennan Center put it, into an arena for dark money and political dogfights. And while both sides of the partisan divide have sought to gain an edge in the judicial arms race, conservative groups have prioritized efforts to tip the balance of these crucial courts.
Judge Orders Justice Department to Verify Its Filings in Flynn Case
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 10/23/2020
The federal judge presiding over the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct an unusual review of its filings in the case and certify whether any have been manipulated. The order is a signal of intense distrust between the judge, Emmet Sullivan, and the DOJ, whose filings are typically accepted at face value. In this case, the DOJ has acknowledged two documents it previously filed – handwritten notes taken by former FBI Agent Peter Strzok and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe – were altered “inadvertently” to include inaccurate dates. Sullivan’s demand will force the DOJ to confront tricky interpretations of handwritten notes that the department and Flynn’s legal team have relied on to seek the dismissal of the prosecution.
Judge Rejects Justice Dept. Bid to Short Circuit Defamation Case Brought by Woman Who Accused Trump of Rape
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, and Shayna Jacobs | Published: 10/27/2020
A federal judge rejected the Justice Department’s bid to make the U.S. government the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says President Trump raped her several years ago, paving the way for the case to again proceed. U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote Trump did not qualify as an “employee” under federal law, nor was he acting “within the scope of his employment” when he denied during interviews that he had raped journalist E. Jean Carroll more than two decades ago in a New York City department store. Carroll sued Trump over that denial. The Justice Department argued Trump was “acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States” when he disputed Carroll’s allegations.
Lobbying Firm Cuts Ties with Turkey Under Pressure
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 10/23/2020
The lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs scrapped its $1 million contract Turkish government following a pressure campaign by Armenian-American activists incensed by Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan in ongoing hostilities with Armenia. The effort recalls the push to convince K Street firms representing Saudi Arabia’s government to cut ties with the kingdom in 2018 after Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Washington Post, where Khashoggi had been a contributing opinion writer, threatened to bar two lobbyists from writing columns for the paper unless their firms stopped working for Saudi Arabia. The pressure ultimately led five lobbying firms to sever ties with the kingdom.
Miles Taylor Revealed as ‘Anonymous’ Writer of Insider Warnings About Trump
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020
Miles Taylor, the ex-chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security who has spent the past two months building a case against reelecting President Trump, revealed himself to be the presidential critic from inside the administration known only as “Anonymous.” Taylor, who served in the administration for two years, wrote in a post revealing his identity that his criticisms of Trump were “widely held among officials at the highest levels of the federal government. In other words, Trump’s own lieutenants were alarmed by his instability.” Using the nom de plume, Taylor first wrote a New York Times op-ed in 2018 purporting to be among a group of people inside the administration working to protect the country from the president’s worst instincts.
Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested Vote
ABC News – Olivia Rubin and Lucian Bruggeman | Published: 10/22/2020
As the eyes of the world focus on the U.S. election, teams of international observers are heading out across the United States amid concerns about the vote’s integrity. For the ninth time, observers affiliated with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have come to the United States to watch over an election and recommend improvements, a mission little-noticed by most Americans. But the 2020 campaign is different. As fears rise about voter suppression, violence, and a potentially contested outcome, the Europeans say they hope their efforts will help assure Americans the vote is legitimate.
Trump’s Attacks on Political Adversaries Are Often Followed by Threats to Their Safety
MSN – Greg Miller and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020
The CIA’s Security Protective Service monitors thousands of threats to public officials across social media and Internet chat rooms. Over time, a pattern has emerged: violent messages surged each time the analyst was targeted in tweets or public remarks by President Trump. Targets encompass nearly every category of government service: mayors, governors, and members of Congress, as well as officials Trump has turned against within his own administration. The dynamic appears to be without precedent – government agencies taking extraordinary measures to protect their people from strains of hostility stoked by a sitting president.
Twitter Launches ‘Pre-Bunks’ to Get Ahead of Voting Misinformation
NBC News – David Ingram | Published: 10/28/2020
Twitter said it would begin placing messages at the top of users’ feeds to pre-emptively debunk false information about voting by mail and election results, an escalation of the company’s battle against misinformation. Twitter is calling the messages a “pre-bunk,” something it says it has never done, because the debunking is not a reaction to an existing tweet with misinformation. Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other tech companies are racing to make last-minute changes to prepare their services for an expected rise in misinformation, election interference or even civil unrest as officials prepare to begin counting votes November 3.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Supreme Court Restores Ban on Curbside Voting in Alabama
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/21/2020
A divided U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a state-ordered ban on curbside voting in Alabama, despite claims from disabled and at-risk voters that making them vote inside polling places puts them in danger of contracting the coronavirus. The justices stayed a lower-court injunction that lifted the prohibition on drive-through voting that was issued by Alabama’s secretary of state. Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that allowing curbside voting was a “modest” accommodation to those at greatest risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19.
Arizona – Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings
Arizona Republic – Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez | Published: 10/24/2020
Among the dozens of donors listed as contributing to Tim Seay’s campaign for Phoenix mayor is Marvin Cox, a former fire chief in Maywood, Illinois. Cox is listed as contributing $5,000 on July 3. But he died more than a year earlier, in May 2019. His is one of several contributions on Seay’s campaign finance reports that raise questions, including others that came from people who said had not donated to his campaign. In an email, Seay said generally he knows he has “made some mistakes” on his campaign finance reports. He said that was due to his lack of experience as a candidate and inability to find an experienced campaign manager.
Arizona – Top Democrats Sue Over Arizona Redistricting Panel List
Associated Press News – Bob Christie | Published: 10/23/2020
Democratic leaders of the Arizona Legislature say two of five independents chosen by a judicial panel as potential chairpersons of a commission that will redraw political district boundaries next year are not legally eligible for the post. They want the nominees replaced with qualified people. The lawsuit alleges utility company executive and attorney Thomas Loquvam is not qualified because he is registered as a lobbyist. They also are challenging Robert Wilson, a gun store owner who is registered as an independent but has held rallies for President Trump and other Republicans. They say that shows he is not truly an independent as the constitution requires.
California – Gig Companies Open the Door to Campaigning by App
Politico – Katy Murphy | Published: 10/26/2020
Rideshare and delivery companies are not only spending record sums, they are wielding their own platforms and using customer data to win on Proposition 22, a November ballot measure that would exempt some gig companies from a California law that classifies many freelance workers as full-time employees. The moves by Uber, Lyft, and others show what is possible, technologists and legal experts say, when tech companies brush past norms and consumer expectations, leveraging their influence and everything they know about the public for their political advantage. Given how much data is stored on their servers, data privacy experts fear the companies themselves could influence the electorate when they face an existential threat like the gig companies do in California.
California – SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit
San Luis Obispo Tribune – Lindsay Holden | Published: 10/21/2020
The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors directed staff members to prepare an ordinance to cap political donations at $25,000 per person, an amount that is five times the statewide limit that will go into effect next year. Assembly Bill 571 will limit campaign contributions at $4,700 starting in January 2021 in all cities and counties that do not already have their own election finance laws.
Colorado – Court of Appeals: Colorado ethics commission not subject to CORA or state open meetings law
Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition – Jeffrey Roberts | Published: 10/27/2020
Neither the Colorado Open Records Act nor the Open Meetings Law applies to the constitutionally created state commission that investigates allegations of ethical misconduct involving public officials, the state Court of Appeals ruled. Rejecting the Glendale mayor’s argument that a District Court has jurisdiction to review the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission’s denial of his records requests, a three-judge appellate panel determined the commission is not a state agency or public body subject to the open-government laws.
Colorado – Denver City Council Votes Down Money Transfer from Fair Elections Fund
Westworld – Connor McCormick-Cavanagh | Published: 10/26/2020
The Denver City Council voted against pulling money from a municipal campaign finance fund and putting it toward other priorities in the 2021 budget. Denver voters passed a measure creating the Fair Elections Fund, which began collecting an annual allocation of approximately $2 million from the city budget starting in 2020. The fund can hold no more than $8 million per election cycle; candidates will have access to it for the first time during the 2023 Denver municipal elections. During the comment period, many speakers talked about the importance of the fund to encourage grassroots candidacies.
Connecticut – FBI Probes New Haven City Contract; Harp Wiretapped, Says Fraudster Tried to Set Her Up
Connecticut Mirror – Paul Bass (News Haven Independent) | Published: 10/21/2020
Then-New Haven Mayor Toni Harp walked out of Jack’s Steakhouse in 20109 with an envelope filled with thousands of dollars of cash handed to her by an accused money launderer. A city contract followed and a federal grand jury investigation. But it is unclear who was up to what. Harp had dinner that night with her top aide, Andrea Scott; city Controller Daryl Jones; and entrepreneur Derek Bluford, who is under federal indictment for financial fraud and was looking for a way to lessen his prison sentence. The group had been discussing a contract Bluford wanted the city to give a company with which he was involved. And they discussed his help in raising money for Harp’s reelection campaign. Bluford handed Harp an envelope as they left. Harp and Scott said they did not open the envelope until later, when they were shocked to find $7,000 in cash rather than legitimate individual campaign contribution checks.
Florida – A ‘Dark Money’-Funded Ballot Measure in Florida Could Make It Harder to Pass Future Amendments
MSN – Jonah Goldman Kay (Business Insider) | Published: 10/29/2020
In the next election cycle after 2020, Florida voters might not pass any constitutional amendments. If passed, an initiative on the ballot this year, Amendment 4, would require any future amendments to be passed in two consecutive elections. Only one other state, Nevada, has a similar requirement in its constitution. The “Are You Sure” measure was sponsored by Keep Our Constitution Clean, a secretive nonprofit with ties to a major business advocacy organization in Florida. Opponents of the amendment say it is another attempt from the Republican-led Legislature to suppress the vote by making it more difficult to get amendments on the ballot.
Georgia – In Georgia, Democrats Target the True Silent Majority: People who don’t vote
New York Times – Astead Herndon | Published: 10/28/2020
Over 100 million eligible, voting-age Americans did not vote in 2016, more than the number who voted for either presidential candidate. In traditional swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, most observers believe turnout is largely fixed and campaigns succeed based on their ability to persuade a set of voters. But in the new set of battleground states in the South, as well as Arizona, the priority is converting nonvoters into voters. The thinking is that If the Democratic Party can reshape the electorate with new arrivals to the state, well as greater participation from Black residents and immigrants, a red state becomes a blue one. But experts who study nonvoting populations warn the work of changing electorates is hard and complicated. There is no such thing, they say, as an inevitable demographic destiny.
Illinois – Flossmoor Trustee Resigns So He Can Keep Lobbying Chicago City Hall
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/22/2020
Chicago lobbyist Gyata Kimmons resigned his elected position as a Flossmoor village trustee, citing rules that took effect months ago prohibiting elected officials from lobbying Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city departments. The village announced Kimmons’ resignation the same day The Chicago Tribune published a report detailing how after aldermen banned elected officials from lobbying city government, he on two occasions exchanged emails directly with Lightfoot on behalf of Unibail–Rodamco–Westfield, a real estate company he lobbies City Hall on behalf of tenants at O’Hare International Airport. Kimmons was notified by Chicago that he had to immediately decide between lobbying the city professionally or holding public office.
Illinois – Inspector General Should Probe Cook County Commissioner, Chief of Staff Amid Pot Firm Revelations, Ethics Experts Say
Chicago Sun-Times – Tom Schuba | Published: 10/21/2020
A Cook County commissioner and her chief of staff should be investigated for joining a fledgling marijuana company after serving as state cannabis regulators, government ethics experts said. Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen acknowledged she is working with Americanna Dream, a startup seeking licenses to operate recreational marijuana dispensaries. The Sun-Times has since learned her chief of staff and general counsel, Tara Meyer, is also partnered with the company, which is among 21 finalists. Susan Garrett, chairperson of the Center for Illinois Politics, said there are simply “too many missing pieces to this puzzle” and recommended the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General probe the matter.
New Hampshire – Pappas Confirms Relationship with Ex-Lobbyist, Says Mowers Crossed a Line
Manchester Union-Leader – Josie Albertson-Grove | Published: 10/22/2020
U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas’ campaign confirmed he is dating a former lobbyist after his opponent brought up the relationship in a debate but said it has had no bearing on his votes. The campaign said Pappas and Vann Bentley are in a relationship. Bentley left a job as a lobbyist for Amazon in August 2019. Members of Congress are not barred from having and are not required to disclose romantic relationships with lobbyists.
New Jersey – State Education Department Orders Suspension of Paterson BOE Member
Bergen Record – Joe Malinconio (Paterson Times) | Published: 10/26/2020
The New Jersey Department of Education ordered that Paterson school board member Emanuel Capers be suspended for six months for taking a free trip to an Arizona resort from a company looking for a contract from the district. The company, Woz U, eventually got a contract from Paterson Public Schools for online courses, but never received any payment from the district for its services. Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer’s decision largely agrees with a state ethics commission ruling but softened the panel’s suggested penalty. The commission had called for Capers’ removal from office. Prior to the ethics panel decision, an administrative law judge had ruled in Capers’ favor.
Ohio – Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees
MSN – Marc Kovac (Columbus Dsipatch) | Published: 10/22/2020
State Attorney General Dave Yost said he would file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission after it was disclosed that former House Speaker Larry Householder used campaign cash to cover legal fees since his July arrest on federal corruption charges. Yost said the spending was illegal and he directed staff in his office to pursue a formal complaint. Householder’s pre-general election campaign finance filing included seven expenditures since July totaling more than $1 million to three law firms. Federal prosecutors allege Householder used “dark money” from FirstEnergy and related entities to support the campaigns of his supporters and block referendum efforts to overturn 2019 nuclear bailout legislation.
Ohio – Ohio’s Drop-Box Dispute Shows How Voting Rights Groups and Democrats Fear Trump’s Influence
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2020
An alliance of voting and civil rights groups – noting federal recommendations call for one ballot drop box for every 15,000 to 20,000 voters – sued Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, declaring his decision to limit the boxes to one per county was the definition of voter suppression. At a time when many people do not want to go to the polls due to the pandemic, or do not trust the U.S. Postal Service to deliver ballots on time, the groups said drop boxes are vital. The battle in Ohio underscores the fears of Democrats and voting rights advocates about the influence President Trump’s false claims about fraud via mail-in ballots and drop boxes could have over voters’ ability to cast a ballot and the counting of ballots.
Ohio – What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 10/23/2020
Newly released records show what actually happened with mysterious checks that FirstEnergy cut to Ohio politicians shortly before a massive bribery investigation came to light. Between July 6 and July 16, FirstEnergy’s PAC issued checks worth $158,000 to Ohio Senate, House, and state Supreme Court candidates. But many candidates said they never received that money. FEC reports from the committee now show FirstEnergy canceled $103,000 in checks to 43 Ohio House candidates and state Supreme Court candidates Judi French and Sharon Kennedy on September 17. What happened to the remaining $55,000? FirstEnergy PAC sent that money to 20 Ohio Senate candidates. The checks, issued July 6, were not voided. But only one was cashed for certain.
Oregon – Judge Rules City Must Open Investigation into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan to His Campaign
OPB – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 10/23/2020
A judge ruled the city auditor must examine a complaint into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 loan to his own re-election campaign. Voters approved strict campaign finance limits in 2018 including a $5,000 cap on how much candidates can loan themselves. But City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero decided not to enforce the self-funding portion of the charter, saying it conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court precedent and would inevitably be struck down by the court. Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ryan ruled the auditor had to follow the rules in the charter and city code and look into the complaint that alleged Wheeler violated campaign finance rules with his loan.
Oregon – Kate Brown Struck Secret Deal with Oregon Homebuilders Over Wildfire Codes, Lobbyists Say on Tape
Street Roots – Chris May | Published: 10/21/2020
After Oregon’s homebuilders lobby tried, but failed, to block regulations allowing local governments to implement their own wildfire safety standards in new construction, it is now relying on a secret agreement with Gov. Kate Brown to ensure those standards are not mandated statewide in fire-prone regions. Street Roots obtained secretly made recordings of this agreement being discussed at high-level meetings between Portland and Oregon Home Builders Association board members and top lobbyists. The audio provides a rare window into how one of the state’s most influential industries holds sway over critical public policy issues through lobbying, “revolving-doors,” and access to influential lawmakers.
Pennsylvania – Ballots Can’t Be Tossed Out Over Voter Signature, Court Says
Associated Press News – Marc Levy | Published: 10/23/2020
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously on a key concern surrounding an avalanche of mailed ballots, prohibiting counties from rejecting them if the voter’s signature on it does not resemble the signature on the voter’s registration form. Republican lawmakers and President Trump’s campaign had argued the law is clear election officials must compare the information on the mail-in ballot envelope, including a voter’s signature, to a voter’s information on file to determine a person’s qualifications to vote. But the justices disagreed, as did a federal judge in a separate case brought earlier the Trump campaign.
Tennessee – Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley Defends Prescribing Opioids to Relatives, Lover
The Tennessean – Brett Kelman | Published: 10/26/2020
A lawyer for state Sen. Joey Hensley conceded the politician, a small-town doctor, prescribed opioids to family members and an employee with whom he was in a romantic relationship, in what the state contends is a violation of medical ethics. Attorney David Steed said it was well-intentioned, harmless, and all but unavoidable for Hensley to prescribe to relatives in a small Tennessee town where he is the only available physician. Francine Baca-Chavez, a state attorney prosecuting the case, asked the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners to put Hensley on professional probation for three years and require him to attend classes on safe prescribing and medical ethics.
Utah – Republican Burgess Owens May Have to Refund Thousands of Dollars in Campaign Donations
Salt Lake Tribune – Bryan Schott | Published: 10/27/2020
Burgess Owens, the Republican nominee in Utah’s Fourth Congressional District, appears to be at the center of a campaign finance controversy with a week to go until Election Day. Owens’ campaign accepted more than $135,000 in illegal campaign contributions, which is approximately 40 percent of the money he has available for the stretch run to the election. All the donations in question have a notation on the report that the amounts are not permitted, and the campaign is waiting for written directions from the donors about what to do with the cash. FEC rules allow donors to reallocate excessive amounts to another member of the household, or to another election, so long as that person is not also over the limit. The other option is a refund. It is not clear whether the campaign has indeed remedied the disputed donations.
Wisconsin – Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin Ballot Deadline
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro | Published: 10/26/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to reinstate a court-ordered extension of the deadline for the receipt of absentee ballots in Wisconsin, siding with Republicans in a battle over election procedures amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The high court brushed aside complaints from Democrats and civil rights groups that enforcing the usual deadline of Election Day could leave thousands of ballots uncounted due to postal service changes and the massive number of voters seeking to vote by mail instead of in person. A District Court judge in Wisconsin issued an order pushing back the state’s due date for mail ballots from the close of polls on Election Day to November 9, as long as they were postmarked by November 3. A three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the lower court’s ruling.
Wyoming – Wyoming Gun Rights Group Fights Ruling to Disclose Donors
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 10/22/2020
An attorney for a gun rights advocacy group in Wyoming challenged a ruling by the secretary of state to disclose the group’s donors, arguing the ruling is an attempt to stifle political speech after the group was accused of running attack ads against Republican candidates. The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce filed the complaint against Wyoming Gun Owners over ads the group ran in the past year despite not being registered with the secretary of state’s office as required by law. The group must now register with the state and disclose its donors or face a $500 fine. Stephen Klein asked the state elections division to dismiss the complaint, saying there was a lack of documentation that showed the ads were against the law.
Wyoming – Wyoming Is Using Dark Money to Help Keep Coal Plants in Other States Open
National Public Radio – Cooper McKim and Andrew Graham | Published: 10/28/2020
After years of lawsuits, the utility Entergy Arkansas agreed to shut down two coal plants. Weeks later, the Arkansas Attorney General and a local coalition called the Arkansas Affordable Energy Coalition intervened, asking a judge to stop the settlement. They argued other fuel sources would be more expensive and less reliable. Emails show the coalition represents more than just coal, gas, and steel businesses in Arkansas. It was created by the nonprofit Energy Policy Network, whose largest donor most years is the state of Wyoming, home to the coal mines that feed the two Arkansas plants slated for shut down. Several ethics experts say this is the first time they have heard of a state using “dark money” in this way. They said it raises questions about state officials backing a group that surreptitiously seeks to impact policy elsewhere.
October 28, 2020 •
Campaign Finance Ohio: “What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN Elections National: “Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.” […]
Ohio: “What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
National: “Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.” by Elise Viebeck and Arelis Hernandez (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Guns at Voting Sites Emerge as Flash Point in Michigan Amid Nationwide Election Tension” by Mark Berman (Washington Post) for MSN
Wisconsin: “Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin Ballot Deadline” by Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro for Politico
National: “Judge Orders Justice Department to Verify Its Filings in Flynn Case” by Kyle Cheney for Politico
Colorado: “Court of Appeals: Colorado ethics commission not subject to CORA or state open meetings law” by Jeffrey Roberts for Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition
Tennessee: “Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley Defends Prescribing Opioids to Relatives, Lover” by Brett Kelman for The Tennessean
New Hampshire: “Pappas Confirms Relationship with Ex-Lobbyist, Says Mowers Crossed a Line” by Josie Albertson-Grove for Manchester Union-Leader
Arizona: “Top Democrats Sue Over Arizona Redistricting Panel List” by Bob Christie for Associated Press News
October 6, 2020 •
Campaign Finance Montana: “Record Penalties Levied in Dark Money Lawsuit” by John Adams for Montana Free Press Elections South Carolina: “High Court Reinstates S. Carolina Ballot Witness Requirement” by Jessica Gresko for Associated Press News Ethics National: “Public Records Requests […]
Montana: “Record Penalties Levied in Dark Money Lawsuit” by John Adams for Montana Free Press
South Carolina: “High Court Reinstates S. Carolina Ballot Witness Requirement” by Jessica Gresko for Associated Press News
National: “Public Records Requests Fall Victim to the Coronavirus Pandemic” by Nate Jones for Washington Post
National: “In a New Ruling, Judge Says Census Count Must Continue Through October” by Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Sonny Perdue Fuels Ethics Scrutiny as Trump’s Rural Envoy” by Ryan McCrimmon for Politico
Illinois: “Berrios Son-in-Law Indicted in Bribery Scheme Involving Ex-State Rep. Luis Arroyo” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
New York: “Andrew Cuomo Holds Webinar with Firm That Promised His Book to Employees” by Jon Campbell for Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Rhode Island: “Speaker Mattiello Isn’t the One on Trial for Money Laundering Today. But His Reputation Could Be.” by Edward Fitzpatrick for Boston Globe
Virginia: “Virginia Democrats Face Choice Between Idealism and Revenge in Vote on Gerrymandering” by Robert McCartney for Washington Post
July 17, 2020 •
National/Federal America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them New York Times – Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker | Published: 7/13/2020 Governors have always been judged on their disaster responses, but the coronavirus wreaking […]
America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them
New York Times – Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker | Published: 7/13/2020
Governors have always been judged on their disaster responses, but the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the country these days does not recede like floodwaters and cannot be tamed by calling out the National Guard. The states’ chief executives have been tested for the very virus that keeps testing them – politically, personally, and logistically. They have been forced onto the national and global stage in a way few governors have ever endured, an unending and public test on a scientific and ever-shifting subject with the lives of their constituents, the economies of their states, and their political careers at stake. The pandemic has many of America’s governors of both parties under a spotlight for which none of their aides and consultants have a playbook.
Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 7/9/2020
A recent report from the Campaign Finance Institute finds that, on average, 73 percent of state campaign funding from 2016 through 2019 came from large donors or PACs, while just 12 percent came from small donors contributing $250 or less. if small donors are incentivized to donate state campaigns, the share currently given to politicians by large donors and special-interest PACs could be flipped on its head with nearly three-quarters of campaign funding could come from amplified donations of $250 and under, according to a previous CFI report that examined public financing in New York.
Chief of White House’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ Vaccine Effort Can Keep Investing in Pharma Firms, Under IG Ruling
Albany Times Union – Christopher Rowland (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2020
The co-director of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed can maintain extensive investments in the drug industry and avoid ethics disclosures while he continues to make decisions about government contracts for promising coronavirus vaccines under a decision by the Health and Human Services inspector general. The ruling came in response to a complaint that said the administration has carved out an improper exception to federal conflict-of-interest rules for Moncef Slaoui, a former high-ranking official at GlaxoSmithKline. Slaoui took the helm of the initiative as what the administration described as a volunteer contractor. That allowed him to avoid the requirement for government employees to disclose financial interests and divest in holdings that conflict with their responsibilities.
Inside the White House, a Gun Industry Lobbyist Delivers for His Former Patrons
New York Times – Michael LaForgia and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/13/2020
Michael Williams spent nearly two years helping to run a trade group focused on expanding sales of firearm silencers by American manufacturers. But he could not overturn a ban on sales to private foreign buyers enacted to protect American troops overseas. Then Williams joined the Trump administration. As a White House lawyer, he pushed to overturn the prohibition, raising the issue with influential administration officials, and creating pressure within the State Department. On July 10, the State Department lifted the ban. The change paved the way for as much as $250 million a year in possible new sales for companies Williams had championed as general counsel of the American Suppressor Association. His role follows a pattern in the Trump administration, with the president handing over policymaking to allies of special interest groups with a stake in those policies.
Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 7/14/2020
CourierNewsroom.com, also known as Courier, was created and funded by the Democratic-aligned digital organization Acronym. Courier has spent over $1.4 million on Facebook ads this election cycle, mostly to promote its flattering articles and videos about more than a dozen endangered U.S. House Democrats at the top of the party’s priority list this November. But because Courier is organized as a media outlet, it does not have to disclose its donors or the total money it spends promoting politicians. This activity – creating an unregulated advertising stream promoting Democratic officeholders, more akin to a PAC than a newsroom – diverges from other partisan news outlets that are proliferating online as local newspapers struggle.
Ousted U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Says Barr Pushed Him to Resign and Take Another Job
MSN – Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2020
Attorney General William Barr repeatedly pressured then-U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman to resign and take another job, including as chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to clear the way for President Trump to install a political ally as the leader of the powerful federal prosecutors’ office in Manhattan. Berman, who testified privately before the House Judiciary Committee, described in a written statement the unusual sequence of events that led to his departure on June 20. The revelation of Barr’s tactics adds to the picture of what was already known about the extraordinary turn of events that culminated in Berman stepping down amid suspicions he was being ousted for political reason.
‘She Knows Better’: Ex-ethics chief Walter Shaub says Ivanka Trump broke rule by promoting Goya beans
USA Today – William Cummings and David Jackson | Published: 7/15/2020
Ivanka Trump is facing questions of whether she violated ethics rules in a social media post that promoted Goya Foods, whose chief executive officer angered opponents of President Trump by praising the president at an event. Ivanka Trump posted an image of herself on Twitter holding aloft a can of Goya black beans, along with a caption featuring the company’s slogan, “If it’s Goya, it has to be good.” Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said that because Ivanka Trump often uses her Twitter account to conduct official business and includes her job description in her profile, “Ms. Trump’s Goya tweet is clearly a violation of the government’s misuse of position regulation.”
States That Raced to Reopen Let Businesses Write Their Own Rules, Documents Show
Anchorage Daily News – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2020
Business networks and industry organizations helped write the rules of the pandemic response in some of the places that were the last to impose restrictions and the first to ease them. It also sheds light on the thinking of governors who have pledged not to reverse course on reopening, even as coronavirus cases spike in their states. Moves to throw open the doors with the virus still raging help explain recent surges in these states, epidemiologists say. Across the country, moves to reopen the economy before containing the virus offered a lesson in “how the political system accommodates the needs of business,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause.
The Once-Mocked ‘Never Trump’ Movement Becomes a Sudden Campaign Force
MSN – Ashley Parker and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2020
A “Never Trump” rebellion that began four years ago as a largely ineffective cadre of Republicans has transformed in recent weeks into a potentially disruptive force in this year’s presidential race. Groups such as the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump emphasize guerrilla tactics and scathing ads as they troll the president. The movement seeks to build a national political operation to oust both Donald Trump and his supporters in Congress, with an emphasis on persuading white suburban voters who consider themselves true Republicans to break from the president.
Trump Commutes Longtime Friend Roger Stone’s Prison Sentence
AP News – Jill Colvin and Eric Tucker | Published: 7/11/2020
President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant Roger Stone days before Stone was to begin serving a 40-month prison term for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing the U.S. House investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. The move is another intervention by Trump in the nation’s justice system and underscores his willingness to flout the norms and standards that have governed presidential conduct for decades. Democrats, already alarmed by the Justice Department’s dismissal of the case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, denounced the president as further undermining the rule of law.
Trump Isn’t Secretly Winking at QAnon. He’s Retweeting Its Followers.
Politico – Tina Nguyen | Published: 7/12/2020
President Trump on July 4 retweeted 14 tweets from accounts supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory, a sprawling and ever-mutating belief that a mysterious government official who goes by “Q” is leaving online clues about Trump’s secret plan to dismantle a cadre of Washington elites engaged in everything from pedophilia to child sex trafficking. It was not the first time Trump has nodded, accidentally or not, to QAnon followers on Twitter. But his QAnon-baiting has gone into overdrive in recent months. The engagement has continued even as the FBI has labeled the online community a potential source of domestic terrorism after several people radicalized by QAnon have been charged with crimes inspired by the conspiracy theory.
Trump Replaces Campaign Manager as Polls Show Him Trailing Biden in Presidential Race
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020
President Trump announced he is replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with longtime political aide Bill Stepien as recent polls show him falling further behind Joe Biden in the presidential race amid a spreading pandemic that has devastated the economy. The president said Parscale will stay as a senior adviser focusing on digital and data strategies. Parscale has been marginalized in the campaign for several weeks, officials said, with Trump angry about a botched rally in Oklahoma, where far fewer people attended than expected. Stepien was the field director for the 2016 campaign, He was formerly a top aide to then-New Jersey Gov. Gov. Chris Christie. Stepien was expelled from Christi’s orbit in the aftermath of bridge lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in 2013, an episode known as Bridgegate.
Trump Says He ‘Disagreed’ With Privately Funded Border Wall, So Why Did His Administration Award the Builder $1.7 Billion in Contracts to Erect More Walls?
ProPublica – Perla Trevizo and Jeremy Schwartz | Published: 7/13/2020
President Trump complained via Twitter that a privately constructed border wall in Texas was a bad idea and poorly done, not mentioning his administration has awarded the builder a $1.7 billion contract to build more walls. With the backing of Trump supporters, Tommy Fisher built a three-mile border fence along the Rio Grande. But just months after completion of his showcase piece directly on the banks of the river, there are signs of erosion along and under the fence that threatens its stability and could cause it to topple into the river if not fixed. The administration gave Fisher the billion-dollar contract to build additional stretches of the wall in Arizona, despite a lawsuit around the South Texas project and an ongoing audit by the Pentagon’s inspector general of a previous border wall contract that is looking into possible “inappropriate influence.”
White House Lawyer Gives Trump Extra Time to File His Personal Financial Disclosure Forms, the Second Extension Since May 15
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Anu Narayanswami | Published: 7/13/2020
President Trump was granted a second 45-day extension to file his personal financial disclosure forms, which will give the American public its only detailed look at the president’s private business interests. The forms are supposed to detail Trump’s income, debt, stock holdings, and outstanding loans for 2019. Federal law allows only two such extensions. Trump appears to be the only president since 2001 to need an extension for his financial disclosure filing.
Canada – PM Trudeau’s Mother, Brother and Wife Were Paid to Speak at WE Charity Events
CTV – Rachel Gilmore | Published: 7/9/2020
Members of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family were paid a total of nearly $300,000 over the last four years to speak at WE Charity events. The charity group is at the center of an ethics investigation into Trudeau. The federal ethics commissioner launched an investigation into Trudeau over his government’s now-cancelled decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program, which is slated to pay students and new graduates for their volunteer work this summer. While the charity has backed out of the management of the program following days of controversy, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said the request for an investigation “satisfies the requirements” laid out in the Conflict of Interest Act.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Birmingham Airport, State Water Boards Push for Clear Application of Ethics Law
Yellowhammer News – Tim Howe | Published: 7/9/2020
The Birmingham Airport Authority (BAA) and the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute filed briefs urging Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Brooke Reid to deny a motion by the Alabama Ethics Commission to revise an order she issued in June. Reid ruled BAA employees were not public employees because the funds used to pay them is generated from private sources, such as landing fees paid by airlines. Alabama law says an entity’s employees are subject to the ethics statutes if the funds used to pay their salaries come from “state, county or municipal funds.” Numerous requirements and restrictions accompany the designation as “public employees” for purposes of the ethics law, including the filing of annual statements of economic interest with the Ethics Commission.
Alabama – Jeff Sessions Loses Runoff in Alabama as Trump Helps End Career of Key Supporter
Anchorage Daily News – Paul Kane and Toluse Olorunnipa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2020
Tommy Tuberville defeated Jeff Sessions in the runoff to be the Republican nominee in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race against incumbent Doug Jones. The result culminated four months of President Trump imploring the state’s voters to reject Sessions, the man who the president once said he leaned on for advice in forming his “America First” agenda. Trump’s endorsement of Tuberville in the race has always seemed to have more to do with Trump’s anger at Sessions over his recusing himself from the Russia investigation while attorney general than with any particular support for the former Auburn University football coach.
Arizona – Arizona House Ethics Chair Drops Probe of Rep. Cook
KJZZ – Associated Press | Published: 7/9/2020
The head of a special Arizona House ethics committee said he was dropping an investigation into the actions of a fellow Republican lawmaker who faced complaints he engaged in an improper relationship with a lobbyist and helped her avoid a tax seizure. Rep. John Allen said in a letter announcing his decision that he did not believe Rep. David Cook’s conduct “unequivocally constitutes the sort of ‘disorderly behavior’ punishable under the House’s Rules” and the state constitution. The unilateral decision brought protest from Democrats on the panel.
Arkansas – State Lawmaker Is Hired to Lead Youth Lockup; Red Flags Raised, Watchdog Say
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Ginny Monk | Published: 7/14/2020
Arkansas Rep. Jasen Kelly was hired as director of Rite of Passage, the firm that manages all four of the state’s residential facilities for juvenile offenders for the Division of Youth Services. Kelly said the job does not conflict with his duties as a legislator or pose an ethical issue. He plans to recuse himself from votes or discussions that deal with Rite of Passage. Tom Masseau, executive director of Disability Rights Arkansas, called for Kelly’s resignation from the House, saying it was the only way to resolve a potential conflict-of-interest.
California – California’s Department of Conservation Rolls Out New Ethics Policy After Years of Complaints
Palm Springs Desert Sun – Mark Olalde | Published: 7/15/2020
The California Department of Conservation, which has for years weathered accusations of a cozy relationship with the oil industry, introduced a new ethics policy that has drawn praise from advocates of good governance. The new conflict-of-interest manual, which came into force in March and applies across the department’s five agencies, forbids employees from maintaining financial holdings in businesses they regulate without written approval from the department’s director. Media reports found that leadership in the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources held investments in major oil companies, including Chevron, which has a large footprint in the state.
California – L.A.’s Corruption Probe Involves Developers, a Councilman – and His 80-Year-Old Mom
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/13/2020
Investigators have turned the spotlight in Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar’s corruption case on an unlikely figure in a “pay-to-play” scandal: an elderly woman who emigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico, once worked in a meatpacking plant, and has lived in a modest home in Boyle Heights. Isidra Huizar, the 80-year-old mother of the embattled council member, is one of the unnamed figures mentioned in the sprawling case. Federal prosecutors have alleged, without mentioning her by name, that Isidra Huizar helped her son launder bribe money he received between 2014 and 2017. Huizar’s mother, identified only as Relative A-2, repeatedly received cash from her son, then used the proceeds to pay his expenses, according to an affidavit.
Colorado – Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 7/10/2020
Outside groups spent nearly $1.7 million on eight highly contested Colorado legislative primary races in 2020. But it is not always easy to figure out where the money came from, despite a 2019 law touted as bringing more transparency to a system that includes cash from nonprofits that do not disclose their donors. In other instances, discerning where the money came from is possible if you have time to track all the state and federal committees involved until the funder is revealed. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold acknowledged the loophole in the law that some committees use to avoid naming nonprofit donors. She attributed it to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allowed unlimited spending in political contests as long as committees do not coordinate with candidates or political parties.
Florida – Florida Democrats Return PPP Money Amid Scandal
Politico – Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon | Published: 7/8/2020
The Florida Democratic Party announced it was returning at least $780,000 in small-business loans after its own lawmakers criticized the acceptance of the money as highly questionable if not unethical and illegal. The party immediately applied for the loan after Congress first passed the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, even though there was discussion at the time that the money should go to neither lobbyists nor political causes. The party is currently underwriting the salaries of campaign staff throughout Florida, including those working to elect Joe Biden.
Florida – Florida Lawmaker’s Ties to NFL Robbery Case Sparks Investigation
Tampa Bay Times – Meghan Bobrowsky | Published: 7/14/2020
The Florida Bar opened an investigation into the actions of state Rep. and lawyer Michael Grieco after it was reported his office was the scene of what appeared to be payoffs to victims of an alleged robbery by National Football League players Quinton Dunbar and Deandre Baker in May. Grieco had previously been representing Dunbar and Baker were accused of stealing money and jewelry from people at gunpoint at a party. It was revealed that police believe four victims recanted after being paid a total of $55,000 in cash in Grieco’s office. The victims reportedly signed sworn affidavits alleging Dunbar did not have anything to do with the robbery.
Florida – Hot Zone? Florida Republicans Told to ‘Get Tested’ After Lobbyist Who Attended Their Fundraiser Now Positive for Coronavirus
Florida Politics – Staff | Published: 7/14/2020
A Florida lobbyist who attended a recent Republican fundraiser near Jacksonville has tested positive for COVID-19. Another lobbyist who briefly attended the event and asked to remain anonymous said they left after entering the reception and seeing no one wearing masks. Some attendees also attended an event two days later with Vice President Mike Pence where he thanked members of the Republican National Host Committee for their work on the Jacksonville event.
Florida – NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer to Face Ethics Commission Hearing
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 7/13/2020
Florida’s top gun lobbyist Marion Hammer faces a probable cause hearing before the Florida Commission on Ethics regarding her failure to disclose payments from the National Rifle Association (NRA). State Sen. Perry Thurston filed complaints about Hammer with the Senate and the ethics commission in May 2019. Two weeks before, it was reported the NRA paid Hammer hundreds of thousands of dollars she had not disclosed for a decade on quarterly lobbyist compensations reports required by the Legislature. State law says the fine for late reports is “$50 per day per report for each late day up to a maximum of $5,000 per late report.” Hammer, however, was not fined or otherwise disciplined.
Florida – RNC Restricts Convention Attendance as Florida Coronavirus Cases Climb
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/16/2020
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is planning to sharply limit attendance for its convention in Jacksonville, Florida, shrinking the event celebrating President Trump’s renomination amid concerns about coronavirus. RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel, who is overseeing planning for the convention, said attendance for the first three nights of the four-night event will be limited to delegates. When Trump delivers his nomination acceptance speech on the fourth night of the convention, August 27, attendance will be expanded to delegates, a guest of their choosing, and alternate delegates.
Illinois – Contractor Claims City Unfairly Awarded Lucrative Fuel Deal to Company Tied to Federal Corruption Investigation
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 7/9/2020
A Florida fuel distributor that lost a recent bid for a $43 million contract to provide diesel to the city of Chicago filed an official protest, saying the process was skewed to take care of an influential local company linked to an ongoing federal corruption probe. The protest filed by World Fuel Services alleged its proposal, which was the lowest of three submitted to the city, was rejected in favor of the second-lowest bidder that used Black Dog Petroleum as its minority-owned subcontractor. Black Dog and its owner, Amit Gauri, were named in search warrants and subpoenas by federal prosecutors in a probe of former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval and suburban mayors and industry heavyweights.
Kansas – Kansas Freshman GOP Rep. Watkins Charged with 3 Felonies
AP News – John Hanna | Published: 7/15/2020
U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins who had listed a UPS postal box as his residence on a state voter registration form was charged with three felonies, including illegal voting. The charges came three weeks before Kansas’s Republican primary election. The UPS postal box was listed as Watkins’ residential address for voter registration purposes when he cast a mail-in ballot for a local city council and school board election in November 2019. He later changed his residential listing. The most serious criminal charge accuses Watkins of voting in the 2019 local city and school board election in Topeka without being qualified.
Kentucky – Breonna Taylor Protesters Sat on the Kentucky Attorney General’s Lawn. Police Charged 87 with Felonies.
Portland Press Herald – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020
Protesters who refused to leave the front lawn of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron were arrested and each one was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors. The activists had come to demand Cameron charge the three police officers who fatally shot Breonna Taylor inside her home while executing a no-knock warrant. The felony charge applies to people who use “physical force or a threat” to influence “the testimony, vote, decision, or opinion” of a participant in the legal process, like a victim, a witness, or a judge. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky denounced the felony charges filed against the protesters, calling them “overblown, outrageous, and inappropriate.”
Missouri – FBI Continues Scrutiny of Independence, Requests More Records from City Government
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jason Hancock, Kevin Hardy, and Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) | Published: 7/13/2020
The FBI has once again requested records from Independence City Hall, the latest in a series of inquiries by federal authorities over the last year that appear to be focused on a pair of utilities contracts and medical marijuana regulations. The Independence City Council in 2017 awarded Environmental Operations the contract to tear down a power plant in Missouri City that Independence Power and Light was no longer using. The contract was immediately controversial since Environmental Operations got the job with a $9.75 million bid, more than twice that of the other bidder. Environmental Operations’ owner, Stacy Hastie, is well connected in Missouri politics. A federal grand jury issued a subpoena to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services last year demanding records on four medical marijuana applicants.
Missouri – St. Louis Prosecutor Receives Death Threats as Trump Defends Couple Who Pointed Guns at Protesters
Stamford Advocate – Meagan Flynn, Tom Jackman, and Ben Guarino (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, the prosecutor investigating the couple who aimed guns at protesters, says she has received racist attacks and death threats that have worsened as President Trump has thrown his support behind the couple. Both the president and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson have offered impassioned defenses of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who went viral after brandishing guns at protesters on the private street outside their mansion. Parson, who said the couple had “every right to protect their property,” said he spoke with Trump recently. He said Trump made it clear he “doesn’t like what he sees and the way these people are being treated,” referencing the McCloskeys.
New Jersey – New Jersey Puts $578 Million in Controversial Tax Breaks on Hold After Investigation
ProPublica – Nancy Solomon (WNYC) | Published: 7/13/2020
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration put a freeze on the continued disbursement of $578 million worth of tax breaks awarded by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority under former Gov. Chris Christie. A task force’s lead investigator said he referred several companies to law enforcement for making potentially fraudulent threats to move out of state to obtain tax breaks. Of the 12 companies whose awards are under review, five are connected to Democratic Party boss George Norcross and represent most of the money – $540 million. Some companies provided the same out-of-state location where they claimed they would move if they did not get a tax break, Blue Hill Plaza in Rockland County, New York. But the applications were approved.
New Mexico – New Mexico Group ‘Cowboys for Trump’ Ordered to Pay Fines, Register as Political Committee
AP News – Russell Contreras | Published: 7/11/2020
The New Mexico group, Cowboys for Trump, must register as a political committee in the state, and pay $7,600 in fines for not filing expenditure reports, an arbitrator ruled. Cowboys for Trump has protested the requirements because it argues campaign finance laws violate free speech, and the group does not meet the definition of a political committee. Cowboys for Trump members say the group is a for-profit organization.
New York – Probe Into De Blasio’s Old Charity Given Green Light by State Judge
New York Post – Bernadette Hogan and Carl Campanile | Published: 7/15/2020
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) received approval from a judge to investigate potentially illegal donations given to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s since-closed not-for-profit group. State Supreme Court Judge Richard Platkin ruled JCOPE has the authority to pursue a probe into Broadway Stages’ communications with de Blasio as well as $60,000 in donations. Broadway Stages claimed JCOPE cannot investigate individuals who give “gifts” and is limited to regulating officials who receive those monetary donations. It also denied giving to Campaign for One New York following a request from de Blasio or any another public official.
New York – Trump Raises New Objections to Subpoena Seeking His Tax Returns
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Benjamin Weiser | Published: 7/15/2020
Days after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a defeat to President Trump, clearing the way for the Manhattan district attorney to seek his tax returns, his lawyers renewed their efforts to block or at least narrow access to the records. Trump’s lawyers wrote to the federal judge in Manhattan who originally presided over the case, saying they planned to argue the district attorney’s subpoena was too broad and politically motivated. The president and the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat, have been locked in a battle over the records for almost a year.
Ohio – Campaign Finance Cover Clouds Bribery Accusations
Toledo Blade – Tom Troy | Published: 7/11/2020
Investigators say Toledo City Council members Yvonne Harper, Tyrone Riley, Larry Sykes, and Gary Johnson, all Democrats, engaged in a “pay-to-play” scheme that exchanged money for votes. They face federal bribery and extortion charges. More than $34,000 changed hands between business owners and the council members during the investigation. Several local politicians and campaign experts, however, contend the line between what constitutes a campaign contribution and what constitutes a bribe may be fuzzy to some because of a culture in which politicians and businesses, interest groups, and unions symbiotically support each other through political donations and favorable votes on legislation.
Oregon – Oregon AG Appeals Federal Judge’s Order on Redistricting Bid
AP News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 7/15/2020
Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno announced she is fighting a federal judge’s order for Oregon to give more leeway to a group that seeks to change how the state draws its electoral districts. U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane said the coronavirus pandemic and Gov. Kate Brown’s shutdown orders prevented People Not Politicians from obtaining the required number of signatures by a July 2 deadline to put the issue on the ballot for the November election. The Legislature is currently responsible for redrawing district lines. People Not Politicians wants an independent citizen redistricting commission to do it instead and seeks to have voters approve an amendment to the state constitution that would allow that.
South Carolina – Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove | Published: 7/12/2020
Anonymous donors poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a South Carolina Senate primary for a seat that covers Myrtle Beach, exploiting the state’s weak campaign finance laws and influencing voters in Horry County. The large amount of money spent on the primary runoff between state Sen. Luke Rankin and John Gallman highlights the outsize role that so-called dark money groups can play in state elections in South Carolina. Combined, the organizations were able to spend more than three times what Rankin was able to raise for his own campaign. That is because people who give directly to candidates are subject to contribution limits in South Carolina, whereas these groups are not.
Tennessee – Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign Finance Violations
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 7/9/2020
Campaign finance officials followed through on a plan to levy a $10,500 penalty against former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada after an audit determined he failed to adequately retain receipts for roughly $100,000 in expenditures. Despite Casada being eligible to face more than $2.9 million in fines, the Registry of Election Finance voted in favor of the smaller penalty. Although the audits found a number of issues with Casada’s personal campaign committee and a PAC controlled, the registry only fined him for failing to have receipts for 299 expenditures.
Texas – Ronny Jackson, Ex-White House Doctor, Wins Texas House Runoff
MSN – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 7/14/2020
Dr. Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician with no political experience who ran a campaign based on his close relationship with President Trump, won a Republican runoff election for a U.S. House seat in Texas, effectively stamping his ticket to Congress next year. Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral, left the West Wing in December after becoming Trump’s unlikely choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he had to withdraw his name from consideration amid allegations related to his professional conduct. Jackson made a series of mistakes that could have derailed any congressional campaign. But after Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraising official for the president’s re-election campaign, realized Jackson’s campaign was in trouble, they asked two senior members of Trump’s re-election campaign to step in.
July 10, 2020 •
National/Federal Convention Jitters Grip Democrats Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020 First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events […]
Convention Jitters Grip Democrats
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020
First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events throughout the country as an alternative is a plausible option after a new surge of Covid-19 cases. With infection rates exploding in several states, some elected officials, state party leaders, and rank-and-file members of the Democratic National Committee are skeptical about the proposed idea of “mini-conventions” across the nation – regional satellite sites for delegates and party leaders, particularly in battleground states.
Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski | Published: 7/8/2020
The civil rights auditors Facebook hired to scrutinize its civil rights record delivered a scathing indictment of the social media giant’s decisions to prioritize free speech above other values, which the auditors called a “tremendous setback” that opened the door for abuse by politicians. The report criticized Facebook’s choice to leave untouched several posts by President Trump, including three in May that the auditors said “clearly violated” the company’s policies prohibiting voter suppression, hate speech, and incitement of violence. The conclusions by Facebook’s own auditors are likely to bolster criticism the company has too much power and it bends and stretches its rules for powerful people.
GOP Officials Flock to Parler Social Network. So Do Their Trolls and Impostors.
Politico – Christiano Lima | Published: 7/2/2020
Dozens of Republican lawmakers have joined the social media site Parler as GOP tensions with other major platforms mount, but so have hordes of fake accounts claiming to belong to conservative politicians. Conservative politicians have turned to Parler, which bills itself as an “unbiased” substitute for the likes of Facebook and Twitter, as they escalate their feud with Silicon Valley over allegations that social media companies stifle viewpoints on the right. That movement has given Parler’s site a distinctly conservative bent. Many of the fake Parler accounts present themselves like any typical congressional social media page, making them nearly indistinguishable from an official forum. Others are more flagrantly false.
House Bid to Remove Confederate Statues at Capitol Sets Up Fight with Senate
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/8/2020
As demands for racial justice dominate the national consciousness, the U.S. House is moving along a draft legislative branch spending bill that would mandate statues of Confederates and others “with unambiguous records of racial intolerance” be removed from the Capitol. But the top legislative branch appropriator on the Senate panel, Chairperson Cindy Hyde-Smith, is not calling for the removal of Confederate statues, setting up a potential fight on the provision when it reaches the chamber.
How the Republican Convention Created Money Woes in Two Cities
MSN – Annie Karni, Rebecca Ruiz, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 7/4/2020
The abrupt uprooting of the Republican National Convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville has created a tangled financial predicament for party officials as they effectively try to pay for two big events instead of one. Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent in a city that will now host little more than a GOP business meeting, and donors are wary of opening their wallets again to bankroll a Jacksonville gathering thrown into uncertainty by a surge in coronavirus cases. The host committee in Charlotte has spent virtually all of the $38 million it raised before the convention was moved, leaving almost nothing to return to donors, or to pass on to the new host city.
Prince Andrew Sought Washington Lobbyist to Help with Epstein Case
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/5/2020
Prince Andrew’s lawyers had discussions with a Washington, D.C. lobbyist with ties to the Trump administration about the possibility of assisting the prince with fallout from his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Lawyers from the London-based firm Blackfords consulted the lobbyist, Robert Stryk, who represents international figures with sensitive legal or diplomatic issues, in recent weeks about Prince Andrew’s situation. Stryk has a history of taking on clients with unsavory reputations. But he expressed discomfort about the possibility of assisting Prince Andrew and talks about the potential representation appear to have fizzled.
Sen. Bill Cassidy’s Campaign Has Spent $5,500 on Membership Dues at Private Club in New York
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/1/2020
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy has spent more than $55,00 from his campaign fund since 2014 on membership dues to the Penn Club of New York City, an elite private club more than 1,000 miles from his hometown of Baton Rouge. Cassidy also disclosed spending $650 in campaign funds on membership fees closer to home at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City in Louisiana, a social club founded by businesspeople in the oil industry. FEC rules say membership dues for country clubs, health clubs, or “other nonpolitical organizations” are considered personal uses that cannot be paid from campaign accounts “unless the payments are made in connection with a specific fundraising event that takes place on the organization’s premises.”
Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day
Roll Call – Gopal Ratnam | Published: 7/7/2020
The 78 days between Election Day this fall and Inauguration Day next January could be a greatly unsettled time for American democracy. Unlike most presidential elections, when ballots are tallied and counted in a majority of precincts by midnight on Election Day and news outlets are able to project a winner before you go to bed, this November’s election is likely to be different. Because of a surge in mail-in ballots caused by people’s reluctance to physically go to the polls, results are likely to be delayed. That period could also be rife with disinformation coming from all directions as criminal hackers, enemy states, and even domestic political forces try to shape people’s perceptions of what happened. Lawsuits are also likely to proliferate if the outcome is not clear.
States Can Punish ‘Faithless’ Electors, Supreme Court Rules
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 7/6/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states may require presidential electors to support the winner of the popular vote and punish or replace those who do not, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election. The court considered cases from the state of Washington and Colorado. Both sides of the issue insisted a ruling for the other would have unintended consequences. State officials said putting electors beyond the coercive power of state law could effectively immunize the bribery of electors. Advocates for the electors countered that allowing states to regulate the actions of electors could be a back-door way for states to add qualifications for presidential candidates, perhaps by instructing electors to vote for only those who had released tax returns.
Supreme Court Rules Trump Cannot Block Release of Financial Records
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 7/9/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s assertion he enjoys absolute immunity from investigation while in office, allowing a New York prosecutor to pursue a subpoena of the president’s private and business financial records. In a separate decision, the court ruled Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said that case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information sought. Despite the rulings, it is likely that Trump’s records will be shielded from public scrutiny until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely.
Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments Over Mueller’s Secret Evidence, a Delay for House Democrats Investigating President Trump
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to House Democrats’ efforts to have access to secret grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying it would decide next term whether Congress is authorized to see the material. The decision to hear the case next fall means the House Judiciary Committee cannot have access to the material before the election. A lower court ruled the committee was entitled to see the previously withheld material from Mueller’s probe, which also investigated whether President Trump obstructed the special counsel’s work. It is highly unlikely there could be a Supreme Court decision even before the end of the current congressional term in January.
Trump Veterans Flock to K Street Despite ‘Drain the Swamp’ Vow
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Debra Kahn | Published: 7/8/2020
There are at least 82 former Trump administration officials who have registered as lobbyists. Many more former administration officials have gone to work at lobbying firms or in government affairs roles in corporate America but have not registered as lobbyists. The mass migration to K Street highlights how little effect President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” has had on Washington’s “revolving door.” Some former administration officials decamped for K Street so quickly that they have already returned to the government. Trump has also hired a large number of former lobbyists to serve in his administration.
Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020
President Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots – a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself. In several primaries, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. When they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots.
Trump’s Pick for Ambassador Involved in Racist Smear Against Black Politician
MSN – John Hudson (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2020
President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway is facing demands he abandon his pursuit of the diplomatic post following the unearthing of a 1994 court filing indicating his involvement in the production of a racist campaign flier against an African American politician in Georgia. According to the filing, Mark Burkhalter helped create a flier that distorted and exaggerated the features of Gordon Joyner, a Fulton County Commission candidate. Joyner was pictured with some features darkened, a large Afro, enlarged eyebrows, and a warped eye. Joyner sued for libel, resulting in an out-of-court settlement, an apology signed by Burkhalter and three other men, and payment of an undisclosed sum. Burkhalter did not disclose his involvement in the controversy to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book
MSN – Shane Harris and Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020
A tell-all book by President Trump’s niece describes a family riven by a series of traumas, exacerbated by a daunting patriarch who “destroyed” Donald Trump by short-circuiting his “ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.” President Trump’s view of the world was shaped by his desire during childhood to avoid his father’s disapproval, according to the niece, Mary Trump, whose book is by turns a family history and a psychological analysis of her uncle. “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World;s Most Dangerous Man,” became an instant bestseller based on advance orders, underscoring the intense interest among the public about the forces that shaped the man who became president. Mary Trump has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/7/2020
When the Trump administration publicly detailed many of the beneficiaries of the $660 billion forgivable loan program, it showed money going to dozens of the lobbying and law firms, political consulting shops, and advocacy groups that make up the political industrial complex. Advertising and fundraising firms assisting President Trump’s re-election campaign were listed alongside companies doing polling and direct mail for Joe Biden. There is no evidence of string-pulling on behalf of politically connected groups. But the use of taxpayer funds to prop up Washington’s permanent political class seemed discordant to some critics against the backdrop of a pandemic that has shined a light on disparities between the haves and the have-nots.
Canada – Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed
MSN – Jordan Press (Canadian Press) | Published: 7/3/2020
The federal ethics watchdog is examining whether Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the conflict-of-interest law over how he handled a decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program to pay students and recent graduates for volunteer work this summer. The Liberal government announced youth organization would no longer be managing the program, days after the prime minister himself called WE Charity the only option for success. The sole-sourced contract has been criticized because of Trudeau’s close relationship with the group. He, his wife, and his mother have all been involved in WE events and activities.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama
AP News – Kim Chandler | Published: 7/2/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama and waiving some absentee ballot requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. Conservative justices granted Alabama’s request to stay a federal judge’s order that would allow local officials to offer curbside voting in the July runoff and loosen absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s large counties. The order will remain stayed while the high court decides whether to hear Alabama’s appeal.
Arizona – Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 7/8/2020
The Arizona secretary of state’s office says the Goldwater Institute is lobbying illegally and wants state Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate. A complaint alleges two institute employees, Jonathan Riches and Christina Sandefur, should have to register as authorized lobbyists because they testified in legislative committees in favor of a bill. The think tank has long been an active player at the Capitol. But the organization only has one person registered as a lobbyist, and it contends people like Riches and Sandefur do not need to register because they fall under various exemptions. Sambo Dul, the state elections director, concluded none of the exemptions applied and Riches and Sadefur should register.
California – Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/7/2020
Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty to a single felony charge in the ongoing corruption probe of City Hall, admitting he schemed to prevent federal investigators from learning about cash and other gifts he received from a businessperson. Englander struck a plea deal, acknowledging he accepted cash in envelopes, a hotel stay and other gifts during trips to Las Vegas and the Palm Springs area, and then engaged in an effort to lie to investigators. In some ways, Englander seemed like a politician who had wandered into the middle of someone else’s corruption probe.
California – Real Estate Firm Puts Executive on Leave Amid Jose Huizar Pay-to-Play Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/1/2020
A real estate firm put one of its executives on leave amid the federal corruption probe that led to the arrest of Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. Carmel Partners, the developer of an Arts District project mentioned in the criminal complaint against Huizar, said in a statement that “there are a number of concerning allegations outlined in the complaint that require investigation” and it plans to take “appropriate disciplinary actions as needed” against the executive. Huizar faces a racketeering charge stemming from allegations he ran a “pay-to-play” scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for bribes and political donations.
California – San Jose City Council Narrowly Approves Ballot Measure to Expand Mayoral Powers, Give Sam Liccardo 2 More Years
San Jose Insider – Grace Hase | Published: 7/1/2020
The San Jose City Council placed a controversial measure on the November ballot that will decide whether Mayor Sam Liccardo should be given more powers and two extra years in office. The measure includes a provision to align San Jose’s mayoral election with the presidential election cycle to increase voter turnout. It would also bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions and restrict gifts to public officials from lobbyists and city contractors.
California – Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry
Los Angeles Times – Joe Mozingo | Published: 7/3/2020
The Santa Barbara County grand jury criticized county supervisors for allowing “unfettered access” to marijuana lobbyists as the board voted to let cannabis cultivation explode in the Santa Ynez Valley region and Carpinteria with little regulation and a flimsy tax regime that has deprived the county of millions of dollars. The report cited emails showing the close relationship that developed between the industry and two supervisors, along with a lead member of the county executive staff. At times, the grand jury wrote, it seemed lobbyists were not only recommending how the supervisors should vote but trying to “command” them.
Florida – Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/1/2020
A federal appellate court temporarily stopped a judge’s order that granted hundreds of thousands of felons the right to vote, the latest turn in Florida’s battle over voting rights, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of state officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who asked the court to stop a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. He ruled DeSantis and Florida elections officials cannot keep felons from voting if they cannot afford to pay off all court fees, fines, and restitution, finding that the requirement is unconstitutional.
Hawaii – Giving Honolulu Ethics Commission More Powers Now in Hands of Voters
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Gordon Y.K. Pang | Published: 7/8/2020
The city council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that puts a measure on the November ballot to give the Honolulu Ethics Commission the final say over its budget. It has been a thorny issue between mayoral administrations and the commission for years, dating back to when longtime Executive Director Chuck Totto was at the helm and complained about the Department of Corporation Counsel having the final authority over the commission’s staffing and budget.
Illinois – Ald. Michele Smith Keeps Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Proposed Change to Lobbying Rules on Indefinite Hold
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 7/5/2020
Ald. Michele Smith, chairperson of the city council’s Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, said she has no plans to call Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s lobbying reform ordinance for a vote. The mayor wants to roll back part of a package the council passed in December. If Lightfoot’s plan passed, elected officials from outside Chicago could again lobby city council, the mayor’s office, and other city government offices, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving the city. Aldermen adopted the stronger regulations last fall as a federal investigation reached into the world of lobbying at the Capitol.
Illinois – Aurora Panel Sees No Need for Local Campaign Contribution Limit
Chicago Tribune – Steve Lord (Aurora Beacon-News) | Published: 7/8/2020
An Aurora City Council committee declined to go any further with adding a limit to campaign contributions in the city’s ethics ordinance. A consensus among the five members of the Rules, Administration, and Procedures Committee said they saw no need for the local limit because the state already limits political donations in state election law. The proposal would have limited council members from receiving contributions from people or organizations who have done business with the city.
Louisiana – Louisiana’s Cap on Lobbyist Wining and Dining Edges Up a Bit
AP News – Staff | Published: 7/5/2020
Lobbyists in Louisiana can spend a bit more to entertain public officials. The limit on food and drink spending edged up one dollar per person, per occasion. The new limit per person at an event is now $63.
Maine – Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine
Boston Globe – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 7/6/2020
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is facing the toughest re-election race of her career, one that could determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber in November. After coasting to a fourth term in 2014 with 69 percent of the vote, Collins is now among the Senate’s most endangered incumbents. She is being out-raised by Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House and her likely Democratic opponent, and outside political groups seeking to oust the sole remaining New England Republican in Congress, one of a nearly extinct breed of moderates who once made up a powerful centrist bloc.
Maryland – MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine
MSN – Alessia Grunberger (Patch) | Published: 7/6/2020
Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine agreed to pay a $5,000 fine in connection to a probe which found he violated county ethics law. The probe stems from his dealings with two private companies prior to his service with the county in 2018. Shortly before becoming the county’s chief administrative officer, Kleine was Baltimore’s budget director. At the time, he worked with two contractors, Balancing Act and Clear Impact LLC.
Massachusetts – Judge Clears Way for Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi to Lobby on Beacon Hill
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 7/3/2020
Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi won a court ruling allowing him to lobby the state Legislature and executive branch despite his prior criminal conviction. A judge found the statute prohibiting people convicted of certain state crimes from registering as lobbyists did not apply to applicants like DiMasi, who were convicted of federal offenses. Secretary of State William Galvin invoked the law to disqualify DiMasi’s application. DiMasi was convicted in 2011 for using his clout as speaker to steer state contracts to a software company in exchange for $65,000 in payments funneled through a law firm. Galvin’s office argued the state’s ethics law should bar DiMasi from lobbying until 10 years after his conviction.
Michigan – Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 7/6/2020
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit backed by Michigan Republicans that attempted to overturn a 2018 ballot measure that changed the process of drawing the state’s political districts. U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff’s ruling referenced another recent decision by a three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously upheld a lower court decision deeming the new law constitutional. Changes to the Michigan Constitution approved by voters gave a new redistricting commission responsibility for drawing legislative district lines after the 2020 election, shifting that power from the Legislature. A 13-member body comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents will be assembled later this year.
Montana – Lieutenant Governor Fined $1K for Violating Ethics Laws
AP News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 7/8/2020
Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney was fined the maximum of $1,000 for violating state ethics laws by participating in a campaign-related video conference call from his state office this spring. Cooney, who is running for governor, has said he participated in a Democratic Governors Association call on his personal laptop in his office at the Capitol because he was on a tight schedule as the state dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign called it an isolated incident. State law bans public employees from using public time, facilities, or equipment for campaign purposes.
New Jersey – COVID-19 Has Changed Trenton Lobbying in Many Ways, from Remote Conversations to Clients’ Priorities
roi-nj.com – Brett Johnson | Published: 6/29/2020
Lobbying in New Jersey has changed since March 9, the date Gov. Phil Murphy declared a public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. David Pascrell, co-chairperson of the government affairs department of law firm Gibbons P.C., said there are a couple of things in the world of lobbying that have made the past few months a “whirlwind” for public affairs professionals. At the same time, public affairs professionals say as a general rule, it has been more difficult to connect with overworked state leaders purely remotely. Sal Anderton, legislative director at Porzio Government Affairs, said the profession has lost one of its most valuable assets – what he calls “shoe-leather lobbying.”
New Jersey – NJ Senator Who Was Fired and Investigated by Linden Council Wants to Limit Investigations
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger | Published: 7/1/2020
A New Jersey senator fired from his job as a prosecutor in Linden, and who is the focus of an investigation that found he did not show up for work, now wants to limit city council powers to investigate employees. A bill introduced by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari would preempt municipal governing bodies from investigating their own members or former employees, limiting their probers to current employees of the executive branch. Scutari was a municipal court prosecutor at the time he was fired in January 2019. The city’s investigation of his work performance started a month later.
Ohio – Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave
Toledo Blade – Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms | Published: 7/7/2020
The bribery and extortion scandal that has rocked the Toledo City Council threw the body into further chaos when President Matt Cherry abruptly adjourned a meeting because three out of four charged members refused to leave. Cherry said the rest of council did not feel comfortable meeting with any of those who are facing charges in attendance. “You’re innocent until proven guilty, we understand that,” Cherry said, but he explained that citizens of Toledo did not want to see council members who are accused of federal crimes to conduct business for the city.
Pennsylvania – Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban
Delaware County Times – Kathleen Carey | Published: 7/6/2020
The Delaware County Council took a first step towards formalizing a change to the administrative code that could lead to ethics reform. The proposal would prohibit gifts of more than $250 from any person who sought legislative or administrative action from the county in the last 12 months. It would prohibit cash gifts, as well as the solicitation of gifts. There are also a proposed set of exceptions.
Tennessee – Registry of Election Financer Reaffirms Towns’ Settlement Penalty
Daily Memphian – Sam Stockard | Published: 7/8/2020
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance confirmed a $22,000 settlement penalty for campaign reporting violations for state Rep. Joe Towns to sidestep a potential open meetings violation. Registry members also revealed Towns was prepared to file a constitutional challenge questioning whether the group could keep him off the ballot if it did not approve the settlement in a last-minute meeting before the April 2 qualifying deadline at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Washington – Seattle City Council Won’t Fulfill Mayor Durkan’s Request to Investigate Sawant, González Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 7/1/2020
The Seattle City Council will not fulfill Mayor Jenny Durkan’s request to investigate and potentially expel Councilperson Kshama Sawant for alleged bad behavior. Council President M. Lorena González said she wants the body to concentrate on other work. Durkan asked the council to investigate Sawant for taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest march to Durkan’s home and for several other actions. The mayor accused Sawant of leading the march and mentioned graffiti spray painted at her property; organizers said Sawant was an invited speaker. Sawant characterized Durkan’s move as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement.
West Virginia – Ethics Commission in Transition as Executive Director, Commissioner Exit
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 7/5/2020
The West Virginia Ethics Commission accepted the retirement of Executive Director Rebecca Stepto. She took over as head of the commission in 2014, first on an interim basis, following the panel’s firing of then-Executive Director Joan Parker without explanation. Commission Chairperson Robert Wolfe noted Stepto led the commission through tumultuous times, including budget cuts and implementation of 2014 legislation that completely reorganized the agency.
Wisconsin – Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings
AP News – Todd Richmond | Published: 7/6/2020
A federal appeals court panel upheld a host of Republican-authored voting restrictions in Wisconsin, handing conservatives a significant win in a pair of lawsuits just months before residents in the battleground state cast their ballots for president. The three-judge panel found the state can restrict early voting hours and restored a requirement that people must live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote. The panel also said emailing and faxing absentee ballots is unconstitutional. The court blocked an option to allow people to vote without an ID if they show an affidavit saying they tried to obtain one.
July 8, 2020 •
Elections National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons […]
National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico
National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call
Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times
National: “Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book” by Shane Harris and Michael Kranish for Washington Post
National: “When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped” by Kenneth Vogel for New York Times
Canada: “Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed” by Jordan Press (Canadian Press) for MSN
Maryland: “MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine” by Alessia Grunberger (Patch) for MSN
California: “Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry” by Joe Mozingo for Los Angeles Times
Michigan: “Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission” by Malachi Barrett for MLive.com
June 12, 2020 •
National/Federal Amid Pandemic and Upheaval, New Cyber Risks to the Presidential Election MSN – David Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 6/7/2020 The rush to accommodate remote voting is leading a small number of states to […]
Amid Pandemic and Upheaval, New Cyber Risks to the Presidential Election
MSN – David Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 6/7/2020
The rush to accommodate remote voting is leading a small number of states to experiment with or expand online voting, an approach the Department of Homeland Security deemed “high risk” in a recent report. It has also put renewed focus on the assortment of online state voter registration systems, which were among the chief targets of Russian hackers in 2016. Their security is central to ensuring that, come November, voters receive their mail-in ballots or can gain access to online voting. While Russian hackers stopped short of manipulating voter data in 2016, American officials determined the effort was likely a dry run for future interference.
Appeals Court Upholds Order to Restore Reporter’s White House Press Pass
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/10/2020
A federal appeals court endorsed a judge’s order restoring a White House press pass to a reporter who wound up in a verbal altercation with one of President Trump’s most loyal and outspoken supporters in the Rose Garden last year. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled the White House violated the constitutional due process rights of Playboy reporter Brian Karem by suspending his pass for 30 days after the heated exchange with talk show host and former White House aide Sebastian Gorka at the end of a social media summit.
‘Bloomberg Loophole’ Paves the Way for Rich Donors to Ignore Contribution Limits
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 6/5/2020
After suspending his presidential bid, Michael Bloomberg transferred $18 million from his campaign to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to back its organizing push in 12 battleground states. The DNC’s windfall far exceeds the $35,500 maximum legal contribution an individual can give to a national party committee in the 2019-2020 election cycle, and watchdogs immediately flagged it as pushing the boundaries of campaign finance law. The legal justification for the transfer comes down to a quirk of FEC reporting practice, said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.
Coronavirus Was Paul Manafort’s Ticket Home. Many Other Old, Ill, Nonviolent Inmates Are Still in Prison.
USA Today – Kristine Phillips | Published: 6/9/2020
Attorneys and advocates say there are many old and nonviolent prisoners who are not a threat to public safety and yet remain behind bars, even as the coronavirus continues to infect hundreds of inmates and staff. The way in which the federal Bureau of Prisons has implemented Attorney General William Barr’s order to expedite moving vulnerable prisoners to home confinement has been inconsistent, confusing, and slow, attorneys and advocates say. The agency has broad discretion in determining who can spend the rest of their sentence at home, but how this gets decided is cloaked in secrecy.
Crapo Staffer Told FBI the Senator Gave Permission for $250K Campaign Investment into Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
The Post Register – Betsy Russell | Published: 6/1/2020
Newly released FBI documents say U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s campaign told the FBI the senator “was aware of and approved” the investment of $250,000 of his campaign donors’ funds into a risky get-rich-quick scheme “at the time of the transaction” in 2008, in which the money disappeared. Crapo, who now chairs the banking committee, has said repeatedly since 2013, when the news broke of the loss of his campaign funds in the scheme, that he knew nothing about it until late 2010, after the money was gone. Documents showed Crapo’s then-campaign manager, Jake Ball, invested the money into the scheme at a time when the campaign was between treasurers.
‘Everything about this is irregular’: Ex-judge tapped to review Flynn case blasts Trump DOJ
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/10/2020
A former federal judge selected to advise on a path forward in the criminal case against Michael Flynn is accusing the Justice Department of exercising a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power” to protect an ally of President Trump, distorting known facts and legal principles to shield former national security adviser from a jail sentence. Former U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson skewered Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the case, describing it as an “irregular” effort that courts would “scoff” at were the subject anyone other than an ally of Trump. The brief featured a reconstruction of the Flynn case and accused the department of contradicting its own arguments and precedents to justify dropping the case against Flynn.
Ex-Sen. Trent Lott: Squire Patton Boggs took ‘low road’ in split
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/9/2020
Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says his ex-firm Squire Patton Boggs “took the low road” in reportedly firing him. Lott added that another former senator, John Breaux, was also planning to leave the lobby shop. Coming amid worldwide demonstrations against killings by police against African Americans, Lott’s exit was viewed on K Street as potentially linked to comments he made that drove him from Senate GOP leadership. Speaking at an event for U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday, Lott recalled Mississippi had supported Thurmond’s segregationist run for president in 1948. “And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either,” Lott said in 2002.
Feds Press Criminal Case Against Flynn Partner
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/7/2020
The Justice Department is pressing forward with its criminal case against Bijan Rafiekian, a onetime business partner of Michael Flynn, despite Attorney General William Barr’s decision to seek to abandon the prosecution of the former national security adviser to President Trump. The filing mentions Flynn’s integral role in the work that led to the two foreign-agent-related felony charges against Rafiekian and maintains the government’s position that Flynn was a co-conspirator in his business partner’s crimes. While the case included an admission by Flynn that he signed off on inaccurate Foreign Agent Registration Act filings about the project that led to Rafiekian’s prosecution: a $600,000 contract Flynn signed for his Flynn Intel Group at the height of the presidential campaign in 2016 to lobby on behalf of a Dutch firm.
GAO Offers Congress Steps to Protect Independence of Federal Watchdogs
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/8/2020
Lawmakers could take steps to prevent President Trump or other executive branch leaders from undermining the independence of federal watchdogs, according to a new report from Congress’ internal audit agency. Trump, who has bristled at the independence of inspectors general, has leaned heavily on temporary appointees to fill the powerful posts, leaving them more susceptible to pressure from within the administration. In some cases, he has turned to officials who already serve in senior roles inside the agency. The Government Accountability Office says lawmakers could require those “dual-hatted” employees to recuse themselves when their independence could be called into question and to vow in writing to protect the identity of whistleblowers who normally turn to inspectors general for protection.
How the Black Lives Matter Movement Went Mainstream
MSN – Jose Del Real, Robert Samuels, and Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020
The three words were once a controversial rallying cry against racial profiling and police violence. Now, “Black lives matter” is painted in bright yellow letters on the road to the White House. Celebrities and chief executives are embracing it. Even U.S.Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican former presidential candidate, posted the phrase on Twitter. As consensus grows about the existence of systemic racism in American policing and other facets of American life, longtime organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement are trying to extend its momentum beyond the popularization of a phrase. Activists sense an opportunity to demand policy changes that once seemed far-fetched.
Joe Biden Let Police Groups Write His Crime Bill. Now, His Agenda Has Changed.
Laredo Morning Times – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 6/8/2020
Joe Biden’s close relationship with police groups while crafting the landmark 1994 crime bill legislation reflected his decades-long partnership with them as he embraced a tough-on-crime persona, one that extended to his work as vice president when he served as a liaison between police and the White House. Now, as Biden runs for president amid a national reckoning over police violence and racial injustice, that long alliance is threatening to undermine a cornerstone of his candidacy. The presumptive Democratic nominee is seeking to channel the anger of African Americans, one of his party’s most important voting blocs, by calling for “real police reform” and promising to combat systemic racism. In doing so, Biden is promising to undo some of the very measures he helped enact.
Political Advertising Grows on Streaming Services, Along with Questions About Disclosure
CNN – Fredreka Schouten | Published: 6/3/2020
Campaign commercials are running more often on services like Hulu, a sign of streaming’s growing importance in the world of politics as more Americans cut the cord on cable subscriptions and independent groups, candidates, and political parties seek new ways to reach their target audiences. The coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home orders it triggered across the country appear to have accelerated growth for streaming services. But the migration by candidates, super PACs, and parties to streaming services has set off alarms for some campaign finance watchdogs because the advertising is not subject to the same disclosure requirements that have governed traditional media for decades.
Political Donations Dropped Off as Coronavirus Pandemic Peaked
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 6/9/2020
Political fundraising took an intense dip as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the nation in mid-March and early April, according to an analysis of campaign contributions. The pandemic forced the leading presidential candidates to cancel in-person fundraisers that would have netted their campaigns millions of dollars. High-profile congressional candidates paused their fundraising activities to assist relief efforts. And the virus’ economic damage that forced 40 million to file for unemployment may have prompted potential donors to save their money.
Rep. Steve King Toxic to K Street
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/3/2020
U.S. Steve King, a pariah within his own party for racist comments, would be too controversial for lobbying firms, trade associations, and corporations after losing his primary election, say lobbyists and K Street headhunters, even as many former lawmakers decamp for such jobs. Many companies and lobbying groups issued statements offering support for racial justice efforts amid protests over the death of George Floyd that have gripped the nation. King also had lost influence among his colleagues well before he lost the Republican primary in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District.
Tech Group Files First Lawsuit Against Trump Over Executive Order Targeting Social Media
Washington Post – Tony Romm | Published: 6/2/2020
A tech group supported by Facebook, Google, and Twitter filed a lawsuit against President Trump, alleging his executive order targeting social media giants threatens to “curtail and chill constitutionally protected speech” during the presidential election. The challenge brought by the Center for Democracy and Technology marks the first major legal test of Trump’s directive, which paves the way for federal agencies to investigate and penalize some of Silicon Valley’s most popular platforms over the way they police politically oriented posts, photos, and videos across the Web.
Trump Draws Rebukes for Suggesting 75-Year-Old Protester Pushed to the Ground in Buffalo Was Part of a ‘Set Up’
Laredo Morning Times – John Wagner (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020
President Trump put forth an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo who suffered head injuries after he was pushed to the pavement by police. A cellphone video of the encounter has now been seen by millions of people and led to assault charges against two officers. Trump tweeted that the confrontation may have been a “set up” coordinated by anti-fascist demonstrators. Trump drew a rebuke from James Martin, a Jesuit priest. “[Gugino] is a peace activist and volunteer with the Catholic Worker movement,” Martin tweeted. “Why spread rumors about someone who embodies the Beatitudes? … Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ not the rumormongers.”
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Attorney for Arizona Tells Federal Court Legislature Can Remove Members with Two-Thirds Vote
KAWC – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/3/2020
Attorneys for the state and a former Arizona House speaker told a federal court the Legislature is free to remove members for any reason at all, including political affiliation and race, as long as they can muster a two-thirds vote. Steve Tully said there was nothing wrong with the procedures used by J.D. Mesnard, who was speaker in 2018, to investigate then-Rep. Don Shooter and eventually have a vote that resulted in his ouster. The claim drew a skeptical response from Judge Marsha Berzon. She asked whether if the Democrats controlled most of the seats, they could simply decide to remove all Republicans.
California – Fundraiser Pleads Guilty in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Joel Ebert | Published: 6/3/2020
A political operative pleaded guilty to bribery, admitting he helped a real estate developer pay off a Los Angeles City Council member for help with a major development project. The guilty plea by Justin Jangwoo Kim is the latest turn in an on-going investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office into “pay-to-play” schemes and other corruption in City Hall. Many details included in the court records have identified the council member as Jose Huizar, who served on a council committee that handles real estate projects and whose offices and home were raided by FBI agents in 2018. Huizar has not been charged with a crime in the case.
California – L.A. Police Union Spent Big in Local Elections. Some Politicians Now Shun the Money
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 6/10/2020
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers, has been a significant force in local elections. In the past decade, the union has given more than $100,000 directly to city candidates. Its independent expenditure committees, which cannot legally be controlled by candidates and do not have the same limits on donations, have spent millions of dollars more. Now, that money is under scrutiny by city residents supporting a national movement against police brutality, and some local politicians say they will not accept it anymore.
California – ‘This Is Money Laundering 101’; More People Charged in Widening SF Public Corruption Probe
KPIX – Staff | Published: 6/8/2020
Three defendants in San Francisco’s public corruption scandal – Sandra Zuniga, Balmore Hernandez, and Florence Kong – were charged with a variety of federal crimes including money laundering, bribery, and making false statements to investigators stemming from a probe of Mohammed Nuru, the former San Francisco Public Works Chief. Nuru was charged for an alleged scheme to bribe a San Francisco Airport commissioner. The complaint against Nuru also alleged he engaged in several additional schemes, including obtaining free and discounted labor and construction equipment from contractors to help him build a personal vacation home while those contractors were also engaging in business with the city.
Colorado – Ethics Commission Concludes Hickenlooper Violated Colorado’s Gift Ban for Public Officials
Colorado Public Radio – Andrew Kennedy | Published: 6/5/2020
The Independent Ethics Commission ruled U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper violated Colorado ethics law as governor by accepting a private jet flight to an official event and by receiving benefits he did not pay for at a meeting of government, business, and financial leaders in Italy. The commission dismissed four other complaints against Hickenlooper that were filed by a conservative group led by a former Colorado House speaker. It scheduled a June 12 hearing to discuss possible fines for the violations as well as for a contempt order it issued when Hickenlooper ignored a subpoena to appear at its hearing.
Florida – GOP Expects to Move Its Convention to Jacksonville After Dispute with North Carolina Over Pandemic Safeguards
MSN – Annie Linskey and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020
Seeking a city willing to allow a large-scale event amid the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans have tentatively settled on Jacksonville, Florida, as the new destination for the premier festivities of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in August. The details of the arrangement are still in flux and RNC aides are scrambling to determine whether the city has enough hotel rooms to accommodate the quadrennial event, which typically kicks off the final stretch of the presidential campaign. The highly unusual decision to seek an alternative location for the convention’s marquee events stems from President Trump’s desire to accept his party’s nomination before an enormous crowd.
Georgia – Georgia’s Election Mess: Many problems, plenty of blame, few solutions for November
New York Times – Richard Fausset and Reid Epstein | Published: 6/10/2020
As multiple investigations begin into what went wrong during with the Georgia primary elections, and as Democrats accuse the state’s Republicans of voter suppression, a picture emerged of a systematic breakdown that both revealed general incompetence and highlighted some of the thorny and specific challenges the coronavirus pandemic may pose to elections officials nationwide. As it seeks answers, Georgia is being roiled by a politically volatile debate over whether the problems were the result of mere bungling, or an intentional effort by Republican officials to inhibit voting. Georgia is expected to be a presidential battleground in November, as well as the site of two contested Senate races that could determine control of the chamber.
Hawaii – How A Major Campaign Donor Got A Million-Dollar Cleaning Contract in Honolulu
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 6/8/2020
The city and county of Honolulu in March gave a $1.4 million contract to a local industrial cleaning company to clean Oahu’s buses every night so the fleet could operate through the coronavirus pandemic. But H2O Process Systems got the contract without having to go through the usual competitive bidding process because the law governing purchases for government agencies was suspended as part of Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation. H2O Process System’s owner, Milton Choy, has been a prolific political donor to Hawaii’s mayors, governors, and lawmakers.
Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds Signs ‘Compromise’ Felon Voting Restriction Bill into Law
KGAN – Caroline Cummings | Published: 6/4/2020
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law that will establish some restrictions if voters ratify a constitutional amendment automatically restoring felons’ voting rights at the completion of their sentence. Current law, the strictest in the nation, bans people with felony records from voting for life unless they successfully petition the governor to get those rights restored. The policy is enshrined in the state constitution and the governor has advocated for the last two years to pass an amendment to change that.
Maryland – Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Expected to Plead Guilty to Perjury in State Case
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 6/9/2020
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is expected to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of perjury in state court, Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton Howard III said, before she departs for federal prison in Alabama. Prosecutors charged her with perjury for willfully omitting her lucrative “Healthy Holly” children’s book business from the financial disclosure forms she filed as a state senator. The perjury charge carries a maximum of 10 years in state prison. Pugh’s federal prison term has been postponed pending the resolution of the state case.
Missouri – Democratic Club in North St. Louis County Fined $2,500 for Cash Withdrawal, Reporting Failures
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 6/4/2020
A St. Louis County Democratic club faces a $2,500 fine after the Missouri Ethics Commission found the group made cash payments to 13 campaign workers and did not properly document the spending in disclosure reports. The Norwood Township Democratic Club’s will have to pay the state $1,600 if it pays within 45 days. The group will have to pay the full fine if it commits any more violations within two years.
Nevada – Judge Extends Signature-Gathering Deadline for Proposed Redistricting Commission Ballot Question
Nevada Independent – Riley Snyder | Published: 5/29/2020
An effort to place a ballot question creating an independent redistricting commission on the 2020 ballot will have a second chance at life after a federal judge agreed to extend a June deadline to turn in signatures for the petition under “unique factual circumstances” brought by the COVID-19 pandemic U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du partially granted the request of Fair Maps Nevada to extend the deadline to collect signatures for the petition, which needs to garner 97,598 signatures by June 24 to make it on to the ballot. Attorneys for the group had said it collected around 10,000 signatures before Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered nonessential business shutdowns and other social distancing directives in mid-March.
New Jersey – N.J. Legislative Aide Accused of Rape Resigns Though Investigation Found No Proof of Wrongdoing, Sources Say
Newark Star Ledger – Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/4/2020
A staff member in the New Jersey Assembly accused of raping a female lobbyist is stepping down from his job after an internal investigation. No charges are expected to be filed against the man, however, after an internal investigation initiated by the state Legislature did not find enough evidence to prove the sexual assault claim. The alleged victim in the case has appealed the ruling and the case is ongoing.
New York – State Ethics Panel Split Over Charges of Cuomo Influence
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 6/10/2020
Six members of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) have called on the panel’s chairperson, Michael Rozen, to conduct a search for an “independent” executive director amid longstanding criticism that JCOPE’s leadership and operations have been too closely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature. JCOPE’s top staff position has been vacant since the departure a year ago of former Cuomo counsel Seth Agata, whose resignation left the embattled commission in search of its fourth executive director in eight years.
Ohio – Councilman Matt Zone, Chair of Police Oversight Committee, Acknowledges Son Is a Cleveland Officer
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Robert Higgs | Published: 6/9/2020
Cleveland City Councilperson Matt Zone publicly acknowledged for the first time his son is serving as an officer with the city police department that Zone oversees as chair of council’s Public Safety Committee. Zone said he checked with the Ohio Ethics Commission when his son joined the police force in December 2015 and was assured that retaining his leadership position on the committee would not pose a problem. Zone also said he chose not to make a public disclosure at the time so as not to cause a distraction for his son as he started his new job. Zone’s disclosure comes as police leaders face criticism from some members of the public about whether the department was adequately prepared for demonstrations on May 30 that evolved into looting in downtown Cleveland.
Oregon – Oregon Redistricting Campaign Hopes Huge Mailing Will Help Initiative Qualify for November Ballot
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 6/10/2020
Oregon voters by the hundreds of thousands are receiving letters asking them to help get an independent redistricting proposal on the November ballot, as coronavirus social distancing guidelines largely rule out traditional signature gathering strategies. Initiative Petition 57 would transfer the job of redrawing Oregon’s legislative and congressional district lines from the state Legislature to a new 12-member commission. Supporters must gather 149,360 valid signatures by July 2 to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
Oregon – The Oregonian/OregonLive’s ‘Polluted by Money’ Wins Inaugural Collier Prize
Portland Oregonian – Staff | Published: 6/10/2020
“Polluted by Money,” a four-part series by Portland Oregonian reporter Rob Davis, won the inaugural Collier Prize for State Government Accountability. The prize is administered by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The series exposed how Oregon’s lack of campaign finance limits led to an easy tolerance of polluters by state lawmakers who benefited from campaign contributions. After the series ran, lawmakers referred a long-stalled constitutional amendment to the November 2020 ballot, which will allow Oregonians to decide whether they want to make political contributions limits legal.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Staff Revolts Over Sidelining of 2 Black Colleagues
New York Times – Rachel Abrams and Marc Tracy | Published: 6/10/2020
Two prominent black staff members, a reporter, and a photojournalist at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said newsroom leaders had unfairly kept them from covering the protests against racism and police violence. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, the union that represents the paper’s staff members, called on readers to send letters demanding that reporter Alexis Johnson and photojournalist Michael Santiago be allowed to cover the protests. More than 80 Post-Gazette staff members have taken the side of their sidelined colleagues in social media posts, the guild said.
South Carolina – Judge Throws Out Upstate Lawmaker’s Suit Against SC GOP, Primary Challenger
The State – Maayan Schechter | Published: 6/5/2020
A South Carolina judge threw out a lawsuit filed by a lawmaker who sued the state Republican Party and its primary backed challenger, Vaughn Parfitt, over allegations the GOP spent beyond the legal expenditure limits. State Rep. Jonathon Hill alleged the party violated ethics laws by spending more than $5,000 on Hill’s primary challenger by way of campaign mailers on multiple dates. Hill’s complaint said the GOP is limited to spending no more than $1,000 per election cycle in support of any campaign.
Tennessee – Campaign Finance Officials Uphold $465,000 Fine Against Ex-Lawmaker Jeremy Durham
MSN – Joel Ebert (The Tennessean) | Published: 6/10/2020
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance rejected an administrative law judge’s decision regarding a $465,000 fine levied against former state Rep. Jeremy Durham. The registry unanimously voted in favor of rejecting an opinion from Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell, who said the panel excessively fined Durham while saying auditors failed to prove his expenditures were illegal. Darnell’s decision came after Durham, who was ousted from the Legislature after facing allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with at least 22 women, appealed the registry’s massive fine against him for violating campaign finance law hundreds of times.
Tennessee – Judge: Tennessee must allow postal voting for all amid virus
Politico – Associated Press | Published: 6/4/2020
Tennessee must give all its 4.1 million registered voters the option to cast ballots by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled. Lyle said the state’s limits on absentee voting during the pandemic constitute “an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.” The decision upends a determination by Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office that fear of catching or unwittingly spreading the virus at the polls would not qualify someone to vote by mail. The state argued such an expansion would not be feasible for the 2020 elections, claiming lack of money, personnel, and equipment for increased voting by mail, among other concerns.
Texas – Federal Appeals Court Extends Block on Voting-by-Mail Expansion in Texas
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 6/4/2020
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals extended its order blocking a lower court’s sweeping ruling that would have allowed all Texas voters to qualify to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. With early voting for the primary runoff elections starting later in June, and the state Supreme Court also blocking expanded voting by mail is a separate case, the ruling effectively eliminates the possibility that Texas voters will be able to legally request mail-in ballots solely because they fear a lack of immunity to the new coronavirus will put them at risk if they vote in person. The issue is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Texas – Furor in Texas GOP After Leaders Post Racist Memes That Suggest Floyd’s Death Is a Hoax
Washington Post – Ted Armus, Meryl Kornfield, and Annie Gowan | Published: 6/6/2020
One Facebook post falsely claimed that the killing of George Floyd in police custody last month was a “staged event,” meant to rile up opposition to President Trump. Another showed a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. next to a banana, an established racist trope. A third claimed that George Soros, the liberal billionaire, paid “white cops to murder black people” and “black people to riot because race wars keep the sheep in line.” All these posts were shared in recent days by Republican county leaders in Texas, some of whom are now facing calls to resign from top officials within their own party. The posts have unleashed controversy in the state where Republicans are struggling to beat back Democratic advances in the diversifying electorate.
Washington – Judge Orders Freedom Foundation to Pay $80,000 in Attorney General’s Campaign Finance Case
Access Washington – Washington Attorney General’s Office | Published: 6/8/2020
A Thurston County Superior Court judge ordered the Freedom Foundation to pay $80,000 for violating Washington’s campaign finance law. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit asserted the organization failed to properly and timely file independent expenditure reports disclosing the value of the legal services it provided to support ballot propositions in the cities of Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton, as required. In January of this year, a judge found the Freedom Foundation violated the law.
Washington DC – Trump-Connected Lobbyist Ends Coronavirus Contract with D.C. Amid Bowser, White House Feud
Washington Post – Josh Dawsey and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 6/5/2020
A lobbyist with ties to President Trump, ended his relationship with the District of Columbia as tensions grew between the president and Mayor Muriel Bowser. Brian Ballard was hired by the city to secure coronavirus funding. “We can’t be effective under the current situation,” Ballard said, about an hour after Trump lambasted Bowser on Twitter as part of a days-long feud over protests in the nation’s capital. Ballard has become one of the most profitable lobbyists in Washington during the Trump administration and he fundraises for the president’s campaign.
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