January 21, 2022 •
National/Federal DirecTV Says It Will Sever Ties with Far-Right Network One America News MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 1/15/2022 DirecTV announced it will sever ties with One America News (OAN) after this year, pulling the conservative news channel […]
DirecTV Says It Will Sever Ties with Far-Right Network One America News
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 1/15/2022
DirecTV announced it will sever ties with One America News (OAN) after this year, pulling the conservative news channel from millions of homes. The channel, which has promoted conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election and coronavirus pandemic, will be dropped in April when its contract expires. OAN’s sister channel, A Wealth of Entertainment, will also be removed from the satellite provider. AT&T has been criticized for playing a foundational role in building up OAN into a Donald Trump-friendly alternative to Fox News. Though DirecTV is now its own company, AT&T owns 70 percent of the satellite provider.
ExxonMobil Aims to Use a Radical Texas Law to Silence Its Critics – in California
Mother Jones – Chris McGreal | Published: 1/18/2022
ExxonMobil is attempting to use an unusual Texas law to target and intimidate its critics, claiming lawsuits against the company over its long history of downplaying and denying the climate crisis violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of free speech. ExxonMobil is asking the Texas Supreme Court to allow it to use the law, known as rule 202, to pursue legal action against more than a dozen California municipal officials. Exxon claims that in filing lawsuits against the company over its role in the climate crisis, the officials are orchestrating a conspiracy against the firm’s first amendment rights.
FEC Report Shows How National Party Committees Allegedly Blow Past Contribution Limits
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/14/2022
A fundraising committee operated jointly by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee in 2016 served as a vehicle for state parties to FEC’s general counsel found almost three years ago. The general counsel’s report, available since 2019, was newly released in an updated and unredacted form because of a development in an associated case. It mirrors findings from the general counsel’s office about similar activity by a joint fundraising committee benefiting Hillary Clinton in 2016. The alleged sum funneled through state party committees in that case was even larger: $112 million.
House Jan. 6 Committee Subpoenas Giuliani, Sidney Powell
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2022
The House committee investigating the insurrection of January 6, 2021, issued subpoenas to members of former President Trump’s outside legal team who pursued and disseminated unfounded claims of mass election fraud, including Trump’s former personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, former White House aide Boris Epshteyn, and lawyers Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell. The committee has also subpoenaed and obtained records of phone numbers associated with Eric Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancé of Donald Trump Jr.
How More Than $404 Million in Taxpayer Money Got Locked Away in a Forgotten Government Fund – and Lawmakers Won’t Spend It or Return It
Yahoo News – Dave Levinthal (Business Insider) | Published: 1/18/2022
Holed away in a government account is a massive cash stash most anyone, from depleted federal programs to coronavirus-throttled charitable causes, would love to tap. But it sits idle and untouched. The intended beneficiaries of the taxpayer-fueled Presidential Election Campaign Fund – presidential candidates – do not want it, as they are soured by its restrictions on their fundraising and spending. Conservatives in Congress would prefer to disband the fund and repurpose its money. Many Democrats want the money to seed a reimagined public campaign finance program contained within a broader “democracy-reform” agenda.
Lawmakers Coming Under Increased Threats – Sometimes from One Another
Yahoo News – Rebecca Beitsch (The Hill) | Published: 1/17/2022
A little over a year after the violent attack on the Capitol, threats targeting lawmakers have only increased alongside a surge of violent speech shared online and even inside the building. Threats against lawmakers have reached an all-time high of 9,600, according to U.S. Capitol Police data. On the anniversary of that attack, the Department of Homeland Security warned that calls for violent action against lawmakers were picking up steam online. That includes a video calling for lawmakers to be hung in front of the White House that has now been viewed more than 60,000 times. Some of the violent rhetoric is coming from within Congress.
Legislatures Across Country Back Off Pandemic Protocols
Colorado Newsline – Sean Scully | Published: 1/19/2022
Across the nation, lawmakers are gathering for the annual ritual of legislative sessions, which in most states takes up the early months of the year. Unlike recent years, when masks and social distancing were common, if not the explicit rule, in many states hardly anyone would know the country was entering the third year of a pandemic. Even in states where COVID-19 protections do remain in place, the issue has exposed a sharp partisan divide and provoked unrest among lawmakers.
Manchin, Sinema Join with GOP in Rejecting Attempt to Change Filibuster Rules, Effectively Killing Democratic Voting Bill
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 1/19/2022
The year-long Democratic push for federal voting rights legislation died in the Senate after Republicans blocked an elections bill for the fifth time in six months and Democrats failed to unite their caucus behind a plan to rewrite the chamber’s rules and pass it anyway. The vote amounted to a bitter but unsurprising finale for the Democratic voting rights effort on Capitol Hill, a campaign backed by top party leaders and pushed by key elements of its coalition even as Sens. Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema made clear they would not weaken the 60-vote rule, defending it as a tool to protect minority-party rights and promote bipartisanship.
Now with Senate Allies, Spanberger’s Legislation to Ban Members of Congress from Trading Stock Gains Traction
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/17/2022
More than a year since U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger first put forth legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading stock, a flurry of action in the Senate has injected some momentum into the proposal. While it is traditionally tough to get Congress to police itself, Spanberger and her co-lead on the legislation, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), have built a bipartisan coalition around the issue spanning the ideological spectrum after several stock-trading controversies during the pandemic raised eyebrows.
Supreme Court Rejects Trump’s Request to Withhold Jan. 6 Materials from House Committee Investigating Capitol Riot
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 1/19/2022
The Supreme Court rejected former President Trump’s request to block the release of some of his White House records to a congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The order turned aside Trump’s request to block the records’ release while the case regarding his assertion of executive privilege continues through the courts. It means there is no legal obstacle to release of the materials from the National Archives and Trump’s lawyers have argued that would make the case moot.
Ted Cruz Finds Friendly High Court Audience in Campaign Finance Challenge
Courthouse News Service – Kelsey Reichman | Published: 1/19/2022
Members of the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed sympathetic to Sen. Ted Cruz in a challenge he brought to a provision of campaign finance law limiting the repayment of federal candidates’ loans to their campaigns. The law places a $250,000 limit on the repayment of personal loans from candidates to campaigns using money from postelection donations. Seeking to test the constitutionality of the law, Cruz lent $260,000 to his 2018 re-election campaign. Cruz says the provision has the effect of deterring the loans. The Biden administration argues Congress intended the provision as an anti-corruption measure.
The Justice Dept. Alleged Jan. 6 Was a Seditious Conspiracy. Now Will It Investigate Trump?
MSN – Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/15/2022
The Justice Department’s decision to charge Oath Keepers with seditious conspiracy makes clear prosecutors consider the attack on the U.S. Capitol part of an organized assault to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power. But so far, the department does not appear to be directly investigating the person whose desperate bid to stay in office motivated the mayhem, former President Trump, either for potentially inciting a riot or for what some observers see as a related pressure campaign to overturn the results of the election.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Fired OC District Attorney’s Investigator Who Accused Todd Spitzer of Bribery Gets Job Back in Arbitration
Orange County Register – Tony Saavedra | Published: 1/17/2022
Michael Leb, a fired Orange County district attorney’s office investigator who accused District Attorney Todd Spitzer of “pay-to-play” schemes, won back his job in arbitration. Arbitrator Michael Leb, who concluded the firing process “was tainted. The charges were not proven, and the termination of Tucker was not for reasonable cause.” Tucker will be paid more than a year in back pay. Tucker was fired amid allegations he unilaterally began investigating his suspicions that Spitzer was giving preferential treatment to campaign donors. Tucker also accused Spitzer with colluding with investigation bureau chief Paul Walters to bury the findings.
California – Tech Companies Spend Millions on California Political Gifts
MSN – Don Thompson (Associated Press) | Published: 1/14/2022
Gov. Gavin Newsom solicited donations totaling nearly $227 million from Facebook, Google, and other private California companies and groups to combat the coronavirus pandemic and help run parts of his administration, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission. While California limits the amount of the gifts and campaign contributions to politicians, there are no limits on so-called behested payments. They are reportable only if they are made at the suggestion of a public official to someone else for a legislative, governmental, or charitable purpose, and only if payments from a single source reach $5,000 in a calendar year.
Colorado – Campaign Contributions Didn’t Require Commissioner’s Recusal, Court Rules
Legal Newsline – Daniel Fisher | Published: 1/19/2022
Citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision that established the constitutional boundaries for determining political conflicts-of-interest, a Colorado court rejected claims that Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly should have recused himself from voting on a concrete plant permit because the company’s shareholders contributed several thousand dollars to his campaign. Central to the decision was the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., which said the due process rights of citizens can be violated in “rare,” “exceptional,” and “extreme” cases where a politician’s vote appears to reflect large campaign contributions.
Colorado – Grand Jury to Investigate Election Tampering Allegations in Mesa County
Canon City Daily Record – Saja Hindi (Denver Post) | Published: 1/13/2022
State and local officials are launching a grand jury investigation into allegations of election equipment tampering and official misconduct in Mesa County, Colorado. Authorities have been investigating a possible security breach in County Clerk Tina Peters’ office after Peters and others allegedly allowed an unauthorized person access to elections equipment. The secretary of state’s office asked Peters to sign a document that placed limits on what she can do for the 2022 elections if she wants to return as clerk, but Peters rejected the offer.
Florida – Florida Governor Proposes Special Police Agency to Monitor Elections
MSN – Lori Rozsa and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2022
A plan by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would establish a special police force to oversee state elections, the first of its kind in the nation, and while his fellow Republicans have reacted tepidly, voting rights advocates fear it will become law and be used to intimidate voters. The proposed Office of Election Crimes and Security would be part of the Department of State, which answers to the governor. DeSantis is asking the Legislature to allocate nearly $6 million to hire 52 people to “investigate, detect, apprehend, and arrest anyone for an alleged violation” of election laws. They would be stationed at unspecified “field offices throughout the state” and act on tips from “government officials or any other person.”
Florida – Records: Tallahassee strategist helped boost ghost candidates with dark money ad buy
MSN – Samantha Gross (Miami Herald) | Published: 1/18/2022
A longtime political strategist paid for more than $500,000 in misleading mailers promoting no-party candidates in three key Florida Senate races in 2020, according to court records released as part of a public corruption probe. Investigators say the ads were meant to confuse voters to benefit the Republican candidates in the races. The mailers featured messaging on issues that historically appeal to Democrats and promoted no-party candidates who had not actively campaigned. The ads urge voters to “cut the strings” from party-backed candidates.
Georgia – Atlanta Public Corruption Trials to Begin After Four Years, Trump-Related Turnover of Prosecutors
Saporta Report – David Penered | Published: 1/18/2022
The federal prosecution of alleged corruption at Atlanta City Hall appears to be advancing after a delay. There are four upcoming trials that could last through the year, and perhaps longer. Authorities filed indictments against public officials and vendors whose city contracts ranged in the millions of dollars. Former President Trump may have had a role in the prosecution’s delay. Three U.S. attorneys have served in Atlanta in the past year. The fourth prosecutor in line to lead the office is Ryan Buchanan, who was nominated by President Biden and is awaiting Senate confirmation.
Illinois – ‘They All Need Somebody That Does What I Do’; Unsealed affidavit reveals new details in Ald. Edward Burke corruption probe
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 1/14/2022
An FBI search warrant affidavit that led to the 2018 raid on Ald. Edward Burke’s City Hall offices was made public, providing new detail on the hundreds of audio and video recordings made in the corruption case that rocked Chicago politics. The affidavit paints a picture of Burke at the height of his power as chair of the Finance Committee, accusing him of constantly prowling for new business for his private law firm and making repeated offers to grease the wheels at City Hall for those he favored.
Maryland – Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby Indicted on Federal Charges She Lied on Financial Transactions to Buy Homes in Florida
Yahoo News – Justin Fenton (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 1/13/2022
A federal grand indicted Baltimore’s top prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, on charges of perjury and making false statements with a series of financial transactions that helped her buy a condominium on Florida’s Gulf Coast and another property near Orlando. Mosby is charged with falsely claiming to suffer financial hardship from the coronavirus to obtain an early withdrawal from her retirement savings to purchase the homes. Prosecutors also allege she lied on a mortgage loan application by hiding an outstanding federal tax debt.
Massachusetts – Lyft Makes Largest One-Time Political Donation in Massachusetts History, Fueling Gig Worker Ballot Fight
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 1/18/2022
The coalition pushing petitions that could reshape how gig economy workers are classified in Massachusetts took in the single largest political donation in state history, helping fund a phalanx of consultants, pollsters, and signature gatherers driving the questions toward the ballot. The rideshare giant Lyft gave $14.4 million to a committee supporting the petitions, most of which came in a $13 million donation on December 30. The committee enlisted Conan Harris & Associates, a management consulting firm founded by the husband of U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley.
Michigan – Ex-Detroit Councilman André Spivey Gets 2-Year Sentence in Bribery Case
Detroit News – Robert Snell and James David Dickson | Published: 1/19/2022
A federal judge sentenced former Detroit City Councilperson André Spivey to two years in federal prison for receiving almost $36,000 in bribes, part of a sprawling corruption scandal engulfing City Hall and the police department. Spivey received about $36,000 in the scheme from a towing industry figure who was working undercover for the FBI, prosecutors said. Spivey received the money on eight separate occasions during a five-year period ending in 2020, including cash during a secret payoff at his 46th birthday party.
Michigan – Michigan Attorney General Refers Investigation into Fake Republican Electors to Federal Prosecutors
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 1/14/2022
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she gave federal prosecutors the details of a year-long investigation into Republicans who signed false documents asserting former President Trump won Michigan’s Electoral College votes. Sixteen Republicans falsely identified themselves as Michigan’s “duly elected and qualified electors” in unofficial certificates that were sent to federal officials who record the Electoral College vote following the 2020 election. Nessel said federal prosecutors could consider fraud and charges, and her office is still considering whether to bring state-level charges.
Missouri – The Kansas City Star Seeks to Intervene in Independence Suit, Unseal Mayor’s Deposition
Kansas City Star – Kevin Hardy | Published: 1/19/2022
The Kansas City Star asked to intervene in a civil lawsuit in Independence for the purpose of unsealing the sworn testimony of Mayor Eileen Weir. In its motion, The Star argues Weir failed to show any legal cause for sealing her deposition and says its closure is a violation of First Amendment protections. Rules say individuals may seek protective orders “for good cause shown.” The Star argues Weir included no justification, but only referenced the fact that she was the mayor and third parties were seeking copies of her deposition transcript.
Montana – Federal Judge Strikes Down Montana’s Clean Campaign Act
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 1/18/2022
U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled a Montana law that was meant to curb last-minute campaign attacks violates free speech rights. Molloy said the Clean Campaign Act “delays, and sometimes even prevents, political speech on the basis of content.” Montana Citizens for Right to Work sued after the state’s Commissioner of Political Practices found it failed to follow the law’s “Fair Notice” provision by giving candidates a heads-up on negative mailers sent out shortly before Election Day in 2020. It is unclear whether the state will appeal the ruling.
New York – N.Y. Attorney General Outlines Pattern of Possible Fraud at Trump Business
MSN – Jonah Bromwich, Ben Protess, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 1/19/2022
New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Donald Trump’s family business of repeatedly misrepresenting the value of its assets to bolster its bottom line, saying in court papers the company had engaged in “fraudulent or misleading” practices. The filing marked the first time the attorney general’s office leveled such specific accusations against the former president’s company. Her broadside ratchets up the pressure on Trump as he seeks to shut down her investigation, which he has called a partisan witch hunt.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Collected $460 Million from Customers; Auditor Unsure If It Was Spent on Bribes
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 1/18/2022
There is no clear evidence to show the $460 million that FirstEnergy charged its customers went to its stated purpose of modernizing the electric grid, an audit found. A 2019 Ohio Supreme Court ruling blocked the company from continuing to apply the charge to customer bills. Daymark Energy Advisors, in an audit for the Public Utility Commission sought to follow the money. The audit comes as consumer advocates have demanded answers as to whether FirstEnergy used the funds in its $60 million political bribery scheme it operated.
Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court Invalidates GOP-Approved Congressional Map ‘Infused with Undue Partisan Bias’
Yahoo News – Jessie Balmert and Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 1/13/2022
The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional district map, saying Republicans violated the Ohio Constitution by drawing districts that favored GOP candidates. That violated language overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018 to prevent a map that unduly favored one party or its incumbents. “When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins,” wrote Justice Michael Donnelly in the court’s opinion.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Legislature’s Redacted Legal Bills Flout Court Ruling, Leave Taxpayers Guessing
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) and Sam Janesch (The Caucus) | Published: 1/11/2022
In May, GOP lawmakers who control the state House and Senate hired the chair of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania to represent them in legal matters at $575 an hour. Within three weeks, Lawrence Tabas and his law firm had charged the chambers more than $36,000 for 78 hours of work, records show. What Tabas did for the Legislature, however, is a mystery. Republican leaders redacted all details about his work from his contract and other public records, continuing a pattern of secrecy surrounding the Legislature’s agreements with private lawyers.
South Carolina – Will 2022 Be the Year for Ethics Reform in South Carolina?
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks | Published: 1/17/2022
Months after a newspaper investigation exposed how dozens of political officials across South Carolina get away with refusing to pay their ethics fines, state lawmakers appear to be taking action. A Senate committee will soon debate a proposal to ban such officials from seeking reelection unless they pay their penalties, an effort to make politicians take the state’s ethics laws, and the watchdog that enforces them, more seriously. It is one of more than two dozen good government bills lawmakers could consider as they begin their 2022 session.
South Dakota – Investigators Say South Dakota AG Was Untruthful About Crash
Yahoo News – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 1/19/2022
Criminal investigators told South Dakota lawmakers they did not believe the state’s attorney general when he told them he never saw the body of the man he fatally struck in a crash in 2020. Investigators said they doubted Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s insistence, both in public and in law enforcement interviews, that he initially thought he hit an animal. A House committee is weighing whether Ravnsborg should face impeachment charges for his conduct. He pleaded no contest to a pair of misdemeanors last year and has said he did not realize he struck Joseph Boever until returning to the scene the next day.
Tennessee – Former Tennessee House Speaker Casada and Ex-Aide Subpoenaed Over Faith PAC
Yahoo News – Andy Sher (Chattanooga Times Free Press) | Published: 1/15/2022
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance moved to subpoena former House Speaker Glen Casada in an effort to audit the Faith Family Freedom Fund, a PAC that spent $7,000 attacking an incumbent lawmaker in 2020. The registry also targeted Casada’s former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, and state Rep. Todd Warner. The fund’s treasurer, Sydney Friedopfer testified she opened the PAC at the request of Cothren, her then-boyfriend. The PAC was used to attack then-Rep. Rick Tillis in the GOP primary race with Warner.
Tennessee – State Officials Fine Nashville Council Member $360K for 36 Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Cassandra Stephenson (The Tennessean) | Published: 1/13/2022
Nashville Council member Jonathan Hall failed to file multiple mandatory campaign finance reports on time, or at all, during election cycles in 2018 and 2019, according to a letter from the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. The agency’s counsel, Lauren Topping, said the allegations span 36 individual violations. Of the reports that Hall’s campaign did file, some lack required donor and vendor information and itemized expenses. Some contain unexplained discrepancies deemed “troubling” by Assistant District Attorney General Brian Ewald. Hall is liable for $360,000 in civil penalties in the case.
Texas – Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s Political Consultant Indicted on Charges of Theft, Bribery in Hemp License Scheme
Texas Tribune – Sneh Dey | Published: 1/18/2022
Todd Smith, a top political consultant to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, was indicted on felony charges of theft and commercial bribery related to taking money in exchange for state hemp licenses that are doled out through Miller’s office. Smith and others were accused of soliciting up to $150,000 to get an “exclusive” hemp license from the Department of Agriculture. Smith allegedly said $25,000 would be used for a public poll on hemp. A hemp license from the state costs $100, according to the arrest warrant.
Texas – Election Officials in Texas Reject Hundreds of Ballot Applications Under State;s New Voting Restrictions
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 1/14/2022
Election officials in one of the most populous counties in Texas have rejected about half of the applications for ballots because of the state’s new voting restrictions enacted by Republicans last year. The clerk’s office in Travis County, the fifth-most-populous county and home to the capital of Austin, cited the law’s recent changes to identification requirements in rejecting about half of the 700 mail-in applications. Other county clerk’s offices in the state are also rejecting applications that fail to meet the new standard.
Virginia – Republican Anger, Progressive Concern Combine in Push to Ban Political Spending by Utilities
Virginia Mercury – Sarah Vogelsong and Graham Moomaw | Published: 1/18/2022
Legislative proposals to curb Virginia utilities’ political contributions may be gaining new traction in Richmond as old resentments over a 2015 utility rate freeze law combine with progressive Democrats’ skepticism of utility influence and Republican anger over Dominion Energy’s contributions to a shadowy PAC attacking Gov. Glenn Youngkin during the 2021 elections. Political contributions by utilities have been a hot-button issue in Virginia in recent years largely due to Dominion, the state’s largest electric utility and for many years the biggest corporate donor in state politics.
Virginia – Youngkin’s Cabinet Shares Ties to Fossil Fuels and Energy Companies
Center for Responsive Politics – Jimmy Cloutier | Published: 1/13/2022
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be his secretary of natural resources drew backlash from Democratic lawmakers and climate activists, who expressed concern about the onetime lobbyist’s ties to the coal industry and his environmental record under former President Trump. As secretary of natural resources, Wheeler would occupy the state’s top environmental post. Wheeler is not the only nominee or staff member in Youngkin’s incoming administration to share ties to fossil fuel companies and energy providers.
Washington DC – DC Pay-to-Play Law to Take Effect November 2022
JD Supra – Staff | Published: 1/18/2022
The District of Columbia’s long-awaited “pay-to-play” law will take effect on November 9, 2022, after over two years of delay. Under the law, certain entities and individuals will be prohibited from making political contributions to certain government officials. In general, the ban will affect those having or seeking business of $250,000 or more with the city government. The individuals covered generally include senior officers at covered entities.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Clerks Rush to Rewrite Voting Instructions After Judge Rules Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes Are Illegal
Yahoo News – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 1/14/2022
Election clerks around Wisconsin scrambled to rewrite their instructions to voters after a judge ruled absentee ballot drop boxes are not allowed under state law. The ruling by Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren is likely to be appealed, but for now, clerks are assuming the decision will remain in place. Bohren’s ruling also barred people from returning any absentee ballots other than their own. That means political groups cannot pick up ballots for voters, but also that people cannot return the ballots of their spouses, parents, or neighbors.
January 17, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “FEC Report Shows How National Party Committees Allegedly Blow Past Contribution Limits” by Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for MSN California: “Tech Companies Spend Millions on California Political Gifts” by Don Thompson (Associated Press) for MSN Tennessee: “State […]
National: “FEC Report Shows How National Party Committees Allegedly Blow Past Contribution Limits” by Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Tech Companies Spend Millions on California Political Gifts” by Don Thompson (Associated Press) for MSN
Tennessee: “State Officials Fine Nashville Council Member $360K for 36 Campaign Finance Violations” by Cassandra Stephenson (The Tennessean) for Yahoo News
Michigan: “Michigan Attorney General Refers Investigation into Fake Republican Electors to Federal Prosecutors” by Malachi Barrett for MLive.com
National: “The Justice Dept. Alleged Jan. 6 Was a Seditious Conspiracy. Now Will It Investigate Trump?” by Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) for MSN
Maryland: “Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby Indicted on Federal Charges She Lied on Financial Transactions to Buy Homes in Florida” by Justin Fenton (Baltimore Sun) for Yahoo News
Virginia: “Youngkin’s Cabinet Shares Ties to Fossil Fuels and Energy Companies” by Jimmy Cloutier for Center for Responsive Politics
Ohio: “Ohio Supreme Court Invalidates GOP-Approved Congressional Map ‘Infused with Undue Partisan Bias’” by Jessie Balmert and Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) for Yahoo News
January 10, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Georgia: “Perdue Sues Over New Georgia Fundraising Law” by Joseph Choi (The Hill) for Yahoo News Michigan: “Judge Tosses GOP Challenge to Exception for Recall Donations” by David Eggers (Associated Press) for MSN Elections Oregon: “Secretary of State […]
Georgia: “Perdue Sues Over New Georgia Fundraising Law” by Joseph Choi (The Hill) for Yahoo News
Michigan: “Judge Tosses GOP Challenge to Exception for Recall Donations” by David Eggers (Associated Press) for MSN
Oregon: “Secretary of State Rules Kristof Ineligible to Run for Oregon Governor” by Connor Radnovich (Salem Statesman-Journal) for Yahoo News
National: “The Battle to Prevent Another Jan. 6 Features a New Weapon: The algorithm” by Steven Zeitchik (Washington Post) for MSN
Delaware: “Jury Finds State Sen. Darius Brown Not Guilty of Misdemeanor Charges” by Xerxes Wilson (Delaware News Journal) for Yahoo News
New York: “Hochul Moves to Scrap Much-Criticized Ethics Agency” by Tom Precious for Buffalo News
Ohio: “Ohio’s House Bill 6 Scandal Widened in 2021, but More Is Yet to Come in 2022” by Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Florida: “Florida Senate Accuses Lawyer Who Submitted Redistricting Map of Violating Rules” by Mary Ellen Klas for Miami Herald
January 7, 2022 •
National/Federal Bureau of Prisons Director to Resign After Scandal-Plagued Tenure During Pandemic MSN – Brian Pietsch and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2022 Michael Carvajal, the director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons whose tenure at the agency was marred […]
Bureau of Prisons Director to Resign After Scandal-Plagued Tenure During Pandemic
MSN – Brian Pietsch and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2022
Michael Carvajal, the director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons whose tenure at the agency was marred by scandals and pandemic-induced struggles, will resign after nearly two years in the top position. In November, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to fire Carvajal after an investigation by the Associated Press found the Bureau of Prisons was a “hotbed of abuse, graft, and corruption [that] has turned a blind eye to employees accused of misconduct.”
Complaint Could Roil DOJ Foreign-Agent Prosecutions
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 12/31/2021
A new legal ethics complaint from a businessperson charged in a prosecution involving unregistered foreign lobbying threatens to roil two major cases in the Justice Department’s effort to crack down on foreign influence in the U.S. political system. The complaint was filed with the Justice Department on behalf of Nickie Lum Davis. The submission alleges Public Integrity Section Principal Deputy Chief John Keller acted unethically by negotiating a plea deal with Davis’ attorney at the time, Abbe Lowell, while Keller was investigating Lowell in a separate inquiry into what a judge called a “bribery for pardon” probe.
Ethics Investigators in Congress Increasingly Run into Walls
San Juan Daily Star – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 12/30/2021
As U.S. House ethics investigators were examining four cases this fall detailing a sweeping array of improper financial conduct by lawmakers, they ran into an obstacle: two of the lawmakers under scrutiny refused to meet with them or provide documents. The investigators were not surprised. Over the past decade, fewer and fewer House members have been willing to cooperate with congressional investigations, a development that ethics experts warn could reduce accountability for misdeeds and erode trust in the institution of Congress.
Facebook Groups Topped 10,000 Daily Attacks on Election Before Jan. 6, Analysis Shows
Anchorage Daily News – Craig Silverman, Craig Timberg, Jeff Kao, and Jeremy Merrill (Washington Post) | Published: 1/4/2022
Facebook groups swelled with at least 650,000 posts attacking the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory between Election Day and the January 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, with many calling for executions or other political violence. The barrage, averaging at least 10,000 posts a day, turned the groups into incubators for the baseless claims supporters of then-President Trump voiced as they stormed the Capitol, demanding he get a second term. Many posts portrayed Biden’s election as the result of widespread fraud that required extraordinary action, including the use of force, to prevent the nation from falling into the hands of traitors.
Fear, Anger and Trauma: How the Jan. 6 attack changed Congress
MSN – Paul Kane, Mariana Sotomayor, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 1/3/2022
A year after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the House of Representatives can still look like a crime scene. Five metal detectors ring the outer doors to prevent weapons from getting onto the chamber floor. The trauma and fear from last year’s attack continue throughout the Capitol. Some lawmakers and staff continue to receive help from counselors to deal with post-traumatic stress. Shouting matches are common occurrences, with the potential for actual physical confrontation lingering. Interviews revealed a Congress that remains on edge and where worries about more violence are front of mind for many.
Garland: DOJ will hold those responsible for Jan. 6 riot accountable, whether they were present or committed other crimes
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 1/5/2022
Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed to hold all those responsible for the January 6 riot accountable, whether they were at the Capitol or committed other crimes surrounding the day’s events, saying investigators are methodically building more complicated and serious cases and would prosecute people “at any level.” Garland’s remarks came as he faces pressure to do and say more about the investigation, and to focus more acutely on the actions of former President Trump and his associates.
GOP Election Reviews Face Battleground State Legal Tests
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 1/6/2022
Republicans running partisan reviews of the 2020 election results and Democrats trying to stop them are barreling toward court showdowns in two key swing states. Republican-led legislative chambers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are still forging ahead with investigations similar to earlier efforts in states such as Arizona, looking for evidence of fraud or other malfeasance in the vote. Election experts have warned that the reviews are a political vehicle for former President Trump and his followers to launder their conspiratorial beliefs about his loss into the mainstream under the guise of government investigation.
House Panel Asks Sean Hannity of Fox News to Cooperate in Jan. 6 Inquiry
New York Times – Michael Grynbaum and Luke Broadwater | Published: 1/4/2022
The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has requested that Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, respond to questions about his communications with former President Donald Trump and his staff in the days surrounding the riot. The committee detailed a series of text messages between the conservative host and senior officials in the Trump White House, illustrating Hannity’s unusually elevated role as an outside adviser to the administration. The texts suggest Hannity was aware of, and concerned about, what Trump was planning for January 6, and bracing for a possible mass resignation of top White House lawyers as a result.
Jan. 6 Committee Slams Trump Bid for Supreme Court Detour on Records Subpoena
Courthouse News Service – Kelsey Reichmann | Published: 12/30/2021
The committee investigating the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol urged the Supreme Court to deny a last-ditch effort from former President Trump to block congressional oversight of his records from the day. The opposition brief notes it was Trump who invited his supporters to the nation’s capital for an event and then encouraged them to march on the Capitol building, after the failure of his other efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Pointing to the landmark 1977 case that forced disclosure of the Nixon tapes, the committee contends Trump has only personal disagreement with the accurate application of precedent by the lower courts.
Nonfungible Tokens the New Fad for Campaign Fundraising
MSN – Gopal Ratnam (Roll Call) | Published: 1/4/2022
Some candidates are offering nonfungible tokens (NFTs) as part of their campaign fundraising. NFTs are a type of digital asset that may include things like posters, book covers, and sports cards and are identified by a unique code. Unlike cryptocurrencies, NFTs cannot be used in commercial transactions. Just as candidates seeking to raise money have always tapped into the hype of new technologies, the fascination with NFTs may be driven by its novelty, said Josh White of Vanderbilt University. If candidates allow donors to pay for NFTs using cryptocurrency, then it could open the door to campaign contributions from unknown donors, White said.
PAC Giving Continues to Give Some Companies Pause
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/5/2022
After the violent attack on the Capitol one year ago, dozens of corporate PACs made the unusual move of turning off their political donations. Most resumed their giving within months. But a few will withhold donations to the 147 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, at least through the 2022 midterm election cycle. The companies may be relying on other avenues of political influence, such as outside lobbyists to build connections with those members and their aides.
They Stormed the Capitol. Now They’re Running for Office.
Politico – Brittany Gibson | Published: 1/5/2022
The Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol is remembered as one of the darkest and most shameful episodes in American history. But at least 57 individuals who played a role in that day’s events – either by attending the rally that preceded the riots, gathering at the Capitol steps, or breaching the Capitol itself – are now running for elected office. Rather than disqualifying them from public service, the events appear to have served as a political springboard for dozens of Republicans who will be on the ballot this year for federal, state, and local offices.
Twitter Permanently Suspends Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Personal Account Over Covid-19 Misinformation
Yahoo Finance – Yelena Dzhanova and John Dorman (Business Insider) | Published: 1/2/2022
Twitter permanently suspended U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s personal account for spreading COVID-19 misinformation. Only weeks after assuming office, Greene was stripped of her committee assignments, an extraordinary move taken by the Democratic-controlled House after Greene promoted a range of conspiracy theories and endorsed political violence on social media.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – 2-Week Campaign Fundraising ‘Blackout’ Starts Tuesday
Alabama Daily News – Mary Shell | Published: 1/6/2022
January 11 is the start of the legislative session in Alabama and a short “blackout” window in which candidates for state office cannot raise funds while lawmakers are meeting in Montgomery. In theory, the window keeps sitting legislators from accepting money while they are voting on bills. In practice, it now only covers about two of the possible 15 weeks of session. “It’s just stupid,” Rep. Mike Ball, chairperson of the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee, said about the blackout.
Alaska – Alaska Legislative Ethics Committee Tells Eagle River Lawmaker to Stop Blocking Critics on Facebook
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 12/27/2021
An Alaska legislative ethics committee concluded Sen. Lora Reinbold violated state law by blocking a critic from commenting on her legislative Facebook page. In part because the Legislature has not updated its social media policies since 2011, the committee recommended no punishment. The complaint was filed by Rick Sinnott, a retired Fish and Game biologist who challenged Reinbold’s statements about COVID-19 but saw those comments removed and himself banned from her page.
Arizona – Arizona Secretary of State’s Online Signature-Gathering System Breaks After Redistricting
Tucson Sentinel – Jeremy Duda (Arizona Mirror) | Published: 1/5/2022
Voters who want to sign online petitions and the candidates who need those signatures to get their names on the ballot this November are being thwarted by a glitch in the Arizona secretary of state’s system caused by the redistricting process. In counties that are overseeing springtime municipal elections, the glitch likely will not be fixed until nearly the deadline for candidates to file signatures so they can appear on the ballot.
Arizona – GOP Officials in Arizona’s Largest County Confirm 2020 Election Was Secure in Rebuttal to Trump Claims
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 1/5/2022
The November 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county was administered properly and not marred by fraud, the Republican-led local government concluded in a report. The document debunks, one by one, vague allegations of potential problems previously identified by the GOP-led state Senate and championed by former President Trump and his allies. Maricopa County officials said the rebuttal, released on the eve of the anniversary of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, was intended to highlight the ongoing dangers of unfounded claims of mass election fraud.
California – San Diego Publishes a Beginner’s Guide to Participating in City Lawmaking
San Diego Union Tribune – Morgan Cook | Published: 12/31/2021
Do you want to get involved in making and changing laws in San Diego, but are not sure how? There is a brochure for that. The city created “Making a Difference: A Beginners Guide to Affecting Municipal Laws in the City of San Diego” to help residents participate in local government. The pamphlet is available on the city clerk’s website. Included in the guide is information about lobbying rules, making public comments at council and committee meetings, and suggesting ballot proposals.
Colorado – Failed Colorado Congressional Candidates Still Have Lots of Campaign Money. Here’s Why.
Durango Herald – Jesse Paul and Sandra Fish (Colorado Sun) | Published: 12/28/2021
When U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado lost his 2020 reelection bid, his campaign still had $1.2 million in the bank. Nearly a year later, most of the money was still there. Gardner’s leftover campaign cash is not unusual, however. When a candidate ends a congressional bid, they can choose to close their accounts or keep the money with an eye toward the future and sometimes another campaign, which the dollars can be used toward. Political consultant Tyler Sandberg said there is no uniform reason campaigns keep their leftover cash. “But people don’t leave that money out there for no reason – there’s always a strategy behind it,” Sandberg said.
Delaware – New Law Could Give Campaign Finance Scofflaws a Big Break
MSN – Randall Chase (Associated Press) | Published: 12/27/2021
Delaware election officials have failed to act as mandated by law against candidates and committees who have not filed required campaign finance reports, but the scofflaws could escape liability under a new law that became effective January 1. Candidates and committees owed more than $623,000 in fines for failing to file campaign finance reports on time. The Department of Elections appears to have done little to collect the outstanding fines or to enforce the reporting requirements. The new law eliminates the mandatory $50 daily fine and instead says the commissioner “may” issue a citation.
Delaware – Sen. Darius Brown’s Criminal Trial Starts Wednesday After Misdemeanor Arrest in May
Yahoo News – Sarah Garland (Delaware News Journal) | Published: 1/5/2022
The trial of Delaware Sen. Darius Brown began in a case that has revealed inconsistencies in how lawmakers are treated and could end Brown’s legislative career. Delaware State Police charged Brown with offensive touching and disorderly conduct after police said the senator punched an acquaintance and threw a glass of water in a restaurant. In the General Assembly, Brown has faced multiple punishments for the arrest and a separate incident where he allegedly got into a verbal altercation with Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown. The Senate plans to conduct its first ethics inquiry in 35 years into Brown’s behavior.
Florida – Clearwater Art Exhibit Used Trash to Make a Point, Then Questions Arose
Yahoo News – Tracey McManus (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 1/4/2022
Citizens can visit nine locations throughout Clearwater to see garbage transformed into art. Lina Teixeira, a city council candidate, organized the exhibit, in which she and eight others created artwork using cigarette butts, plastic bottles, and other trash that had been collected during a community-wide cleanup. But the project also created an ethical mess. Teixeira received a $6,000 grant from the Downtown Development Board. She said her portion covered a fraction of her costs to install and market the exhibit. “As a city council candidate, does her request to use city facilities as display sites represent a conflict of interest?” Clearwater cultural affairs coordinator Chris Hubbard asked City Attorney David Margolis in an email.
Florida – Gov. Ron DeSantis Moves Jacksonville News Conference After Protest and Handcuffing of Community Leader
Yahoo News – Dan Scanlan (Florida Times-Union) | Published: 1/4/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had to make new arrangements for his recent news conference in Jacksonville after a handful of people protested and refused to leave the Duval County Department of Health building. Activist Ben Frazier was detained by officers after being warned he was trespassing if he would not leave as asked. He was handcuffed and escorted from his motorized wheelchair to a patrol vehicle. The governor’s staff said the event was private and for credentialed media only.
Florida – Miami-Dade Prosecutors Target Prominent Political Consultants in Sham Candidate Case
Bakersfield Californian – Samantha Gross, Ana Ceballos, and David Ovalle (Miami Herald) | Published: 1/5/2022
Prosecutors appear to be targeting prominent Republican and Democratic operatives in Florida for potential criminal charges stemming from a 2020 Miami-Dade County election scheme marked by sham candidates. The criminal case is focused on whether former Sen. Frank Artiles paid an auto-parts dealer who shared the same surname as the Democratic incumbent more than $40,000 to run as a no-party candidate in the race for Senate District 37 to “confuse voters and influence the outcome” of the 2020 election, according to his arrest affidavit.
Hawaii – Former Solar Executive Will Head Ethics Commission
Honolulu Civil Beat – Stewart Yerton | Published: 1/3/2022
Robert Harris, a former Sierra Club director and corporate lawyer, was selected executive director and general counsel of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission. For the past eight years, Harris has been the director of public policy at Sunrun, a solar energy company.
Illinois – As Federal Case Still Orbits Madigan, What’s Next for the ComEd Bribery Probe?
Bloomington Pantagraph – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 1/3/2022
It is Illinois’ biggest federal corruption investigation in years, but the most remarkable thing about the Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) bribery probe in 2021 might be what did not happen. At the beginning of the year, Michael Madigan, the then-powerful House speaker whose grip on the General Assembly was exposed as “Public Official A” in the ComEd scandal and again in a postelection indictment of a key player and others alleging ComEd paid bribes to win his influence. With the grand jury investigation still open, 2022 is certain to bring more speculation over whether Madigan will ever be charged. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
Indiana – These Special Interest Groups Spend the Most on Lobbying Indiana Lawmakers
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook | Published: 1/3/2022
Special interests spent more than $115 million over the past five years on lobbying to influence the Indiana General Assembly. The biggest spenders have a deeply vested financial interest in what happens at the Capitol. The biggest spender was telecommunications giant AT&T. The phone and internet service provider spent more than $1.7 million on lobbying over the past five years.
Kentucky – Convicted Former Top KY Democrat Makes a Case for U.S. Supreme Court Consideration
Lexington Herald-Leader – Austin Horn | Published: 12/31/2021
A month after he reported to prison, prominent businessperson and former Kentucky Democratic Party chief Jerry Lundergan asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider overturning his conviction for illegally funneling $200,000 to his daughter’s political campaign. The petition states the federal ban on corporate contributions is unconstitutional when applied to donations from a close family member, as Lundergan gave the money to his daughter Alison Lundergan Grimes in her 2014 challenge against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Maryland – Omicron Scrambles Lawmakers’ Pre-Session Fundraisers
Maryland Matters – Josh Kurtz | Published: 1/3/2022
For Maryland lawmakers, there is always a fundraising scramble in early January leading up to the start of the General Assembly session, when a 90-day blackout on raising money kicks in for state legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller. According to lists of political events supplied by three Annapolis lobbying firms, at least 55 fundraisers for state lawmakers are on tap, including one hours before the annual legislative session begins on January 12. But COVID-19 has changed everything.
Michigan – Feds Demand Ex-Detroit Councilman Spivey Get Stiff Prison Sentence
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 1/5/2022
Prosecutors said former Detroit City Councilperson André Spivey should spend more than three years in federal prison for pocketing more than $35,000 in bribes and sacrificing the best interests of city residents. They asked that Spivey be sentenced to 40 months for receiving bribes from a towing industry official who was seeking favors and trying to buy the council member’s vote. He received the money on eight separate occasions during a five-year period. Spivey is the highest-ranking person convicted in an ongoing crackdown on public corruption within city government and the police department.
Michigan – Ungerrymandered: Michigan’s maps, independently drawn, set up fair fight
MSN – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 12/29/2021
One of the country’s most gerrymandered political maps has suddenly been replaced by one of the fairest. A decade after Michigan Republicans gave themselves seemingly impregnable majorities in the state Legislature by drawing districts that heavily favored their party, a new independent commission approved maps that create districts so competitive that Democrats have a chance of recapturing the state Senate for the first time since 1984. The work of the new commission stands in contrast to the type of hyper-partisan gerrymandering that has swept much of the country, and it may highlight a potential path to undoing such gerrymandering.
New Mexico – Ethics Agency Calls for Firmer Disclosure Laws
Yahoo News – Dan McKay (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 1/2/2022
The New Mexico Ethics Commission is recommending increased transparency requirements for lobbyists, such as disclosure of what bills they are working on and the provisions they are advocating for or against. State lawmakers, a handful of whom are married to lobbyists, would also have to disclose before voting if any family member lobbied on a bill. The commission is also proposing that lawmakers release more information about their sources of income and business relationships. the recommendations are designed to shed more light on potential conflicts at the Capitol.
New York – Hochul Charts New York’s Recovery in First State of State Speech
New York Times – Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Grace Ashford | Published: 1/5/2022
In her first State of the State address, Gov. Kathy Hochul outlined her vision for shepherding New York through its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, while vowing to open a new chapter of ethical, more transparent government. Hochul faces a contested Democratic primary in June, her first election since she unexpectedly ascended to the state’s highest job after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned in August. She positioned herself as a champion of good government, proposing to overhaul the state ethics commission.
New York – Internal Strife Engulfs New York’s Ethics Panel
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/30/2021
The internal strife within the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) follows years of criticism by many lawmakers, and some commissioners, about its alleged unwillingness to pursue meaningful investigations of top government officials, including former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Gov. Kathy Hochul has suggested the panel needs to be disbanded and replaced by an ethics body whose members are not appointed by the governor or other top lawmakers.
New York – Over 4 Months, Hochul’s Office Discloses No Meetings with Lobbyists
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/28/2021
In the four months since Kathy Hochul became governor of New York, a public database, Project Sunlight, has not listed a single meeting between her administration and interests seeking to influence policymaking. Lobbyists themselves, however, reported having more than 200 instances of directly lobbying Hochul’s office on behalf of various interests in September and October that concerned regulations, rate making, and procurement – all topics covered by a 2011 disclosure law.
New York – Trump, Ivanka, Don Jr. Subpoenaed in New York AG’s Probe
Yahoo News – Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 1/3/2022
The New York attorney general’s office subpoenaed former President Trump and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., demanding their testimony in an investigation into the family’s business practices. Attorney General Letitia James’ office said the subpoenas are part of a civil probe involving matters including “the valuation of properties owned or controlled” by Trump and his company. Lawyers for the Trumps filed court papers to block the subpoenas, accusing James of attempting to obtain testimony that could then be used against the Trumps in a parallel criminal investigation being overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
North Dakota – AG Opinion Gives Clarification to North Dakota Ethics Panel
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 12/30/2021
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem concluded that a crucial section of the state constitution’s ethics amendment appears constitutional. His opinion gives clarification to the state Ethics Commission on its path in making rules for conflicts-of-interest. The language deals with state officials avoiding the appearance of bias and disqualifying themselves from “quasi-judicial” proceedings, such as members of the Public Service Commission, when campaign contributions create a perceived bias. It takes effect in 2022.
Ohio – From Pancaking and Coingate to ECOT and House Bill 6: 50 years of Ohio public corruption cases
Yahoo News – Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/29/2021
Ohio is embroiled in the biggest public corruption case in state history and the largest open inquiry in any statehouse in the country. In June 2021, lawmakers expelled Larry Householder from his legislative seat, nearly a year after he was charged in a federal racketeering case. Householder, who was investigated by federal authorities two decades ago during his first stint as speaker, has pleaded not guilty. The racketeering case is expected to go to trial in 2022. But he is far from the first public official to be embroiled in scandal.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Court Rules Against Former Pittsburgh Councilwoman Darlene Harris in Campaign Finance Case
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – Paula Reed Ward | Published: 12/28/2021
A state appellate court ruled former Pittsburgh City Councilperson Darlene Harris must pay fines levied against her for failing to file financial disclosure reports during her campaign in 2019. The Commonwealth Court found the $4,150 fine levied against Harris was not excessive and was properly authorized. The ordinance, enacted by the city in 2015, requires candidates for office to provide a campaign finance report on the first business day of each of three months leading up to Election Day.
Rhode Island – GOP Rhode Island Lawmaker Under Fire for Suggesting She Lost a Black Friend to Critical Race Theory
The Day – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 12/29/2021
Rhode Island Rep. Patricia Morgan is facing backlash after suggesting critical race theory cost her a friendship. “I had a Black friend. I liked her and I think she liked me, too,” tweeted Morgan. “But now she is hostile and unpleasant. I am sure I didn’t do anything to her, except be White.” The tweet was met with criticism from state Republicans and Democrats who called her comments “ignorant and embarrassing.” Her message also spawned the hashtag #IHadAWhiteFriend, with commenters giving serious and satirical examples of the gap in shared experiences between Black and White people.
South Carolina – Eyeing Corruption Scandals, Gov. McMaster Puts Ethics on the Agenda for 2022
Greenwood Index-Journal – Avery Wilks (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 1/5/2022
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster wants to beef up a pair of watchdogs that investigate government misconduct, make the state’s scandal-scarred sheriffs attend ethics training, and shine more light on special interests that secretly influence city and county councils. The governor will package those proposals into his soon-to-be-unveiled executive budget, calling on lawmakers to spend some $3.4 million more per year on measures meant to repair South Carolinians’ faith in their government.
January 5, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Nonfungible Tokens the New Fad for Campaign Fundraising” by Gopal Ratnam (Roll Call) for MSN Colorado: “Failed Colorado Congressional Candidates Still Have Lots of Campaign Money. Here’s Why.” by Jesse Paul and Sandra Fish (Colorado Sun) for […]
National: “Nonfungible Tokens the New Fad for Campaign Fundraising” by Gopal Ratnam (Roll Call) for MSN
Colorado: “Failed Colorado Congressional Candidates Still Have Lots of Campaign Money. Here’s Why.” by Jesse Paul and Sandra Fish (Colorado Sun) for Durango Herald
Maryland: “Omicron Scrambles Lawmakers’ Pre-Session Fundraisers” by Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters
National: “Fear, Anger and Trauma: How the Jan. 6 attack changed Congress” by Paul Kane, Mariana Sotomayor, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Clearwater Art Exhibit Used Trash to Make a Point, Then Questions Arose” by Tracey McManus (Tampa Bay Times) for Yahoo News
New York: “Trump, Ivanka, Don Jr. Subpoenaed in New York AG’s Probe” by Michael Sisak (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
California: “San Diego Publishes a Beginner’s Guide to Participating in City Lawmaking” by Morgan Cook for San Diego Union Tribune
Michigan: “Ungerrymandered: Michigan’s maps, independently drawn, set up fair fight” by Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) for MSN
December 24, 2021 •
National/Federal A Retired Colonel’s Unlikely Role in Pushing Baseless Election Claims MSN – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 12/21/2021 After President Biden’s inauguration, a former Army colonel with a background in information warfare appeared on a Christian conservative podcast […]
A Retired Colonel’s Unlikely Role in Pushing Baseless Election Claims
MSN – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 12/21/2021
After President Biden’s inauguration, a former Army colonel with a background in information warfare appeared on a Christian conservative podcast and offered a detailed account of his monthslong effort to challenge the validity of the 2020 vote count. Phil Waldron told a story that was almost inconceivable: how a cabal of bad actors, including Chinese Communist officials, international shell companies, and the financier George Soros, had conspired to hack into U.S. voting machines in a “globalist/socialist” plot to steal the election. The postelection period gave fringe players an opportunity to find an audience in the White House.
Black Lawmakers Threaten to Cut Off K St Unless It Diversifies
Yahoo News – Hailey Fuchs and Laura Barrón-López (Politico) | Published: 12/19/2021
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are calling on the lobbying industry to diversify its offices in Washington, D.C. or risk losing their support. K Street has found itself scrambling in recent years to up its representation of employees of color. But the threats from Black lawmakers to stop meetings with certain firms represents one of the most aggressive attempts to force K Street to change from within. The increasing power and sheer size of the Congressional Black Caucus in the Democratic Party makes it a formidable political force on and off Capitol Hill.
Democratic Push on Voting Rights Becomes More Urgent as Midterms Approach
MSN – Theodoric Meyer (Washington Post) | Published: 12/22/2021
Senate Democrats not only failed to push their social spending bill over the finish line before the Christmas holidays. They also fell short on another of the party’s top priorities this year: approving a landmark package of voting rights measures. While Democrats argue the changes are critical to safeguarding democracy, strategists in both parties say the package could also reshape the battle for control of the House next year, potentially bolstering Democrats’ chances of hanging onto their majority in a year when Republicans have the edge.
GOP Agrees to Pay Up to $1.6 Million of Trump’s Legal Bills in N.Y. Probes
MSN – David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 12/16/2021
The Republican Party agreed to pay up to $1.6 million in legal bills for former President Trump to help him fight investigations into his business practices in New York. Paying Trump’s legal bills is a highly unusual move, longtime party observers and members say, because the spending has nothing to do with promoting the GOP’s policy agenda or political priorities, dealing with ongoing party business or campaigning – and relates to investigations that are not about Trump’s time as president or his work in the White House.
House Jan. 6 Committee Requests Information from and Meeting with GOP Rep. Jim Jordan About His Contact with Trump
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 12/22/2021
The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob is seeking information from U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, one of former President Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill. Jordan has previously said he cannot recall how many times he spoke with Trump on January 6 but that they spoke at least once. In addition, a federal judge denied a motion by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, for a temporary restraining order against the select committee over subpoenas it has issued against him.
Judge Rejects Fox News Request to Dismiss Dominion Voting’s Defamation Lawsuit Over Election Claims
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 12/17/2021
A judge rejected a request from Fox News to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems over baseless claims made against the company during the 2020 presidential election, allowing the suit to move forward. Superior Court Judge Eric Davis said it was “reasonably conceivable” for the voting-machine company to have a defamation claim. Dominion claims some of its highest-profile on-air talent helped elevate false charges that the company had changed votes to favor Joe Biden over then-President Trump.
Lead Capitol Riot Charge Is Constitutional, Judges Find
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 12/20/2021
Three federal judges agreed that the most serious charge faced by those accused of participation in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, obstruction, is constitutional, a victory for the Justice Department and a blow to the defendants fighting those accusations. Without that felony charge, prosecutors would be left with only minor charges against many they view as playing a major role in the riot. The Justice Department has avoided charges of sedition, a rarely used law, and not all those accused of acting as key instigators were seen assaulting police officers.
Meadows Contempt Vote Poses Thorny Questions for DOJ
MSN – Rebecca Beitsch and Harper Neidig (The Hill) | Published: 12/20/2021
The House vote to hold Mark Meadows in contempt has presented the Department of Justice with the question of whether to prosecute the former White House chief of staff, forcing it to weigh the major legal and political consequences that could come with breaking from longstanding executive branch policy. The department’s stance has been to support testimonial immunity for the president’s close advisers when faced with congressional subpoenas. Charging Meadows with contempt would represent a departure from that historical trend and poses more complicated considerations for the department than its decision to prosecute Steve Bannon.
Proud Boy Pleads Guilty to Felony Charge in Capitol Riot
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 12/22/2021
A New York man who was a member of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty to obstructing Congress and conspiring to obstruct law enforcement during the January 6 riot. The plea to the felony charge is significant because Matthew Greene admitted coordinating with other New York-based members of the extremist group at the front of the Capitol mob, although there is no evidence that he entered the building. Greene is the first self-admitted member of the Proud Boys to plead guilty in a felony conspiracy case stemming from the riot.
Rep. Scott Perry Calls Jan. 6 Panel ‘Illegitimate,’ Refuses to Cooperate
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 12/21/2021
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry Rep. said he would not cooperate with the January 6 select committee’s investigation, a move that forces the panel to grapple with how it will extract information it seeks from a sitting member of Congress. The panel said it was interested in the role Perry played in an unsuccessful attempt to install Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general. Clark, a former assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources, met with Trump and other White House officials to consider ways the election results could be overturned.
Senate GOP Feels Another Trump Effect: The rise of celeb candidates
Yahoo News – Marianne Levine and Sarah Ferris (Politico) | Published: 12/23/2021
The most reliable springboard to the U.S. Senate used to be House experience – before Donald Trump vaulted from reality television to the White House. Some Republicans see his path as a blueprint for winning back the Senate. This campaign cycle, the GOP is coalescing around former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia and signaling an openness to surgeon and TV host Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. Many in the GOP are welcoming the development.
You Can Draw Your Own Congressional District
Politico – Ally Mutnick | Published: 12/22/2021
In a quirk of the decennial redistricting season, state legislators, who are in charge of drawing new maps, can draw a district for themselves or for their friends. The process is already inherently self-interested as lawmakers routinely draw maps for the benefit of their party, but in some cases, these politicians are working in their literal self-interest. Such moves can spur accusations of foul play from political rivals, and do not always work out as expected. And with more scrutiny than ever on the process, these acts are possibly becoming harder to pull off.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Ex-S.F. Public Works Director Nuru Pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud Charge
MSN – Michael Cabanatuan (Sam Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 12/17/2021
Mohammed Nuru, San Francisco’s former public works director whose tenure was ended by a federal corruption probe that snowballed into numerous prosecutions against city officials and contractors, pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud. In the plea agreement, Nuru admitted to an extensive list of instances in which he accepted money, international trips, expensive jewelry and wine, and other goods and services from city contractors and developers in exchange for preferential treatment and confidential information about city business.
California – LA Commissioner Lobbied CAO to Support His Company’s $3 Million COVID-19 Testing Contract
Los Angeles Daily News – Scott Schwebke | Published: 12/16/2021
An embattled Los Angeles fire and police pensions commissioner who rejected allegations he improperly lobbied city officials to approve a $3 million COVID-19 testing contract for his company pitched his proposal directly to City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo, who signed off on the no-bid contract in September. Dr. Pedram Salimpour maintained he was not engaged in the review or vetting process for the testing contract awarded to PPS Health, which does business as Bluestone Safe. But more than a dozen emails obtained by the Southern California News Group paint a different picture of Salimpour’s efforts to win the contract for Bluestone.
Colorado – Hawaiian Fundraiser Prompts Campaign Finance Complaint against Attorney General
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 12/22/2021
A complaint alleging Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser broke the state’s campaign finance laws will move forward, after the secretary of state’s office deemed it to be non-frivolous and said the allegations show one or more potential violations. The complaint argues Weiser failed to properly document a fundraiser he attended in Hawaii at the Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea Maui Resort.
Colorado – Unite for Colorado Bankrolled Almost Every Major GOP Effort Last Year
ReInvestment News – Sandra Fish and Jesse Paul (Colorado Sun) | Published: 12/22/2021
A conservative political nonprofit that does not disclose its donors funded almost every major Republican political group and effort in Colorado last year, according to a tax document that for the first time reveals the breadth of the organization’s influence. The document also now ties Unite for Colorado to some of the state’s most well-known and active conservative political consultants and operatives. The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office recently fined Unite for Colorado $40,000 and ordered it to disclose its 2020 donors after it spent $4 million to support or oppose three statewide ballot initiatives.
Florida – Documents Show FPL Wrote Bill to Slow Rooftop Solar’s Growth by Hampering Net Metering
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas and Mario Ariza (Miami Herald) | Published: 12/20/2021
Rooftop solar power generation in Florida is still a nascent industry, but Florida Power & Light (FPL), the nation’s largest power company, is pushing to hamstring it by writing and hand-delivering legislation the company asked state lawmakers to introduce. FPL, whose work with “dark-money” political committees helped to secure Republican control of the state Senate in the 2020 elections, asked Sen. Jennifer Bradley to sponsor its top-priority bill: legislation that would hobble rooftop solar by preventing homeowners and businesses from offsetting their costs by selling excess power back to the company, an arrangement known as net metering.
Florida – Two Education Department Leaders Resign After Investigation, Conflict of Interest
Florida Politics – Jason Delgado | Published: 12/22/2021
Two Florida Department of Education employees resigned in November after an investigation unearthed a plan to pursue a state contract for a company they managed. Vice Chancellor of Strategic Improvement Melissa Ramsey and State Board Member Richard Tuck sent a proposal to the Education Department after it asked 25 vendors for quotes on a bid to take over operations at Jefferson County Schools. Ramsey and Tuck applied to the request under the banner of Strategic Initiative Partners, though not among the 25 vendors solicited by the department.
Illinois – ComEd Offers $21 Million Refund to Customers to Confront ICC Probes into Bribery Scheme. Watchdog Calls It ‘Chump Change.’
MSN – Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 12/17/2021
Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) is proposing a one-time $21 million refund to ratepayers for lobbying misconduct associated with its efforts to influence former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and advance its Springfield agenda. The amount of the refunds is mostly tied to pay and benefits received by former ComEd executives whose misconduct was outlined in the deal struck with federal prosecutors last year in which the utility agreed to pay a $200 million fine. Watchdog Abe Scarr called the proposed refund “chump change” for a company that is soon expected to collect $1 billion a year in profits and may not offer the credit until 2023.
Illinois – Cook County Ethics Ordinance Slated for Biggest Overhaul in 15 Years, but Some Experts Want More
MSN – Alice Yin (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 12/15/2021
Cook County supervisors approved changes to its ethics ordinance that some experts on best practices say falls short on eradicating “pay-to-play” politics. The bill would make strides in tightening up rules on sexual harassment and nepotism as well as bolstering powers of the body that enforces the code. But it would double the cap on political contributions from those who do business with the county. Ethics experts also raised concerns over how a two-year delay in passing a new ordinance allowed Springfield to preempt the county from enacting stricter rules, particularly around lobbying.
Kentucky – A Handful of Companies Dominate Road Work in Kentucky. The State Looks the Other Way.
Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting – Jacob Ryan and Jared Bennett | Published: 12/21/2021
Kentucky officials awarded nearly 2,300 road work contracts between 2018 and 2021. The transportation cabinet is exempt from following the state’s procurement code, instead following a bidding system experts say allows a few large companies to avoid competition for jobs. As a result, more than $2 billion in current work is controlled by a dozen companies, who often are the sole bidder on the contracts they are awarded. More than half of the 782 single-bid contracts were awarded for a price above the state estimate, whereas 85 percent of multiple-bid contracts were below state estimates.
Maryland – Baltimore County Council Greenlights Fair Election Fund with Spending Caps
Yahoo News – Taylor DeVille (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 12/20/2021
Candidates for local office in Baltimore County will now have a new financing tool at their disposal after the county council passed an amended bill authorizing a public financing program. The council amended the bill to impose caps on how much candidates using the fund may spend and to revise requirements for qualifying candidates. The legislation would require candidates for council and county executive to meet different eligibility qualifications and seeks to encourage candidates to ask more donors to give smaller amounts of money.
Maryland – Maryland’s New Congressional Map Draws First Legal Challenge
Yahoo News – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 12/22/2021
Maryland’s new map of congressional districts is facing its first legal challenge, a lawsuit brought by a dozen Republicans, including two who are hoping to be elected to Congress. In the lawsuit, they argue the new districts meander around the state in ways that divide communities to give Democrats an advantage at the ballot box. They are asking the state courts to throw out the new map and substitute a map drawn by a commission appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan, at least temporarily until the General Assembly can adopt a better map.
Michigan – FBI Arrests Retired Detroit Cop Amid Corruption Crackdown
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 12/16/2021
FBI agents arrested a former Detroit Police detective in connection with a bribery, extortion, and fraud investigation targeting Detroit City Hall, law enforcement, and municipal towing operations. The arrest of Mike Pacteles marks the latest expansion of “Operation Northern Hook,” a broader FBI investigation of public corruption within Detroit city government. The investigation and prosecution led to criminal charges against four Detroit police personnel and former city Councilperson André Spivey, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges.
Michigan – Whitmer Campaign Complaints on Plane Flights, Fundraising Dismissed
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 12/21/2021
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did not violate campaign finance laws when she accepted contributions above the state fundraising limit because she was facing recall efforts, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office said. But the Michigan Bureau of Elections said it would welcome a request to revisit and potentially revise the policy. Benson’s office also ruled Whitmer’s use of campaign funds to charter a private flight to visit her father in Florida this spring was not a campaign finance violation because it was for her physical safety.
Missouri – Free Speech Violation? Ex-Missouri Rep Sues Because He’s Banned from Being a Lobbyist
MSN – Jeanne Kuang (Kansas City Star) | Published: 12/17/2021
A former lawmaker is suing the Missouri Ethics Commission over the state’s two-year ban on lawmakers becoming lobbyists, arguing the law prohibits his freedom of speech and requesting it be blocked. Former Rep. Rocky Miller alleges his inability to register as a lobbyist to serve a prospective client was denying him income. He also argues that because the two-year restriction “bans (him) from saying certain things, backed by the threat of criminal prosecution,” it is unconstitutional.
New York – Attorney General Cites Problems with Ethics Panel’s Order to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/16/2021
The state attorney general’s office sent a letter to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) contending the panel did not issue a valid order when it voted to have former Gov. Andrew Cuomo surrender the $5.1million he was paid to write a book last year about his administration’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic. JCOPE had directed the governor to turn over the proceeds of his publishing deal to the attorney general’s office, which the panel said could then redistribute the funds according to law, including potentially returning the money to the publisher.
New York – Hochul Ready to Rev Up Ethics Overhaul to Clean Up After Cuomo, Senate Ally Says
The City – Josepha Velasquez | Published: 12/15/2021
State Sen. Liz Krueger said she has been working with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office to revamp the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), an effort she expects the governor to announce in her annual State of the State address. Krueger is the sponsor of a bill that would replace the largely governor controlled JCOPE with a more independent government integrity commission that would have the power to initiate investigations and even remove non-elected officials from their jobs. Hochul has not yet hinted at her gameplan, which could include measures short of a total teardown.
New York – Lobbyists Helped Hochul Raise $10M. What Are They Getting Back?
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/23/2021
After becoming governor of New York in late August, Kathy Hochul has raised campaign money at among the fastest clips in state history – $10 million in three months. When major lobbying firms have sought to have fundraisers, the governor’s campaign has requested they commit to raise $250,000 for events where Hochul appears in person. The lobbying firms raise the money from their clients, who then attend the events. They are often exclusive to the lobbying firm and those clients, who gain a few minutes interacting with the governor.
North Carolina – Appeals Court: Rev. Barber removed from General Assembly in 2017 for his volume, not words
WRAL – Staff | Published: 12/21/2021
Former state NAACP leader Rev. William Barber’s defense that he used free speech during a 2017 protest at the Legislative Building is not relevant to his conviction for second-degree trespassing, and the verdict will stand, according to the court of appeals for North Carolina. Barber and others were charged with second-degree trespassing for refusing to leave the Legislative Building after they were told to go by General Assembly Police. Barber defended himself, saying the constitution says citizens have a right to assemble and instruct their lawmakers. But the appeals court ruled the case was not about free speech.
North Dakota – Environmental Group Calls Out Conflicts of Interest on North Dakota Energy Board as $160M Funding Approved
Fargo Forum – Adam Willis | Published: 12/20/2021
An environmental group is calling out a new arm of the North Dakota government for allegedly mismanaging its conflicts-of-interest when it convened to recommend more than $160 million in state funds for fossil fuel-sector grants and loans. The Dakota Resource Council raised concerns about the handling of conflicts on the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority in a letter sent to the state Ethics Commission and Gov. Doug Burgum, in which the organization asked for more stringent rules regulating such conflicts in the future.
Ohio – Cuyahoga County’s Consultant in Search for New Jail Is Also Listing Agent for Preferred Site
MSN – Kaitlin Durban (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 12/20/2021
Cuyahoga County’s real estate consulting firm, tapped to identify locations for the site of its new jail, is also the listing agent for one of the final properties under consideration. The relationship raises concerns about conflicts-of-interest in a multimillion-dollar project that members of a committee meant to oversee the process worry is now devolving into “chaos” and unilateral decisions that could undermine their work.
Ohio – Ex-Ohio Legislative Candidate Fined $50,000 for Failing to Report Campaign-Finance Expenses
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 12/16/2021
The Ohio Elections Commission fined an ex-legislative candidate $50,000 for failing to report more than $290,000 in campaign-related expenses. Allen Freeman, a township trustee from Clermont County, tried to get the case dismissed after he liquidated his account, arguing that because the committee had been dissolved, it could not be found liable. But the commission found Freeman misstated his campaign finances by reporting spending just $14,000 on his failed 2020 campaign for state representative, even though public records show his campaign bought roughly $118,000 in television ads.
Ohio – Ohio Job and Family Services Employee Cut Off Relative’s Unemployment Benefits After Fight
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 12/16/2021
A Department of Job and Family Services employee cut off her relative’s unemployment benefits following a fight, according to an Ohio Inspector General’s report. Customer service representative Quenise Barnes improperly accessed a relative’s pandemic unemployment assistance 10 times in May and eventually cut off that person’s benefits. The relative reported a fight had occurred with Barnes on May 7 and she subsequently turned off the person’s benefits, citing “fraud.”
Oklahoma – The Jump from Political Staffer to Lobbyist Isn’t a Far One, at Least in Oklahoma
Yahoo News – Ben Felder (Oklahoman) | Published: 12/19/2021
It is not uncommon for elected officials in Oklahoma to become paid lobbyists once they leave office and there is no state law that prevents it. But there is also no ban on former state employees from becoming lobbyists, which is another pathway for public officials to take their knowledge to the private sector. The state Ethics Commission voted twice in recent years to establish “cooling off” laws that would ban public officials from moving straight into a lobbying job. But each time those rules were voted down by the state Legislature.
Oregon – Competing Measures Could Muddy Oregon’s Campaign Finance Debate
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 12/20/2021
After they came to an impasse over how Oregon should crack down on money in politics, left-leaning organizations are signaling they might just fight it out at the ballot box. Two groups that are often aligned filed dueling ballot measure proposals for how to place limits on the state’s permissive campaign finance laws. Six separate ideas for cracking down on political giving in the state have now been floated for the November 2022 ballot. Many, if not most, will die before they reach voters, but even two competing measures next year could create confusion that advocates have been hoping to avoid.
Oregon – How Much Did Interest Groups Shape Oregon’s New Legislative Districts? Here’s Why It’s Tough to Say
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 12/16/2021
Lobbyists for unions and at least one industry-affiliated group used sophisticated data analysis to calculate how proposed legislative districts in Oregon would impact Democrats’ and Republicans’ chances in future elections and shared that information with lawmakers. Other outside groups did the same, according to testimony in a redistricting lawsuit, and practically none of that is required to be disclosed to the public. The lack of transparency around the forces at play in shaping how Oregonians’ votes will count during the next decade is a result of both how the state handles redistricting, and the state’s limited lobbying disclosure requirements.
Pennsylvania – ‘Glaring Giant Loophole:’ Philly Council members have to report who pays them, but not their spouses
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 12/23/2021
Unlike lawmakers in other cities and states, as well as members of Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, Philadelphia City Council members are not required to disclose their spouses’ sources of income. The issue of paying members’ spouses is expected to be central in the corruption trial of Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson. Prosecutors have accused him of accepting a bribe in the form of charter school consulting work for his wife in exchange for helping a group in his district secure a zoning change. The potential for Johnson to take official action to secure work for his wife also surfaced in the corruption trial this fall of Councilperson Bobby Henon.
South Carolina – Former Richland County Recreation Director Facing Ethics Charges Over Raises, Promotions
Charleston Post and Courier – Stephen Fastenau | Published: 12/16/2021
South Carolina’s Ethics Commission will decide whether a former Richland County recreation chief broke the law by signing off on family members’ raises and promotions. A hearing on the ethics charges was held after James Brown III was cleared of criminal charges related to his tenure. Brown, the head of the Richland County Recreation Commission until his resignation in 2016 amid allegations of nepotism and sexual harassment, faces six counts of violating state ethics laws meant to ensure public officials do not use their position for personal gain.
Texas – Former Houston Schools Trustee Kept a ‘Bribe Ledger’ Listing $20,000 in Illegal Payoffs, Feds Say
Houston Public Media – Paul DeBenedetto | Published: 12/17/2021
A former Houston Independent School District trustee and board president agreed to cooperate with the federal government for her role in an alleged scheme in which prosecutors say she kept a “bribe ledger” to keep track of $20,000 in payments from a contractor, part of an investigation that also led to the indictment of the district’s former chief operating officer. Rhonda Skillern-Jones used her role at the district to push for the hiring of a landscaping contractor who was later at the center of an alleged illegal kickback scheme.
Washington – Tim Eyman in Default, Assets to Be Sold to Satisfy $5.4 Million Debt
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 12/23/2021
Tim Eyman, the serial initiative filer and conservative provocateur who owes the state of Washington more than $5 million after years of “particularly egregious” campaign finance violations, is in default and staring at the court-ordered sale of his assets. Eyman is under a court-ordered plan requiring him to make monthly $10,000 payments to pay down his fine and other fees. He has missed his last four monthly payments. A judge ordered his bankruptcy case shifted to Chapter 7, which means the court appoints a trustee who will be responsible for selling Eyman’s assets and distributing the proceeds to his debtors.
Wisconsin – ‘A Real Conflagration’: Wisconsin emerges as front line in war over the 2020 vote
MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 12/16/2021
A legislative-backed investigation into the 2020 election results in Wisconsin headed by a former state Supreme Court justice has picked up steam in recent weeks. The inquiry makes little pretense of neutrality and is being led by figures who have shown allegiance to Donald Trump or embraced false claims of fraud. In a state that is likely to see some of the nation’s most competitive races in 2022 for governor and U.S. Senate, there are now multiple efforts underway to scrutinize how the last election was run, including a recommendation by a county sheriff to prosecute and jail state election officials.
December 23, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Colorado: “Unite for Colorado Bankrolled Almost Every Major GOP Effort Last Year” by Sandra Fish and Jesse Paul (Colorado Sun) for ReInvestment News Michigan: “Whitmer Campaign Complaints on Plane Flights, Fundraising Dismissed” by Beth LeBlanc for Detroit News […]
Colorado: “Unite for Colorado Bankrolled Almost Every Major GOP Effort Last Year” by Sandra Fish and Jesse Paul (Colorado Sun) for ReInvestment News
Michigan: “Whitmer Campaign Complaints on Plane Flights, Fundraising Dismissed” by Beth LeBlanc for Detroit News
National: “A Retired Colonel’s Unlikely Role in Pushing Baseless Election Claims” by Alan Feuer (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Democratic Push on Voting Rights Becomes More Urgent as Midterms Approach” by Theodoric Meyer (Washington Post) for MSN
North Carolina: “Appeals Court: Rev. Barber removed from General Assembly in 2017 for his volume, not words” by Staff for WRAL
North Dakota: “Environmental Group Calls Out Conflicts of Interest on North Dakota Energy Board as $160M Funding Approved” by Adam Willis for Fargo Forum
Texas: “Former Houston Schools Trustee Kept a ‘Bribe Ledger’ Listing $20,000 in Illegal Payoffs, Feds Say” by Paul DeBenedetto for Houston Public Media
National: “You Can Draw Your Own Congressional District” by Ally Mutnick for Politico
December 20, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “GOP Agrees to Pay Up to $1.6 Million of Trump’s Legal Bills in N.Y. Probes” by David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN Ohio: “Ex-Ohio Legislative Candidate Fined $50,000 for Failing to Report Campaign-Finance Expenses” […]
National: “GOP Agrees to Pay Up to $1.6 Million of Trump’s Legal Bills in N.Y. Probes” by David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
Ohio: “Ex-Ohio Legislative Candidate Fined $50,000 for Failing to Report Campaign-Finance Expenses” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
National: “Judge Rejects Fox News Request to Dismiss Dominion Voting’s Defamation Lawsuit Over Election Claims” by Timothy Bella (Washington Post) for MSN
Wisconsin: “‘A Real Conflagration’: Wisconsin emerges as front line in war over the 2020 vote” by Rosalind Helderman and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “LA Commissioner Lobbied CAO to Support His Company’s $3 Million COVID-19 Testing Contract” by Scott Schwebke for Los Angeles Daily News
Michigan: “FBI Arrests Retired Detroit Cop Amid Corruption Crackdown” by Robert Snell for Detroit News
New York: “Attorney General Cites Problems with Ethics Panel’s Order to Cuomo” by Brendan Lyons for Albany Times Union
Missouri: “Former Missouri Lawmaker Goes to Court to Overturn Ban on Lobbying” by Kurt Erickson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Oregon: “How Much Did Interest Groups Shape Oregon’s New Legislative Districts? Here’s Why It’s Tough to Say” by Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) for MSN
December 17, 2021 •
National/Federal A New Lawsuit Accuses the FEC of Failing to Investigate Russia’s ‘Coordination’ with the 2016 Trump Campaign Yahoo News – C. Ryan Barber (Business Insider) | Published: 12/8/2021 A pair of advocacy groups sued the FEC, alleging the agency has […]
A New Lawsuit Accuses the FEC of Failing to Investigate Russia’s ‘Coordination’ with the 2016 Trump Campaign
Yahoo News – C. Ryan Barber (Business Insider) | Published: 12/8/2021
A pair of advocacy groups sued the FEC, alleging the agency has failed to act on a complaint against the Russian government and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign alleging violations of campaign finance law. They argue the FEC’s delay has potentially deprived the American public of information that was not revealed during Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference. They noted Mueller’s work and separate congressional investigations but said those inquiries, “pursuing different angles for different purposes and with different mandates, have not focused on bringing transparency to campaign financing – the FEC’s mandate.”
Agency Overseeing Trump’s D.C. Hotel Lease Failed to Examine Ethical, Constitutional Conflicts, Report Says
NBC News – Rebecca Shabad | Published: 12/15/2021
The federal agency managing the government’s lease of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. failed to examine ethical conflicts and constitutional issues posed by then-President Trump’s refusal to divest from the property. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s report found the General Services Administration did not track foreign government payments to the hotel or identify the origins of more than $75 million in loans made by Trump and his family to shore up its troubled finances.
Big Law Firms Promised to Punish Republicans Who Voted to Overthrow Democracy. Now They’re Donating to Their Campaigns
Yahoo News – Andy Kroll (Rolling Stone) | Published: 12/9/2021
In the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, some of the country’s biggest law firms joined blue-chip corporations and other industry trade groups by halting all political donations and rethinking their giving strategy. But major law firms in Washington have resumed donations to those Republicans whose support for election-fraud theories and refusal to certify posed a threat to democracy. The law firms donated through their in-house PACs, which allow the firm to donate to a candidate’s campaign, a party-wide political committee, or a leadership committee that politicians use to raise money they can later spend to help reelect their allies.
Congress and Top Capitol Hill Staff Have Violated the STOCK Act Hundreds of Times. But the Consequences Are Minimal, Inconsistent, and Not Recorded Publicly.
MSN – Camila DeChalus, Kimberly Leonard, and Dave Levinthal (Business Insider) | Published: 12/15/2021
Congress has an inconsistent method for collecting fines from members and top staff who break a law designed to stop insider trading and conflicts-of-interest. Business Insider’s investigation of financial disclosures found 49 members of Congress and at least 182 of the highest-paid Capitol Hill staffers were late in filing their stock trades during 2020 and 2021. The lack of transparency makes it impossible to independently determine whether STOCK Act lawbreakers truly face consequences, and if so, to what degree. It is a situation that ethics experts say leaves the public in the dark, lets Congress off the hook, and renders the law toothless.
Democrats Introduce Bill to End Political Spending by Foreign-Owned Corporations
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 12/14/2021
House Democrats reintroduced a bill that would block foreign-owned corporations from spending company funds to influence U.S. elections. The bill would extend the federal ban on political donations from foreign nationals to multinational companies that are at least partially owned by foreign nationals. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums to influence elections, some American subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies have made large donations to super PACs.
House ‘Democracy’ Bill Would Cap Executive Power, Expand Disclosure
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 12/9/2021
Seeking to avoid a repeat of the scandal-plagued Trump presidency, House Democrats approved a bill almost entirely along party lines that would put new limits on executive branch power and subject presidential candidates to more disclosure. The Protecting Our Democracy Act would require presidents, vice presidents, and anyone running for those offices from a major political party to disclose their tax returns. It also would toughen the fines for executive branch officials who violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits nearly all such employees from engaging in campaign activities in their official capacity, among other provisions.
House Votes to Hold Meadows in Contempt for Refusing to Comply with Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena
MSN – Mariana Alfaro and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2021
The House voted to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena issued by the bipartisan committee investigating the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. The resolution was approved with just two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, joining Democrats in voting “yes.” The matter now goes to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to pursue the contempt referral. Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor criminal offense that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Luxembourg Adopts Watered-Down Lobby Register
Luxembourg Times – John Monaghan | Published: 12/13/2021
Luxembourg adopted a register which will show which lobbyists have been meeting parliamentarians after years of discussion and pressure from the European Commission to act, although the bill contains several exemptions and no apparent system of checks. The legislation requires anyone wishing to meet a deputy to register their intention to do so, regardless of the location of the meeting. Responsibility for registration falls to the lobbyist, not the deputy.
Manchin Cites a Blind Trust to Justify Climate Votes. But Much Income from His Family’s Coal Company Isn’t
MSN – Michael Kranish and Anna Phillips (Washington Post) | Published: 12/13/2021
In U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s West Virginia home county, his family’s business has made millions of dollars by taking waste coal from long-abandoned mines and selling it to a power plant that emits air pollution at a higher rate than any other plant in the state. That enterprise could have taken a hit under a key part of President Biden’s climate agenda. But Manchin played a central role in killing that proposal. Contrary to his public statements, documents filed by the senator show his blind trust is too small to account for all his reported earnings from the coal company, as of his latest financial disclosure report.
Members of Congress Play Campaign Pundit All the Time. But Are They Any Good at It?
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 12/16/2021
A fundamental question in American politics is how a candidate can convince some of their neighbors and a lot of strangers to vote for them. Roll Call asked members of Congress who had eked out a narrow win or flipped a seat what the factors were that led to their victories. Several trend lines emerged. In an era where seemingly everything is viewed through partisan lenses, party affiliation did not seem to influence anyone’s responses. Most focused on convincing voters they were all on the same side.
Now in Your Inbox: Political misinformation
Yahoo News – Maggie Astor (New York Times) | Published: 12/13/2021
Lawmakers’ statements on social media and cable news are now routinely fact checked. But email – one of the most powerful communication tools available to politicians, reaching up to hundreds of thousands of people – teems with unfounded claims and largely escapes notice. Politicians have always exaggerated and dissemble, including in their email dispatches. But the volume, the baldness, and the reach of the false claims have increased. Both parties delivered heaps of hyperbole in their emails, but Republicans included misinformation in about 15 percent of their messages, compared with about two percent for Democrats.
Redistricting Is Drying Up Competitive Congressional Races
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 12/15/2021
Advancements in data science and long-term shifts in how Americans vote are making swing districts increasingly rare. State Legislatures and commissions control the redistricting process for most of the country. So far, 20 states have finished redrawing their congressional maps, which have produced only a handful of competitive U.S. House seats. Political parties burned by recent wave elections may have gotten skittish about drawing risky seats. Ken Kollman, a political science professor at the University of Michigan, said a House map with many competitive seats would mean a party could win a few from the other side, or totally wipe out.
Text Messages to Meadows Renew Focus on Trump’s Inaction During Jan. 6 Attack
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2021
Newly released text messages that were sent on January 6 to Mark Meadows, a former chief of staff in the Trump White House, have put a renewed focus on President Trump’s failure to act quickly to stop the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol as it was unfolding, despite real-time pleas from lawmakers, journalists, and even his eldest son. At least half a dozen people reached out during the riot to Meadows to ask – in some cases, beg – Trump to intervene.
The Judges Drawing America’s Political Maps
Yahoo News – Ally Mutnik (Politico) | Published: 12/13/2021
Between reforms aimed at reducing politics in redistricting, dysfunction in states where both parties have some control and the reduced role of the federal judiciary in policing gerrymandering, state Supreme Courts are playing a greater role than ever as mapmakers or traffic cops that could swing the fortunes of some 120 congressional seats in next year’s midterms. Across the country, these courts are poised to be outsized political players. While some of these judges campaign for their position, many of them are appointed, meaning the decisions come from the hands of unelected arbiters.
Trump Tax Records Can Be Released by Treasury Department to House, Judge Rules
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2021
A federal judge rejected former President Trump’s long-running effort to block the Treasury Department from turning over his tax records to the House Ways and Means Committee but put the ruling on hold pending an expected appeal. U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden, a former Trump Justice Department official appointed to the court in 2017, said even if the former president’s attorneys were correct that House Democrats wanted his records only to expose them for political gain, they were “wrong on the law.”
Trump White House Records Can Be Released in Jan. 6 Probe Pending Supreme Court Review, Appeals Court Rules
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2021
A federal appeals court rejected former President Trump’s bid to keep his White House documents secret from a congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, setting up an emergency U.S. Supreme Court review. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously upheld a lower court’s opinion, which said in a dispute between a current and past president over whether to release White House records, the sitting president must prevail.
Canada – Judge Upholds Ontario Rules Limiting Third-Party Election Advertising Spending
Global News – Paola Loriggio (Canadian Press) | Published: 12/8/2021
An Ontario judge upheld the province’s restrictions on third-party election advertising, ruling the measures do not infringe on voters’ right to meaningfully participate in the election process. The Working Families Coalition challenged the rules on grounds that they infringe on the right to vote by limiting the ability of third parties to share information on matters of public policy for a year before an election. But Ontario Superior Court Justice Ed Morgan found the rules meet the legal requirement to allow for broad and egalitarian participation in the campaign.
From the States and Municipalities
California – City Employees Solicit Funds for Garcetti-Backed Charity. Ethics Experts Have Concerns
Yahoo News – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 12/15/2021
Employees in Eric Garcetti’s office play a key role in creating programs for the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, a charity that pays for civic programs. They also seek funding during the course of their jobs and use their city emails – in some cases from companies that do business with the city. Such solicitations are allowed because they are made in support of a charity and not a political campaign. Some ethics experts, however, say the city needs to be more transparent about solicitations sought by city employees, or restrict them altogether.
California – Former DWP Chief Information Security Officer Agrees to Plead Guilty to Lying to Authorities
MSN – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 12/13/2021
A top executive who worked on security operations at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) agreed to plead guilty to one felony charge of making false statements. Former Chief Information Security Officer David Alexander lied to the FBI about a job offer that he “secretly solicited” in return for helping pass contract money to a lawyer, prosecutors said. Alexander used his role at Southern California Public Power Authority, a group of several utilities, including the DWP, to help give a $17-million contract focused on cybersecurity work to three companies.
Colorado – Major ‘Dark Money’ Nonprofit Ordered to Reveal Its Donors in Colorado
Colorado Public Radio – Andrew Kenny | Published: 12/9/2021
Unite for Colorado, a “dark money” group that spent $4 million on signature gathering and digital advertisements for statewide ballot measures in 2020 was ordered to pay a $40,000 fine and to divulge their donors. Critics argued Unite for Colorado crossed the line between nonprofits and political groups by spending so heavily – and was so closely involved in politics – that it should have registered as a political issue committee and reported more detail on its financial activities.
Colorado – Weiser’s Fundraiser in Hawaii Draws Complaint
Denver Gazette – Christopher Osher | Published: 12/9/2021
Following a fundraiser at an exclusive resort in Hawaii, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is facing a complaint accusing him of violating the state’s campaign finance laws. Defend Colorado filed a formal complaint alleging the Democratic attorney general did not pay the full cost of his campaign’s use of the Grand Wailea Grand Dining Room at the Grand Wailea Maui. The group also accused him of using the event to cozy up to corporate lobbyists.
Florida – Nikki Fried Mired in Ethics Dispute Over Her Finances
MSN – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 12/9/2021
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, one of the leading Democratic nominees for governor, is coming under fire for her failure to promptly report how much lobbying money she made prior to taking office. The Florida Commission on Ethics voted unanimously that there is probable cause Fried, who was an attorney and lobbyist, violated state law by failing to properly disclose income from her lobbying business. Just days before she began her campaign for governor this year, she amended two separate financial disclosure forms, including one showing previously unreported earnings of $351,480.
Florida – The Coffee Shop at This Non-Profit Florida Hospital Pours Cash into Political Coffers
Miami Herald – Kirby Wilson | Published: 12/14/2021
For the past three years, the Starbucks at Tampa General Hospital’s main campus has been making large campaign contributions to a select group of Florida candidates. It does this even though Tampa General operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Federal law prohibits it from giving money to candidates. House of Coffee Tampa, which owns the coffee shops inside two Tampa General properties is a for-profit corporation. That means it can make campaign contributions.
Georgia – Georgia Appeals Judge Agrees to $25,000 Fine in Ethics Case
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 12/9/2021
A suspended Georgia Court of Appeals judge agreed to pay a $25,000 fine to settle ethics charges he spent campaign funds for personal use. The Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission voted to approve a consent decree with Judge Christian Coomer. A complaint accused Coomer, a former state House member, of transferring money from his old legislative campaign account to financially prop up his former law firm between 2015 and 2019. Commission staff said it was the largest fine ever against a Georgia judge in an ethics case.
Illinois – Illinois Moves to Prohibit ‘Dark Money’ in Judicial Races, but It’s Unclear What Effect That Will Have on State’s Free-Spending Campaigns
MSN – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 12/8/2021
With the balance of power on the Illinois Supreme Court at stake in next year’s election, Democrats who control Springfield took steps this fall aimed at curbing the influence of outside money in a state that holds the record for the nation’s most expensive judicial race. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that bans judicial candidates from receiving campaign money from out-of-state contributors and groups that do not disclose their donors. One of the state’s leading campaign finance experts said the new law likely will do little to stem the tide of cash from powerful interests trying to influence who sits on the state’s highest court.
Kansas – Kansas AG’s Natural Gas Well Presents Possible Conflict of Interest as He Investigates Industry
Kansas Reflector – Alison Kite | Published: 12/14/2021
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has a financial interest in the sale of natural gas, prompting calls for him to disclose more information about his earnings as he investigates gas companies. Schmidt is investigating whether companies raised natural gas prices, which increased by as much as 200 times almost overnight in February, in violation of Kansas consumer protection law and will consider whether to pursue litigation. At the same time, Schmidt, who is running to unseat Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, could be receiving thousands of dollars a year in income from his own natural gas well in the state.
Maryland – Maryland Gov. Hogan’s Campaign Pays Fine for Accepting Excess Donations
MSN – Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 12/15/2021
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign paid a $2,500 fine for accepting political donations above the state’s limits. The campaign did not immediately provide a total number and dollar amount of the excess contributions, but it has been sending money back to donors and updating prior campaign finance reports for the last few years. Under Maryland law, donors may not give more than $6,000 to a candidate over each four-year election cycle.
New York – Cuomo Advisors Used Campaign Aide to Dig Up Dirt on an Accuser Who Was Running for Office, Records Show
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 12/9/2021
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s closest advisors used a campaign aide to seek potentially damaging information on Lindsey Boylan, who has accused him of sexual harassment. Melissa DeRosa, who was the top aide to the governor, told investigators about the effort to find the information and potentially plant a negative story about Boylan during a probe into Cuomo’s alleged sexual harassment of former aides and associates. DeRosa told investigators she believed Boylan was working together with other prominent New York politicians to bring down Cuomo.
New York – De Blasio Violated Fundraising Ethics Rules Even After Warning – Yet Mayor Faced No Penalty
The City – Yoav Gonen | Published: 12/8/2021
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio violated ethics rules twice by hitting up real estate industry players for donations to a nonprofit he created to boost pet projects, but he got away with just warning letters. The Conflicts of Interest Board cited de Blasio in 2014 for personally soliciting $150,000 in donations from people or entities with business before the city. He kept making similar fundraising calls, asking for contributions from James Capalino, a lobbyist who had helped his campaign for mayor. The board noted de Blasio also failed to provide a disclaimer to potential donors that their giving would not influence any decision making.
New York – Ethics Panel Demands Cuomo Repay $5M
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/14/2021
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) will require former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to return the proceeds from his book about his response to the coronavirus pandemic. The order came after JCOPE voted to rescind the approval it had given Cuomo before he entered into the $5.1 million book deal. JCOPE staff approved the deal when his counsel told the commission that Cuomo agreed to not use any state personnel or resources to produce his book and he would write it “entirely on his own time.” But complaints surfaced that state property, resources, and personnel were used to prepare, write, edit, and publish the book.
New York – Trump Fraud Inquiry’s Focus: Did he mislead his own accountants?
Yahoo News – William Rashbaum, Ben Protess, and Jonah Bromwich (New York Times) | Published: 12/14/2021
As prosecutors in Manhattan weigh whether to charge Donald Trump with fraud, they have zeroed in on financial documents he used to obtain loans and boast about his wealth. The documents, compiled by Trump’s longtime accountants and known as annual statements of financial condition, could help answer a question at the heart of the long-running criminal investigation into the former president: did he inflate the value of his assets to defraud his lenders?
North Carolina – North Carolina Delays 2022 Primaries to Give Redistricting Challenges More Time
National Public Radio – Steve Harrison | Published: 12/8/2021
The North Carolina Supreme Court ordered that the state’s March 2022 primary be delayed until May 17 so it can settle two lawsuits challenging Republican-drawn maps for Congress and the state’s Legislature. The nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project has rated the recent North Carolina congressional map a grade of “F” for fairness, calling it one of the most gerrymandered maps in the nation, along with a Republican-drawn congressional map in Texas and a Democratic-drawn map in Illinois.
Pennsylvania – Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez Wants to Ban Lawmakers from Making More Than $25,000 from Side Jobs
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 12/15/2021
Philadelphia City Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez introduced legislation prohibiting city lawmakers from making more than $25,000 from side jobs and requiring them to disclose more information about outside employment. It would be the most significant ethics reform proposal since the convictions of council member Bobby Henon and former union leader John Dougherty on federal corruption charges.
Pennsylvania – DA Larry Krasner’s Campaign and Real Justice PAC Have Admitted to Breaking Philly’s Campaign Finance Law, Again
MSN – Sean Collins Welch (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 12/9/2021
For the second time in as many elections, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s campaign and a political group that supports him have admitted to violating the city’s campaign finance law. The Krasner campaign agreed to pay $10,000 in penalties and admitted making misstatements and omissions in its campaign finance reports during the prosecutor’s successful reelection bid this year. The Real Justice PAC agreed to pay $30,000 in penalties after admitting to making omissions in its reports.
South Carolina – Orangeburg Coroner Marshall Gets $17K Fine After Neglecting Ethics Forms for Years
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks | Published: 12/15/2021
A chronic failure to file her required financial disclosures will cost Orangeburg County’s elected coroner $17,000. That is even after the State Ethics Commission reduced Samuetta Marshall’s original fine by $5,000 following her appeal for leniency. Marshall has a long history of failing to file reports detailing her campaign fundraising and spending, as well as forms disclosing her sources of income. She also ignored the Ethics Commission’s repeated efforts to reach her about those forms and the late-filing fees she was accumulating. She did not attend her ethics hearing to defend herself.
South Dakota – Ex-Official Says She Felt ‘Intimidated’ in Meeting with Kristi Noem That Led to Daughter’s Appraiser License
MSN – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2021
A former state official testified she felt “intimidated” at a meeting last year with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and it resulted in an unusual third chance for the governor’s daughter to get her real estate appraiser license. Noem has claimed her daughter “went through the exact same process that others did in South Dakota to become an appraiser” and denied seeking “special treatment” for her. But the governor’s meeting last year with officials overseeing the state’s licensing process sparked allegations of nepotism and led state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to launch a review.
Tennessee – Tennessee Republican Leaders Agree to Drop Judges from Mandatory Candidate Fees for Now Amid Ethics Ruling
Yahoo – Andy Sher (Chattanooga Times Free Press) | Published: 12/15/2021
Tennessee Republican Party leaders have decided for now to drop judges and judicial candidates from a rule they adopted earlier this year that requires GOP candidates running for office to pay the party a fee to run in primary elections. The decision came as judges have worried for months over paying the fee because of an advisory opinion issued by the Administrative Office of the Court’s Judicial Ethics Committee. The panel wrote said one of the rules of judicial conduct “generally prohibits a judge from paying an assessment to a political organization.”
Texas – Dallas Approves New Office to Investigate City Corruption Claims
Dallas Morning News – Everton Bailey, Jr. | Published: 12/8/2021
Dallas will create a new office to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by city officials and make other changes to ethics rules that are meant to cut down on corruption. A key part of the reform is the creation of an inspector general division in the city attorney’s office, which would receive and investigate all internal fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption complaints. It will also prohibit anyone seeking a public subsidy, such as tax credits, from lobbying a council member about the matter before it is decided, and will increase training for city officials, staff, and registered lobbyists on Dallas’ ethics code.
Texas – Texas Appeals Court Throws Out Indictment of Groundbreaking Black Sheriff
Courthouse News Service – Cameron Langford | Published: 12/15/2016
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed a campaign finance and records tampering indictment spearheaded by state Attorney General Ken Paxton against the state’s first Black female sheriff. While state law allowed an unusual choice of venue – though Stephens’ alleged crime occurred in Jefferson County, she was indicted in neighboring Chambers County – the court ruled the prosecution had violated the separation of powers clause in the state constitution. The court determined the Legislature had unconstitutionally granted the attorney general independent authority to prosecute election law offenses in the election code.
Washington DC – D.C. Attorney General Sues Proud Boys, Oath Keepers Over Jan. 6 Attack
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Tom Hamburger, and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2021
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine sued the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers over the January 6 attack on Congress, seeking to use a law written to cripple the Ku Klux Klan to exact stiff financial penalties from the far-right groups Racine alleges were responsible for the violence. Racine’s lawsuit is the first effort by a government agency to hold individuals and organizations civilly responsible for the violence at the U.S. Capitol on the day Congress ceremonially confirmed President Biden’s 2020 election victory.
Wisconsin – US Supreme Court Rejects Appeal from MacIver Institute Over Press Access in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Public Radio – Shawn Johnson | Published: 12/13/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that sided with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers in a dispute with a conservative think tank over media access. The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy sued after the governor’s office denied the MacIver News Service access to a media briefing. MacIver argued the governor had violated its First Amendment right to freedom of the press based on the institute’s editorial stances. MacIver was denied access, according to the governor’s office, because its lobbying activity, policy advocacy, and self-described status as a “think tank” did not meet the criteria for a news organization.
December 16, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Democrats Introduce Bill to End Political Spending by Foreign-Owned Corporations” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) for MSN Canada: “Judge Upholds Ontario Rules Limiting Third-Party Election Advertising Spending” by Paola Loriggio (Canadian Press) for Global News Maryland: “Maryland […]
National: “Democrats Introduce Bill to End Political Spending by Foreign-Owned Corporations” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) for MSN
Canada: “Judge Upholds Ontario Rules Limiting Third-Party Election Advertising Spending” by Paola Loriggio (Canadian Press) for Global News
Maryland: “Maryland Gov. Hogan’s Campaign Pays Fine for Accepting Excess Donations” by Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) for MSN
National: “Trump Tax Records Can Be Released by Treasury Department to House, Judge Rules” by Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Congress and Top Capitol Hill Staff Have Violated the STOCK Act Hundreds of Times. But the Consequences Are Minimal, Inconsistent, and Not Recorded Publicly.” by Camila DeChalus, Kimberly Leonard, and Dave Levinthal (Business Insider) for MSN
California: “City Employees Solicit Funds for Garcetti-Backed Charity. Ethics Experts Have Concerns” by Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) for Yahoo News
New York: “Trump Fraud Inquiry’s Focus: Did he mislead his own accountants?” by William Rashbaum, Ben Protess, and Jonah Bromwich (New York Times) for Yahoo News
South Carolina: “Orangeburg Coroner Marshall Gets $17K Fine After Neglecting Ethics Forms for Years” by Avery Wilks for Charleston Post and Courier
South Dakota: “Ex-Official Says She Felt ‘Intimidated’ in Meeting with Kristi Noem That Led to Daughter’s Appraiser License” by Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Redistricting Is Drying Up Competitive Congressional Races” by Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) for MSN
December 14, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Colorado: “Weiser’s Fundraiser in Hawaii Draws Complaint” by Christopher Osher for Denver Gazette Georgia: “Georgia Appeals Judge Agrees to $25,000 Fine in Ethics Case” by Associated Press for MSN Illinois: “Illinois Moves to Prohibit ‘Dark Money’ in Judicial […]
Colorado: “Weiser’s Fundraiser in Hawaii Draws Complaint” by Christopher Osher for Denver Gazette
Georgia: “Georgia Appeals Judge Agrees to $25,000 Fine in Ethics Case” by Associated Press for MSN
Illinois: “Illinois Moves to Prohibit ‘Dark Money’ in Judicial Races, but It’s Unclear What Effect That Will Have on State’s Free-Spending Campaigns” by Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “DA Larry Krasner’s Campaign and Real Justice PAC Have Admitted to Breaking Philly’s Campaign Finance Law, Again” by Sean Collins Welch (Philadelphia Inquirer) for MSN
National: “Now in Your Inbox: Political misinformation” by Maggie Astor (New York Times) for Yahoo News
National: “Manchin Cites a Blind Trust to Justify Climate Votes. But Much Income from His Family’s Coal Company Isn’t” by Michael Kranish and Anna Phillips (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Cuomo Advisors Used Campaign Aide to Dig Up Dirt on an Accuser Who Was Running for Office, Records Show” by Brian Schwartz for CNBC
National: “The Judges Drawing America’s Political Maps” by Ally Mutnik (Politico) for Yahoo News
December 10, 2021 •
National/Federal Challenges to the Voting Rights Act Far from Over Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 12/1/2021 When the U.S. Supreme Court decided an important voting rights case earlier this year, its ruling made it more difficult for […]
Challenges to the Voting Rights Act Far from Over
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 12/1/2021
When the U.S. Supreme Court decided an important voting rights case earlier this year, its ruling made it more difficult for voters to challenge restrictive state voting laws. Now, Texas is making an argument that, if adopted, would further hobble use of what remains of the Voting Rights Act. In a brief filed in a redistricting case, lawyers for the Texas argued it is not clear that Section 2 of the act allows private challenges to state laws at all, an argument that flies in the face of how the landmark civil rights-era statute has been interpreted by federal courts for decades.
Chris Cuomo Fired by CNN After Aiding Governor Brother and Other ‘New Allegations’
MSN – Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) | Published: 12/4/2021
Four days after announcing he would be indefinitely suspended from the network, CNN terminated its host Chris Cuomo following an investigation conducted by a law firm that it said had turned up “additional information” about him. Cuomo was suspended a day after documents released by New York Attorney General Letitia James showed he was more extensively involved in helping to defend his brother, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, against allegations of sexual misconduct than he had acknowledged, either publicly or to CNN management.
Courts May Play Outsize Role in Redistricting Fights
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 12/7/2021
The delayed release of 2020 census data has seen states sprinting to finish redistricting, but with control of the U.S. House hanging by a handful of seats, litigants are looking to courthouses to challenge the mapmaking effort. Several states, such as South Carolina and Pennsylvania, face lawsuits without having even finished their redistricting process. Challenges elsewhere have already played out: Republicans dropped a lawsuit against Oregon’s new congressional map recently.
Far Right Is Using Twitter’s New Rule Against Anti-Extremism Researchers
Washington Post – Drew Harwell | Published: 12/3/2021
Neo-Nazis and far-right activists are coaching followers on how to use a new Twitter rule to persuade the social media platform to remove photos of them posted by anti-extremism researchers and journalists who specialize in identifying episodes of real-world hate. Advocates said they worry the new policy will suppress efforts to document the activities of the far right and will prove to be a gift to members of hateful movements eager to keep their identities concealed.
Jan. 6 Committee Says It Will Move to Hold Former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in Criminal Contempt
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 12/8/2021
The U.S. House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol said it is preparing to hold Mark Meadows, former President Trump’s chief of staff, in criminal contempt for not complying with the panel’s subpoena as it is ramping up efforts to force former Trump administration officials to cooperate with its inquiry. Committee Chairperson Bennie Thompson said in a letter sent to Meadows the panel’s patience had run out and dismissed his argument that much of the information the committee sought was covered by executive privilege because it involved his duties as an aide to Trump at the White House.
Pro-Trump Scam PAC Operator, PPP Fraudster Sentenced to Nearly 4 Years in Prison
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 12/6/2021
A Las Vegas man behind both a pro-Trump scam PAC and a fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan scheme was sentenced to 46 months in prison and ordered to repay $1.4 million to his victims, including federal taxpayers. James Bell stole government pandemic relief aid while also conning supporters of both President Trump and eventual victor Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Bell, prosecutors said, was the first scam PAC operator to be sentenced in federal court in Washington, as well as the first PPP loan fraud defendant.
Rep. Devin Nunes to Leave Congress to Become Trump Media Company CEO
MSN – Amy Wang and David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 12/6/2021
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes plans to leave his seat at the end of December to become chief executive officer at a new media company founded by former President Trump. Nunes represents a historically Republican district that was growing more competitive even before the current round of redistricting. Early drafts of California’s next map put Nunes in a less Republican district in the Fresno area, one that backed Joe Biden by nine points. The Trump Media and Technology Group has not yet released any products to the public and missed its self-imposed deadline to roll out a beta-test version of its social media service in November.
Sidney Powell Group Raised More Than $14 Million Spreading Election Falsehoods
MSN – Emma Brown, Rosalind Helderman, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 12/6/2021
Records show Defending the Republic, a nonprofit founded by attorney Sidney Powell to fight the results of the 2020 presidential election, has raised more than $14 million, a sum that reveals the reach and resonance of one of the most visible efforts to fundraise using baseless claims about the election. Previously unreported records also detail acrimony between Powell and her top lieutenants over how the money, now a focus of inquiries by federal prosecutors and Congress, was being handled. As head of Defending the Republic, Powell controlled $9 million as recently as this summer.
Ted Cruz Has Never Recouped More Than $500,000 He Loaned His First Campaign. He’s Working to Overturn the Law That’s Blocked Him.
Texas Tribune – James Polard | Published: 12/8/2021
Ted Cruz loaned his campaign over $1 million in 2012, which helped him win election to the U.S. Senate. Cruz has never been able to recoup $545,000 of that loan. A 2002 law bans victorious federal candidates from using more than $250,000 raised after an election to pay back loans they gave their own campaigns prior to Election Day. A lawsuit the campaign filed against the FEC will soon reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Cruz’s campaign lawyers are expected to argue the limit is unconstitutional, arbitrarily limits political speech, and deters candidates from loaning money to their campaigns.
The Troubling New Void in Local Journalism – and the Nonprofits Trying to Fill It
MSN – Elahe Izadi (Washington Post) | Published: 12/6/2021
States Newsroom is a network of nonprofit newsrooms covering state government across the country. These outlets keep close tabs on state Legislatures and regulatory agencies where decisions are being made that affect many aspects of daily life for citizens. With funding from foundations and a variety of donors, States Newsroom formed two years ago to attempt to fill a void in what many government watchdogs and civil-society experts believe is one of the biggest manifestations of the local journalism crisis: the dire shortage of reporters covering state government.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Lawmaker’s Bill Would Make Arizona School Board Elections Partisan
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 12/5/2021
State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita believes she has a way of helping Arizona voters identify who they want to run their school boards: make candidates run with their party affiliation. The proposal would scrap the current system where people interested in the unpaid position submit nominating papers and then run against each other in a general election. Instead, all the registered candidates from each party would compete in an August primary, with the winners then facing off in November. it would put Arizona in the minority of states with a similar system, following only Louisiana and Pennsylvania.
Arkansas – State Officials Look to Replace Arkansas’ ‘Clunky,’ ‘Antiquated’ Electronic Campaign-Finance System
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Lisa Hammersly | Published: 12/5/2021
Lawmakers and the Arkansas secretary of state’s office are taking steps to procure a new computerized campaign finance system at an estimated cost of $750,000 to $1 million in hopes it will be easier to use. The planned new system, however, is not expected to be in place until after the November 2022 general election. That means candidates and the public have more than a year to coexist with the current system’s flaws. Those include errors and omissions in data, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette found in examining more than 650,000 campaign contribution and expenditure reports over the past four years.
California – Former Head of DWP Agrees to Plead Guilty to Bribery Charge
MSN – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 12/6/2021
The former top executive of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) agreed to plead guilty to a bribery charge in a widening corruption case involving the utility. David Wright accepted bribes from a lawyer in exchange for supporting a $30 million, no-bid DWP contract. Wright also admitted in the plea agreement he participated in several other corrupt schemes while serving as head of the DWP. Paul Paradis, the attorney whose company received the contract, agreed to plead guilty in a scheme that involved him receiving a $2.2-million kickback from another attorney.
California – Lavish Gifts, Expensive Trips: Was California state worker union leader’s spending justified?
MSN – Wes Ventiecher (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 12/3/2021
Records show former Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker spent nearly $7,000 on gifts for top union officers and thousands of dollars on international travel for union purposes. That included $4,500 to Disney Resorts in the largest gift to an outgoing officer, along with $5,700 for a flight to Tel Aviv for a labor event and $159 for a celebration at Sacramento’s Device Brewing Company, and other expenditures. IRS rules require the tax-exempt organization to spend its money in ways that benefit members, not themselves. But all the spending potentially was justifiable, according to a tax expert.
California – San Francisco’s City Hall Works to Restore Tarnished Reputation
San Francisco Examiner – Jeff Elder | Published: 12/7/2021
A corruption scandal has spurred ethics reform efforts in San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors voted to prohibit elected officials and city department heads from requesting donations to charities from “interested parties,” including lobbyists, and those seeking contracts and permits from the city. Supervisors cited the federal case in which companies admitted to conspiring to bribe former Public Works Department Director Mohammed Nuru. The San Francisco Ethics Commission is expected to discuss a ballot measure that would lay out broad guidelines on prohibited behavior and ethics training.
California – Wahl Legal Team Agrees to Deposition Date in Ash Street Litigation
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 12/4/2021
Christopher Wahl, the Southwest Strategies lobbyist who has been meeting privately with San Diego city officials to try to settle litigation over the city’s lease of a high rise, agreed to appear for a deposition in January. San Diego resident John Gordon claimed in his lawsuit that the 20-year lease-purchase deal is illegal. If the interview happens, it comes three months after Wahl was first served a subpoena and some seven weeks after he was initially scheduled to appear for a deposition.
Connecticut – Inquiry Underway into Top Connecticut Prosecutor’s Hiring of Lamont Administration Official’s Daughter. A Former U.S. Attorney Will Investigate.
Hartford Courant – Mark Pazniokas (CT Mirror) | Published: 12/3/2021
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration retained attorneys to investigate “possible improprieties by state employees and possibly others.” Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr. said a focus of the inquiry is the circumstances surrounding his hiring of Anastasia Diamantis, the daughter of Kostantinos Diamantis, one of the budget officials whom Colangelo had been lobbying for help in securing raises. Emails show Anastasia Diamantis was hired as Colangelo unsuccessfully pressed state officials, including her father, for help securing raises for prosecutors.
Florida – House Victory Senior Adviser Resigns Following ‘Ghost Candidate’ Reports
Florida Politics – Renzo Downey | Published: 12/3/2021
Political consultant and fundraiser Dan Newman resigned from the Florida Democrats’ House campaign operation following reports of his ties to a “ghost candidate” scheme. Florida Power and Light (FPL) executives worked with consultants behind the sham candidate scheme currently under investigation for undercutting Senate Democratic candidates last year using Republican strategies. Documents show Newman, who previously lobbied for FPL and has publicly stated he donated to the ghost campaign committee, received a $1.25 million check from FPL for his consulting firm in September 2020. An accompanying text message sent by Newman to consultants read, “The eagle has landed.”
Illinois – Center of ‘Rape Email’ Denies Knowledge of Alleged Illinois Government Coverup
Belleville News-Democrat – John O’Connor (Associated Press) | Published: 12/1/2021
The former campaign worker for Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker who is at the center of an email in which a one-time statehouse lobbyist alleged government coverups of a rape and illegal state hiring says he is completely unaware of the purported incidents that have dogged him since the email became public last year. Forrest Ashby, a longtime state employee who worked on the Pritzker’s 2018 campaign, said he never got a direct answer when he confronted the author of the email, Michael McClain – an ex-lobbyist now under indictment in an alleged bribery scheme that tarnished his confidante, former House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Michigan – Sidney Powell, L. Lin Wood Among Attorneys Ordered to Pay $175,000 Over Michigan ‘Kraken’ Suit
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 12/2/2021
A federal judge ordered a group of lawyers who brought a failed lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results to pay about $175,000 in legal fees to the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit, the latest in a series of rulings from federal judges seeking to hold lawyers accountable for trying to use the courts to overturn a democratic election. U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker had already ordered that the group of nine lawyers, including Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, be disciplined for their role in the suit, which in August she called “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”
Missouri – Controversial Bill Would Have Aided Missouri Company Under Scrutiny for Contamination
Missouri Independent – Alison Kite | Published: 12/6/2021
Two years ago, a company led by an influential Republican businessperson faced off with the Missouri’s environmental regulators over whether it needed to do additional testing for a chemical that health officials worried could pose a cancer risk to the company’s workers. The company argued the Department of Natural Resources was overzealously enforcing federal hazardous waste testing guidance that was not required by law or regulation. Soon the company’s complaints were reflected in legislation criticized as an attack on the state’s environmental regulation.
New Hampshire – Members of Public Who Attended Legislative Hearings Say They Were Not Contact Traced
Concord Monitor – Ethan DeWitt | Published: 12/4/2021
When Beverly Cotton got the call telling her of a potential COVID-19 exposure at a legislative committee session, it did not come from the New Hampshire House. It came from a fellow audience member. Cotton had joined a dozen other lobbyists, advocates, and reporters to watch the proceedings of the House Election Law Committee. Two days later, she was told someone in the room had later tested positive for COVID-19. The alert was worrying for Cotton, who has an underlying health condition. But the manner in which she received the news was unusual.
New York – New York City Poised to Give Voting Rights to Noncitizens
Yahoo News – Bobby Caina Calvin (Associated Press) | Published: 12/7/2021
Under a bill nearing approval, some 800,000 legally documented, voting-age noncitizens in New York City would be allowed to cast ballots in elections to pick the mayor, city council members, and other municipal officeholders. Noncitizens still would not be able to vote for president or members of Congress in federal races, or in the state elections that pick the governor, judges, and legislators. The move is a counterpoint to restrictions being enacted in some states, where Republicans have espoused unsupported claims of rampant fraud by noncitizens in federal elections.
New York – NY Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin Changes Answers on Background Check After News’ Expose
New York Daily News – Michael Gartland | Published: 12/6/2021
New state records revealed New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin changed his answers on state background check forms, two weeks after it was reported he provided incorrect information on his original disclosure before being sworn in as Gov. Hochul’s second-in-command. Benjamin refers several times to an addendum on his latest background check form. In it, he concedes that as a candidate, he has “had many interactions with regulatory bodies that oversee elections and campaign finance matters.”
Oregon – Good Government Groups Are Pushing Campaign Finance Limits in Oregon. They Might Have Competition.
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 12/7/2021
A coalition of good government groups filed three potential ballot measures with the state that would shake up Oregon’s permissive system of funding campaigns. The group says it will decide on one to put forward to voters in 2022, once polling shows which is most popular. While differing in their specifics, each of the proposals would create new limits on what individuals, advocacy groups, corporations, and political parties can contribute to candidates and causes. The proposals also include requirements that political advertisements prominently display top donors, and “dark money” groups disclose their funding sources if they engage in campaigning.
Pennsylvania – PA Senate Election Probe Contract Doesn’t Say If the Public Will See the Results, Among Other Things
WSKG – Sam Dunklau | Published: 12/7/2021
Multiple federal investigations as well as court rulings and state-mandated audits and of ballots from every Pennsylvania county have turned up no evidence of election problems that were out of the ordinary. The Department of State has said the last several election cycles ran smoothly. Even so, Pennsylvania Senate Republicans are paying over $2500,000 in taxpayer money to an Envoy Sage LLC to investigate those elections. Details of the agreement between the two are now public. Democratic senators as well as voter advocates say the document raises more questions than it answers.
Pennsylvania – Philadelphia Gas Works Emails Show Involvement in Drafting Bill That Runs Counter to Climate Goals
StateImpact Pennsylvania – Susan Phillips | Published: 12/3/2021
Philadelphia has as a climate goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. But the city owns a large fossil fuel utility, Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), which represents a major hurdle. Philadelphia is on the verge of releasing a study aimed at figuring out how to transform PGW to cut the city’s carbon emissions. Meanwhile, legislation is making its way through Harrisburg that would tie the hands of municipalities across the state when it comes to electrification. The city opposes the legislation, but emails obtained show PGW executives engaged in crafting, and potentially strengthening, a measure that would block efforts to promote electrification.
Pennsylvania – Philly City Council President Wants to Tweak Ethics Rules. But He Says It’s Not Related to Bobby Henon’s Conviction
MSN – Laura McCrystal (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 12/2/2021
Two weeks after Philadelphia City Councilperson Bobby Henon was convicted of bribery, council President Darrell Clarke proposed a modest tweak of city ethics rules: that council members must provide written notice when they recuse themselves from votes due to a conflict-of-interest. Clarke’s spokesperson denied the new measure was a response to the criminal case. A federal jury found inion leader John Dougherty bought Henon’s loyalty with a $70,000 annual union salary.
Pennsylvania – The Pa. Politicians Who Got Local 98 Campaign Money Aren’t Having Second Thoughts, Even After Johnny Doc’s Conviction
MSN – Jonathan Tamari and Andrew Seidman (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 12/8/2021
Convicted of bribery, the powerful Philadelphia labor leader John Dougherty has resigned from the union he led for almost three decades and is likely headed to federal prison. But prominent Pennsylvania politicians who’ve benefited from the union’s largesse are not renouncing its campaign money or saying much of anything about the trial that illustrated the city’s sometimes toxic mix of money and politics. Only one major recipient expressed any qualms about the contributions, which ranged from thousands of dollars to more than $1 million.
Texas – Justice Dept. Sues Texas Over Redistricting, Citing Discrimination Against Latinos
MSN – David Nakamura and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 12/6/2021
The U.S. Justice Department sued Texas for the second time in a month over voting-related concerns, this time alleging Republican state lawmakers discriminated against Latinos and other minorities when they approved new congressional and state legislative districts that increased the power of White voters. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s announcement marked the Biden administration’s first major legal action on redistricting. While the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to put limits on partisan gerrymandering, it is illegal to draw lines that are unfair to racial and ethnic minorities.
Utah – Proposed Ballot Initiative Would Return Utah to In-Person Paper Balloting on Election Day
Salt Lake Tribune – Brian Schott | Published: 12/7/2021
A group called Secure Vote Utah is hoping to get enough signatures to put an initiative on the 2022 ballot to do away with the state’s mail-in elections in favor of all paper ballots. The proposal also scraps early voting and most absentee balloting and makes it more difficult to register to vote. As it stands, every registered voter in the state is sent a ballot through the mail. If voters approve the initiative, nearly all voting would use paper ballots, marked by a pen or pencil, at neighborhood polling places. The only exceptions are for disabled individuals who need a mechanical method for voting.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Family Action Sues to Strike Down Campaign Finance Rule to Shield Names of Its Donors
Yahoo News – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal-Gazette) | Published: 12/6/2021
Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit saying it was reluctant to spend money in two congressional races because it feared the FEC would try to force it to disclose the names of its donors. It is asking U.S. District Court Judge William Griesbach to declare some of the FEC’s regulations unconstitutional. The lawsuit alleges the agency is trying to require groups like Wisconsin Family Action to disclose the names of donors who give more than $200 even if the money is not intended for political efforts.
December 9, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Ted Cruz Has Never Recouped More Than $500,000 He Loaned His First Campaign. He’s Working to Overturn the Law That’s Blocked Him.” by James Polard for Texas Tribune National: “Pro-Trump Scam PAC Operator, PPP Fraudster Sentenced to […]
National: “Ted Cruz Has Never Recouped More Than $500,000 He Loaned His First Campaign. He’s Working to Overturn the Law That’s Blocked Him.” by James Polard for Texas Tribune
National: “Pro-Trump Scam PAC Operator, PPP Fraudster Sentenced to Nearly 4 Years in Prison” by Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
Oregon: “Good Government Groups Are Pushing Campaign Finance Limits in Oregon. They Might Have Competition.” by Dirk VanderHart for OPB
Pennsylvania: “The Pa. Politicians Who Got Local 98 Campaign Money Aren’t Having Second Thoughts, Even After Johnny Doc’s Conviction” by Jonathan Tamari and Andrew Seidman (Philadelphia Inquirer) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “PA Senate Election Probe Contract Doesn’t Say If the Public Will See the Results, Among Other Things” by Sam Dunklau for WSKG
Utah: “Proposed Ballot Initiative Would Return Utah to In-Person Paper Balloting on Election Day” by Brian Schott for Salt Lake Tribune
California: “San Francisco’s City Hall Works to Restore Tarnished Reputation” by Jeff Elder for San Francisco Examiner
National: “Courts May Play Outsize Role in Redistricting Fights” by Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) for MSN
December 8, 2021 •
Elections New York: “New York City Poised to Give Voting Rights to Noncitizens” by Bobby Caina Calvin (Associated Press) for Yahoo News Ethics National: “The Troubling New Void in Local Journalism – and the Nonprofits Trying to Fill It” by […]
New York: “New York City Poised to Give Voting Rights to Noncitizens” by Bobby Caina Calvin (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
National: “The Troubling New Void in Local Journalism – and the Nonprofits Trying to Fill It” by Elahe Izadi (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Meadows Pulls Out of Tentative Cooperation Deal with Jan. 6 Investigators” by Kyle Cheney, Betsy Woodruff Swan, and Nicholas Wu (Politico) for MSN
California: “Former Head of DWP Agrees to Plead Guilty to Bribery Charge” by Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
New York: “NY Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin Changes Answers on Background Check After News’ Expose” by Michael Gartland for New York Daily News
National: “Rep. Devin Nunes to Leave Congress to Become Trump Media Company CEO” by Amy Wang and David Weigel (Washington Post) for MSN
Missouri: “Controversial Bill Would Have Aided Missouri Company Under Scrutiny for Contamination” by Alison Kite for Missouri Independent
Texas: “Justice Dept. Sues Texas Over Redistricting, Citing Discrimination Against Latinos” by David Nakamura and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for MSN
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