April 8, 2022 •
National/Federal Democrats Unveil Bill to Impose Ethics, Recusal Standards on Supreme Court Yahoo News – Harper Neidig (The Hill) | Published: 4/6/2022 A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation that would force the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt various ethics standards. […]
Democrats Unveil Bill to Impose Ethics, Recusal Standards on Supreme Court
Yahoo News – Harper Neidig (The Hill) | Published: 4/6/2022
A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation that would force the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt various ethics standards. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said the bill is aimed at addressing a lack of clear, enforceable standards for when justices should recuse themselves. The legislation largely mirrors previous bills aimed at reforming judicial ethics at the Supreme Court, but Democrats said there is a new urgency behind the effort amid outcry over revelations involving Ginni Thomas, a Republican activist and the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.
Dissatisfied with Their Party, Wealthy Republican Donors Form Secret Coalitions
Yahoo News – Kenneth Vogel, Shane Goldmacher, and Ryan Mac (New York Times) | Published: 4/7/2022
A new coalition of wealthy conservative benefactors that says it aims to “disrupt but advance the Republican agenda” gathered for a private summit recently at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The coalition, called the Rockbridge Network, includes some of Trump’s biggest donors, such as Peter Thiel and Rebekah Mercer, and has laid out an ambitious goal – to reshape the American right by spending more than $30 million on conservative media, legal, policy, and voter registration projects, among other initiatives.
Flurry of New Laws Move Blue and Red States Further Apart
Yahoo News – Shawn Hubler and Jill Cowan (New York Times) | Published: 4/3/2022
Spurred by a U.S. Supreme Court that is expected to soon upend an array of longstanding rights, including the constitutional right to abortion, left-leaning lawmakers from Washington to Vermont have begun to expand access to abortion, bolster voting rights and denounce laws in conservative states targeting LGBTQ. minors. The flurry of action, particularly in the West, is intensifying already marked differences between life in liberal- and conservative-led parts of the country. It is a sign of the consequences when state governments are controlled increasingly by single parties. Control of legislative chambers is split between parties now in two states – Minnesota and Virginia – compared with 15 states 30 years ago.
Former GOP Lawmaker Pardoned by Trump Hit with Campaign Finance Fines
NBC News – Zoë Richards | Published: 4/1/2022
Former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was pardoned by former President Trump in 2020, agreed to pay an FEC fine over misuse of campaign funds. Hunter and his wife Margaret Hunter, his former campaign manager, said they would pay $12,000 “solely for the purpose of settling this matter only and without admitting liability.” Hunter’s campaign committee agreed to pay a separate $4,000 fine. The FEC said due to his campaign’s “lack of financial resources,” the agency sought a smaller than usual fine, noting it would typically seek a “substantially higher civil penalty” of $133,000 based on the violations.
GAO: Most lobbyists follow disclosure rules, but some leave out details
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 4/5/2022
More than 90 percent of lobbyists provided documentation to back up their publicly reported income and expenses, the Government Accountability Office concluded after conducting routine audits of registered lobbyists to assess compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Still, the audit found some 35 percent of reports may have omitted previous government employment, which lobbyists are required to list. About seven percent missed some campaign contributions that lobbyists are required to report.
Garland Faces Growing Pressure as Jan. 6 Investigation Widens
Seattle Times – Michael Schmidt, Katie Rogers, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 4/2/2022
Attorney General Merrick Garland’s deliberative approach to investigating the riot at the Capitol has come to frustrate Democratic allies of the White House and, at times, President Biden himself. As recently as late last year, Biden confided to his inner circle that he believed former President Trump was a threat to democracy and should be prosecuted. While Biden has never communicated his frustrations directly to Garland, he has said privately he wanted Garland to act less like a ponderous judge and more like a prosecutor who is willing to take decisive action over the events of January 6, 2021.
House Judiciary Delves into FARA in First Dedicated Hearing in 30 Years
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 4/5/2022
Lawmakers, a legal scholar, government watchdogs, and a nonprofit advocate debated whether the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) should be expanded or reined in during a recent hearing, the first such session dedicated to FARA held by the House Judiciary Committee since 1991. The hearing held by the panel’s subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights, and civil liberties, largely revolved around how to balance the transparency objectives of FARA and target the law without infringing upon or having a chilling effect on the constitutionally protected activities that the statute regulates.
House Votes to Hold Ex-Trump Aides Navarro, Scavino in Contempt of Congress
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Matt Zapotosky, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/6/2022
The House voted to hold two former aides to ex-President Trump in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas related to the investigation into the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. The vote results in criminal referrals to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to charge former trade and manufacturing director Peter Navarro and former White House communications chief Daniel Scavino Jr. with misdemeanors that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
How Trump Allies Are Pushing to Hand-Count Ballots Around the U.S.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Amy Gardner, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2022
Allies of former President Trump are traveling the country to press for hand-counted paper ballots in elections. In recent weeks, officials have discussed the idea in public meetings in Colorado, Louisiana, Kansas, Nevada, and New Hampshire, and bills to require hand-counting have been proposed in at least six states. None of the statewide bills have passed, nor have the proposals gotten traction in large jurisdictions. But there has been increasing pressure placed on Republicans to endorse the idea, and some smaller towns and counties are now seriously considering it. Top backers of Trump’s election fraud claims are investing heavily in the effort to promote hand-counting and using the pitch to raise money from supporters.
Inside the Consulting Firm Run by Ginni Thomas, Wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
MSN – Brian Schwartz (CNBC) | Published: 4/5/2022
Ginni Thomas runs a little-known consulting company that some campaign watchdog groups say could create yet another conflict-of-interest for her husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Text messages show Ginni Thomas prodded former President Trump’s then chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in late 2020 to try to overturn the presidential election results. It has led to calls by lawmakers to create a formal Supreme Court code of ethics. Very little is known about her company, Liberty Consulting, which is listed as an asset on her husband’s Supreme Court disclosures.
Nonprofits Help Fill the Gap in Statehouse News Coverage
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 4/6/2022
Nationwide, the number of statehouse reporters employed at nonprofit news outlets has grown from 92 in 2014 to 353 today. That means they represent 20 percent of the total statehouse press corps, up from just six percent in 2014, according to a new study. Journalism in general is in decline but it appears statehouse reporting will not vanish, thanks in large part to nonprofit newsrooms. But fewer than half of the state-level journalists are full-time reporters, according to the research. The rest are only covering Legislatures or other parts of state government part time, or they are interns or support staff.
U.S. Judge Acquits Jan. 6 Defendant Who Said He Was Waved in by Police
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/6/2022
A federal judge found a former U.S. Energy Department contract engineer not guilty of trespassing and disorderly conduct in the attack on the Capitol, saying the defendant plausibly argued that police officers allowed him into the building. U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden, a Donald Trump appointee, acquitted Matthew Martin of four misdemeanor counts of trespassing and disorderly conduct in a bench trial, handing the Justice Department its first defeat in a Capitol breach prosecution.
Canada – Foreign-Lobbyist Registry Finds Support Among Canadian Critics of Russia, Iran and China
The Globe and Mail – Steven Chase | Published: 4/7/2022
A bill that would set up a public registry to track those seeking to influence government on behalf of foreign countries is gaining support among Canadians concerned about the efforts by Russia, Iran, and China to lobby policymakers. The legislation would require those acting on behalf of a foreign government or entities related to that government to register. This obligation would be triggered if they seek to influence public policy, legislation, regulations, and government programs or if they want to set up meetings with public officeholders.
From the States and Municipalities
Arkansas – Firm Paying $8M to Arkansas, Feds Over Corruption Probe
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 3/31/2022
The nonprofit that was at the center of a corruption probe that involved several legislators is paying more than $6.9 million to the federal government and more than $1.1 million in restitution to Arkansas. Federal prosecutors announced the non-prosecution agreement with Preferred Family Healthcare. Several former executives from the charity, former Arkansas legislators, and others have pleaded guilty as part of the corruption probe.
Colorado – Former Colorado Elections Official Tina Peters May Have Breached a State Ethics Law by Accepting a Private Plane Ride from Mike Lindell
Yahoo News – Cheryl Teh (Business Insider) | Published: 4/5/2022
Former Colorado elections official Tina Peters may have flouted a state ethics law by accepting a private plane ride from MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. He said he gave Peters a lift on his private jet in August when he flew her to his cyber-symposium in South Dakota. Peters’ acceptance of the place ride may have violated Amendment 41, which prohibits public officials like Peters from receiving gifts, including travel, that cost more than $65.
Florida – Federal Judge Overturns Parts of Florida Election Law, Citing ‘Horrendous History’ of Racism
Yahoo News – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/31/2022
A federal judge struck down key provisions of a 2021 Florida election law championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and ruled the state must get court approval for the next 10 years before it enacts further changes in three areas. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker said the law placed restrictions on voters that were unconstitutional and discriminated against minority citizens. Those included limits on drop boxes used for mail-in voting, on giving items to voters waiting in line, and new requirements placed on voter registration groups. Walker framed Florida’s law as another in a long line of changes that were aimed at Democrats but wound up placing an illegal burden on minorities.
Florida – Inside the Scott Maddox Messages: A Tallahassee Democrat investigation into back-door dealings
Yahoo News – Jeff Burlew, Jeffrey Schweers, and Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 4/5/2022
Before federal prosecutors unveiled their case in the public corruption trial of John Burnette, a treasure trove of sealed government evidence found its way online because of a mix-up by someone on the defense team. The evidence consisted of hundreds of text messages to and from former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox, the central figure in the FBI’s “Operation Capital Currency” investigation and one of Burnette’s co-defendants. The messages between Maddox and numerous political movers and shakers laid bare the way he conducted business behind the scenes during his last years in office. Maddox is set to be sentenced in the case.
Florida – Legislature Delivers Gov. DeSantis Second Pass at Limiting Big Dollar Influence in Ballot Initiatives
Florida Politics – Renzo Downey | Published: 4/5/2022
Legislative leaders officially sent Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis their second attempt to limit spending in the ballot initiative process after last year’s proposal met legal hurdles. House Bill 921 would limit non-Floridians from donating more than $3,000, and out-of-state political committees from receiving donations worth more than $3,000, when it comes to ballot initiatives in the petition-gathering process. Critics say it still runs afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision protecting political contributions as free speech.
Georgia – State Worker Accused of Using Fake Belly to Pretend She’s Pregnant Skirts Prison in GA
MSN – Hayley Fowler (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 4/4/2022
A former state employee in Georgia accused of concocting an elaborate sham pregnancy that included a made-up father and pretend baby bump will not go to prison after she pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Robin Folsom pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and making false statements. A judge sentenced her to five years of probation and 40 hours of community service as a result. She was also ordered to pay $12,307 in restitution. Folsom is accused of lying about her pregnancies to receive 265 hours of paid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Georgia – Would Longer Session Help Georgia Legislature?
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Craig Nelson | Published: 3/31/2022
Critics wonder if the traditional flurry of last-minute activity at the end of the 40-day legislative session is compatible with Georgia’s oft-stated ambition to be a major economic and political player in the nation and lawmakers’ duty to oversee a fiscal year budget now exceeding $30 billion. They say even more problematic is the lack of ethnic, gender, and economic diversity that the so-called citizen legislator model engenders.
Kansas – Kansas Statehouse Subpoenas, Pay-to-Play Allegations, Consultants’ Feud Disrupt End of Session
Kansas Reflector – Tim Carpenter | Published: 4/3/2022
Before adjourning the legislative session, Republican lawmakers attempted to write into law a requirement that the executive director of the Governmental Ethics Commission hold a Kansas license to practice law. The target of their ire was Executive Director Mark Skoglund, the top regulator of legislators’ campaign finance activities who fell out of favor among some Republicans. The final hours also featured the disclosure that the ethics commission issued subpoenas to GOP legislators and political operatives as part of an investigation into PACs tied to conservative causes and lawmakers.
Louisiana – Jeff Landry Spent $420,000+ from Campaign Donors on His Own Staffing Company
Corporation Crime Commission – Andrea Gallo (The Advocate) | Published: 3/31/2022
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has directed more than $420,000 in campaign money to a staffing company he owns. His practice of cutting campaign checks to companies he owns stretches back to at least 2007 but has accelerated in recent years. A spokesperson for Landry says the payments are perfectly legal, and the attorney general only runs his campaign staff payroll through UST Staffing because it is efficient. Landry is the only statewide official in using such a system, and the net effect is that his campaign reports do not show how many people work for his campaign, or who they are.
Maryland – Hogan Signs New Md. Congressional Map into Law, Ending Legal Battles
MSN – Meagan Flynn and Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2022
Gov. Larry Hogan signed a new Maryland congressional map into law, ending legal battles over the congressional maps that had left the state’s campaigns in limbo. Hogan agreed to enact the new map after the Maryland attorney general’s office said it would abandon its appeal of a judge’s ruling that found the previous map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Republican also plaintiffs agreed to abandon challenges to the new map. The agreement means that, after months of legal wrangling, Maryland’s congressional map is set for the upcoming midterm elections and for the next decade.
Maryland – Latinos Find Little Room in Majority African American County
MSN – Rachel Chason (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2022
As they watched their communities devastated by hunger and sickness, a group of Latino leaders in Prince George’s County said their struggle for resources during the coronavirus pandemic was exacerbated by the near-total lack of Latino officials in the government. A cohort of Latino leaders who issued a statement six months ago highlighting the lack of representation say their requests for an audit have been dismissed and their calls for the administration to change its recruitment practices have gone unanswered. It’s an old friction in Prince George’s that was felt anew as the pandemic underscored inequities faced by Black and Latino communities nationwide, with both historically marginalized groups struggling for resources.
Michigan – Michigan AG Hopeful Tom Leonard’s Fundraising Draws Fairness Concerns
Bridge Michigan – Yue Stella Yu | Published: 4/1/2022
John Kennedy was sure who he wanted elected as Michigan’s next attorney general, and money was not a problem. But Kennedy did not know how much money his desired candidate, former House Speaker Tom Leonard, needed to win. “We asked him what the maximum we could give to the campaign was,” said Kennedy. The maximum an individual can give to someone running for statewide office in Michigan is $7,150. But Kennedy and his wife wrote multiple checks totaling $39,300 to support Leonard’s bid. The Kennedys each contributed their individual maximum to Leonard’s campaign. But John Kennedy then wrote a second check for $25,000 to one of Leonard’s leadership PACs, the Michigan Values Leadership Fund.
Mississippi – Phil Bryant Had His Sights on a Payout as Welfare Funds Flowed to Brett Favre
MSN – Anna Wolfe (Mississippi Today) | Published: 4/5/2022
Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant used the authority of his office, the weight of his political influence, and the power of his connections to help his friend and retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre boost a pharmaceutical venture. Then Bryant tried to cash in on the project when he left office, text messages show. Favre met with Bryant’s welfare officials to strike a deal for a $1.7 million investment in the biomedical startup Prevacus, which promised it had found a treatment for concussions. Prosecutors now say that money was stolen from a federal program intended to serve the state’s poorest residents, a pot of money that had virtually no oversight.
Nevada – Former Democratic Assemblyman Indicted for Campaign Fund Theft, Falsifying Documents
Nevada Independent – Sean Golonka | Published: 3/31/2022
A grand jury indicted former Nevada Assembly member Alexander Assefa on 14 charges, finding probable cause Assefa stole tens of thousands of dollars from his campaign account and lied about his residency on candidacy forms. During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers updated the penalty thresholds for crimes of theft, but because Assefa committed the crimes before implementation of the change, he was charged under the previous law.
New Hampshire – Trump Aide Seeking NH House Seat Voted in 2 States in 2016
MSN – Brian Slodysko and Holly Ramer (Associated Press) | Published: 4/5/2022
A former Trump administration official now running for Congress in New Hampshire voted twice during the 2016 primary election season, potentially violating federal voting law. Matt Mowers, a leading GOP primary candidate looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, cast an absentee ballot in New Hampshire’s 2016 presidential primary. At the time, Mowers served as the director of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign. After Christie’s bid fizzled, Mowers cast another ballot in New Jersey’s Republican presidential primary, using his parents’ address to re-register in his home state.
New Jersey – A Bribe Is a Bribe, Court Says, Ruling That a Mayoral Candidate Is Subject to N.J. Corruption Laws
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/4/2022
An appeals court reinstated the bribery indictment against former Bayonne mayoral candidate Jason O’Donnell. The ruling reverses a controversial trial court’s decision to throw out the case last year because O’Donnell was not an elected public official when he reportedly took $10,000 in a paper bag in a corruption sting set up by the New Jersey attorney general’s office. In that earlier decision, a Superior Court judge concluded that as a candidate for public office, O’Donnell had no power to make any promises in return for the cash payment prosecutors say he accepted. He later lost the election.
New Jersey – Emails Reveal Prominent Law Firms Were Among Donors to Caddle’s Dark Money Groups
Yahoo News – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 4/6/2022
An attorney for one of the biggest school districts in New Jersey raised money from law firms that funded a “dark money” group run by political operative Sean Caddle, who has admitted hiring two men to kill an associate. The group, in turn, indirectly paid for ads and canvassing to boost the political faction that had hired the lawyer, Jonathan Williams. Emails reveal some of the donors to a network of “dark money” organizations Caddle and Gianni Donates formed in what appeared to be an effort to hide the source of the money spent on municipal elections around the state, a network that has drawn interest from state and federal investigators.
New York – Cuomo Files Lawsuit and Complaint Targeting Ethics Commission
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 4/2/2022
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is waging a legal counter assault on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). His attorney, Rita Glavin, filed a complaint asking the state inspector general’s office to investigate their claim that members of the commission or its staff leaked confidential information about Cuomo’s dealings with the ethics panel. Glavin also filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court challenging JCOPE’s efforts to make him return more than $5 million in proceeds from a book he wrote about his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
New York – New York Judge Strikes Down Democratic-Drawn Maps
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2022
A New York judge struck down the state’s new congressional and legislative maps as defying a voter-backed constitutional amendment that aimed to end partisan gerrymandering. State Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister ordered state lawmakers to draw bipartisan maps by April 11 or the court will appoint an independent map drawer to do it. The state will appeal the decision, triggering an automatic stay until the state appeals court takes it up.
Ohio – Former DeWine Aide Warned Governor About Utility Regulator Before the FBI Raided His Home
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 4/4/2022
More than two years before FirstEnergy admitted paying Ohio’s top utility regulator a $4.3 million bribe, Mike DeWine’s former campaign treasurer warned senior aides to the new governor about the eventual nominee’s “opaque and undisclosed” financial ties to the company. The warning came in a 198-page dossier alleging Sam Randazzo, a lawyer and lobbyist who represented gas companies and industrial scale electricity buyers, uses businesses registered in his name to “funnel” money from FirstEnergy to buy real estate.
Ohio – New Whistleblower Policy Would Require Cuyahoga County Employees to Report County Ethics – but Not State, Federal – Violations
MSN – Kaitlin Durbin (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/6/2022
In what is expected to be the final revision, the Cuyahoga County Council members compromised on a whistleblower policy that limits mandatory reporting only to elected officials, employees, and board members with “actual knowledge” of county ethics violations. It also takes them off the hook for having to speak up if they know the violation has already been reported by someone else.
South Carolina – SC GOP Lawmaker Hit with 133 SC Ethics Charges Alleging Spending, Reporting Violations
MSN – Maayan Schechter (The State) | Published: 4/5/2022
South Carolina Rep. Jonathan Hill faces 133 ethics-related charges for allegedly violating the state’s campaign spending and disclosure laws that includes an allegation he spent campaign cash on a personal mortgage. Hill has long been at odds with his own party. He is the only Republican who is not a member of the House Republican Caucus after he was indefinitely suspended after publicly criticizing leadership, sharing private caucus conversations, and posting lawmakers’ cellphone numbers online.
South Dakota – South Dakota Lawmaker Gave Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg Legal Advice After Fatal Crash
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 4/6/2022
A lawmaker who will cast a vote on whether to impeach South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg says he gave him legal advice following Ravnsborg’s involvement in a fatal car crash. Rep. Scott Odenbach, who at the time was running for the seat he eventually won, said Ravnsborg reached out to him for input on a public statement that was released two days after the attorney general struck and killed Joe Boever, a pedestrian who was walking along a rural highway.
Tennessee – Ethics Reform Bill to Tamp Down on Corruption Clears First Hurdle in Tennessee Senate
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 4/5/2022
Legislation designed to make ethics laws more transparent passed its first committee. Senate Bill 1005 now goes to the Senate floor. The bill would require increased reporting for lawmakers, PACs, some key staff members, and groups with 501c4 tax designations. Lawmakers, for instance, would be required to report all contributions and expenses. The Legislature has been embroiled in an FBI investigation for more than three years, part of which focuses on the formation of shady political committees and vendors that did business with the House Republican Caucus and GOP members.
Tennessee – Nashville Council Censures Member Jonathan Hall for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Cassandra Stephenson (Tennessean) | Published: 4/6/2022
Nashville’s Metro Council voted to censure Jonathan Hall for campaign finance-related ethics violations, an uncommon move for the 40-member body. The Board of Ethical Conduct recommended censure after concluding Hall violated the ethics code by failing to file required financial disclosures in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance voted in January to impose a $360,000 penalty on Hall for 36 violations. Registry board members delayed their reconsideration of the penalty pending updates from local authorities.
Texas – Texas Is Quietly Using Redistricting Lawsuits to Launch a Broader War Against Federal Voting Rights Law
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 4/4/2022
Over the years, Texas lawmakers have repeatedly been ordered to correct gerrymandering that suppressed the political power of Black and Hispanic voters. The pathway to federal court has been through the Voting Rights Act. Key portions of the law have been weakened in the last decade, but Texans of color still find a way to file lawsuits under its Section 2, which prohibits discriminatory voting procedures and practices that deny voters of color an equal opportunity to participate in elections. Tucked into the legal briefs the state has filed this year with a three-judge panel considering redistricting lawsuits are two arguments that reach far beyond the validity of the specific maps being challenged.
Wisconsin – Robin Vos Found in Contempt of Court for Failing to Turn Over Records About the Republican Election Review
Yahoo News – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 3/30/2022
A judge found Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in contempt of court for failing to release documents related to a Republican-run review of the 2020 election. Dane County Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ordered Vos and the Assembly to turn over records within 14 days and to each pay $1,000 per day if they fail to do that. Vos has approved spending up to $676,000 in taxpayer funds on the election review, but the review and its related legal expenses could exceed that amount.
April 7, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Legislature Delivers Gov. DeSantis Second Pass at Limiting Big Dollar Influence in Ballot Initiatives” by Renzo Downey for Florida Politics New Jersey: “Emails Reveal Prominent Law Firms Were Among Donors to Caddle’s Dark Money Groups” by Matt […]
Florida: “Legislature Delivers Gov. DeSantis Second Pass at Limiting Big Dollar Influence in Ballot Initiatives” by Renzo Downey for Florida Politics
New Jersey: “Emails Reveal Prominent Law Firms Were Among Donors to Caddle’s Dark Money Groups” by Matt Friedman (Politico) for Yahoo News
South Carolina: “SC GOP Lawmaker Hit with 133 SC Ethics Charges Alleging Spending, Reporting Violations” by Maayan Schechter (The State) for MSN
Tennessee: “Nashville Council Censures Member Jonathan Hall for Campaign Finance Violations” by Cassandra Stephenson (Tennessean) for Yahoo News
National: “Nonprofits Help Fill the Gap in Statehouse News Coverage” by Alan Greenblatt for Governing
National: “Democrats Unveil Bill to Impose Ethics, Recusal Standards on Supreme Court” by Harper Neidig (The Hill) for Yahoo News
Colorado: “Former Colorado Elections Official Tina Peters May Have Breached a State Ethics Law by Accepting a Private Plane Ride from Mike Lindell” by Cheryl Teh (Business Insider) for Yahoo News
Tennessee: “Ethics Reform Bill to Tamp Down on Corruption Clears First Hurdle in Tennessee Senate” by Sam Stockard for Tennessee Lookout
National: “House Judiciary Delves into FARA in First Dedicated Hearing in 30 Years” by Caitlin Oprysko for Politico
Maryland: “Hogan Signs New Md. Congressional Map into Law, Ending Legal Battles” by Meagan Flynn and Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) for MSN
April 4, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Nevada: “Former Democratic Assemblyman Indicted for Campaign Fund Theft, Falsifying Documents” by Sean Golonka for Nevada Independent Elections Florida: “Federal Judge Overturns Parts of Florida Election Law, Citing ‘Horrendous History’ of Racism” by Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo […]
Nevada: “Former Democratic Assemblyman Indicted for Campaign Fund Theft, Falsifying Documents” by Sean Golonka for Nevada Independent
Florida: “Federal Judge Overturns Parts of Florida Election Law, Citing ‘Horrendous History’ of Racism” by Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo News
Wisconsin: “Robin Vos Found in Contempt of Court for Failing to Turn Over Records About the Republican Election Review” by Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) for Yahoo News
Arkansas: “Firm Paying $8M to Arkansas, Feds Over Corruption Probe” by Associated Press for MSN
Kansas: “Kansas Republican Lawmakers Move to Dump the Ethics Boss Leading a Campaign Finance Probe” by Jim McLean (Kansas News Service) for KCUR
Georgia: “Would Longer Session Help Georgia Legislature?” by Craig Nelson for Georgia Public Broadcasting
Maryland: “Md. Dems Pass New Congressional Map – as AG Appeals Gerrymandering Ruling” by Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “New York Judge Strikes Down Democratic-Drawn Maps” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
April 1, 2022 •
National/Federal Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington MSN – Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022 SKDK, a public relations and political strategy firm, is a unique force in Washington, straddling the […]
Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington
MSN – Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022
SKDK, a public relations and political strategy firm, is a unique force in Washington, straddling the line between the private sector and the Biden administration to quietly affect change. The firm has served a roster of high-powered clients, including Fortune 500 companies, occasionally foreign governments, and candidates. Neither SKDK nor Anita Dunn, the firm’s co-founder who was an architect of President Biden’s 2020 victory and served in the administration, lobby or represent any clients on matters before the federal government. Still, Dunn’s role is questioned by some ethics experts, who say she has, avoided rules meant to promote transparency.
Did Trump Asking Putin for Dirt on Hunter Biden Violate Election Law?
Newsweek – Ewan Palmer | Published: 3/31/2022
Questions have been raised about whether Donald Trump asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to find information on Hunter Biden’s alleged business dealings was a violation of federal law. Trump once again publicly sought a foreign power’s assistance in unearthing political dirt on one of his political opponents after he repeated dubious claims regarding President Joe Biden’s son. While he has not formally announced his intention to run for president in 2024, some have accused Trump of breaking the law that prohibits any person from soliciting, accepting, or receiving anything of value from a foreign national in connection with an election.
FEC Fines DNC, Clinton for Violating Rules in Funding Steele Dossier
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
The FEC fined the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for violating rules with the funding of the dossier at the center of accusations of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. The FEC said the fine for the Clinton campaign was $8,000 and the fine for the DNC was $105,000.
Flynn Partner Wins New Trial in Foreign-Agent Case
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 3/25/2022
A onetime business partner of former President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn scored a legal victory as a federal judge ordered a new trial for the Iranian-born businessperson on charges he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey as Trump ran for president in 2016. The ruling was the latest lurch in a legal roller coaster ride for Bijan Rafiekian, who was found guilty by a jury, then then had his two felony convictions thrown out only to see the guilty verdicts reinstated by an appeals court.
How Google and Amazon Bankrolled a ‘Grassroots’ Activist Group of Small Business Owners to Lobby Against Big Tech Oversight
CNBC – Eamon Javers and Meghan Maharishi | Published: 3/30/2022
The Connected Commerce Council (3C), which pitches itself as a grassroots movement representing small business owners, is really a well-financed advocacy group funded by Google and Amazon. The companies are currently the council’s sole financial support. Lobbying watchdog group the Campaign for Accountability called 3C an “Astroturf” lobbying organization, thanks to the tech giants’ financial support. The group does have some active small business members, several of whom said they value 3C’s offerings and agree with its issue advocacy in Washington, D.C.
Jan. 6 Committee Backs Contempt Charges for Two Former Trump Aides
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022
Internal White House records from the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that were turned over to a House select committee show a gap in former President Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the building was being violently assaulted. The seven-hour gap stands in stark contrast to the extensive public reporting about phone conversations Trump had with allies during the attack. One lawmaker on the panel said the committee is investigating a “possible coverup” of the official White House record from that day.
Jan. 6 White House Logs Given to House Show 7-hour Gap in Trump Calls
MSN – Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 3/29/2022
Internal White House records from the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that were turned over to the House select committee show a gap in former President Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the building was being violently assaulted. The seven-hour gap stands in stark contrast to the extensive public reporting about phone conversations Trump had with allies during the attack. One lawmaker on the panel said the committee is investigating a “possible coverup” of the official White House record from that day.
Justice Dept. Expands Jan. 6 Probe to Look at Rally Prep, Financing
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
The criminal investigation into the attack on the Capitol has expanded to examine the preparations for the rally that preceded the riot, as the Justice Department aims to determine the full extent of any conspiracy to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. A federal grand jury has issued subpoena requests to some officials in former President Trump’s orbit who assisted in planning, funding, and executing the January 6 rally.
Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Transparency in the Lucrative – and Murky – Federal Contracting Process
ABC News – Lucien Bruggeman and Soo Rin Kim | Published: 3/28/2022
A bipartisan coalition of senators introduced legislation meant to improve transparency in the competitive and murky federal contracting process, taking aim at companies that accept lucrative work from government agencies without having to disclose potential conflicts-of-interest. The Preventing Organizational Conflicts of interest in Federal Acquisition Act would force contractors to “disclose other parts of their business that conflict with the work they are bidding to perform for the government,” according to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI
MSN – Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2022
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry resigned from Congress after he was convicted on three felony counts for lying to federal investigators about illegal campaign contributions from a foreign billionaire. Foreign nationals are prohibited from donating to candidates running for federal office in the U.S. It is also illegal to disguise a donor’s identity through third-party contributions. Fortenberry was convicted of one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. Each of the counts carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
Trump Likely Committed Felony Obstruction, Federal Judge Rules
Politico – Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein, and Nicholas Wu | Published: 3/28/2022
A federal judge ruled former President Trump “more likely than not” attempted to illegally obstruct Congress as part of a criminal conspiracy when he tried to subvert the 2020 election on January 6, 2021. U.S. District Court Judge David Carter’s ruling came as he ordered the release to a House select committee of 101 emails from Trump ally John Eastman, rejecting Eastman’s effort to shield them via attorney-client privilege. Eastman used the email account of his former employer to discuss political and legal strategy related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election and had sued the committee to prevent them from obtaining the emails.
Trump NLRB Member’s Conflicts Broke Law, Inspector General Alleges
Bloomberg Law – Ian Kullgren | Published: 3/28/2022
Former National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) member William Emanuel allegedly broke federal ethics law by failing to monitor investments that created disqualifying conflicts-of-interest in five cases, according to board documents. The U.S. Department of Justice last year declined to press charges against Emanuel, which ethics experts attributed to the high burden of proof in criminal cases. Documents show his conduct despite repeated warnings created at least the possibility of self-enrichment. The case highlights a gap in ethics enforcement that could be exploited by future appointees at the NLRB and other agencies.
Turmoil at CBS News Over Trump Aide Mick Mulvaney’s Punditry Gig
MSN – Jeremy Barr (Wshington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
CBS News’s decision to hire former Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney as a paid on-air contributor is drawing backlash within the company because of his history of bashing the press and promoting the former president’s fact-free claims. Many journalists and political commentators suggested the network was jeopardizing its long history of journalistic excellence. One person said the frustration among staff was less about Mulvaney’s high-ranking role in the Trump administration and more about the inaccuracy of some of his past comments.
Virginia Thomas Urged White House Chief to Pursue Unrelenting Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Election, Texts Show
MSN – Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2022
Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist married to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in a series of urgent text exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote. The 29 messages reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Virginia Thomas and then-President Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court to negate the election results.
Why Redistricting Has Stalled in 4 Unfinished States
Yahoo News – Ally Mutnick and Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/28/2022
The final stage of the redistricting cycle has arrived: gridlock. Spats between governors and state legislators, and between different Republican factions, have brought map-making to a standstill in the final four states still without new congressional lines for the 2022 elections. With filing deadlines looming, 44 House seats are still outstanding in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Missouri and, most importantly, Florida, which has 28 districts all by itself.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Republicans Enact a Controversial New Proof-of-Citizenship Voting Law
KJZZ – Ben Giles | Published: 3/30/2022
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation to expand U.S. citizenship voting requirements in the state, a measure that critics warn will jeopardize the voter registrations of thousands of residents. In signing House Bill 2492, Ducey disputed testimony from local officials and voting rights advocates who say an unknown number of voters – predominantly older, longtime Arizona residents – will be purged from the voter rolls because the last time they registered to vote, there was no requirement to provide proof of citizenship. Critics say those voters would then need to register again.
Arizona – Panel Strikes Down Plan to Give Arizona Lawmakers Big Raises
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 3/28/2022
Arizona lawmakers will still have to depend on voters’ goodwill, or lack thereof, to get more pay. The House Appropriations Committee quashed a proposal to create a system that would peg lawmakers’ salary at 60 percent of what the governor is paid. That would move legislative pay next year from $24,000 to $57,000. The measure would have replaced the current system of having a special commission study the issue and make recommendations that go on the ballot. The death of the package also means some proffered changes on lobbyist reporting also will not take effect.
California – Airbnb Routinely Deploys Its ‘Astroturf Army’ to Combat California Short-Term Rental Regulations, Critics Say
MSN – Silas Valentino (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 3/28/2022
In 2020, one week before the San Diego Planning Commission met to discuss capping the number of short-term rentals in the city, Airbnb emailed its hosts asking for help. “The Planning Commission needs to hear from hosts like you,” read the email, signed by The Airbnb Team. At the bottom there were two links: one to a short form that generated an email to city council members and another to RSVP for the meeting’s public comment session. Airbnb is not the only tech company to generate seemingly grassroots campaigns. In fact, they are so common that BuzzFeed reporter Caroline O’Donovan gave this “click-to-lobby” tactic a name: “Brobilizing.”
Colorado – Judge Says Republican Consultants Didn’t Violate Redistricting Lobbying Rules
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 3/25/2022
An administrative law judge ruled former state Sen. Greg Brophy, former House Speaker Frank McNulty, and political strategist Alan Philp did not violate Colorado’s lobbying rules with their work on redistricting last year. A complaint alleged they either failed to register as lobbyists while conducting meetings related to redistricting and proposing ideas for maps, or they did not properly disclose income related to their work. Judge Matthew Norwood concluded their activities did not meet the definition of lobbying.
Connecticut – CT Contracting Watchdog Clears Key Hurdle to Add Investigative Staff
CTMirror.org – Keith Phaneuf | Published: 3/29/2022
Connecticut’s contracting watchdog panel moved one step closer to getting the investigative staff it has sought since its inception 13 years ago. The Government Administration and Elections Committee approved a bill mandating the five investigative posts sought by the State Contracting Standards Board be filled before the first quarter of the next fiscal year ends, in late September. Pressure from legislators to strengthen the watchdog intensified this year following reports the FBI is investigating school construction work and other projects once overseen by Gov. Ned Lamont’s former deputy budget director.
Florida – Ex-Congressman David Rivera Loses ‘Last-Ditch’ Move to Avoid $456,000 Campaign Fine
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 3/28/2022
A federal judge rejected former U.S. Rep. David Rivera’s “last-ditch effort” to dodge a $456,000 judgment against him tied to his decade-old campaign violations. Roughly a year after ruling in favor of the FEC, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke denied Rivera’s motion to dismiss the agency’s lawsuit against him on the grounds he never received mail notices he was going to be sued, and that a five-year statute of limitations had expired when the complaint was filed in 2017. The FEC case is now administratively closed, and Rivera is on the hook for the six-figure judgment.
Florida – Florida’s Redistricting Mess Heads to Special Session after DeSantis Vetoes ‘Defective’ Map
MSN – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/29/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a new congressional map while calling for a mid-April special legislative session so state lawmakers can craft new maps that satisfy him. DeSantis contended the Legislature-approved congressional map was “defective” and violated federal law. He made clear he would be opposed to any proposal designed to keep intact districts that had a sizable minority population, but where minority voters do not constitute an overall majority.
Georgia – Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown
MSN – Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 3/29/2022
A Georgia Senate committee eviscerated a controversial elections overhaul a day after local election officials from both parties blasted it as complicating their work in an election year. The fate of the massive bill, which sped through the GOP-led House in March, is now uncertain and could result in a showdown in the final days of the legislative session.
Georgia – Guilty Verdict in Atlanta City Hall Corruption Trial
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 3/23/2022
A jury found a political operative and former Atlanta employee guilty on charges including money laundering, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit bribery that resulted from a long-running federal investigation into corruption at City Hall. Mitzi Bickers was the first person to go to trial over the corruption probe during former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration. Bickers was accused of using her influence to funnel business to city contractors. Prosecutors said she directed roughly $17 million in city work to the two men and their companies in exchange for about $2 million in bribes.
Idaho – Ammon Bundy Pays Himself Thousands in Campaign Cash
Boise State Public Radio – James Dawson | Published: 3/25/2022
Ammon Bundy, the anti-government activist running as an independent candidate to be Idaho’s next governor, has paid thousands of dollars in campaign donations to a company he owns. Bundy’s campaign has paid $13,500 in $1,500 monthly installments since June 1, 2021, to Abish-Husbondi Inc, a company incorporated in Wyoming. Bundy is listed as the company’s president and sole officer in an annual report. Idaho law states that, in general, “A contribution shall lot be converted by any person to personal use.” But the law appears silent on whether candidates can contract with their own businesses.
Illinois – Michael Madigan’s Indictment: How he pushed for allies to get ComEd jobs and his own daughter’s legislation was killed.
MSN – Jeremy Gorner, Dan Petrella, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/27/2022
Nearly four years ago, legislation that aimed to help low-income electricity customers was making its way to the floor of an Illinois House chamber tightly controlled by its longtime speaker, Michael Madigan. The bill’s main advocate was Madigan’s daughter, then-state Attorney General Lisa Madigan. One of its primary opponents was Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), the state’s largest electric utility. ComEd won because, according to federal prosecutors, Michael Madigan paved the way. Prosecutors allege he greenlighted efforts to defeat his own daughter’s bill as he pressed ComEd to give jobs to two political allies.
Illinois – State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense
Capitol News Illinois – Peter Hancock | Published: 3/24/2022
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled elected public officials and their campaign committees may, in limited circumstances, use campaign funds to pay criminal defense fees. The case involved a former Chicago City Council member, Danny Solis, who reportedly avoided federal prosecution by agreeing to cooperate with the FBI and Department of Justice in their investigation of another alderman, Ed Burke, who was indicted on federal corruption charges.
Kansas – Kansas Governmental Ethics Leader Under Fire Amid Law License Questions. Legislature Eyes Response.
MSN – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital Journal) | Published: 3/31/2022
The director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission is under fire over the status of his law license, a conflict that could result in the Legislature pursuing a policy change to target the group and its leader, Mark Skoglund. The issue stems from a broader case regarding whether a group should be considered a political committee. Two motions filed with the ethics panel would push to dismiss or reconsider the case, arguing Skoglund misrepresented his status as an active attorney. Currently, Skoglund’s law license is suspended.
Maryland – FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group
E&E News – Jeffrey Tomich | Published: 3/28/2022
Records from FirstEnergy’s Maryland utility show some of its customers’ monthly payments in 2017 were secretly flowing to a “dark money” group formed to help further former President Trump’s agenda. The records show Potomac Edison paid $163,000 that year to America First Policies, which was founded by some of Trump’s top administration and campaign officials. The America First payment, made around the time FirstEnergy was pressing the Trump administration for help to rescue coal and nuclear plants, was revealed as part of an ongoing Maryland Public Service Commission investigation. It is among millions of dollars in payments by FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries to groups that are not required to list their donors.
Maryland – Judge Throws Out Maryland Congressional Map Over ‘Extreme’ Gerrymandering
MSN – Meagan Flynn, Ovetta Wiggins, and Erin Cox (Washington Post) | Published: 3/25/2022
A Maryland judge threw out the state’s congressional map, calling it an “extreme partisan gerrymander” in what is a victory for Republicans. The ruling by Anne Arundel County Senior Judge Lynne Battaglia marks the first time in Maryland history a judge has found a congressional map violated the state constitution. Battaglia ruled the map ran afoul of rules laid out in the law traditionally applied to legislative districts, requiring them to be compact and to give regard to political subdivisions. She also ruled the map violated the state constitution’s equal protection, free speech, and free elections clauses.
Maryland – Legal Spending from Mosby Campaign Accounts Did Not Violate Maryland Law, Election Board Finds
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 3/29/2022
The use of campaign funds for the legal defense of both Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, did not violate state election law, according to a decision from the Maryland State Board of Elections. The board launched an inquiry into the couple’s spending after both filed reports claiming legal costs paid out to multiple law firms as campaign expenses. State law prohibits any candidate or political committee from using campaign funds for legal expenses related to investigations or court proceedings that “do not have a direct connection with the candidacy.”
Missouri – Dueker Says She Has ‘Good Shot’ at Defeating Page Despite Lack of Campaign Account
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 3/30/2022
A Democrat running in the August primary against incumbent St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says she has no current plans to open a campaign account for her bid. Jane Dueker, a local police union attorney and registered lobbyist, would have to do so under Missouri law if she raises more than $1,000. But because she is a registered lobbyist, she is not allowed to operate a campaign account.
New York – Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin
New York Daily News – Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland | Published: 3/25/2022
Federal investigators issued subpoenas and are seeking information about grants related to New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin’s time as a state senator. Investigators with the Southern District of New York have subpoenaed state officials and Senate employees as they probe money Benjamin steered toward projects in his former district. The inquiry is related to funds doled out through the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a lump sum appropriation in the state budget administered through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
Ohio – Ohio’s High Court Suggests No Ruling Before Primary on Redistricting Map
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 3/29/2022
The Ohio Supreme Court suggested it will not rule on whether a Republican-drawn congressional map is legal until after the May 3 primary. In January, justices stuck down Republicans’ first redrawing of its congressional districts on grounds it violated a constitutional amendment passed by voters to ban partisan gerrymandering. Republicans submitted a new, minimally altered map in March that Democrats and voting rights groups complained was no better. But a legal technicality restarted the clock on the case, and the court’s schedule indicated it would not have a decision until weeks after Ohioans have cast ballots in the primary.
Oregon – Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Ask Oregon Supreme Court for a New Hearing
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 3/24/2022
A coalition of good government groups is asking the Oregon Supreme Court to reconsider a decision that would keep voters from deciding in November whether the state should limit money in politics. The court rejected a request from the proponents of three proposed ballot initiatives to overturn a decision by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan that would prevent the initiatives from appearing on the November ballot. Petitioner Jason Kafoury described a new legal filing asking the court to reconsider their case as a “Hail Mary.”
South Carolina – SC Ethics Commission Stops Silencing Whistleblowers After Free-Speech Lawsuit
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks | Published: 3/24/2022
The South Carolina Ethics Commission reversed a three decades-old policy preventing anyone who files a complaint against a public official from talking about it unless the complaint is found valid. The decision came after a whistleblower whose complaint was dismissed by the commission sued and said the secrecy violated free speech rights and unfairly silenced people who wanted to report wrongdoing. Leaders in the state Legislature filed documents in the lawsuit saying they never intended for the state’s ethics laws to silence whistleblowers.
South Dakota – SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear
Yahoo News – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 3/29/2022
Republicans on a South Dakota House committee want to clear the state’s attorney general of impeachment charges for his actions surrounding a 2020 fatal car crash, arguing that anything wrong he did was not part of his work “in office.” But those pushing to remove Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg from office are not giving up before the full House convenes in two weeks. The House committee concluded its monthslong inquiry by voting along party lines late to recommend that Ravnsborg, a Republican, face no impeachment charges.
Vermont – Corporations Can’t Donate to Molly Gray’s Campaign. But Their Lobbyists Host Fundraisers
VTDigger.org – Lola Duffort | Published: 3/30/2022
The four Democratic candidates vying to represent Vermont in the U.S. House have all taken the same pledge: no money from corporate PACs. But while the candidates say they would not take money from PACs representing big business, at least one is receiving significant support from some of the lobbyists who represent their interests in Washington, D.C. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray attended Capitol Hill events hosted by Luke Albee and Ed Pagano, two former chiefs of staff to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy who have both spent years as corporate lobbyists.
Virginia – Key Youngkin Adviser Is Paid by Political Firms
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2022
Matthew Moran works as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s director of policy and legislative affairs, but the only paycheck he collects is from two political consulting firms. He is on a paid leave from Creative Direct, where he is a vice president, and an affiliate in which he has an ownership interest, Link Public Affairs. Neither firm employs registered lobbyists, but Link runs public affairs campaigns designed to influence legislators. Critics say the arrangement presents a conflict-of-interest and creates a loophole around “revolving-door” laws, which prohibit certain paid state employees from lobbying for a year after leaving their jobs.
West Virginia – How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions
Yahoo News – Julie Tate, Christopher Flavelle, and Erin Schaff (New York Times) | Published: 3/27/2022
A power plant near Grant Town, West Virginia, is the link between the coal industry and the personal finances of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. Although the fact that Manchin owns a coal business is well known, an examination by The New York Times offers a more detailed portrait of the degree to which Manchin’s business has been interwoven with his official actions. He created his business while a state lawmaker. Manchin supplied a type of low-grade coal mixed with rock and clay known as “gob” that is typically cast aside as junk by mining companies but can be burned to produce electricity. The Grant Town plant has been the sole customer for his gob for the past 20 years.
March 31, 2022 •
Elections Georgia: “Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown” by Fredreka Schouten (CNN) for MSN Ethics South Dakota: “SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear” by Stephen Groves (Associated Press) for Yahoo […]
Georgia: “Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown” by Fredreka Schouten (CNN) for MSN
South Dakota: “SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear” by Stephen Groves (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
National: “Flynn Partner Wins New Trial in Foreign-Agent Case” by Josh Gerstein (Politico) for Yahoo News
National: “How Google and Amazon Bankrolled a ‘Grassroots’ Activist Group of Small Business Owners to Lobby Against Big Tech Oversight” by Eamon Javers and Meghan Maharishi for CNBC
Vermont: “Corporations Can’t Donate to Molly Gray’s Campaign. But Their Lobbyists Host Fundraisers” by Lola Duffort for VTDigger.org
National: “Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Transparency in the Lucrative – and Murky – Federal Contracting Process” by Lucien Bruggeman and Soo Rin Kim for ABC News
Florida: “Florida’s Redistricting Mess Heads to Special Session after DeSantis Vetoes ‘Defective’ Map” by Gary Fineout (Politico) for MSN
Ohio: “Ohio’s High Court Suggests No Ruling Before Primary on Redistricting Map” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
March 29, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Maryland: “FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group” by Jeffrey Tomich for E&E News New York: “Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin” by Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland […]
Maryland: “FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group” by Jeffrey Tomich for E&E News
New York: “Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin” by Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland for New York Daily News
National: “Trump Likely Committed Felony Obstruction, Federal Judge Rules” by Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein, and Nicholas Wu for Politico
Illinois: “Michael Madigan’s Indictment: How he pushed for allies to get ComEd jobs and his own daughter’s legislation was killed.” by Jeremy Gorner, Dan Petrella, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
West Virginia: “How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions” by Julie Tate, Christopher Flavelle, and Erin Schaff (New York Times) for Yahoo News
California: “Airbnb Routinely Deploys Its ‘Astroturf Army’ to Combat California Short-Term Rental Regulations, Critics Say” by Silas Valentino (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
Virginia: “Key Youngkin Adviser Is Paid by Political Firms” by Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Why Redistricting Has Stalled in 4 Unfinished States” by Ally Mutnick and Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo News
March 28, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI” by Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) for MSN Illinois: “State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense” by Peter […]
National: “Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI” by Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense” by Peter Hancock for Capitol News Illinois
Oregon: “Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Ask Oregon Supreme Court for a New Hearing” by Julia Shumway for Oregon Capital Chronicle
National: “Virginia Thomas Urged White House Chief to Pursue Unrelenting Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Election, Texts Show” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN
Georgia: “Guilty Verdict in Atlanta City Hall Corruption Trial” by Associated Press for Yahoo News
South Carolina: “SC Ethics Commission Stops Silencing Whistleblowers After Free-Speech Lawsuit” by Avery Wilks for Charleston Post and Courier
Colorado: “Judge Says Republican Consultants Didn’t Violate Redistricting Lobbying Rules” by Bente Birkeland for Colorado Public Radio
Maryland: “Judge Throws Out Maryland Congressional Map Over ‘Extreme’ Gerrymandering” by Meagan Flynn, Ovetta Wiggins, and Erin Cox (Washington Post) for MSN
March 25, 2022 •
National/Federal As GOP Lawmakers Push for More Election Fraud Charges, Prosecutors Find Few Cases MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022 Demands for criminal cases tied to the 2020 election continue to stress the political system […]
As GOP Lawmakers Push for More Election Fraud Charges, Prosecutors Find Few Cases
MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
Demands for criminal cases tied to the 2020 election continue to stress the political system and put pressure on prosecutors, particularly elected Republicans. Supporters of former President Trump also are pushing GOP lawmakers, who have already enacted numerous laws tightening voting rules, to stiffen penalties for fraud and create investigative teams aimed at rooting out election malfeasance, efforts that critics say will further suppress voting. But a Washington Post survey of attorneys general and large district attorney offices in the six swing states turned up just 39 cases of people charged with illegal activity related to the November 2020 election.
Capitol Riot Suspect Who Fled to Belarus Granted Asylum, State Media Says
MSN – Rachel Pennett (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
A man on the FBI’s wanted list for his alleged role in the Capitol riot has been granted asylum in Belarus. Evan Neumann fled to Europe after the insurrection. He lived in Ukraine for four months before crossing into Belarus on foot late last year. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his close ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, have referenced the Capitol riot, calling the prosecution of those involved an example of “double standards” by the U.S. because it frequently criticizes crackdowns on anti-government protests abroad.
Could Proxy Voting Make the House More Inclusive? Some Lawmakers Hope So
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 3/9/2022
Democrats argued to extend and reimagine two things that have helped the U.S. House weather the coronavirus pandemic ––proxy voting and remote hearings. Those practices are set to expire March 30. Republicans pushed back during the “members’ day” hearing, which gave a broad range of lawmakers the chance to sound off on how the House should operate as the pandemic wanes. Things should return to normal, Republicans said. Some said remote work is ripe for abuse, blamed it for contributing to a toxic culture in Congress, and raised questions of constitutionality.
Ethics Advocates Say Senate Staffers Could Be Breaking Rules on Stock Ownership
NPR – Deirdre Walsh | Published: 3/21/2022
The Senate and the House are considering legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks. But there is already a narrow ban in place for some Senate staff members that was enacted in the 1970s, and an outside legal group believes some aides appear to be violating that ban. Senate committee staffers are required to divest stock in industries related to the jurisdiction of the panel they work for. The Campaign Legal Center said its review of financial disclosure forms found five senior Senate committee aides with stock holdings that could run afoul of the rule.
Russian Entities Kept Much of Their D.C. Influence Peddling Outside Public View
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 3/22/2022
For years, Russian entities registered to lobby under the Lobbying Disclosure Act rather than the Foreign Agents Registration Act. They were able to do that so long as a foreign government or political party was not the “principal beneficiary” of the lobbying effort. Those Russian entities, some of whom have been sanctioned by the Biden administration, are able to influence U.S. policy without disclosing details about the scope of their outreach, such as information about the dates of their activities, names of contacts, speeches or internet postings, and specific expenses on behalf of the client, among other activities.
Ted Cruz’s Latest Troll? Turning His Campaign into a Super PAC
Daily Beast – Roger Sollenberger | Published: 3/22/2022
Federal law says candidates can only give other candidates $2,000 per election. But U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz may have found a loophole. In February, Cruz poured $137,183 into the House campaign for Cassy Garcia, his former staffer turned congressional candidate. Cruz, who is currently challenging the FEC in the Supreme Court, broke new ground, assuming unlimited spending powers and raising campaign finance red flags. None of Garcia’s campaign finance reports show a dime spent on promotion – no advertising, digital marketing, signs, mailings, or get-out-the-vote efforts, just a $600 website.
The Federal Election Commission Slapped Marathon Petroleum Corporation with a $85,000 Fine After It Illegally Contributed $1 Million to 2 Republican PACs
Yahoo News – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 3/18/2022
The FEC levied a $85,000 fine against Marathon Petroleum Company after it illegally contributed $1 million to a pair of PACs supporting House and Senate Republicans’ re-election campaigns. Marathon has contracts with the federal government, and campaign finance laws prohibit federal contractors from making any political contributions while negotiating or performing federal contracts.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska House Passes Campaign Contribution Limits Bill
Alaska Public Media – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Alaska House narrowly passed legislation that would set a limit on individual contributions to candidates after prior limits were struck down by a court and the state agency overseeing campaign finance rules urged the Legislature to revisit the issue. The bill would set a $2,000 limit on what an individual could give to a candidate each election cycle. It has a $5,000 a year limit on what an individual can give a group, such as a non-party organization.
California – Alvarez Work for SDG&E Could Have Violated City Ethics Law
Voice of San Diego – Andrew Keatts | Published: 3/21/2022
When former city council member David Alvarez helped San Diego Gas & Electric push an energy infrastructure project, he may have violated San Diego’s prohibition on elected officials influencing city decisions after leaving office. Alvarez says he was working as part of a contract to do community engagement, not lobbying, and therefore is not in violation of ethics law. After leaving office, elected officials face a two-year waiting period during which they cannot influence officials over city decisions.
California – SJ City Council Passes Draft Proposal to Bar Political Donations by Foreign-Owned Corps
California Globe – Evan Symon | Published: 3/23/2022
The city council approved a piece of draft legislation to prohibit foreign-influenced corporations from making political contributions to any city elections in San Jose. The new campaign finance law would not allow corporations with one percent or more ownership by a single foreign national or five percent or more ownership by multiple foreign nationals from making political expenditures in city elections. While the proposal was only a policy memorandum on final draft ordinance language, its passage was seen as an indication the council would pass the ordinance in the coming weeks.
Connecticut – Connecticut Lobbyists Back at Capitol After Two Years to Influence Legislation
Yahoo News – Christopher Keating (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/20/2022
For the past two years, lobbyists in Connecticut disappeared from the state Capitol as the building was closed to the public for fear of spreading the coronavirus. Now, mask-wearing lobbyists say they are happy to be back after having little personal access to lawmakers during the entire pandemic. While it is impossible to roll back the clock, both lawmakers and lobbyists say some legislation might have been changed over the past two years if the advocates could have lobbied more aggressively and in person as they always did in the past.
Georgia – Augusta Mayor Faces State Law Charges, $800,000 Fines in Ethics Commission Decision
MSN – Susan McCord (Augusta Chronicle) | Published: 3/22/2022
Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis faces charges he broke state laws and fines of more than $800,000 after the Georgia ethics commission found probable cause to move forward with two complaints against him. The investigations stemmed from the origin of billboards encouraging voters to support replacing the James Brown Arena. The billboards appeared a few weeks before a non-binding ballot poll on where to build a new facility. The billboards were attributed to Concerned Citizens of Richmond County. The complaint said unlike a corporation, a ballot committee is required to register with election officials when it raises or spends more than $500.
Georgia – Stacey Abrams Seeks Access Now to Unlimited Fundraising
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 3/20/2022
Georgia’s Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams, is asserting she should be allowed to immediately begin using a fundraising vehicle that would allow her to raise unlimited contributions because she is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Abrams could sue to gain access to a leadership committee, a type of fundraising committee approved by lawmakers last year. The committees can raise unlimited funds, while top individual donors to Abrams’ direct committee would be limited to giving $7,600 for the May 24 primary election and another $7,600 for the November general election.
Illinois – After the Madigan Charges, Democrats Lack an Appetite for New Ethics Reform This Spring
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 3/22/2022
The chances of Democrats pushing through a new round of ethics reforms in the wake of former Speaker Michael Madigan appear bleak at the moment, with time running out on the Illinois Legislature’s spring calendar. A top government reform group and a former state legislative watchdog say what lawmakers did last year on ethics is not nearly enough and more stringent safeguards are needed to confront legislative conflicts-of-interest and other misconduct that have been adding to the federal prison population.
Illinois – Chicago City Council Debates Measure to Ban Spouses of Aldermen from Lobbying Elected Officials
MSN – Mary Ann Ahern (WMAQ) | Published: 3/23/2022
A proposed ordinance before the Chicago City Council would prohibit spouses or partners of elected officials from lobbying their fellow aldermen, with the measure following reports that City Clerk and Illinois secretary of state candidate Anna Valencia failed to disclose her husband’s lobbying contracts. Valencia did not disclose her husband Reyahd Kazmi’s lobbying, which is required under state law.
Illinois – Ex-Ald. Ricardo Muñoz Sentenced to 13 Months in Prison for Spending Thousands of Dollars in Political Funds on Tuition, Trips and Sports Tickets
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/17/2022
Former Chicago Ald. Ricardo Muñoz was sentenced to 13 months in prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a political campaign fund he controlled and spending it on personal items ranging from iPhones to skydiving excursions. Muñoz had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering, becoming the latest in a long line of city council members to be caught using their elected positions to line their own pockets.
Illinois – Former State Rep. Edward Acevedo Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison for Tax Case Stemming from ComEd Probe
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/23/2022
A federal judge sentenced former state Rep. Edward Acevedo on to six months in prison for cheating on his taxes in a prosecution that resulted from the same investigation that led to the indictment of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Acevedo is now the first person to be sentenced in the sweeping probe that has so far led to charges against Madigan, two of his closest advisers, and a slew of former Commonwealth Edison executives and contract lobbyists, many with ties to the former speaker.
Maryland – Giving from the Grave? Marilyn Mosby’s Dead Grandfather Contributed to Her and Her Husband’s Campaigns
Baltimore Brew – Mark Reutter | Published: 3/23/2022
The grandfather of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby died in 2015 but apparently lives on as a source of campaign money for her and her husband, city council President Nick Mosby. Prescott Thompson is listed as contributing $500 to Marilyn Mosby last year. The report was filed on January 19, 2022, six days after she was indicted on federal charges linked to her purchase of two Florida vacation homes. Marilyn Mosby has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Maryland – Maryland’s High Court Takes Up Gerrymandering Case That Delayed State’s Elections
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
Maryland’s highest court heard arguments in the gerrymandering case that has shaken up the state’s elections calendar, with Republicans arguing that about a dozen recently redrawn legislative districts are politically, demographically, or racially unfair. The map, approved by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, dictates the boundaries for state Senate and House districts. Under the state constitution, each legislative district is supposed to consist of adjoining land, be compact, and have a substantially equal number of residents. The map must give “due regard” to natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions.
Maryland – Md. Legislator Says Corporate Funding of ‘Astroturf’ Ad Campaigns Must Be Disclosed
WTOP – Bruce DePuyt | Published: 3/21/2022
An influential Maryland legislator is taking aim at what he considers “astroturf” lobbying by large government contractors. Under a measure sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke and 14 others, companies with million-dollar state government contracts would be required to disclose contributions they make to advocacy organizations. Luedtke said the broadcast and internet advertising campaigns these groups sponsor “create the appearance of a grassroots movement when, in truth, support comes from a narrow group of special interests that have a financial interest in a project.”
Michigan – Michigan Republicans Delay Absentee Ballot Signature Rules
MSN – David Eggert (Associated Press) | Published: 3/22/2022
Republican lawmakers delayed until after the November election rules that will tell Michigan election clerks how to match the signatures of people applying for and submitting absentee ballots. The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules’ maneuver to propose bills keeps the regulations from taking effect for nine months. The rules drafted by the state elections bureau eventually will go into effect because Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would likely veto Republicans’ alternative legislation.
Mississippi – Speaker Philip Gunn Uses Secret Capitol Meetings to Pass His Bills and Restrict Public Debate. Is It Legal?
Mississippi Today – Adam Ganucheau | Published: 3/21/2022
Mississippi Speaker Philip Gunn called a House Republican Caucus to a closed-door meeting on March 14. Gunn told the Republicans that he, his chief of staff, and Rep. Trey Lamar had reworked a tax reform proposal that, if passed, could change the way government funds public services for generations. Few House Republicans knew the details of Gunn’s updated proposal until that meeting. A few minutes after the bill passed committee, the entire House passed it on the floor. The caucus meetings are just one tool Gunn regularly employs to strong-arm House Republicans into passing the bills he authors or supports and to restrict public debate among his fellow party mates, critics say.
New Jersey – Bill to Expand New Jersey Bribery Law to Include Candidates for Office Gains Momentum
MSN – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 3/17/2022
After a decade in legislative limbo, a bill that would allow politicians to be convicted of bribery even if they do not hold public office has begun moving in the New Jersey General Assembly. Over the last decade, courts have dismissed charges or overturned convictions against several politicians based on the loophole, despite evidence they took bribes with the intention of granting official favors if elected. The bill that expands the definition of “public servant” in the state’s bribery statute.
New Mexico – Cowboys for Trump Co-Founder Charged with Campaign Violation
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 3/18/2022
A New Mexico elected official was charged with a misdemeanor campaign finance violation for refusing to register his political group Cowboys for Trump, the state’s attorney general announced. Couy Griffin, a county commissioner, has been facing off with state election regulators for more than a year over whether he needs to register the group as a political committee. Griffin expressed concern that registering may lead to other disclosure requirements about contributions and spending.
New Mexico – New Harassment Allegations Against Lawmaker Prompt Call for State Ethics Commission to Handle Future Complaints
New Mexico In Depth – Marjorie Childress and Trip Jennings | Published: 3/21/2022
Representatives of eight organizations called for New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto to resign or for his legislative colleagues to remove him from office if he did not leave, in an open letter containing new allegations of sexual harassment and bullying. The accusations against Ivey-Soto come a month after lobbyist Marianna Anay accused him of sexually harassing her. After receiving Anaya’s complaint in February, legislative leaders opened an investigation into Ivey-Soto, adhering to a system where complaints against state lawmakers are kept confidential in a procedure overseen by other lawmakers.
New York – Ethics Commission Orders Cuomo to Repay $5.1M from Book Deal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/18/2022
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) passed a motion again ordering former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repay $5.1 million in book royalties. Cuomo is already stating he will contest the order and will not comply. This time, JCOPE is taking a near-certain legal battle with Cuomo into its own hands.
New York – Hochul’s Ethics Overhaul Plan Wilts but New Plan Is Pushed
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/23/2022
Although lawmakers have not shut the door on reforming the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to have law school leaders appoint members of a new ethics panel appears dead. In its wake, a coalition good-government groups sent a new proposal to the governor’s office, the Assembly, and the state Senate, all controlled by Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said there is still a potential for an ethics overhaul as part of the budget process.
New York – Prosecutor Who Resigned Over Stalled Trump Probe Says Ex-President Committed Felonies
MSN – Shayna Jacobs, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
A veteran prosecutor who resigned from a special appointment to the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into Donald Trump’s finances and business practices said the former president personally committed felonies and should be charged promptly. The comments were made in Mark Pomerantz’s resignation letter as he and Carey Dunne, another top investigator on the team probing Trump and the family-run Trump Organization, abruptly left the office after people familiar with the matter said District Attorney Alvin Bragg appeared uninterested in pursuing a case.
North Carolina – N.C. Investigates Mark Meadows After Reports That He Never Lived Where He Registered to Vote
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 3/17/2022
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are probing Mark Meadows over his voter registration after news organizations reported the former White House chief of staff registered to vote in 2020 using the address of a mobile home that he has never lived in. WRAL reported the State Board of Elections is also investigating Meadows. It is illegal to provide false information on a voter registration, and while Americans can have multiple residences, they can have only one official domicile, which is tied to their voter registration.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Panel to Split Proposed Conflict of Interest Rules
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 3/23/2022
The North Dakota Ethics Commission decided to split draft conflict-of-interest rules into two categories for further review. The panel is writing the rules for state government officials and members of certain boards to disclose conflicts and some campaign contributions when handling “quasi-judicial” proceedings. Commissioner Paul Richard recommended the consolidated rules for general conflicts-of-interest and for “quasi-judicial” proceedings be split. The board’s attorney also walked its members through revisions to the proposed rules.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Shareholders’ Attorneys Identify Charles Jones, Michael Dowling for Devising House Bill 6 Payments
Cleveland Plain Dealer – John Caniglia | Published: 3/23/2022
Charles Jones, the former chief executive officer of FirstEnergy, and Michael Dowling, who led the company’s lobbying efforts, “devised and orchestrated” a $64 million bribery scheme to pay a top Ohio legislative leader and utility regulator in exchange for official action, according to a sworn declaration in court. While Jones and Dowling were both suspected central characters in the operation – both were fired after initial FBI arrests in the case – the new filing marks the first time the two were personally identified. FirstEnergy said it paid the bribes to help pass House Bill 6, an energy policy overhaul worth an estimated $1.3 billion to the utility.
Ohio – Ohio GOP Governor Candidate Joe Blystone Ordered to Return More Than $100,000 in Campaign Donations
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 3/23/2022
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office says Republican Joe Blystone’s campaign for governor must refund a total of more than $100,000 in contributions that violate the state’s limit on cash donations or ban on corporate contributions. The flagged contributions include more than $101,000 in donations that exceed the state’s limit of $100 for each contribution made in cash, according to Brian Katz, campaign finance director for LaRose’s office. Katz also said it is necessary for Blystone to refund $1,100 in in-kind contributions from corporations, which are not allowed to give to Ohio candidates.
Oklahoma – Lawmakers Again Stifle Debate on Applying Open Records Law to Themselves
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 3/17/2022
Lawmakers’ emails to lobbyists, calendars, call logs, and other records that could give the public insight into the bills they craft are set to remain secret for at least another year. A bill that would have ended Oklahoma’s status as one of a handful of states that allows the Legislature to exempt itself from open records and meeting laws failed to clear a key legislative deadline. The proposal would have ended a decades-old exemption that allowed the Legislature to ignore the open records and meeting laws that city councils, county commissioners, school boards, and other state governing bodies must follow.
Oregon – Oregon Supreme Court Ruling Likely Dooms Campaign Finance Limits This Year
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 3/18/2022
In a setback for election reformers, the Oregon Supreme Court declined to direct Secretary of State Shemia Fagan to reverse a decision to disqualify ballot measures aimed at limiting campaign contributions. Proponents of the measures asked the Supreme Court to step in and rule Fagan’s interpretation of the state constitution was incorrect. If justices had agreed, it might have given the group enough time to collect signatures and put one of their proposals before voters. But the court ruled that intervening in the case would not be appropriate.
Pennsylvania – Kenyatta Johnson Corruption Case Heads to Trial After Pandemic Delays
WHYY – Aaron Moselle | Published: 3/18/2022
Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson and his wife, political consultant Dawn Chavous, are headed to court more than two years after they were charged in a federal fraud and racketeering case. The couple will be joined by Abdur Rahim Islam and Shahied Dawan, two former executives at Universal Companies, a nonprofit real estate developer and charter-school operator headquartered in Johnson’s legislative district. Federal prosecutors say the co-defendants participated in a tangled quid pro quo that saw Johnson use his council seat to help Universal in exchange for a series of bribes concealed as payments to Chavous’ consulting firm, which the nonprofit had hired.
Tennessee – Campaign Finance Probes of Ex-Speaker, Ex-Staffer Head to DA
Yahoo News – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance’s voted to give prosecutors their investigations surrounding a former House speaker and his then-chief of staff, who have been implicated in an alleged political consulting kickback scheme. Another former lawmaker recently plead guilty to helping carry out the scheme. The vote refers the probes about former House Speaker Glen Casada, his former chief of staff Cade Cothren, and the Faith Family Freedom Fund PAC to the Williamson County district attorney’s office.
Vermont – Vermont Code of Ethics Bill Unanimously Passes State Senate
MSN – Lisa Rathke (Associated Press) | Published: 3/23/2022
A bill to create a state code of ethics for elected and appointed officials, legislators, and all state employees was passed unanimously by Vermont Senate. A majority of other states already have similar codes. The bill, which now goes to the House, also would apply to individuals appointed to state boards and commissions or who are authorized to act or speak on behalf of the state. Anyone who violates the code of ethics can be investigated by the Vermont State Ethics Commission.
Wisconsin – Supreme Court Rejects GOP Bid to Block Wisconsin Congressional Map but Sides with Republicans in State Legislative Map Dispute
MSN – Tierney Sneed (CNN) | Published: 3/23/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Republican Party request that it upend a congressional map adopted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that was preferred by Democrats. That redistricting plan had a Republican lean but was still favored by Democrats because of the potential it could give them at least one additional seat in the U.S. House. The justices, however, also on issued an order in a separate Wisconsin redistricting case that blocked a state legislative map adopted by the state Supreme Court that was backed by Democrats.
Wyoming – Alleged Threats by Wyoming Legislators Lead to Calls for Civility
Pinedale Roundup – Jonathan Make (Wyoming Tribune Eagle) | Published: 3/17/2022
Amid new allegations of a state legislator making verbal threats, some who do business in the Wyoming Capitol here are seeking a return to greater civility. News emerged that state Rep. John Romero-Martinez allegedly threatened, in speaking with others, the lives of Rep. Andi LeBeau and former Rep. Sara Burlingame. In recent days, legislative leaders had separately asked a Senate panel to consider whether to launch a formal investigation into allegations recently brought against Sen. Anthony Bouchard. The full Senate has stripped Bouchard of his committee assignments.
Wyoming – Bill Signed into Law Attempts to Close Dark Money Loopholes
Wyoming News Tribune – Jasmine Hall | Published: 3/19/2022
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed into law a bill that attempts to close “dark money” loopholes through additional campaign finance reporting fees. The new law requires all campaigns, PACs, and organizations to file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures. If there is a failure to file the reports with the secretary of state, there can be a final order imposing a civil penalty. The penalty can be up to $500 a day beginning on the date of the final order and ending when the final report is filed. Previously, it was a one-time fee of $500.
Wyoming – Federal Judge Sides with Wyoming Gun Owners in Campaign Ad Lawsuit
Cowboy State Daily – Jim Angell and Ellen Fike | Published: 3/21/2022
A federal judge said Wyoming cannot force a Second Amendment advocacy group to share the names of its donors. U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled in favor of Wyoming Gun Owners (WyGo), finding the state law requiring the group to share a list of people who helped pay for a campaign ad is unconstitutional. The secretary of state’s office said WyGO was required to file campaign finance reports, including a list of contributions and expenditures, because it had spent more than $500 on “political activity.”
March 18, 2022 •
National/Federal Biden Doles Out Ethics Waivers at Greater Clip Than Trump, Watchdog Reports Washington Examiner – Andrew Kerr | Published: 3/16/2022 President Biden pledged to lead “the most ethically rigorous administration in history,” but his administration has excused top officials from […]
Biden Doles Out Ethics Waivers at Greater Clip Than Trump, Watchdog Reports
Washington Examiner – Andrew Kerr | Published: 3/16/2022
President Biden pledged to lead “the most ethically rigorous administration in history,” but his administration has excused top officials from federal ethics regulations at a greater rate than Donald Trump, a watchdog group reported. Biden’s ethics pledge and federal laws prohibit officials from engaging in matters involving their former employers for at least one year after being sworn in, but those regulations can be waived if the interests of the federal government outweigh possible ethical concerns.
Document in Jan. 6 Case Shows Plan to Storm Government Buildings
Yahoo News – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 3/15/2022
A document found by federal prosecutors in the possession of a far-right leader contained a detailed plan to surveil and storm government buildings around the Capitol on January 6 last year. The document, titled “1776 Returns,” was cited by prosecutors in charging the far-right leader, Enrique Tarrio, the former head of the Proud Boys extremist group, with conspiracy. The indictment of Tarrio described the document in general terms, but people familiar with it added substantial new details about the scope and complexity of the plan it set out for directing an effort to occupy six House and Senate office buildings and the Supreme Court.
Exxon Mobil’s Lobbying Report Sets Benchmark, ESG Advocates Say
MSN – Ellen Meyers (Roll Call) | Published: 3/10/2022
A report from Exxon Mobil outlining its lobbying activities is giving investors insight into how one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies advocates on climate policies and other issues and sets a benchmark to measure disclosure on political spending by other companies, advocates say. Exxon Mobil released the report on its 2020 lobbying efforts on climate in response to a shareholder resolution from the United Steelworkers trade union and the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids.
Fearing Political Violence in 2024, Judges Sentence Jan. 6 Defendants to Probation Through the Next Election
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2022
Federal judges are increasingly sentencing defendants who participated in the January 6, 2021, breach of the Capitol to three-year terms of court supervision, fearing they could be misled into committing political violence in the 2024 presidential election. James Little became the first defendant to receive a combination of a 60-day jail term and 36 months of probation. Little pleaded guilty after telling the FBI he saw President Biden’s election victory as “the second Bolshevik revolution” and warned agents and the Democratic Party of civil war if it were not overturned.
Ginni Thomas, Wife of Supreme Court Justice, Says She Attended Jan. 6 ‘Stop-the-Steal’ Rally Before Capitol Attack
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 3/14/2022
Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, for the first time publicly acknowledged she participated in the January 6, 2021 “Stop-the-Steal” rally on the Ellipse that preceded the storming of the U.S. Capitol, raising questions about the impartiality of her husband’s work. Ginni Thomas said she was at the rally for a short period of time, got cold, and went home before Trump took the stage that day. In February 2021, she apologized to her husband’s former law clerks after a rift developed among them over her election advocacy of Trump and endorsement of the rally that led to violence and death at the Capitol.
GOP Pushes for an ‘Earthquake in American Electoral Power’
MSN – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 3/9/2022
A legal argument lurking in two U.S. Supreme Court cases could give Republican legislators in battleground states sweeping control over election procedures, with ramifications that could include power over how states select presidential electors. Republicans from Pennsylvania and North Carolina challenged court-ordered redistricting plans in their states based on the “independent legislature” theory. It is a reading of the Constitution, stemming from the 2000 election recount in Florida, that argues legislators have ultimate power over elections in their states and that state courts have a limited ability, or none at all, to check it.
Inside the Effort to Disbar Attorneys Who Backed Bogus Election Lawsuits
MSN – Tierny Sneed (CNN) | Published: 3/10/2022
Lawyers who backed former President Trump’s bogus election reversal gambits are facing fresh opposition for their involvement in the form of a flashy new campaign, launched by fellow members of the legal community, aimed at potentially disbarring the Trump-aligned attorneys. Those who have sought disciplinary responses say the post-election conduct crossed ethical lines into the realm of professional misconduct, and that the tactics were well outside the normal bounds of legal challenges to election procedures. Already several ex-Trump lawyers have found themselves subject to state bar reviews.
K Street Firms Starting to Tap Private Equity, Even Go Public
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/16/2022
Some K Street firms are seeking investment dollars, often to hire up in areas such as polling, public relations, digital and grassroots organizing, and state-level lobbying. Some policy and lobbying shops have inked deals with private equity firms, and more are likely on the way. In another twist for the industry, a group of prominent firms banded together and went public on a stock exchange in London late last year. These moves represent a clear shift from two decades ago when advertising conglomerates acquired many of Washington’s biggest operations.
Lobbying Broke All-Time Mark in 2021 Amid Flurry of Government Spending
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 3/12/2022
President Biden’s domestic agenda has taken a back seat to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it drew unprecedented attention from K Street lobbyists and special interest groups last year. The lobbying industry had a record year in 2021, taking in $3.7 billion in revenue as companies, associations, and other organizations pressed Congress and the administration over trillions of dollars in new pandemic spending and rules affecting health care, travel, and other industries. The revenue figures show lobbying spending began steadily growing in 2017 before mostly flattening in 2020 as the pandemic began.
Omarosa Manigault Newman Ordered to Pay $61,000 Over Trump-Era Ethics Violation
HuffPost – Nina Golgowski | Published: 3/16/2022
Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman was ordered to pay more than $61,000 after a federal judge said she “willfully” refused to file financial disclosure documents after being fired from the Trump administration. A law required Manigault Newman to file a public financial disclosure report within 30 days of her termination on December 12, 2017. Her report was not received until September 2019, three months after a lawsuit was filed against her over her failure to comply.
Russian Oligarch Andrey Muraviev Indicted in Political Contribution Scheme Linked to Illegal Donors to Trump PAC
CNBC – Dan Mangan | Published: 3/14/2022
A Russian oligarch linked to men accused of making illegal donations to a PAC set up for former President Trump was himself indicted by a federal grand jury for using those men to funnel contributions to other politicians. The oligarch, Andrey Muraviev, already was publicly known to have been the source of donations made on his behalf by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Those two Soviet-born former associates of Trump’s ex-lawyer Rudy Giuliani used money from Muraviev for contributions to try to get licenses for retail cannabis and marijuana businesses.
Trump Accused of Breaking Campaign Laws by Teasing 2024 Run
MSN – Meg Kinnard (Associated Press) | Published: 3/14/2022
As former President Trump continues to tease a future White House bid, a pro-Democratic super PAC accused him of violating federal campaign laws by raising and spending money for a run without officially filing his candidacy. Alleging that Trump has already privately decided to mount a 2024 campaign, American Bridge says he was then obligated to file a candidacy intent statement within 15 days of receiving contributions or making any expenditure over $5,000.
U.S. Lobbyists Connect Ukraine Officials with Powerful Allies to Help in War Against Russia
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 3/15/2022
Lobbyists are working to connect Ukrainian officials with powerful allies in the U.S., including mayors, governors, and representatives of at least one firearm’s dealer to help the war-torn country in its fight against Russia. At least one American firm and a separate lawyer each recently disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act that they started pro-bono work for Ukrainian government officials since the start of Russia’s invasion. The move for these types of advisors to start helping Ukrainian leaders comes as Western sanctions have led to lobbyists distancing themselves from Russian backed entities.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Set to Go on Trial, Which Will Focus on His Memory and Money
Lincoln Journal-Star – Todd Cooper (Omaha World-Herald) | Published: 3/13/2022
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska is on trial over accusations he lied about illegal campaign contributions from a Nigerian billionaire. The trial is the first of a sitting member of Congress in 21 years. Fortenberry has pleaded not guilty to charges he intentionally misled FBI agents and prosecutors who were investigating a $30,000 donation from Gilbert Chagoury during a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles.
From the States and Municipalities
California – ‘Abstain’: Are OC officials using a public meeting ethics check to dodge accountability?
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada and Brandon Pho | Published: 3/16/2022
At any given public meeting, local officials in Orange County could make rent control or high-rise developments part of their residents’s lives with a simple “Yes” or “No” vote. But some elected leaders are turning to a third way to vote on controversial policies during public meetings: the abstention. It is traditionally used by elected officials to shield against conflicts-of-interest when voting on issues they may have a personal stake in. At least one city is raising questions about whether the abstention has now become a way for elected officials to avoid taking any stance at all, dodging accountability by invoking the non-vote for vague or unpersuasive reasons.
Colorado – A State Lawmaker Dropped His Firearm Inside the Capitol While Hurrying to a Vote
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 3/14/2022
A Colorado lawmaker accidentally dropped his handgun in a public area inside the state Capitol recently. The firearm did not discharge, and no one was injured. State Rep. Richard Holtorf was hurrying up a short set of steps outside the House chamber when his handgun fell out of his pants onto the marble floor. The witnesses said Holtorf quickly picked it up and proceeded to enter the chamber. “This incident was unacceptable and created a dangerous situation for lawmakers, staff, and the public visiting the Capitol,” said House Speaker Alec Garnett.
Colorado – Colorado Campaign Donation Limits Stand – for Now – After Federal Court Ruling
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 3/11/2022
A federal judge denied a request for a preliminary injunction to suspend Colorado’s campaign contribution limits. Individual donors are limited to giving $400 to state legislative candidates and $1,250 to candidates for statewide office. Senior U.S. District Court Judge John Kane said a full trial based on more extensive evidence must be held before the donation caps are rejected. Still, Kane agreed the limits are likely too low, leaving open the possibility they could be overturned after a trial in the coming months.
Florida – Disney Suspends Political Donations in Florida After Bill Restricting LGBTQ Discussion
MSN – Kelsey Ables (Washington Post) | Published: 3/12/2022
Disney announced it would pause all political donations in Florida in the wake of a state bill that restricts discussion of LGBTQ issues in public schools. Over the last few weeks, the company had received criticism for remaining about what critics call the “don’t say gay” bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek also said the company would increase support for advocacy groups fighting similar laws elsewhere and would reassess Disney’s political donation policies.
Hawaii – Honolulu Councilwoman Tupola Likely Violated Ethics Laws, Commission Finds
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 3/10/2022
Honolulu City Councilperson Andria Tupola likely violated the law when she tried to use $1,500 in city funds to reimburse herself for items purchased for her former employer’s events, the Honolulu Ethics Commission determined. The commission determined Tupola had a conflict-of-interest, likely violated the city’s fair and equal treatment law and should repay the money.
Illinois – Ethics Board Fines Cook County Official Who ‘Flagrantly’ Disregarded Nepotism Ban; She Must Now Fire Her Cousin as Her Top Aide
Yahoo News – Alice Yin (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/15/2022
Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt must fire her cousin from his chief of staff position in her office and pay the county $2,000 for violating rules against nepotism, the county Ethics Board ruled. The formal admonishment comes after Wendt hired her cousin, Todd Thielmann, as her top staffer, triggering an investigation from the board tasked with disciplining employees who flout the ordinance governing best practices within their offices.
Iowa – Democrats Move Closer to Cutting Iowa’s First-in-the Nation Status for 2024 Presidential Calendar
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/11/2022
Democratic leaders took another step toward ending Iowa’s status as the first state in the party’s presidential nominating process during a sometimes contentious meeting that showed clear support for a new path that would prioritize more diverse and competitive states. The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee came to no final decisions, but for the second time this year, a majority of speakers made clear their openness to shaking up the presidential primary calendar to better reflect what speakers described as the party’s values.
Louisiana – Louisiana Lobbyist Arrested for Domestic Violence Faces Restrictions, Questions at Capitol
Louisiana Illuminator – Julie O’Donoghue | Published: 3/10/2022
Kevin Hayes, a Louisiana lobbyist who was arrested for domestic violence, has been visiting the Capitol, even though one of his alleged victims works in the building and has a protective order in place against him. The circumstances have raised red flags for domestic violence prevention advocates who question why Hayes is not facing more restrictions inside the statehouse. The incident also brought attention to his clients who have stuck with him in spite of his arrest.
Maryland – Maryland Court Delays State’s Primary Until July Amid Redistricting Challenge
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2022
Maryland’s highest court moved the state’s gubernatorial primary elections to July 19, a three-week delay, to allow time to resolve a legal challenge to recently redrawn legislative districts. Several candidates in the crowded race for governor welcomed the court decision, which gives them more time to raise their profile before the primary. But some observers worried that pushing the election into prime vacation season could prompt voter confusion or disenfranchisement.
Maryland – Top Maryland Democratic Party Official Resigns After Questioning Electability of Black Candidates
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2022
A top Maryland Democratic Party official who questioned whether voters would elect a Black candidate for governor stepped down as calls for her departure escalated. Barbara Goldberg Goldman, a prolific donor who was the party’s deputy treasurer, resigned and publicly apologized for the comments. Goldberg Goldman wrote in an email: “Consider this: Three African American males have run statewide for Governor and have lost. Maryland is not a Blue state. It’s a purple one. This is a fact we must not ignore.”
Michigan – Michigan House Republicans Introduce Ethics Reforms Amid Chatfield Probe
Business News Street – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 3/16/2022
Michigan House Republicans proposed a series of ethics reforms that respond to controversies surrounding former Speaker Lee Chatfield, who is under investigation by the State Police and Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office. The new bills would stop elected officials from paying immediate family members’ wages out of their campaign accounts and would ban lawmakers from having their travel paid for by lobbyists. The legislation also bans lawmakers from being reimbursed for trips, travel, or lodging through a nonprofit organization.
New York – Adams Quietly Undoes de Blasio-Era Lobbying Disclosure Requirement
MSN – Sally Goldenberg (Politico) | Published: 3/14/2022
New York City Mayor Eric Adams is ending a policy implemented under his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, of having top administration officials disclose meetings with lobbyists. De Blasio’s policy was voluntary and not required by law. Adams spokesperson Jonah Allon said the City Hall counsel’s office regularly trains staff about the “proper rules and regulations governing interactions with lobbyists,” who, by law, are required to report their meetings with government officials to the city clerk’s lobbying bureau. The move is the latest evidence that transparency may not be a priority for Adams.
New York – Chinese Operative Accused in Plot to Undermine US Candidate
MSN – Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 3/16/2022
Five people accused of acting on behalf of the Chinese government have been charged with plotting to stalk and harass Chinese dissidents living in the United States. One of the victims is a little-known congressional candidate in New York whose election bid a Chinese operative sought to undermine by seeking to uncover or even manufacture derogatory information that would cause him to lose the race, prosecutors said.
New York – Hochul Campaign Repays Almost $11K More for Aircraft Misuse
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/16/2022
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign reimbursed taxpayers an additional $10,742 stemming from three days in which she used state aircraft for campaigning but improperly billed taxpayers for the travel. The Albany Times Union flagged three initial, problematic days of Hochul air travel. Those trips mixed campaign and state business, but the administration charged taxpayers with the entire cost of each. In January, the administration said it would review all flights; the campaign subsequently paid back an initial $19,949 for the three days of travel examined by the reporting.
New York – State Board of Elections Begins Enforcing Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws
New York Focus – Sam Mellins | Published: 3/11/2022
The New York State Board of Elections has begun to enforce a law that is meant to limit “dark money” in elections by notifying thousands of corporate donors they are violating it. For three years, key provisions of the law went unenforced, and limited liability companies (LLCs) continued to make anonymous donations to campaigns. Notifying the companies is the first step towards enforcement. But imposing consequences on campaigns and donors would be more difficult. Current law, which the board has asked the Legislature to update, does not allow it to bring penalties against LLCs that are in violation.
New York – To Force Cuomo to Repay Millions, Ethics Commission Mulls New Tactic
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/15/2022
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics may adopt a new strategy in their attempt to force ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repay $5.1 million in book royalties, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations. Some commissioners are mulling a plan that would cut state Attorney General Letitia James out of the process of seeking the repayment. James’ office has expressed concern that the commissioners could not seek Cuomo’s “disgorgement” of the royalties he earned in 2020 without a full investigation into whether he misused state resources to produce the book, an inquiry that could last months or years.
Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Statehouse Maps, Ending Hopes of Full May Primary
MSN – Jessie Balmert and Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the third set of state House and Senate redistricting maps, effectively ending any hope of a May 3 primary with both legislative and statewide races. The decision marks the third time the justices have rejected legislative maps drawn by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The court ordered the commission to draw a new set of state House and Senate maps by March 28. It also made suggestions for the next round of mapmaking: draft maps in public, convene frequent meetings, and use a different mapmaker.
Ohio – PUCO Orders Long-Awaited Audit into Whether FirstEnergy Used Customer Money for HB6 Lobbying
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/9/2022
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will hire an auditor to examine whether any customer money collected by FirstEnergy was wrongly used to pay for lobbying to pass House Bill 6. FirstEnergy has reported its own investigation did not find any such spending, though a federal audit determined the company the company did improperly use ratepayer money for House Bill 6 lobbying. Once an auditor is chosen, the firm will have until December 16 to issue its report.
Ohio – Russia Business Deals Muddy Ohio GOP US Senate Primary
MSN – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 3/16/2022
Several Republicans competing for the party’s nomination to run for U.S. Senate in Ohio are facing scrutiny for their ties to Russia as the country intensifies its war against Ukraine. Much of the attention has focused on former Ohio Republican Party Chairperson Jane Timken, whose husband’s family founded a company that does business in Russia. But other candidates in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman, including J.D. Vance and Mike Gibbons, also have links to business deals in Russia that could become vulnerabilities in the primary.
Oregon – One of the Creators of Oregon’s Legal Psychedelic Mushroom Program Leaves Advisory Board
Portland Oregonian – Lizzy Acker | Published: 3/11/2022
Tom Eckert is stepping down as chair of the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board. Eckert, along with late wife, Sheri Eckert, worked for years to bring legal, regulated psilocybin to the state. The couple sponsored the bill that became law in 2020, which created a regulatory framework for therapeutic psychedelic mushrooms. A number of board members and subcommittee members are involved in for-profit psilocybin businesses and projects, including Tom Eckert.
South Dakota – South Dakota Secretary of State, Prosecutor Field Complaints About Ads Targeting Impeachment Committee
Yahoo News – Joe Sneve (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 3/15/2022
State and county officials in South Dakota are fielding complaints about the legality of billboard advertisements targeting lawmakers and calling for the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. The formal complaints allege Dakota Institute for Legislative Solution violated campaign finance law when it began running attack ads accusing five state lawmakers of obstructing an ongoing impeachment investigation into the attorney general, who struck and killed a man with his vehicle in 2020.
Tennessee – Airbnb Legislation Shows How Capitol Hill Culture Affects Tennessee Communities
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 3/14/2022
Legislation being pushed by Airbnb, designed to limit Nashville’s ability to regulate short-term rentals, shows how special interests spread campaign contributions among state lawmakers before trying to secure their votes, and how lobbyists use their influence to get lawmakers to sponsor legislation benefiting their clients. Critics say it also reveals how those practices can affect ordinary Tennesseans.
Tennessee – Tennessee Kickback Scandal Leaves GOP Reps Feeling Betrayed
MSN – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 3/10/2022
Tennessee House Republican lawmakers say they were betrayed by one of their own after they hired a shadowy political consulting firm talked up by a colleague who has since pleaded guilty to fraud in an alleged kickback scheme that also implicates a former House speaker and others. House GOP Caucus Chairperson Jeremy Faison said caucus members had no reason to suspect fraud when they hired Phoenix Solutions to perform campaign and related services for lawmakers. Faison promised “greater scrutiny every time” on hiring vendors, saying they will always be established companies.
Texas – A Texas County Didn’t Count 10,000 Ballots. Now the Parties Are at War Over Who’s to Blame.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/11/2022
During the March primary in Harris County, Texas, voting machines failed to power up, poll workers handed out the wrong-size ballots, and optical scanners rejected hundreds of votes. A weary election worker who had been on the job for at least 30 hours neglected to include about 10,000 of the roughly 360,000 votes in an unofficial tally. What Republicans and Democrats do not agree on is what went wrong. Republicans are demanding the state take over the Democratic-controlled elections office. Democrats say the problem is a new law enacted that made it harder to vote by mail and criminalized election mistakes.
Vermont – Ethics Bill Gets Green Light from Key Committee
VTDigger.org – Lola Duffort | Published: 3/9/2022
A bill creating a state ethics code binding all three branches in Vermont is moving forward after all. Despite earlier concerns from watchdogs that lawmakers would revise the legislation, the Senate Government Operations Committee voted to endorse its latest draft of and send it to the floor. Vermont is one of only five states without an ethics code. It created its first-ever ethics commission in 2017 after years of pressure from good-government advocates and the press.
Virginia – General Assembly OKs Bill Creating Candidate Finance Audits
Virginian-Pilot – Sarah Rankin (Associated Press) | Published: 3/10/2022
The Virginia General Assembly passed a campaign finance reform bill that adds a new layer of oversight to spending by candidates, but only after an amendment was added so it would not take effect until their next scheduled election cycle is over. The bill would both tighten record retention requirements and implement reviews of campaign committee financial records by the Department of Elections. Currently, candidates disclose their spending with varying degrees of specificity under what is effectively an honor system, with no state-sponsored review.
March 11, 2022 •
National/Federal Big K Street Shops Will Close Offices in Russia MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/9/2022 Some of K Street’s biggest firms said they were winding down, or at least reevaluating, operations in Russia in response to the […]
Big K Street Shops Will Close Offices in Russia
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/9/2022
Some of K Street’s biggest firms said they were winding down, or at least reevaluating, operations in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine and sanctions that followed. Ceasing operations in Moscow are Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Squire Patton Boggs, two of Washington’s long-standing lobbying and legal powerhouses. Greenberg Traurig, which has an office in Poland but not in Russia, said it planned to donate up to $2 million for relief efforts and offer pro bono legal services for Ukrainian refugees.
Inside the Jan. 6 Committee’s Effort to Trace Every Dollar Raised and Spent Based on Trump’s False Election Claims
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 3/8/2022
The House select committee investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol wants to know whether the Trump campaign, its affiliated super PACs, the Republican National Committee, and protest organizers knowingly used false claims the election was stolen to dupe donors and raise large sums of cash. The primary objective is to determine whether email solicitations spreading false claims of election fraud served as a source of misinformation, prompting the need to make proposals for strengthening campaign finance laws. The committee will also consider if any laws were broken and refer those to the Justice Department.
Judge Denies Fox News Motion to Dismiss Defamation Suit by Election-Tech Company Smartmatic
MSN – Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) | Published: 3/9/2022
A judge allowed an election technology company’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News to proceed though he dismissed specific claims made against host Jeanine Pirro and two of the network’s guests. New York Supreme Court Judge David Cohen denied Fox’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, in which the company, Smartmatic, alleged the network and several of its on-air personalities “decimated its future business prospects” by falsely accusing it of rigging the 2020 election against Donald Trump.
Lobbyists Urge Lawmakers to Let Them Roam the Capitol Again
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/4/2022
After two years of pandemic- and insurrection-related security restrictions, some lobbyists are putting their advocacy skills toward an effort to reopen the legislative buildings on Capitol Hill widely to tour groups and lobbying coalitions. Currently, lobbyists may conduct in-person meetings on Capitol Hill, so long as a congressional aide signs them in and escorts them around the buildings. Not all lobbyists believe the Capitol is ready for an onslaught of visitors.
Republican Clash Shows the Enduring Appeal, and Dubious Benefit, of Campaign Platforms
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 3/3/2022
Political manifestos like U.S. Sen. Rick Scott’s “Resuce America” plan have proliferated over the past three decades, becoming a staple of party messaging, an instrument of policy development and, in some cases, a vehicle for personal ambitions. But since 1994, when Republicans rode their “Contract With America” to their first House majority in 40 years, they have been increasingly ignored by voters, mocked by observers, and shown to be largely irrelevant to the task of actually winning elections. Yet party leaders keep sinking untold time and effort into agendas that have produced uneven dividends.
Russian-American Charged with Acting as Illegal Russian Agent in the US
CNN – Sonia Moghe | Published: 3/8/2022
A dual Russian-American citizen was charged with acting as a spy in the U.S., according to court filings that say she ran organizations that “sought to spread Russian propaganda.” Elena Branson was charged with conspiring to act illegally as an agent of the Russian government, willfully failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and other charges. Branson worked on behalf of the Russian government and officials to advance their interests in the U.S. Prosecutors allege she coordinated meetings for Russians to lobby American officials and businesspeople, and operated groups to publicly promote Russian government policies.
Supreme Court Denies GOP Requests to Block New Congressional Maps in N.C., Pa.
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 3/7/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court refused requests from Republicans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to block new congressional maps approved by courts in those states, meaning the fall elections will be held in districts more favorable to Democrats than the ones created by the GOP-led state Legislatures. Three of the court’s dissenting conservatives – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch – said they would have intervened, and they thought the theory advanced by the challengers was probably correct and they are eager to consider such a challenge.
Texas Militia Member Convicted on All Charges in First Jan. 6 Trial
MSN – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 3/8/2022
Guy Reffitt, a Texas militia member who was at the head of an early wave of rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was found guilty of all five felony charges he faced related to the assault, including obstruction of an official proceeding, carrying a firearm during the attack, and threatening witnesses. The verdict is an important milestone for the Justice Department in the first jury trial since the attack that threatened the presidential transfer of power. The Reffitt trial is the first of potentially dozens stemming from the insurrection.
U.S. Judge Dismisses Most Serious Federal Charge Against Jan. 6 Capitol Riot Defendant
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/8/2022
A federal judge ruled the Justice Department cannot charge January 6 defendants with obstructing Congress’s certification of President Biden’s 2020 election victory unless they tampered with official documents or records in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. In striking down the lead charge brought in the government’s Capitol siege investigation, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, District Court Judge Carl Nichols broke with all other U.S. trial judges in Washington who have ruled on the question in Capitol riot cases to date. The decision tosses a wrench into the felony prosecutions of as many as 275 arrested individuals.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Decision Lifts Certain Contribution Limits in Alaska
Associated Press News – Becky Rohrer | Published: 3/4/2022
Alaska will have unlimited campaign contributions in most instances after the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) declined to impose new caps after old limits were struck down as unconstitutional. A draft opinion suggested the limits in place before those that were struck down “apply as adjusted for inflation,” which included proposed limits of $1,500 per calendar year for individuals to candidates. Campaigns were to adhere to the draft opinion until APOC weighed in. The commission also declined to index donation amounts for inflation. APOC said there were legal questions about whether it had the power to do those things.
Arizona – Arizona Lawmaker Speaks to White Nationalists, Calls for Violence – and Sets Fundraising Records
MSN – Beth Reinhard and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/8/2022
State Sen. Wendy Rogers, a Republican lawmaker who represents tens of thousands of constituents, has found a rising national profile as a face of the radicalized wing of the Republican Party. After a year of fanning bogus allegations about election fraud and other false claims, she is the most successful fundraiser in the Arizona Legislature. While her support for former President Trump’s election falsehoods puts her in line with many Republicans, Rogers has moved farther to the edges of American politics: calling for jailing and executing her political opponents, identifying herself as a member of the Oath Keepers militia group, and attending a conference organized by a group linked to QAnon.
California – Candidate Alleges Sheriff Villanueva’s Radio Show Violates Election, Broadcasting Rules
MSN – Alene Tchekmedyian (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/8/2022
A candidate for Los Angeles County sheriff filed complaints with state and federal agencies alleging that Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s weekly radio show on violates election and broadcasting rules. County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Eli Vera’s complaint to the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleges the show amounted to an illegal campaign donation by KFI to Villanueva. Vera said KFI charges more than $1,000 for a 30-second radio ad, which he said would put Villanueva’s segments well above the $3,000 limit a person or entity can contribute to a candidate.
Colorado – Grand Jury Indicts Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and Deputy Clerk in Election System Breach Investigation
Canon City Daily Camera – Saja Hindi (Denver Post) | Published: 3/9/2022
A grand jury returned 10 criminal counts against Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and six counts against Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley in its investigation of potential election equipment security breach. The charges stem from local, state, and federal investigations launched into the potential breach after the Colorado secretary of state sued Peters, a 2020 election denier, and Knisley over allegedly allowing an unauthorized man access to make copies of voting equipment servers. Passwords from the equipment were later posted online by Ron Watkins, a leading figure in the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Florida – Federal Grand Jury Indicts Former JEA Executives on Conspiracy, Wire Fraud
Yahoo News – Nate Monroe and David Bauerlein (Florida Times-Union) | Published: 3/7/2022
A grand jury indictment charged former JEA Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn and finance chief Ryan Wannemacher with conspiracy and wire fraud, casting the two men as the architects of a brazen scheme to secretly extract tens of millions of dollars of personal profit out of the city-owned utility before selling it to a private operator. Prosecutors allege almost every aspect of the failed effort to privatize one of Jacksonville’s largest and most important public agencies was a fraud, echoing the past findings of auditors, outside attorneys, a city council investigation, and media reporting.
Florida – Florida Lawmakers Approve an Elections Police Force, the First of Its Kind in the U.S.
MSN – Lori Rozsa (Washington Post) | Published: 3/9/2022
Two months after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed a plan for a powerful elections police force that would answer to him, state lawmakers passed a watered-down version that barely resembles what the governor asked for, but still worries voting rights advocates. DeSantis had asked for nearly $6 million to hire 52 people, including sworn officers, to investigate alleged violations of elections laws. The Republican-led House and Senate instead gave him about $2.5 million for the new Office of Election Crimes and Security.
Florida – Senate Passes Citizen Initiative Limits on Out-of-State Influence, Awaits House Answer
Florida Politics – Renzo Downey | Published: 3/7/2022
A bill to curb out-of-state influence in the ballot initiative process was amended after it was struck down last year. Because senators approved changes they hoped would avoid a second injunction in the courts, the bill must next return to the House. The proposal would limit non-Floridians from donating more than $3,000, and out-of-state political committees from receiving donations worth more than $3,000, when it comes to ballot initiatives in the petition-gathering process.
Florida – Tallahassee Commissioners Move Some Ethics Changes, Shoot Down Lobbyist Logs
Florida Politics – Tristan Wood | Published: 3/9/2022
The Tallahassee City Commission moved forward with some ethics ordinance changes but decided against making major changes to lobbying rules. The commission voted to implement new language in the misuse of public position ordinance so that it no longer requires intent. Commissioners did ban city lobbyists from being paid contingency fees but voted down other changes, such as amending the city’s definition of lobbyist.
Florida – Tallahassee Officials’ Trip After FSU Stadium Vote Raises Questions
stuartabsolon.com – Jeff Burlew (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 3/8/2022
The morning after a contentious meeting to finalize funding for Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter ended up on the same flight as a group of public officials, including Leon County Administrator Vince Long and City Manager Reese Goad, who collectively oversee Blueprint, an agency that implements infrastructure projects in the area. Also on the flight was State Attorney Jack Campbell and Ben Pingree, who directs the city and county department of planning, land management, and community enhancement. The trip on its face did not appear to run afoul of Florida’s Sunshine Law, said Barbara Petersen, executive director of the Florida Center for Government Accountability.
Georgia – First Trial in Atlanta Corruption Investigation Set to Start
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 3/8/2022
A political consultant who was a top aide to former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is the first person set to go to trial in a long-running federal investigation into corruption at City Hall. Mitzi Bickers helped Reed win election in 2009 and worked as the city’s director of human services. She is accused, among other things, of taking bribes to use her influence to steer city work to two contractors. Others ensnared in the investigation have pleaded guilty and been sent to prison, but Bickers has maintained her innocence.
Georgia – Kemp Appeals Ruling on Leadership Committee Funds in Primary
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 3/9/2022
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that says a “leadership committee” the governor created under a new state law cannot spend money to get him reelected during the Republican primary. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Cohen’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed by former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging the governor in the primary. Perdue and his campaign allege the law gives Kemp an unfair fundraising and spending advantage in the primary.
Illinois – Former Sen. Tom Cullerton Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement
Illinois Newsroom – Peter Hancock (Capital News Illinois) | Published: 3/8/2022
Former Illinois Sen. Tom Cullerton pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and could face more than a year in federal prison. Cullerton admitted he received pay and benefits from the Teamsters union during 2015 while doing little or no work. In addition to his salary, prosecutors alleged, Cullerton also received bonuses and health care benefits. Cullerton was indicted in 2019 on 40 counts of embezzlement, one for each biweekly paycheck he received from January 2015 through January 2016, a period of time when he also served in the state Senate.
Illinois – Former Veterans Affairs Chief Wrote Checks Totaling $50,000 to Her Mom from Her Political Fund
Better Government Association – Rachel Hinton | Published: 3/2/2022
The former head of the Illinois’ Veterans Affairs office used her campaign fund to write two checks totaling $50,000 to her mother, a move state elections officials say could be a violation of election laws. Linda Chapa LaVia said the checks, logged as January expenditures in her required campaign filings, were to repay a loan her mother made to help her start her political career about two decades ago. But records show her campaign made no disclosure of a loan to her committee, launched ahead of her successful campaign to become a state representative. It also does not show up in the original documents creating her fundraising committee.
Kansas – Lawmakers May Change How Kansas Supreme Court Justices Are Picked as Redistricting Case Looms
Yahoo News – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 3/7/2022
Lawmakers are considering changes to a six-decade-old system of selecting judges to the Kansas Supreme Court, at a time when the high court is on the cusp of hearing a landmark challenge to a set of GOP-authored congressional maps. Republican legislators insist the renewed push to end so-called merit selection of judges is unrelated to the redistricting lawsuits moving through the court system, which are all-but-certain to eventually arrive at the Supreme Court. They argue the move is needed to ensure Kansans have a voice in selecting jurists on the state’s highest court, either directly or via members of the Senate.
Kentucky – Metro Council Approves New Financial Disclosure Rules for Louisville Officials
WFPL – Roberto Roldan | Published: 3/4/2022
Elected officials in Louisville will now have to make yearly disclosures of their financial and business ties under new rules approved by Metro Council. The requirement will also apply to candidates for public office and city workers who can award contracts. City officials are already required to recuse themselves from making legal or contract decisions if they have a conflict-of-interest. But previously, there was no mandate for them to report much of their finances, making it hard to know when a conflict existed.
Massachusetts – State Senate Hires a Pay Consultant in Wake of Report That Says Staff Pay ‘Breaks with Best Practice’
MSN – Samantha Gross (Boston Globe) | Published: 3/3/2022
A salary study commissioned by the Massachusetts Senate but never publicly released found fault with the chamber’s hiring and pay practices for its staffers, concluding the approach “can be perceived as lacking fairness” and may lead to “problematic staff turnover.” Fourteen current and former legislative staff said the pay inequities are driving high turnover that hinders the Legislature’s ability to perform its basic functions, such as serving constituents and drafting legislation.
Michigan – Michigan Redistricting Panel Finished Maps Month Ago. Why Is It Still Meeting?
Bridge Michigan – Sergio Martínez-Beltrán | Published: 3/8/2022
Despite approving the new congressional and state legislative maps over two months ago, the Michigan redistricting commission continues to meet, and commissioners continue to get paid. That is partly because there is no clear expiration date for the group created in 2018 by a voter-approved constitutional amendment that some observers and experts now say was too vague.
Nevada – Judge Blocks GOP-Backed Redistricting Lawsuit for 2022 Election
Nevada Independent – Riley Snider | Published: 3/9/2022
Republican-backed efforts to challenge Nevada’s electoral maps in court on the heels of redistricting are likely on hold. A decision by Senior District Court Judge Robert Estes will have the likely effect of keeping the new legislative district maps, which largely favor Democrats, in place for the 2022 election. Estes said it would be “not fair” to interrupt the ongoing election process and two-week candidate filing period and the “election is going to proceed” under the boundary lines adopted after November’s special legislative session.
New York – Cuomo Doesn’t Say Whether He’s Running for Office. The Board of Elections Implies He Is.
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 3/8/2022
Despite calls to investigate the use of campaign money for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent ads, the New York State Board of Elections will not be doing so. Cuomo has been mounting a public-relations campaign akin to a political one recently. He has run ads intended to repair his reputation after his resignation amid mounting scandals. The board’s chief enforcement counsel said the law “does not prohibit a former office holder, or anyone else from using campaign funds to test the waters for a future political candidacy.” Whether Cuomo is intending to seek public office or using the pretense of a run to use his $16.4 million campaign fund to help clear his name is a moot point to good government groups.
New York – How the Manhattan D.A.’s Investigation into Donald Trump Unraveled
MSN – Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, and Jonah Bromwich (New York Times) | Published: 3/5/2022
Two senior prosecutors stood before the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, detailing their strategy for proving Donald Trump knew his annual financial statements were works of fiction. They needed Bragg to decide whether to seek criminal charges, but Bragg and his senior aides had doubts. They hammered Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne about whether they could show Trump had intended to break the law by inflating the value of his assets in the statements, a necessary element to prove the case. The meeting started a series of events that brought the investigation of Trump to a sudden halt, prompted the two prosecutors to resign.
New York – Inspector General Investigates JCOPE ‘Hot Mic’ Episode
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/7/2022
The state inspector general’s office is investigating a breach of confidentiality at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, spurred by a complaint filed by an attorney representing former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. At an August 26 meeting, JCOPE had ended its opening public portion and gone into what was supposed to be a closed executive session. But the live audio could still be heard for another 10 minutes, and the public was privy to discussion of a confidential investigation related to Cuomo.
North Carolina – In 2020, Meadows Registered to Vote at N.C. Mobile Home That He Reportedly Never Lived In
MSN – Marianna Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 3/7/2022
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows registered to vote in 2020 using the address of a North Carolina mobile home he has never lived in, a move scrutinized as potential voter fraud. According to the New Yorker, neither the home nor the address have belonged to him. It is illegal to provide false information on a voter registration, and while Americans can have multiple residences, they can only have one official domicile, which is tied to their voter registration. To register to vote in North Carolina, a citizen must have lived in the county where they are registering and have resided there for at least 30 days before the date of the election.
North Carolina – North Carolina Rep. Cawthorn’s Candidacy Challenge Blocked
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 3/4/2022
A federal judge blocked an effort by North Carolina voters to disqualify U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn from seeking reelection this fall by alleging his involvement with the rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol riot in January 2021 made him ineligible. U.S. District Judge Richard Myers declared the state’s candidate challenge process did not apply to a portion of the 14th Amendment designed to prevent members of Congress who had fought on the Confederate side during the Civil War from returning to Congress.
Ohio – Gun Lobbyist Wrote GOP Lawmakers’ ‘Permitless Carry’ Speech, Document Data Shows
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 3/4/2022
Last April, two Republicans in the Ohio House told lawmakers their “constitutional carry” bill would ease the bureaucratic hassle of undergoing training and a background check to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon. But they did not write the speech. Chris Dorr, a lobbyist and executive director of Ohio Gun Owners, did. Metadata attached to a copy of their testimony on the Legislature’s website shows his name as the author of the document. Dorr writing the testimony is among the clearest signs of the close working relationship between gun lobbyists and Republican lawmakers.
Ohio – Ohio Regulatory Judge Steps Back from FirstEnergy’s HB 6 Cases After Subpoenaed Records Reveal His Role
Energy News Network – Kathiann Kowalski | Published: 3/7/2022
An Ohio regulatory official stepped away from four FirstEnergy regulatory cases after subpoenaed documents showed he took part in policy matters relating to House Bill 6, the nuclear and coal bailout law at the heart of an ongoing corruption scandal. The materials show Gregory Price, a hearing examiner overseeing House Bill 6 cases for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), was included in policy communications with former PUCO Chairperson Sam Randazzo before the law passed and when bills to repeal it were proposed in the wake of the arrests of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others.
Tennessee – Ex-Tennessee Rep Pleads Guilty to Fraud in Consulting Scheme
MSN – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 3/8/2022
Former Tennessee Rep. Robin Smith pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge in connection with a political consulting firm involving state Rep. Glen Casada, who had served as House speaker. Prosecutors say Smith, Casada, and Casada’s then-chief of staff, Cade Cothren, used the firm to illegally funnel money to themselves through both campaign and taxpayer-funded work while concealing their involvement. Casada resigned from the top leadership post in 2019 after revelations he exchanged sexually explicit text messages about women with Cothren.
Texas – Ethics Commission Fines Republican $30K for Implying Black Democrats Endorsed Him
Yahoo News – TheGrio.com | Published: 3/8/2022
Eric Dick, who lost his bid for a seat on its Houston City Council in 2019, was fined $30,000 by the Texas Ethics Commission after falsely claiming he had been endorsed by a group of Black Democrats. Dick was running for office when he sent out an endorsement mailer by a group called the Harris County Black Democratic News. One side of the mailer had a banner that read, “Endorsement Announcement.” Dick originally told the commission he was not behind the mailer. But an investigation discovered he requested the mailer, approved the design, and arranged for its payment.
Vermont – Vermont Is One of Five States Without a Statutory Code of Ethics. A Bill in the Senate Seeks to Change That
Vermont Public Radio – Peter Hirschfeld | Published: 3/8/2022
The Vermont Senate is poised to advance legislation that would create a statutory code of ethics for elected officials and state employees, but government watchdogs continue to face resistance to an independent agency to enforce the code. Vermont is one of only five states without a statutory code of ethics. “In order to have a really solid framework for government ethics, an outside entity such as the ethics commission does need to have some kind of investigatory or enforcement power,” said Christina Sivret, executive director of the state Ethics Commission. “However, we envision that to be a very slow process. People are not even used to having a statutory code of ethics in place.”
Washington – WA Attorney General Bob Ferguson Announces $9M Settlement in Grocery Industry Campaign-Finance Case
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 3/2/2022
A trade group that represents some of the biggest U.S. food companies agreed to pay $9 million for violations of Washington’s campaign finance law after the state Supreme Court upheld a penalty twice that much. The Consumer Brands Association will pay the fine and drop an expected appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The settlement will finally end a long legal battle stemming from a 2013 ballot initiative that sought to require labeling of genetically modified food products. Documents showed the group sought to conceal the identities of corporations that wrote big checks to fund its campaign.
Washington DC – The Tiny Radio Station Broadcasting Russian Propaganda in D.C.
WFPL – Paul Farhi (Washington Post) | Published: 3/7/2022
WZHF, a former Spanish-language station 11 miles east of the White House in Maryland’s Capitol Heights, is the flagship of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to harness America’s radio airwaves to sell the Kremlin’s point of view. Despite periodic legal and political challenges, and the imposition of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, the station has stayed on the air, broadcasting its Kremlin-approved message. The station is one of only five outlets in the U.S. that air English-language broadcasts of “Radio Sputnik,” produced in Moscow and Washington under the Russian government’s supervision.
Wyoming – Crossover Voting Ban Dies, Other Election Legislation Prevails
WyoFile – Maggie Mullen | Published: 3/9/2022
Election reforms trumpeted by the Wyoming Republican Party failed this session. Meanwhile, two campaign finance bills passed, along with one to ease the absentee ballot process for clerks. House Bill 49 requires any organization that receives or spends funds in excess of $1,000 for the purpose of influencing an election outcome to officially file as a political organization. House Bill 80 would increase the penalties for campaigns and PACs that do not file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures.
March 9, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Arizona: “Arizona Lawmaker Speaks to White Nationalists, Calls for Violence – and Sets Fundraising Records” by Beth Reinhard and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN Florida: “Senate Passes Citizen Initiative Limits on Out-of-State Influence, Awaits House Answer” by […]
Arizona: “Arizona Lawmaker Speaks to White Nationalists, Calls for Violence – and Sets Fundraising Records” by Beth Reinhard and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Senate Passes Citizen Initiative Limits on Out-of-State Influence, Awaits House Answer” by Renzo Downey for Florida Politics
National: “Texas Militia Member Convicted on All Charges in First Jan. 6 Trial” by Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) for MSN
North Carolina: “In 2020, Meadows Registered to Vote at N.C. Mobile Home That He Reportedly Never Lived In” by Marianna Alfaro (Washington Post) for MSN
Georgia: “First Trial in Atlanta Corruption Investigation Set to Start” by Kate Brumback (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
Illinois: “An Unnamed Presence in the Michael Madigan Indictment: AT&T” by Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News
New York: “How the Manhattan D.A.’s Investigation into Donald Trump Unraveled” by Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, and Jonah Bromwich (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Supreme Court Denies GOP Requests to Block New Congressional Maps in N.C., Pa.” by Robert Barnes (Washington Post) for MSN
March 4, 2022 •
National/Federal Backstage Drama at Jan. 6 Rally for Trump Draws Interest of House Committee MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2022 The White House was made aware of concerns among allies of Donald Trump […]
Backstage Drama at Jan. 6 Rally for Trump Draws Interest of House Committee
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2022
The White House was made aware of concerns among allies of Donald Trump that some people coming to Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, to potentially speak at the rally were too extreme, even for a president who had frequently pushed or crossed the boundaries of traditional political norms. The advance warnings to the White House and the friction between organizers have become a focus for the House select committee investigating the insurrection, as lawmakers try to understand the planning and financing behind the rally.
First Jan. 6 Defendant Pleads Guilty to Seditious Conspiracy in Capitol Attack
MSN – Tom Jackman and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2022
A member of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group became the first to admit to engaging in seditious conspiracy on January 6, 2021, to keep President Biden from taking office. Joshua James pleaded guilty to helping lead a group that prosecutors say sent two tactically equipped teams into the Capitol and organized a cache of weapons in a hotel just outside the city. He may face the stiffest sentence of any January 6 defendant so far, according to preliminary sentencing guidelines.
Four US Lawmakers or Their Spouses Personally Invested in Russian Companies: Documents
MSN – Dave Levinthal (Business Insider) | Published: 3/1/2022
Four members of Congress or their spouses have either currently or recently invested money in Russian companies, financial disclosures show. These investments come to light in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has prompted the U.S. government to hit Russia with heavy sanctions and triggered boycotts of Russian products and culture. Congress is debating whether to ban members from trading individual stocks amid violations of current financial disclosure laws and potential conflicts-of-interest.
Four Women on the Supreme Court Would Bring Historic, Near Gender Parity for Institution Long Dominated by White Men
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2022
If President Biden’s nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, it would mean four women would simultaneously serve for the first time in its 233-year history, as close to gender parity as possible on the nine-person bench. That will not change the court’s ideological direction, and law professors and political scientists continue to debate whether gender significantly affects legal interpretation. But those who welcome the change say it is important for representational reasons, and they assert it could bolster the public’s view of the court’s legitimacy.
Guns, Radicalization and a Father’s Alleged Threat: First Jan. 6 trial set to begin
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/28/2022
Guy Reffitt, a purported recruiter for the right-wing, anti-government Three Percenters movement is the first person to stand trial in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. For the first time, a defendant will get to confront in open court a portion of the mountain of video evidence, online communications data, and police testimony the government has amassed against roughly 750 federally charged individuals. A judge and jury in D.C. also will weigh prosecutors’ application of rarely used criminal statutes to prosecute the first violent incursion of the Capitol by U.S. citizens.
Jan. 6 Committee Alleges Trump, Allies Engaged in Potential ‘Criminal Conspiracy’ by Trying to Block Congress from Certifying Election
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, Jacqueline Alemany, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2022
The House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol said in a court filing it had evidence former President Trump and his allies engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” by trying to block Congress from certifying the election. The alleged criminal acts, which include conspiring to defraud the United States, were raised by the committee in a filing challenging conservative lawyer John Eastman’s refusal to turn over thousands of emails the panel requested related to his role in trying to persuade former Vice President Mike Pence to reject electors from states won by Joe Biden.
Lobbyists Ramp Up Fly-Ins Despite Capitol Covid-19 Restrictions
Bloomberg Government – Nancy Ognanovich | Published: 2/24/2022
Two years after the pandemic forced the closure of the U.S. Capitol, the lobbying community still faces challenges maintaining relationships and effective communications with House and Senate lawmakers and staff. But with Covid-19 cases waning and important legislative issues on the agenda, some lobbyists and industry associations are resuming their trek to Washington, D.C. and have devised ways to deal with continued restrictions on entering the Capitol complex. More than 50 different business groups plan trips, with industry fly-ins beginning March 2, according to Ed Mortimer, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president.
‘My Life Was a Constant Lie’: Chabot’s ex-campaign manager sentenced for $1.4 million theft
MSN – Kevin Grasha (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 3/1/2022
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s onetime campaign manager, Jamie Schwartz, was sentenced to two years in federal prison for stealing $1.42 million from the campaign. Schwartz’s embezzlement took place over at least eight years, prosecutors said. But the scheme began to unravel in the summer of 2019 when the FEC began an audit of the campaign. According to prosecutors, Schwartz falsified official records, forged bank records, and lied to the FEC.
Some Records Taken by Trump Are So Sensitive They May Not Be Described in Public
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 2/26/2022
Some of the presidential records recovered from former President Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago are so sensitive they may not be able to be described in forthcoming inventory reports in an unclassified way. The revelation comes as U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney sent the National Archives and Records Administration a request for further information on 15 boxes of records recovered from Trump’s resort. There are records at the very highest levels of classification, including some that can be viewed by only a small number of government officials.
Trial Opens for Men Accused of Funneling Millions to Back Hillary Clinton in 2016 Presidential Race
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 2/24/2022
Businessperson Rani El-Saadi is on trial, accused of conspiring to illegally donate more than $3 million to back Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Prosecutors said digital payments magnate Andy Khawaja supplied the $150,000 that El-Saadi personally donated to attend a Clinton fundraiser in 2016. Khawaja has been in Lithuania fighting extradition to the U.S. for more than two years and was declared a fugitive. “Khawaja wanted very badly to gain power and influence in the U.S.,” prosecutor Michelle Parikh told the jury.
US Lobbying Firms Rush to Cut Ties with Russian Businesses Hit with Sanctions
CNN – Casey Tolan, Curt Devine, and Daniel Medina | Published: 2/26/2022
In the years leading up to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, U.S. lobbyists have raked in millions of dollars from Russian banks and financial firms paying to push their interests in Washington. Now, in the wake of the Russian invasion and new sanctions announced by President Biden, many of those lobbying firms are rushing to cut ties and drop their lucrative contracts. The exodus marks the rupture of a Moscow-to-K-Street conduit that has long employed former federal officials and members of Congress of both parties, experts said.
Canada – Ethics Commissioner Calls for Reform of Alberta Lobbyist Rules
CBC – Paige Parsons | Published: 3/3/2022
The province should create a communication registry for lobbyists to address what she says is a lack of transparency, Alberta’s ethics commissioner says. Marguerite Trussler’s office put forward a number of recommendations for changes to the Alberta Lobbyists Act as part of a review of the legislation currently underway. The law must be reviewed every five years, and a committee is expected to submit a report with its recommendations to the Legislature by September.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Mayor’s Top Aide Held Private Call with Ash Street Defendant, Lobbyist Before Tuesday Council Meeting
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 2/27/2022
One day before the San Diego City Council met to discuss the lawsuits over a controversial lease, Mayor Todd Gloria’s chief operating officer, Jay Goldstone, spoke privately with the principal owner of a development firm that is being by the city and his lobbyist. Jay Goldstone testified at his deposition he reached out to lobbyist Christopher Wahl days ahead of a city council meeting. Wahl set up the conference call between Goldstone, himself, and his client, Cisterra Development majority owner Steven Black. A mayoral spokesperson did not say why no lawyers participated in the meeting or why the other defendants were not involved.
Colorado – Envelope with Checks Found in Colorado Capitol Bathroom Creates Sticky Situation
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 2/24/2022
A Colorado House staffer went into the men’s public bathroom in the basement of the Capitol and found an envelope. Inside were checks, made out to the Senate Majority Fund, the independent expenditure committee that helps to finance Republican campaigns for the state Senate. How many checks were in the envelope and how much total are not known, although a source mentioned they are in the five figures.
Connecticut – Upstairs, Downstairs: In CT Capitol, Senate is off limits, House is open
CTMirror.org – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 3/2/2022
The House and Senate Democratic majorities in Connecticut diverged sharply and awkwardly on questions of COVID-19 and public access to a state Capitol that has been largely closed for nearly two years. The second floor of the Capitol, where the House resides, was open and its hallways lined by lobbyists, representatives of unions and non-profits, and one woman handing out flyers opposed to legalizing assisted suicide. The third-floor home of the Senate was closed.
Florida – Bill Banning Lobbying for Ex-Lawmakers Heads to Gov. DeSantis’ Desk
Florida Politics – Gary Rohrer | Published: 2/25/2022
Former lawmakers who lobby their ex-colleagues in the Florida Legislature or executive branch could face a fine and other sanctions starting next year, after the Senate unanimously passed House Bill 7001, sending it to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk. Under the bill, a lawmaker who receives compensation for lobbying at the state level within six years after leaving office could be subject to a public censure, a civil fine of up to $10,000, the forfeiture of any money received to lobby, or all three.
Florida – They Threw a $74,000 Goodbye Party for a County Official. Lobbyists Pitched In. How Did That Help the Public?
MSN – Lisa Huriash (South Florida Sun Sentinel) | Published: 2/25/2022
Broward County lobbyists, politicians, and county officials were on the guest list for a surprise celebration at the FLA Live Arena in February. Now the event, marking the retirement of Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, is facing scrutiny over whether it created the appearance of melding the county’s interests with those of lobbyists and private financial interests. Some of the funding for the event came from the Florida Panthers, the hockey team that has historically come before the county ask for public subsidies to stay afloat, and its top two people were on the guest list.
Illinois – Ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan, Long the State’s Most Powerful Pol, Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges
Yahoo – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/2/2022
Michael Madigan, the former speaker of the Illinois House and for decades one of the nation’s most powerful legislators, was charged in a racketeering and bribery scheme, becoming the most prominent politician swept up in a federal investigation of government corruption in the state. The 22-count indictment comes after a yearslong probe and alleges Madigan participated in an array of bribery and extortion schemes from aimed at using the power of his office for personal gain. He was dethroned as speaker in 2021 as the investigation swirled around him, and soon after resigned the House seat he had held since 1971.
Illinois – Investigation of AT&T Contracts in Probe Orbiting Michael Madigan Centers on Funds to Lobbyists and Former State Rep, Sources Say
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/2/2022
Consulting funds flowing from AT&T to a lobbyist with deep ties to then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and eventually to a former state representative are at the center of a federal investigation into the company’s lobbying practices in Springfield. AT&T disclosed that federal prosecutors notified it they were considering filing criminal charges against its Illinois subsidiary involving “a single, nine-month consulting contract in 2017? worth $22,500. Records show the company that year had hired a stable of Madigan-connected lobbyists working for the subsidiary as AT&T was fighting for a controversial bill to end landline service.
Kansas – Kansas Lawmakers Are Supposed to Vet Bills in Committees. But Are Their Hearings Fair?
MSN – Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard (Kansas City Star) | Published: 3/1/2022
Lawmakers and lobbyists in Kansas say some legislative committees either limit public comment or tip the scales in the favor of bills supported by the Republican majority. In theory, the Legislature’s 48 committees are supposed to serve as a first check on bills, allowing lawmakers to vet them before they are sent to the floor. But in practice, Republican chairs are able to determine what voices are heard, what bills move forward, and even push policy pieces without a public hearing. Some Democrats and lobbyists complain these practices allow Republicans to paint a false picture of public opinion and stifle debate when convenient.
Maine – Subpoenas Will Ramp Up Maine Investigation into National Conservative Group
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 2/28/2022
The Maine ethics commission voted to allow staff to subpoena the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to require them to turn over documents to determine if it violated state contribution laws by allowing lawmakers to use software that contains voter information and is used to track constituent interactions. ALEC has refused to participate in the probe, saying it believes it is illegitimate. The move is expected to lead to months of litigation over the subpoenas.
Massachusetts – Are Campaign Donations to MA Sheriffs Too Suggestive of Pay-to-Play? CT May Have Solution
Herald News – Kyle Stucker (USA Today) | Published: 2/25/2022
A report revealed Massachusetts sheriffs received $2.69 million in questionable donations during their campaigns, calling into question whether construction firms, medical companies, and other special interests are buying influence. Sheriffs deny being involved in “pay-to-play” schemes. Even if wealthy special interests are not buying policies that pad their coffers, the advocacy groups behind the report suggested such campaign donations do not pass the smell test even though they’re legal. The groups believe Massachusetts and other states should adopt Connecticut’s public financing model to improve confidence and fairness in their elections.
Michigan – Term Limits Were Supposed to Fix Lansing. Did They Make It Worse Instead?
MLive.com – Samuel Robinson | Published: 3/2/2022
Thirty years have passed since Michigan voters approved limits to the number of years politicians can serve to six (three terms) in the House and eight (two terms) in the Senate. While the change ushered out veteran lawmakers, many still wonder whether that was a good thing. Michigan’s strictest-in-the-nation term limits have drawn a backlash so strong a bipartisan group is now aiming to loosen rules by putting the question back on the ballot. Critics argue that setting strict limits on how long politicians can serve has splintered relationships at the Capitol and reduced bipartisanship to a point where it is hurting constituents.
Missouri – Independence Mayor Asked About Campaign Donations in Deposition, but Advised to Stay Mum
MSN – Kevin Hardy (Kansas City Star) | Published: 3/2/2022
Independence Mayor Eileen Weir was asked in a deposition last year about campaign contributions she received from a Missouri company looking to do business with the city. The donations have raised questions among other city council members and drew the interest of the FBI. But a transcript of that deposition shows she mostly avoided the topic after her personal attorney objected to the line of questioning and advised her not to answer questions about the contributions. The mayor was questioned under oath as part of a defamation lawsuit against the city and two council members.
Nevada – Social Video Shows ‘Racist’ Taunts of Nevada Governor, Wife
MSN – Ken Ritter (Associated Press) | Published: 2/28/2022
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, and his wife were accosted during the weekend by two men who followed them out of a Las Vegas restaurant shouting profanities, taunts, and anti-government statements in an incident posted on the Internet. Sisolak characterized the incident as “racist threats.” His wife is a former municipal finance specialist of Chinese heritage who was born in the Nevada town of Ely. The incident now is being investigated by state police.
New Jersey – 2 Counties Tried to Skirt N.J. Public Bidding Laws. Now the Legislature May Make It Legal.
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/2/2022
Efforts by two counties to evade New Jersey’s bidding laws on projects involving tens of millions of dollars in public funding are now the focus of a bill introduced in the state Senate that would make legal what the courts have so far declared to be illegal. The legislation would clear the way for county improvement authorities to essentially award no-bid deals to favored contractors. Under the measure, counties would be able to ignore the bidding requirements of New Jersey’s Local Public Contracts Law by declaring any major construction proposal a “redevelopment project.”
New York – Lt. Gov.’s Campaign Expenses Show Conflicts with Taxpayer Refunds
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/28/2022
The Albany Times Union found a dozen instances where Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin submitted vouchers claiming the full, taxpayer-funded reimbursement for traveling from New York City to Albany; during those same trips, a campaign-issued debit card was used to pay for gasoline. Each time he had sought full taxpayer reimbursement for the 12 trips, Benjamin stated he was the one bearing the costs. Albany politicians collecting taxpayer-funded reimbursement for costs already covered by their campaigns has at times proven controversial and was the subject of the 2006 trial of former Assemblyperson Clarence Norman.
New York – ‘Malicious Cyberattack’ Strikes New York Ethics Agency
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 2/25/2022
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) shut down its online filing system as authorities investigate a “deliberate malicious cyberattack.” JCOPE said the attack involved a web server that houses, among other systems, the agency’s lobbying application and financial disclosure filing systems.
Ohio – Ohio House Won’t Release Texts Between House Rep and Indicted Ex-Speaker
WEWS – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 3/2/2022
Lawyers with the Ohio House denied a public records requests for text messages between a sitting lawmaker and former Speaker Larry Householder, who was expelled by his peers while under a racketeering indictment related to alleged public corruption. State Rep. Jay Edwards and Householder regularly exchange text messages and talk on the phone. Edwards said they always avoid discussing the criminal case against Householder and usually, but not always, avoid public policy discussions as well. Edwards says the messages do not exist because “… I go through at night and erase text messages I don’t find useful.”
Ohio – Ohio Judge Helped Write a Bailout That Led to Arrests; Now He’s Blocking Outside Probes
WEWS – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 2/28/2022
A judge who oversees utility cases was involved in writing a coal and nuclear bailout now at the center of what prosecutors have described as the largest public corruption case in Ohio history, subpoenaed documents show. That same judge, Greg Price, is presiding over multiple regulatory cases in which a government watchdog agency is trying to investigate that same corruption. His orders, spanning 18 months, have blocked investigations into FirstEnergy, a utility at the center of the scandal.
Oklahoma – Claiming Out-of-State Influences, Oklahoma Looks to Clamp Down on State Question Laws
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 2/28/2022
Several Oklahoma lawmakers are looking to add hurdles for citizen-led groups to pass the type of state questions that legalized medical marijuana, expanded Medicaid, and won voter support despite Republican leaders’ opposition in recent years. More than a dozen bills up for consideration, all authored by GOP legislators, seek to either requirements for citizen-led voter initiatives to get on the ballot or increase the threshold for some of the proposals to pass on Election Day.
Oregon – Oregon Labor, Business Interest Groups File Challenges to Campaign Contribution Limit Proposals
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/25/2022
Oregon business and labor groups filed challenges to three proposed ballot measures that would set campaign contribution limits in the state. The challenges were anticipated by supporters but nonetheless increase the likelihood that voters will not get to weigh in on political donation limits. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan disqualified the proposed measures because she said they should have included the entire texts of laws they would amend, including sections that would be left unchanged. Fagan based her decision on a 2004 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling that previous secretaries of state generally did not follow.
Pennsylvania – Activists Disrupt House GOP Leader’s Speech Demanding Action on Gift Ban Legislation
PennLive.com – Jan Murphy | Published: 2/28/2022
Activists seeking passage of legislation to ban gifts to lawmakers disrupted the Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon to pressure House leadership to act on the bill. Reid Stever, a representative of MarchOnHarrisburg, interrupted House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff’s speech to press for a vote on House Bill 1945, which makes it illegal for lawmakers to accept a gift from a lobbyist. It won House State Government Committee approval last March but has yet to be brought up for a vote by the full chamber.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania GOP Urges Supreme Court to Toss Congressional Map
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 2/28/2022
Pennsylvania Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a state court-approved congressional map, arguing the Democrat-controlled court exceeded its authority by imposing the map without the Legislature’s approval. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court selected the map after the politically divided state government failed to approve one. The appeal argued the state court’s selection of one of the plaintiffs’ maps targeted Republicans and violated the Constitution by having congressional districts that deviated in population by two or more people.
Tennessee – Former Tennessee Speaker Casada Aide Cothren Refuses to Testify in State Campaign Finance Probe
Yahoo News – Andy Sher (Chattanooga Times Fress Press) | Published: 3/2/2022
Cade Cothren, the former chief of staff to then-Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and did not appear before the Registry of Election Finance regarding his alleged involvement as the head of a PAC that attacked a Casada critic. The registry voted to issue subpoenas for information related to the Faith Family Freedom Fund PAC to Cothren, Casada, and several others who may have had knowledge of the committee.
Texas – Dallas Hires Former Texas Health Inspector General to Investigate City Corruption Claims
Dallas Morning News – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 2/23/2022
Dallas hired a former state health inspector general to lead a new office in charge of investigating allegations of waste, abuse, and fraud. Bart Bevers was chosen as the city’s first inspector general, a position created in December when city officials made several changes to ethics rules to strengthen transparency and accountability. Several scandals involving Dallas officials have resulted in convictions on corruption-related charges.
Texas – Rejected Mail Ballots, Confused Voters: Texas’s restrictive new law casts shadow over primary
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/1/2022
Democrats and voting rights advocates predicted for months that new election rules in Texas, referred to as Senate Bill 1 in the state, would make it harder for some people to vote and for election officials to do their jobs. The March 1 primary made clear to critics that those predictions, so far, have come true, providing a glimpse of what voting could look like in more than a dozen states that enacted similarly restrictive laws in the aftermath of the 2020 contest.
Utah – Utah Lawmakers Pass New Media Restrictions for House Floor
MSN – Sam Metz (Associated Press) | Published: 3/1/2022
The Utah House approved new rules that limit where members of the press can film and interview lawmakers, following similar action taken by the state Senate. The rules extend pandemic-era restrictions on when journalists can report from the floors of the legislative chambers. Media organizations and journalists oppose the rules changes, arguing that restricting media movements would make it more difficult to cover fast-paced action and make it easier for lawmakers to dodge the press. They said the move reduced transparency.
Virginia – Virginia Lawmakers Still Can’t Bring Themselves to Ban Personal Use of Campaign Cash
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 3/2/2022
After years of debate and multiple studies, Virginia lawmakers still are not ready to pass a law preventing themselves from using campaign money on personal expenses that have nothing to do with running for office. The last remaining bill prohibiting personal use of campaign funds died in a House subcommittee, with several legislators framing the issue as too complex to tackle even though the practice is already outlawed at the federal level and in most states. Republicans on the panel defeated the version of the bill that had passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin GOP’s 2020 Report Embraces Fringe Election Decertification Theory
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 3/1/2022
A draft report for a Republican-run investigation of the 2020 election in Wisconsin, embraces the fringe theory that election results could be decertified after the fact – advancing former President Trump’s calls to overturn an election he lost over a year ago. Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman has been conducting a probe of the 2020 election, authorized by state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Gableman’s interim report attacks Wisconsin election administrators and argues for dismantling the state’s election board.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Regulator Bias Case Spawned by Power Line
Madison.com – Chris Hubbuch (Wisconsin State Journal) | Published: 2/28/2022
The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments in a case stemming from a power line dispute that could have sweeping implications for regulators, judges, and other public officials. The court is being asked to decide if a former utility regulator’s personal relationships could invalidate the permit for a controversial power line being built in the state. Opponents of the line sought to question former Public Service Commissioner Mike Huebsch about communications, some using an encrypted messaging app, with utility lobbyists and his eventual attempt to land a job with one of the utilities behind the project.
March 2, 2022 •
Campaign Finance New York: “Lt. Gov.’s Campaign Expenses Show Conflicts with Taxpayer Refunds” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union Ethics National: “Guns, Radicalization and a Father’s Alleged Threat: First Jan. 6 trial set to begin” by Spencer Hsu (Washington […]
New York: “Lt. Gov.’s Campaign Expenses Show Conflicts with Taxpayer Refunds” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
National: “Guns, Radicalization and a Father’s Alleged Threat: First Jan. 6 trial set to begin” by Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Four US Lawmakers or Their Spouses Personally Invested in Russian Companies: Documents” by Dave Levinthal (Business Insider) for MSN
Nevada: “Social Video Shows ‘Racist’ Taunts of Nevada Governor, Wife” by Ken Ritter (Associated Press) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Activists Disrupt House GOP Leader’s Speech Demanding Action on Gift Ban Legislation” by Jan Murphy for PennLive.com
Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Regulator Bias Case Spawned by Power Line” by Chris Hubbuch (Wisconsin State Journal) for Madison.com
Kansas: “Kansas Lawmakers Are Supposed to Vet Bills in Committees. But Are Their Hearings Fair?” by Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard (Kansas City Star) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania GOP Urges Supreme Court to Toss Congressional Map” by Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) for MSN
February 25, 2022 •
National/Federal Big U.S. Law Firms Pitch Changes to DOJ ‘Foreign Agent’ Regulations Reuters – Mike Scarcella | Published: 2/16/2022 Many law firms responded to a U.S. Department of Justice request for views from attorneys, lobbing offices, and other outlets about potential […]
Big U.S. Law Firms Pitch Changes to DOJ ‘Foreign Agent’ Regulations
Reuters – Mike Scarcella | Published: 2/16/2022
Many law firms responded to a U.S. Department of Justice request for views from attorneys, lobbing offices, and other outlets about potential revisions to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The law has come into sharper focus amid greater scrutiny of foreign influence efforts in the U.S. and more enforcement actions. The Justice Department is in the early stages of a rule-making process and has not issued any proposed changes to the law.
Fed Overhauls Investment and Trading Rules Following Resignations of Top Officials
MSN – Rachel Siegel (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2022
The Federal Reserve overhauled its trading rules for policymakers and staff, rewriting previous guidelines that central bankers said were insufficient amid the resignations of three top policymakers. The rules mirror a general outline offered by Federal Reserve Board Chairperson Jerome Powell. But additional details reflect tougher standards and the culmination of a review that sought to regain public trust after the financial activities of top officials came under heightened scrutiny.
Feds Just Let Ron Paul’s Old Campaign Slide on Likely Violations
MSN – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 2/17/2022
More than 10 years ago, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign got caught up in a bribery scandal that netted felony convictions against three senior staffers. Five years later, the FEC unanimously found Paul’s campaign likely broke the law. But it was not until recently that the FEC finally disclosed its unanimous vote. It took more than 3,700 days after Paul campaign aides paid an Iowa senator who dramatically flipped his presidential endorsement for the agency to make its final decision. After all the investigations had concluded, the FEC decided to let the whole thing slide.
GOP Lawmakers Are Pushing High-Tech ‘Fraud-Proof’ Ballots. A Texas Company Could Be the Only Supplier.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2022
High-tech security features would be required to be embedded on ballots under measures proposed in at least four states by Republican lawmakers – all promoters of false claims the 2020 election was marred by mass fraud – to make the ballots as hard to counterfeit as passports or currency. But the specialized inks and watermarks also would limit the number of companies capable of selling ballot paper, potentially to just one Texas firm with no previous experience in elections that consulted with the lawmakers proposing the measures.
Judge Allows Lawmaker Jan. 6 Lawsuits Against Trump to Proceed
MSN – Todd Ruger (Roll Call) | Published: 2/18/2022
A federal judge ruled Democratic lawmakers and Capitol Police officers can move forward with civil lawsuits against former President Trump in connection with the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, but U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks should be dismissed as a defendant. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta issued the ruling on motions by the defendants to dismiss claims in three related lawsuits, which seek to hold Trump, the former president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others personally responsible for their roles in the events.
National Archives Confirms Classified Material Was in Boxes at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Residence
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2022
The National Archives and Records Administration confirmed it found items marked classified in boxes of White House records that former President Trump took with him to his Mar-a-Lago residence. U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero said the agency had been in touch with the Justice Department over the matter. The Washington Post had reported that some of the Mar-a-Lago documents were marked as classified, including some at the “top secret” level, a revelation that seemed likely to intensify the legal pressure that Trump or his staffers could face.
Ryan Zinke Broke Ethics Rules While Leading Trump’s Interior Dept., Watchdog Finds
MSN – Anna Phillips and Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2022
Facing serious allegations about this ethics and conduct in office, Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump’s former Interior secretary, told a government official in 2018 that negotiations over a land deal in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, were proceeding without him. His involvement was minimal and his meeting with the project’s developers at Interior headquarters was “purely social.” But a report by the department’s internal watchdog said text message exchanges show he communicated with the developers 64 times to discuss the project’s design, the use of his foundation’s land as a parking lot, and his interest in operating a brewery on the site.
Supreme Court Formally Denies Trump’s Request to Review the January 6 Committee’s Bid for White House Records
Yahoo News – Sonam Sheth, Brent Griffiths, and Oma Seddiq (Business Insider) | Published: 2/22/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court officially denied former President Trump’s request to review the January 6 select committee’s bid for White House records. The decision was widely expected after the court declined Trump’s request to block the National Archives and Records Administration from turning over executive-branch documents to the congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot. A federal judge rejected Trump’s request in November, saying in a while Trump had the right to assert the privilege, President Biden was not required to honor it. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. affirmed the ruling.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Lawmakers Can’t Ignore Their Own Open Meeting Laws, Court Rules
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/15/2022
State lawmakers cannot ignore open meeting laws by claiming the laws do not apply to them, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled. Judge Jennifer Campbell said there is no evidence that lawmakers ever intended to exempt themselves when they approved the laws. A lawsuit contended there were 26 Republican lawmakers from Arizona attending an annual conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council. The council funded largely by corporate interests, serves as a clearinghouse for proposed changes in state laws across the nation.
California – 49ers CEO Jed York Accused of Violating Santa Clara’s Lobbyist Ordinance Over 2026 World Cup Ads
Peninsula Premier – Grace Hase (San Jose Mercury News) | Published: 2/23/2022
San Francisco 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York may have violated Santa Clara’s lobbying ordinance after spending more than $15,000 on Facebook ads without registering with the city as a lobbyist. The ads asked residents to tell the Santa Clara City Council to support bringing the 2026 FIFA World Cup to Levi’s Stadium. The stadium is publicly owned and governed by the Stadium Authority, which is composed of the mayor and council. The lobbying law defines an expenditure lobbyist as an individual who spends more than $5,000 influencing city business. While several members of the 49ers’ organization are registered lobbyists, York is not.
California – DWP Commissioner Held Fundraiser for Councilmember Koretz in Violation of City Rules
Knock LA – John Peltz | Published: 2/22/2022
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Commissioner Jill Banks Barad-Hopkins sent out invitations to a fundraiser for city council member and city controller candidate Paul Koretz, which would be held in the backyard of her house. Attached was a flier with her name on it next to Koretz’s, and a payment form for contributions and tickets. She also noted Koretz’s work on labor rights, animal rights, environmental protection, and reducing homelessness. City ethics laws prohibit for city commissioners to hold fundraisers for a candidate for office. It is also a violation for city officials to ask someone else to donate, among other provisions.
Colorado – Why is Colorado Lawmaker’s Home Address in His District for an Empty Lot?
MSN – Marshall Zellinger (KUSA) | Published: 2/23/2022
Colorado House Minority Leader Hugh McKean is challenging McKean’s residency. Austin filed two complaints: one elections complaint about his residency and a campaign finance complaint about the address McKean listed on his candidate affidavit. Hein points out McKean’s voting address is an empty lot. A state law automatically registers someone to vote when they get a driver’s license or renew their license. It also automatically updates a person’s voter registration if they change their driver’s license address. “Because we have ‘motor-voter,’ [it] switched my voter registration to the [lot] where I’m building [a house],” said McKean.
Connecticut – Federal Prosecutors Unseal New Indictment Accusing Former CT Lawmaker, His Wife and Business Associates of Stealing COVID Relief and Other Funds
MSN – Edmund Mahoney (Hartford Courant) | Published: 2/16/2022
Federal prosecutors unsealed a new indictment against former Connecticut Rep. Michael DiMassa that raises the total amount of federal grant money he is accused of stealing to more than $1 million and brings new theft and conspiracy charges against his wife and two associates. DiMassa and business associate John Bernardo are accused of creating phony businesses as a vehicle to steal federal money allocated to West Haven to defray the costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida – Confidential Records Leaked from Ex-Double-Dipping Collier Deputy Manager’s Office
newsonedirect.com – Rachel Heimann Mercader (Naples Daily News) | Published: 2/20/2022
Former Collier County Deputy Manager Sean Callahan apparently left “confidential” records relating to foreign governments behind after his firing from the county. The records, discovered in his county government office, were related to his second, secret lobbyist job with the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. An expert on U.S. foreign lobbyist affairs said Callahan’s client caseload was significant, adding doubt that he could have possibly fulfilled his duties for both his county and secret lobbyist role at the same time.
Hawaii – Corruption at The Hawaii Legislature Puts Campaign Donations in the Spotlight
Honolulu Civil Beat – Kevin Dayton | Published: 2/16/2022
The convictions of former Hawaii Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and former state Rep. Ty Cullen on charges of accepting bribes to benefit a wastewater company in the Legislature may provoke campaign finance reform in the state. In addition to illicit cash that changed hands in a restaurant men’s room and was stuffed under the floor mat of a car, there were dozens of apparently lawful campaign contributions that businessperson Milton Choy gave to English, Cullen, and other political figures in Hawaii. Some see a direct link between political donations and government contracts.
Hawaii – Honolulu Ethics Commission Rules Out Gift Disclosure for City Employees
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 2/16/2022
The Honolulu Ethics Commission wants the city to lower the value of gifts accepted by city employees from $200 to $25, but it is not interested in requiring gift disclosure forms. The debate comes amid increased scrutiny over ethics rules after two former Hawaii legislators pleaded guilty to thousands of dollars in bribes. Federal prosecutors brought charges of honest services wire fraud after former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and ex-Rep. Ty Cullen failed to list the money on mandatory annual gift disclosures filed with the state.
Hawaii – How Honolulu’s Ex-City Attorney Went from Obscurity to a Federal Indictment
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 2/20/2022
Before Donna Leong became the city and county of Honolulu’s top attorney, she was the chief legal officer for the Outrigger hotel chain. In the private sector, it is not unusual for a company to part ways with an employee and pay them off to make a problem disappear quickly, according to David Carey, Outrigger’s former chief executive. Now Leong is facing a federal conspiracy charge for allegedly doing just that, striking a deal with the police chief at the time, Louis Kealoha, and paying $250,000 in public funds to cut him loose as he faced a corruption probe.
Illinois – Judge Cites ‘Common Sense,’ Legal Precedent in Denying Bid to Dismiss Counts in ComEd Bribery Probe
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/17/2022
A federal judge denied a motion to dismiss key counts against a longtime confidant of ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and three others charged in the ongoing Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) bribery probe, saying the charges outlined in the indictment were sufficient. U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber said it was “common sense” that the benefits the defendants allegedly intended to lavish on Madigan, which included do-nothing jobs given by ComEd to Madigan loyalists, need not be paid directly to Madigan in order for them to be considered bribes.
Illinois – The Illinois Subsidiary of AT&T Is Under Federal Criminal Investigation
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 2/17/2022
Federal prosecutors investigating alleged schemes to influence former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan are considering filing charges against a subsidiary of AT&T involving a 2017 consulting contract. It was reported in 2020 that AT&T had been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors amid a widening criminal probe into Madigan’s political operation. The subpoena was part of an inquiry into whether companies improperly used a stable of consultants with ties to the longtime speaker as they pushed for legislation in Springfield.
Massachusetts – The Massachusetts State House Is Now Open to the Public, Nearly Two Years into the COVID Pandemic
MassLive.com – Alison Kuznitz | Published: 2/22/2022
The Massachusetts statehouse reopened to the public for the first time in nearly two years on with little fanfare. But in a noticeable change, a small white tent was erected outside the building, in a testament to the strict COVID-19 protocols that Beacon Hill leaders implemented that far exceed what Gov. Charlie Baker is mandating statewide. Rick Branca, a lobbyist for disabled Massachusetts veterans, was the first person inside the building. He said there was a “huge learning curve” for doing his job remotely while the statehouse was shuttered for more than 700 days.
Michigan – Millions Poured into Michigan Petition Drives. Their Funding Is a Mystery.
Bridge Michigan – Yue Stella Yu | Published: 2/14/2022
A handful of groups have poured millions of dollars into Michigan’s dozen-plus ballot drives that seek major changes to election, education, health, and drug policies but are keeping their donor identities a secret. Committees working for or against citizen petition initiatives in Michigan have raised a total $10.6 million through December 2021.Of that money, $9.4 million, almost 90 percent of all contributions, comes from nonprofits such as 501(c)(4)s, including social welfare groups or associations of employees.
Missouri – Party Officials Move to Block Embattled Missouri Lawmaker from Running in 2022 Election
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 2/23/2022
The Missouri Republican Party moved to block a sitting lawmaker from running in the 2022 election. State Rep. Patricia Derges had been seeking to run for reelection despite facing federal Medicaid fraud charges since last year. The GOP said it would not accept a required filing fee from Derges to get on the August primary ballot.
Nebraska – Female Nebraska Lawmakers Call for Change Amid Photo Probe
Yahoo News – Grant Schulte (Associated Press) | Published: 2/22/2022
Several female Nebraska lawmakers railed against the Legislature’s handling of a male state senator who resigned after admitting he took photos of a female subordinate without her consent, calling for an overhaul of their internal policies and recounting their own experiences of being groped, harassed, and belittled. The push by half a dozen female lawmakers from both parties came less than a day after Sen. Mike Groene abruptly stepped down and abandoned his campaign to be a University of Nebraska Regent. Groene said none of the images were sexual in nature and he also snapped pictures of other staffers and office visitors, including his wife.
New Mexico – Appeals Court: Cowboys for Trump is a political committee
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 2/17/2022
A federal appeals court turned away a constitutional challenge by Cowboys for Trump and co-founder Couy Griffin to New Mexico election laws and registration requirements for political groups. The secretary of state’s office prevailed in a June 2020 arbitration decision that ordered Cowboys for Trump to register, file expenditure and contribution reports, and pay a fine of $7,800.
New Mexico – Lobbyist Accuses Dem Senator of Sexual Harassment, Calls for His Removal
NM Political Report – Andy Lyman | Published: 2/22/2022
Lobbyist Marianna Anaya issued an open letter detailing instances where she said she received unwanted sexual comments and advances from New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto and called for him to resign. Anaya wrote she confronted Ivey-Soto about a groping incident. She said he acknowledged the incident but stopped short of accepting responsibility. Anaya also alleged in her letter that Ivey-Soto retaliated against her by holding up a voting rights bill in the Senate Rules Committee, which he chairs. Anaya also wrote he had consulted with other women who said they had “similar, or worse interactions” with Ivey-Soto.
New York – Donald Trump and Two of His Children Must Be Deposed by New York Attorney General, Judge Rules
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/17/2022
Former President Trump and two of his adult children must give depositions in a long-running civil investigation into the family’s business practices, a ruling that means the trio could face hours of uncomfortable questioning by investigators in the near future. Attorneys for Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump tried to get subpoenas for their testimony thrown out. They accused New York Attorney General Letitia James of trying to circumvent the legal process by seeking evidence for the civil matter that she could also use to build a criminal case against the former president and his business.
New York – Prosecutors in Trump Probe Quit After New DA Seems to Abandon Plan to Seek Indictment of Former President
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/23/2022
The two prosecutors leading the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation into former President Trump and his business resigned amid a pause in their presentation of evidence to a grand jury, throwing the future of the inquiry into doubt. The prosecutors, Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, submitted their resignations after the new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, indicated to them that he had doubts about moving forward with a case against Trump, sources said. The case centers on whether Trump and his business inflated the value of their assets to secure more favorable loans, insurance, and tax rates.
North Carolina – Cawthorn Insurrection Challenge to Re-election Handed a Setback
Bloomberg Law – John Holland | Published: 2/22/2022
Lawyers and voters behind a push to label U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn an insurrectionist, and therefore ineligible to run for re-election, cannot intervene in his federal lawsuit seeking to have the effort ruled unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Myers gave Cawthorn two procedural victories in his quest to block the North Carolina State Board of Elections from investigating the voters’ complaint that Cawthorn “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” The larger question of whether state election officials can use the 14th Amendment to keep sitting members of Congress from seeking re-election remains and may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
North Carolina – NC Political Maps Are Official and Election Can Begin, After Court Rulings
MSN – Will Doran (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 2/23/2022
One of the new maps for political districts that North Carolina lawmakers drew is still too skewed to be used in upcoming elections, a state court ruled. The judges overseeing the lawsuit ruled they would accept the newly redrawn versions of maps for the state House and Senate that lawmakers passed, but not the new congressional map. The judges had a group of outside experts draw a new congressional map for the state. An analysis of the map drawn by the outside experts shows it would have more safe seats for Democratic candidates, and fewer tossup seats, than the map the Republican-led Legislature had drawn.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Panel to Further Revise Conflict of Interest Rules; PSC Members Share Views
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 2/23/2022
The North Dakota Ethics Commission is writing the rules for conflicts-of-interest, including for members of certain boards to disclose conflicts and campaign donations when handling “quasi-judicial” proceedings. Such boards include the Public Service Commissioners and governor-led Industrial Commission, which make decisions usually involving companies in the energy and utility industries. Both boards have their own ethics policies. Chief in the ethics panel’s discussion was the role of a “neutral decisionmaker,” or a designated person to consult for determining whether a public official should recuse themselves from a decision.
Ohio – Will Ohio Politicians Be Held in Contempt of Court for Failing to Pass District Maps?
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 2/23/2022
Members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission pleaded with the state Supreme Court not to punish them for failing to pass state House and Senate maps on time. Several Republicans on the commission had declared the task impossible after rejecting Democrats’ proposed maps. Commission members offered excuses to avoid being held in contempt of court, including that seven individuals could not be penalized for the panel’s collective failure to craft maps by February 17.
Oregon – Oregon Supreme Court Says No to Nick Kristof’s Governor Candidacy
OPB – Lauren Drake and Dirk VanderHart | Published: 2/17/2022
Nicholas Kristof, the former New York Times columnist who quit his job to run for Oregon governor, is officially out of the race. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled Kristof cannot legally vie for the governorship because he does not meet the state’s three-year residency requirement for the job. Kristof said the ruling ends his campaign and he will not fight the ruling any further. The decision will reshape the dynamics of the race to replace Gov. Kate Brown. In fundraising, Kristof has far outpaced the other two best-known Democratic primary candidates, former House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read.
Oregon – Supporters Ask Oregon Supreme Court to Overrule Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s Decision to Kill Contribution Limit Proposals
MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/16/2022
Oregon is one of five states that has no limits on campaign contributions. Reformers proposed limits in three potential ballot initiatives, but Secretary of State Shemia Fagan disqualified them from appearing on the November ballot. Supporters of the limits asked the Oregon Supreme Court to reverse Fagan’s decision, which would effectively end any chance of voters weighing in on contribution limits this year. Fagan said she had to disqualify the ballot proposals due to a 2004 court ruling that initiatives must include the complete text of the law at issue.
Pennsylvania – Doug Mastriano Said He’s Barely Spent Any Money Running for Governor. How Can That Be?
MSN – Andrew Seidman (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 2/21/2022
Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano built his political brand as an antiestablishment crusader – often directing his harshest criticism not toward Democrats, but at fellow Republicans in Harrisburg. Along with his support for former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, it has made him something of an icon among far-right activists. But Mastriano’s unusual expenditure report raises questions about his compliance with campaign finance laws. It underscores Mastriano’s challenge of harnessing the grassroots energy powering his candidacy to build a professional operation even as he shuns consultants and big donors.
Pennsylvania – Former Health Secretary Beam Takes Lobbying Job with UPMC, Raising Concern and Hope
Pennsylvania Capital Star – Stephen Caruso | Published: 2/22/2022
Former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Alison Beam will become the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC) next vice president of government affairs. Beam also served as a top staffer in the state Insurance Department. UPMC is the state’s largest private employer with vast interests, from health care policy to millions of dollars in government contracts at stake in Harrisburg. The hospital chain spent at least $474,000 lobbying lawmakers last year. Beam’s hire raised eyebrows among good government advocates, who highlighted it as a prime example of the “revolving door” between public service and the private sector.
Rhode Island – In Failed Bid to Unseat Cicilline, Republican Candidate Sought Help from Russian Intelligence
Yahoo News – Alex Kuffner (Providence Journal) | Published: 2/21/2022
H. Russell Taub, the onetime Rhode Island Republican congressional candidate who was imprisoned for defrauding political donors three years ago, illegally sought help from Russian intelligence in his failed bid to unseat U.S. Rep. David Cicilline in 2016, the FEC found. Taub violated federal campaign law “by knowingly soliciting, accepting, or receiving a prohibited in-kind foreign national contribution in the form of opposition research related to the candidate’s opponent,” the FEC concluded. Taub admitted wrongdoing as part of a settlement agreement but was excused from paying a $31,000 fine due to “financial hardship.”
South Carolina – Former Richland County Recreation Chief Guilty of Ethics Violations, Ordered to Pay Nearly $36K
Charleston Post and Courier – Stephen Fastenau | Published: 2/16/2022
A former Richland County recreation director violated South Carolina ethics law by signing off on raises to family members who worked under him and must pay fines and restitution. James Brown III Brown must pay an $8,000 fine and $25,250 in forfeited salary increases related to promotions and raises Brown approved for family members during 2012 and 2013. There also was a $2,500 administrative fee. Brown resigned as head of the Richland County Recreation Commission in 2016 amid allegations of sexual harassment and nepotism.
Tennessee – Loopholes Let Lobbyists Flood Lawmakers with Campaign Contributions Despite Prohibition
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 2/17/2022
Before 2006, lobbyists could give political contributions directly to Tennessee lawmakers. But since that was outlawed, some lobbyists figured out they could create a PAC, put money into that PAC, and call it a contribution not from the lobbyist, but from the PAC, and get away with essentially the same thing. Some lobbyists show up at fundraisers with checks from their clients or from PACs operated by their clients, a practice known as “bundling.”
Washington DC – A Judge Just Handed Trump a Major Loss in the DC Attorney General’s Lawsuit Over Inauguration Funds as the Case Heads to Trial
Yahoo News – Jacob Shamsian (Business Insider) | Published: 2/15/2022
A judge reinstated the Trump Organization as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by the District of Columbia attorney general over whether former President Trump misused funds for his 2017 inauguration, reversing an earlier decision and handing a loss to Trump as the case heads to trial. Attorney General Karl Racine accused the Trump Organization, the Trump International Hotel in the city, and Trump’s 2017 presidential inaugural committee, which is a tax-exempt nonprofit, of using tax-free funds to improperly pay the family’s business and members of the Trump family.
Wisconsin – Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman’s Critical Comments Lead to $1.4 Million Jury Verdict in Defamation Case
Yahoo News – Alison Dirr and Bruce Vielmetti (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/21/2022
Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman’s critical statements about a troubled housing facility in his district in 2007 have landed him on the losing end of a $1.4 million jury verdict, which if paid would be borne by city taxpayers. The jurors found Bauman made untrue statements about Tri-Corp Housing while criticizing its operation of West Samaria, a residential facility for low-income, cognitively disabled people. Tri-Corp argued Bauman, whose district included West Samaria, was liable for critical statements and press releases and for lobbying other officials to rule against the nonprofit in administrative hearings.
Wyoming – Legislation Could Ease and Restrict Voting
Wyoming Eagle Tribune – Maggie Mullins (WyoFile.com) | Published: 2/23/2022
Wyoming lawmakers put forward about a dozen election-related bills at the opening of the budget session. Five remain in play, including one that has garnered national attention, mostly for its implications on Wyoming’s congressional race. The four other bills propose changes to the handling of absentee ballots, campaign finance law, and what is required of political organizations in the state.
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