January 21, 2021 •
Campaign Finance New Jersey: “Why Donations to NJ Political Campaigns from Public Contractors Nosedived in 10-Year Span” by Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) for MSN Pennsylvania: “Court Rules in Favor of City in Darlene Harris Campaign Finance Suit” by Mick Stinelli […]
New Jersey: “Why Donations to NJ Political Campaigns from Public Contractors Nosedived in 10-Year Span” by Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Court Rules in Favor of City in Darlene Harris Campaign Finance Suit” by Mick Stinelli for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
National: “Justice Dept. Will Not Pursue Charges Against Sen. Richard Burr Over Stock Sales at Outset of Pandemic” by Matt Zapotosky and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump Revokes Administration Ethics Rules on His Way Out the Door” by Tamara Keith for National Public Radio
National: “Democrats Seek Momentum for Voting, Political Money Overhaul” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
Ohio: “Cleveland State Lets Cuyahoga County’s Former HR Chief Apply for Job 10 Months Late, Then Hires Him While on Probation for Corruption-Related Charges” by Courtney Astolfi (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
West Virginia: “With Death of Judge, Governor Will Now Appoint Judge in Line to Hear Residency Case Against Him” by Joe Severino for Charleston Gazette-Mail
North Dakota: “Bipartisan Bill Proposes Taxpayers Pay for Lawmakers’ Meals” by James MacPherson (Associated Press) for New Haven Register
Wisconsin: “New Health Official Isn’t Saying Whether She Will Avoid Conflicts with Former Lobbying Clients” by Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Register) for MSN
January 20, 2021 •
On his last full day in office, President Trump revoked an executive order concerning governmental ethics and, in effect, removed barriers for former officials to lobby the United States government immediately. On January 19, President Trump signed an Executive Order […]
On his last full day in office, President Trump revoked an executive order concerning governmental ethics and, in effect, removed barriers for former officials to lobby the United States government immediately. On January 19, President Trump signed an Executive Order fully revoking his prior Executive Order from 2017, which mandated ethic commitments for executive branch appointees.
On January 28, 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order 13770, Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees, which prohibited appointees of the Executive Branch from lobbying the agency they were appointed to serve for five years after leaving office. Additionally, they would be permanently prohibited from engaging on behalf of any foreign government or foreign political party if it would require them to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The executive order is effective at noon when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office. Those prohibitions will no longer exist under President Trump’s 2017 Executive Order. The early order also prohibited appointees from accepting gifts, with limited exceptions, from registered lobbyists and lobbying organizations for the duration of their service as appointees. Also, registered lobbyists appointed to an executive agency could not participate in matters in which they lobbied for two years after the date of their appointment.
This 2017 Executive Order had superseded and revoked a similar Executive Order signed by former President Barack Obama in 2009.
January 20, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Ohio: “FBI Investigation Revealed Vast FirstEnergy-Backed Political Network Hidden Through Lax State Disclosure Rules” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN Ethics National: “As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign – and […]
Ohio: “FBI Investigation Revealed Vast FirstEnergy-Backed Political Network Hidden Through Lax State Disclosure Rules” by Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
National: “As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign – and What It Says About American Democracy” by David Nakamura (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump Grants Clemency to 143 People in Late-Night Pardon Blast” by Rosalind Heldrman, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Florida Police Were After a Covid-19 Data Scientist. She Turned Herself In – and Tested Positive.” by Teo Armus (Washington Post) for MSN
New Jersey: “Auction for Chance to Implode Trump Plaza Casino Is Canceled” by Mihir Zavari for New York Times
Wisconsin: “Speaker Vos Puts Limits on Who Can Respond to Tweets Despite First Amendment Ruling Against Him” by Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) for MSN
National: “Biden to Ban Special Bonuses for Appointees, Expand Lobbying Prohibitions in New Ethics Rules” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
Canada: “Two N.B. Reactor Developers Defend Use of Liberal-Connected Lobbyists” by Jacques Poitras (CBC) for MSN
New Mexico: “Lawmaker, Advocates Pursue Greater Sunshine from Lobbyists” by Brian Metzger for New Mexico In Depth
January 19, 2021 •
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced special elections to fill vacancies in Senate District 8 and 28. The vacancy in Senate District 8 was caused by the election of Sen. Pete Lucido as the Macomb County Prosecutor. In addition, the Senate […]
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced special elections to fill vacancies in Senate District 8 and 28.
The vacancy in Senate District 8 was caused by the election of Sen. Pete Lucido as the Macomb County Prosecutor.
In addition, the Senate District 28 vacancy was caused by Sen. Peter MacGregor’s election as the Kent County Treasurer.
Therefore, the special primary election will be held on August 3 and the general election will be held on November 2.
January 19, 2021 •
The Nashville Office of Metropolitan Clerk’s new online reporting portal will not be launched prior to the 2021 reporting due date. The clerk’s office has indicated those lobbying activity reports should instead be emailed to the clerk’s office on or […]
The Nashville Office of Metropolitan Clerk’s new online reporting portal will not be launched prior to the 2021 reporting due date.
The clerk’s office has indicated those lobbying activity reports should instead be emailed to the clerk’s office on or before the January 31 due date.
January 19, 2021 •
The Louisiana February 6 special primary election and March 20 special general election for House District 35 are canceled. A special primary election was originally scheduled for February 6 followed by a special general election on March 20 to fill […]
The Louisiana February 6 special primary election and March 20 special general election for House District 35 are canceled.
A special primary election was originally scheduled for February 6 followed by a special general election on March 20 to fill the vacancy in House District 35.
Stephen Dwight, who previously held the seat, resigned December 1, 2020, following his November election as Calcasieu Parish District Attorney.
Brett Geymann, a former state representative, was the only one to file for the House District 35 seat and qualify before the filing deadline of January 8.
A Republican, Geymann was the District 35 state representative from 2004 until he was term-limited in 2016. Louisiana does not have lifetime term limits, allowing Geymann to run again for the House seat.
Geymann will be sworn in on January 19.
January 19, 2021 •
In one of its first decisions of 2021, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) released an Advisory Opinion agreed upon unanimously. Advisory Opinion 2020-02 does not break new ground, but affirms that citizens of the United States living abroad may purchase […]
In one of its first decisions of 2021, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) released an Advisory Opinion agreed upon unanimously. Advisory Opinion 2020-02 does not break new ground, but affirms that citizens of the United States living abroad may purchase online political advertisements in the U.S.
The FEC stated campaign finance regulations do not distinguish between citizens living in the U.S. and those residing abroad. They affirmed U.S. citizens living abroad may make expenditures, independent expenditures, and disbursements in connection with elections in the United States.
The opinion arises from a query of a U.S. citizen living in Canada wanting to purchase a political advertisement on Facebook. According to the Advisory Opinion, Facebook requires those purchasing political advertisements provide a U.S. address and to make payments from a U.S. bank account in U.S. dollars, which would preclude the requestor from purchasing the advertising.
While not ruling on Facebook’s preconditions for the purchase of an advertisement, the FEC stated the federal campaign finance law does not require a purchaser to provide Facebook or any other media platform proof of a U.S. bank account or a U.S. residential address. The federal regulations also do not require payment be made from financial instruments drawn on a U.S. bank.
The full six seats of the FEC have only been occupied since December 9, when the U.S. Senate confirmed three new commissioners. This allowed the FEC, where only three of the agency’s six seats were filled since July 4, to be able to conduct official business. The FEC requires at least four commissioners to agree on any official action.
January 19, 2021 •
Erin Victor from the Akron Snow Angels told us “there are children walking to school without socks. There are homeless people who brave the winter without the proper outerwear.” As a response, State and Federal Communications held its Be and […]
Erin Victor from the Akron Snow Angels told us “there are children walking to school without socks. There are homeless people who brave the winter without the proper outerwear.”
As a response, State and Federal Communications held its Be and Angel for the Holidays drive from early December until January 15. We collected hats, gloves, scarves, and socks of all colors and sizes.
Enjoy this fun video about our 2020-21 holiday service project!
January 19, 2021 •
Campaign Finance Arkansas: “New Lawmaker Fined Over Ethics Violation; Former Rival Off Hook” by Michael Wickline for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Elections Connecticut: “Weeks After Election, CT Stopped Monitoring Online Voter Fraud Talk” by Kasturi Pananjady and Dave Altimari (Connecticut Mirror) for […]
Arkansas: “New Lawmaker Fined Over Ethics Violation; Former Rival Off Hook” by Michael Wickline for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Connecticut: “Weeks After Election, CT Stopped Monitoring Online Voter Fraud Talk” by Kasturi Pananjady and Dave Altimari (Connecticut Mirror) for MSN
National: “How Twitter, on the Front Lines of History, Finally Decided to Ban Trump” by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Nitasha Tiku (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Lawmakers Who Conspired with Capitol Attackers in Legal Peril” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
National: “Census Bureau Says Trump’s Push to Exclude Undocumented Is Dead” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
Illinois: “Ethics Advocates Happy Illinois Legislature’s Reform Attempt Failed” by Cole Lauterbach (Center Square) for MSN
Massachusetts: “Inspector General Raises New Questions About Hingham Housing Authority Payments” by Todd Wallach (Boston Globe) for MSN
Minnesota: “In Minnesota, a GOP Lawmaker’s Death Brings Home the Reality of COVID” by Trip Gabriel (New York Times) for Yahoo News
Missouri: “St. Louis Lawmaker Banished to Basement Office After Colleagues Censure Him” by Jack Suntrup for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 18, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Democrats Seize on GOP Donor Fallout” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill California: “After Anonymous Donation to Newsom Recall, Democrat Revives Campaign Finance Proposal” by Lara Korte for Sacramento Bee Ethics National: “Rallies Ahead of Capitol Riot […]
National: “Democrats Seize on GOP Donor Fallout” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
California: “After Anonymous Donation to Newsom Recall, Democrat Revives Campaign Finance Proposal” by Lara Korte for Sacramento Bee
National: “Rallies Ahead of Capitol Riot Were Planned by Established Washington Insiders” by Robert O’Harrow Jr. (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Groups with Biden Ties Pose Ethics Quandary for His Administration” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico
Illinois: “Ald. Brookins Sues Ethics Board After It Fines Him $5,000 For Violating Ethics Ordinance” by Heather Cherone for WTTW
New Jersey: “N.J. Politics Has a ‘Toxic Culture’ of Sexual Harassment. Here Are 5 Ways to Fix It, Landmark Report Says.” by Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger
Tennessee: “Tennessee Lawmaker Again Seeks to Restrict Public Record Requests Deemed as ‘Harassments’” by Yue Stella Yu (Tennessean) for MSN
Utah: “Latter-Day Saints Are Overrepresented in Utah’s Legislature, Holding 9 of Every 10 Seats” by Lee Davidson (Salt Lake Tribune) for MSN
Hawaii: “No More ‘Gifts of Aloha’ for State Lawmakers” by Blaze Lovell for Honolulu Civil Beat
January 15, 2021 •
A one-time grace period for lobbyists to register in the Canadian territory of Yukon ended on January 13. On October 15, the Canadian territory of Yukon’s new and first lobbying law came into force with the online Yukon Lobbyist Registry […]
A one-time grace period for lobbyists to register in the Canadian territory of Yukon ended on January 13.
On October 15, the Canadian territory of Yukon’s new and first lobbying law came into force with the online Yukon Lobbyist Registry becoming live. All lobbyists were given a one-time only grace period of 90 days to understand their requirements and to register. Both consultant lobbyists and in-house lobbyists are required to register under Yukon’s lobbying law. As of January 12, four consultants and five in-house lobbyists have registered, according to the Yukon News.
Registration is required for individuals communicating with a public office holder, directly or through grassroots communications, in attempts to lobby. Additionally, a consultant lobbyist is required to register when arranging a meeting between a public office holder and any other person for the purposes covered by the Act.
Now, in-house lobbyists must register no later than 60 days after meeting the law’s threshold for registration. Consultant lobbyists must register no later than 15 days after starting an undertaking on behalf of a client.
Penalties for violations of the Lobbyist Registration Act include fines up to $25,000 for the first violation and up to $100,000 for each subsequent violation.
January 15, 2021 •
Lawmakers convened the 122nd Indiana General Assembly with several adjustments due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These changes include moving the House of Representatives to the Government Center South building and installing plexiglass barriers in Senate. Neither chamber is requiring […]
Lawmakers convened the 122nd Indiana General Assembly with several adjustments due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
These changes include moving the House of Representatives to the Government Center South building and installing plexiglass barriers in Senate.
Neither chamber is requiring masks despite a push by House Democrats on Organization Day for a mask mandate.
Republicans also have supermajorities in both chambers.
Lawmakers will be focusing on writing the two-year budget, which must be done by June 30.
Additionally, they will redraw legislative and congressional district lines when the state receives the population data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
January 15, 2021 •
National/Federal A Siege on the U.S. Capitol, a Strike Against Democracy Worldwide MSN – Anthony Faiola, Shibani Mahtani, and Isabelle Khurshudyan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021 The insurrection at the Capitol is threatening America’s historical role promoting democracy around the world. […]
A Siege on the U.S. Capitol, a Strike Against Democracy Worldwide
MSN – Anthony Faiola, Shibani Mahtani, and Isabelle Khurshudyan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021
The insurrection at the Capitol is threatening America’s historical role promoting democracy around the world. The spectacle of President Trump rallying supporters to march on the Capitol over baseless claims of election fraud as lawmakers certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory has provided a propaganda coup for Washington’s enemies, undermined pro-democracy movements worldwide, and offered a model for would-be autocrats. Four years of Trump had already dimmed America’s democratic bona fides. Now, the international implications of the events in Washington are expected to reverberate far beyond Biden’s inauguration.
As Biden Raises Money for His Virtual Inauguration, Lobbyists Prepare for a Scaled-Down Schmooze-Fest
MSN – Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 1/11/2021
With the coronavirus pandemic raging around the country, President-elect Joe Biden and congressional inauguration planners have closed much of the traditional avenues for access. Instead of receiving the typical 200,000 tickets to share with constituents eager to see Biden take the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress will receive tickets for themselves and one guest only. And K Street lobbyists are scrambling to adjust to the new reality. All around the nation’s capital, just as a new administration and a new Congress set up shop, corporate lobbyists, trade associations, and others in the influence industry have had to abandon the usual tools of their trade.
Backlash to Riot at Capitol Hobbles Trump’s Business as Banks, Partners Flee the Brand
MSN – Josh Dawsey, David Fahrenthold, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2021
The Trump Organization in the past week has lost a bank, an e-commerce platform, and the privilege of hosting the PGA Championship. In the future, the business also could lose its Washington, D.C. hotel. Properties. By refusing to acknowledge he would be returning to private life, President Trump appears to have sabotaged what could have been his best chance at success in that realm – a rebound of the battered Trump brand. Now, through his encouragement of rioters who ransacked the U.S. Capitol, Trump has made his company a pariah and driven away allies who could have brought it revenue and post-politics credibility.
Beyond Impeachment, a Push for Ethics Laws That Do Not Depend on Shame
New York Times – Elizabeth Williamson | Published: 1/11/2021
House Democrats are pressing ahead with an effort to try to ensure President Trump’s record of violating democratic and constitutional norms cannot be repeated. Trump’s term revealed gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. Trump ignored watchdog rulings and constitutional safeguards, pressed to overturn the outcome of an election, and pardoned those who covered for him, all while funneling taxpayer dollars to his family business. Among the changes embraced by House leaders are limits on the president’s pardon powers, mandated release of a president’s tax returns, new enforcement powers for independent agencies and Congress, and firmer prohibitions against financial conflicts-of-interest in the White House.
House Democrats Reintroduce Bill to Reduce Lobbyist Influence
MSN – Alex Gangitano (The Hill) | Published: 1/13/2021
A bill to reduce the influence of lobbyists and to close the so-called “revolving door” was reintroduced in Congress. The Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act was first introduced in 2019. The bill would ban companies from making “golden parachute” payments that reward former employees for joining the government and strengthen recusal requirements to stop senior government officials from acting in ways that benefit former employers or clients, among other provisions.
House Hands Trump a Second Impeachment, This Time with GOP Support
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2021
The U.S. House made history by impeaching a president for a second time, indicting President Trump days before he leaves office for inciting a riot with false claims of a stolen election that led to the storming of the Capitol and five deaths. Unlike Trump’s first impeachment, which proceeded with almost no GOP support, this effort attracted 10 Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking party leader in the House. The Senate now appears likely to hold a trial after Trump’s departure, an unprecedented scenario that could end with lawmakers barring him from holding the presidency again.
K Street Adjusts for Democratic Senate
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/7/2021
Even as partisan vitriol grips Washington, D.C., lobbyists say they expect lawmakers to find common ground on additional legislation to mitigate the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures dealing with infrastructure projects as well as potentially on immigration and tax policy. With Democrats in charge of the Senate floor, they will be able to move more quickly on nominations for the incoming Biden administration, allowing potentially more time to consider legislation. Democrats will face pressure from their liberal flank to roll back the filibuster rules for legislation, which currently requires 60 votes to clear the chamber.
Trump Says He Won’t Attend Biden’s Inauguration
Politico – Quint Forgey | Published: 1/8/2021
President Trump announced he will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, shattering another norm of the American presidency on what will be his final day in office. With his decision, Trump is poised to become the first U.S. president in modern political history to not appear for his successor’s swearing-in ceremony, one of the nation’s most prominent public displays of its commitment to a peaceful transfer of power.
Trump’s Nonprofit Inaugural Committee Improperly Paid a $49,000 Bill Incurred by His Company, D.C. Attorney General Alleges
MSN – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2021
President Trump’s private business failed to pay a $49,000 hotel bill incurred during Trump’s 2017 inaugural and then, after the bill went to a collections agency, Trump’s nonprofit inaugural committee agreed to pay the charge instead, according to a new filing from District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, who had already sued Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee, alleging it had wasted donors’ money on an overpriced, barely used ballroom at Trump’s own hotel. Racine added an allegation to that suit. He said the president’s inaugural committee, a tax-exempt charity, improperly paid a bill it did not owe, using nonprofit funds to pay a bill owed by a for-profit business.
Twitter Bans Trump’s Account, Citing Risk of Further Violence
MSN – Nitasha Tiku, Tony Romm, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2021
Twitter banned President Trump from its site, a punishment for his role in inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol, robbing him of the megaphone he used to communicate directly with more than 88 million supporters and critics. Twitter has been Trump’s primary communication tool to push policies, drive news cycles, fire officials, spread falsehoods, savage opponents, and praise allies. Twitter had resisted taking action against Trump for years, arguing a world leader should be able to speak to his or her citizens unfettered. But Trump’s escalating tweets casting doubt on the 2020 election and the riot at the U.S. Capitol his comments helped inspire led the company to reverse course.
U.S. Campaign Finance System Rocked as Major Firms Pause or Halt Political Contributions After Election Results Challenged
Seattle Times – Todd Frankel, Jeff Stein, and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2021
The funding of campaigns is being rocked as some of the nation’s biggest firms such as Facebook, Google, BlackRock, Marriott, and Dow announced plans to halt some or all political contributions as a result of the insurrection at the Capitol, a sign of corporate America’s growing uneasiness with the election doubts and violent attacks inspired by President Trump. Major companies that collectively pour millions of dollars annually into campaigns through employee-funded PACs are registering their worry and anger about the chaos by pledging to reexamine their role in American politics.
Canada – Grace Period for New Lobbyist Registry Ends
Yukon News – Haley Ritchie | Published: 1/14/2021
The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. The new legislation, aimed at increasing government transparency, came into effect on October 15. Lobbyists were then given a 90-day grace period to “learn about the process and to adapt to the new reporting requirements.” That grace period ended January 13.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Downtown Developer Will Pay $1.2 Million in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 1/7/2021
A real estate company whose residential tower is a major part of the federal bribery case against former Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar agreed to pay $1.2 million to resolve its portion of the investigation. Carmel Partners will make the payment as part of a non-prosecution agreement that will spare the company from becoming a defendant in the corruption case. The agreement contained an allegation against Huizar that has not appeared in previous indictments. At one point in 2018, Huizar asked a Carmel executive if he would provide $250,000 in exchange for a reduction in the amount the company paid into a fund for affordable housing.
California – Gun Bribery Probe: Santa Clara County Sheriff acted to obscure use of donor’s Sharks suite, according to testimony
East Bay Times – Robert Salonga | Published: 1/12/2021
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith sought to hide her use of a penthouse suite at a San Jose Sharks game two years ago by having an employee buy cheaper seats in her name to avoid gift-reporting obligations for the suite now targeted by an indictment against her second-in-command. The circumvention was described by management analyst Lara McCabe in her testimony to a grand jury, which would later hand down bribery charges alleging favor-trading for concealed-gun permits involving Undersheriff Rick Sung, a top Apple security executive, a prominent supporter, and a sheriff’s captain who doubled as a close adviser.
California – U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Dispute Over California Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Requirement
Reuters – Lawrence Hurley | Published: 1/8/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge by two conservative groups to a California requirement that tax-exempt charities disclose to the state the identity of their top financial donors. The justices will take up the appeal of a lower court ruling that said California’s attorney general could require the two nonprofit organizations, Americans for Prosperity and the Thomas More Law Center, to furnish him with donor details. The groups argued the demand infringed upon their freedom of speech and association under the First Amendment.
Colorado – Denver Mayor Hancock’s Office Still Exposed to Conflicts of Interest, Auditor Says
Denver Post – Conrad Swanson | Published: 1/12/2021
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration is still at risk of allowing political favoritism and conflicts-of-interest to influence business deals, City Auditor Tim O’Brien said. That is despite warnings and calls for change as far back as 2019, when O’Brien audited Denver’s processes for entering into contracts and found weaknesses that were exacerbated by inadequate documentation to track how the city’s vendors are selected.
Florida – COVID-19 Keeps Lobbyists from Florida Capitol
Tampa Bay Times – Dara Kam | Published: 1/13/2021
As lawmakers gathered in Tallahassee, the scene in the Capitol was a stark departure from the typically convivial initial round of committee meetings in advance of the legislative session. The halls of the Capitol would typically be buzzing during the committee-meeting kickoff, as lobbyists rub elbows with legislators and aides while advocating for issues ranging from medical marijuana to budget items. But the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the 22-story edifice and adjacent buildings into an eerily desolate landscape as lawmakers and their staff, lobbyists, and reporters comply with new restrictions aimed at keeping as few people as possible from roaming inside the Capitol complex.
Florida – Former Broward Schools Administrator Arrested in Grand Jury Corruption Probe
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Scott Travis | Published: 1/13/2021
A former Broward schools administrator has been arrested as part of a statewide grand jury probe, accused of illegally steering a $17 million technology contract to a friend. Tony Hunter, formerly the chief information officer, was charged with bid tampering and unlawful compensation by a public official. The case is related to the district’s $17 million purchase of Recordex Simplicity flat screen devices. A combination big-screen TV and touch-screen computer, the devices are designed to make learning more interactive for students. The school district and the grand jury started reviewing Hunter’s actions after The South Florida Sun Sentinel questioned the deal and Hunter’s ties to the vendor.
Florida – Former Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Charged with Stalking
MSN – Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 1/12/2021
Tallahassee’s first independent ethics officer was arrested on charges of stalking the former city auditor. Julie Meadows-Keefe, who just weeks ago settled a retaliation lawsuit against the city, is accused of cyberstalking Bert Fletcher, with whom she had a romantic relationship. Her arrest comes after Meadows-Keefe threatened physical violence and sent hundreds of texts, phone calls, and emails during the final week of December, according to police. Fletcher and Meadows-Keefe’s offices were adjacent in City Hall and they began a romantic relationship while Fletcher was still married.
Georgia – Atlanta Mayor Fined $37,000 for Campaign Finance Violations During 2017 Mayor’s Race
WSB – Staff | Published: 1/7/2021
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms agreed during a state ethics commission meeting to pay a fine of $37,000 for irregularities in her campaign finances during the 2017 mayoral race. The settlement comes after a long investigation into both candidate’s campaign contributions during the race. In the agreement, Bottoms’ campaign admits to accepting $6,900 in campaign donations that exceeded state limits on the amount individuals can contribute. The campaign also acknowledges receiving another $110,797 in contributions that violated other state statutes.
Georgia – ‘Find the Fraud’: Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2021
President Trump urged Georgia’s lead elections investigator to “find the fraud” in a lengthy December phone call, saying the official would be a “national hero,” according to an individual familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversation. Trump placed the call to the investigations chief for the Georgia secretary of state’s office shortly before Christmas while the individual was leading an inquiry into allegations of ballot fraud in Cobb County, in the suburbs of Atlanta. The president’s attempts to intervene in an ongoing investigation could amount to obstruction of justice or other criminal violations, legal experts said, though they cautioned a case could be difficult to prove.
Illinois – Ethics Board Fines Ald. Austin $145,500 For Accepting Improper Campaign Contributions
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 1/12/2021
The Chicago Board of Ethics fined Ald. Carrie Austin $145,500 for accepting $48,500 in excessive contributions from a person doing business with the city. The fine is the first time the board levied the maximum fine allowed for violations of the city’s campaign finance law – three times the amount of the improper contributions. Companies and people doing business with the city are limited to contributing $1,600 to any one candidate per year. The law holds both the person and firm making the donation as well as the elected official who accepted the contribution responsible for the infraction.
Illinois – Illinois Elects First Black Speaker After Decades of Madigan Rule
Politico – Shia Kapos | Published: 1/13/2021
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch became the first Black speaker of the Illinois House as Democrats rejected Michael Madigan, who had been speaker for nearly four decades. What started last year as a simmering legal and political scandal, touched off by a corruption scandal around a local utility, turned into a rare opportunity to shed old leadership. Madigan’s supporters started pulling away after he was implicated in a federal “pay-to-play” scheme involving Commonwealth Edison. The public utility agreed to pay a $200 million fine and acknowledged it had tried to curry favor with Madigan by offering jobs and contracts to his allies in exchange for favorable legislation.
Iowa – Iowa Governor, Ades Appear in PR Video for No-Bid Vendor
MSN – Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 1/7/2021
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and four aides helped make a marketing video for a company that was awarded no-bid contracts for work on the coronavirus pandemic, a move that has raised allegations of favoritism and improper use of public resources. Domo’s video featured interviews with Reynolds, state epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati, and chief operations officer Paul Trombino portraying their COVID-19 management as a success for Iowa and the software vendor. The appearances go against long-standing guidance to avoid any hint of preferential treatment in relationships with contractors. The video put a positive spin on their response to the virus, which has caused more cases and deaths per capita in Iowa than most other states.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Plans to Tackle Ethics Reform Following Clendenin Resignation
Wichita Eagle – Chance Swaim | Published: 1/10/2021
When Mayor Brandon Whipple was elected, he promised sweeping ethics reform at City Hall after a media investigation showed holes in Wichita’s city council ethics policy, including no limits on gifts and no penalties for violations. The call for change came after Whipple’s predecessor, Jeff Longwell, steered a $500 million contract for a new water treatment plant away from one of the top engineering firms in the country and to a local group that included his friends and political supporters. Former Councilperson James Clendenin stepped down amid ouster proceedings for his role in a smear campaign against Whipple. By the end of January, a new ethics policy proposal will go before the council for discussion.
Michigan – Former Michigan Gov. Snyder Charged in Flint Water Crisis
Politico – Associated Press | Published: 1/13/2021
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is facing two counts of willful neglect of duty related to the water crisis in Flint, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. In April 2014, a Snyder-appointed emergency manager who was running the struggling city carried out a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction. The corrosive water, however, was not treated properly and released lead from old plumbing into homes in one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in U.S. history.
Minnesota – State Board Proposals Would Change How Lobbying Activities Are Reported in Minnesota
Minnesota Post – Peter Callaghan | Published: 1/8/2021
The Minnesota board that oversees the lobbying of state and local governments is considering changes that would make reporting by lobbyists more useful and more transparent. Both the current rules and the proposed rules are complex. Lobbyists would no longer have to report overhead costs, but they would have to report the actual bill numbers and ordinances they pushed for, as well as which clients they worked for and what they did to influence the result. Legislation is required to make any changes to the rules that determine how much information residents of the state get about who spends how much to influence legislators, administrative agencies, and local councils and boards.
Missouri – Missouri House Censures St. Louis Lawmaker Accused of Having Sex with Intern
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/13/2021
The Missouri House voted to censure a St. Louis Democrat who refused to resign in response to allegations he had sex with an intern and tried to cover it up. Rep. Wiley Price faced the official discipline after his former legislative aide reported Price informed her of his relationship with the intern. The House Ethics Committee in December unanimously recommended censure for Price, but Rep. Jered Taylor moved to expel Price instead. Democrats argued the chamber should reject the move to expel Price because the Ethics Committee had already debated the issue and had recommended censure.
Nevada – Nevada Lawmaker Resigns Amid Campaign Finance Investigation
Associated Press News – Sam Metz | Published: 1/13/2021
A Nevada lawmaker resigned amid an investigation involving the use of campaign contributions that prompted law enforcement to raid his home. Assemblyperson Alex Assefa tendered his resignation in a letter that did not mention the investigation but addressed questions about whether his primary residence was in the district he represents. Police in May raided a North Las Vegas home owned by Assefa’s wife, Zenash Mebratu, and a condominium he listed as his residence in campaign filings. Nevada law requires legislators live in the districts they represent.
New York – New York City Will End Contracts with Trump Over Capitol Riot
New York Times – Emma Fitzsimmons | Published: 1/13/2021
For the last several years, the tumultuous arc of President Trump’s relationship with New York City has been on a steep decline. His name was stripped from private properties. Part of his re-election campaign focused on characterizing New York as an “anarchist jurisdiction.” He even changed his legal residency to Florida. Then, the city announced it would terminate its contracts with the Trump Organization after the riot at the U.S. Capitol. The decision by Mayor Bill de Blasio was another blow to Trump’s prestige in New York and hammered home the depths to which the president has become a political and social pariah in his hometown.
New York – New York’s Aggressive Elections Enforcement Chief to Retire
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 1/12/2021
Risa Sugarman, who pursued significant cases during more than six years as New York’s top elections enforcement official, confirmed she is retiring. Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Sugarman as the first chief enforcement counsel for the state Board of Elections’ independent enforcement division. Sugarman is the only person ever to hold the position overseeing the small unit, which largely operates separately from the rest of the politically appointed board. Her office’s authority has been curbed in recent years by regulations imposed by four commissioners with whom she often clashed, and most recently, by a state law giving the board rather than Sugarman oversight of candidates enrolled in the publicly financed elections system.
North Carolina – Charlotte Council Member Announces Sudden Retirement After Taking Construction Job
MSN – Danielle Chemtob and Alison Kuznitz (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 1/11/2021
Charlotte City Councilperson James Mitchell announced his sudden retirement after stirring controversy over his new role as co-owner and president of a construction company. Mitchell is slated to take the helm of RJ Leeper. City ethics policy prevents officials from using their position for personal benefit. Mitchell had said he would recuse himself from voting on anything involving RJ Leeper, and the firm’s vice president would handle city projects. The company is working on public projects like the Charlotte Convention Center and Charlotte Douglas International Airport expansions.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Cash Comprised Big Chunk of Donations to Dark Money Outfits Backing DeWine and His Daughter, Documents Show
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 1/8/2021
Money from FirstEnergy Corp. comprised more than one-third of all contributions to a “dark money” group supporting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and likely all the cash given to one backing his daughter’s county prosecutor bid, tax records show. The donations came the same year that the Republican-controlled Legislature passed House Bill 6, which included a $1 billion subsidy for two nuclear plants, then-owned by FirstEnergy Solutions. DeWine signed the bill within hours of it reaching his desk. Federal investigators say former House Speaker Larry Householder and others used $61 million from energy companies to fuel Householder’s leadership fight, House Bill 6’s passage, and an effort to block a ballot initiative to upend the bailout.
Oklahoma – Former Stitt Staffer Lobbying for Company Bidding on State Medicaid Contract
The Oklahoman – Carmen Forman | Published: 1/11/2021
A former staffer of Gov. Kevin Stitt is lobbying for a health care company bidding on a multimillion-dollar state contract to privatize Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. With Oklahoma on the cusp of expanding Medicaid, Stitt announced his intention to outsource care for many o the state’s Medicaid recipients by hiring private companies to manage the program’s spending. Former Deputy Secretary of State Samantha Davidson Guinn, who was promoted to that role after serving as the governor’s policy director, left the Stitt administration in September. Now, she is senior vice president of government affairs, strategy, and policy for Healthcare Highways, which is bidding on the state’s SoonerSelect program.
Oregon – Rioters Stormed the Oregon Capitol in December. Video Sows a Republican Lawmaker Let Them In.
Seattle Times – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2021
State Rep. Mike Nearman let demonstrators into the Oregon Capitol during a one-day special session in December, starting a riot. Three surveillance videos show Nearman walking out of a Capitol side door, moving out of the way for a protester, and walking alongside the building as protesters streamed toward the open door. Protesters had been looking for a way to get into the Capitol on December 21 while the Legislature was in session. The open door ultimately allowed at least 50 people to access the Capitol’s vestibule and led to six Salem and Oregon State police officers getting pepper sprayed.
South Dakota – City Insurance Now Covers Legal Defense If Mayor, Councilors Face Ethics Violation
MSN – Trevor Mitchell (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 1/10/2021
Several members of the Sioux Falls City Council are raising concerns about a new addition to the city’s insurance policy that would provide legal representation for councilors accused of ethics violations. The new general endorsement adds coverage related to ethics complaints against the mayor or city councilors, providing legal expenses of up to $10,000 per occurrence with $20,000 aggregate per coverage term, at a cost to the city of $7,500. The coverage was newly available to any city with an ethics policy or ordinance, said Bill O’Toole, the city’s human resources director.
Tennessee – Tennessee House Speaker on FBI Raid: Those subject to search warrants on ‘administrative leave’
MSN – Natalie Allison (Tennessean) | Published: 1/8/2021
Federal agents descended on multiple Tennessee Republican House members’ homes and state offices, collecting evidence while executing search warrants as part of an unspecified investigation just days before the legislative session began. The U.S. attorney’s office confirmed the FBI visited the homes of former House Speaker Glen Casada; Rep. Robin Smith; Rep. Todd Warner; and former Casada aide Cade Cothren. They also went to a business associated with Warner. Speaker Cameron Sexton said he placed three staff members on paid administrative leave in connection with the case.
Texas – A Texas Lawmaker Worked with the State Restaurant Association to Draft an Alcohol-to-Go Bill. His Wife Lobbies for the Group.
Texas Tribune – Mitchell Ferman and Juan Pablo Garnham | Published: 1/13/2021
State Rep. Charlie Geren, a restaurant owner, filed legislation to allow restaurants to sell alcohol for pickup and delivery orders, which would provide an industry crushed by the coronavirus pandemic with the new, permanent revenue stream. Geren said his Railhead Smokehouse restaurant does not have a mixed beverage permit. That means it would not benefit from the bill. But House Bill 1024 could benefit a client of Geren’s wife, lobbyist Mindy Ellmer. The Texas Restaurant Association, which is backing the legislation, paid Ellmer between $25,000 and $49,000 for lobbying work from September through December. Adrian Shelley, Texas director for Public Citizen, said that mix of personal and political ties underscores the state’s ethics laws should be strengthened.
Utah – Tribune Analysis: Utah lawmakers spend unlimited amounts in campaign cash – sometimes in violation of state law
MSN – Taylor Stevens and Bethany Rodgers (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/10/2021
A Salt Lake Tribune analysis found since 2015, Utah lawmakers have collectively spent millions of dollars, often with little or no transparency about where the money is going and limited oversight from the state’s elections office, which has one full-time employee to review tens of thousands of expenditures. Legislators with easy paths to reelection can allocate excess campaign funds into travel, food, and gifts, and some have done so without explaining how the purchases are connected to their elected office or campaign. The analysis also found at least two lawmakers appear to have overpaid themselves for personal loans to their campaigns. Legislators say the state’s system demands transparency and dismiss a need for more cumbersome rules to keep candidates and officeholders in check.
Washington – ‘He’s Been Fibbing for 20 Years’: Tim Eyman trial approaches conclusion, state alleges years of schemes
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 1/7/2021
The state of Washington’s case against Tim Eyman inched toward its conclusion with the state accusing the serial initiative promoter of a decades-long run of money laundering, soliciting kickbacks, and violating campaign finance law in a scheme to enrich himself through political donations. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose 2017 lawsuit against Eyman precipitated the civil trial, seeks millions of dollars in damages and he hopes to permanently bar Eyman from accepting money on behalf of any political committee or handling their finances. Newman said the law allows for a maximum base penalty of $5.6 million, but that the state was seeking about $2.6 million.
West Virginia – GOP West Virginia Lawmaker Who Live-Streamed Himself Storming the Capitol Resigns After Arrest
MSN – Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2021
A newly elected Republican lawmaker in West Virginia resigned after he was arrested for trespassing in the U.S. Capitol in a mob of Trump supporters hoping to halt President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Derrick Evans chronicled the riot on Facebook Live, capturing the moment the crowd cracked open the Capitol’s doors and he crossed the threshold. Evans was among dozens arrested for crimes related to the break-in. He was charged with two federal misdemeanors, unlawfully entering restricted grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct, and taken into custody. Evans ended his short tenure with a one-sentence resignation letter, He was sworn in to the House of Delegates in December.
January 14, 2021 •
The Florida House and Senate have instituted COVID-19 safety protocols during committee meetings ahead of the 2021 legislative session. For the month of January, Senate committee meetings will be limiting in-person attendance to individuals invited by the committee leaders. Rooms […]
The Florida House and Senate have instituted COVID-19 safety protocols during committee meetings ahead of the 2021 legislative session.
For the month of January, Senate committee meetings will be limiting in-person attendance to individuals invited by the committee leaders.
Rooms at the Leon County Civic Center have been reserved and will be made available to other individuals wishing to remotely appear and provide testimony.
House committee meetings attendance will also be limited.
Individuals seeking to attend and provide public testimony must register online at least three hours prior to the meeting.
Once seating capacity is reached, individuals will be allowed to provide written testimony.
The testimony will then be distributed amongst the committee members prior to the meeting.
The new House protocols will be in effect until February 28.
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