January 27, 2021 •
Elections National: “State Republicans Push New Voting Restrictions after Trump’s Loss” by Zach Montellaro for Politico Arkansas: “Sarah Sanders Announces Run for Arkansas Governor” by Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics National: “Biden Is Firing Some Top Trump Holdovers, […]
National: “State Republicans Push New Voting Restrictions after Trump’s Loss” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
Arkansas: “Sarah Sanders Announces Run for Arkansas Governor” by Andrea Salcedo (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Biden Is Firing Some Top Trump Holdovers, but in Some Cases, His Hands May Be Tied” by Lisa Rein and Ann Gearan (Washington Post) for MSN
Arizona: “Ethics Complaint Filed Against Arizona Lawmaker Over Treatment of Staffer Highlights Lack of Code of Conduct” by Andrew Oxord (Arizona Republic) for MSN
California: “Englander Sentenced to 14 Months in Prison in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case” by Michael Finnegan and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
New York: “Supreme Court Won’t Hear Appeal from Sheldon Silver, Former N.Y. Lawmaker” by Adam Liptak for New York Times
National: “One of Trump’s Final Acts Will Allow Former Aides to Profit from Foreign Ties” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico
North Dakota: “Legislative Lobbyists Navigate Through New Restrictions” by Dylan Sherman (North Dakota Newspaper Association) for Grand Forks Herald
Nebraska: “Often Heated Redistricting Process Expected to Add State Senators in Nebraska’s Metro Areas” by Paul Hammel for Omaha World-Herald
January 26, 2021 •
North Dakota Rep. Keith Kempenich is sponsoring a bill to add reimbursement for meals to the compensation received by lawmakers who live outside Bismarck. The bill is being proposed just as the lobbyist gift ban approved by voters in 2018 […]
North Dakota Rep. Keith Kempenich is sponsoring a bill to add reimbursement for meals to the compensation received by lawmakers who live outside Bismarck.
The bill is being proposed just as the lobbyist gift ban approved by voters in 2018 is taking effect.
Lawmakers are currently paid $518 a month and receive $186 per day they attend sessions or committee meetings, plus reimbursement for lodging during the session.
They are also included on the state-funded employee health plan.
If passed, the bill would become effective August 1, 2021.
January 26, 2021 •
Greater disclosure requirements for lobbyists in New Mexico will be a topic of discussion during the largely virtual 2021 legislative session. Lawmakers will consider requiring lobbyists or their employers to list the bills they lobbied, the position they took on […]
Greater disclosure requirements for lobbyists in New Mexico will be a topic of discussion during the largely virtual 2021 legislative session.
Lawmakers will consider requiring lobbyists or their employers to list the bills they lobbied, the position they took on each bill, and to report all money spent to influence state policy, including lobbyist compensation.
Additionally, legislation has been proposed to empower the state ethics commission to set the salary of all public officials, including legislators.
Though these types of proposals have failed in the past, open government advocates believe they stand a better chance in a virtual session without lobbyists physically present in the building.
During the virtual session, the public will be able to provide comments online via Zoom or by phone while the Roundhouse remains closed due to COVID-19.
House members will participate in floor and committee debates via Zoom, which will be broadcast publicly online. All legislation considered by the full House will be placed on a temporary calendar for 24 hours to ensure transparency and accessibility.
January 26, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House” by Bill Allison (Bloomberg) for MSN New Jersey: “Hoboken City Council Tightens Pay-to-Play Laws Before Mayoral Election” by Marilyn Bear for Hudson Reporter Ethics National: “Supreme […]
National: “‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House” by Bill Allison (Bloomberg) for MSN
New Jersey: “Hoboken City Council Tightens Pay-to-Play Laws Before Mayoral Election” by Marilyn Bear for Hudson Reporter
National: “Supreme Court Ends Lawsuits Alleging That Trump Illegally Profited from Business Interests” by Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “House Democrats Plan to Focus Impeachment Trial on How Rioters Reacted to Trump’s Remarks” by Seung Min Kim, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “As L.A. City Hall Corruption Probe Endures, Ethics-Reform Bids Launched – but Will Any Take Hold?” by Elizabeth Chou for Los Angeles Daily News
Michigan: “Corrupt UAW Boss Wore Wire While Playing Golf with Union Brothers” by Robert Snell for Detroit News
Mississippi: “Charter Schools Receive Taxpayer Dollars. Should Their Board Members Follow State Ethics Laws?” by Kate Royals for Mississippi Today
Connecticut: “Joe Aresimowicz Is Latest House Speaker to Go Through ‘Revolving Door’ Into Lobbying – As 6 of 7 Speakers Since 1989 Have Done” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant
New Mexico: “Lobbyists Adjust to New Reality of Virtual Session” by Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) for New Mexico Political Report
January 25, 2021 •
Campaign Finance National: “Shell Companies and ‘Dark Money’ May Hide Details of Trump Ties to DC Protests” by Anna Massoglia for Center for Resposive Politics Mississippi: “Gov. Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Raised $1.6M from Unknown Donors, Paid Family Member’s Company” by […]
National: “Shell Companies and ‘Dark Money’ May Hide Details of Trump Ties to DC Protests” by Anna Massoglia for Center for Resposive Politics
Mississippi: “Gov. Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Raised $1.6M from Unknown Donors, Paid Family Member’s Company” by Luke Ramseth for Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
New Mexico: “Secretary of State to Pursue Fines, Enforcement in Cowboys for Trump Case” by Nicole Maxwell (Alamogordo News) for MSN
National: “Kroger Unknowingly Funneled Donations to a Militant Group. After the Capitol Riots, It’s Cutting It Off.” by Teo Armus (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “State Auditors Flag Land Purchase Between City and Former Mayor Kathy Meehan’s Relatives” by Rick Neale for MSN
Illinois: “Madigan No Longer ‘Mr. Speaker,’ but He’s Still ‘Public Official A’” by Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Virginia: “Censure Move Goes Forward Against GOP Contender for Va. Governor” by Laura Vozzella and Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) for MSN
Nevada: “Legislative Building Will Be Closed to Public at Start of Session, Is Expected to Open More After Vaccinations” by Michelle Rindell for Nevada Independent
National: “Beau Biden Foundation to Deny Lobbyist Donations, Make Major Donors Public” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
January 22, 2021 •
The Idaho House passed a constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to call itself into a special session. The legislation stems from lawmaker dissatisfaction with restrictions Gov. Brad Little put in place last March. Specifically, those to reduce coronavirus infections and […]
The Idaho House passed a constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to call itself into a special session.
The legislation stems from lawmaker dissatisfaction with restrictions Gov. Brad Little put in place last March.
Specifically, those to reduce coronavirus infections and deaths.
The Legislature had adjourned for the year by then and couldn’t call itself back into session.
Idaho is one of 14 states where only the governor can call a special legislative session.
The legislation must now pass the Senate with a two-thirds vote.
It, then, would go to voters in the November 2022 general election, where a simple majority is needed for approval.
If voters approve it in 2022, lawmakers could call themselves back into session if 60% of members in each the House and Senate agree.
January 22, 2021 •
The 2021 legislative session will start off closed to all but lawmakers, essential staff, and some members of the media. All others will participate virtually, according to a logistics plan issued by the Legislative Counsel Bureau. The plan released on […]
The 2021 legislative session will start off closed to all but lawmakers, essential staff, and some members of the media.
All others will participate virtually, according to a logistics plan issued by the Legislative Counsel Bureau.
The plan released on Thursday, less than two weeks before the legislative session begins on February 1, is similar to one in place during two special sessions over the summer.
However, the plan hints at broader access once core personnel are vaccinated for COVID-19.
Members of the public can watch hearings through the legislative website and through YouTube livestreams.
Those wishing to participate in hearings will do so by reservation and through Zoom.
Public comments can be made by phone, or through videoconference at designated locations being developed across the state.
Legislators will meet with constituents and lobbyists through Microsoft Teams.
Once lawmakers and staff have been vaccinated, lobbyists and members of the public will be allowed at hearings in person by reservation.
Participants who come in person will need to show documentation they have been vaccinated or take a free, rapid COVID test before entering the building.
In order to account for more virtual lobbying taking place, the plan also calls for an update to state law.
Only lobbyists who appear in person in the building will need to register with the Legislative Counsel Bureau and be regulated.
January 22, 2021 •
National/Federal As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign – and What It Says About American Democracy MSN – David Nakamura (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2021 President Trump’s four years in office ended after a reign defined […]
As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign – and What It Says About American Democracy
MSN – David Nakamura (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2021
President Trump’s four years in office ended after a reign defined by constant chaos, corruption, and scandal, a tenure that numerous scholars predict is destined to rank him among America’s worst presidents. Trump’s claims of policy victories, including a raft of conservative judges and steps toward Middle East peace, will be overshadowed by his mismanagement of the pandemic and his unprecedented assault on the U.S. election results, they said. Historians preparing to reckon with his legacy say it is not just Trump who will be examined in the harsh reflection of history’s mirror, but also American society and the nation’s commitment to democracy.
Biden Ethics Order Marks Departure from Trump Administration
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko | Published: 1/19/2021
Ethics rules implemented by President Biden are intended to minimize the ethics minefield posed by the “revolving door” of incoming former lobbyists and consultants who typically staff presidential administrations, as well as the future employment of departing officials who often find lucrative jobs in Washington, D.C.’s influence industry. Under the order, officials who leave the administration will be prohibited from lobbying the White House for Biden’s duration in office. Those who depart toward the end of his tenure will be prohibited from lobbying the White House for at least two years. One provision prohibits incoming administration officials from accepting “golden parachute” payments from their former employers for taking a government job.
Census Bureau Says Trump’s Push to Exclude Undocumented Is Dead
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 1/16/2021
President Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census totals used to apportion congressional seats is officially dead. The Census Bureau announced that data on apportionment and a related calculation of the number of undocumented immigrants Trump has specifically requested would not be released until after Joe Biden is sworn in. Biden has said he opposed Trump’s efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants, who have historically been included. The agreement arose from a suit from the National Urban League and other plaintiffs opposed to the plan over the accuracy of the census.
Democrats Seek Momentum for Voting, Political Money Overhaul
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 1/19/2021
Senate Democrats, with the slimmest possible majority in the chamber, signaled a symbolic first order of business: a major overhaul of the nation’s voting, campaign finance, and ethics laws. The measure, dubbed HR 1 in the House and now christened in the Senate as S 1 to signify that it is a top priority, died in the GOP-controlled Senate last Congress. Democrats, as well as outside groups pushing for passage, said the overhaul would help shore up voters’ confidence in a democracy damaged by a violent attempted insurrection at the Capitol and after four years of corruption scandals and flouting of ethics norms during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Democrats Seize on GOP Donor Fallout
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/16/2021
Democrats are seizing on the fallout from donors distancing themselves from Republicans, with lawmakers and advocacy groups saying it is a rare opportunity to change fundraising rules and the influence corporations have on campaigns. Progressives are ramping up calls to permanently eliminate corporate PAC contributions, while moderate Democrats see an opening to win over business groups and leaders who have traditionally thrown much of their support behind Republicans. Corporate donors are freezing their PACs and reassessing their giving strategies while others say they would not give any money to Republicans who voted to challenge the election results.
Energy Secretary Nominee Jennifer Granholm Has Millions in Energy Investments
MSN – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 1/20/2021
President Joe Biden’s energy secretary pick, Jennifer Granholm, disclosed millions of dollars of investments in corporate and private business interests, including millions in companies linked to the energy industry, as lawmakers prepare to consider her nomination. The former Michigan governor and her husband, Daniel Mulhern, reported owning from $4.4 million up to $16.8 million in corporate interests and private assets like residential real estate properties, according to her new financial disclosure report. Granholm joins a series of Biden nominees who have ties to corporate and private interests, which have raised concerns over potential conflict-of-interest.
Groups with Biden Ties Pose Ethics Quandary for His Administration
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 1/18/2021
The University of Delaware’s Biden Institute promises in its mission statement to embody the spirit of “honesty, integrity, compassion and courage” it says have defined President Biden’s career in politics. The research center he helped launch to promote scholarship on public policy has the potential to become an ethical headache for his administration. The institute does not disclose all its donors and has not committed to doing so once Biden is sworn in as president. The institute continues to engage in a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign, which could attract donations from those interested in currying favor with the administration. The institute is one of a network of charitable organizations and academic centers bearing Biden’s name.
How Twitter, on the Front Lines of History, Finally Decided to Ban Trump
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Nitasha Tiku (Wasjington Post) | Published: 1/16/2021
Twitter banned President Trump permanently. In an instant, the megaphone of the leader of the free world was wiped out, along with his following of 88 million he had built throughout his presidency, some of whom amplified his every word. It also ended an era of free speech online that Twitter, which a senior executive once referred to as “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” had itself helped create. A dozen current and former employees and close observers of the company reconstructed the critical decision, marked by tearful meetings, bitter internal arguments, and the culmination of years of debate within the company.
Justice Dept. Will Not Pursue Charges Against Sen. Richard Burr Over Stock Sales at Outset of Pandemic
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 1/19/2021
The Justice Department ended its investigation into U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and will not pursue charges against the North Carolina Republican, who was being probed for stock sales he made before the coronavirus pandemic crashed global markets. Burr was one of a number of senators to come under investigation last year for stock sales they made before the pandemic’s effect on the markets. As the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Burr had received frequent briefings and reports on the threat of the coronavirus. Burr said he relied on public information rather than information he was specifically privy to as a lawmaker. His case, though, was always considered more serious than those of the other lawmakers.
Lawmakers Who Conspired with Capitol Attackers in Legal Peril
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 1/14/2021
Lawmakers who interacted with the pro-Trump protesters who rioted at the Capitol on January 6 could face criminal charges and will almost certainly come under scrutiny in the burgeoning federal investigation into the assault, former prosecutors said. Unlike with the president, there is no Justice Department policy shielding members of Congress from legal accountability while in office. The role members of Congress may have played in facilitating the attack drew intense attention this week after Democratic lawmakers alleged some of their Republican colleagues facilitated tours of the Capitol one day before demonstrators engaged in the assault that terrorized lawmakers, ransacked congressional offices, and left as many as five people dead.
Rallies Ahead of Capitol Riot Were Planned by Established Washington Insiders
MSN – Robert O’Harrow Jr. (Washington Post) | Published: 1/17/2021
The fiery rallies that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol were organized and promoted by an array of established conservative insiders and activists, documents and videos show. The Republican Attorneys General Association was involved, as were the activist groups Turning Point Action and Tea Party Patriots. At least six current or former members of the Council for National Policy, an influential group that for decades has served as a hub for conservative and Christian activists, also played roles in promoting the rallies. The two days of rallies were staged not by white nationalists and other extremists, but by well-funded nonprofit groups and individuals that figure prominently in the machinery of conservative activism in Washington.
Trump Grants Clemency to 143 People in Late-Night Pardon Blast
MSN – Rosalind Heldrman, Josh Dawsey, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 1/20/2021
President Trump granted clemency to 143 people, using a final act of presidential power to extend mercy to former White House strategist Stephen Bannon, well-connected celebrities, and nonviolent drug offenders but he did not preemptively pardon himself or his family. The last-minute clemency extended to Bannon underscores how Trump has used his presidential power to benefit allies and political backers. He had previously pardoned or commuted the sentences of his former campaign chairperson, former national security adviser, and a former campaign foreign policy adviser.
Trump Revokes Administration Ethics Rules on His Way Out the Door
National Public Radio – Tamara Keith | Published: 1/20/2021
In one of his final acts in office, President Trump revoked an executive order on ethics he signed when he first took office, freeing the way for people who have served in his administration to cash in with lobbying jobs. When Trump signed the order, he hailed it as a fulfillment of his campaign promise to “drain the swamp.” Among other things, it banned administration officials from lobbying the agencies where they worked for a full five years after the termination of their employment.
Canada – Two N.B. Reactor Developers Defend Use of Liberal-Connected Lobbyists
MSN – Jacques Poitras (CBC) | Published: 1/19/2021
The two companies developing small modular nuclear reactors in New Brunswick are defending their use of Liberal Party-connected lobbyists. ARC Nuclear has former Premier Shawn Graham working on their behalf, while Moltex Energy is using Jordan O’Brien, the one-time chief of staff to another Liberal premier, Brian Gallant. Consultants and in-house lobbyists dealing with the provincial government have been required to register publicly since 2017. Graham’s registration to lobby the federal government for ARC Nuclear lists him as “inactive.”
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Banned from the Capitol, Alaska Lobbyists Contend with Pandemic Predicament
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 1/20/2021
Lobbyists are paid for access to and intelligence on what is happening in the Alaska Capitol, but for now, they are banned from the building. They are also contending with a disorganized power structure. It has been more than two months since the election, but the Senate only recently formed a ruling majority and the House still has no one in charge. Lobbyists say the power vacuum and their loss of in-person access to the Capitol will be an undeniable obstacle as they seek to influence policy and provide lawmakers information from businesses, local governments, organized labor, and other interests.
Arkansas – New Lawmaker Fined Over Ethics Violation; Former Rival Off Hook
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 1/17/2021
State Rep. Ashley Hudson agreed to pay a $50 fine and receive a public letter of caution in a settlement of a complaint filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission. Former Rep. Jim Sorvillo corrected an unintentional campaign reporting error within 30 days of learning about the mistake, so the commission found Sorvillo did not violate state ethics law, commission Director Graham Sloan said.
California – After Anonymous Donation to Newsom Recall, Democrat Revives Campaign Finance Proposal
Sacramento Bee – Lara Korte | Published: 1/13/2021
California Assemblyperson Marc Berman is reviving his effort to force more large political contributors to disclose their identities after an investor kicked in $500,000 to a campaign seeking to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom and remained anonymous for weeks. Assembly Bill 236 would require limited liability companies (LLCs) to disclose their sources of funding in the event it contributes $50,000 or more to campaigns in the state in a given year, or a total of $100,000 in four consecutive years. The bill would effectively require companies to identify funders and investors who contributed more than $1,000 to the LLC in a year and whose monies were used in political donations, Berman said.
Connecticut – Weeks After Election, CT Stopped Monitoring Online Voter Fraud Talk
MSN – Kasturi Pananjady and Dave Altimari (Connecticut Mirror) | Published: 1/18/2021
In the aftermath of the November election, intelligence analyst Hannah Glidden was working for the secretary of the state’s office under a novel contract. Her job was to flag any social media talk of voter fraud or disinformation about the election in Connecticut. Glidden brought dozens of posts to the attention of officials who said the reports were valuable as they tried to tamp down misinformation. But Glidden’s contract ran out at the end of November, costing the agency a source of information that has not yet been restored at a time when officials in Connecticut and across the country are struggling to not only negate disinformation about the last election but prepare for violence in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Florida – Florida Police Were After a Covid-19 Data Scientist. She Turned Herself In – and Tested Positive.
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 1/19/2021
Florida health officials fired data scientist Rebekah Jones, accusing her of insubordination as she was putting together the state’s coronavirus dashboard. After she started her own website to publish pandemic data, armed police officers raided her home. A warrant was issued for her arrest for computer crimes. Jones, who claims officials tried to manipulate official numbers on the pandemic, turned herself in to authorities. After posting bail, Jones said she had tested positive for the coronavirus while in custody. Her arrest and diagnosis are the latest developments in a contentious public battle between Jones and state officials since she was fired from the Florida Department of Health in May.
Hawaii – No More ‘Gifts of Aloha’ for State Lawmakers
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 1/15/2021
The new ban on “gifts of aloha” from lobbyists to Hawaii lawmakers is just one of dozens of new rules passed by the state Ethics Commission as the Legislature opened the 2021 session. The rules, which took effect in November, give a clearer framework for how state employees and the commission should abide by the ethics code. New chapters on lobbying and gift giving seek to provide clearer guidance in both of those areas. in years past, lawmakers reported receiving numerous small gifts on the opening day of the session as constituents and lobbyists flocked to their open offices.
Illinois – Ald. Brookins Sues Ethics Board After It Fines Him $5,000 For Violating Ethics Ordinance
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 1/15/2021
Ald. Howard Brookins sued the Chicago Board of Ethics after it found he had violated the city’s ethics ordinance by defending clients, including former Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, in criminal cases involving the Chicago Police Department. The board fined Brookins $5,000 after he agreed to represent Moreno. Brookins has yet to pay that fine. The Ethics Board ruled in September 2019 that council members face “diverging interests” when they represent a client charged with a crime based on evidence developed by Chicago police officers.
Illinois – Ethics Advocates Happy Illinois Legislature’s Reform Attempt Failed
MSN – Cole Lauterbach (Center Square) | Published: 1/18/2021
In the rush of legislation passed in the 101st General Assembly’s final hours, an ethics reform effort was put on hold in Illinois. Surprisingly, some advocates are relieved it stalled. From its introduction, the reform bill was steeped in irony; 87 pages of unvetted legislation inserted into a shell bill via a floor amendment in the middle of the night amid a flurry of other bills to be considered by a lame-duck Legislature. Watchdog groups said in a joint statement the matter flew in the face of transparency and did little to improve Illinois’ reputation for corruption.
Massachusetts – Inspector General Raises New Questions About Hingham Housing Authority Payments
MSN – Todd Wallach (Boston Globe) | Published: 1/18/2021
The state inspector general’s office is raising new questions about a conflict-of-interest involving the retired director of a Hingham public housing agency. The Massachusetts Ethics Commission fined Hingham Housing Authority Executive Director Sharon Napier $2,500 in 2018 for failing to disclose her ties to a company that performed inspections of its apartment units and having a financial interest in a separate contract to sell one of the units. The inspector general found she received $2,496.94 in “special pay” the same week she paid the $2,500 fine.
Massachusetts – Search for Top Campaign Finance Regulator Resumes Friday
WWLP – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 1/20/2021
Almost a year since applicants first submitted their resumes to replace Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance Director Michael Sullivan, the search process that had been on hiatus since March is set to resume. Secretary of State William Galvin’s office said the search committee will meet to resume the process of hiring someone to take over for Sullivan as the state’s top campaign finance regulator. The hiring process was put on a long pause due to the pandemic after Galvin and members of the committee developed a list of finalists they hoped to interview.
Minnesota – In Minnesota, a GOP Lawmaker’s Death Brings Home the Reality of COVID
Yahoo News – Trip Gabriel (New York Times) | Published: 1/18/2021
More than 100 state senators, their spouses, and their staff members gathered for a celebratory dinner after the November election at a catering hall outside the Twin Cities. Masks were offered to guests on arrival, but there was little mask wearing over hours of dining and drinking, at a moment when a long-predicted surge in coronavirus infections was gripping the state. At least four senators in attendance tested positive for COVID-19 in the days that followed. Sen. Jerry Relph, struggling to breathe after testing positive for the coronavirus, was admitted to a hospital in mid-November. He died on December 18 at age 76.
Missouri – St. Louis Lawmaker Banished to Basement Office After Colleagues Censure Him
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/18/2021
Missouri Rep. Wiley Price has been forced to move his belongings from an office suite on the Capitol’s first floor to a windowless basement hearing room after his colleagues censured him. Price said the action by Republican leadership is part of an effort to force him to resign. The House Ethics Commission found Price was in frequent contact with an intern in January 2020, though the two have denied any sexual relationship. The committee found Price committed perjury by denying he contacted the intern. The panel also found Price threatened an assistant who reported Price told her of his relationship with the intern.
New Jersey – Auction for Chance to Implode Trump Plaza Casino Is Canceled
New York Times – Mihir Zavari | Published: 1/19/2021
The auction was promoting a “once in a lifetime” experience in Atlantic City that would raise money for a youth charity: the right to push a button to implode the vacant Trump Plaza hotel and casino. But the auction, which had drawn a high bid of $175,000, was canceled after objection from the building’s owner, a subsidiary controlled by a company run by Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor who has supported President Trump. The proceeds would have gone to the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City.
New Jersey – N.J. Politics Has a ‘Toxic Culture’ of Sexual Harassment. Here Are 5 Ways to Fix It, Landmark Report Says.
Newark Star Ledger – Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 1/14/2021
After spending a year listening to women’s stories about being sexually harassed, assaulted, and marginalized in New Jersey politics, a committee of top female politicians and lobbyists released a report calling for the creation of an independent investigative unit to handle complaints involving political campaigns and government The new investigative team would be overseen by the Election Law Enforcement Commission. The commission would allow victims to bypass campaign and party officials to file complaints about sexual harassment, bullying, or discrimination in state and local politics. The creation of the new investigative unit is one of five recommendations to help change the “toxic culture” in New Jersey politics and government.
New Jersey – Why Donations to NJ Political Campaigns from Public Contractors Nosedived in 10-Year Span
MSN – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 1/20/2021
Contributions from public contractors to New Jersey’s six biggest political fundraising committees sank by $22 million in the past decade compared with the prior 10 years, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). That is good news for advocates of “pay-to-play” laws, which restrict how much money vendors can donate to political campaigns. The 94 percent dip in contributions from contractors coincided with state laws restricting donations to Democratic and Republican fundraising committees, showing the laws worked on the state level, said ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle. But there is a downside, Brindle warns in the report.
New Mexico – Lawmaker, Advocates Pursue Greater Sunshine from Lobbyists
New Mexico In Depth – Brian Metzger | Published: 1/19/2021
Some argue the public would be better served if there was more transparency regarding the work of lobbyists to change, pass, or stop legislation in New Mexico. In 2021, some advocates think a new crop of freshman lawmakers plus fewer lobbyists in the Capitol due to the pandemic may help the prospects of new disclosure laws. Lobbyists are required to register under state law. But only a fraction are professionals who may represent multiple clients and are usually hired based on their experience and relationships with legislators and staff. Roughly 30 percent spend money to further their interests, whether through political contributions, expenditures on meals and other activities, or gifts.
New York – Trump Investigators Have Tax Records Even Before Court Order
MSN – Greg Farrell and Greg Stohr (Bloomberg) | Published: 1/20/2021
Investigators probing former President Trump’s finances have gotten hold of some of his tax records, allowing them to move ahead even without a U.S. Supreme Court order that would give them eight years of his returns. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA, is leading one of the most closely watched cases that could result in criminal charges. While Vance agreed to await a high-court decision on forcing the handover of tax records from 2011 to 2018, his office now has some of the information from other sources, according to people familiar with the matter.
North Dakota – Bipartisan Bill Proposes Taxpayers Pay for Lawmakers’ Meals
Associated Press News – James MacPherson | Published: 1/20/2021
A bill proposes that North Dakota taxpayers pick up the tab for lawmakers’ meals since dinners paid for by lobbyists and interest groups are now banned under new ethics rules. State Rep. Keith Kempenich is sponsoring the legislation that would allow lawmakers who live outside Bismarck to claim reimbursement for meals. Kempenich, who has been in the House since 1993, said dinners funded by lobbyists and other groups had gone from “steak and lobster to finger food” during that time. Lawmakers used to joke about the weight they packed on during a session, but this session, he said, the free food is nonexistent.
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
MSN – Courtney Astolfi (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 1/19/2021
Cleveland State University (CSU) allowed Douglas Dykes to apply for a newly created human resources job 10 months after the deadline for applications had elapsed, then hired Dykes while he was on probation for corruption-related charges, passing over 37 other applicants. Dykes started work at CSU on December 14, 2020, as associate vice president of human resources. Five months earlier, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in a deal made with corruption investigators, who dropped felony theft-in-office charges. CSU spokesperson Alison Bibb-Carson has said the university believes in “providing talented people second chances.”
Ohio – FBI Investigation Revealed Vast FirstEnergy-Backed Political Network Hidden Through Lax State Disclosure Rules
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 1/19/2021
Legal filings and media reports over the past six months have peeled back the layers of a “dark-money” political network funded by FirstEnergy. But because state and federal law do not require political nonprofits to disclose their donors, the only reason the public knows about anything about the utility’s ties to the expansive constellation of Ohio political causes is the federal investigation into House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law which prosecutors say passed due to a $61 million bribery scheme, funded by FirstEnergy and its affiliates through secret or difficult to trace political donations. An FBI agent described a political non-profit seeded with $20 million from FirstEnergy, much of which went to a different nonprofit that was central to the bribery scheme. But the nonprofit also funneled money to other diverse causes.
Pennsylvania – Court Rules in Favor of City in Darlene Harris Campaign Finance Suit
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Mick Stinelli | Published: 1/19/2021
An Allegheny County Common Pleas judge ruled against former city Councilperson Darlene Harris in her attempt to throw out a fine for breaking Pittsburgh’s campaign finance rules. The suit alleged the city’s rules went against the Pennsylvania Constitution after she was fined $4,150 by the Ethics Hearing Board for refusing to file campaign documents during her unsuccessful re-election campaign for city council last year. “The City of Pittsburgh has broad powers of regulation pursuant to its Home Rule Charter which gives the City power to regulate campaign finances,” Judge Joseph James wrote in his opinion.
South Carolina – Divided SC Supreme Court Rebukes Statehouse Probe Prosecutor
Associated Press News – Jeffrey Collins | Published: 1/20/2021
A divided South Carolina Supreme Court ruled a prosecutor investigating statehouse corruption overstepped his authority, but also upheld an 18-month prison sentence for one of the lawmakers caught up in the probe. Rep. Jim Harrison appealed his convictions on misconduct in office and perjury charges. The justices threw out the misconduct in office conviction saying Solicitor David Pascoe overstepped his authority by continuing a state grand jury probe of corruption beyond specific lawmakers who state Attorney General Alan Wilson asked Pascoe’s office to prosecute. But the court upheld the perjury conviction. Harrison lied to the grand jury about what he did to get paid a salary from a political consultant while he was a lawmaker.
Tennessee – Tennessee Lawmaker Again Seeks to Restrict Public Record Requests Deemed as ‘Harassments’
MSN – Yue Stella Yu (Tennessean) | Published: 1/15/2021
A bill seeking to restrict public records access for people deemed “harassing” is back before Tennessee lawmakers after similar legislation died last year. Under Senate Bill 135, government entities would hold the power to launch a mediation process with those requesting public records and the ability to seek an injunction to block the request if the mediation fails as long as the staff deem the requests as “harassments.” Proponents of the bill argue the legislation helps filter out frivolous requests, but open records advocates cautioned the bill could erode public access to documents and allow government entities to sue over requests they dislike.
Utah – Latter-Day Saints Are Overrepresented in Utah’s Legislature, Holding 9 of Every 10 Seats
MSN – Lee Davidson (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/14/2021
Eighty-nine of the 103 state lawmakers in Utah are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church members also hold all the state’s congressional seats and statewide political offices, such as governor. “That Mormon dominance is the most important fact about Utah politics, and it determines political outcomes …,” said retired journalist Rod Decker, who wrote a book on the topic, “Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room.”
West Virginia – With Death of Judge, Governor Will Now Appoint Judge in Line to Hear Residency Case Against Him
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Joe Severino | Published: 1/19/2021
With the death of Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Charles King, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice will now appoint King’s replacement to the bench, and that person will be responsible for presiding over the pending residency case against the governor. The residency case, which claims the governor is violating the state constitution by not living in Charleston, has been pending in the courts for more than two years. State law does not require an appointed Circuit Court judge to recuse themselves from a case with a possible conflict-of-interest. If the appointee does recuse themselves, the case will go to one of the six remaining Kanawha circuit judges.
Wisconsin – New Health Official Isn’t Saying Whether She Will Avoid Conflicts with Former Lobbying Clients
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)) | Published: 1/20/2021
Wisconsin’s incoming top health official is not saying whether she will step away from decisions affecting the health care clients she represented as a lobbyist when she becomes interim health services secretary. Karen Timberlake served as Wisconsin’s health secretary from 2008 to 2011 and in recent years has focused on health care issues as a lobbyist with Michael Best Strategies. She shed those clients recently, but in her new job will be able to make decisions that have profound effects on how they operate and their bottom lines. State law does not require officials to recuse themselves from decisions affecting former clients. The state puts limits on government officials who go on to do lobbying work, but not on lobbyists who become government officials.
Wisconsin – Speaker Vos Puts Limits on Who Can Respond to Tweets Despite First Amendment Ruling Against Him
MSN – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 1/19/2021
Two years after a federal judge found Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had unconstitutionally blocked a liberal group from following him on Twitter, Vos is again restricting who can interact with him on the social media platform. The last time Vos and his colleagues tried to control who could respond to his tweets, it cost taxpayers $200,000 in legal bills.
January 21, 2021 •
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont called a special election on March 2 to fill the seat in Senate District 27. The seat became vacant on January 5 when Rep. Carlo Leone resigned to work with the State Department of Transportation. There […]
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont called a special election on March 2 to fill the seat in Senate District 27.
The seat became vacant on January 5 when Rep. Carlo Leone resigned to work with the State Department of Transportation.
There will be no primary for this election.
January 21, 2021 •
Following the death of Pennsylvania State Sen. Dave Arnold Jr., a special election will be called in Senate District 48. The date of the election will be determined by Senate President, Lt. Governor John Fetterman.
Following the death of Pennsylvania State Sen. Dave Arnold Jr., a special election will be called in Senate District 48.
The date of the election will be determined by Senate President, Lt. Governor John Fetterman.
January 21, 2021 •
On January 20, President Joseph R. Biden signed an Executive Order mandating enhanced ethics rules for executive branch appointees. “Executive Order on Ethic Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel” requires new appointees sign and be contractually committed to the ethics pledge […]
On January 20, President Joseph R. Biden signed an Executive Order mandating enhanced ethics rules for executive branch appointees. “Executive Order on Ethic Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel” requires new appointees sign and be contractually committed to the ethics pledge outlined in the order.
Appointees are prohibited from accepting gifts, with limited exceptions, from registered lobbyists and lobbying organizations for the duration of their service as appointees.
Appointees are also prohibited from participating in matters involving specific parties directly and substantially related to a former employer for two years after the date of appointment. Federal lobbyists and individuals registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act may not seek or accept employment with any executive agency with respect to which he or she lobbied within the two years before the date of the appointment. The order also prohibits certain golden parachutes from former employers and includes a general two-year prohibition on lobbying after leaving a position.
Covered appointees include every full-time, non-career Presidential or Vice-Presidential appointee, non-career appointees in the Senior Executive Service, and appointees to certain positions excepted from the competitive service. It does not include any person appointed as a member of the Senior Foreign Service or solely as a uniformed service commissioned officer.
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 Sentinel) 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
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