October 6, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Montana: “Record Penalties Levied in Dark Money Lawsuit” by John Adams for Montana Free Press Elections South Carolina: “High Court Reinstates S. Carolina Ballot Witness Requirement” by Jessica Gresko for Associated Press News Ethics National: “Public Records Requests […]
Montana: “Record Penalties Levied in Dark Money Lawsuit” by John Adams for Montana Free Press
South Carolina: “High Court Reinstates S. Carolina Ballot Witness Requirement” by Jessica Gresko for Associated Press News
National: “Public Records Requests Fall Victim to the Coronavirus Pandemic” by Nate Jones for Washington Post
National: “In a New Ruling, Judge Says Census Count Must Continue Through October” by Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Sonny Perdue Fuels Ethics Scrutiny as Trump’s Rural Envoy” by Ryan McCrimmon for Politico
Illinois: “Berrios Son-in-Law Indicted in Bribery Scheme Involving Ex-State Rep. Luis Arroyo” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
New York: “Andrew Cuomo Holds Webinar with Firm That Promised His Book to Employees” by Jon Campbell for Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Rhode Island: “Speaker Mattiello Isn’t the One on Trial for Money Laundering Today. But His Reputation Could Be.” by Edward Fitzpatrick for Boston Globe
Virginia: “Virginia Democrats Face Choice Between Idealism and Revenge in Vote on Gerrymandering” by Robert McCartney for Washington Post
October 5, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Ohio: “FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor Can Still Donate to Legislative Candidates During HB6 Repeal Debate, Judge Rules” by Jeremy Pelzer for Cleveland Plain Dealer Elections National: “Trump’s Illness Halts Campaign Just When It Needs an October Boost” by Philip […]
Ohio: “FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor Can Still Donate to Legislative Candidates During HB6 Repeal Debate, Judge Rules” by Jeremy Pelzer for Cleveland Plain Dealer
National: “Trump’s Illness Halts Campaign Just When It Needs an October Boost” by Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump’s Call for Poll-Watching Volunteers Sparks Fear of Chaos and Violence on Election Day” by Amy Gardner, Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
Alaska: “An Initiative Proposes to Overhaul Alaska’s Elections. But Not Everyone Thinks They’re Broken.” by Nat Herz (Alaska Public Media) for Anchorage Daily News
Michigan: “Michigan AG Dana Nessel Files Charges Against GOP Operatives Over Robocalls” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News
Texas: “Gov. Greg Abbott Limits Counties to One Absentee Ballot Drop-Off Location, Bolstering GOP Efforts to Restrict Voting” by Emma Platoff for Texas Tribune
National: “Several Lawmakers Disclose Opaque Financial Records” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call
National: “Biden Transition Elevates Former Facebook Exec as Ethics Arbiter” by Alex Thompson and Theodoric Meyer for Politico
California: “Was City of Industry Tricked into Hiring a Negotiator with a Major Conflict of Interest on Failed $20 Million Solar Project?” by Jason Henry for San Gabriel Valley News
Illinois: “Chicago Aldermen to Consider Rolling Back Part of City’s Elected Official Lobbying Ban” by John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
October 2, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Amy Coney Barrett, a Disciple of Justice Scalia, Is Poised to Push the Supreme Court Further Right Washington Post – Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg, and Ann Marimow | Published: 9/26/2020 The declarations of political war started coming fast […]
Amy Coney Barrett, a Disciple of Justice Scalia, Is Poised to Push the Supreme Court Further Right
Washington Post – Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg, and Ann Marimow | Published: 9/26/2020
The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grassroots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds, and Senate inboxes. If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending, and potentially much more, and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign.
Courts View GOP Fraud Claims Skeptically as Democrats Score Key Legal Victories Over Mail Voting
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2020
A review by The Washington Post of nearly 90 state and federal voting lawsuits found judges have been broadly skeptical as Republicans use claims of voter fraud to argue against ensuring votes cast by mail are counted and protecting the wide distribution of mail ballots in some states. In no case did a judge back President Trump’s view, refuted by experts, that fraud is a problem significant enough to sway a presidential election. Some of the wins have been preliminary. In many cases, judges issued split decisions, granting some of the changes sought by liberal plaintiffs and otherwise maintaining the status quo as favored by Republicans. But The Post found judges appointed by Republicans and Democrats alike have been dubious of GOP arguments that lowering barriers to mail voting could lead to widespread fraud.
Ethics Watchdog Seeks Stronger Powers to Police Rules Covering Public Officials
Irish Times – Jack Horgan-Jones | Published: 9/30/2020
Ireland’s ethics watchdog said she hopes the government will strengthen its powers to police “revolving-door” rules in a review announced in the wake of controversy regarding former minister Michael D’Arcy’s move to the private sector. The new powers would include the right to seize documents and compel testimony from people suspected of breaching the rules, which stipulate a 12-month waiting period before former ministers or senior officials join the private sector. Sherry Perrault, head of ethics and regulation at the Standards in Public Office Commission, said she welcomed the announcement of a review of the post-employment provisions of the Regulation of Lobbying Act.
False G.O.P. Ad Prompts QAnon Death Threats Against a Democratic Congressman
New York Times – Catie Edmonson | Published: 9/30/2020
U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski is facing down death threats from QAnon supporters after the House Republicans’ campaign arm falsely accused him of lobbying to protect sexual predators. QAnon supporters began targeting Malinowski after he led a bipartisan resolution condemning the movement, which spreads a baseless conspiracy theory that President Trump is battling a cabal of Democratic pedophiles. QAnon believers seized on an advertisement released by the campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, that falsely claimed Malinowski, then a lobbyist for Human Rights Watch, worked to block a provision in a 2006 crime bill that would have expanded registration requirements for sex offenders.
Florida Republican Cooperating with Campaign Finance Probe
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 9/24/2020
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is accused of spending at least $50,000 in campaign money on vacations and restaurant and luxury hotel bills. The department’s Public Integrity Section is looking into the expenditures, which includes a 2017 trip to Walt Disney World with her children and grandchildren, rooms at a Ritz-Carlton resort, and a New Year’s Eve meal at a high-end seafood restaurant.
Judges Propose Making Disclosure of Their Personal Details a Crime
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/24/2020
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, has drawn widespread attention for her reported membership in People of Praise, a largely Catholic, charismatic religious group. Judge Barbara Lagoa is a longtime member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Those details, easily found in numerous news stories about the potential Supreme Court nominees, could become illegal for media outlets or anyone else to publish on the internet under a proposal federal judges sent to Congress. Under the suggested legislation, lawmakers would grant judges extraordinary latitude to decide what personal information to exclude from the public eye.
Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance
New York Times – Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire | Published: 9/27/2020
Donald Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750. He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, largely because he reported losing much more money than he made. As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the IRS over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund he claimed and received after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million. The tax returns Trump has fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public.
Michael Flynn Judge Emphasizes He Is Not a ‘Rubber Stamp’ in Justice Dept. Bid to Drop Prosecution
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow | Published: 9/29/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Emmitt Sullivan began scrutinizing the Justice Department’s bid to dismiss the criminal case against Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators. Sullivan emphasized his role is not to serve as a “rubber stamp” when it comes to reviewing Attorney General William Barr’s questionable request to toss the prosecution of the highest-ranking Trump adviser charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The climactic confrontation could help define the limits of executive- and judicial-branch powers and promises to provide legal and political drama before an election in which Flynn’s contentious prosecution has electrified Trump’s supporters and opponents.
Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Maggie Haberman, and Jeremy Peters | Published: 9/27/2020
The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grassroots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds, and Senate inboxes. If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending, and potentially much more, and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign.
Ransomware Attacks Take on New Urgency Ahead of Vote
MSN – Nicole Perloth and David Sanger (New York Times) | Published: 9/27/2020
A company that sells software cities and states use to display results on election night was hit by ransomware, the latest of nearly a thousand such attacks over the past year against small towns, big cities, and the contractors who run their voting systems. Many of the attacks are conducted by Russian criminal groups, some with shady ties to President Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services. While Tyler Technologies does not tally votes, it is used by election officials to aggregate and report them in at least 20 places around the country, making it exactly the kind of soft target the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and United States Cyber Command worry could be struck by anyone trying to sow chaos and uncertainty on election night.
Some Democrats Worry Millions Flowing from Super PACs Prioritize White Swing Voters Over Minorities
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 9/25/2020
Some Democratic strategists are raising the alarm about the millions of dollars being spent by super PACs in support of Joe Biden, saying too much is being spent on White swing voters while not enough is being devoted to driving up turnout among voters of color. The complaints are perennial, but they carry new resonance this year, as Biden has struggled to inspire enthusiasm among young Black voters and Latinos. The Democratic concerns come a more than $150 million has already been spent by the main super PACs supporting Biden, some of which have made it part of their strategy to win back supporters of former President Barack Obama who pivoted in 2016 to Trump.
Trump Incessantly Interrupts and Insults Biden as They Spar in Acrimonious First Debate
Washington Post – Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Annie Linskey | Published: 9/30/2020
The presidential campaign devolved into chaos and acrimony as President Trump incessantly interrupted and insulted Democratic nominee Joe Biden while the two sparred over the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court, and race relations in their first debate. The most anticipated event on the fall campaign calendar was an uncontrollable spectacle of badgering and browbeating, of raised voices and hot tempers. Trump;s interjections and jeers, some of them false and made in an apparent effort to fluster Biden, landed with such ferocity that moderator Chris Wallace pleaded multiple times with the president to follow the agreed-upon debate rules.
Trump’s Debts and Foreign Deals Pose Security Risks, Former Intelligence Officials Say
MSN – Greg Miller and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2020
Former intelligence officials and security experts said revelations about President Trump’s tax records raise profound questions about whether he should be trusted to safeguard U.S. secrets and interests. The records show Trump has continued to make money off foreign investments and projects while in office; foreign officials have spent lavishly at his Washington, D.C. hotel and other properties; and despite this revenue he is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt with massive payments coming due. Trump faces the need for a substantial infusion of cash in the coming years to avert potential financial crisis. As a result, officials and experts said Trump has made himself vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments aware of his predicament and put himself in a position in which his financial interests and the nation’s priorities could be in conflict.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Abruptly Ousts Top Political Consultant Scott Reed, Alleging Leaks
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger | Published: 9/29/2020
Scott Reed, the veteran Republican political consultant, was fired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the organization’s political director amid allegations he leaked confidential information. Reed helped pilot the chamber’s well-funded congressional election strategy for more than a decade. The chamber’s spending on congressional races has for years eclipsed those of other business trade associations. In addition to donations to candidates, the chamber has a national grassroots organizing effort engaging local business leaders.
When Your Job Is to Make Sure Nov. 3 Isn’t a Disaster
New York Times – Dionne Searcey | Published: 9/30/2020
Secretaries of state, who serve as the top elections officials in most states in what is usually a partisan elected position, are in charge of managing a chaotic, disinformation-prone, pandemic-plagued presidential vote that none of them envisioned when they took office. That a sitting president has become the chief sower of distrust in the election process has added new levels of exasperation for the officials whose days have already been spent rushing from top-secret briefings on thwarting Russian and Chinese disinformation campaigns to making sure enough hand sanitizer is available at hundreds of polling places.
Women Rise on K Street – Slowly
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 9/28/2020
Lobbying firms and corporate government relations offices with strong female representation have existed over time, though they are rare. Today, more women are rising in the ranks or opening their own shops to slowly balance the playing field. Lobbying is a typical next step for lawmakers after leaving Congress. But men dominate the pool of former members who have moved to K Street. Of The Hill’s top lobbyists of 2019 list, about one-third of the corporate lobbyists recognized are women.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Mining Executive Resigns a Day After Being Caught on Tape Boasting of His Ties to GOP Politicians
Washington Post – Juliet Eilperin | Published: 9/25/2020
Mining executive Tom Collier, who boasted in secretly taped conversations he had leveraged his ties to Republican officials to advance a controversial project in Alaska, resigned. Collier, chief executive officer of the Pebble Limited Partnership, offered his resignation a day after the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released recordings of Zoom calls in which he talked of currying favor with the White House and Alaska lawmakers to win federal approval for a massive gold and copper mine. Speaking to EIA investigators, who were posing as possible investors in the project, he touted his effort to funnel money to Republican politicians in Alaska and defeat those who sided with Democrats against the mine.
Arizona – Court Reopens Door to ‘Dark Money’ in Arizona Political Races
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 9/29/2020
The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled the state Legislature was within its rights to decide that any group the IRS has classified as non-profit does not have to disclose its donors, even if it uses the money to finance independent expenditures to elect or defeat candidates. That change overturned the ability of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to determine whether the group was really a charity or only a thinly disguised PAC, which disclose donors. The ruling also allows political parties to spend unlimited amounts on behalf of their candidates without disclosure, among other provisions.
California – California NAACP President Aids Corporate Prop Campaigns – Collects $1.2 Million and Counting
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 9/25/2020
As leader of the California NAACP, Alice Huffman has weighed in with positions in the ballot handbook critics say run counter to the historic organization’s mission to advance racial equality. What the guide does not tell voters is Huffman’s political consulting firm has been paid more than $1.2 million so far this year by ballot measure campaigns she or the group has endorsed. Huffman’s dual roles as both a paid campaign consultant and leader of a civil rights group amount to an unusual, but legal, arrangement. Huffman’s approach – making money from the campaigns that also wind up with an NAACP seal of approval – is stirring controversy in some Black communities. Critics say it appears the endorsement of the renowned organization is essentially up for sale.
California – Porter Ranch Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in LA City Hall Bribery Scheme
Los Angeles Daily News – City News Service | Published: 9/30/2020
Lobbyist and former Los Angeles City Hall official Morrie Goldman pleaded guilty to conspiring with now-suspended Councilperson Jose Huizar in a bribery scheme. Goldman was a lobbyist for a company which had a pending development project in the city’s Arts District. He and others established two PACs, one of which purportedly supported a variety of causes but actually was created to primarily benefit the city council campaign of a relative of Huizar’s who was planning to run for his council seat. Goldman admitted he agreed with Huizar and an executive at the company that the developer would contribute $50,000 to a PAC established to support the relative’s campaign. In exchange, Huizar would vote against a union appeal of the company’s project in the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which he chaired at the time.
Florida – Felon Voting: Forcing fees to be paid not an issue for some wealthy felons
Palm Beach Post – John Pacenti | Published: 9/29/2020
Republicans have called for a criminal investigation into vote-buying after a $16 million contribution from New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to pay legal financial obligations of felons. The state indicated it does not have the wherewithal to verify felons who register have actually paid their obligations by the general election on November 3. While a federal judge in Tallahassee found Gov. Ron DeSantis’ financial requirement for felons was unconstitutional, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the governor, saying they were part of completing any prison sentence. “This disproportionately impacts the poor and keeps them disenfranchised, but if you are wealthy, you re-enfranchised,” said Michael Barfield, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
Florida – JEA Bidder Florida Power and Light Discussed Donating to Charities Led by City Council Members
Florida Times Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 9/29/2020
A month after JEA announced last July it would soon be for sale, Florida Power and Light (FPL) executives held a meeting with the lobbyists helping with the politics of the company’s effort to buy the city-owned utility. Among the assignments the lobbyists received at the meeting: find charities with close ties to Jacksonville City Council members, who would have to vote on any deal to sell JEA. FPL’s game plan included a “charitable giving” component, according to documents obtained by a council committee investigating the failed sale. The documents provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how FPL planned to use its financial muscle to strengthen its bid to buy JEA and win community support by financially supporting high-profile events, educational institutions, and nonprofits tied to public officials.
Georgia – Choudhary Sentenced to Jail for Bribing Atlanta Official to Win Airport Contract
Rome News-Tribune – Everett Catts | Published: 9/29/2020
As part of the federal government’s corruption investigation of Atlanta, a businessperson was sentenced to nearly two years in prison for bribing a city official to secure a contract at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Hayat Choudhary, chief executive officer of Atlanta Airport Shuttle Services, paid $20,000 in cash to a Department of Procurement official to secure a contract at the airport.
Illinois – 3 Ethics Board Exits Later, Cook County Commissioners Unveil First Draft of Ethics Code Reforms
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 9/24/2020
After a nine-month lag in the Cook County ethics board’s plan to revise the ethics ordinance, as well as three member exits, the Board of Commissioners unveiled a bundle of proposed reforms that mostly won the approval of two ousted ethics board chairpersons. The changes are based on revisions the ethics board voted in favor of in January despite objection from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office that more time was needed to examine the language. Since then, two members reluctantly left after Preckwinkle opted not to reappoint them, and a third resigned in protest.
Illinois – Former ComEd VP Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Feds in Bribery Case Orbiting House Speaker Michael Madigan
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/29/2020
Fidel Marquez, the former senior vice president of governmental affairs at Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), pleaded guilty to one count of bribery conspiracy, the first criminal conviction in an ongoing corruption investigation in Illinois. ComEd has been charged with bribery and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. It will pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with investigators in exchange for the charges being dropped in three years. The plea agreement says Marquez conspired with others to solicit jobs, contracts, and monetary payments for House Speaker Michael Madigan and his associates to influence legislation beneficial to ComEd.
Illinois – Legislative Hearings into Madigan Reveal New Details About the ComEd Bribery Scheme
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold | Published: 9/29/2020
Lawyers representing Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) told a legislative panel how the utility repeatedly engaged in bribery to influence Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. The committee weighing potential misconduct charges against the speaker heard the most public airing so far about the lengths ComEd went to curry favor with Madigan, including revelations the scheme was wider than previously disclosed. The company has admitted to showering no-work contracts on members of Madigan’s political team and even putting one ally on the company’s board to illegally bolster its standing with the speaker.
Illinois – Top Lightfoot Adviser on Intergovernmental Affairs to Marry Chicag Alderman, Raising Ethical Concerns from City Staff
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt and John Byrne | Published: 9/26/2020
A top legislative adviser to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is marrying Ald. Jim Gardiner, raising concerns from some of the mayor’s staff about the ethical implications of the relationship. Lightfoot’s senior adviser for legislative counsel and government affairs, Samantha Fields, has been dating Gardiner for months and they plan to get married in October. Chicago Board of Ethics Executive Director Steve Berlin said city employees and officials are only prohibited from supervising a spouse.
Indiana – Indiana Casino Executive Charged in Illegal Campaign Scheme
Associated Press News – John Davies | Published: 9/29/2020
A top executive of an Indiana casino company that is building a $400 million casino in Gary was indicted on federal charges of illegally funneling campaign contributions to a former state lawmaker’s unsuccessful congressional campaign. The indictment charges Spectacle Entertainment vice president John Keeler and former Indiana Sen. Brent Waltz with taking part in a scheme to direct more than $25,000 in illegal corporate contributions through straw donors to Waltz’s 2016 campaign.
Maryland – HUD Inspectors Find Ben Carson’s Actions Didn’t Benefit Son in Baltimore Deals, but Had the ‘Appearance’ of Ethical Issues
Baltimore Sun – Meredith Cohen | Published: 9/29/2020
The inspector general’s office for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs ((HUD) released an investigative report that found no evidence HUD Secretary Ben Carson used his position to benefit his son’s business interests in Baltimore, but he “could have done more to avoid the appearance that he was not complying with federal ethics regulations.” The investigation stems largely from a 2017 “listening tour” in the city by Carson, a former neurosurgeon at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The report said the inspector general’s office received “multiple complaints” the HUD secretary allowed his son to invite companies and individuals to participate in the tour to advance his own financial interests.
Massachusetts – Former Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg Returns to Beacon Hill as Lobbyist
MSN – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 9/24/2020
When Stanley Rosenberg left Beacon Hill in the spring of 2018 under less than desirable circumstances, no one could say for sure if or when he might resurface after a career spent in public service. But Rosenberg, who once ascended the political platform in Massachusetts to become the first openly gay and Jewish president of the Senate, is back, and in a position that he never imagined for himself. He is a lobbyist. He resigned more than two years ago after an investigation into the activities of his husband, Bryon Hefner, including allegations he sexually assaulted four men. While the Ethics Committee did not find Rosenberg violated any Senate rules or allowed Hefner to influence Senate business, the committee recommended barring Rosenberg from any leadership positions or committee chairs for one term.
Missouri – Voters See ‘Unfair’ Ballot Language on Cleaner Missouri in Two Counties
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 9/24/2020
Voters in at least two Missouri counties got absentee ballots recently with a key error. Clerks in Buchanan and Vernon counties had ballots with the wrong language describing Amendment 3, which asks voters to reverse changes they made to the state’s redistricting process two years ago. Two courts threw out language written by the Legislature as unfair and rewrote it in August. But Buchanan County Clerk Mary Baack-Garvey and Vernon County Clerk Mike Buehler said their ballots were mistakenly printed with the old language, prompting them to request reprinting with the correct language.
New York – Appeals Court Judges Skeptical of Trump Effort to Block Release of Financial Info
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 9/25/2020
President Trump’s drive to block Manhattan prosecutors from accessing a large swath of his tax and financial records got a chilly reception from a federal appeals court. Three judges on the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals repeatedly questioned Trump attorney William Consovoy’s claim that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s grand jury subpoena for Trump’s records was “overbroad” and issued in retaliation for the Trump organization’s resistance to an earlier demand for Trump’s tax returns. Rather, they said, it was Consovoy who seemed to be misconstruing long-settled understandings about how grand jury subpoenas and investigations work.
New York – City Council Ethics Committee Moves to Expel Bronx Councilmember Andy King
Gothamist – David Cruz | Published: 9/29/2020
The New York City Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics took the rare step of recommending expelling Councilperson Andy King following another lengthy investigation into allegations of inappropriate comments, taking bribes, and skirting a $15,000 fine from another prior investigation. The committee determined King asked for a $2,000 kickback from a staffer, and ignored a previously issued $15,000 penalty for a 2019 inquiry that resulted in a 30-day suspension and an office monitor. He has yet to pay for the fine despite being offered a payment plan. The committee also substantiated a harassment claim against King, which alleged he made inappropriate comments to a female staffer in September 2017.
Ohio – Ohio Republican Party Pulls Attack Ad After Realizing It Attacked the Wrong Person
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/28/2020
The Ohio Republican Party pulled an ad that falsely attacked state Rep. Phil Robinson for being sued over an unpaid debt from 1999. Along with a picture of Robinson, the ad read, “Phil Robinson can’t manage his own finances …. Can we trust him with ours?” It included a link to a website that has since been taken down. But the site showed information about a 1999 case filed in Cleveland Municipal Court against someone named Phil Robinson. It was a different Phil Robinson.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Republicans Ask Supreme Court to Stop Voting Accommodations
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 9/28/2020
Pennsylvania’s Republican legislative leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a decision by the state’s high court to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in Democrats’ favor on a number of mail-voting rules: permitting voters to turn in ballots via drop box in addition to using the U.S. Postal Service; allowing ballots to be returned up to three days after Election Day; and blocking a Republican effort to allow partisan poll watchers to be stationed in counties where they do not live.
Rhode Island – Judge Upholds R.I. Campaign Finance Law; Conservative Groups Appeal
Providence Journal – Patrick Anderson | Published: 9/29/2020
A federal judge rejected a bid to invalidate a portion of Rhode Island’s campaign finance laws, but conservative groups seeking to launch anonymous political campaigns have filed an appeal. U.S. District Court Judge Mary McElroy dismissed a lawsuit that argued the state’s disclosure laws for independent campaign expenditures are unconstitutional. Under Rhode Island law, any person or organization spending $1,000 or more to benefit a candidate or an outcome in a ballot referendum must disclose it to the Board of Elections, even if they are not coordinated with a campaign. The plaintiffs argued that donors, businesses, and organizations should be afforded a “safe space” to engage in political speech without fear their actions will face pushback, as long as it is not coordinated with individual candidates.
Tennessee – Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Violated Open Meetings Act with Secret Vote
The Tennessean – Mariah Timms | Published: 9/25/2020
A judge ruled the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance violated open meetings law when it voted by email to reduce a state lawmaker’s fines in April. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle rejected the state’s argument the vote was inconsequential and therefore unnecessary to be taken in public. The secret vote involved a settlement of penalties that could have kept Rep. Joe Towns from being eligible to run for office on the eve of the eligibility deadline. Towns faced more than $66,000 in penalties owed to the registry and the state Ethics Commission for failing to file certain documents.
Washington – Freed Agrees to Civil Penalty to Resolve Campaign Finance, Reporting Violations
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 9/25/2020
A former Republican gubernatorial candidate and current write-in candidate for lieutenant governor agreed to a civil penalty with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Joshua Freed’s 2020 gubernatorial campaign repaid him at least $450,000 of a $500,000 loan he made to the campaign, which violated a $6,000 repayment limit. He agreed to a $50,000 penalty, with half of it suspended as long as he does not have further violations.
West Virginia – Legislators Raise Concerns Over Lack of Oversight on Governor’s Grant Awards
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Phil Kabler | Published: 9/30/2020
Legislative leadership is abdicating its appropriations powers by allowing West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to award more than $20 million to date in CARES Act Small Business Grants without oversight, said Mick Bates, minority chairperson of the House Finance Committee. Since July, Justice has handed out more than 4,000 grants, most for $5,000, but some $2,000 grants to sole proprietors, out of $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act pandemic relief funds the state received. Some of those grants have drawn scrutiny, including $5,000 grants Justice awarded to VIP Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club in Martinsburg, and to legislative lobbyist Larry Puccio, who clientele includes Justice’s Greenbrier resort.
Wisconsin – Appellate Court Halts Wisconsin Ballot-Counting Extension
Associated Press News – Todd Richmond | Published: 9/27/2020
A federal appeals court temporarily halted a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin’s presidential election, a momentary victory for Republicans and President Trump in the key battleground state. As it stands, ballots will now be due by eight p.m. on Election Day. A lower court judge had sided with Democrats and their allies to extend the deadline until November 9. Democrats sought more time to help deal with an expected historic high number of absentee ballots.
October 1, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Arizona: “Court Reopens Door to ‘Dark Money’ in Arizona Political Races” by Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) for Arizona Daily Star Rhode Island: “Judge Upholds R.I. Campaign Finance Law; Conservative Groups Appeal” by Patrick Anderson for Providence Journal […]
Arizona: “Court Reopens Door to ‘Dark Money’ in Arizona Political Races” by Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) for Arizona Daily Star
Rhode Island: “Judge Upholds R.I. Campaign Finance Law; Conservative Groups Appeal” by Patrick Anderson for Providence Journal
Alaska: “Alaska Mining Executive Resigns a Day After Being Caught on Tape Boasting of His Ties to GOP Politicians” by Juliet Eilperin for Washington Post
California: “Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in LA City Hall Bribery Case” by City News Service for MyNewsLA.com
Georgia: “Choudhary Sentenced to Jail for Bribing Atlanta Official to Win Airport Contract” by Everett Catts for Rome News-Tribune
Maryland: “HUD Inspectors Find Ben Carson’s Actions Didn’t Benefit Son in Baltimore Deals, but Had the ‘Appearance’ of Ethical Issues” by Meredith Cohen for Baltimore Sun
New York: “City Council Ethics Committee Moves to Expel Bronx Councilmember Andy King” by David Cruz for Gothamist
Europe: “Ethics Watchdog Seeks Stronger Powers to Police Rules Covering Public Officials” by Jack Horgan-Jones for Irish Times
National: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce Abruptly Ousts Top Political Consultant Scott Reed, Alleging Leaks” by Tom Hamburger for Washington Post
Illinois: “Former ComEd VP Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Feds in Bribery Case Orbiting House Speaker Michael Madigan” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
September 30, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Indiana: “Indiana Casino Executive Charged in Illegal Campaign Scheme” by John Davies for Associated Press News Elections National: “Trump Incessantly Interrupts and Insults Biden as They Spar in Acrimonious First Debate” by Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Annie […]
Indiana: “Indiana Casino Executive Charged in Illegal Campaign Scheme” by John Davies for Associated Press News
National: “Trump Incessantly Interrupts and Insults Biden as They Spar in Acrimonious First Debate” by Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Annie Linskey for Washington Post
National: “Courts View GOP Fraud Claims Skeptically as Democrats Score Key Legal Victories Over Mail Voting” by Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Ransomware Attacks Take on New Urgency Ahead of Vote” by Nicole Perlroth and David Sanger (New York Times) for MSN
Florida: “Felon Voting: Forcing fees to be paid not an issue for some wealthy felons” by John Pacenti for Palm Beach Post
Ohio: “Ohio Republican Party Pulls Attack Ad After Realizing It Attacked the Wrong Person” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer
National: “Trump’s Debts and Foreign Deals Pose Security Risks, Former Intelligence Officials Say” by Greg Miller and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Michael Flynn Judge Emphasizes He Is Not a ‘Rubber Stamp’ in Justice Dept. Bid to Drop Prosecution” by Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow for Washington Post
Florida: “JEA Bidder Florida Power and Light Discussed Donating to Charities Led by City Council Members” by Christopher Hong for Florida Times Union
Massachusetts: “Former Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg Returns to Beacon Hill as Lobbyist” by Matt Murphy (State House News Service) for MSN
September 29, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Some Democrats Worry Millions Flowing from Super PACs Prioritize White Swing Voters Over Minorities” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post National: “Florida Republican Cooperating with Campaign Finance Probe” by Staff for Associated Press California: “California […]
National: “Some Democrats Worry Millions Flowing from Super PACs Prioritize White Swing Voters Over Minorities” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post
National: “Florida Republican Cooperating with Campaign Finance Probe” by Staff for Associated Press
California: “California NAACP President Aids Corporate Prop Campaigns – Collects $1.2 Million and Counting” by Laurel Rosenhall for CalMatters
Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania Republicans Ask Supreme Court to Stop Voting Accommodations” by Robert Barnes for Washington Post
Wisconsin: “Appellate Court Halts Wisconsin Ballot-Counting Extension” by Todd Richmond for Associated Press News
National: “Judges Propose Making Disclosure of Their Personal Details a Crime” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
Illinois: “Speaker Madigan And Several Former ComEd Lobbyists Decline to Appear Before House Committee” by Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold for WBEZ
New York: “Appeals Court Judges Skeptical of Trump Effort to Block Release of Financial Info” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico
National: “Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash” by Kenneth Vogel, Maggie Haberman, and Jeremy Peters for New York Times
September 28, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Washington: “Freed Agrees to Civil Penalty to Resolve Campaign Finance, Reporting Violations” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune Elections Missouri: “Voters See ‘Unfair’ Ballot Language on Cleaner Missouri in Two Counties” by Austin Huguelet for Springfield News-Leader […]
Washington: “Freed Agrees to Civil Penalty to Resolve Campaign Finance, Reporting Violations” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune
Missouri: “Voters See ‘Unfair’ Ballot Language on Cleaner Missouri in Two Counties” by Austin Huguelet for Springfield News-Leader
National: “Amy Coney Barrett, a Disciple of Justice Scalia, Is Poised to Push the Supreme Court Further Right” by Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg, and Ann Marimow for Washington Post
National: “Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance” by Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire for New York Times
Illinois: “3 Ethics Board Exits Later, Cook County Commissioners Unveil First Draft of Ethics Code Reforms” by Alice Yin for Chicago Tribune
Illinois: “Top Lightfoot Adviser on Intergovernmental Affairs to Marry Chicag Alderman, Raising Ethical Concerns from City Staff” by Gregory Pratt and John Byrne for Chicago Tribune
Tennessee: “Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Violated Open Meetings Act with Secret Vote” by Mariah Timms for The Tennessean
National: “Women Rise on K Street – Slowly” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
Florida: “NextEra Energy’s Failed Attempt to Purchase JEA Highlights Web of Murky Spending, Lobbying” by Daniel Tait for Energy and Policy Institute
September 25, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020 On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with […]
Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal
NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020
On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with Brian Ballard, a well-connected lobbyist serving as vice chair of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Also at the table were the two men who set up the meeting: Mübariz Mansimov, a shipping magnate now in a Turkish jail facing terrorism charges, and Lev Parnas, a colorful businessperson whose backchannel dealings in Ukraine would, two years later, feature prominently in Trump’s impeachment. The meeting, which has never before been disclosed, marked the start of Turkey’s ambitious lobbying of the Trump administration that involved back-channels, Russian-linked oligarchs, and Parnas. The lunch eventually led to multi-million-dollar contracts for Ballard Partners to lobby on behalf of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Campaigns Adjust as Voters Cast Ballots Before Election Day
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 9/17/2020
More voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail or in person before Election Day this year due to concerns about crowding at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic. For campaigns and outside groups, a surge in early voting, by mail or in person, means there is less time to get their messages out to voters. But it also means they need to spend more time on turnout efforts. In past election cycles, the end of summer was the unofficial start of campaign season, when political ads started to blanket the airwaves. But that has not been the case this year.
Chamber to Lay Off a Dozen Employees, Expand Advocacy Efforts Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 9/17/2020
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest spender on federal lobbying, is laying off 12 employees as part of a restructuring that the group’s insiders say will also aim to expand its policy advocacy. Most of the laid-off employees were tied to the operation of the group’s building, across from the White House, or to putting on in-person events. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark said the organization will accelerate efforts to be a leader in virtual events. She also announced Executive Vice President Neil Bradley will oversee a new umbrella group called Strategic Advocacy, with three divisions – government affairs, policy, and political affairs and federal relations.
DeVos Under Investigation for Potentially Violating Hatch Act Because of Fox News Interview
Politico – Daniel Lippman and Michael Stratford | Published: 9/21/2020
The Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) has started investigating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for potentially violating the Hatch Act after she criticized Joe Biden in a Fox News interview and her agency promoted it through official channels. The law prohibits most political activity by federal employees, but the Trump administration has not paid much attention to it, even hosting parts of the Republican National Convention at the White House with multiple Cabinet members giving primetime addresses. At least 12 Trump senior officials violated the Hatch Act, according to the OSC. In most cases, the office decided the violation was minor enough to merit only a warning letter. Only one case, that of former senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, was sent to President Trump for action, and he did not act on it.
How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage
New York Times – Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 9/22/2020
With President Trump trailing Joe Biden in most national and swing-state polls, Republicans are again trying to help third parties that may appeal to Democratic voters and siphon off votes from Biden. This is taking place alongside a broader pattern of disinformation and skepticism by the president and his allies that has sown confusion and undermined confidence in the election. Republican efforts to aid the Green Party are not new. In 2016, a billionaire backer of Trump, Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, provided support to Jill Stein, the Green candidate, according to people with knowledge of the strategy, who said the effort was done with the knowledge of some officials at the Trump campaign and its chairperson at the time, Paul Manafort.
Judges in D.C. Threatened, Harassed After High-Profile, Political Legal Battles
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 9/18/2020
In the last three years, the number of threats tracked by the U.S. Marshals Service has dramatically increased as attacks targeting federal judges and their rulings have proliferated on social media. The animosity directed at judges is particularly persistent in Washington, D.C. with legal battles over President Trump’s financial records and access to secret material from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Deputies recorded about 4,500 “inappropriate” communications or threats directed a judges and other court officials, an increase of 40 percent from fiscal 2016. It is a crime to threaten a federal judge, but not every nasty message or social media post is considered a threat and deputies must balance free speech considerations.
Pelosi Unveils Watergate-Style Anti-Corruption Reforms – Tailored for the Trump Era
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 9/23/2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants unveiled a sweeping anti-corruption package they are billing as a successor to post-Watergate reforms, updated for a potential post-Trump Washington. The measure, a 158-page Democratic wish list that includes curbs on pardons for close associates of the president, a requirement for campaigns to publicly report many foreign contacts, and a requirement for courts to prioritize congressional subpoenas, is House leaders’ version of an antidote to what they see as weaknesses in democratic government exposed by President Trump.
Pentagon Used Taxpayer Money Meant for Masks and Swabs to Make Jet Engine Parts and Body Armor
MSN – Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020
The CARES Act passed by Congress in March granted the Department of Defense $1 billion to both prevent and get ready to respond to the coronavirus. Months after the funding was allocated, Pentagon lawyers concluded the money could be used for defense production, including projects that had little to do with responding to the pandemic, Hundreds of millions of the taxpayer money was utilized to obtain military supplies, such as jet engine parts, body armor, dress uniforms, and other needs. The payments were made even though U.S. health officials think major funding gaps in pandemic response remain.
Republican Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Biden
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/23/2020
An investigation by Senate Republicans into corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, involving Ukraine found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president, closing out an inquiry its leaders had hoped would tarnish the Democratic presidential nominee. The investigation found Hunter Biden had “cashed in” on his father’s name to close lucrative business deals around the world. It also concluded his work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company then mired in a corruption scandal, while the former vice president was directing American policy toward Kyiv had given the appearance of a conflict-of-interest. But a report summing up the findings contained no evidence Joe Biden improperly manipulated American policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Brings New Uncertainty to the Battle Over Voting Rights in 2020
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2020
The vacancy left by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came just over six weeks before the election, a critical point in a campaign already defined by hundreds of lawsuits over voting rules and an outsize role for the courts in determining how ballots are distributed, cast, and counted. As Democrats and voting rights advocates seek to lower barriers to voting during the pandemic, the Supreme Court has largely deferred to local and state officials, showing a reluctance to upend rules close to the election. Legal experts disagree about whether the blizzard of election-related lawsuits this year makes it more or less likely that the Supreme Court could end up playing a role in determining the winner of the presidential race, as it effectively did in 2000.
The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.
New York Times – David Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/22/2020
Four years ago, when Russian intelligence agencies engaged in a systematic attempt to influence the American presidential election, the disinformation they fed voters required some real imagination at the troll farms producing the ads. This year, their task is much easier. They are largely amplifying misleading statements from President Trump, mostly about the dangers of mail-in ballots. That campaign is at the heart of the disinformation efforts that FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Congress was meant “to both sow divisiveness and discord: and “to denigrate” Joe Biden.
Trump Says He Will Move ‘Without Delay’ to Fill Ginsburg’s Supreme Court Seat
Washington Post – Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/19/2020
President Trump said he will nominate a woman to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, opening a ferocious political battle that could transform the nation’s highest court and alter the presidential election. Even as flags were lowered to half-staff and mourners filled the plaza of the Supreme Court where Ginsburg served for 27 years as a liberal icon, the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell contemplated her successor. Trump said he prefers a Senate vote before the election. A Trump replacement for Ginsburg can hardly be overstated in its implications for the court’s docket, the influence of Chief Justice John Roberts and perhaps even the outcome of the election, if what is shaping up to be one of the most contentious presidential elections in history ends up before the justices.
Trump’s Businesses Charged Secret Service More Than $1.1 Million, Including for Rooms in Club Shuttered for Pandemic
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/17/2020
President Trump’s properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office, including for room rentals at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club this spring while it was closed for the coronavirus pandemic, new documents show. The receipts and invoices shed new light on the unprecedented relationship Trump has with his own government, where Trump’s presidential travel brings a stream of public money to the private businesses the president still owns. When Trump and his family members visit Trump properties, aides and Secret Service agents follow. When those federal employees rent rooms, Trump’s businesses get the revenue. Taxpayers foot the bill.
US Judge Blocks Postal Service Changes That Slowed Mail
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 9/18/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian blocked Postal Service changes that have slowed mail nationwide, calling them “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” before the November election. He said he was issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states that sued the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The states challenged the Postal Service’s so-called leave behind policy, where trucks have been leaving postal facilities on time regardless of whether there is more mail to load. They also sought to force the Postal Service to treat election mail as first-class mail. Many more voters are expected to vote by mail this November because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Watchdog Group Calls on FEC to Investigate Donations to Trump and Others by Relatives and Associates of Louis DeJoy
Washington Post – Aaron Davis | Published: 9/18/2020
A pattern of campaign contributions by former employees and family members of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy indicates a possible effort to reimburse his associates for donations as recently as 2018, according to an FEC complaint. It has been reported DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said an analysis of more recent contributions shows a portion of the employees who gave in clusters at New Breed continued to do so after the company was acquired by XPO Logistics, where DeJoy served as an executive. Donations among some XPO employees continued in similar or identical amounts, on the same days, and were made to the same candidates, the CLC found.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case
Montgomery Advertiser – Brad Harper | Published: 9/21/2020
Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette was sentenced to 12 months of probation and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine but avoided jail time for misusing campaign finance funds. State prosecutors said Burkette failed to deposit $3,625 in campaign donations between April 2015 and January 2016, when he was running for Montgomery City Council, and instead deposited them into his personal bank account. The crime carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. Burkette resigned from the Senate as part of a plea deal. In turn, the state agreed not to pursue additional charges.
Alaska – In Secret Tapes, Mine Executives Detail Their Sway Over leaders from Juneau to the White House
MSN – Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020
Two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine in Alaska boasted about their influence over public officials in the state and Washington, D.C. in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group. It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and decimate its salmon fishery. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found in July the project would have “no measurable effect” on the area’s fish populations, but informed Pebble Limited Partnership it had to do more to show how it would offset the damage caused by the operation. Even as the executives jump through several regulatory hoops, they focused on wooing Republican politicians. In the taped conversations, they detailed their plan to manage all the decision-makers.
California – California Prison Guard Union Places Bull’s-Eye on Black Lawmaker’s Photo in Political Ad
Los Angeles Times – Anita Chabria | Published: 9/17/2020
The union representing California prison guards posted pictures and video online of a new political ad announcing its intent to “target” state Assemblyperson Reggie Jones-Sawyer, obscuring the Black lawmaker’s face with a bull’s-eye and drawing criticism the image amounted to a threat. The incident highlights mounting acrimony in Los Angeles and across the country between law enforcement and those who seek police reforms, and it comes days after two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were ambushed by a gunman, leading Sheriff Alex Villanueva to warn that “words have consequences.”
California – CalPERS Board Supportive of Move to Restrict Investments by Top Staff
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 9/17/2020
California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) board members expressed support for a proposal to limit personal investments by future chief investment officers. The board weighed in on a plan that would force its chief investment officers to divest from some or all of their investments or place them in a blind trust as a condition of employment. They expect to consider a specific proposal from the system’s staff in November. The proposal follows the sudden departure of former Chief Investment Officer Ben Meng, who was the subject of an ethics complaint after approving a $1 billion CalPERS investment with a firm in which he held stock. The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating a complaint related to Meng’s investments.
California – LA City Council Aims to Increase Accountability of Development Process
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – City News Service | Published: 9/23/2020
A Los Angeles City Council committee advanced several proposals intended to create more oversight and transparency of city development projects in response to recent corruption cases. One of the proposals the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved was to develop policies that would expand the requirements for when council members have a conflict-of-interest and must exclude themselves from voting on certain projects. These standards would be the same ones used by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority. The committee also approved a motion for full council consideration to seek ways to require any meetings between developers and individual council members be disclosed if they are held outside of a public forum.
California – San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/21/2020
San Bernardino intends to follow legislation that on January 1 sets a $4,700 limit on how much an individual can give a candidate per election. There presently are no restrictions on such contributions. City staffers had reported Assembly Bill 571 would institute a yearly cap on campaign donations. A majority of the city council supported the bill’s guidelines, but Mayor John Valdivia vetoed the move. After further review, city staffers reported the $4,700 limit is per election, not per year.
Florida – Florida AG Calls for Criminal Inquiry into Bloomberg’s $16M Felon Voter Donation
Politico – Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout | Published: 9/23/2020
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate “potential violations of election laws” over Michael Bloomberg’s decision to help pay felons’ fines, fees, and restitution to be eligible to vote in the state. The move comes two weeks before Florida’s voter registration deadline and 12 days after a federal appeals court upheld a restrictive new state law that requires former felons to clear court debts before registering to vote. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition set up a fund to help people pay their court debts. Bloomberg recently announced he helped the group raise $16 million. State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked the FEC to investigate whether Bloomberg is “breaking the law by giving direct cash for voters.”
Illinois – Alderman Lavished with Cash, Luxury Trips by Program for Caribbean Med Students
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak | Published: 9/18/2020
A Chicago doctor is suing his business partner, Theresa Shaw, accusing her of “looting” more than $3.7 million from their business to finance an “extravagant lifestyle” and to lavish Ald. George Cardenas with luxurious trips, an expensive watch, and a monthly stipend for consulting services. Cardenas had been hired to drum up business for Omni Medical Student Training, which places students from Caribbean medical schools in residency programs with Chicago hospitals. The alderman was not very successful in getting hospitals to sign up, though, according to the suit. City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson questioned Siaw earlier this year as part of an investigation into Cardenas’ campaign finances.
Illinois – Cook County Board of Ethics Appoints New Chair After Previous Two Ousted Amid Earlier Shakeups
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 9/17/2020
The board in charge of enforcing Cook County’s ethics ordinance ushered in a new chairperson, the third to hold the position this year after a series of recent shake-ups. Thomas Szromba, currently the longest serving of four members seated on the Cook County Ethics Board, was voted in without opposition. Szromba’s appointment came during the board’s first meeting since the pandemic and after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle ousted the two previous chairs, Margaret Daley and Juliet Sorensen. Daley has said she wondered whether their attempts to roll out proposed reforms to the ethics ordinance irked Preckwinkle.
Illinois – CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How a utility watchdog got millions from the utilities it watches
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/21/2020
After winning Illinois lawmakers’ support for a multibillion-dollar piece of legislation in 2016, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) decided to celebrate with a pair of invitation-only events. At the second, more exclusive soiree, ComEd’s retiring top lobbyist was being toasted for getting the bill passed and for a long career in and around state government. The guest list included executives from ComEd. There were also company lobbyists and House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose son was also invited. But there was another invitee who stood out. David Kolata and the organization he has led for 15 years, the Citizens Utility Board, are supposed to be thorns in the side of ComEd. But in 2016, Kolata’s consumer advocacy group instead sided with the power companies, enabling them to boost ratepayers’ electricity bills by billions of dollars over a decade to subsidize underperforming nuclear plants.
Illinois – Former State Sen. Terry Link Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion Charge in Federal Court
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/16/2020
Former state Sen. Terry Link to pleaded guilty to a federal count of filing a false tax return, marking the latest conviction in a series of wide-ranging investigations against Illinois Democratic political leaders. While the felony conviction capped a swift fall from grace for Link, his case is far not over. It was reported Link agreed to wear a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo in exchange for what Link hopes will be leniency at sentencing. Link’s plea agreement said he listed his 2016 income as $264,450 when in fact it was at least $358,000. It is unclear where Link’s income came from that year. Link and other lawmakers went much of that year without pay because then-state Comptroller Leslie Munger withheld their salaries amid the long-running budget standoff.
Kentucky – Kentucky GOP Lawmaker Indicted on Assault, Accused of Strangling Woman with Ethernet Cable
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 9/21/2020
As a freshman legislator, Kentucky Rep. Robert Goforth joined his colleagues to pass a bill that would make it easier to prosecute strangulation. That same bill, now a state law after it passed at the urging of domestic violence advocates, became a factor in his own case. A grand jury indicted Goforth, a former candidate for governor, on one count of first-degree strangulation and one count of assault. Earlier this year, a woman said Goforth strangled her with an ethernet cable to the point where she had trouble breathing and threatened to “hog tie” her, according to a police report.
Louisiana – In Parting Shot, Resigning New Orleans IG Says Audubon Institute Possibly Made Unlawful Deals
Nola.com – Jessica Williams | Published: 9/18/2020
In one of the last reports of his career in New Orleans, Inspector General Derry Harper rapped the private Audubon Nature Institute for spending almost $1 million over two recent years in deals he said might be unlawful. Harper said the institute spent $416,000 on federal lobbying contracts, deals that could violate rules that he said bar agencies from using public dollars to influence politicians. Another $579,570 the institute paid to employees in commissions on top of their regular salaries could run afoul of state rules meant to prevent conflicts-of-interest.
Maryland – Baltimore Could End Contract with Pugh-Connected Financier After IG Details Failure to Disclose Donations to Her
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 9/22/2020
Baltimore’s top lawyer will recommend the city consider ending its contract with Grant Capital Management after the city’s inspector general found troubling omissions in the company’s bid for a lucrative contract regarding founder J.P. Grant’s donations to former Mayor Catherine Pugh. The investigation was spurred by revelations about Grant’s role in Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal. Grant wrote Pugh checks for $170,000, according to federal prosecutors, despite knowing she was illegally funneling the funds into her campaign and toward buying a bigger house. Grant Capital Management has an agreement to help city agencies pay for large contracts. The company quickly provides money upfront to pay for capital projects, with the city paying it back with interest over time.
Minnesota – Preparing Minnesotans of Color to Wield More Power at the Capitol
MPR News – Melissa Townsend | Published: 9/22/2020
Aarcia Coleman was part of a surge in the number of Minnesotans of color running for elected office in August. Although she lost the primary, she credits a program with helping her prepare for her foray into politics and igniting a passion for influencing policy. Coleman graduated from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s Community Equity Program, a free, nine-month program specifically for Black, Native American people, and people of color to get to know the lay of the land at the Capitol. Her cohort spent nearly a year getting to know their way around the buildings, the underground tunnel system, the policymaking protocols, and the culture of the place. By the end of the program, Coleman, who was seeking to be the first Black woman elected to the state Senate in its history, said she felt comfortable being in those halls of power.
Mississippi – Gov. Tate Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Has Dissolved. Where Did the Money Go?
Jacson Clarion-Ledger – Giacomo Bologna | Published: 9/23/2020
Less than a year after soliciting thousands of dollars from secret donors, the nonprofit that paid for the inauguration of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has dissolved and it is unclear where its funds went. For All Mississippi’s filing documents show it was created for a political purpose – the 2020 inauguration of Reeves and his transition to office – but nonprofits are shielded from the normal disclosure laws for political organizations. There is no contribution cap, public disclosure of donors, and no public accounting of how the money was spent.
New Jersey – Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 9/21/2020
A group that sent out political advertisements targeting several progressive Democrats in the run-up to the June primary election has been ordered to disclose its donors. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver recently directed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico to make the disclosure within 10 days or face possible civil penalties. The group reported spending more than $134,000 on campaign mailers, radio ads, and phone calls in support of five incumbent Democratic senators, with some of that money also being spent on mailers that targeted four of their primary election opponents. But the Council for a Competitive New Mexico did not disclose its funding sources for the campaign-related expenditures, which is required in most cases under state law.
New York – Judge: Eric Trump must give NY deposition before election
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak | Published: 9/23/2020
President Trump’s son Eric has until October 7 to speak to New York investigators probing his family’s business practices, a judge ruled rejecting his lawyers’ contention that his “extreme travel schedule” on the campaign trail warranted a delay until after the November election. State Judge Arthur Engoron said Eric Trump, an executive at the family’s Trump Organization, had no legal basis to postpone a subpoena seeking his deposition testimony under oath, concluding that neither the probe nor the court were “bound by the timelines of the national election.”
New York – New York Ethics’ Panel Renews Search for a Leader
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/18/2020
After 15 months without an executive director, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) re-posted the job listing for the position, a sign the marathon search for a new top staffer is not yet close to a finish. In March, six JCOPE members called on the panel’s chairperson, Michael Rozen, to conduct a search for an “independent” executive director amid longstanding criticism the commission’s leadership and operations have been too closely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature. The last executive director, Seth Agata, was before his appointment a counsel to Cuomo.
New York – Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 9/21/2020
The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has been locked in a legal battle with President Trump over obtaining his tax returns, suggested for the first time in a court filing that it had grounds to investigate him and his businesses for tax fraud. The filing by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., offered rare insight into the office’s investigation of the president and his business dealings, which began more than two years ago. The inquiry has been stalled by the fight over a subpoena the office issued for eight years of Trump’s tax returns.
Ohio – Dems Blast Bogus FirstEnergy PAC Campaign Report
Youngstown Business Journal – Staff | Published: 9/19/2020
FirstEnergy’s PAC wrote $158,000 worth of checks to Ohio politicians in the weeks before an FBI corruption probe was disclosed. But those checks were never sent, the company said. The contributions were detailed on an August 20 campaign finance report, but several politicians said they had no record of receiving the money. FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young said donations were made and recorded but were held “out of an abundance of caution” after the announcement of the investigation into Larry Householder and others. She said the checks are recorded in the PAC’s report once they are put into the accounting system to generate a check. Young said the PAC was catching up “after several months of limited contributions due to the lack of fundraising events during the coronavirus shutdown.”
Pennsylvania – Alarm Grows Over ‘Naked Ballot’ Ruling in Pennsylvania
The Hill – Max Greenwood | Published: 9/22/2020
Pennsylvania election officials and voting rights advocates are sounding the alarm over a state Supreme Court ruling ordering officials to toss out “naked ballots,” warning the decision could cause widespread voter disenfranchisement and a legal controversy following the November elections. The ruling on so-called naked ballots – mail ballots returned to election offices without an inner secrecy envelope – carries potentially sweeping electoral ramifications for a state that President Trump won in 2016 by only 44,000 votes and that Joe Biden now sees as a critical part of his path to the White House.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Green Party Will Not Appear on State’s 2020 General Election Ballot
ABC News – Alicia Weirsema | Published: 9/17/2020
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the Green Party presidential ticket would not be included on the state’s general election ballot this year. The move comes three days after the Wisconsin Supreme Court similarly decided Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, would not be on their state’s ballot. Hawkins and Walker were replacing another set of Green Party candidates on the ticket, but the submitted documents for the initial candidates’ filing were inadequate which ultimately barred those candidates, and their replacements, from appearing on the ballot. The ruling clears the way for Pennsylvania officials to begin certifying ballots, which they previously were unable to do due to a lack of a finalized candidate list. Once the ballots are certified, they can be printed and disseminated to voters across the state.
South Carolina – Wearing Masks at the SC Capitol Is Required, but Many Found a Way Around the Order
Charlotte Observer – Maayan Schechter | Published: 9/20/2020
Anyone who enters a state government building in South Carolina is required to wear a mask. But inside the state’s top government building, lawmakers and members of the public flouted the rule recently. Though Gov. Henry McMaster’s authority does not extend into chambers, protesters without masks inside told statehouse security they could not wear a mask, invoking the health exemption in the governor’s order. One lawmaker repeatedly coughed into a tissue, her mask cradling her chin, as others observed, and a handful of other lawmakers walked around their respective chambers without any masks on at all. Security and law enforcement watched, unable to take any action.
Virginia – Virginia Legislator Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus Warned His Church, but House Colleagues Say They Weren’t Informed
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 9/22/2020
The day after Thomas Wright Jr. tested positive for the coronavirus, his office sent an email to Victoria Christian Church, warning fellow worshipers the Virginia delegate might have unwittingly exposed them. But House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said neither Wright nor his office officially notified his fellow legislators, who had met with him a week earlier when the House convened for one day in a basketball arena before moving the rest of a special legislative session to an online format.
Washington DC – D.C. Official Who Sought Howard Job After Negotiating a Tax Break for School Fined $2,500
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 9/21/2020
A former high-ranking District of Columbia government official was fined $2,500 by the city ethics board for his involvement in legislation providing a $225 million tax break for Howard University on the same day he discussed taking a job at the university. Former city administrator Rashad Young “inadvertently committed a technical violation” of the ethics code when he rejected amendments to increase the tax break hours after the university president spoke to him about creating a job for him, according to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. The board found it was inappropriate for Young to be involved in matters at all while in active job discussions with the university. But his actions did not benefit Howard in its bid to build a university hospital with taxpayer support.
September 24, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance New Jersey: “Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending” by Dan Boyd for Albuquerque Journal Elections National: “How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage” by Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti […]
New Jersey: “Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending” by Dan Boyd for Albuquerque Journal
National: “How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage” by Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti for New York Times
National: “The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.” by David Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs for New York Times
Florida: “Bloomberg Raises $16 Million to Help Florida Felons Pay Fines to Vote in November” by Stephanie Ruhle and Julia Jester for NBC News
Pennsylvania: “Alarm Grows Over ‘Naked Ballot’ Ruling in Pennsylvania” by Max Greenwood for The Hill
National: “Pentagon Used Taxpayer Money Meant for Masks and Swabs to Make Jet Engine Parts and Body Armor” by Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) for MSN
Maryland: “Baltimore Could End Contract with Pugh-Connected Financier After IG Details Failure to Disclose Donations to Her” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun
Virginia: “Virginia Legislator Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus Warned His Church, but House Colleagues Say They Weren’t Informed” by Laura Vozzella for Washington Post
Alaska: “In Secret Tapes, Mine Executives Detail Their Sway Over leaders from Juneau to the White House” by Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) for MSN
September 23, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Alabama: “Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case” by Brad Harper for Montgomery Advertiser California: “San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election” by Brian Whitehead for San […]
Alabama: “Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case” by Brad Harper for Montgomery Advertiser
California: “San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election” by Brian Whitehead for San Bernardino Sun
National: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Brings New Uncertainty to the Battle Over Voting Rights in 2020” by Elise Viebeck and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “DeVos Under Investigation for Potentially Violating Hatch Act Because of Fox News Interview” by Daniel Lippman and Michael Stratford for Politico
New York: “Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time” by Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum for New York Times
Washington DC: “D.C. Official Who Sought Howard Job After Negotiating a Tax Break for School Fined $2,500” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
Minnesota: “Preparing Minnesotans of Color to Wield More Power at the Capitol” by Melissa Townsend for MPR News
National: “Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal” by Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce for NBC News
Illinois: “CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How a utility watchdog got millions from the utilities it watches” by Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos for WBEZ
September 22, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Ohio: “Dems Blast Bogus FirstEnergy PAC Campaign Report” by Staff for Youngstown Business Journal Elections National: “Campaigns Adjust as Voters Cast Ballots Before Election Day” by Bridget Bowman for Roll Call Ethics National: “Judges in D.C. Threatened, Harassed […]
Ohio: “Dems Blast Bogus FirstEnergy PAC Campaign Report” by Staff for Youngstown Business Journal
National: “Campaigns Adjust as Voters Cast Ballots Before Election Day” by Bridget Bowman for Roll Call
National: “Judges in D.C. Threatened, Harassed After High-Profile, Political Legal Battles” by Ann Marimow for Washington Post
National: “Trump’s Businesses Charged Secret Service More Than $1.1 Million, Including for Rooms in Club Shuttered for Pandemic” by David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey for Washington Post
Illinois: “Cook County Board of Ethics Appoints New Chair After Previous Two Ousted Amid Earlier Shakeups” by Alice Yin for Chicago Tribune
Kentucky: “Kentucky GOP Lawmaker Indicted on Assault, Accused of Strangling Woman with Ethernet Cable” by Teo Armus for Washington Post
Louisiana: “In Parting Shot, Resigning New Orleans IG Says Audubon Institute Possibly Made Unlawful Deals” by Jessica Williams for Nola.com
New York: “New York Ethics’ Panel Renews Search for a Leader” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
South Carolina: “Wearing Masks at the SC Capitol Is Required, but Many Found a Way Around the Order” by Maayan Schechter for Charlotte Observer
September 21, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Watchdog Group Calls on FEC to Investigate Donations to Trump and Others by Relatives and Associates of Louis DeJoy” by Aaron Davis for Washington Post Elections National: “US Judge Blocks Postal Service Changes That Slowed Mail” by […]
National: “Watchdog Group Calls on FEC to Investigate Donations to Trump and Others by Relatives and Associates of Louis DeJoy” by Aaron Davis for Washington Post
National: “US Judge Blocks Postal Service Changes That Slowed Mail” by Gene Johnson for Associated Press News
Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Green Party Will Not Appear on State’s 2020 General Election Ballot” by Alicia Weirsema for ABC News
National: “Trump Says He Will Move ‘Without Delay’ to Fill Ginsburg’s Supreme Court Seat” by Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim, and Josh Dawsey for Washington Post
California: “CalPERS Board Supportive of Move to Restrict Investments by Top Staff” by Wes Venteicher for Sacramento Bee
California: “California Prison Guard Union Places Bull’s-Eye on Black Lawmaker’s Photo in Political Ad” by Anita Chabria for Los Angeles Times
Illinois: “Former State Sen. Terry Link Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion Charge in Federal Court” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Illinois: “Alderman Lavished with Cash, Luxury Trips by Program for Caribbean Med Students” by Tim Novak for Chicago Sun-Times
National: “Chamber to Lay Off a Dozen Employees, Expand Advocacy Efforts Amid Coronavirus Pandemic” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
September 18, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response New York Times – Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma | Published: 9/13/2020 Political intervention has roiled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that prides itself as leading the […]
At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response
New York Times – Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma | Published: 9/13/2020
Political intervention has roiled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that prides itself as leading the humanitarian response to disasters, conflict, and other emergencies around the world. As President Trump campaigns for re-election and the coronavirus has claimed almost 200,000 lives nationwide, the USAID has been micromanaged by the White House and the State Department. That has prompted critics to say the intervention has slowed pandemic relief efforts to some places, weaponized aid in other areas to chastise Trump administration adversaries, and disengaged the U.S. from the World Health Organization’s coronavirus response.
Barr Accuses Justice Department of Headhunting and Meddling with Politics
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/16/2020
Attorney General William Barr delivered a scathing critique of his own Justice Department on, insisting on his absolute authority to overrule career staffers, who he said too often injected themselves into politics and went “headhunting” for high-profile targets. The attorney general directly addressed the criticism that has been building for months inside the department toward his heavy hand in politically sensitive cases, particularly those involving associates of President Trump. Barr’s comments were remarkable in that the head of the Justice Department catalogued all the ways in which he thought his agency had gone astray over the years, and in its current formulation harms the body politic.
Court-Appointed Adviser in Michael Flynn Case Says Justice Dept. Yielded to Corrupt ‘Pressure Campaign’ Led by Trump
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 9/11/2020
A retired federal judge accused the Justice Department of yielding to a pressure campaign led by President Trump in its bid to dismiss the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to federal investigators. Former U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson, who was appointed by the court to argue against the government’s request to dismiss the case, called Attorney General William Barr’s request to drop Flynn’s case a “corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system.” Gleeson’s filing set the stage for a potentially dramatic courtroom confrontation September 29 with the Justice Department and Flynn’s defense over the fate of the highest-ranking Trump advisor to plead guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Criminal Probe Opened into John Bolton Book
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/15/2020
A federal grand jury is investigating potential disclosures of classified information in the book former national security adviser John Bolton published over objections from the Trump administration. The development signals Bolton may face much more severe legal trouble than just the pending lawsuit that seeks to strip him of the proceeds from “The Room Where It Happened,” the tell-all account that generated a slew of critical press coverage for President Trump. The judge assigned to that suit rejected the Justice Department’s bid to block publication of the book, but said Bolton appeared to have deliberately violated nondisclosure agreements he signed and could face criminal jeopardy.
Democrats Used to Rail Against ‘Dark Money.’ Now They’re Better at It Than the GOP.
NBC News – Alex Seitz-Wald | Published: 9/11/2020
Watchdogs are concerned with super PACs, which can accept donations of unlimited size but must reveal the names of their donors and regularly disclose their activity. But they are more worried about “dark money” groups: nonprofit organizations that cannot be as explicitly political as super PACs but can keep their donors secret forever and do not have to reveal much about activities before elections. While concerns about campaign finance reform that once animated Democratic voters have been eclipsed by the desire to oust President Trump, advocates are left to wonder if the party can really be trusted to follow through on its promises to dismantle a system that may help them get elected.
Devin Nunes’ Legal Setbacks Pile Up, but His Lawsuits Go On with Appeals and New Filings
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 9/14/2020
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes has had little success in the battery of lawsuits he filed against media organizations and critics, but his efforts are running up legal bills for the groups he considers his adversaries. Altogether, Nunes has filed seven lawsuits against media organizations, anonymous online critics, and other political actors. The only case that has concluded is one his campaign filed and dropped against a retired farmer in Nunes’ congressional district who challenged the Nunes’ description of himself as a farmer in materials sent to voters. Judges have dismissed or greatly diminished three of the cases. Each time, Nunes appealed the decision or attempted to file an amended complaint to restart the case.
Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Handling of Roger Stone Sentencing Recommendation
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/14/2020
The Justice Department’s internal watchdog has begun reviewing the controversial handling of the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Trump who was convicted of lying to the House Intelligence Committee during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone’s treatment has long drawn criticism from legal observers and lawmakers who said Attorney General William Barr seemed to be inappropriately affording favorable treatment to a friend of the president. Earlier this year, when Stone was still awaiting his sentence, Barr personally intervened to overrule the sentencing recommendation career prosecutors had offered to the court, prompting all four of them to withdraw from the case.
Nora Dannehy, Connecticut Prosecutor Who Was Top Aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia Investigation, Resigns Amid Concern About Pressure from Attorney General William Barr
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney | Published: 9/11/2020
Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned, at least partly out of concern the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said. Durham recruited Dannehy to join his team after he was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to examine the FBI’s legal justification for a disputed counterintelligence investigation that looked for ties between President. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian efforts to meddle in the election.
Postal Service and State Officials Feud Over Mail Voting as Election Looms
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Haley Fuchs, Nick Corasaniti, and Luke Broadwater | Published: 9/16/2020
The Postal Service postcard urging voters to “plan ahead” if they intended to vote by mail seemed innocuous enough. But not to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who sued the agency to halt its delivery, arguing the mailer was filled with misinformation that would disenfranchise voters in her state. Such is the toxic state of the relationship between some state and local election administrators in both parties and the Postal Service six weeks before Election Day, as officials throughout the country scramble to prepare for what is expected to be an unprecedented flood of mail-in ballots in an extraordinary pandemic-era election. The feuding suggests a pre-emptive blame game between the nation’s mail-delivery agency and those charged with administering and counting the vote.
Pro-Trump Youth Group Enlists Teens in Secretive Campaign Likened to a ‘Troll Farm,’ Prompting Rebuke by Facebook and Twitter
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2020
Social media messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views, standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign. Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign. Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to people with independent knowledge of the effort.
Russian Hackers Targeting U.S. Campaigns, Microsoft Says
Associated Press – Frank Bajack | Published: 9/10/2020
Microsoft said the same Russian military intelligence outfit that hacked the Democrats in 2016 has renewed vigorous U.S. election-related targeting, trying to breach computers at more than 200 organizations including political campaigns and their consultants. The intrusion attempts reflect an increased effort to infiltrate the American political establishment, the company said. Most of the hacking attempts by Russian, Chinese, and Iranian agents were halted by Microsoft security software and the targets notified. Microsoft did not assess which foreign adversary poses the greater threat to the integrity of the November presidential election. The consensus among cybersecurity experts is Russian interference is the gravest. Senior Trump administration officials have disputed that, although without offering any evidence.
Trump Officials Interfered with CDC Reports on Covid-19
Politico – Dan Diamond | Published: 9/11/2020
The Department of Health and Human Services’ politically appointed communications aides have demanded the right to review and seek changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the coronavirus pandemic, in what officials characterized as an attempt to intimidate the reports’ authors and water down their communications to health professionals. In some cases, emails from communications aides to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other senior officials openly complained the agency’s reports would undermine President Trump’s optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to emails.
Twitter Steps Up Its Fight Against Election Misinformation
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 9/10/2020
Twitter announced it is expanding its policies against election-related misinformation, setting new rules that will likely force the platform to more aggressively fact-check President Trump during the final months of the 2020 campaign. Trump has more than 85 million Twitter followers, and the company has previously flagged misleading claims from the president, including the assertion that mail-in ballots are fraudulent. Twitter’s expanded policies come as social media has become the central electoral information battlefield, as the coronavirus pandemic has drastically limited traditional rallies and door-to-door campaigning. The tech companies have heeded the advice of experts who predict the election result may not be settled quickly in part because of mail-in ballots this year, leading to potential confusion about who wins.
Unions Dealt Major Blow With 1st Circuit Ruling on Lobbying Dues
Courthouse News Service – Thomas Harrison | Published: 9/15/2020
A three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a National Labor Relations Board ruling that said private-sector unions cannot charge non-members for costs related to lobbying. The U.S. Supreme Court held that public-sector unions cannot force dissenting employees to contribute to them at all because this would violate the First Amendment. That decision overruled more than 40 years of precedent. But the First Amendment does not apply in the private sector, where a union-security agreement can force dissenters to pay for union activities that relate to collective bargaining, contract administration, or handling grievances. The First Circuit panel ruled lobbying does not fall into any of those categories.
Will COVID-19 Close the Revolving Door?
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/15/2020
A new assessment of congressional staffing, concludes that relatively low compensation, leading to high turnover among aides, fuels the dysfunction and diminished clout of today’s legislative branch. But with the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the political turmoil of this year’s elections, has the private sector lost some of its sheen for these aides? Is the revolving door from Congress to K Street still a viable option for congressional aides looking to cash in?
Canada – Canada’s Ethics Czar Says Former Envoy to Washington Broke Conflict-of-Interest Law in His Work for Palantir
Politico – Angy Blatchford | Published: 9/16/2020
Canada’s ethics watchdog says former U.S. ambassador David MacNaughton broke conflict-of-interest law and is ordering nine senior government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, to cease all official dealings with him for one year. Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion published the order following his investigation of MacNaughton, a close ally of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The probe was launched amid complaints about MacNaughton’s interactions with cabinet ministers and other key officials after leaving his ambassador’s job to take on a senior role last year with data analytics firm Palantir.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Former Alabama Senator Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violation
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 9/15/2020
Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of misusing his campaign checking account and resign from the Senate, according to a plea deal. Burkette agreed to pay a $3,000 fine and to not run for or accept a public office for 10 years. The plea agreement says that when Burkette was a candidate for the Montgomery City Council he intentionally put $3,625 in campaign funds in his personal checking account.
California – 13 Years After Indictment, No Trial or Plea Deal for California Charter Academy Defendants
San Bernardino Sun – Beau Yarbrough | Published: 9/11/2020
On September 4, 2007, San Bernardino County prosecutors indicted former Hesperia Mayor Tad Honeycutt and California Charter Academy founder Charles Steven Cox on suspicion of misappropriating $5.5 million in state and federal funds. Thirteen years later, they have never been tried, have not taken a plea deal, and their case has never been dismissed. The case has faced years of delays, due in part to its complexity and Honeycutt’s political connections, and now complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Fermin, the prosecutor on the case.
California – San Bernardino Mayor Vetoes Council-Approved Cap on Campaign Contributions
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/10/2020
San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia vetoed legislation that on would have set a yearly $4,700 limit on how much someone can give a candidate for county or city office. The item is expected to be taken up again in October. Signed into law last fall, Assembly Bill 571 on January 1 will set the default contribution limit at $4,700 per year per individual for cities and counties without their own laws regulating campaign donations. Jurisdictions can adopt their own rules before then to avoid defaulting to the limits already in place for state Assembly and Senate candidates.
California – San Diego Ethics Commission Taps Deputy City Attorney as New Chief
San Diego Union Tribune – David Garrick | Published: 9/16/2020
San Diego’s Ethics Commission, which oversees the city’s campaign and election laws, selected a deputy city attorney with expertise in those areas to serve as the commission’s new executive director. Sharon Spivak, a former journalist and private sector attorney, will replace longtime Executive Director Stacey Fulhorst if the city council approves the selection. Fulhorst is scheduled to retire in February after more than 17 years leading the agency. Spivak is expected to start work in early November, which would allow for a three-month overlap and transition period.
Colorado – A Nonprofit Tied to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Shifts Focus to Advocacy and Raise Ethics Concerns
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 9/14/2020
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis formed Boldly Forward Colorado, a nonprofit organization that can accept unlimited personal and corporate contributions and not disclose its donors, after he won the 2018 election in order to help him recruit members of his administration and form the policy platform for his first term. Now, it has shifted its focus to support efforts to lower the cost of living in the state, including expanding access for early childhood education and addressing rising health care costs. The language echoes the governor’s policy priorities, and his ties to such a group raise concerns with watchdogs who suggest it amounts to a “shadow governance group.” The move comes as the governor campaigns for a key 2020 ballot initiative to achieve one of his campaign promises and two years before he faces reelection.
Connecticut – Report: Public financing has added women, minority legislators in CT
San Francisco Chronicle – Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) | Published: 9/14/2020
About 85 percent of candidates for the General Assembly used public funds to seek office in 2018, helping to make Connecticut’s Citizens Election Program a national model, according to a new analysis by Common Cause. The watchdog group said the law fostered competitive races, advanced progressive public policy, and landed more women and minorities in the Legislature. The report found that in the 2018 races, 99 percent of candidate funding came from individuals, with minuscule amounts from other sources. In 2006, nearly half of the $9.3 million raised by candidates came from lobbyists, PACs, and other entities.
Florida – County Commissioners Move Forward with Changes to Lobbying Regulations
Tallahassee Reports – Lexie Pitzen | Published: 9/16/2020
The Leon County Commission approved an ordinance amending lobbying regulations. The ordinance clarifies definitions related to lobbying and who qualifies as a lobbyist. It also outlines new regulation enforcement models, including processes for filing and investigating complaints as well as guidelines for lobbying violation penalties. The ordinance modifies lobbyist exemptions.
Florida – Florida Felons Lose Voting Rights Case in Federal Appeals Court
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 9/11/2020
A federal appeals court overturned a judge’s ruling that people with felony convictions do not have to pay off all court fees and fines before voting. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled plaintiffs did not prove a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs included more than a dozen people with felony convictions who accused Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers of imposing a “poll tax” by requiring them to pay off all court-ordered costs relating to their felony convictions before voting. The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But it virtually guarantees the estimated 800,000 people with felony convictions in Florida who owe fines, fees, or restitution to victims will not be allowed to vote in the November election.
Florida – Miami Herald Editor Blames ‘Internal Failures’ After Publishing an Anti-Semitic, Racist Insert
Washington Post – Jaclyn Pieser | Published: 9/16/2020
Subscribers to el Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of The Miami Herald, opened their papers recently to find a paid insert called “LIBRE.” In a column headlined, “American Jews and Israeli Jews” in the insert, an author claimed American Jews support “thieves and arsonists” and equated Black Lives Matter protesters with Nazis. The Herald apologized and promised to never again run the insert, which editors now say had included anti-Semitic and racist articles for months. Misinformation and racism are a growing concern in media targeting Florida’s Latino community. Radio Caracol, a news station in Miami, aired a 16-minute paid program claiming if Joe Biden won the election, the country would become a dictatorship run by “Jews and Blacks” and falsely saying he supports killing babies.
Georgia – Former Atlanta CFO Jim Beard Indicted for Fraud, Possessing Machine Guns and More
WXIA – Jonathan Raymond | Published: 9/16/2020
Jim Beard, the former chief financial officer for Atlanta, was indicted by the federal government under charges that include wire fraud, possessing a machine gun, and more. He is accused of defrauding the city out of tens of thousands of dollars by using those funds in a range of inappropriate ways, including: personal purchases, “including two machine guns”; to pay for official travel which the host later reimbursed him for, which he then kept himself; and to pay for travel he then misrepresented in his tax filings.
Illinois – Chicago Ethics Board to Enforce Ban That Would Prohibit Elected Officials Outside the City from Lobbying City Hall
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 9/15/2020
After a four-month grace period, the Chicago Board of Ethics will start enforcing a ban on “cross-lobbying.” With federal investigators swarming around state and city government, the city council voted to prohibit aldermen from lobbying state and local government and preventing their counterparts at those levels from doing the same at City Hall. Ethics Board Executive Director Steve Berlin has said the board wanted to see if an amendment Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced this spring got passed. But board released a statement saying the mayor’s ordinance apparently will no proceed, and the new rules will be enforced starting October 1.
Illinois – Former Chicago Firefighter Fined $2,000 for Violating City’s Ethics Ordinance
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 9/15/2020
A former Chicago firefighter was fined $2,000 for helping to draft bid documents for a $7.36 million fire training contract while negotiating a job with the company subsequently awarded the contract, then returning to work on the training in violation of the “revolving-door” provision. Chicago Board of Ethics Chairperson William Conlon said the fine would have been higher if not for the extenuating circumstances. “… This guy only did it at the request of the Chicago Fire Department and only did it for the benefit of the city. While wrong, that mitigated the fine in our mind,” Conlon said.
Illinois – Former Chicago Public Schools Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty to Charges of Lying to FBI
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/11/2020
A former top aide to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI about whether he passed secret bid information about a $1 billion custodial contract to an operative working for one of the bidders. Pedro Soto, who resigned as Jackson’s chief of staff before he was charged, admitted in a plea agreement he repeatedly fed details about CPS’ internal bid deliberations to the operative in exchange for “various benefits.” Sources said it was an offshoot of the FBI’s investigation into then-Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis, who at the time had already been recorded on numerous wiretapped calls talking about exchanging favors for official action.
Kansas – D.C. Mail Ballot Non-Profit Stokes Confusion for Kansas Voters, Backlogs in Offices
Kansas City Star – Matthew Kelly | Published: 9/14/2020
When Cynthia Herron received a mail-in ballot application from the Center for Voter Information (CVI) in August, she thought it seemed official enough. The request form, sent from a Post Office box in Springfield, Missouri, had Herron’s name and address already typed out. So, she signed and returned it in a prepaid envelope addressed to the Johnson County Election Office. Herron was confused when, three weeks later, she opened her mailbox to find a vote-by-mail request form from the county. Worried her initial request had not been accepted, Herron sent that one back too. When a third ballot application showed up in the mail, this one again from CVI, Herron began to suspect she was being intentionally misled.
New Jersey – These N.J. Companies Got Millions in Federal Bailout Money, Even with History of Legal Troubles
Newark Star Ledger – Riley Yates (NJ Advance Media) and Payton Guion (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 9/13/2020
A review by NJ Advance Media revealed more than a dozen Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans went to companies that have been sued or paid settlements over alleged fraudulent business practices in New Jersey. They included construction contractors, technology companies, and car dealerships that ran afoul of federal or state prosecutors, among them a builder once accused of cheating its workers and covering it up by falsifying payroll records, a key component of how lenders calculated PPP awards. Those businesses likely represent the tip of the iceberg, especially considering the companies that received loans of less than $150,000, which number more than 65,000 in the Garden State alone, have never been named by the Treasury Department.
New York – Gaddy’s Plea in Bribery Case Delivers More Bad News for Mayor Lovely Warren
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Gary Graig | Published: 9/16/2020
Former lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft of $1,500 in government money, while agreeing to cooperate with investigations into “campaign finance matters.” Gaddy’s plea deal said he was approached by an FBI informant in September 2017 and was given cash to try to induce a New York Assembly member to introduce legislation that could impede a proposed development in Rochester. Gaddy recommended that Assemblyperson Joseph Errigo be approached. He assisted Errigo, who died earlier this year, with introducing legislation. Gaddy said he claimed he “greased the skids” with the late Assemblyperson David Gantt, but Gaddy had not done so. Instead, Gaddy kept $1,500 of the””intended bribe” for himself.
New York – Why a Progressive N.Y. Party Is Fighting for Its Survival
New York Times – Dana Rubinstein | Published: 9/14/2020
Just months after progressives in New York concluded one of their most successful primary seasons in history, a political party representing their interests is fighting for its survival. Because of rules backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo concerning third parties, the Working Families Party must garner at least 130,000 votes or two percent of the total vote, whichever is higher, on its party line for the presidential election in November, or it will lose its automatic ballot line in New York. The rules present an unusual challenge for small parties in the state; the parties must encourage New Yorkers to vote for a presidential candidate on their line, even if that candidate is also running on the line of a mainstream party. So, the Working Families Party must persuade voters to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in its column, not on that of the Democratic Party.
North Carolina – Every Charlotte City Council Member Has an Ethics Complaint. Here’s What’s Going
Charlotte Observer – Alison Kuznitz | Published: 9/12/2020
A cascade of formal ethics complaints has flooded the city clerk’s office in Charlotte in recent weeks. It started with scrutiny on one Republican city council member and his nonprofit, which was poised to run a taxpayer-backed jobs training program, using COVID-19 relief funds. Soon after that, two Democrats on council who raised questions about the arrangement found themselves the target of ethics accusations. All council members, including the mayor, are facing at least one ethics complaint. The allegations range from elected officials luring campaign donations from developers to making racially charged comments during closed-door meetings, and to using city business for private business gain.
Ohio – Alleged Householder Texts About Nuclear Bailout Are MIA, House Says
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 9/15/2020
Prosecutors say they have a text message sent from then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder seeking to pressure a fellow lawmaker to vote for a bill at the center of a criminal “pay-to-play” scheme, a text an ally allegedly sought to get deleted. But the House said in response to a records request that the text could not be located from Householder’s phone as it was a “transient document” that did not need to be preserved. Householder, according to an FBI investigation, texted a male House Republican (only identified as “Representative 7”) on May 28, 2019, and pressured him to support House Bill 6, the beating heart of what prosecutors have called the largest bribery scheme in the state’s political history.
Ohio – FirstEnergy’s PAC Reported Giving $158K to Ohio Politicians in July. They Say They Never Got the Money.
Akron Beacon Journal – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 9/16/2020
In the weeks before then-House Speaker Larry Householder’s arrest, the energy company at the center of it all donated $158,000 to Ohio politicians. FirstEnergy’s PAC reported giving the money to 65 politicians between July 6 and July 16, the same day a federal complaint was filed against Householder and four others in connection with what U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers would call one of Ohio’s largest bribery schemes. To critics, the donations are an “insurance policy” as lawmakers now ponder repealing a scandal-scarred bailout, House Bill 6, that had helped FirstEnergy and its affiliates. The company says it is just working to help its customers and shareholders. But several Republicans and Democrats said their campaigns never received the money.
Ohio – Ohio Judge Says Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s One Ballot Drop Box Per County Rule Is ‘Arbitrary and Unreasonable’
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/15/2020
A judge ruled Ohio has no legal basis to limit drop boxes for completed absentee ballots to one per county, as Secretary of State Frank LaRose did in an order to county boards of election as they prepared for the November presidential election. Siding with arguments made by the Ohio Democratic Party, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye did not go so far as to block LaRose from enforcing the order. But Frye said he may do so, noting LaRose has said he would support allowing additional drop boxes if they were deemed legal.
Pennsylvania – Top Pa. GOP Lawmaker Taps Politically Connected Lobbyist to Be Chief of Staff
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis and Brad Bumsted | Published: 9/14/2020
Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman tapped a lobbyist with a politically connected Harrisburg firm to serve as his new chief of staff, the latest example of the close relationship between elected officials in the Capitol and special interests trying to influence them. Corman, who is widely considered next in line to ascend to the chamber’s top leadership post, said he hired Krystjan Callahan, a partner at Maverick Strategies, a well-known lobbying firm run by Ray Zaborney, who also runs Corman’s campaigns. Callahan was once the top staffer to a Republican leader in the House. For the past five years, he has worked for Zaborney, who together with his wife runs a trio of companies known as The Mavericks.
Pennsylvania – Top Pa. Republican’s Campaign Sues Journalists Over Public Records Costs
Pennlive.com – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) and Ed Mahon (Spotlight PA) | Published: 9/15/2020
The campaign committee of the Pennsylvania Senate’s top Republican is suing a publication of LNP Media Group and two journalists who uncovered questionable spending by the lawmaker and other politicians. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati’s campaign filed the suit seeking $6,070 from The Caucus, Caucus Bureau Chief Brad Bumsted, and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis. Scarnati’s campaign alleges the trio owes $5,070 for work an accounting firm conducted to produce public records the journalists requested during an investigation into his and other lawmakers’ campaign spending. The campaign also wants $1,000 for attorneys’ fees and court costs.
South Dakota – Councilor Cleared of Ethics Violation After Heated Four-Hour Hearing
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 9/11/2020
After a tense, and at times hostile, four-hour hearing, the Sioux Falls City Council dismissed an ethics complaint against Councilor Greg Neitzert, declaring there “is not clear and convincing evidence” he violated an ordinance when he made an expense-free trip to a conference of Republican municipal and county officials last year. The hearing ended at least one leg of the saga, which has spanned two separate complaints, numerous public hearings and, finally, the transformation of Carnegie Town Hall into a sort of jury-rigged courtroom.
South Dakota – State Investigators Will Release Investigation into Attorney General’s Crash, Noem Says
Rapid City Journal – Arielle Zionts | Published: 9/15/2020
The South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS) will release its investigation into the state attorney general fatally hitting a pedestrian with his car. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he thought he hit a deer but realized he killed a man when he searched the site the next morning while on his way to return the car he borrowed from the local sheriff. The Highway Patrol, which is part of the DPS, is leading the investigation, DPS Secretary Craig Price said. He said the Highway Patrol often asks the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to help investigate fatal crashes but that wouldn’t be appropriate in this case since DCI is under Ravnsborg’s office.
Washington – A Washington Lawmaker Shared Conspiracy Theories. She Threatened a Reporter Who Wrote About It.
Washington Post – Jaclyn Peiser | Published: 9/15/2020
Daniel Walters was surprised to see an incoming call from Washington Rep. Jenny Graham on August 27. The journalist wrote a story that day about Graham sharing false articles on Facebook, including a story claiming thousands of missing children are kept in dungeons and raped by demons. When Walters called the state representative back, she unleashed a barrage of hateful insults. Walters and his editor tried calling Graham back a few times, asking what about his story was inaccurate. He also texted her, offering to talk off the record. But the representative did not respond. Instead, she turned to her Facebook page, where she posted about Walters about 15 times, he said. She called the reporter “pathetic,” “hateful,” “disgusting,” and a “lying piece of dung.”
Wisconsin – GOP Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Advised Green Party
Associated Press News – Scott Bauer | Published: 9/15/2020
A Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission advised a Green Party representative about who to hire as an attorney after its presidential nominee was denied ballot access in the key battleground state. The commission deadlocked on whether to put Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins on the ballot. All three Republicans were in favor, while all three Democrats were against. Hawkins asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to put him on, but the court rejected that request. The court also lifted an order it issued pausing the mailing of absentee ballots while it considered the challenge.
September 17, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Elections Ohio: “Ohio Judge Says Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s One Ballot Drop Box Per County Rule Is ‘Arbitrary and Unreasonable’” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer Ethics National: “Pro-Trump Youth Group Enlists Teens in Secretive Campaign Likened to […]
Ohio: “Ohio Judge Says Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s One Ballot Drop Box Per County Rule Is ‘Arbitrary and Unreasonable’” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer
National: “Pro-Trump Youth Group Enlists Teens in Secretive Campaign Likened to a ‘Troll Farm,’ Prompting Rebuke by Facebook and Twitter” by Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Criminal Probe Opened into John Bolton Book” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
Florida: “Miami Herald Editor Blames ‘Internal Failures’ After Publishing an Anti-Semitic, Racist Insert” by Jaclyn Pieser for Washington Post
New York: “Gaddy’s Plea in Bribery Case Delivers More Bad News for Mayor Lovely Warren” by Gary Graig for Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Ohio: “Alleged Householder Texts About Nuclear Bailout Are MIA, House Says” by Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Top Pa. Republican’s Campaign Sues Journalists Over Public Records Costs” by Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) and Ed Mahon (Spotlight PA) for Pennlive.com
South Dakota: “State Investigators Will Release Investigation into Attorney General’s Crash, Noem Says” by Arielle Zionts for Rapid City Journal
National: “Unions Dealt Major Blow With 1st Circuit Ruling on Lobbying Dues” by Thomas Harrison for Courthouse News Service
Canada: “Freeland, Vance and Several Federal Officials Barred from Official Dealings with Ex-Ambassador” by Catherine Tunney for CBC