September 16, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Alabama: “Former Alabama Senator Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violation” by Mike Cason for AL.com Elections New York: “Why a Progressive N.Y. Party Is Fighting for Its Survival” by Dana Rubinstein for New York Times Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Supreme […]
Alabama: “Former Alabama Senator Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violation” by Mike Cason for AL.com
New York: “Why a Progressive N.Y. Party Is Fighting for Its Survival” by Dana Rubinstein for New York Times
Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Supreme Court Denies Green Party Presidential Candidate Ballot Access” by Riley Vetterkind (Wisconsin State Journal) for Madison.com
National: “At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response” by Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma for New York Times
National: “Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Handling of Roger Stone Sentencing Recommendation” by Matt Zapotosky for Washington Post
California: “13 Years After Indictment, No Trial or Plea Deal for California Charter Academy Defendants” by Beau Yarbrough for San Bernardino Sun
Washington: “A Washington Lawmaker Shared Conspiracy Theories. She Threatened a Reporter Who Wrote About It.” by Jaclyn Peiser for Washington Post
National: “Will COVID-19 Close the Revolving Door?” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
Illinois: “Chicago Ethics Board to Enforce Ban That Would Prohibit Elected Officials Outside the City from Lobbying City Hall” by John Byrne for Chicago Tribune
September 15, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Colorado: “A Nonprofit Tied to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Shifts Focus to Advocacy and Raise Ethics Concerns” by John Frank for Colorado Sun Connecticut: “New Study: CT’s Citizens’ Elections Program has become a national model for clean elections” […]
Colorado: “A Nonprofit Tied to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Shifts Focus to Advocacy and Raise Ethics Concerns” by John Frank for Colorado Sun
Connecticut: “New Study: CT’s Citizens’ Elections Program has become a national model for clean elections” by Keith Phaneuf for Connecticut Mirror
Kansas: “D.C. Mail Ballot Non-Profit Stokes Confusion for Kansas Voters, Backlogs in Offices” by Matthew Kelly for Kansas City Star
National: “Court-Appointed Adviser in Michael Flynn Case Says Justice Dept. Yielded to Corrupt ‘Pressure Campaign’ Led by Trump” by Spencer Hsu for Washington Post
National: “Devin Nunes’ Legal Setbacks Pile Up, but His Lawsuits Go On with Appeals and New Filings” by Kate Irby for Fresno Bee
National: “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” by Edmund Mahoney for Hartford Courant
Illinois: “Former Chicago Public Schools Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty to Charges of Lying to FBI” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
New Jersey: “These N.J. Companies Got Millions in Federal Bailout Money, Even with History of Legal Troubles” by Riley Yates (NJ Advance Media) and Payton Guion (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger
Pennsylvania: “Top Pa. GOP Lawmaker Taps Politically Connected Lobbyist to Be Chief of Staff” by Angela Couloumbis and Brad Bumsted for Spotlight PA
September 14, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Democrats Used to Rail Against ‘Dark Money.’ Now They’re Better at It Than the GOP.” by Alex Seitz-Wald for NBC News California: “San Bernardino Mayor Vetoes Council-Approved Cap on Campaign Contributions” by Brian Whitehead for San Bernardino […]
National: “Democrats Used to Rail Against ‘Dark Money.’ Now They’re Better at It Than the GOP.” by Alex Seitz-Wald for NBC News
California: “San Bernardino Mayor Vetoes Council-Approved Cap on Campaign Contributions” by Brian Whitehead for San Bernardino Sun
National: “Russian Hackers Targeting U.S. Campaigns, Microsoft Says” by Frank Bajack for Associated Press
National: “Twitter Steps Up Its Fight Against Election Misinformation” by Elizabeth Dwoskin for Washington Post
Florida: “Florida Felons Lose Voting Rights Case in Federal Appeals Court” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times
National: “Trump Officials Interfered with CDC Reports on Covid-19” by Dan Diamond for Politico
North Carolina: “Every Charlotte City Council Member Has an Ethics Complaint. Here’s What’s Going” by Alison Kuznitz for Charlotte Observer
South Dakota: “Councilor Cleared of Ethics Violation After Heated Four-Hour Hearing” by Trevor Mitchell for Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Illinois: “Despite City Ban, Flossmoor Trustee Continues Lobbying Chicago City Hall” by John Byrne for Chicago Tribune
September 11, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal $2,933 for ‘Girl’s Night’: Medicaid chief’s consulting expenses revealed Politico – Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn | Published: 9/10/2020 A House investigation showed how Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s top Medicaid official, spent more than $3.5 million on a range […]
$2,933 for ‘Girl’s Night’: Medicaid chief’s consulting expenses revealed
Politico – Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn | Published: 9/10/2020
A House investigation showed how Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s top Medicaid official, spent more than $3.5 million on a range of GOP-connected consultants, who polished her public profile, wrote her speeches and Twitter posts, brokered meetings with high-profile individuals, and even billed taxpayers for connecting Verma with fellow Republicans in Congress. Verma, who advised then-Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana on health policy before joining the Trump administration, has rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing in her consulting practices.
COVID-19 Tests Unions’ Ability to Deliver Votes, Manpower, Money to Democrats
Roll Call – Jim Saska | Published: 9/10/2020
Unions’ strength amid the epidemic will be tested this fall. Democrats rely heavily on labor’s political support every November. That is no different this year, but the coronavirus is. Laid-off workers do not pay union dues, meaning the pandemic may cut into organized labor’s electoral spending. More worrisome for Democrats, COVID-19 could kneecap unions’ most potent campaign contribution: legions of door-knocking volunteers. Unions influence elections in three main ways: members’ votes, manpower, and money.
Democrats Fear Partisan Slant at Postal Service as Trump Allies Dominate Board
MSN – Luke Broadwater, Hailey Fuchs, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 9/8/2020
A powerful but little-known group of Republican donors installed by President Trump to oversee the U.S. Postal Service has helped raise more than $3 million to support him and hundreds of millions more for his party over the past decade, prompting concerns about partisan bias at the agency before the November election. The largest amount of fundraising has been by groups with connections to Robert Duncan, who continues to sit on the boards of two super PACs pushing for Republicans to win in 2020. But he is only one of five Republican members that Trump has named to the board, most of whom have given generously to the party, who have taken a hands-on role in trying to defend the embattled agency against accusations that it is trying to help the president win a second term by sabotaging voting by mail.
Family Business in Decline? Fewer Get to Congress Through Heredity
Roll Call – Paul Fontelo | Published: 9/9/2020
Political dynasties were on the decline in Congress even before the recent Massachusetts Senate primary, in which Rep. Joseph Kennedy III became the first Kennedy to lose a congressional race ever in the Bay State. Other members set to retire after this year do not have children running to replace them. Only six current members can say they directly followed their fathers into Congress by replacing them in their seats. That number is taking a hit in 2020, with a pair of lawmakers felled by primary defeats, and one having resigned after an ethics scandal.
GOP Candidate Poses with Rifle, Says She’s Targeting ‘Socialist’ Congresswomen
Washington Post – Rachael Bade abd John Wagner | Published: 9/4/2020
A House candidate whom President Trump recently called “a future Republican Star” posted an image of herself holding a rifle with photos of three liberal congresswomen of color and the vow to “go on the offense” against members of the “Squad,” an unprecedented threat against lawmakers from a probable future colleague. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the GOP candidate for a Georgia congressional seat in a heavily Republican district and a professed QAnon conspiracy believer, posted the photoshopped image on Facebook. Before it was removed, the caption under the gun-toting Greene read: “Squad’s worst nightmare.”
GOP Congressman Spent $70K in Campaign Cash on Meals
Politico – Ally Mutnick | Published: 9/8/2020
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner has used campaign funds for hundreds of trips to restaurants, and occasionally to stay at lavish hotels. He has spent over $70,000 from his campaign account since 2017 to fund meals at some 370 meetings. The individual receipts are fairly modest in most cases, typically ranging from $12 to a few hundred dollars. But together, watchdogs say, they suggest a consistent pattern: Turner uses his donors to subsidize his personal dining costs, expensing an average of two meals a week. Members can expense meals that are incidental to their role as a candidate or an officeholder, such as food for campaign events, fundraisers, or strategy sessions. But the frequency and total of his expenditures raised alarms from good-government groups that he could be misusing his election funds.
How Trump Draws on Campaign Funds to Pay Legal Bills
MSN – Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 9/5/2020
President Trump was proudly litigious before his victory in 2016 and has remained so in the White House. But one big factor has changed: he has drawn on campaign donations as a piggy bank for his legal expenses to a degree far greater than any of his predecessors. Trump’s tendency to turn to the courts, and the legal issues that have stemmed from norm-breaking characteristics of his presidency, helps explain how he and his affiliated political entities have spent at least $58.4 million in donations on legal and compliance work since 2015. The spending includes also cases in which he has a personal stake, including attempts to enforce nondisclosure agreements and protect his business interests.
How Trump’s Billion Dollar Campaign Lost Its Cash Advantage
MSN – Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 9/7/2020
Money was supposed to have been one of the great advantages of incumbency for President Trump, much as it was for President Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004. After getting outspent in 2016, Trump filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration betting the head start would deliver him a decisive financial advantage this year. It seemed to have worked. Trump and the Republican National Committee had a nearly $200 million cash advantage. Five months later, Trump’s financial supremacy has evaporated. Of the $1.1 billon his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than $800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable: a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election.
Judge Won’t Force Disclosure of Key Parts of Mueller Interviews
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/3/2020
A federal judge approved the Justice Department’s decision to deny the public access to large swaths of the thousands of pages of FBI reports on witness interviews from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged ties between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton ruled officials had the right to white out the information from public releases because the exchanges with witnesses reflected the thought processes of Mueller’s prosecutors and of FBI personnel working at their direction.
Justice Dept. Intervenes on Behalf of Trump in Defamation Case Brought by Woman Who Accused Him of Rape
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2020
The Justice Department moved to replace President Trump’s private legal team with government lawyers to defend him against a defamation lawsuit by the author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. In a highly unusual legal move, lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers that Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied ever knowing Carroll and thus could be defended by government lawyers, in effect underwritten by taxpayer money. Though the law gives employees of the federal government immunity from most defamation lawsuits, legal experts said it has rarely, if ever, been used before to protect a president, especially for actions taken before he entered office.
Louis DeJoy’s Rise as GOP Fundraiser Was Powered by Contributions from Company Workers Who Were Later Reimbursed, Former Employees Say
MSN – Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner, and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2020
Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor, pressured employees at his former North Carolina-based business to make contributions to GOP candidates, expenses that DeJoy reportedly reimbursed through bonuses. Five people who worked for New Breed Logistics say they were urged by DeJoy’s aides or by the chief executive himself to write checks and attend fundraisers at his mansion in Greensboro. There, events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more apiece. Two other employees familiar with New Breed’s financial and payroll systems said DeJoy would instruct that bonus payments to staffers be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions, an arrangement that would be unlawful.
Network of News Sites Must Register as a Political Committee Due to Democratic Links, Complaint Alleges
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 9/3/2020
A complaint filed with the FEC alleges a national network of local media websites must register as a political committee because of its ties to a Democratic-aligned group. Courier Newsroom, which includes seven news sites concentrated in presidential swing states, is backed by ACRONYM, a politically active nonprofit run by Democratic strategist Tara McGowan. Federal election laws and regulations do not apply to media outlets unless they are “owned or controlled by” a political party, committee, or candidate and are acting as a media outlet rather than a political one. But the complaint alleges Courier Newsroom is not eligible for that exemption and the media group failed to register as a political organization and report its donors and expenses as is required of political groups under federal law.
Political Groups’ ‘Dark Money’ Spending Set to Exceed $1 Billion Since Citizens United Decision
Washington Times – Ryan Lovelace | Published: 9/9/2020
“Dark money” spending soon will exceed $1 billion reported to the FEC since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 that ensured political spending was protected speech. The billion-dollar threshold, set to be eclipsed this month, is a major milestone for the industry of donors and activists who want to keep their political activity hidden from public scrutiny and contribute to groups that do not disclose their donors. The $1 billion contribution threshold, which includes tens of millions of dollars in the 2020 cycle, does not capture the full picture of undisclosed money shaping U.S. politics. Anna Massoglia, researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, said much of the cash being spent is not recorded by the FEC.
Senior DHS Official Alleges in Whistleblower Complaint That He Was Told to Stop Providing Intelligence Analysis on Threat of Russian Interference
MSN – Shane Harris, Nick Miroff, and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2020
A senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official alleges he was told to stop providing intelligence reports on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election, in part because it “made the President look bad,” an instruction he believed would jeopardize national security. The official, Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of intelligence and analysis at DHS, said in a whistleblower complaint that on two occasions he was told to stand down on reporting about the Russian threat and alleged that senior officials told him to modify other intelligence reports, including about white supremacists, to bring them in line with President Trump’s public comments, directions he said he refused.
Voting Is a Challenge for the Homeless. Advocates Are Trying to Make It Easier.
Washington Post – William Moyer | Published: 9/9/2020
While advocates are registering people to vote in a polarizing election held during a pandemic, they are also registering a population traumatized by, in some cases, years on the streets. It is these barriers to voting that Pathways to Housing DC, is trying to overcome. Some are battling mental illness and addiction. Others are illiterate, or simply might not have a pair of reading glasses they need to fill out a form. Megan Hustings, managing director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said her organization has worked to register homeless people to vote since the 1990s. The obstacles are immense not just for its clients, but for anyone living in poverty, she said.
Canada – WE Charity, at the Center of Trudeau’s Latest Scandal, Shuts Down in Canada
Washington Post – Amanda Coletta | Published: 9/9/2020
The charity at the center of an ethics scandal that has ensnared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his former finance minister said it would be shutting down its Canadian operations. WE Charity blamed the coronavirus pandemic and the political turmoil over the federal government’s decision to tap it to run a $690 million grant program for student volunteers for the decision. Trudeau announced his government had picked the charity to administer a program that would offer grants to postsecondary students unable to find a job during the coronavirus outbreak if they volunteered in their communities. The arrangement, under which WE Charity stood to earn up to $33 million, raised eyebrows. Trudeau has spoken at several WE Days, his wife is an ambassador for the charity, and there was no public bid.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alaska Group Backing Independent Candidate Appears Linked to Democrats
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 9/9/2020
A new outside group formed to support an independent candidate running against U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan in Alaska appears linked to prominent Democratic super PACs in Washington, as Democrats grow increasingly interested in what could be a low-budget play at a dark-horse Senate contest. Independent Alaska, an independent expenditure committee formed September 3, appears set to purchase advertising on behalf of Al Gross, a surgeon and commercial fisherman running as an independent against Sullivan. The arrangement is similar to an outside group that sprang up to run ads promoting an arch-conservative candidate in Kansas, former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Alabama – Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Arrested for Campaign Finance Violation
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 9/3/2020
Former state Sen. David Burkette was arrested for a misdemeanor violation of Alabama’s campaign finance law. Burkette resigned days before. He is accused of intentionally depositing $3,625 in campaign contributions in his personal bank account instead of a campaign account in 2015 and 2016, when he was running for the Montgomery City Council. Last year, the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause Burkette violated the law, forwarding the case to prosecutors.
Alaska – Alaska Gov. Dunleavy Will Pay $2,800 to Settle Ethics Complaints Over Publicly Funded Political Ads
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 9/7/2020
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy agreed to reimburse the state $2,800 his office spent on mailers that may have violated state ethics laws barring partisan political activity. The complaints targeted a social media and mailer campaign launched by the governor’s office that attacked some of his opponents in the Legislature and boosted some of his allies. State ethics law bars the spending of state money on “partisan political purposes,” and Dunleavy’s opponents said the advertising campaign did just that.
California – CalPERS May Force Next CIO to Unload Personal Holdings
Los Angeles Times – Bloomberg | Published: 9/4/2020
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) may force its next chief investment officer to sell securities that could pose conflicts-of-interest, as the pension giant considers new rules in the wake of the recent departure of Chief Information Officer Ben Meng. Under another proposal, trustees may require that all board members be told whenever the system opens a probe into one of its top executives. Meng’s surprise resignation raised questions about oversight at the $400-billion pension system, the largest in the United States.
California – What Are Lobbyists Doing at San Jose City Hall? That’s a Good Question
San Jose Spotlight – Carly Wipf | Published: 9/4/2020
Two prominent business groups – the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the San Jose Downtown Association – have filled out weekly lobbying disclosures, which require them to divulge who at San Jose City Hall they are meeting with, how the communication happened and, most importantly, the topic being discussed. But instead of revealing why they met, as required by city law, both groups simply posted a generic mission statement. ordinances. San Jose’s lobbying rules were created in 2007 to increase transparency and allow the public to understand how lobbyists are influencing politicians. The sunshine ordinance requires the city clerk to post weekly reports which require lobbyists to disclose the “topic of lobbyist action” for every meeting.
Colorado – ‘LLCs Are Not Constituents’: Fort Collins council puts new caps on election
Fort Collins Coloradoan – Jacy Marmaduke | Published: 9/2/2020
Fort Collins approved several campaign finance changes that will take effect in time for the April 2021 city election, including limits to how much individuals can contribute to limited liability corporations and political committees to support or oppose city races. The change will prevent people from surpassing individual donation limits by contributing to campaigns through LLCs they are part of. There will be a $100 cap on donations to political committees. There is currently no limit on contributions to political committees, which consist of two or more people who join together to accept contributions or make expenditures to support or oppose one or more candidate.
Florida – Secretive Group Pushing Florida Constitutional Amendment Raised Money Linked to Big Businesses
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 9/9/2020
A nonprofit financing a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder to amend the Florida Constitution in the future has raised money from a group linked to a lobbying organization for Florida Power & Light, U.S. Sugar Corp., and other big businesses. Keep Our Constitution Clean has spent more than $9 million on a campaign to pass Amendment Four on the 2020 ballot – which, if approved by voters, would require all future amendments to go through two statewide referendums. Keep Our Constitution Clean is a “dark money” group because it is organized under a section of federal law that allows it to hide the identities of its donors even though it is spending money to influence an election. Federal tax records reveal one donor: another “dark-money” nonprofit, A Better Miami Dade, which transferred $150,000 to Keep Our Constitution Clean in 2018.
Georgia – Georgia Secretary of State Says as Many as 1,000 Potential Cases of Double Voting Detected
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 9/8/2020
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the state identified as many as 1,000 instances of double voting in this summer’s primary and runoff elections, which saw an influx of votes cast by mail and were also marred by equipment failures and other breakdowns of voting machinery. Raffensperger pledged to investigate each of the potential cases of double voting, which he called “unacceptable,” and said his office would look to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. It is possible, however, that some of those cases could be attributed to data errors on behalf of election officials, noted Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor who runs the United States Election Project. McDonald urged that Raffensperger’s announcement be treated with caution.
Hawaii – Hawaii Health Inspector Fined $25,000 For Ethics Violation
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 8/28/2020
A Hawaii Health Department employee is being ordered to pay the state $25,000 after he used inspections of adult care homes to find real estate clients. Roel Salanga was a nurse consultant for the Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Assurance and was responsible for performing on-site inspections of adult residential care homes. During one inspection in 2018, Salanga offered his real estate services to the operator. Over the next year, he sent her emails on state time on over 20 occasions. He ultimately earned a $22,750 commission for his real estate brokerage firm, out of which he received $9,947.50. Meanwhile and afterward, Salanga was still the inspector of the woman’s care home.
Illinois – Former ComEd VP Charged with Bribery Conspiracy in Scheme to Sway House Speaker Michael Madigan
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/4/2020
A former vice president for Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) was charged with bribery conspiracy, alleging he helped orchestrate a scheme to pay political allies of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to influence legislation in Springfield that would benefit the utility. Fidel Marquez, a longtime lobbyist and former senior vice president of governmental affairs at ComEd, was charged in a one-count criminal information. Marquez was the first person to be charged in the ongoing investigation of an elaborate bribery scheme aimed at influencing legislation by making payments to Madigan associates and approved lobbyists, some of whom did little or no actual work for the company.
Illinois – Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s Office Subpoenaed by Feds Who Wanted Information on Land Parcel in Chinatown
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick and Jamie Munks | Published: 9/4/2020
Add Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s office to the long list of organizations, politicians, lobbyists, and others subpoenaed in a wide-ranging federal probe that has already led to a series of corruption charges and convictions. The U.S. attorney’s office demanded that Harmon’s office turn over all documents and communications related to a state-owned parking lot long coveted by developers. The possibility of the state transferring the property to developer See Y. Wong was discussed in a meeting among House Speaker Michael Madigan and former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis. Madigan has been subpoenaed in the probe, Solis wore a wire for federal investigators and Wong has been charged with fraud.
Kansas – Kan. Audit Peels Away Thin Layers of Publicly Financed Lobbying
Salina Post – Tim Carpenter | Published: 9/8/2020
School districts, cities, and counties in Kansas each invested about $250,000 last year in public tax dollars for deployment of registered lobbyists to influence the state’s political process. Sixty-three of the state’s 550 registered lobbyists reported receiving public funding from state agencies, local governments, or associations tied to government activities. This cadre of lobbyists disclosed this universe of clients bankrolled by taxpayers paid them nearly $1.3 million in tax dollars during 2019. The Legislature’s division of post audit says the assessment of lobbying with publicly funding was “incomplete” due to limitations of state lobbying law and of requirements to disclose information.
Maine – PAC Spending on Tires, Clothing Spurs Complaint Against State Republican Leader
centralmaine.com – Kevin Miller | Published: 9/4/2020
An ethics complaint against House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Trey Stewart alleges he improperly spent PAC money on personal items. But it is unclear how the state ethics commission will come down on the complaint because rules governing PACs are far less stringent than those imposed on candidates participating in Maine’s public campaign financing system. While Stewart is currently running for office as a Clean Elections candidate, the expenditures in question were made by his Star City PAC and date back to 2018 or 2019.
Massachusetts – Demo Contractor Fined $75,000 for Illegal Donations
Worcester Telegram – Chris Lisinski (State House News Service) | Published: 9/8/2020
A New Hampshire contracting company will pay a $75,000 fine after the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance determined it illegally provided corporate funds to employees for donations to the campaigns of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and a city councilor. In violation of campaign finance law, employees of Select Demo Services donated a total of $21,000 from their personal accounts for which they had been paid by the company. Donations made by personal check were dated on or about December 4, 2019. Select Demo had issued $1,000 checks to each of those workers on or about December 3, 2019, according to the investigation.
Michigan – Feds: Ex-Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith to plead guilty to federal criminal charge
Detroit Free Press – M.L. Elrick | Published: 9/9/2020
Former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith agreed to plead guilty to a federal obstruction of justice charge for encouraging two of his assistant prosecutors to help cover up his theft of $70,000 from a campaign fund. U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said Smith stole the money from his reelection account to use on “his own personal whims.” Schneider said he believes Smith should serve at least 15 months in federal prison for betraying the public’s trust. Schneider described Smith’s attempts to cover up $70,000 his campaign said it spent on rent and political consulting that, in reality, was kicked back to Smith.
Michigan – Pandemic Takes Bite Out of Lawmakers’ Free Food from Lobbyists
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 9/4/2020
Restaurant closures and restrictions on gatherings are crimping one of the perks of serving in the Michigan Legislature: lobbyist funded meals. Over the first seven months of the year, lobbyists reported spending $221,429 on food and drink purchases for state officials, the lowest total disclosed over that period in 19 years. The figure represents a 62 percent drop in reported spending over the first seven months of 2019. The drop in food purchases reflects another trend during the pandemic: a decline in campaign giving to House candidates by interest groups’ PACs, said Simon Schuster, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Missouri – After Two Court Losses, State Doesn’t Ask High Court to Weigh in on ‘Clean Missouri’ Question
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 9/2/2020
A Missouri appeals court order tossing the ballot summary for a Republican-backed constitutional amendment on redistricting could be the final word on the topic before voters weigh in on November 3. The state has opted not to ask for the Missouri Supreme Court to weigh in after unsuccessfully defending the ballot summary twice, once in Cole County Circuit Court and again before the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District. Even though the state had opted not to appeal the order, haggling over what language is to appear on the ballot is not over just yet.
Montana – Appeals Court Denies Green Party Candidates Ballot Access
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 9/8/2020
A federal appeals court denied a request for an emergency injunction to allow Montana Green Party candidates to appear on the November ballot, a decision that one of the plaintiffs says puts an end to the issue. Several weeks after the Green Party was declared to have qualified for the primary ballot it was learned the state Republican Party bankrolled the $100,000 signature gathering effort, violating campaign finance laws in the process. The Green Party has said they were not behind the effort.
New Jersey – How ‘Illegal’ Donations Helped One NJ Law Firm Make Millions Off Taxpayer Dollars
New Jersey Herald – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 9/2/2020
Friends and family members of a partner at O’Donnell McCord donated over $200,000 on behalf of the law firm to politicians in towns all over New Jersey, authorities say, while it nabbed lucrative contracts with many of those towns. Public records show the firm earned more than $16 million from 20 public entities since 2010. The allegations illustrate again how monied interests take advantage of lax oversight to nab public contracts. Indeed, when the investigation led to bribery charges against five politicians in December, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says one of them was recorded telling a cooperating witness, “Nobody questions anything.”
New York – Robert Freeman, NY Open-Government Expert, to Pay $15K Fine for Inappropriate Conduct
The Journal News – Jon Campbell | Published: 9/9/2020
Robert Freeman, former director of the state Committee on Open Government, will pay a $15,000 fine to settle claims he systematically sexually harassed women while on the job, including several reporters who sought his advice on public transparency disputes. The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics finalized a settlement agreement with Freeman, a nationally renowned public-records expert who was abruptly fired from his state job in April 2019 after holding his post for more than 40 years. Freeman admitted his conduct toward women, as well as using his state-issued computer to view sexual images, violated state Public Officers Law.
Oregon – Reporting on Timber Lobbying Prompts Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to Call for Audit of State Institute
OPB – Tony Schick and Rob Davis | Published: 9/2/2020
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown requested an audit of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) after a media investigation revealed the tax-funded agency worked to discredit academic research and acted as a lobbying and public relations arm for the timber industry. OFRI was created in 1991 to educate the public about forestry and to teach landowners about logging laws and sound environmental practices. Lawmakers established a tax on logging to pay for the institute while cutting taxes paid by the timber industry that helped fund schools and local governments. By law, OFRI is prohibited from attempting to influence policy.
Tennessee – State Registry Fines Rep. Staples $26K for Expense Irregularities; He Says He’ll Appeal
MSN – John North (WBIR) | Published: 9/9/2020
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance assessed a $26,640 civil penalty against state Rep. Rick Staples for campaign spending irregularities. Separately, Staples has pledged to pay back his campaign fund about $11,000 in questioned expenses. Questions arose early this year about some of the ways Staples was spending campaign donations – on meals, hotels, trips to Florida, landscaping, and about $1,900 spent on a warranty for his vehicle.
Virginia – Third Former Staffer for Virginia Republican Scott Taylor Charged with Election Fraud
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 9/9/2020
A third former campaign staffer for Scott Taylor, the Republican former member of Congress who is seeking to reclaim his seat in Virginia’s Second District, has been indicted on a charge of election fraud tied to a 2018 scandal. Heather Guillot, a campaign consultant for Taylor during his failed bid for reelection, was charged with making a false statement in connection with a fraudulent petition scheme. Guillot and others were accused of forging signatures on petitions to get a potential spoiler third-party candidate on the ballot two years ago, ostensibly to siphon votes from Taylor’s opponent, Elaine Luria. She narrowly defeated Taylor, helping Democrats form a majority in the House. Taylor is challenging her in November.
Wisconsin – Watchdog: Outside group omitted campaign spending on GOP from tax return
Wisconsin Examiner – Erik Gunn | Published: 9/8/2020
A lobbying group with close ties to the Republican Party spent nearly $1 million to help elect 13 GOP lawmakers in the 2016 and 2018 election cycles in Wisconsin without filing required reports, according to a complaint. The Jobs First Coalition (JFC), exempt from taxes under Section 501(c)(4) of the IRS, transferred $920,000 in the tax years of 2016 through 2018 to a separate political fund it operates, according to the complaint by the Campaign for Accountability. The complaint states, “JFC reported to the IRS – under penalty of perjury – that it spent nothing on political campaign activities between 2016 and 2018.”
September 10, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “How Trump’s Billion Dollar Campaign Lost Its Cash Advantage” by Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) for MSN Florida: “Secretive Group Pushing Florida Constitutional Amendment Raised Money Linked to Big Businesses” by Jason Garcia for […]
National: “How Trump’s Billion Dollar Campaign Lost Its Cash Advantage” by Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) for MSN
Florida: “Secretive Group Pushing Florida Constitutional Amendment Raised Money Linked to Big Businesses” by Jason Garcia for Orlando Sentinel
Massachusetts: “Demo Contractor Fined $75,000 for Illegal Donations” by Chris Lisinski (State House News Service) for Worcester Telegram
Wisconsin: “Watchdog: Outside group omitted campaign spending on GOP from tax return” by Erik Gunn for Wisconsin Examiner
National: “Democrats Fear Partisan Slant at Postal Service as Trump Allies Dominate Board” by Luke Broadwater, Hailey Fuchs, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) for MSN
Montana: “Appeals Court Denies Green Party Candidates Ballot Access” by Staff for Associated Press News
National: “GOP Congressman Spent $70K in Campaign Cash on Meals” by Ally Mutnick for Politico
National: “Justice Dept. Intervenes on Behalf of Trump in Defamation Case Brought by Woman Who Accused Him of Rape” by Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) for MSN
Kansas: “Kan. Audit Peels Away Thin Layers of Publicly Financed Lobbying” by Tim Carpenter for Salina Post
September 9, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “How Trump Draws on Campaign Funds to Pay Legal Bills” by Eric Lipton (New York Times) for MSN Alabama: “Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Arrested for Campaign Finance Violation” by Mike Cason for AL.com Alaska: “Alaska Gov. […]
National: “How Trump Draws on Campaign Funds to Pay Legal Bills” by Eric Lipton (New York Times) for MSN
Alabama: “Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Arrested for Campaign Finance Violation” by Mike Cason for AL.com
Alaska: “Alaska Gov. Dunleavy Will Pay $2,800 to Settle Ethics Complaints Over Publicly Funded Political Ads” by Nathaniel Herz for Alaska Public Media
Maine: “PAC Spending on Tires, Clothing Spurs Complaint Against State Republican Leader” by Kevin Miller for centralmaine.com
New Jersey: “How ‘Illegal’ Donations Helped One NJ Law Firm Make Millions Off Taxpayer Dollars” by Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) for New Jersey Herald
National: “GOP Candidate Poses with Rifle, Says She’s Targeting ‘Socialist’ Congresswomen” by Rachael Bade abd John Wagner for Washington Post
Hawaii: “Hawaii Health Inspector Fined $25,000 For Ethics Violation” by Christina Jedra for Honolulu Civil Beat
Illinois: “Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s Office Subpoenaed by Feds Who Wanted Information on Land Parcel in Chinatown” by Hal Dardick and Jamie Munks for Chicago Tribune
California: “What Are Lobbyists Doing at San Jose City Hall? That’s a Good Question” by Carly Wipf for San Jose Spotlight
September 8, 2020 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
The Legislature presented a bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom relating to online filing and disclosure of specific statements, reports, and other documents. Assembly Bill 2151 requires a local government agency to post on its internet website, within 72 hours of […]
The Legislature presented a bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom relating to online filing and disclosure of specific statements, reports, and other documents.
Assembly Bill 2151 requires a local government agency to post on its internet website, within 72 hours of the applicable filing deadline, a copy of any specified statement, report, or other document required by Chapter 4 of the Political Reform Act of 1974 filed with the agency in paper format.
In addition, the statement, report, or other document must be made available for four years from the date of the election associated with the filing.
Finally, if signed by the governor, the bill becomes effective January 1, 2021.
September 8, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Louis DeJoy’s Rise as GOP Fundraiser Was Powered by Contributions from Company Workers Who Were Later Reimbursed, Former Employees Say” by Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner, and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) for MSN National: “Network of News Sites […]
National: “Louis DeJoy’s Rise as GOP Fundraiser Was Powered by Contributions from Company Workers Who Were Later Reimbursed, Former Employees Say” by Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner, and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Network of News Sites Must Register as a Political Committee Due to Democratic Links, Complaint Alleges” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post
Colorado: “‘LLCs Are Not Constituents’: Fort Collins council puts new caps on election” by Jacy Marmaduke for Fort Collins Coloradoan
Missouri: “After Two Court Losses, State Doesn’t Ask High Court to Weigh in on ‘Clean Missouri’ Question” by Jack Suntrup for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
National: “Judge Won’t Force Disclosure of Key Parts of Mueller Interviews” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
California: “CalPERS May Force Next CIO to Unload Personal Holdings” by Bloomberg for Los Angeles Times
Illinois: “Former ComEd VP Charged with Bribery Conspiracy in Scheme to Sway House Speaker Michael Madigan” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Michigan: “Pandemic Takes Bite Out of Lawmakers’ Free Food from Lobbyists” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News
Oregon: “Reporting on Timber Lobbying Prompts Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to Call for Audit of State Institute” by Tony Schick and Rob Davis for OPB
September 4, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal 1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says MSN – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 9/1/2020 More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, underscoring concerns about […]
1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says
MSN – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 9/1/2020
More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, underscoring concerns about whether the agency has the ability to process what is expected to be a major increase in mail-in votes for the presidential election in November. In a survey of mail-in ballots sent during primaries from June 2 to August 13, the agency’s inspector general found election boards across the country had sent more than one million ballots during the final week of the election, putting those votes at “high risk” of not making it back to officials in time to be counted. Hundreds of ballots were mailed after elections were over, meaning they could not be counted, and only a small percentage used the proper tracking procedures, the audit found.
As Clashes Between Armed Groups and Leftist Protesters Turn Deadly, Police Face Complaints of Tolerating Vigilantes
MSN – Joshua Partlow and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2020
As protesters march against racism and police violence in cities and towns across the nation, they are being confronted by groups of armed civilians who claim to be assisting and showing support for police battered and overwhelmed by the protests. The confrontations have left at least three people dead in recent days. The incidents have drawn complaints that local authorities abetted the violence by tolerating the presence of these self-appointed enforcers with no uniforms, varied training, and limited accountability. The stated motives of these vigilante actors, who are virtually indistinguishable from one another once massed on the streets, range from protecting storefronts and free speech to furthering White supremacy and fomenting civil war.
As Trump Appointees Flout the Hatch Act, Civil Servants Who Get Caught Get Punished
MSN – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 8/28/2020
The Hatch Act, the anti-corruption law Congress passed in 1939, applies on paper at least to civil servants and political appointees alike. But the top Trump administration officials showcased in prime-time appearances and speaking slots at the Republican National Convention serve as a reminder that when it comes to flouting the separation between governing and politicking, there appears to be a two-tiered system of consequences. Special Counsel Henry Kerner, who was appointed by President Trump, cited at least nine high-level Trump appointees for abusing their government roles to further the president’s reelection or disparage his rivals. They have largely thumbed their noses at the law. Career employees, meanwhile, have faced warning letters, reprimands, suspensions without pay and, in extreme cases, been fired and debarred from returning to government.
Barr Tightens Rules on Surveillance of Political Candidates and Advisers
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett | Published: 9/1/2020
Attorney General William Barr imposed new rules tightening the use of government surveillance on political candidates or their staffers, a move likely to cheer conservatives who have long criticized how the FBI investigated the Trump campaign in 2016. Barr said before the FBI and Justice Department seek a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to secretly monitor the communications of an elected official, a declared political candidate, or any of their staff and advisers, officials must first consider warning that person foreign governments may be targeting them, and if they choose not to give such a warning, the FBI director must spell out in writing the reasons for not doing so.
D.C. Circuit Panel Guts House Subpoena Power
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/31/2020
A divided federal appeals court panel dealt a blow to the U.S. House’s investigative power, ruling the House cannot go to court to enforce subpoenas because there is no statute giving that chamber the authority to do so. The ruling marked the second time a District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals panel essentially voided a subpoena the House issued last year to Donald McGahn demanding the former White House counsel testify about his dealings with President Trump related to the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. If the decision stands, it could cripple the House’s ability to demand information from sources unwilling to give it up readily.
Election Security Officials See No Sign of Foreign Threat to Mail-In Voting
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2020
Foreign governments such as Russia and China continue to try to interfere in the upcoming U.S. election, but officials have seen no evidence of countries trying to manipulate or manufacture mail-in ballots, officials said. Federal authorities are ramping up their efforts to keep state and local election systems secure, particularly in light of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, which led to criticism the government had been slow and soft in its response. Those assurances are in contrast to statements by President Trump, who has repeatedly argued mail-in voting is so ripe for abuse that he would block additional funds for the U.S. Postal Service to handle a surge in mail ballots this year.
Facebook Will Block New Political Advertising the Week Before Election Day
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg | Published: 9/3/2020
Facebook announced it would ban new political advertisements from its platform in the week leading up to the November election. The move to limit ads, part of a spate of election-related announcements, is an attempt to reduce misinformation that is expected to flood social networks as Election Day draws near. The company also said it would label posts by any candidate or campaign that tries to declare victory before the results are in, directing people to the official results from Reuters. It will do the same for any posts that try to delegitimize the outcome of the election. It has also started to limit users’ ability to forward articles on its Messenger platform to large groups of people.
Homeland Security Blocked Warnings of Russian Campaign Against Biden
New York Times – Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/2/2020
The Department of Homeland Security declined to publish a July 9 intelligence document that warns of Russian attempts to denigrate Joe Biden’s mental health, prompting new scrutiny of political influence at the department. Before the bulletin was distributed, senior Homeland Security officials intervened to halt publication. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson asked the inspector general for the department to review the matter. The department’s leaders and its intelligence office have already attracted criticism for appearing to shape decisions around the political whims of the White House, such as actions at the U.S.-Mexican border and the deployment of tactical teams to Portland and Washington, D.C., against the wishes of local governments.
How Trump’s Company Charged the U.S. Government More Than $900,000
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2020
Donald Trump has now visited his own properties 270 times as president, according to a Washington Post tally. Through these trips, he has brought the Trump Organization a stream of private revenue from federal agencies and Republican campaign groups. Federal spending records show taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office. New documents give more detail about how the Trump Organization charged the Secret Service – a kind of captive customer, required to follow Trump everywhere. In addition to rentals at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump Organization charged daily “resort fees” to Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Pence in Las Vegas and in another instance asked agents to pay a $1,300 “furniture removal charge” during a presidential visit to a Trump resort in Scotland.
Inside Trump’s Pressure Campaign on Federal Scientists Over a Covid-19 Treatment
MSN – Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2020
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made a series of missteps recently, following flip-flops earlier this year on authorizing and then revoking clearance for the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and its initial decision not to regulate Covid-19 antibody tests. It also feeds a long-running narrative of a White House repeatedly undermining its health and science experts, not just at the FDA but also at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “I’ve been following health regulatory decisions for decades and have never seen this amount of White House arm twisting to force agencies … to make decisions based on political pressure, rather than the best science,” said Jerome Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Justice Department Zeroing in On Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky, Carol Leonnig, and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 9/1/2020
Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy is under scrutiny for his alleged role in a campaign to persuade high-level Trump administration officials to drop an investigation of Malaysian government corruption, as well as for his attempt to push for the extradition of a Chinese dissident back to his home country. He has been in discussions with the Justice Department and could ultimately reach a plea deal in connection with efforts to influence the U.S. government on behalf of foreign interests. After the 2016 election, Broidy served as a national deputy finance chairperson for the Republican National Committee. He resigned in the wake of a report he had paid a woman $1.6 million in exchange for her silence about a sexual affair. Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen helped arrange the settlement, Broidy acknowledged.
Michael Flynn Case Does Not Have to Be Immediately Dismissed, Appeals Court Rules
Washington Post – Ann Marimow and Spencer Hsu | Published: 8/31/2020
A federal judge can scrutinize the Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, allowing the legal saga to continue. The decision from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gives U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan the go-ahead to question prosecutors’ unusual move to dismiss Flynn’s case ahead of sentencing. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts before Trump took office in 2017. The decision by the full court reverses a ruling by a three-judge panel that ordered Sullivan to close the case. Judge Thomas Griffith said it would be premature for the appeals court to intervene and force Sullivan’s hand before he had rendered a decision.
Postal Chief DeJoy Has Long Leveraged Connections, Dollars
Associated Press News – Matthew Daly, Brian Slodysko, and Anthony Izaguirre | Published: 8/30/2020
How Louis DeJoy was hired as postmaster general is among the questions Congress is trying to unravel as lawmakers scrutinize a series of operational changes at the Postal Service that have resulted in widespread mail delays and fears the agency will not be able to handle an expected surge in mail-in ballots this fall as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration denies any impropriety in the selection of DeJoy, a former supply chain chief executive who is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades not to be a career postal employee. DeJoy’s prolific giving to organizations and Republican candidates, including $1.2 million to President Trump, has also drawn a spotlight to the transactional appearance of some of his contributions.
PPP Loans Helped Out Congressional Spouses’ Workplaces
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 8/28/2020
The Paycheck Protection Program is not accepting loan applications anymore, but the extent to which members of Congress and their families benefited from it continues to roll in. The law firm where U.S. Rep. Martha Roby’s husband works – and engages in a 401(k) profit sharing plan at the firm worth up to $1.8 million – received a loan between $5-$10 million. Conflict-of-interest prohibitions do not apply to the Paycheck Protection Program, a component of the $2 trillion CARES Act. As such, members of Congress and their families are allowed to get Paycheck – Protection Program relief, an effort they helped pass into law.
Top Lobbying, Public Affairs Firms Join to Form Holding Company
Bloomberg Law – Megan Wilson | Published: 8/28/2020
Five lobbying and public affairs firms have set up their own holding company, an unconventional partnership in the influence industry that allows them to expand their businesses while remaining independent. The Public Policy Holding Company will specialize in advocacy and is owned by the participating firms, a contrast to the more common practice of massive multinationals gobbling up K Street firms. The benefits for the firms include being able to offer clients a suite of lobbying, public affairs, and state-level advocacy without sacrificing their individual brands or businesses.
Canada – Montreal-Based Ventilation Company Becomes Fourth Company Banned from Federal Contracts for 10 Years
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 9/1/2020
For the first time in four years, the federal government added a new company to its blacklist of suppliers. Les Industries Garanties Limitée is banned from bidding on federal contracts for a decade after an employee admitting bid-rigging in 2017. The company, which bills itself as “Montreal’s largest and most innovative leader in air conditioning services for commercial, industrial, residential and institutional sectors,” is only the fourth company to be deemed ineligible for federal contracts or real property agreements under the Integrity Regime. The regime aims to weed out and sanction any potential federal supplier who has been convicted of certain crimes, such as bribery, bid-rigging, or illegal lobbying.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – AG: Time for former Alabama speaker to go to prison
Associated Press News – Kim Chandler | Published: 8/31/2020
The Alabama Supreme Court refused to reverse its decision upholding much of the 2016 ethics conviction of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and the state attorney general said it is time for the once-powerful Republican to report to prison. The court this spring overturned five of the counts in Hubbard’s ethics convictions while upholding six others. Prosecutors accused Hubbard of leveraging his powerful public office to obtain clients and investments for his businesses. His defense lawyers maintained the transactions were all aboveboard.
Arizona – Charity Founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb Has $18,000 in Unaccounted Spending
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 8/31/2020
A charity founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb reported raising more than $50,000 during its first year in operation but has not reported how it spent a single penny during that time. Instead, tax filings by the American Sheriff Foundation are largely blank, leave at least $18,000 unaccounted for, and do not disclose business relationships between board members that must be reported to the IRS. While the organization touts itself as building bridges between community and law enforcement, records obtained by The Arizona Republic leave unclear how much money the foundation is spending on charity and where the rest of its funds are going.
Arkansas – 2 Measures Kicked Off State Ballot
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – John Moritz | Published: 8/28/2020
The Arkansas Supreme Court removed a pair of proposed changes to the state constitution from the November ballot, halting attempts to enact ranked-choice voting and a new method for drawing legislative and congressional districts. The court disqualified both measures on technical grounds, finding fault with the wording the groups behind the measures used to certify their paid canvassers met all the requirements to collect signatures. Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas wrote in submissions they “acquired ” criminal background checks for each of their canvassers. Secretary of State John Thurston’s office, however, said the groups needed to certify that the canvassers “passed” the background checks.
California – Biden-Linked Firm Won California Voter Outreach Contract
Associated Press News – Kathleen Ronayne and Chris Blood | Published: 8/27/2020
The California agency that oversees elections has signed a $35 million contract with a firm linked to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to produce advertising to encourage voters to participate in the November election. Under the contract, SKD Knickerbocker, a Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm, will help run the “Vote Safe California” campaign, which will urge people to vote during the pandemic. Anita Dunn, the firm’s managing director, is a senior strategist for Biden’s presidential campaign. The firm’s work for Biden is highlighted on its website, with a headline saying the company is “proud to be a part of Team Biden.”
California – He Paved the Way for Big Electronic Billboards. Then $75,000 Poured in for His Reelection
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/30/2020
When a real estate developer proposed a $1.2-billion skyscraper near downtown Los Angeles, city council member Curren Price stepped forward to champion the project, despite warnings it would accelerate gentrification in the area. Price urged his colleagues to approve the development in 2016, saying it would create hundreds of jobs. He also ensured that developer Ara Tavitian received permission to install three digital billboards on a 12-story building already located on the site, over objections from city planning commissioners. Months later, three of Tavitian’s real estate companies poured $75,000 into a PAC working to reelect Price.
Connecticut – Connecticut Judge: Public campaign grants can pay for child care
Connecticut Post – Emilie Munson | Published: 8/28/2020
A Connecticut judge ruled candidates for elected office can use public campaign funding to pay for childcare while they are campaigning, clearing the way for more parents to run for office in the state. The plaintiff, Caitlin Clarkson Pereira ran for state representative in 2018. The state agency that oversees campaign finance laws rebuked her attempt to use public election grants to cover childcare. The grants can be used to pay for travel and other expenses produced by a campaign.
Georgia – State Ethics Commission Says Atlanta Mayor Not Cooperating with Election Investigation
WSB – Richard Belcher | Published: 9/2/2020
The fallout from a long and expensive 2017 Atlanta mayor’s race is still being felt some three years later as ethics investigations dog the participants. In August, the Georgia’s ethics commission fined the losing candidate, Mary Norwood, $27,000 which she immediately paid off. But the commission said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is not cooperating with its investigation into hundreds of thousands of dollars in suspected illegal campaign contributions. The commission notified Bottoms this past December they found evidence of nearly $400,000 of financial irregularities within the campaign.
Illinois – Former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski Admits to Bribery and Extortion
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/1/2020
Jeff Tobolski, a former Cook County commissioner and mayor, admitted he took “multiple extortion and bribe payments” worth a total of more than $250,000. He admitted conspiring with an unnamed McCook police officer to get cash payments from a restaurant owner in exchange for giving permission to the business to sell liquor. Media reports said a factory owner in Tobolski’s county board district felt pressured to give a campaign contribution to the commission while the businessperson’s application for a county property-tax break was pending. In one email, Tobolski said the tool-and-die business should contribute campaign cash annually and budget for the expense as if it were a “fixed cost” of doing business in his district.
Illinois – Former SafeSpeed Executive Who Wore FBI Wire Charged with Bribery Conspiracy Involving Oak Lawn Red-Light Camera Scheme
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 8/31/2020
Federal prosecutors charged a central figure in their ongoing corruption probe in Chicago involving red-light camera company SafeSpeed. The one-count criminal information alleges Omar Maani, who was co-owner of the company, conspired with Patrick Doherty, who has worked as a paid consultant for SafeSpeed, and another sales agent for the company to pay $4,000 in bribes to pay off the relative of an Oak Lawn trustee to expand the number of red-light cameras there. To hide the purpose of the bribes, the money would come from a company where Doherty was a manager. Maani’s cooperation with federal authorities already has led to charges against a number of politicians and power players, including then-Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval.
Illinois – Naperville Council Member Proposes Ethics Policy to Limit Influence of Campaign Donations on City Business
Chicago Tribune – Erin Hegarty (Naperville Sun) | Published: 9/2/2020
Naperville City Councilperson Theresa Sullivan requested the city look into whether it could enforce stricter ethics policies to keep campaign donations from influencing city council votes. Sullivan proposed city staff research amending Naperville’s ethics code to require council members and the mayor to recuse themselves from voting on an agenda item if the petitioner, or a representative of the petitioner, donated more than $500 to the mayor or council member’s most recent campaign.
Indiana – Whiting Mayor, Wife Pulled $255K from Campaign to Fuel Gambling Habit, Pay Credit Card Debt, Feds Say
Northwest Indiana Times – Lauren Cross | Published: 8/27/2020
Longtime Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura illegally spent $255,000 in campaign money to fuel his and his wife’s gambling habits, pay down debts, and support his adult daughter, federal prosecutors said in announcing felony charges against him. Diane Stahura transferred money from the campaign committee’s bank account to the Stahuras’ personal bank account, authorities said. Prosecutors said Joe Stahura filed a false tax return in 2019, falsely listing his gross income and not accounting for $51,480 stolen from the campaign account in 2018. Additionally, on his campaign finance report he overstated the loan repayment amount to his campaign by approximately $40,000, prosecutors said.
Iowa – Judge Voids 50,000 Absentee Ballot Requests in Iowa County
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 8/28/2020
A judge ordered an Iowa county to invalidate 50,000 requests for absentee ballots, agreeing with President Trump’s campaign that its elections commissioner overstepped his authority by pre-filling them with voters’ personal information. Judge Ian Thornhill issued a temporary injunction ordering Linn County Auditor Joel Miller to notify voters in writing the forms should not have been pre-filled with their information and cannot be processed. Instead, they will have to either fill out new requests for absentee ballots or vote on Election Day. Republicans said the ruling would hold a “rogue auditor” accountable and enhance voting security, while Democrats called it an act of voter suppression.
Kentucky – Kentucky’s New Election Finance Reporting System Plagued with More Delays
Louisville Courier-Journal – Joe Sonka | Published: 8/28/2020
When it passed a law in 2019 requiring candidates and committees to file their campaign finance reports electronically, the Kentucky General Assembly was aiming for increased transparency. The new system would let taxpayers know as soon as possible who was contributing to whom. The law went into effect this year, but so far has fallen short of that aim. The system delays run counter to the essential mission of the agency, providing timely transparency on who is bankrolling political campaigns. It makes any major financial push by special interest groups difficult to detect.
Missouri – Judges Redo Voter Summary of Missouri Redistricting Measure
Associated Press News – Summer Ballentine | Published: 8/31/2020
A Missouri appeals court panel rewrote a summary for voters describing a November ballot measure that would revamp the state’s model for drawing fair and competitive legislative districts. The Legislature’s combined the redistricting changes with popular measures to lower campaign contribution limits and restrict lobbyist gifts to lawmakers. “We believe that voters need to be informed that they are being asked to reconsider, and substantially modify, a measure which they only recently approved,” according to the ruling written by Judge Alok Ahuja.
Montana – COPP Dismisses Complaints Against Bullock, Warns of Fees for Future Faulty Claims
Great Falls Tribune – Phil Drake | Published: 8/28/2020
The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices dismissed two complaints filed by the state Republican Party against Gov. Steve Bullock, saying they did not meet ethics code violations. In one case, Commissioner Jeff Mangan warned that ethics complaints, with and without basis in law and fact, are on a “steep rise” and he will begin charging complaints when cases fail to meet legal standards. He said conclusory statements, assumptions, or opinions are not enough to support a proceeding under the ethics code.
Montana – Judge Upholds Montana Political Spending Disclosure Rule
Associated Press News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 8/31/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Lovell upheld Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s executive order that requires companies to report political spending if they want to bid on large state contracts. Lovell ruled the Illinois Opportunity Project does not have the legal standing to challenge the order, which requires reporting of contributions even to “dark money” groups. Under Bullock’s order, companies submitting bids for contracts valued at more than $25,000 for services or $50,000 for goods must disclose two years’ worth of political spending if it exceeds $2,500.
New York – Court Shields Trump Tax Returns, Likely Until After Election
ABC News – Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 9/1/2020
A federal appeals court granted President Trump a temporary reprieve in the fight over his tax returns, barring Manhattan’s top prosecutor from getting the records while Trump’s lawyers embark on another bid to overturn the subpoena seeking them. With a temporary stay in place and Trump expecting a return to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is unlikely the case will be resolved or any tax returns will be turned over before the November election. A lawyer for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office argued further delays to the enforcement of a subpoena issued nearly a year ago would only hamper their investigation, which he said covers a wide range of business dealings connected to the Trump Organization.
Ohio – FirstEnergy, Caught Up in FBI Investigation, Used Its ‘Political Might’ to Pressure the Ohio Statehouse
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/27/2020
Interviews and a review of hundreds of pages of court documents and campaign finance reports, show FirstEnergy and its affiliates have used an army of lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants, as well as political contributions, to pressure Ohio lawmakers to get what they want when they want it. The companies have used a rough-and-tumble political style to gain legislators’ support through fear or favor, according to interviews and court records. The tactics have sought to mold even the most independent lawmakers into compliant followers. The strategy became clear when the racketeering indictment of Former Speaker Larry Householder and four associates linked to House Bill 6 underscored the political influence of FirstEnergy and its former subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission Fines Anti-Nuclear Bailout Campaign Group for Not Disclosing Donors
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/27/2020
The Ohio Elections Commission fined the group behind the failed 2019 campaign to repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law, for failing to disclose who funded their efforts. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts faces a fine of at least $5,225, or $25 for each day that has passed since a January 31 campaign finance deadline. Commission members approved the fine recommended by staff after the group failed to file a routine report detailing donors and campaign expenses. Particularly since House Bill 6 was implicated in a federal corruption investigation, advocates and state lawmakers have cited the fight over the bill in calls for reforms to increase transparency in Ohio’s campaign finance system.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission to Consider 162 Campaign Finance Complaints Related to Larry Householder’s Campaign for Speaker
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/27/2020
Larry Householder and his allies committed dozens of violations of state campaign finance law, including bribery, while helping Householder become and retain his power as speaker of the House, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said. LaRose referred 162 elections complaints to the Elections Commission against Householder and four other men: his former top political aide Jeff Longstreth and lobbyists Matt Borges, Juan Cespedes, and Neil Clark. The alleged violations parallel a federal investigation, which has charged Householder and the others of accepting more than $60 million in bribes, funneled through a network of political groups, from FirstEnergy and its affiliates to help Householder get elected as speaker in 2019.
Ohio – Ohio House Poised to Remove Householder from Legislative Ethics Panel Following Corruption Arrest
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/1/2020
The Ohio House is moving to remove state Rep. Larry Householder from his seat on a legislative ethics board, six weeks after Householder was arrested in a federal corruption probe. Republicans added language to an unrelated bill to make it possible to remove Householder from the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), which oversees lobbying and ethics rules for the Legislature. Householder had gotten an automatic seat on the JLEC board when he was speaker, and state law otherwise was designed to prevent removing a lawmaker once they are on.
Oregon – Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/30/2020
As the first state in the nation to adopt vote-by-mail and automatic voter registration, Oregon has built a reputation for high voter turnout. But while Oregon voters have their say at the ballot box, corporations have their say more frequently in the Legislature, by keeping the state’s politicians awash in campaign cash. Oregon is one of five states that lack any limits on campaign contributions made by corporations, and one of eleven that lack any limit on individual donations to a candidate. The result is the state is number one in per capita corporate political donations and sixth overall in total corporate political donations. Heading into the November election, a coalition of state groups is putting the issue of unlimited corporate money in state politics before voters in a ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution.
Virginia – Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 9/1/2020
For vision-impaired voters in Virginia, there was no easy way to vote. They would either have to risk their health during a pandemic to vote in person or forgo voter privacy by asking someone to fill in the blanks on their mail-in ballot forms. Now, after the center and several other groups advocating for the blind filed a federal lawsuit, the Virginia Department of Elections has agreed to offer a new option. A consent decree will allow vision-impaired individuals to electronically receive mail-in ballots compatible with screen-reader assistive technology. The agreement applies only to the November 3 election.
Washington – Washington One of the Few States Without a ‘Cooling Off’ Period for Public Servants Turned Lobbyists
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Connell and Patrick Malone | Published: 9/2/2020
Nearly one in five of Washington’s roughly 800 registered lobbyists previously worked in state government or elected office. That includes about 60 lobbyists who came from high-ranking public positions. They include former chiefs of staff of governors, Cabinet secretaries, and deputy directors for state agencies. Several are former state lawmakers or attorneys for the Legislature. Government-reform advocates say the “revolving door” creates the potential for powerful interests to influence public servants who could be in line to land a job outside government. Then, as lobbyists, former officials can use their extensive knowledge and contacts to potentially exercise outsized influence on policy and legislation.
West Virginia – Lawsuit Reveals Lobbyist Drama
Wheeling News-Register – Steven Allen Adams | Published: 8/30/2020
Depositions filed in federal court revealed the internal drama behind the selection of standardized tests and the rivalry between the former state superintendent of schools and a lobbyist. It was a rivalry that spilled into social media with attacks on the West Virginia Department of Education, state education officials allegedly threatening one major testing supplier and even pressuring another testing supplier to hire their own lobbyist to “combat” and “neutralize” the other lobbyist. The lawsuit filed by lobbyist Jason Webb against Steve Paine, former state superintendent of schools, and Jan Barth, assistant superintendent for the Division of Teaching and Learning at the Department of Education, showcases the fight between two companies to become the state’s new standardized test.
September 3, 2020 • Written by Joanna Kamvouris
Fort Collins City Council approved several campaign finance changes on September 1 that will take effect in time for the April 2021 city election. The amendments include limits to how much individuals can contribute to limited liability corporations and political […]
Fort Collins City Council approved several campaign finance changes on September 1 that will take effect in time for the April 2021 city election.
The amendments include limits to how much individuals can contribute to limited liability corporations and political committees to support or oppose city races.
City Council voted 5-2 on the political committee and LLC contribution changes. This included votes in opposition from Mayor Wade Troxell and council member Ken Summers. In addition, council unanimously approved several other election code changes. The changes will apply to municipal elections for council seats, the mayoral race, and city ballot measures.
Current code allows LLCs to donate up to $75 to a candidate committee for a City Council member, or $100 to a committee for a mayoral candidate, which is the same limit for an individual. Because one person can be a member of multiple LLCs, people could bypass individual donation limits. This bypass could be accomplished by donating through various LLCs. Election finance records show this has happened in previous Fort Collins elections.
The amendment will bring this requirement into alignment with the state election code. The current code requires donations from LLCs to include statements that attribute the donation to specific LLC members. The donations attributed through an LLC will then count toward individual donation limits.
The political committee amendment will place a $100 cap on donations to political committees. There is currently no limit on contributions to political committees. This occurs when two or more people who come together to accept contributions or make expenditures to support or oppose one or more candidates.
The amendments will be presented for final passage on September 15.
September 3, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Georgia: “State Ethics Commission Says Atlanta Mayor Not Cooperating with Election Investigation” by Richard Belcher for WSB Montana: “Judge Upholds Montana Political Spending Disclosure Rule” by Amy Beth Hanson for Associated Press News Elections National: “1 Million Primary […]
Georgia: “State Ethics Commission Says Atlanta Mayor Not Cooperating with Election Investigation” by Richard Belcher for WSB
Montana: “Judge Upholds Montana Political Spending Disclosure Rule” by Amy Beth Hanson for Associated Press News
National: “1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says” by Luke Broadwater (New York Times) for MSN
Missouri: “Judges Redo Voter Summary of Missouri Redistricting Measure” by Summer Ballentine for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski Admits to Bribery and Extortion” by Dan Mihalopoulos for WBEZ
New York: “Court Shields Trump Tax Returns, Likely Until After Election” by Michael Sisak (Associated Press) for ABC News
Ohio: “Ohio House Poised to Remove Householder from Legislative Ethics Panel Following Corruption Arrest” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer
National: “Justice Department Zeroing in On Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy” by Matt Zapotosky, Carol Leonnig, and Rosalind Helderman for Washington Post
Washington: “Washington One of the Few States Without a ‘Cooling Off’ Period for Public Servants Turned Lobbyists” by Joseph O’Connell and Patrick Malone for Seattle Times
West Virginia: “Lawsuit Reveals Lobbyist Drama” by Steven Allen Adams for Wheeling News-Register
September 2, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations” by David Moore for Sludge Elections Virginia: “Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued” by Meagan Flynn for Washington Post Ethics National: “PPP […]
Oregon: “Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations” by David Moore for Sludge
Virginia: “Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued” by Meagan Flynn for Washington Post
National: “PPP Loans Helped Out Congressional Spouses’ Workplaces” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call
National: “D.C. Circuit Panel Guts House Subpoena Power” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico
National: “Barr Tightens Rules on Surveillance of Political Candidates and Advisers” by Devlin Barrett for Washington Post
Alabama: “AG: Time for former Alabama speaker to go to prison” by Kim Chandler for Associated Press News
National: “Guilty Plea in Hawaii Woman’s Lobbying of Trump Officials” by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Former SafeSpeed Executive Who Wore FBI Wire Charged with Bribery Conspiracy Involving Oak Lawn Red-Light Camera Scheme” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Canada: “Montreal-Based Ventilation Company Becomes Fourth Company Banned from Federal Contracts for 10 Years” by Christopher Nardi for National Post
September 1, 2020 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
A federal judge on Monday upheld an executive order by Gov. Steve Bullock requiring companies to report political spending if they want to bid on large state contracts. U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell ruled the Illinois Opportunity Project does not […]
A federal judge on Monday upheld an executive order by Gov. Steve Bullock requiring companies to report political spending if they want to bid on large state contracts.
U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell ruled the Illinois Opportunity Project does not have the legal standing to challenge the governor’s 2018 order requiring reporting of contributions even to so called dark money groups.
Judge Lovell had dismissed the complaint in January due to lack of standing.
However, he gave the Illinois Opportunity Project another chance to prove the executive order would cause it to suffer an actual or imminent, as opposed to hypothetical, loss of a legally protected right.
Under Bullock’s order, companies submitting bids for contracts valued at more than $25,000 for services or $50,000 for goods must disclose two years’ worth of political spending if the spending exceeds $2,500.
The order allows Montana to bring transparency to spending by groups classified as social welfare organizations under the federal tax code.
September 1, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance California: “He Paved the Way for Big Electronic Billboards. Then $75,000 Poured in for His Reelection” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times Kentucky: “Kentucky’s New Election Finance Reporting System Plagued with More Delays” […]
California: “He Paved the Way for Big Electronic Billboards. Then $75,000 Poured in for His Reelection” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
Kentucky: “Kentucky’s New Election Finance Reporting System Plagued with More Delays” by Joe Sonka for Louisville Courier-Journal
Montana: “COPP Dismisses Complaints Against Bullock, Warns of Fees for Future Faulty Claims” by Phil Drake for Great Falls Tribune
Ohio: “Ohio Elections Commission to Consider 162 Campaign Finance Complaints Related to Larry Householder’s Campaign for Speaker” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer
National: “As Trump Appointees Flout the Hatch Act, Civil Servants Who Get Caught Get Punished” by Lisa Rein (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Michael Flynn Case Does Not Have to Be Immediately Dismissed, Appeals Court Rules” by Ann Marimow and Spencer Hsu for Washington Post
National: “Inside Trump’s Pressure Campaign on Federal Scientists Over a Covid-19 Treatment” by Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post) for MSN
Arizona: “Charity Founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb Has $18,000 in Unaccounted Spending” by Andrew Oxford for Arizona Republic
National: “Top Lobbying, Public Affairs Firms Join to Form Holding Company” by Megan Wilson for Bloomberg Law