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 John Cetor
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has announced the special election dates for Senate District 26. This seat was previously held by Sen. David Burkette who resigned last week ahead of being arrested for violations of the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act. […]
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has announced the special election dates for Senate District 26.
This seat was previously held by Sen. David Burkette who resigned last week ahead of being arrested for violations of the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act.
The special primary election will be held on November 17 with a runoff on December 15, if necessary.
The general election will be held on March 2, 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 George Ticoras, Esq.
Sometime before February 28, 2021, a by-election will be announced for the seat in the House of Commons representing York Centre in the province of Ontario. On September 1, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Stéphane Perrault, received official notice […]
Sometime before February 28, 2021, a by-election will be announced for the seat in the House of Commons representing York Centre in the province of Ontario.
On September 1, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Stéphane Perrault, received official notice from the Speaker of the House of Commons that the seat for York Centre (Ontario) became vacant following the resignation of Michael Levitt, who left his seat to become the CEO of the Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies.
Under the law, the by-election date must be announced between September 12, 2020, and February 28, 2021, and will signal the start of the by-election period. According to Elections Canada, the earliest date the by-election can be held is October 19, 2020.
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
August 31, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Connecticut: “Connecticut Judge: Public campaign grants can pay for child care” by Emilie Munson for Connecticut Post Indiana: “Whiting Mayor, Wife Pulled $255K from Campaign to Fuel Gambling Habit, Pay Credit Card Debt, Feds Say” by Lauren Cross […]
Connecticut: “Connecticut Judge: Public campaign grants can pay for child care” by Emilie Munson for Connecticut Post
Indiana: “Whiting Mayor, Wife Pulled $255K from Campaign to Fuel Gambling Habit, Pay Credit Card Debt, Feds Say” by Lauren Cross for Northwest Indiana Times
Ohio: “Ohio Elections Commission Fines Anti-Nuclear Bailout Campaign Group for Not Disclosing Donors” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer
National: “Election Security Officials See No Sign of Foreign Threat to Mail-In Voting” by Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for MSN
Arkansas: “2 Measures Kicked Off State Ballot” by John Moritz for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
California: “Biden-Linked Firm Won California Voter Outreach Contract” by Kathleen Ronayne and Chris Blood for Associated Press News
National: “U.S Political Divide Becomes Increasingly Violent, Rattling Activists and Police” by Tim Craig for Washington Post
National: “How Trump’s Company Charged the U.S. Government More Than $900,000” by David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
Ohio: “FirstEnergy, Caught Up in FBI Investigation, Used Its ‘Political Might’ to Pressure the Ohio Statehouse” by John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
August 28, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal After Online Warnings, Armed Civilians Bring Threat of Violence to Protests in Kenosha and Elsewhere Washington Post – Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Mark Guarino | Published: 8/26/2020 Civilians carrying assault rifles and handguns were visible on the streets in […]
After Online Warnings, Armed Civilians Bring Threat of Violence to Protests in Kenosha and Elsewhere
Washington Post – Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Mark Guarino | Published: 8/26/2020
Civilians carrying assault rifles and handguns were visible on the streets in Kenosha throughout the chaotic events that left two people dead and another wounded. This included the alleged shooter, who was captured on video running with an assault rifle near a gas station at the center of the unrest. Militia-style groups and their sympathizers have become a regular fixture in the United States this summer, appearing at dozens of events and confronting racial justice protesters. Experts who track militia activity have been warning that the proliferation of powerful weapons in untrained hands during tense protests is a recipe for bloodshed.
Appeals Court Backs Greater Disclosure of ‘Dark Money’ Donors
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/21/2020
The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that found the FEC’s donor-disclosure regulations regarding groups that spend money on independent expenditures – ads that expressly support or oppose political candidates – were too weak to comply with federal law. While donors to super PACs are disclosed, even politically active nonprofits typically do not disclose their donors, creating the opportunity for some wealthy individuals to secretly spend tens of millions of dollars on political races. The appeals court decision appears to wipe out at least some of the methods groups and individuals have utilized to keep donations secret.
Black, Latino Lobbyists Bristle at Progressives Pushing Corporate K Street Ban on Biden
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 8/25/2020
A battle is brewing on K Street over an effort by progressives to ensure a Biden administration is devoid of any former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists. Black and Latino lobbyists say a ban of that sort would end up shutting out minorities and could make the administration less diverse if Democrats win back the White House. The tensions date back to April, when eight progressive groups wrote a letter calling on Joe Biden to vow not to appoint any “current or former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists, or people affiliated with the fossil fuel, health insurance or private prison corporations” to his transition team, Cabinet, or as top aides. That demand did not sit well with some minority lobbyists, who argue corporate lobbyists should not be denied a spot in the administration.
Consultant Charged in Covert Lobbying of Trump Officials
Courthouse News Service – Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2020
Prominent Hawaii political fundraiser Nickie Lum Davis and several others are being accused of using their clout to thwart an investigation into a Malaysian state investment fund. Court documents show that among other activities, Davis and two fundraisers helped arrange a meeting between President Trump and Malaysian Prime Minster Najib Razak. Federal prosecutors say Davis failed to disclose to the lobbying effort was done on behalf of a fugitive Malaysian financier who has been charged in the U.S. with conspiring to launder billions of dollars. Davis was charged with one count of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Democrats Push to Revamp Political Money System That’s Boosting Their Campaigns
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/19/2020
Democrats adopted a platform at their convention that calls for an overhaul of campaign finance laws, including forcing the disclosure of covert sources of political spending, money that right now is helping to boost the party’s candidates for the House, Senate, and White House. Big donors, super PACs, and nonprofit groups that may shield their donors’ identities are going all in for the 2020 campaigns, funding ads and other efforts for candidates in both parties. Yet if Democrats hold the House and win control of the Senate and White House, activists say they plan to step up the pressure on the party to revamp the system, even though it would be that system that helped put them in charge.
Focus on Trump’s Official White House Actions as Part of Republican Convention Programming Raises Hatch Act Concerns
Philadelphia Inquirer – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2020
The decision by the Republican National Convention to feature President Trump conducting official business inside the White House underscores how he is leveraging the powers of his office for political gain, raising questions about whether an event violated federal law. The most widely known civil provisions of the Hatch Act do not apply to the president and the vice president. But the law applies to executive branch employees who are involved in planning or executing any political events staged at the White House, including video segments filmed there, experts said. While the president and vice president are exempt from the civil provisions of the law, they are subject to two criminal provisions derived from the Hatch Act, said Kathleen Clark, a legal and government ethics professor at Washington University.
Inside the Democratic Party’s Plan to Prevent Vote-by-Mail Disaster
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Elena Schneider | Published: 8/25/2020
The Democratic Party is kicking off the most complicated get-out-the-vote campaign in history. The party’s virtual convention marked the unofficial start of a massive public education, voter contact, and legal strategy to make voting by mail a success in the fall. Record high numbers of people plan to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that group skews heavily Democratic, according to polling. But voting by mail is also more complicated than voting in person, and the party’s campaign machinery has rapidly transformed itself into a system for helping voters navigate those obstacles.
Kellyanne Conway to Leave the White House at the End of the Month, Citing the Need to Focus on Her Family
Washington Post – Ashley Parker | Published: 8/23/2020
Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Trump and one of his longest-serving aides, is leaving the White House at the end of August. Conway, whose title is counselor to the president, was Trump’s third campaign manager in 2016 and the first woman to successfully manage a presidential bid to victory. She and her husband became an object of fascination as George Conway ramped up his criticism of the president in 2018 while Kellyanne Conway remained a top adviser to Trump.
More Than 500,000 Mail Ballots Were Rejected in the Primaries. That Could Make the Difference in Battleground States This Fall.
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2020
More than 534,000 mail ballots were rejected during primaries across 23 states this year, nearly a quarter in key battlegrounds for the fall, illustrating how missed delivery deadlines, inadvertent mistakes, and uneven enforcement of the rules could disenfranchise voters and affect the outcome of the presidential election. The stakes are high as the most chaotic presidential election in memory collides with a once-in-a-century pandemic, which has led 20 states to expand or ease access to voting by mail as a public health measure. The rates of rejection could make a difference in the fall if the White House contest is decided by a close margin.
New Bill Seeks to Bring Lobbying Out of the Shadows
Sludge – Donald Shaw | Published: 8/20/2020
U.S. Reps. Dean Phillips and Ben Cline introduced the Lobbying Disclosure Reform Act of 2020, which would require companies, trade groups, and other entities that employ lobbyists to begin disclosing information about the “strategic lobbying services” they employ in support of their lobbyists. The bill would require reporting of individuals employed in strategic planning, polling, production of public communications, and encouraging people to take action to support or oppose a legislative or regulatory action through the formation of formal or informal coalitions. Requiring disclosure of strategic services will partially address “shadow lobbying” by former members of Congress who join lobbying firms without technically registering as lobbyists to comply with ethics laws.
The Pandemic Is Creating a New Crop of Political Candidates: Unemployed workers
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 8/24/2020
Thousands of people are running for office this year, and while most made the decision well before the pandemic struck, a small crop of candidates have more recently jumped into political races after losing their jobs or dealing with other work-related fallout from the pandemic. These candidates have little political experience but have survived through the devastating economic fallout that caused more than 20 million workers to lose their jobs. There are no numbers on these candidates nor any guarantee of their chances to win, but they show how, increasingly, pandemic unemployment is becoming a major influence on politics.
Top U.S. Officials Told C.D.C. to Soften Coronavirus Testing Guidelines
MSN – Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) | Published: 8/26/2020
Trump administration officials defended a new recommendation that people without Covid-19 symptoms abstain from testing, even as scientists warned the policy could hobble an already weak federal response as schools reopen and a potential autumn wave looms. The day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the revised guidance, there were conflicting reports on who was responsible. Two federal health officials said the shift came as a directive to the CDC from higher-ups in Washington at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Trump Praises Baseless QAnon Conspiracy Theory, Says He Appreciates Support of Its Followers
Washington Post – Colby Itkowitz, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lori Rozsa, and Rachael Bade | Published: 8/19/2020
President Trump gave a boost to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, saying he appreciated the support of its followers. At a briefing about the online movement, which the FBI has identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat, he claimed not to know anything about it other than the affection its adherents have for him. But when a reporter outlined the claims underlying the theory – “that you are secretly saving the world from this Satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals” – Trump seemed to embrace that role for himself. Though its followers have been heralding Trump for years, there is concern the philosophy is seeping into the mainstream as candidates who espouse its ideas are now competing in, and winning, congressional races.
Trump’s Suggestion of Deploying Law Enforcement Officials to Monitor Polls Raises Specter of Voting intimidation
Washington Post – Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 8/21/2020
More than 30 years ago, a Republican Party program that dispatched off-duty police officers to patrol polling places in heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods in New Jersey triggered accusations of voter intimidation, resulting in a federal agreement that restricted for decades how the national GOP could observe voting. Now, two years after those limits were lifted, President Trump has revived the idea of using law enforcement officers to patrol polling places, invoking tactics historically used to scare voters of color.
Wife of Ex-California Congressman Duncan Hunter Sentenced for Corruption
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Julie Watson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2020
Margaret Hunter, the wife of former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to eight months of home confinement after pleading guilty to misusing more than $150,000 in campaign funds in a corruption case that ended her husband’s career. Prosecutors noted Margaret Hunter’s cooperation with the prosecution of her husband in arguing against putting her behind bars and for allowing her to serve the sentence at home. Duncan Hunter was sentenced in March to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty.
Canada – Conservatives Claim ‘Coverup’ After Trudeau Shuts Down Parliament
CBC – Kathleen Harris | Published: 8/19/2020
Conservative lawmakers are accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of a “coverup” by shutting down Parliament to dodge scrutiny of his government’s role in the WE Charity controversy. Trudeau announced Gov. Gen. Julie Payette granted his request to prorogue Parliament until September 23. He said the move will allow his government to present a long-term economic recovery plan for Canada after the Coronavirus pandemic and an opportunity for the House of Commons to vote on whether it has confidence in the government to move forward on that plan. WE Charity was awarded a $43.5 million contract to manage the $900 million student volunteer grant program. Trudeau and then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau did not recuse themselves from talks on the deal, despite both having family ties to the organization.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Maricopa County Won’t Pursue Charges Over Explicit Photos of Arizona Lawmaker Sent to Lobbyist
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 8/25/2020
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will not file charges after investigating allegations the husband of a state legislator sent explicit photographs of the lawmaker to a lobbyist, who believed the couple was trying to solicit her for sex. Records show state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and her now husband, former gubernatorial aide Brian Townsend, refused to speak with investigators about the photos. The records also show the lobbyist told investigators the images she received were unsolicited and unwanted and she believed the two were taking advantage of their positions of power. Rep. Anthony Kern raised questions about whether the incident involved violations of Arizona’s law against what is known as revenge pornography.
California – Elections Watchdog OK’s Settlement Over LA County’s Measure H Advocacy
Los Angeles Daily News – Chris Haire | Published: 8/20/2020
Los Angeles County will pay a $1.35 million settlement under an agreement approved by the California Fair Political Practices Commission to resolve claims that its board of supervisors misused taxpayer money when it hired a communication firm to promote a proposed sales tax hike. Supervisors hired TBWB Strategies to execute a public education campaign and advertising surrounding the ballot measure. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association argued the county spent money on what should be considered campaign-related activities. If that were the case, under state law, the county would have had to make various public disclosures, including having its name and “paid for by” on any advertisements.
California – FBI L.A. Chief Reassigned Amid Flap Over Agents’ Meeting at Dodgers Playoff Game
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/25/2020
The top FBI agent in Los Angeles departed in the wake of a U.S. Justice Department inspector general’s report that found he was responsible for violations of federal ethics requirements and FBI policies by holding a meeting with his management team in an exclusive club at Dodger Stadium during the playoffs two years ago and allowing them to indulge in the free buffet. Seven of those present dined at the buffet and one top intelligence chief drank a beer, the report said, but no one from the bureau paid for the luxury seats and food. Paul Delacourt was reassigned from his post overseeing the regional office. Delacourt disputed the report’s findings.
California – Lobbyist Agrees to Plea Deal in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and Joel Rubin | Published: 8/25/2020
Lobbyist and former :Los Angeles City Hall official Morrie Goldman agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, the latest person to strike such a deal in an ongoing “pay-to-play” probe. Federal prosecutors say Goldman was part of a bribery scheme in which one of his clients, a real estate developer, agreed to give tens of thousands of dollars to a PAC in exchange for city Councilperson Jose Huizar taking steps to help a project. Prosecutors alleged Goldman pressured real estate developers to give to a committee that was set up to benefit a relative of Jose Huizar planning to run for his seat.
Connecticut – Top Lamont Aide Had a $100K Job in 2017 with Eversource, the Utility That the Governor Says He’ll Hold Accountable
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 8/22/2020
At Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s request, state utility regulators are investigating Eversource and United Illuminating over their failures in responding to Tropical Storm Isaias, to determine, among other things, whether civil penalties should be imposed on them. Yet at the same moment Lamont says he wants to hold the two big utility companies accountable, his chief of staff is Paul Mounds Jr., who three years ago had a $100,000 researcher’s job with Eversource, for which he registered as a company lobbyist in 2017 with the Office of State Ethics.
Florida – Ethics Referendum Passes with 62% Support from Voters in City of Naples
Naples Daily News – Brittany Carolini | Published: 8/18/2020
The referendum amends the city’s charter to establish an independent ethics commission and an ethics office and to set minimum requirements for Naples’ ethics code. Once formed, the commission will be provided the authority to receive and investigate complaints and impose penalties. The ethics office will be responsible for items such as keeping records, filing complaints, and offering training programs. The referendum results are the outcome of years of debate and a court case regarding the city’s ethics rules and the legality of the proposed referendum.
Illinois – Feds Charge a Former Cook County Commissioner with Corruption
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 8/21/2020
In the latest in a series of public-corruption cases filed in the Chicago area, federal prosecutors leveled two felony counts against Jeff Tobolski, a former Democratic Cook County commissioner and mayor of the village of McCook. The charges of extortion and lying on his income taxes came nearly a year after investigators raided the village’s Town Hall on the same day they searched a variety of sites across the state, including a state lawmaker’s office at the Illinois Capitol and the municipal offices of other Chicago suburbs.
Kansas – With Teen Staying in Kansas House Race, Democrats Weigh Bad Behavior Against Voter Will
Kansas City Star – Jonathan Shorman and Steve Vockrodt | Published: 8/25/2020
Aaron Coleman acknowledged sordid behavior in middle school, when he threatened to share a girl’s nude photograph if she did not send other pictures to him. He posted caustic messages to social media earlier this year, saying he would “giggle” when a former Republican lawmaker died of the coronavirus. Then he upended the established political order, defeating a longtime Wyandotte County lawmaker in the Democratic primary election. Coleman, a 19-year-old college student and dishwasher, vowed to campaign on to November. Coleman’s candidacy is forcing Democrats to confront uncomfortable questions about what should happen when voters choose someone whose past behavior has been universally condemned.
Maryland – MES Board Members Say McGrath Assured Them Governor Was on Board with Payout; Hogan Says He Wasn’t Involved in Decisions
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 8/25/2020
Members of the Maryland Environmental Service board of directors told a legislative committee the agency’s director, as he left to become Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff, assured them the governor was on board with a proposal to give him a year’s salary as severance. Three members of the board told legislators they feel misled by Roy McGrath about his severance. They testified at an oversight hearing that McGrath assured them Hogan supported the plan to pay McGrath about $238,000. The governor said he had no role in the board’s decisions involving McGrath as he prepared to join his team.
Missouri – GOP Lawmakers Appeal Rebuke of ‘Unfair’ Cleaner Missouri Ballot Language They Wrote
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 8/19/2020
Republican lawmakers asking voters to repeal changes they made to the state’s redistricting process on the 2020 ballot are not giving up on framing the question their way. The day after a Cole County judge called the way they summarized a proposal they put on for the November ballot as “misleading” and “unfair”
and wrote a new summary, the state attorney general’s office filed notice that lawmakers plan to appeal. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce tore into Republican legislators in a ruling, saying they failed “to even allude to” the main point of their plan in the language meant to describe it to voters on the ballot.
Missouri – Plenty of Blame: Audit slams Page, council and county auditor for failures that enabled Stenger schemes
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 8/20/2020
Weak oversight by the St. Louis County Council under then-Chairperson Sam Page and by County Auditor Mark Tucker contributed to the abuses of former County Executive Steve Stenger, according to a report by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office. The audit also found several instances, before and after Page succeeded Stenger as county executive, in which he and the council had shored up vulnerabilities Stenger had exploited. The audit said Stenger and his close advisers manipulated the county’s procurement process or meddled with contracts issued by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and St. Louis County Port Authority.
Montana – Supreme Court Rejects Republican Effort to Restore Green Party Candidates on Montana Ballot
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 8/25/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to place Green Party candidates back on state ballots this November, a move some argued would benefit Republicans by drawing votes away from Democrats. The decision follows a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court upholding a state District Court judge’s decision to strike Green Party candidates from the ballot due to a signature-gathering scandal. More than 560 people asked for their names to be removed from ballot petitions after they learned the Republican Party funded the $100,000 signature-gathering effort and failed to disclose the spending in violation of campaign finance laws.
New Jersey – N.J. Man Indicted on Corruption Charges for Paying City Employee to Help Secure $350K Contract
Newark Star Ledger – Joe Atmonavage (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/19/2020
Jeanmarie Zahore was indicted on public corruption charges after he allegedly made numerous cash payments to a city of Orange employee who helped the man’s company get a $350,000 contract with the city. According to authorities, Zahore allegedly “engaged in a scheme” starting in August 2015 to offer and give “corrupt cash payments” to an unnamed Orange public official in exchange for the city employee using their influence to reward Zahore’s computer consulting business, JZ Nettech, with a lucrative city contract to install a computer networking system at the municipal complex that houses the Orange Municipal Court and the Orange Police Department.
New York – N.Y. Attorney General Asks Judge to Order Eric Trump’s Testimony
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Danny Hakim | Published: 8/24/2020
The New York attorney general’s office has asked a judge to order Eric Trump to provide testimony under oath and the Trump Organization to hand over documents about four Trump properties it is investigating, asserting the company has stalled the inquiry for months. The filings come as President Trump faces legal actions on several fronts. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has suggested it is investigating possible bank and insurance fraud by the president and the Trump Organization. State Attorney General Letitia James started the civil inquiry after President Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress the president had inflated his assets in financial statements to banks when he was seeking loans and had understated them to reduce his real estate taxes.
New York – Sheldon Silver Begins Prison Sentence in Corruption Case
Associated Press News – Tom Hayes and Michael Balsamo | Published: 8/26/2020
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, once one of the most powerful politicians in the state, started his prison sentence after years of fending off going behind bars. He was sentenced earlier this year to six-and-one-half years in a corruption case. Silver was ousted as speaker in 2015 and convicted later that year, but appeals had kept him out of prison. “His time has come,” District Court Judge Valerie Caproni said. “He needs to go to jail.”
North Carolina – N.C. Political Donor Gets 7 Years in Prison, Hayes Probation
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 8/19/2020
A federal judge sentenced North Carolina’s largest political donor to more than seven years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme unearthed by an FBI sting. Businessperson Greg Lindberg was sentenced after the judge gave probation to former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes for lying to FBI agents during the government’s investigation. Hayes and Lindberg were among four people indicted in 2019, accused of trying to give over $1.5 million to help state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey’s 2020 campaign, in exchange for Causey removing an official in his department. The third person convicted in the case, John Gray, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
North Carolina – Powerful NC Lawmaker Took Donors’ Money for His Own Use, Prosecutors Say
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 8/20/2020
One of the most powerful Republicans in the North Carolina Legislature was charged with federal financial crimes in what prosecutors say was a scheme to take money from his political donors for personal use. State Rep. David Lewis for the last several years has been chairperson of the influential House Rules Committee. The charges outline $65,000 he allegedly took for personal use in August 2018. Lewis had filed to run for re-election this year, but then in July surprised the political world with an announcement he would retire at the end of his term this year.
North Dakota – North Dakota Supreme Court Orders Measure 3 Removed from Ballot
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 8/25/2020
The North Dakota Supreme Court sided with opponents who sued to keep off the November ballot a measure that would write many new election processes in the state constitution. The measure is a constitutional initiative that would enact new processes for military-overseas voting, election audits, open primaries, instant runoffs, subdivided state House districts, and new legislative districts drawn by the state’s Ethics Commission, which voters approved in 2018. Opponents disputed the petition’s title and cited the omission of the full text of a statute mentioned in the measure’s petition.
Ohio – How Mid-Level Ohio Political Operative Jeff Longstreth Found Himself at Heart of Householder Scandal
Akron Beacon Journal – Jesse Balmert (Concinnati Equirer) | Published: 8/24/2020
The man behind the scenes of Ohio’s largest bribery scheme might be the state’s most powerful political operative no one has ever heard of. Jeff Longstreth is called former Speaker Larry Householder’s “implementer” and “political guy” by federal investigators laying out detailed allegations of a nearly $61 million “pay-to-play” scheme. Longstreth was not a key player in Ohio politics until Householder needed someone to help him stage a political comeback. Together, they took control of the Ohio House, passed a $1.3 billion bailout for nuclear plants, and defended that law against a ballot initiative to block it, according to a complaint used to arrest the duo and three others.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission to Consider Sanctioning Failed Campaign to Repeal Nuclear Bailout Bill
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/25/2020
The failed 2019 campaign to repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law now at the center of a federal corruption investigation, is facing possible sanctions from the Ohio Elections Commission for not disclosing who funded the campaign. Commission members will consider a complaint against Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the well-financed political group that attempted to repeal the law through a citizen’s referendum. The group disbanded last year, shortly after it missed a deadline to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot. Commission staffers recommend the group be fined $5,225, or $25 for each day that has passed since January 31, the deadline to report for campaign groups that performed political work during 2019.
Ohio – Ohio State Rep. Nino Vitale Subject of Campaign-Finance Complaint from Secretary of State Frank LaRose
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/26/2020
Secretary of State Frank LaRose accused an outspoken state lawmaker of a series of campaign finance violations via a complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission. LaRose said the review began after Rep. Nino Vitale submitted a blank page on June 5, when the most recent campaign finance report was due. LaRose accuses Vitale of improperly using his campaign resources, including his website and social media account, to promote his personal concealed-carry firearms training business, and also alleges Vitale failed to properly report fundraising activity in his most recent report he filed in June.
Pennsylvania – A Dark Money Mystery
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis, Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch | Published: 8/20/2020
Launched by Ray Zaborney, a political strategist who doubles as a lobbyist, the Growth and Opportunity Fund has been operating in Pennsylvania for six years. For those seeking to influence the agenda in Harrisburg without public scrutiny, such groups are particularly useful tools. They do not have to who bankrolls them and must only make public limited information on spending. Political operatives can move seamlessly and simultaneously between campaigns, dark money groups, and lobbying, capitalizing on a system with weak rules and little oversight.
South Dakota – Asked by City Council to Clarify Report, Board of Ethics Says ‘Read It Again’
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 8/6/2020
Asked by the city council to clarify their report on a complaint against a councilor, a clearly frustrated Sioux Falls Board of Ethics added nothing to a report except a note saying the council should read it again. The complaint centers on a trip taken by Councilor Greg Neitzert to Dallas in October 2019 with Mayor Paul TenHaken. The two attended a conference of Republican municipal and county officials, hosted by the group Community Leaders of America. In a complaint against Neitzert, says he violated the city’s ethics policies when the group paid for his travel expenses.
Tennessee – Tennessee Gov Signs Bill Upping Penalties on Some Protests
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise | Published: 8/21/2020
A new Tennessee law makes it a felony for protesters to camp out overnight on state property. If convicted, they could lose their voting rights and face up to six years in prison. Although some states are moving towards restoring voting rights for felons, it remains illegal for felons to vote in Tennessee. Lawmakers advanced the bill amid nearly two months of frequent protests outside the Capitol. The mostly young Black activists who spearheaded the demonstration had been calling for racial justice reforms and for a meeting with Gov. Bill Lee. The governor and some lawmakers have defended the protest bill by pointing to a demonstration that resulted with some participants setting fires inside and outside a courthouse.
Wisconsin – Milwaukee Ethics Board Votes to Subpoena Former Fire and Police Commission Chairman’s Income Tax Records
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Alison Dirr | Published: 8/24/2020
Milwaukee’s Ethics Board voted to subpoena tax records from former Fire and Police Commission (FPC) Chairperson Steven DeVougas. He is still a member of the FPC but was replaced as chair. An ethics complaint brought by the Milwaukee Police Association raises concerns about DeVougas’ presence in the police interview of a powerful real estate developer accused of sexual assault. The complaint charges DeVougas’ presence with the developer, who was also his client, violated the public’s trust and was a misuse and abuse of his position at the FPC. The other counts allege DeVougas did not list his ties to the developer’s company on documents known as statements of economic interest.
August 27, 2020 • Written by George Ticoras, Esq.
Sometime before February 20, 2021, a federal by-election will be announced for the seat in the House of Commons representing Toronto Centre in the province of Ontario. On August 24, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Stéphane Perrault, received official […]
Sometime before February 20, 2021, a federal by-election will be announced for the seat in the House of Commons representing Toronto Centre in the province of Ontario.
On August 24, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Stéphane Perrault, received official notice from the Speaker of the House of Commons that the seat for Toronto Centre (Ontario) became vacant following the resignation of Bill Morneau.
On August 17, amid controversies dealing with his involvement with the WE Charity scandal, Morneau resigned from his seat in the House of Commons and as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s finance minister. Morneau intends to seek the position of secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to CBC.ca.
Under the law, the by-election date must be announced between September 4, 2020, and February 20, 2021, and will signal the start of the by-election period. According to Elections Canada, the earliest date the by-election can be held is October 12, 2020.
August 27, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Elections National: “Inside the Democratic Party’s Plan to Prevent Vote-by-Mail Disaster” by Zach Montellaro and Elena Schneider for Politico National: “Focus on Trump’s Official White House Actions as Part of Republican Convention Programming Raises Hatch Act Concerns” by Michelle Ye […]
National: “Inside the Democratic Party’s Plan to Prevent Vote-by-Mail Disaster” by Zach Montellaro and Elena Schneider for Politico
National: “Focus on Trump’s Official White House Actions as Part of Republican Convention Programming Raises Hatch Act Concerns” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for Philadelphia Inquirer
Kansas: “With Teen Staying in Kansas House Race, Democrats Weigh Bad Behavior Against Voter Will” by Jonathan Shorman and Steve Vockrodt for Kansas City Star
Montana: “Supreme Court Rejects Republican Effort to Restore Green Party Candidates on Montana Ballot” by Nicholas Iovino for Courthouse News Service
North Dakota: “North Dakota Supreme Court Orders Measure 3 Removed from Ballot” by Jack Dura for Bismarck Tribune
California: “FBI L.A. Chief Reassigned Amid Flap Over Agents’ Meeting at Dodgers Playoff Game” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
Illinois: “Feds Charge a Former Cook County Commissioner with Corruption” by Dan Mihalopoulos for WBEZ
Maryland: “MES Board Members Say McGrath Assured Them Governor Was on Board with Payout; Hogan Says He Wasn’t Involved in Decisions” by Pamela Wood for Baltimore Sun
Arizona: “Maricopa County Won’t Pursue Charges Over Explicit Photos of Arizona Lawmaker Sent to Lobbyist” by Andrew Oxford for Arizona Republic
August 26, 2020 • Written by Carlo Aguja
On August 19, Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela voided the results of the May elections for the Paterson, New Jersey City Council’s Third Ward. Judge Caposela ordered a special election to fill the vacant seat with the five previously filed […]
On August 19, Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela voided the results of the May elections for the Paterson, New Jersey City Council’s Third Ward.
Judge Caposela ordered a special election to fill the vacant seat with the five previously filed candidates.
After losing the May elections, incumbent William McKoy initiated a lawsuit.
The lawsuit cites fraud by the Councilman-elect Alex Mendez and disputes the election results.
Additionally, Mr. Mendez is currently facing voter fraud charges from the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General.
Finally, the special election will be held on November 3 along with a special election for the City Council’s Second Ward.
The Second Ward seat remains vacant after the May municipal elections ended in a tie after three recounts.