November 24, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Georgia Senator David Perdue Privately Pushed for a Tax Break for Rich Sports Teamowners” by Robert Faturechi and Justin Elliott for ProPublica California: “SLO County Supervisors OK $25,000 Campaign Donation Cap Over Hundreds of Objections” by Lindsey […]
National: “Georgia Senator David Perdue Privately Pushed for a Tax Break for Rich Sports Teamowners” by Robert Faturechi and Justin Elliott for ProPublica
California: “SLO County Supervisors OK $25,000 Campaign Donation Cap Over Hundreds of Objections” by Lindsey Holden for San Luis Obispo News
New York: “Bill Would Further Restrict Coordination Between City Candidates and Independent Expenditure Campaigns” by Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette
National: “Trump Pushes Supreme Court to Let Him Reshape Apportionment” by Michael Macagnone for Roll Call
National: “All the President’s ‘Guys’” by Ben Terris for Washington Post
California: “Feds Charge Recology Exec in Purported Mohammed Nuru Bribery Scheme” by Julian Mark and Joe Eskenazi for Mission Local
Illinois: “Feds Draw Near Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan as Key Confidant Weighs Cooperation Choice” by Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News
Ohio: “Sam Randazzo Resigns as Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chair” by Jeremy Pelzer for Cleveland Plain Dealer
Wyoming: “When Will the Wyoming Legislature Convene Next Year? No One’s Sure Yet” by Nick Reynolds for Casper Star Tribune
November 23, 2020 • Written by Marilyn Wesel
Cincinnati City Councilman Alexander “P.G.” Sittenfeld was arrested on federal corruption charges. He is the third council member to be arrested this year. Sittenfeld denies the allegations of bribery and attempted extortion and does not plan to resign. If he […]
Cincinnati City Councilman Alexander “P.G.” Sittenfeld was arrested on federal corruption charges.
He is the third council member to be arrested this year.
Sittenfeld denies the allegations of bribery and attempted extortion and does not plan to resign.
If he does resign, four members of the council will choose his successor by a majority vote.
November 23, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Biden Transition Steps Up Fundraising as Trump Withholds Federal Money” by Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer for Politico California: “After Divisive Election Cycle, San Jose to Explore New Campaign Finance Laws” by Maggie Angst for San Jose […]
National: “Biden Transition Steps Up Fundraising as Trump Withholds Federal Money” by Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer for Politico
California: “After Divisive Election Cycle, San Jose to Explore New Campaign Finance Laws” by Maggie Angst for San Jose Mercury News
Nevada: “Las Vegas Judge Took Lawyer’s Campaign Donation Before Dismissals” by David Ferrara for Las Vegas Review-Journal
National: “Trump’s Escalating Attacks Put Pressure on Vote Certification Process” by David Fahrenthold, Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Trump Tax Write-Offs Are Ensnared in 2 New York Fraud Investigations” by Danny Hakim, Mike McIntire, William Rashbaum, and Ben Protess for New York Times
Ohio: “Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld Arrested on Federal Charges” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer
Utah: “Audit Finds Free Spending and Cronyism by Ex-State Agency Head” by Bethany Rodgers for Salt Lake Tribune
National: “K Street Moves to Counter ‘Purity’ Test for Biden Administration” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
Florida: “After Months of Work, Leon County Gives OK to Stronger Lobbying Ordinance” by Karl Etters for Tallahassee Democrat
November 20, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal 6 Lawmakers in 5 Days: New COVID-19 infections put spotlight on Congress’ loose guidelines USA Today – Christal Hayes | Published: 11/18/2020 As rampant nationwide coronavirus spikes force states to reexamine reopening efforts, Congress is still struggling to maneuver around […]
6 Lawmakers in 5 Days: New COVID-19 infections put spotlight on Congress’ loose guidelines
USA Today – Christal Hayes | Published: 11/18/2020
As rampant nationwide coronavirus spikes force states to reexamine reopening efforts, Congress is still struggling to maneuver around the pandemic as it encroaches on legislative business and endangers its members. COVID-19 has loomed over Congress for much of the year, yet lawmakers are still bickering over wearing face masks and not social distancing. Congressional leaders have refused to make coronavirus testing mandatory for lawmakers traveling back and forth to their home states. A rash of recent cases has infected a handful of lawmakers and sent several others into quarantine all while the U.S. Capitol welcomed back more than 500 legislators in the House and Senate.
Biden’s IRS Could Finally Give Trump’s Tax Returns to Democrats
Politico – Brian Faler | Published: 11/16/2020
President Trump’s defeat will make it easier for Democrats to get his tax returns, and some prominent lawmakers plan to keep the heat on the incoming Biden administration and House leaders to deliver. Once Biden controls the Treasury Department, his administration could simply hand over the records to its allies in Congress, who have been fighting in court to force Trump to turn them over. But Biden is casting himself as a uniter and releasing the returns risks looking like a vindictive investigation of his predecessor. Yet, if Democrats were to suddenly say “never mind,” it would not only be an embarrassing about-face, it would also infuriate people such as U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, head of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee.
Corporations and Foreign Nations Pivot to Lobby Biden
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Eric Lipton | Published: 11/17/2020
While Joe Biden has taken steps to demonstrate his distance from lobbyists, his presidency is being welcomed on K Street. Lobbyists and other advisers who help clients navigate Washington are highlighting ties to Biden and his team in pitches to prospective clients, while firms and interest groups that lack such ties are scrambling to secure them. Such connections are plentiful because aides and colleagues of Biden’s have been cycling between government and the influence industry going back to his 36 years in the Senate and his eight years as vice president. It is a far cry from four years ago, when Donald Trump swept into town with few connections to established gatekeepers and lobbyists.
Fewer Opportunities and a Changed Political Environment in the U.S. May Have Curbed Moscow’s Election Interference This Year, Analysts Say
MSN – Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020
Russia failed to mount any major hacking or disinformation operations to interfere in the presidential election, and the Kremlin’s hackers did not even attempt to target elections systems in the way they did in 2016, according to U.S. officials. Analysts said it is too early to know why, but they point to a variety of possible reasons. Those include cyber and other operations that helped keep the Russians at bay, harder targets at the state and local level, and a political climate in which Americans themselves were the largest purveyors if disinformation, dwarfing Moscow’s efforts to influence the campaign through social media and its propaganda channels.
GOP Shows Limited Appetite for Pursuing Biden Probes
The Hill – Alexander Bolton | Published: 11/15/2020
Republicans are showing little appetite for aggressively pursuing investigations into President-elect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden if they keep their U.S. Senate majority in 2021. Sens. Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson, who led a joint investigation of Hunter Biden this year, are signaling they will take a tough stance on the incoming administration. But other GOP senators are taking a wait-and-see approach. One of the considerations among Republicans is a desire by some to lower the partisan temperature and possibly explore common ground with Democrats.
NASA Official Asked Boeing If It Would Protest a Major Contract It Lost. Instead, Boeing Resubmitted Its Bid
MSN – Christian Davenport (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020
Boeing’s bid to build a spacecraft capable of flying astronauts to the moon did not meet NASA’s requirements, and the company was going to lose out on a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But NASA was worried Boeing would protest the contract award, potentially holding it up for months at a time when the space agency was trying to meet a White House mandate to get astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. in February, Doug Loverro, then the head of NASA’s human exploration directorate, called Jim Chilton, the senior vice president of Boeing’s space and launch division, to explain the company was going to lose the contract and to inquire whether it would file a challenge. That call occurred during a period when the agency was to have no contact with any of the bidders.
Palazzo’s Campaign Spending Under Investigation. ‘What We Saw Was Outrageous,’ Rival Says
Biloxi Sun Herald – Margaret Baker and Anita Lee | Published: 11/13/2020
U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo is being investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) for allegedly using campaign funds to pay expenses associated with a farm he used to own. The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint asking the OCE to investigate Palazzo’s campaign spending. It centered on campaign expenditures to rent a farm and to pay an accounting firm Palazzo founded and is now run by his former wife. Palazzo’s campaign spent $60,000 to rent a farm he owned from 2018 to 2019, the complaint said. The farm is located more than 30 miles from his campaign committee.
Pelosi, Democrats Renew Push to Overhaul Election, Campaign Finance Laws
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/16/2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would press ahead early next year with a campaign finance and elections overhaul, even as the measure may face the same Senate fate it did this Congress: doom. Even though the Senate majority for the 117th Congress hinges on two runoff elections in Georgia, Democrats and their outside allies said they would still push for the measure, spotlighting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s resistance.
Senior Justice Dept. Official Stalled Probe Against Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Sources Say
MSN – Juliet Eilperin and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 11/12/2020
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen deferred a bid from line prosecutors to move forward with possible criminal charges against former Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, saying they needed to gather more evidence and refine the case, according to people familiar with the matter. The move last year by Rosen, an appointee of President Trump, angered some career prosecutors and has delayed for months the release of an Interior Department inspector general’s report. At issue is whether Zinke made false statements to investigators who were looking into his decision not to grant a petition by two Indian tribes to operate a commercial casino off reservation land in East Windsor, Connecticut.
Trump Fires Top DHS Official Who Refuted His Claims That the Election Was Rigged
MSN – Ellen Nakashima and Nick Miroff (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020
President Trump fired a top Department of Homeland Security official who led the agency’s efforts to help secure the election and was vocal about tamping down unfounded claims of ballot fraud. Trump fired Christopher Krebs, who headed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and led successful efforts to help state and local election offices protect their systems and to rebut misinformation. Krebs in a tweet refuted allegations that election systems were manipulated, saying “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.'” Krebs’s statement amounted to a debunking of Trump’s central claim that the November election was stolen.
Watchdogs Urge Transparency as Executives from Powerful DC Firm Floated for Biden Administration
ABC News – Matthew Mosk and Mike Devine | Published: 11/12/2020
As speculation swirls over who President-elect Joe Biden will tap for top posts at intelligence and national security agencies, a number of names being publicly floated come from a Washington, D.C.-based firm packed with Obama-era powerbrokers. The company, WestExec Advisors, describes itself as a “strategic advisory firm” that helps private businesses navigate potential challenges around the world, including international laws, “geopolitical trends,” and “changes in Washington and in other capitals.” Unlike lobbying firms, which are usually required to disclose to the names of clients and government agencies they contact, WestExec falls into a different category of company, allowing it to operate with far less transparency.
With Trench Warfare Deepening, Parties Face Unsettled Electoral Map
New York Times – Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns | Published: 11/15/2020
America’s two major parties had hoped the 2020 presidential election would render a decisive judgment on the country’s political trajectory. But after a race that broke records for voter turnout and campaign spending, neither Democrats nor Republicans have achieved a dominant upper hand. Instead, the election delivered a split decision, ousting President Trump but narrowing the Democratic majority in the House and perhaps preserving the Republican majority in the Senate. As Joe Biden prepares to take office and preside over a closely divided government, leaders in both camps are acknowledging voters seem to have issued not a mandate for the left or the right but a muddled plea to move on from Trump-style chaos.
Canada – Fitzgibbon Is the First Cabinet Minister to Be Reprimanded by National Assembly
Montreal Gazette – Jocelyne Richer | Published: 11/12/2020
Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon became the first provincial minister to be reprimanded by the National Assembly. While he maintains he did nothing wrong, Fitzgibbon will have to live with the unanimous vote for the rest of his political career. An investigation by concluded Fitzgibbon placed himself in a situation where his personal interest could influence his independence and judgment as a cabinet minister because of his close friendship with businessperson and lobbyist Luc Laperrière. The report criticized Fitzgibbon for allowing Laperrière privileged access to him while the latter was promoting three business dossiers being handled by Fitzgibbon’s ministry.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Voters Approve Alaska Ballot Measure 2 Which Adopts Top-Four Primaries, Ranked-Choice General Elections
Ballotpedia News – Ryan Byrne | Published: 11/18/2020
Ballot Measure 2 was approved by Alaska voters. It makes several changes to election policies, including: replacing partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices; establishing ranked-choice voting for general elections, including the presidential election, in which voters can rank the candidates; and requiring persons and entities that contribute more than $2,000 that were derived from donations, contributions, dues, or gifts to disclose the true sources of the money.
California – California Lawmakers Head to Maui with Lobbyists Despite Pandemic, Travel Warnings
Politico – Katy Murphy | Published: 11/16/2020
The coronavirus pandemic did not derail an annual gathering of lobbyists and California lawmakers on the shores of Maui that brought people from across the country to a luxury resort. Roughly 100 people from four states converged at the Fairmont Kea Lani for a four-day legislative conference organized by the Independent Voter Project, said the group’s executive director, Dan Howle. The 18th annual event was a third of its regular size, Howle said, but it still drew nearly 20 lawmakers from California, Texas, and Washington state. The theme was how to reopen states’ economies amid the public health crisis.
California – Former Consultant for California High-Speed Rail Project Is Cleared of Ethics Violations
Yahoo News – Ralph Vartabedian | Published: 11/12/2020
The Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into the top consultant working on the California bullet train last year found he did not violate state law, following allegations he was among those who approved a contract modification for a company in which he held stock. The probe found Roy Hill, formerly the top official at the state’s main consulting firm, WSP, did not violate state laws for conflicts-of-interest. Hill was deputy chief operating officer for the project. The matter involved allegations Hill signed a $51-million change order for the construction team led by the Spanish firm Dragados. It happened in the same year he may have owned more than $100,000 of stock in Jacobs Engineering, which is part of the Dragados team.
California – Newsom’s Cozy Ties with Top Lobbyist Showcased by French Laundry Dinner Party
Politico – Jeremy White and Debra Kahn | Published: 11/16/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is being criticized for his decision to attend a celebration for political operative Jason Kinney at the French Laundry in Napa County. After the private dinner was reported, Newsom said while the outdoor meal did not violate coronavirus restrictions, he showed poor judgment in attending. The meal also cast a brighter spotlight on Kinney and the dual clout he wields in the insular world of California politics. Kinney is not the first operative to blur the line between politics and policy. The doors between campaigns, administrations, and Sacramento’s lobbying corps have long swung open for people with contacts and experience to leverage.
Florida – State Investigating Mysterious Candidate Who Swayed Tight Florida Senate Race
Tampa Bay Times – Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos | Published: 11/17/2020
The razor-thin victory that delivered Ileana Garcia to the Florida Senate and ousted Democrat José Javier Rodríguez continues to raise eyebrows for one reason: a mysterious third candidate named Alex Rodriguez. A one-time mechanic with no history in local politics, Alex Rodriguez never started a campaign website, attended no candidate forums, and received no donations, save for a $2,000 loan from himself. Mailers pitching his name sent to voters in the Coral Gables area were sent by a shadowy political group that, so far, has been untraceable. When a television reporter recently tracked Alex Rodriguez down, he pretended to be someone else.
Georgia – Ga. Secretary of State Says Fellow Republicans Are Pressuring Him to Find Ways to Exclude Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2020
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he has come under increasing pressure from fellow Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state. Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.
Illinois – City Council Divided Over Changing Naperville’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules
Chicago Tribune – Suzanne Baker (Naperville Sun) | Published: 11/18/2020
Proposed changes to the Naperville campaign ethics regulations to include finance disclosures for city council members raised as many questions as it did support. Council member Theresa Sullivan originally sought to amend the city’s ethics code to require council members and the mayor to recuse themselves from voting on any agenda item if the petitioner, or a representative of the petitioner, donated more than $500 to their most recent campaign. Sullivan said she has since realized a mandatory recusal opens the door to more unintended consequences than she anticipated. Instead, Sullivan said she supports an option where council members must announce any campaign donation of $500 or more before voting on any pertinent issue where a donor was either a petitioner or opponent.
Illinois – Feds Charge Former Top ComEd Executives, Lobbyists in Springfield Corruption Case
WBEZ – Dan Milhalopoulos, Dave McKinney, and Tony Arnold | Published: 11/18/2020
Federal prosecutors marched deeper into Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle, charging longtime confidant Michael McClain and former Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) Chief Executive Officer Anne Pramaggiore in a bribery scheme designed to curry favor with the powerful speaker. Also charged are ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and Jay Doherty, the former president of the City Club of Chicago, who was accused of helping to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to three people with ties to Madigan. ComEd admitted in July to an effort to win Madigan’s favor for rate increases and other legislation by funneling consulting payments to his allies for doing little or no work for the utility.
Louisiana – After IG’s Ouster, Stronger Whistleblower Laws Considered by New Orleans Ethics Review Board
Nola.com – Jeff Adelson | Published: 11/17/2020
The ouster of New Orleans’ inspector general could spark a move for more expansive whistleblower protection laws or more detailed oversight of that office, city council members were told. Following allegations of rampant absenteeism against Inspector General Derry Harper and reports he warned staff against taking their concerns over his head, Ethics Review Board Chairperson Michael Cowan said efforts were underway to tighten the reins. The potential challenge, he said, would be balancing greater oversight of the watchdog office with the need for it to remain independent of political influence.
Maine – Ethics Commission to Review Records of Maine Legislative ‘Leadership PACs’
Portland Press Herald – Kevin Miller | Published: 11/18/2020
The Maine ethics commission will review the finances of 15 so-called leadership PACs run by state lawmakers to ensure the groups are keeping accurate records and not violating state laws prohibiting personal use of PAC money. Members of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices stressed the reviews were being conducted “without any suggestion of impropriety.” But they also acknowledged the structure of “leadership PACs” – political action committees set up by legislators to raise and spend money – means there may be fewer “checks and balances” than in larger organizations.
Michigan – Trump Coronavirus Adviser Tells Michigan to ‘Rise Up’ Against New Shutdown Orders
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 11/15/2020
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closing colleges, high schools, workplaces, and in-person dining for three weeks as coronavirus cases have spiked. After she appealed to the Trump administration to intervene in the pandemic, White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas responded with a call to action. But instead of supporting Whitmer’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus in Michigan, he urged residents to reject the state’s public health guidelines. “The only way this stops is if people rise up,” Atlas said in a tweet, which quoted a reporter who had shared information about Whitmer’s new restrictions. Critics condemned the rhetoric, which mirrored President Trump’s statements that correlated “tyranny” with the restrictions put in place previously by Whitmer, who was the target of an alleged kidnap plot that was thwarted.
Michigan – U.S. Attorney Sought Records from Joan Jackson Johnson’s Charity; City Must Repay $234K in HUD Grants
Lansing State Journal – Sarah Lehr | Published: 11/13/2020
Federal prosecutors requested records from One Church One Family, a private charity formerly managed by Joan Jackson Johnson. Meanwhile, Lansing is preparing to repay $233,710 in federal grant money the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concluded the city mismanaged during Jackson Johnson’s tenure as director of Human Relations and Community Services. Jackson Johnson retired in February after an external audit found she mismanaged city money and may have sought to “conceal” conflicts-of-interest by not properly disclosing them.
Michigan – Wayne County Republican Who Asked to ‘Rescind’ Her Vote Certifying Election Results Says Trump Called Her
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Kayla Ruble, and Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) | Published: 11/19/2020
President Trump called a Republican canvassing board member in Wayne County who announced she wanted to rescind her decision to certify the results of the presidential election. “I did receive a call from President Trump, late Tuesday evening, after the meeting,” Monica Palmer, one of two GOP members of the four-member board. “He was checking in to make sure I was safe after hearing the threats and doxing that had occurred.” The call came after an hours-long meeting in which the canvassing board voted to certify the results of the November 3 election, a key step toward finalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state. The state said Palmer’s board has done its job and cannot retract its votes.
Missouri – Failure to Pay Ethics Fine Could Cost Bruce Franks About $75,000
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Joe Hollerman | Published: 11/16/2020
After not making a payment in 10 months on a negotiated $14,000 fine, the Missouri Ethics Commission now contends that former state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. owes more than $89,000. The state filed suit against Franks, saying he has not made a payment on the lower fine that was negotiated last year. The suit says Franks’ failure to make a payment on the agreed-upon amount now causes the remaining $75,000 of the fine to be restored.
Nevada – Former Tourism Exec Strikes Ethics Deal in Misuse of Gift Cards
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German | Published: 11/13/2020
Brig Lawson, a former executive with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, agreed to pay $13,881 in state ethics fines for using agency-bought airline gift cards on personal travel. Lawson also will pay another $8,881 fine the Nevada Ethics Commission said is twice the value of the Southwest Airlines gift cards he and his domestic partner and his partner’s parents used for personal trips.
New Mexico – Modest Sunshine Still Leaves Campaign Cash in Shadow
New Mexico In Depth – Sara Swann (The Fulcrum) and Bryan Metzger | Published: 11/18/2020
What is happening in New Mexico illustrates that improving the transparency of how campaigns are financed can be done, but making progress often requires incremental steps that take a lot of time. It is an example of what states across the country must grapple with when they seek to slow the influence of money over their own politics, at a time when federal regulation of presidential and congressional elections has shriveled. Money still floats through the state’s elections while remaining out of public view because a new law did not strengthen donor disclosure requirements for PACs.
New York – After Cuomo Book Approval, Ethics Commissioners Quash Greater Scrutiny
The Telegraph – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 11/17/2020
Staff for the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has long issued informal advisory opinions to public officials seeking advice about how to conduct themselves properly under state ethics and lobbying laws. In 2012, commissioners passed a resolution allowing staff to do that work between meetings. At the same time, state law requires JCOPE to engage in a formal process: approving or disapproving requests by state employees to earn over $5,000 in outside income. In practice, JCOPE’s informal advisory opinions have become conflated with the formal approval process. Staff has used the opinion letters to approve or disapprove the formal requests to earn income, even though nothing in the resolution passed by commissioners granted staff that authority.
New York – Despite State Law, Democrats’ Seats on Ethics Panel Remain Vacant
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/16/2020
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has been short two commissioners for more than a year, due to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins not following that law that a commissioner must be replaced within 30 days by the government leader responsible for making that appointment. Gov. Andrew Cuomo appoints six commissioners, three Republicans and three Democrats. Among Republican lawmakers, Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt has three picks and Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay has one. Senate Democratic spokesperson Mike Murphy said JCOPE has “well-documented problems which make it hard to find people that would want to serve.”
Ohio – FBI Searches Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo’s Home
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer and Andrew Tobias | Published: 11/16/2020
FBI agents searched a home owned by Sam Randazzo, chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). An FBI spokesperson declined to provide details about why the home was searched. The PUCO chair is one of the most powerful positions in state government, wielding influence on matters regarding the regulation of utilities in the state to include profits and rates charged to customers. The search comes after the FBI arrested then- House Speaker Larry Householder and four others in connection to a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly funded by FirstEnergy, which was seeking a $1 billion legislative bailout for its two nuclear power plants in the state.
Ohio – How FBI Agents Posed as Cincinnati Hotel Developers to Catch Suspects in 2 Ohio Bribery Scandals
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 11/12/2020
Lobbyist Neil Clark did not realize, while chatting with hotel developer clients after a Cincinnati Reds game, that he was talking with undercover FBI agents working to uncover two bribery schemes. The first was against Cincinnati City Councilperson Jeff Pator, who is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for his vote on development projects. The second was against Clark, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, and three others. They are accused of orchestrating a nearly $61 million bribery scheme to seize control of the House, pass a bailout for nuclear plants, and defend those subsidies against a ballot initiative. Those two apparently unconnected, widespread bribery investigations converged in Cincinnati.
Ohio – Sundermann, Landsman Propose Reforms After 2 Council Members Accused of Taking Bribes
MSN – Jennifer Edwards Baker (WXIX) | Published: 11/16/2020
Cincinnati City Councilmembers Greg Landsman and Betsy Sundermann separately announced a series of proposed City Hall reforms, including a charter amendment that would allow for recall of people in office and a creating a city Ethics Commission. The announcements come on the heels of two councilmembers, Tamaya Dennard and Jeff Pastor, being arrested on charges that allege “pay-to-play” schemes. Pastor was accused of taking $55,000 in bribes, allegation he has vowed to fight. Dennard, who has resigned, was arrested after she promised a developer she would vote for a development project in exchange for $15,000.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rejects Complaints About Philadelphia Election Observations
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein | Published: 11/17/2020
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled observers’ rights to watch ballot counting was sufficient in Philadelphia, rejecting a claim from President Trump’s campaign that poll observers did not get “meaningful access.” The Trump campaign argued observers were stationed too far away to see the process of counting votes, and a lower court initially agreed with them, ordering that they be allowed closer to the process. The state Supreme Court, which had previously rejected other Republican arguments, vacated that lower court order.
Pennsylvania – Top Pa. Senator’s Campaign Revives Lawsuit Against Journalists Over Public Records Fees
PennLive – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) | Published: 11/12/2020
The campaign of Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati renewed its lawsuit against a Spotlight PA journalist and others, asking the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas to overturn a lower court’s dismissal of the case. Scarnati’s campaign sued The Caucus, Caucus Bureau Chief Brad Bumsted, and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis for $5,070. The suit claims they owe an accounting firm the money for producing public records that documented questionable spending by Scarnati’s campaign. The campaign also wants $1,000 for attorney fees and court costs. A judge ruled Scarnati’s campaign should pay the accounting firm.
Tennessee – Nashville Council Members Call for Ethics Review of Actions by Colleague Robert Swope
The Tennessean – Yihyng Jeong | Published: 11/16/2020
Council members are calling for an ethics review of Metro Council member Robert Swope’s conduct after recent reports say he tried to steer government contracts to his company. A letter has circulated gauging interest among council members in asking Swope to seek an advisory opinion from the Metro Board of Ethical Conduct. The concerns follow news reports that uncovered emails showing Swopes last year tried to get city contracts Intelligent Transit and also attempted to initiate a loan proposal to lend Metro $500 million from a company he is affiliated with, in exchange for ownership of some future city infrastructure.
Texas – FBI Is Investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, AP Report Says
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 11/17/2020
The FBI is investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Associated Press reported, vetting allegations made by eight of Paxton’s former top aides that he illegally used the power of his office to benefit a political donor. Sources said the bureau was examining claims made by the whistleblowers that Paxton broke the law by intervening several times in legal matters involving Nate Paul, a real estate investor and friend who donated $25,000 to Paxton’s campaign in 2018. Aides told authorities they believed Paxton had committed crimes as part of his relationship with Paul, citing bribery and abuse of office. Since then, four aides have been fired, three have resigned, and one has been placed on leave, sparking a whistleblower lawsuit.
Virginia – Charges Dismissed Against State Sen. Louise Lucas in Vandalism of Portsmouth’s Confederate Monument
Virginian-Pilot – Margaret Matray | Published: 11/16/2020
A judge dismissed charges against Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas and all others charged in a June protest at Portsmouth’s Confederate monument at the request of the city’s top prosecutor, who said the elements of the charges were not properly met. The felony charges against Lucas and 18 others – including local NAACP leaders, several public defenders, and a school board member –stem from a protest and vandalism at the city’s Confederate monument. Activists and Democrats questioned the timing of the charges, which came a day before a General Assembly special session. Lucas, a veteran Democratic legislator, has been an outspoken advocate for police reform.
Washington – After Years of Preamble, Tim Eyman’s Trial Begins. Could It Mean the End of His Initiatives?
Wenatchee World – David Gutman (Seattle Times) | Published: 11/16/2020
Tim Eyman has spent decades running initiatives to lower taxes and advance conservative policies in Washington. He now stands accused of laundering political donations to enrich himself, accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm, and a years-long refusal to comply with campaign finance laws. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose 2017 lawsuit precipitated the civil trial, seeks millions of dollars in damages and hopes to permanently bar Eyman from accepting money on behalf of any political committee or handling their finances. Eyman has personally received and concealed more than $1 million, Ferguson says.
West Virginia – W.Va. Lobbyist Puccio Crosses Political Streams to Advise Democrat Manchin, Republican Justice
West Virginia MetroNews – Brad McElhinny | Published: 11/15/2020
Larry Puccio has been walking a political tightrope. His path crosses influence, access, politics, loyalty, friendship, and no small degree of personal finance against the backdrop of a West Virginia that is transitioning from longtime Democratic dominance toward Republican power. He is a lobbyist, former state Democratic Party chairperson, and ex-chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin when he was governor. But this political season, Puccio pushed for the re-election of Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican who first won office as a Democrat.
November 19, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance New Mexico: “Modest Sunshine Still Leaves Campaign Cash in Shadow” by Sara Swann (The Fulcrum) and Bryan Metzger for New Mexico In Depth Elections National: “Trump Fires Top DHS Official Who Refuted His Claims That the Election Was […]
New Mexico: “Modest Sunshine Still Leaves Campaign Cash in Shadow” by Sara Swann (The Fulcrum) and Bryan Metzger for New Mexico In Depth
National: “Trump Fires Top DHS Official Who Refuted His Claims That the Election Was Rigged” by Ellen Nakashima and Nick Miroff (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “State Investigating Mysterious Candidate Who Swayed Tight Florida Senate Race” by Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos for Tampa Bay Times
Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rejects Complaints About Philadelphia Election Observations” by Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein for Politico
Louisiana: “After IG’s Ouster, Stronger Whistleblower Laws Considered by New Orleans Ethics Review Board” by Jeff Adelson for Nola.com
New York: “After Cuomo Book Approval, Ethics Commissioners Quash Greater Scrutiny” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
National: “6 Lawmakers in 5 Days: New COVID-19 infections put spotlight on Congress’ loose guidelines” by Christal Hayes for USA Today
National: “Corporations and Foreign Nations Pivot to Lobby Biden” by Kenneth Vogel and Eric Lipton for New York Times
California: “Newsom’s Cozy Ties with Top Lobbyist Showcased by French Laundry Dinner Party” by Jeremy White and Debra Kahn for Politico
November 18, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Pelosi, Democrats Renew Push to Overhaul Election, Campaign Finance Laws” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call Missouri: “Failure to Pay Ethics Fine Could Cost Bruce Franks About $75,000” by Joe Hollerman for St. Louis Post-Dispatch Elections National: […]
National: “Pelosi, Democrats Renew Push to Overhaul Election, Campaign Finance Laws” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
Missouri: “Failure to Pay Ethics Fine Could Cost Bruce Franks About $75,000” by Joe Hollerman for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
National: “Fewer Opportunities and a Changed Political Environment in the U.S. May Have Curbed Moscow’s Election Interference This Year, Analysts Say” by Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) for MSN
Georgia: “Ga. Secretary of State Says Fellow Republicans Are Pressuring Him to Find Ways to Exclude Ballots” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Despite State Law, Democrats’ Seats on Ethics Panel Remain Vacant” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Ohio: “FBI Searches Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo’s Home” by Jeremy Pelzer and Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer
Tennessee: “Nashville Council Members Call for Ethics Review of Actions by Colleague Robert Swope” by Yihyng Jeong for The Tennessean
California: “California Lawmakers Head to Maui with Lobbyists Despite Pandemic, Travel Warnings” by Katy Murphy for Politico
National: “NASA Official Asked Boeing If It Would Protest a Major Contract It Lost. Instead, Boeing Resubmitted Its Bid” by Christian Davenport (Washington Post) for MSN
November 17, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Washington: “After Years of Preamble, Tim Eyman’s Trial Begins. Could It Mean the End of His Initiatives?” by David Gutman for Seattle Times Ethics National: “Biden’s IRS Could Finally Give Trump’s Tax Returns to Democrats” by Brian Faler […]
Washington: “After Years of Preamble, Tim Eyman’s Trial Begins. Could It Mean the End of His Initiatives?” by David Gutman for Seattle Times
National: “Biden’s IRS Could Finally Give Trump’s Tax Returns to Democrats” by Brian Faler for Politico
National: “Palazzo’s Campaign Spending Under Investigation. ‘What We Saw Was Outrageous,’ Rival Says” by Margaret Baker and Anita Lee for Biloxi Sun Herald
National: “GOP Shows Limited Appetite for Pursuing Biden Probes” by Alexander Bolton for The Hill
Michigan: “U.S. Attorney Sought Records from Joan Jackson Johnson’s Charity; City Must Repay $234K in HUD Grants” by Sarah Lehr for Lansing State Journal
Michigan: “Trump Coronavirus Adviser Tells Michigan to ‘Rise Up’ Against New Shutdown Orders” by Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) for MSN
Ohio: “Sundermann, Landsman Propose Reforms After 2 Council Members Accused of Taking Bribes” by Jennifer Edwards Baker (WXIX) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Top Pa. Senator’s Campaign Revives Lawsuit Against Journalists Over Public Records Fees” by Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) for PennLive
Virginia: “Charges Dismissed Against State Sen. Louise Lucas in Vandalism of Portsmouth’s Confederate Monument” by Margaret Matray for Virginian-Pilot
November 16, 2020 • Written by Marilyn Wesel
Two Cincinnati Councilmembers, Greg Landsman and Betsy Sundermann held separate news conferences in front of City Hall today. The two councilmembers announced a series of proposed reforms to restore the public’s trust in government after two members were charged with […]
Two Cincinnati Councilmembers, Greg Landsman and Betsy Sundermann held separate news conferences in front of City Hall today.
The two councilmembers announced a series of proposed reforms to restore the public’s trust in government after two members were charged with corruption just this year.
The proposed reforms include establishing an ethics commission, designating a chief ethics and good government officer, campaign finance reform, ongoing training, and a potential charter amendment that would allow for the recall of people in office.
At this time, there is no provision in the Cincinnati Charter addressing what happens in the event of public corruption allegations.
Tamaya Dennard resigned from council in February. Councilman Jeff Pastor, who was arrested Tuesday has not resigned despite calls for him to do so.
November 16, 2020 • Written by Joanna Kamvouris
Rep. Néstor Alonso Vega of the Puerto Rico New Progressive Party resigned from his seat in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on November 10. Vega, who held an at-large seat in the chamber, had been arrested and indicted for […]
Rep. Néstor Alonso Vega of the Puerto Rico New Progressive Party resigned from his seat in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on November 10.
Vega, who held an at-large seat in the chamber, had been arrested and indicted for allegedly increasing an employee’s salary to receive half of the increase in return.
Vega had recently won re-election to his seat on November 3. He is the third member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives to resign after being arrested and charged with corruption this year, after María Charbonier Laureano and Nelson Del Valle Colón.
The Puerto Rico House of Representatives is the lower chamber of Puerto Rico’s bicameral legislature. All 51 of Puerto Rico’s House seats were up for election on November 3.
Special elections to fill the vacant seats have not yet been announced.
November 16, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Elections National: “With Trench Warfare Deepening, Parties Face Unsettled Electoral Map” by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns for New York Times Pennsylvania: “Trump Campaign Jettisons Major Parts of Its Legal Challenge Against Pennsylvania’s Election Results” by John Swaine and Elise […]
National: “With Trench Warfare Deepening, Parties Face Unsettled Electoral Map” by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns for New York Times
Pennsylvania: “Trump Campaign Jettisons Major Parts of Its Legal Challenge Against Pennsylvania’s Election Results” by John Swaine and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Watchdogs Urge Transparency as Executives from Powerful DC Firm Floated for Biden Administration” by Matthew Mosk and Mike Devine for ABC News
National: “Senior Justice Dept. Official Stalled Probe Against Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Sources Say” by Juliet Eilperin and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Former Consultant for California High-Speed Rail Project Is Cleared of Ethics Violations” by Ralph Vartabedian for Yahoo News
Nevada: “Former Tourism Exec Strikes Ethics Deal in Misuse of Gift Cards” by Jeff German for Las Vegas Review-Journal
Ohio: “How FBI Agents Posed as Cincinnati Hotel Developers to Catch Suspects in 2 Ohio Bribery Scandals” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN
Canada: “Fitzgibbon Is the First Cabinet Minister to Be Reprimanded by National Assembly” by Jocelyne Richer for Montreal Gazette
West Virginia: “W.Va. Lobbyist Puccio Crosses Political Streams to Advise Democrat Manchin, Republican Justice” by Brad McElhinny for West Virginia MetroNews
November 13, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Biden’s DOJ Must Determine Whether Trump Should Be Prosecuted Bloomberg Law – David Yaffe-Bellany and Billy House | Published: 11/9/2020 Joe Biden won the presidency promising to bring Americans together. But now his administration is sure to come under pressure […]
Biden’s DOJ Must Determine Whether Trump Should Be Prosecuted
Bloomberg Law – David Yaffe-Bellany and Billy House | Published: 11/9/2020
Joe Biden won the presidency promising to bring Americans together. But now his administration is sure to come under pressure from some Democrats to risk exacerbating divisions by investigating and prosecuting President Trump. Although Biden has said prosecuting a former president would be a “very unusual thing and probably not very good for democracy,” he also vowed in an NPR interview in August that he would not “interfere with the Justice Department’s judgment of whether or not they think they should pursue the prosecution of anyone that they think has violated the law.”
Bipartisan Super PAC Protest Gives Up the Ghost at High Court
Courthouse News Service – Jack Rodgers | Published: 11/9/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit from congressional Democrats challenging the legality of super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in support of candidates. The lawmakers’ case challenged an appeals court decision from 2010 that eliminated any financial contribution limits to PACs that are not affiliated with a candidate or party. They argued there is little sense in capping individual contributions to candidates while allowing independent groups to raise as much as they want in support of candidates.
Echoing Trump, Congressional Candidates Refuse to Concede, Make Unproven Fraud Claims
MSN – Teo Armus (Washington Post) | Published: 11/10/2020
Errol Webber was never expected to have much of a chance at winning his race for Congress. The Republican had challenged a popular incumbent, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass in a deep-blue swath of Los Angeles, so it was no surprise returns showed him losing by more than 72 percentage points. But that did not stop Webber from questioning the results in California’s 37th Congressional District. “I’m going to the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office in Norwalk today to audit the vote counting procedures,” Webber wrote. As President Trump makes unfounded allegations of voting fraud and demands a recount in the presidential election, his rhetoric and unwillingness to concede appear to be trickling down the ballot.
Fighting Election Results, Trump Employs a New Weapon: The government
New York Times – Peter Baker and Lara Jakes | Published: 11/10/2020
President Trump, facing the prospect of leaving the White House in defeat, is harnessing the power of the federal government to resist the results of an election he lost, something that no sitting president has done in American history. The standoff left the U.S. in the position of the kind of country whose weak democratic processes it often criticizes. Rather than congratulating Biden and inviting him to the White House, as his predecessors traditionally have done after an election changed party control, Trump has been marshaling his administration and pressuring his Republican allies into acting as if the outcome were still uncertain, either out of faint hope of actually overturning the results or at least creating a narrative to explain his loss.
Growing Discomfort at Law Firms Representing Trump in Election Lawsuits
New York Times – Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Rachel Abrams, and David Enrich | Published: 11/9/2020
Jones Day is the most prominent firm representing President Trump and the Republican Party as they prepare to wage a legal war challenging the results of the election. The work is intensifying concerns inside the firm about the propriety and wisdom of working for Trump, according to lawyers at the firm. Some senior lawyers at Jones Day are worried it is advancing arguments that lack evidence and may be helping Trump and his allies undermine the integrity of American elections. At another large firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, lawyers have held internal meetings to voice similar concerns about their firm’s election-related work for Trump and the GOP. At least one lawyer quit in protest.
Harris’ Husband, Doug Emhoff, Poised to Break Stereotypes
Associated Press News – Kathleen Roynane | Published: 11/11/2020
Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will leave his private law practice by Inauguration Day to focus on his role at the White House. “We’ve been waiting for this sort of gender switch for decades now,” said Kim Nalder, a political science professor who has focused on women and gender. Emhoff’s decision to cut ties with DLA Piper also offered an early test of how a Biden administration would avoid potential ethical issues. While Emhoff is not a lobbyist, the firm has a large presence lobbying the federal government on behalf of clients including Comcast, Raytheon, and the government of Puerto Rico. He took a leave of absence from the firm in August when Biden chose Harris as his running mate.
Job-Seeking Trump Officials Likely to Get Chilly Reception on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 11/9/2020
White House aides and other administration officials looking to pivot to lobbying following President Trump’s defeat are likely to get a cool reception on K Street. Most lobbying firms are not eager to snatch up Trump staffers, since in the eyes of employers they carry more risk than reward, several veteran lobbyists said. The job market will be even more difficult for younger aides with little previous experience. One lobbyist said Trump aides need something other than the 45th president on their resumes.
K Street Not Waiting for Trump to Concede the Presidential Race
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/10/2020
Even as President Trump balked at conceding the election, lobbying interests that span the political and policy spectrum began to publicly congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as soon as The Associated Press and television networks projected their victory. Not only that, business groups and other K Street interests have begun to reach out to the incoming Biden administration on policy and personnel matters, seeking to shape the agenda of the coming years. Still, even as the nation’s lobbying sector works to influence the incoming Biden administration, it is not clear how receptive the transition, or the new administration, might be to the perspectives of K Street.
Kamala Harris, Daughter of Jamaican and Indian Immigrants, Elected Nation’s First Female Vice President
MSN – Chelsea Janes (Washington Post) | Published: 11/7/2020
A vice president-elect stepped forward and, for the first time in American history, it was not a man. Kamala Harris, a daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, is set to become the highest-ranking woman in the nation’s 244-year existence, as well as a high-profile representation of the country’s increasingly diverse composition. Harris’s victory comes 55 years after the Voting Rights Act abolished laws that disenfranchised Black Americans, 36 years after the first woman ran on a presidential ticket and four years after Democrats were devastated by the defeat of Hillary Clinton, the only woman to win the presidential nomination of a major party. Harris emerged in all white, a nod to the uniform of the suffragists who fought to enfranchise women 100 years ago, an embodiment of what was once just a dream for so many.
Less Travel, More Zoom: Some COVID-19 campaign changes may endure
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/9/2020
COVID-19 upended campaigning as we knew it: candidates, realizing it was taboo to cuddle babies or shake hands during a pandemic, moved to Zoom events to woo voters. Donors shifted from mingling at the hors d’oeuvres buffet to getting takeout and sipping cocktails in front of their screens. The rapid explosion in digital donating and get-out-the-vote efforts are likely to remain, particularly among Democratic candidates. The ease of traversing the country from the comforts of home will be hard to give up entirely, even though candidates and consultants from both parties say they do still crave and will again embrace the in-person, human interaction of retail politics on the trail.
‘My Faith Is Shaken’: The QAnon conspiracy theory faces a post-Trump identity crisis
MSN – Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 11/10/2020
The “Q” of the infamous QAnon conspiracy theory has gone quiet before. But the abrupt lack of posts from Q since Election Day, which the anonymous figure had touted for months as a key moment of reckoning, has sparked speculation and alarm among the movement’s most ardent followers. President Trump’s election loss and the week-long disappearance of their unnamed prophet have wrenched some QAnon believers into a crisis of faith, with factions voicing unease about their future or rallying others to stay calm and “trust the plan.” Some QAnon proponents have begun to publicly grapple with reality and question whether the conspiracy theory is a hoax. “Have we all been conned?” one user wrote on 8kun.
Pressure Mounts on State Republicans as Lawsuits Challenging Election Results Founder
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck, Tom Hamburger, John Swain, and Emma Brown | Published: 11/11/2020
Pressure mounted on state and local officials in battleground states to accept claims of ballot-counting irregularities and voter fraud in the election despite a lack of evidence, as Republicans sought new ways to block certification of Joe Biden’s clear victory in the presidential race. The efforts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia these states – where Biden has won or is leading in the count – come as the Trump campaign struggles to amass genuine evidence of fraud that will pass muster in court. Republican lawsuits seeking to challenge the election results so far have foundered, and affidavits cited as proof of election fraud in cities such as Detroit have failed to substantiate serious claims that votes were counted illegally.
QAnon Goes to Washington: Two supporters win seats in Congress
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 11/5/2020
QAnon is heading to Congress, as Marjorie Taylor Greene, a supporter of the baseless and complicated pro-President Trump conspiracy theory, won a House seat in Georgia, and Lauren Boebert claimed a House seat in Colorado. While those wins are the first by Republican candidates who publicly backed the wide-ranging delusion centered on allegations of a “deep state’ undermining Trump and liberals trafficking children, they will join a GOP conference that may already host some “Q-curious” members.
Record Number of House GOP Women Just One of Many ‘Firsts’ for 117th Congress
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 11/12/2020
Republicans will have at least 26 women in the House, the most they have ever had and more than double what they have now, when the 117th Congress convenes in January. That figure, which grew by two when races in California and Texas were called for Michelle Steel and Beth Van Duyne, could still grow further, with GOP women leading in four of the 15 races still uncalled. The change to the gender composition of the House GOP is just one of many coming to the next Congress, which will also blaze trails on race, sexual orientation, and age.
‘Stop the Steal’ Supporters, Restrained by Facebook, Turn to Parler to Peddle False Election Claims
Boston Globe – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rachel Lerman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/10/2020
As President Trump and his allies continue to contest Joe Biden’s victory, social media has become central to sustaining efforts to delegitimize the results. Yet those campaigns are resulting in the most high-stakes cat-and-mouse game for Facebook and other social media companies to date. The companies are banning groups and hashtags, altering search results, labeling posts, down-ranking problematic content, and implementing a host of measures to ward off misinformation. One sign of the impact of these actions is the renewed interest in Parler. The app has a free-speech doctrine and has become a haven for groups and individuals kicked off Facebook. Parlor now boasts 7.6 million user accounts compared with 4.5 million about a week ago, said Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Wernick.
Trump Solicits ‘Election Defense’ Donations That Also Finance His New Leadership PAC
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 11/11/2020
President Trump’s supporters have been peppered with texts and emails asking for donations to support legal battles contesting his loss to Joe Biden. But details in the fine print show a small portion of the contributions would go toward these “election defense” funds to support recounts and lawsuits in several swing states. The majority of each donation goes to a PAC called Save America, which Trump set up in recent days and will allow him to support candidates and maintain political influence in Washington even after leaving office. The so-called leadership PAC is a loosely regulated fundraising vehicle that allows current and former elected officials to raise and spend money to maintain relationships with donor and help their political allies.
Canada – Chrystia Freeland’s Policy Adviser Agrees to Ethics Screen Related to Lobbyist Spouse
Globe and Mail – Bill Curry | Published: 11/10/2020
Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s policy director, Leslie Church, has agreed to an ethics screen to manage potential conflicts-of-interest involving Sheamus Murphy, her lobbyist husband, who regularly meets with senior federal officials on behalf of corporate clients. Murphy is a partner with the lobbying firm Counsel Public Affairs. Opposition Members of Parliament say they question why a screen is being applied only now, even though Church has worked for Liberal cabinet ministers since 2015. A spokesperson for Freeland said Church has been in regular contact with the ethics commissioner’s office since 2015 and has followed its advice.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Prosecutor Indicted on Ethics Charges, Free on Bond
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 11/9/2020
An Alabama prosecutor was indicted on five felony charges of using his office for personal gain by allegedly using his position to benefit his family and conspiring to steal a pickup truck. Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes was charged with illegally hiring his three children to work for his office and paying private lawyers with public funds to settle a matter that helped him and his wife. He was also charged with issuing a subpoena to a company to gather evidence for his own potential defense. The state said Hughes allegedly tried to steal a 1985 Ford Ranger pickup truck from a business in neighboring Chambers County by hatching a plan to use a search warrant to make a business give up the vehicle.
Arizona – Arizona’s Political Transformation Began Long Before Biden Was on the Ballot
MSN – Jose Del Real and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 11/7/2020
Arizona’s transformation from a onetime conservative stronghold to a swing state capable of deciding this year’s presidential election is the result of a decade of work by Mexican American activists, soaring demographic change, and the consolidation of independent voters behind Joe Biden. He was also buoyed by President Trump’s repeated attacks on the state’s late U.S. senator, John McCain, whose wife endorsed Biden, and by the strong and well-funded campaign of former astronaut Mark Kelly, a Democrat who won McCain’s old seat.
California – Biden Win Sets Off Rush for Harris’ Senate Seat in California
Politico – Carla Marinucci | Published: 11/7/2020
Launching Kamala Harris into the White House as vice president come January has officially kicked off one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s biggest political decisions: appointing California’s next U.S. senator. Many Newsom insiders insist the governor wants to make a historic choice, making Secretary of State Alex Padilla a leading contender. If picked, Padilla, a longtime Newsom supporter, would become the first Latino senator in the state’s 170-year history. The governor also has to contend with women’s groups who have also pressured him to fill Harris’ seat with another woman of color, putting U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, high on the list.
California – California Campaign Finance Complaints Rose Sharply in 2020
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 11/6/2020
The California Fair Political Practices Commission saw a big jump in the number of complaints alleging campaign finance violations for the November election, even in comparison to the tumultuous 2016 presidential election year, and dozens of investigations are ongoing, officials say. The complaints allege violations of campaign laws regarding state and local elections, including whether campaigns properly reported contributions and how they were spent, as well as whether political ads included required disclosures, such as who paid for them. The turmoil over the contest between President Trump and Joe Biden has raised the political temperature for other contests as well, experts say.
California – Man Who Conspired to Make Illegal Contributions to 2012 Mayoral Candidates Gets 1 Year in Prison
KSWB – City News Service | Published: 11/9/2020
A self-proclaimed “campaign guru,” who was previously convicted and sentenced for conspiring with a Mexican billionaire to make nearly $600,000 in illegal campaign contributions to a pair of 2012 San Diego mayoral candidates, was re-sentenced to one year in federal prison, after an appeals court invalidated one of his convictions. Ravneet Singh was convicted in 2016 of conspiring with Jose Susumo Azano and others to inject hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner, even though Azano’s status as a foreign national made such contributions illegal. Singh was also fined $10,000.
Florida – Plantation Mayor Was Hiding Public Records, Inspector General Says
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Wells Dusenbery | Published: 11/5/2020
Broward County’s inspector general concluded the mayor of one of Broward’s biggest cities broke the law with a range of violations from hiding public records to falsifying campaign finance documents. Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner could face serious recourse, and potential charges, after an investigation uncovered numerous violations of open government and campaign finance laws. The inspector general said Stoner unlawfully overdrew her campaign account and then made an illegal, post-election loan to cover the overdraft. She later filed false campaign treasurer reports to cover up the overdraft and illegal contribution, according to the report.
Georgia – How Stacey Abrams and Her Band of Believers Turned Georgia Blue
Politico – Maya King | Published: 11/8/2020
Those leading the effort to flip Georgia from red to blue – a group composed of Black female elected officials, voting rights advocates, and community organizers – understood why Democrats had often fallen short in the South the past decade. Topping the list of reasons: the region’s conservative bent, voter suppression tactics by the right, and the failure by Democrats to mount a sustained voter outreach program. Stacey Abrams’ close loss in Georgia’s gubernatorial election made clear to her and other liberals that demographic shifts had reached a tipping point. They argued Democrats could win more races by expanding their coalition to include disengaged voters of color, as opposed to continuing the focus on persuading undecided, moderate, often white voters.
Hawaii – Ethics Complaint Filed After Honolulu Lobbyist Fails (Again) To Register
Honolulu Civil Beat – Anita Hofschneider | Published: 11/10/2020
David Arakawa is the executive director of the Land Use Research Foundation, a group that lobbies on behalf of landowners and developers in Hawaii. He has not registered to lobby City Hall despite advocating against recent legislative proposals to reshape Honolulu’s parking and urban-planning policies. Marti Townsend, who leads the Hawaii chapter of the environmental group Sierra Club, filed a complaint with the city ethics commission highlighting Arakawa’s failure to register to lobby. It was reported in 2018 that Arakawa failed to register as a lobbyist. After the story, he registered, but Arakawa’s name is also missing from Honolulu’s 2019 list of registered lobbyists. Despite registering in 2018, he does not appear to have filed a required annual report detailing his spending that year.
Illinois – Election Fraud Allegations from 2016 Heard in Appellate Court as Federal Probe Swirls Around Democratic Boss Michael Madigan
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/10/2020
The corruption investigation swirling around Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan bled into arguments before a federal appeals panel over a lawsuit alleging Madigan conspired to put up two “sham” candidates with Hispanic names to confuse voters in the 2016 Democratic primary. Lawyers for plaintiff Jason Gonzales were in court to argue the appeals court should overturn a lower court ruling which tossed out allegations of election fraud by Madigan’s political operation. The lead attorney for Gonzales, Anthony Peraica, used the ongoing criminal investigation to try to make his point, even though the alleged misconduct in the case before the panel took place years before the federal criminal probe came to light. The investigation is illustrative of how Madigan exercises control over the state’s politics to his own personal gain, Peraica argued.
Illinois – Ethics Board Investigating Ald. Brookins’ Decision to Represent Former Ald. Moreno
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 11/9/2020
Former Ald. Proco Joe Moreno, facing felony charges of obstruction of justice and insurance fraud, has a new lawyer – Ald. Howard Brookins, who is now under investigation himself. Brookins’ decision to represent his former colleague on the city council appears to have violated a ruling from the Chicago Board of Ethics that banned aldermen who are attorneys from defending clients in criminal cases involving the Police Department. Cook County prosecutors allege Moreno falsely claimed both to police and his insurance agency that his Audi A6 had been stolen out of his garage. But Moreno allegedly turned the vehicle and its keys over willingly only hours earlier to a woman he had previously dated.
Kansas – ‘Hit’ Tweet Against Kansas Governor Has Dems Seeking Ouster
Associated Press News – John Hanna | Published: 11/5/2020
Aaron Coleman, a Democratic candidate who admitted to circulating revenge porn and was charged at the age of 14 with threatening to shoot a high school student, won a state House seat in Kansas, and party leaders promised to try to oust him after what they saw as a threat against the governor. A political operative provided The Associated Press with a screen shot of a tweet in which Coleman predicted Gov. Laura Kelly would face an “extremely bloody” Democratic primary in two years. “I’m not playing around,” Coleman wrote in the tweet. “People will realize one day when I call a hit out on you it’s real.”
Maryland – Lobbyists Prepare for Challenges with Md. General Assembly as COVID-19 Pandemic Continues
WTOP – Josh Kurtz (Maryland Matters) | Published: 11/9/2020
For decades, legislative advocacy in Annapolis has looked largely the same: well-resourced entities sign up a plugged-in lobbyist – often an ex-legislator or top-ranking former government staffer – to plead their case, while nonprofits and activist groups rely as much on grassroots organizing or in-house lobbyists as on high-paid hired guns. But with the General Assembly’s presiding officers making public declarations in recent days about what the first full legislative session in the age of COVID-19 is going to look like when lawmakers return, advocates for corporate interests and activist groups alike are coming to grips with the idea their daily routines are going to change drastically, at least for the three-month session that will begin in January.
Massachusetts – Quincy Firm Pays $250,000 to Settle Allegations of Illegal Campaign Donations
MSN – Shelley Murphy (Boston Globe) | Published: 11/9/2020
A real estate development firm was fined $250,000 after Massachusetts officials discovered it funneled company funds to employees and instructed them to make more than $57,000 in illegal contributions to the campaign finance accounts of city and state officials, including $10,000 to Gov. Charlie Baker. Since 2017, Boston Property Ventures President Richard McDonald padded the personal bank accounts of 16 employees with company funds and instructed them to make contributions to designated candidates, an investigation by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance found. It is the second-largest fine for campaign finance violations in state history and the second violation of this nature for Boston Property Ventures.
Missouri – Former Missouri Lawmaker Admits Misusing Campaign Funds
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Robert Patrick | Published: 11/6/2020
Former Missouri Rep. Courtney Curtis could face at least a year in prison after admitting in court he used more than $47,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses. Curtis in 2016 and 2017 defrauded campaign donors by using their contributions for personal expenses, including for apartment rent, utilities, hotel, airfare, and travel expenses and to cover bills at restaurants and bars, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith said. Curtis also made cash withdrawals and deposited campaign money into his personal bank account.
New Jersey – Birdsall Exec Convicted in High-Profile Pay-to-Play Scheme Loses Professional Licenses
Newark Star Ledger – Samantha Marcus (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 11/10/2020
Two New Jersey professional boards stripped a former Birdsall Group executive of his professional licenses more than three years after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 270 days in jail for funneling illegal campaign contributions to politicians. James Johnston was one of eight former executives, shareholders, and managers at the now-defunct firm who pleaded guilty. The firm, which received millions of dollars in government engineering contracts, went out of business after admitting it flouted state campaign finance laws. It was accused of funneling more than $1 million in corporate political contributions through employees to get around New Jersey’s “pay-to-play” law, which would have disqualified it from winning government contracts.
New York – After Cuomo Book Approval, Rancor and Rebuke at Ethics Agency
Alton Telegraph – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 11/11/2020
Before a deal was struck to publish “American Crisis,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new best-selling book, the governor had to gain approval for the venture from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). Cuomo’s office has provided little information about that approval process but has noted on several occasions that JCOPE did approve the publishing deal. Yet two weeks after the book’s October release, a JCOPE member publicly questioned how much weight the agency’s opinions on such matters really carry, sparking an extraordinary response from Cuomo’s appointees on the panel.
New York – N.Y.’s Green and Libertarian Political Parties in Peril as Working Families Party Avoids Disaster
New York Daily News – Denis Slattery | Published: 11/9/2020
The Green Party of New York is feeling blue but vowing to fight on after failing to get enough votes in the presidential election to remain on the ballot in the Empire State. An election law overhaul related to New York’s soon-to-be-implemented public matching funds program significantly increased the threshold needed for parties to retain their line on the state ballot, a blow to third parties. According to the new rules, a party must garner either 130,000 votes or two percent of the total votes cast, whichever is higher, to maintain its status. The Working Families Party and the Conservative Party were able to garner enough votes to retain their status by endorsing and running major party candidates on their lines.
Ohio – FBI Arrests Cincinnati Councilman After Undercover Agents Reveal ‘Brazen’ Bribery Scheme, Feds Say
USA Today – Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 11/10/2020
FBI agents arrested Cincinnati City Councilperson Jeff Pastor in what authorities describe as a brazen bribery scheme involving payoffs for help with city development projects. Federal prosecutors say Pastor, who joined the council in January 2018, began soliciting money from developers within months of taking office and, in some instances, accepted bags of cash in return for his vote or other favorable treatment. A friend of Pastor’s, Tyran Marshall, also faces federal charges and is accused of setting up a charitable nonprofit through which Pastor funneled bribes. U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said Pastor, who is accused of collecting $55,000 in bribes, at one point told undercover agents he should be paid $200,000 for his help.
Oklahoma – Government Bodies to Resume In-Person Meetings, Spurring Coronavirus Concerns
The Oklahoman – Carmen Forman | Published: 11/10/2020
Government bodies in Oklahoma will return to meeting in person after a temporary law that allows for virtual meetings expires on November 15. Legislative leaders have no plans to call a special session to extend the deadline of a law that allows government bodies to meet entirely over videoconferencing or teleconferencing platforms. As COVID-19 started to take hold in Oklahoma, state lawmakers in March temporarily amended the state’s Open Meeting Act so elected officials and residents could virtually attend public meetings. But the law that will sunset, raising concerns about how in-person meetings could contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
South Dakota – Noem’s Pitch to Aid Trump Seems to Benefit Own Campaign Fund
Associated Press News – Stephen Groves | Published: 11/10/2020
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has enthusiastically taken up President Trump’s efforts to contest the results of the presidential election, asking for online donations to “help us bring it home for the president,” but it appears the money is set to flow into her own reelection account. The website soliciting money allows donors to check the amount of their contribution and includes a box to cover a processing “so 100% of my donation goes to Kristi for Governor.” It is unlikely that much, if any, of the money will end up going to Trump, said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause. Ryan noted the governor can give a maximum of $2,800 to Trump’s campaign under federal law. If she wanted more to flow to Trump, she could have directed donors to the president’s own donation site.
Texas – AP Sources: Texas AG’s affair tied to criminal allegations
Associated Press News – Jake Bleiberg | Published: 11/5/2020
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had an extramarital affair with a woman whom he later recommended for a job with the wealthy donor now at the center of criminal allegations against him, according to two people who said Paxton told them about the relationship. They said Paxton acknowledged the affair in 2018 to senior members of his office and political staff. Developer Nate Paul said in a deposition that Paxton recommended the woman for her job with Paul’s real estate company. The attorney general’s top deputies reported their boss to the FBI in September for alleged bribery, abuse of office, and other crimes Those allegations stem in part from Paxton’s decision to investigate Paul’s claims that a judge and the FBI broke the law in searches of his home and offices last year.
Texas – Texas’ Patrick Offers Reward as Trump Makes Unfounded Claims
Associated Press News – Paul Weber | Published: 11/10/2020
Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick offered up to $1 million in defense of President Trump’s unsupported claims of irregularities in the presidential election, saying he would pay out rewards for information that leads to voter fraud arrests and convictions. The money put up by the lieutenant governor appeared to be a first among Republican officeholders who are backing Trump as he refuses to concede. A former chief Texas ethics regulator said paying out reward money, which would come from Patrick’s political campaign, could run afoul of federal campaign finance laws.
Washington – Appeals Court Upholds $18M Campaign Finance Fine
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 11/11/2020
The Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed $18 million penalty imposed against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) for violating campaign finance laws during a 2013 battle over a ballot initiative that would have required labeling ingredients with genetically modified organisms on all packaged food products. The court found the GMA violations “represented an intentional attempt to conceal the identity of companies donating millions of dollars in a contentious ballot campaign.” The GMA spent more than $11?million to defeat the initiative. But its contributions were disclosed only as coming from the association, not the companies that bankrolled the effort, such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestle, and General Mills.
November 12, 2020 • Written by Marilyn Wesel
Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor was arrested Tuesday by FBI agents for leading a bribery scheme involving payoffs for city development projects. Pastor is accused of bribery, money laundering, extortion, wire fraud, theft of honest services, and conspiracy. If convicted, […]
Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor was arrested Tuesday by FBI agents for leading a bribery scheme involving payoffs for city development projects.
Pastor is accused of bribery, money laundering, extortion, wire fraud, theft of honest services, and conspiracy.
If convicted, he could face more than 20 years in prison.
Additionally, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and many council members have called for Pastor to resign.
Pastor is the second council member this year charged with taking bribes from developers.
Tamaya Dennard resigned from the council in February after her arrest on fraud and bribery charges in an unrelated case.
Finally, if Pastor resigns, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman will select his replacement.
November 12, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance New Jersey: “Birdsall Exec Convicted in High-Profile Pay-to-Play Scheme Loses Professional Licenses” by Samantha Marcus (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger South Dakota: “Noem’s Pitch to Aid Trump Seems to Benefit Own Campaign Fund” by Stephen Groves […]
New Jersey: “Birdsall Exec Convicted in High-Profile Pay-to-Play Scheme Loses Professional Licenses” by Samantha Marcus (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger
South Dakota: “Noem’s Pitch to Aid Trump Seems to Benefit Own Campaign Fund” by Stephen Groves for Associated Press News
Washington: “Appeals Court Upholds $18 Million Fine Against Grocery Industry Group for Violating Washington Campaign Law” by Jim Brunner for Seattle Times
National: “‘Stop the Steal’ Supporters, Restrained by Facebook, Turn to Parler to Peddle False Election Claims” by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rachel Lerman for Washington Post
National: “Harris’ Husband, Doug Emhoff, Poised to Break Stereotypes” by Kathleen Roynane for Associated Press News
Texas: “Texas’ Patrick Offers Reward as Trump Makes Unfounded Claims” by Paul Weber for Associated Press News
National: “Growing Discomfort at Law Firms Representing Trump in Election Lawsuits” by Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Rachel Abrams, and David Enrich for New York Times
Illinois: “Election Fraud Allegations from 2016 Heard in Appellate Court as Federal Probe Swirls Around Democratic Boss Michael Madigan” by Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News
New York: “After Cuomo Book Approval, Rancor and Rebuke at Ethics Agency” by Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) for Alton Telegraph
Oklahoma: “Government Bodies to Resume In-Person Meetings, Spurring Coronavirus Concerns” by Carmen Forman for The Oklahoman
November 11, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance California: “Man Who Conspired to Make Illegal Contributions to 2012 Mayoral Candidates Gets 1 Year in Prison” by City News Service for KSWB Massachusetts: “Quincy Firm Pays $250,000 to Settle Allegations of Illegal Campaign Donations” by Shelley Murphy […]
California: “Man Who Conspired to Make Illegal Contributions to 2012 Mayoral Candidates Gets 1 Year in Prison” by City News Service for KSWB
Massachusetts: “Quincy Firm Pays $250,000 to Settle Allegations of Illegal Campaign Donations” by Shelley Murphy (Boston Globe) for MSN
National: “Echoing Trump, Congressional Candidates Refuse to Concede, Make Unproven Fraud Claims” by Teo Armus (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “‘My Faith Is Shaken’: The QAnon conspiracy theory faces a post-Trump identity crisis” by Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg for Washington Post
National: “Biden’s DOJ Must Determine Whether Trump Should Be Prosecuted” by David Yaffe-Bellany and Billy House for Bloomberg Law
Illinois: “Ethics Board Investigating Ald. Brookins’ Decision to Represent Former Ald. Moreno” by Heather Cherone for WTTW
Ohio: “Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor Traded votes for Cash, Bribes, a Trip to Miami, Feds Say” by Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn for Cincinnati Enquirer
National: “K Street Not Waiting for Trump to Concede the Presidential Race” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
Hawaii: “Ethics Complaint Filed After Honolulu Lobbyist Fails (Again) To Register” by Anita Hofschneider for Honolulu Civil Beat