April 13, 2011 • Written by John Cozine, Esq.
The Georgia House of Representatives voted Tuesday to close a loophole in the state ethics law concerning expenditures made on behalf or for the benefit of public employees.
The House voted to amend Senate Bill 160 to add provisions requiring lobbyist reporting of expenditures made on behalf or for the benefit of a public employee for the purpose of influencing a public officer after Advisory Opinion 2011-03, released by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, concluded state law did not require the reporting of such expenditures.
The bill must now return to the Senate for a vote on the House amendment.
Photo of the Georgia State Capitol dome by Connor.carey on Wikipedia.
September 25, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020 On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with […]
Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal
NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020
On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with Brian Ballard, a well-connected lobbyist serving as vice chair of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Also at the table were the two men who set up the meeting: Mübariz Mansimov, a shipping magnate now in a Turkish jail facing terrorism charges, and Lev Parnas, a colorful businessperson whose backchannel dealings in Ukraine would, two years later, feature prominently in Trump’s impeachment. The meeting, which has never before been disclosed, marked the start of Turkey’s ambitious lobbying of the Trump administration that involved back-channels, Russian-linked oligarchs, and Parnas. The lunch eventually led to multi-million-dollar contracts for Ballard Partners to lobby on behalf of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Campaigns Adjust as Voters Cast Ballots Before Election Day
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 9/17/2020
More voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail or in person before Election Day this year due to concerns about crowding at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic. For campaigns and outside groups, a surge in early voting, by mail or in person, means there is less time to get their messages out to voters. But it also means they need to spend more time on turnout efforts. In past election cycles, the end of summer was the unofficial start of campaign season, when political ads started to blanket the airwaves. But that has not been the case this year.
Chamber to Lay Off a Dozen Employees, Expand Advocacy Efforts Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 9/17/2020
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest spender on federal lobbying, is laying off 12 employees as part of a restructuring that the group’s insiders say will also aim to expand its policy advocacy. Most of the laid-off employees were tied to the operation of the group’s building, across from the White House, or to putting on in-person events. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark said the organization will accelerate efforts to be a leader in virtual events. She also announced Executive Vice President Neil Bradley will oversee a new umbrella group called Strategic Advocacy, with three divisions – government affairs, policy, and political affairs and federal relations.
DeVos Under Investigation for Potentially Violating Hatch Act Because of Fox News Interview
Politico – Daniel Lippman and Michael Stratford | Published: 9/21/2020
The Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) has started investigating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for potentially violating the Hatch Act after she criticized Joe Biden in a Fox News interview and her agency promoted it through official channels. The law prohibits most political activity by federal employees, but the Trump administration has not paid much attention to it, even hosting parts of the Republican National Convention at the White House with multiple Cabinet members giving primetime addresses. At least 12 Trump senior officials violated the Hatch Act, according to the OSC. In most cases, the office decided the violation was minor enough to merit only a warning letter. Only one case, that of former senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, was sent to President Trump for action, and he did not act on it.
How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage
New York Times – Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 9/22/2020
With President Trump trailing Joe Biden in most national and swing-state polls, Republicans are again trying to help third parties that may appeal to Democratic voters and siphon off votes from Biden. This is taking place alongside a broader pattern of disinformation and skepticism by the president and his allies that has sown confusion and undermined confidence in the election. Republican efforts to aid the Green Party are not new. In 2016, a billionaire backer of Trump, Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, provided support to Jill Stein, the Green candidate, according to people with knowledge of the strategy, who said the effort was done with the knowledge of some officials at the Trump campaign and its chairperson at the time, Paul Manafort.
Judges in D.C. Threatened, Harassed After High-Profile, Political Legal Battles
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 9/18/2020
In the last three years, the number of threats tracked by the U.S. Marshals Service has dramatically increased as attacks targeting federal judges and their rulings have proliferated on social media. The animosity directed at judges is particularly persistent in Washington, D.C. with legal battles over President Trump’s financial records and access to secret material from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Deputies recorded about 4,500 “inappropriate” communications or threats directed a judges and other court officials, an increase of 40 percent from fiscal 2016. It is a crime to threaten a federal judge, but not every nasty message or social media post is considered a threat and deputies must balance free speech considerations.
Pelosi Unveils Watergate-Style Anti-Corruption Reforms – Tailored for the Trump Era
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 9/23/2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants unveiled a sweeping anti-corruption package they are billing as a successor to post-Watergate reforms, updated for a potential post-Trump Washington. The measure, a 158-page Democratic wish list that includes curbs on pardons for close associates of the president, a requirement for campaigns to publicly report many foreign contacts, and a requirement for courts to prioritize congressional subpoenas, is House leaders’ version of an antidote to what they see as weaknesses in democratic government exposed by President Trump.
Pentagon Used Taxpayer Money Meant for Masks and Swabs to Make Jet Engine Parts and Body Armor
MSN – Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020
The CARES Act passed by Congress in March granted the Department of Defense $1 billion to both prevent and get ready to respond to the coronavirus. Months after the funding was allocated, Pentagon lawyers concluded the money could be used for defense production, including projects that had little to do with responding to the pandemic, Hundreds of millions of the taxpayer money was utilized to obtain military supplies, such as jet engine parts, body armor, dress uniforms, and other needs. The payments were made even though U.S. health officials think major funding gaps in pandemic response remain.
Republican Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Biden
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/23/2020
An investigation by Senate Republicans into corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, involving Ukraine found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president, closing out an inquiry its leaders had hoped would tarnish the Democratic presidential nominee. The investigation found Hunter Biden had “cashed in” on his father’s name to close lucrative business deals around the world. It also concluded his work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company then mired in a corruption scandal, while the former vice president was directing American policy toward Kyiv had given the appearance of a conflict-of-interest. But a report summing up the findings contained no evidence Joe Biden improperly manipulated American policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Brings New Uncertainty to the Battle Over Voting Rights in 2020
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2020
The vacancy left by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came just over six weeks before the election, a critical point in a campaign already defined by hundreds of lawsuits over voting rules and an outsize role for the courts in determining how ballots are distributed, cast, and counted. As Democrats and voting rights advocates seek to lower barriers to voting during the pandemic, the Supreme Court has largely deferred to local and state officials, showing a reluctance to upend rules close to the election. Legal experts disagree about whether the blizzard of election-related lawsuits this year makes it more or less likely that the Supreme Court could end up playing a role in determining the winner of the presidential race, as it effectively did in 2000.
The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.
New York Times – David Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/22/2020
Four years ago, when Russian intelligence agencies engaged in a systematic attempt to influence the American presidential election, the disinformation they fed voters required some real imagination at the troll farms producing the ads. This year, their task is much easier. They are largely amplifying misleading statements from President Trump, mostly about the dangers of mail-in ballots. That campaign is at the heart of the disinformation efforts that FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Congress was meant “to both sow divisiveness and discord: and “to denigrate” Joe Biden.
Trump Says He Will Move ‘Without Delay’ to Fill Ginsburg’s Supreme Court Seat
Washington Post – Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/19/2020
President Trump said he will nominate a woman to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, opening a ferocious political battle that could transform the nation’s highest court and alter the presidential election. Even as flags were lowered to half-staff and mourners filled the plaza of the Supreme Court where Ginsburg served for 27 years as a liberal icon, the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell contemplated her successor. Trump said he prefers a Senate vote before the election. A Trump replacement for Ginsburg can hardly be overstated in its implications for the court’s docket, the influence of Chief Justice John Roberts and perhaps even the outcome of the election, if what is shaping up to be one of the most contentious presidential elections in history ends up before the justices.
Trump’s Businesses Charged Secret Service More Than $1.1 Million, Including for Rooms in Club Shuttered for Pandemic
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/17/2020
President Trump’s properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office, including for room rentals at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club this spring while it was closed for the coronavirus pandemic, new documents show. The receipts and invoices shed new light on the unprecedented relationship Trump has with his own government, where Trump’s presidential travel brings a stream of public money to the private businesses the president still owns. When Trump and his family members visit Trump properties, aides and Secret Service agents follow. When those federal employees rent rooms, Trump’s businesses get the revenue. Taxpayers foot the bill.
US Judge Blocks Postal Service Changes That Slowed Mail
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 9/18/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian blocked Postal Service changes that have slowed mail nationwide, calling them “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” before the November election. He said he was issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states that sued the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The states challenged the Postal Service’s so-called leave behind policy, where trucks have been leaving postal facilities on time regardless of whether there is more mail to load. They also sought to force the Postal Service to treat election mail as first-class mail. Many more voters are expected to vote by mail this November because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Watchdog Group Calls on FEC to Investigate Donations to Trump and Others by Relatives and Associates of Louis DeJoy
Washington Post – Aaron Davis | Published: 9/18/2020
A pattern of campaign contributions by former employees and family members of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy indicates a possible effort to reimburse his associates for donations as recently as 2018, according to an FEC complaint. It has been reported DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said an analysis of more recent contributions shows a portion of the employees who gave in clusters at New Breed continued to do so after the company was acquired by XPO Logistics, where DeJoy served as an executive. Donations among some XPO employees continued in similar or identical amounts, on the same days, and were made to the same candidates, the CLC found.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case
Montgomery Advertiser – Brad Harper | Published: 9/21/2020
Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette was sentenced to 12 months of probation and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine but avoided jail time for misusing campaign finance funds. State prosecutors said Burkette failed to deposit $3,625 in campaign donations between April 2015 and January 2016, when he was running for Montgomery City Council, and instead deposited them into his personal bank account. The crime carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. Burkette resigned from the Senate as part of a plea deal. In turn, the state agreed not to pursue additional charges.
Alaska – In Secret Tapes, Mine Executives Detail Their Sway Over leaders from Juneau to the White House
MSN – Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020
Two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine in Alaska boasted about their influence over public officials in the state and Washington, D.C. in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group. It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and decimate its salmon fishery. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found in July the project would have “no measurable effect” on the area’s fish populations, but informed Pebble Limited Partnership it had to do more to show how it would offset the damage caused by the operation. Even as the executives jump through several regulatory hoops, they focused on wooing Republican politicians. In the taped conversations, they detailed their plan to manage all the decision-makers.
California – California Prison Guard Union Places Bull’s-Eye on Black Lawmaker’s Photo in Political Ad
Los Angeles Times – Anita Chabria | Published: 9/17/2020
The union representing California prison guards posted pictures and video online of a new political ad announcing its intent to “target” state Assemblyperson Reggie Jones-Sawyer, obscuring the Black lawmaker’s face with a bull’s-eye and drawing criticism the image amounted to a threat. The incident highlights mounting acrimony in Los Angeles and across the country between law enforcement and those who seek police reforms, and it comes days after two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were ambushed by a gunman, leading Sheriff Alex Villanueva to warn that “words have consequences.”
California – CalPERS Board Supportive of Move to Restrict Investments by Top Staff
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 9/17/2020
California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) board members expressed support for a proposal to limit personal investments by future chief investment officers. The board weighed in on a plan that would force its chief investment officers to divest from some or all of their investments or place them in a blind trust as a condition of employment. They expect to consider a specific proposal from the system’s staff in November. The proposal follows the sudden departure of former Chief Investment Officer Ben Meng, who was the subject of an ethics complaint after approving a $1 billion CalPERS investment with a firm in which he held stock. The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating a complaint related to Meng’s investments.
California – LA City Council Aims to Increase Accountability of Development Process
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – City News Service | Published: 9/23/2020
A Los Angeles City Council committee advanced several proposals intended to create more oversight and transparency of city development projects in response to recent corruption cases. One of the proposals the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved was to develop policies that would expand the requirements for when council members have a conflict-of-interest and must exclude themselves from voting on certain projects. These standards would be the same ones used by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority. The committee also approved a motion for full council consideration to seek ways to require any meetings between developers and individual council members be disclosed if they are held outside of a public forum.
California – San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/21/2020
San Bernardino intends to follow legislation that on January 1 sets a $4,700 limit on how much an individual can give a candidate per election. There presently are no restrictions on such contributions. City staffers had reported Assembly Bill 571 would institute a yearly cap on campaign donations. A majority of the city council supported the bill’s guidelines, but Mayor John Valdivia vetoed the move. After further review, city staffers reported the $4,700 limit is per election, not per year.
Florida – Florida AG Calls for Criminal Inquiry into Bloomberg’s $16M Felon Voter Donation
Politico – Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout | Published: 9/23/2020
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate “potential violations of election laws” over Michael Bloomberg’s decision to help pay felons’ fines, fees, and restitution to be eligible to vote in the state. The move comes two weeks before Florida’s voter registration deadline and 12 days after a federal appeals court upheld a restrictive new state law that requires former felons to clear court debts before registering to vote. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition set up a fund to help people pay their court debts. Bloomberg recently announced he helped the group raise $16 million. State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked the FEC to investigate whether Bloomberg is “breaking the law by giving direct cash for voters.”
Illinois – Alderman Lavished with Cash, Luxury Trips by Program for Caribbean Med Students
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak | Published: 9/18/2020
A Chicago doctor is suing his business partner, Theresa Shaw, accusing her of “looting” more than $3.7 million from their business to finance an “extravagant lifestyle” and to lavish Ald. George Cardenas with luxurious trips, an expensive watch, and a monthly stipend for consulting services. Cardenas had been hired to drum up business for Omni Medical Student Training, which places students from Caribbean medical schools in residency programs with Chicago hospitals. The alderman was not very successful in getting hospitals to sign up, though, according to the suit. City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson questioned Siaw earlier this year as part of an investigation into Cardenas’ campaign finances.
Illinois – Cook County Board of Ethics Appoints New Chair After Previous Two Ousted Amid Earlier Shakeups
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 9/17/2020
The board in charge of enforcing Cook County’s ethics ordinance ushered in a new chairperson, the third to hold the position this year after a series of recent shake-ups. Thomas Szromba, currently the longest serving of four members seated on the Cook County Ethics Board, was voted in without opposition. Szromba’s appointment came during the board’s first meeting since the pandemic and after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle ousted the two previous chairs, Margaret Daley and Juliet Sorensen. Daley has said she wondered whether their attempts to roll out proposed reforms to the ethics ordinance irked Preckwinkle.
Illinois – CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How a utility watchdog got millions from the utilities it watches
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/21/2020
After winning Illinois lawmakers’ support for a multibillion-dollar piece of legislation in 2016, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) decided to celebrate with a pair of invitation-only events. At the second, more exclusive soiree, ComEd’s retiring top lobbyist was being toasted for getting the bill passed and for a long career in and around state government. The guest list included executives from ComEd. There were also company lobbyists and House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose son was also invited. But there was another invitee who stood out. David Kolata and the organization he has led for 15 years, the Citizens Utility Board, are supposed to be thorns in the side of ComEd. But in 2016, Kolata’s consumer advocacy group instead sided with the power companies, enabling them to boost ratepayers’ electricity bills by billions of dollars over a decade to subsidize underperforming nuclear plants.
Illinois – Former State Sen. Terry Link Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion Charge in Federal Court
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/16/2020
Former state Sen. Terry Link to pleaded guilty to a federal count of filing a false tax return, marking the latest conviction in a series of wide-ranging investigations against Illinois Democratic political leaders. While the felony conviction capped a swift fall from grace for Link, his case is far not over. It was reported Link agreed to wear a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo in exchange for what Link hopes will be leniency at sentencing. Link’s plea agreement said he listed his 2016 income as $264,450 when in fact it was at least $358,000. It is unclear where Link’s income came from that year. Link and other lawmakers went much of that year without pay because then-state Comptroller Leslie Munger withheld their salaries amid the long-running budget standoff.
Kentucky – Kentucky GOP Lawmaker Indicted on Assault, Accused of Strangling Woman with Ethernet Cable
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 9/21/2020
As a freshman legislator, Kentucky Rep. Robert Goforth joined his colleagues to pass a bill that would make it easier to prosecute strangulation. That same bill, now a state law after it passed at the urging of domestic violence advocates, became a factor in his own case. A grand jury indicted Goforth, a former candidate for governor, on one count of first-degree strangulation and one count of assault. Earlier this year, a woman said Goforth strangled her with an ethernet cable to the point where she had trouble breathing and threatened to “hog tie” her, according to a police report.
Louisiana – In Parting Shot, Resigning New Orleans IG Says Audubon Institute Possibly Made Unlawful Deals
Nola.com – Jessica Williams | Published: 9/18/2020
In one of the last reports of his career in New Orleans, Inspector General Derry Harper rapped the private Audubon Nature Institute for spending almost $1 million over two recent years in deals he said might be unlawful. Harper said the institute spent $416,000 on federal lobbying contracts, deals that could violate rules that he said bar agencies from using public dollars to influence politicians. Another $579,570 the institute paid to employees in commissions on top of their regular salaries could run afoul of state rules meant to prevent conflicts-of-interest.
Maryland – Baltimore Could End Contract with Pugh-Connected Financier After IG Details Failure to Disclose Donations to Her
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 9/22/2020
Baltimore’s top lawyer will recommend the city consider ending its contract with Grant Capital Management after the city’s inspector general found troubling omissions in the company’s bid for a lucrative contract regarding founder J.P. Grant’s donations to former Mayor Catherine Pugh. The investigation was spurred by revelations about Grant’s role in Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal. Grant wrote Pugh checks for $170,000, according to federal prosecutors, despite knowing she was illegally funneling the funds into her campaign and toward buying a bigger house. Grant Capital Management has an agreement to help city agencies pay for large contracts. The company quickly provides money upfront to pay for capital projects, with the city paying it back with interest over time.
Minnesota – Preparing Minnesotans of Color to Wield More Power at the Capitol
MPR News – Melissa Townsend | Published: 9/22/2020
Aarcia Coleman was part of a surge in the number of Minnesotans of color running for elected office in August. Although she lost the primary, she credits a program with helping her prepare for her foray into politics and igniting a passion for influencing policy. Coleman graduated from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s Community Equity Program, a free, nine-month program specifically for Black, Native American people, and people of color to get to know the lay of the land at the Capitol. Her cohort spent nearly a year getting to know their way around the buildings, the underground tunnel system, the policymaking protocols, and the culture of the place. By the end of the program, Coleman, who was seeking to be the first Black woman elected to the state Senate in its history, said she felt comfortable being in those halls of power.
Mississippi – Gov. Tate Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Has Dissolved. Where Did the Money Go?
Jacson Clarion-Ledger – Giacomo Bologna | Published: 9/23/2020
Less than a year after soliciting thousands of dollars from secret donors, the nonprofit that paid for the inauguration of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has dissolved and it is unclear where its funds went. For All Mississippi’s filing documents show it was created for a political purpose – the 2020 inauguration of Reeves and his transition to office – but nonprofits are shielded from the normal disclosure laws for political organizations. There is no contribution cap, public disclosure of donors, and no public accounting of how the money was spent.
New Jersey – Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 9/21/2020
A group that sent out political advertisements targeting several progressive Democrats in the run-up to the June primary election has been ordered to disclose its donors. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver recently directed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico to make the disclosure within 10 days or face possible civil penalties. The group reported spending more than $134,000 on campaign mailers, radio ads, and phone calls in support of five incumbent Democratic senators, with some of that money also being spent on mailers that targeted four of their primary election opponents. But the Council for a Competitive New Mexico did not disclose its funding sources for the campaign-related expenditures, which is required in most cases under state law.
New York – Judge: Eric Trump must give NY deposition before election
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak | Published: 9/23/2020
President Trump’s son Eric has until October 7 to speak to New York investigators probing his family’s business practices, a judge ruled rejecting his lawyers’ contention that his “extreme travel schedule” on the campaign trail warranted a delay until after the November election. State Judge Arthur Engoron said Eric Trump, an executive at the family’s Trump Organization, had no legal basis to postpone a subpoena seeking his deposition testimony under oath, concluding that neither the probe nor the court were “bound by the timelines of the national election.”
New York – New York Ethics’ Panel Renews Search for a Leader
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/18/2020
After 15 months without an executive director, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) re-posted the job listing for the position, a sign the marathon search for a new top staffer is not yet close to a finish. In March, six JCOPE members called on the panel’s chairperson, Michael Rozen, to conduct a search for an “independent” executive director amid longstanding criticism the commission’s leadership and operations have been too closely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature. The last executive director, Seth Agata, was before his appointment a counsel to Cuomo.
New York – Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 9/21/2020
The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has been locked in a legal battle with President Trump over obtaining his tax returns, suggested for the first time in a court filing that it had grounds to investigate him and his businesses for tax fraud. The filing by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., offered rare insight into the office’s investigation of the president and his business dealings, which began more than two years ago. The inquiry has been stalled by the fight over a subpoena the office issued for eight years of Trump’s tax returns.
Ohio – Dems Blast Bogus FirstEnergy PAC Campaign Report
Youngstown Business Journal – Staff | Published: 9/19/2020
FirstEnergy’s PAC wrote $158,000 worth of checks to Ohio politicians in the weeks before an FBI corruption probe was disclosed. But those checks were never sent, the company said. The contributions were detailed on an August 20 campaign finance report, but several politicians said they had no record of receiving the money. FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young said donations were made and recorded but were held “out of an abundance of caution” after the announcement of the investigation into Larry Householder and others. She said the checks are recorded in the PAC’s report once they are put into the accounting system to generate a check. Young said the PAC was catching up “after several months of limited contributions due to the lack of fundraising events during the coronavirus shutdown.”
Pennsylvania – Alarm Grows Over ‘Naked Ballot’ Ruling in Pennsylvania
The Hill – Max Greenwood | Published: 9/22/2020
Pennsylvania election officials and voting rights advocates are sounding the alarm over a state Supreme Court ruling ordering officials to toss out “naked ballots,” warning the decision could cause widespread voter disenfranchisement and a legal controversy following the November elections. The ruling on so-called naked ballots – mail ballots returned to election offices without an inner secrecy envelope – carries potentially sweeping electoral ramifications for a state that President Trump won in 2016 by only 44,000 votes and that Joe Biden now sees as a critical part of his path to the White House.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Green Party Will Not Appear on State’s 2020 General Election Ballot
ABC News – Alicia Weirsema | Published: 9/17/2020
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the Green Party presidential ticket would not be included on the state’s general election ballot this year. The move comes three days after the Wisconsin Supreme Court similarly decided Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, would not be on their state’s ballot. Hawkins and Walker were replacing another set of Green Party candidates on the ticket, but the submitted documents for the initial candidates’ filing were inadequate which ultimately barred those candidates, and their replacements, from appearing on the ballot. The ruling clears the way for Pennsylvania officials to begin certifying ballots, which they previously were unable to do due to a lack of a finalized candidate list. Once the ballots are certified, they can be printed and disseminated to voters across the state.
South Carolina – Wearing Masks at the SC Capitol Is Required, but Many Found a Way Around the Order
Charlotte Observer – Maayan Schechter | Published: 9/20/2020
Anyone who enters a state government building in South Carolina is required to wear a mask. But inside the state’s top government building, lawmakers and members of the public flouted the rule recently. Though Gov. Henry McMaster’s authority does not extend into chambers, protesters without masks inside told statehouse security they could not wear a mask, invoking the health exemption in the governor’s order. One lawmaker repeatedly coughed into a tissue, her mask cradling her chin, as others observed, and a handful of other lawmakers walked around their respective chambers without any masks on at all. Security and law enforcement watched, unable to take any action.
Virginia – Virginia Legislator Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus Warned His Church, but House Colleagues Say They Weren’t Informed
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 9/22/2020
The day after Thomas Wright Jr. tested positive for the coronavirus, his office sent an email to Victoria Christian Church, warning fellow worshipers the Virginia delegate might have unwittingly exposed them. But House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said neither Wright nor his office officially notified his fellow legislators, who had met with him a week earlier when the House convened for one day in a basketball arena before moving the rest of a special legislative session to an online format.
Washington DC – D.C. Official Who Sought Howard Job After Negotiating a Tax Break for School Fined $2,500
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 9/21/2020
A former high-ranking District of Columbia government official was fined $2,500 by the city ethics board for his involvement in legislation providing a $225 million tax break for Howard University on the same day he discussed taking a job at the university. Former city administrator Rashad Young “inadvertently committed a technical violation” of the ethics code when he rejected amendments to increase the tax break hours after the university president spoke to him about creating a job for him, according to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. The board found it was inappropriate for Young to be involved in matters at all while in active job discussions with the university. But his actions did not benefit Howard in its bid to build a university hospital with taxpayer support.
September 24, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance New Jersey: “Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending” by Dan Boyd for Albuquerque Journal Elections National: “How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage” by Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti […]
New Jersey: “Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending” by Dan Boyd for Albuquerque Journal
National: “How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage” by Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti for New York Times
National: “The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.” by David Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs for New York Times
Florida: “Bloomberg Raises $16 Million to Help Florida Felons Pay Fines to Vote in November” by Stephanie Ruhle and Julia Jester for NBC News
Pennsylvania: “Alarm Grows Over ‘Naked Ballot’ Ruling in Pennsylvania” by Max Greenwood for The Hill
National: “Pentagon Used Taxpayer Money Meant for Masks and Swabs to Make Jet Engine Parts and Body Armor” by Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) for MSN
Maryland: “Baltimore Could End Contract with Pugh-Connected Financier After IG Details Failure to Disclose Donations to Her” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun
Virginia: “Virginia Legislator Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus Warned His Church, but House Colleagues Say They Weren’t Informed” by Laura Vozzella for Washington Post
Alaska: “In Secret Tapes, Mine Executives Detail Their Sway Over leaders from Juneau to the White House” by Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) for MSN
September 23, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Alabama: “Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case” by Brad Harper for Montgomery Advertiser California: “San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election” by Brian Whitehead for San […]
Alabama: “Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case” by Brad Harper for Montgomery Advertiser
California: “San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election” by Brian Whitehead for San Bernardino Sun
National: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Brings New Uncertainty to the Battle Over Voting Rights in 2020” by Elise Viebeck and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “DeVos Under Investigation for Potentially Violating Hatch Act Because of Fox News Interview” by Daniel Lippman and Michael Stratford for Politico
New York: “Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time” by Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum for New York Times
Washington DC: “D.C. Official Who Sought Howard Job After Negotiating a Tax Break for School Fined $2,500” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
Minnesota: “Preparing Minnesotans of Color to Wield More Power at the Capitol” by Melissa Townsend for MPR News
National: “Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal” by Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce for NBC News
Illinois: “CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How a utility watchdog got millions from the utilities it watches” by Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos for WBEZ
September 22, 2020 • Written by Joanna Kamvouris
The Louisiana Legislature will convene in a special session on September 28 to address issues such as COVID-19, storm relief, and unemployment.
The Louisiana Legislature will convene in a special session on September 28 to address issues such as COVID-19, storm relief, and unemployment.
The Louisiana Constitution authorizes lawmakers to call themselves into special session upon the written petition of a majority of the elected members of each house.
Lawmakers may file and consider bills on 70 items. House Speaker Clay Schexnayder announced the special session will focus primarily on Hurricane Laura disaster relief and recovery efforts, on-going issues with COVID-19 relative to funding and the economy, and the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund.
Several House members have also asked to address the continued proclamations issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards during the pandemic and what many see as an imbalance of power.
The session is set to begin September 28 at 6 p.m. and must adjourn by 6 p.m. on October 27.
This does not affect lobbyist reporting.
September 22, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Ohio: “Dems Blast Bogus FirstEnergy PAC Campaign Report” by Staff for Youngstown Business Journal Elections National: “Campaigns Adjust as Voters Cast Ballots Before Election Day” by Bridget Bowman for Roll Call Ethics National: “Judges in D.C. Threatened, Harassed […]
Ohio: “Dems Blast Bogus FirstEnergy PAC Campaign Report” by Staff for Youngstown Business Journal
National: “Campaigns Adjust as Voters Cast Ballots Before Election Day” by Bridget Bowman for Roll Call
National: “Judges in D.C. Threatened, Harassed After High-Profile, Political Legal Battles” by Ann Marimow for Washington Post
National: “Trump’s Businesses Charged Secret Service More Than $1.1 Million, Including for Rooms in Club Shuttered for Pandemic” by David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey for Washington Post
Illinois: “Cook County Board of Ethics Appoints New Chair After Previous Two Ousted Amid Earlier Shakeups” by Alice Yin for Chicago Tribune
Kentucky: “Kentucky GOP Lawmaker Indicted on Assault, Accused of Strangling Woman with Ethernet Cable” by Teo Armus for Washington Post
Louisiana: “In Parting Shot, Resigning New Orleans IG Says Audubon Institute Possibly Made Unlawful Deals” by Jessica Williams for Nola.com
New York: “New York Ethics’ Panel Renews Search for a Leader” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
South Carolina: “Wearing Masks at the SC Capitol Is Required, but Many Found a Way Around the Order” by Maayan Schechter for Charlotte Observer
September 21, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Watchdog Group Calls on FEC to Investigate Donations to Trump and Others by Relatives and Associates of Louis DeJoy” by Aaron Davis for Washington Post Elections National: “US Judge Blocks Postal Service Changes That Slowed Mail” by […]
National: “Watchdog Group Calls on FEC to Investigate Donations to Trump and Others by Relatives and Associates of Louis DeJoy” by Aaron Davis for Washington Post
National: “US Judge Blocks Postal Service Changes That Slowed Mail” by Gene Johnson for Associated Press News
Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Green Party Will Not Appear on State’s 2020 General Election Ballot” by Alicia Weirsema for ABC News
National: “Trump Says He Will Move ‘Without Delay’ to Fill Ginsburg’s Supreme Court Seat” by Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim, and Josh Dawsey for Washington Post
California: “CalPERS Board Supportive of Move to Restrict Investments by Top Staff” by Wes Venteicher for Sacramento Bee
California: “California Prison Guard Union Places Bull’s-Eye on Black Lawmaker’s Photo in Political Ad” by Anita Chabria for Los Angeles Times
Illinois: “Former State Sen. Terry Link Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion Charge in Federal Court” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Illinois: “Alderman Lavished with Cash, Luxury Trips by Program for Caribbean Med Students” by Tim Novak for Chicago Sun-Times
National: “Chamber to Lay Off a Dozen Employees, Expand Advocacy Efforts Amid Coronavirus Pandemic” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
September 18, 2020 • Written by George Ticoras, Esq.
On October 26, federal by-elections in Canada will be held for the electoral district of York Centre (Ontario) and Toronto Centre (Ontario) to fill two vacancies in the House of Commons.
On October 26, federal by-elections in Canada will be held for the electoral district of York Centre (Ontario) and Toronto Centre (Ontario) to fill two vacancies in the House of Commons.
On August 24, Perrault had 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. Morneau resigned amid controversies dealing with his involvement with the WE Charity scandal.
On September 1, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Stéphane Perrault, had 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.
The Elections Canada offices in York Centre and Toronto Centre are expected to open soon, according to its press release. As a safety measure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elections Canada plans to implement physical distancing at polling places and Elections Canada offices.
September 18, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response New York Times – Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma | Published: 9/13/2020 Political intervention has roiled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that prides itself as leading the […]
At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response
New York Times – Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma | Published: 9/13/2020
Political intervention has roiled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that prides itself as leading the humanitarian response to disasters, conflict, and other emergencies around the world. As President Trump campaigns for re-election and the coronavirus has claimed almost 200,000 lives nationwide, the USAID has been micromanaged by the White House and the State Department. That has prompted critics to say the intervention has slowed pandemic relief efforts to some places, weaponized aid in other areas to chastise Trump administration adversaries, and disengaged the U.S. from the World Health Organization’s coronavirus response.
Barr Accuses Justice Department of Headhunting and Meddling with Politics
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/16/2020
Attorney General William Barr delivered a scathing critique of his own Justice Department on, insisting on his absolute authority to overrule career staffers, who he said too often injected themselves into politics and went “headhunting” for high-profile targets. The attorney general directly addressed the criticism that has been building for months inside the department toward his heavy hand in politically sensitive cases, particularly those involving associates of President Trump. Barr’s comments were remarkable in that the head of the Justice Department catalogued all the ways in which he thought his agency had gone astray over the years, and in its current formulation harms the body politic.
Court-Appointed Adviser in Michael Flynn Case Says Justice Dept. Yielded to Corrupt ‘Pressure Campaign’ Led by Trump
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 9/11/2020
A retired federal judge accused the Justice Department of yielding to a pressure campaign led by President Trump in its bid to dismiss the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to federal investigators. Former U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson, who was appointed by the court to argue against the government’s request to dismiss the case, called Attorney General William Barr’s request to drop Flynn’s case a “corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system.” Gleeson’s filing set the stage for a potentially dramatic courtroom confrontation September 29 with the Justice Department and Flynn’s defense over the fate of the highest-ranking Trump advisor to plead guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Criminal Probe Opened into John Bolton Book
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/15/2020
A federal grand jury is investigating potential disclosures of classified information in the book former national security adviser John Bolton published over objections from the Trump administration. The development signals Bolton may face much more severe legal trouble than just the pending lawsuit that seeks to strip him of the proceeds from “The Room Where It Happened,” the tell-all account that generated a slew of critical press coverage for President Trump. The judge assigned to that suit rejected the Justice Department’s bid to block publication of the book, but said Bolton appeared to have deliberately violated nondisclosure agreements he signed and could face criminal jeopardy.
Democrats Used to Rail Against ‘Dark Money.’ Now They’re Better at It Than the GOP.
NBC News – Alex Seitz-Wald | Published: 9/11/2020
Watchdogs are concerned with super PACs, which can accept donations of unlimited size but must reveal the names of their donors and regularly disclose their activity. But they are more worried about “dark money” groups: nonprofit organizations that cannot be as explicitly political as super PACs but can keep their donors secret forever and do not have to reveal much about activities before elections. While concerns about campaign finance reform that once animated Democratic voters have been eclipsed by the desire to oust President Trump, advocates are left to wonder if the party can really be trusted to follow through on its promises to dismantle a system that may help them get elected.
Devin Nunes’ Legal Setbacks Pile Up, but His Lawsuits Go On with Appeals and New Filings
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 9/14/2020
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes has had little success in the battery of lawsuits he filed against media organizations and critics, but his efforts are running up legal bills for the groups he considers his adversaries. Altogether, Nunes has filed seven lawsuits against media organizations, anonymous online critics, and other political actors. The only case that has concluded is one his campaign filed and dropped against a retired farmer in Nunes’ congressional district who challenged the Nunes’ description of himself as a farmer in materials sent to voters. Judges have dismissed or greatly diminished three of the cases. Each time, Nunes appealed the decision or attempted to file an amended complaint to restart the case.
Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Handling of Roger Stone Sentencing Recommendation
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/14/2020
The Justice Department’s internal watchdog has begun reviewing the controversial handling of the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Trump who was convicted of lying to the House Intelligence Committee during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone’s treatment has long drawn criticism from legal observers and lawmakers who said Attorney General William Barr seemed to be inappropriately affording favorable treatment to a friend of the president. Earlier this year, when Stone was still awaiting his sentence, Barr personally intervened to overrule the sentencing recommendation career prosecutors had offered to the court, prompting all four of them to withdraw from the case.
Nora Dannehy, Connecticut Prosecutor Who Was Top Aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia Investigation, Resigns Amid Concern About Pressure from Attorney General William Barr
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney | Published: 9/11/2020
Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned, at least partly out of concern the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said. Durham recruited Dannehy to join his team after he was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to examine the FBI’s legal justification for a disputed counterintelligence investigation that looked for ties between President. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian efforts to meddle in the election.
Postal Service and State Officials Feud Over Mail Voting as Election Looms
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Haley Fuchs, Nick Corasaniti, and Luke Broadwater | Published: 9/16/2020
The Postal Service postcard urging voters to “plan ahead” if they intended to vote by mail seemed innocuous enough. But not to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who sued the agency to halt its delivery, arguing the mailer was filled with misinformation that would disenfranchise voters in her state. Such is the toxic state of the relationship between some state and local election administrators in both parties and the Postal Service six weeks before Election Day, as officials throughout the country scramble to prepare for what is expected to be an unprecedented flood of mail-in ballots in an extraordinary pandemic-era election. The feuding suggests a pre-emptive blame game between the nation’s mail-delivery agency and those charged with administering and counting the vote.
Pro-Trump Youth Group Enlists Teens in Secretive Campaign Likened to a ‘Troll Farm,’ Prompting Rebuke by Facebook and Twitter
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2020
Social media messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views, standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign. Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign. Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to people with independent knowledge of the effort.
Russian Hackers Targeting U.S. Campaigns, Microsoft Says
Associated Press – Frank Bajack | Published: 9/10/2020
Microsoft said the same Russian military intelligence outfit that hacked the Democrats in 2016 has renewed vigorous U.S. election-related targeting, trying to breach computers at more than 200 organizations including political campaigns and their consultants. The intrusion attempts reflect an increased effort to infiltrate the American political establishment, the company said. Most of the hacking attempts by Russian, Chinese, and Iranian agents were halted by Microsoft security software and the targets notified. Microsoft did not assess which foreign adversary poses the greater threat to the integrity of the November presidential election. The consensus among cybersecurity experts is Russian interference is the gravest. Senior Trump administration officials have disputed that, although without offering any evidence.
Trump Officials Interfered with CDC Reports on Covid-19
Politico – Dan Diamond | Published: 9/11/2020
The Department of Health and Human Services’ politically appointed communications aides have demanded the right to review and seek changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the coronavirus pandemic, in what officials characterized as an attempt to intimidate the reports’ authors and water down their communications to health professionals. In some cases, emails from communications aides to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other senior officials openly complained the agency’s reports would undermine President Trump’s optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to emails.
Twitter Steps Up Its Fight Against Election Misinformation
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 9/10/2020
Twitter announced it is expanding its policies against election-related misinformation, setting new rules that will likely force the platform to more aggressively fact-check President Trump during the final months of the 2020 campaign. Trump has more than 85 million Twitter followers, and the company has previously flagged misleading claims from the president, including the assertion that mail-in ballots are fraudulent. Twitter’s expanded policies come as social media has become the central electoral information battlefield, as the coronavirus pandemic has drastically limited traditional rallies and door-to-door campaigning. The tech companies have heeded the advice of experts who predict the election result may not be settled quickly in part because of mail-in ballots this year, leading to potential confusion about who wins.
Unions Dealt Major Blow With 1st Circuit Ruling on Lobbying Dues
Courthouse News Service – Thomas Harrison | Published: 9/15/2020
A three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a National Labor Relations Board ruling that said private-sector unions cannot charge non-members for costs related to lobbying. The U.S. Supreme Court held that public-sector unions cannot force dissenting employees to contribute to them at all because this would violate the First Amendment. That decision overruled more than 40 years of precedent. But the First Amendment does not apply in the private sector, where a union-security agreement can force dissenters to pay for union activities that relate to collective bargaining, contract administration, or handling grievances. The First Circuit panel ruled lobbying does not fall into any of those categories.
Will COVID-19 Close the Revolving Door?
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/15/2020
A new assessment of congressional staffing, concludes that relatively low compensation, leading to high turnover among aides, fuels the dysfunction and diminished clout of today’s legislative branch. But with the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the political turmoil of this year’s elections, has the private sector lost some of its sheen for these aides? Is the revolving door from Congress to K Street still a viable option for congressional aides looking to cash in?
Canada – Canada’s Ethics Czar Says Former Envoy to Washington Broke Conflict-of-Interest Law in His Work for Palantir
Politico – Angy Blatchford | Published: 9/16/2020
Canada’s ethics watchdog says former U.S. ambassador David MacNaughton broke conflict-of-interest law and is ordering nine senior government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, to cease all official dealings with him for one year. Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion published the order following his investigation of MacNaughton, a close ally of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The probe was launched amid complaints about MacNaughton’s interactions with cabinet ministers and other key officials after leaving his ambassador’s job to take on a senior role last year with data analytics firm Palantir.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Former Alabama Senator Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violation
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 9/15/2020
Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of misusing his campaign checking account and resign from the Senate, according to a plea deal. Burkette agreed to pay a $3,000 fine and to not run for or accept a public office for 10 years. The plea agreement says that when Burkette was a candidate for the Montgomery City Council he intentionally put $3,625 in campaign funds in his personal checking account.
California – 13 Years After Indictment, No Trial or Plea Deal for California Charter Academy Defendants
San Bernardino Sun – Beau Yarbrough | Published: 9/11/2020
On September 4, 2007, San Bernardino County prosecutors indicted former Hesperia Mayor Tad Honeycutt and California Charter Academy founder Charles Steven Cox on suspicion of misappropriating $5.5 million in state and federal funds. Thirteen years later, they have never been tried, have not taken a plea deal, and their case has never been dismissed. The case has faced years of delays, due in part to its complexity and Honeycutt’s political connections, and now complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Fermin, the prosecutor on the case.
California – San Bernardino Mayor Vetoes Council-Approved Cap on Campaign Contributions
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/10/2020
San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia vetoed legislation that on would have set a yearly $4,700 limit on how much someone can give a candidate for county or city office. The item is expected to be taken up again in October. Signed into law last fall, Assembly Bill 571 on January 1 will set the default contribution limit at $4,700 per year per individual for cities and counties without their own laws regulating campaign donations. Jurisdictions can adopt their own rules before then to avoid defaulting to the limits already in place for state Assembly and Senate candidates.
California – San Diego Ethics Commission Taps Deputy City Attorney as New Chief
San Diego Union Tribune – David Garrick | Published: 9/16/2020
San Diego’s Ethics Commission, which oversees the city’s campaign and election laws, selected a deputy city attorney with expertise in those areas to serve as the commission’s new executive director. Sharon Spivak, a former journalist and private sector attorney, will replace longtime Executive Director Stacey Fulhorst if the city council approves the selection. Fulhorst is scheduled to retire in February after more than 17 years leading the agency. Spivak is expected to start work in early November, which would allow for a three-month overlap and transition period.
Colorado – A Nonprofit Tied to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Shifts Focus to Advocacy and Raise Ethics Concerns
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 9/14/2020
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis formed Boldly Forward Colorado, a nonprofit organization that can accept unlimited personal and corporate contributions and not disclose its donors, after he won the 2018 election in order to help him recruit members of his administration and form the policy platform for his first term. Now, it has shifted its focus to support efforts to lower the cost of living in the state, including expanding access for early childhood education and addressing rising health care costs. The language echoes the governor’s policy priorities, and his ties to such a group raise concerns with watchdogs who suggest it amounts to a “shadow governance group.” The move comes as the governor campaigns for a key 2020 ballot initiative to achieve one of his campaign promises and two years before he faces reelection.
Connecticut – Report: Public financing has added women, minority legislators in CT
San Francisco Chronicle – Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) | Published: 9/14/2020
About 85 percent of candidates for the General Assembly used public funds to seek office in 2018, helping to make Connecticut’s Citizens Election Program a national model, according to a new analysis by Common Cause. The watchdog group said the law fostered competitive races, advanced progressive public policy, and landed more women and minorities in the Legislature. The report found that in the 2018 races, 99 percent of candidate funding came from individuals, with minuscule amounts from other sources. In 2006, nearly half of the $9.3 million raised by candidates came from lobbyists, PACs, and other entities.
Florida – County Commissioners Move Forward with Changes to Lobbying Regulations
Tallahassee Reports – Lexie Pitzen | Published: 9/16/2020
The Leon County Commission approved an ordinance amending lobbying regulations. The ordinance clarifies definitions related to lobbying and who qualifies as a lobbyist. It also outlines new regulation enforcement models, including processes for filing and investigating complaints as well as guidelines for lobbying violation penalties. The ordinance modifies lobbyist exemptions.
Florida – Florida Felons Lose Voting Rights Case in Federal Appeals Court
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 9/11/2020
A federal appeals court overturned a judge’s ruling that people with felony convictions do not have to pay off all court fees and fines before voting. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled plaintiffs did not prove a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs included more than a dozen people with felony convictions who accused Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers of imposing a “poll tax” by requiring them to pay off all court-ordered costs relating to their felony convictions before voting. The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But it virtually guarantees the estimated 800,000 people with felony convictions in Florida who owe fines, fees, or restitution to victims will not be allowed to vote in the November election.
Florida – Miami Herald Editor Blames ‘Internal Failures’ After Publishing an Anti-Semitic, Racist Insert
Washington Post – Jaclyn Pieser | Published: 9/16/2020
Subscribers to el Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of The Miami Herald, opened their papers recently to find a paid insert called “LIBRE.” In a column headlined, “American Jews and Israeli Jews” in the insert, an author claimed American Jews support “thieves and arsonists” and equated Black Lives Matter protesters with Nazis. The Herald apologized and promised to never again run the insert, which editors now say had included anti-Semitic and racist articles for months. Misinformation and racism are a growing concern in media targeting Florida’s Latino community. Radio Caracol, a news station in Miami, aired a 16-minute paid program claiming if Joe Biden won the election, the country would become a dictatorship run by “Jews and Blacks” and falsely saying he supports killing babies.
Georgia – Former Atlanta CFO Jim Beard Indicted for Fraud, Possessing Machine Guns and More
WXIA – Jonathan Raymond | Published: 9/16/2020
Jim Beard, the former chief financial officer for Atlanta, was indicted by the federal government under charges that include wire fraud, possessing a machine gun, and more. He is accused of defrauding the city out of tens of thousands of dollars by using those funds in a range of inappropriate ways, including: personal purchases, “including two machine guns”; to pay for official travel which the host later reimbursed him for, which he then kept himself; and to pay for travel he then misrepresented in his tax filings.
Illinois – Chicago Ethics Board to Enforce Ban That Would Prohibit Elected Officials Outside the City from Lobbying City Hall
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 9/15/2020
After a four-month grace period, the Chicago Board of Ethics will start enforcing a ban on “cross-lobbying.” With federal investigators swarming around state and city government, the city council voted to prohibit aldermen from lobbying state and local government and preventing their counterparts at those levels from doing the same at City Hall. Ethics Board Executive Director Steve Berlin has said the board wanted to see if an amendment Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced this spring got passed. But board released a statement saying the mayor’s ordinance apparently will no proceed, and the new rules will be enforced starting October 1.
Illinois – Former Chicago Firefighter Fined $2,000 for Violating City’s Ethics Ordinance
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 9/15/2020
A former Chicago firefighter was fined $2,000 for helping to draft bid documents for a $7.36 million fire training contract while negotiating a job with the company subsequently awarded the contract, then returning to work on the training in violation of the “revolving-door” provision. Chicago Board of Ethics Chairperson William Conlon said the fine would have been higher if not for the extenuating circumstances. “… This guy only did it at the request of the Chicago Fire Department and only did it for the benefit of the city. While wrong, that mitigated the fine in our mind,” Conlon said.
Illinois – Former Chicago Public Schools Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty to Charges of Lying to FBI
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/11/2020
A former top aide to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI about whether he passed secret bid information about a $1 billion custodial contract to an operative working for one of the bidders. Pedro Soto, who resigned as Jackson’s chief of staff before he was charged, admitted in a plea agreement he repeatedly fed details about CPS’ internal bid deliberations to the operative in exchange for “various benefits.” Sources said it was an offshoot of the FBI’s investigation into then-Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis, who at the time had already been recorded on numerous wiretapped calls talking about exchanging favors for official action.
Kansas – D.C. Mail Ballot Non-Profit Stokes Confusion for Kansas Voters, Backlogs in Offices
Kansas City Star – Matthew Kelly | Published: 9/14/2020
When Cynthia Herron received a mail-in ballot application from the Center for Voter Information (CVI) in August, she thought it seemed official enough. The request form, sent from a Post Office box in Springfield, Missouri, had Herron’s name and address already typed out. So, she signed and returned it in a prepaid envelope addressed to the Johnson County Election Office. Herron was confused when, three weeks later, she opened her mailbox to find a vote-by-mail request form from the county. Worried her initial request had not been accepted, Herron sent that one back too. When a third ballot application showed up in the mail, this one again from CVI, Herron began to suspect she was being intentionally misled.
New Jersey – These N.J. Companies Got Millions in Federal Bailout Money, Even with History of Legal Troubles
Newark Star Ledger – Riley Yates (NJ Advance Media) and Payton Guion (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 9/13/2020
A review by NJ Advance Media revealed more than a dozen Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans went to companies that have been sued or paid settlements over alleged fraudulent business practices in New Jersey. They included construction contractors, technology companies, and car dealerships that ran afoul of federal or state prosecutors, among them a builder once accused of cheating its workers and covering it up by falsifying payroll records, a key component of how lenders calculated PPP awards. Those businesses likely represent the tip of the iceberg, especially considering the companies that received loans of less than $150,000, which number more than 65,000 in the Garden State alone, have never been named by the Treasury Department.
New York – Gaddy’s Plea in Bribery Case Delivers More Bad News for Mayor Lovely Warren
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Gary Graig | Published: 9/16/2020
Former lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft of $1,500 in government money, while agreeing to cooperate with investigations into “campaign finance matters.” Gaddy’s plea deal said he was approached by an FBI informant in September 2017 and was given cash to try to induce a New York Assembly member to introduce legislation that could impede a proposed development in Rochester. Gaddy recommended that Assemblyperson Joseph Errigo be approached. He assisted Errigo, who died earlier this year, with introducing legislation. Gaddy said he claimed he “greased the skids” with the late Assemblyperson David Gantt, but Gaddy had not done so. Instead, Gaddy kept $1,500 of the””intended bribe” for himself.
New York – Why a Progressive N.Y. Party Is Fighting for Its Survival
New York Times – Dana Rubinstein | Published: 9/14/2020
Just months after progressives in New York concluded one of their most successful primary seasons in history, a political party representing their interests is fighting for its survival. Because of rules backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo concerning third parties, the Working Families Party must garner at least 130,000 votes or two percent of the total vote, whichever is higher, on its party line for the presidential election in November, or it will lose its automatic ballot line in New York. The rules present an unusual challenge for small parties in the state; the parties must encourage New Yorkers to vote for a presidential candidate on their line, even if that candidate is also running on the line of a mainstream party. So, the Working Families Party must persuade voters to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in its column, not on that of the Democratic Party.
North Carolina – Every Charlotte City Council Member Has an Ethics Complaint. Here’s What’s Going
Charlotte Observer – Alison Kuznitz | Published: 9/12/2020
A cascade of formal ethics complaints has flooded the city clerk’s office in Charlotte in recent weeks. It started with scrutiny on one Republican city council member and his nonprofit, which was poised to run a taxpayer-backed jobs training program, using COVID-19 relief funds. Soon after that, two Democrats on council who raised questions about the arrangement found themselves the target of ethics accusations. All council members, including the mayor, are facing at least one ethics complaint. The allegations range from elected officials luring campaign donations from developers to making racially charged comments during closed-door meetings, and to using city business for private business gain.
Ohio – Alleged Householder Texts About Nuclear Bailout Are MIA, House Says
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 9/15/2020
Prosecutors say they have a text message sent from then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder seeking to pressure a fellow lawmaker to vote for a bill at the center of a criminal “pay-to-play” scheme, a text an ally allegedly sought to get deleted. But the House said in response to a records request that the text could not be located from Householder’s phone as it was a “transient document” that did not need to be preserved. Householder, according to an FBI investigation, texted a male House Republican (only identified as “Representative 7”) on May 28, 2019, and pressured him to support House Bill 6, the beating heart of what prosecutors have called the largest bribery scheme in the state’s political history.
Ohio – FirstEnergy’s PAC Reported Giving $158K to Ohio Politicians in July. They Say They Never Got the Money.
Akron Beacon Journal – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 9/16/2020
In the weeks before then-House Speaker Larry Householder’s arrest, the energy company at the center of it all donated $158,000 to Ohio politicians. FirstEnergy’s PAC reported giving the money to 65 politicians between July 6 and July 16, the same day a federal complaint was filed against Householder and four others in connection with what U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers would call one of Ohio’s largest bribery schemes. To critics, the donations are an “insurance policy” as lawmakers now ponder repealing a scandal-scarred bailout, House Bill 6, that had helped FirstEnergy and its affiliates. The company says it is just working to help its customers and shareholders. But several Republicans and Democrats said their campaigns never received the money.
Ohio – Ohio Judge Says Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s One Ballot Drop Box Per County Rule Is ‘Arbitrary and Unreasonable’
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/15/2020
A judge ruled Ohio has no legal basis to limit drop boxes for completed absentee ballots to one per county, as Secretary of State Frank LaRose did in an order to county boards of election as they prepared for the November presidential election. Siding with arguments made by the Ohio Democratic Party, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye did not go so far as to block LaRose from enforcing the order. But Frye said he may do so, noting LaRose has said he would support allowing additional drop boxes if they were deemed legal.
Pennsylvania – Top Pa. GOP Lawmaker Taps Politically Connected Lobbyist to Be Chief of Staff
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis and Brad Bumsted | Published: 9/14/2020
Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman tapped a lobbyist with a politically connected Harrisburg firm to serve as his new chief of staff, the latest example of the close relationship between elected officials in the Capitol and special interests trying to influence them. Corman, who is widely considered next in line to ascend to the chamber’s top leadership post, said he hired Krystjan Callahan, a partner at Maverick Strategies, a well-known lobbying firm run by Ray Zaborney, who also runs Corman’s campaigns. Callahan was once the top staffer to a Republican leader in the House. For the past five years, he has worked for Zaborney, who together with his wife runs a trio of companies known as The Mavericks.
Pennsylvania – Top Pa. Republican’s Campaign Sues Journalists Over Public Records Costs
Pennlive.com – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) and Ed Mahon (Spotlight PA) | Published: 9/15/2020
The campaign committee of the Pennsylvania Senate’s top Republican is suing a publication of LNP Media Group and two journalists who uncovered questionable spending by the lawmaker and other politicians. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati’s campaign filed the suit seeking $6,070 from The Caucus, Caucus Bureau Chief Brad Bumsted, and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis. Scarnati’s campaign alleges the trio owes $5,070 for work an accounting firm conducted to produce public records the journalists requested during an investigation into his and other lawmakers’ campaign spending. The campaign also wants $1,000 for attorneys’ fees and court costs.
South Dakota – Councilor Cleared of Ethics Violation After Heated Four-Hour Hearing
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 9/11/2020
After a tense, and at times hostile, four-hour hearing, the Sioux Falls City Council dismissed an ethics complaint against Councilor Greg Neitzert, declaring there “is not clear and convincing evidence” he violated an ordinance when he made an expense-free trip to a conference of Republican municipal and county officials last year. The hearing ended at least one leg of the saga, which has spanned two separate complaints, numerous public hearings and, finally, the transformation of Carnegie Town Hall into a sort of jury-rigged courtroom.
South Dakota – State Investigators Will Release Investigation into Attorney General’s Crash, Noem Says
Rapid City Journal – Arielle Zionts | Published: 9/15/2020
The South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS) will release its investigation into the state attorney general fatally hitting a pedestrian with his car. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he thought he hit a deer but realized he killed a man when he searched the site the next morning while on his way to return the car he borrowed from the local sheriff. The Highway Patrol, which is part of the DPS, is leading the investigation, DPS Secretary Craig Price said. He said the Highway Patrol often asks the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to help investigate fatal crashes but that wouldn’t be appropriate in this case since DCI is under Ravnsborg’s office.
Washington – A Washington Lawmaker Shared Conspiracy Theories. She Threatened a Reporter Who Wrote About It.
Washington Post – Jaclyn Peiser | Published: 9/15/2020
Daniel Walters was surprised to see an incoming call from Washington Rep. Jenny Graham on August 27. The journalist wrote a story that day about Graham sharing false articles on Facebook, including a story claiming thousands of missing children are kept in dungeons and raped by demons. When Walters called the state representative back, she unleashed a barrage of hateful insults. Walters and his editor tried calling Graham back a few times, asking what about his story was inaccurate. He also texted her, offering to talk off the record. But the representative did not respond. Instead, she turned to her Facebook page, where she posted about Walters about 15 times, he said. She called the reporter “pathetic,” “hateful,” “disgusting,” and a “lying piece of dung.”
Wisconsin – GOP Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Advised Green Party
Associated Press News – Scott Bauer | Published: 9/15/2020
A Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission advised a Green Party representative about who to hire as an attorney after its presidential nominee was denied ballot access in the key battleground state. The commission deadlocked on whether to put Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins on the ballot. All three Republicans were in favor, while all three Democrats were against. Hawkins asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to put him on, but the court rejected that request. The court also lifted an order it issued pausing the mailing of absentee ballots while it considered the challenge.