September 18, 2020 •
News You Can Use Digest – September 18, 2020
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.
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