December 8, 2023 •
National/Federal George Santos Reveals One Truth: It’s easy to abuse campaign finance laws DNyuz – Rebecca Davis O’Brien (New York Times) | Published: 12/2/2023 Perhaps no federal officeholder in modern American history has been accused of ignoring, testing, or breaking as many […]
DNyuz – Rebecca Davis O’Brien (New York Times) | Published: 12/2/2023
Perhaps no federal officeholder in modern American history has been accused of ignoring, testing, or breaking as many aspects of campaign finance law so flagrantly, in such a short span of time, as George Santos has. But his case, while sensational, illustrates the weaknesses of the system, and its potential for abuse. The system, which largely relies on campaigns and political committees to self-report thousands of donations, expenditures, loans, and refunds, has been left wide open for anyone willing to mislead, experts said.
MSN – Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 12/4/2023
Long-shot Republican presidential candidate and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum suspended his campaign after failing to gain momentum with voters in a crowded primary field. Burgum pitched himself as a job creator uniquely qualified to build the economy and bridge connections between small towns and big cities, but that platform never found traction with a base that has favored Donald Trump as Burgum mostly avoided attacking the front-runner.
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2023
Federal prosecutors accused Donald Trump of a pattern of lying about elections and encouraging violence, saying he “sent” supporters to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, to criminally block the election results. Prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith went further than they did in their indictment in attempting to tie Trump to the riot. They said at Trump’s criminal trial they intend to introduce evidence of his acts before the 2020 election, and his subsequent alleged threats, to establish his motive, intent, and preparation for attempting to subvert Joe Biden’s election victory.
MSN – Riley Beggin and John Fritze (USA Today) | Published: 11/30/2023
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena a wealthy donor and a legal activist with ties to conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices after partisan bickering ended with Republicans storming out of the hearing as the final vote was tallied. Democrats requested details of gifts, transportation, lodging, travel, and private club access provided to justices by billionaire Harlan Crow that appear to have been tied in some cases to conservative legal activist Leonard Leo.
MSN – Kevin Frekking (Associated Press) | Published: 12/1/2023
The U.S. House voted to expel Rep. George Santos after a critical ethics report on his conduct that accused him of converting campaign donations for his own use. He was just the sixth member in the chamber’s history to be ousted by colleagues. The first-term lawmaker initially was celebrated as an up-and-comer after he flipped a district from Democrats last year and helped Republicans win control of the House. But soon after, troubles began.
MSN – Michael Scherer and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 12/3/2023
Never Back Down, a super PAC that has overseen much of Ron DeSantis’s presidential operation, fired its chief executive officer less than two weeks after the previous chief executive resigned. It was the latest upheaval as fighting between the Florida governor’s allies has erupted into public view. The chairperson of Never Back Down, former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, also resigned.
MSN – Beth Reinhard, Manuel Roig-Franzia, and Clara Ence Morse (Washington Post) | Published: 12/2/2023
Before Donald Trump, no president used his constitutional clemency powers to free or forgive so many people who could be useful to his future political efforts. A review of Trump’s 238 clemency orders found dozens of recipients have gone on to plug his 2024 candidacy through social media and national interviews, contribute money to his front-running bid for the Republican nomination, or disseminate his false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 12/1/2023
Donald Trump has no absolute immunity from civil or criminal consequences for his attempts to stay in power following the 2020 election, two federal courts ruled, a pair of decisions that set the stage for a legal battle over presidential power probably headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hours after an appellate court ruled Trump could be sued by police officers over injuries they suffered during the riot, the judge overseeing his criminal case on election subversion charges ruled he had no protection from prosecution as a former president.
NBC News – Scott Wong and Sahil Kapur | Published: 12/6/2023
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who this fall became the first speaker to be ousted from power in the middle of a congressional term, said he will resign from office at the end of December. His exit is a blow to his successor, Speaker Mike Johnson, and House Republicans, further cutting the already narrow GOP majority and making passing legislation in 2024 even more challenging. For McCarthy, winning the speaker’s gavel in January after a grueling floor fight marked the pinnacle of a long political career in Sacramento and Washington.
OpenSecrets – Harshawn Ratanpal and Jimmy Cloutier | Published: 11/30/2023
More than 50 lawmakers and 30 organizations urged the FEC to regulate the use of deceptive artificial intelligence (AI) in campaign ads in support of a petition from Public Citizen. While the Federal Election Campaign Act does not address the use of deceptive AI explicitly, federal campaign finance law does prohibit politicians and those working for them from posing as another campaign. Public Citizen has argued the provision on “fraudulent misrepresentation” should apply to AI-generated content that falsely shows a federal candidate saying or doing something they did not.
Yahoo News – Ben Wieder and Theo Hockstader (Miami Herald) | Published: 12/5/2023
The lobbying registration form filed by Ballard Partners for iGas USA failed to indicate iGas is partially owned by a state-controlled Chinese company, as required by law. Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, lobbyists are required to indicate whether any foreign entity holds at least a 20 percent stake in the company they are lobbying for. But this rule is frequently ignored by lobbyists, according to Craig Holman, the lobbyist for Public Citizen.
From the States and Municipalities
Anchorage Daily News – Iris Samuels | Published: 12/4/2023
Supporters of Alaska’s voting system are alleging its opponents have again violated the law in their quest to repeal the system by ballot initiative. In a third complaint filed by Alaskans for Better Elections to the state Public Offices Commission, it alleges opponents of ranked-choice voting are part of an “intentional conspiracy to violate the law” by not disclosing their funding and expenses, including the involvement of an Anchorage Christian organization called Wellspring Ministries.
KTOO – Andrew Kitchenman (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 12/5/2023
The body charged with policing the ethics of members of the Alaska House dismissed complaints alleging two members improperly allowed an Alaska Right to Life representative to misuse state resources. The complaints said current Rep. David Eastman and former Rep. Christopher Kurka violated the ethics law during a visit to the state Capitol by Pat Martin. The complaints alleged Martin was an “unregistered lobbyist” for Alaska Right to Life. Martin’s official title with the group is outreach and development director.
MSN – Stacy Barchenger (Arizona Republic) | Published: 12/6/2023
A spokesperson for the Goldwater Institute says its new website is “a resource to educate Arizonans about the ballot initiative process.” That resource educates Arizonans not about existing ballot initiative processes, however, but about procedures that would be put in place if a majority of voters approve a question on their November ballots. The website falls into a murky area of law when it comes to backing ballot measures, one that is often sorted out through legal challenges. It also signals the sometimes behind-the-scenes and often carefully crafted push by special interests to sway public opinion in the 2024 election cycle.
Buffalo News – Vimal Patel (New York Times) | Published: 11/22/2023
Nathan Thrall, a Jewish American writer whose work strongly supports Palestinian rights, was invited to speak to students at the University of Arkansas about a new book. But there was one catch: to be paid for his visit, Thrall was told he had to pledge, according to a 2017 state law, that he would not boycott Israel. He declined. When news broke that Thrall would not sign the pledge, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders applauded the university. At college campuses around the country, students and faculty have been engulfed in bitter debates over students’ pro-Palestinian speech.
Los Angeles Daily News – City News Service | Published: 12/1/2023
The Los Angeles City Council took a step to formally establish an Office of Compliance that would proactively assist council members with identifying and avoiding potential conflicts-of-interest. The council requested a detailed report that would guide council members in the creation of an Office of Compliance to ensure higher standards of ethics. Council members must follow ethics rules and laws such as those imposed by the city charter, and state and federal laws. According to the council members, those standards have increased and grown in complexity over the years, making compliance more difficult.
MSN – City News Service | Published: 12/1/2023
Staff working in Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’s office will be expected to abide by new, stricter ethics rules. In early November, the mayor also adopted restrictions on charitable donations from registered city lobbyists and city developers to the Mayor’s Fund of Los Angeles and the Getty House Foundation.
MSN – St. John Barned-Smith (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 11/30/2023
A former state parole officer in San Francisco will spend six months in prison after pleading guilty to passing $20,000 in bribes to former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru to convince Nuru to hire an engineer. Ken Hong Wong had hoped to avoid jail time, but U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick noted Wong’s criminal acts “tarnished” a lengthy and distinguished history of public service. “It’s one of the sleaziest and lowest things that somebody could do,” Orrick said as he handed down his sentence.
Orange County Register – Hanna Kang | Published: 12/6/2023
Irvine leaders are talking about changes to how the city’s lobbyists are governed, which officials say has largely stayed the same for nearly two decades. City Attorney Jeffrey Melching offered a series of potential proposals recently, including lowering the compensation threshold at which an individual is required to register as a lobbyist.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 12/4/2023
Officials in a couple Orange County cities are contemplating tightening the rules on campaign spending amid the continued fallout of one of the largest corruption scandals in county history. The debate is taking off in the largest city, Anaheim, but also likely going to hit one of the county’s smallest cities, Stanton, which neighbors Anaheim but has gone untouched by the scandal.
Associated Press News – Nicholas Riccardi and Christine Fernando | Published: 12/6/2023
Colorado Supreme Court justices sharply questioned both sides about whether they could exclude former President Trump from the 2024 ballot in a case that seeks to upend his bid for a second term by claiming the Constitution’s insurrection clause bars him from another run for the White House. At issue is the wording of the clause itself, whether the courts have a right to intervene at this stage if Trump has otherwise met the basic requirements to appear on Colorado’s 2024 primary ballot, and whether Trump incited an insurrection when his supporters stormed the Capitol.
DNyuz – Jonathan Weisman (New York Times) | Published: 11/30/2023
In April 2020, Shane Fuhrman, a progressive lawyer from New York, beat the longtime fire chief Gilbert Archuleta by 10 votes to become the new mayor of Silverton, Colorado. To supporters, Fuhrman represented progress. To his opponents in the town of 796 residents, he would make Silverton into the incarnation of Aspen, with staggering housing prices, luxury outposts, and billionaire denizens. Their skepticism turned to anger when he declared the town council would stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance until further notice. But Silverton came back together again.
Law.com – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 12/4/2023
A federal appeals court allowed Florida to enforce, with one exception, a 2018 constitutional amendment imposing restrictions on lobbying while a legal battle continues to play out. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved a request for a partial stay of an injunction that District Court Judge Beth Bloom issued this summer to block the restrictions statewide. The amendment prevented state and local officials from lobbying other government bodies while in office.
DNyuz – Alexandra Berzon and Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 12/1/2023
A suburban county in Georgia agreed to use a new voter information database endorsed by the election denial movement, a move that defied warnings from voting rights groups, election security experts, and state election officials. Columbia County, a heavily Republican county outside Augusta, is the first in the country known to have agreed to use the platform, called EagleAI. Its supporters claim the system will make it easier to purge the rolls of ineligible voters.
Kentucky Lantern – Tom Loftus | Published: 12/6/2023
Ahead of the November governor’s race, London Mayor Randall Weddle and other Kentuckians gave big to a type of political committee that allows wealthy donors to make massive contributions. Weddle, whose earlier excess contributions to Gov. Andy Beshear’s reelection effort had drawn regulatory scrutiny, contributed $550,000 to a national Democratic Party committee known as the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund (DGVF). Weddle’s was by far the largest contribution reported by the DGVF during the general election season, but within the legal limits of how much a person can give to such a committee.
Louisiana Illuminator – Piper Hutchinson | Published: 12/6/2023
The Board of Ethics alleges David Sobek, a former Louisiana State University political science professor, instructed a graduate assistant with whom he was reportedly having an affair, to investigate material in courses his “estranged wife” taught. The graduate assistant was allegedly told to look for anything that touches on critical race theory (CRT) and to distribute that information to legislators who might favor anti-CRT legislation. Louisiana law prohibits state employees acting in their official capacity or on behalf of their agency from lobbying the Legislature.
Maine Public Radio – Steve Mistler | Published: 11/30/2023
NextEra Energy’s attempts to derail a transmission corridor through western Maine involved a significant secret donation to the state Democratic Party in 2018 as well as the 2019 financing of a group that helped organize a referendum to scuttle the project. NextEra’s financing of a 2021 referendum was publicly disclosed, but the documents released reveal how consultants hired by the company originally attempted to defeat the New England Clean Energy Contract by secretly financing two groups that became targets of investigations by the Maine ethics commission.
Mississippi Today – Devna Bose | Published: 12/6/2023
As the state’s hospital crisis continues, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has held meetings on health care, but his office refuses to say what they are about. His staffers also claim there are no official documents for those meetings, despite internal correspondence that indicates otherwise and despite Reeves proposing detailed health policy changes. Several experts, including a former governor, say the lack of documentation for meetings and the lack of detail on Reeves’ calendar is unusual. One national expert called it “bad practice.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 12/7/2023
The co-owner of a Missouri cannabis company hosted a fundraiser at his home for Attorney General Andrew Bailey at the same time his business is involved in a lawsuit against the state. Bailey is overseeing the case involving a company that lost its license to operate over allegations of problems with its products. Although Bailey’s campaign says it is unaware it received contributions from the host of the November event, the incident is similar to one in which Bailey cited a conflict-of-interest and withdrew from a case involving a campaign donor.
MSN – Amy Gardner and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 12/6/2023
A Nevada grand jury charged six Republicans who claimed to be presidential electors in 2020 and submitted certificates to Congress falsely asserting that Donald Trump had won the election in their state. Nevada is the third state after Georgia and Michigan to seek charges against the pro-Trump activists who met and cast ballots for the then-president on December 14, 2020, despite Joe Biden’s victory.
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 12/4/2023
Legislation intended to close a loophole that allows those seeking to influence the outcome of judicial nominations without state oversight is under review by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, but it remains unclear whether she will sign the measure into law. Judicial nominations at all levels of government have become increasingly politicized and the lawmakers empowered to approve or reject candidates for the bench have arguably grown more demanding that the judges they support adhere to their political ideologies.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 11/30/2023
A New York appeals court reinstated a limited gag order on Donald Trump, preventing him from making public comments about court staffers in a civil business fraud case brought by the state. The court upheld Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron’s set of orders that prevented Trump and his defense team from mentioning court staffers, including a law clerk who has been the subject of antisemitic and other threats and messages since the case began.
The City – George Joseph, Bianca Pallaro, and Rosalind Adams | Published: 12/7/2023
A donor to Eric Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign said their boss reimbursed them for a contribution recorded at an event that is at the center of the federal probe into whether the campaign conspired with the Turkish government to accept unlawful foreign donations. Such a reimbursement would constitute an illegal straw donation, enabling the true source of the funding to remain unknown to evade campaign finance laws that set limits on who can give and how much they can contribute.
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer and Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 12/4/2023
Ohio’s former top utility regulator, Sam Randazzo, was indicted on federal bribery and fraud charges. The indictment says Randazzo accepted a $4.3 million bribe in exchange for helping FirstEnergy secure its policy priorities, including helping with House Bill 6, the law at the center of a federal bribery probe. In one instance, Randazzo pushed to cancel a review the company believed would hurt its bottom line by forcing it to reduce the rates it charged customers. If convicted, Randazzo could face up to 20 years in prison.
MSN – Kevin Grasha and Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/5/2023
A friend of former Cincinnati City Councilperson Jeff Pastor admitted creating a nonprofit designed solely to “sanitize” tens thousands of dollars in bribes. In one instance, Pastor told undercover agents posing as investors he would vote in favor of their projects and agreed to accept $15,000 for his support. Pastor said he could receive the money through Marshall’s nonprofit, “Ummah Strength.”
MSN – Katherine Gregg (Providence Journal) | Published: 12/1/2023
As details of multiple sexual harassment complaints resurfaced, Gov. Dan McKee’s appointee to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission resigned, with the governor’s office acknowledging the “vetting process was not adequate.” The announcement came after John Marion, head of Common Cause Rhode Island, called on McKee to “take another look” at his appointment of Bryant Da Cruz, a former South Kingstown Council member who admitted to town officials his behavior was “unacceptable” after six women accused him of sexual harassment.
Yahoo News – Trevor Mitchell (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 12/6/2023
The Sioux Falls City Council approved an update to the ethics ordinance. Rules about gifts, including the payment of travel expenses, are clarified in the new ordinance. Employees or officers of the city could receive “gift of travel, lodging, registration fees, entrance fees, food and drink, and other incidental expenses” as long as it is related to a “widely attended gathering” related to the duties of the recipient or the city’s legislative or policy interests.
Virginian-Pilot – Josh Janney | Published: 12/2/2023
Newport News City Council plans to adopt a handbook that includes a code of ethics and will guide council conduct and codify roles and responsibilities. The handbook was suggested by Mayor Phillip Jones after concerns were raised about council members’ misuse of city-issued credit cards earlier in the year. Jones said the handbook would help clarify what is an allowed expenditure.
MSN – Jonathan Edwards (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2023
Ryan Roth mailed his ballot in a few days ahead of the November 7 election, unaware he was casting the most consequential vote of his life. Having run a four-month campaign to convince others he should serve on the Rainier City Council, Roth voted for himself. Roth did not know he was casting the decisive ballot in a race that would be determined by one vote. His opponent, Damion Green, had chosen not to vote for himself in the election, which would take nearly a month for officials to sort out.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 12/6/2023
In a legal settlement, the 10 Republicans who signed official-looking paperwork falsely purporting Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2020 have agreed to withdraw their inaccurate filings, acknowledge Joe Biden won the presidency, and not serve as presidential electors in 2024 or in any election where Trump is on the ballot. The settlement comes as Republicans in two other states face criminal charges for falsely claiming to be presidential electors, and investigations are underway in three additional states.
December 7, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Arizona: “Goldwater Says Ballot Measure Site Is ‘Resource to Educate.’ Others Disagree” by Stacy Barchenger (Arizona Republic) for MSN Kentucky: “How Wealthy Donors Legally Gave Even More to Democratic Party During Beshear’s Campaign” by Tom Loftus for Kentucky Lantern Elections Wisconsin: “Wisconsin […]
December 6, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Alaska: “New Complaint Alleges Anchorage Church Illegally Aided Campaign Against Ranked-Choice Voting” by Iris Samuels for Anchorage Daily News National: “George Santos Reveals One Truth: It’s easy to abuse campaign finance laws” by Rebecca Davis O’Brien (New York Times) for DNyuz Elections […]
Alaska: “New Complaint Alleges Anchorage Church Illegally Aided Campaign Against Ranked-Choice Voting” by Iris Samuels for Anchorage Daily News
National: “George Santos Reveals One Truth: It’s easy to abuse campaign finance laws” by Rebecca Davis O’Brien (New York Times) for DNyuz
National: “Doug Burgum Suspends Long-Shot Presidential Campaign” by Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) for MSN
Washington: “Candidate Loses by Single Vote After He Didn’t Cast a Ballot for Himself” by Jonathan Edwards (Washington Post) for MSN
Arkansas: “At University of Arkansas, a State Law Stifles Pro-Palestinian Speakers” by Vimal Patel (New York Times) for Buffalo News
California: “S.F. Corruption Scandal: Ex-parole officer going to prison for bribes to Mohammed Nuru” by St. John Barned-Smith (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
National: “China-Backed DeSantis Donor Hires Top GOP Lobbyist, Foreign Ties Not Disclosed” by Ben Wieder and Theo Hockstader (Miami Herald) for Yahoo News
New York: “Bill That Would Close Judicial Lobbying Loophole Remains in Play” by Joshua Solomon for Albany Times Union
December 5, 2023 •
Campaign Finance California: “What Could Campaign Finance Reform Look Like in Two OC Cities?” by Hosam Elattar for Voice of OC National: “Pro-DeSantis Super PAC Fires CEO Amid Turmoil” by Michael Scherer and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) for MSN National: “Congressional Lawmakers, Advocacy Groups Urge […]
California: “What Could Campaign Finance Reform Look Like in Two OC Cities?” by Hosam Elattar for Voice of OC
National: “Pro-DeSantis Super PAC Fires CEO Amid Turmoil” by Michael Scherer and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Congressional Lawmakers, Advocacy Groups Urge FEC Regulation on Deceptive AI” by Harshawn Ratanpal and Jimmy Cloutier for OpenSecrets
Georgia: “Georgia County Signs Up to Use Voter Database Backed by Election Deniers” by Alexandra Berzon and Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) for DNyuz
National: “Trump Pardoned Them. Now They’re Helping Him Return to Power.” by Beth Reinhard, Manuel Roig-Franzia, and Clara Ence Morse (Washington Post) for MSN
Ohio: “Sam Randazzo, Ohio’s Former Top Utilities Regulator, Charged with Bribery, Embezzlement Crimes” by Jeremy Pelzer and Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
Virginia: “Newport News Drafts Rules, Ethics Handbook After Council Credit Card Misuse” by Josh Janney for Virginian-Pilot
Florida: “Lobbying Restrictions Get Go-Ahead from Federal Appeals Court” by Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) for Law.com
December 4, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Maine: “Documents Reveal NextEra’s Hidden Attempts to Derail CMP’s Transmission Line Corridor” by Steve Mistler for Maine Public Radio Ethics California: “Mayor Bass Announces Stricter Ethics Rules for L.A. City Staff” by City News Service for MSN Colorado: “Divided by Politics, a Colorado […]
December 1, 2023 •
National/Federal Antagonisms Flare as Red States Try to Dictate How Blue Cities Are Run MSN – Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Washington Post) | Published: 11/27/2023 Despite long advocating small government and local control, Republican governors and legislators across a significant swath of the country […]
MSN – Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Washington Post) | Published: 11/27/2023
Despite long advocating small government and local control, Republican governors and legislators across a significant swath of the country are increasingly overriding the actions of Democratic cities – removing elected district attorneys or threatening to strip them of power, taking over election offices, and otherwise limiting local independence. The antagonisms between red states and blue cities are all the more notable because the urban areas in the crosshairs are mostly majority-minority, with many mayors and district attorneys of color.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 11/27/2023
The Republican Party’s finances are increasingly worrisome to party members, advisers to former President Trump, and other operatives involved in the 2024 election effort. The Republican National Committee (RNC) disclosed it had $9.1 million in cash on hand as of October 30, the lowest amount for the RNC in any FEC report since February 2015. Donors have not cut as many large checks to the RNC in recent years, and the party’s small-dollar program has also suffered, according to people familiar with the party’s finances.
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 11/28/2023
Attorneys for Donald Trump asked a federal judge to allow them to investigate several U.S. government agencies about their handling of investigations into him and allegations of voter fraud three years ago as the former president moves to defend himself from charges that he criminally conspired to subvert the results of the 2020 election. His demands in the historic prosecution are wide-ranging. Trump’s lawyers argued for broad leeway to compel special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution team to turn over vast swaths of information.
MSN – Justin Papp (Roll Call) | Published: 11/30/2023
Constituent casework is a basic function of any congressional office. But in North Carolina, U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards’ predecessor, embattled former Rep. Madison Cawthorn, declined to give him access to any constituent case files after Edwards beat him in a closely fought primary. The situation exposed a long-standing problem of rocky transitions, with constituents caught in the middle, and lawmakers have not agreed on how to fix it.
MSN – Rachel Weiner, Spencer Hsu, and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 11/30/2023
A batch of communications was released in the case of U.S. Rep. Scott Perry by the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, which has heard litigation over special counsel Jack Smith’s effort to access the communications stored on Perry’s cell phone. The court partially blocked Smith’s effort in a ruling that relied on the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause. Later, the documents appeared to have been removed from the court’s public docket, suggesting it may have been posted inadvertently.
Seattle Times – Luke Broadwater, Alan Feuer, and Angelo Fichera (New York Times) | Published: 11/23/2023
House Speaker Mike Johnson’s decision to publicly release thousands of hours of Capitol security footage from January 6, 2021, has fueled a renewed effort by Republican lawmakers and far-right activists to rewrite the history of the attack that day and exonerate the pro-Trump rioters who took part. For Johnson, beginning to release about 40,000 hours of video footage fulfilled a promise he made to hard-right lawmakers to win their support for the speakership.
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 11/29/2023
U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles reported he loaned his campaign $320,000 during the 2022 election. The FEC report raised eyebrows among some because he had never been seen as a person of great wealth. A media investigation shows Ogles has not disclosed any substantial investments. He does not report having a savings account. From the beginning of his campaign for Congress, Ogles was dogged by questions about his fundraising claims.
Yahoo News – Kayla Guo (New York Times) | Published: 11/26/2023
More than three dozen members of Congress have announced they will not seek re-election next year, some to pursue other offices and many others simply to get out of Washington. The wave of lawmakers across chambers and parties comes at a time of dysfunction on Capitol Hill, primarily instigated by House Republicans. The chaos has Republicans increasingly worried they could lose their slim House majority next year, a concern that typically prompts a rash of retirements from the party in control. But it is not only GOP lawmakers who are opting to leave.
Yahoo News – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 11/22/2023
For the people who run elections at thousands of local offices nationwide, 2024 was never going to be an easy year. But the recent anonymous mailing of powder-filled envelopes to election offices in five states offers new hints of how hard it could be. The letters are an indicator of what some officials say is a fresh rise in threats to their safety and the functioning of the election system. They presage the pressure-cooker environment that election officials will face next year in a contest for the White House that could chart the future course of American democracy.
Yahoo News – Michael Bender and Anjali Huynh (New York Times) | Published: 11/29/2023
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion rights have become an invaluable political asset for Democrats. They have leveraged the issue to hold onto control of the Senate, limit losses in the House, and fuel victories in key state races in the Midwest and the South. But perhaps the toughest test for the issue’s power will come in U.S. Senate contests like Sherrod Brown’s in Ohio and Jon Tester’s in Montana. The fate of the thin Democratic majority in the chamber could well be sealed in those two places, by the same voters who have installed Republicans in every other statewide office.
From the States and Municipalities
Anchorage Daily News – Iris Samuels | Published: 11/29/2023
The Legislative Ethics Committee dismissed complaints against sitting and former Alaska lawmakers who were accused of allowing “an unregistered lobbyist” for an anti-abortion organization to use their Capitol offices as a “base of operations.” The complaints allege Rep. David Eastman and former Rep. Christopher Kurka allowed Pat Martin, head of Alaska Right to Life, to use their offices for several hours when Martin traveled from Wasilla to the state Capitol “with the stated intent to distribute signed petitions to the Legislature.”
MSN – Mary Jo Pitzl (Arizona Republic) | Published: 11/29/2023
A proposed ballot measure would eliminate Arizona’s partisan primary system and replace it with a system in which every voter can vote in every election, regardless of party affiliation or lack of affiliation. Sarah Smallhouse, a supporter of the reform, said the idea is to appeal to independents, the state’s largest voting bloc. Despite their numbers, Smallhouse said independents cannot vote in primaries unless they take the extra step of requesting a partisan ballot.
MSN – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 11/29/2023
Two Republican members of a county election board in southern Arizona were indicted by a state grand jury. Cochise County Supervisors Peggy Judd and Terry Crosby are charged with interference with an election officer and conspiracy. The indictment alleges the two knowingly interfered with the secretary of state’s ability to finish the statewide canvass for the election by delaying a vote to formally accept their county’s votes during the time period required by state law.
MSN – Ray Stern (Arizona Republic) | Published: 11/27/2023
Arizona legislative leaders will submit to depositions in a lawsuit over two voting rights laws after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected their application for an emergency stay. Senate President Warren Petersen and Speaker Ben Toma both said they would comply. The plaintiffs want to find out if Republican lawmakers created the bills with discriminatory intent.
LAist – Nick Gerda | Published: 11/22/2023
Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do has voted to fund millions of dollars to an organization led by his daughter without publicly disclosing his close family connection. Do voted twice to award contracts that included subcontracts to Warner Wellness Center, his daughter Rhiannon Do’s group. During public discussion of one of those votes, Andrew Do said he had two years of conversations with the top county health official leading up to the vote. Both of Councilperson Do’s votes to fund the subcontracts happened with no public mention his daughter was working as Warner Wellness’s president.
MSN – Faith Pinho (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 11/24/2023
The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) fined former Assemblyperson William Brough $100,000 for using campaign funds to cover myriad personal costs, including family vacations, his children’s cellphone bills, and $2,400 worth of clothing, in violation of state law. Brough used a total of $17,303 in campaign funds for personal expenses and failed multiple record-keeping requirements, even as his campaign treasurer warned him about violations, according to the FPPC.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 11/29/2023
The Anaheim City Council agreed to enhance the city’s lobbying laws for the second time in just over a year. The ordinance expands the definition of lobbying and who needs to register to include both outside lobbyists and those employed directly by the company they are advocating for. A second council vote is needed for the ordinance to take effect. The move comes after investigators said FBI agents concluded in sworn affidavits that City Hall is essentially controlled by lobbyists and Disneyland resort interests.
MSN – Nicholas Riccardi (Associated Press) | Published: 11/21/2023
The Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals from both a liberal group that sought to disqualify Donald Trump and the former president himself after a state judge ruled Trump “engaged in insurrection” on January 6, 2021, but can still appear on the state’s ballot. The ruling by District Court Judge Sarah Wallace, which said Trump is not covered by the Constitution’s ban on insurrectionists holding office, was the latest in a series of defeats for the effort to end Trump’s candidates with Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
Yahoo News – Amanda Fries (Delaware News Journal) | Published: 11/27/2023
Delaware elections officials have the authority to investigate campaign finance violations, but that oversight has never been used. Election officials can investigate campaigns for compliance with state laws regarding campaign expenditures and donations. Yet, elections officials say they have no records of probes conducted under this authority.
Miami New Times – Naomi Feinstein and Alex DeLuca | Published: 11/22/2023
In a complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics, activist Thomas Kennedy accuses Miami Mayor Francis Suarez of violating the law by spending taxpayer funds on personal security during his bid for president. The complaint cites records that showed Miami Police Department officers traveled on the campaign trail with Suarez and billed the city more than $20,000 for their hotels, transportation, and meal expenses.
MSN – Rick Pearson and Jeremy Gorner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/21/2023
The State Board of Elections issued $99,500 in fines against the All for Justice PAC. The move followed a report by The Chicago Tribune on the PAC’s reporting deficiencies as it spent more than $7.3 million on independent expenditures supporting Justices Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O/Brien, both of whom won their campaigns and increased the Illinois Supreme Court’s Democratic majority. The PAC had been given 30 days to appeal or seek a reduction in the fines but it transferred its remaining cash balance of $149,516 to another independent expenditure committee that has been dormant since July 2019.
NPR Illinois – Hannah Meisel (Capital News Illinois) | Published: 11/28/2023
On what was supposed to have been the first day of the federal corruption trial of former Illinois Sen. Sam McCann for allegedly misusing more than $200,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, McCann presented a pair of last-minute motions to represent himself, which delayed the trial for at least the 13th time. He allegedly used some of the money to pay his mortgage, buy personal vehicles, and even pay himself.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 11/27/2023
Chicago’s ethics ordinance should be tightened to apply to political fundraising committees to prevent future city officials from escaping sanctions for violations, including sending emails to city employees at their official email addresses asking them to send cash to their campaigns, the Board of Ethics urged the city council. The recommendation followed the board’s dismissal of a complaint prompted by Inspector General Deborah Witzburg’s determination that former Mayor Lori Lightfoot violated the ethics code by sending pleas for cash to city employees.
MSN – Isabella Volmert (Associated Press) | Published: 11/28/2023
A former Indiana lawmaker pleaded guilty to supporting a bill favoring a casino in exchange for promises of lucrative employment. According to prosecutors, ex-Rep. Sean Eberhart, a member of the committee that oversees casinos and gaming in the state, used his position to successfully advocate for the relocation of two casinos and to obtain other favorable terms for the company, including tax incentives. In exchange, they said, Eberhart accepted the promise of future employment, which included annual compensation of at least $350,000.
MSN – Kayla Dwyer (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 11/30/2023
The Indiana Lobby Registration Commission fined a gunmaker and ordered the company to register. A complaint said Fostech made a flyer available to some lawmakers advertising an “Indiana legislator rifle” at half the suggested retail price. The offer came during a session in which the company also testified in opposition to a major piece of gun legislation. Common Cause Indiana Executive Director Julia Vaughn’s complaint argued Fostech’s actions appeared to fit the definition of lobbying and should have been reported publicly as such.
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 11/23/2023
As Tam and Thien Doan tried to obtain absentee ballots in Iowa in 2020, they were surprised to find out that votes had already been cast in their names. The siblings, both Democrats, were even more astonished to learn their ballots had been cast in support of Republican candidates only. Unbeknownst to the Doans, they were among a group of Vietnamese immigrants targeted in a months-long voter-fraud scheme by the wife of a Republican county supervisor who wanted her husband to win “by any means necessary” in the 2020 primary and general elections, according to prosecutors. Kim Phuong Taylor was convicted of 52 counts of voter fraud.
Louisville Public Media – Roberto Roldan | Published: 11/28/2023
Five Louisville Metro Council members voted to move forward with removal proceedings against Councilperson Anthony Piagentini. The process will eventually lead to an ethics trial, where the full Metro Council will act as a jury. Removing Piagentini will take a two-thirds vote. He was found guilty of ethics violations by Louisville’s Ethics Commission, which said there was “clear and convincing evidence” he negotiated a job with a nonprofit while supporting their bid for a major grant.
Yahoo News – Rachel Ohm (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 11/29/2023
Maine’s ethics commission reached an agreement with the political committee that convinced voters to approve Question 4 on the November ballot. The commission approved a $35,000 penalty against the Automotive Right to Repair Committee because it was late complying with a transparency law for major funders. The maximum fine under state law was $240,000. Maine requires ballot question committees to notify donors who give more than $100,000 that they have to file a report with the ethics commission.
Yahoo News – Todd Spangler and Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 11/28/2023
Nasser Beydoun, an Arab-American businessperson who is running for the open U.S. Senate seat in Michigan, became the second Democratic candidate to say he was offered as much as $20 million in campaign support to abandon that race and run instead against U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Beydoun said the offer of “approximately $20 million” in “potential” campaign funding to run against Tlaib was made to him by former state Democratic Party Chairperson Lon Johnson. He denied making an offer to Beydoun.
Associated Press News – Morgan Lee | Published: 11/27/2023
The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld a Democratic-drawn congressional map that divvied up a conservative, oil-producing region and reshaped a swing district along the U.S. border with Mexico. The justices affirmed a lower court decision that the redistricting plan enacted by Democratic lawmakers in 2021 succeeded in substantially diluting votes of their political opponents, but the changes fell short of “egregious” gerrymandering.
MSN – Mariano Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 11/23/2023
New York Mayor Eric Adams is accused of committing sexual assault in 1993, according to a new court summons filed under the state’s Adult Survivors Act. According to the summons, the plaintiff was sexually assaulted by Adams while they both worked for the city. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the act into law last year, giving adult sexual assault survivors up to one year to file a lawsuit against their alleged attacker, regardless of when the alleged violation happened.
Politico – Joe Anuta, Jason Beeferman, and Maya Kaufman | Published: 11/17/2023
As Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams attended nearly 80 events over eight years to celebrate Turkey, including a flag-raising in 2015, a charity ball in 2018, and a Zoom meeting with the Turkish consul in 2020. In 2019, as he was embarking on a run for New York City mayor, he joined Martha Stewart at a gala celebrating Turkish Airlines, a company caught up in in an ongoing FBI probe into Adams’ campaign finances. These revelations shed light on Adams’ unusually strong relationship with Turkey, which has drawn scrutiny from federal investigators.
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 11/28/2023
Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted is scheduled to be deposed by investors suing FirstEnergy in connection with the House Bill 6 scandal, the most significant public corruption case in state history. In addition, Gov. Mike DeWine received a subpoena for documents in connection with the civil case. The lawsuit mirrors allegations that FirstEnergy paid multimillion-dollar bribes to former House Speaker Larry Householder and Sam Randazzo, formerly the state’s top utility regulator, in exchange for legislation and favorable regulatory treatment. DeWine appointed Randazzo shortly after taking office in 2019.
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 11/27/2023
The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the state’s new legislative redistricting plan, dismissing lawsuits filed by Democratic and good-government groups claiming the new maps are illegally gerrymandered. In a four-to-three party-line ruling, the court’s Republican justices dismissed the lawsuits on procedural grounds. The ruling means that new Ohio House and Senate maps will remain in place through 2030, unless voters approve a proposed overhaul to the redistricting process itself next year.
Oklahoman – Mindy Ragan Wood (Oklahoma Voice) | Published: 11/27/2023
A federal audit uncovered millions in misreported income and expenses for a PAC associated with the Oklahoma Republican Party. An FEC draft audit found the Oklahoma Leadership Council’s bank records did not match its federal campaign finance reports by nearly $2 million. The council is a federal PAC the state Republican Party uses to back GOP candidates and fund independent expenditures against their opponents.
Associated Press News – Michael Runbinkam | Published: 11/21/2023
Mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania without accurate handwritten dates on their exterior envelopes must still be counted if they are received in time, a judge ruled, concluding that rejecting such ballots violates federal civil rights law. The decision has implications for the 2024 presidential election in a key battleground state where Democrats have been far more likely to vote by mail than Republicans.
Spotlight PA – Angelea Couloumbis | Published: 11/30/2023
The Pennsylvania Legislature quietly paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past five years to settle sexual harassment and other claims against lawmakers and staffers. Many of the settlements include controversial secrecy clauses and other provisions that prevent public disclosure of the agreement. Female legislators criticized Gov. Josh Shapiro’s office for paying $295,000 to resolve a sexual harassment claim against a top advisor. The settlement, which only became public after several media outlets filed public records requests, included a nondisclosure agreement.
Yahoo News – Jonathan Mattise and Kimberlee Kruesi (Associated Press) | Published: 11/22/2023
A Republican-drawn map for Tennessee’s Senate seats violates the state Constitution because lawmakers incorrectly numbered the legislative districts in left-leaning Nashville, which affects which years those seats are on the ballot, a panel of judges ruled. The decision centers on maps passed by the Republican-supermajority Legislature in 2022. According to the ruling, the state’s attorneys “conceded” they would not defend the Senate map in court and instead focused their attention arguing the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue.
Crosscut – Donna Gordon Blankinship | Published: 11/27/2023
Seattle voters were actively involved in financing city council elections this year, distributing nearly 95,000 Democracy Vouchers that pumped nearly $2.4 million into 30 campaigns. Supporters say the idea democratizes political campaigns by giving regular people public money to contribute as they choose, presumably taking some power from wealthy individuals, companies, and organizations that seem to dominate political giving. The program also gives candidates another way to engage directly with voters.
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 11/29/2023
A prominent lobbying and public affairs firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid a bitter legal dispute between estranged co-owners. Strategies 360 filed a petition to stave off what Chief Executive Officer Ron Dotzauer described in court filings as a hostile and humiliating takeover bid by his former business partner, Eric Sorenson. The Seattle-based firm employs about 140 people in 13 states and Washington D.C.
November 29, 2023 •
Campaign Finance National: “Donations to GOP Drop as Worries Mount About the Party’s Finances” by Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN Michigan: “Former Democratic Party Chair, AIPAC Deny Offering Nasser Beydoun $20M to Run Against Rashida Tlaib” by Todd Spangler and […]
November 28, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Delaware: “Why Delaware Elections Commissioners Rarely Enforce Campaign Finance Laws” by Amanda Fries (Delaware News Journal) for Yahoo News Illinois: “Ethics Board Urges Chicago City Council to Tighten Rules to Stop Campaign Cash Pleas to City Employees” by Heather Cherone for WTTW […]
Delaware: “Why Delaware Elections Commissioners Rarely Enforce Campaign Finance Laws” by Amanda Fries (Delaware News Journal) for Yahoo News
Illinois: “Ethics Board Urges Chicago City Council to Tighten Rules to Stop Campaign Cash Pleas to City Employees” by Heather Cherone for WTTW
Oklahoma: “Oklahoma Republican Party PAC Misreported Millions in Funds, Audit Finds” by Mindy Ragan Wood (Oklahoma Voice) for Oklahoman
National: “For Election Workers, Fentanyl-Laced Letters Signal a Challenging Year” by Michael Wines (New York Times) for Yahoo News
California: “Top OC Official Helped Direct Millions to His Daughter’s Center Without Disclosing Family Connection” by Nick Gerda for LAist
National: “Johnson’s Release of Jan. 6 Video Feeds Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories” by Luke Broadwater, Alan Feuer, and Angelo Fichera (New York Times) for Seattle Times
National: “Antagonisms Flare as Red States Try to Dictate How Blue Cities Are Run” by Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Washington Post) for MSN
Tennessee: “Judges Rule Against Tennessee Senate Redistricting Map Over Treatment of Nashville Seats” by Jonathan Mattise and Kimberlee Kruesi (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
November 27, 2023 •
Campaign Finance California: “Family Vacations, Fancy Clothes and a Cigar Humidor: How an O.C. politician got fined for abusing campaign funds” by Faith Pinho (Los Angeles Times) for MSN Florida: “Mayor Suarez Faces Ethics Complaint Over Presidential Campaign Costs Billed to City” by Naomi […]
November 21, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Illinois: “Ethics Board Dismisses Complaint That Lightfoot Violated Rules for Campaign Emails to City Workers” by Tessa Weinberg for WBEZ Tennessee: “Six Knox County Commissioners Took $500 Campaign Donations from Ambulance Company” by Tyler Whetstone and Allie Feinberg (Knoxville News Sentinel) for […]
Illinois: “Ethics Board Dismisses Complaint That Lightfoot Violated Rules for Campaign Emails to City Workers” by Tessa Weinberg for WBEZ
Tennessee: “Six Knox County Commissioners Took $500 Campaign Donations from Ambulance Company” by Tyler Whetstone and Allie Feinberg (Knoxville News Sentinel) for Yahoo News
Colorado: “Colorado Judge Rules Trump Can Be on Ballot but Says He ‘Engaged’ in Insurrection” by Patrick Marley (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “An Appeals Court Has Struck Down a Key Path for Enforcing the Voting Rights Act” by Hansi Lo Wang for NPR
National: “Appeals Court Weighs Reinstating Gag Order on Trump in Landmark DC Election Case” by Eric Tucker, Alanna Durkin Richer, and Lindsay Whitehurst for Associated Press News
New York: “Not Just the Turks: Feds looking at mayor’s list that allegedly let big developers cut FDNY line” by Greg Smith for The City
Ohio: “FBI Raided a Regulator’s Home. FirstEnergy Said It Bribed Him with Millions. Since Then, Silence” by Jake Zuckerman (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
California: “Whitburn Pushed to Relax San Diego Cannabis Rules as His Chief of Staff Collected Tens of Thousands from the Industry, Records Show” by Jeff McDonald (San Diego Union Tribune) for MSN
November 20, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Alaska: “Alaska Ranked Choice Voting Opponents Blame ‘Incompetence,’ Not Subterfuge, for Errors in Campaign Disclosure” by Liz Ruskin for Alaska Public Media Iowa: “Racist, Antisemitic and Threatening Behavior Troubles Iowa Campaign Disclosure Workers” by Lee Rood (Des Moines Register) for MSN Elections […]
Alaska: “Alaska Ranked Choice Voting Opponents Blame ‘Incompetence,’ Not Subterfuge, for Errors in Campaign Disclosure” by Liz Ruskin for Alaska Public Media
Iowa: “Racist, Antisemitic and Threatening Behavior Troubles Iowa Campaign Disclosure Workers” by Lee Rood (Des Moines Register) for MSN
Nevada: “Nevada AG Investigates Pro-Trump Electors Who Falsely Claimed He Won” by Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Patrick Marley (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “George Santos Faces New Motion to Expel Him from Congress” by Amy Wang (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Man Who Attacked Pelosi’s Husband Is Convicted of Federal Assault and Attempted Kidnapping Charges” by Olga Rodriguez for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Corruption Trial of Chicago’s Longest-Serving City Councilor Kicks Off” by Dave Byrnes for Courthouse News Service
New York: “Appeals Court Judge Puts Trump’s New York Gag Order on Hold” by Erica Orden (Politico) for MSN
Pennsylvania: “Feds Take Over Corruption Case Against Embattled Pa. City Manager” by Angela Couloumbis and Min Xian for Spotlight PA
November 17, 2023 •
National/Federal Trump Compares Political Opponents to ‘Vermin’ Who He Will ‘Root Out,’ Alarming Historians ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Lalee Ibssa | Published: 11/13/2023 Donald Trump vowed to “root out” his political opponents, who he said “live like vermin” as […]
ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Lalee Ibssa | Published: 11/13/2023
Donald Trump vowed to “root out” his political opponents, who he said “live like vermin” as he warned supporters that America’s greatest threats come “from within” – extreme rhetoric that echoes the words of fascist dictators like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, experts said. A Trump campaign spokesperson dismissed the backlash to his speech, at a Veterans Day rally in New Hampshire, but some historians said the parallels were alarming.
Associated Press News – Dave Collins | Published: 11/14/2023
A former fundraiser for U.S. Rep. George Santos pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge, admitting he impersonated a high-ranking congressional aide while raising campaign money for Santos. Sam Miele was caught soliciting donations under the alias Dan Meyer, who was then chief of staff for Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Miele also acknowledged he committed access device fraud by charging credit cards without authorization to send money to the campaigns of Santos and other candidates, and for his own personal use, prosecutors said.
DNyuz – Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 11/8/2023
Ads in the 2023 election campaign signaled a new tone in Democrats’ messaging on abortion rights, one that confronts head-on the consequences of strict anti-abortion laws. Historically, it has been Republicans who used dire warnings and shock value in advertising to make their case on the issue. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, despite being a resounding legal and policy victory for Republicans, has had the paradoxical effect of galvanizing long-held, broad public support for abortion rights.
DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2023
Democrats are planning to spend millions of dollars next year on just a few state legislative elections in Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, states where they have little to no chance of winning control of a chamber. Democrats are pushing to break up Republican supermajorities in states with Democratic governors, effectively battling to win back the veto pen district by district. The political dissonance of having a governor of one party and a supermajority of an opposing party in the Legislature is one of the starkest effects of gerrymandering, revealing how parties cling to evaporating power.
MSN – Ann Marimow and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 11/15/2023
Supreme Court justices stung by controversies over the court’s ethics pledged to follow a broad code of conduct promoting “integrity and impartiality,” but without a way to enforce its standards against those who fall short. The code contains broadly worded sections relating to outside relationships, recusal from cases that could bring financial gain to family members, the use of a justice’s staff, and limits on appearances at fundraisers for groups. But there is every sign that each word was carefully chosen.
MSN – Kate Plummer (Newsweek) | Published: 11/10/2023
FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said Donald Trump has effectively been made exempt from campaign finance laws because her agency refuses to investigate him. In at least 28 instances, she said staff at the general’s counsel’s office determined a criminal investigation was warranted. But Weintraub added that her Republican colleagues put the former president in a “category by himself” by refusing to approve any of the recommendations against Trump.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Patrick Marley, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 11/13/2023
In the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan, election denial and grassroots fervor for former President Trump have rocked the Republican apparatus. Now, the state parties are plagued by infighting, struggling to raise money, and sometimes to cover legal costs stemming from Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 defeat, threatening to hamper GOP organizing capabilities in next year’s presidential election.
MSN – Meryl Kornfield, Marianne LeVine, and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 11/13/2023
Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the U.S. Senate, announced he was suspending his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination after months of struggling to gain ground in polling with an uplifting message that was out of step with today’s party. Scott did not endorse any other candidate, and he declined a suggestion that he might be a vice-presidential candidate.
MSN – Caitlin Reilly (Roll Call) | Published: 11/13/2023
Rep. Mike Johnson’s unexpected rise to speaker of the House has left K Street scrambling as lobbyists try to establish inroads with the relatively unknown lawmaker and his staff. Johnson has been in Congress for less than seven years and lacks the deep bench of long-time, trusted aides and ex-staffers that K Street usually relies on to curry favor on Capitol Hill.
MSN – Azi Paybarah, Marianna Sotomayor, and Liz Goodwin (Washington Post) | Published: 11/14/2023
Rep. Tim Burchett accused Rep. Kevin McCarthy of elbowing him in the back as they passed each other in a crowded hallway. Burchett was one of eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy as House speaker. Sen. Markwayne Mullin brought a hearing to a standstill as he confronted one witness, stood up, and challenged him to a fistfight. Joanne Freeman, a history professor at Yale, said it was important for lawmakers to denounce belligerent behavior and threats, particularly when it comes from a member of their own party. “If no one speaks up it becomes representative of what that party stands for,” she said.
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 11/14/2023
The House ethics committee is considering whether to change rules about lawmaker legal expense funds to expand the pool of people who can use them to pay for their legal bills connected to a campaign or office. Rep. David Schweikert, who faced lawsuits related to his 2022 primary race, asked the committee to allow campaign staffers, vendors, and spouses draw from legal expense funds rather than having to use campaign funds.
Yahoo News – Sabrina Willmer (Bloomberg) | Published: 11/14/2023
A Justice Department attorney argued casino magnate Steve Wynn should have registered as a foreign agent when he alerted the Trump administration that China wanted to extradite a wealthy exile. A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in the government’s appeal of a decision to toss civil claims against Wynn. District Court Judge James Boasberg had reasoned the Foreign Agent Registration Act only applies to ongoing violations and years had passed since Wynn was required to file a statement.
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 11/14/2023
Donald Trump’s renewed attacks on the family of special counsel Jack Smith and his repeated invective against likely witnesses in his Washington, D.C. criminal case warrant the urgent restoration of a gag order against him, prosecutors argued. Smith’s team urged a federal appeals court to reinstate the gag order, which a three-judge panel suspended earlier in November amid Trump’s appeal of the restrictions imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan.
Yahoo News – Taylor Giorno (The Hill) | Published: 11/15/2023
Five Democrats who sit on the Senate Banking Committee urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to require companies to disclose more details on their corporate lobbying strategy to shareholders. Registered lobbyists are required to file quarterly disclosures that include the total spent on federal lobbying. But registrants are not required to disclose details including whether they lobbied for or against specific legislation or regulations, even as the lobbying activities of a company can carry reputational risks to its investors.
From the States and Municipalities
MSN – Jonathan Edwards (Washington Post) | Published: 11/9/2023
Journalism professor A.J. Bauer felt uneasy when he opened an email newsletter from 1819 News. The Alabama-based website was promoting its story alleging that a small-town mayor who was also a pastor wore women’s clothing and makeup while posing online. Bauer had watched as some in the state grew increasingly hostile to those who do not adhere to traditional gender norms. The site later reporting that F.L. Copeland Jr., the mayor of Smiths Station and a pastor at First Baptist Church of Phenix City, had died by suicide.
Yahoo News – Ray Stern (Arizona Republic) | Published: 11/14/2023
An Arizona lawmaker’s rebuttal to an ethics complaint against her acknowledges some of her poor behavior and accuses a city official of potentially suffering from past “trauma” because he claimed she intimidated him. Rep. Leezah Sun faces potential expulsion from the House after being accused of making intimidating statements and interfering with a child custody case. Through her lawyer, she denied the allegations in a formal response to the complaint that charges Sun with violating the Legislature’s rule against “disorderly behavior.”
MSN – St. John Barned-Smith and J.D. Morris (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 11/13/2023
San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who is trying to unseat Mayor London Breed in the November 2024 election, has never hidden his close relationship with Siavash Tahbazof, the patriarch of a family with deep business ties across the city, or the developer;s relatives and business associates. That puts Safaí in an awkward position after Tahbazof and two others were charged with fraud by federal prosecutors.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 11/13/2023
Anaheim City Council members voted unanimously to implement a policy that will require them to proactively post their calendar online listing meetings with lobbyists, developers, union representatives, and residents starting in January 2024. The policy comes after sworn affidavits by FBI agents and a report by independent investigators concluded the same thing: Anaheim City Hall is essentially controlled by Disneyland resort interests and lobbyists. The new calendar policy is among a host of reform proposals city council members are expected to tackle this fall.
MSN – Randall Chase (Associated Press) | Published: 11/15/2023
The Delaware Supreme Court is weighing whether to overturn the unprecedented convictions of the state’s former auditor on public corruption charges. The court heard arguments in the case of Kathy McGuiness, who was convicted on misdemeanor charges of conflict-of-interest, official misconduct, and noncompliance with state procurement rules. The conflict-of-interest charge involved the hiring of McGuiness’s daughter as a part-time employee in the auditor’s office. McGuinness also was convicted of structuring payments to a consulting firm to avoid having to get them approved by the state Division of Accounting.
Yahoo News – Amanda Fries (Delaware News Journal) | Published: 11/14/2023
Delaware law does not require Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long to release the audit performed on her campaign finances, but watchdogs are hoping she will do so anyway in the interest of transparency. While Hall-Long has said the audit, and the campaign’s decision to openly acknowledge it, was an act of transparency, she continues to decline to release the audit itself, instead suggesting the amended campaign finance reports “fully convey” the audit’s results. The internal audit was launched shortly after Hall-Long announced her bid for governor, prompted by what she said were “reporting issues that require attention.”
Yahoo News – Shirsho Dasgupta (Miami Herald) | Published: 11/14/2023
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez earned payments totaling six figures advising two financial firms run by close associates of a Russian oligarch, two of several side jobs he refused to reveal to the public until he ran for president, with its more rigorous disclosure requirements. As a part-time mayor, Suarez can accept private employment as he sees fit, as long as it does not overlap with his mayoral duties and the employers do not receive special city benefits in return. He has insisted he kept his private jobs and public duties separate, but until now had mostly refused to reveal the identities of those employers.
Yahoo News – David Bauerlein (Florida Times-Union) | Published: 11/9/2023
Jacksonville City Council will be putting more attention on no-bid contracts by having the auditor’s office attend the meetings of the Procurement Division committees that vote on awards of city contracts for everything from construction to supplies to professional services. The council will also get reports every three months from the Procurement Division on all single-source awards during that time frame. The moves were in response to Mayor Donna Deegan hiring Langton Consulting in a $300,000 no-bid contract to perform federal lobbying and grant-writing.
MSN – Amy Gardner and Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 11/13/2023
The defendants that accepted plea deals in the Georgia election interference case made recordings that were intended to lay out what they know and be used against the other defendants. Although some of the recordings were garbled, the portions of the four statements from lawyers Jenna Ellis, Kenneth Chesebro, and Sidney Powell, and Georgia bail bondsman Scott Hall, offered many previously undisclosed details about the effort by Trump and his allies to reverse his defeat.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Chad Blair | Published: 11/14/2023
Hawaii lawmakers in 2023 passed legislation that requires all state lawmakers to include in financial disclosures the names of lobbyists with whom they have a relationship. Now, the state Ethics Commission wants to revise the law so legislators who work for large employers and who know “or reasonably should know” who is on a lobbying list should also disclose those clients that meet the $5,000 threshold. The lobbying disclosure proposal was one of five tentatively approved by the commission for its legislative package for the 2024 legislative session.
Chicago Sun-Times – Robert Herguth and Tim Novak | Published: 11/9/2023
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson is not allowed to take campaign contributions from city contractors but has accepted them anyway. Christian Perry, Johnson’s political director, says taking the money was an “oversight” and it is being returned, about $46,500 in all. In some instances, it appears contractors were solicited for campaign cash by Johnson’s political fundraisers. His campaign aides thought it was all right to take money from city contractors as long as the amounts fell below a certain threshold. But the mayor was barred from taking any money from them after he was sworn in on May 15.
MSN – Jason Meisner, A.D. Quig, Sarah Freishtat, and Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/13/2023
James Bracken’s multifaceted businesses have garnered government contracts from across Cook County worth up to $250 million for demolition services, equipment rental, and materials. At the same time, Bracken and the businesses themselves have contributed nearly $375,000 over the past two decades to a wide array of local elected officials, including a half-dozen who have been charged or come under federal investigation. Now it is Bracken who finds himself embroiled in two separate federal criminal probes, both tied to his business enterprise.
Yahoo News – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/14/2023
Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin violated the ethics code by firing two top aides who alleged she repeatedly misused taxpayer resources and pressured public employees to help her political allies, according to a finding of probable cause by the city’s Board of Ethics. Over the coming months, Conyears-Ervin will have a chance to rebut the findings before the board issues a final ruling and potentially a fine.
Kentucky Lantern – Tom Loftus | Published: 11/10/2023
The Registry of Election Finance launched a civil investigation into the excess campaign contributions given by London Mayor Randall Weddle to the reelection campaign of Gov. Andy Beshear and the Kentucky Democratic Party. The action marks the first evidence that any public agency is investigating the bundles of more than $300,000 in donations to Beshear and the party. Registry Executive Director John Steffen said Weddle and his wife “may have violated” the state law that prohibits a person from giving excess donations to a candidate or political party by giving in the names of other persons.
MSN – Dan Morse (Washington Post) | Published: 11/9/2023
Baltimore’s former top prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, was convicted of two counts of perjury after she had been accused of lying about her finances to withdraw money from her city retirement account under a program designed to help people struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic. Prosecutors said she falsely claimed to suffer from financial hardships to access $90,000 from retirement funds she later used to buy two homes in Florida. Mosby has denied wrongdoing, saying she did not defraud anyone.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 11/14/2023
A judge ruled Donald Trump can appear on the primary ballot in Michigan, delivering the latest setback to those who contend Trump sparked an insurrection on January 6, 2021, and is barred from running for president again as a result. State Judge James Robert Redford wrote that courts do not have the authority to determine whether someone is eligible to run for office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Redford also ruled Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson does not have the authority under state law to remove candidates from the ballot based on that provision.
Missouri Independent – Jason Hancock | Published: 11/9/2023
Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher’s new chief of staff is a former legislative leader whose political career was upended more than a decade ago by a federal bribery investigation and allegations of sexual assault. He is joining Plocher’s office as the speaker faces an ethics committee inquiry into allegations of misconduct and calls for him to resign from fellow Republicans.
Yahoo News – Kacen Bayless (Kansas City Star) | Published: 11/16/2023
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office scrubbed from its website an online form that allowed residents to file complaints of public corruption against elected officials. An archive from May shows that the online form allowed users to issue complaints of criminal acts by public officials so long as the local police agency had a conflict-of-interest in investigating the matter. The decision has come under scrutiny in the wake of a series of scandals surrounding House Speaker Dean Plocher, who faces calls to resign after reports surfaced that he received government reimbursements for expenses paid for by his campaign.
MSN – Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) | Published: 11/15/2023
Today, Congress is so divided and ideologically polarized that it struggles to execute its most basic responsibilities. State Legislatures are often so dominated by a single party that the majority can push through its agenda with little regard for what most voters might prefer. In the two dozen states that allow citizen-sponsored referendums, Democrats and Republicans are turning to the ballot box to make law and in many cases overrule their elected officials. The initiatives have rolled across the country in waves in recent decades.
MSN – Azi Paybarah (Washington Post) | Published: 11/15/2023
New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan set his state’s presidential primary for January 23, formalizing its defiance of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) reworked primary calendar, which aims to give voters in more racially diverse states an early voice in the nominating process. The DNC approved a plan this year to shuffle the order in which states would appear in its 2024 primary calendar. The plan calls for South Carolina to be the first primary state, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada a week later, then Michigan.
ABC News – Jake Offenhartz (Associated Press) | Published: 11/10/2023
FBI agents seized phones and an iPad from New York City Mayor Eric Adams as part of an investigation into political fundraising during his 2021 campaign. The seizures happened as Adams was leaving a public event in Manhattan. A search warrant indicated authorities are examining whether the Adams campaign conspired with the Turkish government to receive donations from foreign sources, funneled through straw donors. The warrant also requested information about Adams’ use of the city’s public campaign finance program.
MSN – Chris Sommerfeldt (New York Daily News) | Published: 11/10/2023
Vito Pitta, New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ longtime campaign compliance lawyer, has been getting paid by the campaign for consulting and legal services at the same time as his government relations firm has lobbied the mayor’s administration on behalf of a variety of private interests. There are no laws or regulations prohibiting the type of dual role Pitta has played but the situation raised conflict-of-interest concerns. Pitta is not the only Adams campaign adviser who has lobbied his administration in conjunction with working for him in a political capacity.
Yahoo News – Bill Mahoney (Politico) | Published: 11/15/2023
New York’s top court heard oral arguments in a case that will determine whether the Democratic-dominated state Legislature will have another chance to draw maps for its 26-member congressional delegation. A Democratic victory in the Court of Appeals would let legislators make the lines for as many as seven Republican-held seats in New York friendlier to Democrats. The stakes are high: Democrats would have kept a majority in Congress in 2022 had they won five additional races.
MSN – Gillian McGoldrick (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 11/14/2023
A bipartisan group of female state senators unveiled a package of legislation aimed at combatting sexual harassment at the Pennsylvania Capitol, following several high-profile allegations made against top officials this year, including state representative and a top aide to the governor. But the bills will not address some of the biggest priorities among victim advocates.
MSN – Joseph DiStefano (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 11/15/2023
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro recently named Gregory Thall, a longtime government official who now works as a lobbyist, as chairperson of the $35 billion-asset State Employees Retirement System (SERS) pension plan. As a lobbyist for GSL Public Strategies Group, Thall disclosed a long list of the firm’s clients he registered to represent. They include Lubert-Adler Partners, which is one of more than 100 private money managers paid to invest public funds for SERS.
MSN – Annie Todd (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 11/14/2023
South Dakota lawmakers will receive a letter asking them to list all possible conflicts-of-interest when it comes to their jobs outside of being legislators. Those responses will then be used in a brief that the South Dakota Supreme Court will examine while they make a decision regarding the broad nature of a constitutional provision banning lawmakers from having a either a direct or indirect conflict in state contracts during their terms and up to a year after they exit office.
West Virginia – Senate Democrat Joe Manchin Says He Will Not Seek Reelection
MSN – Liz Goodwin, Amy Wang, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 11/9/2023
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin announced he would not seek reelection in 2024, setting back Democrats’ plans to hold onto their majority in 2024 and raising their fears he could get involved in the presidential race as a third-party candidate. Manchin had defied political gravity by holding onto his seat in the deeply red state of West Virginia but would have faced long odds against either Gov. Jim Justice or Rep. Alex Mooney, who are running in the Republican primary next year.
November 15, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Delaware: “How Hall-Long’s Refusal to Release Audit Findings Sparked Elections Reform Talks” by Amanda Fries (Delaware News Journal) for Yahoo News National: “Ex-Fundraiser for George Santos Pleads Guilty to Posing as Congressional Aide to Raise Campaign Cash” by Dave Collins for Associated […]
November 14, 2023 •
Campaign Finance Illinois: “Brandon Johnson Wasn’t Supposed to Take Campaign Money from City Contractors, but He Did” by Robert Herguth and Tim Novak for Chicago Sun-Times New York: “FBI Seized Phones, iPad from New York Mayor Eric Adams in Escalation of Fundraising Investigation” by […]
Illinois: “Brandon Johnson Wasn’t Supposed to Take Campaign Money from City Contractors, but He Did” by Robert Herguth and Tim Novak for Chicago Sun-Times
New York: “FBI Seized Phones, iPad from New York Mayor Eric Adams in Escalation of Fundraising Investigation” by Jake Offenhartz (Associated Press) for ABC News
National: “Tim Scott Suspends Struggling Presidential Primary Bid” by Meryl Kornfield, Marianne LeVine, and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “MAGA-Dominated State Republican Parties Plagued by Infighting, Money Woes” by Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Patrick Marley, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Prominent S.F. Developer and Two Others Charged with Bribery in Widening Corruption Scandal” by St. John Barned-Smith (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
National: “The Supreme Court Says It Is Adopting a Code of Ethics for the First Time” by Mark Sherman (Associated Press) for MSN
Missouri: “Rod Jetton’s Political Career Ended in Scandal. Now He’s Dean Plocher’s Chief of Staff” by Jason Hancock for Missouri Independent
California: “Anaheim Officials to Publicly Post Online Who They Meet With” by Hosam Elattar for Voice of OC
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