June 7, 2023 •
Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance National: “The Spam and the Scam: What’s driving those incessant political fundraising email and text campaigns blowing up your inbox” by Madison Hall (Business Insider) for Yahoo News Rhode Island: “New Bill Could Bring Big Changes to RI Political Donations. Here’s […]
June 6, 2023 •
Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Elections National: “Republicans Set Presidential Debate Rules That Could Exclude Some” by Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics National: “N.J. Sen. Bob Menendez Escaped Legal Peril Once. Can He Do It Again?” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Perry Stein (Washington Post) […]
June 5, 2023 •
Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance National: “Prosecutors Scrutinize Political Nonprofit Groups for Fund-Raising Fraud” by David Fahrenthold, William Rashbaum, and Tiff Fehr (New York Times) for DNyuz Elections Georgia: “Georgia Probe of Trump Broadens to Activities in Other States” by Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington […]
June 2, 2023 •
News You Can Use Digest – June 2, 2023
National/Federal Nikki Haley Slams Foreign Lobbyists While Accepting Funds from Them ABC News – Soo Rin Kim | Published: 5/31/2023 Despite calling for a ban on foreign lobbying, in which Americans lobby lawmakers and the public for foreign interests, Republican presidential hopeful […]
Nikki Haley Slams Foreign Lobbyists While Accepting Funds from Them
ABC News – Soo Rin Kim | Published: 5/31/2023
Despite calling for a ban on foreign lobbying, in which Americans lobby lawmakers and the public for foreign interests, Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley has raised tens of thousands of dollars in donations from foreign lobbyists, disclosure reports show. Haley has recently been campaigning on her opposition to foreign lobbying, saying that embassies, and not private consultants or lobbyist agents, should represent foreign interests in the U.S.
Trump Workers Moved Mar-a-Lago Boxes a Day Before FBI Came for Documents
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Spencer Hsu, and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2023
Two of Donald Trump’s employees moved boxes of papers the day before a visit by FBI agents and a prosecutor to the former president’s Florida home to retrieve classified documents in response to a subpoena, timing that investigators have come to view as suspicious and an indication of possible obstruction. Trump and his aides also allegedly carried out a “dress rehearsal” for moving sensitive papers even before his office received the May 2022 subpoena. Prosecutors in addition have gathered evidence indicating Trump kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others.
DEA’s Failure to Punish Distributor Blamed in Opioid Crisis Raises Revolving Door Questions
MSN – Jim Mustian and Joshua Goodman (Associated Press) | Published: 5/30/2023
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has allowed one of the nation’s largest wholesale drug distributors, Morris & Dickson Co., to keep shipping addictive painkillers for nearly four years after a judge recommended it be stripped of its license for its “cavalier disregard” of thousands of suspicious orders fueling the opioid crisis. A consultant the company hired to stave off punishment is now DEA Administrator Anne Milgram’s top deputy. The delay raised concerns about how the “revolving door” between government and industry may be impacting the DEA’s mission to police drug companies.
Recent Attacks Put Staffers on Edge as Authorities Look for Answers
MSN – Justin Papp (Roll Call) | Published: 5/31/2023
There has been a string of highly publicized attacks on Capitol Hill aides that have left staff on edge and are raising questions about security, especially away from Washington. Protecting members and staff away from Washington is no small task with 535 members of Congress, many with multiple district offices that are often positioned strategically to encourage foot traffic.
Prosecutors Have Recording of Trump Discussing Sensitive Iran Document
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 5/31/2023
Special counsel Jack Smith has obtained a 2021 recording in which Donald Trump appears to brag about having a classified document related to Iran, suggesting the former president understood both the legal and security concerns around his possession of such restricted information. The audio features Trump describing a document he claims is about possibly attacking Iran, expressing a desire to share that information with others but also making some kind of acknowledgment he should not do so.
Ron DeSantis Administration Officials Solicit Campaign Cash from Lobbyists
NBC News – Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen | Published: 5/25/2023
Officials who work for Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration – not his campaign – have been sending text messages to Florida lobbyists soliciting political contributions for DeSantis’s presidential bid, a breach of traditional norms that has raised ethical and legal questions and left many here in the state capital shocked. Text messages from four officials, including those directly in the governor’s office and with leadership positions in state agencies. They requested the recipient of the message contribute to the governor’s campaign through a specific link that appeared to track who is giving as part of a “bundle” program.
Talk of Racism Proves Thorny for G.O.P. Candidates of Color
Yahoo News – Jonathan Weisman and Trip Gabriel (New York Times) | Published: 6/1/2023
In bolstering their own biographies with stories of overcoming discrimination, Republican candidates of color running for the president have put forth views about race that at times appear at odds with their view of the country – often denying the existence of a system of racism in America while describing situations that sound just like it. The clashing views of the role race plays in America are a major theme of the 2024 election, underpinning cultural battles over “wokeness.” Behind the debate over structural racism is a secondary debate over the meaning of the stories that politicians tell about themselves.
Missteps and Miscalculations: Inside Fox’s legal and business debacle
Yahoo News – Jim Rutenberg, Michael Schmidt, and Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 5/28/2023
A series of missteps and miscalculations plagued Fox Corporation’s response to Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, according to a review of court and business records and interviews. The case resulted in the largest known settlement in a defamation suit, $787.5 million; two shareholder lawsuits; and the benching of Fox’s top prime-time star, Tucker Carlson. For all of that, Fox still faces a lawsuit seeking even more in damages filed by Smartmatic, another subject of the stolen-election theory, which can now build on the evidence produced in the Dominion case to press its own considerable claims.
Feinstein, Back in the Senate, Relies Heavily on Staff to Function
Yahoo News – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 5/29/2023
As Dianne Feinstein’s reclaims her seat in the U.S. Senate, she is surrounded by a retinue of staff members who serve not only the roles of typical congressional aides – advising on policy, keeping tabs on the schedule, drafting statements and speeches – but also as de facto companions to a senator whose age, frail health, and memory issues make it difficult for her to function alone. Their roles have come under more scrutiny as a number of Democrats and many of Feinstein’s constituents are increasingly concerned about her refusal to relinquish a post that she is not capable of fulfilling without heavy and constant reliance on her aides.
Aide Fired by George Santos Says He Got His Job After Sending Money to Republican’s Deputy
Yahoo News – Jake Offenhartz (Associated Press) | Published: 6/1/2023
A man who briefly worked as an aide to U.S. Rep. George Santos says he got his job after sending a series of payments to one of the Republican’s top deputies. Derek Myers told staff of the House’s ethics subcommittee during an interview that while he was trying to get a job in Santoss congressional office in late January, he sent at least seven $150 payments to Santos’ director of operations, Vish Burra. Myers said he began sending the money unsolicited because he believed Burra was not getting paid by the House at the time and could not afford food. But he said he also hoped the payments might help him secure a job.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Charity Set Up to Support Mayor’s Office Withholds Records, Collected Funds from Companies with Business Before the City
MSN – Jeff McDonald (San Diego Union-Tribune) | Published: 5/30/2023
The nonprofit For All of Us collects tens of thousands of dollars from donors to support causes embraced by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. Only limited fundraising and spending records for the group are routinely disclosed. Instead, the money, board leadership, mission statement, and other information about For All of Us are mostly held confidentially. The San Diego Union-Tribune discovered the entity during a routine review of disclosures of behested payments at the recommendation of an elected official. Such contributions are only required to be disclosed by the mayor and other elected officials when donor contributions exceed $5,000 per year.
California – DWP Executive Placed on Leave Amid Questions About Outside Bitcoin Business
MSN – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/26/2023
A top executive at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) was placed on administrative leave while the utility looks into his involvement in the bitcoin mining industry and whether he complied with ethics rules that require employees to obtain permission for outside work. John Chen was placed on leave after The Los Angeles Times asked the DWP about Chen’s ventures, according to a source at the utility.
California – Court Upholds California’s Anti-Pay-to-Play Law Barring Votes Benefiting Campaign Contributors
SiliconValley.com – Jason Henry (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) | Published: 5/26/2023
A Sacramento County Superior Court judge rejected a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law prohibiting elected officials from voting on matters involving the people and companies who contribute to their campaigns. Judge Richard Sueyoshi determined the law, which went into effect in January, does not violate either the state or federal constitutions. Senate Bill 1439 requires public office holders to recuse themselves from votes and discussions involving anyone who has contributed more than $250 to their campaigns.
Connecticut – Former Connecticut Lawmaker Gets 27 Months in Prison for Stealing Coronavirus Aid
Associated Press News – Dave Collins | Published: 5/31/2023
Former Connecticut Rep. Michael DiMassa was sentenced to 27 months in prison for stealing more than $1.2 million from the city of West Haven, most of it in federal coronavirus-related aid, and using a portion of it to fuel his gambling addiction. At the time of the thefts, he was both a state representative and an aide to the West Haven City Council, with authority to approve reimbursements for coronavirus-related expenses. DiMassa admitted he and others billed West Haven for legal, lobbying, and consulting services that were never provided.
Connecticut – Connecticut Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Utilities from Charging Ratepayers for Political Activities
Energy and Policy Institute – David Pomerantz | Published: 5/29/2023
The Connecticut Senate passed legislation that would prohibit investor-owned utilities from charging customers for lobbying, trade association dues, public relations expenses, and efforts to argue for rate increases. If the House passes the bill, Connecticut would join Colorado as the second state this year to pass legislation addressing utilities’ ability to fund their political machines from customers’ rates.
Florida – Ethics Commission Is Investigating Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s Work for a Developer
MSN – Joey Flechas and Sarah Blaskey (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/25/2023
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust has opened an investigation into Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s work for developer Rishi Kapoor, following a Miami Herald report that Kapoor’s corporate documents show he sought the mayor’s help to resolve issues involving critical permits for a $70 million project. The ethics commission review is being done in coordination with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office. Internal meeting notes document that Kapoor met with Suarez and the city manager to “discuss the permitting problems” last summer. Internal financial statements show Kapoor paid Suarez at least $170,000 since 2021.
Florida – North Miami Beach Mayor Arrested on Charges Related to ‘Voting Irregularities’
MSN – Raisa Habersham (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/31/2023
North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo was arrested and charged with three counts of voter fraud. The charges allege DeFillipo voted three times in 2022 using an address that was no longer where lived. A complaint alleged DeFillipo lived in the town of Davie in Broward County, in violation of the North Miami Beach city charter, which requires elected officials to reside in the city. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said her office used cell phone data to track DeFillipo’s driving from Davie to North Miami Beach, where he cast ballots to vote in three elections in August, October, and November.
Florida – Florida Elections Officials Quietly Made It Easier for Ron DeSantis to Fund His 2024 Bid
NBC News – Matt Dixon | Published: 5/30/2023
Florida officials changed state campaign finance guidelines in a way that could allow allies of Gov. Ron DeSantis to move tens of millions of dollars to a super PAC supporting his 2024 presidential campaign, records show. For years, elections officials said such a transfer to federal super PACs would not be allowed. But in March, just months before DeSantis formally launched his bid for president, officials at the Florida Department of State, which regulates state elections, changed its handbook to assert that such moves are allowed.
Illinois – Legislature Approves Bill to Tighten Restrictions on Red-Light Camera Industry
Yahoo News – Andrew Adams (Capitol News Illinois) | Published: 5/27/2023
Illinois lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that would place new restrictions on the red-light and speed camera industry’s involvement in state and local elections and government. House Bill 3903 would ban automatic traffic enforcement companies or their officers from donating to candidates at the state and local level. It would also prevent state and local government officials from accepting jobs or contracts with those companies while in office or for two years after leaving office.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts Has Passed Just 10 Laws This Year, the Fewest to Open a Legislative Session in Decades. It’s a Sign of the Times.
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 5/29/2023
Five months into the year, Massachusetts lawmakers have touted passing “historic funding” and holding a budget debate that has never been “smoother.” They can also lay claim to something else, a Boston Globe review found: perhaps the least productive start to a legislative session in at least 40 years. The slow start is likely historic, and, current and former Beacon Hill officials say, reflective of a Democratic-controlled body where power is overly concentrated at the top and where leaders increasingly rely on omnibus legislation to move important policy.
Michigan – As Chatfield Probe Continues, Nessel Urges Reforms to Dark Money in Politics
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 5/31/2023
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is urging the state Legislature to take action soon on ethics reforms, including the tightening of reporting requirements for nonprofits, as she continues investigations into lawmakers’ use of “dark money” accounts in politics. Nessel expects to have some resolution on four major public integrity cases, including two involving nonprofit organizations tied to former House Speaker Lee Chatfield and ex-Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, by the end of the year.
Nevada – Source: NLV officials met with authorities about state senator’s finances
Las Vegas Journal-Review – Briana Erickson | Published: 5/23/2023
North Las Vegas city officials met with law enforcement to discuss concerns that state Sen. Dina Neal may have used campaign funds to pay off a $20,000 lien on her home. The meeting with law enforcement took place after the Las Vegas Review-Journal requested public records from the city. The records revealed years of emails from Neal, some of which ask staff to forgive first-time Homebuyer Assistance Program loans. In at least two of those emails, Neal did not reveal she had that type of loan.
New Hampshire – Ethics Flap Over Airfare Offer to N.H. Lawmaker Referred for Criminal Review
MSN – Steven Porter (Washington Post) | Published: 5/31/2023
New Hampshire House Speaker Sherman Packard asked the state’s top law enforcement officials to look into whether an ethics flap over an alleged offer of airfare entailed any illegal activity. Packard suggested in a letter to the Department of Justice that Robin Vogt, the lawmaker at the center of the controversy, might have committed a felony even if he rebuffed an outside offer to cover his travel expenses ahead of a high-stakes vote. That is because the law requires public officials to tell law enforcement if someone offers them a bribe, he wrote.
New York – ‘Lobbying Loophole’ Bill Stuck in Assembly in Final Week of Legislative Session
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 5/31/2023
An attempt to close a loophole in the state’s lobbying laws, which allowed for undocumented outside influence over the chief judge nomination of Justice Hector LaSalle to occur, has stalled in the final week of the legislative session. The bill would require similar rules for lobbying for a judicial candidate or other state appointee as those governing the efforts to influence the enactment of laws and regulations. Many judicial nominations, including for the Court of Appeals, require approval from the state Senate but not the Assembly.
New York – Despite Hochul’s Vow, Her Policies Have Indirectly Aided Husband’s Firm
DNyuz – Jay Root (New York Times) | Published: 5/28/2023
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recusal policy that forbids her from using her office to help Delaware North has not stopped the governor from taking actions that could benefit the company or hurt its competitors, especially near Buffalo, Hochul’s hometown. Delaware North – which owns or manages 11 gambling venues and numerous hotels, and handles concessions at scores of stadiums, airports, and parks – employs the governor’s husband, William Hochul, as its senior vice president. In three recent cases involving matters relating to gambling or concessions, the state took actions that aligned with the interests of her husband’s company.
North Carolina – NC’s Election Ended. Then Gambling Money Showed Up in Campaign Reports, Complaint Says
Charlotte Observer – Avi Bajpai (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 5/30/2023
Donors across the video gambling industry gave North Carolina lawmakers nearly $900,000 between 2019 and 2022, according to a new complaint that alleges some of the contributions may have violated campaign finance laws. The complaint notes many of those donors are members of the North Carolina Coin Operators Association. By not registering as a PAC, the donors avoided having to disclose their fundraising activity, and skirted limits on when and how much money a PAC can give, alleges the complaint.
Ohio – As Borges Delay Is Denied, Former FirstEnergy Execs Say ‘No Doubt’ the Feds Are After Them
Ohio Capital Journal – Marty Schladen | Published: 5/26/2023
Judges denied two delays in recent days that would have been key to a bribery and money laundering scandal that took place in Ohio between 2017 to 2020. Denial of a delay in one court case means a player will still be sentenced in June. In denying the other, the judge in that case agreed with two former FirstEnergy executives who said federal law enforcement has them in its crosshairs. But she ordered that they be questioned under oath anyway.
Ohio – Ex-Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor Agrees to Plead Guilty in Public Corruption Case
WCPO – Taylor Weiter and Paula Christian | Published: 5/30/2023
Former Cincinnati City Councilperson Jeff Pastor agreed to plead guilty to honor services wire fraud in his public corruption case. In addition to wire fraud, a federal grand jury charged Pastor with bribery, attempted extortion, money laundering, and conspiracy. He was accused of taking $55,000 in bribes and a luxury weekend trip to Miami on a private plane in exchange for votes on two development deals.
Pennsylvania – Philly’s Ethics Board Usually Flies Under the Radar. That Changed with Its Lawsuit Against a Super PAC Backing Jeff Brown
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 5/27/2023
The 2023 Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia was just the second open mayor’s race since the advent of super PACs, independent committees that can raise money in amounts that exceed the city’s contribution limits so long as they do not coordinate with candidates. The board ended up spending much of its time dealing with one super PAC, For a Better Philadelphia, which raised about $3 million to boost Jeff Brown in the mayor’s race. The board’s investigation into the group exposed to scrutiny the choices of the agency that plays a role in every election but is often invisible to voters.
Pennsylvania – A DuBois Official Was Arrested on Corruption Charges. Then Nearly $100K in Cash Arrived at City Hall.
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis and Min Xian | Published: 5/30/2023
In May, DuBois’ solicitor showed up at City Hall with $93,920 in cash tucked inside a cardboard box and packaged in a gift bag. Toni Cherry pulled Interim City Manager Chris Nasuti and Police Chief Blaine Clark out of a meeting. According to Nasuti, she handed the gift bag to the two men and told them the cash belonged to the city. She advised them to deposit the money and did not explain why or how it came into her possession. Nasuti and Clark put the cash into a new bank account and alerted the state attorney general’s office. The bag full of cash is now at the center of another storm in a community already reeling from a corruption scandal.
Texas – Texas Republicans Pass Voting Bills Targeting Large Democratic County
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 5/28/2023
Texas Republicans wound down their regular legislative session by changing election policies for a single populous Democratic stronghold but not in other parts of the state. The measure gives the secretary of state under certain conditions the power to run elections in Harris County, home to Houston and 4.8 million residents. It follows a bill approved days earlier that shifts the oversight of elections from its appointed elections administrator to the county clerk and county assessor. Harris County officials said they would bring a lawsuit challenging the measures as soon as Gov. Greg Abbott signs them into law.
Texas – Texas AG Ken Paxton Impeached, Suspended from Duties; Will Face Senate
Texas Tribune – Zach Despart and James Barragán | Published: 5/27/2023
The Texas House voted overwhelmingly to impeach state Attorney General Ken Paxton, suspending him from office over allegations of misconduct that included bribery and abuse of office. The vote revealed substantial divisions within the Texas GOP. Although the party has won every statewide election for a quarter-century and has controlled both houses of the Legislature since 2003, it has deep underlying fissures. The Senate will conduct a trial with senators acting as jurors and designated House members presenting their case as impeachment managers.
May 31, 2023 •
Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Elections Texas: “Texas Republicans Pass Voting Bills Targeting Large Democratic County” by Patrick Marley (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics California: “Charity Set Up to Support Mayor’s Office Withholds Records, Collected Funds from Companies with Business Before the City” by Jeff McDonald (San Diego Union-Tribune) […]
May 26, 2023 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 26, 2023
National/Federal Chief Justice John Roberts Defends Supreme Court’s ‘Highest Standards of Conduct,’ Offers No New Rules ABC News – Devin Dwyer | Published: 5/24/2023 Chief Justice John Roberts defended the integrity of the Supreme Court in the face of slumping public approval […]
Chief Justice John Roberts Defends Supreme Court’s ‘Highest Standards of Conduct,’ Offers No New Rules
ABC News – Devin Dwyer | Published: 5/24/2023
Chief Justice John Roberts defended the integrity of the Supreme Court in the face of slumping public approval and growing political pressure after a recent barrage of misconduct allegations. It was the first time Roberts directly addressed growing concern about how the justices handle potential conflicts-of-interest with their personal lives, a topic that has gotten renewed attention amid a series of alleged ethical infringements by Justice Clarence Thomas.
Rioter Pictured with Foot on Desk in Speaker’s Offices Gets 4½ Years
MSN – Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2023
The U.S. Capitol rioter who was photographed with his foot propped on a desk in then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s offices and then tried to make money with the image was sentenced to four-and-one-half years in prison. The photograph of Richard Barnett in Pelosi’s suite of offices in 2021 became one of the defining images of the insurrection. Barnett carried a walking stick with a 950,000-volt stun device into the Capitol along with a 10-pound metal flagpole and menaced police with them, prosecutors said, but he did not assault any officers.
Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers Leader, Sentenced to 18 Years in Jan. 6 Case
MSN – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 5/25/2023
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his conviction on seditious conspiracy charges for the role he played in helping to mobilize the pro-Trump attack on the U. S. Capitol. The sentence was the most severe penalty so far in any of the more than 1,000 criminal cases stemming from the insurrection and the first to be increased for fitting the legal definition of terrorism. It was also the first to have been given to any of the 10 members of the Oath Keepers and another far-right group, the Proud Boys, who were convicted of sedition.
Tim Scott Begins Presidential Campaign, Adding to List of Trump Challengers
MSN – Jonathan Weisman and Maya King (New York Times) | Published: 5/22/2023
Tim Scott, the first Black Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from the South since Reconstruction, announced his campaign for president, bringing an aspirational message to a growing field of Republicans running as alternatives to Donald Trump. Scott enters the primary field having amassed $22 million in fundraising and having attracted veteran political operatives to work on his behalf. But his message of hope and inclusion may not resonate among base Republican voters steeped in Trump’s demands for vengeance, and the field of Republicans is about to grow far more crowded.
Crow Sidesteps Panel’s Questions About Gifts to Clarence Thomas
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 5/23/2023
A billionaire Republican donor brushed off questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about his relationship with Justice Clarence Thomas, in a letter that argues the panel did not have the authority to investigate the lavish gifts he provided to the member of the U.S. Supreme Court. An attorney for Harlan Crow told the committee Crow did not have to answer questions about reports Thomas did not disclose that Crow had provided luxury vacations for the justice, bought property from him and paid for a relative’s private education.
Ron DeSantis’s 2024 Kickoff on Twitter Is Plagued by Technical Issues
MSN – Hannah Knowles and Faiz Siddiqui (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2023
Ron DeSantis and his allies worked to build momentum ahead of a long-expected presidential campaign launch, rolling out endorsements, sleek videos, and the image of an alligator lurking just beneath the water on his campaign website. But the novel Twitter Spaces announcement with Elon Musk that the Florida governor’s team had hyped as the culmination of his big day was plagued by glitches. The live chat came to a halt after roughly 20 minutes of mostly silence; by the time it restarted and DeSantis began his remarks, hundreds of thousands of listeners had peeled off. It was an awkward start to a campaign that had already hit numerous roadblocks.
House Votes to Refer Santos Matter to Ethics Panel
MSN – Lindsay McPherson (Roll Call) | Published: 5/17/2023
The House voted to refer a resolution from Democrats that would expel U.S. Rep. George Santos to the Committee on Ethics. Speaker Kevin McCarthy defended the move as providing Santos with “due process.” Santos was indicted on 13 federal criminal charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making false statements to the House. Expelling Santos would put a dent in the GOP’s narrow four-seat majority until a special election can be held. Another Republican victory there would not be guaranteed.
School Librarians Face a New Penalty in the Banned-Book Wars: Prison
MSN – Hannah Natanson (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2023
Librarians could face years of imprisonment and tens of thousands in fines for providing sexually explicit, obscene, or “harmful” books to children under new state laws that permit criminal prosecution of school and library personnel. At least seven states have passed such laws in the last two years. Another dozen states considered more than 20 similar bills this year. Some educators and activists say the laws will forge a climate of fear among school librarians, spurring the censorship of books by and about LGBTQ individuals even as the nation already faces a historic onslaught of challenges to books in those categories.
Sen. Feinstein’s Health Complications from Shingles More Severe Than Disclosed
MSN – Liz Goodwin and Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2023
Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned to Washington after having suffered more severe health complications from her shingles diagnosis than were previously disclosed. Feinstein’s shingles triggered encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, as well as Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which causes facial paralysis. She returned to the Senate after facing pressure to resign from a few members of Congress and California progressive groups, who complained her months-long absence was slowing judicial confirmations and imperiling the Democratic agenda.
Meet the Influential New Player on Transgender Health Bills
Yahoo News – Jeff McMillan and Kimberlee Kruesi (Associated Press) | Published: 5/20/2023
Do No Harm, a nonprofit that launched last year to oppose diversity initiatives in medicine, has evolved into a significant leader in statehouses seeking to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youths, producing model legislation that has been used in at least three states. Do No Harm organized as a charitable organization whose tax-exempt status would be endangered by substantial lobbying. In March, after the group had already made significant inroads in Legislatures with its model bill, lobbyists, and hearing witnesses, it incorporated Do No Harm Action as a separate nonprofit with a tax status that allows for more lobbying,
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Groups Settle Arizona Lawsuit Over Voter Intimidation at Ballot Boxes
MSN – Daniel Gilbert (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2023
An Arizona group that monitored ballot drop boxes for signs of fraud during the midterm elections settled a lawsuit and agreed to “publicly condemn intimidation of any kind in connection with the exercise of the right to vote,” according to the League of Women Voters of Arizona, which had filed the suit. The drop boxes, intended to provide a secure, convenient place to submit ballots, have become a symbol of mistrust in elections among many supporters of Donald Trump.
Arizona – Judge Dismisses Kari Lake’s Final Claim in Election Loss for Arizona Governor
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 5/21/2023
A judge dismissed the only remaining legal claim in Kari Lake’s challenge of her loss in last year’s race for Arizona governor, affirming the election of Katie Hobbs. Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson said Lake failed to prove her claim that Maricopa County did not verify signatures on mail ballots as required by law. Lake faced a high bar in proving not only her allegation over signature verification efforts but also that it affected the outcome of her race.
California – 49ers’ Former Lobbyist Emerges as Key Witness in Anthony Becker Perjury Case
MSN – Lance Williams and Ron Kroichick (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 5/19/2023
The former chief lobbyist for the San Francisco 49ers testified Santa Clara City Councilperson Anthony Becker illegally leaked a confidential report criticizing the team’s political influence. Rahul Chandhok told a grand jury that Becker gave him a confidential copy of a watchdog agency’s report accusing the 49ers of having undue influence over government in Santa Clara, home of publicly owned Levi’s Stadium. Becker is charged with one felony count of perjury and one misdemeanor count of failing to perform his official duty.
Connecticut – Consultant on New London Pier Project Fined for Ethics Violations – Again
WSHU – Brian Scott-Smith | Published: 5/19/2023
The Connecticut Office of State Ethics fined Seabury Maritime $10,000 for violating the state’s lobbying law. It lobbied from 2017 to 2019 to gain contracts and other business from the Connecticut Port Authority, a quasi-public agency. Seabury spent over $3,000 in lobbying each year, which triggered a requirement for them to register their activity, which they failed to do. The company also did not complete any financial disclosures as required.
Florida – Developer Paid Miami’s Mayor $170K to Push His Project, Company Records State
MSN – Joey Flechas, Jay Weaver, and Sarah Blaskey (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/23/2023
Internal company records provide details, for the first time, of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s private work for the development firm Location Ventures while he held public office. The company paid Suarez at least $170,000 over the past two years to help secure permits for a stalled real estate project, raising legal and ethical questions about the relationship between his role as mayor and his job as a developer’s consultant.
Florida – DeSantis Signs Bill That Makes His Presidential Run Easier
MSN – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 5/24/2023
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis removed a threat to his campaign for president by signing into law a measure that makes it clear he does not have to resign his current position as governor. The change to Florida’s resign-to-run law was part of a larger overall elections bill that has drawn the scorn of Democrats and voting rights groups who have labeled it “voter suppression.” Two lawsuits were immediately filed in federal court challenging the law.
Florida – Florida Senator Sued by His Family Business for ‘Embezzling’ Money
Yahoo News – Lawrence Mower (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 5/22/2023
State Sen. Nick DiCeglie is being sued by his cousins and his family trash collection business for allegedly spending tens of thousands of the company’s dollars on political expenses, travel, and a personal loan. In two lawsuits, DiCeglie is accused of “embezzling” money while he was president of Solar Sanitation. DiCeglie has agreed to pay back some of the money, including $120,000 in loans from the company. But he said the political spending was to further the company’s business, which relies on contracts with local governments in Pinellas County.
Georgia – Book Removals May Have Violated Student Civil Rights, Education Dept. Says
MSN – Hannah Natanson and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff (Washington Post) | Published: 5/22/2023
In a move that could affect how schools handle book challenges, the federal government has concluded a Georgia school district’s removal of titles with Black and LGBTQ characters may have created a “hostile environment” for students, potentially violating their civil rights. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights investigated Forsyth County Schools’ 2022 decision to pull nearly a dozen books from shelves after parents complained of titles’ sexual and LGBTQ content. To resolve the investigation, the district agreed to offer “supportive measures” to students affected by the book removals and to administer a school climate survey.
Illinois – Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s Girlfriend, Ex-Business Partners and City Employee’s Husband Awarded Thousands in Taxpayer-Funded Grants
WTTW – Nick Blumberg | Published: 5/18/2023
The Aurora City Council has awarded dozens of taxpayer-funded business grants to local businesses in recent months. The owners of two of the companies are in personal relationships with top city officials. A majority of recent donations to Mayor Richard Irvin’s campaign fund are from people doing business with or getting incentives from the city, The council approved a $10,000 grant to Laura’s Furniture, owned by Laura Ayala-Clarke. Sources have described her as Irvin’s girlfriend.
Illinois – Under Pressure on Ethics, Illinois Lawmakers Consider Tightened Rules on Red-Light Camera Industry
Yahoo News – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 5/24/2023
Facing pressure to bolster state ethics laws following the recent bribery convictions of former Commonwealth Edison executives and lobbyists, Illinois lawmakers have turned their attention to another branch of a corruption investigation: the red-light camera industry. A bill approved in the Senate seeks to place new guardrails around an industry that has been at the center of multiple federal probes that have ensnared a host of state, county, and local officials, including two state senators.
Kansas – Kansas Ethics Commission to Evaluate Factors Influencing Waiver of Campaign Finance Penalties
KPVI – Tim Carpenter | Published: 5/25/2023
At a recent meeting, the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission voted to waive fines against the Geary County Republican Central Committee’s treasurer along with penalties against the treasurer of the defunct Prairie Roots PAC and a lobbyist with Kansans for Life. Others appealing campaign finance penalties had their fines upheld. The hit-or-miss voting on appeals led to discussion of how commission members placed their fingers on the scale to either enforce or waive penalties.
Kentucky – Agency Fines Alison Grimes $10,000 for Handling of Voter Data as KY Secretary of State
Yahoo News – John Cheves (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 5/19/2023
Alison Lundergan Grimes must pay $10,000 in fines for improperly ordering the downloading and distribution of voter registration data from her office while she was Kentucky’s secretary of state. The Lexington Herald-Leader and ProPublica published a series of stories on her improper use of the Voter Registration System. They also showed how Grimes pushed through a no-bid contract with a company owned by a campaign donor.
Louisiana – New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Office Sought to Avoid Public Disclosure Rules for Anti-Recall Mailer
NOLA.com – John Stanton | Published: 5/23/2023
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration circumvented city public bidding rules to hire a public relations firm with apparent ties to one of her top advisors to defend her record as mayor in the waning days of a failed recall effort. Documents turned over to the city council under a subpoena, provide the clearest picture yet into the development of a potentially illegal taxpayer-funded mailer sent to likely voters in the week before the recall petition deadline, and the lengths to which top Cantrell officials went to obscure their work on it.
Maryland – Treasurer for Baltimore County Campaign Committees Pleads Guilty to Stealing Funds
Maryland Daily Record – Madeline O’Neill | Published: 5/25/2023
William McCollum, the treasurer for a powerful Baltimore County political slate, pleaded guilty Thursday to theft and perjury charges, admitting to stealing campaign funds from the group and from a former county councilperson’s finance committee. The charges alleged McCollum embezzled nearly $100,000 from the Friends of Cathy Bevins fund for his personal benefit. Prosecutors said McCollum used campaign money to travel with a romantic partner while in Puerto Rico and for flights to Palm Beach, Florida, and Iceland. He did not disclose those expenditures on campaign finance reports.
Massachusetts – Calls for Arroyo to Step Down from Boston City Council after Rollins Investigation
WBUR – Walter Wuthmann | Published: 5/19/2023
At least one Boston city councilor and a conservative advocacy group are calling for Councilor Ricardo Arroyo to resign following the release of two federal investigations tying him to alleged election meddling by former U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins. The reports found Rollins attempted to influence the race for Suffolk County district attorney in 2022 by leaking negative information about interim District Attorney Kevin Hayden to help Arroyo, her preferred successor to the office. The Department of Justice report contains 299 mentions of Arroyo and includes portions of 380 private texts and encrypted chats between him and Rollins over two months.
Mississippi – Chris McDaniel’s Reports Deny Accurate Public Accounting of Campaign Money
Mississippi Today – Geoff Pender | Published: 5/18/2023
After six campaign finance filings – including amended, termination-amended, and even one the-computer-temporarily-ate-it reports – it is still unclear exactly how much money longtime Mississippi Sen. Chris McDaniel has raised or now has for his lieutenant governor campaign. McDaniel’s reports for his campaign and a PAC he created last year have been confusing and confounding, at times leaving voters in the dark on the sources of hundreds of thousands of dollars and continuing to contain double-reported donations and amounts and dates that do not add up.
Nebraska – A Year After Scandal, Nebraska Legislature Revises Its Workplace Harassment Policy
Omaha World-Herald – Erin Bamer | Published: 5/17/2023
Over a year after a scandal rocked the Nebraska Legislature, lawmakers adopted a handful of changes to its workplace harassment policy, although some say there is still more work to be done. The changes were developed after the revelation that ex-Sen. Mike Groene took photos of a former female staff member without her knowledge. Soon after, Groene resigned from the Legislature, and a later investigation found his conduct was “boorish, brainless and bizarre,” although not unlawful.
New York – Trump Makes Video Appearance in New York Criminal Case, Trial Date Tentatively Set for Late March
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak | Published: 5/23/2023
Donald Trump threw up his hands in frustration as a judge scheduled his criminal trial for March 25, putting the former president and current candidate in a Manhattan courtroom in the heat of next year’s presidential primary season. Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records at his family company, the Trump Organization. Trump often discusses the cases at his rallies and in other speeches and has repeatedly attacked prosecutors and judges by name. At the hearing, the judge reviewed an order barring Trump from publicly disseminating certain evidence turned over by prosecutors.
New York – Supreme Court Tosses Convictions of Cor Development Executives Steve Aiello and Joe Gerardi
MSN – Tim Knauss (Syracuse Post-Standard) | Published: 5/22/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions of business executives Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, who were accused of bid-rigging and other crimes related to state development projects. The ruling was expected due to the court’s rulings in two related cases. Alain Kaloyeros, a former economic development official in the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also had his conviction formally set aside. Aiello and Gerardi, executives at Cor Development Co., were convicted of conspiring with Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
New York – Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s Brothers Run Lobbying Firm with Biz Before City
MSN – Carl Campanile (New York Post) | Published: 5/22/2023
Two brothers of Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano run a lobbying firm with clients that have had business before the city during the mayor’s tenure, including with the agency that doles out tax breaks and is chaired by him, records show. Empire Strategic Planning (ESP) was founded by Nick Spano, a former state senator. John Spano is on ESP’s executive team. Mayor Spano and his siblings-led firm said it lobbies on these clients’ behalf in Albany, not Yonkers City Hall.
New York – Lobbyists Fundraise for Adams 2021 Campaign
NY1 – Courtney Gross | Published: 5/23/2023
Documents show lobbyists raised money for Eric Adams in his 2021 race to be New York City mayor, fundraising that has not been reported previously. Adams’ campaign never reported any of these lobbyists as bundlers or intermediaries with the city’s campaign finance board. By law, campaigns must report who collects donations for their campaigns.
North Dakota – Lame-Duck North Dakota Lawmakers Roamed to Faraway Conferences on the Taxpayers’ Dime
Bismarck Tribune – Jeremy Turley (Forum News Service) | Published: 5/23/2023
Since 2014, the North Dakota Legislature has spent more than $45,000 to send a dozen retiring and defeated lawmakers to out-of-state conferences. Some of the departing lawmakers served on interstate policy boards and were expected to show up to faraway meetings, but others went to conferences that could have been attended by any of their colleagues who planned to remain in the Legislature. Sen. Ray Holmberg, Holmberg, who attended more out-of-state trips than any of his peers since 2013, also signed off on his own travel during the time he served as chairperson of Legislative Management, an interim panel of top lawmakers.
Oregon – Before Oregon Elections Officials Slashed Democratic Party’s Fine, State Lawyer Blasted Party’s ‘Lackluster’ Efforts to Find True Source of $500K Donation
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 5/23/2023
Two weeks before Oregon elections officials greatly reduced a fine against the state Democratic Party for falsely reporting the source of its largest ever campaign donation, Assistant Attorney General Kevin Gleim criticized the party, calling its efforts to correctly identify the donor “lackluster.” Gleim also said the Elections Division had no authority to reduce a resulting $35,000 fine on the party, which was determined solely on the size of the contribution donation and the number of days the party was tardy in reporting the donor.
Pennsylvania – Allegheny County Council Approves Campaign Finance Regulations
WESA – Julia Zenkevich | Published: 5/24/2023
The Allegheny County Council passed a bill that would impose FEC contribution guidelines on candidates for county offices. Those guidelines are adjusted for inflation every two years, but individual contributions are currently capped at $3,300, while PACs can give $5,000 per election cycle. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has said he would likely veto the bill. He said campaign finance limits should come from the state Legislature.
Texas – Texas Pushes Church into State with Bills on School Chaplains, Ten Commandments
MSN – Michelle Boorstein (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2023
Texas lawmakers were scheduled to vote on whether to require the Ten Commandments be posted in every classroom in the state, part of a newly energized national effort to insert religion into public life. Supporters believe the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a high school football coach who prayed with players essentially removed any guardrails between religion and government. The legislation is one of about a half-dozen religion bills approved this session by the state Senate.
Texas – Investigators Detail Years of Alleged Misconduct by Texas AG Ken Paxton in Stunning House Committee Hearing
MSN – Zach Despart and James Barragán (Texas Tribune) | Published: 5/24/2023
A Texas House committee heard testimony that state Attorney General Ken Paxton may have violated multiple state laws and ethics rules during a hearing that summarized its months-long investigation. The testimony came a day after Paxton called for Speaker Dade Phelan to resign, accusing him of being “intoxicated” while presiding over the House recently. One area of the inquiry focused on a proposed $3.3 million agreement to settle a whistleblower lawsuit filed by four high-ranking deputies who were fired after accusing Paxton of accepting bribes and other misconduct.
Virginia – In N. Virginia, Endorsement Primaries Point to Increasingly Politicized School Boards
MSN – Karina Elwood (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2023
As Harold Sims Jr. knocked on doors for his school board campaign, many of the Northern Virginia residents on the other side did not know there was an election in May. Sims was not campaigning for the general election or primary that most voters are familiar with. He was door knocking, along with fundraising and debating other candidates to win the local Democratic Party’s endorsement. School board races in Virginia, like most of the country, are nonpartisan. But for years, local political parties around the state have endorsed school board candidates to signal to voters which candidates match their political ideology.
Virginia – A Republican Lawmaker Delivered Doughnuts to Teachers. Then Came a Political Food Fight
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 5/23/2023
Virginia Del. Amanda Batten bought almost 1,000 doughnuts to give to public school teachers in her Williamsburg-area district. The doughnut deliveries to 19 schools were accepted. But in a sign of the intensity of Virginia’s political debates over K-12 public schools, some in the system saw an ulterior motive in the gifts. A photo showed a doughnut-box label with a line in smaller print: “Paid for and Authorized by Friends of Amanda Batten.” That phrase signals an activity was funded by money from a political campaign. The pushback was so strong school officials told Batten similar doughnut drop offs would be declined due to their “political nature.”
Virginia – Though Critiques Persist, Many Agree Virginia’s New Political Maps Are ‘Quite Balanced’
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 5/17/2023
As Virginia enters a high-stakes General Assembly election year, the first playing out on electoral maps drawn by outside experts rather than incumbent legislators, many lawmakers, advocates, and experts agree it looks like a fair fight, with neither party getting an undue advantage based on political geography alone. Despite fears that the new redistricting process could lead to backsliding in minority representation, a look at the field of candidates running this year indicates the Legislature elected on the new maps will be more diverse, not less.
West Virginia – Democrats Sue W.Va. Gov. Justice Over Refusal to Disclose Work Schedule
MSN – John Wagner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2023
Democrats sued West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat, for refusing to release his work schedule as governor in response to public records request seeking to show a continued pattern of absenteeism. The move by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee follows months of back and forth with Justice’s office over whether disclosure of the records is required under West Virginia law. Such requests are a typical part of opposition research conducted by campaigns and political parties.
May 25, 2023 •
Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance New York: “Lobbyists Fundraise for Adams 2021 Campaign” by Courtney Gross for NY1 Oregon: “Before Oregon Elections Officials Slashed Democratic Party’s Fine, State Lawyer Blasted Part’’s ‘Lackluster’ Efforts to Find True Source of $500K Donation” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian Pennsylvania: “Allegheny […]
New York: “Lobbyists Fundraise for Adams 2021 Campaign” by Courtney Gross for NY1
Oregon: “Before Oregon Elections Officials Slashed Democratic Party’s Fine, State Lawyer Blasted Part’’s ‘Lackluster’ Efforts to Find True Source of $500K Donation” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian
Pennsylvania: “Allegheny County Council Approves Campaign Finance Regulations” by Julia Zenkevich for WESA
Arizona: “Groups Settle Arizona Lawsuit Over Voter Intimidation at Ballot Boxes” by Daniel Gilbert (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Ron DeSantis’s 2024 Kickoff on Twitter Is Plagued by Technical Issues” by Hannah Knowles and Faiz Siddiqui (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Under Pressure on Ethics, Illinois Lawmakers Consider Tightened Rules on Red-Light Camera Industry” by Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News
Louisiana: “New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Office Sought to Avoid Public Disclosure Rules for Anti-Recall Mailer” by John Stanton for NOLA.com
North Dakota: “Lame-Duck North Dakota Lawmakers Roamed to Faraway Conferences on the Taxpayers’ Dime” by Jeremy Turley (Forum News Service) for Bismarck Tribune
Texas: “G.O.P. Split in Texas Breaks Wide Open with Drunkenness Accusation” by J. David Goodman (New York Times) for DNyuz
May 24, 2023 •
Four Federal Canadian By-Elections Scheduled for June
On June 19, federal by-elections will be held in the electoral districts of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Westmount (Quebec), Oxford (Ontario), Winnipeg South Centre (Manitoba) and Portage–Lisgar (Manitoba) to fill vacancies in the House of Commons. From December 2022 until March of this year, […]
On June 19, federal by-elections will be held in the electoral districts of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Westmount (Quebec), Oxford (Ontario), Winnipeg South Centre (Manitoba) and Portage–Lisgar (Manitoba) to fill vacancies in the House of Commons.
From December 2022 until March of this year, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Stéphane Perrault, received four separate official notices from the Speaker of the House of Commons that the seats were vacant. However, the dates for the election were not announced until May 14, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a single election date for all four of the vacant seats in the House of Commons.
Three of the seats became vacant by retirement, and the fourth, for Winnipeg South Centre, became vacant upon the death of MP Jim Carr. The announcement date of the by-elections signals the start of the by-election period.
May 24, 2023 •
Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance Virginia: “A Republican Lawmaker Delivered Doughnuts to Teachers. Then Came a Political Food Fight” by Graham Moomaw for Virginia Mercury Elections Arizona: “Judge Dismisses Kari Lake’s Final Claim in Election Loss for Arizona Governor” by Associated Press for Yahoo News Ethics National: “Crow […]
May 23, 2023 •
Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance Mississippi: “Chris McDaniel’s Reports Deny Accurate Public Accounting of Campaign Money” by Geoff Pender for Mississippi Today Elections National: “Tim Scott Begins Presidential Campaign, Adding to List of Trump Challengers” by Jonathan Weisman and Maya King (New York Times) for MSN Virginia: “In […]
May 22, 2023 •
Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Elections Kentucky: “Agency Fines Alison Grimes $10,000 for Handling of Voter Data as KY Secretary of State” by John Cheves (Lexington Herald-Leader) for Yahoo News Ethics National: “House Votes to Refer Santos Matter to Ethics Panel” by Lindsay McPherson (Roll Call) for MSN Florida: “Lawsuit […]
May 19, 2023 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 19, 2023
National/Federal Durham Finds Fault with F.B.I. Over Russia Inquiry DNyuz – Charlie Savage, Glenn Thrush, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 5/15/2023 John Durham, the Trump-era special counsel who has pursued a politically fraught investigation into the Russia […]
Durham Finds Fault with F.B.I. Over Russia Inquiry
DNyuz – Charlie Savage, Glenn Thrush, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 5/15/2023
John Durham, the Trump-era special counsel who has pursued a politically fraught investigation into the Russia inquiry, accused the FBI of having “discounted or willfully ignored material information” that countered the narrative of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia. Durham’s final report revealed little substantial new information about the inquiry, known as Crossfire Hurricane, and it failed to produce the kinds of revelations accusing the bureau of politically motivated misconduct that Trump and his allies suggested Durham would uncover.
Former Hawaii Executives Plead Guilty to Sending Illegal Donations to US Sen. Susan Collins
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 5/15/2023
Clifford Chen and Lawrence Lum Kee. two former executives of a Hawaii-based defense contractor, recently pleaded guilty to taking part in a scheme to funnel tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins during her 2020 bid for reelection. Chen and Lum Kee used company funds to donate large sums of money to Collins’ reelection, including through a shell company meant to mask their identity when sending $150,000 to a pro-Collins super PAC. They also recruited family members to donate thousands of dollars directly to Collins’ campaign.
How Kyrsten Sinema Uses Campaign Cash for Her Marathon Habit
MSN – Sam Brodey (Daily Beast) | Published: 5/14/2023
When U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an avid marathoner and triathlete, ran the Boston Marathon last year, it was a proud moment she wanted to publicize. “It’s been a long road to get here,: Sinema tweeted, along with photos of her running and celebrating the finish. Far less publicized, however, was another aspect to Sinema’s long-awaited journey to Boston: she appears to have turned it into a fundraising junket, allowing her campaign to cover the thousands of dollars in expenses she would have incurred herself by traveling to the race.
Supreme Court to Review House Oversight Lawsuit from 2017
MSN – Michael Macagnone and Ryan Tarinelli (Roll Call) | Published: 5/15/2023
The Supreme Court will decide whether lawmakers can turn to the courts when the federal government denies them documents, as members of an oversight committee did when they sought information about the former Trump International Hotel in Washington. The case centers on a law that gives any seven members of what was then called the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee the right to request information from the federal government, which is separate from the typical authority of the panel’s majority to do so. A decision could reshape the ability of the minority party in Congress to oversee the federal government.
CNN Leadership Under Fire After ‘Disastrous’ Trump Town Hall
MSN – Paul Farhi and Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) | Published: 5/11/2023
CNN’s prime-time broadcast of a raucous town hall with Donald Trump propelled a tsunami of criticism from inside and outside the network and renewed questions about how the news media will handle the challenge of covering the serial falsehoods of the Republican Party’s leading candidate going into the 2024 election. The main impact may be the damage done to the reputation of the network. It also raised questions about the future prospects of chief executive Chris Licht, who is charged with striking a more neutral tone at a cable channel that exploded with impassioned commentary during the Trump years.
George Santos Confesses to Theft in Brazil to Avoid Prosecution
MSN – Terrence McCoy, Marina Dias, and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 5/11/2023
Rep. George Santos signed a deal with Brazilian prosecutors in which he confessed to theft and agreed to pay restitution and fines if prosecutors agree to drop the criminal case against him, bringing a likely resolution in a case that has tailed the embattled politician for more than a decade. Santos was given 30 days to pay around $2,000 in fines and $2,800 to the victim. The deal means Santos will not have to fight criminal prosecution in two countries.
Did Jan. 6 Defendants Act ‘Corruptly’? An Appeals Court Weighs the Question.
MSN – Tom Jackman and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/11/2023
When analyzing the prosecutions of rioters at the U.S. Capitol, some defense lawyers have zeroed in on a key word in the law used to charge many defendants: “corruptly.” The law requires proof that the defendants acted corruptly in obstructing the electoral vote certification. But the exact definition of what it means to be corrupt was at question as judges for an appeals court weighing whether a law used to secure felony convictions against more than 100 participants in the attack is being appropriately applied.
How to Raise $89 Million in Small Donations – and Make It Disappear
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold and Tiff Fehr (New York Times) | Published: 5/16/2023
A group of five linked nonprofits have exploited thousands of donors in ways that have been hidden until now by a blizzard of filings, lax oversight, and a blind spot in the campaign finance system. Since 2014, the groups have pulled in $89 million from small-dollar donors who were pitched on building political support for police officers, veterans, and firefighters. But just one percent of the money they raised was used to help candidates via donations, ads, or targeted get-out-the-vote messages, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
From the States and Municipalities
Canada – Ford Government Defeats Attempt to Get Tough on Gift-Giving After Controversial Party and Wedding
Toronto Star – Bob Fergiuson | Published: 5/11/2023
A bill that would have changed Ontario’s conflict-of-interest rules after developers attended a stag-and-doe party and wedding for one of Premier Doug Ford’s daughters has been blocked. The bill would have amended the Members’ Integrity Act to make it clear members of the legislative assembly should not take gifts that could lead to the appearance of a conflict.
California – Should Nonprofits Have to Register as Lobbyists in Long Beach? Ethics Commission Still Debating
Long Beach Post – Jason Ruiz | Published: 5/12/2023
As the Long Beach Ethics Commission continues to tweak its recommendations to tighten the city’s lobbying laws, nonprofits are arguing they should remain exempt from registering as lobbyists to avoid a chilling effect on their advocacy. The commission met recently to discuss some new changes it is considering to a proposal from earlier this year when they signaled that they may do away with rules that exempted nonprofits from the lobbying ordinance. The proposal now includes “advocacy” as a form of lobbying, but a rule to make groups like business improvement districts and neighborhood associations register has been dropped for now.
California – Developer Fined $4 Million for Bribing Former L.A. Councilmember Jose Huizar
MSN – Michael Finnegan (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/12/2023
A Chinese real estate company was fined $4 million for the bribes its owner paid former Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar as it sought approval to build a downtown skyscraper. U.S. District Court Judge John Walter, who has presided over a series of City Hall graft cases, bemoaned “the crushing weight of corruption” as he imposed the sentence on Shen Zhen New World I. At the company’s criminal trial, witnesses detailed more than $1 million in bribes paid to Huizar, much of it through all-expense-paid trips to Las Vegas.
California – Oakland Ethics Commission Reckons with ‘Devastating’ Budget Proposal
Oaklandside – Eli Wolfe | Published: 5/11/2023
The Oakland Public Ethics Commission has laid out in stark terms how the proposed city budget will affect its operations. Commission staff said the budget would remove funding for the Democracy Dollars program, which aims to level the city’s campaign finance landscape by giving vouchers to voters to support candidates. With only a modest budget increase, the commission also will not be able to hire additional staff for its overburdened enforcement program. Due to a prolonged staffing shortage, the enforcement chief said he must put half the city’s existing ethics cases on hold indefinitely.
Connecticut – Sullivan Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison for Lavish 2015 Kentucky Derby, Golf Trips
Yahoo News – Claire Bessette (New London Day) | Published: 5/17/2023
James Sullivan, a former chairperson of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative, was sentenced to six months in prison for using the utilities’ money to pay for lavish trips in 2015 to the Kentucky Derby and a West Virginia golf resort. The jury convicted Sullivan, former cooperative executive Drew Rankin, and former Norwich Public Utilities General Manager John Bilda on theft from a program receiving federal funds for the trips.
Florida – Miami Mayor Suarez’s Big VIP Weekend Was Worth $30K. And He Still Won’t Say Who Paid
MSN – Sarah Blaskey (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/17/2023
For the second year in a row, Mayor Francis Suarez made the rounds to lavish parties during the recent Formula One race in Miami, where hosts tied to local lobbying efforts waived cover charges for elected officials. If Suarez paid the cover for each event he and his wife attended, their Grand Prix weekend would have cost well over $30,000. Suarez would not say who paid for his weekend, nor did he file a quarterly report disclosing sponsors behind a similar tour of the party circuit he made last year, as is legally required when an elected official receives complimentary admissions or free tickets from anyone outside of their immediate family.
Georgia – Republican Tapped to Lead Fulton Elections Board Withdraws Under Pressure
MSN – Amy Gardner, Matthew Brown, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2023
An Atlanta Republican withdrew his nomination to lead the elections board of Georgia’s most populous county after voting-rights activists and national Democrats, including the state’s two U.S. senators, lobbied to block the appointment. Lee Morris’s appointment would have given Republicans a majority on the Board of Registrations and Elections in a county that forms the core of metropolitan Atlanta and is governed by a majority-Democrat commission.
Illinois – Exelon Is Paying the Legal Tab for Two Former Executives Convicted in ComEd Bribery Scheme
WBEZ – Doug McKinney | Published: 5/15/2023
Exelon has been paying the legal fees for two now-convicted former Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) executives who were part of a conspiracy to bribe former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. ComEd spokesperson Shannon Breymaier noted a section of Exelon’s bylaws that specifies current and former directors and officers of the company and its affiliates qualify to have their legal costs covered in criminal cases so long as the charged were acting in “good faith” and did not believe they were engaging in criminal behavior.
Kansas – What’s in the Bag? Kansas Lobbying Expenditure
KSNT – Colter Robinson | Published: 5/17/2023
Last year, 165 “gift bags” were given to Kansas lawmakers. In Kansas, expenses related to lobbying must be reported. In 2022, a total of $287,252.76 in spending was reported. Of the total amount, only $75,209.63 was itemized. The annual lobbyist expenditure report must include the costs for items such as food and beverages, gifts, and entertainment. The purpose of the items must be documented.
Kentucky – Trump-Backed Daniel Cameron to Face Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear in November
Associated Press News – Bruce Schreiner | Published: 5/17/2023
Daniel Cameron won the Republican primary for Kentucky governor, becoming the first major-party Black nominee for governor in the state’s history and setting up a November showdown with Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear. Cameron, the state’s attorney general, claimed a convincing victory over a 12-candidate field. Beshear easily dispatched two challengers in his own primary. The race now shifts to the general election, which will be one of November’s most closely watched contests and could provide clues heading into next year’s presidential election.
Louisiana – LNG Lobbyists Ghost Wrote Louisiana Officials’ Letters Supporting Gas Storage Project
Louisiana Illuminator – Sara Sneath | Published: 5/17/2023
In an effort to gain federal approval for a natural gas storage project, Sempra LNG lobbyists crafted letters for Louisiana elected officials to send to federal regulators in support of the project. Last fall, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission greenlit the Hackenberry gas storage project, which involves converting underground domes constructed in the 1970s to mine for salt into storage space for natural gas. Sempra LNG has been trying to build the project in Cameron Parish since 2006.
Massachusetts – Dana Pullman Sentenced to Prison in State Police Union Kickback Case
MassLive – Tréa Lavery | Published: 5/11/2023
Dana Pullman, the former president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM), was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in a kickback scheme during his time heading the union. Anne Lynch, a lobbyist who worked with him in the scheme, will serve 24 months in prison. Lynch’s lobbying firm represented SPAM in exchange for monthly retainer payments. Prosecutors say that for six years, the two used Pullman’s position to defraud members of the union, the state, and vendors seeking to do business with the state police.
Massachusetts – Federal Watchdogs Issue Scathing Reports on U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts
Politico – Lisa Kashinsky, Josh Gerstein, and Kyle Cheney | Published: 5/17/2023
Massachusetts’ top federal prosecutor leaked sensitive Department of Justice information to a reporter as part of an effort to help an ally in a political campaign and then lied about it to investigators, a watchdog found. The finding was the most damaging in a pair of reports issued by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and another federal watchdog agency against U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who announced she would resign her position.
Massachusetts – SJC Upholds AG’s Ruling Striking Ballot Question
The Eagle-Tribune – Christian Wade | Published: 5/16/2023
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a decision by then-state Attorney General Maura Healey to reject a ballot question calling for limits on campaign spending by PACs. The justices said the case is “moot” because the proponents of the referendum did not follow the state’s timelines for gathering the required number of signatures from voters to qualify for the ballot. As such, the justices said they are showing “judicial restraint” by not resolving the matter.
Michigan – Michigan Democrats’ Early Campaign Finance Bills Bolster Union Influence
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 5/16/2023
A committee in the Democrat-controlled Michigan House advanced bills that would help labor unions, which frequently support Democratic lawmakers’ campaigns, raise money for political contributions. Democrats won control of both the state House and Senate for the first time in 40 years in November. The new proposals would remove a ban on government bodies administering payroll deductions for political committees and would broadly allow automatic deductions to be set up for giving to labor union committees.
Michigan – 2nd Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in Medical Marijuana Corruption Scheme
MSN – Arpan Lobo (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 5/12/2023
Federal prosecutors secured the fourth guilty plea in a bribery scheme involving Michigan’s former medical cannabis licensing board. Brian Pierce said he conspired to give $42,000 and other benefits to former House Speaker Rick Johnson to help clients with license applications before the board was disbanded in 2019.
New Hampshire – Bill to Boost Political Finance Transparency Heads to Sununu’s Desk
New Hampshire Bulletin – Ethan DeWitt | Published: 5/15/2023
A bill to increase campaign finance transparency in New Hampshire is headed to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk. House Bill 195 would expand which groups would count as political advocacy organizations, a designation that requires them to register with the secretary of state’s office and report receipts and expenditures. Currently, the label applies only to organizations that spend $5,000 toward advocacy for or against a candidate or party in an election cycle. The bill would lower that threshold to $2,500 or more.
New York – ‘Lobbying Loophole’ Bill After LaSalle Fight Advances Through Senate
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 5/16/2023
State Senate Democrats advanced legislation to close a “lobbying loophole” on judicial nominations and other state offices that followed undisclosed efforts earlier this year to influence votes on the selection of New York’s chief judge. The bill was introduced after an Albany Times Union story highlighted the lack of public reporting requirements for outside groups seeking to buttress or oppose a judicial nomination.
New York – U.S. Supreme Court Tosses Convictions of Percoco, Kaloyeros, Developers
Albany Times Union – Robert Gavin | Published: 5/11/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court threw out two fraud convictions during New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, dealing prosecutors the latest in a series of setbacks in their efforts to pursue federal charges of public corruption in state government. The court unanimously overturned the bid-rigging convictions of SUNY Polytechnic Institute founder Alain Kaloyeros and three businesspeople while also reversing the fraud-related conviction of Joseph Percoco, the once powerful top aide to Cuomo.
New York – Head of NYC Campaign Finance Board Resigns Six Months After Taking Job
Gothamist – Brigid Bergin | Published: 5/16/2023
The head of the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) is stepping down from her post just six months after taking the job. Beth Rotman became the agency’s third executive director when she took the position in October. She cited personal reasons for departing her new role so soon. The former executive director, Amy LoPrest, will serve as the interim director of the program until the CFB completes its search for a new executive director.
New York – Eric Adams’ Transition Fined Nearly $20K by Campaign Finance Board
The City – Katie Honan | Published: 5/15/2023
The Campaign Finance Board hit New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team with nearly $20,000 in penalties for violations related to the weeks in between 2021’s election and his January 2022 inauguration. The board voted to approve $19,600 in fines for three violations, finding the account for Adams transition and inauguration committee accepted prohibited donations, failed to respond or responded late to requests for information or documentation, and failed to properly wind down “transition and inauguration expense” activities.
Ohio – Ohio Lawmakers Vote to Set Aug. 8 Election for Controversial 60% Constitutional Amendment Proposal
MSN – Andrew Tobias and Jake Zuckerman (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 5/10/2023
Ohio lawmakers passed a resolution asking voters to raise the threshold for approving constitutional amendments. The vote caps off nearly six months of legislative wrangling largely meant to hobble an abortion rights amendment. Lawmakers are entering questionable legal territory, however, as they set the vote in August through the resolution itself. Legislation approved last December places strict limits on such special elections, and a measure aimed at loosening those restrictions faltered in the House.
Oklahoma – Ethics Commission Settles Conservative Alliance PAC Lawsuit, Kannady Mum
NonDoc – Michael McNutt | Published: 5/17/2023
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission settled a lawsuit against a PAC that spent more than $150,000 in multiple Republican legislative races in 2018 as part of an electoral effort participated in by a top GOP House leader to defeat several hardline members of his own caucus. The Conservative Alliance PAC and its treasurer, Chris Marston, admitted targeting specific candidates and failed to follow the disclosure requirements in Oklahoma law. The PAC and Marston will pay $45,000 to the state.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers May Consider Boosting Elected Officials’ Pay, Passing Ethics Reforms in Wake of Shemia Fagan’s Resignation
MSN – Grant Stringer (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/10/2023
Oregon lawmakers are mulling whether to boost pay for statewide officeholders and pass ethics reforms following the resignation of former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who stepped down after it was reported she had taken a $10,000 a month side job with a cannabis company. Fagan said she took the lucrative side job in part because she struggled to pay her bills as secretary of state. The post pays $77,000 per year.
Oregon – State Election Officials Fine Democratic Party of Oregon for Cryptocurrency Donation Flap
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Lauren Dake | Published: 5/12/2023
State election officials issued a $15,000 fine for the Oregon Democratic Party Democratic Party after the party changed the name of the donor of a hefty campaign check. The state also plans to monitor the party’s financial disclosures to ensure campaign finance laws are being followed in the future. The secretary of state’s office initially proposed a fine of $35,000after a three-month investigation but lowered the amount.
Pennsylvania – Cherelle Parker Wins Crowded Democratic Philadelphia Mayoral Primary; Dems Keep Pennsylvania House Majority
CBS News – Caroline Linton | Published: 5/17/2023
Philadelphia Democrats selected Cherelle Parker to be their party’s mayoral nominee. Parker will be favored to win the general election in November when she takes on Republican David Oh. The mayor’s race was the most expensive in the city’s history, with two candidates – Derek Green and Maria Quiñones Sánchez – dropping out because the price of the race was too high. In addition, Democrats narrowly maintained their majority in the Pennsylvania House, thanks to a win in a closely watched special election.
South Carolina – Supreme Court to Consider South Carolina Plan That ‘Exiled’ Black Voters
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 5/15/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider South Carolina’s attempt to reinstate a congressional redistricting plan that a lower court found had “exiled” 30,000 Black voters to create a district winnable for a White Republican candidate. The three-judge panel in January said the plan by the GOP-led Legislature split Black neighborhoods in the Charleston area to create a “stark racial gerrymander.” The judges found that South Carolina’s mapmaker tried to keep the African American population below a certain target in the district, treating Charleston County “in a fundamentally different way than the rest of the state.”
Tennessee – Former State Sen. Brian Kelsey Won’t Be Allowed to Change Guilty Plea; July Sentencing Set
MSN – Melissa Brown (Nashville Tennessean) | Published: 5/16/2023
Philadelphia Democrats selected Cherelle Parker to be their party’s mayoral nominee. Parker will be favored Former Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey will not be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea in a federal campaign finance case. Kelsey sought to take his case to trial after what he called a flawed plea deal in November 2022, when he pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his failed 2016 congressional campaign. U.S. Chief District Court Judge Waverly Crenshaw, Jr. criticized Kelsey’s legal argument that he did not fully understand the implications of a criminal felony plea, given his career as a constitutional lawyer and a state lawmaker.
Texas – A TxDOT Commissioner Resigned in 2018. He Continued Drawing Pay for Five Years.
Yahoo News – Tony Plohetski (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/11/2023
In February 2018, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Commissioner Victor Vandergriff resigned from his governor-appointed position. Instead of stopping his payments, the state continued to cut him 62 monthly paychecks totaling nearly $92,000, plus benefits over the next five years. The state took steps to stop the payments after reporters asked why Vandergriff was still getting paid. Vandergriff’s abrupt exit came a month after the Texas Tribune reported Vandergriff had performed work as a private lobbyist during trips to Austin that were paid for by TxDOT.
Virginia – How Redistricting Reform Is Launching the Virginia General Assembly into a New Era
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 5/16/2023
The dramatically different electoral maps created after Virginia voters approved a new redistricting process in 2021 have been a clear factor in the ongoing institutional shake-up at the General Assembly, pushing many incumbents out and opening more room for candidates to run in new districts other incumbents cannot fully claim as their own. No matter which party wins control in November, the state Legislature will look very different when it reconvenes. That is fueling both trepidation over the loss of longtime statehouse figures and optimism over the opportunity to build anew.
Washington – Smiley PAC for ‘Political Outsiders’ Actually Pays Campaign Debt
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 5/13/2023
A few months after her unsuccessful bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley announced the launch of a new PAC to boost “political outsiders” across the country. Making the rounds of sympathetic conservative TV and radio shows, Smiley promoted Endeavor PAC and appealed for money. What Smiley did not mention during her media tour is that donations solicited by her PAC are earmarked first to retire a six-figure debt lingering from her Senate campaign.
Washington – Before Rule Change, AG Bob Ferguson Moves $1.2M ‘Surplus’ to Campaign
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 5/11/2023
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson shifted more than $1.2 million in surplus campaign money to his 2024 gubernatorial bid, getting ahead of a ruling placing new limits on such transfers. The Public Disclosure Commission voted to close the loophole that allowed such transfers without counting them toward individual contribution limits, agreeing with critics that the loophole violated the spirit of Washington’s campaign finance laws. The new guidance says candidates transferring surplus money should attribute the cash to specific donors.
May 18, 2023 •
Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “SJC Upholds AG’s Ruling Striking Ballot Question” by Christian Wade for The Eagle-Tribune National: “How to Raise $89 Million in Small Donations – and Make It Disappear” by David Fahrenthold and Tiff Fehr (New York Times) for Seattle Times Oklahoma: “Ethics Commission […]
May 15, 2023 •
Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance Washington: “Before Rule Change, AG Bob Ferguson Moves $1.2M ‘Surplus’ to Campaign” by Jim Brunner for Seattle Times Elections National: “CNN Leadership Under Fire After ‘Disastrous’ Trump Town Hall” by Paul Farhi and Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) for MSN Ohio: “Ohio Lawmakers Vote […]
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