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 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 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 10, 2023 •
National/Federal To Help 2024 Voters, Meta Says It Will Begin Labeling Political Ads That Use AI-Generated Imagery ABC News – David Klepper (Associated Press) | Published: 11/8/2023 Facebook and Instagram will require political ads running on their platforms to disclose if they […]
ABC News – David Klepper (Associated Press) | Published: 11/8/2023
Facebook and Instagram will require political ads running on their platforms to disclose if they were created using artificial intelligence (AI). Under the new policy by Meta, labels acknowledging the use of AI will appear on users’ screens when they click on ads. The rule takes effect January 1 and will be applied worldwide. The development of new AI programs has made it easier to quickly generate lifelike audio.
Courthouse News Service – Benjamin Weiss | Published: 11/3/2023
Lawmakers who for years have demanded the federal judiciary prevent organizations from swaying judges by gaming a common court practice urged the U.S. Judicial Conference to wrap up proposed rulemaking that would serve as a major check on such activity. Members of Congress, particularly Democrats, have long raised concerns that lobbying groups and other organizations use coordinated groups of amicus briefs to push courts toward favorable rulings.
DNyuz – Tim Arango and Holly Secon (New York Times) | Published: 11/9/2023
David DePape lived a solitary life, worked carpentry jobs and was seemingly obsessed with right-wing conspiracy theories on the internet. Then in October 2022, police said, DePape, broke into Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and bludgeoned her husband when she was still House speaker. The authorities said he told investigators he intended to take hostage Pelosi, long a subject of virulent attacks by right-wing leaders and pundits. DePape’s trial spotlights the online disinformation cycle that has been fed by conspiracy theorists, conservative activists, elected officials, and media outlets.
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 11/8/2023
Democrats in Congress have tried unsuccessfully to press the Supreme Court to strengthen its ethics rules following revelations that some justices accepted and did not report free luxury travel, real estate deals, and gifts from wealthy benefactors. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to vote to subpoena two wealthy benefactors, along with a judicial activist who helped shape the court’s conservative supermajority. But the path to obtaining the information Democrats are seeking will be contentious.
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 11/8/2023
In a twist on the meet-and-greet events that routinely dot the fundraiser party circuit, some members of Congress are shaking hands with donors and others at concert venues, in VIP boxes, or suites. Just as the Federal Reserve credits Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour for boosting the tourism industry and the overall economy, Swift and Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour have been a means for lawmakers to boost their own campaign coffers.
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/4/2023
A coalition of news organizations asked U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to make an exception to the rule barring cameras from federal courtrooms for Donald Trump’s election subversion case and permit the televising, recording, or same-day release of video and audio recordings of his trial. Federal courts have long prohibited cameras in the courtroom, wary of feeding what the Supreme Court called a “carnival atmosphere” of publicity that could intimidate witnesses, sway jurors, or deprive criminal defendants of their due process rights.
MSN – Julian Mark (Washington Post) | Published: 11/6/2023
The Civil Rights Act of 1866, which established citizenship for newly emancipated slaves, has become central to the legal battle over what is fair and equal when it comes to race in the workplace. In recent years, and especially since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned race-conscious college admissions in June, the Reconstruction-era law has emerged as a critical tool for conservatives intent on dismantling race-specific programs that promote “diversity, equity and inclusion,” or DEI.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2023
A Trump appointee to the State Department who assaulted multiple police officers at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison by a fellow veteran of the administration. Judge Trevor McFadden said he was “disturbed” that Federico Klein considered it part of his “duties” to attend the rally that day and join the protesters at the Capitol agitating for lawmakers to throw the election to Donald Trump. Officers testified Klein was at the front of the violent mob for nearly two hours, first helping to break a police line and then joining a Battle against officers guarding a tunnel into the building.
MSN – Rachel Weiner, Spencer Hsu,and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/6/2023
Prosecutors said they plan to show at trial that Donald Trump lied repeatedly about the results of the 2020 election as part of a conspiracy to subvert the legitimate results. But they also said they do not need to prove whether Trump believed he lost the race. Legal experts have debated the importance of Trump’s state of mind in his federal election subversion case, with some arguing that to win a conviction the government must pin down the true beliefs of a politician who amassed a long record of making false or misleading claims while president.
Yahoo News – Hailey Fuchs and Brendan Bordelon (Politico) | Published: 11/4/2023
Lobbyists are rushing to sign up artificial intelligence (AI) companies as clients and K Street firms also are being enlisted by industries and interest groups that want help influencing AI policy. Groups as disparate as the NFL Players Association, Nike, Amazon, and the Mayo Clinic have enlisted help from firms to lobby on the matter. Some lobbyists compared the boom in business opportunities to the cryptocurrency policy debate. But AI has the potential to be even bigger.
Yahoo News – Alanna Durkin Richer and Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 11/3/2023
A federal appeals court temporarily lifted a gag order on Donald Trump in his 2020 election interference case in Washington, the latest twist in the legal fight over the restrictions on the former president’s speech. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision puts a hold on the limited gag order to give the judges time to consider Trump’s request for a longer pause on the restrictions while his appeals play out.
From the States and Municipalities
Radio New Zealand – Guyon Espiner | Published: 11/6/2023
A public relations and lobbying firm was embedded at New Zealand’s Commerce Commission, working on highly sensitive areas of competition policy at the heart of an inflation crisis. Staff from the Wellington consultancy SenateSHJ worked in the physical offices of the competition watchdog and were given Commerce Commission email addresses and devices. While Senate lobbied for private sector clients, the commission did not pay it for lobbying, only for communications and media training. Documents showed Senate worked on commission projects in the energy sector, despite representing private sector energy clients.
Arizona Capitol Times – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 11/7/2023
Attorney Scott Freeman acknowledges that Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott McCoy rejected his bid to void Proposition 211. The judge ruled in June there is nothing unconstitutional about the voter-approved measure designed to prohibit “dark money” in campaigns. McCoy said Freeman’s clients could seek an exemption. The judge noted that would require either group to show “reasonable probability that disclosure of its contributors’ names will subject them to threats, harassment, or reprisals from either government officials or private parties.”
Yahoo News – Ray Stern (Arizona Republic) | Published: 11/3/2023
Democratic leaders in the Arizona House filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Leezah Sun, who allegedly harassed and made a death threat to employees with the city of Tolleson. Sun recently denied an allegation claiming that she said she would throw a Tolleson lobbyist off a balcony to “kill her.” The complaint alleges Sun made threats against officials with the city, interfered with a lawful court order, violated state custodial interference laws, and engaged in disorderly conduct.
MSN – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 11/3/2023
A California judge made a “preliminary finding” that attorney John Eastman breached professional ethics when he aided Donald Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 election, a milestone in the proceedings over whether Eastman should lose his license to practice law. Now, state bar officials are preparing to present “aggravation” evidence aimed at justifying their call to strip Eastman, a veteran conservative attorney who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, of his law license.
Oaklandside – Eli Wolfe | Published: 11/7/2023
There are state and local laws in California that prohibit government workers from having conflicts-of-interest. Local governments like Oakland require city employees and elected officials to disclose their personal finances so the public can be sure there is no hidden agenda behind a decision. The Oakland Public Ethics Commission is supposed to act as a bulwark against public corruption, and it can investigate and fine officials who violate the law. But the commission is struggling to make use of the city’s most basic conflict-of-interest tool, a document called Form 700.
MSN – Randall Chase (Associated Press) | Published: 11/6/2023
Delaware’s ethics agency determined the state agriculture secretary and one of his top deputies violated the law by entering into no-bid agreements with Department of Agriculture employees to care for farm animals seized by animal welfare officials. The Public Integrity Commission ruled Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse improperly agreed to pay one of his employees more than $90,000 as part of a no-bid agreement to take care of a flock of poultry after almost 500 birds were seized in May.
WLRN – Joshua Ceballos | Published: 11/6/2023
Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes is facing a longshot opponent in this year’s race who spent only a few hundred of his own dollars on his campaign. Yet the Reyes campaign has spent more than $200,000, and steered more than half the money to a public relations company that is owned by the wife of his chief of staff. County ethics rules do not prohibit government employees from working on campaigns if they do not use government resources or time, but the payments to Reyes’ top employee constitute the highest spending in what appears to be a less than competitive race.
Chicago Sun-Times – Jon Seidel | Published: 11/6/2023
Edmund Burke, Chicago’s longest serving city council member, is on trial, charged with racketeering, bribery, and extortion. The case is the result of an aggressive probe into the same old-school Chicago-style politics through which Burke built his power, and which he personified for decades. If found guilty, Burke would be the fourth current or former member of the council to be convicted in federal court in five years.
DNyuz – Rebecca Carballo (New York Times) | Published: 11/6/2023
Officials in a Chicago suburb issued citations to a local news reporter after he persistently contacted elected officials about a flooding issue. The Daily Southtown published an article by Hank Sanders about consultants informing officials in Calumet City that storm water facilities were in “poor condition” before a recent flood swept through the community. Sanders continued to inquire about flooding issues after the article was published. His calls and emails drew complaints from Calumet City officials, including Mayor Thaddeus Jones, who is also a state representative.
MSN – Maria Luisa Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2023
Shortly after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita accused a doctor who had helped a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio terminate her pregnancy of being an “abortion activist” with “a history of failing to report” similar procedures to state officials. Those comments, which Rokita made about Caitlin Bernard during an appearance on Fox News, amounted to “attorney misconduct,” the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.
Kansas Reflector – Sherman Smith | Published: 11/6/2023
Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody enlisted the support of local and state law enforcement officials in the days before he led raids on the local newspaper office, the publisher’s home, and the home of a city council member. The Bureau of Investigation, Department of Revenue, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal, along with the county attorney and a magistrate judge, were complicit in the raid or knew it was imminent. But in the days that followed, they largely downplayed their involvement.
MSN – Hannah Knowles and Dylan Wells (Washington Post) | Published: 11/7/2023
Democrat Andy Beshear defeated his Republican opponent Daniel Cameron to win reelection as Kentucky’s governor, securing a stark victory in a state Donald Trump won by 26 points. The results are a stark blow to Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both of whom endorsed Cameron, the state attorney general who tried to nationalize the race and remind voters of their party lines. He and his allies promoted an endorsement from Trump and attacked Beshear as a Joe Biden ally who clashed with Republicans on culture war issues.
NOLA.com – Joseph Cranney | Published: 11/8/2023
Two city employees should not have participated in last year’s controversial selection of a public wi-fi contract and may have violated state ethics laws by not disclosing their ties to the winning bidder the New Orleans Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in a report. The OIG largely backed the conclusions of an earlier investigation by two outside firms hired by the city council, though neither probe found evidence of self-dealing. The state ethics board also cleared the employees, IT staffer Christopher Wolff and former Utilities Director Jonathan Rhodes, of any violations.
Yahoo News – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 11/4/2023
Before a ballot was cast, Louisiana Democrats knew they could not win control of the state Legislature this year. It was mathematically impossible because a lack of candidates meant they were not even contesting the majority of districts. Their best hope for political success was that Shawn Wilson would force a runoff against Jeff Landry, the state attorney general, in an open primary for governor. But when Landry won a majority of the primary vote, eliminating the need for a runoff, the results instead laid bare the bleak conditions of a state Democratic Party decimated by internal divisions, paltry fundraising, totals, and a disenchanted voter base.
Portland Press Herald – Randy Billings | Published: 11/7/2023
Maine voters approved a referendum to ban foreign governments and affiliated organizations from spending money on state and local referendum campaigns. Federal and state election laws already prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to candidates seeking office in Maine, but they do not ban foreign governments or entities from spending money to influence state and local referendums or elections.
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 11/9/2023
The Michigan House approved financial disclosure requirements that opponents argued violated the spirit of the voter-mandated transparency reforms. The legislation would require annual financial disclosures of several statewide elected officials and lawmakers starting in April, meeting the requirements of the ballot measure approved a year ago. But the bills neglected to require similar disclosures from an official’s spouse and failed to close long-acknowledged loopholes in Michigan’s transparency laws.
MSN – Dave Boucher (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 11/8/2023
Detroit board members who set salaries for the mayor and other elected leaders are among many public officials who must now file new ethics disclosures in light of a Detroit Free Press investigation. Each member of the Elected Officials Compensation Commission – along with mayoral appointees on boards that oversee police, the water department, and other entities – will need to file new disclosures early next year.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 11/8/2023
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Donald Trump can appear on the primary ballot next year but left open the possibility he could be struck from the general election ballot because of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Minnesota case is one of several interlocking challenges that argue Trump cannot serve again under Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which bars insurrectionists from holding office.
Missouri Independemt – Rudi Keller | Published: 11/8/2023
A small Missouri town’s attempt to “intimidate and silence” a critic violated both her First Amendment rights and the state’s Sunshine Law, a judge ruled. Edgar Springs, a town of 200 in Phelps County, must pay a nominal fine of $150 to Rebecca Varney for banning her from City Hall for four years, and for holding several closed meetings with business that should have been conducted in public, Judge John Beger decided.
MSN – Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) | Published: 11/6/2023
Donald Trump portrayed himself as the victim of “election interference” and a “political witch hunt.” He decried the “weaponization” of a judicial system he alleges, without evidence, is unfairly targeting him. But the former president was not speaking at a campaign rally. Instead, he was inside a courtroom. New York Attorney General Letitia James was alleging he and his company falsely inflated property values to gain lending advantages, and Trump was on the witness stand.
MSN – Chris Sommerfeldt, Thomas Tracy, and Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 11/3/2023
FBI agents raided the home of Brianna Suggs, the manager of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign fundraising operation who has claimed credit for collecting more than $19 million for his political efforts over the years. The raid is part of a federal public corruption investigation into whether Adams’ 2021 campaign conspired with the Turkish government and a Brooklyn construction firm to funnel foreign money into the campaign’s coffers via straw donors.
WRAL – Will Doran | Published: 11/2/2023
North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls is suing the state’s Judicial Standards Commission to stop an ethics investigation targeting her for critiques she made about racial, gender, and political biases at the state’s highest court. She says it is a violation of her First Amendment rights, and little more than an attempt to intimidate her into silence. The commission says judges are banned from making comments that might make people lose faith in the integrity of the judicial system. U.S. District Court Judge William O’Steen will decide whether to shut down the investigation.
MSN – Laura Hancock and Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 11/7/2023
Ohio voters passed a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights and became the seventh state to side with reproductive rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Republican leaders in the General Assembly scheduled an August special election intended to thwart the abortion rights amendment by requiring all future constitutional amendments pass with a supermajority at the ballot box. That was defeated and Ohio’s abortion rights amendment only needed to pass with a simple majority.
Ohio Capital Journal – Marty Schladen | Published: 10/30/2023
Frustrated former employees told the press that in their office “everything revolved around” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s run for U.S. Senate. Now, LaRose appears to be using the taxpayer-funded office’s newsletter in that campaign. As a state official, LaRose is not supposed to use state resources in his political campaigns. As secretary of state, it is important that he wall off politics from his official duties because LaRose administers elections, including those in which he is running.
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 11/7/2023
Democrat Cherelle Parker defeated Republican David Oh to become the 100th mayor of Philadelphia. She will be the first woman to hold the office when her four-year term begins in January. A former state representative and city council majority leader, Parker coasted to victory in the general election with a compelling personal story, a tough-on-crime platform, and strong backing from the Democratic establishment and organized labor.
ABC News – Associated Press | Published: 11/3/2023
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem requested guidance from the state Supreme Court about conflict-of-interest rules for lawmakers, several weeks after a lawmaker resigned and agreed to repay $500,000 in federal COVID-19 relief she received for her day care business. Jessica Castleberry was a senator when she received the stimulus funding. Doing so violated a state Supreme Court advisory warning lawmakers it is unconstitutional for them to accept federal pandemic funding.
MSN – Leia Larsen (Salt Lake City Tribune) | Published: 11/8/2023
The private company behind a plan to dredge Utah Lake and turn it into an island city sued a leading critic, ecology professor Ben Abbott, for defamation. Abbott countersued, alleging the company was trying to stifle public debate about the proposal. Then, months later, Abbott found out his grant for a $500,000 watershed study funded by the Legislature had been canceled. “We were totally taken by surprise,” said Abbott, who teaches at Brigham Young University. “… I thought, ‘Does this have something to do with the islands situation?'”
MSN – Gregory Schneider and Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 11/7/2023
Virginia voters rejected Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s costly efforts to take control of the Virginia General Assembly in the November 7 elections, flipping the House of Delegates to Democratic control and preserving a blue majority in the state Senate that can block his conservative agenda. Youngkin raised record sums of money and spent personal political capital pushing for full GOP control of both chambers. Whether Virginians rewarded or resisted Youngkin’s campaign was considered an indicator of voter attitudes ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Yahoo News – Shauna Sowersby (The Olympian) | Published: 11/7/2023
Six controversial ballot initiatives that are still in the signature-gathering process are under formal investigation by the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). The six initiatives are the efforts of Let’s Go Washington and sponsored by Brian Heywood, a Republican donor. Two allegations are listed on the PDC website, one for failing to accurately file reports that reflect “in-kind contribution details for the expenditures made, and which initiatives were supported” and the other for “failing to properly disclose the identity of a vendor for some of the in-kind contributions received from Brian Heywood.”
November 3, 2023 •
National/Federal Rep. George Santos Survives Effort to Expel Him from the House. But He Still Faces an Ethics Report ABC News – Kevin Freking and Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 11/1/2023 U.S. Rep. George Santos survived a vote to expel him […]
ABC News – Kevin Freking and Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 11/1/2023
U.S. Rep. George Santos survived a vote to expel him from the House as most Republicans and 31 Democrats opted to withhold punishment while both his criminal trial and a House ethics committee investigation proceed. The effort to expel Santos was led by his fellow New York Republicans, who are anxious to distance themselves from a colleague infamous for fabricating his life story and accused of stealing from donors, lying to Congress, and receiving unemployment benefits he did not deserve.
DNyuz – Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 10/26/2023
Federal prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena seeking records from former President Trump’s 2020 campaign as part of their investigation into whether Trump’s political and fundraising operations committed any crimes as he sought to stay in power after he lost the election. The decision this week by special counsel Jack Smith to effectively kill the subpoena to the Trump campaign came on the heels of the withdrawal of a similar subpoena to Save America, the PAC that was formed by Trump’s aides shortly after he lost the race in 2020.
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 11/1/2023
Supreme Court justices across the ideological divide seemed skeptical that a California lawyer has a free speech right to trademark the double-entendre phrase “Trump Too Small” for use on T-shirts criticizing former President Trump. In fact, Chief Justice John Roberts opined, ruling for Trump critic Steve Elster could make it harder for others to create their own takes about the man running to reclaim his old job.
MSN – Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 11/1/2023
The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s indictment for allegedly mishandling national security secrets suggested she might push back the planned trial timeline, as courts wrestle with the growing complexity of juggling four separate criminal cases and an ongoing civil trial against the former president. U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon listened to prosecutors argue at a hearing for keeping the schedule she set earlier this year, which includes a trial in May 2024. Lawyers for Trump insisted they needed more time to prepare.
MSN – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2023
With a dozen judges nominated by Republican presidents, and only four by Democrats, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is the favored launchpad for right-leaning politicians and organizations seeking groundbreaking judicial decisions restricting abortion, limiting gun laws, and thwarting the ambitions of the Biden administration. The Fifth Circuit’s work is drawing more U.S. Supreme Court review than that of any other among the dozen regional appeals courts, which operate one step below the high court. In the new term, the justices already have said they will review eight decisions from the New Orleans-based court.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2023
Judges are weighing an unprecedented and historic question: is former President Trump eligible to run for office again given his alleged role in the riot at the U.S. Capitol? A week-long hearing in Denver will explore whether January 6 qualified as an insurrection, which could bar Trump from the ballot in Colorado. The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether an obscure part of the Constitution might keep Trump off the ballot there. In coming weeks, courts around the country might hold similar proceedings.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 10/29/2023
A federal judge reimposed limits on Donald Trump’s public statements in advance of his trial on charges of conspiring to subvert the results of the 2020 election. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan put back in place an order she had lifted nine days earlier to give Trump and prosecutors more time to argue whether the restrictions were unconstitutional, as attorneys for the former president had claimed. Trump can now ask a higher court for an emergency stay pending appeal, but in the meantime, he is bound by Chutkan’s limits.
MSN – Maeve Reston and Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2023
Former Vice President Mike Pence suspended his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, facing the reality there was little appetite for his candidacy among the legions of Republican voters who remain loyal to Donald Trump and viewed Pence as a traitor because he refused to follow Trump’s demands to overturn the 2020 election results. Pence’s years-long descent from first in line for the presidency to an also-ran reached a conclusion at a high-profile summit which brought together some of the most powerful Republican donors in one room.
MSN – Taylor Lorenz (Washington Post) | Published: 10/31/2023
News consumption hit a tipping point around the globe during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, with more people turning to social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram than to websites maintained by traditional news outlets, according to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. One in five adults under 24 use TikTok as a source for news. Britain’s Office of Communications said young adults in the United Kingdom now spend more time watching TikTok than broadcast media. As independent online producers of news programming rose to prominence, the ramifications for society are still coming into focus.
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/30/2023
Senate Democrats announced plans to vote to subpoena a pair of wealthy conservatives and a judicial activist who have underwritten or organized lavish travel for some U.S. Supreme Court justices, a move that adds to the pressure on the court to strengthen its ethics policies. The Judiciary Committee leaders will vote to authorize subpoenas for information from billionaire Harlan Crow, a close friend and benefactor of Justice Clarence Thomas, and from Leonard Leo, the conservative judicial activist.
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/31/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court struggled to agree on how to determine when public officials can block critics from their private social media accounts, reviewing two cases that will have broad implications for citizen interactions with politicians online. All nine justices seemed to acknowledge the challenge and importance of defining when government employees are acting in an official capacity online, and therefore bound by First Amendment restrictions on censorship; and when they are acting as private citizens, with their own individual free speech rights.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama Reflector – Ralph Chapoco | Published: 10/26/2023
Members of the House Ethics and Finance Committee discussed efforts since 2010 to amend Alabama’s ethics law. The gathering was the third in a series of “work meetings” providing legislators planning to draft legislation to update the existing law after a report released in 2019 recommending changes that included tightening language in the state’s ethics code and offering graduated penalties for specific violations.
MSN – Paul Farhi (Washington Post) | Published: 11/1/2023
A newspaper publisher and a reporter were arrested for publishing an article that officials said was based on confidential grand-jury evidence, a move that press-freedom advocates are characterizing as an unconstitutional attack on the news media. Publisher Sherry Digmon and reporter Don Fletcher of the Atmore News in Alabama were arrested after a story by Fletcher disclosed details of an investigation into the local school board’s payments to seven former school-system employees.
Arizona Mirror – Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Published: 10/30/2023
An Arizona legislator who was among the rioting crowds at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, is facing a campaign finance complaint alleging he illegally used cash from a failed re-election bid to attend the insurrection, including airfare and a hotel stay. On January 5, Kern reported an expenditure for an airline ticket. On January 11, Kern reported an expenditure of $436.74 for travel and lodging at a Hyatt hotel.
MSN – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2023
The Arizona attorney general’s investigation into the coordinated attempt to overturn the 2020 election results by creating and sending documents to the federal government falsely declaring Donald Trump the winner is also zeroing in on the pressure placed on local officials by the former president’s key allies to help avert his loss. The investigation underscores the dramatically different approach that prosecutors from opposing parties have taken when weighing post-2020 activities.
Long Beach Post – Jason Ruiz | Published: 10/26/2023
Most respondents to a city survey about proposed changes to Long Beach’s lobbying rules said city officials should have to proactively disclose meetings with lobbyists, something they are not currently required to do. Those disclosures, respondents said, should be more frequent and robust than the law currently requires. The Long Beach Ethics Commission asked for the feedback as it is crafting changes to the city’s lobbying disclosure law. A new draft of the changes could be out as soon as November.
MSN – Bob Egelko (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 10/28/2023
San Francisco’s law requiring political ads to identify their top financial donors survived another challenge in federal appeals court, but nine conservative judges argued in dissent the law violates free speech. An attorney for opponents of the measure says he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The law went beyond disclosure mandates in state law by requiring committees financing local campaign advertisements to identify in the ads their top two donors of $5,000 or more.
MSN – Jeff McDonald (San Diego Union Tribune) | Published: 10/30/2023
More than a month after being nominated by Mayor Todd Gloria to serve on the San Diego Ethics Commission, former Sheriff Bill Gore has withdrawn his nomination in the face of overwhelming opposition. Gloria’s nomination generated immediate backlash from criminal justice reform advocates and family members of people who died in San Diego County jails in recent years. According to sheriff’s department records, more than 170 people died in county jails on Gore’s watch since he was first appointed sheriff in 2009.
WMNF – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 10/26/2023
Pointing to securing the “public trust,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked a federal appeals court to overturn a decision that blocked part of a 2018 state constitutional amendment imposing new restrictions on lobbying. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom issued a permanent injunction against a restriction on state and local officials lobbying other government bodies while in office. Bloom said the constraint violated First Amendment rights.
Yahoo News – Eric Rogers (Florida Today) | Published: 10/30/2023
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey will not face ethics charges related to allegations of interference in the 2022 elections, after the candidates who came forward declined to talk to state investigators, according to the Florida Commission on Ethics. Ivey admitted making offers to the candidates in an interview with investigators but denied it was meant to sway their decisions to run, the allegation at the heart of the ethics complaint.
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 10/26/2023
A federal court found Georgia’s congressional map violates the Voting Rights Act, the latest Southern state to have its map struck down for discriminating against Black voters. A judge ordered the state Legislature to redraw the lines by early December. The opinion said Black voters’ power had been diluted following extensive population growth in the state that has been disproportionately powered by Black residents. Gov. Brian calling the Legislature into special session on November 29 to handle redistricting.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Chad Blair | Published: 10/20/2023
Since a new law requiring state legislators and employees to complete live or online ethics training classes every four years went into effect January 1, the number of people taking the course has increased as compared to 2021. That is due in part because an online, self-directed version of the course was introduced in 2020, when the pandemic forced many people to work from home. But there are still hundreds of workers that have not taken the training, either online or live via webinar or in-person classes.
WBEZ – Fran Spielman (Chicago Sun-Times) and Mariah Woelfel | Published: 10/31/2023
As Chicago Ald. Ed Burke prepares to stand trial on sweeping corruption charges in a racketeering indictment, the path to this moment was paved in part by the enormous power he gained through “scratch my back” politics, including aldermanic prerogative. Also known as aldermanic privilege, the practice is an entrenched, off-the-books power that gives council members unquestioned say over a broad range of decisions – from zoning matters to parking permits. Despite efforts to curb it, that tradition continues to this day.
The Hill – David Sharp (Associated Press) | Published: 11/2/2023
Maine voters will decide whether to ban foreign influence in elections, many of them irked over the $22 million a Canadian utility spent to fight state referendums on a hydropower transmission project. Hydro Quebec, owned by the Canadian province, exploited an election law loophole to fight attempts to stop the project on which the utility stood to gain $10 billion. If voters grant their approval on November 7, Maine would be the 10th state to close the loophole in federal election law that bans foreign entities from spending on candidate elections, yet allows donations for local and state ballot measures, said Aaron McKean of the Campaign Legal Center.
Energy and Policy – Dave Anderson | Published: 10/26/2023
Maryland utility regulators ordered a new audit of Potomac Edison after the FirstEnergy-owned utility admitted in a rate case that it owes nearly $1.7 million in refunds to Maryland customers it wrongly charged for bribes, lobbying, corporate sponsorships, advertising, and other expenses. The new audit will seek to ensure that Potomac Edison’s wrongful charges to customers in Maryland are fully accounted for and refunded.
MSN – Simon Schuster (MLive) | Published: 11/2/2023
The Michigan Senate passed legislation laying out what state politicians must show the public in new personal financial disclosures, after slightly expanding the requirements amid criticism the bills leave too much in the dark. Elected officials and candidates in the legislative and executive branches of state government will have to list their sources of income, but not the amount, and list assets and liabilities under the bills. A sticking point remains the amount of information candidates or elected officials must list about family members.
Mississippi Today – Julia James, Geoff Pender, Bobby Harrison, Taylor Vance, and Adam Ganucheau | Published: 10/31/2023
Of the 88 individual or corporate donors who have given Gov. Tate Reeves’ campaigns at least $50,000, Mississippi Today identified 15 donors whose companies received a total of $1.4 billion in state contracts or grants since he took office in 2020. The investigation reveals how private companies, whose executives routinely donate large sums to politicians, can rake in hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds while having the ear of powerful elected officials.
Missouri Independent – Rudi Keller | Published: 10/27/2023
The Missouri House Ethics Committee met behind closed doors to discuss a “personnel inquiry” in a meeting that had been widely expected to focus on beleaguered House Speaker Dean Plocher. The committee, which reviews complaints against House lawmakers, is scheduled to meet again to discuss the same inquiry on November 8. The meeting came as Plocher, who is running for lieutenant governor in 2024, is facing calls to resign after reports surfaced he received government reimbursements over several years for expenses also paid for by his campaign. He has started to pay back the money he improperly received.
MSN – Jelani Gibson (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 10/30/2023
New Jersey promised a fair and ethical cannabis industry in which mom-and-pop shops would thrive. The law crafted by state legislators allowed towns, with little oversight, to authorize who can sell the product legally. Cannabis entrepreneurs seeking a piece of the billion-dollar industry are saying they are being exposed to extortion and intimidation. Municipalities can set their own fees, licensing schemes, and preferences independent of state supervision in a way that exceeds virtually every other regulated industry including liquor licenses.
MSN – Ashley Balcerzak (Bergen Record) | Published: 11/1/2023
Jeff Brindle, longtime executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), officially retired, roughly a year after the Murphy administration sought to oust him from the position. Brindle filed two lawsuits this year against Gov. Phil Murphy, one alleging a conspiracy “to extort and force” his resignation and a second challenging the constitutionality of a controversial bill that overhauled ELEC. Deputy Director Joe Donohue will serve as acting executive director while the commission conducts a search for a replacement for Brindle.
Yahoo News – Benjamin Weiser, Nicholas Fandos, and Tracy Tully (New York Times) | Published: 10/30/2023
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez went to great lengths to try to secure a friendly prosecutor in New Jersey’s top federal law enforcement position. Far from being routine politics, Menendez’s attempts to fill the position were part of a brazen scheme to sell his office for cash, gold bars, and a Mercedes-Benz convertible, a federal indictment says.
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 10/27/2023
A dispute over whether the actions by the Public Policy Institute of New York State, the nonprofit arm of the state’s Business Council, are considered lobbying raises questions on what the nonprofit must report, including whether it has to disclose its donors for a campaign concerning noncompete agreements that is valued at more than five times the charity’s typical spending in a year. The nonprofit’s spokesperson, James Freedland, said the institute is not seeking to influence elected officials, a statement that government watchdogs dispute.
Spectrum News – Kate Lisa | Published: 11/1/2023
State ethics commissioners worked on fine-tuning their legislative agenda for 2024, setting sights on how New York lawmakers can change policy to best regulate lobbying and ethical behavior of elected officials when they return to Albany in January. Members of the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government held a public roundtable and discussed plans to press the Legislature to better regulate ethics training required for lobbyists, including a daily late fee for lobbyists and clients who fail to complete it in the required timeframe.
MSN – Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) | Published: 11/1/2023
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters finally disclosed a $5,000 donation to his 2022 campaign from a PAC one year after the report was due. The 1776 Project made the donation on October 31, 2022. It says on its website it is “committed to abolishing critical race theory … from the public school curriculum.” Walters was supposed to report the contribution within 24 hours because it was received just days before the general election.
MSN – Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) | Published: 11/2/2023
Lynchburg Registrar Christine Gibbons was removed from her position, accused of corruption, taken to court, and reported to police for supposedly siphoning votes to Joe Biden in the 2020 election. A Republican who called for Gibbons’ firing and attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on January 6, 2021, was appointed as one of her bosses on the local election board. Gibbons filed a lawsuit, which contends the election board violated her First Amendment right to free political association by removing her for purely partisan reasons. It is among the first in the country to make that argument.
MSN – Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) | Published: 10/31/2023
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced his office will investigate the fundraising of one of the nation’s most prominent nonprofit organizations dedicated to educating the public, lobbying Congress, and organizing rallies for pro-Palestinian causes. Miyares said his office has “reason to believe” the Northern Virginia-based American Muslims for Palestine may not be complying with state rules on charitable giving and will investigate allegations lodged in a federal civil suit that the group provides indirect support to Hamas. AMP denied the allegations and called them not only “defamatory, but dangerous.”
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 10/29/2023
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s elections team has admitted in the run-up to pivotal General Assembly elections that it removed nearly 3,400 qualified voters from the state’s rolls, far higher than the administration’s previous estimate of 270. Elections officials acknowledged what it called the mistaken removal five weeks after early voting began for the November 7 elections. The outcome will determine the fate of Youngkin’s conservative legislative agenda.
Washington State Standard – Jerry Cornfield | Published: 10/27/2023
State Rep. Chris Corry appeared to satisfy concerns of an ethics panel so he can continue working for the Washington Policy Center without violating any conflict-of-interest laws. He became director of the conservative think tank’s Center for Government Reform in May. Corry could have faced an investigation and punishment by the Legislative Ethics Board if he kept both posts.
ABC News – Scott Bauer (Associated Press) | Published: 10/31/2023
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers sued the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature, arguing it is obstructing basic government functions, including signing off on pay raises for university employees that were previously approved. Evers is asking the state Supreme Court to take the case directly, bypassing lower courts. Evers argues committees controlled by a few Republican lawmakers are being used by the Legislature to “reach far beyond its proper zone of constitutional lawmaking authority.”
Gillette News Record – Hannah Shields (Wyoming Tribune Eagle) | Published: 10/27/2023
The Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee advanced bill drafts that could create significant changes to existing Wyoming election laws. One bill would add a 30-day residency requirement prior to Election Day. Another would expand the definition of an organization to include “any group of two … or more persons that … pools or otherwise jointly expends funds totaling in aggregate more than ($1,000).” The proposed legislation would allow groups to report campaign expenditure or electioneering communication without registering as a PAC.
October 27, 2023 •
National/Federal Meadows Granted Immunity, Tells Smith He Warned Trump About 2020 Claims: Sources ABC News – Katherine Faulders, Mike Levine, and Alexander Mallin | Published: 10/24/2023 Former President Trump’s final chief of staff in the White House, Mark Meadows, has spoken with […]
ABC News – Katherine Faulders, Mike Levine, and Alexander Mallin | Published: 10/24/2023
Former President Trump’s final chief of staff in the White House, Mark Meadows, has spoken with special counsel Jack Smith’s team at least three times this year, including once before a federal grand jury, which came only after Smith granted Meadows immunity to testify under oath, according to sources familiar with the matter. The sources said Meadows informed Smith’s team that he repeatedly told Trump in the weeks after the 2020 presidential election that the allegations of significant voting fraud coming to them were baseless.
MSN – Hailey Fuchs and Caitlin Oprysko (Politico) | Published: 10/22/2023
An ad hoc group of donors, activists, and allies have moved swiftly to help Israel. They have leveraged their political clout, their relationships with lawmakers, and their fundraising networks to do so. Their goal is to shape how elected officials in the U.S. react to the crisis. But their work also underscores how much of the political fight around the nascent war is being done on the fly; and how much is being waged in unconventional theaters: college campuses, corporate boardrooms, K Street offices. and Capitol Hill restaurants.
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor, Amy Wang, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Theodoric Meyer, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2023
Rep. Mike Johnson, a lesser-known conservative who has been a devoted follower of former President Trump was elected as speaker of the House, reopening the chamber for legislative business after a 21-day paralysis because the fractious Republican conference could not coalesce around a single nominee. Johnson now faces the herculean task of uniting a deeply ideologically fractured conference that is tasked with averting a government shutdown in less than a month, sending supplemental aid to Israel and other foreign countries, and passing reauthorization bills before the end of the year.
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2023
Special counsel Jack Smith argued that recent comments by Donald Trump show not only that a federal gag order should be reimposed, but the court should weigh stricter sanctions, including sending him to jail, if he keeps talking about witnesses in his case. The filing was one of four made by the special counsel’s office on a range of legal issues in preparation for Trump’s planned trial on charges he conspired to obstruct Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Trump’s public statements attacking prosecutors, court personnel, and others have raised alarms among judges who worry such broadsides might inspire someone to commit violence.
MSN – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2023
Senate Finance Committee Chairperson Ron Wyden called on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to tell the panel whether he declared more than $250,000 of loan forgiveness on his tax filings. Wyden released a report that details a loan Thomas received from a friend, Anthony Welters, to buy a luxury Prevost Marathon motor coach in 1999. The report said Thomas made some interest payments on the $267,230 loan, but it was declared settled by Welters in 2008 without Thomas repaying a substantial portion, or perhaps any, of the principal.
MSN – Peter Hermann and Clarence Williams (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2023
Rep. Jamaal Bowman was criminally charged with pulling a false fire alarm that forced the evacuation of the Cannon House Office Building as lawmakers scrambled to avert a government shutdown. Bowman was charged in a judicial summons, meaning he was not arrested. In an affidavit filed in court, authorities allege Bowman tried to open an emergency door and, when that failed, pulled a fire alarm and walked away and did not report his actions to police.
MSN – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 10/19/2023
The social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, removed the gold “verified” badge from the New York Times’ account amid ongoing complaints about the news organization from X owner Elon Musk. The badge was the only symbol distinguishing the Times’ 55-million-follower account from impostors amid two major global conflicts in Israel and Ukraine. The move further extends Musk’s attempts to use the social media company he bought with claims of defending free speech to undercut news organizations he dislikes.
MSN – Kathleen Culliton (Raw Story) | Published: 10/23/2023
A loophole that allows political parties to bypass campaign finance limits now faces a new legal challenge from watchdog groups in Washington D.C. The Campaign Legal Center and OpenSecrets filed a lawsuit against the FEC, which they hope will create new disclosure rules for national political party committee accounts. The loophole links back to the 2014 “Cromnibus” and an amendment to the Federal Election Campaign Act that allows parties to draw funds from “special purpose accounts,” according to the complaint.
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 10/24/2023
Donald Trump launched a multipronged legal attack on his federal prosecution for allegedly subverting the results of the 2020 election, saying his actions were protected by the First Amendment as political speech and arguing he cannot be tried in criminal court for trying to block Joe Biden’s victory after being impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate. While aspects of Trump’s case raise historic legal questions, the motions are fairly typical for criminal defendants trying to challenge the legal sufficiency of the charges against them.
MSN – Caitlin Reilly (Roll Call) | Published: 10/23/2023
Total spending on lobbying by the biggest interest groups fell in the first three quarters of 2023 compared to last year amid partisan gridlock in a divided Congress. The dip came as the steady clip of major laws that moved through the last Congress slowed to a trickle this session with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans the House, where GOP leadership has struggled to maintain control of its conference.
NBC News – Alec Hernández and Bridget Bowman | Published: 10/20/2023
With three months to go until the first contest of the Republican nominating race, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to lean heavily on Never Back Down for support across the early states, and his most recent campaign finance report demonstrates how the super PAC has helped cover costs that otherwise might have drained DeSantis’s own campaign treasury. Beyond playing an extensive role in the governor’s campaign schedule and travel, the super PAC is also responsible for a large door-knocking operation in Iowa and running a slew of voter coalitions supporting DeSantis.
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 10/20/2023
Federal prosecutors avoided an appeals court ruling that could have upended their criminal prosecution of Donald Trump, but the legal battle will continue over a federal obstruction statute that has become a cornerstone of cases stemming from the storming of the Capitol. A panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled there are numerous ways for the government to prove January 6 defendants acted “corruptly” when seeking to obstruct Congress’ proceedings. A ruling that narrowly construed the meaning of “corruptly” could have derailed the prosecution of Trump on an obstruction charge.
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Rebecca Kern (Politico) | Published: 10/20/2023
The Supreme Court will determine whether the Biden administration violated the Constitution when it pressured technology companies to remove from their platforms what federal officials said was false or misleading content about the 2020 election and Covid-19. In taking the case, the justices also blocked the lower court’s injunction that would have barred many types of contact between federal officials and the social media giants. The action means administration officials can keep contacting social media companies for now while the justices weigh the case.
From the States and Municipalities
Capital Public Radio – Kristin Lam | Published: 10/25/2023
The Sacramento Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint against mayoral candidate Flojuane Cofer and found she did not violate a campaign fundraising rule. Voting unanimously, the commission disagreed with part of an independent evaluator’s recommendation on how to deal with the complaint. The investigator found the city’s campaign contribution rules surrounding off-year elections are confusing.
California – Is Anaheim’s Fall of Reform Going to Freeze Over?
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 10/25/2023
Anaheim’s elected officials continue a rollout of reform proposals, but it is unclear how many overhauls will be made to a City Hall hit with one of the biggest corruption scandals in Orange County history. It comes as some Disney-backed city council members question if reforms are needed, like bolstering whistleblower protections, consequences for misconduct by elected officials, decreasing the city manager’s purchasing power, and overhauling lobbyist rules. The discussions come months after independent investigators alleged the city was essentially controlled by lobbyists and Disneyland resort interests.
Pueblo Chieftan – Anna Lynn Winfrey | Published: 10/23/2023
A new law in Colorado imposes new requirements for how long campaign finance records are kept and sets contribution limits for municipal races. But as a home rule city, Pueblo has the jurisdiction to craft its own regulation on campaign finance. Because of the expected timing of a mayoral runoff race in January, after the bill goes into effect, the city council is expected to vote soon on an ordinance that would effectively freeze the current rules in place. Councilors could adopt more stringent requirements later, if desired.
MSN – David Bauerlein (Florida Times-Union) | Published: 10/24/2023
A company whose owner hosted a campaign event for Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan in January won a no-bid contract worth $300,000 for federal grant-writing, lobbying, and policy development after the city determined no other firm in the nation could provide all those services. The city typically requires competitive bidding, but the Professional Services Evaluation Committee recommended Deegan approve the one-year contract to Langton Consulting without seeking proposals from any other firms.
Yahoo News – Divya Kumar (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 10/23/2023
A proposed regulation aimed at restricting diversity programs and social activism at Florida’s public universities has stirred confusion, with some saying its broadly worded passages could limit free speech. The regulation, when approved, will determine how the state enforces the law pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that seeks to gut diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at colleges and universities.
Yahoo News – Dave Berman (Florida Today) | Published: 10/24/2023
Brevard County Commissioner Jason Steele was given the green light to resume his lobbying work. including for municipalities within the county, while he continues to serve as commissioner. The Florida Commission on Ethics approved an advisory opinion from its legal staff that said there currently is nothing illegal about Steele lobbying on behalf of clients, as long as he does not lobby before the county commission and does not use nonpublic information he obtained as a commissioner for his lobbying work.
MSN – Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 10/20/2023
Kenneth Chesebro, a former lawyer for Donald Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to illegally conspiring to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia, striking a deal in which he will avoid jail time and agreed to provide evidence that could implicate other defendants, including Trump himself. Chesebro pleaded guilty to a single felony count of conspiracy to file false documents. The charge relates to his role organizing slates of pro-Trump electors to meet in seven states where Joe Biden had won.
Yahoo News – Will Weissert and Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 10/24/2023
Attorney and conservative media figure Jenna Ellis pleaded guilty to a felony charge over efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia. Ellis, the fourth defendant in the case to enter into a plea deal, was a vocal part of Trump’s reelection campaign in the last presidential cycle and was charged alongside the Republican former president and 17 others. Ellis pleaded guilty to one felony count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. She had been facing charges of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and soliciting the violation of oath by a public officer, both felonies.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Stewart Yerton | Published: 10/26/2023
Hawaii’s state budget and finance director is facing an ethical dilemma as Gov. Josh Green’s administration works to establish a fund for victims of the Maui wildfires. Luis Salaveria, who is playing a role in planning the fund that would benefit Hawaiian Electric Industries, also owns Hawaiian Electric stock. That should disqualify Salaveria from taking any official action that could affect the company, according to the state ethics code. But what, if anything, Salaveria plans to do to address the situation is unclear.
Yahoo News – Blaze Lovell (New York Times) | Published: 10/25/2023
As Maui County recovers from the devastating wildfires that killed at least 99 people, millions of dollars will be spent on rebuilding critical infrastructure using a flawed contract-monitoring system that is marred by bribery and a lack of competition. A recent bribery case prompted some county officials to begin phasing out the use of sole-source contracts, but the practice is still in use in the county. That very little has changed since the bribery scandal was revealed could leave the door open for some contractors to take advantage of the disaster or for government money to be wasted.
Illinois Public Radio – Robert Herguth (Chicago Sun-Times) | Published: 10/20/2023
In May, the General Assembly passed a bill to ban campaign contributions from the red-light camera industry that has been embroiled in a bribery scandal still unfolding in federal court. Among those backing the bill was Illinois Senate President Don Harmon. Less than six weeks later, his campaign accounts accepted two contributions totaling $5,000 from Redspeed Illinois, a contractor operating red-light cameras in a number of Chicago-area municipalities. Bernadette Matthews, executive director of the state elections board, said the new law does not include penalties for violators.
MSN – Eleanor McCrary (Louisville Courier Journal) | Published: 10/19/2023
Louisville Metro’s Ethics Commission found Councilperson Anthony Piagentini in violation of six ethics rules after he was accused of using his city position to land a $40 million grant for the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council, which then hired him. The commission also unanimously voted to recommend to the Metro Council that he be removed from his seat, but that decision ultimately lies with his 25 peers. Piagentini also received a penalty of $500 per violation.
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 10/19/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with a delay on proceedings that could lead to creating a second congressional district in Louisiana where Black voters make up a large-enough share of the electorate to have a significant chance of electing their preferred candidate. The justices rejected requests by Black voters challenging a map passed by the state’s Republican-led Legislature to allow a lower court judge to proceed in coming up with a new map. The order indicates that once litigation over the issue is completed, the Legislature might get a chance to draw a revised map.
Yahoo News – Hiroko Tabuchi (New York Times) | Published: 10/24/2023
When Maine lawmakers tried to rein in large-scale access to the state’s freshwater this year, the effort initially gained momentum. Then a Wall Street-backed giant called BlueTriton stepped in. Americans today buy more bottled water than any other packaged drink, and BlueTriton owns many of the nation’s biggest brands. Maine’s bill threatened the company’s access to the groundwater it bottles and sells. The legislation had already gotten a majority vote on the committee and was headed toward the full Legislature, when a lobbyist for BlueTriton proposed an amendment that would eviscerate the entire bill.
Yahoo News – Kinga Borondy (Worcester Telegram & Gazette) | Published: 10/24/2023
The Massachusetts attorney general’s office reached a settlement with stated Sen. Ryan Fattman; his wife, Worcester Registrar of Probate Stephanie Fattman; and members of their campaign committees in the three-year probe into campaign finance irregularities. The settlements to be paid total hundreds of thousands of dollars, the largest amounts ever paid by candidate committees to the state to resolve cases.
MLive – Simon Schuster | Published: 10/25/2023
A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a package of legislation that details what state elected officials must include in Michigan’s first-ever financial disclosures. The legislation, while bringing specificity to some areas 2022’s Proposal 1 left vague, also leaves gaps in reporting, exempting public officials from having to disclose some of the very financial benefits that roiled state government in recent scandals. Nicholas Pigeon, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, called the bills “a mixed bag … that is pretty weak compared to the rest of the country.”
MSN – Christina Hall (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 10/25/2023
The Warren city attorney filed state campaign finance complaints against three city council members for comments they made during a council meeting using city equipment, which was broadcast live and is on video on the city’s website. The complaints come days after the secretary of state’s office determined Mayor Jim Fouts may have violated the law by endorsing candidates during his State of the City address.
Missouri Independent – Jason Hancock | Published: 10/23/2023
Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher filed an expense report to be reimbursed for a $1,199.60 plane ticket to the 2023 Uniform Law Commission conference. The House ultimately agreed to pay him the money. But the cost of the ticket did not come out of Plocher’s bank account. It came out of his campaign. Seven months earlier, “Plusher for Missouri” reported paying $1,199.60 for airfare to Hawaii for the conference. A review of Plocher’s expense reports over the years shows the Hawaii expense was not an isolated event.
Yahoo News – Francesca Chambers (USA Today) | Published: 10/24/2023
President Joe Biden’s name will not be on the New Hampshire primary ballot. Biden has been tussling with the state for nearly a year over its historically early primary date and will not make the trip to Concord to file. In a break with centuries-old tradition, the incumbent president will not appear on the state’s Democratic primary ballot at all, with the national party pledging to discipline candidates who compete in unsanctioned primaries like the one New Hampshire plans to hold.
MSN – Brent Johnson (New Jersey Advance Media) | Published: 10/23/2023
Allegations about a “dark money” group pushing “phantom candidates” have invaded a pair of tense races for the New Jersey Legislature. Republican candidates in the second and fourth districts, two of the most competitive in this year’s elections, have asked top law enforcement officials to investigate a new nonprofit group with a Queens address that sent out campaign mailers to voters urging them to support independent or third-party “conservative” candidates.
Albany Times Union – Lana Bellamy | Published: 10/26/2023
New York Sen. James Skoufis alleges the Orange County government entered into illegal contracts with an information technology company in order to enrich the family of a top-ranking county official, and county administrators have attempted to cover up a larger corruption scheme. Skoufis laid out the case that contracts between the county and StarCIO totaling $823,000 were illegally procured and inflated to enrich Isaac Sacolick, the company’s proprietor and the brother-in-law of county Human Resources Commissioner Langdon Chapman.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2023
A New York judge fined Donald Trump $10,000 for violating a gag order in a business-fraud lawsuit and warned the former president the penalties will only get worse if he keeps breaking the rules set for the civil trial, in which he is accused of falsely inflating his property values. The five-figure fine came after New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron unexpectedly called Trump to the witness stand to explain, under oath, a comment he made outside the courtroom earlier in the day.
The City – George Joseph | Published: 10/24/2023
Shahid and Yahya Mushtaq, two brothers who run a construction company in Queens, each pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge stemming from a straw donor scheme that aimed to generate illicit public matching funds for Eric Adams’ successful 2021 mayoral campaign. The brothers’ plea deals require them both to pay a $500 fine and complete 35 hours of community service.
The Gothamist – Jon Campbell | Published: 10/25/2023
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office will not say who pledged to pay for the governor’s recent visit to Israel, an arrangement the state’s ethics board has not yet approved, despite her trip to the Middle East last week. Hochul spent two days in Israel amid its war with Hamas, touring the country and meeting with dignitaries, along with victims and their families. Gubernatorial spokesperson Avi Small said the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government is still “in the final stages of reviewing this arrangement to ensure it fully complies with state ethics law.”
MSN – Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2023
The North Carolina General Assembly gave final approval to new congressional and state legislative district maps that would empower the state Republican Party for years to come. North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats are now evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. The new map would probably flip at least three of those seats to the GOP. Proponents say they are allowed to draw maps that favor political parties because of recent court precedent, and Republicans have the power to do so because they won more seats in both chambers of the Legislature.
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/24/2023
Thousands of inactive Ohio voters were purged from the state’s voter rolls in September at the direction of Secretary of State Frank LaRose after some voters had already begun casting ballots in the November election. LaRose maintains he issued the directive because he’s required by federal and state election law to set rules and timelines for maintaining accurate voter registration lists. But a state lawmaker asked why he did not delay it until after the general election, as he did earlier ahead of the August special election on a proposed constitutional amendment to make it harder to pass future amendments.
WCPO – Taylor Weiter and Dan Monk | Published: 10/19/2023
Commercials promoting the sale of the Cincinnati Southern Railway no longer feature Mayor Aftab Pureval after a media investigation found connections between campaigns for the sale and Pureval’s re-election. Building Cincinnati’s Future and Friends of Aftab Pureval, the mayor’s re-election campaign, share the same treasurer, Jens Sutmoller.
MSN – Clifton Adcock (The Frontier) | Published: 10/24/2023
Common Sense Conservatives spent money on a direct mail advertisement this fall against Baptist minister Dusty Deevers in a Republican primary for a seat in the Oklahoma Senate. Records show Common Sense Conservatives is one small piece of a larger, nationwide “dark money” network that conducts most of its operations out of Ohio, has been involved in numerous federal and state-level campaigns in other states including Oklahoma, and has ties to at least one bogus charity.
October 20, 2023 •
National/Federal Gag Order on Trump in Election Case Leaves More Hard Questions DNyuz – Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 10/17/2023 U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan’s gag order against Donald Trump is the first major consequence of […]
DNyuz – Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 10/17/2023
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan’s gag order against Donald Trump is the first major consequence of his life as a criminal defendant. But in some ways, the order raises more questions than it answers, including how the judge intends to enforce her restrictions. Chutkan ruled Trump’s pretrial attacks on potential witnesses and others threatened the integrity of the upcoming trial on charges stemming from his effort to subvert the 2020 election. She barred Trump from continuing to publicly berate special counsel Jack Smith and his team, court staff, or any “reasonably foreseeable witness.”
DNyuz – Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 10/8/2023
Kenneth Chesebro and other lawyers fighting to reverse then-President Trump’s election defeat were debating whether to file litigation contesting Joe Bidens victory in Wisconsin. Chesebro argued there was little doubt the litigation would fail in court as Trump continued to push his baseless claims of widespread fraud. But the “relevant analysis is political,” Chesebro argued. Trump has signaled one of his possible defenses is that he was simply acting on the advice of his lawyers. But Chesebro’s emails could undercut any effort to show the lawyers were focused solely on legal strategies.
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 10/7/2023
Amid concerns that the rise of artificial intelligence will supercharge the spread of misinformation comes a wild fabrication from a more commonplace source: Amazon’s Alexa, which declared the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Asked about fraud in the race, the popular voice assistant said it was “stolen by a massive amount of election fraud,” citing Rumble, a video-streaming service favored by conservatives. Alexa disseminates misinformation about the race even as Amazon promotes the tool as a reliable election news source to more than 70 million estimated users.
MSN – Meryl Kornfield and Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) | Published: 10/19/2023
Four months after launching his presidential campaign with an embrace of traditional conservatism and a rejection of his former running mate Donald Trump, Mike Pence now stands at a difficult crossroads. Plagued by financial problems, low polling numbers, and a message that has not resonated with the party base, he has been forced to confront tough realities this fall about the future of his campaign.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/12/2023
Sen. Robert Menendez was charged in a superseding federal indictment with conspiracy by a public official to act as a foreign agent, intensifying the legal peril the veteran lawmaker faces as he continues to resist calls to resign. Menendez; his wife, Nadine Menendez; and an associate, Wael Hana, were charged with conspiring to have Sen. Menendez act as an illegal foreign agent on behalf of the Egyptian government while he was serving as a U.S. senator with access to sensitive intelligence as the former head of the Foreign Relations Committee.
MSN – Azi Paybarah (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2023
The campaign of scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. George Santos reported refunding more money to donors than it raised during the past three months, raising questions about how seriously he is pursuing reelection. The paltry fundraising figures are not typical for incumbents running in swing districts at this point in the election cycle, particularly when multiple challengers have already announced campaigns.
MSN – Salvador Rizzo (Washington Post) | Published: 10/12/2023
A financial consultant who performed contract work for the IRS pleaded guilty to leaking confidential tax returns filed by the wealthiest Americans, including those of then-President Trump. Charles Littlejohn admitted he obtained thousands of individuals’ tax returns by accessing an IRS database, and then leaked the materials to the New York Times and ProPublica beginning in 2019. The news organizations showed how Trump and others employed strategies to slash their federal tax bills, in some cases down to zero.
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Perry Stein, and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/17/2023
Special counsel Jack Smith withdrew a subpoena seeking records about fundraising by the PAC Save America, a group that is controlled by former President Trump and whose activities related to efforts to block the results of the 2020 presidential election have come under investigation. The move indicates Smith is scaling back at least part of his inquiry into the political fundraising work that fed and benefited from unfounded claims the election was stolen.
MSN – Sarah Ellison and Will Sommer (Washington Post) | Published: 10/17/2023
Fox News host Sean Hannity’s extensive effort to personally whip up votes for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan in his bid to be House speaker highlights the central role right-wing media has played in the drama over who will wield the speaker’s gavel. At each turn, conservative media figures such as Hannity and Stephen Bannon injected high-profile disruption into a process that normally plays out behind the scenes. A handful of backbench lawmakers have seized the opportunity to flex their power in a nearly evenly split chamber, creating drama but offering little direction.
Yahoo News – Julia Shapero (The Hill) | Published: 10/18/2023
As a growing number of businesses lean into their conservative values or credentials to appeal to consumers, some have suggested that a “parallel economy” is emerging. These political appeals have become increasingly important to American consumers amid growing political polarization, said Nailya Ordabayeva of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. As consumers’ politics have influenced their purchasing decisions, companies have sought to tap into these political identities, and these efforts are not unique to the right, Ordabayeva said.
From the States and Municipalities
CBC – Elizabeth Thompson | Published: 10/16/2023
A pricey trip for a group of Conservative Members of Parliament sponsored by a special interest group and a Hungarian think-tank could soon come under the microscope by the House of Commons ethics committee. The trip to London took place last June and was sponsored by Canadians for Affordable Energy and the Danube Institute. Billed as an opportunity to discuss energy policy, the trip included thousands of dollars in flights, hotels, and ground transportation as well as a dinner at the Guinea Grill with $600 bottles of champagne that totaled an estimated $6,262.
Frontiersman – James Brooks (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 10/17/2023
The state of Alaska will provide legal representation for its governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general in ethics complaints filed against those top officials. Current policy allows the state to reimburse top officials for privately hired legal defense under certain circumstances, including in cases where the officials are exonerated. Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills said that is more expensive than using in-house counsel.
MSN – Andrew DeMillo (Associated Press) | Published: 10/12/2023
Arkansas lawmakers voted to audit the purchase of a $19,000 lectern for Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, delving into an unusual controversy that has prompted questions about the seemingly high cost of the item and claims the governor’s office violated the state’s open-records law. The executive committee of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee also voted to audit the governor’s travel and security expenditures that were retroactively shielded from public release under a new Freedom of Information Act exemption Sanders signed in September.
MSN – Michael Slaton (Orange County Register) | Published: 10/12/2023
The Orange City Council is exploring whether to start requiring lobbyists to register and report their actions to the city. The effort is largely to prevent impropriety and promote transparency, officials said, but was also inspired by the recent Anaheim corruption saga. The city council is creating an ad hoc committee to explore the proposed law and update campaign finance laws.
MSN – David Lieb (Associated Press) | Published: 10/9/2023
California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed legislation that would have required dozens of his state’s largest cities, counties, and educational districts to use independent commissions to draw voting districts. California’s local redistricting methods came under scrutiny last year following a leaked recording of a private discussion among several Los Angeles City Council members. The officials, all Latino Democrats, used crude and racist comments while plotting to bolster their political power at the expense of Black voters.
San Francisco Standard – Michael Barba | Published: 10/17/2023
Manh Chau was renovating his dream house in San Francisco when his contractor, Kelvin Zeng, asked him to cut a check for $5,000. Zeng told him to write the name “Bernie Curran” on the check, according to Chau. What Chau did not know at the time was Bernie Curran was not a subcontractor as he had assumed. Curran was a senior building inspector who, just a day after Chau dated the check, inspected his house, court. Now, Curran is about to begin a stint in federal prison after pleading guilty in two separate criminal cases over his financial ties to various property owners in the city.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 10/18/2023
An ethics officer could soon start having some sort of oversight role in Anaheim in the aftermath of one of the biggest public corruption scandals to hit Orange County. City council members unanimously voted to create an ethics officer position and have staff come back with options to explore what exactly that person’s responsibilities will be. Creating an ethics officer position to oversee the city’s lobbyist registration and campaign finance was one of several recommendations that investigators made to the city in a report on the scandal.
Yahoo News – Sarah Blaskey and Joey Flechas (Miami Herald) | Published: 10/13/2023
A company tied to the Miami Dolphins and team owner Stephen Ross, a billionaire with business before the city, gave Mayor Francis Suarez a $3,500 Formula 1 ticket, a newly filed gift disclosure revealed. It is the latest in a drip-drip of information revealing the sources behind Suarez’s $30,000 Grand Prix weekend in May, which is at the center of an ongoing state ethics investigation into whether the mayor violated Florida gifts laws.
Associated Press News – Kate Brumback | Published: 10/19/2023
Lawyer Sidney Powell pleaded guilty to reduced charges over efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election in Georgia, becoming the second defendant in the case to reach a deal with prosecutors. Powell, who was charged with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law, entered the plea just a day before jury selection was set to start in her trial. She pleaded guilty to six misdemeanors accusing her of conspiring to intentionally interfere with the performance of election duties.
Chicago Sun-Times – Robert Herguth | Published: 10/13/2023
Three recent public corruption cases in Illinois shared a common element: state Rep. Bob Rita as a prosecution witness. Rita has not found out yet whether he will be asked to testify in a fourth trial, that of former House Speaker Michel Madigan. Unlike some witnesses in the trials, Rita has neither been charged with any crime nor compelled to testify under a grant of immunity from prosecution. He has been subpoenaed to testify at the request of federal prosecutors about the Illinois General Assembly’s inner workings and Madigan;s close aides.
Yahoo News – A.D. Quig (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/16/2023
The Chicago Board of Ethics fined Ald. Jim Gardiner $20,000 after he was accused of retaliating against a constituent and vocal critic by directing city staff to issue bogus citations that could have forced the man to pay more than $600 in fines. In all, the board said Gardiner violated the ethics code on 10 separate occasions. The city inspector general’s office has only successfully pursued a probable cause finding in 13 ethics investigations and Gardiner was the first who was a sitting city council member.
New Orleans Advocate – John Stanton | Published: 10/17/2023
The New Orleans City Council ousted Gregory Joseph, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s communications director and close advisor, for incompetence, neglecting his duties, and violating campaign finance laws, among other charges. In order to block Joseph from being rehired immediately after being fired, the council voted to suspend Joseph without pay from employment by the city for the remainder of Cantrell’s term.
Yahoo News – Eric Russell (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 10/18/2023
The executive director of Maine’s ethics commission said he does not see sufficient grounds to investigate claims that Senate President Troy Jackson violated campaign finance laws in connection with his purchase of a house. Members could still vote to investigate Jackson, but they would be doing so against the recommendation of Jonathan Wayne. A complaint concerned Jackson’s purchase of a home in Augusta in 2019 while representing a district in Aroostook County. It questioned whether he violated the Legislature’s residency rules or falsely pledged to make the home his primary residence.
MSN – Thomas Goodwin Smith (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 10/12/2023
The 1776 Project PAC, which financially supported Tara Battaglia, James Miller, and Steve Whisler during the 2022 campaign for the Carroll County School Board, was fined $20,250 for failing to identify itself as having paid for 13,879 text messages sent to voters. Maryland law requires campaign messages sent on behalf of candidates to state who paid for the information to be distributed. This includes yard signs, pamphlets, and digital advertisements.
Massachusetts – Bill Aims to Expose ‘Dark Money’ at Town Meetings
Martha’s Vineyard Times – Staff | Published: 10/18/2023
A new bill was filed to counter the influence of what the sponsors are calling “dark money” in town meetings. Massachusetts campaign finance law requires disclosure for any group that receives contributions to oppose or promote a ballot question or influence an election. Candidates for state and local public offices must also follow strict requirements. But these disclosure and transparency requirements do not currently apply to groups seeking to influence issues addressed at town meetings, and do not appear before voters on the ballots, such as warrant articles.
MSN – Danny McDonald (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/19/2023
John FitzGerald’s day job as a deputy director at the Boston Planning & Development Agency may hamstring him from personally raising funds for his city council bid, but it has not stopped his campaign from amassing $109,000, a hefty haul for this kind of race. State ethics law is clear: public employees cannot receive “directly or indirectly, any contribution or anything of value for any political purpose.” But they may run for office, as long as a committee is organized to raise money on their behalf. FitzGerald said he “never solicited a donation for his campaign.”
MSN – Ryan Mancici (MassLive) | Published: 10/14/2023
Abhijit Das, who ran for a U.S. House in Massachusetts, was convicted of violating the Federal Election Campaign Act and making false statements. Among the allegations was that Das inflated his fundraising numbers with a scheme “to solicit personal loans from friends and close associates in excess of the $2,700 legal limit,” prosecutors said. Das also used $267,000 of campaign funds to pay debts for his hotel business relating to vendors.
Massachusetts – Mass. Gets Top Grade for 2020 Redistricting
Salem News – Christian Wade | Published: 10/16/2023
The home state of “gerrymandering” received a top ranking from Common Cause for its once-every-decade legislative redistricting process. Massachusetts got an “A-” grade, tied with California in the highest-in-the nation ranking. Massachusetts got high marks for having a strong coalition of voting access groups participating in the redistricting process, increasing minority representation in the state Legislature, and holding regular public hearings to discuss changes.
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 10/18/2023
Michigan is poised to end the year the same way it began, as one of only two states to fully exempt both the governor’s office and Legislature from public, which the Legislature must finalize by the end of this year under a ballot measure voters approved in 2022. But Democrats are punting on other promised transparency reforms until at least next year, including expansion of the Freedom of Information Act and tighter lobbying rules.
Detroit Free Press – Arpan Lobo | Published: 10/18/2023
Brian Pierce, a former lobbyist who pleaded guilty to participating in a corruption scheme in Michigan’s now-defunct medical marijuana licensing agency, was sentenced to 24 months in prison. Vincent Brown, the other lobbyist to plead guilty in the scheme, was sentenced to 20 months in prison. They both pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bribery, after the federal government accused them of providing $42,000 in cash bribes and other benefits to former House Speaker Rick Johnson during his time as chair of the former Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board.
Yahoo News – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 11/17/2023
Just three years ago, Mississippi had an election law on its books from 1890 constitutional that was designed to uphold “white supremacy” in the state. The law created a system for electing statewide officials that drastically reduced the political power of Black voters. Voters overturned the law in 2020. This summer, an appeals court threw out another law that had permanently stripped voting rights from people convicted of a range of felonies. Now Mississippi is holding its first election for governor since those laws fell, the contest is improbably competitive in this deep-red state, and Black voters are poised to play a critical role.
Nevada Independent – Tabitha Mueller and Eric Neugeboren | Published: 10/15/2023
Several Nevada Democrats have found themselves in the political crosshairs for helping pass two bills in the final days of the legislative session that awarded $110 million in state funds to their nonprofit employers and dozens of other community groups. Lawmakers with connections to the organizations they voted to fund noted guidance they received from the Legislature’s legal division, which maintained the votes are not a conflict-of-interest because the legislation affects the average Nevadan just as much as lawmakers.
MSN – Jonathan Edwards (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2023
Quinn Mitchell is not a journalist, political strategist, or even a voter. He is a 15-year-old high school freshman who, despite his age, has become a fixture on the New Hampshire presidential campaign circuit. His consistent presence and pointed questions at town halls and rallies led former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to describe him as “America’s most famous political teenager.” Quinn was recently kicked out of the state GOP’s First in the Nation Leadership Summit after a volunteer accused him of being a Democratic operative.
DNyuz – Elise Young and Tracey Tully (New York Times) | Published: 10/16/2023
Fred Daibes, the real estate tycoon at the center of an international scandal threatening the career of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, has found his way out of more than one tough spot over the course of his tumultuous life. In 2018, federal indictment accusing him of scheming to defraud a bank he had founded threatened to upend his real estate empire and carried the risk of a lengthy prison term. It was then, prosecutors say, that he turned to a longtime ally for help: Sen. Menendez. What followed would form the basis for federal charges that Daibes, Menendez and his wife, and two other businesspeople are now facing.
ABC News – Anthony Izaguirre (Associated Press) | Published: 10/17/2023
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has been using artificial intelligence (AI) to make robocalls that contort his own voice into several languages he does not actually speak, posing new ethical questions about the government’s use of the rapidly evolving technology. The mayor said the robocalls have gone out in languages such as Mandarin and Yiddish to promote city hiring events. They have not included any disclosure that he only speaks English, or the calls were generated using AI.
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/12/2023
Ohio’s redistricting process received a failing grade from Common Cause, which deemed the state;s congressional and legislative maps to be “unmitigated disasters” overall. The report noted how Ohio residents last year voted on the state’s congressional delegation and most of the state Legislature using district lines that were found to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the state Supreme Court.
NonDoc – Michael McNutt | Published: 10/16/2023
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted to extend the search for its next executive director after the state’s attorney general claimed the search “process has been irreparably flawed and must be started anew.” Commissioners also approved a budget request for the 2025 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2024. The request, more than three times the amount the agency received this year, will be presented to the Oklahoma Legislature for consideration during next year’s regular session.
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 10/19/2023
The Philadelphia Board of Ethics appealed a court ruling that dismissed its high-profile lawsuit against the super PAC that backed Jeff Brown’s unsuccessful campaign for mayor. The board in April sent shockwaves through the mayor’s race when it sued For A Better Philadelphia, which spent millions of dollars to boost Brown as he sought the Democratic nomination. The board accused the super PAC of illegally coordinating with Brown because he raised money for the group in the months leading up to the launch of his campaign in November 2022.
MSN – Adam Powell (El Paso Times) | Published: 10/13/2023
The El Paso City Council advanced a plan that would increase transparency around political contributions but stopped short of acting on a proposed cap on donations. The council voted direct city staff to draft an ordinance that would require disclosure of donors who contributed $500 or more and might benefit from council actions.
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Mike Tony | Published: 10/17/2023
West Virginia Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Jimmy Wriston suggested there is no conflict-of-interest nor appearance of one stemming from the relationship between his agency and a firm the agency contracts with that employs his son. Wriston signed two contracts for the Division of Highways to pay over $25.7 million to the firm, Michael Baker International. At the time, Wriston was deputy commissioner of the Division of Highways. Gov. Jim Justice named Wriston DOT secretary and DOH commissioner in October 2021.
October 13, 2023 •
National/Federal Ex-Treasurer for Rep. George Santos Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy, Tells of Bogus Loan and Fake Donors ABC News – Jake Offenhartz (Associated Press) | Published: 10/5/2023 The ex-treasurer for U.S. Rep. George Santos pleaded guilty to a fraud conspiracy charge and […]
ABC News – Jake Offenhartz (Associated Press) | Published: 10/5/2023
The ex-treasurer for U.S. Rep. George Santos pleaded guilty to a fraud conspiracy charge and implicated Santos in a scheme to embellish his campaign finance reports with a fake loan and fake donors. Nancy Marks, who was a close aide to Santos during his two congressional bids, is a longtime political operative and bookkeeper for multiple candidates.
ABC News – Katherine Faulders, Alexander Mallin, and Mike Levine | Published: 10/5/2023
Months after leaving the White House, former President Trump allegedly discussed potentially sensitive information about U.S. nuclear submarines with a member of his Mar-a-Lago Club – an Australian billionaire who then allegedly shared the information with scores of others, including more than a dozen foreign officials, several of his own employees, and a handful of journalists. Prosecutors and FBI agents have at least twice this year interviewed Anthony Pratt, who runs one of the world’s largest packaging companies.
MSN – Gopal Ratnam (Roll Call) | Published: 10/11/2023
A bipartisan group of lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban the “distribution of materially deceptive AI-generated audio or visual media” about individuals seeking federal office. Civil rights groups, political consultants, free-speech advocates, and lawmakers across the political spectrum have agreed that the use of AI-generated deceptive ads poses risks to the democratic process by misleading voters. The trouble, though, is figuring out where to draw the line on what constitutes deception, or how to enforce prohibitions.
MSN – Marianna Sotomayor, Leigh Ann Caldwell, and Jaqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2023
House Republicans were on the verge of open revolt after the ideologically fractious conference failed to coalesce around a speaker nominee, leaving the chamber rudderless and leaderless. The inability of Republicans to agree on who will lead them has left the chamber in an effective standstill since Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted as speaker, unable to consider any legislation to aid Israel in its war against Hamas or pass any appropriation bills to avoid a potential government shutdown. Neither issue produced enough urgency for Republicans to quickly elect a speaker as many had hoped, again highlighting the conference’s deep divisions.
MSN – Matt Durot (Forbes) | Published: 10/10/2023
Charles Koch is making big moves to ensure his charities and causes are funded long after he is gone. Koch, who is worth $54.5 billion, said that over the last four years he has transferred $5.3 billion of his conglomerate’s nonvoting stock to a pair of nonprofits with fewer restrictions on lobbying and politics than traditional charities. Koch did not make gifts of his company stock directly to the Stand Together nonprofit network. Instead, he chose groups that support the network and are allowed to directly engage in political campaigns and to do an unlimited amount of issue lobbying, as long as those are not their primary activities).
MSN – Tyler Pager and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2023
President Biden was interviewed over the last two days as part of the investigation led by special counsel Robert Hur into the discovery of classified documents at Biden’s private office and Delaware home. When appointing Hur to lead the probe, Attorney General Merrick Garland cited the “extraordinary circumstances” of the Justice Department investigating the president as he considered a reelection bid. Biden formally launched his reelection campaign months later.
MSN – Anumita Kaur (Washington Post) | Published: 10/10/2023
A superseding indictment charges U.S. Rep. George Santos with stealing the identities of family members and using donors’ credit cards to spend thousands of dollars, intensifying the legal peril facing Santos five months after he was charged with a host of other financial crimes. The most recent indictment accuses Santos of running two fraudulent schemes during the 2022 election cycle, in addition to the other shams alleged in May.
Seattle Times – Trip Gabriel (New York Times) | Published: 10/7/2023
Americans are increasingly fracturing as a people, and some are taking the extraordinary step of moving to escape a political or social climate they abhor. Democrats have left red states as Republicans have moved out of blue states, often over views on issues like abortion, transgender rights, school curricula, guns, race, and other matters. While there is no precise count of how many Americans have relocated because of politics and social issues, interviews with demographers and people who have moved or are considering moving, as well as a review of social media postings and polling, show the phenomenon is real.
Yahoo News – Taylor Giorno (The Hill) | Published: 10/11/2023
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is facing allegations he and his wife accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes. In exchange, he allegedly used his influence to protect three businesspeople and benefit the government of Egypt. The new criminal charges against Menendez have invited scrutiny of the legal ways money may influence public policy, including political contributions and lobbying. Paul Miller, founding partner at Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies, takes issue with tying lobbyists to the Menendez case, which centers on alleged bribery by businesspeople who are not registered lobbyists.
Yahoo News – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 10/12/2023
Among the bold claims in a recent motion filed by Donald Trump seeking to dismiss the federal indictment accusing him of conspiring to undermine the 2020 election, there was a significant concession. The key U.S. Supreme Court precedent the motion relied on for claiming “absolute immunity” from criminal prosecution, his lawyers acknowledged, did not address criminal prosecutions. Should Trump lose in the trial court and on appeal, there is every reason to think he will ask the Supreme Court to step in.
Yahoo News – Brittany Gibson and Madison Fernandez (Politico) | Published: 10/5/2023
A company at the center of the Democratic Party’s digital strategy is on the verge of a meltdown, sparking alarm among a broad constellation of liberal groups that are relying on it ahead of 2024. NGP VAN provides tools used by Democrats, from the White House to local school boards, to raise money and mobilize voters. But with new management in recent years, it has been stripping its operations to the bare bones.
From the States and Municipalities
MSN – Joseph Bryant (AL.com) | Published: 10/12/2023
As he makes his first court appearance in his federal corruption case, state Rep. John Rogers says he is ready to fight the charges and seek another term in the Alabama Legislature. A grand jury charged Rogers with obstruction in a kickback scheme involving public money from the Jefferson County Community Service fund, a collection of tax dollars that local lawmakers get to dole out to local causes. Prosecutors allege Rogers attempted to bribe someone to lie to investigators about the scheme by promising them additional public money.
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro and Madison Fernandez (Politico) | Published: 10/5/2023
A federal court picked Alabama’s new congressional map, which will likely result in an additional Black – and Democratic – member in the delegation. The new map came after the same panel of federal judges twice found that lines drawn by the GOP-dominated Legislature likely violated the Voting Rights Act by weakening the power of Black voters. The new lines will be used for at least the 2024 elections, though Alabama Republicans have vowed to fight them for future cycles.
MSN – Yvonne Winget Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 10/5/2023
If the 2024 presidential election is close in Arizona, a newly enacted state law will mandate a ballot recount that will probably cause the state to miss crucial deadlines for certifying the vote. The battleground state is expected to play a pivotal role in the next presidential election and any holdup in counting votes there could cause chaos.
Yahoo News – Andrew DeMillo (Associated Press) | Published: 10/10/2023
Arkansas Gov, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is facing new and deepening questions after newly released public records revealed her office bought a lectern for $19,000 and a whistle-blower accused the office of altering records to cover up the spending. The Arkansas Republican Party paid for the lectern in September, but the words “to be reimbursed” were only added later to the original invoice. The undated reimbursement note adds to weeks of scrutiny over the purchase. A legislative panel is expected to vote on a request for an audit of the lectern’s purchase.
MSN – Frank Stoltze (LAist) | Published: 10/10/2023
Outrage followed the release in 2022 of a secretly recorded audio tape of some Los Angeles City Council members making racist and derogatory remarks. The audio was from a meeting where four council members were discussing how to redraw council district boundaries in a way that would maintain their power. For weeks, council meetings were marked by loud, angry protests that often shut down the proceedings. In the year since the tapes were leaked, the fallout from the scandal has fundamentally changed City Hall.
California – SF Government Watchdogs Eye New Ethics Regulations
San Francisco Examiner – Adam Shanks | Published: 10/11/2023
More than three years after a corruption scandal swept through San Francisco City Hall, the Ethics Commission will see its broad proposal for reforms finally land on the ballot. The measure. set to appear before voters in March 2024, would set new restrictions on accepting gifts and expand ethics training for city employees. In the meantime, the Ethics Commission is already contemplating regulations on thorny topics such as city employees’ ability to manage companies that contract with their own departments.
Yahoo News – Sarah Blaskey, and Tess Riski (Miami Herald) | Published: 10/5/2023
When a reporter asked Miami Mayor Francis Suarez to comment on billionaire Ken Griffin’s controversial plan to relocate a historic home from his $106 million bayfront estate and turn it into a tourist attraction, the mayor expressed his full support. But Suarez’s sentiments were scripted, word for word, by Griffin’s spokesperson, who gave them to the city, emails indicate. The mayor’s office then presented the statement as Suarez’s own words to the Miami Herald.
MSN – Kevin Sullivan and Clara Ence Morse (Washington Post) | Published: 10/7/2023
Illinois Democrats used their supermajority to redraw congressional district lines in a way that would strengthen their already solid lock on power. The strategy worked, adding one Democratic seat to the Illinois delegation, and trimming two Republican ones as GOP voters were packed into a smaller number of districts. The new map also accomplished what experts say gerrymandering does with ruthless efficiency, regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are responsible: hollowing out the moderate political center and driving both parties further toward the ideological fringes.
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/11/2023
In a departure from usual practices at City Hall, Chicago’s $100,000 settlement agreement with whistleblowers who were fired by Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin prohibits them from publicly discussing their negative experiences in her office. Of more than three dozen settlements reached with city workers over the past five years, the deal that Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration reached with the treasurer’s ex-employees was the only one that contained what amounts to a gag order. In a handful of cases, former employees agreed not to discuss the terms of their settlements, but they could still speak freely about their time in city government.
Yahoo Finance – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/11/2023
James Weiss, the son-in-law of former Cook County Democratic boss Joseph Berrios, was sentenced to five-and-one-half years in prison, bringing an end to a bribery case centered on the shady world of sweepstakes gaming with elements of political corruption, a state senator turned government mole, and even alleged mob ties. In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Seeger decried Chicago’s long history of public corruption, saying cases like Weiss’ cause people to “roll their eyes” when they meet someone from Chicago.
MSN – Tyler Pager and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2023
The Democratic Party officially dislodged Iowa from its prized status as the first state in the presidential nominating process, approving the state Democratic Party’s plan to release their results on Super Tuesday next year. The decision ends a nearly two-year fight over Iowa’s place in selecting a Democratic nominee, which resulted in a complete overhaul of the calendar.
WDRB – Marcus Green | Published: 10/10/2023
Metro government’s ethics agency is suing Louisville and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, claiming it does not have total control over its own records as local law requires. The lawsuit argues the mayor-appointed Louisville Metro Ethics Commission is :at the mercy” of Metro government and its open records personnel to fulfill those requests under Kentucky law. As a result, the suit alleges, some records have been made public without the commission’s input, while it is not known if documents have been withheld.
Killeen Daily – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 9/30/2023
The Michigan Republican Party had about $35,000 in its bank accounts in August, according to internal records that flash new warning signs about the dire state of the GOP’s finances and raise questions about whether the organization is complying with campaign finance laws. The party has regularly transferred money from an account that is usually focused on federal elections to other accounts to afford expenses. Earlier this year, the party’s federal account was loaned $15,000 after that account’s balance turned negative. The transaction was not reported in disclosures from the campaign or the party’s federal committee.
Helena Independent Record – Seaborn Larson | Published: 10/11/2023
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Chris Gallus dismissed an ethics complaint regarding Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras’ rental agreement with a religious advocacy group. Gallus found the complaint filed by state Democrats failed to articulate a violation and instead urged his office to investigate the party’s suspicions. The Montana Democratic Party asserted Juras was given a lease agreement below market rate for a rental home owned by the Montana Family Institute. That organization is closely aligned with the Montana Family Foundation, a longtime proponent of conservative causes.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 10/10/2023
A state appeals court said New York’s ethics panel can remain in operation as it seeks to overturn a lower court decision that determined its structure violates the state constitution. The appeals court’s decision comes a month after a state Supreme Court justice ruled the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government was created in violation of the constitution and must suspend its work.
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 10/10/2023
Thousands of pages of court documents prepared by New York Attorney General Letitia James as evidence in the fraud case she has filed against Donald Trump show how accounting, banking, and real estate experts repeatedly informed Trump how much his properties and businesses were really worth. But over and over again, the documents reveal that Trump, his adult sons, and top executives allegedly ignored or sidelined those experts, exchanging their figures for numbers from another source: Trump’s own intuition.
The City – Greg Smith | Published: 10/10/2023
A tow company owner who raised money for New York City Mayor Eric Adams and faces bribery charges tied to his interactions with a former top mayoral aide has been enmeshed in scandals dating back 25 years, including one in which prosecutors alleged his company was controlled by the Genovese crime family. Mazzio was indicted on charges of bribing aide Eric Ulrich. In exchange for cash and New York Mets tickets, prosecutors allege Ulrich got Mazzio access to Adams’ chief advisor and a dinner with the mayor.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 10/10/2023
Republican lawmakers overrode North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill that overhauls who runs elections and achieves a long-sought goal of the state GOP. The legislation creates bipartisan boards that could deadlock on establishing early voting locations or certifying results in a state that may prove crucial in next year’s presidential election. Republicans contend the bill helps guarantee elections will be run fairly by establishing bipartisan election boards that will take politics out of the process.
MSN – Annie Gowan (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2023
In state after state since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Democrats and their abortion rights allies have won victories over Republicans and others who oppose abortion. The latest battleground is Ohio, where a GOP supermajority has fought to consolidate its power in ways that critics, and even some within the party, say threatens democracy.
MSN – Samantha Hendrickson (Associated Press) | Published: 10/11/2023
A schism between House Republicans appears to only be widening after a rival GOP-contingent sued fellow conservative Speaker Jason Stephens to seize control of over $1 million in campaign money from the Ohio House Republican Alliance and its coffers that fund campaigns for state GOP legislators. The lawsuit argues Rep. Derek Merrin is the leader of the alliance after a closed-door vote by the majority of the House Republican caucus earlier this year. Therefore, he leads the alliance and has authority over distributing its funds, which are expected to grow as campaign season revs up.
WVXU – Nick Swartsell | Published: 10/10/2023
Former Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld will spend 16 months in prison, one year on probation, and pay a $40,000 fine on corruption charges. A jury found Sittenfeld guilty on one charge of bribery and one charge of extortion in 2022. At the center of Sittenfeld’s conviction are allegations he received $20,000 from undercover FBI agents.
MSN – Moriah Balingit (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2023
A state board in Oklahoma approved a contract with St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School, bringing the institution one step closer to becoming the first publicly funded religious charter school in the nation. The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted for the contract despite opposition from the state’s attorney general and a lawsuit that seeks to stop the school from opening. If the school opens, it would represent a new model in education: a tuition-free school with a religious curriculum that is funded largely with taxpayer dollars.
KGW – Jamie Parfitt | Published: 10/11/2023
A newly released report dives into the role that former Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan played in an audit of the state’s cannabis regulatory agency, completed just before Fagan resigned amid ethics concerns due to her moonlighting work in the cannabis industry. Oregon’s audits division, like its election division, is overseen by the secretary of state. Around the time that Fagan resigned, Gov. Tina Kotek requested that Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum conduct an examination of the audits division’s cannabis audit in order to determine if there had been any influence from Fagan’s ties to the industry.
Yahoo News – Alan Torres (Eugene Register-Guard) | Published: 10/7/2023
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission voted unanimously to dismiss a complaint against Michael Selvaggio, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local (UFCW) 555 lobbyist who led the failed recall campaign against state Rep. Paul Holvey. The lawmaker accused Selvaggio of violating state law by filing the recall while House Bill 3183, a priority bill for UFCW that Holvey opposed, was in the House Rules Committee. It is illegal for a lobbyist to influence a legislator’s vote by funding or threatening to fund opposition.
Pennsylvania – Inside a Tangled Web of Pa. Businesses and Big Campaign Cash
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Matt Bernardini and Mike Wereschagin | Published: 10/9/2023
The flood of campaign donations by businessperson Adam Kidan and the access he gained through those contributions to prominent politicians illustrates how top political donors can enter the corridors of power through doors not open to average voters. With critical campaigns next year for president and U.S. Senate, good-government experts worry the use of corporations to dump cash into elections is undermining laws designed to show the public who is behind the most consequential decision-makers in the country.
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 10/11/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared likely to uphold a Republican-drawn congressional district in South Carolina that a lower court found was racially gerrymandered. The case tests the legal limits of partisan gerrymandering when it intersects with race. The NAACP is accusing GOP lawmakers of drawing the state’s First Congressional District by shuffling Black voters in and out of the district to make it reliably Republican.
MSN – Molly Hennessey-Fiske (Washington Post) | Published: 10/8/2023
A civil war is raging among Texas Republicans. As lawmakers returned to Austin to address school vouchers and border security, that infighting threatens to consume the third special session of the year. The GOP has ruled all three branches of state government for decades, but this year tensions within the party have boiled over into very public battles. “… You have leadership of the Republican Party … trying to fend off challenges from the grassroots, certainly populist wing of the party,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican strategist based in Austin.
Seattle Times – Renata Geraldo | Published: 10/5/2023
Port of Seattle Commissioner Fred Felleman violated the Port’s code of ethics by using his position to gain special privileges or exemptions with a nonprofit, the Port Board of Ethics found. Felleman tried using his commissioner status to get involved in the leadership of nonprofit Washington Maritime Blue’s Quiet Sound program. Quiet Sound, partly funded by the Port, seeks to reduce the underwater noise impact of large vessels on orcas. The program’s procedures say nontribal elected officials cannot join its leadership committee.
Yahoo News – Reid Epstein and Julie Bosman (New York Times) | Published: 10/6/2023
The liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear a case challenging the state’s Republican-drawn legislative districts, a decision that could spur impeachment proceedings against a newly elected justice, Janet Protasiewicz, who refused to recuse herself from the case. The decision to accept the case, known as an original action because it means the case will bypass Wisconsin’s trial and appeals courts, comes over the objections of at least two of the court’s three conservative justices and the state’s leading Republicans.
October 6, 2023 •
National/Federal Supreme Court to Decide Landmark Texas, Florida Social Media Cases and More MSN – Ann Marimow and Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 9/29/2023 The Supreme Court said it would wade into the future of free speech online and decide whether […]
MSN – Ann Marimow and Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 9/29/2023
The Supreme Court said it would wade into the future of free speech online and decide whether laws passed in Texas and Florida can restrict social media companies from removing certain political posts or accounts. The court’s review of those laws will be the highest-profile examination to date of allegations that Silicon Valley companies are illegally censoring conservative viewpoints. Those accusations reached a fever pitch when Facebook, Twitter, and other companies suspended Donald Trump’s accounts in the wake of the attack on the Capitol.
MSN – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/1/2023
Some of the issues and political stalemates that haunt the Supreme Court are returning for the new term, accompanied by another concern: how to convince the public that the justices take seriously their ethical obligations. Reports about some justices hobnobbing with billionaire friends on lavish trips and maintaining ties to those who have business before the court have become the elephant in the courtroom. Justices across the ideological spectrum have said confidence in their decision-making is key to public acceptance of the court’s role as the final word on the law and Constitution.
MSN – Jessica Guynn and John Fritze (USA Today) | Published: 10/3/2023
The nation’s top cybersecurity defense agency likely violated the First Amendment when lobbying Silicon Valley companies to remove or suppress the spread of online content about elections, a federal appeals court ruled. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals expanded an injunction to include the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, ruling it used frequent interactions with social media platforms “to push them to adopt more restrictive policies on election-related speech.”
MSN – Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2023
Historians and political scientists say the vote to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House is a warning sign for the health of American democracy. The vote reflected the enormous power that a small group of representatives on their party’s ideological fringe can wield over an entire institution, said Daniel Ziblatt, a professor of government at Harvard University. It also showcased how difficult it will be for anyone to corral the House in a way that is functional, with major decisions over the budget and Ukraine funding ahead. “… [This] should set off alarm bells that something is not right,” said Ziblatt.
Seattle Times – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 10/3/2023
Rep. Matt Gaetz’s successful push to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy has cemented his status as one of the most reviled members of the House of Representatives, including among many of his fellow Republicans, and drawn attention to a long-running investigation by the House Ethics Committee into Gaetz’s conduct. McCarthy has argued that Gaetz’s motion to remove him is little more than personal payback for McCarthy’s failure to interfere with the inquiry, which is looking into allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of funds by Gaetz.
Yahoo News – Jonathan Swain (New York Times) | Published: 9/29/2023
A well-funded group of anti-Trump conservatives has sent its donors a candid memo that reveals how resilient former President Trump has been against millions of dollars of negative ads the group deployed against him in two early voting states. Win It Back has spent more than $4 million trying to lower Trump’s support among Republican voters in Iowa and nearly $2 million more in South Carolina. But in the memo, the head of Win It Back PAC, David McIntosh, acknowledges that after testing more than 40 anti-Trump television ads, “all attempts to undermine his conservative credentials on specific issues were ineffective.”
Yahoo News – Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 10/4/2023
For more than a decade, friends conceded, Rudolph Giuliani’s drinking has been a problem. As he surged back to prominence during Donald Trump’s presidency, it was getting more difficult to hide it. Now, prosecutors in the federal election case against Trump have shown an interest in Giuliani’s drinking habits and whether the former president ignored what his aides described as the plain inebriation of the former mayor. The answer could complicate any efforts by Trump’s team to lean on a so-called advice-of-counsel defense, a strategy that could portray him as a client merely taking professional cues from his lawyers.
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein and Kylie Cheney (Politico) | Published: 10/2/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court, minus a recused Clarence Thomas, turned down a bid by attorney John Eastman to erase court rulings that described him as a linchpin in former President Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election. The decision essentially enshrines rulings by a federal judge in California that found Eastman’s emails contained evidence of a likely crime related to Trump’s efforts.
Yahoo News – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/27/2023
Robert Menendez rose from a New Jersey tenement to the pinnacle of power in Washington as the state’s senior U.S. senator. But those who have closely followed his career say the years he spent enmeshed in former Union City Mayor William Musto’s machine also set the tone for another, more sinister undercurrent that now threatens to swallow it – one in which Menendez became a power broker himself whose own close ties to moneyed interests have repeatedly attracted the scrutiny of federal prosecutors.
Yahoo News – Michael Blood and Mary Clare Jalonick (Associated Press) | Published: 9/29/2023
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, broke gender barriers throughout her long career in local and national politics, has died. She was 90. Feinstein, the oldest sitting senator, was a passionate advocate for liberal priorities important to her state, including environmental protection, reproductive rights, and gun control, but was also known as a pragmatic lawmaker who reached out to Republicans and sought middle ground.
From the States and Municipalities
MSN – Stacey Barchenger (Arizona Republic) | Published: 10/4/2023
Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes announced in July that her chief of staff would be leaving the office four weeks later, wishing her “all the best in her future endeavors.” In the month that followed, that top aide, Amy Love, appeared to do little to no work while collecting a paycheck from taxpayers. Love went to the office just once in four weeks. She sent just one email in that time, to another staffer. Many of the meetings on Love’s schedule were canceled, and those that remained largely appear to be routine internal team meetings. It is unclear if Love attended those gatherings.
MSN – Stacey Barchenger (Arizona Republic) | Published: 10/3/2023
Arizona political and economic development leaders’ use of major events such as the Super Bowl to woo company executives to bring business to the state have cost more than $2.4 million in six years, according to a new audit. Dubbed the CEO Forum, the business recruiting events tied to high-profile sporting events were a favorite way for former Gov. Doug Ducey to tout the perks of the state as part of his effort to be business friendly. The auditor general asked the state attorney general to probe whether the program violated the gift clause of the Arizona Constitution.
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 9/29/2023
Arizona’s top elections official says the No Labels party cannot block candidates from using its ballot line to run for office, boosting opponents’ efforts to force the movement for a third-party presidential ticket to release more information about its anonymous donors. A senior official for Secretary of State Adrian Fontes rejected No Labels’ request to exclude two people who have filed paperwork to run for state office without the support of the party’s leadership. One of the two people opposes No Labels and is deliberately trying to force the party to comply with Arizona’s campaign finance laws.
MSN – Maeve Reston and Tyler Pager (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2023
California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler to fill the Senate seat held by Dianne Feinstein, who died at the age of 90. Feinstein had just over a year left in her term and had said she would not run again. Three of California’s top Democrats – U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff – are in a contentious primary to fill the seat starting in January 2025, in what is likely to be the most expensive congressional race in the nation next year.
MSN – Julia Wick, Dakota Smith, and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/2/2023
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission accused city Councilperson John Lee of violating ethics laws during a trip he took to Las Vegas before he was elected to the council. The accusations stem from Lee’s time working as chief of staff for former Councilperson Mitchell Englander, who pleaded guilty in 2020 to lying to federal investigators and was later sentenced to 14 months in prison. According to commission investigators, Lee accepted “multiple gifts from a businessperson and a developer, most of which exceeded the gift limit,” in 2016 and 2017.
MSN – City News Service | Published: 10/4/2023
In an attempt to increase public trust, two Los Angeles City Council members introduced a motion seeking to establish an Office of Compliance, with staff and resources to help identify potential conflicts-of-interest in advance of any votes. The office would review financial disclosure and other forms, as well as council and committee agendas to identify any potential conflicts. The city council has been rocked by a number of ethics scandals and accusations in recent years.
San Francisco Examiner – Marcus White | Published: 10/2/2023
A San Francisco building inspector caught in a web of corruption at City Hall will serve at least another year in prison when his sentence begins. Bernie Curran, who pleaded guilty to perjury and financial conflict-of-interest, was sentenced to two years in prison. Curran can serve that sentence concurrently with a one-year, one-day federal sentence after he pleaded guilty in July to accepting illegal payments from people whose buildings he inspected.
Voice of OC – Brandon Pho | Published: 10/4/2023
A retired federal judge brought a civil lawsuit against Orange County Board of Education member Mari Barke for allegedly failing to disclose as much as $14 million in income and business interests since her election. It comes amidst a campaign finance probe by the Fair Political Practices Commission into Barke’s disclosure filings. The lawsuit says that until March of this year, Barke had only reported $99 worth of income, business interests, investments, and gifts since assuming office in 2018.
Yahoo News – Tim Sheehan (Fresno Bee) | Published: 10/2/2023
Superior Court Judge Jonathan Skiles ruled against Fresno County’s campaign fundraising law limiting the amount a candidate for supervisor can transfer from another fund. The county limited transfers to $30,000, whereas incumbents had no limits on money from previous campaigns. City council members Garry Bredefeld and Luis Chavez now will have the ability to move their campaign funds to their races for the county board of supervisors.
District of Columbia – Leonard Leo Says He Will Not Cooperate with D.C. Attorney General Tax Probe
Yahoo News – Heidi Przybyla (Politico) | Published: 10/3/2023
Judicial activist Leonard Leo is not cooperating with an investigation by District of Columbia Attorney General Brian Schwalb for potentially misusing nonprofit tax laws for personal enrichment. David Rivkin, Leo’s attorney, said Schwalb has “no legal authority to conduct any investigatory steps or take any enforcement measures” because Leo’s multi-billion-dollar aligned nonprofits, which poured millions of dollars into campaigning for the nominations of conservative Supreme Court justices and advocating before them, were organized outside of the District of Columbia.
Yahoo News – Sarah Blaskey and Tess Riski (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/28/2023
The Florida Commission on Ethics officially opened an investigation into Miami Mayor Francis Suarez following a complaint regarding his acceptance of expensive tickets to sporting events like the Miami Formula One Grand Prix and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The complaint raises questions about who paid for the various tickets worth thousands of dollars and whether Suarez complied with ethics laws requiring the mayor to disclose the source of all gifts, including complimentary access, valued over $100. The laws also prohibit elected officials from accepting such gifts from city vendors, lobbyists, or their employers.
DNyuz – Danny Hakim and Richard Fausset (New York Times) | Published: 10/4/2023
Within weeks, prosecutors will present their case alleging a sprawling conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. But the star defendant, former President Trump, will not be there. Instead, the defendants in the first trial in the racketeering case against Trump and 18 of his allies will be two of the lawyers who tried to keep him in power after the election: Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, who were the only ones to seek speedy trials. The former president will loom over the courtroom, though. That has much to do with how racketeering cases work.
NPR – Associated Press | Published: 9/29/2023
A bail bondsman charged alongside former President Trump and 17 others in the Georgia election interference case pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, becoming the first defendant to accept a plea deal with prosecutors. As part of the deal, Scott Graham Hall will receive five years of probation and will testify in further proceedings. He was also ordered to write a letter of apology to the citizens of Georgia and is forbidden from participating in polling activities. Prosecutors accused him of participating in a breach of election equipment in Coffee County.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Kevin Dayton | Published: 10/2/2023
The state executive now tasked with devising a plan to finance a $900 million jail on Oahu worked for years as a registered lobbyist for CoreCivic, which is a prison developer that lobbied for years to try to get the state to move forward with the project. State Budget Director Luis Salaveria was registered as a lobbyist for CoreCivic until the end of last year but said he did not participate in the company’s push to get the state to issue a request for proposals to build the new jail.
KTVB – Abby Davis | Published: 9/28/2023
The November 7 elections are coming up, and election transparency is top of mind for the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. It released a new campaign finance and lobbying dashboard, which lists all the mayoral and city council candidates. The aim of the dashboard is to give voters a better understanding of candidates. On the new dashboard, people can see how much money those candidates have raised and where it comes from. Previously, the data took a lot of time and effort to look through.
MSN – Praveena Somasundaram (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2023
The police chief who led the controversial raid of a newspaper office and its publisher’s home in a small Kansas town resigned days after he was suspended. During the raid in Marion, Kansas, officials seized a computer that held details about the Marion County Record’s investigation into Police Chief Gideon Cody. The raid Cody conducted set off a storm of questions from news organizations and their advocates, who viewed it as a major threat to press freedom.
Yahoo News – Dylan Lysen and Celia Llopis-Jepson (Wichita Eagle) | Published: 9/28/2023
A lawmaker threatened to strip funding from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks if it bans people from baiting deer with piles of food. State Rep. Lewis Bloom, a farmer from Clay Center, went as far as to claim the chairperson of the committee that oversees the agency’s budget would help him retaliate by defunding the department. Rep. Ken Corbet, chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget Committee, owns a lodge that offers deer hunting for thousands of dollars per person, raising concerns of a conflict-of-interest.
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/29/2023
The Massachusetts Republican Party agreed to settle allegations it took $137,000 in “impermissible” donations from a state senator in 2020 and used the money to help the campaign of his wife, according to an agreement the party’s new leader signed with state prosecutors. The GOP will pay $15,000 in three installments under the deal.
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 10/3/2023
Inkster Mayor Patrick Wimberly was indicted in federal court, accused of receiving $50,000 in bribes, throwing the November election into disarray as the Wayne County politician becomes the latest public official accused of wrongdoing in a broader assault on corruption in Metro Detroit. Wimberly is accused of demanding cash to facilitate the sale of city-owned property to an unidentified “outside party,” prosecutors said. The person gave Wimberly $5,000 monthly cash bribes until Wimberly demanded more and the person started paying $10,000 each month, according to the indictment.
MLive – Michael Kransz | Published: 9/28/2023
Former Michigan House Speaker Rick Johnson was sentenced to four years and seven months in prison for accepting bribes as head of a marijuana licensing board. He admitted accepting at least $110,000 when he led the now defunct Medical Marijuana Licensing Board from 2017 to 2019. In exchange, federal prosecutors say Johnson gave bribe payers inside information pertaining to the board’s work and other medical marijuana applicants, as well as support through the licensing process and favorable votes on license applications.
Nevada Independent – Tabitha Mueller | Published: 10/2/2023
Attorneys for Gov. Joe Lombardo appealed the Nevada Commission on Ethics decision to censure and fine the governor for using his Clark County sheriff uniform and badge on the 2022 campaign trail. The appeal makes a new legal argument in the case, challenging the constitutional authority of the commission itself.
Santa Fe New Mexican – Robert Knott | Published: 10/4/2023
A State Ethics Commission hearing officer found New Mexico Treasurer Laura Montoya violated campaign finance reporting laws by accepting $10,000 in straw donations. Retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Torgerson imposed a civil penalty of $1,000 on Montoya, saying she failed to treat two $5,000contributions properly.
DNyuz – Jonah Bromwich, Ben Protess, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 10/2/2023
After decades of exaggerating with impunity, Donald Trump is now on trial, facing a lawsuit that accuses him of inflating his riches by billions of dollars and crossing the line into fraud. It will be the first of several government trials he will face in the coming year, a procession of high-stakes courtroom battles that coincide with his third White House run. It will be an avidly scrutinized spectacle that will lift the curtain on Trump’s reputation as a businessperson, a core piece of his identity.
Gothamist – Brigid Bergin | Published: 10/4/2023
More than 100 candidates have registered for a new state public matching funds program that helps boost small campaign donations, marking a major milestone in New York’s inaugural election cycle. But what the campaigns signed up for may not be what they get if Gov. Kathy Hochul signs a bill passed by the Legislature at the end of session. Proponents of the original program are urging Hochul not to sign the bill. They warn the changes will dilute the power of small-dollar donors and undermine the public matching system’s original intent.
Yahoo News – Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 10/2/2023
A woman who twice denied donating $2,000 to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ 2021 campaign, in spite of records that state otherwise, changed her story hours after a news story was published. The New York Daily News reported that law enforcement and election watchdogs have taken an interest in the discrepancy between public records and her initial statements, as well as other donations to Adams.
Yahoo News – Erica Orden, Josh Gerstein, and Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 10/3/2023
The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial issued a gag order barring Trump from making comments about court staff after the former president posted a social media attack on the judge’s principal law clerk that included her photo. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron said he had warned Trump “off the record” about making such comments, but Trump had ignored him. “Consider this statement a gag order forbidding all parties from posting, emailing or speaking publicly about any of my staff,” Engoron said.
MSN – Melissa Brown (Nashville Tennessean) | Published: 10/4/2023
Tennessee Rep. Justin Jones filed a federal lawsuit challenging his expulsion in April and the House rules restricting lawmakers’ floor comments that Republicans applied to silence Jones for part of the special session. Filed against Speaker Cameron Sexton and House administrative officials, the lawsuit argues Republicans have repeatedly blocked Jones from speaking during debate in violation of free speech rights under the state and federal constitutions. He also contends his due process rights were infringed upon by the expulsion proceedings.
MSN – Elizabeth Sander (Houston Chronicle) | Published: 10/3/2023
Harris County Department of Education Trustee Eric Dick faces $40,000 in fines for campaign finance violations after the Texas Ethics Commission recently tacked on another $10,000 penalty. The commission ruled Dick will be required to pay the $10,000 for campaign finance violations that occurred during his unsuccessful campaign for Harris County treasurer in March 2022. He was fined $30,000 in February 2022 for violations made during his unsuccessful 2019 run for city council.
Texas Tribune – Patrick Svitek | Published: 9/29/2023
The Texas Supreme Court sided with former top deputies of state Attorney General Ken Paxton and cleared the way for their whistleblower lawsuit to move forward. The lawsuit will return to a Travis County trial court. Four whistleblowers sued the attorney general’s office for wrongful termination and retaliation after they reported Paxton to the FBI, alleging he abused his office to help a friend and donor. They almost settled with the attorney general’s office for $3.3 million earlier this year until Texas House investigators, concerned about using taxpayer dollars for the settlement, started probing the lawsuit’s claims and recommended Paxton’s impeachment.
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 10/5/2023
Gov. Glenn Youngkin accepted a $2 million political contribution from a donor with a multibillion-dollar stake in TikTok, a Chinese-owned app the governor banned from state devices last year amid his broader campaign against Chinese influence in Virginia. With hefty political donations, Yass has been helping TikTok rally conservatives in Washington, D.C. against banning the app in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported.
September 29, 2023 •
National/Federal Rupert Murdoch to Step Down as Chairman of Fox Corporation and Fox News Billings Gazette – David Bauder (Associated Press) | Published: 9/21/2023 Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old Australian media magnate whose creation of Fox News made him a force in American […]
Billings Gazette – David Bauder (Associated Press) | Published: 9/21/2023
Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old Australian media magnate whose creation of Fox News made him a force in American politics, is stepping down as leader of both Fox’s parent company and his News Corp. media holdings. His son, Lachlan, will become News Corp. chairperson and continue as chief executive officer of Fox Corp. Fox News Channel has profoundly influenced television and the nation’s politics, making Murdoch a hero to some and pariah to others. The 24-hour network converted the power and energy of political talk radio to television.
Business Insider – Brent Griffiths | Published: 9/21/2023
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert rents a Washington apartment from a top official for the right-wing advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, a key part of the conservative influence network originally funded by brothers Charles and David Koch. There are no ethics rules or laws that bar members of Congress from renting apartments from people affiliated with lobbying groups. But the arrangement is an indicator of how small Washington can be, and how closely entwined legislators can become with the people who are paid to influence them.
DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 9/25/2023
For decades, Republicans have outmaneuvered and outspent Democrats in state Legislatures, gerrymandering them into the minority in both red states and political battlegrounds. GOP lawmakers have used that advantage to pass countless conservative policies with a help along the way. Conservative think tanks and other policy groups drafted model legislation for Republican lawmakers to cut taxes, expand gun rights, and loosen environmental regulations. Now Democrats are trying to put themselves on even footing.
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/25/2023
Attorneys for former President Trump blasted federal prosecutors’ request for a narrow gag order that would bar him from attacking participants in the criminal case charging him with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election, claiming he must be free to campaign for the Republican nomination in 2024. The response joins a battle that promises to be a recurring feature of Trump’s multiple state and federal criminal cases and that highlights challenges facing prosecutors and judges in the historic attempts to prosecute a former president and active candidate.
MSN – Naomi Nix, Cat Zakrzewski, and Joseph Menn (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2023
Conservative politicians are accusing academics, universities, and government agencies of colluding with technology companies to censor right-wing views. Interviews with professors, government officials, physicians, nonprofits, and research funders describe an escalating campaign that has cast a pall over programs studying not just political falsehoods but also the quality of medical information online. Social media platforms have pulled back on moderating content even as evidence mounts that Russia and China have intensified covert influence campaigns.
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2023
The FBI’s former top spy hunter in New York, who had pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions and launder funds for a Russian billionaire he once investigated, pleaded guilty in a separate case charging him with hiding secret cash payments while overseeing highly sensitive cases. Charles McGonigal admitted he concealed his receipt of payments and meetings with foreign officials to avoid questions about a conflict-of-interest between his private post-retirement business plans and his official duties as one of the FBI’s top leaders.
MSN – Mariana Afaro (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2023
The U.S. Senate adopted a resolution requiring male senators to wear a coat, tie, and slacks or other long pants on the chamber’s floor following days of upheaval sparked by Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s decision to stop enforcing the requirement of business attire. Before Schumer’s initial move, the Senate had followed an unwritten and unevenly enforced policy that encouraged men to wear suits and ties and women to cover their arms.
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2023
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and his wife Nadine were indicted on bribery charges, Justice Department officials announced, detailing what officials said was a corrupt scheme involving gold bars, stacks of cash, and using the senator’s powerful position to secretly benefit the Egyptian government. Allegations of a secretive campaign to aid the government in Cairo stand out not just because of Menendez’s singular power in the Senate to shape U.S. foreign policy as the chairperson of the Foreign Relations Committee, but also because of the rebuttal he offered when asked about accusations of impropriety earlier this year.
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2023
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan denied Donald Trump’s demand that she recuse herself from his federal election obstruction case, saying attorneys for the former president had applied a “hypersensitive, cynical, and suspicious” reading of two of her statements in sentencing Capitol attack defendants to accuse her of bias. Trump’s defense can ask an appellate court to weigh in, but the standard for a federal appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling is very high.
ProPublica – Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 9/22/2023
Some of the richest people in the country attended the 2018 donor summit of the Koch network, the political organization founded by libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also attended. He has attended Koch donor events at least twice over the years. Thomas was brought in to speak, staffers said, in the hopes that such access would encourage donors to continue giving. That puts Thomas in the position of having served as a fundraising draw for a network that has brought cases before the Supreme Court. The justice never reported the flight to Palm Springs.
Yahoo News – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 9/21/2023
The Republican-led Legislatures of Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama find themselves backed against courtroom walls in similar circumstances, defending congressional maps that federal judges have said appear to discriminate against Black voters. Last year, the same judges said that, even before full trials were held, the same maps were so likely illegal that replacements should be used for the 2022 elections. But due to a once-obscure U.S. Supreme Court rule that outlaws election-law changes close to campaign season, the disputed maps were used anyway.
Yahoo News – John Fritze (USA Today) | Published: 9/25/2023
Americans were able to review financial disclosure reports for all nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, documents that revealed private jet flights, foreign travel, and even a bouquet of flowers that Oprah Winfrey had ordered for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. But those annual disclosures are far harder to find for hundreds of lower court judges that make up the bulk of the federal judiciary. At a time when the judicial branch is under heightened scrutiny over ethics, federal courts are struggling to honor a law intended to head off potential conflicts.
Yahoo News – Taylor Giorno (The Hill) | Published: 9/27/2023
Lobbying and government affairs shops are busy preparing for a possible shutdown of the federal government. Lobbyists cannot do much except keep clients informed about what to expect if the government does shut down as they navigate uncertainty around tax credits, infrastructure investments, and political stability. It is a “very uncertain time” for clients, said Ryan Carney, a government affairs advisor at K&L Gates. The firm set up a task force with professionals who have experience with government shutdowns to monitor developments.
Yahoo News – Ken Dilanian and Frank Thorp V (NBC News) | Published: 9/27/2023
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, who is charged with secretly aiding the Egyptian government in exchange for bribes, singlehandedly blocked passage of bipartisan legislation in 2020 that would have strengthened the law regulating foreign influence and lobbying in Washington, D.C. The proposed Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act grew out of widespread concerns that the current law regulating foreign lobbying had seldom been enforced, and foreign influence campaigns had successfully infiltrated American politics.
From the States and Municipalities
Global News – Allison Jones (Canadian Press) | Published: 9/21/2023
Ontario’s integrity commissioner said there are “insufficient grounds” to conduct a full investigation into a “stag-and-doe” event for Premier Doug Ford’s daughter, though he noted an “interesting” finding about ticket sales for the gathering. New Democratic Party Leader Matt Stiles had asked J. David Wake to issue an opinion on the pre-wedding event for Ford’s daughter, which was attended by some land developers who had business in the province.
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court refused Alabama’s request to hold 2024 elections under a new congressional map judged to be an unlawful attempt to diminish the power of the state’s Black voters. It was the second time in four months the court has sided with a three-judge panel that found Alabama’s Legislature probably violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to create a second congressional district where minority voters have a large enough share of the electorate to elect their candidate of choice.
MSN – Mike Cason (AL.com) | Published: 9/27/2023
The chairperson of the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee said he expects to propose changes to Alabama’s ethics law during the next legislative session. Rep. Matt Simpson is leading a series of meetings by the panel to examine issues identified by a study commission a few years ago and by Alabama’s appellate courts. Most of those are areas where the law is confusing, ambiguous, or unclear, Simpson said. One of the lingering issues is the precise definition and scope of the term principal, which refers to organizations and individuals that employ lobbyists.
KJZZ – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 9/22/2023
A new rule adopted by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission adds the requirement for political ads to disclose the three largest sources of funds that bought the commercial. The rule details exactly how big the disclosure must be. Commission Executive Director Tom Collins agreed it is not possible to put all the required disclosure, like the top three funders, into many social media posts. But the rule will mandate inclusion of a clickable link that would take the reader to a page where people could get the required information.
Los Angeles Daily News – Jason Henry (Pasadena Star News) | Published: 9/24/2023
Baldwin Park’s former city attorney assisted in a bribery and wire fraud scheme that funneled $70,000 in illicit payoffs to former Councilperson Ricardo Pacheco to secure his vote on a cannabis permit, according to federal authorities. The new allegations against Robert Tafoya became public following the grand jury indictment of Tafoya’s longtime friend and alleged co-conspirator, former Compton City Councilperson Isaac Galvin.
MSN – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/27/2023
The Los Angeles City Council approved a nominee for a spot on the Ethics Commission after several weeks of public scrutiny over the council’s handling of nominees for the panel. The council approved Alex Johnson, a vice president at Bryson Gillette, a consulting firm that also has done campaign work. The firm has handled more than $2 million worth of work for various campaigns since May 2020.
MSN – Jeff McDionald (San Diego Union Tribune) | Published: 9/27/2023
Three out of seven seats on the San Diego Ethics Commission are vacant, meaning the city’s only regulator for enforcing campaign finance and other rules is legally unable to issue fines or mete out other discipline. The commission has not fielded a full board in years. It has also failed to comply with city rules requiring that at least three members of the panel are attorneys. The commission operated with six members during the first half of this year, but three seats expired June 30.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 9/27/2023
Anaheim politicians are cracking down on using private cellphones and other electronic devices to conduct city business, a practice that independent investigators say city officials frequently used to circumvent the state’s public records law. City officials directed staff to require the use of government phones and devices for top officials and staff, forbid conducting city business on personal accounts, and requiring officials to forward city business emails to government accounts.
Yahoo News – Lauren Sforza (The Hill) | Published: 9/27/2023
A four-time candidate for Congress in California was charged with misusing campaign funds, including transferring the cash back to his personal accounts via his friends and family. The indictment accuses Omar Navarro of using campaign money for personal expenses, including trips to Las Vegas and two criminal defense attorneys, and falsely recording them as campaign expenses to the FEC.
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 9/25/2023
House Speaker Matt Ritter said the General Assembly will not vote in the special session on a proposal to allow publicly financed candidates in Connecticut to raise money online using ActBlue, the popular Democratic fundraising platform. Ritter said ActBlue’s platform is not compliant with state law, and lawyers have struggled to draft statutory language that would open Connecticut to ActBlue without conflicting with or undermining the Citizens’ Election Program, which finances most campaigns for the General Assembly.
MSN – Charles Rabin (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/20/2023
Now-suspended Miami Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla is facing criminal charges he sold his vote for $245,000 in campaign money. At the same time, the FBI is separately investigating whether Mayor Francis Suarez worked behind the scenes to help a developer who was paying him $10,000 a month. Local prosecutors have an open case into whether Commissioner Joe Carollo, a former mayor, held improper influence over the police force. With half of Miami’s six elected officials under a cloud, there are renewed calls to clean house.
MSN – Brittany Shammas (Washington Post) | Published: 9/24/2023
After months of controversy over new directives governing classroom instruction in Florida – changes critics said sanitized or even distorted the past – Black pastors across the state agreed their churches had no choice but to respond. They would teach Black history themselves. A nonprofit coalition of religious institutions, Faith in Florida, put together a tool kit to guide the churches and suggest books, articles, documentaries, and reports covering the Black experience. The churches’ involvement harks back to the pivotal role many played in the struggle to end segregation and advance voting rights.
Times of Northwest Indiana – Dan Carden | Published: 9/27/2023
Indiana election law’s silence on corporate contributions to super PACs means such donations are prohibited or otherwise limited, the state Supreme Court ruled in answering a question from the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Indiana enforcement authorities have said they do not intend to punish corporate donations to super PACs, even if prohibited by state law, because the contributions are authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. In the majority opinion, Justice Derek Molter said it is “no doubt time” for state lawmakers to update the law to reflect the Citizens United ruling.
Yahoo News – Emily Wagster Pettus (Associated Press) | Published: 9/26/2023
Mississippi announced financial incentives for a shipbuilder to expand in Gulfport in 2020, days after the president of the shipbuilder’s parent company made a $10,000 campaign contribution to Gov. Tate Reeves. The state economic development agency under Reeves’ supervision, the Mississippi Development Authority, announced Gulf Ship would receive state incentives to expand the site it opened in Gulfport in 2006.
Missouri Independent – Jason Hancock | Published: 9/22/2023
Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher is facing allegations he threatened to terminate the employment of a nonpartisan legislative staffer who resisted his monthslong push to hire a private company to manage constituent information. Plocher denies the accusations. But Dana Miller, chief clerk of the House since 2018 and a chamber staff member since 2001, wrote in an email to a GOP lawmaker about “threats made by Speaker Plocher concerning my future employment.” Miller was not the only legislative staffer expressing concerns.
MSN – Steven Porter (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/21/2023
State Rep. Troy Merner resigned his seat in the New Hampshire House after investigators for the state attorney general’s office concluded Merner no longer lives in the district he represents and has not lived there since August 2022. Merner has been renting an office in Lancaster, but he has been residing with his wife and stepson about 15 miles south, in Carroll, which is part of a different legislative district in Coos County.
DNyuz – Tracey Tully (New York Times) | Published: 9/22/2023
Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey quit politics in 2004 after announcing to his second wife and to the world that he was gay and had an affair with a man who worked for him. Now McGreevey, who once was thought to have the White House in his sights, is making plans to do what he had said he would not: re-enter politics. Over the past several months, McGreevey has begun cobbling together support for an expected run for mayor of Jersey City, the state’s second-largest city, where he has lived for eight years.
MSN – Chris Shelton (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 9/26/2023
Former Paterson Mayor Joey Torres was indicted after he was accused of launching a new bid to run the city in 2022 despite being barred from doing so six years ago. Torres pleaded guilty to using city employees to work at a liquor distributorship his family planned to open. As part of his plea deal, Torres was required to forfeit future public employment.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 9/27/2023
The state ethics commission conducted its first meeting following a New York Supreme Court justice’s decision that found the agency was created in violation of the state constitution and must suspend its work pending the outcome of any appeal. The appellate division of the state Supreme Court granted a temporary stay on the decision. A permanent stay has not been granted. Earlier this year, another state Supreme Court justice ruled the commission was created in line with the state constitution and it was not improper for the final appointments to be made by an “Independent Review Commission” made up of law school deans.
DNyuz – Grace Ashford (New York Times) | Published: 9/19/2023
More than half the Village of Sleepy Hollow, New York, is of Hispanic origin. But those demographics are rarely reflected on Election Day. The village is part of the Town of Mount Pleasant, which uses an at-large voting system that allows residents to cast ballots for all open positions. The Mount Pleasant town board has no Latino members, and no one could recall the last time it had one. That disconnect has led to a formal claim filed with the town, on behalf of five residents who say that they and other Latino voters are being disenfranchised.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2023
A judge overseeing a $250 million lawsuit against Donald Trump ruled the former president and his company committed fraud by inflating his net worth in business transactions, narrowing the scope of what the state’s attorney general must prove at an upcoming civil trial. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron also ordered the cancellation of Trump business certificates and imposed sanctions on attorneys representing him for repeating arguments that failed multiple times previously and were called “borderline frivolous.”
The City – George Joseph, Bianca Pallaro, and Tom Robbins | Published: 9/22/2023
Eric Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign repeatedly ignored city regulators’ requests to identify political supporters who they suspected of having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars without disclosing their role. The flagged donations totaled more than $300,000 from more than 500 donors. Thanks to the city program that provides matching funds of up to eight-to-one for eligible contributions, the donations secured an additional $522,000 in public funds for the Adams campaign.
North Carolina – In North Carolina, Republicans Seek More Control Over Elections
Yahoo News – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 9/24/2023
Shortly before North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper began his first term in 2017, his rivals in the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to strip the position of key powers, including the governor’s longstanding authority to appoint majorities to the state election board and local election boards in all 100 counties. After the state Supreme Court ruled the move was illegal, lawmakers put the idea on the ballot, but voters shot that down. Now, seven years after their first try, the legislators appear on the verge of getting what they have long sought.
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/22/2023
Ohio Republicans’ new state legislative map would make it easier for them to expand their supermajorities in both the House and Senate, as well as create fewer competitive districts overall, according to an analysis. Last year’s redistricting plan was repeatedly found by the state Supreme Court to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. The ruling means the Ohio Redistricting Commission must again pass new district lines ahead of the 2024 election.
MSN – Mike Rogoway (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 9/27/2023
Three former public officials in Morrow County could be hit with thousands of dollars in penalties for failing to acknowledge they stood to profit when they gave tax breaks to Amazon data centers and arranged land sales to make way for the huge installations. Staff with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission proposed settling ethics charges against the officials. Two would pay $5,000 penalties and another would pay $2,500. Their attorney is contesting the charges and wants the commission to waive all penalties and issue a “letter of education” instead.
MSN – Allie Feinberg (Knoxville News Sentinel) | Published: 9/27/2023
Knox County Ethics Committee Chairperson Michael Covington is trying to enlist the investigative powers of the state to get to the bottom of a complaint against county Commissioner Kyle Ward over a land deal he struck with a prominent developer. Covington filed a complaint with the state comptroller’s office, which investigates allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse by government officials. Ward is accused in a complaint of paying just $10 each to developer Scott Davis for two plots of land assessed at $50,000 apiece.
September 22, 2023 •
National/Federal Lobbyists Flirt with AI While Remaining Cautious of Its Promises Bloomberg Government – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/8/2023 Lobbyists are scrambling to put their imprint on federal oversight of artificial intelligence (AI) and grappling with its influence on their own profession […]
Bloomberg Government – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/8/2023
Lobbyists are scrambling to put their imprint on federal oversight of artificial intelligence (AI) and grappling with its influence on their own profession even as they predict robot-lobbyists will likely remain in the realm of science fiction. Some lobbyists say they are willing to embrace AI. They have begun to experiment with it to ease tedious and time-consuming tasks, such as legislative analysis, background research, and drafting client memos. Others, eyeing it with trepidation, say they are holding off to see how it evolves.
DNyuz – Robert Jimison (New York Times) | Published: 9/19/2023
In the tradition-bound halls of the U.S. Senate, customs die hard and rules can be next to impossible to change. But for the first time in centuries, lawmakers are no longer expected to suit up to conduct business on the Senate floor. Majority Leader Charles Schumer established a new dress code allowing members to take a more business-casual approach to their workwear.
MSN – Joshua Goodman and Jim Mustian (Associated Press) | Published: 9/20/2023
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) recently departed second-in-command returned for a new stint with the consulting firm where he previously advised Purdue Pharma and a drug distributor fighting sanctions over suspicious painkiller shipments. Louis Milione retired from the DEA a second time this summer amid reporting on potential conflicts caused by his prior consulting for the pharmaceutical industry. Less than three months later, Milione again landed a plum job at Guidepost Solutions, a firm hired by some of the same companies he had been tasked with regulating when he returned to the DEA in 2021.
MSN – Daniela Altimari (Roll Call) | Published: 9/20/2023
A recent hearing by the House Oversight Committee marked the first time in 12 years that members of the FEC have come before a congressional oversight panel. Democrats on the committee want changes to the makeup of the commission. The six-member panel is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, a breakdown that critics say has led to partisan gridlock and hampered the FEC’s ability to enforce the rules. The are also calls to improve transparency and modernize technology.
MSN – Jonathan Dienst and Courtney Copenhagen (WNBC) | Published: 9/20/2023
Federal prosecutors are looking into whether an admitted felon helped arrange to give gold bars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez or his wife in exchange for help. Investigators want to know if Menendez offered to contact the Justice Department to try to help that man who was accused of banking crimes. Those questions are now before a federal grand jury that is considering whether to hand up corruption charges against Menendez.
MSN – Greg Morton, Marianna Sotomayor, and Camila DeChalus (Washington Post) | Published: 9/18/2023
Candidates running for U.S. House and Senate offices increased campaign spending on security by more than 500 percent between the 2020 election and the 2022 midterms, a measure of the extraordinary rise in threats against elected officials in recent years and the country’s increasingly volatile political climate. The steep increases came as changes in federal campaign finance rules made it easier to spend campaign dollars on security, a recognition of the nation’s changing threat outlook for elected officials. Lawmakers say more has to be done to help protect themselves and their staff from a dramatic rise in daily threats.
MSN – Hannah Natanson (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2023
The American Library Association is facing a partisan firefight unlike anything in its almost 150-year history. The once-uncontroversial organization, which says it is the world’s largest and oldest library association and which provides funding, training, and tools to most of the country’s 123,000 libraries, has become entangled in the education culture wars – the raging debates over what and how to teach about race, sex, and gender.
MSN – Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) | Published: 9/16/2023
Richard Olson Jr., a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, was sentenced to three years’ probation and a $93,350 fine for violating federal lobbying and ethics laws in a case that exposed a secret history of romantic liaisons and lavish gifts during his 34-year career as a diplomat. Olson, who pleaded guilty to two federal misdemeanors related to his consulting work in the Middle East, could have received up to six months behind bars under federal sentencing guidelines.
NPR – Associated Press | Published: 9/15/2023
Federal prosecutors are seeking an order that would prevent Donald Trump from making “inflammatory” and “intimidating” comments about witnesses, lawyers, and other people involved in the criminal case charging the former president with scheming to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Special counsel Jack Smith’s team said in a motion that such a “narrow, well-defined” order was necessary to preserve the integrity of the case and to avoid prejudicing potential jurors.
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Rebecca Kern | Published: 9/14/2023
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito temporarily paused a lower-court order limiting Biden administration officials from contacting social media firms. Alito’s action followed an emergency filing from the Justice Department that asked the court to block an earlier injunction that would make it difficult for officials at the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI to respond to online posts that pose a danger to public health or safety. The Justice Department claims allowing the lower court ruling to stay in effect would “impose grave and irreparable harms on the government and the public.”
From the States and Municipalities
Globe and Mail – Steven Chase | Published: 9/17/2023
Changes to lobbying rules in Canada could spell an end to 50 years of free trips to Israel for Members of Parliament and senators. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which funds the trips, says it is the group hardest hit by revisions to a code governing those who try to influence public officials. New rules for the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct went into effect on July 1 that restrict registered lobbyists in Ottawa from lobbying politicians who accept free trips from them.
MSN – Stacey Barchenger (Arizona Republic) | Published: 9/19/2023
State Sen. T.J. Shope says he will investigate how Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs was able to hire a private security guard while she was the state’s top election official and a gubernatorial candidate last year without telling the public who paid the bill. The Arizona Republic reported that Hobbs’ campaign did not disclose payments to the individual on campaign finance reports. Shope suggested the cost of security could have exposed a loophole or violated state campaign finance laws that limit donation amounts and restrictions on funding from certain sources.
Yahoo News – Stacey Barchenger (Arizona Republic) | Published: 9/18/2023
Aides to Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs include nine former lobbyists, whose work histories could raise concerns about conflicts-of-interest. Governors in recent years have faced scrutiny over their connections to lobbyists and the challenge of avoiding ethical lapses. Former Gov. Doug Ducey faced criticism that he and his team played favorites with business, often at taxpayer expense. Hobbs’ administration has been criticized for being opaque since its earliest days, when her campaign staff created a “dark money” fundraising group to pay for the inauguration.
DNyuz – Rick Rojas (New York Times) | Published: 9/14/2023
When Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders summoned Arkansas lawmakers to Little Rock for a special legislative session to cut taxes and ban the state from mandating Covid-19 vaccinations, she added one more request: overhaul the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Sanders called for changes that included limiting the release of records related to policymaking and discussions of legal strategy. But the pushback was swift, swelling beyond organizations representing news organizations and government transparency advocates to include conservatives and some of the governor’s own supporters.
Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Neal Earley | Published: 9/20/2023
The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office launched a new campaign finance disclosure and filing portal, billing it as a more user-friendly alternative. The office says the new reporting system will be easier to use for those searching its online campaign finance database and for candidates filing their reports.
East Bay Times – Grace Hase (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 9/18/2023
Three members of the Santa Clara City Council filed several ethics complaints against Stand Up For Santa Clara, a self-proclaimed “grass-roots watchdog organization” they claim is connected to Mayor Lisa Gillmor. Vice Mayor Kevin Park and council members Anthony Becker and Suds Jain filed complaints with the city and the California Fair Political Practices Commission claiming the group is a “political operation” and has failed to be transparent with its political spending or advertisements. The trio also filed a complaint with the IRS, questioning its non-profit status.
LAist – Brianna Lee and Frank Stoltze | Published: 9/15/2023
Large-scale changes are rare at Los Angeles City Hall. But now there is more momentum than there has been in decades for three major reforms to how the city is governed. The proposals are the result of calls for reform after a secret recording was released last year that captured three city council members and a labor official using racist, homophobic, and other derogatory language while discussing ways to amass power in the city’s redistricting process.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada and Spencer Custodio | Published: 9/19/2023
In Anaheim, Disney is the political kingmaker – and somewhat of a policymaker. Yet residents rarely see the company’s influence discussed in public by city leaders. A recent report on corruption laid out a web of influence by Disney and other resort interests on City Hall policy making. In sworn affidavits, FBI agents also detailed a city largely controlled by Disneyland resort interests. This fall, council members are taking up a host of items designed to curb special interest influence.
Yahoo News – Lindsey Holden (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 9/14/2023
During the final days of the legislative session in California, lobbyists pack the Capitol rotunda in hopes of snagging some last-minute face time with Assembly members and senators as they cast their final votes for the year. Lobbyists began using the rotunda last year, once in-person activity at the Capitol resumed. Lobbyists are not allowed on the Assembly and Senate floors. The Assembly does not permit lobbyists to text members on the floor, although they can do so in the Senate.
MSN – Joey Flechas, Tess Riski, Sarah Blaskey, Jay Weaver, Charles Rabin, and Raisa Habersham (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/14/2023
Miami City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla and William Riley Jr., an attorney and lobbyist, were arrested on corruption charges. They stand accused of laundering campaign money, failing to report political donations, and spending political funds on personal expenses. Díaz de la Portilla and Riley are accused of conspiring to launder $245,000 in political contributions in exchange for the commissioner’s support on a plan to build a sports complex in Miami.
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/20/2023
After a three-year investigation, state officials arrested Patricia Duarte, the former chief financial officer of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, for her role in padding the books at the defunct taxpayer-funded organization to compensate herself and Tiffany Carr, the former chief executive officer. Carr was paid $7.5 million in taxpayer funds over three years. A series of stories in The Miami Herald revealed how Carr used her tight control of the coalition to inflate her compensation while domestic violence victims across the state were denied services.
Orlando Sentinel – Skyler Swisher | Published: 9/19/2023
As Gov. Ron DeSantis vows to clean up Washington if elected president, dozens of ethics orders seeking to punish the misdeeds of Florida politicians have been languishing on his desk in Tallahassee. The governor has not signed an ethics order since January 28, 2021. Until he takes action, politicians and public employees will not have to pay thousands of dollars in fines, even if they settled their ethics cases and admitted wrongdoing.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Allan Kew | Published: 9/18/2023
A progressive political organization is taking advantage of the Maui wildfires to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars that may go to support candidates instead of direct help for victims of the August fires. Our Hawaii Action has raised at least $684,000 through the newly created Maui Community Power Recovery Fund. The group’s fundraising website starts with a familiar pitch, asking donors to “Support Maui Fires: Relief, Recovery and Rebuilding.” The page later notes that money will go to political organizing and campaign operations.
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/19/2023
Investigators with the Chicago inspector general’s office seized computers from the treasurer’s City Hall offices as part of an investigation into allegations of misconduct against Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin. The move comes after the release late last month of a 2020 letter that laid out a series of accusations by two aides Conyears-Ervin had fired who said the treasurer misused taxpayer resources and abused the powers of her office.
Indiana Capital Chronicle – Casey Smith | Published: 9/20/2023
Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Rust filed a lawsuit to get his name on the May 2024 primary ballot. He maintains that a current Indiana law blocking him from the ballot is unconstitutional. Because Rust does not qualify to run as a Republican based only on his primary voting history, he needs additional approval from his county party chairperson. Indiana Republican Party officials have said Jackson County Republican Party Chairperson Amanda Lowery had indicated she would not approve his candidacy.
Bridge Michigan – Lauren Gibbons | Published: 9/14/2023
Lobbyists offered a sex worker to Rick Johnson, Michigan’s former marijuana board chairperson and a onetime House speaker, as part of a bribe scheme to expedite approval of medical marijuana business licenses, prosecutors revealed. Using the code name “Batman” in reference to Johnson in messages, lobbyists provided the services of the sex worker, tickets to sporting events, and direct cash payments laundered through multiple limited liability companies in return for an edge during the application process, prosecutors said in a sentencing document.
This Is Reno – Kristin Hackbarth | Published: 9/19/2023
Washoe’s Board of County Commissioners voted to adopt an ordinance requiring paid lobbyists to identify themselves when providing public comment at commission meetings. Commissioners had directed county staff to draft an ordinance to regulate lobbyists interacting with county policymakers. The policy was modeled after the city of Reno’s. The final ordinance is a stripped-down version of what was presented to commissioners in August, and it removes the requirement for lobbyists to register with the county.
New Jersey Monitor – Dana DiFilippo | Published: 9/20/2023
The state Attorney General’s Office asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit New Jersey’s top election watchdog filed against Gov. Phil Murphy. Jeff Brindle accused the governor of orchestrating a legislative overhaul of the state’s campaign finance law last spring to oust him from his longtime job as executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
MSN – Kyle Ingram and Dan Kane (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 9/20/2023
A provision in the draft state budget may give North Carolina lawmakers full discretion to determine which of their records are public, a move open government advocates said is a drastic reinterpretation of years of precedent in public records law. Legislators are already considered to be custodians of their own records, but current law only allows them to withhold records if they claim an exemption to the law, said Brooks Fuller, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition.
MSN – Travis Fain (WRAL) | Published: 9/18/2023
A watchdog group is calling on the State Board of Election to clarify North Carolina’s campaign finance rules and crack down on candidates who make money renting office space to their own campaign. The Campaign for Accountability flagged about $70,000 in payments that House Speaker Tim Moore’s campaign has paid on a building he owns, which also houses his law office.
ABC News – Associated Press | Published: 9/19/2023
Three former Columbus Zoo and Aquarium executives engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity that cost the facility more than $2.2 million, according to an indictment. Tom Stalf, who was the zoo’s president and chief executive officer; ex-Chief Financial Officer Gregory Bell, and Peter Fingerhut, its former marketing director “extorted, conspired, bribed and stole” while colluding with each other for over 10 years, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in announcing the 90-count indictment.
MSN – Jake Zuckerman, Sean McDonnell, and Gretchen Cuda Kroen (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/16/2023
As a state board moves toward a decision on opening two state parks and two protected wildlife areas for fracking, its public comments are flush with nearly 150 letters under the names of people who say they did not authorize or send them. Those comments trace back to at least two different entities that wage advocacy and lobbying campaigns for the natural gas industry. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has vowed to investigate. The Consumer Energy Alliance has said it does not use names without permission and challenged the accuracy of the reporting.
Street Roots – Jeremiah Hayden | Published: 9/15/2023
The Portland City Auditor’s Office is investigating Zenith Energy for potential violations of the city lobbying code. Confirmation of the investigation comes after it was reported that Zenith Energy and its public relations firm, Pac/West Communications, spent months courting city officials, their staff, and bureau staff to approve a land use permit in 2022.
MSN – Marisa Iati (Washington Post) | Published: 9/19/2023
Pennsylvania implemented automatic voter registration to ease the process of casting a ballot, joining 23 other states and the District of Columbia. Residents who are eligible to vote and who obtain or renew a driver’s license or identification card at the Department of Motor Vehicles now will be guided through the voter registration process by default. If they do not want to be added to the voter rolls, they have to actively opt out.
Spotlight PA – Stephen Caruso | Published: 9/19/2023
Democrats have again secured a one-vote majority in the Pennsylvania House, prevailing in an Allegheny County special election the party was widely favored to win. Lindsay Powell’s win will end a two-month tie in the 203-member lower chamber that has existed since state Rep. Sara Innamorato resigned to focus on her run for Allegheny County executive.
Spotlight PA – Stephen Caruso | Published: 9/19/2023
A new bill aims to slow the speed of the “revolving door” between public service and private sector lobbying, a threshold that Pennsylvania lawmakers and workers often cross once they leave state government. Current state law bars such officials and employees from lobbying their previous workplaces for a year. The new bill backed by members of both major parties would extend that pause by another year.
MSN – Angele Latham (Tennessean) | Published: 9/15/2023
A lawsuit over the Tennessee House’s ban on signs the August special legislative session may be coming to a close. But the First Amendment issues surrounding when government can limit speech in the name of order and decorum are not likely going away. Speaker Cameron Sexton has hinted the House may again take up the issue when the Legislature returns in 2024, a move likely to spark renewed debate about the boundaries of free speech.
MSN – Zach Despart (Texas Tribune) | Published: 9/17/2023
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted by the state Senate on 16 charges of bribery, unfitness for office, and abuse of office. He was immediately reinstated, ending a suspension that began in May with his impeachment by the House. The votes sealed the failure of a risky gambit by House Republicans, who began in secret in the spring to investigate, and then purge, a leader of their own party. The results came after sustained pressure on senators from grassroots groups, conservative activists, and the leader of the state Republican Party, who vowed retribution at the ballot box if Paxton was convicted.
Yahoo News – Edgar Sandoval (New York Times) | Published: 9/19/2023
A trial is underway in Texas over the state’s sweeping election overhaul. Since it went into effect, critics have raised concerns the law would impede voters with disabilities, elderly voters, and voters who do not speak English. The federal trial provides an unusual opportunity to hear directly from voters who wanted to cast a vote but were not able to do so. Lawyers representing the state countered that the new rules prevent potential voter fraud and that voters seem to be adapting better with every passing election.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 9/14/2023
Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted to fire the state’s top nonpartisan elections official, whose allies responded by saying the lawmakers did not have the power to oust her. The Democratic governor’s administration plans to continue to pay Meagan Wolfe’s salary and make sure she maintains access to her office if she wants to continue as director of the state’s elections commission. The vote creates a dispute over who is in charge of overseeing elections in a state that is expected to play a critical role in next year’s presidential campaign and may have to redraw its legislative districts within months.
September 15, 2023 •
National/Federal Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions in Illegal Campaign Contributions Associated Press News – Jake Offenhartz | Published: 9/7/2023 A former top executive at the failed FTX cryptocurrency exchange pleaded guilty to making tens of millions of dollars […]
Associated Press News – Jake Offenhartz | Published: 9/7/2023
A former top executive at the failed FTX cryptocurrency exchange pleaded guilty to making tens of millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and engaging in a criminal conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transfer business. Ryan Salame, the former co-chief executive of FTX Digital Markets, is the fourth high-ranking official at the company or its affiliates to plead guilty to criminal charges.
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2023
After he was charged with mishandling national security papers, former President Trump asked to be allowed to discuss classified evidence in the case right where he allegedly had kept the documents: at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home and private club. The federal judge overseeing the case appeared to tell him no recently. U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon issued protective order granting prosecutors’ request for a set of rules about how classified information and documents should be handled in the case, rules that conform to the general practice of federal courts.
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2023
A federal appeals court barred special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation from recovering cellphone texts and other communications between U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and other lawmakers and staff about overturning the 2020 election on January 6, 2021, and ruled a judge must individually review roughly 2,000 documents to decide which, if any, fall outside lawmakers’ constitutional immunity from criminal investigation. The opinion, which the Justice Department could appeal, prolongs a secret dispute that has tied up the search of the conservative lawmaker’s phone data for more than a year.
MSN – Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
When Richard Olson Jr. retired from the State Department in 2016, he was lauded by colleagues for an illustrious career that included high-profile postings as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. But previously undisclosed court records reveal the State Department’s inspector general investigated Olson for failing to report a $60,000 gift of diamond jewelry to his mother-in-law from the emir of Dubai. As part of a broader investigation, the FBI also questioned him about his extramarital affair with a journalist working in Pakistan while he was serving as the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad.
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski and Joseph Menn (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the Biden White House, top government health officials, and the FBI likely violated the First Amendment by improperly influencing tech companies’ decisions to remove or suppress posts on the coronavirus and elections. The decision was likely to be seen as victory for conservatives who have long argued social media platforms’ content moderation efforts restrict their free speech rights. But some advocates also said the ruling was an improvement over a temporary injunction U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty issued in July.
MSN – Paul Duggan (Washington Post) | Published: 9/7/2023
Peter Navarro, a senior Trump White House aide and vocal election denier who has said he helped hatch a legislative scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential race, was found guilty of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. With right-wing provocateur Stephen Bannon, who was found guilty of contempt of Congress, Navarro is the second high-ranking Trump official to be convicted in a criminal case related to efforts to undo President Biden’s victory at the polls.
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2023
Probing investigators’ methods and scruples is a strategy that has been utilized by both political parties during tumultuous moments and is a well-worn tool for lawmakers seeking to give the appearance of oversight. The strategy has been effective in shaping public opinion of the investigations of Donald Trump after years of broadsides against the judicial system by Trump and his allies. But in the wake of 91 criminal charges against Trump, the party’s attacks on prosecutors threatens to degrade an important precedent that protects prosecutorial independence and the ability to fairly root out wrongdoing without partisan influence or gain.
MSN – Heidi Przybyla (Politico) | Published: 9/10/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 Citizens United case transformed the world of politics. It loosened restrictions on campaign spending and unleashed a flow of anonymous donor money to nonprofit groups run by political activists. The conservative legal movement seized the moment with greater success than any other group, and the consequences have shaped American jurisprudence and politics in dramatic ways.
NBC News – Rebecca Kaplan, Summer Concepcion, and Sahil Kapur | Published: 9/12/2023
Speaker Kevin McCarthy directed three House committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden to seek bank records and other documents from the president and his son Hunter Biden. McCarthy’s decision represents a major reversal for the speaker after he had he would not open an impeachment inquiry without a vote of the full House. McCarthy faces criticism from across the GOP spectrum due to the lack of evidence implicating the president in Hunter Biden’s transgressions.
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 9/6/2023
The idea of barring Donald Trump from seeking the presidency on grounds that it would violate the 14th Amendment may be an increasingly popular constitutional argument pushed by a segment of legal scholars and activists. But it turns out election officials have been discussing how to handle it for months. The legal theory argues Trump is constitutionally disqualified from running for president under the amendment’s “insurrection clause,” which states that anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” after taking an oath of office to defend the Constitution is forbidden from holding public office.
From the States and Municipalities
CTV – Katherine DeClerq | Published: 9/6/2023
Ontario Premier Doug Ford instructed the province’s attorney general to review legislation governing lobbyists and add increased penalties, including jail time, if they break rules. The request comes amid an integrity commissioner report that highlighted how certain developers with access to staff within the housing ministry were given an unfair advantage when it came to a development deal in Clarington. The government has committed to reviewing legislation governing lobbyists in the coming weeks.
Yahoo News – Kim Chandler (Associated Press) | Published: 9/12/2203
Alabama asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let it keep Republican-drawn congressional lines in place as the state continues to fight a court order to create a second district where Black voters constitute a majority or close to it. Despite losing at the Supreme Court earlier this year in the redistricting case, the state is pursuing another appeal, hoping for a different result with the most recent Republican version of the map. Alabama asked the justices to stay a ruling issued by a three-judge panel that blocked the use of the latest districts in upcoming elections and directed a court-appointed special master to propose new lines for the state.
Associated Press News – Becky Bohrer | Published: 9/13/2023
Backers of an effort to repeal ranked voting in Alaska violated state campaign finance rules, including by channeling money through a church-affiliated organization in a way that initially concealed the source of the contributions, a new report alleges. The report from the staff for the Alaska Public Offices Commission recommends penalties of $22,500 for Art Mathias, a leader of the repeal effort, and approximately $20,000 for the church-affiliated Ranked Choice Education Association among its findings.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 9/14/2023
After the corruption scandal kicked off in Anaheim last year, residents and activists throughout Orange County began asking questions about the impacts of lobbyists and if they wield outsized influence. It is a scandal that also touched on Irvine City Hall, where Mayor Farrah Khan’s former consultant Melahat Rafiei admitted to attempted bribery in 2018, forcing officials there to rethink their relationship with lobbyists. Now, new restrictions on lobbyists could be coming to after city council members voted to have city staff come back with proposals to strengthen the city’s disclosure rules.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 9/13/2023
The Anaheim City Council is considering beefing up the city’s lobbyist rules in the wake of the corruption scandal and may require government relations employees to register as lobbyists. It marked the first in a series of reform discussions set to take place over the next few months. An investigation detailed a loose network of lobbyists, with little enforcement of the city’s current rules and alleged multiple high-profile lobbyists violated the law by failing to report a host of meetings with officials. Currently, only contracted lobbyists are required to register with the city.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada | Published: 9/7/2023
Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu has been wrestling with public corruption allegations from the U.S. Department of Justice over the past year, which ended when he signed a plea agreement admitting to the charges. But he did not pay for his own legal defense, his campaign donors did, a total of $300,000 according to campaign finance disclosures. California Fair Political Practices Commission rules make no mention of elected officials being able to use the funds to defend themselves from criminal prosecution.
CT News Junkie – Hugh McQuaid | Published: 9/13/2023
The publicly funded campaigns of former Sen. Joe Markley and then-Rep. Rob Sampson jointly criticized Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2014, including one shared mailer, each paying half the cost. That campaign expenditure and similar ones ignited a free-speech fight that reached the state Supreme Court over whether restrictions on using public campaign funds conflicts with the First Amendment. At issue was whether Markley and Sampson’s criticism of Malloy, who was seeking reelection in 2014, was furthering their own campaigns or boosting the governor’s Republican challenger, Tom Foley.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/14/2023
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took at least six undisclosed trips on private jets and accepted lodging and dining in late 2018, according to documents that reflect his proclivity for luxury travel and leisure time with wealthy donors. The trips came during the period between DeSantis’s election and inauguration as governor. DeSantis did not report the flights or accommodations as gifts or campaign contributions, and it is unclear whether he used a separate legal option to personally reimburse for the flights at the cost of coach airfare.
Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/8/2023
Latvala, who resigned in 2018 after allegations he had sexually harassed a legislative aide and a former lobbyist. Both women continue to stand by their allegations that Latvala, one of the most powerful men in state government, had used his positional power over them to grope them, make inappropriate sexual comments, and make sexual advances. But neither wanted to continue with an ethics trial and said they were exhausted by the emotional turmoil and five-year wait for the state to mete out justice.
Associated Press News – Kate Brumback | Published: 9/14/2023
A judge ruled former President Trump and 16 others will be tried separately from two defendants who are set to go to trial in October in the case accusing them of participating in an illegal scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. Lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro had filed demands for a speedy trial. Trump and other defendants asked to be tried separately from Powell and Chesebro, with some saying they could not be ready by the October 23 trial date.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2023
A federal judge denied a request from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to move the Georgia election-interference case against him from state to federal court, a shift he had sought on the grounds he was a federal officer at the time of the actions that led to his indictment. Meadows had hoped a move to federal court could lead to a dismissal of the case because h as a federal officer, he is immune from prosecution for acts taken in the course of his normal work.
MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2023
An Atlanta-area special grand jury that investigated alleged 2020 election interference in Georgia by Donald Trump and his allies recommended charging one of Trump’s closest associates, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, and 37 other people, a far larger group than a prosecutor ultimately charged. The final report by the special grand jury largely echoed Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s theory of the case, alleging a sweeping criminal conspiracy to subvert Joe Biden’s legitimate election win in Georgia.
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/11/2023
Less than a week after the release of a 2020 letter alleging city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin abused her office, the head of the Chicago Board of Ethics said the board handles all such complaints properly by referring them to the city’s inspector general’s office, but it cannot do more unless it receives detailed findings from the inspector general. Under questioning for days about why the board has not acted on the letter even though it and the city Law Department received a copy in December 2020, Ethics Board Chairperson William Conlon defended the board’s actions while also declining to discuss any case specifically.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 9/12/2023
One of the leaders of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s transition team will pay a $10,000 fine to resolve charges brought by the Chicago Board of Ethics that he violated the city’s lobbying regulations. Djavan Conway, who owns Conway Consulting Group, acknowledged he failed to terminate his registration as a City Hall lobbyist in January 2021. Conway’s failure to notify officials he was not lobbying in 2022 triggered daily fines of $1,000.
Indiana Capital Chronicle – Whitney Downard | Published: 9/7/2023
The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that would determine whether the state’s election code prohibits or limits corporate contributions to PACs that engage in independent campaign-related expenditures. Attorney James Bopp said while his client, the Indiana Right to Life Victory Fund, has not been limited by the state’s campaign finance laws or restricted from making contributions, a “plain language” reading of statute could potentially harm PAC activities in the future.
MSN – Emily Opilo (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/7/2023
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott requested guidance from the Board of Ethics on how to keep his campaign separate from city business as the race for mayor begins to heat up. Scott asked for written guidance and an in-person meeting between city ethics officials and Scott’s senior staff. Scott has made moves recently that have intermingled campaign and official duties.
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/8/2023
State General Andrea Campbell’s office is negotiating a potential settlement with the Massachusetts Republican Party, its former leader, and a state senator, among others, over alleged campaign finance violations, signaling the years-long probe could be nearing a close. Campaign finance regulators first referred evidence to prosecutors in 2021 that then-state GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons, as well as state Sen. Ryan Fattman and Worcester County register of probate Stephanie Fattman, may have violated various campaign finance laws during the 2020 election, including those barring people from disguising the true source of donations.
Axios – Samuel Robinson | Published: 9/8/2023
Michigan Republicans are calling on House Democrats to move on legislation to bring financial disclosure requirements to lawmakers following a media investigation of state Rep. Angela Witwer. She has maintained a close relationship with the consulting firm she founded, The Detroit News found. The firm, Edge Partnerships, has worked with trade associations and agencies like the Michigan Department of Education, whose funding is set by lawmakers, including Witwer in her influential role as House Appropriations Committee chairperson.
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 9/7/2023
A rarely used state ethics panel ruled an appointee to the Michigan Arts and Culture Council violated ethics policy by failing to recuse herself from several votes on grants for organizations she leads. The State Board of Ethics ruled Deborah Mikula violated two sections of the state ethics law related to conflicts-of-interest but did not violate two other provisions when she voted in favor of grants for the Michigan Library Association, where she serves as executive director, and the Cultural Advocacy Network of Michigan, where she once served as president.
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 9/11/2023
A state Supreme Court justice ruled that a commission created last year to enforce ethics rules for New York’s employees and elected officials violates the state’s constitution because it is too independent. The ruling was issued in a court battle in which former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has fought against the ethics commission’s efforts to investigate a $5 million deal he received for writing a book about his administration’s handling of the pandemic. The decision is expected to be reviewed by the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.
MSN – Joe Anuta, Jeff Coltin, and Emily Ngo (Politico) | Published: 9/13/2023
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg released a multi-count indictment of former city Department of Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich, accusing him of abusing his position and in his role as a former adviser to Mayor Eric Adams. Ulrich was among seven people charged in the wide-ranging indictment. “We allege that Eric Ulrich accepted or solicited more than $150,000 worth of bribes in less than two years by monetizing each elected and appointed role he held in New York City government,” Bragg said.
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/7/2023
Ohio will use the same congressional districts in 2024 that it used last year, as the state Supreme Court granted the dismissal of two legal challenges to the map the court previously deemed to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits had sought the dismissal of their own cases, saying they do not want voters to be in limbo ahead of the election. They also fear that if the current map is thrown out, Republicans would draw an even more GOP-friendly map than the current one, under which Republicans hold 10 seats and Democrats hold five.
Yahoo News – Haley BeMiller (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 9/8/2023
State Rep. Bob Young announced his resignation from the Ohio House as he faces allegations of domestic violence and violating a restraining order. Young was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and assault in July. He is accused of slapping his wife during a private party at his home following a fundraiser.
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 9/11/2023
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has six employees and a budget of about $820,000 a year, making it one of the smallest and least-funded state agencies. Its executive director is leaving at the end of the year and its online database will go dark during the middle of next year’s campaign season if something is not done soon. Commissioner Jarred Brejcha is confident the panel can handle the flood of money, much of it untraceable, pouring into races at every level. Others, including the exiting executive and a former commissioner, are not nearly as convinced.
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 9/12/2023
Court of Common Pleas Judge Joshua Roberts dismissed a lawsuit filed by the city Board of Ethics that alleged mayoral candidate Jeff Brown illegally coordinated with For a Better Philadelphia, a super PAC. Roberts’ ruling neither rejected any of the facts laid out by the board nor challenged the board’s authority to regulate super PACs, which are allowed to accept unlimited donations but are prohibited from coordinating with campaigns. Instead, the judge focused on a debate over definitions that had been central to the case.
Yahoo News – Bristow Marchant (The State) | Published: 9/8/2023
After years of failure to disclose her financial interests and campaign spending to the state, a former member of Richland County Council has been hit with a nearly $300,000 penalty by the South Carolina Ethics Commission. But commissioners gave former Councilperson Gwendolyn Kennedy a window to avoid paying most of her fine. The commission found Kennedy committed 134 separate violations of state ethics law and campaign disclosure requirements dating to her time on county council from 2016 to 2020. The commission reached its decision after an August 17 hearing, at which the commission order notes Kennedy did not appear.
Yahoo News – Allie Feinberg (Knoxville News Sentinel) | Published: 9/13/2023
The Knox County Ethics Committee is considering a complaint filed against a county commissioner and a well-known developer over whether a property sale violated the ethics code ethics code. Scott Davis of Mesana Investments transferred ownership of a plot of land to Commissioner Kyle Ward, who paid $10 for the land, which the county appraised for more than $50,000 earlier this year. The complaint alleges Ward accepted a gift of over $50,000, which violates the ethics code.
MSN – Robert Garrett and Lauren McGaughey (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 9/13/2023
No matter how his impeachment trial turns out, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s state pension is not in jeopardy. Paxton is among an elite set of elected officials. Even if they are impeached, convicted, and booted from office, state legislators and statewide officeholders such as Paxton retain their pensions. Only judges, who are enrolled in a separate pension fund, lose these retirement benefits if they are impeached and removed.
MSN – Sarah Rankin and Denise Lavoie (Associated Press) | Published: 9/11/2023
A candidate in a high-stakes legislative contest in Virginia had sex with her husband in live videos posted on a pornographic website and asked viewers to pay them money in return for carrying out specific sex acts. Susanna Gibson, who is running for a seat in the House of Delegates in a district just outside Richmond, issued a statement in which it denounced the sharing of the videos as a violation of the law and her privacy. The contest will carry significant weight in determining the balance of power in the Virginia General Assembly.
Virginia Public Media – Ben Paviour | Published: 9/11/2023
Gov. Glenn Youngkin flew on Altria’s private jet to and from an undisclosed location at an unknown time, according to campaign finance records. Neither his campaign committee nor Altria will say who else was on board or give any other details about the trip. It is one of a handful of times Youngkin has benefited from donors who have given him at least $365,000 worth of unspecified “flight services” as part of his political work. Altria is a major player in Virginia politics and the General Assembly.
September 8, 2023 •
National/Federal AI Deepfakes in Campaigns May Be Detectable, But Will It Matter? MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 9/5/2023 Deepfake audio, authentic sounding but false recordings built from short snippets of a subject talking, have become extremely realistic, presenting the […]
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 9/5/2023
Deepfake audio, authentic sounding but false recordings built from short snippets of a subject talking, have become extremely realistic, presenting the potential for underhanded political tactics. Artificial intelligence (AI) developers warn that the technology’s rapid development and widespread deployment risks undermining the foundations of representative democracy. Campaign attack ads have long used the most unflattering pictures of their opponents. But AI will supercharge the ability of campaigns, and their rogue supporters, to produce believable fakes.
MSN – Brad Dress (The Hill) | Published: 8/29/2023
Rep. Andy Kim announced he reintroduced legislation that would limit the ability of major defense contractors and foreign governments to hire former Defense Department officials and influence the Pentagon as lobbyists. The Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act would impose a four-year ban on defense contractors hiring senior Pentagon officials and enact a similar ban on former Defense Department employees who managed their contracts.
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 9/5/2023
A federal appellate court blocked Justice Department access to the phone records of a Republican lawmaker as part of the investigation charging former President Trump with trying to undo the 2020 election results. The ruling stymies investigators who have been fighting to review thousands of documents from Rep. Scott Perry. U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell granted the special counsel access to most of the records nine months ago. Perry had argued the search would violate constitutional protection from criminal investigation for lawmakers engaged in “speech or debate.”
MSN – Will Sommer (Washington Post) | Published: 9/5/2023
An audit showed Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe covered personal expenses with funds from the donor-supported nonprofit whose self-described mission is investigative journalism. The Westchester County, New York, district attorney’s office is investigating O’Keefe. Before he left Project Veritas in February, under pressure from its board of directors, O’Keefe was surrounded by a “cult of personality” that enabled him to behave as if he were “untouchable,” the audit concluded.
MSN – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/5/2023
Republicans on Capitol Hill have hired far more former lobbyists to work in their offices than Democrats in the last year, according to a new analysis. Legistorm found that 61 of the 91 former lobbyists who took jobs in partisan offices on Capitol Hill in the last year were hired by Republicans. But the problem of the “revolving door” is one that besets both political parties.
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 9/5/2023
Enrique Tarrio, the national leader of the Proud Boys on January 6, 2021, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for masterminding a seditious conspiracy aimed at derailing the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The sentence, the lengthiest among hundreds arising from the attack on the Capitol, is a reflection of prosecutors’ evidence that the Proud Boys, helmed by Tarrio, played the most pivotal role in stoking the violent breach of police lines and the Capitol itself.
Yahoo News – Davey Alba (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/6/2023
Google will make it mandatory for all election advertisers to add a clear and conspicuous disclosure starting in mid-November when their ads contain Artificial Intelligence generated content. Advertisers must include prominent language like, “This audio was computer generated,” on altered election ads across Google’s platforms. The policy does not apply to minor fixes, such as image resizing or brightening. The update will improve Google’s transparency measures for election ads, the company said.
From the States and Municipalities
Globe and Mail – Ian Bailey | Published: 9/1/2203
Konrad Winrich von Finckenstein, a former chairperson of Canada’s broadcasting regulator, has been named interim federal conflict-of-interest and ethics commissioner, after the government’s previous pick for the role resigned amid concern about the appropriateness of the appointment. Mario Dion, who stepped down as commissioner in February, said the vacancy has put investigations on hold. During Dion’s term, he found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several cabinet ministers had broken ethics rules.
Yahoo News – Ethan Cohen and Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 9/5/2023
A federal court blocked a newly drawn Alabama congressional map because it did not create a second majority-Black district, as the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered earlier this year. The three-judge panel ordered a special master to submit three proposed maps that would create a second Black-majority district by September 25. The judges wrote they were “not aware of any other case,” where a state Legislature had responded to being ordered to a draw map with a second majority-minority district, by creating which the state itself admitted did not create the required district.
Alaska Public Media – James Brooks (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 9/6/2023
Alaska Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom approved two ballot measures and disqualified a third from advancing into the signature-gathering phase. One of the two measures approved by Dahlstrom would reimpose limits on political contributions. The state has been without donation caps limits since 2021, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Alaska’s prior limits after a lawsuit by Republican activists.
DNyuz – Jill Cowan, Serge Kovaleski, and Leanne Abraham (New York Times) | Published: 9/4/2023
The redistricting battle in Los Angeles underscores how some big city leaders – often Democrats – have used gerrymandering for their political advantage, much the way Republican lawmakers have redrawn legislative lines to secure or expand their control over some statehouses. Similar fights have been waged in Boston, Miami, and Chicago. The conflict in Los Angeles became a national controversy after audio was leaked that revealed the racist language that politicians used behind closed doors to discuss where to draw district boundaries.
San Francisco Standard – Noah Baustin | Published: 8/31/2023
An ex-parole agent and local pop singer pleaded guilty to bribery charges in federal court, marking the latest development in a Justice Department investigation uncovering corruption in San Francisco City Hall. Prosecutors accused Ken Hong Wong of paying former San Francisco Public Works head Mohammed Nuru $20,000 to get someone an engineering job in his department. An investigation revealed the job recipient was Xulu Liu, a recent college graduate and Chinese national. Public Works hired Liu as an assistant engineer earning $46 an hour in September 2019, public records show. She left the job after two weeks.
California – San Jose Council Eases Transparency Rule
San Jose Spotlight – Jana Kadash | Published: 9/5/2023
The San Jose City Council changed three ethics rules that could affect how money is used to influence policy. Officials revised the city’s “revolving door” protocol for former employees, removed fees for late lobbying disclosures, and uncapped reimbursement amounts for personal loans candidates made to their campaigns. City Clerk Toni Taber said the city did not collect fines for late weekly filings before the council nixed the fees. A media review found lobbyists often do not fill out the forms properly even if submitted on time.
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 9/6/2023
Anaheim residents and local community groups are charting their own path for reforms in the wake of a corruption scandal that has entangled City Hall. Residents and activists decided to take matters into their own hands after seeing Anaheim City Council members largely ignored calls for reforms until their most recent meeting on the heels of the former mayor agreeing to plead guilty to public corruption charges.
MSN – Andrew Atterbury (Politico) | Published: 9/6/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Tina Descovich, a co-founder of the conservative parental rights group Moms for Liberty, to the Florida Commission on Ethics. The move gives the governor a staunch ally on the panel responsible for weighing complaints against public officials in the state, which recently saw one remember resign after a conflict-of-interest violation. Aside from organizing the parental advocacy group, Descovich is a former school board member and runs a political committee that helped some conservatives win local education elections in 2022.
Yahoo News – David Kihara and Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 9/2/2023
A judge ruled Gov. Ron DeSantis’s redrawn congressional districts in North Florida violate the state’s constitution and ordered the Republican-led Legislature to create a new map. The ruling is a rebuke to DeSantis, who previously vetoed the Legislature’s attempts to redraw Florida’s congressional maps and pushed lawmakers to approve his map that dismantled a seat formerly held by Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat. The section violated is commonly referred to as the Fair Districts Amendment, which states that lawmakers cannot redraw congressional districts that “diminish” minority voters’ ability to elect someone of their choice.
MSN – Jeff Amy (Associated Press) | Published: 8/30/2023
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp offered his strongest denunciation to date of efforts by his fellow Republicans to go after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, dismissing the moves as “political theater that only inflames the emotions of the moment.” Some Republicans in Washington and Georgia have been attacking Willis since even before she announced the indictment of Donald Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. Kemp said any calls for a special session to impeach Willis or defund her office were wrong and she had done nothing to merit removal.
The Hill – Zach Schonfeld | Published: 9/6/2023
A state judge denied Kenneth Chesebro’s attempt to sever his charges in the Georgia election interference case from fellow Trump-aligned attorney Sidney Powell, saying he did not deem it necessary to do so to achieve a fair trial. But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee did signal he has doubts about District Attorney Fani Willis’s broader desire to try all 19 co-defendants, including former President Trump, together.
Yahoo News – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/5/2023
Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin used government workers to plan her daughter’s birthday party and be her personal bodyguard while she also pressured public employees to hold events benefiting political allies and repeatedly misused taxpayer resources, two former top aides alleged in a recently released letter the city fought for years to keep confidential. After Conyears-Ervin in 2020 dismissed employees Ashley Evans and Tiffany Harper, they shared a $100,000 settlement from the city. That settlement came after the letter was sent to the city’s top attorney and the Board of Ethics.
MSN – Josh Ward (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 9/5/2023
The spouses of presidents and governors often have formal positions, as well as aides and offices. That is not common at the municipal level. But the Louisville mayor’s office bucks that trend, and it may run afoul of the city’s anti-nepotism rules. Sources said Mayor Craig Greenberg’s wife has an office in Metro Hall, a city-issued email, and gives orders to staffers. The Louisville ethics code says, “a family member of the Mayor” or other elected official “shall not be employed by or appointed to a position with such elected official’s office.”
MSN – Ian Auzenne (WWL) | Published: 9/2/2023
A 2021 plane flight taken by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is the leading Republican candidate for governor, is landing him in trouble with the state Board of Ethics. The board voted to charge Landry and Stanton Aviation with one count each of ethics violations. Landry is charged with accepting a gift in relation to his position as attorney general. Stanton Aviation is charged with providing a gift to Landry.
MSN – Emily Opilo (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/6/2023
The Baltimore Board of Ethics must release the list of donors to a legal-defense fund formed to benefit city council President Nick Mosby and former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Maryland’s Public Information Act Compliance Board ordered. The compliance board found the ethics panel violated the Public Information Act by redacting the names of more than 130 donors to the fund when it released the list in March. The ethics board argued the names constituted financial information.
Nevada Independent – Jacob Solis | Published: 9/1/2023
Nevada Assemblyperson Michelle Gorelow will not run for re-election in 2024, a surprise move that comes after Gorelow had come under increasing pressure to justify taking a new position at a nonprofit that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in legislatively approved funding earlier this year. Separately, Assemblyperson C.H. Miller has come under fire for failing to disclose his employment by the Urban Chamber in a regular financial disclosure form ahead of a vote to give the nonprofit $100,000.
Albany Times Union – Emilie Munson | Published: 9/1/2023
Over the course of about a year, New York Gaming Commissioner Marissa Shorenstein voted on multiple regulations with implications for a client of her employer, but the commission said her actions avoided any conflict-of-interest. Shorenstein worked as a principal at SKDK, a prominent public relations and lobbying firm that did work for the New York Racing Association, a not-for-profit corporation that operates three thoroughbred tracks in New York and is regulated by the Gaming Commission.
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2023
E. Jean Carroll, the advice columnist who was awarded $5 million in damages at a civil sexual assault trial against former President Trump in May, won the majority of a related defamation case in a summary judgment decision. U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled the May verdict clearly proved disparaging comments Trump made about Carroll in 2019 were false. Those comments do not need to be aired again to prove liability to jurors in s civil defamation trial scheduled for January, Kaplan said.
MSN – Camila DeChalus (Washington Post) | Published: 9/2/2023
Democrat Sherrod Brown has won three U.S. Senate terms in Ohio, once a key swing state that has shifted solidly to Republicans over the past two presidential elections with a personal appeal to working-class families and particularly union trades. Now facing a tough reelection challenge in 2024, Brown is wagering that by casting himself as a pro-labor, progressive populist, he can retain support from White working-class voters whose embrace of Donald Trump has propelled Ohio’s move to the right.
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/3/2023
The Catholic Church in Ohio is gearing up for this November’s election in a manner that in some ways resembles a PAC. It is preparing to distribute literature to parishioners, deploy church leaders to political fundraisers, make direct campaign contributions, and have its priests preach from the pulpit in opposition to a ballot measure that would add legal protections for abortion to the state constitution. Brian Hickey, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, said he has heard from people who believe that churches and other religious organizations are not allowed to wade into politics under federal tax law. But that is not the case, Hickey said.
MSN – Maxine Bernstein (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 9/1/2023
The St. Helens Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 321 failed to properly report the source of a $6,000 contribution for the May election of three new Columbia River Fire & Rescue board members, according to a complaint to the state secretary of state’s office. The three union-backed candidates also never reported any contributions from the union, which paid for posters, mailers, and signs promoting their candidacy for a board seat, according to state records.
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 9/1/2023
A clause in Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law says that correspondence between a state lawmaker and a person seeking their help is off-limits to the public – unless that person is a lobbyist. But for years, the Legislature has summarily rejecting all requests for its emails, letters, or other forms of communications regardless of who was on the sending or receiving end. Spotlight PA put the lobbyist clause to the test by requesting from both the state House and Senate copies of communications between legislators and a narrow group of well-known lobbyists.
MSN – Mackenzie Huber (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 9/5/2023
Former South Dakota Sen. Jessica Castleberry was found to have accepted over $500,000 in allegedly illegal indirect benefits from state government while serving as a legislator. The state constitution prohibits lawmakers from being interested “directly or indirectly” in contracts with the state or counties. In the handful of state Supreme Court cases and opinions dealing with the matter over the last 135 years, none has explicitly defined “indirect,” said Michael Card of the University of South Dakota.
Austin Monitor – Jo Clifton | Published: 9/1/2023
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman declared an Austin regulation on campaign fundraising unconstitutional. The regulation prohibits candidates for city council seats from seeking or accepting campaign contributions more than a year before an election. The rule was enacted after another judge struck down a city regulation prohibiting candidates from raising money more than six months before an election.
Yahoo News – J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 9/4/2023
With television ads, text messages, direct mail, and billboards, supporters of the embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have embarked on an escalating campaign of political pressure, backed by hard-right billionaires, aimed at trying to sway the outcome of Paxton’s impeachment trial. The targets of their efforts are narrow: the 19 Republican members of the state Senate who will act as jurors in the trial and decide whether allegations of corruption and abuse of power are serious enough to warrant permanently removing and barring Paxton from office.
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Mike Tony | Published: 9/5/2023
The West Virginia Public Service Commission chose Van Reen Accounting to audit Mon Power and Potomac Edison lobbying expenses in a review that will cover costs charged to the FirstEnergy subsidiaries related to the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history. The scope of the audit is to include lobbying and other costs of all FirstEnergy companies related to Ohio House Bill 6. That legislation was a billion-dollar bailout of FirstEnergy nuclear plants in Ohio.
September 1, 2023 •
National/Federal A Lawmaker Hid One Key Fact as He Fought Checks on Gun Shops DNyuz – Glen Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 8/25/2023 Rep. Andrew Clyde has been in Congress only since 2021, but he has quickly emerged as a vocal […]
DNyuz – Glen Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 8/25/2023
Rep. Andrew Clyde has been in Congress only since 2021, but he has quickly emerged as a vocal opponent of gun control, handing out dozens of AR-15 pins to exemplify his wide-ranging push to roll back federal firearms regulation. At a subcommittee hearing, Clyde grilled the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives about a little-known program to monitor gun dealers found selling large numbers of weapons later traced to crimes. Clyde did not disclose one of two gun stores he owns in Georgia was placed in the monitoring program in 2020 and 2021.
MSN – Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/28/2023
Donald Trump will face trial on March 4, 2024, for four felony charges related to his alleged efforts to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan said her decision could not take into consideration the former president’s other responsibilities. Trump is again seeking the Republican nomination in 2024. The ruling means jury selection would begin a day before Super Tuesday, when California, Texas, and a dozen other states hold their presidential primaries.
MSN – Naomi Nix and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2023
Social media companies are receding from their role as watchdogs against political misinformation, abandoning their most aggressive efforts to police online falsehoods in a trend expected to affect the 2024 presidential election. Mass layoffs at Meta and other major tech companies have gutted teams dedicated to promoting accurate information online. An aggressive legal battle over claims the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to silence certain speech has blocked a key path to detecting election interference. Elon Musk has reset industry standards, rolling back strict rules against misinformation on X.
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 8/25/2023
Not long after Donald Trump was booked on felony charges alleging that he participated in a conspiracy to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia, his 2024 presidential campaign was selling merchandise featuring the first mug shot of a former American president. Other Republicans are also raising money off the mug shot. A committee for Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who is running for reelection in 2024, urged supporters to donate to WinRed, a small-donor fundraising platform for Republicans. “Today, ALL defense pledges will be flagged SPECIFICALLY for President Trump’s campaign,” the ad reads.
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 8/28/2023
OpenAI initially banned campaigns from using ChatGPT, its artificial intelligence-powered chatbot. But OpenAI then updated its website with a new set of rules limiting only what the company considers the riskiest applications. These rules ban campaigns from using ChatGPT to create materials targeting specific voting demographics, a capability that could be abused and spread disinformation. Yet ChatGPT can still be used to generate tailored political messages, an enforcement gap that comes ahead of the Republican primaries and amid a critical year for global elections.
MSN – Marisa lati and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2023
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze for more than 20 seconds while taking questions from journalists in an incident that mirrored another occasion when he abruptly stopped speaking in late July. A reporter asked him about running for reelection in 2026. After about seven seconds, an aide approached and asked the senator if he had heard the question. McConnell stared straight ahead, and the aide asked reporters to give them a minute.
MSN – Paul Duggan (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2023
A judge ruled Peter Navarro, a Trump White House adviser charged with criminal contempt of Congress, cannot argue to a jury that he was barred by executive privilege from providing testimony and documents to the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Navarro has continually asserted, without proof, that he defied the subpoena because Trump, in conversations with him, invoked executive privilege and instructed Navarro not to reveal any privileged information related to topics the committee was investigating.
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2023
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reported three 2022 trips on the private jet of a Texas billionaire in a newly released financial disclosure form, and for the first-time detailed Harlan Crow’s purchase of three properties from the justice’s family years. Thomas said he opted to fly on Crow’s private plane for one of the trips on the advice of his security detail. The justices faced heightened security risks, Thomas noted, after the leak of the court’s majority opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Yahoo News – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 8/30/2023
Vulnerable U.S. House Republicans, especially those in politically competitive districts, are trying to reconcile their party’s hardline anti-abortion policies with the views of voters in their districts, particularly independents and women. While many of these GOP lawmakers have cast votes this year to limit abortion access – maintaining a stance that some Republicans concede hurt their party in last year’s midterm elections – others spent part of the congressional recess talking up their support for birth control access, which is broadly popular across the country and across party lines.
Yahoo News – Rebecca Klar (The Hill) | Published: 8/29/2023
X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, will allow political ads heading into the 2024 election cycle for the first time since 2019. The update is the latest change since Elon Musk bought the platform in October. While allowing paid political ads back, the platform will enforce policies that aim to combat the spread of false information.
Yahoo News – Ally Mutnick and Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 8/29/2023
Republicans are growing increasingly optimistic about their prospects in a little-noticed lawsuit that would allow official party committees and candidates to coordinate freely by removing current spending restrictions. If successful, it would represent a seismic shift in how tens of millions of campaign dollars are spent and upend a well-established political ecosystem for television advertising.
From the States and Municipalities
Yahoo News – James Brooks (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 8/26/2023
Staff for the Alaska Public Offices Commission recommended a $16,450 fine against Preserve Democracy, a group led by former U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka. Staffers concluded Preserve Democracy failed to register with the commission before campaigning in favor of a proposed ballot measure that would repeal Alaska’s ranked choice voting system.
Center Square – Kim Jarrett | Published: 8/30/2023
The Arkansas Ethics Commission will look at an email from some Central Arkansas Water Company employees and donations made by the company’s chief executive officer regarding whether they were lobbying. The Joint Performance Review Committee agreed to turn the matters over to the ethics panel after Sen. Dan Sullivan brought the committee an email from employees of the water company known as the Justice, Equity or Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Courthouse News Service – Hillel Aron | Published: 8/28/2023
A federal judge sentenced longtime Los Angeles politician Mark Ridley-Thomas to three-and one-half years in prison. A jury found Ridley-Thomas guilty of bribery for soliciting favors for his son from the dean of the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work, in exchange for helping secure county contracts for the school. The dean, Marilyn Flynn, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and was sentenced to three years of probation. But Ridley-Thomas maintained his innocence and the case proceeded to trial.
San Francisco Standard – Josh Koehn | Published: 8/29/2023
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins filed multiple felony charges against a former City Hall staffer, Lanita Henriquez, and Rudolph Dwayne Jones, the director of a community grant program for the city, alleging the two conspired to funnel public money into private contracts to enrich themselves. Henriquez allegedly approved 23 contracts in her official capacity with entities controlled by Jones in which she had financial interests.
San Francisco Standard – Liz Lindqwister | Published: 8/25/2023
San Francisco ethics watchdogs have long urged the city to adopt tighter restrictions on gift-giving practices that have in the past opened the door for corruption. Now, the city will take the issue to voters. The Ethics Commission voted to place a package of anti-corruption measures on the March 5, 2024, ballot. The measures introduce more explicit prohibitions on gift-giving and bribery and add more required ethics training for city officials.
Voice of OC – Brandon Pho and Hosam Elattar | Published: 8/30/2023
After promising to reform a Disneyland resort-friendly City Hall, Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken sent her resort-backed colleagues the warning shot that some frustrated residents have waited nine months to hear. “My biggest fear is that we were going to hear from … people in the community that we should just … forget about … the problems that were outlined in (a city-commissioned corruption) report,” said Aiken. “I want you to know that I am absolutely not willing to do that.”
Voice of OC – Brandon Pho | Published: 8/29/2023
Anaheim has one of Orange County’s most robust online disclosures of registered lobbyists who are paid to sway elected officials on policy making. Yet even with those rules, an FBI corruption probe – and an independent investigation the city commissioned in response – found outsized influence by lobbyists who failed to properly register. Now, some are questioning what that means for other Orange County cities without such policies in place to help members of the public discover the activities of their community’s most influential interest groups.
MSN – Lawrence Mower (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/28/2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis reinstated Florida’s affordable housing director a month after he was suspended pending the outcome of an inspector general investigation. Mike DiNapoli was DeSantis’s pick to lead the corporation after its previous leader abruptly resigned in January, following the governor’s re-election. DiNapoli was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations he created a hostile work environment.
MSN – Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/28/2023
Mark Meadows, Donald Trump’s final White House chief of staff, testified he helped question the 2020 presidential election results out of a federal interest in “free and fair elections” intended to build national trust in the outcome and bring on a peaceful transfer of power. Meadows, who along with Trump and 17 others was indicted in Atlanta, is seeking to move his case from state to federal court, claiming he was acting as a federal officer.
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2023
A federal judge ruled Rudy Giuliani is legally liable for defaming two Georgia election workers who became the subject of conspiracy theories related to the 2020 election that were amplified by Donald Trump in the final weeks of his presidency. Giuliani will still go to trial on the monetary damages he owes to Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea ArShaye Moss. But U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell has already ordered Giuliani to pay roughly $132,000 in sanctions between his personal and business assets for his failures to hand over relevant information in the case.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Kim Gamel | Published: 8/28/2023
Former Hawaii Rep. Kaniela Ing pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of missing a deadline for filing a campaign spending report. Ing was charged in February after the Campaign Spending Commission took the rare step of referring the case to prosecutors.
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/24/2023
A jury convicted a former chief of staff to longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan of lying under oath to a grand jury to protect his once-powerful boss who is scheduled to go on trial on multiple corruption charges next year. Tim Mapes, who served as Madigan’s chief of staff, was convicted of one count of perjury and one of attempted obstruction of justice. The verdict marked the conclusion of a criminal case that centered on relatively straightforward charges yet delved deeply into the behind-the-scenes political intrigue of the scandals that rocked Madigan’s office and ended his decades-long grip on power.
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell. Paul Farhi, and Sofia Andrade (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2023
Marion County Police Chief Gideon Cody led officers on a raid of the Marion County Record’s offices and the home of its editor and publisher, seizing computers, servers, cellphones, and other files. The raid was so unusual, and so alarming in its implications for the news media, that it became an international story. Press-advocacy organizations condemned the raid as a breach of state and federal laws that protect the media from government intrusion. The response to the raid was heightened by the sudden death of the editor’s 98-year-old mother, who had railed at the officers sorting through her belongings at their home and collapsed a day later.
Bolts – Alex Burness | Published: 8/24/2023
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2020 donated some $350 million to a previously obscure nonprofit organization called the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which helps maintain and improve local election procedures and ballot access around the country. The money was used for a variety of purposes, including ballot processing equipment and improved pay for election workers. In the October 14 election, Louisianans will see a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban private or foreign money from being used for the purpose of conducting elections.
Yahoo News – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 8/29/2023
The Michigan Republican Party is starving for cash. A group of prominent activists was hit with felony charges connected to a bizarre plot to hijack election machines. In the face of these troubles, suspicion and infighting have been running high. A recent state committee meeting led to a fistfight. The turmoil is one measure of the way Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election have rippled through his party.
New Jersey Globe – David Wildstein | Published: 8/29/2023
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission formally accepted Jeff Brindle’s retirement as executive director and will meet to discuss their search for his replacement. Brindle notified commissioners of his plans four weeks ago after heading the campaign finance agency since 2009. His decision came more than five months after Gov. Phil Murphy had sought to oust Brindle from his post over an email sent to a staffer last fall that mocked National Coming Out Day.
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 8/28/2023
Spending on lobbying in New York surged last year as the coronavirus pandemic subsided with a record $332 million spent to influence elected officials. The overwhelming majority of the money was spread across 60-plus firms and organizations that were paid at least $1 million in 2022 to lobby on state government matters.
DNyuz – William Rashbaum and Jonah Bromwich (New York Times) | Published: 8/28/2023
A few months before he was elected mayor of New York City, Eric Adams was feted at a $1,000-a-head fundraiser. Among the hosts was city Councilperson Eric Ulrich, whom Adams would eventually appoint as buildings commissioner. Now, at least four hosts of the event, including Ulrich, are under scrutiny, with several expected to face charges stemming from a bribery and organized crime investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, according to several people familiar with elements of the inquiry. It is unclear whether the fundraiser is connected to the pending charges.
DNyuz – Jonah Bromwich, Ben Protess, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 8/30/2023
Before Donald Trump was indicted four times over, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued him, alleging his business and members of his family had fraudulently overvalued their assets. James will seek to bar him and three of his children from leading their family business to require him to pay a fine of around $250 million. James is arguing a trial is not necessary to find Trump inflated the value of his assets, fraudulently obtaining favorable loans and insurance arrangements. She said the fraud was so pervasive that Trump falsely boosted his net worth by between $812 million and $2.2 billion each year over the course of a decade.
MSN – Chris Sommerfeldt (New York Daily News) | Published: 8/25/2023
Two top executives at a philanthropic organization that bankrolled New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ recent trip to Israel have significant business and lobbying interests before his administration. The matter involves Marc Rowan and Eric Goldstein of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York. A spokesperson for the group said it spent $4,857 on Adams’ airfare, lodging, food, and other expenses related to his Israel visit.
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/29/2023
A Democratic justice on North Carolina’s Republican-majority Supreme Court sued an ethics panel to block it from investigating her public comments about state courts and colleagues, saying the probe and other recent scrutiny violate her free speech rights. Associate Justice Anita Earls filed the federal lawsuit against the state Judicial Standards Commission. She wants a judge to declare the panel can no longer investigate her speech “on matters of public concern.”
Yahoo News – Danielle Battaglia (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 8/31/2023
Many North Carolina firms involved in lobbying and politics landed Paycheck Protection (PPP) loans, then had them forgiven, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Small Business Administration has excluded those primarily engaged in lobbying or political activities from applying for agency loans. It was believed federal tax money should not be invested into those activities. When Congress authorized the PPP loans to help companies harmed by shutdowns as COVID-19 spread, those rules still applied. The rules allowed some firms in those industries to apply, but only if lobbying or political activity were not their “primary” lines of work.
Yahoo News – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 8/28/2023
The group pushing to enshrine abortion access in the Ohio Constitution filed a lawsuit challenging ballot language written by Republicans that reproductive rights advocates say is inaccurate and will confuse voters this fall. Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights asked the state Supreme Court to use the same ballot language they used to circulate petitions and collect signatures. If the court disagrees with that approach, advocates want “blatant inaccuracies” in the language fixed.
MSN – Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) | Published: 8/28/2023
State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters was ordered to pay $7,800 to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission for filing campaign reports late 14 times during his run for office last year. Only one of the orders has become final, though it has not been paid. Walters is contesting the others. Dozens of other candidates have had trouble meeting filing deadlines but few to the same extent, records show. Most are fined less than $1,000.
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 8/25/2023
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission voted unanimously to investigate former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s travel while in office and whether she bilked the state out of thousands of dollars by bringing her family with her on state-funded trips and double-dipping with campaign funds. She is also facing scrutiny from state and federal prosecutors and the state ethics commission, which began a separate probe into her conduct in office, including her $10,000-per-month consulting job with cannabis entrepreneurs involved in an audit conducted by her office.
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 8/29/2023
Five Republican senators and attorneys representing the state are seeking a quick resolution from the Oregon Supreme Court on the senators’ challenge to a voter-approved law intended to block them from running for reelection after they ground the legislative session to a halt for six weeks. Voters frustrated with GOP lawmakers’ increasing reliance on quorum-blocking walkouts passed a constitutional amendment to bar any senator with more than 10 unexcused absences from serving another term. Ten conservative senators passed that point in May, and they stayed away for another month as they protested bills on abortion, transgender health care, and guns.
Texas Tribune – Joshua Fechter | Published: 8/30/2023
A new Texas law aimed at undermining the ability of the state’s bluer urban areas to enact progressive policies is unconstitutional, a Travis County judge. State District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble made the ruling just days before the law, which opponents nicknamed the “Death Star” bill, is slated to take effect. The Republican-backed law aims to stop local governments from enacting a wide range of policies by barring cities and counties from passing local ordinances that go further than what is allowed under broad areas of state law.
WFAA – Tanya Eiserer | Published: 8/29/2023
At the Texas Attorney General’s Office, they are some of Ken Paxton’s staunchest defenders: Solicitor General Judd Stone and general litigation chief Chris Hilton. Both played roles in fighting a lawsuit that alleged Paxton used his office to systemically benefit a friend and campaign donor. Once the House impeached Paxton, Hilton and Stone left the office to join the defense team for their former boss. Normally, it would be against internal ethics rules for a lawyer employed by the attorney general’s office to represent someone other than the state. But Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster waived those rules.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2023
Liberal groups, long accustomed to seeing the Wisconsin Supreme Court as hostile terrain, quickly maneuvered for potential victories on a string of major issues after voters elected a liberal majority to the court. They filed lawsuits to try to redraw the state’s legislative districts, which heavily favor Republicans. The Democratic attorney general sought to speed up a case challenging a 19th-century law that has kept doctors from providing abortions in Wisconsin. The turnaround is the result of an April election that became the most expensive judicial race in U.S. history, with campaigns and interest groups spending more than $50 million.
Casper Star Tribune – Maya Shimizu Harris | Published: 8/29/2023
Wyoming’s next legislative session will likely see a slate of bills that aim to improve transparency around campaign spending and tighten voter residency requirements. The proposed legislation attempts to address concerns ranging from the influence of private money in campaigns and elections to the question of how long someone should be required to live in Wyoming before they can vote in the state’s elections.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.